The days when gourmands in Vietnam could only choose from expensive imported fare are pretty much over. Across the country, artisanal producers are crafting international-style foods that spotlight local ingredients, from chorizo to gelato. Here are nine of our favorites.
If last year’s market entry of Starbucks can be viewed as a prototype, then by the time you read this piece there will have been extraordinary queues outside McDonald’s. Using the Drive-Thru model to enter the Vietnamese market, images of motorbike logjams trailing back down Saigon’s Dien Bien Phu come to mind.
The ancient parable told by Lonely Planet as an introduction to the different neighbourhoods of Singapore keeps popping in my head when I make my visits to three of the offshore islands surrounding Singapore. The story goes that a group of blind men try to guess what an animal is as they are all touching different parts of an elephant. Their answers are completely different, depending on what part that they touch. The man who touches the leg says the elephant is ‘like a pillar’; the other touches the tail, and says the animal is ‘like a rope’; and so on.
Growing numbers of urban residents are moving to the islands — not the islands
on the coast but those in the city. Derek Milroy and Hoa Le visit four urban islands. Photos by Francis Xavier and Francis Roux
“I came here 35 years ago,” says the man, his face taut yet lined with the harshness of the elements. “It was just after the Liberation. There were no roads and we had to get here by boat from Long An. There were so many mosquitoes and we often got sick. Life was really difficult.”
His five-year-old granddaughter is staring at me, riveted by the whiteness of my skin. Receiving such attention is a rare occurrence in the Ho Chi Minh City of today. Despite geographically lying inside the confines of Vietnam’s largest metropolis, this is far from being in the city. Here we’re in the swamps, on islands in the swamps. This is Can Gio, the area southeast of Saigon known in the war as The Forest of Thieves.