Six Romantic Asian Backdrops

January 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Attractions, General Fun, Nature

There’s no doubt that Asian is the land of inspiration and romance. It has often been the place for honeymoons, destination weddings, one night stands and I don’t know specifically but I bet a handful of marriage proposals too! But where to go to find that spark that will make your heart skip a beat? Here are six great backdrops – but no matter where you go, be sure to head off the beaten path, walk a little further, and see if you can find that perfect spot to lose everyone else and maybe find yourself.

Photo credit - farbfilm

Photo credit - farbfilm

Halong Bay, Vietnam

I know what you’re thinking – how cliché. But try taking a sunset cruise along Halong Bay – it is one of those experiences that is hard to forget. The bay is one of Vietnam’s crowded UNESCO World Heritage sites, so why not book the junk boat that actually spends the night in the bay and get away from it all? The junk boat to Cat Ba Island is also nice and a little less overpopulated. You can get by in Halong Bay on the cheap, but don’t – spend that little bit extra and you’ll get a lot more for your money, particularly when it comes to excursions and anything out on the water.

Photo credit - nurpax

Photo credit - nurpax

Jeju Island, South Korea

One of the stops in this island will definitely make your heart skip a beat – and give you a good giggle in the process. Some things are “oh gads, only in Asia” and Jeju Loveland is one of them. It’s a theme park dedicated to sex. From the phallus gardens to the interactive exhibits (link is NSFW!), you and your lover will see in 3D every sexual position possible. Skip the kama sutra and see this stuff in action! Other than that, Jeju Island is a popular honeymoon spot for Koreans, so once you’ve had your laughs get out and explore the island’s other natural attractions. Hike towards the top of Sunrise Peak for a mesmerizing sunset, or head towards one of the many beautiful waterfalls adorning the island.

Photo credit - tboothhk

Photo credit - tboothhk

Stanley, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is great, but the hustle and bustle (not to mention the pollution) aren’t exactly romantic bliss. I prefer to cross the island and head to Stanley, a very quaint little fishing village. Spend a few hours exploring the markets, then sit and watch the sunset. It’s dreamy. Stanley has some excellent restaurants, including a few fabulous dim sum shops, so come hungry. There are some walking trails in the area and other little towns to explore, so you don’t have to spend your time confined in Stanley itself.

Photo credit - Dave B

Photo credit - Dave B

Siem Reap, Cambodia

So Siem Reap is no tourism secret – in fact, it’s so popular it is sinking back into the ground. Not cool. But hire an air conditioned van (or a tuk-tuk, if you prefer the wind in your hair and can stomach the bumpy roads) and go off exploring into the countryside. The Angkor Wat complex is absolutely massive and few tourists manage to get very far off the beaten path. It’s a shame because some of the temples are just as amazing and a sight less busy. Check out Banteay Srei, one of the more popular ones but still more quiet. The carvings in the stone are so intricate, you won’t believe it is stone. Inspiring.

Photo credit - ManojVasanth

Photo credit - ManojVasanth

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

The state of Rajasthan in India is the country’s largest and has many unique sights to visit for romantic inspiration. From the Great Indian Desert to the hundreds of massive palaces and temples, you could spend weeks finding yourself in Rajasthan. I suggest a few special days in Jaipur, the state capital. It’s known as the pink city, and is one of India’s first planned cities. Because of this, I think, the views are just endless, from the Albert Hall Museum to the Jal Mahal or the Amber Fort. You’ll be blown away by the color and never look at the world the same. You don’t have to build your lover a temple, but you can take them to one.

Eastern and Oriental Express, Southeast Asia

Just saying the worlds orient express conjures up visions of sensual seduction while you glide across the rails. The reality is that while this is one of very few ultra-deluxe trains, there are more than one. But the Asian version is called the Eastern and Oriental Express and it has a number of routes between the cities of Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, and Chiang Mai. What better way to spend a romantic retreat than by tucking away into the luxury of this iconic train between visits to any of these classic Asian destinations?

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Vietnamese Noodle Treats

September 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Exotic South East, Gourmet

The famed Vietnamese Pho is without a doubt an excellent dish – succulent thin slices of beef dumped with fresh herbs in a stock of tasty broth. It’s no wonder travelers to Vietnam would often go searching for the ultimate pho. But the country’s noodle treats is more than just that, and travelers would often miss out on Vietnam’s other noodle treats. Here are a few of the best Vietnamese noodles, for the adventurous gourmand.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Hu Tieu Nam Vang – Phnom Penh Noodle Soup

Literally meaning Phnom Penh Noodle Soup, this is a Cambodian-Chinese concoction that was tweaked to the Vietnamese palate. Nam Vang is the Vietnamese word for Phnom Penh, so you can actually find various versions of Hu Tieu (Noodle Soup) in Vietnam, with Hu Tieu Nam Vang being one of the more popular noodle soup around. The dish is a surf-and-turf mix of cooked pork, thinly sliced beef, shrimp and group pork with light vermicelli in a sweet and savory broth. The essential garnishes are important here, Chinese celery, chives, cilantro and lettuce adds an extra layer of taste into this tasty dish.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Bun Rieu Oc – Snail Soup with Crab Paste

Hailing from North Vietnam, the Bun Rieu Oc (Snail Soup with Crab Paste) is a dish featuring chunks of snails and crab roe on top of a sweet-savory broth. The dish is studded with pork ribs, tomatoes, water spinach, sliced banana blossoms, fried tofu and more, topped with the ever popular rice-noodles. The Bun Rieu is hearty, light and refreshing, but also a very complex dish, with the various flavors and textures of the snails, crab and pork ribs mixed together.

Photo credit - Geordino

Photo credit - Geordino

Bun Thit Nuong – Grilled Pork with Rice Vermicelli

This local favorite is a simple dish that is more salad than soup, a welcome break from the usual soupy-broth on Vietnam’s other favorite dishes. Literally meaning Grilled Pork with Rice Vermicelli, this dish features grilled marinated pork chops served cold on top of rice vermicelli. As is the usual in Vietnam, a host of fresh herbs accompanies the dish – Thai basil, carrot and radish pickle, as well as cucumbers, bean sprouts, and crushed roasted peanuts. Add a dash of fish sauce and chilies according to personal preference, then enjoy the collision of flavors and textures.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Banh Canh Cua – Thick Noodle Crab Soup

Banh Canh noodles are like the Vietnamese version of udon – they are thick and chewy, although they are typically made with tapioca or rice flour instead of wheat. There are various versions of Banh Canh, and the Banh Canh Cua (Thick Noodle Crab Soup) is one of the more popular amongst them. The Banh Canh Cua features chunks of crab meats and shrimp balls paired with the chewy thick noodles in a crimson broth garnished with chopped scallion.

Photo credit - Ron Diggity

Photo credit - Ron Diggity

Pho Bo Tai – Beef Rice Noodle Soup

And finally of course, it would be remiss to talk about Vietnamese noodle treats without mentioning the popular noodle dish that is Pho. The Pho Bo Tai is a version of Pho with Half-Done Beef Fillet, featuring half-done thinly sliced beef with white rice noodles dumped in a clear soupy broth. The broth is the most important fixture of the dish, and the hardest to make as well, usually by simmering beef bones, oxtails, charred onion and spices for several hours. The dish is then topped with cilantro, basil, lime, bean sprout and onions.


This post is part of WanderFood Wednesday, a Blog Carnival held by Wanderlust & Lipstick. Check them out for a visual treat of tasty dishes, or take part in the carnival yourself. Let them be an inspiration for your last minute holiday plans!


If you are planning a visit to Asia, don’t forget to check out Unearthing Asia, the best Asia travel portal focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. We have got some of the best travel ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of must-try things in Hokkaido.

7 Top Attractions in Ho Chi Minh City

The economic centre of Southeast Asia’s rising economic star, Ho Chi Minh City is one of the planet’s most exciting cities, where influences from France collide with the Orient, and where the Vietnam War is remembered like it was yesterday. And with skyscrapers, landmarks and fashion cenres galore, never has there been a better time to head to a place that, despite the global recession, is still very much alive and kicking.

Photo credits - Colin Purrington

Photo credits - Colin Purrington

Authentic Vietnamese

Vietnamese cuisine is taking off around the world, but there is still no better place to find it than in the country’s gourmet capital. Join the likes of Bill Clinton at Pho2000 near Ben Thanh Market, which proudly proclaimed “Pho for the President” along with various photos of the then President of the United States enjoying a bowl of pho at the iconic restaurant. The menu here is long and varied, and is packed with locals and tourists alike. Those looking for something a little more fusion should head to Xu Bar, which is not only one of the cornerstones of night life in the city, but is also the place where the celebrated Chef Nyuyen is attempting to revamp traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

Photo credits - Kirk Siang

Photo credits - Kirk Siang

Coffee & Cafe

The Ho Chi Minh City is brighten up by various lights at night, giving it a laid-back atmosphere that give rise to the prevalence of cafes dotted along the streets. Vietnam is one of the world’s most renowned producers of coffee, and caffeine lovers will find themselves in aromatic heaven trying out the varied local brews here. For a sure-fire way to refresh and relax, pick a random cafe at a bustling street corner and order a local brew. Sit back and enjoy as you laze yourself and watch the various pedestrians passing by.

Photo credits - alex.ch

Photo credits - alex.ch

Hitting the Town

Other than a pick of bustling cafes to relax and sip your time away, the Ho Chi Minh City also plays host to numerous trendy bars that is a favorite of both locals and expats. The Q Bar, Saigon Saigon Bar, Xu Bar, Lush and Velvet are but a few in the long list of popular hangout spots for the party crowd, each with their own distinct trendiness and appeal.

Photo credits - Wilson Loo

Photo credits - Wilson Loo

Iconic Landmarks

It’s pretty easy to navigate the sprawling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City on foot, particularly since most of the places of interest is located in District One. Start with the Notre Dame Cathedral, an outstanding red-brick building adorned with staiend glass, then move on to Saigon Central Post office, a French colonial building with a classic interior. This also operates all postal services from the city and is the best place to buy a phone card. The Opera House typifies the city, showing both western operas and traditional Vietnamese performances. The Reunification Palace was the home of the former Viet Cong leader who the city is named after and is a grand colonial building overlooking the city centre.

Photo credits - Lynt

Photo credits - Lynt

Bikers Gang

After exploring the iconic landmarks of District One by foot, rent a motorbike and cruise along the streets for a way of transportation that has become ingrained into the fabric of society. Throngs of Vietnamese commuters travel by motorbike, and although it may not be one of the safest way to travel, it is certainly one of the most authentic.

Photo credits - nerdcoregirl

Photo credits - nerdcoregirl

War Remnants

One of Vietnam’s biggest tourist attractions, the Chu Chi Tunnels are a network of underground caverns built during the Vietnam War. About 121 kms long in total, visitors can take a tour of the tunnels and see for themselves the conditions in which the Vietcong waged a bloody war against the machineries of US. The War Remnant Museum, also known as the Museum of American Atrocities, is another tourist attraction worth visiting. It’s extremely biased and one sided, but still an important insight nevertheless into the Vietcong’s reaction to the war.

Photo credits - martywindle

Photo credits - martywindle

Shopping Seasons

Aside from eating most visitors to Vietnam’s number one city find themselves spending most of their time here shopping. Ben Thanh Market is a major market in Ho Chi Minh City and is the place to find souvenirs. There is a wide selection of t-shirts sporting the likes of “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Miss Saigon” to lacquerware and embroidery, and for those that love a good brew, some of the best coffee beans in the region. Ladies will want to try out the Ao Dai, the Vietnamese national dress, which is one of the most exquisite in the region, combining trousers and a dress.

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About the Author. Trangh Nguyen. Come to Vietnam, enjoy a cup of bia hoi in the street restaurant, ride moto, cruise in the labirynth of Mekong Delta and Halong Bay. Come with us and share the delight of one of the most beautiful country in Asia. We welcome you with our heart, hospitality and excellent cuisine.

Sal’s Travelogue #2 – Saigon Green

May 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Exotic South East

Last week, our writer shared with us about the start of his adventure – a month of backpacking through South East Asia on a limited budget, US$700! Here he goes to share about reaching his first destination, meeting new friends and exploring new sights!

So there I was, at the Go2 bar in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) by myself – with nothing but a pack of smokes and a bottle of the very popular Saigon Green to keep me company. After polishing off two of these, the loneliness kicked in and I found myself muttering: “I hope this trip isn’t a mistake.”

Saigon Green, very popular with the locals. Photo credit - Thalling55.

Saigon Green, very popular with the locals. Photo credit - Thalling55.

As if in response to my comment, three cute girls entered the bar, and we occasionally make eye contact. The minute the table next to theirs cleared up, I moved over and motioned for the waitress to come over, so I could order my new friends a round of Saigon Greens. Before she could take down my order, however – the girls were already waving at me to come and join them.

“You look really lonely!” said the one on my right. And that I was.

Saigon city. Photo credit – Sal Sim.

Saigon city. Photo credit – Sal Sim.

It was my first time in Vietnam, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of reminiscence – Saigon reminded me a lot of Bangkok. Upon arrival, I got on board the local bus service 152 heading towards the Pham Ngu Lao district – a district well known for hosting endless streams of travelers.

What I observed along the journey confirmed my suspicion that this city wasn’t very different compared to the Thai capital – streets bustling with traffic and hordes of its inhabitants caught up in a never-ending rush to make the most out of the workday.

My first excursion found me going on a motorcycle cruise around town, to see the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants museum. Typical tourist spots, I thought – with straightforward visits that could only leave a vague impression of all that the Vietnamese have endured during their darkest years. Hiring a guide might have provided a bit more insight – but then again, I had my budget to watch, and I was not about to part so easily with my funds; especially not on my first day.

Unfortunately, what I thought would be a good start to the day only lasted three hours, and my lack of sleep from the night before prompted me to take an afternoon nap before heading to the Go2 bar.

Saigon's War Remnants Museum. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Saigon's War Remnants Museum. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Agnes, Cecilie and Stina, from Norway. Truthfully, it didn’t matter so much where they were from – I’m just glad I finally had people to talk to. Drinks and chatter arrived effortlessly, and in no time at all, they invited me to join them on their DIY tour of the Mekong Delta. It didn’t take a lot to convince me, since I was alone and had nothing planned.

The next morning, we got on the mini bus for a three hour ride heading south towards the township of Ben Tre. We had some trouble locating our guesthouse, the Thao Nhi – none of the locals knew about it. By some stroke of luck, the owner himself rode by on his bike and quickly rounded up a posse of three other riders to fetch us to his very welcoming establishment, which was a good seven kilometers away from the town center.

mekong-delta-2-by-sal

Mekong Delta. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Mekong Delta. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

After checking in, we immediately took up the owner’s offer to tour the Delta for no more than US$15 per person. That sounded a little steep in the beginning, but by the end of it we realized we definitely got our money’s worth.

I’ve always been told that if I ever got to Vietnam, the Mekong Delta would be something I would have to see. Truth be told, I never understood what the big deal was, until now. As we cruised along the river and its smaller canals, it seemed somewhat polite that the boatman would cut the motor every now and then, to allow us to fully take in the serenity offered by this well-known river. With the occasional passing boat, makeshift jetties and floating fishing houses flanking both banks on the river, there was no way either of us could resist the urge to whip out our cameras and enter a photo-taking frenzy.

This was how we spent the day: a private boat for the four of us, a tour of the various coconut-based riverside industries and a trek through lush orchards and bee farms, ending with a firefly catching session in the evening. Value for money indeed.

Sunset by the Mekong Delta. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

Sunset by the Mekong Delta. Photo credit - Sal Sim.

We were keen on keeping our stay in Ben Tre as short as possible, but not without touring the town on bicycles on our own. The girls truly enjoyed the riverside marketplace, located at the heart of town – but for me, it hardly differed from the wet markets of any Singaporean neighborhood. The exercise was good though, and nothing beats a good song coming on as you cruise the streets with locals smiling and waving as you go by.

As the evening crept up on this quiet haven away from the hustle and bustle of Saigon, we pondered about the next leg of our trip. By five thirty, we were already on a local bus headed straight for Saigon. Tomorrow, the girls would be off towards the North of Vietnam, and I would be by myself once more. My next destination? Phnom Penh, Cambodia – a city I have been longing to revisit. I’ve spent less than US$40 for an amazing three days at Saigon and Ben Tre, and decided that I could not ask for a more solid prelude to my first solo experience.

About the Author. Sal S-S. A writer by profession, a free spirit by nature – Sal believes that his life’s one purpose is to see it all, learn it all and do it all. Currently based as a freelance copywriter in Singapore, it is for life’s many unknowns and uncertainties that he sets his sights beyond borders and into new discoveries. Living and working for the journey itself and nothing less, it is with pen in hand and passion at heart that he contributes to Unearthing Asia.

Exploring Ho Chi Minh City

April 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, Exotic South East

A recent trip to Saigon gave our contributor, Michelle Lee, the chance to explore Vietnamese hospitality in four short days. After an eventful three days of touring, she shares her experiences exploring Ho Chi Minh in the final day!

The heavily French influenced Notre Dame Cathedral. Photo credit – yeowatzup.

The heavily French influenced Notre Dame Cathedral. Photo credit – yeowatzup.

French Connection

At last, it’s time to finally explore Ho Chi Minh City itself. Saigon’s history dons the cityscape with many of the older buildings exhibiting French influences – tall steeples towering into the skies, fancy arches with intricate carvings and lengthy windows of sheer grandeur.

Many of these architectures are found within walking distance in the city. Dominating the city’s skyline is the notable Notre Dame Cathedral built in 1883, a popular site amongst visitors and wedding couples for photo shoots. Just across the street is the Ho Chi Minh main post office known for its impressive interior. High ceiling and Baroque art decorate the walls, a sight seemingly more apt in France than Vietnam.

The Peoples Committee building. Photo credit – yiping-lim.

The Peoples Committee building. Photo credit – yiping-lim.

Take a walk further down to the heart of the commercial hub is the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Building situated at the end of Nguyen Hue Street. The People’s Committee Building, dwarfed by taller buildings around it exudes a rich Renaissance flavour and unveils an even more stunning sight at night when the building is beautifully floodlit. At any time of the day, the premise is always filled with crowds snapping photos with the iconic “Uncle Ho” (a statue of Mr Ho Chi Minh himself) sitting at the front of the building.

Wholesale market near Chinatown. Photo credit – tuis.

Wholesale market near Chinatown. Photo credit – tuis.

Chinatown in Saigon

With a few hours left, I’ve decided to make the most out of Saigon. After some recommendation from the locals, I took their most commonly used public transport – the motorbike “taxi”, which cost only VND$1 for a ride, out of the city centre to Antong Plaza located at Chinatown.

You can find an array of local dried goods from shrimps to scallops, coffee beans to mushrooms, bird nests to abalones! A haven for homemakers looking for cheap and quality ingredients to whip a sumptuous meal. The stall holders are able to pack and seal the goods for you, solving the problem in regards to airport regulations when tourists want to bring local products back home. Fabuleux!

Chinatown Temple. Photo credit – weiss.

Chinatown Temple. Photo credit – weiss.

Motorbikes are the locals choice of transport. Photo credit – lynt.

Motorbikes are the locals choice of transport. Photo credit – lynt.

On the streets, motorbikes swamp the roads. “Ninjas” are a common sight as riders cover themselves from head-to-toe to protect themselves from the sun and the dusty air.

Traffic lights often fail to serve its purpose and tourists find it almost impossible to cross the roads. After a few days in Saigon, I begin to comprehend the art of beating the traffic – you’ve got to simply take a deep breath, and cross as calmly and nonchalantly, believing that the vehicles will give way. And they will! It sure takes guts to do so, but practice makes perfect.

Mobile food stalls spring up anywhere and everywhere selling handy snacks such as roasted sweet potatoes, fried cuttlefish, and pancakes. You can easily get them at less than VND$5 each, and they are tastier than they look, a perfect goodbye to a packed 4 four days of touring Saigon.

And that is the end of Michelle’s four days of adventure throughout Saigon. Hope you had fun along the ride!Part I: Pho for the President | Part II: War and Peace | Part III: Floating Market and Elephant Ears

About the Author. Michelle Lee. There is an idea behind every writing, and magic in bringing words to life. For Michelle, words create worlds beyond ours. A writer based in Singapore, Michelle seeks to inspire thoughts, ignite emotions, and explore the unfound as much as boundaries can be ventured into. Her inspirations spiral from overseas escapades filled with wild diversities of culture and traditions. “Abandoning responsibilities, work and the hustles of life to a place where everything is fresh, new and alienated. That, is sheer fascination.”

Floating Market and Elephant Ears

March 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Culture, Exotic South East

A recent trip to Saigon gave our contributor, Michelle Lee, the chance to explore Vietnamese hospitality in four short days. After trying out original Vietnamese noodle (Pho), and visiting the war remnants in Vietnam, she heads toward the Mekong Delta to experience the colorful floating market.

The colorful Cai Be Floating market. Photo credit - Daniel Guip.

The colorful Cai Be Floating market. Photo credit - Daniel Guip.

Cai Be Floating Market

I got up early the next day to join the Mekong Delta day tour, starting with a 4 hours bus ride towards the Cai Be Floating market. This market is both popular with the tourist and important for the locals. We boarded a bum-boat and entered the buoyant floating market, a very picturesque and uniquely Vietnamese experience.

Hundreds of boats filled with various produces are anchored along the banks of the river every day! Meat, vegetables, fruits and all sorts of goods are hanging on the boats, hung on poles that the locals call “cay beo”. Hundreds of such poles point sky wards.

After the colorful local market, the guide took us to several home factories where villagers made peanut and caramel sweets, coconut candy, rice crisps and rice paper for a living. We ended the inland tour with a trek through lush orchard and bee farms before heading back towards the boat to embark on a 40 minutes cruise heading towards smaller islands around the delta.

Other than the colorful floating market, the Mekong Delta is also famed for its beautiful landscape and picturesque greeneries. As we observe the typical Mekong Delta rural life, it’s easy to see how that fame came about. These charming canals and small islands are like no other, and one can easily immerse yourself in nature as you explore the area.

Elephant Ear Fish, a Mekong specialty! Photo credit - buck82.

Elephant Ear Fish, a Mekong specialty! Photo credit - buck82.

Mekong Collage. Photo credit - Berties world, mckaysavage, phobus.

Mekong Collage. Photo credit - Berties world, mckaysavage, phobus.

Elephant Ear Fish, a Mekong Specialty

We finally arrived at Binh Hoa Phuoc village, the green pearl of Vinh Long town at around noon, feeling hot and hungry. There we lunched on special local fare – elephant ear fish! This fifteen-inch fish shaped like a bass was standing straight up in wooden holders. It has been deep fried to crisp perfection, and its shaped like an elephant ear, thus the name.

The white flaky fish meat were rolled into rice papers mixed with fresh mint, cilantro, basil and dipped into the bowl of fish sauce. This mixture of chilis, fresh herbs and soft fish made for a tasty lunch indeed! As we indulged ourselves on this unique delicacy, traditional Mekong music and dance performance were held for our enjoyment.

Finally, we end the day tour with a relaxing walk around this small village, through the bonsai garden, before heading back towards Saigon.

Next, in the final part of this four part story, Michelle explores the sights in Ho Chi Minh City itself. Check back in the coming week! Part I: Pho for the President | Part II: War and Peace

About the Author. Michelle Lee. There is an idea behind every writing, and magic in bringing words to life. For Michelle, words create worlds beyond ours. A writer based in Singapore, Michelle seeks to inspire thoughts, ignite emotions, and explore the unfound as much as boundaries can be ventured into. Her inspirations spiral from overseas escapades filled with wild diversities of culture and traditions. “Abandoning responsibilities, work and the hustles of life to a place where everything is fresh, new and alienated. That, is sheer fascination.”

Pho for the President

March 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Exotic South East, Feature Highlights

A recent trip to Saigon gave our contributor, Michelle Lee, the chance to explore Vietnamese hospitality in four short days. In the first part of this four-part story, she enjoyed a hearty meal of Vietnamese beef noodle (or Pho) fit for the President, more specifically, former US President Bill Clinton. After which, she explored the mazy Ben Thanh Market as well as its crowded night market and enjoyed some unique Vietnamese snacks.

Vietnamese beef noodle, or locally known as pho. Photo credit - springstep.

Vietnamese beef noodle, or locally known as pho. Photo credit - springstep.

Day 1: Pho for the President

Delicious Vietnamese gourmet are available in any part of the world, but nothing beats having the real thing at the place it originated from. From way-back before I touched down in Vietnam, the thoughts of tasty thinly sliced beef tenderloins served with rice noodles in a flavorful broth (known locally as Pho) has got me drooling in anticipation.

The city is filled with a myriad of Pho restaurants. With help from the locals, they are whittled down to only a handful best. I settled for Pho 2000, a restaurant right at the heart of town renown for playing host to former US president Bill Clinton.

The evidences are proudly hung on walls of the shop. Numerous pictures of the former US President in varying stage of blissful contentment in savoring the meal. Indeed, the local spices conjure a unique and tasty Pho Ngan (beef noodle soup), definitely one worth writing home about!

Outside the Ben Thanh Market. Photo credit - lecercle.

Outside the Ben Thanh Market. Photo credit - lecercle.

Mazy and Crowded

Next, I hop across the street to the ever-crowded and mazy Ben Thanh market, the largest retail market in the city with over 1,000 stalls selling local handicrafts, silk cloth, handbags, lacquer-ware souvenirs and decent imitations of branded wear.

You’ll find yourself getting lost in the world of Vietnamese art and craftsmanship as most of the products are handmade, with design details impossible for machines to match up to. For the entire afternoon, I found myself mastering the art of haggling and experiencing the Vietnamese culture handsomely.

In the evening, the market closes but the Night Market begins, just outside the gates of Ben Thanh Market. Hundreds of stalls springs up along the two minor side streets along the main building. This is a great place to try some local snacks, like the banh xeo (a pancake filled with beansprouts, shrimp and port), and banh can (an egg flour savoury).

Banh xeo, Vietnamese "crepes". Photo credit - flickmor.

Banh xeo, Vietnamese 'crepes'. Photo credit - flickmor.

Next, in the second part of this four part story, Michelle explores the war remnants at the Chu Chi Tunnels and the unique Vietnamese-established religion of Cao Dai.

About the Author. Michelle Lee. There is an idea behind every writing, and magic in bringing words to life. For Michelle, words create worlds beyond ours. A writer based in Singapore, Michelle seeks to inspire thoughts, ignite emotions, and explore the unfound as much as boundaries can be ventured into. Her inspirations spiral from overseas escapades filled with wild diversities of culture and traditions. “Abandoning responsibilities, work and the hustles of life to a place where everything is fresh, new and alienated. That, is sheer fascination.”