Thứ Sáu, 17 tháng 6, 2011


For those seeking a physically and culturally rewarding experience off the beaten path, this is the perfect trip for you. With visits to the villages of the Black Dzao, Flower H'mong, Tay people... and the local minority markets, you will have a unique insight into the diverse culture here that few have experienced.
Detail Itinerary
Day 1: You will be picked up from your hotel 1 hour before train departure for transfer to the train station. Night train to Lao Cai. The night train leaves at 21:10

Day 2: Arrive in Lao Cai early morning, pick up by the tour guide. After breakfast, you get bikes and start riding along culture village toward to Bac Ha. Arrive in Bac Ha, check in Sao Mai hotel. In the afternoon, you ride to visit Ban Pho, Ta Chai. O/N at Sao Mai hotel.
Riding distance: 35 km
Car transfer: 55 km

Day 3: Have breakfast in Sao Mai hotel. Leave Bac Ha for Can Cau (if we reach Can Cau on Saturday, we can visit a local minority market in that area). Return to Bac Ha at noon. In the afternoon, we continue riding to visit Nam Mom. O/N at Sao Mai hotel.
Riding distance: 30 km
Car transfer: 47 km

Day 4: After breakfast, we ride to Trung Do (16 km) – if it is on Sunday, then you can ride to see Bac Ha market. After that, you will be picked up and transferred to Sapa town by car. Check in and sleep overnight  at Cat Cat hotel.
Riding distance: 16 km
Car transfer: 92 km

Day 5: After breakfast in the hotel, the tour guide will take you for a walk to see the local market and surrounding areas in Sapa town. In the afternoon, you will walk to visit Cat Cat minority village. Return to Sapa town, you will have some minutes to relax before the shared bus pick you up to Lao Cai train station for a night train back to Hanoi.
Arrive in Hanoi next morning.
The tour ends at Hanoi train station.
(B: breakfast)

-    Train Hanoi – Lao Cai – Hanoi (soft sleeper, A/C)
-    Shared bus Sa Pa – Lao Cai
-    Sports bike
-    Hotels as mentioned above
-    Meals as mentioned above
-    Local English-speaking cycling guide
-    Escorting car
-    Entranc fees and permit paper.
Excluding: Travel insurance, drinks, personal expenses and tips!

Thứ Năm, 16 tháng 6, 2011

Banh Cuon – A Lasting Delicate and Comfort Roll

For years, Bánh Cuốn (Vietnamese steamed rice rolls) has never stop to demonstrate its long-lasting perfect comfort food to food lovers. When people need something light, delicate yet flavorful, Bánh Cuốn is an inescapable dish quickly passes voting to be named in the menu. For those are familiar with Bánh Cuốn, no savory substitute is likely. For those have not yet ever try the dish, once taste it, people soon fall in love with very light but flavorful and earthy rolls.

The origin and name of Bánh Cuốn

The origin of Bánh Cuốn is traced back from Northern Vietnam. No matter the exact date and time Bánh Cuốn was initially made, people seem not to deny that Bánh Cuốn has been made for years and served over and over. Bánh Cuốn is classified under wrap and roll dishes in Vietnamese cuisine as a dedication to its nature and the name itself. The dish features a thin and delicate steamed rice sheet fills with a variety of filling then rolls it up. In English words, “Banh” is pastry presents in both sweet and savory Vietnamese recipes. “Cuon” means the process to roll a pastry sheet with or without stuffing. Undoubtedly, Bánh Cuốn is named after its process in making a tasty roll.

How to make Bánh Cuốn

Visibly, a roll of Bánh Cuốn is finished from two main ingredients, steamed rice sheets and fillings. Rice sheets are made from the mixed batter of rice flours, tapioca starch and sometimes potato starch. Traditionally, makers grind white rice to have fresh rice flour in mixing with other ingredients. Only a small batch of rice is grinded each time to make enough rolls for consuming in a day. That tradition purposes no leftover rice flour is being used for the next batch to keep every roll is freshly steamed. While packed rice flour is now available at almost the markets, many questions raise regarding the hidden reason people still proceed with time consuming process. A simple yet surprising answer is a secret to make an extremely thin, delicate and wide rice sheet without breaking. If using old-day flour, sometimes, it does smell strong flour-like and it really tastes differently. The traditional method to steam rice sheet is using a steamer, a kind of fabric covered pot put on boiling water. Steams release from the underneath boiling water will quickly cook rice flour, keep the sheet moist and workable. A ladleful of batter, mix from rice flour and tapioca starch with water, is poured and evenly spread out in a very thin layer on a cloth stretches across and places on top of the pot. In less than a minute with the cover of a pot, a rice sheet should be done. It now turns out a transparent rice paper. Unlike other pastries, a delicate rice paper is lifted off the steamer by a flat and flexible bamboo stick and placed on a large tray. This is a tricky and not an easy technique for those who have not ever touched the steamer. A fabulous thinly cooked rice sheet is now ready for filling and rolling.

Filling comes with various recipes depend upon where you eat Bánh Cuốn. A delicious filling commonly taste across the country is ground pork mixes with finely chopped jicama, minced onion and shallot and dry fungus. All ingredients are well-incorporated and seasoning to taste with a few spoonfuls of fish sauce and a dash of ground pepper. The mixture, then, stir fry to throughly cook. A couple tablespoons of filling are placed on a hot rice sheet which is then fold up and roll. The transparency of a look-like rice paper exposes the stuffing inside signals an earthy and delicious roll is ready to serve.

Today, Vietnamese families across Vietnam and in the country outside Vietnam use non-stick pan to make Bánh Cuốn. The recipe remains the same with traditional one, the rice sheet won’t be as thin as steaming on the cloth covered pot but the result will still be satisfactory. Practically, this method is uniquely home-made and easy to use. It becomes very popular since many families now can make Bánh Cuốn at home and at any time they desire for a comfort roll.

Versions of Bánh Cuốn

Bánh Cuốn is made in different size and shape, each mirrors the culture and spirit of different regions through its own recipes and distinctive flavor.

In the North of Vietnam, a very famous southern district in Hanoi named Thanh Tri is a place for plain rice sheets. Without any filling, Bánh Cuốn Thanh Tri is well-known with its delicate, flavorful rice papers, a proud of local makers. Plain rice sheet is simply served with sliced “Cha lua”, fry shallots and “Nuoc mam cham” (mixed fish sauce).

In the Central of Vietnam, another roll of Bánh Cuốn called Banh uot tom chay (steamed rice rolls with dry ground shrimp). The filling makes from shrimp rather than ground pork. Shrimps are thoroughly cooked, dry and finely ground. Then, ground shrimp, or it is called shrimp powder is roll with a rice sheet. Sometimes, makers do not roll ground shrimp with a rice sheet but they sprinkle over the top of plain Bánh Cuốn. It tastes really light and earthy.

In the South of Vietnam, a popular roll is Bánh Cuốn with ground pork stuffing. It serves with Cha lua, bean sprouts, julienne Vietnamese basil and cucumber, fry shallots and Nuoc mam cham (mixed fish sauce). People often find a rice sheet is roll or place on the top with green onion as another derivation of Bánh Cuốn Thanh Tri. This is available in the market while Bánh Cuốn with filling is ordered in many restaurants.

How to serve Bánh Cuốn

Even though a comfort roll comes with various version of filling to couple with local taste and culinary culture, Bánh Cuốn always serve hot with Nuoc mam cham (fish sauce). In many restaurants, hot rolls will be made right after order. Fellow diners have a chance to lively observe how Bánh Cuốn is made before dining. Like other dishes in Vietnamese cuisine, Nuoc mam cham is a well-blend condiment to enhance flavor and make a dish tastier. Basically, fish sauce is mixed with water, sugar and lemon juice. It needs to be sweet and sour. At some local restaurants, ground chili pepper is added for a little hot or it is put in a separate bowl for desired taste. Specially, in Hanoi, a bit of Belostomatid essence (use a head of a toothpick dip into the essence) is added to Nuoc mam cham as a traditional and distinctive flavor of the origin place of Bánh Cuốn.

As a tradition, Bánh Cuốn is commonly served as a breakfast. Today, it becomes a comfort food to be served all day long. It could be a light lunch in a hurry to catch up office work or a small dinner for a good time to chat with friends. In family, Bánh Cuốn is a perfect dish to gather members around, from preparation to making the rolls, and share the join with family.

Whatever Bánh Cuốn is steamed with traditional method or modern non-stick pan, a small or large savory roll with or without a variety of fillings, Bánh Cuốn is a perfect lasting favorite throughout Vietnam and of many visitors. Bánh Cuốn is an earthy roll which stuff all the culinary culture and spirit of different regions across the country. That is a comfort roll yet symbolizes diversity and flavor on its delicate.

My Son Cham Ruins, Hoi An

Mankind builds marvelous and imagination-defying cities and structures, then erases them again as the centuries, along with the fickle loyalty of scholars, priests, kings, and common people render them either obsolete or irrelevant. The ruins of My Son in Vietnam, not far from Da Nang and Hoi An, fall into this category.
My Son was once an impressive place, a holy valley of impressive Hindu temples and burial grounds of the royalty of the Champa people. My Son was the Vietnamese equivalent of places like Cambodia's Angkor Wat and Egypt's Valley of the Kings. In its heyday, My Son included over seventy temples, along with a number of monuments with inscriptions in both Sanskrit, the holy language of ancient India, and Cham. In 1999, UNESCO named My Son a World Heritage Site.

History of My Son

The My Son site dates back to the fourth century AD, when the Champa king, Bhadravarman, erected the first temple there. He named it Bhadresvara, which was a combination of his own name and the Hindu god Ishvara, another name for Shiva. On the temple, the king added a request for subsequent generations to respect the temple and not destroy it. For many centuries, his request seemed to work; for generations after Bhadravarman's death, the My Son site was the hub of spiritual activity for the Champa people. Even when the original temple was destroyed in a fire two hundred years later, a later king made sure to rebuild it. The temple lasted in one form or another until it was obliterated during the Vietnam War.
In the fourteenth century, the Champa were conquered by the Viet people, for whom the modern country is named. The disappearance of the Champa also meant the gradual dissolution of the My Son site, which the jungle slowly started to reclaim. Ignored and largely forgotten, My Son was discovered again at the turn of the twentieth century by a French scholar.
In the 1930s, the French began to restore the My Son temples. The French scholars and archeologists were able to identify a total of seventy-one temples, with various groupings of temples belonging to different eras of development of the Cham kingdom.

My Son Today

Unfortunately for both visitors and world history, much of what remained of My Son in the twentieth century was bombed out of existence by American B-52 bombers during the American Vietnam War. The temples that had been so lovingly restored by French archeologists and local people were quickly devastated by the American bombs. In fact, local people are still wary of the area surrounding the My Son ruins because of the still unexploded bombs and land mines.
Nevertheless, My Son is still one of Vietnam's most important historic sites. Visitors with any interest in Southeast Asia's history will enjoy the bus trip from Da Nang or Hoi An to the ruins. Most tours of the My Son ruins range in price from £30 to £47 or you will be free if you join Vietnam Tours of Vietnam Tours Diary, depending upon the size of the group and the city of origin.

Vietnam Tours Video = Must Read If You Want To Have a Great Tour at Vietnam

Here is a great video that introduce you to top places for travelling. If you want to have a great tour to vietnam, just contact to Vietnam Tours Diary to have more infomation

Trains in Vietnam- Livitrans Express

Planning to go on a Vietnam tour, then you will for sure require the best Vietnam travel guides so that you will get to know the places you have to visit better.

Vietnam lies on the eastern part of the Indonesian peninsula and is like a strip of land which is shaped like the letter S. Very few people knows that Vietnam is also a transport function from Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. More than three quarters of the Vietnam’s territory consists of mountains and hills. Hanoi is the national capital of Vietnam. Vietnam also many beautiful places which are best among the world’s tourist destinations. Vietnam tour operators provide a lot of assistance for the tourists who book a Vietnam package travel with them. You can even have more information about Vietnam from the site

The places in Vietnam are very well connected by trains. Livitrans express train is a new train which connects Hanoi and Sapa. This is known to be one of the most luxurious trains in Vietnam as it has equipment similar to that of the high class train. The Livitrans has 9 wooden carriages along with an electricity generation compartment.  There are also plans to expand it to 15 carriages so that they can accommodate nearly 420 passengers in the future. The train will feature sleeping carriage with 2 berths, 4 berths with a bar, toilets, LCD television sets on board, etc of aviation standards. Passengers will be also offered drinks, confectionery and newspapers for free. With friendly staff and high class services, Livitrans Express Train will surely bring you a memorial trip to Sapa.

The train leaves Hanoi at 20.35pm local time and reaches Laocai at 5.00 am and the train from Laocai starts at 19.30 pm and reaches Hanoi at 4.30 am.  The prices of Vietnam Tours Diary are as follows:

VIP cabin 2 berths at US$ 145 are per person for return.
Deluxe cabin 2 berths at US$ 125 are per person for return.
Wooden deluxe cabin 4 berths at US$ 58 are per person for return.