Where Did You Sleep Last Night – Da Nang, Vietnam with A Couple of Nomads

Where Did You Sleep Last Night – Da Nang, Vietnam with A Couple of Nomads

The second in our series of guest bloggers, who are chatting about where they slept last night.  This time, we are in Da Nang Vietnam with A Couple of Nomads. Who Are You?   I’m Leanne from A Couple of Nomads, with Coran my husband being the other half of the couple. After many trips away to Asia on holidays we decided there must be a better way to have a work life balance than 1 holiday a year. We decided to sell everything and test the waters as digital nomads. We left in May of 2013 and we’re still going. The blog is full of our experiences and plenty of tips for those who want to do or try what we’ve done. Where are you right now? How long have you been there? Da Nang, Vietnam. 1 month so far, but we are planning to stay 6 months in total. What made you choose this destination? Why did you go? Da Nang has great wifi, cheap but good accommodation, plenty of food choices, an international airport and a fantastic beach. All of the things we desire in a locale being digital nomads. We needed somewhere to go before the burning season started in Chiang Mai. Other location independent travellers had mentioned that Da Nang was like Chiang Mai but with a beach. We had been to Da Nang but only to travel through on our way to Hoi An, which is where most tourist go. For us Hoi An is lovely but too touristy and a little too quite to stay for a longer period of time. So...
Cleanliness Abroad – You Have to Eat a Pound of Dirt Before You Die

Cleanliness Abroad – You Have to Eat a Pound of Dirt Before You Die

My mother in law always says, you have to eat a pound of dirt before you die.  Now, I am not grabbing a spoon and walking into the rice paddies to dig up some dirt, but it is a maxim that I have learned to live by, particularly through our travels.  After all, cleanliness abroad takes some work. During our very first trip to Asia in 2006, as novice travelers, I read all the warnings and spent our 16 day trip concerned and worried.  I refused to eat ice, avoided street food, wouldn’t eat fresh fruit or vegetables, and brushed my teeth only with bottled water.  I had three countries to see in about two weeks and the last thing I wanted was to get sick and miss something.   As we travel the world, though, our definition of cleanliness continues to evolve.  When traveling for a year, or permanently, you can take more risks.  If you lose a day or two, no big deal.   In the past, my discussion of cleanliness focused on how often we showered, how many wears we could get from a t-shirt, and how we cleaned our clothes.  After posting the guest blog from Lolabees on 7 Tips for the Germaphobic Traveler, though, I reflected on some of my more recent experiences with cleanliness.  Boy, have I pushed the envelope. My goal has been to slowly introduce the local germs into my system, to build up a tolerance.  After all, you have to eat a pound of dirt before you die.  I always interpreted this as you can’t wrap yourself in a bubble...
The Culture of Drinking in Vietnam – Part 2

The Culture of Drinking in Vietnam – Part 2

And, even more about the culture of drinking in Vietnam. I do enjoy heading out to a bia hoi in Hanoi, and love some of the traditions that go along with serving in Vietnam, but my favorite part of the culture of beer drinking in Vietnam is toasting! Toasting in Vietnam Drinking beer in Vietnam is all about the tradition of toasting, and all the formalities that go along with it.  In Dong Ha, drinking beer is just about one of the only things to do in the evenings.  Going to “dinner” often means heading to a seafood joint on the river front, or another restaurant, to drink beer, with a few dishes of food on the side. A plastic crate (called a “can”) of large bottled beer is automatically delivered to your table, warm, along with short glasses and a small bucket of ice.  Yep, ice in beer.  I love it.  As beers are drunk, the empties are returned to the can, and counted at the end of the night to determine the bill. The new trend in Dong Ha is to drink a case of canned beer instead of bottles, though, because of rumors of the quality of the beer in the bottles, particularly the brands brewed in China.  There is a general understanding in Vietnam that the Chinese are trying to poison them, with the beer, meat, vegetables – you name it, and China is adding poison.  With cases of beer, the empties are thrown ceremoniously on the ground.  The number remaining in the case at the end of the night is used to calculate the...
The Culture of Drinking in Vietnam – Part 1

The Culture of Drinking in Vietnam – Part 1

During one of our first trips to Vietnam, we decided to open a western restaurant in little Dong Ha, Vietnam.  A dream of our good friends, Tam and Hai, who both wanted a Western owned restaurant in the town.  We considered their request, sort of seriously.  While at a restaurant in Hanoi with white paper that served as a table cloth, we drew the floor plans of our new bar in crayon.  We called the place “Mawt, Hai, Ba, Yo!!!!!”  I’ll explain why in Part 2. There is a culture of drinking in Vietnam, which often times borders on a problem.  I like to focus, though, on the fun times we have had in Vietnam, drinking beers and learning all the drinking customs, including the inspiration for our Western owned Dong Ha restaurant. Bia Hoi in Vietnam Cheap, cold, draft beer, sitting on a plastic stool on the side of the road.  That pretty much sums up the bia hoi experience.  Bia Hoi is a draft beer, made with no preservatives.  It is delivered in kegs to bars (generally referred to as Bia Hoi) around Hanoi. The bars are simple, with plastic chairs, and no frills. Customers start arriving early.  I have seen men outside drinking bia hoi at 10 am.  Lunch is also a popular time for bia hoi – grabbing some beers and a little bit of food before returning to work.  The bar only orders as much beer as they think they will serve in a single day – it won’t be good the following day.  Once the beer runs out, the bia hoi will close,...
The Hospitality and Reputation of Vietnam

The Hospitality and Reputation of Vietnam

It is no secret that Vietnam has, and will always, hold a special place in my heart.  I am pretty sure this is merely the result of our two visits to volunteer in 2009.  We spent a total of three weeks living and teaching in Dong Ha, Vietnam, a town I had never heard of before, but will never forget. Volunteering at Le Quy Don High School changed me as a person.  I know people always say a Round The World Trip will change you, but I think this one experience and this one town changed me more than the entire 14 months journey combined.  It was an experience that you just don’t get traveling through a country and seeing its tourist spots.  I formed relationships, I bonded, we made new friends, and we truly learned more about the culture and traditions of Vietnam, more so than we ever could have in the backpackers district in Saigon, or wandering the UNESCO designated Hoi An.   The Reputation of Vietnam This is why I take it a little personally when people crap all over Vietnam.  And that, unfortunately, is a common occurrence.  Vietnam is not an easy place to visit.  It can be incredibly rewarding, but certainly not easy.   A few years ago the well-known travel blogger, Nomadic Matt, wrote a piece “Why I’ll Never Return to Vietnam.” It went viral, so to speak.  He complained about how he was “hassled, overcharged, ripped off, and treated badly by the locals” and blamed this for the reason why “95% of tourists don’t return.” I read this and knew he was...
Truong Son National Cemetery in Quang Tri

Truong Son National Cemetery in Quang Tri

During our war history tour of Quang Tri, our guide, took us through the Truong Son National Cemetery in Quang Tri, just outside of Dong Ha. It was already hot, even before 10 am.  We were one of a few people touring the cemetery, which made it all the more surreal. Quang Tri is not a large province, only 90 kilometers long and 80 kilometers wide, but they host 72 war cemeteries, because so many Vietnamese soldiers died in the area.  Almost all the graves are reburial graves, meaning the bodies were found after the war and moved to the cemetery.  This is why the graves are so small.  Many of the soldiers are from the Communist Army.   When a Northern Vietnamese army solider died in the south, their bodies would stay where they died.  If their bodies were moved back home, then the South Vietnamese would know who was fighting for the North.  Often times, the families never received news that their loved ones had died.  This was a particularly vast problem in Quang Tri because the former DMZ ran through the middle of the province.   The cemetery holds over 10,000 graves, many of which have headstones with little or no information filled out.  Bodies are still found regularly, as there are approximately 300,000 Vietnamese Missing in Action.  Many of the soldiers were issued paper identification (instead of dog tags) during the war.  Sometimes the identification was kept in plastic.  When bodies are found now, much of the identifying information on that piece of paper has been destroyed by the elements, because four decades have passed...