Good Morning Vietnam

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Latimer: What else could I call a blog post about Vietnam? It’s a phrase I overused so very much while in Vietnam. I said it basically every morning, and if I forgot, I’d say it mid-way through the day.

This post is a continuation of my trip around South East Asia, as it’s getting to the end of summer now; I find myself reminiscing more and more about my adventures in the past. They were so good; they make me consider what the next adventure will be!

But well, back to my South East Asian adventures! I had made it through Thailand and Laos, with lots of fond memories and exciting adventures, onward to Vietnam, a place that I was expecting to love, though I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting to love about it…

I was right about the loving part; it’s a gorgeous, bustling fun place, full of amazing places to see and history to learn about, all inter-spaced with yummy food, cool art and random livestock on bikes (the motorbike is everything in Vietnam!)

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Beer corner, Hanoi where local people sell beer and we all watch the crazy traffic go by, as we sit on the street and drink. Yup. I randomly met up with some of my China-travel buddies here too, so the world is a very small place guys!

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Bun Cha, Vietnamese delicacy, Hanoi

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Crash site of Senator John McCain’s plane, shot down by the Viet Con during the Vietnam war (it is still there in Hanoi where it fell)

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They are super happy about having shot down this plane, so it’s very well sign posted – I think it’s because Senator John McCain is a Senator now

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This is the Hilton Prison, Hanoi. Hilton was a nickname placed on the prison, by the prisoners, who were American POWs

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Motorbikes on the streets of Hanoi

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More yummy Vietnamese food!

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Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Minh) propaganda artwork for sale in Hanoi

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Artwork, Hanoi

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Chinese monument in Hanoi – there is a heavy Chinese influence in Vietnam, as the country was part of/occupied by the Chinese during it’s history (Vietnam feels like it has more Chinese influence than, Laos, Thailand or Cambodia)

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Halong Bay

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Sunset, kite-flying off the back of our boat in Halong Bay

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Yes, that is a cow on the back of a motorbike… yeah

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Food wraps and kawaii fingers, Hue

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Vietnamese dragon and my Chinese Travelling Buddha, in the Vietnamese ‘forbidden city’, Hue

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Just on the road in Vietnam, amazing

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Blurry Buddha and me in an old American war bunker, on the road

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The Mighty Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City (kinda)

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Fresh coconuts on the Mekong Delta

Travelling Buddha gets around, here he's at the Chu-Chi Tunnels

Travelling Buddha gets around, here he’s at the Cu-Chi Tunnels

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Tofu, noodles and veggies, yum!

I saw a lot of amazing places, but my favourite had to be the laid-back beautiful Hoi An, I could have spent a long time there, it was a small, but very lovely town?

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Beautiful wedding couple. As in Chinese tradition, red is the colour for the bride in Vietnam, not white

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Laid back streets of Hoi An

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Hoi An streets

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A bridge across the river, Hoi An

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Lanterns, beautiful Vietnamese lanterns

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Sunsets on its way over Hoi An!

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A cool eatery Hoi Ah, though it looks very Spanish or something!

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Super fresh noodles and yummy avocado smoothie (delicious!), Hoi An

Lanterns and more lovely Lanterns, Hoi An

Lanterns and more lovely Lanterns, Hoi An

Hoi An has a lovely river running through it. I went on a boat ride during the sunset and cast some lanterns out on the water, sending my wishes with it!

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It’s where people get clothes made lots of the time, but it has some cool art shops also, and also, the best tea shop I have ever been in in my whole life. It’s called Reaching Out Teahouse and it’s run by deaf and mute staff, so everything is done by indicating via the menu and also these little notes where you can ask for a re-fill of water etc. It is a Fairtrade shop and it works with people with disabilities in the community to find employment and live an independent life, so it’s well worth supporting. They also sell these amazing crafts in the shop – and all the tea cups and cutlery (metal and ceramic) are made by the Reaching Out artisans.

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Used to communicate with staff

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Iced coffee, with coffee ice… haha

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Crafts from the shop

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Traditional seating

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The tea tasting menu (3 types) – soooo good, plus you get three interesting treats with it! Like, eg., a sweet potato swirl, or green tea biscuit

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A platter of very interesting treats!

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The famous Vietnamese coffee (iced) – three type tasting menu here! It was so good!

It was really serene and it was nice to sit in this traditional style teahouse and look out of the open shutters at the front at the people passing by in the street. Some Chinese tourists randomly stopped in front of the windows and took photos with us Westerns in the background, which was… well, hilarious and random, but I had noticed this happened a lot in China also, so I was kind of used to it, in a very weird way!

Vietnam was a brilliant place, I would definitely go back. Maybe one day I will, but from there it was onward to the place I had wanted to visit the most, Cambodia (and the stunning Angkor Wat… what)!

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Irish Christmas Quirks

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Ridley: Okay, so it’s the first of December and I am now officially allowing myself to get excited for Christmas!! Yay! Mind so is everyone else, I wandered into town earlier (town being Dublin city centre) and the place was thronged with people, who all obviously decided that now it was officially December it was acceptable to begin their Christmas shopping. I’ve never seen so many bags in people’s hands or walls of children filled buggies on the streets as I did today, and of course I got bashed and thumped by everything and everyone! Though it’s all part of the fun…of course…haha. Now in the spirit of the upcoming holiday i thought I’d share some Irish specific Christmas traditions (though maybe some of these happen elsewhere in the world too. especially the food, which is also found in the UK.)

The Late Late Toy Show

This marks the start of Christmas for every Irish person. It’s an annual toy show that displays all the latest gadgets, toys and books that every child is probably going to want as a present off Santa Claus (better know as Santy or Father Christmas here) come December the 25th. It also shows off the talent of Irish youngsters, with lots of children singing, playing instruments and dancing. The auditions for these slots go on for weeks beforehand. All the adults in the audience have to dress up too. The programme is broadcast live, and is regularly the most watch show of the year on Irish television. There is also the added excitement of the Christmas Jumper Reveal, where the host (currently Ryan Tubridy, but everyone loved the original host and beginner of the Jumper Reveal, Gay Byrne) forgoes wearing his usual suit and tie for the normally serious talk show (The Late Late) and puts on a crazy looking Christmas Jumper, the picture of which often ends up in our national newspapers the next day, and is usually the topic of gossip for a few days.

Busking Bono

Now a bit of a tradition, Bone from U2, and whoever he manages to get involved (last year it was Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan, Sinéad O’Connor, Liam Ó Maonlaí) go busking on Grafton street for charity, and they usually get thronged by tourists (while the rest of us try to look unimpressed, but secretly we all are).

Midnight Mass

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We all pack into mass in the church, usually everyone goes (both believers and non-believers), sometimes it’s at 10pm in some places and not actually 12pm, though it’s still called midnight mass. There’s usually lots of carols sung at it, and at the end of the service, people go up to the crib, where there is a figure of a baby Jesus (along with the wise men, the shepherd, Mary and Joseph and animals) and people take a piece of straw from the manger, and they place this in their purse or wallet so that it will ‘never be empty’ for the coming year.

Christmas Food

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Sherry trifle: It’s a desert made of madeira cake, bird’s eye custard, sherry, jelly, fruit, topped with cream, and in some households there are chocolate sprinkles on the top of the cream (we don’t do this in ours). It’s beautiful tasting.

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USA biscuits: I think every household in the country has a tin of these in their kitchen, it’s either bought or received as a present, and the bickies in them are always great with a cup of tea!

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Cadbury’s Roses and Quality Street chocolates: There’s a raging friendly war in my house over which is better – don’t listen to what anyone else says, it’s Cadbury’s Roses. These tins of chocolates are bought in their hundreds at this time of year here, there’s always one open in people’s houses, usually on the coffee table, they’re given as presents, and often times shops will have a little plate or bowl of them at the till for customers to take one. My favourite is the long purple sweet in the Roses tin, which is basically a caramel chocolate with a nut in the middle. Yum.

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Mince pies: Not a fan myself, but they’re extremely popular, it is a small palm sized sweet pie, traditionally in olden times it would have actually had mincemeat or some sort of meat anyway, but not any more, it is filled with a mixture of dried fruits, sugar, spices and brandy.

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Plum pudding: It is a pudding composed of  dried fruits and is held together by egg and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle. Also, flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves ginger, and other spices. It usually has brandy poured over it and set on fire just before it’s cut up and eaten. There’s also always silver coins in the centre of the pudding, the finder of which is meant to get good fortune for the coming year.

Christmas FM

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A full radio station is set up in December which is devoted to Christmas songs for the month. Everyone tunes their car radios to this station for the few weeks its on. It gets a small bit depressing after Christmas when you hop into your car and the station has gone off air and there’s nothing but silence when you switch on your radio. *sigh*

Christmas Swim

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Some mad people go to the 40 foot in Sandycove in Dublin on Christmas day and jump into the sea, (which is freezing!!) all in the name of charity. It’s a tradition for some, not me, I like staying in my clothes in front of a fire for most of my Christmas! Any charity I do is usually in the warmth.

Nativity Scene

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The nativity scene is basically a baby Jesus in a manger, it’s set in a stables, and also present with him is Mary and Joseph, the Three Wise Men, the Shepherd and animals (usually a donkey, a sheep and a cow). This scene is in miniature form in most people’s houses here and then there is also a large version of the Nativity scene set up in almost every biggish town in the country, usually placed at the town hall or in the town square. It’s usually lit up and is extremely pretty.

Christmas Pyjamas

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I think a lot of people do this, most of my friends do it, I know it’s been a tradition in my family since I was very small. It’s always a given that you get pjs, fluffy or otherwise, as one of your Christmas presents, along with fluffy socks of course. These pjs are usually gotten from Penney’s, the best cheap clothes store chain in the country!!

Well that’s our Christmas, what’s yours??