Now that we’ve returned home and have settled back into our routine lives again we find it funny how our travel stories keep coming up. Invariably one of us will look at the other and say ‘Remember That Time…’ I thought it would make a good series; a way to tell these small stories that take us back in the blink of an eye.

Call me cheap, but I color my own hair. I always have and luckily, knock on wood, it has never turned out disastrous. It maybe hasn’t always looked exactly how I wanted it to but, then again, I’m only investing $14.95 in the process rather than $70 – a classic case of ‘you get what you pay for’.

I had even done this previously on the trip…at least 5 times previously…and had had fairly decent results even though I often couldn’t read the instructions or didn’t have all the usual equipment.

It all came tumbling down in Vietnam.

There are no drugstores in Vietnam – it seems that anyone that has any space, and something to sell, just does. I found a place selling a few boxes of hair color, chose a box labeled ‘light brown’ and headed back to the hotel.

There were no gloves in the box and I can’t even remember if there were instructions but, having done this a million times before, I just set to mixing the various bottles and applying it to my head.

I thought it strange that my fingernails stained black almost immediately but put it down to applying color without gloves and thought no more of it.

The last time I had colored my hair (in Thailand) I had not left the color in long enough as I was afraid it would be too dark and it ended up fading out sooner than it should have, so this time I was determined to leave it in for the prescribed amount of time. I busied myself while I waited for the 45 minutes to pass (yes it takes that long….I have, ahem, some grey that needs extra attention).

I rinsed the color out of my hair, toweled it dry, and took the first look in the mirror to see how it turned out.



It was black. Black, black, black! As black as any raven haired Vietnamese beauty I could see on the street. Really, really black. I cannot emphasize enough how black it was.

I was mortified but there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t risk coloring over it, and besides, what color would I use? I have a sneaking suspicion that every box of hair color in Vietnam, whether labeled black or light brown or blond or red, all has the same formulation in it. Black.

At home they say you shouldn’t wash your hair right after coloring it because it will fade…so I washed it, and washed it, and washed it. It didn’t look any duller at all. Still black.

I slowly realized that I was going to have to live with it. I was going to have to go outside.

Keep in mind – this in no way, shape or form looked natural. Some black lipstick and dark clothing and I could have passed for ‘goth’.

Eventually we made our way outside – I held my head up and faked confidence I didn’t have. I felt like everyone was looking at me and laughing. Luckily the sun sets early in Vietnam and, soon enough, I was comforted by a drape of darkness. But it would have to get light again at some point.

That mistake took forever to grow out. Normally hair color fades over time and grows out eventually. Vietnamese hair color is tenacious and sticky and, even after returning home, and coloring my hair a few more times I could still see traces of the black in there.

My father-in-law referred to me as his ‘Vietnamese blond’ – funny.