Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday, April 23 (8:36PM)

I've been procrastinating, I don't really know how to end this blog. I'm back in Boston, avoiding the unpacking process and trying to get things sorted out for summer. I went to pick up my guinea pig yesterday, he's on the floor eating carrots. Things are as they should be.

The trip was awesome, I got to see things I'd never seen and eat things that I may not eat again. All the places I went had good and bad points, which all evened out, and the overall experience was one that I will never forget and will be talking about for a long time to come.

Even though the places I traveled were wonderful there was an unexpected outcome of my trip that is probably the most valuable. Being able to spend time with my Mother as an adult for the first time. We were able to share experiences that I'm sure very few parents and children get to share together. And it was nice to be able to get to know her as a person that's separate from my parent for the first time in our relationship.

So although I just completed what many people have told me was the trip of a lifetime in many ways it's just the beginning of a lot of things for me. I'm really grateful for the time I got to spend not only with my Mum, but also in so many different cultures in a bunch of countries. These things have given me some extra insight on myself, and the goals I have. And all this extra information I've gathered should do nothing but help me in the future.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tuesday, April 22 (9:32AM)

More photos from the trip.

Mum haggling at the market (Bali)

Turkey/Duck birds at the market (Bali)

Me in the giant infinity pool (Bali)

The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, where the Singapore Sling was invented (Singapore)

Dumpling from a Hawker Center (Singapore)

Tuesday, April 22 (9:02AM)

Here are some cool photos that I'm pretty sure I haven't posted yet.

Floating fish farm on Halong Bay (Vietnam).

Night Market Stall (Laos).

Monks (Laos).

Mekong River (Laos).

10,000 Buddhas (Laos).

Angkor Wat (Cambodia).

Tsukiji Market (Tokyo).

Fisherman on truck at Tsukiji Market (Tokyo).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Saturday, April 19 (2:05AM)

In Toronto, drinking wine and eating pizza with old friends. Really nice to be back.

Monday back in Boston.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Friday, April 18 (3:15PM)

At the Narita Airport again, about to get on my last plane in Asia. Its been an amazing trip.

Mum is being nice enough to wait in the huge line at the Air Canada desk to check the rest of our luggage, which is why I have time to post briefly.

We went and had breakfast at the Tsukiji Market this morning, at the place both me and Mum think is awesome. The sushi place we went to twice our last time in Tokyo that's covered in hula dolls and generally all things Hawaii, and always has reggae playing. Not Garnet Silk this time, something a tad more generic. Had a fresh bowl of tuna covered rice, with some beautiful sea urchin. Delicious. We then went and got a box of Tamago (rolled egg) and some eel to have for dinner on the plane. The weather was miserable, pouring rain. I am going to be slightly damp for my 12 hour flight. Definitely worth the quick trip in for one last peek though.

I'll be arriving in Toronto at around 4 in the afternoon on the same day that I departed Tokyo at 5pm. Which means today is a very long day. This trip was a good length of time, I'm excited to go home and still feeling good about everything that I've done with my time here.

I feel about as deep as a saucer right now. Maybe I'll be more insightful from Toronto, no guarantees though.

Thursday, April 17 (5:32PM)

Leaving Jakarta, the hotel was nice enough to give us late check out so we could once again repack all our stuff so that we can take it with us. Damn weight restrictions.

Hopefully I'll have the internet at Narita airport tomorrow, we're going to go in for one last meal at the Tsukiji market during our lay-over. Then back into North America to deal with jet-lag again.

It's been a really awesome trip. I'm too in the middle of traveling to give it proper consideration at this point, but I'll have lots of time to think about it on the plane.

Going back through some pictures I really noticed this one, it's from a Temple in Cambodia.

I'm going to have to go through my images more thoroughly and do a pictures that should have been posted post. Or something.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday, April 16 (5:40PM)

I flew on Garuda Indonesia yesterday. Which along with other Indonesian Airlines are banned from flying in Europe and are not approved by any major international air safety groups.

It was an uneventful flight, but I managed to get myself really worked up before we took off. It's funny how little bits of information can seep into your head and totally change your perception of a situation. Needless to say I spent the flight freaking out.

Although it was freaky moment on my trip, it was also a good experience looking back on how I reacted to the situation. It may be a good idea for me to learn to relax a bit more when it comes to situations that are out of my control.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wednesday, April 16 (11:03AM)

Just a few more images from Bali.

Me in front of a rice paddy.

From inside the infinity pool in Ubud.

Monkey with peanut.

Me and Mum wearing mandatory sarongs in front of a sacred tree.

Wednesday, April 16 (9:34AM)

I'm alone in Jakarta today, Mum is off doing business somewhere North of here. It's nice to be totally alone for the first time in a long while, although other than being relieved at the quiet I'm already trying to figure out what to do. Other then room service which actually sounds pretty good.

I'm also thinking about my trip. Tomorrow I'll start the trip back home. Red-eye from here to Tokyo, and then after a 7 hour lay over in Tokyo we're off to Toronto. Back in Boston on Monday. So tonight is my last night in a bed for two nights.

A day in bed might not be such a bad idea.

Tuesday, April 15 (10:06PM)

It turned out that the dinner was more a Mexican themed dinner rather than a Mexican restaurant. I had the chicken enchilada's, which were good if not actually enchilada's.

They were more of a burritos/taco thing. Made with the local chili's not anything South American that I could identify at least. Although I wouldn't bet the farm on the name of the chili. Other than the tortilla there really wasn't anything that South American about the dish outside of the name. Which was actually kinda fun. It was nice to see a different take on a dish that has really been wrung out in most of it's incarnations.

Looking forward to getting back to Boston.

Tuesday, April 15 (7:20PM)

We're in Jakarta, and the hotel we're staying in gave us a free dinner with our stay. It's at the Mexican Restaurant in the lobby, so I'm actually kinda excited. It should be interesting at the least, and possibly really good.

I've been really craving some more Western food lately, it's probably a good thing we're coming home soon, or I may be tempted by the KFC that are everywhere in the big Asian cities I've been in.

The day was eaten up by travel and Mum doing business, so there's not that much to say. I'll post about my Indonesian Mexican experience after dinner.

But here's some more images of Bali.

Salt making on the beach.

Rice paddies.

Pigs at the local market.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday, April 14 (6:07PM)

It's my last night in Bali, tomorrow we're off to Jakarta. We were very busy yesterday, seeing temples and bat caves and salt making (even though it's not salt making season) very full day.

The internet here is being spotty, so images are going to take forever. But I'll upload the ones that I think are the coolest. Hopefully the internet in Jakarta will be a bit faster and I can do a more thorough posting about Bali.

Black sand beaches.

Bats in the crazy bat cave temple (those dark spots on the rocks are all bats, it was pretty amazing)

More tomorrow I promise.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday, April 12 (3:08PM)

I got groomed by a monkey.

If regular monkeys are kinda neat, then sacred monkeys are awesome. We stopped at the Sacred Monkey Temple on our way from Ubud to Manggis, and it was an amazing experience. The monkeys were very welcoming, except for the one that tried to steal my glasses.



Monkey's having an intimate moment.

Me being groomed by a monkey.

Monkey trying to get in my shirt.

And for a brief moment I felt like Master of the Monkey's.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Saturday, April 12 (9:42AM)

Today we are moving to a place closer to the ocean. I'm excited to see the beaches here.

Went into the town of Ubud yesterday, it's the biggest town closest to where we're staying. It reminded me a little of Luang Prabng, there were temples and shrines everywhere. There was also a real hustle to the town, people flying by on motorcycle's, giant chicken coops on wheels squaking through the streets, tour buses everywhere. Very different to that I was expecting for some reason. I've always associated Bali with a tranquil oasis not a bustling center.

Shrine in Ubud.

Gate to temple in Ubud.

Balinese cuisine is good. There are a lot of meat dishes paired with lightly pickled vegetables and stir fired tofu and vegetable dishes with sweet soy sauces. There is also a lot of banana leaf used to wrap and steam food, the most interesting use I've seen was in place of a dumpling wrapper. You unwrap the banana leaf and what you're left with is just a steamed dumpling filling. Very good.

The market in Ubud is massive, two floors of things to buy. There is a lot fo silver here and also a lot of carving both of wood and local stone. Some of them are huge, bigger than me. There is also a lot of really incredible weaving, both textiles and traditional baskets.

Local baskets at the market.

Also a lot of spices. Although what they were selling as saffron was definitely not saffron.

The vanilla was real though.

I think it will definitely be time to go home soon. It's been a great trip but as good as the food is here I am starting to really want a grilled cheese.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday, April 10 (9:22PM)

I am so relaxed. I've just finished a bottle of champagne with Mum and we're now in our room having a night cap. It's nice to be in one place for a little while. We'll be in Bali for six nights.

We spent the day close to where we are staying, just trying to get a feel for the place. Tomorrow we're going into town, and the next day we are moving to a place closer to the water. We're in the center of the island right now.

I'm excited to see more of Bali tomorrow, but here are some pictures of what I'm living in right now.

Bush in Bali.

Trees in Bali.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wednesday, April 9 (11:41PM)

Just arrived in Bali, it's nice to be out of Singapore.

Singapore was a nice place to visit, but the more time I spent there the more I felt like there were reasons to keep my mouth shut and look over my shoulder. The culture has so many laws, many of which when they're broken lead to capital punishment or caning. And it's not like you have to kill someone to end up on the gallows (which is the method of choice). They use the death sentence primarily for drug traffickers, anything over 20grams is a capital crime. Coming from Canada where the legalization of pot seems to lurk on the horizon this was a little shocking to me.

They also just banned poppy seeds for the small levels of opiates that they contain.

It just seems like a culture that has to be so regulated to function may have some more serious underlying issues than grass. But who knows, I was only there a couple days.

I don't have internet access in my hotel room here, so I'm sitting outside of a closed bar getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Tomorrow the manager has promised to move us to a room with the internet. Keeping fingers crossed on that one.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tuesday, April 8 (10:44PM)

Happy Birthday Gerlinde!

My day in Singapore started with me, being very ill in the early hours of the morning. This was probably a result of something I ate in the last 48 hours. Which means I didn't really get out on the town until 11am.

We went around the city until we decided to go and see some of the hawker centers just outside of the downtown core. They were really wonderful, an great example of what food can be, and why fast food in North America is not all it could be, to put it politely.

One of the stalls at the hawkers centers.

Stall at a different location downtown.

After seeing some hawker centers, and food stalls around town Mum and I took a duck tour, my first time on those amphibious car things, which was fun. But at that point my insides were starting to give out again and we headed back to the hotel. I still got to see some of the neat parts about Singapore that I wouldn't have without the tour.

This is the lion/fish, which is the emblem of Singapore. Very neat to see from the water, on a duckboat.

Once I was rested Mum and I went to Raffles Hotel, which is a beautiful old hotel in the center of Singapore. This is where the cocktail the Singapore Sling was invented, I sampled one while I was there. It was good enough, a tad sweet for my tastes though.

Dinner was at an Italian restaurant called Michelangelo's, the International Gourmet Summit is being held here this month and the chef at did a six course sake pairing with Italian food. Mum had the sake pairing menu, but due to things beyond my control I ate decided it was better for everyone if I stuck to something a little simpler. I had a very good antipasto, with smoked snowfish that was unbelievable.

Right now I am back at the hotel, feeling sick in the tummy again. Tomorrow we're leaving for Bali for a week. But we've still got most of the day here in Singapore, so I should have more to say tomorrow.

I really hope I kick this bug soon, it's really putting a kink in my armor.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Monday, April 7 (11:01PM)

Dinner at the hotel (New Majestic Hotel) was amazing. I started with oxtail and tongue with a green salad, then had fried sea bass with champagne sauce and then braised abalone with house made bean curd. This abalone made me realize why people eat abalone, it was tender and had a lovely subtle flavour. None of the rubbery popping of my last abalone experience in Japan.

Every bite was delicious, and the plating (although it may have been a tad precious) was very pretty.

I didn't take pictures, but in a perfect world I'll have more to say about this tomorrow.

I feel bad posting without a picture so here's some pictures from Laos.

I loved these birds, they were all over the rural villages but we didn't see them in Luang Prabang. They're like a turkey/duck hybrid.

This is from a whiskey village in Laos. These are the medicinal bottles of whiskey, the ones with the snakes are specifically for womens health. Not sure what the scorpion whiskey is for.

Monday, April 7 (8:04PM)

We arrived safely in Singapore. The Airport here is absolutely amazing, we arrived at the airport, the doors to the plane opened adn 15 minutes later we were in a taxi. We cleared customs and got three checked bags in that time as well. Truly an amazing airport.

Singapore is very different than the last three countries I've been in. It's impressively modern and amazingly clean. Coming from Hanoi these two facts made the arrival slightly jarring. Singapore is also very manicures, all the trees and gardens are clipped and groomed, It really is a remarkably attractive city.

We arrived at cocktail hour so we're going to the hotel restaurant, which recieved some awards when it opened last year.

More tomorrow, my camera died when I was trying to take pictures out the hotel window. I'll get lots tomorrow.

But here's a good one from Vietnam.

For some reason all the garbage cans in the caves at Halong Bay were penguins. Which I thought sent a weird message about penguins to be honest, but what do I know about Vietnamese penguins.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday, April 6 (9:50PM)

Today was our last day in Vietnam. We spent it at Halong Bay, which was beautiful despite the crap weather. It was cloudy and dull all day.

We were on a boat that's called a junk. It's this big flat bottomed boat that doesn't move very fast. Lunch on the boat was great, made by the family who operates the boat. Spring rolls, fried whole fish, fried tofu, steamed rice, a weird very glutinous soup. Pretty tasty.

There were a bunch of James Bond movies filmed in Halong Bay, which I thought was really cool. I love James Bond, but I've had some trouble getting into the newer ones, I think Roger Moore was the best, followed shortly by Sean Connery. I had a hard time connecting the actual bay with the movies, let me know if anyone can recognize which ones were filmed here.

Bay with Junk.

Neat looking rock sticking out of the bay.

I've now had the traditional noodle soup pho in both Saigon/Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, and I prefer Saigon's pho hands down. The meat in all the soups I've had in Hanoi has been really chewy and cooked to hell. Granted I did not have enough time to truly search out the best pho in the city, but from my new experience with this soup Saigon/Ho Chi Minh trumps Hanoi.

But even imperfect PHO is still the best breakfast ever.

If I'm going to get into the various noodle soups I've had since I've gotten here, and I've averaged at 1 a day since we've arrived, Cambodia and Laos had better noodle soups than Vietnam and Japan. The noodle soup I had in Cambodia had wonderful spiced pork meat balls and a poached egg floating in the broth. Once you broke the yolk and it mixed with the hot broth it became this wonderful rich lovely soup. Laos was more familiar to me, a bowl of noodle soup with some meats, and then a plate of accompaniments (in my experience usually bean sprouts, chili's, sweet basil and lime) but in Laos it was green beans, mint, watercress and lettuce. The lettuce threw me a little but turned out to be delicious and the hot broth cooked the beans perfectly. I didn't get an image of the Cambodian soup but I managed to remember to take some in Laos.



I'm looking forward to eating at the Hawker Center's when I get to Singapore. That and the Chili Crab. If anyone has any advice on how or what to order while I'm there I'd be much obliged.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Saturday, April 5 (3:15PM)

Hanoi is a very busy bustling city. Mum and I spent most of the day at a tailor's down the street getting some clothes made. The malaria medication that we're both on is starting to make Mum really sick so we're back at the hotel after getting measured for some new clothes. It's raining out anyway.

The silks and linen here are really beautiful. Anyone looking to take a long trip for a new wardrobe should think about Hanoi as a possibility.

We're spending tomorrow on Halong Bay, where they shot some James Bond movies so there should be lots of good pictures then. But here's some from this afternoon.

Street Corner, in the Old Quarter.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Saturday, April 5 (9:26AM)

Feeling much better this morning, having breakfast at the hotel. I seem to be stuck on noodle soup for breakfast. It's been on every breakfast menu since I've arrived in Asia. It's really the prefect meal for first thing in the morning.

I want to go back to Laos for a minute before officially moving on the Hanoi. Laos was probably my favorite country we've been in to date, which is saying a lot because I've really been enjoying myself all through this trip.

There was a huge emphasis on food in Luang Prabang, our only stop in Laos. There were ladies making sandwiches to order lining the main street and the evening food market went on every night.

This is the street we stayed on, it's hard to see but all the vendors that are facing the street were selling food. Fruit drinks, coffee's, sandwiches, beer it was really great.

This is the beginning of the night market, it went on for about a block down an alley between the hotel we stayed in and another government building.

This is a grill, with a man cooking fish. They strap the fish between two pieces of bamboo and use the stick to turn the fish. As far as I could tell they didn't gut the fish either. But I'm not totally sure about that.

Jelly donuts are a big deal here. Lots of sweets in general but I thought these were pretty funny amongst all the unfamiliar dishes.

Luang Prabang itself is a world heritage site. The town has so many temples that UNESCO decided to declare the whole thing a protected area. Which means that there will never be any major hotel chains, just local businesses. But it's still a relatively new area to tourism so there are still some kinks that are getting worked out, which are really more charming than a nuisance.

The food is excellent, the sticky rice that is served along with more traditional meals is amazing, sticking to itself and not to your fingers or the bowl. Tasting more like a pasta then any other grain I've had before. The meat dishes seem like they are mostly made with ground meats, which never seem greasy and are all very spicy without either burning your mouth or making you reach immediately for your water glass. Their local mint is also used in most dishes and cuts the hotness of the food in a very complimentary way. Laos also has some excellent spring rolls, they are tiny and filled with various vegetables and glass noodles, a normal number to a serving is six and they are always served cut into even smaller pieces. They are however very, very greasy. Which I enjoyed, but Mum had some issues with. Their fresh rolls seem to always be vegetarian and have a large amount of local herbs in them making them really refreshing. And it's important to feel refreshed because it's extremely hot and humid in Laos, and the sun going down doesn't seem to help matters. It seems like the heat seeps up from the ground. Really, really hot.

Laos was great but we're now in Hanoi. Where the exhaust fumes seem just as oppressive as the heat was in Laos. I'll post later about Hanoi, so far breakfast has been good.