Bakery and Deli in Lebanon

Wooden Bakery (Beirut)

~B~

Upon our arrival to our Airbnb in Beirut, our host introduced us to his father and sister, and offered us watermelon and coffee. When he took us inside of our little studio nearby he showed us that he had stocked the fridge with bread/pita, cheese, beer, juice, and pastries. Needless to say, we didn’t need to head out immediately for food.

Fridge

We didn’t want to be so selfish to eat everything he left us, though, and later that evening we decided we might also like to try some Lebanese food out. We decided on a restaurant, Kyle checked out the map, and we headed down the road. Kyle was confused about our orientation in relation to the map so we went the wrong way and didn’t come across the restaurant. What we did come across, though, was the Wooden Bakery.

I thought we should check it out so we went inside. It was a bakery, deli, small/sort of upscale convenience store in one.

Meats and CheesesCakes BakeryCake Options

Kyle still wanted to look further for the restaurant but I said “Why? What we were planning to order at the restaurant is here!” Or some of it was, anyway. We would also be getting more food for our money than we would at a restaurant and could continue to snack so we grabbed a large container of hummus and a container of Labneh (Greek Yogurt/Lebanese Cream Cheese/Strained yogurt). Together, the price was 8,000 LBP, or a little over five dollars.

Both were so good! I could not stop eating the yoghurt (with the pita). I don’t think I had had yoghurt in a few months, Greek yoghurt (labneh, whatever) for even longer, and this was probably some of the best plain yoghurt I’d ever had. Kyle was downing it too so it probably had something we needed nutritionally as well. Pretty simple dinner, but good.

Hummus and Labneh

The walk there and back was pleasant as well.

Church

We returned again (it may have been that night) to grab a muffin as well.

Chocolate chip muffin

On our last night, we took advantage of an additional feature of the shop- the restaurant. It wasn’t really a restaurant, but you could order fresh/hot food from the people behind the bakery displays. Only one of them spoke English but they provided us with a menu. You can find their menu here. I would have been satisfied with just eating more of what we had at the apartment but Kyle convinced me to get a sandwich. Kyle ordered the Chicken Tawouk (description: skewers of marinated grilled chicken breast, garlic mayo, pickles, and fries in a pita/wrap) and I ordered the cheesy sandwich (description: special cheese mix, bell peppers, tomatoes, rocca, on bread. Aside from hot and cold sandwiches and wraps, you can get pizza, salad, side orders, and more. We took our sandwiches home and enjoyed.

Wrapped Sandwich OptionsSandwich
My SandwichKyle's wrap

I was so tempted to try their eclairs but decided to get two muffins. One for my dessert, and one for our host (I felt bad about eating the food they left us).

Muffins

Briana On A Bike In Siem Reap Cambodia

Siem Reap Cambodia

~K~

Siem Reap was our destination for Cambodia. The primary reason, as it is for most people, is the famed Angkor Wat. Just as the Angkor complex is much larger and grand than one first perceives, so is Siem Reap much more complex with a vibrant history and story all its own.

Angkor Wat and Monk

We spent two weeks cycling our way up and down the dusty red streets of Charles Du Gaul Avenue and exploring the Central Market district. What we found was a sleepy little town, with fantastic food, enchanting sights, and timeless relics. Aside from Angkor, we also visited the somber Wat Thmei and central Wat Preah Prom Rath.

Khmer Red Curry Siem Reap
Wat Thmei

Siem Reap is situated just north of Tonle Sap Lake in the north western part of Cambodia. It’s easy to access via plane or bus. We arrived via a surprisingly comfortable and smooth bus ride from Bangkok, Thailand. It is also fairly easy to proceed on to Phnom Penh as well if one is wanting to see more of the country.

Cat in Siem Reap

We did find the tuk tuk drivers to be fairly annoying and rude, and some of the people were a little disgruntled – but it can be forgiven (or at least understood) considering the economic toil, emotional anguish, and general hardship the people have dealt with since the Khmer Rouge. It also certainly did not help that we visited in the midst of a horrible drought with temperatures reaching 105F most days. We managed to avoid the tuk tuks and enjoy our way around town on bicycles that we rented from the White Bikes, which is a great way to see the city.

Siem Reap Tuk Tuk

The name “Siem Reap” means “Defeat of Siam” in Khmer, and originates from 1549 when the Khmer king defeated an invading Thai army. The city experienced a colorful history involving wars with the Kingdoms of Siam, Chiang Mai, and Burma much too detailed to go into here. The city had become little more than a tiny French colonial village by the 19th century with Angkor all forgotten. It was rediscovered by French archaeologists and renovation and tourism was soon begun.

Art at Angkor
Cow at Siem Reap

Angkor has now become the primary draw to the city with over 50% of all economic activity in the area related to tourism. There are multiple museums that can be visited as well exhibitions of traditional industry and culture.

We enjoyed our time in Siem Reap under it’s red glaring sun.

Sunset at Angkor Wat

Griya Harja Homestay Yogyakarta Java Indonesia

Griya Harja Homestay Yogyakarta

~K~

We had elected to begin our stay in Yogyakarta in the outskirts of the city near Borobodur. This area was far outside of the central city, and could really only be described as rural country. Upon arrival to the airport, we were picked up by a “friend” of our host who doubled as a taxi. The ride was about 2 1/2 hours from the airport and cost 250,000 IDR (~$19.00) which really is a pretty good price. Luckily, he took us to an ATM along the way.

We arrived at night, so we really weren’t able to get a good look at the place until the next morning. When we walked in, we were greeted by the host and his friends and family and given fresh tea and cassava chips (very similar to potato chips). We talked for a few minutes, and then we ordered dinner from them which they got from town. We got Gado Gado, which was pretty good – tofu and vegetables with rice puffs and a sweet peanut sauce.

Islamic Hanging

While we were waiting for dinner to arrive, we checked out the room. It was a little “rustic” for us, and Briana was quite upset at the fact that there was no mirror or sink in the bathroom – but we made do. It ultimately didn’t turn into a big deal, since I could work out in the main living room. The bed was ok, it sank a little, but not dramatically and although there were bugs around, the mosquitos weren’t all that bad.

Yogya Bedroom

Waking the next morning provided us with a great view of the area. The homestay (which we booked through AirBNB) was situated along a nice rural street near rice paddies with a clear view of Mt. Merapi (when not obscured by clouds) and Borobodur. A beautiful garden with a great porch was out front for us to enjoy the passing storms and roaming chickens.

Homestay Porch
Homestay Yard
Mt Merapi from Homestay

The home itself was divided into two parts: the guest area, which was made up of five rooms, some of which shared a bathroom (our’s had a private bath) and a large living room which contained two tables and some sort of general laying platform. The other part of the home was for the owners themselves, which we could access through a door, and in here we could use the kitchen. There were several other travelers who came through the homestay while we there, we only had light conversation with them however, and by the end of our stay we were the only ones left. One of the couples had actually recently broken up and were from Scotland and Amsterdam, but had already booked the trip and decided to just go anyways. Another couple was on their honeymoon,.

Yogya Homestay
Homestay Kitchen

Our host provided us free of charge the ability to use the motorbikes and regular bikes which was quite nice. On the first day, we used it to go into town and visit the local market. We had up to this point avoided the local markets, because we hate haggling and dealing with the language barriers. However, we had no choice here so we gave it a shot, and it went quite well. We simply went vendor to vendor buying individual items, fruits, and vegetables, until we had enough to last us the week.  Even if we were getting ripped off (I don’t think we were), the price was great so we really couldn’t complain. I can’t remember specifically what we paid, but it came out to something like $6.

Bikes
Briana Riding in the Rain

We used the bikes throughout our stay to visit Borobodur, the Camera House, the Pottery Village, Menorah Hill, and go to a few restaurants.

Our hosts were also quite nice and were pleasant to talk to about the region. They did inform, and apologize for the weather – it was very rainy during our stay, and generally it did not rain at this time of year, but climate change was throwing things out of whack. Not that it was a big deal to us, we enjoyed the frequent showers. They also provided us with a complimentary breakfast every morning, which came out to fruit, and chocolate toast. We could have got fried noodles but we just don’t want that for breakfast (though I did just once). As well, we could get tea or coffee at any time.

Yogya Breakfast

Unfortunately for me, it was not an ideal time to climb the volcano, which I really wanted to do – but we found out as well that it was a little outside of our budget. Just another reason (among many) to come back. But we still enjoyed the sights.

Despite the initial shock, it was a wonderful stay and we definitely would recommend a stay at Griya Harja homestay.

Working in Yogya
View of the Countryside
Homestay Garden
View of the Countryside

Clothes from traveling

Wardrobe Additions: Things I’ve Picked up While Traveling

~B~

I like clothes. Studies show that you get more satisfaction and happiness from spending your money on experiences rather than things (and I think we’re definitely on track there), but I would like to argue that clothes can also be an experience. When I get a new item of clothing, there is the experience of shopping for it or receiving it which is exciting, and then there is the experience of wearing it. There are some items that I feel pretty happy every time I wear them and new items are also generally always exciting to wear.

Anyway, living out of a backpack has been a little difficult for me, though at the same time, maybe not as difficult as I anticipated. For the most part, when I packed for Korea (we didn’t know exactly what we’d be doing afterwards), I chose items that I enjoyed wearing, which I thought would be versatile, but also that were not soo special that I could not bear to lose them. I could not bring too much because well, not much fit! Because we started off our journey in Korea and would be there for the winter, we had to pack winter clothes which meant I did not have a ton of room in my pack for summer clothes (except, primarily, ones that I could layer). We sent home a few small boxes of things (including a large coat, winter face masks, etc.) when we were in Korea which freed up some space in our packs. We have also dropped a few things along the way including both clothing items such as very worn socks and some non-clothing items.

When we arrived in Kuala Lumpur (the first time) we realized that Kyle literally had over ten times the amount of summer clothes as me! Not only that, but my clothes are a fraction of the size of his clothes- all of my summer shirts combined still took up less room than just one of his t-shirts. Anyway, we decided I could get a little bit more clothes. They’re kind of like souvenirs, anyway! I hesitated on every single purchase because 1) these things take up room and 2) they cost money but Kyle always says he will make them fit and that I should get things. In the past 9 months I have picked up 10 items: 2 dresses, 1 shirt, 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of sweatpants, 1 pair of sunglasses, a pair of flip flops, a scarf, and a pair of sunglasses. That’s about 1 item per month. Two of these items were replacement items. The total for all of it is $50. I normally do not buy clothes but I needed/wanted certain items which I could not initially fit. It was important that the items were reasonably priced in the event that we found that we didn’t have the space. I still kind of feel like I mostly wear the same clothes everyday and miss my clothes back home and the ability to wear more variety but I guess it’s good there are less decisions to make in that department when I am constantly making so many others.

Now, I also should note that I was sent a few items when we were in Korea but I’m not counting them because we did not pick them up in other countries or purchase them ourselves. Here are the 10 items in sequential order:

1. Neck Scarf Thing

Neckscarf

Found in: On the metro up to Bukhansan National Park in Korea (October)
Cost: free
About: This one might be cheating. We were on the subway when this nice older man just decided to give us (each) a neck scarf thing (along with food and his seat). I will have to write more about Korean gift culture in another post. Mine has people skiing on it. It takes up very little space. Usually I stick it inside one of my shoes.
See it in Action: Kyle wore his quite a bit more than me. These pictures are us out in Korea on cold days.

Kylewithhisscarf

2. Sweatpants

Sweatpants

Found in: I believe I found this at the Homeplus closest to Songtan but it could have been Emart (November)
Cost: 15,000 won ($13.17) (Most expensive item)
About: Now, we work from home so we are able to lounge around the house. Because of winter in Korea, we had to bundle up a little. Jeans are just not really comfortable when you are sitting cross-legged, etc. and while I would occasionally wear my pajama pants around the house, it just didn’t seem right or good habit to do this too often. I would also obviously wear leggings or tights/skirts, etc. but what I really wanted (and which I had debated bringing dang it!) to wear inside sometimes was a decent pair of soft sweat pants. I kept my eye out for a pair for a while and tried on a few pairs before I eventually decided on these. The inside is soft, they reach the bottom of my leg, and they have pockets!
See it in Action: Me chilling with a beer in the kitchen which makes me look like a giant because it’s Korea.

Me in Sweatpants

3. Soft Floral Socks

Floral socks

Found in: A shop on the road leading away from Osan Air Force Base in Korea (December)
Cost: Kyle says $2
About: This was a birthday present from Kyle (aside from us getting more film/getting film developed and an outing of my choosing). Doesn’t take up too much space.
See it in Action: Not pictured. I realize I don’t have that many full body pictures of myself, at least lounging around or whatever. I do like to wear socks inside, especially when it is cold, though.

4. Elephant Pants

ElephantPants

Found in: Central Market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (January)
Cost: $5
About: I can’t believe I strongly debated getting these! Especially considering this was the best deal I found on these sort of pants. I had almost brought my most similar pants but I was trying to pack lightly. Anyway, they are great for SE Asia because they are light, yet cover your legs/knees (for places that require such). Yes, they definitely mark you as a tourist but so what! There’s a reason these things are popular!
See it in Action: Temple near Angkor Wat (on film).

Me in Angkor with Pants

5. Floral Dress

Floraldress
Moredress

Found in: Mall in Bangkok, Thailand (I think Seacon Square, but could be wrong) (March)
Cost: 100baht ($2.86)
About: I found this piece off a rack in the mall. It was not in a specific store but rather in a sort of pseudo-store made up of racks inside the mall (not super classy, but nicer than it sounds). The person who owns/was manning the clothing did not bother me and in fact even moved away and did not watch while I looked so I was able to take my time. When someone in a store tries to talk to me, I instantly become about a hundred times less likely to buy so this was a good approach. There were lots of options, but I tried to find something that would meet my budget (I had set a limit for myself of 200 baht, or $5.72), was cute, and would be good to wear in the hot weather. I was not able to try on the items so I wanted to be pretty sure it would fit and hang nicely as well. I thought the design and sleeves of this dress were fun. When I went to buy it I found that it was actually on sell too! If I had known, I might have chosen a second piece. It turns out this dress is very short on me but I’m used to that so it’s all good. I wear my little lace shorties underneath.
See it in action: In front of a mall in Bangkok.

Mall in Bangkok Dress

6. Crop Top

Crop Top

Found in: Mall in Bangkok, Thailand (same mall as the floral dress) (March)
Cost: 200baht ($5.72)
About: I bought the floral dress first but what I really needed (and thank goodness Kyle convinced me) was another summer shirt. I strolled through stalls and took quite some time to decide. I didn’t have the option to try this one on either but thought it would be okay. I have worn it a lot.
See it in Action: Hello Kitty House in Bangkok

At HK house

7. Flip Flops (ignore the bug bites)

Flip Flops

Found in: The Lucky Supermarket in Siem Reap, Cambodia (April)
Cost: $2.65 (they use dollars in Cambodia, or at least in Siem Reap)
About: I was starting to develop some very distinct tan lines on my feet from primarily wearing my moccasins. I also wanted to let my feet breathe a little so I had my eye out for a cheap pair of comfortable flip flops for a couple months. The first time we visited this particular supermarket and I checked out the flip flops, they didn’t have my size. The second time I tried this pair on and they seemed to work just fine. They are actually quite comfortable but I haven’t been able to wear them much because I haven’t been able to break them in- though I plan to give it a go now as it is more possible. Previously, anytime we’d go anywhere, we would be walking long distances and I would end up with pretty bad blisters between my toes but now we have the ability to do short walks so I can get my toes re-adjusted.
See it in Action: On the ground somewhere in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Flipflops

8. Item: Jean shorts

Jean Shorts

Found in: A store in the mall Farenheit 88 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (May)
Cost: 43rm ($10.86)
About: I really didn’t want to spend this much on a clothing item but SE Asia is so hot and I had only brought one pair of shorts. I actually had two but accidentally got a stain on one of them and couldn’t get it out and didn’t feel comfortable wearing them at that point. I did have skirts and dresses but needed a good pair of jean (or other neutral) shorts as my other pair was purple and floral. I have some at home, and thought about bringing them but, again, I was trying to pack light *sigh.* Anyway, I searched around for this a bit. I tried on a pair in one shop and wasn’t satisfied. I am lucky that that Asian one-size-fits-all (which is all they seemed to have) worked just fine for me. The shorts are actually a tiny bit big but I really like them.
See it in Action: At the top of Menoreh Hill on Java (Indonesia).

Yogya Menoreh Hill

9. Summer Dress

Summerdress

Found in: Yogyakarta, Indonesia (May)
Cost: 26,000 Indonesian Rupeah ($1.90) Is that a deal or what?
About: I initially saw this dress when we wandered down the wrong street (it was one over) trying to find a restaurant. The advertised prices was what really caught my attention. I thought the dress looked like a nice summer dress which might cover my knees (I have a skirt which does but it doesn’t hurt to have more). At the time, the place appeared to be closed and we were both pretty hungry. We decided to come back when we would eat nearby the next day. This time, the door was open but no one was around. Eventually, someone came and got the woman who owns the store. She informed me that the dresses were for nightwear but I figured I could wear it however I please, especially once we were in another country.
See it in Action: Weligama, Sri Lanka

In Weligama

10. Sunglasses

Sunglasses

Found in: Galle, Sri Lanka (June)
Cost: 900 ($6.15)
About: One day when we were riding (the motorbike) back to Weligama (Sri Lanka) my sunglasses flew away. They were on my shirt so I didn’t realize immediately, but did realize pretty soon afterwards. We backtracked multiple times trying to find them but eventually gave up. I was quite upset but the day had already been a bit stressful with us hitting a pig and things like that so I could hardly handle any more concerns. I had also already mourned the loss of my sunglasses recently when I thought I lost them in the Colombo train station on the way down (but hadn’t). So many things went wrong in June that I’m not even sure I included this among our lowlights in the roundup which is crazy. Anyway, I was convinced I would never find a good pair again but what do you know, first shop we go into in Galle and they fit perfectly. Now, the annoying thing about these sunglasses is that I cannot stick them on my head because they catch my hair and knot and pull it out but I like them, they’re comfortable, and they were a pretty good price.
See it in Action: In front of Paphos Castle (Cyprus)

Paphos

What items have you picked up while traveling?

Train Track Crossing in Weligama Sri Lanka

Taking The Train In Sri Lanka

~K~

When you arrive in Sri Lanka, there is almost a 100% chance that you’ve come in through Colombo. Colombo is the capitol of Sri Lanka, and considered the shopping hub of the country – however, you likely didn’t come for the shopping. You came for the sights.

Most likely you have one (if not all) of these places on your itinerary: Kandy, Ella, Anurahadapura, Galle, Mirissa, or Yala. The list goes on, with numerous visit-worthy sites. One thing you will discover though, is that everything is located away from the others – it’s a scattershot of the island. If you’ve got the money, you can certainly hire a private driver or rent a car. If you have the time, you can choose a spot as a home base and motorbike the majority of the island. If you’d like to risk death, you can take a bus. But most likely, you’re going to have to use the train.

Outside Colombo Fort Station

The train in Sri Lanka is not anywhere near as modern, easy, or comfortable as we’ve covered before in Seoul or Bangkok. In fact, you’ll pretty much be taken back to the turn of the (20th) century in terms of operations. If you want to use the bathroom, I’d suggest you just hold it.

Train Bathroom

We made two trips on the train during our stay. Our first trip we started at the tiny Ja-Ela station, which just happened to be near our AirBNB, which we took to Colombo Fort Station, and from Fort we went to Weligama.

Ja-Ela was a very tiny station, really just a platform with a ticket master. Our tickets cost 20 LKR (~$0.15) each. We had looked up online when to be at the station, which in this case was 10:30am, and the train arrived relatively on schedule. The trains do not run frequently, so it is important to know what time to make, otherwise you may be waiting several hours or even to the next day for the next train. Once the train arrived, we jumped onto the train and took a leisurely ride to Colombo Fort, which lasted roughly an hour. The train itself looked to be around a hundred years old. Wooden bench seats (they did have cushions though) were the only option and the train doors were simply open, air conditioning meant windows and small electric fans on the ceiling.

Ja Ela Station
Briana Looking Out Train Window

Arriving at Colombo Fort was chaos in stark contrast to sleepy Ja-Ela. Big, loud, and bustling, the numerous platforms had trains coming in and out seemingly at random. There were no announcements, you simply found out which train you were supposed to get on and go to the right platform at the right time. One rule to remember, is that while trains may run late – they NEVER run early, so do not get on a train if it’s not yet time, otherwise you’ll find yourself on the path to the wrong place.

Colombo Fort Station
Colombo Fort Station Schedule Board

Colombo Fort has a “Coat Closet”, or “Left Luggage” area near the main station master. It is watched by a guard on the first floor, and you put your stuff in a large locker on the second floor for 50 LKR (~$0.33) a day. It should hold whatever you’re carrying, and if you can’t fit it all in – you are carrying way too much stuff with you. They will provide you with a small lock, but if you’re planning on leaving your stuff there for more than a few hours, I’d recommend that you bring your own, sturdier padlock.

Cloak Room at Colombo Fort Station

We had two hours to kill before our train to Weligama arrived, so we just put our stuff up for the time and went and explored the area around the station. There isn’t a ton, but there are a few streets of shops and food to explore. There is also a small food vendor within the station that is alright – nothing special, but it will get the job done.

Colombo Fort Station Cafeteria
Outside Colombo Fort STation

Buying the longer express trains to places such as Weligama, or Kandy will run a bit more expensive. Buying our 2nd class tickets cost us 240 LKR (~$1.60) each, not much, but it is more. You must purchase them outside the station though and re-enter.

Sri Lanka Train Ticket

Once your train arrives, get on the train and search for a seat. You probably won’t find one. Despite paying for 2nd class, which is supposed to get you a seat in air conditioning, you’ll still probably stand. We eventually got to sit about 2 hours into our ride. Luckily you can stow your gear above the seats. If you do this though, be sure to keep your eyes on your luggage – people will steal your stuff. Upon arrival to Weligama, another couple discovered that literally all their belongings had been stolen: bags, phones, money, Passports and Visas.

Weligama Train Station

If you can though, grab a window seat and enjoy the scenery. The trip to Weligama follows the shore the whole way, so much of the time you have a nice ocean view. If you’re going to Kandy, the trip is considered beautiful enough that they have a special car just for viewing the landscape in the back.

Galle Station
Train Through Galle

Our second trip, was from Weligama back to Colombo Fort, and then supposed to continue on to Kurana station, which was near our AirBNB that would take us to the airport the next day. Purchasing and boarding at Weligama went smoothy, and we got 2nd class seats – and since it was a smaller station at the beginning of the line, we actually managed to sit. The train was delayed en route for reasons unknown to us, but we sat at Galle Station for at least a half hour before continuing on.

Kurana Station

Disembarkation at Colombo Fort was awful though. People rushed onto the train as we tried to get off. They were incredibly rude, shoving and pushing and very inconsiderate. I got pressed against a wall at one point, and once I managed to stumble off the train, I discovered my wallet was missing. I’d been pick-pocketed.

Again, I can’t reiterate enough that you need to be careful of your stuff on the trains in Sri Lanka. People will steal your stuff. That fiasco led to us not catching the train to Kurana, but I’ll not go into that here.

In any case, the trains in Sri Lanka are an adventure to themselves. Don’t be scared, but you should certainly be wary, and keep your guard up.

Small Sri Lankan Train Station

Vegetarian food in Hanoi

Bố Dể Quán Styrax Vegetarian Restaurant (Hanoi)

~B~

If you are vegetarian, or even if you’re not, you should try to make it to Bo de Quan if you visit  Hanoi. It is a fairly new restaurant, only around since 2014 and in its current location since 2015, but I think it will be around for a while. If you would like to learn more about the origins of the place, I highly recommend this article which I was pretty excited to find because we had wondered about it.

Onto our discovery of the restaurant: Our first night in Hanoi we faced a number of problems. Not too surprising seeing as 1) we decided to go there only the night prior and 2) it’s Vietnam. Anyway, while I was waiting for a person that lived in the house (not even the host- she was down in HCM) to come and go into his locked room to fix the internet router, Kyle decided to scope out our food options.

Walk to the restaurant

What he discovered while he was out wandering (among other things) was Bo De Quan. At the time (February 2016) the restaurant was not yet on Googlemaps (or at least on in the correct location), but now you can find it on maps, Happy Cow, and TripAdvisor (though the picture does not look right so it’s possible it’s a different place).  It was a little less than a kilometer away from our Airbnb and we ended up trying it out the next day.

BoDeQuan
The kitchen
Seating at Bo de Quan

It was SO GOOD, arguably some of the best food we have tried while traveling.

Soup on a cool day

All of the options are vegan or vegetarian. Meals were around 40-45k dong ($1.80-$2). We ended up with a schedule which involved eating here for lunch and cooking our own dinner. While it may be a tiny bit farther away from some of the more touristy things, it is a cheaper option than many of the other exclusively vegetarian restaurants in Hanoi.

Bo de quan menu

The soups were perfect for the cool weather. They were also really filling. Here are some of the dishes we tried. Hopefully I’m matching them up/identifying them correctly:

Bun Rieu Chay / bún riêu chay

While researching this one, it looks like it is supposed to be Vegetarian Mock Crab Soup (though I am not sure what is supposed to be imitating crab). I looked up a recipe and it should contain tomatoes, various vegetables and spices, tofu, and cassava. Some recipes include other things like apples and pears but these were not in this soup. We think it is possible it contained cassava but think they put banana in our’s instead (surprisingly good). Everything else seemed to match up.

Vegetarian SoupBun Rieu Chay

Bun Chuoi Dau / bún ốc chuối đậu

This one translates as “Banana Bean Noodle Soup.” Now, Kyle does not normally like bananas but the bananas in these soups were different from the bananas we normally have back home and he really enjoyed both soups. In addition to the bananas and noodles, this soup contained potatoes, tofu, and mushrooms. When it’s not made to be vegetarian, it also contains snails and ham. Vietnam knows how to do soups!

bun chuoi dau

Bun nem / Bún nem: Translates as “Crisp parcels with vermicelli salad. Basically salad/lettuce, noodles, and spring rolls.

Spring Roll Salad

Hu Tieu Xao Noodles, vegetables, nuts- basically a stir fry

Hu Tieu Xao

We primarily stuck to the soups so we did not end up trying the other dishes, but I will try to identify them for you. Banh Xeo Chay / bánh xèo chay- vegetarian pancakes- looks more like an omelet,  com chay- not sure- various vegetables/tofu I think, nem chay – vegetable/spring rolls, bahn goi chay / bánh gối nhân chay- translates as “Vegetarian Cake’s Pillow” and may have vegetables, beans, peas, etc., and pho cuon- we think vegetable rolls. You can find a little more info in the article I linked to at the beginning.

Because vegetarianism isn’t much of a concept in Vietnam for the most part, most all of the other people we saw at Bo De Quan were foreigners. While I really think more Vietnamese need to try out vegetarianism, being around some foreigners was kind of nice for us. Despite there being a large and active online expat community in Ho Chi Minh, we rarely ran into other foreigners except in the most touristy areas. In Hanoi, we found the complete opposite. I guess instead of spending all of their time online, the foreigners in Hanoi are out doing things.

It seemed like many of them had established social groups. There was a group of women (British, Australian, and either American or Canadian) around our age or a little older whom we saw a couple times.  At least a couple of them were English teachers, while others seemed to be doing different things- visiting, studying, working online. We heard one say she was just fired from a Yoga Studio because she had been teaching Zumba with an expired certificate and someone had told on her to the Zumba board or whatever (I don’t remember or know exactly how it all works).

We saw other groups of people as well. I think if we stayed there for a while, we would probably end up developing a social group of our own. I pictured it. We had a conversation over lunch one day with a British man who had moved to the city and was working as a consultant for local businesses there. We talked about how Vietnam is really growing and has a lot of potential. We also talked about the American politics and Australian politics.

The owner and her family were really nice too. One day (maybe on our third or fourth day eating there), the mother of the owner gave us some melon as we were leaving. It was primarily her who we interacted/dealt with on our visits.

Getting Ready to PayFlowers

Here is some of the info so you can make it there:

Bo de quan

Address: 164 Au Co, Tay Ho District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Hours: We aren’t exactly sure, but we think it was something like 10am-8pm
Other: It’s cash only. Bring your dong.

On to Bo De Quan

Problematic Cat Cafe

Ailu Cat Cafe (Hanoi)

~B~

I am sad to report that the cat cafe in Hanoi- Ailu Cat Cafe, also known as Ailu Cathouse Club,  is the worst cat cafe we have been to so far (mostly due to the state and treatment of the cats there).

Ailu Cat Cafe

We made our way here at the end of a long day of walking around Hanoi doing various other activities (including the Temple of Literature and the Vietnamese Women’s Museum). Hanoi is really a lovely city to walk around, especially during the time we visited (February/March).

Near the cafe

There are stairs leading up to the cafe in front of what I think might have been a restaurant. We made our way up and did the standard take off our shoes and pay the entrance fee. This cat cafe had the cheapest fee of any cat cafe so far at 35,000VND/person (at least in March 2016, it’s possible it will be raised). This comes out to about $3.15 for both of us.

Ailucat house

The whole thing was rather strange because the person running the place at the time did not even offer us a menu or ask if we would like to order something to drink/eat. Usually cat cafes (at least at the ones we visited in Asia) like to try to sell their food as it’s a way they make money. The guy actually looked a little unhappy that we came at all. Not in an annoyed way, but maybe more in the ‘they are going to see how badly this cafe is run’ sort of way. I’m not sure.

White Cat

There were quite a few kittens but we did not get to spend time with any of them because a group of young girls (also the only other people at the cafe) was hogging them all.

Girls with Kittens

We made our way to the back and settled in some bean bags. Here are some of the troubling things I found:

Smiling Cat but maybe sick

1. Some of the cats seemed ill.

2. Several of the cats needed to be groomed and/or cleaned (such as cleaning around their eyes, brushing their fur, etc.)

3. I think at least a couple of the cats were not fixed! One of them seemed to be in heat.

4. Some of the cats had mental issues (possibly as a result of their treatment.) Some were very strange about things like eye contact (believe me, it was strange- I have spent time with plenty of cats and not encountered something quite like this) and others were extremely moody.

5. The owners/workers abused the cats. One time I saw a cat crawling up a toy having fun and the man working there kept putting it down for no reason. It seemed very mean. I also saw him hit a cat that was fighting.

6. On that note: the fighting. Now, you might think a little rough play is inevitable when you put that many cats together, but we did not notice any at any of the other cat cafes (or it was very light). We saw several cats fighting during the hour we were there. If you have seen the television show My Cat from Hell, which we actually did see on the tv in Vietnamese in Hanoi, you may know that there are certain things you can do to create an environment which will help with this kind of thing.

7. Cats in cages. We saw two cats in the back in cages. I don’t know why they were there but one of them kept crying. I understand that at some cat cafes they may move a problem cat/fighting cat to another room, but they need to have access to food, water, and a littler box at all times!

Person Tending to Cage

8. At one point I saw a cat on the balcony walking on the ledge! That is a little scary!

It is not really a surprise from Vietnam as the country isn’t known for caring about animals (quite the opposite), but we had had a good experience at ICHI Cat Cafe down in Ho Chi Minh so we thought it might be okay.

Now, despite their instability, most of the cats were very sweet and it was nice to hang out with them. One white fluffy one crawled up to Kyle at one point, kneaded him, purred, and finally settled and went to sleep in his lap. We felt really bad when we left and the cat had to leave his lap.

Crawling on Lap
Kyle with Kitties
Kyle with White Cat

All of the cats who would accept attention really seemed happy to receive pets.

Me with CatGray Kitty
Kitty in bean bag

There were also two cats that were very sweet to watch because they were always rubbing each other, giving each other baths, etc.

Cuddling cats

I can’t exactly recommend the place but at the same time I worry that they would give them even less care or something if they don’t get enough visitors so if you happen to be in the area, that is your call. I really hope they work to improve things.

Kitty walking

Kuala Lumpur Lake Park Pagoda

Kuala Lumpur Central Market

~K~

With having finished the National Museum of Malaysia, we decided to make our way towards the Central Market and some food. We hadn’t eaten all day, and it was getting towards late afternoon, so food was pretty much the only thing on our mind.

The route would be through the Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens. From the museum, you can take a short walking tunnel under the main highway and it will open up to a large, well manicured park with a large lark going the length of the park. We made our way along the paved paths, through the shadows of palms for a good long while. The heat and lack of food was slowing us down a bit, but we had plenty to look at.

The Lake

After about a kilometer, we came to a large covered pavilion surrounded by baobab trees. This area of the park housed many unique trees as well as various bridges crossing the lake. There was even an edible garden area (you’re not allowed to eat the edibles though). We stayed for a short bit to rest and look, but we still had a long ways to go, so we got back up and proceeded on down the road within the park.

Bridge in the Park
Kyle at the Park
Lily Pads

Nearly another kilometer had passed, and we had gone by a large children’s park, and had come to a main road. From here, you can proceed further north and you’ll find yourself at the National Monument, or you can turn south and you’ll wind up at the Bird Gardens. The Lake Gardens themselves are a very large complex that contains the previously mentioned, as well as Butterfly Gardens, Deer Park. Along the outside rim of the Lake Gardens are the National Mosque, Islamic Arts Museum, and various hotels.

However, we proceeded down the main road, away from the Lake Gardens, still in search of food. We could see the Petronas Towers off in the distance and knew from previous experience that there was at least food there, but that we would hopefully find some before that. The road continued on for about another kilometer passing a nice fountain and smaller park, and then we finally made our way into the city streets.

View of KL Tower
Water Fountain
Downtown KL

Quickly, the quiet changed into the chaos that is KL. We ended up passing by an Irish place that offered vegetarian ciabatta sandwiches, so we stopped here and got Briana something to eat. I decided I could wait a little bit longer and try to find something else later on.

Islamic Arches In KL
Downtown KL

Later on ended up being a McDonalds only a few hundred feet away, but it was ok – I got a large burger and fries, and we got an ice cream as well. The McDonalds was pretty nice all in all, but didn’t offer any unique items like the South Korean McD’s did.

With our stomachs satisfied, we began our more serious search for Central Market. By this time, I’d managed to get data working on my phone, and we’ve managed to at least use the maps and gps to get around town. But we needed to be wary. The bikers around here are notorious for stealing phones and purses from people’s hands – and several were eyeing my phone and had that calculating look in their eye about how to make off with it.  So I kept it close, and put it back in my pocket. We had to cross the street, but for whatever reason, KL doesn’t seem to do cross walks, so we had to just time ourselves with the light and try to avoid getting hit by the bikers who ignore every rule.

Downtown KL
KL City Streets

After a close call with a bike, we had finally made it across and were able to proceed on to the Central Market. It was only a few more minutes walk there and we finally arrived.  Central Market was first established in 1888 as an open-air wet market, but was renovated to it’s current state in 2004 to meet the needs of tourism and modernity. However, it still retains it’s charms and is a great place to wander and find authentic items. There is a main street that has many street venders, but if you turn inside, you’ll find dozens of various shops and stalls ranging from clothes, to trinkets, to antiques – food, drink, toys, and everything between can be found here. Briana ended up buying some pants in a local style, which have worked out quite nice here. I really would have liked to pick up a souvenir, but there is no way we could have sent it back to the states, nor carried it with us on our travels. I was saddened though to see a lot of ivory (Briana doesn’t think it was real ivory – but that’s our debate) for sale here. Many of the items on display and stores explicitly say no photography, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the ivory pieces. Although the ivory trade is illegal, it is still very much alive, especially in places such as South East Asia, with China and the US being the biggest buyers with the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand closely following. We also came across real weapons from antiquity, yet another item I doubt would make it through customs.

Central Market KL
Central Market Juice
Central Market Coconuts

Upstairs, we found a food court, we we decided to take a rest. I was still a little hungry, so I got us Strawberry Ice Floss. We really like the Ice Floss here.  Upon finishing our food, we continued on in the upper floor and checked out a few more antique shops, and then made our way out of the market.

Central Market Ice Floss

We were basically done for the day, but Briana really wanted to get a good picture of the Petronas Towers, so we made our way there. However, no matter how far we walked, it never seemed to get any closer, and we were at a bad angle anyways. Ultimately, with it dark and our feet tired, we gave up, took a quick snapshot and called our Uber.

Night Time KL

Chang

South and South East Asian Beer Review

~K~

So initially, the plan here was to give each country it’s own individual beer review. As time has gone on, some countries only had a few to offer, while in others I didn’t get to try as many, and in some places they offered the same beers. So I’m going to go ahead and just list them all here with my review.

Vietnam: Vietnam may not be well known for it’s beer, but it’s actually got quite a good selection and they’re all cheap. There are a few national brands, and many imports with Heineken being the favorite, but the beer scene in Vietnam is pretty local. Many breweries are very local and only sell regionally. While I didn’t get to try any from the central region, I did get a wide range from the south and north.

Bia Saigon Special: Light sweet flavor with strong bitter after notes. 14,000 Dong (~$0.70) Found nationwide, hailing from Ho Chi Minh City.

(Image Missing :/)

Sabeco 333: Light with a musky flavor, with no distinct after taste. 16,000 Dong (~$0.75). Found nationwide hailing from Ho Chi Minh City.

Bia Saigon 333

Halida: Tastes like Budlight. Cool design though. 11,000 Dong (~$0.50). Originates from north Vietnam, and is now part of the Carlsberg group.

Halida

Bia Hai Phong: Light and crisp with a fruity flavor and a bitter, but not too hoppy bite, big bottle. Huge bottle at only 12,000 Dong (~ $.050). Found only near Hai Phong City and Cat Ba Island.

Hai Phong Beer

Bia Ha Noi: Light and clean. The taste is a little watery though. There is a mild bitter aftertaste. Found nationwide hailing from Hanoi.

Bia_Hanoi

Larue: Heavy beer. Slightly bitter and hoppy, but with a clean after taste and very filling. 15,000 Dong (~$0.75). Brewed by French colonialists in 1909 in the European style.

Larue Beer

Viet Ha: Light beer, very light taste with a hint of lemon. It’s rather foamy. Reminds me of Keystone Light. Hailing from Hanoi, it’s aimed at middle-income drinkers who want an easy to drink beer.

Viet Ha

Thailand: Like (most) any other country, Thailand likes its alcohol and has a fair selection of beer. I’ve gotten a chance to try a few and review them here. I believe that you can find some of these in US stores if they offer a wide selection. All the beers came in two sizes, regular and big at the prices of 32-35 BHT (~$1) and 55 BHT (~$1.5).
Chang: Medium lightness, not too bitter, slight citrus taste. Really good. It is a pale lager, brewed at 5.5% ABV. Chang is Thai for elephant, of which there are two on the logo.

Chang

Leo: Heavy and rich taste. Almost tastes like a pale-ale. It is a American Adjunct Lager, brewed by Boon Rawd Brewery at 5% ABV.

Leo

Singha: Lighter than Leo, but similar. Rich taste, very crisp, and bitter. It is a 5% ABV pale lager, also brewed by Boon Rawd Brewery. Singha is a powerful mythological lion of Bihari Hindu and Thai stories. It is the only brewery allowed to display the royal Garuda on the bottleneck.

Singha

Cheers: Decent Lager. Mild flavor, moderately bitter. Similar to a Bud-light, but it actually tastes good. This is an American Adjunct Lager at 5% ABV brewed by Thai Asia Pacific Brewery Company.

Cheers

Cheers Malt and Riceberry Lager: Sweet, light and crisp. Slight bitter after-tones. Much better than the regular Cheers. This is a 5% ABV beer.

Cheers_Riceberry

Siamsato: This is not actually a beer, I was surprised upon drinking it after opening. It is a beer brewed rice wine. At 8% ABV it’s not as strong as regular wine. It is a sweet, crisp and fruity white wine. Its decent and comes in a large bottle, but certainly a cheap wine. 35 BHT ($1)

Siamsato

Cambodia: I was really surprised at Cambodia’s selection of beer. They had quite a few craft style selections to choose from.

Kingdom Max: 6% ABV. Light tasting and very smooth. Not particularly bitter. It is considered a gold lager, and is brewed to German Purity standards – containing only water, yeast, hops and malt. Kingdom Breweries was founded in 2009 as Cambodia’s premiere Craft Brewery. ($0.50)

Kingdom_Max

Kingdom Dunkel: 5% ABV. Smooth and heavy. Very complex, and well balanced flavors. Hints of caramel and chocolate with a hoppy finish. Slightly sweet. Brewed by Kingdom Breweries. ($1.10)

Kingdom_Dunkel

Kingdom Pilsner: 5% ABV. Light and fresh tasting. Light hoppiness with sweet citrus notes and a sweet honey finish. Moderate body, with a good mouth feel. Not overly carbonated. ($1.30)

Kingdom_Pilsner

Phnom Penh Lager: 5% ABV. Bitter, hoppy and light. Hints of citrus. A pale lager. Decent but not particularly noteworthy. Brewed by Phnom Penh Brewery Company. ($0.55)

Phnom_Penh

Phnom Penh Stout: 7% ABV. Smooth with chocolate notes. It begins slightly sweet and malty, but ends with a crispness that can almost be called bitter. Deep brown in color, with a thick head. Very good quality. Brewed from Phnom Penh Brewery Company. ($0.65)

Phnom_Penh_Stout

ABC Extra Stout: 8% ABV. Smooth with a sharp bitter taste with distinct notes of chocolate and coffee. Good mouth feel, and quite heavy. Good drink to have along with a meal. Brewed by Archipelago Brewery Company. ($1.10)

ABC_ExtraStout

Angkor: 5% ABV. Sharp and bitter bite. Watery mouth feel, and flavor does not linger long. Quickly becomes more palatable as the beer slightly warms. Very hoppy. Not the best, but nothing to complain about. Brewed by Cambrew Brewery. ($0.50)

Angkor

Angkor Premium Extra Stout: 8% ABV. Very strong bite and a bitter, hoppy taste. Light hints of chocolate, with stronger overtones of vanilla and anise.  Brewed by Cambrew Brewery. ($1.10)

Angkor_ExtraStout

Cambodia Lager: 5% ABV. The taste is a bit heavier and foamy. Not particularly sharp tasting, but not overly watery.  It’s acceptable, but not amazing. Reminds me of a Keystone Light. Typical mass produced lager. Brewed by Khmer Brewery. ($0.55)

Cambodia_Lager

Indonesia: Despite having the largest Muslim population in the world, and being a Muslim country via the government, you can still get yourself plenty of alcohol with little to no issue here. Each island has it’s own regional beers, of which I only got on Bali, but Bintang is offered across all the islands.

Bintang Pilsner: Pilsner. Light tasting, with hint of citrus. Smooth and with little head. 4.7% ABV. Very average, but drinkable. 17,000 Rupiah (~$1.30)

Bintang

Bali Hai: 4.85% – Draft Beer. Good strong, yet mellow drink. Good mouth feel. Thin body. Smells and tastes of malt, barley, and rice. High carbonation. 17,000 Rupiah (~$1.30)

Bali_Hai

Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka carries many of the standard beers you find in SEA, but it also has some wonderful local beers. Over here, they like them big and strong. Most varieties come in both large and small bottles, and well as regular strength and strong.

Lion Strong: 8.8% ABV. Lion Brewery Ceylon. Strong, heavy malt flavor. Smooth finish. Light carbonation. Medium hoppiness. 625 ML  310 Rupees (~$2.10)

Lion_Strong

Lion Stout: 8.8% ABV. Lion Brewery Ceylon. Strong, heavy malt flavor. Thick and rich. Subtle hints of chocolate. 625 ML 310 Rupees ($2.10)

Lion_Stout

General: These beers you can find just about anywhere in this region. The key distributer is Carlsberg.

Tiger Beer: This is actually a South Korean beer, but very popular in the region. Light tasting, with a hint of citrus and bitter after notes. I grabbed this one while in Vietnam. 18,000 Dong (~$0.80)

Tiger Beer

Anker Stout:  4.9% ABV. Thick and creamy. Very carbonated. Was decent and malty. I grabbed this one while in Bali. 19,000 Rupiah (~$1.40)

(Image Missing :/)

Carlsberg Special Brew: 8.8% ABV.  Medium bodied lager. Decent finish with moderate carbonation. Hints of malt. Decent. I grabbed this one while in Sri Lanka. 310 Rupees (~$2.10)

Carlsberg_Special8

Anchor: 4.7% ABV. A very nice light pilsner beer with a smooth finish and light, sweet taste. A rice beer. Supplied via our host in Columbo, Sri Lanka.

Anchor

6th largest mall in Malaysia

1 Utama Shopping Center

~B~

One piece of information I did not know about Malaysia before we went is that it’s home to many amazing malls! Asia and the middle east as a whole are populated with gigantic, clean, and modern malls which are filled with shops, restaurants, activities, and more (like grocery stores).

1Utama

I have always enjoyed malls. I remember going to the Mall of America a few times in my youth and I always found it both impressive and fun. I have now somehow been to 4 malls which are larger! 1 Utama is the winner so far, though, ranking at 6th largest in the world according to Wikipedia, and 4th according to CNN. At 5 million square feet, it’s the largest mall in Malaysia.

1 Utama is technically located in the city of Damansara. We visited a couple times when we came to Malaysia the first time and stayed in Petaling Jaya. Still, it’s not far from Kuala Lumpur so it would not be unreasonable to make a visit there from KL using Uber. There is an old wing and a new wing. Your driver will probably ask which you prefer to be dropped at, but if you are not going for any specific purpose it doesn’t matter because they are connected.

There are 6 floors (though it’s slightly more complicated than that) but if you have trouble navigating, there are a few directories. We even found a touchpad/interactive map in one area. They also have a website you can check out before visiting.

Touchpad 1 Utama

Some of the attractions at 1 Utama (and no we did not see all of these) include 2 movie theaters, 2 karaoke centers, a bowling alley, a batting cage, an indoor gym, a kid’s play land, an escape room, a rooftop garden, and a diving center. There is also an indoor rainforest.

Rainforest
Kyle in the rainforest

You’ll find many stores here that you might find in a mall in the US. There are all kinds of fashion/retail stores ranging from casual to upscale. There are bookstores, toy stores, makeup stores, etc.

Toys r Us in 1Utama
Makeup Store
For Americans

One great thing about Malaysia (particularly Kuala Lumpur) in general is the selection of food. It’s as diverse as the people there. You can find great food from all over the world here (though especially Asian food)! Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. Here are a few places we either tried or got photos of:

Korean Food. It was neat seeing this sign because we were like hey! we have been to Myeongdong (a neighborhood in Seoul), this must be Korean.

Myeongdong Restaurant

Thai Food (So good!). Pictured here: Mango sticky rice, Red ruby dessert, mango salad, and some kind of shrimp pad thai.

Yummy Food

Taiwanese Food. These are sweet potato plum fries!(Also so good!)

Taiwanese PlacePlum Fries

McDonalds

McDonalds

Ice Cream and Desserts

Spiral Ice Cream cones
Korean Desserts
Milkshake Bros
tuttifruiti

A piece of cheesecake we treated ourselves on our very first visit.

Cheesecake

We watched the people at “Sticky” make candy.

StickyPeople making dessert
Making Candy

And more!

Little Cravings
Menu

Places like Starbucks seem pretty common all over the world, but this mall even has some options you wouldn’t expect to find outside of the US such as TGI Fridays.

We also had to check out the grocery store even though we could not do much cooking at the time we visited.

Grocery StoreProduce Selection
SamplesIce Cream Selection

We also checked out an herbal remedy store and restaurant (we just checked out the store). I was just getting over a cold and was curious about their remedies:

Herbal Store
White Fungus

It was such fun just walking around and exploring the mall in general. It’s pretty kid-friendly.

Flowers
Spinny Things
KyleinspinnythingFor Children

The toilets are normal and clean as well.

Our biggest problem with 1Utama was that it was hard to get an Uber to leave. There is quite a bit of traffic in the area and many times they’d end up on the wrong side and then it’d be a while (if they didn’t cancel) before they’d make it to our location. I assume parking here is also a nightmare though.

Underpass Between the Old and NewWaiting for Uber

It’s busy for a reason, though!

1 Utama