Top 10: Vietnam

So with my phone and all my photos stolen yesterday and feeling a little bummed about it today because of it, I thought news a better time than ever to make a top 10 list. Vietnam favorites, here we go:

Falafel Plate @ Cargo Club: for the times when the Asian invasion just becomes too much.

Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty obsessed with green papaya and pomelo salad, tofu fresh rolls and mushroom wide noodles, but sometimes you can only take so much. After an unfortunate bout with stomach illness, Christine suggested we grab some western food, and boy what a blessing! Mum and I shared the falafel plate at Cargo Club no less than three times during our five day stay. Freking delish.

Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra (VNSO): for the times when you can only harness Hanoi's street with sophistication.

I have no idea how I stumbled on the orchestra or by what intervention the ensemble happened to be playing during our stay in Hanoi, but my mom and I had the incredible treat of listening to VNSO play "An Homage to Vienna." Conducted by a well-known Italian, we were awe struck by the performance of Mozart, Brahms, and others, featuring the most amazing live soloist pianist I have ever seen. Magnificent.

Gangam style: for the times when you don't think life can get any better.

I'm just going to let the posted video speak for itself. Like seriously, I still can't believe we got to dance with this troop!?!

Halong bay: for the times when nature inspires you.

You could probably tell from my last post that I was pretty obsessed with our trip to Halong Bay. From the sheer beauty to the gorgeous boat to our adventurous outings to the fun-loving group to the impeccable service... the Halong bay cruise was a true highlight of this trip.

Christine and Jeff: for the times when great people trump everything else.

I cannot gush enough about the couple Babs and I met in Halong and had the pleasure of hanging with in Hoi An (make that attached at the hip). A sunny duo from California, Christine and Jeff became like family over the week we spent together. In fact, we were so inseparable, after our final goodbye and subsequently being invited for a sleepover, mams and I decided to (sort of) take them up on their offer - e.g. sneaking into their hotel armed with back door access and headlights and scaring the bejeezes out of them :) The fun has not stopped as we continue to swap stories, photos and jokes over WhatsAp.

Song: for the time when a little shopping will do just fine :)

Many from the US realize quite quickly upon arriving in Asia that the average size of the Asian woman is small to quite small, posing shopping reluctance even for the most avid of clothes lovers. Boutique "Song" is the answer: an amazing collection of easy, feminine pieces in a neutral palate that I completely fell for. Using fair manufacturing in Vietnam and distributing in Vietnam and Europe, I found an amazing summer dress in their Ho An outlet store that rivals my staple black boho frock. Our return to the Hanoi flagship resulted in chic sandals for mom and adorable black shorts for moi. J'adroe!

Hoi An bike ride: for the times when good weather + bike + countryside = recipe for success.

Our last day in Hoi An, I decided to rent a bike (for $2/day I might add) and take a trip outside of Hoi An's center. My 3 hour ride first took me to the middle of rice fields where the smell of sweet rice, beauty of water buffaloes and grace of farmers had me awestruck. The water in which the rice grass stalks were planted reflected the bright blue sky and coniferous clouds, turning the liquid a brilliant purple. In turn, the sunlight on nearby plots of grass produced near-neon green blades, lighting the landscape for miles. I pedaled over rivers dusted with fishermen, nets and old school boats; to the edge of the beach with brilliant blue waters and islands perfectly placed on the horizon; through coconut groves and duck ponds; past villages and historic cemeteries; resorts and rice shacks... Loving every minute.

Dining with mom: for the times when a mom's touch (and good food) is the best medicine.

Some of my favorite times with my mom were our pow-wows over meals. Discussing the day past or to come, family and friends, life in general... The busy-ness of our travels and exploration made those moments of pause just perfect. In Hanoi, we had the opportunity to combine that with some fantastic dining - favorites included Pots and Pans, which offered delicate lemongrass and pumpkin, mushroom pasta, tofu and walnut spread grilled in betel leaves and crazy good cosmos, and Mediterrano, a sunny bistro featuring perfectly cooked homemade pastas and fresh rocket salad alongside old-school Italian clientele.

5:30 AM Hanoi lake walk: for the times when exercise makes you laugh out loud.

One of the most memorable moments on this trip was my 5:30 AM walk around the lake in Hanoi. Reluctant to get up early on my last day in Vietnam, I nevertheless felt compelled only because of a live rendition (probably drunk) of the experience provided by a couple we met in Halong. When I arrived this particular morning, I understood why. The exterior of Hanoi's central lake is packed with people of all ages doing aerobics (complete with boom box music and all), tai chi, badmitton, running, walking, and mostly doing some personalized flexibility routine of arm flinging, hip wrangling, lunge pulsing, and more. And I'm not kidding: THE ENTIRE EXTERIOR OF THE LAKE. Priceless.

Motobikes: for the times when the bike craze is poised to run you over.

One can't not think about the volume of motobikes when thinking about Vietnam. Literally the bikes define this city. If you consider a stoplight in rush hour, its as if you are looking at the commencement of a race. I will say, however, the civility of traffic here is still far superior to that in India. My last evening in Hanoi I had the pleasure of riding on a motobike with a charming young woman I met at our hotel, Thao. Suzuki or not, these things are pretty bad ass.

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