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August 9, 2012 / thenextmeal

Introducing yogawithsandra.com

We’ve been busy over here in NYC! Between work and play, Sandra has been teaching yoga as much as possible and finally has a website to share with all of you.  Check out http://yogawithsandra.com.  Subscribe for updates to be sent directly to your inbox! Please pass this along to anyone and everyone who may be looking to practice yoga. All the details you need are online.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos below to see what we’ve been up to lately.

xo,
S+A

hung with charlie man as much as possible before j, b, & c moved to houston

happy 1st bday charlie!

yum!

dan & addison got married!

we went to ventnor, nj and hung with the fishman girls and brady boy…oh and their parents too! thanks for your hospitality, fishmans!

dan & shera got married too (here we are at their wedding)!

we picked berries in nj

lisa & noam got married! dancing with the bride…

we went hiking in harriman state park in NY

beautiful setting, and less than an hour from NYC

Until next time!

S+A

 

May 1, 2012 / thenextmeal

Two whole years

Andrew is stuck on a call at work on this anniversary evening, and therefore I am at home, full from eating the cookies I bought myself in celebration of the day, and feeling nostalgic about what we were doing two years ago at this very moment. I think by now it was cocktail hour, and we were mingling with our wonderful family and friends, and feeling super excited about the fact that we were officially husband and wife. What I remember most about the entire night was just being by Andrew’s side and sharing in the amazing evening together. And what I remember about the past two years is the same. In these two wonderful years of marriage we have traveled within 4 continents, 12 countries and countless cities. We have moved across country, started new jobs, and have accomplished new goals. We have dreamed new dreams, and have even started to make those dreams a reality. And through it all we have remained next to each other, happy with the other no matter where we are, what we are doing, and how outside factors may have impacted our personal lives. In the past two years, our relationship of 10 years (holy smokes…TEN years) has continued to grow stronger. I may be alone tonight (oh the life of an investment banker’s wife) but I never actually feel alone. Andrew is always there. Calling me, texting me, gchatting me, checking in on me. No matter where we are physically, we are always connected.

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful, inspiring, patient, intelligent, sweet, loving husband. And thanks to our faithful few readers for being with us throughout our two years of marriage, and being such a wonderful and special part of our lives.

Here’s a little photo recap of the past two years.  And as I type, Andrew is walking in the door.  =)

 

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xo,
Sandra

 

January 1, 2012 / thenextmeal

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year! We had quite the year in 2011 with trips around the world, a move back to NYC, the birth of our first nephew, and so much more. We are excited to see what 2012 brings. We plan to post more frequently again about what we’re eating, doing and seeing. With Sandra starting a yoga teacher training program next week, we anticipate sharing some news on the yoga front in addition to food and travel.

For our own purposes we’re including photos from the rest of our trip in California below, as well as some shots from fall and winter 2011. Feel free to take a look if you’d like.

Happy, healthy new year.

S+A

San Francisco, Paso Robles & LA: July 2011
Our 36 hours in San Francisco was spent doing what we do best…eating. Our food tour went something like this: dinner a Chez Panisse (Sandra’s dream come true) —> breakfast at Bob’s Donuts (Andrew’s dream come true) —> Korean taco snack at the farmers markets —> another lunch/snack at Slanted Door (it was as if we were back in Vietman!) —> an ice cream sandwich and Blue Bottle Coffee while walking around Haight/Ashbury —> another snack of a delicious red bean bun in Chinatown —> incredible pre-dinner pizza at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana —> our “real” dinner at Bar Agricole —> and finally a truly incredible brunch at farm : table. In between all of this eating, we managed to see some sites, wander the city, and get very very very full. See below for a photographic journey of our multiple meals.

Avocado on bread...dinner at Chez Panisse

Donut heaven

View from a cable car

Korean tacos...the "shell" is seaweed. Yum.

Delicious Vietnamese food at Slanted Door

Happy Andrew eating Vietnamese food while wearing a t-shirt purchased in Vietnam

Enjoying our day in SF

Pizza at Tony's. So delicious.

That may look like salmon, but really it is pink beets on toast at Bar Agricole.

Brisket on toast with an egg on top...aka Andrew's brunch at farm : table.

Feeling stuffed we drove a bit further north on July 3 to check out the Golden Gate bridge, Sausalito (not our favorite stop), and the stunning red woods in Muir Woods.

 

Hello Golden Gate

Beautiful.

After a great final day in the SF area, we started our journey back to Southern California, with a two night stay planned in Paso Robles wine country. We opted to stay in a cute B&B, which bed bugs made not so cute. After checking in, enjoying a bottle of wine, and then examining our bed, we hit the road at 1 a.m. on July 3 and found ourselves staying in a bed bug free roadside motel. Not what we had in mind, but we made the best of the situation and woke up early to begin experiencing wine country. Several vineyards later, we headed back to the comforts of Pismo Beach and spent July 4 in a clean hotel overlooking the ocean. While it wasn’t what we expected, our time in Paso/Pismo was a great way to end our road trip. On the 5th, we headed back down to Hermosa Beach, making a quick stop for lunch in Ojai, and for one final night with Mardi before packing our bags and leaving our awesome 10-day journey in California behind.

Paso Robles wine country.

Pismo Beach sunset on July 4.

4th of July fireworks over the Pacific.

Back in NYC
It’s hard to recap the past six months back in New York…so photos will just have to tell the story.

Charlie (and his parents) came over for dinner one night in July. Charlie loves Uncle Andrew's dark hair and glasses.

Thanks to Barb & Lew we hosted "Lobster Fest" at our apartment one night in July. Dan had some fun with his lobster friends.

Watch out, Andrew!

We spent lots of time with Charlie, who is growing like a weed!

Always jumping at the chance to eat lots of great food, we spent a day in late-August at the South Street Seaport Food Truck fest...yum!

On August 24, Mr. John Corbett Brady was born. Here is the little guy just one week later with his mommy, Erica.

Sandra spent lots of time cooking and baking. Here she is whipping up a nice loaf of bread.

Congrats to Becca + Adam on their September 25 wedding. Sandra had the best time celebrating the couple with some of the Ann Arbor girls in Charlevoix. (Rachel, Erica and the boys were all missed).

We hosted our first family Rosh Hashanah and celebrated Sandra's b-day in NYC on September 29.

We spent the Rosh Hashanah weekend with the Kaplan family, and had a great day exploring Brooklyn.

We enjoyed a few nice days on our roof deck. Can't get enough of the views of the city, and especially Central Park.

In late October we headed to New Jersey to spend the day apple picking...

...and even picked some cherry tomatoes too.

We love having Charlie come over to play, and even had a little photo shoot one day.

On December 9 the Ann Arbor girls headed to Philly for a little reunion...and even got to welcome Isabella and Olivia Fishman into the world. Congratulations to Rachel + Justin on their beautiful twin girls!

We finished off 2011 with one final trip...to Marco Island! Mardi was missed, but she was busy with some important activities of her own...moving to Chicago!

A wonderful end to 2011. Here's too all good things in 2012!

 

October 2, 2011 / thenextmeal

California Dreamin’ (Part 1): Hermosa to SF

It is hard to believe that our most recent blog post is from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Since returning from SE Asia so much has happened. We spent time in Chicago, drove Highway 1 in California, moved into our apartment in New York, and with heavy hearts kissed our carefree days of exploring the world together goodbye as we reentered the working world. While the adjustment back to normal life has been, well, an adjustment, we are finally getting settled and feeling like we’re back in the swing of so-called regular life.

Our trip to California was spectacular, and a wonderful way to round out our travels, and we couldn’t miss this chance to document our travels here.

Our journey in California began with a perfect 72 hours based in Hermosa Beach with Mardi, and eating our way through LA. Other than spending quality time with the big sister, the highlight of these three bright, sunny, warm, spectacular days was eating two delicious meals at Farmshop. Our incredibly talented friend, Josh Drew, is the chef at this magnificent spot. We initially went for brunch, where Josh welcomed us to his open kitchen with delicious treats, and of course headed back the next day for an amazing lunch and some quality time with the chef himself. Congrats to Josh and the Farmshop team on recently opening for dinner. If you’re in LA, don’t miss this amazing place.

Farmshop french toast

Sisters in front of the pastry counter at Farmshop

Riding bikes down the strand in beautiful Hermosa/Manhattan Beach

Doing what tourists do and riding on roller coasters in Santa Monica

Happy Andrew eating pastrami at Farmshop

Chef Josh

We headed north up the 1, and in addition to taking in the beauty of So-Cal, we of course ate amazing food. In Santa Barbara, we were quick to dine on some smoothy-like deliciousness topped with granola, bananas, honey, and crunchy goodness at Backyard Bowls. Since one restaurant per location never quite seems to be enough, we rounded out our dining experience with the most amazing Mexican food ever at La Super-Rica Taqueria. There are no words to describe the the melted cheese, or the smoothest guacamole. YUM.

Backyard Bowls...yum

Ooooey Gooey Yummy Mexican Food

In beautiful (and windy) Santa Barbara

Continuing north, after weaving through the start of windy mountain roads, we made it to our first overnight destination: Pismo Beach. Sandra turned her back on true vegetarianism for one night to dine on crabs at the Cracked Crab. They were amazing, and the experience of cracking them, while not our first time, was very fun (sorry little crabbies). While waiting for our table at this popular restaurant, we ventured into a local wine shop and came across the most perfect wine: Baker & Brain. Sandra being the baker, and Andrew having the brain, it was a no-brainer for us that we had to give this bottle a whirl. We bought a bottle, took it home with us to NYC, and since, Andrew has developed a nice relationship with Mr. Baker himself, who sent us a case of their Pinot Noir just in time for Rosh Hashanah with the family.

He's ready to crack!

Beautiful Pismo Beach

After a restful night and morning in beautiful surroundings, we checked out nearby San Luis Obispo before driving further north. We had both been to California, and Sandra had even driven highway 1 with her family as a 6 year old (she only really remembers Patrick the horse, talking about “tinkling lights” and pretending to be nauseous so Mardi wouldn’t get all of the attention — sorry, Mard!), but nothing could have prepared us for the beauty we were about to see. Highway 1 is SPECTACULAR. Words won’t do it justice, so see for yourself the amazing images we were so fortunate to see. If only we could capture the smell of the air, sound of the waves, and feel of the chilly wind hitting our faces…


We worked our way up through the beauty, stopping every 5 minutes or so for a photo, and slowly made it to Monterey: our base for the next two nights. We spent two wonderful days in the area, where we headed back down to Big Sur to take in the beauty one more time and play in the purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach, ate delicious food at Carmel Belle in Carmel-by-the-Sea, drove through Pebble Beach, in honor of Big Lew, and explored the stunning atmosphere.

Pfeifer Beach


Thinking we couldn’t possible experience anything better than what we had just seen, we headed north again, with our next stop in Santa Cruz. We LOVED Santa Cruz. Fun vibe, great beach town, yummy food. What could be better? Hearing that we should stop at Swanton Berry Farms on our way to San Francisco, we headed out of town and did just that, picking and eating strawberries at this organic, road-side strawberry farm. Amazing. We soon saw more incredible natural beauty, before ultimately making it to our next stop for the next two nights: San Francisco!

Santa Cruz

Up next, we’ll fill you in on our six meals in one day in SF, fun (and buggy) experience in Paso Robles wine country and our drive back down to Hermosa Beach.

Until then,

S+A

July 8, 2011 / thenextmeal

Country #5 – 2 Days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

With our itinerary open after Cambodia we ran through a dozen options of how we could spend our final days abroad. Flying out of Siem Reap can be a challenge both logistically and economically, which made this decision a difficult one. Many carriers either do not fly in/out or they hold the exclusivity to the route and charge whatever they feel (EX: Bangkok Air REP->BKK is $350+ one way). In addition we didn’t want to spend most of our time traveling with lots of layovers/transfers. After much deliberation we opted for Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia – a cheap 2 hour flight thanks to Air Asia. It may have been a destination of convenience, but country #5 turned out to be one of our favorite stops and a really great way to round out the trip.

The only downside to a short trip to KL is that the airport is far from the city center. The airport might have been an hour out of downtown, but we didn’t mind a bit. The plush leather seats and blasting air conditioning in the large, modern taxi offered a nice reprieve from the 95+ humid days we had been experiencing. Cruising through palm groves and jamming to the local expat, English radio station it didn’t take long for us to realize Malaysia was a very different place than our last 4 stops. We had left Buddhism, communism, and poverty behind for Islam and wealth.

Thanks to a large abundance of natural resources, a booming oil/gas industry, and a stable democracy, Malaysia has experienced greater development and growth relative to its ASEAN neighbors. Petronas, the state owned oil company and name-sake of KL’s famous twin towers, covers close to 1/3 of all federal budget needs. Between the many skyscrapers, KL city is home to many large mosques – houses of worship to the large Muslim population. Culturally, KL is a melting pot of 4 cultures: Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Caucasian (mostly expats). This cultural pluralism makes it an ideal stop for the culinary curious. Wandering the different ethnic neighborhoods you could eat unique foods for days without repetition (and that’s exactly what we did).

In search of some lunch we boarded the highly efficient subway/monorail system (no more dodging motorbikes or hailing tuk-tuks) and headed to Chinatown. A stroll down the Petaling Street, the main drag, lead us to a spot for vegetarian noodles and fried rice. Not the best Chinese food we ever had it was nonetheless satisfying and worth the visit. Just in case we hadn’t had our fill of counterfeit goods, KL Chinatown did not disappoint. We picked up a few pairs of shades as ours tend to break, disappear, or disintegrate. That might be because they are the $5 dollar variety, but why pay more when we always seem to lose them anyway?

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Our next stop was the nearby Masjid Negara, the national mosque of Malaysia. This large, modern mosque can hold more than 15,000 people and was built as a symbol of independence from the British. Except for the main prayer hall the full grounds can be visited by tourists as long as you are wearing the flashy purple robes they give you at the entrance.

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About half way into our travels through Vietnam we both started craving Indian food. Knowing that we might end up in the heavily Indian populated KL we held out. It was definitely worth the wait. For an early dinner feast we joined the locals at Sangeetha, a vegetarian restaurant in Little India. The place was packed with people, many just popping in for a quick snack. The only white people in the place and sitting right in the middle made us stick out, but we knew we had gone to the right place. Using pictures as our guide and limited knowledge of Indian cuisine we opted for paratha w/ sides, chana masala, yellow dal, naan, mango lassi, and Indian coffee. As full as we both were we continued to stuff our faces with the most delicious Indian food we have both ever had. After some brief digestion we wondered through Little India. The streets were alive with people shopping at the night bazar that seemed to stretch for miles.

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To finish off our first night in KL we enjoyed a drink at Traders Hotel SkyBar, a rooftop bar with amazing views of the city skyline. The place reminded us of a boutique rooftop bar in NYC: pricey drinks, plush couches, and a swimming pool in the middle. It might be a bit pretentious, but it has the best views in the city of the Petronas Towers. These two symbols of the city, once the tallest buildings in the world, sparkle like diamonds once the sun sets.  After taking in the views, tired and still full from our feast we rolled ourselves home to rest and digest.

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Our second day started with a visit to Jamek Mosque, a 100 year-old Moorish style mosque. Again we were given colorful robes to wear as we walked through the grounds. Next we walked over to Merdeka Square. On this former cricket field, the independent flag of Malaysia was raised for the first time. It also has some nice shaded areas to escape the tropical heat. KL has many parks and green areas set among the many skyscrapers. For our next stop we headed to one of the largest parks, Taman Tasik Perdana (Lake Gardens). This park is home to many interesting spots including: The butterfly park, orchid garden, hibiscus garden, and the famous bird park. We opted for the free attractions: orchid garden and hibiscus garden.

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Time was precious, so after a brief rest we wasted no time heading to our next stop, Sri Mahamariamman Indian Temple. Not exactly the largest religious building we have visited, Sri Mahamariamman is the oldest Hindu temple in KL. Sadly this colorful, open-air building was our only Hindu temple of the trip, but it did round out our religious experiences. Our visits to houses of worship on this trip now included: Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism and one other Chinese religion.

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A stop to Malaysia would not be complete without a stop at a shopping mall. Shopping here, much like the rest of Asia, is a national pastime. These vast shopping centers are everywhere and cover the full gamut of the quality/price spectrum. In fact some of the fanciest restaurants in KL are in shopping malls. They are also almost always air conditioned, yet another incentive to spend some time in one. To finish up the day, we hopped in a cab and headed to Bukit Bintang, KL’s major shopping district. Asking around we found a shopping mall with a food court (in reality most of them do). These malls are no joke. Each encompasses a full city block or more, housing hundreds of shops, kiosks, and stands selling everything. After bit of wandering we finally found the food court on the roof next to the parking deck. You won’t find Panda Express, Subway, or Sbarro here, only mom and pop street food style stalls serving up mostly Indian and Chinese cuisine. Pan fried noodles for S and dumpling noodle soup for A. Afterwards we grabbed a street side seat outside and relaxed before heading back to the hotel.

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Ethnic Malays might make up a large portion of the population in KL, but there are surprisingly very few Malaysian restaurants in KL. Leaving Malaysia without eating any truly local food seemed odd. After a bit of online research we found Songket Restaurant (http://www.songketrestaurant.com/). Not knowing what to expect, or order, we stuffed ourselves on a variety of yummy dishes. We enjoyed Daging panggang (BBQ Beef), Tauhu sumbat (Stuffed tofu), Pecal (Peanut tofu salad), Sago gula Melaka (popular Malay dessert made with sago, palm sugar, and coconut milk), and Malay ice cream (cempedak and pandan).

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For our final day in KL we headed to Chow Kit Wet Market, a maze of both every kind of food and household item imaginable. Having seen many markets in our travels it was interesting to note the larger number of men selling their wares instead of women – a reminder of the heavy Islamic influence in Malaysia.  Beyond the fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and fish there are lots of interesting stands selling tonics and potions. Some examples can be seen in the pics below. What do you think Marlboro deodorant spray smells like?

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Before hopping our flight back to Bangkok we couldn’t resist stopping at a local Indian cafe around the corner from our hotel for a quick late morning snack.

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Sadly our SE Asian travels have come to an end, but stay tuned for more of our adventures (and meals of course)!

Until then…

S+A

June 28, 2011 / thenextmeal

“You want Coconut?” – 4 Days in Cambodia (aka Cambodge)

Sorry for the delay in posting about the end of our trip throughout SE Asia.  We spent the past 3 weeks finding an apartment, hanging with our nephew, and catching up with family.  We’re off on our next adventure throughout the coast of California, but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to update our loyal readers on our final seven days in SE Asia, spent in Cambodia and Malaysia.  Happy reading!

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We instantly fell in love with Cambodia.  From the moment we stepped off the plane in Siem Reap, smack dab in the middle of the runway and walked ourselves into the pristine, modern, ridiculously efficient airport (we seriously cleared visa processing, customs, money exchange, baggage claim, and were in a cab within 15 minutes), we knew this place was special.  This sentiment was confirmed when we got into our taxi van with the steering set on the right side of the vehicle, even though the country drives on the right side of the street, and the friendliest and most sincere driver welcomed us to his homeland.

 

Cambodia is a country fresh out of an on and off again civil war that raged from the mid 1970s to 1997, when the country final found some stability. The unrest began with the Khmer Rouge’s rise to power, led by Pol Pot, in 1975. A genocide of one to three million people left about 1/3 of the population dead either by direct killing or the famines and hardships that were the result of the tyrannical regime’s puzzling laws. In 1978 the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and drove the Khmer Rouge from power, but that marked the start of decades of instability as a virtual stalemate arose as a result of outside nations funding all sides. Peace may have returned, but corruption and poverty remain among the highest in the world here. A nascent, but growing tourism industry coupled with newly discovered offshore fossil fuel deposits will hopefully allow Cambodia to catch up to its neighbors in the region.

Cambodia is very new to tourism, having only opened its doors in 2000, and so far they’re getting it right.  The people here are kind despite such recent genocide, violence, and heartache.  They clearly put others before themselves and care deeply about making sure those who take the time to visit their country have the best and most comfortable stay possible.  This was evidenced by our taxi driver who immediately offered to provide us with a sunrise tour of the temples of Angkor Wat the very next day, beginning at 5 a.m.  Unsure of protocol for this sort of thing (did we need to “book” this tour or just go on spoken word?) we decided to trust our guts and planned to meet him the next morning in his tuk-tuk for an all day tour of the glorious temples.  We’ll get to that in a bit.

 

Our first day was spent getting our bearings of the town of Siem Reap – the key jumping off point for touring the temples of Angkor.  We began our afternoon with a delicious traditional Cambodian lunch at Butterflies Garden Restaurant, followed by walking through the streets of the town and market. 

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We quickly witnessed the impact of the recent war on Cambodia’s citizens, and the devastation of millions of landmines that have injured so many innocent people, and that sadly still exist throughout the country today.  On the first street in town we saw a man who had lost both of his hands from a landmine accident, and he is now successfully working to sell books and postcards to the town’s tourists.  His story was moving, and sadly so very common for these people.  After purchasing a few postcards and reflecting on what we had learned about this man, we took a stroll through the Old Market, filled with gorgeous silks and the softest t-shirts we had yet to find in SE Asia. 

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The early afternoon suddenly became late afternoon, and not wanting to waste any time, we hopped in a tuk-tuk and headed to Phnom Bakheng, a historic Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, to experience our first sunset in Angkor.  There we ran into our friend Laura, as well as two Dutch people we had met in our cooking class in Chiang Mai (we continued to run into them throughout our days in Siem Reap…small world!) and headed back to town together after dark to enjoy a nice dinner of local specialties of banana flower salad and “amuk.”  We attempted to go to sleep early in order to be ready to go at our 4:23 a.m. alarm!

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Up and out by 5 a.m. the next day, we were hopeful that our cab driver from the day before would show.  Stepping outside our hotel in dark dusk, we didn’t recognize anyone, but a friendly tuk-tuk driver approached us saying Roy (our cab driver) had sent him and that Roy was so sorry he couldn’t come but he had to drive the taxi to and from the airport.  Choky, our new driver, seemed sweet and friendly and spoke great English so we had no problem with the replacement.  We were soon off in the back of his very comfy tuk-tuk and on our way to Angkor Wat at sunrise. 

 

There are ruins from more than 1,000 temples in the historic capital of the Khmer empire, Angkor. The most famous of the temples, Angkor Wat, was built in the 12th century and was first Hindu but today is Buddhist. Just like in Thai, the word Wat means temple in Cambodian. Surroundings its compound structure is a large moat and several rock walls. As the sun began to rise we beat the rush of tourists and headed into the temple with just enough sunlight to find our way. The place lives up to the hype; it’s amazing. It wasn’t even 7 o’clock when we finished up and we were already sweating in the 90+ heat. We took a breakfast break to cool off and recharge before setting off on a full day of temple hopping.

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Our first stop after breakfast was the large temple complex of Angkor Thom (“Great City”). The gates and enclosing walls are as intricate as the temples inside with large 4 “faced” towers in the Bayon style at each entrance. Inside the walls are several temples and religious structures including our favorite temple: Bayon. The complex also includes the temple from Tomb Raider. After a few brief stops at small temples we finished our day where we started, at Angkor Wat. After seeing so many temples across SE Asia you might think we were suffering from a “temple overdose”, but that is definitely not the case here. Each temple is unique and amazing in its own right.

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We thought we had seen the most extreme “YOU BUY SOMETHING” harassment in Vietnam, but it was nothing compared to what we experienced in Cambodia.  Outside every temple, little towns of people are set up selling everything from cold beverages to food to endless souvenirs.  Children are the main people doing the selling and they are fearless in approaching foreigners with their cute faces and voices “10 bracelets for one dollar.  Need money for school.”  The children are often the sole providers for the family, who so frequently survive on a dollar a day from the sales of souvenirs to tourists.  Many of these children would really like to be going to school, but if they do go to school then they can’t feed their family.  It’s a horrible cycle and a real tragedy.  Older people approach viciously as well, grabbing your arms trying to physically force you to buy something “cold drink just for you.  You buy scarf with Angkor for you mommy at home.” (Sorry to both of our moms…no Angkor decorated scarves were purchased for you) =) Checkout the video below to see just how aggressive the people get.

 

 

After a very long day of touring the most amazing temples we had ever seen, Choky told us that it was best to head back to Angkor Wat mid-day to take photos of the temple during the afternoon light.  It was around 2 p.m. when he dropped us off there and informed us that he had to quickly run back into town to sign some papers for his wife who is in the hospital and would need some “cutting done on her throat.”  In short, we learned that his wife has been in the public Siem Reap hospital for the past 15 days and the doctors now needed his permission to do some “cutting” to remove something from her throat.  We felt, and still feel terrible.  Here we had this nice man driving us around all day, being so kind and sharing everything he knows about the temples, while his wife is alone in the hospital and he has two young boys at home.  We shared our sentiments with Choky, and he said that he was grateful to be working and wanted to make sure we had the best time during our visit to his country.  He explained that he needs the work and is very happy to be with us, and that he felt bad that he wouldn’t be waiting outside the temple for us while we explored, but that he promised to be back within 45 minutes to pick us up.

 

True to his word, after snapping a few mid-day shots of the temple that attracts so many visitors, Choky was back there waiting for us.  We cannot express enough the kindness we felt by the people of Cambodia throughout our stay, and Choky especially.  The man had a permanent smile on his face, and an even brighter one when he made a stop to buy his three year old son a little toy since he is having trouble sleeping at night without his mom at home.  Truly a wonderful man.  Weeks removed from Siem Reap, we are still thinking about Choky regularly and sending positive energy his way for a speedy recovery for his wife.

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We headed back to the hotel completely exhausted.  The weather in Siem Reap was brutally hot, and the mixture of an early wake up with being in extremely hot, sticky, sweaty conditions all day, left us completely drained.  We headed out to an early dinner of Cambodian BBQ at an outdoor street restaurant. 

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That day was “International Children’s Day,” a holiday in Cambodia, and we had heard the night before that a local orphanage was hosting a traditional dance performance and dinner from 6:30-8:30 p.m.  It was already 7:45 after we finished up dinner, but we decided to pay a visit to the orphanage.  After seeing so many street children, we wanted to see some good that was being done for these kids.

 

We arrived at the orphanage by 8 p.m. and had missed the show and meal, but were still completely overwhelmed by the kindness of the volunteer who showed us around the dark, dirt floor, home to 35 children.  There is a main room that serves as a dining room, school, and stage for the kids’ weekly Khmer dance performances that raise money for the place.  Off the main room on the left side are 4 other rooms separated by curtains, and filled with beds, in which three children sleep in one bed.  Two of the four rooms have electricity, and the orphanage was thrilled to have recently received a donation of a tin roof to cover the bamboo roof, so no more leakage occurs during rainy days and nights,  In the back of the building is one toilet and bath area, with a pump for water.  Just outside and in the back is a Buddhist temple, where each child spends the first 30 minutes of their day, from 5-5:30 a.m.  From there they eat breakfast, and head to school by 6 a.m.  Back at the orphanage at 11 a.m. they eat some lunch and then learn English and Spanish from two of the onsite volunteers from Spain.  They have playtime in the afternoon, followed by chores, dinner, and bed. We returned inside to the main room filled with happy children.  We were immediately approached by one of the most beautiful little girls, who grabbed Sandra’s hand and brought us over to sit on the stage.  Soon several of the kids were vying for our attention.  From walking on their hands, to showing us how the stage lights make little pieces of paper very warm, they wanted to do everything to keep us happy and playing with them.  Since we arrived late we had to leave pretty shortly after our arrival so the kids could wind down and get to sleep before another early morning.  It was a powerful evening, and one that makes us thank our lucky stars each and every day for the type of life and opportunities we have been afforded.  We hope to one day be able to help at least one child in this nation in some way.

The next day we hit the temple circuit again with Choky, this time getting out closer to 9 a.m.  Phew.  Choky’s wife’s “cutting” was scheduled for the next day or day after, and we still felt awful about his being away from her, but had conflicting notions that we were very happy that we could at least be providing him with funds necessary to support his family.

 

We started our day at Banteay Srei, a small, redstone Hindu temple. The intense red color and amazing carvings make this a must see even though it is a bit north of the rest of the temples.

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In the middle of our temple explorations, we decided to pay a visit to the Landmine Museum.  The years of internal fighting and neighboring conflict left much of Cambodia covered in landmines and unexploded ordinances. Aki Ra, a former Khmer Rouge and Cambodian solder, learned of the horrors of kids and farmers maiming or killing themselves accidently. An expert in mines and bombs he began digging them up and diffusing them. Mines often do not kill their victims as they are designed to injure instead because an injured soldier is always more expensive and resource intensive than a deceased soldier. Today Aki Ra has an NGO dedicated to ridding Cambodia of all mines. His museum helps educate the public and raise money for his cause. The museum doubles as an orphanage and school for 35 children all taken in by Aki Ra who have been impacted or injured as a result of landmines and the war.  We were once again so moved and brought to tears reading the stories of these children and young adults who have lost limbs, eyes, and so much more due to landmine accidents. 

During our walk through the exhibition of removed landmines, we were greeted by Bill.  Bill is from California, and about two years ago, after a few years of working with Aki Ra to make the Landmine Museum what it is today, he and his wife Jill picked up their life in Palm Springs and moved to Siem Reap to permanently help Aki Ra and these children.  Bill showed us around the museum and explained so much about landmines, and the impact of the U.S. (amongst other nations) carpet bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the 70s, leaving millions of undiscovered landmines that are still ready to blow at the slightest touch.  Listening to him speak and his devotion to this cause and the education of the children who are at the museum’s orphanage especially moved us so much again (Sandra was choking back tears during our entire 1.5 hour visit). Like the night before, this experience confirmed that there are such good people out there doing amazing things for the world.

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We continued the day with additional temple visits, as well as a stop to see how palm sugar is made.  At the palm sugar stop, we caught a glimpse into what local life is really like.  A little boy snoozed in a comfy hammock and kids played hopscotch while their mothers made palm sugar and sold local crafts. After a great day, we sadly said goodbye to Choky who said he’d be back to pick us up in two days to take us to the airport. 

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We finished our day with visits to Preah Khan, Ta Prohm, and Baksei Chamkrong – all amazing temples. After another emotional, hot, sticky, dehydration filled day, we welcomed a nice needed rest and then went to town for a combo of Cambodian and Western food (veg food options were pretty limited, so Sandra welcomed a delicious, hot pizza).  We again met up with our friend Laura and swapped stories from our long days of temple visits.  We called it an early night…the heat really did a number on Sandra!

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The next day was free.  We slept in, ate a very leisurely breakfast provided at our amazing hotel: Frangipani Villa Hotel, and hit the town for last minute souvenir shopping.  Again, so hot and sticky, we were in search of a cool drink, and stumbled upon “Joe-to-Go.”  All funds from Joe-to-Go go to The Global Child, a school that provides former street children with $1 per day to attend school, so they are able to fulfill their dream of education while still being able to feed their families.  A boutique upstairs also provides all funds to this amazing school made up of 13 girls and 13 boys from the streets of Cambodia.  Sandra supported the school through the purchase of a couple very cute dresses.  Our cold beverages and snack were delicious and we found ourselves back there for lunch…and again after dinner.  Needless to say we loved it there, and loved the cause, and hope to contribute to it beyond just our one day shopping and eating extravaganza.

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Our last day in Siem Reap was a relaxing one, and one that rounded out our overall experience in this amazing country.  We spent the day with kind, local people eager to talk to us about our culture and home, while sharing stories of theirs.  We gave back to an incredible cause just by eating and buying a few simple items.  We simply enjoyed our surroundings.  A perfect way to end our perfect few days. 

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The next day we were up early for our flight out of Cambodia.  We were so excited to see Choky again, but it turns out that he sent Roy in his place.  This was of course okay too, though we had hoped to say goodbye to Choky in person.  Roy promised to pass along our “goodbyes” and was so glad we had such a great experience with his “funniest friend.”  A great time we had indeed.

 

And then we were off…to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for our last 2 days on the other side of the world.  That came really fast!

 

Until then,

S+A

June 6, 2011 / thenextmeal

Last stop in Vietnam – 4 days in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Now that we were well rested, suited, and booted, we headed to our final stop in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon. The capital of both the southern French colony and the independent nation of Southern Vietnam, Saigon had its name changed to honor the late Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the modern day communist Vietnam. Vietnam’s largest city may be named after Uncle Ho, but there is minimal evidence of communism here. The waving red star and accompanying sickle and hammer that fly high all over Hanoi (and most of central Vietnam) have been swapped with billboards advertising global brands of multinational corporations.Skyscrapers, trendy clothing boutiques, and a large financial nerve center make up the large downtown area. In fact most of the citizens here still refer to it as Saigon and many landmark names such as the Sai Gon Railway Staion were never changed.

On the other hand Saigon does share much commonality with its sister city in the north. The loud noise of motorbike horns fill the streets as confident drivers weave between speeding trucks and cars. Thankfully streets are a bit wider here making crossing the streets a touch less of an adventure. Furthermore, the government’s iron fist is just as strong. The official curfews are just as apparent here as evidenced by the early closure of most storefronts, bars, and restaurants. And of course the little stools that we learned to love so much in other cities line the street corners surrounding stands selling pho, bia hoi, and other Vietnamese street staples. All in all you might say this city suffers from a bit of an identity crisis.

Wanting to maximize our time we opted for a mini-bus tour around the city on our first day to get our bearings and see the important sites. Our expectations were so-so at best as we boarded what looked like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle van and met Cool, our guide for the day. After one more hotel pickup the van was very full (the guide was sitting on the floor) and we headed to Cholon (Chinatown) for our first stop, Binh Tay Market. We arrived with the morning hustle and bustle in full force. This is the city’s wholesale market where many vendors come to stock up on everything including clothes, food, and beauty products. Not exactly the best spot for bargains, unless you want 10 pairs of fake Crocs, nonetheless it was an interesting people watching site.

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Our next stop was Thien Hau Temple or Pagoda of the Lady – a Chinese style temple dedicated to the goddess of the sea. The highlight of this pagoda is the large coils of burning incense that hang from the ceiling, which can take over a week to fully burn.

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From there we headed back to the heart of the city and stopped for a visit at the War Remnants Museum. As the name suggests this is a Vietnam War history museum. Originally called the “The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government”, the building has several exhibits that both tell the “story” of the war and explain enemy atrocities (Agent Orange, Napalm, etc.). This place is not for the faint of heart as pictures and diagrams are very graphic, but the propaganda is minimized here compared to other war history sites.

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After a short rest and pho lunch we continued our war history lesson with a visit to the Reunification Palace. Formerly the presidential residence of the South Vietnamese government, the palace now serves as the symbol of the unified, communist Vietnam. The two North Vietnamese tanks that busted through the gates in 1975 remain on the front lawn with guns pointing at the front door reminding visitors of the symbolic end to the American War.

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A bus tour in SE Asia is never complete without a stop at an overpriced, tourist trap. Our second of the day was a lacquer ware factory where we got a first hand look at production and a 7 second explanation of the manufacturing process (the first was a “candy factory”). Afterwards we were treated with a “rest” in their massive gift shop/showroom. The kickbacks these shops pay the tour operators keeps the prices for the tours low so we can’t really complain all that much.

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We finished our day with a short visit to both the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. Only in Asia can you buy a fake Louis Vuitton wallet in a post office gift shop. By this point it was pouring so we left the camera in the van. Tired, but very satisfied with our tour we headed back to the Beautiful Saigon Hotel for a much needed rest.

For dinner we went to Nha Hang Ngon restaurant, a very similar place to the Quan An Ngon restaurant in Hanoi. Now 2 weeks into our stay in Vietnam we found it much easier ordering from the extensive menu. We opted for the banh xeo, mung bean rice, sautéed tofu, various Vietnamese BBQ skewers, and a slice of some delicious mystery cake.

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Day 2 we slept in until 8:45 (late compared to the 7 or 8 am tour pickups we had become accustomed to in other cities) and missed the hotel breakfast. In search of some French style pastries we walked down our busy backpacker street to Sozo, a cute café that employs, trains, and benefits underprivileged children. Homemade bread, pancakes, pastries, and Vietnamese coffee was just what we needed ahead of a full day of bargaining at Ben Thanh Market. Centrally located, this typical Asian market, is a one-stop shopping mecca. Plenty of deals can be found here, but watch for the aggressive shop keepers who will literally grab your arm in attempt to pull you into their shop, while they shout things like “Lady, you buy shirt…LADY BUY SHIRT.”

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For lunch we walked across the street to Pho 2000, the now famous noodle shop that Bill Clinton dined at when he visited Vietnam in the ‘90s. It lived up to the hype and is among our favorite soup joints of the trip.

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After lunch we headed back to the market to finish up the deal making. Satisfied, tired, and sizzling in the 95+ heat we sought an oasis to escape the late afternoon daze. Taking our tour guide’s recommendation we found our way to the Vietnamese/French ice cream shop, Fanny. This is definitely not your average scoop shop. Set adjacent to the high-rent district 1, Fanny serves up Asian inspired flavors with a bit of flare all at developing world prices. Options include ice cream served in a avocado, sushi ice cream, and the “chef’s choice” ice cream fondue (14 flavors, fresh fruit, waffle cone triangles, and of course hot chocolate sauce to dip it all in). Still full from our noodles we opted for the “simple” quadruple scoop (ginger, coconut, young rice, and chocolate chili) served in a woven basket.

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After a quick hotel swap (we needed a change of scenery) and a short rest we headed out to meet our friend Laura for a late dinner at Huang Li – yet another restaurant that employs disadvantaged children. Set in an old house a few blocks from the central post office, Huang Lai serves up many traditional southern Vietnamese dishes. We enjoyed purple potato soup, lemongrass/chili tofu, and beef with flowers.

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The kitchen closed early before we could get our dessert order in so we headed back to the only sweet shop we knew, Fanny! Together the 3 of us shared the sushi-shaped ice cream (don’t worry – no raw fish) and ice cream filled avocado. Sadly we were not brave enough for the fondue.

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For our final day in Saigon we opted for a wander and see what happens kind of day. We stumbled upon the Ho Chi Minh City museum and decided to stop in for a peak. Its not a very big place, but provides a great history of the city and the overview of how it stands today. After a bit more strolling we enjoyed one final cup of Vietnamese coffee at Nguyen Coffee, a popular chain. The rest of the day we weaved though different neighborhoods taking in the everyday lives of people here. To finish up our time in Saigon we treated ourselves to an hour Vietnam massage – a combo of Thai and western style.  For our last meal in Vietnam, we headed back to Nha Hang Ngon to get one more taste of our favorite Vietnamese dishes. We will definitely miss this place; especially the food.

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And now on to Cambodia. See you then…

S+A

June 3, 2011 / thenextmeal

Aunt & Uncle, Beach, Clothes – Hoi An, Vietnam (Part 3)

Sandra woke up early on Wednesday, May 25 (still Tuesday, May 24 at home) and checked her email to find out that…

 

CHARLIE JACOB HORAN was born!!!

 

Eight weeks early, but doing well, that little boy just couldn’t wait to get out into the world!  Jess, Bram and Charlie are doing well.  We are so excited to get back to NYC to meet our adorable nephew.

 

To celebrate the birth of our nephew, we spent the next three days in style.  Day 4 through 6 (May 25-27) went something like this:

 

Eat breakfast, sit at beach, move to pool, eat lunch, go to town, try on tailor-made clothes, eat dinner, come home.  A much needed and relaxing few days.  It’s low season in Vietnam so we literally had the beach to ourselves.  On Friday, Sandra was the absolute only person on the beach as she waded in the water for a bit while Andrew hung by the pool.  Our hotel was incredible and a sense of calm washed over us every time we entered.  It was a great way to spend a few days in the middle of our busy travel schedule.

 

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While the days were relaxing, there were a few moments of excitement thrown in.  On Wednesday night (the same day little Charlie was born), we had a special visit in our hotel room from a local english speaking doctor.  Sandra got a scrape in Luang Prabang, and it just wasn’t getting better (in fact it was getting a lot worse).  So after asking our hotel what doctor we should see, they called one for us and he came over that evening with a large leather bag of goodies in hand.  After he examined Sandra’s cut turned bigger, he determined that it indeed was infected and promptly put her on antibiotics and topical cream.  Just what she needed in the middle of Vietnam!  His diagnosis seemed correct though as after seven days of drugs, she is all better.  Hooray!

 

We are also pleased to announce that we are the proud owners of many articles of wonderful tailor made clothes!  Such a fun experience, and despite a few hiccups along the way, we totally loved our tailors and had so much fun with them.  When we were leaving we even snapped a few shots, exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch.  After all, they definitely want us to “you buy another suit.  Oh Sandra, pretty dress.  I make you nice pretty dress!  Andrew, mooore shirt! Come on, more shirt.”  So fun.  Oh yeah, and we got some awesome new shoes too!

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Our last day ended on a high note.  After lounging around in the morning, we hit the town in the afternoon to wander the cute streets one last time.  As we were getting into our shuttle back to the hotel to say goodbye to Hoi An, we saw a grandpa, father, and baby boy.  Sandra cooed at the baby, and next thing we know, the dad is shoving the baby in Sandra’s arms so grandpa could snap a photo.  Seriously, this would NEVER happen at home.  Amazing.

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Next up, Saigon!!

 

S+A

June 2, 2011 / thenextmeal

Cooking Vietnamese Style & More Clothes – Hoi An, Vietnam (Part 2)

Five nights in Hoi An, means lots of great things to share with you.  So here we go from where we left off!

Day Three – Tuesday, May 24:

The alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. after we were both tossing and turning all night, but we were excited to be getting up to enjoy a Vietnamese cooking class…hooray!  We got picked up at 8:30 a.m. and after gathering the 3 others in the course, we hit the amazing and bustling morning food market.  This market was an unforgettable experience, and one that we hope everyone has a chance to experience (here or elsewhere) at some point in time. There is so much focus on local, sustainable, organic food in the states (and if you know us, you know this is a movement we both support), and it was incredible to be in a market that never left this mentality.  In truth, we have seen this all over SE Asia so far, but it just seemed even more prevalent in this small market, set on the water and primarily run by women.  While walking through the stalls, we gathered noodles made fresh by the seller every single morning, freshly made tofu, chicken cut right from the carcass in front of our very eyes, freshly caught and butchered seafood and so much more.  We saw women carrying live chickens in baskets to sell to the other women in the market who would then slaughter and prepare them for sale.  We saw freshly laid eggs at the other end of those baskets, also ready for sale.  There were greens and vegetables and fruit and rice, all recently picked and harvested.  It was amazing and beautiful and smelly all at the same time.  It was also a huge reminder of where our food comes from, and where it should come from, and what it should look like – dead and alive.

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Totally satisfied with that awesome experience, we hopped aboard a rickety wooden boat to ride down the Hoi An River to our location for the class.  The steering portion of the boat consisted of a microphone stand attached to the ruder and the accelerator was a hunk of bamboo jammed into the engine.  The floorboard had to be lifted to get this beauty going, and after our elderly driver blew his magical air into the engine we were off.  About 20 minutes into the ride, Andrew was invited to drive, and he took over for pretty much the rest of the journey.

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We made it to our school, in an airy setting on the river and handed our recently purchased food to some of the other instructors and staff there for basic preparations.  The students and our main instructor then got on another boat (this time one that we all had to row) for a quick ride to the organic farm where so much of the remaining ingredients needed are grown.  There we got to make our own rice milk and cut our own lettuce that we’d be using in the various recipes that day.  We also got to meet the 88 year old women who lives and runs the farm (aka her garden), and of course her various chickens that run around the place.  By they way, did we tell you about the rooster outside our hotel room window?  I think the cockadoodledoing helped to keep us both awake the night before! =)

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After gathering the ingredients needed, we got back on the boat (there was a lot of boat riding and not a lot of cooking at this point)! and headed back to our base for the class.  And then we got to cooking!

 

We made the following (sub meat for tofu for Sandra):

Pho Noodle Soup (we started the class preparing the chicken broth complete with ginger, cinnamon and star anise, and ended by adding the fresh noodles, veggies, and herbs)

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Fresh, Central Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Pork

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Pan Fried Beef Salad

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Vietnamese Pancake (Bahn Xeo – meaning “sizzling cake”) with Pork and Prawns

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We left the class very full and very tired, so welcomed the rest on our 30 minute boat ride back into town.  We happily took a short break at the hotel before hitting the streets again for fitting number two, and for our first shoe fitting. 

 

It turns out the tailors were right, and after making the promised adjustments to our suits, our clothes came out a-okay!  Well minus the weirdly tight/wrinkled/poorly placed shirt pocket on Andrew’s shirt.  Basically happy, we dove in and ended up making many more items of clothing: another suit for Andrew, an extra pair of slacks for each suit, three pairs of “work pants” for Sandra and a dress that can potentially be worn to upcoming weddings.  Needless to say it was FUN to be measured and design our own clothes!  Andrew caved and also had a few additional shirts made, since the seamstress promised “she do her best and make better!”

 

On to shoes!  Andrew’s were AWESOME.  So were Sandra’s!  YAY!  Just had to make a few minor adjustments.  We were so happy though that Sandra made a pair of sneakers just like Andrew’s, and Andrew made a pair of high tops.  Seriously fun stuff going on.

 

In a much better mood than the night before, we grabbed some food…pizza to compensate for the immense amount of local cuisine eaten earlier that day, and road our motorbike back to the hotel to go to bed.

 

Get ready for Part 3 (our final part in Hoi An) where we will reveal some BIG, EXCITING, HUGE, news that all 10 of you, our loyal readers, clearly already know.  Hint: it’s about our growing family. =)

 

S+A

June 2, 2011 / thenextmeal

Motorbike, Tailor, Eat, Beach, Repeat–5 Nights/6 Days in Hoi An, Vietnam (Part 1)

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Before we embarked on this awesome 31 day journey, we decided that at some point during our trip we’d likely be up for staying put somewhere for a little longer than our average 2-3 day stretch.  A combination of town and beach, we decided Hoi An would be the perfect place to kick up our heels and take a breather.  And what a perfect place it was.  Situated in central Vietnam, on the coast of the China Sea, Hoi An is an ancient town filled with historic houses, quaint walking streets, incredible food, and tailors and shoemakers at every turn, all about 5 km from a stunning stretch of white sandy beach.

 

For a different spin, we chose to book three nights at a guesthouse in town, the beautiful Orchid Garden Homestay, and then figured we’d splurge and stay two nights in a beach resort (we opted for the Boutique Hoi An Resort…probably the nicest place we have ever stayed and for a whopping $86 per night)!  What a wonderful idea this ended up being!

 

We arrived in Hoi An around 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 22 after a very interesting 2.5 hour train ride.  Our hotel in Hue informed us that we could travel to Hoi An via private car, train or bus.  We had heard the train provided the most gorgeous scenery so we went that route. We arrived at the station around 10:20 a.m. – 30 minutes before scheduled departure.  Basically the only westerners in the station, we sweated along with the locals while waiting for the train. At one point an announcement came on in Vietnamese, followed by broken English, where Sandra managed to catch “11:30.”  Our train was delayed…pretty typical we hear for Vietnam.  At 11:15 another announcement came on and everyone booked it from the hot and sweaty indoor waiting area, to the even hotter and sweatier train platform, where we stood amongst the food vendors for another 25 minutes or so before the train finally arrived.

 

Once on board, we road backwards for the next 2.5 hours and admired some of the most stunning scenery.  Clear blue waters, deserted beaches, hills and valleys.  It really was a gorgeous ride, and a very unique and fun local experience. 

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We pulled into the station in Da Nang and were again greeted by the immense heat, before jumping into a cab for the 30 minute ride to our guesthouse in Hoi An.  And here’s how the rest of our time went:

 

Day One – Sunday, May 22:

Around 3 p.m., we checked into our guesthouse and soon after were greeted with a cooling torrential downpour.  Starving, we braved the rain and enjoyed a wonderful, late lunch at a restaurant just down the street. So many of the restaurants here, in Vietnam and Hoi An especially, are just the front of peoples’ homes.  This place was one of them and we enjoyed seeing grandpa play with baby, big sister push baby over and get in trouble for doing so, and mommy walk around with baby and talk to us while we finished up our meal.  To think we paid so much for this sort of in home dining experience in Buenos Aires!

After lunch, the rain calmed down a bit and we headed to the hotel where we got ready to hit the town and try to find the perfect tailor to make us some clothes!  We started out on very worn bikes provided by the guesthouse, complete with squeeky brakes and grinding gears, and quickly decided to upgrade to a motorbike of our own.  We swapped the bikes for our sparkly red Honda motorbike, and hit the streets in style.  First stop, BeBe Tailors, with pushy tailors. We wanted to check out a few other places before committing, so paid a visit to the popular A-Dong Silk.  Having gotten a feel for what was out there, we were satisfied, and decided to begin the process the next morning.  In the meantime, we happily met up with Liza and Zack for our final dinner together in Vietnam at delicious Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant.  The food was great (so good in fact that we went there the next night too) and the company even better.  It was a great first night in Hoi An.

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Day Two – Monday, May 23:

We woke up early and after a quick breakfast, jumped on our pretty motorbike to head into town (p.s. Andrew even got to wear the owner of the motorbike rental place LV helmet since the one originally provided to him was too small for his growing head of hair…we were definitely riding in style)!  We decided to check out one more stop that came highly recommended by Liza and Zack’s hotel: Bao Khanh Silk, and that became our tailor of choice.  That first morning in the shop, we felt fabrics, discussed designs and ultimately picked out our suits.

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We both decided to make one suit each (a practical black suit for Andrew, and also black for Sandra, but one in which the blazer could easily be worn separately with jeans and a t-shirt).  We also opted for one custom made shirt each…just to get started.  By 10:30 a.m. our designs were picked, deposit paid, and we left knowing that we’d be back by 7 p.m. for our first fitting.  Happy, we popped into a shoemaker down the street, called 09, and quickly designed a pair of saddle shoes for Sandra and gray sneakers for Andrew.  By 11 a.m. we were finished with the designing of our new wear, so explored the cute town, had lunch, walked through the market a bit, and stopped by the hotel to change into swimsuits, and drove down to the beach to check out the scene there.  It was already pretty late in the day, so we just took a peak at the pristine water before heading back to the guesthouse pool where we enjoyed a nice swim there.

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At 7 p.m. we were back on our motorbike and heading back to town for our first suit fitting!  Sandra went first, and initially wasn’t thrilled.  The fabric seemed different and the pants weren’t quite as discussed.  Andrew had similar sentiments.  The tailors promised the fabric was “same same” and that “this just first fitting, tomorrow all is perfect!”  We left a little doubtful and uncertain.  Nothing we could do though at that point, so we headed back to Morning Glory for a delicious meal and then home to what ended up being a pretty sleepless night for both of us (in case you didn’t know, we’re both a little crazy sometimes and let things like not totally perfect tailored suits that were whipped together in 8 hours keep us up at night). Silly us! 

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Stay tuned for Hoi An, Part 2 & 3!

S+A