Two friends have recently asked me on separate occasions about Lao Prabang and I realised I never put together a post of an amazingly surreal and relaxing time I had there in 2010; from riding elephants, eating amazing croissants and crepes for breakfast daily (All thanks to the French leaving behind a tad of romantic colonism), hiking up water falls and swinging down, eating our way through the night street market.
Instead of going with trishaws or the tuk tuk vans, get a bicycle and bike outside the town centre to get out to the waterfalls, on the way you’ll pass the city’s best bakery – Joma Bakery, serving croissants and fresh breads baked daily. Grab a takeaway as you head out towards the waterfalls.
Happy times riding elephants.
How we ended up in Laos was a different story. Then I was living in Beijing and during the long Chinese New Year holidays, I went to Yunnan, in the South of China and that too, proved too much with the insane holiday crowds and all the fireworks and fire crackers going off dangerously at all hours of day and night. My friend and I spontaneously took a 9 hour overnight bus (double decker beds I kid you not!) and crossed the Boten border (me without a visa, Thank you Singapore for your great Asean relations and my German friend paid 75USD at the border to enter Laos. We then hitched a ride and got into Luang Prabang. We were lucky to get a booking at Mekong Estate in a duplex right in the city centre, a short walk from the morning alms ceremony, where we spent 5 days, each residence comes with bicycles in the courtyard and a lady that comes in to make a fresh breakfast of croissants and the whole works every morning.
Last week at ILTM made miss working in a hotel. Some of my best times were spent at The Opposite House, Beijing where I headed up the PR department with absolutely no prior PR or hospitality experience, my task was to amongst the daily grind of office work – have fun with journalists on press trips where I got to plan all their exciting itineraries and take them to my favourite places. It also helped that I used to work at one of the expat rags which allowed me to get to know Beijing pretty well.
One of my favourite Beijing tourist activity was to go hiking up the Great Wall at Mutianyu and have champagne and a picnic basket ready with unobstructed views of the Great Wall as a backdrop. We had worked with Wild China on this particular press trip and highly recommend booking tours with them.
I’ve also been cleaning up my HD for more disk space. And I found these great photos of going hiking at Mutianyu when it was snowing.
It’s the day on the Lunar Calendar to eat glutinous rice dumplings also known as zong zi in mandarin and in Hong Kong and Macau, where a crew of men and women row “dragon boats” together with a drummer seated at the base of the boat. The legend of Duan Wu Jie (端午节）begins with a famous Chinese poet Qu Yuan who threw himself into the Milou River.
This practice of eating rice dumplings and rowing the boat shaped like a dragon was meant scare away the man eating fishes and evil spirits of the sea, celebrated annually by Chinese communities in Asia. The villagers threw rice dumplings filled with meat into the sea to prevent the body of Qu Yuan, the famous poet from being eaten. Variations of the rice dumplings are made and sold in different regions, wrapped in bamboo leaves.
The usual stuffings are savory pork with chestnuts, but my all time favourite is still the sweet Nonya ones that my aunt used to make, particularly the Kueh Zhang Abu, a fraction the size of the usual dumplings without any filling and dipped in gula melaka (palm sugar).
Hope everyone is having a wonderful dragon boat festival! My mother used to wrap this every year with my maternal grandmother, and hang bunches of them from the make shift roof of our open air kitchen… until my uncle passed away. It is a family superstition that when there’s a death in the family, you should not wrap the dumplings that year and henceforth not to wrap them anymore, otherwise bad things would happen.
Cheng Kei is one of Macau’s traditional breakfast places that sell out before noon, tucked literally in an alleyway – a very tight narrow long space of open air dining spots we call da pai dong in Cantonese. I call the owner “boss” so I’m not sure what his real name is, he always tells me in jest that he’s also called handsome. Congee boss man is one cheerful character singing and offering a string of famous food places in Singapore he’s been everytime he sees me. He can even sing Tagalog songs and speak Malay. That’s very refreshing as not all locals are half as friendly as he is.
And we shared a table with a 92 year old lady with barely any teeth! I asked her how long she’s been coming to this place for breakfast, instead of counting years, she says many decades!
I’ve been playing with the Vine app lately and got back to exploring imovie, the last time I made a short film was in 2009.
Congee boss man speaks English, so don’t be afraid to order the whole works here, the signature porridge or 招牌 pronounced “Jiu pai” in Cantonese, comes with fresh slices of fish, minced pork balls, liver cooked a delicious medium rare and tripe. Order a side of crispy fried dough sticks to go along with it and garnish with the powdery white pepper – the only condiment on the table beside a container full of neon coloured chopsticks.
It’s communal tight dining here, with plenty queuing up with their metal tiffin carriers for takeaways – exactly how my parents used to buy breakfast home from the hawker centre in Singapore.
Cheng Kei Congee – It’s literally in an alley way, but once you find Rua de Felicidade, it’s on the end of the street near a small square, you’ll see the queue for the congee. and go before 12 noon. Various site spell the shop’s name as Chen Kei and Cheng Kei, so they are likely the same place if you see variations.