Sounds of: October 2019

Spooky season is upon us! However, there is nothing spooky about west & ease coming back alive after a brief break. Switching things up just a tiny bit with just an album and tracks on heavy rotation the past few months. Let us know what you think. Without further ado...


Sweet Insomnia | Gallant

Sweet, sad R&B from your favorite sad boi, Gallant


sexy, futuristic duet

Sabrina Claudio recently released her sophomore album, Truth Is, giving and serving you more and more music and looks. Her songs range from catchy, sexy lyrics like the one above to diving deep into the depths of her inner self where she tells you some of her deepest thoughts. 

According to Sabrina Claudio, during her recent show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan, the faces on her album cover are tributes to the songwriters and artists who helped her build her sophomore album.


To Me | Alina Baraz

an ode to the songwriter herself

Taking us back to our inner roots, Alina Baraz sings to us about self care in the form of good people, good love, great sex, and so much more. Her video is a montage of her person shots and everything sliced in between.


Night and Day | Frank Sinatra

bringing you back to black and white movies type of vibe

Here's something completely different from your playlist. As the cold, rainy season rolls in, this feels appropriate to remind you of the good times.




Welcome to the Sounds of Series where each month, we deliver music, podcasts, audio-visual experiences for you to discover and enjoy. We accompany each piece with a backstory to bring to life beyond what you hear. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.

Conversations: How Charlyn Gonda is bridging the gap between software and hardware

Welcome to Conversations, a new series focused on conversations with your favorite new creators. They may be a musician, artist, entrepreneur, but no matter the title, these are some incredible human beings who believe in the process of creation and are here to share a glimpse into their world.

Continue the conversation by supporting west & ease on Patreon.


Meet Charlyn Gonda, an SF based maker and software engineer helping people and companies bridge the gap between software and hardware. From delightful art installations to conference talks in the US and Europe, Charlyn has spent the past few years following the energy of her newfound skills by sharing, teaching, and cheering on others interested in making their ideas come to life.

Interviewed by Leslie Luo on March 9, 2019


Charlyn Gonda speaking at Github Universe
Speaking front and center at Github Universe 2018. Photography provided by Charlyn Gonda.



Tell us a little bit about yourself. My name is Charlyn Gonda. I am a software engineer by day, maker by night. I’m passionate about making things including things out of electronics, circuits, 3D printing, and hardware. I’m also passionate about helping people learn that being a maker isn’t as hard as they might think it is and that it can be really fun.

Can you define the word “maker”? The term “maker” encompasses people who create physical art and projects with their hands. It’s interesting because folks in arts and crafts don’t traditionally use this term to describe themselves, but I don’t see a reason not to. I think more and more people are generalizing this term to include anyone who works with something physical or creates physical things versus digital relics.


Charlyn’s workshop and tools.
Charlyn’s workshop and tools. Photography by Charlyn Gonda.


What sparked your interest In becoming a maker? I’ve always been interested in electronics. When I was younger, I was fascinated by toys with batteries. I would play with them for a little while, but then I’d always found a screwdriver and would just open it up. However, I wouldn’t be able to put it back together, and it would make my mom so mad! Wait you would or wouldn’t be able to put it back together? Would not! (laughing) This is not a protege story!  I think this is partially the reason why I took computer science instead. I found software to be more natural to me than hardware things.

What really happened is that I had a false start. I had an idea about me creating a ping pong counter which acted as a scoreboard. There would be four buttons, two for each side. You would be able to minus the other team’s score but also plus your own score to keep things fair. It would be displayed live on a scoreboard. I thought, “okay, I just have to make a couple of buttons.” And you had no experience at this time? No, no experience. And I tried to ask my friends for help who were super hardware people, looking for stuff online about it, but in the end, it was pretty bad. What do you mean? (laughing) Well, I just wasn’t able to make anything! It was a failed attempt.

Anyways, a few years later, I saw this badge. There’s this trend which has existed for a while where some conferences would give away electronic badges. An example would be the badge from Spectra, a conference hosted by Particle. It’s got a screen, tiny controller and light up when it’s on.


Badge with a Particleboard similar to one Charlyn had seen.


I saw a similar electronic badge, and it had a Particleboard on it. It seemed super easy to use because it was from this Twilio conference and I knew how to use the Twilio API. I realized that the microcontroller on the badge was talking to the Twilio API. I realized “wait, the Twilio API is super familiar to me, so it sounds like I’m already halfway there if only I knew how the connection works.”

At the same time, my coworker who works in marketing was trying to figure out how are we going to teach people about the different states of an Uber ride. For context, when I mean states, I mean if you just ordered a ride, if a driver is on the way to you, and if you get into the car, those are all distinct states. We were trying to figure out how to teach that to people in a fun way.

So my coworker asked, “what if we create a hat that lit up in different light animations depending on the state of an Uber ride?” My answer to him was “well, I have no idea how to do that but let’s just do it!” So I googled a lot, spent too much time trying to connect wires together. And you were doing this alone? Yea, I guess so! I had a lot of tutorials from Particle. They have done a great job documenting all of their stuff. I was able to sort of piece everything together after asking a bunch of questions in the forms. My questions were literally like “how do I connect lights to a microcontroller?” I had no idea, and these were all basic questions that I was asking in vague terms. Right, and you were just starting out so you wouldn’t know the terms right away.  Yea! I muddled through it, and I finally created the sharkicorn hat!


Charlyn wearing the sharkicorn hat
Charlyn’s Sharkicorn Hat with a 3D printed horn that lights up at every stage of an Uber ride. Photography provided by Charlyn Gonda.


So the hat is connected to the internet via 3G. It’s a shark-shaped hat that has 3D printed unicorn horn in it. It lights up depending on whichever state your Uber ride is on. It’ll light up when you request a car, the car arrives, and when you’re in the car to teach you about those states.

Overall, it was just super fun and came on as an evolution. I worked on it for about two months which was a really long time! (laughing) If you knew what you were doing, you could finish the project in less than a day. But you needed that time to learn it, right? Yes! Exactly, I had no vocabulary or the words.

For someone who has any sort of coding skills, another project I also worked on was helping people with coding skills to learn how to create similar projects faster through workshops. So far, I’ve only done one workshop but I’m hoping to do more this upcoming year. I created this workshop for my friends who were interested in hardware things. We took about 6-7 hours, and we made the same hat that took me two months to make. I got them from zero to hero. That was one of my created accomplishments. (laughing)


Charlyn and her workshop attendees.
First ever sharkicorn workshop hosted by Charlyn, kits included. Photography provided by Charlyn Gonda.


Wow, and you were able to give back so quickly as well! It was this great feeling that I could enable people to create in this medium. Since college, everything I’ve created has been on the screen. I mean, I’ve created posters and other crafts before. But I had always thought that working with my hands and working with the code was a separate endeavor. Now, I get to blend everything in, and it’s really fun. It seems like it’s a great way to work both sides of your brain that focuses on these different mediums. Right, and I don’t think I even ever thought about how coding and working with my hands would go together. They just seemed like such different things.

The project that was in the very intersection of these skills is something I’m working on right now. It’s a huge canvas where I’m folding origami with it. They are origami triangles. Some are transparent to allow light to go through. I’m currently figuring out how to make it light up. Eventually, it’ll be a headboard type of installation. I’ve been trying to make art for the home that isn’t just things that I buy. I think it’s great to find pieces that really resonate, but I get more satisfaction in creating art for myself.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Charlyn G (@chardane) on

Charlyn's latest project, completed and installed. 


Amazing, I’ve also seen you share your knowledge through talks at conferences as well. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Last year, I did this project called 12 Months of Makes which really was about me pursuing the energy. I know these skills are something I’m excited about, but I still don’t know what I’m going to use them for in the long run. I think, for now, I’m following the energy.

I was given the chance to speak at Github Universe because I applied for it. I finally had this idea that I was excited to share with the world. Especially with my fellow software people who may have been told over and over again that they are only software people. It was a very opportunistic thing that I was following the energy for.



I also got in touch with the people at Particle who made these microcontrollers. I had just wanted to thank them for creating such amazing documentation. I’ve also worked as a developer advocate before where my job was to create documentation that was easy to digest, effective and would cater to all levels of developers. I was super grateful for these people who were the main reason why I could even do my first project ever.

The team has just been so awesome with a great Community Manager. They invited me to their first conference last year as well where I also got to speak in front of a community of people in many Internet of Things companies. (laughing) They use and deploy Internet of Things at scale while I talked about Bongo Cat. The talk was about how Particle made it super easy. It turns out, a lot of people that work in the company felt the same way. Either they were hardware people who got into software because of Particle or the other way around, just like me.


Could you tell us a little more about the content of your talks as well?

Yes, so depending on the audience, I mostly focus on how you can get started with hardware prototyping or creating projects with hardware. The latest conference that I spoke at called TechChill in Latvia. I spoke with an audience which was comprised mostly of VCs and Founders, some of which had Internet of Things startups.

Basically, my talk there was about the fact that if you wanted to do any sort of hardware prototyping, you don’t have to immediately hire an electrical engineer or industrial designer especially if you simply want to validate the idea, to feel it in your hand or just want to see if its a good fit. Prototyping! Yes, prototyping is an important part of the product development lifecycle. And if you want to do some prototyping, and either you are a software engineer or have a software engineering team, you probably get a prototype up and running in a short amount of time. That was my talk, and I think it was pretty well received. (laughing) I felt a little out of place since most of the other topics were different from mine.


"How hard is building hardware that works?" panel featuring Charlyn.


Not a lot of people are talking about what you’re talking about either, to begin with. It’s great to get that conversation started. Yea, I feel like it’s worth trying. [Hardware] is a medium that’s worth trying to create in especially if you are the type of person fascinated with technology and you want to be able to infuse everyday life with some sort of digital experience or electric thing-a-ma-bob. (laughing)


[Hardware] is a medium that’s worth trying to create in especially if you are the type of person fascinated with technology and you want to be able to infuse everyday life with some sort of digital experience or electric thing-a-ma-bob.


Why is this work important to you?

There are two parts. One, it’s important to me because I’ve found another thing to be passionate about. It’s important for me to follow the energy. I’ve been thinking about which direction I want to take my skill sets in, and I honestly don’t know yet. I’m a chronic problem solver. I think there’s a lot of opportunities to do that with hardware and my existing skills as a software engineer. I’m still deciding on what type of problems to pursue based on where I am today.

It’s interesting because you haven’t found “the problem” yet that you really want to solve, but you’re preparing for it by refining your skills. Exactly. I’ve been trying to talk with a lot of people who consider themselves as makers as well. They are very passionate about creating art with the skills that they have, and I think a bunch of the stuff I’ve done qualifies as art. However, I’m also in the mindset if I want to keep making fun, delightful art projects or do something else with my skills. Either would be a great outcome. I’m simply just open to following the energy right now of where my skills take me.


What are some common misconceptions about you, your industry, or anything In general?

It seems like people feel like hardware is not something they can do. It might be the same as software where some people think “oh, I can never code because my brain doesn’t work like that!” Guilty! I totally get it, I’m not advocating for everyone to code or take up hardware. I believe that if you’re interested in or have the slightest inclination to want to create things, just because you don’t have the skills doesn’t mean you should stop pursuing your ideas. I want to encourage people who are even marginally interested in making these projects because I didn’t have a huge cheerleader [when I started]. I want to be that cheerleader for the next “past Charlyn” who just didn’t know how to begin.


I want to encourage people who are even marginally interested in making these projects because I didn’t have a huge cheerleader [when I started]. I want to be that cheerleader for the next “past Charlyn” who just didn’t know how to begin.


Do you have any advice for the past you when you were just starting your journey?

If I have to do it again, I would have given [myself] the top three things that I’m going to recommend on top three resources on how to get started. I probably would have started much earlier.

The other thing is, I think the other reason why it took me two months to make the [shark hat] project was that I gave up in the middle of it. I have this tendency to not adapt to a growth mindset. I was thinking, “oh man, it’s too hard, and I should continue because I don’t really know what I’m doing.” There were a lot of things going wrong with the project like my 3D printer stopped working, I couldn’t figure out how to connect the lights, and so on. So in the middle of it, I took a break. Because I started around November of 2017, Christmas break came around, and I said to myself “what else would I do? So I might as well try to figure this out!” I ended up powering through it with the help of [my boyfriend] Bryan who encouraged me to make the project more fun by choosing a shark hat over a boring baseball hat.

Overall, my advice to past Charlyn is to not give up so easily. The learning curve was so steep, but I would get through it. It’s okay to stop too to rest.

There’s a common theme here with your work where there’s a lot of collaboration with other people, whether it’s with Bryan, workshops with friends, or giving talks, you’ve always had a cheerleader just in different forms. Right, I super enjoy going to meetups in San Francisco to surround myself with other people who also enjoy making stuff. There’s also a bunch of other people who are also following the energy.


Give us a list of top 3 things you’d recommend.

My top 3 recommendations for learning resources if you want to start learning about making hardware projects!:

  1. Adafruit’s Learn Guides
    1. Adafruit is an online shop that sells great microcontrollers, sensors, and other electronic components that enable you to make your ideas real! They feature a huge treasure trove of Learn Guides to inspire you and help you make projects of your own!
    1. Particle is a company that makes internet-connected microcontrollers and makes it easy for you to put code in those microcontrollers wirelessly. Think of them as the Apple of microcontrollers -- this thing just works and is a great starting point if you don’t know much about hardware. The Particle Photon was my gateway board to the maker world!
  3. Make: Magazine and Maker Faire!
    1. Finally, looking through issues of Make: will get your creative juices flowing and attending a Maker Faire will inspire you to roll up your sleeves and make stuff!

Bonus: Check out this post I made about how to get inspired and get ideas for what to make!


What song do you have on repeat right now?

Mission Control by Knox Hamilton. I’m obsessed with this song right now because it’s super head bobby. I love the feeling the song gives me. It gives me a zest for life! I’m not sure if it’s the lyrics itself or the beat. I love it!

Continue the conversation with Charlyn. You can find her on Twitter @chardane and



west & ease is a collection of stories, sounds, knowledge, visuals, and “creative” work. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.

Lists: Roaming around Madrid in Spring

With only a few days, a lot can be done to explore Madrid, the capital of Spain. I recently visited Madrid for work and with the few hours in between, I was able to enjoy the beauty Madrid has to offer. The following are recommendations for enjoying Madrid on short notice.

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Uniquely Madrid

It’s always good to know a few things before heading to a foreign place. With Madrid, it’s no different. Here are a few tips I picked up along the way:

  • Spanish, please. Knowing a few phrases in Spanish can go a long way. Luckily, I was traveling with locals and a few friends who had a good grasp of the language which meant easier going conversations.
  • Tapas, churros, ham, and cheese, please. For our foodie friends, Madrid can be just as exciting as Barcelona with Spain staples at nearly every corner. Be sure to try a staple at least once during your stay.


Grab a bite and more to eat at various Mercados

Sometimes, it’s just simply hard to pick one restaurant so why not go somewhere that’ll offer you multiple choices? Mercado de San Miguel is Instagram heaven. Take your pick of tapas, seafood, sweets, and alcohol. Further north is Mercado de San Anton which is a little less lively as it includes more grocery, day-to-day living stalls. Head to Mercado de San Ildefonso for the perfect in between of lively but not too hectic international food stalls.


Go for a speedy meal at 100 Montaditos

If you’re down for tapas on a budget, 100 Monstaditos is your go-to. While it’s not the finest of dining, it’s great if you’re in a bind for time or your wallet. From drinks to all kinds of little sandwiches, get carb heaven in your stomach and get going with your day. There are many located throughout the city.


Stroll through El Retiro park

With the sun shining, how can one resist taking a stroll in the park right in the center of the city? While it looks massive on the map, it’s relatively easy to walk through pretty quickly. In the center includes a lake, the Crystal Palace, and many more smaller attractions. It’s a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.


Get your zero waste essentials at Unpacked

Calle de Narváez, 28, 28009 Madrid, Spain | | +34 910 44 41 01

Seriously, from stainless steel straws, personal items, to food, Unpacked has everything you need to live a zero waste lifestyle as easy as possible. Just don’t forget to bring a reusable bag, otherwise, you’ll be stuffing your pockets or holding your items throughout the rest of your day.


Get your dessert fix at Chocolat Madrid

Calle de Sta. Maria, 30, 28014 Madrid, Spain | | +34 914 29 45 65


The perfect place to sit down and enjoy a variety of churros con chocolate, sponge cakes, cookies, coffee, tea and more. While there are a ton of other great places to get your sweet fix, this place is great to sit down for a conversation with your friends while you enjoy all the sweets being offered.


Go vintage shopping and mural hunting at Embajadores neighborhood

It’s always fun to see what a new city has to offer simply by going through different alleys and neighborhoods. Embajadores is no different. Stop by 28 Vintage for all your vintage needs. Stroll through the alleys and remember to look up as you’ll never know when you’ll spot fun art around the city.


Feel Time Square vibes via costume characters roaming around Puerta del Sol

I mean, I didn’t mean to seek this out specifically. However, if you’ve ever gotten a kick out of the costumed characters posing for photographs in exchange for a tip in Times Square, you can do the same in Puerta del Sol. The accuracy of the costumes, however, may be an entirely different conversation.


Next time around…

Of course, it’s impossible to do everything in a few days. The next time I’m in Madrid, I’d love to:

  • Visit the Prado Museum
  • Experience the hipster neighborhood, La Mansana.


For your next visit...


What’s your favorite?

Leave a comment and let us know your favorites. We’ll also update this post periodically to keep our faves up to date.


west & ease is a collection of stories, sounds, knowledge, visuals, and “creative” work. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.

Amsterdam - west & ease

List: Springtime Visit to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is like the calm, sleepy city by the water that you never knew you needed. Recently, I spent a few days in Amsterdam with just enough time to explore on foot and by car. The following are a few favorites and things I would plan to go back to visit the next time around.

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Uniquely Amsterdam

  • Make reservations for dinner. On our trip, my friends and I wandered around at night looking for restaurants to take us in but almost all required reservations in advance. If you’re not into that, cafes that double as restaurants are a great pick as well.
  • Service is subpar so don’t expect the greatest experience of your life.
  • Bike-friendly roads! Getting around is super simple and if you’re brave enough, biking around can get you to your destination. Otherwise, a taxi, Uber, metro, bus, or walking is just as easy.


Take a stroll in Vondelpark

While Vondelpark has been described as the “New York Central Park” of Amsterdam, this felt more like the sunny Sunday vibes of Oakland’s Lake Merritt. Of course, Vondelpark was more calm, filled with tulips, ducks, and clean paths for both bikes and pedestrians enjoying the sun. I hear people also picnic as it’d be the perfect spot to do so in warmer weather.


Eco-friendly clothing and housewares at studio Jux flagship store

Ceintuurbaan 252, 1072 GH Amsterdam, Netherlands | | +31 20 753 1843

I stopped by studio Jux flagship store after seeing it on PF Candle Co’s insta stories. If you’re a big fan of the PF Candle Co amber bottles and smells, studio Jux is has everything complimentary to the candles and more. From clothing, jewelry, housewares, beauty and more, there is something for everyone at this gorgeous boutique.


Rotating art and exhibition at Hotel Droog

Staalstraat 7-A, 1011 JJ Amsterdam, Netherlands | | +31 20 523 5050

In the middle of the city sits the Hotel Droog. The front room upon entering hosts an exhibition, followed by a high-end store. As you keep going, there’s a gorgeous courtyard and a restaurant/cafe for all those into aesthetics. Stop by for a quick bite or a photo op.


Eat a little of every cuisine at De Foodhallen

Bellamyplein 51, 1053 AT Amsterdam, Netherlands |

Inside De Hallen Amsterdam,  sits De Foodhallen which includes food stalls with foods including dim sum, sushi, bbq, Indian, Mexican, and kind of everything else that you might be craving. It’s a great spot if you don’t want to decide on just one thing. The center of Foodhallen also has a bar that serves every beverage you can think of. Grab a drink, grab some food, grab a seat, and maybe a friend or two.


Immerse yourself in nature at the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam Botanical Gardens

Plantage Middenlaan 2a, 1018 DD Amsterdam, Netherlands | | +31 20 625 9021

While smaller in comparison to Brooklyn’s Botanical Gardens, it’s a beautiful garden situated within Amsterdam’s canals. You can learn about various plants from different climates and the world. Take a stroll through the back and enjoy the sun and the canals. You’ll also find a gorgeous Palm Glasshouse. The best part of the Gardens, however, is the classroom and Butterfly house. In the classroom, you can smell, taste, and touch various plants. The Butterfly House has butterflies freely flying around enjoying the plants.


Grab a slice of apple pie at Winkel 43

Noordermarkt 43, 1015 NA Amsterdam, Netherlands | | +31 20 623 0223

Dutch apple pie is hands down, better than American apple pie. Why? Winkel 43 gives you a big slice with the perfect, not-too-sweet filling encased in a graham cookie-like crust and topped with a generous helping of whipped cream. Have it with a cup of fresh ginger tea.


Roam touristy markets in the city center at Waterlooplein Market and Bloemenmarkt

If you’re going to stroll through the city center, you might as well take a look at the markets. Waterlooplein is a flea market style paradise. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right? Bloemenmarkt is also a garden lover’s dream where you can purchase tulip bulbs and more to be shipped anywhere in the world.


Next time around…

Of course, it’s impossible to do everything in a few days. The next time I’m in Amsterdam, I’d love to:

  • Visit and learn the history of Anne Frank House
  • Stroll through the Van Gogh Museum
  • Immerse in the Heineken Experience to learn about the global brand of the beer from Amsterdam


For your next visit...


What’s your favorite?

Leave a comment and let us know your favorites. We’ll also update this post periodically to keep our faves up to date.


west & ease is a collection of stories, sounds, knowledge, visuals, and “creative” work. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.

Eating through Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Vietnamese food is characterized by the robustness of flavor, spice, and truly, everything nice. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area meant access to some of the best Vietnamese food available outside of Vietnam itself (specifically in the South Bay). When given the opportunity to travel to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, to learn and eat directly from the source of all goodness itself, we knew there would be no way of saying no. The following is a guide to all of the things we ate and loved in Ho Chi Minh City.

For a full map of recommended eats, see here or at the end of the post. This trip was originally taken in April 2017.

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Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

The general theme? I found that the best places to eat really have a limited menu. The best only serve one dish as it's their specialty. If you want the best of the best, find the best people who specialize in one thing. However, that was much harder to find in Saigon. Much like many large cities like New York City or San Francisco, you have a wide variety of different cuisines from different cultures.

Interestingly, Saigon is so large that getting around was quite challenging (so much traffic and walking would take too long in the heat). This meant finding a place to eat and staying put till you're full rather than roaming around and discovering something good along with your treks.

All in all, I would characterize Saigon's food to be much closer to what you'd find in the states.


Bánh Khọt, Bánh Xeo, and Bánh Canh

One of my favorite dishes ever since having it at Yummy Yummy in SF's Inner Sunset District is Bánh Khọt. I'll be honest, I was so excited to try it in Saigon, but I was a bit disappointed. The shrimps were okay, and there was barely any coconut flavor. Bánh Khọt is savory mini pancakes that you eat wrapped up in lettuce, and other garnishes dipped in a fish sauce mixture. Both places I tried were a bit too oily and fried. There was also Bánh Xeo that is a sizeable savory pancake with veggies and meat inside. If you love one or the other dish, I do recommend to give it a try and decide for yourself if you like it or not.

We also got to try Bánh Canh with crab. The noodles are thick and made with tapioca rice flour. I liked this very much as it reminded me of a fishier version of Kao Paik, a Lao noodle soup with thick noodles.

Bánh Khọt, Bánh Xeo, and Bánh canh
Bánh Khọt, Bánh Xeo, and Bánh canh

You can find these either at Bánh khọt Cô Ba Vũng Tàu 40B Trần Cao Vân, phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam or Street Food Market32D Thủ Khoa Huân, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam.


Bánh Mì

Good ol' friend, Bánh Mì is once again similar to what you can find in the states. We stopped by Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa where the line was long but quick for a snack on our way to Ben Tre Market.

Banh Mi

You can get this at Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa 26 Lê Thị Riêng, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.


Bún Mắm

Fishy, pungent, fermented? Yes to all three. I personally prefer the least of the three flavors but this was something we had to try as it's something we wouldn't normally get. It's a thick fermented soup sometimes referred to as Vietnamese Gumbo, there's shrimp, squid, fish, and many other kinds of seafood. I preferred it with lots of lime juice and spice to balance out the fishiness.

Bún Mắm Noodles
Bún Mắm Noodles

You can try this at Quán Bún Mắm22 Phan Bội Châu, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.  This is right alongside the touristy night shops that get set up near Ben Tre Market.


Hủ Tiếu

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what this dish is. Delicious, sure, but doing a quick search, there seem to be many variations. This was an egg noodle based dish with the broth and pork to the side. The noodles were coated in oil. We got to try this on our way to the Mekong Delta Tour. Let me know if you're familiar with this dish and can point me in the right direction!

Hủ Tiếu Noodles
Hủ Tiếu Noodles


Phở Bo

Now, this is the Phở Bo I know! The works with brisket, rare beef, green onions, cilantro, bean sprouts, tripe, tendon, noodles and all. On recommendation from the boyfriend's cousin, we stopped by Phở Hùng on our last morning in Saigon for breakfast. With more than 3 floors, this place was packed with everyone trying to get a hearty meal to start off the day. It comes with many garnishes off to the side.

Phở Bo Bo from Pho Hung
Phở Bo Bo from Pho Hung

You can get this at Phở Hùng | 243 Nguyễn Trãi, Nguyễn Cư Trinh, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam



The boy has an eye for craft beers. We originally spotted a location serving Pasteur Street Brews in Hanoi but decided to track down the source in Saigon. With craft beer and flight options, you can try a range from Saison to Stouts. There are also some western-style snacks to enjoy along with your beer. Worth the try if you're a bit sick of Southeast Asian Beers at this point in your trip.

Wall Art
Wall Art

You can find Pasteur Street Brewing Company tucked in an alleyway on the second floor at 144 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Bến Nghé Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam. 



Along with our Mekong Delta Tour, we stopped by an old woman's home where she makes coconut candies. We got to try coconut milk candy, coconut strips, candied ginger, candied pineapple, banana chips, peanut candies and more. I've had many variations of these candies for Lunar New Year but nothing tasted as good as these. If you get a chance, take these babies home and share them with family and friends.

Fresh candies
Fresh candies


Street Food Market

Lastly, since Saigon is so large and the traffic is a nightmare, if you have limited time and want to try everything in one place, the Street Food Market is your place to be. You can try a variety of food, drinks, and we even got to see a cover band.

Saigon Street Food Market Signage
Good ol' Sugarcane Juice
More sticky rice!
Banh Khot

You can find this at 32D Thủ Khoa Huân, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam.



The Full Map

The full map of all Eating through Vietnam is located below. Let us know what you've tried!

Great resources that helped me throughout this food journey:


west & ease is a collection of stories, sounds, knowledge, visuals, and “creative” work. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.

Conversations: Breaking down the author behind the music with cøzybøy

Welcome to Conversations, a series focused on conversations with your favorite new creators. They may be a musician, artist, entrepreneur, but no matter the title, these are some incredible human beings who believe in the process of creation and are here to share a glimpse into their world.

Continue the conversation by supporting west & ease on Patreon.


Meet cøzybøy, LA-based independent singer, rapper, and producer. We talk about what inspires him, the influence that music has on him and others, and why it all matters to him.

Heads up, the interview contains some explicit language and topics around mental health including depression and suicide that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Interviewed on February 13, 2019

Photography by cøzybøy


Tell us a little bit about yourself.  I make emotional music that centers on love, heartbreak, loneliness, mental health, depression, and suicide. All of the music focuses on how love and mental health can really affect relationships and vice versa.

I write all my songs in my bedroom, record on my desk, and produce most of the beats. I do my own mixing and mastering. Overall, I care about the art and the brand, and how it connects to people and to me. I want my music to be able to help somebody who is in need. Sort of like for people to be able to say “I was going through this really tough time and I was listening to cøzybøy, and he really helped me get through that time period.”


I want my music to be able to help somebody who is in need. Sort of like for people to be able to say “I was going through this really tough time and I was listening to cøzybøy, and he really helped me get through that time period.”


I also think a lot about frame programming. I listen to a lot of music, especially on repeat, and music on repeat can really change how you think and your thought process. So that’s why I try to make music that can, maybe not change but update your thinking process.


Can you tell us a recent project that you’ve done that you’re really proud of? I just dropped a single. It’s called “yøu løøked sø beautiful last night (falling før yøu again).”



I start by making a few beats, and then something will hit. I might write it down, but I’ll keep moving. Then, I’ll come back to it. I’ll remember “oh yeah, that beat was really good” and I’ll start freestyling or singing over it, straight from the heart.

Lil Wayne, who is one of my favorite writers, said something along the lines of “You never have to think about what to write, you only have to locate what to write about because all the words are already inside your head, so you never have to think it up.” So I think about what I am going through at the moment and I write about exactly that, as honestly as possible.

To me, cøzybøy is a very Freudian project. Freudian psychology is embedded in how humans are driven by sex and how that all relates to the relationship between the id, ego, and superego. So the id side of my brain is where the really dark, visceral moments in my music comes from.  It’s my uncensored thoughts.

I think that’s where a lot of people misunderstand my music specifically. People might see my song titles or hear my lyrics and interpret it as “oh, this guy is super vulgar, super explicit.” But I think most people have explicit thoughts all the time and they just don’t put it out there, so I do.


Photography by cøzybøy


So, to me, cøzybøy is a war between the id and the superego. For me, Conner, that’s my name, is stuck in between there, and you might hear [in my music] really high, angelic singing but I’m saying something very ugly. At the same time, you’ll hear low rapping where I’m saying something uglier or something that’s actually heartfelt. It depends on how you want to break it down where [the listener] might go “oh damn, did he really just say that?” But [what I sing/rap] is actually nice. Like if I rap “I just wanna cuddle, fuck, and fall in love”, it might sound harsh initially, but when you break it down it’s actually a really nice, heartfelt sentiment.

I also try to include the crazy hard thing I’ve been thinking about, along with the lovey-dovey shit on my mind and put them together to create some sort of juxtaposition that is going to make the listener think.


I also try to include the crazy hard thing I’ve been thinking about, along with the lovey-dovey shit on my mind and put them together to create some sort of juxtaposition that is going to make the listener think.


You really turn all of these ideas of what people have in their minds of a particular thing and turn it on its head. Yes, exactly. And you do this not just through your music, but also visually as well too. Can you talk a little bit about how you approach creating your music videos? I have a couple of videos out that accentuate what I feel a cøzybøy music video is.

The most notable one is for “all øur bønes.”  I decorated my room with flowers, lights, and fog to make my room look like a beautiful fantasy land. At the same time, there are also two strippers on a stripper pole being sexy, throwing around money, and making out. The shallow, misogynistic visuals surround the actual centerpiece of the video, which is the relationship between me and my "girlfriend". 



In the next scene, my “girlfriend” and I walk up to my room and have all this craziness going on. We are then both watching the strippers together. [The scene] could be interpreted as a distraction from or catalyst to our problems.

From that point, my “girlfriend” and I are cuddling, the strippers are dancing around us, and, it looks as though we’re on the floor, tied up to the pole. Then, it evolves to a beautiful piano outro—something you’d hear in classical music. To me, that’s really an ending of falling energy. We just went through the craziness, we’re now walking down this alleyway at night, holding hands, essentially saving the relationship.


Stills from all øur bønes music video
Stills from all øur bønes music video


Your work is really complicated. It’s different from how other people often embrace minimalism in their projects. Your approach is so layered that it breaks the idea that there’s either make things simple to complex or complex to simple but all of both views at once. Yes, and I think that’s how life comes at you.

For me, I love reading books and literature. I use literary devices like euphemisms, hyperboles, juxtaposition, and paradox to convey a message when I’m writing. I also use a lot of double entendres where I might have a word or phrase that can mean two or three different things in the context of a single line. Depending on how you’re feeling that day, it will determine how that line comes across. And I make sure that it all makes sense within the greater picture.


In addition to books, what else inspire you? Books inspire me, movies inspire me a lot. I love David Fincher movies. He’s the director of Fight Club which is one of my favorites. In the book version, Chuck Palahniuk, the author, wrote in his afterward that all critics said Fight Club was a thriller or horror, but nobody called it a romance novel. I relate to that because people will think my music is about all these other things, but it’s really just one long love story where I’m trying to find a good relationship that I can truly invest in.

And cøzybøy isn’t exactly like Fight Club, but I love the idea that Fight Club is this very masculine movie on the outside, but it carries this whole concept of people trying to feel alive and there’s also this whole romance unfolding throughout the entire [story] which is the [main character’s] only hold on reality.

And, of course, I’m inspired by music. I love Nicole Dollaganger, Corbin, The Weeknd, Sparklehorse, Drake, and Earl Sweatshirt.


Photography by cøzybøy


You seem to gravitate towards many ways that you can interpret this “thing.” Story! It’s this ambitious storytelling with an unreliable narrator. Those are the stories that I like. There is a book, which is also a movie, called “The Beach” by Alex Garland. It’s a psychological thriller that fucks you up through the way it takes yours through the storyline. At the same time, you think “dude, is this even really happening?” We can’t trust the narrator.

My favorite villain is Heath Ledger’s Joker. In the story, [the Joker] says “You know how I got these scars?” It’s different every time he tells it. That’s the unreliable narrator. Similar to how a friend could tell you a crazy sounding story, but then you hear the other side of the story and better understand why something happened. We’re basically all unreliable narrators in our own universes.


We’re basically all unreliable narrators in our own universes.


Even to me, cøzybøy is an unreliable narrator. I like to play around with that concept, even though it’s hard to tell since we don’t see the “other side” of it. We can see with Heath Ledger’s Joker, where we hear him tell multiple people different stories. For cøzybøy, it’s a little harder to tell that I’m an unreliable narrator, but I am. I tell my side of stories and make assumptions of other people.



I was recently writing a song about getting ghosted. Some people might write this song about being ghosted where they say, “that sucked, I got ghosted, but I come back.” For me, I’m trying to take a step back, even more, to think about why someone would ghost me and how it makes me feel hurt.

At the same time, I’m also asking “how do you ghost people?” When you ghost somebody, that fucks up your own closure. I have a line that asks “how do you get through that?” while, at the same time, I’m making all these assumptions of the “girl” in the song that she must have a lot of empty holes in her heart where if she’s ghosting me, she’s probably ghosting other people. Of course, I’m making all these assumptions when really, our interaction might have just been a hookup and I’m overthinking it.

It’s interesting that when we talk about stories, we tend to focus on the characters within the stories and what’s happening between them. However, you want to take a step back to question, “is the author legitimate?” Yes! “Are they even telling the truth?” Because at the end of the day, we can interpret the story how we want, but there is some sort of influence that this storyteller is giving us. Exactly, yes.


Photography by cøzybøy



Why is what you’re doing, important to you, specifically? It’s really cliche to say but music really saved my life when I was younger. Music changed the way I thought, and it gave me a lot of guidance where I felt I didn’t have.

The people I learned from were other artists, not the adults in my life. I always felt like music has given me so much. I feel like there’s so much more stuff I know now that I want to give back, so I put it back into my music. I want to be able to do that [with my music] for other people and what that gives me is the satisfaction that I’m really helping people, influencing people, inspiring people, and I’m making other people’s lives better. I derive a lot of meaning from that.


I want to be able to do that [with my music] for other people and what that gives me is the satisfaction that I’m really helping people, influencing people, inspiring people, and I’m making other people’s lives better. I derive a lot of meaning from that.


You’ve already mentioned some misconceptions of cøzybøy, would say the same about the genre of music you’re creating. What is your genre and are you breaking it? I usually tell people I’m indie, emo, and R&B. I have a lot of indie music influence especially since I used to make indie music. There’s also the emo influence where I write about really sad, self-deprecating topics. And, of course, the music is focused on love that’s influenced by R&B.

You mentioned 3 different genres. Right, that’s how it is these days. I could just call myself R&B but I wouldn’t fit perfectly in that genre. For example, if you were to compare me to Seal, we wouldn’t fit in the same category (laughing) so it takes a few genres to describe most artists now.


Photography by cøzybøy



Are there any other misconceptions about you, your music, or the industry you’re in that you want to touch on? The biggest misconception is when people read my song titles, they think I’m an ignorant trap artist but my songs are actually really soft and deeply emotional. Otherwise, another misconception my fans have of me is that I’m really heartbroken. It’s interesting because I think breaking hearts is much harder than being heartbroken.

I’m not saying I’m a heartbreaker, though I’ve had a few relationships where I have broken up with the girl. People think that as a heartbreaker, when you break up, you get over it and you’re not as hurt as the person you broke up with. However, I feel that when you break up with someone, you have to shoulder the pain of both individuals. You’re shouldering the pain of knowing you’ve hurt this person that you really cared about and loved. You’re, then, also shouldering your own pain where you almost can’t even talk about it because you’re the one who initiated the breakup.

That loneliness that you feel feels even lonelier because it’s by choice even if you were hoping that [the relationship] works out. So there’s this whole side of my writing that people are like “he’s heartbroken,” but I’m writing from both perspectives of being heartbroken and being the heartbreaker.



Do you think the misconception comes from people attaching you to your music, or are you that unreliable author, narrating a story or another perspective of an experience that might not be your own? It goes both ways. I only write about what I’ve been through. I really care about that type of authenticity—to me, every lyric has a story in it of itself. I might be writing a song, and that song is a story, but every line in that song has a story too.

But I will also "Frankenstein" a song. I might take one experience that happened with one person, and this other experience that happened with another person and mesh them into the same song. People wouldn’t know because there’s no way to know.


I really care about that type of authenticity—to me, every lyric has a story in it of itself. I might be writing a song, and that song is a story, but every line in that song has a story too.


I also draw inspiration from friends, the love I have for them, and things that might happen between friends. A friendship is a relationship to me. So even when I say the word “relationship,” to me, [the word] doesn’t specifically mean to be a relationship that’s like a boyfriend/girlfriend, or whatever. It could really just mean friendship.


gif from sex // døubt music video
still from sex // døubt music video


The words that keep popping up in my head as we speak is “layered complexity” where you are authentic in your music with real experiences that have happened. At the same time, you’re reframing it and providing a different way to look at the story or stories.

Yes. exactly. I make [my music] feel like out of body experiences a lot, and that comes from my own personal beliefs and philosophy. I often look at a concept and break it down to the point where none of it matters. If nothing matters, you can trick your brain having an out of body experience. I try to bring this into my writing.


Photography by cøzybøy


It’s also a great way to push yourself and your writing to figure out what’s more to this single story here.  Yes, it allows me to write more songs. For example, when I write about being ghosted, I can write four or five different songs that different people can relate to.


What advice would you give to yourself, cøzybøy, who just started this project? To stay consistent. It was really difficult to do in the beginning because I was working a full-time job and had so many things pulling my attention. I also felt lost when I first started as I tried to grow but it came down to being consistent. However, I do think a lot of genuine art comes from those hard moments.


Photography by cøzybøy


Give us a list of top 3 things you’d recommend.

Top 3 books I’d recommend because they opened my mind to think about things in different perspectives and changed the way I thought about life:

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Similar to Mission Impossible but based in old, fantasy times. It’s an amazing revenge story and I fuck with revenge stories so much because they’re so satisfying.
  • The Beach by Alex Garland.  It’s a psychological thriller that fucks you up in a good way.
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. A post-apocalyptic novel where biotech companies have the ability to change your DNA, and it’s super normalized. The story follows how the world went to shit and as the reader, you have no idea why. The whole series is a trilogy that’s super dark, visceral but includes fun, uplighting moments. I remember reading the book and just being mind blown from the storytelling.


Favorite song of the moment?

(laughing) One of my own unreleased songs. Okay, but also Rabid and Angels of Porn by Nicole Dollanganger. She has this angelic voice but insane lyrics that make you stop and think.



Enjoyed the conversation with cøzybøy? Discover his music on Spotify and Soundcloud. Follow along with his process on Instagram @cozyboycries. cøzybøy also offers merch and donates 100% of the proceeds to Planned Parenthood.



west & ease is a collection of stories, sounds, knowledge, visuals, and “creative” work. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.

Xoi Yen Bowl

Eating through Vietnam: Hanoi & Sapa

When I think of Vietnamese food, I think of love, lessons, and taste buds. During my trip to Vietnam, I had the privilege of traveling to both the North and South which has taught me a lot about the differences not only geographically and politically but in the food in itself.

The following are some of the foods from Hanoi and Sapa. While many dishes may have the same name in the North and South of Vietnam, some dishes are slightly different whether in presentation or ingredients.

For a full map of recommended eats, feel free to see here or at the end of the post. This trip was originally taken in April 2017.


Northern Vietnam

Food is far simpler here, though not lacking in taste. Phở doesn't come with the bean sprouts, herb garnishes, and every vegetable that can stack on a plate. Even the menus at each shop are mainly one dish (that's when you know you're at a place that specialized in that specific dish). The best meals can be found in the food stalls served as street food.



Vietnam's capital located in the North encompasses the Old Quarter and much of the remnants of the French's presence. Busy with motorbikes and the hustle and bustle of a big city, food is distinct and delicious. Much of the food places can be found in the Old Quarter which is great for those visiting to stay in the vicinity.


Bánh Cuốn

Rice noodles made fresh in front of your eyes. While this isn't a unique Hanoi food, it's still quite delicious. There are vegetarian and meat options in the set menus at Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh.

Bánh Cuốn- Bà Hanh Sampler
Bánh Cuốn- Bà Hanh Sampler

You can try Bánh Cuốn (center dish) at Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh along with Nem lui (lemongrass skewer pork, cinnamon pork pie or Cha and egg omelets. Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh26B Thọ Xương Hàng Trống Hoàn Kiếm, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam


Bún bò Nam Bộ & Nem

Vermicelli noodles with grilled beef? Pass that over here! There's grilled beef, pickled carrots and daikon, fried garlic, bean sprouts, vermicelli, lettuce and the best fish sauce thrown all together.

We also got Nem here which I only took a bite of. Nem Chua is a Vietnamese sausage and in this form is a cured/fermented pork. These ones were wrapped in banana leaf, but my fellow Californians probably recognize it in its saran wrapped square form with a garlic slice on top. It's not for the faint of heart and often irritates my stomach as it isn't cooked but fermented pork.


You can find both at Bún bò Nam Bộ | 67 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.


Bun Cha

If you're an Anthony Bourdain fan or Obama fan, you know that the dish that Bourdain introduced to Obama was Bun Cha. It comes out with noodles, a sauce broth of sorts, vegetables, and fried spring rolls. You can decide how you want to eat this. Throw it all in together, dip, whatever. Whatever goes. It's full of flavor, and you'll undoubtedly be full when you're done.

You can find Bun Cha at Bun Cha Ta Hanoi | 21 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.

You can eat where Anthony Bourdain and Obama ate at Bún chả Hương Liên | 24 Lê Văn Hưu, Phạm Đình Hồ, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam.


Bún riêu

One of my favorite things about Vietnamese food is the plethora of breakfast noodle soups. People line up and quickly slurp up a piping hot bowl of noodles before work. We tried this version which had a mixture of tomatoes, beef, crab, fried garlic, green onion, and soft noodles. You can add additional garnishes if you like.

Hanoi Bun Rieu
Bún Riêu

You can try this Bún riêu at Bun Rieu Cua 40 Hàng Tre, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam


Nem hải sản

I've also learned that "nem" can mean a ton of different things. All I know is that nem is related to food and I know I need it in my belly. This fried crab/seafood roll was monstrous!

Fried Crab Roll

You can also try this at Bún chả Hương Liên | 24 Lê Văn Hưu, Phạm Đình Hồ, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam.


Phở Bo

Phở Bo or beef noodle soup is something that I grew up with. While my parents are full Chinese, my dad has this love for beef phở like no other. However, that type of phở we're used to? Hanoi style is well, everything in the bowl...ready to go! Herbs and greens are added in pre-order, smaller bowls, and a more straightforward style.

Hanoi style Pho Bo
Hanoi style Pho Bo

You can try Hanoi style Phở Bo at Quán Phở Thìn13 Lò Đúc, Phạm Đình Hồ, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam


Phở Gà

For my San Francisco friends, Turtle Tower Pho originates from HERE. There's literally a Turtle Tower in the middle of Hoàn Kiếm Lake that's in the Old Quarter. The chicken with its skin still attached is super juicy, some green onion, cilantro, and piping hot broth just make this all around a great dish.

Hanoi Pho Ga
Hanoi Pho Ga

You can find this Phở Gà at Phở Gà Bún Thang Tư Lùn Mập | 22 Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam. If you want the best, I highly recommend coming here as many restaurants will merely put in cut pieces of chicken rather than cooking with skin and all.



Hello, snails! These little babies are super fun to eat. You just pop the shell and pull out the little suckers. Dip in sauce and plop into your mouth. It's a true beer snack. Be careful though, it's a bit tough to digest so I would eat sparingly if your stomach is a bit weaker.

Hanoi Oc Snails
Delicious snails

You can find Oc across from the touristy Beer Hall area at Quán Ốc Nóng Hà Trang 1 Đinh Liệt, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.


Xoi Yen

What other food to fill your stomach for a full day than sticky rice? We stopped by on the recommendation from our hotel based on a street food list they gave us. We had previously walked by on our way to egg coffee (more on that below) and paid no attention. I am so glad we went back. We got the different version which meant I got to try everything (and on a full stomach). Fresh soy milk is also available.

Xoi Yen Bowl
A little bit of everything.
Xoi Yen Menu

You can get this at Xôi Yến | 35B Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam



When the weather hits a certain degree, all I want in life is a tasty beverage. Hanoi has many delicious options, below are just a few I got to try.


Egg Coffee

You cannot come to Hanoi and not try egg coffee. The egg is added to piping hot coffee and sits on top as in a foam form. The first time I had it, it was so thick that I could barely get to the coffee. I highly recommended stirring it well and getting to the coffee as that's the best part. Some people find it a bit odd and worry about the raw egg, but the heat should cook it fine.

Cafe Trung Egg Coffee

You can try this at Trung Cafe54 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam. This place also sells more desserts and sweets.

Cafe Giang Egg Coffee & Iced Coffee
Cafe Giang Egg Coffee & Iced Coffee
Cafe Giang Menu
Cafe Giang Menu

You can also try this at Giảng Cafe 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.  I preferred this location (Trung Cafe is also right next door). If I had a choice, I would come back here and try the other egg varieties!


Highlands Coffee

If you just want to relax with a view, Highlands Coffee on the 4th floor near the north tip of Hoàn Kiếm Lake has a balcony that many people grab their beverages to get slightly away from the busy streets below. Highlands Coffee is a chain that you can find throughout Vietnam.

Highlands Iced Coffee
Highlands Iced Coffee

Quick tip, to enter here, go from the entrance on Đinh Tiên Hoàng (the street) where there's a ton of menus for all the restaurants in the building. Head up the elevator and Highlands Coffee should be listed inside the elevator. Highlands Coffee Highlands Coffee7 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam


Bia hơi

A fresh, draft beer that you can get at many local, small bars on tap that keeps coming throughout the night. While drinking is a past time that I don't engage in as often anymore; when in Vietnam, you should try this even for a few sips (which I did). Most Southeast Asian beers taste the same to me (BeerLao is the darkest and most distinct taste that I like). It's one of the cheapest beers you can get and after a few would you even start to feel a bit tipsy.

Bia Hoi
Fresh Beer

We went to get Bia hơi at Bia Hoi Ha Noi50 Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam. You can find Bia Hoi at various corners but we gravitated here as there were more locals than tourists.


Other Spots

Of course, aside from the main food here, we also got to try two places I really liked. While not distinctly Ha Noi, still worth stopping by.


Hanoi Social Club


6 Ngõ Hội Vũ, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

There were many places that we saw on Erwan Heussaff's Overnight Guides that we knew we had to stop by. This place reminds me of every other hip shop I've been to around the world. Ex-pats who need a co-working space can find sanctuary here especially with more westernized type food. Still worth a stop as you'll be supporting disadvantaged youth who have graduated from KOTO and Hoa Sua hospitality schools.


Den Bar

Den Bar Drinks Menu
Den Bar Drinks Menu
Great drink presentation

12 Nguyễn Quang Bích Phường Cửa Đông, Quận Hoàn Kiếm, Cửa Đông, Hà Nội, Hanoi City 100000, Vietnam

Located in the basement of La Siesta Trendy hotel, this little gem reminds me of someplace you'd find in NYC. Trendy drinks, leather seats, and bottles lined against the shelves of the walls, it's a great spot to relax. I had a great mocktail which was super delightful. The presentation was everything. Prices are a bit higher so not for those who are trying to save.



We only stayed in Sapa Town for one night after our trekking tour with Sapa Sisters The food we ate was provided through the tour and our homestay which consisted of a lot of rice, vegetables, and pork. Very reminiscent of Cantonese cooking but with more oils. The food was homecooked Hmong food. If you have more time and feel a bit more adventurous, this returns as one of the first Google searches for local food in Sapa.


Do Fu Fa

Dofu Fa at the Lao Cai Chinese-Vietnamese Border
Dofu Fa at the Lao Cai Chinese-Vietnamese Border

Technically a Chinese dessert and in Lao Cai, we were up by the Chinese & Vietnamese border. We found one of my favorite desserts of all time—Do Fu Fa. I think this translates to Tofu Flower. Think soft tofu drenched in a sugary syrup. This one also had another type of jelly and ice.


Hmong Style Food

Hmong Style Food served during our trek with Sapa Sisters

At our homestay and trek, we ate a lot of fried spring rolls, oily veggies, rice, and noodles. To me, it reminded me of a lot of Cantonese food that my parents would make but with more oil. Of course, Hmong food varies from village to village and location to location. We only got to try Black Hmong style food through our trek.

Also, if you are in Sapa Town, highly recommend going for hot pot which is something the locals recommended. It's a much colder climate, so hotpot truly warms the soul. We stopped by Nhà hàng Khám Phá Việt 15 Thạch Sơn, tt. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai, Vietnam.  The menu is all in Vietnamese, but nothing like Google translate to help. There are hot pot foods (for you to cook yourself) or ready made. The local cuisine is horse meat. If you're adventurous, you might as well try (we got chicken instead).


The Full Map

The full map of all Eating Through Vietnam is located below. Share and let us know what to add to our map.

Great resources that helped throughout this food journey:


west & ease is a collection of stories, sounds, knowledge, visuals, and “creative” work. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.

Sounds of: March 2019

In this month's Sound of: March 2019, we're switching things up. This month, we've had a few albums on repeat that's worth mentioning. If you're looking for our usual songs, you can what we've been listening to with our usual Spotify Monthly Playlist


Acid R&B Vol. 2 | Heavy Mellow

Solo guitar riffs instrumentally layered while on acid

self-described "sexy, colorful, and simple" album 

All month, this is probably the most unexpected album we've come across that we've fallen in love with. Danny Ocean, who affectionately named this debut album after the apartment number he lived in Caracas and +1 for the only additional songwriter he collaborated with in this album, brings us so much joy. Throughout each of the songs, you can see how they play with and against one another. It's simple, never in your face, but so catchy all at once.

You can read a track-by-track breakdown from Danny Ocean himself via Billboard.


Portraits | Greyson Chance

ballads unique to their own that all weave a portrait of the author

You might have heard of Greyson Chance once in a lifetime back when he first broke into fame online when he performed Lady Gaga's Papparazi. Years have passed and Greyson's a little more grown up. His vocals have matured and you'll almost not recognize him. Except, the same power, even more so comes through the ballads of portraits.

Our favorite is plains which gives you this scene leading the west texas which by far, has to be one of our favorite songs. Listen to it and judge for yourself.


Deep in a Dream of You | Joey Pecoraro

tired girls exists too

If you're familiar with Joey Pecoraro, you're probably familiar with Tired Boy. With his latest album, Deep in a Dream of You, he's back with more tracks to help you get focused, daydream, and every mood in between. 




Welcome to the Sounds of Series where each month, we deliver music, podcasts, audio-visual experiences for you to discover and enjoy. We accompany each piece with a backstory to bring to life beyond what you hear. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.

Banh Beo

Eating through Vietnam: Hue

Located in central Vietnam, Hue is a city full of beautiful, but a haunted history. There's also a lot of history and variety to be learned through the food Hue has to offer. From small eats like Bánh Bèo to vegetarian dishes, food is a shared experience worth trying when in Hue.

For a full map of recommended eats, feel free to see here or at the end of the post. This trip was originally taken in April 2017.

Love the guide? Support by becoming a patron today.


The Imperial City that once was the home to the Nguyen Dynasty and where the massacres occurred during the Vietnam / American War, Hue has a lot to offer not only in food but also many lessons in history.


Bánh Bèo, Nem lụi, Bánh Nậm, Nem Rán, Banh Khoai

When we arrived in Hue, we wanted what the locals would eat. One spot, Hanh Local Food restaurant had it all in a set menu or a la carte that both locals and tourist alike flocked to. Nhau or snacking/bar food which isn't necessarily a meal but meant to be a snack or eaten along with your drinks, these dishes were by far a favorite.


Bánh Bèo

There's something so satisfying about taking a spoon and scraping the bottom, adding the fish sauce concoction on top and then throwing the thing in your mouth. The most satisfying part is to then stack the plates after finishing to see who has eaten the most. What's pictured here is probably a tiny portion. For Cantonese friends, this is similar to the sweet version of red bean rice cakes.

Banh Beo


Bánh Nậm

On the left, we also got Bánh Nậm, minced shrimp cooked with tapioca flour that's wrapped in banana leaves. To eat, take a spoon or chopsticks to scrape out the mixture and add a bit of sauce. Fun to eat and leaves your hands a bit sticky.

Banh Nam
Banh Nam on the left


Nem Rán

Hello, fried food! Spring rolls are probably the most ubiquitous in America. These are classic.

Spring Rolls


Nem lụi & Bánh Khoai

Pork skewers cooked and grilled on a stick of lemongrass, these are Hue specialties that you wrap up in rice paper and eat. Delicious and hot off the stick, these bad boys are so good that we asked for another order. Bánh Khoai is a rice flour cake very close to a Bánh xèo. Crispy and delicious in and out.

Sampler Plate
Sampler plate with Nem Lui, Banh Khoai, Banh Beo and more

You can find all of these above items at:

Hanh Local Food Restaurant

11 Phó Đức Chính, Phú Hội, Tp. Huế, Phú Hội, Vietnam


Bún bò

You absolutely cannot go to Hue and not try Bún bò. Elsewhere, it's known as Bún bò Huế as this beef noodle is unique to this city. Distinct in its red-tinged soup, the noodles, beef, and pork blood make this hearty meal an excellent option for breakfast. In fact, most places only sell this for breakfast. Also, Hue's version isn't as deep or pungent in flavor as you would find in Saigon or the states. It's still just as good.

Bun Bo

You can get this bowl pictured above before 9 AM at 38 Tran Cao Van Street.


Bún Thịt Nướng

After wandering around in the old city, this place we walked by that was initially selling Bún bò, they immediately switched at lunch to Bún Thịt Nướng, grilled pork over charcoal on a bed of vegetables and noodles. This was savory and sweet, and it hits all the spot. Also, when that charcoal smoke comes out, you know something good is being cooked on top.

Bun Thit Nuong Dish

We found this on accident at a place that also sells Nước mía (sugarcane juice) on the corner near the Imperial Palace.


Cơm hến

Rice dish made with baby clams or mussels. There is also an option for a noodle based. This little dish hit the spot with its crazy mixture of herbs and spices. As we watched the woman prepare it, there were more than eight ingredients layered on top of one another. The peanuts and fried pork skin were the serious crunch needed to give this bowl extra texture. This was also insanely good that we had two bowls.

Com Hen - Clam rice


Bánh Tráng Trứng & Bánh Ep

Following Legal Nomad's lead, these two dishes were such strange ones that we had to try it. Bánh Tráng Trứng is essentially like a pizza those with a much thinner crust and everything you can think of as toppings. I preferred this over the Bánh Ep which is grilled pork pancakes that remind me a lot of Cantonese Scallion Pancakes. Both were good snack foods though more popular with the younger children as an afternoon snack.

Banh Trang Trung
Banh Trang Trung
Banh Ep
Banh Ep

You can find both of these at 14 Lê Thánh Tôn, Phú Hậu, Tp. Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam, at the stall off the side of the road that opens from 4-8PM.


Vegetarian Food

For friends who love Vietnamese food but shy away from meats, there are Hue's famous vegetarian options. We stopped by a local restaurant as part of our I Love Hue tour. I can't speak too much on the vegetarian options as I tend to opt more for meat. If you want to learn more about history, you can find out here.

Vegetarian meal
Vegetarian meal


Nước mía

While I had this everywhere I went, it deserves a special mention in Hue as this was the first place we got the drink on our trip. Sugarcane juice can be found everywhere. Fresh pressed from the cane out of machines in front of you, this sugary liquid was the natural energy drink we needed as a boost throughout our travels. We tried many variations where some had kumquat added to even coffee and flan jelly as a supplement to the drink.

Nuoc Mia
Nuoc Mia

We found this one at the Night Market Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Vĩnh Ninh, Tp. Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam.  This place opens from 6 PM.


Salty Coffee

Also as part of our, I Love Hue tour, we started off the day with salty coffee. Coffee is well known in Vietnam, and simple variations always trump the coffee you can find in the states. This just had salt added which reminded me of a salted caramel latte minus the caramel. It's slightly sweet but definitely different from the usual coffees with condensed milk you'd find everywhere in Vietnam.

Salty Coffee
Salty Coffee

You can find this one at Cà phê Muối in 10 Đường Nguyễn Lương Bằng, Phú Hội, Tp. Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam.



The sweet, healthier dessert of your dreams and your choice. Chè is quite popular throughout Vietnam and given the hot weather, who wouldn't love some icy cold dessert topped with fruits, syrup, green beans or whatever combination you can think of?


We found Chè — 27 Hùng Vương at 27 Hùng Vương, Phú Nhuận, Tp. Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam. This is in an alleyway. You'll know you're in the right place as this place was packed after dinnertime. We got a mixed fruit (left) and green/mung bean variation (right).


Green Mango w/ Chilis & Frozen Yogurt

There's nothing like street food that may be a bit questionable, but you're going to give it a try anyway. We found green mango with chili which kicked out tastebuds in the rear. My favorite of all the foods we saw at the Night Market had to be the frozen yogurt drinks.

Green Mango with Chili
Green Mango with Chili
Frozen yogurt
Frozen yogurt

You can find both plus more underneath the bridge where the food vendors all congregate at the Night Walking Market Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Vĩnh Ninh, Tp. Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam.


The Full Map

Everything mentioned above is compiled in this map. Best of luck on your food hunt! Share what you've tried. Always looking for new places to add to the list as well.

Great resources that helped me throughout this food journey:

Special thank you to Andrew H. for being my personal tour guide, the one to order all the food, and explaining and answering all my questions.

west & ease is a collection of stories, sounds, knowledge, visuals, and “creative” work. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.

Conversations: Giving ourselves permission to do things on our own terms with tiffunee

Welcome to Conversations, a new series focused on conversations with your favorite new creators. They may be a musician, artist, entrepreneur, but no matter the title, these are some incredible human beings who believe in the process of creation and are here to share a glimpse into their world.

Continue the conversation by supporting west & ease on Patreon.


Our first conversation is with Tiffany, creator of tiffunee and creative coach of The Dinner Date Program. Since 2018, Tiffany has launched her creative career on her own terms and has defined that what meant for herself through her work for herself and with others.

tiffunnee portrait
Photograph by Danny Nguyen


Tell us a little bit about yourself. I am Tiffany and I go under the name tiffunee for my shop, my coaching, and overall creative career. That’s because I really want to emphasize this idea of fun and bringing that into every single day and in all of my work as well. It made sense to go off of my own name but do a spin-off. I believe that the world would be a better place if everyone was in touch with who they were and did more of what they love.


“I believe that the world would be a better place if everyone was in touch with who they were and did more of what they love.”


My shop is my own creative outlet where I have full creative control of the art direction, photo shoots, and overall presentation of [my shop]. I do everything about food and play because when I asked myself about what is something that I’ll never get tired of for the rest of my life, that would be food! I love watching food during my free time, learning about different cuisines, I can go on for days about this! (laughing) For the aspect of play, after graduating from college, I felt like I had to fit a certain identity and what it is to be an adult...I’m a big kid inside…and I’m using my shop as an outlet for it.


tiffunee's website gif
tiffunee's website,


What would you say is the biggest inspiration for your shop? After I quit my full-time job, and I had to create a community for myself again in the [San Francisco] Bay Area, I looked for people who are doing things that I really admired. There’s a couple who runs a shop called Open Daily. They are focused on branding food pop-ups, as well as their own products, that surround a supermarket theme. I personally really love themes.


tiffuneemart's Persimmon and Bok Choy earrings modelled by @linayen and photographed by @vibrantventurer
tiffunee's Persimmon and Bok Choy earrings.  Photography: Vivian Luu, Model: Lina Yen.


For some of my first pieces, which were persimmons and bok choy earrings, that was me wanting to have more representation of my Asian American side. The shop is also my platform as well, to normalize the Asian American experience and how it’s like to be a child growing up here. Another person I want to give a shout out to is Jon Lim who also does Asian American inspired art.

Can you tell us a little more about the coaching side of you? I think the coaching side of me as sharing knowledge and helping people align with what is truly important to them as a person with the reality of what they do every single day. I help [people] get to know themselves again so they know what’s important to themselves in order to realize their own strengths and know where to incorporate that into their careers.

Any who are the people you are coaching? They are going through similar experiences as me where they just started their own business, becoming independent, or are seeking validation from the general creative field. [These are people who] are realizing that no matter what, at the end of the day, they have to be the person who believes in what they are doing. So I’m typically working with people who are transitioning from their current job or they have this idea and they really want it to come to fruition. I’m here to help them do that.


tiffunee portrait


It seems pretty full circle from what you’re doing before like transitioning into this role that you’re in now—being able to run your own shop, do coaching, and being able to give back to folks who are in a similar situation as you. This is giving you the opportunity to learn together. Yes, definitely. I love sharing articles with friends. I realize the balance of between friends and clients is that friends, you can’t always be giving them resources. They’ll be like “Tiffany, stop telling me what to do!”

But your clients are truly seeking your advice and really want to learn from you, giving you a great outlet for you to share what you’ve learned as well. Yes, they are ready for the change and are into it.


Why is the work you do important to you? For the shop, it’s important for me because it’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. So having that space for me to just really say “this is my space” is really important to me. On top of that, the reason I do pop-ups is that, for a while, I thought about doing craft fairs and such but I think it’s important to reclaim your physical space. That is, doing the pop-ups on your own and not depending on craft fairs and other people but making it for yourself.

When you say reclaiming physical space, do you mean doing it by yourself? No, no, it means that you aren’t waiting for someone else’s approval to do something. (laughing)  But you definitely need a team to do it.  And that goes for both the shop and pop-up too, where being able to own and have creative control over the work that you do? Yea!

What about coaching? Why is that important to you? Back in college at UC Davis, I would be surrounded by so many people but I think there’s still a gap in creative careers where we don’t value ourselves as creatives so it’s really hard to ask for not just money but the value that we are as designers and creatives. I’ve always wanted to help people find that confidence within themselves and then realizing that I can then turn this into a career. It’s about finding the starving artist mentality is a big part of coaching.


“I’ve always wanted to help people find that confidence within themselves and then realizing that I can then turn this into a career.”


What’s a common misconception about you, your work, or the industry you’re in? I’d say that a lot of people think that working for yourself means that you have a super open schedule and that you are just having fun all the time, but it does take a lot of reflection and self-confidence to stop and think, “Is what I’m doing aligning with my values?”

Also, vice versa, a lot of people that that “Oh, I can’t be a freelancer because I’m not disciplined enough,” but I don’t think I’m disciplined enough! (laughing) Freelancing is less about quitting your job, more about realizing that you have other options and giving permission to do things on your own terms.


tiffunee portraits


I also think there’s this idea that if you were to quit your job to do something else, that is should be successful right away. I caught myself being really hard on myself when I first started out. But I realized that even if I got a job at a company, you still are going through the stages of being a junior designer, mid-level...senior, etc… It’s important to remember to give yourself permission to grow into your role and have it change too. And that’s something you did for yourself too when you first started off? That is, giving yourself time and space to try things out to see what fits and what doesn’t while learning and growing? Yes, when I am coaching people, I think about “what is my style here?” and try out different things with different people. I also learned that when it comes to freelancing, there’s a lot of trusts too. Trust in yourself or? Trust in me and when it comes to clients hiring you, it comes down to the person. It’s the whole idea of in-person attraction marketing, which means that people don’t buy just the product but they trust you. It’s about shifting that mentality where “oh, I’m an hourly employee” to  “what is the value that I add when I work with someone else?”


“It’s important to remember to give yourself permission to grow into your role and have it change too.”


What advice would you give to the past you who just started doing what you do today?  Try things out, especially your own ideas. I know that people will be like “oh just try everything out!” However, there’s a difference between trying out the opportunities that people give to you and then creating the opportunities for yourself. Before I used to say “yes”  to random clients coming to me and I would be like “oh, I’m trying different things!” but it was different when I decided I wanted to do a pop-up which gave me the opportunity to say “yes” more to myself. So it’s about trying things out and saying “yes” more to the things that you want to do, not just being pulled everywhere that other people take you to. That’s similar to when you’re a freshman in college where everyone’s telling you “try all the classes!” Right, that’s really expensive, costly, and time-consuming! (laughing) Exactly!

This is advice for my past self but also for myself right now. When I was at the point where I paid off all my student debt, quit my job, and then I decided I was going to start freelancing, I was so afraid of putting more money towards myself, investing in myself again. I’m at this point where my business coach is encouraging me and saying “Tiffany, you should keep going and do this thing” and I’m saying “Oh, I don’t know ” again. However, I’m reminding myself to say yes to investing in myself.  Knowing and having faith in myself that I would get that value back, money-wise, since I’ve done it before, means it’s never a bad thing to invest in yourself.


tiffunee dinner date promo images
The Dinner Date, coaching program that tiffunee offers. Photography by Khoa Chau.


I love it, and advice that I should take as well! (laughing) Yes, it’s scary! But it’s so real and when you say it out loud, it’s like “oh sh*t,  that’s true” and I should follow that. I often forget that it’s so easy to give out advice to other people and so easy to say out loud but I also have to apply that to myself too. Yes. All of this is like growing up in the traditional Asian American household too. Seeing how my parents, being immigrants, had to come here [to America] and sacrifice all of what they wanted to do. That sometimes, I say “oh, I have to do that too!” and thinking “investing in myself is selfish!” So actually, with my coaching, I really believe that the world would be a better place if people were to do what they want, including my parents too. Knowing that they had to sacrifice their dreams to build their lives for us, it reminds me, damn, I would like to make the most of my life.


tiffunee portrait


Give us a list of top 3 things you’d recommend.

Top 3 things I recommended based on personal experience of keeping myself sane (aka incorporating more fun and play in your life):

  • Dancing, so you don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Sharing food with other people
  • Creative Pep Talk podcast, I think everyone could use a pep talk in their day.


Favorite song of the moment?

Honesty by Pink Sweat$ but I really recommend watching the music video because the aesthetics are up there!


Enjoyed the conversation? You can find tiffunee on Instagram and her website at




west & ease is a collection of stories, sounds, knowledge, visuals, and “creative” work. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.