Traveling with a Teenager in Vietnam

Travels with Luke

If you’re thinking about travelling in Vietnam with a teenager it’s a choice. Once we finally got to Vietnam after the unfortunate visa debacle, son Luke and I had a lot of fun. It’s true that in the past I’ve been a poor travel companion but Luke was a good one. Here’s what I enjoyed about my travels with 19-year-old Luke.

1. Google Translate

I would probably only use Google Translate in emergency situations but Luke used it to communicate with our driver for a whole day. Some of the translations our driver showed us on his phone made us giggle. For example, he took us to a restaurant where:

“Seafood is very fresh and finger.”

He was shy about ordering expensive food and told us:

“I only eat rice with vegetables without vegetables.”

2. Top tips from the teenager

I have a poor sense of direction and was constantly poring over the map as we walked around Ho Chi Minh City. Luke’s happy to wander around, get lost and have no agenda but I want to know where I’m going and how. But because I have the map out we attracted some unwanted attention and Luke begs:

“Put the map away Mum so people stop asking if we need help!”

3. Catch phrases making memories

Luke picks up certain catch phrases that the locals keep repeating.

Everyone says “happy hour!” when reducing their over-inflated prices in shops, and when they want us to go with them they shout “Follow me!”

Soon Luke’s constant refrain becomes “Happy hour! Follow me!” He has the accent and mannerisms down pat.

4. Super manners

Luke is unfailingly polite. He shakes hands, introduces himself and thanks all the locals. I’m proud of that.

5. Bargains well

I’m renowned for bargaining skills which my husband claims have left Indian salesmen in tears. I teach Luke the basics: don’t be the first one to say a price, wait for them to lower the price and keep waiting while they lower it more, then leave to find what I call the walk away price. That’s the bottom price they won’t sell for less than.

It’s a fun process.

Luke’s a quick learner who negotiates respectfully and successfully.

6. Patient with the locals

At 6 ft 6″ Luke gets called ‘long boy’ or ‘high boy’. Often, when I’m taking his photo, I tell him to hurry up with his pose as someone is waiting to take the same shot. But then it turns out they’re waiting to have their photo taken with him.He gracefully obliges making for some very happy people.

He gracefully obliges, even though he even gets fed up with people asking how tall he is in Australia.

Due to his great height, Luke gets a sore head in Vietnam. He falls foul of many a low doorway, ceiling and sign post, resulting in several painful blows to the head. Ouch.

7. Lazy mornings

Luke loves shopping but hates getting out of bed. Unlike his father and most other men, Luke likes to shop. He’s always been thoughtful about gifts and when he was a little boy I realised his love language was gifts.He enjoys trawling round the shops and markets for hours. It would drive his dad berserk. I even tire of it myself.

Luke enjoys trawling round the shops and markets for hours. It would drive his dad berserk. I tire of it myself.

However, like his father, Luke finds getting out of bed early hard. So early sightseeing to beat the heat is not appreciated, even when naps are promised and delivered.

8. Cultural indifference

Luke is not a cultural traveller. I enjoy learning a bit about the history and culture of the place I’m visiting. Luke, less so. When we visit Tan Ky House in Hoi An, a tour guide gives us a short talk about the history of the house.

“This is boring!” Luke whispers to me.

Later I ask if he heard that the house gets flooded every year and the ground floor is usually flooded and two meters under water each year. It turns out he wasn’t listening so he missed that interesting morsel of information.

9. Culinary adventurousness

While I’m always happy to tell people I’m a vegetarian (even though I’m not anymore) to avoid eating dodgy meat, Luke is the opposite. He tells our host he’s keen to try snake and then eats some. Apparently, it’s not delicious! Fortunately, the locals loved the snake stew and devoured the lot.

We discover the snake had eggs inside it and I eat one of those. It’s small and disc shaped but tastes reassuringly eggy. Despite that, I still feel a bit sick about thinking where it came from. The snake we ate pictured here was a particularly ugly specimen.

10. Photo opportunities galore

Luke knows exactly how to push my buttons and delights in clambering around on a dangerous rooftop on the Hai Van Pass while I squeal and entreat him to get down. Still, it makes a good photo and he promised me it only looked dangerous.

11. Don’t worry, be happy

I love young people and Luke in particular because they do remind us to stop worrying and just enjoy. Life’s stresses and strains can take over when you’re a responsible adult. It’s good to spend time with someone who has few cares in the world and no sense of time running out.

I was very lucky to have this short holiday with Luke, especially, because it may never happen again. But that’s the type of thinking Luke would never have.

Want more travel stories?

For a weekly injection of travel stories, lifestyle and wellbeing tips click here for free updates now.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Janet August 21, 2017 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Good story to read, am looking forward to my own experience with teenager in Vietnam! You may want to edit #7 as you have repeated yourself!

    • Annabel Candy August 26, 2017 at 9:55 am - Reply

      Hi Janet,

      Hope you have fun. Oh that’s Grammerly playing up! It does more harm than good sometimes – thank you for telling me :)

  2. Alyson August 22, 2017 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Hey Anabel, We’re heading to Vietnam on Sunday! We’ll be there around 3 months, Chef is training for an Ironman and needs tropical weather to acclimatize, so lots of training, I’ll be running, the kids will be kid-ing, and working on the websites obviously. ( we’ve got this digital nomad thing nailed now!) Can’t wait! My teen is only 13 and he’s looking forward to it too. Great to read about your adventure with your son.

    • Annabel Candy August 26, 2017 at 9:54 am - Reply

      Hi Alyson,

      That sounds like a wonderful family adventure! I’m sure you’ll enjoy that special family time.

  3. Seana Smith August 23, 2017 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Hello, that a lovely thoughts and this post is one that you’ll read many times as the years go by. How wonderful to have had that time together just the two of you, a rare treat.

    I’m all for cultural experienecs but I don’t know if I could eat that blooming snake!

    • Annabel Candy August 26, 2017 at 9:55 am - Reply

      Hi Seana,

      I know, I feel a bit queasy every time I look at that pic!

  4. voyagestic August 26, 2017 at 6:13 am - Reply

    Is it safe to travel to Vietnam and walk there at night time?

    • Annabel Candy August 26, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Hi voyagestic,

      I guess it depends where you are. I felt safe there and we were fine in HCM City and Hoi An. I’d ask the place where you’re staying and always be vigilant when walking – keep scanning the surroundings, have a confident walk and avoid getting distracted by your mobile phone. It’s best to keep that and any valuables out of sight :)

Leave A Comment