Vietnam Week: Bella’s Vietnam Adventure … And Final Answers
For families who haven’t travelled much, the prospect of a visit to Vietnam can be quite daunting.
While there’s guide books for mum and dad and the older kids, the little ones can be overlooked in the mental preparation department. But there is help in the form of Bella, a feisty frizzy-haired five-year-old who views everything as an adventure.
Bella’s Vietnam Adventure is a beautifully illustrated book that will give young kids an idea of what to expect during a visit to crazy noisy Vietnam.
Bella’s mum (and author of the book), Stacey Zolt Hara, sent us a review copy of Bella’s Adventure in Vietnam and we read it to Miss M before, during and after our whirlwind week in Vietnam.
Miss M loved the book so much she never once tried to rip the pages – progress indeed! The story is slightly too advanced for a two-year-old but we had a lot of fun discussing the pictures – if excited exclamations of “oooh bike” and “ooooh hat” can be called a discussion.
Our rock star baby is an old Vietnam hand, so when we returned to Vietnam this time she took the traffic and the noise of Ho Chi Minh City in her stride. I was amazed, however, when she pointed to a xích lô (cyclo) as we passed and yelled “oh, xích lô” in a very excited tone. That was definitely from the book.
Stacey, a former journalist and political aide, began her Travel with Bella blog and book series to promote the idea that children don’t inhibit travel. I love this concept. I am constantly amazed at how much fun we have traveling with our daughter, especially in Asia, where the reaction to children is amazing.
You can read more about Stacey, who lives in Singapore with her husband and two children, on her blog, www.travelwithbella.com. You can also order copies of Bella’s Vietnam Adventure through Stacey’s blog or through Amazon. Check her “shop” page for details on which ordering method has the cheapest postage for you.
It IS possible to travel to Vietnam with young kids and have a great time. The most important thing to take with you is an adventurous attitude, just like Bella.
That concludes Vietnam Week here on The Dropout Diaries, an event that lasted almost three weeks. Aren’t you the luckiest blog readers ever?
I’ve answered most of the burning issues that readers put to me. Possibly not in the way they were expecting. So let’s have a look at some of the questions…
Asked: why do so many people think it’s OK to pick their nose in public?
Answered: The Nosiest Question
Asked: Why do some men have one long pinkie fingernail?
Answer: An Ear-y Life
Asked: What’s the best way to experience local life in Hanoi/Vietnam?
Answer: A Glimpse of Local Life
Asked: Why do so many people in Vietnam wear their pyjamas all the time?
Answer: The Pyjama Game
Asked: What’s the best food in Vietnam?
Answer: Favourite Food Survey
There were a range of other questions emailed to me but Vietnam Week has dragged on too long for an individual post on each topic, even though some of them are quite interesting.
So here are some brief answers to other questions…
Asked: Is there a type of voodoo in Vietnam?
Answer: Apparently so. Many people in Vietnam believe that they can gain power by consuming certain animals. That’s why people (usually men) drink tiger wine – rice wine containing a tiger bone – and eat cat – cats are considered “little tigers”.
The more superstitious types believe in magic. For instance, a black dog (and it has to be totally black, even the tongue) can help repel ghosts. To use a dog to repel ghosts, you have to pour its blood around your house or garden or even bury a container of its blood, or its head, in your yard. Darling Man says this is not very common, it’s just what he’s heard about.
Vietnam’s hill tribes, especially those near the Cambodian border, have the reputation of being the biggest practicers of voodoo. There are stories about how the hill tribes have magic plants capable of eating live chickens and ducks. The tumeric-like bùa ngãi plant can be used to place bad luck curses on people. Another plant called bùa lẫu bang is said to be even more powerful. And that’s where Darling Man’s knowledge runs out. He helpfully says if you need to know more, you need to ask a “magic guy” from a hill tribe.
Asked: What to Vietnamese people think of foreigners?
Answer: Vietnam has fallen under foreign rule many times. China ruled for 1,000 years but the Vietnamese got rid of them. The French ruled for a time, folding Vietnam into its French Indochina empire in the late 1800s to the 1950s.
I’m a bit hazy on how the Americans came to meddle in things. I researched it extensively for a guidebook I wrote but I’ve forgotten it now … something to do with domestic paranoia about Communism. Anyway, after the Vietnam/American War ended in 1975, the Vietnamese government cut the country off from the outside world. For 20 years, Vietnamese people were told that the outside world was evil and hated Vietnam and that kindly Uncle Government would look after them.
In the early 1990s, tourists were gradually allowed to visit Vietnam. In 1995, the US and Vietnam “normalised” relations and even more tourists began to visit. I think during the 1990s the Vietnamese people were as curious about the “long-nose” foreigners as the foreigners were about mysterious war-torn Vietnam.
Nowadays, foreigners are still regarded as interesting, slightly odd curiosities. The government is obsessed with economic development, so foreign investment is regarded as beneficial to the nation. But people are still very curious about people. In the big cities, people are pretty used to seeing foreign tourists and expats. In the countryside, foreigners are not as common.
But even in the city, I’ve had my arm stroked by curious people. And my “devil” blue eyes have made babies cry, poor things.
Oh, and in Vietnam it’s not rude to stare. So if someone is curious about a foreigner, they’ll probably watch them closely and provide a loud running commentary about what the foreigner is doing to anyone within range.
Asked: Why don’t Vietnamese people sit on the grass in the park?
Answer: Direct quote from Darling Man: “because the ground is dirty”. That’s also why people squat. The ground is too dirty to sit on, so you just sit on the back of your legs.
Asked: Why do Vietnamese people use their hands to hide their toothpick use after a meal?
Answer: Because it’s polite. (And yes, the question was posed along the lines of “why is is it OK to pick your nose in public but not OK to use a toothpick in public”. The answer is just “because that’s the way it is”.)
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