Thursday, April 24, 2014

One of the darkest memories in the history of Vietnam- French Son La Prison

Son La Prison is considered as one of the most famous places, with a no less notorious name “Hell on Earth” to describe the frightened brutality of French colonialists to Vietnamese prisoners here.

The prison was built in 1908 at the center of Son La town and on top of Khau Ca Hill. The prison became a crucial place where numerous political prisoners were locked.  It was notorious at the time as a cruel and terrifying jail where resisting wills and patriotism on the mind of prisoners was diminished in the bloodiest methods. However, for revolutionists imprisoned inside Son La Jail, the place was a “college” where stamina, solidarity and combating spirit was enhanced. There were many stories about tenaciousness and courage of revolutionists who have resisted the colonial and perished at this place like To Hieu.

Inside the prison
Although the original construction was partially demolished after the two wars, Son La Prison has still conserved major features of it, especially jail system and torturing facilities inside. Impression of tourists with Vietnam travel guide  to outer sceneries might be nothing special, but most guests crossing the entrance and enter the prison will definitely be surprised with inside space because they cannot understand how French colonial can lock prisoners in the terrible place like this.

The atmosphere is humid and stifling with ugly smelling and insects everywhere. For the underground jails, its condition is much worse and essentials elements for human lives like light and air seems only be a luxury. In addition, there are also some special rooms for torturing that has remained with almost complete collection of unbelievably terrifying items and method for excruciating and collecting information from prisoners. The general feeling of visitors in Vietnam travel when they see those rooms is horror with their brutality and fortunate when they do not have to experience the cruelty of these tools. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ben Thanh Market - One of the Most Recognizable Symbols of Saigon

After being moved many times, Ben Thanh market is now standing in the center of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) where tourists in Vietnam travel can conveniently find varieties of goods. Especially, the goods here are displayed in a very attractive way that always catches the eyes of the consumers. Anyone who has ever visited the city once recognized that Ben Thanh market is a symbol, a unique image of Saigon.

Ben Thanh Market is situated at the intersection of Le Loi Avenue, Ham Nghi Avenue, Tran Hung Dao Avenue and Le Lai Street, 700m south-west of the Rex Hotel. 

Ben Thanh Market

At first, the market was situated near the Ben Nghe River Dike. After being moved many times, it is now standing in the centre of the city where consumers or tourists in Vietnam travel can conveniently find all sorts of products.

According to Vuong Hong Sen, author of "the book Saigon of the Past", in 1912, the French filled a pond, the Boresse, into a solid foundation of 12,000m2 and built a market on it. The market was close to a landing stage (Ben) of the old city (Thanh), hence its name of Ben Thanh. The opening ceremony for the market in March 1914 was a big festive event.

At present, the front of Ben Thanh Market faces Quach Thi Trang Square; its rear faces Le Thanh Ton Street; its right, Phan Chu Trinh Street and its left, Phan Boi Chau Street. At all of its four sides, there are bustling trading shops.
Trần Nguyên Hãn statue oppsite Bến Thành market
Trần Nguyên Hãn statue oppsite Bến Thành market 

Located at the centre of the city, Ben Thanh Market is always loaded with varieties of goods, such as consumer goods, cakes and candies, food and foodstuff, and particularly high-quality fruit and vegetables. Goods are displayed in a very attractive way that always catches the eyes of the buyers. They meet all requirements for the customers' daily life or for their families. The market has four gates that are very convenient for the market-goers.
For all of its advantages, Ben Thanh Market is now one of the most attractive tourist sites in the city for both local and international tourists joining tours in Vietnam.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Sa Pa is located in Lao Cai Province, north-west Vietnam, and 350 km north-west of Hanoi, close to the border with China.

Sapa - Vietnam
The whole Sapa District is dominated by the Hoang Lien Son mountain range which is at the Eastern extremity of the Himalayas, being famous with the Vietnam’s highest mountain of Fa si pan at a height of 3,142 m above sea level.

Sapa - Vietnam
The town of Sa Pa lies at an altitude of about 1,600 m, bringing in a cool and foggy site of Sa Pa.

Sapa - Vietnam
Thanks to the height of 1,600 m above the sea level, the average temperature of the area is always 15-18°C, cool in summer, but a bit cold in winter

Sapa - Vietnam
Sapa is famous both for its fine, rugged scenery and for its rich cultural diversity. 

Sapa - Vietnam
Its naturally gifted beauty keeps attracting more and more people to spend their vacation there since then. Particularly, the place is the foremost choice for honeymoon couples!

Sunrise on Coc San Grotto
Sunrise on Coc San Grotto

Silver Waterfall - Sapa Vietnam
Silver Waterfall

Old Cathedral in Sapa - Vietnam
Old Cathedral in Sapa

Heaven's Gate in Sapa - Vietnam
Heaven's Gate in Sapa
Costume of Ethnic Minorities in Sapa
Costume of Ethnic Minorities
Grilled Corn and Baked Sweet Potatoes in Sapa
Grilled Corn and Baked Sweet Potatoes 
Sapa - Vietnam
Sapa - the land of love

Ham Rong gardens - Sapa - Vietnam
Ham Rong gardens

Terraced fields in Sa Pa - Vietnam
Terraced fields in Sa Pa

Terraced fields in Sa Pa - Vietnam

Terraced fields in Sa Pa - Vietnam

Terraced fields in Sa Pa - Vietnam

Terraced fields in Sa Pa - Vietnam

Sa Pa - Vietnam
Panorama of Sa Pa towards the Fansipan

Monday, April 21, 2014

Com - (green sticky rice)

Com - (green sticky rice)

One of the most origins of Cốm can be traced to Vòng village, 7 km west of Hanoi downtown. The legend begins with a severe starvation in the village years ago. Since the rice crop was not ready for harvest, residents then had nothing else to eat. One hungry farmer tried roasting the unripe grains of rice as his last resort. Just like the accidental invention of Cocacola in the West, Vong villagers found that by roasting the rice in a clay jar and smashing it to remove the husks, they could produce a delicious dish, called Cốm. As the rumors about the new dish spread widely, the King sent for the head villager of Vòng to the court. The King was so delighted with this dish that thereafter, each autumn, Vòng villagers were requested to present him with their Cốm.
The making of Cốm is still kept as a family secret. What most people know is that the process of making Cốm is complicated and tedious. The main ingredient is young glutinous rice, carefully selected since they are in their blossom. The grain must be manually threshed and cleaned, before being roasted with a stoneware pan over firewood. The fire is kept low and steady and the cooking process need full attention. For flavor and color preserving purpose, each batch should comprise 800 grams of rice at the maximum. The dried grains are then pounded in a mortar and stirred frequently from bottom to top. This step is repeated 7-8 times to remove all the husks from the grains. The final result is glossy green rice, soft and slightly chewy, that is nowhere to be found.

Cốm is normally eaten by hand, a pinch at a time, or served with red persimmons and ripe bananas. Chewing Cốm slowly is the way to enjoy its subtle scents, tastes and softness. One note is that Cốm should be eaten within 24 hours or its original taste will be lost.

Due to the short season, Cốm is used to make many other Vietnamese specialties to relieve people’s craving in other months. Examples of derivatives from Cốm is Cốm xào (stir-fried green rice), Cốm rang (puffy green rice that resembles rice krispie), Bánh cốm (green rice cake- a must for Vietnamese engagement ceremonies), Kem Cốm (ice-cream with Cốm flavor) and Chè cốm (sweetened green rice paste), etc. Many worth-trying dishes involving Cốm are chicken stewed with herbs and green rice, or fried shrimp coated in Cốm.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wonderful Scenery on Ly Son Island

Only a few people know that Ly Son Island in Quang Ngai Province in Central Vietnam was created from five extinct volcanoes during the prehistoric age. With wonderful scenery left by these volcanoes, the island has now become an alluring destination, attracting a large number of tourists.

Seen from the shore on a fine day, Ly Son Island looks like a pyramid on the sea with its top being the peak of Thoi Loi Mountain. Among five mountains founding on the island, Thoi Loi is a rocky one. After a long time climbing the tortuous path on the mountain, tourists reach the peak of Thoi Loi where they have a panoramic view of the garlic field that looks like a chess-board and an immense blue sea dotted with fishing boats in the distance.

A panoramic view of Gieng Tien Mountain from the peak of Thoi Loi Mountain. Photo: Viet Cuong
The road to the peak of Thoi Loi Mountain. Photo: Thong Thien
At the foot of Thoi Loi Mountain. Photo: Viet Cuong.
Duc Pagoda is located halfway up Gieng Tien Mountain. Photo: Thong Thien

Wonderful Scenery on Ly Son Island
The cold lava from the exinct volcanoes millions of years ago forms a beautiful scenery. Photo: Viet Cuong
A garlic field at the foot of the mountain. 
The rain-water reservoir built on an area which was formerly a primitive forest. Photo: Viet Cuong
"The Heaven Gate" was formed by the cold lava from the exinct volcanoes millions of years ago. Photo: Viet Cuong
Beautiful cliffs near Hang Pagoda on Ly Son Island. Photo: Thong Thien

According to the old people in Ly Son, the hollow of the extinct Thoi Son Volcano was formerly a primitive forest of different valuable trees and had abundant fresh water resources which ran at the foot of the mountain to form Chinh Stream. Then, the forest was totally destroyed and the stream no longer exists. So far, there is only a relic left – Hang (Cave) Pagoda. Due to the sea’s impact on geology for hundreds of years, the layers of rock have been eroded and have formed a cave in the shape of a pagoda.

Unlike Thoi Loi Mountain that has only rocks, Gieng Tien Mountain has a special fertile soil, similar to the Bazan soil in Tay Nguyen (the Central Highlands). The locals often use this soil and sand to fertilize the garlic fields. Thanks to these fertilizers, the variety of garlic grown in Ly Son has a special flavour that is hardly known in other places. Around the crater of Gieng Tien Mountain that is smaller than that of Thoi Loi Mountain is a piece of land where no plants can grow. According to the beliefs of the locals, it is the sacred oil that was used as ash on the graves of soldiers of Kiem Quan Bac Hai Squad who laid down their lives when protecting the Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands) during the reign of King Minh Mang (1791-1841)

To the east of Gieng Tien Mountain is a strange pagoda, called Duc by locals. Visiting the pagoda, tourists learn a story about the Goddess of Mercy who traveled on Bac Hai Sea to save fishermen in distress. Seeing fishing boats being sunk by storms, she tore her robe into thousands of pieces and threw them into the sea. These pieces of cloth turned into dolphins which saved fishermen on the sea. Due to their belief, the locals made a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, 27m high, facing the sea and placed it at the pagoda with the hope that the Goddess of Mercy will protect fishermen when they go to the sea. 
Although the relic of three extinct volcanoes is only small mounds, the presence of cold lava is seen in many places on Ly Son Island, forming a wonderful landscape. They are rocks in different shapes that leave a long-lasting impression on tourists to the island.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cần Thơ (Mekong Delta - part 1)

At Mỹ Khánh village, Cần Thơ

Two local girls are preparing fruit for tourists. 
They wear traditional shirts of south Vietnamese 
women with black trousers.
24, 27 and 28 September 2009 - I was back in Cần Thơ city, which is the biggest city in the Mekong Delta, and it was my 3rd visit to this city. On this trip I would go further south through 4 provinces and reach the southernmost point of Vietnam. I decided to book a 5-day tour with a travel agent in Hanoi (Vietran Company) and the tour cost VND 3.9 million (US$200). If I traveled on my own, this amount would be enough for only air tickets (round trip) to/from Hanoi and Cần Thơ, so it was cheaper to travel with a travel agent. There were 22 Vietnamese on the tour and 18 of them were women, so it was quite noisy but fun. I was lucky as the agent arranged an old woman to share the room with me, so I didn't have to pay extra money for a single room.

As you may know the Mekong Delta is the southernmost region of Vietnam. The fertile land and rivers are great natural resources for cultivation and fish raising. There are 2,500 rivers and canals in the region and people move around by boats. You can see floating markets in the early hours of the morning and simple houses along the rivers. The Mekong River is known in Vietnamese as the Nine Dragons (Sông Cửu Long).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hu tieu nam vang - Rice Noodle with Pork and Seafood Recipe

Hu tieu nam vang - Rice Noodle with Pork and Seafood Recipe

This popular noodle dish in Saigon is an influence of a Chinese-Cambodian dish called Kuy Teav. It is also known as Phnom Penh Noodle Soup.

 Video by: Helen
Chanel Youtube:

Full recipe at (Xem cong thuc day du tai)
How to make Hu Tieu Nam Vang
Phnom Penh Noodle soup (Kuy teav)
Ingredients (6 servings)
1.5kg (3.3 lb) pork bones
500g (1.1 lb) minced pork
500g (1.1 lb) pork lean or shoulder
200g (0.5 lb) pork liver
1 dried squid (size of your hand)
1/2 cup dried shrimp
1 onion
5-inch daikon (cut into 1-inch thick slices)
1 cube rock sugar (double size of your thumb)
5-6 liter of water (for the soup pot)
1 large garlic knob, minced
2-3 shallot, minced
1/2 cup preserved radish, minced
a dozen quail eggs
600g dried noodle (Hu Tieu Dai)
Fresh greens: garlic chives, lettuce, Asian cellery ( rau can), Chrysanthemum (rau tan o), beansprouts...
Black sauce: 3 tbsp oyster sauce + 3 tbsp soy sauce + 1 tbsp sugar + 3 tbsp water. Simmer on low for 2 minutes.

Nguyên liệu
1.5kg xương heo
500g thịt heo băm nhuyễn
500g thịt nạc vai (heo)
200g gan heo
1 con mực khô loại vừa
1/2 chén tôm khô
1 củ hành tây
5 khoanh củ cải cắt lát dày 3cm
1 viên đường phèn (chừng 3 lóng tay)
5-6 lít nước
1 củ tỏi lớn
2-3 củ hành tím
1/2 cup củ cải muối
chục trứng cút
2 gói hủ tiếu khô (loại 300g)
hẹ, rau cần, xà lách, tàn ô, giá ..vv...
Tương đen: 3m dầu hào + 3m xì dầu + 1m đường + 3m nước. Đun lửa riu riu chừng 2 phút.

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