Per usual, this week was pretty uneventful as we prepared to leave Vietnam and headed to our fifth country in five months. We flew back to HCMC from Hoi An Tuesday evening and flew to Tokyo Saturday afternoon. Hoi An was a very relaxing place. It was great to get away from the hustle and bustle of HCMC. I definitely want to return to Hoi An on my own in the future.
Eleanor only had one meltdown this week. The reason behind it….? She was looking at these letters and she wanted them to be numbers. Um…. that’s not exactly how it works. Theo face planted at the park on Thursday (total Bambi-style) and has some pretty sweet scratches on his nose and forehead. Nanny of the year award goes to….. !
Today, I went out and explored parts of Tokyo. First impression: Knowing what things are might be a bit difficult as it’s written in Japanese symbols and not English letters. At least in Vietnam, I knew that ga meant chicken, bo meant beef, and ca meant fish. Second impression: Holy cow. There are SO many people here. The foot traffic in Tokyo is like the scooter traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. Granted, I was in the touristy areas of town but still… shoulder to shoulder on every sidewalk. The highlight of my day was eating at Uobei Sushi in Shibuya. I was sat down in a long row of people (15 places per row, 4 rows in the restaurant). I ordered my sushi off an iPad and it came out on a conveyor belt directly from the kitchen! You could order up to
3 plates at a time (each plate had two pieces for 100 yen). After you took your plates off the conveyor belt, you touched a button on the iPad and it zoomed back into the kitchen. The only times I interacted with a member of the staff was when I got seated and when I paid. This type of service keeps getting threatened to happen in America with the increase of minimum wage. I can honestly say, I had a great experience using a computer to order my meal! I was even able to customize it, no problems. Now, I did seek this place out off a recommendation from a fellow traveler so I knew what to expect. However, for dinner tonight, I just walked into a random ramen place (Tokyo is known for ramen) and had a pretty similar experience. I walked in and ordered from a computer. After I inserted my money, it spit out a ticket. The chef motioned for me to sit down on a particular chair (just one row of 15 seats in a bar-like setting). I handed him my ticket, watched him cook my order, and then he handed it to me. Again, very minimal staff to interact with. Maybe this is how all restaurants in Tokyo are? They eliminated the middle man position. While the noodles had great texture, I thought the broth tasted like moldy beef broth. So gross. It’s like I’m eating someone else’s throw up. After discussing this experience with Melissa and Travis later, I was informed it was probably miso-based. Safe to say, I do not like miso.
Here are the things I learned in Vietnam that didn’t make it into a prior blog post….
– Driving is absolutely nuts in Ho Chi Minh City. As with Bali, whoever is the bravest has the right of way. Bali driving was a walk in the park compared to this!
– Pho is delicious. How have I never tried this before?!
– McDonalds has only been in Vietnam for one year
– There are 10 million residents in Ho Chi Minh City. There are 7 million scooters. No wonder traffic is crazy.
– There is no buffer zone between the green walking man and the red walking man on crosswalks. Sometimes, the man is still green after the streetlight turns green. I was caught in this awful “no man land” twice and it was scary.
– Vietnamese is a difficult language to learn.
– Coriander is used in lots of food which totally ruins the taste. Most times I can pick it out, but sometimes there is just too much.
– Hardly any Vietnamese cook at home. Properties with kitchens are expensive so they chose to eat out for their meals. A local meal for one person costs between $.75-$2 USD. Also they pack as many family members into each home as possible and would rather pay for more room space than a kitchen.
– Vietnam had their own baby boom as 17 million babies have been since the war ended. There are now 95 million residents throughout Vietnam.
– You know a restaurant is authentic/local if you have to sit outside on plastic tables and chairs made for preschoolers.
– While standing in line (grocery store check out line, Mcdonalds ordering line, etc.), if you don’t move quick, others will cut in front of you. Gotta be aggressive if you want to get through the line!
– Vermicelli is delicious. How have I never tried this before either?
– Always know how much change you should receive. I was shorted multiple times and just kept motioning for them to give me more money back until it was the correct amount. The worst one was I gave the cashier 200 VND for a purchase of 107 VND and she only gave me 3 VND back to start with.
– Vietnamese are very resourceful. They can pack an astounding amount onto their scooters. See pictures below.