I arrived today in Da Nang, Vietnam like I would in any Asian city: tired, sore, and hungry. I found a hotel, had a quick meal, and then took a well-deserved nap. I woke up in time for dinner, and went a-hunting for a place to eat. Within a few minutes, SUCCESS! I found an outdoor restaurant full of Vietnamese patrons, and proceeded to walk in.
The first thing that happened, was everyone stared at me like I was a zoo animal. I’ve been traveling in Southeast Asia now for nearly four months, and believe me, I’m used to it. I smiled and chose a table. The waitress immediately came over to me and asked if I wanted a beer, and I replied “yes.” She then proceeded to bring over a huge bucket of ice, and another bucket full of beer bottles. All eyes in the restaurant were on me.
The food menu was completely in Vietnamese, so I ordered two random items, which I figured were small appetizers. The waitress took my order, filled my cup with ice and beer, and walked off. Sure, everyone was still staring at me, but I didn’t care. I sat back, took a refreshing sip of Beer Huda, and waited for my dinner.
Somehow, the two small appetizers ended up being a gigantic table full of food. I was served French fries with two different dips, two bowls of soup, and some strange vegetable that I couldn’t identify. Every five minutes, the waitress would come over to my table, to top off my cup with more ice and more beer. It was almost as if she was trying to make sure I drank the entire bucket full of beer. Thank Heaven the restaurant closed before I could finish more than two!
I can think of two possible explanations for this behavior. First, perhaps it’s totally normal in Vietnam for the waiter to drop an ice cube into your cup every five minutes. However, I’ve been in this country for two and a half weeks, and have never experienced this before. The other (more plausible explanation) is that the restaurant wanted to make a good impression on me, as I was the only foreigner there.
Half the time I get ripped off; the other half of the time I’m treated like royalty. In Vietnam you can never know which will happen. Either way, I had a filling and entertaining night, so what the hey!
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write movies and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.