Category Archives: travel

Vietnam: Halong bay cruise

Our final adventure in Vietnam was the Halong Bay cruise, the one thing that everyone would tell you to do when in Hanoi. It is in northeast Vietnam, is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. There are over 600 companies that offer this tour, so it was hard for me to choose from. At the end, I went with the top-rated luxury Indochina Junk legend 2 two days one night cruise. And I’m very happy with my choice.

After a short ride from Viet Village to the boating area, we were greeted by our guide Kenny. He took our luggage, gave us an ID and asked us to wait.

IMG 2858

half hour later we got into a boat with 12 others

8APuUSvAQGS6iaNJsvWNcg

and saw our boat! It was really nice 24 cabin 4 floor boat with Asian décor and comfortable amenities including a small pool and gym

IMG 2869

then we got into the restaurant where Kenny and his team gave us a short presentation of the boat, plan for the 2 days 1 night cruise, overview of the activities. All meanwhile cruise members delivered our luggage to the room.

RZUdNezRQDeCCQleP36Vtg

then we got into our room (#314). We were surprised by how large is the room for a cruise standard. I’d say it’s the size of a standard hotel room

IMG 2880

girls were happy to just jump around

IMG 2885

even a Jacuzzi!!!

ZeBYuuy5Q4Siixbdrbn03Q

truly impressive and luxurious

IMG 2889

then we were asked to join for lunch. Since the weather was really nice (rare in Hanoi because of the pollution) we were asked to sit outside and enjoy the amazing view of Halong Bay

IMG 2891

it felt surreal to be surrounded by nature beauty while being so comfortable and ready to eat good food

KlLTuqbOR0mzcPXbmBwf8A

while we waited for the food to come, we explored the boat a little bit

IMG 2900

IMG 2905

family’s first course: a spicy shrimp soup

XfWqriTkT26ZDAt+6bofxw

and I had the tofu version of it

Fullsizeoutput e4cd

second course was a fresh cucumber salad, very refreshing

Fullsizeoutput e4d1

Lizzy was happy getting up and down from the chair

IMG 2914

third course was shrimp with a lemon grass garlic sauce. Sofia had 4 of them.

IMG 2915

for me, they simply brought fries as substitute 😦

fourth course: curry chicken with some steamed vegetables

V6bEWLnRScW04hXYK8egcQ

mine had potato and carrot, not impressed but I cleaned the plate (4 in total) for the steamed veggies

Fullsizeoutput e4dc

fifth course: steamed fish in soy sauce

IMG 2924

mine was steamed fried tofu, again, not impressed

Fullsizeoutput e4df

dessert was fruits.

After we were done with lunch (around 2:45), we changed and departed for kayaking around 3:20. It was our first time kayaking and it was a lot of fun although a bit scary at the time.

52F0ClpvS5aOKbRu5u4H0Q

Sofia got to sit on the guide’s boat. I told her it’s the safest boat of all and she happily jumped on. Then I’d hold Lizzy on my lap while Tony peddled.

IMG 2927

very quickly we were the last boat. At some point we had the turn around the island and then we saw no boat in front of us, basically we were there alone. What if we get lost here?

IMG 2944

fortunately after a while and a turn, we saw the rest of the group, already in the island. Sofia was playing in the water.

6jSJRKtqQd6fHa135F72cw

we spent 20 min or so on the tiny island. The water was too cold to swim so we just relaxed and enjoyed the pre-sunset

IMG 2941

Jt99Ie3uSr+PW2z77Ucjfg

then we got back to the boat and it was the perfect time to watch sunset. Tony and Lizzy got into the Jacuzzi while Sofia went to the mini pool. I got to the deck to enjoy the view

IMG 2961

it was soooo beautiful, serene, immense, surreal

IMG 2963

IMG 2966

IMG 2968

then we got back to the room, showered, watched some “frozen”

IMG 2976

before going for dinner

8nooD8bvT2ykH4re801fhw

Lizzy is so cute with that bunny hat

BU2tYnCJSkCOEMGYu LDsw

first course; daikon salad with seashell

RpkZqiG4TMCuRSVIKw2wKQ

my salad paired with friend pumpkin, didn’t touch it 😦

LpAToJJyR92KXrtNuQIdKw

second course: Vietnamese spring roll

PlsTve9WTUuHIq7nxRQEbg

hot stone fish for the family

IMG 2999

and grilled vegetable for me. They were delicious despite how simple it is

YuiI2OaFRaq7f7SvZRVdbg

third course: sticky rice with fried jumbo squid

IMG 3003

mine was paired with a sweet potato cake which was super yummy (finally!)

ZJ6emPHSKyFoODpysGX A

fourth course: pork with mango sauce. Tony said it was great!

I53KHwaKTa2ClETggMOoFw

mine was mushroom fillet in a tomato sauce with steamed veggies, scrumptious!!! So they know how to make good vegan food!!! 🙂

4QewMKasSJqnpkioepg9Sw

fifth course: coconut flan and I had fruits.

BU2vd+zpQvmdmttBsp1B8g

with a full belly we went to sleep. I got to share the bed with Sofia while Tony slept on the floor. I’d say it was not fun to be kicked on the face in the middle of the night but I survived 🙂

The next morning the early risers started with Tai Chi on the deck together with the sunrise. how lucky I was to be there!!!

8lVw7 6 SoCNv7DgRzbi+Q

having this view as background. too good to be true, right?

W0IVoWxZQJaWI09QbibL g

IMG 3037

breakfast selection was limited for me

Fullsizeoutput e84d

then we got into explore one of thousands caves in the Bay

IMG 3060

UiOAOblUQUOwOtoRYs2ihA

N2sa2JflRsCU5ikPmv3DfA

and that concluded our activities at Halong Bay

IMG 3048

IMG 3054

IMG 3071

Our departing time was 11:20 so we had an early brunch around 10:30. Fortunately breakfast left me hungry so I was super happy to see corn and sweet potato

Fullsizeoutput e83d

and I had seconds of corn… so good

IMG 3079

then we got into the van, 4 hours on the road and got to our temporary hotel in Hanoi since our flight was 1:15am, we didn’t spend the night in Hanoi, although needed a place to spend few hours. After a failed attempt to nap we went out for dinner. I found a vegan restaurant close by

IMG 3091

this place was filled by ONLY westerners

Sz11CFsLQVKUgPLpzBZGDg

ZSbeadm4SZOGtBYRUY0SHA

I ordered vegan Pho, which tasted just like real beef pho, which I didn’t like. I went vegan because I don’t like the taste of meat and how greasy it feels, so what’s the point of making a vegan version of the exactly same thing?

IMG 3108

and a lotus stir fry brown rice… supposedly for Sofia but she didn’t like it so i ate it. Again, flavors were too strong for my palate.

KgeaXndgRTCPPI9B2Lus9w

we all slept from 8pm to 10:50pm before we check-out and got to the airport. Red eye flight is not fun for the adults but at least the girls slept most of the 3 hours.

That concluded our 12 days 11 nights trip in Vietnam. I’d say this was the trip with most varieties we had so far. Really enjoyed it.

Now… into a travel/vacation break. We’ve been traveling somewhere almost every month and I think the whole family needs some rest. 🙂

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under travel

Vietnam: Hoi An part 2

Day 3: we booked the My Son half day tour. My Son is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in and is believed to be the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina. Much of the site was destroyed by US bombing during the Vietnam War. It is considered one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia, and one of the most important heritage sites of this nature in Vietnam.

1+Xe5849QV6woYzkyOarEg

after 2 hrs ride on the car we entered the site and took a golf cart to save few hundred meters walk

I2QxgR8ZSMmoa2SIjSlbKg

but still we had to walk a bit

BANm6AiQTPewMG48G1q+Vw

first stop was some traditional show featuring the influence of indian chinese cultures

IMG 2521

the temples were impressive, especially considering that many mysteries of this place is still unsolved, such as who built them, how did they built them because it’s only bricks and no cement, etc

IMG 2522

it was close to noon and we felt like frying on the pan

IMG 2525

Girls were hot but still entertained

OR5zqEUTQvSqxFJ1A0VYAw

IMG 2540

Zrhdz5D3QeqQhFAwy4010w

I don’t think the girls understood what they were witnessing but they had fun posing for me 😉

ZZNjUv5GSMCV315WSGXHMQ

the whole group, ready to depart and get some AC time

Pp3Xb+XjTuqJqb5o2PxhEw

as usual, after the nap, we went to the tailor place to try on. this was getting close

IMG 2558

then we walked to a restaurant that made the rose flower for the entire town

4 bxV08NSFCnGSpgVy8PEA

it was actually rice paper dumpling filled with pork, shrimp, or vegetables, topped with fried garlic

IMG 2563

then we went to “reaching out”, a store that sells souvenir produced by local people with disability. I bought a coffee set and felt good for my purchase. 🙂

IMG 2576

the girls requested juice and they had strawberry juice

JnWd6qDNTma8Pl0CfZ4dBQ

Day 4: we went on marble mountain tour. It is a cluster of five hills made from limestone and marble in Da Nang. It’s also a well-known pilgrimage site with peaks, caves, tunnels and temples.

IMG 2583

IMG 2584

this time our tour group is only us, so we had the guide explaining everything we wanted to know

X9RXGBluQly6ejMjeRI+eQ

some of the caves are big, others small

IMG 2592

inside the caves there are buddhas because local people believe caves in mountain are sacred places

I8BBXzIxRUCBH9+R4QuhsA

and we saw many locals coming to pray

IMG 2605

these two just loved seeing new things

IMG 2610

then we climbed for 10 min (not easy climb for little ones) but we reached the top of the mountain with a good view to the Danang beach

IMG 2620

Lizzy’s job is making cute faces

IMG 2623

too hard to resist not to eat her

MKnraxGHSFGOgIUkt2NJRQ

then we went to another site, lady buddha, one of the three largest buddha in Danang, full of tourists

IMG 2630

DcxXFOImS8mdLDkEHDhh4A

as usual, after the nap and picking up our clothes, we went out exploring old town for the very last time. We tried local herbal tea made with ginger, cinnamon, lemon grass, cloves, and honey, very refreshing

IMG 2640

final view of this lovely city.. I so want to go back in the future.

HXBkw22aS7y2Pe85rmSLfw

i love the atmosphere of the old town, the laid back feeling, the ever ending evening with beautiful lanterns, and the good vegan food

ADH8LAo9RDGvzdYEUx7pKg

IMG 2651

bye Hoi An!

Leave a comment

Filed under travel

Vietnam: Hoi An part 1

After 3 days in Ho Chin Minh, we took a short flight to Danang, centre of Vietnam, a coastal city. But our destination was Hoi An, and old town that used to be a busy port with traders from Japan, China, India, and other places. It was our preferred city during the trip.

We arrived in the late afternoon, after we check in in the airbnb, the host offered to ride me with her motorcycle to buy dinner and milk for the girls. I got to see the night of Hoi An, which was super lively and cute, exactly how I like an old town.

IMG 2256

I got chicken rice for Tony

IMG 2258

and I told the lady that I was vegan. She first took me to a place that had a lot of options but none vegan. I almost gave up, but then an old lady who was selling grilled corn (which I obviously bought) told her that there was a vegan restaurant just few meters away, in an alley. So, there we went

IMG 2262

oh my God! I was in paradise. They had so many options!!! I got a full box of vegetables, tofu, and rice and felt already falling in love with the city, especially after poor vegan options in Ho Chin Minh

IMG 2260

after I got home (which is a 3 bedrooms house with three stories, including a deck ) the girls was so happy exploring the new place

IMG 2264

Lizzy loved to go up and down by herself

IMG 2267

all the rooms are quite big and we each got one, well.. I got to sleep with Lizzy.

IMG 2265

the next morning I woke up early as usual and felt like running around.. so I asked Tony to look after the girls and I went out for a long, the first since we got to Vietnam. The city was so quiet, peaceful, and stunning!

IMG 2269

only local people and few tourists were up at that time

IMG 2271

one of the touristic spot (japanese bridge) was empty

IMG 2272

only local people were starting their day

IMG 2275

and then I got the family to go with me to the vegan restaurant (which not only offered the best food I’ve had in Vietnam, also super cheap! each meal costs around 1 dollar!)

The first morning I had vegan noodle soup that had veggies, soy meat, tofu, crispy onion and garlic, and rice noodles. Oh my god!!!! this was sooooo tasty! It’s fresh, light, tasty but not with overpowering flavours, I could eat this everyday!!! (which we kind of did during our 5 days stay in Hoi An)

Fullsizeoutput e328

they not only offered vegan noodle, but also vegan variation of typical local dishes such as Cao Lau

IMG 2316

Tony also liked the restaurant a lot and ate there everyday. He even said if vegan food tastes like this, he could eat it everyday too! That’s a lot to say about the place for an heavy omnivore.

IMG 2320

the first day we spent just walking around the old town, which was quite big

IMG 2326

due to influence of chinese culture, they were many chinese temples

IMG 2330

IMG 2333
IMG 2336

after a long nap, we went to do the must-do thing in Hoi An, getting tailor cloth!

IMG 2368

I wasn’t sure what to expect and how they’d do it because I didn’t know what I want and how I wanted it. But they made it super easy, you tell them more of less what kind of cloth you want, for example a suit, they’ll show you tons of pictures of models. Then you choose the fabric/color/pattern, and then they take measurements.

IMG 2341

I decided to make a dress, a suit with a skirt, and a casual jacket. Tony got a casual jacket too.

IMG 2345

girls were happily playing around

IMG 2346

they were super professional and I felt confident about the outcome pretty early on. especially after the first try on (the very next day). Each day we’d go there after our nap to try on and they’d adjust them as we like. So in total, it took 4 days, 3 tries to get what we like.
IMG 2348

Dinner at the same restaurant, I got to taste the best tofu i’ve had ever had! hard to describe, but it’s super tofu if you know what I mean. Usually tofu is bland and lacks flavour, but this one tastes sooooo Tofu.  Fullsizeoutput e338

then we continued exploring the town waiting for the night to come because Hoi An’s characteristic is its night with tons of lanterns on the streets.

IMG 2375

there were many many commercial streets with boutique stores selling souvenirs, hotels, cafes, and we loved exploring them

IMG 2388

IMG 2391

the streets are surrounded by a river and they were boats that tourists can take for 20 min including releasing some candle boxes as a way to make wishes

IMG 2397

we all loved the experience of seeing the town from the boat

IMG 2407

Day 2: we booked a cooking class half day tour. After the tour guide picked up, we got to the market to buy ingredients for our dishes.

IMG 2421

the market is very typical asian food market, messy, dirty, but with the most fresh selection of vegetables, fruits, and seafood
IMG 2423

our guide was a local women (6 months pregnant), very calm and kind lady, she’d explain to us many local ingredients, how to pick them, and how to prepare them. I guess westerners found them super useful.

IMG 2424

then we first take a big boat toward the eco-island where we’d have the cooking class

IMG 2427

then we changed to a small boat to navigate for few minutes

IMG 2433

after we got to the island, they first showed us how vietnamese people used to ground rice to make pancake (which we will make later)

IMG 2438

Tony got to prepare the broth for his pho, which took the longest that’s why we started it first.

IMG 2444

Lizzy was entertained with passion fruit juice

IMG 2451

for each course, the guide showed us what to do, and then we go back to our station to make them

IMG 2453

Tony wasn’t feeling well, so I was in charge of making for both of us, his regular dish and my vegan option, which the guide very kindly adjusted for 3 of us in the group

IMG 2501

and our first dish was ready

IMG 2502

it was the typical vietnamese spring roll. The one with shrimp. The key feature of this recipe is how to make sauce. Good sauce, then you have a successful dish

IMG 2471

the one with carrots

IMG 2473

second dish was Hoi An’s typical pancake wrapped in rice paper with sweet-sour-spicy sauce. This one has shrimp and pork

Fullsizeoutput e371

and mine used tofu and no oil

IMG 2479

The third course was a beef noodle salad. It was the favourite of Tony and it’s is actually quick to make. Definitely keeping the recipe

Fullsizeoutput e377

my version used tofu as topping and more veggies than noodles

IMG 2483

Final course: beef pho. According to Tony it’s very true to the authentic pho. So proud of me and surprised that it’s relatively simple to make

Fullsizeoutput e387

and my vegan pho which contains a lot of yummy starch vegetables: pumpkin sweet potato and yam. It made the broth so creamy and slightly sweet. I love love it!

Fullsizeoutput e38d

after the filling lunch, we wondered around a bit and head back home for a nap.

IMG 2484

after the nap we went out to explore the never-boring old town. This time we took the local human transportation for some fun

IMG 2509

the funny thing was that in order to pass by tourists, the guy would say” bi bi, ba ba” instead of excuse me, but everyone understood it! 🙂
IMG 2512

20 min of cruising we didn’t want to get off

IMG 2513

to be continued

Leave a comment

Filed under travel