Tag Archives: Drink

Christmas day in Hanoi

Wow, that was the longest break between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day ever! If kids had to wait as long as my readers did for Christmas Day they’d wage war against Santa.
So after a late night of revelry on Christmas Eve, celebrating Vietnam’s soccer victories, it was time to get up and do the business of Christmas. Turns out that the business of Christmas in Hanoi (when you plan accordingly) is the same as everywhere else. You eat and eat and eat until you can eat no more.
We decided to go somewhere nice on Christmas day. This was made incredibly easy because Nicole knows all the right people and got us free lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel. Oh, did I mention the complimentary bottle of Roederer champagne?

Christmas dinner by the window

Simone, Cat and I arrived at lunch to find Nicole waiting for us at an elaborately decorated table with a view. We exchange gifts (I forgot that Nicole was the gift-giving master, this part was extremely fun) and got started on the buffet. Because we were in a fancy hotel and not Smorgies there was an air of grace to our binging. When we piled food on our plates we did so with our pinkies extended.


So much food!

There was every conceivable food at this buffet so we ate and ate and ate all sorts of things, and then decided it was time to settle into the traditional Christmas dinner.

Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner

Sadly, the eating and eating and eating didn’t warm up the troops for battle, it just weakened the battle stations and we were overthrown early.

Christmas dinner wins

Christmas dinner wins

And then we ate dessert…

but surely there is room for a little more

but surely there is room for a little more

We emerged from battle sometime in the afternoon and made it all the way to the hotel pool before taking a rest.

working off the meal

working off the meal

After an extended lounging period by the pool, we made our way back to the hotel and found Bridget Kelly wandering the streets of Hanoi. We made phone and skype calls to various families and then decided to make the most of Christmas in a non-Christian country and went shopping.

An ode to weekends, the great glory of the week

I am a VERY big fan of weekends. Every Friday I marvel that in a world of work we have two whole days EVERY SINGLE WEEK away from the office. That’s 28.57% of the week with no work!

A recurring theme of my weekends lately has been sitting in cafes for extended periods. Admittedly I’ve often gone to the cafe to do work, but I don’t usually let that mess up my vibe. This weekend though, Rowan and I headed out without a single scrap of work. I’d read about a place near Rowan’s house so suggested we head over there. I had set out looking for Mexican food, but when that didn’t eventuate this seemed like a nice alternative. The thing I read about Agalico (20 Sukhumvit Rd 51) said it had nice tea and coffee and could be located by looking for the old bicycle out the front.

Ro and I met at the BTS and went on a hunt for a bicycle. Finding the bicycle was a cinch, then we went inside and found this:

Rowan and Agalico

Rowan and Agalico

We were pretty pleased with ourselves stumbling upon the cutest, quaintest tea house in Bangkok if not the world. Sadly I didn’t take more photos of the interior but you can see some if you follow the Agalico link above.

Sarah with tea and scones

Sarah with tea and scones

In between courses (1st course: quiche and coffee, 2nd course: more coffee for Ro and Earl Grey tea and scones for Sarah) we wandered out into the courtyard. Oh dear me, this place was even more special than we first thought.

Tell me this cat isn't from your weirdest dreams

Tell me this cat isn't from your strangest dreams

In the Gazebo! (I hope at least one reader remembers Puddle Lane)

In the Gazebo! (I hope at least one reader remembers Puddle Lane)

Kids reading comics and doing homework

Kids reading comics and doing homework (but actually just being a bit cute)

We witnessed a strange gathering at the back of the garden. A group of girls appeared to be styling and posing dolls for a photo shoot. I pretended to be taking photos of the gazebo to take these shots.

Girls with dolls

Girls with dolls

Doll up close

Doll up close

This weekend is a four day long weekend! At my work we only get 10 public holidays a year so getting one on either side of the same weekend is a rare, sweet little miracle (of a plural society that observes both the King’s Birthday and Eid Al-Adha). Just imagine how many cafe sittings I can squeeze into four days! (that’s 57.14% of the week you know!)

Is it destiny or fortune that brings me a cold?

I spent Tuesday afternoon with Serene Destiny.

She’s a lovely Sicilian who lives in Norway, is travelling around Australia and came to Melbourne to visit Clare. Serene Destiny will more quickly respond to Serena Sorte if you call her in the street, but assuming that not all readers of this blog are fluent in Italian I took the liberty of translating into English. No, no, don’t feel bad…Just because you’re a brute, an animal who can’t speak Italiano, doesn’t mean you don’t offer the world something.

We walked from Clare’s house in Kensington to the Botanic Gardens via coffee at the Journal Cafe.

Serena requested that we have good coffee, wanting to make the most of Melbourne’s coffee before heading north in search of warmth and the unavoidable bad nescafe. I felt the weight of this request heavily on my shoulders. Finding a coffee that an Italian aproves of? I like good coffee but I choose my cafes based on other things too (lighting, noise, music), and even then…what if they’ve all changed since last year? So I called Lara because this girl knows good coffee and she knows the city as of September 2008. Turns out that The Journal, our old favourite, is still a favourite, which made me very happy (that things don’t change too much). The coffee was excellent and the food was too. And they were playing Kate Bush!

Then, walking through the Botanic Gardens at 5pm, the sun setting, heading back into the city, crossing the Yarra, a picturesque Melbourne moment! The blossoms on the trees! The rowers pulsing down the river!

Oh, I took some photos!

After a first rate Melbourne afternoon I dopped Serena off at Clare’s work, the North Fitzroy Arms. I would just drop her off and head back to Benjamin’s, cook dinner and tick items off my to-do list. Enough messing around Sarah. You have things to do.

But…oh North Fitzroy Arms, it’s been so long since I last walked through the doors from the icy, cruel world outside into your warm embrace. And it’s steak night! Clearly this is Serene Destiny. So I call Greg and propose that he join us. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to have steak night without Greg in attendance. Perhaps it’s like a steak night quorum. Greg was there within minutes and soon we were eating $12 steaks.

As Clare drove me home after her shift ended (and I got lost because I forgot which streets were where), we talked about serene destiny and I thought “gee, I wish I had an Italian surname that meant something nice like destiny” when Clare kindly pointed out that Destiny and Fortune had spent the day together.

I don’t know whether Destiny was just stronger than Fortune that day but we both started the day with scratchy throats and I ended it feeling ready to climb into bed and never get out. I was well and truly under the weather by Wednesday and now it’s Thursday and I’m planning on pushing myself only as far as Nicole’s apartment down the road for a cup of tea.

Thursday morning thoughts

I had a delicious dinner with other AYADs and our graceful leader Nani last night. We ate at the restaurant at the new Pade Hotel.
Pade Hotel

Pade Hotel

I am a big fan of the building and hoped the food would be OK. Well…it blew my expectations out of the water! I ate lambchops! real lambchops. And they were delicious! And there was steak! And salmon!
  • There is an eagle circling outside my office window. It’s huge.
  • Harpsichord is my least favourite instrument. Do others see where I am coming from?

This morning just got better. I wandered downstairs to find something for breakfast and found Dunkin’ Donuts! I ate one and realised that a milo accompaniment would make it that much more special. So I ran to the kiosk next door, bought a couple of milo sachets, had a quick conversation about the correct pronunciation (I say ‘mai-lo’, Indonesians say ‘meelo’) and ran back to the office. As I made it through the door it started to rain. Perfect conditions for milo and donuts were set.

Donut and Milo

Donut and Milo


abbotsford convent






Want to have a super weekend in Banda Aceh?! Here’s how!

It was a busy weekend in Banda Aceh this weekend. And like the best weekends it lasted for three days. Sunday was Indonesian Independence Day so a public holiday was observed on Monday.

Friday was the 3rd anniversary of the cessation of conflict between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement. There were public events all day and I quickly dropped in on one in the afternoon to see one of our NGO partners perform (they have a band). All I found was the Deputy Governor giving a ratherlong speech…and a sign telling me where I could stand.

Pria (men) to the left and wanita (women) to the right. Sex segregation in the middle of the day? Really? When I first saw the sign I hoped it was directions to the bathroom…

Later that night at the same location there was a concert with the very popular and very awesome Acehnese performer, Rafly. The segregation plan failed and there were boys and girls sitting wherever they felt like it. Standing was strictly forbidden though. I guess it might have led to…dancing! Gasp! Rafly really knows how to rock your socks off so it was a killer to remain seated when the music was telling you to shake your bootie. Occasionally some boys lost control and jumped up to dance…but they were very quickly reminded by crowd control to sit down (crowd control=military so you actually have to listen to them).

On Sunday, Independence Day, there were all kinds of festivities around town, including panjat pinang where groups of men from the local area climb a slippery pole to grab the loot at the top (the loot consisted of electrical appliances at the one we saw). A few of us headed to a local park to watch as groups of men tried with varying levels of success to reach the top of the pole. There were two poles, each was smeared in grease and was the height of maybe 6 or 7 men.

Here are some men at the base of one of the poles.

This group have almost made it to the top.

And this guy was the first to reach the top.

He proceeded to detach the boxes and throw them down to the ground. Fortunately the boxes were symbolic. The appliances had been removed before being attached to the pole. A friend of mine saw one of these competitions in which the victor threw down a blender from the top of the pole and it smashed.

On Monday a few of us decided to go for a walk to the secret secret beach. I call it the secret secret beach to distinguish it from the regular secret beach, which is not a secret at all because everyone knows where it is and it’s easy to get there. The secret secret beach actually deserves its name….we walked for a few hours and couldn’t find it.

Here is the wholesome hiking troupe making our way along the track. At this point we were pretty sure we were on the right track because our GPS told us so (that’s right…we even had a GPS and we still didn’t make it!)

We continued along the track but eventually arrived at a cliff that was very clearly a dead end. Fortunately this was the view at the dead end:

Can’t be too sad about finding a view like that.

At this point we were low on drinking water and it was very hot, so like sensible little hikers we turned back. We had received some guidance (relating to both navigation and life) along the way from an old man who stayed in a hut along the track. On our way back we stopped in at the hut for a chat. He was deaf so our communication was limited, but he did give us some life lessons (because what else is an old man in the forest going to do?)

Life lessons from the old man.
1. get married
2. have babies
3. getting married and having babies is good
4. Hedgehog is tasty and good for virility

I was pretty much ready to sign up for marriage and babies by the end of the hike.

Here, Simone and Marcus are sitting in the man’s hut.

Here, Cat is talking to the old man.

A little further on from the old man’s house is a natural well he collects water from. It’s salty so you can’t drink it but it’s perfect for pouring over your head, as demonstrated so beautifully by Simone.

After making it out of the forest we stopped in at the easy-to-find-secret-beach for a quick swim and then headed to Joel’s for drinks and pizza. Marcus ordered our drinks while Simone and I used the showers.

We came back to the table to find (each):
1 big bottle of water
1 pocari sweat (isotonic drink)
1 coke
1 pineapple juice

We were pretty thirsty.

This weekend was probably as good as they get… I reflected on this as I had a hot shower (it was truly glorious) at Marcus, Simone and Cat’s place after returning from the beach. How can you beat that?