Tag: #asia

And Drinks Diary – Ho Chi Minh City – Part Two

And Drinks Diary – Ho Chi Minh City – Part Two

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There are 2 things that simply are a ‘must-do’ when in Ho Chi Minh.

#1:  A Saigon Street Food Tour.

#2: Cu Chi Tunnels.

Lets start with #1.

Upon arrival I was searching as to which street food tour to do. They are all pretty similar, and most are very generic. I wanted a less touristy version of the street food tour, and lucky for me me, my brother messaged and suggested Saigon Street Eats. I googled. I booked. ( http://saigonstreeteats.com)

Saigon street Eats is run by an Australian and Vietnamese couple living in Vietnam. It is an off the track tour, which takes you to the back streets of Saigon for a more authentic sample of Vietnam. So once you book, you can opt to be picked up by motor scooter, and taken to and from the destination…or ‘chicken out’ and take a taxi…we opted to go balls to wall and go by bike. In the rain. In Vietnam.  (the holiday brain took over and all sense was out the window)

We arrived in an area not frequented by tourists, met our guide Binh..(more about him later!) and 2 other couples from various parts of the world. No other tourists were to be seen. Anywhere. It was awesome.

The tour starts with Binh ( who lived in Melbourne for 6 years, is fluent in English, very knowledgeable about the history of Vietnam and its food cultures, which vary across the country and a great host!)  He explained what to look out for when choosing to eat from the street stalls. It’s never risk free, but these are the strict tips. The stall must have stainless steel tables, strong, bright lighting, the food must be visible and the chef should be cooking within sight. You are less likely to fall ill if you stick to these basic points. Hopefully.

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And the food!  Amazing and so much of it…. Tasty, fresh and such a variety from the 4 stalls we ate at.  Crispy pancakes packed with the fresh herbs, seafood like you’ve never seen, desserts with such traditional history behind the style, wrapping and how to eat it…plus the best of all …the tasty Banh Mi – the obligatory baguette of Vietnam.  Oh, and lots of beer…and a baby duck egg, but that story stays on the tour!.

It was a wonderful night, a must do…but book prior to leaving home…just in case.. They also have a walking Pho morning tour which is all about the traditional breakfast soup. Do one. Do both!

#2 Cu Chi Tunnels

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If you are only in Ho Chi Minh for a short stopover, choose your Vietnam War History tours carefully.  I would suggest either the War Remnants Museum or the Cu Chi Tunnels. I have previously visited the war museum and it is extremely confronting and very sad.

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City documents the costs of the war. It’s aimed squarely at foreign visitors–you won’t find many locals here. The tone isn’t one of victory, but one of victim. The museum amounts to an extensive catalog of the appalling legacy of war. If you are travelling with children I would prefer the tunnel tour, it is not as confronting for small people.

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I chose to book the tunnel tour that starts on the Saigon River. You are collected from your hotel and driven to the docks. Then jump aboard a ‘luxurious’ jet boat and zip along the Saigon River to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

We opted for the early departure (730am) rather than the midday option..due to the heat it is better to go early. The river trip is peaceful and you can get a glimpse into traditional river life..fishing boats, water hyacinths and beautiful old shanty’s lining the banks of the saigon waterway.

Once at Cu Chi  its go time.

Descend underground with a guide into a vast network built by resourceful guerrilla fighters during the Vietnam War to provide supply routes, food and weapon caches, living quarters and hospitals. The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country.

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If you have a fear of confined spaces, which I do..it is pretty terrifying. The tunnels are tiny, dark and drop deep underground. The heat makes it a challenge as well. Needless to say I went about 10 mtrs in..and then just as quickly backed out! Literally. The kids were fine. I waited at the opening to greet them. Win Win.

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After the tour, you have the option to shoot guns. At targets. It is a strange thing to want to do, but in this controlled environment, and after a full 2 hours of talking war and bombs  and guns..it seems normal. Its not.

But I will say, shooting a round of bullets out of an AK47 is something that is both exhilarating and morally wrong. And I will never do it again.

After your tour, you can feast on fried spring rolls, chicken and beef dishes, and soup as you enjoy an authentic, traditional Vietnamese lunch by the river. If you’ve selected the later tour, you’ll enjoy a provided dinner.
After your meal, depart Cu Chi and return by speedboat to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival at the central pier, you will be driven back to your hotel.

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It was a great day out and we were back to the hotel by mid afternoon. A refreshing swim, another round of massages, plus a nighttime walk through Ho Chi Minh Square, which seems never to not have a zillion people milling around at all times …then it was time to head back to the hotel , and pack for our departure the next morning.

Thank you Saigon…you were an incredible host.

Next stop Hanoi……

 

…Sx

(The Cu Chi Tunnel tour that we booked was through http://www.viator.com/?SSAID=1210009&aid=148628)

 

Phuket | Eat and Drinks Diary | Part 5

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The biggest factor about a beach island holiday, is that the days begin to merge into a  groundhog type situation. Wake up, eat, reserve favoured pool lounge, walk along the beach, take a dip, read, swim, read, turnover, swim, read, eat, take a walk along the beach, swim…eat…turnover..you get the drift. Great for relaxing and suntanning, not so great to write about..or read about for that matter. So I will make todays short and sweet, because the above..was day 5 day activities.

Dinner was booked at the famous Mama Tri’s Kitchen at the Villa Royale resort.

Villa Royale is a boutique hotel in Phuket situated on a headland overlooking the Andaman Sea and the white sand beach of Kata Noi.

 

 

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Villa Royale is a personal creation of renowned artist and architect Mom Luang Tridhosyuth Devakul, better known simply as Mom Tri, who is a descendant of the King Mongkut Rama IV. Mom Tri opened his private summer home eight years ago to provide guests with a truly royal experience.

Located on Kata Noi Rd, Kata Noi Beach, Mama Tri is a terrace style establishment, complete with acoustic trio, old school charm and a nod to the architecture, similar to that of a Bahama’s style resort. There are 2 menus. One French and one Thai. This seems to be a common to mix of styles in Phuket.

The food was tasty, the Bloody Mary’s were spicy and the wait staff were good. Then, we shopped.

 

 

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We booked a driver and headed to Patong Town Market. The market is approx 150 mtrs from the nightlife and is a bunch of rambling stalls filled with faux everything. Open ’til late, you can stroll around and shop until midnight, then head back to your hotel with bags of goodies.

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Nikes, Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton everything, Beats headphones, Dvds, Polo shirts, bikinis, watches, sunglasses, luggage…you name it and it is here. The stall operators are not as aggressive as other Asian countries I have visited and are reasonably priced. I managed to pick up a few pairs of Nike Air Max, and Nike Free for the kids and a pair of Fluro Fluro Neon Pink Nike Air Max for myself. In the light of day, they are super bright. I guess the night lights from Patong Rd dulled the fluro to a gentle glow. But in the daylight…they roar! All for under $50AUD a pair, so if they last only a few months, it’s still a bargain.. The shopping bug cured. Tick. The kids have pressies. Tick.

 

Home to bed after a wonderful day, during a holiday that is on the home stretch.

 

…Sx

Phuket | Eat and Drinks Diary | Part Three

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Day 3: Getting around the island of Phuket offers many choices. The Luxury and Safest option is hiring a driver and having him on call for your stay. This will cost you anywhere from $5000- $7000Baht per day (approx $200- $400AUD) It is expensive and I’m not convinced worth the bucks. The only time I book a private car when I travel, is usually from the airport to the resort upon arrival. It is the easiest and safest way to get to your hotel, with no fuss and enables you to get your bearings. Once settled the options are numerous. Taxis are cheap, clean and well priced, usually costing approx $10- $20 AUD depending on distance. Next mode of transport is the traditional Tuk Tuk, a cross between a motorbike and cart, its quick, cheap and a bit of fun for short distance travel.

 

 

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My man is an avid motorbike rider, so he always hires a bike during our stay on this sort of holidays. He then zips around the island exploring and it keeps him active. He can only lie in the sun for short periods of time until he gets antsy. The cost per day is on average $20 AUD plus petrol, so if you can ride a motorbike this is a cheap way of getting around. The roads are good here, well maintained and not as crazy as Bali, so it feels relatively safe. We went for a quick cruise around the neighbouring beaches, and found some perfect viewing points high on the cliffs, overlooking the shoreline. Im not such a relaxed passenger perched on a bike, so the trips are usually slow and short. Then its back to the sun lounge for me.

 

 

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Today at the Surin, I opted to mix up the view slightly and lay on the big sun bed at the pool, overlooking the glorious beach and treated myself to an authentic Pad Thai for lunch. Then it was time for a late afternoon beach massage before we headed out of the resort for dinner.

Tonight we were booked in at Breeze, an upmarket French restaurant located 25 minutes from our resort in Cape Yamu.

 

 

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This is restaurant comes with an exceptional view, and I recommend you get there early to watch the sunset. It is built into a steep incline overlooking Cape Yamu and off into the distant, the shimmering lights of Phuket town. The restaurant offers an inventive twist on modern French cuisine, using local and imported produce, plus the menu changes every 3 days. I started with the St Phillipe Cheese plate, including apricot chutney and salted walnuts. The. Best. Cheese. Ever. For main I had fresh ribbon pasta with chilli prawns and a parmesan and white wine sauce. Fresh and delicious.

 

 

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Once again an abundance of martinis, great food choices and a pleasant dining experience. The only let down was the service. It seemed the left hand wasn’t always sure what the right hand was doing, but overall the food and ambience outweighed the confusing wait staff. We called it a night relatively early and as a torrential rain storm blew in, we jumped back in the car and headed home. Day 3 done and done.

 

…Sx