Vietnam (part 1) + Cambodia Photo Travelogue

Believe it or not, my Asian adventure is more than halfway over! I’ve had so much fun and seen so many things so far, and many more cool things are on the “to-see” agenda!

After my family and I left Hong Kong, we traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We went to Ho Chi Minh because 1) it’s cool, 2) why not?, and 3) my aunt and uncle (who my immediate family and I are traveling with) live there.

Evening of Day 6 (of the trip as a whole, see this post for previous day itineraries): We arrived in Vietnam via airplane. We checked into our hotel, the Luxe, and unpacked. Then we walked to a fun Lebanese restaurant for dinner called Beirut! My mom and I split a mezzo platter, which is a hodge-podge of tabbouleh, falafel, hummus, picked veggies, and other lebanese dishes served with naan bread. We also watched belly dancers as we ate, which was an interesting experience.

Day 7: We ate a buffet breakfast at the hotel, then walked to the busy Ben Thanh market. Here is a word picture of the market: A bunch of stalls are jam-packed under the roof of a warehouse-type building. Stalls sell tacky tourist t-shirts and other clothing, jewelry, bowls and plates, knock-off handbags and shoes, and food. Every inch of space is utilized either for items or for people walking. Vendors call out to you, “Mam! Sir! Buy this!” Bartering is the only way you should buy things. Stinky fish smells permeates the air. It’s overwhelming, but something that you must experience at least once in your life! We ate lunch at a Western restaurant, Au Parc, which had amazing food. I drank a yummy banana + cinnamon smoothie and ate a delicious beet/bean/cranberry salad. After lunch we hung out and wandered District 1. We went to OMG! rooftop bar for drinks, then to Khothai for dinner, where I tried a nose-clearing curry.

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looking around one of the many stalls in Ben Thanh market

Day 8: After breakfast at the hotel again, we walked around District 1. The city is split into 24 districts. We saw Notre Dame Cathedral (it looks just like the one in Paris), the gigantic Post Office, buildings with beautiful European-style architecture, and some shops. We ate lunch at Au Parc again (it was that good)! After lunch, we traversed to the Reunification Palace, which was the President of South Vietnam’s house before and during the Vietnam War. Then we went to the War Memorial museum, which was disturbing. Lots of gruesome pictures, planes, tanks, and propaganda. Sufficient to say that it wasn’t my kind of place.We walked to another market, then to The Sushi Bar for dinner. We ate in our own private room, and I tried edamame beans, vegetarian sushi, and veggie dragon rolls. They were tasty and inexpensive (the best kind of food)!

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Notre Dame

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the Post Office

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Reunification Palace

ay 9:We woke up at 4:45 AM for a 8 AM 3 hour flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. When we arrived, we checked into our fancy hotel, Le Méridien, and went to lunch at Palmboo. We tried local food such as mango/papaya/pepper salad, curried vegetables, and tom yum soup. We also bartered for some Cambodian clothing. Then we went ZIPLINING. It was SUPER FUN. We also saw a wild tarantula! We went back to the hotel, which had a pool and a workout facility so I finally got to work out! We ate dinner inside the hotel, and it wasn’t very good. Thankfully, it’s one of the only bad meals I’ve had on the trip so far!

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Day 10: We woke up at 4:45 AM again, this time to see the sunrise at Angkor Watt temple. The sunrise was not as good as I thought it was going to be. The sky just went from a dark blue to a light blue. We ate breakfast at a nearby café, then spent the rest of the morning wandering around Angkor Watt. It’s amazing. It’s huge and so ornate. We also took a tuk-tuk (a motorcycle with a cart for sitting attached behind it) to Bayon Watt. Bayon Watt is a compound of three other impressive old temples. We stopped to eat lunch and rest our tired feet. Then we saw one last temple, which was actually in the movie Tomb Raider! There were trees growing out of the temple ruins! It was so so cool. We lounged by the pool after our 8+ hours of sightseeing, then went to Mahob restaurant for dinner. I tried spring rolls for the first time!

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Angkor Watt

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a wild monkey came right up to us at Angkor Watt!!!

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Bayon Watt

Day 11: We ate breakfast at FCC Club. Then we went back to the hotel and packed our bags for Boracay. We rented bikes from the hotel and biked around Siem Reap! We wandered through a market and bargained for some fun clothing. We ate lunch at The Soup Dragon, and I tried amok, a traditional curry dish, with veggies. I ordered fruit sorbet for dessert because why not. We biked around some more and met a monk who wanted to bless us. We went back to the hotel and swam and hung out. We went to another Cambodian food restaurant for dinner, and I tried vegetable tempura for the first time. It was really yummy. We went to the airport after dinner and hung out there until our flight left at 11:20 pm after being delayed. Next stop: Boracay, Philippines!

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Boracay was super nice too, and I am excited to post about our 4 days there (including Christmas!). I am in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as I write this. I have had a lot of fun so far, and can’t wait to have more fun!

I hope you had a fun Christmas too! Happy New Year already!

xx Ellie

Fab Five Monday

The internet wasn’t working so this post is a little belated. Sorry!

The past week has been super cool for me. I tried new things and foods, went to new places, and it was Christmas on Thursday! Best week ever! 

1. Siem Reap, Cambodia and Angkor Watt

Last Monday, my family and I arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I loved it there!!! The landscape was pretty, the people there were so friendly and had beautiful smiles, and the town was chock-full of history because Angkor Watt and other ancient temples are there. Angkor Watt was amazing. It was gigantic and incredibly ornate. I still can’t believe that  it was built over 900 years ago and that it only took 30 years to make (incredible considering how large it is and how much detail there is throughout it)! If you are looking for a travel destination, Siem Reap is a great option. Lovers of history, architecture, people, adventure, and beauty will fall in love with Siem Reap. The town has markets, tons of restaurants, tours, and 16+ old temples. It also has zip lining, which brings me to #2 on the fab five list…

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2. Zip lining across the treetops in Cambodia

This was my second time zip lining, but it was just as fun as the first time! It’s so fun to coast along the treetops and see the world from a different point of view. It was also fun to see some of the wildlife in the jungles of Cambodia. 

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doing the double zipline with my aunt!

3. Scuba Diving

I went scuba diving for the first time in Boracay, an island in the Philippines. It was scary (at first), but it became enjoyable! It was scary to breathe in a new way and to depend on a regulator for my air supply. It became fun when I realized that I was perfectly safe because we dove with instructors who knew what they were doing. We went about 20 meters deep and saw coral reefs and fishies! I found Nemo hiding in his anemone home. Scuba diving was an unforgettable experience. 

4. Warm weather 

It’s been so nice to have a break from the cold weather in the Northern USA. It’s been in the 80s (Fahrenheit) where I’ve traveled in Asia. It’s been a glorious change. I even got a tan (and some sunburn) in Boracay! 

5. Lounging on the beach in Boracay because who doesn’t love a little relaxation time!? I loved swimming in the ocean, walking the white sand beach, reading, getting a tan, and drinking lots of fresh fruit smoothies! I was spoiled this week, and I loved it! 

This past week has been incredible. I’ve done so many new and exciting things! It was also Christmas, which I can’t believe! It didn’t feel like Christmas at all because it wasn’t like our typical Christmas. This trip is our present so we didn’t open any gifts, and it wasn’t snowing and was 80 degrees F on Christmas, which never happens back home! I loved this past week, even though especially because it was different than my typical Christmas week! 

I hope you all had an amazing Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or another holiday! Have a fantastic new year as well! 

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Look at this amazing sand castle on the white sand beach in Boracay! It took 4 boys only an hour to make!!!

xx Ellie

Hong Kong / Macau Photo Travelogue

Hello form Vietnam! 2 days ago I landed in Vietnam after a fun few days in Hong Kong and a day-long excursion to Macau! The trip started on a dark Saturday morning. I spent the first 24+ hours of the trip in an airport / on an airplane. 3 flights and a long time later, I arrived in Hong Kong after a 13 hour, 22 minute international flight (where I watched 4 movies!)! In Hong Kong, I stayed in a cute little hotel with only 14 rooms! It took up most of one floor of a building in Kowloon (part of HK). I shared a room and a bed with my brother, and the shower was in the same part of the room as the sink and toilet (which was something I’d never seen before!)(see picture).

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far left: sink, middle: toilet, far right: shower. You could go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, and take a shower all at the same time (although it would be difficult!).

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The room was small but cute!

Day 1 and 2: flying and arriving in HK Day 3: breakfast at Starbucks (so cultured, right!?). Star ferry to Hong Kong island where we visited the IFC tower mall and the bird sanctuary (bird / animal park outside where we saw a scarlet ibis, monkeys, lemurs, and pheasants to name a few). We took a bus to Stanley and ate lunch at a fun place called the Boathouse, where I ate a yummy salad filled with fruit and topped with a divine rosemary dressing. Then we browsed Stanley market and the surrounding area. We bussed back to HKI and I may or may not have gotten a little sick on the bus. Then we had drinks and dinner at a thai place (we’re getting more cultured now). 100_3592100_3615

Day 4: Breakfast at Starbucks. Then we took a ferry to Macau on tumultuous seas (needless to say this was the 2nd day in a row of me doing something icky). We went to the ruins of St. John Church (built in the 1500s!), to a fort with a great view, looked at all the ornate casinos, and saw the old Portugese buildings (I love old French and Portugese architecture!). We ate dinner at Fernando’s, a restaurant near the beach with homemade rolls the size of my head. Then we ferried back to Kowloon.  100_3562100_3557100_3541

Day 5: Breakfast at Starbucks. We took a ferry to HKI and went to beautiful Victoria’s peak via cable car. Then we ate a fabulous late lunch at a Greek restaurant, Santorini (best spaghetti I’ve ever put in my mouth!). We walked around the populated island, shopped, and I drank a yummy smoothie for dinner. Then we took the boat back to the hotel.  100_3494

100_3696Day 6: Breakfast at a little vegetarian Indian food stall near our hotel. The flat bread and greasy vegetable filled phyllo dough rolls were awesome. Then we took a 45 minute taxi ride to the Big Buddha statue in Lanau! The statue was grand and the views surrounding it were breathtaking. We took the gondola back to town and went to the airport where we checked in, boarded, and flew to Vietnam! When we landed, we settled into our hotel. Then we dined at a nice Lebanese restaurant with an awesome mezzo platter (falafel, hummus, naan, tabbouleh, etc.). 

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So far it’s been a fun and busy week! I am so grateful for this week and for all I have! I’d love to know if anyone else is going on / is on a trip this holiday! 

xx Ellie

Fab 5 Friday 12/19/14

Helloooo! I hope that everyone has had a fabulous week and has fun weekend plans!

This Friday marks the 6th day of my trip in Asia. I am having fun, exploring, eating yummy foods, and learning new things! So, it’s okay that I’ve missed a week of school because I am learning math (converting Hong Kong Dollars and Vietnamese Dongs into US Dollars), english/ language (how to say phrases in different languages), and lots of history! Soon I will post a recap of my trip to Hong Kong and Macau, but I’ll give you a sneak-peek here! This week I have tried / explored LOTS of new things! Some of my faves listed below are places, while others are things I’ve scouted during shopping excursions! Take a browse, and maybe you’ll find some holiday gift ideas or bucket list ideas!

1. This dress

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We browsed the IFC mall on Hong Kong Island and went into ZARA because we’d never been before! I spotted this adorable dress, tried it on, and found that it fit me perfectly! Unfortunately, I didn’t purchase it right away. When I came back 2 days later, it was sold out in my size (sad face). Oh well. Maybe I can purchase it online or will find a dress similar to it! Anyways, if you find this dress or a dress like it, you should buy it ’cause it’s super cute.

2. The Big Buddha and surrounding area 100_3811The Big Buddha is in Lanau, about a 40 minute taxi ride from the Hong Kong airport. The area surrounding it is GORGEOUS. It’s undeveloped for the most part, so there’s nothing but trees, rolling hills, mountains, sea, and islands as far as the eye can see! The Buddha statue itself is pretty cool, and it was cool to see Buddhists coming from all over to pray with the Buddha’s huge statue. The best part of being at the Buddha was the view from it. As I wrote before, it was gorgeous. If you’re ever in the area… you should go. The view is worth it! 100_3742 3. The abundance of fresh fruit juice and smoothies available in Asia! I love fruit. I love how in both Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City there are fruit stalls everywhere, and fresh juice and smoothies are on the menu at every restaurant that I’ve visited! It’s also been fun to try new fruits, such as apple pears (the shape and crunch of an apple combined with the skin and taste of a pear), dragon fruit, and sweet baby bananas! Hooray for fruit!

4. The different buildings and architecture around Hong Kong, Macau, and Ho Chi Minh City. It’s all so different, yet most of it is pretty! My favorite types include the old Portugese-style buildings in Macau and the old temple style around Hong Kong.  100_3557 100_3581 100_3795 5. Victoria’s peak and the view from the top of the peak. It was incredible to see Hong Kong and the surrounding area from such a height. So pretty. I loved both Victoria’s Peak and Big Buddha because you could look out and see pure gorgeousness at both sights! NOT in my fab 5 Friday: jet lag, strong incense, cigarette smoke, the smell of dried seafood, and ferry rides on tumultuous seas that make one (read: me) sick. These are all part of the adventure, though!  I’m thankful for this week and the many opportunities that have come along with it. I’m excited for the coming weeks and for what they will bring! Have a fab Friday and a fabulous weekend! 

xx Ellie

This post is part of A Vegan Holiday, a collaboration among vegan and veg-friendly bloggers. Follow along on social media with #AVeganHoliday. Want to learn more or become a contributor? Find out more here or here

Fab 5 Friday 12/12/14

I leave tomorrow morning for Asia. TOMORROW! That’s crazy! Obviously, my upcoming trip tops the Fab 5 Friday list because it is what I am most excited about this week! However, everything else on the list also rocks (and there are some great holiday present ideas!).

1. My family’s upcoming trip to Asia: look here to read more about it!

2. Farm House Fresh Whoopie Cream (aka Sugar Cookie Lotion)

Yumminess! The lotion smells magical AND it comes in a cute container! Double win! Picture from Farm House Fresh’s website.

I bought this lotion last week from Aspara Spa (a beauty salon near my house) and it’s freaking fabulous. It literally smells like sugar cookies. And I am using literally in the right context here. It’s magical and I’m obsessed. I guess smelling like sugar cookies is a good thing to be obsessed with? Hopefully? It smells fabulous, comes in a cute bottle, and it’s vegan and made with natural ingredients! However, I wouldn’t eat it. As much as you may want to, I don’t think that would turn out very well. For those of you interested, it’s made by Farm House Fresh and is called Whoopie Cream. It’s expensive ($30 for 8 oz) but it is SO worth it! If you want to hear more praises about this magic lotion, you can look at this post from Monday. Christmas is coming up (12 days!), and it would make any person (yup, even guys probably) happy if they received it for Christmas. 

3. Londontown Lakur Nail Polish

I am wearing the 6th color from the left. Picture from Londontown.com!

It’s vegan, gluten-free, natural, and comes in various cute colors! This is the best nail polish ever! Normally, I can feel whether or not I am wearing nail polish because my nails feel heavier with it on. That is not the case with this nail polish, which I love! Plus, it doesn’t chip and stays on well for at least a week. I am currently wearing a hot pink color called “Weekend Cheers” (6th from left in the picture above). I love it. If you are looking for great nail polish, look no further! It is $16 a bottle, so it’s kind of expensive, but it’s worth the price. It makes a great stocking stuffer for Christmas! 

4. Before reading this article, I had no idea that the amount of protein (in grams) you should get a day is your body weight divided by 2! There are also some yummy looking recipes attached to the bottom of the article. Thanks, Dad, for sending me the link! 

5. A Vegan Holiday Week 3 Roundup!

I am so happy I decided to be a part of #aveganholiday. It has been a fun way to “meet” new bloggers and share recipes! I am featured at the top of the list for this week for the yummy sugar cookies I made on Monday. YAY! Thank you so much, Sara, Bianca, and Aileen for putting this whole thing together, and to Sara for featuring me! If you haven’t already, check out all of the posts from it! Links are below. 

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Have a fabulous friday and I will “talk” to you all next week in Asia! 

xx Ellie

This post is part of A Vegan Holiday, a collaboration among vegan and veg-friendly bloggers. Follow along on social media with #AVeganHoliday. Want to learn more or become a contributor? Find out more here or here

3 Week Asian Adventure Packing List

T-minus less than 2 DAYS until I leave for Asia! Hong Kong, Macau, Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia here I come! I’m all packed and ready to go to the airport early on Saturday morning. I (hope) I’m ready for the day and a half of flying ahead of me. I am just so ready to go. I am so ready for warm weather, no homework, new cultures and new places to explore! Whilst on the trip, I’m going to take lots and lots of pictures to share, and I am excited to try all of the different ethnic foods! And don’t worry, I plan on blogging alllllll about my adventures. I am just so excited about this trip! I’ve been waiting for a year for it, and I just can’t believe that it’s finally here.  Here’s a list of what I am packing for my 3 week adventure. To get ideas of what to pack, I looked at the following sites: 

how to pack everything together (hint: roll it up!) 

what to pack and how to be prepared for anything whist traveling! 

I hope these sites and this list helps you prepare for any sort of trip you are going on (and packing for) for the Holidays! Remember, I’m gone for 3 weeks so I am packing a lot of stuff. You will probably want to pack less if your trip is shorter. I am also leaving room in my suitcase for treasures I find when traveling! I am using a big fattie suitcase that I could probably fit 4 small children in (don’t worry I won’t actually be using my suitcase for that purpose 🙂 ). 

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In my rolling suitcase…

  • 4 bathing suits
  • 2 sundresses (“nice” outfits)
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 8 short sleeve shirts
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 skirt
  • 4 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pairs of pajamas
  • 2 workout tops
  • 3 workout shorts
  • 3 bras (pretty sure the boys won’t be packing these)
  • 9 pairs undies (boys: boxers, I hope)
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • goggles
  • 1 pair of wedges
  • 1 pair of flip-flops
  • 1 book

In my carry-on (backpack)…

  • T-shirt
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of underwear
  • 1 bra

(the above are my extra outfit just in case my luggage gets lost in translation!) 

  • sunglasses
  • baseball cap
  • inhaler
  • 3 books
  • notebook
  • pen
  • pencil
  • mini hand sanitizer
  • mini lotion
  • mini lip balm
  • snacks (most notably pumpkin date scones and a nut mix with almonds, chocolate chips, and dried cherries in it)
  • water bottle 
  • toiletries (toothbrush and toothpaste)

With this list, I will hopefully be prepared for long flights, as well as for my time in Asia!  Let me know in the comments if you are going anywhere or doing anything exciting this Holiday season! I’d love to know! Have a safe trip if you’re going anywhere! 

xx Ellie

This post is part of A Vegan Holiday, a collaboration among vegan and veg-friendly bloggers. Follow along on social media with #AVeganHoliday. Want to learn more or become a contributor? Find out more here or here

Butternut Squash Bisque

This week is busy. School, packing, and homework (and getting ahead on homework because I am missing school next week!) are taking up the majority of my time. However, I am officially packed for my trip to Asia! We leave Saturday morning (2 days! Eek!)! We’re gone for 3 weeks, so I packed a lot of stuff. It was challenging to figure out what to pack, but some useful websites helped me out! I’ll post a “What I’m Packing for a 3 Week Trip” tomorrow on the new travel part of my blog (made specifically to document my trip!). 

My family is in a flurry to get everything done before we leave. We’ve been so busy packing, getting documentation and stuff together, and getting ahead on work and school since we’re peace-ing out next week. This doesn’t leave us much time to cook/ bake! Something that we have been making is soup, because it doesn’t take long to whip up! Soup is just so fantastic for whirlwind days like today! 

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This soup is based on a recipe from Cooking Light cooking magazine. The version my mom and I based it off of is non-vegan, so we made it vegan! It’s quick, easy, low-calorie, and delicious! Not to mention gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free, soy-free, AND vegan! A winner for everyone! 

Enjoy some warm and comforting soup! 

Butternut Squash Bisque

serves 2-3

  • 4 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound, or 2 squash)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and halved
  • 1 (½) piece ginger, thinly sliced (or 1 Tbsp ginger paste)
  • 2 and ½ cups vegetable broth
  • pepper

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix/ toss the first 5 ingredients in a roasting pan. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Cool for 10 minutes. Place half of mixture and half of broth in a blender and secure the lid. Blend until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture and broth. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with croutons, nuts (Pepita seeds are pictured), and/or pepper. Enjoy and, if you feel like it, slurp it up like Belle and the Beast both do in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast!

Have a nice day!
xx Ellie

This post is part of A Vegan Holiday, a collaboration among vegan and veg-friendly bloggers. Follow along on social media with #AVeganHoliday. Want to learn more or become a contributor? Find out more here or here