Next Week Is Vietnam Week

Writing about the lead-up to Tet made me realise how much I miss Vietnam, my second home.

The comments on my last post also made me realise how little is known about Vietnam. I certainly didn’t know much about it before my first visit there in 2006. In fact, I only went to Vietnam as a side trip.

I had wanted to cycle through Cambodia but my chosen tour company only offered a nine-day cycle tour of the country. I wanted to spend several weeks pedaling and puffing through Asia, not just a week-and-a-bit, so I took the option of combining my Cambodia cycle tour with a 15-day Vietnam cycle tour.

From the moment I stepped out of the Hanoi airport (without my luggage or my bike, but that’s another story) I was captivated by Vietnam. The country’s allure grew and grew as I cycled through it, past emerald green paddy fields, school girls in white ao dai, farmers in conical hats and multi-coloured houses.

Vietnam’s amazing food only added to the appeal.

When my cycle tour ended, I went back to Australia to my high-stress job and a severe case of post-holiday blues that just didn’t seem to lift. After a few months, I realised that I’d run out of ambition and enthusiasm for my career. I decided to try something radical — I quit my job and flew to Ho Chi Minh City to do a four-week Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) course.

After the course finished, I found a teaching job. Then I found an editing job, then a consulting job. I stayed in Vietnam for nearly four years and during that time I traveled all over the country, from the misty mountains in the north to the verdant Mekong Delta in the south.

I studied the language and I worked alongside Vietnamese people, who tried to answer all my strange questions about their country.

I lived in a twisty-turny alley that was too small for cars and I rode a motorbike in the most chaotic and illogical traffic in the world, laughing as I zoomed past goggley-eyed tourists walking along with “what the hell” expressions on their faces.

Next week we’ll be in Vietnam celebrating Tet with family and friends. During the week, I will be looking at Vietnam with fresh eyes, trying to see the country as I did when I first arrived, in all its mysterious craziness.

Next week will be Vietnam Week on The Dropout Diaries.

Every day from Tet, January 23, to January 30, I’ll write a post about some aspect of life in Vietnam. And you, dear readers, can choose the topics.

Tell me what you want to know about Vietnam. Your questions can be as vague or as specific as you like. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to Vietnam, or if you live there, if there is something you want to know, just ask, either in the comments section below on on my Facebook page. If your question seems silly — and I LOVE silliness, by the way — send the question in an email to theboss (at) thedropoutdiaries <dot> com.

So, if you want to know why there’s ice in the urinals in Vietnam, why pith helmets are so popular in Hanoi, why some people wear their pyjamas all day or why the parks in Ho Chi Minh City are full of kissing couples at night, ask and I will find an answer. I will have access to a large network of Vietnamese experts next week who will be very interested in what nước ngoài (foreigners) want to know about Vietnam and who will be eager to help satisfy your curiosity.

Fire away!

And if you haven’t done so already, like on Facebook

12 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Vietnam is the #1 country I want to visit in Asia. I want to know about the food, what is transportation like to get around the country, what are the recommended places to visit (both on and off-the-beaten-path), what are some of the cultural must-knows for visitors.

    I’m going to keep you busy writing 🙂
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..2011 Travel Year in Review from A to Z

    • Barbara says:

      Hey Stephanie, I think I’m going to disappoint you…. I don’t have the time or the space to write a guide book. I’m going to stick to cultural understanding for this series. Although I might have to recommend one or two restaurants. Like the one I went to last night. 🙂

  2. Amy says:

    My question… What is with the very long pointy fingernails on men?
    Amy recently posted..Don’t Rush Me, I’m Learning!

  3. i’d like to see more food. and recipes! but then again, i am usually thinking about eating…
    wandering educators recently posted..Behind the Scenes of Cloak with Author James Gough

  4. Denise says:

    Well, since I’ll be flying to Vietnam in two weeks this couldn’t be more perfect! My question is, how do I experience Hanoi like a local? I’ll be living there for one month while I finish a CELTA course.

    • Barbara says:

      Hmmm. I don’t know that I can give specific tips for Hanoi, but I’ll try to give some general pointers. The first being — just ENJOY! If you don’t love the craziness of Vietnam you won’t have the fun month you should.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Wow! Just stumbled across your blog and I must say, I love your story!

    Vietnam is on the very top of my list of places I want to travel. Hopefully I’ll be able to get there in April. I know that there’s a great deal of what are called ‘Viet Kieu’, or Vietnamese who live or were born in other westernized countries (ex. America) who then go back to visit Vietnam. How do locals view these people? For example, there are plenty of instances of Viet Kieu going back to Vietnam with an air of superiority. To go off that, there also seems to be the assumption of the local Vietnamese that Viet Kieu are much better off than they are, and I’ve even heard accounts of family members stealing from Viet Kieu. Well, that makes for an interesting family dynamics situation, because how can you accuse family you rarely see of stealing?

    Okay, that is long enough! Some food for thought! Great blog!
    Stephanie recently posted..The Life of a Pregnant College Senior

    • Barbara says:

      Hey Stephanie, welcome to my blog! It’s great to have you here.
      I think the attitude towards Viet Kieu has changed a lot over the past few years. When Viet Kieu first started coming back to visit, I think people felt slightly resentful of them, thinking that they’d left the country and escaped the worst of the post-war deprivation and poverty. The returning Viet Kieu could have been a bit arrogant, too, which is perhaps why that reputation developed. But now, I see only friendliness and interest. Vietnamese people are curious about the world outside Vietnam, and so they are interested in how people, especially people of Vietnamese origin, live in different parts of the world.
      As for being regarded as wealthier than people in Vietnam. In most cases I’d say anyone who earns a Western wage IS richer than a Vietnamese person who earns a Vietnamese wage. I see management and senior engineering jobs advertised for $1,500/month, which is not a living wage where I come from.
      I hope you do visit Vietnam and I really hope you love it as much as I do.

  6. Sally says:

    Very excited about this! Vietnam is definitely on my list of places to visit/possibly live in Asia. But I’m afraid once I go, I’ll never want to leave. Especially if the coffee & food are even better there than they are in all the Vietnamese restaurants I’ve been to…
    Sally recently posted..Feeling Natsukashii in Nikko

    • Barbara says:

      The coffee and the food are pretty good reasons to stay in Vietnam for a long long time. Plus, the people are fantastic. It’s lots of fun watching people having so much fun just sitting around talking. And you get to see this everywhere – groups of people at little tiny tables, sitting around talking, laughing and drinking. Darling Man calls it “enjoying the life”.

  7. […] I first announced I was taking questions for Vietnam Week on my blog, I was inundated with emails about nose-picking. It was far and away […]

  8. […] still have several topics to post to answer your questions about Vietnam but I need a bit of time on the internet to get everything […]

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