Streets Of Hoi An

img_2209

I went for a short getaway over the weekend with a girlfriend. We made a trip to Hoi An, a historic old town located near the central eastern coast of Vietnam. It was my first time traveling without my kids and I realised that I haven’t done any trip on my own for the last 2 decades! That’s like half my life! Geez, no wonder I felt like a frog that has just escaped the well.

img_2210

My friend was dying for a trip where she could eat, sleep, do spa and nothing else. Unfortunately, the place was too beautiful and I didn’t allow her to do just that! I made her walked the streets and she probably rolled her eyes at me many times while I took pictures of almost everything. Whooops!

img_2213-2-001

Hoi An’s old world charm and beauty made me fall in love at first sight. It is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port from the early years and is unlike anything we saw in Sapa and Hanoi. The architecture of Hoi An old town is an interesting mix of Chinese, Japanese and European influences and cultures.

img_2208

Its winding streets and orchre walls reminded me of the narrow alleys in Nice. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise because the French had fought for control of Vietnam for years, as far back as the 17th Century, and had it under their French Indochinese empire until the Vietnamese regained control in the First Indochina war in 1954. The French had certainly left their mark in places like Hoi An and Sapa.

img_2212-2

The old town riverbank is a vibrant place docked with boats of different sizes. There are the smaller wooden sampans to larger, noisier fleets which are just as colourful. This place brought back memories of the floating city of Venice and I gleefully told my friend that this place should be crowned ‘The Venice of South East Asia’!

img_2248

The many Chinese assembly halls (or what we commonly known here as ‘huay guan’), temples that dotted the town and the emblematic Japanese covered bridge are clear evidence that the Chinese and the Japanese once had their glorious days there.

img_2236

The assembly halls usually feature a grand gate, a garden with bonsai, a main hall and a large altar room where different gods and goddess are housed depending on the Chinese community’s beliefs.

They were created as a place in which residents from the same province in China could meet up and socialise whilst living in or visiting Hoi An. There are the Fujian, Cantonese, Hainan and Teochew assembly halls.

img_1725

There are many shops like this that sell paintings. But whether these paintings are factory mass produced or hand painted by artists left to be judged by the experts.

img_2245

Apparently, Hoi An is well-known for their skilful tailors. Many of them can trace their tradecraft through several generations and they are able to copy any design they see. But like any touristy spots, you have to do some homework before choosing a tailor shop to go to.

Apart from clothes, there are people who go to Hoi An to get their shoes made. Again, you might want to do some research before deciding which shop to go to. We chanced upon this shop with a window or doorway decorated with shoes! How lovely.

img_2237

Lanterns of every bright and brilliant colours are a common sight in Hoi An. In fact, the people in Hoi An celebrate the Full Moon Lantern festival on the 14th day of every lunar month. The festival is held in the old town where motorised vehicles are banned and colourful candlelit lanterns are used to provide light on the streets. It is something you shouldn’t miss if you plan to go there!

img_2242

There are so much to see and absorb just walking around Hoi An old town. I was totally mesmerized and love everything about this place, from the coffee joints to the rivers and lanterns and the often overgrown creepers and blossoming bougainvillea that add character and natural beauty to the old shophouses.

img_2241-001

This place is a photographer’s paradise, an instagrammer’s playground and wonderland. Everywhere you look is a photo opportunity. Pity I only had my iphone and my photos might not do justice to the beauty of this place.

img_2243-001

I could spend the whole week in this place just walking around, taking pictures and drinking Vietnamese drip coffee. Alas, I only had 2 days but the consolation is getting to Hoi An from Singapore is a breeze.

It is only a short 2.5 hour flight from Singapore and currently Jet Star and Silk Air fly direct to Da Nang International Airport. From there, it is only a 45 minutes drive to Hoi An.

img_2240

I am so happy to discover this place. Even with air ticket, accommodation, food, spa and even shopping, our 3 days 2 night trip cost less than a 2 nights hotel stay in Singapore!

Hoi An Ancient Town is such a rare gem and beauty in this region and it is no wonder it is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. I can’t wait to bring my family for a visit soon!

 
 

2
This entry was posted in Travel.

Ways To Eat Kale

img_3860

By now, you should have heard about the many health benefits of kale. It is high in fiber, iron, minerals, antioxidants, Vitamin A,C, and K. It helps to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, detoxify the body and contain numerous cancer-fighting substances. It’s being called the ‘queen of greens’, ‘a nutritional powerhouse’!

It was not too long ago that I got to know about its existence. It’s not your usual leafy greens that you can order from a Chinese restaurant or find in a Chinese home where stir fry dominates most of the cooking style. Kale originated from Europe and is a member of the cabbage family which includes broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

I started using it for my smoothie. Despite being a superfood, I have to admit that I don’t like how it tastes. It almost tastes too green or too raw, if there is even such a thing. I usually have to blend it with some sweeter fruits such as red apples, bananas or pineapples in order to mask the ‘rawness’. And it gives my smoothie an unappetizing colour.

As an adult, I can accept that food that is good for your body doesn’t have to look/taste good. I would diligently drink up a glass of my healthy smoothie every morning, but unfortunately not my kids nor my husband and it almost makes me feel guilty that I am the only one eating all the good stuff!

I read about using it for all sorts of salad. But that doesn’t work for my Chinese boys who eat their spaghetti using chopsticks!

fullsizerender-6

So a few months ago, I went on a quest to make my boys eat kale. I tried different ways to cook it. Some ideas were from the internet but mostly through trial and error. So far the results have been promising. Apart from using it for making smoothie and salad (which doesn’t work for my boys), here are some other ways I cook it so that my boys will eat!

1. Kale Chips

This was the first thing I tried and it was really simple. All you need to do is, wash the leaves, pat dry, drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper, bake at 140 degC for about 20 minutes or until the leaves turn crisp. I usually make this for snacks and it is definitely healthier than eating potato chips. We could finish a whole bunch in one go if I cook it this way.

fullsizerender-5

2. Stir Fry with Garlic and Anchovies

I stir fry it with garlic and anchovies, just like how I usually stir fry my Chinese leafy greens. It still has a bitter after taste but it actually tastes good with enough salt and anchovies! Served with an egg or omelette and brown rice, this makes a healthy after school lunch for the boys.

3. Kale Quiche

It just so happened that I ran out of capsicum for my quiche one day, so I tried substituting it with kale. I chopped up a few leaves and lay them at the bottom of the quiche. The first reaction I got from my boys when they heard that I made kale quiche was YUCKS! But I insisted they try it and they love it and ate up everything!

4. Kale Fried Rice

Their favourite is probably kale fried rice and they have been asking for it these few days. This is really easy to make. Just cook your normal fried rice and add kale at the end of it. Mix it around for a couple of minutes and the fried rice is ready to serve. I like how the kale helps to add some crunch to my fried rice!

img_1291

It almost feels unreal that the boys actually eat everything I cook with kale! Surprisingly, there are so many different ways of cooking it that makes it the most versatile vegetable in our fridge.

It is now our family favourite and a regular item in our grocery list. As the boys have been fussy eaters since young, I am so mighty proud that they are eating such a power punch vegetable today!

 

 

 

4

A Harry Potter Birthday Party

img_0623
My younger boy turned 7 over the weekend and we threw a Harry Potter birthday party for him. We had about 20 kids over and they had a blast but I suffered a headache and a hoarse voice after the party.

It took us a couple of weeks to prepare for the party but I realised that having enough energy to see through the party on that day itself is just as important. My boys rated the party a perfect 10 but I would have rated a much lower score mainly because we didn’t get to play all the games we wanted to.

We did quite a bit of craft for the party ourselves and I was happy to find reason to indulge in my crafty instinct. The birthday boy was happy to dab his hands here and there but left me to finish most of the jobs. His elder brother was however a great help. He came up with some really cool stuff for the party.

1. The Invitation

We sent out the invitation 2 weeks prior to the party. It includes a letter of invitation to Hogwarts and a train ticket for Platform 9 3/4. You can easily find a copy of the train ticket and the letter on the internet. Harry Potter birthday party ideas were all over the place!

I used Microsoft Word to type out the letter and the fonts used were Lucida Blackletter (for header), Apple Chancery (for body) and& Xingkai SC Light (for McGonagall’s signature)

img_0847

The letters and envelopes were printed out on normal A4 size paper but we brushed coffee over them to get the aged look. My elder boy had wanted to make his own Hogwarts mould using hot glue and real wax but I thought it was too complicated. We ended up using some cheap clay from Popular bookstore.

img_9672

We rolled small balls of clay and pressed 10 cent coins on them. After the clay has hardened and dried, we painted them with red poster paint. Overall, I think we achieved the “seal” look.

img_0862

The envelope was a little tricky to make. I downloaded a jpeg copy of the envelope from here and used GIMP (I was too cheapo to pay for Photoshop) to add in the individual guest names. You will need to rotate the text and align it to the envelope. I downloaded this Harry Potter font and used it for the text.

2. The Food

The party was in the afternoon so we ordered some mini savories. We had a snack station where we dressed up some candy and bottled drinks with Harry Potty Labels. All labels were downloaded from the same website.

Drinks label
Candy labels
Potion labels

The kids were thrilled to be eating cockroach clusters and drinking FireWhisky, Elf Made Wine and ButterBeer which were essentially chocolate clusters, promegranate, green tea and oolong tea.

3. The Cake

I had wanted to bake the cake if not for a failed bake a few days prior to the party. My brain was fried, I forgot the sugar! The boys ended up eating the cake with honey and they actually finished it! I decided that it would be safer to order our favourite chocolate cake instead.

img_0845

The decoration was simple. I had Quidditch hoops made from green pipe cleaners and straws. For the golden snitch, I cut out 2 wings and attached them to a Ferrero Roche.

4. The Props

The birthday boy made himself a wizards cloak from a black trash bag. He had probably spent enough time playing with trash and knew exactly where to cut holes so that his hands and head could stick out.

img_0837

You can print out Harry Potter glasses from here. Halloween was round the corner and we found wizard hats at Daiso for 2 bucks! The wizard broom was kindly donated by the Bangladesh worker who worked at East Coast Park.

On the night before the party, we unwrapped this magnetic chalk board that had been sitting in the study for months. It came in a cardboard packaging that looked just like the photo frame we needed for the party!

img_0441

I really wanted the owl balloons and had bought a bundle of helium balloons in the morning. My very talented sister managed to draw them in a jiffy by following pictures from here

We had everything placed at the entrance of the party site and I thought it was a welcoming sight.

5. The Games

My elder boy was assigned the game master and was responsible for planning the games. He was in charge of gathering the kids during the party but was obviously having too much fun playing and didn’t get the games started till late. Out of 3 games that he had prepared, the kids only played 1.

They played a game of dodge ball using squishy balls as Bludgers as seen in a Quidditch match. The kids were divided into 2 teams using the sorting hat. Whoever gets hit by the balls will be out of the game and whoever catches the ball will get to bring its members back into the game. The team with all its members kicked out loses the game.

img_0860

He followed this table Quidditch game idea and made 3 hoops. We found these ready made hoops from the Gardening section in Daiso! All he did was hot glue the hoops to the metal stand. We collected some sand from the beach and put them into our Ginger Ale glass bottles to keep the hoops upright.

We also made these lockets for a treasure hunt game. They were supposed to be the Hocruxes! The boys came up with the design and they learned to tie sliding knots so that these would fit every kid. Whoever finds these Hocruxes during the treasure hunt game will get to keep them.

For the pinata, we had a dementor which was made of paper marche and trash bag. Unfortunately the trash bag wasn’t hardy enough and the dementor fell off the tree after the 3rd hit. Thankfully there were some quick thinking kids who managed to put the pinata back onto the tree again. This time, it lasted another 5 hits or so. The kids refused to give up and insisted that they should continue to hit the pinata. The poor dementor was mutilated and the kids finally decided that it was time to pick up all that candy on the ground!

We learned that kids don’t need games with rules to have fun and if you really need to get them to play the games you have planned, invest in a handheld loud speaker!

6. The Party Favors and Souvenirs

We pre-packed some of the candy into these Wizard’s broom party bags to be given out to the younger kids who were too slow in picking up sweets from the pinata. But they were so cute that even the bigger kids asked for them.

The idea was from Martha Stewart and I really like how they turned out.

The hottest item among the kids have to be these! My elder boy made 20 of these wands using disposable chopsticks!

He used hot glue for the design and hand painted each wand with double coat of acrylic paint. Every wand comes with a description tag and he compiled a list of spells with their respective usage and printed them into 3 books.

He called them the Standard Book of Spells (Pocket Edition) Grade 2, 3 and 4. The plan was for each kid to know a fraction of the spells leaving him and his brother the master of all spells! (the last I heard, he kept more spells to himself!) They know exactly which wand belongs to which wizard, Gawk!

The boys spent many days working on these wands and even more days pretending to be Lord Voldemort and Dumbledore casting spells at each other! We had wanted to blind fold the kids to let them choose their wands (because the wand chooses the wizard!) but they were so intrigued by these wands and the description that came with them that we decided to let them choose their favourite wand instead.

These wands were made of disposable chopsticks and were all 8 inches long. The boys used longer chopsticks for their own wands and decorated them with special gold and silver trimmings. They made the better looking wands for themselves! Ha!

You can find the wand tutorial here

As you can imagine, it was hell lots of work preparing a themed birthday party. The good thing was it was the end of school year and the boys were freed up from homework and CCAs. We spent many afternoons working on the party, talking about Harry Potter and discussing details in the book. It was a great project to work on and they are now the Harry Potter birthday party planner experts!

 

Like I said during the last themed birthday party I organized, this will absolutely be the last themed birthday party for us! But then I suspect like most things painful but fun, the memory is short. Oh well, till the next one comes around!

 
 

8
Page 5 of 256« First...34567...102030...Last »