Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

I don’t know how many of you guys follow international news, but Vietnam is going through our worst COVID outbreak yet. We’ve been in lockdown for nearly 2 months (and it looks like it’s going to be extended). Last year, the pandemic barely brushed us by, but now it’s all too real, and I’m beginning to feel its impact. I start to dread waking up every day only to see that the numbers of cases are still climbing and there seems to be no end in sight.

The thing is, I’m so much luckier than most people, those who are struggling with their livelihoods or even their own lives. But it’s hard to remember that sometimes, so there’s a reminder for myself of a few things I’m grateful for:

– My family and I are still in good health (*knocks on wood*) and most of us have received at least one dose of vaccine. Our country’s vaccination rollout is a little slow (that’s what happens when you’re a third-world country having to depend on others for your vaccines) but we’re getting there.

– Our house is surrounded by a large garden, so there is no feeling of being cooped up inside during the lockdown. Nature is always just outside the window. Plus we’re all homebodies anyway.

– Said garden provides us with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, which reduce the need to go grocery shopping and the risk of exposure.

– I can work from home with relative ease, and I’m used to working from home (with my freelance job) anyway, so I didn’t have to adjust much.

So yes, I’m taking a leaf out of the Monty Python’s book and look on the bright side of life. And on that note, let’s take a look at some photos from the garden to take our minds off things, shall we?

Rangoon creepers

Our first crop of longan!

And it’s all thanks to these dwarf honey bees

Rain lilies

We have a lot of grapefruits this year too

Ground orchid

Queen of the Night

A Week In Da Nang

It has become kind of a tradition with my family to take a week-long vacation in early summer. Since most of us work in academia, it’s the most convenient time (later in the summer we would be busy preparing for the upcoming semester); plus, the kids won’t have to wait too long for their vacation.

This year our destination is Da Nang, a city in Central Vietnam best known for its beaches. Most travelers skip it altogether or only use it as a transition point between two more popular destinations – the ancient capital of Hue and the old town of Hoi An – but we’re all about avoiding the crowd, so to Da Nang it is.

To shake things up, we also decided to take the train instead of flying. Sure, the trip takes 15 hours instead of 1,5, but it’s fun to sleep on the train (we had an entire compartment to ourselves), and you can catch some epic sunrise and sunset too.

Sunset over Thanh Hoa

Sunrise on the way to Hue

Another great thing of train travel is you get to go through the Hai Van (Sea Cloud) Pass, the most beautiful coastal road of Vietnam (called “a ribbon of perfection” by Top Gear). You can’t get views like these from a plane:

Our first glimpse of Da Nang from the train

In Da Nang, we rented an apartment right by the beach. It’s in a newer part of town, so we had the beach almost to ourselves. To avoid the sun, we only went to the beach very early in the morning (I’m talking about 5 AM early) or late in the afternoon.

The beach in the afternoon…

… and in the morning

If you go early enough in the morning, you can see the fishermen coming back with their catch in distinctive basket boats. You can even buy their fish – it doesn’t get fresher than that!

A fisherman’s motorbike and his gear

A make-shift fish market on the beach

You can also see a lot of wedding photo shoots

My niece and nephew’s beach combing haul

Of course, being so close to the famous old town of Hoi An (it’s only 30 km away), we had to take a day trip there as well. However, it wasn’t easy with two kids in tow, so I didn’t get to see as much of the town as I’d wanted. I’ve been there once before, but that was years ago and I didn’t remember much of it, except that it was very pretty. It’s still pretty now, like a more compact version of the Old Quarter of Hanoi, only with Chinese and Japanese influence on the architecture rather than French. Unfortunately, it was also very hot and insanely crowded. Otherwise, I would’ve gone back there by myself to really explore the place.

Typical Hoi An scenes

One of the many Chinese temples and assembly halls of Hoi An

There are also plenty of day trips and hikes that can be taken from Da Nang, but I was feeling lazy, so I just wandered around the waterfront area of the city, which isn’t far from our apartment. It’s a great place for people watching, and when Da Nang’s many bridges, the most famous of which is Dragon Bridge, are lit up as darkness falls, it is quite an impressive sight.

Dragon Bridge during the day

… and at night

Our answer to Singapore’s Merlion

Da Nang’s skyline

All in all, it was a good trip. I still prefer the “discover and explore” type of travel, but it’s fun to just relax once in a while.

From The Garden

It’s been a while since I share photos from our garden, but after seeing Kezzie’s post of her own garden, I was inspired to do the same. My dad is a pretty avid gardener, and I’ve been keeping sort of a photographic record of our garden for him, so it’s always fun to look back to see how our plants were doing each year.

Our amaryllis collection (the salmon-colored one is from a bulb I brought back from Amsterdam)

Orchid and Heliconia

Banana blossom (which makes a very good salad) and mulberries (which make very good jam)

Last Outtakes Of 2016

2016 will forever go down in history as “The Year That Must Not Be Mentioned”. Seriously, what the fuck is up with this year? So many celebrity deaths (Alan Rickman and Carrie Fisher hit me particularly hard), so many deaths, period, so many disasters, both social, political and natural. I think I can speak for pretty much everyone when I say I cannot be happier this year is over soon. Of course, who knows, maybe 2017 will be even worse, though I can’t imagine how.

Anyway, in an attempt to add some lightness to this black hole of a year, here are some leftover outtakes – I’m basically cleaning out my folder and posting everything I have left before moving on to the new year.

Here are the “Butter Fingers” pose:

outtake by 14 shades of greyouttake by 14 shades of grey

The “What’s Wrong with My Legs/Feet” pose:

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The “Wait, Did I Turn Off the Stove” pose:

outtake by 14 shades of greyouttake by 14 shades of grey

And last but not least, the “Doggy Photobomb” post (although I was more of the photobomber in the second photo. My dog was just hanging out on the yard and I stepped into frame – you can kinda see it in her “I don’t know what’s happening” expression):

outtake by 14 shades of greyouttake by 14 shades of grey

Outtakes With Pets

It’s been a while since I did an outtake post, so I figure it would be fun for another round. When I look through my photos again, I notice there aren’t a lot of outtakes where I make a mistake, because I  take photos myself with a tripod and remote. On the other hand, there are plenty of “photobomb” outtakes, because for some reason, our dog always thinks it’s time for a belly rub whenever I bring out the tripod (OK, the more logical explanation is that when I go outside to take photos is also when she’s seeing me for the first time in the morning so she’s just coming over to say hello, but I like to think she’s developed a Pavlovian response to the sight of the tripod.)

outtake 1outtake 2
OK, just some rubs…

outtake 3aouttake 3b
Where are you going?

outtake 3cNO, STAAHHP!!!

And finally, here’s a sole outtake with the cat because, unlike the dog, she couldn’t give a shit:

outtake with cat