By Lương Thu Hương
Since embarking on its journey in Tết (Lunar New Year) earlier this year, Maxime Godin-Murphy’s family has set foot in nearly 30 localities of Việt Nam, 10 countries in Europe and just finished a short trip to visit his family in Canada.
Before coming to Việt Nam ten years ago, Maxime was a lone traveller doing trips around the world and had already started a vlog.
However, he never finished his journey because he stopped on the way after meeting his wife, an owner of a little homestay of five rooms in the southern province of Cần Thơ, during a visit to the Mekong Delta.
Now he has resumed his conquest of the world, but with the accompaniment of his wife, Nguyễn Thị Thêu, 40, and his two daughters, 7-year-old Kim and 2-year-old An.
Maxime’s family members share a keen interest in travelling. Before giving birth to their first child, Maxime and Thêu had travelled to 50 provinces and cities throughout Việt Nam and to a number of Asian and European countries, in addition to the US and Canada.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they remained in HCM City for two years. They decided to start traveling right after the Lunar New Year as soon as restrictions were easing, but tourism had not restarted yet.
“We didn’t want to wait for the tourism comeback and we needed some action so we started to talk about a new project. As I was a video maker before and all our family like travelling, we thought that a travel vlog would be a great idea,” Maxime said.
Their first video was for Tết and just for fun, capturing their small round trip to the provinces near HCMC.
“We saw that the family liked it very much and it was not difficult to travel with kids. After visiting three provinces, we saw that we love this way of life, especially the kids who enjoyed it very much. Then the decision was taken,” he added.
To make their vlog special and unique, they decided to give themselves the challenge to be the first family to visit all 63 provinces of Việt Nam.
They planned to take about two years to do it because they also wanted to discover the world at the same time to show a different reality to their daughters. They also needed to settle down some of the time to let Kim attend to her online school and for Maxime do the video editing.
“Our first step was the region of the Mekong Delta. It was a very nice start and brought back some good memories as I met my wife there. During COVID, we saw that our daughter Kim was good with homeschooling, so we decided to subscribe her to a full online school programme where we can easily move around the country and around the world,” Maxime said.
Travelling across the country on motorbikes is challenging to any family, particularly to those with small children like Maxine’s. However, they have had a ton of great experiences during their trip.
“Each moment is special and I feel lucky to be able to spend all this time with my kids seeing them grow and evolve. The best for our family for sure was Phú Quốc Island. We spent two weeks there to have time to do everything and do a good video about the island. We had such a great time swimming in beautiful beaches and playing in amazing amusement parks. But we also really enjoyed peaceful moments in nature, especially in the mangrove forest in Cà Mau Province and the Trà Sư Nature Reserve in An Giang Province,” he recalled.
According to him, travelling is beneficial to both of his daughters as it enables them to see many different realities and understand life better compared to staying at home and just seeing things in books and on YouTube or TV.
The parents also asked their eldest daughter, Kim, to write a journal about her travels, so she can remember her experiences forever.
“About school, she does not study on a regular schedule, but she is very good and has always had good results when she passes tests, so we are confident this way of life can fit with her education. For the youngest one, she likes travelling so much that she is not happy when we stay too long at the same place. She needs action to stimulate her curiosity,” Maxime said.
According to the Canadian dad, every family should travel with their kids. With their travel vlog, they want to show that it’s easy to travel with kids and kids are happy to discover new things.
“It takes a little bit more organisation, but the kids like it very much, so every day as a parent you will be grateful to live this experience with them. Maybe parents can be worried that the youngest kids don’t have time for a nap, but the kids will always sleep when tired, usually they sleep on transportation. Our younger daughter, An, always sleeps on the motorbike, car, bus, train or stroller,” he said, adding that parents should always carry strollers for this reason, but this depends on the destination as strollers are better for big cities with sidewalks.
After their trips to Europe and Canada, the family members are going back to Việt Nam and wait for the rainy season to end to resume their road trip to all the provinces of central Việt Nam.
Their journey around the world can be followed at their Facebook page Gia Đình Phượt. VNS
HCM City to host ASEAN food festival
HCM CITY HCM City is hosting a food festival featuring traditional cuisine from Southeast Asian countries in the downtown area from November 24-27.
The event is organised by the HCM City Union of Friendship Organisations (HUFO) and its partners, the Việt Nam–ASEAN Friendship Organisation, to mark the 55th anniversary of the South-East Asian block.
Hồ Xuân Lâm, HUFO’s vice chairman, said the event aimed to promote friendship and cooperation among people in Việt Nam and other ASEAN countries.
The festival includes 46 stalls showcasing food, tea, coffee and specialities from restaurants and businesses from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Việt Nam, as well as universities and colleges in the city.
There will be performances of traditional music and dance from ASEAN countries, street art performances and cooking shows.
The festival takes place on Lê Lợi Street on District 1, and is expected to attract a large number of visitors. — VNS
Cỗ lá, the food tray that demonstrates Mường ethnic culture in Hòa Bình
For Mường ethnic people, especially those living in Hòa Bình Province, cỗ lá (literally means a food tray displaying several dishes) is more than just a popular food. The food tray represents Mường culture and is an integral part of important occasions, weddings, funerals, New Year or new house celebrations.
A traditional food that has been kept and inherited from generation to generation of Mường people, cỗ lá is unique – from the selection of ingredients to the way of cooking and the food presentation – through which to present the conception of human life of Mường people.
Bùi Xuân Phú and wife Nguyễn Thị Vi run Mường Thàng Quán – a restaurant specialising in Mường dishes in Hòa Bình City for 20 years. To create the distinctive yet natural light sweetness of the dishes, all dishes presented on cỗ lá should be prepared with wild leaves and vegetables collected in forests or gardens.
“Depending on the scale of the event, a cỗ lá should consist of at least seven different dishes, including the compulsory ones of cỗ ngọn (slices of boiled pig liver, heart, and maw), boiled pork, chả lá bưởi (grilled pork in pomelo leaves), grilled pork in banana leaves, gà đồ măng chua (steamed chicken with sour bamboo shoots), rau đồ (steamed wild vegetable), and canh loóng chuối (soup cooked with wild banana stem),” Vi said.
The Mường woman also said that it takes at least one and a half hours to prepare a cỗ lá because “you have to finish cooking all the dishes before displaying them all on the tray.”
To grill the pork, Vi said that it’s necessary to marinate with lá mắc mật (clausen indica leaves) and hạt dổi (wild pepper) to get the aromatic flavour for the meat.
The steamed chicken with sour bamboo shoots should be chopped into bite-sized pieces before mixing with sour bamboo shoots and a little bit of salt, then wrapped in banana leave and steamed for about half an hour.
“The tip to making this dish good is the ingredients. Hen is preferred as its texture is more tender. To make the sour bamboo shoot, we use only the bamboo shoot of giang (a kind of green-trunk bamboo) as it retains the natural sweetness after being fermented,” Vi revealed her cooking tricks.
The savoury and palatable canh loóng chuối is cooked with wild banana stem, pig bone, and lá lốt – a kind of aromatic leaves.
Her husband Phú said there are some rules for the presentation of cỗ lá.
“The presentation of a cỗ lá for a wedding or festive event must be different from the one for a funeral,” he said. “A tray must be spread with a banana leaf cut in half. However, for the wedding, the tip of the leaf has to point out; on the contrary, for a funeral, the tip has to point in.”
In the old days, Mường people used only wild banana leaves to spread on the tray. But nowadays, when finding wild bananas is inconvenient, they can replace by other kinds of banana leaves, except the aromatic banana “because it has lots of acrid resin that can harm the taste and flavour of the food displayed on it,” Phú said.
He also said that to prepare cỗ lá for important occasions such as weddings or new year celebrations, each family has raised pigs and chicken for a year before butchering the best ones to offer to the ancestors.
In the past, wealthy families used an engraved copper tray to display cỗ lá while ordinary people used the bamboo tray.
According to the 65-year-old restauranteur, seating arrangement rules had to be followed in the old days.
“In the Mường stilt house, the side with windows has been specified as the ‘upper place’, which is for elders only, and the younger ones sit next, in order from old to young,” Phú said.
Due to modernisation, traditional custom has been fading. Many can not speak the Mường ethnic language, and they don’t use the correct Vietnamese word when they mention cỗ lá.
“Many of our guests, especially the young ones, when they place an order for cỗ lá, instead of asking for a mâm cỗ lá (a tray of cỗ lá), they used mẹt cỗ lá (flat winnowing basket of cỗ lá). In our culture, the flat winnowing basket is used to offer food for the Hungry Ghost,” Phú said.
Nguyễn Xuân Tùng, a tourist from Hà Nội, said that although he had many chances to taste cỗ lá when he travelled to many places in the northwestern region, the one he sampled at Mường Thàng Quán is the best.
“It’s not only about the food, but about the rich ethnic culture presented through every dish, especially the traditional customs and stories told by the restaurant owners, who are authentic Mường people,” Tùng said. — VNS
Việt Nam takes move to curb obesity
HÀ NỘI – Việt Nam’s Ministry of Health has issued its first specialised guidance on the diagnosis and treatment of obesity in response to the increasing obesity rate in the last decade.
According to the National Nutrition Census 2019-2020 of the National Institute of Nutrition, the rate of overweight and obese children increased 2.2 times, from 8.5 per cent in 2010 to 19.0 per cent in 2020.
According to the Ministry of Health, in 2020, the rate of overweight and obesity in urban areas reached 26.8 per cent, in rural areas 18.3 per cent and mountainous areas 6.9 per cent.
The National Institute of Nutrition also announced the obesity rate among children in inner districts in HCM City surpassed 50 per cent. In comparison, the rate in Hà Nội surpassed 41 per cent.
Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of obesity promulgated under Decision No. 2892/QD-BYT dated October 22, 2022, are applied at medical examination and treatment facilities across the country.
Prof. Dr Trần Hữu Dàng, President of the Việt Nam Association of Endocrinology – Diabetes, said that the guidance marked a milestone that could help millions of Vietnamese people prevent obesity and its complications such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, kidney failure, heart attack, or sleep apnea.
Dàng said that obesity adversely affects all health problems, reduces life expectancy, causes many chronic diseases and reduces the quality of life.
“Measures to prevent and treat overweight and obesity and maintain long-term weight control can improve health status and reduce complications for patients,” he said.
“However, obesity has not been paid enough attention. Obese people usually struggle to lose weight, and many of them believe in and use remedies that are advertised online without health workers’ consultation,” he said.
“According to the World Health Organisation and the American Medical Association, obesity is a chronic disease requiring long-term management and treatment because obesity causes a lot of dangerous complications, affecting people’s health,” Dàng said.
According to Doctor Nghiêm Nguyệt Thu, Head of the Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institute of Nutrition, the way in which obese people try to lose weight is the issue.
Thu said that many people aim to lose four or five kg a month, which is not sustainable.
“The goal of losing weight is not to pressure obese people to fast or exercise until fainting. However, a weight loss goal set between 5-15 per cent over six months is realistic and has proven health benefits,” Thu said.
“Lifestyle interventions are the foundation for maintaining safe and sustainable weight loss, including nutritional interventions, physical exercise, behaviour change, and psychological support,” she said.
Drug treatment is only applied after three-month lifestyle interventions do not help lose five per cent of weight or for patients with a BMI of more than 25 kg/m2.
The surgical weight loss method is only suggested for cases with a BMI of 35 kg/m2 or higher, or those with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 with other obesity-related comorbidities.
“The challenge for nutritional treatment is to make patients change their behaviour. No amount of exercise is effective if people keep eating too much,” said Thu.
Experts recommend eating more boiled green vegetables and fewer sweet fruits. In addition, people should exercise for 30-60 minutes a day.
Dr Phan Bích Nga from the National Institute of Nutrition said a high-sugar diet with too much sugar and unhealthy fats often found in cakes, soft drinks, sauces, junk food, and fast food, plus not getting enough rest and inactivity are the leading causes of excess energy and metabolic disorders.
However, she noted that these concerns should not matter until children are at least three years old, as their bodies naturally carry more fat. VNS
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