Work is done for the week and I am sitting in my office waiting for Mr. Manx to pick me up to start the weekend’s revelry. It’s the first day of Chinese New Year on Monday, which means that the feasting starts now (since it’s Friday), continues through the weekend and eats up the first two working days of next week. Yayness!
Since I’ve got some time right now, let’s do a little update of the past few weeks:
1) Christmas was sweet. Mr. Manx and I were recruited into the church worship team at the last minute and Dad, Wedoryn and CC actually turned up for a while. The night before that, we were all at CC’s place for Christmas Eve dinner, so it was really a very family-oriented occasion all round, and surprisingly pleasant.
2) Hot on the heels of Christmas and New Year came the Manx wedding anniversary – our sixth (!!!). We celebrated with a lovely dinner at Au Petit Salut and splashed out on our first pair of high-class (to us; I don’t know about you) watches. I don’t have the stuff I need to upload my own pictures at the moment, but here’s the watch I got, picture from its parent website:
3) And finally, the day after I bought my Open Heart, I received news that I had the green light for my year-long attachment to London. A year in London!!! Even now I’m still reeling from the news, and even more so from the visa application process. There are over fifty pages of forms to tackle, and photographs to take (there are detailed instructions on this; my favourite one is the one showing a Not Acceptable photo captioned “even a slight smile distorts the normal facial features”) , and a bank account to open. Yeesh! But at the same time, yay!
I have to go now and buy cheese and wine for tonight’s gathering. May you, Dear Reader, have a roaring start to the Dragon New Year!
I have been very very quiet ever since I got back from Hanoi and continued the rest of my leave at home. As I told Camellia when I met her yesterday to visit the National Museum (the Musee D’Orsay exhibition is there and I simply had to go after having had the bad fortune to try and visit on a strike day last year), she was the first person I’d talked to, other than Mr. Manx, in the past four days.
Not to worry, Dear Reader, it is no bout of despondancy that I am falling into. I don’t know if you are anything like this, but there are times when I need to be by myself and keep social interaction to a bare minimum. It may be a side-effect of being a shrink, but I think that it is primarily due to my personality. Sometimes I allow myself the guilty pleasure of trying those online quizzes that promise to Find Your Hidden Personality, and I have since discovered that I am the opposite of folks who Feel Energized By Frequent Social Contact. I have actually been quite happy and at peace during this period of hermit existence, and, if you will excuse the Austenish manner of saying so, do feel myself in a more agreeable disposition because of it.
(Obviously, I have been spending a fair chunk of the past few days with my nose in books.)
I will continue writing, most probably about Hanoi, in due course, but I’d also like to show you a tiny glimpse of what I’ve been occupied with while I haven’t been talking:
I am finally getting around to editing my hundreds of photos from previous trips to put in albums! Whether or not I eventually succeed is pretty much up in the air, but I shall take as much advantage while I can of the impetus to continue.
(The sunrise picture on the left, by the way, is also featured on my other blog, Manx Pictures.)
1534. So here I am at Terminal 3 of Changi Airport, being, for the first and possibly the only time in my life, the first person through the boarding gate. I must admit to feeling just a tad lonely because I am taking this flight sans companions, and that is why my trusty little Asus Eee is seeing some use now. It’s either this or watch a local soap rerun of some fifteen years’ vintage.
Have I ever mentioned here that I hate flying? Love travelling, but hate the process of getting there. It’s partly because I have the most heinous tendency toward motion-sickness, and partly because I dislike having to sit in limbo, being transported with a herd of other human beings. Also, as far as today is concerned, it’s partly because it’s that time of the month. Arrgh.
2331, Hanoi time. As with the Bali trip, the start of this one was unpromising. It consisted of sitting in the plane for a whole hour, waiting for air traffic to clear so that we could actually leave. It was a full flight and I remember thinking that it was a good thing that most of it was made up of Vietnamese people, who tend to be small, light and wiry in build. They also have fine, clean-cut features. Wedoryn would blend in quite well here.
Once I had cleared customs (a process infinitely less painful than in Bali– I must have had my worried expression on because the officers were really quite nice), it was plain sailing. There was a lady who was holding up a sign just for me, and after I got my suitcase, I was led to a swanky black Mercedes (whee!), complete with moon roof, refreshments and Wi-Fi (whee!), as well as shades on the back windows to impart the cool-mysterious-passenger look, which ferried me in high style to the Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake.
Checking in was equally painless, and, after doing that, I was surprised for a minute when I was led outside the main building, to a golf buggy. Then I realized that the place was actually bloody immense, hence the subsequent whiz around on said buggy. There are separate blocks of rooms, each one standing on stilts in a huge lake, far apart from one another, so as I write this, I feel like I am practically inVenice. It helps that the weather is absolutely perfect, something like 16 – 18 degrees Celsius.
I met my friends, who had arrived on the preceding flight, in the lobby so that we could go and have our first bowl of pho and our first glass of Hanoi beer. You can see some of both in this picture:
And now, full and happy, I am waiting for my pillow selection to be delivered to my room before I go and have a nice bath and hit the bed. I am a lucky bug, I know.
Excited again! I’ve never been to Hanoi.
But I never learn my lesson, do I?
I don’t normally allow spam to be published here, but I wanted to share a little of what I quite often receive:
Why, spammers, why (my personal theory is that my About page gets interpreted as ManX, which makes me look like a big hulking dude with a passion for engines and some va-va-voom)? Yes, I do realize that it is practically-free advertising, but adopting such a crass method suggests that your product can’t be much better. And don’t you know that top-search-engine-hit sites attract the kookiest of customers? But then again, that’s probably exactly what you deserve, so why should I bother trying to educate you?
… and then I’ll be done with the topic. This one is short, I promise.
Technically speaking, it is also about food, provided you are, like me, one of those beings who do consider things like this food:
I have nursed an absolute weakness for savoury empty-calorie snacks for about as long as I have had teeth, particularly if said snacks are made out of things like sliced potatoes, monosodium glutamate, mushed corn, salt, monosodium glutamate, cheese powder, oil and monosodium glutamate.
It was just like being a kid again.
When Mr. Manx and I visited Paris last year, we had an unexpected whale of a time at O Chateau’s wine appreciation class, so I signed us up for for another class in Bali – a cooking class, which, if I may say so, was very brave of me because my cooking skills are beyond words. The ones that come closest are “terrible”, “dreadful” and “abysmal”, sometimes in partnership with “gut-wrenchingly”.
Choosing the class was really easy – I simply went on Tripadvisor and picked the top attraction (correct at time of writing). Booking was really easy too because Lobong Cooking Class has its own website – you can make a reservation there and then you’ll receive a confirmatory email. Payment is only made in person, in cash, after the whole event. They even pick you up in a nice van at your hotel! We chose the morning class and were on our way to the market (the name of which escapes me, sorry) by 8a.m., and there we met Sang De, our guide for the day. We were the only Asians in the class; the rest were couples from Australia, the US and Canada.
The next picture, showing an industrious lad obviously unused to Chinese women pointing cameras at him, is perhaps my favourite of the ones I took that day, so it gets its own space.
We didn’t buy anything at the market as everything was already prepared at the venue of the cooking class, which turned out to be the ancestral home of Sang De and his family. It turns out that the class is a family business, from guide to chef to chauffeurs, on board for only the past ten months but already thriving.
After the lecture, we trooped to the kitchen area to put on aprons and towels, and then we met:
Then we were put to work.
Thus we bumbled our way through, if you will believe it, to produce a beautiful nine-course Balinese meal. The truth was, of course, that the brains and skills of the cooking came from Dewa, and all us participants really did was stuff like chopping, mixing and stirring, but that suited us well and it was fun.
And yes, we got to eat all that good food for lunch. I particularly liked the peanut sauce and the ayam bakar bumbu bali, which is baby chicken in spicy yellow coconut sauce. At the end of the meal, we were each given a recipe booklet and a small bottle (thoughtfully sized at 100ml so that it can cross Customs) of homemade coconut oil as souvenirs, and then we were ferried back to our respective hotels.
It was a fantastic way to spend a morning in Bali.