banh-mi

Top 5 Vietnamese Street Food

It’s the perfect time to start planning your vacation. What if we went to Vietnam, a country known for The Bay of Along, the hospitality of its people and especially its food? But before you get on board, a little quiz: what do you know about Vietnamese gastronomy besides phở, nems and ben? That’s what I thought! It doesn’t matter, We offer you a short stopover to discover the diversity and originality of Vietnamese street food!

Bánh Xèo

The Bánh Xèo intrigues naturally because of its shades of yellow. It is very often unknown to tourists while it is widespread in Vietnam, whether in restaurants or small street stalls.

Basically, it’s the Vietnamese version of a salted pancake. But in fact, it’s much more than that: the patty is not made from eggs, but rice flour that is fried on the outside to obtain this golden and crispy texture. Inside the patty, the filling consists of beef, lots of soy, ognons and possibly mung beans, with one last surprise to which you have to get used to, shrimp with their shell!

The Xeo is always accompanied by a salad leaf, different herbs and of course nước mắm, Vietnamese fish sauce. Once at the table, the tradition is that we cut the Bunh Xèo into small pieces and then eat them coated with salad leaves.

It is a dish that will travel with you, since its taste varies by region! For example in Huê, it is even a local specialty, occasionally renowned for The City of Bunh Khoi, of which you can admire the 50 shades of yellow above. Enjoy your meal!

Bánh Bèo

The bánh bèo is a dish consisting of several small patties made from rice flour. They are steamed in small moulds in the shape of cups. These patties are usually covered with crumbled shrimp, but the filling varies by region; in any case, they are always covered with nước mắm. It is better to taste this dish still warm and quickly enough to enjoy the fondant of the patties.

The bánh bèo is delicious, but also aesthetic: the plate presents itself as a pyramid of patties, left in their cup or not, it still depends on the regions!

Bánh Mì

One of the many examples of French influence on Vietnamese gastronomy is the Bánh mi. “Bánh Mì” is a term that originally refers to the Vietnamese-style baguette – produced by a clever mixture of rice and wheat flour – but has become the generic term for any type of Vietnamese sandwich.

The Bánh Mì as delicious as cheap (less than 1 euro) and you’ll find stands of Bánh Mì really everywhere! There are many varieties of bunh m, but the main ingredients are grated carrots, coriander and other herbs, cucumber, and sauce (mayonnaise, spicy, soy or Maggi). That’s why the taste spectrum of the bunh can vary enormously from salty to sweet, through spice.

There are vegetarian sandwiches (bunh m-chay) but there is almost systematically meat (bunh m thịt): Vietnamese pâté, lay pork belly, pork sausage, or strips of dried meat, there is something for everyone! And those who don’t want to choose will enjoy the “special combo”) “bunh” đặc’s own! It’s even possible to eat a morning bunh, with fried eggs, soy sauce or Maggi and cucumber (bunh me trứng a la) if you want to try a popular Vietnamese breakfast!

Chè

Here is a dessert that often frightens dilettantes because of its strange texture and its many colors. However, the French often know the ‘chè ba màu’ (drink in three colors) without knowing that this dessert is part of the long line of chè!

There are an infinite number of varieties of oak , which can be found in soup or drink – with mung beans, jelly, coconut milk, exotic fruits, rice paste and tapioca balls as the main ingredients. The oak is therefore a mixture of these different ingredients for a very original taste, and has a liquid or gelatinous form, even solid.

The oak can be eaten cold or hot, like this succulent chè chui above (with banana and balls of tapioca)! You will find many stalls to take away, which you will eat in a makeshift container, often a small plastic bag!

Cà Phê Sữa Đá

Vietnamese drink their hot coffee, but mostly cold! Coffee has been a national pride since it was introduced to Vietnam by French colonizers at the end of the 19th century. Vietnam is now the world’s largest exporter of robusta and itself a major consumer of coffee. This is how the cà phê sữa (literally “latte with ice cubes”) became Vietnam’s flagship drink.

To make an iced coffee, the principle is very simple: we filter Vietnamese coffee seeds that are mixed with sweetened condensed milk before pouring everything into a cup filled with ice cubes. Fast, cheap (about 1 euro), and your taste buds will thank you. To be consumed after your long walks!

And of course, try the phở!

No need to advertise the famous Tonkinese soup from Nam Định, southeast of Hà Nội. The most common are phở gà (chicken) and phở (beef) and are always served with soy, lemon, hot sauce and possibly doughnuts in stick to dip in the broth.

Just know that Vietnamese eat phở at any time of the day, and often at breakfast!

The list is obviously not exhaustive, given the huge range of Vietnamese dishes. For the curious, I could also have told you about the bunh cuon, tấm in b’nh bao for example, but I’d rather let you discover all these little pleasures for yourself! But before I leave you, I’ll explain why there’s the word “bunh” in many Vietnamese dishes. “Benh” literally means “cake” or “bread” but must be taken in the broadest sense of the word, since it usually refers to anything that can be cooked from flour (noodles, dumplings, cookies…). And the word that follows serves to define this “cake”!

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Discover Fiji!

In the excellent film The Truman Show, the main character played by Jim Carrey is obsessed with escaping from his monotonous life to the paradise of Fiji. Many travellers share this feeling but do not want to go there believing that it is too expensive a destination. Make no mistake, it is possible to visit this wonderful country made up of 333 breathtaking tropical islands on a limited budget. On the way to Fiji!

Bula Nadi!

Upon arrival at Nadi International Airport, you will have the chance to be greeted by musicians with flower necklaces and traditional musical instruments. Although it’s cliché, you won’t be able to resist the urge to smile after a long flight that took you to the middle of the Pacific. If the city of Nadi has nothing exceptional to offer, it is a very good starting point to organize the continuation of your Fijian adventure.

Located on the main island of Viti Levu, this town of 40,000 people offers different types of accommodation, from the 5-star hotel to the hostel. To keep the budget and keep as much money as possible for future activities, opt for the Bamboo Backpackers. Attentive and helpful, the managers of this hostel will treat you like old friends as soon as you arrive. You will have the chance to discover Fijian culture while getting to know other travellers from all over the world. Samu, at the reception, will be happy to guide you and explain the different attractions that the region offers.

Upon entering my inn room, my gaze immediately rested on the map of the world hanging on the wall. It’s hard to imagine that I’m on this little island, lost in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. That’s when I realized how far away I was from home, feeling exciting and somewhat terrifying at the same time.

Travelling means getting out of your comfort zone.

The Kava Experience

Described in all travel guides, the kava drink is an interesting cultural experience that deserves a try. However, you have to be careful. There is a lot going on with kava, it’s good to set the record straight. This herbal drink of the same name is not a hallucinogenic drug as some claim. The effects are soft, one or two cuts will make you relaxed and somewhat sleepy.

Travellers tend to mix kava with Ayuhuasca, a ceremonial drink that Amazonian tribes use to “have visions”. What is in Fiji is nothing like that. If you are comfortable with your guests, don’t hesitate to try it. You will see that Fijians, who drink it every day, will be happy to share this ancestral tradition with you.

The kava ceremony is very impressive in Fiji. The Chef makes you sit in front of him, he asks you to clap your hands once, then he serves you the bowl of kava, which you must drink at a stroke, before knocking three times in your hands saying “bula”. Mixed with traditional music, the ritual will remain anchored in your head as one of your most beautiful memories.

What about the taste? A mixture of pepper, mud and cough syrup. It makes you want to, it’s up to you.

Some Suggestions For An Unforgettable Trip

In Fiji, you can count on turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, lush vegetation and a culture to make any country jealous. This little piece of country offers different choices whether it’s a trip to a decadent resort or a backpacking adventure.

333 islands, so many ways to discover this country.

Here are some options for you:

The Mamanucas

An hour’s boat’s boat from Viti Levu, these islands offer stunning beaches worthy of a postcard. One of these islands was even the location of the famous Tom Hanks film, Castaway. Taken by resorts as a tourist spot, you can visit the island of Monuriki on a day trip.

The Yasawas

Another location, the famous film The Blue Lagoon this time, you will have the opportunity to explore the mysterious waters of the Cave Sawa-i-Lau and snorkel in the reefs frequented by manta rays, also known as “devils of the seas”. Reaching up to nine meters in wingspan, these funny beasts will give you chills. But don’t worry, although they are imposing, these rays are peaceful and quite harmless.

On my second stay in Fiji (the first was only a two-day stopover), I befriended a Fijian named Samu who invited me on his boat for three days. Fishing, swimming and snorkeling are on the programme.

Kadavu

If you want to think outside the box and get to know the authentic country, choose Kadavu. Although isolated, this island is easily accessible by air from Viti Levu. Several organizations will offer you eco-tourism (also called responsible tourism), which allows you to visit while establishing a privileged contact with the local population. The east of the island is bordered by the fourth largest coral reef in the world, inhabited by manta rays and an incredible diversity of fish. People come from all over the world to have the chance to try this fabulous “spot” fishing.

This was just a few suggestions, but Fiji is full of picturesque places where you’ll feel like you’re alone in the world. By intelligently choosing accommodation and activities, a trip to Fijian soil can be quite affordable. As always, avoid tourist traps and prefer small local agencies.

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Mexico: Adventure In The Depths Of Ek Balam

The adventure has a bewitching fragrance… And go off her couch, watching Indiana Jones retrieve a relic in the middle of the jungle at the risk of her life or Lara Croft jump from ruin to ruin to unravel the mystery of a lost civilization: it’s exciting! And that’s exactly the impression I got when I entered this black hole, in the belly of the earth in cenote Ek Balam.

One of my best memories in my travels.

Cenote

What is a cenote? I will resist the temptation to give you a master class that alone would take the size of a relatively long article. And as I promised you I would no longer drown under 4000-word articles… I resist!

But still, to give you the context of this beautiful day, I have to tell you “a little” about the cenotes.

Cenote is a deep natural well or sinkhole, found mainly in Central America, formed by the collapse of limestone, partially or completely filled with water.

Cenotes are particularly abundant in the south-eastern region of Mexico, with more than 10,000 in the Yucatan Peninsula.

If they were once considered sacred places (link with the underworld and place of ceremony), these natural swimming pools of a crystal blue are today places of bathing and adventure!

Like Ek Balam’s cenote, reputedly the largest on the Yucatan Peninsula.

At The Heart Of The Cenote Ek Balam

Arriving on the site, I discover with surprise infrastructure worthy of a holiday center. It is far from my images of wild jungle: small welcome shed, changing locker room, restaurant area Tourists arrive in small groups, crossing each other without mixing. As all this seems well organized!

The jersey threaded, we finally get to the hole of the cenote. A platform has been set up to abseil down to the cool waters of Ek Balam, 26 metres below.

Always going to embark on this kind of adventure! On the edge of the abyss, I am equipped with a harness and gloves. “It’s very easy, you’ll see!” Half reassured, I place my feet on the edge, my body above the void.

With a trembling hand, I let out a few centimetres of rope in order to begin my descent. Like Lara Croft entering an ancient city covered by the earth, I discover the décor of this cenote. From my point of view, its 60 meters in diameter seems gigantic to me. It’s so dark in the distance. And yet, A few meters under me, I see sparkling blue water.

Ek Balam: More Than Just A Cenote

Ek Balam does not only refer to this: it is also the name of a Mayan archaeological site, located 30 km north of Valladolid and 2 km from the cenote of the same name.

In the Mayan language of Yucatan, “eek’ balam” means black jaguar (ek “black,” balam “jaguar”).

This city, which dates back to 300 years bc. J.C., was once a very rich Mayan capital. It covers about 12 km2 and consists of a sacred central space where the elite resided, protected by walls.

Ek Balam, unknown to the general public, is nevertheless considered one of the most impressive archaeological sites of the Yucatan Peninsula. And I understand why: the decorations of its monumental main pyramid are worth a visit!

madagascar

Discover Madagascar

A Trip To Madagascar Means Discovering More Than Just A Country

A question that can hurt more ways than one, “Am I making the right choice?”

I contemplated that question when I recently went on a holiday that is, my memorable holiday in Madagascar. Well, let’s set aside the most well-directed places and focus a little on what transpired during my travel, in other words, exploration. 

Lemurs and fossas do exist here, but there is no hippo, no giraffe, not to mention a lion. Speaking of plants and animals, it is where Madagascar’s real treasures are. And it’s just a tiny bit of it. Truth to be told, this article will be quite long if we will enumerate all the treasures of Malagasy. You should visit Madagascar to see for yourself. 

One of the hassles of travelling in Madagascar is the inconveniences of the roads. Expect to travel with chickens and other animals when you travel by minibus. I can very well see that you are waiting for me to tell you the secret on how to avoid this. 

Travel Tips

You might be expecting my advice on how to make a vacation to Madagascar a memorable one. I’m sorry to tell you that I’m a perfect trip is up to each and every traveller. I can only impart what I had learned in my travels to Madagascar in the hopes that you will gain some knowledge out of it. 

It is important to note that the majority of flights to Madagascar land in Antananarivo, the country’s capital. A pretty common city for me, not much to see here but when you have time, try and explore it as well. 

One thing to note though is that the streets become quite dangerous at night, well, like in any other city. Just be extra careful when travelling at night-time. 

For me, I secured for myself a reliable local guide and of course my trusty backpack and an open mind for adventure.

My guide provided me these routes:

  • Head south and cross the RN 7, a quite interesting national road with tales to tell about the “dahalos” or local bandits. Truth or myth, just avoid night trips through the route, that’s all I recommend. Landscapes are not that amazing but also a beauty in itself as you pass along the road. The Park of Isalo, is an absolute must to visit though.
  • Head westwards to Majunga, also called the city of flowers. It is a famous seaside resort on the island. Drop by if beaches are your thing. This city though is quite amazing due to its weather: comfortably hot and with minimal humidity. For me, there is more to this city than meets the eye.
  • The last one is to head east, which became my favorite. Well it kind of stuck with me and I was really amazed. The scenery on National II is breathtaking and indescribable, beyond words so to speak. Tamatave, a remarkable port, is where this route ends. As we continued north along the coast, I was astounded by how beautiful it is. I can simply say that this is my favorite part of the island. National V can be described as a track but not really a road. Oftentimes you have to cross rivers and or fjords in order to continue. All these are worth the hassle though as the locale is just simply MAGNIFICENT.

I hope this article will have made you want to take a holiday to Madagascar. This is one of my favorite destinations and I hope this will be the case for you as well.

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10 Reasons To Fall In Love With Iceland

Travelling to Iceland is more accessible than ever so I decided, on a whim, to go to Iceland and discover this legendary country with a hostile climate.

I didn’t know at the time that I was booking a plane ticket for a trip “that would forever change life as I knew it”. But why did I fall so violently in love with this country?

Here’s why I fell in love with Iceland.

10 Reasons To Explore Iceland

#1 The People

I get off the plane, I arrive at customs. Tsé the place where you meet an agent with a sullen look who scrutinizes intensely your passport photo not too flattering? Well, Icelanders are really part of a class of their own. A beautiful blond man smiling greets me and laughs at the fact that we have the same birthday. This is just one example, but I am prepared to say that I have never met any unpleasant Icelanders. On the Guide to Iceland website, you can even contact people living in Iceland to take advantage of “local” tips.

#2 The Foam

Yes I said the foam. No matter where you are, green, cozy and abundant moss will be part of the landscape. Get out of your car and have fun; that or a little blue carpet floor in a gymnasium is the same thing, as well take the opportunity to splurge.

#3 Geysers

Dare to be a tourist for a moment and go see the Strokkur Geyser: Iceland’s most active geyser. And I can confirm that he’s really active! It is possible to see an impressive jet up to 20 meters high springing every 5 to 10 minutes.

#4 The Road, The Road And The Road

I am used to driving on roads decorated with orange cones or potholes; With this in mind, Iceland is quite a change of scenery. So rent a car, take a walk, explore and explore Iceland on a road trip! The Icelandic roads are beautiful, it’s even hard not to stop every mile so the scenery is impressive!

Iceland is not perfect anyway; there are the F-roads. F roads are unpaved roads where you can find volcanic stones, rivers (yes, yes) and unstable soil overflowing with surprises (potentially unpleasant). It is forbidden to take these roads without 4X4 and, quite honestly, only the 4×4 very high on legs and well-heeled will be able to survive these hostile roads. On the other hand, you have to dare to take these roads since they often lead to breathtaking landscapes.

#5 Solidarity

The passage on the F roads requires me to talk about solidarity between travellers. I’ve never felt safer than in this country. No matter what may happen, you can count on the other travellers.

A flat tire on an F road three hours’ drive from the nearest village? No problem, a tour guide and nearly a dozen drivers stop to make sure we are safe. A British couple’s car sinks into a ditch by the side of the road? Fifteen travellers from different backgrounds stop and are not afraid to get dirty to help them. And these are just a few examples!

#6 The Mountains

Perfect cone-shaped mountains, trays, sharp others like knives and some immaculate shades of color. The Icelandic mountains alone are a reason to explore this country as quickly as possible.

#7 The Northern Lights

If you travel to this Nordic country somewhere between autumn and spring, you will have the chance to observe it. Contrary to popular belief, in a country like this, the Northern Lights are even visible in the middle of the city! Why go to a club to attack your retina next to a strobe when you can sit outside quietly and observe one of the most beautiful wonders offered by Mother Nature? Here is an article on how to see an aurora borealis in Iceland so you don’t miss anything from this majestic spectacle.

#8 Waterfalls

There must be as many waterfalls as trees in Iceland!

No, but literally, there are falls everywhere! Some are huge, others are small, but they give an I-don’t-know-what to the Icelandic experience.

#9 Horses

On the outskirts of Reykjavik or in the middle of I-don’t-know-where, you will have the chance to admire majestic wild horses. There is nothing more soothing than to surprise a horse galloping freely in the distance.

#10 Rainbows

Yes, the 10th point and not the least. You may notice that in a single day it can be: sun, grey, rain, hail, sun, windy and grey, just grey, windy and sunny, sunny and rainy … Do you understand my point? The temperature is very changing and this has one particular advantage: see at least one rainbow per DAY. Maybe I’m too dreamy, but how similar is this country to Paradise (with a big P)?

Have you ever visited Iceland?