We had less than a week to spend in southern Vietnam before we had to catch our flight to the Philippines. We were most excited about tasting the Pho, because it is one of our all-time favorite dishes and it did not disappoint!
We first arrived on a bus in Ha Tien, a border town on the Vietnamese side of the Cambodia-Vietnam border. Tired and hungry, we set out to find some delicious Pho-ood! Just down the street there was a full-on local night market with shopping (clothes, toys, groceries) and heaps of food carts. The first thing we noticed in Vietnam was that not many people spoke English and in this small town there was no foreigners. However, we didn’t let this discourage us and ordered Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup). We did not want to jinx ourselves with the expectations of getting the best pho on the planet, so we went in with none at all. This worked out wonderfully and words cannot describe the joy of such a glorious meal! This became our mandatory breakfast, lunch and dinner meal for the next 6 days.
After the meal, we were feeling adventurous and bought a yummy pancake looking thing-a-ma-bob from a street cart. Upon further inspection, it was a pancake sandwich with mystery meat on the inside (an odd looking piece of bacon and some kind of spam material). Surprisingly, it was delicious, both savory and sweet!
The next day we rode the Superdong ferry to Phu Quoc, a large island in the south. Before the boat ride, we tried to get another bowl of Pho Bo but weren’t so lucky. Instead we were served a a more intense chili, lemongrass soup, we later found out was called Bun Bo Hue. Still delicious but not what we expected.
Phu Quoc turned out alright, and would have probably been really cool for us had we not just come from an amazing beach island only 40 miles away. We made the best of it and found an awesome bungalow run by some very sweet old Vietnamese women! And of course we ate like kings. One night we walked into a small town and found a Pho-only restaurant. They had 3 huge 55 gallon vats filled with broth, and mountains of beef and vegetables on standby for the next customer! Now that’s a lot of soup!
We also found another supreme street cart score called Banh Xeo, a rice paper quesadilla with spicy mayo, chives, and some more mystery meat. It was a crunchy, tasty, glutard friendly treat!
Vietnamese coffee is entirely too delicious for its own good. Whoever decided to pair sweet (condensed) milk with coffee is a genius and my hero. Talk about a heart attack waiting to happen, but it doesn't matter. There is something so awesome about watching their crazy miniature coffee maker sit atop your cup, slowly percolating into a massive goober of sweet goodness. This was our morning ritual!
A few days later we took a small plane to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to spend a few days before our flight to Manila. HCMC is a huge, busy city with intense traffic and thousands of motorbikes ruling the streets. Here we tried more Pho (of course) as well as Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich. The food cart lady starts off by taking a large piece of french bread and smearing pâté on the inside, then a soft cheese. After that she packs it with all kinds of different meat, lettuce, cucumbers and then pickled daikon and carrots. WOW! So, so yummy, and for only 1 dollar what more could you ask for! Vietnam really knows how to do food!
In HCMC we also went to the War Museum…The museum depicted the Vietnam-American war with gruesome pictures and displays. It all started out fun and games outside, looking at the primitive war planes and artillery that were used throughout the war. Then we went inside…Needless to say, it was a harrowing experience seeing how many millions of Vietnamese civilians were killed in the war. It was an especially hard experience being there as an American, knowing everyone in the building probably still holds some kind of grudge for the horrific war crimes committed, especially in the use of chemical weapons. It really made us realize that there are two sides to every war and to every story. That we have to look at things from both perspectives. Neither of us left feeling very cheerful but what we also realized and couldn’t believe was how kindly we were treated in a place that just decades beforehand had been utterly decimated by warfare.
At some point we would love to spend more time in Vietnam! Although we didn’t see as much as we would like, the food and people alone would bring us back! Now it's time to meet up with our family in the Philippines!