Food, glorious VIETNAMESE food

Food, glorious VIETNAMESE food

This one’s for you Donna Gabriel.  You asked if the food was ‘good’. It’s more than good, it’s scrumptious.  And I don’t even know where to begin talking about it…so for now, just a few photos.

Sapa Market
Sapa Market Stall
Competitor across the road








Mint ice
Mint Freeze
Pineapple, usually 60 cents a piece


Vietnamese seafood hot pot



lime and chilies
salt, lime and chilly for beef hot pot
somara hotpot
hot pot love
Pork Skewers
Pork Skewers


Different spelling, same idea
Vietnamese donuts for the finishing touch







Why you should travel with kids….

3 monkeys
credit: Fia Jampolsky

I spent two and a half weeks with my sister Fia, my brother-in-law Joel and these three goofy girls, Somara, Ava and Lily, travelling around Vietnam.  Fia thinks 5 minutes of unplanned time is an opportunity to cram in another activity; so we did A LOT in that time.

First we met in Hoi An, an ancient city in central Vietnam. And from there we went on a wild adventure eating strange food, changing beds every few nights, waiting for transport, rushing to catch it, cycling, kayaking and hiking in 30 plus degree weather; going flat out to take in as much as we could before Fia and her posse had to return to Canada.  And even though there were times when the girls didn’t want to eat what was on offer, or they were ‘too hot’ or ‘tired’, they more than embraced the experience.  For me they came to define the experience, taking it to another level.

For one thing, they saw the fun in everything.

big pooptitanic

boxer boy

They had no fear of getting close to really look at or pet things.

Bai, a pup they visited on numerous occasions in Hoi An

They were door openers, receiving invites to places we might never have gone. After travelling 5 hours north of Hanoi we landed in a small village near Sapa, home to most of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities. The staff at our home-stay immediately asked if we would like to teach an English class. So even though they’d been up early, travelled all morning, and some-one (no names) had puked on the bus, they were keen to trek up the mountain and meet the locals.

We spent the better part of two hours helping 8 or so kids with their English vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling.  Our girls took turns playing teacher and eventually the kids sang for one another; Ava, Somara and Lily in French and English, the local kids in Vietnamese.  And for one last blast of fun, we all did the Macarena.

Buffalo KidEverywhere we went they became a main attraction.  This young guy started doing stunts on his buffalo as soon as he saw them.  Do you think he was trying to impress them just a little bit?

On another expedition to a famous pagoda, called Bai Dinh, we spent a significant amount of time with local tourists who wanted to be photographed with the girls. (I think they asked my sister and I to be in some just to be polite).

pagoda selfies

Travelling with kids can be a hassle, but so can travelling with adults.  I’m so grateful that I spent my first weeks in Vietnam with these three gorgeous monkeys.

credit: Fia Jampolsky








P.S.  When culling through photographs I found a few more that reminded me why I love to travel with these guys.  No matter where we are they can conjure up a dance routine, a tune, or just go with the moment.

at an old pagoda in Hoi An
at an old pagoda in Hoi An
in a ricefield
on a cruise ship
on a cruise ship

Something happened on the way to Hanoi…

The months leading up to our move were not good ones. I was burned out and all I could see was a very long ‘to do’ list with a strict time table. Pragmatically it was all doable, I just wasn’t in top form.  However the moment that toppled it was when I found out that I had only been given a tourist visa.  What that meant was that I had to leave the country every 3 months to renew my visa with no guarantee it would be. Tim and Somara received one year visas; Tim because of the position he was taking, Somara because she was his dependent, but I was out of luck. We didn’t have the magic piece of paper, a marriage certificate. The more optimistic of my friends said ‘that’s at least 4 guaranteed trips to other countries’ but in my mind the only guarantee was one trip out.

So after 23 years together Tim and I got married. It was what I’d call a shot gun wedding. Nine of us around the dining table on a Sunday night including my friend Cindy, a Justice of the Peace. We’d had 4 days to think about it.

In those 4 days I couldn’t think about what we were going to say, wear, eat, let alone contemplate the meaning of this marriage. I was maxed out…AND I was mired in the disappointment that this was going to happen without my family and many close friends. So I just need to get through it and surrendered all the planning to Tim. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

But from the moment our friends arrived presenting Tim with a bottle of Scotch, and me with lacy underwear, everything clicked into place. It was chaotic, and noisy and a bit disorganized. But it felt right. All my anxiety and sadness went poof into thin air. There was genuine joy around that table, as well as numerous bottles of Prosecco, plates of eggplant parmesan and a crazy delicious chocolate cake. Hannah and Somara didn’t eat the eggplant and it wasn’t ‘the wedding’ I had imagined for myself 20 years ago, but it was exactly who we were as a family; together, eating, drinking and celebrating with great friends the life we’ve had and the life to come. I think this is going to be a good year.

(So even though I didn’t even think about photos, let alone charge my camera…here’s our one and only fuzzy, wedding picture, with the whole family – minus one cat.)