A Vanessa é australiana, vive em Portugal e falámos sobre o Vietname, destino da sua última viagem.
Na hora de regressar, trouxe na bagagem, a saudade e muitos sabores na memória.
Des i- Do you like to travel?
Vanessa: I adore travelling.
Des i: Why travel?
Vanessa: I travel to open my mind, to learn about new cultures through seeing and doing new things. Mostly, though, I travel to eat.
Des i: Vietnam is...
Vanessa: Vietnam was never a priority of mine to visit over places like Thailand, Indonesia or Malaysia. I never really knew much about the country other than what I had learnt in History lessons in high school. There are many reasons why Vietnam should be on the top of everyone's travel list. Not since my trip to Morocco in 2010 have I loved every minute of being in a foreign place.
In my case, I love eating and I love big cities, the bigger the better. Vietnam is the perfect place if you travel with your stomach and you certainly need a big appetite. Yes, the landscape is spectacular with its lush forests, vast mountain, bright green rice paddies, pristine beaches and breathtaking coastlines, buzzing metropolis' and beautiful waterways; and the people are gentile, vibrant and warm, but the food alone was spectacular, and it is certainly the right place if you want to eat your heart out.
Des i:... typical food.
Vanessa: I made sure to eat plenty of street food at every opportunity, which is always dirt cheap and tasty and where you can find the best of Vietnamese food. You can learn a lot about each region of Vietnam, its culture and history, through their distinctly different dishes.
To sum up what makes Vietnamese food standout, each dish must have these five elements perfectly combined - sweet, spicy, bitter, salty and sweet. And with every bite you can taste fresh hints of lemongrass, ginger, lime and basil. For breakfast, every single day, and even sometimes twice a day, I ate an Banh Me baguette, which was one of the most deliciously satisfying bites to eat. This cheap and tasty sandwich was introduced by the French during colonialism in Indochina. It combines the best of French and Vietnamese flavours and there is certainly a lot going on in this sandwich with its generous layers of roasted pork belly, pâté, pickled vegetables, coriander and cucumber, and homemade mayonnaise.
For a light dinner, we had the classic aromatic rice noodle soup Pho. Interestingly, it take 12 hours to prepare the stock for this soup and gives it its distinct flavour, and when it is served it comes with an accompaniment of chillies, fresh herbs like Thai basil, coriander and generous handfuls of bean sprouts. When served, the beef is raw and placed into the boiling soup so it cooks in front of you. Like Bánh mì, Vietnamese pho, Vietnamese pronounce it “fuh”, is also served at breakfast, so it was interesting to see, in the early morning, people jump off their motorbikes, and sit on plastic chairs on the side of the road slurping away at their pho. Westerners should take note from the small portion sizes and very little food wastage.
For a Westerner one of the most memorable and mind blowing things about Vietnam is the traffic. If you are brave enough, the only way to get around the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi is by motorbike. I really enjoyed zipping around on a motorbike, admiring the crowded skyline, with its mix of French colonial architecture, temples and pagodas, construction cranes and dilapidated apartment blocks. Trying to navigate through the city by foot is like the toughest obstacles course; it was almost impossible to dodge parked motorbikes, food carts and even motorbikes mounting the sidewalk.
The Vietnamese transport the most random objects on the back of their motorbikes, from a cage of puppies, to a refrigerator and even a 3 seater sofa. Witnessing the movement of the traffic is a surreal experience. The luxury Landrovers, trucks, buses and motorbikes flow through the crammed streets in state of chaotic synchronicity. When crossing the road, you walk slow but steady, the motorbike will weave around you. There is an art to it. There doesn't seem to any discernible traffic laws, no marked lanes, no stop signs and no traffic lights. I thought that finally my travel insurance would come in handy for sure, if not on the first day. It is nothing short of remarkable, that I witnessed no accidents and I came to understand that the incessant honking of the horns serves an important purpose - to indicate to other drivers not to forget that you are there. Vietnamese use their horns much more than their brakes, even when faced with motorbikes coming at you in every direction.
The ancient town of Hoi An was, by far, my favourite destination in Vietnam. This quaint and charming commercial port town borders the coastline and its old town is a World Heritage Site
protected for its old Japanese merchant houses, Japanese Covered Bridge, shrines, temples, and pagodas, which are exceptionally well preserved and in their original untouched state. In 1999, Hoi An was inscribed as a World Heritage site for precisely this reason. At night the streets of the old town light up with the glow of candle-lit lanterns and paper lotus’ which are released along the Thu Bon River. It is a truly magical sight. During the day we visited Marble Mountain and Monkey Mountain, with its 70 meter statue of Lady Buddha, located at the end of the Son Tra Peninsula in Da Nang. A tall white statue of the Goddess of Compassion, Lady Buddha look upon the sea and over the port and is truly a stunning figure that could rival the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.