Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Củ Chi Tunnels - Vietnam

Your travel experiences to Vietnam will not complete without you experience these exceptional discoveries. About two and half hours driving from Ho Chi Minh City toward the jungle called Củ Chi, where military campaign was during the Vietnam War and this was the Viet Cong base operation.

About the image above: natural jungle of Cu Chi area where the tunnels are ends! With camouflaged by the dried leaves, you will have difficulties to recognize neither landmines nor other traps.

About the image above: precise introduction and explanation given to every visitors just before enter the site.

The tunnels are look not really suitable to live in but during the war it was the best hiding spot for the guerillas. From the video shown to us before entering the area, I could imagined that this was a brilliant construction with many accesses and used to communicate among the guerrillas, as routes, to store food, hospitals and of course to store their weaponry and accommodated for mostly the fighters.

About the image above: the round tunnel probably this is not a exact tunnel but is good to see and to be part of the tour.

About the image above: one of the tunnels amongst hundreds of them. A strong rims built around to protect the water overflowing to the inside tunnels.

Now tourist can enjoy and visit to this site since the Vietnamese government open it for public with some additional of facilities that make this place more look interesting and memorable. Few dioramas of activities during the war are also displays here. You can see on how the soldiers produce their own weapon, make traps, landmines, clothes, rubber slippers and what kind of food they eat during the war.

About the image above: a visitor experiences the tunnel, the purpose of this artificial tunnel is only attraction for tourist to take pictures. Few other visitors gather around to queue to try this unique site.

About the image above: another visitor experience the wider tunnel. She tried to crawl down carefully because some of the site maybe slippery.

The tour will start from the entrance that you will need to buy entrance tickets for few sites. And then you pass the ticket for verification and allow you to enter the site. Start with the video about the war and how the tunnel created and discovered. After the video show, you will be asked if you are part of a group or if you are not; a guide will accompany you and show you around and explained the details of the area. From the entrance tunnel, the traps, the ventilation, etc. The guide will accompany you until the end of the tour.

About the image above: a visitor experienced to shoot with real bullet using an old gun.

The most sites we like are the shooting range and the making of rice paper. You can by some of the real bullets to shoot using the M16, AK47 and I tried both of them. I never shoot with the real bullets since this time. I was bit not confidence when I did the shoot for the first bullet. The second until the last bullets all were fine and I really enjoyed it. The sound of both the guns produced very loud sound, I cannot imagine how were the soldiers in the battlefield can surviving with this psychological pressure with many bullet fired, bombs dropped everywhere.

About the image above: some weapons that produce in this site were on display under this small hut.

About the image above: the end of the tunnels protected by grass hut to make sure the rainwater will not go to the lower tunnels

The other site we are really like the Vietnamese girl making the rice paper. Look very simple but we think this a bit difficult for me since we never do this. One by one she prepared the transparent round wrapper and sundried in front of the house.

After this site we also tried to experience with tunnel. We went inside of the tunnel. It was not comfortable time for me, we realized that we cannot breathe so easily during crawled to the inside of the tunnels but we managed to escape out from this tiny hole after almost 12 minutes. It was fun too!

About the image above: a robotic smith soldier demonstrated on how to keep fire on during the making of the traditional weaponry.

About the image above: a soldier on duty to prepare slippers for the guerillas.

Leaving this hut house of the tunnel, we reached the house where afternoon tea and snack served by few girls in black uniform. It was nicely brewed tea and steamed cassava with some salt. Taste very nice and refreshing. We glad that we can visit this place and experienced this unique site. How about you?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gastronomy Repertoires From the 12th Century – The ‘Bayonese’ Cooking Style

Bayon Temple – This is the most preserved activity on Angkor Gastronomic art era, are carved on the south wall of the temple. A legacy of Khmer cuisine and civilization is also easily can be found in this magnificence ancient building. The Bayonese in that time applied several technique of cooking; barbecue, steam, grilled, etc. It might sound as simple acts and with minimum knowledge of ingredients but they tried to create a very elegant yet exotic cuisine to mark the civilization of that particular era. I am sure with array of herb and spices they have, it might the food will taste very good and of course suitable to be presented to their kings and offer to their Gods and Goddesses. 

About the image above: the magnificent Bayon temple has been lighted up for the first time for special occasion after more than 900 years. Imagine if this electricity was available at 12th century, all of this temple sites will look more beautiful, grand and different.

According to the Zhou Daguan’s report written in the 13th century, he listed some vegetables like eggplant, onion, cucumber, leek, squash, mustard green and lotus root consumed within the Kingdom. And fruits include to his list; watermelon, banana, orange, lychee and pomegranate. He also added his list with some spices and fresh herbs like peppers and variety of aromatic herbs.

Listed also country chicken, ducks, bulls, horses, pigs and sheep, fresh water conger eel, black carp, bastard carp, prawns, sea turtle, mussels, alligator and many kind of sea fish were included in his list fro his book – Customs of Cambodia.

Some of the utensils and equipment like earthenware stove, pots, copper cooking pots and coconut shell ladder and ceramic dishes are used in that period.

From the wall of Bayon Temple I traced that most of the notes made by Zhou Daguan nine centuries ago is mostly true. As I can see today, large number of fishes appeared here from the large size to small one, many variety from different spices. Crocodile, buffalo, wild boar, many domestic animal and games also appeared on the wall

Along with the ingredients available and type of utensil used to cook food in the kitchen, the Bayonese introduced style of cooking with many different techniques.  The type of food that being prepared - from steaming to boiling and barbecuing, from small pieces of food to large carcass of whole suckling pig which prepared by group of peoples in teamwork.

The composition of the menu maybe consist of both fishes from the lake and the sea, shellfishes, chicken, duck, eggs, suckling pig, wild boar, buffalo, Cow, sheep and few games. Vegetable and rice was also available as additional.

From the clay pots they can be used on preparing soups and stewed food. The open fire of charcoal or firewood could inspire on preparing slow roasted, barbecued or grilled. Sundried, smoked and fermented ingredients were also introduced due to keep longer foodstuff to be consumed in the sandstone query site for all of the kingdom’s workers.

Visiting the Bayon Temple make me realize that Bayonese peoples were so advance on gastronomy creation plus presentation that chinaware has been used. Should might they still eat by hands or introduced small spoons made of leaf or coconut shell could be possible for the mostly people in the kingdom but I will not be surprise if gold or silver made plates, spoons, jugs, cups or similar utensils were in used to serve the royal family like what Zhou Daguan noted that most of the utensils, palanquins, parasol flecked with gold and gold handles. If we study the story of the kingdom surely we knew that this kingdom is very rich and strong which can see from all of the temple they have built and ornaments shown on every wall.

To enjoy the meal, they use their hands/fingers to transfer food from plate or leaf cup to their mouth, for this purpose a fingerbowl was also in used to wash hands before and after the meals.

I tried to put some analyses of menu possibilities appeared during this period:

  1. Chicken
Easiest way to cook chicken is to roast or stew
Menu possibilities: roasted chicken, steamed chicken, grilled chicken skewers, chicken curry, other stewed chicken, fried chicken, stir-fried chicken, variety of chicken soup.

  1. Duck
Menu possibilities: roasted duck, duck curry, or stewed duck

  1. Pigs and Wild Boar
Menu possibilities: roasted suckling pig (exist until this time), barbecued pork skewers, braised pork, pork curry, fried pork, variety of pork soup, stir-fried pork, grilled pork and roasted pork pieces.

  1. Buffalo and Cow
Menu possibilities: roasted baby cow (exist until this time), barbecued beef skewers, braised beef, beef soup and stir-fried beef.

  1. Fishes
Menu possibilities: steamed fish, grilled fish, variety of fish soup, fried fish and roasted fish.

  1. Shellfishes
Menu possibilities: snail soup, stir-fried snail, grilled clams

  1. Variety of Vegetables
Menu possibilities: most of the vegetables might be used and combine with some sliced meat or seafood and fishes. Possibly: stir-fried vegetables with meat or seafood, braised vegetables or combine in the stewed or soup like squash soup with pork or fresh water fish. Might be also eaten as fresh salad or condiments for the roasted food like roasted suckling pig.

  1. Rice
Menu possibilities:  steamed rice, fried rice, rice porridge, or from the sticky rice they produced sweets and local cakes.

  1. Fresh Fruits
Menu possibilities: mainly fresh fruit eaten as it is. Or few fruits like green mango, sour plum, or green papaya has been consumed as salad that combined with cooked meat or seafood.

  1. Sour Plant and or Lime
According to Zhou Daguan, the people of Bayon did not know how to produce vinegar. When they would like to have sour taste to their food, they will add some sour tree leaves, sour fruits or lime.

  1. Palm Sugar
The important thing of this palm sugar is to be a sweetener agent. While preparing sweet dessert or local cake or even use on cooking to give richer flavor and sweet taste.

  1. Sea Water or Salt
The seawater or salt also has been used to preserve food or give richer taste

  1. Spices and Herbs
The predominant of herb and spices like fresh garlic, onions, turmeric, pepper, chilies, root spices and fresh herb, really gave a big hint to this cooking delicacy because will differentiate from one dish to the other dishes on look, taste and flavors.

About the image above: in front row they’re a muscular man carried whole suckling pig or a baby wild boar. Maybe he would like to plunge the whole pig to a large pot of boiling water, while the other person tries to maintain the fire, one person prepared for barbecuing, other person in the front row was adding ingredients or cut vegetables to the boiling pot. While in the back row we clearly see a person carried tray full of food on his head, two persons passing by carry something on try.

About the image above: in the front row a person looking at the stove and maintain the fire to be ready for cooking. Two persons work together to ladle a liquid food probably a soup and poured to the soup cups. Another person would like to carry something on his left hand. In the back row there were three persons carried food in tiffin containers on the tray, ready to be served.

About the image above: in the front row, one person filled in food in the tiffin box, a person arranged tiffin filled with food on tray and passed it to the man, another person to decorate large tray with layers of food and also beside him another person to prepare soup. In the back row there were few peoples carried food on the tray to be served either carried on his head or carefully transported by two hands, and another person standing with water jug on his hands. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Minimalism in Photography

How is this concept work?  In my opinion, this is a simple task yet difficult to understand to choose an object in space of caption while clicking your favorite camera, to create an amazing work of art. Try to understand the simplicity, choose a single object with very minimum number of shapes, colors, textures, lines, features etc.

Sound very simple concept but can be translate to many different thinking and steps.

Here, creativity is the key.  How you describe your work of angling with less of everything and to show something more than what you expect to be shown after all. To be wowed..!

From my traveling experiences, I captured few images but in that time I really did not understand what is this concept all about, until I incidentally a friend telling me about the limitation of the caption on the LCD screen.  

Lunch and Diner Menus 1936

Discovered menus for lunch and dinner served to residents of Hotel-Bungalow des Ruines on the 25 February 1936. The hotel itself opened it door for the first time in the early 1930’s. Located in the heart of Siem Reap town with large lust garden adjacent to the Royal Palace.

Now this hotel still maintain it reputation as the most luxurious hotel that offers personalized pampering services for visitors of Ancient Angkor, under the luxury brand ‘Fairmont-Raffles Hotels and Resorts’ – Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor!

Looking into the menus being served at that time (1936), look very simple, classic and elegant.  The sequence of the menu and service might appearance through the simplicity and the amount of the prices.

Special filtered coffee (café filter special) is for $0.30, while the breakfast also served in 3 different prices
Petite dejeuner  (early breakfast) is for $0.40
Breakfast is for $1.00
Breakfast avec coffee ou the is for $1.20

Lunch price is for $1.50 and served between 11.00 o’clock – 12.00 o’clock only
Diner menu is a little bit more expensive $1.80 and served only for 1 hour between 19.00 o’clock – 20.00 o’clock.

Was absolutely forbidden to bring any bring any liquid to the hotel in that time or the hotel will apply corkage charge per bottle, for mineral water is $0.50 and wine and champagne is $1.00 and spirit will be charge amount of $5.00

And also mentioned the person in charge for the hotel that time is A. Messner.

From the menu I also notice that pre-printed paper is used and the ‘Chef’s Special Lunch and Diner’ typed with type writer and might they were loosing the number ‘1’ button, that why they used an capital ‘I’ instead. Numbering in front of the dishes is to noted that number of the courses or variety of the food that served.

Menu du Dejeuner du 25 Fevrier 1936

1.     Hors-d’ouvre varie – Variety of cold starters
2.     Coq au vin de Bourgogne – Stewed chicken in red Bourgogne wine
3.     Macaroni au gratin – Gratinated macaroni
4.     Rumpspteak – Rump steak
5.     Pomme nouvelles – New potatoes/baby potatoes
6.     Corbeille de fruits – Fruit basket

Analyzes from the lunch menu above:
a.     This menu either 3 courses or 4 courses
b.     The chicken dish, macaroni, rumpsteak and potatoes, might served together or separate course
c.      Typing error on the ‘Rumspsteak’  9this is cannot change since they use type writer.
d.     ‘Au gratin’ means the salamander or oven with top burner was available on that time.
e.     Rumpsteak is big pieces of mead ‘ either they cooked in a big piece or grilled. In this case grilled or oven presented in that time.
f.      The last course is simple ‘ whole fruit in the basket’ might to make easier and faster to served.

Menu du Diner du 25 Fevrier 1936

1.     Cream de volaille – Cream of chicken soup
2.     Rissole aux foie gras – Foie gras rissole
3.     Laitues demi-glace – Lettuce served with demi glace
4.     Marcassin a la broche – Slow roasted baby wild boar
5.     Salad du jardine – Garden salad
6.     Crème renversee a la vanilla – Cream caramel flavored with vanilla
7.     Corbeille de fruits – Fresh fruit basket

Analyzes for the diner menu above:
a.     The menu is 5-6 courses menu
b.     Started with soup
c.      Foie gras served in that time; this is might use local duck liver because of the transportation quiet distant from Europe or use goose liver from the tin.
d.     Lettuce is appeared in that time, might be from Dalat (Vietnam)
e.     Wild boar appeared on the menu – might be easy to find wild boar or other game due to the jungle was still natural
f.      Garden salad served but there was no dressing mentioned or maybe served as vegetables instead, consumed together with the roasted wild boar
g.     The famous cream caramel was on the menu – oven used in that time
h.     Vanilla appeared in Siem Reap 1936
i.       I think the refrigerator has appeared in that time to keep the food cold like lettuce, salad, cream caramel, cream or dairy products
j.       Served fresh fruit as additional to re-fresh at last
k.     Both lunch and diner menu have no coffee or tea choices – maybe coffee or tea is expensive or nobody drink coffee or tea after their meals

Cambodian Puppet Shadow Show

The art of shadow puppetry in Cambodia started from very beginning of the Angkorian Era, which maybe brought by the earlier visitors from several region in South East Asia such as Indonesia.

The puppet shadow theatre utilizes puppet made of leather, which called ‘Sbaek’ in Khmer language. The artist created the puppets based on the story of the group who will play the puppets. Mostly based on the either Ramayana or Mahabaratha. Each of the puppets is an art piece with fashion and style created by the craftsman.  The leather used for the puppetry usually have been treated, naturally dyed, designed and carefully hand-carved to highest quality of masterpiece.

In Cambodia, the shadow puppet plays to perform an important role in the culture and religious identity. This is also as a media to communicate or amongst the peoples and the religious leaders and or community in where the puppet plays.  A small ceremony dedicated to the principle divinities is offered on the beginning of the show or before the performance begin.

The shadow puppetry is sacred, mysterious and still alive until today, this is capturing thousand of years back of imagination of the community, religion believes and way on how the story telling line can be survive and can influence peoples in this modern days.

There are three form of shadow puppetry found here: Sbaek Thom/ Nang Sbaek (large puppet), Sbaek Por (medium puppet), Sbaek Doit (small puppet).

Large Puppet (Sbaek Thom/Nang Sbaek)
The size of this puppet is about 170-200 centimeters tall and 100-120 centimeters wide with individual handle to be use by the performers to carry and plays these giant puppets.

With large bonne fire created by burning wood or coconut shell, give a nice clear silhouette on the white screen or the performance also play in front of the audience with one person as announces or story teller on what happening. The complete set of this puppet is about 160 beautifully carved puppets.

Medium Puppet (Sbaek Por)
The size of this puppet is in between the large puppet and the small puppet.  The part of the puppet can be moving like the small puppet. Uniquely this puppet is painted in very colorful manner, and this puppet played during the daytime. This is maybe the purpose, that why this kind of puppet painted in very colorful manner, to show the real art of the puppetry.

Small Puppet (Sbaek Doit/Nang Thalong)
The size of this puppet rather very small compare to the sbaek thom. The design is also more alive which some part of the body can moved, moving hands, feet, jaws etc.  The screen is also smaller about 4 meters by 2 meters. The story that tell in this performance is more to folklore than religious, with some humor in between which make this puppet more accessible to the wider audiences.

During your time in Cambodia or in Siem Reap, you may enjoy this performance in few restaurants that include puppet shadow show during dinner especially for the large puppet and small puppets show. The medium puppet hardy we see in the night show.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Angkor Golf Resort

Siem Reap - Kingdom of Cambodia

One of the best new course Asia is designed by Sir Nick Faldo is -in Siem Reap - called Angkor Golf Resort. 

Amazing golf course with beautiful palm trees surroundings make this place truly special and memorable. 

In 2009 this course has voted by Asian Golf Monthly as top 3 new course in Asia together with Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau and Qinghe Bay Golf Club. 

If you wish to visit Angkor Wat, please pack you golf gadgets and try to utilize this resort in the morning and feel how the Angkor breeze will surely rejuvenate your aura.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Roasted Suckling Pig

Is a tradition – in various parts of this world that I have visited – Puerto Rico, Bali, the Philippine and now Cambodia. Clock wisely, the way to prepare or cook whole carcass of this large piece of pig in some part there are similarity.

Only baby piglets are suitable for this tenderly cooked meat, charcoal or firewood is used to roast the meat, local spices and herb paste is applied before cooking the piglets, deliciously prepared dipping sauces are served for the meat and variety of condiments also to be prepared to compliment the dish.

In Puerto Rico, this piglet is prepared for the special party or gathering,

In Bali called ‘Babi Guling’ which prepared for an offering but nowadays is available as a delicacy everywhere in this Island of Gods.

In the Philippine is called Lechon Baboy as we can easily found in every corner of the roadside, street or even in special restaurant throughout the country. 

In Cambodia is called ‘Chrook Kwey’, mostly is prepared for the offering at the temple or simply as part of the menu at dinner table.

I believe that we can found this technique of preparing suckling piglets in many part of this planet that I have never been visited.