A Travellerspoint blog

Laos/Vietnam/Malaysia Beer Roundup

Given the high temperatures during our trip, beer ended up playing a pretty important role, and with the variety we encountered (and naturally sampled), we thought it deserved a standalone post and would be fitting closure for this round.

While we unfortunately lack tasting notes for each one, we can safely say that there was a fairly wide quality range. Local brews, especially in Vietnam (where each city seems to boast at least one), unfortunately failed to win us over. Even in a landscape of other pale lagers, they came across watered down and lacking depth, though Huda (from Hue) and Larue (from Hoi An) were better than the rest. Beerlao was another notable exception and a justifiable source of national pride (apparently commanding a 99% of the home market). This might be down to their German-trained female brewmaster Sivilay Lasachack.

Otherwise, the imports took the day, especially one American lager that we came across in Saigon. Without further adieu, here's the brews in order of appearance. Thanks for reading and happy travels!

beerlao__la_.jpg
Hanoi__VN_.jpg
Halida__VN_.jpgThe only local brew we could actually find on draught
Huda__VN_.jpg
Larue__VN_.jpg
Saigon__VN_.jpg
San_Miguel__VN_.jpgWe noticed a strong push for San Miguel, leaning heavily on their Hong Kong/Macao heritage to take on Tiger in the region
333__VN_.jpgSeemingly the only national Vietnamese beer
Fifth_Ocean__VN_.jpg
Budweiser__VN_.jpg
Anchor__MY_.jpgInteresting... a local beer in a Muslim state
Tiger.jpg

Posted by jkirsch 19:36 Comments (0)

KL // Local Style

Kuala Lumpur

sunny 90 °F
View Laos/Vietnam, June 2011 on jkirsch's travel map.

Our travels already feel far behind us as we're at last settled in St. Louis and I've even started work, but what better way to keep that holiday feeling going that with a couple final posts.

We capped off our travels with a great couple of days in Kuala Lumpur. While it may not seem like a natural stop on the way home from Vietnam, it was the best option for using miles (thus free tickets) and gave us a great chance to visit the city and some friends there. We ended up having a great time, especially thanks to our wonderful tour guide and friend Hooi Ling. Going in, we'd expected something like Singapore, but found KL to be much more authentic and diverse with arguably better food to beat!

Petronas.jpgPetronas Towers from the Skybar at the Traders

According to Ling, food is especially important in Malaysian culture, and thus food-related activities appropriately consumed roughly 50% of our time in KL (likely leaving us a little heftier on departure). On our second night, we actually had dinner at an Indian restaurant, followed by dessert at a Cantonese-style cafe, and capped off the night directly after with Malaysian specialties in a night food market, thoroughly enjoying each stop. I tried to capture some of the action in the photos below, but they still don't quite do it justice.

Food.jpgAnother successful meal
preserved_store.jpgSampling buckets of preserved "goodies" (At times a stretch of the word)
food_stalls.jpg"Western food" was a loose interpretation...Nasi_Goreng.jpgSurprisingly amazing Oxtail Nasi Goreng at Indonesian chain Es Teler 77
chestnuts.jpgRoasted nuts are universal...

We didn't just eat though, and still managed to take in some of the city's sites, including the Petronas towers (even cooler in person) and the national mosque. Escorted by Hooi Ling, we also enjoyed a fish spa and intense reflexology treatment. All-in-all, a great finish!

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Posted by jkirsch 03.07.2011 19:15 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur food spa petronas_towers Comments (0)

Southern Vietnam = Food Heaven!

Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

sunny 95 °F

Wow, we are REALLLY behind in our blogging....I am actually posting this from our new apartment in St. Louis. Apologies to all those die-hard followers who must be on the edge of their seats waiting to hear about the second half of our trip. I attribute our tardiness to the fact that the trip flew by and that we had an amazing time. That, plus the heat and copious amounts of inexpensive massage made us incredibly lazy!! :)

After Hue, Jake and I made our way down the coast to Hoi An, a town about 30 minutes drive away from Danang. Hoi An was one of the highlights of our trip; although it is very touristy (much like Luang Prabang), it manages to retain a lot of charm, especially at night when most of the shops close and the streets empty out. From our three days there, it seems like Hoi An has two main attractions: (1) delicious food and (2) affordable tailoring. We took part in both.

hoianoldtown.jpg
A shot of Hoi An's scenic Old Town area.

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One of Hoi An's many assembly halls, built by Chinese traders working in Hoi An. Different halls were built for each of the major ethnic groups.

Our tailor of choice was Sun Cloth Shop, which was recommended by our hotel. We got lots of great stuff made for us, for a really good price. The turnaround time is incredible - they made my dresses in about 24 hours, and Jake's shirts took only a few hours! I've never had tailor-made clothing made for me before, so the experience itself was highly worthwhile.

As far as food goes, it was hands down our best food in Vietnam. We liked the place we ate dinner the first night (Miss Ly's) so much that we went back again the second night, only to discover an even BETTER place (Morning Glory) on our last night.

msly.jpg
Cao Lau at Ms. Ly's. Cao Lau is one of Hoi An's special dishes --- YUM!

I also had the best tuna sandwich ever at a really cute little cafe called the Dingo Deli (halfway between Hoi An and the beach) -- the perfect lunch after hanging out at the beach.

7beach.jpg
The beautiful beach in between Hoi An and Danang. Sadly, it's being madly developed by every major hotel company imaginable!

After Hoi An, we flew to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for our final days in Vietnam. It's amazing how different Saigon seems from the rest of Vietnam (in particular, from Hanoi). The central part of city feels very European - wide, tree-lined streets, manicured parks and gardens, lots of sidewalk cafes and boutiques.

postoffice.jpg
Saigon's Post Office

2cathedral.jpg
Notre Dame Basilica in Saigon. Apparently it gets packed at mass-time! Who knew there were so many Catholics in Vietnam?

Given our short time there, we didn't have too much time to sightsee, but we managed to fit in visits to the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace, both of which were really worth seeing. The Palace especially was cool: it has basically been left untouched since the end of the war in 1975, and you get to visit the map rooms and other offices where the military was overseeing the war.

8palace.jpg
Reunification Palace, still kept as it was at the end of the war in 1975. A definite must-see.

Gastronomically speaking, the highlights of the city were a Vietnamese BBQ place called 3T Quan Nuong, conveniently located next to our favorite ice cream place (Fanny, of course). We ordered prawns that were given to us skewered but still alive, which we sadisticly enjoyed cooking and eating with this really good salt-pepper-lime mix.

prawns.jpg
Prawns at 3T Quan Nuong. Delicious.

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Fanny!!! We miss you already!!!

We also encountered a very nice Budweiser sales girl who gamely agreed to take a picture with Jake. By "sales girl", I mean these women that are in alot of the bars and restaurants throughout the city. They wear a uniform promoting the beer, and visit your table and try to convince you to buy that brand. The San Miguel girls seemed to be the most pushy -- at one place, the girl wouldn't leave our table until we agreed to buy two San Miguels!! I'm glad she did though, because it was delicious and might now be one of my favorites.

6budgirl.jpg
Jake and the Bud girl at 3T Quan Nuong.

Sadly, our time in Vietnam had to end at some point. We had a really great time (despite the heat) and hope we can come back again at some point. Given all the compliments we've gotten on our Hoi An tailored clothes already, we'll definitely have to go back just to get more clothes made!

Stay tuned for Jake's posts on Kuala Lumpur and SE Asian beers!

Posted by nhilde 03.07.2011 11:34 Archived in Vietnam Tagged food restaurants vietnam saigon hanoi hcmc fanny tailoring Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh and Colonel Sanders - the same person?

Hanoi and Hue

sunny 95 °F
View Laos/Vietnam, June 2011 on jkirsch's travel map.

You have to admit, the similarities are uncanny.

I’m writing this on the train from Hue – Vietnam’s imperial capital – to Da Nang and Hoi An, where we’ll spend a few days before heading on to Saigon.

Despite the mercury pushing 95 and high humidity, we’ve had a great first week in Vietnam, certainly helped by frequent breaks for ice cream and iced Vietnamese coffee. Initially, we had planned to split our first few days between Hanoi and Sapa – a scenic hill station in the country’s northeast – but liked the capital so much, that we decided to stick around (it was also a nice break from rural life after Laos). We stayed in the historical center of Hoan Kiem and really liked the city’s energy and overall feel. Slightly less fun was crossing streets without lights and in the middle of traffic, but we eventually got the hang of it (walk straight, move at a constant speed).

Traffic.jpgNo unexpected moves

Despite the widespread lack of indoor A/C, we still managed to hit up the major sites including Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Military Museum, the Temple of Literature, the Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton), and a show at the acclaimed Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. The Mausoleum was particularly interesting as we made the arguably poor choice to go on a Sunday morning. Apparently, a visit to “Uncle Ho” makes a popular outing for a non-negligible portion of Hanoi’s population and we waited in the sweltering heat for over an hour to get a 30 second walk-by glimpse of his preserved body (at least he gets A/C).

line.jpgTook us almost 20 minutes just to get to the start of the line
security.jpgBreaktime for Ho's guard

At the sites dealing with the Indochinese war(s) – against the French, and the US – it was especially interesting to see the Vietnamese narrative. The below relic from the fall of Dien Bien Phu was pretty representative. Still, outside of these sites, both wars seem pretty far in the past.

helmet.jpg(Caption reads: Evidence of the failure of the French)... Guess they should stick to fine wine and museums
remnants.jpgNot sure what this would imply about US aircraft manufactuing

As usual and with my “digestive problems” behind me, we also managed to take full advantage of the food on offer in Hanoi. Of particular note were the street stall specializing in bun bo nam bo – grilled strips of beef, served over noodles – at 67 Hang Dieu Street, amazing homemade ice cream at Fanny, and ex-pat hangout, Puku. Also worth mentioning, even for this non-coffee drinker: café sua da (Vietnamese ice coffee), with just a bit of condensed milk has become a new drink-of-choice.

bunbo.jpg

After Hanoi, we spent a couple of days in Hue, Vietnam’s imperial capital. If possible, the city felt even hotter and we’d be sweaty and drowsy from the moment we stepped outside. Despite the malaise, we made it to the Dong Ba market and the Citadel. Apparently, the heat kept most other foreigners away as we had the sites largely to ourselves. We also rallied for the second cooking class of the trip. Worth noting: the uniforms definitely make you feel like you know what you’re doing.

Hue_sunset.jpgSunset over the Perfume River
Cooking.jpg

That’s all for now – Happy Travels!

Posted by jkirsch 18.06.2011 03:43 Archived in Vietnam Tagged food hanoi hue vietnam_war ho_chi_minh Comments (0)

Living La Vida Laos

…just don’t eat the fresh herbs!

sunny 90 °F
View Laos/Vietnam, June 2011 on jkirsch's travel map.

As mentioned in Jake’s previous post, we kicked off our “goodbye b-school, hello real world” trip with a week in Northern Laos. After a two-day trip from St. Louis - which included a six hour layover in JFK, a nine hour layover in Hong Kong, and a twelve hour overnight in Bangkok - we finally arrived in Luang Prabang, our base for our time in Laos. With a population of slightly more than 100,000, Luang Prabang is the second largest city (town?) in Laos, which tells you something about how rural Laos is. Luang Prabang is very touristy, but also very cute and relaxing. We had a nice time wandering around, visiting temples, sweating out the unbelievable summer heat, and making way for monks (which seem to make up about half of LP’s population!).

LP_Above.jpgLuang Prabang from above after a steamy hike up Phousy Hill
Luang_Prabang.jpgThe "main" drag
LP_Rain.jpgsigh... the rainy season

In addition to hanging out in Luang Prabang, we built in a few days to explore rural Laos, which is absolutely beautiful. After a long and incredibly bumpy seven hour drive, we arrived in Muang La, a very small town about 30 minutes from Oudomxay, another “major” Lao “city”. The main reason for going to Muang La was to stay at the Muang La Resort, a luxury boutique resort I had heard about while planning the trip. It was easily the highlight of our time in Laos. We were the only guests staying at the hotel, which made it really special. If you are looking for relaxation, then this is the place to be. Our two days there consisted of the following wonderfully relaxing routine: massage at 5pm; hot spring hot tub and sauna at 6pm; delicious cocktails and dinner at 8pm. We managed to fit in one muddy and sweaty mountain bike ride through the countryside on Day 2, but other than that we pretty much just did nothing.

Biking.jpg

In addition to relaxing, we made a new friend at Muang La. His name is Monsieur Henri, and he’s a one-month old Macaque monkey! The manager of the hotel bought him from the villagers after they killed his mother to eat her brains (which apparently helps to make you more intelligent). He is too cute – they’ve built Henri a little cage near the reception desk, they feed him from a little bottle, and he even gets weekly baths! Jake took one look at the monkey and wanted his own…until he read the news about the woman in Connecticut who had gotten her skin ripped off by her neighbor’s pet chimp a few years back! I guess we’ll just have to content ourselves with Lana for now…..

Henri.jpg

From Muang La we took a really nice longboat ride back to Luang Prabang. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, although the trip was somewhat dampered by the fact that Jake got a bacterial infection from some fresh herbs he ate at a local noodle shop in Muang La (hence the sub-title of this post), and I got attacked by mosquitos on the first night of the boat ride. We took it a little easier on our stomachs for the rest our time in Laos, and managed to find an adorable French café called Café Ban Van Sene where we enjoyed lots of baguette and smoked ham!

Boat1.jpg
Boat2.jpg
Boat_Scenery.jpg
Foe.jpgAmazing local "Foe" (Laotian "Pho"). Was almost worth it...

So, overall impressions of Laos. The bacterial infection and bug bites definitely left us eager to leave rural Laos for the big city of Hanoi. But the charm of Luang Prabang is undeniable and the rural landscape is truly beautiful. We had a good time all in all, but I don’t think we’ll be back anytime soon (unless it’s back to Muang La to visit Mr. Henri!)

Stay tuned for Jake’s post about Hanoi!

Posted by jkirsch 14.06.2011 05:14 Archived in Laos Tagged laos luang_prabang mekong_river muang_la nam_ou_river Comments (0)

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