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When Travelling In Vietnam

As a vegan I can confirm that eating is easier there than in probably any other country in the world. ‘Calm Soul' Vegetarian Restaurant, is run for and by Buddhist monks. Nhan Dac Tiec, 12 Chu Van An- Hue . A little down at heel and very basic café format on a busy working class street. The food is nonetheless brilliant, although you will find some things confusing; Veggie Burger doesn't actually have a bread bun with it. Pies don't mean pastry. The Temple Restaurant Chu Van An Hue is more up market. Their choice is amazing, lots and many small dishes and little bowls of different stuff. All of it excellent. Mock meats and colourful veg. But be warned a pie isnt a pie such as we know it, it doesn't have pastry, but its good stuff for all that. You should note too the Vietnamese philosophy on life applies to food too; you never ruthlessly wipe out your fear/enemy/hunger. You leave a little to keep your edge and also not take dignity from your opposite. So you always leave a trace of your appetite.

This has the great advantage of leaving you never over stuffed, but also capable of many small ‘engagements' through the day. It keeps your wieght and food consumption in reasonable check without any great effort. On a military plane of course it also kept the Portuguese, Chinese, French, Japanese and Americans in line, but still capable of coming back as visitors without humiliation.

 Karma Waters just over the bridge toward the beach in Hoi An, another amazing vegan veggie restaurant run by an ex-pat Australian who also runs boating and diving courses and trips and island stay overs. Hoi An was my favourite place in the whole country, a great balance of town and beach and only 4klm between the two.

 The two best places in Hanoi for vegans and veggies are Com Chay Nang Tam, another Buddhist run, Buddhist based Café, 79a Pho Tran Hung Dao, the food is amazing collections of mock fish and mock meat, it has the additional advantage of costing almost nothing. The upmarket Tamarind Café, 80 Pho Ma May, sells vegan, veggie dishes, in a very select environment, a big slap up three-course meal, with drinks with cost you £10 so watch out!

You will note that there is very little crime in Vietnam , but where there is, crime is Nha Trang. Nha Trang is a wonderful coastal resort and city, it is a great place to just sit on the beach, it has a reasonable collection of bars and a great set of restaurants. We recommend the Oz bar full of ex-pat British and Australian settlers and visitors. Good grub and canny crack. The lasses who work there are great for a laugh and are truly enthusiastic about their visitors.

However, you should avoid at all cost Mai Anh Res, 121 D Tran Quang Khai, Nha Trang. They call it the ‘French Restaurant' but its actually Vietnamese run; at least one of the staff with the indulgence of the others does a bit sharp work in the nicking dept on the side from the customers. How do I know?

I recently returned from a most wonderful visit to Vietnam and was impressed by the people and their hospitality. (A big chapter on Vietnam will appear in the third of my forthcoming Trilogy Stardust and Coaldust)

At Nha Trang, I had the misfortune to visit the French Restaurant, Mai-Anh Res.

After eating my meal and paying for it, I noticed out the window a fellow Geordie I had met on the long journey up from Ho Chi Mihn City, so I shot out after him leaving my camera in my backpack on the back of my seat. Well a few drinks later I'm walking back to the hotel and realise I aint got the bag or the camera, with a months filming and photos on. I check back at the Oz bar and realise I left it on the seat in the café. When I returned, they claimed not have not seen it, you did not leave it here. Somewhat desolate the next morning I'm telling the girl on the reception desk at the hotel my sorrowful tale, when four French people who were sitting the table opposite me, and happened to be staying at the same hotel, explained that I had left the bag on the back of the seat and the female waitress had taken it away into the back they presumed for safe keeping. This same girl told me she hadn't seen it, and the same workers from ‘out back' who swore I hadn't left it there. So I troops back to the Mai –Anh Res, and confront them with the four witnesses. Now they say, oh yes ‘we did take the bag, and at the end of the night put it back on a table in case I should come back but someone else came in and stole it!' How come they denied its existance? They didn't understand my question they said, now they understood it, especially when I called the police and they gave the girl a through talking too, but she stuck to the stupid story, and I lost my camera, which my daughter had bought me for the trip, together with all the shots from Christmas and New year with my family and a month of touring south Vietnam, islands, mountains, rivers and quite priceless photos. So I've lost my camera, I've told everyone about this café and be warned. If I was you I wouldn't touch Mai-Anh Res , on 121D Tran Quang Khai, Nha Trang with a barge pole. Try the Oz bar up the road, beans on toast, jacket tatties etc

But don't let it put you off Vietnam , or even Nha Trang, just be more careful.

I didn't let it spoil my trip though I was forced to buy a new camera, but went on to spend another priceless two months touring Vietnam , and meeting the worlds happiest people.