Vietnam: Something something rhyming something

Hello ladies and germs! My god, I am hilarious.

Guys, please comment on my blogs. Mark gets all the love and I have resorted to begging. I will respond to anyone who comments with a personalized compliment and/or treasured memory about them that I would have otherwise kept to myself. Incentive!

We are in Hue, Vietnam now and today it reached 34 degrees Celsius. That’s 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit for those of you from the one country that refuses to switch to the vastly superior metric system (rhymes with Schmunited Shtates shmof Shmamerica). I’m not gonna lie, we are pretty gross and sweaty right now. On the plus side, I’ve been having freshly squeezed fruit juices daily in an attempt to cool down! Also, I procured some guava today, which is my absolute favourite fruit.

When we landed in Hanoi last week, it was much cooler. We had the foresight to arrange a hotel pickup from the airport, and there is basically nothing I like more than arriving at an airport and seeing a sign with my name on it…except for maybe arriving at an airport and being greeted by someone who is not paid to be there.

Our hotel was in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, which was right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. Our first impressions of Hanoi were that it was like a slightly less chaotic Indian city. There was a lot of car/motorcycle dodging and noise, but we got used to it after a day or two. We had five full days there, and aside from one or two main sights, we mostly just lost ourselves in the streets and had some incredible food.

That last photo is of a 400-year-old, six-foot-long GIANT TURTLE displayed in Ngoc Son temple.

We took a half-day cooking class while in Hanoi, and it was fantastic. The menu was “Street Food” and included spring rolls and barbecued pork. It felt so good to chop some onions. It was almost therapeutic.

We knew we wanted to visit Halong Bay, which is about a four-hour drive from Hanoi. It’s a 1500 square kilometre area filled with over 2000 limestone islands. It was recently named one of the new seven natural wonders of the world and we had heard tell of its beauty.  The most common way of visiting it is by taking a junk boat cruise through the bay. Because it’s such a popular tourist location, there are hundreds of companies offering this service, with an entire range of reviews and prices. We did hours of research and then just sort of picked one, but it turned out fantastically. This is not our boat, but it looked pretty much identical to this one:

This was our super schmancy cabin:

We were on the two-day, three-night cruise with 17 other travellers and a crew of about 8. Everyone on board was so friendly, and having the chance to have a bit of outside contact was really nice. When I travelled through Europe, many moons ago, a four-day gulet cruise through the Aegean was one of the absolute highlights of my trip, and I think Halong Bay will be right up there in our memories of this trip as well. The scenery was phenomenal. I have never seen anything like it and I don’t know if I ever will again.

The first night of the trip, we docked near a giant limestone cave and had a barbecue dinner surrounded by stalagmites and stalagtites.

The food and ambience were both amazing. They brought out course after course and each was accompanied by some incredibly carved fruit decorations. This is the very last one — it took the chef two hours to make and it’s a replica of our boat made from a watermelon and carrots.

The picture doesn’t even do it justice.

We did some kayaking, and would have gone swimming if it hadn’t been so cold and damp. Mostly we just gawked at the scenery — from the kayak, through our cabin window, from the deck of the boat.

We also visited a small floating village called Cong Dam and got to take a quick peek at the lives of the fishermen and their families. We visited the elementary school, which, aside from being only one room, looked suprisingly similar to an elementary school at home.

I won’t get started on the food, but let’s just say that it was some of the best food of this trip — and that includes our road trip. We were very lucky and happy. Plus, each meal ended with a plate of fresh fruit.

It was hard to drag ourselves away from the boat, but we have a lot to look forward to, including a two-day motorbike trip and some hardcore beach time coming up next!

This entry was posted in Asia, Good Eats, Highlights, Vietnam. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Vietnam: Something something rhyming something

  1. Wendy says:

    I hate to see a grown woman beg. Vietnam looks AMAZING!!!! Although each time I think of you being there, Country Joe & the Fish pop into my head.
    Enjoy the motorcycle trip…can you please get tattoos (fake ones are okay) for the trip…I feel it would be appropriate…and if Mark can grow a handlebar stache…even better!

    • Pia says:

      Compliment: You make incredible Christmas ornaments and they actually make me want a tree!

      Memory: You, me, 2/3 Garrison brothers, vodka, Troll 2. Amazing.

  2. Kristina says:

    Hey Pia! Your trip continues to blow me away. You guys are amazing; you seem to have an inexhaustible sense of adventure, shocking, at your guys’ ages 😉 Your photos are fantastic and they are definitely inspiring me to pay more attention to my surroundings on my next adventure. Any chance you’re visiting my motherland (ie. my mother’s land)? Bohol is supposed to be beautiful. Anyway, hope the trip continues to astound and excite all the senses.

    (Feel privileged because this is the first time I’ve ever commented on a blog.)

    • Pia says:

      Hey buddy! Trust me, we do NOT have an inexhaustible sense of adventure. Most nights we are in bed by 10 pm and sometimes I get incredibly annoyed at the thought of packing my bag.

      Not visiting up the Phillipines this trip, but we ARE planning for Iceland! Those two things are not related.

      Compliment: You make the best mix cds ever.

      Memory: Hmm, so many. Our weird communist grade 9 group; seeing Star Wars in the theatre, sitting next to you on the first day of grade 7. I owe you a letter!

  3. Corinna Cochrane says:

    Hey guys,
    Awesome pics!!! I love that turtle :) I love that picture of the two of you…super cute :) I got your postcard….I love getting non-bill mail!!!! Happy Travels:)

    • Pia says:

      Compliment: You and Colin made a damn cute baby. Also I love your sarcasm.

      Memory: All the terrible movies we insist on watching. Just…all of them.

  4. Nicole says:

    Your blog is a big highlight for me each week! Love the pictures and your wonderful sense of humour. It’s great that you two took a cooking course as well. It looks like you’re achieving a nice balance!

    • Pia says:

      I don’t know you, so I can’t leave you a treasured memory…but I’m ass-over-teakettle in love with your sister and I hope we can meet up when we’re back!

      Your compliment is that you obviously have incredible taste in blogs :)

  5. Paul Garrison says:

    Hi Pia and Mark:
    Your cruise sounds fantastic and the islands look so amazing. It`s a side of Vietnam that I wasn`t aware of. What an unforgettable trip!

    • Pia says:

      Thanks bro!

      Compliment: You are obviously the best Trivial Pursuit player on Earth. Even when slightly half-cut.

      Memory: Hey, uh, remember that time you performed our wedding ceremony instead of that other awful guy? But then he totally talked anyway? But you were way better than him? That was nice.

  6. Pia says:

    Wow! Look at all these TOTALLY UNSOLICITED comments! I will respond individually.

  7. Mother Thomas says:

    Those photos of your cruise remind me of the mountains I saw in Guilin, China. The cooking lesson must have been lots of fun. The roads and sights look really interesting and colorful and make me want to go there sometime soon. You look happy and like you ‘re having a great time. Go forth, happy travellers!!

    • Pia says:

      Thanks “Mother Thomas”.

      Compliment: You make delicious (Mark says “the best”) appams. And…I really love that vintage Le Creuset you gave me. Skype next week?

  8. Heidi says:

    Hi You Two!!!

    So jealous right now. It looks like gorgeous scenery!!! Why does it look like you too are still so cold? Isn’t it warming up yet? If I right comments more often will you update the blog more often? I totally am living life vicariously through you and read your blog as a procrastination tool at work.

    Miss you!

    • Pia says:

      Hey older lady,

      So excited for Italy!

      Compliment: You have the prettiest hair of anyone I know. I will also owe you forever for waking up at 4 a.m. with me on my wedding day and singing Broadway songs to make me laugh.

  9. Dave, Shannon, Casey & Remy says:

    Pia, we love your blog posts! They are way funnier than that other guy who posts here sometimes.

    In honour of your visit to Vietnam, tonight we are eating dragon fruit imported from Vietnam just for the occasion. Remy, especially, loves it, though we’re sure it’s not as good as eating it there.

    Next week (week 1 of spring break) we are going to Portland. The food won’t likely be as good as you’ve been having lately, but we do plan to make a visit to Voodoo Donuts. Note the Bacon Maple Bar!

    Please keep blogging!

    • Pia says:

      Garrisons! All four of you are the best. Have an amazing time in Portland — if you have time, visit Mother’s in Portland. Best biscuits and gravy I have ever had!

  10. Eve says:

    Note to self: do not read this blog when hungry.
    The food on here looks AMAZING, I can only imagine how good it tastes. Well, got to get back to my PB & J – boo

    • Pia says:

      I know, the food is incredible.

      Compliment: You know more about “Seinfeld” than any other person I know (except maybe the other Sychla sister). Also, you’re a great mom.

      • Pia says:

        Also, I just remembered how pissed off you were when we watched “The Lake House” and how you, like, researched it on the internet and then called to tell me all about the theories regarding it. I loved that.

  11. Vanessa says:

    Those little islands you saw remind me of the ones in “how to train your dragon.” haha do you like how most of my comments end up back at a disney movie?? btw you don’t need to compliment me…I know i’m amazing!!! haha j/k

    • Pia says:

      Never seen that movie, but I’ll take your word on it.

      Memory: “Let’s do something CRAAAAAAAAAAZY!” (cut to: You, me and Kris at Boston Pizza at 2 a.m….SANS BRAS!!!)

  12. Lynn says:

    what is that fruit in the last pic? Not the watermelon, but the other one. It looks tasty. Please describe.

    • Pia says:

      That fruit is called dragonfruit…it’s incredibly beautiful, but I’m not so fond of the taste. It kind of has the consistency of a kiwi, but not much intensity to the flavour. Mark says that you can get one at Fairway Market if you want to! According to Dave’s comment above, Remy loves it.

      Memory: Your damn “flirtinis” that got me into a lot of trouble one night.

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