Sunday, February 28, 2010

Java, Indonesia!

If you were wondering why I hadn't updated my blog, it's because I went to Singapore and Indonesia for the Lunar New Year. The original plan was to head to Philippines, but prices quickly skyrocketed heading that way, and the cheaper option was Indonesia via Singapore. I had been to Bali before, but regretted not heading to Java during the 10+ days I was there. This was my second chance.

After booking the tickets, Smorg and I figured out it was actually the rainy season in Indonesia. Realising the original Philippine plan may have been worth it, we just made sure to pack extra socks and our heavy duty rain ponchos.

The "rainy" turned out to be alright. We only got caught once in a torrential rainfall, but it soured our shoes for the rest of the trip. Literally, we transported our rank-smelling shoes with us all across Java never having the opportunity to stay in one place long enough to let them dry.

Some photos from Indonesia.

We did a jungle trek in Pangandaran, West Java. Monkeys and barking deer.

The Green Canyon in Pangandaran. In the rainy season, its brown. We then jumped into the fast water. I have only a few bruises from hitting rocks. 

Random bamboo bridge. Near Pangandaran.

Borobudur, in Central Java. This Buddhist temple was discovered under a dense jungle a couple hundred years ago. A relict of Indonesia's Buddhist past.

Stupas of Borobudur. Smorg and I had about 3 hours of sleep before coming here.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, at sunrise. To the right is an active volcano.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, at sunrise.

Steaming Mount Bromo. In the background is Mount Batok. Mount Bromo last erupted in 2007.

Smorg and I walked all around the rim of the volcano. It wasn't so difficult, but we had to turn around and backtrack about an hour, because we reached a spot that my grip-less fake Louis Vuitton shoes wouldn't handle. My real shoes were tied up in a bag smelling awfully like mouldy sea water and cat pee.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


My wrist has been hurting me for quite few months now, and in the last week it has gotten pretty bad. So bad, that I could not type or even drive my electric scooter.

My co-worker suggested to me I try her acupuncture doctor. Cheaper than "Western Medecine," I thought, why not? I had never been acupuntured (hehe) before, but definitely would try it.

The acupuncture doctor practises from the bottom floor of his home. It's about 4 metres by 5 metres, and is divided with a small wooden screen. He was really excited to have a foreigner come to him, and he was even more excited to know that I could speak a little Vietnamese!

The treatment lasted about 5 minutes, where he poked my wrist with the same needle a couple times, and massaged my nerves. You could imagine how great that felt. I told him I was dizzy, so he made me lay down. He then proceeded to feed me longans, not allowing me to feed myself. I was lying there on the hard bamboo table while an old bearded Vietnamese man fed me fruit. Next time, he told me I should eat before I come over.

It cost me about 3 dollars for the treatment, but I was kind of hoping for something a little more therapeutic. In the end, I decided to go over to Yakushi Centre on Xuan Dieu to try out their treatment. It was definitely worth it. I paid twice as much, but it lasted a whole hour. They even attached an electrical source and soft shocks pulsed through my arm and hand.

In the end my wrist is doing a lot better... But still having difficulty typing and riding my bike. As for the cause, apparently it is tendinitis.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back to Vietnam by way of China... Part II

Here is my bit about my food experience in Beijing.

My first day started off with a rice congee, similar in name to the one here in Vietnam (called chao). It turns out the similarity stops there. The rice soup here, was yellow in colour, and was doused in a sesame sauce. It was a lot thicker and was a bit salty. I scarfed it down with a vegetable spring roll and some fried bread. I didn't eat for about 8 hours after this, so I guess it did the trick. I don't think I'd eat it again though.

One of the most interesting meals was at a Szechuan restaurant. I have had Szechuan in Canada, obviously, but nothing prepared me for this. On the first bite, the flavour was great, if not a little strange. Then, this odd feeling took over my mouth. A numbing sensation paired with an uncontrollable stream of saliva pouring out of my glands had me in a bit of a panic. It wasn't necessarily spicy (though my mom would definitely think so), as the numbing took care of that issue. It turns out there were about a million little Szechuan peppercorns decorating this dish, a peppercorn that contains a natural numbing chemical. I continued eating while proclaiming in disbelief how anyone could actually want to have this feeling. It took over almost my entire face, reminding me of how when you go to the dentist it often takes hours before you can feel your lower jaw.

No trip to anywhere in Asia would be complete without trying the staple street food. Sticks with fruits dipped in a hardened sugar syrup are everywhere in winter. The traditional fruit to have in this style is the Chinese Hawberry. It's a bit sour like a crabapple.  You can also get strawberries, and any other kind of common fruit.

I visited a small street that had a hundred different street food vendors. I skipped quickly past the seahorse-on-a-stick vendors and tried some Beijing yogourt. Not unlike any other type of yogourt, except you drink it in a ceramic pot with a straw. 

Right before catching my plane back to Hanoi I went for Chinese dumplings. Apparently Beijing-style dumplings are boiled rather than streamed or pan-fried. My companions and I got egg and veggie as well as mushroom-filled dumplings. Hao chu (or however you would spell delicious in Mandarin)!