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Archive for February, 2013

I am a knick knag collector. My small tiny house is full of memory of each trip from everywhere I have been. A beautiful piece of wooden carving from Burma, a lovely wooden bird from Borneo, a boomerang from Australia, several little cats on the shelves from Thailand, Buddhism-oriented traditional painting from the night market in Luang Prabang, a pillow cover from Jordan. I wish I could have a 5 huge rooms to decorate with each style of each continent. I am a shoppaholic!

Oh well....

Oh well….

I turned down the offer to go to Italy on a shoes-string last year from my husband just because he said “we could go to Italy, but you cant spend money on shopping” – I said “ Not even 500$?” – “No” – he answered. What is the point of going and you couldn’t bring back anything,I meant, ANYTHING from that place? I told him that I would save up at least 500$ for MY shopping and we will go to Italy later.

I remembered the last time I bought a pointy wood carved picture hanging from Borneo, my husband got stopped at the immigration (we often travel with 1 bag no check in) just because it can be a weapon. He looked at me blamingly. Oh well, no more pointy thingy!!

Note number 1: 

– Dont buy brand names expensive stuffs in Vietnam, they are imported and you may end up paying 3 times more than you can at home.

Note number 2:

– There is no real shopping center/mall. What we call shopping mall is the high-end stores that most people cant really afford and just go in there for the cool -air-conditioned in the hot summer.

So, with my shopping experiences in exotic places, here are some places I would recommend to visit in Hanoi (to drool and also to buy gifts for your friends/family):

  • To spend money without hesitation:

–          Old Quarter: any handicrafts/souvernirs stores in the Old Quarter can satisfy you with silk scarves, bags, and lacquers. Make sure that you get some discount after buying the whole big bags. So I would recommend to buy all things you want at 1 places, that way you can get a better deal. Among all of those stores, my favourite ones is Son Son store 37 Hang Be http://sonson.com.vn/ . They have quite a big collection for you to choose.

Handicrafts in Vietnam

Handicrafts in Vietnam

–          To another level of shopping with more quality stuffs and spend money on a good cause: Craft Link. http://www.craftlink.com.vn/ (43 – 51 Van Mieu, Hanoi). You will be in the area if you visit Temple of Literature. The store is on the side street of the Temple. Very exquisite collection of traditional toys and bags, silk products, especially the embroidery from the ethnic minority. The price is surprisingly great compared to all of the stuffs you will pay in the Old Quarter with much better quality.

Craftlink sells hanmade products from ethnic people - non profit.

Craftlink sells hanmade products from ethnic people – non profit.

  • To buy the bests of the bests (for those who can afford) or to drool (for me):

–           Tan My Silk (66 Hang Gai): http://www.tanmyembroidery.com.vn/ Yes they are one of the most famous silk store in Hanoi, they also has a Tan My Design opposite number 66 for more contemporary stuffs. The whole street Hang Gai also has some great artist collection with lacquer, antiques and paintings like Apricot.

Top quality products

Tan My sells Top quality products

  • Ladies, pay attention!! This is the important part: Clothings and accessories: Night market has some real bad quality bags and accessories (with exception of a very few stores selling Made in Vietnam stuffs). Other than that, go to this stores for:

–          Clothing: the famous Made in Vietnam. The big outlet is M2 store at 21B Phan Dinh Phung st. M2 also has a branch just opposite Melia Hotel at 52 Ly Thuong Kiet st. Big sizes available.

M2 is a big outlet and a favourite spot for local to shop too

M2 is a big outlet and a favourite spot for local to shop too

–          Fake bags: I took one of my customer here and she is the bussinesswoman expert in leather shoes. And she verify this store as the best fake store she has been in Vietnam! It’s small and it’s not dirt cheap. Hermes and LV are the biggest theme here, but also has other brands. Address: 51 Bat Su st. – “Hang Tui”. Price is not cheap, but it’s much cheaper than a real LV/Hermes of course. http://hangtui.com/

Coffee is a perfect gift and light to bring back.

Coffee is a perfect gift and light to bring back.

Another side subject, since coffee is one of the thing you may never forget about Hanoi – a small cup of dark strong coffe with condensed milk that smell so good at most corner of the streets. You may want to bring some home too, I saw a lot of stores selling coffee in the Old Quarter, but my best advice as a local is:

–          Buy it in the supermarket: choose Trung Nguyen brand. Right price and you wont be afraid to be overcharged. You can also find some Vietnamese tasty treat available in the supermarket too. Old Quarter by the Hoan Kiem Lake: Intimex Ho Guom: 32 Le Thai To st.

–          Buy it in the reputable coffee house:

+ Café Nang: 6 Hang Bac st. – Old Quarter

+ Café Nhan:  http://www.cafenhan.com/ (39D Hang Hanh – Old Quarter) – who stay at Hanoi Imperial Hotel, it’s just a few doors down on the street.

+ Café Mai: 52 Nguyen Du st.

+ Café Duy Tri: 43 Yen Phu st., West Lake area. It’s convinient for those who stay at Intercontinental & Sheraton.

This is only a short list, but I think it  is a just right list for you to cover a few stores in a day and be satisfied with what you get. If you need something else?Just ask us.

Happy Shopping!

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Belong to the late 8x generation, I had chances to experience the changing of our society under the coming of Western modern life. I grew up in a small town which was a suburb of crowded Hanoi, where Entertainment Park, cinema, cartoons, video games are something far luxury to me as well as my brother, sister.  While city children had such lots of things from modern life to play, what did we – country children do to entertain ourselves? Live in a small hamlet where everyone knew each other, there would be around ten children at the same ages with me and our days never turned into boring. Having no park, no cartoon tape; comics and toys were so unaffordable and television time was only during dinner time, but we, somehow, were free from parents and had space/time for ourselves to played hundreds of traditional folk games.

The most favorite folk games must be listed are: “Rong ran len may” (the game of Dragon and Snake), “Meo duoi chuot” (The game of Cat and Mouse), “Ban Bi” (Marble game in Vietnamese style), “O an quan” (Mandarin Square Capturing), “Tron tim” (Hide and Seek)… More than fun, these folk games improve the smart and observe ability in children.

O an quan – the game require calculating capacity to be the winner. 50 pieces of gravels at similar size, 1 at big size and a table which is draw on floor are all we need for this game.

O an quan – the game of calculating capacity. 50 pieces of gravels at similar size, 2 at bigger size and a table which is draw on floor are all we need

Rong Ran Len May – after reading loud a folk poem, the doctor (host) will have to catch other members in the line (except for the first one). The line must move to not be touched by the doctor while still stick in the line. Anyone who is catch will act as doctor for the next round.

Rong Ran Len May – after reading loud a folk poem, the doctor (host) has to catch other members in the line (except for the first one). The line must move to not be touched by the doctor while still stick to the line. Who is catch will act as doctor for the next round.

Last Sunday I took my nephew and niece to The Museum of Ethnology – my favorite place in town. They were celebrating Spring Festival as an annual activity, on the 7th and 8th of the first month in Lunar New Year (16th – 17th Feb 2013). Together with exhibition, lots of traditional folk games were operated and introduced to both Vietnamese and foreigner visitors. Same to my kids, this was the first time for many other children to learn and try traditional games, especially some games from ethnic groups like “Ca kheo” (Walk on Stilts), “Nem Con” (Throwing a sacred ball through the ring). The most crowded area was “To He” place (Toy figurine). Edible figurines are made from colorful glutinous rice powder. In the past, the figurines are shaped into flowers, animals or character of folk stories.

To He - More than a traditional entertainment, it has become an art of rural Vietnam

To He – More than a traditional entertainment, it has become an art of rural Vietnam

Let’s see, my children and I were making our own To He. The boy completed his pink flower very quickly even he did not know what type of flower that he made, but I guess it’s a Hibiscus bud. Haha… It took a while for his younger sister to create her idea and then she showed me her “Monster flower with long neck”! Red rose is mine, not too bad for the first time, huh?

As a result of the modern life, after school time, children in cities are lack of space, and childhood friends to play together. While parents are busy with their business, the children are kept inside 4 concrete walls and entertained themselves with watching television, talked to their toys or playing video games. However, these traditional folk games still have very strong and magical attraction to every kid. They might not play it very often as I and over generations did, but the stories about these folk games will still be told in every family. And thanks to the Museum of Ethnology for their effort to preserve these invaluable cultural heritage. If you are planning to travel to Vietnam during Tet, mark your agenda for a visit to visit The Museum of Ethnology, may be treats and range of folk games are still available. Don’t miss this fabulous opportunity to discover a great fun and findings with Vietnamese culture through these folk games and arts.

Happy traveling!

Indochina Voyages Team.

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Holiday makers to Vietnam around late Jan till mid Feb period will likely be the ones who experience the special Lunar New Year which often known as Tet. This time of years are always overwhelming with colors of flowers, traffic jams in the streets. To an individual, it will be loads of work to be completed, shopping, visiting ancestors’ graves and on and on…
In the view of many westerners, Tet in Vietnam is more or less similar to a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas in their culture. This is the time for family reunion, gathering together among the loved ones, repainting and tidying up the houses, tending all the graves of the lost ones, cooking special dishes and offering to ancestors as well as burning heaps of incenses for them. In the olden day central-planned economy, Tet was exactly the biggest Vietnam public holiday as when everything closed 5-7 days for Tet. In term of nutrition, that was the only time of year to have more than enough coupons to get pork, rib, fish and beef ( aka nutritious food lol ) without any worries. Children to be off-school for holiday and able to wear the new clothes ( may be the only time of year to be bought new clothes ), let alone the lucky money given from the older family members and relatives. Adding to this, the smell of fire crackers also brought back a very typical atmosphere of a Lunar New Year that anyone of my generation and older have to agree with.
“I hate Tet”, quoted by Pham Van Anh ( a friend of mine ) on her face book recently, who also a marketing and PR manager of a big travel firm, has shown a fact that Tet is becoming less and less welcome. The open door policy and market-oriented economy have brought back with magnificent improvements in living quality but then work-stress and work responsibility are inseparable. All kind of special Tet’s foods can be found in any market in the middle of summer. Clothes and shoes/sandals are now affordable all year round. “The atmosphere of Tet now is not as in my time, Tet is no doubt losing its traditional significance and nature “, said 74 years old neighbor while watching people choosing and buying kumquat tree for Tet. In the last month Thanhnien Newspaper, some government officers even suggested to celebrate traditional Tet at the same time with western calender. And you? What do you think about it?

DSC_0051

Whatever it is, Tet will always remain hectic, busy, rush and at the end, people looking forward the reunion dinner before Lunar New Year Eve to come. That will be the time they make their New Year resolution, toasting each other nicest wishes and sharing those great moments to the rest of the family.
If you are making a holiday to Vietnam this time of year, let’s double check everything on your Vietnam travel package
to make sure all are in order prior to arrival. Traveling on Tet might lose some of the daily insights of Vietnam but then, you got all other special aspects of a Tet has to offer.
Happy traveling and Happy Tet 2013!

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