One of Vietnam’s most bizarre-looking fruits, qua mit or jack fruit tastes like a cross between pineapple & banana and does have a fairly odd smell. It’s in season at the moment & just a few pieces of this fruit can give us our daily fibre essentials. Eaten in its unripe state, in a curry or casserole, jack fruit is tipped to be the next big meat substitute because it has a chewy consistency. Notoriously difficult to prepare, it’s best to buy jackfruit already shucked from its prickly outer.
Have you ever been told you’re “too big” or “too fat” when you enter a Vietnamese clothing shop? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been insulted, but today I discovered one of the reasons why shop assistants don’t want my western-sized body in their shop. Many Vietnamese shop keepers are superstitious, and they feel that their luck on any given day can be decided by their first customer. If their first customer does not buy anything, sales for the rest of the day will be low. So when I walk into a shop selling tiny clothes, the shop assistant assumes that I won’t fit into anything and if I’m the first customer of the day, I will bring them bad luck. The shop assistant doesn’t want me to even cross the threshold, so she tells me I’m too fat, hoping I will go away. Knowing this takes some of the sting out of being insulted…
Odd numbers feature heavily in Vietnamese life – they can be lucky or unlucky, depending on their context. Here’s a quick guide:
When lighting incense, choose an odd number –either 1, 3 , 5 or 7 sticks. It’s unlucky to light an even number of incense sticks.
Don’t repeat an unsuccessful attempt more than 3 times.
Don’t leave on the 7th, 17th or 27th day of the lunar calendar and don’t return home from a trip on the 3rd, 13th or 23rd day of the lunar month. Breaking this rule could result in low sales if you own a shop, or an accident if you’re driving. (If you’re not superstitious, plane tickets are cheaper on these days!)
It’s bad luck to have 3 people in a photo – opt for 2 or 4 for safety.
Nearly everyone’s getting ready to fly out of Hanoi for summer. Read this list of essentials before you pack your cabin luggage.
Headphones or ear plugs, just in case there’s a screaming toddler or a guy who snores like a steam strain sitting beside you
A notebook & pen – to write lists of things to do & buy when you arrive at your destination
The more digital devices you can squeeze into your hand luggage, the better. Kindles, iPads, laptops & smartphones can prevent you from dying of boredom on a long-haul flight. Check the regulations if you’re flying to the USA though…
Battery charger & cable. Just in case your iPod/iPhone/tablet runs out of juice
Sleeping mask – you’d be surprised how complete darkness can help you to sleep
Slather on some skin milk every couple of hours while flying to avoid looking like a reptile when you disembark
A water bottle, but make sure it’s empty when you go through airport security. Guzzling water throughout your flight will help to reduce jet lag.
Neck pillow – don’t leave home without one!
Chew-able candy, to help pop your ears during take-off and landing
Socks, in case the air-conditioning starts freezing your toes off
A book or magazine to read during take-off, because airlines won’t let us use digital devices at this stage of the flight