Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Uncle Ho expresses his opinions

Most of the time, it is easy to forget that I'm living under an oppressive regime, and I'm sure that that is no mistake in the government's part.

When you get out of town though, it becomes more obvious. In Hoi An a couple of weeks ago we met a Belgian woman who had been aging with her family in the north of Vietnam. They spent two weeks in Sapa and more remote areas. She told me that in the small towns in the north the government felt omnipresent. Partially she said it was because of the huge monuments in even the tiniest poorest towns, and partly because of the propaganda posters and rules posted everywhere. But most especially, she felt the presence of the loudhailers.

The government uses loudhailers for public announcements, and news, and propaganda and advertising of all kinds. In the cities they have fallen out of use, for the most part, but in the small towns they are inescapable.

This afternoon at home I had a surprise:


First off - I didn't know we had loudhailers in the building! And I've been here 6 months.

Secondly - I suppose it's possible that this is actually an announcement from the company that owns the building, and they are borrowing tried and true technology.

So, and I'm not just being careful here, since my blog's already blocked in Vietnam so why bother - it's possible that it has nothing to do with the government at all.




anyway, this announcement is reminding me of what life is typically like for people in smaller towns.

It's loud, even when things ought to be quiet.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mr Martin samples the Hoi An Beach Resort special.

We've recently been watching downloaded episodes of the Downlow Concepts brilliant comedy: Hounds. Here's a taster if you haven't seen it yet. In Hounds, the bar lady at the dog track serves a special punch, made of all the undrunk dregs from the bottom of people's glasses. so when we saw the Hoi An Beach Resort Special on the menu at the (you guessed it) Hoi An Beach Resort this afternoon, I was suspicious.

And yet Mr Martin daringly ordered it anyway:


He was right, it did taste better than my piña colada. But that's only because my piña colada was virtually undrinkable - in my opinion he gave it a very generous score.

So this weekend we've been beaching and tomorrow we're going snorkeling. This is our 4th trip to Hoi An, and so we've hung out exclusively at the beach and haven't gone into the township even once. The weather has been lovely, a bit of rain yesterday but nothing like the daily storms we've been getting in Saigon. The sea is great for swimming - not choppy or murky. Though, there are jellyfish, and one wrapped itself around my foot this afternoon so I had to spend the next half hour soaking my foot in a hot bath. Which worked, by the way! Now it looks no different from a couple of mosquito bites on my foot and ankle.

Mr Martin is at the spa right now, and when he gets back we're going to wander down to the restaurant at the next resort along (which is a bit nicer than this one) for dinner and maybe another special cocktail. If its on the menu, I intend to to order jellyfish salad!



Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mr Martin feeds the elephant plus swimming!

When we were in Cambodia recently we went on an elephant ride. I just noticed this video in my YouTube list.


Elephants are adorable.


In other news, today we're at a posh hotel in Saigon, - the Legend Hotel. We had a buffet lunch, and part of the price for the buffet includes access to the pool for the afternoon.

Mr Martin's having a swim right now. See:


I, meanwhile am enjoying one of these:

How was your weekend?

Dear Phil - the duck curry

When a recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of sambal oelek you know you're really making a commitment to fiery curry - and also to wearing plastic bags over your hands while handling the marinating meat. The good news is that I could buy a jar of sambal oelek at the supermarket downstairs so I didn't have to make anything from scratch.


Actually this was a very easy recipe, which is all the better because dish itself was quite impressive.

There were two ingredients that I couldn't find. And given that we're stressing the EASY here, I think ou should understand that I'm absolutely surer I could have found them, if I had bothered to look a bit harder. But I went to exactly two supermarkets to make this dish, and refused to do any more desperate shopping than that.

One of the missing ingredients was chilli flakes. Given that there are two tablespoons of sambal oelek and three fresh chillies, I thought that the missing chilli flakes wouldn't really be missed (and boy was I ever right about that!).

The second missing ingredient was the duck. I thought I might find frozen duck bits at the fancy supermarket, but there were none. There was goat... In the end I used Australian lamb tenderloins. Quite expensive (around $20) but super delicious, and this was kind of a treat. Plus, I thought lamb would make a better substitution for duck than, say chicken or beef.

I was a bit nervous about how lamb and mango would go together. I could somehow easily imagine duck and mango, but lamb and mango?

You have to sort of simmer the curry paste on its own for ages -about 15 minutes. The recipe says until it turns a deep red colour. My kitchen is so dark, I wasn't sure if it was turning red or not, and kept calling Mr Martin over to evaluate the colour. while its doing this, the whole house gets infused with the smells of cooking. I opened a bottle of red to really make the most of it!

The recipe comes with another recipe for spicy rice to go with, but I just made brown rice, which I think was better anyway - spicy should come with a little plain.

Thank god for the mango! The dish was really hot, but the fragrant sweetness of the mango toned it down just a bit, so the heat of the chillis didn't drown out all the flavours. Would I make it again? Yes -but would use less sambal oelek because I'm a wuss. We have a lot of leftovers!