Sunday, July 03, 2016

Nha Trang

 A short and sweet break is always great especially when it means returning to my hometown to visit friends, family and eat amazing food. I never get tired of eating seafood and Nha Trang is famous for the stuff so it's the perfect place for me. Seafood is involved in most dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I have a kind of 'eating routine' when I go home. I start my morning with a bowl of fish noodles soup or Bún Bò Huế then drive to some random cafes to meet old friends. After that, I stop at a favorite place for a snack where they make crunchy rice crackers and steamed rice pancakes topped with stir fried spring onions and dried shrimps. I try to get some exercise in so I can eat more so I normally play tennis for a couple of hours at my old club. After that, I'm hungry again.

One of the other best things about going home is eating home cooked food, getting spoiled by my mum, my sisters and sister-in-law. I know there will always be lots of excellent food awaiting me. 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 pretty much always have to have a nap when I eat at home. Normally I am encouraged to eat way too much. Nothing like the hospitality of home.

In the evenings, I catch up with my good friends for dinner. We go to the new part of the city for special seafood feasts;  barbequed prawn, squid and fish with salt and chilli, fresh jelly fish salad and steamed crabs.

And if that isn't enough, I always return to Hanoi with a polystyrene box full of snap frozen fish and squid which keeps me going until I'm in Nhatrang again

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Kyoto - Kamura

I had heard so much about the ancient city of Kyoto. Many of my friends and clients love this part of Japan and it hasn't disappointed me at all. Kyoto is a very charming city which has both a modern side and an old city which makes it very interesting. We stayed in Kyoto for 5 nights and totally fell in love with this city, with its incredible history and architecture, and like the whole of Japan, where everything works perfectly and a very friendly atmosphere exists.

I love the real contrast of taking a bus from the centre of Kyoto for 20 minutes to the north. Compared to the bustle of central Kyoto, I could feel the quietness of the old part of the city, where we enjoyed strolling along 'the Philosopher's Path' past and through the different shrines and temples. The walk along the canal was really great. There are many small cafes where they make their own cakes, great coffee and fresh juices.  The beautiful and simple design in each shrine made each one very special and I was really taken by the red color of those shrine's gates. So impressive!!!

Food is the main part of our travels and there's no reason to be unhappy with Japanese food. I have to admit that the food of this city really agreed with me. I didn't mind standing in queues for 30 minutes and sometimes up to 45 minutes just for a bowl of amazing Ramen or Udon noodles. I love the way Japanese queue for everything here, even for a fancy popcorn or ice cream. It's such a weird thing for me, probably because I'm from Vietnam (we're not that good at queuing) where we will just find another vendor if one is too busy and we don't have time to wait. Most of the people in the queues in Japan were teenagers and it seems that there are many food fads there. It's a fun place to eat and see what people are lining up for.

We spent the next 2 nights before heading to Osaka at the hot spring town north of Kyoto called Kamura. It was a magnificent place where we experienced true Japanese-style hospitality. They served amazing food with so many small dishes, some too good to be eaten. I admire the Japanese chefs who spend so much time not only cooking but also on the presentation of the food.

To help digest all of the food, we hiked a few hours across the mountain from Kurama to Kibune, a nearly town with a beautiful river running through it. The hike took us through a number of temples and statues of Buddha on the top of the mountain. The walk and the scenery was fabulous. I'm not normally good at this kind of activity but I enjoyed it so much that the time passed without me knowing. I'd heard about the famous Japanese hot springs (onsen) but was not so keen that you have to be completely naked. I got over it and kept coming back for about an hour each day to relax in hot natural water after long days walking and eating. 

Kyoto and Kurama - look out - because we will be back!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Five nights in Tokyo is not enough but I'm very happy with what I experienced. People are so friendly, things here are amazingly clean and people love to queue for hours just for popcorn which surprised me.

I stayed at a very convenient hotel located right next to the Hanzomon subway near the Imperial Palace grounds. From there, we travelled around Tokyo with three day passes for the entire metro , which is a phenomenal system. With loads of recommendations from friends and clients, I think I discovered Tokyo almost like a local.

We arrived on a Friday evening so the Japanese people were dressed up a bit different compared to week days. Over the weekend, it was amazing to see how many different styles being worn, especially in the Harajuku area. One of the best places to people watch that I've ever experienced. It was like sitting beside a fashion runway. It doesn't matter which direction that I looked there was always a surprise. 

I love Japanese food even more here as Japanese people are very careful with their food and also the way they decorate the food. Sometimes, it didn't feel right to eat it because it looked way to good to be eaten. There are way too many places around but I'd love to list some of my top favorites: Maisen, Jomon, Harayuku Gyoza Lou, Watamin-chi and Luke's lobster (bread roll)

I wouldn't have thought coffee is a big deal in Japan or that I would've able to get good coffee here at all. But I rolled my eyes many times because they do have so many great places serving amazing coffee from old-world Japanese style to modern style. I highly recommended: The Roastery, Omotesando Cafe, Chatei Hatou. 

Because of the incredible public transportation system, traveling around Tokyo is easy. We never got in a single taxi. Most of the signs around Tokyo are both in Japanese and English and people don't mind to walk with you for a couple hundred meters to show you where you should be. We experienced very generous hospitality from the locals during my stay. 

I went to several tourist spots after my stomach filled up with food just trying to see something amazing and burn some calories and make room for more. I would love to come back here to Tokyo for another week just to eat, drink and walk around. Arigatogozaimashita どうもありがとうございました and See you again: Mata o ai またお会い

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Chiang Mai


With lots of recommendations from our friends for food and what do to in Chiang Mai, we arrived with quite a list to achieve in five short days.


We hired a motorbike to drive around the city, which is easy to navigate because of the river that forms a square around the old town. The traffic is nowhere near as crazy as Vietnam because the Chiangmai people seem to follow the rules and there is less vehicles than what we're used to in Hanoi. We drove most of the time to different markets to eat breakfasts lunches and dinners. The fresh produce in the markets in Chiang Mai is displayed beautifully and there were enough different vegetables and other things to make it interesting for us. I love the coffee served by an old lady in front of the Chiang Mai Gate Market and also the simple breakfast of toast with a poached egg from the man next door. It was a fantastic spot to watch the local people go in and out of the market. Also a nice spot to take photos.


I can't forget a small noodle soup run by two pretty elderly sisters close by to the place we were staying. Strongly recommended by EatingAsia, we went there very early and seemed to be the first customers of the day as we were worried that they would run out before we got there. We ordered a sticky rice dish and two types of noodles: one with pork and blood which is similar to Bún Bò Hue and the second noodles with fish. These three dishes were fantastic!!!


There are so many beautiful wats around Chiang Mai, almost on every corner. Even though they are similar in design, they each have little details in the architecture or statues that made it interesting for us. They are also a good place to have a rest from the heat.


As I'm from Hanoi, the heat didn't bother me so much even though it was 41degrees on our first few days there. Fortunately, the humidity is lower, which helps. Luckily we stayed at our friend's apartment on a very high floor with a breeze blowing though. On the last two nights it was cooler after a storm passed through during the night which made the city cooler and clearer in the next days.


The great thing about the food markets in Chiang Mai is the variety of choices that local sellers offer. I loved noodles that I can add lots of different fresh herbs and vegetables such as mint, basil, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, pickles and chili. I also can choose different refreshing drinks from fresh coconut juice to flavored syrups topped with crushed ice.


We always talk about whether we would go back to a place on the way to airport and we decided that Chiang Mai is definitely worth a return visit.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Now Noa Private Island, Palawan, Philippines


Yet another short great 2 different flight with Cebu airlines, a 3.5 hour bus ride and 35 minute boat trip. We arrived at Noa Noa island for a short vacation. I had been to the Philippines before but Boracay and it was such a beautiful place to be with white sand beach, great seafood at market and nice place to stay. But I have to admit that Palawan is just another beautiful place that I would need more than just 4 nights.


The white sand beach, the coral, the resort's staff and of course the food was fantastic. We spent most of our time snorkeling, eating and having daily massages on our vacation which is my perfect idea of travel. It took me a little while to get used to breathing by mouth for snorkeling as I haven't done it for such a long time, and I drank heaps of salt water. It's good for my body somehow, I thought. It was great fun when I could do it the proper way. I saw way so many beautiful fish, huge clams and colorful coral.


The resort staff was really generous with the tasty food. They kept asking us if we wanted snacks, cakes and fruits in between meals. Everything they made was fresh and delicious. They shopped every morning at the neighboring island, driving their boat there and back to buy daily ingredients: fish, veggies .... The best part of the experience was that we were the only people on the island. In some way, it was a bit funny that somebody was serving and entertaining me instead of me doing it.

We had a great time and certainly we would come back here again for a longer vacation

Friday, May 08, 2015

Mui Ne

Mui Ne

My two night-three day escape to Mui Ne right before Tet was great even though the bus trip to get there from Dalat wasn't as I expected. I thought I would be in a nice big bus with a very smooth journey but only 25 minutes after we started, the bus got a flat tire. Then the bus conductor put me in the last row with four young Chinese women who took nonstop selfies and chatted very loudly. It was hard to block it all out!

Mui Ne

Anyhow, I arrived in Mui Ne and checked into the Cham Villas, a very pretty boutique resort, very private and quiet compared to the bus journey. 

Mui Ne

I started my Mui Ne exploration by checking out the area and quickly realized it was pretty much similar to my hometown, Nha Trang which is also popular with Russian tourists and therefore caters very much to them. Even the local staff speak Russian. After I had lunch at the seafood restaurant nearby, I went back to the Cham Villas to swim at the hotel's beach and enjoy a couple of cocktails, very well made I must say!

Mui Ne

Later I walked to the other end of the main street where all of the tourists go and all the street seafood restaurants are located. I picked live crabs and prawns to be barbecued and a small fish for sweet and sour fish broth. Way too full, I walked back to the hotel, keeping an eye out for a nice decent bar but I actually couldn't find one. I like to sit at a relatively quiet bar with not many tourists but most of them were packed with tourists. I decided to hang out at the hotel pool swimming again before heading to bed, ready for the next day when I would go with a local guide to see some of the sights.

Mui Ne

My guide picked me up at 12 after my morning of relaxation at the beach, pool and a very nice lunch at a small local chicken restaurant. I ordered half a chicken barbecued with chili and another half boiled, eaten with salt, chilli and lime. It was my best meal in Mui Ne. 

Mui Ne

I visited Mui Ne's famous Fairy Stream for a pleasant hour long walk in the shallow water with quite a lot of other tourists. Then I headed to a fishing village where fishermen were painting their boats, picking at mussels while their kids ran around. Life is so peaceful there and the people were very warm and openly friendly. They didn't mind that I took pictures while they were working. The last stop was the sand dunes, where I hired a guy with a three wheel buggy to drive up and around the area for a wander. He scared me so much when he sped up and down the hills very quickly. I thought I would roll a thousand times down hill and as I screamed the driver laughed out loud. 

Mui Ne

I took it easy that evening and the next morning relaxed at the hotel and beach before heading back to Nha Trang for Tet. I would highly recommend the Cham Villas. It is a great little resort, with decent food and friendly staff. Hopefully I can come back again in the near future.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Siem Reap


I just enjoyed a short escape to Siem Riep to eat different food, meet friends and to relax. It is a much busier place than on my previous visits - lots of new bars and restaurants especially around Pub Street. Luckily my hotel was away from all the action, a short tuk-tuk ride from the Old Market.


We met Lina, our friend: author of Move to Cambodia for a dinner at Mie cafe, one of her favourite restaurants in town. It was a very nice place serving modern Khmer dishes. I'd highly recommend this restaurant. After that we headed to Miss Wong cocktail bar for a  few drinks. I love this bar and remember it from years back. Small, not loud music, nice cocktails and very friendly staff. 


I love the old market very much even though it's very touristy. I went there everyday just for a wander, to smell the incense, flowers, spices and food. The way they display their fresh produce is very photogenic. Local Cambodian vendors show a lot of pride in the way they display their food which is similar to us in Vietnam.

I love having a Cambodian massage even though I'm not sure that's what it's called. I visited Master Feet and spent an hour every day for foot and arm massages, usually after walking around for a few hours. In the evening, we had a great experience with Lina and Steven: food tour in Siem Reap. It was so much fun, this is such a great way to see the city through local expat eyes. We went around Siem Reap by tuk tuk and tried heaps of local food. As you would expect, I ate way too much. We visited quite different markets, crossed lots of busy streets to try Siem Reap's specialties and that's the best way to learn and understand the local culture and their food. After the tour, headed to Picasso bar for a couple of drinks before going back to the hotel. Quite a small bar but with great atmosphere, the Picasso Bar cocktails were nice enough according my limited cocktails experience. We had a few drinks there and met up with some new people before a final cocktail at Miss Wong. It was a great night!!!


I don't usually eat at hotels but the Victoria Hotel breakfast was great and I enjoyed very much. For coffee, we were guided to The Little Red Fox Espresso as it's the best coffee in town. I enjoyed the quiet, good coffee and spend some time catching up on work.  We met Lina again for lunch at Olive, Cuisine De Saison. It was weird to eat French fusion food in Siem Reap but it was delicious, quiet and we spent lots of time chatting about the town, business and food. 

I would come back here again in the near future as I love the heat, the people, market, food and the excellent massage.