Vietnamese people are also by and large, as warm and friendly as their Mekong delta neighbors. Seen loy (excuse me)and gam un (thank you) gets you quite far. In case you're wondering about the war, no bad feelings towards Americans have been harbored for decades. I had lunch with a veteran who recounted his memories of being shocked at how nicely he was treated by former infantry of the North just a few years when he returned to Vietnam. They aren't fond of the Chinese, but that's due to their government's human rights violations, and honestly who supports that shit, aside from all of us who buy Chinese products indirectly...
You'll find a significant number of taxi drivers that deserve to have been Mengele experiments in any country but these subhuman pieces of shit are much easier to deal with in Vietnam than in Korea. Mai Linh, Vinasun, and Vinataxi are reputable companies that are everywhere- except the airport. My worst encounter was with a belligerent taxi driver locking the doors on me and some other clueless Chinese fuck and demanding the standard 200k VND/pax airport rate after midnight. He locked the doors on me after I refused to pay, eventually getting out of the car to open the door and negotiate me to 150k. I was about ready to pay when I saw him pull out the incorrect amount of change. I gave him what I owed and walked away. He cursed at me a few times before getting back in his meaningless life.
By paying tourist prices you inflate the economy, fucking shit up for everyone, locals included. The only ones that gain are the guy laughing at you as you walk away and your narcissistic ego. You're not a humanitarian, just a coward and a fool.
North or South?
The overwhelming opinion of the backpackers I came across was that Hanoi blows. Hanoi is dirty, crowded, with little to do, and a more extreme climate. It's a 1 night stop on the way over to Ha Long Bay, a waystation like Manila, well maybe not THAT bad. I even hosted a couchsurfer from Hanoi once who had nothing great to say about Hanoi. She was also a bitch, so I left her a "neutral" reference.
My investigation was about as thorough as Gawker is with their fact checking, so I can't honestly say what the drug scene is like, but they were way easier to get in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Even pure Tramadol was hard to find, as most pharmacies carried Paracet instead. Do I look like I want liver failure with my opiate buzz?? No thanks.
So here is the extent of my drug prices:
20ct diazepam (valium) 5mg $3 /60k VND
10ct tramadol 50mg $5 / 100k VND
10ct ultracet xxmg $5 / 100k VND
Many pharmacies only had ultracet rather than pure tramadol which is 37mg tramadol and a lot of paracetemol. Not something I would settle for.
If Taiwan re-ignited my appreciation for Asian women, Vietnam chilled it to embers. I only counted two 8s during my entire trip. I'm satisfied with my sample: the hottest girls in the Mekong are certainly Thai. And the hottest girls in Thailand are certainly guys.
Many people think couchsurfing is dangerous. They're idiots. Couchsurfing has enhanced my travel experiences tenfold. A good host will let you crash at their place and give you some intel. A great host will show you around town, introduce you to friends, even suck your dick if your lucky. Some of the dirtiest, best sex (I had diarrhea the entire week) I can remember was with a last-minute host I found in Bangkok. And the best part was walking away from that without a single disease. Actually, since my diarrhea stopped shortly after, I might have walked away with one less.
I surfed with three hosts and wasn't so lucky this time, but they showed me so much I would've missed out on. My first host An, took me to eat many foods only a local would know, and just as equally important, dissuaded me from wasting my time on overrated bullshit.
For example, after appearing on No Reservations, 'The Lunch Lady became Vietnam's most famous street vendor. I mean come on- Anthony Bourdain's real as fuck and been doing this shit for twenty years, who could resist following in his footsteps? But according to An, her food is just average. Not that Bourdain lied about anything- she was popular with locals long before being patronized by a white man (the opposite of what usually happens to an Asian woman). But locals who work have little time for lunch, and crave variety. She got popular for her different daily dish, not her skills. She's not worth the pain in the ass it is to find her, unless you're the selfie-taking Bourdain fanboy on a pilgrimage.
Next up, I'll talk about Ho Chi Minh City.