Monday, August 26, 2013

Maning market, Colombo

After 2 delays in Hanoi and another 2 delays in Bangkok , finally, I arrived in Colombo at 1.30 Am local time (3 AM Hanoi time) Sometimes what seems to be a relatively short flight in the region ends up a full day of travel. I felt sorry for the driver waiting for me at the airport but he met us with a very nice smile which took my exhaustion away.
After a short but lovely welcome to our hotel at Mount Lavinia, the next morning I walked along the beach after a very big fresh fruit and small omelette breakfast. The hotel is about 5 minutes walk away from the beach and hardly any tourists around. There were lots of people playing cricket on the different ovals but no one playing tennis on the sandy courts which made me wonder.
So far Sri Lanka has proven a very reasonable destination for both food and transportation. Most trips in the ubiquitous tuk tuk costs about a dollar and the drivers usually offer the real price and drive very carefully. I'm not a bit fan of heavy food and I expected Sri Lankan food to be heavy but I've been pleasantly surprised by the great vegetable curries and fresh fish dishes, which have been the highlights so far.
I went to the Maning Market, Colombo's main wholesale vegetable market, after a crazy crowded local train trip. I was a bit worried about the passengers hanging out the door and it is amazing how many people can be stuffed into a train carriage. The worst part was when the train arrived at Colombo's Fort railway station and I wanted to get off but I couldn't because people were pushing to get on the train at both doors. At the last minute, I managed to jump onto the tracks on the wrong side and climbed up onto the platform on the opposite side. It sounds crazy but that's what most people do here in Asia and I felt fine at the end. The good thing here in Sri Lanka is whoever I meet on the train or on the street, they always smile and come up with a conversation or give me a hand with directions which I love.
Walking toward the market right near the train station was a bit of a worry at the beginning as there were so many buses, the bus station being next door. Thanks to the lady who pointed me in the right direction; the Manning Market is an amazing market where I saw only male vendors with big smiles who offered me their fruit to try with no hassle and also asked me to take photos of them. I will definitely send them their photos as they also gave me their shop address. I'd never seen such beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables in what seemed like a very quiet market. I wonder why all the sellers are men, which is very different to the situation in Vietnam.
Anyway, I had a fabulous time and it is definitely a highlight of my trip to Colombo and I wouldn't mind going back to this market again.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

George Town

I have been to Malaysia several times for short vacations and I've always enjoyed it very much. Finally, this time I made it to George Town, a UNESCO listed town in Penang to visit friends and also to try some great food.
I loved George Town immediately because of the old houses, small streets and food everywhere. I'd say this is a food town as food stalls are prominent everywhere; from Indian, Malay to Chinese food and the PROBLEM here is they all delicious. My friends who have a very delicious food blog (Eating Asia) took me eating around George Town to their favorite places. I feel very fortunate to know Robyn and Dave not just because of their food expertise, but also because of how I got treated and learnt so much from them, about photography and about food.
It's really hard to pick the best dish in Penang as I love them all. You probably have your choice but for me they were all fabulous. For me street food served on the street or in a small stall is the best. It's really my type of dining and I never have any issues eating on the side walk as I know and see what I'm going to eat, which is fresh and well cooked. It's a bit similar to the street food in Hanoi but probably heavier with lots of stir fries and curry with noodles. Probably my favourite meal was from the lady who sells a small buffet of Nyonya dishes one of the main food markets. The highlight was a fantastic fish curry with lots of fresh chilies. I love her life story (in one of Robyn's recent blog posts) and loved her big smile and friendliness. We also drank white coffee, similar to Saigon's style with lots of crushed ice which is kind of addictive.
After a few breakfasts, a few lunches and a couple of dishes for dinner per day, it was essential that we walk around George Town's small lanes to try to create space for more food the next day. It definitely pays to be led by experts. Not one meal or snack opportunity was missed. But I do need to go back George town for more. I had a ball!!!!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Eating Job

Working as a food tour guide, I have so many chances to meet different people from different nationalities everyday which makes me feel like I'm traveling around different parts of the world daily and also learning so much from my clients.
It's so hard to nominate my favorite clients or my favourite nationality because most of the people who make a booking with Hanoi Street Food Tours are food lovers so we have an instant connection. It's like we speak the language of food. I would never say that I teach my clients about food but I do show them what is special from the city I love, Hanoi, even though I'm not from here. I suppose I'm the one who helps them to understand more about Hanoi food. I enjoy working everyday and I'm pretty much always excited about going to work.
Bun Ca
Many people think it is a very easy and relaxing job where I simply eat, drink and talk to earn some money. But from my experience, you need to have a genuine love for people and food, plus a determination to keep every tour upbeat and special for every client. The tours are not only about eating around Hanoi, but also is about the culture around the food. In Vietnam, we love to eat but we eat in a very healthy way! My clients regularly ask me "Why are Vietnamese people so skinny because it looks like they eat and drink all the time?" The answer is that we eat healthy food with lots of herbs and veggies. We are also meat lovers but we always balance meat with steamed or sir fried veggies and pickle fruits. And another very important factor is we do heaps of exercise everyday.
For my job I frequently work 3 to 6 hours a day, 7 days per week and sometimes, I have to walk around the city eating for 9 hours a day. For exercise, I do a bit of running around the tennis court trying to use up the calories and maintain my weight. At the end of the day, I have to admit that I love eating and I would never complain about hard work. I am a very lucky guy to be able to work in my desired field compared to million of people around the world without jobs or un happy with their jobs. I try to live by the saying "Work Hard, Play Harder".