Greetings, peeps! I’m already settled back home, reset my inner body clock, and adapted to my L.A. ways of living! It would be absolutely wrong for me to not share about my life-changing trip to Vietnam, which I never expected to really transform my outlook on general living, fitness, food, family, finances, gratitude, spirituality, and open-mindedness!
If you want a more concisely visual and text-free representation of my first day in Vietnam, then just play my YouTube video right here!
However, there is so much more I’ve gained than yummy food and pretty scenery. I plan on recapping all of that throughout my photos and experiences, so let’s just hop right into everything!
After around two hours of security and check-ins at L.A.X., my sisters, mother, cousin, and I boarded the EVA Air plane for our fourteen-hour flight at 1:30 A.M. in the morning on July 12th! Yes, how convenient, right? I practically slept for eight of those hours and ended up playing Sudoku and watching Monsters University and Hidden Figures for the rest of the flight.
By the time we were all around two hours away from Taipei, which was our first stop, I found myself ravenously hungry and pulled out some snacks while the rest of my family ordered airline food, which were all non-vegan anyways. I noshed on a veggie patty from Amy’s Kitchen, a boiled Okinawan purple sweet potato I received from my aunt, and a peanut butter chocolate chip ALOHA bar!
This ALOHA bar now has to be one of my TOP favorite vegan protein bars….EVER. I am NOT joking. Each bar is completely plant-based, non-GMO, certified organic, gluten free, soy free, and artificial ingredient-free! As shown, each bar has 14 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar (something I don’t worry about, but for many, should keep in mind), and 14 grams of fat, 2.5 of which are saturated. Having 260 calories, it is not the most weight loss-friendly bar to have as a snack (anything under 230 calories is what I find to be the most reasonable, but ask a professional otherwise), but rather a meal replacement. However, it has the same texture as a No Cow bar and tastes JUST like the peanut butter chocolate chip No Cow bar, except even more fun and crunchy from the pumpkin seeds and peanuts! HIGHLY recommend you try these bars! You can find them at this link!
After finishing my snacks, I ended up polishing off two more Okinawan purple sweet potatoes I carried in my bag! They tasted absolutely incredible, even though they were slightly chilled! They were so fluffy and flavorful on their own as well!
Eventually, we landed in Ho Chi Minh City! Once we came outside of the airport, it was beyond wonderful to reunite with some family that I haven’t seen in ten years! My heart swelled! Sorry that there aren’t any photos of us at the airport–I just prefer to not photograph my family members because, well, not everyone likes taking pictures!
Anyways, I was mesmerized by the cityscape during the drive to my grandmother’s house! Most people actually use motorcycles as their main mode for transportation, and sometimes fit up to three people–two adults and one child, or one adult and two children–on one bike! But I noticed that all of the main shops aren’t nearly as clean or kept as those of Western cultures. They’re pretty typical of those dirty hole-in-the-wall places that you find in the outskirts of the city. Most people wear face masks to hide their noses and mouths from the smoky air. Yes, people smoke here. A lot.
My grandmother, nanny, and housekeepers made us a delicious array of food, including this customized tofu vegetable soup with tomatoes, scallions, watercress, and bean sprouts! Warm, slightly sweet, savory, and flavorful, this has got to be one of my new favorite soups that I plan on replicating at home someday! This soup was accompanied by three mini apple bananas that tasted like plantains, and crispy seaweed!
Suddenly, a giant plate of this aromatic fried tomato tofu that was also loaded with green onions and peppers appeared right in front of me! Instantly, it became a family favorite once we gobbled up the whole plate within seconds. This is also an incredible recipe that I need to make back in L.A.! It was so spicy, zingy, and crunchy from the tofu pieces! Not to mention that it tastes wonderful wrapped in lettuce! Afterwards, I got really thirsty, so I drank through four plastic water bottles! As much as I despise using plastic, using plastic water bottles are the only way I can drink safe water in Vietnam, as the tap water is unsafe.
Also, the housekeepers would not. Stop. Feeding. Us. When I thought I was done, the tomato tofu plate would be refilled once again! It definitely is a Vietnamese tradition to endlessly feed the younger members of the family! I swear, as the trip progressed, my appetite and stomach capacity grew immensely!
Once we got settled into our rooms and unpacked our belongings, we headed to my uncle’s jewelry store where we were able to pick out some ring bases that then got real pearls attached to them!
The customized ring ended up being worn on my pointer finger, because it fit too loosely on my ring finger!
Much later in the evening, our uncle and aunt took the family out to a fine restaurant in the city with a beautiful streak of Chinese lanterns and golden fish (statues, of course) fountain! Lucky for me, the restaurant had an entire vegetarian section in its menu, so I had a large variety of dishes to pick from! I settled on this hot pot of tofu, tofu skins, vegan pork, vegan chicken, vegan seafood (looks ALL TOO REAL. Look at that squid!), bell peppers, watercress, spinach, and mushrooms! All of the flavors of each ingredient popped out in their own unique way, aside from the brown sauce! It was absolutely lovely!
Waiters and servers would not stop bringing food to the table. Meaning, my relatives ordered way too many dishes for our stomachs to handle! Luckily, all of the dishes that were served family-style were non-vegan, so I ended up eating most of my pot, which was still pretty massive, hence my belly came home stretched out and happy! I slept very well that night from a slight food coma. Can’t get enough!
Do you like traveling abroad? Does your culture have any sacred family traditions?