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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

vietnam 2012

Vietnam - flag + motorbike
Vietnam - churches
buddha's feet
Vietnam - stairs
little girl
steamed snails
Vietnam b+w
boat + water
chinese checkers

it has been quiet around here. i've been in a funk. a post-vacation funk. i'm only just now surfacing from my shallow wallow of self pity as i try to get back into the daily grind. dw & i spent 8 days in vietnam. it was a whirlwind, punctuated with a beat down sun, permeating heat that held onto your body & would not let go, no matter how vigorous you tried to shake it off.

at first, our days were spent traversing saigon, dodging motorbikes carrying whole families, grandmothers, babies & all, seeking food stands that i scoured the internet for. alas, due to the lunar new year and basically not knowing how to navigate the map, or speak the language well enough to be understood, we didn't find a single food place on our list. don't rub it in, i'm still bitter over it.

for the rest of the trip we traveled to Nha Trang, my hometown. a coastal city by the water, with a cooler climate. for this leg of the trip, we met with cousins who were also vacationing there. we walked the beach, hiked to the temples, even rode a cable car to a neighboring island.

if you're wondering about the food... i will confess to a feeling of disappointment. vietnam is a beautiful country, but it is poor. the water system is not the best. as much as i hated to, i avoided the fresh fruits and veggies -- you just don't know how they're washed. the times i wasn't careful & consumed any herbs with my meals, the hours after were tinged with worry & belly aches. i bonded with pepto bismol pills on this trip. further, everything just seemed less in flavor, watered down. as someone who has embraced the organic and whole food diet, this was hard for me.

this is not to discourage anyone from going, nor will this be our last trip there. we would love to visit the northern part of the country, eventually. in the meantime, these pictures will tide us over until we can make the long trek again to the other side of the world. i am not yet ready to open the vietnam photos for public viewing on flickr, dw has only just uploaded his 800+ photos, so please enjoy the ones i've shown here.

please note, the swastikas on the bottom of the buddha's feet are not nazi-related. interesting background on that symbol before it got bastardized.

The dish pictured is actually my fave of the trip: steamed snails with lemongrass & ginger.

additional information:

hotel we stayed at in Saigon, thanks to cathy for the reco.

Thien Thao Hotel - extremely clean and efficient, the staff was wonderful.
Nhat Thanh Hotel - in Nha Trang. this was actually paternal grandparents' home before it was converted into a grand hotel. the room we reserved was big. the hot water was tempermental. it was a bit too local for our liking, the rooms not very sound insulated. we did not stay the entire time we booked it, i begged dw to go to a resort instead.
diamond bay resort - we spent our last night in nha trang here. clean and beautiful, but still the hot water situation was driving me crazy. however, the staff was very accommodating.
City Hotel - we did not spend the night here. our last day in Vietnam was in Saigon and we had a full day there. being as it's so hot there, we wanted to shower before our flight out later that evening so booked a room to freshen up before we trekked it to the airport. it was dw's favorite, due to the super cleanliness of the place, as well as the location, just a mere half block from Cho Ben Thanh.


  1. Thank you for the photos, they conveyed a lot about your hometown. Your sentiments when visiting Vietnam is similar to mine when I find myself in China (Shanghai mind you).

    That said, change of weather must be interesting for you.

  2. YAY You're back! I'm glad you had a lovely vacation but I've missed your yummy dishes! I can absolutely relate with the post-vacation funk you're in. It's always like that - like the euphoric effects of a drug working off. Hope you feel better in the next couple of days! And those are some beautiful pictures you have there! Bummer about the water situation though.

  3. That post-vacation funk is the worst: Not only are you home and back at work and facing reality again, but then you feel ungrateful and depressed about being in a post-vacation funk! At least that's how I always get...

    Thank you for sharing these photos. I wish we could get a cup of tea and exchange vacation stories.

  4. what beautiful photos and so interesting to hear the perspective of someone who eats organic/whole foods on going to Vietnam. Also interesting about the not-Nazi symbol--I wondered! thanks for this window into your trip!

  5. These photos are fantastic. I never want to come back from vacation. My mind is always off daydreaming about every day of my trip.

  6. Thanks for the vicarious vacation through your photos and feedback! It's interesting to hear about the food, I always imagine Vietnamese food to be so incredibly fresh tasting, but it's true that water quality and microbes throw a monkey wrench in the works! I hope you found some inspiration for more delicious recipes and am glad to read about your adventures :)

  7. Gorgeous photos! I want to travel to Asia sooooo bad -- the Philippines is on my must-visit list. Some day!

  8. Aw, I am so bummed to hear that the food in Vietnam didn't sweep you off your feet. Next time, I'm coming with and feeding you all my faves.

  9. Stunning photos Lan. There's so much beauty there. Sorry that all the pieces didn't come together exactly as you were hoping. I hope that makes the highlights even more memorable for you.

  10. Stunning photos, the boats in the harbor at sun(rise?) were my favorite.

    I hope I can get there someday - the French Quarter of Hanoi has been at the top of my list for the longest time, but it may be just an immature, sentimental choice.

    Here's to a fast recovery from Vacation Funk.

  11. pickyin - the change of weather was WONDERFUL. it is cold at home & i sure do miss the heat of VN right now. :)

    beetlebuggy - thank you. the water situation is a bummer yes, but it still was a very good respite from Real Life.

    meister - we will meet eventually! when you are in town for work or when i finally trek up to NYC!

    shannalee - thank you! embracing a new way of eating is great etc, but when eating out or traveling, it can be challenging to switch gears a bit.

    chi wc - thank you. right as i was getting the hang of things, it was time for us to go. boo.

    aliza - actually i did. there were a number of dishes we tried that were good and i feel would benefit from the freshness of local produce we'd get here in baltimore. authentic aside, it would at least be local, in-season and fresh.

    jacqui - make the trek, but portion off enough vacation time for it! 8 days is just not enough. :( manila is rich with so much history, and the beaches are swoon-worthy.

    gastromer - it's ok, it was a great learning experience. next time, we'll plan better and taking you along!

    wendi - thank you! it all balanced out in the end, it was a lovely time, it was great vacationing with dw, vietnam is a great destination for travel and i would do it all again.

    jeff - it was actually late afternoon when i snapped the boats. (early morns are not my thing, tho i love to see a sunrise over a sunset any day). hanoi and hue and ha long bay are on my list of places to check out next time Vietnam comes up on our list of places to vacation!

  12. I am glad to know I am not the only one who went to Asia with a list of places to go for specific food items that never made it to a single one! I underestimated the map and lack of language difficulty. If I could read or speak Chinese or Thai, it would have been a different trip. I had the same problem in Thailand, though my food experience there was still great. I am hoping to get to Vietnam sometime in 2012/13.

  13. deanna - i confessed dw that i think thai street food is better than viet street food. i whispered it & now i may as well just say it publicly. there is a poppiness about thai food that viet food lacks, over there. now here in the states, it's a different story...

  14. Well that is somewhat of a bummer! I love the Vietnamese food I have had here. Food is a primary decision for me since I make my living cooking. The culture, the history, and the people all come after food. Maybe back to Thailand, or Singapore instead...

  15. I didn't know you were from Vietnam! My mother-in-law was over there for Chinese new year too, she just got home. We are planning on taking the kids over there early next year. Si's family are from just south of Saigon. Many moons ago when we travelled Vietnam (pre-kids) we spent some time in Nha Trang, my favourite however was Hoi An. I could happily live there. Stunning photos.

  16. Gorgeous photos. We visited Hanoi and Halong Bay in January last year and it was very cold. It's amazing that Nha Trang in can be hot at the same time of year.

    We experienced a few foodie wonders, but we're not Vietnamese so don't have the same expectation or bench marks. We didn't have a list of places to try, just a list of dishes to try. I'm pretty sure we hit all of them.

  17. emma, yes, 100% vietnamese. :) it is our goal to visit the northern part of the country, especially Hoi An, tho in warmer months...

    genie, the trip wasn't a wash, it was a nice respite from the winter here in the states. it does boggle my mind that it was so HOT in saigon, milder in Nha Trang and freezing in Hanoi.