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Chilling by the lake with drink in hand



by Hoàng Vân Anh

Ma Xó prides itself on its priceless sunset lake view, which is certainly one of its main selling points. Best known as a brunch spot, it’s nonetheless packed most of the time and its unique, cosy ambience reminds me of hanging out at a friend’s house.

Scrolling down its posts, I saw that they show guests snuggled up in warm blankets on cold winter days. Best yet, the food is always fresh, healthy and delicious, and they offer a host of different sessions that create a community of food, wine and art lovers, all soaking in its unique vibe and space.

BLUE VIEWS: Tiny seats on the footpath and good company at Ma Xó. Photo courtesy of Ma Xó

I first went to Ma Xó a few years ago after reading reviews raving about its brunch. It was packed, and we eventually sat down in tiny chairs and shared a few dishes that didn’t really stand out. The tiny chairs reminded me of iced tea places on the footpath, which wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned, so I then proceeded to forget all about Ma Xó for a while.

After leaving Hà Nội and returning last year, I saw a post about an intimate DJ Mixup and invited some friends over to see and hear what it was all about. It was a surprising sight: there was no raised DJ booth, just a regular table that you could sit at across from the DJs, and maybe even get to know them when they weren’t busy DJing.

Since my friends and I wanted to chat, we decided to head upstairs instead, and were pleasantly surprised with the space: a balcony with cosy sofas and dim yellow lights, creating the perfect setting for a casual get-together. While a friend ordered a teapot, I went with one of their incredibly affordable cocktails, and we all sipped on drinks and took in the surroundings. It was a little on the empty side, so we plugged in our phones, listened to our music and created our own vibe, as if it was one of our living rooms. We didn’t need to worry about fitting in, or sharing the space with others.

From 5.30pm to 7.30pm every Wednesday and Thursday, Ma Xó offers an affordable wine session where people can watch the sunset and enjoy the breeze while sipping on some tasty selections.

Since my second encounter with Ma Xó was so pleasant, one beautiful sunny day I invited some friends to come along and soak up the beautiful sunshine over brunch.

The menu at Ma Xó is as diverse as Tây Hồ district itself: Shakshuka with house-made creme fraiche and Roti Canai, fig toasty, slow-roasted duck phở cuốn (phở rolls), cao lầu (delicious Quảng Nam mixed noodles), and Swiss-style pumpkin rostito, as well as seasonal offerings like rich and creamy winter-warmer roasted cauliflower and coconut soup, with Moroccan spice blends ras el hanout.

The menu works perfectly for groups of picky friends who want to try some international cuisine. All dishes can be made into vegan or vegetarian versions, and Ma Xó really does try to please everyone and put a smile on their face.

I had to go with the fig toasty (VNĐ150,000), as the photo and description sounded too good to be true. Their toasted sourdough bread with fennel seeds was packed with pecorino and goat cheese, crispy bacon and figs, caramelised onions, and a side salad of mint, avocado and feta cheese. It was so fresh and tasty.

My friends, who had never tried figs before, were shocked at the texture and the flavour of the toasty. One of them ordered the omelette, bacon and roti bread with a side of chunky tomato salsa (VNĐ130,000), and really enjoyed it. It had been such a long time since I last had roti, so it was nice to discover I can have it for brunch with beautiful views of Hà Nội. All of the food and their flavour combos leave you feeling full but happy and healthy.

AMAZING TEXTURE: The fig toasty was incredibly fresh and tasty. VNS Photo Vân Anh

They also offer fresh smoothies and juices, and the best part is, it’s not over-priced like other healthy food spots around Tây Hồ.

The seating at Ma Xó is unique. Spread across their two floors, each corner offers different vibes. There’s a tiny, hidden corner right next to the kitchen for those preferring privacy. The main seating on the first floor involves large groups squeezing in, which literally brings everyone together. There are also tiny wooden tables and chairs facing the lake, under the breezy shade of tall trees — perfect for a lazy afternoon. Most first-timers will be able to see these corners since they’re on the first floor. But my favourite spot is the fourth floor, where there’s a sofa as well as short and tall tables, with incredible views of Truc Bach Lake at all times of the day.

I love every Instagram post Ma Xó creates. They promote and brag about what they have to offer, but it feels genuine, like receiving a text from a close friend.

It really does offer the best of all worlds: excellent food and drinks, affordable prices, incredible spaces, and great views all day long. VNS

COOL SPOT: Ma Xó is shrouded in greenery. Photo courtesy of Ma Xó



Bark paper drawings enliven Hanoi coffee shop



For those interested in the art of “dó” paintings, which are made from “dó” tree bark, a small café on Hanoi’s Ly Quoc Su Street is just the joint.

Located at 25A on Ly Quoc Su Street, only about 150 meters from Hanois St. Josephs Cathedral, Do Cafe & Art stands out with its elegant sepia color. At first glance, the cafe looks like a gallery. This coffee shop not only serves guests with signature drinks like egg coffee but also displays paintings drawn on Do (Poonah) papers, which has been widely used in Vietnam’s famous Dong Ho and Hang Trong folk paintings.

Dó Cafe & Art at 25A Ly Quoc Su Street, about 150 meters from Hanoi’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral, stands out for its elegant sepia color. While serving signature drinks like egg coffee, the cafe displays drawings on paper, widely used in Vietnam’s famous Dong Ho and Hang Trong folk arts. The paper is made from the bark of tree (Rhamnoneuron balansae), which is native to northern Vietnam.

Thu Hang, the cafes owner, said that the shop was named Do after her interest and preference for do paperm the type of paper used for painting in Vietnamese folk art. Do paper, which comes from the bark of poonah trees in northern provinces of Vietnam, has long been used for painting or writing, as seen in renowned folklore paintings, calligraphy and documents from past dynasties and family annals.

Owner Thu Hang explained paper had long been used in renowned folklore paintings, calligraphy and documents from past dynasties and family annals.

These paintings on do paper at the shop do not belong to folk art but the modern art school, drawn by painters Ngo Thi Phuong Binh and Dinh Y Nhi. What makes the female owner passionate about this paper material is because it bears the typical Vietnamese imprint and needs a certain meticulousness. Drawing on do paper requires high technique and care, because the paper is very thin and easy to be torn, said Hang.

Works on display include modern art created by painters Ngo Thi Phuong Binh and Dinh Y Nhi. Hang is particularly passionate about the paper for its typical Vietnamese imprint and need for meticulousness.
“Drawing onpaper requires great technique and care, since it is very thin and easily torn,” said Hang.

Each painting has its own story and guests can drink coffee while enjoying them.In the picture is a painting by artist Ngo Thi Phuong Binh, with the image of a man’s face assembled from countless women’s bodies. Hang shared, the number of paintings at the shop will increase in the future and the way the paintings are displayed at the shop will change after a certain period of time.

Artist Ngo Thi Phuong Binh’s work features the image of a man’s face assembled from countless female bodies. Hang said the number of paintings would increase in future, along with the style of display.

The shop consists of 3 floors. In addition to do paper paintings, the shop also displays collections of oil paintings and sculptures. The second floor í sfavored by many customers with a balcony with a view of Ly Quoc Su Street, home to the capitals signature food stalls.

The shop consists of three floors. In addition to paper art, it also features collections of oil paintings and sculptures.
The second floor ís favored by many customers for its balcony with a view of Ly Quoc Su Street, home to the capital’s signature food stalls.

Drinks of the coffee shop costs from VND30,000 to 70,000, inclusing chocolate layer and espresso egg coffee.The only minus point of the restaurant is that there is not much parking space.

Drinks cost from VND30,000 to 70,000 ($1.30-3.04).
The only minus is the café’s lack of parking space.

Inside the shop, there are two plates drawn by the late writer Nguyen Huy Thiep who presented them to the owner.

Two plates decorated by late writer Nguyen Huy Thiep who presented them to the owner. The plate on the right, featuring a mouse gifting a cat a fish, celebrates the Year of the Mouse in 2020, while the other plate decorates Thiep’s famous work “The Retired General.”


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New Covid-19 wave challenges Vietnam’s tourism sector



The domestic tourism industry places high expectations on the peak season for domestic tourists, which falls in the coming summer months. However, the ongoing wave of Covid-19 once again has posed challenges for the recovery of Vietnam’s tourism.

The 4-day holiday of April 30 to May 1 was a positive start for the tourism industry. Before the 4th wave of Covid-19, many resorts were almost full during the holidays. The room rates at some resorts were even higher than those at the same time in 2019.

In mid-April, hotels and resorts in Da Nang, Phu Quoc, Phan Thiet and Ho Tram all recorded high demand for bookings for the April 30-May 1 holiday. Inner-city hotels recorded a good occupancy rate of over 75%, while coastal resorts had a higher rate with 80%, and even some resorts almost reached 100% during the holiday of April 30 -1/5.

According to the Da Nang Department of Tourism, during the holiday of April 30 to May 1, the total number of visitors and tourists in Da Nang was estimated at 74,000, down 42% compared to the previous plan. Major events and festivals in Da Nang were halted due to the complicated developments of the epidemic. The number of tourists staying at hotels and resorts in Da Nang during the holiday reached only 40,000, down 30% compared to the pre-holiday estimate.

Tăng cao kỷ lục rồi bất ngờ gãy đổ, nín thở trước mùa cao điểm
Tourists at the beach during the April 30-May 1 holiday. (Photo: VietNamNet)

According to the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), during the peak period from April 28 to May 2, Vietnamese airports served nearly 1.5 million passengers, an increase of 30% over the same period of 2019.

On April 29 alone, the number of passengers passing through Tan Son Nhat airport in HCM City reached more than 108,000, the highest in history. That shows that the demand for domestic tourism is huge. As international commercial flights have not yet been reconnected, domestic tourism is the focus of tourism development.

However, the new outbreak of Covid-19, which started in late April, hit the tourism industry when it was preparing for the peak season.

Tourist destinations that needed to be reached by air such as Da Nang and Nha Trang reported many canceled room bookings just before the holiday when information about the first infections was announced.

The impact on tourism activities of localities was also different. The provinces and cities that were mainly accessible by air were immediately affected when people limited air travel. Locations that are easily accessible after only a few hours of drive such as Ho Tram and Da Lat are expected to be less affected.

According to Google Destination Insights, as soon as the first cases of community transmission were confirmed, the demand for hotels in Da Nang as recorded on May 1 decreased by nearly 50% compared to April 26. The demand for flight searches also recorded a corresponding decrease.

Tăng cao kỷ lục rồi bất ngờ gãy đổ, nín thở trước mùa cao điểm

Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport was deserted after the new outbreak of Covid-19. Photo: Ngoc Ha

Mr. Mauro Gasparotti, Director of Savills Hotels Asia Pacific, said that the market recorded many positive signals in recent months when demand for accommodation and conference services gradually recovered. However, the 4th wave of Covid-19 once again caused a heavy impact on the accommodation service industry, and some hotels even had to suspend some facilities.

Hotels and resorts received many requests to cancel room booking or change the date of stay. In addition, MICE activities and event business at hotels in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi were also affected, when conferences were postponed or canceled.

This was a blow on hotels as April and May are the peak season for conference activities.

Resorts also suffered the same impact when more than 50% or even up to nearly 80% for some resorts room bookings were cancelled. Some hotels decided to temporarily close until the outbreak is controlled.

Mr. Mauro Gasparotti said that the recent long holiday is proof that domestic tourists are the driving force for the recovery of the tourism industry.

In 2021, the tourism industry aims to serve 80 million domestic tourists, equivalent to the number of visitors in 2019, a growth of more than 42% compared to 2020.

Duy Anh


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‘Pho’ – a Hanoian’s exquisite cuisine



The simple yet exotic delicacy of piping hot noodle soup with beef has captured the heart of many culinary connoisseurs locally and internationally.

A simple pleasure

The weather turns harsh, the chill of winter penetrates, and it is to soups and stews and comforting ritual meal we turn with gratitude. And it’s the time for Hanoi Pho, which basically is a series of variation’s on beef noodle soup, and has been described as the national dish of Vietnam.   

 A bowl of Pho in a restaurant in Ly Quoc Su Street. Photo: Bich Hoi

“Your order upon arrival: a bowl of rare or well-done beef Pho, with or without onion and, of course, no seasoning. A few minutes later the Pho is served at your table. The ritual begins. Squeeze in some lemon, add chilli and pepper, then mix the soup with your chopsticks. Bring the bowl level with your mouth and start to eat while drinking the broth with a porcelain spoon.”

“After finishing your Pho, pay for it on your departure, then take the traditional toothpick and move to the tea shop next door for a cup of green tea or coffee. Now, you are ready to start the new day.”

A leading expert of Vietnamese spices, Chef Didier Corlou, wrote these words about Pho in his cookbook. “People should first sample a bowl of the rice noodle soup with beef before going on to discover the mystery of Vietnamese culinary,” he recommended.

Pho could be found in luxurious Pho eateries or cheap-eat Pho stalls in the streets or markets. 

But Chef Didier Corlou, who has nearly 40 years of cooking experience and has been in Vietnam for more than 30 years, is just a “latecomer” in the journey of discovering the dish that is considered the “national soul” of Vietnam.

In the 1940s, pho was already very popular in Hanoi. Renown Vietnamese writer Thach Lam used to write on a book entitled “Hanoi’s 36 streets” that “Pho is a special gift of Hanoi, not only Hanoi has, but it is because only Pho in Hanoi is delicious”.

The special food that “its aroma alone is enough to chase winter from the soul” begins with the steaming of beef shinbones in a huge cauldron until the gelatinous consommé is concentrated – this takes about 24 hours. It is then spiced up with a dedicated balance of herbs, spices and salts.

When you place your order, the cook add slices of raw, cooked or sauté beef (depending on the order) to a bowl of the broth, on top of rice noodles, then sprinkles it all with sliced onion, chopped green onion and fresh coriander. 

Not only an ordinary meal

Diners are patiently waiting for their Pho orders. Photo: Bich Hoi.

Unlike other Hanoi specialties, eating Pho is a very common habit to Hanoian. Its popularity is explained by its usefulness, Pho can be a good start to the day, a quick meal during lunch or a really heavy meal for dinner.

In Hanoi, the Pho at any ‘Pho Ly Quoc Su’ stalls are worth trying once that any visitors to the capital should not miss. The Ly Quoc Su Pho’s owners may have its own reason to be so self-conceited. The brand of Pho Ly Quoc Su is the unique one in Hanoi which has keep the traditional Hanoi Pho original recipe since the years of 1948-1949. The host seems to be over fastidious about Pho spices.

Warning. There will be a long line of Pho eaters waiting in queues for being served at any Pho Ly Quoc Su in Hanoi. 

They might not take dumpling, sponge cake or other foods, but they must take at least a bowl of Pho more than once or twice a week for their whole of life.For Hanoian, Pho not only a food that helps to fill stomach but is a cultural habit that is rooted in each mind.

They are willing to wake up earlier in the morning to wait patiently for a bowl of Pho in some famous stall then happily claim as one of their most important gratification of the day. One Pho’s fan has found the best Pho for him, he may be the most faithful client of this Pho stall for the remainder for his life.

And the last but not least, do not ne hestitant of the tiny and simply Pho stalls or you will miss your chance to test the real original Hanoi Pho that not to be found anywhere else on the earth.  



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