Bun Cha 145 Bui Vien

So I was staying on Bui Vien. I told my friend we could eat whatever, but really what I wanted, all that I wanted in the world was Hanoi-style bun cha. Grilled pork slices, fish-saucy broth (I usually don’t like anything fishy, but this is too good), pork patties, veggies and noodles for dipping. So good.

We walked along Bui Vien and there it was. “Bun Cha 145 – Hanoi…” something or other. It was hard to believe. Breakfast sorted. While I was worried about eating this quintessential street food in a clean, indoor cafe on a touristy street, at 38000, the price didn’t really blow away Hanoi Old Quarter street prices. I ordered extra noodles as I always do, but I was wondering if serving-size differences between this restaurant and Hanoi streets would make that an incorrect calculation. Nope. As always I ate the hell out of the noodles. And the meat was beautiful. Veggies money. Yeah, this places did well. Throw in a tasty nem ran (fried spring roll) and bam, yeah, oh yeah.

I’ll eat here again.

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Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro, Phnom Penh

20 Street 123 | Near Russian Market | Phnom Penh, Cambodia |089 925 926 | Their Facebook Page

Brooklyn serves up some of the best American style pizzas (if you’re into that sorta thing. I am) in town. Their menu also offers a good spread of western classics like jalapeno poppers, cheese steaks and burgers. Generally I go with the pizzas, poppers and chicken parm grinders. They deliver if you want. If not, you can eat at their Russian Market area location and they have a variety of Belgian beers to try out. Your choice.

 


By the way, here’s a great cheap place to stay in Phnom Penh…


Great Room in a Great Neighborhood

Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Most of my guests extend their stay.

The bed is big and comfortable. AC, Satellite TV. Super clean. The bathroom is Western and awesome.

Russian Market neighborhood has everything you need: cafes…

Vacation Apartments for Rent in Phnom Penh

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Alley Cat, Phnom Penh

Street 19z (near the corner of Streets 19 and 178) | (Near the Riverfront) | (Opposite the Royal University of Fine Arts Phnom Penh) | Phnom Penh, Cambodia | 012 306 845 | Their Facebook Page

Good Mexican. This place has good Mexican. You can’t go wrong with the Enchiladas (go for the corn tortillas [homemade] and chorizo if you’re feeling it. Like USD6 for a plate of 3). the Fajitas are badass as well. If you’re lucky, Dallas, one of the owners might be making up some of his award-winning (actually really won awards) chili. If not, the rest of the m2nu will not disappoint. Different days have different specials but I don’t have them here handy. Monday is margarita day I think (USD10 for a jug).

(Wrote a while back but probably still accurate)

 


And a great place to stay for cheap in Phnom Penh…


Great Room in a Great Neighborhood

Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Most of my guests extend their stay.

The bed is big and comfortable. AC, Satellite TV. Super clean. The bathroom is Western and awesome.

Russian Market neighborhood has everything you need: cafes…

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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Cambodia PM Hun Sen – Mayweather vs Pacquiao BET – YouTube

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Sausage Fest Preempted (Cambodian Window Fishing, Part 2)

It was getting late. I was getting hungry.

The combination of single guy-ness and inability-to-cook-ness and a strange lack of leftover takeout had led to a nearly desperate situation. Fridge empty. Freezer, almost empty. Almost. Luckily I had made an impulse buy earlier in the day. Johnsonville Beer Brats. Yes I am aware of the political implications of the buy. Yes, I am a horrible person. But at least I was going to stop being a hungry person.

Brats. Gotta defrost. I took the package out and set it next to my sink, maybe. With some time to kill before I could cook up that meaty sweetness I retreated to my living room. I wrote some blog entries. Edited some video. Planned my yearly giving. You know, normal stuff that didn’t include building futuristic naval fleets or drunken online pokering with Russians.

Eventually it was time. The brats must be defrosted enough. It’s on. Back to the kitchen to begin my one pan, one ingredient, cooking bonanza. OK. Where did I put the brats? I checked the surfaces of my kitchen. Sinkside. The random table that I use to put my booze on. Top of the fridge. Where are my brats?

I wouldn’t hide them, would I? Why would I have put them somewhere not obvious? Still in the freezer? Nope. Fridge? Nope. Checked the surfaces again. And my closet. Next to my computer. Fridge. Freezer. Clothes hamper. Sock drawer. Did I never even have the brats to begin with? I really am going senile. Worse than being hungry is the knowing that this was only the beginning of my descent into lunacy. Brats today. What would I lose track of tomorrow? It was too early. I had so many sane and semi-sane things to accomplish in my life!

New thought. If I don’t find these brats tonight, I’ll find them later. Moldy. Maggety. Alive! And smelly. Another mass search. Nothing. Surrender. What else could I eat? I think I bought a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli for just this type of situation. Not on top of my fridge. I must have eaten it in another desperate situation. What I did have were three old frozen hot dogs in the back of the freezer. Gross. But gross dinner it was. Where were my brats though?

The next day I was on my computer, doing some similarly constructive things to the day before. To succeed in these constructive things I decided that I needed some caffeine. Tea it was. I wandered back to where I kept my tea, on top of my fridge. No tea. There was really no way I drank all 30 or so Lipton tea bags I had left. And there was no way I would have moved them. What the…

Ok. Got it. I know what happened.

When I moved into my 3rd floor apartment (4th floor American) nine months ago, I had an decent view from my kitchen windows. I kept those windows open (there were bars) so air could flow through the house. With no ledge or other surface for thieves to stand on, even after Cambodian Window Fishing Part 1, I never even worried. And who would steal stuff from my kitchen?

Hungry construction workers. That’s who. While I’ve been living in my apartment, a new building has been going up right behind it. Right behind it. Less than a meter separated the back of where I lived and the scaffolding for the home of my soon-to-be neighbors. I looked at my windows. They were open to a distance to which I would never have left them. Not really open, but not really closed. Not me. Not my work. Must be the work of my current neighbors, the folks working on the building next door. I knew who was having a tea party and chowing brats with some ravioli on the side. And I didn’t really mind. Feeding some underpaid laborers made me feel a lot better than thinking my plunging into senility had begun. No big loss. Not sure exactly how they got my vittles, whether by hand or tool, but well played. Very well played.

Telling the story, much like I wrote it here, to my landlord’s wife, she knew the ending before I got a couple sentences into it. I wasn’t the only person this had happened to. Someone had had some dishwashing detergent stolen as well. No big whoop. Not like the cash and shoes that had been stolen from the building before. The part of the story that she did enjoy was the part where I thought I was going crazy. The Khmer word for “crazy” is a lot stronger than the English word, so my worries that I was becoming clinically insane cracked her up.

The theft of sausages, ravioli, tea and dishwashing detergent? Not as interesting, especially in a place where theft is as common as it seems to be now.

 

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Cambodian Window Fishing

It had been a long night. Less than quality decisions had been made. Morning had arrived unexpectedly and preparations had to be begun. It was day one of the Big Phat Phnom Penh Hat Ultimate Frisbee Tournament 2014. Being Prime Minister of Phnom Penh Ultimate I shouldn’t be late nor unprepared. Cleats. Socks. Money… where did I put my money. Shorts from last night? Nope. Tables, drawers? Nope. Thinking… so hard. Head hurts.

For some reason I decided to take a look outside. That’s when a story began to come together…

Phnom Penh Theft

This is what I came outside too. I had my laundry hung as I usually did. Yes, with the windows open. But what were these things on top of my laundry lines?

Phnom Penh theft

Ah, I see. A hook. A metal bar combined with one of my hangers makes a pretty sweet, long hook. Thieves. Time to evaluate my losses. What would they want to be hooking with this tool? Exactly what they did hook. My keys. I found my keys in the keyhole of my front door. Very luckily I had the door deadbolted on the inside. Otherwise they’re in my apartment (actually, looking at my door now, they probably could have unbolted my door by reaching behind my door from the window. Pretty glad they didn’t notice). So they weren’t coming in. What was their next option for maximizing their profits for the evening?

Cambodian Theft

Maybe it has something to do with my neighbor’s running shoes. Not sure why she would have taken the shoelace out of one of them and not the other. Hmmmmm…

Ah, I see. So our thieves used another of my hangers and bent it into a circle. They used the shoe lace to attach the hanger to a pvc tube. Then they used my underwear to make a basket. Voila! An awesome long basket tool. It's use is being demonstrated by my landlord's wife. Not sure where the pvc or the metal rod came from. Must have been brought with them.

Ah, I see. So our thieves used another of my hangers and bent it into a circle. They used the shoe lace to attach the hanger to a pvc tube. Then they used my underwear to make a basket. Voila! An awesome long basket tool. It’s use is being demonstrated by my landlord’s wife. Not sure where the pvc or the metal rod from the hook tool came from. Must have been brought with them.

They used that basket to reach through my window and grab a wad of cash  (~$200) that I had sitting on my desk in my living room. Jerks.

Looks like they climbed on top of a car, jumped a fence, climbed a wall… Not sure exactly what they did to get so close to my apartment, but it seemed pretty acrobatic.

I wasn’t the only one who was victimized that night. My landlord’s mother lost around $150 and some other folks lost shoes that they had left in front of their apartment.

I keep my windows closed now.

 

 

 

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That time in Kuala Lumpur I should have run away instead

Sometimes I make good decisions. Usually not. Here’s another case of bad decision-making. Not too much harm was done. At least to me, luckily.

I found myself outside a wet market in Kuala Lumpur with a couple of friends, trying to find another who we believed to wandering around inside. We waited on a sidewalk beside a four-lane road that skirted the market. Stalls lined both the roadside and shopside of the sidewalk making the only access to the main street the occasional driveway or side road. We rested against a street-side stall selling medium-tech knick-knacks for your higher tech devices. On shop-side was parked a van, intact, for now. The nearest exit to the street was about 15 meters from us.

As we tried to figure out how we were going to meet up the fourth of our party, we noticed some commotion around 30 meters down from us. From my vantage point I saw a man and woman exchanging blows. From their relative positions it seemed like they were hitting each other over a table within a shop-side stall, with the woman positioned as the seller, the man on “customer-side”. From my angle, a likely scenario would be that she grabbed him as he was trying to snatch something. Fists were thrown but other scraps of metal became involved as it seemed nearby stalls were collapsing in the mayhem.

The physical conflict turned into a chase as the alleged thief began to run our direction hoping to access the outlet to the street beyond where we were standing. As he ran towards us, his “allegedness” wore off and he became an almost cartoonish version of the market thief. He wore a black motorcycle helmet. A man running with a motorcycle helmet, for me, calls upon Star Wars-esque imagery of the helmeted Empire soldiers who, with their faces and bodies armored to the max, never exuded more personality than that of a generic bad soldier guy. The front of his pants were filled with something. More than likely things that weren’t his to begin with. Otherwise that’s a strange place to keep stuff. The last thing our villain needed to fill out his costume was a big bag with a dollar sign on it slung over his shoulder. Even without the bag, though, any nuance that the battles between good and evil often had did not exist here. This was a bad guy.

He approached quickly and was all set to run past us as he had run past many other spectators. I had no time to think. With time to think, I would have watched him go by, been bummed out for the woman who got beaten on and lost her stuff, then found my friends and went home. I would have used the same logic that has kept me safe all these years. When faced with confrontation, I would run away, hide, cry, or push someone else in front of me to deal with the problem.

In this case I didn’t have the good sense not to get involved. As he tried to hustle down the sidewalk past my left shoulder, I lowered down a bit, turned my body counterclockwise and used my hip and right shoulder to send him flying into the car across from me and down to the ground. To be fair to him, he did not see it coming. Otherwise he may not have gone down so dramatically.

After having laid him out hard, my brain turned on a bit. I realized that my friendship potential was very low with the guy I knocked down. In fact, he might be angry with me. I ran. I fled away and onto the street, curling around to put the sidewalk stalls between me and the crowd that had caught up to the fallen bad guy and gathered to continue their market justice on the thief. I wondered out of eyeshot as I thought (ok, my brain wasn’t totally functioning perfectly) that if the guy escaped the mob he would come after me for revenge (as opposed to escaping). From a safe distance, I saw that the fight continued with fists and metal shards flying and then calm returned. It seemed that the bad guy had escaped and zipped off on a motorcycle. The original victim of the theft now had blood dripping from a cut near her left eye and still lost the merchandise that the thief made off with and had much of the rest of her stall and her goods in pieces all over the ground.

All that I had done was to increase the amount of violence at the market. The bad guy got away. The victim was left bloody and poorer than the day before. The license plate she was calling in (to the police I’m guessing) would not get her stuff back and would not heal her pain.

We grabbed a taxi and headed homewards. I was left to contemplate, for the first time with full brain activity, what I had done. Knowing what I know now, I would have done what I would tell everyone else to do in that situation. Stay the hell out of it. Even as clear as I was about the good and evil of the situation, there were and will always be histories, relationships, politics and ideas of justice that I don’t have access to. Especially in countries I am unfamiliar with as much as I am Malaysia. And it is likely that you will not help the situation, as I did not.

And some of us are fighters for good and need to get involved to fight crime. Some of us, our brains don’t work so fast though. And some of us have a knack for making bad decisions. I am the latter two.

Hopefully he isn’t looking for me. Better safe than sorry. I’m never going to Malaysia again.

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Pandas!

Here are some photos and a video of pandas. And of people looking at pandas. And some other stuff. All from the Chengdu panda breeding place in Sichuan, China. Enjoy, if you want. All the photos are taken with my phone. That’s why they’re awesome. If you don’t like them, it means you hate pandas.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

This is where we went.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Pandas like to eat bamboo.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

No, they really like to eat bamboo.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Tourists really like to watch them eat bamboo.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

And they like to sleep. If you get to the research center too late, this is pretty much all you’ll see. Go in the morning.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Sometimes the pandas like to walk around. But they do it really quietly so as not to disturb the pandas who are sleeping. Pandas are polite.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Sometimes the pandas cuddle play. WHETHER THEY LIKE TO OR NOT! The Chinese government forces them to do this because it’s cute. And it makes more tourists come. We must protest the oppressive policy of making pandas cuddle play.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Tourists love watching the pandas do anything! But especially cuddle play (evil).

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

#tourists #takephotosofanything #pandarollingoverorsittingorsomethingnotsure

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Ooooh. Something exciting must be happening over here! There wasn’t. But there was enough of a crowd to keep enticing people to crowd in.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Sometimes this was the best view I got.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Eventually we found our own private panda! I named him Rutherford. No crowds… yet.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Here’s Rutherford eating bamboo!

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Here’s Rutherford lying down!

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Here’s Rutherford cuddling with his favorite crate! Do note that this is voluntary romantic cuddling not the oppressive cuddle play mentioned earlier. Also note that Rutherford might be a female.

Our special happy private time with Rutherford couldn’t last forever…

So as we walked away, we heard the woman and her family telling the panda to wake up. Got me to thinking….

So at the panda center, for only 2000RMB (~USD322) You can get like a half-hour or so to “hug and caress” a baby panda (“hug and caress” is not the terminology the center uses probably, but this is the translation my friend Wiki used and I thought it was awesome). So there is some money made on these pandas (see “cuddle play” above). You can also rent long sticks for like $150 a visit. These sticks could be used to poke sleeping pandas and wake them up so you can watch them do stuff as opposed to only sleep…

Actually you can’t do that. But it wouldn’t surprise me. Anywho…

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

This is a bird panda.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Here’s some information. Do you like information? I don’t.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

This is a photo of a drawing of that time the pandas helped the Chinese win that war.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Here are the buses that go to the Panda place. From town you take the 64 from Tianfu to one of the stops that intersects with these buses. You’re welcome.

So that was my trip to the Panda breeding center. It was kinda awesome as you see from my photographs and movie.

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How Not To Travel (Part 2)

So the driver dominated the late night run to Bangkok. Killing it in less than three hours I think. He got me to Mo Chit at about 1230 am, and I had something like a 9am bus to catch to Chiang Mai. I could stay at the bus station. That would be fun and would totally help my fucked up sleeping situation. Or I could get a room for a couple hours. So I gave the driver the word and we headed off to find me some place to crash.

As we drove to a hotel that my driver had in mind, he pointed out numerous restaurants that did or didn’t sell pizza. I’m not sure why he did that. I must have said something that led him to believe that I wanted pizza. I didn’t.

So, the first place he took me wanted 1400 baht. No, this will not work for six hours of sleep. Then around the corner he took me to, well, some place someone might take a girl, whmo he didn’t like, and probably planned on murdering. But at 856 baht including breakfast, it worked for me for one night. (I do not remember the names of either place, I know that now. Deal with it.)

Bangkok Mo Chit Hotel

I kept the curtain closed because I didn’t want to see the horrible things outside.

Bangkok Breakfast

Free breakfast was actually pretty tasty.

 

A quick taxi to Mo Chit bus station, found the Chan Tours desk.

Chan Tours Mo Chit

The Chan Tours desk is actually right out front, where my backpack is. The dude to the right is calling someone to find out where Chan Tours is. Not gonna tell him.

 

I bought my 915am ticket that included some type of food stub. Now, how to entertain myself…

1)   Brushed my teeth. Hadn’t done it in a while. That was fun.

2)   Found somewhere to charge my phone.

Charge cell phone at Mo Chit

Woohoo! I was so psyched to find a place to charge my phone…

Mo Chit Charge Phone

… until I realized that there were like a million places that would do it for me.

3)   Wandered around hoping something awesome would happen.

4)   Bought Dunkin’ Donuts

5)   Thought about how good the food in Chiangmai will be when I take that first bite into my Big Mac.

6)   Studied Thai out loud. It showed the other foreigners around that I was better than them.

7)   Waited on the bus from the 915am we were scheduled to leave until the 10am we were really scheduled to leave.

Chan Tours Bus Chiang Mai

So I got this bus recommended because each seat had its own little entertainment center. There were a couple decent looking music videos, but generally I was looking at Thai movies or movies dubbed into Thai. But Wifi mofos!!! And an outlet, so I really didn’t need to charge my phone at the bus station.

Not everything is perfect about taking the bus though.

Drinking on Thai Bus

Hmmmm… a reason to take the train?

 

So the trip to Chiang Mai included playing on the internet, charging things (outlets mofos!), watching zombies eat people, and trying to order Beirut delivered to my bus.

 

Paed Grapow

My food stub got me this… my first Pad Gra Pow of the trip! It wasn’t very good.

Thailand Women's Toilet

While I didn’t learn about what the best Pad Gra Pow tasted like, I did learn a little something about women’s urinary systems. This makes a lot of sense…

About 4 hours to Chiang Mai.

All in all a pretty uneventful trip: zombies ate people, people shot zombies. Got into Chiang Mai at around 730pm. Quick shower then to JJ’s I went…

JJs in Chiang Mai, Thailand

JJ’s! (photo stolen from the Facebooks)

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How Not To Travel (Part 1)

So after the rough start to the trip documented previously, my first thought was to catch the first bus I could to Poipet on the Thai border. This was my first mistake. Still well lubed by the punch we made for last night, the rushed bus trip was perhaps not the best choice.

My goal was the Mo Chit bus station in northern Bangkok. The original plan had been to catch that 630am bus from Phnom Penh, then a Bus from the border to Mo Chit in time to catch an overnight bus to Chiang Mai at 9pm or so. Plans change when you sleep in. The revised plan was to try to catch an early morning bus from Mo Chit, of which the last ones leave at 9am.

This being the plan, I panicked and grabbed the first bus I could. It was the choice I made. And there was appeal to being able to space out on a bus for a bunch of hours. So I grabbed the 1130am bus from the dreaded Rith Mony, who sports one of the worst bus safety records in probably the world. My trip was smooth though.

Rith Mony Bus to Poipet

My chariot…

We got into Poipet at just after 8pm. Here’s where some of the problems in my thinking become evident. No one wants to be in Poipet at all, let alone at night. Poipet is an armpit with a bunch of casinos. I did not want to stay here. But could I enter Thailand? I knew the border closed at some point. Could it be 8pm? That would suck and would guarantee me not being able to catch the morning Chiang Mai bus as I would have to wait for the border to reopen.

Luckily 10pm was when the border closed. So that non-problem was averted. Into Thailand I went. Oh, one more potential problem I considered as I was about to go through passport control. In the past, visitors to Thailand were granted a 30-day visa waiver if they arrived by air, but only a 15-day visa waiver if they arrived over land. I started to do the math. A few dayd partying in the north, Chiangmai Hat tourney, Bangkok Hat, recovery day. What if I overstay? How much will that cost? Or will they just send me straight to jail. I don’t know if I had seen an episode of Banged Up Abroad filmed in Thailand, but I can imagine, Thai jails are probably not fun.

Went through immigration. Stamped in for 30 days. No problem…

Now, how to get to Bangkok. In the past I had been lucky enough to find random busses on the Thai side of the border just waiting for casino customers and me. Or, if there was no bus waiting, I would take a tuktuk to the bus station where there were frequent busses to Bangkok.

No bus waiting. Bus station closed. Taxis were offering 1900 Baht trips to Bangkok. A hotel at the border advertised 780 baht rooms. Time to do some math and evaluate my options:

1)   Stay in Arantaprathet for the night and catch a bus in the morning. Cost wise it’s a good option with the busses running at around 250 baht for the trip. Earliest bus left at 4am. 5-hour ride. Cutting it really close if I want to make that morning bus to Chiang Mai. Pretty risky.

2)   Stay in Aranyaprathet, get a good night sleep. Catch an overnight bus the next evening. This would mean I would only be spending one night in Chiangmai before going off grid with Aaron. And it would mean wasting one night at a hotel up there that I had already booked. I think I am going to need that full day in Chiangmai.

3)   Take a taxi and stay somewhere near Mo Chit. Expensive taxi ride. Then I will need to find a place to stay near the bus station. Then take another taxi in the morning. Not a very graceful plan. But with no traffic the taxi ride should only take about 3 hours.

4)   Stay in Aranyaprathet and take an early morning taxi ride straight to Mo Chit bus station. This is a slightly more elgant plan. But I would be contending with Bangkok rush hour traffic to make my bus.

I finally decided, after some hemming and hawing, on option 3. And I am currently typing this in the back of a taxi on the way to Bangkok. I’m guessing that a Cambodia Angkor Air flight from Phnom Penh to Bangkok would have been the best option…

 

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