Tea time: Trà Viêt Tea, Vietnam

Trà Viêt Tea
http://www.traviet.com/en/

I’m usually pretty consistent with my Monday morning blog posts, so big apologies for missing yesterday – unfortunately, being knocked out with a migraine most of Sunday wasn’t real conductive to blogging time! It did make for a good excuse to rest and drink tea, though, so I thought that’s what I’d post about this morning – my favourite green tea purchased from Vietnam 🙂 Someone asked me after I got back from Vietnam if I did much shopping and what I bought over there. When I told them I’d pretty much just bought a whole lot of tea, they looked a little perplexed; what they didn’t know was that tea has been my souvenir of choice for a few years now.

It’s incredible how making and sipping on a pot of tea you’ve made with tea leaves you bought in a market in Chicago or on the side of a street in Hoi An or at a cute little café in New York can bring all of those good holiday memories and feels flooding right back 🙂 So, when I spotted the little Trà Viêt tea stall set up on the street in Hoi An, I was like a moth to the flame.

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This lovely lady kindly let me choose a variety of tea to try, and took us through a little tea ceremony, demonstrating exactly how to brew the tea I’d chosen – a pandan ginseng green tea. Turns out that the best way to brew this particular one is to add the leaves into the pot, and fill with water at around 80°C (or, roughly 1 part cold water to 4 parts boiling). Pour the water out immediately, and refill the pot again, steeping the leaves for no more than a minute.

You get an utterly delicious green tea with that distinct pandan flavour (which I absolutely LOVE!) – it’s the perfect morning pot of tea, and I do try to make time most weekends to slow down and enjoy a pot (or two) before I get going – you can easily get two or three infusions from these leaves, too, which makes them even more perfect for me 🙂

Trà Viêt is quite popular in Vietnam, and sold all around the country; I’ve been trying to source a website that sells it online, too, and the closest I’ve been able to find is here, although they don’t ship everywhere… I plan to email Trà Viêt directly when I’m close to running out and checking if they can post me some more! Otherwise, another trip to Vietnam wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing… If you have a visit coming up, though, I’d recommend a tea stop with them – they have a pretty big range, and you can always ask for a demonstration so you can learn the proper way to brew your tea

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Eat here: Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant, Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant
119-121 Nguyễn Thái Học, Minh An, tp. Hội An
http://www.hoiansakura.com/

Back to Vietnam this morning, to one of the most brilliant restaurant experiences I’ve ever had. On the banks of Hoi An’s Thu Bon River stands a beautiful, golden building. It’s clearly been there for a while, with the peeling and faded yellow paint and those little signs of decay that make buildings like this look so perfect. I would have thought a building like this would house a crappy, touristy restaurant, with a Vietnamese-by-numbers menu and overpriced seafood, but the sight of that little terrace overlooking the river and street below was too much, and we decided to treat ourselves to a “fancy” dinner one night.

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Long story short, great decision. The service was amazing from the moment we stepped up past the entry threshold – the Vietnamese are so friendly and genuine, you never feel like an imposition or that they’re only being nice because they’re employed to do so. Seated up on the terrace, we had the perfect view. And the menu was phenomenal… We over-ordered, obviously, but really couldn’t help ourselves!

White rose dumplings topped with fried shallots and dipping sauce.
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Mixed appetizer platter.
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DIY rice paper rolls with grilled pork skewers, bahn cuon, and salad. We thankfully got a quick crash course in the proper way to layer and wrap these, and they were great!
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Duck salad. This was amazing! So fresh, perfect mid-meal palate cleanser, but it would have made a perfect meal on its own, too.
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Husband’s choice – beef noodles with veggies. He loved it.
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And my choice – prawns cooked in coconut milk. This was magic, pure and simple. The best seafood dish I have ever eaten, my goodness it was good!
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Plus a few beers for husband, and a few coconut waters for me, I think we paid around AUD$60.00 for all of that… we couldn’t believe it! The prices was ridiculously cheap for the amount and quality of the food we had, the view was the best in the city, the service was wonderful, and it was the perfect dinner experience. Don’t let appearances deceive you – add it to the list of places to eat at in Hoi An. And ask for a terrace table!

Through my eyes: Faces of Hoi An (part 2)

This lady was set up in the little shade those trees provided, selling cold drinks. The heat of the sun was extraordinary that day, and it wasn’t just me feeling it – we walked by just as she took a cold drink for herself.
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These guys were leaving school for the day; they were among the last out of the blue gates, making their way down the street. On either side of the school gates were street food stalls set up, and groups of the older children congregated there for something to eat, while the younger ones seemed to just head straight off home.
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This lady was among the fray in the market. With sections for seafood, meat, herbs, spices, noodles, eggs, and whatever else was left to throw together, describing it as chaotic would be an understatement. But this lady just sat there, quietly tending to her baskets of fish…
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We’d seen this dog wondering around for a few days, easily recognisable by its beautiful face and little white socks. This particular day, it was the beautiful turquoise colour of the shop front that caught my eye first, and then I noticed these guys just sitting together, watching the world go by.
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If this wasn’t the most beautiful little face I saw in Hoi An, then I just don’t know! We were wandering around the marketplace just on closing time, and made our way up the stairs and onto the balcony over looking the street below. We saw a little rooftop courtyard where this little girl was playing, alone. Singing and dancing and giggling and moving rocks and leaves around on the floor into patterns. I took a photo from where I was standing on the stairs on the way back down when she saw me, ran over and smiled. Children are amazing; they don’t see colour or race, they just see someone to smile and wave at 🙂
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Through my eyes: Faces of Hoi An (part 1)

The people in Hoi An are some of the loveliest I’ve ever met. Though there was often a language barrier to overcome, they still made an effort to understand and be understood. They were happy to joke and barter with us in the market place, explain the different teas and coffees on offer at the tea houses, and apologised when they didn’t understand our questions – not that it could possibly be their fault that we had come to their country unable to speak their language!

Some of my favourites photos from the trip were of the people; so much so that this is a two-parter. Let me start to introduce you to some of the faces and souls that make up Hoi An…

 

This older woman was slowly pacing around the market place, utterly oblivious to everything going on around her. Including the speeding motor bikes, almost stopping my heart several times.
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We watched this beautiful lady from the porch seats of the Hoi An Roastery coffee shop. She was sitting there with a dreamy look in her eyes, until the family dog came out to investigate. Look to the balcony above her head and you’ll see it; apparently pup was unhappy with the goings on outside, and made it known very loudly. Not long after this photo was taken, the lady left her post and soon later appeared on the balcony, at which point pup was unceremoniously thrown inside.
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I was actually trying to take a photo of the stunning building that houses the Sakura Restaurant and divides the street, but this lady was shooting for a photobomb. When husband pointed that out, I told her to smile and I’d take her photo instead, and smile she did 🙂
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We had the most amazing cao lau here! The lady on the left in the polka dot top is Bee and she runs the show like an absolute boss. Watching her make food, greet and seat guests, collect money and tidy up was  street choreography at its best. Later that night, I drew up the scene in watercolour, and showed her the next night when we went back for dinner; the squeal of excitement she let out and the way her eyes lit up as she grabbed my notebook from me to show her friend was pure magic, and one of those moments I’ll never forget.
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And this lady we visited for donuts. She just calmly cooked her donuts in the tiny little vat of boiling oil in the middle of her cart, amidst the mayhem of the night, and looked like nothing could possibly disturb her zen…
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Through my eyes: The Yellow City of Hoi An

I read an article on Singapore Airline’s inflight magazine, SilverKris on our way to Vietnam; it featured some stunning photos by a photographer whose name I can’t now recall of Hoi An. He decided to base his photo series on the beautiful yellow shades of the city, which you can’t believe the brilliance of if you’ve never seen them.

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I may not be a professional photographer, but I know beauty when I see it, and did my best to capture the golden city through my own eyes (and watercolours)…

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This is Saigon

It’s always hard to know where to start back after a break…

We had an amazing time in Vietnam; it felt so good to be back in a place I loved so much the first time around! We had 2 weeks over there, with our time split between Saigon, Hoi An and Hanoi. I have plenty to write about, and lots of gorgeous shots to show you.

For now, though, I wanted to just share this one image. One of my favourites from the trip. The one that sums up Saigon perfectly for me. It’s a city that’s both laid back and lazy, and frenetic and fast paced. People seem to be either rushing around, hellbent on getting to wherever they’re going right now, or sitting back and watching the world go by without a care in the world. One of the many reasons why I love this city ever so much…

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2016 travels // trip three: Vietnam

 

Here we go again!!

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So far in 2016, we’ve had…
trip one: Tasmania in March
– trip two: a quick few days on the Gold Coast with family in May
– trip three: we’re off to Vietnam tonight!

 

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I had such an amazing time with my sister when we went there two years ago, and I haven’t stopped talking or thinking about it since. Husband decided he wanted in, too, so last year on my birthday, we booked some flights. What better birthday present to give yourself than another adventure?!

Much like my sister, I felt a pretty strong connection with Vietnam from the moment we touched down, which I can’t really explain. The crowds of people didn’t make me as anxious as I’d usually get; I actually felt completely at easy melting in with the masses. I had time to stop and notice the little things – things like families sitting on low plastic stools in an alleyway slurping their noodles and baskets full of fresh green herbs on tables by the side of the road. It was a busy place, but it was so easy to slow down in.

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I’m so excited to get back to this incredible country; the blog will be a bit quiet over the next few weeks, but if you’d like to come along with us, you can follow the adventure on Instagram at @the.life.of.j – see you over there!