Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Food in Vietnam

Although we never had a bad meal in Vietnam, in fact all our meals were from 8-10, we missed the spices. One thing we were convinced of was, that pretty much all South East Asia indulges in spices. Not Vietnam! I know Thais are literally nuts when it comes to chilli, but Vietnamese chilli is even weaker that Hungarian paprika which is pretty much the European Standard for spicyness. Nevertheless, you gotta try the PHO BO and PHO GA (noodles) and the absolutely delicious fried bamboo (forgot how it's called).

More on vietnamese food later with some of our hottest bakery picks.

Again - our first stop - Bac Ha Market...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blasts at Dahab - Egypt

No, we're not in Egypt, but a good friend of ours is, right in the heart of the last bombings...He's a pretty good observer and not one to loose it over small things. His story follows:

"It's been about 3 hours since the blasts went off. Still shaken up but things are quiet and people around me seem to be calming down. The huge window to my left has been blown out.

I was just getting ready to go out for dinner and was sitting on my bed when the first explosion went, five seconds later another and maybe 2 seconds later another. My eyes were closed and just remember asking for the Lord's protection. I stood up and waited for a moment , then heard people screaming. Went to the window and saw a crowd running away from the boardwalk which is lined with shops and restaurants. Looked around the room to decide what to take , grabbed my napsack and opened my door. My hut is on the roof and 2 huge plumes of smoke greeted me about 50 metres
away, the scene of the 2nd and 3rd explosions. Looked down into the courtyard and people were frantically running through the camp in an effort to get away from the

Ran down the stairs and tried to listen to what people were saying. Some had blood on their clothing ,people were crying and everyone was in shock. I was thinking bomb at that moment but I also hoped that maybe a gas cylinder or something exploded. When I saw the Egyptians who work at our camp running and screaming I thought to myself ,"You need to get out of here now".

Dahab is so isolated though , there's nowhere to go except out into the desert. Decided to stay put , others were rushing to the scene but I learned a very important lesson from terrorists bombings in South Africa during the 70's and 80's , never flock to a bombing scene. If terrorists are looking to maximise casualties then another bomb near the scene is waiting to explode.

All the foreigners were now grouped together in the courtyard. Standing amongst them I thought to myself that if I was a suicide bomber that this is exactly where I'd be , so I moved away. An Egyptian guy walked up to me with a confrontational frown and asked me what my room number was. I realised how suspicious I looked with my complexion , carrying a knapsack and wearing a shirt with Hebrew writing on it. Tried the internet but the lines were down , didn't have a phonecard and still refuse to carry a cellphone so couldn't call anyone.

An Israeli guy shouted if anyone was from Israel , he was planning on heading out immediately back to the border. I went to stand next to him to find out what he saw. He was in a restaurant on the first floor of the building next to the blasts. He said he saw at least 2 people lying on the ground after the bang and the white light. 2 other Israelis were with him , one of them had a grandmother killed in the suicide
bombing in Tel Aviv a week ago. Thought about mobs wanting to take out their anger on someone and moved away from them and turned my shirt inside out. Loud music from the shops and restaurants were shut off and the only regular sound was the call to prayer from the mosque. Thought that was quite ominous really since fundamentalism had struck again.

Two guys were wounded in the camp and they were carted away , one was bleeding badly but he was conscious. Finally I ventured up to the entrance of the camp and looked at the damage. Things were cordoned off by now and I decided to walk down the promenade in the opposite direction. Came to my favourite restaurant with the owner and his staff and family standing outside. Stopped to see how he was holding up. He rushed out after the explosions to check on his 4 kids who usually play outside. I was just talking to him the night before while paying my bill about them. Once he knew they were safe he went to the bombing site. He told me that he thought he could handle it but he ended up throwing up at what he saw. Body parts were strewn all over the place. While we were chatting an Italian lady came by looking for her son , she was
beside herself and kept muttering that Tarriek was dead. The restaurant owner told me that she was married to an Egyptian , I hope that wasn't her son.

I wondered off to the rest of the promenade , few shops or restaurants were open. Flickering lights across the Gulf of Aqaba from Saudi Arabia can be seen , wondered
if Al Qaida had anyting to do with this. I hadn't eaten for the day yet but found a store open near my camp , the window was also shattered by the blast. Back at the camp now , roads around Dahab have been sealed off , nobody's is going anywhere tonight.

Might as well stay put and get some sleep."

Be safe!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Vietnam - Bac Ha - Hmong Tribe Market

First thing that striked me in Vietnam was the comunist propaganda in Hanoi...It felt like a trip back in time, seeing the same old mother, child and daddy with the ax working together for a better future.

Fortunately for us, we'd read about the Sunday's locals market in Northern Vietnam in a tiny place called Bac Ha. It was said to be one of the most colourful in Asia. Who can pass that out? Airport - train station - tickets to Bac Ha - 4 hours roaming around Hanoi - overnight train to Lao Cai - 50 year old bus to Bac Ha...

In less than 24 hours we were in the middle of these fascinating people, children running around empty bottocks at 10 C. men casually smoking pot and driking the local firewater (looked and smelled just as our Palinca), 2 month old piggy backs, everyone selling everything but the shirt on their back. On of the cruel things was that puppies were sold alongside with piglets and chicks (i don't mean to say I don't care about baby pigs, but, please, not the puppies...)

Funny enough they were ingoring us most of the time with a few exeptions of women trying to sell me knitted bags. That part was the best, being ingored I mean (that turned to be a pest in later in Sapa where we couldn't get the locals off our backs). We had our cameras and without being too obvious, we were snapping away...

This was my abosolute favorite thing about Vietnam, so following are some of my shots!:) - Carmen

Friday, April 14, 2006

Language Trouble

Last minute details. I was checking the train fares between Hanoi and one of our Northern destionations as I remembered it, Lau Chai...Strangely enough, it seemed difficult to find any buses taking us from Lau Chai to Sapa, our main base up North. Why? Cause I bloody got lost between Lau Chai and Lai Chau...;) While Lao Chai is the last train stop in Vietnam before entering China and some 30 km from Sapa, Lai Chau is in the middle of nowhere, but still, in Northern Vietnam. That was a close one!:)

We've exchanged our money into USDollars which are just as easy to trade as in Vietnamese Dong. Apparently most foreigners can't keep track of the thousands and thousands of Dong you need for a decent meal. But, hey, I'm from Romania, where all are millionaires there, so BRING IT ON! :))

A last batch of photos from the Thai Red Cross Event couple weeks ago. Great fun! Excellent food!

Signing off... Carmen:)

Ake for [PhotoSharks]

Street Made food in Thailand.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Countdown to Vietnam

2 days to Vietnam, so, other than work which has been good, we spend our evenings reading up our Lonely Planet guide and soaking up of whatever photos we can find on the web. Our best find was Check it out! It's worth it!

Camera-wise, we bought this cool two camera bag. Looks like a maze inside and everythings fits in so nicely. Add couple more side pockets for big lens and a tripod support and there you have it! Ake will do the honors and carry our treasure pack, while Carmenuca will do... what women do these day in SE Asia: shop and sip ice tea.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Songkran - [intro]

I've finished an arduous week of work, and now it's time to play. Actually I was running on auto-pilot for couple of days. 5 days to Vietnam!

It's the end of term 2 for international schools here. That translates into reports and certificates and Thai New Year Parties. The Thai kids, on the other hand, have been on holiday for weeks now, and there all out in the streets with water guns and water buckets (No kiddin and No mercy). I love Songkran, the Thai New Year, but occasionally things get out of hand (happens everywhere right?) like last year for ex. we had drunk Thais (poor guys had a beer or two ;)) serenading us until dawn. :)

Carmen for [PhotoSharks]

Ake for [PhotoSharks]

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Straight out of "Kids say silly things"

G : Teacher Carmen, how come you have a big belly?

Carmen: Well, maybe I have a baby inside...

G : Yeah!? Really? (two big blue eyes staring at me)

Carmen: I dont't know yet.

G: Ummm...or maybe you're just eating too much!"

Carmen: ? :)))

Moving further on: a curiously good deed fell upon me few days ago. I was taking a kapoa-taxi (a sort of small open mini van) to the sky train. The usual charge: 30 baht. I hand over a 100 baht bill. The guy laughs casually and says in Thai: "Sorry, I have no change, but no worries. I work around here everyday, you can catch up with me later." What a nice guy! For 3 days I've been eyeing all the taxis around. No dice. No sight of my benevolent taxi driver.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Passage to Vietnam

We're celebrating my Vietnamese Visa (Thi Thuc, as it appears in my passport). Isn't it just beautiful? Go on, admit it!:-)

For most of us in Bangkok it's cutting close to party time. Everyone's going out! Out of their nests, out of Bangkok, out of Thailand, out of our routines.
Kodak moments. :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Red Cross Fair

Packed my things in a rush on Saturday and was galloping toward the King's Palace were the party was ON - food and karaoke madness(the karaoke was a killer), beer gardens, prayer areas (yeap, the beer garden was right next to the prayer place) people trying to sell you everything but the shirt on their back. Hey, it's Asia, right? - where hundreds of millions are trying to make a living.

One dissapoitment though: couldn't find my favorite dessert, GA RO JI...How come none out of the 2000 food vendors selling stuff shoulder to shoulder didn't think of it? Rats! :(

Photos : Carmen

(Coming soon ... Ake's batch)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Bottle and Balloon

Photo: Ake