Other Cultures

Ejo #98 – Drunk In….. Colombo

Last week David and I popped over to Sri Lanka for three days.  Yup.  We popped over.   I know, I know – don’t hate.  Look, Emirates Airline was having an amazing sale, so it was cheap to get there.  I’m talking dirt cheap.  And in terms of flight time, it’s not much further than flying from Melbourne to Cairns.  So why wouldn’t we go?  Sadly we didn’t have enough time to explore the amazing beaches and mountains of the country (which just means we’ll have to go back another time).   But we did manage to do a lotta eatin’ and a lotta drinkin’.  Coz you know that’s our specialty!


So when we travel somewhere, we want to eat the food of that particular place. For instance, I would never go to Japan and eat Italian. That just doesn’t make sense to me, especially when there is so much amazing local stuff on offer. So the first station on our whistle-stop tour of Colombo was a traditional Sri Lankan restaurant called Nuga Gama at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Actually Nuga Gama was the second stop. The first was the Lagoon bar at the hotel, where we hydrated with a Seabreeze (for David) and a Salty Dog (for me).

A Salty Dog for a salty lady, at Lagoon Bar.

Ready for dinner, we headed to Nuga Gama, where we were greeted by staff dressed in traditional village outfits who just went ahead and painted ceremonial red dots on our foreheads. Turns out they were having a Jaffna Festival!! How lucky are we!?

So, Jaffna is a city in the northern provinces of Sri Lanka, known for its traditional Tamil cuisine.  And let me tell you, it’s bloody delicious.  We felt so incredibly fortunate to experience this amazing celebration of a region we’d never even heard of before that night.  We ate egg hoppers (check out the slideshow below of how a hopper is made), we ate curries, we ate breads, we ate traditional seafood soup (called Jaffna Kool), we ate ten different types of sambol (mmmmm, sambol).  And of course we drank.  We were offered two typical Jaffna choices – a sickly sweet, viscous rosé wine or arrack, which is a spirit distilled from the sap of the palmyrha palm tree (think coconut flavour, without the sweetness).  We went with the arrack.  It’s 60 proof, and it goes down easy, so the choice was a total no-brainer.  The rest of the night went by in a swirl of food, arrack and trippy dance performances.  It was a total blast and a wonderful introduction to Colombo, and Sri Lanka.

Getting into the Jaffna spirit!  In more ways than one.  😉


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


IMG_4328 - Copy
We were offered cutlery, but chose to eat the traditional way, with our fingers.  It’s the only way to go kids.


IMG_4331 - Copy
I’d like to say we finished this whole bottle of arrack in one night, but alas we did not.  We must be getting old, or wise, or something.


Jaffna Kool – an amazing soup made with seafood and palmyrha flour.


Ceremonial Jaffna dance (either that or someone slipped us a mickey!!)

77 Galle Road, Colombo 03
+94 112 437 437
Lunch: 1200-1430
Dinner: 1900-2230



Ministry Of Crab does what it says on the box.  Crabs.  And lots of them.  In all sorts of different sizes, and all sorts of different cooking methods and sauces.  And they’re super fresh and super delicious!!!  Even better, they are sustainably fished so you can enjoy them totally guilt-free.  We arrived about ten minutes early for our reservation so we went across the street to the Taphouse for a couple of ice-cold local Lion beers.  Perfect start to the meal.

IMG_4414 - Copy
Pre-lunch local beers at The Taphouse, right next door to Ministry of Crab.  


IMG_4422 - Copy
David ordered the specialty Sri Lankan pepper crab.  So much peppery goodness. 


IMG_4423 - Copy
I went with butter sauce on the side.  My doctor would probably not be very happy with that choice, but my tastebuds surely were!


IMG_4427 - Copy
Thank god for bibs!!  Crabs are messy bastards to eat.  But totally worth the stains.  

No 04, Old Dutch Hospital, Colombo 01
+94 112 342 722
Lunch: 1130-1530
Dinner: 1700-2300



We don’t normally do tours when we travel.  Of any sort.  But since we had such a short time in the city, and since we wanted to eat as much local food as possible, and since the tour was called “Eat, Eat, Repeat” we figured it’d be worth a shot.  And it totally was.  Unfortunately, because I was constantly stuffing food in my mouth my fingers were always smeared with delicious food, so I didn’t really get a chance to take too many photos.  But trust me, if you want to sample Colombo’s finest street foods then you should definitely do this three hour walking tour of the city.  We ate fried pastries, nuts, pickles, lentil cakes with prawns, porridge, ginger tea, hoppers, paratha and kottu roti (a delightful blend of veggies and chopped up roti bread).  We also got the chance to walk through Pettah vegetable market which was a wonderfully riotous attack on all the senses.

IMG_4431 - Copy


IMG_4432 - Copy


IMG_4433 - Copy


IMG_4434 - CopyINFO:
+94 76 831 6000



While the Eat, Eat, Repeat tour introduced us to many of Colombo’s yummy treats, most street vendors in Colombo are Muslim, and so there was no alcohol involved (just one cheeky beer, dodgily wrapped in a white paper bag at the end of the tour).  So once we were done, David and I went off in search of cocktails.  Thanks to Google Maps we found The Mango Tree and The Berlin Sky Lounge close by.  The Cosmopolitans were huge, strong and very tasty!

IMG_4445 - Copy




In our tireless search for quintessential Sri Lankan food, we booked lunch at Upali’s, a very popular restaurant in town.  We were taken to our table by the owner, who picked up on our Australian accents and asked us if we’d been to the sister restaurant in Melbourne, which as it turns out, is about a two minute drive from my Mum’s house!  It’s a small world, people!  We’ll definitely have to try it next time we’re in Melbourne and see if the quality of food is as good as the Colombo branch.  Lamentably, as seems to be the case in a lot of yummy eateries in the city, Upali’s doesn’t serve booze – the Melbourne restaurant bloody better!!  😉

IMG_4447 - Copy
In the absence of beer, a crisp ice-coffee hit the spot while we waited for our food.  Sparkling water sufficed for the rest of the meal.  


We ordered a crab pancake, paratha with chicken curry, fried rice and fish head soup.  Mmmmmmm, all the flavours were amazing.  My mouth is watering just looking at that fish head!!!  

65 C.W.W. Kannangara Mawatha, Colombo 07
+94 112 695 812
Mon-Thur: 1130-2230
Fri-Sat: 1130-2330



Colombo was hot.  Stinky, sweaty hot.  And when it’s hot, and I can’t find a beer to save my life, I turn to ice-cream.





263, Galle Road, Colombo – 03
+94 11 5 346139
Hours: 1000-0000



So, as I’ve already implied, we would never EAT at a French café in Sri Lanka.  But nothing’s going to stop us from DRINKING there.  We turned up to this French bistro at about 1.56pm and asked if they were serving drinks.  The two barmen looked at each other, then they looked at their watches, and then they looked at each other again and said, “Of course, take a seat at the bar – but we have to stop serving at 2pm”.  Legends!!  Turns out there’s a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol between the hours of 2pm to 5pm.  We snuck in a couple of Negronis, tipped the barmen handsomely, and then walked home for a lovely afternoon nap.  Coz that’s just how we roll.

48 Park St, Colombo 07
+94 114 502 602
Tue-Sun: 1000-0000



OK, so, I have to admit I don’t like eating or drinking at fancy places anymore.  I like to keep things real.  I like to keep things authentic.  Genuine.  Down and dirty, even.  But sometimes, keeping it real means embracing history.  And Colombo’s history is steeped in colonialism.  There’s no getting away from that.  The Portuguese, the Dutch, and most recently the British have all put their stamp on Colombo and, despite how I might feel about that, it has become an indelible part of the city and its history.  And so, it was that we found ourselves at Galle Face Hotel on the last night of our trip, having sundowners at Traveller’s Bar.  And, check this out!  At sunset, a Sri Lankan man with lovely legs wearing a rather short kilt played bagpipes while another dude lowered the flag out the front of the hotel.  Talk about a flamboyant (and not a little bit ostentatious) mixing of the cultures.


Cocktail Round #1 (the one in front was made with my new favourite booze – arrack!!!)


Cocktail Round #2 – A sangria thingy and a minty thingy.  


IMG_4488Cocktail Round #3 – a couple of pink grapefruit numbers.  David had the negroni and I had the margarita.  Most refreshing.  


We had initially just planned to go to the hotel for drinks but we were lured by Seaspray restaurant advertising “a traditional Sri Lankan seafood experience, crafted entirely from fresh seasonal Island produce and coastal seafood”.  Hard to say no to that.  So we had drinks and dinner (and then drinks again) at the hotel.  It was pretty nice.  I’d recommend it.

The menu at Seaspray.  You can mix and match, but their recommendations of cooking style and sauce with the featured seafood is pretty spot on.  And the seafood itself?  Super fresh goodness.  I don’t know how, but we managed to score a table right on the beach, and we literally got misted with seaspray.  It was pretty fucking romantic. 


Whitebait with fresh lime and chilli salt (and the ubiquitous and delicious curry leaves).


The most tender salt and pepper cuttlefish you’ve ever eaten in your life.




The pièce de résistance, local fresh rock lobster.  YUM!

2 Galle Road,Colombo 3
+94 11 254 1010
Lunch: 1130-1430
Drinks: 1700-2230
Dinner: 1900-2230


Ejo #92 – My Name Is Chrysoula Stathopoulos

My name is Chrysoula Stathopoulos. Since 1933, I’ve lived in Lechaion, a small seaside town in Greece. But I was born in a tiny village in the Peloponnese mountains in 1916. I am 101 years old.

My name is Chrysoula Stathopoulos. I’ve lived in Dubai since 2008. But I was born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971 and raised in Melbourne. I am 46 years old.

As the firstborn, I was named after my Dad’s mother, which is how the Greeks do. I hated my name growing up because nobody could ever pronounce it, and a lot of kids gave me shit for it. On the first day of Grade 2, my teacher actually accused me of making it up. I casually dropped the “oula” part of my name when I was 12, and made it official when I was 14. Over the years I’ve grown to love my full name again. It’s unique, and it’s who I am. It’s also something that connects me to my grandmother, my yiayia, whom I love dearly.

My twin sister Fotoula and I were the apples of our father’s eye. We had two older brothers, but we were the favourites and everyone knew it, including Mum. She scolded us once for making too much noise while we were playing and Dad looked at her very seriously and said, “Whatever you do, don’t ever talk to my girls like that again”. And she never did. Times were tough growing up because of the war, and we didn’t have a lot, but our house was filled with love and I always tried my best to make my Dad proud of me when he was home. He was gone for most of my childhood, working in America so that he could send money home for us. Every time he came home was a big deal and my favourite memory was of being bounced on his knees – me on one leg, and Fotoula on the other, the three of us laughing and laughing.

Even though Greek families usually covet a son, my parents had three daughters and I think that, secretly, my father loved being surrounded by women. My Dad drove trucks for a living in the early seventies, and he was gone for long stretches at a time. My earliest memory is of our flat in Elwood. I was wearing a nappy and crawling to the front door because Mum had told me that Dad was coming home. I remember bursting with joy when he appeared at the flyscreen door.

In 1924 my family moved down from the mountains so that we could attend school near Korinth. Some of the teachers were very strict, which I didn’t like very much. I certainly wasn’t used to being smacked, but the teachers had no problem hitting us if they got mad. I always studied hard, and tried to be the best student so that they would never have any reason to hit me. On 22nd April 1928 a big earthquake shook Korinth. Twenty people died, and nearly 15,000 people were left homeless. Even though our home was damaged, we were lucky that it wasn’t one of the 3000 that were destroyed, and that we still had somewhere to live. Our school had turned to rubble and, while it was being rebuilt, classes were held outside, on the football field.

Fotoula hated school. She would say, “Chrysoula, I’ve been to school for a week, now it’s your turn”. School wasn’t compulsory back then, so she could get away with it but it’s a shame that she never learned to read or write. I wanted to be a teacher or a mid-wife when I grew up because they earned 500 drachmas (about €2) a month, which was a lot of money for a woman back then. But I was forced to drop out of school in 1929, at age 13.

When we were young,my parents forced me and my sisters to go to Greek school on Saturday mornings. I hated it and faced each weekend with sickening dread. But my parents wanted us to learn how to speak Greek, and to appreciate Greek history and customs. Fair enough, but the teachers at the school we attended were sadistic fucks and what I remember most about those classes was the constant fear. It ended when a teacher pinched my cheek so hard he left a large purple bruise across my face. My crime? Not completing my homework. My parents, horrified that the tales of assault and battery were actually true, allowed me to drop out of Greek school at age 12.

In 1930 my beloved father got sick with double pneumonia. The closest doctor was in Didima, a village 100km away, and every time he came to the house it cost us 500 drachmas. When Dad died, we owed the doctor a small fortune and since we didn’t have the money, it was negotiated that I would go with him back to Didima and work as his housekeeper until the bill was paid. I didn’t want to go, but my older brother got very angry and slapped me across the face and told me I was going and that was the end of it. After that I was happy to leave, just to get away from him. My Dad would never have allowed anyone to strike me like that. But now he was gone, and I had no choice but to enter into servitude for nearly three years in a village where I didn’t know anyone and where they didn’t even speak Greek. During my time in Didima, I slowly learned some Albanian so that I could communicate with people, but I was happy when the debt was finally paid off, and I could return to my family, who had moved to Lechaion.

In late 2002 my beloved father was diagnosed with lung cancer. My parents tried to be upbeat and hopeful about the prognosis but as you can imagine, it was a total shock for all of us. My father was the healthiest and most robust man I’d ever known. He was invincible to me, a rock. In denial, I didn’t even believe that he was actually sick until he started showing symptoms a couple of months later. And after that, the decline in his health was rapid. Lung cancer is a truly horrible disease and over a ten month period I watched my father deteriorate from a tower of strength into an emaciated skeleton coughing up tar-black mucus onto my birthday cake, a month before he died. Shit like that stays with you, man. When we told yiayia that her firstborn had passed away, she cried. But because of the Alzheimer’s she sometimes forgets. Sometimes she doesn’t even remember who he was.

In 1933 I started working in the fields with my sister, picking fruit to support our family. We earned just 25 drachmas a day, which wasn’t much, but our lack of education didn’t leave us many options. A lot of people were in the same boat and there was a great deal of competition for these field jobs, so we weren’t always gainfully employed. In 1936 I met a man at work called Panagiotis, who was a real go-getter. He would schmooze around the taverns at night, networking for jobs, and his circle of friends always had paid work, thanks to him. He seemed like a nice guy, and he must have taken a liking to me because he started getting regular work for me too. Working side by side we started developing feelings for each other, and after a year we were engaged. We couldn’t afford to get married right away but I did move in with him which was illegal back then, so we pretended that I was his housekeeper and everyone fell for it! Haha! Suckers! We lived in sin for two years before we got married on New Year’s Eve, 1939. Ten months later we had our first child, Konstantinos, and then after that I gave birth every two years, with Roula, Chris, Toula, Sofia and our baby Stavros.



In the fields.  Kon, Chris, Toula, Sofia, Stavros, Roula, Panagiotis and Chrysoula.  And a small kid.


I met my husband David at work in 2005. It was love at first sight, for me anyway. We worked together for a year, exchanging flirty glances across the tower console before we actually started going out. Two days later I moved in, and four months after that we were married. Most people at work thought it wouldn’t last but, after eleven years together, we’re still nuts about each other. We decided not to have children, which we sometimes lament, but usually not.

Over the years all my children except Stavros emigrated to Australia. Roula went first because she hated working in the fields and wanted a chance to start a new life. Kon joined her a year later, and then the others followed. I wanted them to be happy and to have a better life than I did so I didn’t mind them leaving, but my god I missed them so much. My children are my life and they have always made me so happy and so proud, even now. In 1976 I went to Australia for a visit and I had such a wonderful time, mostly because I got to see all my children and grandchildren. Little Chrysoula was, of course, my favourite*. She was such a delightful child, and she taught me how to count to ten in English, and even though my memory isn’t what it used to be, I’ve never forgotten: onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten! See!! I do have trouble remembering some things, but those old days are crystal clear. I loved Australia so much I went back for another visit in 1988 and I wish I could go again, but, even though I’m as fit as a fiddle, let’s face it, at my age it’s probably not going to happen. There is always someone here, one of my kids, looking after me, and I appreciate that. But I wish my grandchildren would visit more often.

I met my yiayia for the first time when I was five years old. She came to visit us from Greece and stayed with us for a few months. It was nice having her around because she was always smiling and laughing and hugging us and telling stories and crocheting beautiful things. Her skin was wrinkly, but soft, like well-worn leather. And you could tell that my Dad just LOVED having her around. They glowed around each other, overflowing with mutual adoration and respect. My grandmother was such a loving person and she taught my Dad to be honest and hard-working and to be proud of his achievements. In turn, he taught me the same.

I’ve been thinking about my yiayia a lot lately. I am writing this ejo to celebrate her, while she’s still alive. I don’t know if I will ever see her again. But I want to. The last time was five years ago. She recognised me, which was wonderful, but she is very locked up in her mind most of the time. Locked in the past. And the people around her, even loved ones, are very much in the periphery of her consciousness. But every time we are together, even though my Greek is shit and she can’t speak English, there is always a deep and loving connection between us. A circle of life and love that cannot be broken by distance or years apart.

We are Chrysoula Stathopoulos.










* Some creative license MAY have been used in the writing of this ejo.


Ejo #90 – Drunk In….. Hoi An

David and I just got back from Hoi An!! Vietnam, bitches! And, as always, we had a rip-roaring time. You might recall that we’ve been to Vietnam before, on a far more daring odyssey. In 2012 we rode old Russian motorbikes into the remote mountains of the central highlands, going WAY off the beaten track and totally off the tourist trail. It was scary as hell, and bloody amazing.

This time we were visiting our friend, Cath, who has recently upped stumps from Melbourne and moved to the beautiful and cultural, historic town of Hoi An. There were no fearless adventures this time. The gutsiest thing we did each day was to venture out of Cath’s house, and into the searing sun and withering humidity. This might not sound so heroic to you, but I cannot stress enough how UNBELIEVABLY hot and sticky it was. You’d think we are accustomed to high temperatures, having lived in Dubai for eight and a half years, but we spend very little time outdoors during summer. I tell you, I have never been so hot and so sweaty in my life. But hey, we were there to get drunk in Hoi An and we had no choice but to brave the hostile outdoors so that I could bring you this month’s ejo.

So, the first thing you do after arriving in Hoi An on a hot day is to get an ice cold beer into you, preferably under some shade, and ideally next to a fan. Air-conditioning is rare, so just get used to having rivulets of sweat constantly pouring down your body, and enjoy the hell out of that beer. And the next one. Beer in Vietnam is literally cheaper than water, and we paid less than 60 cents for a can. So crack one open and start hydrating. You’re gonna need it.


Biere Larue, a local beer, cost less than a dollar a bottle and is a necessity in the searing heat.



After arriving at Cath’s house we headed to the local market and walked around to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the local bazaar. Cath had mentioned that she’d spotted a huge pig’s head the day before and I was really keen to see it, so off we went in search of it, but alas it was gone. Luckily there was a cornucopia of other produce to stimulate the senses. In the morning heat, the meat and fish section was particularly stimulating.


The hubbub of Ba Le Market – we went by the market at least a couple of times a day.



All the fresh produce you could think of under one roof.



Super fresh fruit and veg, at super cheap prices.



Fancy some fish?  How about an octopus?



Some beautiful fresh fishies being chopped up for someone’s delicious dinner.


We rushed through and quickly made our way to a refreshment stand for a little pick-me-up of Vietnamese coffee. Now, Vietnamese coffee isn’t your regular cup of joe. It’s very strong syrupy coffee, slow-dripped onto lashings of condensed milk. In hot weather it’s always served with ice. It’s certainly a heart-starter and we made it a morning ritual to get up early every day to beat the heat and head on over to our favourite stall to sit down in little plastic children’s chairs and slam a couple of these down in a row. Trust me, your hangover will thank you for it.


You can get Vietnamese coffee, and juices (including the ubiquitous sugar cane juice) at any of the multitude of market stalls, but this one was our favourite (it’s on the main road – look for the sign) and we were there every single morning for our double dose of Vietnamese coffee.  They laughed at us the first time we ordered a second round.  But after that they started greeting us with a smile.



Strong, sweet Vietnamese coffee.  SO good.

Lê Thánh Tông, Hội An, Quang Nam Province



So what makes bánh mì so special? Have you ever had one?? If so, you wouldn’t be asking. The best bánh mì is served in a freshly baked crusty, French baguette smeared with pâté and then stuffed full of goodness with all sorts of yummy ingredients depending on the region, or the shop owner. Bánh mì was one of the things we really wanted to try on this trip, so one sweltering lunchtime we grabbed a cab and took off for Old Town Hoi An, straight to Madam Khanh’s. We were offered no menu, just a choice of vegetarian or pork bánh mì. We got the pork, with a little extra spice and, of course, beer! This is PERFECT hangover food. Greasy, delicious, comforting and filling. I couldn’t finish mine, but I had the rest later at home while we were laying low to avoid the heat, and it was even better, as all the flavours had intensified and soaked into the bread. My mouth just had an orgasm, remembering how good it was.


The famous Madam Khanh herself!  Still making bánh mì every day at the age of 79.  Hers are a special mix of pâté, pork char siu, sausage, fried egg, homemade pickles, papaya, carrots, parsley, chili sauce, soy sauce, and her secret sauce.



Seriously.  Look at that.  To die for.

115 Trần Cao Vân, Sơn Phong, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam
+84 90 666 03 09



Why am I featuring an ATM cubicle in a Drunk In….. ejo?  Because it’s the coldest 2m³ in the whole goddamn town.  No joke, keep this one up your sleeve.


You know it’s hot when all three of you pile into the eensy-weensy teeny-weeny little ATM cubicle just for a few moments of respite.  © Cath Grey




David and I don’t usually go for wine bars in South East Asia (it feels too much like a western concept), but Cath insisted we try this place for dinner one night and I’m really glad she did. The food was so good, and so authentic, that we went back again the next day for lunch and then again on our last day (it was those Money Bags damn it, we just couldn’t stay away). Each time we also consumed plenty of beer, tonnes of sparkling water and tonnes of sparkling wine. That’s how we roll, kids! The service here is impeccable and the food consistently amazing. Highly recommended.


That Napoleon Bonaparte knew a thing or two, didn’t he?!!



Hoi An spring rolls



The best damn Money Bags I’ve ever had in my life.  Probably the best you’ll ever have too.



Super fresh rice paper rolls stuffed with prawns, lettuce, mint, coriander, carrot, pineapple and vermicelli noodles.  So fresh and tasty!

98 Lê Lợi, Minh An, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam
+84 235 3911 862



We took a few trips into historic Hoi An. There are heaps of restaurants, shops, bars, cafés and stalls to while away several drunken hours, if not the entire day! One evening when we were rather drunk, we walked around the crowded riverside stalls, fending off overly friendly expat club promoters trying to beguile us into having a drink with them. As we navigated the thronging streets, one particular stall caught my eye, and even though I was absolutely stuffed full of Money Bags I just HAD to have a freshly made Vietnamese banana pancake. I’m a sucker for these things, and you should be too because they’re bloody delicious. Eggs, butter, banana, condensed milk. What else could you want? It was the perfect end to our evening out (because I shortly thereafter slipped into a sugar coma – totes worth it). But fear not, the party continued on Cath’s balcony with plenty of bottles of rosé and prosecco to revive me.


These are made fresh to order with your choice of condensed milk or chocolate sauce on top.  Condensed milk wins for me ever’ damn time!



Yes, you should.  © Cath Grey



Exploring the watering holes and eateries of any city is hard work and sometimes your body just cries out for some TLC. We made sure to look after ours by getting a restorative massage at Na Spa Escape. It’s a lovely, peaceful and air-conditioned (!!!!) oasis from which to escape the heat and noise of the city for just a little while. We were given the choice of a firm-pressure Asian blend massage, or a more relaxing Swedish massage. We all went with the firm choice. We needed it! And though the massage itself ended up being not as firm as I would have liked, I certainly walked away from it feeling super rejuvenated, relaxed and ready to take on the challenge of more eating and drinking!


The calming interior of the Na Spa Escape retreat.  We were asked if we wanted to go for the three-way massage, but we politely declined.  David and I had a romantic couple’s massage and Cath went solo.  I think it was for the best.

100/5 Le Thanh Tong, Cam Chau, T.P. Hoi An, Quang Nam
+84 235 3914 199



It’s never a “Drunk In…..” experience without at least a pinch of culture thrown in for fun. We’re not heathens, for god’s sake!! This time we hired a driver for a half-day trip to the seaside fishing town of Tam Thanh, also known as Mural Village for the multitude of murals painted onto the houses along its only street. About a year ago the South Korean government, in a lightbulb moment, commissioned a bunch of Vietnamese and South Korean artists and asked them to jazz up the tiny town with a lick of paint. The locals were supposedly a bit nonplussed about the whole thing, but they were completely shocked when people started coming from far and wide, just to take pictures of the wall paintings. It seems as though they still haven’t really recovered, because there’s not a whole lot of trade going on, which actually makes it a very charming little place. Everyone smiles and waves at you and no-one makes you feel like you’re intruding on them when you take pictures of their house.


Vietnam’s second most popular mode of transportation, after motorbikes.



Two types of local fishing boats, pimped up!



Gorgeous artistry.  © Cath Grey



Murals everywhere.



Tam Thanh is a super gorgeous village.  I reckon I’d love to spend two whole weeks here, doing nothing but drinking beer and coconut juice and gorging on fish.


We had plans to go to a local beach restaurant for lunch but at 9.45am it was still way too early, so when beckoned by a group of locals, we took a break under the shade of a tree on some tiny plastic chairs and ordered three coconuts, stat! The lady of the house (and it really was just the front of some woman’s house) chopped the coconuts right on the ground with a huge machete, and served them up with straws. Perfecto! We slurped up all the juice and then she split each coconut in half with her big-ass knife so we could get at the young, juicy pulp. So much goodness. When it was time to pay, she totally fleeced us and kept increasing the number of fingers going up until our faces started registering shock. Then she put up one more finger for good measure and everyone in her posse laughed heartily, as we willingly handed over the extortionate sum of $4.50, which is about double the price we should have paid.


Three coconuts please!



The remains.




It was almost time for lunch, but the coconut had given me some, uh, shall we say trouble in the trouser department, so we headed off to the Tam Thanh Beach Resort & Spa’s Ocean Breeze bar for a couple of refreshing beers – and the opportunity to use the only nice toilet in the vicinity. If you come to gorgeous Tam Thanh, I’d definitely recommend coming to Ocean Breeze afterwards to use the facilities, and of course to have a refreshment.


Tam Thanh beach (dotted with fishing boats).  It’s gorgeous, but it was brutally hot out there and we couldn’t even muster up the fortitude to venture down to the water.  Luckily, Ocean Breeze has toilets, beer and an air-conditioned lounge from which to gaze upon the lovely scene above. 


It was finally time for lunch, so we sauntered across the street to a row of open-air beach restaurants and made a beeline for the one on the far left (since that was the one that Cath had been to before).  I bet they’re all amazing though, and I bet they all serve the freshest seafood you’ve ever had. We negotiated the confusing, handwritten English menu with the help of the staff and kicked back with some beers and peanuts, contemplating what a lovely day we were having. If you’re looking for any recommendations, I will have to insist you get the calamari and the crabs. These were incredibly fresh and delicious. And even though we were quite full, the calamari was just so good we had to order another round.


Fresh peanuts while you wait.  A perfect beer snack.



Coz they could see us coming a mile away, they brought us a little cooler full of beer and ice. Which was most welcome.



Coriander, pepper and lime salt.  Delicious on EVERYTHING with a squeeze of fresh lime on top.  We went through six plates of this stuff.  Sure, some of it ended up on the plastic table cloth – but that didn’t stop us from dipping our food into it.  Waste not, want not!



The crab was super fresh.  How fresh?  Let’s just say that those lovely crabs sacrificed their lives for us about ten minutes after we ordered them.  Best crab I’ve had in 30 years.



What was left of the fish that we didn’t really mean to order.  © Cath Grey



The calamari was so good we ordered another plate of it to the bewilderment (and amusement) of the waitress.

Get yourself to Tam Thanh Beach Resort & Spa where Ocean Breeze is located. When you’re ready to go to the No Name Beach Restaurant, just cross the road (DT614) and head to the restaurant closest to the beach.



At the end of nearly every day of our stay in Hoi An, we ended up at Restaurant 328, a local dining establishment where Cath was greeted like long lost family and David and I were welcomed with open arms.  And every time we went, we each devoured one of these delicious, home-made frozen confections, delightfully (and aptly named) Mango Delights.  And how delightful they were.  The first day when we excitedly ordered them, Aunty told us that she had only just popped the ice-cream in the freezer 15 minutes earlier and that it would be too soft to serve.  I guess the traumatised expressions on our faces convinced her to offer it to us anyway.  This stuff alone is worth travelling to Hoi An for.  My mouth is spurting just thinking about it.  Oh, it’s spurting.


Is it any wonder this is called a Mango Delight?  LOOK AT IT!!  It’s fucking delightful!!!!!


On another visit we ordered three Mango Delights and three shots of their home-made rice wine to wash it down. Uncle was chuffed and proudly brought over a plastic water bottle filled with the potent clear liquid, and poured out three measures for us. This stuff is STRONG. I’m not ashamed to say that there was some enthusiastic table banging, and a little bit of strident gasping for a few minutes there, but it’s still something I’d definitely recommend. It’s wine. Made from Vietnamese rice. Of course you have to have it. On our last visit to the restaurant, Aunty somehow knew that we were leaving the next day and wanted to give us a little surprise.  She furtively crept up to our table and burst into fits of laughter as she revealed what she was hiding behind her back. Yep, the plastic bottle of rice wine and three little glasses. Of course we had to partake. Twice. It would have been rude not to.


Rice wine.  Tastes like a mixture of sake and petrol.  With slightly more petrol overtones.



After I started writing this ejo I asked Cath if she wouldn’t mind going back to Restaurant 328 to get a photo of Aunty and her plastic water bottle of home-made rice wine. Unfortunately Aunty had better things to do that day, but Cath figured that this wonderful drawing was a pretty good substitute.  I tend to agree.  (But seriously, Cath, lay off the rice wine, OK?) 😉

328 Cua Dai, Hoi An, Quảng Nam
+84 235 3862 095



C’mon, we had to have one final hit of phở before we left Vietnam.


A farewell meal at the airport.  There are some airports around the world where I much prefer to eat in the terminal rather than the airport lounge.  This includes pretty well all the South East Asian cities.  This farewell phở really hit the spot and helped to ease the anguish of leaving Vietnam.

Level 3, Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi



Yes, we did.


When the going gets hot, the hot get in the blow-up wading pool.  Sure, the two little girls next door laughed uproariously at us as we were filling it up with water, but in the end we were in a pool and they were not.  So, who’s laughing now little girls?!