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    Travel Around the World

    Beep! Beep!

    Chapter Five – Traffic

    The Scooter goes Beep Beep

    Up and Down the street

    One thousand in a row

    It’s how the Vietnamese go

     

    Peddlers bike along

    Weaving in and out

    Taxi swerves so rude

    Honking and a shout

     

    Behind you comes a truck

    Or Tourists on a bus

    Old lady walks so slow

    Traffic doesn’t break its flow

     

    Sidewalks aren’t for peds

    Scooters park instead

    Nowhere else to walk

    In traffic you must stalk

     

    The scooter goes Beep Beep

    Appointments they must keep

    In Vietnam it’s the way

    Adjust if you plan to stay

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    I Can’t Stop Eating

    Chapter Five – A Bicycle Food Tour

    I haven’t stepped on a scale in awhile. Not sure I should. The food in Vietnam is beyond amazing and I haven’t held back. But the great thing is that every meal includes a large variety of amazing veg – in soups and sandwiches, wraps and rolls. Everything includes the freshest  greens and that makes me happy.

    And last night made me happy too. Because we explored Hoi An and it’s amazing food tradition on a bike. Two of my favorite things – eating and cycling – together. And in the process we discovered a

    Ready to bike and eat!

    kindred spirit in Grasshopper Adventures – a fantastic cycle touring organization with outlets around SE Asia.

    Faithful blog followers know my cycling obsession.  I miss my road bike that is in storage back home.  So anytime I can ride I am happy.  Grasshopper Adventures provided us really nice, new and safe 27 speed mountain bikes with disc brakes.  I felt very confident on this bike, even in the Hoi An traffic.

    My son and husband and I had a private tour, which made the experience even more fun. Our great

    Our guides Ben and Flora

    guides Ben and Flora were knowledgeable, funny and interesting.

    We began the evening at 4pm about two hours before sunset.  Our first stop was one of Hoi An’s

    You can’t beat Bahn Mi

    most famous Bahn Mi shops, Bahn Mi Phi. We have eaten a lot of Bahn Mi and this one was by far the best.  Along with the usual pork, Pate, and veg, it also included cheese and egg. So delicious!!!

    We continued on our ride through the beautiful green rice fields and then stopped to admire the organic city gardens that provide most of the herbs and greens for the town.  We turned  into

    Learning about traditional farming methods

    a lovely little home of one of the farmers where we enjoyed a homemade bowl of the

    Because noodles always put a smile on your face.

    local specialty Cau Lao noodles, while also enjoying her darling granddaughter.

    Cute and shy

    As the sun made its way low in the sky we enjoyed the colors that bathed over the rice fields as we rode to our next destination,  Hai Dao (160 Le Thai To Street), a very authentic no frills restaurant set in a open air area off a busy street.

    Crispy Pancake

    Here we stuffed ourselves with perfectly prepared crispy pancakes, rolled in rice paper with greens as well as beef and pork.  I was already full and we were only half done with our tour.

    It was dusk now and we wound our way through tiny back alleys and streets down to the river just as night fell. Here we visited a

    The beautiful view from U Cafe

    hidden ice cream shop, U Cafe, owned and operated by a Japanese  woman. The ice cream (cashew and green tea) was delicious.  We learned that the owner works to bring  used bicycles from Japan and provides them to those in need in Central Vietnam.  Over the last several years she has brought 12,000 bikes to Vietnam!

    An IPA just like home.

    Our next stop was a quaint stop in the old town called Hill Station.  A bit of a diversion from Vietnamese food, we were treated to a plate of beautiful cheeses and a Saigon-brewed IPA.  This look at the fusion of cultures and food in Hoi An was  a very satisfying way to see how cosmopolitan this beautiful city is.

    BBQ Pigs Tongue

    Back on the bikes we turned on our headlights and tail lights and rode down to the river and over the bridge to Cam Nam Island.  Here we sat in little plastic chairs beside the river looking back at the lights of the old town at Hao Hao BBQ.  This restaurant is a local favorite and it easy to see why.  We started with a delicious salad, then pork

    So much food!

    belly rolled in leaves.  Next we had BBQ, followed by frog (introduced to us as “jumping chicken”) and finally BBQ pig tongue.

    As usual, we are always willing to try most things at least once and it was all delicious.

    The ride through the city back to the Grasshopper

    Mung  Bean Sweet steamed in banana leaf

    office was fun as we wove in and out of streets and alleys.  But wait!  We weren’t done eating!  On arrival we were served banana cake with a luscious coconut cream, a special mung bean treat steamed in banana leaves and tea.  We toasted our guides, “Mot, Hai, Ba, YO!!!!” and thanked them for a lovely evening.

    One of the most fun things we have done in Vietnam and I highly recommend it in Hoi An. Or look for Grasshopper’s other tours around Southeast Asia.

    Fabulous!

    Travel Around the World

    Light the Way

    Chapter Five – The Lanterns of Hoi An

    Lovely Hoi An, located on the South China Sea halfway between Ho Ch Minh City and Hanoi is truly the jewel of Vietnam. Somehow spared from ravages of both recent and ancient  wars, Hoi An’s charming architecture sings a beautiful song of ancient Chinese and Japanese spice and silk trade routes and past shipping port importance.

    But today the Unesco World Heritage site thrives on tourism. A testament to a shrinking world and a changing economy.

    Most visitors only spend two days. Our laid back itinerary allowed us nine days – time enough to feel ensconced. To see the light.

    That light meaning lanterns. Lanterns have become Hoi An’s signature. Depending on who you talk to, the story of the lanterns is either from ancient Chinese merchants and seafarers, whose use of the lanterns guided their journey, while others will tell you the lanterns are a more recent adaptation, based on the tourists and their love of the bright colorful globes – visitors all too willing to  pay to have this souvenir accompany them back home.

    I want to believe the first, more romantic  version, but my long career in marketing tugs at my conscience to accept the second. Perhaps it is a bit of both.  But no matter which, our many evenings in the magically lantern lit historic Vietnamese village is something I will always remember.

    Grateful for the lanterns, symbolic of our continued journey.

    Light the Way.

     

    Health, Fitness & Fashion

    Generous Curves and Clothes That Fit

    Tailors of Hoi An

    Hoi An is known for its inexpensive tailor shops , where the tourists spend their money on fancy suits and dresses fit to order.  A souvenir to wear next summer at your niece’s wedding and say “I had it made in Vietnam.”

    I had a suit made a couple of years ago when I was in Beijing. It was dumb of me to choose a suit, since I haven’t worn a suit since I left my job. So that lovely hand tailored grey suit sits in storage.

    In Cambodia wearing my favorite linen pants.

    Instead,  here in Vietnam, I thought I might consider duplicating a couple of pieces of travel clothing that work really well for me.

    Now that we have been on the road for a while, I find myself falling back on my tried and true pieces – many of which I have had for decades and have traveled around the world with me on many trips.

    New pants in royal blue

    I’m a big fan of linen for travel, at least when traveling in hot climates.  Although it wrinkles in the suitcase, as soon as you put it on the wrinkles fall out.  With me on this trip I have two long sleeve linen blouses, one short-sleeve and one sleeveless. I also have one linen dress and one linen sundress.  In addition I have two pairs of drawstring cropped pants that I wear over and over and over.

    I’ve been keeping my eye out in shops here for something similar I could pick up cheap.  For me, however, the problem is always my “junk”.  I’m endowed with a delight “full” derrière which often makes its abundant presence known when I’m

    My fav linen dress

    shopping for clothes.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love and accept my body as it is. And in the words of Meghan Trainor “I can shake it shake it, like I’m supposed to do.”

    However, off the rack clothes in teeny tiny Vietnamese sizes are just not for me in all my glory.

    So instead of having something fancy made, I took

    Redesigned linen dress minus the sleeves

    my tried and true pants and one of my loose dresses to the tailor and had them make me new ones in a different color.

    My hot pink linen dress was duplicated as a sleeveless bright yellow chemise and I added a royal blue pair of drawstring pants to my collection.  I expect you will see me wearing both of these items a lot in photos in the months ahead. I spent $50 to have them made.

    I should mention the first tailor I went to wanted $125. I walked out.  We ended up at Tâm Thu, a small shop in the heart of old town.

    My son had a beautiful suit made for $85.  He has a wedding to go to next fall and he had nothing to

    My son looking pretty handsome in his new duds

    wear. He also had a custom pair of leather shoes made for $35. He will look super “fly” at the wedding.

    But for me my Fabulous Fifties Life calls for casual, loose and comfy. Not to mention practical, packable and posterior pleasing!

     

     

    Eat and Drink

    Love to Cook (and eat!)

    Chapter Five – Cuisine of Vietnam

    Once again I’ve spent a day on my own immersing in the local cuisine. It’s definitely one of my favorite things to do and Hoi An offered a perfect opportunity.

    http://msvy-tastevietnam.com/ Ms. Vy’s Cooking school is also a restaurant, known throughout the region. I found it online and the reviews were exceptional so I signed up. But I wanted to do something a little different. I did not want to be in a large group so I chose the class that included a morning bicycle ride.

    On the bikes at the city gardens

    My suspicion that fewer people would sign up for a cooking class that also involves cycling was correct!  Thankfully!  Our group was just six plus our very
    nice and knowledgeable guide Bo. I was definitely the oldest person on the tour, probably by more than twenty years. But no worries. I certainly know my way around a bicycle and held my own on the

    Fish so fresh!

    little one speed bikes we used for our tour.

    The cycling portion of our tour started in the morning and took us to the local market where we learned about some interesting fruit and vegetable, seafood, beef, pork and chicken. The meat at this market was the

    Butchering today’s fresh pork

    freshest I have seen anywhere in Asia, no flies and pink and firm. Our guide told us this particular meat and seafood market starts each day at 4am with the catch of the day and ends in the early afternoon.

    Next we cycled through the rice paddies and learned about this important but fast changing industry in

    Rice paddies. These will be ready for harvest in April.

    Vietnam. Families still farm their rice plots keeping half the crop and selling half. Some years two crops are produced and some years three. But the younger generation does not want to farm the rice and many changes are on the horizon for this ancient lifestyle.

    We continued our tour through a beautiful and large area where all the fresh produce for the city is grown on plots managed by both families and government.

    This lovely couple (aged 97 and 92) have been farming this land all their lives.

    The gardens where meticulously tended and we met some of the elders who have been farming the land for decades.

    Our final stop on the bikes was to learn how bean

    Fascinating to learn how bean sprouts are grown.

    sprouts are grown from a local man at his home. I had never seen this before and it was fascinating. The sprouts are grown in sand, in the dark. They germinate very quickly and are ready for harvest in only three or four days. The sprouts are grown from inexpensive Mung beans.  The quick-growing crop and low overhead makes this a very profitable industry for this old farmer whose tiny plot is his

    The beautiful White Rose dumpling, a regional specialty

    livelihood.

    We rode back to the cooking school where we spent an hour watching several demonstrations including the master White Rose maker (dumpling), rice noodles, Cau Lao noodles (local specialty) and

    Jellyfish salad. Chewy.

    tasted some strange foods including jellyfish salad and silkworm salad.

    And then it was time to cook. Spending the morning  learning so much about the ingredients made it especially fun to cook the local treats. The White Rose dumpling takes some practice to make it look beautiful, forming it by hand. Mine was pretty messy on the first try but it still tasted delicious.

    Cau Lao is Hoi An’s signature noodle dish with pork and a rich delicious broth. I’ve had this dish a few

    The delicious and beautiful Cau Loa Noodles with pork.

    times already and I love it. We spent more than an hour putting this dish together and it was the best I’ve eaten yet.

    Rice paper roll, called Summer Roll (not fried), is

    Rice Paper Summer Roll

    made slightly different here than in other places I’ve had it. Filled with greens, bean sprouts, pork, shrimp, jicama and a crunchy deep-fried egg roll. These summer rolls were easy, refreshing and yummy.

    The final dish we learned to make is the famous

    Crispy Pancake

    Vietnamese fried pancake that is served rolled inside rice paper. This is street food designed to eat as you walk. The pancake is made from a rice flour batter with pork and shrimp. Fried til crispy brown then rolled with bean sprouts into the rice paper.

    At the market choosing shrimps.

    It was such a fun day with a cornucopia of Vietnam filling all my senses!  The sights, smells, sounds and tastes combined for both an educational and entertaining experience.  I will be testing these recipes on my family very soon!

    And the good news is, we still have a week left in beautiful Hoi An! Including a food tour coming up in a few days!

    Bon Apetit!

     

    And All the Rest

    Valentine My Valentine

    There is some reference to Valentine’s Day here in Vietnam, but not much. Just like Christmas the holiday for me seems to be more on social media than in my everyday life. I know it’s there but it is not my focus.

    I went back and read a Valentine post I wrote last year. In the post I talked about my husband and our years and years together. I talked about the big plans we had to make drastic changes to our lifestyle.

    But the thing I wrote about that caught my attention the most was my description of how much we enjoyed just being together. Because of work and life’s daily demands our Valentine goal (and everyday goal) was to try to have some quality time together.

    Wow. My life has changed so much. I think in the past 9 months since my husband retired and we began our vagabond life Grand Adventure we have been apart only a few hours at a time. And so far, we are still in love – and love being together.

    We do coffee together, walk together, ride bikes or just sit quietly together.

    Our choice to live a quieter, slower existence, together, is directly a result of realizing our mortality. Accepting that our life together has been blessed and deciding to make the most of our silver years together.  Realizing we don’t need much to be happy: a little roof over our head, time, experiences.

    Nothing more.  No roses, chocolates or diamonds. None of this to me means love.  A perfect Valentine’s Day – a perfect day – is just one that I am with him and we decide together what adventures we may have. Or not- depends how we feel. Unrushed and relaxed.

    Fabulous. The adventure continues.

     

    Eat and Drink

    Oodles of Noodles

    Chapter Five

    Oodles of noodles on the menu I see

    Oodles of noodles inside of me

    Breakfast is noodles like warm yummy pho

    Cheap and delicious it’s so good for ya

    Bun is for lunch served hot in a bowl

    All of these noodles are good for the soul

     

    Oodles of noodles sold by vendors on the street

    Oodles of noodles eaten on a tiny red seat

    Dinner is Bahn Cahn or Bahn Bo Hue

    Not sure what I’m eating, it’s all noodles to me

    Warm yummy broth served with grilled pork too

    Or maybe it’s Chicken or fish in the stew

     

    Oodles of noodles each meal of the day

    Point at what looks good then take it away

    Oodles of noodles served in the Vietnamese style

    Trying each kind will take a while

    Oodles of noodles I’m so glad I’m here

    Eat me some noodles with an ice cold beer