ZEN: Tuấn Mai Resort has a Buddhist temple and a beautiful Japanese garden with precious bonsai. Photo courtesy of Tuấn Mai Resort
by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
If you look at the map of Việt Nam visualising it as a woman wearing a conical hat, Quảng Ninh is a large province on the northeastern tip of the hat. The province has a long shoreline, thousands of islands and heavenly beaches.
We were surprised to learn that a private resort was located at Cọc Sáu, Cẩm Phả, in Quảng Ninh. Cọc Sáu, Cẩm Phả used to be known around the country as one of the biggest open coal pits. The area used to be covered in coal dust, and if you visited you would only see coal mine workers covered from top to toe, showing only their eyes.
Today Cẩm Phả has a completely new look, overlooking picturesque Bái Tử Long Bay. This bay seems to be even more beautiful than Hạ Long itself.
Bái Tử Long means bay of Little Dragons, which is not any less beautiful and even more charming than the bigger Hạ Long Bay area.
Located in Cẩm Phả, Tuấn Mai Resort has a small mountain alongside the new Lương Ngọc Beach. A staircase has been built to take visitors to the top of the mountain, and it only takes about 15 minutes to reach the top.
The small resort has five bungalows, and each has only two double bedrooms, suitable for a small company on a team-building trip. But the restaurant, separate from the bungalows, can be booked separately, and we all envisioned a beautiful small wedding by the beach.
Lương Ngọc is a graceful small beach with a natural curve and golden sand, pretty as a picture.
HEALTHY VEGGIES: The highlight of the food was this beautiful stir-fried morning glory mixed with beansprouts. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà
Located on the terrace overlooking the well-lit mountain by night, the restaurant serves great food, and diners will be satisfied after an afternoon swim here.
We ordered for a seafood party with fresh steamed shrimp, roasted baby squid, and a big clam soup. We also had boiled chicken, roasted duck and cheese grilled oysters. The seafood at this seaside restaurant is delicious due to the fresh ingredients, and the considerable expertise of the cook.
But our attention was taken by a simple dish that every Vietnamese grew up with. Rau muống, or morning glory, was sauteed in a wonderful yet creative and nutritious way, as it was mixed with beansprouts.
It's not easy to mix it this way as the texture of the green vegetable is different, and it takes more time to cook. Beansprouts can be stir-fried for five minutes but if cooked longer, the dish will be ruined and become runny.
SEA VIEW: Tuấn Mai Resort has a beautiful private beach where you can climb up a staircase to have a bird's eye view of the bay. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà
Over the delicious food, our group of future university students talked about their future endeavours: some will go to college in Hà Nội or HCM City, and some will study abroad at colleges elsewhere in the world. Some will study medicine to become doctors and pharmacists, and want to be engineers, another wants to sing and perform in musicals, a passion grown from the school's theatre club.
This small group has a diverse mixture of future jobs and careers. Some still have not figured out what they want to do with their lives. Some may end up changing jobs or places. It won't matter too much what our companions end up doing or where they go; we only wish them good health, a keen interest in their subject choice, and above all, happiness.
As they venture out into the world, there will be days they shall survive on instant noodles, there have already been talks about which flavour and name to bring along (the two-shrimp Miliket and Hảo Hảo spicy sour were top suggestions).
They will look back at the feast, perhaps longing for the meat gourmet dishes, but also getting more creative and being inspired by this simple morning glory sauteed vegetables to get by.
"Đói ăn rau, đau uống thuốc," (Have some veg when you're hungry, and take medication when you're sick) goes a popular Vietnamese saying. When you're a student, there's nothing wrong with feeling broke every once in a while. You will survive, even if you have only vegetables for food.
As we enjoyed ourselves that day, someone put on the song Our Last Summer, which rang out from a speaker on the quiet beach by Bái Tử Long Bay. It is no doubt a song they will keep humming in their minds.
The future is bright for these youngsters. Go explore the world Little Dragons, the world is your oyster. VNS