I am not afriad of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today~William Allen White

Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

how to have fun on kusu island

Kusu island is a very small island about 20 minutes off Singapore.  It is known for two things

if you come to kusu island just to look at the temple and tortoise, it would be a very boring trip

There are tortoise and temples everywhere, there is no need to take a 20 minute boat ride to look at it on Kusu Island.  So in order to have fun, explore the little island, whcih takes around 20 minutes, haha.  But also consider these great and fun activities!

take a walk along the sandy beach and a dip in the water

be an artist and create some sand artwork

enjoy a picnic or bbq with friends

climb up to the top of the island and receive a blessing from the two residents of a malay temple

act silly and become tarzan

This small island doens’t have a lot of visitors, so it’s great to spend some quiet and peaceful time close to nature.  It has some great scenic views.

very cool trees found on this island, shaped like a fan

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making coconut candy in vietnam

Yummy!  Warm, freshly made coconut candies are very good!  The warm sugar candy melting in the mouth was such a cool feeling!

coconuts are first cracked

the coconuts then go through this little machine

next, it's grinded into a coconut and sugar concotion

it is then roughly rolled into long stick shape

it is then allocated into the proper rectangular sized stick cutter

each piece of coconut candy is individually cut and wrapped

 

 

 

My visit to Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh is not the capital of Vietnam, but the economic artery of the country.  It was an eye opener to me when I visit Vietnam, there are definitely a lot of madness, chaos, and craziness with the city, which I believe are evidence and signs that it is continually developing.  I actually had a lot of difficulties crossing the streets because first of all, there are hardly any traffic lights, and at the tourist areas where there are traffic lights, motorcycles really don’t give a crap.  Second, there are so many motorcycles on the road, it makes one’s head spin!  If you want to cross the street, you basically need to pretend the hundreds of motobikes coming at you don’t exist, or else you would literally be standing and waiting for something that will never happen–> all the motorbikes to pass.  Anyway, by the third day of the trip, I pretty much can cross any streets without my legs shaking, pumping heartbeats, and bewilderment in my eyes at what I am about to do.  In fact, when returning to Singapore, the way I decided to cross the streets bewilder other rule abiding Singaporeans.

While I feel very blessed to have grown up in developed Canada and lived in modern cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, the travelling I am doing continually open my eyes to so many amazing and crazy things that go on in the world.  In Vietnam, a family of four could all be seated on a motorbike while the mother carry a baby on her lap.  In the West, we freak out over car seats and baby proofing everything; but the babies in Vietnam grown up just fine without ever hearing about car seats or strollers.  In fact, if you have a stroller, that might be a dangerous hazard itself, I don’t know how you can possibly cross the streets.

Below, I share some pictures I took of this chaotic city that has taught me to cross the streets anywhere in the world.  Believe me when I say if you can cross the streets in Ho Chi Minh, you can cross the streets anywhere else in the world.

i realize my whole entry is pretty much about motorbikes, so I must show you what I am talking about

this is near Chinatown, close to the hotel we were staying at and close to where we sat at some plastic table with stools with a local friend sipping strong coffee with sweet milk

the saigon river is a strip of restaurants on boats and they will take you down the saigon river for a 45 min ride. It's very touristy, though the strip look nice on the outside, there really isn't much of a view to speak off across the saigon river and the food (western) isn't cool, I love local food way more!

the oldest pagoda in ho chi minh

the war remnants museum is really worth a visit to see what kind of war and pain the country has suffered

cool huh? a giant plate of donuts on top of the man's head

A taste of Vietnam

For me, there are a lot of eating when I travelled to Ho Chi Minh, and I really enjoyed all the foods I got to taste on the trip.

See my previous blog on Hue Cuisine  (imperial court cuisine) foods in Vietnam

Of course Vietnam is famous for its coffee and beef noodles (pho)–> both of which I ate a lot of!  But there are a lot more yummy and local foods I got a chance to experience and really like.  I find some of the tastes and foods are quite similar to Chinese food, but different at the same time.  I noticed with Vietnamese foods, it involves a lot of vegetables, dipping sauces, and wrapping of foods because the ingredients used are so fresh and can all be pretty much eaten raw!

this was such a treat for me, we were pretty much sitting on one the tables in the middle of the road and being served a cup of coffee while watching the city and motorcycles whizzed by. I really recommend all travellers to do this, but you do need a local around because there are no menus, you just sit on a stool and order away. My local friend was wonderful, while sipping the cup of coffee, we enjoyed some local treats she enjoyed on a regular basis.

this is a breakfast snack and I absolutely love it! It's a clear rice paste and inside are dried salty shrimps, it reminds me of Chinese Cheong fan (shrimp rice rolls), a dim sum dish, but I like the Vietnamese one, it looks so cool and it tastes very good

you would expect me to show a picture of pho (beef noodles), I had this at some outdoor eating shop, it was cool. In general, the pho I had outside of Vietnam are quite good, but I think it's because the soup base are all pretty much the same (MSG!!!), but I think the beef are better in Vietnam

Vietnamese drip coffee is famous, I had it everyday when I was in Vietnam. This is actually the civet coffee...you know the beans that went through the system of the civet cat?! Anyway, Vietnamese coffee tends to be stronger in general and we are not supposed to inhale and gulp the drink down like a lattee, rather you sip it and let it stay on your tongue, so it can take quite some time to finish the actual cup (though small) if done the right way

Here, we have the Vietnamese pancake, the one we ordered have mushroom and cheese inside. There is definitely French influence in Vietnamese food, but the Vietnamese love thier vegetables, so you actually use a fork to pull some of the pancake and put it on top of a piece of vegetable and then dip it in sauce before eating it, and it's very good

i cannot tell you how much snail I had when I was in HCM, this is snail cooked in sauce, but I love the minced up snail with stuffed meat the most, which I shared in my "hue cuisine" blog

on one of the evening, we went to a grill restaurant and had a lot of grilled food such as grilled fish and meat, and of course, you wrap all the grilled food in vegetables & dip in suace before eating ^0^

this looks cool huh? You will basically take some of the fish and put it on rice paper with veggies, wrap it and dip in sauce before eating....like I said over and over again, lots of wrapping going on with Vietnamese food, you got to work before you can enjoy ^0^

vietnam’s imperial court cuisines

“Hue Cuisine” is also known as “imperial court cuisine”, and it is of course regarded as the best and most delicious cuisine by Vietnamese.  Though the name implies it might only be eaten by kings and emperors, these traditional everyday Hue cuisine tells the life and story of Vietnamese people.  For me, it serves an important purpose– it provides delight and pleasure to the palettes, we were in food heaven.

this is definitely a very famous and delicious dish of steam cake with a bit of dried shrimps on top. Hue cuisine tends to have a lot of sauces to match the dishes, and I must say the taste of the sauces is another delight in itself. There was a group of 4 Japanese tourist sitting at the table next to us and all they ordered were a basket of these steam cake for each person. It really is THAT GOOD

mussels with grilled cake--you basically scoop the minced mussels onto the grilled cake and dip in sauce to eat

i don't remember what this is, it's some kinda of shrimp wrapped in rice wrap--lots of seafood in Vietnam

this is pork paste wrapped in banana leaf--I don't really like eating it plain like this, I prefer it in noodles or wrapped up with rice paper dunked in sauce

haha, grilled pork paste with Vietnamese rice noodles follow

i am not even going to share how many of these stuffed snail I had in Vietnam, this is definitely one of the top dishes I enjoyed most!

Vietnamese cuisines consist of a lot of food wrapped in rice paper, noodles, and variety of vegetables, this one is wrapped with grilled pork paste

this is a beef rice noodle wrap

this is a shrimp rice noodle wrap--at the end of the trip, I decide I can make a lot of rice noodle wrap at home for lunch too! The most interesting thing I have discovered is they use star fruit and pineapple as part of the wrap and I really like how it taste

 

 

Singapore bak Ku Teh

the famous bak ku teh shop--we estimated its sales revenues to be in the millions

I was quite excited to visit this little shop that has served over 1 million bowls of this herbal style pork bone soup since it opened in 1988.  I was especially excited to visit it because it made news in HK when it refused to serve the chief executive of HK, Donald Tsang because he went during its off hours.  The next time Donald Tsang was in Singapore, he made a mental note to visit this shop during its operational hours and finally tried the broth, haha.

I am not sure if I am not quite adapted to the Southeast Asian tastes yet or what, but I actually don’t think it’s anything special.  Aside from the pork knuckle dish that I really enjoyed, I was disappointed with the famous star dish, the bak ku teh.  I think it was too peppery and salty, I just keep dunking the fried dough into the soup and slurp it up.  My friend keeps saying it’s too peppery and he keeps drinking it till the last drop, lol.

highlighting this braised pork knuckle dish, the meat was tender and the sauce was very good

my bak ku teh lunch with an impatient companion

There really are a lot of tourists that visited the shop, while eating or lining up for a table, I see millions of cameras just flashing, I actually felt kind of weird over this experience.  I like the Malaysian style bak ku teh better, with the herbal soup flavor, yummy.

 

 

immigration officers~SMILE^^

The airports I travel often are Hong Kong, and Singapore and semi-Vancouver.  Canadians are known to be quite friendly and easy-going, but they have some of the grumpiest immigration officers!  This also leads to me to mention that Air Canada’s flight attendants provide are often very rude, condescending, and don’t understand what services mean, I have vowed to never fly with them.  However, that is another story altogether.  It bugs me to be asked “why are you here” when I showed you a Canadian passport, “why do you think I am here”?  It’s like automatic impulse to assume you’ve no right to be here or that they get a prize for asking dumb and irrelevant questions.  They look so grouchy too, it’s like they haven’t have their cup of coffee yet, or drink three before you sit down!

Hong Kong immigration officers are alright, nothing to praise or complain about.  Not overly stony faces, check your passport and wave you along, not too picky.  Once I entered the restricted area, the next part is to have carry-on luggage checked and I find the officers at this part of the process usually very friendly.  I remember bringing a bottle of face cream in my bag and the officer told me I need to throw it away because the bottle says 120ml, which exceeds 100ml.  I explained to him the bottle of cream has already been used and it obviously contains way less than 100ml.  I told him I don’t have ay more face cream and I need to bring it with me to Canada because the weather difference will make me all dry and itchy.  He was very nice about it and made an effort to find me a suitable bottle to pass the cream into.  Honestly, it’s impossible to pass face cream from one bottle to another because it’s not liquid.  There is also a female officer around, and she too was very nice.  She used a clear plastic bag to make it into one of those frosting bag and literally help me scoop cream into the bag to transfer into the bottle.  So I need to praise these officers on their friendliness and understanding, two thumbs up!

Nothing to complain about for Singapore immigration officers either.  All officers tend to not smile, but they don’t look displeased and grouchy.  When you are just about to enter into the restricted area, there is an immigration officer that would look at your passport before letting you in.  I noticed that this post is usually manned by younger officers and they are definitely more friendly and easy going.  While waiting for the officer to wave me in, I was just glancing off into the distance thinking and then the officer gave me back my passport.  I was about to walk off when he mumbled something.  Because I wasn’t paying attention, I leaned in and said “what is that you said” and he started waving saying “bye bye”.  So cute!  Nothing to make the day more pleasant than to be sent off in such a casual way.

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