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Simple Escapes: Food, Travel, Et cetera

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  • Teresa Cheong
  • May 15, 2008 06:49:16 PM
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A Little About Us

Simple Escapes' is my personal blog where I write about my simple escapes in life and passions for food, travel, art and anything that amuses, interests or inspires me! It chronicles my travels to countries like Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Singapore and it contains my nutty musings on all that matters.

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What the Zodiac Signs Say On Joint Obama-Clinton Ticket

SOME prominent democrats are rooting for a joint Obama-Clinton ticket for the coming US Presidential Elections. Others like former president Jimmy Carter and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi think a joint Obama-Clinton ticket would be a terrible, terrible mistake. Would the odd pairing measure up according to the Zodiac stars? [ad#ad-3] Out of curiosity, I did...

SOME prominent democrats are rooting for a joint Obama-Clinton ticket for the coming US Presidential Elections. Others like former president Jimmy Carter and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi think a joint Obama-Clinton ticket would be a terrible, terrible mistake. Would the odd pairing measure up according to the Zodiac stars?

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Out of curiosity, I did a quick, non-scientific Zodiac compatiability test between Obama and Hilary Clinton. If we believe in the stars predicting the future, the Jimmy Carters and Nancy Pelosis will have to eat their words.

Chinese Astrological Signs of Obama and Clinton

Chinese Astrological OxChinese Astrological Pig

According to the Chinese Zodiac Signs, Obama born on Aug 4, 1961 (which makes him an “Ox”) and Hilary Clinton, born on Oct 26 1947 (the year of the “pig”) are 70% compatiable. Apparently, the Chinese Astrological Ox and Pig make good partners and good lovers (gasp!).

Before Clinton suspended her campaign, she did hint at the tantalizing option of a Hilary-Obama joint ticket. What do the Chinese Zodiac Signs say about that?

If Chinese Zodiac Signs are to be believed, it is the ox (=Obama) which is the natural leader of the pack.

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The Chinese Astrological Ox are born to lead. They are capable of great things and never lose sight of their goals. Their stamina is endless and they are detail conscious.

The Chinese Astrological Pig make good partners because they care deeply for their friends and family. However, they’re often misunderstood creatures. People wrongly see them as snobs or having superiority feelings over others because of their perfectionistic nature.

If the Chinese Zodiac Signs are to be believed, a joint Obama-Clinton ticket is indeed a dream ticket, one that is harmonious to match. A pairing up of a stubborn, ambitious and shy Ox with a sociable, honest and trusting Pig.

Time for supporters of the joint Obama-Clinton ticket to rejoice at the apparent auspicious blessing?

Well, not yet.

A joint McCain-Clinton ticket – according to the Chinese Zodiac Signs – would make a far superior and harmonious match. The Chinese Astrological Rat (McCain) and Pig (Clinton) is … 80% compatiable.

But we all know this perfect match ain’t going to happen.

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US Presidential Polls: Who Is Leading Who?

I HAVE come to my own conclusion after having followed the US Presidential Election for five months. You need a very good brain for math and stats to figure out who is really leading who. [ad#ad-3] There are so many polls tracking voter sentiments and predicting voting trends that unless your brain works like an...

I HAVE come to my own conclusion after having followed the US Presidential Election for five months. You need a very good brain for math and stats to figure out who is really leading who.

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There are so many polls tracking voter sentiments and predicting voting trends that unless your brain works like an Excel spreadsheet, you’ll soon be lost and confused. There are general election polls, party polls, battleground polls, state by state polls. daily tracking polls, straw polls, opinion polls. Surely, the polls will add up to some conclusion. Here is my right-brain snapshot of the latest polls in May:

Poll Headlines

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Obama ahead of Clinton 51 to 38 percentage points among the state’s democrats (The San Francisco Chronicle, sample: 914)

Obama ahead of Clinton 52 to 42 percentage points among democrats nationally (Gallup Poll, sample: 1,240)

What the polls are saying: Slightly more than half of the democrats preferred Obama to be the presidential nominee.

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Clinton leads McCain 47 – 45; Obama leads McCain 46 – 45 (Gallup Poll. Advantage: Clinton, 1 percentage point over Obama)

Clinton leads McCain 48-44; Obama leads McCain 47-44 (Pew Research Poll. Advantage: Clinton, 1 percentage point over Obama)

What the polls are saying: Clinton or Obama? It doesn’t matter. Both will beat McCain anyway.

Then, came the latest, latest poll on May 31. Rasmussen Report’s daily presidential poll. McCain beats both democrats hands down.

Duh. Now, what?

I think I should just give up analyzing the polls and have another latte.

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An Unlikely Pilgrimage: La Vang, Central Vietnam

I KNEW I was in for a bit of an adventure when even the locals did not know where we’re heading. “La …Vang?” the puzzled look on Tran, a well-mannered hotel executive in Hanoi said it all. A friend had invited me to join her on a pilgrimage to Vietnam. Not one to refuse an...

I KNEW I was in for a bit of an adventure when even the locals did not know where we’re heading. “La …Vang?” the puzzled look on Tran, a well-mannered hotel executive in Hanoi said it all.

A friend had invited me to join her on a pilgrimage to Vietnam. Not one to refuse an unusual offer, I said yes.

I’ve heard of popular Catholic pilgrimages to Lourdes in France or Fatima in Portugal, but a pilgrimage to La Vang in communist Vietnam? The idea was tantalizing enough to pique my interest.

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The quirkiness of the email from our tour guides got me even more curious.

“We’re very happy to meet you at Hue Airport. We both are old, have white hair, wear glasses, put on light blue shirts and black hats. These are our features by which you may recognise us at the airport. Now would you give us your features: dress, hat, and so on…May God Bless you in your travelling tour.”

Basilica of La Vang, VietnamNow if your idea of a pilgrimage were about visiting grand basilicas and religious monuments, buying religious souvenirs and soaking in the atmospheric presence of thousands of fervent pilgrims, you would be sorely disappointed.

La Vang was really quiet on non feast days. I saw less than a dozen local pilgrims at the marian shrine. A family of four recited the rosary in Vietnamese; a young couple lit candles at the shrine.

Only a war-battered steeple and front edifice of Our Lady of La Vang Basilica were left standing. The basilica was destroyed by a bomb during the war between the North and South Vietnam in 1972. Government authorities have yet to grant the Catholic Archdiocese of Hue permission to restore the basilica.

La Vang does not have the usual facilities for foreign pilgrims.

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There are no tourist hotels, fanciful restaurants, tour buses. You may have your meals (homecooked Vietnamese fare) at any of the two local restaurants and buy religious souvenirs from a few token shops.

For a night’s stay, you might be able to get a bed in the spartan but clean dormitories for pilgrims at the Catholic La Vang Pilgrimage Center. Or just spend the day in La Vang and head back to your hotel in Hue.

On major feast days, La Vang, the national shrine for Vietnamese Catholics in and outside the country, would be packed with tens of thousands of local pilgrims.

Our Lady of La Vang Marian shrineThe Marian shrine in La Vang was a grim reminder of the communist persecution of Vietnamese Catholics from 1798 to 1886 where 117,000 Christians were killed. Many from the nearby Quang Tri village fled to the deeply forested jungles of La Vang. The Virgin Mary appeared to the Catholics praying at the huge banyan tree in the jungle and promised to heal them and answer their prayers. She told them to brew a tea from the leaves of a fern the jungle for the sick.

In 1802, a chapel was built at the apparition site. In 1962, Pope John XXIII declared the church a Minor Basilica of La Vang.

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Empty of touristy facilities, you could spend a quiet day without distraction at the Marian shrine. Or wander about the nearby village and buy souvenir momentos from a small shop run by Catholic nuns. After the walk, have a cup of the special La Vang tea in the local restaurant.

Be sure to carry an umbrella or stick with you to ward off stray dogs.

And stay away from the swarm of extremely persistent child and elderly beggars. Give them some spare change and a while later, they’ll come after you again.

Getting there

Well, you either drive there yourself or book a cab for a day trip to La Vang. The Marian shrine is 60 km from Hue.



Travel Across Afghanistan On Foot

THE lack of budget shouldn’t stop anyone from travelling anywhere around the world. You can travel to far flung places without ever setting foot in the country. I spent two absorbing weeks “travelling” on foot across central Afghanistan, from the city of Herat on the west to the capital, Kabul on the east. [ad#ad-3] I...

THE lack of budget shouldn’t stop anyone from travelling anywhere around the world. You can travel to far flung places without ever setting foot in the country. I spent two absorbing weeks “travelling” on foot across central Afghanistan, from the city of Herat on the west to the capital, Kabul on the east.

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I “travessed” through mountains covered in deep snow, slept in mud houses in villages with no electricity, televison or flush toilets, explored 14th century medieval forts and ruins. And along the way, met hospitable villagers and suspicious Afghan tribal elders, heroes and gun-trotting teenage soldiers.

I came home unscathed of course because I never left home in the first place and I didn’t even set foot on Afghan soil.

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I encountered the Tajiks, Aimaqs, Ghorids or the Hazaras through the eyes of a nutty Scottish guy by the name of Rory Stewart. He’s a self-styled historian who decided one day to walk across war-wary Afghanistan. Now, this crazy Scot is a prolific walker. He spent 16 months walking across Iran, Pakistan, Iran and Nepal in his earlier life.

Of the many non-fiction books I’ve read, Rory Stewart’s The Places In Between ranks very highly on my recommended list of travel books you must read in one’s lifetime. Click on the left image for some quick book reviews.

Reading great travel tales by insipid travellers is the safest way to see war zone countries without getting killed, burnt or maimed.

this is my older edition of the well-thumbed book…

Afghanistan travel book by Rory Stewart

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The Places In Between is an extraordinary brave travel journey and a wonderful, absorbing travel tale of a resilent people, the Afghans.

Get the book.



US Democratic Presidential Nomination: The More Likeable Choice

FOR months, I’ve been hooked on US election news, more specifically, the Clinton-Obama fight for the Democratic Presidential nomination. But of late, my interest has waned considerably. And I didn’t even remember checking my RSS feeds on the latest poll results. [ad#ad-3] The bitter infighting has dragged the Democratic Presidential race to exhaustion. All that...

FOR months, I’ve been hooked on US election news, more specifically, the Clinton-Obama fight for the Democratic Presidential nomination. But of late, my interest has waned considerably. And I didn’t even remember checking my RSS feeds on the latest poll results.

[ad#ad-3]

The bitter infighting has dragged the Democratic Presidential race to exhaustion.

All that needs to be reported has been reported. I think I’ve had had enough of the “Is the US election about race or gender?,” “Is the US ready for a Black or a woman president?,” “Will the nutty Reverend Wright ruin Obama’s nomination chances?”, “Is Obama Muslim?” – and finally, finally, the most dreadful one – “Who is more electable?

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The contenders: Barack Obama – the charismatic artist and great speech maker

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Hilary Clinton – the hard-nosed pragmatist who said she’s ready on day one to fix the economy.

I like to make my decision-making simple.

If you were eligible to vote (which I am not), would you choose a thin or a padded resume, a Cafe Latte or a beer? Not convincingly enough?

I’ve another yardstick for a decisive vote: Likeability.

Now, likeability is a major factor in the many choices we make in our lives. You choose the person you like to be your spouse. You choose people you like to be your best friend, soulmate, insurance agent, hair stylist, travelling mate, and of course, you only bring home the dog you like from SPCA.

So if I were to vote, I would choose the one who is more likeable and who can inspire hope.

A Cafe Latte, anyone?

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Fusion Food, Macanese style

THINK fusion when you dine at Nga Tim Cafe, one of the “must go” dining institutions in Macao. When I was in Macao recently, I had lunch at the cafe and ordered a Portugese style pan-fried garoupa dish from the menu. The dish came as chunky sizes of fish and surprise, surprise – thin slices...

Portugese Dish

THINK fusion when you dine at Nga Tim Cafe, one of the “must go” dining institutions in Macao. When I was in Macao recently, I had lunch at the cafe and ordered a Portugese style pan-fried garoupa dish from the menu. The dish came as chunky sizes of fish and surprise, surprise – thin slices of dried Chinese sausage or lap cheong. Preserved Chinese sausage in a Portugese dish? An interesting fusion touch. But too bad, the lap cheong was a tad too salty and fatty. I didn’t finish it.

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Adding color and fibre to the dish were slices of green pepper, tomatoes and fried onion strips. I found the generous slices of garoupa succulently fresh and chewy.

But Nga Tim Cafe had a different kind of appeal for me. Its odd, eclectic decor was an amusing conversation starter. You know how laid back and carefree the place was from the old Christmas trimmings that still strung across the ceiling. On the wall, a pin-up calendar of Chinese opera singers looked menacingly over hungry diners. And for some unknown reason, huge swaths of white cloth were wrapped around the trunks of the two gigantic banyan trees that stood on the site of the cafe. The irreverent mix of decorative styles gave the cafe a quirky, off beat charm.

I like the ‘anything goes’ kind of spirit of the place. On a hot afternoon, Cafe Nga Tim is an affordable place for shade, an iced cold local milk tea and a view of the Coloane village square.

Getting there
8 Rua Caetano, Largo do Sao Xavier
Macau



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