Somebody once said that you learn something new every day, and today I learned that Viet Nam is producing some first class chocolate, first class that is if you enjoy proper dark chocolate that doesn’t contain so much sugar that it becomes sickly sweet. It just so happens that I enjoy dark and slightly bitter chocolate and today I came across some chocolat de vietnam that makes my taste buds really happy.
This is a really high class product produced by Marou, just take a look at the detail that’s gone into the wrapping, it was shameful to mess with the beauty of it all. But… lets face it folks, it is all about the chocolat de vietnam waiting to be disrobed and feasted upon… am I right? Oooh la la, sexy chocolat!
The thing that took my eye with this brand of chocolat was the way that Marou promote the fact that it’s made wholly from produce grown in Viet Nam, but even more pleasant is the fact that they promote the styles of chocolat produced from different provinces close to Sai Gon. The map below borrowed from the Marou web site shows that chocolat de vietnam is available from Dong Nai, (the first style I’ve tried), Baria, Tien Giang, Ben Tre and Lam Dong.
Bliss, I have four styles yet to try. Where did I buy it you ask? Well… I bought this block at Mekong Merchant in An Phu, but it seems to be available worldwide.
[Click on a thumbnail to witness a shameless disrobing of chocolat de vietnam]
I’ve never been overly keen on circuses, they’ve never been on the top of my priority list as entertainment. I don’t particularly like animal acts because there is always the thought in my mind that cruelty has been involved in the training process somewhere and anyway, isn’t it demeaning to parade around a bear dressed like a little girl wearing a leather muzzle? Isn’t it? Better than being confined to a cage for the extraction of bile juices I hear you say… well yes… true.
However, on the cnr of Pham Ngu Lao and Nguyen Trai Sts there’s a permanent big top that once a year puts on a circus gala performance and until last Sunday night, I’d never been to one. A couple of my friends had recommended it to me over the years but, I was reluctant. Finally making it to the ticket counter increased my reluctance when I saw the price of a ticket, but what the hey, we gave it a go anyway and, apart from the few animal acts and one rather weak magician, I was pleasantly surprised.
The magician was good, very very good, at showing the audience exactly where he was pulling his tricks from under his cape that is. But the jugglers, clowns, trapeze artists, and gymnasts were excellent. All in all a great evenings entertainment, worth the admission price after all and next time there’s a circus gala in town they’ve got me.
Apologies in advance for the image quality, lighting you know!
Just last week, Tous les Jours, a Korean based French pastry chain opened a new outlet just a few hundred metres from our house. This is very dangerous to a healthy lifestyle and trim waistline, but very handy for a quick treat also.
The rooftop garden on our house in the middle of Sai Gon city may not be large, but it never fails to intrigue and relax me. When the weather is not too hot, it’s my place to go and get away from this computer.
This is on Le Loi near the corner of Pasteur Sts in downtown Sia Gon yesterday at 4pm after a deluge inundated the city. Fortunately these types of flash flooding usually dissipate soon after the rain stops.
I just downloaded a new camera app to my mobile phone which has some really neat effects. The app. is called “Paper Camera” and I think I’m going to have some fun with it so stay tuned for more image uploads.
There are still some old apartment blocks in central Sai Gon that haven’t yet come under the developers hammer and I came across these two spiral staircases in the internal courtyard of one old block. Considering they’re the only way for occupants to enter and leave their apartments, I would hate to think of the bedlam if there was an emergency. Still, the shapes make for interesting imagery.
Click on a thumbnail to view larger images.
Considering the sheer natural beauty of this place, it’s sad to think about the brutally tragic past of Con Dao. So while we spent our four days on the island we tried not to think about it and opted out of visiting any of the numerous old prisons. Instead we spent our time enjoying the wonderful beaches and forests only visiting the small holding cell at the old French police station where Vo Thi Sau spent her last night before being executed in 1952, and her grave in the town cemetery. That was enough sadness for one week. A brief but concise history of Con Dao can be found here.
Wonderful place to take a break if you are content with Vietnamese food and service. As far as I can make out there are only a few foreigners living on the island, those who work at the Six Senses Resort and Larry and Rebecca at Dive, Dive, Dive. There is not one taxi to be found and with a population of around only 6,000 persons there are few people and even less traffic to contend with. A stark difference from the frenetic pace of HCMC.
Con Dao Sea Travel Resort was OK. Possibly a bit over priced by Vietnamese standards, but then everything on this island is relatively more expensive than on the mainland. Put that down to supply and demand and the fact that almost all the islands needs have to be transported by boat from Vung Tau. However Sea Travel Resort is one of the resorts in what has to be the best position, fronting a sandy beach and a short walk from the main town of Con Son.
We took a scuba dive with Dive, Dive, Dive and were lucky to strike almost perfect conditions. The water was around 28 deg C and visibility was very good. We dived two sites and both had good coral with a fair variety of fish. The second site was particularly good as the coral was abundant with some excellent bright green Staghorn and a huge amount of Brain corals. Plenty of colourful fish and I came across a large group of iridescent Parrot Fish. While I was taking my time watching the Parrots feeding on the coral, a medium sized iridescent pale greeny/blue to yellow Unicorn fish appeared and was soon joined by three more. Very relaxing and satisfying to be taking a dive after so long away from the activity and very comfortable as Larry has just built a new boat and has brand new equipment.
Con Dao is not a large place and there aren’t all that many roads, but what roads there are are best traveled by motorbike. Bikes can be rented almost anywhere and are cheap enough at around 120,000 VND per day. I used the GPS on my mobile phone to track one part of a ride back from a small beach near the airport, up into the national park and back into town which you can see below on Google maps. Good roads, very little traffic, but at this time of the year, very, very hot.
Apart from becoming fodder for an influx of sand flies, (I’m scratching hard as I type this), I really enjoyed the stay on Con Dao and wonder how I could have left it so long to visit. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get a chance to return.
I think the images below speak for themselves.
View Con Dao Island motorbike ride in a larger map