Thursday, July 30, 2009

lynn in love with summer reads

lovers, one of my favorite vacation activities is summer reading. I haven't been able to indulge in this for a while, and so when I got the chance over many long flights and nights spent in hotel rooms, I gobbled them up!

I loved ALL the books I randomly picked up at the airport bookstore:
1. Three Junes by Julia Glass

This main protagonist in this book is a young gay man and the book describes his relationships with his family, friends, and neighbors. It was a great book that dissects relationships of every kind. I felt it was written in a very honest and uplifting light.

2. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

I haven't seen the movie yet, so I don't know how to compare, but I loved this book. Again, it delves into the dynamics of a different sort of family. In this book, the 2nd child has APML, a bad type of leukemia. A 3rd daughter is conceived as a perfect genetic match for her sister for treatment purposes. Now a teenager, she questions her role in her own life and her family lives. I loved all the different perspectives this book is written from. I think the auther did great research on the medical side of this book. I cried my little eyes out and read parts of the book again and again days after I finished it.

3. Age of Innocence by Edith Warton

I neither read this Pulitzer Prize book growing up, nor watched the movie, but I really did enjoy reading it now. It questions late 19th century New York Society culture and morals as it follows the love relationship between Newland Archer and Countess Ellen Olenska.

4. Twilight by Stephanie Myer

Last, but not least, my fun read was Twilight. While I was not overly impressed by the movie, I do have to say that Twilight has an undeniable draw to it. Something about that teenage romantic angst that we all remember too well. I actually can't wait to read the rest of the series!

Summer isn't over yet, folks, what ARE your favorite reads this summer? Let me know and leave me a comment before I hit to book store again :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

lynn in love with vietnam: travel guide

Hello Darlings!

I hope you've enjoyed my trip to Vietnam as much as I did! It was such a rich 3 weeks. Not just a vacation, it was a dialogue with my parent's childhood, a living tour of the Vietnamese history. My parents planned such a great trip, with varying landscapes and people. I was able to experience it all with my parent's careful commentary. Definitely a once in a lifetime trip.

Many of you have asked for advice on how to travel to Vietnam. I wanted to offer some useful tips, as I didn't have much going into my trip. That being said, I want you to know that I did NOT backpack through Vietnam. In fact I do believed that I traveled quite in style/luxury. Also my trip involved cities in the central/southern/city parts of Vietnam. I have no experience with the Northern cities or rural areas except in passing by in the van. I hope to hit these spots my next visit.

1. Our plane trip from Dallas to Saigon, took a total of 24 hours, with 19 hours total flight time. 13 hours to Tokyo and then 6 hours to Saigon.
Daddy and Thaden awaiting to board the plane

2. We took two plane flights within Vietnam. We used Vietnam Airlines which was actually a great experience. Their planes are newly renovated and comfortable.
3. We used a private tour group for most of our travels. This is a great idea. In each city, we had at our disposal an AC'ed 11-seat van complete with a driver and tour guide. When we went out on excursions, they picked us up and helped advise us on the best sites to see. This was only for our family. Seriously, if you do not know the language, this was an expense that was worth it.

yay for AC'ed van. It's SPECIAL!

4. We also took this van to travel from Nha Trang to Dalat (6 hours) and then Dalat to Saigon (8 hours). If you want to see the beautiful countryside, then I would recommend this. You'll totally miss the scenery on the plane. You will see all the poor and rich countryside with its many varying flora and fruits. Really beautiful.

5. If you do NOT want to be constantly jostled by the potholes and unpaved road (causing your 3 yr old nephew to throw up all over you) or be gripping your armrest with fear from the crazy driving or use the crowded loo in nasty ceramic holes in the ground, then traveling by car may not be for you.
6. Within the cities, taxis are plentiful and are a comfortable way to travel. And if you have the chutzpah to ride with the other speed demons on the road, then try a motorbike/moped.

1. I cannot express this hard enough. Be mindful of when you will be traveling to Vietnam. I went in July. The HOTTEST time of the year. In Saigon and especially in Hoi An, this was practically unbearable. Remember, I'm saying this as a Texan, who is currently living in 100 F weather in Dallas. This is not the same. THERE WILL BE NO AIR CONDITIONING TO ESCAPE TO in Vietnam. Except for your hotel room. But who wants to spend their entire trip in a hotel room? Saigon is, at least, in the city and there is some shade from all the buildings. In Hoi An, the air was not only hot, but VERY humid. Suffocating humidity. More humid than Houston. Believe it. None of the shops will have air conditioning. None of the restaurants. If you are lucky, you will have a poorly functioning fan. If this does not sound attractive, go another time if the year. It might be more rainy, but you will not die of heat stroke. We survived by the two small battery-operated fans I bought and lots of hydration.

Coleman fan - I think I love you, for shiz. Purchased at Academy for like a buck-fifty.

2. Nha Trang was more mild. Still hot, but with a breeze. Love it.
3 Dalat is in the highlands and will be cool and maybe even a little cold. Pack a light jacket and warmer clothes if visiting.

1. Honestly peeps, wear what makes you comfortable. It is clear that most (but not all) of the native Vietnamese adhere to some sort of modesty code. But to be honest, if you act like a tourist, they will not pay attention to what you wear. I hate to say it, but wearing thin, small amounts of clothes is the way to go in Saigon and Hoi An. I wore mostly thin cotton tank tops, shorts, and floaty skirts. Days that I tried to wear any more than this (capri pants) were more unbearable. You will sweat. Alot. You will be sticky. VERY.

tanks, skirts, and shorts. Yes, I am sporting a fanny pack...don't judge.
2. Shoes - again, wear what's most comfortable. You will be walking alot. Most days, I wore comfortable flip flops -(reefs, walking co, and the sandals I got from Anthro). For more arduous walking days (like in Bana and in Dalat), I wore pull-on tennies. I wore my flimsy pair of flip flops from American Eagle one day, and my feet were a mess at the end of night.
taken by TJ. He, too, has a developed a love of taking pictures of feet.
3. Hats - please invest in a few. Protect your face. If possible, get a couple with a wide brim to gain some additional shoulder protection. And DON'T forget your sunscreen and your OFF.
Enjoying some cooling desserts with my mama.

1. What can I say about this. Maybe a few of you more weathered travellers wouldn't bat an eyelash, but I have to say that Vietnam was definitely not the most clean of places. I would be prepared to deal with this if you come here. Our hotels, which were very up kept, were an exception.
2. Food - Sorry Minh, we couldn't bear to eat many of the street foods. They certainly looked good, but at this time of the year when it's this hot, and the food has been sitting in the sun all day and there are flies everywhere, it was hard to stomach. I do have a sensitive digestive system to think about. In "open-air" restaurants, it was the same. Try not to to pay attention to how they handle the food as you may not have an appetite later. Bring immodium. While I fortunately did not suffer from diarrhea, several peeps in my group did.
raw fish drying in the sun.

3. Bathrooms - yikes. To be frank, I have peed in one too many holes in this trip. Be prepared. Understand that a toilet is a LUXURY in Vietnam. Don't expect there to have any toilet paper available. Always bring your own! On your excursions and on the road, there will definitely be places to stop to use the loo, but understand that these places will be crowded, stinky, WET. When you walk into the stalls, you are faced with a ceramic hole in the ground. Be well versed in the low "Asian Squat" when using these, or you will face the consequences. Always have enough toilet paper for your personal use, to touch doorknobs, and to dry up after washing your hands. There will be none out for your use. My mom was smart and also packed up a ton of Wet Naps for general usage and I had plenty of germicide.
A very clean version at the ceramic hole at the airport.


1. In general, I do have to say that I felt safe. Of course, this was in the premise of always being with my parents as well as a tour guide for the most part.
2. However, this place is C-R-O-W-D-E-D. Within all the cities, and especially in the market place. Be wary of your surroundings and your stuff. There are pickpockets, evidenced by all the beggar children "bumping" into you. I didn't bring any valuables on this trip, and all my money and ID were kept in my travel belt under my clothes. The only things I had in my bags were my cameras and sun supplies.

3. Also keep in mind, that people don't have the same concept of personal space as accustomed to. I have a story where I was alone in the ocean once and was accosted by 20 guys. I was mortified, but they didn't realize that this is NOT normal in America. Stranger men will touch your children... with endearment of course, but know that this will happen.
4. The streets are CRAZY. Seriously, no rhyme or reason, cars will drive on the wrong side of the road, there are few traffic lights. There are NO lanes. It is every man for himself. I was completely fearing for my life at all times. When crossing the streets, move decisively and slowly. While they will still be coming at you, they usually will try to avoid hitting you.
crazy motorbikes


1. So much to tell really guys, but you'll just have to go and experience it for yourselves. A few more words of advice.

2. Always bargain. There is sooo much to purchase here, and you can always bring the price down. If they think you're a tourist, they will quote you a price that is triple that of a Vietnamese speaking traveller. Be smart with your spending to not get ripped off on all the faux designer stuff.

3. On the other hand, don't haggle over cents. 1 US dollar = 18,000 Vietnamese dom. Don't bargain about 18,000 dom vs 20,000 dom. These people are very poor and their small businesses are their livelihoods. Most of them do not make more than $50 dollars a month. That 20 cents may not mean much to you, but it could to them.
Saigon street market - faux designer heaven
Alrighty, so much more to say, but this post is already too long. If you have any other questions about travels to Vietnam, let me know and drop in a comment!

Much love, Lynn~

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

lynn in love with lan & monica

Sorry girls! This birthday post is a tad late! These amazing girls shared a birthday on 7/26th. Hope it was an amazing day all around!

lynn in love with vietnam: day 11-12 Dalat

Alright folks! This is finally my last picture post on Vietnam!

Before we drove back to Saigon to spend our last week there, we spent a few days in Dalat, a sweet little highland city. A little wikipedia for ya, according to an old french myth, Dalat got is name from the Latin phrase "Dat Aliis Laetitiam Aliis Temperiem" meaning "Giving Pleasure to Some, Freshness to Others."... and that it did!

We had to drive up a long and windy road to get to this mountain city located in the highlands. Oh sweet fresh air. After having spent a few weeks in suffocating heat, the cool mountain air was completely delightful! With its cool, but misty temperature, the area is filled with beautiful plant life and is HUGE on agriculture. Any green between houses was used to grow flowers and vegetables.

After spending a lovely day visiting gardens/waterfalls and enjoying the cool air, we started on our long and treacherous drive back to Saigon. I'll be honest, it was a gorgeous ride, but a bit rough with unpaved roads. I wont recount that time, that time when Thaden threw up all over me.

After we got back to Saigon, we spent a week indulging ourselves with food, a photo studio session, market shopping, and visiting with old family friends and family.

Enjoy the last of the pics! Again, I had more, but blogger is not letting me upload all of them.
Next up: a lynn in love vietnam travel guide!

in order to see these falls, we had to take a rollerbob ride down, actually pretty fun!

gorgeous countryside

Monday, July 27, 2009

lynn in love with vietnam: Day 10 Driving to Dalat

Dears, I've finally made it back safe and sound in Dallas! Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers for my trip to Vietnam and to make it home safe from the long airplane ride. So so happy to back with the hubs again, I don't think I will take a trip this long away from him in a very long while.

While I have much on my plate to tackle and conquer (like getting myself licensed and board certified), I am also very much jet-lagged. While I have slept most of the last 24 hours that I have been home, I'm still feeling like I'm gonna drop down snoring at any moment now.

So I'm gonna spend this very first morning as a stay at home wife, sitting by the computer, cuddled in my pj's and blanket and finish posting the pics from our trip.
Before we left Nha Trang for our 6 hour drive up to Dalat, we stopped by my grandmother's house.

Outside, my grandmother's house

my grandmother in the backyard

a neighborhood boy who came to check out the commotion of our visit

they sell paper funeral items in the housefront. these are shirts you can bury with your loved ones, so that they can have nice clothes in the afterlife!


the drive up to the Dalat was incredibly beautiful. The rural Vietnamese roadsides were filled with such varied and lush countryside scenery. I wish I could show your more pics, but blogger is having a hard time uploading all my pics!

met this sweet "highland" piglet and his mama by the roadside before she promptly fed him a black trashbag

When we finally made it to Dalat, we found a pretty misty little highland city.

Isn't it lovely?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

lynn in love with breaks

Hi Darlings,
Back in Saigon after a lovely stay in the cool highlands of Dalat.
you might see one more post from me,
but otherwise, this may be a last post until we get back. We'll see!
Have a great week!

Sunrise in Dalat

Thursday, July 16, 2009

lynn in love with vietnam: day 8 & 9 Last Days in Nha Trang

Day 8 We declared a "rest day." After a week of awesome excursions, we were a wee bit tired and needed a day to recoup and refresh. Which is okay by me, if I get to spend it in beautiful Vinpearl! We stayed in the resort, reading and taking naps by the ocean and only took breaks for eating and two small excursions within the resort.

First we went the the "Animal Show" which delighted Thaden. They had show dogs and monkey who did all kinds of tricks. To be honest though, I felt a little sad for these circus creatures. They spend all day entertaining us, and when they made a mistake they got a small rap from their trainer with a wooden stick. What a life, huh?

Secondly we went to the famous VinPearl Water Show. Apparently this is the biggest water show in Asian (probably the only one). It is reminiscent of the the Bellagio water show and is pretty good. Thaden loved the "BIG water show!"

Otherwise, nothing is more pleasant than laying by the beach with a book and hearing the ocean roar next to you!

on Day 9, we took a little trip to Bai Dai (or Long Beach) where we finally did what I have been CRAVING to do all trip.... eat fresh seafood on the beach! Seriously, AWESOME. We picked out fresh live seafood just caught by the fishermen, and they promptly steamed them. No flavorings, no added sauce, just amazingly sweet, deliciously yummy fresh seafood. We indulged ourselves with two types of crab and clams and simply dipped them into some salty lime juice... mmm.m..m........

Animal Show
The dogs knew how to do math by barking out answers

Sinh To Bo (Avocado shake - yum) and Durian icecream (my mom's fav)
the VinPearl beach is gorgeous

the only decent shot I got at the watershow

at Long Beach!

drool, drool, drool

thaden resting from the sun