A weekend in Hoi An

By on Monday, April 20, 2015 in Hanoi | 0 comments

Last March I spontaneously escaped Hanoi’s grotty weather and flew down to Hoi An for a long weekend. Alone. This year I planned a bit further in advance and booked a flight as soon as we returned from our Tet trip to Cambodia. The weather in March this year wasn’t quite as bad but the break was still welcome: Paul had been laid up in bed for weeks with a knee injury and we’d had a stressful office move, so I was ready for a bit of R&R and me time. The place I stayed in last year has apparently gone downhill — as Caroline put it, “Coconut is effin awful now – loads of gap yar retards with Honda Wins doing the buffalo trail and whining about the price of a chip.” — but fortunately there was another cheap beach option: a small complex of four new bungalows at the southern end of An Bang beach for just US$20 a night. The room was basic but good for the price, and only a few minutes walk from the beach. It was quite a trek from the main action on An Bang beach though, so a bicycle came in handy. I spent some time each day sunbathing with a good book on the beach but also managed to fit in a nose around some potential wedding venues and guest accommodation and a 1/2 day street food tour, comprising 19 different dishes. I have listed them below for prosperity. I ate well all weekend of course, thanks to recommendations including the fish carpaccio at Soul Kitchen and a lovely French dinner at Sea Shells. I ate (and drank): Bún nạm (Noodle soup with beef muscle) Cháo dinh dưỡng Bánh cuốn Cháo vịt (Duck congee) Mì cao lầu Bánh Bèo (Rice cake with shrimp paste) Ốc hút (Sucking snail ) Bánh kẹp trứng (Vietnamese pizza) Nem Chua (Fermented pork paste) Bánh kẹp (Coconut rice paper with shallot, beef and chilli) Bánh bông hồng trắng (White Rose) Che bap (Sweetcorn sweet soup) Bánh căn or Bánh khọt (Fried rice pan cake) Bún thịt nướng (Grilled pork with noodles) Cơm gà (Chicken Rice) Bánh đậu xanh nhân thịt (Green bean biscuit) Trứng vịt lộn (Duck fetus egg) Banh mì Phượng (The Hội an Burger) Caphe sua da Sài gòn (Coffee with condensed...

It’s nearly April’s weather update

By on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 in Weather | 0 comments

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since I wrote a weather update – it feels like only a few months ago.  I was just reading my update from last April and got scared that the same pattern was repeating itself. The weather’s been really good since just before Christmas: with the exception of a few chilly weeks it’s been very mild, warm even (late 20s at times) and we’ve had a fair share of blue skies. It’s definitely seemed warmer than last year anyway – Paul sat outside for Christmas lunch which we wouldn’t have been able to do last year. But I fear that we will once again be calling this month “Mouldy March” as, since Sunday, it’s been cooler and windy, with some rain. Not quite as bad as last year so far but not a good start to the month. It’s still just about warm enough to go without a jacket, but definitely not sundress weather. I really should write these updates more often as I really can’t remember much about what last summer / autumn was like.  It definitely wasn’t the hottest we’ve had – temperatures remained in the 30s – and I don’t think it rained as much, although there were a few stonking storms, including one which hit when I was at a ladies get together at an open air beer garden. Of all the places to be! That took trees down, squashed cars and killed a few unfortunates. I hid with...

A general ramble Part II

By on Thursday, October 9, 2014 in Hanoi | 0 comments

Firstly, Rocky Horror was…well, a very enjoyable way to spend an evening. Such a fun film it’d be hard not to enjoy watching it, and being surrounded by people dressed up and singing along added an extra dimension. Kat and I didn’t dress up but really wished we had made more of an effort as we didn’t realise until watching it how easy it would have been to have done something simple. A lab coat maybe. Anyway, next sing-along we will try harder! Between Hong Kong, where I left off with ramble part I, and now we’ve had a few highlights. Firstly our engagement party, which Laura very kindly organised for us at new restaurant Cousins. It was in the courtyard and she’d decorated it with merchandise bought all the way from the US and organised canapés and drinks and some live music. We didn’t invite a big crowd, as we’re saving that for Paul’s 40th, but had a few good friends along and a really enjoyable — if not wild! — evening. Unfortunately we didn’t take a camera so I do need to hunt down some photos from those who did. I’ll post when I get some. The weekend after that our friend Bryony arrived to stay for a week. Bryony lived in Hanoi back in 2010 and we spent a lot of time with her. It was great to have her over but a very gluttonous! We were out all but one night checking out various local establishments. We even made it back to Ete — an old haunt — and Old Quarter. Although I skipped on Hanoi Backpackers. On the less fun side of things, we left VietFighter and have joined Elite — a fancy pants gym really near to our house. When we left the UK we swore we wouldn’t join a gym again, but needs must and the schedule and style of training at VF had just stopped working for us: too many joint injuries were occurring. We’re trying to get there most mornings, although in reality miss one or two a week, and then go at the weekend as well. Although I say less fun, we’re actually quite enjoying it. Definitely less fun is the construction work that has started on the patch of what was waste-land outside our house. And for those of you who have visited, I mean on the patch of land literally 4 feet from our wall.  Fortunately they didn’t have to knock somewhere down — that is probably the noisiest and messiest part of construction here — and they are building quickly, but I know we have the tile cutting to come… We are lucky that our landlord is so good and has ensured they only work between 7am and 5pm, although that time seems to be creeping a bit. Still, at least they aren’t working all night. And we got a discount on our...

A general ramble

By on Saturday, October 4, 2014 in Hanoi | 0 comments

Is it really over four months since I last wrote? Where did the summer go? Clearly it passed in a haze of heat and humidity which prevented me from functioning properly. Yes, that’ll be it. The temperature, and humidity, have dropped slightly now, but it’s still started out as a damn hot October. September was particularly humid – it got up to about 90%, and that was in the evenings. That is one of the notable things about the weather here versus the south: it may be hot all year round in HCMC but the temperature tends to drop in the evening. Here, not so much. But we do get a winter, which is fast approaching. But onto things other than weather.  A few exciting things have happened since May, most notably Paul proposing to me while we were away on holiday for our 10th anniversary. As if the holiday wasn’t special enough — we stayed in some awesome resorts — he popped the question over our anniversary dinner. And while it may not have been particularly notable in it’s delivery it was accepted. Then it was onto the exciting business of selecting a ring. We decided to order one on line from a well-regarded US supplier and get it delivered to a friend in Hong Kong for me to collect when I went in August — more on that later. I spent hours pouring over diamonds and settings, comparing the 4 Cs (as ever, when I research, I really research!) and different platinum settings. Eventually, with the aid of James Allen’s online chat we selected the ring and then had the anxious wait to see if it would get to Hong Kong on time. Fortunately, it did … but it’s too  big! Not to be deterred, I’ve stuck on a ring snuggie and am proudly wearing it around, sparkling in the sunshine! So Hong Kong: I met Kristel there at the end of August for a 5 day visit. I love that place. It really has everything I would want from a place to live: vibrancy, great restaurants, easy transport, countryside with good walks, beaches…if only it were the same price as Hanoi! Although we stayed in Wan Chai, on the island, we spent most of our days outside of the city walking on Lamma island, visiting Big Buddha and sitting by the beach on Lantau and exploring the wetlands in the New Territories. That did also involve quite a bit of time on public transport, so thank goodness it’s clean and reliable. Of course, we squeezed in a bit of shopping too — Paul wanted an Nano and I decided to buy myself the MacBook Air that I am using now, so Apple got  few visits. They’re the main adventures in the last few months, but I’ll ramble more tomorrow. For now I have to go out to a Rocky Horror Picture Show sing-along event. I think it may be a bit more raunchy than the Mamma Mia sing-along we attended a while ago, but who knows!      ...

Pork pies

By on Sunday, April 13, 2014 in Hanoi | 0 comments

In a quest to find a hobby — the desire exacerbated by Paul starting guitar lessons –, I arranged a short course of private cookery classes with Cameron, a Canadian chef based in Hanoi who we met when setting up a blog website for him. Myself and two friends, Laura and Urshi, spent three very enjoyable Wednesday evenings at Cameron’s house cooking a range of delicious dishes while imbibing good wine and chatting about food and general gossip. Each week we prepared and cooked snacks, salads, vegetables, meat and desserts, learning to joint a chicken, cook duck to perfection, make crumbly pastry and bake a chocolate souffle, among other things. At the end of the evening we ate the results of our efforts and returned home full, learned and a bit tipsy. Needless to say, when the course finished we missed our Wednesday night adventure, so Laura and I arranged to spend an evening cooking pork pies: something we both wanted to have a go at (as you can’t buy them here). Laura bought all the ingredients and prepared the jelly — which involved boiling pigs’ trotters with vegetables for hours — during the day and I turned up after work. Neither of us was prepared for just how long finely chopping over 2kg of pork and streaky bacon would take but neither had we really calculated that the length of cooking time meant we’d need to wait up until 11.30pm to remove the pies from the oven and pour in the jelly. Not the end of the world of course, but bear in mind Laura gets up at the crack of dawn with baby Aubin and I just like my sleep! Were the results worth it? Well, we learnt that making two pies was excessive, that the smaller pie dish was a better size, that duck fat is a better replacement for lard than shortening (but we’ll use butter next time) and that we should have used a lot more salt, but having initially declared we would never make them again, we agreed to give it another go in our quest for the perfect pork pie....

Staff and green walls

By on Sunday, April 13, 2014 in Crunchy Frog stuff | 0 comments

A month ago Huong, who’d been working for us for two years, handed in her resignation. It was not unexpected and, although we were sad to see her go, it pushed us into making a decision on staffing. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with office admin and day to day account management, and it’s been getting in the way of me pursuing the sort of work I want to be doing, so we agreed to take on a full time Exec Assistant / Account Manager, and Hang joined us a couple of weeks ago. Fingers crossed that over time she’ll be able to take on more of the work I’ve been doing. On the design side of things, having been burnt by our first experience of taking on a designer, we’d been putting off trying again, but in January we realised we could wait no longer and started the recruitment process. We found a couple of suitable candidates and made an offer which was accepted. Unfortunately, the candidate decided not to show up last Monday and also decided not to bother to let us know he’d changed his mind. I was so angry and completely at a loss to understand how someone could be so lacking in consideration for others. I am still constantly amazed by the cultural differences we encounter here and quite demoralised about having to start recruiting again, but if we are to grow we need more staff, so…back to the drawing board! On a more positive note, with the change of staff came a change in office layout and decor. We re-organised the layout and had one wall painted Crunchy Frog green. It’s amazing how much difference the changes have made – it’s given the place a new lease of life and feels much more spacious....