Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vietnam Halong Bay

We are in the north of Vietnam in a place called Halong Bay and it is most probably one of the most beautiful places on earth and for sure one of the most photographed places in Vietnam. It is about 3 hours drive from Hanoi, so not too far off the beaten track and there are plenty of resorts one can spend the holiday.
Again this is a UNESCO World Heritage sire, yes, tick off the list, and is a stunning but small section of the Gulf of Tonkin. There are over 2000 Islands which are dominated by tall limestone karst formations (Karst is formed when very soluble bedrock, in this case limestone, is dissolved at its surface by mildly acidic water)
Our little brochure reads that the karst formations in Halong Bay are the worlds most spectacular formations. The islands here in the bay are actually remnants of mountains which formed 67 Million years ago. The erosion of the limestone only started 2 million years ago and the caves formed 67000 years ago.......just some useless information for anybody interested in a bunch of rocks!
There are Vietname Junk boats bring many tourists into the national park. One of the many attractions is the Sung Sot Cave. It is a spectacular cave that was only relatively recent discovered. There is a staircase  to climb 75 feet to the cave mouth, but then the view is spectacular. There is a concrete path going through the cave system which is beautifully lit to enhance the features.
This is such an amazing place here, if anybody goes to Vietnam, one just has to come here and see Halong Bay. We loved every moment of it, the Junk ride, the cave, the woman selling fresh fish (all to the junks) while on the phone. It is a wonderful place to go, I think a total must while in Vietnam.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vietnam, Hoi An

Hoi An is a city with about 120'000 inhabitants and is a UNESCO world heritage site, yes another one I visit! It is a well preserved city and was a major trading port in Southeast Asia from the 15th to the 19th century.
There are many well preserved building of all styles and architectures and it is amazing to just walk through the roads and see all these fine examples there. The city became rich through the spice trade which started between the 7th and 10 century, so the city is really old. The boats are still the same shape then they looked like 1000 years ago

We took a short bus ride from Da Nang which took about 40 minutes, we don't have that much time on hand so decided that we will be in Hoi An for about 2 hours before heading back to the ship and I have to admit, I am happy that we will come back here as the town is really beautiful.

Here is the well known Japanese Bridge that was built to get from the Chinese part to the Japanese part of town

But of course it is not just the town that brings us back, but Hoi An is well known for the tailors and of course we had to have something tailored too. The choice is vast and it is worth to shop around a bit. My shirts are nearly 10 $ cheaper each with the shop I finally bought them from than some of the previous ones, so I have 3 stunning shirts, just what I was looking for and Poala got a lovely dress and a coat. They are usually very fast with the tailoring, but as we had time we got them made up for the next week when we will be back

Above is part of our lunch, local homemade noodles with pork and below are a couple of ladies having lunch.

Then of course there are plenty of restaurants. Make no mistake, Hoi An is a tourist place and you will have plenty of them, but still it is so good to be here. We had a nice lunch, a bit plain but still very nice, here are some photos of the food, again, it is all about freshness here in Vietnam and that I love so much

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Flavours of Asia

I was shopping in a mall in Vietnam and saw some really nice flavours of Pringle Chips. I usually always eat the same flavours, mainly the sourcream and onion, but now I found some really interesting new flavours, Seaweed, Indonesian Satay and Bangkok Grilled Chickenwing!

They are really cool, even so with the seaweed one needs to get used to it, it is a littl overpowering for the normal European taste, lol, but just to see them and try them is so much fun!

Anyway, just wanted to share that, I am off again in search of bananas, yes bananas. They are so beautifully ripe here in Asia that I can't keep them for more than 2 days and then I have to get fresh ones.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vietnam, Phan Thiet

Now what has Phan Thiet to offer? I think not too much, there is a very nice golf course, at least this is what I have heard from our guests. It is the ocean Dunes Golf Club, known as an outstanding natural site with sea and wind swept sand dunes, tropical coastal breezes and fantastic ocean views. The course is designed by Nick Faldo, a Masters and British Open champion. The course is considered one of the top 5 courses in Vietnam and one of the top 10 resorts in Asia..... but otherwise?????
OK, I am desperate for some food for the ship, so for me it has a lot to offer, these offerings will make my guests happy and that is why I write a little blog about Phan Thiet.
We had to take the zodiacts to get to town as there is no harbour for expedition ships. The ride was about 1 minutes and a lot of fun. It was a bit rough, but the driver is so experienced, he could read every wave.
Then we took a taxi to the next mall, easier than the market as we needed a lot of normal stuff like Mars Bars and Yogurts, so we popped in and got everything we needed. The main thing was the bananas, as they go off so fast here in Asia. It is because they are sold when they are really ripe, so they taste so wonderfully sweet and juicy, I love them. But yes, I have to buy every second day new bananas.
Then on the way back, full of bags with goods, we expected the zodiac at the landing site.....just there was nothing. We decided to wait a bit, of course I didn't take my radio, the provision master forgot his cell phone, so we had no way to contact the ship......except Cris has remote access to his email, so he went to an Internet cafe and sent a mail to the reception of the ship and they sent a zodiac out immediately, so after being stuck for nearly an hour we go a ride back, very windy, water spraying over us, it was a really cool drive back to the ship and we all got a good time.....and I got a bit of a sun burn, lol!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vietnam, Pho and Market in Da Nang

I am doing one of my favorite things again, going on the market and buying local products. The time of the year is not great to buy fish in Vietnam as it is towards the en of Monsoon and all the rivers are having high water, meaning that they are brown and muddy, so fishing is not so good and the variety of fish is not great.
But we went anyway, driving the 20 minutes from the port into Dan Nang. The Market is not huge, but there is a very nice variety of foods, vegetables, meats and fish. I have to admit, the meat did not look very inviting, nothing is chilled and it was hot and humid on the market, so I stayed away from that.
The fish was really fresh and we found some lovely varieties, ended up buying som Squid and Spanish Mackerel which we put on for the guest on our Seafood BBQ, great hit as they love local ingredients.
Of course I got a whole lot of vegetables as well as it was really great and fresh, the Water Spinach, the Morning Glory (great just stir fried with loads of garlic) the fresh and sweet Mangoes, just wonderful!
I have as well a recipe for the "national" soup here in Vietnam, the Pho (say Fo!). I love that soup and culd have it any time of the day. Usually the meat gets cooked in the stock in a big pot, then when the soup is served, the water gets refilled in the pot and simmered again, so one makes endless soups.
Here is some of the meat, it is pork........yummy!

This recipe is enough for 10 friends

4 kg beef knuckle, with meat
1.5 kg beef oxtail
500 g white (daikon) radish, sliced
3 onions, chopped
20 g whole star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
black peppercorns
30 g slices fresh ginger root
20 g white sugar
30 g salt
25 ml fish sauce

1.1 kg dried flat rice noodles
500 g beef sirloin

sriracha hot pepper sauce
hoisin sauce
thinly sliced onion
chopped fresh cilantro
bean sprouts (mung beans)
sweet Thai basil
thinly sliced green onion
limes, quartered

1.Place the beef knuckle in a very large (9 quart or more) pot. Season with salt, and fill pot with 2 gallons of water. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 2 hours.

2.Skim fat from the surface of the soup, and add the oxtail, radish and onions. Tie the anise pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns and ginger in a cheesecloth or place in a spice bag; add to the soup. Stir in sugar, salt and fish sauce. Simmer over medium-low heat for at least 4 more hours (the longer, the better). At the end of cooking, taste, and add salt as needed. Strain broth, and return to the pot to keep at a simmer. Discard spices and bones. Reserve meat from the beef knuckle for other uses if desired.

3.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Soak the rice noodles in water for about 20 minutes, then cook in boiling water until soft, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Slice the frozen beef paper thin. The meat must be thin enough to cook instantly.

4.Place some noodles into each bowl, and top with a few raw beef slices. Ladle boiling broth over the beef and noodles in the bowl. Serve with hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce on the side. Set onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, basil, green onions, and lime out at the table for individuals to add toppings to their liking.

Monday, October 31, 2011


As you can guess from the title of the Blog, I am in Vietnam. I will be here for about two month and will be sailing up and down the coast and I am sure I will be able to post a couple of ineresting Blogs, there is just so much to see and eat here!
But let's start from the beginning, I am not working for Celebrity anymore and must say that I am very happy about it. OK, I will always be grateful to elebrity as I have met my Fiancee there (and I am really happy about that) and I got the experience on big ships, I mean really big, so big that even so I wanted to be more hands on, one is just running the whole day, tasting, putting out fires, organizing and actually loosing a bit touch with what one really loves, being in the middle of it and cooking and enjoying it.
So while I am looking for a new job I had this amazing opportunity to work again for Orion Expedition Cruises. I have done that before I started at Celebrity and really loved every minute. There are a lot of Blogs from my time with Orion, being in the Kimberleys in North Austalia, in New Zealand, Sub Antarctic and Antarctic, it is a great company with great crew and fantastic destinations. Check it out it is just amazing. I am now on Orion II, the new ship in the fleet and having great fun till mid December here along the coast of Vietnam

We actually came up from Singapore, we meaning the ship, me, and of course Poala, my Fiancee, as she is travelling with us as a guest (Supernummary in the crew list) but after a tough contract she needs a bit of a rest and Orion was happy to have her with me on board which is really great!
So the first stop is Ho Chi Minh City where we had loading and our guest all arrived. I was very lucky to meet again with a supplier I have worked about five years ago, when I was here with a different ship. It was so nice seeing each other again and we went out for lunch to a Pho Noodle Soup place. It is a fast food chain, but the soups are still delicious, I will supply a recipe with my next Blog.

The city has changed a lot and there are not that many Bicicles around anymore, just plenty of Bikes, pity, I miss the sight of thousands of bicicles. The rest is still the same, the same market, the friendliness of the people, just amazing to be here!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Ahhhh, I just have to make a post about Risotto, I love Risotto and I love cooking Risotto, it is just such a wonderful dish, either on its own or served with meat or fish. Yes it is a rich dish whn made properly but at the same time so versatile and it is even gluten free as the creamyness of the risotto comes from the rice starch
I found some wonderful Chanterel Mushrooms on the market and thought of making a wild mushroom risotto, one of my many favorites as every risotto is a favorite for me.
It is important that a risotto is creamy, but that doesn't mean that there is cream in it. Most chefs in Italy would not speak to you anymore if you ask if they use cream in a risotto, no way! But butter at the end, yes that must go in, plenty of it!
I have added the recipe for you, enjoy it and have a glass of wine while cooking it, I usually cook risotto with friends, it is entertaining, fun and one has a lot to talk while watching the risotto cook.
50 Ml (2 oz) Olive Oil
100 G (4 oz) Butter
600 G (1.25 lb) Risotto Rice
500 G (1 lb) Chanterel Mushrooms
250 G (0.5 lb) Brown Button Mushrooms
150 (5 oz) G Parmesan
200 G (7 oz) Onions
1600 (1.6 quart) Ml Water or a light chicken or beef stock
200 (7 floz) Ml White Wine

Cut the onions in a fine brunoise
Shallow-fry the onions in olive oil without color
Add the rice and shallow-fry some more
Add the white wine and water
Add Mushrooms
Season and simmer for about 15 min
Just before serving add the parmesan and ice
cold butter

The risotto must be slightly al dente and creamy

Serves 10 pax

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Tallinn, what a city!!!!!

Why? Because it is an amazing Medieval Town! I always could see the town center from the ship but never went out, now I finally made it together with my good friend Eddie Thomas who is sailing with us for a cruise. He is the corporate culinary trainer and we do some amazing training with the chefs here on board.

The city has so much to offer, there are plenty of very good restaurants, there are bars, coffee shops, museum, actually plenty of them, the castle, medieval towers, it is just so nice to walk through the city. OK, there were plenty of cruise ships, so it is a bit crowded, but it is not too bad, there is plenty of space.

I have a lot of photos and just want to show you a couple, it is really an amazing town here. It is worth spending more than just a couple of hours here, the town really has so much to offer, I just love it here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Thank you

Just a quick not to say thank you to all the readers of my Blog. Last month was the first time since I started the Blog 2 Years ago that I had over 1000 hits in one month.

I know for many that might be very little, for me this is big and I am very happy to see that having started so small it has now so many hits. I never expected that it would go that far and it motivates me to write even more.

So again, thank you for reading my Blog and you will see, there is plenty more coming!!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cyclone in Philippines

As you can see, I am back in Philippines which mean that I am hopelessly behind in posting my Blogs, but I promise that I will try to catch up. There are still 3 or 4 blogs from my Baltic and Norwegian tour with Celebrity.

By the way, Celebrity is past as well, yes unfortunately we have parted ways and Celebrity has to sail without me……I am sure they will be able to manage somehow, lol! Ah, yes and of course there are already new adventures in the pipeline, no worries; I am just waiting to sign a contract for the next two month….on a ship again.

But now, while I am here in Philippines and waiting for my Fiancée to join me as she is still working on a ship, I lived through my first cyclone! What an experience, not something one wants to do every day and we were lucky too. We live in Cavite, in the mountains close to Tagaytay, so even with the heavy rain we had no flooding like many parts in northern Philippines had. But it was still a bit scary with the wind gusts we had, the roof nearly taking off and then for next 12 hours without power.

Now everything is good again, the huge cyclone with a 650 km diameter has passed and is on the way to Vietnam, I hope it won’t get any worse. The destruction is terrible, ten thousands of people had to be evacuated, many lost their homes and some unfortunately even died. Manila was basically under water and many other provinces in the North too, especially the places close to the sea. There were mud slides and with the river being so high many roads and houses have been washed away.

I will be hopping over to Switzerland, in my new favorite airline, Qatar Airlines, I will tell you another time why I like it so much, apart from having really good prices. I will be catching up with the Blogs from the Baltic and yes, I have been cooking too so there will be more recipes

See you all around!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

Now, there is of course more to Moscow than just seeing the city and like I wrote in the previous Blog about my fantastic day in Moscow there is a lot to write about food. The variety in GOM was amazing and all I wanted to do is cooking, then having dinner at the writer’s club, I just have to give you the recipe of the Beef Stroganoff, a classic not just in Russian Cuisine, but as well in the French Cuisine. It is easy to prepare and everybody will simply like it.

While I was in Russia most dishes are served with potatoes. You think Ireland is the land of potatoes? Think again, Mother Russia serves as much potatoes as they do in Ireland!

I give you the fancy version with Beef Fillet/Tenderloin. Of course you can take lesser cuts, but don’t forget, and then it has to be simmered in the sauce till the meat is tender. The color of the dish might vary a little, depending on how much demi glace or Paprika you add.

Here is the recipe

1600 G Beef Tenderloin
75 G Butter, clarified
10 G Salt, pepper
5 G Paprika
100 G Onions
100 G Gherkins
100 G Mushrooms
100 G Peppers
200 Ml Red wine
500 Ml Demi glace
100 Ml Sour cream

Cut tenderloin in cubes
Cut onion in Brunoise
Cut gherkin and peppers in julienne
Cut mushrooms in slices

Sauté the meat quick in clarified butter, season and dust
with paprika
Take the meat out, then add mushrooms, onions and peppers
Dust some more paprika, then add red wine, reduce a bit
then add demi glace. Cook for a short while
Season and add sour cream.

Add meat again, boil up quickly and serve immediately

Garnish with sour cream and cooked beetroot julienne

Serves 10 friends

Enjoy it, you will see it is simply delicious.

Monday, September 19, 2011

One Day in Moscow


What an amazing city this is, a city of about 17 Million inhabitants. I was very fortunate that I could join a one day tour to this beautiful city on my last cruise on the Constellation before going on vacation. I will of course write a story about St. Petersburg as well.

The tour started very early in the morning, the moment the ship was docked and cleared we had a bus that took us to the airport, 40 minutes one way, and we could see some new parts of St. Petersburg, then a fairly quick check in and off we went on a 45 minute flight to Moscow, I was so excited.

Like I said, Moscow is huge and it took us good 40 minutes to get to the city center. I could see the first high rise buildings from the Stalin era, wow, they are like huge monuments and then the first big moment came, we saw the Kreml and St. Basil’s Cathedral. We stopped on the other side of the Moskwa River and had a great photo opportunity. The Kreml was closed as every Thursday the Parliament is there.

Then we went to the Red Square. They are busy with a huge Military Music Festival, so one couldn’t see the huge size of the square, but one gets the hint. It is amazing to stand here, imagining the huge army parades that they hold at this very same spot.

Next to the Kreml and the St. Basil’s Cathedral is the number one shopping center in Russia, it is called GOM, even so it is written differently. Of course I went in there quick, we had only half an hour free time and wow, what a shopping center, it is not huge, but stylish. Only the best shops are in there, jewellery, fashion designer that sort of shops. Then there is one food shop in it, called Gourmet No 1. What a treat for a chef, I could have gone absolutely wild, the cold cuts, the cheeses, the pastries, everything was just amazing. So I spent most of my free time in there.

After the red square we went for a metro ride. The Metro is huge and absolutely beautiful. The two stations I saw had bronze statues and white marble and beautiful mosaic. They were both built just after the second world war, but still look like new. Even today the government is still expanding the Metro which makes travelling in Moscow a lot easier, free from traffic…….just that I don’t understand the names written everywhere, no there is no English!

Quick tea break in one of the nicer hotels, not one of the top 5 star hotels, but just nice to have a little break, the day is long, it is already early afternoon. We are now on the way to Smolensky Cathedral and Monastery. The Monastery is still functioning today and is one of the richest and most beautiful monasteries in Moscow. The reason for it is that the Tsars were not allowed to divorce or have another wife, so if they had enough of their wife or just wanted another one, they put them in a monastery, this monastery and of course they made generous gifts, just that they could continue with their lives as nothing has happened. It sounds a bit harsh, but I know that in history many wives were just killed and disposed of, I think that is a better option, still not nice so.

Then we went off on the bus again, the day was still long and we still had more on the program. Now we went on a river cruise to see the sights from a ship, loved it, it was so relaxing and we did see a lot, like the trainings place for the ski jumping, even to be used in summer, the famous Gorki Park, you have to read the book (or watch the movie) then further towards the university with the center of science.

Then we went on the bus again, this time along the old walls of Moscow, built in the 15th century to the restaurant where we will have dinner and wow, how wonderful that restaurant was. It is called “The Writers Club) and has been built as a house of a rich Muscovite in the 19th Century. The interior was absolutely beautiful as you can see on the photos. The food was nice, but could not match the interior of the restaurant. The main course was the traditional Beef Stroganoff…… but still the entire evening in the restaurant was absolutely amazing.

After that we went off again towards the airport. Now the long way home started, 45 minutes to the airport, check in, waiting, flying, another bus trip and then finally we arrived at Constellation at…..2 AM. This was a very long day, but so memorable and amazing. I found another city in the world which belongs now to my favorites, yes I know I only saw so little, but then again, I saw so much in just one day!
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