Thứ Tư, 29 tháng 6, 2011


Our group split up at this point as half of us wanted to go to Dalat and do some of the adventure activities whereas myself, Lisa and Katie fancied heading to Nha Trang to have some beach time and nightlife as we are doing more adventure activities in South America! The coach journey was a bit of a nightmare as the bus was mainly full of very noisy Vietnamese people who persisted on talking really louydly on their phones throughout the hourney which meant we were unable to nap! Bad times! However, i was really excited when i arrived in Nha Trang as it looked buzzing and was a lot bigger than i expected! We booked into Backpackers hostel which is definatly THE place to stay when travelling there! It was full of people, we got a free drink and breakfast on arrival and it was really clean with amazing air conditioning! And all for $7 which was quite good!
We secided to head straight out, so we got our free beer and headed on our merry little way! :) The nightlife in Nha Trang is really good, i was really impre4ssed!The first bar we stumbled into had on offer THE biggest bucket i have ever seen called ‘The God Bucket’, I felt a bit overwhelmed by this so decided on a normal bucket for starters! Which was pretty strong! Then we found THE best bar ever! It was called ‘Booze Cruise’ and had the most fun and friendluy staff i have come across! The ladies there were so welcoming and fun they couldnt do enough for us! We spent the whole night being given free shots, mojito’s and playing jenga and connect four with the staff! By this point we were pretty tanked up and i was coerced into singing karaoke in front of the whole bar! They literally couldnt get enough!haha! I got pretty into towards the end and felt like i was really working the crowd (well if u can call 5 staff members and Katie and Lisa a crowd). We then convinced the bar staff to come onto a nightclub with us on the beach! I literally had the best night of my life! We ended up meeting all these different people, in the end i was sat with two swedish boys from Stockholm doing impressions and only realised the club was closed when the sun started to come up and we realised the cleaner had been in, done his work and was now asleep on a bench outside of the club! I then decided it was time for me to go home! When i got back Katie was passed out over her bed fully dressed so i got her undressed and into bed! However when i woke up in the mroning there was some irish duded that she had been chatting to spooning her! At the time i was too drunk to deal with the situation as they both looked quite content and perfectly happy wioth the situation! However in the morning (i say morining i really mean 2pm) , he didnt seem to want to leave our room through all of our subtle and not so subtle hints! So we let him escort us to the beach and then ditched him at the first oppourtunity!Mean but it had to be done!
We spent the next day (well the last 3 hours of sunlight) on the beach and then found the best food of my life!haha! We went to a vietnamese restatuarnt near the beach and had squid in black pepper!It was BEAUTIFUL! mouth watering! And right next door to an ice cream shop!My dream! They had snickers flavour icecream so basically my day was complete! We went out again the next night, expecting a quieter one! However, that never really happens where we are concerned! So we went back to Booze Cruise and sat with the girls until 2am drinking buckets, shots and mojitos and playing jenga! Fun Fun!
The next day wemt on a snorkelling boat trip the next day and suprisingly i did not feel that worse fopr wear! The trip was alot better than i thought it was going to be! We got to snorkell around this amazing reef full of beautiful colourful fish! I even found a piece of coral washed up on shore which i now have as a keep sake! Then back on the boat we had this amazig buffet of Vietnamese food!It was wonderful! To top it all off they had a floating happy hour which consuisted of us floating around in the sea in rubber rings with a man in a bigger rubber ring (his ‘bar’) handing out a weird concoction of god knows what! But it was really fun! We met up with the rest of the guys that night when they returned from Dalat!

Vietnam Tours:
Da Nang- Hue – Hoi An – My Son – 4 days – 104 USD
Best of The Central – 4 days – 153 USD

Thứ Hai, 6 tháng 6, 2011


Eating on the streets of Hanoi is a truly rewarding experience. Not only will your taste buds be jumping with joy but this pastime is archetypal of the cities culture and the daily lives of the people. Sit down at any of the countless street food stalls and you will be met with delicious food and friendly smiles.
Street food at Hanoi: Food stalls in the small alley ways of the Old Town of Hanoi
From the early hours of the morning ladies begin preparing their specialty dishes on their allotted street corners waiting for the sun to rise and the customers to start flowing… and flow they do: rich and poor, young and old… street food is for everyone and its principle fits perfectly into the pace of the city.
Approaching the small plastic tables and chairs filled with buoyant locals can be a daunting prospect especially as the menu, usually written on a large board at the front of the restaurant, is only in Vietnamese. The locals will usually speak little to no English as well which begs the question “What are they going to bring me”? Fear not, as with a small bit of preparation and a general understanding of the street food in Hanoi you will soon be ordering and eating like a local.
Despite the variety of street food available most places will serve only one or two dishes. If the person sitting next to you is eating something that looks appealing, just point at their meal and the job is done. Nonetheless, I still think that knowing the words of the dishes you want to try is invaluable while quite easy to learn.
Below is a list of some of the popular street foods offered in Hanoi. You may find that once you start your street food adventure you will not want to stop and will happily skip on the western seats and air conditioned rooms for quick and tasty meals served on the sides of busy roads.


If there is one dish that defines the culinary culture of this remarkable city it would have to be the flat noodle soup phở. This simple dish of noodles and either beef or chicken is forever popular with locals and foreigners alike and can be found throughout the city. Searching for the ultimate phở can be a never ending yet pleasurable activity and the small price of 20,000 VND per bowl allows for a great deal of comparison. I have had close to 100 bowls since arriving in Hanoi and I can’t see myself slowing down anytime soon. Don’t be put off by the size of the stall as some of the most delicious bowls I have had have come from a small little stand.
Phở bò – beef noodle soup (Phở bò tái: half cooked beef, Phở bò chin: well done beef).
Phở gà – chicken noodle soup


Bún is another admired noodle dish in Hanoi. Bún, a round rice noodle is used to make a variety of dishes. Sometimes the noodle is eaten cooked on its own and sometimes in broth with spices and vegetables, producing some amazing tastes. Some of the more popular bún dishes are with beef, pork, crab, snail, or tofu (although mind the tofu version as it is accompanied with mắm tôm, a fermented shrimp sauce with a taste and smell not for the faint hearted!). The cooked rice noodle dish is served with whichever meat you have picked (the most popular being chả: grilled pork) and a plate of herbs, mint and sliced green papaya.
Regarding bún dishes, you will be spoilt for choice in Hanoi and below are only some of the varieties you can choose from:
Bún chả – grilled pork noodle
Bún bò – beef noodle
Bún riêu – crab noodle
Bún ốc – snail noodle
Bún đậu – tofu noodle


Xôi is a traditional Vietnamese meal of sticky rice served with other ingredients depending on if you opt for the sweat or savoury option. One of my personal favourites is sticky rice served with chicken and is more often than not my breakfast of choice.
Xôi gà – sticky rice with chicken

Bánh cuốn

Bánh cuốn is a light but tasty Vietnamese meal that is filled with minced pork and mushrooms and wrapped in a delicate pancake type roll. The dish will typically be served with a side of Vietnamese pork sausage and some bean sprouts. Despite being a usual breakfast meal you can get bánh cuốn at various times throughout the day.
Lẩu is the Vietnamese hotpot and is another famous dish in Hanoi. Sharing a delicious hotpot with friends is a great way to spend an evening. There are meat, seafood and vegetarian options making this a great choice for all tastes. Once you have made your pick, a large cooking pot is brought to your table, filled with delicious boiling broth. You are given various plates of raw vegetables, noodles and your choice of meat. From then you are the chef, and you can throw in what you want when you want, and add all the spices or lemon you like into the broth. The hotpot experience will have you loosening your belt by meals end.
Having a BBQ may not have the same historical significance as some of the other dishes but cooking your meat and vegetables on a small cooker with burning oil splattering everywhere makes for an interesting evening. It might not be ideal for everyone as you often eat under dull lights but you definitely feel a part of the city. Some of the good BBQ stands are found in the Old Quarter and most hotels can point you in the right direction.
Bread and pâté
It may come as a shock to some to find pâté advertised on street food billboards, but the French influence is still found throughout Hanoi in a variety of places and themes; none so more simply than the ladies selling baguettes and pâté on the side of the road. It may not live up to the expectations of the bread loving French but you won’t pay much for a taste of home.


If you are looking for something on the sweat side then a glass of chè is my suggestion. You can mix and match your choice but in a nutshell chè is a sweat slurpy mess with coconut, crushed ice, jelly, beans and whatever else tickles your fancy. You can have it served hot to warm the belly in those colder months of the year.
Street food as a whole is extremely inexpensive. Most dishes will not cost more than a few dollars. The hotpot and BBQ can cost a little more however with a few friends you won’t be paying much at all.

Where to go

Half the fun is trying any random place you come across and with stalls on virtually every street you will not have to look far to find them. If you don’t want to take the risk and are looking for some proven performers have a look at the below two blogs as they have some great suggestions:
Savour Asia
Sticky Rice
How you decide to eat in Hanoi can shape your memories of the place so my suggestion is ignore any inhibitions you might have and embrace the street food experience. You won’t regret it.

Tay Nguyen gong, a masterpiece of humanity

On November 25, 2005, Vietnam’s cong chieng (gong) culture of Tay Nguyen (the Central Highlands) was officially recognised by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible culture of humanity after the court music of Hue. This affirms that Vietnam has an age-old culture with many traditional art-forms that should be protected, preserved and developed.
Nobody knows when the gongs appear on the sunny and windy land of Central Highlands. Many people guessed that the gong culture originated from the Dong Son Civilization (3,500-4,000 years ago) with its bronze drums being well known.
The Central Highlands’ gong culture prevails in five provinces, including Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong and the owners of this unique art-form are the people of such ethnic groups as the Ba Na, Xo Dang, M’nong, Co Ho, Ro Mam, E De and Gia Rai.
The gongs are closely associated with the life of the Central Highlanders. They serve as the voice of the people’s souls and spirits, reflecting their joys and sorrows in daily life and activities. The gongs are used in the thoi tai (blowing the ears) ceremony to take a new-born into life and the bo ma (leaving the grave) ceremony to bring the dead to the sacred world. They appear in most rituals and ceremonies, such as weddings, welcoming of the New Year, new rice and new communal house, the farewell ceremony to the soldiers going to the front and the celebrations of triumphs and victories.
The gongs are a medium of communication between people and deities. According to the Central Highlanders’ conception, behind each gong resides a deity. The older the gongs, the more powerful the deities. The gongs also constitute a treasure and a symbol of power and wealth. A gong was once as valuable as two elephants or 20 buffalos. On festive days, people dance around a sacred fire or sit by the jars of can wine (wine drunk out of a jar through pipes) enjoying the sounds of the gongs, which gives the Central Highlands a romantic and fanciful image. It may be said that the gongs contribute to creating the epics, songs and poems full of romantic and grandiose characteristics of the Central Highlands’ culture.
The sounds of gongs were beautifully described in the following excerpt from Dam San epic: “Beat the gongs with the purest sounds and the gongs with the deepest sounds. Beat the gongs gently so that the sounds are brought down to the earth by the wind. Beat the gongs so that the sounds spread everywhere. Beat the gongs so that the sounds go through the floor. Beat the gongs so that the sounds cross the houses to reach the Heaven. Beat the gongs so that the monkeys forget to cling to the branches and fall to the ground. Beat the gongs so that the ghosts and devils are so absorbed in listening that they forget to harm people. Beat the gongs so that the mice and squirrels forget to dig their holes, the snakes lie motionless, the rabbits are startled, the deer forget to graze, all of them listen attentively to the gong sounds of Dam San…”.
Existing on the grandiose Central Highlands for thousands of years, the gong art has developed to a high level. The gongs of the Central Highlands are abundant and diverse.
Each ethnic group and each area has its own gongs with specific characteristics. The gongs can be used in single or in a set of two to twelve units. There is a set of up to 18-20 units such as the gong set of Gia rai ethnic group.
The Central Highlands gong band is organised as an orchestra which can perform polyphonic pieces of music in different tunes. The specialty of this orchestra lies in the fact that each bandsman plays a cong or a chieng (cong has a dome in the middle and chieng has none).
The artists play cong and chieng in great harmony, producing different pieces of music with diverse and unique rhythms and tones. Each ethnic group has its own pieces of gong music to depict the natural beauty and people’s aspirations. Gia Rai ethnic minorities have such pieces as Juan and Trum Vang, while Ba Na people have their Xa Trang, Sakapo, Atau and Toroi.
At the ceremony to proclaim the gong culture of the Central Highlands as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible culture of humanity, UNESCO Director Koichiro Matsuura said: “I have enjoyed the traditional gong music of Vietnam and seen the unique musical instruments in the gong orchestras of the Central Highlands ethnic groups. This is a typical traditional culture of Vietnam, wonderful and special. The gong culture of the Central Highlands deserves the title a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” – Source: Vietnam Pictorial
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