Tag Archives: Laos

SE Asia Omelet Zine featuring eateries in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos now available

In 2010, Bangkok Books began distributing You Can’t Hide an Elephant in an Omelet as an e-book.  Tara Blackmore from Broken Pencil has this to say about the book:  “What a neat concept this book offers: essays and stories about omelettes and cuisine from around the world. This particular issue offers experiences from Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

Part restaurant review, part tour guide, this book offers pure entertainment in eloquent language that can be enjoyed by just about everyone.

Written like a memoir (the good kind), the book offers a glimpse into foreign food production, consumption and a healthy dose of social interaction and culture shock as well. It’s an objective look at travel and all it entails, offering tips and advice on how to get by. It also gives descriptions of local cuisine that can either repulse you or attract you, so reading it while hungry is a bad idea.

This book is well worth the money. Rich with well-worded descriptions and beautiful photos, this zine will satisfy the reader who has either travel-curiosity or no idea what to make for dinner (which, of course, would be omelettes).”

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN WANTING TO READ A CLEVERLY WRITTEN BOOK ABOUT EATING OMELETS IN SOUTH EAST ASIA HERE’S YOUR OPPORTUNITY.

Click on one of the below links to purchase a copy:

Ipad
Android
Kindle
Bangkok Books

Front Cover
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Sample Page
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Back Cover
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Vangviang Organic Farm located in Vang Vieng, Laos

Journey to the Source of the Mulberry Leaf Omelet

Nutritious and delicious, the mulberry leaf omelet at the Organic Farm Café takes the omelet experience directly to my body in a nourishing and satisfying sort of way. After a few bites of speckled green omelet, I’ve fallen in love and want to meet the mulberry leaf’s source of goodness, similar to how couples who are in love become curious about the source of their partners’ good looks. After asking around, I find out that my omelet’s mulberry leaves’ tree parents live only 3 km from town at the Vangviang Organic Farm.

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From the restaurant, I walk across the street to a bike rental shop. Ten bikes are lined up on a patch of dirt accompanied by a ‘bikes for rent’ sign. I hand the man a dollar (the dollar is one of the many currencies accepted in Laos), and the popular LA brand bicycle is mine for the day.

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My route takes me through the center of Vang Vieng a.k.a. Tube Town. While riding, it dawns on me that the challenge of travel is how to maintain a familiar level of comfort while in a foreign culture. Here, it’s easy. Countless bars serve up a mind-numbing cocktail of drugs in milkshakes or on pizzas, TVs show constant reruns of Friends, and low tables surrounded by pillows invite one to lounge the day away.

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A few blocks from the bar scene, the Nam Song River flows through town. The popular tourist activity is to tube the river while wearing small amounts of clothing. Most of the men are shirtless with sculpted hair. The women wear big sunglasses that hide part of the forehead, eyes, and upper cheeks. It seems the women like to show off everything but the upper part of their faces. The bright bikinis make up for the lack of eye color.

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I leave the tourists in Tube Town behind, and continue on the road toward the farm. The road is a transportation utopia – shared by foot traffic, bicycle traffic, motorcycles and trucks. Everyone appears at ease with everyone else. This feeling of serenity must come with knowing the motive behind what you are doing. American drivers always seem perturbed when they drive. I think a lot of that frustration comes from driving without a real purpose.

A conversation between an American motorist and himself:
Self, “What the hell am I doing by myself in this gigantic Humvee driving to the store a mile away from home to buy a can of soda?”

Inner Self, “You look good in a Humvee! You can afford a Humvee, so it is your god given right to drive a Humvee!!”

Self, “This stop-and-go traffic sucks!! This street needs to be widened from two lanes to four. Look at those trees taking up valuable driving space.”

Inner Self, “You should be able to drive freely, and nature ought to be caged in national parks.”

Self, “There are no parking spaces close to the store. Why can’t the store be longer so there can be more storefront parking? I hate walking.”

Inner Self, “Leave the walking to the four-legged critters who don’t have the sense to drive, but you still want to maintain a healthy look. Don’t drink regular soda. You need Diet Coke Plus!”

Self, “I know, I drive by the billboard so many times, I have it memorized. Each 8-ounce serving of Diet Coke Plus provides 15% of the daily value for niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, and 10% for zinc and magnesium – but I only have a coupon for regular soda. I promise I’ll eat a chewable Flintstone vitamin as soon as I get home. Maybe go to the gym?”

Inner Self, “You always break promises. You feel ugly and guilty.”

Self, “I’m going to take a drive in the country to relax.”

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A Lao truck driver would never ask himself why he’s driving a gigantic truck, because the answer is obvious – the 10 chatting people in the back or the sound of a mooing cow.

When I arrive at Vangviang Organic Farm, I find more than mulberry trees. I find a business built on the philosophy of preserving ecological diversity and providing locals with accessible and sustainable technologies to earn a living. Someone here must realize that you can grow a vegetable from chemicals, pesticides and big industry, but you can’t create a salad from thousands of acres of corn.

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Even with the success of the mulberry business, the owners want more than just a mulberry tree empire. At the farm, there are goats, guest houses, and a beautiful vegetable garden. There is also a volunteer program to help build community centers, teach English, feed baby goats and many other projects. The goal of the farm is to grow a healthy community.

As I pedal back to town, I wonder what it would be like to order an omelet in Boise, Idaho and use the omelet as a guide for a bicycle adventure. For instance, would the hash browns be made from local potatoes within bike riding distance? If so, would I get run over by a Humvee along the treeless four lanes of Fairview Ave on my way to the farm? When I arrive at the farm tucked away between the suburban sprawl of Meridian and Boise, will I be greeted by a business that provides a local product and supports local people? Or will I find a dusty field growing one crop only and the topsoil blowing away in the wind?

Thinking of the traffic and monoculture farm practices makes drugs and reruns of Friends seem like a bright future. Actually, I think the future is all ready here. How many times a day can a person watch Friends reruns on network and cable TV? How easy is it to get prescription drugs? Hmmmmm….

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This blog post sponsored by Local Grub.

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Click on the logo to learn about Local Grub

Kong Keo Guest House located in Phonsavan, Laos

Innocent Omelet-Eater Struck by Bomblet
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At the Kong Keo guest house in Phonsavan, Laos, a row of planter boxes made from bombshells separates the outside patio from an old airstrip. Some bars and restaurants in the U.S. mount guns on the walls, but the guns probably have never been used with the intent to kill people. What an odd omelet thought to know that these bombs were intended to kill omelet eaters just like Amy.

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The omelet comes inside a baguette, the first of many omelets cradled in warm bread while traveling in Laos. It has the right combo of fresh carrots and pepper. The taste should take me into a moment of pure omelet indulgence, but there is a familiar sadness to this place and a nagging from the past, like I’ve been here before. I wonder if at one time I could have been an Air Force pilot or Army soldier involved in the secret war in Laos? Then went back to the USA and shot myself in the head to become another number in the embarrassing statistic that more Vietnam veterans have killed themselves than actually died in combat?

Having been raised Christian, it’s hard for me to grasp the idea of past lives. Anyway, a victim of a screwed up war and suicide would most likely be in purgatory, confused, with one hand reaching toward the devil’s tit and the other toward Jesus’s warm heart, instead of eating an omelet in Laos. There’s got to be another reason for the familiar feeling of sadness. On the table I notice an ashtray made out of a bomblet. Bomblets are small round canisters that are released from a cluster bomb, a weapon that many nations are in the process of banning. Besides the obvious problem of dropping bombs on people, a lot of the bomblets do not explode on impact. 35 years later, little kids find the unexploded ordnances while playing and blow themselves up.

The familiar feeling of sadness becomes even stronger as I reflect on an article I read last summer about Israel pulling out of Lebanon and dropping cluster bombs on the border villages. Now, like the Lao kids, Lebanese kids are blowing themselves up after the Israeli withdrawal. In both cases, the cluster bombs were made in the USA.

The other day, I read an article about an international cluster bomb meeting. Countries around the world have signed an agreement not to use cluster bombs. Two countries did not attend the meeting: USA and Israel.

I hope the United States and Israel change their military and foreign policies, so that next time I experience a familiar feeling in a new land it will be one of pride and happiness.

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Info about cluster bombs

30-year-old bombs still very deadly in Laos

46 nations declare cluster bomb ban

Cluster bombs kill in Iraq, even after shooting ends

Israeli / US Cluster Bombs Litter Lebanon

Handicap International

**Take Action: Ban the Bombs that Keep on Killing show your support for the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007**

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Kong Keo Guesthouse
P.O. Box 158A, Phonsavan
Xieng Khuang Province
Tel: (20) 551 6365
http://www.kongkeojar.com/

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Bombs, Jars, and Omelets photo slideshow. After eating omelets, we visited the Plain of Jars, a tourist site in Phonsavan, Laos. Music by Veronica and the Mental Foreplays.

Bicycle = Hope

A person visiting the USA and only going to Disneyland and Disney World by airplane is one way to describe the typical foreigner’s travel through Thailand. Now consider taking a bike from Disneyland to Disney World. The adventure will stimulate your imagination more than meeting a talking mouse or puking in a teacup. However, the typical foreign traveler I’ve met in Thailand would rather spend their days waking up, getting a bite to eat at a foreigner’s Thai cafe, riding in a tuk tuk to the bus station, suffering through the four hours of motion sickness to get dropped off at another bus station, riding in a tuk tuk to a guest house, then eating watered-down Thai food for dinner while watching a Walt Disney movie.

Meeting fellow travelers and hearing their tales can either make me squirm with disgust or lighten with hope. Hope is what happened when I met Nicolai from Copenhagen, Denmark and Sandy from Ottawa, Canada, both traveling SE Asia by bicycle.

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Nicolai Bangsgaard began his journey in Denmark in April 2006. I met him in Luang Prabang, Laos a few weeks ago, where he’d just arrived from cycling through Vietnam. Planning to circle the world, he shares photos and writing along the way at www.worldtravellers.dk

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At the age of 65, Sandy Mackay cycled across Canada with his daughter. Now he is 69 years old and had just ridden 182 mountainous kilometers from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, Thailand. Sandy’s two day bicycle ride of meeting friendly people is the real Thailand that many travelers dream of experiencing. However, for many people, bicycle travel is not considered convenient because it might not involve a comfy guest house or foreigner’s cafe at the end of the day. I suppose it is a daunting thought being half way between here and there with no consumer familiarity in sight. The only western comfort is what it’s in your heart. Hopefully you brought lots of respect, trust, and kindness from home. And in return, you can expect lots of love and generosity. When there is no western tourist economy, you can’t rely on your pocketbook. All you have to rely on is your humanity and charming personality.

The Bicycle

The bicycle is the only salvation
For a planet choking to death
On its own convenience

from A Promise for Siam by Tom Radzienda

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The Sunrise Tradition of Alms Giving (short video)

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click on photo to watch video

Every morning in Theravada Buddhist societies, the monks gather their alms bowls around 6AM. Drums wake the people to notify them that the monks are coming. Once they hear the drums, the people come out and sit on the ground.

The monks then walk throughout their neighborhood collecting food they will eat for the day. The monks receive no other food as they’re not allowed to cook for themselves or do physical labor. The community members sit with their rice and fruit and give one portion to the monks that pass.

The tradition dates back to the time of the Buddha. When the Buddha created the first monastic order after his enlightenment, his followers would also have alms bowls and walk throughout the towns. As an act of selflessness and communalism, people make offerings to the monks and get merit in return for giving the monks food. The more that you give to the monastic order, it will benefit you in the next life.

There is a high density of temples and many monks in Luang Prabang, and it is a beautiful sight to witness the sunrise tradition of giving alms. As observers, we need to show respect by sitting on the ground, bowing lower than the monks, and not getting too close with cameras. What appears exotic to us is everyday life for others. The appreciation of such a tradition lies in knowing that it exists for a greater spiritual purpose.

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Special thanks to Tiffany Hacker, M.A. for sharing her Theravada Buddhism expertise.

Earthworm Envy NEWS: The Sunrise Tradition of Alms Giving video was an Editor’s Pick on YouTube! Thanks, YouTube!