Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Comment Posting

Here is the Bar and Restaurant menu from our hotel in Saigon
This made us laugh and laugh - "Broken Rice - with Drilled Fork" (2nd from the bottom).
We have changed the comment settings so you all can leave us wonderful comments without any problems. 
Thanks to our dear friend Robyn who has joined us on this leg of our trip for pointing it out. Sorry for the confusion.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


This is Anne's GrandmotherShe lives in a little village on the central coast of Vietnam that is surrounded by rice paddies and mountains Her teeth and mouth are stained red from chewing betel nut all day, a highly addictive appetite suppressant. The betel nut chew is made with betel leaves, lime paste, betel nut and tobacco, which is ground up together and placed next to the gums.This is what she uses to grind up her betel nut chew -  a hollowed out bullet and a paint can lid opener.This is her house where she lives with Anne's uncle, aunt and their two girls who care for her with such devotion and loving care, a touching example of family. Their daily routine consists of following her around and telling her it's too early to shut up the house and close all the doors and windows
Making sure she eats all her food and not feed it the cat or simply dumping it in the yard somewhere
And putting up her mosquito net every night
Even though Christmas was just another day in the village, being with grandmother was all the Christmas joy we needed

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nha Trang or Miami South Beach?

Before heading into grandma’s village we decided to stay a few days at a beach town on Vietnam’s central coast. Known for its nightlife and hard partying beach community, Nha Trang was a nice beach getaway.

We soon found ourselves comparing Nha Trang to our Miami South Beach vacation. Such as no hotels are allowed on the beach-side of the main drag, with all the hotels on the other side of the main road across from the beach. Our hotel, similar to the one we stayed at in Miami was cute, pastel and art deco.

Yet another similarity to Miami’s South Beach was the bars/restaurants that line the beachfront were set up to look like a fancy hotel’s pool area, with beachfront lounge chairs, a pool, restaurant, bar and pool tables, all for use if you dine at the restaurant.
We spent most of our time on the beach sun bathing (the same day another snow/ice storm was rolling into Portland and Anne got sunburnt). Anne also lost our first day of pictures due to late night downloading - ooppss. We looked for and found the Big Buddha and the Leaning Buddha - We looked for and found the ancient Cham temples
We looked for and found the temple where Anne’s grandparents are resting.

We went up into the foothills to soak in Thap Ba’s mud bath and hotsprings. (No pictures, we didn’t want to ruin the camera with the mud). The mud soak was in big tubs for two or a large group tub. We got our own and found it hard to not float to the top in the murky thick, salty mud that made our skin glow and silky smooth. The hotsprings were pumped over limestone rocks that created waterfalls you could sit under and get an instant massage – take note Bonneville, Carson and Bagby, need to get on this pronto! Finding ourselves saying that a lot “why don’t they do this back home?” And an extra bonus – Vietnam’s first brewpub! And what a brewpub it is! Opened by a brewmaster from Australia, who is getting his PhD in brewing (we didn’t even know there was such a thing!) The brewpub has a nice selection of craft beers made on premise, right on the beach with lounge chairs you could rent on the beach or by the pool; an insanely huge menu of food ranging from Vietnamese, Fresh Seafood, Western, Pub Grub and SUSHI!!!! Again similar to our favorite restaurant in Miami - NEXXT CafĂ©. The brewpub also had free pool and wifi. Can you say HEAVEN??? Needless to say we visited the pub everyday we were in Nha Trang.

Nha Trang was the first city in Vietnam we rented a scooter and roamed the city like locals.

We even make a pitstop for a liter of gasoline that allowed us to roam the city for hours.

We ate the best Italian gelato with tropical flavors like mango, durian, lychee, soursop, papaya, jackfruit and pineapple - we treated ourselves to a cone everyday and at 60 cents a scoop who could resist?

We ate very little Vietnamese food in Nha Trang, knowing we would soon be indulging in the best family prepared meals of the trip, so we opted for lots of sushi, pub grub and rib snack plates instead.

On our final night we had brick-oven-wood-burning pizza.

While making a u-turn in a back alley, we spotted the restaurant and saw the oven from outside, we couldn't believe our luck when we realized the owners were real Italians, in Vietnam, who knew.

Seriously Donnatella Versace herself, her outfit – WOW. It was interesting to see the four Italians sit at the only outside table, sipping grappa, smoking cigarettes and speaking Vietnamese and Italian.
The weather was cloudy two of the three days we were in Nha Trang, so we were unable to take a boat out to the numerous islands to go snorkeling and of course our last day was perfect sunny island-hopping weather. Next time!
Our time in Nha Trang, just like in Miami, was a pleasant stopover before the real adventure begins!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cooking Class: Hoi An

After a week of shopping, lounging on the beach, eating our way through the riverfront restaurants and the open air market, getting massages vietnamese-style (a cross between a thai-massage and straight up beatings; wouldn't call it a relaxing massage that you would fall asleep to, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless) and riding bikes to and from town and the beach; we decided to take a cooking class.
There is no shortage of classes offered by the many restaurants in town and we decided on a restaurant where we were given the option to decided on how many dishes we wanted to learn and what dishes. A good indication the classes were good was the fact we had to actually book in advance because they were full for several days with up to 8 people per class; we wanted the instructor all to ourselves, so we selected a morning class.
We decided to learn 5 dishes:
Hot and Sour Soup
Our favorite dish - light, refreshing and how the simple ingredients created the delicious flavors.

Tuna grilled in banana leaf

We were fascinated with the charcoal grilling style used, we are grill fanatics and have recently incorporated the use of banana and bamboo leaves in our cooking at home.
Papaya Salad
The dressing for the papaya salad was not tart enough for our tastebuds, but we did learn a few new ways to add some punch to the dish, which we will be incorporating into other dishes.
Vegetarian Curry
The vegetarian curry was delicious and something we will definately recreate at home, again with our added Buddha Bellies twist.
Sesame Grilled Pork
Again the instructor was impressed by Mike's cooking skills and we got to eat everything we made. We really enjoyed the way our cooking instructor sang in rhythm to her chopping, something we found a lot of the Vietnamese cooks do, maybe to break the repeatitiveness of the large amount of chopping needed for Vietnamese cuisine. Another great cooking class and additional techniques to add to our cooking skills.