I am having one of those deep introspective moments which I am sure many can relate too.
Here is what I am thinking.....
More and more, as the days pass in Vietnam, I look through my camera lens and see extraordinary things. Some photos are not necessarily what one person would call beautiful but then again...we all have our own thoughts and perceptions of beauty.
As I review the photos I have taken recently, I admit I hesitate. I am looking at the world with an entirely different perspective. I started blogging nearly three years ago to talk about our life and experience in England. It was not difficult to find wonderful shots in England. I had National Trust properties around me, London a short distance away...it was as rich in material as you could possibly imagine. But life is different, I am seeing life like I have never seen it before and I am finding it fascinating...but will you?
I know exactly which readers are throwing up their arms in exasperation...my intrepid travellers...I know what you are thinking. But still I wonder, should I leave my Vietnam explorations for another blog and focus on other things or just carry on...at the end of the day does it really matter? Some will say yes, some will say no...I think it is probably crazy that I am thinking this way but the fact of the matter is that I am.
This is where blogging gets tricky. After a time many of us reach a stage where we look back and think... now what? Whatever a blogger's passion is, writing, photography, fashion, home decorating, travelling, cooking, reading...the list goes on....I think there comes a time when we stop, look back and think whether we want to stay on the same track or switch gears. For some, that means putting their blog to rest for a while. For others it will be a tweak here and there and perhaps a focus on a new interest. Blogger or not, I imagine many of us feel the same.
This is what I ponder these days...I am restless. It is not for lack of ideas...just lack of direction. There I said it...I need to pull it all in and focus. I will ponder that thought...for it needs time to settle.
Where are all these thoughts coming from? This may give you a clue....
Life at Chateau Mango...
|Chateau Mango at noon.|
As we approached our driveway Sunday morning, I screeched...'Stop the Car!'. Someone would have thought we were about to run over our dog, Tika. Um...no. I happened to see this little creature making headway into our mailbox and wanted to take a pic.
My little Gecko friend is making our mail box his humble home..we have to knock loudly before entering to give him time to hide.
|Off to guard our mail.|
Speaking of home, we have made a few recent acquisitions...some may recall the Buddha wood carving below. I spotted it in a shop a few weeks back and have been tossing and turning on this one ever since. Toss no more. The store was having a hefty sale and yours truly was first in line. At 8'/ 2.5 meters tall and weighing a small ton, I was very happy to see these three men arrive to hang it up for me. I am still having a bit of a play with it all. There is a small matter of a very large fuse box just to the right of it. A friend has come up with a very clever idea which involves bamboo fishing rods. When it is complete...I will show you more.
|Thinking calm thoughts in the entryway.|
What happens when you move from a house with room after room of built in cupboards and storage space to one with none? Panic. This is not the first time we have been faced with this...the last was about 20 years ago. Let's just say I have collected a few books since then.
Panic over, I picked up three Asian style book cases and put them together. They are in the upstairs landing, tucked away from view but have since become my secret little haven. I have categorised all the books, as a good Virgo mind would have it and regularly wander by just to reminisce on life. It is still a work in progress...at least that is what I keep telling myself. :)
|My humble hodge podge of books.|
Life is sweet...often when we least expect it. The other day, Mr. Thuan (gardener) and Mr. Khai (driver) beckoned me over to a corner of the garden. As I approached they pointed and smiled at a small bonsai tree....knowing my appreciation for these lovely specimens, they had been training a plant...quietly and with great patience. Chateau Mango has it's first bonsai plant, at it's doorstep, a daily reminder that life is precious and we should enjoy each and every moment.
We are very very happy if you and your family like persimmon. In Vietnam, there are lots of good fruits but each province is famous for some of the fruits, not all of them. Such as mango, it is called "Queen of the fruit" , it will be delicious if it is grown in Hoa Loc commume, Ben Tre and Dong Thap provinces. The other famous fruit is mangosteen. The name and the shape of this fruit do not look attractive to those who first see it. A mangosteen is as big as a tennis ball and has the dark violet and rough skin. Yet, when peeling off the upper part of the fruit with a small sharp knife and lifting the upper part off, you can see the transparent white pulp inside arranged in equal segments. Just lifting segment by segment of such transparent white pulp to the mouth, you can imagine of having a light and pure refreshment with an easily acceptable little sour taste lingering in your mouth. My mother will be happy if you like it. My mother is a doctor, she joins the organisation charity and usually go around Vietnam to treat the poor patients. She usually buy a lots of fruits in each province wherever she goes. I myself is happy if you like Vietnam fruits. Fantastic!
I will treasure this note. It is another example of the kindness and generosity of the people of Vietnam.
I love the sweet, soft delicacy of this fruit. I have gently worked through the many persimmons, saving the pulp for a recipe for Persimmon Bread. Are you a fan of persimmons? If you are, how do you eat them...would love to know.
One for the memory book, I will most certainly, never forget this bouquet of flowers...it's a keeper!
Before I go...I promised a recipe. This is one of my all time favourite recipes...I have become a huge fan of this Vietnamese soup, Pho Bo (Hanoi Beef Noodle Soup)...it is delicious and healthy. If the ingredients appeal, enjoy. I should warn you, it has a bit of a kick...just the way I like it!
|Photo by Edmond Ho and Stryke|
(Hanoi Beef Noodle Soup)
Serves 6 to 8
About 30 mins to prepare
1 1/2 hours to cook
10 oz. (300g) dried rice stick noodles or rice vermicelli
3 tbsp. fish sauce
1 lb. (500g) beef sirloin or flank steak, sliced into very thin pieces
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 cups ( 7 oz/200g) bean sprouts, seed coats and tails removed, blanched until cooked
2 to 3 finger-length chilies, deseeded and sliced
Ground white pepper
Sprigs of coriander leaves (cilantro), to garnish
Sprigs of basil or mint, to garnish
2 lemons or limes, cut into sections, to serve
For the broth..
2 medium onions, peeled and bruised
2 in (5cm) fresh ginger root, peeled and bruised
10 cups (2 1/2 liters) beef stock or 4 to 5 stock cubes, dissolved in
10 cups (2 1/2 liters) hot water
1 lb (500g) beef shank or brisket
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns
1 tbsp salt
Prepare the broth by browning the onions, shallots and ginger under a broiler for 5 to 10 minutes, turning several times or dry-frying them in a skillet over low heat until slightly burnt on all sides. Remove and transfer to stockpot. Add all the other broth ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming off the foam and fat that floats to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for one hour, until the beef is tender.
Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Add the dried noodles and blanch until soft, about 5 minutes for rice stick noodles or 2 minutes for rice vermicelli. Remove and rinse with cold water, then drain.
Remove the beef form the broth and set aside to cool. Strain the broth to remove all the solids and return the clear broth to the pot. Season with the fish sauce (see below) and keep the broth hot over very low heat. Slice the beef into thins slices and set aside.
To serve, place rice noodles in individual serving bowls and top with the cooked and raw beef slices, onion slices, bean sprouts and chilies. Ladle the hot broth into each bowl (the raw beef will partially cook in the boiling soup), sprinkle with pepper and garnish with coriander (cilantro) and basil or mint leaves. Serve hot with lemon or lime sections, and dipping bowls of the Fish Sauce Dip on the side.
Fish Sauce Dip
2 to 3 finger-length chilies, deseeded and sliced
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
3 tbsp fleshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp vinegar
3 tbsp fish sauce
12 cup (125ml) water
1/2 tsp salt
Grind the chilies and garlic to a coarse paste in a mortar or blender, then combine with all the other ingredients and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Yields 1 cup (250ml). Prep 10 minutes
Recipe from a great little cookbook that I found in my travels around Ho Chi Minh City, 'Vietnamese Cooking Made Easy' by Nongkran Daks, Alexandra Greeley and Wendy Hutton a
|Thinking pink...at Chateau Mango.|
With that I sign off from Chateau Mango...thank you for staying with me through this longish post.
My daughters would be most impressed that you did....they also might say that we probably think alike...you and I. My guess is that they are probably right!
Best wishes for a glorious day...evening
All photos by me with exception of Pho Bo soup (noted above)