I also joined my fifth and final cooking class with a Balinese lady leading it and a group of a British couple (the woman was taller! There is hope) and a funny Dutch lady (the former colonizers were everywhere). We made Ayam rendeng (chicken rendeng - more on rendeng later), krupuk (chips), tempe, a sweet and spicy dessert, and an eggplant (aubergine) salad washed down with Bintang (probably in the top 3 beers of Southeast Asia) beer. The hosts of my hostel were also kind (Indonesians are some of the nicest people in the world) enough to show us a warung (food place) with beef rendeng. Rendeng is cooking past curry where the sauce seeps into the food. It is one of the most delicious foods I ever had.Read More
Malaysia is a considerable melting pot with a variety strong and not so strong aspects to it. There are several ethnic groups and religions all converging in the region Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. While the country is predominantly Muslim, yes there are East Asian devout Muslims here, it has worked hard to bring about acceptance. From a tumultuous background, all of these religions and ethnic enclaves (Indian, Arab, Chinese and Malay) found a way to get along. As such, you have a modern melting pot that the US strives for.Read More
Saigon is the city that made Vietnam grow on me. For some reason my original post on this was deleted so this probably won't be as strong a post as it should be.
I had a great time in Saigon from the rooftop bars, motorcycle traffic again, the French buildings, and the East meets West fusion. I would see the Reunification Palace which was the last stronghold of the democratic South Vietnamese army, the Cu Chi Tunnels of the skilled Vietcong, and the War Remnants Museum (where the American war's atrocities are seen next to the "kind" treatment of American soldiers, though John McCain will tell you that his time in the Hanoi prison was anything but). The latter two were done on 4th of July as I also got to shoot an AK-47 which overall made for a fairly un-American celebration. I would also be driven by ladies in ao yais (traditional Vietnamese clothing) around parts of Saigon, including a more affluent place where rich people spent their money on empty apartments for money pools.
Food wise I went to my 3rd cooking class with Chef Tan who drove me on her motorcycle, cooked with me and picked ingredients from an organic garden. I had a great time with it overall. We made Banh Mi (the best I've ever had), Chah Cuan (a sour soup from Southern Vietnam), Papaya salad (I'm obsessed with it), and mung bean dessert. The food here is top notch and healthy, it can not be overstated.
Lastly, the people and country began to grow on me at this point. Saigon is a quirky place with a lot of fun. Whether it's the motorcycle traffic or the Vietcong dressed coffee chain servers, Saigon stays with you.