September 2008


We spent about a week in characterful Hoi An, a former port city dating back to the 17th Century, visited by merchants from Japan, China and Europe. Some traders settled here and the architecture of the town is a unique blend of building styles. The old town is basically a living museum. Many families still live in the same homes as their ancestors and many of of the ancient buildings are now home to tailors, lantern stores and cafes.

In order to preserve the buildings there are strict traffic regulations in the old town. Only motorcycles and bicycles are allowed in the area, and during most part of the day motorcycles have to be pushed around the streets with the engines turned off.

The most famous site in Hoi An, and the town’s symbol, is the Japanese Bridge, a lovely old bridge still in use by pedestrians to move from one side of the town to the other.

I was totally surprised to find an email from Suzana of Home Gourmets telling me my entry won the pancake challenge for this round of HHDD. Definitely not expecting that, so it was a big and very pleasant surprise.

As we are on the road at the moment and will be for quite some time I have to figure out how to host the next round. Suzana offered her kitchen to me (thank you!) so hopefully we can figure something out. Watch this space.

Thanks to Suzana for hosting a very fun and challenging round. It was a very fun challenge.

We’re back in Vietnam, enjoying the syrupy local drip coffee with sweet milk daily. It’s something I’ve become so addicted to on our trip to Hanoi that we bought some drips and took them home to Bangkok to make our own. It was good fun making it at home, but it’s much more satisfying when you sit on a low stool at a street side cafe, enjoying a warm cup, watching fruit hawkers cycling by.

We spent our first two nights in Danang. It was not on the top of our list of places to visit, but as we’re partially on a working trip, Alexander being busy doing some travel research, we had to pass through. We mainly spent our time along the banks of the Han River, which is peaceful and attractive enough, so much so that at times you were not even aware of the fact that this is the country’s fourth largest city. On our last afternoon we crossed the river with the help of a local fisherman who offered to paddle us across for a small fee.

One of the highlights for me of Danang were the coloured awnings outside many of the shop fronts, shading the them from the tropical midday sun.

I will update you soon about our next destination, Hoi An, where we wandered among quaint antique shopping streets and had some clothes tailored.

Mailboxes often add a little more character to the pretty red doors around town.

Some seem as battered and worn as the doors they hang from, like this funky green one.

While others still seem to be functioning like these ones on the door of a small apartment building downtown.

Today we are leaving our Bangkok apartment for the last time. Everything has been packed up and sold or shipped, leaving behind bare walls and empty spaces. The last couple of days our apartment resembled the same apartment we moved into in August of last year; just a lot of empty space.

As we are saying goodbye to one home…

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… we say hello to some new temporary ones.

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We will be on the road again for a couple of months, traveling to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and potentially Singapore. We have decided it was time to make a move again, and what better way to start a move than by going traveling?

I’m sad about the fact that I won’t be able to bake or sew again. But excited about the new places we’ll be going to and the much bigger journey lying ahead. I will also try to catch up on some old writing during this time and of course update you on our journey.

Goodbye then Bangkok, home for a year, and hello new adventures!

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Ever since my first visit to Vanilla Industry in Siam Square I’ve been thinking about taking one of their patisserie classes, so when Alexander gave me a class for my birthday this year I was super excited about the prospect. But it seemed I was going to have to wait, first they were renovating the property, and then we went to Taiwan. After a very long wait I finally got to attend my class yesterday.

I selected vanilla cupcakes with butter cream frosting and strawberry shortcake from the menu for my lesson. Two items I feel are good staples to know and expand from. I was nervous about the class, not knowing what to expect from it. What if my teacher was dull? What if she was really strict and I made a mess?

Luckily, all my fears were dispelled as soon as I met my teacher, Darin. We clicked almost instantly, as if we knew each other forever. In between demonstrations and baking we discussed travel, global politics, our shared love for baking and Thann, the story behind Vanilla, family and shared personality traits like being extremely particular about where things go in our kitchens.

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The course is held in Vanilla’s gorgeous kitchen, upstairs from the café at Vanilla Industry. I received a Vanilla ledger with my recipes cards with all the ingredients needed, the instructions I had to write myself, which is a great idea as I wrote it down and made notes so I could follow it more easily when I attempt it myself at home.

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Darin (who turned out to be the creator of the Vanilla Crepe cake which inspired my panCake) would demonstrate a process to me first, and I would then get the opportunity to measure and make my own. She was very informative and explained to me a lot of the science involved in baking, which cleared up a lot of past mishaps in baking to me. For example, turning your mixing bowl in various direction when mixing the wet ingredients and flour together will cause the batter to become more dense, as the protein in it develops and expands more, which is something you do not want.

First we baked and decorated the cupcakes.

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Followed by the shortcake for which we prepared some whipped cream and strawberry syrup and filling. Delicious!

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The morning whizzed by far too quickly, and before I knew it the class was over and Alexander was waiting for me downstairs. Reluctantly I took off my cute Vanilla apron and started collecting my handiwork, all neatly packed in Vanilla’s trademark boxes, only to be told by Darin that I get to keep the apron!

With a heavy heart I said goodbye to her and exchanged email addresses. Not only did I have an incredible patisserie class, I also made a new friend.

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I have managed to get myself completely lost on several occasions just by wandering down one of the numerous alleyways that lead of the main roads in Hsinchu, my former hometown in Taiwan. Once you enter these labyrinths you get so turned around as they twist, curve and branch off in every direction that you invariably end up in a totally different part of town when you find your way out of them.

Getting myself purposefully lost in the alleys was one of my favorite things to do when wandering around downtown on a weekend. You always catch a glimpse of an almost completely different city than the one you know. Department stores, convenience stores and juice stands disappear altogether and you enter a world of overgrown and crumbling walls, parked bikes and red doors decorated with blessings and good wishes for the home.

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