Summer in Vietnam: My New Favorite Drink

I have discovered a new favorite-sugarcane juice! Small stalls began appearing around the city sometime in April, and while I first thought the idea of sugarcane juice sounded a bit odd, I decided to go for it while visiting Ho Chi Minh City and I’m glad I did! It’s sweet, but not too sweet, with a bit of added lime and ice and very refreshing. Another fun thing about this drink is the way it’s made, like fresh squeezed orange juice, but with a huge piece of sugar cane instead, which is rather entertaining to watch.

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I wish I had a better picture of this, but the sugarcane is pressed through this contraption that’s cranked by hand. The sugarcane is pushed through several times until all the juice is squeezed out and it’s completely flattened. 

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Finished product! Yummmm.

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Or get it to go. If you’re lucky you’ll get a fun Hello Kitty lid! 😉 

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Temple visits

It’s been awhile since my last post. My apologies! I’ve been rather busy since I last updated, as Tet holiday ended and I started up work again. I also moved! I’ll post pictures as soon as I have everything unpacked and looking nice!

The day after Tet, I visited two temples with my friend’s family. It was a fascinating, but overstimulating day with what seemed like thousands of people, motorbikes, sights, sounds and smells. 

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This picture really doesn’t do give the true feeling of the number of people at the temple. Lots and lots of activity!image

An altar filled with gifts of paper hats and shoes, fruit, sweets and fake money, with maybe some real money mixed in as well. 

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Gives you a better idea of the vast number of people.

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Burning joss paper to send gifts to the gods. Gifts include paper money, shoes, hats, coins and flowers. Read more about this custom here

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On to the next temple! This man is writing down the family’s wishes in the new year in ancient Vietnamese (using Chinese characters). 

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Heading into the temple. So many people!

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Food picture:

Bánh đúc lạc. So far my least favorite. The pancake/patty itself isn’t too bad; it’s made up of rice flour and tapioca (and I read somewhere lime…as in the mineral) and has peanuts inside. The sauce, made of fermented soy bean paste, is what really gets me. Perhaps my tastebuds aren’t sophisticated enough, but it just tastes rotten to me!

Hoan Kiem Lake

My apartment is approximately a five minute walk from one of Hanoi’s most famous lakes, Hoan Kiem, or The Lake of the Returned Sword. Legend has it that Emperor Le Loi, who was emperor of Vietnam in the mid 1400s, was boating on the lake one day when a turtle emerged from the water, caught hold of Le Loi’s sword and dove back into the lake. The emperor declared that the Golden Turtle had come to redeem his sword, which he had given to the emperor in order to defeat the Chinese. The lake was then given the name it bears today in honor of this event. 

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Today, Hoan Keim Lake is a popular tourist attraction and offers tourists and locals alike a nice place to relax. In the evening, many people come to workout at the lake, either jogging around it or doing push-ups and pull-ups on equipment set up next to the lake. I’ve even noticed a few tourists joining in on the fun! Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures. I don’t think I would want someone to take my picture while working out, but I guess they are in public after all. 

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Tháp Rùa-“Turtle Tower”

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These flowers started appearing a few days ago. It seems like more decorations are added every day. The whole city is gearing up for Tet!

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Ooooh, at night. 

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View of the Ngoc Son Temple and Huc Bridge across the water. 

Random food picture(!):

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Probably not what you were expecting, but I saw this at the grocery store. I think it’s hilarious that the “free gift” that comes taped to your box of Froot Loops is a bag of Famous Amos cookies. MMM SUGAR!

Hiking in Malibu

Hikes with great views of the ocean are some of my favorites and Malibu offers plenty of those.  For me, there’s nothing quite like catching a glimpse of the ocean after climbing a steep trail. It makes it that much more worth it. This hike in Solstice Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains had some all around great scenery, including those ocean views I so love. 

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Night Markets and Things I Don’t Need

So I first realized that I might have done this a few days ago, but today it’s been confirmed: I left my camera in the U.S. AWESOME. I only moved to another country over 8,000 miles away. Why not leave my camera? Aarg. 

That just means that you’ll have a few more days (weeks?) of iPhone 3 pictures.

I live on an incredibly exciting (busy) street in Hanoi’s city center, in the  ”Old Quarter”, which has been around since the 13th century. At one time, each of the streets’ names corresponded with what could be found on that street. Everything could be bought here: silver, cotton, charcoal, tin, paper, combs, sails. The street I live on used to sell silk, but today it’s better known for selling clothing. The Old Quarter in Hanoi is chaotic, with hundreds of motorbikes, taxis, people selling all sorts of goods and a few tourists here and there. 

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I’ve shown you a similar picture before, but I want to compare day vs night.

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At night, my entire street turns into an open-air, pedestrian only (kind of ) market filled with clothing, shoes, toys, jewelry, decorative items and many other items that I don’t really need. 

The Old Quarter is rather touristy, so I’m pretty sure that’s the reason the night market is held on my street. Makes exploring easier, but it also means the market is fairly overpriced. 

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These are pretty awesome. I’m not sure what I would do with a beaded flower or bear, but I should probably get one. 

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YES. I want all of these. Especially the sheep. I don’t think I can keep myself from buying one next time. 

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This is not actually a stall at the night market, but a nearby shop. Need any balloons? 

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Just for good measure I’ll add a (blurry) picture of food again. I don’t know what this is. It looks like an egg here, but it’s not. I think the base is gelatinized rice and there are croutons. That’s all I know. 

I just spent 30 minutes on this post, but Tumblr decided to update itself in the middle of my writing so it didn’t get saved. Annoying.

Anyway, it’s been a productive week, only helped by the fact that I’m awoken every morning at 8am(or earlier) by loudspeakers. My biggest accomplishment has definitely been learning to cross the road by myself(woo!). I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered this skill, but it’s definitely getting there. I’ve also had two Vietnamese lessons. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing well, and other times I just feel like I’m making random sounds (Listen to the Vietnamese alphabet here.) My personal favorite sound is ng, which I don’t seem to have the ability to make. 

I’ve been gathering lots of pictures of tasty food, things sold at markets that I don’t need and some tourist attractions, but I don’t feel organized enough at the moment to create an actual post. So for now, here are some pictures of my apartment. 

I live on the second floor (first floor European) and I have a balcony! Yay! I would say this is a pretty typical house for Vietnam. Tall and skinny. 

This is the first floor/entry way to the building/occasional motorbike parking area. My landlady lives on this floor. 

Sorry this picture is such poor quality. This what you see when you walk into my apartment. 

My kitchen. Still don’t have microwave and I have one less burner than I did last year. I only have one saucepan though so I guess that doesn’t really matter. 

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Balcony that faces another building/”courtyard” with no grass. But I have a balcony! 

Bonus picture: a piece of jellyfish from this jellyfish salad. I didn’t actually try it though, so I can’t tell you what it tastes like!

I’m at my new (temporary?) apartment in Hanoi! So far I can’t say I’ve done much. What I can tell you is that after a night of unrestful, jetlagged sleep, I was awoken by several  entertaining (for now) happenings:

1: A rooster. At 5:30 in the morning. Perfect! I won’t ever need an alarm clock here. I’ve heard it’s better to wake up naturally anyway, though I’m not quite sure whoever said that meant the alarm clock itself should be natural…

2. Motorbikes. I was expecting this. Just take a look at this Google image search of traffic in Hanoi and you’ll see why. For the record, traffic does not last all night. I know this because I was up from about 3:30 to 4:30 this morning (thanks, jet-lag!) and only heard the occasional motorbike. 

3. Loudspeakers. Around 7 this morning, a loud, 80s style Vietnamese song floated in through my window. I’ve read that the loudspeakers around the city give announcements, but I’m fairly certain this was just music. Of course, I guess I wouldn’t know if they were in fact singing the announcements. 

4. A megaphone. Between the melodious sounds of morning announcements, someone was shouting through a megaphone. Once again, no idea why. What’s amazing though is as I’m writing this, someone has started to shout announcements again. Perfect timing! Must be telling me it’s time for bed. Here’s to a night of uninterrupted (that means you, jet-lag) sleep.! At least until the rooster crows. 

I’ll leave you with a picture of my new neighborhood:

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And this:

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Some “fresh tea” flavored mouthwash I found at the supermarket. I’ll have to try that..