Sunday, March 30, 2008

Celebrity Watching at the Film Festival

Last night we attended the Dallas Film Festival. We enjoyed the film "Assassination of a High School President" (which starred Bruce Willis and Mischa Barton). Afterwards, there was a Q&A with the stars and Christine talked to Mischa! It was very exciting.

Afterwards we had drinks with Danielle and Erol at the W hotel at the Film Festival afterparty. We took pictures with the rest of the movie cast and were entertained with fascinating stories of the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals by one of the award-winning producers. So much fun!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Birthday Celebrations & Babies

Last night we had a really nice time getting together with Kate, Janelle and the Loredos for Carl's birthday. After a fun dinner and delicious cake and ice cream, we spent some quality time with their new twins, Gage and Ainsley.

Tonight we're excited to head down to the up-and-coming Dallas Film Festival. We wen last year and it was fantastic! We're getting together for dinner and a movie with Erol & Danielle. Afterwards we're going to the film festival "after-party" at the W hotel! Can't wait to see if we spot any celebs... speaking of which - I saw Jessica Simpson last week at a new lunchspot! It made my week : )

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Rejoice! We wish you all a very happy Easter.

Friday night Dana and I had a nice date at Chilis. We drank beers and watched a little bit of the March madness basketball games. Chilis you might ask? Yes, I know - not our typical hangout these days. Well, it was great. We technically do (unpaid) work for BzzAgent, a word-of-mouth advertising agency and they periodically send us free coupons to try new products and tell others about them. This week we tried some new (really tasty!!!) burgers at Chilis and Horizon Organic milk - now with Omega 3.

Saturday it was BEAUTIFUL outside - about 70 degrees and sunny. After my sweet hubbie made us scrumptious banana pancakes we had so much fun playing tennis at the club. Saturday night Michael and Anissa Fox cooked us an incredible Italian dinner and showed us their fabulous home renovations. Very impressive!

Today we somehow got our butts out of bed for an 8 AM service and then hosted a delicious Easter brunch for our small group. I can't get enough of Dana's homemade cinnamon rolls!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hanoi, part 2

We're now on our last day in Vietnam.

Yesterday we stopped at a huge ceramics factory and picked up a new mug for our collection. It's amazing to see all of the hand-crafted work that goes into each piece (molding, painting, etc).

Yesterday afternoon we treated ourselves to holistic massages at a fantastic spa (QT Spa) - supposedly one of the nicest (and priciest) in Hanoi - for the price of $32 for 75 minutes. (Other places had 1-hour for as cheap as $7).

Last night our group had our farewell dinner. We were very blessed to have 8 other incredible people on our trip (hailing from Australia, the UK, and Germany) and a wonderful guide from Vietnam.

This morning on our way to breakfast, we hit the jackpot by finding a store that is a non-profit for women from some of the hill tribes, where Christine found several purses that she loves.

Today we're going back for more massages and a traditional Vietnamese water-puppet show before catching our last non-airport/plane meal until Saturday dinner.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Halong Bay

Halong Bay was our favorite stop in Vietnam! If you are coming to Vietnam, you have to go to Halong Bay. It is truly incredible!

After a harrowing bus drive that featured some very bumpy roads and several passes that could only be attempted on the roads of Vietnam, we got to a dock with probably 100 large, 3-4 story, ornate wooden boats all in varying stages of going to/from the huge limestone outcroppings that make up the ~1100 islands in Halong Bay.

The islands somewhat resembled a combination of Rio de Janeiro and Yosemite with massive cliffs covered in greenery. After a few hours on the water, we explored a large cave with cool stalactites & stalagmites, all lit up (pictures to come when we get home).

Lounging on the boat entailed great food, drinks on the rooftop deck while we watched the sunset, and some people going kayaking. We learned some fun new card games from our Australian friends.

The scenery was amazing, and the accomodations were quite comfortable - definitely much better than expected after the night train a few nights earlier.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hanoi, part 1

After our night train, we had a delightful breakfast at a restaurant called Koto (know one, teach one). The restaurant is set-up as a training center for street kids to teach them skills in the hospitality industry and to give them a better life. The food was amazing (we went back for dinner that night, as well as breakfast again on our last day in Hanoi), the place seems very well run, and the kids seemed happy to be there.

Next we headed to an orphanage where we played with a bunch of kindergardeners and got to see the homes in which they live. The place was set up really cool, with ~16 houses, each with a house "mom" and ~8-9 kids to form a family for their time until they reach adulthood. This helped the kids to develop a sense of family community that so many would not otherwise have.

For lunch, we went to a noodle shop near the cathedral that was recommended by our friend, Chad Brown. The place was fantastic, and the iced lemonades were awesome! Next was the Hanoi Hilton prison where John McCain was held as a POW. The museum was set up nicely, although some of the descriptions and stories presented a biased Vietnamese perspective on events.

The next morning, we were off to Halong Bay for an overnight boat trip after an ~4 hour drive.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Today we took a 5 hour bus ride from Hoi An to Hue. We passed over some beautiful beaches surrounded by lush mountains. It would have made for incredible pictures - but again, we had more rain! It's so sad :(

Upon arrival, we hired cyclos (front = chariot, back = bicycle) for a trip to the Imperial City. The place was severely damaged during the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war, but it is being rebuilt trying to restore some of the former splendor of the compound that housed several Vietnamese emperors.

That evening, we went to a Royal Dinner, where we dressed up like Vietnamese royalty and tried all sorts of local cuisine - some delicious, some more "adventuresome". One of the drinks was a rice "wine" (in quotes, because it seemed a lot closer to tequila in both taste and smell). We also had a performance from a musical group playing traditional music.

The following morning, we hired motorbikes to explore some of the countryside around Hue. It was one of our favorite activities to get out of the city, seeing farmers working their land (some using water buffalos to pull their plows through the rice fields). At a market we saw all sorts of fresh produce, meat, and even baby chicks/ducks (being packaged in plastic bags to raise until they were ready to be someone's dinner). We also tried a snack similar to peanut brittle (rice paper sandwiching peanuts and a sugar/brittle cohesive) that was really good.

That night we packed our bags in preparation for a 13-hour night train. Even though we were traveling in the "first class" cars, they still had a lot to be desired and were glad to finally arrive in Hanoi the following morning.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hoi An

We just spent 2 days in Hoi An. It seems like it would be very charming here. Unfortunately, it's pretty much poured for the past 2 days. Our cycling trip around town and the rice fields was cancelled. Instead, we shopped! Hoi An is known for tailored clothes that can be turned around in less than a day. We worked with 5 tailors in less than 48 hours - it was crazy. I was so excited to help design a dress for Caroline's wedding in June. I can't wait to wear it. We also bought skirts, capris, work pants and more. We also had an amazing dinner at The Mango Room. The best we've had yet in Vietnam! So far I like the food in Thailand much better than Vietnam. Dana is being good about trying everything, but I've been sneaking in a fair amount of pizza and french fries (but doing my best!). We do love the mango and banana fruit shakes though and we have yummy banana pancakes every morning for breakfast. Today we took a boat ride on the river. The sky was gray but seeing the water buffalo and local fisherman made it worth it!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Exploring Saigon

We've now been in Saigon for 2 days. The traffic is insane here. The streets are packed with buses, taxis, more mopeds than one could ever imagine and cyclos (old men pedaling people around on carts attached to bicycles). Crossing the street is very scary!! You literally just walk out in the middle of the insanity and hope that everyone drives around you. Luckily, we love the Intrepid group that we met up with here. They seem like great people with whom to explore the country. Highlights: Taking a relaxing cyclo tour around the city and seeing some of the sights. Visiting the zoo - where we were AMAZED to see one man pet a large lion through its cage (what was he thinking???) and a young girl pooing in the middle of a nicely landscaped lawn area. BIZARRE. I love the crazy markets as well. I picked up a great Louis Vuitton (knock-off) wristlet for $7 and I love it. We also visited the underground tunnels that the Vietnamese lived in/fought the Americans from during the Vietnam war. Mom would have hated it because they are TINY (designed so that American soldiers would be too big to follow them down).Dana fired a AK-47 at the shooting range there. It was so loud! Today we're heading to Hoi An.k

Monday, March 3, 2008

Moving on

Unfortunately, the time has come for us to make our move to Vietnam. I'm so sad to leave Hong Kong! We visited the Peak on our last day and had a great Dim Sum meal at the top. I could eat BBQ Pork all day....

A little piece of heaven....

Today we indulged... in so many ways! First we had a yummy brunch of omelets, french toast and caramelized banana crepes. Afterwards we took the ferry to Kowloon and had a really wonderful tea at the Peninsula hotel. We had cinnamon tea, scones, various finger sandwiches, tiramsu, lavender mint chocolates and so much more! The hotel is gorgeous. Lots of gold decor, roses, high-end shops and Rolls Royces parked out front.
After that we went to a tailor. Dana ordered TEN really nice custom made shirts - for the awesome price of about $35 each! He basically is about to have a new wardrobe in about 2 weeks. But that wasn't even the best of it. Following that we experienced my FAVORITE activity during our whole trip. We went to Tai Pan Reflexology and Foot Spa for a 1 hour reflexology foot massage and a half hour head and neck massage. This place is INCREDIBLE - and cost only about $35. A must for anyone traveling to Hong Kong. There really are no words to explain it - other than sensory overload and pure BLISS.
After that we went to dinner at one of the coolest restaurants I've ever experienced - Hutong. We sat at one of those fun tables where you take off your shoes and had a perfect view of the harbor, where we watched the famous light show that happens every evening at 8 PM. All in all, this day was truly unbelievable. This has certainly been the most amazing trip I've ever taken!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

We love Hong Kong!

So much has happened already that I know it will be impossible to keep this blog up-to-date! Friday night we arrived in Hong Kong amazingly refreshed after the 20 hours of travel. We met up with Dana's family and visited Sam's awesome HK apartment (can I move here?). Then we went for dinner at a trendy Vietnamese restaurant called Rice Paper. I ordered a Violet Lime soda that was simply beautiful! Afterwards we strolled through HK's equivalent of Times Square. I prefer it to NY because it's just as fashionable but seems cleaner and easier to get around.
Saturday we took the ferry out to nearby Lamma island where we did some light hiking and enjoyed an amazing view. It was a big strange to leave Hong Kong (which is full of the tallest skyscrapers I've ever seen) and travel a short way to a place that feels much more like Big Sur or Costa Rica. Truly stunning. After choosing our lunch out of a tank, we enjoyed the most amazing seafood meal I've ever had (many, many, many courses of goodness - manta shrimp, scallops, bamboo clams, grouper, lobster, and more)- and definitely the freshest!
Saturday night was a big night on the town. We met Sam's fun friends (Sheena, Sushman, Zack) out for fruity cocktails at a very cool place called Zuma. My favorite drink was a Kiwi Bellini.
Then we went to a traditional Szechuan dinner at a "house kitchen" called Da Ping Huo. House Kitchens are sort of the "in" thing in Hong Kong. They're unauthorized kitchens that have private restaurants. Ours looked like a regular trendy restaurant, but apparently some just look like someone's living room. I didn't eat much because it was spicy, but it was a fun experience! At the end of the evening the owner sang Opera to everyone. It brought me to tears (although I'm sure the multiple glasses of wine I had had something to do with that as well). Afterwards we went with Sam's friends to a "Private Club" where we sipped champagne with a group of people who all looked like models. It was quite the experience. Judy and Ron even stayed out until 2 AM!
Sunday we enjoyed a leisurely 3 hour outdoor champagne brunch at the Top Deck. It's a brunch buffet on the top of huge floating restaurant. Now that I'm off the South Beach diet, I'm embarrassed to say that I had 3 servings of Coconut Creme Brule. The fruit crepes with Vanilla sauce were also very memorable! Afterwards we traveled to Stanley to shop at the market. I found fun gifts (silk wine bottle covers) for some coworkers back home, and we almost bought a Chinese dog outfit for Ryan & Stephanie. Judy picked up some beautiful pashminas for a steal.
The waterfront area in Stanley is amazing. There are a ton of adorable indoor/outdoor cafes and more caucasians than Chinese - pretty amusing. Later we visited Sam's fancy office and admired the architecture in this city. It's amazing! Every building is so beautiful and unique. Later we opted for a tasty Mediterranean meal to get a break from 14 straight days of Asian food. The Coffee Banaoffee, although not a traditional mediterranean dessert, was one of the best I've ever had!! I can't stop thinking of it...
Today we're off to Kowloon to see a tailor, do some more hiking, have reflexology massages and enjoy tea at the famous Peninsula hotel. Can't wait!