Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Sheep is Back

Goodness ... That took longer than I expected! Time melts in Vietnam: days, weeks, they roll into months. Or at least they would have if I'd been able to extend my visa. Stayed on in Hanoi for an extra couple of weeks with some friends of my travel buddy. For those of you planning your own sojourn to Vietnam (you're right anon, everyone is going - don't be scared to join them, it's amazing) - here are some handy hints:

1. Beware the Lonely Planet curse!
Any time we ventured into a Lonely Planet endorsee we were swamped with westerners. Service was stretched and food was not on par with less well-known venues. Oh, and naturally these places were more expensive than other/better places. The famous Brothers Cafe in Hanoi was hideous - a buffet (why oh why) of luke warm food. Nuh uh. Not me. Lemongrass in Saigon was the scene of an Aussie punch-up in the street over who was first in line for the next available table! Ugh.
2. When is Ho Chi Minh City - go the royal cuisine!
Nam Ka in Dong Khoi St - This is a very expensive (by Vietnamese standards) option, but well worth it if you can afford a couple of hundred bucks for an amazing meal. Had birds nest soup with REAL birds nest in it (made of - no, not sticks - gelatinous bird vomit!). The food is heavily influenced by what I imagine is imperial Chinese cuisine (shark fin, lotus seed, etc) - Chinese culture has a strong influence throughout Vietnam. China is, after all, only a hop-skip-jump away. For those whose budgets don't stretch this far ... still in Dong Khoi St, try Oso - it's neon slogan out front says it all: No Pay, No Delicious

3. Local Cuisine Favourites
In Hoi An I devoured 'White Roses' (see photo below) by the bucket load. They are delicate dumplings made with tiny puffs of prawn meat in the middle. Yum yum yum. Try Dalat wine - a bit rough for the first few sips, but after that you won't care - you're on holidays and it's cheap! In Ho Chi Minh City don't miss the women on the street sides selling freshly made French-style waffles - they are crispy-crunchy and sweet and made on the spot over little braziers.

4. Throughout Vietnam the word to watch is SALAD!
Lotus root salad. Green mango salad. Banana flower salad. Green papaya salad. Just dive in face first. You'll be as addicted as I was. This is probably what I'll miss most about Vietnam (apart from the amazing people I met along the way).

5. Wine, gin, and jazz
Watch out for ice in some places. Cheaper places often won't put ice in your mixed drinks, cos the water's not so good. Mid-range places will put ice smashed from larger lumps in your drink - we tended to avoid this ice. We found that ice in tubular form was fine. You'll find pretty broad wine lists in many places (Australian, New Zealand, American, French, and Italian wines) and plenty of gin. Ooooh yeah! There are some mighty funky bars and clubs in Ho Chi Minh City (try Manna - cigar/wine/jazz lounge, or the rooftop bar at the Caravelle).

6. Just wander and discover
Vietnam is a safe place to travel. We tended to wander the streets, stumbling from gorgeous local bar to delicious local restaurant. Much more enjoyable and relaxed than the frenzied search for the latest recommendation-du-jour from Lonely Planet, HRB, or the like. Just wander and find your own way.

So that's it. I loved Vietnam. Vietnam loved me back (as evidenced by my sleek, fat belly).

And back to earth ... what have I missed?
GW ;-)


Anonymous said...

Whereabouts in Hobart is Vietnam?
Is it near Vanidols?

Sir Grumpy.

Anonymous said...

Great you're back, Georgie!!!! Missed you

Anonymous said...

did you manage to lick a fanny ice cream or slurp iced weasel coffee?

Anonymous said...

Bet you missed a good National Pie and some frozen flake and chips.

Sophie said...

Just arrived in Cambodia from 2 and a half weeks in Viet Nam myself, and the food was indeed a highlight... White Rose in Hoi An, french pastries, fried spring rolls, fresh spring rolls, barbequed meat, mmmmm. Doesn't beat Lao food though. Looking forward to trying some Khmer food now! Glad to see you back Georgie.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sophie,

you can get french pastries, spring rolls (and Chiko) and barbecue meat in Hobart. Don't have to fly away and it's probably better here.

Anonymous said...

I've heard the food in Laos is Laosy. Are you from Phaic Tan Sophie?

Christina said...

On a local note, dined at Mr Wooby,s last night. First time ever I might add. must say I was pleasantly surprised. I shared a mixed dozen oysters with a girlfriend. Absolutely wonderful. Then dined on a beef roulade filled with spinach, pine nuts, tapenade and ricotta with a port wine sauce. The first mouthful felt like Heaven. Didin't stop until I'd finished the lot.
Fantastic part of the meal was everybody wanting something changed with their meal, and not once was it a problem. Very accommadating. So glad he's still about as it's taken me so long to get there, but it won't take so long to return.

Anonymous said...

Everyone wanted something changed with the meals???? What was wrong with the meals in the first place? Not once was it a problem?? I bet the chef felt the same way.

Christina said...

Dear anonymous,
Maybe I should clarify that the changes we requested were simple things such as potato rosti instead of new potato, or no spinach with the chicken, and were made prior to our ordering. As our host made perfectly clear, everything was prepared to order and as requested. As a result we all had perfect meals, which were NO TROUBLE at all!!!
The Chef was so pleased we all enjoyed our meal. After all isn't that the reaction we'd all love.