Sunday, January 17, 2010

Anthony Bourdain in Vietnam

There is one thing Bourdain and I have in common; we both were hosted by Vietnam's top chef for a special lunch. We also share a love for Vietnam, and he does explain it just the way it wraps itself around you. Here is Part 1 of a series he did for that enchanted country.

Friday, January 8, 2010

French Cathedral still stands at hilltop in Nha Trang

The Nha Trang Cathedral was built by the French in 1928 and sports a grand clock on its face together with three giant bells (built by the famed Bourdon Carillons Company). To provide a hilltop setting, the top of a mountain was blown off with no less than 500 mines; it was built with steel reinforced concrete with cemented walls. If you visit the Nha Trang Cathedral, you will imagine that you have stepped into an authentic European church. 

Approximately 10% of the population of Vietnam, or about 8 million people, are Christian. The religion came to Vietnam around the 16th century through the missionary works of evangelist European countries. The man responsible for anglicizing the language, Alexandre de Rhodes, facilitated the set-up of permanent missions in major cities. Unfortunately, he fell out of favor with the reigning lords of the time and was thrown out of the country for subversion. The years that followed witnessed great suspicion and prosecution of the Catholic Church, including demolition of worship sites and execution of believers. By the time the French invaded Indochina in the 19th century, they reinstated a very strong foothold with the Church, which became the largest landowner in Vietnam. Catholics were regarded as elite and were favored over non-Catholic Vietnamese, as they were more educated.

As with the rest of Vietnam, the most popular form of transport
 is the motorbike, even for churchgoers.

Fast forward to today. Our cab driver was keen enough to take us all the way up the hill to the entrance. There was a service in progress, and I tiptoed in so as not to disturb the ceremony. Straight ahead, I could see an enlarged photo of the Pope John who had just died (this was in 2006) ; this mass was a commemoration to him, and our timing, as usual, couldn’t have been better. The interior of the building reminded me of Westminster Abbey, with its magnificent arches and stained-glass windows.

Most of the women are in traditional dress, white or beige. There was a special procession going on, led by three men carrying crosses of different sizes; behind them were young women in Ao Dai dresses of different colors. There must have been a special meaning to the order of the colors: the ladies in celadon/white were first, followed by the ones in pink, with the greatest number last in dark blue/white. 

Around the main building were packs of motorcycles that would carry the families back home. I recognized many of the saints’ names as I went from statue to statue around the perimeter of the outer court. A crèche was built into this circle, and aside from the familiar cross, it had offerings, license plates of various origins, potted flowers, and a cascading bougainvillea tree on the top. 

The chant was really beautiful, and during moments of silence, you could hear a pin drop. Urns that are set along the road going up the hill hold the ashes of an exhumed cemetery. 

I noticed that most of the worshipers never smile

Monday, January 4, 2010

Events at the Hanoi Press Club this month

Our own visit to the Press Club was fabulous and I'll be telling you about it soon. In the meantime take a look at this:


Seafood is an art form in Vietnam, but now it's become a masterpiece, with the new Seafood Selection at the Press Club Restaurant. Soups and chowders will warm your belly, and transport you to a cozy table in an English pub, while our Thai Prawn Curry will remind you why Southeast Asia is a culinary heaven. You'll probably have trouble choosing between Lobster Salad and our Marinated Grilled Squid, but don't worry - from your first bite of Crab Cake Appetizers you'll know you'll be back soon for more. And we haven't even mentioned our variety of Fresh Vietnamese Seafood!


January 15, 2010
Wind down, then ramp up Friday Night on the Terrace at the Press Club. The week's over, now it's time to let the games begin - and what better way than a free drink for all the ladies between 7pm and 9pm on the Press Club's Terrace. The Hot Chicks Band will help you into your groove, and DJ Kruise will spin you through the night with your favorite songs.

From 7:00pm until 9:00pm, all ladies receive free drinks with compliments,Smirnoff Black Cocktail.

Every Monday through Friday 11:30am - 2:00pm Just VND170.000 net per person, The Restaurant offers a fantastic selection of dishes and a great setting to enjoy a lunch with friends, colleagues or business appointments. What's more, those who enjoy the buffet, also receive a complimentary glass of beer, mineral water or soft drink.

To reserve your table, please call (84-4) 3934 0888 The Restaurant - 3rd floor  


Every Thursday

5:00pm - 10:00pm

Are you thirsty for Thursdays?

2 for 1 cocktails

Live Entertainment, Filipino Acoustic Duo from 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Free Appetizers!

The Restaurant Bar & Terrace - 3rd floor

January 18 - 24, 2010

Let us transport you from the streets of Hanoi to a sun-spangled vineyard in Tuscany or a corner table in Rome's Piazza Navona! Enjoy the savory zest and tang of our pestos, pastas, and tomato sauces, as well as sautéed seasonal vegetables and garden greens fresh from Dalat. Minestrone Soup, Vegetable Ravioli with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts, and Pasta "Arrabiata" with Bacon will help chase your winter blues away, and with every entrée we'll pour you a glass of Prunotto Barbera d'Asti, compliments of The Warehouse. This dry, savory and medium-bodied wine will have you singing like a prima donna, but with a price that suits the choir! 


January 1st to February 14th, 2010

We celebrate TET by rewarding you! During the Festive Season, you'll receive one free can of Carlsberg for each main course ordered for delivery. To your home or your office, The Press Club will be pleased to deliver your reward!
Call (84-4) 3825 5337


Let the Al Fresco Terrace take the worry out of that age old question. Where should we eat?
With delicious creations that change daily, you can grab a table and be prepared to be pampered, pleased and positively impressed!
Daily set menus feature a three course meal for lunch or dinner at only $9.50++! The Chefs offer tasty vegetarian sets, hearty and tasty, in addition to the daily set.

For reservations, please call (84-4) 3934 0888


Every Saturday and Sunday

Who doesn't love a good pizza? At the Press Club, we love to give them away! Every weekend, when you buy one pizza, you get a second pizza free. Eat in, take away or order for delivery. Enjoy your pizza!

Call and order your pizza (84-4) 3825 5337 (direct) or (84-4) 3934 0888.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The art of silk embroidery in all its glory in Nha Trang

As we traveled throughout Vietnam, we didn't miss the stunning work resulting from hand sewn embroidery done mostly by young women of Vietnam. The art is ancient and probably was acquired from the Chinese who refer to it as Suzhou or "Su" embroidery. This technique dates back 2,000 years (yes as in two thousand).

The intricate details and beauty of the designs are still produced today, using extremely fine colored silk threads (though there are also cheaper, and coarser versions, which are still beautiful) and usually center around pastoral themes, portraits, and uncluttered representations of anything you can imagine.

a typical pastoral scene in a very intricate work; some take a year or more to finish

Later in our travels, we learned that Vietnam's center for this type of art is located in Dalat. However, we stumbled upon an impressive array of finely spun silk thread embroiders just as we were finishing lunch at the Thuy Dong Restaurant which has a view of the beach. The short video that follows will give you an idea of the intricacy of the work; the finished work is stunning, and the threads are almost invisible.

If you find yourself in Nha Trang, head over to the XQ Arts and Crafts Trade Center, and there will be more than your eyes can take in. The setting itself is right out of a fairy tale book. As you enter, you can hear the sound of water gurgling in a small, but serene lily pond. Facing the main entrance is a display which looks like a four poster bed, but where silk strands, white and dyed, hang from the top beams. Have a look:

and the pond:

I sat on the benches which are seen in the background, and 
was served some tea; can it get more idyllic than that?

To complete the fairy tale environment, three Vietnamese young women, dressed in the traditional Ao Dai, were sharing a quiet moment on a bamboo suspended wooden swing, hung over a bed of small gray pebbles.

The main gallery is replete with works of all sizes, subjects, and prices. The sales personnel is courteous, but not overbearing as salespeople can become. I had asked one of them if they would allow me to enter the work area, so that I could watch these artists at work. I promised to be quiet as a mouse, and they agreed.

The room is quite large and well lit; as I watched the women's hands sew, I worried about their eyesight. How can such tedious, meticulous work be produced without hurting the eyes? Some of the pieces are so large and intricate that several women share the work; when they saw me enter, they stopped out of curiosity and beamed when I told them I was from America. If that is surprising, I urge you to visit Vietnam. It is not what you think.

It is impossible to walk away from this place without purchasing something. In the event you don't want to carry your treasures with you, they will ship anywhere in the world, and they are very good at packaging the items so that they do not become damaged.

Below are a few of my favorites, but there were so many more it would be impossible to include all.

Here's the address:

64 Tran Phu Street
Nha Trang, Vietnam

How the art came to Vietnam: 

Embroidery was founded and developed in Vietnam by Le Cong Hanh in 1606.

Traditionally, the art was carried out by women as dictated by ancestors in the following verse:
Men read books and declare poems.Women have to do embroidery and sewing

During the Nguyen reign, it was established as an art of the Royal Court. The Hue artists were reputed for their sweetness, subtlety, carefulness, elegance and artistic qualities. The themes they embrace are of everyday life in Vietnam and have moved away from the Chinese culture of dragons and similar subjects.