I spent last week in Vietnam.

Over the course of seven days I participated in two mindful meditation sessions, wrote two love letters to the Earth, visited three temples, paddled in the South China Sea twice, lounged poolside seven times and attended two Illumination Ceremonies.

I was so relaxed and serene I found nothing to obsess about ... So that's it for this week.

Nothing to report. Thank you for reading. Just kidding.


Despite my Zen-like state, the dilemmas kept appearing. Here are five holiday conundrums I was forced to ponder while in Quang Nam Province.

1: Should tourists wear the local hats?


It was near the end of our tour of Hoi An and I was fading fast. After walking in the intense heat for a couple of hours, I started hankering after a parasol - or anything that would keep the sun off my face and shoulders.

I looked half-heartedly in a few roadside shop displays without success. Then I spied stacks of those conical Vietnamese-style straw hats. They would be perfect.

But I paused for a moment to over think the prospective purchase. Having seen farmers, vendors and the resort gardeners wearing these hats, I wondered if it would be perceived as rude to mimic their style.

"It's not culturally insensitive, is it?" I asked our guide who gave no indication he had any idea what I was going on about.

Anyway, I can see why these hats are popular in this part of the world. They're lightweight, give great sun protection and, thanks to their woven construction, allow cool breezes through.

The conical hat is a design masterpiece.

Apart from the evenings and when I was indoors, I was virtually inseparable from this hat for the rest of the trip.

It was $3.20 well spent. (Yes, I'm sure you bought one more cheaply; I forgot to haggle. No, I didn't bring it home because of my fondness for Auckland airport's green biosecurity lane.)

2: Are scallop shells dangerous?


One night at dinner I did something stupid. In my defence, it was very, very dark.

We were sitting at an outside table illuminated with just one candle. (The menus were routinely handed out with reading lights attached.) Plus, since we'd ordered from the Indian menu, I'd assumed that the round-ish disc beneath the single scallop that constituted the amuse-bouche was some sort of poppadom.

I broke it with my fork and ate about a third of it. It was crunchy but not very tasty.

It was only when I remarked that my two dining companions hadn't eaten their "poppadoms" that I realised my mistake.

I'd eaten some scallop shell. They laughed and I felt a little unwell.

When I looked online later, it appeared that the biggest risk was of a sharp edge damaging the oesophagus. Fortunately, this didn't happen.

The article also said that accidentally ingesting these shells is likely to be associated with poor eyesight and/or alcohol consumption. How rude. Yet how perceptive.

3: Are faulty seatbelts okay?


We got into a taxi after dinner in Hoi An one night. We were already moving but I couldn't get my seatbelt fastened.

My first thought was I should just put up with it. But our drive in earlier had been accompanied by dozens of beeping scooters, cars, buses, horns and traffic weaving all over the place.

I quickly decided that a trip of 9 kilometres through this organised chaos was already intrepid enough so we asked the driver to stop.

I was prepared to exit the taxi but he eventually got the seatbelt to click. Problem solved. (When the same thing had happened with my daughter's seatbelt a few years ago in Cambodia I'd instantly alerted the taxi driver; it was a no brainer that she should have a functioning seatbelt. But, this time, when it was me who drew the faulty device, I wondered if I was being too precious in my insistence on safety.)

4: Should you judge other people's parenting?


On our penultimate day in Vietnam, we saw a couple of newly arrived children swimming in the children's pool. We didn't think anything of it at the time but in hindsight we realised they'd been unsupervised.

The next day, my daughter and I played ball in the pool with these same two children. We discovered that their parents were down on the beach (maybe 100-metres away) and that the children were aged six and eight.

The parents did not check on them even once in several hours. I kid you not. And there was no lifeguard.

We met the parents that same night at a cocktail party and they were just as laid back and relaxed as you might imagine.

They'd heard all about us from their children and gave no indication that it might be odd for children that young to have unsupervised encounters with strangers.

As a comparison, I took my daughter to a resort in Malaysia when she was nine-years-old. The quadruple threat of swimming pools, ocean, strangers and unfamiliar surroundings, meant I didn't let her (or her eight-year-old friend) out of my sight. That still doesn't strike me as overprotective.

5: Don't mention the war


During the course of our two-and-a-half hour tour through Hoi An's old town, a member of our group asked our friendly guide about the "Vietnam War".

I cringed inwardly because anyone who'd given this matter even a moment's consideration would have realised that that was a name devised with a Western bias and it's unlikely to be the term the Vietnamese people would use for this particular war.

Sure enough, as the tourist discovered that day, the locals call it the "American War".