Friday, January 29, 2010


We were excited to return home to see our family and friends, but also to retrieve our crate deliveries! Before setting off for 4-months there were some items we were hoping to find in Asia, such as a new set of dishes, some clothes and cultural items. We mailed boxes home from Tokyo and Osaka, Japan; Bangkok, Thailand; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Singapore, as well as shipping two crates home from Vietnam - one from Hoi An and one from Saigon. We may have missed Christmas with our families, but it was like Christmas morning coming home to 5 boxes, a pile of mail and 2 crates! In the end it was relatively easy and cost-effective to freight ship. With the average 3 month wait for ship containers to reach Long Beach, California then placed on rail and moved up to the Port of Portland, it was a well worth the effort. We couldn't imagine carrying ceramic dishes in our backpacks for 3 months! Ouch! The crate from Saigon was the first to arrive.Our Saigon crate contained our Vespa, 4 hammocks and several boxes of miscellanous stuff. Due to WTO (World Trade Organization) we were taxed $9, and mainly for the Vespa! The second crate from Hoi An had no duty taxes at all!

The second crate arrived approximately 10 days after the first and was packaged completely different from the Vespa crate. 2x2s were basically nailed together around insulated boxes to create one package. Ingenious actually. Crammed inside the 2x2 wood pieces we could see 5 boxes.We were completely surprised by the thorough, well wrapped and sometimes expertly arranged items in the boxes. After realizing we paid maybe $20 for "shipping and handling" and basically dropped items to be shipped off daily to the shop owner in Hoi An without a care as to what condition they would be returned to us in 3 months was pretty amazing.It took us a few hours to take out and unwrap everything. And not one item showed up damaged, again amazing.And we have been enjoying meals on our new dishes ever since.Now maybe you're wondering what we've been doing since we returned and where Buddha Bellies is at. Well Buddha Bellies is still in the works, but we did come home to a major recession, bank and credit crisis. As the USA and the rest of the world is "recovering" that's what we're doing also. This trip has completely opened our eyes to the possibilities of what great food we could do and feel our original ideas to be too safe and not as bold as we think they should be. So in the meantime we're pushing ourselves to create something that will knock your socks off and have you begging for more, much like SE Asia did for us. For now here's some answers about how we're dealing with our homecoming. 1. What was the first thing you did when you got home? Anne: Stripped the bed, washed the sheets and remade the bed Mike: Sat down with a mix of exhaustion and inspiration and said "Damn, did we just do all that? 2.What was the first meal you ate? Anne: 5Q Salad and a C-Note Beer at 5th Quadrant Pub Mike: Large salad with beets and blue cheese and a pint of C-Note Imperial IPA 3. What was the first meal you cooked? Anne: Oh goodness, I have no idea! I wish I could remember. 4. Most difficult thing to adjust to upon return? Anne: The weather! It's so cold here! Mike: Not being in Asia! Everything is just so exciting over there...even walking around the block in the morning just to get bottled water 5. What did you miss the most about home? Anne: Our couch and not having to pay for water! Mike: My kitchen 6. What did you not miss at all? Anne: Cold rain! Mike: My job 7. Anything you do differently now verses before the trip? Anne: Don't complain about having to wear socks or run errands on my bike. Mike: I constantly find myself comparing everyday methods in Asia to how we do things here in the US and overall, things are done more efficiently in Asia. 8. What would you have done differently now that you're back? Anne: Would have saved more money and traveled longer! Mike: Shopped more in Tokyo! 9. What were you most looking forward to returning to? Anne: Sitting on the couch and having a Christopher's Gourmet Grill burger. Mike: Retrieving my imported '69 Vespa from the dock and getting it legalized. 10. Any observations you make now with a well-traveled eye? Anne: How stylish Portlanders are! Mike: I realize how blessed I am with all my friends and family still in good health and how fortunate I am to have had the opportunities I've had in life. Bonus Question: What do you miss doing the most from your trip? Anne: Listening to tropical rain storms - WARM RAIN! And listening to gamelan music while getting ready to go out for the day. Mike: Waking up everday not knowing what adventures will arise.

Monday, January 25, 2010

End Of An Era

Ok, maybe end of an era is a bit strong, but its the end of our incredible, awe-inspiring, amazing 4-month adventure traipsing through SE Asia. And we have the luggage to prove it. We feel this trip/vacation/journey has enriched us forever. So to that we say good bye to Sydney, one of Anne's top destinations now scratched off the list.So now what? But before we jump into that we decided to provide a quick Q&A on the last 4 months of our lives. 1. One Place you'd go back to again and again. Anne: Oh starting with a tough one. So many places I'd love to go back to on this trip - Tokyo; Vietnam, especially Saigon; Penang; Bangkok; Ubud, Bali; Singapore; Sydney Mike: Japan, Vietnam, Bangkok, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali and Sydney 2. Place you'd most likely recommend a friend go visit? Anne: Tokyo! Everyone should see Tokyo! And for my parents: Singapore. Mike: Japan 3. Place you've never been to and are dying to go Anne: So many places, so I'll be specific and in no particular order - Hong Kong Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya Cape Town, South Africa Angkor Wat, Cambodia India, region yet to be determined New Orleans Trinidad & Tobago Java and Sumatra Islands, Indonesia Rio De Janeiro, Brazil Italy, Croatia, Turkey and Greece South Carolina and New Mexico Mike: Hong Kong 4. Place you'd never go back? Anne: Kuta, Bali Mike: Kuta, Bali 5. Most memorable moment Anne: Mike proposing to me at midnight on New Year's Eve at the rooftop of the Rex Hotel, Saigon, Vietnam Mike: Stepping out of our hotel for the first time in Hanoi, Vietnam, after arriving late at night and thinking "We're definitely not in Kansas anymore!" 6. Preferred method of transportation? Anne: Scooter! Mike: Scooter Rental! 7. Most "foreign" place Anne:Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Mike: Hanoi, Vietnam
8. Most "memorable" place Anne: Tough one, it was all so memorable, but I'll provide specifics. Rex Hotel Rooftop, Saigon, Vietnam Bamboo Forest, outside Kyoto, Japan Ha Long Bay, Vietnam Emperor Tu Duc's compound, Hue, Vietnam Hammocks and midnight swims in Phu Quoc, Vietnam Bangkok night markets Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang, Malaysia Taipusam Hindu Celebration at the Batu Caves, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia The Living Galleries and Lau Pa Sat Food Court, Singapore Terraced Rice Fields, Bali The Gap Park and Sydney Harbor, Sydney, Australia Mike: Rex Hotel, New Year's Eve 9. Any place you feel you had too much time? Anne:
That was the beauty of having 4 months to travel. We had a general agenda, but came and went as we pleased. If we like one particular place we'd stay longer if we didn't we'd leave. So no, I don't feel like we spent too much time in any one place, sure, there were places we didn't like, but we would decide that and leave. Mike: Kuta Beach, Bali 10. Any place you didn't have enough time in Anne:Japan! Mike: Japan
11. Must have travel item Anne: Silk sleep sacks we bought in Hoi An, Vietnam - priceless! Mike: Good walking shoes, laptop computer, insect repellent, sunscreen and sunglasses 12. Items that were a waste of space? Anne:In the end we may have carried around more meds and first aid items than we needed, but the peace of mind was worth it. Clothes would be my space waster. There were items I didn't even wear or only wore once. Mike: Sigg water bottles 13. Favorite Souvenir? Anne: My buddha I purchased at the Saigon Souvenir Shop on Dong Khaoi Street. He makes me smile everyday. Mike: A Fiancee 14. What did you learn about travel Anne: You may not appreciate some place while you're there, but you will definitely after you've left. Mike: Every occurrence is an unexpected, unpredictable, incontrollable and inspiring moment. And People are people are people are people 15. What did you learn about yourself? Anne: I'm a luxury traveler with low carbon footprint ideals Mike: I can adapt to anything 16. Suggestions for an extended trip? Anne: SE Asia - it's exotic, mesmerizing, funny, inexpensive, innocent and raw. If you don't have 4 months, it's easy to break up. We want to do Hong Kong and Taiwan someday soon. Or major cities in Vietnam, Phnom Penh and Bangkok. Or Southern Thailand beaches, Penang, Perhentian Islands, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Indonesia is an extended trip in and of itself starting with Jakarta, the island of Java and the world's largest buddhist temple at Borobudur, the islands of Sumatra, Sulawesi and Flores to see the Kimodo Dragons! Mike: Be prepared for the unexpected 17. If you could live anywhere for year, where? Anne: Saigon, Vietnam; Sydeny, Australia; Singapore; Honolulu, Hawaii; New York City; Southern France; London, England Mike: Japan 18. Most inspiring culinary place you've visited? Anne: New York City; Saigon, Vietnam; Japan Mike: Vietnam 19. Least inspiring Anne: Beiing, China; Thailand Mike: Thailand 20. Next Trip? Anne & Mike: Vietnam for Tet New Year! Good bye Year of the Ox (both of our zodiac year) and Hello Year of the Tiger!
So if there are any questions about our travels you'd like to ask please feel free, we'd love to answer them for you!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sydney Seafood School

Our cooking class in Singapore centered around Malaysian cooking and when we arrived in Sydney we signed up for the Sydney Seafood School's Singapore Chili Crab Class. To be honest it was the most interesting class offered during our time in Sydney and after eating the chili crabs in Singapore we were excited to find out how we could make it for ourselves. We arrived at the Sydney Fish Market too late in the day to enjoy the little shops selling fresh seafood and the much talked about fish & chips. We weren't too disappointed because we know in our hearts we will be return to Sydney soon, we simply fell in love with this city and can seriously see ourselves spending a lot of time here. Out of all our cooking courses the Sydney Seafood School was by far the most professionally organized and structured. At the end of the course we were all given a seafood grocery bag that is insulated so you can carry home from the store beer, seafood, meat and cold items. The course started with an introduction to the many varieties of craps.We learned about the difference tastes and textures between the varieties, how to humanely kill crabs, and how to clean and handle crabs and numerous different kinds of seafood.The class taught us two kinds of crab recipes and introduced us to the virtues of an electric wok.With all good seafood recipes simplicity is key. And our instructor quickly whipped through the crab recipes and soon it was our turn. We moved into another room where cooking stations were set up and we were given our own recipe books and off we were! We were using mud crabs and shared the station with two girls from Sydney. After preparing our crab dishes we moved to a dining area where we ate with our cooking partners. One of the girls had just returned from a trip to LA and we had a very interesting conversation about American coffee. Coming from the NW we quickly had to correct her on the Australian concept of "coffee" which is all espresso in Sydney. If you want a cup of coffee as we know it in the USA it's called a long pull, as in a long pulled espresso. What you do get is a proper 4.5 ounces of coffee, not this bogus 16-ounce Venti/Grande crap, but a properly pulled coffee. They complained American drip coffee was crap, but the concept of drip coffee is simply not available in Sydney, so to each is own. We enjoyed the conversation and the delicious crab meal, served traditionally with rice, something we hadn't had in a while and gobbled up quickly.We still get emails from the Sydney Seafood School making us yearn to go back and take more classes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beach Bumming It

There are so many reason to like Sydney. Now let's add a 30-minute bus ride from downtown and you're at one of world's most famous beaches. Pretty great huh? To top that Bondi Beach felt like a million miles from the city center area, but still maintained the casual-easy-going-feel of Sydney. We were utterly charmed by the beautiful little beach area and even more impressed by how unpretensious the locals were. I guess when you live somewhere this beautiful you haven't got much to complain about.During our travels we spent quite a bit of time on beaches. What can we say we love sun, sand and wearing as little as possible. Bondi Beach seem to sum up everything we loved on our travels - friendly locals, accessibility through public transportation, beautiful scenery, the ocean, the city and an environment and prevailing attitude to just let it all go and relax. On top of all that Bondi Beach lacked the things we found annoying about our travels - crowds, obnoxious tourists, hawkers who wouldn't leave you alone even if you faked sleeping and beach rules. Yes, many beaches have rules! No umbrellas here, it costs if you want to lay here, beach resort guest only and the list goes on. Not on Bondi Beach. We were free to enjoy our day at the beach.Alot of people asked if we tried surfing in Bali and no we didn't. Getting spun around like you're on the inside of washing machine just didn't sound fun. But as we sat watching the surfers at Bondi Beach we had second thoughts, the surfers were amazing, much better than anywhere else we encountered on our travels. And yes, the ladies held it down also, surfing in bikinis, none of this wetsuit business.Here's an interesting side note. Summer in Australia are December, January and February; Fall is March, April, May and so on. For some reason we thought that the seasons would be called the same as in the northern hemisphere, but Summer would be cold and so on. Nope, summer is hot and sunny even if it's in the dead of winter where we come from. With that being said I guess Christmas is always in the summertime. Being the end of summer and beginning of fall the water was colder than we found in SE Asia, but Mike braved it regardless - isn't he gorgeous?After spending the day at Bondi Beach we could immediately see the appeal of being a beach bum. Going from business suit to a bathing suit in one city made the appeal even more.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Memorable Meals: Sydney

One of the most surprising aspects of Sydney was how international the population is, including the dining scene. Walking through the lower downtown area we saw whole blocks dedicated to particular populations, such as Thai, which had a few city blocks with Thai restaurants, bookstores, internet cafes and grocery stores. We came upon a street near the backpackers' area with a row of Vietnamese restaurants and we dined in the Spanish quarter where the streets were lined with tapas bars and Mediterrean restaurants. With our 4 month adventure coming to an end, we were feeling the financial strain, but Sydney proved to be a great place if you ever find yourself on a limited budget with local fast food stores selling great pizzas and the best savory pies at local chain Pie Face.

One of the local business we visited was burger chain Burgerlicious. Their open-style fast food restaurants were everywhere in the city center area. With the terrific weather Sydney gets a majority of the year many fast food restaurants didn't have doors, the whole front facade would be open, like a garage door. So just a few steps and you were inside a fast food restaurant And the Burgerlicious signs were hard to pass up after walking pass them everywhere. Their burger selections is extensive and their vegetarian burger selection is very impressive. We debated whether the name came after the Destiny Child song, either way their grain fed Aussie beef was delicious. We simply had a classic burger, memorable, but nothing like our burger from the Nexxt Cafe in Miami - that was a classic burger we won't soon forget.
The Nexxt Cafe Burger, MiamiA decent burger representative, the Classic at Burgerlicious, Sydney
We're not sure what traditional Australian or Sydney food would be, probably similar to what Northwest Cuisine or New Californian cuisine would be - lots of seafood and influenced by Europe and Pacific Rim. So needless to say we simply walked around, checked out menus and prices and basically ate whatever we were craving, including Mexican tacos in the Kings Cross neighborhood, which was interesting to listen to a description of carnitas from the Russian server.We had fish & chips in Darling Harbor. Unfortunately we arrived at the Sydney Fish Market too late to eat in the market, which we heard was the best fish and chips we'll ever have. But we did find a cafe around the corner which served a pretty mean fish & chip plate.While walking around the city center area of downtown we came across the Din Tai Fung Restaurant in the lobby of one of the financial buildings. This was the same restaurant chain we had the fantastic dim sum in Singapore and we were immediately ready to go back for more! The usual suspects from our last experience of dim sum in Singapre was there - pork dumplings
steam dumplings in spicy soy saucecrispy bean rolls salt pickled cucumbers
We tried their amazing hot and sour soup. We were seriously dueling it out for the last sips of this soup. An excellent representation of umami with the distinct sweet, sour, salty and bitter tastes coming through perfectly. This time we had their silky and delicious mango pudding with a shot of cream on the side, which we didn't quite get the shot of cream. The silky and mildly flavored mango pudding was good with just the whipped cream. But we couldn't leave Sydney without trying kangaroo, they eat that right? Well we didn't know that kangaroo was readily eaten until we heard a woman on the bus asking her daughter to pull the kanga meat from the fridge for dinner. We walked into several restaurants and bars and were promptly told no they didn't serve kanga, but each establishment did say "it's got to be served some place around here." That's when we came across Rock In Burger, an wall-less, open-area burger joint right in the heart of the Rocks neighborhood.We quickly found Kanga available on their menu board and decided to have burgers for an early dinner one night. The open area style restaurant was always packed when we walked past it so we decided they must have some great burgers. Anne opted for a regular beef burger, for comparison reasons. And Mike decided on the kanga burger. With much of the kangaroo meat probably coming from the legs and tail the meat was somewhat dry compared to a beef burger, but delicious nonetheless and not as gamey as we thought it may be. Compared to Burgerlicious's burgers mentioned earlier, Rock In Burger's burgers were definitely more "gourmet" with double the price. But each burger came with it's own distinct relish or chutney and worth the visit.We can definitely say we came away from Sydney with some serious Buddha Bellies menu contenders.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sydney's Irish Pride

We woke up on a Sunday in Sydney ready for another great day of sightseeing and visiting local open markets. As we tried to make our way up to the Rocks Weekend Market we were stopped by policeman diverting traffic and pedestrians due to the large St. Patrick's Day parade going through downtown and ending at the northern end of Hyde Park. We had purposedly planned the end of our trip in Sydney to coincide with St. Patrick's Day due to the large historical population of Irish and English living in Sydney. We're not large St. Patrick's Day celebrators back home, but we thought it may be a bit different with so many people having Irish ancestry in Australia. But the parade and numerous people running around with green top hats solidified why we don't really do much on St. Patrick's Day home or now internationally.

This was the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day, which fell on a Tuesday in 2009, which proved that universally St. Patrick's Day is another reason to simply drink and do so all day long on Sunday because we all can't party on a weekday. Although numerous bars in the Rocks neighborhood was packed on St. Patrick's Day as well.

What we didn't anticipate was how much St. Patrick Day celebrating was going to disrupt our plans to partake in a traditional English roast beef and yorkshire pudding dinner, done only on Sundays, at a local pub we had enjoyed beers at earlier in the week. We arrived at the pub to a crush of people wearing bright shades of green. But that didn't stop us from enjoying our dinner plans and found a corner spot at the bar, where we captured the chaos the best we could.We ordered our outstanding roast beef and yorkshire pudding and a guiness stew. Both were heavy, salty, and exactly what we were hoping for. Besides the big chunks of carrots that came with the roast beef dinner, peas were the only vegetable. And of course there was lots of potatoes and gravy! After our meal we felt we did St. Patrick's Day justice - our way, with traditional food and beer.