Category Archives: Cambodia

Amazing street food (and restaurant) recommendations for Vietnam and Cambodia


Tuna tartar at Mie Cafe, Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of the smartest things we did during our recent Vietnam trip was to start our adventure in Hanoi with a street food tour from Australian expat expert Mark Lowerson, of Street Eats Hanoi. We spent a great morning with Mark visiting vendors we never would have found on our own, eating great food and learning about Vietnam’s food, culture and customs. It was a very helpful introduction to the country. Beyond that, Mark gave us recommendations for where to eat during our next stops in Vietnam and in Siem Reap, Cambodia — and we ate at several of them. Not a dud in the bunch. Sharing them below (I’ve put in red the ones we ate at.)

Here’s Mark’s social media:
Instagram: stickyinhanoi
Bun cha (grilled pork) – at 34 Hang Than, slightly north of the old quarter just beyond the old water tower. Get there for an early-ish lunch, at 12 but they’ll still be serving at 2.30ish:
Pho Ga – 42 Quan Thanh St –  v good chicken pho, mornings and evenings, also just north of the old quarter, near the old water tower  – right near your hotel!
Pho Suong – Trung Yen Alley – beef noodle soup at the start of the alley – mornings and evenings 
Bun rieu (crab broth noodles) – 11 Hang Bac, 7am-2pm.
A great coffee shop where they do this amazing special, yoghurt coffee (and you can also buy beans/ground coffee) is called Cafe Duy Tri at 43 Pho Yen Phu – a tiny narrow building in West Lake District. They have a menu in English, too. Go in, order from the little yellow menu and then go sit upstairs somewhere – second or third floor. 
Egg Coffee at Cafe Định – 13 Dinh Tien Hoang St. through a little tiled passageway and up a set of dodgy steps to an iconic Hanoi coffee house 
You can buy really good coffee at Oriberry in Au Trieu St near St Joseph’s cathedral in the Old Quarter – in the street which runs along the right of the church.

Cha ca Thang Long – Hanoi’s grill your own fish dish

State Run Food Shop 37

Excellent French: La Badiane
Excellent pizza: Pizza 4Ps

Drinks with a view at The Summit, located at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

A cocktail bar – Unicorn Pub 2A, at 

The Pasteur Street Brewery at 1 Au Trieu behind the cathedral is a great Saigon outfit which just opened here…out on West Lake there is a great one called Turtle Tower, too – v nice setting on the water.Glass of wine: Tannin Wine Bar in Hàng Vai – great happy hour 4-7pm

In HUE, one VERY GOOD street food recommendation – go here: Bun thit nuong Huyen Anh (grilled pork with noodles and herbs – lunch only): Address: 52/1 Kim Long – a km or so out of town along the river – VERY worth the taxi ride! ❤

Bà Đỏ restaurant – 8 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm St
Nu Eatery, 10 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai is great!!!! (reservation required – don’t be late!)

Com ga (chicken rice) Ba Buoi 22 Phan Chau Trinh

Banh beo (Hue style rice flour cake w/pork/prawn) opposite1 Hoang Van Thu

Banh Mi Khanh (Vietnamese sandwich)

115 Tran Cao Van
Ms Ly Restaurant22 Nguyen Hue (warning: can be crowded with long waits)
A tailor in Hoi An – tell them Mark and Tu sent you:
Sunny  – 9 Tran Phu St
If you’d like a similar experience in Siem Reap, our friends Lina and Steven run food tours there. All the info is here:

Our favorite restaurants in Siem Reap: Chanrea Dom Makara, Cuisine Wat Damnak (v special  –  must make a reservation – very difficult to get in at short notice!) and Mie Cafe.



Grilled pork and clams at Quan Loan, HCM City

– Quan Loan – cooked to order local food, really delicious – Cnr Hai Ba Trung St and Ly Tu Trong St

– a couple of good local restaurants:
The Secret Garden – in a little lane at 158 Duong Pasteur – great home-style cooking in a very cool setting on the rooftop of an old apartment building. I love this place! ❤

Secret Cottage – through a bag/basket shop and upstairs at 12 Nguyen Thiep St

Also great cafe/shop called L’usine – 1st fl 151 Dong Khoi – but hidden in the back through a painting shop.

Great speakeasy bars:
Drinking and Healing – 25 Ho Tung Mau St
Snuffbox – 14 Tom That Dam St
And don’t forget the great craft beer place Pasteur St Brewing Company


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Kandal village, mie cafe, Vietnam Air, VISA reflections — Siem Reap

Tuk Tuk ride to town

Playing catch-up here, two days after we left Cambodia. We decided to kick around Siem Reap on our last day. We walked around the small rural village that is outside the gates of our resort and as expected, it is poor. Little kids yelled hello to us, taking a break from playing in a rough looking pond. Some houses were fixed up, wood, with metal roofs on stilts. We later learned that the liquor bottles filled with yellow liquid displayed in front tiny shops are not full of liquor but instead gasoline, so people don’t have to trek into town on the deeply rutted red dirt roads to the gas station. We also noticed fancy modern apartments being built in a grassy field near grazing cattle but learned they are not for people in the village.

Sojourn Boutique Villas is apparently designed to help ameliorate some of the poverty by hiring local villagers. (Thx to my London friend Carole for recommending this place and other great suggestions in Vietnam, which I consulted frequently.) The women working at the hotel, who were incredibly sweet, are from the village and have worked at the resort for several years, we were told by a Chinese man who appeared to be the manager. Our tuk-tuk driver Bros lives in a nearby village, is 38, married and has an 11-year-old son. His wife works in a local supermarket and starts work at 5:30 a.m.

Bros drove us to Kandal Village, a one block stretch of nice shops — some way too expensive for us, with designer clothing and jewelry but fun to see what people are making and selling (or trying to sell). Lunch was at another Hanoi Mark find, Mie Cafe, a white tablecloth fusion restaurant with grey poured concrete walls and a lovely landscaped courtyard. We had the best tuna tartar I’ve ever tasted, big chunks of tuna, little pieces of avocado and mango, followed by a very light green curry and a beef or pork dish (I’ve already forgotten but it was all excellent.) Dessert was a refreshing , palate-cleansing frozen lime pie that reminded me of a hard key lime pie. Delicious. Desserts aren’t common in these parts, except at fancy restaurants., although in Vietnam I do see creme caramel being sold by street vendors. It’s inot refrigerated so I haven’t tried but I did try it when it was served for breakfast at our Hanoi hotel) and French pastry shops in Saigon with real-deal looking croissants. It’s hard not to be obsessed about the food in these parts.

Our Vietnam Airways flight to HCM City/Saigon was a quick 45 minutes and uneventful. I probably could have bought the less expensive Cambodian Angkor Air flight back to HCM City but at the time, I worried about that airline’s reliability and wanted to make sure we got back to Vietnam for our return trip home in a few days. 😢

The Cambodian visa I bought online in advance worked fine. There were a few peculiarities. We had to fill out a customs form and submit it when we arrived even though we had nothing to declare. And we were instructed to print two copies of the visa (to hand in when we arrived and left) but the second one was never collected. Speaking of visas, all my angst about the Vietnam visas was for naught. Our multi-entry visa bought in advance worked fine (it should…it was pricey). I did see “visa at arrival” signs when we arrived in Vietnam and Cambodia but was glad we didn’t have to deal with that — especially when we first arrived in Vietnam and were exhausted after almost 24 hours of travel. Last thing we needed was another line to stand in.  I was struck by the stone cold expressions of the immigration officials, especially in Vietnam. These guys are never welcoming but still…such a contrast with the warmth of the people we met after clearing immigration.  Also was very glad that I arranged pickups at the airport for 4 hotels…it made a huge difference not having to hire a cab or figure out where our hotels are located (we tend to pick hotels in out of the way locations).

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Angkor Wat/Thom, Sojourn boutique Villas, Cuisine Wat Damnat — Siem Reap, Cambodia

We arrived at the lovely secluded Sojourn Boutique Villas in the rural countryside outside Siem Reap at about 9:30 pm, tired after a 2 hour flight from DaNang. Cambodia (or at least this part of it) feels less developed and prosperous than the big and touristed Vietnamese cities we have visited. Even the cattle look a little scrawny. The roads are deeply rutted. The housing along the road is basic concrete and metal. As expected, the people are handsome and couldn’t be nicer.  Despite our late arrival (two men from the hotel picked us up in a worn van), the women here rustled up some delicious Cambodian food and fruit drinks (beer for Dirck) and brought it to our one-room villa (there are 9 total, my idea of a resort) where we ate outside in view of a pretty blue tiled pool shaded by many tropical trees and under the watch of one several kittens roaming around.

We left at 4:30 a.m. to visit Angkor Wat at sunrise (this was recommended in Macu Picchu too.) wise idea. one of the men who picked us up in the van appears to be our designated tuk tuk driver, a very nice young guy named Bros. The tuk tuk also reminds us of the contraptions we traveled in in Peru but more pleasant. It’s basically a two wheeled open air carriage with a roof pulled by a motorcycle. Bros sorted out our Angkor Wat game plan which we much appreciated.

View from inside and atop Angkor Wat

We went to a big building that looked like a multi plex/mall in the dark and was already packed at 5:30 am with tourists but the lines moved quickly. We bought a one day tix for $31 each (they have our photos on them) and then we tuk tuked to the Angkor archeological Park which I read is the worlds largest religious site, four times the size of the Vatican. We got to the main temple, the exotic and famous Angkor Wat as the sun was rising, making the 3 strange conical towers even more other worldly. We walked in the soon-to-be searing heat to the massive complex and wandered around, marveling at the extensive carvings in the sandstone, often of nubile young women in various poses. Wandering all the way to the top of one of the conical towers, we had One beautiful view after another of the complex, surrounded by bright green junglish vegetation. definitely not ADA assessible, with lots of big stones and steps to navigate but fairly easy assess and it was fun to largely be able to wander willy nilly.

Bros dropped us off and picked us up at various stops which was a huge help (only $25 although we paid him more) — the distances between various other temples and gates are vast. My other favorite was “the tree temple” or “jungle temple” in Angkor Thom…enormous trees with their roots curled in and around the crumbling remains of another ornately carved temple.

Words (or my words , after 6 hours of touring in heat, humidity with little sleep and initially no food) don’t do Angkor justice. There was a lot more to see but we had our fill after 6 hours.

Bros also dropped us off at an open air restaurant for breakfast in the park and kept us hydrated with cold bottled water he plucked out of a cooler under our Tuc-tuc seat (he also had frozen wet wipes — much appreciated. ) It is about 90 degrees and humid but no rain — our luck with the weather continues although we expect rain in Ho Chi Minh City.

We also had a few unexpected encounters with wild life. Dirck with a bee (no sting just a lot of buzzing) and me with a rather pushy monkey who started pulling on my trousers until I realized what was happening and shook him off. Several elephants with multiple riders atop shared the road with us. We returned about 2:30 pm to cool washcloths from the staff here, a light lunch (lemongrass shrimp skewers and a delicious salad of shredded banana leaves, other veg and slices of chicken in a tangy light sauce, a delicious mixed fruit drink.)

Then we had the pool to ourselves, mellow music, a cat or two, a few mosquitoes/flies (none in Vietnam) and one of the lovely women here brought us tall glasses of ice cold water, placing them poolside.

Crispy rice crepe with prawn, sweet corn and rice paddy herb, Makassar fruit and chili dressing at Cuisine Wat Damnak

Dinner was at the sophisticated and oft-recommended Cuisine Wat Damnak, which is in an elegant two-story house on an otherwise humble looking street. We had a choice of two tasking menus. The food was extraordinary and full of  ingredients I have never heard of, let alone am able to spell (Makassar fruit, Samai rum, fermented cabbages). The chef is French and the restaurant had several touches you’d find at restaurant in France – An amuse-Bouche with bits of dried fish in a salad and about three extra tiny after dinner treats including two little tamarind candied fruit gelee balls and a selection of tiny bits of four fruits we’d never heard of (except the green banana) served on a slate board with a streak of seasoned salt.

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Aggravation with plane tix to Vietnam and Cambodia

Hoping this is not a bad sign but man, it’s been tough getting plane tix for our trip next month to Vietnam. I was braced for issues with smaller airlines like Cambodia Angkor Air and Vietnam Airlines but not with Delta. Issues all around unfortunately.

Here’s some words to the wise:

Be patient (or have someone nearby to calm you down)

After booking online, copy whatever info (including confirmation #) pops up on the screen – because you might not get the email confirmation or tix you were promised.

Don’t trust – instead verify. For example, if Delta books you on Vietnam Airlines for the third flight of your 24-hour journey, check with Vietnam airlines to see it can give you a seat assignment – since Delta says it couldn’t do- and better yet see if they’re aware you are on their flight! (They weren’t.)

If something doesn’t seem right, it may not be right . So, for example, call back Delta  if the flight it booked you on via Vietnam Airlines doesn’t seem familiar to Vietnam Airlines.  Demand a fix! Ask for a supervisor if need be.

Be persistent. Keep holding on the line for a Korean Airline agent to pick up, even if you have to listen to excruciatingly bad tinny muzak. Someone will finally pick up. And if that agent tells you that — contrary to what Delta just told you —  they can’t assign you a seat on the Korean Air flight that Delta booked you on, call back Delta — and find another agent who WILL give you a seat assignment. (At least on one of your two Korean Air flights…)

Look in your Junk Mail/Spam – You must might find that missing e-ticket from Cambodia Angkor Air. (we did!)

Be polite. I can’t say I always managed this. But I tried.

Here’s more of the gory details:

With Delta, first they charged us twice for our tickets (once was enough) and it took me more time than it should have on the phone to confirm this and get one of the charges dropped. Then the third leg of my flight — with Vietnam Airlines, booked via Delta, got dodgy. I tried emailing the airlines to get seats and they couldn’t even acknowledge our reservation and said Delta needs to give me a Vietnam Airlines confirmation #. So back to Delta for the code (why didn’t they give it to me to begin with??) but even that didn’t work with Vietnam Airlines. So back to Delta – where I learned that our one confirmation number (for two passengers) is now two separate confirmation numbers, which is inconvenient and even Delta couldn’t explain why/how this happened — and couldn’t change it.  Back to the Vietnam Air issue,  I asked for a supervisor after the regular agent couldn’t deal. Next we were rerouted so we are now flying on Korean Airlines on the third leg. But getting seats — still not easy. Delta told me to contact Korean Airlines, which finally answered the phone and told me we were only eligible (due to the type of fare we purchased) for advance seat assignments on our outbound flight. But we have to call Delta back to get them. And miracle of miracles, after holding skeptically while the Delta agent did her thing, we did get those seat assignments. So I’m marking that off my list.

I still think it’s WRONG that U.S. airlines gladly sell us tickets on other airlines but then provide almost no help with seat assignments.  I am glad that I tried to get seat assignments on Vietnam Air because I ended up learning that they didn’t seem aware that we were on this flight. That was my fear to begin with — that we’d spend hours and hours flying from Des Moines to Minneapolis to Tokyo, only to find out the last leg of our flight to Hanoi was a no go.

Meanwhile there’s Cambodia Angkor Air, which I should have read up on more before I booked a ticket (it gets horrible reviews). I bought a tix from them for a flight from Vietnam to Cambodia on Sept. 1 and never got any email acknowledgement. I’m glad I at least copied the information that popped up on the computer screen after I booked the flight so I have some confirmation but the confirmation number seems to mean nothing. I looked online and I was supposed to get an e-tix within 24 hours of purchase. Five days have passed and no e-tix. We did check to see that the charge cleared on our credit card bill — but only yesterday so maybe that’s the issue. Reaching them seems nearly impossible – no phone. Dodgy email.

Also, on a few flights jointly operated by Cambodia Angkor Air and Vietnam Air, buying the ticket from Cambodia Air was much cheaper — why? Although more expensive, I ended up buying the Vietnam Air ticket because I’ve heard this airline is more reliable and I want to make sure we get back to Vietnam a few days before our flight home.

I’ve planned other challenging trips — to Peru, Japan, Panama – but this one seems to take the cake. That said, I’m very excited for the trip.

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