Sunday, 31 May 2015

May Update

As I've been trying to post all of the fun things we did while in Vietnam in April, I haven't had much of a chance to update what's been going on with us in Melbourne. So here it is...

We are now just seven short weeks away from the due date of baby Nobes. It is all very exciting/a bit scary. I have three weeks left of work left, and I am really looking forward to finishing up. Not because I don't enjoy my job... on the contrary, I love my classes this year and will miss teaching for sure. But having a good night's sleep seems to be a thing of the past (I know, I know, its about to get much worse) and I would rather not have to get up at 6am anymore. Also, getting dressed in work clothes is just a massive pain. I really can't wait until I don't need to wear anything except leggings or yoga pants all day. One of my friends at work is also pregnant, and she is a PE teacher, and I am SO jealous that she gets to wear sports clothes everyday!

Definitely pregnant!
I am also looking forward to not hearing "Look how BIG you are" all the time. I know people do not mean this as an insult, and I don't take it that way, but frankly I am well aware that I am pregnant and my belly is getting bigger by the day (or by the hour it sometimes seems!) I also understand that it is just a natural thing to say, as well, its true, but I much prefer the people who tell me I look lovely! 

We did a few weeks of prenatal classes at the hospital to prepare for labour. I thought it would freak me out about giving birth, which I've been trying to not think about very much. However, its made me much more relaxed about the whole thing. I thought I would for sure be screaming for drugs at some point during labour, but the midwives who led our session have made me feel much more like I'd love to have a natural birth, or at least try for that. I still think that it's best not to over plan, as you never know what will happen, but the vast majority of births are normal and don't require any intervention. I have tried to stay somewhat active throughout the pregnancy, with regular yoga, pilates, walking and swimming each week, so hopefully that will pay off and help me to have an easier labour. Next week I am starting a course of acupuncture that will apparently prepare my body for birth as well. Anyway, I don't want sound all fluffy and naive, thinking that it will be easy, but I am trying to frame it in my mind as something that could be a positive experience, rather than dwell on all the horror stories people insist on telling you when you're pregnant.

The other thing I have been doing more regularly is meditating. I downloaded the Headspace App over Christmas and had a sort of New Years Resolution to try and meditate daily. I used it sporadically until about a month ago, and I've got a lot better at making sure I fit it into my day. I think what spurred it on was reading this article that said that research has shown that people who meditate have higher pain thresholds than those that don't. It has also really helped me on days when I've been really tired. Sitting and meditating for 10-15 minutes can make you feel really refreshed, even when you've been feeling like absolute crap before that! It really is amazing. 

The other big news is that we are moving in about a week. I know that seems like terrible timing, but I wanted to move before the baby was born and our lease was only up in May. We are both pretty tired of apartment living and have found a cute two bedroom house in Abbotsford. So we are still pretty close to the city, but living on the end of a quiet street that leads to the Yarra River. Along the river there is a great path for cycling and walking, which actually used to be part of my cycle route to school. We will be very close to Abbotsford Convent, which has markets every weekend, along with various other events, and also the Collingwood Children's Farm. A perfect location to take long walks with the baby while I'm on maternity leave!

Dight Falls, Yarra River - very close to our new home!
A bit hastily, I decided that I hated our sofa and put it up on Gumtree for sale about two weeks ago. I thought it would take a while to sell, however there was a lot more interest than I anticipated and it was gone within three days. So, we are sofa-less at the moment, which pretty much sucks! After a few days of sitting on camping chairs (not cool unless you are actually camping) I bought an Ikea Poang chair (off Gumtree) that I thought would make a good chair for the baby's room. So now I have a comfy seat to watch TV on, however Andy is still out of luck as there is no point in getting a new sofa before we move. I did not really think that one through... Some advice: don't sell your sofa if you have nothing else comfortable to sit on in your apartment, especially when pregnant!

Well this is a bit embarrassing!
Andy's weekends have been pretty packed this month as he is coaching two soccer teams. One is my school team, year 9-10 girls, and the other is a boys under-14 team from out west in Sunshine. He trains Friday nights, coaches my girls on Saturday mornings, and his boys on Sunday morning. I think that his love of soccer coaching is starting to wear thin! Luckily my school soccer season is a short one, and we only have three games left. 

I have a new found love for Melbourne in the autumn at the moment. I used to wonder if we made the right choice moving to this city, as the weather is pretty cold compared to other Australian cities. However it is absolutely beautiful here this time of year. All the leaves are changing colours, and generally we have had bright sunny days. The mornings are getting pretty cold, but the days are still warm - especially if you compare it to autumn in England or Canada! And I am pretty thankful that I am not pregnant in the summer or somewhere that is really humid. Also, I have decided that I like autumn/winter fashion much more than summer fashion.

And that is about it at the moment. This week is all about packing, packing, packing, along with an attempt to have a clear out of my clothes and other useless items before we move.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Hoi An Day 3

On day 3 in Hoi An we were up early for a cooking class with Thuan Tinh Island Tours. I wasn't feeling great after a night of frequent toilet trips, which did not seem to be letting up! Our first stop was the market, where we were to pick up all the food we were using to cook. I actually skipped that part due to not feeling well, but the rest of the group said it was interesting... The indoor meat market was full of women cutting up huge slabs of meat. In the fish section there was a lot of fishy juice on the floor and the people working there were wearing wellies - not a great time to be in flip flops!

After the market we took a 45 minute boat ride to an island for our cooking class. There were 12 people total in our group which was a nice size for this sort of thing. We made four different courses, which all tasted amazing. I wish I could cook that well on my own at home! Everyone really loved this part of our trip and I would highly recommend it if you are in Hoi An. Our guide was excellent, and the female chef made everything so simple for us, while making us laugh throughout the four courses. We also got some cooking chopsticks plus the recipes to take home.

On the way back Andy and I had to stop in at Yaly Couture to pick up his suit and my dress. Andy's suit was well done, he was pretty happy with it, and I think there was very little that had to be done to fix it up. My dress, however, was a disaster! I think a pregnant woman's measurements were not something they were used to sewing. I almost wanted to just walk away and lose my deposit, but they were insistent on fixing it. So we went to get something to drink while they altered the dress, returning to the shop after an hour. When I got back it was better, but still not perfect. They could see that I wasn't happy, so took the dress to be altered again. I lost track of how many times I got them to take it back, but there was a point where I was satisfied enough to just take it. So I wasn't overjoyed with my experience there, but I do have to say their willingness to keep working on the dress until I said it was fine was appreciated. Upon returning home I've worn the dress to work a few times and actually got quite a few compliments on it, so I supposed it's turned out ok in the end! The fabric is stretchy so it's grown with me through the pregnancy, and because of the way it was cut I think it will be easy to get it altered again here to fit my once the baby is out. (And all the baby weight is gone...) So, definitely not a total loss! 

When we got back to our hotel we celebrated Lee and Claire's engagement with a bottle of Dom Perignon that Craig had brought for them. How gutting is it to be pregnant while there is expensive champagne to be had?! After that everyone went out for dinner, however I was exhausted from the day, and still having to use the toilet, ahem, rather frequently. I opted to stay in and order room service, and read my book (The Girl on the Train... GREAT holiday read!), and of course take advantage of the worlds best bathtub and have another bath before we left our beautiful accommodation at East West Villas.

The next morning we were up early for our flight to Hanoi. I was sad to leave Hoi An, it was definitely my favourite place we visited in Vietnam, but I was also excited for the last leg of our trip. We had a cruise in Halong Bay to look forward to, plus we were meeting up with our friend Alison from England as well!

Check out my talented husband's video of the first half of our trip...

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Hoi An Day 2

Day 2 in Hoi An started with another delicious breakfast and then Andy and I went to a yoga class. Hoi An Yoga is run by an English expat called Stepanie, who offers morning and evening yoga sessions everyday (except Sunday). Our class was held outdoors at a restaurant called The Field, on a covered pavilion overlooking the river. Absolutely stunning! We did a Hatha yoga session followed by a chia and ginger drink, and left feeling refreshed and ready for another day! We walked the 2km back to our hotel and by this time it was very hot and humid, so we immediately changed into our swimsuits for a dip in the pool. 

Hoi An Yoga 
The others went back to An Bang beach, however we'd had enough beach time over the past few days so we decided to use the hotel bikes to go into town. I love riding a bike! I really miss it now that I'm pregnant and don't feel completely safe riding to work anymore (to big of a risk of being doored on Church/Chapel street!). However Hoi An felt very safe and although a hot and sweaty experience it was nice to be on a bike again. 

We had lunch at Lanterns restaurant, some fresh and fried Vietnamese rolls and a mango and prawn salad that were all very good. In the menu they stated that they only used filtered water to wash food, make ice, etc. which was good. At Lanterns we learned that Hoi An floods every year in Nov/Dec. There were pictures from the restaurant along with lines showing the water levels in recent years. This place was particularly affected as it was right on the river. 

After lunch we walked around looking in some shops (there are a lot of those... Hoi An is a shopper's paradise). We came across Yaly Couture, which I had read was a very reputable tailors. Andy got a suit made and I chose a dress that I hoped I could wear to work through the rest of my pregnancy. We were measured up and then arranged to come back the next day for a fitting. We decided then to head back to the hotel pool to cool off for the rest of the afternoon. 

Our hotel stay came with a free massage each so we arranged to have these before dinner. As I can't lay on my stomach I had a leg, foot and scalp massage that was pretty good. I went into the massage with a headache and left without one so she must have done something right! Andy and the boys wanted to watch a football match before dinner so they and Mel went into town, while Claire and I decided to chill out a bit at the hotel before meeting them for dinner. I had a bath in our amazing bathtub... Why aren't all bathtubs designed like this one?! 

Best. Bathtub. Ever.
After my massage and bath I felt thoroughly relaxed and restored. Dinner was at Morning Glory, a very popular Vietnamese street food restaurant. I can see why! The food was delicious and it was very reasonably priced, costing us about $15 each for appetisers and mains (though there wasn't much alcohol included in that, most people were on water). We went back home very happy and full for another good night's sleep... Or so I thought. This was the beginning of "Delhi Belly" for me. I had a bit of a dodgy stomach that day and the next, and I swear it was due to the place we went to the previous day on An Bang Beach. More on that in the Day 3 post...

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Hoi An Day 1

What a place! I cannot tell you how much I loved our time in Hoi An. It was by far my favourite of the four cities we visited in Vietnam, and possibly one of my favourite travel destinations of all time.
Playing in the pool at East West Villas

Our hotel, East West Villas, is nearly perfect. I say nearly as it is a few km out of the old town, but this is not a huge problem as you can use one of the free bicycles, get a taxi for about $3, or hire a scooter for the day for $6. We arrived after our overnight train at 8:15am at Danang station and a driver from East West villas was waiting for us, taking us the 30 minute drive to Hoi An. Upon arrival our rooms weren't quite ready but we were given a welcome drink of Passion Fruit juice and then offered the hotel breakfast by the pool. The breakfast, which is included in our room price, is one of the best hotel breakfasts ever! It is made to order, and you get coffee, fresh juice (we had mango or cucumber most days), fresh fruit, a delicious hot baguette with either bacon or jam and butter, and then a selection of a hot food, either eggs or a Vietnamese dish. Every morning it is served to us in our room or by the pool at whatever time you want. It feels so luxurious!

Inside our room at East West Villas
We were joined by Craig (Lee's brother) and his wife Mel for this leg of the trip. They live in Hong Kong so it was just a short trip over for them for the long Easter weekend. We spent the first morning at the pool,swimming, reading and the boys playing "skim ball", Andy's favourite water activity. We then headed off to An Bang beach, about 6km from our hotel, and 9km from the old town. There is a closer beach than this to Hoi An, called Cua Dai but apparently this one is nicer. The other four rented scooters to get there, but Andy and I opted to take a taxi as we were being very safety conscious due to the pregnancy. The others loved it though, and this place seems like a pretty safe environment to try riding a scooter for the first time in Vietnam. 

An Bang was a nice enough beach, but not as good as the beaches in Nha Trang  We ate at one of the beachside locations which I wouldn't do again without researching them. The food was average and overpriced and hygiene questionable. The food sellers are also quite pushy, offering you a free sun lounger as long as you eat at their place. If we went here again I'd read up on some places before going to work out somewhere to eat. 

After the beach the others went into town for some spa action; Andy and I were both quite tired from the train journey so went back to the hotel for a nap before dinner.   

Dinner was at a place called Mango Mango in the old town. We took a taxi down and I was taken away with how beautiful it was. There are lanterns hanging everywhere, their soft glow giving a magical feeling. No cars or motorbikes are allowed in this part of town at night so you can walk around without the stress and sound of constant beeping! We had a drink on a riverside boat before dinner, where a guy was playing guitar. As he went for a cigarette break he handed his guitar to Andy, who proceeded to play the three songs he knows while we sang along. Very cheesy and funny! 

Mango Mango came recommended to us by a friend, the hotel, and Lonely Planet. The location on the river was gorgeous, however it was by far the priciest meal we had in Vietnam. Mains were about $25, and the 3 course set menu was $35 (which I had). This was like having a regular meal out in Melbourne. The food was pretty delicious, I had red snapper crusted with cashew nuts, with mango salsa which was amazing, but there is so much choice for food in Hoi An that I would skip this place as you don't need to pay these prices to get an amazing meal. 

After dinner we went back for a fantastic nights sleep in one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in. Have I mentioned how much I loved East West Villas?!