Skull Island Filming Location: Aboriginal village in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Hey everyone! Have you watched the reboot version of King Kong franchise – Kong: Skull Island (2017)? You must wonder where those amazing scenes were filmed, don’t you? Vietnam was proudly one of the selected filming locations for this movie. The Blockbuster Kong: Skull Island was shot in various famous destinations in Vietnam such as Ha Long Bay, Quang Binh Province, etc. Ninh Binh was one of the chosen places in this list as well! In this article, I will show you the Kong: Skull Island filming location in Trang An, Ninh Binh, Vietnam, with a special guide to the aboriginal village.

Are you ready to discover the Aboriginal village in the movie?

 

Skull Island Filming Location

When the Kong: Skull Island crew finished filming in Vietnam, they left and cleaned up all the scene setting. They left nothing back! However, the Vietnamese government in Ninh Binh took the chance and restored the filming location to attract domestic and foreign tourists.

 

How to get there?

The Kong: Skull Island movie was filmed in Trang An, a scenic area near Ninh Bình, Vietnam. Therefore, you just need to come here and take the boat tour.

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There are several boat tours daily, so you don’t need to book in advance or book any tour online or at your hotel. You just need to go there and purchase the ticket!

Note: You must choose the 2nd Tour which includes the Aboriginal village 🙂

 

How much does it cost?

You will be more exciting when you know this! The Film location tour price is already included in the whole Trang An tour. You just need to pay 200 000 VND ~ $8.8, and you will get a 3-hour-boat-tour around Trang An.

 

What to bring?

  • A good camera is a MUST! You will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the scenery here.
  • A hat is necessary too. Vietnamese weather is so hot and humid, so sitting under the sun for 3 hours without a hat is not a good idea.
  • A bottle of water is important.
  • Some snacks: You can buy in some area, but there is not many places or restaurants around.
  • Comfortable shoes: You need to walk around a lot, so it’s better to wear something comfortable!
  • Small cash: It will be a nice gesture to tip the boat riders around 50 000 VND. They work really hard to provide the service, so they deserve with all that rowling.

Do we need to bring a life jacket? No, you don’t have to because it is already included in a tour.

You can read more experience on Trip Advisor

 


So are you ready to discover the Skull Island Filming location?

The path

You will follow this path to the village…

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The path is quite long.
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The boat

Do you remember this place in the movie? The boat was used in the filming.
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Let’s discover the boat 🙂
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From one side of the boat
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Here is another side of it!
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The Village

Here you are! You make it to the village!
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The people
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“Be careful, they may catch you!”….

I’m just kidding!

They were super friendly when I was there. Those people were invited for filming, and the government offered them a job at this place. They will be happy to take some pictures with you, so don’t hesitate to ask them 😉

More impressive pictures about the tribe!
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It’s time to say goodbye~~~
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Discover more about Vietnam:

10 Harsh but True things about Vietnam that you wish you had known

Hoa Trung Lake: Off the beaten path in Da Nang, Vietnam

5 Best places to go in Vietnam during Tet holiday

A Complete Guide to Ba Na Hills

Vietnamese Pho in different countries around the world

 


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Goodbye Vietnam…. and Hello Japan

It’s time to say goodbye to my sweet summer vacation in Vietnam and officially finished my exchange period in Denmark. I’m on the way to go back to Japan to continue my 4th year Bachelor at my home university. It has been a great year traveling around Europe and my home country – Vietnam. I will miss everything a lot for sure, but now it’s time to have a new experience! Besides studying, I will travel around many cities in Japan and learn more exotic cultures. Am I ready for it? 🤔

 

What have I prepared?

There are tons of things to prepare, but luckily I have planned things ahead and met my deadline. I have finished choosing my courses, bought necessary stuff for my trip to Japan. Also, I already have a new place to live, thanks to the help of my friend Youko (Yay!) It will be so difficult for me if I just start to look for a place after I get there, and have to buy lots of things for new places as well.

What will challenge me?

  1. Culture shock

The first thing I need to deal with is Culture shock. I will suffer from culture shock again, although I’ve already lived in Japan for 2 years. It’s difficult when you move around the world. Moving from Denmark to Japan is totally different, and having 2.5 months living in Vietnam in between won’t make things better. I will go all the procedures of culture shock again, feeling good and bad all again. The good news is that know how to deal with culture shock now, after moving around different countries and traveling intensively.

 

2. Japanese

Well, it’s kinda a nightmare to me! Probably I have already forgotten everything that I learned. I didn’t practice Japanese for 1 year, so my vocabulary, grammar and especially Kanji already said goodbye to me. Shame on me, huh? I finished the Pre Advance Japanese level before going to Denmark, and now I barely know basic words. So, I will need to learn everything again. I still love to travel around Japan and knowing Japanese is way better.

Back to old-time days with learning Japanese!

3. The Learning

Studying as an exchange student and a “real student” is totally different. All I needed was passing the courses and now I will need to do my best to get A+… Yep, things change if you are craved for high GPA.

4.My travel

Because it’s my 4th year, I need to focus more on my study and bachelor thesis. Does it mean I will stop traveling? Nope, not really. Since I live in a beautiful city, Beppu, which has everything such as mountains, hills, sea, and amazing hot springs, I still can enjoy my weekend by exploring the city and the surrounding area. However, I will need to plan things carefully in order not to crash all my schedules.

A beautiful place in Beppu, Oita, Japan

So how will it affect my blog? Any changes?

Guess what? You will see lots of beautiful pictures of Japan on my Instagram stories, and my Facebook page as well. So if you haven’t followed my accounts, don’t hesitate to do it!

Here is one of my recent pictures from my Instagram!

 

Also, you can expect my expat tips about living and studying in Japan, as well as inspiration and recommendations for traveling around Japan. Oh don’t worry, you will not be drowned with posts about Japan only, I still post about my adventures around the world. There will be tons of posts about my solo trips around Europe and Vietnam, so you won’t be bored. Do you want to be the first to read my post? Sign up for the email and you’re ready!

You can also check out some articles about Japan that I already wrote 🙂

Eat like a local: Top 10 Japanese foods to try!

7 Things you should try in Fukuoka

7 Ways to travel on the budget in Tokyo


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Hoa Trung Lake: Off the beaten path in Da Nang, Vietnam

Hello, my friends. How are you doing? I visited Da Nang, Vietnam at the end of July and discovered many beautiful places. One of those places is Hoa Trung lake, a hidden lake near Da Nang city. One surprising thing about this place is that not many people know about it, even locals. So, are you ready to discover this beautiful place?

How to get to Hoa Trung lake?

 

You can find on Google map: Hoa Trung Lake, Da Nang, Vietnam or type the geographic coordinates: 16.0787034, 108.0568266

The easiest way is to go along the AH1 street and then go into Tan Ninh street. You can find Hoa Trung lake by going straight from this street. Tan Ninh street is still a small street so it’s quite difficult to go, but still possible for a car.

When is a perfect time to visit Hoa Trung lake?

Hoa Trung lake is full with water most of the year, so the best time to visit this lake is in October when there is not much water. During that time, the grassland will reveal itself and you can camp there.

I visit this lake at the end of July and here are pictures from my visit.

Beautiful mountain view

A point view of the lake

On the other side of the lake

 You can take various pictures near the lake too!

This is a perfect spot to see the lake

Around the area

Near the lake, you can find a beautiful rice paddle field which is just around the area on Tan Ninh Street. Also, the area is very nice and not touristic, so you can enjoy the real lifestyle of Vietnamese people.

Beautiful rice paddle field

Located 20km from the North West of Da Nang, Hoa Trung lake is a hidden gem which is waiting to be discovered.  With a stunning mountain view, Hoa Trung lake is truly nature’s great masterpiece.

I hope you will have a great time travelling in Vietnam, especially at this place. You can also find more places in Da Nang such as Ba Na Hills. Where is your favourite place in Vietnam? You can share with me in the comments.


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A Complete Guide to Ba Na Hills – A little piece of Europe

With a stunning mountain view, Ba Na Hills has become a favorite destination for local Vietnamese as well as foreigners. Visiting Ba Na Hills, you not only enjoy nice landscape and cool atmosphere but also participate in various entertainments. In this post, I will guide you to enjoy the best of this place.

How to get to Ba Na Hills?

Ba Na Hills is located in Da Nang, Vietnam. Therefore, you need to fly to Da Nang International Airport, and then take a cab or sign up for a tour. My advice is to put your luggage in your hotel rooms first, then go to Ba Na Hills.

 

How much do you need to pay?

You can get a taxi to Ba Na Hills for 600 000 VND both ways, or you can go by any type of transportation.
The price to enter Ba Na Hills includes the ticket for all cable cars and theme park entrance ticket.

  • Adult: 650 000 VND
  • Children ( 1m – 1.3 meters): 550 000 VND

This ticket price does not include the price for Wax Museum (100,000 VND/ adult, and free for kids), as well as food and beverage. You can read more about the ticket price here

 

Eating

There are plenty of restaurants and food stands in Ba Na Hills. You can also choose buffet for 200 000 VND/ adult.

 

Tour

You can also book a tour to Ba Na Hills. A tour normally includes:

  • Pick-up and drop-off service
  • Buffet lunch
  • One bottle of water
  • Tour guide
  • Ba Na Hills Ticket

I also booked a Ba Na Hills tour for my family from a hotel I stayed. It cost me 920 000 VND/ adult. There are cheaper tours as well, from 780 000 VND/ adult, but I heard that there are more people in those tours. Below are the reviews from the tour I took:

Good points:

  • Do not need to line up to buy ticket
  • Know the way to get to the fastest cable car
  • Save money
  • Lunch is included

Bad points:

  • Transportation: Because it was a tour, the bus driver drove around the city for 1.5 hours to pick up all the passengers.
  • Limited time: You need to follow the time the tour guide listed. I think there is not much time to visit.
  • Food: A lunch buffet was not good in my opinion. There were not many choices, and the dishes were not delicious.

In brief, having a tour guide is much easier if you go on a vacation with your family. However, if you want to have more freedom, it’s better to consider going alone. It was tiring for my family to go after the whole group and could not spend much time exploring. If I go again, I will choose to go without a tour.

What to see in Ba Na Hills?

a) Cable car

Located 45 minutes from Da Nang city, Ba Na Hills has a scenic mountain view with a huge amusement park. In order to reach the top of the hill, you have to take the cable car. The fee is already included in your ticket.

Ba Na Hills’ cable car system is one of the most impressive ten cable car lines in all over the world. You should ask the staff for the fastest cable car line, which was used from 30/4/2017.  It shortens your waiting time, and it only takes 20 minutes to get from the foot of the mountain to the Garden. The view from the cable car is totally amazing!

The view from the cable car

 

b) Le Jardin d’Amour – Temple – Debay Wine Cellar

When you arrive at the station, take a walk to Le Jardin d’Amour to enjoy the beauty of flowers and statues.

 

There are various type of flowers in Le Jardin d’Amour

You can freely explore all the gardens, Linh Ung Temple, and Debay Ancient Wine Cellar as well.

A view of Linh Ung Temple

A look from the inside of Debay Ancient Wine Cellar. You can also taste wine here with 75,000 VND/glass

The French discovered Ba Na Hills area and built several works such as hotels, swimming pools, etc. However, everything was mostly destroyed during the war, and only Debay Ancient Wine Cellar was left. This place was built by French architects and was dug deep inside the mountain in 1923.

 

c) French Village

After that, you can take a short cable ride to the top of the mountain. You can enjoy the lunch at any restaurants, then start exploring around the French village.

It looks like Europe, right?

From another corner of the village

There were beautiful flowers around the French village as well

It was quite dark around 4pm

The village is not too big, so 30 minutes to 1 hour is usually enough for photos. There are free performances on the stages as well.

 

d) Fantasy Park

After visiting the French village, let’s go down to a free amusement park. There are 3 underground floors for games only. There are lots of free games, but the queue is very long to get in. You can also enjoy the massage on the 2nd floor.

These games are free to play

 

Tips to enjoy the best of Ba Na Hills:

  • Bring light: You need to walk a lot so it’s better to bring at least at you can.
  • Clothes: It’s not too cold on the top of Ba Na Hills, so if you are afraid, you can bring a light coat or jacket.
  • Shoes: Wear comfortable shoes or slippers. You need to walk a lot.
  • Ticket: You should book the ticket in advance because the ticket line is very long.
  • Time: It’s better to get there early from 8 am. It helps shorten the time waiting for the cable cars.
  • Don’t go in the summer or Vietnamese national holidays: It’s full of tourist. There are 10 000 – 20 000 people per day, so you will be stuck in the flow of people and cannot enjoy anything.

Is Ba Na Hills worth a visit? Locals say if you haven’t visited Ba Na Hills, you haven’t visited Da Nang. However, if you are used to seeing Europe and want something different, Ba Na Hills may be not your cup of tea. If you want to see the mixture between European architecture and Vietnamese temple, also hiding from the hot of Vietnam, don’t hesitate and just go! After taking a tour, I recommend going alone to explore freely.

So, hope you will have a great time at Ba Na Hills -:)


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Eat like a local: Top 10 Japanese foods to try!

Lived in Japan for 2 years and worked in Japanese hospitality and tourism industry, I’m in love with Japanese cuisine and culture. Japanese culinary is not only special for its delicious dishes but also for the decoration and service. In this article, I will introduce 10 Japanese foods that you cannot miss.

1. Sushi(寿司)

Sushi is probably the first dish that people will mention about Japanese foods. It has become a symbol of Japanese cuisine, and you can find sushi restaurants in many places around the world.

Trying sushi in Japan is by far the most delicious place in my perspective. In Japan, you can try sushi from different prices, from Running sushi stores with 100 Yen, to expensive sushi dishes in luxury restaurants. If you have a chance to visit Fish Market in Tokyo, you should try the freshest sushi with the ingredients taken directly from the market.

100 Yen Running Sushi – Each dish is from 100 Yen (0.9$)

2. Ramen(ラーメン)

Ramen is a familiar dish to the ones who love Japanese culinary. It presents the beauty of Japanese cuisines and culture because it requires the patience in cooking, and also presents the beauty of each region.

Ramen and Gyoza

a) Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are made of wheat flour, water, salt and salt water (Kansui).

b) Ramen soup

Ramen soup is not only sophisticated but also varied according to the creativity of the region. Salt, water (shio ramen), tunnel boned pork (tonkotsu ramen), Japanese soy sauce (shouyu ramen) and miso (miso ramen) are important ingredients to make a delicious ramen broth.
A ramen bowl will always contain vegetables (green onion, bean sprout), Chashu pork, dried bamboo (Menma) and Japanese Marinated Soft Boiled Egg (Ajitsuke tamago)

c) Ramen in different regions

You can try different Ramen style in each part of Japan: Sapporo Ramen, Hakata Ramen from Fukuoka, Hiroshima Ramen, Kitakata Ramen from Fukushima, and Toyama Ramen.

d) Service

You can try a different way of ordering Ramen in Fukuoka. There are some machines placed outside the restaurants, and you can choose the dish and pay there. Then you just wait at the table for the waiter to bring a delicious ramen.
There’s a ramen theme park in Japan named Aqua City Odaiba. You can try different ramen in booth stands there.

 

3. Udon(うどん)

With the Udon noodles, Japanese cook can make different types of Udon. The most popular Udon is Cold Udon, Udon and Yaki Udon.

a) Cold Udon

With Cold Udon, Udon is put in cold water first and then put into a bowl, served with sauce and chopped scallions. You can choose the topping to make your dish more delicious.

b) Udon

The simplest form of Udon (Kake Udon) is served hot with Udon noodles and broth (Kake Udon), with thinly chopped scallions. You can choose different toppings to eat with, such as Tempura or meat.

It’s normal to order udon with rice as a set 

c) Yaki Udon

Yaki Udon, or Fried Udon, is stir fried with vegetables, sauces, and different ingredients according to your choices (meat, eggs, etc.)

 

4. Okonomiyaki(お好み焼き)

Another Japanese food that you should try is Okonomiyaki. It’s a Japanese style of pancake and made of eggs, water, flour, cabbage, and meat. You can choose the topping as your preferences but commonly are dried fish and okonomiyaki sauce.

 

5. Yakiniku(焼肉)

Yakiniku, which is a combination of 2 words: Yaki (Grilled) and Niku (Meat),  is generally used for grilled meat in Japan.

If you visit Japan, you can try Yakiniku buffet, where you pay for the buffet according to the amount of time such as 1 hour, 1.5 hours or 2 hours. Also, you can choose your favorite meats and vegetables based on your favorite choices. Sometimes in Yakiniku buffet, there are sushi, udon, ramen, soba, and free drinks as well. Eating the hot delicious Yakiniku in cold weather is one of the best experience in the winter in Japan.

 

6. Soba (そば)

Soba noodles can have yellow colors, or gray or green (if it’s made from broccoli). You can eat soba with some toppings or try Yakisoba (Fried soba). Ingredients for Yakisoba are usually Soba noodles, cabbage, meat (chicken, pork or beef), and sauce. Although it’s so easy to make Yakisoba, its taste is amazing.

 

7. Takoyaki(たこ焼き)

Takoyaki is Japanese octopus cake. You can make your own Takoyaki with Takoyaki machine, by mixing Takoyaki flour, eggs, water, and octopus. Furthermore, you can add green onion and cheese according to your preferences. Takoyaki is normally served with fried fish, Takoyaki sauce and chopped green onion.
On the other hand, you can just simply buy Takoyaki in Japanese restaurants. In Japan, you can find Takoyaki stands many places in the festival.

 My homemade version of Takoyaki

 

8. Fried food

a) Karaage(からあげ)

Karaaage is a Japanese version of fried chicken. There are various types of Karaage with different ways of cooking, but commonly is marinated and then coated in potato starch. Biting a piece of karaage, you can feel the crispiness outside and soft, juicy and yummy chicken inside.

Crispy and juicy chicken

b) Tempura(天ぷら)

Tempura is a common name for Japanese fried dishes of seafood or vegetables, and you can try it alone or with udon.

 

9. Japanese rice

With the same base, you can try different Japanese rice dishes such as Curry Rice, Tamago Rice (Rice with Egg), Takikomi Gohan (Japanese mixed rice), etc.
Japanese curry tastes amazing. When I first visited Japan, I loved this dish so much that I ate it every day. Takikomi Gohan is made of Japanese rice dish, dashi (Japanese fish stock), soy sauce. You can try with different vegetables, meat or fish.

You can also order a rice set like this

 

10. Japanese Bakery

a) Japanese Cheesecake

You can find cheesecake in every supermarket, restaurant or souvenir shop. Japanese cotton cheesecake is so soft that you can feel it melted in your tongue in your first bite.

b) Mochi(餅)

Mochi is a Japanese rice cake which is not only delicious but also cute. There are various types of Mochi such as strawberry mochi, matcha mochi, mochi ice-cream, but the most popular ones are with red bean.

c) Matcha related products(抹茶)

As a healthy and delicious green tea powder, Matcha is used in various products in Japan, especially in baking industry. There are matcha tea, matcha ice-cream, matcha cake, matcha caramel, matcha mochi, etc.

 

There are other Japanese dishes such as Gyoza (Japanese dumplings), Tonkatsu (Japanese deep-fried pork cutlet) as well, but I focus on introducing most popular Japanese foods in this article. If you have a chance, let’s try all those yummy Japanese foods!

You can also read more about Japan here!



What are your favorite Japanese foods? Please share with me in the comment 🙂

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Vietnamese Pho in different countries around the world

Whenever I ask my international friends about which Vietnamese food that they’ve had, they answer firstly “Pho”. Phở or Pho presents as the most well-known Vietnamese traditional food around the world. I love eating Pho and I’ve been trying it in many countries when I travel. Do you want to see how Pho is served in different countries? With help from my friends and from my own experience, I present you pictures and reviews about this delicious cuisine around the world 🙂

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

I visited this restaurant not long ago and WOW, they served one of the best Pho I’ve ever had in my life. The broth, the rice noodle, the meat and herb, all created the perfect taste of this dish. At some point, I thought that I was back to my home country, surrounded by my family members, and together enjoyed Pho.

One bowl of Pho cost me 99kr ~ $14.5

I was not surprised when I knew that this restaurant was run by Vietnamese family because the taste was so similar. The restaurant is also on the top when you search about “Where to eat Pho in Copenhagen”

Name of the restaurant: Pho Ha Noi

Address: Vester Farimagsgade 6, 1606 København V

Website: http://www.phohanoi.dk

Open time:

  • Monday – Saturday: 12 – 11 pm
  • Sunday: 3 – 11 pm

Note: When I got there, they asked me if I had reserved the table, I didn’t do that but I still had a seat. Maybe I was lucky. However, to be sure, you can reserve by calling them: (+45) 33 91 18 19

 

2. Tokyo, Japan

In the summer of 2016, I was wandering around Tokyo with my 7-kg-backpack and a super hungry stomach. Even though I already ate tons of sushi and Japanese food, I was still hungry.

After passing by many restaurants, I stopped by a lovely Vietnamese restaurant named Vietnam Garden. I tried their Pho and it was delicious. At that time, there were lots of Japanese and foreigners at the restaurant, but the staffs were really nice and served professionally. I love the design of the restaurant as well.

Pho cost me 800 Yen ~ $7.2

Plus point: The restaurant provided free wi-fi and air-conditioner. I felt like melting already after walking around in the sunny day of June.

Name of the restaurant: Vietnam Garden

Address: Japan, 〒151-0051 Tokyo, 渋谷区Sendagaya, 5 Chome−24−3, NTTドコモアネックスⅠ

Phone: +81 3-3341-9889

Open time: Daily 11:30 am – 3pm, 5 – 10:30 pm

 

3. Paris, France

a) Pho Bida Viet Nam

Because Paris has one of the biggest community of Vietnamese living abroad, I thought it would be nice to try Pho here. I just randomly picked one restaurant to try, and I was happy with my choice.

The portion came big with the decent price. Pho was delicious with yummy broth and fresh vegetable.

The big size cost 9 Euro ~ $9.8

Bad point: The size of the restaurant is pretty small, so it took long time to wait even I just came alone and it was not a peak time. While waiting, I talked to some French people, and they said the restaurant was their favorite. Also, because this place was really crowded, the service was not that good.

Good point: They have home delivery! The price is cheap compared to other Parisian food.

Address: 36-38 Rue nationale, 75013 Paris, France

Phone: +33 1 53 79 01 61

 

b) Song Heng – By Amanda

Check out and follow Amanda’s Instagram @wellfedtraveller

” I walked two hours for Pho. It’s so hard to find good Vietnamese food in Europe. The tiniest with lines winding around the block and they only had 2 dishes on the menu – Pho and Bun Bo. So worth the walk.” – This is what she shared with me about this place. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?

 

4. Utrecht, Netherlands

I was wandering around Utrecht at the evening of one November day and found this restaurant by chance. I actually came here first because of the bubble milk tea, but finally decided to try other Vietnamese food as well.

The restaurant is quite small, more suitable for takeaway. I don’t remember the price though, but it was affordable compared to an expensive country like Netherlands. Pho was very tasty and enough to make you feel full.

5. London, England – By Amanda

Check out and follow Amanda’s Instagram @wellfedtraveller

Amanda is an Australian/Vietnamese. She was born in Sydney and now living in London for 2 years. To her, Mien Tay in London is the best one. She has been to all the other popular ones in London but Mien Tay is most authentic.

 

6. Ha Noi, Vietnam – By Romix (向旭)

“What do you think about this one?”, I asked.

“Marvelous!I had this for breakfast after a long journey, after that I felt refreshed! The chicken soup is clear, transparent but definitely tasty, and the chicken is well cooked also kept its original taste. And I can actually saw the whole process of making it, looks so simple but I guess it’s difficult. First of all, it’s made of love  “, she answered. 

 

7. Prague, Czech Republic – By Sarah Reichenbach

Sapa, not in Northern rice fields but one of the outskirts of Prague: one of the biggest authentic Vietnamese markets outside of Vietnam. The broth of the Pho is clear, the meat tender, the noodles fresh and the soup is served with tons of herbs! I will go out on a limb here and say it was as good as the ones we had in Vietnam!

 

8. Bratislava, Slovakia – By Martina Bušovská

It is from Bratislava, Slovakia. At Vietnamese bistro/restaurant near my university. They have few variations but this one is my fave. I am eating it often when I want something comforting and not heavy for my stomach. I have never eaten Pho anywhere else though, so I can’t compare but this is very good.

9. Montreal, Canada – By Chieh-Yi Chou

I had this on the trip to Canada. The restaurant is in China Town in Montreal. Interestingly there are many pho restaurants in “China” Town. In North America, I have been seeing people having Pho with Sriracha, which I seldom do.

 

10. Jakarta, Indonesia – By Krishna Sadhana

We have an entire franchise of Pho restaurants in my country. There’s even one near my apartment in Jakarta. Unfortunately, I didn’t eat there…since my parents would go “You’ve come all the way back to Jakarta just to eat Pho?”, but I will do it next time!


 Pho looks quite different around the world, isn’t it?

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How is Pho like in your country, or somewhere in the world that you’ve tried? Where did you have the best Pho?

Feel free to comment below 🙂

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10 Harsh but true things about Vietnam that you wish you had known

Vietnam is a very common destination for travelers because of its beauty. Although being well-known as a friendly country, Vietnam still has bad things which can harm your trip. Some foreigners do not want to return to Vietnam because they had bad experience. 10 bad things about Vietnam that I listed below may sound really negative, but don’t let it stop you to visit, or come back to my country.  In order to help you still be in love with Vietnam, and avoid bad situations, I am here to provide best tips for you all.

1. Airport – stolen checked luggage

So… You just arrive in this lovely country, and you figure out that your checked luggage were opened and something was stolen? You will feel really mad that time. I know. Don’t be so surprised and shocked because it’s quite common in Vietnamese airport.

I, as a local, still suffered from the same situation. I was once back from Japan to Vietnam, and one of my luggage was clearly opened at that time. Fortunately, nothing was stolen. I was well-prepared, so I just put clothes and some candies in my checked luggage 😉

This situation was once too popular, and I could read about it everywhere in the newspaper. The airport officers are trying to prevent it, but still, we should take care of ourselves first, right 🙂 ?

Tips

Having your things stolen in checked luggage will definitely ruin your trip! So what is my tip for you?

Never! Never put any valuable things in your checked bags. You may be confident that you have a locker, but they still can somehow open it (as in my case), and your things will be gone. You can complain about it with the airport service, but they will pay back very low rate per kilogram. Per kilogram? Can you imagine that? I bet that everything in your luggage is much more valuable than that, so the compensation is nothing!

You can try wrapping your luggage to protect it, but if there’s something wrong with your luggage, you will need to open it again and again, and it takes time.

So just put whatever valuable to your handbag, and you will have a good trip 😉 !

 

2. Overpayments

This situation is quite common for travelers, isn’t it? You visit a different country, you look different, and you are charged higher compared to locals. I heard many cases that foreigners are overcharged, but to be honest, you’re not the only one. Even Vietnamese people are still overcharged ?

Recently, I heard from my friend that her Japanese friends paid 200 000 VND for a Bánh xèo, which is Vietnamese “sizzling cake”, and it’s unacceptable price. I feel sad that foreigners will have bad idea about Vietnam because of this overpayment.

One Bánh xèo for 200 000 VND ? Nah~ You shouldn’t eat there!

Again, this situation is very comment in Vietnam, and it happens to both foreigners and locals. So take some tips below to avoid this!

Tips

If you want to get ripped off, you can enter a restaurant with no price sign! Don’t do that, especially when you are a visitor. Even some restaurants have menu, they may charge your sit… Sounds terrible, right?

You need to ask clearly about the price before you order anything. It’s the same with eating street food, remember to ask the price before buying it! If you feel that you are paying higher than locals, leave that place and go to other places. There are plenty of restaurants to choose 🙂

 

3. Taxi scams

Almost the same with overpayment, taxi scam is common in Vietnam and it happens to everyone. The taxi driver will try to drive you around and around to charge more money. As foreigners, some will just pay for it without knowing that they are scammed.

Tips

Check Google map/ or Maps.me to calculate the distance of your final destination. Then, you can multiply the distance with the money per kilometer. You should ask the taxi driver first about how much you need to pay before starting to go. Also, you should choose taxi companies which have good reputation such as Mai Linh, Vinasun. You can also order Grab or Uber to go around as well. However, Grab and Uber are only available in specific cities such as Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh or Da Nang.

I usually use this taxi brand

 

4. Robbery

You can get robbed everywhere in Vietnam. The most popular cases are robbing your phones/ bags.

May be you are riding your bike/ motorcycle, or walking on the street with your phone/ bag. After 1 second, it’s gone. What you can only see is 2 guys on a motorbike with really fast speed, and you could not see their faces. What you can do that time is saying goodbye to your things 🙁

I once saw a foreigner has her phone robbed. She cried a lot, but nothing can be done in that case… I also read on newspaper that some foreigners have their bags robbed with all the necessary documents, so they had hard time.

It sounds scary, but you have ways to prevent this!

Tips

Don’t hear your phone when you are on the street. If you need to listen to your phone call, you should choose a corner and listen to it. Be careful when using your phone on the street as well.

With your bag, I suggest to use a cross-body bag. The robbers may have skills to take other bags really fast.  Be careful, and put your necessary things in the accommodation if you don’t need to bring outside.

 

5. Pick pocket

Pick pocket can happen everywhere, anytime. My father got pick pocket twice when we went to a festival together. It happens a lot in crowded places.

Tips

Take care of your own things. I always put money on my first pocket, not in the back. Therefore, I can check it time to time to make sure it is still there.

 

6. Hygiene food safety

Vietnamese food is amazing! There are so many food for you to choose, but food safety is a big problem in Vietnam. Street food is really delicious, but lots of the time it is not clean and healthy. The sellers may not prepare them carefully, or because of the climate, food may have some problem. I didn’t really realize how unsafe it is until I came back Vietnam after staying in Japan. I had stomach ache and felt bad after eating.

How to avoid that?

Tips

To be honest, it’s really hard to avoid this situation 🙁 Hygiene food safety has become one of the most concern in Vietnam, and Vietnamese government is trying to improve it.

For me, I usually go to some favorite one, so I know where to avoid, and where to go. However, as a foreigner, you can also read the review about restaurants. You can choose to eat in a restaurant where looks clean, and has many visitors. Don’t eat in where there’s no one inside.

Anyway, just buy some medicine in case you have diarrhea or problem with your stomach!

 

7. Traffic accidents

According to Traffic police department, in 2016, there were more than 21 000 traffic accidents and almost 9000 people died. So there are around 24.5 people died per day because of traffic accidents in Vietnam. This number doesn’t include injured people. I do not want to scare you with those numbers, but must admit that traffic accidents happen regularly in Vietnam.

I also had some traffic accidents every year when I was in Vietnam, and it took me at least one week for healing. Fortunately they were not that bad, so I can still sit here and write some advice 🙂

Traffic accidents can happen with any way. You can get hit when you cross the street, or when you are riding, or in a car, even in your house. I hope some of my tips can help you have safe travels!

Tips

  • Using public transportation such as bus: I know that public transportation in Vietnam can terrify foreigners, but I feel much safer when I’m on the bus. It’s safer when you are in a bigger vehicle. Think positively, you are protected by a big box :D. So maybe accident can happen with some motorbikes, you can be still safe.

  • Using taxi: I also feel it’s safe when using taxi. However, I’m not that rich to use taxi all the time, so I use bus instead.
  • Walking: It may be dangerous. I know one was killed when walking on the street :o. However, in Vietnam, there are cases that people are died when they are in their home, just because a truck hit and crash their home… so I still consider walking is a safe way 🙂

 

8. Bad service – bad manners

Many people complain about bad service in Vietnamese restaurants. It’s true. I think one part of the reason is because it’s really crowded. But the employees cannot use those excuse to serve badly. Also, not many Vietnamese can speak English, so it may be difficult to communicate.

Tips

You should learn body language or learn some basic Vietnamese to use to order food or service. The best way is to have Vietnamese friends, so they can show you good places to eat! I suggest you to try Couch surfing , or even if you just walk around, maybe some Vietnamese will want to say hello and talk to you.

 

9. Short returned money

Some people are shocked when some places in Vietnam return candies instead of money. They feel cheated and scammed.

Tips

It’s very common recently, even with locals, so please don’t hate Vietnam because of that. You can still eat some candies and be happy, right? They may return not enough money to foreigners, but you can ask again if there’s a mistake.

 

10. Crossing streets

And yes, be careful when you cross the street!

I’m sure it’s an interesting experience for non – Vietnamese! There are not many road markers in Ho Chi Minh city, so you can cross freely whenever you need! It sounds like suicide mission, but you can do that 🙂

Tips

I just go in the middle of the street, facing lots of motorcycles, buses, cars, etc. I wait a bit and continue, and wait and continue, and keep doing that while watching all the vehicles.


If you still love Vietnam after reading this article, check out these articles:

Hoa Trung Lake: Off the beaten path in Da Nang, Vietnam

5 Best places to go in Vietnam during Tet holiday

A Complete Guide to Ba Na Hills

Vietnamese Pho in different countries around the world


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7 Things you should try in Fukuoka

Last week, I had a short 2-day trip to Fukuoka with my friends. Although it’s not my first time to this most populous city of Kyushu area,  Fukuoka surprises me every time with its charming and beauty. If you have a chance to visit Fukuoka, here are  7 things you definitely should try.

 

1.Motsunabe

With the history of more than 1000 years, Motsunabe is a Hakata’s well-known specialty dish. It’s a kind of hot-pot made of beef or pork offal (mostly beef intestines), lots of veggies like cabbage and garlic chives, and filled with soy sauce based soup. It is the perfect food to eat during cold weather.

The restaurant where I ate Motsunabe is called Rakutenchi. It’s a small yet one of the most famous places for this dish, so you should check it out!

Address: 2-5-23 Hakataekimae, Hakataku, Fukuoka

It may look kinda “too green”, but it tastes better than it looks.

 

2. Shrines

During my trip to Fukuoka Prefecture, I had a chance to visit the two most famous shrines there which are Dazaifu Tenmangu and Kushida Shrine.

Dazaifu Tenmangu is located in Dazaifu city, and it is one of the main shrines in Japan dedicated to Tenjin- the “God” of literature and scholarship. The shrine is very large and includes several structures, so it would take you around 1 hour to visit all the places.

On the contrary, Kushida shrine is located right in the center of Hakata, and since it is a village shrine, it is much smaller than Dazaifu, and this spot will only take you 20 minutes to visit. As the oldest shrine in Fukuoka city, it attracts lots of foreign tourists so you can get the information sheet and even the omikuji (paper fortunes) in English.

 

3. Canal City

My favorite place for shopping in Fukuoka!

Canal City is a major shopping complex at 2.5 million square feet, including about 250 shops, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, game center, theater, etc. It even has a canal flowing inside (which explains its name), and a large fountain that has a water show every 30 minutes.

Because the mall is so large, it may take you a whole day to discover everything. If you come to Canal City before May 18th, you can also enjoy the 3D projection mapping show with the popular anime “One Piece” theme, which is quite epic you won’t want to miss it.

 

4. Ohori Park

A beautiful scenery park with a large lake., many trees and resting spots. Local people come here to exercise, run on the track around the lake. Sometimes, they let their dogs go for a walk or simply go sight-seeing.

Although it’s a famous spot in Fukuoka, everyone there is so quiet. It creates the peaceful and dreamy atmosphere, and the natural scenery is beautiful as a picture. You can also pay 190 yen to visit a Japanese garden in the park, which worths the money I believe.

 

5. NHK Fukuoka

As some of you may know, NHK is the Japanese national public broadcasting organization. It has a kind of “museum” in Fukuoka, which is located very near to Ohori Park.

You can visit the studio of some TV shows, collect the stamps of NHK mascots. Furthermore, you can see the gallery about the history of NHK, and even experience becoming a news reporter and get on the air! Even if you can’t care less about Japanese TV, you will have a lot of fun there and you know what’s the great part? It is free of charge!

The model of a news studio where you can get on-screen for real

6. Ramen

Of course, no one visits Fukuoka without trying the well-known Hakata Tonkotsu ramen. The broth of Tonkotsu ramen is made by melting out the pork bone, which gives it a strong and unique taste.

Hakata is known as the best place in the country to enjoy this food. Two places I would recommend are Ramen Stadium on the 5th floor of Canal City, where you can try different types of ramen from different locals in Japan or Ippudo Ramen in Amu Plaza (Hakata Station).

Yummy Hakata Ramen!

7. Line Friends Cafe and Store

Line Cafe in Fukuoka is the third one to be opened in Japan. It is located in the vibrant area of Tenjin.

The first floor is a souvenir shop. Here, you can buy lovely items inspired by the famous Line characters like Brown or Cony. The second floor is a cafe that sells drinks and cakes also inspired by these characters. Also, it has extra seating areas on the third floor. Even if you don’t buy anything, you are free to visit and take pictures, so this place is often crowded with people. Believe me, you will just scream “Kawaii~~” to everything there!


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5 Best places to go in Vietnam during Tet Holiday

“Tet” is coming in a corner. For those who do not know what Tet is, it is Vietnamese version of the Lunar New Year, and it is considered the most important celebration of Vietnamese culture. The whole country is most lively and cheerful during this time, and you don’t want to miss this chance to travel around and learn more about Vietnamese traditions. Here are 5 best places to go during Tet holiday

 

1.Mộc Châu plateau

200 kilometers apart from Hanoi, Moc Chau is a well-known destination for backpackers. The best time to go to Moc Chau is from the end of January to February, when plum blossoms and sakura bloom everywhere, making the plateau looks like a white heaven.

Credit: VivuTravel.net

2. Tam Đảo

It is quite hot in Vietnam this winter, and if you miss the feeling of those cold winds blowing to your face, why don’t you come to Tam Dao where the weather is always cool? Visiting the Van Pagoda, Silver Waterfall, Sky Gate… and enjoying local dishes like chayote, Hill chicken, man pig… sounds like a good plan right?

 

3. Sapa

Another Northern destination! If you come to Vietnam and you don’t visit Sapa, it’s such a pity. The breathtaking mountainous scenery of Hoang Lien Son range, the terraced fields on rolling hills, the villages of Highland ethics, the colorfulness of brocade fabric… You just don’t want to miss it.

Credit: Stephen Lucket

4. Hoi An

My personal favorite place! Used to be a South-East Asian trading port from the 15th to the 19th century, it seems like Hoi An is left by the modern world and still sleeping in its glorious past. With the well-preserved ancient architecture, it makes you feel like you are coming back to hundreds of years ago. It is a small town, so you should spend around 1 to 2 days here.

Credit: Nguyen Viet Dung

 

5. Đà Lạt

With no doubt, visiting the “City of flower” in the blooming season is a great plan for your Tet holiday. You can hire a motorbike and wander around this city to enjoy its quiet beauty and of course, flowers.

Credit: Khanh Hmong

 

Some tips for traveling during Tet holiday

  • Don’t travel during the first days of the Lunar New Year. Vietnamese people stop all the business activities and spend time with their family during those days, so all the stores and restaurants will be closed. You should travel before Tet, or from the 4th day onward.
  • Because it’s the holiday season, the price for foods and transportation may be a bit more expensive.
  • There are some big festivals celebrating Tet holiday with thousands of people joining. However, I don’t recommend you to go there. It will be super crowded and chaotic, which may cause you in trouble. Just imagine something like the Black Friday in America.

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7 ways to travel on a budget in Tokyo

Many people think that Japan is very expensive, and Tokyo, a heart of Japan, should be extremely expensive, isn’t it? It’s true that Japan is expensive compared to other Asian countries, but it’s pretty normal if you compare the price to European countries. In this article, I will show you how to travel on a budget in Tokyo.

 

 

1. Travel in off-peak time

The first tips is to avoid traveling in the peak time.

There are some main vacation period in Japan such as New Year, Golden Week (late April to early May), and Obon (mid-August). In these period, Japanese people do not need to go to work or study, which they always do, so they will spend time traveling or shopping.

During these periods, the service price is very expensive. The price of hotel, hostel, any type of accommodation increase steadily.

Furthermore, there are so many people on the street, or in any popular places, so you will need to wait for hours if you want to enter any places, or even to buy anything. You will be so tired of just waiting and cannot do anything whole day.

Therefore, it’s not a good idea to travel in peak time in Japan. In order to save your money, and save your time, let’s choose another time to enjoy the best of Tokyo.

A normal night in Shibuya, Tokyo

 

2. Don’t use taxi

Taxi in Japan is crazily expensive. The price for opening the door is around ¥650 to ¥800 ($6.5 to $8) depends on where you go. Also, after the first kilometer, you will be charged more, and you will be totally broke before you reach the destination.

 

3. Sleep at Internet Cafe

The cheapest way to stay overnight in Japan is staying at Internet Cafe, or called as Manga kissa, which is a place to read comic books. In Manga kissa, you can find  private cubicles, which have 1 armchair, or a couch, or a flat to sleep. I always choose a small flat because it’s more convenient. There are showers (depending on which place, you may need to pay shower fee or not), blanket rental and vending machines for food. Manga kissa always provides free drink bar, and sometimes with ice-cream too. A ‘night pack’ (for 6 to 12 hours) starts at around ¥1500 ($15) and 2500 ($25), depending which type of private cubicles that you choose.

 

4. Don’t buy internet

In many places in Tokyo, you can find free wi-fi. Free wi-fi can be found in restaurants, shops, hotels, and transportation points such as train stations. You can also use free wi-fi in shopping malls as well. Therefore, it is not necessary to pay money for internet if you visit Tokyo. If you get lost, just enjoy it and ask people on the street!

 

5. Eat at local and cheap restaurants

The best thing when traveling is to explore food. You can save money but still eating delicious food by choosing local and cheap restaurants. If you are a big fan of sushi, why don’t you go to ¥100 sushi restaurant? You can choose any type of sushi with a really cheap price!

 

6. Use public transportation wisely

a) Local train

Public transportation in Tokyo is not expensive. If you want to save money, you can choose local trains, which stop at every stop. It’s also an interesting way to explore the beauty of Tokyo.

You can check the metro in Tokyo here: http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/

 

b) Railway pass

If you stay in Tokyo for more than 3 days, I suggest you to buy railway pass. It’s really convenient and you can use trains as much as you want.

 

c) Bus

Going by bus is not a good idea because there are so many people on the street. You may be stuck on the bus for a long time and waste your vacation time.

 

d)Highway night bus

You can choose this type of bus if you plan to go somewhere further. If you want to go to Osaka from Tokyo, using Highway night bus will be a cheaper option.

 

7. Visit free place

There are a lot of free and beautiful places to visit in Tokyo. Therefore, let’s check them out before you intend to spend money in some other places. Furthermore,  there are a lot of stores (especially department stores) offer tax-free shopping to foreign tourists spending over ¥5000, so ask them before you purchase.  

 

In the summer of 2016, I traveled backpacks to Tokyo alone, without internet, didn’t book any hotel or hostel, just stayed at the Internet cafe. It was one of the best memories in my life.

I could do it, how about you?

 


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