I freaked out when I stepped away from the Bahasa language, the language of Indonesia and Malaysia, the language that I have struggled so hard to get a grasp of â€“ only for a moment, though, until the language nerd in me got that old high that comes from trying to figure out a whole new language. And new it certainly is â€“ Vietnamese is different in so many ways.
And it’s not only the language that has Vietnam throwing a stready stream of new stimuli in my direction. The food, the faces, the weather, even the entire political system. And, after finally getting used to looking right before left when crossing the street, it feels strange to drive on the right hand side of the road again.
There are an infinite number of comparisons that could be made between what I observe here in Vietnam (remembering, of course, that I am still more or less at the first impression stage) and Indonesia and Malaysia (places that I have lived for over a year and a half total). It is very difficult to pinpoint the origins of many of these differences – for example, some might say that the religion of Vietnam results in a different relationship between men and women than that of Islamic countries. This could also be linked to the socialism of Vietnam, as well, as opposed to the more open markets of other places. I am by no means ready to make that judgement.
I wrote earlier of my addiction to the marvellous flavour and culture of coffee in Indonesia, especially in the province of Aceh. Once again, the local black magic has me under its spell, though once again it is very unique. Even the act of drinking it is different – the cafe is still a meaningful gathering place for vietnamese people, but in an entirely different way. I’ll have to expand on that. Check out my food blog, www.dunia-pedas.com, This Spicy World, for a couple pictures.