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What it was like to visit Vietnam's remote villages

February 23, 2016, 5:07 pm | This story has an Influence Score of 1322

By PreAcquaint

Written by Nguyen Dinh Giang

Photography by Wietse Jongsma

What is it like to visit Vietnam’s remote villages?


Depends a great deal on which area you are going to — Vietnam has 54 different ethnicity and 3/4 of the landmass is either mountainous or hills.


That said, having been to all corners of the country (my mother worked for the UN, and she had had many projects in remote areas), these are the things I can say:


1. Don’t expect amenities

Unless you are going to some tourist-trap remote area, which is either a home-stay tour or elephant riding or something along those lines, don’t expect comfort. You will sleep on the ground, on bamboo mats, on earthen “beds”, newspapers, or old clothes. Be prepared to lay your head on very traditional beds, which could range from ornate wood carvings to nothing. There will be no mattresses. Electricity is extremely rare, and municipal water will be non-existent — but you’d be surprised how clean the water is.


Signal is impressively strong though, especially if you use Viettel as your service provider. Think Vietnamese Verizon but with military aid. You might even get 3G.


2. Don’t expect conventional food

Again, unless you are in tourist-traps, the food you have will be unconventional as hell. In the North, you’d be met with various plants, often slightly bitter but with a sweet after-taste, or the most refreshing pork you’ll ever have roasted in exotic herbs you can’t even pronounce. Hunted from the jungle, the pigs are more like hogs than domesticated ones, slightly more chewy with a thick and crispy skin. Pair that with strong, strong homemade ethnic alcohol that is dangerously smooth.


In the South, everything will be slightly sour and exceptionally hot. In the rainy seasons, the monsoon swamp the lower decks of houses with fishes, which the people will season and smoke all over the ceiling. Be prepared for days of different dishes from the same type of smoked fish, with a lot of heated herbs and flowers in your bowl.


Say no to dreams of even conventional rice. White rice is difficult to cultivate in these areas, so while they do exist, they don’t pair as well with these oddballs of a delicacy as wilder strains.


No Coke or Pepsi, obviously — though some place might have it.

3. Don’t expect conventional treatment

The poor family might have only one chicken, and despite your protests, they will still kill it to make a great meal for you. They might have only two jars of that beautifully smooth alcohol, being shelved for when their kids get married, yet they are willing to unearth one (quite literally so — good wines are put underground) just for you. This happens often if the place is seldom visited, or if you are a foreigner, a doctor, a teacher, or in my mother’s case, a UN volunteer.


Treat them kindly and with respect, and try not to criticise their cooking. It is not difficult to do so, however, because most of the time the people in remote areas treasure human connections and are surprisingly good cooks.


4. Don’t expect a boring, forgettable experience

It won’t be easy. Your bike will break down (cars can’t go deep in), you might have a fever. You might run out of water midway, and, excuse me for being disgusting, but you might get to know the jungle by taking a big one in it and wipe with banana leaves.


But you will be welcomed, will help people in need (most guides to those areas are governmental or belong to non-profits, and it will rarely be for pleasure only). You will help protect the environment, or raise awareness. You will have unforgettable meals, maybe even get tipsy, and find that a bed made out of soft clay and bamboo mats isn’t that bad after all.


It’ll be pretty special.



Text: www.quora.com. Link: https://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-visit-Vietnams-remote-villages

Republished with permission, as per Quora’s Terms of Service, under the subsection titled, “Quora’s Licenses to You”.

Photography was taken from the following Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11497410@N08/albums/72157662208765476/with/24973346745/

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