How Sapa, Vietnam can fulfill your childhood social studies dreams

Sapa Vietnam adventure travel terrace farming Hmong
Standing on the edge of a childhood dream

When I was 10 years old I had to create a model of something from a foreign culture for my social studies class. I remember looking through my encyclopedia (yes, very pre-internet) to see what pictures caught my eye and might be somewhat fun to make. I remember that I kept coming back to a photo that I had seen before, that depicted terraced rice farms somewhere in the world (now I know it was in Vietnam) and so I spent about a dozen hours with cardboard, construction paper, glue, markers, toothpicks and lord knows what else, in order to create a plausible facsimile of the the amazing picture.
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Classic Vietnamese Braised Pork

*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this post.

Vietnamese Braised Pork in Coconut Water Indiechine

Many, if not all, Vietnamese women I know who know how to cook learned from their mothers or grandmothers or both. I didn’t.

Working 12+ hours a day, often seven days a week, my mother has never had time to cook, except for traditional Tet holiday once every year. My father has always been the chef in our family. He’s not a good one though, I have to admit. Now I understand how difficult it could be to learn cooking without cookbooks, Internet, or somebody to guide you, but I was small and so I used to blame him for not feeding us very well. I used to long for the rare days when my mother had some time off to cook something for me and my little brother.

One time she made braised pork, and it was the only time she cooked that dish. It was 15 years ago but now I can still remember very clearly how that caramelized meat melted in my mouth like butter. It was one of the best things I’d ever eaten.
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A Pacific North West Home

Jean and George were college sweethearts and now 50 years later, they live happily in a lovely house with their cute little dog on Fox Island. I admire not only their love for each other but also their taste in decoration. Here’s a peek.

P.S. They also have a wonderful son who’s my husband :p.

Interior Design Seattle House Indiechine Blog
A living room full of sunshine and breezes from the ocean

Seattle House Interior Design Indiechine Blog
Flower from the garden, a vintage book & a handmade pottery gift from a friend

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Us in Seattle in June

Craig just told me to be cafeful not to be boiled when taking a shower. It’s the hottest day of the year so far here and our solar water just reached 97°C (206°F, near boiling). In times like this, I find myself missing the cool June days on Fox Island.

It was a memorable two-week stay – the end of an exciting cross-USA road trip and the beginning of a much anticipated adventure – our move to Vietnam. We took time to enjoy the wonderful weather, lovely neighborhood, delicious summer fruits, and amazing company of Craig’s parents. Those were carefree days. The only thing that I had to think about was what to make for a dinner I wanted to cook for him and his parents. They were all happy thoughts.

Here are some photos we took by ourselves on a vacant lot in front of Craig’s parents’ house.

Washington Pacific Northwest sunshine travel

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Top ten reasons to get up with the sun in Hoi An

Recently we decided to get up just before sunrise here in Hoi An as a matter of habit. Yes, that means a pre-5 a.m. wakeup (shudder), but with that wakeup come so many benefits. Here are the top ten that come to mind:

1. The sunrise

Living near both the beach and the mountains means a never-ending supply of beautiful views, only heightened by the red sky and silhouettes created as the sun rises over the horizon. Just when you think you’ve seen the best of what Vietnam has to offer, you look out the window one morning and realize that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Shrimp farming at sunrise
Shrimp farmer working at sunrise in An My

Sunrise is surprisingly populated by locals starting their day also. If you want to see locals doing a million interesting things to prepare for their day, from shrimp farming to hauling vegetables to market, getting up early is the way to do it.
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Vietnamese Sautéed Beef Vermicelli Salad

*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this post.


Mid-August marks the beginning of monsoon season in this lovely coastal city. I often spot lightning in late afternoons. Giant gray clouds fill up a third of the sky. They must be thunderstorms miles and miles away, but they look so close, as if you could climb a ladder and pull them down if you tried hard enough.
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Vietnamese Crispy Banana Fritters

*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this post.


One morning just about ten days ago, my husband woke up in a hotel room, asking me: “Where are we?”. He was confused because he was not totally awake, and also because we had been traveling for more than two months, driving from New York to Seattle across America, then flying to Vietnam and journeying across Vietnam. Traveling was always fun – being inspired by new people and fascinated by new scenery- but after two months of exciting adventures, we were ready for something different from living out of our suitcases.
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Moving in – Hoi An

Riding through the rice fields from my home to the market
Riding through the rice fields from my home to the market

One nice thing about moving into a house in foreign countries is that there are often agents who work to make the process easy for expats. Language, culture and trust can be barriers to finding a place and managing to strike a reasonable rent and not get into a toxic situation with the landlord.

We’ve been lucky in Hoi An to find a very nice house with the help of Nha Toi Real Estate, who helped us not only find this house, but understand some of the plusses and minuses of all of the houses we saw, many of which would not have been apparent to either one of us. When we saw the first home on the river Linh said that we should just rent it immediately and not see any others because it was so charming. I was inclined to agree, but the sage part of my brain said “see them all first and then decide.”
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