Monthly Archives: February 2018

Thailand, Chiang Rai – the Black House

Well here I am in the very northern part of Thailand – close to the Laos and Myanmar borders and famous for elephants and opium production (in the last im assures). It is quite an artsy and artisan place which prompted me to visit The Black House. This is a collection of many black teak traditional Thai houses (well except when they are white ultra modern pods?) owned by a renowned Thai artist who is, to say the least, a bit offbeat.

From trad black

To modern white

I enjoyed the architecture of the exteriors and interiors.

And the Buddha’s and shrines inside and outside

The interiors are his eclectic collection of artifacts that inspire his art

Overall a very Thai (and non Thai) experience. Glad I went but it may not be for everyone.

Thailand, Bangkok

Spending a few days with my mate Panadda in Bangkok and trying to do things I haven’t done here before. It is the run up to Chinese New Year so although the Thais have new year at a different time there is still a huge Chinese presence here and hence the malls (there are lots of those in Bangkok) and just about everywhere else is bathed in Chinese red lanterns. First I have to get through Valentine’s Day though – no comment!

On Day 1 I used the BTS (Bangkok Transit system) to get to the riverside. It is an overground rail system and far easier to get around on than the roads which are frankly just one large traffic jam. A tourist hop on and hop off riverboat trip costs Baht 180 and is a nice way to get to places you might want to visit here eg. the Grand Palace, the most famous Wats etc. I chose to get off at the Flower market – which also gives access to the Museum of Siam (more of that in next post). Like all cities on a river a boat trip is a handy way to get your bearings and get a feel for the place and the constant views of old temples amidst new skyscrapers.

I also visited Lhong1919 – this is also another place you can stop on the boat cruise although I visited on a different day. It is quite newly opened and for those who know Shanghai it is like a smaller (much smaller) version of Xintiandi. Old buildings by the river repurposed to shops, a shrine and cafes and restaurants – it feels restful and sits right on the riverside. Below are some shots at Lhong1919 including my half pint of latte (!) and a traditional Thai snack which is in effect roti bread, sprinkled with sugar and topped with condensed milk. Sadly it was rather delicious and I scarfed the lot ( I think it’s important to eat local fare).

Vietnam, Pho Soup (Susie style)

One of the best things about being at the Hyatt in Danang is breakfast. While they have all the usual British, American and European options it is the traditional Pho soup that I have every day. By the time I have added the Susie touch it is a meal that keeps me full for the rest of the day. So here is how the dish starts – very simply with noodles and chicken (sometimes beef) to which is added a fresh broth.

Then comes the fun part – adding all the things that make it unique every day – this is because there are different things each day so it never tastes exactly the same – but it always has a good sprinkling of fresh chilies, chilli powder and chilli sauce so good for detox too. And no I don’t always know what I am adding but if it looks and tastes good – that’s all I need to know.

Then I take the bowl back to my table, add the belly of port and a squish of lime juice and I’m ready to tuck in.

Total bliss:)

Susie Babani is leaving home. Farewell Melbourne.πŸ˜₯πŸ˜±πŸšƒβœˆοΈπŸΈπŸ₯‘β˜€οΈβ˜”οΈ

Hard to believe this is the last time I will be in Melbourne International airport for at least a year (and just when all the new fancy shops have opened too).

Next adventure is more travel but with no fixed abode to visit in between trips that means living out of two suitcases for the foreseeable future. It was harder to pack them than it was to pack up my whole apartment.

The blog will continue with more whatsusiebdidnext stories.

Goodbye Melbourne- after ten fab years I’m gonna miss ya and all my mates too.

BOOKS – since September 2017

Sorry it has been a long time since book updates but I read a lot while in Italy (all those train journeys) and while I have been back in Melbourne packing up my apartment – which I left today:(.

Watch the blog for what I do next – suffice to say, I still haven’t got rid of my travel bug:)

As usual always keen to get ideas on what to read from anyone reading this.

AUDIBLE BOOKS

SOMETIMES I LIE – ALICE FEENEY

This was my favourite thriller of the year. The story is told by someone who is in a coma and flips back and forth in time. Kept me guessing until the very end. More twists and turns than you can imagine but sparingly written so easy to follow although some seem confused about the ending? I’m sure you won’t be but don’t read any spoilers beforehand. Love it.

THE GIRL BEFORE – J P DELANEY

I wanted another good thriller after the one above and so picked this book. It was good but not as good as Sometimes I lie. This one is also and “then and now” story about an apartment in London which is too good to be true – and we all know that cannot possibly bode well for anyone who lives there. Enjoyable

CLOUDSTREET – TIME WINTON

Obviously a modern Australian classic but as I hadn’t read any Tim Winton I thought it was time to do so. It took a bit of time to get used to his writing style which is sometimes a stream of consciousness but once I did I enjoyed the rhythm of his writing. The story is about two families in the same town and spans a fairly long period of time and I found it especially helpful that I was listening to this book as a good reader is important to the language.

WHITE GARDENIA – BELINDA ALEXANDER

An easy read about a young Russian emigre woman whose adventures take her from Shanghai to the Philippines to Australia in the 50s. If you like historical novels this one is for you and I learned a bit about what it might have been like to be a refugee in Australia at that time.

BOOKS ON MY KINDLE

THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING – MARIE KONDO

Recommended to my by my friend Margot it is a wondrous book if like me you are throwing lots out and trying to simplify your life. I loved it but then I love things about how to roll socks in your drawers so it is not for everyone. I also enjoyed her approach to getting rid of old clothes – thank them for their service to you in the past – then move them along!

DEATH IN VENICE – DONNA LEON

Recommended to me by my friend Sylvie as I was going to be spending time in Venice. This is the first in a series of detective novels about Guido Brunetti and gives you an excellent feel for the murkiness that can be Venice in the Winter. Good story too and I will probably read more of them for the feel they give you of Venice as a local as well as the actual murder mystery part. If you are heading to Venice on holiday – give it a go.

THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 – RUTH WARE

Another thriller – must be a theme going on here? This one is set on a luxury cruise ship so was of interest to me given I have been on one or two over the last 12 months. A page turner where no-one believes the story being told by the main protagonist due to her previous mental state. An enjoyable read. Not too stretching and it hasn’t put me off cruising either!

THE BREAK – MARION KEYES

Who doesn’t enjoy a book by the Irish writer Marion Keyes. Yes this is chick lit – but of a high quality and often quite funny. A good holiday read about a wife whose husband decides to take a break to find himself after 20 years of marriage. Yes there does appear to be a male menopause too. The difference is that we ladies go out and buy an new handbag or lipstick and get on with it!

UNTOLD STORY – MONICA ALI

Interesting novel based on the assumption that the Diana, Princess of Wales actually survived the car crash but faked her death a few months later and what happened to her after that. Quite interesting insight into what might have made her tick. Will leave you to read it to determine what the conclusion is.

SUSHI FOR BEGINNERS – MARION KEYES

My friend Margot gave me this one after I read the Break. Not as good as The Break but again nice holiday reading about life in fashion publishing in Dublin – Keyes does Dublin life very well. She obviously has lived there and is entertaining when comparing it to London life.

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU – CELESTE NG

Ng has a new novel out called Little Fires which is getting a lot of good press so I read this one – her first i think. It is about a mixed race Chinese American family in the 70’s and starts with the knowledge that their daughter has been found dead in the local lake. However this is not a murder mystery story so much as an insightful view of how difficult it can be to “fit in” or “be different” to others in our society. Interesting perspectives about whether you should do what is expected of you by your parents – and indeed they do seem to f@#k up some peoples lives.

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS ABSOLUTELY FINE – GAIL HONEYMAN

This novel seems to be getting a lot of traction and it is a delightful read. if you liked the Rosie Project you will like this. I laughed out loud a couple of times. While this is about a woman who has some “issues” and acts in ways that some find a bit weird – you find out she has her reasons by the end of the book.

I AM PILGRIM – TERRY HAYES

This one is indeed a murder spy mystery story that I really enjoyed. I think that Hayes has written other books about the main protagonist who is an ex spy. I liked the pace of this story and it looks like it may be coming out as a movie quite soon so read it first – books are (nearly) always better.

THE NIX – NATHAN HILL

This was a good debut novel. It is set across various decades from the 60s to end of the century and follows the life of a man who is estranged from his mother but due to certain circumstances needs to make contact with her again. It is a very interesting historical backdrop and you get a good feel for life during that period from the Chicago riots to the addicts who play complex war games for hours at a time. Very enjoyable. I am sure he will churn out more good stuff over time. Has a similar storytelling style to John Irving. Sweeping tales over time with a lot of amusement along the way.

HOW TO BE LOST – AMANDA EYRE WARD

I actually read this one (and the Break) in paper format! That is rare these days and usually happens when friends pass on their books to me – some of mine refuse to use kindles – I couldn’t live without mine and have become so used to it that when I read a paperback recently I found myself tapping the page expecting the page to change! Anyway this is another easy read about a child who goes missing when she is 5 and the impact that has on her mother and two sisters twenty years later. It was ok at best.