- Women being covered head to toe (entirely by choice). I knew that this was to be expected here–Vietnamese value lighter skin–but I wasn’t expecting the intensity of it. I was expecting women in long pants and long sleeves. I was not expecting women in socks, sandals, long pants, a zip-up sweater, gloves, a face covering, and a traditional Vietnamese hat. All to avoid the suns darkening rays–while I’m out wandering the beach in my bikini or the town in my shorts and tank top.
- A waitress force-feeding me at a restaurant. A place called Bale Well Restaurant (a must-do if you’re in Hoi An), down a little back ally. You sit down, and a woman immediately brings out a massive plate of greens, a stack of skewers of grilled meat, spring rolls, sauce, and rice paper. She then proceeds to teach you how to combine all of the above into the rice paper. It’s delicious. But be warned: if you seem to be getting full, she’ll come over and urge you to eat more. And by urge I mean force-feed you. And by force-feed you I mean she put a skewer in my hand, pushed it up to my face and into my mouth. It was still delicious.
- The little girl who tried to scratch Braydon’s freckles off. It hadn’t even occurred to me that freckles would be something quite foreign to local children here. She was the daughter of the people who owned a restaurant that Braydon and I went to in Hue, and she spent a good part of the evening playing around with us. At one point she stopped and stared at Braydon’s arm, then started scratching down. It took a few moments before I realized she was trying to see if she could scratch off the freckles. I love children’s bold honesty.
- The woman in the market who smacked my ass. I was in the market in Ho Chi Minh, looking for something that would work as pole shorts for my visit to the local studio. I found some, and after the customary haggling paid the woman and turned with my shorts to walk away. Before I could take a step, I felt her smack my butt. I turned back to look at her and she said “Nice body” while nodding approvingly. Oh Vietnam…
- Eating on the street. Plastic tables and chairs–child-sized, by Western standards–fill the sidewalks outside small restaurants and next to mobile food stops. Some of the best food I ate was at a little BBQ place that was in front of a dry cleaners. Enjoying a beer, skewers of delicious and steaming hot meat with noodles, while sitting on a small plastic chair and watching people on the street makes for a great evening.