Eating the city: Hoi An, Vietnam

There is a truly ridiculous amount of great food in Hoi An, and as with most of South East Asia, the best of it is on the streets. Add these dishes to your “to eat” list when you visit…

White rose dumplings.
A shrimp-filled dumpling, wrapped in thin, translucent dough and shaped to look like a rose. Also usually served with a delicious sweet dipping sauce and sprinkled with fried shallots. This is a classic, served everywhere, and we didn’t eat a bad version.
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Cao lau.
Where have you been all my life?! A dish synonymous with Hoi An (the only city you’ll find it made in), it’s the perfect bowl of chewy noodles, fresh green herbs, tasty pork, crunchy fried noodles, and easily the most flavourful broth I’ve ever tasted. Again, we tried several bowls of this – you can’t get a bad version.
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Banh Mi.
They’re all over the country, and they’re all delicious. We found them to be the perfect breakfast, costing us only a few dollars for some crispy shelled, pillowy soft baguettes stuffed with BBQ pork and all the fixings. Take a stroll down the street in the morning and pick one up as you walk in to town.
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Pandan coconut sweets.
Every time we walked past this lady’s cart, we stopped so I could get one. Gelatinous, gooey, pandany coconutty goodness, they were the ultimate sweet fix in such a hot climate. But they’re sticky as hell, so bring some anti-bacterial gel with you, or you’ll stick to everything you touch for the rest of the day!
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Street food feasts.
There are a few places that’ll help you out here, but my hands down favourite is Bale Well. I wrote about it a few years ago when my sister and I visited, and it was one of the first places on my list to go back to. Rice paper to wrap, freshly fried spring rolls, pork skewers, kimchi-style pickled veg, a mountain of fresh greens, banh xeo, bowls of dipping sauce, and a drink each set us back all of about AUD$12.00. And we were utterly and completely stuffed by the end of it. Don’t be put off by it’s location down a dark alleyway – this is the best cheap feast in the city!
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Eat here: Jethro Canteen, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Jethro Canteen
385 – 389 Burnley St, Richmond
https://www.instagram.com/jethrocanteen/
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Sunday morning breakfast dates are my favourites. And living in Melbourne means there is always a new spot to check out; yesterday, it was Jethro Canteen in Richmond. It’s still relatively new, but is already pretty popular with the locals given the amount of people streaming in and out for coffees.

The space was beautiful;  yes, it was a little bit Melbourne-hipster-cafe-by-numbers, but that exposed brick + bright tile and tea on shelves + bakery style pastry display had me from the get go. Big windows meant we were drenched in summer sun, and it instantly felt like the perfect place to bunk down with a pot of tea and a good book for the morning. Or coffee – husband said it was fantastic.

Unfortunately, the people didn’t feel quite as warm and comfortable as the physical space to start off with. The staff all seemed a little preoccupied and sour, until someome stopped by with a cute dog. The little fluffball seemed to put a smile on everyone’s dials and made them all much more pleasant. The menu, like the cafe, was exciting straight away – husband struggled to decide between the chili dog and the Louisiana plate,  but the jalapeño popper won out in the end. Also on the plate was thick cut bacon steak, poached eggs on corn remoulade smothered toast, chili prawns and guacamole. Other than a slightly overdone egg, no complaints, and his plate was mopped clean. The jalapeño popper was definite highlight, though.

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I struggled to pick between the waffles with cereal milk pannacotta, the white chocolate & almond crumble porridge or the chia pudding, but the latter won out. Coconut and almond milk soaked chia, topped with elderflower jelly, berries, mango puree, vanilla bean cashew cream and granola. I was really disappointed that the granola was pretty much non-existent, because the tiny bit that was on there was amazing! The chia was perfect, the berries were fresh, and the cashew cream was the perfect surprise addition – thick, creamy,  strong vanilla flavour – loved it.

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Despite a few bumps, we both absolutely loved Jethro – the beautiful space and the creative menu (so nice to see something other than smashed avo toast and chili scrambled eggs!) make it the perfect addition to our brunch scene;  we will be back!

From my travel journal: Tokyo, 2015 (2)

Because it’s Friday, and I’m over working for the week, and my mind is on travel because we just booked an Airbnb for our time in Tokyo and I cannot wait to get back to that incredible city…

 

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“First up, walked to Yoyogi Park, which was really, really green and very beautiful. I wandered around for a while & eventually made my way to the Meiji-Jingu Shrine/Temple area – swarming with people, construction going on, still breath-taking. On our walking tour, Mika showed us a Shinto tradition at their shrines – you toss a coin into the receiving tray, bow twice, clap twice, make your prayer, then bow once more. I had the opportunity to do this again there alone, which was really nice…”

Through my eyes: walking through Hanoi, Vietnam

Melbourne’s been sweltering. And I’m not a summer person. I don’t like extreme heat or humidity.

Unless I’m in Vietnam…

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Parts of Hanoi are tourist-friendly “big city,” while other parts, like the produce markets, are still so simple and local. There’s such a huge mix of people – tourists and locals, students and manual labourers, restaurant workers and street food vendors, and they all somehow fit together in perfect harmony…

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Want to fail-proof your New Year’s Resolutions? Look to the moon.

So, it’s almost 2 weeks into January. I bet most of you set some resolutions, goals, aims, whatever you want to call them. I bet this isn’t the first year you’ve done it. And I bet some of you are already wavering on those lofty goals. That’s human nature – when we go all in and face a setback, it’s easy to throw in the towel. But it doesn’t have to be that way; I’ve found a way of setting my “resolutions” and goals that has meant that I’ve actually been achieving them, and it’s so much easier than I thought it’d be. Allow me to elaborate, because this might help you, too…

A little over a year ago, I came across this blog post written by the lovely Vanessa, and she instantly had my attention. She wrote beautifully about the meaning and importance of the cycles of the moon in her life, and it resonated with me incredibly strongly. After expressing interest in how she incorporated the moon phases in her life, Vanessa also kindly sent me an email, explaining a little more about how she lives by the moon. After a bit more reading of my own, I learned that as the moon goes through several phases while it orbits the earth, it is believed that each phase is a “good time” to do certain things or ask certain questions of yourself, starting on a new goal/dream/desire each new moon.

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It really hit me then – this was what I needed in my life. I’ve always been a goal setter, a list maker, a checker, someone who needs a target to aim for. I’m need my compass set in the directions of my dreams at all times, otherwise I’m totally lost. But it’s always been hard for me to know when to set aside to sit down and re-assess where I’m at – like most people, I tended not to do this until I was so lost and spun out of control, that 10 minutes of contemplation just wouldn’t cut it.

I’ve spent the last year living by the moon phases. And, unlike previous years, I’ve actually achieved a hell of a lot more than ever before; my typically unrealistic New Year’s resolutions hadn’t all fallen by the wayside a few weeks into 2016. By December 31st 2016, I had a lot to be proud of; physically, mentally, emotionally, materially, I’d made progress.

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There is a truckload of information on meanings and methods available online (just Google “moon phases”), so I won’t give you all of the opinions and options out there – instead, I just wanted to write about what’s working for me.

 

First, I like to write each phase of the moon into my diary, so it’s front of mind. This will obviously be different depending on where you live, but I find this calendar to be pretty helpful.

Then, when I open my diary on January 12th and see I’ve written in there that it’s a full moon night, I set aside a bit of time before I go to bed to sit quietly (maybe outside under the moon if the weather is working with me, or up in my book nook), light some candles or incense, and reflect.

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As I wrote before, it’s believed that specific moon phases align with specific situations and questions, and I did a lot of reading  about what was best to focus on in each phase. Again, there are a lot of different ideas out there, but I combined and condensed a few sources that made sense to me, and came up with the following list of questions; on each moon phase, I mull over the corresponding questions and write down anything I want to come back to…

NEW MOON
– a time of conception, new beginnings and starting new projects
what do you want to start? what are your goals? what do you desire?

 *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

CRESCENT MOON
– resolve is tested, time to grow and overcome fears
what do you fear? what do you need to guarantee the survival of your vision?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FIRST QUARTER MOON
– a time to decide who you are and where you intend to go, time to reach a major turning point but facing outer resistance
– set your intentions and create an action plan

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

GIBBOUS MOON
– a time of waiting, a period of adjustment as you adapt to reality and limitations, time to gain perspective and see where changes can be made
–  what isn’t working? how can it be fixed?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FULL MOON
– re-evaluate and come to a compromise between expectations and reality, any difficulties are learning opportunities whether you succeed or fail
– what difficulties have you encountered? what of your original goals have you manifested?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

DISSEMINATING MOON
– time for introspection and review, ask questions, share ideas, gain clarity, time to deal with the outcome whether you’ve achieved your goals or not
– review your original goal; are there any questions that need to be asked and answered? is there anything that no longer serves you that you can let go?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    * 

THIRD QUARTER MOON
– do you enlarge, rethink or replace your original vision? pull things apart and see them from a broader point of view, search for meaning
– review your original goal – enlarge, rethink or review? have you let go of the things you needed to?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

BALSAMIC MOON
– time to stop striving and rest/retreat, grieve any losses and let things come to their natural end
– spend some time along to reflect on the cycle, consider what is coming to an end, clean your physical space, rest

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And that’s the bare bones of it. If you’re really into it and astrology is your jam, you may want to create a more elaborate ritual. If you’re not really into the “hippy dippy” stuff, you may want to just use this more as a goal setting guide. But whichever way you want to look at it, I’ve found that being guided by the moon phases has made it so much easier to break down what I want and work out how to get it. It’s forced me to slow down, think things through, focus, ask the right questions of myself, and commit to my goals (after all, each moon cycle only lasts 4 weeks before you can “reset” your goals).