Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Visiting Pagodas

It's hard to move around on special lunar days if you want to visit a papoda, especially in Viet Nam where almost 70% of people follow Buddhism. Pagodas can be seen the whole length of the country.This is a really exciting time for everyone who is religious, even if they're not. Lights are all turned on, lots of fruits from people is put on altars. The different colors make the pagodas look amazing.

It is difficult to imagine how many insense sticks are burned everyday, especially on special lunar days? The pagodas employ a few people to simply stand right behind the vases to take most of the insense sticks out as they are actually put in. Sometimes, these people can't do it quickly enough. Inhaling too much incense smoke is not good for your health at all even though the smell may be pleasant. I actually feel dizzy whenever I go on such a busy day.

Food served at pagodas is usually good, really healthy but a wierd thing is that sometimes they make it into animal shapes, which I'm still confused about.

Besides the food, many services are provided at pagodas which seem strange, such as a burning insense service, and offering carrier service. Can you imagine going to a pagoda to pray for health, luck and business but hiring someone to carry your tray of offerings and burning your incense for you? It seems weird, right? Why don't people do it themselves to improve their luck honestly? On the other hand, it helps lots of people who want a job to earn money.

I've blogged about beggars before but it's also a problem on these days. Interestingly, there are not many old men and women but heaps of young people. I don't really mind helping people who really need help if they are old and can't do anything.

Another problem on such busy days at the pagoda is crime? The police wander around because there are so many thieves who hang around in the crowds trying to take the opportunity to pickpocket as people push each other trying to put their stuff on the altar or try to pray. This is an unfortunate thing that shouldn't happen. What can we do?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Ho Chi Minh museum in Ho Chi Minh city is the only museum that interested me, which shows many of the things that remain of Uncle Ho from the war.

All of the pictures and objects here are explained clearly with information on the side of each that helps people to understand them clearly.

Besides all of the guns, tanks and radios, this museums exhibits lots of very interesting things from coal irons, fire trucks and some different cars that people used before and during the war.

I think you will not believe your eyes when you see lots of the things that Vietnamese soldiers and Vietnamese people used during the war. These resourceful people recycled enemy bullets, bombs and parts of aircraft to make fry pans, helmets, food containers and knives as well as gifts and souvenirs for friends and family.

When you visit these places, it's difficult to imagine how Vietnam survived such a terrible war. They lived under a lot of pressure but they still used to sing and play when the bombs were not dropping.

I was so glad to visit this museum as it has helped me to better understand about how hard it must have been to win the war with nothing much to work with. I dont want to make it become a huge deal in this post but I am so proud about being Vietnamese.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pan Fried Young Tofu

You might think that this is just normal tofu which people sell in the market. I can guarantee that this is one of the greatest vegetarian dishes that you could ever try. It takes time to make this tofu but it's worth it for special occasions. Check out the following recipe.

Rice powder : 2 bowls
Green bean :300gr
Corn flour:1 bowl
Tofu :5 pieces
Black mushroom :300gr
Onion : 2
Water :20 bowls
Oyster sauce, soya sauce, Knorr powder, pepper, oil.

How to make:
Black mushroom, onion: chopped finely
Green bean : cooked then ground.
Put all together and mix up, cook until all the moisture has almost evaporated. Scoop out into a tray, divide them into small square pieces and store in the freezer. Take them out and deep fry, at first over a low heat after covering them lightly in flour. Turn the heat up slowly once they are browned slightly. Must be eaten hot and crispy with soya sauce(chili).

This is a really special vegetarian dish that everyone loves at Wild Rice, especially foreigners.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

My Holiday Breakfasts

This is a common sight if you wander around in the south of Vietnam, a few small tables with very simple table setting with big plates of herbs and vegetables. Noodle soup is being sold here, Do not worry, come and sit down, order a bowl of noodles.

For many foreigners, eating noodles or sticky rice for breakfast instead of eggs, toast or cereal is normal because they are in Viet Nam now.

The most common noodle from the south is called Hu tieu, a yellow noodle with sliced pork, dried onion, pork crackling, tomatoes, japanese vegetable and minced pork in the stock. This is my favorite dish that I ate almost everyday on my recent holiday.

Noodles with beef also very popular in Saigon. In some places they served the biggest quay(bread) that I've ever seen before in my life.

Some other places serve Chinese noodles which look like other noodles but they have wontons and different vegetables and the pork is sliced longways.

Bun bo Hue is a really special noodle style from Hue which is served with lots of different veggies, pigs feet and cooked beef. It's a delicious dish but needs lots of chili added to it.

This is yet another different noodle dish with a slice of spare rip on the top, cooked pork, some chopped carrots and some cooked bean shoots and coriander.
The last dish is sticky rice. There are so many different kinds of sticky rice, some with minced pork, some with sweet potatoes, and some are a mixture of black bean, green bean and just plain white stickyrice. To be served on top, people usually choose some more meat or some grilled or steamed sausages or sliced cooked chicken...The special thing about sticky rice is the seller will add some peanuts, dried onion and some sauce to add extra flavour.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fried Chicken Wings with Fish Sauce

This is a very popular dish which most Vietnamese people love.. It's also very easy to make, only taking about 15 minutes following this recipe:

Chicken wings
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 spring onion
1/4 teaspoon dried chili
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chicken powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 spoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon suger

Chicken wings wash and cut it to 2 or leave it as normal, peeled and chopped garlic, sliced onion, cut spring onion about 4 or 5 cm long.

Mixed up pepper, salt,chili and lemon.

How to make:
Soak chicken wings with salt, ground black pepper, chicken powder and leave it from 5 to 10 minutes then deep fried in cooking oil until it looks dark yellow. Take them out and drain. Heat two spoons of cooking oil in the fried pan, then adding all the ingredients and cooked chicken wings and mix them well for 3 minutes. Put them all on the plate and add a pinch of ground pepper and garnish with lettuce, tomatoes and coriander.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Grilled Banana With Coconut Milk Sauce

A very cheap dessert that you can try right on the pavement throughout the center and the south of Viet Nam. It is called Chuoi Nuong (grilled banana).

They grill banana briefly first then cover it with cooked stickyrice. Before serving, it is chopped into pieces and coconut milk and crushed peanuts are added to the top.

It is an amazing dish which only costs about 5000Vnd.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lunch With Best Friends

Finally, I found time for lunch with my best friends, Tuyet, Thao and Lien. I don't really know why I didn't go to my best friends' houses in the first few days there. I feel bad as I write this post.

I suppose the reason why is that Tet is a family occasion most of all. I spent my time at home and playing tennis with my sister. We had such a great time there. So, finally, on the last day before I left there, Thao, Lien and Tuyet invited me out for lunch at a restaurant along the river, which is such a great place to eat, peaceful, quiet and delicious food. We ordered too much food as usual - a hot pot, frog, cuttle fish, prawn, fish and different kinds of salad.

We chatted about so many things, about who will get married first or who can afford to get married...I always feel so good being with them, so much laughing and jokes. After the meal, my friends wanted to go to the fortune teller. We found a place but so many people were waiting because having your fortune told at the beginning of the lunar new year is very popular. I had to catch the train to Saigon so we decided to do it next time.

A few months ago I gave up using a mobile phone but my friend, Tuyet, gave me one saying "you have to use a mobile because we all need to message each other to inform that we are all still alive", so I have to use a mobile phone again. It was great to catch up with them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day

Valentine's day- A happy day for everyone who's in love and falling in love.

A good time for fun and a good chance for business. Most shops have updated their stocks and put the price up for just one lovely day. Every man seems to have to pay more than usual but I think it's worth it once per year. Roses and chocolates are the gifts of choice but today they are expensive.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Architecture In Ho Chi Minh CIty

As in other big cities in Viet nam, Ho Chi Minh City has a mixture of architectural styles between the modern and the traditional. There are not as many old buildings here compared to Ha Noi. Some people believe that Ho Chi Minh City is like Bangkok which includes so many tall modern buildings.

There is also still a Soviet style here which is most obvious in local apartment buildings and companies which look quite ugly and old.

Besides that, there are hundreds of cute houses and beautiful villas around the city, some of which follow the French style and some just a very simple style.

As you can see from my pictures, some houses are almost falling over because the government built new roads. I think it's quite impressive that people still live in these houses, ignoring the dangers waiting for them at any moment. Do you think it's worth it to risk your life like that?

I do agree that the expression "Land is gold" is right for Ho Chi Minh City, where the tiniest space is used for doing business. It's also the reason why there are so many narrow tall buildings in this city. I hope this satisfies my readers who wanted a comparison of the Architecture In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city.

In my opinion, both are beautiful even though there are distinct differences.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wall says " I Am Cold"

Pissing against the wall along streets is not a good habit at all but it's common everywhere in Viet Nam. This is a real shame for people who have to walk past these people and have to smell the very bad smell. There is a lack of public toilets in Vietnam and, when you use them, you have to pay and most people don't want to pay for that or can't afford to pay for that. It seems that we don't care about the hygiene or beauty of the country but the Vietnamese government needs to provide cleaner, cheaper facilities. There is supposed to be a fine for pissing in public but I've never seen the police do anything about it.

I'm not really sure what can we do to stop this kind of bad behavior?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ca' Ke`o Fish

My sister prepared a really nice special southern fish hot pot called Ca Keo for our dinner while I was staying with her in Saigon. Ca Keo is a small, thin, long white fish with not too many bones and a delicious flavour.
She made the stock by following a special recipe which included lots of herbs, bean shoots, lotus, water spinach, banana, Bach Tang, Giang and Dang vegetable, lots of green veggies and a really special vegetable called Nhut vegetable which is only available in the south. She bought the live fishes, mixed them in vinegar and salt to get rid of all the scales from the fish, and then boiled them for a few minutes before eating them straight by deeping some fish sauce with chiili.

This is a very healthy dish especially from Ho Chi Minh City that can be served with different noodles or rice.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Nha Trang Tet Again

Tet is a chance for family reunions, a good chance for me to meet up with all my good friends, my family and relatives. After lots of preparations for Tet, the last day of the year went by and my sisters and I went out to have a look at the fireworks which the government normally organises. This year it was weird because nothing happened at midnight! There were thousands of people crowding the square near the beach who waited around for nothing. A bit disappointing.

When visiting Nha Trang at this time of the year, you will notice the different in the way people celebrate immediately after midnight. There are lots of people selling long stems of sugar cane and other tree just before the eve, and lots of people stop by and buy them as a lucky symbol for the new year and to take home. After 12, people go to pagodas to pray. Predictably and sadly, there are so many beggars lining the path to the pagoda asking for money. Most people hand over small amounts money to these people to give them a hand and wish them luck as well. Beggars earn lots of money in this occasion.

Nha Trang's people also spend heaps of money on decorating their houses, though not as much as other big cities. The local government also spends lots of money preparing for the tet especially opening and repairing special places for kids such as parks, water park.... These places are always full of kids having fun.

As in other Vietnamese families, my mother buys some fruit and cakes to put on the tray and leaves them out in the front yard as an offering, ridding the house of bad luck and wishing for good luck for the coming year before burning the ceremonial money.

Li xi (lucky money) is something that most people have to give at this time of the year, which can be expensive. It depends on who you happen to meet. If we meet relatives, family or good friends, we usually give anything from 50,000Vnd. If we meet acquaitances , we give from 10,000Vnd to 50,000Vnd. Before giving them the money in a red envelope, we wish them luck for the coming year.

Nha Trang is a holiday destination for southern people who live in neighbouring provinces, where they can enjoy the sunshine, beaches, bars and good food. There are also lots of people from the north or even from the centre of Viet nam who come here as well. They usually visit islands for a day, go to pagodas, temples for another day and they spend most evenings in seafood restaurants and bars late at night. It's really a safe place to hang around late at night, you can walk on the the beach for the fresh air or drive along the main streets without any problems.