For some time now I’ve been pestering my blog-buddy, Adam, for help with planning our trip to Vietnam. He’s been saintly in his advice, recommending all sorts, from sights to guides, whilst whetting our appetite for this amazing country with his evocative photos. How does he know so much? Adam Hurley’s the man behind the blog, Vietnam Travel Notes.
Monsieur and I will hopefully soon be sharing a beer or three with Adam in Ho Chi Minh City, where the former Australian with a penchant for vegemite now lives with his family. Before Monsieur and I set off on this trip, I sent Adam one of my Epic Online Interviews so I could post the answers here to help introduce him to anyone who may not have come across his blog yet. Here are his responses to some of my questions about his life, his blog and his advice to anyone wanting to travel to Vietnam:
When did you take up blogging and why?
I started several years ago after I started learning a little about web design. I love travel and photography, and just found that blogging was more user friendly and less time consuming. Plus I enjoy writing and showing people my photos from around Vietnam.
How long have you lived in Vietnam?
I have been in Vietnam for 7 years now, how times fly!
What took you there?
After spending 10 years in the Australian Army, I just wanted to lose the green uniform and hit the road. I headed to Kenya first where I taught English as a volunteer for a year. After that a friend showed me an ad in the paper for a tour leader position in South Asia and here I am!
Vietnam was my first choice as I had actually never been here, but was really interested in the history and loved the food.
Why did you stay?
Besides loving Vietnam, I met my wife here. We actually met on the train from Hue to Hanoi while I was leading a group. I’d like to say she fell for me straight away, but it I think it was the other way! We now live in HCMC and have a 2 year old son.
You’re a native of Australia. Will you ever return?
Maybe one day, we have no immediate plans for going back. Perhaps once our son is older, we’ll look at Australia, especially for his education.
What do you miss most about Australia?
Not a lot really! Family and friends I miss of course. One thing do I miss is a good Aussie style pub and live music! It can be hard to find in Vietnam.
Name three things that made you fall in love with Vietnam.
1 .The people are amazing in this country, really friendly and welcoming. This is probably the one thing I love most about Vietnam.
2. Food – you’ll never go hungry with so much choice and the fresh seafood is to die for!
3. The craziness of Vietnam (and Asia as a whole) is also something I love. Every day is different, every trip the market is chaotic, but it’s what Vietnam and Asia is all about! Where else are you going to see buffalo’s on motor bikes?
(Epic note – he’s not kidding. We’ve seen buffalo on the back of a mo-ped, a crate of 3 full-grown swine, a massive cage of poultry – all clucking away, and a lot more. You don’t book a van here. You stick it on your two wheeler with anything that will hold it vaguely in place.)
Do you like Vegemite?
(Hope you’re reading this, Wise Woman…)
Can you buy Vegemite in HCMC?
To date we are struggling to find Vegemite in HCMC. There are a few places in Hanoi where you can get it. But the bottom line is, if you visiting Vietnam please bring a large jar for me, my contact details are on my blog!
What’s your comfort food?
With out a doubt – Lamb Roast! T-Bone Steaks rate highly as does a feed of Italian.
Cheese cake to finish!
Where is your favourite place to eat in HCMC and why?
Some many! For western fixes I like Wild Horse in District 1. They do great lamb and steaks!
For Vietnamese we tend to hang out in District 3 along Ly Van Si Street which has a huge range of places to choice from. There’s also lots of great food to had around District 5 (China Town).
If you could recommend one souvenir of Vietnam, what would it be?
Paintings are my favourite souvenir, simply because they tend to showcase the country you visit, plus they’re easy to carry home.
The Vietnamese Conical hats are a great thing to buy as well; they also make fantastic lamp shades if you’re in to handicrafts.
What’s the most frustrating thing about living in such a foreign culture?
The one thing I hate (and I don’t like to use the word too much!) is people spitting, it’s horrible, but men especially, continue to do it. Also there is a lot of urinating in public!
I remember reading somewhere about Vietnam, “If you hold hands or kiss you partner in the street people will be shocked, but if you urinate against the lamp post or on the side of the road, no one will look twice!”
What is the biggest change you’ve witnessed in Vietnam in the past five years?
I would have to say the people. Some 60% of the population were born after the Vietnam War ended and many are beginning to/have been influenced by Western ideas and ways of life. Their dress, the way people talk and act, where people hang out it’s all very different to when I first arrived.
There are tons more cars on the road now as well. This causes plenty of congestion, pollution and problems such as parking.
Are you now fluent in Vietnamese?
I would be lying if I said I was fluent! But I can definitely get into trouble and out of trouble!
What’s the best aspect of the Vietnamese people?
They are a just happy, friendly, welcoming people.
Do you ride a mo-ped in HCMC? If so, have you ever crashed?
I do ride yes! It’s great fun. I haven’t had any major crashes yet (touch wood) but one or two minor bumps with no damage or injuries. Vietnam only made it law on the 17th December 2007 that rider and passenger must wear helmets. Before that you just wore a peaked cap!
What’s the worst thing a foreigner could do when visiting Vietnam?
It’s actually really hard to upset Vietnamese in general. But a few that help include:
· Dress conservatively when visiting homes, pagodas and historical sites.
· Remove hats/shoes when entering a house or pagoda.
· Never get angry. Loss of face in Vietnam is huge.
· Don’t be shy, ask questions and chat about whatever. Just do so with a big smile.
· Don’t hang out in District 1; visit other areas like District 5 (China Town), District 3 (great food) or get the car ferry across to District 2 and have a wander (great photos).
Is the Vietnam War a conversational no-go in Vietnam?
Not really, if you are friendly and easy going most will talk about it. That said, much of the population was born after the war so they are quite happy to talk about the war or anything else (within reason)
Name three of your favourite ingredients in a Vietnamese market.
2. Fish Sauce (don’t like the smell, but it’s great in cooking!)
3. Fresh fruit. It looks great, taste great and is so cheap!
Where will your next holiday take you?
Destination unknown! I would love to go to Myanmar and my wife wants to visit Angkor Wat.
So I guess Cambodia is next………………!
If you could change one thing about blogging culture, what would it be?
I actually wish everything would slow down so I could keep up with it!