I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed our recent family trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. We spent our days walking around Ho Chi Minh and Siem Reap taking in the scenery, locals and food.
My favorite Vietnamese Dish is Bun Cha or a rice noodle salad with vegetables, meat, rolls and vinegar dressing. This of course will not be complete without Cafe Sua Da (iced coffee) and Goi Cuon (fresh spring rolls). Luckily, I was able to enroll in a cooking class by Cycloresto and one of the dishes taught were the fresh spring rolls. The teacher, Chef Vu, speaks in fast english peppered with Vietnamese accents. He is easily understandable and makes the entire class very enjoyable and fun. After the session you would have learned to cook 3 dishes (appetizer, main dish and soup) as well as dabble in food decoration by making a rose out of tomato and a heart from cucumber pieces.
Another tour I enjoyed a lot was a walking food tour Martin found on viator. A local guide takes you to jaunts famous for offering good, cheap and authentic Vietnamese fair. The tour company's call to fame is that it will offer authentic local sites that aren't touristy and will give you a taste of real Ho Chi Minh. Our 2 hour trip took us to holes in the wall like the old market where we sat by the street munching on Goi Cuon, sugarcane juice and spicy noodles. Our last stop was in a cafe owned and managed by a local star --- it's situated in the old quarters pretty much like our Malate and renovated to be a hip place for young ones to congregate to enjoy music. The owner even treated us to a private concert of 3 songs-- one was a local ballad and 2 english songs. This was such a treat!! She even said she'll call us up when she visits the Philippines and will offer to sing for free.
After a few days in Vietnam, we hopped on a plane to visit the world's biggest temple complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site: Angkor Wat
Siem Reap is "same,same but different" since our last visit. Our favorite haunts like Blue Pumpkin and Koulen Restaurant are still very much in vogue while the food has grown leaps making local cuisine much more palatable to my tongue. (Fish Amok is a local dish hence the title Pho & Amok) On our first night, after a cultural show, our tired feet were pampered with a 1hour massage by our "suki" parlor --- right across Pub Street. This was the same place mart and I would go for massages when our bodies got too tired from temple hopping or bargain hunting. We also tried out this tex-mex restaurant along Pub Street that served awesome burgers, chili con carne and pork. Martin got his fill of roast duck which was served with rice and veggies for only USD3.00.
Of course the main attraction was the temple complex which took most of our second day in the country. There is something about Bayon, Angkor Wat and Ta Phrom that just takes your breathe away. You've got to realize that these complexes were built in a time where cranes, trucks and bulldozers did not exist. The sheer amount of rock and workers mobilized to create these masterpieces are unimaginable. Many of the workers, according to our guide, paid with their lives because constructing then was real back-breaking work. But their sacrifice lives on today--- surviving multiple wars and human intervention.
Sitting atop Angkor Wat's central temple and taking in the forest view made the entire trip!! I think visiting the complex should be in everyone's bucket list-- I guess I've made my quota being blessed enough to see it twice.
I guess to summarize what has already become a lengthy blog post is that the trip was a great great great one! (di ba obvious?) And I do recommend that you at least go to one of these countries once in your life. Great learning experiences just being there.
And so we're back to the land of adobo, which means time to return to normal daily life. Our one week vacation to the rice bowls of Asia (literally) namely Vietnam and Cambodia was a wonderful respite.
I havent been able to upload photos because I'll need access to my laptop to read my SD cards, but I'll put a sneak peak here of a few of those I was able to take during the tours.
This trip is the first I've ever been on with my in-laws. Visiting both countries was also like coming home for Martin and I since we spent our honeymoon in the same places. We visited all the old haunts we enjoyed during our first trip such as Siagon Square, Ben Tahn Market and Tru Nguyen coffee as well as doing new things such as the cooking class, National Museum and Botanical Gardens.
I personally didn't expect my in-laws to enjoy Vietnam as much as they did. With clothing very cheap in the area, Pop went crazy buying shirts, jackets, pants and shorts at a fraction of what it cost here in the Philippines. Mom, meanwhile was in her element ordering Pho and learning how to cook Goi Cuon with me.
Cambodia was also a great experience!! Despite addled by age, both Mom & Pop were able to survive a day tour of the Angkor Wat complex. And that is no easy feat considering the heat and sheer expanse of the land you have to walk through. They enjoyed smiling back at the Bayon Temple faces, eating local Khmer food and visiting UNESCO Heritage Site Angkor Wat.
Ever since our visit, food in Cambodia has improved greatly. Two years ago eating Khmer food was a risk because you didn't know what you'd get on your plate. But perhaps with the influx of tourists (Approx 4milliion/year for Siem Reap) they have been able to fine tune their local cuisine to suit the imported tongues that were going to taste it. We had fish amok, salads, noodles and many more! We also loved buying local fruits such as pineapple, langka (jackfruit), dragonfruit and papaya. Sample of each cost about USD1/plate. Cheap as compared to how much it would cost us to buy back home.
We left the Cambodia on a Cebu Pacific plane at 10:30pm and arriving on local soil by 2:00am. Physically exhausted but emotionally elated by the experience, we slept by 4am dreaming of all the good food and wonderful sites from both countries.
I am perhaps pounds heavier than before I left (I'm too scared to check!) but munching on Pho, Bahn Mi and good fruits was worth the extra weight. Now back to tackling my New Year Resolutions which include losing weight!
Will post photos soon!!
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I have always wanted to write. This will now be a creative outlet-- home to all my arts and crafts. So feel free to browse around my everyday adventures.