When I think of Vietnam, a couple of things come to mind.
First, there are the smiles. Then, there’s the soup.
This is Vietnam. The Land of Smiles and Soup.
There were so many great meals, I don’t even know where to begin. From South to North, Vietnam is a land of seemingly endless varieties of soup. Always brought to you with a smile.
Though you don’t always need to be eating to experience the warmth of a Vietnamese smile.
Sometimes you’re just walking. Like the time me and my girlfriend were in Ha Giang, and we found some old waterpark. From the outside it looked like an abandoned building, and then when we walked in… we were greeted by this girl who just ran up to meet us. With the biggest smile you can imagine.
Her broken English didn’t stop her enthusiasm one bit. This is the kind of encounter that anyone who has spent any amount of time in Vietnam will experience.
Or how about the the we were hitchhiking up by Ba Be Lake? We thought we could walk to our homestay, but the distance was far too long. And that scorching heat was wearing us down.
When we stood on the side of the road, trying our luck, the very first van stopped for us. It appeared to be full with six or seven people, but they made room. In Vietnam, no vehicle is ever truly full.
They weren’t looking for any payment. They met us with nothing but curiousity and warm smiles. That generous spirit that is found all over Vietnam.
All those faces you meet while travelling. Sometimes just for a short motorbike ride. Or the time it takes to buy a Ca Phe Sua Da. You never know which ones will just stick in the back of your memory. Which faces, which encounters, which… seemingly mundane moments will never be forgotten.
How about the time in Northern Vietnam when we were on our way to our home stay, but we got lost? It was the middle of night, and we could only find a little community center, where some women were playing badminton. We didn’t speak any Vietnamese, but we were able to communicate that we were lost. That was all it took. They all took out their phones and proceeded to help us, one by one.
When we made it to the home stay, it was far later than we had planned. But that didn’t stop them from having a feast waiting. And staying up late, sharing drinks and laughs and smiles.
The mother didn’t speak any English, we didn’t speak any Vietnamese. But Google Translate was our friend that night.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of a smile, to break down those language divides. Or the power of a shared meal.
These encounters, these moments… these smiles… these shared soups. These are my fondest memories of Vietnam.
It’s been six months since I left Vietnam.
But I can still smell those soups.
And I can still see the smiles.
You never know which parts of your travels will be most meaningful looking back. But I would wager that they won’t be quite what you think.
Ha Long Bay, and all the famous places you imagine when you book your trip. They are worth seeing, for sure, but…
Those simple moments. On the side walk. Sitting on those little plastic chairs. In the end, they might be the moments that you miss the most. When you think back on Vietnam.
The Land of Smiles and Soup.