January 16, 2006


Currently about midnight, Sunday night the 15th of January in Los Angeles, California, USA.

All things considered, fairly smooth flights home. Amy was nice enough to pick me up at the airport. I'm gonna try to force myself to sleep now to get back on the right time.

Thanks for all the kind words. Stay tuned for more entries filling in the blanks and some postscript thoughts about my trip.

[To get back to the beginning, here's a link to the start of the walkabout.]

January 15, 2006

The long road home...

Currently about 2:30am in an Internet cafe in the International terminal in Mumbai.

Mumbai has an interesting airport setup. Actually, that's too kind. It sucks. The domestic flights are at a location about 5 miles from the international flights. It's not a big deal if you're staying in Mumbai, but if you're making an international connection, you have to either take a coach, which is fairly efficient but can take a while, or take a cab, where I'm guessing they regularly screw people over. Especially late at night, or if they think someone is in a rush, the driver will probably refuse to use the meter, and overcharge whatever they can get away with. On top of that, the fact that the terminals are so far away from each other also means that they won't check luggage through to the final destination, so you have to go to baggage claim and schlep all your stuff to the other terminal. That is, unless you know somebody, and I don't. In the end, I took the coach, which is about 30 minutes.

There's about a 45 minute line just to get into this terminal because the baggage screening is a bottleneck. After that, I waited another 45 minutes getting to the baggage counter, but they said I'm too early, and they can't take my luggage yet. So I'm killing a few hours at this cafe, at 60 rupees an hour, or about US $1.33/hour.

Around 4am, I'll try to check in my luggage so that I can go relax at the gate before my 8am flight. I guess I could have stayed the night in Mumbai, but I didn't really enjoy it here, so killing 5 or 6 hours in the airport was more appealing than trying to find a reasonable hotel to park in for half a day or something. For some reason, hotels are disproportionately more expensive (in my opinion) in India, and to find something reasonably clean probably starts at about US $50/night, and something comfortable goes up from there.

Hopefully, it's a quick and smooth stop in Frankfurt and I'll be home for dinner!

January 12, 2006

Thirteen and a half hours ahead of LA


Shortly after arrival in Bangalore, I was taken to Nandhini. Immediate happiness ensued. This is the meal ordered by one of my hosts, Pooja. Rice is the core item, and they set you up with various condiments, as well as coming around with ghee and other garnishes to mix into the rice. [and it's all-ru-you-can-eat-u]

By the way, the title of this entry is in reference to Indian Standard Time being 5.5 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Kevo also points out that there are other time zones on the half hour or even on a quarter hour adjustment from G.M.T.

Continue reading "Thirteen and a half hours ahead of LA" »

Last stop: Bangalore

Currently about 12:30pm on Thursday in Southern India.

After a little rushing around at the Goa airport with just minutes to spare, I had a great flight on Kingfisher Air (yes, the brewing company owns an airline as well). I'm now fortunate enough to be enjoying the kind hospitality of my friends' family in Bangalore. I'm here until Saturday, then I fly back home.

I also posted a few more pictures from Goa.

January 10, 2006

Goan crazy


Yeah, I'm in India.

This is on the stretch of beach between Calangute and Baga. Although this is Goa, where there are significant numbers of Christians (and hence, beef eaters), cows still enjoy a certain amount of deference. I saw another cow that was rumaging through some sunbeds where tourists are were laying out was simply shooed away.

Continue reading "Goan crazy" »

January 08, 2006

Sunny Sunday

Currently about 7:15pm on Sunday the 8th from Candolim, North Goa, India.

I spent the day walking through a market, shops, and a few miles up the beach (from Calangute to Baga). It's pretty hot in the sun - I drank 2 liters of water and haven't needed to make a pitstop. It's the high tourist season around here, but at least I spent today where tourists from India are hanging out.

I just put up a few pics in Goa snippets and Scratching the surface of Mumbai. Or just scroll down on the main page.

January 06, 2006

Goa on the Arabian Sea

Currently about 9:15pm, Friday the 6th in South India.

After a quick 1 hour flight from (where Jet Airways managed to even serve a respectable Indian meal - under the circumstances), I got myself on a bus going to the North Goa area, which is where my friends are all staying. There was no room at the inn, so I had to trek around the area with all my belongings, looking for a place to stay. It's the busy season now because the weather is nice, and the Western holidays means that many people come back from the US, so it has become the time many people choose to have weddings. The fifth hotel had a room.

Goa was under control and influence of the Portuguese for a long time, even well into the 20th century. As a result, there are some specialties showing both influences. I hope to taste several of these. And it's on the Arabian sea, and I'd like to get in and relax for a bit.

Goa snippets


This is the non-vegetarian in-flight meal from Jet Airways from Mumbai to Goa. It's chicken curry, rice, and a pea dish, as well as raita and a chapati. I'm sure Indians everywhere will scoff at this, but I have to say I thought it was a respectable snack. And actually most people cleaned their tiny tray. All this for a 1 hour flight, no less. We barely had time to get to altitude, be served, and eat it. Literally, the attendants were coming back down the aisle with the clearing cart as the plane had begun its descent, more or less drumming their fingers, waiting for people to finish in more or less the same order they got their food. In particular, I love two things about this meal, 1) although I am an avowed carnivore, I think it's cool that vegetarianism is entrenched enough in India to make the terminology veg and non-veg, whereas in the West we would normally say meat-less or meat-free or vegetarian (like it's a bad word), and 2) just like there might be tiny ketchup or mustard, there's a tiny disposable container of lime and mango pickle.


This is a dinner from a tiny family joint called Taste of Goa. I chose this place on a hunch, it was empty except for one South African family. And it definitely was cooked to order, because I waited about 45 minutes for it and almost nodded off in my Kingfisher beer. On the left is a fried pomfret (pompano), and on the right is pork vindaloo. It wasn't very spicy (I forgot to ask for it local style), but had a nice balance. Note the very authentic oil slick.

January 04, 2006

Scratching the surface of Mumbai

Or barely that, even. But here are a few things I tried. I didn't get much info about this leg of the trip beforehand, so I arrived in Mumbai without a hotel reservation. I used one of those places in the airport to pick a hotel in the general area of where my friends were, then I figured I'd move if necessary. It was and I did. They were so rude to me from start to finish. When I checked in, they wanted me to book for several days in advance. They overcharged me for water. The room itself was a shambles, and there was no hot water. Then when I checked out, the clerk kept giving me dirty looks and making clicking sounds with his tongue. Then as I was pulling away, he had the bellmen stop the autoshaw (tuk tuk), saying that I didn't return the key when I already had. The only thing good I got out of it was this recommendation for Sunraz restaurant. This is mutton kadai (spicy tomato gravy with green peppers), prawn pulao and a roti.


Continue reading "Scratching the surface of Mumbai" »

January 03, 2006

En route to Mumbai

I'm en route to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India. Had a layover in Bangkok, ran over for a nice massage and Internet usage at a hotel which is connected to the airport via overpass, and am now headed back to the airport terminal.

Life is good.

January 02, 2006

More Hanoi Eats


This is one of my favorite dishes that I've had in Vietnam. As a qualifier, you should probably consider that I'm not really a soup guy. I've been confronted by that almost daily since soup and soup noodles are a big part of Vietnamese food, and I've had soup or soup noodles once or twice a day everyday since I've been here. But the fact is, at home I rarely find myself craving soup. And when it gets right down to it, if you force me to choose, I prefer rice to noodles. But dammit, this is full of good stuff. It's called my van thanh - the word my in this case signifies angel hair thin wheat noodles. [It's a Vietnamese type of wonton soup] There's some thinly sliced pork, and a crisp, pork-and-mushroom filled wonton that drinks up some of the pork broth and lends a bit of rich, golden brown flavor. [I forgot that it also has 3 boiled wontons and a slice of poached liver, as well] Most people doctor it up with a shot of chili sauce and/or chilies in vinegar, or some sea salt or spice (MSG). If it's offered, you might also give a squeeze of lime or calamansi. This bowl is VND 10,000, or about US $0.63.

Predictably, a triple hit of pork will make me like a lot of things. [Actually, I guess it's a quintuple hit]

Continue reading "More Hanoi Eats" »

January 01, 2006

Happy New Year from Hanoi!


Currently about 3pm, January 1st, in Vietnam.

This is a lotus flower from the pond at the Temple of Literature. It doesn't have much to do with the New Year, except that it's Asian-ey, and I'm in Asia. New Year's Eve was low key - I went out to dinner at Cha Ca La Vong, a restaurant famous for one dish - fish marinated in turmeric and cooked at the table. I walked around for a bit, and aside from people burning ghost money and so on, it didn't seem very different from any other night around here. I think they save up all the festivities for Tet, which is the lunar new year, or it's also called the Spring Festival.

Wherever you are, I wish you a happy, auspicious and productive 2006!

December 30, 2005

Temple of Literature

I tried to do the right thing and go to a restaurant called KOTO that helps street kids learn how to work in restaurants. But they were closed. I ran into some folks that I had met on the boat in Halong Bay, who had also looked for the restaurant. They mentioned that the Temple is just across the street, which I had read in the guidebook, but of course, I was focused on getting to the restaurant. Most people go to the Temple of Literature, and happen upon the restaurant, but I'm backwards. There's no food in this entry.

The temple functioned as a university, serving as a collection of knowledge engraved into large tablets. I think it was founded in 1078 AD.


Continue reading "Temple of Literature" »

Back in Hanoi

Currently about noon on Friday, December 30th in Vietnam.

I'm back in Hanoi after the trip to Halong Bay. It was grey and misty, but it didn't rain. It's very foreboding in person, but I think most of the pictures will probably just look like rocks. By the way, if the tour agency tells you that the weather is clear and sunny when it's grey in Hanoi, and that they serve abundant gourmet seafood on the boat, be skeptical. It's called salesmanship.

I'm here for a few more days before leaving for India.

December 29, 2005

Halong Bay teaser


Above, a modern junk sailing on Halong Bay. The boat I was on was more like a houseboat. There was a really nice bunch of travellers on the boat, representing Germany, Australia, Thailand, Israel, and Oregon in the US.

Continue reading "Halong Bay teaser" »

December 27, 2005

Back in a couple

Currently about 9:30pm on Tuesday the 27th in Hanoi.

I spent this morning getting my airline ticket to India and getting some prescription glasses made. Apparently, Americans really get tooled on glasses - I got 4 pairs of glasses (frames and lenses) for US$188.00!

Tomorrow, I'm taking a 2 day side trip to Halong Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin. If you've ever seen those granite towers that shoot up out of the ocean with one tree at the top, or the island of Dr. No in the James Bond movie (although that's actually in Thailand), that's the kind of scenery I should be seeing. The weather is gray and gloomy, but supposedly it won't rain. It's been pretty wet and cold around Hanoi, so at least the scenery should be better.

If you've missed them, I've recently posted On the Train to Hanoi, and Christmas Eve Day around Hue, and "Dude, no way." "Dude, Hue!".

Stumbling across Hanoi eats


I'm a banh mi slut. I found a vendor near my hotel that fries up the fillings and puts it all into bread that she keeps in a warmer. I'm in love. Above, two big chunks of pate fried up with a fresh egg, some spice (MSG) and Hanoi style chili sauce in the aforementioned warm bread. Lovely.


I believe this is called bun moc, containing the fresh rice noodles, cilantro, green onions, tiny shiitake mushrooms, some bamboo shoots, mild pork broth and ground pork and mushrooms seasoned up and formed into meatballs. And a shot of Vietnamese black pepper.

Warning, many pictures to follow, culled over several days.

Continue reading "Stumbling across Hanoi eats" »

December 25, 2005

On the Train to Hanoi


Just before leaving Hue, I found a busy restaurant called Quan Ba Hoa also selling bun hen and chao hen, which is rice soup with the local clams. I actually had a bowl of each, but above is their version of bun hen. Again, some julienned banana blossom, some greens and herbs, the rice noodles, the yellow bits are crisp rice threads, the clams, a few peanuts, green onions, cilantro and a few pork rinds. Broth on the side.

Continue reading "On the Train to Hanoi" »

Merry Christmas from Hue


Currently about 8am on Sunday, Christmas Day, in Central Vietnam.

I bought some lights to put up in my hotel room for some quick holiday cheer. I'm sorta there in the background, but I think this is the most interesting picture I took while playing with the lights.

I wish you all a Safe and Happy Holiday Season. For the last several years, I've shared Nochebuena with the Robleses, the Laus, the Lau-Robleses and the extended family, and sometimes Christmas day with the Stuyvesants or the Feldsteins. And of course I have happy memories of the holidays with my own family in Hawai`i. I'm thinking of all of you, and I send my love and best wishes.

It worked out better for my schedule to take a train to Hanoi today. I have a soft berth in the newest train, so it should be fairly comfortable. I'm looking forward to new food and a side trip to Halong Bay.

December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve Day around Hue


Above, a local market a block over from my hotel. Believe me when I say, I was the only non-Vietnamese in the whole market. I got some stares like I had a third eye or something. The market itself carried the staples - nothing very unusual, but a lot of activity.

Continue reading "Christmas Eve Day around Hue" »

December 23, 2005

"Dude, no way." "Dude, Hue!"*


Above, a riverboat on the Perfume River in Hue.

*I must admit, Missy thought of this title. If you don't get it, think of Wayne and Garth or maybe two surfers having a conversation.

Continue reading ""Dude, no way." "Dude, Hue!"*" »

In a place far, far a-Hue...

Currently, about 7am, Friday the 23rd in Hue.

I had a relatively short and uneventful bus trip from Hoi An to Hue, making a brief stop in Da Nang to pickup a group of touring Aussies. We took the new tunnel through the pass, which was impressive for its length (6km?), but not much else.

I'll be exploring the local market and food stands this morning, then I'll probably get a massage and do some sightseeing in the Citadel area in the afternoon.

December 22, 2005

More from Hoi An


Miss Ly Cafeteria 22 serves a set meal which includes all the local specialties. Although it was in the guidebook, and there were only non-Vietnamese customers, I got a good vibe and decided to try it. It was quite respectable, I thought, especially considering the comfortable digs. Clockwise from the top are fried spring rolls, white roses (shrimp in fresh rice paper with a light rice vinegar dressing and crisp shallots), and Hoi An style wontons. The sauce for this is tomatoes, black pepper, onions, garlic, soy sauce, and a starch-thickened beef stock. It reminded me of a Chinese entree in Hawai`i called Beef Tomato which is all of those things plus velveted beef. Also in the set was grilled lemongrass pork with peanuts, and a bowl of cau lau, the soup with the wonton croutons.

Continue reading "More from Hoi An" »

December 21, 2005

Snacking in Hoi An


Above, starting the day with a ca phe sua (hot coffee with sweetened, condensed milk) on the riverfront.

In the Central Market in Hoi An, the banh xeo seem to take a smaller form, about 6" in diameter. They still have a bit of belly pork, a few shrimp, and bean sprouts. And again, there are competing vendors right next to eat other, so as I walked through, they're both trying to get me to sit down. Here's the first woman's setup.


Continue reading "Snacking in Hoi An" »

Hoi An, living picture postcard

Currently about 11am, Wednesday, December 21st in central Vietnam.

I picked the wrong time of year to be here, but Hoi An is a quaint little town just south of Da Nang and Hue. They do a nice job of trying to preserve the historic parts of town, which is a mix of French, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese styles. Unfortunately, it's now the rainy season for this area, and there's been some flooding and road washouts.

The overnight bus trip from Nha Trang ended up taking about 13 hours, although the driver was being overly cautious, rarely exceeding 35 MPH. There were points where it seemed like every other bus was passing us. Because it was so painful, I'm going to switch to the train for the Hue to Hanoi leg, which would have probably taken 16 hours by bus. The train won't be much faster, but I think more comfortable and easier to deal with overall.

I don't get BlackBerry service here, so it's back to checking email at an Interet shop. Internet access is readily available, but horribly slow here, so I'll just post this pic of the local specialty noodle dish - cau lau. Supposedly, by definition the noodles can only be made with water from the ancient Ba Le well, which I also visited. I don't know if this is the namesake of the Ba Le chain of VIetnamese restaurants in the US. This bowl has noodles, bean sprouts, sliced soy braised pork, some lettuce and herbs, and wonton croutons. They're not served in soup exactly, but they do have some soy-based sauce diluted by pork broth.


I'm taking a cooking class this afternoon, which is geared toward the local specialties, but what caught my interest is actually making rice paper and banh xeo, the crispy rice pancakes. The banh xeo I've seen at the market are smaller, like 6" in diameter, but they're rolled in fresh rice paper so they can be eaten something like a taquito, dipped in hoisin/peanut sauce rather than guacamole.

December 19, 2005

Pushing on to Hoi An

Currently about 4:30pm, Monday, December 19th in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

There's been some flooding in central Vietnam, in the region that I need to pass through to get to the north. The bus company cancelled the bus for last night, but supposedly it's going ahead for tonight, so I have a seat reserved on it. The weather was pretty crappy today, and for this particular region, it's the crappy time of year. It usually is a scuba and diving town, but during the winter, the rains wash dirt into the rivers and turn the whole bay muddy.

I took a few hours trudging around in the rain, eating in some local places and I got a great massage in the afternoon. I also posted pictures in transit to Siem Reap, and last night I added more pictures of food around Saigon.

It looks like I'll be in Hanoi for Christmas. I hope you all are having a happy and healthy holiday season.

Nha Trang chow

Yesterday, I came across a com (rice plate) joint that looked really good. As soon as I sat down with my food, they got hit with a massive rush, like 30 people. So I think guessed right on this one. This one has a squid stuffed with pork and grilled, some semi-pickled mustard cabbage, some lacey spring roll things with pork and I think banana, a fish steak in caramel and black pepper sauce, and pork spareribs in a fish sauce/caramel sauce. The soup was clam and brine shrimp based, with some mizuna-like greens. The squid itself cost VND20,000, bringing the whole thing to VND 30,000 or 35,000, which is around US$2.00.


Continue reading "Nha Trang chow" »

December 18, 2005

Pictures from the right side of the bus

I'm petty. And selfish. I admit it.

Even in a country as pictureseque as Vietnam, it always seems like there's always something I'd like to take a picture of on the other side of the bus [other-side-of-the-bus-view-envy]. However, going from Saigon/HCMC to Nha Trang (and on up the coast to Hanoi for that matter), it's essentially an east and north route, meaning that the right side of the bus generally faces the ocean, so that's the side I chose. But the left side has incredible views of the mountains. I guess I'm lucky to have these problems.

But before I get to that, let me finish up my last few hours and eats in Saigon/HCMC. Here's a damn fine banh mi dac biet. They were keeping the baguette fresh in a small toaster oven (rather than just getting stale on the counter), and the quality of all the meats and goodies was excellent. Dac biet means special, or the works [or deluxe], I believe. This one has pate, a few kinds of headcheese or sausage roll, a little thinly sliced pork belly, some chicken loaf, pork floss and the usual pickled carrots and daikon, some cucumber spears, chilies and some soy sauce.


Continue reading "Pictures from the right side of the bus" »

December 17, 2005

En route to Nha Trang

I decided to skip Phu Quoc this time as it would take too many days - there weren't any flights available. Public bus and ferry [6 hour bus trip plus 9 hour ferry ride] didn't sound appealing either. I'm on a cafe bus to Nha Trang, an 11 hour trip.

December 15, 2005

More eats around Saigon/HCMC

Although it looks a little thin on fillings, this banh mi is pretty representative of what you might get at a street stand. Since the pate and pork are pretty salty, there's plenty of flavor to carry the whole sandwich. This one was 6,000 VND or about US$0.38.


Continue reading "More eats around Saigon/HCMC" »

December 14, 2005

District 1, Saigon

Currently about 11:40pm, Wednesday, December 14th in Saigon/HCMC, Vietnam.

I spent today mostly walking in District 1, where my hotel is located. I got a banh mi sandwich from a street vendor, which was actually quite good, with pate, pork belly and the fixings. I also sampled a few baked goods from a bakery which were disappointing. Then I walked all the way up Pasteur street and had a bowl of pho at a place that had a lot of customers, I think Pho Hoa Saigon. I'm not a soup person in general, plus I don't understand the appeal of hot soup in hot weather, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Tomorrow I need to get ready to travel. I'm planning on going to Phu Quoc on Saturday, after picking up my Indian visa on Friday. Phu Quoc is an island to the Southwest where the best fish sauce is said to be made.

Sampling Saigon/HCMC

Since I had my little internal boxing match with Mr. Sal Monella, I haven't posted any pictures. Here are a few shots from various days. My apologies for not understanding nor using the diacritical marks.

Mystery fruit #1
I tasted this last night - it full of big seeds surrounded by lurid red, but almost flavorless pulp. It's so red it almost looks like animal organs or something - in an appealing, biological study kind of way.


Mystery fruit #2
Very subtle taste, almost like grapes.


Mystery fruit #3
I haven't tried these yet.


Continue reading "Sampling Saigon/HCMC" »

December 13, 2005

In country

Currently almost 11pm, Tuesday, December 13th.

I was feeling a bit stronger yesterday, so I walked around to find more passport photos for my Indian visa and a few extras just in case. I already had some extras I had gotten in the US, but they're used for various passes and visas, so I've used them up. Eight cost me about VND14,000 or about $0.90 here in Saigon/HCMC, compared to about $12 for 4 in LA. I got some food in Benh Thanh market and was going to try another promising spot when I got hurly again, so I probably got too enthusiastic.

I went in to the Indian embassy to submit the visa application today, and they were perfectly professional and cordial, unlike the guy in KL. It should be ready by Friday.

Today I hired a moto driver for the day, and we accomplished quite a lot, going to An Dong market, lunch at a Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant, a few pagodas, a coffee bar on the opposite side of the river, the "Black River", the War Remnants Museum, another massage, a beer at a locals only bar, and dinner on a crappy riverboat complete with badbadbad karaoke in Vietnamese. BTW, the traffic is c r a z y here. In terms of bottlenecks and general pain-in-the-assedness, I think Bangkok is still pretty bad. But in terms of how many dang motos are out there and how "risky" the driving is, I think Saigon/HCMC is the worst I've seen so far. Don't get me wrong though, it's a fascinating city.

December 11, 2005

Recovery day

Currently about noon on Sunday, December 11th.

I'm still not 100%, so I decided to take it easy during the day. My first food in the last two days was, appropriately enough, a bowl of pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) from the hotel.

In case you missed them, here are links to a few after the fact entries that I've posted without mentioning them. They are Touring Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh by moto, and More food around KL.

December 10, 2005

Knocked flat out

I suppose it was bound to happen - I got knocked flat out by some kind of stomach virus. I've barely stood up since I arrived at my hotel in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. Not to worry, I have Ciproflaxin (antibiotics), Imodium, Gatorade and peanut butter filled cracker sandwiches. The last things I ate were not high risk, so I'm not sure what did me in. I had some well poached eggs, bacon, and a pancake for breakfast, 2 squares from a chocolate bar, and the sandwich and tiny bananas from the airline meal.

The worst of it is over, I'm just a little nauseous, tired from poor sleep and too many wildlife documentaries on TV.

I'll probably start exploring Benh Thanh market tomorrow.

December 09, 2005

Onward to Vietnam

I spent the last day and a half being guided around Angkor Wat. It's a huge city sized complex of Hindu and Buddhist temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia. Built between 1000ad and about 1300ad, they are impressive and compelling. I took about 450 pictures, but they don't convey the scale of it all - if possible, see it in person. While I saw a fair amount in my limited time, three or more days would be better. I highly recommend a guide and a small group, as it's too big and too complicated to do on your own, and too frustrating to do with a tour group, IMHO.

I'm excited to move on to Vietnam, where I have high hopes in terms of learning about and experiencing the cuisine.

December 08, 2005

Touring Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia


Although Siem Reap was a bit cooler and drier than Phnom Penh and the last few cities I've been in, the pool was a welcome, unexpected bonus with my $15.00US/night room at the Freedom Hotel.

After a small situation with my passport, I hooked up with the guide that I had been referred to. He likes to go counter to the big tours, entering from the less popular entrances, at the opposite times of the day. We entered Ta Prohm temple from this gate.


Continue reading "Touring Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia" »

December 07, 2005

Rolling to Siem Reap by coach


I got about three bites into this rice soup setup above when Mr. Jame (chem) from the Tai Seng Hotel (aka World Star Hotel) came to get me for the minivan to the bus station. BTW, there are some links on this site that I put on just because I think the web should be that way, and I don't necessarily endorse them. In this case, I do recommend them - it's a decent room in a convenient part of town, at a very fair rate (I think US$12.00 plus $2.00 surcharge for booking over the net - in room bathroom, AC, satellite TV), with a massage school and spa attached to the hotel. And on top of that, they're very, very helpful. I actually forgot my passport at the hotel (a fairly common occurrence, because hotels pretty much insist on holding your passport while you're staying there), and one of the employees, that same Mr. Jame, personally hand delivered it the next day in Siem Reap - a twelve hour round trip!! Of course, I paid for his time and expenses.

The coach I took from Singapore to KL was so plush, it would be hard to beat it. It was as professional and formal as an airplane, and more comfortable than most flights since the seats are about like business class seats. But the coach from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is a reasonable second place. For US$14.00, it's a seven hour bus trip through some gorgeous scenery. I could have taken a boat, but it takes just as long and the scenery is supposedly pretty boring after a while.

Below, France colonized Cambodia for a time, and the Frenchies can't do anything without baguette, of course.


I would have rather tried those dusty baguettes than these sad, sad little pastries provided by the bus company. One was pain aux chocolat (chocolate pain) and the other was chicken mousse pate. Both greasy and ungood.


Continue reading "Rolling to Siem Reap by coach" »

December 05, 2005

Phnom Penh by moto


In Cambodia, most cars are left-hand drive, so they usually drive on the right-hand side of the road, like in the US. Usually. In the US some cities have the bi-directional lane for making turns, and it's popularly called the suicide lane when used as a purgatory before turning onto a busy street. Here the suicide lane IS the oncoming traffic lane. Most traffic only goes at about 15-20 miles an hour anyway, so I suppose it's easy enough to react to some guy pulling out directly in your path. Anyway, I rented a moto driver for the day to show me around Phnom Penh. About half of these are taken with one hand, while holding on to the bike with the left hand.

Continue reading "Phnom Penh by moto" »

December 04, 2005

Holiday in Cambodia

After all of that, the airline put us back on the same plane. The flight was a bit shaky, and the landing a bit loose, but all is well.

Flightus Interuptus

Currently about 5:15PM, Sunday afternoon, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

I almost went to Cambodia. We boarded the plane, got the emergency instructions, and were about to start taxiing (?) down the runway when they pulled back into the gate. They worked on it for a while, then had the passengers deplane "for our comfort." From the gate area it looks like they're working on the front landing gear, so I'm happy to take the delay rather than end up on a sensationalistic Fox news special. I can see them transfering baggage to a new plane.

They just made a statement of the obvious, that we are delayed, but no info of changing planes. I may be here for a while.

Maybe they'll give us a free snack or something.

More food around Kuala Lumpur

One day, we mustered up fairly early to try an herbal soup of Chinese origin that's quite popular in Malaysia and Singapore, called bak kut teh [spelling corrected here and throughout]. It's usually for breakfast, I believe, made from various cuts of pork, with an assortment of medicinal herbs. This is the setup prior to the actual soup. Those are cut pieces of yau cha kwai (Chinese cruellers, or oil stick) and fried bean curd pockets in a simple broth.


Bak kut teh can be ordered mixed in one bowl, or as in this case, veggies separate (in the same pork based broth). The vegetables are napa cabbage, enoki mushrooms and rehydrated shiitake mushrooms. I think there's some pickled cabbage or something in here as well.

Here's the bowl of bak kut teh with meat.


Continue reading "More food around Kuala Lumpur" »

Around Kuala Lumpur

Currently about 12:45am, early Sunday morning, December 4th, in Kuala Lumpur.

!!Happy birthday, Gia!!

I had a more elaborate entry composed, but the computer I was working on in this Internet cafe decided that I should start over. So here's the run and gun version.

Beef ball noodles, dry style, with iced Chinese tea and the communal chili sauce.

From this well-known shop next to my guesthouse.

Continue reading "Around Kuala Lumpur" »

December 02, 2005


Stupid I just figured out that Java is not enabled by default on the BlackBerry. I've just enabled it, and I should be able to post this from the mini-browser on the BlackBerry.

If you can read this, it also means I'm jumping around because I can post without having to find an Internet cafe.

November 30, 2005

Much respect due to the hawkers and vendors

Currently about 5pm, Wednesday, November 30th, in Kuala Lumpur.

Imagine this: pick a dish that you know how to make pretty well. Design and possibly build your own cart for the express purpose of cooking that one item. Buy your ingredients. Stake out your spot. Cook it each day. Hang up your sign amongst dozens or a hundred competitors. Sell it for the thinnest of margins. Refine your recipe. Make a living. Repeat each day.

Or, choose some produce that you'd like to sell. Stake out your spot. Display your produce amongst dozens or a hundred competitors. Sell it for the thinnest of margins. Make a living. Repeat each day.

There's something pretty great in all of that, as hard as it must be to do. I know I couldn't do it.

Continue reading "Much respect due to the hawkers and vendors" »

November 29, 2005


Currently 7:05pm, Tuesday, November 29th in Kuala Lumpur.

If you are ever in Kuala Lumpur, and are intending to travel onward to India, and have gone to the India High Commission (embassy) but missed the hours for the passport services, then go back the next day during the proper hours, have all your paperwork filled out completely, and have your three passport photos, pay for all the proper copies, then wait in line patiently, with the fees ready in ringgit, then come up to the man with the impressive white handlebar mustache, beware: he may fuck up your plans.

Or at least, he fucked up my plans.

Continue reading "Thwarted" »

November 28, 2005

Solitude is good...

...especially when the interlopers are insects. Just two little waterbug things, but I'll pass, thank you. I moved to a newly renovated place called Number Eight Guesthouse, near Times Square and the Bukit Bintang shopping area. The guesthouse is quite stylish - somebody's been reading Wallpaper* - it's very designer-ey, very clean, on a good street, and RM85.00/night which is about US$22.36/night.

Last night after arriving, I met up with some great people from eGullet who took me out to a nyonya place outside the city, then we browsed a night market and they even helped me scope out potential hotels. Such hospitality!! This is only the second of this type that I've been to, so I'd hesitate to draw any comparisons yet, except that it was quite tasty. Of course I have lots of photos, but I'm not sure when I'll be able to post them.

The main agenda item for today, now that I've found a place to stay, is to get over to the Indian embassy and submit my visa application. It takes 3-4 days here, which is no great savings over the 5 days it would take in Bangkok, but I feel like I've spent enough time in BKK and would rather park here for a bit.

I'm meeting the eG folks for dinner again tonight, and will probably make arrangements for a day trip down to Melaka (Malacca), which was one of the primary cities for the spice trade.

November 27, 2005

En route to Kuala Lumpur

Currently about 8:30am, on Sunday, November 27th

Singapore has been a whirlwind. I'm here for just less than 48 hours, so it really feels like I've barely seen anything, even though I've done a fair bit of eating. The other night we had gong gong (sea snails?), la-la (local clams), blood cockles (those same blood clams in Japan, but smaller), ocean crayfish (like a slipper lobster), and a few other things to round out the table. Yesterday for lunch we had nasi padang, which is similar to nasi kandar, the Malaysian rice plate, but nasi padang is the Indonesian version. Both are excellent. Last night we had a banquet at a Chinese restaurant on the East Coast, and they brought out dish after dish of seafood, most in the spicier style of the area, including chilli crab, black pepper crab, lobster tails, a special deep fried duck and a bunch of other stuff. Along the way, I've had chendol (a shaved ice dessert with coconut milk, red bean, sweet noodles, etc), curry puff, ham chen pi (Chinese "donuts") and Hainanese Chicken Rice, a dish which is all about the rice, not the chicken. I definitely would like to come back to Singapore, although it seems to be hard to do it on the cheap. Hawker food is of course reasonable, but accomodation and transport would be the major expense. I'm staying in a hotel at a discount, but in roaming around I haven't seen guesthouses or more modest hotels. But then again, we're right in town off Orchard Road.

I'm about to leave Singapore to go to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It's a nice coach, so it should be fairly comfortable 4-5 hour trip. The ticket costs S$55.00, which is approximately $32.00US.

I'm meeting up with some folks from eG tonight, and I'm going to extend a few days in KL to try and get some travel visas ready for Vietnam and India. I'm hoping it will be easier to do in KL than in Bangkok, where it takes 5 days to get a visa for India.

November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Dinner in Penang


Please correct me if I don't have the names right. Starting at the top, fried oysters (in eggs, with chili sauce), pork and chicken satay with peanut sauce, duck noodle soup, char kway teaw, and beef noodle soup with beef balls, and in the center, wan ton mee.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Currently about 11:30am, 24th of November in Penang, Malaysia

Happy Thanksgiving.

I have a renewed appreciation for the opportunities I have received and those still ahead of me, my supportive family, and the many friends I am fortunate to have. I am grateful.

Somebody save me a little turkey, ham and stuffing, would ya?

Last night my buddy took me to a nyonya place called Hot Wok which I enjoyed, then a roadside tea house/Internet cafe/snack stand for a pulled tea.

This morning I got up at 7:30am to partake in the complimentary breakfast buffet in the hotel, walk around in the street market and also explore the wet market down a few blocks from there. I feel very comfortable here in Penang.

November 22, 2005

Penang, Pearl of the Orient

Currently it's about 6pm, 22nd of November, in Penang, Malaysia.

I took AirAsia to Penang at 7:25am. So I got out of the hotel at 5am. Let me tell you, it's easy to get around Bangkok at that time of the morning! Unfortunately it's still quite far from the guesthouse to the airport. It took about 30 minutes by cab, all told, whereas it usually takes over an hour or even more during rush hour.

AirAsia is a budget carrier, only booking over the Internet, and so the airfare is quite reasonable, however with few amenites. They do offer a menu of snacks to buy, and of course, I'm a sucker for this sort of thing.


Starting on the left, that's sweetened green tea with honey, salmon spread with crackers, and Knorr's Instant Cup Jook (I guess Cup O' Jook is probably trademarked by the Cup O' Noodle people.) These tea drinks are everywhere, especially Japan and Thailand so far, so I've had a bunch of those. The salmon I bought as more of a goof than anything, and it wasn't great - just salmon, mayo, some waterchestnut for texture and I think some sweet pickle relish. But it is a product of Thailand or at least packed in Thailand, and I wouldn't normally think of salmon and Thailand at all. As for the jook (congee, or rice soup) I had some real hope it would be at least passable, but the rice was too fine for my taste, it was runny, and the spongy "chicken"bits took it down a few notches. I guess I should have tried the instant Tom Kha Gai soup instead, but I thought I had better odds of the jook being good. Oh well. Total was 170 Thai baht or $4.25US.

Continue reading "Penang, Pearl of the Orient" »

Off to Malaysia & Singapore

Currently about 12:30am, Tuesday, November 22nd in Bangkok

Early Tuesday morning, I'm flying off to Penang, Malaysia for a few days to meet up with an old college buddy and to try to learn about and sample the food of the area. From there, we're headed to his hometown of Singapore for a few days, then I'm back on my own to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days, then back to Thailand to see Chiang Mai, in the North. I have some blog entries already written, but the Internet cafe I normally use (they let me connect my own laptop) closes at midnight, and I ran a little late.

Okay, so I had another Thai massage - let's just say the extra 30 minutes of foot massage was a good choice. Then I had a late dinner. Thus the lack of rich media postination. But I'll post those as soon as I can, depending on the Internet access there.

I had planned to try and get my India visa paperwork started, but obviously I need my passport to travel, so I'll have to take care of that when I come back to BKK.

For you Americans, Happy Thanksgiving! Have some turkey and all the fixin's for me. Some dark meat and some white. No pumpkin pie, though. Pecan, if you have it.

November 20, 2005

Back from the Jungle

Okay, it's not exactly the Jungle. Maybe the jungle with a small "j". Jet's dad is developing a piece of land into a adventure/ecotourism destination.

He calls it Wiman (vee-mahn) in Thai, meaning Heaven. It's waywayway back in the backcountry, West Northwest of Bangkok.



Continue reading "Back from the Jungle" »

November 14, 2005

In case you thought I was in Pacoima...


This Buddha is about 40 meters tall. From this picture, my neck would be about 20 meters wide. Note to self, take more than one shot...

Currently 5:55pm, Monday, November 14th.

I just added new entries for shopping at Doguya-suji in Osaka having dinner at Gyoza Stadium and my day in Kyoto.

I had a nice meal last night with Jet's peeps at a restaurant on the river. I'm leaving Bangkok tomorrow morning for an area outside of Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I'm told it's near the Three Pagodas and the Bridge on the Kwai River. There won't be any Internet access out there, so I'll just blog to myself for a few days. After that, Penang, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

November 13, 2005

I thought this was the dry season...


Currently 5:37pm on Sunday afternoon in Bangkok.

The sky blessed us with probably over an inch of rain in about a 2 hour period.

Earlier, I was fortunate to have been guided around Chatuchak Market, the largest market in Asia, with over 15,000 vendors. They have everything from handicrafts to flatware to bronze statues. Gigantic.

Tonight, I'm having dinner with friends and relations of my business partner, Jet.

I also created an entry for my first evening in Osaka.

November 12, 2005

A word about chronology

It seems that I'm making two types of entries - brief ones that are entered on the fly, and longer ones that are created later, with pictures and descriptions. What I think makes sense is to insert the entries where they belong in time, instead of when I got around to creating the entry. So the quick entries will have their real timestamp, like 8:17am, and the inserted ones will be an arbitrary timestamp, like 9:00pm - whatever it takes to put the entries in order. Forgive me if I jump back and forth between the present and past tense.

Unfortunately, this means that until I catch up, new entries may occur further down on the page, or even directly to an archive page. I'll put in links in to make it easier to find entries as I create them.

For example, I just posted Day 2 from the Tsukiji Fish Market. Warning: lots of photos. Also, I added some linkage to discussion of my monjyayaki dinner on November 5th.

As you were.

Had some kinks worked out...

Currently 10:10am on Saturday in Bankok.

I had my first Thai massage ever. Let me specify, a legitimate, theraputic massage. The young massuese was petite, but had strong hands and knew how to use her weight for pressure. I have a new appreciation for elbows. For 180 baht for an hour ($4.50US), I can definitely incorporate that into my budget every few days...

Off to explore the neighborhood and some temples and monasteries nearby. There are tons of tour buses about, so I may change plans to avoid crowds.

November 11, 2005

It's a wonder

Currently 11:46pm on Friday night in Bangkok.

It's a wonder that things get done in Bangkok. Or actually, it's a wonder that anything gets done after 10am. At least today, it seemed to be pretty calm until then. I had a nice breakfast of pork over rice with Chinese greens at a street stand. Besides being boiled, it looked safe because it had just been made, and it was soft and glistening. Then I walked down the street and got some tiny pancakes, blini sized, but I think they have fruit pulp mixed in the batter, kind of orangey-yellow, but I couldn't pick out the specific fruit. They're addictive!!

Continue reading "It's a wonder" »

November 10, 2005

Passage to Bangkok

Currently 9:37pm in Bangkok.

Safe and sweaty in Bangkok. Thankfully it has cooled off a bit since sundown, but still quite humid. Of course, I had to find an air-conditioned room. I'm in a backpacker area near Kao San Road, which means there are probably as many foreigners as Thais. I probably won't stay here very long. Off to look for a phone card and food.


Currently 1:18am in Tokyo.

I'm packing up and headed for Bangkok early tomorrow morning. I accomplished a lot while I've been here, despite floundering around with a toddler's level of spoken Japanese and having no reading ability at all. I didn't get to eat around as much as I had wanted. But even so, Japan has been revelation after revelation, and I've only seen a tiny bit of it. I hope to return soon.

By the way, in my limited anecdotal experience, the Japanese seem to have a much higher incidence of facial moles than what I'm used to. Moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley-moley.

November 09, 2005

Make it a good one

Currently 8am in Tokyo.

It's my last full day in Japan today. I'm going back to Kappabashi to buy more gear, then also to Matsuzakaya department store for the depachika (food basement - usually very boutique-y) and a blow out dinner tonight.

November 08, 2005

Back in Kanto

Currently 11:23pm in Tokyo.

After spending the day in Kyoto, I took the bullet train back into Tokyo. Really dog tired - I did a lot of walking and rushing around today. BTW, Kanto is the region including Tokyo to the North, and Kansai is the term for the area in the South including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, etc. The way I understand it, beyond geography, the terms are sometimes used to imply various things about food, lifestyle, etc, but I don't pretend to know what all they are.

Daytripping Kyoto

Another day, another three onigiri from the free breakfast buffet.


Omiyage is a cultural practice of bringing the specialties of an area back as a gift or souvenir. Of course, the Japanese have elevated it to a level of ingrained social obligation - meaning it's big business. I forgot to take a shot of the Osaka and Kyoto stations, which both had elaborate areas of prepared foods, all nicely packaged, and suitable for omiyage giving. This one is mochi, azuki beans, and candied chestnut.


Continue reading "Daytripping Kyoto" »

And the Winner is...

Currently around 8am in Osaka.

After months of learning about knives and looking around Tokyo for 5 days, I finally decided on this knife, which I purchased in Osaka yesterday:


For the curious, it's made by Ichimonji Chuki which only sells out of this shop in Doguya-suji and on the web in Japanese. It's a yanagiba for sashimi, 300mm (11.7 inches, or 10 sun by Japanese measurements). It's made out of blue steel #1 (aoko), in the honkasumi method. The handle is octagonal rather than the traditional asymetric shape, and made out of kokutan wood (ebony). I decided to get a plain saya (scabbard) and stain it to match later. I thought about getting the mirror polished finish, but decided against it because this knife will discolor over time, and it's not a showpiece - it'll be my workhorse knife for fish. The next step up would have been for sumingashi, or ink pattern (damascus), which is pretty, but not any improvement in performance. Yen for yen, it wasn't the deal of the century, but more than fair for a manufacturer of this level. I've looked at a lot of knives over the last few days, and this one had all the specs I wanted and just felt right.

Now I just have to work to be worthy of it.

I had intended to go to Gifu/Seki today to see a cutlery museum, but after several people talked about Kyoto, I'm going there for most of the day instead. It won't be enough to do it any justice, but I definitely like the Kansai area a lot (Osaka, Kyoto and Nara) so it will be like scouting for next time.

November 07, 2005

Gyoza Stadium

I met up with prasantrin from eG for dinner. She suggested the Gyoza Stadium, which is a gyoza themed food court - all gyoza, all the time. The Japanese, being very hierarchially minded, have compiled and categorized all the many variations of the gyoza, and put them head to head in a gyoza deathmatch. Or something.

We agreed that a sampling from as many vendors as possible was the best route, so she took one side and I took the other. Here's what we came up with, clockwise from upper left: sudachi citrus, sea salt and pepper with gyoza, pizza gyoza with tomato sauce and cheese, panfried gyoza with two sauces, miso and yakisoba (?), crispy gyoza with yuzu-koshou, gyoza with crusty crepe effect and chili sauce, and SE Asian style gyoza with lettuce leaf wrap.

I think the sudachi and yuzu-koshou versions were our favorites. The others were quite serviceable, however, the pizza gyoza almost made prasantrin rethink her "Cheese makes anything better rule." Almost.


Continue reading "Gyoza Stadium" »

Doguya-suji in Osaka

I didn't take many pictures today because I spent several hours working out the knife purchase at Ichimonji Chuki. But here are a few:

From the Takashimaya depachika (gourmet basement). Some pastries from Chef Wada, whose picture looked familiar to me, probably from Iron Chef or Dotchi Cooking Show. This is a roll made from french bread, with an almond paste filling. Note the spike details, some of which had broken off by the time I ate it. But every piece in the store is picture perfect - quality control in the extreme.


Continue reading "Doguya-suji in Osaka" »


Currently 10:37am, Monday, November 7th.

On Sunday, I took the shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka. I'm staying at the Toyoko Inn, which is perfect for me. It's a style of hotel called a business hotel - small rooms, quite economical, but targeted toward business customers - there's Internet in the room, a coin laundry in the lobby, and it's located close to subway lines.

Today I'm off to Doguya-suji, the restaurant supply area of Osaka.

I hope to catch up with posting pix tonight.

November 06, 2005

Osaka - Bankrupted by Gluttony

No, I'm not bankrupt yet. Apparently the Japanese refer to Osaka residents as those who would go bankrupt for the love of food - or something like that. The term is kuiadore. I think it can also sometimes mean "all-ru you can eat-u". But the way the lady at the hotel described it, it can also be like a restaurant crawl - going from place to place, sorta like a tapas evening.

Anyway, here's where she sent me - the Namba area of Osaka.


Continue reading "Osaka - Bankrupted by Gluttony" »

November 05, 2005


After years of reading her posts, I had the good fortune to meet up with torakris from eGullet for dinner. We decided on a monjya-yaki place in the trendy Harajuku area of Tokyo. Here's the Monjyayaki thread on eG.

And an additional photo of the entryway of the restaurant, in case anyone wants to try and find it.


Tsukiji Fish Market, Day 2

This is in the group of vendors away from the wholesale part of the market - this is where the public might come to shop since things are packaged more conveniently, they're in a more manageable size, rather than at the wholesale area, which is just the fish in crude form.

Pickles, we got pickles.


Continue reading "Tsukiji Fish Market, Day 2" »

November 04, 2005

Tsukiji Fish Market, Day 1

After getting a late start due to lack of funds due to lack of banking due to lack of workday, I figured out how to get to the fish market off the Hibiya metro line. The building is somewhat curved, and it's so large that it looks like a matte painting shot in the movies, where it goes off into infinity with full detail, but it really is just that big. I'd guess about 400 yards or so just for this building, then the produce and shops are in separate buildings nearby.


Continue reading "Tsukiji Fish Market, Day 1" »

November 03, 2005

You know what happens when you assume...

Currently 7am in Tokyo.

I had planned to take the first train at 5 am to go to the Tsukiji Wholesale Fish Market, but I realized that I didn't even have enough cash to buy the ticket, so I slept in 'til 6am. Being a holiday yesterday, I couldn't go to a bank. I haven't had much luck with the ATM's either, none of which seem to take any of my cards. Bank ATM's seem to be closed between 9pm and 6am, so I guess I'll find out.

Continue reading "You know what happens when you assume..." »

November 02, 2005


This is a Buddhist temple, called a hongwanji, tucked into the neighborhood near Kappabashi. It has a presence in the area because it's so large and distinctive that it can be seen through the side streets for quite a large radius. On the way back to the hotel, I decided to walk by it and take a few pictures.


As I was walking closer to get more shots of the compound, this man was letting his son drive in the open lot, and totally spontaneously, he started hamming it up.


Just a great moment of unbridled, uninhibited glee.

It's not everyday you see a halberdier...

At first, I saw these guys in hopi coats unloading a bamboo ladder. But I got that weird feeling like something was about to happen, so I went by to check it out. As I got closer, there were probably about 300 people in full Japanese medieval regalia. For the most part, they were really high quality costumes, close to museum quality. As Rich looked up for me, November 3 is called Culture Day in Japan.

By the way, the pictures look sorta overexposed because I didn't notice that I hadn't changed the settings on the camera from earlier.


Continue reading "It's not everyday you see a halberdier..." »

Scouting Kappabashi

Kappabashi is a shopping district specializing in restaurant equipment and supplies. My purpose there for the first day was to familiarize myself with the area, what's available, start to get a sense for what things cost, especially with regard to knives and specialty cooking gadgets.


Continue reading "Scouting Kappabashi" »

National Holiday?!?

Currently almost 5pm Tokyo time.

I hate showing my ignorant traveler side, but uhhhh, it's some kind of national holiday today. Not knowing this, I headed over to Kappabashi, the restaurant district, which is only two stops over on the Ginza line from where I am.

Continue reading "National Holiday?!?" »


And so it begins. I am on the ground in Tokyo, posting from a terminal in the hotel. Will try to find a Internet connection in the morning. I had a plush flight on Singapore Air (highly recommended!)and smooth transport via train to the Ueno area, and the hotel is literally across the street from the station exit.

Local time is about 8:30pm, 17 hours ahead of PST.

So far, so good!

November 01, 2005

Time to go!!

As you can see, despite running on only a few hours of sleep for each of the past few days, I'm ready to get underway. With only carry-on-able items, some might call that traveling light, but isn't. It's more electronics and guidebooks than anything else, and it weighs a ton. Two and a half months living out of a small rolling case and a backpack - do you think I can do it??


Kelly, thanks for the ride and for taking the photo!

Continue reading "Time to go!!" »