6 days in Sydney

We made a last-minute decision to fly to Sydney this past week. Our tour here in Vietnam is quickly coming to an end and we have no idea when we’ll be back in this part of the world again. The best part about the flight is it was direct, no layovers. While a 9.5 hour flight doesn’t sound like the most fun way to spend time, it is much preferred to a longer day with layovers and down time in airports.

Since we had a short visit, we kept to the beach and Sydney harbor area. We stayed right on Bondi beach, which was beautiful and a great place to stay. We strolled along the boardwalk, did some people watching and checked out the beach scene. Oliver liked watching the kids doing tricks at the skate park, insisting on getting a skateboard so he could try. Luckily, we were able to distract him with some ice cream.

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The beach was clean and had nice soft sand, which Ada proceeded to eat. Oliver was nervous that the “big ocean” was going to get him, so it took some convincing to get him in the water. But we all enjoyed our days relaxing on the beach. We also took advantage of all the western food, including some great burgers at The Bucket List on the boardwalk.

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One thing I had to do while we were in Sydney was take a tour of the Opera House. Of course, it’s a very recognizable building, but the interior was also beautiful although not designed by the same architect. The kids were great and held it together for the hour tour, just in time for lunch afterward and then stroller naps. That evening we took a ferry across the bay to Manly which gave us beautiful views of the harbor, the bridge and the opera house at night.

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We took the kids to the aquarium where we saw sting rays, sharks, octopus, jelly fish and lots of other sea animals. Oliver was a little nervous to go into the underwater tunnels, but he liked looking at the aquarium through the picture windows. They also had a cool penguin boat ride that floats around the penguin habitats so you can see them swimming and walking around. We also found the coolest playground near Darling Harbour that Oliver just loved. It had lots to climb on, slide on, and swing on.

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Our last night in Sydney was spent walking on one of the coastal pathways from Bondi beach to Bronte beach. We didn’t make it all the way to the end, but we had a nice stroll along the beautiful path. Hopefully the fresh air and sunshine will stick with us long after we’re gone.

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Ada Rose – 10 months

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Eats: she’s into pumpkin, banana and oatmeal. But she will eat almost anything, including zucchini, spinach and green beans.

Sleeps: All night and one nap most days. She is going to sleep pretty early because she is so tired from all her crawling and exploring.

Favorite activity: Still standing and trying to walk. She also loves daddy’s silly faces and getting tickled.

Least favorite activity: When she falls from trying to stand using a chair or something that isn’t stable. Nothing makes her more frustrated than falling when she wants to climb everything.

Words: Ada is saying “dada” and lots of other noises. She loves doing a kissy noise with her lips.

Starting to: Point at everything. She’s so curious about everything in the house and outside, so she is constantly pointing.

I can’t believe she’s in the double digits already. Her first birthday will be here before we know it.

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What’s for lunch – Bánh cuốn

I decided that I need to get out and eat more street food. It’s easy when you live in a place like Hanoi to want to eat food that reminds you of home. But the street food is so good here, I know I’m going to miss it when we leave so I need to eat as much as I can while we’re still here!

I wanted to eat some bánh cuốn today, so I went to a well-reviewed restaurant in the Old Quarter called Bánh Cuốn Bá Hanh. It’s located behind St. John’s Cathedral in a pretty touristy section of town. What made it touristy? They had a menu, the chef and waitstaff spoke decent English, and I paid about 2x more than I would from a street vender. But it was delicious.

What is bánh cuốn? It’s steamed rice batter cooked like a pancake and filled with ground pork and minced mushrooms, topped with crispy fried shallots and served with nước chấm (fish sauce). I ordered a combo platter which included 6 bánh cuốn, papaya salad, pork lemongrass skewer and a mushroom omelet with a coke. I also ordered a lime juice to go with it. The total bill was 101,000 vnd, a little less than $4.50 usd.

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After eating my lunch and reading for a bit, I decided to walk home. I couldn’t pass up a chocolate éclair from Beard Papa’s on my way. This was 35,000 vnd, $1.50 usd. That brought my total bill for lunch and dessert to less than $6. And it was worth every penny.

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Visiting a Tailor in Hoi An

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When we were vacationing in Da Nang we wanted to get some clothing made by the world famous Hoi An tailors. There are many, many tailors to choose from. We had done some research and had a few places in mind when we were walking around, but ended up at a shop we walked into off Tran Phu street called Maya Design. We started looking around and liked their fabric choices and designs, so we went for it.

Hubby wanted a suit made, so he picked a nice grey fabric and a pink lining. I have an entire pinterest board filled with clothing I’d love in my dream closet, so it took me a while to narrow it down. I ended up having three shirts made from pictures I showed them. The women were very friendly and helped me choose the right fabrics for all the shirts. They also discussed certain details like length, fit, sleeve length and buttons, so we made sure we were all on the same page as far as what I wanted.

The ladies told us it was a 48 hour turn around for everything. We came back into Hoi An the next day to try on our pieces and make adjustments to the fit. I was able to make the sleeves smaller on one shirt and take them in a little bit at the waist. When we went to pick them up they were perfect. Hubbys suit was very well fitted, which isn’t easy due to his height and freakishly long arms. My shirts fit very well and were what I had envisioned.

They weren’t super expensive, but we were definitely paying for custom made clothing. We were able to haggle a bit with the price and we ended up paying 5,000,000 vnd ($220) for a suit and three tops. I’m sure there are cheaper tailors in Hoi An willing to make clothing but I’m not sure what the quality is like. We like our new threads and would recommend getting something made while in Hoi An if you have the time!

Ada Rose – 9 months

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Eats: lots and lots of food. She especially likes oatmeal and bananas with yogurt! But really, she’s not picky.

Sleeps: All night and one nap most days. She is still rising earlier than the sun, but that’s ok… most of the time.

Favorite activity: Standing and trying to walk. She loves to move in her rolling walker and follow Oliver around everywhere he goes. Also she really wants to go into the bathroom…

Least favorite activity: When Oliver takes her toys away, which is constant. She also gets frustrated when she can’t stand.

Words: Ada is babbling along and imitating all of our noises, including smacking her lips.

Starting to: Get teeth! She is finally getting her bottom two teeth.

We are smitten with our little girl and Oliver loves his “Baby Rose”.

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Da Nang and Hoi An

We just returned from a relaxing beach vacation. Ok, the truth is it was really too cold to swim most of the week, but we were staying on the beach. Our family flew about an hour from Hanoi to Da Nang, which is located in central Vietnam, and stayed at the Hyatt for 7 nights. We had spent memorial weekend in Da Nang this year but we wanted to go back and really soak it all in.

The weather was pretty chilly, in the 60’s and rainy most of the week, but we did have a few nice days and a little sunshine. Oliver was suddenly afraid of the ocean so it’s probably ok that we didn’t swim much. The one day we had blue skies we were able to take a chilly dip in the pool and try out the water slide.

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We made the most of our trip, taking several drives into Hoi An which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hubby and I had clothes tailored and we enjoyed walking around looking at the different shops and food stalls. At night the river lit up with lanterns, and boats floating in the water. We put a paper lantern in the river, which was not as easy as it sounds, but luckily nobody fell in (aka Oliver).

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One of our days was spent driving to Mỹ Sơn which is the ruins of Hindu temples from the 14th century. These temples are also a UNESCO World Heritage site as of 1999 because they are evidence of an Asian culture that is now extinct. The site was nicely laid out and we were able to get around somewhat easily with our stroller. The ruins were very pretty and I’m sure it is a nice place to visit if you don’t have a cranky 2 year old.

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Our trip also included lots of food and we enjoyed walking in downtown Da Nang at night after dinner. Oliver loved the famous Dragon bridge and asked where it was anytime we got into the car. We indulged in our favorite taco hut 3 times over the week, and had pizza 3 times as well. It’s nice to have a break from the delicious but repetitive Vietnamese cuisine in Hanoi. We enjoyed our time in Da Nang and hope to go one more time before we leave.

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Thanksgiving in Bangkok

We took a much-needed vacation to Bangkok over Thanksgiving. Our trip was two travel days and three sight-seeing day, so it was a quick one, but we also met up with some friends so it was worth it! We were able to see a lot of sights in a short amount of time, and all four of us were wiped by the time we got home. The weather was very hot and sunny, which made the pool at our hotel very relaxing in the afternoons.

Our first day we toured The Grand Palace which is a huge complex with lots of different buildings and temples to see. By the time we arrived it was nearing 11 and the place was jam packed with tourists. It was by far the shiniest place I’ve ever visited, which made our sunny day even brighter. The gold painted and elaborately jeweled buildings were stunning and we enjoyed our time walking around. Don’t forget to wear appropriate clothing because they were very strict. Hubby had to go buy some cloth pants before entering so he wasn’t baring his white legs in the complex. We found a delicious street vendor serving up some yummy chicken rice and many, many coca cola bottles before heading back to swim at the hotel.

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Our second day we went to Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This temple is the oldest and largest in Thailand, housing the largest buddha in the country as well. We enjoyed walking around the different stupas (structure containing someone’s remains) and looking at the temple. The Reclining Buddha is very large, taking up the entire temple space. It was hard to get a good photo because of the size. Next, we went to the Jim Thompson house. Jim Thompson was an American businessman who helped revitalize the silk industry in Thailand in the 1950’s. He disappeared in 1967 and now his house is open for tours. Our last stop was to get food at CentralWorld mall, famed for it’s food court, and the food did not disappoint.

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Our third and final day was spent shopping and relaxing by the pool. We finally tried out the metro system and we wish we would have done it sooner. It was a much easier way to get around the highly trafficked city. The BTS dropped us off right at the Chatuchak weekend market where we happily shopped until we dropped. Hopefully we can make it back to Thailand soon to see more of this beautiful country.

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Ada Rose – 8 months

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Eats: Everything in sight. She loves pumpkin and corn.

Sleeps: All night long, although she is a early riser, which mama doesn’t love.

Favorite activity: Crawling everywhere and putting everything in her mouth. She loves to crawl to her brother and grab things out of his hand. He loves that too…

Least favorite activity: Watching anyone walk away from her. I have to walk backwards so she won’t get upset…

Words: Ada is starting to do a fake cry that is both pathetic and adorable.

Starting to: Do yoga. She wants to stand up but she can’t figure it out yet so she ends up doing all kinds of poses.

Road Rules of Hanoi

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When we moved to Hanoi we decided not to bring a car with us, instead choosing to use taxis, Uber, and motorbikes to get around. Most of the time we can get around without any issues. Here are the rules we have learned to survive traffic in Hanoi.

  • Taxis have different rates of either 5, 6 or 10 thousand
  • Make sure the meter is on when you leave and do not be convinced to pay USD instead of VND or to pay more than the meter says
  • Uber is most likely cheaper than a taxi and makes it easier to find your exact destination
  • When you’re getting out of a taxi, always exit on the side of the sidewalk not the street side, no matter how clear it is. Motorbikes often come out of nowhere and can hit you as you’re exiting.
  • Download Google translate so you can troubleshoot if your driver is trying to speak to you about something

The traffic here is unlike anywhere else I’ve lived and vehicles don’t necessarily follow traffic rules consistently. Buses and cars will stop at a traffic light. Motorbikes will stop after the light turns red and start before it turns green. Bicycles kind of do what they want.

The rule for motorbikes and bicycles is drive anywhere there is an opening. Drive between and around cars. Drive on the sidewalk to get around traffic or just because. Drive in the tiniest ally and make people move their seats to get around. Nap on your motorbike in the afternoon because, why not.

The hierarchy of traffic goes: Bus, car, motorbike, bicycle, and pedestrian. This is important to know when crossing the street which has its own set of rules. Some busier streets have crosswalks with indicators but most streets, especially in the Old Quarter will not. The rules for safely crossing the street are:

  • Buses won’t stop. Cars probably won’t stop. Motorbikes and bicycles will go around you.
  • The flow of traffic is like a river.
  • Do NOT cross the street while posting a photo to your Instagram or looking at Google maps because you will not make it to the other side
  • Do NOT stop in the middle of the road, you will not make it to the other side
  • Do keep moving little by little and look to make sure oncoming traffic sees you

Getting around Hanoi isn’t that hard, but it can be overwhelming when you arrive. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be moving around like a native in no time.

 

Ada Rose – 7 Months

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Eats: Formula and solid foods now. Favorites are green beans, carrots, and potatoes. Least favorite: broccoli and cucumber.

Sleeps: Solidly through the night, waking up between 6-7 on most mornings. She takes one or two naps during the day which mama likes a lot.

Favorite activity: Bouncing. She likes to bounce on daddy’s knee, while being held, and in her seat. If she could bounce instead of crawl she’d be going places by now.

Least favorite activity: Being hungry. Miss Ada doesn’t have many complaints but when she’s hungry, everyone knows it.

Words: She is making funny noises with her mouth, including baby screaming to imitate her big brother. That’s fun…

Starting to: Sit up for short periods of time until she sees something she wants and falls over to grab it. She’s also soooooo close to crawling she can taste it and is very upset that she still can’t go anywhere.

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