Travel: Good morning, Vietnam
Noodles, stew, rice: in Vietnam, your first meal of the day is a feast that will take you through to sunset.
Saturday 15 May 1999
But you will find that in Vietnam, breakfast is not a snatched affair eaten with one hand while getting the kids ready for school or flicking through the paper. It is at least as important as any other meal, and often not much different.
Why should noodles, rice or stew be eaten only in the afternoon or evening? Or, for that matter, rice pancakes filled with meat and beansprouts?
If you're going out to work all day in the fields - or take on an exhausting day's sightseeing - doesn't a hearty soup of sweet potatoes, carrots and meat make sense? And the bread dunks very well.
Breakfast in Vietnam is often a communal affair, eaten on the pavement, or in the market, the participants sitting around a cauldron. Look around and see where the locals are eating, but don't ask too many questions. You know those colourful jars you see at the snake market...? And isn't there one less dog around here this morning?
In most tourist areas, though, you'll find some sort of English menu. Most make good reading. "Nood chicken soup", perhaps? Or "Cooked chick by pour down with boiling fat" (just in case you wanted the recipe)? If you're fed up with chicken, you can always go for "Soicy and sour eel soup in hot pot", or "Combination noodle with many ingredients" (though nobody seemed to know what these were).
And then there's always the yoghurt - but check first it isn't frozen: one memorable breakfast was attempted (I won't say eaten) in a small cafe where I made a bad job of chipping away at the solid contents of a small carton.
Every time I succeeded in hacking a piece off, it would fly across the table and hit an insect on the wall (of which there were many).
Getting nowhere, I left, somewhat embarrassed by the additions I had made to the decor.
Yet despite the less-than-appetising menus, in the main tourist areas the food is often delicious and, in some cases, an absolute feast.
I have to admit to sticking mainly to "safe" food (ie boiled, or cooked at high temperatures) and I remained well throughout my trip.
It was well after a breakfast at Heathrow's National Express cafe, waiting for the bus home, that I became mysteriously afflicted, and suffered for the next four days. Maybe I should have stuck to the noodles.
To the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, the main airlines are Air France and Aeroflot. The latter is likely to be the cheapest, with discount fares through agents such as IMS Travel (0171-224 4678) of around pounds 500 return
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Secret Cinema interview: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
Secret Cinema interview: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Game of Thrones: season 4 bloopers unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
50 best running songs: From Avicii and Pharrell Williams to the classic 'Eye of the Tiger'
Doctor Who series 8: Watch Peter Capaldi in new ‘Listen!’ teaser trailer
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia