It’s My Birthday B*!@h

It was my sister Kara’s birthday last week! Kara has always been a fan of sprinkles, from the vanilla dip donuts from Tim Horton’s that she would order by the dozen in high school to the hundred and thousand cookies she had while living in Australia. What both of these have in common is the type of sprinkles. Kara likes the round sprinkles or the more proper name is nonpareils which is French for without equal; a sprinkle fact for your day. We first went to dinner at Stoic and Genuine and then finished the night with this cake—a pistachio cake with honey and vanilla frosting. It was so good; a nutty flavor for the cake and the honey really comes through in the frosting!

Photo Credit: The amazing John Tagle

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Final Countdown

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Our final stop in Vietnam was  Đà Nẵng. We didn’t give ourselves much time here so we didn’t really do much at all besides enjoy our hotel we were staying at. We got in around 4 pm and left at 6 am; I was serious about limited time. I wished we would have been able to do a few things like get an up close look at the Goddess of Mercy statue and visiting the Marble Mountains…but hanging out at the highest roof top pool in Vietnam, at A La Carte, wasn’t too bad (I keep reminding myself of this so I don’t get sad).

This was our final evening as a group for our trip. The next day we headed back to Hong Kong where Sarena left us to go back to the London, Phil went back to his Hong Kong life, and then back to the states for Becky and I. I fell in love with Vietnam and I can’t wait to go back.

The small white speck in the middle right of the photo is the Goddess of Mercy; the largest white marble buddha in Vietnam.

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Final dinner!

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We All Scream for Paczki!

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Tonight I made paczki‘s for Fat Tuesday tomorrow. Growing up in Michigan the grocery store and bakeries sell these treats like crazy this time of year and I absolutely love them! But out here in Denver its another story—nobody knows what they are!! I decided I won’t go another Fat Tuesday with out them so I made them myself. The process isn’t extremely hard but it is long, but the time was worth it because they turned out fabulous. I just had a raspberry filling with powder sugar, the absolute best variation of paczki, but I also made strawberry and blueberry filling with either a coating of granulated sugar or powder sugar.

Paczki Recipe

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Tastin and Cookin

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When I was doing research for Hoi An going to a cooking class was something a lot of people and sites suggested. I decided on Morning Glory Advance Masterclass. The class started at 8:30 am and you get to go through the local market then to the school where you cook three different dishes for $39; sold. This was one of the things I was most excited about. I was the cheer leader for the cooking class and to say Phil was skeptical was definitely an understatement. It could have something to do with the fact that I dragged him/or group on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, which I still say is amazing and a must do, but Phil would say differently. I scheduled the class for Friday morning. I didn’t realize that would be a problem, but it was. When the alarm went off at 7:30 am the day after our Thanksgiving cruise/party evening it was the worst sound ever. I pressed snooze and wished that nine minutes would feel like three more hours. When the alarm went off again I yelled to Becky that we need to get up and both of us mumbled about how we couldn’t. Me the cheerleader then turned off the alarm and went back to be. Fail. I was so disappointed when I woke up later. I immediately emailed the school and asked if we could come in the next day and lucky enough for us they had room!!! Thank goodness because it was amazing. Even Phil will vouch for this outing. We had a cooking school student lead us around the market; showing us the different vegetables, tools they use, meats, fish, etc.

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Then they took us to the school and took us around to the different stations such as fried treats, rice meals, daily workers food, sweet treats, and the one that caught most people’s eye weird and wonderful. At the weird and wonderful station I tried silk worm salad, baby clams, spicy snails, duck egg embryo, spicy frog legs, jelly fish salad, and steamed pig brain. It was intense, the worm was chalky and grainy, the duck embryo tasted basically like a hard boiled egg but with more of a dense texture and the pig brain I actually can’t really remember so it must have been good? We made the rounds. I even tried making cao lau noodle which is a local staple from Hoi An. The recipe is only known by a few and almost impossible to get. The noodles are distinguishable by their thickness. Another item from Hoi An is the white rose dumpling, which are dumplings with a rose like shape (see picture below) and filled with either shrimp or pork. I also helped in making rice noodles patties and I was pretty good at it. That could be a potential carrier move.

Cau lao noodles

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Next we moved on to the hands on section. Becky and I were teammates and shared a work station. First we made cabbage leaf parcels with shrimp mousse in broth, bang xeo (Vietnamese pancake), and finally barbecue chicken and mango salad. We used an Vietnamese knife to cut the papya and as a parting gift we got one to take home with us! You can see it below; it is an interesting shape and unique tool. It made slicing mango very easy.

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In the end we had a private tour of the market, a full meal, hour of trying food, and a knife to take home all for $39. You can’t beat that. Also it worked out well that we didn’t go the day we were hungover; I would not suggest trying pig brain or walking through a raw meat market hungover, but who am I to stop you. Follow me @Pilots_Daughter.

Thanksgiving Vietnam Style

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Thanksgiving was all of Becky’s doings; she had an idea and ran with it. Let’s just say our money goes a long way in Hoi An so our Thanksgiving dinner was pretty luxurious. We went on a private sunset dinner cruise. Yep is was awesome. Becky and I wanted to wear traditional Vietnamese outfits for Thanksgiving but then decided on matching pants and nón lá also known as leaf hats (my hat didn’t make it home from the bar that night but we went back and they had it so it is now safe and sound on my wall in Denver)We started with fresh spring rolls, then had crab and asparagus soup, barbecue fish fillets in banana leaf, Vietnamese eggplant, and finished with a fruit platter. They gave us little boxes with candles in them to make a wish on and put in the water. They also gave us access to the speakers—they probably regretted that one. We ended the night at Infinity Bar with our new friend Vihn. He was our server so we took him out and taught him how to play beer pong.

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Living the Dream in Hoi An

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I was smitten with Hội An. It was exactly what I expected Vietnam to be; a small village that allowed visitors to get a peak in the day-to-day lives of the people. Besides the city and countryside being amazing we also had the hook up with our accommodation. We rented the An Hai Villa off of Airbnb and it was amazing. It was about three miles outside of the Ancient Town but that was actually nice. The villa sleeps nine guests and it was just the four of us so it was spacious. Each morning we had fresh bread, eggs, fruit, and Vietnamese coffee waiting for us. I could go back just for the breakfast. So relaxing and comfortable. The villa also had a fridge with beer and wine that we could drink and mopeds all of which we would pay for later; making it easier on us.

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Our first day we hopped on our mopeds and headed to town. First stop was to get dresses made. Hội An is known for custom made clothes that are good quality and cheap. You go to the stores and look at mannequins and you can pick whatever you want or design whatever you want. You could walk up and say, “I want this top with that pattern but with this back from this other dress.” It was awesome. I had a romper made. We got our dresses, romper, and Phil got a suit made at Micky Tailor. You can check out Phil and I on their trip advisor. We then went and drove around for a bit looking at the rice paddies and exploring. We finished the afternoon with beers and spring rolls at the beach.

Don’t miss Hội An if you go to Vietnam.

We also took a cooking Class and had a sunset cruise for Thanksgiving dinner, but I’ll save that for future posts.

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France est Charlie

I landed in Paris on January 10th. This was the day after the hostage situation. My sister and I landed and headed straight to Lyon via train. We were so excited to visit the gastronomic capital of France. We knew we would probably notice some extra security at popular tourist sites because of the recent events but didn’t think there would be anything else to notice; we were wrong. France was immediately united and it was clear in every city you went. Everywhere you looked there were “Je suis Charlie” or “Nous sommes Charlie” signs. We also got to experience the march in Lyon. It was remarkable to see. Below are a few pictures of the how the country came together after such a tragedy.

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-Paris-

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Where the Watermelon Grow

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Ideally we would have had more time to explore; more time to see it all but we didn’t. We had to settle with only one day in Hạ Long Bay. Most people do at least a three day cruise but like I said we didn’t have time. We thought about even skipping Hạ Long Bay but I am so glad we didn’t. Seeing/cruising around for a few hours was more than enough; it was stunning. We left at 8:30 in the morning and returned at 8 pm. We purchased our tour through Halong Bay One Day Tours for $39. image Hạ Long Bay was magical. When you leave the shore and head out all you see is all these different peaks and points shooting out of the water; hundreds of them. Hạ Long Bay translates to descending dragon. It is legend that Vietnam needed help protecting their land and sent to the gods for dragons. A mother dragon and her children came to earth and the mother shot out fire and emeralds to defend against the enemies. The emeralds were scattered along the water battlefield and created a protective wall i.e. the 1,600 limestone islands we see today. You can either believe the legend or that the limestone was naturally eroded by the wet tropical climate forming the pillars and karst—no judgement on what you believe. We enjoyed beers on the boat and kayaked around for a little at the one place we stopped. My advice? Don’t miss Hạ Long Bay.

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Above- Where we stopped to kayak.

Below- The cave we went inside.

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First Stop in Vietnam, Hanoi!

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When we walked out of the Hanoi airport I was amazed, not because of the view but because I was actually here. I ran into a little issue in the Hong Kong airport with my Vietnam visa. I thought I was so prepared; I had the two copies of my passport photo, two copies of the entrance forms, my printed visa form, and $45 US dollars. I had it neatly in a folder and was ready to go. We go up to the Vietnam kiosk and hand over our visa letters with our passports. We stood there talking about getting bloody Mary’s while we waited if we could find a place that had them since we were early and then the lady put a paper back on the counter and said this person cannot go till tomorrow. I looked down positive it couldn’t be mine and of course it was. I was so confused. She started pointing at the date. It said November 26th and it in fact was the 24th. Shit. I must have been looking at the second flight we were going to take on the 26yh. The agent started talking about going to the embassy and changing my flight and how I can get there in two days. My face glazed over as I started seeing Hanoi disappear, Halong Bay disappear, and wasted money. Becky said don’t panic but that is exactly what I started to do. I stepped out of line and sat maybe three feet from the agent on the groud and dumped all my stuff out. You know that person you see in the airport looking distraught who you feel bad for because clearly something is goign really wrong? That was me. I went back to the visa website and saw I could buy a four hour visa so I did that first but that wasn’t ideal because I would miss my flight. I then emailed the people who sent my first wrong visa. Luckily they responded. I could get the dates changed in an hour for an additiaonl $85. Done! I agreed and made the payment. We had 1 hour and 15 minutes till check in closed at 2:30 pm. I got the visa emailed to me at 2:15 and was able to check in. If we needed a drink before we really needed a Bloody Mary after that.

-The infamous power lines of Hanoi.-

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Back to the real subject of this post Hanoi. I was happy there. I loved it. I was amazed by the culture and people. It was so different than other places I had been and I wanted to see more and know more about Vietnam with each thing I learned. One of my favorite parts was that they use the sidewalks as restaurant and bar space and the seats and tables are plastic. You know those small stools you would use for toddlers to be able to reach the bathroom sink? Those are the seats they would put out for you to sit and have a beer or tea and sunflower seeds. Hundreds of people would be sitting there. And if you think they are at full occupancy they would just pull out another stool. Same with the restaurants. You want a table? They would pull out a plastic table off of the stack and then put the stools down for you to sit on. If there was a place for them to put a sign on the wall or sit that could be a restaurant. People would even have pop up places, that is what I’m calling them, where they just had a portable burner and would just sit down and people would come to be served. That was the kitchen. It was seriously so cool to see.

Another thing we quickly noticed was that there were barely any street lights. In the downtown Hanoi where we did all our street crossing there were none. Cars are very expensive and most of the families cannot afford them so they all ride scooters. This means hundreds of scooters carrying thousands of people, sometimes four at a time, through the streets. This made for the scariest time crossing the street. Imagine screaming, lots of waiting, and being petrified. On our way out one night we met two guys from our hostel who were actually from Denver as well, small world, and they taught us the trick to cross the street. You look at them and walk consistently right into traffic. Sounds like a trick but it works. They just go around you. If you “frog hop” they might hit you.

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The French influence was very apparent in the food from the pho to the bahn mi which makes sense because they were French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. Our first night we went to Porte d’Annam for dinner and had amazing spring roll apps and pho. I learned that the pho is different based on whether you get it from northern or southern Vietnam. The pho we had in Hanoi was beef and pork. The second night we had street food. I can’t tell you exaclty what we had becuase no matter what I pointed to and asked for they served me what they wanted and however much they wanted. They gave us a bowl of sauce, plate of fresh greens like cilantro and sprouts, and then a plate of fried spring rolls and dumplings; I think.

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We also went out in Hanoi which was really fun. We went to Hair of the Dog, Base, and Light House.  The first two are easy to get to from probably whatever hostel you are staying at by walking (we stayed at Vietnam Backpackers Hostel- The Original). They are only open till 12:30 though so the Lighthouse is a club that is open late into the morning hours. This is the diviest club I have ever been to. Dirt floors and just not much to it at all besides walls, but it was awesome! This club attracted the typical backpackers; English, Australian, and Irish. I spent a good portion of the night talking to an Irish guy about marriage to gain citizenship. It is that type of place. Like I said before I loved it.

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-Pictures from our walking tour-

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After our walking tour our guide took us to get Vietnamese coffee on a roof top cafe. This was an egg cream coffee so the it had whipped egg whites in it.

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We had a 7 pm flight from Hanoi to Hoi An. I had the best bahn mi sandwich that cost $1 and we finally got our Bloody Marys.

#allthedumplingz

If you know me you know one of my passions in life is dumplings. I was so excited to go to Hong Kong to eat at least one dumpling a day—we had one and then some. This could possibly be one of my most favorite posts (only a all hot dog post to rival) Below is my dream post all about my Hong Kong dumpling consumption:

(If you were wondering about the title of this post, that was our hashtag for our trip. Go to instagram and look at all our photos!)

We started with take out dumplings from Central Hong Kong and munched on these while getting ready to go out. Then we ended our night at the “Denny’s” of Hong Kong.IMG_1854

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Next was dumplings in Mongkok before the Ladies Market opened. I had pork, and tried Phil’s shrimp. Becky and I were in love with the dipping sauces and basically drank them from the bottles. We are working on our manners…

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Then after the market I of course wanted another dumpling. I got a steamed bun this time that had veggies and pork in it. The bun was like eating a sticky cloud; slightly sweet and the perfect dough flavor.

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All the dumplings were amazing but I have to say my favorite was at Tim Ho Wan, which is the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. Our total bill at the one star restaurant was $27. What The most amazing and probably life changing was the pork buns. Instead of a typical sticky fluffy dough bun it was a flaky buttery and crispy bun. I have not had a bun like that before and I am already dreaming about going back for another. I was so excited to eat here that I forgot to take pictures of any of the dumplings besides the pork bun. I apologize to the group. We had the taro soup (this is what I am calling it) for dessert and that was great too. Taro reminds me of like a sweet milk flavor. I’m definitely a fan.

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