Thursday, September 4, 2014

Vietnam - Travelling with Smart Phone

Early this year was one of our first backpacking trips, post the information explosion era of smart phones.  We took off on our two month long trip to South East Asia with our usual trusted companion LP guides, albeit in the electronic form.

Day 1 we realised that the hotel descriptions and prices were way out of date. However the good news was that as soon as we landed in Cambodia we got a SIM card with 1 Gb data and some ridiculously high amounts of text and talk for the princely sum of $5.00, which would se us through our planned 1 week there.  So now we can not only what's up and FB, but more importantly on the fly chcek reviews of fellow travellers on the hotels, travel trips etc.
"Need to have a re-think our strategy on travels.  Guide books for planning, on the road have access to the internet :) "
Here are some unique uses the smart phone came in handy -

Vegetarian food in Cần Thơ - Cần Thơ is one of a must see little villages in Mekong Delta and is famous for its floating markets. This was our first stop in Vietnam. Got here by boat, and hence did not have a local SIM we arrived. This is where the local farmers/fishermen bring their wares on long boats and wholesalers and retailer buy while in the river. 
After an early morning visit to the market realised that this place was nothing more than a very small town at best and that there is nothing much else to do. However had to spend 24hrs to go on to Ho Chi Minh.. So we did what we love, went for a walk off to the town proper. No tourists here, that can almost read as "no English understood"
Anyway, managed again to get ourselves local SIM for $10 that would take care of data for a month and had about $4 worth of calls. Armed with this wandered through the streets looking for lunch and found this little restaurant that looked very clean and the young chef/owner was very attentive and asked us in.  The menu was all Vietnamese, fortunately Vietnamese use the PInYing scrip (that is english alphabets) So tried using google translate and realised that it had nothing vegetarian. 
Next half hour went something like this me showing the google translate, the guy typing in the Vietnamese words and agin I look at google translate. 
Here is a gist of what went on
Me into Gtranslate -  No meat no fish only vegetables 
Gtranslate - Không có thịt không có cá chỉ rau
He into Gtransalate - Tôi co the lam cho ca bot khuay voi bap cai
Gtranslate -  I can make stir fry cabbage
Me - Want some tofu and noodles and other vegetables
Gtranslate - Muốn có một số đậu hũ và mì và các loại rau khác
He did not quite get that,  so typed in .. Xao voi bap cai, rau bina, dau hu va mi
Gtranslate - I can make stir fry with corn cairau spinach, tofu and noodles
or some such thing...
Anyway, decided to go for it, and wow was I happy... It was the yummiest stir fry I had in Vietnam.
"Google Translate may not be the best translator to use as phrase book and try saying things in other languages, BUT with current popularity of mobile phones with youth in most countries the showing the message on phone and getting them to type in works"
The next best use of the phone was selecting and being on the Halong Bay cruise. Selecting a cruise is really hard as every one of them on paper sounds same. BUT when walking around in hanoi and talking to few of the tour operators, we surreptitiously checked for reviews in Trip advisor etc, and the result got this really good one. 

 Also, having a local phone helped us contact the tour lead when things went wrong ( the second day was disaster due to bad weather) and  get a real fix/pay back. Yep scored a free night in Sapa :) 

AND google maps have most of the streets even in the little towns, thta definetely surprised us.  

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