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Vietnam

How to eat to your hearts content in Hoi An

Hoi An isn’t known for it’s culinary delights, but I sure want to put it on the food map for having some of the most scrumptious eats that I have had throughout my two weeks in Vietnam. I have listed my favourite places to dine and some whacky road stall snacks that deserve to be devoured in this blog and I know I shouldn’t have to tell you, but ENJOY! 

The Hoi An Donut- You will be able to find these almost everywhere you go, just look out for a sweet little food cart on the side of the road- it’s almost given that they will sell these delightful treats. It’s exactly what you think, just a plain old donut coated in sugar. However… they deep fry the donut on the spot and I don’t know how, but it tastes so damn heavenly in your mouth. Simple done good. 

Vi Café- Looks may be deceiving, but I can assure you this place serves up a good and big feed. Located on one of the busier roads in Hoi An, Vi Café is a double whammy – amazingly cheap and tasty food as well as the most welcoming and sweetest waitresses in Vietnam. We ate here every-day and not once left disappointed. They serve up an amazing vegetarian noodle dish that is just a few dollars and is absolutely loaded with vegetables.

Fried Tapioca Cakes- What a cool looking pattie! I was so eager to try these Tapioca Cakes, mainly because of the funky purple colour but also because it’s super rare to find vegetarian delicacies in Vietnam and when you do, you need to take the opportunity within a heartbeat. The tapioca tasted a bit like potato and had a very similar texture, but for a cheap snack to keep you moving along, these aren’t too shabby at all. 

Hoi An Roastery- As soon as I walked past here, I knew I would be making a return with my laptop so I could write to my heart’s content whilst people watching through the beautiful timber windows. And, I did. I went back later that day and had an iced coffee and holy smokes was it amazing. As the name suggests, they roast their own coffee beans on location and have decked out the café with the finest touches. If you need to catch up on writing all of your postcards, uploading your 101 thousand travel photographs to Facebook or just want to watch funny dog video’s on YouTube, this is the place to do it.

Breakfast at What Else- I can’t believe we were some of the first customers for this sweet little café. Owned and run by a Vietnamese lady and her Swiss husband, this café oozes with character and serves up a tasty sunny-side up eggs with vegetables and a hot toasty baguette. The two owners are so lovely with the lady cooking up a storm in the kitchen while her husband does the service out the front. It’s so heart-warming to see. Added bonus: there is a super cool bright yellow wall out the back of the eating area. Great spot for your next Instagram upload. 

Due to TET holiday, a lot of cafes and restaurants were closed hence the small selection in dining in and quirky eats listed. If you have been to Hoi An and have some incredible recommendations, please leave a comment below or swing me an email on sophie.m.spencer@gmail.com I’d be more than happy to add them to this list.

All the love (and food) in the world,

Soph xx

 

The Mekong River in all of it’s glory

After living in Brisbane and constantly driving over, under and around the Brisbane River, or what us locals call it ‘The Brown Snake’, I would have never thought that a brown river could be beautiful, until I witnessed the mighty Mekong River. The Mekong River is the longest and largest river in South East Asia, stretching approximately 4,350km. Starting in China and interweaving all the way down through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the river is a vital source of life for those not only living in the region, but for the country as a whole.

As part of our Gecko’s Adventures Vietnam Highlights tour, we were able to experience a real life homestay with a local family right on the river front and it was nothing short of unbelievable. I wanted to share with you all some of my photographs and favourite moments from this unforgettable experience that warmed my heart and filled my soul with gratitude.

 We jumped into this little row boat so we could go down one of the narrow streams running off the Mekong River and although scenic and extremely peaceful, it took a lot of nerve and getting used to. We were centimetres from the water and it sure did not feel like it could hold the four of us along with the sweet lady that was rowing us. It did however make for some incredible photographs! Okay, so everyone else in my row boat didn’t necessarily approve of this, but I did decide to stand up and change places with my tour guide in the seat behind me so I could snap this photograph of the sweet lady rowing us to safer grounds.I feel like my tour guide is getting a wee bit sick of me constantly yelling out ‘STOP!’ for photo opportunities, especially when we were on our bike ride through the small little village that we  were staying in. However, it’s so worth it when I get shots like this!How sweet is this little pineapple? There is an abundance of fruit and vegetables growing on the sides of walkways and in the gardens within the Mekong region. I just wish I could have gone fruit picking, but no, preserve! This was our first spread of the day – not bad, not bad at all. You may be thinking ‘what on earth is in the middle’ and well to put your mind to ease (I know you are burning to ask), it’s actually rock salt and chilli salt. I wasn’t a huge fan of the chilli but the salt worked surprisingly well with the pineapple and complimented it in the strangest way known to man kind. We sure did polish off the Vietnamese tea however, seriously so yummy. Here is my proof that a brown river can be beautiful. Just look at that perfect reflection on the water and the vibrancy of the palms. My lovely new travel pals and I trying our honey tea/posing with our honey tea. I think I probably had my fair share of tea by the time I left but I simply couldn’t resist especially when it came straight from the hive and was included in our tour. Gotta make the most of it! Tourist? what tourist? I have a whole different perspective when I see the vendors walking around with these baskets totally overflowing with fruit and vegetables. It is damn heavy. This is the famous Elephant Ear Fish that my tour guide raved on about from day 1. As a vego, this definitely wasn’t the meal for me, but for those meat eaters out there, my travel companions said that it was scrumptious. They ate it in fresh rice paper rolls and it looked amazing and was a lot more photogenic compared to my vegetables. 

Call me Sophie the Beekeeper. I braved the bees (they are actually so friendly) and got this photograph with my new happy buddies. I even tried some honey right from the hive. I must admit sticking my finger in the middle of hundreds of bees isn’t usually my cup of tea, but for the taste of the honey and yes, the thrill, made it so worthwhile. Taken at the back of our home stay for the night. I spent quite some time here chatting away with my new travel pals and editing through the day’s photographs. I also did attempt to watch the sunrise here but due to the weather it was impossible. At least I tried, right? What lovely and welcoming blokes! The locals living by the Mekong River really changed my perspective on the Vietnamese – I definitely just had a bad run on my first two days. 

I only got to stay one night on the Mekong River, but I couldn’t recommend it any higher. It’s a once in a life time experience where you learn so much about the Vietnamese culture, people and most importantly…the mouth-watering FOOD!

I hope you are all having a brilliant time wherever in the world you may be.

Lots of love,

Soph x

The best way to experience Saigon

Three things that make me very happy are good company, mouth-watering food and a heart racing thrill– and Saigon Food Tours did exactly that. From the get go, I was welcomed by my local tour guide ‘TB’ outside my hostel with so much warmth and excitement that he even managed to steer away my nerves about hopping on the back of a scooter during peak hour traffic in Saigon. I did the ‘Taste of the Night’ tour and opted for the Vegetarian route – which luckily meant that it was one-on-one. Why do you ask why I seem so happy about not being social with other people? Well…it meant that I got to know TB on a more personal level and for moments I felt like I was the presenter of one of those old-school travel shows like Getaway – it was a real VIP moment okay. Most of the tours will usually be private – but if you do pick a popular day they may invite you to join another group or select another time slot/day. The tour started at 5:30pm and during the four hours we went to four different local street food spots and cafes, and at each stop there were multiple dishes along with drinks to try. When you add it all up it was more like 11 courses over a period of four hours (THAT’S HOW MUCH I CONSUME IN LIKE TWO DAYS so don’t worry if you feel like a rolling pin by the end of the night) so you really do get the ultimate tester of Vietnamese food.This is the Vietnamese pancake or what the locals call Banh Xeo. It was hands down my favourite dish of the night. 

Alike how the tour started, I will leave most of it to a surprise so you can go discover it yourself, but what I will say, is that this tour is 110% worth it and I would highly recommend doing it on your first night in Saigon so you can navigate some of the greatest food spots for the rest of your time in Vietnam. You will gain so much knowledge on the Vietnamese language and culture whilst being able to stuff your face with food so heavenly and secretive that it will leave your friends and family green with envy.

If you do decide to hop on board with the Saigon Food Tours company be sure to request TB as your guest and give him a friendly hug from me. His English is superb, has a background in tourism, knows how to maneuverer a scooter through the crazy traffic exceptionally well and added bonus: he even has his own breakdancing crew (how funky is that?)

Let me know what your thoughts are on the tour if you go ahead with booking – I am sure you won’t regret it!

Lots of love,

Soph xx