Hanoi

At the end of last year we were in KL over the holidays, and spent a few days in Vietnam over New Year. We had a great time in Hanoi, starting off almost as soon as we got there with a walking food tour.

We tried quite a few different things, but my favourite had to be good old chicken Phở – I can’t get enough of a noodle soup, especially if there’s lime and chilli involved.
2016-12-29 Hanoi

Gareth’s favourite was Bún bò Nam Bộ, a grilled beef and noodle salad, garnished with plenty of peanuts.
2016-12-29 Hanoi

And we both agreed on Bánh cuốn, rice ‘rolls’ filled with a meat filling (our favourite was pork).
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Many of these light dishes were served with a basket of fresh leafy herbs like coriander, mint, Thai basil, and a vinegary dip, which was a very refreshing combination. Gareth even decided he didn’t hate coriander anymore!

Another intriguing item was egg coffee, which tastes much much better than it sounds. It’s just the right mix of sweetness, creaminess, and coffee yum – almost like a dessert. It’s very rich and comes in a little cup; I couldn’t have a lot of it but I’d happily have one every day.
2016-12-31 Hanoi

We stayed in the Old Quarter, which is lively, and is the main tourist area. The street we stayed on was Hang Gai, or ‘Silk Street’. Many of the main streets are named after traditional guilds, and many of them still house a majority of those trades, or something similar – e.g. Silk Street has a lot of silk, clothing, and craft shops, Tin Street still has a lot of tinsmiths, Silver Street had plenty of silversmiths, goldsmiths, and jewelers, and so on.

We also had great grilled fish on Grilled Fish Street, which came with a lovely array of condiments and little rice noodle cakes (quite like mini string hoppers).
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We took a day trip out to Halong Bay, which has amazing rock formations and natural caves. I think one day isn’t really enough to truly appreciate this area, but even in our limited time we really enjoyed it.
2016-12-30 Hanoi

2016-12-30 Hanoi

2016-12-30 Hanoi

2016-12-30 Hanoi

We also visited the Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucious
2016-12-31 Hanoi

2016-12-31 Hanoi
The crane and turtle are symbolic of longevity and friendship

We were also hoping to visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum, but it was shut at the time we went, so we just stopped by the One Pillar Pagoda, and took a walk along the huge avenue outside the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
2016-12-31 Hanoi

2016-12-31 Hanoi

On New Year’s eve we went out for a leisurely dinner, and then had a wander down the longest night market ever, ending up at the trendy end of town where all the cool kids were hanging out – the streets were packed with people, overflowing out of bars or making their way into bars. In Vietnam there is a distinction between International New Year and Tet, which is Lunar New Year (same as Chinese New Year). I believe it gets even more crowded and lively during Tet, but interest in International New Year is clearly picking up amongst the younger crowd, and certainly the marketing factor isn’t lost on the beer companies sponsoring countdown parties. We made our way back towards the main square for midnight, and then headed back to our hotel – we can’t cope with all night partying anymore…
2016-12-31 Hanoi
Very ‘Tron’ themed

On our final day we found possibly the two most charming things in Vietnam. First was the Museum of Ethnology. This is nicely set up with an outdoor area that has replica traditional houses of different ethnic groups in Vietnam, as well as indoor exhibitions of history and culture.
2017-01-01 Hanoi

2017-01-01 Hanoi

Collage Hanoi 07

And our final event was a water puppet theatre show, which is a uniqely Vietnamese art, thought to have originated as entertainment in paddy fields during the flooded season. The stage is in a pool, with the puppeteers in waist deep water the whole time, controlling the puppets with underwater rods.
2017-01-01 Hanoi

The performance was a series of short stories depicting rural life – rice planting and harvest; trying to catch as much fish as the others have; chasing the cunning fox away from the ducks; and also dances of mythical animals and fairies.
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2017-01-01 Hanoi
How exciting are the dragons!

This scene depicts the legend of Hoan Kiem lake, which is just beside this theatre. In the 15th Century, the King was given a heavenly sword to defeat invaders, and later on when he was boating on this lake a turtle rose up and asked for the sword to be returned to the Dragon King. The King then renamed the lake to mean ‘Lake of the Restored Sword’, and built a monument to the turtle.
2017-01-01 Hanoi

Collage Hanoi 09
Live traditional musicians, and the puppeteers’ curtain call

We then took in the lovely evening lights around the lake, and crossed the bridge to a small island temple.
2017-01-01 Hanoi
Turtle monument

2017-01-01 Hanoi

2017-01-01 Hanoi
A wall panel in the temple on Hoan Kiem lake

And then we said goodnight, and headed back to KL the next morning.
2017-01-01 Hanoi

See more photos from Hanoi on Flickr
Hanoi

International Women’s Day 2017

How is it March already?? Well, here we are, and here are some female driven film and literary things that have caught my attention.

The 2017 Bailey’s Prize longlist has been announced – an intriguing lineup here as always.

IMDB, quite probably the largest source of movie and TV information, has adopted the F-rating: a rating to show if films are written by women, directed by women, and/or feature women on screen in their own right. Admittedly, as this article points out, the rating isn’t featured on every film page, instead you can use their search tool to find movies that meet one or more of these criteria. I’m willing to give it time though, for this to be adopted fully on individual pages.

A shoutout to Scottish writers Claire MacLeary and Clio Gray, who I saw at an event during Aberdeen’s recent Granite Noir festival. Their books sound very interesting indeed, and are at the top of my list for upcoming reads. Claire MacLeary’s debut novel is Cross Purpose, set in Aberdeen City. Clio Gray, on the other hand, is a veteran writer (longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize last year), and her new three-part series begins with Deadly Prospects.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading the Chronicles of St Mary’s series, by Jodi Taylor. It’s about historians who study historic events in ‘contemporary time’, i.e. through time travel. It’s got some dark bits, but overall it’s fairly light reading and good fun. I’d say it’s almost like a boarding school series, but featuring the staff.

The little things matter as much as the big things when it comes to changing the world. So let’s be proud of ‘little’ things like celebrating female authors and filmmakers, and equally let’s not be shy about ‘making a fuss’ when something’s not right. This year’s International Women’s Day theme, Be Bold for Change, is a good reminder of that.

Garden Birdwatching 2017

The RSPB held its Big Garden Birdwatch at the weekend, so I spent a fun hour on Sunday morning, looking out the kitchen window.

There were sparrows;
2017-01-29 Big Birdwatch

2017-01-29 Big Birdwatch
Streeeetch!

only two starlings this time, although on other days there can be a whole gang of them;
2017-01-29 Big Birdwatch

a blackbird scratching for insects (making a big mess of the bark chip);
2017-01-29 Big Birdwatch

crows;
2017-01-29 Big Birdwatch

and two blue tits.
2017-01-29 Big Birdwatch

2017-01-29 Big Birdwatch

2017-01-29 Big Birdwatch
Learning to share

There were also pigeons, seagulls, and a robin, that I didn’t capture on camera. However, the other day I caught this pigeon being quite clever, and it does this all the time now!
2017-01-28

Happy New Year (better later than never)

What a funny old year 2016 has been…I’m not even going to talk about what’s been going on in the rest of the world, but in my little world it felt like a very long year indeed; many other friends and family seem to have felt the same way too. Nothing bad has happened, in fact there have been many opportunities, particularly at work – they’ve just been quite challenging. One thing in particular is that in September I started a part-time course through work. It’s a certificate course at undergraduate level, in Petroleum Data Management – which is what I do, but after this I’ll have something official that says so 🙂 It’s been going well, but of course it does take up quite a bit of time in the evenings and weekends. It finishes in May, so more regular blogging and knitting will resume soon.

In the meantime we did get up to other things through the year:

An amazing honeymoon in Japan – did I mention there were cherry blossoms…?
2016-04-15 Nikko

Creating a nice sitting space in the garden, and enjoying some lovely blooms and wild visitors
2016-05-08 Garden

2016-05-28

2016-06-18

2016-11-13

2016-07-23

Visits to catch up with friends and family in London, Perth, and Jersey, plus visits from them to Aberdeen too. There was also a brilliantly timed coincidence when I was on a work trip to London, where I stayed on with my brother for the weekend and managed to surprise my parents who were in London for a short visit!
(It turns out I’m rubbish at taking photos of people…)

A lovely holiday in Cornwall with my brother and sister in-law.
2016-08-22 Cornwall

Many baby fishies, plus a new tank – no fish in this one though, it is a wee marine tank for psychedelic little corals and a couple of snails – more reports on the underwater world to come.
2016-07-23 Coral tank

We rounded off the year with a wonderful holiday in KL in December, meeting my new niece (her parents prefer not to have photos posted, but I assure you, without bias, she is the cutest thing ever), catching up with friends and family (including a friend I hadn’t seen in 12 years!) and a short trip to Vietnam over New Year.

There was some knitting as well, mainly for babies at work (while my poor friend’s birthday scarf is still coming along very slowly and belatedly). Somehow I haven’t knitted or sewn anything for my own niece – I think there was some anxiety over failure to finish in time for visiting so I resorted to buying stuff. But I think now the ‘new baby’ pressure is over I can make things for her at a more leisurely pace (in larger sizes of course, at the rate I go!).

So, plans for this year? Gareth’s brother will be getting married, which will be our summer highlight. Aside from that, finish course; take more photos (of people too); blog/knit/sew/read more…and not worry if I don’t!

Here’s to a wonderful 2017, and I wish you well for whatever paths you tread this year.
2016-05-14 Muir of Dinnet

Cornwall

A few years ago Gareth spent some time in Penzance for a work project, and as he’d enjoyed it there we’d always said we’d go down together for a holiday. So in August we finally did have a summer holiday there.

2016-08-21 Cornwall
View from our balcony

We went with my brother and sister-in law, and as Cornwall is very dog-friendly their little scamp came too.
2016-08-21 Cornwall
Meet Nutters the teddy bear / ewok / fluffball

There was lots to see and do!

Beautiful coastline at Land’s End
2016-08-22 Cornwall

2016-08-22 Cornwall

2016-08-22 Cornwall
It was very windy that day

2016-08-22 Cornwall
A photographer at the edge of the world

Pretty St Ives, with lots of lovely little shops (we did not meet any men with 7 wives)
2016-08-22 Cornwall

The stunning Minack Theatre – we saw the Merry Wives of Windsor.
2016-08-23 Cornwall

2016-08-23 Cornwall

We visited the Eden Project, which was fabulous.
2016-08-24 Cornwall
The famous biomes

2016-08-28 Cornwall
Natural dyes

2016-08-28 Cornwall
Dahlias – one of my favourite flowers

2016-08-24 Cornwall
Cute little roul-rouls, which run around wild in the rainforest biome

We also arranged to do a spot of sea fishing – I’d never done this before, but I did alright, apart from some tangling on the seabed and with another person’s line a couple of times…
I caught 2 pollock, and my brother caught a pollock and a couple of mackerel. It was very exciting, but I found it quite tiring on the shoulders! Gareth cooked the fish for dinner – extra yummy for being caught ourselves!
2016-08-25 Cornwall

And we visited the Poldark Mine (its actual name!). It’s a well preserved 18th Century mine, and is where all the underground scenes for the BBC Poldark series were filmed. That aside, we really enjoyed the tour inside the mine and wandering through the indoor museum displays – a real slice of history.
2016-08-26 Cornwall

It was a lovely holiday, and the weather held up for most of it! I’d love to go back again.
2016-08-25 Cornwall

More Cornwall photos in Flickr
Cornwall