Saturday, October 11, 2014

An unexpectedly free dinner

Yes, it is. Totally free. I'm not kidding. Totally surprising!

I was waiting for the call from the organization I had applied for an intern position, a call came. But it wasn’t the number of that place. I just picked it up and someone at the other end said I got picked for a free dinner at a newly opened restaurant. "What???? Wait a moment! What have I done? How come I have got it?". I asked myself. It turned out I had registered for a free meal test at a newly opened restaurant in the town via a food website on the Internet, and luckily I got selected. I could eat as much as I want for free but I had to write a review with at least 200 words about that restaurant in exchange according to the organizer. A piece of cake! So let's go. 

The restaurant was small but lovely, located in the city center. Its name is Notre Dame, deriving from the name of the well-known church in Paris since the owner spent more than 10 years living in France. We, me and some other people, ate a lot. But I didn't eat meat that day so I ended up eating all vegetarian food. How grateful I was to the owner as his restaurant doesn't serve vegetarian or vegan food but he still made some due to my "special but weird" order. 

And here are what I ate 

From the top left: grilled veggie burger (the strangest vegan burger I have tried but it tasted good, the veggie were so yum), fried spring rolls (I ate some of them as they were vegetarian), black grape smoothie (too creamy for me), mushroom pancake (sadly it was plain), pineapple fried rice and uncaptured tropical fruit salad.

We didn't have chance to taste dessert since we were all full. Our dinner was ended with picture of all of us, including the owner. The food were all good but they weren't very special. The owner should invest more ideas to upgrade the flavor and quality of foods, focus on some foods that make brand for his restaurant if he wants to succeed in the culinary path. Anyway thanks the food website and the restaurant owner for organizing this small but fun event! And all the best to the owner and his restaurant!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Feeling blue - How to reduce stress {WIAW}

What will you do when everything around you doesn't happen in the way you expected?
What will you do when everything seems to be against you
When everyone doesn't understand you...
When what you are about to say all turns in stones and just drops in the thin air...
What will you do?


There was a feeling that was soft, intangible and unnamable. She didn't know what it exactly was but it had stayed inside her and become a stone. She just called it "a block of feeling". It had been around since she reached home after 1 year studying abroad. 1 year living on her own, doing everything on her own, she did miss her parents and other beloved ones but she never felt lonely. Coming back home with the ones she didn't see in the past one year, she did feel happy but at the same time, she felt lost. It seemed she didn't belong to this world. She couldn't get anyone around her and neither did them. More sadly, she couldn't put her feelings in words to speak them out as words would turn in stones which makes her and the surrounding people hurt. Finally, she chose writing as a way to express what she felt. When she couldn't talk to anyone, she wrote. Gradually, her blog became her friend, the one couldn't speak but knew how to listen well.


That girl is me and that is what I felt several days ago when I got stressed. Sometimes in life I miscommunicate with the world. I don't know how to talk to other people sometimes since I don't feel any connection between us. So I end up writing all of thoughts down even if I know they are stupid, but more importantly, I need to live, to continue my life. Writing is a way to talk to myself, listen to the person inside me, to understand myself better and feel the inner peace.


Dating with some friends could help to forget stress if I'm not really in a bad mood. Seeing my close friend, spending time with her doing whatever always lightens me. A broken relationship I have had before has taught me how hard to strike up a relationship is, but to work at it is much harder.  I do love spending time alone but also enjoy my bestie's company.

Also , I started doing yoga. Light - but - powerful moves, plus some breathing ways and even meditation have really slowed me down,  found serenity and reduced stress.


Life is not simply and easy to live. It leaves us high and dry sometimes and we feel so blue. And we have rights to do that. It's just don't live with that feeling forever. The better is finding out what can heal your soul. When the outer peace meets your inner peace, you will see sustainability. 


I was in a mood called "Japan sick" as I miss that country and my time there so much. Can you guess what I craved all the time was? It was SUSHIIIIII.  I couldn't stand that craving so me and my friend went to eat sushi together at a small but lovely restaurant in the Old Quarter. My friend ordered a combo while I chose oshizushi. They looked so gorgeous and tasted as good as they looked. Then we were off to a cafe nearby called Cộng Cafe. I have to say I fell in love with this cafe at the first sight. It resembles Hanoi of years ago, which brings an antique and peaceful atmosphere to customers. Time, space, sorrow, everything seemed to stop, just my friend and me together. And I felt peace!

Oshizushi with daikon, carrot and seaweed. Looks beautiful, doesn't it?

Cộng Cafe - my new favorite place, where I found peace!

Coconut coffee - tasted strangely delicious

with my bestie - my everything. How lucky I am to be her companion

Monday, September 22, 2014

Spiritual crisis {WIAW #4}

This time is dificult for due to the crisis, spiritual crisis I have suffered. I thought I would be happy when I’m home, but things don’t happen as the way we expected sometimes.

Who says the final year is least busy?  Pressure is getting more and more everyday, which comes from workload I have to do, from individual projects to teamwork presentations. Lots of things need to be done but I don’t feel I have enough energy to get them started. 

Not only is the crisis about school things, but it also comes from my economic situation at the moment. Just a few months ago when I was in Japan, 80,000 yen which is my monthly scholarship dropped to my bank account frequently. Then I went home with some bucks as my savings during my time studying abroad. However, that money will be gone soon, you know, if you just take them out and spend them without making new one. I have searched and sent out CV to some companies with hope of getting accepted for any part time job position. None of them has replied yet. I foresee a harsh future of the newly graduated. Anyone can be at rish of being unemployed   because it is not easy to find any job at the moment. I feel their pain now. Money is not all, I know, but we do need some to afford to live. All I can do at the moment is crossing my fingers and hope in a nice day a miracle will happen.

Moreover, I got sick due to the freaky weather in Vietnam. It is humidly hot, which screws me up. My energy has run out, mouth has got bitter while the whole has been sore for several days. I do want to make a really delish food, do some workout or even read my book but everything has been against me. It’s not funny being sick. 

And I miss Japan, especially my life in Japan. I miss my solo travels, miss the places I have been to. How badly I want to get out of the bustling city, escape from the dizzying pace of life and live slow for several days. But sadly I’m almost broke. 

I don’t think I’m disoriented at the moment but it seems to be so. There might be so many things I want to do, which turns out overwhelming. Everything starts with difficulties, but I will find out the way to get out of this hard time. I will for sure. But what I need now is genuinely peaceful moment to talk to myself and heal my soul.

Here are some photos of my eats recently, including some homemade ones. Home = Food attack, which is the best of home. 

Avo, red sweet pepper and carrot salad with papaya dressing

Mixed crab and glass noodle with Vietnamese donut -ate while doing a weekend trip with my grandma and my mom

Homemade almond milk

On occasion of reuniting with my bestie, we went for uncaptured Vietnamese traditional food and these Thai sweet  - Thai green tea along with coconut and durian ice cream - the ice cream was too sweet for me.

Green bean and rice porridge with fried tofu and pickles - my most favorite food ever - made it on the day I went vegetarian ( I usually go vegetarian once a week). It was so flavory.

Checking out Loving Hut restaurant in Hanoi. All of them were made from organic ingredients and all vegan. They resemble usual non- vegan Vietnamese food, both appearance and taste. The one on the right top was homemade avocado bar.

One of my breakfast - mango ice cream top with oats, coconut shred and sesame

Nem lụi - Vietnamese food made from pork - grilled pork (ate while I met my girls)

Bánh khọt - one of Vietnamese pancake styles - made from rice flour, turmeric powder and shrimp and peanut sauce. Tasted good but a bit greasy for me.

with my girls - reunion after 1 year being apart

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weekend Getaway

I'm home after 1 year studying abroad. Home means family, delish food, reunions with friends and school. Before starting the final year in uni, I had a trip to Cat Ba Island with my grandma and mom. It has been a long time I haven't traveled with my family since I entered uni, so it's a chance to make it happen. 

I always wanted to go to Cat Ba island due to its beauty. And the fact is it is unbelievably beautiful. The nature was so breathtaking. Mountain and sea are a perfect combination which made me speechless. Not only my did that, other travelers I met there also said the same. However, I was disappointed about the service and food there. They charged us everything from changing clothes to locker, even going to toilet at the beach. The food wasn't various as I thought and expensive.  Anyway I didn't expect anything better on this island which is quite far from the land. 
Although I had great time with the family, I realized I missed my solo travels so badly. This trip was truly a relaxing trip for me. It was so smooth. Suitable for ones like my mom and my grandma. I need things which are more adventuring and a bit risky. Anyway, it was all good. I loved my time in Cat Ba where I enjoyed the nature so much! 

These photos prove how pretty Cat Ba is! Here you go!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What I ate in Korea - WIAW #3

I made it to Korea for 8 days and ate loads of food I crazily love. Korean food is spicy, rich in flavor and super delicious. The cuisine of this country is largely based on rice, vegetable and meat. They also have abundant side dishes like kimchi, cucumber, sprout or daikon pickles. Interestingly, those side dishes are served for free at any restaurant in Korea, which means you can eat as much as you want without paying money for them. That's the reason why I ate tons of kimchi which is one of my favorite Korean food. Korean love meat so on the streets are thousands of restaurants serving BBQ. When it comes to street food, they are beyond awesome. There are many kinds of street food ranging from sweet things to savory ones.

I prefer Korean food to Japanese one although I lived in Japan for one year. I found similarities between Korean and Vietnamese cuisine, their flavors, especially spiciness, and even the way we ate. Korea is truly a food paradise for me. 

Savory food

A kind of noodle

The whole meal in a food alley in a traditional market - hot noodle with fried tofu, cold spicy noodle called japchae with egg and vegetable pickles


Pancakes - vegetable pancakes and kimchi pancakes

Another type of noodle with CHinese cabbage, seafood and pork - super cheap  4000 won

This is a chiken meal 

Pork soup - Busan specialty
Close up to the pork soup's ingredients - pork, pork blood sausages, rice, and vegetable

A meal with fried fish and vegetable pickles

Cold noodle - naengmyeon


Snack and street food

Gimbap sold on streets

Sundae - pork blood sausage with noodle, the very popular street food. We have this in Vietnam but we stuff all of the blood into the pork intestine instead of noodle

Street food is various ranging from pork organs including sundae, deep fried things to tteokbokki - spicy rice cake and fish cake

sweet tteok (sticky rice)  with different flavors: cinnamon, sesame, green tea, etc.

hot tteok - sweet fried sticky rice with red bean and sunflower seed

another kind of hot tteok with vegetable as filling and ice shaving with red bean paste on top


I couldn't believe how cheap fruits in Korea are compared to Japan. I bought 4 bunches of grapes with only 3000 won which 1 bunch of grape costs me in Japan. Busan is cheaper than Seoul. I spent 5000 won for a big bag of peaches. It was HEAVENLY AWESOME!

How cheap these lovely fruits are!

Can you believe these giant watermelons are only 2000 won/ one?

For my moves in Korea, check this out 192 hours roaming in Korea

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

192 hours roaming in Korea

I couldn’t believe that I made it to Korea where I had great moments. I was in Seoul for 5 days, spent two nights at a hostel then surfed at my host apartment in the last 3 days before moving to Busan to see my friend. This is the most epic trip of mine so far.

Seoul is a lively, dynamic and exotic city. What I love about Seoul is that everything starts very early in the morning and finishes very late in the evening. I was so stocked that I could have breakfast before 8 at a local market, which is rare in Japan as most shops open after 9. As it is a capital, Seoul is full of people, but not as crowded as Tokyo for sure. I hit up Myeongdong, Insadong, Hongdae where thousands of youngsters gather and stroll around, and also visited the ancient side of Seoul in some palaces and the Bukchon Hanok Village where is well known for traditional Korean houses. However, the places I like most in Seoul are local markets where I saw daily activities of the locals, enjoyed tons of good food and felt local.

Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village

One of the most beautiful places in the village

Gyeongbokgung Palace

How I love those decorations

Wall Painting street in Hongdae

Turkey ice cream vendor - the artist on the street

 I also went to the Nami Island where the famous drama “Winter sonata” was shot. The island was pretty but for me, it was not only the views but also a coincidental meet with random people who became my travel mates for the whole day on the island. When I was looking for the way to go to the island (I had no idea how to get there after getting out of the station as there were so many transport options and all was written in Korean), a Korean guy came up to me and asked me if I was going to the island with an amazing English. It turned out he was showing his friend who was a Malaysian around, then I ended up hanging out with them for the whole day.  My last night in Seoul was spent in a board games café with my host and another surfer who was staying at the same place with me and became a grudging interviewee for some young Koreans who were doing their English homework on what foreigners do in Seoul (if I get them right because I still don’t know the purpose of their interview). 

Riding bike with newly met friends

with snowmen

Do you recognize who were behind me?

Doing fun with the sculptures

Does it remind you of anything?

Namdaemun Market

At Seoul Folk Flea Market

Chilled out with host, surfer and some Koreans

I reached Busan after 5 hours on train and was picked up by my friend at the train station near her apartment. I was so glad to see her as we hadn’t seen each other for 2 years. After having meal which is one of the specialties of Busan at the restaurant my friend has been doing her part time job, we had a small break, then hit some places in Busan. We went to the Fish Market, strolled in the town, ate hotteoks at the most famous shop there, had dinner with BBQ and finished our day with a super huge dessert in the city center to celebrate our reunion. The Fish Market was awesome with tons of sea creatures which were either fresh or alive. I felt the fish smell just right after reaching Busan, which I couldn't do in Fukuoka. Busan is a truly fishery town due to that distinct smell which is rare in Fukuoka even though Fukuoka is a fishery town too.

Let's eat hotteok :)

Beomeosa temple's roof decoration

At Beomeosa temple

Super greenery landscape

I didn’t make plan for my days in Busan as I thought I could go around with my friend. Unfortunately, she had work suddenly so I ended up being alone for the rest time there. According the map about Busan and suggestions of my friend, I decided to make it to Beomeosa temple, Geumjeong fortress, Gamcheon culture village and Taejongdae natural park the days after. I had thought the fortress was only the wall built years ago but it turned out a place people do hiking. I found many Korean going there for hiking and I might be the only foreigner, which is super amazing. I hit up the highest peak of Mt. Geumjeong where the entire view of the city is seen. The landscape was super greenery and heavenly breathtaking. The fortress and mountains made my day. I found me sometimes singing in the middle of the forest without anyone around or on the top of the mountain where I could feel the wind, the clouds and everything. Who says Busan has only beaches. Busan, the name tells it all, doesn’t it? 

Hit the peak Godangbong

The natural spring

View from the top No.1

View from the top No.2

View from the top No.3

View from the top No. 4

The fortress
Busan is definitely my “wow” place. I couldn’t count how many times I did “wow” when I saw its magnificent natural beauties. Apparently, Busan is known for beaches, especially Haeundae beach but it is always full of foreigners and a bit noisy with lots of bars and restaurants. I prefer Taejongdae natural park where has a spectacular cliff. I spent lots of time sitting on the cliff and enjoyed the sea. Fresh fishes and other sea food are sold near the cliff and people can even eat them alive. The culture village was nice but for me, it is just a place for ones who love taking photos. I am more amazed by the mountain and the cliff.

Busan by night - taken at The bay 101 - home to a yacht club

The Gamcheon culture village

Taejongdae's cliff

what a breathtaking view!

My last day in Busan was finished with the rock festival. I went there with a German guy and a Korean couple I met randomly on bus. The music was so great, we really enjoyed it although it rained, and it was nice to see Korean dancing in the mud! 


I was more adventurous in Busan with the mountains, the cliffs, friends I met randomly and two times I almost got lost. Once was when getting out of the culture village, I realized I was off map. What I could do at that time was following the sign saying Busan station was ahead of me. There were some bus stops on the road but I felt hesitate to get in them as I didn’t know where they could take me to. But the station seemed too far while I didn’t know the way either so I decided to get on a bus with the words Busan station that popped up for a second on the bus's head. I kept crossing my fingers until a girl on the bus who could speak English told me this bus was going to Busan station. I felt totally relieved after that. Another time was after the rock festival. It was late in the evening and I didn’t know how to get to the station to go home. The Korean girl I went with said just cross the street and I could see the station but I saw nothing after a long walk. It started raining heavily, the street lights were off and no one could help me as they didn’t understand me. Suddenly, I saw a lady who was walking on the street. I didn’t know why but I just came up and asked her the way to get to the station in English. I showed her the map with the name of the station on it but she couldn’t read since the characters were too small. She only realized the station after I wrote its name down, and she took me there no matter how heavy the rain was and how late it was. No words could express how grateful I was to her. She was so kind to me. I don’t know how I would have been without her.

This trip is definitely unforgettable for me. It is not only because I have made it to Korea, eaten tons of good food that I insanely love or enjoyed the stunning nature but also about things and people I met on the road. Now I understand how risky travelling alone is, especially in the countries we don’t know their languages, but it is still my fascination. Not only has it helped me to understand myself better but it has also given experiences that are essential for a solo traveler. Be calm in any situation. Be flexible when one plan didn't work in the way we expected. And more importantly, good people are everywhere.