Tag Archives: things to do in vietnam

citadel hue5

Hue – Come for the Citadel, Stay for the Food.

19th May 2015

citadel hue5 Hue – A city of history and pancakes

Hue is known for many things, being the old capital of Vietnam, having a UNESCO awarded Citadel, the perfume river and many more things but I was there for one reason and one reason alone. Food!

Hue is known around Vietnam as the food capital of the country. It is said that when Hue was the capital of Vietnam the emperor would bring all the best chefs to the city. Each chef was in charge of a different dish. There were typically 53 dishes per meal. Obviously this was long ago but all of these recipes and skills seemed to have hung around the city because everything we ate was divine.

hue pancake One dish in particular blew our socks off and had us returning again and again. Bau Khoai is a fried rice pancake filled with shrimp, pork and beansprouts. It’s served with what I could only work out to be really ripe avocado and the traditional pile of herbs that seems to a company all Vietnamese dishes. The best part though is the sauce…oh the sauce. A perfect tongue pleasing combination of satay and thin hoisin. I could drink gallons of it. You combine all of this in a bowl and consume. I’m drooling just typing this.

The restaurant is famous on trip adviser and in the Lonely Planet but we think we went in the fake next door rather than the real one. The real one is called Lac Thien. I can only image how good the real one is since this one blew us away.

When we weren’t filling our faces we were absorbing the history. The very expensive history. Getting into the citadel was much more than we’d read online and in the guide books, but it was worth it to see inside. We had read it would be 2 pound (or 55,000 dong) but instead it was close to double that at 120,000 dong. The sad thing about it is that so many wars and natural disasters have ruined the original buildings so pretty much everything you’re seeing is a restoration. It’s still great to see but such a shame that the real history is gone. We loved stumbling on an area when the restoring hadn’t begun and you could see fragments of the real citadel under the grass.

citadel hue3 hue girl 2 hue girl 3 hue girl original hue citedel It was a beautiful city but did suffer from a quick rise in tourism. We didn’t even dare walk by the lake since we were hassled as if we were on the beaches of Boracay. The people would be quite aggressive and rude. Which is a shame. I wish the government would step in and help change this because the city will be ruined beyond repair soon and not worth a visit. I think we would have bought more and definitely taken tuk tuks and boat rides if we hadn’t been chanced down the street at every turn.

citadel hue dragon boats hue fish fight garden hue hue sunset Hue is a good city, but it definitely could be a GREAT city if tourism was nurtured instead of attacked by putting high prices on things and hounding people. I realise that sounds like I didn’t enjoy my time here. I did but it’s sad to be able to see how fantastic this place could be. Saying all that, it’s worth coming for a few days for the food and a glimpse at the beautiful architecture. citadel hue2 citadel hue4 citadel hue signature

A Great Alternative to Halong Bay – Catba Island

17th May 2015


A trip to Vietnam isn’t complete without a trip to one of the natural wonders of the world… Halong Bay.

We researched Halong bay until my internet told me I had an addiction. The problem seemed to be:

  1. It was really expensive
  2. It was full of tourists

It seemed that even if you paid a hell of a lot you’d still end up on a shit tour unable to see anything through the throngs of tourists. So we tracked down an alternative. We decided to go to Catba .

Catba is an island the other side of Halong bay. Its bay is called Lan Ha bay but is still officially Halong bay. It’s just the other quieter side.

17 20 It was two thirds of the price and seemed just as beautiful. We jumped at the chance to visit.

We dragged out two visiting Irish friends with us and landed in Catba to discover it was the quiet season. The VERY quiet season. This wasn’t a bad thing since it meant really cheap accommodation and whole bars to ourselves.

We spent our first night catching up over gin and juice, trying the mysterious laughing gas (which is just an odd few seconds) and laughing…a lot.

16 catba I really liked the sleepy town of Catba but like all of Vietnam it closes early here with all street lights going off at 10 and bars closing about 12 (although you can track down places that go till the wee hours).

The next day we hit the high seas and went on our boat trip. We did our trip through Asia outdoors and I’d recommend it to anyone. So cheap (at just 25 dollars) and really well organised.

We sailed past the floating fishing communities and saw the bay emerge around us. It was spectacular.

10 11 (2) We then had the opportunity to ride the seas ourselves and hoped in Kayaks. Seeing the mountains from so low down only added to their spender. Photos really don’t to this place justice.

After a delicious lunch and more kayaking we were ready to say goodbye to the bay feeling like we’d all earned the right to draw a big line through a bucket list item. I’d definitely recommend the Catba route.

3 6 19 That night we chatted lots more over beers. We reminisced about Korea, congratulated Ciaran on his fantastic travellers beard and exchanged travel stories (both the good and the disgusting). We weren’t sad to head back to Hanoi when it came to it but I loved every minute of our excursion to the bay.


You’ve got a little something on your face Ciaran

hazel2 If you are interested in this trip then I definitely think you should grab a Hazel and Ciaran for the journey. If that’s not an option then just the bay will do.

24 signature





10 Steps To Surviving Vietnam

1st May 2015

image Vietnam is a popular destination for the backpacker, the flash packer and the ‘heavily over’ packer .

I had no idea what to expect from this country before I arrived.  Vietnam was more like Hogwarts to me since I had read a lot about it and dreamed I’d get a letter inviting me there someday.

Now we are here, and it’s all I hoped it would be and more. So I thought I’d offer you a few handy tips on how to survive Vietnam.

Step 1: Run to the nearest market/shop/ man in the road and buy the backpackers uniform. This being the baggy elephant print pants. I now proudly own 3 pairs and I’m considering moving into them permanently. They are more spacious than previous London apartments I’ve lived in. Beads, tank tops with beer logos and sun hats are optional. image

Step 2: Eat everything in sight. Before coming to Vietnam it’s good to train your belly. Train as if you are going to an all-you-can eat hotdog contest. Train so that you can get the maximum deliciousness into your face. Phò, Bun Cha, Bahn Mi, egg coffee…all of it! Your trip to Vietnam should be made up of 7 meals a day.

IMG_1662 Step 3: Find a plastic chair, sit in it and beer will come. Fresh beer,Lauru and Saigon…these are mostly the words you will be shouting through the crowds of heads on children’s plastic garden furniture. All will cost you less than 50p, not all will be delicious. (Cheapest beer we found was 9p or 3,000 dong in Hoi an)

IMG_1701 Step 4: Wear a pointy hat. When we got off the plane I stood pointing at the runway. Lee thought I was insane until he realised my joy was induced by the fact every person outdoors was wearing a pointy hat. They wear them all over Asia but for me this was the iconic image of the country. I some how… and believe me I’ve given myself a stern talking to.. Have not bought one yet. I have only just stopped being star struck every time I see someone in one.

Step 5: Phò. I realise this was maybe just my lack of all worldly knowledge coming from a small town in Wales where sheep out number people, but it’s pronounced Fu as in “Fu-dge this soup is good ” and not Foe- as in “Foe fudge sake get me some more soup”

IMG_1761 Step 6: See the water puppets in Hanoi. It’s weird, it’s cheap. Do you need more reasons? I have no idea what was happening for 99% of the show. It’s quintessentially Vietnamese. And if you’ve seen Team America it will tickle you all the more. Their comic timing was great.

Step 7: Learn some Vietnamese. It seems in Vietnamese ‘where are you from?’ translates as ‘buy my shit’ the subtleties of language are stunning. Seriously though. Everyone wants to ‘chat’ but selling is the goal.

Step 8:No meal is a meal without spring rolls. In fact even a coffee isn’t complete without a side order of these.Step 9: Bahn Mi Queen in Hoi An is still the best and cheapest sandwich I’ve ever had.

Step 9: Sorry Vietnam,  money being called ‘dongs’ will always be funny.

Step 10: See as much as you can, stay as long as you can.

I hope these will help guide you on your trip or encourage you to book your next holiday here. I’m not being sponsored by the country to say these things but if Vietnam would like to thank me for this article then they can compensate me via rice pancakes and satay sauce. Thank you