In no particular order.
• the most common noise in Vietnam is the horn of a motorbike or vehicle.
• the most useless items: pedestrian crossings followed closely by traffic lights and a close third is indicators on vehicles and motorbikes. Coming in fourth would be double lines down the middle of the roads.
•there are no McDonalds in Vietnam. They hold a grudge for a long time! There were a few KFCs in the suburbs ( no guarantee it would be chicken) not that we wanted to go to any of them anyway. I think it is because their eating habits are just so different. Pho (soup with noodles and whatever else you want) is their staple food. Breakfast as well. They like to have the liquid to start their day.
•most restaurants in the tourist areas offered some western style meals. It wasn't just noodles, spring rolls and rice, although we did eat a lot of all of those.
•we had some heavy rain on a couple of days, but not too much. Everybody just puts on a poncho when rain is on it's way. The scooters just pull up and cover up. Some ponchos go over the handle bars of the bike and some even have a clear plastic panel for the headlight. Some ponchos catered for the passenger as well by having a second hole for the passenger's head. (must have been made in Tasmania!).
Sometimes the passengers would just get under the driver's poncho. Even when 3 passengers.
•5 was the most we saw on any scooter. If you have more than 3 kids, you probably need another scooter or don't go anywhere together.
•bikes and scooters would carry just about anything. Animals, bags of rice, steel poles, bricks, wares to sell, crates of beer, you name it and we probably saw it.
•toilet talk was a regular topic of conversation. Whether it be referring to the condition or style of a loo (many flushing squat loos, not a good idea when wearing thongs on your feet)
Some public loos (or happy houses as commonly referred to) it was expected that you pay 2000 dong (10 cents). On one occasion when Shelley paid, the old lady gave her a few sheets of scrunched up paper. Shelley opted for the drip dry approach! Apparently she is not a scruncher!
•lighting is often dim at night. RR returned to the dinner table one night to announce that he had just used the ladies loo! It explained the strange looks he got on his exit from the cubicle.
•toilet talk was an important conversation piece because we wanted to keep a check on each other's health. Great laughter one morning when RR announced how great it was to see something like spring rolls rather than satay sauce in the loo that morning! Sorry, hope you are not eating!
•common question to each other after shopping or bargaining- How much did you pay? Common reply from the group- You got ripped off!
Some examples:RR bought "Colombia" zip off pants in Saigon. A week or 2 later in Hue, he sits down at a Temple and splits the stitching in the crutch. Just as well he had dark jocks on. A sewing job required when home.
RM had some reading glasses with titanium arms made in Hoi An. Really happy with them until in Hanoi when walking along (he had them hanging from his shirt when not in use) they fell to the ground missing an arm. Looked everywhere, but could not find it. He was able to get another arm in Hanoi, but not quite the same.
I bought 2 pair of cargo pants at the Saigon market. Happy enough with the bargained price. Shelley gets an identical pair later on away from the market at half the price!
•laundry is a necessity at home or away. After Grabbos got ripped off at hotel prices, we all sought out locals doing tourist laundry, usually located near hotels. About $1 to $1.50 per kilo. Not worth having your room looking like a "Chinese laundry". Always folded, sometimes ironed, one even had our socks paired with safety pins.
Grabbos were picking theirs up at Hoi An. The lady (in broken English) was trying to explain that she was not responsible for the hole in the front of Richie's boxer shorts. It was already there before washing. Slightly embarrassing moment for Shelley. Lesson for Richie, take your best pair on holidays next time.
Richie would put on his clean, whitish, heaviest, cargo shorts to go out for dinner. On several occasions, he would spill food on them. Lesson for Richie, don't wear whitish colored cargo shorts.
•airline security is a pain. We had two flights over, 3 internal flights, and 2 home. You have to empty or drink your water bottle every time.
RR very unhappy at Singapore when security said he could not take his contact lens solution in his carryon luggage. Our luggage was in transit. At Melbourne, they said it was no problem as it is a medical item. You can't buy it in bottles less than 120 ml. 100ml is the security size allowed. Might have to write to the manufacturers to get a travel size produced! First task in Saigon was to find a pharmacy to buy some more.
•hotels generally had very poor lighting.
I usually had to find the torch and glasses to be able to read the numbers to undo the lock on my suitcase. Yes, the torch was in the suitcase the first time.
At Can Tho, the light switches were a big problem. RR was still quite unwell that night and already in bed. I start turning the lights off, (usually all on when you first enter a hotel room as all were activated when you put the room card in the slot). I could not turn one off. Looked everywhere. Russ eventually got up to assist. We tried every switch in sight several times to no avail. A bit irritable at this stage so I called reception and they sent housekeeping up. She walked to the nearby powerpoint that the TV was plugged into and flicked the switch. Presto! Off she went with a giggle. We realized the obvious then. No powerpoints in Vietnam have a switch. You just plug your appliance in and off it goes. Who would have thought it! The next morning as I am nominating myself for the "Dufus" award by retelling this, Grabbos own up and said they had the exact problem. They rang reception too. However I had got in before them and reception told them to try the switch with the TV powerpoint.
•in the streets of the bigger cities (most of them) the overhead power lines were amazing. A huge mess of wires would go from one pole to the next. Certainly avoided them if any were hanging low.
•alcohol. Beer is the main drink of choice for visitors (not this visitor, I could not acquire a taste for it) and locals (who are not good Buddhists or are Catholic or other). Where ever we dined, the question was always asked "Is the beer really cold? Answer- yes, but not as cold as liked.
We would have a predinner drink in someone's room each night. Duty free gin and freely available tonic water. Some local products were purchased as well. One evening, Helen said she could not get the lid off the locally purchased Gordon's gin. We told her it was already off. She had not even had a drink at that stage! Tiredness perhaps.
RM will, in future travels, carry any half empty bottles of alcohol in a plastic bag. Leakages leave a mess in your suitcase. Only a small amount leaked, but enough to be a nuisance.
•Tips for future travel.
When on Singapore's terminal train and the announcement says hang on, Richie, it also means hang on to your roller hand luggage (as theirs had to be retrieved from half way down the train. Lucky there weren't many people on board).
Always put toilet bag/insect repellants etc in a plastic bag. I did do this, fortunately as we had a couple of leakages. Pressure builds up in some containers.
Take half the amount of clothes. Despite perspiring so much, we all commented how our clothes did not smell like they would at home. Easy to wear clothes for several days. Perhaps diet makes a difference.
Overnight flights are cheaper, but very tiring. Won't be doing that again, unless there is absolutely no alternative.
I have rambled on enough. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our travels.
It has provided us with a diary of each day and it has been a good way to record some things we may have forgotten about later.
It was a fantastic holiday, with great company, and memories we will have forever.
I have added a random selection of photos to finish with.