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Archive for August, 2012

It’s only few days more to the second of September – the National Day of Vietnam – the day to celebrate the declaration of independence from France Colonization and Japan Fascism (1945).

It’s one of the biggest public holidays in Vietnam and this year – since it’s on Sunday, Vietnamese have one more Monday off in compensation. With 2.5 to 3 days off, many of us will take a get-away trip somewhere close to town. Or for those who can afford it, fly to the beach destinations or even overseas.

While urban citizen run away from the cities, flocks of people from the suburbs will come to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Banks, offices will be closed, but shops remain open on 2nd of Sept. And there are several public activities if you are in town:

 Parade, normally held at Ba Dinh Square, in front of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, is the most formal celebration.

 

Parade in front of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Vietnamese National Flag is everywhere…

You may imagine walking along the Old Quarter streets in early morning of 2nd Sept, real quiet streets, fresh breezy air of an Autumn day in Hanoi, with full of flags. You may wonder if everyone remembers to put their flags up, we do have a friendly reminder from the Chief of the Ward a few days before the event.

The Patriots’ Spirit

Like in many other countries, Independence Day often to be the day people gather to eat and drink. So many supermarkets have big promotions to draw attention of buyers. And yet you don’t know, Vietnamese go to supermarkets to enjoy the cool fresh air, to look around with arrays of stuffs. A lot of us go to the supermarkets just to enjoy the cool air-conditioned area, which yes, a lot of local’s house do not have air-con yet.

I have mentioned travel above, yes, travel. Group size can be huge, everything is booked out, so if you travel through these dates, make sure you have the booking in advance for flight tickets, train tickets and hotel (if they can sell a plastic chair seats on the plane like they do on the train, they will, seriously). Prices for budget hotels can be double, tickets can be hard to get. And most of popular destinations like Halong, Sapa, Hue, Hoi An, Danang, Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Phu Quoc, Dalat, will be packed with people.

“Queuing” at the ticket counter

So where to go? You would think you want to find a quiet relaxing place – which seems to you – the whole point of a get-away. But to many Vietnamese, travelling means crowd, noise & karaoke. So don’t get pissed and be surprised if you are woken up in the middle of the night with a lovely voice (by lovely I meant horrible). Hey, welcome to Vietnam!

Escape number 1: Splurge the money and stay in a super nice resort, not to prove that you have more money than the others, just because the resorts are already designed in a way to give you the most privacy – like a beach front bungalow in Sunrise resort Hoi An, or a Villa in Sixth Sense Evason Ana Mandara Nha Trang.

Ana Mandara Nha Trang resort

Escape number 2: Go off-the-beaten-paths where require hard core travelers to go. By this way you already eliminate 90% of locals.

Pan Hou resort – Ha Giang

Escape number 3: Cruises. Yes, cruises. What I reckon is a lot of locals and Asian in general, does not like to be on cruises because it’s boring (they need entertainment – such as, again – karaoke). Take the chance to cruise in Halong Bay, Mekong Delta or cruise wherever you can cruise. Good thing is a lot of luxury boats in Halong Bay also offer a great deal cruising on 2nd September. Not everywhere surcharge for this day.

Halong Bay Cruise

Escape number 4: Overseas destination: Bangkok is the cheapest to get on Qatar Airlines (they are now having cheaper rates than Air Asia), Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or Luang Prabang & Siemreap? All is be possible for a 4 day weekend. There is never enough for travelling, isn’t it?

Floating market – Bangkok

Whatever you decide to do on this Vietnamese National Day, enjoy it! Wherever you are in the world, make some spring rolls to celebrate with us!

Cheers and love to everyone – as we say in Vietnamese:

Chuc Mung ngay Quoc Khanh!” (Happy National Day!)

And Happy Labor Day for the American friends who celebrate it on 3rd of September!

Written: Ms Huyen Nguyen – Our travel consultant/ Edit by hcao.

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Monks at Phnom Bakheng, Siemreap / Photo: hcao

Written by Mr Nam Ngo – Our Travel Consultant

 

You can ask anyone who has been to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap – Cambodia and they would tell you it’s the most stunning sight in all of Southeast Asia, and it is – one of my most favourite destinations. The massive complex of temples, located in the ancient Khmer city, speaks volumes of the brilliant and sophisticated of the Khmer people.

 

The temples are scattered across 30km and each stone monument  have its own story to tell, through carving on the outside depicting the battles and life style of the Khmer from the eighth to the tenth century BC. As you wander past 100m long stone bathing pool with its elegantly carved stone steps or the 40m long arched Khmer figure, it’s easy to conjure images of the people washing themselves or studying in the gardens around the outside. The 80 stone faces of Ta Phrom lit up under the mid afternoon sun create an eerie feeling for its visitors. This meticulously carved faced appear incredibly calm as tourists wander through their stone arches and follow their stories on the main walls.

A bride and groom-to-be at wedding photo shooting outside Angkor Wat / Photo: hcao

You can buy a one, three or seven-day pass to visit the temples and other monuments that form the complex of Angkor. Most of the important sites can be seen in three days, but trust me, you may be “wat-out” by the third day. A guide is essential to navigate through the sites, and you can hire a minibus, taxi or tuk-tuk to transfer from one monument to another. Be prepared for a lot of walking and climbing huge stone steps. Personally, I enjoy cycling from the Siemreap town to Angkor Wat, follow the path with thousand years old trees. A pleasant way to end your trip is to take a leisurely boat ride on Tonle Sap Lake, past a fishing village where homes, schools and playgrounds are all built on floating bamboo rafts.

 

Kids rowing boats on Tonle Sap/ Photo:hcao

Apart from the ancient Angkor is the active town where you can easily splurge another two or three days, wandering through the old market area, indulging in a massage, sipping Angkor beer on a high stools and people-watch on bustling Pub street at night time. The town is lit up at night with full range of restaurants, bars and hotels, and street food stalls of Khmer food. If you are jewellery/crafts addicted, it is the place to splurge the dollars, you won’t regret to bring this special things home.

Cute handmade figures / Photo: hcao

From Bangkok/ Vientiane, Hanoi or Saigon you can fly to Siemreap (easiest and fastest way, we will mention about boating/bus from Vietnam to Siemreap in one of the later post). Among those departure destinations, flight from Hanoi or Saigon are the most expensive choice since Vietnam Airlines is the only air carrier to fly this route. But the good news is, Vietnam Airlines often runs a Summer Promotion (launching in every April/May) and a Fall promotion (launching in every Aug/early Sept) that can save you 50% of the rates so the fare is only about US$89-119, exclude taxes, fees, charges. This year, the promotion is on sales for 17 days with travelling date from August 15, 2012 to August 31, 2012. Departure periods: from September 05, 2012 to December 20, 2012 and from March 05, 2013 to May 20, 2013 (except for peak periods and holidays).

 

For flight booking, please contact our Ticketing department:

Tel: (84 4) 2244 8899 | Fax: (84 4) 3972 6888 | Hotline: (84) 91 868 6428
bongsenvang@gmail.com | http://www.vietnamflightbooking.com

 

For tours and other arrangements, pease contact our Travel Consultants:

info@indochinavoyages.com | www.indochinavoyages.com

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Written by Ms Huyen Nguyen – Our Online Travel Consultant

August comes and brings the early breeze of autumn to Hanoi, reminding me of my favorite street food, named Com Vong.

Com – Young rice is one of the most favorite street foods of Hanoian. When there are places elsewhere in the country also has young rice, but Com’s connoisseurs believe that the taste is different. In this post, I would focus on the tastiest one – Com Vong.

Com

Why is it called Com Vong?

Vong is the name of a village in the suburb of the old Hanoi. This long history village is famous for its traditional technic of making Com, which has passed from generations to generations and cannot be copied.

Stories said the secret method of Com Vong is only passed to Son and daughter-in-laws, not daughters. Because they believe when the daughters get married, they will bring the secret to the other villages and it is no longer a specialty from Vong Village anymore.

How is it made?

It’s a long, complicated and skillful procedure to make this type of light Hanoian snack food. This sophisticated Com is harvested from the sticky rice – nep cai hoa vang, a variety of rice. Grains can’t be too old because it will lose the bright green color.

You might wonder how young the rice needs to be? To check the readiness of the grains, farmers will check by biting some of raw grains. If it has the milky taste and start to spread the smell of rice, then it’s time to harvest. But it also can’t be too young, because Com will then fall apart while pounding.

If you ever travel to Vietnam at the time when rice fields is about to turn yellow, take a second to get out of the car, breathe in the air, and that’s exactly the smell I am talking about. The kind of smell will make so many Vietnamese overseas homesick, the kind of smell maybe so difficult to understand but for a thousand year of agriculture country like Vietnam, it makes sense for us to turn it into a tasty treat from the local countryside.

Back to how Com is made, It is dried in light heat for a certain time until the paddy yellows then to a stone mortar, pounded lightly with a wooden pestle, sifted and winnowed.

Selecting the best grains

Com at the last stage must keep its green color, soft, chewy and full of young rice flavor. The young rice is stored in layers of lotus leaves to keep the flavor and tenderness.

The Simple Nature Combination:

Hanoian has a very distinct way to eat Com, that’s how we call it – the proper way to eat Com. So let’s learn to be a connoisseur here: take a small amount of Com by your finger, slowly enjoy the marriage of smell: lotus and young rice – and yes, having Com on a random breezy day in Autumn can prove you are the expert of Com. The other way is dipping a banana tip into Com, Com will wrap around the surface of Banana, there you go – the perfection of healthy sweet banana with young rice leave a very different taste.

Com is in the childhood of many Hanoians, and still is on its way creating a special childhood for kids growing in Hanoi. Com is a compulsory for many family on Autumn Festival (the 15th day – full moon of August on Lunar Calendar – the Children’s day for kids with lanterns, toys, paper masks..).

Com and Ripped Banana

Where to find:

Vietnamese ladies with their shoulder pole and two baskets bring Com to every corner of Hanoi.  Original Com Vong is available in autumn only. But you can find some products from Com during the year like: Banh Com (Com cake), Cha Com (fried grounded pork with Com), Xoi Com (Com sticky rice), Che Com (Com sweet soup), Kem Com (Com Ice-cream). Creative dishes from Com are now used by a lot of housewives including: Fried Egg with Com, Shrimp coated with Com…

By the time writing this article, it’s just beginning of autumn and the original Com is not available yet. But hang in there, just few days more, Com will come to all Hanoi corners. And surely, I wil catch a lady vendor for a bunch of Com, as a gift of Hanoi’s autumn.

A Com vendor

Bring Com Home:

Why not? We are happy to send you the recipes of Com! Dried Com does not deliver a full picture of fresh Com, but at least you can bring some of the flavor home if you can’t find it in Chinatown/Vietnamese market somewhere. A pack of dried Com is available in most supermarkets in big cities. You can certainly woo people at an Asian themed dinner with Com.

Bon Appetite!

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Written by Mr TimLee

Crossing the road in Vietnam

Anyone heard about Vietnam will think of a gone Vietnam War, a magnificent Halong Bay, the Mekong delta, yummy street foods, friendly people and exposing local markets in every corners of the country. Traffic can be one of the things they might not hear of or have no idea until they arrive in and start their adventure. Fact is, when the trip is completed, the most life-long experience, the not-forget-to-mention in every of their stories to friends and family are always the incredible, magical and unbelievable traffics in Vietnam.

Traffic in Vietnam

Vietnam has a traffic law? It has, but sights and sounds on the roads do not make this sense. A friend of mine who based in Vancouver and traveled 3 weeks from North to South Vietnam commented: “Look like your traffic has a rule, joined by an un-ruled behavior in a ruled regulation”. Sounds complicated? In fact, the sense to obey the traffic law in Vietnam is very bad when compare to its neighbor ASEAN nations. Imagine, all kind of vehicles mingle in the streets, from the pedestrians, cars, cyclos, scooters, bicycles mixed together…all weaving around and keeps the flow run, mostly slow and sometime… deadlock. In that flow, there is no sacrifice offered or graced. Any single inch left on the road, there come a rush right then, including with the frustrating beep beep horns and the fierce glance thrown to the one who won on that race to the empty space. Who care? Most of the people seem busy and going to the fire with various reasons to blame for or should Vietnamese locals be rated as the most time-saving people on Earth?

“Your traffic law was reinforced only when they found the policeman in the intersection” said another customer of mine in the olden days after witnessing so many people cross the red light at most of the X-ing in Hanoi. If one travel to Saigon and be around some main roads in District 3, the rampantly evasion of those locals with bikes from the road to the pavement side walk ( mostly from 5-6pm ) will be too threaten a feeling and this bad memory can hardly be erased out of the tourists’ mind for quite a long time.

No doubt people who come from the West found it scary. I had a retired client who traveled with me 10 years past. The first 4 days of her stay in Saigon, she was always with pressure when we did the walking tours or when we ventured around local markets. I remembered to be the one she always grab my hand whenever we made the street cross. Who knows, after surviving the first timer experience in those 4 days, she was getting braved and excited and even came out of her way to help other bunch of travelers who were clumsily and unwillingly put their feet in to the dense non-stop traffic. She had them crossed with her safely to the other side and receiving with a big thank and admiring look from those travelers. Can you believe it? What a job!

Cross it with confidence!

Don’t stay back, I hope my sharing on this blog will not hold you off. Watch it, see how locals do it and just follow them, take a deep breath and there you go to challenge it. Nice and memorable experiences are learnt only when you hand-in the work and getting familiar with the daily amazing traffic. Here are some tips that I want you to know or be aware  of before your arrival in this beautiful Vietnam.

–          Don’t wait for the traffic flow to stop ( even if you are in a zebra crossing but without the traffic light –  and a reinforcement of a policeman ) because the locals don’t have a culture to stop. Just start crossing and then you will find a way in it ( seriously follow tip #2 )

–          Steadily and slowly cross the street, use a slow pace as the people are going to watch you from a fair distance so they will gauge your pace and be around you. Never step back suddenly or try to run faster than your normal pace, you may be in a mess or being run over.

–          When walking through the crowded and narrow streets in Hanoi and Saigon and you rarely found the available space to walk on the pavement due to local business settings or family shops, motorbike parking …etc then ALWAYS walks against the traffic flow. Single-lined walking in this case is recommended if you are a group of friends.

–          Request a helmet if you are going to take a motorbike taxi and the driver say no need to wear one. It is better safe than regret later.

–          Lastly, if you are on a big tour coach, get your camera ready so you will not miss lot of beautiful Kodak moments when your bus moving on the crowded streets.

Happy and Safety Travelling!

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