Tag Archive | "Vietnam"

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How to Make Your Trip to Ho Chi Minh Memorable

Posted on 03 December 2013 by craigb

Okay, so when you’re planning a trip and the first thing you check is where you want to go, right? If you decided to fly out an entirely new country, let’s say Vietnam. You immediately Google the best places to sightsee, eat and stay. Google gives you tons of results for you to choose from, starting from: Hotel bookings, prominent sightseeing places to amazing restaurants you can eat for under a buck. Printing everything out, you book your trip and fly over to the city as soon as time allows it. Over 20 hours later, you land in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam.
Coming here on your first trip may be shocking and in a sense, mind boggling as well. You’ll be experiencing a new culture all together and being exposed to different ethnicities while you’re at it. This is a great way to learn more about the country and its culture by touring the motherland, so to speak. Landing in Tan Son Nhat, this is Vietnam’s largest airport to date. Located just 8 km from the heart of the city, this is your first destination in Vietnam.
Getting around Ho Chi Minh is simple enough if you know the right way to do it. There are many stories of unsuspecting tourists being ripped off blatantly or taxi drivers driving away with luggage. Keep in mind: Always know where you want to go. Be firm with haggling and if worse comes to worse, walk away. If you’re a big fan of like taxis, there are other forms of transportations such as: Buses, railway, ferry and boat, car and jeep, motorbike or cycling. Of course, on your first day you’d like to reach your hotel as soon as possible. Take the taxi, be firm with your haggling and write down the price after it’s been decided where you need to go. It’s a headache saver, really.
Once you’re safe and settled in a Saigon hotel, it’s time to plan out where you want to go. Refer to these places if you’re the super adventurous type: Ethnic markets, temples and pagodas, the Citadel, water puppet shows are just some of the places that standout when traveling in Vietnam. One of the best places to mingle with the locals is at the ethnic markets where a variety of items will be on display as well as photographing people and items (though, always ask permission first; you don’t want your camera confiscated now do you?) Its common courtesy you see.
If you’re more into the arts and crafts, then you shouldn’t miss Vietnam’s water puppets, a stunning underwater performance conducted by highly skilled puppeteers. The puppeteers are submerged and control the puppet’s movements beneath the water. This is a spectacular show that is an instant must-see. If you’d like to stay on land and dry, there’s the flamboyant Saigon Opera House for your consideration as well.
Vietnam, like many Asian countries hosts a variety of beautifully crafted temples and pagodas, itching to be photographed by curious travelers. With many pagodas to choose from, where do you go? Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda is a pagoda build by Ho Chi Minh City’s Fujian community, and is best known for its vast collection of figurines, carvings and lanterns. There’s another famous pagoda called the Giac Lam Pagoda, founded in 1744 and has remained untouched for 100 years. This is the oldest and most iconic pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. People come here to pray for sick and recently deceased relatives that make the ambiance slightly somber. On the other hand, the pagoda’s garden skirt contains a beautifully crafted marble Buddha statue for all to see.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg by setting foot in a city once known as Saigon. There are tons of places you can go which aren’t restricted only to Ho Chi Minh City. Take a day trip to go to Nha Trang and visit their pristine blue beach waves and lounge by the beach, for example. But of course, the first steps to get to these places are to book Saigon hotels to make this trip a memorable one.

Okay, so when you’re planning a trip and the first thing you check is where you want to go, right? If you decided to fly out an entirely new country, let’s say Vietnam. You immediately Google the best places to sight-see, eat and stay. Google gives you tons of results for you to choose from, starting from: Hotel bookings, prominent sightseeing places to amazing restaurants you can eat for under a buck. Printing everything out, you book your trip and fly over to the city as soon as time allows it. Over 20 hours later, you land in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam.

Coming here on your first trip may be shocking and in a sense, mind boggling as well. You’ll be experiencing a new culture all together and being exposed to different ethnicities while you’re at it. This is a great way to learn more about the country and its culture by touring the motherland, so to speak. Landing in Tan Son Nhat, this is Vietnam’s largest airport to date. Located just 8 km from the heart of the city, this is your first destination in Vietnam.

Getting around Ho Chi Minh is simple enough if you know the right way to do it. There are many stories of unsuspecting tourists being ripped off blatantly or taxi drivers driving away with luggage. Keep in mind: Always know where you want to go. Be firm with haggling and if worse comes to worse, walk away. If you’re a big fan of like taxis, there are other forms of transportation such as: Buses, railway, ferry and boat, car and jeep, motorbike or cycling. Of course, on your first day you’d like to reach your hotel as soon as possible. Take the taxi, be firm with your haggling and write down the price after it’s been decided where you need to go. It’s a headache saver, really.

Once you’re safe and settled in a Saigon hotel, it’s time to plan out where you want to go. Refer to these places if you’re the super adventurous type: Ethnic markets, temples and pagodas, the Citadel, water puppet shows are just some of the places that standout when traveling in Vietnam. One of the best places to mingle with the locals is at the ethnic markets where a variety of items will be on display as well as photographing people and items (though, always ask permission first; you don’t want your camera confiscated now do you?) Its common courtesy you see.

If you’re more into the arts and crafts, then you shouldn’t miss Vietnam’s water puppets, a stunning underwater performance conducted by highly skilled puppeteers. The puppeteers are submerged and control the puppet’s movements beneath the water. This is a spectacular show that is an instant must-see. If you’d like to stay on land and dry, there’s the flamboyant Saigon Opera House for your consideration as well.

Quan Am Pagoda

Vietnam, like many Asian countries hosts a variety of beautifully crafted temples and pagodas, itching to be photographed by curious travelers. With many pagodas to choose from, where do you go? Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda is a pagoda build by Ho Chi Minh City’s Fujian community, and is best known for its vast collection of figurines, carvings and lanterns. There’s another famous pagoda called the Giac Lam Pagoda, founded in 1744 and has remained untouched for 100 years. This is the oldest and most iconic pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. People come here to pray for sick and recently deceased relatives that make the ambiance slightly somber. On the other hand, the pagoda’s garden skirt contains a beautifully crafted marble Buddha statue for all to see.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg by setting foot in a city once known as Saigon. There are tons of places you can go which aren’t restricted only to Ho Chi Minh City. Take a day trip to go to Nha Trang and visit their pristine blue beach waves and lounge by the beach, for example. But of course, the first steps to get to these places are to book Saigon hotels to make this trip a memorable one.

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Heavens in Saigon

Posted on 08 January 2013 by backyardtravel

Swanky bars are all well and good, but nothing says “cool” like a buzzing rooftop bar. The feeling of being outdoors in the open air, enjoying the breeze high above a busy metropolis somehow adds extra ‘oomph’ to an evening. Perhaps it’s the altitude, or simply the stunning skyline that surrounds; either way a cocktail somehow tastes better when supped 60 floors up.

Here’s our picks for a delicious rooftop drink in Saigon:

Chill Sky Bar Saigon

Chill

Perched on the 27th floor of the AB Tower in District 1, Chill has been open for just over a year and attracts the sleek, sexy and well-dressed upper echelons of Saigon’s elite as well as foreign travelers seeking the best views of the city for their holiday snaps. Chill is the place to be seen splashing the cash in Saigon. Our tip – be sure to dress appropriately or risk the wrath of the maître d’ and an embarrassing U-turn!

Broma Bar

Broma

Broma is certainly the ‘new kid on the block’ in Saigon. Having been open just a few months, it’s currently the ‘fresh’ new venue in HCMC and has got tongues wagging with its faux-medieval decor and a three-meter-long fish tank built into the roof dividing Broma’s two levels, making it visible from both. Broma’s location in the center of the city is prime, in the shadows of the Bitexco Tower. The alfresco area on the second floor overlooks Nguyen Hue Street and the Saigon River and feels akin to a secret lair or tree house, where you can enjoy the breeze, some subtle lighting and the carefully crafted selection of Euro treats, beers and wines on the menu.

saigon saigon bar - caravel hotel

Saigon Saigon Bar

At ‘only’ nine floors up, Saigon Saigon Bar is a low-rise rooftop option, but still provides beautiful panoramic views of HCMC. Built in the 1950’s, like Rooftop Garden, this dusk-time drinking destination has a rich history and was one of the bars that journalists used to frequent during the Vietnam War, often using the bar as a viewpoint for spotting planes and aerial assaults going on around the city. Well…that was their excuse for being there every day anyway! HCMC is much more sedate now of course, but Saigon Saigon Bar still oozes history from all its nooks and crannies.

Shri

Shri Restaurant & Lounge

Crowning the 23rd floor of the Centec Tower in downtown Saigon, Shri’s modern European menu and bountiful list of imported wines aren’t for those traveling on a budget. As is the case so often in life though; you get what you pay for! Love-struck couples are a common sight here given the laid back romantic atmosphere Shri provides, especially during sunsets. So if you’re looking for a place to impress your ‘special someone’, this could be it!

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Ha Long Bay – 7 Wonders of Nature newest addition

Posted on 06 August 2012 by exoticvoyages

The 7 Wonders of Nature campaign started four years ago in 2007, over 440 locations from over 220 countries were included in the initial search to find the 7 best wonders of nature. After years of debate and research, 28 final candidates were chosen and the results were finally published on November 11th 2011. The voting results are currently being checked, validated and independently verified to confirm the winners and the final results are expected in early 2012 during the Official Inauguration ceremonies. The winners will join the new 7 wonders of the world and become part of history and remain in the memory of humankind forever.

In addition to Ha Long Bay, there were also 6 other provisional winners, including the Amazon, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, Komodo, Pueto Princesa Underground River and Table Mountain. We are excited and proud to see Ha Long Bay on the list of the new 7 Wonders of Nature and know that it will live up to the expectations of a world travel destination.

Junks on Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Ha Long Bay has 120km-long coastline, an area of around 1,553km², including 1,969 islets, most of which are limestone.  The core of the bay has an area of 334km² with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments.  The geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem. Ha Long bay is also home of 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.

Ha Long Bay is a popular travel destination with lots of attractive activities. Tourists can stay on a modernized version of a junk, a classic Asian sailing vessel, overnight and visit the floating village of Nui Ngoc, as well as many fascinating limestone caves. The water inside the caves is so clean and clear that the sea bottom and its various corals and creatures become visible. The fresh seafood is always a treat and the on-board chef’s prepare amazing meals. If tourists are more interested in exploring the most remote corner of Halong Bay on their own, kayaking in Ha Long will meet their expectations. The only companions on a kayaking trip in Ha Long Bay will be the rocks, local fishermen, sea birds and the occasional monkey. A morning swim and diving off the second story of the Junk, is also a favorite activity for many of the tourists that visit each year. The sea is blue, the sun is yellow and the sand is white. Many small isolated islands are available for tourists to sunbathe and swim on and around.

Kayaking Ha Long Bay in the Sunset

Since Ha Long Bay is a very famous travel destination not only in Vietnam but also all over the world, the tourism industry here is well-developed. Tourism services are high quality, the roads to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi are very developed, the boats are well maintained and comfortable. The onboard rooms vary to accommodate the budget conscious travelers as well as the luxury traveler looking for a private tour with their family. Traveling to Vietnam and taking a cruise on Ha Long Bay will be a well deserved treat and an experience that will not be forgotten.

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Five great Asian beers

Posted on 23 August 2010 by Joel Quenby

From Bia Lao to Asahi Black, we round up the region’s top ales

Asia is producing more beer than Europe for the first time since records began, says Japanese brewing giant Kirin Holdings. It sounds like a bar trawl is in order…. But where does the well-intentioned novice drinker start? Here’s a rundown of experts’ handpicked favorites.

A picher says a thousand burps, at an Asian beer festival (By Graham Hills via Flickr Creative Commons License)

A picher says a thousand burps, at an Asian beer festival (By Graham Hills via Flickr Creative Commons License)

Economists say Asia bounced back from the financial crisis quicker than in the West, while its beer production also surged 5.5 percent from the volume produced in 2008, according to researchers from the Kirin Institute of Food and Lifestyle.

“The guzzlers of Munich’s beer halls are the stuff of bacchanalian legend: now they have to contend with rivals hailing from the bars and street stalls of Hanoi and New Delhi,” claimed the BBC.

While Asian drinkers still consume less on average than Europeans, Vietnam led the region’s boozy surge, followed by India then China. The popularity of Vietnamese labels like 333 (pronounced “ba ba ba” locally) leaped 24.3 percent. Two other labels—Hanoi Beer and Saigon Beer—were official beverages at this year’s Berlin International Beer festival.

Joe Tucker, president of RateBeer.com, recently hand picked his recommendations for Men’s Health magazine. Here are his top picks—plus the mandatory inclusion of an honorary member: a perennial, trusted golden elixir—from a relatively unexpected font of beery wisdom.

Asahi Kuronama Black

Dusky jewel: Asahi Black (by James Cridland via Flickr Creative Commons License)

Dusky jewel: Asahi Black (by James Cridland via Flickr Creative Commons License)

“Crack this open for a rich, roasted accompaniment” to meaty dishes, says Tucker. Never mind the likes of Guinness, Asahi Kuronama Black is billed as Japan’s favorite dark beer. Brewed in Osaka, this silky textured and shadowy toned brew blends three different roasted malts. This wanton mix-and-match approach apparently gives Asahi Black a unique nutty flavor and warming, smooth-drinking characteristics.

Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale

"Today's the day when teddy-bears get utterly paralitic": Baird Beer (main pic: Jeremy Deades via Flickr Creative Commons License; insets from BairdBeer.com)

"Today's the day when teddy-bears get utterly paralytic": Baird Beer (main pic: Jeremy Deades via Flickr Creative Commons License; insets from BairdBeer.com)

“Infused with a citrus aroma, this brew will balance the tartness” of acidic, pickled foods, apparently, according to the expert. “This hoppy, brisk and refreshing Pale Ale is indescribably complex,” exclaims the website of Baird Beer, founded in 2000 in Numazu, Japan, by the husband-and-wife team of Bryan and Sayuri Baird. RateBeer.com, meanwhile, says the 5.2% percent “quenching brew” fits the “American west-coast style.”

Kiuchi Hitachino Nest Beers

Hitachi Nest beers, as seen on Kiuchi Brewery's website

Hitachi Nest beers, as clinically presented on Kiuchi Brewery's website

Tucker vouches for the Belgian White Ale, but “load up the fridge with Hitachino’s crisp, clean Real Ginger Ale and Japanese Classic Ale, too.” Kiuchi Brewery (est.1823) in Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, produces beer, sake, and shochu. The Nest Beer brand—with its distinctive owl logo—started producing “top-fermented ales” in 1996, blending European beer-making technology with some traditional sake brewing methods (its XH Hitachino Nest Beer is matured in wooden shochu casks, for example). The quaff became available in the US in 2000 and has won numerous international awards.

A century old and still going strong: San Miguel, the result of Spanish-Filipino brewing smarts

A century old and still going strong: San Miguel, the result of Spanish-Filipino brewing smarts

San Miguel Premium Lager

Filipinos love a beer: it is the most commonly consumed alcoholic drink in the country. The San Miguel varietal is “easy to drink and a good palate cleanser,” says Tucker. The first such beer was produced in Manila in 1890 via a royal grant from colonialists Spain—hence it being named after a brewery in Barcelona. A hundred years later, San Miguel Corporation is one of the country’s few global conglomerates.

Honorary Mention: Bia Lao

Bottled since 1973 on the outskirts of Vientiane by the Lao Brewery Co., Bia Lao has drawn plaudits from the esteemed likes of Time magazine—which described it as “foaming magic” in its Best of Asia Awards 2004—and The New York Times. Perhaps those ancient stone jars were actually ancient beer kegs. Time describes the pilsner as “an arrestingly crisp brew and also the universal accompaniment to the local cuisine.

“There’s no stinting on quality,” its plaudits continued. “Bia Lao is made from Pilsen malt imported from France, Hallertauer Magnum hops and dry yeast from Germany, and local rice and spring water.”

Time reckons that these factors “propelled Bia Lao to the top of Asia’s beer league. So have the brew’s emotional connotations. For wherever you are in the world, one sip of Bia Lao and you are instantly transported to a riverside bistro in Vientiane. The long lunches, the French-colonial streets, the wats [temples] and murmuring monks: it all comes back with exquisite precision.”

"Mmmm...Bia Lao" (by garycycles via Flickr Creative Commons License)

"Mmmm...Bia Lao" (by garycycles via Flickr Creative Commons License)

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Vietnamese drip coffee

Posted on 13 December 2009 by Darediva

Drip coffee

My recent trip to Vietnam convinced me that the best coffee in the world is Vietnamese drip coffee. The beans used are very fragrant and the taste of the brew has notes of hazelnut.

My friends and I tried it in different places, the first time at Baby Spoon, a restaurant near our three-star hotel in Ben Thanh, where we were approached every 10 minutes or so by street vendors selling all sorts of knickknacks. For a true Viet experience, I suggest you proceed to the other end of the sidewalk where locals enjoy their blend on low tables and stools.

We also tried the coffee at the Trung Nguyen coffeeshop, a popular chain similar to our Figaro. And we had another cup in one of the kiosks in Ben Thanh market, over breakfast of French bread and pate (more about the pate later). We were never disappointed.

Still, the best one I tried was at Highlands coffeeshop, another popular chain of coffee stores similar to Seattle’s Best and Starbucks. Maybe they use coffee from Buon Ma Thuot because I read somewhere that the best Vietnamese coffee comes from this area. Or maybe they just mix theirs really well.

Drip coffee filter

Vietnamese coffee is served in an interesting fashion. The tiny coffee filter pot (it looks like a cup made of either stainless steel or aluminum) has four components: the cup itself, the saucer that it sits on, a disc-like filter piece with holes, and a cover. The filter cup together with the saucer sits on top of your coffee mug or cup, which contains condensed milk for later mixing. If you look inside, you’ll see coffee grounds pressed by the filter disk. Hot water is poured over the filter pot and covered. The brew will slowly drip into your coffee cup. It’s a very charming setup. When the dripping stops, stir the coffee so that it blends with the condensed milk. No need to add milk or sugar.

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Amy Ma

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Amy is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal amongst other publications. [...]

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From writing about music, Mark expanded his focus to design, fashion, food and travel. In recent years, he has explored the highs and lows of Asia. [...]

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