Montag, 17. November 2014

Phu Quoc: treasure island

My kind of paradise. 

In the last few years Phú Quốc became a rather touristy destination, but it hasn't achieved its full potential in that way yet. A lot of habitable land is still under construction. Luckily. Even though the infrastructure of the largest island of Vietnam is already better than the infrastructure of other islands in this region, there are still a lot of bumpy, narrow roads. Well, in my opinion these roads are kind of charming. 
Despite the amount of hotels and resorts (and they are a lot more to come in the next years...) along the coast line one could easily treat a vacation in Phu Quoc as a great escape from the urban everyday life. There are a lot of things to discover: obviously there are the amazing beaches, where you can swim, sun bathe, go kitesurfing, etc. But if you are into history you can visit the "Coconut Tree Prison", which is a museum now. First it was build and used by the French and later on used by the Americans to hold prisoners and mostly to torture Anti-Americans to death.

You could also have a look at pearls or have a walk in the woods. Or you could go to a fish sauce factory and get some bottles like I did. We ordered two boxes each with 12 bottles actually, because it is not allowed to bring fish sauce in glass bottles on to the airplane (Vietnam Airlines policy).  The boxes were delivered to our home within 10 days.
There were huge tubs filled with fish sauce! (picture underneath)

The first day we spent relaxing at the beach. It was a rather gloomy day, but I love days like this. It was still hot but there were less people at the beach. The next day we did a lot of the touristy stuff and had a nice walk along the beach after dinner. I always enjoy the salty smell of the sea, the sand between my toes and the wind blowing through my hair. That night was particularly nice because of the full moon. Everything was very calming.
On the next day one of my dad's friends invited us to his home in the north of the island. When we arrived there it felt like time stopped flying so fast. It felt like we truly escaped. There were hammocks and beach chairs, you could easily see Cambodia and there was a tiny coral reef not far away from his house. It was also very quiet and you barely had mobile phone reception, let alone WiFi.
For the very first time in my life I went fishing for my dinner and it felt fantastic! And I'm definitely not the outdoorsy type of girl.

sea urchins

I really liked Phu Quoc, because the people there seem very chilled and easy-going. Most importantly: the food is really good if you love seafood!

much love

Montag, 29. September 2014

About kinship and home

I always wanted to be that girl, who has been there and done that.

My parents taught me wherever I'll go and how far I'll come, I should never forget where my roots are. Talking about roots is difficult when it comes to a person like me. Sure, I know my parents are Vietnamese. Therefore, I am Vietnamese. My birth certificate says that, too. On the contrary, my passport says I am German. Do I feel like a German?
Well, I am German by choice. Every child of a Vietnamese immigrant couple, that was born in Germany before the year 2000 was not automatically a German citizen. But between their 16th and 23rd birthday they could apply for the citizenship. So I was not officially German until my 22nd birthday. That is quite late compared to my fellow German Vietnamese friends, but I hesitated: I wanted to stay Vietnamese as long as possible. Why, you ask? Because I never really felt like one or the other. And I would rather stick to my 'roots' than betraying my parents, I thought. (Since this year it is possible to have both citizenships, but not when I was going through all that stuff.)
You are getting older and you change a lot. For me this meant, becoming a girl who wants to travel. And it is a matter of fact that it is more convenient to travel around the world being German. No one will mistaken you for an illegal immigrant and you do not have to bother getting a visa for every country you are traveling to.
In addition, I grew up in Germany, most of my friends and part of my family are there.

All of the above being said... where/what exactly are my 'roots'?

When my parents are talking about my 'roots' they are talking about them, their home, the country they originated from and, above all, our family. Vietnamese child education is very Confucianism orientated. Respecting the elderly, which includes your family and strangers (the concept of filial piety), was one of the key aspects which I was brought up with. Simply means, until you can think yourself your parents are always right. And if they say your home country is Vietnam, you do not negotiate.
As I grew older, my parents grew wiser. They let me decide for myself. Maybe because they recognized that I haven't lost my roots (viet. phrase: mất gốc) like other German Vietnamese my age already have. Some of my friends and acquaintances are not able to hold a simple conversation in Vietnamese, they prefer to talk German. Which often leads to a language barrier between them and their parents. This is also the cause for many misunderstandings and a distant relationship. I often feel sorry for these parents because they work very hard to provide for their children, but at the end of the day they won't be able to communicate with their children properly.

I like being Vietnamese. The culture is fascinating, the language is beautiful (but in my opinion every language has its own beauty), the people are interesting and the food is incredibly good.
I like how Vietnamese people define family. For most of us, it's always family first. And by family we do not only mean our parents, grandparents and siblings. Family includes every aunt, every uncle on both sides of the parents, every cousin the parents have and their children, etc - basically your grandparents, their siblings and all of their descendants combined.
Also, my parents are divorced and happily remarried. That means there is more family for me to love, to argue with and to care about.
I like being part of all of this. Sometimes I am pretty proud to be part of it.
Would I call Vietnam my home? Despite the roots of my family (tree) being here...

I like being German. A lot of experience gained, a lot of lessons learned and a lot of friends made. Growing up in an open-minded and stable environment helped me to learn things my parents would/could never taught me. Also, German is the language I am communicating with the most.
I like the opportunities which were given to me during my time in Germany.
I like the way it shaped my character.
I love being around my sisters, who are currently living there.
But, is Germany my home? Although I was born there, lived there and most of my friends are there...

My roots are everywhere, because every experience and every person I met shaped my character. Every experience have made me who I am today. 

I like to see myself as a hybrid. - Not someone with a mixed heritage, yet with a mixed cultural background. By that I do not solely mean the Vietnamese and German culture. Since kindergarten I grew up around children with other nationalities than mine, it made me learn to respect and cherish foreign cultures and people. While traveling around for a bit and actually living in a different country, I realized I can easily make myself feel at home any place I travel to. Getting used to my surroundings quickly is one of my strengths. Further, I like to get to know different people, overcome language barriers, find common ground and possibly learn interesting things from them.
I do not see home as a location per se. It is true: home is where your heart is. It might sound cheesy, but I left little pieces of my heart everywhere I went in the past twenty something years. Because in my opinion there is always something beautiful in every place you go.
One thing is certain, a big chunk of my heart is always wherever the family is. Home is wherever my sisters are.

Right now I am on the search for myself and the place where I belong. Not everyone in the family understands that, but they will eventually. Because they are family.

much love

Montag, 22. September 2014

MLtravels: My Tho

Vietnam has a lot to offer.

In the beginning of this summer my family and I flew from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. We spent a couple of days in HCMC to visit family and friends (blog post coming soon). One day we decided to go on a day trip to My Tho, which is about 70km away from HCMC. It is a city at the Mekong Delta with a lot of delicious food. After all my stays in Vietnam during the past years I have never came around to visit the Mekong Delta, although this is one of those things/places Vietnam is famous for. (I had a sudden thought about Gordon Ramsay's visit to Vietnam on his 'Great Escape' series, where he sold Vietnamese vermicelli soup on a boat on the Mekong river. Even he has been there.) 
Since I am sort of having my very own 'great escape' right now, I thought it would be more than appropriate to finally go to see the Mekong Delta (or at least a small part of it). 
We booked a guided tour, because it is always nice to have a schedule to fit as much as possible in one day trip. It was about 600k VND (ca. 20€) per person, splendid lunch and all transportation costs included.

We had green tea with honey from a local bee farm.

I had a python around my neck. It felt weird because you actually feel every move the snake makes. (Fyi. Usually I do not like animals thaaat much but I am very fascinated by spiders, snakes and other reptiles.)

We had delicious fresh fruit: Dragon fruit, papaya, pineapple, longan and rambutan (not visible on picture).

We even tasted fresh handmade coconut candy. It was amazing how fast these people wrapped the candy.

We went by boat along the Mekong river to all the different little destinations to see stuff and enjoy food.
Vietnamese people are foodies. In case you did not know, now you do. Every time anyone from my family travels somewhere he/she will bring some delicious local products home to share with the rest of the family. So, guess what we bought... haha

much love

Montag, 15. September 2014

Berlin: Shiso Burger

A light burger.

There are certain go-to spots for Asians in Berlin - Shiso Burger is definitely one of them. And yup this place is pretty hipster. (Didn't bother me too much though.)
We went there on a warm summer day and sat outside at a shared table with some guys. Because this place is so popular it tends to be crowded from time to time. If you mind sharing tables do not go there for lunch.
We had the Chili Lemon Burger and they were simply delicious! The bun was soggy after a few bites, but meh... - the sauce was the bomb! Another plus is they ask you for your meat temperature preference, which is always a good thing. (Delivering a satisfying/perfect result is another thing...)
I recommend getting sides as well, because the burger is fairly small and you will not get full just by having one burger. 
In addition, I don't believe the shiso leaf on my burger made this eating experience more exciting or more delicious. (A lot of people won't be able to tell if there were shiso leaves on their burgers anyway.) It is a nice gimmick to justify the name of the restaurant, that's it. 

The staff is very friendly and Asian. If you are in Berlin Mitte and are looking for a snack or maybe a proper meal, this place is worth a glance and a try. 

much love

Montag, 8. September 2014

MLtravels: Tam Dao, Vietnam and the plan

 She is the kind of girl who can't seem to stay at one place for too long.

Hey, girls and boys! 
I left Germany and I don't know when I'm going to come back. Maybe I'll get tired of traveling and come back soon, maybe I'll take my time... 
Anyway, I will share my adventures with you. Hope you are as excited as I am! In the past few weeks I've done a little bit of traveling and of course there are a lot of pictures, stories and information to be shown, told and shared! Since I'm not doing much at the moment, except for planning trips, babysitting and getting fat, there should be a little challenge for me... 'What about being more active on the blog? A post once a week, maybe?', I thought. 
OK, I do not promise anything, but I'll try my best.

Back in July I knew I will leave Germany for a long time, so my lovely sister decided I should have a decent last meal at the Frankfurt International airport. As shown above creamy mushroom soup and roasted pork knuckle with mustard and bread were my choices. Airport meals are never that good but this one was still satisfying. After that meal my sister and I went on a long-haul flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. She already left, but Hanoi is my current home. At the moment I'm living at my dad's place with his wife and my youngest sister and the rest of the family is living nearby. Feels good to have family around. (My mom and my other sisters are still in Germany and I miss them a lot, but one can't have everything.) 

Only two days after our arrival we went with our whole family on a weekend getaway to the mountains, to Tam Đảo National Park. Even my 87-year old grandma went with us!
Tam Dao is only about 80-90km from Hanoi away, which makes it perfect for a weekend trip.
I loved the fresh breezes of air there, because Hanoi in the summer is very sticky, hot and dirty (okay, it's always dirty...). We didn't do a lot of sightseeing, we rather enjoyed good food (one time we had hedgehog...yup hedgehog), had family table tennis tournaments, took long walks and played cards a lot. 

We also hiked a little bit to see waterfalls (last picture) and we drove to Thiền viện Trúc Lâm Tây Thiên Temple. Though the whole trip to the mountains involved a crazy lot of stair climbing I still felt relaxed and well rested after the few days and the breathtaking views were totally worth it. 

much love

Montag, 11. August 2014

Berlin: Umami

Are you looking for something new? 
Berlin is constantly changing, I love that about the capital city. Every time I visit Berlin there are a lot of new "hyped" restaurants to try out. 
Umami opened a few months ago and on my last visit we decided to have a look (& taste). I have to admit I was excited and had high expectations because of the name of this place. First of all I thought it would be a Japanese restaurant, then my friend told me they serve a mix of Southeast Asian aka. indochine cuisine ('indochine' refers to Indochina, which is basically everything in between the southwest of China and east of India). Then I saw the menu and it says 旨味 at the front, which I thought was Chinese for delicious flavor (zhi3wei4) but I was wrong. It is actually Japanese (kanji characters) for umami. This still means delicious but it is also the fifth basic taste - the savory taste. For me umami is a taste which is mouthwatering and something which rounds up a dish. Short: something incredibly good. There you go, that's why I had high expectations. 

We had Pakse Noodlepan and BBQ Kingprawns, as dessert we had black sticky rice with mango and coconut cream. I also had an Iced Vietnamese Coffee and my friend one of the delicious non-alcoholic cocktails (it was some sort of lime soda with mint, can't remember the name). As a special treat the waiter gave us each, one (very bland) portion Vietnamese chè đậu xanh. 

Well, the food was alright - not outstanding though. The dessert was really nice! (You get one dessert for free with every main dish.) The drinks were good, other friends of mine only recommend the cocktails there. 
Nevertheless I really enjoyed having lunch at Umami, because the whole interior is really cozy but in an Asian way. Everything is well decorated. You definitely can tell someone put his heart in this place.

We will come back for the drinks and the friendly waiters. 

much love

Samstag, 5. Juli 2014

MLtravels: Switzerland


What are the first things which come to your mind if you're thinking of Switzerland? - Probably Swiss chocolate, cheese, army knives, watches, business bank accounts, expensive lifestyle and the Alps, right? 
In my opinion Switzerland is a much underrated holiday destination. Sure, it's nice to go snowboarding and skiing in the mountains but Switzerland has a lot more to offer. 
A few weeks ago I went by bus from Munich ZOB (Central Bus Station, one train station away from Munich Central Station) to Zürich. By the way, Zürich might be the biggest city in Switzerland but it is not the capital. I didn't spent a lot of time in Zürich, but it felt like a place I want to live in at some point in my life. Zürich ranked first in Monocle's 2012 "Quality of Life Survey", that means the people living there are the happiest in the world. Doesn't everybody strive for happiness?! Therefore, I think surrounding yourself with happy people could be the first step.
Anyway, after I got the most expensive Starbucks drink of my life, up until now, (I paid about 7 CHF = 6€ for a tall! Mango-Passionfruit Blended Juice because I had to use the toilet, needed WiFi and also a refreshing drink - yup in this order :D) I explored Zürich for a bit. Then I hopped on a fast train to Bern, the capital, where I met up with a good friend. I was already astonished by the beauty of the city after we left the train station. The narrow-winding streets and the art nouveau/neo-gothic architecture caught my eyes. The people there, or in Switzerland in general, were very friendly and easy-going - I felt welcome as a tourist. 

The next day we drove around a bit. We went to Thun, had a walk a along Thunersee (Lake Thun - 1st & 3rd picture) and enjoyed the sun. Afterwards we drove to Interlaken (picture above) and had a stroll around town. I bought delicious chocolate from Grand Café Restaurant Schuh. The logo of this Swiss chocolatier is an image of a Jungfrau (virgin/maid) because the most famous mountain in this region is called Jungfrau
Our activities sound really boring, I know. But I actually needed this. The days before I went to Switzerland I was rushing from city to city visiting friends, and I did so after this short trip as well. So all I needed was a quiet and peaceful place to calm down and relax. The vibe of this country is calming and inspirational.
But if you are not an old granny like me and want adventures I'm sure Interlaken is the right place for you. Because this lovely small city is a very touristy place, they offer kayaking, canoeing, and which thrilled me the most, paragliding. But I was not spontaneous or brave enough to do it. Paragliding is on my bucket list though. 
In the afternoon we we drove to Beatenberg (mountain/village), maybe half way up, took a break and enjoyed the scenery. 

Switzerland was everything I remembered and imagined it to be and more. I was in elementary school when I first visited this beautiful country. My memories of this trip are very vague. Ergo, I had to visit it again. In my point of view the older you get the more you appreciate things in life. The few days I spent in Switzerland made me realize that instead of looking for the right angle for a great photograph to post on social media, I should absorb the awesomeness of the moment. Sometimes it is nice to just gather all the impressions for yourself, without taking pictures with the intention to share them with everybody - just to grab attention or to brag. (My pictures won't be as good as the ones you can find on the internet, which were taken by professional photographers, anyway.)
Don't get me wrong, I love taking pictures and sharing them, and of course I don't mind other people doing it. But you know, sometimes...

Aaaaand here are 5 random fun facts about Switzerland you should know:

1. There are four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. 
2. There is a political party in Switzerland, called the "Anti-Powerpoint Party". It works towards decreasing the use of Powerpoint in professional presentations. 
3. In Switzerland, it is illegal to keep just one guinea pig. You have to have them in pairs. 
4.  The official name of Switzerland is Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin, which means Swiss Confederation. This name is only used on official documents but it is the reason why Switzerland's abbreviation is CH.
5. Swiss people invented conching and tempering chocolate!

much love

Mittwoch, 2. Juli 2014

Copenhagen: Paludan Book Cafe

Relaxed and simple.

Last night I was looking through my external hard drive. I can't remember what I was looking for but I found some pictures of New Year's Eve (2013/2014). Nothing very interesting: some pictures of me and my friends being semi drunk posing with our Christmas cracker crowns. (You know, the little paper crowns which come in those British Christmas crackers. A really good friend of mine gave them to me on Christmas Day, but we didn't open all of them so I thought it would be nice to open the other ones the night before New Year's Eve.)
After reminiscing about the great and very chilled New Year's Eve celebration we had in Copenhagen - well, we visited a good friend of ours and she very kindly let us stay at her place - I also found photographs of a lovely café we've been to. And thought it would be nice if I share them with you. (I'm sorry in advance for the low quality pictures. It was pretty dark inside and the lighting was too yellow.)

Paludan Bogcafe (Book Café) is a very nice café in the city centre of København (Copenhagen). We only went for a cup of coffee and muffins (which were huge, moist and yummy!) but the people around us had late lunch or early dinner, and their food looked really delicious! (Seriously, check out the pictures on tripadvisor, yelp and their website!) You'll also find their English menu here
I really liked the cosy atmosphere, it was like sitting in someone's rather noisy library or living room. Not only the books were nice to look at, they also had decks of cards and board games to play with. 

Eating out in Copenhagen, Denmark is rather expensive compared to e.g. Germany but if you're visiting Copenhagen you should definitely check out this book café.

much love

Mittwoch, 18. Juni 2014

Munich: Manam

Street Food Atmosphere.

I loooove Thai food! Okay, let's be honest - I love all kinds of food as you may have noticed. 
For me there are a few reasons why I like eating out now and then (which does not mean I don't like eating at home...):
1. I like to try new things.
2. That way I can eat dishes I cannot cook or won't be able to cook better than the restaurant chefs.
3. Dining in the 'right' atmosphere will make the food taste better. 
4. Eating out with friends is more fun than eating home alone in front of the TV/Laptop. (Yes, you could invite them over or cook together... but you get my point.)
5. Sometimes (especially in some parts of Asia) it is cheaper to go out for a meal than to buy all the fresh ingredients to cook at home. 
6. I simply enjoy life and see the whole eating out concept as an experience to open up your mind in many culinary ways.

So a really good friend of mine showed me this lovely, simple, Asian style cramped up place. The whole interior of Manam reminds me of a little street food restaurant in Thailand. Everything in this place looks simple, however the food is super delicious and the price is reasonable. We went for lunch and had Pad Sie Oiw & Pad Thai, both with sea food. 

Tip: These Thai people are serious about the spiciness of the food. Keep an eye on the amount of chillies behind your dish on the menu. 

much love

Samstag, 3. Mai 2014

London: Leong's Legend

I'm always looking for a good dim sum/dumpling place. The more authentic the better. And this one is pretty authentic. The staff is Taiwanese, they are a little bit reserved - not as friendly as service in Europe supposed to be - and the food is fairly good. It is not incredible but better than a lot of places I've been to in the past. 
Leong's Legend is located in Chinatown and it has an interesting door. You have to knock first and wait for the waiter to open the door. They also have a typical Taiwanese/Chinese menu sheet in both Chinese and English. I really like this type of menu because it makes it easy to order without talking too much (thumbs up for lazy people like me! haha). (Fyi: A friend told me if you speak Chinese the waiters are friendlier - or confused. It's worth a try.)

Ich bin immer auf der Suche nach guten Dim Sum. Je authentischer desto besser! Und dieses Restaurant hier ist schon ziemlich authentisch. Das Personal besteht aus Taiwanern, welche ein bisschen distanziert wirken - sie sind nicht so freundlich wie 'typische' Kellner in Europa sein sollten - und das Essen war auch ziemlich gut. Zugegebenermaßen war es jetzt nicht unglaublich gut, aber schon besser als viele andere, die ich in der Vergangenheit probieren durfte.
Leong's Legend befindet sich in Chinatown und hat eine interessante Eingangstür. Man muss zuerst an der Tür klopfen und dann darauf warten, dass einem die Tür geöffnet wird. Sie haben dort auch eine typisch taiwanische/chinesische Speise- bzw. Bestellkarte, welche sowohl auf chinesisch als auch auf englisch ist. Ich mag diese Art von Karte sehr, denn so kann man sehr leicht Sachen bestellen ohne all zu viel mit der Bedienung reden zu müssen. (Ein kleiner Tipp: Eine Freundin meinte zu mir, wenn man chinesisch sprechen kann, ist der Service freundlicher - oder vielleicht auch verwirrt. Probiert es mal aus!)

I was craving 牛肉麵 (spicy beef noodle soup)! The beef was tender and the broth delicious! And the bowl is big - one serving is enough for two girls! (If you had dim sum as starters like we did.)

Ich hatte so Lust of 牛肉麵! Das Rindfleisch war zart und die Suppe war super lecker! Und die Schüssel ist riesig, Leute! - Eine Portion reicht für zwei Mädchen, welche vorher dim sum als 'Vorspeise' hatten. 

much love

Freitag, 18. April 2014

A fresh start, some changes and Okan in London

Honestly guys, it was long overdue.

Organic Houji Tea Pot - Roasted Green Tea

I thought extremely long and hard about whether I should or should not write in English. On the one hand I always hesitated because though I was an English major at university I did not feel my grammar, style and vocabulary would be good enough to actually post texts on the internet. On the other hand German is a pretty beautiful language if you know how to appreciate it and I like to use it since it's sort of my mother tongue. And again, as an English major I didn't want to embarrass myself too much.
The reasons I decided to start writing in English are simple. I have a lot of international friends who kept asking for translations of my blog posts. So I thought it might be a good idea to present my content in a more accessible way/language for them. In addition getting out of my own comfort zone was kind of one of my New Year's resolutions.
I'm not quite sure how to handle all this. Maybe I'll put a German translation underneath each post or just a summary or just English? We'll see as we go along.

Well, that said let's start a new chapter together!

First of all an update. I finished my studies - I am not an university student anymore. Yay! Currently I'm working to save up some money for my travels which hopefully will start this summer. There's no exact plan yet but I want to visit a lot of places in Asia.

Speaking of traveling... Last month I was in London for about a week spending my time mostly eating and sleeping. I had a great time there.
One day I went with friends to Brixton Village because we've never been there and we heard of this awesome Okonomiyaki restaurant called Okan which we wanted to try. The menu of this place is short and simple - and the Okonomiyaki were really, really good! We had the set lunch which included a miso soup and a small salad and the Okonomiyaki of the day which was the one with squid. As additional starters we ordered Kimchi and Edamame. And because I was extra adventurous I also ordered mine with soba noodles underneath.

Brixton (Village) and Okan were awesome. There were fresh produces in little shops and amazing Carribean food, especially the fried chicken smelled and looked incredibly delicious. All in all I liked the whole atmosphere of this little part of London.

much love