Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

Vietnam requires a Visa.  Make sure you secure yours!

Vietnam requires a Visa. Make sure you secure yours!

Note:  Most of my travel articles were written offline on my iPhone notes.  I just haven’t had a chance to transfer it. (travels done in June 2013)

Saigon/HCMC

Greetings from my airplane ride to the Philippines!  Let’s talk about the amazing Saigon.  So after the 40-hour plus epic bus ride and when we thought we were never going to arrive Saigon we did!  We arrived about 6pm at the bus terminal in Saigon.  We caught a cab ride to our hostel – Lofi Inn.  We pre-booked our Lofi Inn private room ahead of time online while in Vientiane, Laos for $7/pp.  Our room had air conditioning and a private bathroom.  It also had a balcony with clothes line on it so you can wash and hang dry clothes.  The cab ride was d150,000 or $7 give or take and it was roughly about a 30-minute ride from the bus terminal to downtown Saigon.

Saigon streets.

Saigon streets.

After freshening up we headed off to eat downstairs.  Food around here is cheap as well.  We asked the owner of the restaurant where to go to get great deals on shopping after that and he told us Saigon Square so we took a quick cab ride to get there and paid about d33,000.  Then we went to the night market Ben Thanh.  Ben Thanh is only a block away from Saigon Square so make sure you don’t take a cab like we did because we had no idea it was so close.  This place had some great deals and we did a ton of shopping.  You can negotiate a lot in this market.

One of my fave in Saigon; Banana flower salad.

One of my fave in Saigon; Banana flower salad.

We decided to walk back to the hostel using the map they provided and were bothered by the bike ride guys who scammed us.  I kind of knew it was a scam or they just didn’t understand our communication skills in Vietnamese.  They tried to sell us a tour package for the next day for d15,000.  I told Jiji that it’s too cheap and I don’t want to commit to something that doesn’t really make sense.  It didn’t make sense because they promised a full day tour package for only d15,000 or $0.71!  This place is cheap but not that cheap!  They didn’t believe me and these guys offered them a ride back to the hostel for free.  They took the offer but when they arrived these guys asked d50,000 for just the ride alone.  What a scam!  I knew it!

Taking a break to pose in downtown Saigon.

Taking a break to pose in downtown Saigon.

On day two, we decided to do our own tour by foot using the map the hostel provided us.  It was such a long walk but I loved doing these walks.  It’s the only way you really could explore the city and take it all in and realize you’re actually living your dream.  We first visited the War Remnants Museum and it was hair raising knowing what these remnants been through during the Vietnam War.  Whether you’re a war veteran or a history buff or just a regular Joe this visit is a must!  It gave me a little bit of idea in terms of what truly had happened during the Vietnam war other than what’s shown on TV.  My opinion though that this museum is very one sided and it bad mouths American Soldier.

At the War Remnant's Museum

At the War Remnant’s Museum

Cool eh?

Cool eh?

More remnants

More remnants

One of the photo in the museum

One of the photo in the museum

Along the way to the tourist spots around the city we stopped for cold drinks and smoothies.  It was sooo hot, it was necessary.  We also did some shopping along the way.

Second stop we went for a short walk to the Notre Dame Cathedral.  The structure was very nice and the view inside were even better!  If you’re Catholic this visit is a must when in Saigon.  The neighborhood is a replica of the real Notre Dame in France!  When you use your phone to check in on your Facebook, it even mimics your location as if you were in France too!  Weird but cool!  On the way back we were able to navigate the city better because we’ve learned the streets.  This is why exploring the city by foot can be advantageous!

@ the Notre Dame Cathedral

@ the Notre Dame Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

The cool floor inside the Cathedral

The cool floor inside the Cathedral

Outside the Cathedral.

Outside the Cathedral.

Getting ready to get pampered after walking about 10 miles exploring the City of Saigon.

Getting ready to get pampered after walking about 10 miles exploring the City of Saigon.

Finally getting pampered.  Our ritual - massage on our last night of every city.  Massage cost $5.  It sometimes come with a free Saigon beer!

Finally getting pampered. Our ritual – massage on our last night of every city. Massage cost $5. It sometimes come with a free Saigon beer!

 

 

 

 

 

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Zuppa Tuscana…Yes! The soup you love and dread at Olive Garden

This soup is my all time fave!

This soup is my all time fave!

It’s the soup everyone loves because it’s super good but you dread it after because it’s not that healthy for you.  My opinion?  I don’t think the original recipe is that bad.

The soup that I used to devour at Olive Garden but now dread because it’s no bueno.  I probably haven’t been to Olive Garden in a good 5 years!  This is my paleo twist to this all time favorite soup that’s served at Olive Garden.  Credit to the original recipe from a great friend, family and a wonderful cook Victoria R; a great cook can eat something and figure it out in the kitchen to make the closest one and Victoria nailed it!  That’s a real talent in the kitchen!  This is my paleo conversion of this recipe:

– red potatoes>sweet potatoes

– Heavy whipping cream>coconut cream

– chicken bullion>homemade chicken stock

– 6 cups of water>homemade chicken stock

DO NOT BUY STORE BOUGHT BACON BITS!!!

DO NOT BUY STORE BOUGHT BACON BITS!!!

MAKE YOUR OWN BACON BITS...NO STORE BOUGHT!  I throw it in over at 450 degrees until it's crispy.

MAKE YOUR OWN BACON BITS…NO STORE BOUGHT! I throw it in oven at 450 degrees until it’s crispy.

Here’s my Paleo twist:

– 1 big sweet potatoes or 2 small sweet potatoes

– 6 cups of homemade chicken stock or 3 small bags of my ice cubed homemade stock

– homemade bacon bits (the more the merrier!)

– 1/2 tsp red crushed pepper or get the hot italian sausage instead and pass up on the crushed pepper.  the hot italian sausage should have enough heat to suffice.

– 1lb mild or hot italian sausage

– 1 onion (diced)

– 1 whole garlic (minced)

– kale (again, the more the merrier; I load it with extra kale!  make sure to keep the hard spine of the kale.  they are yummy!) – chopped

– 1 can coconut cream (not coco milk; coco cream – there’s a huge difference)

Chopped kale with the hard spine.  The spine is so yummy!!!

Chopped kale with the hard spine. The spine is so yummy!!!

My ice cubed chicken stock.  It's easier to store them when you use this method.

My ice cubed chicken stock. It’s easier to store them when you use this method.

Directions (I also tweaked the direction a bit):

1. Boil homemade chicken stock.  While this is going, on a separate pan cook your italian sausage.  Strain oil from the sausage and throw it back to the pan, add diced onion then after onion is halfway cooked.  Add minced garlic.  Set aside.

2. Pour 1 can of coco cream.  Bring to boil.

3. Add sliced sweet potatoes.  Bring to boil and get sweet potatoes softer before step #4.

4. Add your italian sausage, onion and garlic from the separate pan.  Bring to boil.

5. Add half of your homemade bacon bits.  Save the other half for garnish at time of serving.  See first photo above – this is so good because this way you can feel the bacon crispy bits land your pallet and the texture is so amazing!  Bring it to boil.

6. Turn off stove and throw your chopped kale in then cover your pot and just leave it sitting on top of that same warm stove for about 10 minutes until kale is cooked perfectly. (this method will keep your kale crispy)

Coco cream and this is how you chop your sweet potatoes.  Chunky.

Coco cream and this is how you chop your sweet potatoes. Chunky.

Another shot of the finished products before the bacon bits garnish.

Another shot of the finished products before the bacon bits garnish.

I hope you love this paleo conversion as much as I do!  I make a big pot and literally would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it’s gone!  Any questions, I’m always down – ask away!

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Pics on Pinterest

Pics on Pinterest.

via Pics on Pinterest.

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Breakfast for Dinner?

This is always a daily challenge for me and my husband even when we plan everything over the weekend sometimes we just don’t want to cook up a meal for a long time.  We just want to relax and cook a quick meal.

Since we always have bacon, eggs, kale and a variety of vegetables in our fridge, once a week we opt for breakfast for dinner.  Tonight this is what we whipped up and it took 15 minutes max!

Cut-up bacon.  I like my bacon cut up.  Kale scramble with onions, garlic and spices!

Cut-up bacon. I like my bacon cut up. Kale scramble with onions, garlic and spices!

And of course, my nightly drink.

And of course, my nightly drink.

So every week, we solve one dinner with breakfast for dinner strategy.  I wonder if you’ve done that before?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.  Would love to hear ideas from you!

 

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Fall Chicken Curry

It's pretty easy to eye exactly what ingredients in this meal.

It’s pretty easy to eye exactly what ingredients in this meal.

– fall essential orange ingredients like pumpkin or you can use the yellow squash

– bamboo shoots

– lots of green beans

– minced whole garlic

– who red onion chopped

– 1 can coconut milk or coconut cream

– your choice of curry paste

– chopped or slivered almonds

– chicken (whatever part you like.  i love wings so i always use chicken wings)

In a pan sauté garlic and onions with 1 tbsp of the coconut cream.  Add shoots and let it sit for a bit.  Pour coco cream/milk – let it boil.  On med/low heat, chicken wings (I love chicken wings – you can use chicken breast).  Let it simmer until chicken is soft enough.   Add squash or pumpkin and green beans.  Let it boil until green beans turn cooked and crispy.  Don’t overcook the beans to lumpy.  Garnish it with chopped or slivered almonds.

Enjoy this yummy treat!  It’s very easy to make!

The finished product.

The finished product.

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Bunless Burger

I love this meal.  One of my favorite!

I love this meal. One of my favorite!

Recipe:

1 lb Ground beef
2 Eggs
Spices in beef mix…
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp ground Basil leaves
1/2 tsp Rosemary leaves
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/2 Garlic powder
Half onion diced
5 cloves of garlic minced

Handful of Baby portobello sliced
Very small handful pineapple tidbits
Olive oil/Coco Oil
Sweet potato fries

Direction:
Mix beef, eggs and all spices. Form into a burger and throw in pan 1 min on each side. Broil in oven at 450 degrees 5 min each side or grill.

While making burger patty in oven sautée mushrooms with pineapple in pan with olive oil/coco oil. When done pour over beef patty.

Natural sweet potato fries.  Option:  Alexia brand store bought in health/natural food aisle or bake your own.

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Performance & Fitness Shoes

Like most of you I started with the big box company who has deep pockets to market their products when it comes to shoes but deliver very poor performance.  From blisters and painful shins you name it.  I even tried the ones with shock absorbers on them.  It looks fancy but it sure doesn’t perform as fancy as it looks!  It’s easy to follow the crowd and wear the same brand shoes for CrossFit or running.  I love CrossFit but I am not in love with running yet.  I go to CrossFit 4 times a week and when I’m not in the box, I train on my running to get better at it so I go on recovery runs 3 times a week.

After several complaints to several people about expensive shoes and poor performance my Aunt pointed me to the direction I have never been before.  Go to running shoe store and pick the not so popular ones and follow the store’s recommendation.  She guaranteed my happiness so I did.  I started wearing Mizuno shoes for running in 2010 and I never looked back.  To this day I still wear Mizunos, even for CrossFit.  I’m being persuaded daily to try the official CrossFit shoe brand but I see it as another big box company who is popular because of their deep pockets in marketing but yet deliver poor performance.  I give it the benefit of the doubt though because a lot of people in our box seems to be satisfied with them but I needed to develop my relationship with running and so I set out to search for the next shoe brand that I’m going to fall in love with and this time I researched minimalist type running shoes.

www.skorarunning.com

They swear it’s like running barefoot – we shall see.

Running and I have a true love and hate relationship.  With running, when you don’t have the right shoes, it’s tough to fall in love with it.  I realize again, I need to not only find a great performing minimalist shoes, I need to follow my Aunt’s advice on this round of my shoes search…”go to the running shoe store and talk to the store then asked about high performing minimalist running shoes who deliver performance instead of awareness through heavy marketing” – of course with the new world of technology, I didn’t really go to the shoe store – I just researched online.

I ordered this color!  I can't wait to try it!

I ordered this color! I can’t wait to try it!

Introducing Skora.  I took advantage of the sale that’s going on right now “buy2save“; buy two pairs save 15%.  Oh and did I mention free shipping?  I am fascinated by this company!  I’m a sucker for companies with awesome stories and deliver what people really need in the areas they are trying to excel.  This company is also a local company based out of Portland, Oregon.  I ordered my first two pairs of Skoras online and I hope to finally fall in love with running in these shoes.  Everyone else did!  I feel that in order to develop your relationship with running and to love and enjoy running, a great performing shoes is one of the must.

A fun mix of color!

A fun mix of color!

So far I’m impressed with Skora’s quality and sleek look.  And made of goat skin?  Who makes shoes with goat skin anymore?  Oh how I wish I had discovered this shoes before backpacking Asia.  I mostly wore my running shoes while backpacking SEAsia.  I will be writing a review of Skora’s performance after wearing it for a while with CrossFit and running.  I’m very excited to put it through the test!  Stay tuned.

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