Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

Hoi An – Ancient town, Tailors, Lions, Food and Lanterns

01 Oct

After frantic, full on, fantastic Hanoi, arriving in Hoi An is a distinct change in pace.  Hoi An is on the Vietnamese central coast and home to 120,000 locals (compared to the 6 million inhabitants of Hanoi).  The central Old town is recognised as a World Heritage site and numerous homes and temples date back to the 15th Century.   Hoi An translates as “peaceful meeting place” and for good reason, located on a river setting and with parts of the old cityclosed to scooters and cars, Hoi An offers relaxed strolls exploring streets and laneways.

Shopping in the Old town is focussed on two key themes clothes and shoes.  Many stores invite you to “look for free” and buy at “special happy hour” prices.   “Genuine” Lacoste shirts often start at 250,000 VND though a good haggle will get them for 100,000 – 150,000VND ($5 – $7).    Its the tailors that define shopping in Hoi An, they are everywhere.  A fully tailored suit can start from $80, shirts from $20, skirts from $30.  The sheer number of tailors is daunting, we chose Yaly Tailors on recommendation.  Yaly seems to be one of, if not the biggest in Hoi An.  Service is second to none, within 30 mins we had selected material, suit and shirt designs and been measured from head to toe, armpit to ankle, and wrist to waist.   As we had a few days in town, we returned the next day for a fitting and adjustment, and then a final fitting and tweaks to the suits.  Paid more for better quality fabric but came away with two suits, extra trousers, 3 shirts all custom made, for $500.

Food, as per the rest of Vietnam is a highlight of Hoi An.  From the street vendors and market stalls, to the cheap riverside restaurants offering a bargain meal cooked in the family kitchen, to the more upmarket food experiences like the Cargo Club (ask for a table on the balcony, book for dinner, try the Crispy Pork and Noodles), Hoi An is a foodies dream.

Also dont miss the chance to cook for yourself in one of the local Cooking School.  We went on the Red Bridge half day cooking school.   Bookings essential through Hai Cafe in the Old town area.  After a welcome morning drink, we were taken on a short tour of the local market learning more about Vietnamese fruit, vegetables, herbs, meat and seafood.  Amazing sights, sounds and smells.  Then a short boat trip down river to the cooking school.  Our chef explained three traditional Vietnamese dishes which we then had the chance to cook ourselves including making our own rice paper rolls, the local Banh Xeo savoury pancakes, and a delicious Eggplant claypot dish (Ca Tim Kho To).  The kids loved the experience as much as we did, then after eating our dishes, we sat down to more food including steamed ocean fish.  Recommend this!

At night, Hoi An takes on another look as lanterns light up the river front and tourists and locals fill the restaurants, cafes and street stalls.  Shops and markets stay open late.  Being late September, Hoi An was gearing up for the Mid-Autumn Festival which features a lot of Lion Dancing.   Groups of young boys roamed the streets of Hoi An in colorful outfits,  Lion dance groups enter shops and restaurants and dance as a blessing of luck and fortune.  In return, the host gives luck money to show their gratitude.  A street front table can get pretty noisy as lion dance groups come past one after another, drumming up a frenzied dance routine, the lion expects a small tip so be sure to have some change ready and place a note in the lions mouth, it will be eaten very quickly!  Good fun.

We stayed at Hoian Pacific Hotel located on the Cua Dai Road just out of town.  Large villa rooms and a pool, a short taxi ride into town cost $3.  The beautiful Cua Dai Beach was a short taxi trip in the other direction where the Pacific Ocean is warm and a beach chair and an umbrella allows perfect chillax time.  The persistent beach vendors can be annoying but they get the message relatively quickly.

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My Son Sanctuary – Hoi An

24 Sep

My Son Sancutary is a World Heritage listed religious centre near Hoi An dedicated to the Chams, an Indian based religion.  My Son originated in the 4th Century and features temple ruins dating back to the 10th Century.  To put that into historical perspective, in Europe the Vikings and Normans were in power.

My Son Sanctuary - Hoi An

Our day started early to avoid the heat and tour groups, opting for a 5am taxi-bus to transport the 9 of us to My Son, about an hour from Hoi An along rather bumpy and scooter infested rural roads.  Again another wonderful snapshot of regional Vietnamese life.  First to arrive at the rather Jurassic Park like Entrance facilities, we tucked into our breakfast packs provided by the hotel and then trekked into the lush jungle. (along a paved track!).  Entry cost $3pp. transport $10pp.

Maps, guidebooks and websites seem to indicate that the temples are scattered far and wide, but they are all relatively accessible, along a paved path.  Comment is also made on the lack of signage but again, opting to go alone without guide we found plenty of signage and enough information in our Lonely Planet guide.

The temple sites are in various levels of decay, much of the damage caused by US bombing incursions during the Vietnam War, and a number of overgrown bomb craters are still visible.  However the remaining ruins are still definitely worth a visit, with the surrounding forest and mountains providing a fantastic backdrop.  Without maintenance the forest would reclaim the entire complex very quickly.  An architectual project to rebuild a couple of temples using existing supplies, has survived already


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Hanoi Street Food & Bia Hoi

22 Sep

Hanoi is fast and frantic, it asks for a lot but gives it back with interest.  The street food and drink experience is a highlight.  As the senses adjust, they quickly rise to the amazing range of tastes and street dining available.  Staying in the Old Quarter of Hanoi places countless street food vendors at your doorstep. Often it will involve scooters whizzing past your ears, and will always involve sitting on small plastic seats amongst the locals.  Vendors will usually specialise in once dish, day after day.  Some of our highlights included:

Bun Cha at New Day Restaurant, 72 Pho Ma May, Old Quarter – A Hanoi classic dish, char grilled mince pork patties, vietnamese spring rolls, noodles, a huge bunch of amazing Vietnamese herbs, and a bowl of fish broth.  Take all of the elements and mix with the broth for a delicious meal.

BBQ Beef at 47 Pho Ma May, Old Quarter – Recommended by a friend, 47 Ma May looks to be a Hanoi Institution, always busy.  Three choices here – Beef, goat or beef and goat.  Then sit around a communal skillet in the middle of the table and cook up your meat, mixed with vegatables and big hunks of garlic.  Our kids loved the experience of cooking their meals.  The cooked food is then dipped in a fantastic combination of lime, salt and pepper.  Can also add a fresh crusty roll to the mix. Great flavour and works for a big group.

Pho – All over Hanoi.  You are never far from a street vendor serving this classic Vietnamese noodle dish.  More of a breakfast meal, Pho street vendors start early setting up their roadside cafes (the original pop-up restaurants!) at the same spot every day.  The ubiquitous plastic tables and chairs quickly fill with Hanoi locals stopping enroute to work for this hearty broth of rice noodles, basil, onion, bean sprouts ad Beef (Bo) or chicken (Ga).  Add in lime and chilli and it beats coco pops or vegemite toast hands down

Bia Hoi – Cnr Ma May & Dong Thai, Old Quarter – As the day draws to a close, many street corners transform once again into Bia Hoi, pop-up bars serving light, cleansing, cold, freshly brewed beer.  The Bia Hoi is an excellent way to watch the world go by (often perilously close, as scooter dodge and weave their way home).   At 4000vnd or 20c per glass, a Bia Hoi session is also a bargain!

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Spectacular Halong Bay – Words cant explain!

20 Sep

Halong Bay is more spectacular than the countless postcards, images and video can portray.  The sheer scale and natural beauty of the countless number of limestone karsts scattered throughout the World Heritage listed Bay defies words.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

We started our Halong Bay trip with a four hour minibus transfer from Hanoi.  Whilst only 140km in distance, the trip is along patched up roadways and through many rural towns and cities, as such the pace can be slow, but the views provide more insight into Vietnam daily life, a lot of it looks hard.

Arriving in the Marina, we were transferred to our boat – The Bhaya Legend 4.   We had decided that this was the splurge part of the trip, lashing out for a private cruise for the 9 of us.  As we watched the hoards of other tourists file onto the various other cruise boats we were happy with the decision, when we boarded our boat we were ecstatic.  Our boat included a crew of 5, four course meals, luxury cabins and all to ourselves!  Brilliant!

Our course wound past island after island, every view seemingly more spectacular than the last.  You arent alone on the water, sharing it with around 800 other cruise boats, ships, coal barges, and many small fishing boats.  Whilst it sounds crowded, the sheer scale of the Bay allows room for all (hopefully this can remain so as the huge growth in Tourism continues).

Having sat down for a 4 course seafood lunch, we cruised on.  Our afternoon included a visit to a fishing village, once secluded and hidden but now visited by tourists.  Their serenity is gone, but their economy is  now supported by the visitors through entrance fees and shopping.  We were taken for a lap of the village on a local fishing boat, expertly paddled by one of the local ladies.

We eventually moored for a chance to cool off with a swim in the warm waters of Halong Bay, and then another superb meal onboard.  Later the kids had a chance to try their luck at fishing for squid before we all turned in for the night.

Early morning kayaking allowed us all to explore our surrounds, then we motored across to the Hang Sung Sot Caves, spectacular underground limestone caves and caverns.  Another experience not to be missed.  Then before we knew it we were back to the marina, all would have been more than happy spending another few days on the boat!

HaLong Bay is a must do for any Vietnam trip, if possible, recommend upscaling the experience with one of the more luxury cruises like Bhaya.


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Vietnam war museum

18 Sep

The Vietnam war museum in Hanoi showed the history of the Vietnam war which was fought between north Vietnam and south Vietnam, south Vietnam was supported by the U.S army and other non communists countries (because north Vietnam was mainly communists) and north Vietnam won the war but a couple of years later they made a treaty to join together to make one big Vietnam.

The Vietnam war museum displays some of the captured planes, tanks and cannons of the Vietnam war.

By Sam

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Exploring Hanoi

17 Sep

Having arrived in Hanoi last night after 15 hours of travel (two planes and a mad minibus ride into town) we all collapsed in our hotel located just North of the old city.

Woke early to the sound of honking scooters and a particularly loud rooster.   Breakfast was a West/East fusion of cereal, toast, pancakes and pho.  Then the 9 of us decended on Hanoi to get our bearings and explore.   Our hotel is in a relatively quiet laneway easing us into the organised chaos of Hanoi streets.

Within a couple of minutes we had made it across our first busy street.  Basically you walk confidently out onto a busy street bustling with scooters, cars and bikes, crossings are rare, traffic lights hardly seen, keep walking and the traffic weaves around you.  There are no footpaths to walk on, those that are there are crowded with scooters, so you walk on the edge of the street dodging scooters and passing street vendors

The girls get ready to cross the road, note: pedestrian crossing markings mean nothing!

Our exploration of Hanoi took us towards Hoan Kiem Lake. The wound through the back streets discovering the sights, sounds and smells.  Streets tend to focus on a particular type of goods, making for an eye opening street walk, we walked along:
Sunglass Street
Book Street
Showbag Street (Random crap)

Bag Street
Shoe Street
Lantern Street
Shrine Street
Sticky Tape Street
Tin Street
Lantern Street
Bunnings Street (Tools)

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Nine Tickets – Vietnam

15 Sep

Tomorrow Fourtickets becomes Ninetickets as we join our friends Andrew, Rachel, Emma, Abi and Reuben on a two week adventure through Vietnam.  Bags are packed (almost), flights booked, accommodation sorted (hopefully) and we are just about ready.

Almost everyone Ive spoken to either has amazing travel stories of previous travels through Vietnam, or they are planning a trip there!  We have some great tips from friends and family and look forward to a fantastic holiday.

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Vietnam food

15 Sep
We are flying to Vietnam tomorrow, Im really excited.  Here is some food Im looking forward to:
In the savory section it would be Bì cuốn which is a rice paper roll with shredded pork, toasted rice and
some common salad ingredients One of the deserts that I am looking forward to is Chuối Chiên which is
a deep fried banana in batter (served hot) with ice cream mmmmm yum One traditional dish is Bánh bột
chiên which is a type of pancake that can have chicken or duck on it and is eaten around Vietnam and
kids eat it a lot after school

By Sam

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chuyến đi kế hoạch (Trip planning)

07 Jun

Vietnam Map

Our Vietnam trip

Our Vietnam trip planning is well underway.  People either love travel planning or loathe it, I fall into the love category as I enjoy researching options and destinations, seeking those hidden gems and local experiences.   Our two families will number nine travellers in total, so planning takes on another level of logisticals.  We have booked our air connections, accom in Hanoi and cruise, So far our itinerary looks something like this.

  • Hanoi – 3 nights staying near the old city, time to explore, shop and eat
  • Ha Long Bay – an overnight cruise around the spectacular Ha Long Bay and the thousands of limestones outcrops and islands
  • Hoi An – 5 nights exploring Hoi An’s city, beaches and surrounds
  • Ho Chi Minh City – 2 nights to complete our trip and more shopping and eating
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Vietnam – Trip Planning

30 Apr

Fourtickets are planning our next adventure.  Vietnam is our planned destination, travelling with another family (nine tickets in all!).   We hope to travel through Hanoi, HaLong Bay, DaNang, Hue, Hoian and Ho Chi Minh City.  Stay tuned for more updates.

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