Hoi An old town, Hanoi, Vietnam

The Pups of Hoi An

The pups of Hoi An were a joy to photograph on my daily photography walks. Every second house seems to have a small dog as a pet. No, not to eat. And yet that’s a question that foreigners frequently ask.

The Pups of Hoi An

“Do people in Vietnam like dogs?” a traveller asked us during a market tour in Hoi An recently. And it wasn’t the first time.

I guess it’s probably a fair question in a country where dog meat might appear on a menu. But the cute fluffy puppy that prompted the question from the visiting Australian was obviously very much loved.

During our three months in Hanoi we saw plenty of food stalls selling dog meat, but we also saw an abundance of spoilt dogs sleeping on the steps of shops, lazily watching the world go by.

And over the last three months in Hoi An we have noted that every second house in the old town appears to have a puppy or two kept for pleasure, not protein.

On my daily afternoon photography-taking walks in Hoi An I would see the same dogs each day and became friendly with them during our time there, often stopping for a quick pat – and a photo op.

Some of the pups were scruffy, some perfectly groomed. Some obviously needed a visit to a vet, while others were well-loved members of the family.

As usual, the reality on the ground is far more complex and nuanced than a quick visit to Vietnam can reveal.

What I can tell you is that Hoi An is home to some of the most beautiful and friendliest dogs around – and the locals we met loved them. Meet the pups of Hoi An, above.

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  1. Ibukun

    Wow. I can’t believe dog meat is on the menu, but then again many countries eat what others will consider questionable meat. Honestly these pup’s are adorable. Keep these great posts coming..

  2. Lara Dunston

    We love dogs so it’s certainly hard to see roasted dogs on the tables of street food stalls in cities like Hanoi – there was a whole street of shops specialising in dog meat close to where we lived there for three months. We do find the thought of eating man’s best friend repulsive but at the same time we also appreciated that there a dog lovers in Vietnam just as there are everywhere who find the notion equally abhorrent. And, yes, agree these little fellas are adorable – Terence, who befriended them all, captured their personalities beautifully. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Global Nomads

    Do people in Vietnam like pups?

    We got the impression that they like more grown-up dogs than puppies, especially roasted. We saw plenty of them hanging outside butcheries when we arrive in Hanoi and at first we though they were roasted pigs, but then their noses looked somewhat different. After that we left Vietnam quite quickly and have not returned. We love dogs more alive.

  4. Lara Dunston

    We haven’t used the word ‘pups’ literally. We’ve used it affectionately to refer to all dogs.

    But what a shame you didn’t do some research to learn that some Vietnamese – as well as Cambodians (and many other Asians) – eat dog before you entered the country.

    And what a shame you couldn’t look past the practice to discover a country with one of the world’s richest cultures and culinary histories. There’s so much more to Vietnam and you missed a great opportunity to discover a fascinating country.

    We’re also huge dog lovers (of the living kind) hence the photos of the dogs we befriended and ‘met’ each day on our walks around Hoi An during our 3-month stay – dogs that belonged to Vietnamese locals who loved them just as much as any pet-owners around the world love their dogs.

  5. Global Nomads

    Doing research beforehand raises expectations and those expectations shape the way how a new place is perceived. They might give false negative impressions or too high expectations which are both equally bad. Even if we had read about the dog-eating, we wouldn’t probably have believed it without seeing it by ourselves.

    When a place turns to sour, be it because of dog eating, bad customer service, price discrimination or whatever, it is no use to try to artificially prolong the misery. Things will only get worse. Finally when they become too bad, we start treating locals in a way that we don’t want to treat them. It’s better to move to another country before that happens.

    We are not really great fans of any culinary cultures or histories that are not strictly vegan.

  6. Lara Dunston

    On your comments about expectations – exactly. We’ve written many posts here and on my other blog Cool Travel Guide about expectations. Some people prefer to travel with realistic expectations, some prepare themselves for the fact that their expectations might be dashed or they might come away having had an even better time than they hoped, while others love the element of surprise.

    For many of us, doing research isn’t only about creating expectations, it’s about enriching and deepening the travel experience. Go with some research and you know the basics and can therefore learn about a place in more depth while you’re there. In this case, go to Vietnam knowing that some people (not all) eat dog – as some people (not all) do in Cambodia, China, etc – and you can then find out who they are, why they eat it, where it’s eaten etc, and also find out, as we did, that there are many Vietnamese who also love animals, especially dogs, as people do everywhere.

    “When a place turns sour?” A place? Seriously? You mean Vietnam? We spent six months there (our second trip), and found it to be one of the most extraordinary countries in the world, rich in history and culture, with some of the most sincere, honest and caring people we’ve ever met in the world. How a place ‘sours’ I’m really not sure. Bad customer service? We can probably count the experiences of bad customer service on two hands. You’ll find bad customer service everywhere. When “they become too bad”? Who? The whole of Vietnam? Hmmm… perhaps it was a good idea you moved on.

    And as for ‘strictly vegan culinary cultures/histories’… frankly, I don’t think one exists but then I’m only a travel and food writer so what would I know? If you’ve found a country with a culinary culture/history that is strictly vegan, then I think you’re onto something! As curious as I am to find out which country boasts such a thing, I strongly recommend you keep it a secret and go to a publisher as soon as possible, as I guarantee you’ll get an immediate book deal. Best of luck with that!

  7. Thao Duong

    Firstly, as a Vietnamese my family and I have not and do not subscribe at all to eating or the cultural superstition attached to eating dog meat. I am a dog lover myself and have always kept dogs from young. I can’t afford the nice looking ones that you captured on camera and mine are similar to those of the same species that end up being served as a disch. However, my family and I have adopted a few (farm dogs) from young and we love them dearly regardless of their breed. My friends and I, also save up money to hunt those dog-meat vendors and as much as I would want to hand these culprits to the police, I can only try to buy the dogs and then either give them to friends or put them at the orphanages for the kids to play with. I have also adopted them myself. In short, may of us Vietnamese love dogs more than to get entwined in the superstition. To say it’s a culture is not even accurate. .. Some believe the powers of dog and that by eating them one gets rid of one’s bad omen. This is definitely a superstition and primitive too but in all cultures there are some elements of the past that needs time to be reshaped…

    I also believe that both parties (Lara and Carter) including myself are at the same page in our values and principles in respect to the idea of having ‘a man’s best friend’ being served as a meal when there are a lot more simpler and healthier foods available. Generally, I can represent many city folks in Hanoi to say that dog meat is quickly becoming less popular as people become more educated and less superstitious. In fact, from the onset, this preference was adopted due to wrong beliefs and is generally practised by few village folks whom have moved to the city. This explains that dog meat is not widely sold in all markets and only selected ones sell them. It is also a practise in the North of Vietnam (Hanoi and other provinces in the north) and similarly my countrymen in the other parts of Vietnam look at this habit with scorn and bewilederment. As the saying that old habits die hard, but one can be assured that it is dieing out surely although slower than the pace I would have liked.
    Secondly, I agree that everyone is entitled to their own views and not every place is suitable for all. Especially when it’s a holiday, I understand that one looks forward to pretty memories to bring back together with photos that you can reminsce down memory lane. Most unfortunately, your early encounter in Vietnam were the few less positive aspects that you had mentioned earlier. These may have shaped your possibly tainted view of Vietnam and that is entirely undertstanable. However, as a Vietnamese, I would like to invite you back again to possible look into the other aspects that thecountry may be able to offer you and that you can seriously treasure them.
    If I could make anything better, I thank you both for the care and love for the Vietnam or this topic would not have pursued. However, everyone is entitled to their views, beliefs and even Rome was not built in a day. My friends, thank you and have a lovely week….

  8. Global Nomads

    Leaving Vietnam felt pretty natural. For us the country had bad karma and we don’t feel like returning there at least now. Some people like some countries, other like other countries. Generally speaking we dislike all of them and would love to see a countryless and borderless world where we would be all allowed to be one.

    There is in fact one country which is pretty close to vegan. Vientiane has 3 different all you can eat vegan buffets that cost about $3 per person including drinking water. We loved staying there. The only downside of Laos is stupid visa regulations forcing people to visa-run monthly, plus the air pollution but that is a problem in the whole South-East Asia.

  9. Simon

    One place has 3 all you can eat vegan buffets for $3 and that proves it has culinary cultures or histories that is strictly vegan?

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