My husband, Billy, and I have recently arrived in Saigon,
Vietnam. With 8 million residents, most riding on motorcycles in swarms,
it�s quite a bit different from sleepy
When the traffic light switches from red to green, it�s like a starting
point in a race. There is no single file and a massive group turns left
or right. If you want to cross the street you simply walk into traffic
with your arm raised up to alert the drivers that you are moving into
the flow. Traffic goes at a crawling pace like a choreographed symphony
There is a lot to get used to here � the change of
weather, the contrast from Latin to Asian cuisine, the difference in
languages and the increase in the tempo of life here. But the biggest
challenge we face is figuring out the exchange rate of the USDollar to
the Vietnamese dong.
US dollar equals 21,277 dong. There are lots of zeros printed on the currency
and to make it convenient for our comprehension, the first thing we did was to
lop off three of them. It makes it easier figuring out pricing in our head and
eliminates some punches on our calculators. For our purposes, we use 20
(thousand) dong to equal $1USD, 40 (thousand) dong equals $2USD, 60 (thousand)
dong equals $3USD and so on.
you confused yet? This system is supposed to make it a snap!
Without so many zeros, we find it simpler to navigate through most daily
purchases. The colors of the money still do not have a lot of significance to us
yet and different denominations are also assorted sizes. So our wallets have
wads of colorful pieces of money sort of like monopoly.
With the separation in language, everyone hugs their calculators since it�s a
form of communication we all understand. Touch an object and the vendor brings
out his cell phone-size number machine and begins pounding away. Step back or
shake your head �no� and the price drops right away. Touch another item and the
process begins all over again.
Popular grocery stores called coops have prices marked clearly. Again, we simply
lop 3 zeros off the amount and begin our system to understand what we are
paying. A 12-pack of individual serving sized yogurt costs 56,000 dong, or less
Taxi drivers use a meter here with the number �12� as the beginning fare. This,
of course, means 12,000 dong but they have trimmed 3 zeros off as well for
simplicity. A short 5 minute ride is 27,000 dong or less than $1.50USD.
provides us with a private driver as a translator for when we go shopping, but
it�s our style to be hands on. I�m sure it will all get more familiar with time,
but for now we have this short system in place and it seems to be working just
For more stories and photos
of Vietnam, click here