Sunday, September 30, 2012

Songs To Shape The Rain: A Gathering of Contemporary Pop Music

Ty Segall Band - "I Bought My Eyes" - Slaughterhouse

Joey Bada$$ - "Waves" - 1999


David Byrne & St. Vincent - "Who" - Love This Giant 


Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Only In My Dreams" - Mature Themes


Bob Dylan - "Duquesne Whistle" - Tempest

Friday, September 28, 2012

Domestic Ordeals: Fruits and Vegetables

Purple Sweet Potatoes, mangoes, avacados, limes, giant radish

Dragon Fruit, Japanese pear, mango

Carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges, tomatoes

White potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onion and lime

Dragon fruit and mangoes

 Purple sweet potatoes, purple kohlrabi, onions

Purple and Green Kohlrabi.

Ever tried kohlrabi?  I just started cooking with it after coming across a few recipes and THIS article.  Pretty awesome stuff.  I prefer it raw, while gavin was digging it in some chili I made this week.  How do you like your kohlrabi?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pantai Bungus, West Sumatra

We met an interesting couple while in Lake Maninjau, a frustratingly cheerful young tour guide from Bukittinggi named Tom showing around his latest Western girlfriend (Indo dudes + backpacker gals = common theme in Sumatra).  At this point our Indonesian visa was running low on days and with West Sumatra getting old quickly we sprung on Tom's idea of beach bliss. 

The punch-drunk youngsters organized us a place in their car so we could all split the cost.  We should have known by the name alone it was a dead end, but he seemed to think it was heaven on earth.  With a few days to spare and a flight out of Padang (only an hour away from Bungus) in a few days, we went ahead and joined them.

We had a fabulous Padang-style lunch just outside of Bukittinggi.  This one was complete with dozens of dishes including local specialties like boiled internal buffalo organs and crispy lakefish.  I stuck to the vegetables and curried fish.  Delish!

My favorite part was the dessert!   Sticky rice, coconut milk, condensed milk, sweet mystery sauces, syrups, fruit and ice all piled on top of one another.  I never got your name, but I will never forget thee.  It put Vietnamese Che to shame...

Once we arrived at Bungus, our jaws dropped.  It was possibly the worst beach we have ever been to in our lives.  No wonder, after all, it does rhyme with FUNGUS... and we did hitch a ride with lover boy and his quixotic romantic ideals. What did we expect?  What was once a beautiful tropical cove was now a toxic soup.  The shores lined with trash and the locals listless and menacing with fishing and tourism on a perpetual decline.

Below are the ONLY photos I took while we were there.  The first is of Gavin helping the local fisherman drag in their net during a monsoon rain storm.  It was a devastating sight to watch their reactions when the driftnets were finally dragged in after four physically straining hours of work.  The effort of ten men procured them only one crab and a couple mid-sized fish to sell at market.  Defeated they trudged into the twilight...

This is the monkey who lived at the rotting, malaria-infested bungalows we flopped in.  She was ecstatically neurotic, but you would be too living on a short chain in Bungus Beach for your entire life.  She thought this kitten was her baby and Gavin claimed to have briefly communicated with her one night.

  She groomed and loved her darling cat, but I'm afraid the love was unrequited.

This is the sunset from our final night in Bungus.  It was the best of the whole trip.  Unfortunately, we missed most of it as we were battling the thick layer of mosquitoes covering any piece of exposed flesh. 

There is one reason to visit this part of the world, the isolated isle of Pagang, an hour boat trip down the coast.  Think of the ideal tropical beach and your description should match up.. but we'll save that for another post. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fly Cupcake

With the donut craze fizzling out in Vietnam it's time for the newest overpriced Western sweet to have its day in the sun.  Fly Cupcake opened a new cafe around the corner from my school.  I saw it going up a few days ago and stopped by after work this morning to see if it had opened... and sure enough cupcakes were ready to fly off the shelf!  I picked up a box of four to sample: strawberry, coconut, coffee, and oreo.  My God they were creamy and rich and decadent and yummy.

While the frosting was a bit overbearing, the cake itself was perfect.  Moist and delicate!

The cafe itself was adorable, very cute - think overstuffed pillows in pastel colors on soft sofas and decorative coffee mugs.  I'll have to stop by for coffee and cakes another time.  They have a few locations in town, the new shop is at 25A Tu Xuong in District 3.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Selamat Datang Di Danau Maninjau!

Lake Maninjau proved to be one of the oddest places we traveled to.  The Minangkabau people living in the communities ringing the lakeside were generally guarded, serious, and non-engaging.  The water was thick with aqua-culture chemicals yet simultaneously refreshing like a childhood watering hole.  Our days, long and languid, were spent sprawled across well-manicured lawns in the sun reading weathered novels or setting up mini-photoshoots with the tiny snails that littered the beach and lake.   

This unidentifiable mollusk appears to be from outerspace.

This cat had the temperament of an angel, but was ravenous.  This quintessential runt of the litter had a rough time of it as her larger siblings would outmuscle her and quickly devour the baitfish that fisherman tossed on the shore after an afternoon on the lake, leaving her with slim-pickings and a hungry mewl.

The small part of the coastline we stayed on was thankfully clear of aqua-culture farms.  Beginning in the early 1990's, fish-farming was introduced to supplement locals' income (farming and the trickle of tourism are the other major industries). 

Most of the young men in the area spend their days hauling, bagging, and shipping tilapia fish that are raised in the ubiquitous karamba, the floating cages shown below.  Twenty years on, the antibiotics and waste from the farms have polluted the lake's once-pristine waters and left the water greasy and thick on most beaches and inlets.

The rich forests surrounding the lake are used for rice farming and fruit-tree gardens on the lower slopes.  Thick montane forest begins soon after and continues to the edge of the caldera.  We took a hike through the forest to a waterfall.

We also drove about a quarter of the way around the lake one day.  With rough roads and increasingly angry skies, we embraced prudence and turned back - avoiding a repeat of our Lake Toba incident.

The twin pillars of industry.  A modest rice paddy stretches to the water's edge, where an aqua-culture farm hovers on the glassy surface.

 There's no doubt that Danau Maninjau provided some of the most breathtaking views of our trip.

I loved the architecture in the area: predominantly wooden houses with lots of windows and stained glass.

And we were blown away by the beauty of the local mosques, completely unique and distinctive.

Another Padang-style meal.  They certainly get this right in Maninjau!

Enjoying spicy sambal and palai rinuak, a small local fish.

Danau Maninjau is in West Sumatra about 40 km northwest of Bukittingi.  The nearest international airport is a few hours to the south in Padang.