Ho Chi Minh City Travel Diaries | Motorbike chaos, Pho, Mekong Delta…

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I recently travelled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and it was one of the most overwhelmingly chaotic and yet beautiful cities I have ever been to. I was greeted by swarms of motorbikes, locals selling produce, smog, smiling faces and the smell of steamed rice.

Our first stop was the Cu Chi tunnels, a remnant of the Vietnam War used by the Viet Cong to stay out of enemy sight. The tour took us into the tunnels and showed us hideous booby traps used on American soldiers, including hidden pits filled with rust covered spokes. The tunnels themselves were very narrow (about 1m x 1m x 1m), and crawling through them in the darkness was spine tingling…definitely not for someone who is claustrophobic.

Most nights we gorged on Pho (pronounced fur), a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup dish with meats such as beef or chicken. The most authentic Pho we had was from a restaurant called Pho 2000 where we had our meal for AU$4.00 each amongst lots of locals.

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Another must do in the city is to go to a nail salon (if it’s your thing). All the nail treatments are incredibly cheap but very professional. I treated myself to nail art, getting a mini masterpiece of colourful birds and flowers blossoming on each fingernail. In the afternoon we strolled about the main district of the city (District 1) showing off our nails and sampling several cakes with intricate cream icing designs from their amazing bakeries.

On the third day we took a full day tour on the Mekong Delta (a maze of rivers that snake through Vietnam) where we got a taste of local life on various islands on the outskirts of Vietnam, such as Unicorn Island.

The best part was floating along a river between two islands on a Vietnamese long boat. In some places the river was carpeted by green moss, which parted as the boat waded through. Surrounding us were leaves that feathered out from the trees in the silence we could hear water licking the banks and birds chirruping. It was magical.

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For lunch we had buffet of traditional meals such as beef rib Pho, an assortment of fried and steamed fish, spring rolls, steamed veggies and soup, all complimented with big jugs of their cheap Tiger beer. After lunch we entered a different world to the busy Ho Chi Minh City centre, as we explored the island on bicycles and saw locals picking fruits from the trees and collecting honey.

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Ho Chi Minh city was a unique and eye-opening experience and I will come back to explore Hanoi and Ha Long bay. Next stop Thailand!

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Juniper green, to capture the rich colours of the rivers and the jungle

Healthy Flourless Banana Pancake Recipe

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Every now and again I have a sudden craving for pancakes, however, with all the usual flour and cane sugar I feel a little guilty eating them too often.

So, I devised a simple and healthier alternative recipe: Banana Pancakes. These use banana as a sweetener to avoid spoonfuls of cane sugar.

You only need 3 ingredients for the batter and this recipe makes around 3 medium sized pancakes. Each pancake is very filling, which saves you from snacking for the rest of the day.

You will need:

  •  1/2 a very ripe banana
  •  1 egg
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal

Place all the ingredients in a blender and pulse together until smooth and runny. Add a dribble of milk (I use almond) if mixture is too dry.

Then pour into a hot pan, greased with coconut oil, and fry until golden brown.

Lots of toppings are delicious with this recipe, but I usually go for a tablespoon of vanilla yogurt and garnish with chopped blueberries or strawberries.

This is a perfect fix for a nice breakfast in bed, and is a much healthier and more filling alternative to conventional flour-based pancakes.

Enjoy!

xx

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Violet red for a delicious breakfast

 

 

 

My Travel Work Out Routine

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Keeping up the motivation to workout every day is tough and it’s even harder when I’m traveling.  Usually, when I’m on holiday all I want to do after a day of sight-seeing is crash on the hotel bed.

However, exercising is so integral to making me feel good that I try to squeeze in at least 30 minutes (burns roughly 300 calories) of exercise per travel day. Instead of relying on the hotels having a gym, I either choose to work out to a particular fitness video, or I do Tabata training.

Tabata training is a Japanese workout method that features doing high intensity interval training for short periods of time, with shorter rest. There are lots of different Tabata workouts, but I like the one I have created because it works my whole body:

For each set (each number), there are 5 repetitions, 20 seconds each with 10 seconds rest.

  1. Star jumps
  2. Push ups
  3. Sit ups
  4. Tricep dips
  5. Lunges
  6. Jumps (getting your knees to your chest)

This whole workout is quite short, which is perfect for squeezing in when travelling, and can be done in your hotel room in front of the TV because it doesn’t rely on equipment. If you want to work yourself for longer, obviously you can do more reps or do the whole workout twice through.

If I am feeling like a more intense workout or I need a source of motivation I use a video I have downloaded onto my phone from Youtube. There are thousands of workout videos on Youtube, but this particular video is my favourite because the personal trainers are really positive and encouraging, which is great because I have zero motivation for fitness when I’ve spent the day relaxing.

Again this workout doesn’t require any equipment, which is essential because who wants to fill up their suitcase with 10kg of weights.

I know it’s really tough to exercise on holiday but I find it does leave me feeling happier and healthier, and more excited to try all the exotic meals I’m buying.

xx

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Deep Fuschia for keeping fit

 

Exploring Chocolate Heaven

If there is one thing I can’t resist its chocolate.

The other day I discovered a modern little restaurant called Passion Tree. They offer a range of delicious desserts including crepes, waffles, hot chocolates and frappes, and if that’s not enough to entice you they are all presented like works of art.

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The setting of the cafe sort of contradicts what it serves. Whilst most chocolate cafes have dark and creamy coloured interiors with tea lights flickering amidst the aroma of melted chocolate, Passion Tree had a reasonably stark setting with bleach white walls, floors and chairs.

However, this did not take away from the quality of their menu. Each dessert is so intricately designed and mouthwateringly over-the-top it was a struggle even deciding which one I wanted.

Eventually I chose their ‘Campfire Smores Epic Hot Chocolate’ (pictured above). The mug itself was the size of my head and was filled with warm, creamy hot chocolate, which had the richness and consistency of Max Brenner’s Italian Thick hot chocolate. This was topped with ice cream, whipped cream, smoked marshmallows and crushed oreo’s and drizzled in melted smooth dark chocolate.

My friend got the Triple Choc Brownie which came with vanilla ice-cream, strawberries, and was drizzled in buttery dark, milk and white chocolate. I’m not a huge brownie person but this one was so deliciously intense that one bite of hers satisfied my chocolate craving for the next year (not 100% true).

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Each dessert was around AU$10 which I think is pretty fair considering the flavour explosion you get. I definitely want to go again to try their signature ‘Bingsoo’ which is a Korean dessert with flavoured shaved ice topped with ice-cream in an oversized cocktail glass (much like a large frappe).

Definitely a place to check out if you can!

xx

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Chocolate brown for all things chocolate

 

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives

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Let’s be brilliant in 2017.

As the fireworks exploded in bursts of colour over Sydney Harbour, friends cheered and kissed, and we ticked over into 2017, I had a surge of excitement in anticipation of the coming year.

I spent much of 2016 getting excited about major events dotted throughout the year (parties, functions, uni finishing, holidays etc.). In 2017 I will still enjoy these events, but I also want to appreciate more ordinary moments in my life. The everyday.

The brilliant quote by Annie Dillard which titles this post encapsulates how I’m going to dive into 2017. Each day I’m going to stop worrying about what others think, and do what makes me happy. I’ll spend more time writing, exploring and recording my adventures, whilst delving into the amazing journies and insights that others share on their blogs.

If I don’t do it today, I’m going to wish I had in a year.

xx

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Spring green, for turning a new leaf