Catch A Chili Crab Hon

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sunrise, sun . . . what set?

Filed under: Oslo, travels — Shirley @ 10:53 pm

I haven’t been on a long flight in such a while that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have jet-lag after getting home. I’m not sure if it was just the long flight, or a combination of that and experiencing a week of looooong days. Sunrise was @3:45 am and the sun didn’t set til @10:30 pm. Talk about losing track of time!

Our directions to get to the hotel from the airport was to take the train, with our luggage (we’ll address this later) to the National Theatre stop. From there a short walk over to the Radisson; which at 21 stories is the tallest building in Oslo.

People coming and going in Oslo walk around dragging a wheeled carry-on bag. It’s not so easy to drag two suitcases, wheels or not! But the Radisson was only a short couple of blocks from the station. Taxis are available, but unlike Singapore where they are affordable, cabs in Oslo are outrageously expensive; shuttles are ok but a longer ride than the train. The pictures below are some of our first impressions of Oslo. On the left is a pretty “dandelion” water sculpture but off when we arrived. On the right is the view towards the Oslo Fjord from our hotel room. The tall buildings you see are the City Hall buildings at the water-front.

outside the trainstation from our hotel room towards the waterfront

To stretch our legs and shake off the economy class seating, we dropped off our bags and headed out to explore. The Radisson is very well located for exploring the city. First stop, the Royal Palace in Slottsparkken, which is literally around the corner from the hotel. We didn’t go in, just walked to and through the grounds.

palace

. . . then down to the water-front area and Aker Brygge, think Harbor Place. This is looking at Aker Brygge from Akershus, the castle and fortress opposite Aker Brygge. It’s summer time in Oslo and with the long days Norwegians take to the outdoors for eating and catching as much of the sun as possible. If the sun gets blanketed by a cloud and the temps dip a little, the outside cafe’s have overhead heaters (think Vancouver). Some cafes even provide sheepskin fleeces to sit on, and even a blanket for your lap if you’re from somewhere like Singapore where you actually find it chilly – refreshing, but I was about the only person in a turtleneck ๐Ÿ™‚

Aker Brygge

We came upon a weekend festival with live music and food! I was drawn to the food; you’re not surprised. With only our airline breakfast under our belts I thought we’d try the cod cake sandwich and local beer. The guy is stirring up a pan of mussels; there is another pan filled with seafood, then the cod cakes on the griddle. They’re served on a bun with cole slaw – Delish!!! And of course we had to try a local beer. I was too busy eating to photograph it, but Mick took a shot of me noshing – too unflattering to show you!

waterside festival food local beer

Oslo is a city of sculptures. Everywhere you turn there is a sculpture, everywhere . . . full blown, bigger than life, abstract, life-like, busts, etc. Mick says he hopes to capture a picture of every sculpture in Oslo before we leave!!! Guess what he’s getting for his birthday – his very own camera.

sculptures around town sculpture along the outside wall of Akershus

On one of our outings we walked over to Akershus, the castle and fortress that guarded Oslo from outside threats when it was named the capital of Norway. It suffered from numerous fires and battles, and has gone under many renovations with parts of it destroyed to accommodate population growth. It’s a museum now, and also serves as a venue for concerts, and theatrical productions but remains as a military installation.

Akershus Castle & Fortress Castle building

One of the highlights on the 4-hour bus tour I took (while Mick was at work) was going to Vigeland Park. It was the home and studio of Gustav Vigeland. The grounds are beautiful, with 212 granite, and bronze works. His most renowned piece is Sinataggen – Little Hot Head. It’s on the bridge where each of the bronze sculptures represent an emotion. I think this is popular because everyone has experienced or witnessed a bit of a melt-down at some time. Though none of the little munchkins out on their field trip was affected by the sculpture!

Sinataggen "Little Hot-Head" Vigeland Park

The highlight of the park is the 14m high Monolith, and the series of sculptures on the steps depicting human emotions and activities.

center-piece of Vigeland Park statue groupings

We went to see our apt and explored the neighborhood where we’ll be living. It’s very nice, a little over 2 miles outside of the city proper. A nice walk to and from the Embassy in the summer; and a quick ride on the Trikk (tram) in the winter. The tram station is about a 5 minute walk from the apt, and about 5 minutes from the stop in town to the Embassy. Watch for the new Oslo blog for all the details ๐Ÿ™‚

I think Norway has a boat for everyone man, woman, and child! I may have to take up sailing . . .

sailing class

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Valley of the Kings – Prambanan

Filed under: Indonesia, travels, Yogyakarta — Shirley @ 7:20 pm

Oh boy, I’m back. Sorry for the hiatus but time sure does get away from me. Have you noticed how much faster time flies these days and not just when you’re having fun; or is it just I’m getting older? Anyway, here is the next part of our adventure in Yogyakarta. (It’s pronounced “Jdokjakarta” also known as Jdokja. I know how much this helps you ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Off we went to Candi Prambanan, the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia. Candi means stone monument, shrine, or mausoleum. Prambanan lies about 10 miles outside of Yogyakarta in the center of the Valley of the Dead, or Valley of the Kings because these candis are considered to be royal mausoleums. The main complex consists of eight buildings.

Prambanan

These three are the tallest and the main shrines. The 47m tall central Candi, Candi Siva Mahadaeva, dedicated to Shiva the Slender Maiden, is flanked on each side by slightly smaller ones and are placed in a north-to-south line. On the north is Candi Vishnu, and south is Candi Brahma.

Prambanan lit at night

Prambanan

Opposite the three main structures are three smaller temples that housed the “vehicles” of each of the gods; a bull (nandi) for Siva, a gander (hamsa) for Brahma, and the sun-bird (garuda) for Vishnu.ย  By the way, the name of Indonesia’s airline is Garuda. Only nandi remains today and you are able to enter the shrine to see the bull statue. It was too dark inside to get a good picture though. The shrines are elaborately decorated with carvings and sculpture details, even gargoyles.

IMG_2825.JPG Prambanan

Away from the main structures on the temple grounds are ruins of many smaller temples and stone figures.

more ruins relics

Even from here we could see Mount Merapi!

view to volcano

We timed our visit to Prambanan late in the afternoon so when we were done here we would head to the adjacent Trimurti Theatre for dinner (the night shot above is taken from our table), and an open-air performance of the Ramayana Ballet; staged on moonlit nights between May and October. We caught one of the moonlit nights! And to prove it was truly open-air, a little bat crashed into Rachel during the show and landed in the empty seat next to her!

It’s a modern version dance-drama of a traditional Javanese story that is also told in bas-relief sculptures adorning some of the temples. In a nutshell, the drama is about a father’s contest to find the right husband for his daughter. While she’s out in the forest with her suitor and brother, they come across a deer. She wanted the deer captured, but before her brother and suitor go to chase it, the brother draws a magic circle around his sister to keep her safe; but despite the power of the circle, the daughter is kidnapped by the suitor’s rival, who has disguised himself.ย  The daughter is saved from the rival (by a white monkey), but the suitor now no longer believes she a virgin.

Ramayan ballet beautiful costumes

In the battle scenes against the suitor’s rival, there was even an archer on stage who shot real arrows!

archer

In order to prove her virginity and holiness, she is asked to burn herself. She proves her holiness when she not only does not burn but becomes even more beautiful. Her suitor then accepts her as his wife. They live happily ever after! The End.

The costumes were beautiful and the dancing graceful. But the finale was spectacular when they set the stage ablaze!

finale of the Ramayana ballet

And I now know why this portion of the story is only performed when they can have it in the open-air!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Foodie Fun!

Filed under: Borobudur — Shirley @ 2:34 am

Trying to work out what to do when, no activity was scheduled for the morning after Borobudur. Although we contemplated shopping at the nearby market, we spotted a poster in the hotel for an Indonesian cooking class. That peaked our interest, so we signed up. It was the three of us plus a Japanese couple. Mick intended to spend his morning poolside but spent it working with Garuda Airlines on our return flight to Singapore

We gathered in the lobby at 9 am, piled into a van and went shopping with Chef Totok. Living overseas in Asia for many years, we were used to these types of markets; though there were a couple of ingredients that I had never seen, like candlenut – which I suspect is a relative to our chestnuts; and beautiful brown speckled, blue Swan eggs!!!

candlenut swan's eggs

Below are fish in baskets ready to take home and fresh turmeric, which we don’t often find in our markets back in the States.

salted fish fresh turmeric

Back at the hotel we were given our recipes, a package with apron and toque (that we got to keep), and a kitchen towel, which they took back (darn!). The “kitchen” was set up outside in a little alcove surrounded by foliage and a canopy of pretty batik.

with Chef Totok

The two prettiest sou chefs:

Chef Rachel sou chef Erin

After we completed each recipe, we went over to the open-air dining area where a table was set up with juice and water, and our creation was brought to us for tasting.

We made Indonesian spring rolls for our first course:

spring rolls Indonesian style

Our main course was a fried fish. Chef Totok had us each filet our own fish. Then after seasoning and dusting the pieces of fish with cornstarch, it was deep fried. We kept our fish “skeleton” and deep fried it to use in the plating.

fried fish w/ curry sauce side view

Then came dessert – crepes but not crepes. They were very fluffy, the insides were almost like an egg-white omelet or souffle. As you see, I’m already rolling it. So you don’t cook it til it’s set. In fact, you put more batter into the pan than you would for a crepe.

rolling the crepe crepes

Yogyakarta has no real restaurants. There are many of those little local eateries/stalls, but are not for the tourist’s stomach. You almost have to eat in your hotel or another hotel. Yogyakarta is a large city but it’s an “Indonesian” city. Except for the tourists, who are usually accompanied by their tour guide, we saw no ex-pat community in our travels.

It was a real treat to take cooking classes in the country of the cuisine. Chef Totok was trained in Bali, and had a very good command of English. We give it two spatulas!

Food Fun!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Reaching Nirvana

Filed under: Borobudur, Sunrise, travels — Shirley @ 10:16 pm

We started our journey to Borobudur, an hour’s drive from our hotel in Yogyakarta, at 4:00 AM to see the sunrise over Gunung (Mount) Merapi. Merapi is an active volcano and is always smoking. You have to look closely to separate the trail of smoke from the clouds. (It was also quite hazy looking East.)

sunrise over Merapi

Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist monument, believed to have been built in the late 7th, early 8th century, 300 years before Angork Wat, and 200 years before Notre Dame. A century after Borobudur was built, it was mysteriously abandoned; then in 1006 Gunung Merapi erupted burying Borobudur in volcanic ash for centuries.

Erin captured this shot with her wide-angle lens.

borobudur temple (by mintyfreshflavor)

The rediscovery of Borobudur began in 1814 during Thomas Raffles stint as governor of Java (before he founded Singapore). He visited Semarang and heard that there was “a mountain of Buddhist sculptures in stone” in the area. Raffles conducted a massive clearing operation of an overgrown hillock of trees that was scattered with hundreds of andesite blocks. After finding and uncovering the elaborate structure, he didn’t dig further so it wouldn’t be damaged, but left it unprotected, so for almost another century it suffered from decay, plunder and abuse. Many of the stones were taken by villagers; and priceless sculptures ended up as decorations in the homes of the rich. Many of these irreplaceable Indo-Javanese art pieces are now in private collections, and museums around the world. The official restoration project didn’t get underway til 1973 and ten years to complete!

The temple of Borobudur is constructed on ten levels, and represents a mandala, a geometric aid for meditation; or sometimes referred to as the “wheel of life”. This is a replica of a bird’s-eye view of Borobudur. We all wished there was some of way to see it from above. We were on the eighth level, the middle ring, looking out towards Merapi.

mock-up of aerial view

The 1400+ hand carved relief panels on the walls that surround the stupas (bells) is the only existing complete story of the life of Buddha and spans over three miles in total length. You enter the temple from the east and ascend the terraced monument circumambulating each level, clockwise.

Our guide Fatah bas-relief story of Buddha

In each niche, in each direction, there are 92 Buddha statues, with or without its head.

Erin and Rachel one of the entrances

Each of the 72 stupas, at one time, contained a statue of Buddha, but during the restoration it was found that many of the Buddhas had been stolen, or its head removed during the time it was left unattended. There are no carvings or decorations on the levels of the stupas.

sunrise at Borobudur the mist

And several of the “bells” are missing, rendering a statue of Buddha to appear it is sitting in a hot tub!

Buddha w/out bell serene view

Some of the stupas were constructed with stones cut in an X pattern and forming a diamond cut-out pattern; other stupas were constructed with notched square blocks forming square cutout.

diamond patterned square blocks

There is one stupa with a fully recovered Buddha sitting in the lotus position; for women, if you can touch the Buddha’s heel, your wish will come true. For men you must reach the Buddha’s hand and run your finger down the finger of the Buddha’s hand in its mudra (position). I can’t find a rendering of how the Buddha is holding its hand to give you a better idea.

buddha's foot and hands

We gals could not reach the heel, here is Rachel trying her best! But Mick reached the finger so we asked him to ask that all of our wishes come true!

Rachel Mick reaches the Buddha's hand

The very top stupa, the largest of the stupas has no cut-outs, no door and is empty inside. This top stupa represents Nirvana. Everyone reaches it in their own way, and you reach Nirvana when you have no more desire and no more want.

Nirvana

I imagine it’s no easy feat. I’m not even close!!!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

C is for koooooo-kee!!!!

Filed under: food, friends — Shirley @ 1:38 pm

“Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven . . .” even if it’s a big conglomerate commercial oven, they’re the best things to come out of it. Yes folks, it’s that time of year again . . . The Girl Scout’s Cookie Drive! The number one and two cookie, and not necessarily in this order, are Samoas and Thin Mint, (eaten only after they’ve been seriously frozen in the freezer compartment of your fridge.)

I got a “care” package from a very dear friend whom I’ve known since freshman year of college. She’s got me pegged. THANKS CHRIS!ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

C is for kooookie!!!!!

This package is now dangerously accessible, dangerously.

more!

Got milk?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New taste sensation!

Filed under: food — Shirley @ 1:19 pm

Summer is coming and who hasn’t sat at a newspaper covered table, a cold beer in one hand and crab mallet in the other, anticipating a bushel of Maryland crabs steaming hot and spiced up with Old Bay! Or maybe you’ve had the luck to be in Singapore at one of the seafood houses; a Tiger beer in one hand, and on the table, the famous Chili Crab in a dish drenched in a spicy sauce as red as the crab itself.

As a child, or now with your own child, going on vacation to the beach meant one thing . . . coming home with a hermit crab as a souvenir of your sand and surf experience. And you know the life span of a hermit crab is short, compared only to the bug in the mayonnaise jar caught in the backyard. But, I bet you didn’t know (and were afraid to ask), when that hermit crab has gone to the “big ocean in the sky”, you don’t have to flush it down the toilet; you can turn it into a snacky-snack! Though your child might be traumatized eating something they’ve named “Sandy”.

mr hermit

Yes, these are real little crabs. The largest ones are not quite an inch long. You pop the whole thing into your mouth and crunch. They’re cooked and coated in a sugar syrup, sprinkled with sesame seeds. And yes, by all means you should have a beer in one hand, and several more waiting. They’re fishy, salty, sweet, crunchy, and a little bit gross. That’s where the beer helps.

lining up for snacky-snack

They’re from Japan; and I am sure, if your curiosity has been peaked, you can find them in an Asian grocery store near your home. The next time you have friends over for dinner and a movie – set out a little bowl next to the buttered popcorn. If nothing else, they are a . . . “show stopper”! LOL! (oh boy, I’m sorry about that. It’s the beer talking ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Out and About

Filed under: singapore — Shirley @ 2:49 am

We, along with Mick’s nine visitors were hosted for a day of fun and food. The visitors started out their morning on a hike at Tree Tops where they saw wild monkeys and crossed the long suspension bridge at tree top level. Mick and I opted out of that but met up with everyone for lunch and the remainder of the days activities. We had a fabulous chicken rice and Peranakan cuisine lunch. Then we walked around to a stall for fritters! While we were snacking after lunch – I don’t know how we had room for more food, I saw this food court across the way.

is this the best name?

Is that the greatest name for a food center. We didn’t have our lunch there because it’s only opened in the evenings. Gotta go back just to say we ate there!

someone's visited the food center for lunch

It looks like such a fun place!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This Space For Rent

Filed under: signage — Shirley @ 12:43 pm

Yeah, things are pretty slow around here as you have noticed. Do you have any news you want to share? I’ll be happy to post it ๐Ÿ™‚ hahaha At the end of the month Erin will be back for two weeks, and at that time we’ll take a mini vacation to Borobudur, Indonesia, so stay tuned for that but in the mean time . . . Cheers!

Tiger Beer Ad

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lazy, hot Saturday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Shirley @ 6:51 pm

It’s Saturday, sunny, hot and lazy.ย  I went out earlier and ran some errands in the heat, and now I’m just lazy. I’ve been debating whether or not to go back out and head over to the Thai Embassy’s Expo. I stopped by after work on Friday and it was wicked hot under those tents so I didn’t stay long.

Just thinking about going back there made me thirsty so I went foraging in the fridge and came up with this . . .ย  a root beer float made with Mick’s home-made vanilla ice cream.

root beer float

How about the logo on the glass ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s one of my favorite places to eat in Bangkok. Our friends in Bangkok sent us a pair of these huge 500ml capacity glasses. If you can’t quench your thirst after drinking anything in one ofย  these, you must have the capacity of a camel! I still can’t decide whether or not to go back out into the heat . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Candid Camera

Filed under: Uncategorized — Shirley @ 6:50 pm

Just stopping by to say “hello!”, and send you a “sidewalk smiley”. Nothing much has been going on here; and I’m having blogger’s block!

sidewalk smile

Hope Spring has sprung where you are, and you’re on your way to sunny, warm days.

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