Vietnam is renowned for its various styles of lacquer ware (mother of pearl inlay and duck shell) and its growing silk industry. A wide array of other handicrafts is also available, including quality hand embroidery, wood carvings, ceramics, silk paintings, brass and marble figurines and ivory and tortoiseshell accessories. Contemporary paintings and copies of masterpieces are also widely available in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. War paraphernalia remain popular souvenirs as do old cameras, watches, stamps, coins and Zippo lighters.
TIPPING & BARGAINING
Tipping according to a percentage of the bill is not widely practiced in Vietnam, but is enormously appreciated. For someone earning US$ 50 / month, a US$ 1 tip is about half a day’s wages. You should also consider tipping drivers and guides. Typically, travelers on minibus tours will pool together to collect a communal tip to be split between the guide and the driver. About US$ 2-3 per tourist per day is standard. It is customary to make a small donation after visiting a pagoda, especially if a monk has shown you around. Most pagodas have contribution boxes for this purpose. Bargaining is a way of life in Vietnam, but should always be conducted in a good-natured way. You will have a more pleasant experience and stand a better chance of negotiating a lower price!
Here are a few guidelines:
Porters: US$ 0.5-1 per bag
Waiters in restaurants: 5-10% of total bill
Taxi drivers: 10% of total bill
Tour guides: US$ 2-3 per person/per day
Drivers: US$ 1-2 per person/per day.
FOOD & TROPICAL FRUITS
Due to its history, Vietnamese cuisine is unlike any other in Asia. Rice and noodle dishes are the staple of Vietnamese food whilst fish, chicken, and/or pork dishes served along with cooked vegetables and rice form a typical meal. The distinct flavors of Vietnamese food come primarily from mint leaves, coriander, lemon grass, shrimp, fish sauce, ginger, black pepper, garlic and basil. The countries 3 main regions, the North, the Center and the South each have its own distinct cuisine. Generally in the North is best known for its noodle soups and meat and seafood stir-fries. The central region, especially in and around the former capital Hue has some of the most elaborate dishes. In the south, where there is a greater abundance of spices, the food tends to be a little hotter. Culinary delights include:
Com: Boiled rice is eaten for lunch and dinner. This is the main food for a Vietnamese meal. That why the meal and the rice in Vietnamese bear the same name “com”.
Pho: The traditional Vietnamese breakfast is pho. Large bowls of rice noodles thinly sliced beef or pieces of tender chicken and fragrant broth are garnished with fresh coriander and bean sprouts.
Nem Ran or Cha Gio (fried spring rolls): Nem Ran is an immensely popular and relatively easy dish to prepare. To make Nem Ran you need the following ingredients: lean minced pork or unshelled shrimps, mushroom, dried onion, duck eggs, salt, pepper and seasoning. Once you have all of these you simply mix them into a thick paste before wrapping them into small rolls using transparent rice paper. These rolls are then fried in boiling oil.
Cha Ca La Vong (Grilled Fish): This is a predominantly northern delicacy of freshwater fish grilled in butter. The waiter will initially place before you various dishes; a small bowl of mam tom (shrimp paste), lemon juice and slices of hot chilly. Next a plate of roasted nuts arrives followed by a plate of white rice vermicelli noodles and a plate of green vegetables. Lastly the fish arrives – neatly cut into squares and simmering in a pan of boiling oil. The pan is placed upon a small burning coal stove and the whole thing is delivered to your table read this post here. This ensures that the fish is piping hot on arrival.
Nuoc mam: The fermented fish sauce is used to spice anything. (No Vietnamese meal is complete without it). If you fancy something a little stronger try “mam tom”, other form of “nuoc mam”, otherwise known as “tear gas” to foreigners!
Baguettes: A legacy of the French are the small white bread leaves, resembling baguettes. Sometimes they are combined with well spiced meat, vegetables and salad to form an excellent sandwich.
Banh Khoai: Banh Khoai or stuffed omelet is perhaps best described as Vietnam’s version of the taco and is a very popular dish in Hue. Banh Khoai is made with rice flour and flavored with cumin that is then fried until deliciously crispy around the edges. It is filled with small pieces of minced pork, shrimps, a few bean sprouts and some mashed green beans and then folded over to resemble a crepe.
Banh Chung: This is one of the country’s most popular dishes, especially at Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. This square cake is made of glutinous rice, pork and green beans wrapped in the dong leaves and boiled.
The Longan is a close relative to the litchi and is mostly grown in the cooler highlands of Southeast Asia. It was brought here by Chinese immigrants as they migrated south. The peel is brown and brittle and the meat is translucent white and sweet.
The star fruit is a native of Southeast Asia. When sliced cross-wise, the pieces look like five-pointed stars. The fruit is widely used in Vietnam cooking although it can be eaten raw.
The Mangosteen is a fruit that is unique to South-East Asia. The fruit is extremely hard to grow and it often takes 8-15 years for a tree to bear fruits. The rind of the mangosteen is dark purple marked by a yellowish resin. In terms of size and shape, the mangosteen is similar to the Japanese persimmon.
The Rambutan originated from Malaysia where the word ‘rambut’ means hair. The fruit is grown in the Mekong Delta. The fruit’s distinctive outer skin is covered in soft fleshy hair and when peeled the inside contains a white, firm flesh.
The fruit is large, weighing up to 9 kg and resembles a large squash. The skin is thin like that of a watermelon and turns from green to yellow and orange as the fruit ripens. The flesh of the papaya may be yellow, orange, or reddish orange and has a consistency of a very ripe (soft) cantaloupe. Papayas are sweet and served as dessert.
Rose apple: The rose apple is native to the Southeast Asia. The coloring of the fruit varies from pale green to ruby red. The center of the fruit is hollow and filled with brown seeds. The water apple has a slightly acidic taste and can be very sour. Vietnamese often use it as an offering at the altar because of its attractive color.
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Thank you so much Kara for the very good organized holiday.
Every 2 days you brought us to a different location so we could experience the wonderful food, people and attractions. Private tours with our own transportation, driver and very nice english speaking guides. Always on time, never we had to worry about flight tickets, arrangements, reservations! This was pure luxury!!
We have just come back from my 2th visit to Vietnam in 2 years. I was lucky enough to find Asia Senses Travel when we were planning our first trip 01 year ago, and we are still using them. Each time, we have done something different which is fabulous.
Saw some descriptions of this service from TripAdvisor. Made enquiries via email. Surprisingly someone actually replied with comprehensive itineraries and suggestions.
In Vietnam we have THE best tour guide you could imagine – “Lucky”, or Laki. He looked after us extremely well and was a wonderful source of knowledge during the 12 days we were together.