Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quick update from Vietnam

I've been in Vietnam for a bit over a week now and what a week it's been! The time has just flown but we have managed to see (and eat) so much in that time.

I'm now in Hue and it is stinking hot, but then again, it has been stinking hot everywhere we've been. I will write more details later, but so far some excerts from my travel diary are;

Day 1 - Four Currencies in One Day and Lost in Transit
I had so much trouble getting my head around all the zeros from different currencies and could work out if things were costing me $1.20 or $12. We got an unexpected night tour of Hanoi when our booked transfer didn't arrive and then our taxi got very lost taking us to the hotel.

Day 2 - I See Dead People
We went to visit Uncle Ho in his Sleeping Beauty case and then wandered around the old quarter trying not to get run over by one of the millions of scooters in Hanoi.

Day 3 - Mee and See, my new H'Mong friends
The landscape in Sapa gives off such an amazing old energy. I could have just watched the mountains for hours with it continual dancing behind mist and clouds. Met many H'mong girls, a tribe that live in extreme poverty and continue to wear their traditional indigo dyed and embroidered costumes. We were adopted by a couple of the girls who told us a bit about their lives and showed us around the town.

Day 4 - It's a good thing my husband is not a jealous man...
I spent much of the day holding the hand of a man who wasn't my husband. We trekked from the township of Sapa into a couple of the villages. What is usually a good walk in the dry season was very hard in the wet, sliding down slippery clay slopes. We visited a Black H'Mong village and saw the poverty that these happy friendly people live in. We stayed overnight in a Day (pronounced Zay) village in a farmhouse.

Day 5 - Heaven, Hell and my Vietnamese Angel
The trek was harder than the day before due to more heavy rain and the fact that I had twisted my knee. The view was breathtaking but the hike was hell. My fabulous guide literally cared out mountains for me so that I could make it down the steep slippery clay slopes without getting covered from head to toe in mud. By the end, I was only covered on one side. We visited a Dao (pronounced Zao) village.

Day 6 - The Day that Wouldn't
One of those days when things just didn't go right......

Day 7 - Heaven on Earth
Halong Bay was truly amazing. We stayed on a luxury junk (is that an oxymoron?) and swam surrounded by ancient limestone pillars. The food was to die for.

Day 8 - Back to the noise
We woke up in Halong Bay and said goodbye to it as we ate our last meal on the boat. We headed back into the noise and craziness of Hanoi for a final time.

Day 9 - Hue
I had little sleep on the overnight train that brought us to Hue. We are about to head off and visit the old citadel

So that's all for now. Off to see more of this amazing country.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Only One More Sleep!

.... or half of one at this rate.... We fly out to Vietnam in the morning!

I did have good intentions of writing a nice long blog tonight, but packing took longer than I thought. Wayne is trying to enforce a "pack light" rule. I've taken that to mean "pack a little lighter than usual, but stuff it all into a much smaller bag".... mmm... My bag is already overflowing and I haven't even started shopping yet.....

I'll have little internet access while away and will probably be busy absorbing all the new sights, sounds and foods, so I may not get a chance to blog. So, with that in mind, see you when I get back in about 3 weeks!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Henna Gaijin

OK, I promise I will stop playing on Blogthings soon....

But in the meantime, the latest quiz I did was "What's your Japanese Subculture?"... and surprise, surprise... I got.....

You Are a Henna Gaijin!

You're not Japanese, but you wish you were!
You can use chopsticks with your eyes closed, and you've memorized hundreds of Kanji.
You even answer your phone "moshi moshi."
While the number of anime videos you've seen is way higher than the number of dates you've been on, there's hope.
Play the sexy, mysterous gaijin, and you'll have plenty of Japanese meat.

In case you don't speak Japanese, "henna" is not what I colour my hair with, but rather the Japanese for "strange".

What is Pocky?

It was pointed out to by the lovely Leigh, that I didn't explain what Pocky was in my What flavour Pocky are you? post, for those not-knowing-what-Pocky-is people.

Pocky (rhymes with rocky) is a thin stick of biscuit with a flavoured coating. The basic version is chocolate but there are and have been many different flavours. Wikipeidia lists;

Chocolate flavors
Anime Pocky
Giant Chocolate
Giant Double Choco
Gokuboso Pocky (Superfine Pocky)
Little Pocky
Marble Pocky Chocolate
Marble Royal Milk Tea
Men’s Pocky

Fruit/Nut flavors
Chocolate Almond Crush
White Chocolate Almond Crush
White Chocolate/Chocolate Almond Crush
Café au Lait Almond Crush
Mild Milk Almond Crush
Honey White Almond Crush
Anglaise Almond Crush
Choco Banana
Coconut Milk
Cinnamon Apple
Green Apple
Pine Cream
Tsubu Tsubu Strawberry
Tsubu Tsubu Giant Strawberry

Mousse flavors
Black & Latte
Blueberry Yogurt
Extra Chocolate
Mild Chocolate
Hazelnut Milk Chocolate
Green Tea
Hokkaido White
Royal Milk Tea
New White

Decorer flavors
Berry Chocolate
Grape Mild Chocolate
Lemon Chocolate
Mont-Blanc White Chocolate
Peach & Strawberry Chocolate
White Wedding Chocolate
Apple Cream Custard
Bananu Semi-Sucrée
Chocolat de Caramel
Fraise au Chocolat
Gateau Chocolat
Strawberry Gâteau

Seasonal flavors
Special Pocky flavors available only during certain seasons.
Winter - Fuyuno Kuchidoke (Winter Melt-in-Mouth)
Winter - Murasaki Imo (Sweet Potato)
Spring - Honey
Summer - Kiwi Mango
Cocoa Powder

Regional flavors
Special Pocky flavors available only in certain regions of Japan.
Nagano - Grape
Hokkaido - Yubari Melon
Kyushu - Kyushu Giant Mikan
Kyoto - Kyoto Powdered Tea Azuki Bean
Kobe - Kobe Wine


Fortune Telling Pocky
Honey & Milk

Pocky G
Pocky G

Five Flavor Combination
Pocky with a combination of five flavors. Limited edition 2006.
Kurogo (Five Black) - black pine nut, black soybean, black karin, black sesame seed, unpolished black rice
Goka (Five Fruit) - peach, apricot, jujube, plum, chestnut


Special Occasion flavors
2001 Giant Rainbow (Contains Giant Cider, Giant Green Tea, Giant Custard, Giant Blueberry, Giant Orange, Giant Chocolate)

European Pocky (Mikado)
Milchschokolade (Milk Chocolate)
Zartherb (Bittersweet Chocolate)

Other Pocky flavors
Cereal Almond
Kinako (Soybean)
Kurogoma (Black Sesame)
Lemon Cheesecake
Milk Chocolate Whole Wheat

There is a Pocky Gallery where you can see the packaging of many of the flavours listed above.
My personal favourites are Almond Crush, Coconut and the good old plain chocolate Pocky.
Unfortunately, you can't just go into a store and have all of those flavour choices. Japan giveth flavours and snacks and just as quickly taketh away. Just when you finally decide that you do like Soybean flavoured Pocky, you head down to your local Circle K and find that it is no longer sold. Wayne and I make a point of going to the convenience stores every now and then just to see what new snacks have been released and which have dissappeared.

While Pocky isn't my favourite Japanese snack (that place is reserved for Kinokonoyama), it's up there. What I do love though, is their commercials. Just for fun, I mean research purposes, he's an ad featuring Morning Musume.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Time for another four-some

Yep, it's definitely time for another. Time to go to the hairdressers.

Last time I went to the hairdressers I really wanted a cut and colour. The cut is no problem, the colour however is a little more difficult. I can only use semi-permanent dyes, which are very rare over here. It makes sense, as most of the population have black hair, so if they are going to colour their hair brown, or the red that I desired, for example, it needs to be bleached first. The lightened hair is then dyed the desired colour. There is no real point in getting bleached hair dyed with a semi-permanent.

I thought I would try though. It took a lot of broken Japanese to get my point across, but once they understood, I was told that no, they didn't have such a dye. "Oh well," I thought, I'd just get a cut.

The hairdressers in Japan lavish their customers with attention. The particular salon I had chosen was run purely by men. Male hairdressers don't have the same gay stigma they do back home and are usually straight. Straight and very funky. I was treated to a lovely scalp massage while having my hair washed, but the best was yet to come. While cutting my damp hair, my attendant played with it. With each snip, my tresses were caressed with great tenderness. I melted in this man's hands. Now, I should point out here, that this isn't an isolated experience, but rather one I have come to expect from hairdressers in Japan, male or female.

While drifting in bliss (can you drift in bliss?) in the back of my mind was the small regret that I would then have to go home and colour my own hair. I had brought a number of boxes of dye back from Australia on my previous trip. Tentatively, I asked the delightfully funky man playing with my hair, "If I bring in my own dye, would you put it in my hair for me?" After thinking for a little bit and consulting with the manager, he said that would be no problem. He finished cutting and I raced home with wet hair.

The box contained two bottles of chemical that needed to be mixed and instructions in English. The hairdresser had never seen this sort of dye and asked me lots of questions. Once confident that he knew what to do, he mixed it and started to apply it. Curious, the manager came over. The dye was more liquid than the paste they were accustomed to. He took a comb and started applying it on the opposite side to the first hairdresser. Ahh... it was heaven, not one, but two cute funky men playing with my hair. The third guy in the salon had no customers, so came and joined the other two. I had two applying the colour and one combing it through, but all three playing with it at once.

Once the colour had been rinsed out, I was treated to another four-some, this time, two with hairdryers, one with a brush. Upon paying I was presented with a large bottle of treatment all beautifully wrapped with a bow.

I floated across the road to the shopping centre where I ran into my husband in a book store.

"Your hair looks great" he told me.

I smiled and told him "I had a four-some."

He laughed and said "That's good. You look like you enjoyed it."

Monday, July 09, 2007

What flavour Pocky are you?

Still sick... it's been more than two weeks now... so I needed something to cheer me up...

You Are Flan Pocky

Your attitude: modern and offbeat
East meets west... sweet meets salty.
You're a pro at bringing unusual combos together!

So, what flavour are you? Leave me a note in the comments to cheer me up...

Friday, July 06, 2007

13 more sleeps and the one that won't go away..

It's only one week until I start taking my malaria tablets, which means it's only two weeks until I go on my summer trip! We're off to Vietnam, Cambodia and doing a couple days in Thailand before we head home. We're so looking forward to it!

On the other hand, I still need to get over this darn cold. I start to feel better for a day, and then it gets worse again... today is a feeling-worse day. I spent last night coughing so hard that I seriously thought a lung was going to come out of my mouth. It was violent! When I did finally get some sleep, I know I was snoring loudly, as I was snoring so loudly I woke myself up! Poor Wayne is a bit worse for wear, as sleeping in the same bed as me, well he's not getting much sleeping done.

I've just spent the day at work, stuggling to speak, with my ears blocked so badly that I feel like I'm underwater and going through packets of tissues. Not fun! Not fun at all!

I took drugs for a week, but they don't seemed to have done much.

The last few days have been so busy at work, we had a huge pile of tests to mark and then today, I did about ten practice interview tests after classes. So wish I could just go home and recover from this, but have a busy weekend ahead preparing work for while I'm away... ahh... my kingdom for some sleep.....