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  • The Wong Shop

    The Wong Diet

    I often get asked (always when I’m scoffing my face in), “you eat so much, how are you not fat?”.

    It’s a stereotype that East Asians are naturally ‘thin’. Some say that we’re lucky; our mysterious genes aid metabolism. While genes are a contributing factor, I’ve been doing some real digging. Besides being Maybelline (‘Maybe She’s Born With It’), there are the lifestyle and cultural factors that help us maintain a healthy weight.

    I’m going to share them with you. Welcome to the secret ‘diet’ tips of Asia.

    No. I’m not going to give you some lame faddy diet. All that maple syrup, air, baby food & no-carbs-after-six bullocks, is not good for you.

    I don’t want to shock your body drastically because any weight you lose temporarily, will just creep back up on you — like that creepy stalker that just won’t take the hint.

    These nuggets (not the chicken kind, soz) of wisdom have been passed down generation to generation.

    It’s about the facts, nutrition, science and food coming together. I’m going to split this post into three sections: mentality, food and fitness.

    Mentality

    In Asian culture, there is no liability for eating. Guilt leads to anxiety and stress leads to overeating. Eating brings people together; it’s supposed to be a joyous occasion.

    (Vs. Western culture) Asians talk so openly about weight which eliminates guilt. If I’ve gained or lost weight, my mum will tell me. I don’t get offended. If I’ve gained weight, I’ve gained weight. If I’ve lost weight, I’ve lost weight. Who gives a f**k if we’re chubby this week?

    Counting calories is not fun. Fixating on measurements can lead to a reverse effect on your objective. We all know the type, ‘Oh, I had 300 calories today, so according to this fitness app, I can have this chocolate bar to meet the recommended daily allowance’. You could argue that you’re the person who’s more like, ‘Ah I’ve gone over my daily allowance, so I won’t eat any more’, but that’s so tiring, isn’t it? Question your mindset, you know what works for you.

    Mentality and way of thinking determine your diet. It’s about feeling comfortable with yourself as a person. Accept yourself, for what you are. The aim is to have a healthy relationship with yourself (and food).

    Food

    First of all, it’s essential to keep in mind that I don’t want you to eat because you have to; I want you to eat because it’s delicious. If you don’t know how to cook, then there’s your starting point. Learn how to prepare food from scratch. Start watching YouTube recipe videos, give foodie Facebook pages a ‘like’, buy cookery books, go to cooking classes — do what you find most comfortable to learn, then maintaining weight will become a lot easier.

    Steam

    Authentic Asian cuisine is steam every-thang. In the same way, that the Chicken Korma is not native Indian, foods like Sweet & Sour Chicken is not authentic Chinese, it’s British. Yes, I agree with you, it’s delicious, but we can’t eat that shiz every day. I remember when my sister was born, my dad made a Chinese hot pot and popped it in an old Carte D’Or tub (hi Asian parents). It has everything you need nutritionally for a baby: fresh meats, vegetables, tofu and seafood. The origins of the Chinese hotpot has been around for over 1,000 years. Packed with flavour, I love a good hearty hot pot. The aim is to ensure that your meals contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals.

    Brown rice 

    Asians eat white rice every day. I’m going to talk about a healthier alternative: brown rice. I don’t get it when people say they don’t like it — I honestly can’t taste the difference! Brown rice = fibre. Genuine quote from my mum who told me when I was six, “Fibre helps you poo”. Err thanks, mum. We need fibre for digestion, and it reduces high cholesterol levels. Fibre helps out by keeping blood sugar levels under control, so brown rice is an excellent grain choice for people with diabetes.

    Vegetables

    To state the obvious, eating a lot of vegetables keeps you slim. The Chinese, Japanese and Korean diet is predominately rice and vegetables. Korean people consume a lot of raw cabbage -i.e., Bibimbap. The Chinese eat a lot of greens like Pak Choi, lettuce, radish and spinach. I hated vegetables as a kid. I hated it so much that when I got to University, I got carried away and ate everything that looked beige, speaking of beige, there’s food out there that isn’t green and is good for you. If you’ve realised that you’ve overdone it with the meat treats that week, why not replace it with tofu? It gives me lots of energy and is high in protein, vitamins and fibre. I missed my parent’s cooking so much at University, when I graduated, I ended up naturally eating 70% good food and 30% junk. Find your method of balance.

    Fish

    East Asians eat a lot of fish; there are endless benefits, the fresher, the better. (Fish fingers don’t count, don’t let Captain Birdseye try and flirt with you in frozen aisles). Always eat fish off the bone because natural fatty fish contains the highest source of natural Omega 3.

    Soup

    Soup is essential in the Asian diet. We drink it either before or after a meal. Our soup is essentially bone broth (made with boiling meat bones in water). It’s filled up with vegetables, beans and natural Chinese herbs (you should see mummy Wong’s cupboard). The broth takes hours to boil but is super easy to make. Why bones, you ask? The gelatin from the bone marrow contains glycine that is anti-inflammatory and helps to regulate metabolism, maintain lean muscle mass, preserve bone strength and control cellular health. The vitamins, proteins, and minerals from the ingredients dissolve in the water — giving you a balanced supply of nutrition which helps to keep you full. The Chinese love to poach chicken feet in the soup because it has a lot of collagen that is good for the skin. It’s not uncommon to see an old Asian woman ask the local butcher for meat bones. Centuries ago, we needed to make use of limited resources to their full potential. These days we boil our veg and then chuck away the mineral water containing all the good bits down the drain. If you’re vegetarian, veg broth works just as well (don’t forget the spinach for iron). If you’re not brave enough for trotter soup, don’t worry, there’s always Pho (Vietnamese rice noodles).

    Fruit

    You know what? I’m not going to lie to you; I love a sweet treat. My Instagram is a collage of cake. I’m addicted to cake and breakfast tea. One day, I substituted my breakfast muffin for a banana and realised that the satisfaction I got out of both were similar — it helps if the texture is comparable. If you crave sugar, you can get it from the healthier sugars in fruit. Asians have either soup or fruit after dinner. The way I balance it out now is by having dessert for breakfast or as a dessert after dinner, never both.


    H2O

    Drink lots of hot water; it cleanses and boosts your immune system. If you’re not keen on hot water, try adding lemon. Herbal teas contain antioxidants, and they’re best mates with your metabolism. My favourite green tea is Jasmine tea. I love the blossoming flower ones; I always end up staring at my cup & I have the same reaction every time, ‘Oooh, so pretty!’.

    Not a fan of the hot beverage? Make a homemade tea cordial. Experiment & mix different tea leaves: Lemon & GingerRaspberry BlasterBaked Apple & Sticky Toffee, they could help you steer away from those naughty processed sugary soft drinks. 

    When I went to Thailand, I had lots of fresh coconut water. It suppresses your appetite, the fat content is low and makes you feel full because it’s rich in taste. It also made my skin glow. I also drink lots of almond & soy milk which have lots of iron and calcium.

    Sometimes, your body will tell you, ‘Yo, give me food!’, But actually, you just need a beverage, so drink lots of cold water too. H2O helps us distinguish between being hungry and being thirsty so always stay hydrated.

    Diet food

    When I went travelling in Southeast Asia, I rarely saw any diet-marketed food. ‘Light’ options in the supermarket annoy the s**t out of me. I work in marketing, and I’m sick of seeing ‘No added sugar’ yoghurt, or ‘low fat’ cereal, or ‘light’ mayonnaise. If there’s less fat in there, it usually has to be replaced with something else to keep the flavour. Dear food brands, you can’t fool us with your extra sugar, sweetie. Diet Coke is one of the worst offenders, less sugar but added Aspartame. I’ll leave you to research and make up your own mind on that one.

    I’ll end the food section with a poem from Japan called Hara Hachi Bu, which is the Confucian philosophy for ‘eat until you’re 8/10 full’. Derived from Okinawa, the Japanese leave that little bit on their plate.

    Hara Hachi Bu

    ‘The Okinawa Diet‘:
    Fill your plate with plants.
    Consider the sweet potato.
    Eat soy every day.
    Learn some recipes that call for turmeric.
    Make meat a rare treat.
    Drink green tea like it’s going out of style.
    Forgo the “all-you-can-eat buffet” mentality.

    Ceramics

    The size of your plates and bowls determine (unconsciously) how much food you eat. If you buy small plates and bowls, you’ll eat smaller portions. Without thinking about it, lighter servings give you time to enjoy your food, and you reflect on whether you want to grab a second helping.

    I love the Japanese bento box; It’s like picking things from a sweet shop (I’m like a child). Speaking of picking pieces up, you eat smaller portions with chopsticks. The slower you eat, the faster you’ll be full. Asians feast with a bowl of rice in hand and select from a selection of entrees. They pick one piece at a time from the middle of the table and tend to eat how much they want rather than finishing everything that’s on a plate.

    Fitness

    Okay, so you need motivation. You know your body & mind more than anyone else. You know what motivates you. What motivates me is to refer to an image that is the end goal.

    You need to get off your ass. If you work in an office, you need to get off your bum even more.

    I’m not going to tell you to join a martial arts class and become a ninja (unless you want to).

    The best way to lose weight without realising is to find a sport / active activity that you’ll fall in love with. Asian parents take their kids to sports classes when they’re young, I mean the culture in China is a bit extreme because they want their kid to be the next Olympian, but as an adult, sweating it out in the gym is not fun.

    Martial Arts, Basketball, Football, Netball, Rugby, Swimming, Cycling, Running, Boxing, Yoga, Zumba, Ballet, Ariel Silks — the list is endless.
    Once you’re addicted to your competitive sport, you’ll be fit, and you’ll feel good about yourself.

    And that’s that!

    Quit weighing yourself. It’s not a reflection on how you’re doing & you’ll feel crap one day and then endure short-lived happiness the next. 

    Don’t stress about your weight. Food is for enjoying, not for worrying about. East Asians tend to eat little and often. That’s why people think we eat all the time.

    Start looking up sports classes that you’ve always wanted to join. Trial some on Groupon and let me know which ones you like.

    Decide to love yourself today.

    Zen

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    #ProjectMVietnam – Cooking Class in Vietnam

    Once upon a time, I wanted to be a Food Presenter.

    I’d watch a foodie channel, interrupt the show with my mouth full of spag bol’ and I’d vent “…you lucky sods, I want to travel the world and eat all the foods!”.

    When our tour guide mentioned the option of taking a cooking class in Hoi An, I instantly jumped up with my best oh-pick-me-pick-me-please face.

    Welcome to the Lantern, a cafe/restaurant charged with fuschia flower trees. We were guided upstairs, where the fun begins.

    Our teachers introduced themselves (a brother and sister, from a wonderful family business) and guided us to the local bustling fresh food market.

    After our educational food tour, we were taken to our cooking station.

    I apologise in advance for my s**t quality photos, my iPhone just didn’t agree with the lighting.

    Because I love that you’re reading my Blog, I’m going share Hoi An’s authentic recipes with you.

    Ok, let’s begin.

    First dish: Bánh Xèo. A thin, crispy, very light pancake filled with pork, prawn and veggies. Roll over to my homestay post for juicy details of my love affair with this dish. “Xèo” refers to the sizzling sound it makes when you fry it. The name loosely means “sizzling cake.”

    To make enough for four hungry friends, you’ll need:

    0.6kg pork belly
    180g jumbo king prawns
    400g pancake flour
    4 cups water
    1 cup of coconut cream
    10g spring onion – sliced
    Half of an onion – sliced into thins
    200g shrimps
    500g bean sprouts
    1tsp Turmeric
    1 Handful of fresh mint
    1 Handful of fresh coriander
    1 Handful of fresh bean sprouts
    1 Handful of lettuce
    2tsp vegetable oil
    (20) Vietnamese soft rice paper (optional)

    Pop the pork belly in boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Slice thinly and set aside. Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water. Set that aside too.

    Prepare the batter by mixing the flour with water, coconut cream, turmeric and spring onions.

    You’re going to fry one pancake at a time, so don’t go crazy and throw all the meat in the pan (I was hungry and keen).

    In a frying pan, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Toss in the onions and then a portion of pork belly and king prawns. (For one pancake, I put in about a tablespoonful of pork and prawns). Fry until cooked.

    Pour a cup full of the batter mixture into the pan over the meat, quickly tilt the pan, so the mixture spreads thinly.

    Add a spoonful of bean sprouts on the pancake.

    Here’s a little tip, to stop the edges from sticking to the pan, brush a little oil around the edge of the pancake.

    Once the mixture is clear over the edges, fold one-half the pancake over and slip it onto a plate.

    Get your greens in and fill up the pancake with a lettuce and chopped up cucumber.

    It’s not mandatory but wrap it up in rice paper if you wish to give it that extra crunch.

    Taa-dah! Can you just feel that concentration?

    Hands down, best roll I’ve ever, ever, eaten. I promise you, I’m not just saying that because I made it.

    The Vietnamese Dipping Sauce can also be whipped up ahead; it’s easy to make, so while you’re on a roll (ha) why not get started?!

    Fish Sauce 100ml
    Rice Vinegar 100ml
    Brown Sugar 100ml
    Water 170ml

    Mix all above in a bowl (preferably in the above order) and stir well. Optional: add chopped garlic, chilli, basil and crispy onions to taste.

    Best of all, the sauce goes with all of the dishes in this post.

    Next dish: Papaya Salad, who’s best friend is Vietnamese spring rolls (I’ll get to those bad boys later).

    Recipe:
    1 large green papaya
    1 large carrot
    2 shallots
    2 chillies
    A packet of basil leaves
    Handful of roasted peanuts
    Shred the green papaya and carrot finely into strips. Use your Spiralizer to make lovely swirls (or a knife will do).

    Cut the shallots into little cubes.

    Add it to a mixing bowl.

    Add finely cut chillies to taste.

    Drizzle with the Vietnamese dipping sauce and mix well.

    Top with basil leaves and roasted peanuts.

    I just wanted to stick my head into it. When a dish is bursting with colour, you know it’s good.

    Hoi An, Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls. These spring rolls are different to Chinese spring rolls; the coating is netted — so they’re the ultimate level of crispy.

    You’ll need:
    Vietnamese netted rice paper
    100g glass noodles
    200g minced pork
    Handful of Wood Ear mushrooms
    1 carrot
    1 onion
    Handful of spring onions
    1 garlic bulb
    Salt & pepper to taste

    Shred the carrots, Wood Ear mushrooms, onions and spring onions into thin strips. Brine and then cut up the glass noodles into 2cm pieces.

    Throw all of the cut-up veggies into mixing bowl and add the pork mince.

    Squash garlic cloves and pop that into the bowl.

    Get your hands dirty and mix well.

    Remove rice papers from its packaging. If the papers are dry or hard, use a damp cloth or place a wet paper towel beneath them.

    Fold one edge about 3cm, put about 1 tbsp of filling on top of the closed area. Then roll up to create a tube.

    Heat up some oil (I use sunflower) for the spring rolls to be deep fried. Fry for about 2-3 minutes.

    Enjoy and let me know how utterly satisfied you feel.

    Vietnamese Grilled Fish — a dish wrapped up cosy in banana leaf.

    You’ll need:
    200g fresh tuna steak
    Green banana leaf (3 x 30cm pieces)
    1 egg
    Handful of Wood Ear mushrooms
    Handful of shallots
    1/4 of an onion
    Handful of spring onions
    1 carrot
    10g glass (vermicelli) noodles (soak in warm water and cut the pieces so they are about 1.5 inches)
    Chopped fresh garlic (1 bulb)
    1 fresh turmeric
    2tsp turmeric oil
    1 fresh chilli (or more to taste)
    Salt & pepper to taste

    Slice the tuna into bite size pieces.

    Slice the Wood Ear mushrooms, shallots, spring onions, carrots, garlic, turmeric and chilli into thin pieces.

    Pop all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl

    Mix it up and form a flat paste.

    Grab the patty and place it onto three layers of banana leaf (to avoid burning our fishy dishy)

    Pop it under the grill on a low setting for 15 minutes.

    Take it out and devour. This dish is regularly served with rice. I warn you, once you take that first bite, you won’t be able to stop.

    As a class, we demolished our delicious banquet, which, of course, tastes better when you made it yourself.

    Incredibly fresh, authentic Vietnamese flavours, hugely rich in protein, antioxidants and Vitamin C.

    I have no doubt that all three dishes will fill you up.

    I dare you to give them a try and let me know what you think.

    The cooking class was exactly how I dreamt it to be, even better perhaps.

    If you’ve at any point yelled ‘ah, I would love to do that’, then Real Food Adventure – Vietnam is the one for you.

    I would also point you in the direction of Mexico Food & Culture or Real Food Adventure – India (because they are basically on my list). If you fancy somewhere closer to home: Local Living Italy looks like fun. Can’t decide? A full list is here.

    Location: Vietnam – Hoi An

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    #ProjectMVietnam – Hoi An Bicycle Tour

    We hopped onto our bikes to explore Hoi An’s picturesque countryside.

    Excuse the outfit, when you live out of a backpack you can easily achieve the dishevelled ‘gap yah’ style.

    I would recommend hopping onto a organised bike tour because part of the money from your fare goes to the local people that you visit.

    And you get to do this:

    GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!

    Just watering my crops and going back to my roots, (ha, get it?).

    Our tour guide announced, “Girls, it’s time to ride a buffalo!”.

    Yes, a buffalo.

    I have a story to share with you about my buffalo experience. This one is a charmer.

    I perch my bum onto this buffalo’s back.

    I stared into the distance — into layers of rice fields as they gathered over the horizon. I was content. Then out of nowhere, Mr Buffalo Man stands up and starts chanting some Vietnamese opera song.

    Then the buffalo starts pooping in the water, whilst I’m still on it.

    Then the buffalo man (somehow) encouraged me sing along to his song!

    Everything happened so fast that when it was time to get off, I was like, what…what just happened?
    I survived!


    We love you buffalo & buffalo man!

    Our last stop on the bike ride was this beautiful beach.

    The perfect place to reflect on our wonderful tour.

    If that wasn’t enough, we were taken onto a boat back to Hoi An: Old Town. This was our view whilst we floated across layers of black silk.

    Before heading to the land of nod, we were absolutely staving!

    The food in Hoi An is beyond ridiculous. We ordered a three-course meal and this was the starter. Who gives you three plates for a starter?!

     

    Like seriously, Hoi An, you’re spoiling me!

    My main man dish arrived: chicken in banana leaf. I needed someone to roll me out when the banana and chocolate pancake made an appearance.

    Stuffed and a bit tipsy, it was time to head back to our hotel to visit the land of nod.

    By this point, I thought I was a giddy fairy and flew under this pretty gateshead outside of the hotel.

    Goodnight, Hoi An, you light up my heart.

    Location: Vietnam – Hoi An

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    Black Friday

    It’s Black Friday!

    And I know exactly what you want.

    In celebration of Black Friday and to make this blog post a little bit more stylish, I’m wearing all black errthang!

    Stay exactly where you are my friend, avoid the scuffles and shop online like a pro. Where else can you shop naked?

    Bloggers tend to get all of the cyber codes before everyone else.

    I’ve been working hard to collate the very best for you.

    Amazon & eBay cheekily teased us with their Black Friday deals week and now they’ve gone all the way with up to 50% off. Perfect for Christmas presents or to snap up that camera that you’ve been itching to buy.

     

    The Currys & PC World Black Tag event has some great TV & PC deals for the gadget obcessed. Unsurprisingly, the Samsung TV’s are going fast. Argos launched their Black Friday at 1am last night — click here to scoop it up.

     

    John Lewis are offering to ‘price match’ against electricals so head here to see if it’s cheaper.

     

    Christmas has indeed come early at Selfridges (receive 20% off your Christmas Shopping with code SELFCCE).

    ASOS: 20% off everything with code CYBER.

    Shop at River Island between 11am – 3pm with the code: BFRIDAY15 for 20% off.

    Stock up at The Body Shop with up to 40% off. Code: 14670.

    Up to 50% off at the sale you’ve been waiting for at Topshop & Urban Outfitters, NikeNew Look and French Connection today. Update! Use code: Cyber25 at FC for 25% off.

    Replenish your beauty cabinet at my favourite make up hubs: Feel Unique & use code LFBLACK at Look Fantastic.

     

     

     

    Save up to 25% off at Bloomingdales with code: Turkey and ‘Thanks’ at Macy’s.

    There’s up to 50% off at Marks & Sparks, Very.co.uk and at House of Fraser. It’s VAT-free on fragrances at Debenhams.

    It’s 15% off sale at Benefit Cosmetics, enter code: BLACK15 & get free express shipping on orders over £50 with EXPRESS15. Soak up the 20% off at Molton Brown, code: MBEVENTUK. It’s code ‘black’ at L’Occitane.

    There’s 20% off in the shoe world. Run over to Kurt Geiger, Shoeaholics (code: shoeaholics20) or Office (code: SNOW). I got you an exclusive extra 5% OFF Cyber Weekend Offer at TOMS. Code: TOMSGIFTGUIDE5A. Shout out to Tom, thanks Tom!

    Go crazy at Missguided with code: CYBER20 and it’s up to 50% off Boohoo.com.

    30% off everything at Boden with code: 3Y7L, up to 50% off at Jaeger and Not On The High Street and 30% off everything at Coggles, code: BLACKFRIDAY. Shopbop and East Dane have the same code: GOBIG15.

    Grab your kitchen items at AO.

    If you feel like running away from all this Black Friday madness, there’s up to 25% off flights at British Airways.

    I’ll be posting and updating this page throughout the cyber weekend.

    Let me know what bargains you’ve found in the comments below. I want to see!

    Location: Black Friday

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    #ProjectMVietnam | Huế

    For those of you who have been flying over to my blog, I was taking you through my South East Asian adventures. I took a break to write about New York. Now I’m going to fly you out of the concrete jungle and get you stuck back into Vietnam!

    If you like authentic Vietnamese food as much as I do, get your a** down to Huế.

    Huế is renowned for it’s food history. I spotted many Huế themed eateries in the bigger cities like Saigon and Hanoi.

    During the Nguyen Dynasty years, the kings were fussy for their food. Nervous chefs churned out (ever-changing) 52-course meals. Yep, that’s right: 52. If anyone wants to cook 52-course meals for me, I think I’d fall in love with you (bonus points if you rolled me out).

    I forgot to take a picture of this interesting quail and duck egg dish that we ate, so let’s start this post with my pretty chicken fried rice that I can’t believe, I remembered to take a snap of.

     Huế is a sleepy city, it’s famous for it’s heavy rains, sleepy pace and pagodas. The relaxed atmosphere is perfect for taking your motorbike for a spin. And we did just that. In Vietnam you don’t need a license to drive one. But none of us felt like visiting the grim reaper that day, so our lovely tour guides were the experts in giving us the grand tour of their home town.

    For our first stop, we were taken to a film set.

    I definitely got my geek on (I put my glasses on for closer inspection and everything).

    Our second stop was the Tomb of Tu Duc and guess who designed it? Emperor, Tu Duc. Built by his slaves at his imperial empire (Mr promiscuous had 104 wives), it’s certainly one of the most impressive of the royal mausoleums.

    We said goodbye to the Emperor and headed to the Perfume River.

    Why is it called Perfume River? You might ask.

    If you’re into your floral fragrances like Dior Cherie, Chanel Chance and Marc Jacobs Oh Lola, then you’ll love this. In the Autumn, flowers from the orchards upriver from Huế fall into the water, giving the river a perfume-like natural aroma.

    I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to stand and admire this river in the cool, light air.

    Our next stop was to visit this lovely lady to begin our incense making workshop.

    It’s actually a lot harder than it looks, you need to be firm, but not too firm, with the poo-like dough on a stick.

    I did it! I’m so impressed with myself.

    Our lady of many talents, also showed us how she makes the traditional Vietnamese hat.

    Unfortunately I don’t think my handmade piece made the cut. Hehe.

    The next day, we headed to Hue Imperial City (The Citadel), a fortress that (historically) separated the digs of the Royals and the ‘commoners’. It’s a very strange concept to visit a mini city inside a city.

    Once I got inside, I was mesmerised. It felt like walking into a completely different era. Once I spotted the palace and oriental gardens, I decided to live there. I had to put my princess dream to rest as the venue closed at 5pm.

     

    With the help of a peeping turtle and a golden lion, this princess lived happy ever after.

    Location: Vietnam – Huế

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