Enjoy the Vietnamese kitchen: Hanoi Delights and Discover old temples: Hue Impressions

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Rex Hotel: From 110 USD. 141 Nguyen Hue Blvd.

The Rex Hotel, picture by Andrew3000

The famous Rex Bar Tweet This

Welcome to the Hidden Charm of Halong Bay...

The first day: Everything seemed okay with Pinta Gold Junk.

What I have experienced with Pinta Gold Junk from 19 to 21 november 2009, you cannot really imagine. May be I was the first and last guest with this special treatment...
I had booked a 3 days/2 nights trip. The first day everything started in a good way, nice bus from Hanoi to Halong, comfortable Checkin, good first lunch on the boat and nice cabin, where everything worked well (air condition, hot water for the shower). And very nice guides who really took care of the passengers. It was not their fault, that I fell ill on the boat, I had caught a cold before. So the next day I decided to stay in the room. And again the guides took much care of me, organized tea and food to my room. The other guests in the morning went from boat for a dinner at a small beach and a bike tour on Cat Ba Island. Meanwhile the Pinte Gold returned to Halong port to take some new guests.

After noon suddendly one of the guides banged on my door. He told me, that I had to leave the room for an hour. He said, some maintenance works had to be done, if I unterstood him right. He would offer me a room on another boat for sleeping, before we would return to Pinta Gold. Me, sweating my illness away in the cabin, went out to that other boat. And the guides took very good care of me there. But it took around two hours, before we could return to Pinta Gold. I was just going back to my cabin, when the guide came and told me, that they were all very sorry but we had to leave the boat in half an hour. So I proceeded to my Check Out... And I saw, how everything was closed, no new guest came on board.

Now followed a night, that I will never forget, never in my life. I was told, that all the guests from the excursion were brought to a hotel in Cat Ba to stay there the next night and that I should join them with their baggage. All that was put to the tender boat - where the guides had even prepared a mattress with linen and cushion for me...

With ths kind of tender boat we had to cross Halong Bay...

I felt already better. So I enjoyed it to cross all Halong Bay with this tender boat: we were quite alone there, not many other boats to see now, when the night was breaking. So just the driver of the tender boat, another man with a lamp, helping him to find the way and a guide.

Beautiful: Halong Bay Islands in the fading light.

So we drove and drove, tender boats are not very fast, as you might know. And the night fell. And we were definitely alone - just us and the baggage... And the sea was a bit moved, so when it began to splash water onto the boat, I went to the bed and covered myself...

On the tender boat: the sea was a bit moved.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere suddenly a small motorboat arrived. I was told, that I and the baggage would go to the motorboat. So we changed without falling into Halong Bay. Now I was even more alone: only the guy beside me, who drove the motorboat. I trusted him, when he drove in the dark night around this island and then around that island. And this many dozens of times. Sometimes we saw a light from a ship or fishermens huts. I had of course no idea, where we were now, but we had to leave Halong Bay and get to Lan Ha Bay to arrive at Cat Ba.

Where are we now? Let's hope the boat-driver knows.

It was quite cold now - not so good for my cold. And we drove and drove in the dark night with clouds and no stars. But I didn't get wet, so this was okay. And of course they had given me a life west... Suddenly the motor of the motorboat stopped... The driver had to repair something, we alone somewhere in the nowhere... But he could fix it and we went on. Finally, after hours, we arrived at the very dark port at Cat Ba, where the driver took two guides into the ship to help him to find the place to get on land. Finally they found some steps up to the mole. As soon as we were on land, a bus arrived, the Tour Operators had arranged. On his back this message: "Welcome to the hidden charm of Vietnam".

In Cat Ba the Tour Operators had booked fine rooms in one of the beat hotels, Sunrise Resort. So everybody was glad having his baggage back and may be also me...
The guide, who had lead the other guests to the trip on Cat Ba did his best to manage the situation.

Very nice morning in Sunrise Resort on Cat Ba Island

The next day we went back to Hanoi by a ferry from Cat Ba to Haiphong and a very small bus. In Hanoi we were brought to the tour operator, Columbus Adventure Travel, where the argument began about how much of the price of the tour they should return to the guests, because theyx had lost time on the boat. Finally they offered 30 percent, what was considered as fair.

Also here I had the idea, that fine people were at work. The manager explained personally to every guest, what had happened: Since there have been accidents with ships on Halong Bay, there are sudden inspections on the ships. And if for example the kitchen isn't clean enough, they take the ship out of traffic. Pinta Gold had been inspected and stopped... The manager said, he didn't get information from the inspectors why.

So my impression about all this: May be Columbus Travel has ignored some problems with Pinta Gold described in several forums already. But out of the situation they treated their guests respectfully and with care. May be it was not the best idea of sending a still half ill passenger on the tender boat and a small motorboat for hours across the multiplication of nowhere, but all the people working for this tour were very helpful and caring. So after all for me Colombus Travel has gained reputation. And I will remember this night alone on Halong and Lan Ha Bay forever.

Read also:
How to choose the right junk on Halong Bay Tweet This

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shopping in Hue: BIG C has arrived, but ...

Picture by Lien

Malls are not widespread in Vietnam outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. But in Hue, the sleepy old town with its colonial charm, things have changed. In July 2009 Big C has opened Phong Phu Plaza - and this was an enormous event with a pop concert, documented by Hy Huynh in his blog. The Big C brand was the first foreign-invested trade centre in Hue after the Espace Business Hue Company was granted an investment licence by Thua Thien-Hue authorities, as vietnamnet.vn reported.
But to tourists BIG C in Hue may be a disappointment: It cannot cope with shopping malls for example in Bangkok, it is just a very big food store and a floor of eateries and some clothes around, people looking for international brands find more in Hues shopping streets.

See a picture by khuyen hoai le

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Hoi An Restaurants: Try Cau Lao

See the locations on Hoi An Google Map

Cau Lao (Picture by Catie & Linds), noodles with pork slices, bean sprouts, greens and crispy croutons, a local speciality, you should not miss in Hoi An. The legend goes, that this dish can only be cooked with water from Ba Le Well, an ancient well of the Cham people. Ba Le Well lies in the garden of Mr. Ba Lo Le, about ten meters from Kiet Gieng Lane (which links Phan Chu Trinh Street and Tran Hung Dao Street). How to cook Cau Lao? Read noodlepie's recipe.

Look down into Ba Le Well:

Picture by Mandy

Ba Le Well: 51 Tran Hung Dao. "Hidden in an alleyway with another entrance through Phan Chu Trinh, it is still a gem of a restaurant filled with locals of all ages and sizes", recommends Thin Lei Win in AsiaLIFE.

A delightful meal at Ba Le Well, picture by MC MasterChef

Cargo Club: 107 Nguyen Thai Hoc. In an old villa you get "chocolate truffle cakes, passion fruit mousse and home-made waffles – as well as great Asian and European fare", Thin Lei Win wrote in AsiaLIFE. In the back you look out to the river, upstair you dine open-air.

Cargo Club during the day, picture by Sinead and in the night:

By night

Good Morning Vietnam: 102 Nguyen Thai Hoc. Italian and specialities of Hoi An. Good reviews on tripadvisor.com

Good Morning Vietnam

Hai Cafe:

Hai Cafe, picture by robynejay

Hai Cafe from the other side

Mango Rooms: 111 Nguyen Thai Hoc. On cushions and low tables you get an "eclectic menu that places emphasis on what’s fresh and available in the market", comments AsiaLIFE.

Picture by Thomaswanhoff

Picture by EverJean

Outside Mango, picture by JonasPhoto

Mermaid: 2 Tran Phu. Well known for cao lau.

Spring rolls at Mermaid restaurant, picture by macloo

Picture by Joanne

Miss Ly Cafeteria 22: 22 Nguyen Hue. Good cao lau. See aptronym's picture.

Sakura: 119-121 Nguyen Thai Hoc. Vietnamese kitchen.

Picture by sega10028

Lounge Bar: 102 Nguyen Thai Hoc. See meanjean's picture.

Tam Tam Café: 110 Nguyen Thai Hoc street. Chinese, Vietnamese and European specialities in a French colonial house - and a cocktail bar. "The place to be in Hoi An", comments frommers.com. It's run by a French expatriate named Christophe, knows thingsasian.com. The house was built in 1932 as colonial residence, later used by Chinese owners as tea warehouse, the "Chinese spirit" has been conserved during the renovation for the cafe.

Picture by Missnae

Tam Tam Cafe by night

River Lounge: 35 Nguyen Phuc Chu. Fusion of European Lounge with Vietnamese food and best coffee in Hoi An, according to the very good reviews on tripadvisor.com

River Lounge

Thang Long Restaurant:

Thang Long by night

You should also try the streetfood. For example Banh Mi Opla for breakfast - a warm baguette filled with an omelett, chili sauce, onien, cucumber and shallots. You will find in at Hoi An Market.

Dinner on Thu Bon River
: A special dining experience is offered by Cinnamon Cruises (32 Le Loi): You can book Brunch Cruises, Cooking Cruises, Lunch Cruises, Sunset Dinner Cruises or Sunset Cocktail Cruises and Full Moon Cruises, where Vietnamese food is served.

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The Vietnamese Lunar Calendar

New moon ist on the 1th day of the Vietnamese lunar calender.
Full moon is on the 15th day.

10th month 1st day: November 17
10th month 15th day: December 1
11th month 1st day: December 16
11th month 15th day: December 30

12th month 1st day: January 15
12th month 15th day: January 29
1st month 1st day: February 14

2nd month 1st day: March 16

3rd month 1st day: April 14

4th month 1st day: May 14

5th month 1st day: June 12

6th month 1st day: July 12

7th month 1st day: August 10

8th month 1st day: September 8

9th month 1st day: October 8

10th month 1st day: November 6

11th month 1st day: December 6

12th month 1st day: January 4

Read more about the Vietnamese lunar calendar on Waytovietnam Travel Tweet This

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mui Ne Beach

See the locations on Mui Ne Google Map

The beach of Mui Ne is 7 kilometres long, picture by marfis75

Mui Ne is a popular beach east of Phan Tiet with many hotels and resorts and a lot of construction works going on. From Saigon you need fixe to six hours to arrive by train or car. Mui Ne is a paradise for Kitesurfers. And its famous for the sand dunes. The white dunes are 25 km northeast of Mui Ne, between Bao Trang (white lake) and the sea. The red dunes you find just east of the fisher village of Mui Ne, in the morning they seem very red. A good website about Mui Ne: www.muinebeach.net. And read, what Adam Bray writes about Mui Ne in his blog fisheggtree.blogspot.com. He writes also about the negativ sides of tourism development in Mui Ne - from accidents to garbage and prostitution.

Children sledging in the sand dunes in Mui Ne, picture by shamghaiadventures

Fishing boats in the harbour of Mui Ne, near the fish market. Picture by marfis75

Shelling scallops for the market, picture by pondspider

The Red Canyon, picture by Lanz. Near the red dunes you find these fantastic sand- and stoneformations.

Cham Villas: From 125 USD. 32 Nguyen Dinh Chieu. 16 villas, with a German restaurant. Good reviews on tripadvisor.com with some critics.

Beachfront Villa

Pool of Cham Villas

And the beach at Cham Villas. picture by I travel

Coco Beach Resort: From 100 USD. 58 Nguyean Ninh Chieau. Bungalows and Villas. "Great", say most of the comments on tripadvisor.com

Picture by shamghaiadventures

Picture by rayzhouli

The beach at Coco, picture by rayzhouli

Dynasty Mui Ne Beach Resort: From 62 USD.

Picture by ronancrowley

Full Moon Beach Resort:

Picture by amasc

In the garden, picture by amasc

Hai Yen Family Resort: 132, Nguyen Đinh Chieu. Quite good reviews on tripadvisor.com

Room in Hay Yen, picture by Jo Lynn

L'Anmien: From 240 USD. 12A Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Quite new and with very good reviews on tripadvisor.com

Picture by яaїи

Picture by яaїи

Little Mui Ne Cottages: From 55 USD. 12 bungalows and 24 rooms.

Picture by Phung

Lucy Resort: From 45 USD. "Everything is done to make you feel at-ease", comments isabelle_le85 on tripadvisor.com, among other quite good reviews.

Picture by marfis75

Malibu Resort: From 46 USD.

Picture by Amy Nguyen

Picture by Amy Nguyen

Pandanus Resort: From 125 USD. Close to the red sand dunes.

Picture by DiverHank

Saigon Mui Ne Resort: From 85 USD. Bungalows and lodges.

Picture by David

Picture by vietnamsketcher

Sailing Club Resort: From 80 USD. "Service was extraordinary, food was excellent, rooms impeccable, price entirely too cheap for the quality of the resort", notes Ajkiwi on tripadvisor.com, "by far the best restaurant we found in Mui Ne", adds Wilmslow2009.

Picture by Justene

Picture by Justene

Sunrise Resort: 72 Nguyen Dinh Chieu. From 35 USD. "There are many restaraunts and gift shops next door, so stay at this place for the value and comfort...then shop around", comments Bugalley on tripadvisor.com

Suoi Tien Mui Ne Resort
: 60 Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Good reviews on tripadvisor.com. See also review by travelfish.org. See picture by vanhuynh

Terracotta Resort: Very good reviews on tripadvisor.com. Chipito suggests to take a bungalow, because the rooms, that are close to the road.

Picture by Marian

Victoria Phan Thiet Resort: "A stunning complex with first class service", is the tenor of the comments on tripadvisor.com. See picture by Johnny Trinh

Wind Champ Resort - Rach Dua Tropico: Critical review on tripadvisor.com

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