A wonderful present arrived in our email inboxes (no I promise I wasn’t checking email on Christmas 😉 ) on Christmas morning….our wedding photos! So we wanted to share them with you and thank our incredible friend and photographer, Sasha, for capturing all the joy and love that was with us on that day. Amando was decked out in his suit we got made in Hoi An, Vietnam, and I wore my grandmother’s dress. There was a brass band, homemade pie, 100 dear friends and family, heartfelt toasts, and lots of dancing. Here’s a teaser pic, for the full post, go here.
My mom and I were also featured on my favorite wedding/lifestyle blog, A Practical Wedding. We wrote about a personal, yet unique situation: what its like watching your mother get married right after you get engaged. To see us as blog-o-sphere published authors, our posts are here and here.
It has been quite a wonderful year for us. 2011 brought us so many good things, good fortune, new friends, experiences (and foods!), and so much joy and happiness. As I got off the phone with my grandmother today, she said “I hope 2012 is even better!”. Honestly I’m not quite sure how it could be, but I would be incredibly grateful if it is. Blessings and joy upon you and yours in 2012!
Vietnam is a food lovers paradise. There’s no need for fancy restaurants, although there are plenty of them. Sidewalks are packed with people eating at small tables on chairs suitable for 4 year olds, slurping down noodley concoctions that you may or may not like. Beef broth and vermicelli noodles, yes! Pork heart and blood broth with noodles, no thank you. The system of picking the fullest place may not work here since people have many interesting palates. Thanks to Shane and Arielle we had some recommendations already, but exploring new foods is our favorite hobby so we were thrilled to venture out for more.
Hoi An gave us an introduction to one meal restaurants. Balewell has been open for 22 years and has served the same exact 4 item menu, that is printed on their napkins, each and every day. You actually don’t order, you sit and are served each item. We had a lesson in proper eating techniques by the sister of the owner who treated Amando like her son, even feeding him. Rice paper, herbs/lettuce/cucumber, chicken or pork off the stick, shredded carrot and radish, finish with spicy peanut sauce. Repeat all of that but add an omelet made with bean sprouts and you’ve now got what sort of resembles a taco. But wait, there’s more!
Hanoi Cinematheque during July and August featured “Vietnam on Film” every night. We decided to stop over one evening and see a film they were showing on Laos, “The Most Secret Place On Earth”. Here is the short bio on the film:
“The Vietnam War was the most intensely mediated war ever. However, next door in neighboring Laos, the longest and largest air war in human history was underway, which eventually made Laos the most bombed country on earth. This “secret war” was the largest operation ever conducted by the CIA, yet to this day, hardly anyone knows anything about it. Candid interviews with past and present players combined with previously unseen footage from the war as well as the current struggle in Laos tell a story that hasn’t been documented in history books. As we journey into Long Cheng for the first time since the end of the war in 1975, the film tells the gripping story of the operation. The film features interviews with State Department, CIA and Air America officials, as well as Hmong general Van Pao and some of his critics – Fred Branfman and Professor Alfred McCoy.”
For anyone at all interested in Southeast Asian history, has been to Laos, or curious as to why at one point Laos had the most remote, yet busiest airport on the planet, I recommend the film (made in 2008). However I’ll need to follow up with more reading when I get home because it left me with a lot more questions than answers.
Our third stop in a city that starts with an “H” was Hue, located in central Vietnam. A motorcycle ride took us into the countryside to visit the tombs of emperors, see more rice paddies, and ride back along the perfume river. A bit more of a mellow pace than Ho Chi Minh and a few less tourists than Hoi An made this a city I wanted to stay in. Continue reading →
Red flags with yellow stars, party offices, patriotic slogans about working together, Ho Chi Minh’s goatee, and lots of vacationing French people. Pretty much sums up half the visual stimuli. The rest can be seen here:
Everywhere you look people are eating soup…pho of course being the popular choice. But all kinds of soup, noodles, pasta, chicken feet, beef, pork rinds, vegetables, you name it, and no matter the weather, soup is being mowed down. So today we took a field trip to the “lunch lady”. We found her on a gastronomy blog and Anthony Bourdain has also paid her a visit. It took us to a different part of the city off our little map, across a very busy street, and down an alley to the base of an apartment complex. She makes a different soup every day and today we were served the following (thank you gastronomy blog): “Thanh’s bun bo Hue on Fridays is a huge draw. The broth has a deep lemongrass flavour and just a hint of spiciness, and there’s always a generous amount of tender meat. Thanh avoids gristly meat by adding a whole pineapple to the broth, which tenderizes the meat and imparts a bit of sweetness to the broth.”
Kampot pepper crab – made with fresh green pepper! One of the best meals of our trip.
Leaving Phnom Pehn was tough, it was the best of times bundled up with one big depressing afternoon. Yet off in the distance there was a dream, the dream of Kampot green pepper crab. That was the reason for our (Shane, Arielle, A&E) 5 hour journey from Phnom Pehn to Kampot and Kep. The three night stay was all about food; really really good food. The freshly plucked green peppercorns, still on their stem, fried with other unexplainable goodness, and either crab or shrimp, made for an incredible meal. Actually, everything we had, the soups, rice, and seafood, were meals we couldn’t exactly compare with anywhere else on earth. Kep was 100% worth the effort, even if you don’t like to get your hands dirty plucking flesh out of shells. Kampot, also had some good stuff to offer, surprisingly, the best pizza we’ve had in Southeast Asia, and THE BEST ribs in Cambodia (the guy just won a cook off in the capital). The town was sleepy, the streets were empty, had dozens of abandoned homes from bad times past, and the rain barely stopped falling, but E & I would still go back in a heartbeat. Cambodians are just some of the nicest people we’ve met on our trip. But wait, there’s more!