Côn Đảo – from “Hell on Earth” to “Tourist Paradise”

Côn Đảo Islands is an archipelago and also a district of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province in the Southeastern region of Vietnam. Located at about 185 km from Vũng Tàu and 230 km from Hồ Chí Minh city, the group includes 16 mountainous islands and islets whose total land area is about 75.15 km2 with 16 islands and the local population is roughly 5,000.
Photo: Vietsense Travel

The islands’ largest island, Côn Sơn (or Côn Lôn) Island is infamous for its penal facilities where Vietnamese and Cambodian nationalists were sent to serve their sentence for anti-French activities during the French colonial era. Many Vietnamese Communist leaders were “schooled” on this island as well.

Time your visit

From March to September is the best time of the year to visit Côn Đảo. From October to February, although there are often large waves, it is still worthy to visit because that is the time of the dry season with very lovely sunlight. In short, visit Côn Đảo at any time you feel like, as it always welcomes you.

Destinations

Đầm Trầu Beach
Photo: Foody

Famous as the most beautiful beach of Côn Đảo, Đầm Trầu beach is only 30 minutes drive from Côn Đảo town center. There is soft white sand, pristine forests and uniquely shaped cliffs for you to explore. At the beach, you can have fun in the water, enjoy the magnificent scenery or dive into the ocean for the coral reef.

Côn Đảo National Park
Photo: Mytour

Côn Đảo National Park is an area of nearly 6,000ha of land and 14,000ha underwater. Coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests here provide environment productive for breeding, nursing and preserving marine species. Here, you will experience many interesting activities such as fishing, diving, biking, walking and nature sightseeing.

Currently, Côn Đảo is home to the largest number of sea turtles in Vietnam. There are 17 sandbanks recorded as spawning grounds of turtles, of which up to four are recorded as having 1,000 mother turtles laying eggs each year.

Hàng Dương Cemetery
Photo: Vietnam Times

Hàng Dương Cemetery is the largest cemetery on Côn Đảo. This is where tens of thousands of revolutionary and patriotic Vietnamese soldiers have been buried for generations, from 1862 to 1975. There are more than 2,000 martyrs’ graves, including graves of famous patriots such as Võ Thị Sáu, Nguyễn An Ninh, Lê Hồng Phong, etc. A special experience you have to try here is to visit the grave at 12 o’clock. In contrary to the common thinking that at this time the grave will be very quiet and deserted, the cemetery at midnight is still crowded with tourists. The stalls at the cemetery are still lit up, providing tourists with incense and offering for the deaths.

Côn Đảo Prison
Image result for nhà tù côn đảo
Photo: baotainguyenmoitruong.vn

Côn Đảo Prison was considered “Hell on Earth” during the war against the French and the US. This prison system was built by the French to lock up dangerous prisoners to French colonialism, such as political prisoners, prisoners who were on death rows, etc. This prison was later also used by the United States to imprison prisoners during the American war.

The most famous place in the prison area is the “tiger cage“. The “tiger cage” was the harshest place of the solitary confinement. The prisoners, detained in rooms with only 5m² in size and no beds, were shackled and had to lie on damp cement floor. They were provided with poor food and sanitation while often tortured for interrogation in order to subdue the wills of the prisoners. To avoid the public opposition, the “tiger cage” was isolated and kept as a secret, and for a long time, no one outside knew about its existence.

There are many other fascinating destinations on the islands, but I will leave it to you to explore for yourself.

Activities

Snorkelling on the coral reef
Photo: Dulich.me

Côn Đảo consists of different islands such as Bảy Cạnh Island, Tài Island, Tre Island, Egg Island, Trác Island or Cau Island, which are the collection of the highest density of coral reefs in Vietnam. This is an amazing opportunity for tourists to truly explore the ocean world. At pre-dive coral reef sites, you will be guided through basic operations and experience diving with an instructor.

Fishing
Photo: Youtube

Located in the South China Sea, Côn Đảo is blessed with abundant seafood, and it promises an exciting adventure for you. Brave tourists can even challenge themselves with shark fishing. The most ideal place is Bãi Nhát, located at the top of Côn Đảo’s famous peak, Love. According to “expert” shark fishermen, the best time to go shark fishing is when the night falls, while the size of the fish more or less depends on the weather and the water.

Watch the turtles laying their eggs
Photo: Soha
You can experience a very quiet but charming night on Bảy Cạnh Island, watching the Chelonia mydas turtles (or green turtles) making their nests and laying eggs on the beach. You can contact Côn Đảo National Park for more information about the tour.

Transportation

Côn Đảo is 236km from Hồ Chí Minh City. You can get to Côn Đảo by land and waterway or by air.

Photo: otosaigon.com
Travel by boat

From Hồ Chí Minh City, you can catch a bus to Vũng Tàu City then transfer to Cát Lở port to get to the pier.

You should book boat tickets online, pay through bank transfer then call the ticket office to confirm payment. Even if you have paid, you still need to arrive at the port 5 hours before the departure time. If you arrive late, the tickets will be sold to others, even if you have paid.

Booking website: vetaukhachcondao.com.

If your schedule has specific departure and return dates, always book your return, and take them all at once at Cát Lở Pier, avoiding waiting time to buy tickets at two ports. During the booking process, when payment is finished, you should also check the boat schedule to see whether the trip is cancelled or not, or if you have to change boat. If so, you should call the ticket office and re-order the tickets, because if the weather is bad or the boat is not running, the ticket office will not notify you.

Travel by plane

You can fly directly from Hồ Chí Minh City or Cần Thơ to Côn Đảo. From Hà Nội, you will have to transit to one of the places above. From Hồ Chí Minh City, there are 4-5 flights every day and guests can bring a maximum of 20 kg of checked baggage and 7 kg of free portable luggage. The flight time is about 55 minutes.

If you have any questions regarding this article or are in need of assistance about travelling in Vietnam or just anything at all, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are definitely thrilled to help.

Ngọc Lê

Return to the Buddhism Land in Northern Vietnam – Perfume Pagoda (Chùa Hương)

Chùa Hương (Perfume Pagoda) is a vast complex of Buddhist temples and shrines built into the limestone Hương Tích mountains. It is the site of a religious festival which draws large numbers of pilgrims from across Vietnam. The centre of Chùa Hương lies in Hương Sơn Commune, Mỹ Đức District, former Hà Tây Province (now Hanoi). The centre of this complex is the Perfume Temple, also known as Chùa Trong (Inner Temple), located in Hương Tích Cave.

The Vietnamese believe that Hương Sơn is Buddha’s Heaven. Hương Sơn complex is considered the place to worship Quan Thế Âm Bồ Tát (Brodhisattva Kwan Yin).

Photo: http://www.guidevietnam.org
 
1/How to Visit Perfume Pagoda?

*Hanoi – Perfume Pagoda

There are many ways to travel to Perfume Pagoda, such as cars, buses or motorbikes, because the distance is not long, so most people choose to go by motorbikes, while students usually travel by bus. Actually, cars will be the most suitable vehicles if traveling in the daytime because of cold weather in the early morning and late afternoon in the new year days. The traveling time from Hanoi center to Perfume Pagoda is approximately 1h30’.

*Reach the Perfume Pagoda

  • Rowing along the Yến Stream

Rowed by young women, boats carry visitors along the Yến Stream through a stunning landscape of blazing green rice paddles studded with jagged limestone mounts to the base of Perfume Mountain.

  • Proceeding to the pagoda

From the riverbank, pilgrims proceed on foot, past various ancient pagodas, monasteries and shrines, up hundreds of stone steps and a switchback trail, all worn smooth by the passage of countless feet. Taking a cabin car is an additional way to reach the pagoda.

Photo: https://www.bestprice.vn
Photo: https://dulich.chudu24.com
2/ Where to Visit Along Your Journey to Perfume Pagoda:

A pilgrimage to the Perfume Pagoda overview is not only for religious reasons, but also to see the numerous natural landscapes and valuable artifacts of the nation.

2.1. Trình Temple

Trình Temple is also known as Ngũ Nhạc Linh Tử, is a small temple on the right of the Yến Stream. This place is dedicated to the soldiers of the mountains, guarding the Pagoda. Visitors must go to the temple to present before entering the complex and this is a little procedure that everyone should do when visiting Perfume Pagoda.

Photo: tienamphu.com

 

2.2. Hương Tích Cave

The cave is considered to be the center of the Perfume Pagoda complex, and is the destination of all visitors when coming here. If you come to Perfume Pagoda without setting foot on Hương Tích Cave, you have not been to Perfume Pagoda.

Photo: phattuvietnam.net

2.3. Vân Song (Double Cloud) Temple or Cửa Vọng (Echoing Gate) Temple

This shrine is formerly a small shrine built by the villagers Yến Vỹ from ancient times to worship their Forest Goddess. The temple is on a high mountain, at the base of a mountain is a deep valley, while overlooking the valley is a mountain hamlet.

Photo: dulichchuahuong.com

2.4. Giải Oan (Exculpate) Pagoda

There is a clear fresh water well calls Long Tuyền (Black Dragon) in the Pagoda. If the people with unexplainable matters in their hearts which can not be shared with anyone can come here and tell the stories, they will reach serenity.

Photo: hatvan.vn

2.5. Thiên Trù Pagoda

This pagoda is built from the reign of King Lê Thánh Tông (1460 – 1497), located on Lão Mountain.

Photo: hanhtrinhtamlinh.com

 

3/Lễ hội chùa Hương (Perfume Pagoda Festival)

The main pilgrimage season at Perfume Pagoda is during the Perfume Pagoda festival, when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims make their way to Hương Tích cave and other temples. Known as the longest lasting festival in Vietnam, the Perfume Pagoda Festival lasts from the 6th day of the first month to the end of the third month of the lunar calendar. The Festival is seen by some as a good opportunity for young people to find romance and begin courtships.

People conduct a dragon dance in the yard of Trình Temple, and sail the royal barge on the 6th day of the 1st month. The festival is held in three places, Hương Tích Pagoda, Tuyết Sơn, and Long Vân. The festival is most crowded from the 15th – 20th day of the 2nd month of the lunar calendar as this period marks the main festival. The path leading from Outer Pagoda to Inner Pagoda is full of visitors coming up and down the mountain.

Photo: http://lehoi.cinet.vn
Photo: baomoi.com
Notes
  • You should wear appropriate clothes, could be casual but don’t wear anything too short or too revealing.
  • You can bring some offerings for the Pagoda such as fruit, biscuits,… In the case that you didn’t prepare anything, you can also buy offerings at the local shops but the price will only get higher once you enter closer to the Pagoda.
  • Remember to ask for the price and to bargain before buying anything. If you are not careful, you will end up buying something with the price much higher than the value of the thing itself.
  • There is a hotline to call if anything should happen: 0912558905

The Perfume Pagoda Festival is one of many traditional and well-known festivals throughout the country. This is a perfect opportunity for Vietnamese people to show respect to the Highers we worship and also to pray for good blessings for the New Year.

If you have any questions about this article or are in need for assistance about travelling in Vietnam or just anything at all, please do not hesitate to contact us, and we are sure to be thrilled to help.

Ngọc Lê

What Vietnamese Do On Tet Holiday

Tết Nguyên Đán or Tết Holiday has a very special position in the hearts of every Vietnamese no matter where they are. As the most important holiday in Vietnamese culture, it is held on the first days of the year in Lunar calendar, usually falling into February in solar calendar. Although Tết is traditionally a 3-day celebration, it actually involves preparations in the week(s) prior. Starting from Tết Táo Quân/Tết Ông Công – Ông Táo or Kitchen God Worship Day (December 23rd of the Lunar Calendar,) the atmosphere becomes festive and jolly when everyone rushes to prepare for the ritual and Tết.

>>>Learn More about the Origin and Meaning of Tet Holiday

1/Before Tết

1-1/Clean houses

It is of an important matter for Vietnamese people to clean their houses every Tết holiday. The act of cleaning and tidying the house at the beginning of the New Year is a mark point for a fresh start. We clean our houses to exorcise the evil spirits out of our doors and also to welcome good blessings to the whole family.

Photo: Bao An
1-2/Buy new clothes

Buying new clothes as gifts for the youngsters of the household is one of many beautiful acts to celebrate the start of New Year. As Vietnamese people in the past  used to endure starvation and poverty, the children were not given enough clothes to wear throughout the year. Almost the only chance for them to have new clothes is the occasion of Tết, when their parents spend most of  the savings for the family to have the best New Year celebration, which includes the buying of clothes for their lovely children.

Photo: Pipi City
1-3/Prepare food

One of the most common act of celebrating is of course eating. And in order to eat, we need food. The preparation usually starts very early before the arrival of Tết, so that during Tết, we do not need to cook much. Another reason for this early preparation is that during the first three days of Tết, the market is usually closed.

Photo: Dan Tri

Depending on each region and also each household, there are some traditional Tết food that should be prepared in advance. Here are some references for you.

>>>Check out Three Most Popular Vietnamese New Year Food in the North

>>>Check out Three Most Popular Vietnamese New Year Food in the Central

2/During Tết: The First Three Days Of New Year

Many customs and traditions are practiced by Vietnamese people to celebrate a new year on its first three days. We usually go back to our homeland, visit our ancestors’ grave and pray at the pagodas to receive good fortune and blessings. Besides, we visit our relatives, teachers, friends to dine and have fun with them, while children receive lucky money. This is the perfect opportunity for reunions and gatherings, because only at this time, most people have free time to spend with their beloved ones talking and sharing their lives to make up for the time of separation.

Photo: ydvn.net

Because of increasing demands, many means of public transportation like planes, trains, long-route buses, etc. offer tickets with doubled or even tripled price compared to that of ordinary days. Therefore, those who want to celebrate Tết at their homelands must book tickets several months in advance.

Photo: Tuoi Tre

3/Typical New Year Food

3-1/The North

Bánh chưng (Chưng cake)

Bánh chưng is the most common food eaten during Tết. Originated from the North of Vietnam, this dish has many times proved to be more than just a piece of cuisine. Bánh chưng is a national representative, a part of tradition that all of us inherited from our ancestors from the distant past.

Photo: adayroi.com
3-2/The South

Bánh tét (Tét cake)

As paralleled to bánh chưng in the north, bánh tét is in the south. This the representative of the south, sweeter and more like a dessert. This dish can convert the truism in the souls of the makers of it, as well as of all the Vietnamese in the south of Vietnam.

Photo: saigontourist.net
3-3/The central

Nem chua (Fermented pork roll)

Nem chua is not only famous in the center of Vietnam, but throughout the nation. People from everyone area of the country enjoy nem chua, for its sour but sweet taste that none other dishes has to offer.

Photo: Youtube

For further information about the three special dishes of Vietnam, please refer to these articles:

>>>Check out Three Most Popular Vietnamese New Year Food in the North

>>>Check out Three Most Popular Vietnamese New Year Food in the Central

4/Side Dishes of New Year Food

During any Tết activity, food is served to increase the enjoyment of each event. Here are some popular types of food specialised for this particular purpose:

4-1/Mứt (Candied fruit)

Candied fruit, also known as crystallized fruit or glacé fruit, has existed since the 14th century. Whole fruit, smaller pieces of fruit, or pieces of peel, are placed in heated sugar syrup, which absorbs the moisture from within the fruit and eventually preserves it. Depending on size and type of fruit, this process of preservation can take from several days to several months. This process allows the fruit to retain its quality for a year.

Photo: jamja.vn

In Vietnam, mứt is most loved by children, especially during Tết. It’s healthy, natural and tastes amazing. Lots of adults still enjoy it too. The most popular fruit being candied is coconut, ginger, etc.

4-2/Khô (dried food)
  • Khô mực (Dried shredded squid): a dried, shredded, seasoned, seafood product, made from squid or cuttlefish, commonly found in coastal Asian countries, Russia, and Hawaii. The snack is also referred to as dried shredded cuttlefish.
  • Khô bò (Beef jerky): a type of jerky, a lean meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into strips, and then dried to prevent spoilage. The resulting jerky from the above methods would be a salty and/or savory snack. However, sometimes a sweet or semi-sweet recipe is used, with sugar being a major ingredient in that variation. Jerky is ready-to-eat and needs no additional preparation. It can be stored for months without refrigeration.
Spicy khô bò. Photo: bepgiadinh.com
4-3/Hạt khô (Dried seeds)

The seeds are usually cleaned, heated and then roasted for eating purpose. There are many types of seed which can be eaten, for example dried roasted watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds,… We Vietnamese love to crack the seeds and eat them, just for fun. 

5/New Year Games

As Tết is also a holiday and a festival, many traditional games are carried out during this occasion. The games are not only for children, but also for the adults to reminisce back into their childhood. 

5-1/Traditional games

Catching ducks

Tết is usually initiated in February, which is the season of winter in spring, but still the weather is still chilly in the North of Vietnam. Therefore, in the years with warm weather, some rural areas hold the game of catching ducks in the pond. People choose a deep pond, or a pond with high shore, or use a grid or bamboo stick to strap around the pond. The number of players varies on the width of the pond, usually from two to four players maximum. Two large ducks will be dropped down into the pond with for the players to try to catch. The players of this game are not blindfolded but are required to have good agility and swimming techniques.

Photo: http://www.qtv.vn

Catching goats

This game usually takes place on a large grass field. The players is divided into pairs. Each pair will take turn to join the field. One person of each pair will be blindfolded, and have to catch the other person without getting out of the drawn circle. The person who acts as the goat must sometimes makes noise so that the blindfolded person can know where they are. This game is only for fun, and usually it’s the children who enjoy playing it the most.

Photo: Youtube

Wrestling

Wrestling is a beautiful performance of Vietnamese people’s martial arts spirit. The game is an opportunity for the strong wrestlers of the villages to compete with each other to find the winner of the championship. This is the chance for people to show off their strength and also to strengthen the bonds between villagers and villages.

Photo: http://www.baodaklak.vn
5-2/Modern games

Đánh bài (Card games)

Tết is the season of gambling. For new year’s luck, people are more willing to bet their money on something that they usually don’t. Sometimes we just play cards for fun, with only a small amount of money between the family and relatives, for the sake of the long lasting tradition of the nation.

Photo: VnMedia
    • Tiến lên (literally: “go forward”): also known as Vietnamese cards, Thirteen, Killer 13, “‘Bomb”‘, is a Vietnamese shedding-type card game devised in Southern China and Vietnam. It is similar to Zheng Shangyou, which uses a specially printed deck of cards, Big Two, and other “climbing” card games popular in many parts of Asia. Tiến lên, considered the national card game of Vietnam, is a game intended and best for four players.
    • Bài cào: This is one of the simplest, quickest, and most dependent on the element of chance. This game played with two or more people, the number of people is unlimited but it must be made sure each person has three cards.
    • Bài tấn (Durak): a card game that is popular in post-Soviet states. The object of the game is to get rid of all one’s cards. At the end of the game, the last player with cards in their hand is the durak. Co-op is not allowed in durak. This game is popular in Vietnam.
    • Phỏm or Tá lả: A Vietnamese card games, with 2-4 players.
    • Xì dách (Chinese Blackjack): Traditionally, most non-hardcore gamblers will play some form of gambling during the Chinese New Year as it is believed the new year brings in fresh new luck, and Chinese Blackjack is one of the most popular games to be played during the new year.
    • Xì tố (Poker)

Bầu Cua Tôm Cá (Gourd – Crab – Shrimp – Fish)

The game Bầu Cua Tôm Cá is a Vietnamese gambling game using three dice.The six sides of the dice, instead of showing one to six pips, have pictures of a fish, a prawn, a crab, a rooster, a calabash gourd, and a stag. Players place wagers on a board that has the six pictures, betting on which pictures will appear. If one die corresponds with a bet, the bettor receives the same amount as their bet. If two dice correspond with a bet, the bettor receives two times their money. If three dice correspond with a bet, the bettor receives three times their money. For instance, if one were to place $3 on fish, and the dealer rolls 2 fish and 1 stag, then the bettor would receive $6.
Bầu Cua Tôm Cá is essentially the Vietnamese variation of Hoo Hey How (Fish-Prawn-Crab) played in China, the dice game Crown and Anchor played by British sailors, or chuck-a-luck played in America.

We usually play this game during Tết, for fun.

Photo: https://www.vfaseattle.org

These are a few of many customs and traditions practiced during Vietnamese Tết Holiday, as we are celebrating the New Year and also the cultural beauty of our country. If you want to know more about this special event, you can look through our other articles discussing Tết. Happy New Year.

>>>Learn More about the Origin and Meaning of Tet Holiday

If you have any questions about this article or are in need for assistance about travelling in Vietnam or just anything at all, please do not hesitate to contact us, and we are sure to be thrilled to help.

Ngọc Lê

Which Food in Ho Chi Minh City Should You Try?

Tell me, my fellow readers, what is it that keeps you alive until today? What is irreplaceable and is the utmost pleasure in life? F – O – O – D. Food. One word which contains one of the best delicacies of this world.

Here in Ho Chi Minh City, so many, too many kinds of food are available. From national to international appetites, nothing is out of the reach of Saigonese. Along with adapting, importing and appreciating other regions and nations’ cuisine, we also possess strong desires to share our personalities to the world, through the amazing dishes which has been cooked and developed through generations.

Most of our food is served on the street. That is the way we do things. Simple and convenient. We do not care about fancy places, for what we crave for is not luxuries, but the feeling of utter satisfaction in taste.

A street food stall in old Saigon. Photo: https://thanhnien.vn

I always find myself drowned in the ocean of choices that HCMC has to offer. Sometimes more is less. There are so many kinds of food to choose from, whenever I decide to eat out while living in this city. With that bears in mind, I would like to give you a list of several street foods of HCMC, and let’s figure out if you can make the decision faster than I do every day.

* ‘Bánh mì’ (bread with everything)

Bánh’ stands for all types of cakes or anything made of rice or wheat in Vietnam.

Bánh mì’ is what we Saigonese can eat at any time of the day. There are bread and everything inside it. We have cucumbers, all kinds of herbs (vegetables) and meat of course. Ham, grilled fork, ‘chả cá’,… Anything you could ever imagine of, we can put it in ‘bánh mì’. The ingredients of ‘bánh mì’ are usually not put into the bread before the orders from the customers are received, for everyone has a different opinion on how they want their ‘bánh mì’ to be served.

Photo: http://afamily.vn

For more information about bánh mì, we have another article for you:

Recommendations

**Bánh mì Sáu Minh

Address: 170 Võ Văn Tần, phường 5, quận 3 (170 Võ Văn Tần Street, Ward 5, District 3)

Hours: 8:00 – 22:00

Price: ~30.000VND (~1.32$)

This price is three times higher than the average price of ‘bánh mì’, because there are usually lots of ingredients inside and the bread is fully stuffed.

This famous ‘bánh mì’ stall on Võ Văn Tần Street is often crowded with customers. The place was recommended to me by my father, and our family usually buy ‘bánh mì’ there. Besides, they also sell dumplings and sticky rice.

**Bánh mì Huỳnh Hoa

Address: 26 Lê Thị Riêng, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1 (26 Lê Thị Riêng Street, Ward Phạm Ngũ Lão, District 1)

Hours: 14:30 – 23:00

Price: ~33.000VND (~1.45$)

This place is where you can get the biggest ‘bánh mì’ in HCMC. This is, of course, to make sure you can’t eat anything else for the rest of the day.

* ‘Cơm tấm’ (broken rice)

Now, this is a truly special dish of Saigonese. We created this dish, and it is one of the best dishes that we are most proud of. Interestingly, the history of this dish goes way back into the past.

Photo: https://www.vietnamtravel.co

The main ingredient, broken rice, is fragments of rice grains, broken in the field, during drying, during transport, or by milling. It used to be considered as the cheaper grade of rice for only the poor had to consume the “incomplete” rice. However, now it is considered a special part of Saigon cuisine, a dish that is loved by many people.

Nowadays, ‘cơm tấm’ is served with grilled pork (either ribs or shredded) plus the Vietnamese dish ‘’ (thinly shredded pork mixed with cooked and thinly shredded pork skin) over broken rice. Various green pickled vegetables are added along with a prawn paste cake, steamed egg, grilled prawns and egg meatloaf (the customers decide what to be put on their dish, really). Typically, restaurants will serve this popular combination with a small bowl of fish sauce, as well as a small bowl of soup broth with garlic chives (to cleanse the throat). Sometimes, ‘cơm tấm’ is served with omelette.

Recommendations

**Cơm tấm Trần Quý Cáp

Address: 260 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 5, Quận 3 (260 Võ Văn Tần Street, Ward 5, District 3)

Hours: 10:00 – 21:00

Price: 20.000VND – 50.000VND (~0.88$ – 2.2$)

This place is my family’s all-time favourite Cơm Tấm Restaurant. There are so many factors joint together to create the delicious dish of ‘cơm tấm’, and this place is most famous for its broken rice. However, one of the restaurant’s drawbacks is that there is only one kind of soup served here which is bitter gourd soup.

**Cơm tấm Nguyễn Văn Cừ

Address: 74 Nguyễn Văn Cừ, Phường Nguyễn Cư Trinh, Quận 1 (74 Nguyễn Văn Cừ Street, Nguyễn Cư Trinh Ward, District 1)

Hours: 6:00 – 20:00

Price: 50.000 – 100.000 (2.2$ – 4.40$)

This ‘cơm tấm’ restaurant owns the market of pork-chopped in ‘cơm tấm’. Their pork is big and delicious, with as much amount as you could ever imagine having for a day. And yet you still crave for more on the next. This restaurant is most famous for its pork in ‘cơm tấm’, because who doesn’t like BBQ? Therefore, the average cost of each serving in this place is more expensive than many others.

* Hủ tiếu/ Hủ tíu (Kuy teav)

Kuy teav is a noodle soup consisting of rice noodles with pork stocks and toppings. Kuy teav is generally assumed to be a dish with Chinese origin. It can be found at marketplace (phsar) stalls, roadside vendors, and restaurants across the country, and is highly regarded for its clear and soothing broth and a dazzling array of herbs, aromatics and other garnishes and condiments.

Photo: https://news.zing.vn

Recommendations

**Hủ tiếu Nhân Quán

Address:

  • 488 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Phường 2, Quận 3 (488 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai Street, Ward 2, District 3)
  • 27Q Âu Cơ, Phường 14, Quận 11 (27Q Âu Cơ Street, Ward 14, District 11)
  • 122 Trần Quang Khải, Phường Tân Định, Quận 1 (122 Trần Quang Khải Street, Ward Tân Định, District 1)
  • 239 Âu Dương Lân, xã Bình Hưng, huyện Bình Chánh (239 Âu Dương Lân Street, Ward Bình Hưng, District Bình Chánh)
  • 72 Nguyễn Thượng Hiền, Phường 5, Quận 3 (72 Nguyễn Thượng Hiền Street, Ward 5, District 3)
  • 448 An Dương Vương, Phường 10, Quận 6 (448 An Dương Vương, Ward 10, District 6)
  • A68 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường Nguyễn Cư Trinh, Quận 1 (A68 Nguyễn Trãi Street, Ward Nguyễn Cư Trinh, District 1)

Hours: 6:00 – 22:00

Price: 50.000VND – 66.000VND (~2.2$ – 2.91$)

This is the most famous system of ‘hủ tiếu’ restaurants of HCMC, as you can see above this brand has many locations all over the city.

**Quán Cả Cần

Address: 213 – 215 Nguyễn Tri Phương, Phường 9, Quận 5 (213 – 215 Nguyễn Tri Phương Street, Ward 9, District 5)

Hours: 6:00 – 22:00

Price: about 44.000VND (~2$)

This restaurant is not only famous for its ‘hủ tiếu’ but also all kinds of Chinese dumplings. We Saigonese usually go there for family breakfast.

* Phở

Phở’ is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles called bánh phở, a few herbs, and meat, primarily made with either beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà.) ‘Phở’ is a popular street food in Vietnam and the specialty of a number of restaurant chains around the world. ‘Phở’ is originated in the early 20th century in Northern Vietnam, and was popularized throughout the rest of the world by refugees after the Vietnam War. The Hanoi and Saigon styles of ‘Phở’ differ from each other by noodle width, the sweetness of broth, and choice of herbs.

Photo: http://www.baoquangninh.com.vn

Recommendations

**Phở Thanh Cảnh

Address: 101 Nguyễn Cư Trinh, Phường Nguyễn Cư Trinh, Quận 1 (55 Nguyễn Cư Trinh Street, Ward Nguyễn Cư Trinh, District 1)

Hours: 6:00 – 22:00

Price: 40.000VND – 60.000VND (~1.46$ – 2.64$)

This is my personal favourite ‘phở’ restaurant because I used to study English at ILA in the building next to the restaurant. Every Sunday morning, I, my sister and my father would enjoy a hot bowl of ‘phở’ before we go to English class. Despite that, I love the place because of the memories there and of course also the unforgettable taste of ‘phở’ in this old restaurant.

**Phở Đoàn

Address: 574 Kha Vạn Cân, phường Linh Đông, quận Thủ Đức (574 Kha Vạn Cân Street, Ward Linh Đông, District Thủ Đức)

* Ốc (Shellfish)

The eating of shellfish is unique to Vietnam. We eat every creature with a shell that lives in water bodies. There are lots of ways invented to make them, such as grill, stir-fried, boiled, raw, etc.

Photo: https://huracars.com

Recommendations

**Thảo Ốc

Address:

  • 229 – 231 Hoàng Diệu, Phường 9, Quận 4 (229 – 231 Hoàng Diệu Street, Ward 9, District 4)
  • 99 Vĩnh Khánh, phường 8, quận 4 (99 Vĩnh Khánh Street, Ward 8, District 1)

Hours: 11:00 – 23:00

Price: 70.000VND – 150.000VND (~3.08$ – 6.61$)

This restaurant will bring you the truest taste of the ocean. The seafood is usually fresh and amazing, but what attracts customers here is actually the way the cook makes all the dishes. Incredibly strong favour. Everything is unforgettable.

**Ốc Đào

Address: 212B/D28 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường Nguyễn Cư Trinh, Quận 1 (212B/D28 Nguyễn Trãi Street, Ward Nguyễn Cư Trinh, District 1)

Hours: 10:30AM–11:30PM

Price: 60.000NVD – 110.000VND (~2.64$ – 5$)

* Bánh xèo (Sizzling cake)

Bánh xèo, literally “sizzling cake“, named for the loud sizzling sound it makes when the rice batter is poured into the hot skillet is a Vietnamese savory fried pancake made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder, stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced green onion, and bean sprouts.

>>>For more information about bánh xèo, please refer to this link

Photo: https://www.youtube.com

Recommendations

**Bánh xèo Ăn là Ghiền

Address: 74 Sương Nguyệt Ánh, phường Bến Thành, Quận 1 (74 Sương Nguyệt Ánh Street, Ward Bến Thành, District 1)
Hours: 10:00 – 21:30

Price: 25.000VND – 110.000VND (~1.1$ – 4.84$)

This restaurant is our family’s favourite ‘bánh xèo’ dinner. We love the crispy of the cake here, and the stuffing is no different.

**Bánh xèo Mười Xiềm

Address: 204 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1

Hours: 10:00 – 22:00

Price: 50.000VND – 110.000VND (~$2.2 – 4.84$)

* Bánh ướt (Steamed rice crêpes)

Bánh ướt’ is one of my favorite choices of breakfast, thanks to its simplicity and undeniable deliciousness. Bánh ướt, literally “wet cakes”, is a Vietnamese thin pancake wrapper consisting of rice noodle sheets, served with dipping sauce, fried shallots, and slides of chả lụa (Vietnamese pork sausage).

Photo: https://cachlammonngon.vn

Recommendations

I usually eat ‘bánh ướt’ in the marketplaces.

* Bánh tráng

Bánh tráng or bánh đa nem, a northern Vietnamese term, (literally, coated cake and nem skins, respectively), sometimes called rice paper wrappers, rice crepes, rice wafers or nem wrappers, are edible Vietnamese wrappers used in Vietnamese cuisine, primarily in finger foods and appetizers such as Vietnamese nem dishes. The term rice paper wrappers can sometimes be a misnomer, as some ‘bánh tráng‘ wrappers are made from rice flour supplemented with tapioca flour or sometimes replaced completely with tapioca starch. The roasted version is bánh tráng nướng.

Recommendations

All over the street.

Bánh tráng nướng. Photo: https://thedriftbackpackershostel.com
Bánh tráng trộn (Rice wrappers mixed with everything). Photo: http://huongrung.net

There are many varieties of bánh tráng, about which we will discuss in another article for you.

If you have any questions about this article or are in need for assistance about travelling in Vietnam or just anything at all, please do not hesitate to contact us, and we are sure to be thrilled to help.

Ngọc Lê

Interesting Stories Behind The 130-Year-Old Cha Ca La Vong Restaurant

One of the very special dish of  Vietnam is chả, something only unique to Vietnam that no one can find the right word with the same meaning in any other languages. Therefore, I will not translate the name of this extraordinary Vietnamese dish into English, but use words in the most uttering sense of my ability to convey the meaning of the food itself to all you readers. In this article, I will only be discussing about one particular kind of ‘chả’ which has helped a restaurant stand firmly in Hanoi cuisine for 130 years: Chả cá Lã Vọng.

Photo: congthucmonngon.com

Chả cá Lã Vọng is a dish made from fish (usually sliced catfish), marinated in charcoal, grilled on charcoal and then fried in fat pans. Very simple. And the question remains is: Why can something so simple be so popular? Now I will unveil some interesting stories on this particular Vietnamese cuisine.

1/ The origin:

There is a very interesting story behind the famous name Lã Vọng of this particular kind of ‘chả cá’.In the French colonial period, at No. 14 Hàng Sơn Street, there was the Đoàn family who often use their place to shelter the Đề Thám army. The head of the family often made a very delicious ‘chả cá’ for the people who come by their house, then customers gradually became close with the family itself. The guests started to help the family to open a restaurant specializing in selling ‘chả cá’, both to support the family and also to create a gathering place.

As time went by, the two words ‘Chả Cá’ became the name of the street itself. In the restaurant, there was always a figure of Lã Vọng – Khương Tử Nha sitting with his knees crossing while fishing – a symbol of talented people who are waiting for their time to come. Therefore, the customers were used to call the dish chả cá Lã Vọng’, which now has become the official name of the restaurant and also the dish itself. The secret recipe of this dish is only handed down to the eldest child of the Đoàn family.

Photo: vietspices.blogspot.com

2/How they made it:

The fish used to make ‘chả cá’ should be little, sweet and fleshy. The most special and also extremely rare one is made from the Anh Vũ fish, caught at the junction of Bạch Hạc River (Việt Trì – Phú Thọ). Fish fillets are sliced from the sides, marinated in galangal, turmeric, chili, shrimp sauce in a special esoteric manner for at least 2 hours, then clamped in bamboo pair (or greased grill). The grillman must flip the grill from time to time so that the two sides are equally golden.

Right before served, the grilled meat will be put into a pan with a bit of animal fat – this is the traditional recipe of ‘chả cá’ – on the charcoal stove set in the middle of the table. When the pieces are golden yellow boiled in the fat, dill and onions are added to the pan to stir and quickly separated into bowls. Often cooking oil is not used to fry fish because it has a lower temperature and make the fish less tasty.

Photo: cuonnroll.vn

3/ How to eat it:

‘Chả cá’ must be served when still hot. When eating, put several ‘chả cá’ pieces into your bowl, rinse a bit of boiling fat on top, add some ‘bún rối’ (tangled rice vermicelli)’, ‘bánh tráng nướng’ (grilled rice paper), roasted peanuts, sliced cucumber, dill, Welsh onions, pickled lemon, and a little bit of ‘mắm tôm‘ (shrimp paste.) Shrimp paste is prepared by squeezing fresh lemon, a bit of fat, sugar, white wine and chilli, beat until bubbly and a little bit of belostomatid oil. Some foreigners cannot eat shrimp paste so they can have fish sauce instead, but the fish sauce makes the favour ‘chả cá’ be reduced, more or less.

>>>Heard of another Vietnamese dish with shrimp paste (Bun Dau Mam Tom,) have a look here

This dish can be served with wine and is suitable to eat in cold weather. In hot weather, customers often drink beer while having the dish.

Photo: chacahathanh.vn

4/ Where to eat

The majority of foreigners who come to Hanoi with an interest in this dish often visit the 130 year-old Chả cá Lã Vọng Restaurant.

This is the famous restaurant I mentioned above.

Photo: undiscoveredguide.com


Address: 14 Chả Cá Street and 107 Nguyễn Trường Tộ Street. The one on Chả Cá Street is relatively small but it is the original restaurant from the old times, while the one on Nguyễn Trường Tộ Street is clean and more spacious, suitable for large groups of people.

Price: 175,000 VND/person (7.71$/person)

If you have any questions or problems about travelling in Vietnam or just anything at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance. We would be thrilled to help.

Sincerely,

Ngọc Lê

Reference

Wikipedia

Dulich.vnexpress.net