Sunday, March 21, 2010
What shoes to take to Vietnam
Sometimes I think it's the really small details, the truly mundane, that you forget to ask about before you go to visit a foreign country. You'll spend months researching the religion, the culture and the history of your intended destination, but you'll forget to find out what people eat for breakfast, or is toilet paper readily available, or can you buy Mentos at short notice. And, ironically, it is these little things that can make a real difference to how you travel and the quality of your trip.
So I see myself as something of a shoe ambassador. Shoes are an important consideration in Vietnam.
Now, it's obvious that when you go on holiday you're going to be doing a lot of walking, and so you will need a pair of shoes that will facilitate that. Most Western travellers tend to plump for desert boots or fancy lace-up sports shoes when they travel. But both of these are a disaster in Vietnam.
Because, as in most countries in Asia, the Vietnamese are sticklers for the removal of footwear, often in the most unexpected places. I mean, it's obvious that you are going to have remove your shoes when you visit a temple or sacred shrine. But do you know that if (God forbid) you have to visit the dentist in Vietnam you will be required to remove your shoes?
So those expensive walking shoes you thought were just perfect for foot slogging will soon become a curse as you find yourself hunched over for the thriteenth time that day lacing them up at some doorway or other.
When I go to Vietnam I only pack two types of footwear. Some comfortable leather casuals that slip on and off easily. Skechers or Hush Puppies are perfect, as they can be streetwear, walking shoes or going out shoes. And I also carry a pair of casual leather flip-flops for when I am hanging out - they are cool (i.e. not hot), and flip-flops are what about 95% of Vietnamese wear. If you buy nice ones, you can wear them almost everywhere. Because you almost always leave your shoes at the door, you can even team them with quite a dressy outfit.
Am I sounding like Carson Kressley?