Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Katrina (doing the p p pigeon) in Hanoi

So last weekend I went up north in search of crisp uniforms and temperate climes.

I went up on Thursday night by myself - arriving at the very annoying time of midnight - so as to be available bright and early in the morning for meetings for work.  I got my first taste of crisp uniforms straight away on Friday morning.  In Hanoi, the security guards are an altogether more serious affair than in Saigon. Because I was early, I had ten minutes to observe the security guard at the gate of the hospital campus where my meetings were to be held.

On the hospital campus in Saigon the security guards are sort of dishevelled looking.  They don't wear hats.  Sometimes they wave a bit at people, but mostly they are just there to hold the gate open and tell you where to park. The Hanoi security guard is different.  He wears a hat, and polished leather belt.  He holds a loudhailer and you can't see his eyes because he's wearing enormous, opaque aviators.

Not the hospital guy - but these guys were out taking their loudhailer
for a walk on Saturday so I snapped a shot - for you!

The hospital guy was a classic bully. He buzzed his loudhailer at nearly everyone in his vicinity (including me) and barked orders down it at people who were standing not 3 metres away from him. But the thing that surprised me was that nobody seemed to care.  If anything, he was welcome. People needed him to tell them what to do.

So that was weird.

Temperate climes were also easy to find.

By the lake in the afternoon.  Seriously - it was almost cool!

Hanoi is at least as far away from Saigon as Invercargill is from Auckland, and the difference in weather is noticeable.  At this time of year, Hanoi is delightful.  It's warm enough that you can still go sleeveless, but cool enough that you can wear jeans and walk around and not feel like you're going to melt. Even in the middle of the day!  And as we all know - I am a complete wuss about being too hot, or too cold.

Martin flew up after work on Friday night, and so we spent the weekend there together.  Really the only dull part of the whole weekend was that I had a cold and so with all the snuffling and wheezing I kept running out of steam.  I'm glad I toughed it out though - because there was some really cool stuff to see.

Like the ethnology museum:

There was an extremely embarrased bunch of
teenage boys hamming it up around this exhibit. Of course. 

You probably can't tell, but I'm throwing my goat  buffalo here.
Total lady-rocker.


The Temple of Literature

and of course...

wait for it...
wait for it!


The tanks!

Ha!  Hope I didn't get you too excited, there!

In the eternal competition that is Hanoi vs Saigon, Hanoi wins because there's a cafe at the war museum.  Saigon would be way better if its war museums had cafes. Or if any of its museums had cafes.  It there was a cafe at Remnants, then next time I got visitors I could just send them off with a packet of tissues each and calmly sip my coffee-flavoured sweetened condensed milk until they returned. All harrowed. I wouldn't even have to get sore feet.

And I didn't get sore feet at this one either, because I just sat and sipped my drink and emailed pictures of my husband to my mother-in-law from my ipod.

This little trip was different from our usual weekend trips as well, because this time we had friends to meet.  I imposed on both Helen from Blue Dragon to entertain me on Friday night, and Tabitha (and Nathan - you only get parentheses Nathan, because you don't actually write the blog!) from The City That Never Sleeps In on Saturday.  Helen deserves a medal for looking after me on Friday night - when my exhaustion had loosened my tongue so much she couldn't get a word through my incessant slurring.

And Tabitha?  Well - she fed us pigeons!

My grandfather was a pigeon man you know.  It felt terribly wrong.  It felt like it should have had a real stiff drink of secret pigeon loft whisky to wash it down.  (I settled for rice wine and licking my fingers.)

Here's one for the Sesame Street fans.  My grandmother used to sing this to me!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mr & Mrs Robyn visit Mr & Mrs Martin in Viet Nam

Hi all - this is a guest blog by my sister-in-law Robyn, who comments regularly here as "anonymous".  Robyn and her husband Kevin came to visit us in early September. OK - over to you Robyn!

This is my first ever blog and warning, I am not a writer!  A big thanks to our host for posting this guest blog.

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) at Tan Son Nhat Airport to a warm 31 degrees, after we cleared customs and immigration (no immigration papers to complete - most unusual as transiting in KL our finger prints were recorded and checked arriving and leaving).   We exited the arrivals area into a sea of Asian faces behind the barricades.  How would we find Mrs Martin who had arranged to meet us?  We searched for our name on a welcome sign without success.  We kept walking and at the end of the barricades was the smiley face of our host.  Mrs Martin was quick to identify a taxi and we were whisked away to District 1 - our home during our stay in Saigon.

We received a very warm welcome from the friendly staff at Sweethome Apartment.

Mrs Martin had ordered in bread and pastries for our lunch, we were very impressed with our first taste of Viet Nam's pastries.  After refreshments and a quick unpack it was off to the local market for a look.  We passed by the motorbike taxis at the end of the street and declined their offer of a ride.   We quickly reached the market on foot - so much to see!  Everyone was going about their business at their own slow pace.  We then headed to Material Street (Hai Ba Trung -K) as I wanted to purchase material and try and get a couple of dresses tailor made.  After strolling through the many shops (too much choice – Centrepoint fabrics in Auckland could learn a thing or too from the HCMC material shops) I found a nice purple spotted and pastel paisley material suitable for dresses. 

It was then into a taxi and off to the ANZ Bank to change US dollars into dong (great, we were now millionaires).  It  was difficult at first coming to grips with spending 200,000 dong which only equates to a little over $12.00 NZ), but we soon got accustomed to the large denominations.

It was then time for afternoon coffee and  so we headed to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf coffee shop at the Kumho Plaza.  Mr Robyn was very happy as he had his first cafe coffee fix in Saigon.

Mission accomplished with two pieces of material purchased and some local currency, we were swiftly in a taxi and off to Orchids tailors at 84 Le Loi Street, District 1.  Hang looked after my tailoring, she had a  very good understanding of what I wanted.  I chose to have two dresses made in the same design as their stock samples.  A deposit was paid and I was to go back in 2 days for a fitting (all very painless – compared to my many tailoring experiences in  Thailand).  To my surprise when we returned in 2 days the dresses were finished to a high standard and slight alterations made whilst we waited.  Would definitely recommend Orchids tailors and use them again.

The next task was to book our tour to Cu Chi Tunnels for day 2, so another taxi ride to Vietsea Tourist Travel Service in Distict 1 and we booked and paid for our tour.

Into another taxi and to the Optician to collect Mr Martin's new glasses.  We looked very closely at the stock in the shop after Mrs Martin told us the price of Mr Martin's 2 pairs of glasses.  We both purchased glasses and are very happy with the workmanship and price at Kinh Hung, 72 Hai Ba Trung, Tan Dinh, District 1. 

We had accomplished so much in day 1, could we keep up this pace?

Mr Martin had a very busy day at work so we met him at a local restaurant at dinner time.

A very pleasant dining experience.

When we arrived home it was time for pressies from home.  Mrs Martin unwrapped her goodie  bag with delight:

 The sweet treats from home had been put away for when Mr and Mrs Martin needed a sugar and creamy chocolate hit and the wine we hope they will enjoy on their forthcoming first wedding anniversay!   (We did!  Thank you!)

 Mr Martin tried on his Rugby World Cup shirt and undies, presents from Mum and Dad

We were up early on day 2 and into a taxi to meet the start of our tour at the Saigon River.  We went on a scenic trip for 1.5 hours on a speed boat to Chu Chi.  We toured the tunnels and surrounding area and gained an insight into the hardship the people experienced, very sobering.  We both managed to climb into the tunnels and tried being tunnel rats.  We  declined shooting high powered weapons.  We returned to Saigon by bus and got a good look at the countryside on the journey.  Again we were met by our hostess, Mrs Martin and it was time for coffee at a local cafe.  Mrs Robyn was very pleased as the cafe had fresh coconut juice.

We met Mr Martin for dinner at Black Cat - a famous hamburger restaurant and had a very tasty dinner and then went to a coffee shop close by the Caravelle Hotel.   The hotel had a large inflated Rugby ball outside the first sign that the Rugby World cup had commenced back home.  It was interesting people watching in the cafe there were young ladies dressed up and obviously looking for foreign ATM's.

Day 3  we visited the War Remnants Museum with Mr Martin before he went to work.  The museum has many tanks, guns and planes housed in its grounds and inside the museum is the Historical Truths, Requiem collection of war documentaries taken by 134 journalists from 11 nationalities killed during the Indochina war.  There is a collection of Japanese documentary photos and a prison showing the life like conditions during the war. This was a very sobering experience, so much pain, hunger and inhumanity was endured during war time in Viet Nam.

We met Mr Martin in his lunch hour at Guitar street.  Mr Robyn and Mr Martin were in their element going from shop to shop, picking up guitars and strumming some notes. 

We then went to a Vietnamese cafe which specalised in Pho (a very tasty broth) and then on to do more shopping at Saigon Square 2.   

 Typical Vietnamese market 'shower curtain' style changing room! -K

Along the way we spotted a wedding couple posing for photographs at a very busy intersection (apparently a common wedding photo pose and one we hope Mr and Mrs Martin will not add to their wedding photographs).  On our way back to District 1 we experiened the worst traffic jam we have ever been in, eventually we ditched the taxi and walked the last few blocks home.  Surprisingly there was no road rage everyone seemed incredibly patient.

That evening we had a very pleasant dining experience at Cafeif .

We were up early the next morning to take a Jetstar flight north to DaNang - an hour's flight.  Mrs Martin had pre-seated us in an area where there was plenty  of leg room making it a very comfortable flight. 

There was a taxi driver waiting for us at the airport and we were whisked away past stylish resorts and manicured international standard golf courses to Hoi An around one hour travel time.  On the way we stopped  at a marble factory and Mr Martin bought his prized marble carved eagle. (This object is supremely ugly and deserves a blog post of its own - K.)

We were meet by the very friendly staff at Hai Au Hotel

 After settling in it was time to explore the ancient town.  We walked over the Japanese covered bridge, by museums of history and culture and past markets and art and craft workshops.  There were colourful shoe shops and tailors every few metres, very tempting.  We all had a cyclo ride around Hoi An for 30 minutes. 

We returned to the hotel and had a swim in the hotel pool before we headed out for dinner to the Mango.Mango, another excellent meal.  It was new moon and  the children were out dressed in lion costumes banging loud drums and encouraging everyone to put money in the lion's mouth (apparently it brings you luck, hope it works)!

Whilst walking that evening we passed a sweat shop! 

We took a taxi the next morning to An Bang Beach (China Beach) and  a very pleasant day was spent at Jaspa's beach club

That evening we searched for a cafe that Mr and Mrs Martin  had dined at previously.  We were the only patrons in the sports bar/cafe and had an excellent inexpensive meal (the ownership had changed since our last visit! It wasn't a sports bar before, but we decided to stay anyway... K.).
We arranged for a taxi driver to take us to My Son and we toured the World Cultural Heritage site. 

My Son is where the ancient Champa people arised to be masters of art in building brick from the 4th century to the 13th century.  A worthwhile tour and we got plenty of exercise!  On the return journey we stopped at a Catholic church on top of a hill.  We climbed to the top of the hill to view the church and scenery.  This was the first Catholic church we had seen on our holiday in Viet Nam that was not pink.  Yes the Catholic churches must have got a bulk deal on pink paint!

Some highlights of our time in Hoi An are that Mrs Robyn finally got to ride a bicycle in Viet Nam, something she has been wanting to do for 20 plus years, but Mr Robyn was not keen.
We all took a cyclo ride around Hoi An, it was fun and we got to see so much.  Mr Martin had wanted us to take a cyclo ride in Saigon but we were not keen, we are pleased we waited to do the ride in a small city.  On our last evening in Hoi An we visited NA Spa and had a body scrub and moisturising massage for $30.00 for two.  We were very impressed with the high standard of the spa and the cost, a very pleasant experience.

We had an early start the next day as a taxi driver was picking us up at 7.00 a.m. to drive us to Hue (three hours north).   On our way north we stopped at Ngu Hah, known as Marble  Mountain, 9 kilometers from central DaNang city.  We took the lift to almost the top of the mountain.  A very scenic spot of the surrounding coutryside and China beach.  We explored the many caves and saw the amazing Mount of Water, Mount of Metal and Fire with the famous Quan the AM and Huyen Vi caves and Quan the AM pagoda, set on the quiet Coco river with beautiful surrounding scenery. 

We arrived in Hue at midday and checked into the Orchid Hotel (or Orchard Hotel as Mr Martin calls it).  We were shown to very nice large rooms, we freshened up and then were off to find a local restaurant recommended by the staff at the hotel.  Along the way we were followed by a very persistent cyclo driver who finally gave up after following us for around 30 minutes.  At the restaurant we tried a special pancake which was a local crispy pancake that you fill with greens (including Vietnamese mint) and a mushroom sauce, very tasty and very cheap!

A short walk after leaving the restaurant we spotted a French Bakery and the temptation was too much for us! We ordered brioche and chocolate croissants to take away.    They were the best pastries we had eaten in Viet Nam and made a very nice afternoon snack.

Most of the afternoon was spent visiting Hue Monuments and Conservation Centre, Forbidden City - another amazing World Cultural Heritage site.   We explored the city on foot for a few hours and then took a cyclo ride to the History Museum, attached to this was the American and French war museums.  So much bloody history on display and very sobering.  Loads of tanks and guns for Mr Martin to photograph!

It had been recommended that we try a restaurant with a set menu for tourists so we took a taxi ride to Y Thao Garden Restaurant.  Very nice garden setting and excellent dinner with six courses of local cuisine.  We returned to Orchid Hotel for an early night as we had to be up early in the morning for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City.

 Yes, we did try to impress our guests with as many chicken-shaped meals as possible! - K

The taxi drive to the Hue airport was very memorable as I think every mosquito in Hue had nested in the vehicle.  We all including the driver spent the 30 minute journey swotting mossies!

We arrived back in Ho Chi Minh City mid morning, Mr Martin headed off to work and after a quick freshen up and completing the list of things to do before we depart, it was time to head to L'usine for lunch.  L'usine is a trendy lunch cafe frequented by foreigners. Their baguettes are amazing and the mango smoothie was the best I have had.  Attached to L'usine is a shop that sells all types of quirky things, well worth a visit.  Mr Martin just happened to be having lunch at L'usine when we were there so we got to meet a couple of his work colleagues.

Mrs Martin took us to Benh Thanh Market area as I wanted to buy soccer strips for grandsons and Mr Robyn walked on to hardware market (a street full of shops with all sorts of hardware and tools).  Mr Robyn was very happy when he met us at the Highland's Coffee in the Tax Centre as he had purchased a ratchet and special sized socket set, good quality and price.    We then visited the famous Rex Hotel where the war journalists based themselves during the Viet Nam war.  It is a grand old hotel with a great roof top garden bar.   It was then time to go to the Optician to collect my glasses which had a new prescription of lenses put in them.  The optician very kindly gave us extra nose cushions, screws and cords.  We walked home past the local market and bought fresh coconut and fruit for breakfast.

It was our last night and we planned to dine at a restaurant called Cuc Gach Quan. An amazing restaurant built by an architect.  We had great meal in the roof top area of the restaurant.  Every inch of the building has been made good use of, well worth a visit.

It was now time to make our farewells as we were flying from Ho Chi Minh City to Kuala Lumpur.  Mr and Mrs Martin were up early to farewell us.  I had glassy eyes as I hugged my little brother and sister in law goodbye.  
We had a very happy and most memorable holiday in Viet Nam, thanks to our much loved brother and sister-in-law who were superb hosts.  It was really great sharing the Viet Nam experience with Mr and Mrs Martin and sharing stories old and new along the way.  We hope that we will be able to return to visit Viet Nam again one day to experience more of the beautiful country.  Mr and Mrs Martin will no doubt remember us for our shopping, walking, touring, eating stamina! (We're still recovering... K) 

We were in a new country and we were there to experience as much as we could and so we accomplished our mission!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Breaking news! William has a blog!

Sweet William has finally (after a year!) settled in at Grandma's house. And now, he is finding the time to write about his experiences:

wiremus feles philosomus

If you miss Sweet William (the Conqueror) as much as we do, be sure to go and leave him a comment!  You may not be aware, but William is actually an excellent agony aunt/clairvoyant - so if you have a problem, maybe he can help you solve it?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The price of neighbourhood contentment? 20,000 dong.

This week I have become the epicenter of a tragic little feud at the end of my street. I started a new job which is all the way over in District 5 by the canal, and any Saigon-dweller would understand that this means a decent trudge of a commute from my perch at the top end of District 1.

The xe om drivers at the bottom of my street have become my neighbours and companions over the last few months, and there are two in particular that are favourites. They share responsibility for me and Mr Martin when we want to go out, with the other guys only offering us rides when neither of those two are there.  There is an understanding amongst them all that Mr Martin and I belong to Mr Talky and Mr Moley.

I know the names are ungracious. Mr Talky is exactly as described. He yaps away all through the journey, and regularly inspects my shopping and tells me off if I use a taxi. When I come back from my frequent trips to the market he likes to ask me how much I paid for whatever it is I've bought.  He's like my personal appraiser.

Mr Moley is more of a silent type. He offers no conversation - only shy, kind smiles at pick up and drop off.  Mr Moley has a magnificent hairy brown mole near the corner of his mouth. Like all grotesqueries, at first it was alarming, and now I almost never notice it.  The collars of Mr Moley's shirts are worn to rags, but they are always clean and pressed.

A couple of times, Mr Talky in his exuberance has taken me far off course from my intended destination. Each time, it has been because he has mis-heard me, or perhaps just mis-understood the Vietnamese words after they have been been mashed up in my mouth. One time, instead of the Big C on Hoang Van Thu, we went to Le Van Sy in Binh Dinh. Another time we ended up going to Benh Thanh Market instead of Vo Van Tan.  In any case, Mr Talky is usually off on some other business - he runs errands for one of the big houses across the road and I think because he is so outgoing he gets a little more customers than the other guys.

So on most days it has been Mr Moley who has taken me to do my shopping, or dropped me off outside a cafe somewhere. He takes Mr Martin to work a lot, too. He's really been my most regular guy.  For that reason, on my first day of work after being dropped off Mr Martin used some flamboyant sign language to explain to Mr Moley that his wife was going on a big trip today and so he should go and be ready for her. And so he was. And that is how on the first day Mr Moley made a whopping 100,000 dong for taking me one way. The taxi on the way home cost me 110,000 dong.

The next morning, feeling better prepared, I went to explain to the drivers.  This was the deal I was offering: 100,000 dong each day, or 50,000 each way, to take me to work and pick me up again when I finished.  Mr Moley took the job that morning, much to the indignation of Mr Talky who flounced off in a huff and hasn't spoken to me since. Very naively, I thought that the two of them would share the work between them. But instead, I had employed Mr Moley on a retainer and somewhat damaged my relationship with Mr Talky in the process.

For the first few days, Mr Talky glowered at me as Mr Moley and I drove past.  And then, Mr Moley started talking suddenly, and I came to understand that he wanted an extra 20,000 dong per day.  But somehow, the next day, Mr Talky waved at me again. And I think perhaps magically things have been resolved between us all. 

I am not sure if I am a loser in this scenario or not. My colleague who lives in district 2 - which for those of you not from round these parts is a considerably longer distance from work than where live - tell me that she pays her motorbike man 60,000 dong per trip - 120,000 per day. But I am conflict averse, and my husband's shirts are not frayed at the collars, and I don't really miss the bit of extra money.  So tell me, Internet - am I being had for a complete fool - or is this simply part of the complex way we must go about our lives as hopeless dependent expats. Because the reality is that on those terrible two days I really missed the extra security (perhaps imagined!) that I feel when the drivers smile at me on the street.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Can you help Chinh in Auckland?

Since I have been living in Vietnam, I have become involved with Blue Dragon - a children's foundation that reaches out to kids in crisis throughout Vietnam - especially streetkids and children who have been trafficked. Last year Close Up did a story about Chinh and two other streetkids from Vietnam who got scholarships through Blue Dragon to come and study in Auckland.

Chinh, who is studying business, did so well that he has got a scholarship for another year. He will be in Auckland working on his business course until the middle of next year, and after that he hopes to have good enough grades to earn a scholarship to attend a New Zealand university.

But there is one problem - Chinh desperately needs to find homestay accommodation.  Blue Dragon staff and volunteers have been searching for months to find a suitable homestay for Chinh, but there have been no offers.  At one point, he was living in backpacker accommodation in central Auckland!

Currently, Chinh is living in an apartment in the central city, shared with two other international students. He works part time as a cleaner in a supermarket to help pay costs.  With the income from his job, Chinh would be able to make some contribution towards bills and other costs, but he would not be able to pay as much as most paid international homestay students do.

We are not just looking for a homestay to save costs: By living with a New Zealand family, Chinh will have the support and protection that a safe family environment can provide. He will have an opportunity to learn more about New Zealand and our culture, and living with native English speakers will help him to improve his English well enough to hopefully achieve his goal of attending university.

Please help us - Chinh is a good kid and has overcome unimaginable obstacles to achieve as much as he has already. I feel sure that if people knew about his situation, there would be somebody who would be proud to welcome him into their home - even if only for a short time. If you have space, or you know somebody who does, please get in touch with me at this email address: katrina.lawson AT 

Even if you can't offer Chinh accommodation, you can still help: Forward this message to your friends and family and spread the word.

You can find out more about Blue Dragon by visiting their website here:

Or, "Like" their Facebook page to receive news and updates about their incredible work in Vietnam:

Thank you everyone for taking the time to read this.  If you have any questions, or think you can help - please contact me!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dear Phil - we had your parents for dinner...

And they were delicious! 

Let the wild zombie rumpus begin! 

I'm just kidding -  of course I didn't eat your dear Mum and Dad.  If I did that, then who would send you parsnips next spring, and keep Winnie in swede and potato soups?  Hm?

No - we didn't have them for dinner - they had us for dinner instead.  After a hard day of shopping in Saigon your Mum and Dad took us out for a meal at a restaurant called Indochine somewhere in District 3. They were here as part of a food tour, and had eaten their way from Hanoi, then Hue, then Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City - just like the very hungry caterpillar eats its way through the pages of that book.

Undoubtedly by the time they got here they had already eaten several Foods Served Inside Other Foods as seems to be the standard in Vietnamese restaurants that want to impress tourists. But if they'd had enough of that they didn't let on and reacted only with joy and admiration when served this spectacular dish of prawns wrapped in potatoes and jabbed into the side of a lighted-from-within pineapple.

Try making that at home - I dare you!

It was a very delightful visit, and I hope they DO come again and do that car drive around the mountains in the central highlands they were talking about. 

Now THAT would be a holiday full of butterflies.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Care instructions vis a vis apocalypse (snow)

Dear Foster Mother

It has come to my attention that Everything is about to End.
The very clouds themselves are falling from the sky and have been scattered across the earth.
There can only be one possible explanation for this.

The Great Dog in the Sky has been tearing apart the Furniture of the World.  

Obviously, we are all going to die.
Soon, I mean.
Like, not right away.
Well - at least - I'm not dead yet.

So I think you ought to realise that I don't intend for my last few days on this mortal coil to have to be uncomfortable.

For me.

It pains me to say it, but, you know that thing that happened that time? 
On your bed?
It wasn't me:

I was set up!  Seriously?  She thinks she's people.

But look - dogs like it in the snow. 

 Just chuck her outside. I would. 

Sometimes, back when I lived with my real parents (before they callously abandoned me here - bitches) water would fall inexplicably from the sky.

And when that happened, we used to sit inside together by the fire and watch nature documentaries about birds while they fed me strips of bacon by hand.

 Let's do that!  It'll be fun.

Oh, and you know that time with the rat? 
I don't know why you got so upset.
My real parents used to love it when I brought bits of dead things into their bed for them.
Next time I'll make sure it's still alive.
I understand - you probably just wanted to kill it yourself.

Oh - and we'll have a better chance of surviving the apocalypse - or at least enjoying the last few days of existence together if you'll just get rid of the other cats.

Just send them to the market.


If you run up to the supermarket now you can probably get us enough bacon to last us through until the end of days.
I'll stay here and keep the fire going with the awesome power of my laser beam eyes.

Just make sure the boy stays away from the bacon - otherwise he'll have to go too. 

There's not going to be enough for both of us, kid.

I suppose he can stay if he brings in the firewood. 

Okay bye!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Birthday wishes for my mother in law

Winnie is Mr Martin's mother, and today is her birthday.  Winnie is this blog's BIGGEST FAN! In the beginning, she printed out every post so she could share our adventures with all her visitors. I'm not sure if she printed out the one with all swears in it though!

When we were in New Zealand, we used to do all our vegetable shopping at Avondale Market, and we'd usually do some shopping for Winnie while we were there too.  Winnie's shopping list usually went like this: Some carrots a pumpkin kumara some potatoes bananas if they have any and some nice apples.  All the heavy stuff!

I wish we could go market shopping together now, Winnie!

First we'd get all the heavy stuff...

Then maybe some beautiful fresh froggie birthday treats!

And let's not forget to pick up a nice bit of meat for tea!

After the market we'd probably go and get a spot of coffee somewhere:

Either hot...

Or deliciously refreshing icy-cold!

We'll definitely have to go for a ride in a cyclo...

We'll try not to get ripped off this time!

...and hopefully the traffic won't be too hectic!

A nice quiet day like this would be perfect!

And maybe we can go and feed the penguins at the zoo.

With any luck, the day will go smoothly, and we won't get a powercut...

...or a storm!
But don't worry - even when the weather is bad outside - the food is still really good!

I hope you have a happy birthday, Winnie! And many more to come, too!

Everything's more fun in a silly hat!