The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Mary-Michael Lindsay

Hello, I'm Mary-Michael! I am a senior at Loyola, pursuing an integrated degree in Advertising and Public Relations as well as minors in Dance and Marketing. This semester, I am studying abroad in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon), Vietnam! While I'm here, I look forward to studying the language and culture, traveling, and of course, eating!! Welcome to my blog and enjoy!


Food. One of the main reasons I wanted to study abroad in Vietnam. Hello… Vietnamese food is delicious! I must be honest about a few things:

Surprisingly, I do not crave “American” food! I find myself craving Vietnamese dishes over macaroni and cheese or whatever it is that we Americans eat. Now, don’t get me wrong, I miss my mama’s cookin’ and other Southern food, but interestingly enough I have found some similar dishes and ingredients that subside my nostalgia for Mississippi cookin’.

I have not encountered a dish that I absolutely hate or cannot eat. Granted, I’m not a picky eater, so I am fortunate in that aspect. This is not to say that there are dishes that I’m not crazy about… of course! But, every dish has been different and great!

Enough about me, (I’m alive and well Mom and Dad)… now, about Vietnamese food. I believe the dishes here are so incredible because most vendors only serve one dish; therefore, focusing on, specializing in, and perfecting a single dish.

Another reason the food is so delicious, there are no preservatives! Vendors prepare enough food for the day and that is all. There are no freezers, either. Once the daily prepared food has sold out – that’s it… the vendor closes shop for the day.

Here are some dishes that I recommend trying while traveling to Vietnam: (Please note: these dishes are primarily based in Saigon or Southern Vietnam aka the Southern dialect. These dishes may have different names or may not be available in the North.)

Bún thịt nướng

Literally translated means “rice noodles with grilled meat”. This dish consists of rice vermicelli noodles topped with grilled pork, a fried spring roll, peanuts, pickled carrots, bean sprouts, lettuce, and fresh herbs like mint and basil. Typically, the locals drizzle fish sauce over the dish then mix everything together before eating. I love the sweet, savory, and herby flavor.IMG_3635
Bánh mì

The term “Bánh mì” is a Vietnamese baguette, which can be used for sandwiches or as a vehicle for transferring broth to your mouth! I have grown too accustomed to enjoying these delicacies on a regular basis. They are delicious and readily available at all times of the day and night. This French-inspired sandwich is served on a split baguette with an array of toppings depending on which vendor you choose. Typical ingredients include: mayonnaise, pate, sliced pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber slices, sprigs of cilantro, tuong ot (Vietnamese chili sauce… NOT Sriracha), sprinkle of soy sauce, and chili pepper slices if you please. My go-tos include Bánh mì Heo Quay (Baguette with rotisserie pork) and Bánh mì Op La (Baguette with fried egg).




Cơm tấm sườn nướng

This dish is very simple but absolutely delicious. It consists of broken rice, a thin, grilled pork chop, a fried egg, cucumbers, tomatoes, and fish sauce on the side.IMG_7218Bún chả

I think this dish is so fun to eat! You have freedom to eat it however you please. Essentially you are served the ingredients necessary to form either a bowl of noodles, a lettuce wrap, or a salad. Holy options! This dish includes: white rice noodles, fatty grilled pork in sour sauce, pickled vegetables in same sauce as meat, a huge plate of fresh herbs like mint and basil, lettuce leaves, and fish sauce.

Each part of the dish is served separately so you can feel free to mix, roll, and wrap as you please.


Bít tết

This heavier meal translates to “beefsteak” and is the ultimate meat and potatoes kind of meal. This thin beef meat has no bones and has a very simple marinate then cooked in a cast iron skillet with pate and an egg. This dish also comes with fried potatoes, salad/fresh vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, and on the side is Bánh mì (just the baguette, not the sandwich) to sop up the delicious pan drippings. Yum!


Bún riêu

A crab-based rice vermicelli soup with clumps of boiled crab meat, coagulated pig’s blood, shrimp, and tomato. The broth is a very special part to this dish. According to a Vietnamese friend, the broth is made by muddling crab meat for nearly an hour. Then, once you muddle “a lot, a lot” of crab meat, the result is a delicious crab paste. You then strain the crab paste and use this as the main ingredient for the broth… yum. The crab meat is added later on for boiling and as a result floats to the top of the soup. These floating bits of crab meat having absorbed the crab broth flavors are my favorite part.




Bún ốc

Sea snail soup served with vermicelli noodles, tomatoes, fried tofu, coagulated pork blood. At first glance, this dish has similar ingredients to Bún riêu but the main ingredients and broths are completely different – trade the crab for sea snails.



Bún bò Huế

This dish originates from Huế – a city in the central region that was the imperial capital city of Vietnam during the Nguyen dynasty. An assortment of ingredients here includes thinly sliced beef, coagulated pig’s blood, oxtail in some cases, boiled beef shanks, and rice vermicelli noodles. This dish has tremendous flavor! It is often served with lime wedges, fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, mint, banana blossoms, cabbage, and so on…



Hủ Tiếu 

This specific type of Hu Tieu is called Hu Tieu Nam Vang. Another noodle dish that can be served with or without broth and this particular dish consists of shrimp, lean meat, pig heart, liver, quail egg, bean sprouts, chives, thread noodles and broth that is made with broth from pork bones.


Phở Bò/Gà

If you have heard of Vietnam, you have most likely heard of Phở which is pronounced (Fuuh). It is absolutely delicious and the perfect meal for breakfast. (WHAT??) Seriously. I have grown accustom to eating a warm bowl of rice noodles, delectable broth, fresh herbs, and chicken or beef. My favorite pho is from the northern part of Vietnam; however, the southern version is not shabby either!



More dishes for your viewing pleasure:



Mi Quang



Bo Kho

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 2.00.23 PM

Cheers to Tết

Cheers to Tết

The Vietnamese lunar new year, or Tết, is unlike any holiday I have experienced before. This celebration is much anticipated and very unique because Vietnam is one of three countries that celebrates the lunar new year worldwide. The Vietnamese new year involves eating, drinking, praying, loving, and even more eating!

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 4.30.34 PM
Flower display in Saigon on Ham Nghi Street, District 1

Before the first day of Tết, there are many preparations to be done including cooking, cleaning, and buying flowers. Also, families should buy enough food to feed family, friends, and neighbors because most stores close for three days – recognizing the holiday for all employees. This is unlike Christmas Day in America when convenient stores and grocery stores are open under limited hours. No, everything shuts down.

After the weeks preparing for Tết holiday, it is time to celebrate the actual holiday.

I began my Tết holiday in Saigon with my vietnamese partner and her family. First, we visited the most popular Buddhist temple in Saigon at 8:00am to pray for peace, love, and prosperity… And they were not frugal with the incense!

My adorable Vietnamese partner!
My adorable Vietnamese partner!
Celebrating with my  Vietnamese partner's family
Celebrating with my Vietnamese partner’s family
Pagoda in Saigon, Vietnam
Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 4.54.21 PM
Pagoda in Saigon, Vietnam – Note the incense haze

After the temple, we followed tradition and visited her uncle’s mother as a tradition during Tết:

The first day is for visiting the father’s family. 

The second is for visiting the mother’s family.

The third is for visiting teachers. 

Afterwards, we visited the flower street in Saigon. This is a main street in downtown that temporarily closes and is decorated with 4 blocks of indigenous flower displays.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 4.30.51 PM
Flower Street in Saigon, Vietnam

Flowers are an important aspect of Tết for the Vietnamese. Much like a Christmas tree, the Tết tree includes the regional flower and twinkle lights. “Hoa Mai” or apricot blossoms grow in the South and “Hoa Dao” or cherry blossoms from the North.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 5.00.00 PM
“Hao Dao” or cherry blossoms are Northern Vietnam’s traditional Tet flower

Following this, we visited her aunt’s house to receive lucky money, eat lunch, and spend time with family. It was a big deal for her family to invite me on the first day. Following strict tradition, I should not have been there because I am not immediate family. Nonetheless, I am extremely grateful for this experience, and I had a blast! It was a wonderful day full of eating, drinking, and even gambling.

Vietnam bingo
Super excited to play bingo – especially while practicing numbers in Vietnamese

For the second day of Tết, I started at 4:30am off to the airport en route to North Central Vietnam to the city of Vinh to spend the lunar new year with my friend Công and his family. This was an experience I will never forget because I was able to experience the holiday fully immersed in a family’s celebration.

Wonderful family home stay in Vinh, Vietnam over Tet

I was also able to relate the similarities and differences between central and southern celebrations. Some main components that are nationally celebrated in Vietnam include:


Food is a key component of Tết holiday. Not only do the Vietnamese celebrate Tết , they “eat” Tết or in Vietnamese Ặn Tết.

Traditional Tết cakes:

Bánh Tét: traditional sticky rice cake served during Tết celebration. A cylinder shaped cake made from sticky rice, bean, and pork then wrapped in banana leaves, tied, and steamed for 14-16 hours. This cylinder cake represents the atmosphere of the earth.

Bánh Chưng: The bánh Tét counterpart – includes the same ingredients but is square in shape to represent the earth.

Bánh Chưng (upper right) served with pickled vegetables and pork terrine

I had the opportunity to make these cakes at my friend, Thien’s aunt’s house in the countryside of Đồng Nai. I was invited to join in the entire family’s preparation for Tết – all 18 family members plus 4 guests in a 2 bedroom house. While these conditions may not seem ideal, I could not have felt more welcomed. I must say, sleeping outside on a hammock is magical. I enjoyed getting to visit a countryside home and experiencing this way of life and realizing how a family so large can develop such a close connection, especially during the exciting time of Tết. I was extremely grateful for this opportunity.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 4.54.07 PM
Preparing Bánh Tét cakes

These cakes are served with traditional staples such as pork, boiled chicken, pickled anything (onions, shallots, leeks, carrots, etc.), and sticky rice.

IMG_4451Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 5.00.14 PM

The meals were absolutely delicious and wonderful experiences because I was able to feel the love and community of each family as they shared a meal together.

Ancestor worship:

Part of a traditional Tết meal includes offerings to the ancestors. Not only do living family members eat, the deceased must eat as well. Food, drink, and wealth are offered to ancestors as a way for living family members to take care of the deceased in their afterlife.


Hospitality and relationships: 

Visitors show up all the time and unexpected, even as early as 7:00am. No matter the hour, food and beverages must be offered to guests because it is a sign of respect and hospitality. Ideally, alcoholic beverages will be shared (again, no matter the hour) in order to cheers each other and family for the new year.

The Vietnamese Tết holiday is unlike any holiday worldwide due to the strong traditions, nationalism, and connection to others both living and deceased. I highly recommend experiencing this holiday at some point in life – you will not regret it. I have evaluated my perceptions of relationships both family and friends, hospitality, and spirituality after witnessing this incredible celebration in Vietnam.

If you have any questions about my experience during Tết holiday or Vietnam in general, feel free to email me at

As always, thanks for reading and… Chúc mừng Năm mới! Happy New Year!

Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta

Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta

The Mekong River Delta in Southwest Vietnam is an exceptional corner of the world – the history, the scenery, and (of course) the food! I compiled several video clips from my weekend excursion to the Mekong Delta. The Loyola American students and our Vietnamese partners explored the Delta by bus, motor boat, wooden canoes, and even bikes! We learned how several Mekong dishes are cooked, including: popped rice treats, snake wine, rice paper, coconut candy, bánh xèo, and bánh tét – the Vietnamese lunar new year sticky rice cake. (Note: The following videos were recorded on an iPhone. Please dismiss the low quality.)

Email with any questions or recommendations. As always, thanks for reading!


Top Ho Chi Minh City Tourist Attractions

Top Ho Chi Minh City Tourist Attractions

We’ve all been there. We have all been a TOURIST at some point. While I loathe the idea of being targeted as a tourist anywhere, unfortunately in Vietnam, this association is inevitable. I stick out like a sore thumb. Fortunately, however, the locals are very welcoming and willing to accept my broken Vietnamese and frantic hand gestures. I have learned that being a tourist is not always bad. In Vietnam, I have been told on numerous occasions that many Vietnamese people are glad American students a) want to study their history and culture and b) help fuel the cultural tourism economically.

Grab your fanny packs and digital cameras. These are the top HCMC tourist attractions I have discovered:

Reunification Palace


Independence PalacetankThis building is directly associated with the fall of Saigon in 1975. On April 30, 1975, communist tanks arrived in Saigon – barreling through the iron gates surrounding the palace. Many photojournalists captured this event. From the footage I have seen, everything has remained in tact, as though nothing has changed.

This building was home of the South Vietnamese president and the central location for wartime efforts. The palace includes familiar items but it is odd to see them all in one place such as the following: tanks, palm trees, a bamboo-like facade, a helicopter, and a serious war bunker.

Ben Thanh Market

Inside Ben Thanh Market

A classic tourist attraction. This market stands in a French-style architectural building in the heart of District 1. Be prepared for tight spaces, potential wallet/purse nabs, and bargaining your price. Not my favorite. Saigon Square is nearby (only a 5-10 minute walk) and offers the same experience but less overwhelming.

Rooftop Bar

View from Chill Sky Bar

You really should go to a Saigon rooftop bar, especially at sunset – at the golden hour. This is a glorious time of day to see the city. Drinks are more pricey so it’s better to hit a rooftop bar at happy hour (usually between 5:00pm – 8:00pm). Be warned that dress codes are common. No open-toed shoes. No tank tops for men.

OMG! Bar has both indoor and outdoor seating with a relaxed vibe. The outdoor seating area is limited, but you can’t go wrong with either inside or out.

Chill Sky Bar is my favorite – with its panoramic view of the city and delicious drinks. There is indoor and outdoor seating, but the outdoor seating area is much larger than OMG! and must see!

Bui Vien

You should spend at least one night walking along Bui Vien street (also known as the “Backpacker District” due to all of the backpacker tourists who visit this street). Similar to Bourbon St. in New Orleans, one visit is enough. Drinking, Fire eaters, Michael Jackson impersonators, “massages”, and even drug paraphernalia occurs on this street. I am actually not a fan of this street because it is a tourist oasis – providing a bubble for all tourists to partake in familiar, Western behavior that is unlike typical Vietnamese culture. While this street helps increase tourism, the exploitative behavior is not true to Vietnam.

Walk Along the Water


Take your pick – either the Saigon River or a canal. My favorite is Kênh Nhiêu Lộc – Thị Nghè near Phu Ngang district. I love seeing the restaurants and homes tucked into the river bend. Strolling along a river or canal reminds me of Paris–there’s something so magical and serene about an evening stroll along French canals. And, equally so in Saigon.

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral 


I learned that French influence is more prominent in the southern region of Vietnam because they were allies with the South during wartime with the Northern communist region. Only 8% of the Vietnamese population are Catholic, yet it is interesting to see how long lasting French colonialism has lasted and in small ways.

Post Office post office

(directly across the street from Saigon Notre Dame)

War Remnants Museum

war remMost of the American students in the program agreed that our knowledge of the Vietnam War was very limited. More often, high school history classes teach specific dates and players but very rarely understand how American soldiers were affected or even how the Vietnamese were affected. I feel fortunate to have a Vietnam War section in my senior Honors English class. We studied war photographs and read American solider perspectives for a better understanding of what occurred. While I learned how Americans were affected, I only learned a glimpse of how the Vietnamese were affected. For example, no textbook will discuss the inhumane torture techniques in American prisons. (If you are interested, research “tiger cages”). This museum depicts the war’s affects on the Vietnamese.

The Vietnam War is the most documented war due to photographs, live broadcast footage, and increased war journalism activity. While this is the most documented war, The Vietnam War, to date, seems to be the least understood war – many questions to date have still gone unanswered both by American citizens and Vietnamese alike.

The museum dedicates a section to the worldwide protests against the war, including American citizen’s protests. Otherwise, the exhibits are fairly one-sided and can be very uncomfortable for Americans.

In the end, I am grateful for this experience because it helps me to understand more about the past and to appreciate this unique study abroad opportunity in Vietnam.


Beyond Tourist Attractions

I recommend experiencing the tourist attractions but also taking the time to do uncomfortable things. I have learned that hidden gems are worth feeling totally vulnerable while not knowing where to go or only being able to communicate very minimally with locals. It is impossible to really understand a place or culture without some sense of uncertainty. We must struggle first in order to grow.

10 Things To Know Before You Go To Vietnam

10 Things To Know Before You Go To Vietnam

I am officially in love with Vietnam! My first two weeks in Ho Chi Minh City have been packed with many adventures and learning opportunities. I believe everyone should travel to this country. Therefore, I have compiled my top 10 things to know about Vietnam when traveling to this wonderful country. (Note: This list is primarily for Western, especially American, perspective.)

1. KNOW THAT A “TOURIST FEE” IS INEVITABLE AND DON’T FRET. (The most important, in my opinion.) While you may be over charged by 5,000 VN Dong, realize that this equates to a few cents in US dollars. I will admit sometimes it is not easy to overlook. Therefore,  keep these tips in mind:

a) 5,000 VND is not that much money to an American but can be a lot of money to a Vietnamese street food vendor
b) Taxes and tipping are not included in expenses when you’re feeling ripped off. In order to not get charged extra, check out number 2.


Attempting to learn Vietnamese.

As with any foreign country, you are less likely to pay a “tourist fee” if you attempt the language. Many Vietnamese appreciate when foreigners at least try to speak the language and even more so, when you enjoy the food. Don’t get me wrong, 9.9 times out of 10 I still have to use hand gestures like pointing and counting when ordering in Vietnamese. Fear not, I’ve always ended up ordering food, having a wonderful meal, and have successfully paid for my meal. You get used to it.

TIP: Fat Noodle Vietnamese Street Food Guide is a lifesaver, especially if you are adventurous with food.

This was an adjustment for me because in America, I use my debit card for everything. Here, you rarely find places that take credit cards. When using Vietnamese Dong you must understand the current exchange rate. Currently, the rate is 21,367 VND to $1.00 USD. The easiest way to convert mentally is to think 20,0000 VND = $1.00 USD because 1,367 VND is very small change in US dollars. Therefore, 10,000 VND = $0.50 USD, which is how much my ca phe sua da (coffee with condensed milk) costs (it’s delicious and a staple). Therefore, 200,000 VND = $10.00 USD. I’m sure you can figure out beyond that. HOWEVER, be mindful of small change: 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 VND ALL exists and it’s very easy to confuse at first. Don’t make the same mistake I did and try to give a coffee shop 1,500 VND instead of 15,000! I learned my lesson, laughed it off, and moved on.


Bia Saigon with Bánh canh cua.

Beer or Bia (BEE-UH) in Vietnamese is a great compliment to the hot weather and the occasional hot chilies in your Báhn Mí (check out a future post for all things food!). Bia is light and more watery than in America. More importantly, beer relieves potential bacteria you may encounter from eating street food. I have only questioned street food once here, which says a lot because I eat it every day, but I drank beer with the meal and all is well.

Caution, if your beer or any beverage comes with ice, make sure you drink ice WITH holes. If it does not have a hole, then it is not purified. Think: hole-y is holy.

So… try street food and have a reason to drink a beer.




Walking is always thrilling. Each path is like a new obstacle course.

My best advice – find a local and follow very closely beside them before crossing the street for the first time. Cars and motorbikes do not stop for pedestrians, so walk predictably and attentively. Be aware that sidewalks aren’t readily available. Motorbikes use the sidewalks, too, and pedestrians oftentimes walk in the street. Be alert. Walk with purpose.


I love exploring and ultimately learning by myself. The best way to get familiar with a city is navigating it yourself (even if you get lost – you can always take a cab back just keep extra money on you). Game changer: I don’t use Google Maps when exploring. I have limited wifi access, which has honestly been one of the best things, since I’m always attached to smartphone in the States. Until I learn more Vietnamese, directions are like:
Take a left. Pass the Báhn Mí lady with the fresh bread and spicier sandwich. Pass the Báhn Mí lady with the good Báhn bao and sells beer. Take a right by the fabric store on the corner. Go one block. Turn right and the Bún bò Huế (BOON BOH HWAY) place should be on the corner. 


Riding a motorbike in HCMC

First time to conquer your fear. Second time to really enjoy it. Third time to be apro. It is such a great  way to explore this amazing city.
Things to know:

a) By law, you must wear a helmet. Every xe ôm should carry an extra.
b) Beware of the exhaust pipes when riding. Keep your calves away. You WILL get burned.
c) Always put your purse/bag/backpack between you and the driver. Petty theft is the only crime to worry about.
d) Don’t wave your smartphone around. It will get snatched. This goes for anywhere in public.


Always write down your destination in Vietnamese before taking a taxi or xe ôm. I saved my dorm address and university address in my phone for quick access.


The kindest lady with the best Bún thịt nủớng.

You will not get anywhere with the Vietnamese if you have a terrible attitude. Understand that things are very different here than in the United States. Be open to understanding rather than judging and comparing one way of life to another. I have come to realize that the Vietnamese are some of the most friendly and generous human beings by nature. If you reciprocate with generosity and kindness, your experience will be exponentially better. 

Before you know it, your trip will be over, so marvel at every detail. Absorb the culture. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Marvel at the things that make Vietnam amazing and unique.

I hope you enjoy this post. Understand these are the most important things to know, in my opinion, so if you have other questions email me at

Until next time.

Chào các bạn.