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Guide to traveling in Hanoi (P2)

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Some more tips to avoid troubles in Hanoi

>>Understanding Hanoi in 5 minutes (P1)

14. Eating

You can’t come to Hanoi and not eat pho ga (chicken noodle soup). In fact, you can’t avoid it. Other “delicacies” such as cobra blood wine and dog meat get written about a lot, but aren’t common and are mostly avoided by locals.

15. Drinking

You can’t come to Hanoi and not find yourself at least once sitting on a tiny plastic seat that feels like its about to buckle under you sipping on a mild beer in a frosted glass. Hanoi’s bia hoi are about drinking beer, and that’s it. Best to arrive at 5 p.m. as they tend to run out of beer around 8 p.m.

16. Sleeping

There’s a wide range of accommodation in Hanoi. Here are a few select options:

Budget

Especen Hotel, 28-38 Tho Xuong St. and 41 Ngo Huyen St., Hoan Kiem; +84 (0)4 3824 4401; especen@gmail.com. New rooms, good service.

Mid-range

Joseph’s Hotel, 5 Au Trieu St., Hoan Kiem; +84 (0)4 3938 1046; info@josephshotel.com. Free Wi-Fi, comfy rooms, nice service, well located.

Premium

Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Hotel, 15 Ngo Quyen St.; +84 (0)4 3826 6919; sofitelhanoi@hn.vnn.vn. Grand, historical, heritage-listed and opulent.

17. Shopping

Vincom city tower Ba Trieu @ Bao Thanh Tra

Hanoi’s old Quarter is lined with various fashion stores, souvenir stalls, snack and trinket sellers. But if you’re looking for an air-conditioned mall experience head for the Vincom City Towers where you’ll find luxury brands, a cinema and a colorful gaming area. Vincom City Towers, 191 Ba Trieu St., Hai Ba Trung.

18. Doing

Various popular tourist activities include Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum/Museum, the Hanoi Hilton prison (officially called Hoa Lo Prison), Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and “green” city tours on electric carts. They’re all worth a peek, and you could do all these in one afternoon.

Don’t miss the night market in the Old Quarter, from 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturday. More about strolling around aimlessly than shopping.

And make sure you check out Long Bien bridge, an awesome spectacle bolted together by history.

19. Coffee

If Hanoians aren’t drinking beer, they’re drinking coffee. Check out Café Pho Co, a café hidden behind a home hidden behind a souvenir shop, and one of the best places to get a view across Hoan Kiem Lake. 11 Hang Gai, Hanoi; +84 (0)4 3928 8153

20. Don’t bother with

The one-pillar pagoda. A hut on a cement column is just a hut on a cement column, no matter how old.

21. Internet

If scooters are the most obvious Hanoi quality, Internet cafés come not far behind. They’re everywhere. All hotels have connections too.

22. Traffic

Hanoi traffic @ Youtube

When Hanoi people move they tend to do it on scooters. And if you wait for a break in the flow of scooters when trying to cross the road, you may miss your flight home. Walk out with intent, and they will avoid you. We promise.

23. Day trips

Trips out of Hanoi are easily arranged via hotels or tour agents. If you want to check out Halong Bay (and you should) spend a night on a boat there too. It’s too far for getting there and back comfortably in one day and this way you can explore some great caves and do some kayaking too.

Or take a trip to the Perfume Pagoda 60 kilometers away. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and chill out on a boat ride for a day.

For a longer getaway, consider a trip to Sapa for a few days. You can travel the 350 kilometers from Hanoi by train and minibus and it has some amazing mountain treks. Hiring a guide is essential.

24. Photography

You’ll be tempted to snap away at everything so photogenic is Hanoi, especially the Old Quarter. But many locals find it rude to be photographed, especially the older ones, so be polite and ask first.

25. Don’t be scared

Hanoi can overwhelm you, but that’s what’s great about it. Try everything, go everywhere, and if you do get lost, physically or mentally, just ask someone for help. A smile can solve anything in this city.

Hope you enjoy your time in Hanoi!

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Guide to traveling in Hanoi (P1)

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Some tips to survive in Hanoi

>> Phu Quoc guide to rent a motorbike

1. Visa

 You can pre-arrange a visa on arrival online but you run the risk of waiting up to 90 minutes in Hanoi airport while the visa officers decide whose turn it is to do some work. Better to get it sorted before you leave, through your local embassy or travel agent.

2. Flights

Don’t book your flights too soon, but don’t leave it too late either. Airlines tend to jack their prices up six months before the travel date, slowly bring them down until two to three weeks before travel, then start to raise them again.

3. Booking

 When you do book, best options from Hong Kong can be found at these carriers:

Air Asia

Cathay Pacific

Dragon Air

Hong Kong Airlines

Vietnam Airline

4. Taxis

A reliable taxi company @ Hanoikids

Hanoi cabs are cheap and pretty decent. A ride into town from Noi Bai airport costs around VND 350,000 (US$17) and a 10-minute ride in-city around VND 30,000. Your hotel may also arrange a pick-up and drop-off service from and to the airport.

Most reputable cab companies are Hanoi Taxi (+84 (0)4 3853 5353), Taxi CP (+84 (0)4 3826 2626) and Mai Linh Taxi (+84 (0)4 3861 6161).

5. Shuttle buses

Are cheaper: VND 40,000 (US$2) from the airport to the Old Quarter, but drivers may try to persuade you into staying at “their cousin’s hotel” by saying a typhoon in Halong Bay means your chosen hotel is still full. Don’t believe them.

6. Buses

Are cheaper still, VND 5,000 (US$0.25) from the airport to the Old Quarter, but they won’t take your baggage unless you offer a small “luggage fee.” In town a ride costs a standard fare of VND 3,000.

7. Scooter taxis

 The best way to experience the rush and blur of daily Hanoi life, just make sure you are equipped with a helmet. And as they don’t have meters make sure you know what you’re paying before you set off. A typical 10-minute ride should cost around VND 10,000-15,000 (US$0.50-0.75).

8. Communication

Most locals speak a few phrases of English, but don’t count on it. You could try your luck with a Vietnamese phrase book, but it’s a tonal language and so your pronunciation may not be quite up to it. Best bet is to hire a personal tour guide or just wing it with the international language of wild bodily gesticulation.

9. Tours

Everywhere offers guided tours, but one of our favorites is an innovative concept from a student-run NGO: Hanoi Kids Tours. The idea is for tourists to get a flavor of the city by being shown around by local children. www.hanoikids.org; hanoikidsvn@gmail.com;

10. Currency

Currency in Vietnam @ Asia Times

There are around 20,000 Vietnamese dong to one U.S. dollar, so don’t freak out when the bar tab comes along. U.S. dollars are also widely accepted.

11. ATMs

Cash is king and cash dispensers are everywhere. International ATMs include HSBC and ANZ Bank but many have a maximum withdrawal of VND 1 million (US$50). If you need more head to the ANZ ATM near Hoan Kiem Lake, which has a limit of VND 9.9 million.

12. Climate

An intolerable mix of heat and humidity in the summer (June-August) reaching 40 C, a pleasant shower-splashed spring (March-May), a gorgeous walking-in-the-park-every-day fall (September-November) and a cold yet humid winter (December-February).

13. Vaccinations

Travelers are always advised to get themselves protected against the most common diseases, including: Hepatitis B, tetanus-diphtheria and typhoid. Also wise to take anti-malarials if you’re spending long periods outside the major urban areas or traveling in the hot and humid months.

To be continued…

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Phu Quoc’s guide to rent a motorbike

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Motorbike rental is quite suitable for tourists who have the skills and the adventure blood to experience Phu Quoc in their own way. This is also suitable for those who get car sick and does not want to sit behind a motorbike taxis driver. Here are some of the best destinations to rent a motorbike in Phu Quoc.

>> Sapa traveling tips that might be useful

Top destinations to rent one

Motorbike for rent @Phu Quoc Day Trips

YELLOWPHUQUOC
Service: Delivery to door – Helmet – Tourist Map
Address: Bach Dang night market, Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 0932 620 779 (Mr. Cuong)
Per day, from 120.000 – 150.000VND a day Free delivery to Phu Quoc airport and in the nearby Duong Dong town. Email: xemayphuquoc@gmail.com

Van Tinh
Address: Phu Quoc Airport
Contact: 0939161743

Mr Minh
Address: Duong Dong Town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 0983846982

Mr Chanh
Address: Duong Dong Town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 0918 072661

Mr Toan
Address: Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc, Kien Giang
Contact: 0983 519 330

Vu Linh
Address: Phu Quoc international airport
Contact: 0909 895 969

Be Ba
Address: 118/6 Tran Hung Dao, Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 0939 009970 – 0949 457094

Minh Trung
Address: Phu Quoc international airport
Contact: 0947 203093

Phu Quoc motorbike for hire
Address: Duong Dong Town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 0989 696 775

Thanh Tam
Address: Phu Quoc Airport
Contact: 0939 923934

Nguyen Hong Chau
Address: Duong Dong Town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 0915 857015 – 0932 009424

Anh Phat
Address: 92 Tran Hung Dao, Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 0985 46 5555 – 01249 678 888

Mr Thanh
Address: Duong Dong Town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 0918579218

Thanh Hai hotel
Address: 118/2 Tran Hung Dao, Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 0918 214624 – 077 3847842

Thanh Luom
Address: Phu Quoc international airport
Contact: 0949 678676

Van Vu
Address: Phu Quoc Airport
Contact: 0913 753710

Unknown
Address: Duong Dong Town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 01255 808118

MR TINH
Address: Phu Quoc international airport
Contact: 0987539960

The Vinh
Address: Near Dinh Cau night market, Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc, Kien Giang
Contact: 0975 503856

Mr Huy
Address: Duong Dong Town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 01688880608

62 Tran Hung Dao
Address: 62A Tran Hung Dao, Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc
Contact: 077 3994920

Mr Nhan
Address: Phu Quoc Airport
Contact: 0946487311

Mr. Bay Ngoc
Address: Phu Quoc Airport
Contact: 0919397450

Further information

A scooter for rent @ Vienam private Tours

Motorbikes can be rented at many of top end and mid range hotels, or you’ll find local owners outside the hotels and airport very keen to either rent their bikes or even adopt you and guide you around the island. Bikes rental rates will vary depending on the condition of the bike and your bargaining skills, here is guide to prices;

  • Per hour, from around 30,000d
  • Per day, from US$6-12 dollars a day (depending on the bike and your negotiation skills)
  • Per week, around US$45-60, again depending if you can negotiate any discounts.

One thing to consider is that busy dirt roads that are yet to be sealed can get quite dusty, due to the increasing number of cars and trucks on the island. This is particularly the case on the roads leading from Duong Dong, like the road along Long beach south of Duong Dong Town, and the road to Ong Lang Beach heading north, so we recommend buying a mask in town before heading off on your adventure.

It is now illegal to ride on a motorbike without wearing a helmet, so please ensure you request a helmet when renting a motorbike. All operators are aware of the laws and will provide you with a helmet.

Hope you enjoy your time in Phu Quoc!

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Sapa traveling tips that might be useful

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Some tips that might be helpful when you are in Sapa

>> Phu Quoc transportation guide

Getting there

Train to Sapa @ Travelmoment.vn
By train: There are various options to get to Sapa from Hanoi.However there are no flights, with international visitors having to disembark at Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport and travel by rail or road to the town. The mostpopularistosign up for one of the overnight trips which includes a train journey to Lao Cai followed by minibus transfer up to Sapa. The train is slow, but reserving a sleeper seat means you can enjoy the trip and the stunning scenery in relative comfort. There are daily overnight trains heading in each direction, with the journey taking around nine hours. A number of standard and tourist trains also make the overnight run from Hanoi. You can make arrangements with any travel agent for a small fee, or do it yourself at the Hanoi Railway Station. Prices range from $16 for a hard berth to $30 for a soft berth with air-conditioning. There is also the new Victoria’s Orient Express that runs between Hanoi and Sapa, offering more luxurious rail travel facilities and services. All trains to Lao Cai/Sapa depart from the Hanoi Railway Station.

To get to Sapa from the train station in Lao Cai, you’ll need to transfer by car for the 1 1/2- to 2-hour ride from Lao Cai station. The road is cut into the hillside and is bumpy and windy, but the views of the terraced rice farms of the valley are beautiful as you ascend (ride on the left side).

By road: from Hanoi is the longest option and a minimum ten hour drive by car or bus with the journey taking up the entire day. There are many possible routes to Sapa, and visitors can plan their road trip via the route that most matches their special interests. Driving in the mountainous northwest region is often dangerous, so care should be taken to avoid excessive speeds and select vehicles or bikes suitable for all types of terrain. The rainy season should be avoided if you plan an off the beaten track route, unless you are a very experienced offroader. Any tourist cafe or travel agent in Hanoi can arrange trips by private jeep or a combo jeep and train tour. Apart from Sapa, the vast tracts of the north are best visited through a tour company, many offer comprehensive itineraries. Especially for areas off the beaten track. Avoid the temptation to book budget tours with the tourist cafes

When to Go

The dry season is from January to June with March to May the best time to visit. Temperatures in January and February are regularly around 0ºC. The rainy season falls in June and August. September marks the end of the rainy season which is a good time to visit then by mid-December temperatures start to fall significantly making this September to mid-December period the best time to be there.

Banks & Communication

BIDV bank at Sapa @ Wikimapia
The post office is in the town center, but most hotels can send postcards and letters and have stamps for sale. There are a few storefront Internet cafes, but service is slow and unreliable. All hotels provide exchange service for traveler’s checks and even credit card cash advances. There is a local bank on Cau May where you can cash traveler’s checks for the same 2% fee as at your hotel, but there are also some ATMs here.

Tips:

  • It can be too much of an adventure trying to get there as individual traveller. Arrange the trip with a reputable tour operator to ensure smooth, risk free travel.
  • Traveling on week days is both easier and cheaper than weekends (lower hotel costs, more relaxed travel schemes)
  • Always make sure you have return tickets in hand.
  • Get to Hanoi and Lao Cai at least 30 minutes before departure – but be ready for a sudden or late departure without any explaination.
  • Make sure there is something to define the person who picks you up (i.e, his name, cell number and so on)
  • Say “no” very firmly when someone offers you something you do not want to buy. If you show the slightest interest, they may well follow you all the way up the road, until they find anther likely target.
  • Expect to bargain everything down to about half the original price asked. And expect most products to be Chinese instead of being authentically local.

Hope you enjoy your stay in Sapa!

For more Travel guides, please return to our front page.

Phu Quoc transportation guide

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A combinations of small tips on to get around Phu Quoc island easier.

>> Vietnam traveling guide

Why Visit Phu Quoc?

@ Saigon Cantho Hotel

Phu Quoc is the kind of place where you could get stuck for weeks just chilling out in a hammock. To be honest, there’s not much to ‘do’. Rather, there is this captivating laid-back, tropical vibe that seems to make it difficult for travellers to leave. We spent our days eating delicious street food sitting on tiny chairs by the side of the road, and cruising around on our scooter from beach to beach.

Phu Quoc is mercifully free of tourists – you won’t find the ugly high-rise apartment blocks of Nha Trang here. There’s not much tourism infrastructure, which means you also won’t find the big party hostels here. Instead, you will be getting back to basics with a couple of hammocks and a fan.

Phu Quoc is slightly more expensive than mainland Vietnam, given that everything needs to be flown or shipped into the island. But there are still budget food and accommodation options available if you look hard enough.

We stayed at Island Life Hostel, which lacked air conditioning but made up for it with its cheap beers and relaxed atmosphere. There was also a good value motorbike hire shop conveniently located next door! A word of warning: Phu Quoc is extremely hot so if you struggle with the heat then invest in a room with air conditioning.

Phu Quoc’s Best Beaches

Our absolute favourite beach on Phu Quoc was Sao beach. This beautiful, white sand beach is quite isolated but that is what makes it so great. There are a few beach side bars dotted along the shoreline, where you can hire an umbrella and a beach chair to enjoy a cocktail or two while the sun slips below the horizon.

Cua Can and Ong Lang beaches, located right next door to each other, are also a must-see. Take a couple of beers and escape the heat by going for a swim in the crystal-clear water. The beaches are also quite close to the town of Duong Dong, where there are a few cheap accommodation options if you don’t mind staying in a busy and kind of ‘meh’ town

Hiring a Motorbike on Phu Quoc

 A Yamaha @ Phu Quoc Travel.

There is pretty much no public transport on Phu Quoc. However, you will find heaps of motorbike/scooter hire shops dotted around the island. You can hire motorbikes for as little as US$8 per day (including helmets). Be prepared to bargain, especially if you are renting for more than a few days. The longer you are renting the cheaper it should be!

Phu Quoc’s traffic is nothing like Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi. The island is pretty quiet traffic-wise, so even first-time motorbike riders can get around without too much hassle. You can buy a tank of petrol for just a few dollars – keep an eye out for plastic bottles with petrol sitting on the side of the road. Most of the island’s beaches are within an hour’s drive of each other.

A word of warning: many travel insurance policies do not cover you for motorbike accidents, especially if you don’t have a motorbike licence at home. Check your policy carefully.

Hope you enjoy your time in Phu Quoc!

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Vietnam traveling guide

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Vietnam can be an overwhelming place it first, but if you keep your wit and listen to these tips, surely you will be able to overcome any obstacles and enjoy your vacation in the friendly South East Asia country.

1. Keep smiling

Despite the grumbles of many visitors, Vietnamese people are mostly just as friendly as their Southeast Asian counterparts. However, unlike in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos – where local residents are genuinely curious about who you are and where you’ve come from – Vietnamese people tend to ignore lost-looking foreigners unless you actually ask for help. But be assured that if you ask a local a question with a smile, you’ll almost certainly have it answered and the smile returned.

2. Be wary of taxi scams

Taxi meter in Vietnam @ An unexpected journey

For many, motorcycle taxis are the only way to truly see the thronging streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. However, although unlikely, scams can happen and your best protection is a decent knowledge of where you are going and points along the way. If you think you’re going the wrong way, simply tell your driver to pull over and flag down a new bike – those that stop should at least know the English names of the main tourist sights. Also, organise for a hotel pick-up from the airport – scam taxis are rife and, as my quickly lightened wallet can attest, far more expensive and stressful than the $5 you supposedly could save.

3. Know your night buses

Overnight buses are a great way to cover long distances and save on accommodation costs, but make sure you book a top bunk as far as possible from the loo (normally situated near the back). Not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of buses don’t have working bathrooms and the further back you are, the worse the smell gets. Also, unless you have an iron bladder, don’t drink more than absolutely necessary, as rest stops seem to be purely at the whim of the driver and are skipped completely if the bus is running late. On one seven-hour bus trip – that ended up being a 16-hour voyage – I was very glad to have followed this tip. Not all of the other passengers had done so – enough said!

4. Avoid nightlife trouble

Vietnam has possibly the cheapest beer in the world but it pays not to overdo it. In Hanoi there is an official curfew on bars and nightclubs, which the police may turn up and enforce unless the owner has paid a suitable ‘fee’. Hiding in the dark as the club pretends to be closed while a police car drives by can be amusing, but it sucks when half your group gets thrown out by the cops and can’t get back in. Meanwhile, Nha Trang leaves a sorry trail of wallet-lightened backpackers who experienced the not-uncommon misfortune of running into pickpocketing prostitutes – and attendant gangs – on their way home after a night out.

5. Motorcycle safely

Vietnam’s traffic @ Youtube

Vietnam is not the place to learn to ride a motorbike. I have rarely been as scared as the moment I had to cross a traffic-light-free four-lane junction where scooters dodged each other by mere inches. The roads are truly terrifying and unfortunately the stories of tourists killed attempting a two-wheeled adventure are all too based in fact.

6. Be bold

Most important of all: don’t be scared. Vietnam can seem intimidating and overwhelming at first, but keep a sense of humour and everything will work out fine. Just like the streets of Hanoi, where to cross the road you have to wade out into moving traffic whispering prayers to any and every god that you won’t get hit, the worst thing you can do is freeze. Keep moving at a steady pace and the bedlam will slowly envelop and glide around you – until magically you are right where you wanted to be without a single scratch!

Hope you are able to enjoy your vacation in Vietnam with ease.

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The amazing “Banh My” of Vietnam

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Banh My ( Vietnamese Baguette Sandwich) is one of the traditional food of Vietnam in general. Banh My appears everywhere in the country. In different region, Banh My is made differently ( mainly because of the differences in sauces and seasoning). It is also popular to foreign tourists as a lot of tourists seem to enjoy this food a lot. All in all, Banh My is surely gonna satisfy your hunger and also gives you unforgetable memories about one of the most symbolic dishes in Vietnam.

>> Best drinks to have in Vietnam

WHAT IS BANH MY?

Da Nang’s Banh My via Du lich Da Nang

Vietnamese baguette sandwiches, called Bánh Mì, have attracted a loyal fan base like never before. Like a musical band with rock star status, these sandwiches have an almost cult-like following of epicurean devotees. The uniqueness of these sandwiches not only lies within the French influenced baguette, but it’s also the flavor packed, savory Viet fillings that what makes the marriage of the two main ingredients a true love affair.

Vietnamese baguette is commonly made with rice and wheat flour, which makes for an airy crumb.  Light crispy baguette (not the chewy rustic kind) is essential for encasing without overshadowing the other ingredients, such as finely cut strips of carrot with just the perfect sugar-vinegar sweetish tang and fresh cucumber. The combination of filling and accompaniments should pop with layers of flavors ranging from salty, sweet, sour & spicy from the fresh jalepenos. The lingering numbness of the chilli and beautiful flavor of cilantro should remain long after you brush away the ‘unavoidable’ left over crumbs.

The classic version, bánh mì thịt nguội, sometimes known as bánh mì đặc biệt is made with a combination of nem nuong (BBQ pork), chả lụa, thit nguoi, and along with the pâté and vegetables. QT also offers bánh mì chay, a vegetarian option, such as lemongrass tofu or tofu sautéed with onions and mushrooms.

There is essentially one sandwich in Vietnamese cooking and it is quite a tour de force.  Treat yourself to a banh mi sandwich today!  We guarantee it will be love at first bite.

HISTORY

Banh My @ Best Price Vietnam – Blogger.

Bread was first introduced to the Vietnamese in the late 18th century when Vietnam fell under French colonial rule. The first Bánh Mì was a French baguette with ham or pâté — the traditional, minimal Parisian sandwich. In 1954 French rule ended, and the Vietnamese people began to impose their own influence on Bánh Mì – with a special spread, cured hams, pickled vegetables, coriander (cilantro) and fresh chilies were added for flavor. What started as emulation produced a hybrid copy far superior to the original.

The world first got introduced to Bánh Mì with the influx of Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970’s and 80’s following the Vietnam War.  In the early 1980s, these sandwiches occupied the food craze spotlight in the Vietnamese-American community.  The Vietnamese refugees set up small bakeries producing Bánh Mì for their community but as time went on it started to become very popular outside these communities and today Bánh Mì is found all over the world, including places such as New York, California, London, New Orleans, Texas, Canada, Germany, France  Australia, and of course, Pennsylvania.

For more information about Cuisine, please return to our front page.

Best drinks to have in Vietnam

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Vietnam can be particularly hot in summer because Vietnam is a tropical country. This could create a huge barrier for westerners who are used to the cold as well as normal tourist’s endurance during the adventure. Luckily, a variety of drinks is sold everywhere around Vietnam, from street vendors to cafe’. They are delicious and surely will give you back the energy for the upcoming adventures in Vietnam.

>> Banh Xeo: Top dish in Saigon

1 Coffee

Coffee filters through a phin atop a coffee cup via VietnamCoffee
Viet Nam is the world’s largest coffee producer of Robusta beans. Although Robusta beans are not as highly appreciated as Arabica beans, people around these parts know how to make the most of what they have. As a result, Vietnamese coffee is made with a special recipe and maintains its own unique taste. Coffee beans are roasted with butter and grounded well then reserved in airtight bags.

Vietnamese people would use a metal drip filter to brew coffees extract (a traditional method). In Viet Nam, the two most popular types of coffee are cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with condensed milk) and cà phê đen đá (iced black coffee with no, or little, sugar).  You can’t walk down any block around the country hoping to not see someone enjoying a coffee while reading a newspaper or chatting with friends.

 2 Iced tea

Vietnamese Iced Tea via Beth Puliti 
Following feudalism under China’s rule, tea has gradually become a very popular drink in Viet Nam. In the early days, to match the North’s climate, tea was only served at a scalding hot temperature. Until it came to the South, a very hot region, people usually left their tea to cool before drinking.

Later, along with the advancement of science and technology, ice freezing equipment such as the refrigerator has been widely used. Consequently, instead of drinking “natural” cold tea, some people tried dropping ice cubes into the tea glass with the purpose of cooling off on hot days, which formed thetrà đá – “copyright” of Southern people in Vietnam, especially Saigon.

3 Fresh coconut water

Coconut water via Serious Eats

Fresh coconut water is a popular drink in Vietnam.

You won’t see the packaged stuff here, though: It is drunk straight out of the coconut—and this coconut water is grassier, sweeter, and more naturally flavored than anything you’ll find in a package. Coconuts are usually harvested when they are about seven weeks old —any earlier and the juice is gassy, any later and it tastes too salty. Generally, the smaller coconuts are sweeter than the larger ones.

4 Smoothies

Smoothies via Youtube
In Vietnam, smoothies are made from various kinds of fruit, especially the native fruits from tropical climates. Some deliciously popular flavors of smoothies are from avocados, dragon fruits, custard-apple, jackfruits, and many more. You’ll find smoothies ground with condensed milk or yogurt.

5 Sugarcane juice

Sugar Cane Juice via Weird Wonderful Vietnam

Although it has natural sickly sweetness, sugar cane juice is another drink that’s considered “cooling”. It’s usually sold by street vendors who use electric squashing machines, not unlike an old-fashioned wringer, to squeeze the juice from stalks of sugar cane. It’s usually then mixed with a tiny sour citrus fruit in order to enhance its taste.

The finished product has a crisp grassy flavor that’s very refreshing on a hot, sweltering day. Sugar cane vendors advertise their wares openly with a bucket of sugar cane stalks in front of their stall. They can also be identified by what looks like a ship’s wheel on the side of the stall, part of the electric wringer mechanism that juices the cane before your eyes.

Hope you have a wonderful time in Vietnam and do not forget to try out these drinks on a hot summer day.

For more information about Cuisine, you can check our front page.

Banh Xeo: Top dish in Saigon

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Banh xeo is a famous Vietnamese dish. While it is not so popular in Hanoi, it is really popular down in the South, in Saigon. Compared to Hanoi, Saigon’s banh xeo seems to be more delicous and popular, but both are must-try-dishes whether you are Hanoian visiting Saigon or a foreigner.

>> Banh Cuon in Hanoi: Amazing dish

What is “Banh xeo”?

What is banh xeo? via Loveyourbelly

Banh xeo literally means “sizzling cake” in Vietnamese. “Banh” means cake and “xeo” is an onomatopoeic word alluding to the sizzling sound the batter makes when it hits a hot frying pan. You pronounce it like bun sey-oh. Banh xeo is a crispy crepe stuffed with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts, and ultimately, garnished fresh herbs.

Due to the geographical differences in cooking styles and spices in Vietnam, banh xeo can have many different regional interpretations. Southern, northern or central style banh xeo all have different variations to meet local tastes. After your first bite, the taste and memory linger strongly afterward so much so that it becomes a reason for foreigners to extend their vacation in Vietnam.

Traditionally, Vietnamese people usually gather to make banh xeo on weekends or during family gatherings. Adults prepare the batter while children help to wash the herbs and set the table. Banh xeo is designed to share with your loved ones over lots of laughter. And trust me: warm and hearty homemade version of this delicious Vietnamese pancake is the perfect cure for cold and chilly days.

Where to find “Banh xeo” in Saigon

Banh xeo in Saigon? via Youtube

Here are the five most famous addresses to stop by for a yummy plate of banh xeo:

1. Banh Xeo Muoi Xiem, 204 Nguyen Trai S.t, D.1 or 213 Bis Nam Ky Khoi Nghia S.t, D.3

When it comes to banh xeo, the first brand that immediately pops up in everyone’s mind is Muoi Xiem. Banh Xeo Muoi Xiem has achieved many major awards while attending food festivals all over Vietnam and other countries in the region. The best thing about this place is that apart from the traditional banh xeo with shrimp and pork, the restaurant also creates unique types of this Vietnamese pancake with mushroom filling (needle mushroom, abalone mushroom, lingzhi mushroom, etc…). This is highly recommended for vegans!

2. An La Ghien, 74 Suong Nguyet Anh S.t, D.1 or 100 Cao Thang S.t, D.3

Banh xeo An La Ghien is actually a big chain specializing in banh xeo and is a location everyone hits when they have intense cravings. The restaurant is centered around a concept of Vietnamese/Western-style cuisine. It offers not only banh xeo with more than ten different types of fillings but also dozens of Vietnamese-Western rustic dishes at affordable prices. There are many vegetarian options with mushroom and all of them are really tasty and beneficial to your health.

3. Banh Xeo 46A, 46A Dinh Cong Trang S.t, D.1

Banh Xeo 46A has had one of the longest careers among the banh xeo restaurants in Saigon. It is Saigon’s best-known eatery for getting a banh xeo, especially among foreign visitors looking to enjoy the iconic Vietnamese street food. FYI: this banh xeo hotspot is always swarming with people so be patient ‘cause you may have to wait in an endless queue.

4. Banh Xeo Mien Tay, 31/6 Hoang Hoa Tham S.t, Tan Binh D.

Of all the banh xeo restaurants that have emerged in the city, Banh Xeo Mien Tay should be your top priority as this place brings you the one-of-a-kind flavor found only in the westernmost region of Vietnam. There’s a saying that Vietnamese eat with all their senses and it is especially true when you are to sit down at a banh xeo street stall like Banh Xeo Mien Tay. The gorgeous yellow color of the crepe is a feast for the eyes; you can hear that angry hissing sound when the batter hits the pan, and you can smell the mouthwatering pork grilling in the hot oil.

Hope you have a good time trying this dish and in Saigon.

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Banh Cuon in Hanoi: Amazing dish

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Bánh Cuốn (Vietnamese steamed rice rolls) is a must-try food in Vietnam. Bánh Cuốn can be found around every street corner of Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi. Bánh Cuốn can also be found in different provinces in Vietnam, but in Hanoi is where the dish is the most delicious and most original.

>> Bun Cha: Delicacy of Hanoi

What is Bánh Cuốn ?

Banh Cuon @ Youtube

Bánh Cuốn looks like a soft spring roll, filled with a mixture of pork, onions, wood ear mushrooms, and fish sauce. It tastes delicious and the ingredients are actually common foods. For those are familiar with Bánh Cuốn, it become favourite breakfast food. For those have not yet ever try the dish, once taste it, you soon fall in love with its flavor.

Starting with a steamed rice roll cooked on a pot, covered by thin fabric, until it is very thin. Then it is scrapped off the pot with a flexible bamboo stick. After that, the roll is filled with a mixture of pork, wood ear mushrooms, onions, and fish sauce. The origin of Bánh Cuốn is traced from Northern Vietnam, the exact date and time it was first made are unknown but it seems hard to deny that Banh Cuon has been made for years and served over ad over again.
Ranking first among members f the extended noodle family, Bánh Cuốn  features a paper-thin steamed rice four-pan cake, like delicate sheets of fresh rice with a warm fish sauce broth and some slides of Chả Lụa while listening to the sounds of Hanoi in the morning will be a memorable experience for guests travelling to this city.

The filling comes with various recipes depend upon where you eat Bánh Cuốn. A delicious filling commonly tastes across the country is ground pork mixes with finely chopped jicama, minced onion and shallot and dry fungus. All ingredients are well-incorporated and seasoning to taste with a few spoonfuls of fish sauce and a dash of ground pepper. The mixture, then, stirs fry to thoroughly cook. A couple tablespoons of filling are placed on a hot rice sheet which is then folded up and roll. The transparency of a look-like rice paper exposes the stuffing inside signals an earthy and delicious roll is ready to serve.

Where and when to eat Bánh Cuốn?

A Banh Cuon shop @ Will Fly For Food

Bánh Cuốn stands face their rush times during breakfast and dinner, so it is difficult to find stalls still selling the dish in late morning or evening. Use your better judgment when eating from street vendors, but on average I find that banh cuon carts are some of the cleaner carts on the street, and wearing plastic gloves is a common practice among these vendors.

Today, Vietnamese families across Vietnam and in the country outside Vietnam use a non-stick pan to make Bánh Cuốn. The recipe remains the same with traditional one, the rice sheet won’t be as thin as steaming on the cloth covered pot but the result will still be satisfactory. Practically, this method is uniquely home-made and easy to use. It becomes very popular since many families now can make Bánh Cuốn at home and at any time they desire for a comfort roll.

You can taste Banh Cuon at some small restaurants in Hanoi or some vendors in Hanoi street corner. A plate will usually cost between 15,000 and VND20,000 on the street and, if you are afraid of the carts, between 25,000 and VND50,000 in some local restaurant.

A different version of Bánh Cuốn which are found in Thanh Trì district – a southern district of Hanoi and Kenh village of Nam Định province. We call them Bánh Cuốn Thanh Trì and Banh Cuon Lang Kenh. The interesting is that these kinds of Vietnamese Steamed Rice Roll aren’t rolls, but just slightly steamed rice sheets and served with sliced pork pie, deep-fried chopped shallot or prawn.

Hope you have a wonderful time in Hanoi!

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