Welcome to my Living in the Asia blog. I have been visiting Asia for more than twenty years and have spent almost five years living in different locations around the Philippines. I meet a lot of fellow expats and tourist many of whom seem to have a much distorted view on the Asia and Asian as do many Asians have a distorted view of foreigners.
The one thing I have come to know is that people are fundamentally the same everywhere in the world. The problem is too many people focus on the small superficial differences blinding them to how much more we all have in common. I hope this blog of mine can help build bridges of understanding between Asians and non-Asians as well as providing an insight into what it’s really like to live here as an expat.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the Masonic Grand Master of the Philippines MW Santiago T. Gabionza Jr.
I have met other Grand Master and all are amazing people but I found him to be the most approachable and friendly of all. He was also able to get me to do something that i have never done before. He got me to get up and sing with him with a live band.
I also have a souvenir from the meeting. 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of Masonry in the Philippines and the centenary was commemorated with the issue of a special 100 peso bill. This was made even more special by the personal autograph of the centenary Grand Master.
I plan to give the 100 peso bill to my lodge back in Australia.
In the Philippines they love rice. Have it three times a day with every meal. I like rice also but not that much. Where I am staying now I have access to inexpensive seafood from a “wet market” which is the term the locals use to describe their local market which I guess can be a little wet. If visiting one make sure you where some decent footwear.
I got some excellent fish but the prospect of having it with plain rice was just not appealing. I had tried spicy curried rice in places like Singapore and loved it. I decided to search for a recipe online and found http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/65/BasicCurriedRice61759.shtml
The recipe seemed simple and i had all the ingredients on hand so decided to give it a go.
ingredients: 3 cups cooked rice 1 egg yolk 1 teaspoon curry powder 1 green bell pepper 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 2 teaspoons unsalted butter 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 onion 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
I substituted red bell peppers for the green as that is all I had. The butter I had was not unsalted but this did not seem to make the dish salty and I am I do not like things too salty. When it comes to salt I use an organic sea salt which is much tastier than regular salt.
directions: Saute onion and green pepper in butter until onion is tender. Stir in curry powder, turmeric, slightly beaten egg, salt, pepper and cayenne. Mix into hot rice.
I prepared the spice mixture first and put it aside in a small bowl. I think chopped the bell pepper and onion and sauteed in coconut oil (I don’t cook in anything else now except for some special dishes which i will use extra virgin olive oil for mainly for taste considerations). Then you simply mix it all together and serve. It’s fast and easy to prepare and tastes absolutely delicious.
The fish was nice also but I would have to say the rice made the meal
I like to try out recipes and often make my own variations. I just tried one recipe for spicy bok choy in garlic sauce. I follow this recipe exactly and it was so nice I decided I had to blog about it.
Original recipe makes 4 servings (two of enjoyed the entire bowl)
• 1 pound bok choy • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil • 1 tablespoon sesame oil • 1/4 cup water • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root • 2 cloves garlic, minced • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce • 1 tablespoon brown sugar • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)Directions
- Trim off the ends of the bok choy and chop, keeping the white parts separate from the green as they will need to cook longer. Rinse and spin or pat dry. Set aside.
- In a small bowl or cup, stir together the vegetable oil and sesame oil. In a separate larger bowl, stir together the water, ginger, garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and red pepper flakes. Set this aside.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the bok choy stems first; stir fry for a few minutes or until the pieces start to turn a pale green. When stems are almost cooked, add the leaves; cook and stir until leaves are wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the bok choy to a serving dish. Pour the sauce into the skillet or wok, and set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Pour over the bok choy and toss lightly to coat.
This is what my finished product looked like:
I have been making my own bread for years. I have a bread machine which I brought to the Philippines from Australia and that has been my total experience in making bread until recently when it broke. I had already mixed all the ingredients using one of the recipes provided in the manual and with the machine broken I could either tip them out or try to do it manually.
I got a big bowl and started to knead the dough into the right consistency then covered it and let it raise for about 30 minutes. I then gave it another kneading and against covered it and let it raise then placed it in the oven and to almost my amazement an hour later a great loaf of bread emerged from the over.
Today I decided to try something new
I was looking around for special recipes and found this one.
1/2 cup pot butter 2 cups all-purpose flour 3 bananas (very ripe) 1/2 sour cream or milk 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
I made it with regular butter.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Beat the butter, eggs, sour cream (or milk), and sugar in a large bowl.
- Add baking soda and vanilla.
- Add flour slowly while beating.
- When mixed, add the bananas and beat until mostly smashed.
- Place in a greased loaf baking pan and bake for one hour.
The banana bread turned out way better than expected and was a hit with everyone that tried it. Not too sweet.
Here is my version:
We keep finding new places all within walking distance of the house. One of our favorites we simply refer to as “The Bridge” as it is located near a small bridge. They make awesome Tom Yum and Fried Rice. There is not a word of English to be seen and the owner speaks very little English but still more than we speak Thai
Its nice to sit and enjoy some excellent food with a few beers. Amazingly it normally comes to less than 300 baht for the two of us. In any of the restaurants catering to the tourist the same would probably cost around 1000 baht and in this case probably not be as good. Looks like we are in the country side but actually we are close to the main tourist area of Phuket. On the other side of the Hill is Patong.
The visa run to Myanmar was one of the shortest visits i have ever made to another country. We met the organiser at 8pm at a petrol station near the wharf.
The fist thing we were told was we needed was to get a photocopy of the main page of your passport. The copy we got for 5 baht each was hardly ledgable but obviously acceptable or the intend purpose. We were then told that in order to get your passport stamped in Myanmar you need insert a $10 USD note in your passport. We were not told ahead of time about the $10 USD requirement so we were forced to buy our $10 USD note for the bargain price of 500 baht. It should have cost about 306 baht based on the actual exchange rate but if you don’t have $10 USD then you are at the mercy of the the organiser we were dealing with. I handed over 1000 baht and received two crisp new $10 USD notes.
Then on to one of the boats waiting. The scene is chaotic and more like dodgem cars. Boats going in every direction banging into other boats. Eventually we left with one other passengers. A women from Laos that also had a crisp new $10 note in her passport.
Our boat ride to Myanmar was 300 each return and took about 20 minutes each way. When we arrived in Myanmar we just got off the boat in what appeared to be a small town. There was no boarder control. We just followed a small boy that had been on the boat to the official immigration office. We waited in line. We were asked if we wanted to stay or would be going back directly. We said directly so we received the entry and exit stamps at the same time.
If you measure the time spent in a country according to the time between your entry and exist stamps then our stay in Myanmar can be measured in seconds. In reality we spent about 40 minutes in Myanmar. I really wanted a cup of tea and my friend a cup of coffee. We were able to order these and pay in Thai baht as we did not have any local currency.
What i received did not look or even taste like any tea i have ever seen before. It was a yellow colour that looked more like carrot juice. The flavour was not really like tea either and was way too sweet. I had a few sips and tipped the remainder overboard on the trip back. Just after 9am we were back in Thailand.
The annoying part of the whole exercise is that we expected to get a 30 day visa but only got 15 days. Now we either need to repeat the whole exercise in another 15 days or make other plans. Only a few months ago Thailand introduced new restrictions on the visa’s issued for “overland” visa runs like Cambodia which had been one of the main destinations for visa runs. We were mislead that because it was a boat ride we would be 30 days.
According to people we have spoken to a flight to Singapore or KL will give you a 30 day visa. A trip to Laos will also give you a 30 day visa. We have also been told that an overnight stay in Malaysia can result in a 60 day visa. We either need to do some research or just exist Thailand earlier than planned.
When we arrived at Ranong we booked in to the Porn Rung resort. It was about 4pm and we learned that the Hot Springs would close at 6pm. We wanted to have a dip that evening but the problem was we both forget to bring in suitable swimming attire. We also had other things to arrange for the next day. When we arrived back at the cabins it was already dark. The cabin had air conditioning but it was not hot so I opened the glass sliding door which provided some cool air and the sound of a bubbling brook below. This is the view that greeted me in the morning:
From the balcony the view was even better
In the valley the below is the creek I listened to the night before
A closer look at the creek where two streams converge into one.
There are ten cabins along the creek. They are great value for only 500 baht a night. Guests have free access to the hot springs via the path above which leads to the cabins and the resort reception. Visitors have to pay 100 baht entrance.
Before heading up to Ranong we did some research and discovered that Ranong is famous for natural hot springs. The a few around the City and some have accommodation. We picked the Porn Rung Hot Springs. Unfortunately access to the springs closes at 6pm so we were too late to take a dip the evening we arrived. It opens each morning at 6 am we were in the first hot spring soon after.
There are about half a dozen different pools but surprisingly all about the same temperature which is best described very hot.
There are also a number of small deep well like pool which I suspect is where they tap the spring to feed into larger pools like this.
There was also this UN-inviting pool with a natural rock floor deep at one end that looked slimy with algae like growth on it. This may have been the original hot spring pools used but not in use now.
The steam is cool and many people would switch between the two. The look on my face is not shock from the temperature difference. The stream if full of small fish that nibble at any dead skin on your feet. I have seen this service on offer in the tourist areas with people putting their feet into tanks. I was having the same here as an added bonus and I am not talking about 2 or 3 small fish. The fish ranged from the small ones that you normally see in the tanks to those about the double the size. The small fish feel like a tickle only but the bigger fish with bigger mouths you can feel a lot more. There is nothing unpleasant about it but it is a surprise the first time something comes up to you in the water and starts nibbling at your feet.
We have been in Thailand a month now and its time to extend the visa. The two most popular options are to fly somewhere like KL in Malaysia or drive up to a place like Ranong and take a boat to Myanma (Burma) which has recently relaxed its boarders. We have a car so thought why not. Estimated to be a five hour drive we thought it would be a great opportunity to see more of the country. Our host suggested that we take one of his English speaking employees as a guide so on Sunday morning we drove planing to spend a night in Ranong getting the visa done on Monday morning and then head back to Phuket.
After crossing over the bridge to the mainland I was surprised at the number of Mosques we saw. I already knew that Southern Thailand had a Muslim minority but they certainly seemed to be in the majority as we drove to Ranong. In particular the frequency of Mosques which were only a short distance a part.
We looked for places to have lunch but could not find any restaurants where food is prepared to order. This was the absolute preference of my friend that is a bit paranoid about eating out of pre-prepared pots. In the end he had to accept the Thai style restaurant. The food was great and inexpensive. One of the things I like about Thai food is there will always be something else to try if you are a little adventurous.
We arrived in Ranong and after checking into a resort we had already researched on the internet we decided to go out and find a good seafood restaurant as Ranong is known for its seafood with a big fishing industry. The place we found we excellent. Ordering was a challenge even with our interpreter but our attitude is that even if what we think we are ordering does not come out we will be trying something new. The dinner of three including three large bottles of beer came to just over 1000 baht. Maybe half the price for the same back in Phuket.
After leaving the boat I moved to a house of a friend located just outside of Patong which is the main tourist area.
The view from the bedroom
It’s nice and quiet here and not too hot. In fact we have had a lot of rain here this past week. I am told the season is about to “break” and there will be a massive influx of tourists. Not really looking forward to that and thinking to leave Phuket later next month.
We are easting out most of the time. In fact we have only eaten in twice and on one of those occasions it was the girlfriend of the host that cooked up an amazing meal. Other times we eat locally. The place pictured above is a five minute walk and one of half a dozen close by. We can order lunch here for about 50 baht a meal and its as good as many restaurants back home would serve up and want between $10 and $20 for.
On the right are slot washing machines and the bottle rack on the left is full of fuel for motor bikes. A real mixed business.