Monday, October 30, 2006

Dzoan Cam Van

Dzoan rest

Cam Van is a well known name for most Vietnamese who work in hospitality because she has her own cooking show on TV and I decided to go to her place to try it when I was down south a while back.

Dzoan rest

As I expected, the food was delicious and well presented, the staff were really friendly and helpful. I tried quite a few different starters and I was really impressed about the flavours in the food. I also tried the most popular dish, the hot pot with seafood and beef, which was the highlight. Doan restaurant serves generous portions that are enough for at least two people and it's not expensive at all.

Dzoan rest

You can choose to sit inside with airconditioning or outside in the garden or at the back of the restaurant with fans, overlooking the foutain.

Dzoan rest

Check out at: 438 Vo Van Tan, District 5, Q3
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel : 84.8. 39291949/59

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hanoi's Pavement

The pavement is for walking and parking in some places but if you come to Viet Nam, the pavement is a place for people to do business even it's illegal.

Street food

Wandering around Hanoi from morning till evening, you can try all types of good cheap food. Pho- noodle soup with chicken, beef or with organs, sweets, fruit and others along the streets of the old quarter or from people walking around. Both are great. I always eat at Lang Ong street where they sell best street noodle soup.

Cafe Hanoi

Coffee on the pavement is the most popular in Hanoi and customers sit on small low plastic chairs or wooden chairs and they use those small chairs as tables. These places are also the most popular places in Hanoi to hear all the lastest news, gossip or even the secret news from elsewhere in the world but do not trust what you hear with 100% accuracy.

Hair cut

The pavement is not only for parking and walking, but it is a place for car washing, pumping and selling petrol. You can also have a hair-do.

Street  business

Unfortunately, the pavement is also a public toilet where people stop for a quick pee. Even people who drive a very expensive car or ladies who sell fruit on the street and sometimes parents help their baby to have a pee.

Pavement Hanoi

The pavement and middle of the street become one especially in the peak hours when people drive their motorbikes and bicycles like crazy on the pavement and pedestrians have to walk in the middle of the street instead of walking along the pavement.

Hanoi by night

In the evenings the pavement is a public park for lovers, young or old, a whisper for afew minutes then they go away together. The pavement is also a five star hotel for the homeless and beggars, giving them somewhere to dream about their future. If you walk around on hot days you can see lots of people sleeping along the pavements after lunch.

Hoa Hanoi

Markets on the pavement are also common where lots of small stalls of vegetables or some people just selling a few pieces of vegetable. Second hand clothes also very popular and can be seen along the streets where the sellers hang their stuff against the wall.


Anyway, that's just some examples about the crazy stuff that happens everyday in Hanoi. Even though the police try to stop them by giving fines, they are not very effective. And when someone shouts out loud that the police are coming, you will see so many people running up and down, running around trying to hide all of their stuff inside a house or up an alley before running away from thepolice. BUT the situation will return to the same when the police are gone. This is a very funny incident to watch, I promise!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sabaidee Lao Market

Night market

Luang Prabang night market is one of the best markets I've ever been to, so colorful, not really expensive and not as much crap stuff as other markets. Compared to the morning market in Vientiane, this is much better with a wider variety of stuff and a great atmosphere. The market opens from about 5 pm to 11pm. I love hanging around this market because the Lao people always smile at you even if you don't buy anything from them.

Happy money

We were playing our bargaining games here so well and sometimes it made us laugh our heads off because the surprising prices that we gave and the sellers accepted. Most of the prices that those sellers give to you are up really high and the game starts from 70% off then stop about 40%. One tecnhique is a smile and walk away and then they will call you back to ask for a little bit more but if you are strict with that price then they will sell it. We wanted to buy a small piece of cloth with a small handmade patch on it. One old lady told me that it costs K5000, I said K500 and she agreed. We wondered about the real price and how they can earn any money from that?


Liz wanted to buy a bed cover with two pillow covers, the sellers told us $25, I said $14 and they didn't agree, we went to another shop and finally she bought two for $28, very good quality and they look gorgeous! The funny thing is that Lao people always thinks that I am Lao or Thai then they speak those languages to me and I teasing them by smiling knowingly and uh ha, uh huh just trying to make a good deal and I realized that it was quite a good technique to get a good deal.

Rock painting

I bought so many lanterns and paintings at the night market, they look so pretty and very cheap. Most of the paintings sold here are from an artist who lives in the mountains. Some of them are from student artists who copy and they look not really good. Buddha tile paintings are great here, they are small pieces of flat ceramic that you can stick on the wall or on the floor or put them in a frame, it costs a little bit but I think it worth what we paid for.

Sabaidee Lao, sokdee and phopkanmai!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Luang Prabang Part II

Sunset in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is the best place in Lao for both tourists and locals to do business and relax. No wonder people call this the thousand pagoda city because pagodas are everywhere and you can see monks from early in the morning until the evening. The monks are dressed in a beautiful orange, carrying school bags and umbrellas, wow, I love looking at them all the time.


Lao monks in general have free education and they all go to school, they study all kinds of subjects from computers to english ... Monks in Luang Prabang speak good english, much better than in other parts of Lao, because they have lots of opportunities for practicing their english with tourists and they are very friendly here. Sometimes, in the evening you can see a monk using the internet or having a cigarette but I don't know if that's allowed or not.

Monk and mobile

One day, we went around and stopped at one of the pagodas and saw a monk playing with his mobile and he didn't seem to mind that he stood right in front of lots of tourists around and he seemed proud of his update technique. Does Buddha know about this? From what lots of people said, including some who used to be a monks, families want them to go to the pagoda because they can have a free education and food. After a few years, they leave and return to normal life. I think this is a good idea for whoever can't really afford to go to school, because going to school is not really free here in Asia but the fee is not really high.

Morning monks

I tried to wake up about 4am to see the monks praying but I couldn't make it that early but I woke up at 5.30am to take some shots of monks parading after chanting. They wander around the city to get food from the local people. Hundreds of monks walking in orange robes makes the early morning in Luang Prabang so colorful like thousands of butterflies are walking on the street. I couldn't believe that there were also about a hundred western tourists there before me, standing there waiting. If you want to contribute food to the monks, you can buy food from ladies who hang around there with baskets of food. It was a nice experience to start the day.

Tobe continued

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Luang Prabang Part I

Luang Prabang

After a long journey during which the rain started falling heavily, we decided to take our friends recommendation and chose the Sokdee guest house(Ban Vatnong Khamkong Road, tel:(856-71) 252 555).The rooms were only$9 with air-conditioning or $5 for a fan room. We took air-conditioned rooms even though we didn't end up using it much. The rooms were clean with hot water, cable TV and of course especially friendly and helpful staff.

Goodluck guest house

We took a rest for an hour, had a hot shower then hit the road for a wander. The rain had stopped and we soon realised that Luang Prabang is really a quiet paradise: there are NO horns, No crazy traffic and No shouting. Another good thing is that we came here at the end of the raining season and there were not many tourists around which means we can enjoy ourselves even more. Luang Prabang people are so friendly, they smile and greet everyone every time they see them. We went to have a drink at a restaurant near the guest house and we saw a group which included an old Lao man who now lives in the USA. We left there after one drink because we couldn't stand his loud voice but we feel bad now because we didn't know that he's deaf until the girl in that group told us on our last day before we left.

Waiter at LPB restaurant

Our regular restaurant, mainly for breakfast, was called L.P.B. restaurant(Khemkhong road,tel 212634) where the food was really nice. We were served by an hilarious waiter who was always laughing and making jokes with all of the customers in a nice way. He is a short guy with a face that makes you laugh right at the first time. By the end of our trip, whenever we ate there, he knew what we wanted. I gave the restaurant some ideas about their seating, lighting and decor and I hope it helps attract customers.

Big water fall

The next day we took a tuk tuk to some waterfalls. We got stuck in the shops in the parking area and, after buying some fishing pants and climbing up about 20 minutes, oh my god, an amazing water fall appeared. The water was a bit cold for me but there were lots of people swimming. I wish I could have swum there. We took heaps of pictures of the waterfall. There was a tiger up there which was saved from hunters a while ago, as well as some big black bears. People donate money for keeping these animals alive. The tiger needs a lot of food every day.

tuk tuk

The tuk tuk ride cost us $12 including a small tip because we ended up staying 4 hours instead of the 1 hour trip we asked for. Even though at first the trip was a bit scary because of the roads, we soon got used to it. In the next few days we took some more day trips.

Tobe continued

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Vientiane Part II

Morning market

Shopping time! I love shopping and we decided to go to the Morning market, a lovely market located in the center of Vientiane under a building designed like a pagoda. There were a variety of different things from handmade handicrafts to DVDs, cigarettes and clothes. Things are not really expensive here compared to western countries but I think it's a bit similar to Viet Nam. I went crazy shopping here buying heaps of silly stuff and trying different foods.

Market seller

People who sell in the market are so lovely but we have to play our own games - bargaining and we all did well with sometimes about 50% off, which is amazing. I don't think buying DVDs in Lao is a good idea because it's more expensive than in Viet Nam where we only pay about $1.20 and we had to pay $2.50 in Lao, and we're not sure about the quality. I realized that handicrafts and lantern should be bought in Luang Prabang where they are made and it's much cheaper than in Vientiane.


Lao beer is good :) I drank lots of them plus lots of soft drinks with mint flavor which matched my shirt color :) In the afternoon, we went to the sunset restaurant where we sat right on the bank of the Mekong with fantastic views of the sunset. It's a nice spot. Beer Lao is normally $1 or 10,000K but it will be more if you drink it in a western style bar or in a big restaurant, and in local small places it's as cheap as K8000.

Grilled fish

If you are a easy going, please try the BBQ food along the Mekong river where they sell the best grilled fresh fish or pork or beef. They serve sticky rice with most of their food but you can ask for steamed rice if you prefer. Lao people eat sticky rice for all their main meals from breakfast to dinner so do not be surprised because their sticky rice is the best.

Tuk tuk

We hired a tuk tuk for wandering around in the evening for only K30,000($3) for 20 minutes. Tuk tuk is the most common transportation in Lao, do not worry about the traffic because Lao people follow the traffic laws very well and the drivers care about their customer's safety but as usual, try to play the bargaining game :). I love playing this game. It doesn't mean that I am tight as I always give them something extra as drinking money if they are good.

VIP bus

We took a VIP bus(this is a double decker bus which is very popular in western countries and recently appeared in Ho Chi Minh city) to Luang Prabang for only $16 with freezing air-conditioning and horrible smelly toilet and security guard with a gun. We were wondering why there was a guy with a gun outside the bus when we stopped for a break. Finally, we found out that last year some rebels attacked the bus and the goverment decided to always send one security guy along with the bus. Anyway, the trip was fine and we arrived in Luang Prabang safely in the afternoon after 11 hours on the bus. I would say that we had no complaints about the trip but 11 hours is a bit too much for sitting on the bus even though the scenery was beautiful :)

Tobe continued

Monday, October 09, 2006

Vientiane Part I

Making road

It is difficult to believe that Vientiane is a capital city because it is so small. But it has lots of old temples, many French buildings which still remain beautiful and lots of trees along the streets. There are also lots of streets which need to be improved but they seem to be doing that right now.


It's very beautiful along the Mekong river where most of the hotels, guest houses and restaurants stand but this is also the worst part for walking because the road is really bad. We drove around Vientiane by motorbike and talked to many monks and they speak quite good English. They gave us a lot of good information about how Laos monks live, the standard of living here and how they are educated.

viet Noodle in Lao

We went to a Vietnamese noodle soup where people speak both Vietnamese and Lao, my friends ordered small and big bowl but I ordered Jumbo which means huge size with all ingredients. The noodles were great and it made my day. Our journey started by going to the bank and changing money from USD to Kip, the local currency ($1=K10,000.) Laos currencies are all in notes and some of them look really old and it can be quite fragile if you treat it hard :)

That Luang Stupa

We went to That Luang (the great Sacred Stupa), built in 1566 by Saysetthairath, "is said to contain relics of the Lord Buddha himself and is the country's most cherished religious monument". This is an amazing place with a golden colour and lots of dismembered buddhas and it's a bit scarey for me but I think this is a good place to visit beside many others.

Victory Gate

On the way to That Luang, we stopped at Patuxay(Victory Gate), this gate located on Lanexang Avenue and it was built in 1960 to commemorate those who died in past wars. It looks great with a French style and opens for visiting from 8am to 5Pm daily.

Patuxay Monument

On the way back, we went to Wat Sisaket temple. This temple is located in the center of the old city and was built in 1818 by King Anouvong and is Vientiane's oldest remaining temple having survived the destruction of the city by Siamese in 1828. This is the place you must go when you are in Vientiane.

To be continued

Saturday, October 07, 2006



I've just returned from a trip to Laos with my Aussie friend who lives in Hanoi and his mother who comes from Melbourne. We flew with Vietnam airlines where they serve a terrible bread roll and water as a meal. We arrived in Vientiane after about an hour's flight at about 8pm. The customs staff are similar to Vietnamese customs staff with serious faces for the travellers who are coming to spend money in Laos. Interesting that they laugh when they talk with each other. Is that wierd? I suppose it's their job to be serious.

Laos Airport

Wow is the first word I said when I get out of my hotel in the morning for a wander. The Laos people are so sweet, soft and friendly. I felt like I am at home in Nha Trang because we almost look the same in appearance. Unfortunately, I cannot speak Laos or Thai. Laos people can speak Thai because they are right next to each other and their languages are similar. I tried to speak Laos to them according to the small section in the guide book but I always got confused about saying hello and people just looked at me and smiled.

Soukxana hotel in Laos

There are many expensive hotels and residences around due to many foreigners working and travelling to Laos and equally there are many dodgy guest houses, mostly full with backpackers on tight budgets. We stayed in the Soukxana guest house in front one of the most expensive resorts in Vientiane, a place I couldn't afford of course. Anyway, I was really pleased with the Soukxana which was really clean and had friendly staff. It was only$8 for a fan room or $13 for an air conditioned room. The Soukxana's not located along the river but just a few minutes walk and very quiet.

Transportation in Laos

It's hard to compare cities but Vientiane is so different to where I am living right now- Hanoi. You can see the capital really developing with lots of old roads being improved and homes and buildings going up. Vientiane is much quieter than what I expected. I was really surprised about the traffic situation; there are more cars and 'tuk tuks' than bicycles and motorbikes and people follow the traffic rules which impressed me a lot.

Tu- Laos

We hired two motorbikes and our adventures will be in the next posts.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


I am in Laos at the moment and will be posting as soon as I get back to Hanoi.