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.

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half hour later we got into a boat with 12 others


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

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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.


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

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girls were happy to just jump around

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even a Jacuzzi!!!


truly impressive and luxurious

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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

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


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

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family’s first course: a spicy shrimp soup


and I had the tofu version of it

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second course was a fresh cucumber salad, very refreshing

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Lizzy was happy getting up and down from the chair

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

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for me, they simply brought fries as substitute 😦

fourth course: curry chicken with some steamed vegetables


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

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fifth course: steamed fish in soy sauce

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mine was steamed fried tofu, again, not impressed

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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.


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.

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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?

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


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

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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

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it was soooo beautiful, serene, immense, surreal

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

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before going for dinner


Lizzy is so cute with that bunny hat


first course; daikon salad with seashell


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


second course: Vietnamese spring roll


hot stone fish for the family

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


third course: sticky rice with fried jumbo squid

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


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


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


fifth course: coconut flan and I had fruits.


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!!!

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

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breakfast selection was limited for me

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

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and that concluded our activities at Halong Bay

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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

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and I had seconds of corn… so good

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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

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this place was filled by ONLY westerners



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?

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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.


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. 🙂


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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.


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


but still we had to walk a bit


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

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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

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

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Girls were hot but still entertained


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


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


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

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

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

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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. 🙂

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the girls requested juice and they had strawberry juice


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.

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


some of the caves are big, others small

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


and we saw many locals coming to pray

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these two just loved seeing new things

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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

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Lizzy’s job is making cute faces

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too hard to resist not to eat her


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

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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

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


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


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bye Hoi An!

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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.

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I got chicken rice for Tony

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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

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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

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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

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Lizzy loved to go up and down by herself

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

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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!

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only local people and few tourists were up at that time

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one of the touristic spot (japanese bridge) was empty

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only local people were starting their day

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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)

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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girls were happily playing around

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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.
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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.

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

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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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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)

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

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Lizzy was entertained with passion fruit juice

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

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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

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and our first dish was ready

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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

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the one with carrots

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

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and mine used tofu and no oil

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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

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my version used tofu as topping and more veggies than noodles

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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

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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!

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

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

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

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to be continued

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