Sunday, December 28, 2014

Côn Đảo

We took a very short escape for four nights to Côn Đảo for relaxation which we enjoyed very much. The surroundings are still pretty much wild jungle with beautiful pristine beaches. The locals are very charming and friendly. I love the way the main town is nicely planned with good tidy infrastructure (unlike Hanoi) which makes the town run very easily and smoothly. One main priority when I'm on the coast is finding good seafood. Not difficult on Con Dao.

We hired a motorbike for the whole time to discover the island ourselves instead of taking taxis or joining tour groups from the hotel. We found wild beautiful beaches around, great little coffee shops and also great local seafood restaurants. We kept going back the the same restaurant for the whole four days. Called Ớt (Chilli) Seafood Restaurant, it was serving a great selection of live fresh seafood from crabs, shrimps, Moreton Bay bugs to lobsters and fish. I love the simple cooking methods they suggested, either steamed or barbecued, but always tasty. They also cooked a very nice sweet and sour fish broth to eat with rice and also steamed veggies eaten with a special dipping sauce: Kho Quẹt.

After lunch each day, we headed to Góc Phố Cafe to enjoy their coffee. Sitting on high plastic chairs looking over the road without any traffic and the town's clock tower. Life is so easy, calm and peaceful in this town.

Food is always my first highlight and I'd like to mention my second highlight; the Six Senses Resort. We had such a fantastic time with good breakfast and dinner even though it was more expensive than what we normally pay. We really enjoyed the ocean view from our room, the infinity pool and private beach.

I'd come back here again and hopefully the place stays the same as it is now: charming, peaceful, friendly people and great seafood.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nha Trang Dec 2014

A short and sweet break is always great especially when it's back to my hometown to visit friends, family and eat amazing food. I never get tired of eating seafood and Nha Trang is right on the coast and therefore offers plenty of options. Seafood is included in most dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I started my morning with a bowl of fish noodle soup or Bún Bò Huế then rode to some random cafes to meet old friends. After that, I stopped at my favorite place for a snack, where they make rice crackers and steamed rice pancakes topped with stir fried spring onions and tiny dried shrimp. It was so yummy. I had two hours break in between meals to play tennis at my old club where I used to play 13 years ago. It was fun to meet old friends at the club. We always laugh so much as tennis in Vietnam is completely different compared to western style tennis. Much louder. More like the atmosphere at a football match.

I followed tennis with lunch at home, prepared by my mother and sister in law. I know there's always lots of excellent food waiting for me. Dishes on this day were 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'd never ever be able to finish this food even though I try. I was so stuffed that I couldn't breath. Thanks my family for the generous great spread of food.

The next day, I caught up with my good friends for dinner. We went to the new part of the city for a special seafood treat. We had way too much food to eat again. We ate BBQ prawns, BBQ squid and BBQ fish with salt and chilli and fresh jelly fish salad and steamed crabs. Surprisingly we finished them all then headed back to town for a drink at the Intercontinental hotel. It was a nice bar but unfortunately empty and drinks weren't the best!!!!

I spent more time over the next two days focused on eating and I tried all my favorite dishes in Nha Trang but I still didn't have enough time to eat Nem Nuong.

Good reason to come back in February for this dish.

Saturday, December 06, 2014


Budapest is a beautiful city which reminds me in some ways of Paris, Rome and Porto, cities I've loved from previous trips.The Danube river divides Budapest into two parts and most tourists stay on the right hand side of the river then walk or take a cable car up to the Royal Palace for amazing city views. In general, things in Budapest are not as expensive compared to other big European cities.

We did a free city tour and it was pretty good with an very active young Hungarian girl. We walked around the city for about 3 hours and learned heaps about the culture and a little bit about food. Hungary's national dish is called Goulash, which can be served with chicken, pork or beef but I think, the beef option is the most popular and in most menus of the restaurants around. This dish is similar to stewed beef with potatoes, carrots and red wine in Vietnam which is also my favorite - something I eat for breakfast in my hometown.

We went to the Jewish quarter for a wander to see some of the 'ruin' bars and restaurants. Food wasn't the best but nice enough, probably not my type of food or I made the wrong choice. On the way back to the hotel, I happened to see a phở restaurant which was owned by a Vietnamese woman from the south. She sounded like she didn't want to sell her noodles and the way she spoke was a bit rude so I walked out - I was pretty full anyway. I bet she wouldn't have been so rude if she knew I could speak Vietnamese! I thought it would have been interesting to see how they were doing phở in Budapest

On our last day, we went to the Great Market Hall which is the main market of Budapest. This is a great market! Everything looked fantastic, very nicely organised, clean and friendly atmosphere. I enjoyed my coffee from a tiny shop where an old lady serves her coffee in very small paper cups with a tiny plastic stirrer. This market sells many types of sausages, cakes, fresh fruits, and of course the greatest variety of paprika you can imagine - in jars, tubes, powders and fresh, too. Our clients recommended that we eat at 'Fatal' restaurant as I wanted to find the best Goulash in Budapest. We had a great experience though the portions were the biggest portions we saw anywhere in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. We couldnt move when we rolled out of there. And of course we had beer, too!

We kept walking around the city for a couple of hours then we went to Raday Street which was lined with about 40 different restaurants to have a drink and dinner. We went to Paris, Texas Cafe for a drink. They served very nice wine and because it was happy hour prices, we decided to stay there. We ordered a rocket pizza and watched the US Open on TV. The pizza was great and we had a good time with thestaff and the lady owner. During our time in Budapest, we tried so many types of Hungarian wines and most all of them are really really good but we couldn't work out why they are not well known in the world. They are very cheap, starting from €3. Need to come back here again.