Dinner with our Friends Jeff and Eileen

Now I take you all the way back to June this year, the week before we left what had been our home away from home for the last two years in Italy. A lovely dinner with our friends Jeff and Eileen from California, America who also have their home away from home in Viareggio, Tuscany Italy. I wonderful summers evening with great company, great wine and fantastic food!

Tea Plantations of Sri Lanka

After our night in Kandy we were back in the car and on the road again heading to Ella. The car ride was great, the scenery was amazing, the day was misty and the tea plantations all looked a vibrant green colour. As per normal being on the road was a little scary, buses passing buses on steep tight corners with nothing but sheer cliff face on one side of the road.

After almost two hours into the drive our driver stopped at what looked like a rickety old shack and said we were going for a cup of tea as it would still be another hour before we would be arriving at the Tea Factory for a little look around. Out of the car we got and sat down in the dive of a shack.

Served with a nice hot cup of sweet tea were these little Rotti served with the BEST hot sauce I have ever had! As I spooned a generous amount onto my Rotti, Chris our driver looked horrified and warned that it was very very hot and I would not be able to handle it… Ah why do people in foreign countries always think that the little white girl won’t be able to handle the spice! I couldn’t get enough of the stuff meanwhile Chris was in a world of discomfort having only put a small amount on his piece of Rotti. As for Dave, he too was able to handle the spice more than our driver. Such an unassuming place to stop but we were very happy to have stopped there as we were pleasantly surprised with the food and the very kind man who served such good Rotti!

Back on the road, we soon arrived at the Tea Factory for a tour around and a cup of tea!

After a cup of tea we were on our way again, next destination Nuwara Eliya situated at 1,868m above sea level.

Some interesting markets to walk through… Fish this high above sea level, and at least four hours from the coast, no ice to be seen anyone and I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as refrigerated transport in Sri Lanka! So needless to say we bought no fish however we got some hot peanuts and they were pretty good!

Back in the car again and not too far from Ella where we had two days and two nights to explore. Train track walks (posted that one ahead of myself) climbing little Adams peak and meeting some great people.

A day in Kandy, Sri Lanka

We were soon on our way to Kandy where we would spend our next night. On the way we stopped at one of the many Spice Gardens and had a very interesting tour learning of all the health benefits that the different herbs and spices have to offer.

In Sri Lanka I was again reluctant to get on a bus, the driving habits of the bus drivers in Sri Lanka seem to be fairly similar to that of their fellow bus driving friends in Vietnam…. CRAZY! As you can see, this bus thought it would be fine to pass on a corner… oh no wait there is a car coming maybe I wont!

We made a few stops along the way to have a look at some of the road side offerings.

Once we arrived in Kandy, our driver Chris took us to a place for lunch which served a great choice of curry and rice. What I love about the curry and rice in Sri Lanka is that you don’t just get one dish. Curry and rice on average consist of up to 8 to 10 different curries, sambal and assorted dishes. After we were completely stuffed full with these wonderful tasting dishes we took the time to explore Kandy a little further.

Of the countries we have been to I would have to say the Sri Lankans are the some of the warmest and kindest people we have met. And they just love to have their photo taken, which is great for someone like me who tends to be a little shy when it comes to asking people if I can take their photo. Most people would ask me if I could take their photos without me even needing to ask! Brilliant!

A shoe repair man on the side of the street… cheap rent.

Ice cream vendor and fresh fruit by the lake in kandy.

Electroplating Jewelry (Gold and Silver) an interesting process to watch.

After walking around the streets of Kandy we checked into our guesthouse and relaxed with an ice cold beer on the balcony overlooking the surrounding Mountains. Later on we went to a cultural show of local dances which was interesting enough then before heading back to the guesthouse, watched the sunset over the lake. Soon time for dinner, we decided to give the guesthouse a chance and have our dinner there. Food in general in Sri Lanka is never served in a hurry which you soon get used to and as long as when you plan to have your meal you are not already starving, the wait is not so bad. So three beers later and some time spent researching the next days events our dinner arrived from the unassuming restaurant, and I would have to say it was one of the best meals we had while in Sri Lanka. Dave had curried chicken which had a lovely rich and spicy gravy and I had deviled chicken which was a slightly drier dish but full of strong savory and spicy flavors and both of them were ‘Sri Lankan hot’ which was great! Finally we had been given a dish that made our mouths tingle and the beer seem that bit more refreshing.  The both of us have a great fondness for very spicy food, however while we have traveled through SE Asia we have found that even when we ask for ‘very spicy’ or ‘extra hot’ the person taking our order has a slight smile on their face and says OK. Then disappointment always would follow with the dish coming out ‘tourist hot’.

All in all it was a great day in Kandy followed by a great evening and authentic Sri Lankan meal. Next stop Ella.

In search of Bia Hoi

 

After arriving into Hanoi in the late afternoon and checking into the hotel we were soon off for a walk to find some of the local beer Bia Hoi. Which you could get a nice cold glass of for 5000 VND… A beer lovers dream!

It didn’t take us too long to track down the Bai Hoi corner and try a few cold ones.

A tasty little snack to have along with the beer, not 100% sure what it was but it seemed to be some form of nasty processed meat mixed with some herbs and spices then wrapped in the leaves and steamed. I hesitantly unwrapped one, dunked it in the chilli sauce and was pleasantly surprised. In a way it was slightly addictive and went really well with the beer.

While in Vietnam is was always easy to sit down with someone new and have a drink and get to know them! We met this couple from the UK on our second night in Hanoi. It’s always good getting to know what others have done while on their travels.

We decided to give the above snack a go since the beers were going down so well. The squid is dried in the sun for what must be several days (don’t think anyone would get away with that in NZ) then once you order it the street food vender would pop it on the hot coals, then tear it into pieces and serve with chilli sauce. It was not as fishy as one would expect and I thought it went pretty well with the beer.

 

Woman on the streets of Hanoi

We have been in Vietnam now for nearly one month, the time has flown by, and it’s safe to say we have enjoyed our time here, especially our time in Saigon (we have been staying with a good friend of mine who lives in New Zealand but is originally from here and just just so happens that he was home on holiday during our stay so we have been enjoying the best of Saigon and Phan Thiet through the eyes of a local). However you will hear more about that later, we will start from the top and work our way down. So for now Hanoi it is.

We arrived in Vietnam, from Singapore, having applied online for our Visas upon arrival we were not too sure what to expect. It could not have been simpler! We were the first of the plane and the first to get our visas put in our Passports, $50.00USD was handed over for the two of us and we were on our way, got our bags and our driver was waiting for us to take us to the hotel. After a quick refresh, we were back out the door to begin to explore the Old Quarter of Hanoi. We loved this area, there was so much going on, an overload (a good one) on all the senses. One thing in-particular that caught my eye were all the ladies that carry what seems to be a piece of Bamboo over their shoulder that has a tray hanging off either end which is carrying some form of food along with the ladies who push their bikes around with a huge pile of goods on the back.