Lenny loves…My new project!

In my last post I mentioned a new project of mine which is very much food related, with a bit of travel thrown in.

I am embarking on an A-Z Food challenge!! I’m not going to give myself a timeline to do this as there are quite a few restaurants on the list, but I am looking at possibly over the next 18 months – 2 years.

This has come about from my travels and the amazing food I got to try and my desire to a) eat this food again!!! and b) try more foods from around the world.

I want to aim for less obvious choices for letters, so if you have any ideas then please feel free to shout them at me.

This is what I have so far…

A – Austrian/Argentinian/African/Afghanistan            N – Nepalese

B – Brazilian/Baltic                                                               O – 

C – Cambodian/Chinese/Caribbean                                 P – Persian/Polish/Portuguese/Palestine 

D – Danish                                                                              Q – 

E – Egyptian/Ethiopian                                                       R – Russian

F – French                                                                               S – Singaporean/Spanish/Syrian 

G – German/Greek                                                               T – Thai/Turkish

H – Hungarian                                                                      U – USA 

I  – Italian/Indian                                                                 V – Vietnamese/Vegan

J – Japanese/Jamaican                                                       W – 

K – Korean                                                                              X –

L – Lebanese                                                                         Y –

M – Malaysian/Moroccan/Mexican                                Z –

I also don’t plan to do them in any particular order, just as and when I fancy and I want to concentrate this to the midlands area, more so Birmingham if I can, but if it gets too difficult then I may branch out a bit.

If there are any bloggers out there that would like to collaborate on this exciting project then get in touch!

I am so excited to try some different restaurants in the Birmingham area, and to see if they can do some of my favourite dishes just like they tasted from my travels.

Lenny xx

Lenny loves…An update!!!

So… its been about 7 weeks since I got back from my travels and I haven’t blogged once!

I also stopped blogging about my travels and that has really niggled at me, as I know when I was looking at other blogs about these trips, it really annoyed me that most of them finished part way through. I can understand now why this happened.

Whilst your out there you are so busy enjoying everything and for me, like many others, this was a trip of a lifetime so I wanted to make the most of every single moment. Being back home has also thrown some challenges my way. Settling back into normality has been a struggle, the pull of doing more travelling vs wanting that routine of a 9-5 job has been a tough one, but I decided to go back to normality and get myself a permanent job.

My original plan was to temp for around a year and do more travelling, but temp work wasn’t that easily available and the more I was looking at what trips I wanted to do, the more I felt that I didn’t want to do big group travel again.

So, I started in my new role just over two weeks ago, and have been thrown back in to being a grown-up! I will still definitely be doing more travel, but just on a more normal scale! And yes, I will be finishing my travel journals off, but I may do more of an overview of the second two trips rather than a day-by-day blow account, as I am sure you are all bored of those by now!

I do have an exciting project coming up soon – food related – so keep your eyes peeled for that.

I am also going to be making some changes to the layout and format of the blog in the next few weeks, so why not stop by again soon when you have 5.

Lenny xx

 

 

 

 

Lenny loves…Day 27 Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai

We had a 7 hour journey ahead of us, and much to my relief we had three mini buses between the group so we got to spread out.

On our way to Chiang Mai we stopped off at the famous Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple, to have a look and take a few pictures. The temple was pretty impressive, different to many of the other Buddhist temples we had visited during our trip. It is a fairly recent addition to the list of temples in Thailand, opening in 1997 and was built by a Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, using his own money and is an ongoing project which has so far cost Chalermchai THB40 million (around £805,343.00).

The main building illustrates the cycle of rebirth (the bridge) and gate of heaven (the gates). We didn’t get to go into the main building so can’t comment on that, but the outside was pretty confusing. In between the message of getting to heaven were all these terrible haunting images of suffering and pain. It is definitely a must see if you are in the area, and I can only imagine what the finished structures will look like.

We carried on with our journey to Chiang Mai and arrived at a rather nice looking hotel. Once we’d settled in, we headed off in different directions to grab some food. I went to a small place just up the road from the hotel which I think was called the G’day bar. I had a lovely coconut curry soup dish, which had loads of flavour and was nice and warming as it was still on the cooler side of the thermometer.

For our afternoon activity, a group of us had organised to do a cookery class. We got picked up by the lovely Oay and taken to the local markets to collect some ingredients. We also got to choose what we wanted to cook from a select list of dishes, which was great. I chose Chicken Coconut Soup, Pad Thai, Green Thai Curry and Mango Sticky Rice.

After the markets, which was a lovely experience, it kinda reminded me of how the markets used to be in Birmingham before the redevelopment of the Bullring and Indoor Markets, we went to do some cooking at the cookery school Oay had opened at her house.

We all had our own little cooking stations, which meant that we would actually be doing the cooking, whereas with the cooking lesson in Hoi Ann we just made the food rather than cooked it. First up was the chicken coconut soup, which was in fact what I’d had for lunch that day, so I had an idea of what it should taste like. This one was lovely, but a bit on the spicer side for me so when I make it back home I may put less chilli in it.

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Next up was the Pad Thai. I love Pad Thai and I was really excited about making it myself so I could go home and make it for the bf who also loves it. There are quite a lot of ingredients that go into Pad Thai, so I was grateful for the little cookery book we got at the end of the class so I didn’t have to remember it all from photos. I felt that the Pad Thai was missing something, but I couldn’t, and still can’t quite put my finger on what it was. It was still tasty and so quick to make.

I made another of my favourite dishes, Thai Green Curry, and this one was possibly one of the best I’ve tasted, and that was with me cooking it. Although I don’t take the credit for it tasting good, it was obviously the ingredients and the recipe.

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Finally, although we didn’t get to actually make dessert, Oay showed us how to make it, I tried Mango Sticky Rice. It was so delicious, I can’t believe that I’d travelled through Asia without having already tried this amazing dessert! I was hooked.

We’d all had an amazing evening leaning new skills and Oay was a great teacher. Some people were then heading out to watch either Thai Kick Boxing or a Ladyboy show, but I was so tired, and it was still quiet cold, how I’m going to cope when I get home I don’t know, so I just headed back to the hotel to catch up on my sleep.

The next morning was our return to where we started, Bangkok.

Lenny xx

Lenny loves…Day 26 – Mekong River Day 2

Waking up early again, it was still pretty dark as we made our way through the village and back on to the boat for another 8 hours to the border crossing into Thailand.

It was still really cold and wet, and the boat was still uncomfortable. Many people took to drinking to get them through the journey, and had they had something other than beer on offer I think I may have joined them, but instead I tried to get some rest before lunch.

Lunch was simple, rice and noodles, but it was warm, which was the main thing. The thought of a hot shower and slightly warmer conditions in Chiang Kong was saving me from going crazy, and sparing the next person who said ‘enjoy the experience’ a slap!

However, arriving at the hotel did not turn out to be what we had hoped. There was so heating in the rooms, it was still pouring down with rain, and the shower was outside! Now I’m all for outside bathing, but this was ridiculous, and yes you’ve guessed it, no hot water!!

There were some tears, not from me but it was close, but we were served a nice hot buffet and I ate until I felt that I may fall into a food coma. Wrapping myself up in my layers, I headed to bed for an early night, as there was nothing around to entertain us.

Luckily, it was a brief stay at the hotel before we made our way to Chiang Mai.

Lenny xx

P.s make sure you check out #lennystripofalifetime on Twitter and Instagram to follow my adventures.

Lenny loves…Day 25 – Mekong River – Day 1

We were away by 7am for the short ride to our slow boat which would be our home for the next 8 hours taking us along the Mekong River to our home stay in Muang Pakbeng. Something had happened to the weather, it had gotten cold and wet just in time for our journey and as we climbed aboard the boat, we are all a bit apprehensive about how this trip was going to pan out.

It turns out pretty uneventful and pretty dire. The seats on the boat were uncomfortable, so the initial thought of ‘I’ll be able to sleep for most of it’ went out the window straight away, that and it being really cold, wet and windy. The only thing that was keeping me going was the fact I had a cinnamon bun from Joma with me should it all get too much!

The others were all in the same position, minus the cinnamon bun to rescue them, and we were holding on to the thought of a hot meal when we get to the home stay. Oh how wrong we were. The homestay was a 10 minute walk up a very muddy and slippery bank and through the village, with no heating or lighting to comfort us when we arrived. There were no locals to welcome us, it was too cold even for them, no kids to cheer us up, can’t believe I said that, and no hot meal, just luke-warm soup and rice with veg.

However, when you stop and think about it, which for me wasn’t until much later, this is what the people in the village have to go through everyday, whether it be hot or cold, and the experience was eye opening.

That said, all we wanted was a nice bed to sleep in, we were greeted with extremely thin mattresses covered by mosquito nets. So on went the layers, wrapped myself in my sleeping bag liner and huddled down to see if I could get any sleep at all.

A fairly uneventful day, but one that I can put down to having experienced and survived! A bit dramatic I know!

Knowing we had to get back on that boat again, and the thought of a hot shower at the next hotel, I drifted off to sleep.

Lenny xx

Lenny loves…Day 24 – Giving Alms to the Monks

A 5.30 wake up call was required in order to walk into Luang Prabang to see hundreds of monks come out to receive there daily food donations. Rows and rows of people, both locals and tourists, lined the streets to give donations and also to witness this amazing sight.

We took our places down a side road and waited for the monks to appear. There were quite a few making there way towards us and I was very conscious not to intrude on this ceremony as I managed to take a few shoots, despite the dark.

It is all very humbling to see the monks of varying ages walking barefoot along the road to receive food and monetary donations and then to see them give back to those who need it. After we visited various streets and took different photos we headed to a small temple.

By now the sun had come up and we made our way back to the hotel for breakfast. Then we were off to the Elephant Sanctuary and neighbouring waterfalls. Laos means ‘One million elephants’ although they no longer have nearly that many due to the Vietnamese War, which also affected Laos quite seriously as it was thought many people were hiding in the jungle in Laos. The elephants either escaped into neighbouring countries such as Thailand, or were injured or killed in the war.

The sanctuary was quite small with only a few elephants and they seemed to be well looked after, although the younger ones were losely chained as they were likely to run off into the surrounding jungle. We were able to feed them, which was fun and I didn’t realise how loud they are when they eat, it was a proper slobbery chomping sound!

After feeding, we were given the option to ride them. I wasn’t wholly comfortable with that idea, so me and a few others just walked alongside them at a safe distance, which also meant we got to see them more up close and appreciate there grandeur and beauty.

Once they’d been walked around for half an hour we fed them some more and then made our way to the waterfalls, which also houses a bear sanctuary. Kuang Si Waterfalls was pretty large, but again full of tourists taking the opportunity to cool down in its clear waters. Me being the wuss I am just took in its beauty from dry land and rested in the shade.

The bear sanctuary, home to black bears was a bit poor, the Bears weren’t given a lot of space in my opinion and there wasn’t much information about them either, just seemed to be in a weird place and built as a revenue generator from tourists.

After spending a couple of hours at the waterfalls we headed back to the hotel. I wasn’t feeling up to the sunset that evening, and people had said they were disappointed with the views from the temple as it was really busy.

I did head out for dinner but didn’t stay long as I wanted to visit the night markets to pick up a few presents and didn’t want a late night as I’d had an early start that morning and also had one the next day, where we were spending 8 hours on a boat! That was an experience and you can hear all about it in the next post!

Lenny xx

p.s since visiting the Sanctuary there have been many news reports around the death of a British man in Thailand whilst riding an elephant. I would like to think that a reputable company like Gadventures had taken us to a genuine elephant sanctuary who take good care of their animals and that our money went to a good cause, and I apologise if my article offends anyone, but I went on faith.

 

 

Lenny loves…Day 23 – Luang Prabang

Today we travelled to Luang Prabang, which involved a 7 hour bus journey. These journeys were an opportunity to catch up on sleep, and I found it was the best way to stop getting travel sick as the roads in Laos were both very bumpy and very windy! We did stop off for the toilets where it felt like I was on Necker Island as it was open to the elements, well half of it was, so you still had some privacy!

Loo with a view!

Loo with a view!

We arrived late afternoon and I decided to chill out for a bit rather than watch the sunset, which I’d planned to do the next evening. Dinner plans were made to go to the street food market. I was initially a bit weary about this as my tummy still wasn’t 100%, but once I had a wander down there by myself to check it out I thought why not give it a go and to test the water I brought some amazing gyoza style pork and vegetable dumplings which were so good, full of flavour and nice and crunchy.

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Once the rest of the group had come back from the temple, where they went to see the sunset, we started to make our way back into the street food area. As we got further in it got hotter and more busy and narrow and I kinda freaked out as I’m not a massive fan of crowds and small spaces, so unfortunately I didn’t get to try any more of the food, but I did pay another visit to Joma Bakery and got myself a peanut butter milkshake!

I then headed back to the hotel as I was going to be up at the crack of dawn to see the giving of Alms to the local Monks and we were meeting at 5.30am!

Lenny xx