29 November 2008

Hanoi Food Haven

Where to Eat: Above Top to Bottom: Quan An Ngon ladies busy preparing meals for hungry Customers; A shot with Restaurant Owner, Celebrity Chef - Bobby Chinn himself at his restaurant.

~~ ~Hanoi Photos courtesy of avid Photographer Henry Choo~
Street Food: Above Clockwise: Street Vendors having a break; Street Vendor at a sidewalk, very common in Hanoi; Pretty Vietnamese lady busy sms while riding a bike.

Hanoi Steets Transportation: Left to Right: Trishaw rides for tourists; Food Vendor on the go; Motorcycles at traffic light raring to go!

I was in Hanoi for the 1st time in Apr 2008 on business & all I could savour was some good Vietnamese Cuisine & thick Coffee. I quite like the Old Quarters of Hanoi which will take you back to a feel of Kuala Lumpur, perhaps 15 years ago or one of the small towns in Malaysia. Small dainty shops that sells just about anything, the small streets are filled with motorcycles, trishaws, bicycles and of course the street stalls all over!!

But the Hanoi I grew to love are it's great restaurants & it's excellent food!
In the 3 days I was there, I managed to try visit some of the restaurants & I recommend you to try........

Where to Eat in Hanoi?

Quan An Ngon
"taking the street out of street food"
Located at No 18, Phan Boi Chau Street, Hanoi

Quan An Ngon (Quán Ăn Ngon) is popular with the local Vietnamese coz it serves a wide variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes in a cozy setting of a shaded coutyard.

The concept was to assemble the ‘best of street food’ in a setting more conducive to enjoying quick lunches and nice evening meals. Older food-vendors were transplanted from Hanoi streets into a bustling food market, dressed up in tunics and manning rustic stalls around the perimeter of the courtyard. Guests can dine in the lush courtyard among trees under a large canvas marquee or in one of the large dining rooms or on the balcony in the adjoining villa.
After being seated by Quan An Ngon’s cheerful servers, guests walk around and peruse the stalls, but ordering is done at the table from a broad (English and Vietnamese) menu reflecting some of Vietnam’s best-known regional specialities. A veritable army of young waiters & waitresses scuttle around assembling orders from the little stalls, and somehow the system seems to be fairly efficient.

Sample some nice dishes which include:-

- Banh hoi chao tom cuon banh trang, resembling a chicken drumstick formed by ground shrimp packed around peeled sugarcane. Two pieces are served with sliced star fruit, lettuce and cucumber.

- Banh cuon, a North Vietnamese speciality common at breakfast stalls around town. Resembling Chinese jian jiao dumplings, banh cuon is ground pork and mushrooms wrapped and steamed in rice-flour crepes, sprinkled with fried shallots and mint, and accompanied by a bowl of the ubiquitous fish sauce.

- Bo nuong muoi, grilled beef - was cubed and barbecued to medium-rare, served with chilli salt and lime, and bordering on perfection.

- Nem cua be - mixed crab and pork fried spring rolls.

- Bun bo Hue, a Hue-style beef noodles from central Vietnam. Thick noodles were served in a huge bowl of beef broth and thin slices of beef, the slight sweetness of which was offset by a side of extra-pungent cilantro, and a mound of ground chilli.

- Muc nuong - grilled squid with chili sauce

- Bun cha gio - rice vermicelli topped with fresh herbs and crispy spring rolls

Quan An Ngon is the perfect place to introduce yourself or a newcomer to a wide range of wonderful Vietnamese food in an elegant, comfortable setting, without the hassles of negotiating passage around unfamiliar streets and food stands in search of elusive delicacies.

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
"nice romantic settings, excellent food"
Located in No 1, Ba Trieu St., Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

Overlooking the enchanted waters of Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of Hanoi, Restaurant Bobby Chinn sets the standard for international elegance in a city long known for culinary adventure. A vibrant international hotspot, Restaurant Bobby Chinn offers a luxurious setting for an unforgettable evening of delights.
Frequented by expats, you won't get the couldn't-care-less service that's typical in Hanoi and food wise expect modern fusion combining organic Vietnamese ingredients with modern touches Sit by the windows for great views over Hoan Kiem Lake.

For more info on Restaurant, visit

For more info on Bobby Chin, Chef Celebrity, visit

Tara Cafe & Restaurant
"old-fashioned charm enchants"
3A Ngo Quyen St., Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

At Tara Cafe and Restaurant, diners can have a beautifully prepared meal in a setting that evokes classic, old-world Hanoi. a few minutes walk to 5 star Sofitel Metropole, in Hoan Kiem District, this is an old world Eatery.

Tara Cafe and Restaurant is housed in a old colonial building and presents classical & traditional Vietnamese and Western dishes. en framed windows with modern flashiness or slowly brewed coffee with instant.
Inside, the staff, food and ambience are unassuming, unpretentious, and quietly graceful.
The food is suitable for both locals & foreign visitors.
We had a buffet lunch & it's agood spread of food & desserts with stations thta you can fill your plates with made to order pastas, freshly grilled meats and seafood and various traditional Vietnamese noodle soups.

If you’re looking for good drinks as well as delicious food, you can enjoy the full bar while sitting contently under black and white photographs of early 20th century Hanoi streets.
Aside from the calming atmosphere, the food is also one of the best breakfast and lunch buffet bargains in town. Traditional Hanoi street food specialities such as pho (beef or chicken noodle soup), banh cuon (thin and delicate steamed rice cakes), bun rieu (crab and tofu noodle soup) and nem cuon (fresh spring rolls) are present in the morning and afternoon to ensure a fresh quality. You can choose from a variety of nom (thinly shredded salads of papaya, banana flowers, or lotus stems) and steamed dishes wrapped in banana leaves.
Dedicated chef Pham Thanh Long has created a tantalising menu with such plates as Tara salad (crab and avocado salad with grapefruit segments and red pepper dressing), grilled beef tenderloin with assorted mushrooms from Sa Pa with black pepper from Phu Quoc, or ca vuoc (bass) wrapped in lotus leaves with Tara sauce. The quality and variety offer something tasty for everyone in the family.
Evening diners are presented with delicacies refined from Western dishes such as fried beef with red wine, fried beef with black pepper, pasta, red wine reduced stews, pates, bread, cheeses and an array of exquisite French desserts for after dinner.
For that special romantic night out, be sure to reserve a table on weekends because the Tara garden blooms with the peaceful live music of renowned violists, flutists and guitarists, and seats are hard to find. The fresh and fine ingredients that are pure soul food will leave you in the mood for more romance under the balmy, charming Ha Noi night.
With all these offerings, you will be hard pressed to find a better deal downtown that offers so much authenticity and Hanoi old world charm.
(some info extracted from Hanoi News Service web site)

For bookings of Hanoi Hotels:

22 November 2008

Chiang Mai Rose of the North

Popular means of tranport - Tuk Tuk
Chiang Mai Journey: 14 to 18 Mar 2007

Chiang Mai, rose of the North, is 700 km north of Bangkok. Unlike the hotter & busy capital city of Thailand, this hub of Thailand has nice cool weather at certain times of the year and offers a range of value-for-money services including Hotels, Food & Handicrafts.

The flowers of Chiang Mai are celebrated in the Flower Festival, held each February. The city air is perfumed by the many floral parades and flower exhibitions

There are a couple of interesting & enjoyable one-day tours:

Tour No 1: Chiang Dao Elephant Camp - Elephant Ride, Bamboo Raft & Ox Cart Ride

This tour starts in the morning at about 8.30am. You are picked up from your hotel by your guide. Drive north of Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao (approx. 1 1/2 hr) to the elephant camp. At the elephant camp you will see the elephants taking their morning bath and demonstrating some of their skills. Afterwards take an elephant ride for approx. 1 hr to a Lisu hilltribe village. The ride takes you through some of the lovely forest scenery and along the river. After lunch take a bamboo raft trip down the river for approx. 30 min, admire the scenery and absorb the tranquility as you float down the river. Then, you will reach the land again to take a slow Ox Cart ride to a Restaurant wher you'd have a simple buffet lunch.

After that, the van will drive you back to Chiang Mai in the afternoon.

Elephant Ride ~ a unique experience

Tour No 2: Karen "Long Neck" Village
Start with the Orchid & Butterfly farm then go north to Chiang Dao Cave. After that, to Karen Village where we will also pass the Akha Hilltribe village, which is next to each other.
On the way back we visited the Hmong tribe.
Visitors should take some time and visit the wonderful people of the Karen "Long Neck" tribe in Chiang Mai. They live near the border of Burma, and the time taken to reach their village would be about 3 to 4 hours or so from town. Do NOT liken seeing these indigeneous people as seeing the animals in the zoo. Traditionally the women who could afford it would start wearing brass coils on their necks, arms and legs from the time they're 5 years old. The coils would be polished daily so that'd they'd have a high sheen. They'll upgrade their coils whenever they can afford it. The average weight of a coil on an adult woman's neck is about 3 - 5 kg!!! You can buy nice hand-woven cloth at the village. It'll help improve their way of life.The Akha village is situated right next to the Karen's. The Akhas are known for thier toolwork and you can buy wood carvings and silverware at their village.

Akha Children happily enjoying Ice Cream

Sweet Karen girl weaving....

Cheeky Hmong girl posing....

Click this link for Chiang Mai Hotels

More Chiangmai Photos at

Phuket Fantasy

Top to bottom, left to right: Posing with Club Med GO's; Making New Friends at Club Med; Boy selling "petai" at Patong beach; Mission Hills Golf Club before T-Off; Famous 10 Hole at Phuket Golf & Country Club; Patong Beach ~ back in action after 2004 Tsunami; Open Air Seafood near "action place" Soi Bangla.


=> Phuket Trips on 16 Feb 2006 (Club Med) & 26 Jun 2008 (Golf Trip)

Phuket ~ Fun for Everyone!
When you think of Phuket, what strikes you first was the Tsunami. Well Phuket is the "Tsunami" that can sweep you off your feet once you get there!

Phuket has everything for everyone!

The beautiful Beaches of Patong, Karon, Kata & Kamala facing the well known Andaman Sea. The scenic & challenging Golf Courses from the popular Mission Hills to the one of the World's best Blue Canyon Golf Club. Yes, the Spa Resorts which are world class with authentic Thai aromatherapy treatment & massages. The wonderful Thai People whio are ever smiling & ever so friendly that makes your stay a pleasant one. The tasty Thai Seafood which can be found in Open Air restaurants or 5-star Hotels. Of course not forgetting, the myriad of Open Air Bars & Discos at Soi Bangla & elsewhere where the entertainment starts in the early evening & pours into the street after 1am in the morning!

The young ones will enjoy the Go Kart, Shooting Range, Bungee Jumps and the Nite Discos, the adventurous ones can go to Phi Phi Island for sunbathing & snorkelling and Phang Nga (or James Bond Island) for sighseeing. The rich folks can have their peaceful & relaxing holidays at the famous Club Med or the Laguna & Banyan Tree Resort.

* Phuket Must Do *

1. Phuket Fantasea - Theme Park & Cultural Show!
2. Banyan Tree Resort - Nice & Relaxing, if you can afford it!
3. Phi Phi Island - Sun, Sand & Sea!
4. Rock Hard Cafe -Entertaining Pole Dancers!
5. Tai Pan & Banana Discos - Hot & Lively!
6. Simon Cabaret Transvestite Show - World Famous!
7. Massages - Thai, Swedish, Aromatherapy - try it!
8. Blue Canyon - must for Golfers!
9. Shooting Range - Real Guns, Real Bullets!
10. Paint Ball - Jungle & Guerilla Type!
11. Baan Rim Pa - Romantic & Excellent Food
12. Parasailing - Feel like Flying!

07 November 2008

A Tale of Two Khmer Cities

Mystical Cambodia: From Top, Left to Right: Wedding Couple with friends in front of Angkor Wat; Posing at Ta Prom Temple; Khmer people in Traditional Costume at Angkor Wat; Motorcycle Taxi (Motodop) in Phnom Penh (Central Market at background); Dinner at the Sissowath Quay; Lunch at the famous FCC; Boat Ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

=> Mystical Trip was from 20 Mar to 24 Mar 2008

Visiting Cambodia for the first time open up our eyes no matter how much we heard about the Country. The Cambodians are friendly people, despite a difficult history where many people suffered & there were senseless killings. Most Cambodians are poor, but they speak good English - I was told that the UN's long presence in the Country was partly responsible for this - and are always ready to flash you a smile.

What I like about Cambodia besides it's wonderful people?

1) Market in Phnom Penh - got a good deal for a Mont Blanc spectacle frame

2) Food - Nice & reasonable

3) Massage - cheap

4) FCC - Foreign Correspondents Club - good food & ambience

5) Hotels - good value for money

6) Charity Work - plenty, depends on your interests

7) Angkor Wat - plenty of history unless you get temple fatigue

Phnom Penh has at least 3 big markets where you buy all kinds of value-for- money products. Of course, Siem Reap is famous for Angkor Wat & the Temples.

Are you into Charity? Come to Cambodia - there are plenty to do here!!

Click this link for Siem Reap Hotels

06 November 2008

Bandung Shopping Haven

Left to Right: Background is the Tangkruban Perahu Volcano Crater; Tea Time at famous JCO Donuts at Paris Van Java Mall; Group Photo at Ciater Hot Spring.

=> Shopping Trip from 27 Jan to 31 Jan 2008

Bandung Factory Outlets

Bandung has over 40 factory outlets where you get brands from LV, Levis, Dockers, Tommy Hilfinger, Hugo Boss, Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, CK, Polo, Crocodile, Banana Republic, Hermes etc, all at 10% or 20% of the original price. Some may be rejects but a lot of them are new. For ladies, it's dresses, clothes, handbags, shoes, textiles etc. For guys, we can get pants, jeans, shirts & jackets etc.

The most popular shopping outlet, Rumah Mode, along Jl Setiabudi, has all kinds of everything!

For Women & Mens’ Clothes:
Jl Dago - Blossom, Episode, Island, Uptown Factory, Jetset, Glamour, Happening, Grande
2) Jl Riau - Heritage, Cascade, Secret (New), Stamp, The Summit, ForMen
3) Jl Setiabudi - Mode Plus, Natural, Rumah Gazebo, FOS Clothing

For Handbags & Shoes:
) Toko Diaz, Jl Sederhana – good quality, slightly more expensive
2) Terminal Tas, Jl Riau – cheap but poor quality
3) Donatello, Jl Setiabudi

For Jeans & T-Shirts: (Optional)
Jl Cihampelas
, where you will find gigantic Cartoon characters eg Rambo, Superman, Ultraman, Incredible Hulk, Tarzan etc.

Shopping Mall:
1) Visit Paris Van Java, a very modern Mall and you can also have Lunch or Hi Tea here. They have the famous JCo Donuts.
2) Braga City Walk, adjacent to Aston Hotel (you can walk thru). There is also a supermarket in Braga City Walk & when you walk outside via Braga Walk, you can find shops that have restaurants & also a 7-Eleven.

Bandung Food & Eating Places

Then there are nice Eating Places especially excellent Sundanese Restaurants including Kampung Daun & Sambara.

Located on the hills of Dago Pakar, there is The Valley - nice food, nice view, nice ambience. Also, drop by Sierra Cafe & Lounge.

For Indonesian food
1) Kedai Nyonya Rumah, Jl Naripan
2) DapurKu – local cuisine
3) Blackpepper Resto & Café, Jl Maulana Yusuf No 10, Dago area (Serves Western & Indonesian). Try the blackpepper jeng tutut (snails) & oysters (Tel: 62-22-4206147)

For Seafood
1) Mustika Jaya Sari, Jl Ciumbuliet No 39 (Tel:62-22-203 8539)
Try the Es Sekoteng Bongsu, grated ice cube with avocado, young coconut, and kolang-kaling (local preserved fruit). Also, try the Teh Botol!

Bandung Specialty - Kukus Brownies:
1) Kartika Sari, diagonal to Uptown Factory, Jl Dago – they have 6 stores,famous for Pisang
Molen & Kukus Brownies (Steam Brownies with chocolate inside)
2) Brownies Kukus Amanda, Jl Ranchabolang, Jl Lodaya & Jln Purwakarta

Places to Visit

Besides shopping, one of the most interesting places to visit is Tangkuban Perahu. Tangkuban Perahu in local Sundanese dialect means ‘upturned boat’. According to my guide, you can see the shape of the ‘upturned boat’ from Bandung. Tangkuban Perahu, 30 km away from Bandung, is an active volcano where you can see fumes coming out from the crater. According to the guide, the crater at the peak is not accessible because it’s emitting poisonous fumes. We had to hike down for about 30 minutes to another crater where we are allowed to experiment with the hot water coming out from the volcano by boiling eggs or just dipping your feet in the hot water.Since one can only dip their feet in the craters in Tangkuban Perahu, there are some hot springs around this area.

One of the recommended hot springs is Ciater Hot Spring where you can swim in the sulphurized water which is known to be good for healing skin problems and rheumatism
For meal, try the the local Sundanese cuisine - Sapu Lidi. The food is delicious & the setting is tranquil, in the middle of a padi field.
From historical perspective, Bandung is the birth place for the Non-Align Movement (NAM) in 1957. There is a street in Bandung known as Jalan Asia-Africa which is dedicated to the NAM movement. The street starts from Savoy Homann Hotel to Merdeka Building. This is the street where the leaders who started NAM in 1952 took a historic walk to commemorate the inaugural NAM meeting.

Click this link for Bandung Hotels

02 November 2008

Book Review - Don't Let the World Pass You By!

Don't Let the World Pass You By!

52 Reasons to Have a Passport
Various authors

(Lonely Planet, 2005)

This chirpy, optimistic handbook is in some ways, a piece of propaganda. It is published by Lonely Planet, a guidebook empire that is based in Australia, but counts the United States as its biggest sales market. Imagine the number of guidebooks they could sell if the number of U.S. passport holders increased from the current 22 percent to, say, 30, 40, or 50 percent!

Despite the not-so-hidden agenda (this book is aimed solely at U.S. buyers) most travelers will find themselves nodding in agreement as they read the many reasons why everyone should have a passport. Several times, I entertained the idea of buying multiple copies of this book just to have on hand the next time someone tells me they don't feel a need to go abroad.
(Though in all fairness, we all know plenty of people we would rather just stay home - so they won't bring our country's reputation down even more!) It would make a great gift for a college senior or someone just making plans to go abroad for the first time.The title is written by ten different contributors, with Sarah Benson being the coordinating author.

The most worthy reason to own a passport is spelled out in the introduction by Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler, who says, "It's through travel, first and foremost, that we meet and understand the outside world. We can read all about other countries in papers and magazines or see them on television, but it's remarkable how different places turn out to be when you actually visit them."

If only our elected leaders, who only use their passport for whirlwind state visits, would take this to heart, the world would probably be a more peaceful place.The book starts with a history of the passport, reminding us that it really hasn't been around that long in its present form. In the U.S., the first one issued by the State Department came out in 1856, but the requirement to have one to travel in and out of the country has only been in place since 1952. Residents of other developing countries probably began to pooh-pooh the low percentage of U.S. passport holders soon after and never stopped. There's been a big loophole of course, one that most international criticizers don't think about. Many Americans don't have a passport because we have agreements that allow us to go a whole lot of places without one, such as (for now): Canada, Mexico, and quite a few islands in the Caribbean. Add in Hawaii and Alaska and you can cover a lot of real estate with just a birth certificate copy - a whole continent and then some.

You need a passport to go beyond though, and there are plenty of good reasons.

#3 Exercise Your Rights
As I wrote this review, Palestinians in Gaza were finally able to legally leave their country for the first time since 1967. North Koreans, Burmese, and Cubans still can't. In many Middle Eastern countries, the men can travel, but the women can't without a husband. What's stopping you?

#6 C'mon, Live a Little
Pioneers and explorers founded America. How did we get so fat and lazy? "Now that jet travel has evaporated distances and economy class is luxurious compared to Calistoga wagon trains, isn't it time to reclaim our gypsy beginnings?"

#7 It's Not Such Risky Business
The book lists the 10 Safest Countries. The U.S. ranks 27th, right after Armenia.

#15 Ship Out and Shape Up
Travel has got to be the most interesting and least painless ways to lose weight and get in shape. (See Travel Diets: The Backpacker Weight Loss Plan)

#26 Stay Awake in Class
One of my favorite justifications for travel: you learn far more than you ever will in a classroom. History and geography are actually interesting, instead of nap-inducing.

#27 Visit Other Lands of Liberty
Yes, the USA may be called the land of the free, but civil society sure does require the surrendering of a lot of freedoms. Go abroad to experience legal vices, beer and smokes that aren't taxed to the hilt, topless beaches, the lack of open container laws, and bars with no last call.

And #28 probably sums it up best when it talks about the numbing day-to-day routine we allow our working stiff selves to fall into. Breaking out of that is reason enough on its own. Only one life to live, and all that.

Picking a few examples is difficult since nearly every one of the 52 reasons is a valid one. Lots of fun charts and factoids are sprinkled throughout. One notes that in the time it takes to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, you could fly to Costa Rica. Or that in the time it takes to drive from Miami to Disney World, you could fly to Peru. A "Top-10 Cinematic Settings" list tells you where famous movies were filmed. Another list has "Top-10 Things You Can't Find in Your Own Backyard."If you're already an avid traveler, this is a bit of preaching to the choir, but it's still worth having on your shelf. If nothing else, it'll provide an endless list of talking points when Aunt Millie starts asking why you've quit your job (again) and are heading overseas (again). Or you could buy her a copy and say you won't answer any more questions until she reads it. Or hand a copy to your old boss along with your resignation letter. Maybe he'll read it while you're gone and will start to understand.

Review by Perceptive Travel Book Reviews Jan 2006

01 November 2008

Why Travel?

Travelling is Fun: Top to Bottom: Chiangmai Elephant Ride; Shenzhen Windows to the World; Bangkok Cowboy Show at Safari World

There are many reasons why you travel, besides........
  • Escape your daily routine
  • Improve your resume
  • See the wonders of the world
  • Feel the thrill of adventure
  • Tickle your taste buds
  • Make new friends PLUS a thousand other reasons

Need to book Hotels for your travels? Check this out............