Monday, 30 December 2013

Yen & Co come to visit :)

View at Leura

Blue Mountains Visit with Yen & Co

Lunch @ Leura
L to R - Rob, Yen, Russell, Sang,
Pop Corn & Lorenza
Our friend Yen, from Vietnam, is spending a few weeks in Australia, catching up with friends and seeing the sights. We were so happy to meet up again and spend some time showing her and her friends around the Blue Mountains and have them stay a night with us.

We met them at the airport after their flight from Hobart and took them to Katoomba and had a look around the Blue Mountains World Heritage area. We also caught up with our mate Russell who was playing a few tunes with friends at the Clarendon Hotel in Katoomba.

Back at our place we gave them a tour of our micro vineyard, plus some wine tasting then a warm and friendly meal.

Local walk, Featherdale Wildlife Park & a family visit

On day two of Yen’s visit Lorenza took them walking down the track near our place. Judging by the photos and smiles they liked the walk. Then they visited Featherdale Wildlife Park, which is such a great place to take overseas visitors to get a close up look at some Australian wildlife.

Fun Vietnamese meal

We all met up later at Canley Heights and dropped Yen, Pop Corn and Sang at a friend of Pop Corn’s place. What a friendly family – four generations all living under the one roof. They prepared a fantastic Vietnamese meal for us all and we laughed and joked while sharing some stories.

One new dish we tried was Pigs Ear salad - a mixture of grated carrot, radish and pigs ears - crunchy and worth a try at least once.

After dinner we took a walk to a café for coffee and juice. Canley Heights sure has changed and is a nice place to take an evening walk for coffee or ice cream.

What’s in a name?

Some folks have funny names, one of Yen’s travel companions nick name translates to “Pop Corn”. Pop Corn’s friend and her brothers have been in Australia for about 15 years. They told us that at first a lot of Australians had trouble pronouncing their names so they decided to pick some English names to make things a bit easier. They settled on the names Kimberly, Tommy and ??? (can’t remember the third name).

Kimberly asked “Do you know where we got the names from?” our response “Ummm, no”. Kimberly then told us “They were the characters from the original Power Rangers show”.

To be continued ....


Trying their music skills


Gus & Yen
Near our place

Lorenza, Sang & Yen
Pop Corn & Sang @ Leura

Fun meal
Fun meal

A drink with Russell

Friday, 20 December 2013

Two interesting travel quotes

These guys would have
done some travelling

Two travel related quotes I like:

“If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.”  Cesare Pavese

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Maya Angelou

Saturday, 30 November 2013

One's own actions

I read the following in the book "Aung San Suu Kyi - a portrait in words & pictures" …

"In Buddhism there are no gods to whom one can pray for favours or help. One's destiny is decided by one's own actions."

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Sydney

We were very lucky to get tickets to hear Daw Aung San Suu Kyi when she spoke at the Sydney Opera House on her visit to Australia. At 3pm we attended an event for the Burmese community which we were invited to. While she spoke in Burmese and all we really understood was "Mingalaba" (hello) and "Jay zoo tin bat day" (thank you) we really enjoyed her interaction with the community present. She was posed and relaxed and the crowd was over joyed to see her.

Next at 5pm was the English language event. She was presented with honorary degrees from UTS and Sydney Uni, gave a short inspiring speech and was then interviewed on stage. Following the interview the audience got some time to ask questions.

One of the questions was "What is the biggest problem facing the world?" her reply "Greed".

She spoke eloquently and answered the journalist's questions and those from the crowd in a frank and open way. If only our local politicians could be this genuine.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Southern Laos Friendship Society Function

Vicky & Lorenza

We were invited to attend a function held by the Southern Laos Friendship Society at Bonnyrigg. We enjoyed the fashion parade, particularly the ethnic costumes and the fact on elf our friends was modelling some of the outfits. The dancing was fun, especially the Lao version of line dancing and the the traditional Lamvong circle dance which anyone can join in. I got one dance with Vicky at the end of the night which was fun.

Bill on left

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Dana in honour of my Dad

Mum, Lorenza & I made a food offering to the Sangha and Yogis at PSMC today in honour of my Dad.

As Sayadaw U Pannathami said "Your father lived beyond the average age of 75yo because of his good heart & good karma". We dedicated the merit of our dana to my father and also all sentient beings "may they all be well & happy".

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Joys of Couch Surfing

Ron and Maaike stayed with us for a few days, they are fellow couch surfers. If you have no idea what that is hit google and check it out. I would put a link but I am feeling a bit lazy.

Anyway, the story ....

After a bit of a negative encounter with some folks who stayed with us recently we were so happy and refreshed by the visit of Ron and Maaike. It was so good to share some stories, wine, food and laughs with too lovely young travellers. Thanks guys you restored our belief in offering hospitality to complete strangers.

Enjoy the rest of your travels and we hope to cross paths again sometime soon.


Saturday, 20 April 2013

Savann Lao & Thai Restaurant Cabramatta

Together with our friend Peter, Lorenza and I ventured out on a chilly, wet Saturday night to Savann Lao & Thai restaurant at Cabramatta. The restaurant is a friendly, family kind of place, with no pretensions. The food is authentic and not modernized or MacDonaldised. It is simple home cooked food.

Saap sap lai - very yummy
While ordering our food we did some quick Lao language lessons with the waitress – we checked our pronunciation of some phrases we had learnt recently – “het young u?” (what are you doing) we were told could also be said as “jow het young?” Her response, with a big Lao smile was jokingly “taking your order stupid”.

For our dinner we fried rice salad with shredded, fermented pork sausage (Nam Kao), BBQ ox tongue, Lao sausage (Sai Oua), Lao style green papaya salad (tam maak hoong), plus sticky rice and a side of cabbage, lettuce leaves and herbs.

The Nam Kao had that lovely balance of sweet and sour to it, plus the crunch of the fried sticky rice. The ox tongue is the best we have tried, very tender and great with the spicy dipping sauce. Paul, our host, makes his own Lao Sausage and it is great, spicy and sour pork sausage and just a little crispy on the outside – we love it.

Their Lao style green papaya salad, made with crab paste was yummy. Spicy enough to get Rob sweeting and Lorenza and Peter laughing at him. At the end of the meal Peter and Rob were contemplating ordering a plate of deep fried quail but after the food settled found themselves full enough not to bother.

After a chat with Paul, the owner, we wandered up the deserted main street of Cabramatta to crab some ice tea, dessert type drinks at Gong Chi teashop. Very refreshing. Lorenza and I had bitter melon chai latte.

Savann restaurant is at Shop 5, 2 Arthur St, Cabramatta. Phone 97260305.

Lorenza + Ice Tea .... Lorenza & Peter at Savann

Sunday, 14 April 2013

South East Asian New Year Welcome to 2556

Lao Temple 

The New Year is celebrated in Theravada Buddhist areas of South East Asia, Burma, Thailand, Lao and Cambodia, in mid April. The celebration has its roots in India and marks the transit of the Sun from Pisces to Aries. The various names for the festival are:

Burma = Thingyan

Laos = Pi Mai Lao

Cambodia = Chaul Chnam Thmey

Thailand = Songkran

The celebrations span three days, culminating in the water festival which many westerners are familiar with.

Day one is the end of the old year, people light candles and burn incense at Buddhist shrines. They pay homage to the Buddha’s teachings and prostrate themselves before his image, bowing three times to pay homage to the Buddha, the Dhamma (his teachings) and the Sangha (the community of monks). Day two people contribute to charities and help the less fortunate. People will attend ceremonies dedicated to their ancestors at a monastery. On day three Buddhist cleanse the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water.


Happy Thingyan
Our celebrations started one week early, when we joined our friends at the Panditarama Sydney Meditation Centre (PSMC) to celebrate Thingyan. The event was held at the Villawood Senior Citizens hall. 

As usual, there was lots of lovely food and friendly faces. We loved the “everyone’s a winner” raffle. All the kids were having a great time with water pistols.

We always feel very welcomed at PSMC events and love the food (more goat curry please). Unfortunately, we missed the dancing and karaoke at the end. Find out more about the PSMC here.

Chaul Chnam Thmey

Our intention this weekend was to go to the Lao temple and join their celebrations. Thanks to my lack of navigation skills we actually found ourselves at the Khmer temple a few suburbs away.

There was a huge crowd and as we chanced upon a perfect parking spot. We took a look around the temple grounds at the food stalls. Lorenza commented that there were not many people wearing the traditional Lao skirt. We bought some food, green papaya salad, duck larp and sticky rice.

After our snack we took a walk around trying to find the food stand of the Lao Oz Foundation. Lorenza just happened to notice the backdrop to the dancers was Ankor Wat, then we noticed the sign above the stage – no wonder we could not find the Lao OZ food stall – wrong temple!

Pi Mai Lao

Lorenza is blessed - good health, good wealth, good happiness
We drove a few blocks form the Khmer temple and found the Lao temple at Edensor Park. Again, we had great luck finding a parking spot a few hundred metres away.

Once inside the temple grounds, we sighted some ladies in Lao skirts and heard people greeting each other with “Sabaidee Pi Mai” and we were in the right place. Not that the Khmer folks were not fun, don’t get me wrong.

The Lao celebrations were held on community land at the back of the temple. We were told the local council set the land aside for the use of local community groups, such as the temple and the nearby Christian church.

There were lots of food stalls, plenty of loud Lao music and many, many happy people. We found the staff of the Lao Oz Foundation and grabbed some satay sticks and had a chat. They do some great charitable works in Laos and you can find them on Facebook here Lao Oz foundation

We visited a lot of other food stands, grabbed some refreshing iced coffees in plastic drinking bags and then had a look at a stall selling material for Lao skirts. We got talking to a group of ladies who were browsing at the stall and as usual we were drawn into lots of laughing and joking with them. Such happy people.

We got lots of tips from other revelers about which food to try and Lorenza got a lot of compliments about her lovely Lao dress. We joined the ladies that were browsing the material stall for cups of tea and had a great yack. While doing so we bumped into a friend who owns a Lao restaurant at Cabramatta, he had closed early to get to the party.

We had a great time mingling with the happy, friendly people – we are so lucky they are so wiling to help us share their happiness and culture. You can find info about the Lao temple here Lao Temple Edensor Park Sydney

Here are some interesting facts about Lao New Year provided by the Lao Oz Foundation, which I have reproduced here from their FB page:


The first day is the last day of the old year where perfume, water and flowers are prepared for the Lao New Year. In temples all over the world, Buddha images are taken down from their permanent places and placed on special temporary easy-to-access places within the Wat (temple) compounds so we can pour perfumed water on them. Collection of the water that runs off the Buddha images are then taken home to pour on family members, friends and relatives. This is to bless, clean and purify the receivers before entering the Lao New Year.

It is so comforting & profound to know that THE ARE second chances in life, to know that WE CAN move beyond our past and start again.


The second day of the Lao New Year festival is the "day of no day", a day that falls in neither the old year nor the new year. Houses and villages are properly cleaned, elders won't allow young people to take nap or stay still on the second day as it’s believed that if one sleeps or stays still one will get sick in the coming year. Young people are encouraged to clean their places, pour purified/perfumed water collected on the first day on themselves & other elders along with well wishes. This is a way to send bad things away with the old year.

So, if you're doing nothing or are still in bed, it's time to get up NOW and get amongst your day...better yet come & join the new year celebration with us!

Megan gets Thingyan blessing

everyone wins a prize at PSMC

food stall at Pi Mai Lao

Miss Pi Mai contestants sell raffle tickets
Burmese Mohinga - yum
PSMC food prep
Green Papaya at Khmer temple

Kanom Kok at Khmer temple