BLOG: THE ZEN OF ZOOM

No Springs Attached

Take a second and think of a bed. Any bed. Your bed.

You’re probably thinking of a sumptuous, thick, comfortable mattress, right? Well, in Vietnam, things are a little different. Your typical mattress here is a thin handmade sleeping mat made out of dried reeds and laid either on the floor or on a raised platform. This helps keep the ‘sleeper’ cool in the tropical heat and ‘beds’ can be quickly assembled and therefore put away to make more cooler space indoors during the day.

Take our ‘Countryside & Islands Explorer’ into the beautiful Hoi An countryside and see for yourself how Mrs Chien, Mrs Thang and their family craft the beautiful reed mats, or take the ‘Rural Villages Experience’ tour and let Mr Oanh welcome you into his family home as he works away on the loom.

Your everyday sleeping mat is made with reeds which are grown in the family’s land and then dried in the sunshine. The dying process involves a huge cooking pot into which the reeds are immersed and boil dyed with bright colors of either red, yellow, green or purple. They are sun dried again and then intricately weaved into patterns, each unique to the families producing these woven works of art. For special occasions or ancestral worship, only the natural colour of the reed is used.

Mat weaving is considered a simple craft, since it takes little training. Yet when you watch the graceful and seemingly effortless teamwork, it is difficult to not be amazed as two people work in harmony, one controlling the shuttle and the other the loom. This is a craft handed down over generations and you will soon realise they make it look easy, even knowing exactly when to change the colours of the reeds to create perfect patterns.

These sleeping mats can be found at most local markets and are easily spotted by their bright colours, and you guessed it – they are transported to market on the back of a motorbike!

Join us and see if you can match the local’s level of expertise at the loom!

Bon Om Touk – The Cambodian Water Festival

Bon Om Touk is an exciting celebration that occurs once a year in Cambodia. Bon Om Touk, also known as the Cambodian Water Festival, celebrates the reversal of the Tonle Sap River. The Tonle Sap River reverses twice a year, lining up with Cambodia’s rainy and dry seasons. When the water from the Mekong River flows into the Tonle Sap River, a large lake forms. This takes up a vast amount of land. When the river reverses however, there are silt deposits that enrich the soil for farming and the fish are abundant.

Bon Om Touk occurs on different dates each year, depending on the natural state of the water reversal. This year, the holiday will take place from November 5th-8th. When visiting Cambodia for the Water Festival, you can see many festivities including racing traditional long boats (also known as dragon boats), traditional dance & music performances, and of course join in with eating & drinking classic Cambodian dishes. A special dish for the holidays that one can indulge in is Ambok. Ambok is a roasted rice dish with coconut & banana.  This typically lasts 3 days, with each night illuminated by light-filled long boats along the river. There is also a lot of spirituality within these 3 days, where people pray for a year of good crops & rice harvest.

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Traditional Cambodian Clothing

Traditional cambodian garments are like many other aspects of Cambodian culture: rich and vibrant. Cambodian clothing is tends to be very bright and beautifully embroidered. The styles have lasted throughout time since the Khmer Empire, and can be seen in present day Cambodia. The sampot  is the most common article of clothing. An array of colors are used for this clothing. It is wrapped around the body in the fashion of a skirt. For more formal occasions women tend to wear a sampot chang kben, which is similarly wrapped as a sampot, but in the fashion of pants. The brightly colored cloth is typically embroidered with beautiful gold metallic thread. There are many types of sampots, all of which have unique difference and patterns..

 

The Krama

This famous Cambodian Scarf is very unique to this region of the world. The unisex checkered & brightly colored scarf can be seen all over the country. It’s number of uses are vast. It can be used as a scarf, a handkerchief, to carry things (even children!), to protect oneself from harsh sun, or wear under one’s hat, and man other possible purposes. This scarf has actually been captured by the fashion world, and the influence of the traditional Cambodian scarf can now be seen in stores around the world.

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“Wait…Am I Supposed to Tip in Vietnam?”

Currency of Vietnam

Vietnamese money may get confusing with all of the 0's. Just think of VND 20,000 = about $1.00 USD for quick conversions

We often get asked about tipping in Vietnam. Tipping is one of those things that varies from country to country, and often travelers can get confused on the subject of tipping. So we are here to help clear that up. Frequently, people receive completely different answers to this question.

Here are the most common occurrences when someone may ask themselves, “Should I leave a tip?” and how to properly respond.

 

Taxis:

In some countries, like the United States, it is considered rude to not leave a tip for a taxi driver. In Vietnam, it isn’t required and a driver will not be insulted if you do not tip. However, if your taxi fare is, for example, VND 90,000 then it is normal to give VND 100,000 and tell them to keep the change.

 

Restaurants:

Vietnam is pretty famous for its delicious street food. Some of the best food can be found at street food stops. It is not typical to tip at these street food stops, unless you are really impressed by the food or service. If you are very impressed, VND 20,000 is a good tip!

Fancier restaurants get more confusing. Nicer restaurants almost always include a service charge of around 10%. Although you may think this goes directly to your server, it doesn’t always reach their pockets. The management may divide this up and the servers end up getting a smaller cut than you expect. If you receive outstanding service it is typical to leave an extra tip of VND 100,000/person. (When dealing with higher priced services in general, if you are really impressed then use the easy rule of thumb to leave a tip of VND 100,000/person. So when in doubt, just refer back to this as a pricing point.)

 

Spas:

Ahh… the spa. Spas are considerably cheaper in Vietnam than countries like Australia, Canada, the United States, or in Europe. So it’s understandable that when people go to the spa they become unsure of proper tipping etiquette. For cheaper spas, a few dollars is appropriate. Similarly to restaurants, the nicer spas will include a service charge of 5-10%. Again, like most situations in Vietnam, if you truly had an outstanding experience it is appropriate to add a little extra tip!

 

Tour Guides: (We are a tour company… so can’t dodge this part!)

For day tours, use the rule of thumb! VND 100,000 is typical if you are pleased with your tour. If you have a great tour guide and driver then let them know! Usually when giving the tip, just give the amount to the tour guide and they will divide it out amongst the driver(s) and themselves.

As many people know, Vietnam is a developing economy. This means that many people do not receive high wages. When they receive tips, it is greatly appreciated. However, tips should always reflect their level of service!

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Smash ‘N’ Grab – Rice Crackers In Hoi An

The humble rice cracker graces many a low plastic table in Vietnam, and is quite the accompaniment to many dishes across the country for the cuisine embraces textures, of which ‘crunchy’ plays a big part. The Vietnamese equivalent of the famous Indian poppadum is an incredibly popular snack across the country, and each region has it’s own version and Hoi An is no exception.

We pay a visit Mrs Linh and her family on our Countryside & Islands Experience’ tour, where we can all have a go at making the perfect rice cracker – it’s trickier than it looks, and is incredibly hot work in steam room-like temperatures!

Most producers will be local families that grow their own rice on land allocated to them by the local commune which yields two harvests per year, usually one in April/May and one in September – weather dependent. After the back breaking graft of growing, cultivating and then the harvesting the rice, they have their own supply.

The process involves taking the grains of rice, mixing with water and grinding into a batter-like paste. Until recently, this was done on a traditional stone rice grinder, however Mrs Linh now has the relative luxury of an electric grinder. To this, Mrs Linh will now add sesame seeds to her recipe, to make the ‘banh trang me

The paste is now ready to be transformed! The rice husks (nothing here goes to waste) are used to fire a clay stove, in which a pot of water is placed, brought to the boil. A piece of muslin is stretched over the pot, and the rice paste is ladled on to the material, spread out evenly into the traditional circular shape, covered and steamed for about 30 seconds. After which, the freshly steamed jelly like circle is laid onto netting (stretched over a bamboo frame) and will be dried in the hot sunshine for about 3 hours.

So to the final process, the dried rice crackers are then char grilled on either side, where they slowly form the crispy texture we are all familiar with.

Luckily, Mrs Linh has the finished article on hand to sample, which is crafted into Banh Dap. This literally means ‘smashed cake’. Two crispy rice crackers sandwich a large flat and wet (fresh) rice noodle, and they are literally ‘smashed’ into smaller bite size pieces.  Dipped into a fish sauce with garlic and chilli, they are delicious and very more-ish.

To book our ‘Countryside & Islands Experience’ tour with us at Vietnam Vespa Adventures: 

Online at http://vietnamvespaadventures.com/category/our-tours/

Email us: info@vietnamvespaadventures.com or lets@ridevespas.com

Call us: 01222 993 585 or 0938 500 997

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Hoi An Full Moon Festival Dates

Every month in Hoi An, on the 14th day of the lunar calendar, Hoi An celebrates the full moon with locals placing offerings on their ancestral shrines and burning incense.

Tomorrow will take at extra special significance as this is Tet Trung Thu (Mid Autumn Festival) Local kids form groups and perform incredible Lion Dances in elaborate costumes in the streets of Hoi An before and during the festival. These ‘lions’ will also go into shops and homes and start dancing as a blessing of luck and fortune. It is customary for locals to give ‘lucky money’. It is primarily a festival for children who receive toys, fruit and especially moon-shaped cakes as gifts.

Our night tour: the ‘Streets & Eats Of Hoi An‘ runs every night starting at 5:30pm and we zip along the streets and quieter alleyways on our vintage Vespas just outside the old quarter, stopping frequently to try some incredible local dishes in some fantastic eating spots and restaurants.

To book your tour, please go to http://vietnamvespaadventures.com/category/our-tours/

The Hoi An Full Moon Festival dates for the next 3 months are:

7th September 2014

7th October 2014

6th November 2014

5th December 2014

 

 

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Rice Harvest Time In Hoi An

The last rice harvest of the year has just started in Hoi An, and will continue for the next few weeks. If you book either of our two half day tours in Hoi An, the ‘Countryside & Islands Experience‘ or the ‘Rural Village Experience‘ – you will be able to witness the locals in action! Not only can you see the age old manual processes involved in harvesting the rice, this is a fantastic photo opportunity! Swathes of stunning golden brown rice crops as far as the eye can see, and the locals working away in the rice paddie fields, ready to flash a smile for the cameras!

To book your tour, please click here: http://vietnamvespaadventures.com/category/our-tours/

Or contact us:
email: info@vietnamvespaadventures.com or call: 0907 722 681 or come into our new Cafe Zoom in Hoi An at 134, Tran Cao Van St.

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Our Favourite Clams In Hoi An

The seafood in Hoi An is legendary – and we believe we have found the best clams in Vietnam!

To taste them for yourself, while taking in the stunning view out to The East Vietnam Sea, book on our morning tour around Hoi An – the ‘Countryside & Islands Experience’ where we finish off with a delicious seafood lunch at one of Hoi An’s quieter beaches.

To book, please visit: http://vietnamvespaadventures.com/category/our-tours/ or call: =84 (0)907 933 855

 

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Day Tours Around Hoi An

Exhilarating! 

Please click http://youtu.be/0x1W0vX93Lo to see a short video clip of our tour in Hoi An – riding through the dirt tracks around Hoi An.

One of our favourite roads in Hoi An

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New Tours In Hoi An

Our new tours in Hoi An and now up and running! Let us take you out and explore the stunning countryside around Hoi An on one of our two amazing half day tours, or our fabulous night tour, taking in the local street food scene of Hoi An.

To book your tour, please contact us:

email: info@vietnamvespaadventures.com or call: 0907 722 681 or come into our new Cafe Zoom in Hoi An at 134, Tran Cao Van St.