Saturday, 31 December 2011

He was carrying WHAT?!!!

You'd be surprised by the answer. I am... constantly. Just when I think I've seen it all, I realise yet again, that there's plenty more to see. My biggest frustration is, that the days I don't have my camera, turn out to be the days when I see the craziest things. As a follow-up to my last blog, I thought I'd share some of the other crazy loads that I have managed to capture on film.

Fish sellers appear by the side of busy roads during peak hour.

Only one mattress this time.
Vendors selling baskets and plastic ware know how to fit maximum stock on a bicycle. Often you can't even see the rider.

This balloon vendor sells to people visiting patients in hospital.

This load of bamboo was 6m long.

The local snack wholesaler outside a convenience store.

Bike carrying cloth.
He's even got bottles on the front.
A washing machine balancing precariously during peak hour.
On the way home from the markets.

Think you've got room for one more?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The craziest load yet.

Today I saw the most rediculous load carried by a bike yet and I've seen some pretty crazy loads on bikes up to this point. This cyclo was carrying 16 foam mattresses. Double bed mattresses. He had them rolled up and tied on the front and back. Hard to believe but there's actually a guy riding a bike in there somewhere.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Banh Xeo - Waaaaaay yummy!!!

Tonight we made banh xeo for dinner. It's one of my favourite Vietnamese foods. Banh xeo is a pancake made with rice flour and turmeric. Its filled with prawns, pork and bean shoots. To eat it, you add fresh herbs and wrap small pieces of pancake in lettuce leaves. Most people dip it in fish sauce with sliced chillies. I'm a bit of a chilli wuss, so I eat mine with sweet chilli sauce. The crispy edges are the best bit.

 You can buy ready-made banh xeo mix in most Asian supermarkets.

Tonight we used a packet of coconut milk powder but I usually use canned coconut milk. I like my bean sprouts crispy so I add them after the pancake is cooked. Some people add them during cooking.

The finished product. Very delicious. So you can enjoy them too, here's the recipe. In case you have trouble finding the ready-made batter mix, I've given you the full recipe.

 Makes about 4-6 filled crepes


1 cup rice flour
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk
Approx. 1/2 cup water
This will depend on the thickness of the coconut milk
Oil, for frying

2 spring onions, finely sliced
200g prawns, peeled and deveined

200g pork belly, thinly sliced
500g mung bean sprouts
1 lettuce (I prefer cos lettuce)
1 bunch coriander
1 bunch of mint
Ready-made nuoc cham dipping sauce
Or make a simple dipping sauce by adding sliced chillies to fish sauce


Wash lettuce, herbs and bean sprouts and drain well.

Combine rice flour, salt and turmeric in a large bowl. Stir in the coconut milk, then slowly beat in enough water to make a thin crepe batter. Rest batter while you cook the filling.
Over medium-high heat, warm oil in a frying pan and saute the pork belly until cooked through. Add the prawns and spring onions. Saute for a further 3-4 minutes or until prawns are cooked. Season with salt to taste. Remove filling mix to a bowl and set aside.

Wipe out the frying pan and reheat over medium heat. Add a small amount of oil. Stir the pancake batter well and pour 1/2 cup batter into the pan. Swirl the pan to evenly coat the bottom. Sprinkle some of the filling mixture over half the pancake, along with a small handful of sprouts. When the the middle of the crepe looks cooked through and the edges of the crepe begin to brown, fold the crepe over to cover the filling and slide it onto a plate. If the edges of the crepe are ready well before the middle is cooked, cover the frying pan with a lid whilst cooking. This should help it cook more evenly. Keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven while you finish cooking the rest.
To serve, put the pancakes, lettuce and herbs on a large platter to share. Give each person their own plate and a small bowl of dipping sauce. Place a piece of pancake on top of a lettuce leaf, along with a few sprigs of herbs. Roll the lettuce leaf up and dip in your sauce.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Frogs for dinner anyone?

My husband bought some frogs for dinner last week. I'm just stoked that the butcher prepared them already. There is no way I could have skinned and cleaned the poor little things. Frogs are on my "Cute Little Critters" list not "Food I've Always Wanted to Try" list. I was a bit grossed about the thought of eating them but I figured "Why not? When in Rome..." They're actually not bad. The meat is quite sweet. They taste nice cooked with garlic and lemongrass. Although, I can't be bothered eating something so little. I lose all interest in food as soon as I find out I have to pick bones out of it. I think eating frog once was enough.
The wierdest thing happens when you sprinkle salt on frog meat. It starts twitching. A lot. The first time I saw it, I freaked right out. I thought it was going to jump of the plate and get me. I had some freaky dreams about frogs that night. Check out the videoclip below. I figured you had to see it to believe it.

Creepy, huh?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Road Rules? What Road Rules?

With over 87 million people in Vietnam, to say that the roads are busy is an understatement of the highest order. People in Australian cities complain that the traffic is bad and hey, I was one of them. I now realise that I was just whinging over bugger all. The picture below shows the true meaning of "peak hour".
There seems to be a general disregard for road rules here. If there are any, I haven't been able to work out what they are yet, and I've had a year to think about it. The general consensus is, he who honks his horn the most, gets right of way. Confidence, or at least faking it, is needed to survive on the road here. Bullying the riders around you is paramount when getting to where you need to go. If you want to cut across someone to get there, you need to stare down your opponents to get them to give in and let you. It's like you're constantly playing a game of "chicken".

Sunburnt Aussie Lesson # 3 - If you don't have have a set of kahunas the size of coconuts, fake it.

Obeying traffic lights seems to be optional. Or at least, people seem to think it is. Driving up on the sidewalk is commonplace and the standards for the road worthiness of motorbikes are definitely way below those of Australia. The motorbike in the picture below is the perfect example of lax rules.

 I haven't actually ridden anywhere alone yet but I've been spending a lot of time on the back of a motorbike taxi. He has taught me how to be a safe driver, but also one who also gets their own way. A taxi driver that makes you feel safe and secure is worth their weight in gold here. From my own experiences, they seem to be few and far between. Now that I have the whole thing sussed as well as I ever will, I plan on getting my own bike soon. I foresee a lot of blogs writing themselves on that front.
I have seen people carry some crazy things on motorbikes. There doesn't appear to be a limit to what is acceptable. But I have enough material on that subject for a whole blog so I'll leave that topic for another day.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that when you turn into a side street or change lanes, that it's standard practice to push that little knob on the handlebars that turns on your indicators. Isn't it? Apparently not. Seriously, only half the cars and maybe 10 percent of motorbikes here believe in using them. The other night on my way home from classes, I actually saw about a dozen people use them. Even then, it was only to turn off, never to change lanes. This is a very rare thing indeed. Hardly a day goes by when I see more than one or two people do it. I see it so rarely, I'm honestly shocked when it happens.

 Over 10,000 people die on the roads in Vietnam every year. Mostly, it's due to speeding and/or crazy overtaking (without the use of indicators). Every night I watch insane people with death-wishes fly in and out of the traffic at ridiculous speeds, just to get home 10 minutes faster. Whenever I see them, I can only wonder if they aren't truly suicidal.

Time for bed so here's to surviving another day on Saigon's roads.
Big hugs and kisses from Saigon. xxoo

Sunday, 14 February 2010

To pee, or not to pee?

Forget Hamlet's question of "To be, or not to be". I've discovered a more important one. "To pee, or not to pee". Anyone who has had to use a public toilet in Saigon will know what I'm talking about.

The public toilets (even in cafes and restaurants) range from very nice to just plain nasty. I'm talking the kind of nasty that'll make you risk permanent kidney damage by holding on for a few more hours (or days) until you get home. Most places don't have the traditional sit-down Western style toilets either. They have a squat pan built into the floor. Not so easy to keep pants and long shirts dry when the floor is wet.

The nicest one I've seen was in a nightclub in District 1 (the city centre). They had an attendant that hands you a wad of toilet paper as you go in. Toilet paper is a rare commodity in public toilets here. Usually you just have a spray jet on the end of a hose and nothing to dry yourself with. Believe me when I say that is not a good feeling walking around with a wet crotch.

Sunburnt Aussie Lesson # 1: Always carry a travel pack of tissues everywhere you go.

The worst toilet I have seen was in a roadside cafe. My son went in first. When he came out, the look on his face told me that I was not going in after him. He said it was so bad that he peed from the doorway. He was not going any further inside than that.

Using a toilet in the countryside is an adventure in itself. The above photo shows the typical set-up. It's basically just two logs across a big fish pond with a box in the middle. This box is to give you an illusion of privacy and also something to hold on to so you don't fall in. Trust me, you do not want to fall in. This one was actually quite sturdy but I've used ones where it has been a struggle not to lose your balance. Thank God for my years of gymnastics training. The box is only knee high so you really only get privacy once you are in the position. Getting into the position without flashing the world is another matter. On my first trip over, I was using one of these loos, when the neighbours kids all came outside to play. They're waving and calling out "Hello" while I'm trying to work out how to get my jeans back up without flashing everyone. Great!!!

Sunburnt Aussie Lesson # 2: When travelling in the countryside, where a long dress or skirt wherever possible. It is the only thing that will allow you girls to retain any modesty and dignity in this situation.

Hope you all enjoy my first post. Please let me know what you think and I'll be back with more tales from Saigon soon.