Well it’s been an interesting week. I left Hanoi riding through hordes of scooters, pedestrians and cyclists. For about half an hour it was complete chaos but somehow I felt relatively safe. The pace was slow and everyone seems to look out for everyone else. It has a certain sublime choreography to it.
This next photo is interesting. The story is that a couple hundred years ago the government collected property taxes based on the width of your house’s facade, rather than value or total square footage. So people built narrow high and deep houses, called tube houses. Later it became cheaper to buy a narrow house and build up. Since many families live together it’s convenient to have several floors so mom and dad, the kids and grandma can all have their own floor, which may just contain a single room. Here is a tube house I saw in the countryside.
I met Nico, a German cyclist at a hotel one day. He cycled around Scandanavia for a bit before flying to Hanoi. He was headed south too on his way to Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore. We ended up riding together for several days. Here I am with Nico.
We got on some back roads one day and ended up at a riverbank with no bridge across. Fortunately there were a few rowboat ferries to give us a ride across for a dollar or so.
Here’s Nico on the small ferry with his bike.
The food has been excellent as usual. We ate a lot of pho, which is noodle soup. You can have it with chicken, beef, pork or duck. Then there are variations of noodles too. I also tried eel noodle soup a couple times which was very tasty. At one restaurant the chef was eager to show off her food. Here she is showing me the eel.
Some colorful fishing boats on a river.
Typical sight of a woman cycling through the countryside. Boy if looks could kill…she seems annoyed that I photographed her.
All the kids yell at us, “HELLO!” In this case I stopped and took a pic of the kids. They shrieked with delight at seeing themselves in the photo.
A guy transporting something on a river. We managed to get off the highway a lot on some quiet back roads which was great, although rocky and muddy at times.
Woman working in rice field.
Man’s Best Friend?
This is my first time in Southeast Asia. For years I’ve heard the rumor that the Vietnamese eat dog and cat. In fact, I used to joke about it:
Q: How to you know your house was robbed by a Vietnamese person?
A: The dog and cat are gone and the kid’s homework is done.
HAHA. But I never knew for sure if the rumor was true. Well, I found out the other day it is true.
Thit chó is a restaurant that serves dog meat. There are photos on the internet of cooked dogs ready to eat. If you are curious feel free to look it up. I did not see any at the market but I did pass this sign one day.
Then we stopped for snacks one day at a small shop and the family inside invited us in to have a drink and to eat a bit. They offered us shots of some home made liquor which tasted awful. Then they gave us a small bowl of meat which we accepted out of politeness. Nico jokingly asked the guy if it was “chó“, dog meat. He nodded, pointed at the bowl and said “woof woof.” I thought, “Oh no, he’s got to be kidding.” But he wasn’t. We had no choice but to eat the poor dog. It was actually not that bad. A little gamey and chewy but edible. Here we are scarfing some canine with our host.
One of the kids running around the house.
One night we went out to a restaurant near our hotel which was full of people partying. We think it was a company dinner or something because everyone seemed to know each other. The people quickly came over to talk to us and gave us a bottle of rice wine and proceeded to initiate several toasts with us. It was crazy but fun. Here we are toasting again with one of the guys.
The family at the table next to us invited us over too and we had more toasts with them. I’ll say one thing about the Vietnamese: they are some of the most friendly people I have ever met. Very outgoing. Here’s the daughter of one of the guys at the table. Cute kid.
We met a guy in a restaurant but it was another dog restaurant and we did not want to eat there. He is a chef so he led us to a nearby place and bought us lunch which was delicious. Did I mention the Vietnamese are friendly? The other two guys are his friends. He ordered eel in lemongrass and beef noodle soup. Nam is his name, he is on the left. He worked as a chef in Singapore and spoke pretty good English. He also runs a chef school in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s official name is the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. So you see a lot of red flags with the socialist star and the old Soviet hammer and sickle. I’ll get more into Vietnam’s politics and economics, as well as history, in future posts.
Well that’s enough for one post. I’ll ride with Nico for one more day then he has to take off while I will slow down and enjoy the beaches in Central Vietnam. Here’s my current position. Woof woof!
Wow Kev! Sounds like such an incredible adventure there. I would love to go there!!! Was always curious and now after hearing about the people and seeing the countryside I am being lured there except for the dog part. I would be the last person to ever want to insult someone, however; there is no way I could ever eat dog. Ever. Tears filled my eyes reading your words, as well as wanting to throw up.
Perhaps next time you could put up a warning not to read further if one has an amazing love of animals.
Do they not believe in tofu? or do they even have it in their country? That would be my question for you – are there any vegetarians there?
Love you lots thank you for posting that way I know you are safe. Hoping you got my email I sent. Enjoy the beaches I heard they’re amazing!!
Love always, your Zelda
Zelda, sorry for surprising you with the dog meat. It is disgusting to many of us, but it has been part of the Vietnamese culture for thousands of years, and is believed to bring good fortune in Vietnamese culture. Tofu is not as big here as in Japan but they certainly do have vegetarian dishes.
Ugg, Kev don’t eat dog. I too, was wondering about that when traveling around parts of Asia not wanting to accidentally partake so I researched. I wish I hadn’t, it’s absolutely barbaric what they do to these creatures. Bill Maher the comedian has done a lot to shut down illegal dog farms and slaughter houses in Korea. Honestly I cannot read about it anymore it nauseates me.
Decline! You do not always have to ‘when in Rome…’
Beyond that, I am jealous. We just came back from a NYC trip. It was fantastic but still prefer to be in Vietnam.
Lets skype soon!
Apparently eating dog is on the decline here. As people get more affluent they tend to keep dogs more as pets and would not think of eating them. But change comes slowly.
How about the cats, then? Gotta be better than the bugs and worms they eat in other countries you’ve been through.
Our disinclination to eat dog (or certain other animals) must just be part of our cultural norm. Pigs are much more disgusting than dogs (and even somewhat human-like). But I know few people who don’t love bacon.
Care for some chow-chow with your chow-chow?
They eat cat here too although technically it is illegal. Believe it or not, Vietnamese for cat is “mèo”. It is generally seen on menus with the euphemism “tieu ho”, literally “baby tiger” rather than the literal “thit mèo”. Cat galls have aphrodisiacal properties according to people in North Vietnam. I’ve seen one or two restaurants with “cho” and “meo”—dog and cat—on the menu. I’ve not tried it yet (to my knowledge.)
I guess it is disgusting because we are closer to dogs than pigs. Do you let your pig into your house and play with it? But true, pigs are smart. Winston Churchill once said, “I like pigs. Dogs look up to us, cats look down on us, but pigs treat us as equals.”