Kenny and I were extremely excited to try all the fruits we could while in Vietnam and Cambodia. We had many old favorites and got to experience quite a few new ones as well:
- Bananas – apparently there are five types of bananas that grow in Vietnam. I don’t remember how many types we tried, but most of the ones we had were very small.
- Green orange – these taste just like oranges, but they are green on the outside instead of orange! Most of the local just call them oranges, although it felt so wrong to me to call something green an orange. When we told our Mekong Delta guide that oranges are orange back in the US, she couldn’t believe it!
- Green coconut – not too different from the brown variety, but in green!
- Dragonfruit – my favorite! They are fuschia on the outside, with green tentacles. On the inside, they are white with little black seeds. They are extremely refreshing, especially when cold. We always ate them with spoons.
- Papaya – just like the ones at home.
- Green papaya – usually in salads. Delicious.
- Mango – Nha Trang had the best mangoes I’ve ever tasted.
- Pineapple – we had delicious pineapples in both Cambodia and Vietnam.
- Watermelons – the watermelons in Vietnam are much smaller than the ones we usually get at home, although they taste about the same.
- Palm fruit – we had never heard of palm fruit, until one of our drivers at Angkor Wat pointed it out to us and then procured some for us to try. It has the texture of lychee meat, but not much discernible flavor, although it’s quite refreshing.
- Rambutan – they’re like lychees, but they have curly red alien tendrils on the outside. Quite tasty.
- Longan – these are also similar to lychees, but smaller. The seed to meat ratio is high.
- Starfruit – in Vietnam, starfruit is eaten with salt and a little bit of chili pepper.
- Jackfruit – we didn’t like the first one we tried, in Siem Reap. We had our second one in the Mekong, and we both quite enjoyed it. I don’t know whether it grew on us, or the Vietnamese one was better.
- Water apple – we tried green ones and red ones when we were in the Mekong. They mostly taste like water, with a slight tart flavor.
- Sapodilla – I never saw a whole one, but I had some sapodilla in fruit shake form and later in a fruit salad at the Hotel Rex in Saigon. It was brown and mushy and I didn’t quite like it.
We also tried something on our Halong Bay cruise that had a texture like jicama, but the flavor of a pear. Unfortunately I never saw what it looked like on the exterior, because they were always served to us pre-sliced (and skinned?). But if you have any idea what I’m talking about, I’d love to know the name.
Some fruits we wanted to try but never found:
- Mangosteen – supposedly these are delicious. We realized later that we might have seen them in a market in Saigon (but nowhere else).
- Soursop – we never had a solid one, but we tried it in fruit shake form, which was delicious
- Custard apple – I’ve heard of this, but I’m not sure what it is.
And although we saw many of them around the markets, we never did work up the courage to try durian. The smell was enough to scare us away.
We spent Xmas Eve in Hoi An. It was wonderful to be in a smallish, quiet town without hideous Christmas music blaring everywhere. We did encounter a few Santas though!
This kid was really excited that we asked him for a photo.
A white Santa
We had a quiet dinner at a restaurant near the waterfront (including a “white rose,” one of Hoi An’s specialties), and then dessert at the Cargo Club, which we loved. The place is geared toward Western tourists, but it’s owned and run by locals. They serve gorgeous pastries and homemade ice creams in exotic flavors like lemongrass (we tried this, and it was awesome — I can’t wait to try making it when we get home). The front page of their menu tells their story, which concludes with a request that visitors be patient with them — they want to provide great service and hospitality, but they’re still learning.
Five hundred years ago, many of the streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter were named according to the goods that were sold here. Many of the streets have retained their names, although only a few of them still specialize in their original craft. Here are a few examples from the Rough Guide:
||Paper votive objects
Our second Hanoi hotel is located on Hang Ga. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but Hang Ga and the streets that surround it have lots of street stalls selling yummy pho ga (noodle soup with chicken, which is generally a bit harder to find than pho bo, the beef variety). You can get a large bowl for around 10,000 VND (about 60 cents).
From the NYT travel section’s list of 53 Places to Go in 2008, via my Mom:
Vietnam and Cambodia are so 2007.
Good thing we’ll make it there before the year is up!
(Although this article contradicts itself: it claims that Vietnam is “so 2007,” then lists it later as one of the 53 places to go in 2008 – number 48. And I have no clue why the author is citing new golf courses as the reason to visit Vietnam. What? He also recommends Detroit and Kuwait City as vacation destinations, so go figure.)
We’re still trying to keep things flexible, but here’s the tentative itinerary:
- Arrive in Hanoi on December 16, explore the city for a couple of days
- Halong Bay cruise, then back to Hanoi
- Fly down to the central coast: visit Hue, Hoi An, My Son (how much time we spend in this area may depend on weather)
- A beach somewhere: either in the central coast area or, weather permitting, down to Nha Trang (fingers crossed on this one – I’ve heard Nha Trang is gorgeous, as are the nearby islands)
- Ho Chi Minh City, maybe for New Year’s Eve (?), then fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia
- A few days in Cambodia at Angkor Wat and other nearby ruins as time allows
- Fly back to Ho Chi Minh City, and get a bus or other transport to one of the towns in the Mekong Delta
- Mekong Delta boat tour, perhaps a homestay
- Back to Ho Chi Minh City for however many days we have left, then fly back to Seattle on January 6
This might be too much to do in 3 weeks; if so, we’ll cut things as necessary. We haven’t booked any of the intermediate flights (including the flight to Cambodia) — according to everything I’ve read, it’s cheaper and easier to book over there.
We leave late Friday night — I’m so excited!