Posts Tagged With: Vietnam

Part three of 2013

Part One and Part 2 did so well, I thought I’d bring an additional light-hearted post to wrap up what was yet another amazing year on the road. Lets just jump right into it!

Anything with a wheel honorable mentions:

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The runner up is a quirky little mobile that you should not be surprised that I found in Amsterdam. I’ve always loved the Dutch!

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And the winner is… a row of taxi’s that made for an excellent photo in Hoi An, Vietnam. I really enjoy the overall feeling of this picture, from the narrow angle to the smirk on the drivers face. It simply makes me smile.

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Creative carriages (or anything with wheels carrying cargo) honorable mentions:

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The runner up ranked high on my list due to the productive idea and the fresh goods that comes with it. My favorite food delivered from the farm right to my hands? Sign me up Santa Catalina, Panama!

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And the winner is… these guys! I like this photo because of the busy energy and the variety of actions that are happening. From cell phone use (he must get great service up there) to a few jumping on and off, this moving vehicle was a quality shot!

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Culture me this honorable mentions:

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After debating on the list and staring at these photos for way too long, it dawned on me that this is my list and I can do whatever I want (what a relief!). With that said, here are several “runners up” because this world is magical and I didn’t want to pick a winner. So there.

A gorgeous walk along the the river to a local market, all in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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The sky scraping cathedral in Cologne, Germany… What a climb!

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The unexplainable rocks of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England.

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The amazing lost city known as Machu Picchu in Peru will forever rank high in my most memorable journeys. It’s not an easy tour or quick museum visit, the entire trip start to finish makes it what it is.

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Categories: Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Work out and rest up in Asian airports

I haven’t been posting much on the specific topic of fitness from a backpack, so I thought I’d share a quick workout that not only gives the body some activity, but helps pass the time during long layovers.

Step one: Search the airport for an open area with minimal people (for their safety and yours) with different heights to work off of. Ex: chairs, stools, curbs, poles, planters, etc.

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Da Nang, Vietnam (waiting for my flight to Ho Chi Minh)

I scored on this one as I found a huge stair case, bonus! What’s this at the bottom? An empty gate with several seats, double bonus!

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Since the workouts themselves weren’t going to be the most intense, I used the staircase for an interval style of training. A set of chair reps followed by a sprint up the stairs followed by a “break” walking back down the steps.

20 lunges per leg…

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Then sprint up!

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20 push-ups… Sprint!

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40 dips… Sprint!

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100 Flutter kicks… Sprint!

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Repeat 3x’s (or until they announce “final call” for your flight, then you finish with a sprint to the gate while searching your carry-on bag for your boarding pass and trying not to loose your flips). I made it.

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (waiting for my flight to Bangkok)

I didn’t find a wicked stair case or an empty terminal, but I did come across a bare wall standing next to a step. Success!

Calve raises

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Wall sit

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Silly pose for fun

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Leg raises

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Handstand, why not?

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I looked over at this bench for a cool down and also spotted a hip height bar… Score!

Tuck-ups (or crunches) and a side plank

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I always carry an elastic band with me (feel free to laugh here) and this bar made for a perfect base so I could due some bicep curls!

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Now stretch it all out…

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4 airports, 3 workouts, 2 flights down and one to go. Time for sleep before my final flight to Chiang Mai… this evenings bed is a window seal of the Bangkok airport. Good night!

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Categories: Accommodations, Fitness, Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Lady lady, where you from?”

The ride from Hanoi to Hoi An could of been long and boring however, I’ll never know that experience due to the new friends I met along the way. Vilmos and Zsuzsanna had an open door and was game for sharing snacks and travel stories. After hours of eye opening and heart stimulating conversation (thanks again for the new perspective) it was time for rest before we were booted off the train in central Vietnam.

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*They put me in their blog too! Check out the photos and tell me what it says (if you can read Hungarian) at http://rajdakaland.blogspot.jp/

Next stop Hoi An, a quaint old town that used to be Vietnam’s most important port and trading post with China. I’ve been told you can cover the entire town on foot in a day and still have time to snag a coffee. Sounds perfect after the chaos Hanoi had offered. Lets see!

When you walk along the rivers edge, you’ll see locals paddling away while the old boats sit and look pretty. It definitely adds a unique feel to this already small town. It makes me wonder if these waters could talk…

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Lining the river are markets and shops with local owners doing their very best to make a sell. Their favorite conversation starter is “Where are you from?”. For my own entertainment and hopefully there’s as well, I started answering differently every time. “My mom said the moon, but I don’t believe her” or “I don’t remember… where are you from?”. I found the more bizzare of an answer the bigger the smile I got in return. This is either because they thought is was funny, I was out of my mind or maybe they just had absolutely no idea what I was saying.

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Curiosity hits… What’s the reason behind the locals overly aggressive way of trying to get a sale? They would physically grab my arm and begin to guide me in the direction of their shop. After I’d deliver several “no thank you’s” with a bow, they’d keep trying and when the point was finally received that I was not interested, they’d give a disturbing frown almost to a pout. A final “no thank you” would end it and they’d turn away with a snarl.

Although I didn’t appreciate this whatsoever, it just makes me ponder what has been the progression or experiences to get them to act in such behavior? Was it taught, learned through example or just a part of the culture? Are they ashamed or proud, possibly unaware of the environment that it creates? I wonder what it was like here 50, 30 or even just 10 years ago…

Once you’ve made your way through the “assertive” saleswomen, you can begin to branch off and see other stores, restaurants and old buildings. Although its not my thing, I dare not forget to mention (for all my fashionistas) that Hoi An also has over 400 tailors within the city limits. Need a dress, suit or pants? Whatever you fancy they’ll measure you, make it and have it ready within 24 hours.

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A quick pit stop for a street food snack brings me a mung bean patty and a dish that tasted like a rice gelatin substance with vegetable soup and topped with chili sauce and fried onions. What was it really? I have no idea.

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Ooh, creative photo time! Amazing what a tiny camera effect can do to an image.

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As the day progressed, the clouds began to cover and within moments we were showered with unforgiving rain. Little did I know, this was the calming before the typhoon heading in our direction. I suppose my lack of that information was bliss as I splashed around the wet city.

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Evening rolled around and the rain hadn’t only opened the door but invited itself in with no intention on leaving. As I was heading back to my hostel, I heard “I know you!” On a bike rolls up Alex, the friendly German who I shared a cab ride with from the airport! A chat in the rain? Don’t mind if I do! We geared up appropriately and headed out for an adventure in the storm.

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We ended up at Cafe 19, a small little spot that offered $0.25 beers and a local dish called White Rose (which is like a dumpling) that we were both eager to try. Perfect!

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This menu made us chuckle, not that it was so clear in regards to pork or beef, but the proportion of the two animals.

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An early rise for me was welcomed with a complimentary breakfast, a choice of coffee, juice, eggs and veggies or bread. Yes please! I went with a mushroom and tomato omelette, raw veggies and a ginger-lime juice that was so fresh there were chunks of ginger and lime pulp!

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Dear Vietnam, my journey here was short and I may need more time in your country-side to truly appreciate all that you have to offer. Until then, thank you for the warm soup, yogurt coffee and new friends!

Next stop, Thailand!

Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hanoi – A day in the streets & the market by night!

I found that when I was walking the streets of Hanoi, the energy from the locals was constantly sending me mixed signals. Food venders on the street might greet you when you smile into their bowl of mystery items and others pretend as if you don’t exist. Many tuk tuk drivers will offer you a kind ride, while others won’t hesitate to nip your heels along a cross walk. Maybe it’s because I was spoiled in Cambodia or that I’m usually staying with locals, but I was taken back by the overall “you’re just a tourist” vibe that dampened this city. I suppose thats what I get for visiting the second largest city in Vietnam. With that said, lets see what it has to offer!

Welcome to the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam!

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Of course there’s a Pub… Haven’t found a country yet that doesn’t support an Irish drinking place!

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These sweet girls welcomed me into their creative shop in which mostly everything was handmade by them right here in the store. What a beautiful group of ambitious ladies!

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A breath of fresh air in this busy city can be found with a walk around the lake (the one seen from the balcony of the egg coffee cafe.

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Like in most cities, as the sun goes down… the energy goes up!

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The famous night market draws in a crowd looking for clothes, trinkets, food, drinks and pretty much anything else you can imagine that’s sellable to a willing customer.

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This friendly couple from Sweden made dinner a treat by splitting a massive feast with me. Each table gets their own grill and a plate of raw food. You add the oil and seasonings, then stir-fry it up! I included the first photo just to show off my favorite mini table settings that the locals dine on.

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If you’re not strolling the night market, just hitting the main streets will keep your eyes on the move!

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Safety tips of the day:
1. Assuming pedestrians have the right away will get you hit by a speeding motorbike.

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2. Once you commit to walking… Keep going! They’ll maneuver around you (That’s my noggin to the left of the photo).

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3. If you can’t beat them, join em!

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Time for a double connection! Egg coffee friends… meet barbecue night-market friends! On this evening, we chose to stay low key with the locals and take a tea on some mini stools.

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Well thank you Hanoi for your introduction to Vietnam. Travelers, if you’re reading this for personal advice, here’s my quick thought:
If you’re coming for a personal “local” experience… get out of the city. If you’re coming for souvenirs and egg coffee… You’ve come to the right place.

For me, it’s time to get out of town! A spicy and extremely sweet local girl offered me a ride to the station so I wouldn’t have to deal with a cab or cranky tuk tuk driver. Thank you dear!

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Not only did she drive me all the way there, she parked her bike, checked me in and then proceeded to walk me all the way to the bed I would be sleeping on during this 13 hour train

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Dear mystery motorbike angel, your kind smile and sassy energy was not only appreciated, but adored!

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Next stop, Hoi An!

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Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hanoi food, drinks and dessert for $1.50 total!

The other day I was wandering the streets in Hanoi looking for a bite to eat. Passing each restaurant that was full of tourists (although I’m sure there was a reason they were packed) I was simply looking for some local eats with rich flavor and no English menu. There was a huge mob of locals sitting just inches off the ground on baby stools devouring whatever this woman was putting into the bowls. Sold! I waited for a stool to open up and within moments, a local stood and signaled for me to take their seat. I smiled gratefully, sat down and just held up one finger with a head nod. Seconds later I found myself drooling (or what felt like it) into the dish and loving every bite! It was gone before the camera even made a conscious thought in my head. Sorry folks.

With that said, lets take a walk through the streets and try some other food and drink that’s common around here!

If you’d like to start your day off with a coffee, you have the usual (boring) options or three different specialities of Hanoi. First up, the ever so popular Weasel Coffee.

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Step 1: The weasel eats the coffee berry beans.
Step 2: Naturally eliminates them (yes…poop)
Step 3: The beans are collected, washed, sun dried and roasted.
Step 4: Brewed and served to you!

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Turns out, there was debate in regards to animal cruelty with the weasel being caged and force-fed. Since then, they’ve created an enzyme treatment that mimics the “original process” and produces a coffee as distinctive as the genuine, but without the use of the rodent. It’s been said to taste strong but not bitter, for me it was (fill in the blank with an “average” word – ok, good, decent, drinkable, etc.) but definitely not spectacular for the fancy price.

*Please note that I’m not a coffee connoisseur and opinions should be made by oneself.

Next up, a recipe that includes coffee, condensed milk and raw eggs. This little concoction we call, you guessed it… egg coffee! Described as full bodied, smooth and sweet I was excited to try it especially due to the specific cafe that used to be a hidden treasure. From the street you must go through an art gallery, down an alley, up several stairs, continue with a spiral set of stairs, all just to have a seat to enjoy your coffee. I will say, the view of the lake was nice and also made for a new handstand pic!

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Back to the coffee. Luckily I was with my new kiwi friends because I was faced with an unexpected dilemma. As I opened the menu to point to the egg coffee, my eyes caught the word “yogurt” followed by “cocoa” and “coffee. What? A cold iced coffee with chocolate and plain yogurt… Yeh, I know.
They each ordered an egg coffee (one cold and one hot) and I got the yog-o-coffee (I made that term up, please don’t go and ask for it, they’ll have no clue what you’re talking about).

Group opinion says:
The cold egg coffee just tasted like thick creamy iced coffee.
The hot egg coffee is better than the iced one. In his words, “like a hot coffee that had a scoop of vanilla ice cream melted into it”.
The yog-o-coffee tastes exactly like you would imagine. Cold sweetened coffee poured over plain yogurt with powdered cocoa mixed in. I think my expectations were set too high to say this was amazing, however I’d probably get it again if I ever went back, just to double check my opinion.

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Moving on to edible drinks. This is a warm soy tofu type of substance with palm syrup poured over the top. The flavor isn’t bad, but definitely not good enough to consume all of that sugar!

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This tempting doozie was calling my name when I assumed it was fresh fruit and yogurt. Nope, fresh fruit with coconut milk and condensed sweetened milk topped off with ice. Sugary fruit thats soaked in sugar, topped off with a fat filled creamed sugar syrup. Sounds like Buddy the elf would love it (thank you Will Farrell).

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I thought this was going to be a savory rice(ish) soup. Wrong again! It’s another sugar filled, warm gooey surprise! Considering I had no idea what it was or which “color” to pick, I just shrugged my shoulders and pointed at her then the mixture to suggest that I’d like to try her favorite.

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I knew she understood me when the smile hit her face as she said “you go sit”. So there I sat waiting (on the tiny chair next to the tiny stool that this entire country uses for social dining). I dig it.

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For lunch options, I kept my eyes down for anything that may look appetizing along the road side.

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After struggling all day trying to find a dish that didn’t have tofu, pork, chicken or fried fish, I finally broke down and stepped inside of a restaurant. The hostel I’m staying at suggested Minh Thuy’s Family Restaurant and they were spot on! The momma cook is one of the female master chefs of Vietnam and has every right to boast of her ability. With her daughter eagerly serving tables while she prepares in the kitchen, this place felt like you were eating at a friends house. I ordered the fresh spring rolls planning to have half for lunch and the rest for dinner. Yeah right, I devoured the entire plate!

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In addition to all of the above, you can find corners selling “fresh beer”, (which just means on tap) for $5000 dong. That’s about 0.25 cents in the US. So for a meal, a few beers and dessert if you choose, you can easily eat on the streets of Hanoi for $1.50.

Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last of Cambodia and a rice wine welcome to Vietnam!

Once we returned from Angkor Wat, I had just a short time before I was to depart for my next stop.

He are some random shots I took as I walked the streets of Phnom Penh. I wasn’t looking for anything specific, just moving about with my eyes open (and realizing… You just don’t see these things every day).

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Last edible surprise dishes turn out to be sweet treats. The first is what looks like pomegranate seeds (they were squishy, not crunchy) with jelly noodles, a soft grain in coconut milk with ice. As refreshing as it sounds, it was fairly tasteless. The following is some type of sea noodle-like items with pumpkin and coconut milk. I prefer the darker noodle bowl as it was warm, savory and sweet!

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I return to work on my last night with all of the lovely ladies that have made home away from home. Popcorn toss, a party hat and great conversation was the perfect way to end my time here.

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What’s this? An adorable detailed list of suggestions from Mel in regards to my next destination… Vietnam! Thank you sweet girl, the time and effort that went into this puts the lonely planet book to shame!

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With that said, here is me, Mel and Semhal on the day of my departure. Miss you already girls!

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No way! It’s our buddy in the pink tuk tuk again! “Lady lady!” He says. I smile like a little school girl (and probably squealed like one too). Off I go to the airport… In style.

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A quick flight and hour drive sends me to Hanoi, Vietnam. The hostel of choice was Tony’s Hotel due to its prime location and quirky description of the hospitality. Sure enough, I arrive to be greeted into a game of cards complemented with the local beverage of choice, rice wine. Side note, it has no similarities to wine… at all.

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What do you get when you mix rice wine and a group of backpackers? A Japanese guy arm wrestling a local Vietnamese, refereed by a German while being viewed by the Spanish and captured on camera by an American girl. Gotta love the hostel life!

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With only a few days here, tomorrow will bring a day on foot getting lost through the city!

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Categories: Accommodations, Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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