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.


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!


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.

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


– 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.


– 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.


– 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.


– 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! 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!