Good Morning Vietnam

20140516_171403

Latimer: What else could I call a blog post about Vietnam? It’s a phrase I overused so very much while in Vietnam. I said it basically every morning, and if I forgot, I’d say it mid-way through the day.

This post is a continuation of my trip around South East Asia, as it’s getting to the end of summer now; I find myself reminiscing more and more about my adventures in the past. They were so good; they make me consider what the next adventure will be!

But well, back to my South East Asian adventures! I had made it through Thailand and Laos, with lots of fond memories and exciting adventures, onward to Vietnam, a place that I was expecting to love, though I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting to love about it…

I was right about the loving part; it’s a gorgeous, bustling fun place, full of amazing places to see and history to learn about, all inter-spaced with yummy food, cool art and random livestock on bikes (the motorbike is everything in Vietnam!)

20140509_191640
Beer corner, Hanoi where local people sell beer and we all watch the crazy traffic go by, as we sit on the street and drink. Yup. I randomly met up with some of my China-travel buddies here too, so the world is a very small place guys!
20140509_210124
Bun Cha, Vietnamese delicacy, Hanoi
20140510_112137
Crash site of Senator John McCain’s plane, shot down by the Viet Con during the Vietnam war (it is still there in Hanoi where it fell)
20140510_112212
They are super happy about having shot down this plane, so it’s very well sign posted – I think it’s because Senator John McCain is a Senator now
20140510_114938
This is the Hilton Prison, Hanoi. Hilton was a nickname placed on the prison, by the prisoners, who were American POWs
20140510_123656
Motorbikes on the streets of Hanoi
20140510_131124
More yummy Vietnamese food!
20140510_140247
Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Minh) propaganda artwork for sale in Hanoi
20140510_141326
Artwork, Hanoi
20140510_143519
Chinese monument in Hanoi – there is a heavy Chinese influence in Vietnam, as the country was part of/occupied by the Chinese during it’s history (Vietnam feels like it has more Chinese influence than, Laos, Thailand or Cambodia)
20140511_134735
Halong Bay
20140511_183538
Sunset, kite-flying off the back of our boat in Halong Bay
20140512_132110
Yes, that is a cow on the back of a motorbike… yeah
20140513_195828
Food wraps and kawaii fingers, Hue
20140514_093543
Vietnamese dragon and my Chinese Travelling Buddha, in the Vietnamese ‘forbidden city’, Hue
20140514_113442
Just on the road in Vietnam, amazing
20140514_131508
Blurry Buddha and me in an old American war bunker, on the road
20140519_125035
The Mighty Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City (kinda)
20140519_141844
Fresh coconuts on the Mekong Delta
Travelling Buddha gets around, here he's at the Chu-Chi Tunnels
Travelling Buddha gets around, here he’s at the Cu-Chi Tunnels
20140514_203209
Tofu, noodles and veggies, yum!

I saw a lot of amazing places, but my favourite had to be the laid-back beautiful Hoi An, I could have spent a long time there, it was a small, but very lovely town?

20140516_164640

20140514_163718
Beautiful wedding couple. As in Chinese tradition, red is the colour for the bride in Vietnam, not white
20140514_163909
Laid back streets of Hoi An
20140515_175018
Hoi An streets
20140515_174422
A bridge across the river, Hoi An
20140515_175147
Lanterns, beautiful Vietnamese lanterns
20140515_175113
Sunsets on its way over Hoi An!
20140515_175214
A cool eatery Hoi Ah, though it looks very Spanish or something!
20140519_192337
Super fresh noodles and yummy avocado smoothie (delicious!), Hoi An
Lanterns and more lovely Lanterns, Hoi An
Lanterns and more lovely Lanterns, Hoi An

Hoi An has a lovely river running through it. I went on a boat ride during the sunset and cast some lanterns out on the water, sending my wishes with it!

20140515_175200 20140515_180107 20140515_181753 20140515_180647

20140515_180100

It’s where people get clothes made lots of the time, but it has some cool art shops also, and also, the best tea shop I have ever been in in my whole life. It’s called Reaching Out Teahouse and it’s run by deaf and mute staff, so everything is done by indicating via the menu and also these little notes where you can ask for a re-fill of water etc. It is a Fairtrade shop and it works with people with disabilities in the community to find employment and live an independent life, so it’s well worth supporting. They also sell these amazing crafts in the shop – and all the tea cups and cutlery (metal and ceramic) are made by the Reaching Out artisans.

20140515_170547
Used to communicate with staff
20140516_155430
Iced coffee, with coffee ice… haha
20140515_171157
Crafts from the shop
20140515_171236
Traditional seating
20140515_172438
The tea tasting menu (3 types) – soooo good, plus you get three interesting treats with it! Like, eg., a sweet potato swirl, or green tea biscuit
20140516_154611
A platter of very interesting treats!

20140515_171253 20140515_170220 20140515_170828 20140515_171107 20140516_155038

20140516_154432
The famous Vietnamese coffee (iced) – three type tasting menu here! It was so good!

It was really serene and it was nice to sit in this traditional style teahouse and look out of the open shutters at the front at the people passing by in the street. Some Chinese tourists randomly stopped in front of the windows and took photos with us Westerns in the background, which was… well, hilarious and random, but I had noticed this happened a lot in China also, so I was kind of used to it, in a very weird way!

Vietnam was a brilliant place, I would definitely go back. Maybe one day I will, but from there it was onward to the place I had wanted to visit the most, Cambodia (and the stunning Angkor Wat… what)!

20140520_102156

What’s for Dinner?

giphy 20140315_101413

Latimer: I’ve said this before (a lot!!), but honestly one of the best things about going to a different country is getting to eat their food! And I’m the sort of person who takes photos of the food they eat and Instagrams them – hence this post is photo heavy!

I love Asia food but I wouldn’t have ever said I particularly liked Chinese food. As with most countries, we have Chinese takeaways in Ireland and they’re fine. But having been in China, I don’t think they are making proper Chinese food (I think it’s Westernized to suit our palettes). But, I wish they weren’t, because as it turns out, proper Chinese food is so freckin’ good!

I was asked a lot about the food when I came home – people would grimace, ‘what did you eat?!’ Well, okay, to be honest in Chinese food, they use everything and the food is always fresh (i.e. the fish is alive in the tank then cooked and put on your plate). It’s harsh to look at, but you have to respect that Chinese people know where their food is coming from; we eat the steak and the pork and we don’t think about how it got there.

20140325_174637

20140325_174650
Weighing the fish
And here the fish is cooked moments later (it's called Beer Fish a dish from Yangshuo)
And here the fish is cooked moments later (it’s called Beer Fish a dish from Yangshuo)

And they have some amazing food markets! The Muslim Quarter in Xi’an was one pretty cool food spot…

20140314_153027

20140314_153130
Muslim Quarter Xi’an
20140314_151250
The yellow stuff is rice cake
20140314_152451
They are making this sticky bar type stuff from peanuts and honey… beating the crap out of it with mallets!
20140314_151817
A prune, fungus drink… wasn’t nice! 😦
20140314_151811
Roasted walnuts
20140314_153625
Kitchen in the Muslim Quarter
20140314_154218
A kitchen in the Muslim Quarter
20140314_154543
Making fried wraps
20140314_155335
Yummy fried wraps
20140314_153629
Squid on a stick!

From hotpots to noodles, to taro chips… I ate well in China!

20140313_185526
Meet in a bun… sooo good… and spicy cauliflower
20140313_131242
Noodles in Xi’an (they’re known for their noodles – this was the only time I had noodles actually! wow)
20140313_185652
Spicy beef
20140313_190208
Yummy spicy cabbage
20140313_190828
Sweet and sour fish in Beijing
20140314_184754
Dumplings in Xi’an
20140316_192348
Some seriously spicy hotpot in Chengdu (they have the best hotpots apparently!)
Do you see the brains? Yup... I did not try that! ah... ha... nooo...
Do you see the brains? Yup… I did not try that! ah… ha… nooo…
Spicy potato... Love me some spuds!
Spicy potato… Love me some spuds!

20140323_190652

 

20140326_121639
We stopped off at a local woman’s house for lunch in Yangshuo. This green stuff (a type of lettuce I think?!) was soooo tasty… I could have ate the whole plate!
These were homegrown in the above woman's garden... yummy!
These were homegrown in the above woman’s garden… yummy!
Taro chips.... They could give potatoes a run for their money!!
Taro chips…. They could give potatoes a run for their money!!
I went to a cooking class and this was my end result.... not too bad?!
I went to a cooking class and this was my end result…. not too bad?!

If you ever go to China know that you are going to eat well!

And to round things off you’ll find some nice drinks too!!

This beers quite nice... and bloody massive - I could hardly hold it for this photo!
This beers quite nice… and bloody massive – I could hardly hold it for this photo!
20140313_160716
Strawberry soda
20140326_171803
coffee art… how can you drink it now!!
20140326_171915
More coffee art… so cute!!

 

Car Sweet Car

ID-10047104Ridley: This is basically a post about all the stupid things I do in my car, of which there are many, so I thought I’d generously share a few and have you wondering once again about my sanity. I have to say I love driving, which is hilarious considering it took me three goes to pass my test. Personally I think it made me a much better driver, to this day I know what all my traffic signs mean and I can do a mean three point turn!

The thing about being in your own car though, is it’s like a protective bubble, I tend to forget that other people can see in. I’ve heard it said that psychologically people think of their cars as an extension of their houses, so they do things in them that they’d do at home, they don’t consider them a public place. Now I’m not as bad as some, I still haven’t resorted to putting my make-up on in traffic, but I have brushed my hair, put lip balm on and sipped my coffee from my favourite mug while waiting for the lights to change.ID-1007997

Once, to my utter shame, I also had a bowl of cornflakes. I’ve never repeated that experience, not when as I was spooning it into my mouth as quickly as I could before the lights changed, I looked over mid-chew into the people carrier beside me to find a whole family of four watching me with wide eyes.Cornflakes_with_milk_pouring_in

The other thing I do, for which I get caught regularly, is people watch. I stare out, fascinated by what pedestrians are doing or wearing, of course it always takes me a moment to realise when they start looking back in at me, and frowning. I startled and look away, pretending to dust my steering wheel. Each and every time, I’m always surprised they can see into my protective bubble car-home.ID-100202871

The main thing I love doing while driving, however, is listening to my music. The problem is sometimes my music can be a bit embarrassing, and more than often quite loud. It’s fine if I’m zooming down the motorway and no one can hear me warbling along with my songs. It’s a completely different story when I pull up at traffic lights and suddenly everyone can hear me singing, ‘Pokemon-mon, the jouuurrrrneys just begun!’ or “A spaceman came travelling on ship from afar…” in the middle of June.

If I’m not listening to music, I tend to think a lot while driving, it can be a quiet, contemplative time, particularly on the longish stretch home on the motorway.

ID-100154105Unfortunately, I usually start remembering all the really embarrassing things I’ve said and done over the years. You know, those horrible, bur-like moments that still haunt you. This used to happen a lot when I studied for exams as well, I’d look away from the text book, off into the distance and after a few minutes I’d end up knocking my head against my desk or cringing and squeezing my eye shut as I shouted, ‘why, whyyyy!’ However, while I still have these sorts of reactions, they’re really not a good idea while you’re driving, especially the closing eyes part, thankfully it’s only happened once or twice, after which I’ve severely berated myself.

I’m sure there are numerous other quirks and strange things I do in the car that I’m not even aware of. Maybe it’s only me, but does no one else do these crazy things…? Just me then…? Ah well…. 😀

Too busy for tea? Never!

Rain pounded against the patio window, streaking down the glass to pool on the mossy flagstones outside. Latimer made a face out at it.

With a sigh, she swung away to wander around the kitchen, idly flicking open the cookery books and poking at the potted plant in the sink. She paused when there was a series of loud bangs above her head and someone thundered down the stairs.

“Ridley?” She peered out through the white door into the hall. “You’re being a terrible hostess, you know! I had to make my own tea! Any biscuits?”

There was silence.

Latimer hopped out into hall and down to the living room; steam rose up from her cup obscuring her view. When it cleared, she raised an eyebrow at the mess strewn across the floor. She perched on the edge of an armchair and watched Ridley rush around. The other girl was packing a massive bindle with endless pieces of clothing, creased maps, sunglasses, teabags and thick guide books.

She shrugged into a Burberry-style coat, straightening it over her shoulders and making sure the stiff collar was flicked down. Pinning her M. Latimer-Ridley badge to her chest, she patted it and smiled over.

Latimer sipped her tea. “What’cha doing?”

Ridley slipped on a pair of purple ear muffs. She narrowed her eyes on her friend, her lips thinning.

“You’re not ready…why aren’t you ready?” She started flapping her arms. “We have to leave in the next few hours, there’s no time for tea breaks!”

Latimer scoffed. “There’s always time for tea, ole Bean.”

Glaring, the blonde girl tried to fold her arms, but the ballooning sleeves were too thick, instead she just held them in the air and started to tap her foot. Her fancy heeled boots made loud thumps against the wooden floor as little flecks of dirt dropped off them.

“So,” Latimer took another slow sip of her tea. “Where are we going again?”

Ridley’s mouth dropped open. Her ear muffs slipped down onto her forehead, obscuring her view. Momentarily blinded, she flailed in a panic, then shoved them back up.

“What do you mean where are we going?” She spluttered. “On the internet hike!”

“Oh yeah…that…”

That…” Ridley muttered. She pointed at the table where a large poncho style jacket was folded. “I bought you a coat! I hear when the nights roll in, the internet can get quite cold! Something to do with iCloud cover.”

Latimer crossed her legs and sat back. “You do know it’s only the 25th of November? The first of December isn’t for another week, really. We have plenty of time.”

“Oh…” Ridley slumped down into a chair. Her coat puffed up with the movement, she flattened it down with her hands and leaned forward to glare at her mobile on the coffee table. “Stupid phone, with the wrong date. It’s been reprogrammed, how could this have happened!”

“How indeed…” Latimer hid her grin behind her tea cup.

Ridley shot her a suspicious look, she unzipped her coat and shed the extra layering. It fell like a shell to the floor.

“So…the blog tour isn’t for another few days then…” She pulled off her ear muffs, twisting them around in her hands with a sigh.

“Nope, but when it does happen it should be fun!”

“True…” Ridley pouted, she was quiet for a minute. “Did you make me tea?”

“Yeah,” Latimer said, standing up. “Come along, Ridders, you can show me where you’ve hidden the hobnobs.”