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Travel: longest solo trip

I’ve traveled for work many times but this trip is the longest time I am away from my family: 18 days in DC!!!

I left these girls for few hours and I was already missing them a lot. On my layover in Tokyo, my mom sent me these pics and my heart melted. Love love love these two

isn’t her the cutest little bunny? 

I can imagine Lizzy posing for pictures. so funny!

I was lucky to travel in business for this trip! Thank God! Otherwise I don’t know how my back will survive the 18 hrs trip.
I ordered vegan meals. My first flight was by ANA and they bought me this lunch: rice, split pea, assorted vegetables. It was okay but not super good. I was glad I brought corn and sweet potato with me to supplement.

I had 2 hrs and half to kill before getting the long flight (12 hrs) to DC. I worked a bit in the lounge, munched on copious plates of edamame and rice crackers


and more vegetables

then dinner was served. first course was salad with avocado and the second course was this plate with beans, vegetables, and potato slides

finished with Japanese bean curd dessert. Super sweet and beautiful

I worked and watched two movies (downsizing and geostorm), both very good. I managed to take two naps in between. So when I arrived DC I was well rested. 12 hrs flight is a piece of cake when flying on business. 🙂

I quickly check-in in my hotel (two bedroom suites! omg!!!) and went to meet with friends for dinner. My friend Belen was very considerate to choose a restaurant with many vegan options. We shared bread with tomato dip, ratatouille, roasted cauliflower, and a chickpea pancake. It was super nice to see and catch up with Carmen as well. She lost tons of weight (for health reasons) and looked fantastic.

Then I went to Whole Food to stock up some essentials (bread, avocado, cereals, coffee, creamer, and ice creams!) because I am staying in a suite with kitchen. So excited to eat some food that I’ve been missing from the States.

As I come back to this city that I spent the last 11 years living. It feels very familiar but also remote in certain ways. I love my life in the Philippines but I also miss the convenient, comfortable, and independent life in the US. In the Philippines we have a lot of help and I don’t need to worry about daily tasks from the house. Yet, traffic is bad, city is not pretty everywhere, groceries are not as abundant and convenient, and people has different culture. In DC, everything looks clean and beautiful, I identify myself more with people I see on the street, and I love groceries shopping here. And obviously, I miss my friends and social life in the States. Well… we will come back one day. Just not sure how soon.

Writing this post reminds me of my grad-life, when I first started blogging. I had the time, desire to say, and freedom to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Not that I miss that life or would exchange with the family life I have now (not for anything in the world), but this short trip to be more in tune with myself is a nice break, it makes me appreciate even more my family.

Okay… time to wrap this up and get ready for a run! I miss running in DC so much! 🙂

 

 

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Vietnam: Hanoi part 1

We arrived Hanoi past noon. WE check-in our hotel at Old Quarter, short nap and ready to explore the city

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streets are narrow, full of tourists and motorcycles, street cafes in every corner where people sit, chat, drink coffee, and eat sunflower seeds. We walked around and stopped by the church

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the old quarter is surrounded by a lake

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more temples with chinese/vietnamese characters

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originally we wanted to go a vegan restaurant, but after we arrived we found it close. So change of plan, we went to a restaurant that served local typical dish Cha ca

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it’s basically a hot pot that stir-fry tons of green onions and dill before adding some semi-cooked fish cubes. Served with rice noodles. Tony loved the fish, I could only say, green onion and rice noodles were fine.

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The next day we started our 3 days 2 nights trip with Indochina. We were surprised by the quality of van we got to ride on

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just half hour after, we were already passing by rice fields

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then we arrived our first night stay place, viet house village. It’s a traditional farm village, where we will be living in traditional house, and experience farming life

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someone was excited

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we were welcomed by our guide, had the most needed refreshing tea

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Tony finally got to sit on his favourite kind of chinese old fashion chair

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our room looked stunning for being in a farm

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and we share the living and dining room with another room

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it was such a peaceful place… like in another world, in contrast with the noise and chao of Hanoi. I felt in peace right away.

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it was very nicely done with a big fish pool

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girls fed fish few times a day

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and entering and exiting the main door

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and making faces

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and we had great food (accommodating my vegan preference too). They served vegetable and egg soup for the family, and mine without the egg

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first dish was a pork meatball and tofu cooked in a tomato sauce for me

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second course was fried pumpkin

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third course: stir-fry veggies with shrimp and mine without the shrimp

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fourth course: baked sweet potato, so good

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and the most delicious rice, prepared with sticky rice and mung bean

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fifth course for the family: noki mushroom wrapped with beef

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mine was just stir-fry corns 😦 but it was okay because I was already full

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and fruits for dessert

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after a short rest we started our farming activities. It requires biking to the site. Sofia was happy to ride with Tony. Lizzy was afraid so we took gold cart

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we passed by local houses, people who lived there whole life. We were the only tourists in town

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the place is beautiful… Tony and I both said, we could retire in a farm 🙂

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our first stop was to visit the oldest house in town and got to chat with the owner and learned some traditions and cultures. Did you know that vietnamese women does EVERYTHING, from work, to raise kids. I wonder why they even get married?

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second stop was two farming activities: making rice and catching fish

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hard work, seriously

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so many steps

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especially for white rice

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and get so little. Imagine you have to do this everyday to have rice on the table

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then Tony got prepared to catch some fish

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first step put the cage made with bamboo down, then if you feel you caught one, use your hand to take it out from the top

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definitely not easy

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but the group with the help of local people, they got quite a few

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I’m glad I don’t eat fish anymore, especially seeing where the fish live (dirty, muddy water).

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then it was time to head back

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dinner was even better. I started with a pumpkin soup

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followed by a radish carrot salad

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then a patty (not sure what is made of) in a yummy tomato sauce. Love it!

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some lolly pop made with potato.

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and eggplant friend with green leaves

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for the family they started with a green pork soup

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followed by fried spring rolls

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grilled chicken

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grilled fish

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shrimp wrapped in seaweed

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and sautéed watercress, which was consumed by me in 2 minutes.

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after dinner, we were asked to prepare dessert. Glutinous rice ball filled with rock candies and mung bean

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Sofia was very engaged and made quite a few

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the guide taught us how to cook them properly. Boil and pass to another bowl with sugar soup

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final product: rice balls that were sweet but not too sweet. It was different than chinese rice balls, but we like it too.

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Next day we woke up fresh and were welcomed by some vegan pho

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accompanied by this amazing view

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so calming

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then we visited the local market before we packed and departed for the next adventure. 🙂

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WE’re moving to the Philippines!!!

This has been on hold for few months now, but I’m finally sharing it with you all because it’s REAL!!! We’re moving to the Philippines for three years!!!

Let me explain. Sometime in March this year, the idea of going to a country for a field assignment came to my mind. Tony and I discussed it, we analyzed, the pros and cons, the challenges and why we should consider it. Then we decided that we could do it, we wanted to do it and that the ideal place would be in East Asia, ideally close to Shanghai so we could visit family often. I started applying for jobs there so narrowed it down to Malaysia and Philippines. Mid-june, I was given the offer to go to Manila. We happily accepted the offer.

During the two months of waiting time, Tony got promoted and had a great prospect in his current job. But we thought that this opportunity to live abroad, expose to ourselves and the girls to a new country, developing country, is unique and precious. Now that the girls are young, we can afford to move around easily without having to worrying too much about their education. So, even if it means Tony’s career would suffer, we’re willing to pay that price considering it as a family adventure that we can only do now.

Of course, this kind of moving involves a lot of logistics planning. We need to be in Manila by the end of August, that’s two months for the Big move. First, Tony and I went to Manila alone for 1 week to check out the city, find a place to live, and schools for the girls.

we stopped in Tokyo, had ramen

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24 hrs later, we arrived Manila. We were both tired but excited

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we check-in airbnb place close to my future office

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we woke up at 3am due to jet lag. We waited until 7am when restaurants opened and we went out to have breakfast

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just two blocks away from the airbnb, there were many western options for dining. We went to Wildflour. Had a philippino empanada to start

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and both had omelet as entree

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then we walked around and check out my office

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at 9am, we met with our rental property agent and started the house hunting. The first building we checked was just in front of the airnbnb we were staying, and 3 blocks from the office

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as soon as we entered the building, we fell in love

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then when we entered the condo and saw this view, we were 99% sold

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not only the condos are immense (3000 sq feet for 3 bedroom + den), it also has an amazing condo area including an adult pool and kids pool, playground, gym and meeting room.

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we saw 7 or 8 properties in the same building and chose top 3. Then we went to check houses in a private village. They were disappointing to say the least. After seeing 4, we decided to go with the condo. Then the agent took us for lunch and we had our first philippino food

green salad with salted egg and shrimp

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a miso sour spicy soup with cat fish and veggies

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a coconut drink with bubble in the bottom

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bbq chicken a la philippino

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a rice/coconut/cheese cake which turned out to be the best of the meal

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we had fun trying them out, but my palate told me I wouldn’t love it to have everyday.

To have something more familiar for dinner, we went to a hong kong restaurant TinHong Wan.

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so much better! 😀

As we walked back from the restaurant, we explored the city at night, so lively!!!

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The third day in Manila started with buns… one filled with salted egg custard

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and one with bbq pork

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after breakfast we went to the office for some briefing and went to a “healthy” restaurant “Green Pasturer” close by for lunch.

appetizer: marinated saltines, baked brief and toast

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an avocado salad

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and a cauliflower rice sautéed with shrimp, dried friend pork rings and egg, which was really really yummy!!! Tony loved it!

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we spent the afternoon checking one more condo unit at the same building, two daycares for Lizzy of which one we really liked it. Then it was time for a nap as we kept waking up at 3am.

For dinner we met with a colleague and his wife who’s also moving to Manila in August. Since his wife is german, they suggested to try out german food.

Love ordered the biggest piece of pork feet in a plate I’ve ever seen!

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and I had a tuna salad

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As we walked back… we saw a famous restaurant in Shanghai!

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Thursday morning I met with a colleague who’s leaving the country and looking to sale her SUV. We chatted office gossip and a little bit about her car. Then Tony and I went to a local supermarket to check groceries and household necessities availability. I made note on things to bring.

Then Tony and I headed to the restaurant we saw the night before for lunch

these are soup dumplings filled with zucchini and shrimp. They were delicious!

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wonton in sauce

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noddles soup with wonton

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spicy sour soup

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and two kinds of sautéed greens

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really enjoy the food there and will definitely come back for more later.

More nap, met with a colleague, and went out for dinner. I wasn’t very hungry but Tony was in mood for japanese food. We shared fried oyster to start

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and each of us had a bento box

Our last day started with french crepe, delicious and filling!

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then our local guide took us to the real Manila. Where we were staying is called Fort Global City, which is like bubble where all expats live, nothing to do with the real Manila.  As we drove there, we saw a lot of poverty. Traffic got much worse and it was impossible to imagine driving there. We also got to visit Chinatown, which was interesting but definitely not a place I’d go everyday. Then it was lunch time and I asked the guide to take us to try street food. I pulled out youtube and showed her a video of street food that we saw before. It happened that she knew the place!

This place has been here for over 40 years!!! Many locals come for lunch

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it’s like a buffer where you order food to be served at your table

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I tried a bit of everything but Tony devoured them all. For dessert, we had fresh coconut water with meat

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The food was so heavy that we didn’t need dinner that day. The next day we went to the airport very early and had breakfast there.

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Meanwhile my girls were missing us and we missed them a ton

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This trip was a preview of our three years stay there and we were really pleased with what we saw. The neighborhood we will be staying is perfect! It is very similar to shanghai where both Tony and I are coming from, but a better version of it. It has tons of stores, restaurants, and living facilities, all at walking distance, and I can walk to work everyday!!! That’s a big plus! Although we will be living in the city, our condo is almost as big as our house, so it combines the best of two worlds. And there’s more, we will be having our own driver and live-in maid!!!

Let the adventure begins!!! 🙂

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