I had inkings that Vietnam might deliver some stellar eating, especially after we spent a few days with my friend Tony's Vietnamese grandmother in Berlin. Last night, Tara's barbecued pork was easily the most flavorful dish either of us could recall since our week spent living in a Thai restaurant.
This evening, at a restaurant near our hotel, it was my turn to hit pay-dirt. I have no idea how they prepared the garlic chicken I ordered, but every delicious bite was an explosion of salty and savory flavors I never wanted to end.
Between communication difficulties and whole new countries full of foods we've never had, it is often very difficult to get exactly what we want to eat, when we want to eat it. So, starting tonight, we made a new rule to indulge when we do find what we want.
I was stuffed after the first serving, but I ordered a second plate anyway. Even though I wound up uncomfortably full, it was totally worth it!
On our way back to the hotel, the night market was in full swing, with street vendors selling grilled meat, barbecued goslings, fried sesame donuts, and all manner of foods we haven't learned to identify yet. There were plenty of non-edible items on offer too, things like jade bracelets, wooden combs, balloons in the shape of action figures, and lots of clothing.
As per usual in Southeast Asia, there was music blasting from roadside speakers too:
We were almost back to our hotel, when Tara spotted an ice cream shop. So, we made a detour to get a snack. The girls working were amused as we fumbled around, trying our best to order in Vietnamese – they were hundreds of times more giggly and twittery than any Cambodians we've met.
I picked a coffee shake, and Tara went with ice cream. After the girls dumped my coffee concoction into a plastic cup, they stuck it in a huge, overly complicated machine whose sole purpose is to smash an airtight seal of plastic skin on top. Better than a drink in a plastic bag with handles, but still a little strange!
Now, we're settled in for a Mythbusters marathon. Tomorrow morning, we'll set sail for a few days in paradise on the nearby island of Phú Quốc. We've read it is very quiet and pristine, not unlike Phuket used to be. Here's hoping.