Friday, June 19, 2009

Vietnam 1


So much travel to post about. We were in Vietnam from May 19 through June 14. We had a great month visiting the country where Hung was born. We started our trip at Hung's oldest brother's house in Ho Chi Minh City. Huynh and his family moved to Vietnam last summer from Bangkok. This is Huynh's first time living back in Vietnam since he was 14 years old.

The pace and energy of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) was startling. This city is growing and moving at an amazing pace. New buildings are going up all around the city and there is no sign of a slowdown. The first thing you notice when you step out onto the streets of HCMC are number of motorbikes. There are so many motorbikes. As residents have grown more prosperous and cheap imports have come in from China (Honda motorbikes average between $400 to $1000), more and more people have switched from bicycles to motorbikes. We were talking to a friend that grew up in Vietnam, he said a couple years ago every family had one motorbike but today every member of the family owns a motorbike. I can only imagine what traffic will be like when motorbikes turn into cars, this city does not yet have the infrastructure to support a million cars.

Hung and his Nephews, Ryan and Jeffrey and Hung's childhood best friend, Darian. Ryan and Jeffrey were ready for a day of school at the British International School--don't they look cute in their uniforms! Darian met us and travelled with us for a whirlwind week.
Hung and Darian after a breakfast of Pho (hot Vietnamese noodle soup). We ate at the Pho restaurant where Bill Clinton ate during his visit to Vietnam.
Motorbikes!
Touring the reunification palace in Ho Chi Minh. This was the site of the official handover of power on April 30, 1975.
Chilis and Limes

-amb

Monday, May 25, 2009

Photo Catch Up-Cinque Terre


We had planned for two days in Cinque Terre and after being there for an hour decided to extend our stay for four days. We missed out on Rome but feel lucky about the extra days in Cinque Terre. We spent our days hiking between the small towns and enjoyed great meals centered around the very fresh seafood every evening.


The giant on the beach in Monterosso.
We met a fellow North Carolinian! Our new friend, Susan, shared a great dinner by the ocean with us in Monterosso.

Peeking in on a chef hard at work.
-amb

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Photo Catch Up-Paris



Some photos from our five days in Paris. Paris in the Springtime...Magnifique!

Walking in Jardin du Luxembourg

The toy boats in the garden

Hung crossing the Seine
A quick bite of a baguette, touring builds up an appetite!
Really good cookies--Macaron. Macarons are sandwich-like pastries made with two thin cookies and a cream or ganache between the cookies.Ready to tour the Louvre


After touring the Louvre
Arc De TriumphHung risks standing in the middle of the Champs Elysees for a beautiful shot.


Setting up a temporary office at the local McDonald's. Wi-Fi pronounced Wee-Fee. For some reason this makes us giggle. The small things I guess.
An iPhone advertisement at the train station
-amb

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh


Last Tuesday night, we landed in Ho Chi Minh. We passed through customs quickly and Hung's oldest brother, Hyunh picked us up outside the airport. My first impression of the streets--a beehive--constant motion and activity. Motorcylcles are everywhere and sometimes there are four people riding on one together. When I drive, I am an overly cautious driver, I'm not sure how the drivers build up the courage to drive on these crazy streets. I was very happy to be safely buckled in the backseat of the car and letting an experienced driver maneuver though the traffic.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Como Pictures




Bellissimo!


Yesterday, we took the train from Nice, France to Lake Como, Italy. As we stepped off the train, I felt as though I had been placed into a postcard. We are staying in one of the most beautiful areas I've ever seen--a town named Bellagio. Bellagio is a little town located on a narrow strip of land that divides Lake Como into two branches. The "streets" are mainly pebbly, steep staircases that wander through a village built into the hillside. Since it is early May, tourist season isn't in full swing. Most of the people we are passing on the street are local. Life here feels unhurried and peaceful.

Hung takes a nap as we depart Nice and French Riviera. The train from Nice to Milan followed the coastline for most of the journey. A scenic four hour train ride. To be efficient we usually prefer night trains, but the view is worth travel by day.


View from the train window.

A town on the shores of lake Como.

Getting off the train in Varenna. A one hour train ride from Milan.
On the ferry from our Varenna to Bellagio.
Dinner starts with Melon and Prosciutto. We ate at a small restaurant named, San Giacomo. We were told that in the middle of summer, the waits for one of the eight tables can be long.
Pebbly steep stairs. Beautiful.
Happy after a dinner of good pasta and vino. I am on my way to call my dad using Skype. If we have a WiFi connection, I can make calls using the Skype Application on the iPhone. I was able to talk to Jason last night for pennies a minute--technology amazes me!
-amb

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blogging and Eating Once Again...

Amie and I have just eased away from Paris’ “Gare de Lyon” train station as we are destined this evening to Nice, France along the renown French Riviera. We are sitting on the upper deck of a high-speed TGV or “Train de Grand Vitesse”. I gaze upon France’s pastoral, rolling countryside gathering in the blooming flowers, lazily grazing cows, and rustic farmhouses. I have to only look up from my laptop to realize that we have been on the road for 10 days already.

Amie is the natural choice to manage our blog. As any of you have met us, it is pretty obvious that she is the more charming and outgoing half. She very much cares that your birthday is not forgotten, thank you cards are sent, and that you are never are too distant from our thoughts. She has a Facebook account; I still persevere to resist. After our wedding, Amie spent 2 restless nights because we had yet to resolve each present with the guest. She was horrified to think that each person would not receive a custom thank-you note! Not such an encouraging development for our honeymoon, but I quickly deduced who sent us that last present. So not surprisinly, Amie is the Editor-In-Chief of RumblingStumbling.com. She has recently, cautiously requested my viewpoints, so I agreed to be a contributing columnist.

My adventure began before we even left for London. I wanted to be in the right frame of mind as we started our around-the-world journey, and knowing that we were to be on the road for 10 straight weeks eating different foods at odd times, I had decided to go on a modest 4-day spiritual fast. I planned to meditate on the blessings of this trip, and I would restrict my diet to all natural fruit juices such as Odwalla, V-8, etc. Most doctors and nutritionists state that the average person can go 4 to 6 weeks without food. However, a person can only last up to 3 days without water so I felt fairly confident at the outset that I could survive 4 days without food if I could maintain ample hydration. Though I was telling myself that I was getting more than sufficient nourishment from the fruit juices, my thoughts kept turning to incessant images of salty, sweet, and fatty hamburger, pizza, and ice cream commercials on television. As the end of the fast approached on Wednesday evening, admittedly I was getting a bit delirious in my food-deprived condition. I began to rummage and take stock of our kitchen pantry. I wasn’t going to tarnish my fast by eating something as bad as potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, or donuts; but rather I spied before me a box of moist, sweet, and delicious granola bars.

One of Amie’s sidelights is to send off for free samples in the mail. She likes to try new things so its natural that we’ll try a product that we might buy in the future. However, I am perplexed by some of the things that she requests. We have received samples of diapers (we don’t have a baby), lawncare products (we do not have a lawn), and just a whole host of knick-knacks. Amie will argue that she is getting the sample for a friend or family member. I often wonder what our mailman thinks when he makes his deliveries. For the most part, I am supportive as this endeavor is seemingly harmless and does not cost anything. However, my principal issue from all these samples is that they lack a coherent and natural structure within our home. We all accumulate stuff, and even at the moment that we acquired said product, we're thinking and knowing exactly where we are going to store it away waiting for just the right moment when we are really going to need it. I don't like nor drink Jack Daniels, but I do particularly like the design and aesthetics of those little mini bottles that you would get on an airline flight or hotel room. I now have a meaningful array of these bottles and have even designated a special shelf for them in my home office just waiting for that houseguest who would particularly enjoy a coca-cola with a splash of Jack Daniels. We have natural nooks and crannies where we put our personal collections -- books, cds, movies, pans, grains, foodstuffs – items we think we might use. But where do you put a supply of items that you ABSOLUTELY do not have any use?

So at the end of my fast, near delirium, I smile serenely acknowledging the good monk that I have been. As I open my mouth to munch on my long-anticipated granola bar, Amie marches into the kitchen and gasps, “What are you doing? That is a Dog Treat Bone!”

What in the world is a “Greenie” doing in the box of granola bars?
I got it as a sample a few months ago, and didn’t know where to put it!
We don’t even have a dog!
Some of our friends have dogs!
You put it in the box of granola bars?
They have a similar shape. Where are you going?

My gosh…this fast is over…if I can make my way down to McDonald’s, I’m getting myself a bacon cheeseburger.

It’s time to fly.

Happy mother’s day to Loi Bui and Lucie Mallett, And all the moms out there.

Hnb

P.S. For a free sample of a "Greenie", go to www.greenies.com

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Night out in London

Amanda, a British friend living in New York, happened to be in London visiting. Perfect timing!
We stopped by a local pizza restaurant, The Yard. Hung and I shared a Duck pizza!

The quest for WiFi in Paris continues. The price for WiFi at our hotel is over the top, so we continue to seek out places giving away free WiFi. This morning, we are sitting at the local McDonald's. WiFi--Free and Coffee -- 1 Euro, bargains in the this expensive city.

Hopefully we'll have better connectivity in Italy. We leave for Paris tomorrow. Overnight train departs from Gare de Lyon around 10:00 pm and arrives at Milano Central at 5:30 am. *

*Editorial note: We have just been informed that all trains to Milan sold out on Sunday (we were skeptical but the three ticket agents we talked to were firm on this) So tomorrow we are headed to the South of France. Destination for one night, Nice.

-amb

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Sunny Day in London Town




Bright sunshiny weather kicked off our first full in London. We started out the day by hopping on the first bus that stopped in front of Nick and Maria's flat. We had no idea where we were going but it felt like a day for letting serendipity takeover. We saw the sights from the upper deck of city buses, strolled the streets, popped into museums, window shopped and snacked our way through the day.

Kids playing in the garden pool at the Victoria and Albert
Lemon trees at the Victoria & Albert

We ordered tea and scones from the snack bar at the Victoria & Albert. Sat on the lawn and let the sunshine warm our faces. The garden is such a peaceful retreat in middle of the the bustling city.

Hung stands next to a giant sloth
at the Natural History Museum

Main hall of the Natural History Museum

Closeup of the Arches--Can you see the monkeys?

Me admiring the pretty hall
-amb