Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Better Life?

Coming to big cities wishing for a new, better life is a common dream for countryside people in Viet Nam. If you follow my blog, you would have seen lots of different stories about pavement pounders. It's difficult to imagine how hard these people have to work for just a small amount of money. Of course there are some luckier people who find a good job with a reasonable income but this percentage is very low and it requires that they have some special talents or are well educated but it still depends on luck as well.

I have spoken to lots of different people before writing this. I went to see where they live, in tiny rooms of about 10 square meters, smelly and dirty where about 15 people stay over night. They pay about 5000Vnd for a night and I can't really imagine what it's like in the winter or in a rainy season. It probably floods or it'd be really damp, cold and stinky.

Even though they tolerate such bad living conditions, people don't seem to care and they still come to the city. In their minds, they honestly think that a wonderful life in a beautiful city is possible regardless of the risks involved. A simple theft of their daily money could ruin their life.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Public Kissing

Funny dolls

The title seems very sensitive even silly. Yes, I agree but I like it.

In Viet Nam, it's quite common for people of the same sex to walk along the street hand in hand or linking arms. Maybe people from other cultures will find this a little strange, but it's normal for men and women to show physical affection. Kissing in public is a different story. About 10 years ago, Vietnamese people considered kissing as something very sacred and private which should be done in a very dark place or inside their house and not in front of anyone.


Nowadays, it's common to see young people kissing in public, along the street, in the park or even in the middle of the market. While this might be normal in western society, it's quite new behavior in Viet Nam.

What do you think? Is it similar where you come from?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Food In Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh City- Nha Trang City

It's really hard to write a small post about food in three different areas, which is the reason why I'm just going to mention about what is most popular in these places and hope it can give you an idea. A very special point which makes the south of Vietnam different is that the people down there cook with lots of sugar, and in the north it's too much MSG. In the centre of the country, people cook with lots of salt or fish sauce.

Bun Mam Saigon

In Ho Chi Minh City, most people go out for an easy and quick lunch then go back to the office or go home for a nap before heading back for work again. I think Bun Mam is one of the most popular dishes in Sai Gon which can be eaten everywhere, even sitting on the street? Why not, or even in a restaurant, this is the dish that lots of people choose whenever they come to Saigon.

Pho Ga

In Hanoi, people are more used to eating at home. After work, people hurriedly go to the market to buy some food and go home, cook and eat with their family. This is a good thing to do, but it's time consuming. However, a popular dish to have out of the home in Hanoi is Pho Ga (Noodles with chicken), the special point of which is that people can eat it as a snack or as the main course, and the location is not a problem at all.

Nem Ninh Hoa- Nha Trang

Similarly to Hanoians, Nha Trang people tend to have three meals per day at home. But when they go out to eat Nem Ninh Hoa (Ninh Hoa spring rolls) is the most famous that everyone knows about, cheap and good. It doesn't matter whether it's lunch or dinner because it's a really healthy dish with lots of veggies.

I think people have started eating out for lunch more now in big cities, or they're prepared food for the whole day in the morning, so that they can save their time and they still can enjoy their meals at home. Vietnamese people usually take a short nap after lunch and that's why there is little action on the street at lunch time.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bread In Town

Bread Sellers

"Hot bread here" is a very popular announcement from the bread sellers which can be heard all day, from about 5 am til late at night.

Bread Sellers

There was an old lady who used to sell bread around our old apartment in the Cao Ba Quat street area,who had a man's voice which was very distinct and that's why I always bought bread from her. Her voice used to wake me up in the mornings. In our new place here in West Lake, I see lots of people selling bread but they ride a bicycle. They charge the same price and it's important to ask for fresh bread like mine this morning, which I bought at 6 am. I asked the lady to throw them up to me on the second floor and I threw the money back down to her. I was a bit lazy and still sleepy but I was glad that I made it to buy the fresh bread to write about this today. Writing about the bread while smelling it so fresh makes me feel so good.

Bread Seller

You can see lots of people walking around with a big basket full of bread on their head or sitting on the pavement trying to sell bread. This is one of the most common forms of walking business in Hanoi but it seems easier than others because bread is not as heavy and if the sellers can't sell all of them they can give them back to the bakery, which isn't a bad deal.

Bread Seller

I don't really know how much they earn per day. I tried to ask several sellers but they weren't interested in telling me the truth, but I guess they earn about 20,000Vnd to 40,000Vnd per day which is not too bad compared to hard labour which earns about the same income. Most of the sellers are old ladies, old men or young girls who are from the countryside around Hanoi.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sauteed Prawns With Peanuts and Tamarind Sauce

This rich dish is one of the most popular on our menu at Wild Rice. Sweet, sour and nutty. Try the recipe.

Tom me

Medium size prawns: 100g
Tamarind paste: 50g
Sugar: 50g
Seasoning: 30g
Garlic: 10g
Cooking oil: 20g

+ To make the tamarind sauce:
* First: put one bowl of water in a pot; bring to a boil then put tamarind paste in; simmer until the sauce is watery then filter out all the tamarind seeds and fibre.
* Next: pour the above tamarind sauce; seasoning; sugar & chicken powder into a pot; bring to the boil until the sauce is thick. The sauce should have a sweet & sour taste.

+ To prepare the prawns:
- Wash prawns thoroughly.
- Put some water in a pot; bring to a boil then put prawns in. Boil for about 5 minutes.
- Put cooking oil into a saucepan; heat until very hot; put chopped garlic in and stir until it browns slightly; put prepared tamarind sauce & prawns in; mix well then sprinkle peanuts on top.

Serve hot.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Summer Time

Hanoi - Summer Time

Summer is coming to Hanoi with the heat rising up to 40*C one day last week. God, I can't stand it. I have been trying to avoid the heat by wandering around the lake or just staying at home whenever I'm off work. Replacing the ice cold winter and drizzly rain with the extreme heat is driving everyone crazy, but Hanoians seem to have no problem because they are used to it.

Summer Time

Check out the people driving around with these unique shirts that cover their faces and hands, making them look like Ninjas. I wonder why women in Viet nam have to hide their beautiful faces and bodies in such ugly manly shirts? Well, the very simple answer is that they don't want their faces to be exposed to the sun. They want to maintain a white face and avoid turning brown or even black. I wonder if women do that in western countries?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Traffic in Viet Nam

I have just written about the traffic in Viet Nam at Global Voices.

Traffic in Saigon

To read more, please click the following link : Here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Guess What?

Vo Cam- Long Bien Market

Why do some Vietnamese people dry orange skins or grapefruit skins for? Yes, they don't want to waste these useful vitamins for their hair which they dont need to pay a penny for. This is one of the reasons why Vietnamese girls have such beautiful, long, natural hair.

Vo Buoi

Thanks to Mark for this pic
This natural treatment which is an alternative to using high technique and expensive stuff. Why don't you try this out by drying the fruit skins and boiling them in water before washing your hair in the liquid to see the difference.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Skinny Houses


Someone said "No matter how tall and skinny a building, it seems that there is always room for more storeys." This is the reality of Vietnamese architecture and I'm not sure that you can see this any where else in the world. Because Viet nam doesn't have much land and our population is increasing unbelievably fast, property in Hanoi and in other big cities is very expensive and the price rises everyday.

Buildings - Long Bien

If you have a good look inside a typical house, you may be surprised because there are about 8 0r 9 people living in such a small area. Sometimes they don't even have a permanent bed, a garden hardly ever. They only put mattresses or mats down before they sleep then they fold them back up in the morning. And imagine, there is one tiny kitchen and bathroom in one house. What do you really think? Could you live in this situation?

Monday, April 10, 2006


Hang Day stadium

To support my city football team, I invited some of my friends to go to Hanoi stadium, San Hang Day, to watch Khanh Hoa last Sunday. We were looking forward to enjoying the game and drinking some beer but the funny thing is that they do not allow beer to be sold inside the stadium, which was a bit annoying because we had all brought beer stubby holders to keep it cool. I asked the lady who sold the drinks, and she said that because the fans used to get upset when the referee made a mistake or the opposition scored a goal and throw their beer cans onto the ground or at the players. There are football hooligans in Vietnam, too so the government banned the ladies from selling beer. It was a shame but we ate some bread, drank red bulls and waters plus some chips, peanuts and crackers. We ate a lot while we watched the football.

Hang Day stadium

The match wasn't as excting as it should have been and I was so disappointed because my team lost. The atmosphere was great with people shouting, swearing non-stop and of course a few arguments as well. I was sitting near an old man who had verbal diarrhoea who was driving me nuts.

Hang Day stadium

The tickets were much cheaper than I thought, from only 20,000Vnd to 30,000Vnd. If I remember correctly, in Nha Trang the tickets costs me about 50,000Vnd each. Maybe I am wrong.

Bia Hai Xom- Goi hoa chuoi Muc

Finally, it was time for dinking beer when the match finished. We went to Bia Hai Xom for drinking and dinner. The food was good and beer cold-thank god.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Grilled Banana with Orange Sauce

chuoi nuong

This is the first dessert recipe I have posted from Wild Rice, but this is the most popular. It's a simple banana which you can buy easily, cooked a bit and drizzled with a yummy sauce. It's really good with a scoop of coconut ice cream on the side.

Wild Rice

Brush some sugar and butter around the banana then grill it for few minutes till it’s yellow. Then soak it in brandy and set it alight to caramelize slightly. Before serving this dish, dust with cinnamon powder and tip the sauce over.

Wild Rice

Sauce: Honey, yoghurt, orange juice mixed with some sugar syrup.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tin and Hat Streets

Hang Thiet street

Hang Thiec-Tin street. The noise from this street echoes a few blocks away. It's easy to tell when you're near this street. These people produce all kinds of orders, from small shaped boxes to huge water tanks. They also make the money burner boxes for people to use on special lunar days, for burning fake ceremonial money.

Hang Non street

Hang Non- Hat street, where you can now buy handcrafted traditional musical instruments and glass mirrors, glass windows, and aluminium windows. This is a really interesting part of the old quarter in Hanoi where you may find a really Vietnamese souvenir for your friends or family.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Fishing West Lake

Fishing is a popular hobby in Hanoi, especially around West Lake. Lots of people sit by the lakeside try to fish with their bamboo fishing rods.

Fishing boat

The most common fish caught is anabas in these lakes. I have sat watching them a few times and I couldn't believe how many fish they actually catch. I'm not sure that I would eat these fish as the lakes in Hanoi are quite polluted but lots of people do. Anyway, this is a relaxing thing to do on the weekend to release stress or simply pass the time.