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What to eat in Vietnam

Vietnamese Food

Vietnam cuisine is very distinct. It has minimal use of dairy or oils and is a balance between fresh herbs, meats and a selective use of spices to reach a fine taste. It is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. Since we planned to eat Vietnamese street-food, I carried a good stock of anti-bacterial medicine and probiotics just in case, but I didn’t need to use them anyway.


Banh Mi

  • Banh Mi or the Vietnamese sandwich, a quick meal if you’re on the go. Consists of a baguette, stuffed with greens, pate and a variety of meats. This was one of my favourites.
  • Phở (fuh) is the most popular street food in Vietnam and consists of broth, rice noodles, a few herbs, and meat. Pho bo is beef soup and Pho ga is chicken soup. The Hanoi and Saigon styles of pho differ by noodle width, the sweetness of broth, and choice of herbs.
  • * Remember = beef, heo = pork, ga = chicken, tôm = shrimp.


  • In Saigon, don’t miss the SourSop smoothie which is not available in the other cities.


  • In Hue, an accidental discovery was Bo Né (bo nay), the Vietnamese steak. Thin slivers of marinated raw beef are provided, along with a stove and a pan with butter. You are expected to cook it right on your table, then lay a line of steak on a rice paper and roll it together with some herbs and salad. This roll is dipped into some delicious sauces before eating. A great culinary experience.


  • Another popular cook-and-eat dish is ‘Lau Bo’ or the Beef Hot Pot. A pot containing broth and other ingredients are provided on the table with the stove. Put everything in the pot and boil it. Simply delicious.

Tip: Don't get too adventurous and order dishes without checking what it is, as your dish may contain the choicest bits of intestines, eyes, or better still - testicles.


Vegan food with Egg and bacon

  • We did come across a Vegan food restaurant in Hue which served boiled eggs and pork! Shocked! Don't be. All were made of soya.


  • There are varieties of Coffee’s available, Vietnamese coffee, Coconut coffee, Egg coffee. But my favourite and most unusual was Salt coffee, served in a cosy Café near the Citadel in Hue.


  • Much has been written about Hanoi’s signature dish, ‘Bun Cha’ which is a dish of grilled pork and rice noodles. Known to be a little sweeter than it’s counterpart in the south.


  • Don’t forget to try the Bia Hoi which is a Vietnamese draught beer available in small pubs or on street junctions in Hanoi. It's a foamy, light-alcohol beer, brewed daily, then matured for a short period and once ready each bar gets a fresh batch delivered every day in steel barrels. Costs 10K VND only (Rs 30/- a glass). The experience of sitting on kindergarten-sized plastic chairs on the street corner and chatting with total strangers while guzzling the world’s cheapest draught beer is priceless.

Posted by melroy p 23:04 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

What to do in Hanoi


We stayed at the Hestia Legend Hotel. Had seen some poor reviews on Trip Advisor so went there with a few reservations. However, the hotel exceeded my expectations. It was neat and clean with a nice reception area. Lovely staff. Hanna at the reception offered us some refreshments and quickly brought out a map to mark the places of interest. Most were walkable from the hotel.

The rooms were spacious, clean and excellent for the price charged. The breakfast was something else... very lavish.

Unfortunately, I had booked the remaining two days after the Halong bay cruise in another hotel. I regretted having done that as the other hotel was a dump in comparison.

What to do in Hanoi


Hanoi Train-Track Cafes - Interesting place where you sit on either side of the train track and sip a beer, or an egg-coffee, or bite into a Banh mi. When you hear the whistle blowing, pull in your plastic stool and table and stand along the wall while the train hurtles past you. The train schedule is displayed by some cafe's but the train is usually late. Notice the interesting murals and graffiti on the walls.


Temple of the Jade Mountain - This is the Pagoda in the Hoan Kiem Lake. Deceptive name. Better known as Turtle temple because of the stuffed remains of two gigantic turtles, each weighing 250 kgs, who as the legend goes recovered the sacred sword from the lake which helped the Emperor defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty invaders. The temple gardens are landscaped with beautifully manicured Bonsais. The Temple is connected to the mainland by a beautiful red wooden bridge called the 'Bridge of the Rising Sun'.

Note: Dress decently. Closes 6 pm

Hanoi Night Market - Bustling street market. Ladies paradise. Clothes, trinkets, souvenirs, street food. Tip: Bargaining is a way of life here - a good start is to offer about 60 percent off the opening price.

Hoan Kiem Lake - After 7 pm on the weekends the streets all around the lake become 'Walking Streets' and come alive with dancers, musicians, jugglers, artist and other performers.


Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton) - It was intended to hold Vietnamese prisoners, particularly political prisoners agitating for independence who were often subject to torture and execution. Inspires sorrow, disgust, and even outrage seeing the prisoners shackled.


Paper cut pop-up cards

Dong Xuan Market - is Hanoi's largest indoor market with 3 floors where you can find A-Z. Don't forget to pick up pop-up cards with intricate papercutting, or quilled fridge magnet which come cheaper by the pack, for your friends back home as a souvenir from Vietnam.

Posted by melroy p 22:54 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Halong Bay Cruise


This was the highlight of our Vietnam tour. We had booked a 2-day 1-night cruise with Rosa Cruises and received a mail a day before that we had been upgraded to Rosa Boutique Cruises. We were picked up at 8 am for a 3-hour drive to Halong with a stop at a souvenir shop - read 'tourist trap'. The same on the return the following day. The bus ride from the hotel to the boat and back cost an additional USD 20/person. The group upgraded to the Boutique were a pleasant mix of many nationalities who gelled well with each other which made the activities more enjoyable. The boat itself was very nice with comfy cabins, the view breathtaking and the ambience surreal. The food was plentiful albeit not as tasty as ashore.


Kayaking in the sunset at Halong Bay

The vessel sailed for a couple of hours past a number of islands and eventually anchored for the night. Organised activities included kayaking, squid fishing, karaoke, visit to a pearl farm, cave spelunking, Tai chi in the morning, and a cooking class before leaving. A barbecue on deck would've added a nice touch. One of the guests, a solo travelling girl was celebrating her birthday, so the boat provided her a cake to cut. Two young girls quickly made a card and got everyone to write a birthday wish on it and presented it to her while we sang Happy Birthday. It turned out to be a memorable birthday.

Tip: Avoid taking the 3-day tour. the 3rd day is a repeat of day 1, with a new group.

Posted by melroy p 22:32 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

What to do in Hue

HUE (hui)

We decided to hire a private taxi from HoiAn to Hue and do all the sights in between with an English speaking driver for 1300 VND. The drive was only 130 kms but it took 6 hrs including the 2 hrs spent at Marble mountains due to the lower speed limits. The famed Heavens Pass (HaiVan pass) didn't impress, as it was no different from any mountain road. The driver was keen on dropping us off and getting back before dark and so was not keen on showing us the Elephant Springs or Monkey Mountain instead just pointed out the Lady Buddha from a distance. I am told the ride from HoiAn to Hue is best done on bikes.


At Hue we chose to stay with the Tam family at their homestay which was not far from the Citadel. A comfortable and clean place with the lovely Mrs Tam and her family. She had worked in New Delhi, therefore spoke fluent English. She tipped us off on some great places to eat and drink and see, which I have mentioned in the 'Food' section. She let us fill our drinking water from her water purifier and also arranged hired bikes for us to ride around.

What to do in Hue
Hue is known as the Imperial City and unless you like to visit palaces and tombs, Hue doesn't have much else to offer..... besides the food which we enjoyed.

Đại Nội Citadel - It encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines and was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty. Unfortunately, parts of it were destroyed in the bombing during the Tet offensive. Involves lots of walking in the hot sun. Tip: Advisable to go in the 2nd-half of the day when the sky gets overcast.

Tomb of the Emperor Tu Duc - The Emperor himself designed his tomb with grandeur which includes elaborate grounds and a lake with an island, yet he chose to be buried in a secret place yet undiscovered. Take a break and feed the innumerable colourful, but hungry Koi's in the lake.


Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh - After climbing the first flight of stairs you are greeted by the army of statues with horses and elephants included. The tomb is many more flights of stairs up. The ceramics adorning the inside of the tomb are impressive and make the climb to the top worthwhile.

Posted by melroy p 21:36 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

What to do in HoiAn


You can either choose to stay in the city of Da Nang, or 30 kms away at Hoi An near the beach (if you're a beach person. Not much else to do there) or closer to town (which is close to all the shops and sight-seeing).

After flying into Da Nang, we taxied down to Hoi An and checked in at the An Bang Beach Villa which was a beautiful new property a hop, skip & jump away from the beach. The beach itself was beautiful with a number of basket-boats on the shore and was great for swimming.

The hotel provided cycles free-of-charge but encouraged us to hire scooters as distances were long and the sun was too hot for cycling. The ride to the town was lovely with lush green rice fields on either sides.

What to do in HoiAn


Japanese Covered Bridge - A quaint little wooden bridge constructed by the Japanese in the early 1600's.

Tailoring - Hoi An is well known for its tailors. There are streets lined with Tailor shops. Clothes can be stitched within a day. Most tailors will try and rip you off. You can alternatively pick clothes off the hangars after bargaining down the price. Most materials and patterns seen at HoiAn were not seen in other cities.


Pottery Village - You can visit the Pottery Village along the riverbanks a short ride away from town, where you are given a chance at the potter's wheel to make your own bowl or ashtray or flower vase, on which you can write your name, all included in the ticket. In addition while leaving you are presented with a cute little gift.


HoiAn Night Market - A great place to pass an evening. Lots of street shopping, food stalls and live music.


Lanterns by day

The Lanterns of HoiAn - Located at the start of the Street Market. A great photo-op. The lantern displayed outside the shops look great in the day and even more spectacular at night when illuminated.

Dragon Boat ride - Take a ride in the dragon boat and float a lantern with a wish in the river.


Marble Mountain (My Son Sanctuary) - On the road leaving DaNang. This is not to be missed. Lots of scrambling, climbing and descending involved. Slippery marble stairs, narrow tunnels and secret caves. You can choose to go up by the elevator at a price, or climb up yourself. The mountain and the cave are ticketed separately. The mountain is of marble and has lots of Buddha statues carved on it. The Am Phu cave is breath-taking and is the wow-factor of the mountain.

Tip: Wear non-skid trainers, a cap/hat and carry enough water.

Posted by melroy p 21:25 Archived in Vietnam Tagged walking street travel indian vietnam visa saigon hanoi halong mekong ben tips cu chi ho minh hue hoi an pho thanh delta da bia chá nang hcm bun vien bui Comments (0)

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