Hanoi Eating

Taking a trip around Vietnam, me and my husband decided to have an adventure this time. We flew in from Hanoi going down to Danang via the Vietnam railways halting at Hoi Ann and down to Ho Chi Minh taking the train again. Since this was our first time, we decided that taking the train and travelling as the locals do would give us plenty of opportunity to get the feel of the country, its natural beauty and its people. The journey was long, tiring especially since a bridge on the way to Ho Chi Minh had collapsed and we had to transfer via bus as well. But all in all we had an adventurous journey, one we will remember for a long time.

But what i really want to share here is the hidden cuisines of Vietnam or rather of Hanoi since we did most of our eating at Hanoi where we had a lovely couple host us and take us around explaining about the food and taking us to local eateries to taste delicious dishes.

Hanoi is one place where you will find plenty of clean crisp and delicious food. Whatever we had, we were really amazed by it’s clean and crisp feeling, the well blended taste and how simple yet how delicious everything was and how everything was served with a large amount of fresh herbs. We loved the food there and since all we knew before our travel was Pho, I have here put a list of some of the dishes we had at Hanoi to help anyone wanting to explore food from northern Vietnam, the food heaven.

Pho

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Pho Bo (Beef)

Everyday knows Pho :-). The popular noodle soup, Pho actually indicates the rice noodle which is usually served with either beef chunks (Bo) or Chicken (Ga). The soup at Hanoi is more clearer and not as sweet as the southern version. It contains lots of bean sprouts, herbs and is served with lemon wedges which you can squeeze into the soup. It has a lovely clean taste as well as being very satisfying.

Banh Cuon

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Banh Cuon

This is my favourite, a dish from northern Vietnam. So soft and delicate, minced pork and mushroom are packed inside a thin sheet of silky steamed rice paste and served with deep fried shallots and fresh herbs. They must be dipped in fish sauce before you eat it. Absolutely silky soft and so tasty, that i could probably have eaten it forever.

Bun Ca

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Bun Ca

Bun Ca is a fried fish and rice noodle soup. The name is quite literal as Bun means the rice noodle and Ca is for fish. What i love about this dish is the broth that has a tangy taste with a whole lot of tomatoes in it. It is made with tomatoes and fresh dill and topped with crispy fried river fish. It is just as satisfying as it is tasty. (There is another dish called Bun Cha which is totally different and can be confusing.)

Cha ca Ha Noi

Cha Ca is a famous dish in Hanoi. We were told that people generally used to eat it as a treat in the past. White fish marinated with tumeric is grilled and fried with lots and lots of dill and spring onion on the table side and served with crunchy peanuts, herbs and soothing sauce. It is eaten with rice noodles. The turmeric and dill makes the fish really flavourful and when eaten with sides of peanuts, cooling sauce and vermicelli rice noodles, it makes for a perfect blend of taste.

Ban Mi

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Ban Mi on the streets around old quarter

This Vietnamese twist to the french baguette can be found everywhere in the streets. The crusty bread is filled with pork belly, fish cakes, pickled carrots, chillies and makes for a perfect snack to grab while roaming the streets of old quarter at Hanoi.

Sticky Rice

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Our choice of sticky rice; maximum toppings 😛

This is a popular eat and can be found in the streets around the old quarter. So popular that there are restaurants that only serve sticky rice. We had one and loved it. It is served with bean paste, corn and fried shallots but you can ask for toppings such as eggs, ham, sausages etc.

 

Egg Coffee

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Egg Coffee

Finally, the wonderful wonderful egg coffee is more of a dessert. This strange yet wonderful drink is a speciality of Hanoi. Creamy and fluffy on top with black coffee at the bottom, it’s a perfect combination of a sweet dessert with the kick of coffee. Egg yolk is blended with condensed milk until creamy and poured over black coffee to serve.

 

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Coconuts and Boats, Part II of God’s Own Country

Going on from the small hill station of Munar to Allappuzha also known as Alleppey, I am super excited by the fact that soon, i will be kicking back on a house boat cruising along the famous backwaters of Kerala, eating the best sea food and enjoying the strange scenery. 😛 I am no stranger to living in harmony with nature, coming from Bhutan where nature plays a big role in the formation of your cultural beliefs and way of life. But in Kerala, the way people have moulded their life with water surrounding them that everything is either a result of their vast network of waterways or a part of it is really impressive. Especially in the backwaters of Alleppey, i could see villages on small strip of lands along the canals. Every household would have a boat to travel with and a small dock area in front. Imagine boats instead of cars. 🙂

I promised myself that i would be eating seafood and drinking coconut water all the way. No more cafe for me although i did cheat a bit during the last few days. A bit of coffee to save my caffeine addicted self.

 

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Stopping on the way for coconut water. Healthy and Tasty.

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Fishing on the way to thekaddy.. we didn’t have big hopes though we thought we might catch atleast one 😛

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On the set of “Khasmir meh, tu Kanyakumari”.

I love Chenai express (hindi movie :P), the movie itself is so colourful and scenery so beautiful. I was ecstatic to see this beautiful road into the Satrum reserve at Thekaddy flanked by tea gardens on both sides, on which one of the songs of the movie was shot. Yes, i am playing that now on youtube. 😉

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The rolling hills of the Satrum Reserve

At Alleppey, before we checked in to the hotel, we stopped at one of the toddy bars. It was quite late and we were tired, but how could we miss it. Toddy is this sweet alcoholic beverage and is actually the sap from a coconut palm tree. It is famous in Alleppey and anyone going there must try it. It was not much to my liking though, a tad sweeter than i thought it would be but the food is amazing. The prawn curry we had was spiced with black pepper and very flavourful. They say that Toddy bars make the best curries.

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House boat at Alleppey

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Village by the canal

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A simple meal prepared by our host. Paste of coconut, yoghurt and banana with fried vegetables, tomato paste and papadum.

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Hawa beach at Kovallum by the Arabian sea

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Trivenesangum, the point where three waters of Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian sea meet.

Our last few days were spent at Kovallum beach from where we had planned to put in day trips to Trivandapuram and Kanyakumari. Catching few days of sunshine, beach, fruits and coconut drink with lots and lots of tasty sea food, it was a good way to wrap up our journey to Kerala. I loved Kerala and maybe i will visit again, if my resources permit it. 😉 But i am already dreaming of my next trip. There were lots of fun memories and many things i learned, mostly that it is truly “Gods own Country”, a beautiful and varied place with kind people and amazing food.

 

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God’s own Country – Part I

After many many years of dreaming about Kerala and its fascinating backwaters, i was finally able to travel there. Kerala off course i found out is much more than its backwaters. The state forms part of the malabar coast that still runs major trading ports in India. Known for its spices and called the spice garden of India, Kerala held interest from Middle East and later on from the Europeans for the spices it produced. Nowadays, Kerala is a major tourist destination known for it’s Ayurveda, Backwaters and Beaches and its Tropical greenery.

Kerala is beautiful and it is definitely different from the rest of India. Its green and organic villages and small towns and it’s friendly people make you feel really at home. I ventured on a 10 day journey to discover Kerala found myself totally in love with it. Landing at Cochin airport, i was ready and excited to venture out. Kerala covers so many interesting districts, each with its own place and system that i will not be able to cover it’s beauty in one post. Therefore i have decided to do a district and town wise narration. Hope you will enjoy this journey along with me.

Cochin

First on the list was exploring the small town of Fort Kochi. It is roughly around 40 km

Appam and Chicken Stew

A much desired Appam and Chicken Stew

from the airport area and if you are entering Kerala by Cochin, you must make time to explore Fort Kochi before heading onward. It is small historical town, quite a world by its own. You can still find remnants of the Portuguese and the British era giving it a unique medieval aura. I was told by a friend to try appam in Kerala and on my first day, i decided that i must have this for breakfast. Hunting for appam at Fort Kochi turned out to be quite daunting though as most restaurants hadn’t opened yet and surprisingly most didn’t serve it. We finally found this place called “Dosas and Pancakes” where we got some Appam with delicious chicken Stew. The chicken stew was absolutely amazing. Cooked in coconut milk with spices and vegetables, its creamy taste went perfect with the fresh Appams.

Chinese fishing nets

The amazing installation of the Chinese fishing nets

With the delicious breakfast in our belly, we headed towards the Chinese fishing nets of fort kochi. This is a way of fishing by huge net installation from the boat at shore that is brought down and raised in an hourly interval. While it used to be a popular way of fishing in the early days, it mostly serves as a tourist attraction now. The lowering and raising is done manually and you get to try it out too and who knows you might get lucky and catch a few. We ended up catching a tiny one ourselves. 😛 The catch of my life time.

Vasco De Gama

Vasco De Gama

Heading onwards to the St. Francis church which is one of the oldest European church in India. Also called Vasco Da Gama Church, it used to house the remains of the explorer before it was removed to Lisbon.  Now they have markings where his remains used to lie. The beautiful architecture tells of stories gone by during the reign of the Portuguese and European colonial era and you will see maps of old routes preserved and stories of Vasco Da Gama’s feats and explorations. Oh it was exciting to be immersed in a different world, a thousand years away.

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Colourful Jew Street

Exploring jew street is one of the fun things to do here, especially if you like hunting for curios and antiques as i do. The dwindling Jewish settlement along this street forms a part of cochin’s unique heritage and the Jewish synagogue (Paradesi Synagogue) at the end of it is one of the oldest of its kind with architecture that depicts it’s grandeur in the olden days. Unfortunately photographs were not allowed otherwise i would surely have made an attempt at capturing its beauty.

There were off course many more places of interest at Fort Kochi, especially for history buffs but we just had half a day to explore before we headed towards Munar. Next time, i think i would definitely make it one day at Fort Kochi.

 

Munar

Munar is a beautiful place, an unexpected hill station cropped up in south India. It is a commercial tea hub with over 30 tea estates in the region mostly owned by the Tata groups Kanan Daven Tea Estate. Besides tea, Munar is also famous for spices and if you visit one of the spice garden along the way, you will be amazed by the number of spices that can possibly be grown there. It is a scenic 4-8 hours drive from Cochin to Munar, depending upon the time you spend along the way. You can stop along the way for food, enjoy a detour around spice garden to learn about the thousands of spices grown here and try elephant rides. You can even do some shopping and buy some tea, spices and home made chocolates. Off course we tried out all of it and by the time we reached Munar, it was already around 8.30 pm. The drive itself i must say again is so beautiful and it brought on a bit of nostalgia for me as it’s curved road, the sub tropical foliage and the cool weather reminded me of a similar drive from Phuentsholing to Thimphu.

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Beautiful Sunrise from my balcony

The sunrise above was captured from my room at Munar. We were lucky to have a room with a view. The wild beauty of Munar goes in sync with its perfectly trimmed and beautiful tea estates. It kind of reminded me of Sikkim though i find that this tiny hill station is more beautiful and natural.

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Munar town, a view from our hilltop resort

Munar is known for it’s tea and therefore, we had to visit the tea museum. As a tea lover myself, i have drunk tons of tea but never been curious about its making. I had to go see and learn for once. The tea museum i found was quite interesting as a small model for a working factory, they explain how tea is made and processed. They even had some old tea rollers from the colonial era on display and other antiques. A video explaining the evolution of tea estates in Munar and the efforts taken to make it a commercial success was also showcased and a short lecture was given on the benefits of tea and how to brew a perfect cup so as it derive the best from it. Now i am all set next time to brew myself a perfect cup. 🙂

A lesson in making tea, beautiful small town, breathtaking tea estates, i loved Munar. The hill station made me ecstatic. The mountains do bring me alive. 🙂 Well that is it for now. I will be covering more stories from my Kerala adventure in part II of my post. Please do look out for it. Thank you.

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Another year

“The days are long but years are short”. (Gretchen Rubin)

2015 flashed by and suddenly 2016 is upon us. This morning i was reading my blog on my year 2014 and how it had been a year of finding and accepting myself. Being Uden. And as i sit to reflect on 2015, i still am finding more of myself. I think the journey never ends. As each of us go through our life, each moment, each event and each day, the decisions we make as a result contribute to who we are today.

For me, 2015 has been a year of loss and lessons. I have lost my loved one, my only brother. Life does teach lessons the hard way and I have gone through stages of unbelief and grief but nothing will ever change the fact. He was lost young too young, but today as I ride through, flashes of memories at various stages of his life, stages from the part I did play in his life, I think he did live an adventurous life right until the very end. He was a fun loving, creative, gentle and kind. I will always cherish his life and his memories.

For 2016, my resolution will be to cherish the people in my life more, to never take anyone for granted and to be happy. Too often, we take people for granted and i myself have been guilty of it. This time, i intend to be more aware of my actions and love the real people in my life, be less judgemental and more understanding, be happy with whatever life brings and face it with sunshine. 😛

And as always, i have family and friends to be grateful for. Thank you every one for being a part of my life. Looking forward to continuing the journey with everyone.

20141226_170908For another year,

For peace and love and laughter and rain,

For sunshine, for loved ones,

For life, for another chance,

For shared moments, for acceptance,

For growth, for experience,

For strength come what may,

And for much more,

Happy new year!!!!

 

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Random Thoughts

Its August in Thimphu and i am on my bed, taking my morning time out to write a bit on my blog and in my mind. Pen and paper have become a thing of the past, its a wonder that schools still use pen and paper. Pretty soon it will be replaced by computers/gadgets that will promise to give you better experience, efficiency and still keep the charm of writing using pen and paper. Anyways as i think of what to write for my next blog, which is this one, which today i have decided to do an experiment, not plan and just write whatever i can think of as i sit in front of my laptop and type into it. I am thinking a dozen thoughts. Thoughts about pen and paper being replaced leads me to think about how i learned to use type writer just recently. Now thats an anomaly; most people i imagine would have learned to use a type writer before a computer. Do not even start on why i had to do it, i think it is enough to say that i am just grateful that laptops were invented.

And again back to my train of thoughts,  Now i am thinking about kindle but hey i don’t want to be thinking about technology anymore. 😛 I have a better thing to share. I just saw an acrobatic performance of a beetle, smallish round heavy insect that it is, i thought it wouldn’t be able to lift itself up as it had somehow landed itself on its back. Just as i was about to assist it to get back on its feet, much to my surprise, it just swung its two back legs with a big swish and voila, on its feet again. I am amazed at its natural skills of acrobatics which leads me to think of Charles Darwin and natural selection. How every survival feature developed as a process of natural selection, its amazing. Speaking of amazing, now i am thinking of the only flaw of this evolution process; child birth for women. Before modern science and medicine, many women did die during child birth. Child birth used to be dangerous.

Now, where was I? I had almost forgotten the point of my first sentence, which is to say that fall has begun with august. Leaves are still intact but cold has definitely seeped in. Day before i couldn’t sleep because my feet wouldn’t get warm, so last night i soaked my feet in hot water for almost 20 minutes before jumping into my covers. I must remind myself to buy a hot water bag. Outside the sun is yet to shine and i can hear the labourers gossiping and going about their work (which is quite noisy) on a construction site just beside our house as they hurry to make deadlines before winter sets in and work is halted. Do i want to now go on about the many new construction projects in and around Thimphu which is fast developing and in between a city and a village. What is it? I think i will stop now before i bore you with many circles that lead from one to next and back again on whatever i am thinking. It has truly been a random rambling but i hope you might, a teeny weeny bit enjoy reading? 😉 Otherwise just quote Sheldon. e4cd27c2ce1af83265300799704fc1e3

Until next time.

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Camping at Haa

I am back in Bhutan again with a week already past. 😛 I find myself busy as it always is just after you get back to your hometown. Lot of catching up to do. Also just got back from a camping trip with my family. While camping at this time of the year (June, July) in Bhutan is not really a good idea because of the rain, we still tried to make the best of it. Plus it was a short one, only 2 nights so quite manageable. Going anywhere with my family is a task in itself as we have a habit of packing everything that we might require. Imagine with all the camping gears and necessities like food, utensils, gas, change of clothes for us, we had two vehicles full and a full four hours (i imagine as i admit i wasn’t much involved in the preparation) spent packing and preparing picnic lunch for the road. There were nine of us altogether and 3 dogs. So that makes twelve 😛

We choose a spot beside the river. Just about a km away from the helipad, along the river is a nice ground with wide space enough to put up camp and for the dogs to run around. Fortunately we were able to set up our tent just before the rain started. It was bright sunny the whole day till then. The next two days were a bit cloudy and rainy but we found stuffs to do anyways. While the rest of the team whiled away their time fishing and exploring villages in Haa during the day and playing cards and chatting after sundown, me and my sister played in the river collecting stones and trying to see who would be able to stand in the river water longer. (Its only summer by name as the water is icy cold..)

We also tried to read while daylight lasted and at night falling asleep was no problem at all as we were quite exhausted by the end (must be the fresh air as we didn’t really do much aside from playing in the river and torturing the dogs by bringing them in water). The pitter patter of rain falling on top our tents also helped. I had some of the best ZZzzzzs of my life. 😉

Haa is always so green in summer. When you can catch it in sunlight during the brief periods without rainfall and sky is clear, wow its beautiful and pristine. The green hills against the clear blue sky. Its always one of my favorite places especially in summer, best for lazing around on the grass catching the sun. I am glad that i could visit Haa again. Some pictures below that i could capture during the sunny days.

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Expert at Moving House

 

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Ugg!! Not really. Got you with that one. 😛 You did think that since this is the third time we are moving house in the span of a year and a half, we would become experts and moving would be a breeze. Well not really. It takes a lot of planning and organizing like, looking at advertisements, fixing appointments for viewing, starting to pack things you least need, throwing stuffs you don’t need anymore, making a note to help you remember to change address as soon as you move etc etc. With time, ordinary humans like us who succumb to the need to buy more and more things end up accumulating more and more stuffs, which in the end comes back to you. Imagine organizing and packing all your stuffs. Then there is the unpacking and setting up at the new place. Whoa a lot of work.

After almost 3 weeks of house hunting, looking over millions of advertisements (I am exaggerating there now, but you get a the picture), and dozens of viewing with disappointments, we finally find a place we like at Tanjong Pagar. We are still organizing our stuffs and trying to find all the tricks of living in the neighbourhood like shortcuts to mrt, nearest ntuc, malls, clinics and off course hawker centre. Yes we do need food. 😉

Just over a week now, and we are still settling in our new place but we are glad to have a quiet and nice neighbourhood with plenty of peaceful walking routes for evening walks. We look to being nicely settled here until off course its time to move again. 😛

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