Sunday, July 18, 2010

Steamed Rice with Salt and Sesame/ Com Nam Muoi Vung

Com Nam Muoi Vung

I always go to my favorite Cafe Nang for coffee after lunch or sometimes after breakfast with my good friends. Last week, I saw a woman carrying her baskets past the shop. Some women inside the cafe called her in and bought some small packages wrapped in paper. I wondered what was inside the paper.

Com Nam Muoi Vung

The owner of the Cafe Nang told me it was called Com Nam Muoi Vung / Steamed Rice with salt and sesame. I've actually eaten these before but most of the time my friends put them on plates and also my mother used to put them into a bowl for me to take to school.

Com Nam Muoi Vung

I love this rice cake very much and I ate them all in one go. The lady in the shop told me that this dish was eaten by poor people in the past and that it's also a popular snack to pack on day trips to pagodas in the countryside. I'll definitely be up for another serve at only 4000 dong/serve.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saigon, July 2010


I'm in Saigon for a few days before taking some members of my family to Bangkok for a short vacation. The weather in Saigon is a bit different to Hanoi but I like Saigon as it always cool from 4pm which is much better. At the moment it's rainy season which helps keep temperatures down a bit.

Fresh spring rolls

Yesterday, when I wandering around the market in the afternnon when I realised my Iphone had gone. I'm very upset with myself for not being more careful with my bag. Normally in Hanoi I know exactly what's going an around me and where my phone is. I just lost concentration for a second and it was gone!

Saigon beer and duck eggs

I'm trying not to let this incident ruin my holiday but it's hard. After trying to call the phone a few times I gave up and went back to the hotel. Later in the evening I went out for some snacks, including duck eggs and crabs with tamarind sauce. This made me feel better but I'm still thinking about the phone.

Fruit seller

I was trying to take few photos of the food but I couldn't get them in focus, which I hate. There must have been something wrong with me at the time. I decided to walk back to the hotel for an early night. The next day I returned and had more success taking photos of the food. I really love eating from this old lady who has quite a striking face. She is quite a character, smoking, swearing and laughing with all of her customers. She rocks everybody who comes to her stall.

Noodles with pork / Hu Tiu

I also went to my favorite Hu Tiu vendor for breakfast. It was great to see she remembered me and what I normally order as extras such as fresh beanshoots, a bit more dried onion... The only thing that she doesn't know is that I don't eat lots of meat and noodles now because I am trying to loose some weight and workout on my belly. Anyway, I went back to her shop for every breakfast and the day I left early for Bangkok, I got up extra early for another serve of noodles.

A smile and a wave from her was a great start to my trip.

Friday, July 09, 2010



I have been to Bangkok quite a few times and even though it's actually an interesting city, it's not my favourite destination. I'm going back to Bangkok this time to take my mother and sisters for a short trip to fullfill my promise to take my mother to one country in southeast every year. My sister and I took her to Malaysia and Singapore 2 years ago and she loved it very much.


I hope the Thai drama is over as my family are a bit worried and I had to spend hours trying to convince them that is was safe. One of my friends told me, as a joke I think, that we should take some red shirts which may help if the trouble starts again :). Anyway, I hope Mum enjoys our trip to Bangkok.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Miss Wong Bar

Miss Wong Bar

In the last trip to Siem Reap, following the hotel staff's recommendation, we went to Miss Wong cocktail bar for a drink after dinner. I was quite impressed about this Chinese - Shanghai old style bar which is inspired by the owner's impression of Miss Wong from China.

China White

It's totally different compared to the rest of the bars in Siem Reap which were all modern and a bit tasteless. Miss Wong is lit with low red lights, chinese style tables and chairs and interesting photos. I do love their menus designed sharplywith Miss Wong photos on the top.


They make very nice cocktails particularly the Mojito and Margarita. I also enjoyed the China white cocktail very much and I think the staff have been trained very well. They speak quite good english and they are very friendly.

Miss Wong Bar

Anyway, good to know another place in a small town to hang out next time and have some of the best cocktails in town.
Address : The Lane , Siem Reap behind pub street
Phone : 855/92.428.332

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm Temple

So many things have been said about Ta Prohm temple but this is the comment that best sums it up for me:"If Angkor Wat, the Bayon and other temples are testimony to the genius of the ancient Khmers, Ta Prohm reminds us equally of the aweome fecundity and power of the jungle" (Lonely Planet Cambodia)

Ta Prohm Temple

Siem Reap is the northern city home to the Great Angkor Wat Temple, the most popular destination for tourists in Cambodia. People usually know about Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom which are the well known temples rather than the many smaller gorgeous temples around the area. I was particularly impressed by the temple called Ta Prohm or Tree - Strangled Temple. This temple is 800 years old and has lots of enormous beautiful trees, a great example of nature and manmade structure as one. The tree roots twisting around and on top of these temples look like the tentacles of a giant sleeping octopus. This unique appearance of the temple attracts thousands of tourists every year even though the weather isn't that pleasant throughout the year, averaging 34 degrees. Interesingly, Tom Raider, the 2001 film starring Angelina Jolie helped to spread the world about this amazing feat of architecture.

Ta Prohm Temple

About a hundred meters walk from the beautiful entrance you can see the first temple with a large front quadrangle surrounded by several tall trees reaching to the sky. Walking through this temple complex is exciting, with trees and roots blending into the temples at every turn. It's like an enormous sculpture. The camera was working overtime!

Ta Prohm Temple

And I think, in this case, the pictures are better than words...

Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm Temple

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Novotel Hotel

Nha Trang beach

While I've been living in Hanoi, a hotel rennaissance has been occuring in Nha Trang, Vietnam's south central coast beach resort and, also, my hometown. The long and natural bay lends itself to this kind of development, with many of the big players in international hotels moving in to claim their plot of beach front. Tran Phu Street, the boulevard running parallel to the beach, is turning into Vietnam's Gold Coast.

Novotel Nhatrang

I wanted to check out what all the fuss is about. Of course, normally when I'm home I stay with family and when I'm on holiday I stay at family run mini-hotels, so the four-star Hotel Novotel Nha Trang is a big deal for me. A recommendation had come from a friend in the trade and when I was offered a room upgrade as I checked in, I must say that this little experience of luxury was quite nice for a change.

Novotel Nhatrang

The hotel boasts that every room has a seaview; in some hotels that could mean out of the bathroom window. Not so here. A blue panorama of sea and islands can be seen through full length windows from air-conditioned comfort or from each room's balcony, where Nha Trang's famous afternoon seabreeze takes the edge off the heat of the day. Sunrise in the morning is truly a spectacular sight which one need not get out of bed for. That's a bonus!

Novotel Nhatrang

The room decor is purple on white and there is no hint of Vietnam in the design or the finish. They have avoided the cliched images of girls in ao dai and there is not a lacquer vessel in sight. Maybe there is a Novotel template of room design. The shiny chrome reading lamps are a classy touch by the bedside, which is a couple of steps up on a mezzanine of sorts. This creates a sense of spaciousness, with desk space for laptops, glasses for the main drinking occasions, sofa and the balcony and outdoor setting down below.

And don't forget the sea, which really is the star feature of the room!

Novotel Nhatrang

Outside of the room, there is lots to enjoy, including a pool, fitness centre and massage service; all quite typical I guess for regular guests at the Novotel and other high-end hotels. My outside of the room experience was spent mostly with friends and family at the local eateries but I did enjoy a beer at the hotel's main restaurant, The Square, which almost feels as if it is located on the beach.

Indeed, the sea seems to be the recurring theme at the Novotel Nha Trang.
Novotel Nha Trang Hotel
50 Tran Phu Street

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Misa's Birthday


I've had my dog for five years and for the first time since 2005, I decided to have a small celebration for my king, Misa. We cooked some roasted chicken, steamed some corn and made some salad and said cheers for misa with some wine, Russian beers and Belgium beers plus a birthday cake for dessert. I made a small slideshow to show my friends of Misa's life from the first day up to now. It was fun and my friends loved the photos very much. You have to admit, Misa is pretty cute.

Misa - Private service

We usually take Misa on our trips so that he has been to quite a few places around Vietnam, including Quan Lan island, Tam Dao, Nha Trang and Hoi An... He loves going on the motorbike and in taxis. He's even been on Vietnam Airlines!

Misa and Tu

He is a very good dog who obeys my commands very well because we trained him well but he only understands English. My friends also love Misa very much. He loves having a shower very much, standing up on the side of the bathtub to let me shower him. A special thing about him is that he doesn't really like to eat dog biscuits but he loves eating rice from Com Binh dan restaurants and duck eggs.


When we used to live in Cao Ba Quat street, I usually took him to Lenin Park which was close by for him to play. Since we moved to Nghi Tam, he loves going to the Thang Loi Hotel to run up and down the grass hill then we walk back home.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tam Dao 2010

Tam Dao

A week ago, I took a short trip with my friends to Tam Dao, a hill station about 90 km from Hanoi. Like so many Hanoians, they have recently bought a car and, according to Vietnamese custom, whenever you buy something new, you have to celebrate with friends. It also meant we could escape from the horrible heat of last week. During the week is the best time to go to Tam Dao as it's very quiet compared to weekends. It seemed there was only us and about 10 other tourists also from Hanoi.

Viet Hoa hotel - Tam Dao

I have been to Tam Dao several times during the past 8 years and it never seems to change much but there do appear to be more guest houses. The last few times I've usually stayed in a small guest house on the top street of Tam Dao, but I changed my mind this time to stay near the market which is close to the main street where the restaurants and shops are located. After checking out a few different guest houses, we picked Mai Hoa guest house which only coat a cost of only 100,000Vnd per night. The hotel was very clean, the proprietor and staff were friendly and they served great food. The only thing that they didn't have was airconditioning but in Tam Dao it's hardly necessary as it's always cool and a bit chilly in the evenings. In fact, I needed to use the colorful blanket provided to keep me warm.

Stir fried susu vegetable

We had lunch at the hotel the first day, which of course included the local specialty vegetable, Susu. I ate so much of this vegetable during my trip there along with wild boar and wild chicken. For our second meal, we went out for dinner to a restaurant near the hotel but like so many restaurants in these kinds of semi-remote tourist destinations, it was very expensive. I hate it when they just make up the price. As a consequence, we decided to eat at the hotel for the rest of the trip and the good thing was they served us at our balcony on the second floor with a very nice view of Tam Dao.

Tay Thien Quoc Mau

On the last day, we went to visit a temple called Tay Thien Quoc Mau, which is reached by climbing up about over 100 steps to the top of the hill. The Tam Dao people are investing to make it bigger and now it's almost finished, and includes many statues. I wondered how they could transport all the huge Buddha statues up the hill as it was very steep and hard to climb. Anyway, we spent about 30 minutes there praying, taking photos before going the same distance down the hill to see the Thac Bac waterfall, which my friends hadn't seen before. I felt exhausted on the way back up even though I exercise very regularly. We stopped quite a few times in between to relax and take some photos of the surrounding countryside. Sweating when we reached the township, we decided to take a dip in one of the other hotel's swimming pools. Buy, that felt good.

Tam Dao

Finally, after two nights, it was time to get back to reality, back to Hanoi to face the heat and work. I really didn't want to leave as Tam Dao's so peaceful. I need to go back here in the near future. Thanks to all of my friends for the fun times.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fishing And Lunch

Thanh Long Restaurant - To 5 Phuong Thuong Thanh - Long Bien Distrist - 048 715 325 - Mobile  0913 211 772

Many Hanoians went to other cities or to the beach for their Independence Day and May Day Holidays. I not keen on that as wherever you choose to go on these national holidays is generally very crowded and really expensive. So instead,my ex-colleages and I went to Thang Long retreat in Gia Lam for a day. This retreat is such a peaceful place with small bungalows located around a lake from where you can fish. When we arrived, we had the place to ourselves but 2 hours later, the crowds we were trying to avoid showed up. Some were turned away because the place was full. I really appreciated the fact that my friends had booked and ordered from the menu a few days in advance.

Thanh Long Restaurant - To 5 Phuong Thuong Thanh - Long Bien Distrist - 048 715 325 - Mobile  0913 211 772

I've tried fishing before but I wasn't patient enough to catch any fish. My friends didn't seem to be very interested either so we played cards and drank a few beers, and had a wander about to see if anyone else was having any luck with the fishing. It really didn't seem as if anyone was concerned about it.

Grilled chicken in mud

Soon after noon our lunch arrived, many different dishes that my friends had pre-ordered, including grilled squid, chicken baked in mud and beef in vinegar.But the highlight of the meal was the 1.5kg deep fried snake head fish to roll with fresh vegetables. I felt bad as we couldn't finish this super fish dish even though we gave it our best shot.

Trang - Tu

Anyway, the important thing was the relaxing atmosphere on the national holiday. For 8 of us, we only paid 900,000Vnd which means $47 including beers and soft drinks. I am sure I will come back to this place for a future party. Thanks to my friends for a great day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Heaven Calling

Paper horses

In Asia, people believe in the laws of karma and that's why many people go to pagodas every first day, 15th and the last day of the lunar month to pray for their health and luck... also for their family members who have passed away.

Paper horses

The thinking is that dead people also need the same stuff as living people so, on these special days, some people spend millions of dong on fake paper products, from a pair of shoes to air conditioners, even motobikes. But in certain cases and for people in high positions in society, there may be different ways to celebrate. Families who have very successful businesses are known to spend a fortune paying a service to organise the praying and provide the paper goods.

Paper horses

Last week, on the way down to the old quarter, I saw people transporting their stuff on a small truck to the temple to burn after their prayer session and it included lots of huge paper horses, elephants, angels and fake money. This is not the first time I've seen these stuff which is mostly seen during pagoda festivals which are held early in the year. This occasion in Yen Phu street was a private one as it was nowhere near a special lunar day.

Paper horses

Anyway, even though it looks good and provides a great photo opportunity, I think this practice is such a waste of money and the smoke produced by the fire is an environmental nightmare, especially on lunar days when everyone in town is burning paper.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Golden Banana Hotel

Golden Banana Hotel

Last month we went to Siem Reap, Cambodia and following a recommendation from a friend, we stayed at the Golden Banana Hotel. I was very impressed with the hotel in general and particularly the service and friendly atmosphere created by their staff.

Fresh lemon juice with soda

We are welcomed with a glass of iced lemon juice with mint and a cold towel to cool us down as the weather was 35c+ degrees. What a great way to welcome guests...we realy appreciated that drink at that time! After that, the receptionist explained to us about how the hotel operates, the city and some of the best destinations to go for the next few days, then he sent us to our room.

Golden Banana Hotel

Most rooms in the hotel are similarly designed with a bed room, bathroom on the ground floor and a living room with an extra bed on the second floor. There's a balcony with a rocking chair, small table, another chair and a view over the swimming pool. I wondered if I needed all of this for my holiday? Was it a bit too much for me? And reconsidering, that's what most people need for their holiday, to relax and release all the stress. I decided it was okay!

Stir fried river fish

Our room was tidied up everyday and new complimentary water placed in the bathroom.

Fuck me cocktail

Having a cocktail or a cold beer by the side of the pool was how we spent our afternoons after wondering through temples all morning. The Golden Banana Hotel serves great cocktails even in my limited experience. Their mojito was a hit with me. Besides that, I loved the hotel food with great tastes of Kh'mer and some fusion of Thai, Cambodian.

Golden Banana Boutique Hotel & Resort
telephone: +855 (0)12654638 / (0)12885366