Lifestyle: I loved my ‘Tiger Cub’ experience
25 Jan 2019
By guest contributor Lisa Parata
We swelled the population of Vietnam over the summer holidays by 2. The other 96 million people carried on regardless. For a country that is not much bigger than New Zealand, that is a lot of people. And we met most of them, it seemed. Half the population are younger than me (31) and 98% are literate. They have a highly capable workforce.
The stats on Vietnam are staggering. It has one of the world’s highest female participation rates in the work force with 73% of working age women working and this gives them a high proportion of double-income families, contributing to what is a huge and growing mass market of consumers.
Vietnam is a nation on the move. Their economy is open and there is a growing amount of foreign investment. Their economy grew by over 7% in 2018 (ANZ bluenotes, 11 Jan 2019).
New Zealand has recently joined a free-trade agreement with Vietnam through the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, so hopefully our relationship with Vietnam will only grow stronger.
Vietnam has always been famous for the export of cloth and clothes and it still is, but the export of phones now occupies first place.
Strangely, Vietnam would benefit hugely from any on-going trade wars between China and the US.
My over-whelming impression of Vietnam was the character of its people. Despite the on-going afflictions from the Agent Orange herbicide that the Americans sprayed over vast areas of their country, despite their relative poverty and despite the over-crowding, the people I met were sunny in their outlook, always smiling and friendly, generous to a fault, positive, open and welcoming of tourists. They were excited to show us their country. We were blown away both by their optimism and how hard they work. Apparently, they are the happiest country in Asia.
Their work ethic astounded us. Take ‘Sam’, our tour guide for the Chu Chi tunnels and the Mekong Delta. He conducts this tour seven days a week. No weekend off for him. He leaves home at 6am to pick up the tour group at 7.30am. The tour takes 9 hours. He drops us back at our hotel at 7.30pm and arrives home himself at 9pm. He takes four weeks of unpaid leave a year to visit his family over the lunar New Year. He obviously loves his country and he talks with pride about their history and culture. Despite the long hours of work, he finds time to learn languages on YouTube. He has fantastic English and is now learning Korean after-hours.
Pho Bo, Banh Mi, Bun cha, Cao lau, Goi cuon – everything about the Vietnamese food was unbelievable. Delicious meals featuring rice in its many forms (rice paper wraps, rice noodles, sticky rice). Unfortunately, we aren’t seafood fans but if you are there’s no shortage of seafood dishes.
We found the best places to eat were usually packed with locals, and no menus! You walk in, they sit you down at a long table jammed with people, and you hold up your fingers to show how many meals you would like, and your food is placed down in front of you within five minutes. The table is packed with shared chili, limes, garlic and herbs.
We didn’t realise until the end of the trip, but everyone is charged differently. We paid tourist prices, then came a price for Vietnamese from outside the district but the best prices were reserved for the locals.
Meals were priced between $2 and $4. We couldn’t complain!
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