mastercopycat

Virtual meanderings

Category Archives: eating

Nan Ning Eve Ning

Nanning, China

Nanning, China. Courtesy: Rex Pe @ Flickr

As agreed the previous day, in the evening Sammi (the Chinese girl I met on the bus from Hanoi) and a friend of hers living in Nanning met me at the hostel and we went to have a dinner together at a nearby restaurant they’d chosen (side note: crossing big streets in the absence of a traffic light in Nanning is about as intimidating as in Hanoi). The place was big (or was it really? The word ‘big’ in China tends to wear off quickly) but somehow cozy. It was a Saturday evening and there was hardly an empty table (expecting this, Sammi had called earlier to make a reservation).

We were taken to our table, seated and given a menu. Around us Chinese families and companies were already enjoying themselves. Traditional music from the restaurant’s sound system blended with the hundreds of conversations. Cozy the place was, but quiet it definitely was not.

About a third of the items in the menu were translated in awkward English (just restaurant managers trying to boost the place’s ‘coolness’, I presume, since it was Chinese people all around). Each of us selected some dishes that we’d then all share. Helped by my two giggling companions, I picked items from the menu with a hope-for-the-best-prepare-for-the-worst feeling. The tree of us together went for: a soup for each, rice, chicken, fish, pork, beef steak, some weird vegetables, beer and tea (I’ll fast forward and say that the whole dinner cost $20 total).

A copy of our order was left on the table and each time a new dish came, the waitress stamped a small sign next to the item to mark it as delivered. Read more of this post

My Vietnamese diet (in photos)

Food, food, food…

Hanoi Restaurant Entrance

Hanoi Restaurant Entrance

I made this shot near the Ethnographical museum in Hanoi. What is it that a foreigner would see here? Let’s count.
1) A goat, tied to a tree in front of the restaurant entrance
2) A logo of the restaurant, featuring a goat’s head
3) A text in Vietnamese (incomprehensible to me).

The seemingly inevitable conclusion: it was a restaurant where they served goat meat, and the poor animal was a fresh delivery destined to end up in the kitchen. Whether this assumption was correct or not, I leave it up to you to check (by typing the text in an online translation tool or sending the photo to a Vietnamese friend). As for me, I will get back to this photo later in this post.

What I ate in Vietnam is mostly a big mystery to me. Of course, if I’d been dead set on avoiding eating strange stuff, I did have a choice – eat a buffet in the hostel I was staying at.  Once you stepped out , the situation was more or less like this: Menu lists were non-existent.  If they were, they would be in Vietnamese and would have no photos of the food. If photos were present those would be too small and the foreigner could not grasp what was there. If there would be an English version of the menu, the translation would be quite vague. Etc. And the people – smiling and friendly, but speaking no English.

In a situation like this I decided it was preferable (and frankly, quite amusing) to just pick up whatever I reasoned might be good. And I were often wrong. Read more of this post

Utopia Awaits!

        We wound be winding the evening down at Utopia. “We”, as in “the people I wrote about in one of my earlier posts and I”. But what about Utopia?

        As many a folk knows, Utopia was the name of a fictional island invented by Thomas More in 1516, and is commonly considered to come from the Greek words “ou” (not) and “topos” (place), hence – “Utopia =  a place that does not exist”. Eventually it acquired its modern meaning of “a perfect place” (a fact, strongly implying that no one actually read the book).

        But – and that was new to me – a third meaning should also be considered, according to Wikipedia (or rather Thomas More himself).

In English, Utopia is pronounced exactly as Eutopia (the latter word, in Greek Εὐτοπία [Eutopiā], meaning “good place,” contains the prefix εὐ- [eu-], “good”, with which the οὐ of Utopia has come to be confused in English pronunciation).This is something that More himself addresses in an addendum to his book Wherfore not Utopie, but rather rightely my name is Eutopie, a place of felicitie. (Quote: Wikipedia)

        But what about bar Utopia? Would it live up to its name? It was already dark and we only had a rough idea where to look for the place. We asked a couple of people and we soon found a street sign “Utopia – this way – 100 meters.” “Great,” we thought, “almost there.” We followed the sign, and 100 meters down, instead of a bar, there was another sign pointing away from the main road into a little side street – “Utopia – 50 meters.” We followed it – and to our increased amusement we arrived at another sign. This sign made no distance claims – it simply pointed into another side street.

        It took three more signs and us going deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of inner streets before we found the coveted spot. It was at such a location, that no bar seeker would bother going for if the original street sign told the truth – “Utopia – 500 meters.”

        Utopia, “a place that one begins to doubt whether it actually exists”- check!

        So when we crossed under the entrance arc and got ourselves in a hallway, we were thinking “it’d rather be worth the walking.” And it actually was. Part-open air, part covered area. Dimly lit. A relaxing music not too loud. Hammer and sickle flags. Two American or Japanese heavy motorbikes. Sand volleyball playground. Lao vegetation that would just make every place look great. Bamboo couches overlooking the Nam Khan river underneath (it was dark so the river could not be seen, but we could still hear it).

In earnest

In earnest

        Read more of this post

Siem Reap Random Fragments

I decided to call this post on Siem Reap and Cambodia “Fragments”.

Gary Larson's Cartoon Far Side

Courtesy: the Far Side

***

            A quote attributed to U.S. musician Frank Zappa – “You can’t be a Real Country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer”.

Angkor Beer

Angkor Beer

Angkor Beer – check!

***

            In a similar vein. What do you need to have in order to be a Real Tourist place? A National Museum and an International Hospital for tourists, right? At the very least – Angkor National Museum at Siem Reap.

            Visited it on the last day of my stay and spent a good three hours there. Museum featured seven thematically organized exhibition halls devoted to different aspects of Khmer heritage and history. Hinduist (e.g. Angkor Wat) origins, short flirtation with Mahayana Buddhism (Ankhor Thom), fights with the neighboring empires, hall of the thousand Buddhas to remind of the  Theravada tradition…

           A suspicion: most artifacts ended in the museum after first being hacked off and stolen, then hidden and sold off –eventually ending back in the hands of the government. Might be wrong, though.

Heads…

 Siem Reap Angkor National Museum Artefact Daemon - Siem Reap Angkor National Museum Artefact

Angkor Thom Main Gate

Angkor Thom Main Gate Passageway

..and tails..

          In the last hall of the museum on a huge screen you can watch a video of the sun rising above Angkor. Every twenty minutes or so. By the way, the International Hospital is just a couple of hundred meters away.

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How we found a place to stay in Siem Reap

As I already mentioned in the previous post, we made our tuk-tuk driver take us to a hostel – called “Rosy” by insisting we’d booked a room there (which we had not). This was the only way we could block his attempts to take us to a hostel of his choice (which would then pay him a good commision).

Rosy” occupied an old house built in the times of the French colonizers. It looked quite nice (having been renovated). During the reign of the US-backed Khmer Rouge regime such houses had been neglected to crumble. But as the country and the city started opening up for tourism, colonial-time houses that still remained began being renovated and transformed into bars and hostels (little wonder – most of these houses are located in the central parts). “Rosy” was one such example.

Rosy guest house front

Rosy guest house front

We asked for a room and a nice and smiling Khmer girl took us upstairs to show us a double room with a bathroom and air-conditioning – it looked just perfect. The price was reasonable too – something like $15. “We take it.”

Khmer girl: “Oh, no, no. This room taken tonight – available tomorrow.”
Us (thinking) “Ok, so why did you show it to us anyway?”
Khmer girl: “Just for tonight I show you room on third floor – just a bit smaller than this. It cheaper. Then tomorrow you take this room”
Us: Very good. Can we see the other room? Read more of this post

Evening entertainment for Thai people.

I really wonder how often visitors to Thailand ask themselves how Thai people entertain themselves and where Thai people go for an evening out.

Lest we forget, is it only natural that they need a way to socialize and entertain themselves – or you thought they are only around to serve you or take your money? Because it is what some people believe, judging by their behavior. Restaurants and fast food chains such as McDonalds tend to cater to foreigners (as well as the globalized urban middle and uper-middle class). After all, the Thai tourist industry was built around catering for foreigners since its very conception. In case you do not know how tourism started in the Land of the Free – it was when American soldiers came to Thailand (a US ally) to relieve themselves from the Vietnam bombing raids and to screw the local women. Forgive me if I am being blunt, but this is how things are (the Buddhist deities have been busy at work ever since delivering justice to everyone involved). What has followed since is largely the logical evolution of the originating act.

So, where do the “common people go”?

McSpicy McDonalds

McDonalds - this is not where 'common' Thai people go

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A dinner at Papaya (sans the papaya salad)

Getting from my Chiang Mai hostel to my Koh Phi Phi bungalow had taken a full 24 hours, and had been full of excitement. Here’s the breakdown for you:

Red truck ‘taxi’ from hostel to Chiang Mai bus station – 80 baht
Overnight bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok – 660 baht
Taxi from bus station to BKK airport – 290 baht
Airplane from Bangkok to Phuket – 2800 baht
Taxi from Phuket airport to boat pier – 100 baht (after splitting the price in 4)
Passenger boat from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi – 500 baht
Water taxi to Long beach – 100 baht

Perhaps I should add  – being able to get some rest after all that – priceless.

It felt like participating in some episode of “By any means”.

By Any Means with Charley Boorman

By Any Means with Charley Boorman

In case you do not know the show, actor Charley Boorman is trying to get from Ireland to Australia – by any means of transportation. In the bottom of the screen there was a ‘types of vehicles used’ count, and it ended up well above hundred. Boats, cars, trucks, carts, bikes, scooters, animal riding, tuk-tuks, as well as some unique local designs that are beyound describing.

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