Episode 39: Two Days and Three Nights in Vietnam (Prologue)

The turbulence rocking the plane shook me from my nap. Do you know how turbulence on a plane feels? It’s like being in a roller coaster ride, the G-forces slapping you everywhere, having to brace for sudden drops and turns and that inevitable plunge, except there are no rails or safety brakes, and that plunge might as well end up at sea.
We’re on our way to Vietnam, I reminded myself, and it seemed we flew through bad weather. Despite the turbulence, I was still sleepy. Normally, I would be awake, feverish, probably trembling with excitement whenever I go to a new place. But this time, my body had shut down, as if I was preparing for a long night ahead.

Our father, a ship captain, invited my brother MC and me to visit Vietnam weeks ago. His ship will be there, he said, so why not spend a vacation with him? We could take the weekend off, and then leave just in time for Monday.

This trip to Vietnam would be my first overseas trip in four or five years. The last one was for a vacation in Hong Kong with the whole family. We visited Disneyland and Ocean Park, went shopping, and roamed the city.
I wanted to do so much, except I didn’t have pocket money. I could not go around for fear of getting lost. I couldn’t go shopping, a luxury I never enjoyed anyway. Even my choice of food and drink (okay, so I drank the local beer) was scoffed at so much, when we dined at Disneyland, my dad asked whether I wanted to try Disneyland beer.
At first, I wasn’t so excited over visiting Vietnam. I didn’t have enough pocket money. Over a week before the trip, I even got gout, and couldn’t walk or do anything.
One pain-filled night, I distracted myself by reading. It must have been fate that what I opened was “A Cook’s Tour” by Anthony Bourdain. Tony had many stories about Vietnam. He met war veterans and café owners. He visited restaurants, ate the street food, drank 333 (pronounced ba-ba-ba) Beer, moonshine and iced coffee, tried pho, hot vit lon, and clay-roasted duck. He saw historical landmarks, rode a boat to the Mekong Delta, and went emo over the Vietnam War.
All of a sudden, I realized what I wanted to do in Vietnam.
On the other hand, what do I know about Vietnam, apart from the stuff one can read from Wikipedia? Ever the foodie, I started researching on their cuisine.
I read that Vietnamese cuisine is known as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. The Vietnamese regularly use fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fruits and vegetables. They also add herbs such as long coriander, lemongrass, mint, and basil leaves in their food. Oil is sparingly used in cooking, and ingredients are always fresh.
Dishes also consist of fish, chicken, pork, beef, and seafood, though vegetarianism seems to be common.  They sometimes use exotic ingredients like offal, snails, and silkworm (O_O); it is said that nothing is wasted in a Vietnamese kitchen.
Vietnamis best known for its noodles, soups, rice dishes, and wraps. Some dishes are served hot and spicy, depending on the region. It also has influences from French, Chinese, and other Asian cuisines.
I’ve never really tried Vietnamese cuisine. There are a lot of Vietnamese restaurants in Metro Manila, but you know how rare it is for me to eat out. So to say that I’m excited to try out Vietnamese cuisine at its own homeland is an understatement.
More importantly, this will be the first time in months that I would see my dad. I hoped to see where he works, and what he does nowadays. We’ve never had time for a proper bonding, so this would be a good opportunity for us to spend time with him.
The plane started shaking again for a bit before descending. We’re a few minutes away from Ho Chi Minh City. We’re safe.

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Up next… The gastronomic adventure in Vietnam begins.

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