Blazering in Vietnam

February 28, 2017 at 8:54 pm (Travel)

img_3528My friends Jen B, Jen A, Yoon-Ah and I thought we would be clever and escape China during Chinese New Year… Unfortunately we didn’t really do our research and arrived in Vietnam for, yes you guessed it, their Chinese New Year otherwise known as TET.  This meant many things were closed but it did also mean some great deals.  Plus, there was no way we were going to let that get in the way of having fun.

Very quickly I became the self appointed tour guide fondly referred to as ‘Miss Lonely Planet.’  We began our adventure in Honai, a bustling city full of motorbikes and honking.  I’ve never seen so many motorbikes in one place in my whole entire life.  We enjoyed wandering through the Old Quarter and meandering around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, as well as checking out the thriving party scene.

img_3560I was particularly excited about the water puppet theater but unfortunately none of my friends shared my enthusiasm.  So I went on my lonesome to the show and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The art form is at least 1000 years old and were originally performed in paddy fields, during flood time or in ponds and lakes.  Each of the figures is made using water resistant paint and can weigh up to around 15kg!  The show was mesmerising  as the puppets splashed around and seemed to float across the water.  Definitely worthwhile and I am adamant that the other girls missed out.

After the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, our trip to Halong Bay was a welcome relief.  This was one of the places that has been on my travel list for as long as I can remember and the World Heritage site did not disappoint.  The 2000+ limestone formations rise magically from the crystal blue waters.  There are hidden islands and caves dotted all through the bay and it is the immensity of this natural landscapes that makes it so breathtaking.  According to legend, the bay was formed by a dragon, who plunged into the sea leaving only the tips of the scattered mountains visible.  It is a beautiful story for what I can only call a truly magical place.

Back to Hanoi for another night and a trip to the Temple of Literature, which is otherwise known as the Temperature of Literature because I kept getting my tongue tied.  The temple was founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong and is dedicated to Confucius.  Six years later, Vietnam’s first university was established there.  The traditional Vietnamese architecture is well-preserved and the site was teeming with TET tourists.  We noticed many children having their photos taken with scrolls and found out that these were all chosen words to help them with their studies for the new year.

Perhaps the most interesting part of our visit to the temple, was our trip to the toilet.  It seems that in Vietnam, instead of waiting in a line for the next available cubicle, you choose a door and wait behind it.  I guess you just have to hope that the person in front of you is quick!  It took us a while to work it out, much to the confusion of the locals.

img_3639We were more than ready to continue our journey, excited about the prospect of the beach and filled with stories of how wonderful Hoi An is from our colleagues.  Unfortunately, we arrived to rain.  And the rain and overcast weather decided to stick around until our last day.  That just meant more time for shopping and drinking.  In fact, we spent a whole afternoon and evening in the one restaurant and had a lovely time playing Qwirkle and catching up with our friend Annalise from school.

Miss Lonely Planet was back in action in this historic port town.  There were many old houses and temples to visit and just wandering through the French and Japanese inspired architecture kept us fascinated for hours.  We particularly liked the Japanese bridge and took full advantage of the free light show in the city for TET.  Jen A and I also managed a fun bike riding trip to a pottery village and a couple runs to the beach.  Another highlight was our cooking course AND most importantly the amazing food.

The majority of our time was spent shopping.  Hoi An is truly a paradise for getting shoes and clothing made and we definitely made the most of the opportunity.  It was lots of fun having clothes made specifically for us and I had to hold back on the shoes.  I need to go back when I am more focused and have some of my boots remade!

img_3803We were inspired by one of my Tinder matches to do something outrageous and decided to all have blazers made.  The catch, the other three girls got to decide the fabric!  This was such a fun experience and we have promised each other that whenever we go to Hoi An, either together or alone, we must have a ridiculous blazer made.  I actually love mine and have been wearing it to school regularly.  We certainly turned heads in our blazers on our last night in Hanoi!

With heavy hearts, we returned to Hanoi on a very early morning flight (my fault) and spent one last day exploring the city.  Jen A and I teamed up again and visited Hao Lo Prison and the Fine Arts Museum.  The prison was built by the French and originally housed communist rebels; later the prison was used to house the American prisoners of war.  The prison was much better than we expected and an interesting insight into Hanoi.

The Fine Arts Museum also surprised us.  Set up like a European gallery, the exhibits followed the evolution of Vietnamese art.  It was interesting seeing the different influences that European art had on the pieces.  Jen is an art teacher, so I really enjoyed hearing her perspective and our rich conversation made this visit even more special.

It would be impossible to explain all the AMAZING food we had in Vietnam.  Special mention must go to the Bah Mi Queen in Hoi An. (Thanks Zack for the recommendation. We tried everything we could and were open minded to new culinary experiences.  This is particularly true of Jen A and I’s experience with balut.

img_3818On our last day in Hanoi before flying to Hoi An, we accidently ordered balut, otherwise known as duck fetal eggs.  These are duck embryos that have not yet fully developed and then cooked in an egg.  When we first got them, we weren’t exactly sure what they were or how to eat them although we did have our suspicions.  Normally, game to try anything, my stomach at the time would not allow for such a treat so I didn’t try it.  I regretted this the whole time I was in Hoi An so I was determined to give it a go on our last night.  It was definitely an experience, and not one I feel I need to try again.

This trip was exactly what the doctor ordered for me.  I loved spending time with my girls and getting to know them all better.  I laughed, I danced, I got out of my comfort zone and forced others to do the same.  We shopped, encouraged and supported each other in decisions and with life experiences.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for our blazers, for your friendship and for my amazing Vietnam memories.

xoxo

P.s  More photos?

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A Small Stint in China

February 2, 2017 at 11:22 am (China)

img_3383This year Chinese New Year and Christmas were very close, so I was only back in China for about two and a half weeks before holidays began again. As usual, there was much to see and experience.

Hashing / Running

Half marathon training has been going fairly well. The pollution is annoying but I’m learning to appreciate intervals on the treadmill in the school gym. I’ve also challenged myself to swim every Thursday morning before school (so far I’ve managed every Tuesday too, not that we’ve had many!)

img_3380First weekend back I even participated in my first official Chinese run. The route ended up being about 15km and went all the way around Jinji Lake. It rained the WHOLE way and there’s no way I could have done it without my two girls Joy and Yiling. We motivated each other all the way round and had heaps of fun. We even got shiny medals to boot!

My next two weekends also included running with the hashers. I’m loving getting out in the country side and meeting new people outside work. The group is really enriching my life here and I’m trying to get involved as much as possible. The routes have us running  through fields, cemeteries, up ridiculous mountains and bush wacking through the wilderness. Two of my friends have even got me involved with haring (responsible for setting the trail) for the next big Suzhou hash which is pretty daunting but will no doubt be an amazing experience.

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Chinese New Year

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Bright moon in mountain, the spring come to a long river

Welcome to the year of the rooster. If you’re a roster, don’t get too excited; it’s actually not supposed to be a great year the year of your sign, which isn’t a problem for this little rat. 🙂 It’s been fun learning about some of the Chinese traditions and experiencing this holiday for the first time.

At school the elementary department had a cultural exchange staff meeting where we learnt about the zodiac and then could participate in various different activities. I made dumplings, tried on a traditional Chinese outfit and practiced my calligraphy skills. The two long posters are hung either side of the door to your home. I’ve been promised that we can make new ones next year to replace them.

I also attended the school Chinese New Year dinner and have been amused at all the beautiful red decorations that just seemed to be cropping up everywhere around the city. The guards booth at my compound looks like a little fairy grotto!

Australia Day

img_3503My first Australia Day in China was actually also my first day of holidays so it was spent flying to Vietnam. Luckily, the celebration was actually the night before. One of the teaching couples here organised an amazing event with absolutely fabulous lamb. We listened to Aussie songs and played lots of Australia day themed games. I definitely need some practice biting the shape of Australia out of a bickie and tearing Minties wrappers for next year.

In general, I’m feeling much more positive and excited about my time here. There really is so much to learn and amazing people to learn from. I’m focusing on the positives and working on my fitness. I’m excited for 2017 and the many adventures that lie ahead.

xoxo

P.s. More photos?

 

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