Seeing Siem Reap, Cambodia

Woman chopping raw fish - right in the center of the Siem Reap market

Woman chopping raw fish – Siem Reap market

A Traveler’s Preamble

It’s been too long since I’ve posted on my blog, but there are good reasons for it (well, I think they’re good reasons.) Back in August, I took my trip to Bangkok, Thailand … and in the midst of that trip I took a side trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

After 2 days I left Cambodia and returned to Thailand … and then flew from Thailand to Manila.

Eventually I left the Philippines and headed home, to the east coast. I had barely unpacked my suitcase before I had to fly off to Europe: Zurich and Prague.

While I bounced around the world like a ping pong ball, I didn’t post to the blog. I saw that people were looking at my postings and photos, which was nice. Thanks for reading, even while I was “away.”

And now, a glimpse into my travels in Cambodia.

Siem Reap

If you’ve never heard of Siem Reap, Cambodia, then perhaps you have heard of Angkor Wat? Siem Reap is the town located adjacent to the Angkor Wat temple complex.

Angkor Wat was a life changing experience for me; I am not yet prepared to cover it in this blog post, or probably even one blog post. It’s monumental.

One incredible carved rock face five stories tall, at the Buddhist temple within Angkor Wat.

One incredible carved rock face, five stories tall, at the Buddhist temple within Angkor Wat.

Today, I wanted to share some photos from the Siem Reap market, which is in the center of the town. It’s an authentic market, with plenty of fresh food that the locals want to buy. Just on the edge of the center-most food section of the market are the many tourist stalls selling t-shirts, dried herbal tea, sterling silver wares.

Siem Reap has its own airport. There are hundreds of tourists who arrive from around Asia, Europe and North/South America everyday. It’s not surprising that Siem Reap is geared towards catering to tourists. In fact, the economy of Siem Reap runs on U.S. dollars. That’s right – when you go to change your money in Cambodia, you’ll be changing whatever money you have (Euro’s, for example) into USD. Surprise!

A woman lights a candle to prevent insects from landing on the food. Siem Reap, Cambodia

A woman lights a candle to prevent insects from landing on the food. Siem Reap, Cambodia

And I would venture to comment that “seeing” Siem Reap is not like seeing what the rest of Cambodia is like. Being shuttled around in one of several hundred tuk-tuk’s from a comfortable hotel to a restaurant probably isn’t the normal course of events for Cambodian’s who live there.

Getting around town in a Tuk Tuk

Getting around town in a Tuk Tuk

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Chickens - Siem Reap Market

Chickens – Siem Reap Market

Still, I don’t regret one second I spent in the country, seeing Angkor Wat and spending a little time in the town center.

Fruit - Siem Reap Market

Fruit on display – Siem Reap Market

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Cambodian Street Food - check out the teeth on those fish in the lower right part of the photo!

Cambodian Street Food – check out the teeth on those fish in the lower right part of the photo!

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The inviting entrance to a local restaurant where I had lunch...

The inviting entrance to a local restaurant where I had lunch…

 

A Visit to Bangkok, Part 3: Wat Pho Temple

If I had to choose the one place in Bangkok that I found most inspiring and alluring, it would have to be Wat Pho.

The head of an immense reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

The head of an immense reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple complex in the same neighborhood as the Grand Palace. As a tourist, I was directed to take the SkyTrain to the pier where the tourist boats go up the river. I took the tourist boat twice.

Travel Tip 1: You can either purchase an all-day pass on the river boat for 150 baht, or if you are really heading to one destination and plan to get off the river once you arrive, ask for the one-stop ticket. Then you’ll only pay 40 baht.

Travel Tip 2: Women are not permitted into temples unless they’re covered. You can’t wear anything above the ankle. A pair of light weight slacks and a tee shirt that covers your shoulders and the top of your arm, is fine. If you aren’t wearing the right clothing, you’ll have to “rent” a wrap which you’ll tie around your waist and will cover you to your ankles.

When you get off the tourist boat, you have to walk through a make-shift bazaar building that is on the pier. There are a bunch of vendors selling a variety of souvenirs. Once you exit the bazaar, you come out into an area where there are street vendors selling food and drinks.

A young man selling freshly made pomegranate juice near Wat Pho.

A young man selling freshly made pomegranate juice near Wat Pho.

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Good Good Good Papaya Salad. 40 baht is about $1 US dollar.

Good Good Good Papaya Salad. 40 baht is about $1 US dollar.

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A woman looks over her choices of grilled meats at a street vendor's stall

A woman looks over her choices of grilled meats at a street vendor’s stall

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But once inside the temple complex, your eye is drawn to the ornate and intricately tiled buildings that adorn the large tract of land that composes the complex.

The architecture of Wat Pho

The architecture of Wat Pho

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When you are not looking at the amazing architecture, there are many wonderful places where you can stop and rest.

The man made waterfall and koi pond is delightful

The man made waterfall and koi pond is delightful

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I only saw one monk while I was there, which surprised me

I only saw one monk while I was there, which surprised me

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For some reason, the majority of people I saw at Wat Pho were tourists and not monks. I only saw one monk while I was there, and he walked so quickly across the courtyard I could barely snap a photo of him as he passed me.

Within one of the courtyards, I found...

Within one of the courtyards, I found…

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You can take many hours to explore this wonderful site because there are so many nested courtyards, each with their own set of sculptures, or alters with flowers, or perhaps you’ll see a line of buddhas sitting and meditating. It’s all beautiful and peaceful.

A charming monk figure sits nestled in some greenery

A charming monk figure sits nestled in some greenery

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Beautiful handmade flower alter

Beautiful handmade flower alter

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Flower Alter detail

Flower Alter detail

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My advice to anyone visiting Wat Pho:

  • bring water
  • dress appropriately
  • don’t rush
  • allow the serene nature of this place to inspire you
  • investigate courtyards and other out of the way spots
A mythological creature stands watch over one of the temples

A mythological creature stands watch over one of the temples

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A moment of peaceful solitude

A moment of peaceful solitude

A Visit to Bangkok, Part Two: Peeking Into Chinatown

Red Lanterns festively displayed by a street vendor in Bangkok's Chinatown

Red Lanterns festively displayed by a street vendor in Bangkok’s Chinatown

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There’s something familiar about Chinatown.

No matter what city you’re in, whether it’s New York City, San Francisco, Hong Kong, or Bangkok, the images you’d conjure up for Chinatown are roughly similar.

Street view - Bangkok's Chinatown

Street view – Bangkok’s Chinatown

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Street vendors hawking their wares, a variety of foods for sale – some of which look totally unfamiliar – and lots of small Chinese grocery stores selling packages of dried fish, along with Chinese tea shops and restaurants.

Colorful rolling carts displaying fruit in Bangkok's Chinatown

Colorful rolling carts displaying fruit in Bangkok’s Chinatown

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Bangkok’s Chinatown felt familiar in the way that I described, but there were unfamiliar sights too.

I WISH I could have gotten a photo of the strange machine I saw on many street corners used to roast chestnuts in what looked like circulating black gravel stones. I’ve never seen such a machine before.

But, to me, the way to see a place is by watching the people.

Woman washing pans in a food stall

Woman washing pans in a food stall

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More washing going on in the alley

More washing going on in the alley

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Walking along the crowded streets

Walking along the crowded streets

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And, of course, tasting the food. The vegetarian fare I sampled included Mapo Tofu, Chinese green leafy stuff with mushrooms, and something new to me: Iced chrysanthemum tea with lemon and honey. It was all delicious!

Dinner was delicious

Dinner was delicious

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If you’re wondering whether or not to take a stroll along the crowded streets of Bangkok’s Chinatown, stop and buy some fruit from a rolling cart and then ducking into one of the many restaurants or tea shops to eat a snack … the answer is yes, you should. But I would say that for Chinatown in any city around the world………

 

A Visit to Bangkok, Part One: Chatachak Weekend Market

A line of serene buddhas sit in contemplation at the Wat Pho temple in the heart of Bangkok

A line of serene buddhas sit in contemplation at the Wat Pho temple in the heart of Bangkok

 

I must begin with this note:

I began writing this post after I returned from my trip to Bangkok, which was BEFORE the bombings occurred in the city. I’m deeply saddened by the news that whoever bombed center city Bangkok was intending to target tourists and locals, in an attempt to damage the tourism that Thailand enjoys.

Tourism is a major point of economic support for the country. If you are thinking of taking a trip to Thailand, I think you should proceed. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Bangkok.

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It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post. Just after my last posting, I took a 10 day trip from Manila to Bangkok, Thailand … with a mini-trip to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) Cambodia embedded with the main trip.

One of the many incredible faces carved into the sides of the Buddhist temple within the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia

One of the many incredible faces carved into the sides of the Buddhist temple within the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia

Since arriving in Manila back in June, I’d only ventured to Hong Kong for a brief weekend. So a planned 10 day trip to Bangkok was very exciting for me, since I have not seen much of Southeast Asia and Manila is “too close” to these places not to have some “local” adventures.

I had never been to Thailand, and I was anxious to go. I had heard so many wonderful things about Bangkok, but I also heard scary things too about pickpockets. It turns out that, just like any big city in any country around the world, you DO need to have your wits about you. You need to pay attention to your surroundings, and you need to go to normally reasonable lengths to protect your belongings. But if you do, I honestly don’t think the vast majority of tourists would have a problem.

I had no issues in Bangkok with safety, and I roamed around many neighborhoods in the day and evening, and I also went to densely packed locations with tourists like the Chatachak Weekend Market and loved it.

In this post, I will focus on some of my experiences at the market.

If you go on Sunday in the middle of the day, be prepared for large crowds at Chatachak Weekend Market!

If you go on Sunday in the middle of the day, be prepared for large crowds at Chatachak Weekend Market!

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If it's made in Thailand, chances are you will see if for sale at the Chatachak Weekend Market.

If it’s made in Thailand, chances are you will see if for sale at the Chatachak Weekend Market.

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Everybody comes out to shop.

Everybody comes out to shop.

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Chatachak Weekend Market was a major highlight of my trip to Bangkok. If you are in town on a Saturday or Sunday, I strongly suggest you plan to spend a minimum of 2 hours walking the market, although you could spend much more time than that.

It’s very easy to get to… just take the SkyTrain to the Mo Chit exit, then when you walk down the stairs of the SkyTrain (follow the signs directing you towards the “Chatachak” exit) walk alongside Chatachak Park. You can follow the crowds because that’s where everyone else is going too.

This is one place where I would be more careful with your belongings because the crowds are very dense and inside the market “hallways” it’s a tight squeeze. Also, if you don’t look like a local, you automatically look like a tourist… so try not to be obvious about where you keep your money, phone and camera. If you’re snapping tons of photos with your camera and not attending to your wallet, well, that’s not a good idea.

I had no problems whatsoever both times I went to the market, and I spent hours walking around each time. I kept a small, zipped purse with a short, strong strap clamped under my arm … but my larger canvas bag with my purchases I didn’t feel concerned about since I doubted anybody who was there to pick-pocket wanted to steal the incense or t-shirts I was buying! All of the photos I took, I used my cell phone camera (that includes all my photos, I don’t have a separate camera with me on this trip) and that worked well because I could quickly snap my shot, and slip my phone back into my purse and zip it back up.

Most of the vendors were so nice! They love to haggle with customers over the prices, and if you are a good customer, you will haggle (a little bit) with the merchant. If they are asking 100 baht for something, offer them 60 baht, then they will say they’ll give it to you (special!) for 80 baht, and you can settle for 75 baht and everyone is happy. Once you have concluded your purchase, it is customary to say thank you, and bow a little bit with your hands clasped in front of you. If you do this, the merchants will truly love you, because it shows you respect the local culture.

When I haggled with this soap vendor, she was so charming! She got excited when she found out I was an American from New York City, USA, and traveling alone no less! She insisted we take our picture together. It was a terrific experience!

When I haggled with this soap vendor, she was so charming! She got excited when she found out I was an American from New York City, USA, and traveling alone no less! She insisted we take our picture together. It was a terrific experience!

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I will be writing more posts about my experiences in Bangkok, but I want to emphasize how wonderful the city is and how welcoming and helpful most (not all, especially cab drivers, but most!) people are that you come in contact with in the city.

More to come soon!

 

The Mysterious Matter of the Missing Water Chestnut

In any grocery store in New Jersey or New York City you can find all kinds of ingredients. The abundance of food varieties is staggering, and we totally take it for granted. It’s inconceivable that you’d go into the grocery store and not be able to find Chinese, Indian and Mexican food ingredients waiting for you to pluck them off the shelf and put them in your cart.

In fact, I wrote about making my own vegan Chinese food on the blog back in February: https://cdeminski.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/unusual-ingredients-homemade-vegan-chinese-dinner/

But I’m not in Jersey City; I’m in Bonifacio Global City, a wealthy suburb of Metro Manila. And none of the grocery stores in all of BGC carry water chestnuts or bamboo shoots.

This is not a big deal if you have a lot of other vegetable choices, but vegetable choices here are more limited (in some ways) than what we have at home, but expanded in local Philippino green leafy veggies which (frankly) all look like variations on bok choy. Anyway…

A few days ago, a friend told me to check a high-end specialty food store called Santis. But that place emphasizes European imported goods, and European meats and cheeses. No Chinese ingredients.

I decided that this situation required me to be a bit radical. There’s a very good Chinese resto in my neighborhood called Sichuan. I stopped in.

The perplexed looking staff wondered why I wasn’t going to sit down for a meal, and I wasn’t putting in a take out order, but I wanted to speak to the manager. In the given tradition of over-staffing, about a dozen Filipina girls started whispering to each other about why I’d want to speak to the manager? Was someone in trouble?

Soon the “manager” came over, a young man in his late 20’s. I explained that I loved the food at Sichuan, and I had eaten there several times, but that sometimes I wanted to cook Chinese food at home, and I couldn’t find the ingredients I needed.

Before I could even ask, he said, “Would you like us to get these water chestnuts and bamboo shoots for you?”

“Yes,” I said, so happily surprised at his kind generosity.

“Do you need them right away?” he asked. Knowing how Filipinos can go very far out of their way for simple requests, I emphasized that I did NOT need them right away, and anytime they could get them would be fine.

“How often do you get deliveries?” I asked.

“Every day,” he said. And confirmed what I thought. If I had said I needed it “right away” I imagine he might have sent a courier for same day water chestnut delivery!

A few emails later, we confirmed prices and I was told my ingredients would be available the very next day for pick up. But, the manager added, the cans of bamboo shoots were “a bit” large, was that okay?

Oh sure, I wrote back. How big could they be, I thought?

It turns out, restaurant sized cans of Bamboo Shoots are pretty big

It turns out, restaurant sized cans of Bamboo Shoots are pretty big

Each one of the cans of water chestnuts in this photo is about 1.5 pounds, so, yes, the cans of bamboo shoots are huge.

And then, I opened one big can, and this is what I found inside:

The real deal - authentic Chinese bamboo shoots

The real deal – authentic Chinese bamboo shoots

I was thrilled! This is exactly what I had been buying in Jersey City, and so I knew how to process them. (For anyone not familiar with this ingredient, when you slice the bamboo shoot down the center, do it in the sink or over a bowl, they are filled with water inside. Then, once split in half, it’s easier to slice them up to prepare them for use in stir fry dishes.)

Incidentally, the restaurant manager told me where I could go and find these ingredients myself. “It’s very far from here,” he said. “Where’s that?” I asked.

Chinatown – in Manila.

I’ve heard of it, and I’ve been told it’s dangerous enough that it’s not a place for me to go by myself, so I have not ventured there – YET. I’m in the process of trying to convince some local friends to go with me, and when I do, I’m sure I’ll have more stories to tell!

I’ve Got a Golden Ticket

The local upscale Wholefoods-like grocery store, Rustens, was running a promotional. It was straight out of the ’70’s, but I like shopping games, so I got hooked. The offer was simple: every time you spent 500 pesos ($10 bucks) you got a sticker. Accumulate enough stickers, and get a serving dish of your choice.

Every time I’d go to Rustens I’d see all of the fancy bowls and platters arrayed on their display stand, and I’d drool a little. But I set my goals practically. My bowl required the least number of stickers: 55.

(For those doing the math, it required us to spend 27,500 pesos, or $550 USD to acquire this bowl “for free” ha ha ha.)

I quickly became a sticker addict. Week after week I needed my fix, and if I didn’t get it, I’d get itchy. Soon, I started hitting up my friend Carlos. “Hey man, are you going to Rustens to buy that Greek yogurt you like? It’s worth 2 stickers…can I have them?” Or to my other friend Suresh, who doesn’t always shop in Rustens, I’d slyly say, “Well, if you happen to buy something in Rustens, I’m collecting stickers for that bowl.”

Hey man, can you give me some stickers...?

Hey man, can you give me some stickers…?

But Rustens is clever. The promotional period ends July 5th. So if we were going to win the bowl, I needed to make sure we were pumping our grocery money into Rustens.

Towards the end I became desperate. “Carlos,” I’d plead, my eyes a little glassy, “I only need 10 more. We’re so close!” (I said “we” because I wanted the guys to think of the bowl as theirs too, but they saw right through my tactics!)

In the end, though, it was the guys who provided the last 10 stickers so I could reach the promised land.

Just ... one ... more ... !!!

Just … one … more … !!!

Tonight I went to the Customer Service desk and said to the clerk, with more than a little pride in my voice, “Today is a great day!” I was beaming from ear to ear like a maniac.

She smiled at me, in the way that knowing clerks, the world over, deal with crazy customers. She simply said, “Yes ma’am.”

I said, “I have something for you!” getting giddier by the moment. As I opened my purse and pulled out my sheet, the clerk couldn’t help herself, she giggled. Yes, I knew I had lost my mind, but I didn’t care. I was getting my beautiful, my precious……..

She went to the display and picked up a 1.7 liter gourmet mixing bowl and presented it to me. “Does this one look alright?” she asked.

“Oh yes,” I said, “it looks perfect!”

The golden bowl

Fish Flakes

Filipinos love fish. They put “patis” (fish sauce – pronounced Pah-Teese) on everything.

I’ve had to learn the Tagalog words for fish sauce (“patis”) and fermented fish sauce (“bagoong” – prounounced Bah-Go-Ong) because clever restaurants claim to serve vegetables but, as a vegan, I don’t believe it!

If you ask a server, does this have fish in it? They say NO. If you ask if it has “patis” or “bagoong” in it they say YES.

Recently, I picked up a package of Magic Flakes crackers at the grocery, briefly scanned the ingredients, and put it in my cart. When I got home and tasted them, they didn’t taste quite like crackers, so I looked again at the ingredient list while I munched.

In addition to normal crackery ingredients … flour, water, salt … the company that makes Magic Flakes uses fish oil in their crackers.

I have not seen this phenomenon in the United States. There is NO fish in our crackers! (Even “goldfish” crackers aren’t fish…!)

Funnier still, until I went back and looked at the photo I took of the Magic Flakes crackers, only then did I notice the package of Sky Flakes next to it proudly proclaiming it has Omega 3’s in it.

Fish food....

Fish food….

How is it that companies can use the cheapest ingredients to make their products (these packages of crackers are very cheap) and then put claims on them for health. I think that’s outrageous.

Grocery shopping is an interesting experience here in the Philippines. For many of the packages, the writing isn’t in English, or the product package refers to a type of food that is unfamiliar to me. (For example calling crackers “flakes.”)

Here’s the package for Ube cakes. It’s got that “luscious ube flavor” and is purple inside. Hmmm… what kind of food is purple and sweet? That was a mystery to me.

Now with that luscious ube flavor...

Now with that luscious ube flavor…

It turns out that a “ube” is a purple yam.

And on this blog, I found out that Ube flavored baked goods are extremely popular in the Philippines.

http://blog.junbelen.com/2010/05/25/purple-yam-why-filipinos-love-purple-sweet-treats/

So the next time I’m in the grocery store, I may just have to go native and try some Ube cakes… but there’s no way I’m going to eat fish flakes!

Home Away From Home

Two weeks ago, I left New York City behind and arrived in Manila. Has there been culture shock? YES. But I can honestly say I already feel “in the groove” of my new life in this home away from home.

However, in this post, I will focus on a few of the differences I’ve noticed.

Weather, whether you like it or not

It’s hard to describe how hot it is here, but let me try. It’s been about 93-95 degrees every day and it “gets down” to around 85 degrees at night.

If you are standing in the sun, your skin is burning. You instantly feel the intensity – it’s a direct burn. No amount of sun block could protect you. Now, imagine someone turned on a humidifier and left it on, day and night. The air is so thick it’s like walking through warm, sticky clouds.

On an overcast day (or during any part of the day when it’s overcast) there’s a tremendous relief from the sun.

It’s not surprising then, that Filipinos have devised make shift ways of protecting themselves from the brutality of the sun beating down on them. It’s common to see people carrying umbrellas to provide instant shade. Another favorite method is to drape your head with a tee shirt. Another popular thing to do, especially for children, is to tuck a towel or cotton scarf behind the person’s neck and down the inside of the back of their shirt, to absorb sweat.

What’s ironic, then, is that many people here are pale. I was talking to one such pale Brit who has lived in the Philippines for 11 years. He said that since people work during the day, they aren’t exposed to the sun much. In fact, many of these folks have even been known to run Vitamin D deficiencies!

Crossing the street is scary

As a regular pedestrian in Manhattan and Jersey City, I’m familiar with traffic but nothing could have prepared me for what it’s like here. It’s terrifying to cross the streets.

Every major intersection is like a four lane highway. Cars come from numerous directions and they are going to cross the walkway where you have to cross the street.

You have to also watch for bicycles and mopeds which don’t feel the need to stop for pedestrians. In fact, cars don’t seem to feel the need to stop for pedestrians either!

On several occasions I was convinced I was seconds away from being hit by a car attempting to jockey for position in a traffic line I had to cross.

Now, after a few weeks of life on the ground, I’ve figured out how to navigate the treacherous few moments I’m in a crosswalk. Just like everybody else here, you try to move with the herd. People congregate on the sidewalks until it’s time to go, then we all go together. Alternatively, hustle your butt off. If you see a car coming towards you, especially if it wants to make a quick right around the corner, assume it’s not going to slow down. Run if necessary!

Ladies and Gentlemen

Filipinos don’t distinguish between male and female gender. Those words don’t exist in their native language (Tagalog). So it’s not uncommon, for a shop girl or shop guy to address you as “Ma’am Sir” … as in “Have a good day Ma’am Sir.”

HOWEVER. There is the matter of being a white woman with curly hair (AKA me, myself and I.) I am, to put it mildly, an anomaly. No one has curly hair, and I do mean NO ONE. And while there are other “white people” here, and I know because I’ve seen them, we all stick out in the crowd. Most people are (duh!) Filipino.

Now, that’s not an issue for me except that many, many people stare at me. I have had men stop cold in front of me because they are shocked by my appearance. Others will stare at me directly as I walk by, some more polite types glance at me sideways as I pass them. None of these people ever says anything to me. In fact, anyone who talks to me says nice things like “Hi,” or “Good afternoon, Ma’am.” All of the people who work in shops are super nice, and extremely polite. Being friendly and polite seems to be a natural part of the culture.

Still, that doesn’t stop some on the street from looking at me like I have two heads and a tail. SIGH.

What’s frustrating about it is that I’m sure I’m not being treated normally here, because I’m some weird, rare thing to them. The exception to this is ex-pat places where it’s more likely for people from all over the world to congregate. In that crowd, I’m just one of a bunch.

Thank you, your eggs are perfect

Yesterday, I was at a small, well designed bistro in our neighborhood. I had to order food off the menu, which was challenging – nearly everything was meat, chicken and fish. But, they have a local dish called “Garlic Rice with Egg” and it said in the menu the eggs could be prepared any style. So I asked for eggs over medium.

The server said, “Sunny side up?” and I said, “No, over medium please.” And then I said, “Oh, do you know what over medium is?” And he said “Yes.”

Moments later, he pulled the chef out of the kitchen, and had me explain what an “over medium egg” was to the chef.

Since he said he knew what an over medium egg was, why, you may be asking yourself, did he bring the chef over for a chat?

Filipinos say “Yes” to mean “I heard what you said” and NOT “Yes, I agree.” So, you will hear yes when they could mean no. There’s no way to figure out which answer they gave you.

This makes communication here a lot of “fun.”

Back to the eggs…

The chef said, “Oh, I will try my best to make this for you” and I immediately said “Don’t worry, even if you cook the yolk all the way through, it’s no problem.” And yes, he gave me eggs over hard.

He came out of the kitchen while I was eating to ask me if I liked the food. I smiled and told him how perfectly he had cooked the eggs and how delicious the food was (it was delicious), and thanked him. He was beaming from ear to ear.

Garlic rice is seriously delicious.

More soon…

Early observations of Manila

I’ve been in Metro Manila over a week now, and I’m getting to know my new neighborhood. It’s very Western. Some aspects of my new environment have been so familiar as to be surprising: western style shopping malls with high end brands and super clean streets.

It seems safe to walk anywhere in my neighborhood, which is called “Fort Bonifacio” aka Bonifacio Global City, which the locals call BGC.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonifacio_Global_City)

This view shows the mix of buildings... low lying houses right beside large areas of skyscrapers. There's a ton of real estate development happening.

This view shows the mix of buildings… low lying houses right beside large areas of skyscrapers. There’s a ton of real estate development happening.

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In this neighborhood, the street art is quite beautiful. There are numerous public sculptures, wall murals and other kinds of art.

 

Wall mural at Bonifacio High Street. The figure to the right is having a beautiful dream, the wall beside him is his dreamscape.

Wall mural at Bonifacio High Street. The figure to the right is having a beautiful dream, the wall beside him is his dreamscape.

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A wall mural in a local bookstore made entirely of books, painted with this woman and her pink kitty.

A wall mural in a local bookstore made entirely of books, painted with this woman and her pink kitty.

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Sculpture of figures dancing around the sun... this is in a small park in front of the Singapore Embassy

Sculpture of figures dancing around the sun… this is in a small park in front of the Singapore Embassy

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But not everything is familiar…

 

Workers peeling jackfruit at the Salcedo Saturday market in Makati

Workers peeling jackfruit at the Salcedo Saturday market in Makati

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The Army band performs on the street during the Philippine Independence Day weekend.

The Army band performs on the street during the Philippine Independence Day weekend.

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Traffic here is terrible, so it's not surprising that motorbikes proliferate over cars. This commuter lot is full of them.

Traffic here is terrible, so it’s not surprising that motorbikes proliferate over cars. This commuter lot is full of them.

A few scenes from Manila

Open market with street stalls selling hot food. Fried chicken and pork are really popular here.

Open market with street stalls selling hot food. Fried chicken and pork are really popular here.

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A calamansi is a little tiny lime, about the size of a thumbnail. So calamansi soda (with honey!) is lime soda. This was the only bottle I drank, it's too sweet for me!

A calamansi is a little tiny lime, about the size of a thumbnail. So calamansi soda (with honey!) is lime soda. This was the only bottle I drank, it’s too sweet for me!

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I love this sculpture. It's called "Thanksgiving" and depicts two fishermen in a canoe, pulling a net filled with fish from the sea.

I love this sculpture. It’s called “Thanksgiving” and depicts two fishermen in a canoe, pulling a net filled with fish from the sea.

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Just sharing a few images to give a glimpse into what life is like in my neighborhood.

It’s been quite an adventure so far! More to come soon…

Around the World

I’ve decided to go to the other side of the world. Yes, I will be leaving the United States and going to Asia for the first time in my life. Another first, for me, I will be away from home for several months. Talk about embracing ambiguity… this trip will be a huge life change, as I become immersed in a totally different culture. I’ll be posting more about this journey as I get settled into my new surroundings. But before I can get settled in, I will have to take a 20+ hour plane flight to get to the other side of the world. There are so many questions racing through my mind and I don’t have answers for any of them. Many of my friends have been saying what I’m doing “takes guts.” Maybe that’s true. I started out by feeling extremely anxious about this change, but now I am excited and anticipating this trip as a huge adventure. So stay tuned for more shortly…

Ten Word Story

Subway

He smiled apologetically. Jostled past her. One more wallet.