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Good Morning Vietnam

April 15, 2011 by Chelsea Slone

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Vietnam’s history of war, rebellion, and colonization intrigue more than just the history buffs. The lengthy yet slender country located in southeast Asia desperately fought the many invasions of their country from the Chinese, the French, to the Americans with no intent on ever giving up. However, even after gaining their independence, the Chinese and French left a lasting impression on the Vietnamese culture found in the country today. Apart from the lengthy history, the apparent Confucianism influence on social etiquette and French impact on the Vietnamese cuisine fills the country with anything but boring cultural experiences.

The time we spent in Vietnam was split between the two cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon, and after spending one day in Vietnam I quickly wished we would’ve had the time to explore the ins and outs of each area in this incredible country. With the beautiful rural countryside, incredible Thailand like beaches, and the fast paced Saigon city life Vietnam was the one place I’ve visited where I didn’t want to miss a thing. Considering it was a last minute change from Japan we unfortunately didn’t have the time to see it all, but we did soak up every minute of the places we were able to visit.

In Vietnam the importance of food is slightly extreme. It is the center of a family, business meeting, and of course special occasions. More business decisions are made by a meal than in a boardroom. For every special occasion including birth, marriage, and death a specific and different food is prepared. The national dish of Vietnam is pho, which is a broth soup with beef or chicken and long noodles. It is commonly served with chili sauce and fresh leafy herbs. The chili sauce lets you determine the ideal amount of spice, and most Vietnamese people feel the spicer the better. When made right the amazing broth will be murky brown with a delicious meat flavor, and no matter the meat you prefer the preparation creates a tenderness to die for. Tyler and I found our amazing bowl of pho at a hole in the wall in Hanoi. The great find has no menu and only serves one dish, beef pho after five pm, and if you wander by the streets any other time throughout the day it goes without a doubt to say you will catch a big whiff of the simmering meat and broth in that oversized steel pot.

Bun Cha is another local dish that makes you understand why food is of great importance in Vietnam. The dish might sound similar to pho with it’s beef and noodles, but the added ingredients and flavors make it ever so different from the well known pho. Bun Cha is served as a bowl of thinly sliced carrots in warm broth with sweet stir fry pieces of beef as well as Vietnamese meatballs, a plate of soft noodles, fresh leafy herbs, crispy spring rolls, and of course chili sauce and garlic. To enjoy the dish you combine a little of each dish in one bowl and chow down! To experience Bun Cha Tyler and I found another hole in the wall specializing in this one dish. The mother and daughter cook up the feast to serve it all throughout the day everyday, and it goes to say this little place is never without a line of locals.

Our first destination was Ho Chi Minh City, a place filled with limitless energy and also the largest city in all of Vietnam. Previously known as the famous Saigon, this hustling metropolitan streets were filled with thousands of vespas flying by the hard working rice women slowly fading into the past. Modern lifestyle has certainly consumed the city, but in the ancient alleyways you will still find the old wooden framed shops selling handmade silk, spices, and wicker baskets. Various markets run in throughout the day and night, storekeepers hours never end providing unlimited shopping experiences and the Vietnamese cuisine isn’t lacking in the least. But in the midst of all the modern chaos, Ho Chi Minh City has a historical side not to be missed.

Beginning with the Reunification Palace, also known as the Independence Palace, is the former South Vietnam’s presidential palace. The time warped palace is filled with vintage phones, radios, and office furniture which was left completely untouched from the time the North took over in 1975.

Notre Dame Cathedral A Catholic French built cathedral found in the city center.

The famous Post Office from the Vietnam war.

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, was the other city we were able to visit during our time in the country. Despite the battles fought here, Hanoi retains much of it’s colonial charm. The city is filled with intriguing history from the famous Hanoi Hilton to the fascinating Temple of Literature, it will spark interest from even the weakest history minds.

The Hoa Lo Prison, known as The Hanoi Hilton, was a prison built by the French in the beginning of the 20th century. This prison is where the French imprisoned and executed many of the Vietnamese people during their fight for freedom. Not only are the prison walls eary enough, but the brutal detail of the exhibits displayed in the museum is still horrifying today. Other than the French use the prison was also used during the Vietnam War, or what the Vietnamese people call the American War. John McCain’s flight suit can be seen here from when his plane was shot down and he was taken captive. The nickname of The Hanoi Hiltion was developed during this time as the shot down American POW’s were treated very well while held on the premises. With photos as proof it was publicized that prisoners were able to play basketball, cards, chess, and other various games. However, it is widely believed the pictures of games were staged events creating a very skewed image of the actual conditions.

The Temple of Literature, known to be the country’s first university, was founded in 1070. The university is set in a tranquil park like setting in central Hanoi. The temple, dedicated to Confucius, was established to educate Vietnam’s administration and warriors class. Recent archaeological study indicates that the architecture of this site belongs primarily to the Ly and Tran Dynasties.

Also while we were in Hanoi we were able to see one of the traditional water puppet shows. The shows consists of live traditional music, dancing, and folk legends from Vietnamese history. The puppets performing on the water was unlike any performance we had seen before and the traditional style was an interesting cultural experience.

Altogether Vietnam was a wonderful country to visit. From the friendly Vietnamese people to the fascinating history, the only thing I regret is not being able to stay longer and see all the country has to offer.

Tam Biet,


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2 thoughts on “Good Morning Vietnam

  1. Thank you for this interesting narrative. You are great writers and photographers. I learned several new things about Vietnamese history.

    Mary Littrell

  2. Love Vietnamese cuisine and still leraning how to cook the authentic dishes. Thanks for letting us know about this Delicious Vietnam. I can browse all yummy dishes and learn more.

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