Thursday, December 12, 2013

Biking Beauties to Bus Excursions

And it seemed appropriate to finally finish out my series on my travels in Vietnam. Let's hope I can remember my details. It was so hard to write while we were there because honestly I kept falling asleep while writing. That is what being a busy traveler will do to you. I got back and immedietly seemed to fall back into this whirlwind of life and jet lag was pretty killer for a week or so. Alas we continued our journey on Day 4 with a bike ride through out the country side in the Hoi An region. Mind you I haven't ridden a bike in how many years? We were also in this county where bikes and mopeds are the perfered transportation methods, and people zoom around. Getting on that bike and riding through the village was terafing, but once we got into the ocuntryside and rode thorough the rice paddies, saw the water buffalo, walked on a bamboo bridge, I fell in love. This was the beauty I found in Vietnam. The people working their land, their livlihood, and the only way to really experience this is on a bike. I have to admit I was also deeply saddened during this journey. I kept thinking about the war and what the American presence did to these people in the countryside who just wanted to live their lives tending thier rice paddies, and we rounded them up and put them in essentially concentration camps, and the mass killing that happened. However, I think they have a beautiful spirit and have really taken back their way of life. As I mentioned before the views were amazing.

Bike line up

Hoi An region 

Bamboo bridge 

Rice patty cemetery 

Leaving our gorgeous resort hotel room was hard 

The Melissas

Marble mountains 

Dragon bridge in DaNang 

Boat we took to the Buddhist pagoda 

Traveling by boat was my favorite 

Adorable puppy on the boat 


Gorgeous doesn't even begin to describe it 

Second adorable puppy that day 

The monk that became famous for incinerating himself during the war was from this pagoda. This is usually where the car is displayed that transported him to the site, but it was being conserved. 

That night we adventured along the streets of Hue and saw this random site on a bridge. 

Street Food in Hue 

We had to drive along the coastal mountain road to get to Hue and saw some amazing views. 

Pit stop at a beach along the way for a restroom break. 

The brightest beach we have ever been on. 
Hope this little picture story has been enjoyable. Two more days of reflection and the Vietnam saga will be at end. Everyday I want to travel back to the beautiful country, and continue to learn more.

Attempt at a Plant Strong Lifestyle

I'm challenging myself to eating plant strong for the month of December. This may be one of the hardest months of the year to try this experiment, but I'm in a place in my life, where my health needs to be priority. I need to get to my goal weight, and learn to be less dependent on animal based products. I want to learn to absolutely love plant based foods more than I already do, and just learn new preparation methods. I'm combining this with a 10 day mini cleanse in preparation for my full Advocare 24 Day Challenge in January. I'm really excited about this new focus in my health and am using the E2 Diet to help guide my food wise. My goal is to share my experience here, and include what I'm eating, some food ideas, recipe critiques, and who knows I may even come up with my own version of "vegan" cooking. I'm looking forward to seeing where this journey will take me, and hopefully though getting into a crazy clean eating habit to reach my weight loss goal by March. This has been a three year journey for me and while I have learned a lot I'm ready to be done with weight loss and get to maintenance. I'm hoping that as I learn and develop new habits I'll be able to focus on my other goal of becoming an athlete of sorts. We'll see how my uncoordinated self does with that one. Here's to the journey.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

History meets Dehydration

Our day started out with an early but short flight from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to our next location, Da Nang.
This kid cracked me up "Dad Pose" at the airport 
 After an hour long flight, we landed in Da Nang. This coastal city was a popular R&R location for soldiers and other military members during the war. The Americans nicknamed the beach “China Beach” and was also used as the basis for the tv show China Beach in the 1980s which focused on the experience of female nurses in the Vietnam War.
The first stop we made was to the Cham Museum which was full of statues from the ancient times of Vietnamese History. They were displayed much like museums in the states display these kinds of artifacts. I would qualify it as an art show, the various statues and relief pieces were installed on columns or the walls depending on the pieces. They were given a very basic label which just said what the piece was in both Vietnamese and English. While one could learn a lot by reading some of the introductory labels and other panels strategically placed around the museum, there were also handouts about the pieces which a visitor could utilize for greater interpretation of the pieces if they desired.

Melissa and I, it was so bright outside you can barely see the top of what we think is a monastery from the second floor of the museum. 

 After spending some time in the museum we headed to Hoi An for lunch, which included a pit stop at the beach and since we were in the Marble Mountain area we also stopped at a marble shop. On the way to the shop we learned that the marble industry is literally ruining the landscape of Vietnam. It is a very popular commodity and in the past 3 years 2 entire mountains have been destroyed.
Da Nang Beach, part of "China Beach" 

Best beach view ever! 

The gorgeous mountains with a partial shot of a marble lion statue 
 Hoi An is known as the cultural heritage town in Vietnam. The government has passed laws and statues to enforce historic preservation of the city, which caters specifically to tourists. After consuming a delicious multi-course lunch (as most of our meals are here) we headed on a 1 ½ hour walk about the city. It was blistering hot and I was not feeling well, but trekked through. We learned that Hoi An was a major port city in Vietnam, and that was apparent through the collision of cultures between Chinese and Japanese. This is very evident through the architectural styles and the town was lovely to stroll through. I just kept focusing on how pretty it was.

This is the Japanese covered bridge it separates the Japanese and Chinese sections of town

Entrance to the Japanese Bridge

 Probably the weirdest part of our day was at the so called "Oldest House in Hoi An." We thought it was going to be your basic tour, and then it turned into a QVC special. We moved from our starting point to a back room where you could purchase embroidered table cloths and napkins. Upstairs our tour continued and so did the selling pitch. We were invited to "tea" where a woman proceeded to try and sell us coasters, other odds and ends, and the best was the opium pipe. We all were a bit uncomfortable, and I gave a small donation so that I didn't seem like a total jerk. It was hilarious.

Interior of the oldest house in Hoi An 

A fisherman, when the tide comes up he lowers a giant net into the water and then back up in the hopes of catching some fish, it was fascinating to watch.

We then checked into our hotel which ended up being a lovely resort. What a surprise! Melissa and I could barely contain ourselves. After an exhausting and very hot day we were in a beautiful relaxing resort with a spa! We had free time so we decided to go get manicures. After a nap we headed into town for dinner which was entirely to delicious. I had lost a lot of electrolytes that day so I drank an entire coconut which fun fact has loads of natural electrolytes. A cautionary tale for anyone traveling to Vietnam during the summer months it is brutally hot and humid thus very very easy to become dehydrated so water is key to survival.

Manicure View 

The Coconut! Yay for electrolytes

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cruisin the Delta

This trip has been exhausting so clearly I got super behind on the blog updates, but I shall begin them again. We woke up early and began a long bus ride outside of Ho Chi Minh City into the Mekong Delta.
View at the beginning of our journey 
We floated through the river and saw a floating market. It's a wholesale market primarily of produce, the merchants buy the food from the farmer and then float up the river to sell to merchants on land. The sellers put what they are selling up on the top of a bamboo pole so customers know who they can go to. 

Floating Market 
 We then got off the boat and ventured into a little town. We stopped by a gorgeous Catholic Church built by the French in the early 1900s, visited a rice paper factory, coconut candy factory, and popped rice and noodle facility. We then had the opportunity to try some of these snacks and I of course bought some coconut candy how could I resist. While we were there we also caught a glimpse of a local specialty snake wine. It was some scary looking stuff. We didn't get to try it because our guide basically said no, but we did try banana wine, not great but not terrible. One of the best parts of this venture was when our guide, Phuong pulls out a python kept as a pet and begins to play with it. Our professor took the snake and pulled out a little Southern Religion move pretending to snake handle. Those of us who have taken that class all died. It was hilarious.

Coconut candy production 

mushroom wine, snake wine, banana wine

Phuong and the snake 

Dr. B and the snake

After that venture we climbed back into our boat and once again floated down the river. Next thing we know Phoung announces it is time to row. We all didn't believe him, and even Dr. B said thought Phoung was joking once we saw the row boats pull up beside our boat we knew he was serious. I got in a boat with Melissa E. and Andrew K. and thus began one of the best journeys of the trip. We paddled down a canal and got to see how people in the Delta lived on the canal. In addition we just got to be in the quiet of Vietnam and just take it all in. In addition we got to wear some pretty cool hats. 

After our venture we got back on our big boat and headed to lunch. We went to this little place called a homestay and ate really awesome food. After our meal we got to hear some local performers sing and play traditional Vietnamese songs. A welcome song, two love songs, and then a goodbye song.
Delicious Fried Fish that became part of Spring Rolls at lunch 
After lunch we returned once again to our boat where there was a whole coconut waiting for us. Coconut water straight from the source and man that stuff is so good.

Coconut water from the source
After we got back to Ho Chi Minh some people wanted to go to the market. That is not our thing we were on the hunt for some traditional Vietnamese Coffee. I don't know if we ever be able to return to the way I drink coffee in America. They drink super strong coffee with some sweetened condensed milk, mix it, and then pour over ice. So good.
Vietnamese Coffee!! Hybrid between french press and  pour over. 

Iced Coffee
We finished our night with a motorbike tour around Ho Chi Minh City. Motorbikes are the way to get around the city. In a city of about 10 million people there are 6 million motorbikes. They are the only way to get around the city. 

On the Vespa 

Me and Phoung my motorbike driver