Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hue historical sites

In Hue we visited the main historical sites:  the Imperial City, the Thien Mu (Linh Mu Pagoda), the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang, the Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, and the Tomb of Khai Dinh.  There were additional Tombs to visit but we passed on visiting them on this visit.

An ever present ticket collector

The Imperial City

The Citadel is located on the north side of the Perfume River (Huong Giang).   It is an easy, but hot walk from the main hotel district on the south side of the Perfume River.  Inside of the Citadel is the Imperial City, and withing the Imperial City is the Forbidden City.  This roughly parallels the Forbidden Palace in Beijing.  The Hue Imperial City and the Forbidden are under major reconstruction.

Entry Gate to Imperial City

The Throne

Restoration Work

The Imperial City and Citadel suffered during both the First Indochina War (French) and the Second Indochina War (United States).  The military forces of both countries shelled and fought battles with nationalist forces in Hue.  As in the case of My Son, both sides in the wars chose to use these historical sites as battle grounds. The battles combined with wooden building, termites, looting, weather and general lack of maintenance have resulted in major devastation.  Two reconstruction efforts, one in the early 1990's and one currently ongoing have stabilized the existing structures, and restoration/reconstruction is evident.  The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Entrance to the Imperial City is via the Royal Gate.  International visitors must use the gate on the left side of the Royal Gate.  Once inside are two fish ponds are separated by the "Golden Water Bridge". You can feed the fish, but buy the fish food.  Proceed north to ascend into the Dai Trieu Nghi and the Thai Hoa Palace (Palace of Supreme Harmony).  This is a well preserved building.  In the back of the building is a model of the Imperial City and a well made video animation.  If you are interested in reconstruction techniques you will be rewarded.  Panels for long covered porticoes were being rebuilt and reinstalled,   But major building remain as "terraces and platforms" within the Forbidden City.  Strangely, the royal tennis court is fenced in and appears to be in use.  

Thien Mu (Linh Mu Pagoda)

Several km west of the Citadel is Thien Mu (Linh Mu Pagoda).  It is accessible by road or via the many boats on the Perfume River.  If you use the boats, negotiate carefully, and include all conditions (waiting for you while in the Pagoda) in your negotiations.  Be sure the boat operator is aware of your   conditions as the touts are reputed to make all sorts of promises.  (Our boat ride was uneventful as the wife of the operator traveled with us.)

The Pagoda is on a hill overlooking the Perfume river.  It consists of several building, including the Pagoda built in the 19th century, and very nice formal gardens.  In reaction to the Republic of Vietnam's (South Vietnam) persecution of Buddhist monks at the nearby Tu Dam Pagoda in 1963, a monk from the Linh Mu Pagoda committed suicide by self-immolation in Saigon.  He is memorialized with the Austin car that he used to travel to Saigon.

Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang

The Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang is located about 1/2 hour drive from Hue.  From the parking lot it is a 10 minute walk along the wall surrounding the Tomb.  Restoration work is underway on some portions of this complex.  Key elements of landscaping are being dealt with, as well as preserving the structures.  The complex has many architectural elements drawing the visitor from one area to another.

One of the bridges towards the tomb area

Construction of the Tomb began (1840) before the death the death Emperor Minh Mang (18410 but was completed (1843) according to his plans by his son Emperor Thieu Tri.

A view of the tomb

It is a universe for the departed Emperor to explore with the external wall serving as the boundary for this universe.

Tomb of Emperor Tu Doc

This tomb was built by Emperor Tu Doc from 1864 through 1867.  Tu Doc did not die until 1867, but spend most of last 20 years of his life residing in the tomb buildings, and palaces.  He retreated here after an attempted coup in 1866.  This coup was caused by the Emperor's use of corvee labor and taxation to build the tombs.

The Stela Pavilion

The Emperor had over 100 wives and concubines but sired no successor.  He was succeeded by his nephew who lived only 7 months and is also buried in this tomb complex.  Since the Emperor had no son, he wrote his own epitaph.  His biggest regret was allowing the French a foothold in Vietnam.

Despite the lavish tomb complex, Emperor Tu Doc was not interred here, but in another secret tomb in the city of Hue.  Over 200 laborers died to protect this still secret location.

Tomb of Khai Dinh

Emperor Khai Dinh, was not last emperor of Vietnam, but was the last to have a royal tomb.  With this tomb construction materials change incorporating many western items including glass and porcelain decorations on the walls.  Our guide informed us that the Emperor received permission from the French colonial administration to raise taxes by 30% to build the building.  In the end he was considered to be a "salaried employee of the French Government".  The building was completed in 1931, six years after his death in 1925.

Tomb of Khai Dinh

My take on the tombs: they increasingly represent the decay of an autocratic state, started by Vietnamese Emperors and ended by puppets of a colonial power.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The search for a battery is concluded

Several months ago prior to our trip to Bhutan, our friend asked me to assist in finding a mobile phone battery for a phone he purchased in Malaysia in 2009.  So off I went to Lot 10, an electronics mall in Kuala Lumpur.  I thought it had almost everything.  But alas, no battery was to be found.  Not in the accessory stores, not in the stores specializing in batteries, and not in the manufacturer's (CSL) service centre.  They informed me that spare parts for the model were no longer available.  Other dealers were less charitable;  others suggested that if I had the battery something might be found.

So when I returned from Bhutan in late July, I had the old battery with me.  So I started at Lot 10 yet again.  Same tour of accessory dealers, battery dealers, and the CSL service centre.  I had no better luck.  I was rather desperate, even looking for battery packs which I could substitute.  Nothing could be found.  One dealer said, "Oh from a Chinese phone" and just handed it back to me.

On our way home, outside the KL Monorail station at KL Sentral in Brickfields, Liz saw a battery, mobile phone, watch and clock shop (Tukang Jam Waikong, No. 88 Tun Sambanthan, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur).  She called me back and I showed the battery to the sales clerk.  He said leave a phone number and come back in two days.

Our hero, Chandran

The next day, I received a phone call.  He had the battery!  I went down by taxi, picked up the battery (RM 45) and went back home.  Instructions: insert in phone, charge for 6 hours and all should be well.

So, many thanks to "Liz, finder of lost things".

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mỹ Sơn Cham Temple Complex, a fractured tour

Our one excursion from Hoi An was an early morning tour to  Mỹ Sơn  .  Mỹ Sơn   is an 4th century  to 14th century Hindu complex of temples in Central Vietnam.  Founded by the Champa, a empire that ruled central Vietnam and extended into Cambodia and Thailand, it lasted until the end of the 15th century when it was defeated by the Vietnamese.  The temples remained hidden in the jungles until "rediscovered" by the French in the late 19th century.  The temple complex was obliterated by US B52 carpet bombing in one week of 1969, and by US Marine sappers blowing up a remaining temple.  Restoration is currently being funded by India and Italy.  A good description of the Mỹ Sơn complex can be found in wikipedia

So we went to  Mỹ Sơn   leaving at 5am to avoid the oppressive heat of an August summer day.  The bus ride was approximately 1 hour in length.  At the entrance gate we had to pay our entry fee, and the police came out to count the number of people in the bus before allowing entry.


After we got off the bus, our guide told us to stick to the marked trail or we would get lost.  Since there was a lot of thick jungle, I took the warning at face value.  Only later when reading about Mỹ Sơn  did I discover the reason was unexploded 250lb, 500lb bombs, and land mines from various sources.  In this case "lost" meant more than lost.

Ongoing Restoration

Our Guide and the Linga
Our tour guide's mastery of the english language was limited, but his embellishment of certain features of Hindu temple architecture and features was not.  We received graphic descriptions of the Linga, and the Yoni, how they come together to create a Shiva Temple.  We were told the setting of the temple complex at the base of the mountains (the Linga) and the river valley (the yoni) were symbolic of Shiva.  He caressed the Linga, and told us he kept pictures of Linga in his bedroom to keep him to be strong and make his wife happy.  This went on for approximately 10 minutes with the gathered tourists either shocked, or suppressing laughter or both.  He told us a fractured story of the creation of Genesh.  Archaeologists, historians, religious scholars and psychologists should be aware of how their finely honed descriptions can be changed when heard from the mouths of travel guides.  It is much like reading subtitles of movies and comparing them to the original dialog.

We wandered around the ruins of the temples, carefully following the marked paths, viewed monoliths with writing our guide said were untranslatable, but were probably written in both Sanskrit and Cham.  When searching the web for information o Mỹ Sơn, I found the most useful information in Wikiopedia, and on the Global Heritage Fund website.  The Global Heritage Fund site has better and more useful pictures than I was able to take.

A temple in need of stabilization

Another temple needing restoration work

The best part of the tour was we left before the crafts shop opened.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SOIL - Educating Leaders

A School of Inspired Leadership! What does it entail? Can other management educators learn from SOIL? SOIL(School of Inspired Leadership in Gurgaon, India) aims to "build competent, compassionate, and inspiring leaders." I do not recall ever seeing "compassion" listed as a management program's goals. So, I wanted learn how SOIL develops students while delivering a quality academic program.  I emailed a few questions to Snehal, a SOIL faculty member, and perused its website.

First, a few details. SOIL, started in 2009, offers three one-year postgraduate programs - business leadership, human resource leadership, and marketing leadership. Each programs has four components: business excellence, skill building, leadership development,  and a social innovation project. Business excellence covers academic content. Skill building includes skills such as presentation, negotiation, and project management. Leadership development and the social innovation project develop leadership, including compassion. All students are full time.

Second, SOIL's philosophy justifies its holistic approach to leadership, based on mindfulness, compassion, sustainability, ethics, and diversity. "All people have an innate desire to do good and serve the well being of all. Faulty education and upbringing make people forget this.The role of education is to know who you are and discover your purpose and connect to the goodness within. All of us have been blessed with unique gifts to work towards our true purpose. When we work to leverage our gifts towards our purpose, we become inspired leaders. When we enable others to do so, we build inspired leaders and organizations of consequence.There is a leadership crisis today as most leaders, especially in the business world, do not identify with the purpose of creating well being of all"

A student summary highlights six activities that develop students' leadership: creating a power point on "Who am I," writing and staging a performance, taking a yoga and meditation course, working with an NGO, attending lectures on non-hierarchical forms of  leadership, and observing the examples set by faculty. The leadership components in each program include: self leadership (the power point slides), pillars of inspired leadership (mindfulness, compassion, sustainability, ethics, and diversity) through theater, wellness (yoga and meditation). Note. no picking and choosing activities; they are required of all students.

The social innovation project "build[s] awareness and an appreciation of community partnerships, develop[s] leadership capabilities, compassion and empathy, facilitation of teams and assuming responsibility without having authority."At the start of the year NGOs come to SOIL and present: what they do, what type of projects they can offer etc. A student team of 4-5 is is allocated to each project, For one year students go weekly to the NGO to work on the project.  

SOIL's culture is captured with the morning meeting that starts each day. "The entire SOIL community; faculty, staff, and students gather in a large circle, join hands and chant a morning prayer from different beliefs and faith. After the prayer, we share stories - say about an NGO visit the previous day, an interesting article or a short clip on leaders, motivation, have a short dialogue of current events etc. The tone is almost always positive. That is, share the 'goodness' and celebrate what is working well with us, SOIL, India and the world. It is a 15 minute gathering...essentially connecting the energy of everyone." Truthfully, I enjoy visualizing colleagues, whom I have worked with, gathering together, holding hands, and chanting.  I learned about the morning meeting when a staff member at a Navjyoti program reported that it had implemented the morning meeting. 

Has SOIL made a difference in students' lives or the organizations that employ them? With three graduating classes it is soon to tell. Student postings enthusiastically endorse SOIL's leadership building activities.  Nevertheless, recent graduates report that their  energy and ideas are drained as the enter traditional, authoritarian, hierarchical organizations. Change takes time. A longitudinal study of SOIL graduates should be revealing.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Central VIetnam: Tourist Notes (Hue)

Drivers ready to give a tour

The common phrases heard in Hoi An were shop keepers, saying "Come have a look" or "Buy something from me." In Hue no shop keepers offered a similar invitation. Instead providers of transportation (rickshaws, motorcycles or boats) offered a tour for "Just 1 hour." The offer of a 1 hour trip may have exhausted their knowledge of English. We succumbed to a "just an hour" plea and took a boat trip on the Perfume River. The river derives its name from sweet smelling flowers that fall into it during the autumn.

In Hue we toured pagoda, some of the Emperors' tombs, and the citadel (to be described by Doug) and took a cooking class (described by Doug) were our major activities. Otherwise we walked and soaked up the city's environment. To avoid the hottest part of the day we spent the mid-afternoon back at the hotel. We normally walked toward the Perfume River, which involved walking through a street market at all hours. In the evening when business was nearly non-existent we would see clusters of sellers and others (family or friends) playing card. A good portion of their day was spent on the street.

Street seller in Hue - fish in the foreground, then the veggies
She knew we weren't buying - we just one more startled tourist
Another section of the market - wide selection and small quantities
At the Trang Tien Bridge we turned right. As we walked along we saw a small bird market and fish market. The crowded bird cages were depressing - I understand that many birds die in such markets.

Fish for sale - no idea of what is next in their lives
A cage at a small bird market - the bars on the fence (to discourage thieves
is a commentary on their sad state
On the river bank there were rows of boats and women offering to take you out on the river "for just one hour." We succumbed to one of these pleas for businesses. We negotiated a price equivalent to USD3 (middle of the day and business was slow). We boarded the boat oand sat on the ever available small stools. We were joined by the pilot, the operator and her children. We got our money's worth and made up difference between the original price and the negotiated price by buying a handmade card to enclose a wedding gift and a small purse to use for one of our growing collection of Asian currencies. The trip was relaxing and gave us a glimpse of life along the river - no outhouses on the river and only one or two people washing dishes in the river. I am sure what is washed changes during the course of the day.

Boat operator (?) - she sold us the trip

A portion of the large fleet of boats plying the river

A view of a pagoda and statue of Confucius
Another stop along the river bank (turn right after crossing bridge) there is a grocery store (too small to constitute a super market) and a bit further down the Central Market. The grocery was a cheaper source of snacks and coffees. As Heinz stock holders we checked out Heinz products - ketchup (above frozen foods) , mustard and vinegar (in condiments). At the Central Market we received many offers to help us find things. The conversation started with "where are you from?" We tried Malaysia, b/c we figured US triggered hopes that we would spend $$$. One person upon hearing our response said "no way." Others clearly had no idea where Malaysia was. As for the market we wandered through - not as neat and clean as the one in Hoi An, but in any case were already had no suitcase room.

At night we saw a few altars outside shops. Typically they would have paper money, some fruit, and joss streets. This announced that the Month of the Hungry Ghosts had started. Although after reading the link we may have been inferring that the Vietnamese were observing the Hungry Ghost at the same time and in the same way as in Malaysia.

An altar

Another altar - I believe that the flames facilitate
transmitting the offered goods (correct me if I am wrong)

In Hue we had our only unpleasant encounter of our recent travels. A man offered to take us on a motor cycle tour. We declined.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Central Vietnam Tourist Notes (Hoi An)

Outside De Nang Train Station - Engine is real!

Da Nang was our travel hub in Central Vietnam - we arrived and left from Da Nang's Airport and we took a train from Da Nang to Hue.

What we learned was what we observed from a car window. Da Nang, and Hoi An as well, was incredibly clean - we saw no litter anywhere. In contrast to our recent travels the road surface was good and the traffic moved smoothly - no auto rickshaws weaving in and out or trucks barrelling down on us.

From the road Da Nang appeared to be in the midst of building boon. Along the side of the road were signs designating luxury resorts. We headed for Hoi An around 3:30 p.m. on a Monday, headed back mid-morning on a Thursday and a Monday. At no time did we see signs of active construction. In some places there were roads and street lights, but that was about it.

Hoi An

After we arrived in Hoi An we explored the old town.We passed shops with constant invitations to "take a look," "buy something from me." We eyed roadside food stalls - they look much more inviting than the last time we were in Vietnam (2002). Pictured below is a  typical street market with women selling vegetables and flowers. It was late in the day and the number of sellers had thinned out. The older woman at the front of the picture had an air of elegance that caught our eye. She is at a small table with small stools - a common style of dining al fresco. Locals most are most often seen eating at these roadside tables and tourists in the restaurants.

Mobile "restaurants" are scattered along the street. Each serves a few dishes. The baguettes (barely visible on the upper right) suggest that her "menu" includes banh mi. The boy on the left was checking his phone - a universal habit.

Actually there weren't many dogs hanging out - nothing close to Bhutan where sleeping dogs were everywhere. We snapped this picture b/c we loved how they posed themselves.
Several areas of the Hoi An are closed to vehicles that makes walking more pleasurable. The rows of shop houses are typical in Southeast Asia. Cities and countries have their own way to decorating them. We saw the lanterns here and in Hue. Note how clean the street is.

The old city is on one of the banks of the Thu Bon River.

Among the spectators - note the bride having pictures
taken to show at her wedding

If you can name our guide - let us know
Hoi An's Tourist Office helped keep us busy. We bought a ticket to enter  5 sites (a clan house, mechants' houses, and the  covered bridge) and see a cultural performance.. At the Tourist Office we hired a guide, Truong Duy Tri (truongduytri@yahoo.com). Truong was a veteran of Vietnam's border battles with Cambodia. He spoke excellent English and provided us insights into the local culture. In answer to a question if people consult an astrologer to set a wedding date and time (as they do in Bhutan and India), he told us that the rely on the lunar calender. He showed us an app on his phone which he could identify a lucky date.

He has a daughter studying at the National University of Singapore. We are constantly humbled and impressed by people we met - guides, taxi drivers, and so on - who have children studying at high quality universities away from home - usually without a scholarship. 

At the Fukkien Chinese Assembly Hall the first thing we noticed were the incense coils where people had hung messages and appeals -  reminding us of the pray wheels and prayer flags of Bhutan. Our guide assured us that God was multi-lingual as all the messages we neither in Vietnamese nor Chinese. The Assembly Hall had an altar; while we were there one woman stopped to pray. We could photograph this altar, but it felt disrespectful to get too close. Behind this altar was another one where pregnant women would pray to the image of a deity.

These incense coils last one month.

We visited two merchants' houses. They were sprawling affairs similar to ones we saw in Malacca. The Hoi An houses were occupied by members of the original families. In one house the women made white roses, a dumpling sold in Hoi An restaurants, and in the other they did needlework including embroidering table cloths. Yes, we couldn't resist the sales pitch.

A busy family in a merchant's house - everything pictured is
for sale (I bet you could even buy the fan!)

Burned shop house - out of view, lots of spectators.

Not on the official tour was gazing at a  burned out shop house. I asked our guide about fires, a common occurrence in Bhutan. That day Hoi An's old town had its first fire in over 40 years. A more common disaster are floods. Doug noted that  many restaurants have their kitchens on the 2nd floor - he hypothesized that they avoid damage if the 1st floor is flooded out. We saw a trap door on the 2nd floor of one of the merchant's houses so furnitiure from the first floor could be hoisted up.

The Tourist Office sponsors a cultural show at the Handicraft Workshop - a pleasant pause in the middle of a hot afternoon. (As we travel around SE Asia comparisons are inevitable - in this case the Saung Angklung Udjo performance in Bandung was the best cultural performance we have seen thus far.)
Playing traditional instruments
Dancers telling a folk tall, with lots of miming

The Tourist Office sponsor night time activities and events in the old town. We enjoyed watching this traditional game. Members of the audience pay (of course), put on a mask, take a mallet, aim for the pots, and take a swing to break the pot. Ir was harder than it looked - we saw a lot of people striking empty air.

Upper right & left pots that we the targets. Note
broken pots on ground, the sign that some people win

Mask on and ready to walk and strike

A last image of Hoi An. This woman in Hoi An's market sold us Nuoc Mam. She could speak English, so another stall owner came over to help out. We were struck by how women dominated Hoi An's economy - they ran the markets and shops.

We spent two full days in Hoi An, which was not enough time to take interesting tours or visit the beach. The hotel had brochures for tours that we will consider in the future. (The hotel Hai Au was a good source of travel advice, we assume the brochures reflected their commitment to tourists having a good experience.) Happy Days Bicycle Tours offered a range of tours that seemed to offer a closer look at village life. Hoi An Photo Tour is probably one we should follow up on to learn how to use the various features of our camera and to add to the types of pictures we take.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cooking in Vietnam: A Tale of Two Kitchens

This was our 6th international trip so far (from Kuala Lumpur).  We purchased our tickets on Air Asia almost a year ago, on a whim.  Air Asia had a sale RM59 (less than USD 20) one way to DaNang, Vietnam about 2 hours and 40 minute journey.  We bit, purchased the tickets and would decide what to do later.  Well, later came after we returned in July from two weeks in Bhutan.  The central coast of Vietnam could be no different.  I doubt we got to an altitude higher than 100 meters.  A far cry from the 4,000 meters in Bhutan.  Let me say, central Vietnam has beautiful beaches.  From DaNang to Hoi An is about 25 km of white sandy beach, and from DaNang to Hue, we viewed km upon km of beautiful beaches from our seats on the train.  But we are not beach people.  So we had to decide what to do.

Quite frankly, Liz has gotten tired of my cooking, and so have I.  Vietnam looked like a great place to learn new recipes, spicing, and some new techniques.

Hoi An

Perusing guidebooks, and the web, we found a plethora of cooking schools in Hoi An.  We had to decide, did we want touristy cooking classes with a short visit to a market, a boat ride to a village, a walk through an herb garden, followed by a demonstration of cooking.  Or did we want a total hands on cooking package.  For Hoi An we chose the middle ground.  Both Liz and I took a class at the Morning Glory cooking school, in the Morning Glory Restaurant.  We made reservations through the web.  Everything was quoted in USD and converting to VND lead to some gulping as the total VND cost came to over 1.2 million (USD 1 = VND20,810).

Liz on Market Tour

We arrived at the restaurant at 9am and quickly were divided into groups for the market tour.  The market was only two blocks away.  We were issued Vietnamese conical hats (to identify us in the market as the only  non-Asians wearing conical hats.  We started by wandering through the meat and poultry market.  All types of meat products were available, but contrary to similar meat markets in nearby countries, the facilities were clean, did not smell, and did not have fluids on the floor.

Meat in the market

 We made no purchases.  We ended up at a vegetable vendor.  Our guide showed us various herbs commonly used in Vietnam.  Vietnamese cuisine uses a wide variety of herbs (cilantro, Chinese cilantro, various varieties of basil (sweet, lemon, and anise (Thai)), a variety of ginger like tubers (old ginger, new ginger, turmeric, and galangal (laos or blue ginger)), and at least three varieties of garlic (large similar to what you find in a western market, a medium size, and a very small size (used for sauces and nuoc mam dips)).

Garlic and Shallots

 Lemon grass is ever present, and the use of lemon/lime leaves is common.

A large peeler was shown, and demonstrated by a vegetable sales person.  Wielded properly, it will shred lemon grass, peel a mango or papaya, create thin slices of vegetables which can then be cut into julienne strips, and even slice shallots into thin slices for deep frying.  And it only cost USD 2.50.  The hawkers would do well in US state fares, or European street markets.  We also saw and purchased a shredding device and a morning glory stem splitter (why I do not know but watch out in your Christmas gifts).  After the previous day when I discovered I knew nothing about local prices, I bargained long and hard to make my purchases.

Vegetables galore

We then crossed the street to the riverbank fish market.  Fresh eels squirmed in buckets, prawns were flipping in buckets, and crabs had rubber bands on their claws or were tied with strips of bamboo.  The fish you purchased had been live within the previous hour.  Needless to say,  no foul smells were present.

Crabs in the fish market

Finally we went to the fruit market to see rambutans, monkey eyes, papaya, mango, avocado, green oranges (great for sweet juice), watermelons, guava, jack fruit, passion fruit, and multiple varieties of bananas and plantains.  Later in the day we feasted on the largest peach I have ever seen (about the size of a softball).

Avocado and mango

After the market tour we retired to the second floor "theatre kitchen".  Enough tables for 24 people were arranged like a classroom in a semi circle.  The focus of attention was the center kitchen table with a huge mirror positioned so we could see the chef at work.

The chef and demo kitchen

 Each of the participants had a small sharp knife, banana leaves (as a cutting board), a small propane cook top, and several bottles of spices, and oils.  The class began with the chef showing us how to prepare a cabbage soup with shrimp mousse.  After watching we prepared our own soup.  The broth was pre-prepared, the shrimp were precooked and pre-smashed.  Our job was to make two shrimp mousse balls, place them on parboiled cabbage leaves, roll them, tie them with scallion leaves, and then cook them in the pre-prepared broth.  We seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil.  When finished we filled our bowls and devour the soup.

Cabbage soup with prawn mousse rolls

The second item to make was bbq chicken with chili, lemon grass and lemon leaves (which has become a favorite recipe).  Basically we watched the preparation of the marinade, then followed the same steps using the prepared ingredients.  We marinated the chicken and then put the breast pieces on skewers.  The chicken was set aside to marinate before being bbq'ed by the staff behind the scenes. Each skewer was marked by adding a piece of vegetable to the end.  24 different vegetables were available to choose from.  These were used to identify our concoction when they were returned 45 minutes later.

Summer spring roll with prawn

Our final item was making shrimp summer rolls.  Each of us was given two half shrimp, 3 slices of Vietnamese roasted pork (either tourist pork or local pork differentiated by the amount of fat).  You can guess who likes the fatty pork, and it isn't the tourist.  We also received a batch of vegetables, a piece of sliced immature banana, spring onions, corriander and what looke to be hoisin sauce.  We also receive a damp wash cloth, about the size of those provided on international flights.  We used the damp wash cloth to wipe the rice paper being careful not to over moisten  the rice paper.  We painted on the sauce, added the herbs, meat, banana, and finish with the shrimp.  All this is place on the lower 1/3 of the rice paper.  We then carefully began rolling the rice paper taking care to make the roll tight but not too tight, which would break the roll.  About half way through the process we folded in the sides and continued the process.  We sliced the roll on the diagonal, arranged on a plate and served with nuoc mam sauce.

BBQ chicken with lemongrass and cirron, sauted morning glory, and salad

Lunch was served.  We all praised the chef, and were offered the option to purchase a signed copy of the cookbook.  A nice tabletop volume with good recipies.  We  walked out between the filled tables in the restaurant below.


Hue is a large commercial and government center in Vietnam which has a tourist business with the presence of the Imperial Cidital, and the many royal tombs. The tourist cooking school business in Hue is much less developed. Searching the web we found the The Villa Hue Cooking Class offered by the Hue Tourism College, which is in part sponsored by the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.  

We went to the college's hotel several days in advance to make our cooking class reservation.  We had a choice of late morning or late afternoon.  We chose the later.  We also had a choice of six menus and chose a vegetarian menu without deep frying.

On our arrival, we were given cooking whites, and a white cap. We were led into a commercial kitchen and met the Chef.  In contrast to the Morning Glory cooking school, there were no chairs, no mirrors but only a selection of vegetables.  The chef spoke no English, the the assistant general manager remained with us as a translator.  The two of us were the only students.

The Chef (on left) and students

Our class began with chopping vegetables.  We learned to properly julienne a cucumber, a carrot, and how to slice eggplant,  The chef demonstrated, and then we duplicated his actions.  Once the cutting was complete it was off to the commercial stove.  We learned to cook with stove chopsticks (longer than eating chopsticks), the order in which to cook the vegetables, and how to season the vegetables.  We seasoned multiple times during the cooking to get the flavour just right.  Always, the pan was hot.  Once one dish was complete it was back to the chopping area to prepare the next dish.

Eggplant with bean sauce

With the noodles (we cooked the noodles in water first to an almost al dente stage).  Next we pan fried the noodles adding the sauces at the last moment before service.  We dressed the noodles with the previously sauteed vegetables.

Noodles with complex vegetables

The final dish was the fresh spring rolls.  We used a special form of rice paper (very thin) where the moisture from the cooked vegetable softened the rice paper.  We just rolled the spring rolls, not tucking the ends, sliced them and placed them on the plate for service with the nuoc mam sauce.

Summer spring rolls

It was a very fast two hours in the kitchen.  We learned a lot.  And finally, we plated our dishes, placed them on the table in the dining room, stripped off our whites, sat down and ate our dinner.

All in all, I think I learned more at the Villa Hue cooking school, but it was not as visually exciting as the Morning Glory School.  Both were good, but they serve different audiences.