You'd Never Expect This Place Would Be So Great

by Tim Staermose Sovereign Man

Recently by Tim Staermose: Chongqing: The Largest Construction Site in the World

For the past eight days I’ve been spending time with friends in Vietnam; I’ll be leaving in a few days to link up with Simon in Thailand, but for now, I’m really impressed by Vietnam. The country has a great deal going for it.

In the ancient town of Hoi An and the capital city Hanoi, the lifestyle is generally very laid back and relaxed. Excellent cafes and restaurants, offering both local fair and foreign food, are everywhere. Nearly all offer free, reliable WIFI connections.

Prices are very reasonable even in the fancier western-style places, and they border on ridiculously cheap in the local ones. For a great lunch today of grilled pork and rice noodle soup accompanied by a huge plate heaped high with fresh local herbs to accent the flavors, friend and I paid $3. Total. For TWO.

In Hoi An, a popular tourist town about thirty minutes’ drive south of Da Nang, at the northern end of what was once South Vietnam, our group of five adults and five children dined out in style each evening. We always ordered multiple courses, and several rounds of drinks. Yet the bill seldom exceeded $100.

A fifteen-minute taxi ride to the beach from our hotel in town cost $3.75. In Hanoi, the metered taxi rate works out to about $0.85 per mile. And the drivers I’ve dealt with have all been scrupulously honest.

Another thing that’s very noticeable here is that no one expects tips. I suppose it may have been different if the Americans had won the war.

Taxis may be plentiful and cheap, but in order to really explore any city, I prefer walking. And though the weather here can be hot and humid, Hanoi has many lakes and is actually very pleasant to explore on foot.

It also feels extremely safe. My friends here have three young daughters aged from two to six. When I went out with them, the two older ones were able to ride their bikes around their neighborhood without a care in the world.

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