Wednesday, 23 April 2014


After a relaxing three days in Langkawi, we embarked on a 12 day culinary tour of Vietnam starting in Hanoi.  The hustle and bustle of the capital city overrun with motorcycles and scooters put us into culture shock, especially after the peace and quiet on idyllic Langkawi.   This was on top of the cold and damp that greeted us after flying in from the tropical island.  The pace too was quite different - we would be travelling with company and on a schedule, so it was the end of sleeping-in and the alarm clock was put to work.  We were however thankful and relieved that our "small group tour" turned out to be a really "small" group of four and the other couple was down to earth and really compatible with our travelling interests.

Our first meal in Vietnam was a welcome dinner hosted by the tour company and you can read about this meal on Foodsparks.  Our first tour day included a half day cooking class and a trip to the local market, which was an eye-opening experience.  Read more about our first Vietnamese cooking class on Foodsparks.  Below are photos from our local market tour which was in a sense cultural as it gave us a good sense of what the locals ate and how they lived.

A woman cutting off the heads of baby shrimps outside the market

This is Chou Long Market, a medium sized market in the old quarter of Hanoi

Locals shopping on a rainy day - parts of it are not covered
Our instructor pointing out pigs' intestines and tails 

These two chickens are tied up in a special way for wedding celebrations
Poultry giblets and eggs

You would never know unless you've been told - some of these eggs have embryos inside!  Our instructor purchased one of each (chicken and duck) so we could try them

and different kinds of snails!

Vietnamese cooked meats, including pork and beef sausages in banana leaf (Cha Heo and Cha Bo) 

Pickled vegetables

Many of the herbs used in Vietnamese cooking

We never seem to see much vegetables on Vietnamese restaurant menus whether in Vietnam or in North America.  But here they are in the market!

Finely julienned onions and a woman demonstrating the tool used...

Fresh bamboo - although we never got to taste this in Vietnam.  Now if I had my own kitchen there...

A wide array of roots and squash

These looked like they came straight from the farm!

These are the sweetest and most fragrant mangoes ever!  The best out of our entire trip!

Fresh flowers in abundance

even fresh flowers (and wine) for the gods 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Muted Spring (in memory of a dear friend)

The first bright glorious Sunday of spring, muted
The passing of a dear friend casted
A long shadow over TooGood Pond
In spite of the sun
Remembrance of past Easter walks
Where are the buds, the new life of spring
All I saw were trees dead
Branches broken
Trunk split
Remains of the ice storm

She loved the outdoors
I remember the birds she fed
The spring flowers she captured
And the mountains she climbed
That she was going to climb with me
And the rhododendrons that would be along our paths

And so, I know there's life anew somewhere
In the depths of the pond
Beyond the tall grass
Like our reflections
It will emerge
But slowly return

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Mangrove Tour in Langkawi

The highlight of our visit to Langkawi was a tour of the mangrove forests in the Kilin Geoforest Park which included a number of activities, including watching the eagles, monkeys and other wildlife in the area against a spectacular backdrop of mangroves and stunning rock formations along the way.  

Amazing rock formations on the way to the geoforest park

Zebra fish in feeding frenzy

If we were in China, this outcrop would have a name

and this one I would call Orangutan at rest...

Our guide almost became the feed at this fish farm

Lots of fish farms in the area - this translates into one thing for me - great seafood!

Perfectly grilled fish for lunch at fish farm

The monkey is happy with bread

The eagles prefer chicken 

The eagles flying over the mangrove forests.  

Air roots of the mangroves growing out of the soil

The mangroves were teeming with life - we saw crabs, lizards and snakes on our trip

Water snake among mangroves
We also visited a bat cave with an ancient column of stalactite stalagmite at its exit.

It was a fun-filled day on the mangrove tour - highly recommended!

Enchanting Tropical Isle - Langkawi

Langkawi, off the coast of Malaysia, is an archipelago of 104 islands with Langkawi itself being the biggest island.   It has many natural and geographical features, among them gorgeous beaches, limestone cliffs and tropical jungle, making it a great place to explore.   It has been developed into a resort island by the Malaysian government which is struggling to maintain its natural environment.  

We spent three nights on one of the island resorts, Berjaya, but took time out to get an overview of the island, thanks to my friend Patrick and his family who live on the island.  We also spent a very interesting day on a mangrove tour, one of the highlights of our trip.  To see what else is available on Langkawi, check out Langkawi Link on Facebook.

Tanjung Rhu Beach - gorgeous!
Langkawi has many mountains, including Gunung Mat Chincang, supposedly the oldest mountain in South East Asia.  An amazing cable car ride (a double!) took us to the top of Gunung Mat Chincang, also the  second highest mountain on Langkawi, where we got a panoramic view of one side of the island and a hazy glimpse of the other islands in the archipelago (below).

View of more mountains from the top of Gunung Mat Chincang

Sunrise on the beach at Berjaya resort
View of the mountains from the resort beach

View from the top of Gunung Raya, the highest mountain on Langkawi at 893 metres.  It is reachable via a mountain road with a climbable tower at the top.  I would like to be able to paint a watercolour of these lovely mountain ranges!  On the other side, a panoramic view of the town below.

Sunset on the beach at Cenang

Icarus flying too close to the sun...

a glorious sunset...

Then dinner at the local seafood restaurant.  Needless to say, there are lots of seafood on Langkawi and Chinese restaurants complete with fish tanks are the choice.  One interesting fact I learned is that it's against the law for restaurants to serve pork to a Malay.  Wow!

Next post: Mangrove tour in Langkawi