Hanoi, Vietnam : Getting Tattoo In Vietnam

So you are in Hanoi and plan to get a tattoo?
I’ve visited 6 tattoo studios in Hanoi and to be honest, I only impressed with two studios. But if I have to choose one between these two, I go for Hanoitattoo Studio based on their studio, the equipment that they use, the prove of their tattoo artists’ artworks, professionalism and well, the price offered for sure. The other one is equally good but not in term of price. The rest is just a little bit too shady and didn’t give me a good impression of professional in tattoo studio/artists. Few of it look more like mafia hiding place rather than a tattoo studio!
Not that I am a pro about the whole thing related to tattoo but well, at least I know what I should know. I don’t have huge art piece on my body, to be honest. I only had 8 “stamps”. At I got myself 2 tattoos at Hanoitattoo Studio. It was my 7th,8th and 9th tattoo. The #7th – The infinity symbol + anchor + 3 birds + “faith” + “refuse to sink”. The #8th – Calvin & Hobbes and the #9th, shark in tribal design 🙂
 So far many backpackers that I brought to Hanoitattoo Studio were happy with the results of their tattoos. They love it as it was very detailed, very beautifully and carefully done and most important they are happy with the price which pretty a good deal (well, thank you to me, I always negotiate the price for them as the people in the studio know me pretty well already. Hehehe!).
So yeah, if any of you wanna get a tattoo in Hanoi, I strongly suggest you to go to Hanoitattoo Studio for the best tattoo works. Click HERE for their facebook and more info!
Oh! Before I forget, there is lovely, shy yet friendly pitbull dog at Hanoitattoo Studio! You’ll love that big boy! Cheers!

Da Lat, Vietnam : Little Paris (well, not really)

If not because of Hannah & Thomas, I probably will never make a way to Da Lat and many other places before reached Da Lat. For that, thank you for Hannah & Thomas for invited me to join them for a road trip to Da Lat. Love it.
Starting from busy bustling crazy chaotic HCMC a.k.a Saigon, it took us 3 days 2 nights before reached Da Lat which only 310km from Saigon. It was not about the distance, it was about the attractive distractions, rains and crazy unbelievable bumpy road conditions that took us that long to be in Da Lat which normally it only gonna take 8 hours if you take a bus from Saigon. Hehehe…
On the way to Da Lat, not only we were distracted by the panoramic view but also waterfalls. Yeap! Waterfalls! We went to 3 waterfalls – Dasara, Dambri & Pongour. They were amazingly beautifully stunning waterfalls I ever been in my life. Alright, sound a lil bit exaggerating heh? LOL. But yeah, they were really interesting.


Dasara Waterfall – in order to get in/out from that waterfall, you have an option either to walk through a jungle or be like us – drove our own self-controlled roller coaster 460m through the jungle, scream and shout and let it out loud while the roller coaster stroll down the rails. Crazy!
Dambri Waterfall – This one is insane. A visitor gotta take an elevator down to the waterfall. Once you get out from the elevator, hahaha, you’ll get wet and soak from the powerful mists from the about-8-stories-building waterfall. No one swim there. tho. I guess because of the strong streams that stopped people from swimming. But it was really spectacular.
Pongour Waterfall – Normal waterfall compare to Dasara or Dambri. No fancy roller coaster or elevator. But the waterfalls itself is amazingly gorgeous. From the picture, it look like a man-made waterfall untill you see someone in the picture and realize how big the waterfall is. Crazy! Oh and the grilled corn served with chives oil… Haha!
So on the way to Da Lat, we also went to eat at quite few places and I am really fall in love with Banh Beo, a traditional Hue’s recipe of steamed tapioca cake served with croutons or crackers, shrimp, friend onion, minced meat and eat with sweet sauce which I believe made from fish sauce.
Also when almost reaching Da Lat, we stopped by and had an amazing home-made Vietnamese yogurts and artichoke tea. Really really good. Simple and healthy. No one should miss the yogurt!
Hannah also introduce me to this snack where beaten eggs spread on top of rice paper that still grill above the charcoal oven; mix with shrimps, onion, chives and chili sauce. Was simple but yeah, nice.
Da Lat itself is a very unique place. Cold, chill and rainy. I felt like “dude! I’m in Scotland!!!”. Hahaha! It was beautiful tho although it always rains. And in my opinion, there are so much to see and so much to do in Da Lat compare to Saigon. And the traffic less crazy, too. We also picked up a personal tour the last day we were in Da Lat. And before we went back to Saigon, we went to the “longest distance” cable car journey, overview Da Lat.
Note: In Da Lat, we stayed in this cute modern hotel named Tri Giao. For USD$25 a night consisted of 1 queen bed, 1 single bed, mini bar (fridge), LCD tv, wardrobe cabinet,  make-up desk, coffee table and chairs, shower/toilet with hot/cold shower.

Teaching English In Vietnam : Warning! If You’re NOT white, forget about it…

With the salary range between $18-$35 per hour, who isn’t attracted to such lucrative money offered especially when one going to have plenty of time for themselves before or after working hours to hang out and party with friends like normal travelers? But sadly, the door as an English Teacher is not open to everyone in these 5 countries – Vietnam, China, South Korea, Thailand & Japan – unless you are white. Yes, you read me right, UNLESS YOU ARE WHITE. If you are an Asian like me or any other coloured people, well, the chances to secure a job as an English teacher like our fellow (white) travelers are almost zero no matter how good your English is. You (non-white) might get this so-called “dream job for travelers”, depends on your luck but the payment most likely to be way lower than those whites or what they (the locals) call as a “native speakers”. You’ll probably get $10-$18 per hour.
If you look for English teaching opportunity in Vietnam or the other 4 countries via internet – Google, craigslist, Facebook, etc.; you’ll notice how common these advertisers stated in their advertisement that one of the requirements is you must be a “native speaker”. Asians or any coloured people who were born in Australia, Canada, United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and holding respective country’s passport… hold your excitement! Don’t get too excited because for them, “native speakers” are persons with white skin, blue/grey/hazel/green eyes, brunette/red/blonde hair. That’s native speakers in their perspective.  Well, sometimes you don’t have to be from those “native speakers” country. As long as you have all the physical traits that fit into their requirements, doesn’t matter if you are from France, Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Uruguay, Brazil, Spain or any other part of the world and your English accent is neither American nor British accents, still OK. Some of the ESL centers will still hire you.
Some of us (Asians and other coloured people) have way much better qualifications (i.e. Bachelor degrees, Masters, CELTA, etc.) compared to the whites but because of us not being white, we don’t get the same opportunity given to the them. Some of the white English teachers that I met here in Hanoi, they only have high school certificate/diploma qualifications and some online-exam (for teaching English) certificate.  Where is the justice here? Well, I am not blaming the whites, I am not racist. I blame the ESL centers, the schools and their managements, and the parents of the students that so insists native speakers must be a white guy/lady with blue/grey/hazel/green eyes, brunette/red/blonde hairs.
I was kicked and blocked from Facebook group called “Hanoi Massive” for bringing up this issue which up to today I didn’t understand WHY? The reason why I brought up this issue was because I really resent this kind of practice which most of us know is a NO-NO almost everywhere in this world. This is for me – RACISM. Some of the people that responded to my post in that group even asked me “the Vietnamese are idealist. Do you want to learn Mandarin from a dark Indian guy?” I guess he must be a person who probably managed to get 30 hours per week teaching job and unable to see this racism because he never had to face it. For me, if that person is highly capable, able to interact and make the class interesting for me (or any other students) to learn Mandarin, WHY NOT? And to be honest, I learnt my Mandarin from a Malay teacher when I was a kid, just for a year. She is brown, not what you call “yellow” like typical Chinese. She got big round black eyes, not small Oriental eyes like typical Chinese. And my Mandarin, I would say is fairly well although I am now pretty old. Well, not old but well, in my 30’s. So that guy’s argument is INVALID.
I also used to work in one of the ESL centers in Hanoi for a good 2 months until one day the manager of the center told me that they have to terminate my service. I asked him why? Because my students like me and they did well in the class so I couldn’t see any problem there. He said “because the parents of your pupils found out that you are not white.” Baffled. Gobsmacked. Speechless. It also remind me back in 2012 when I went for an interview in Chiang Mai. Spent (or should I use the word WASTED) 20 minutes of my life for an interview, being praised for being such a good, energetic, likeable, highly capable person, bla bla bla yadda yadda (all the positive traits) and finally told me despite having all that traits in me, the school was unable to hire me because I am not white. Well, that was exactly what the principal of that school told me – BECAUSE I AM NOT WHITE. It was like a big slap on my face. Super slap.
One funny part, one of the schools that I went for an interview here in Hanoi told me that they would like to hire me if I’d bleach my hair to brunette, wear a coloured contact lenses and get a rhinoplasty (cosmetic surgery to fix my button nose). I was like “whatttttttt?” Oh my. Thanks but NO THANKS!
Seriously ESL Centres in Vietnam (and China/Japan/South Korea/Thailand)… Why are you guys so racist?  I hope these racist ESL centres realize that teaching capabilities is not about any particular race as there’s no such thing as this race is supreme or better than the other race or from one to another. Or else, Mr. Barrack Obama wouldn’t be President of United States of America and all of us know that he is African-American, Ms. Penny Wong (she is from Malaysian-Chinese background) wouldn’t be a Senator for South Australia, Mr. Philipp Rosler (he is from Vietnamese background) wouldn’t be a Cabinet Minister in Germany and many more examples. If the Western world is able to open their door, the higher positions and lots of other opportunities to people from different background, I hope these five countries will do the same.
Bitter? Yes I am.
(me with my kids from one out of  my 4 classes, back in July 2014 @ HaDong, HaNoi)
P/S: Well, my English probably is not perfect (because I grew up learning 3 languages – English, Malay & Mandarin) but personally I think I am not bad at all and I do not need a perfect grammar or any bombastic words to teach kindergarten or primary school levels. Plus, to be honest, I saw so many whites that made simple mistakes too like you’re/your, than/then, doesn’t/don’t, etc. LOL!

Hanoi, Vietnam : Food Hunting Part 4

Well… basically, to be honest, I am tired of the “airy baguette” for breakfast. It is like I’m munching on nothing but air. Also, I just unable to adapt to the way of local people here having their breakfast with Pho – the noodle soup or Bun Cha – another version of noodle soup but they separate the noodle and the soup (eh?). In another word, I just don’t like the local baguette and soupy food. Well, I never was a soup fan anyway. Mehhh…
So, after Michael left to Ha Long Bay and I still had that motorcycle that we rented with me, I just went around Old Quarters looking for non-local stuffs to eat. I was about to go to PUKU but PUKU is a little bit out-of-budget place for me so I kept wandering around the Old Quarters and randomly stopped at Rainbow Cafe/Restaurant at No. 37-38 Hang Hanh, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi because I was so hungry.
vfood rainbow
(image from tripadvisor)
I opted for so-called American Breakfast priced at 62,000VND. As you can see, the breakfast consist of salad (tomato, lettuce, cucumber), fries, sausage (really small one, cut like a flower, not enough for me), ham (not really a good one but eatable), 2 sunny side-up fried egg (this one is pretty good, not well-done, loved it!), baguette and butter.
I was so happy that it was a real baguette! I mean a proper baguette! Not that airy baguette being sold by any road side of Hanoi. And… it was still warm when being served to me. So I just stuffed every single other things on plate in the middle of the baguette (and lots of chili sauce, too) except the fries. It was so good and filling too! I was so happy!
And yesterday at night, I followed Nico to Hang Trong street to try this local street snack. The stall only open after 6.30pm and situated next to Pepperoni’s Pizza Restaurant, in front the juction of Pho Bao Khanh. The snack called “banh trang tron” and have no translation for it in English. Hehehe!
vfood banh-trang-tron
(image from google image)
The ingredients to use this snack is shredded rice papers, shredded/thin-sliced young mango (lots of it!), peanuts, dried shrimps, beef jerky, pork jerky, fried shallots, quail eggs, soy sauce, satay sauce, salt and chili. It is a bit like “rojak” in Malaysia/Singapore/Indonesia because all the ingredients (except the beef/pork jerky) being mixed in one huge bowl and before serving, topped with those beef/pork jerky.
The cost of this snack @ banh trang tron is 20,000VND per serving. It wasn’t big enough to make me feel full but good enough as an appetizer before real stuffs.

Hanoi, Vietnam : Food Hunting Part 3 (Western Food, please…)

So I went out with my brother-from-another-mother, Aiden from England with 2 others – Jesse and Sadie for a late lunch + early dinner at Al Fresco Restaurant at No. 19 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi (Old Quarters area). Well, obviously I am not in a position to spend money in such place on such food but well, so, THANK YOU AIDEN! 😀 It was a good foodies session!
I ordered a “beef cheesy burritos” served with side salad, baked stuffed potato and 3 dips – guacamole, sour cream and spicy tomato salsa. As for Aiden, he ordered a very yummy “beef steak” served with side salad and fries. Jesse got for himself a big-sized pan-crusted “BBQ chicken and mushroom pizza” meanwhile like most typical girl (hehehe!) Sadie got herself a plate of nice “Al Fresco’s styled Caesar salad“.
Since it was on Aiden… I have no idea the total of the bill but what I know, all together with drinks and wine for the soon-to-celebrate birthday boy, it was around 2,000,000VND.

Hanoi, Vietnam : Food Hunting Part 2

Walked around with my roomies Philip from California, USA and Inge from The Netherlands without any intention, we passed by a street food stalls at No. 57 Hang Bo Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi (Old Quarters area) full of customers and we made a decision to give it a try although we had to wait for more than 10 minutes for a sit. A really super-low sit on super-small chair.
They served this deep-fried cake with prawn (in Malaysia they call such thing as “cucur udang”) and fried wanton dumplings with meat. Those two items were served together with the typical shrimp-broth and fish-sauce sauce and fresh herbs. The snacks are called“Cat Toc Trong Ngo” and I have no idea what does it mean in Vietnamese.
(image from soshiok.com)
For 3 of us, we paid 60,000VND which is pretty cheap.NEXT!
As me and Philip and Inge kept on walking on the same day, we reach the end of west-side of Old Quarters. Turn to the left, as we kept on walking, we passed a single food stall selling a local dessert and since Philip talked about a jelly & coconut milk (I am not sure what does it called in Vietnamese), we decided to make a stop and try it out.  Oh! In Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia, they called it “ais kacang” or “air batu campur”.
The desserts was a rich mix of variety type of jellys and some other stuffs including red beans, corn kernels and mung beans paste and coconut milk. It was good and not the same like the one that me and Michael had few days before in Quan An Ngon.
(image by sweetsbychan.com)
Situated right in front of the gate at No. 79-81 Ly Nam De, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi(Old Quarters area), it definitely worth a stop and 20,000VND each of the yummy local dessert.
Note: Again, I apologize for using images that I took from google image. I lost all my food pictures 😦

Hanoi, Vietnam : Food Hunting Part 1

So…. me and my dorm mate, Michael from Germany decided to roam around Hanoi and hunting for a good Vietnamese food. We are so tired of pho (noodle soup), bun cha (dry noodle with sauce, herbs, spring rolls & grilled meat patties), bun nem chua be (like bun cha but without the grilled meat patties), my xao bo (fried egg noodles with beef and greens), banh my (local-styled sandwich), cong ga (tapioca porridge with chicken) and such.
So we rented a bike just for that purpose – food hunting! And we had map prepared, too!

The first place we went to was No. 14 Hang Ga, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi (still around Old Quarter area)  “Banh Cuon Gia Truyen” a small restaurant that serves Banh Cuon –or a rolled cake that made from thin layer of steamed rice batter rolled withseasoned ground chicken or pork (you choose!) and mushrooms and topped with lots of fried shallots and chicken floss. It came together with special essence sauce that gives the sweet taste. Well not bad … and the price is not that expensive (but the portion was not big enough for a foodies like us). Chicken banh cuon for 35,000VND and pork banh cuon for 40,000VND.

vfood banhcuon(image from buzzfeed.com)

After that, we went to No. 31 Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi (yes, still in Old Quarters area) “Cha Ca Thang Long” a fully air-conditioned small restaurant that servesCha Ca – a crayfish dish stir fried together with dill (yes, dill!) and spring onions – right in front of our faces. The other key components of this cha ca dishes is bun (rice noodles), fresh herbs consist of coriander and Thai basil, shredded scallionsfried ground peanuts, and the special sauce with chili for a bit of spicy taste. The price of Cha Ca is 120,000VND per serving which the portion served was pretty enough for both of us (probably because we had banh cuon earlier on). And two cokes for 20,000VND each. Well… burppp! Hahaha! It was a good meal. Very decent.
vfood chaca
(image from vkeong.com)
Then both of us took our rented motorbike to the West Lake area. The weather was really chill and windy! It took us quite sometimes to scroll around the lake. Yeap, it is a very big lake. Both of us decided to take a stop at “Ngõ 128 đường Thụy Khê, rẽ phải 30m, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội” (No. 128 (facing) Thuy Khe, turn right and 30meters down, Tay Ho District, Hanoi and…nope, this is no longer in Old Quarters area) “IGC Coffee” – a coffee shop set across the street from the lake side. Me and Michael sat facing right the lake, enjoyed the cool breeze of winter in Hanoi. We spent about one and half hour here, escaped from the busy, dirty polluted air, noisy Old Quarters area.
We had double scoop chocolate ice cream with Kahlua and sweetened whipped cream (35,000VND each), iced black coffee for him (20,000VND) and iced coffee with condensed milk for me (25,000VND).
vfood coffee
(image from steamykitchen.com)
Since it was about to close to rush hour, me and Michael decided to heading back to the Old Quarters area and go for the last shot of our food hunting day. We made a stop at“18 Phan Boi Chau, Cua Nam, Hoan Kiem Distirct, Hanoi” to the famous a’la food court restaurant called “Quan An Ngon” for early dinner (well, it was not even 5pm! LOL!). So I ordered Banh Xeo – a famous Hue food – a shrimp pancake with bean sprouts and scallions, rolled together (by my own) with fresh herbs and sweet chili sauce in a rice paper. For Michael, he had a fresh grilled squids and steamed rice. When we were about to pay and leave the place, Michael got distracted by a colorful desserts served to a customers on the next table. Well, what else, so we decided to try it. I don’t really know what does it call but it was a various type of jelly, tapioca mixed in water chestnut and coconut milk. And… we were really really really filled and full.
Price for the Banh Xeo is 58,000 VND, fresh grilled squid 120,000VND, steamed rice 20,000VND, dessert 24,000VND each. And well, we had diet coke (hahaha! diet!) for 22,000VND each.
vfood banhxeo
(image from yeutre.vn)
Well… that was an early dinner. Somewhere around 10pm, we got bit hungry again and decided to have a simple dinner 6 doors down to the right from our hostel because we couldn’t even bother to go to anywhere else as we were so tired and Michael was pretty drunk from the drinking game during the beer-o’clock in our hostel. LOL!
I had spicy chicken fried rice for 40,000VND and Michael had Bun Nem Chua Be for himself at the price of 35,000VND and both of us had old-style bottled coca-cola for 10,000VND each.
vfood bunnemchuabe
(image from yelp.com)
And that was the end of food hunting for us 🙂 So basically both of us spent 740,000VND in total (est. USD35.00) for all of above – meals, drinks & desserts (5 places, lots of food). Guess it was pretty good for 2 people, right? More on food hunting soon!!!
Note: Apologize for using someone else’s pictures that I googled from. I lost many of food images from my hard disk.