We arrived back in Ha Giang by bus today, where we faced, as we do every day, the peculiar problem of trying to find something to eat.
Our lack of Vietnamese skills no doubt hinders our ability to enjoy a rich and varied diet, but even still, the food here seems rather limited in both choices and in availability. Our main diet consists of 1) rice noodles in soup (either pho — thin flat noodles or bun — thin round noodles) with a scant allotment of meat, 2) fried rice (com rang) with a fried egg on top, or 3) steamed rice with whatever we can get someone to cook for us — vegetables, tofu, or if we’re lucky, a tasty fried meat roll thing called nam. Sometimes we also eat banh my, or a baguette sandwich.
These are all readily available, at least in theory according to the many restaurant signs advertising com, pho, bun, com rang and the like. But we have to visit, on average, 3-5 restaurants before every meal to find the combination of price and choice that suits our needs. Most restaurants seem to run on a specific schedule (open only during the lunch or dinner hour) and we haven’t figured it out yet. Many are closed or empty. Other times, people wave us away with the word “het” which seems to mean “no, I don’t have it” or “no, I won’t cook now”. Being refused service when a person is clearly cooking for other people sitting in the restaurant is both baffling and frustrating, especially after spending all day expending physical energy. We end up eating a lot of fried rice, since those restaurants seem to be set up to resume cooking at any time.
Vietnam is the only country where Kim and I have encountered this problem, and we’ve traveled a lot! But enough whining. The cooks who refuse to cook just lose our business to others more willing. We also must keep in mind that we’ve spent most of our time in one particular province.
Luckily today our legs got a rest while we were in the bus (with bikes tied on top! see picture below), so searching for meals wasn’t a dire situation.