One day in Da Lat was enough to eat a lot of amazing street food (the earlier the better) and try out new Vietnamese desserts, drink morning coffee with local men, stay at a hostel run by the craziest and most welcoming family and where they make family meals and encourage spooning your neighbor by putting the beds very close to each other.
The moment I had longed for finally came, I could take out my tiny summer dresses, get rid of my terminally ill looking pale skin and switch from hot coffee with condensed milk to the iced version (short-term cooling off, long-term stomach problems: ice isn’t necessarily made from clean water).
My three days in Hoi An were total bliss: lots of good eating (seriously, that banh mi was the best), sizzling in the sun, morning bike ride to the beach (aka getting sunburned at 9 am), more bike rides (I’m too Dutch to function – riding a bike feels like home to me), visiting the My Son sanctuary and getting some cheap tailor-made shoes and dresses (whoops, this was not included in the budget).
Cao Lầu – chewy noodles with pork meat, bean sprouts, herbs, casave chips and soy sauce.
Taking the open bus from Hanoi to Saigon (or the other way around) is very convenient. You can buy a ticket including 3-5 fixed stops with open dates, you only need to reserve your next bus a day in advance. It’s a sweet deal: a ticket for over 40 hours of traveling with 5 stops only cost me $47.
From Hanoi I took a night bus to Hue. After being in the bus for only 10 minutes, we discovered there were more passengers than we had initially noticed: hundreds of cockroaches were accompanying us on this 14-hour trip. After an inner conflict – am I just a spoiled white girl from the Netherlands who cannot handle a little dirt? – me and my newly made friends decided to switch busses. The thought of the creepy little creatures crawling into my bag, under my blanket, in my hair etc and laying eggs in all those warm places was more than I could handle.
I only stayed in Hue for one day, which was just the right amount of time. The old imperial city is very nice, but very small compared to another one closer to me. After visiting the imperial city I decided to rent a motor taxi which would take me to the old tombs around the city. I gradually started to relax on the back of the motor, even started taking selfies when we were driving and I didn’t clung on to the skinny driver anymore. It was really nice to be out of the big city again, into the country, smelling fresh trees, breathing clean air (Beijing air quality as I type: “very unhealthy”), not being surrounded by people & motorbikes & sounds and enjoying the beautiful scenery and old tombs.
For my meals in Hanoi I mostly relied on this genius and the recommendations of my hostel, which actually pretty much overlapped. My big time favorites: coffee with condensed milk and sticky rice, xoi. Oh boy, I’m just salivating at the thought right now.
Of course I had the must-have Phở, aka beef noodle soup, in the city where it originates from, but I was just too greedy to have the patience to take a decent picture before devouring it.
Cha ca – Fish sauteed in dill and turmeric and served with rice noodles, peanuts, fresh herbs and fish sauce.
My first stop in Vietnam: Hanoi. Looking back, it was the best city to start my trip through the blistering hot country, coming from depressingly cold and smoggy Beijing. The people I met travelling in the other direction, from south to north, were constantly complaining about the chilly weather, but by me it was welcomed with open arms.
I only got to spend two full days here, but I enjoyed every second of them. The city, just like the rest of the country, is overflowing with motorbikes, amazing food and nice people. I spent most of my time wandering around and observing the chaos in the small streets: motorbikes coming from every direction, street vendors trying to sell fruit or flowers, and people enjoying their food or coffee on little stools on the side of the road. Loved it!
Just close your eyes and go.
I used to be such a picky eater, there used to be a loooong list of ingredients I refused to eat. Even when my interest in food and cooking grew and the list gradually got shorter, the thought of eating certain ingredients or dishes was simply horrifying. Bananas, mushrooms, everything that sounded really exotic or was just simply new to me, I would not eat.
Then I moved to Beijing and I had to step out of every comfort zone that I had. New friends, different language, different culture, different food and no kitchen. Some things were easier to adjust to than others: food was one of the easier ones, living without a kitchen was definitely not.
When I went back to the Netherlands last summer I couldn’t wait to try out all the new recipes I had been wanting to make for over a year, and inspired by all these new experiences I found my way back into the kitchen. One day I suddenly realized I had made pasta with mushrooms for dinner with this banana-date cake for dessert. I had finally conquered all of my silly food quirks. I now firmly believe that mushrooms are awesome, bananas are my favorite fruit snack and I will never let a chance go by to try out new flavors and ingredients.
Even though I’m not really cooking here, I still love strolling over the Beijing markets and discovering new products. In this part of the photo series you can see the colorful summer fruits (pics were taking in October 2012 when it was still pretty warm), vegetables, pickled foods and nuts. Not only the products available are different from back home, also the way they stall them is radically different from what I was used to. That will be even be more clear in next post, in which I will show pictures of the meat department..
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and me visited another friend who studied at Oxford this year. Both of them used to be my housemates and I met up with both of them individually in Beijing this year, so it was extremely fun that we were able to hang out with the three of us together. This little trip was enough laugh therapy for the next couple of years, I died laughing every single second.
Apart from it being really fun, it was also a bit unrealistic. I left my socialist looking (it is People’s University after all) on Friday morning, spent a couple of nights back home and was in Oxford on Monday night. The contrast between huge, crowded, smoggy Beijing with my crappy campus and the beautiful, old, elitist Oxford with its beautiful colleges made my head spin.
This is just a small collection of the hundreds of pictures we took in those couple of days. After filtering out all the pics where we make weird faces and do stupid stuff (= all of them), these remained.
My friend’s college looks waaaayy nicer than my campus.
One afternoon we made a trip to the countryside, the weather was perfect and the surroundings were beautiful. I prefer these skies over these any time.