Entering into the city I could already see the chaos. It was a far cry from the well-paved streets of Dublin. We arrived early morning, dropped our bags at the hostel and set out for a bite to eat. We were stopped just steps away from our hotel door by a man who seemed intently interested in my friend’s slippers (He had worn slippers on the plane and hadn’t bothered to change into shoes). The man removed a tube of adhesive from his back pocket and proceeded to glue the slippers at the edges. It happened so fast that we didn’t have time to digest what was happening. He then stood up and with a big smile extended his hand saying ‘1 dollar’, trying to charge us for the service we had not requested.
As we continued down the street we were met with a cocktail of aromas. Fresh baguettes (from the French colonization), spices, flowers and the ever so subtle hint of urine. Women sat at the side of the street wearing cone-shaped hats and chatting in raised voices. This was the first time I had heard the melodic sound of Vietnamese. I had tried to learn a few words before arriving but had wasted my time. Vietnamese is based on tones so subsequently, one word can mean ten different things depending on the way it’s said. I later found out I had been telling people ‘I had a shower’ instead of ‘Thank you’. Our first meal was a bowl of pho. The ever famous dish of Vietnam. And it was all it’s cracked up to be. After our 18 hour flight, we were famished. The noodle soup laced with chili and lime was just what we needed.
We then decided to treat ourselves to a nice glass of wine as it was on the menu for 30,000,000 vnd (1 euro 20). Vietnamese are not drinkers of grape wine and what we were brought was their equivalent, rice wine, which I would grow to both love and hate. The fermented rice produces a nectar that is something akin to a more potent saké.
As I sat on my plastic stool watching locals and tourists bargain with vendors, buckets of water being flung across the road and motorbikes weaving through the crowds of pedestrians, I realized that teaching in Vietnam was going to be a wonderful experience and I was already falling in love with a country that I would soon call home.Tell me more