I’m a sucker for a musical so when the opportunity came to attend  kite festival New Year’s Weekend I pounced.

Now first let’s take  second to sing with Mr. Banks:

With tuppence for paper and string,

You can have your own set of wings …

A winding 60 minute bus ride away is the Grand at the Ho Tram Strip (which is a strip of lovely beach with nice resorts) was the first annual Ho Tram Kite Festival. Friends informed of this event and came on down from Ho Chi Minh City for a visit and we made a day of it. In addition to large unique kites there was a Rokkaku Kite Battle (which I think was a competition to be the last kite flying) as well as people bringing their own kites and enjoying the wind. It appeared that the other kite club enthusiasts were quite helpful and friendly based on our inability to communicate using words and instead using hand gestures, smiles and help with string untangling. ‘Twas a great way to enjoy the New Year long weekend.

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Get Your Motor Running

I’m sure you’d heard stories or seen pictures of the motorbikes in Vietnam. I’m here to tell you, yeah, that’s how it is. At first I was pretty intimidated by all of the bikes weaving in and out of the traffic flow but then at further glance you quickly realize the traffic is like a living, breathing organism itself. When you finally brave the advice to “just start walking gosh darnit!!!” to cross the street you see the bikes all part of go in front and behind you and never (yet) hitting you and suddenly you’ve made it to the other side.

Although it does seem a bit chaotic at times but then when I think about what the traffic would look like if all of the bikes were cars I’m not sure how anyone would get around. Plus, the bikes are pretty darn convenient and easy to park. For my most recent birthday Robbo decided to surprise me with a Vespa! I haven’t been driving since we moved here (I can’t drive a car here) so it has been a real treat to be able to zip around town on this baby. Granted I’ve only been out on it twice without proper adult supervision and it was during the times of day when everyone is napping (more about that in another post) and without having to make any major turns – but I’m getting there. I figure practice makes perfect!

Um.... ummmm ... help?

Um…. ummmm … help?

in between the lines! (Always ample parking)

in between the lines! (Always ample parking)

Don't worry these streets were closed off to the general public

Don’t worry these streets were closed off to the general public

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Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Reunited and it Feels So Good

Monday the 27th of April our belongings were packed up to later meet with us in Vietnam. Saturday we were reunited with our stuffs! Over the past two months I’ve daydreamed on how this reunion would go, being reacquainted with each other – knowing that the time apart has probably changed us all. We guessed at what we needed to bring in our suitcases when we moved over here and for the most part we were right (obviously the AppleTV, all of my make up eye palettes and jars of Speculoos cookie butter) but after a certain point in time you’d like to change up your clothes, use any of my kitchen arsenal or cuddle up with your quilts The move-in went well. The three trucks and 10 workers arrived and started their assembly line of taking boxes to rooms. I stayed in the kitchen unpacking boxes while Robbo directed the show upstairs. All the boxes were unpacked and their contents strewn on all of the beds for us to put away later. I start my journey to America on Wednesday so I have approximately 48 hours to get the house fully put together before I leave. But don’t worry, it’s not all work and no play, I’ve already made a croquembouche and 3 quilts … okay that was a fib, I’ve made one cake and frosting – which is just what you need to feel all is right in the world again.

The boxes kept marching in hoorah, hoorah

The boxes kept marching in hoorah, hoorah

Who knew I had this much kitchen stuff??

Who knew I had this much kitchen stuff??

They fit one of the trucks through the gate

They fit one of the trucks through the gate

All gone!

All gone!

Um, help?

Um, help?

The aftermath

The aftermath

Food Friday – Bánh cuốn

Remember when I post about all of the wonderful people who have helped us in this move? Well some of super helpful people are the owners of the home we are living in. They. Are. Awesome. They have not only come to our rescue time after time but we enjoy genuinely enjoy spending time with each other. This past Saturday they invited us to join them for Vietnamese breakfast (I think they spotted our wide but sad selection of sugary breakfast cereals). We met up with Hien and Son and their son at this local joint. What I like about the Vietnamese eateries is that they basically make one thing, which makes ordering WAY easy.

This specific place specializes in bánh cuốn. This is a rice based dish – but not what you think. They start with a rice batter that is spread out thinly over a drum-like-looking thing and then steamed. This makes wide sheets of rice noodle. These are then used with fried shallots, coriander (cilantro) and pork sausage. As you eat with chopsticks (which we did!) you dip the combination of ingredients in fish sauce that we added lime juice and red pepper spices too.

I was impressed with the dish. The rice noodles definitely look like quite a bit of work and I love the flavours of the fresh ingredients that are always included in Vietnamese dishes. It was definitely filling, which I’m still not used to eating large breakfasts so I was the only one to not finish. It was nice to have a breakfast date with friends.

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The lovely meal

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Took a picture of the location so I can make it back

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Rice noodles being made

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Hon Ba Island and Mieu Ba

Remember when we went on the run to the Jesus Statue and has this view:

This View Here

This View Here

About two times per month it’s actually possible to walk to this island, the tide goes out and shows a strip of rocks. On Hon Ba island it is Mieu Ba (which means the “Lady Temple”). The temple was built in 1781 and to worship the Water Dragon Holy Lady. We were alerted to the tide being out recently so we quickly jumped down to the beach and started out walk. The walk was short and on slippery rocks. Thankfully I was smart and wore proper trainers while all of the Vietnamese wore flip flops and then I slipped and fell on the rocks and caused some pretty gnarly bruised hands and shins. The island was small and there was little to explore but it was pretty and provided new views of Vung Tau from what we are used to seeing. if you are keen to make the walk the tide is usually out around the beginning and the middle of the month. Make sure you make it out there in the early evening (4-5ish) so you don’t get stuck out the island when the tide comes back in!

Look - there's an island here!

Look – there’s an island here!

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The final steps!

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Hands post falling on slippery rocks

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View of Jesus Statue from the island

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Posing on the rocks

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Mieu Ba – the Lady Temple

Food Friday – How to Train Your Dragon (Fruit)

One of my Instagram friends said it best calling Dragon Fruit the “best show off fruit ever!” and I couldn’t agree more. It is seriously so pretty. Bright pink exterior with green accents and then you slice it open to a delicious white fruit with black seeds, sometimes I’m surprised with a red interior. The fruit is originally from Mexico and most likely brought to Asia from Europeans. If I were to compare it to another fruit I’d say it’s most similar tasting to a kiwi fruit but slightly less juicy and slightly more fibrous. It has a nice sweet flavour (um, as most fruit does …).

Its really easy to uncase, just a quick cut down the middle and you can get the fruit out with either a big spoon or even just plying off the outer casing with your hands. It comes out quite easily. Then you just eat as is – and like my love for the pomelo it doesn’t last long in my house. With all of this great fruit available here in Vietnam I wish I could find baking recipes to go with it, but usually they do this healthy thing called “just eating fresh fruit”. pfft .Well, on that note, next time you see the dragon fruit pop up in your grocery store pick a few up and enjoy (and you don’t even have to add sugar or some sort of pastry).

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Flock of Dragon Fruits

Flock of Dragon Fruits

Food Friday – Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class

We took a cooking class. It was bound to happen sooner or later. There are a myriad of options when looking for cooking classes in Vietnam and we decided to go with the Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class. It’s set out on their organic farm so you have the opportunity to pick your veg and herbs to cook with later. We chose a pretty tame menu of popular Vietnamese dishes partially because we thought they looked really good but also because we want our friends and family back home to eat what we make for them in the future.

Our Menu

Our Menu

Vietnamese cooking is very fresh and is apparently one of the healthiest cuisines in the world (which is probably why my experience with it was limited). Each dish contains elements of sweet, salty, bitter, spicy and sour and used a variety of sauces (soy, fish, oyster) and herbs (mint, corriander, chill, basil) and some fruits (lime). Once you get these elements down you can basically make anything.

The first course were fresh spring rolls. I was really looking forward to these as they are a personal favourite! We made them with pork and prawns but I love that you can modify them to meet anyone with picky specific dietary needs. They were quite simple to make and I look forward to making piles of them on my next trip to the US (while pretending like they were incredibly difficult and time consuming).

The second course was the popular Banh Mi – a sandwich Anthony Bourdain has raved about. This popular baguette sandwich is eaten all over Vietnam and usually contains a combination of meat, fresh sauces, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs. There are many variations but ours were beef with a wonderful fresh sauce we made, vegetables we pickled and herbs we picked. It was a highlight (even for the really picky lady in our group who refused to eat anything except the banh mi!)

The third course was honey chicken and favorite by most people I know. We fried vermicelli noodles to put the chicken onand a wet batter consisting of flour and water. After the chicken and mushroom pieces were fried we made a honey sauce and toss it in. There’s no getting around this, Rob made the best honey chicken of the day. From this day forth he will be in charge of making this dish for our household!

The final course were banana spring rolls. Seriously, what’s better than banana mixed with sugar, wrapped and fried??? We at it with a coconut ice cream but I think when I make them at home I’ll add a caramel sauce to “Americanise” it with sugar overload. This was a great treat the end the class and fall into a nice nap on the drive home.

“The” Banh Mi

Banana Spring Rolls

Banana Spring Rolls

Rob's PERFECT Honey Chicken

Rob’s PERFECT Honey Chicken

Hailey made a pretty darn good honey chicken too

Hailey made a pretty darn good honey chicken too

My dainty, yummy fresh spring rolls

My dainty, yummy fresh spring rolls

The day's group

The day’s group

Chef showing us the organic farm

Chef showing us the organic farm