Sometimes things just fall into place. I had just committed to a trip to Southeast Asia when I discovered an interesting-looking book about to be released. It was called Vietnam: 100 Unusual Travel Tips. Its author turned out to be someone with whom I had a professional connection, a fellow foodster who, like me, contributes to www.foodiehub.tv . (Formerly known as Chowzter, this has led me to all kinds of interesting people like my buddy Joe DiStefano , the real King of Queens.)
Barbara Adam is an Australian who moved to Vietnam for a break and never left. She's acquired a husband, a child and a lot of working knowledge about things there. Her first book isn't a guidebook - those tips in the title are not things like "For the best photos of the Xa Loi pagoda, stand at this corner." Barbara, whose blog can be found at thedropoutdiaries.com, also runs Saigon Street Eats , food tours led by her and her husband Vo.
She's covering more universal questions, many of which never occur to most visitors until they arrive. For example, I never thought about crossing the streets, although I did vaguely know the traffic is notorious in Ho Chi Minh City, where she lives. No walk lights, apparently. The trick seems to be just keep moving, but if you haven't the nerve for that, just cross with a local. How small do clothing sizes run? Where can you buy diapers? What about social norms - how close do people stand, what kind of questions do they ask and what's that body language? Not surprisingly, there's quite a bit on food, the ettiquette of eating, particular dishes to try, and the suggestion to avoid using the word "yum" because it sounds a great deal like the Vietnamese word for "horny".
There are some sightseeing tips, yes, but because the full title includes "and a Guide to Living and Working There", there's also discussion of housing, what it's like and the vagaries of working in the country, also pretty interesting, if only to feed into those daydreams many of us have from time to time.
If you're one of those folks who won't leave your hotel without a guide, this may not be the book for you. If you are a troglodyte like me who likes the big fat guide books, even though you may not carry them out in the street with you, or if you download from the internet, this is a great supplement. It's especially valuable for folks who want more of an understanding of what's going on around them in daily life in Vietnam.
The book can be found on Amazon, both in paperback and Kindle versions.
Vietnam 100 Unusual Travel Tips and a Guide to Living and Working
Barbara Adam and Vu Vo
Paperback $15.99, Kindle $6.99