Tag Archives: vinh


26 Jan

We found a little cafe that was doing food. They looked like they were nearly closing but the owners waved us in. When we sat down they told us that they were only doing fish soup which didn’t sound brilliant but we thought we’d give it a go considering hardly anywhere was open.

The soup arrived and although the broth and noodles were nice, the fish was fried until crispy with the skin on. I thought it might be a bad idea to eat that considering we had a train journey the next day so ate around it. Once we’d started, the girl disappeared with – treat of treats – “free traditional food of Vietnam” – the meat and rice cake we have so studiously avoided so far. She didn’t just bring a slice, she brought the whole cake. It seemed rude not to try it but it was so sticky we couldn’t attack it with chopsticks…the man sitting next to us came over and stabbed a piece with a chopstick and then picked it up. I broke a bit off with my fingers – it had the texture of suet and looked a bit like a green scotch egg…the rice outside having been dyed green by the leaf it was cooked in. The inside was yellow and had chunks of meat in it. The girl told us it had been cooked for 12 hours (delicious!) so I had a little try. If you can imagine the taste and texture of cat food flavoured chewing gum, then trying to swallow the whole unyielding glutinous mouthful whilst not breathing so you don’t have to taste it, and having to smile and give the thumbs up to the waitress so she thinks you love it, you can get the idea of the full experience. Given that I was still feeling ill, it was down to Craig to manfully eat more so we didn’t appear ungrateful. He sat, stoically chewing, until he’d eat most of one massive piece, definitely taking one for the team.

Apparently dipping it in fish sauce made it nicer, which gives you some idea of how bad it was to begin with.

I found the source of the food poisoning in the morning – went to use the downstairs loo by the restaurant and looked inside the pantry…there was about 25 carrier bags of defrosting meat on the floor. I am as much a fan of meat that comes in carrier bags as anyone else (Wellesbourne market’s meat man knows this) but all different types of meat, defrosting in one huge pile, on the floor and at room temperature, is likely to be a bad idea.

We went to the train station at 9.15 to catch the train to Vinh which according to the net, was leaving at 12.30. It was a good job we were early as it took half an hour to get the train tickets – everyone just kept pushing in in front of each other. Eventually Craig just blocked the ticket window and forced everyone else who had cut in front to wait :) The tickets were 170,000 dong (£5.30) and said the train was coming at 10.51 which was good news. We sat and had an incredibly cheap coffee (10,000 dong) and banana pancakes for Craig…which turned out like fritters

The train was brilliant (even though the toilets were pretty much like all Vietnamese train toilets…disgusting. For any female independent travellers out there, I highly recommend a shewee – a Scottish girl even asked to buy my used one she was so impressed – a mooncup and feminax!) as we managed to have tickets for a table seat which meant rare leg room. On the second stop two girls from Vinh and their father got on and sat opposite us.

The journey turned into an impromptu Vietnamese/English lesson as they spoke a little English and were quite keen to try it out. They told us their names, Mai and Trang, and their full names which were about 9 words long. I told them Craig’s full name (three words) and they thought his name was Crazy, which was awesome. When I said my full name was only two words long, Trang thought for ages about the only person she’d heard of with two names…”like Vladmir Putin?”. Yes, exactly like Vladmir Putin. Damn it. They were very nice and told us a bit about Vinh and where to go – Ho Chi Minh Square – and said everything that was worth seeing was round by the square, about 5km from the train station.

We said goodbye at Vinh and walked off in the direction of the centre. We saw a couple of hotels along the way but thought it was best to keep going so we could get one near the centre. After 3 hours of military-style exercise with each of us carrying at least 15-20kg, I can conclusively say that a) there is no square, or if there is, it is a Bermuda square that is impossible to find, b) there is nothing to see in Vinh…we’ve walked round so you don’t have to and c) the hotel nearest the train station we walked past first turned out to be the best bet. The hotels are a lot more expensive here – the lovely one we went into mid punishing walk was $45. The cheapest one we went to said “massage” on the outside (possibly a bad sign) and charged £4.70. However, a scan of the room and a quick costs/risk/reward analysis established that actually, the certainty of developing scabies if we stayed there outweighed the comfort of putting our bags down so we carried on walking.

We ended up going back to the first hotel and negotiated a discount from $35 to $25 given that it didn’t look as nice as the lovely one (which had a pool) we saw earlier. That price is still more than we wanted to pay but we thought that if we can try to get the bus to Laos tomorrow, one night wouldn’t be too bad. It was quite a big room and was fairly luxurious compared to what we have become used to further North. And we found out after we checked in that it also has a pool. Result :) Whether they “remember” that it’s meant to be $25 dollars tomorrow is another story…