A Week in Saigon

We just spent a week in Saigon.  Quite a few people, when they heard we were visiting Saigon for an entire week, said “oh, I’m sorry.”  And, in all honesty, I really wouldn’t recommend any tourist spend an entire week in Saigon.  It is a big, bustling, loud city without much to do in the way of sightseeing.  But we managed to really enjoy ourselves.  Guess how?  We made it all  about the food and the beverages, of course. Continue reading

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Saigon Photo Tour

As we continue our travels, one of our primary goals is to learn to take better photographs.  So, while in Saigon, we booked the Scoot N’ Shoot tour with Vietnam Photo Adventures.  Arnaud met us at our hotel, chatted with us a bit about photography, and then we hopped on scooters and drove to an area of town filled with apartment buildings and small shops.  (As an aside here, I would like to note that, after riding on the back of a scooter, Robert now has much more respect for my scooter riding skills….). Continue reading

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We are not blog worthy

So…things have been a bit quiet around here.  You know why that is?  Well, let me tell you.

After Hoi An, we flew to Saigon to celebrate Christmas.  Where it rained, or threatened to rain, every single day.  So, we did nothing.  OK, that isn’t entirely true, we saw Aquaman and BumbleBee, but nobody wants to hear about that (well, you might want to know the two of us can see a first run movie — sometimes even before it comes out in the U.S. — in a modern movie theater in Vietnam for between $4-10, depending on the theater).  And, we had an amazing brunch on Christmas day where we both ate far too much (Robert focused on the seafood while I devoured the desserts).  And, we spent far too much time in the executive lounge of our hotel snacking while watching it rain.  But, we didn’t do anything blog worthy. Continue reading

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Final Thoughts on 2018

Wow, where did 2018 go?  We can’t believe both of us have been officially retired for a year (although Robert continues to say he will never be retired, because he has to take care of me).  In some ways, it feels like we have been retired for much longer, but in some ways it feels like it was only yesterday that we were stressed out basket cases (ok, fine, that was just me) — believe it or not, I still occasionally have work nightmares (almost always about some task that didn’t get done in time for a deadline).

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A snowy day in Chicago.  We sure don’t miss this….

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Shopping in Hoi An

Many people come to Hoi An specifically to shop for custom made clothes or shoes.  Others have no intention of shopping, but quickly become enthralled by the 100’s of tailors and leather shops and soon enough find themselves getting measured for a suit or a dress or shoes.  But, let’s be honest, finding a good shop is no easy task.  The streets are lined with shops, ladies will come up to you on bikes and beg you to visit their shop, TripAdvisor is filled with reviews by people who have only written one review their entire life (which I pretty much always assume are fake), most of the shops pay out commissions so you can never be sure if a personal recommendation is real or just a ploy to make some extra cash, and what you see isn’t always what you get.  So, let me tell you about where we went.

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Mr. Xe’s tailor shop.

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Banh Mi Sandwiches in Hoi An

(Other than this introductory paragraph, this post has been ghost written by Lisa on behalf of Robert.  First, because Robert by all accounts has never been much of a writer, even though he is a great talker.  But, more importantly, because Lisa doesn’t eat banh mi sandwiches and really doesn’t know anything about banh mi sandwiches except for the fact that they have too many “icky” things on them.  Well, except for the peanut butter banh mi (according to our guest expert, Robert, not really a banh mi sandwich) she found in Hanoi.  OK, now that that is out, read this in Robert’s voice for a change).

When one thinks of Hoi An, the first thing that comes to mind is tailoring.  And, then perhaps custom made shoes.  Maybe cao lau.  And, definitely the old buildings and lanterns.  This post isn’t about any of those things.  This post is about the absolute best part of Hoi An — the banh mi sandwiches. Continue reading

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The best cao lau in Hoi An

Cao lau (the first word is pronounced like “cow” and the second word is kind of like “how” only with an “L” although, apparently, they pronounce it “cow low” in Hanoi even though they don’t make it there) is a dish you can only find in Hoi An.  It is made with firm and chewy rice noodles that legend says must be pre-soaked with water from one particular well in Hoi An and lye made from ash from trees grown on one of the Cham Islands.  (I’m calling BS on the idea that all the cao lau noodles in town are still made this way….I’m pretty sure the well would have run dry and there wouldn’t be a single tree left on any of the islands otherwise.  But, who knows?).  In addition to the noodles, the dish includes grilled pork, lots of local greens (which are supposed to come from one particular village), bean sprouts, a small amount of a light broth, and crispy crackers made from rice flour (my favorite part).

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Crispy crackers drying in the sun in a random alley.

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Morning in the Alleys

After trying for nearly two weeks and after being repeatedly washed out by rain, we finally took the Morning in the Alleys tour with Hoi An Photo Walks.  It was a great way to spend a morning in Hoi An.

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This lady posed for us.  So photogenic.  Not shown in this photo is the hair that went down past her waist.

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Hoi An Lantern Festival

Fair warning….this is going to be a Debbie Downer post…

So, one of the many things Hoi An is famous for is the Lantern Festival held on each full moon.  We were so excited (ok, I was so excited and Robert was only mildly enthused) when we realized we would be in Hoi An for a Lantern Festival.  And, it turned out to be a complete dud.

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Lantern on a boat in Hoi An.

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Tam Thanh Mural Village

A few years ago, I’m not sure exactly when but I think it was in 2016, a team of Vietnamese and Korean artists spent two weeks painting over 100 murals all over the sleepy fishing village of Tam Thanh.

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