Category Archives: Uncategorized

Little Vietnam in Prague. Finding Pho.

My favourite dish in the entire world is Pho. First discovered when I was just nineteen and wide eyed in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Min city, after finding my way to the city’s famous Pho 2000. After that I could, and would, quite happily eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A bottle of Tiger on the side and I’m in heaven.             

You can find somewhere serving Pho almost everywhere in the world. In Sydney, for the best and most authentic head to Cabramatta. In London? Head straight to Shoreditch. For the past two weeks I have been craving it more then usual. Most of my Sydney expat friends in London just happen to be of Vietnamese origin, all their parents being born and raised in Vietnam. So it wasn’t just me that was constantly craving a bowl of Pho, or a plate of Summer Rolls – I’m just the only one who is white. So for the past few weeks I had been sending regular messages; “Pho this week?” Though true to London form, making plans isn’t as easy as it should be. So off I set for a week in Prague still thirsty for soup.

One late morning a few days later however, I came across a market which really wouldn’t have looked out of place in any Vietnamese town I have ever been to. Squeezed inbetween stalls selling cheap knives and fake Calvin Klein underwear is where I found a tiny little shop, consisting of a two burner stove, a drinks fridge and a woodern board with a menu. I smelt it before I saw it, coming from a huge pot of broth on the stove; Beef Pho.

In front of the ‘open kitchen’ where several long communal tables with bench seats. Above then sat a wooden board with the menu, in Vietnamese and Czech, though it didn’t matter that I couldn’t read either of them. “One beef Pho please. Oh, and this beer”, opening the fridge and holding up a can of Czech Kozel. Proper South East Asian service; ‘Relaxed’.
  
It came out quickly enough and though it didn’t have a side plate of the usual bean sprouts, basil and mint, it was accompanied by some lemons and a chili and garlic oil. And of course a bottle of chilli sauce. The soup had the usual rice noodles and coriander, though it was a bit light on the spring onions – my favourite part. The broth however was clear, a slight layer of fat sat on top, and was just what I wanted.

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Though not my usual Tiger, I sipped the beer and slurped my soup in the warm and slightly humid weather. Around me small children wander around, their parents minding their respective stalls, Vietnamese chatting and laughter, it felt like being back in South East Asia even though I was as far away from there as I could get. Craving satisfied.

20 Truths of Traveling Poor

There are several different types of travelers. To many for me to list here, but there is one type in particular; the ones who live for it. Who feel more at home in a city where they have never been before then there own home town. Who are perfectly happy to live out of a bag for months, if not years at a time. Who will quite happily rotate between two shirts if it means they are somewhere new. Those who may even be technically homeless, but are perfectly content. Warning, this life isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s for a select few who are willing to endure a few uncomfortable situations just to live free. And here are a few of those things which we endure. Never complaining.

1. For a flight which usually takes six hours, you will fly half way around the world, have eight stopovers and take four days just to get the cheapest flight.

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2. You will become very well accustomed to airports, as you will be sleeping in a lot of them.    

3. You will also spend time sleeping in bus and train stations.        
   
4. You will therefore become an expert at how to keep your luggage safe while asleep.

5. You will purposely book overnight tickets so that you don’t have to pay for a bed. Even if it means arriving somewhere at 4 am (If I can sit in it, I can sleep in it.)

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6. You will also become at expert at sleeping in chairs and on tiles – with fluresent lights.

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7. You will spend weeks sleeping on people’s couhes, who you only met a few weeks, if not days, ago (but you will become great friends).

8. You will scab lifts off Craigslist.

9. Clothes will get washed in bathroom sinks.

10. What you wear will be determined by what smells the least.

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11. You will end up wearing the same pair or underwear for at least a couple of days in a row.

12. And then turn them inside out and wear them for at least a couple more days that way.                        

13. Make up?

14. Shaving is not a nessecity.

15. There are days when you won’t eat much.

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16. A four bedroom dorm is treated as a five star luxury.

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17. The words FREE BREAKFAST is a deal maker.

18. FREE BEER and you’re never  leaving.    
19. You will have the best stories, meet the most interesting people and make the best friends.

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20. And dispite the discomfort you will enjoy every single second of it, because you are doing what you love.

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I am here. I promise.

If anyone has noticed, and I’m going to assume that no one has, I have been missing around here for a while now. To put it simply, I’ve gotten a bit caught up with other things. Not so long ago I changed jobs, an amazing oppurtunity for me, but one which also means a standard sixty hour working week. When I’m working that is all I seem to do. Work, sleep a few hours, back to work. I’m not having a moan, I love going into work, but pair that with constantly having plans and commitments in the few spare hours I do have and it makes it a bit tricky to find time to jump online and type out a few paragraphs. Not only being restricted time wise, but when you are constantly exhuasted creativity doesn’t exactly just flow out of your finger tips. So I apologise, mainly to myself because this is something I really enjoy doing. I also apologise for not drawing and painting as much as I use to. For not having cooked something new at home in a while. For not Skyping my mum as often as I should. For not playing a sport like I always have. For not traveling as much as I said I would. London is a hectic city, and sometimes you can get caught up in that maddness. Everyone is always in a rush. Like everyone. The only people who don’t seem to be rushing are the tourists, as they lean all over the escalators so you can’t walk past, or abruptly stop in the street to take a picture of a phone box or bus, to which you end up screaming in your head, “Oh my god, get the fuck out of my way!” The thing is that you don’t even realise the pace you are living at or the things which you have gradually denied yourself until you are forced to stop and pick up a sketch book that you have had for months and realise that it is mostly empty.

I was given a weeks holiday this week, and in true Clare style I booked a flight two days before a left, and a hotel at the airport. I announced to my friends that I wouldn’t be around for a little while, and while I was at it commited to a bit of a detox in that time. Chucked two t-shirts, some undies and my passport in a bag (I really don’t need much) and off I went. And while sitting at the airport, reading (something else I don’t do as often as I should) I remember something I told myself a long time ago (I’m twentyone. A long time ago for me is like three years); that I was going to do great things with my life. Not just see as much as I could, but experience it. And instead of feeling angry at myself at the fact that last time I traveled was in January (again, I’m twentyone. Periods of time seem longer for me), I thought about what I have done so far. About all the people I’ve met, how for every stamp in my passport I have a story, of the fact that I have seen sunrises on every continate this planet has. Though if I’m being honest, I have seen quite a few sunrises during sobering walks home in London lately.

As I sat on the plane, somehow scoring a window seat, I looked out as it took off and felt at home. Grounded. In control. When the back of my head jolts back and hits the seat just after take off. The moment the plane pushes through that first layer of clouds, vast blue sky stretching in all directions, and I sit above them, staring down at the way they just hang there. As the plane is still trying to get up to cruising speed and momentarily drops and my heart still seems to skip a beat everytime. No apologies for the pun, but this is my high. This means that something is happening.

Then when you arrive somewhere hours later. When it’s night and the cities lights stretch on for as far as you can see. Some in straight, grided lines. Others clustered so close together with no apparent order that you can’t distinguish individual beams. This either means something new. Something to discover, an adventure waiting down there for you to explore it. Or then there is the other type of arriving, one I haven’t done in well over a year. First the ocean, stretched well beyond the horizon, some sand, boats, and then the things that make it real. The Opera Houses sails. The Harbour Bridge. Centre Point Tower sitting above it all. Knowing that somewhere down thre are people I haven’t seen for months, food I have been craving so bad I thought you would go insane, and weather that just isn’t quite like anywhere else. I’m home.

So here I sit, in the Václav Havel Airport, Prague, with my bag strapped to my chest and its zippers against the wall (yeah, I’ve done this a few times before), waiting for tomorrow so I can go and do what I love to do most. Experience something new.

Point of post: I’me going to try my very hardest to write and post more often. I promise.

Goodnight, from Prague Airport.

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Anyone Have A Pair Of Chopsticks?

Anyone Have A Pair Of Chopsticks?

Ever been stuck on an over night train in Egypt with two bottles of cheap, Egyptian wine and no bottle opener? Well I have, and it’s somewhat frustrating. But luckily, despite the fact that we were in North Africa, someone did have a pair of chop sticks! After a few minutes of giving the corks a bit of a stab, problem solved MacGyver style! Be warned though, do expect to be picking small bits of cork out of your teeth…

Hagelslag For Brekkie?

When you go to a new country do you ever wonder what is in the pantry of a local kitchen? What are the staples? What do they eat on a daily basis. What is their Vegemite equivalent?

Well in Holland, you will find a box of ‘Hagelslag’. Despite having the best name for a food product ever, I find it kind of weird that they have this for breakfast. Basically, it is small bits of chocolate which you pour onto buttered bread.

For me personally, not my thing at all – though for other people I know, I’m sure they would be more then happy to have chocolate for breakfast every day.DSCN5636

 

More To Life Then Cheap Drinks

Recently I moved to London, and since being here I have made plenty of new friends. All of them really are great, but the thing about new friends is that they just don’t know you the same as older friends. They don’t know your past, they don’t know your morals, they don’t know what you stand for. Not to the same extent as others which you have know for a lot longer do anyway.

Anyone who does know me knows I like to party. All you have to do is have a quick click through my Facebook photos to see, but lately I have toned it down a bit. Why? To save money. My favourite people to party with are living in other countries. Maybe I just don’t feel like it anymore. To me, there just seems to be more to life then going out on the weekend, getting fucked up, then working hungover the next day.

561243_10200224471628665_1574200131_nNow this, is what you call hungover.

To some people though, they see things differently then to me. To them, this is what living life is about, and that’s fine, but I don’t really need them telling me this. “Oh but Clare, you’re not living life if you’re not out having fun!” This is usually said by ‘new friends’. Friends who know that I travel, but not every detail of everywhere I have been. It’s also quite ironic, and can be either a little funny, or quite annoying. They don’t know that I’ve been to Ibiza. Or the two weeks in Bali during Schoolies. Nor do they know that I spent three of the craziest weeks in South East Asia. Have they ever given rice Monks at 5am, in a small Laos town while still drunk? Got up on the bar and drank from the bottle in Cusco, then started serving drinks from behind the bar? Passed out in an airport check-in line, then check-ined merely by showing my arm which had my flight number and name written on it? Partied on the Vang Vieng River? And don’t even get me started on the time in Thailand when we went to a bar called Sperm, and in one night had one guy hospitalised due to dehydration, another threw his only pair of shoes away when a ladyboy prostitute tried to get him on his/her motorbike, and another guy we lost for 12 hours because he ran into a rice field, due to the fact that he thought the Viet Cong were after him, and ended up at a remote hill tribe. Now, I’m not saying I’m necessarily proud of all these, but they are undoubtedly better drinking stories then, “We went to the Ivy, got in a fight with the bouncer, then ended up in Oxford Street KFC at 4am. It was the craziest night ever!”

Even more then just the drinking stories, what are you going to remember more; that one Friday night you went out and had the ‘best night ever’, or the morning you got up at 3am and saw sunrise over Angkor Wat? Or the two days you spent cruising down The Mekong Delta? Or when you struggled to climb that mountain at 14,000 feet, only to get to the top and be in awe of the view which lay out in front of you?

So those people can go out every night, and pay a 20 quid cover charge, and drink and ‘live life’ the way they want to, but I am perfectly happy with where I’ve been and what I’ve seen.

Though, if you need further convincing that I don’t mind a sneaky shot (or 2) every now and again…Fine, here you go. And remember guys, always drink responsibly.

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The In’s and Out’s of Cusco’s San Pedro Market.

I’ve touched on the San Pedro Market in Cusco a few times before, in particular mentioning all the weird and wonderful products you can obtain there. The most popular section, for both locals and curious tourists, is the ‘Innards’. Here is a little insight into what exactly you can find hanging on hooks and spread across make shift tables. Enjoy the pun!

Hope your not eating dinner!

1175100_624915976736_971943495_nLungs and tongues!

534008_624915188316_38857367_nFancy some mouths..of, something?

12957_624915328036_409175563_nOr jaws?

1000598_624915842006_1084311461_nCow hearts!

994906_624914559576_1673608979_nLama fetuses, used by local shamans.

16274_624916241206_2017541643_nJust a cow with a skinless face…

535857_624912882936_1240508341_nAnd of course, it wouldn’t be complete with some hamster!  

Special thanks to Kim and Joe for grabbing all these ‘delicious’ pictures.