1. Fish sauce. A salty clear-ish liquid made from fishies like anchovies. Add chilies and lime juice and splash on just about anything.
2. Ice tea and ice coffee. Usually served in a tumbler with one or more big chunks of ice. Tra da (pronounced cha da) is “tea” “ice.” Caphe sua da is “coffee” “milk” “ice.” The milk is sweetened condensed. In the north they also mix in yogurt. Caphe sua chua da. Yum. Like a milkshake.
Tea from the north I find bitter, but I love the artichoke tea from Sapa and the ginger tea is wicked. At cafes you often get a free glass of ice tea along with whatever else you might order.
3. The conical hat. I went to a village where these were made. By hand. Takes a good solid two days and many, many stages including softening the palm leaves by foot, drying them, ironing them, hand stitching them to a frame. They sell for $5. Incredible.
4. Beer with ice. And I don’t even like beer.
5. Tiny plastic stools. These are whipped out for eating or drinking on the street. A little tough on guys with long legs.
6. Silk scarves. Everywhere in every colour. Gorgeous and cheap.
7. The word “oi.” “Oi gioi oi” means “Oh my God.” “Em oi” is what you yell at waiters to get their attention…means, “Oh hey there young person.”
8. Bun Cha, a delicious noodle soup with bbq pork patties and fresh herbs. Great in winter.
9. Pearls. Not always the best quality but fun and cheap. Bought some from a woman in a boat in Halong Bay.
10. Love of poetry. Reading and writing it is a national pastime. Wonderful.