Ding Dong

Money in Vietnam is the Dong with the subunit being the Ding.  It’s great as you get to ask how may ding dongs for the item you wish to purchase.  Ok, made up the Ding part but the Dongs are real.  However, 1 Canadian dollar equals 17, 600 Dong so the cost comparisons are not quick and easy.  I seem to get lost in the 0’s.  The other night I thought my dinner was getting expensive (review said it was a bit of a pricey place) and so I didn’t order that mango lassie (smoothie) that I really wanted.  Got home and calculated my meal: $4.68 – could have sprung for the lassie after all!

It has been nice volunteering in a place where I am meeting other volunteers.  On Thursday VNAH (Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped – my partner agency in Vietnam) took a group of us out for dinner.  Imagine my surprise to meet an Australian OT that is here volunteering for 9 months and 2 Dutch OTs that were here teaching a 2-day course to caregivers of children with Autism.  Along with our Vietnamese Physio friends and translators and VNAH staff, we had a great night full of interesting discussion and food.  Not even sure what I ate, as they ordered everything.

Then on Saturday another CESO volunteer arrived.  She (Nadine) is working on a project with the Vietnamese wood furniture makers association related to business processes and strategy.  Saturday our two Vietnamese country reps took us out for dinner.  I was sharing with Nadine my effort to mail a package and she was laughing even before I began.  It went like this…  I had bought a little gift for someone I know that doesn’t live locally to me and I thought it would be fun for her to receive it by mail.  So, first issue was finding an envelope.  I didn’t see any at the pharmacy and asked the checkout girl where I could find one – lots of hand gestures going on and I thought she understood until she told me they don’t sell them in Vietnam.  No one sends packages??  So, we continue to discuss and she then tells me I must take a taxi and writes out some long instruction for the taxi driver.  Now, this makes me suspicious because in the Vietnamese fiction book I am reading, they send all kinds of coded notes through the mail.  So, for all I know that is still a concern and she is sending me straight to the authorities for wanting to send mail.  I thank her and leave and then google where to buy envelopes in Vietnam.  Apparently, this is a command problem, although I can’t find an answer that is particularly helpful.  So, decide to google stationary shops and lo and behold – one is nearby!  Not one, but 3 side by each.  (This is a weird side note about Vietnam – they cluster shops, so if you want to buy artwork, then you go to that area and shop after shop after shop sells artwork.)  So, into the middle one I go and I search every pile and box – no envelopes.  Not ready to give up, I put the word envelope into google translate and show the girl at the counter.  “Phong bi” she says and pulls out one from the hidden stash behind the cash.

First problem sorted and I am feeling confident, as the other day I found the central post office and mailed a post card, so know where to go for international post.  Off I head and into line 1 for international.  When I get to the front the woman wants to know what is in the package in detail.  I tell her and she says “line 6”.  So, I go and stand in line 6.  Get to the front and the guy asks me what is in the package and I repeat everything.  He then hands me a form that I must fill out including my address and the recipient’s address.  Only problem is that he has the package and I can’t remember the details, so I make up something I think is close.  I am worried as the form asks for my passport number and it’s not on me.  He doesn’t ask, stamps my package and form and says ”line 4”.  Into line 4 I go behind a Vietnamese man who is mailing something to apparently everyone he knows on the planet.  Finally at the front the girl asks me what is in the package and I tell her to talk to the woman in line 1 and the man in line 6.  She then charges me triple what the item is worth and puts it in the mail.  Wonder if it will arrive?



  1. Hello gorgeous Les, that special little gift has arrived! What a wonderful surprise. Thank you so much and hope you are having a great time. Love Simone

  2. Hi Gorgeous Les,
    That little gift arrived today and I love it! Thanks so much for thinking of me. Hope you are having a good time!
    Love, Simone

  3. My gift hasn’t arrived as I expected. I can wait. LOL

  4. Love the ding dong. Silly me always thought they were an ice cream treat.

    Can you imagine how people travelled before google?,

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