Unlike when I went to Germany a few years ago, it is impossible not to be noticed as a tourist in Vietnam. Nha Trang, the city that I am staying in, has a lot of tourists. Every tourist, or “Western,” which is what we have started to call them, can be spotted from anywhere.
There seems to be two different sides to Nha Trang: the real side and the tourist side. One of the big tourist hang outs is The Sailing Club, which is a resturant by day and a bar/dance club at night. I told my Vietnamese friends that we went there and there reaction was “Oh, very many tourists”. A lot of places in Nha Trang are like that. I have gone to a few places where there are no Vietnamese people. One resturant even actually had hamburgers and fries on the menu.
Our Vietnamese friends have taken us to some “real” places. We ate Pho, which is noodles, vegtables and meat in some kind of soup, at a place that I never would have thought to go to myself. They have also taken us to get coffee and sing Karaoke, which is really popular here.
I am glad that I am working with the Vietnamese students because I have someone to take me to places I never would have been able to find or would have never thought to go. The real Vietnamese places are a lot more fun and a different experience than the tourist places.
There is one other side to Nha Trang. My friends and I found this side by accident. We got lost and ended up in a part of Nha Trang that was not frequented by tourists. It was a market place, but the real Vietnamese markets. People were selling vegtables, bread and nearly an entire cow out of baskets on the ground of a street. Everyone stared at us with a look that said “You guys are lost westerns.” We were lucky to find someone that spoke English and could call a cab for us.
I think everyone who goes abroad should explore all the places to go and eat at not just the tourist spots. It creates a better and richer experience that shows you the true side of the country you are in.