WEIGHTS & MEASURES
The Vietnamese use the international metric system (see the metric conversion table at the back of this book). In addition, two weight measurements have been borrowed from the Chinese: the tael and the catty, which equals 0.6kg (1.321b). There are 16 taels to the catty, so one tael equals 37.5g (1.32oz). Gold is always sold by the tael.
At hotel it is usually easy to get your laundry done for the equivalent of one or two US dollars. There have, however, been a number of reports of gross overcharging at certain hotels, so make sure you ask the price beforehand.
Budget hotels do not have clothes dryers as they rely on the sunshine – so allow at least a day and a half for washing and drying, especially during the wet season.
The issue of toilets and what to do with used toilet paper has caused some concern. As one traveler wrote:
We are still not sure about the toilet paper…in two hotels they have been angry with us for flushing down the paper in the toilet. In other places its seems quite OK though.
In general, if you see a wastepaper basket next to the toilet, that is where you should throw the toilet paper. The problem is that many hotels’ sewage systems cannot handle toilet paper. This is especially true in old hotels, where the antiquated plumbing was designed in the pre-toilet-paper era. In rural areas there are no sewage-treatment plants. Toilet waste empties into an underground septic tank and toilet paper will really create a mess in there. For the sake of international relations, be considerate and throw the paper in the wastepaper basket.
Toilet paper is seldom provided in the toilets at bus and train stations or in other public buildings, though hotels usually supply it. You’d be wise to keep a stash of your won with you at all times while travelling.
Another thing you should be mentally prepared for is squat toilets. For the uninitiated, a squat toilet has no seat for you to sit on while reading the morning newspaper; it’s a hole in the floor. The only way to flush it is to fill the conveniently placed bucket with water and pour it into the hole. While it may take some practice to get proficient at balancing yourself over a squat toilet, at the toilet seat is clean. Furthermore, some experts claim squatting is better for your digestive system.
Better hotels will have Western-style ones, but squat toilets are the norm in cheaper hptels and public places (eg, restaurants).
The scarcity of public toilets seems to be a greater problem for women than for women than for men. Vietnamese men often urinate in public; however, for women this is socially unacceptable. Women might find road-side toilet stops easier if wearing a sarong.