Posts Tagged ‘travel’


Vietnam: Hà Nội

We spent quite a bit of time in Hà Nội, it’s a great place. It has equal parts, cosmopolitan, hustle, bustle, backpackers, in-your-face-asia, beauty and grace. (Yes I did just use grace to describe a city.) The food on the streets is great, and the people while not super friendly aren’t too pushy or agressive. The old-quarter Hoàn Kiếm, is a rabbit-warren of windy, claustrophobic streets, extensive shops and street merchants by the dozen. It’s easy to spend a huge amount of time lost in it all, and it’s time well spent. Here’s the first batch of photos from this amazing city.

 

Vietnam Photos: Huế

One of my favourite places in Vietnam was the ancient capital of Huế. The city itself is dominated by a vast ancient citadel complete with watch houses, walls and a moat. Within the walls of the citadel is the old palace which although it was damaged in the war a great deal of the buildings still stand.

One of my most enjoyable meals in Vietnam was in Huế when a few lotto ticket selling ladies and street vendors took me under their wing. Without speaking any shared language, snails and tea were forced upon me.

 

Hanoi Pho

I want to talk a little bit about Pho and what it actually is. My impression before coming to Vietnam was that it was the soup dish involving rice noodles, a dark stock and sliced beef. It isn’t. Pho is actually just fresh rice noodles. The dish itself comes in a variety of different forms. Pho Bo, the aforementioned beef noodle soup; Pho Ca, similar to the beef soup but made with fish; Pho Tiu which is similar to a pad thai, with roast pork, peanuts and bean shoots.

Pho Tiu

It’s mainly eaten for breakfast or lunch and is ridiculously inexpensive 1-2USD. It’s also available in abundance, a store on every footpath on every street and boy have I eaten a lot of it.

Adventures in Queenstown

Northburn Station - Central OtagoOver the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Queenstown. I lived there for about 18 months and have been for a couple of holidays before and since. Needless to say, I love the place; it has a unique combination of good food, great bars, plenty of things to do and see and a truly amazing surrounds and that is without mentioning the wine. Having just spent the better part of 8 weeks in Queenstown juggling eating, drinking, snowboarding and working I’m happy to be home yet sad to leave – it has been a great 2 months.

I don’t think I could say that over the 2 months we’ve eaten at every good restaurant in the resort – but we’ve damn well tried and I think the only restaurant on our list that we didn’t get to was closed for a private booking on our final night in town. There has been lots of meals, plenty of wine, a few photos and about 67 hamburgers to write about so it might span a few posts.

A few of the highlights from this trip have been:

  1. Northburn Station: Spending the afternoon talking to Tom and Jan about the young winery and function centre that is Northburn Station.
  2. Botswana Butchery: I’m a sucker for massive pieces of roasted meat so the slow-cooked lamb shoulder took me hook line and sinker.
  3. Eichardt’s Private Hotel – Far and away my favourite place in Queenstown, the cocktails are always great and the whole place makes you feel like a king.
  4. Motogrill – Being treated like a regular after not having been there for 18 months.

Hawke’s Bay Wine Region, New Zealand

Surrounding the towns of Hastings and Napier Hawke’s Bay is a unique part of New Zealand. Driving through New Zealand you start to grow accustomed to the site of vineyards and wineries on all sides, but you certainly won’t get used to the geometric ornaments and motifs of the Art-Deco style of architecture. Rebuilt almost from scratch after a 1930s earthquake, Napier (and to a lesser extent Hastings) gives you the feeling you are in the Truman Show. This strange feeling continues when you seemingly the majority of restaurants and bars are closed for business.The places that aren’t shut are busy until late at night despite them being expensive, pretentious and in my experience the service being below par.

In stark contrast to the City of Napier, the wineries in the surrounding area all emit a vibe of passion and love of wine. Great red wine is the order of the day in Hawke’s Bay with wineries growing Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah) and the odd Pinot Noir. The region is not without its Whites with award-winning Chardonnay and complex aromatics (Mainly Pinot Gris, Riesling and Viognier). The climate provides great wine-making for the rich flavoured reds with hot summer temperatures, low rainfall and long sunlight hours.

Add to this a large number of micro-regions which provide the wines of this area a great deal of diversity. The most renowned of these micro-regions is the Gimblett Gravels region which has very gravelly soil providing a perfect fast-draining basis for the Bordeaux varieties. A number of wineries in the area own vineyards in this small apellation and produce single vineyard and reserve labels from them with amazing results.

We only spent an afternoon and a morning tasting wines in the area but we left wishing we had a whole lot more time, more space in the luggage and some sort of expense account. The wineries we stopped at were:

  • Elephant Hill
  • Clearview
  • Kim Crawford
  • Craggy Range
  • Te Mata
  • Vidal
  • Matariki
  • Trinity Hill

Having spent a fair bit of time in and around Central Otago wineries and seeing a small part of Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay’s wineries really were something special. Each of the wineries was unique, the staff were passionate, the wines were beautiful and there was a feel of history and of something special in the air. While it may not be the major draw card of New Zealand wine, it for me is what I will remember when thinking of the people and the feel of New Zealand wine.

Drinking and Bars in Queenstown: A Definitive Guide

Known as the adventure capital of New Zealand (the Pacific? the Southern Hemisphere? the World?) Queenstown is a “must see” place in New Zealand. Aside from Bungy jumping, rafting, canyoning and jetboating it also has a pretty awesome bar and boozing culture. In fact, a lot of kiwis from all over make the trek down south purely for the party. Now, before you turn you away thinking it’s not for you, let me assure you there is something here for everyone.

There is basically 3 types of drinking establishment in Queenstown, Bars, Pubs and backpacker bars. That doesn’t sound like much but there is over 70 liquor licenses in the central business area and probably 30 of those are dedicated to drinking. If you can check out them all in a weekend then Monday morning would definitely be a struggle – infact Monday mornings in Queenstown are nearly always a struggle.

Pubs

The pubs in Queenstown are the places that you go to when you want to kick back, have a sneaky pint or 3, and enjoy the scenery and the weather. Wether it’s by accident or design they are all positioned perfectly to get hours and hours of afternoon and evening sun during summer. The Pig & Whistle, Monty’s and Dux de Lux are the pick of the pubs and all are well worth the time, they all sell cheap pints and decent pub food. It’s worth mentioning that Dux de Lux brews all their own beer on the premises and it is very good. Personally I’m a fan of the Alpine Ale, but there is a flavour for everyone.

If you want a bit more of a “local” experience, try the Frankton Arm Tavern (in Frankton) or the Wakatipu Tavern. Both of them sell cheap grub, beer and feel exactly like your local.

Backpacker Bars

Calling these bars “Backpacker Bars” doesn’t really do them the justice they deserve. If you want to party, Winnies, Frasers, Altitude, Buffalo Club and the World Bar are the places to go. They are all huge places, sell cheap drinks, play cool music and all the tour buses full of people that just want to get loose. It’s best to not leave it too late in the evening to get there. Altitude and Buffalo Club are usually pumping around 10:30, World Bar doesn’t really start hitting it’s straps till midnight.

If you are planning on heading out to these places and you should, then there are always people wandering around town in the evening giving out 2 for 1 vouchers, hit them up for a few. It wouldn’t be a night out in Queenstown without some cheap jaegar bombs at Frasers, some horizontal bungy at Altitude, standing by the fire at the Buff and a teapot from the World. Teapot? It’s a tasty tasty cocktails served in a teapot with a few shot glasses, not really worth the money, but it’s a must do, you will be asked about it.

Bars

While people mainly think of Queenstown for the big party venues, in my mind it’s the tiny bars that make it. At 3am when the World Bar kicks everyone out on the street there are still places to drink and drink you will. Walking around during the day it’s easy to miss the multitude of tiny establishments but if you look hard enough they are everywhere. Bardeaux, Minibar, Barmuda and Bar-up are all down Searle Lane. They all have a massive range of beer, spirits or wine and will charge you a fortune for the pleasure. That’s not going to stop you though when it’s 4:30am, you are parched and they are the only places open.

Debajo and Tardis are both on Cow Lane and Skybar is just around the corner of Camp and Cow. Skybar is a swanky cocktail bar, where the staff are always friendly and will be happy to have a chat and a drink. Debajo is a tiki-style bar that always plays funky dance music. Tardis is the only place in town where you’ll hear good hip-hop maybe with the possibility of a live MC. If you are in town in May, make sure you checkout the Sugardaddy competition, it just might make your winter, or break your wallet.

The rest of the bars are scattered around the place, The Boiler Room and Minus 5 are in the wharf, Eichardts is on the water-front on Marine Parade, Sub-culture is underneath Montys and Harry’s Pool Bar is near Buffalo Club. Each of these places has it’s own attraction, Boiler Room plays the cheesiest of the 80s and 90s on the weekends, the locals love it so it’s usually pretty busy. Minus 5 is an ice bar, it’s pretty expensive but worth a look. Subculture is the closest to Queenstown’s only dance club, and the drum and bass pumps until the wee hours of the morning and Harry’s is the only place in town with more than a couple of pool tables. Finally, Eichardts is the house bar of an extremely exclusive hotel but the bar is open to all comers. The cocktail list is extensive, varied and made with the freshest of ingredients. Eichardts is my favourite bar in Queenstown, regardless of it being more expensive, closed after 11 and super-pretentious.

Food

Come the end of the night you are going to be stumbling the streets looking for some sort of actual sustenance, something big, something greasy and something fast. There are 2 options, Fergburger and the Night and Day (the locals call it the 2-4.) Fergburger is an amazing gourmet burger place that sells expensive hamburgers which taste amazing and you will inhale with glee in a drunken stupor but, I recommend saving the Ferg until you are sober you will enjoy it more. The 2-4 sells all you need, deep fried lasagne, cordon bleu (whatever that is,) nachos, wedges and my personal favourite lamb shanks

That’s pretty much all there is to say about Queenstown, except for 1 bar. I’m not really sure where to classify it and even less sure what to say about it, but Chicos is a Queenstown institution. It’s been there as far as I can tell it’s been there forever and it wouldn’t surprise me if the same reggae/dub cover band has been playing for just as long. I’ve been going there for a year and a half and they haven’t changed their set. If you are in town, Chicos is upstairs on the mall and it’s the sort of place that you just might well stumble into having an awesome night at. Last time I checked they sold $2 beers between 10:30 and 11:30 every night, it’s definitely worth stopping in for one.

Gourmet Burger Joints, Australia and New Zealand

If you have never partaken in a gourmet burger then you are in for a delight. Popping up all over Australia and New Zealand are small hamburger shops that really know how to make hamburgers. They usually have your regular style burger – meat-pattie, lettuce, tomato and cheese on a hamburger roll but the menu generally consists of a number of delights you had never dreamt of. Well maybe you have dreamt it, but this is your dreams coming true.

Now, I’m not going to rant about the history of this phenomenom but there is a few of this style of shop opening, Velvet Burger in Dunedin, ChimiChanga in Brisbane (now closed I’m told), Wunder Burger in Tauranga, I’m told there are a few stores in Melbourne and last but certainly not least, Fergburger in Queenstown. I’m sure they are popping up everywhere, probably in my own kitchen, but the point is there are lots around the traps and the numbers are growing.

Now, the first gourmet burger joint I ever visited was Queenstown’s own Ferg a few years ago and since then I’ve had more than I could ever count. This includes every burger on the menu, in every state of drunk, sober and hungover possible. Needless to say, I love the place and it’s going to be very difficult for me to be impartial in any reviews I write. I’d also love to hear about any other gourmet burger shops around the traps.