Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cooking Class and Friendship

When there is a will there is a way

My willingness to cook has been there and is among one of the priority things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.  Apparently my TaiTai life is not as "quiet" as I thought.  I ended up as a busy TaiTai.  Cooking becomes less priority comparing to French and Vietnamese classes or Yoga.

Until one day, I remembered about it and I right away registered myself to a Vietnamese Cooking Class including visit to Ben Thanh Market.  It is a cool way to be a tourist in my own city, plus I wanted to meet more people...

Stalls at Ben Thanh Market

When I woke up on Tuesday morning

So there I was, on one Tuesday morning at 8.30am I went to the meeting point to join the Chef and the group of participants at Cua Tay entrance of the Ben Thanh Market.

First time I ever saw yellow/green chili (left side). So fresh though!

It is a group of around ten people consisting mostly of tourists.  Others are foreigners living in this city.  By walking together as a group, while purchasing the ingredients with the Chef, the group members informally introduced themselves one to another.  I was happy to meet everyone especially Sherlyn, whom straight away greeted me in Bahasa Indonesia as soon as she knew that I am Indonesian.  She is Malaysian but lives in Singapore.  She speaks good Malay.  Jadi kita ngobrol pake Bahasa Melayu. That was her first trip to Vietnam and the first overseas trip she ever did in solo.

Fresh veggie for our cooking

Shopping the ingredients and listening to the Chef’s explanation.  It was fun.  Of course, almost everyone liked to take pics of what they saw in the market.  Among the explanations, the Chef explained the difference between Kumquat (nuoc tac) and regular lemon, and why Kumquat is required to make sweet and sour fish sauce.

It was a surprise to me that vegetable, sea food, fish and meat prices are fixed in Ben Thanh Market.  The price list is put on the wall here and there.  Of course it is updated regularly. 

I think these fishes are cute...

Every day before dawn, when most people are still snoring in their bed, activities started around 2-3 am in this market.  All of the fresh vegetable, fish, meat, and sea food come here from the suppliers.  Ben Thanh Market gets the number one priority of those stuffs before they get distributed to other market within the city.  That is why prices are higher compared to other wet market.  All is because of its freshness.  If some stuff cannot be found in Ben Thanh Market, it means it cannot be found somewhere else.

Fresh seafood

Once shopping was done, we all took a taxi together to Hai Ba Trung street (Hoa Tuc) where the cooking class takes place.

This is our cooking table

Let’s Cook!

Two long tables have been prepared.  One is for the actual cooking and the other one is for eating.  Cooking lesson started at 10am.

Happy cooking!
I always believe that ‘learning by doing’ gives better result.  Just like this Cooking Class.  The Chef gave guidance which one to cut or peel, which ones to mix, which one to be put into the bowl, etc.  He demonstrated on how to make the dry curly noodle then he wanted us to do the same.  No one could escape this test.

This is how to make the curly noodle

Through the Cooking…

It is interesting to notice how everyone cooks.  I did not really mind if the ginger I peeled, became a strange shape.  It will give the same taste anyway!  But it is not the same case to some others.  Someone peeled it perfectly-:)

Raw ingredients to cook chicken stew with ginger & coconut juice

We learned how to cook Vietnamese food, we ate our own cooking and we got to know other participants.  There were three guys coming from the US.  They came to do sightseeing and to have culinary experience.  The culinary reason is most often become their main goal of the trip.  They tried many types of food, from the day-to-day yummy food to the Michelin star dishes.  It is from one of them that I knew a 3 star Michelin restaurant called El Bulli exists in Barcelona.  Oh yeah, after I told my loved one about this restaurant, he bombarded me with information about how unique the Chef cooks the meals.

Ready to eat "chicken stew with ginger & coconut juice"

Everyone enjoyed the atmosphere.  It was fun cooking.

One Korean guy apparently has been living in Ho Chi Minh City for six months and studied Vietnamese language at the same place I do.  We had the same teacher.  Small world.

Appetizer: mustard leaves roll with crunchy vegetables

At the end of the class, we got the food recipes.  The best part is when we received the certificate which was signed by the Chef.  It is as a sign of our graduation. Hurray!

We said good bye to other participants.  One by one left the place.  Some had to rush to the airport to go back to their home country.  I went to my Vietnamese class.  I was one hour late.  Food was too good to be missed.

When you expect nothing, the unexpected happens...

The following Sunday afternoon, my Singaporean girlfriend was in town.  We went together to our favorite coffee place in Dong Khoi.  I contacted my Indonesian girlfriend who works and lives in town, who happened to be around Dong Khoi, to join us.

Girls from different nations @ L'Usine

It was a very nice unplanned Sunday afternoon for the girls… Lisa, Miranti and I enjoyed coffee, tea, cakes, salad, whatever we wanted to eat … We talked girls stuff, no guys would be interested to hear these chit chats…

Suddenly I saw Sherlyn sitting by herself at the other table.  It was her last day in town, and that evening she had to return to Singapore.  I invited her to join our table.  That’s the girls power – the four of us has the same chemistry, we talked as if we have been friends for years …

We talked about where Sherlyn got her cute bag and persuaded her to become the distributor for South East Asia – LOL…. We shared stories of what brought us to this city, our real life experience, fun, laugh and tears…

It was one of the nicest “tea time” I ever had in Ho Chi Minh City.  The four ladies at L’Usine…

As much as we wanted to continue talking about life, love and dream… someone had to catch up her flight and the party has to be ended.  However the friendship remains…

We stay in touch and pray for each others happiness.

As today is a day before Valentine's Day, let me dedicated this posting to:
  • three girlfriends mentioned in this posting: Miranti, Lisa and Sherlyn...,
  • Indonesian girlfriends in Saigon: Eva, Indra, Dennissia, Rita, Yessi, Lucy, Heny...,
  • GG girlfriends in Jakarta/Singapore/Kuala Lumpur: Fitri, Shanti, Oci, Yunita, Sofi and Niq...,
  • Vietnamese class friends: Tomomi and Sohee...,
  • Vietnamese girlfriends: Tram, Phuong, Ngan, Kim Cuc, Tuyen, Phuong Anh, and Thao Ly...,
I wish you all a wonderful Valentine’s Day...  May your heart be filled with love and love only....  Hugs.

Indonesian ladies @An Phu
GG girlfriends without the bride
Anyong-haseyo.... Moshi moshi...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Paris - J'adore (Les Musees)

Le Louvre

Day 2 in Paris - I conquered Le Louvre! 

Le Louvre
This is where the French Kings used to live centuries ago.  Until one day, King Louis XIV decided to build another castle or chateau in Versailles.  This fact is - of course - giving us hints how a truly gorgeous this place is.

Standing in front of the glass pyramid @ Le Louvre: smiling & freezing

As soon as I walked closer to the Museum, I saw big sparkling glass... In the middle of Le Louvre, there is a modern Egyptian style of glass pyramid designed by a Chinese American architect who was born in China.  How is the combination of an ancient French chateau and a glass pyramid?  Exotic!  Please note the bold and underline of the word.  Two thumps up!!

See the queue in front of Le Louvre

These days, Le Louvre is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument.  There I was... standing, smiling and freezing... It was probably 5 degrees Celcius.  Luckily the queue in front of Le Louvre “for those who have the pre-purchased ticket” was not long at all.  Thanks Museum Pass!  In the other side, there was seriously a long queue for those who wanted to purchase ticket at the entrance.

One of the 135 Arago medallions located in Le Louvre
The fact is that some museum in Paris is free of charge.  However, I would suggest that traveler with restricted budget in Paris (or who does not like Museum) can still go to Le Louvre to take pics in front of the glass pyramid. LOL. 

One of the hall of exhibitions in Le Louvre

The Famous Ladies in Le Louvre

There are many beautiful ladies to meet in Le Louvre.  My focus was on the three beautiful ones.  In fact, there were four including me - LOL.  Seriously, the three beautiful and famous ladies are the following:

La Gioconda or La Joconde, it is the other name of Mona Lisa

1-) ”Mona Lisa” by Leonardo Da Vinci

I had to struggle to come closer to see her, as everyone visits Le Louvre wants to meet her.  Finally, I could stand maybe less than two meters away from her.  There was only the red rope barrier between us and the Museum guard.

Everyone pays attention to her smile.  But I wanted to pay more attention to her eyes.  My loved one says that Leonardo Da Vinci painted her so perfectly so that her eyes look real.  What do you mean?  “See her eyes, and if you move to the right/left – her eyes look real and keep on looking at  you – pay attention to outer end of her eyes”.  Mmm... Perhaps it is true.  I could not stare at her eyes long enough, as I was pushed by the crowd behind me.
Venus de Milo

2-) Aphrodite - "Venus de Milo"
Dear all of the Aphrodite in the world, let’s meet the Venus de Milo...

Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty in Greek history.  Personally, her name represents beauty and sexy characters.  Plus, she is a goddess, she might have some supremacy and no doubt she has many admirers.  #wink wink... Denger kata “goddess” bisa bikin para cowok kelepek2...

This statue - The Venus de Milo was discovered in 1820 on the island of Melos (Greece).  It was presented by Marquis de Riviere to Louis XVIII who donated it to Le Louvre the following year.
Winged Victory of Samothrace
3-) “Winged Victory of Samothrace”

The statue of this goddess was exhibited strategically in the “Greek” area in Le Louvre. 

The first time I saw her, speechless... I stared at her without blinking.  My impression?  She looks so dominant with her two open wings.  She is the “Winged Goddess of Victory” who is standing on the prow of a ship overlooked the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothrace.  This exceptional monument was unearthed in 1863 on the small island of Samothrace in the northwest Aegean. 

In my girlish imagination, please note that this is only my imagination: she stands with her head up bravely to face the enemy, she protects her people under her wings, her country won the battle and her people survive.  However she lost her life.  That is why this monument has no head…
Galerie d'Apollon
Official website:

Paintings at the ceiling at Le Louvre
Le Louvre is big, it is ideal to allocate a day to visit this place - I love Le Louvre!

Le Musee d'Orsay is behind me
Le Musee d’Orsay

In terms of programing, it is good to visit Le Musee d’Orsay a day after Le Louvre. 

Again, thanks to Museum Pass, our queue was shorter...

This museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. So the building itself could be seen as the first "work of art" in the Musee d'Orsay, which displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914.  Official website:
The clock at Musee d'Orsay Cafe as a window
The exhibitions (painting, sculpture, furniture, photographs) are different period from Le Louvre.  I told my loved one, I wanted to see Monet and Van Gogh!  Yes, this museum is probably best known for its extensive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces (the largest in the world) by such painters such as Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, etc.
The revamped cafetaria; contemporary look
Ngak penting banget deh tapi tetep penting – it is silly and not important at all but it is important to me - I like the cafeteria in Orsay - hehehe...! It is a cafe that has been rearranged with the idea of introducing contemporary design to the space's original architecture. See link:

Eclair pistache
The combination of a cup of cappuccino and eclairs pistaches is just perfect. The green eclairs looked weird at first, but it turned out to be yummy.

Musee Carnavalet; turn right please
Musee de Carnavalet

“I want to go to a museum in an ancient building, it has lots of histories and must have many lovely paintings”.  That is my answer to my loved one, when he asked me which museum I wanted to visit next.

Exhibition building next to Musee Carnavalet
We were in Paris for a few days already.  Some boxes have been ticked such as visits to La Tour Eiffel, L'Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame de Paris, Montmarte, Louvre, Versailles, Musee d’Orsay, and walks to La Place de la Concorde and Les Champs-Elysees of course.

One of the exhibition room inside the museum
Then he took me to this museum.   It is a museum of the history of Paris that is managed by the city of Paris.  The entrance is free of charge for everyone.  In case we wish to enter the exhibition area, we have to pay.

Beautiful furniture
This museum exhibits paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, furniture, decoration, etc., that show how the Parisians used to live.  It is a transformation from Lutece in the old day to Paris now.  It explains how people used to earn living, the beginning of the industrial era and how the social life was.

In the old days, the rich people used to send their babies in the countryside and have other women to feed/breastfeed their babies.  That is why French has a word for “nourrice” – it is from the verb of “nourrir” that means to feed or to breastfeed.  This life style did not work well, a lot of babies died before they reached one year old because of the hygienic issues in the countryside.

I like this painting. One of the princes who died in young age.
I like this museum!  #Sesuatu banget-:)  Yup, it is beautiful in terms of the building and all of the exhibits items... It is subsequently historical... Wise man says: Learning from history.  Therefore, it is hopefully we will never do the same mistake.

The neighborhood area of Musee Carnavalet

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Notre Dame de Paris

Visiting Notre Dame de Paris is a privilege for me. As in day to day basis, I only visit Notre Dame Saigon-:)

When I saw the Notre Dame in Saigon for the first time, I knew it would be one of my favorite places.  Refer to my previous post:

My loved one said; “Wait until you see the real Notre Dame de Paris, you will like it more”.  I believed him even before I saw it.

L’ île de la Cité

The cathedral is situated in a small island called the île de la Cité.  In fact, this is the island where Paris history started… It was then extended to the land across the island where the largest part of Paris is now.  Between the two lands, it is connected by a bridge which we can easily walk.

Voila... Notre Dame de Paris!

The cornerstone or foundation stone of Notre Dame de Paris laid in 1163 and that was when the construction began.  It was completed in 1345. Comparing to Notre Dame Saigon, the building is much older, the color of the church brick is brownish instead of reddish and there are more ornaments, sculptures, stained-glass windows.

Sculptures at the Cathedral Wall

I always believe that holy places like mosque, church, temple, pagoda, etc., has spiritual energy and is full of magical aura.  A little bit indescribable.  It has to be felt by the heart.  I felt my heart chakra beating stronger when I was inside the church.  So I prayed for everyone; may all beings be happy.

Praying candle (for donation)

All tourists can enter the church with no charge.  Even there was a long queue, still everyone did it respectfully.  Taking pics inside the church is allowed but no flash. There is an exhibition area inside the church, where we have to pay.  I could see the old clothes used to be worn by the Pope, some ancient boxes used to store the relics of the Saints.

Pope clothes (old ones)

The Notre Dame Tower

Notre Dame has inspired the famous French writer Victor Hugo to write a story about Quasimodo.  Remember the Hunchback of Notre Dame?  

Inside part of the Cathedral

I wish I could see the bell tower where Quasimodo used to hide.  The place must be so secluded, dark and no one would want to come nearby.  How lonely his life was.  His love toward Esmeralda might keep him alive as human, even though this gypsy dancer is too disgusted by his ugliness.

Stained Glass inside the Cathedral

Unfortunately, we could not climb to the tower, as we had to meet with a friend and his family.  It is a good excuse to come back.

These ornaments were used to teach people, as writing was not known centuries ago

La Crypte Archéologique du Parvis Notre Dame

The museum of archaeology and history of the île de la Cité is located under the square in front of Notre Dame de Paris.  There is stairs going down, yes, it is an underground museum exhibiting the ruins of buildings where Parisians used to live.

Lutece centuries ago, it is Paris now

Paris used to be called Lutece.  Parisian used to be the Lutecians while the French were called les Gaulois.  Does the story about Asterix and Obelix ring a bell?  During this period, France was part of the Roman empire.  That explains why we can still find the ruins of Roman buildings underneath some places in Paris.

The structure of those middle age buildings still exists.  It is amazing that houses in those times had been built in 2-3 storey.  Water heater concept had already been implemented.  The hot water, after being heated by burning wood was flown using pipes under the floor.

Notre Dame view in the evening, and I was cold

Notre Dame and a Dragon

Notre Dame Saigon: ticked!  Notre Dame de Paris: ticked!

During my last trip to Bangkok just before the Chinese New Year, I went to Siam Paragon Mall.  Like anywhere else in this festive season, this mall has Chinese New Year decoration in the main lobby.

It is a dragon as to welcome the year of dragon.  What makes it different?  This dragon is in front of the Notre Dame!  What a combination…  May this be a wish for harmonious life.