Your Next Meal…

Author: Eulain


Everybody knows you can eat,

Vegetables, pastas and meat.

Have you ever stoped to try,

A huge gooey bull’s eye?

How would you like a cat,

Or maybe a big black rat?

Maybe just some dog,

But, not a poisonous frog.

Susu is another story,

Fried with morning-glory.

Maybe snail or slug,

Or some other bug?

A spider or snake,

Really this isn’t fake.

But please, I’d prefer,

Only noodles in my Phó!

– Eulain –

Saigon And The Mekong

Author: Jarik

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC or Saigon) is the only place where our bags got heavier – significantly heavier. The city is a shopper’s paradise. We were in the market for sporting goods as both Mariza and Eulain required new trail running shoes (again) and a quick look at the labels confirmed that the shoes that we bought in Europe and South America had their origins in Vietnam. The challenge was clear. We had to find “originals” at a bargain price in a city that is littered with knock-offs. Even our morning runs through the streets and in the large inner-city parks turned into a scouting expedition for sporting equipment stores. The city parks are very well maintained and early in the morning they are filled with hundreds of keen exercisers playing badminton, doing yoga, hopping in groups to the beat of loud music, stretching, shaking, running or walking. In our experience, this placed HCMC on par with Budapest when it came to enthusiasm for public exercise.

Our quest was filled with perils. Firstly, there was the onslaught of hard selling vendors who only relented when you turned your back and walked away, and even then some would persist. Then there was the sheer number of shops and stalls that all seem to sell very similar wares, all at very different prices. To get to the best price you have to complete the haggling process a number of times for any given item. But what finally proved to be our downfall, was the constant barrage of desirable goods at attractive prices that made us lose all sense of reason and objectivity. In the end we loaded our backpacks not only with two pairs of new shoes, but also with eleven new exercise shirts, three shorts and about fifteen meters of dress fabric!

Heaving under the much heavier load and eternally grateful that we did not buy the six hammocks we haggled down to just under $1 each, we left HCMC for a week in the Mekong Delta. We spent most of our time in the cities of Can Tho and Chau Doc. One of the highlights of Can Tho was puttering through an early morning floating market in a longboat. Water vessels of all sizes congregate to exchange wares at a particular bend in the river, identifying their produce on offer by hoisting a sample up like a flag on a long pole on the boat. Weaving between the boats and barges of fruit, vegetables, timber and other products, peddlers in little rowboats offer coffee and noodle soup to the dawn merchants and their clientele. We spent the rest of the day exploring little canals lined with stilted homes flanked by rice paddies. The way of life is so vastly different from ours.


In Chau Doc, our hotel was on the main square and only two blocks away from the Mekong River. From our fourth-floor balcony, we had the perfect view of the informal food market that sprung up every evening. Over a basic noodle soup dinner we had a delightful conversation, in very broken English, with the stall owner. We were some of the very few tourists in the city and caused quite a stir and drawing many side remarks. The city mostly functions as a local border stop-over between Vietnam and Cambodia. The next day, our morning run took us right through the centre of the large local market. No touristy souvenirs or sportswear here! We had to side-step and duck a few times to get through the malaise of baskets, buckets and tables covered by low tarpaulins, much to the amusement of everyone. One of the things that we enjoyed about our runs in every city is that it usually took us a little deeper into the neighbourhoods at a time of the day when there was still a lot of household activities going on. Chau Doc was no different and our sweat was rewarded with many colourful sights, a lot of hellos and waves from children and parents getting ready for the day.

Very fittingly, we left Vietnam on the Mekong, heading to Cambodia on board a twenty-five passenger high speed ferry. It is a surprisingly broad river with a lot of activity. A six hour trip took us (and our heavy backpacks) to Phnom Penh and the eighteenth country we arrive in during the past eight months of travel. We have been to Vietnam! (And we have a lot to show for it!)

– Jarik –

My Amazing Birthday!

Author: Kali

From the moment I was awakened by beautiful singing, to being lulled to sleep by the steady clack-clack and rock of the train, I had a fabulous time! My family spoilt me in every possible way from swimming and playing on the beach and having ice cold mango smoothies at the beach bar, to even balloons on my train bed. I was showered with many gifts, goodies and cards and squeezed so many times it felt as if I would burst.

I laughed as the others told me the ordeal of firstly finding a bakery, choosing a cake, trying to explain the flavours and decoration to a Vietnamese speaking lady, only to end up receiving a cake that has ‘collect 21/10’ decoratively written on it.

Eulain and I spent some precious moments together. Every time I would look over to Eulain, my ‘sand castle building’ buddy, she would draw a heart or write a short message for me in the brown sand. Esto clung to me like syrup and did every possible thing (including a two man bodysurf!) with a large smile and a high five. Ruzow knows me so well! He outdid himself and organised practically everything and worked hard in preparation and planning to make the day special.

Mum made a huge fuss about me turning five and not being a toddler anymore. Well mum… double that and add four! The years have flown by fast. Too fast! I loved every second of the exciting, surprising and unforgettable day with my amazing family. I wish this year, the adventure in particular, would never end!


Until next time,


Quy Nhon, A Beach City With No Foreign Tourists

Author: Ruzow

Quy Nhon is a quiet beach city on the coast of Vietnam. We spent four days there and quickly grew to love it.


The city has a more local atmosphere than any of the other cities we have visited in Vietnam. There are street-side restaurants with little tables and stools everywhere, that serve everything from snails to sea serpents. A curious thing I noticed is that it seems to be a Quy Nhon custom that, when at a restaurant, all unwanted food and rubbish are simply discarded under the table. A concept completely foreign to me. The local men also seem to have a love for drinking warm beer with ice and having a go at street karaoke. This is extremely painful to listen to!

My favourite drink in Vietnam and also a Quy Nhon speciality, is a mango smoothie. The best was the one we had at Aloo Café. We sat at a little street table while enjoying our rich and creamy beverages. Quy Nhon also has delicious, fresh and really strange seafood. When you arrive at a restaurant the first things that meet your eyes, are containers full of live sea creatures waiting to appear on your plate. After having a few different meals, I decided that Bap (a type of fish) served with spring rolls was definitely my favourite. I will, however, not go back for the huge clams.


A nice way to start the day in the city is a stroll or a jog along the beach promenade followed by a swim in the ocean. The city itself is very beautiful, clean and well maintained and there are gardens and parks everywhere.

Walking along the beach during the late afternoon/early evening, was amazing. The beach was bustling with people playing football and volleyball, along with people sitting at the little drink shacks.

There weren’t more than a handful of tourists while we were there. This is exactly what we hoped for. An authentic Vietnamese city experience.

– Ruzow –

Hom and Tao

Author: Kali

The hand waved us across the road and down the muddy slope. The old man was lying on the back of his water buffalo! The poor beast looked exhausted, lying with it’s head between it’s hooves and ears drooping. However, that large head slowly lifted up in curiosity as we approached.

Friendly man waving us over

The man wore a pair of dirt encrusted trousers and a white collar shirt that could’ve been mistaken for brown. He wore a stained conical on his head, shielding his face from the afternoon sun.

He introduced himself as “Hom”, shook each of our hands enthusiastically, and pointed to the large animal still lying in the dirt and said slowly and repeatedly, “Tao”. Tao’s head lifted slightly at the mention of his name and then stood up and came closer.

At first I was quite frightened. A water buffalo is a big animal, with big horns and big hooves and big teeth. Hom saw that all of us were drawing back a little. He gently took my hand in his rough, wrinkled hand and set it carefully on Tao’s hairy back. Soon, poor Tao was being handled like a pet kitten.

I was curious to know how old this massive beast was. I asked Hom, he either didn’t seem to hear or didn’t understand. However, a second later, he knelt down and carefully wrote something in the dirt with his fore finger: “50”! We were surprised and impressed. Hom looked with pride at Tao and gave him an affectionate slap on his neck.

Unexpectedly, Hom took me by the arm and led me towards the right side of Tao. He gestured for me to throw my left leg across the buffalo’s broad back, while at the same time he would lift me. After a few seconds I was sitting up on Tao’s back. It felt really strange! Eulain joined me and Hom led us as we walked a few paces. I never imagined that I would ride on the back of a water buffalo!

Until next time,



The Enchantment of Hoi An

Author: Jarik

Ten thousand colourful lanterns cast little circles of enchantment all through the pedestrian lanes of the historical river side town. Their reflections dance cheerfully on the water where more lanterns float in between the rowboats that carry the couples that set the lanterns adrift to garner themselves good fortune. The aroma of sweet, strong Vietnamese coffee drifting from the dimly lit corner coffee shops intermingles with the smoky flavours from the water side food stalls, while the muffled conversations drifting from the patron filled restaurants carry warmly through the streets. The intoxicating mixture brings cheer to everyone that set their feet to the streets. We have a wonderful time exploring Hoi An, from our arrival at dusk, continuing late into the evening. Our hotel is only two blocks from the historical centre. A little oasis with a pool and tidy rooms.




Early the next morning we run 5km through rice paddies and vegetable gardens to An Bang Beach. The shoreline is dotted with palm frond umbrellas and brightly coloured beach chairs. Ordering a drink and the promise to order lunch, give us the right of use of a set of chairs for the day. The children do not let the opportunity go by to swim and bodyboard and we are equally enthusiastic to sample the cold beer. Across the bay we can see Da Nang, an up and coming tourist destination. It has probably more than twenty new high-rise seafront resorts under construction, representing all the international leisure groups. A new Gold Coast in the making. On An Bang Beach, however, there are no buildings or infrastructure other than the beach shacks, so the beach is blissfully unspoilt – true luxury!


Sun kissed, we stroll back to Ho An later the afternoon, looking forward to continue the evening under the spell of the enchanted place. It does not disappoint, rewarding us with a delightful dinner as we sit under strings of colourful lanterns floating above a terrace, overlooking the light filled river. Fortune has found us. We just smile and drink even deeper.

– Jarik –


Islands In The Storm – Cat Ba & Ha Long Bay

Author: Mariza

As I run down the little hill and around the bend in the soft drizzle, I feel completely overwhelmed. In front of me, a little ways into the stormy ocean, are what look like pieces of mountain floating in the sea. Rough and high and breathtakingly beautiful. The little piece of beach is just about covered under the rough high tide. Loungers under palm umbrellas are the only indication that this must be a resort hotel. Fancy one. That, however, hides behind the hedge. To either side of it there is nothing but nature. Stunning, stunning, stunning!!!

I run towards the hotel staff at the gate to ask where the reception is. Because they speak no English and I am dripping with sweat, they direct me instead to a path that I would never have found otherwise. A wooden walkway hugging the side of the hill, all ocean on the other side, lures me further and further away from the place I feel we have to move into that very day. No buildings along the way and no people either. Only much later does the path dead end on another beach. By now it is raining rather hard, so I turn around to search for the reception I never found.

We arrived on the island of Cat Ba the day before and spent our first night in the Full Moon Party Hotel. It totally lives up to its name and it is more of a backpackers hostel than a hotel. By the morning we are very ready to move on. While the rest surf the net to look for other accommodation, I stumble upon heaven down the hill.

Finally at reception, I discover two things. The place is way above our budget and it currently has a special for the exact time we would want to stay there. Not that the special is good enough to bring it down to our budget, but my heart is singing. I know this gorgeous piece of earth was created just for me.

For the next few days a storm rages so badly that none of the boats can go out to sea. We ride it out in comfort and luxury overlooking the ocean. My heaven down the hill has a fabulous gym for me (since there would be no outside running in this weather) and a lovely big pool for the kids. Life is good!


We end our Cat Ba adventure with a cruise through Ha Long Bay in perfect weather. What a spectacular experience! Exactly what we hoped for. We lounge on the deck, kayak between the floating islands, enjoy delicious Vietnamese cuisine and swim in the emerald green ocean. Our kids are, of course, the first ones to jump from the top sundeck of our boat. The rest of us soon join in. Heaps of fun. Swimming to a deserted beach is another highlight. It is easy to see why Ha Long Bay is a world heritage site. Unspoilt nature at its glorious best.



Two bus rides and a speed boat in between deliver us back to Hanoi where we hop on an overnight train to Hue. As we lie on our hard bunks reminiscing, I feel very loved and very blessed.

– Mariza –

Hanoi And The Rice Paddies Of Sapa

Author: Jarik

Two facts have we learnt about Hanoi. The first is that everyday life happens on the sidewalks and the second is that every evening is a celebration.

The tree lined maze of narrow streets in the old quarter of Hanoi is an absolute feast. Toddler sized tables and stools of the roadside eateries spill into the sidewalks, crammed in between parked scooters and street vendor carts. It is easier to walk in the road than to try and weave your way through the barber chairs, plastic buckets, scooter workshops, food baskets, cooking utensils, cooking utensil manufacturers, daybeds and millions of parked scooters. Our hostel is right in the middle of the eclectic ensemble, down a narrow lane. The entrance is next to dozens of buckets of sea creatures and vegetables that are being made ready for the hungry customers of the eatery next door. The pineapples are sweet and we end up having one each, every day, from the friendly lady that sells them from the back of her scooter around the corner from our hostel. We have pho at a couple of places, mostly sitting on the toddler chairs while watching the scooters speed by carrying anything from tables to building materials.


Day gives way to night suddenly in these parts, flinging the doors wide open for everyone to take to the streets for some kind of celebration. Every little eatery has an extra row of tables and stools set out and the cooking fires burn everywhere. We discover that there is a children’s festival of some sort that night and walk mesmerised through crowded streets with lanterns dangling from the trees overhead. Toys and treats of every desire are on offer with a festive drum beat urging parents to forget all boundaries.

The next night we venture to the Hoan Kiem Lake, a landmark of the old city. There are people everywhere, taking photographs, eating ice cream, watching street performers, having coffee or just walking around the lake. The mere mass of people turns the three-lane road into a pedestrian way with vehicles barely inching through the crowd. On our return to Hanoi from trekking in Sapa a few days later (more of that below), we again run into festivities. This time dragon dancers in full costume and again a sea of people.

From Hanoi, we head to Sapa for a three day trek through the colourful mountainside rice fields of northern Vietnam. The overnight sleeper-bus is a new, surprisingly comfortable experience and we arrive early morning, ready for a couple of active days. We start the trek by waiting in a hotel lobby, drinking super sweet and super strong Vietnamese coffee for just over three hours. After that, our friendly guide and homestay host Chi, urges us and six other hikers into a mini-bus taxi and we head into the hills. The first day of hiking is an easy walk following a paved path through the hills interrupted by mad scrambles to pull our ponchos over our heads to shield us from unpredictable bouts of rain. To our disappointment, we have missed the rice harvest by about two weeks, and all the rice paddies that we hoped would be painted in different hues of yellow and gold, are only stubble filled muddy ponds. Life in the countryside is nevertheless interesting and we pass through numerous little homesteads with ducks, geese, pigs, chickens and water buffalo roaming freely. Arriving at Chi’s house, we are all assigned beds. Our family gets to sleep on floor mattresses in the loft, next to the mountain of bags containing our host’s rice harvest for the year.

The magic, however, starts an hour before dinner when Eulain asks Saum, our host’s ten year old daughter, if she can help with dinner preparations. Huge piles of morning glory get washed by the two girls, both sitting on their haunches in front of big buckets in the wet side of the kitchen. In the dry side of the dimly lit kitchen, the other five members of our family join in to help with the picking, peeling, chopping and slicing, passing vegetables to be washed to the two girls. An everyday chore becomes an intimate moment shared between the two families. After the modest feast, we all (kids included) are served a shot of home brewed rice wine. Not for the fainthearted!

The next day brings more rain, but mid-morning we and a friendly young couple from Israel, declare that a bit of water is not to be feared, and we set of for a hike to the waterfall. Both the hike and waterfall are disappointing, but the conversations are beautiful. After a leisurely lunch, Tom and Jenna leave for Hanoi and we return to Chi’s house where we have a languid afternoon. All six of us hope that the next day would be more active, but know that it is very unlikely that this tourist trap would hold any real excitement. At about eleven in the morning of the third day of the supposedly three days of scenic hiking, we get a taxi from the homestay back to the town of Sapa. It is hard to look past the disappointment of the unmet expectations. However, as we share our daily highlights with each other, we realise that finding the treasures in the people around us, even in seemingly insignificant moments, can be as beautiful as a hike in the mountains.

– Jarik –

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