On liking and leaving Vietnam

In Vietnam, we have been shouted at, scolded, grabbed, ripped off and blatantly lied to. Over and over. It was pretty hard.

The minute we arrived in Asia we noticed that people would stare at Sparky in her wheelchair. People often ask questions or shake her hand and say hello.  But in Vietnam they pointed and laughed and called their friends over to have a look.  The only good thing about it is the indignation her siblings feel, for the first time really, on her behalf. They know its not OK to demean her like that, AND because now they’ve tasted it themselves. I want them to feel the fire of indignation and righteous anger, contempt for discrimination, and a strong and long lasting  passion for equality and inclusion. They’re going to need it.

Walking the streets in Vietnam’s cities can be FULL ON. The doughnut and sunglasses sellers would be arrested for harassment in Australia with their kind of behaviour!! They followed us for blocks pestering and pestering. A polite ‘no thankyou’ in either English or Vietnamese seems to encourage more pestering. I felt I had no choice but to ignore the seller and stare straight through them, like they are a nonperson. Or to be rude. I’m pretty uncomfortable with both. But I wasn’t buying the #+£{^*!~ donuts!!

But I don’t really want to dwell on that.

Here were the highlights:

Halong Bay- we cruised through the ancient islands and fog. This place is insanely busy for a reason. It is majestic.



Street food- this one is a soft tofu desert, with sweet ginger sauce. We ate sitting on little stools on the road in Saigon.


Water puppets- actually the water puppets are very cool, and the show is 1 hour, which is perfect for children. Its also about as much dischordant  traditional music as we could stomach in one hit.  There is even a water spurting fish and a fire twirling puppet!

Beautiful dresses- we bought our girls an áo dài each. So lovely; everything else they have is a sensible colour and quick-dry!


Museum of Ethnography Hanoi- this place is amazing. Inside, we learnt all about the 53 ethnic groups that make up Vietnam….

and then in the garden, we explored their full scale replica houses.

And our favourite, wandering the street, tasting this and that…chatting and people watching




The rate of tourists that return to Vietnam is 5% according to Travelfish. I’m not sure we’ll be among the 5%, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say: “Don’t Go!”

In fact,  as long as you are sure to take a cute baby to break through the barriers, I’d say “Go ahead”.

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9 Responses to On liking and leaving Vietnam

  1. Barbara July 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Oh, your girls look FABULOUS in ao dais. Very, very glamorous.

    I know how hard Vietnam can be as a tourist, that’s why I was hoping you would visit while I was here, so I could show you some of the non-touristy areas, places where there are no annoying street vendors.

    I’m sorry it was tough for you, but I’m glad you were able to enjoy some of Vietnam’s craziness. And the Ethnography Museum in Hanoi is fantastic, isn’t it?
    Barbara recently posted..Oh Cr@p, I Have Culture ShockMy Profile

  2. kara July 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Disappointed to read it was so unpleasant at times, esp the treatment of Sparky. I was among the 5%, twice. But it was also 10 years ago and I know tourism has changed things. Your photos are beautiful and the girls look so lovely in their dresses!

  3. James and Pauline July 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    You know we have to totally agree with you on this one, Vietnam was the least pleasant of all the Asian countries we had the luck of visiting, while we don’t regret going there for a second i will find it difficult to recommend our friends to go.

    I would have to agree the halong bay cruise was magical but i believe its magical for a reason. for the people of Vietnam it is a place of pride and they feel real ownership of the place (im sure you remember our bus driver who spoke for about an hour on it) in halong bay they understand that they re true representatives of that wonderful place and they know that the way they treat us directly affects how they are perceived (this is not always they case though).

    I felt like the rest of the time pauline and i spent in Vietnam was on guard as it felt that everyone was out there to hustle us out of a buck or two which really wears on you.

    Make sure you say hi to the gang for us and hopefully we can all catch up in perth!
    James and Pauline recently posted..Red eye flight to SingaporeMy Profile

  4. Bron July 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    jill your girls both look so very beautiful. look how much
    Meenas hair has grown! I was thinking of her as we rode an elephant yesterday! I am really angered to here of the attitude towards Sparky and disability in your vietnam travels, it makes me get very fired up too. I was just thinking about here in Chiang Mai being so inclusive x much love to you all xxxx
    Bron recently posted..Chiang Mai July weatherMy Profile

  5. Mary-Louise July 19, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    Hi Sparkyrama,
    Chatwords: Wow!
    I Think it’s: I think you look totally stunning in your (clothes) dress.
    His and byes: I miss you.
    Love from Mary-Louise

  6. Margaret Hogan July 19, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    The photo of the girls is just joyous. We muse about visiting Vietnam in the future but this has given me pause.
    Margaret Hogan recently posted..Don’t judge a garden from your kitchen windowMy Profile

  7. Lisa Wood July 19, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    I have never thought to go to Vietnam – and after reading the crazy behaviour, the rudeness of the people, not sure it will be on our bucket list!
    Love the dresses, and the smiles of your two beautiful girls.
    Sounds like a place to visit once, and to keep an open mind big time! Thanks for sharing the highs and lows of your trip.
    Lisa Wood recently posted..Mackay Kids Play CentreMy Profile

  8. Andersreisender July 21, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    I have been in Vietnam in December/January 2010/2011. I came by train from Nanning in China to Hanoi – and at the beginning I had big problems with the behaviour of the people there.

    I was not sure, if I should skip this country or if I should learn to handle it for me. I am not sure till now, if the behaviour of the people changed from north to south extremely – or I did on traveling.

    I felt sad, when I’ve read your story about how the children and people were rude… :-(
    Andersreisender recently posted..Sehenswürdigkeiten in Ljubljana: Klassiker und GeheimtippsMy Profile

  9. Deb @ Bright and Precious July 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    Fascinated by your reflections on Vietnam. I’ve never been. Your opening paragraphs had me furious with indignation on your behalf. I’m so glad you found some positives about the country. Your stunning photos bring your adventures alive. I adore the photo of your girls in their dresses. They are beaming. :)

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