Fambly Visit

Who is so lucky that her family comes to visit her not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions within a year? THIS girl.

Mom, Dad, Aunt Pam, and Cousin Katie take Vietnam! Maybe not as exciting as the Kardashians taking Miami but with this family we get way more accomplished on a much smaller budget!

Day 1 in Saigon: The family timed the visit during the Tet Holiday, so we ran into a few street parties, flower festivals, and slightly less traffic than usual.

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Gotta love the electrical wiring here. I think dad noted at least 1,000 code violations on this trip :).

Street Party!

 

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Flower Festival

Flower Festival

Pho on the streets of Saigon. Photo courtesy of Katie Ryan.

 

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KT at the Perfume Pagoda

Cale, Katie and I went on a ‘Back of the Bikes Food Tour’ in Saigon where we got picked up and paired with a tour guide, hopped on the back of their motorbikes, and scooted around the city, stopping at various food stalls. It was delicious and terrifying, all at the same time.

One of the most delicious dishes. Beware: when something sounds good, don’t say ‘yum,’ say ‘yummy.’ Yum supposedly means something so profane that they wouldn’t tell us what. Katie learned the hard way by seeing this dish and saying “OOH! Yum yum yum yum yum.”

With the group at our last stop, eating dessert.

With the group at our last stop, eating dessert.

The “kids” took a 17 hour train ride from Saigon to Hoi An to meet back up with the parents.  Our entourage filled our days in Hoi An with walks around town, food poisoning, swimming at the beach, and a cooking class, in no particular order.

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Pam and Katie at one of the historical homes in Hoi An.

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Wandering the veggie garden outside our cooking class.

 

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A mostly-manual watering system

 

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Chefs hard at work.

 

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Beef wrapped in betel leaves

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Mackerel grilled in a banana leaf

Next stop: Halong Bay.  We didn’t have the greatest weather but it was still an amazing sight.

A foggy Halong Bay

A foggy Halong Bay

Chillin'

Chillin’

Boat cabins

Boat cabins

A grocery store on a boat!

A grocery store on a boat!

Kayak Trip

Kayak Trip

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Cale’s just bein’ Miley.

 

Werk. Katie knows her lines. I could use a few tips from Tyra. Plus I'm pretty sure that's a Spice Girls pose from 1995.

Werk. Katie knows her lines. I could use a few tips from Tyra. Plus I’m pretty sure that’s a Spice Girls pose from 1995.

One last family selfie. What a view!

One last family selfie. What a view!

And back to Hanoi where we had an extra day with KT and Pam.

Cale snuck into my shot and I didn't realize it until he looked at the photo and jumped for joy.

Cale snuck into my shot and I didn’t realize it until he looked at the photo and jumped for joy.

 

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Bia Hoi outside in Hanoi

Thanks, fam, for traveling so far! It was wonderful to explore Vietnam with you.

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Hoi An Photo Tour

I took a photography tour in Hoi An and wish I would have taken one before we embarked on our trip.  Our group went to the outskirts of Hoi An to take photos and it was easy to approach people and ask for a photo since everyone knew our tour guide.  I learned a lot about my camera (read: get rid of it and buy a new one).  We lost light quickly, but these were my best shots of the day.

Buffing things up for Tet

Buffing things up for Tet

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With our instructor, who speaks perfect Vietnamese

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It’s amazing what people can fit on motorbikes here. This is a common sight. Add a few more people to this bike and put a cell phone or a cigarette in the driver’s hand and that would also be quite normal. Drivers are very coordinated 🙂

On to the rice paddies:

In the rice paddys

Working hard in the rice paddy

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My favorite shot of the day

My favorite shot of the day

Planting peanuts

Planting peanuts

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We had lost the magic hour sunlight at this point but still got some decent shots back in the village, and got to say hi to a bunch of kiddos:

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We learned panning, and I was stoked… but then I tried again after the class and couldn’t re-create it (the background won’t blur). Photographer friends, what am I doing wrong?

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And finally, some night shots: I don’t have this perfected but it was really fun messing around with different exposures:

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Overall, a fun, informative day taking photos!

Early Retirement in Hoi An

Our plan was to park in Hoi An and find a volunteer gig for a couple weeks before my family comes to visit. But alas, we arrived in Hoi An to find that most opportunities require a minimum of three months of volunteering. Understandable, considering the training they require, but not something that worked for us.

So we decided to do the next best thing: early retirement.

We have been kicking around Hoi An for two weeks now, and this is what it must feel like to be retired.  We have zero appointments on the schedule each day, and we while away the hours relaxing, drinking beer, going for runs, exploring the town, lounging at the beach, riding our bikes, and eating amazing food. And most of the good friends we have met are over age 65.

Downtown Hoi An

Downtown Hoi An

One of our favorite restaurants

One of our favorite restaurants

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Hoi An is known for its lanterns and the town lights up at night.

 

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How cute is this little guy?

There are no words.

 

One of our favorite sunset spots

One of our favorite sunset spots

Sunset in a bottle

Sunset in a bottle

Our youngest friend

Our youngest friend

Quintessential Hoi An: Conical hats, bikes, and offerings in front of tailor shops.

Quintessential Hoi An: Conical hats, bikes, and offerings in front of tailor shops.

 

Fancy night out with newly tailored clothes

Fancy night out with newly tailored clothes

Motorbike ride day-trip

Motorbike ride day-trip

Motorbike ride through Hai Van Pass

Motorbike ride through Hai Van Pass

Apparently this is significant.

Apparently this is significant.

We are here in Vietnam for the Tet (New Years) Holiday. Mostly, it means there is an increase in karaoke and public drunkenness.  Also, the city is covered in flowers and kumquat trees and it’s common to see locals carrying gigantic potted plants on the back of their motorcycle, steering with one hand and holding the plant steady with the other.

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There are two people on this bike.

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So much foliage

Our home base in Hoi An is Homeland River Homestay, located on Cam Nam Island, which is a 10 minute bike ride from the main downtown area.  It was great to be just outside of the busy downtown area, in a quieter section with the waterfront right outside from the back patio.

Back patio of our homestay

Back patio of our homestay

 

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Our running route, right out the back door of our homestay.

 

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Rice cakes on our running route

We were generously invited to our Homestay family’s Tet party along with extended family and their neighbors- there was so much great food, and bottomless cans of beer!

Tet celebration at our Homestay

Tet celebration at our Homestay

Bloggin' on the patio (with Cale just back from a run)

Bloggin’ on the patio (with Cale just back from a run)

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Kiddos playing with fire at the Homestay

We were able to find a small volunteer gig that didn’t need a long term commitment, luckily! A school for deaf children called Paddy’s Jewel needed some excel help with their 2015 financials. Bingo, a way we could be useful!  I also got to guest-teach my go-to activity: making pop-up cards with the kids on their last hour of school before the Tet Holiday.  Luckily, pop up card making is a universal language.  The kids were adorable- most of their artwork was just scribbles but some of the older kids made some pretty fancy pop-up cards.

Lanterns on the river, with the Japanese Bridge in the background.

Lanterns on the river, with the Japanese Bridge in the background.

For the new year we took an overnight train back to Saigon for a special treat: my family is coming to visit! They arrive late tonight and we will make our way back north from here. Happy Tet, everyone!