Sunday, March 27, 2011

The process of a barbecue

Last weekend he boned, butterflied and marinated a leg of NZ lamb - from Waipukerau.  At NZD 40 it is expensive compared to other things we eat here, but not unreasonable compared to NZ prices.

Here we obviously do not have a gas barbecue and are mastering the intricacies of charcoal.  Andrew is in his element!  He was so looking forward to the barbecue he set the alarm on his phone so he didn't miss the time to light the BBQ. 

Note the extreme concentration placing the fire lighters and charcoal

Note the lattice pattern of the impregnated fire sticks, the precision and symmetry of the charcoal a lot of concentration and effort went into this. 
(Grade A export charcoal that was purchased from the maker on a trip down south)

The lit charcoal is allowed to burn for half an hour - with expert supervision monitoring progress closely.  And then he had a 2nd alarm to tell him when to put the meat on :-)

Only then are the pieces of lamb introduced to the heat.

Other residents of the apartments were interested to see what Andrew was doing and were keen to learn from his obvious expertise.

PS: yummy lamb

Monday, March 21, 2011

Saturday Bangkok Post Newspaper

Recently we have been buying a copy of the Bangkok Post, Saturday edition.  Often it isn't in the shop until Sunday morning, but it quite nice to read sitting in the sun before lunch.

A few of the highlights this week were.... the story illustrating the strained state of Cambodia / Thai border politics "they agreed to stop working on the road after the Cambodian soldiers threatened to shoot them"

Then there was the snippet about the snake and the silicone poisoning - which Andrew found immensely amusing!

This week there was no advertisement for plastic surgery.  Usually on the front of the classifieds is a price list for procedures at a Bangkok clinic.  Some of the procedures we are not sure what they even are.  However there is one we can understand in principle - for a mere USD $1,600 you can have a sex change. 

Or perhaps you would like a job as a member of Thai airways cabin crew.  But there are a few conditions that you need to meet.  For example some include... you need to be under 26 years old, over 160cm with weight in proportion to height (within company standards), you need to have "Thai manners"?, a minimum of a bachelors degree in any field, have never been married or had children, etc. And the employment contract will cease at age 45.
And a comment on last week's weather in Bangkok - it was very cold - look the traders in this picture - braving the cold snap with temperatures in the low 20's!

It has been cold to in Vientiane, with temperatures for 4 days last week not even getting into the 20s.  And it rained!  It is not supposed to do that for another 2 months and was considered quite unusual.

We still needed to get about so the rain ponchos we purchased in Hanoi came out again this week.  Poncho up under the helmet, rain hood tucked behind the ears (otherwise you can't hear),  backpack under the poncho, work clothes in a plastic bag in the front basket, jandals to deal with the spray off the road - and off into the rain

Friday, March 18, 2011

We have added insects to our diet

Once a month or so the Women’s International Group (WIG)  run a cultural evening to encourage people to learn about and appreciate Lao culture. A speaker comes along and talks about a particular topic.

On Tuesday the topic was edible insects and Andrew and I went along.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have a program promoting insects as a source of food. Commercial farming is efficient in terms of land usage, has low effort required and the prices/returns are economically possible. 

our presenters
The presenters were fantastic. Professor Hanboonsong, from Thailand was passionate about the topic but had a great sense of humor. When asked about what you feed a farmed cricket she explained usually they used chicken feed, but had been experimenting with bio-waste from the Beer Lao factories – adding that the crickets had taken to the BeerLao very well and were very happy insects. A young Lao lady also spoke enthusiastically and well about what they were actually doing in Laos to support insect farming. Apparently there is already a number of quite a strong farming operations outside Vientiane.

Apparently 95% of Lao eat some form of insects in their diet and currently in their model farms they are concentrating on crickets, palm meal bugs and weaver ants. Both Andrew and I have had insects as part of our provincial journeys –Andrew had Bamboo Worms up North and I had ant egg soup down south.

Bamboo or Silk Worms in Xiengkhouan

Crickets are a cousin of shrimp – it’s all just perception as to what is food and what isn’t

At the end of the presentation we were all invited to tried fried crickets – they don’t really taste of much at all. And if you you don’t focus on the legs when you put them in your mouth you would never know they were insects.

Our pre dinner appertiser - fried cricket

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blogging with Andrew

So the previous post was pretty much done by Andrew. It is probably no secret that I often get the material from my dear husband and edit it into something a little more readable – action words, full sentences etc. Bullet points will only go so far outside memos!

The process for this post was that Andrew wrote it all himself with some minimal editing input from me – perhaps the message on content is sinking in J

Then we get to the technical side – loading and posting. The process went something like this…

AJ: Ok, I have uploaded the text for blogger

PJ: Open the blog page in Internet Explorer and sign in

AJ: [Typing in the Internet explorer menu bar…"AJ"… and a list of recently opened pages starting with those letter appear below the bar]
Andrew hits a random link with the mouse and ends up on a completely different page than

PJ: Why did you choose that link?

AJ: It just went there {yeah right} [Tries again, and gets to the page]

PJ: 1st you need to sign in

AJ: Sign in, How do I do that?

PJ: Look at the screen – where do you think?

AJ: [After a 15 second pause] Maybe I'll use the "Sign In" link

PJ: Yes, that might be a good idea. Now choose "edit"

AJ: [Random mouse actions]

PJ: Edit… EDIT , no EDIT, choose EDIT you idiot

AJ: Don't yell at me. Ok I'll click edit . Done. See that was easy. [starts to walk away]

PJ: Where are you going?

AJ: I think I'll have a piece of cake

PJ: Not until you load one picture – so you can understand the process.

AJ: Where are the photos?

PJ: In folder XYZ, half way down the page

AJ: [Tab to Bottom of Page]

PJ: Too far, just halfway

AJ:[Tab to Top of Page], [Tab to Bottom of Page], [Tab to Top of Page], [Tab to Bottom of Page], [Tab to Top of Page], [Tab to Bottom of Page], [Tab to Top of Page], [Tab to Bottom of Page],

PJ: ######%^&*#####%%%%%*

AJ: Oh, just there

AJ: [selects a photo] and hits upload, and then 2 other random keys. As a result the loaded photo has to be manually reselected and posted into the blog.

AJ: There, I put a photo in the blog post. It's not so hard is it. I think I'll have that cake now and you can put in the remainder of the photos.

Patience Pills required!!!

Back in Vientiane

We returned to Laos late February and there are differences. It is hotter, some days are reaching 38 degrees, the leaves are falling – a lack of rain is my conclusion, 
but there are some stunning flowers about.

 We have not identified this tree yet.  It has unusal pods - which looked like curled up leaves from a distance, but really are fruit.  If anyone knows what it is…we would love to know. 

There are plentiful seasonal fruits by the truck load of water melon, sugar cane being processed for drinks,

An old friend from Auckland made contact a couple of days ago and we met Mike at the Sunset Bar.

It is at the northern end of town built out on the river's edge in a rather basic style, the beer was great (cold) the peanuts tasty and the sunset over the Mekong was stunning. Regrettably it is likely to be demolished to allow for a new retaining wall to be built to manage the water flows in the wet season.
We went on to enjoy a great French meal at "La Cave des Chateaux", beside the Namphou fountain. One needs some variety from fried rice.

Hanging on the wall of the restaurant is a notable NZ connection - a Counties Manukau jersey.  A gift from regular NZ cliental, a few years back. Mike checked to make sure it was still on display, after chatting with the chef and his wife.

Paula is back working so I am chief cook and bottle washer while a couple of potential projects for me have their details completed.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Saigon – District 1

We returned from the Vietnam coast and had an afternoon and night in Saigon. We used our time to follow a printed a two hour walking tour of District 1. It took us a bit longer than that due taking time out to look in some stores ( the air conditioning is appealing) and beer stops (it was hot and humid).
All the bricks for the Notre Dame Cathedral had been imported from France. 

Across the road was the Post Office building. The Post Office building and interior reflect a gracious past and is fully functional.

We walked past the the Reunification palace ( previously President of South Vietnams palace) but didn't feel compelled to go inside.

Saigon has huge number of bikes that appear to go faster than Hanoi. They poured off a ferry in a block and rapidly funneled onto city streets.

If the traffic is rather clogged and motorbike riders commonly take to the footpath to get ahead of their fellow riders.

Motorbikes doing heavy duty
We went through the large central market has a huge variety of food and other goods.

The market operators are most pushy we have encountered anywhere but they are superb retailers. I purchased 3 shirts for NZ$13 each and was happy. I am sure they were too.   Although when we visited after lunch a high number were having a snooze at their stalls aided by the stuffy warm atmosphere.

We ate and drank well and we were happy tourists with our time in Saigon.