Welcome you to our 9th travel – Binh Thuan, the province in the South Central Coast Region of Vietnam. This tour was particularly designed by a Binh Thuan local with the aim of offering the most local experiences for participants.
For this time, we are going to enjoy the sea breeze, jump into the cool beach, taste fresh seafood, and play with the sand. Along the way during our trip, especially on the way back to Saigon, the van will drive us along the seashore from Binh Thuan to Ba Ria Vung Tau for us to behold the breathtaking sea scenes. Besides, we will get a chance to visit a local house with dragon fruit garden and tasty local food.
In this hot weather, should we refresh ourselves in the beach? And with the cool breeze, we’re going to be Flying Without Wings ^^
Time:13th – 14th October 2018
Maximum number of participants: 13 people
In celebration of Mid Autumn Festival, Vietnam Track would like to senda special gift (worth 200,000VND) to a person who register to join the Binh Thuan Weekend Trip. We can make certain that you will get a very big surprise.
Transportation (16-seated van)
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Drinks and water
**Excluding: Other fees out of those above-mentioned things.
Registration deadline: 07/10/2018.
Cancellation Refund Policy:
If you cancel your registration, you will receive refund based on the time of your cancellation.
I remembered the bewilderment I felt, during the first few months of my stay in the Netherlands, when a Dutch friend revealed to me that going to a café was very different from going to a coffee shop. A café is that place we all know, where you can enjoy a good latte (sometimes not so good) and relax in a comfy sofa. A coffee shop for the Dutch is something else entirely – it’s where you buy weed.
For some reason, that reminds me of the coffee culture in Vietnam. “Wanna go grab a coffee?” (“Đi cà phê không?”) is almost like a catching phrase for us Vietnamese, but I can count on one hand the number of times I actually order a coffee when I go out with my friends. We say it so often, whenever we meet someone new, or want to catch up with our friends, or to woo that cute guy we have been staring across the classroom for some times now.
But “go grab a coffee” is not really about the coffee itself (never mind the fact that we have one of the best coffee in the world). No, it’s an excuse. It’s something used by Vietnamese when they want to have a chat that would last a few hours, jumping from one place to another. When I go to a café with my friends, I rarely order a coffee – I’m not a big fan of that bitter and dark liquid that so many people swear by.
Does it matter? The coffee is not the point
Vietnam as a nation is obsessed with coffee. We farm the beans, we ground them, we invent our own ways of drinking coffee. When I go out in the Netherlands, I’m always greeted with the same menu selections – Espresso, Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato. Times like that, I miss my country’s wide array of coffee. Dark, brown, iced, or Egg Coffee, Yogurt Coffee, Coconut Coffee. Vietnamese people’s creativity with food is endless, and it is reflected in the way we drink coffee, and our numerous variations of it.
You can also say we are obsessed with coffee in the sense that we are perpetually out at a café every other day (or every day, for some people). The past few years have witnessed the bloom of milk tea establishments all over the country. The street near my house now has more than ten milk tea places. However, cafés still maintain their unique standing in the Vietnamese culture. More pop up every day, with unique designs and interesting drinks menu. People go to café for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and through the night.
What do we do there, you wonder? It’s not always about enjoying a good cup of coffee. We’re catching up with our friends, we’re sharing cute cat pictures, we’re working on the next big report.
“Wanna go grab a coffee?” is about quality time with friends and pouring our hearts out over some issues. Who knew that dark, bitter liquid has such power?
So the next time a Vietnamese friend of yours ask you “Wanna go grab a coffee?”, think about the implications behind those simple words. Think about the fact that us Vietnamese tend to be rather round-about and we revel in lacing our true intentions between innocent invitations. Don’t think about how you detest coffee, because you can get anything else in the world aside from coffee, and think about how much you will enjoy your time together with your friend.
Looking for recommendations? If you’re in Hanoi, head over to Hoan Kiem Lake. On Dinh Tien Hoang street, on the second floor of a bag shop, there’s this little nest called Dinh which has the most heavenly egg coffee and a fantastic view of the lake. It’s a perfect blend of old Hanoi charm, good drinks and a chill environment.
This article is the last-minute tip for those passengers or tourists who aren’t able to find accommodation for the first night travelling to Saigon. Don’t worry, Saigon will kindly host you a safe place somewhere. Follow my lead, I’ll show you the spots to rest your exhaustion.
Saigon – the generous night owl’s nest.
I am as young and wild as many of you. I enjoy travelling and partying and sometimes when the night gets too wild, I have no choice but waiting outside until the dusk activates the city’s busy flow. I am sure this happens to all of you once in a while, regardless of wanderlusts or party-animals.
Here in Saigon, staying outside the street at night is not safe, at all. Dear wanderlusts, don’t even think of this idea – it’s my sincere advice. But where will you stay in Saigon at night for free if you are yet to find your lodging? Or if you have to catch a plane/bus in the early morning? Don’t worry! I’ll show you some (secret) tips right away!
24/7 cafes – Seeing Saigon nightlife in the box.
You can easily find many of those cafes around the town. Some even offer benches for night owls to have a quick nap. All you need is to order a drink, and stay as long as you want.
SNOB coffee chain:
These cafe shops open 24/7 with great interior designs and Saigon views. However, since the cafe shops are so well-known to the Saigonese youth, they can get crowded sometimes very late at night. But if you’d like a nice place to get to know the local’s nightlife, this is the place to be.
Address: – SNOB Coffee Trần Hưng Đạo – 147A Trần Hưng Đạo St, District 1. – SNOB Coffee Minh Khai – 185 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai St, District 1.
Opera Tea Club:
Opera Tea Club offers benches and cushions and a fairly quiet space to sleep. Feel free to enjoy these amazing benefits because you are exhausted enough from a long travel day.
Address: – 1st Floor, 39 Lý Tự Trọng St, Bến Nghé Ward, District 1.
Thức coffee chain:
The chain is quite popular in town. You can find one of their stores in many places around Saigon. The places are quite small and often stuffed. Thức cafe is suitable for late night football match audiences. You’re a big football fan? Welcome home! Come, enjoy the matches and get as much wild as you can. The more, the merrier!
Address: – 37/11 Lý Tự Trọng St, Bến Nghé Ward, District 1.
– 48 – 50 Huỳnh Thúc Kháng St, District 1.
– 182 Pasteur St, Bến Nghé Ward, District 1.
Let me tell you a small story. Last year, I had a crazy night outside partying. When it finished, it was 2:00 in the morning, and by chance, I stopped by this place. Not only that I had a place to stay for the night, but I also received the cutest paper heart from the barista working at KAI coffee. Even though I was too drunk to remember anything had happened before, the paper heart was still the most memorable gift that it made me drop a smile every time I rode my motorbike cross this cafe. 🙂
Address: – 139 Nguyễn Thái Bình St, Nguyễn Thái Bình Ward, District 1.
Convenient Stores – The ideal place for your late night munchies!
Convenient stores such as Family Mart, 7 eleven, B’s mart, and so on are ubiquitous in Saigon. Many stores have tables for customers to stay in. Moreover, most stores have wifi, air conditioning and a large number of food items including warm serving food. I stayed in those stores overnight sometimes when I partied too hard that my mom locked me outside the street! That’s why I recommend you those stores. It’s not a problem for the staffs if you stay in for long hours. Please kindly enjoy the food and drinks, and get yourself some rest. It is often quiet at late night in these stores.
Airbnb, Couchsurfing and other travel websites such as Agoda, Booking.com, Expedia, etc. are not strangers for wanderlusts, plan your trip to Saigon beforehand and get greatest deals from them. Prices for accommodation in Saigon is quite affordable, starting from $9.
Enjoy your time in Saigon! Don’t forget to spend some crazy wild nights in this sleepless town. I hope you’ll have one of the most wonderful memories here.
Đạo Dừa/ Hòa đồng tôn giáo(Coconut religion or Religion of Unity) was once famous in Cồn Phụng (Phoenix islet), Bến Tre. Nowadays, even though the religion is almost dead and only a few old people follow it, many people are still curious about its unique name as well as its founder.
Coconut Religion was founded in 1963 by Mr Nguyễn Thành Nam (1909-1990), as known as Sir Coconut Monk. In the 1900s, Mr Nam was a scholar born with a silver spoon in his mouth. After having graduated with a diploma of Chemical Engineering in France, he came back to Bến Tre and started his soap business. The company shortly went bankrupt. Soon after that, Mr.Nam left his family to start his own religion. At that time, people reported him meditating on tops of coconut trees and consumed mostly coconut water for daily nutrients. That’s why he’s got his name Sir Coconut Monk.
In 1963, Sir Coconut Monk started spreading his doctrine to the locals. The religion is based largely on Buddhism and Catholic beliefs, along with the preaching of Sir Coconut Monk. It quickly adapted to the community and soon gained followers. At its peak, Coconut religion had around 4,000 followers.
The advocates of Coconut Religion were mostly men. They practised praying and consuming only coconut products for their daily diets. However, polygamy was allowed for advocates as they could get married up to 9 wives. Under the government of the former Republic of South Vietnam, monks were exempted from joining the national army. For that reason, Đạo Dừa had gained so many followers, mostly young men at the age of 18 to 35 whose desires weren’t to serve the country’s service.
The advocates donated a large sum of money for Sir Coconut Monk to build his own temple in Phoenix Islet. The temple is named Nam Quốc Phật (Vietnamese Buddha). Along with the temple, there is a large square with nine dragons columns – which stands for Cửu Long (the Mekong region). Behind, the Peace tower consists of two tall buildings which stand for Hanoi-North and Saigon-South.
*The gate, with Crucifix on the left and Vietnamese Buddhist sign on the right, expresses the will to unify the two main Vietnamese religions.
The (phantom) legacies:
Sir Coconut Monk had been notorious for his so-called “ultimate” religion since the Southern Vietnam government existed. In 1967, Southern Vietnam began the new electoral campaign. Sir Coconut Monk, with his willing for peace for the humanity, had stood for election for Presidency! He promised to pacify the Vietnam War within 7 days had he been nominated Presidency. Nonetheless, he refused to answer how he could make that happen. Sir Coconut Monk had been then sent to Biên Hòa asylum to run a mental health check.
After that “historic” event of Coconut Religion, the government had banned him from seeking intervention from other countries to help develop his religion nationwide. Despite having sent many letters to President Diệm, President J.F.K, President Charles de Gaulle, and so on, he never had a reply from any of whom he asked for help. Moreover, both the governments: the Republic of South Vietnam and Communist Vietnam had identified him as a threat of rebellion and had banned him from going abroad. Sir Coconut Monk had been caught at the border trying to pilgrimage to Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap (Cambodia).
During the end of Vietnam war, Sir Coconut Monk had failed to flee outside the country. Thus, he had been forced to go to a rehabilitation camp. After a short while, they had released him on bail because of his mental issues record. Ever since the fallen of South Vietnam, the new government had identified Coconut Religion as a cult. Sir Coconut Monk continued to run Coconut Religion under the law despite the government’s strong attempts to prevent it from expanding.
On 12/05/1990, while the crowd were practising Coconut religion at Sir Coconut Monk’s private property, the government broke into his house and issued Coconut Religion a ban from spreading superstition to the community. At the tipping point of the conversation with the government, Sir Coconut Monk left upstairs to “pray for peace”, but one of his followers pulled him back to confront the government. Unfortunately, the pull was too strong for Sir Coconut Monk that he fell off the ground. Sir Coconut Monk departed the next day of a serious traumatic brain injury, aged 81. Since the death of the creator of Coconut Religion, the number of followers has ceased drastically from thousands to very few people.
For the locals, Sir Coconut Monk was an “accidental legend” of Bến Tre. In the kingdom of coconut, people do not worship this ‘creator’ anymore. Instead, they will tell either ridiculous or odd anecdotes about him. You can witness his legacy when coming to Phoenix Islet by coming to the temple and talking to his followers. I am sure there are yet things to learn about this interesting religion. If you haven’t registered on our upcoming trip to Bến Tre, do not hesitate to contact us! We wish to bring you the best discovery experience in Vietnam.
Often times, I’m something of a food snob – terribly exacting in the taste of my food and having high requirements for whatever I eat. I’m also a bit of a typical Hanoian in the sense that I often turn away from Southern food, criticizing it as too sweet, or too sour, or the broth not clear enough.
During my last trip to Saigon, I was pleasantly surprised. I had one of the best noodle soups in my life, with the most amazing broth ever, at a little shop in the heart of Saigon. It was crab noodles (Banh Canh Ghe) – a delicacy of the South that had slowly migrated to the North in recent years.
Regarding its origin, much has been debated about where Banh Canh Ghe comes from. Some say it’s from the South West provinces (or more specifically Kien Giang), other say it is the seaside provinces like Vung Tau and Phan Thiet that have created this delicacy. No matter its origin is, though, it is well-known that Banh Canh Ghe is now one of the most enjoyed noodle soups in Saigon.
Appearance-wise, Banh Canh Ghe bears a close resemblance with Laksa noodle in Singapore. Both have that same reddish hue, thick broth and spicy taste. Having never tasted Laksa, I cannot give any comment on its taste. However, I can say that when it comes to Banh Canh Ghe, the noodle soup was a perfect blend of sweet, hearty and spicy broth, with specially-made noodles (three or four times bigger than the noodles you normally see) and a whole crab for you to finish it off. There are other garnishes to go with the soup, like crab cake, veggies and fresh herbs. Some places will also add prawns and other seafood, a slice of blood pudding or a whole egg.
To me, this dish embodies the philosophy of Vietnamese cooking – that of seeking the perfect harmony between different flavors and spices. Here’s a dish that’s not seeking to blow your taste bud away, nor have you in tears as you eat. It’s spicy, to be sure, but it is the kind of spiciness that does not overwhelm other flavors. It enhances the richness of the crab. It circles each strand of noodle in a loving embrace. It leaves behind a slight reminder of the spice you just taste, making you hungry for more.
One Google search of “Banh Canh Ghe Saigon” can give you numerous results. Not every restaurant will blow you away, but these 5 are guaranteed to satisfy even the harshest critics.
1. Banh Canh Ghe Ba Sach:
Address: 66 Hoa Cuc street, Phu Nhuan district.
Price: 30.000 – 70.000 VND
Opening hours: 10:00 – 22:00
2. Banh Canh Ghe Bay Lien:
Address: 778F Nguyen Kiem street, Go Vap district
Price: 50.000 – 77.000
Opening hours: 10:00 – 22:00
3. Banh Canh Ghe Cau Bong:
Address: 2 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, district 1
Price: 55.000 – 110.000
Opening hours: 15:00 – 22:30
4. Banh Canh Ghe 505:
Address: 505 Su Van Hanh street, district 10
Price: 50.000 – 100.000
Opening hours: 11:00 – 22:30
5. Banh Canh Ghe Muoi Ot Xanh:
Address: 484 Nguyen Tri Phuong street, district 10