Cruising the Coast: The Top 5 Best Beach Destinations in Vietnam

CNN.com recently published an article about the best beaches in the world, and we are happy to report that two of Vietnam’s beaches made it on to the list!  However, we feel that more than two of Vietnam’s beaches have world-class standing.  With more than 3400 km of ocean coastline and remote islands galore, the list of beautiful beaches in this country could go on for a while.  In addition to the Vietnam travel tips we’ve provided in previous blogs, here is our take on the top 5 beach destinations in Vietnam.

PHU QUOC ISLAND

phu quoc

Phu Quoc is a small island off the southern tip of Vietnam, close to the shoreline of Cambodia.  Historically a collection of fishing villages on the island, the shores are slowly becoming filled with hotels and resorts.  The demand for accommodations and restaurants has grown tremendously in the past few years but the island has still retained its rustic charm.  Dirt roads, small beach side restaurants serving grilled seafood right on the white sand, and undiscovered sapphire blue waters are just some of what you will get to experience in Phu Quoc.  But hurry – the new international airport just opened in August to serve flights from Singapore and nearby Southeast Asian countries.   Many have touted Phu Quoc to be the next Phuket!

When you are in Phu Quoc, check out Long Beach where a lot of the development is.  Long Beach is actually the first beach in Vietnam to be featured on CNN.com’s list!  If you are more adventurous, you can rent a motorcycle and go to the other side of the island to the breathtakingly beautiful Bai Sao beach.  Bai Sao is very popular among Vietnamese tourists so it’s entirely possible that you will see hundreds of people there if you go during domestic tourism season, but fear not!  Just walk a little farther past the rocks to find a deserted beach spot for yourself!

NHA TRANG

nhatrang

Nha Trang is the most popular tourist beach destination in Vietnam and definitely the most developed in terms of accommodations, restaurants, and nightlife.  It is also one of the premier destinations in Vietnam for scuba diving and snorkeling!  The water doesn’t have the aqua blue tinge like the beaches in Phu Quoc but the main beach at Nha Trang seems to stretch on for kilometers with no end in sight – just clear waters and sand as far as your eyes can see!

This beach is so popular that direct flights run from Nha Trang to Moscow!  Since this beach city is so frequented, it’s important to know that if you want quiet time on the beach, you will have to venture out a little farther than the main strip.  You can rent a taxi or motorcycle and go towards the Cam Ranh Airport to the Bai Dai beach for a more serene atmosphere.  If you want to stay where all the action is, keep in mind that the beach will become packed with tourists in the late morning and early afternoon so for some peace and quiet, visit the beach in the early morning and enjoy the sunrise!  Remember that Nha Trang faces the east so the only time to see the sun along the horizon is during sunrise.

MUI NE

mui ne

In the last several years, Mui Ne has seen rapid development.  Although it is hardly the bustling beach city that Nha Trang is, Mui Ne has a litte bit of everything – great restaurants, nightclubs and a beautiful shoreline!  What’s more, Mui Ne is the water sports capital of Vietnam!  Scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, and kiteboarding are just some of the activities you can enjoy in Mui Ne and many outfitters are well set up for it.

Most resorts and hotels are directly adjacent to the beach but recently many hotels have been built across the street from the main strip.  Although they are generally cheaper, be aware that the hotels on the beach side may not allow you beach access.  Due to the varying water levels and changing shorelines, it’s entirely possible that you won’t have a sandy beach to sit on as the shoreline will come right up to the resort’s concrete barrier.  But, many hotels on the beach side have started to build artificial sand beaches and infinity pools to compensate.  Nevertheless, the sound of the breakwater hitting the concrete is just as soothing sometimes! And if you miss the sand, you can always visit the two big sand dune areas in Mui Ne, the red sand dunes and the white sand dunes.

DA NANG AND HOI AN

da nang

The area near Da Nang has long held a special place in the country’s history.  It was a very important military base town during the war and the remnants are still seen today!  One of the most famous beaches in the area, China Beach, served as the military base during the war.  Now, with just a few guesthouses, eateries, and war memorabilia, China Beach is one of the most pristine beaches in Da Nang – a must see!  Da Nang also has some of the swankiest resorts in Vietnam.  If you’re looking for an all-inclusive type experience with all you can eat and drink deals and massages all day, Da Nang is the place to go.

That being said, Da Nang can be appealing to backpackers as well because there are parts of the beach line that are still undeveloped.  Alternatively, you can take a taxi or hire a car and go to Hoi An.  Hoi An is a very well preserved ‘old town’ type city just 40 minutes outside of Da Nang.  Its charming and quaint atmosphere is sure to impress all types of travelers and since it is also along the ocean, it has a beautiful beach area just a short motorbike ride away.  In fact, An Bang beach in Hoi An was named in CNN.com’s best beaches in the world!  An Bang beach has just enough restaurants and bars where you can sit on the beach and drink a cold beer but not so many that it starts looking like a resort town.  It’s just as charming as its parent city, Hoi An!

CAT BA ISLAND AND LAN HA BAY

cat ba beach

Lan Ha Bay is essentially an extension of Ha Long Bay off the coast of Haiphong city.  This lesser known bay is really popular among local tourists in the summer months of July and August and its most famous beach on Cat Ba island is completely packed with people!  This effect is even more apparent because the beach itself isn’t very big.  However, if you find a quiet time to go, Cat Ba beach is quite easily one of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam.  Imagine white sand under your toes, turquoise water and limestone formations in the horizon.  It’s very awe-inspiring and something right out of a magazine!

As it is just a small and scarcely developed island, you may find it hard to do any activities besides enjoying the beach.  But, this area of Vietnam is a mecca for rock climbers and the town on the island is well set up to lead tours around the bay.  You can also rent kayaks and boat around the islands to find your own private beach!  You may even spot some squatters living within the caves of the rock formations – apparently, there are 700 people living either on their boats or in the caves in the Ha Long Bay/Lan Ha Bay region!  It’s quite the sight.  🙂

 

We hope you make it to the beach during your trip to Vietnam!  For more Vietnam travel tips, visit our blog at www.xotours.vn/blog.

 

Shallow Pockets: Traveling Vietnam on a budget

Vietnam is one of the most popular budget travel destinations in the world.  Although one can have a very lavish vacation in Vietnam, it is still quite easy to travel on a tight budget.  The easiest way to travel frugally is to know how and where to find the bargains!

Food and Drink

Relatively speaking, food in Vietnam is cheap, especially if you avoid expensive restaurants which are generally targeted towards tourists.  One of the cheapest meals you can find is banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich).  They are filling, non-fussy, and tasty!  Another budget food option is to visit a Com Binh Dan – a type of street food establishment with a wide array of dishes.  For less than 50000 VND, you can have a hearty and authentic lunch.  Less than $2 will also get you a hot bowl of pho, a cold glass of Vietnamese iced coffee or fresh cut fruit at the market!  The great thing about eating on a budget in Vietnam is that you don’t sacrifice taste and quality.  If you’re looking for cheap international eats, the backpackers’ area of Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi is the place to go.  Many small establishments and restaurants cater to the tourist crowd and provide no-fuss basic international meals at a very low price.

A streetside food joint, a Com Binh Danh is a popular lunch place for locals.  Look for a place that is packed with people, indicating that the food turn over might be high!

A streetside food joint, a Com Binh Danh is a popular lunch place for locals. Look for a place that is packed with people, indicating that the food turn over might be high!

When purchasing bottles of water, try to buy them at small stores or stands.  Bottles of water at hotels or restaurants can be very expensive.  Another cheap option to hydrate yourself at a restaurant is to order tra da, or iced tea.  It’s very refreshing on hot days and usually safe.  A glass of tea will cost much less than bottled water.  Although alcohol is very expensive in Vietnam, beer and vodka is quite cheap!  Beer costs less than what it would cost in the US or Australia – $0.50USD can buy you a big bottle of beer!  Even some imported beers are inexpensive.  As a contrast, wine is incredibly expensive as Vietnam is not known for producing wine.  Most wines are imported into the country primarily for tourist consumption so the markup is very high.

Transportation

It is common knowledge that planes will be more costly than buses and trains but if time is of short supply and if there are many destinations on your travel schedule, planes may be the best option for you.  Vietnam Airlines is the national airline company and although they have seat sales sometimes, they are not a budget airline.  That being said, Vietnam Airlines offers huge discounts if you book tickets during the last five days of every month (you don’t have to travel on the last five days, just book them when the discount is offered).  Alternatively, Air Asia flies to many destinations in Vietnam and is a pocket-friendly airline.  During busy season to a popular destination, we have found that there is little difference in price between the two airlines.  In these cases, and if demand for seats is high, booking early can sometimes be beneficial as prices may increase closer to the flight date.

For those with more time to travel by ground transportation, open tour buses are an excellent way to get from one destination to another.  Open tour buses are those that operate independent of an organized tour.  They are, by far, the cheapest way to travel longer distances in Vietnam.  For instance, you can take a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne (a 4-7 hour drive) for $6USD.  Or, for around $50-60, you can stop at multiple destinations along your journey and stay as long as you want (as long as you give 24 hours notification before boarding the next bus).  There are many different companies that operate long distance buses – the tickets can be booked at a travel agency or at the actual company’s office.  In the backpackers’ areas, the offices are lined up one after the other.  The buses are assigned seating so it may be a good idea to get tickets early in order to get a seat that you want.  Trains are also a popular mode of transportation for long voyages.  On one train, Vietnam Rail operates the majority of the cars but many other private companies operate tourist cars on the same train.  The private companies are targeted towards tourists but Vietnam Rail cars are generally $7-10 cheaper than the tourist cars.  To save money, you can travel on night buses or trains and save a night’s accomodation!

While in the city, the choices for transportation are the city bus, xe om (motorbike taxis) and taxi.  City bus is generally the cheapest but certain places in the city can be less accessible.  Taxi fares in the city are relatively high and it can add up quickly!  A practical and economical alternative to the city bus and taxi is the xe om, which translates literally to ‘hug taxi’.   A xe om is easily identified – you will see many people waiting on their bikes on street corners looking to give a lift to a tourist.  They can be quite cheap assuming you will negotiate a price down.  Of course the price depends on where you want to go, but if you are going from one place to another in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, a xe om should cost you no more than 20,000 VND.  As a comparison, a short taxi ride within District 1 may be roughly 30,000 VND.  If you want to venture into some of the other districts that are farther away, hiring a xe om is not only more economical but also a great way to experience the city!

Xe om drivers are found everywhere and are generally eager to give you a ride, if they aren't taking an afternoon nap... :)

Xe om drivers are found everywhere and are generally eager to give you a ride, if they aren’t taking an afternoon nap… 🙂

Lodging

Budget lodging options are plentiful in Vietnam!  In the cities, many of the tall and narrow homes have been converted to guest houses or small hotels.  Although there is quite a range in price from city to city, it’s very easy to find a room for $10-30 a night.  Most will also have some sort of included breakfast – eggs, pancakes, bread, butter, tea, coffee, juice and more!  Finding a hotel with an included meal may save a lot of money in the grand scheme of things.

Many of the tall narrow houses in Vietnam have been converted into hostels or budget hotels.

Many of the tall narrow houses in Vietnam have been converted into hostels or budget hotels.

Homestays have become an increasingly popular form of lodging, especially in the smaller towns in Vietnam.  Not only are they budget-friendly, it’s a great way to understand a little bit about daily life in Vietnam.  Most homestays are booked through travel agencies, except for tourist villages like Sapa where you can walk up to the many homestays advertised.  In Vietnam, one requires a license to host travelers in their home.  Homestays turn out to be an excellent bargain!  Meals are also often included and although they are not fancy, they are usually more than sufficient.  We recommend buying water and any other drinks that you might need beforehand at a store or street vendor rather than at the homestay – the markup for bottled water is very high.

Another type of lodging option that may be of interest to you is ‘couchsurfing’.  This phenomenon has been a part of Vietnam travel for a long time and is becoming increasingly popular among backpackers in the country.  If you are not familiar with that term, couchsurfing is a means for people with homes (and couches) to connect with travelers who need a place to crash.  The biggest appeal of couchsurfing – it’s free!  If you are traveling on a really tight budget, we recommend that you check this service out (www.couchsurfing.org).

Activities and Shopping

Activities and attractions are usually the biggest expenses during your stay in Vietnam.  Places like the Cu Chi tunnels or various monuments can charge an entrance fee and if these are places you’d like to visit, there isn’t much you can do about it.  If you are fond of tours or attractions while traveling, we recommend factoring this into your budget.  It can be an excellent way to understand the culture and you can trim your expenses in other ways.

When shopping for souvenirs or goods, avoid tourist markets like Ben Thanh Market.  It’s very tempting to shop in such places because of the convenience.  But simply go outside and visit the street vendors.  The prices are much lower and they are more open to bargaining.  If you are able to, visit Cho Lon market in District 5.  This is a wholesale market and you will be surprised at the price difference in goods between District 5 and District 1!

 

We hope we helped you save a litte bit of money during your time in Vietnam!  To find great shopping bargains around Ho Chi Minh City, join us on our Shopping Spree Tour!

Vintage Skyscrapers? The Evolution of the ‘Tube House’ in Vietnam

The architecture in Vietnam is heavily influenced by the cultures who have played a big role in the country’s history.  It’s difficult to miss the French-inspired homes with yellow walls and black wrought iron balconies or the Chinese style heavily ornamented pagodas.  Although these types of structures are found throughout the country, the one type of building that exemplifies iconic Vietnamese architecture is the “tube house”.

Tall and densely packed homes are very common in Vietnam.  They are colloquially referred to as 'tube houses' because of their narrow tube-like shape.

Tall and densely packed homes are very common in Vietnam. They are colloquially referred to as ‘tube houses’ because of their narrow tube-like shape.

When spending time in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you are sure to recognize these unique looking homes – usually 3+ floors, incredibly narrow and long, and packed like sardines in a can!  These homes are usually only found in cities because of high population density.  Historically, when people started migrating to the cities looking for work, land was scarce and the population was relatively high.  This is a stark difference from architecture in the countryside, where houses are wide with gardens on three sides of the building.

Why do they look like that?

The population growth in Saigon is no different than other cities where houses naturally tend to be smaller to accommodate a large number of people.  Yet, these ‘tube homes‘ are a truly unique solution to that problem.  The reason for this form of architectural design has to do with old taxation laws in the city.  When Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi started to develop, the laws were such that one would be charged property tax only on the length of the front facade of the home.  Strange as it is, the overall square footage of the home made little difference!

This style of house is not new.  In fact, it dates back to the Le Dynasty (15-18th Centuries AD) where the idea was to pack as many shops and stores on a street as possible, and merchants would use the back or upstairs area as their living quarters.  These old style merchant homes are the most well preserved in Hoi An.  The multipurpose usage of space still exists today – many of these homes use their bottommost floor as a shop of some kind.  Of course, if more living space is needed, the only way to grow is up!  And, as Vietnam has a strong culture of multi-generational families living together, 4- or 5-story homes are quite common and some can be up to 7 floors high.

Tube houses can be very tall with more than 3 floors.  It may initially seem like an apartment building but it is in fact just one house!

Tube houses can be very tall with more than 3 floors. It may initially seem like an apartment building but it is in fact just one house!

A bit of an extreme take on a narrow house, don't you think?

A bit of an extreme take on a narrow house, don’t you think?

Influence around the world?

Granted, the architecture in Vietnam is unique, but narrow homes are seen around the world.  In fact, the Philippines also has narrow homes that are only marginally different in design in comparison to the homes in Vietnam.  The State of California is also no stranger to multi-story tube homes.  San Francisco has a high urban density and some homes are generally narrower, although not as packed as in Vietnam.  New development along Santa Monica beach in California looks remarkably similar the Vietnamese tube homes, but with a bit more sophisticated flair!  Did Vietnam make them first and influence everyone else?  In comparison to the western world, Vietnam thought of the idea first of course but it’s doubtful that these homes were modeled after architecture in Vietnam.  Relative to the Philippines, it’s hard to say for sure.  Some ethnologists say ‘yes’, but many have noted that these homes in the Philippines and Vietnam came about at around the same time and perhaps influenced each other.  However, in terms of sheer number of these homes, Vietnam beats out its competition, hands down!  🙂

Tube style houses around the world - along Santa Monica beach in California and in the Philippines.  The homes in California seem to take on this shape due to land value and space constraints.  The homes in the Philippines look surprisingly similar to the tube homes in Vietnam.

Tube style houses around the world – along Santa Monica beach in California and in the Philippines. The homes in California seem to take on this shape due to land value and space constraints. The homes in the Philippines look surprisingly similar to the tube homes in Vietnam.

What’s inside?

These homes are also quite interesting in their layout.  The bottom floor is usually a shop or a reception area/garage.  Of course this is not a garage for cars but for motorbikes, the vehicle of choice in Vietnam!  The kitchen is usually at the back of the first floor or the second floor.  The floor with the main living space is also the floor for the grandparents.  The other floors are usually just bedrooms for everyone else living in the house.  The roof area, which is usually open air or partially covered, is reserved for a little garden, lounge space, exercise area and the water tank!

Here is a typical layout of a Vietnamese tube home!

The general layout of a 'tube house' in Vietnam.

The general layout of a ‘tube house’ in Vietnam.

 

We hope you enjoyed learning a bit about architecture in Vietnam!  To learn more about the architecture in Ho Chi Minh City, both old and new, join us on our XO Tours Sights Tour!

Women Travellers – Cultural Sensitivity and Safety in Vietnam

In light of recent violent acts against women around the world, we think it is only fitting that we tell you a little bit about being a woman traveler in Vietnam.  We feel that it is important to understand the rules of the game when visiting a new country because women travelers may face unique challenges.  Some major issues that concern women travelers are unwelcome attention from men, physical assault, or varying perceptions of gender roles.  Fortunately, Vietnam is a relatively safe country for women travelers as the incidence rate of violent crime is quite low.  Unlike other parts of the world, women are seldom the victims of sleazy gazes or derogatory advances.  Although there is inherent conservatism in the Vietnamese culture, women are well respected in society.

That being said, there are certain things that female travelers should keep in mind when traveling in Vietnam.  Aside from the very obvious points such as ‘don’t walk down dark alleys alone‘ and ‘don’t drink too much and let your guard down’, here are some Vietnam-specific things you should take into consideration:

1. Clothing – Although many female travellers choose to be less covered up when visiting Vietnam, it is best to be more respectfully dressed.  Vietnam is by no means a place where women have to be covered from head to toe.  In fact, local women can be quite stylish!  However, local residents are usually not skimpily dressed and travellers should follow suit.  As we said earlier, aggression or assault from men is not common here and we are not implying that a woman’s clothing choices should provoke any ill behaviour upon her but making smart clothing choices is the easiest way to not attract unwanted attention.  Additionally, women should be particularly respectful with clothing choices when visiting a pagoda or temple.  At these places of worship, short shorts, tiny skirts, low cut tops or bare shoulders are not considered appropriate attire.

2. Personal belongings – We have said this before in this blog and here we reiterate.  Please be careful of your purses, phones and jewelry.  Thieves will go to any length to snatch purses or other valuable items.  We have read all too many stories where thieves on motorcycles have tried to grab a woman’s purse and dragged the poor woman until the purse was freed from her.  If a situation such as this arises and the perpetrator is stronger than you, the last thing you want is to be physically hurt.

3. Behaviour – Vietnam is a rapidly developing country and western trends are quickly influencing both pop culture and everyday culture.  Many youngsters are seen holding hands and being affectionate.  Although holding hands is fine, other public displays of affection are not deemed respectful.  It is not advisable to kiss in public.

4. Personal Questions – In Vietnam, it is quite common to ask about the marital status of a woman.  There is also a fair chance that some lifestyle choices may not be fully understood or supported.  Many women travelers have reported that they wore a wedding band or said that they were married simply to avoid these questions.  The locals’ exposure to tourists has grown substantially over the past few years but it is possible that you will encounter some people who do not agree or understand why a woman is unmarried past a certain age or is in a common law relationship.

Another question you may encounter often is about your age.  It is very common to establish your age in comparison to the the person asking because it denotes how they address you in the Vietnamese language.  For a westerner, this notion can be a bit strange because one never asks a woman’s age unless you’ve reached a certain comfort level!  Though these questions may come across as offensive, it is not the intention.

5. Transportation – The motorcycle is definitely the vehicle of choice in Vietnam.  One form of public transportation here is the ‘xe om’, which literally means ‘hugging bike’.  Many men around the city will offer rides to tourists on the back of their motorbike for the fraction of the cost of a regular taxi.  The xe om is fast, cheap and more agile in the crazy city traffic.  Many tourists, including women, take the xe om without consequence.  Some women may have a difficult time getting on a bike with a stranger but for the most part they are safe.  The etiquette when on the bike is that if you are a woman, you can put your hands around the driver’s waist (but you may certainly ask first if it makes you feel more comfortable).  Men are to put their hands on the driver’s shoulder.  At night, however, we highly advise women to take taxis rather than xe om mainly because of the personal safety factor.  An added reason is that drinking and driving is becoming an increasing concern in Vietnam so it is more likely that taxi drivers will drive responsibly since they are actually ‘on duty’.

Female tourists do take the xe om to get around the city, but we advise this only during the day time.

Female tourists do take the xe om to get around the city, but we advise this only during the day time.

 

We wish you safe travels from XO Tours!  If you want to learn more about how we ensure safety on our tours, read about the XO Tours Accident Insurance!

Breaking Down the Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)

As a traveller in Vietnam, Banh Mi is one of the safer street foods you can enjoy (take a look at our previous blog post for more tips on food safety).  Most of the fillings are cooked, cured or pickled and there is no water involved.  Banh Mi, which is the name for both the bread and the sandwich, is also the quintessential fusion Vietnamese dish – the ingredients have roots in old Vietnam, French colonial Vietnam, and New World cuisine.  We encourage you to try this sandwich concoction in Vietnam, at least once. 🙂

banh mi sandwich

That being said, many people find the Banh Mi a little daunting because the fillings and condiments are often things that foreigners are unfamiliar with.  Vietnam is definitely a land of exotic foods and Banh Mi fillings are no different, but we want to explain all of the intricacies of the sandwich so that you know exactly what you’re ordering!

It’s All About the Bread

banh mi bread

Although they call it a baguette, it’s not your traditional French baguette.  The Vietnamese baguette is a combination of French baking and Asian baking.  The bread is baked using the classic technique, making the baguette crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  To throw in a bit of Asian flair, the Banh Mi bread is made with half wheat and half rice flour to give it that light and airy feel.  The bread is really the vessel that brings all the flavours of this sandwich together so make sure you notice and appreciate the bread when you bite into your Banh Mi!

What’s In It?

A guide to recognizing all the fillings in Banh Mi

A guide to recognizing all the fillings in Banh Mi

Here is an explanation of all the fillings you are most likely to see at the Banh Mi stand –

Cha or Cha Lua (Pork Roll) – Ground pork is rolled and packed into a banana leaf and then steamed or boiled.  The roll is then sliced before adding to the sandwich.  This is probably one of the most common Banh Mi fillings.

Thit Nguoi (Cured Cold Cuts) – The literal translation is ‘cold meat’ and that’s exactly what it is.  This is a composition of cured pork and fat and cut into class cold cut-type slices.

Gio Thu (Headcheese) – You may have noticed that pork is an extremely popular meat choice but this particular product might be very unfamiliar to you.  Headcheese is a processed product made from tendons, pig ears, skin and other pork head products.

Thit Nuong (Grilled Meat, usually Pork) – More pork!  Marinated pork is grilled and sliced thin.

Xa Xiu (BBQ Pork) – Small pieces of barbecued pork having a distinct coal smoke flavour.  The particular cut of pork varies.

Bi (Shredded Pork Skin) – This filling can be a bit dry because it’s thinly sliced pork skin.  This filling is usually combined with another product.

Xiu Mai (Meatballs) – Once again, pork. 🙂 These are spiced, ground pork meatballs and have a distinct tomato flavour.

Nem Nuong (Pork Patties) – These are also ground pork, but shaped into a patty with infused garlic flavours.

Ga Nuong (Grilled Chicken) – For those who are not a fan of pork, don’t worry – there are other options!  This is marinated and grilled chicken, usually chicken thigh.

Ca Moi (Packed Sardines) – You may notice little red coloured cans at your nearest Banh Mi stand.  These are packed sardines in a tomato sauce.  They make for a great sandwich filling but they are definitely just out of the can.

Pate – Pate is extremely popular as a Banh Mi filling and is often combined with other fillings.  It can be made from pork, duck or chicken liver.

Trung Chien or Op La (Fried Eggs) – You will see eggs at a Banh Mi stand quite often.  Banh Mi Op La is an extremely popular breakfast snack in Vietnam.

The Filler

A sandwich isn’t a sandwich without the little something extra that makes all the flavours pop!  Here is a list of classic Banh Mi condiments –

Pate – Yes, pate is also used as a condiment to moisten the sandwich.

‘Mayo’ – We put mayo in quotation marks because this isn’t Hellmann’s Mayo out of a jar (although sometimes it is, which is unfortunate).  Traditionally, the mayo used in Banh Mi is actually cut with butter to add that melty feel and nutty flavour.

Fresh Herbs – Most often, it is sprigs of cilantro but other herbs are common as well.

Pickled Vegetables – Finely shredded or julienned daikon and/or carrots are pickled in a vinegar concoction and add the perfect amount of sour punch to brighten the flavours of the sandwich.

Chillies – The slices of chillies may be thin but they are quite spicy here!

Cucumber – Self explanatory. 🙂

Soy Sauce – a little dash of it, although some drier fillings like pork skin require a bit more.  Don’t be afraid to ask for more if you think it needs it!

Bon apetit!

 

We hope you enjoyed this tip on Vietnamese food!  To learn more about how you can enjoy Vietnamese delicacies with XO Tours, check out our Foodie Tour!