Sunday, December 28, 2014

Côn Đảo

We took a very short escape for four nights to Côn Đảo for relaxation which we enjoyed very much. The surroundings are still pretty much wild jungle with beautiful pristine beaches. The locals are very charming and friendly. I love the way the main town is nicely planned with good tidy infrastructure (unlike Hanoi) which makes the town run very easily and smoothly. One main priority when I'm on the coast is finding good seafood. Not difficult on Con Dao.

We hired a motorbike for the whole time to discover the island ourselves instead of taking taxis or joining tour groups from the hotel. We found wild beautiful beaches around, great little coffee shops and also great local seafood restaurants. We kept going back the the same restaurant for the whole four days. Called Ớt (Chilli) Seafood Restaurant, it was serving a great selection of live fresh seafood from crabs, shrimps, Moreton Bay bugs to lobsters and fish. I love the simple cooking methods they suggested, either steamed or barbecued, but always tasty. They also cooked a very nice sweet and sour fish broth to eat with rice and also steamed veggies eaten with a special dipping sauce: Kho Quẹt.

After lunch each day, we headed to Góc Phố Cafe to enjoy their coffee. Sitting on high plastic chairs looking over the road without any traffic and the town's clock tower. Life is so easy, calm and peaceful in this town.

Food is always my first highlight and I'd like to mention my second highlight; the Six Senses Resort. We had such a fantastic time with good breakfast and dinner even though it was more expensive than what we normally pay. We really enjoyed the ocean view from our room, the infinity pool and private beach.

I'd come back here again and hopefully the place stays the same as it is now: charming, peaceful, friendly people and great seafood.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nha Trang Dec 2014

A short and sweet break is always great especially when it's back to my hometown to visit friends, family and eat amazing food. I never get tired of eating seafood and Nha Trang is right on the coast and therefore offers plenty of options. Seafood is included in most dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I started my morning with a bowl of fish noodle soup or Bún Bò Huế then rode to some random cafes to meet old friends. After that, I stopped at my favorite place for a snack, where they make rice crackers and steamed rice pancakes topped with stir fried spring onions and tiny dried shrimp. It was so yummy. I had two hours break in between meals to play tennis at my old club where I used to play 13 years ago. It was fun to meet old friends at the club. We always laugh so much as tennis in Vietnam is completely different compared to western style tennis. Much louder. More like the atmosphere at a football match.

I followed tennis with lunch at home, prepared by my mother and sister in law. I know there's always lots of excellent food waiting for me. Dishes on this day were sweet and sour fish broth, steamed squid, deep fried tuna with special dipping sauce (fish sauce, chilli, garlic, lime and sugar), salad and deep fried pork belly. I'd never ever be able to finish this food even though I try. I was so stuffed that I couldn't breath. Thanks my family for the generous great spread of food.

The next day, I caught up with my good friends for dinner. We went to the new part of the city for a special seafood treat. We had way too much food to eat again. We ate BBQ prawns, BBQ squid and BBQ fish with salt and chilli and fresh jelly fish salad and steamed crabs. Surprisingly we finished them all then headed back to town for a drink at the Intercontinental hotel. It was a nice bar but unfortunately empty and drinks weren't the best!!!!

I spent more time over the next two days focused on eating and I tried all my favorite dishes in Nha Trang but I still didn't have enough time to eat Nem Nuong.

Good reason to come back in February for this dish.

Saturday, December 06, 2014


Budapest is a beautiful city which reminds me in some ways of Paris, Rome and Porto, cities I've loved from previous trips.The Danube river divides Budapest into two parts and most tourists stay on the right hand side of the river then walk or take a cable car up to the Royal Palace for amazing city views. In general, things in Budapest are not as expensive compared to other big European cities.

We did a free city tour and it was pretty good with an very active young Hungarian girl. We walked around the city for about 3 hours and learned heaps about the culture and a little bit about food. Hungary's national dish is called Goulash, which can be served with chicken, pork or beef but I think, the beef option is the most popular and in most menus of the restaurants around. This dish is similar to stewed beef with potatoes, carrots and red wine in Vietnam which is also my favorite - something I eat for breakfast in my hometown.

We went to the Jewish quarter for a wander to see some of the 'ruin' bars and restaurants. Food wasn't the best but nice enough, probably not my type of food or I made the wrong choice. On the way back to the hotel, I happened to see a phở restaurant which was owned by a Vietnamese woman from the south. She sounded like she didn't want to sell her noodles and the way she spoke was a bit rude so I walked out - I was pretty full anyway. I bet she wouldn't have been so rude if she knew I could speak Vietnamese! I thought it would have been interesting to see how they were doing phở in Budapest

On our last day, we went to the Great Market Hall which is the main market of Budapest. This is a great market! Everything looked fantastic, very nicely organised, clean and friendly atmosphere. I enjoyed my coffee from a tiny shop where an old lady serves her coffee in very small paper cups with a tiny plastic stirrer. This market sells many types of sausages, cakes, fresh fruits, and of course the greatest variety of paprika you can imagine - in jars, tubes, powders and fresh, too. Our clients recommended that we eat at 'Fatal' restaurant as I wanted to find the best Goulash in Budapest. We had a great experience though the portions were the biggest portions we saw anywhere in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. We couldnt move when we rolled out of there. And of course we had beer, too!

We kept walking around the city for a couple of hours then we went to Raday Street which was lined with about 40 different restaurants to have a drink and dinner. We went to Paris, Texas Cafe for a drink. They served very nice wine and because it was happy hour prices, we decided to stay there. We ordered a rocket pizza and watched the US Open on TV. The pizza was great and we had a good time with thestaff and the lady owner. During our time in Budapest, we tried so many types of Hungarian wines and most all of them are really really good but we couldn't work out why they are not well known in the world. They are very cheap, starting from €3. Need to come back here again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Prague, Czech Republic

What a beautiful city Prague is! However, I don't think I've ever seen a place with so many tourists. And with that, quite a few local businesses in the central/tourist area seem to rip tourists off or cheat tourists all the time.

As I'd already been through Munich, Vienna and Budapest earlier, I thought Prague was a bit similar to those cities in terms of such great architecture and churches. Prague has a great cheap transport system and most tourist attractions are within walking distance of metro or tram stops. And, to me it seemed pretty safe. I wondered how many people actually pay to use these public transports because most people seemed to just jump on and off without their tickets. Probably, it's free!

I did another great free walking tour around the city to kick off my 4 nights and our guide was a Russian American was great with loads of information about the culture, the city and food. I'm so glad that I did the tour at the beginning of my stay. After the tour, we decided to change some money and we got so upset with the money changer (professional shop) as they charged us €10 to change €50. We didn't know the language and after signing the receipt, we found out and they refused to give the money back. This is very sad and apparently so common in Prague. We were disappointed but we put it behind us. I can't complain as this is probably my fault because I wasn't careful enough.

After that, we walked up to the Prague Castle for fabulous views of the city. After working up a hunger, we found a small restaurant full of people and we hoped it would be a great place. Waitresses were friendly and the food was acceptable, but we got ripped off big time again! We had to pay €78 for a simple meal for 2 with 1 beer, 1 glass of wine, a pork schnitzel and a Greek salad plus we have to pay 15% for VAT and a bread basket which we didn't eat. Some Prague people must think tourists can draw money out of the blue!!!! We had a totally bad day!!!!

Anyway, a great thing came up the next day as we found one of the best coffee shops in town (for me) where we noticed the owners and staff have passion about coffee, where they test their coffee, chat to their clients about the differences between their coffee. Surprisingly, no Vietnamese coffee in the shop, very disappointed (just kidding). We went back to this coffee shop two more times before leaving Prague. With recommendations from one of our clients who lived in Prague for two years, we went to a great Prague pub, Pivoparsky Dum, for dinner where we could taste different beers, including nettle, coffee and banana beer and an amazing meal. We were the only tourists in the pub and it was a huge place but filled up by 8pm. The best meal in Prague for me and I'm so glad we went there.

So, in general, I have mixed feelings about Prague. Not sure if I'd go back.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Recently, I spent four nights in Bangkok and it was so much fun. I wouldn't say that would be enough to discover such a big active, fun city. But, for me, four nights was probably enough to satisfy my interests, which are mostly food and market related, including my first visit to the city's Chattuchat market.

Both long and short vacations are relaxing for me as I work 7 days a week and don't have weekends, but I do take lots of breaks. That's just how it works out. My friends wonder why I take so many short holidays. I mean of course it's to relax and relieve any stress and luckily, from Vietnam, there are lots of places close by and sometimes there are cheap airfares.

Bangkok is not my favorite city in Asia but I don't mind going back for a short vacation as I love Thai food very much and also Thai people are very friendly. I'm not sure how many dishes I tried and their names but it was very tasty though occasionally too spicy for my tastes. At times, I felt like I was crying and smoke was coming out of my ears while I was trying to finish the food. It was so much fun eating like a local and it's also a way for me to learn the culture of the place I'm visiting. That's the most important thing for me.

Besides the fantastic weekend market at Chatuchak, I loved Klong Toey produce market as well. I love the way Thai people present their vegetables and meat and, similarly to Vietnam, kill some animals in the market to ensure freshness. The Klong Toey market sellers were so friendly, showing me how to kill fish, frogsand smiling when I asked to take photos. I smell their meat and I saw fish jumping up and down. Like in Vietnam, the local markets are the best places to do food shopping.

Bangkok night life was a bit much for me especially Pat Pong where it's all related to sex and nudity but that's what Bangkok's famous for. There was way too many people asking me the same question, sex DVD? sex show? boy or girl? It was a bit confronting at the beginning but I felt annoyed at the end. Anyhow, it's something they you only can see in Bangkok and I experienced it.

One of the highlight of the holiday was the Sofitel Sukhumvit Hotel. It was great with super refreshing cocktails and bubbles from 4-7pm and a beautiful swimming pool during the afternoons after long walks discovering the city. I'd love to come back to Bangkok again and definitely will stay there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vienna, Austria

A city with so many beautiful old buildings and stories and opera houses. I don't think four nights was enough but we tried really hard to see most of the special places and eat the best food that Vienna offers.

We walked around the city and visited many churches, museums and walked into small lanes with incredibly beautiful shops. One of the meals that we loved the most, for the atmosphere, the professional service and especially the food was Plachutta restaurant. We had walked past the restaurant many times and wondered why they were always super busy and we decided to check it out on our second night. We had their world famous dish Tafelspitz a beef broth with tender rump steak served with root vegetables, crispy potatoes, creamed spinach, horseradish and apple sauce and sour cream and bread; and it was fabulous!

According to our friend's recommendation, we went to eat sandwiches for lunch at Trzesniewski. Their sandwiches were amazing with many different toppings and eaten with a tiny glass of beer, called a Pfiff, such a great combination. We continued wandering around the city and tried coffee with beautiful, tasty cakes at Demel, a place that I'd highly recommend for cake and coffee.

On our last day, we went to the Leopold Museum to see Gustave Klimt paintings and those of other famous artists. What a museum with so many beautiful old and new paintings. We spent about 2 hours there and it was worth every minute of it. In the evening, we went to one of the must-do things that everyone does in Vienna, yes, we went to classical music performance. Because the opera season was in summer break we had to see a rather touristy Mozart and Strauss show, which involved both ballet and opera singing. The lady had an amazing voice and we all loved her performance so much. I'm glad I did it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Secret Garden Restaurant, Saigon

I like this restaurant pretty much for its location on the top floor of an old building right in District 1. Secret Garden has a very simple design for both inside and outside on the terrace but I prefer sitting outside where I can enjoy the breeze even though it was in a very hot day in Saigon when I visited in May. The open space idea is great with wooden tables and chairs and some colourful flowers around that made me feel like I was in the small garden.

The restaurant has short menus for both food and drink which is great as I don't like too many choices. I love the simple way they cook the food but without compromising on flavour and authentic Vietnamese style. My favourite dishes the day I visited were the stir fried beef with càng cua vegetables and the crab broth served with pickled baby eggplants. Another rustic idea was the serving of drinks in small bottles with lemon grass, a slice of lemon and ice.... a very refreshing look!

I'd love to come back to the Secret Garden again on my next visit to discover more of their delicious food and drinks menu.

The Secret Garden 
158 bis Pasteur, 
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Salzburg, Austria

We spent two nights in Salzburg, where Mozart was born and raised. I had such a fantastic experience there walking around the old town, checking out lots of historic buildings and the view from the top of the mountain, where the Salzburg Castle is situated.

I love the old town and the river which reminded me a bit of Florence, Italy or Paris a bit. The old
town has so many beautiful gift shops and restaurants. We stopped at Cafe Tomaselli for coffee and cakes, which is a bit of an institution in the city.  We had the traditional coffee with whipped cream called melange which was fantastic and their cakes just blew my mind away, Delicious!!!!


We walked a bit more then took a cable car up to the top of the Salzburg Castle for the city view. It's very crowded as it should be, full of tourists like me. I took so many shots and stood there at first for about 10 minutes to appreciate the view and the green city and several different bridges connecting both sides of the city. Then we climbed up and walked inside to reach the top of the castle. The night before we left, because it was raining, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant and it was great food as well. The waitress was very helpful, recommending that we have calamari for starter then we had dumplings with bacon and crackling on top of sauerkraut. The second dish is very traditional for this part of Europe.

We also had the most famous Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel, a flattened crumbed piece of pork pan-fried, served with boiled potatoes and cranberry sauce. On our last afternoon in the city, we just sat down in the square with a cold Steigl beer and enjoyed the last sunshine of the day. It was a fantastic 3 days in Salzburg!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Munich, Germany 8,2014


We spent three nights in Munich and it was so much fun. We took the free three-hour walking tour with Sandemans New Europe from Marienplatz around the city. Our guide was great and very informative and yes, her name is Virginia. There are several options for this company including paid tours but I think this free tour is good enough for the first day to learn a bit about the old part of Munich and it's culture.

After the tour, we walked down to the English garden, a huge park in central Munich, which has a beer garden near the Chinese Tower which can host about 7000 people at the same time. It was fantastic, full of people and with loads of food available. The most common dishes that people ordered were roasted pork or chicken with lots of chips and each person had one serve with at least one beer. We ordered a grilled mackerel, half a roasted chicken, a roasted pork knuckle and a pretzel and two huge steins of beer. It was a fabulous meal and it took us about an hour to finish before we took the underground back to the hotel.

The next day, we came back to Marienplatz to walk up the Alter Peter (Old Peter) Tower for a fantastic 360 degrees city view. It took us a little while to go up but it was totally worth it for only €2. After all that effort, we needed some beer refreshments. Of course there is no shortage, even in the mornings, in Munich. We made it to Hofbrauhaus, one of the oldest beer houses in the world, established in 1589. This is a great place with lots of old regular characters who come with their own jugs and dressed in traditional costumes, the lederhosen. The ceiling of the restaurant has some great murals painted on it, too. The beer (served in one litre steins!) and food was great, not to mention the band playing traditional music which provided a great atmosphere. Even though I was a bit tipsy, I did manage to finish my beer.

We went back to the hotel and took a nap then headed out for dinner. We went to a kebab shop close by the hotel as we needed to take a train to Salzburg the next day. Stir fried freshly handmade noodles with potatoes and chilli was surprisingly great even though it was way too spicy for me. That's my fault because the lady warned me when I ordered but I thought probably spicy by European standards. It turned our even hotter than Thai green papaya salad or Korean noodles. But I did enjoy it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tuy Hoa - Phu Yen

Earlier this month, I spent two nights in Tuy Hoa, Phu Yen province in the centre of Vietnam. I joined a group of friends and their company, a group of over 200 people. It sounds not really fun with such a huge group but because they all work in the tourism industry, they do know how to balance between activity and relaxation. I just fell in with the group, wandering around the Vietstar resort eating, swimming and drinking the whole time. I joined a smaller group on an excursion to Gềnh Đá Dĩa, about 30 minutes away by bus. It was the place to observe the sunset where you sit on big flat rocks laying on each other like a stack of plates. On both sides of these rock formations there are nice beaches.

On my second day, I woke up early and went solo by taxi down to the town. About 15 minutes from the resort, the town has enough interest to occupy me for a whole morning. I have to say Phu Yen has changed so so much compared to the first time I was there 24 years ago. The good thing remaining is the quiet atmosphere of the city and its friendly people.

I went to Tan Binh Noodles at 121 Nguyen Trai Street for my breakfast, picking a southern style bowl, which was very much like the Nha Trang beef noodles of my home town. It was just a little bit sweeter but very tasty. The owner noticed me taking photos and he tried to re-arrange the table and told me: don't forget to put it on Facebook. It was so funny!

Walking down to the Tuy Hoa market, the biggest one in town, I wasn't that impressed at first look but as I walked toward to the back, I loved it. I love to see live and fresh produce from herbs to meat and seafood and I had no trouble spending about 2 hours there. The sellers were more than happy to talk to me and some even asked me to take their photos, which is very different to Hanoi. I had a lot of laughs with the vendors there. I bought lots of rice crackers from Tuy Hoa and also rice crackers with coconut, chili and sesame seeds from Binh Dinh which are renowned in the region. I was so excited to see them there.

Then I headed to an eatery serving roasted chicken in fish sauce. The Thien Huong restaurant at 211 Le Thanh Ton Street is Tuy Hoa's answer to KFC but very Vietnamese in style, served with fresh herbs, green tomatoes, cucumber and mayonnaise mixed with sweet chilli sauce. Open for lunch and dinner, it was packed with local people, which is always a good sign.

My last stop of the day was Cafe Tung at 69 Tan Da Street. According to the locals, this is one of the oldest coffee houses in town, considered to serve the best coffee. I ordered a black coffee which is unusual for me but it was very good. The coffee shop itself looked a bit tacky with the two parts of the shop very different in character; the entrance was red and modern with high tables while the other section was more relaxing with low chairs and tables with lots of plants around. I bought more than a kilogram of coffee back to Hanoi to drink at home.

It was a short and sweet visit but I'd like to go back again for a longer vacation when I can spend more time on the beach and discover more food.

Monday, June 16, 2014


After relaxing on the beach in Boracay, I stayed a few days in Manila and it was so much fun. I met some of my previous street food tour clients and they took me out for dinner and also recommended so many things that I must do in Manila, including shopping.

Between my eating time in Manila, I visited different malls to buy some souvenirs. Malls in Manila are huge and there are too many of them around. I got dizzy and lost in two of them and they only way out I told myself was to walk down to the ground floor and find the car park. It was so frustrating at the time but actually it was great fun walking around different malls to see how local people do their shopping.
I love the weather in Manila as it was nowhere near as humid as Hanoi and I felt more comfortable. Some people may not like it here but I loved it as it's a bit similar to Hanoi. A big crazy Asian city!

My clients took me to a restaurant called Mesa which is located at the Greenbelt Shopping Centre. This is a great Filipino fusion restaurant and always full with locals and tourists. We had way too much food including deep fried pork, fish, stir fried veggies, pigs' feet and then, not that we needed it, dessert! Apologies that I can't give the exact names of the dishes - sometimes you just have to concentrate on the conversation. After dinner, we went to a square where they play live music to drink beer. It's a bit similar to Bia Hoi without music in Vietnam. It was so cool and I loved that atmosphere very much

My clients mentioned about the most popular fast food in Manila called Jollibee and these franchises are always located right next to McDonalds. I don't know why I took the recommendation but I ate the pasta with deep fried chicken. It was really not my type of food.

The only thing I slightly regret is that I didn't have a chance to ride a jeepney around Manila. They look so good and so colourful. This will be one of the reasons that I will come back to Manila. Thanks to my clients that made my trip to Manila so special and hopefully see you again soon

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Boracay 2014, Philippine

Recently, after being refused a visa for Japan, I spent just a couple of nights in both Boracay and Manila in the Philippines. Because it was such a short stay, I can't tell you much about the whole country but I loved it there very much due to the people I met and what I ate
Boracay made a great first impression mainly due to the shock of the amazing white sand beach and the clear, huge expanse of blue sky. It took me about 5 minutes to think about the beach on arrival as I couldn't believe this beach could be real. I decided to spend most of my time on the beach drinking San Miguel beer and swimming - let's face it, there's probably not much else to do! Oh, and eating, of course.

 With my fussy eating, I walked down the main d*talipapa market area to choose my own fresh seafood before bringing it over to be cooked at the restaurants. It was a real heaven for me, eating seafood everyday. The local people cooked the seafood in different styles and they turned out well. Even though I prefer to eat seafood very simply, some of their preparations were interesting and I learned ways of mixing new ingredients. The locals were surprised about how much I could eat and how much of an expert I am at eating crabs and prawns. Once they heard I grew in a coastal town, they understood why. I prefer eating steamed and grilled seafood with a Nha Trang simple dipping sauce: salt, lime, pepper and lots of chili but Pilipino don't eat that way :). 

The hotel staff wondered why I kept skipping breakfast. I didn't want to offend them but I never eat hotel breakfasts because then I miss an opportunity for a local breakfast experience. It's just my personal thing but I prefer to take a tri-bicycle or walk down to the market or a local eatery to try the local stuff on offer. That's the best way to learn about the culture and cuisine. I'm a friendly chatty person so locals don't mind spending some time talking to me. They all thought I was from China which is a bit sad but really, especially because of what is happening in our region recently. I do prefer if they think I'm local :).

One big mistake I made when I was in Boracay was going to an Italian restaurant for dinner, upon the recommendation of the hotel staff. The food was reasonable but I would have enjoyed the experience of eating in a local restaurant a couple of minutes down the road, like I'd originally planned. Think I'll stuck with my plan next time.

The nightlife in Boracay is also very interesting. There is a lot of 80s style music being played by bands and DJs and I realized that's why so many Filipino singers in Vietnam are obsessed with the same music. The nightclubs and bars are pretty busy every night but the atmosphere is fun and there is no fighting or other nasty stuff going on.

Boracay is definitely one of my favorite places and I'm pretty sure I'll go back again in the very near future.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


I have to admit that my travels really do revolve around food. Eating, drinking and taking photographs from place to place is my main idea of travel. Most of my friends think I'm crazy and obsessed but I can't really change it. A couple of months ago, I went to Seoul for a week, a period not enough to fully discover the fascinating, lively city. Of course, my itinerary was packed with great food places to seek out, from Korean-style to noodles and dumplings.

Although this is a bit predictable, my highlight was sitting around the grill plates with lots of locals drinking soju, beer and wheat rice wine, called makgeolli. Cooking lovely cuts of tender skirt meat, garlic and mushrooms and then wrapping it all in lettuce is a fun way to eat. On the side, of course, lots of kimchi and different sauces can be used to spice the food up a bit. I observed the locals to see how they eat and to learn local eating etiquette.

The noodles and dumplings in Kwang Jang market were so delicious that I went back twice. I wish I could speak a bit of Korean to learn the secrets of how she makes her hand-pulled noodles and kimchi and tofu filled dumplings so fresh. Lots of people had also recommended the fried mung bean cake, which is a specialty of the market. Served with white onion and soy sauce, they were great but you need to eat where they make it, fresh and hot. I enjoyed the vegetarian cakes better the coloured seafood stuff.

The third dish I liked was the deep fried chicken and deep fried green pepper stuffed with pork, all washed down with big tankards of beer. The drinking culture reminded me a lot of Vietnam, where we often have beer and rice wine on the table, except in Seoul it's beer and soju. One interesting drink we tried was called 'Sweet after Bitter', a big glass of beer containing two shot glasses, one with soju and one with coke! Of course, you have to drink it down in one go!

Topokki, a dish of sliced rice cake with fish cake and a rich sweet chili sauce was not on the top of my list as it was too spicy and too stodgy . I tried it twice and even after a solid evening of drinking, I didn't like it. But the street food tents all over the city have lots of other stuff to try, too.

Visiting market is another way to see the local culture and Seoul's best market is the Noryangjin Fish Market. I spent hours there taking photographs. What an amazing market with so many different types of fish and I loved the way they arrange their shops and also how they prepare the fresh seafood. It was fantastic experience and I don't think I could ever forget it.

Shopping in Seoul is also great with well-known brands and local products but they aren't cheap. I loved looking at the fashion-conscious young local people walking around shopping centres with cool glasses, fashionable clothes and bag fils of cosmetics. They are obsessed with cosmetics, especially skin whitening products. I've never seen so many cosmetic shops in my life. I wonder what they thought of my country-bumpkin tanned skin!

I'd love to go back to Seoul again for another week as I had a fabulous time there.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I like the central coast city of Hue and have been there many times over the years. After a four year gap, I recently visited this charming city again and definitely got my fill of Hue food. We enjoyed very much our stay with La Residence Hotel, fabulously located on the river and within easy walking distance of lots of great street foo

We walked along the Perfume River/ Sông Hương to have breakfast, starting with Bún Hến (clam noodles) and Cơm Hến (clam rice) at 2 Trương Định St. The vendors were pretty funny when it came to bill time. There was quite a long conversation before they decided to charge us 20,000VND - $1 per bowl. I have no problem at all with the price but I did realise that the Hue locals were only charged half what we payed. I said I'm Vietnamese too, you know :). I suggested to her that if she was poor, she should ask me and other people, they probably wouldn't mind donating or loaning her some but cheating is not a good way to do busines

Further along the road, we dropped into two different coffee places where we paid just 7.000VND (35c). It was not the best coffee but it was nice to be treated as a Vietnamese again :). After getting our caffeine hit, we headed to hue's main market, the Dong Ba Market just over the Trang Tien Bridge. As we headed across, I saw a middle aged woman walking along selling bean curd drink. I ordered two bowls and I was ripped off again. I was so upset but just gave her my money and walked away. It seems that Hue people have changed so much, only thinking about instant cash and taking advantage of tourists as much as possible. I felt sad more than angry with them. I've chatted with friends since and they all had similar stories when they visited Hue. Some are even refusing to return, which is a pity!

Anyway, things improved after that. The highlight of my short vacation was the Bún Mắm Nêm from an old lady who has been sitting outside 15 Phan Đăng Lưu St for more than 30 years. It's only 15,000VND (75c) but it was so satisfying after a long walk around the fascinating Đông Ba Market. I have to say that the noodles were really spicy; I was sweating and tears were running from my eyes by the time I'd finished my bowl of noodles. It was fantastic! A second highlight was Huyen Anh restaurant, where they serve grilled beef with noodles and herbs. It was so yummy

Later in the evenings, we normally headed out for supper, too. Two snacks I was really impressed with were Banh Ep (a rice pancake with egg, served with green mango and herbs) and Bang Trang Trung (a crunchy rice cracker with egg, pate, potato and herbs). Of course, I slept very well at night after eating so much each day.

By the end of the trip, I'd completely forgotten about getting ripped off. But one thing I have yet to discover in Hue is really good Bun Bo Hue. We had a couple of bowls but I honestly don't think they were as good as what I've had in Hoi An or Nha Trang. When I go back, I'm going to do more research on that one.




Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hủ Tiếu

Hủ Tiếu Saigon is a signature noodle dish from the south. In the north, it is more of a dry noodle dish, while in Saigon it is clearly a soup. It consists of a choice of egg or rice noodles, a rich porky broth and lots of fresh salad and herb content on the side to counter the meat in the dish. This is one of the dishes on the top of my list whenever I'm going to Ho Chi Minh City. I'm sure there are plenty of people there who make amazing Hủ Tiếu but I love my lady in Bùi Viện street, who serves the best version I've had.

In the last 10 years or so, regardless of where I stay when I'm there, I always eat her noodles for breakfast. It's not just because it's cheap but also about how delicious the broth is: cooked with pork bones for a long time, with incredibly tender meat and the smile she greets me with.

She knows I like to eat fresh bean sprouts, soft knuckles of bone and some thinly sliced pork with not many noodles. I suppose you could say I'm a difficult customer - maybe that's why she recognises me! I enjoy her company and her staff seem to have been the same for years. So she must be a good employer, as well. All middle aged and very funny, sometimes it sounds like they are arguing but it is just a normal conversation. I enjoy being part of their conversation and laughing with it. She told me she doesn't care who her clients are or where they're from, they all human beings and she charges everyone with same price and I like that.