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In Vietnam, for every smile you give, you will receive two in return. From the friendly smiling faces of street food vendors calling out their wares from every sidewalk in the city to locals eating a bowl of steaming pho or indulging in fresh fruit with coconut milk for dessert, genuine smiles light up everybody’s faces. Smiles are the default expression on statues in pagodas and temples, from Confucius to Cham sculptures. Here are some slices of life in Vietnam, as seen through the beautiful smiles of the Vietnamese people.
The Laughing Buddha at the Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda near Mỹ Tho in the Mekong Delta. It is impossible to not feel joyful after seeing this Buddha.
A vendor selling freshly roasted corn on the cob on a street sidewalk in Hội An Old Town. She was fanning the hot coals to cook the corn as I crossed the street. She saw me looking at the corn and beamed at me before asking if I wanted to try some.
Children waiting for their lunch (being prepared by their mothers) in the Mekong Delta. Walking through several villages that make up the Mekong Delta, I passed a house where two women (I presume they are the children’s mothers) were preparing food. It was lunch time and these children were waiting for their meal. When they saw me walk by, they waved and smiled, with pure joy.
A beautiful smile adorns the face of a handsome man carved into the pillars of the Cham temples at Mỹ Son. The Champa people ruled Central Vietnam from c200AD to c1700AD. The temple complex at Mỹ Son is one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia and a famous heritage site in Vietnam. Mỹ Son in Vietnam is considered to be of the same historical importance as temple complexes in Southeast Asia, like Borobudur in Indonesia, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar and Ayutthaya in Thailand.
Experiencing the lush Mekong Delta by boat is a must-do experience in Vietnam, especially when the myriad chocolate-brown rivers and canals are lit up by sunshine and brilliant smiles like this one.
A smiling school teacher looks on proudly as her students come out of the main entrance of the prestigious and historic Temple of Literature in Hanoi. The exuberant children kept coming up to us to practice their “Hello” and “Goodbye” with pure glee.
Smiles like these greet you when walking down the streets of Vietnam, whether it is in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) or Hanoi. Locals can be found enjoying a dinner of pho or banh mi or indulging in dessert like fresh fruit salad with coconut milk and shaved ice. After asking this young lady if the fruit salad she was having was good, we ended up eating at the same place. Needless to say, the bowl overflowing with jackfruit, mango, pear, pineapple, guava, jelly, tapioca and coconut milk with shaved ice turned out to be deliciously refreshing on a warm Hanoi night.
Boats are the main mode of transport in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where hundreds of rivers, canals and swamps criss-cross across southern Vietnam, creating lush fields to grow rice and fruits while also providing for an endless supply of seafood. Boats like these are the main way to get around between islands in the Mekong. Even while rowing, the lady had a smile on her face as her boat crosses the river.
Dressed in the traditional Vietnamese clothing called the Ao Dai, these beautiful Vietnamese women sang some of their traditional songs for us when we visited their village in the Mekong Delta.
Walking the streets of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), market vendors greet visitors with big smiles, asking if we would like to sample some of their wares or perhaps buy some fresh fruit, meat, vegetables, snacks … there is always an endless variety of choices. And bargaining is welcome!
Our guide wears a traditional Vietnamese bamboo hat as he poses with a friend in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) before we get onto our boat to visit the islands in the Mekong Delta.
A street food vendor in Hội An smiles as he showcases his wares, from delicious fried donuts to shrimp pancakes and more. So much of life in Vietnam can be experienced just by walking down a street and stopping at a food vendor’s cart. Or asking a local for their favorite place to eat that authentic Vietnamese dish you’re seeking. And it always starts with just a smile.
Have you been to Vietnam? What was your favorite experience? Let us know in the comments!