Once in a while, I read about some tourists complaining about the lack of culinary variety in Turkey.  It seems there is a deep-lying (mis)conception that all you can eat in Turkey is doner, kebab and bread. This always makes me wonder: where have these guys visited during their visit and what have they been eating all the time? OK, although I would not go as far as to place Turkish cookings on the very top of my World Culinary Scale (for your information, the top 4 on the Scale being: 1. Italian 2. Thai 3. Indian 4. French), nevertheless Turkish cookings are delicious, nutritious and satisfying.

For those of you who ate nothing except doner kebab and bread throughout the whole time you were in Turkey, it's time to take a look at the following pictures I have taken during my latest visit to Turkey:


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Malta's 4000 year old history is closely related to the centuries-long interaction between the Orient and the Occident. Located closer to Northern Africa than to Mainland Europe, the Maltese culture and language are a unique blend of everything between not just the East and the West, but also that of the North and the South. Its cross-road position at the strategic point of entry to the Eastern Mediterranean makes it a place fought over  again and again in the previous centuries by pirates and crusaders, both Muslims and Christians alike.

Today's Malta is a relatively well-developed country with some 400,000 people. Being a former British Colony, English influences are everywhere and it's much easier to find decent Indian cuisines on Malta than anywhere else in Europe outside of Great Britain. At the same time, the country's inhabitants still manage to preserve their own heritage and Maltese - a language of Arabic origin with some Turkish and southern Italian loan words and semantics - is still widely spoken by most of the population, despite the predominance of English.

I was very much impressed by this unique fusion of cultures - of North and South, East and West.  Malta is perhaps not the most beautiful country or island I have ever seen -  I have visited many more much more beautiful places in other parts of the world, but it is so uniquely cosmopolitan without being arrogant , flashy or snobbish, and you don't come across places like this very often. On Malta you get to sample delicious cuisines from all over the world - Indian, Cantonese, Italian, English, German, French, Turkish ... you name it, and get to meet people from all over the world - many of those who work at Malta's shipyards are immigrants from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa - yet the island is not as loud or intrusive like London, Paris or New York. It retains its old world charm, and a serene feeling.


The Grand Harbour of Malta - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - with Fort St. Angelos in the picture.

Any visit to Valletta, the capital city of Malta, is incomplete without a tour on a local river boat up the various creeks of the Grand Harbour. Built by the same bunch of guys (the Order of St. John's) that ruled the island of Rhodes and built its world-famous Old Town, the Grand Harbour of Malta was the scene of a prolonged Muslim siege in the 15th century, an event which still left its marks on Maltese psyche (as well as of those who are fundamental Christians).


The Old Town of Valletta seen from the Grand Harbour side.

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For those who like Italian and Indian food, Malta is a good place to sample these cuisines at very reasonable prices. You even find some decent Chinese (albeit Cantonese-style) restaurants on Malta.

Given the historical linkage to southern Italy, it's not a big surprise that you can find excellent and authentic Italian pasta dishes on both Malta and Gozo. And I am positively surprised that many Maltese restaurants serve not just the usual variety of pastas, but they make good risottos too (and with a twist - adding ingredients such as ginger and lemongrass that give the dish a refreshing taste).

As for Indian and Cantonese cooking, all I can say is the quality of food and the variety of choices available are much better than what you can find in most of western Europe, with the exception of UK. In addition the general price levels on Malta and Gozo are also much cheaper than in France, Germany or England, which means your euro or pounds go much further here on Malta should you decide to dine out. For less than 10 euro per person excluding wine or alcoholic drinks, you can have a very satisfaying, high quality meal.

Too bad I only had 5 days' time; would love to try out more restaurants on both islands....

L'Ankra Restaurant, Mgarr, Gozo Island:


Very popular family-run restaurant serving Italian and Maltese cuisines, good seafood dishes. Reservation recommended if you are going there on the weekend. Open for dinner only. The place is on the road leading uphills from Mgarr's harbour (where the ferry to Malta departs), with good seaview.

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I spent 3 days on the pretty island of Malta in November 2008 and thought it would be nice to write something about the hotel I stayed at during my visit to the island. The location of this hotel is closer to Gozo than to Valletta, but it offers beautiful sea view of both Cominos and Gozo islands. The downside is, you need to travel by bus (journey time about 50 minutes) to Valletta or Silema, and the last bus departs Valletta city centre at 20:40... which mean you can't stay out too late for some fun or late-night shopping....

I would recommend this place to those who are seeking peace and tranquility while on holiday. If you want fun and action, it's advisable to find your accommodation somewhere in St. Julians or Silema.


Outdoor swimming pool with great view of Gozo, the Gozo Straits, and the ferry terminal at Cirrkewarra.

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進入冬天還沒多久,我的手已經開始龜裂了,這幾年來試用過的護手霜不下十幾種,什麼 Crabtree & Evelyn, L'Occitane, Body Shop, Nivea, Neutrogena, L'Oreal, Vichy, La Roche-Posay .... 還有一大堆其他的牌子都試過了,但是效果都很有限.不是太油膩,皮膚很難吸收,就是擦了沒什麼用,手還是照裂;到後來我連用護手霜都懶得用,手要龜裂就讓它去裂吧,到了春天就會好了.

幾個星期前,在 DM 看見這一款的護手霜: Alverde Handcreme Calendula (金盞花護手霜).

Alverde Handcreme Calendula

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Christmas Shopping Part I


以前在英國念書時,有一次在一本經濟史的書中讀到, 1930 年代全球經濟大衰退時期,什麼東西都賣不出去,就只有女人用的口紅唇膏一枝獨秀,不僅銷售量沒減少,而且還增加...  


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OK, I am going to write something hugely unpopular again....

The closure of major airports in Bangkok in the past few days have caused more than widespread disruption to travellers from the world over; it also brought to our attention the issue of 'democratic deficiency' and the deep-lying social tensions (along class lines?) in the Kingdom of Smiles.

As someone who spent several years living in South East Asia as a child, I started visiting Thailand since my secondary school days. First it was short weekend trips to the Thai capital with school friends, then longer visits to northern Thailand and the surrounding scenic hills. Because a close buddy of mine from my school days in Singapore came from Thailand, this country has never been quite alien to me. One of my very first impressions of political turmoils in Thailand came in 1985 during one of the military coups. I was surprised by the extreme ease and carefree attitude with which the Thai population go about their daily lives amid the crisis.

The fact that more than 10 military coups have taken place since 1932 underlines how fragile and instable the democratic political system in Thailand is. Without some knowledge of Thai language and local politics, most foreign visitors to Thailand could only skim the surface of this highly complex society without ever coming into contact with the non-tourist  parts of Thailand's social fabric. Underneath all the 'big city, bright lights' of modern urban Thailand, the country is deeply religious, traditional and - most important of all - highly class-conscious. One's perceived social status and class origins remain extremely important to most Thais, which in part explained why Thais with darker skin colours are looked down upon in their own country, because people with fairer complexions (meaning they do not need to labour under the burining sun to make their ends meet) are considered to be socially and financially more superior than those with brown skins. 

Unlike her immediate neighbours, Thailand has never been under communist rule, nor was she colonised by western powers,  Due to her neutrality during the Second World War, the country did not suffer large-scale damage to her infrastructure or socio-economic systems. Yet the problem of rural poverty, illiteracy, income inequality and social divide is just as great, if not more, than some of her less fortunate neighbours in South East Asia. Just take a look at Bangkok's slums and the notorious nightlife spots, where young girls and boys from poverty-ridden provinces such as Issan are available for as little as 100 Bahts (about 2-2.50 Euro), you know something is not right. This is not some war-torn countries in Africa or  Central America on the brink of social collapse we are talking about, but a country that has pried herself for  being never involved in large-scale military conflicts in her modern history. One has got to ask themselves: why is economic hardship and daily struggle to survive still such a major issue in the lives of ordinary working-class Thais?

In recent years, political protests and mass demonstrations have become almost a daily occurence in Thailand, in large part due to the rise to (and fall from) power of the controversial businessman/telecom tycoon turned politician, Thaksin Shinawatra. I will refrain from making any judgements about current situation in the Thai capital, because it is not easy for a casual observer like me to comment on the moral merits or political rights or wrongs of Mr. Thaksin, especially when one gets very little information or insightful analysis in foreign media about political developments in Thailand. Virtually all we read about in the news coverage overseas are about the ongoing corruption allegations against Mr. Thaksin and his political allies.  

I came across the following article in BBC website, which seems to provide views from both pro- and anti-Thaksin camps. Usually I have my reservations when it comes to BBC articles, because some of their foreign correspondents (notably the ones stationed in Beijing) came up with quite a lot of craps, but this one seems quite sincere in his attempt to shed some light on the background to the ongoing political saga in Thailand that puzzled many of us who are not so familiar with Thai politics:


Here is the full text of the above-mentioned article:

Thai crisis exposes class struggle

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

For weeks the yellow-shirted protesters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have hogged the limelight in Thailand.

With the backing of powerful military and palace figures, they have helped unseat one prime minister and two members of his cabinet.

The embattled government, led by allies of controversial former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has in vain protested that it was popularly elected less than a year ago.

Now it has started fighting back with a series of mass rallies by its own red-shirted followers.

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Staufen im Breisgau is a picturesque little town in the foothills of the Black Forest. It attained immortality thanks to Goethe's 'Faust', in which the town was the place where the ill-fated alchemist and astrologer Faust had lived and practised his trade. Thus Staufen is also known as the 'Fauststadt', i.e. Faust's town.

The ruins of the Roman castle perched atop the Staufenberg is the backdrop of Goethe's 'Faust'.

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For those who have never seen the real thing before, Black Forest cake is just a piece of cake with lots of  chocolate flakes all over, decorated on the top with a piece of cherry taken from a can. No matter where I go - the US, Asia, or Africa - this over-simplified version seems to be everybody's answer to what constitutes a 'Black Forest cake'.

As a result, it is now absolutely impossible to have a piece of authentic, original Black Forest cake, unless you are at one of the Black Forest towns, of course - but even then, you never know if you are getting the real deal.  Also, don't think that you will be able to enjoy a real piece of Schwarzwalderkirschtorte anywhere in Germany - because most German chefs do not know how to make a good Black Forest cake. 

To make a good piece of Black Forest cake, you need to know how a good piece should look and taste like. I have been trying out Black Forest cakes in the past 15 years all over the world, and I can honestly say, the best ones are made by traditional cake masters in the city of Freiburg and nearby Black Forest spa towns (such as Staufen). The further away from Freiburg and the Black Forest, the worse the quality of the cakes become, so beware: this is how a real perfect Black Forest cake should look like:


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The enormous commercial success of the film 'Cape No. 7' (海角七號) probably comes as a surprise to many. In little over one month, the film has grossed over an estimated NT$200million (US$6million, about 4.4 million euro) in Taiwan alone (it has not yet been released outside of Taiwan), and is tipped to become the higest grossing film in the history of Taiwanese domestic film industry.

Photo Courtesy of Cape No. 7 Official Blog/劇照來自海角七號官網   http://cape7.pixnet.net/blog/

Copyrights/版權所有: Buena Vista Pictures/果子電影

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今年 (2008) 的Westminster Kennel Club 狗展(美國歷史最悠久,最富聲望的狗展),總冠軍是一隻超級可愛的米格魯:他的名字叫 Uno.

Uno 前腿踏在冠軍銀杯中. 這是 Westminster 狗展開辦以來,第一次由米格魯贏得總冠軍. Snoopy 一定會很驕傲的大叫幾聲...

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Northern Aegean could get very windy anytime throughout the year, even in August....

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