WIAW #25: Vacation Eats in Mendocino

A very happy What I Ate Wednesday to you! I’m excited to share with you a great day of eats- different than my typical everyday eats – in fact, I’m vacationing with my family in California and we had a great day in Mendocino. A great day with a nice walk around the town, and wonderful eats.

Gorgeous Mendocino!

Gorgeous Mendocino!

The Inn that we were staying at delivered a great breakfast to us in the morning in a cute basket. The Inn boasts 100+ chickens, so of course there were some fresh eggs included with breakfast:

breakfast menu

breakfast menu

Greg carrying our breakfast basket

Greg carrying our breakfast basket

the amazing meal

the amazing meal

We took a great walk after breakfast around downtown Mendocino, all around the Headlands along the ocean. We got hungry along the way and snacked on some Malley’s Dark Chocolate Almonds.

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After our walk, we stopped for lunch at a cafe downtown. My mom and I split a lunch – we got a salad trio, with quinoa, kale and brussels sprouts salad. It was really good and tasted so fresh.

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Dinner was so good. We ended up eating at MacCallum House, an inn in town, and had an amazing meal. We enjoyed a bottle of local Pinot Noir, some fresh baked sour dough, and shared a cheese platter.

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My mom and I split the arugula, proscuitto and chèvre salad and ratatouille. I love splitting meals, and it was the perfect way to try a bunch of food without getting too stuffed.

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Dessert was so so so good. We had a fresh blackberry soufflé and split it four ways. Since it had been my mom’s birthday, they put a candle in a side of cream for her to blow out.

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That concluded our day in Mendocino. It was such a good day of eats – I really can’t complain! As always, click on the badge below to see what WIAW is all about.

Some questions for you:

  1. What’s the best thing you ate yesterday?
  2. Have you ever been to Mendocino?
  3. Splitting meals – yay or nay?

A Weekend In NY

For those of you that know me, you probably know that I’m a native New Yorker. I was born around New York City and lived in Staten Island for the first several years of my life before moving upstate. The majority of my mom’s family still lives in and around Staten Island and New Jersey, but B and I haven’t made the trip back in more than a year.

It’s funny because it’s almost true …

So a few months ago, when we got the invite to my cousin’s surprise birthday for this, I knew we had to go – I’d get to see my family, introduce B to Staten Island AND get to see my mom for her birthday, too.

It was a great weekend – not only did we get to see family, but I got to show B some of our old favorite Staten Island spots.

The weekend actually started off early – Friday morning with a 10 mile run with B and Mary. Getting up at 5:30 to run on a vacation day isn’t what I usually like to do – I love my sleep! – but it had to be done.

This photo sums up how I felt.

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At least we ended with a treat from Restore!

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Then we got on the road to New York. We stopped first to visit my Aunt Glad. She just got moved into hospice, so I’m glad we got to see her in her new space.

Then, we headed to Staten Island to meet up with my parents. We enjoyed pizza at one of our old favorite spots, Deninos. The pizza was sooooo good.

veggie slice and salad.

veggie slice and salad.

Saturday morning, after an easy 5k shakeout run in the hotel,  it was time for the party. It was so great seeing my family and celebrating.

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The party was at a restaurant on the shore, so we took a nice walk after the party along the beach. There were so many people out – it was the picture perfect day!

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We were too stuffed for a real dinner after the party, but of course there is always room for dessert. We enjoyed Ralph’s Italian Ice for dessert – another SI tradition. The cannoli ice was delicious!

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Sunday morning started early – I said good bye to B and then my parents and I were off to the airport. We had a trip planned to see my brother in California! Another early morning, but waking up early to travel is something I can do every so often.

And now we’re off to California! I’ll share another update after the trip. But until then – have a great week!

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Some questions for you:

  • Do you live near or far from your family?
  • Have you ever been to the Jersey Shore?

PS – Linking up with Running N Reading and Her Heartland Soul today again!

The Fourth in Photos (My Long Weekend Update)

For those of you that follow me on Instagram and Twitter you probably noted I’ve been tweeting from vacation. That’s right, B and I spent the Fourth of July long weekend in a romantic getaway in tropical Milwaukee! It was a great time – we were there during their music festival, Summerfest, and had such a great time. I love live music. So. Much.

Instead of one long blog post about our trip, here are just a few highlights from our Fourth of July, with mostly photos (starting in Cleveland):

Wednesday night: We met up with some friends for the Orchestra’s free concert outdoors downtown and fireworks. We packed a picnic and enjoyed an amazing start to the holiday weekend.

Picnic on the mall

Picnic on the mall

Selfie during the Cleveland fireworks

Selfie during the Cleveland fireworks

Red, white and blue for the orchestra

Red, white and blue for the orchestra

fireworks over downtown CLE

fireworks over downtown CLE

Thursday: B and I hit the road to Milwaukee. Our first stop, however, was a night in Chicago. We met up with B’s sister and her boyfriend for dinner at a cute BYOB Brazilian restaurant. I ❤ farofa wayyyy too much.

awful picture but amazing food- feijoada and farofa

awful picture but amazing food- feijoada and farofa

view from our hotel

view from our hotel

Friday: We started off Friday morning with a 5 mile scenic run around Chicago. I love running in Chicago – I love the city and waterfront. Running along the water is so peaceful.

Running. On the beach with the Chicago skyline behind us

Running. On the beach with the Chicago skyline behind us

Then, we were on to Milwaukee! We enjoyed stopping off at my second favorite cheese place – the Mars Cheese Castle – on the way. Once we got to MKE, we hit up Summerfest! So much live music. Love it. The night ended with some more fireworks.

Cheese castle!

Cheese castle!

Goodies from the Cheese castle. Beer, cheese curds and meat stick. #healthy

Goodies from the Cheese castle. Beer, cheese curds and meat stick. #healthy

Corn on the cob at summerfest ... when in Milwaukee ...

Corn on the cob at summerfest … when in Milwaukee …

pretty gorgeous fireworks above the lake

pretty gorgeous fireworks above the lake

Saturday: We had a busy day! The morning started off with a run around Milwaukee. Again, loved running throughout the city and their lakefront. We also hit up some local coffee shops, the beach, Public Market, Historic Third Ward, and Summerfest again. We ended the night seeing Weird Al and Matt Nathanson. Matt Nathanson put on an amazing show, even doing covers – including Under Pressure!

Started the day with a run

Started the day with a run

Then we got some coffee and pastries!

Then we got some coffee and pastries!

Stopped by their public market

Stopped by their public market

Hit up the beach

Hit up the beach

grabbed drinks in the Third Ward along the water

grabbed drinks in the Third Ward along the water

#selfie

#selfie

hit up summerfest again!

hit up summerfest again!

Rocked out to Matt Nathanson

Rocked out to Matt Nathanson

Thanks Matt Nathanson for amazing Summerfest

A video posted by Melissa Koski Carney (@koskim) on Jul 4, 2015 at 9:39pm PDT

Sunday: After a quick trip to the hotel gym and my first day off running in 40 days (my running streak ended 4th of July), we hit up the local coffee shop again and then were on the road for the long drive back.

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last coffee shop stop before the road

Are you still there? Thanks for checking out this super long post. A few questions for you:

  • How do you take your coffee?
  • Scones – prefer them sweet or savory? Sweet all the way!
  • Have you ever had cheese curds? What do you think of them?

Linking up with Running N Reading and Her Heartland Soul today!

Easter Weekend in San Fran!

How was your weekend? I know it’s a little late for a weekend update, but I’m still getting over a really great weekend in San Francisco with my family.

My little (but taller than me of course) brother moved out to San Fran last year and it’s pretty hard to be a whole coast away. So, when my parents mentioned they were thinking of going out to visit him for Easter, I jumped at the chance to join them, and B came along too!

Me and Greg <3

Me and Greg ❤

We got in early Friday so had the whole day to catch up with my brother, see one of my bffs who lives just outside the city and also get some work done. Oh, and the weather was sunny and in the 60s, so I really couldn’t complain!

cute cafe for work on Fri.

cute cafe for work on Fri.

And they had a garden!

And they had a garden!

Friday started out with a little work, some coffee and getting post-work drinks with Melgar and my brother. My parents didn’t get in until late, so we enjoyed a late dinner before all of us passed out – jet lag!

Melgar!

Melgar!

Saturday was a long but great day. B and I started it out early-ish with a 7.3-something mile run throughout the Presidio and Crissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge. Stopping to take photos on runs during my vacation is just what I needed. Note to self – there are a lot of hills in San Fran so don’t be discouraged if your “race-pace” run turns into more of interval running.

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We also went for a great hike with my parents. We started through the beautiful Golden Gate Park and then ended with a route through Lands End. My brother had planned the hike for us and it was a great way to see the outskirts of the city, the beach, and great views of the water and the bridge.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

Oh, and we got Umami Burger. I am in LOVE with their food now – their veggie burger and ahi tuna burger (my mom and I got both and split it) were so good, as were their sweet potato fries. And beet salad. #Stuffed

ahi tuna burger

ahi tuna burger

Sunday was a rest day, but rest we did not. After Easter Mass, we enjoyed some breakfast and then another walk throughout downtown! We started off where my brother lives in the Presidio and then walked to downtown until we got to the Ferry Building. We were meeting up with some of my extended family – my dad’s cousin and his wife – for dinner. Our Vietnamese family style 3-course meal at the Slanted Door was amazing – definitely not what I typically eat for Easter but SO SO good!

salad and spring rolls

salad and spring rolls

Some of my entrees

Some of my entrees

dessert!

dessert!

extended family

extended family

After dinner, we walked around downtown until it was time to meet up with my brother’s friend Phyllis for drinks. We grabbed lounge seats in a really cool place, The Original Joe’s, and enjoyed cocktails and wine. I loved my dark and stormy 🙂

drinks!

drinks!

Monday was a road trip day! After a 5 mile run and breakfast, we were on a mini road trip.

scenes from our Monday morning run

scenes from our Monday morning run

breakfast at a cute coffee shop

breakfast at a cute coffee shop

We took a car and headed to Pescadero and then Capatola. We enjoyed lunch (fresh fish and pie!) and a short walk while taking in the sights and beautiful water and beaches.

Love the scenery!

Love the scenery!

Brian and Melissa in Capitola

Capitola – colorful in the background!

 

It was a great end to our trip – we got in some walks, some beaches, a lot of great food and quality family time. Even with taking a long weekend, it went by waaay too fast! I can’t wait to do it again.

Some questions for you:

  • How was your weekend?
  • Have you been to SF? Any favorite places?

A Day in Macau

Okay, tell me honestly. Are you tired of hearing about our recent travels and trip to Asia? Are you dying for recipe post or posts about running? Well, you’re in luck – this is the last post about our recent travels. Then, it’s back to your regularly scheduled broadcast 🙂

Due to flight schedules, we had a flight out of Hong Kong a day after our flight in from Hanoi, so we decided to spend the final day (and night) of our trip in Macau. What a fun experience – it’s a shame it was only a day (well, less than a day – we got into Macau around 4ish and had to catch a ferry out at 11:30 the next morning) but I’m so glad we did!

Some highlights from our day:

Walking around the old part of town and seeing some of the old Portuguese architecture, old churches, cobblestone streets and holiday decorations.

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Eating an amazing 7 course dinner. B and I had a room booked in the Grand Lisboa (the nicest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in! – it had a sauna and steam shower and Jacuzzi) and one of the restaurants in the hotel was a 3 star Michelin restaurant. For our last dinner, we splurged and had dinner there.

NBD - just a huge chandelier and piano in the lobby of the restaurant.

NBD – just a huge chandelier and piano in the lobby of the restaurant.

Oh. My. Goodness. Our meal was the best I’ve ever had. Each course was amazing. OH, and there were THREE DESSERT courses. A pre-dessert, a dessert and an after-dessert course. I was in dessert cart heaven.

This was pre-dessert. Yes, that's a thing.

This was pre-dessert. Yes, that’s a thing.

Course #2 - frog's legs.

Course #2 – frog’s legs.

Course #3 - lobster risotto. SO GOOD.

Course #3 – lobster risotto. SO GOOD. And there were more than 7 courses total.

B and the stuffed onion dish. It was one of my favorite courses.

B and the stuffed onion dish. It was one of my favorite courses.

me and my main course

me and my main course

Doing a  little gambling. I’ll be honest – I’m not a big gambler and while I’ve played a few slots here and there I decided to just people watch and enjoy letting B do his thing. We spent some time in a few casinos, mostly just walking around (and getting stared at – we were a little out of place to say the least) and then B played some black jack.

grand lisboa macau

The amazingly nice hotel we stayed in and the casino. Our dinner was at the top!

Getting in a workout at the hotel gym! The gym opened at 8 a.m. (of course I was there at 7:45 and had to come back – what kind of gym doesn’t open until 8 on a weekday?!) and I was able to get in a VERY slow 10k run before our flight. I know – what kind of vacation highlight is a dreadmill run, right? But seriously – it’d been SO long since I ran and it felt so good slash bad at the same time. It’s amazing how out of shape you can get so quickly!

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Just seeing Macau in general. Our hotel and the others were pretty insane. The area we were staying in was not what I expected – I was expecting a big Vegas-type strip – but instead there were just giant buildings among normal city buildings, schools, old architecture, etc. which was really interesting to see. And of course the casinos were so gawdy – ours was gold on the outside, had blinking lights at night and so much gold and crystal inside. So fun!

dressed up for dinner :)

dressed up for dinner 🙂

And that was the end of our Asia trip. We flew back on our 15+ hour flight and somehow managed to keep ourselves occupied for at least a little while by reading, blogging, playing games on my phone (Dots), eating the 3 meals they gave us and doing laps every so often. I don’t know when I’ll get to travel again, but I can say that this trip definitely satisfied my travel bug/urge … for at least a little while!

Some questions for you:

  • What’s the longest flight you’ve ever taken? How did you keep yourself occupied?
  • Do you like gambling? What’s your favorite game?
  • Any phone game recommendations? I never play games on my phone but after this trip I’m so glad I downloaded Dots! What else should I download?

Missed the other posts? Full recaps of our Asia trip, including Vietnam and Cambodia and Hong Kong are here.

Some Highlights from Siem Reap Cambodia

After leaving Saigon (sadly!), it was time to head to our next destination – Cambodia. We had three-ish days in Siem Reap and I was looking forward to more warm weather and a lot of temple viewing. So – warning. This post will be mostly pictures of temples. Or me and temples. Or selfies with really old temples. Because that’s pretty much what we did in Cambodia (besides check out the Siem Reap night market – because let’s face it … we did that in every city)! And it was worth it – such a great experience.

wall carvings siem reap

One of my faves - Bayon!

One of my faves – Bayon!

We got in one afternoon and had time just to head to Angkor Wat, the most famous temple of them all, to catch the sunset before it closed at 5:30. During the next two days we made sure to stop off at as many temples as possible – each unique in their own way. Some were very large, city-like and impressive, others were smaller but with greater detail, others were old and in near ruins as they hadn’t been repaired yet, others had trees growing through their impressive structures.

The famous Angkor Wat

The famous Angkor Wat

trees at Ta Prohm

trees at Ta Prohm

To get around, we hired a tuktuk (essentially a motorbike with a cart with seats behind it) who drove us from temple to temple each day.

in the tuktuk

in the tuktuk

Our list of temples included (I apologize in advance if I am mixing any up – they are all running together in my head now!):

  • Angkor Thom – a big city with a large gate and elephant terrace AND includes Bayon- a temple inside the city of Angkor Thom and has huge faces carved into the buildings
  • Préah Khan- another city with a huge temple
  • Nêak péân- a smaller temple on water
  • Ta Som- a smaller temple
  • Pre Reb-reddish bricks with steep steps
  • Mebon- similar to Pre Reb but had big statues of elephants
  • Ta Prohm- big temple with lots of trees growing all over everything and in the walls and bricks. The trees were pretty amazing themselves – their huge roots looked like large snakes, growing in and out of the old building. It’s famous for being in the movie Tomb Raider – I’ve never seen it but I think I may have to now!
  • Angkor Wat- the most famous temple of them all. It is massive and you could spend hours and hours there. We went there twice!
  • Banteay Srei- a little further from the other sights, this temple was not as large but  wow – what detail! The carvings on the buildings here were incredible.
Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

ta prohm selfie

ta prohm selfie

Obligatory Cheesy Photo

Obligatory Cheesy Photo

I’ve heard of some people getting templed-out  and I can see how – I can’t believe how many temples we went to and most of them were in one day. Still, it was an amazing experience to see these famous and grand buildings up close and in real life. They were all so different looking and all have different histories. The whole time we were in Cambodia I was counting my blessings and felt so lucky to be able to witness and experience it in person!

angkor thom

angkor thom

banteay srei

banteay srei

Haven’t had enough? Read about the rest of our Asia trip, here.

Some questions for you:

  • Do you have a travel bucket list? What’s on it?
  • Have you ever visited any old temples? Or what about the pyramids? Or Colosseum?

 

Vietnam Part Three – Hanoi

In addition to spending time in Saigon and in the Mekong River, while in Vietnam we also got a chance to head north and spend a few days in the capital, Hanoi.

In comparison to Saigon, Hanoi is somewhat more walkable, at least some of the regions are. The sidewalks are wider than Saigon and the traffic and streets seem slightly less crazy and packed with people and motorcars (but there is still plenty of them, for sure!). Not that we didn’t walk around Saigon – Hanoi is just less spread out and somewhat less trafficky.

We stayed in the Old Quarter, a part of town with many windy streets and small sidewalks. The streets’ names change and rarely go in a straight line; however, thanks to a map (and B’s sense of direction) we somehow never got lost.

hanging out on a rare quiet street in the Old Quarter

hanging out on a rare quiet street in the Old Quarter

Some fun things to do in Hanoi:

-Check out the Dong Xuan Market– an indoor market with lots of clothing and other stuff for sale. We didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to walk around and people watch.

– View the old Opera House (like Ho Chi Minh City, there’s a pretty opera house here)

– Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake or others- there are quite a few lakes throughout Hanoi but this seems to be one of the largest. There are many locals walking around (some doing Tai Chi!) and old ladies selling donuts as well. B bought some of the donuts but they weren’t to his liking.

ladies sitting around the lake

ladies sitting around Hoan Kiem Lake

one of the many lakes in Hanoi

one of the many lakes in Hanoi

– Check out St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Hanoi

– Walk around the outside (or inside, if it suits you) of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum- we didn’t go inside, but instead walked around outside and saw the changing of the guard.

hanoi

– View the Flag Tower

– Check out some old pagodas- We visited the Tran Quoc Pagoda as well as the One Pillar Pagoda

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– Visit the Temple of Literature – this place was cool – it had a pagoda with a gold statue of Confucius inside. There were also a bunch of statues of turtles with old student essays on them from ages ago.

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– Checked out the night market (so many of these cities have night markets!)

– Visit the Hoa Lo Prison (also called the Hanoi Hilton)- This is where many POWs stayed during the Vietnam War, including John McCain. I’m not going to lie, like some of the other Vietnam War attractions, this was somewhat weird to see. The prison was originally built by the French and they had photos and statues of the Vietnam prisoners during the French imperialism being tortured, starving, etc. But then they also had photos of American prisoners playing games, playing with pets, eating gourmet meals, decorating Christmas trees, etc. during their stay. Thus it’s called the “Hanoi Hilton.”

– See a Water Puppets show. This was really cool! They have performances throughout the day with people doing puppetry in an indoor water theatre. It’s a live performance with traditional music playing and all in Vietnamese.

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– Drinking Vietnamese coffee. It’s super strong and super sweet- they put in a ton of sugar and condensed milk. It tastes like coffee ice cream.

Vietnamese coffee

Vietnamese coffee! Mine was traditional, B’s was black.

And of course, we loved  trying tons of local food. Much pho for breakfast and dinner, as well as spring rolls for snacks (and appetizers), fruit (my favorite is the jack fruit) and the best street food – Bun Cha, a specialty of the north of Vietnam which is noodles, broth, different types of beef that’s cooked on a grill on the street and fried clam spring rolls. SO good. We even made it to KOTO one day, a restaurant that employs local former at risk Vietnamese teenagers, similar to Homegirl Cafe in the U.S.

Best street food ever.

Best street food ever.

breakfast!

breakfast! fresh fruit, bread with meat and cheese and also fruit juice.

More pho. Of course.

More pho. Of course.

Overall, the trip was incredible. Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cambodia and Macau – I can’t believe we finally did this trip. It’s been one of the trips we’ve talked about but also one of those trips we thought would perhaps stay on our bucket list forever. Check out some more of our Asia trip, here! If you have the chance to go to any of these places, I highly recommend it.

 

Vietnam Part Two – A Day on the Mekong River

One of my favorite parts of our Asia trip and trip to Vietnam was our day trip to the Mekong River. Our day started off early – it was about a 2.75 hour drive to the boat station where our adventure would begin.

b and i on the boat

b and i on the boat

Around 10:30, Brian and I got onto a sampan boat for a ride down the Mekong river.It was just me and him, our guide (who spoke English and would translate for us) and our driver. We first rode down to a floating market where we bought some fruit to enjoy as a snack. I bought some jackfruit – it’s my newest favorite fruit after visiting the area. I just can’t get enough and wish I could find some good ones in the U.S.! Anyone know where I can? So delicious!

buying fruit from one boat to another!

buying fruit from one boat to another!

Then we stopped off at a local honey farm to try some tea, queen bee cream, honey and pollen. They put the pollen and honey in our jasmine tea and it was so good! I’m so happy I was able to bring some back.

After about an hour boat ride we made it to our lunch stop for a traditional lunch- elephant ear fish made into spring rolls with homemade rice paper, pineapple and shrimp soup, prawns, egg rolls, rice, beef and chicken with fried flowers. It was a feast- seriously too much food.

this is elephant ear fish.

this is elephant ear fish.

After lunch we got to hear a performance from a few local Vietnamese- they were singing and dancing and playing some local instruments and even ended with a Vietnamese rendition of Auld Ang Sine for the New Year!

Then we got back on the boat for a ride to a place where local men and women were making puffed rice, turning it into rice candy and also making coconut candy and rice paper. Both processes were really interesting (everything was done by hand) and we got some pretty good samples and some more traditional tea. We of course bought some candy for us to bring back 🙂 We also got to try some snake wine which looked wild – it was big jars and bottles of wine with full pythons just sitting in there, dead. We did not bring any of that back.

watching a woman make rice paper

watching a woman make rice paper

snake wine!

snake wine!

We were supposed to go on a canoe ride down a small steam but it started pouring so we had to wait a little before getting back onto the bigger boat for our return trip. Our driver got a few fresh coconuts from a tree and cut them open for us- fresh coconut milk!

mekong delta trip in vietnam

view from our boat

view from our boat

Then we rode back on the river to the car and it was time for the 3ish hour return trip to Ho Chi Minh City.

What a cool experience. I love traveling and felt so fortunate to have gotten to be part of this adventure! This was definitely a highlight of the trip.

(Part Three, Hanoi, coming soon!)

A Few Days in Saigon

As part of our recent trip to Asia, B and I spent a few days in Vietnam. Our first stop was Ho Chi Minh City, or as the locals still call it, Saigon.

I’ll admit it – when we first got off the plane in Vietnam, I was overwhelmed. We had flown in from Hong Kong, where everything was so orderly and many things were even in English. Suddenly we were at a strange airport where signs were in Vietnamese and everyone was speaking a different language.

But as we drove into the city from the airport, I became at ease. The sky was just getting dark and the streets were lined with beautiful holiday lights, making a grand archway for our entrance.

Overall, I really enjoyed Saigon. B and I were lucky – our hotel turned out to be really nice, clean and in a great area for us tourists. All of the people that we met were nice. And we had nothing but good food the entire time. Here are a few things we did during our visit:

Walk all around downtown Saigon.

Yes, taxis were cheap but B and I love exploring cities by foot (we even went for a short run along the water one day!). Our first day in town, we took in so many of the sights:

view downtown

view downtown

– The post office (I know, it looks too pretty to be a post office!)

saigon post office

-Notre Dame cathedral

notre dame vietnam cathedral

– The parks

ho chi minh saigon vietnam

one of the many parks downtown – check out the people working out!

– Some markets

ho chi minh saigon vietnam

See a few museums.

I’ll admit, B and I don’t make it to local museums a lot when we travel. Especially if the weather is nice (and it was sunny and 80s in Saigon! In January!). But there were two museum-like stops we made that were worthwhile- the local Vietnam War Remnants Museum and the Reconciliation Palace. Both offered a really interesting view of Vietnamese history- one we don’t often (or ever) see.

ho chi minh saigon vietnam

Enjoy (and make!) local food.

I love Vietnamese food. In Cleveland, B and I make it to our favorite spot, Superior Pho, a few times a month. Saigon was heaven! Thanks to the years of French influence we enjoyed some fresh French pastries for breakfast some days. We also feasted on pho (yes even for breakfast), bun and banh mi sandwiches.

me and the best bun

me and the best bun – i had it at the market!

spring rolls

spring rolls

amazing bun

amazing bun

B and his pho

B and his pho for breakfast

bakery we ate at a few mornings

bakery we ate at a few mornings – yay for french pastries!

On our last full day in town, B signed us up for a cooking course where we learned how to make spring rolls, a green mango salad and fried rice in a lotus  leaf. I can’t wait to try some of the cooking at home!

on the menu ...

on the menu …

first we made spring rolls

first we made spring rolls

my finished meal - fried rice in a lotus leaf!

my finished meal – fried rice in a lotus leaf!

Take trips outside the city.

Outside of downtown Saigon are the somewhat chilling Cu Chi tunnels, Mekong Delta River and more. We made it to the tunnels and they were hard to see I admit. Especially the Vietnam propaganda video about the brave women killing evil Americans … but thats another story. The Mekong Delta River day trip was amazing- we escaped the crowded, loud and smoggy city for a boat ride along the peaceful river, more local food, local tea and candy and so much greenery. More about that to come – yes, it warrants its own blog post.

cruising along the mekong

cruising along the mekong

Explore off the main path.

Since we had a few days in the city, we were lucky enough to have time to do some exploring of non-tourist attractions. We walked down side streets and saw families eating dinner in alleyways behind their crowded homes. We visited an American University in Vietnam and heard all about the amazing things they’re doing. We walked around a children’s hospital that serves the lower class and that was hard to see. We found markets only locals frequented (I presume at least- they weren’t in our guide book, we were the only white people there and we got stared at). Sure, we saw some rats and other things not worth mentioning, but we saw the city for what it is.

Meeting up with a friend in Vietnam - the priest who married B and me and our former BC professor!

Meeting up  in Vietnam – the priest who married B and me and our former BC professor!

Some questions for you:

  • Have you ever traveled to Vietnam? Or other nearby areas?
  • How do you like exploring cities?
  • On your trips, do you prefer cities or countrysides?
  • Do you enjoy Vietnamese food? What’s your go-to order? In the US, cabbage salads and spring rolls. Salads were hard to come by in Vietnam – so bun, pho and banh mi. And course spring rolls!

Traveling – Hong Kong!

B and I just got back* from a fabulous, amazing, incredible vacation in Asia. Neither he nor I had been to Asia before and had started planning a trip to Vietnam (plus surrounding areas) earlier last year. Well – we finally booked it and started our trip out east in Hong Kong over the holidays.

We had four full days in Hong Kong and the city did NOT disappoint. From the moment we got off the plane I could feel the excitement (We’re in ASIA! I whispered probably too loud to B) and when the Airport Express train went above ground and the blue sky, blue water and SO MANY tremendously large and wild looking buildings came into sight I was pumped.

Some highlights from the trip:

The food (for the most part):

Because our hotel package came with a pretty good free breakfast (western, european AND hong kong style – congee), we didn’t end up going out for breakfast or dim sum during our time in Hong Kong. We did, however, have some other great meals including awesome dumplings (my favorite!), fresh duck, tons of soups and noodles and some pretty interesting meals as well (including a few places where we pointed to pictures on the wall because the menu was not in English). B did end up getting food poisoning on our last night – but we had eaten the same food all day long so I’m not sure what did him in.

restaurant with no english at all

One restaurant we ate at with no english at all

inside said restaurant - great noodle soup!

great noodle soup!

first meal - spicy cauliflower!

first meal – spicy cauliflower!

Spending a day in Kowloon

Kowloon is another island that’s part of Hong Kong. I really loved Kowloon! The island was bumping, crowded, energizing, etc. To get there, we took the Star Ferry across the harbor and spent pretty much the whole day there. While there we checked out the bird market (so many birds just flying around and in cages!), flower market, the local parks, the jade markets (and did some bargaining), the Promenade, the Avenue of the Stars and more.

so many goldfish on this one street

so many goldfish on this one street

 

 

one of the many bird cages on this street in kowloon

some of the many bird cages on this street in Kowloon

playing the role of tourist on the Avenue of the Stars - me and Jackie Chan!

playing the role of tourist on the Avenue of the Stars – me and Jackie Chan (and tons of other Asian tourists)

Walking around Kowloon

Walking around Kowloon

Viewing the city from the top of Victoria Peak

B and I took the tram up to Victoria Peak on our first full day in Hong Kong and it was a great way to start off our trip. We walked to the tram station from our hotel (about a 40 min walk) and got a great view of the entire city (and it was so clear out!) during the walk and from our viewpoint atop the mountain. At the top, there are also self guided tours you can take that point out what you’re seeing in the distance – again, great way to start the trip and get our bearings.

B and I and the view!

B and I and the view!

The view from the top. So lucky to have a gorgeous, clear day!

The view from the top. So lucky to have a gorgeous, clear day!

Day Trips – Stanley and Aberdeen and the Big Buddha!

We spent most of our time in the central main district and in the western part of Hong Kong (where we were staying) so on our last full day there we decided to take the public transportation system to other parts of the island, including Stanley and Aberdeen. Aberdeen used to be a fishing district and it was cool to see the people still fishing (and then filleting) their meal. Stanley is a gorgeous beach town with upscale shops, touristy areas, a market and a few beaches for locals and tourists to enjoy. Both cities offered a different view than we had witnessed during our stay in the other parts of the island and on Kowloon.

Beach Day! Spending Jan. 1 in Stanley.

Beach Day! Spending Jan. 1 in Stanley.

Loved the streets of Stanley

Loved the streets of Stanley

Selfie in Aberdeen

Selfie in Aberdeen – check out all the boats behind us. Some had people fishing, some had people filleting their fish!

Another day we trekked to yet another island, Lantau Island, to the top of a hill to find the Po Lin Monastery, famous for its Big Buddha. The monastery and some temples sit on top of a large mountain with great views of the surrounding areas, a temple with many gold Buddhas and more and of course- the Big Buddha.

At the top of the hill

At the top of the hill – monastery behind me ad mountains

Also at the top - great views!

Also at the top – great views!

B looking at the Big Buddha

B looking at the Big Buddha

The light show at night on the harbor

Each night, there is a light show over the waterfront between Kowloon and Hong Kong. It’s not like anything I had ever seen before – it’s lights (not fireworks, as I at first thought), lasers, and the buildings are also all lit up. Because it was the holidays the buildings were all lit up with “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” – something I had not expected to see while in Hong Kong!

View from Kowloon - all the buildings lit up

View from Kowloon – all the buildings lit up

What a great way to kick off our Asia trip. Despite B’s sickness, we had a great time. I really enjoyed the metropolitan feel for Hong Kong,  the gorgeous and really cool architecture, how efficient everything was, how easy it was to take the busses and train everywhere, and how walkable the city was.

cool buildings

cool buildings

Some questions for you:

  • Have you ever been to Asia?
  • What’s your favorite type of Chinese food? Least favorite? I tend to like spicy dishes or dumplings. Least favorite? Anything with rice or sweet and sour chicken.

Coming up next – some recaps on the rest of our trip – Vietnam, Cambodia and Macau!

*full disclosure – while you’re reading this, if travel plans work out right, I may be in an airplane flying above you – I was able to write this post while abroad!