Kyodo News (as spotted in the Sydney Morning Herald) is reporting that Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles, has passed away aged 96. Ando founded the company Nissin Foods and in 1958 created the first instant noodles, Chicken Ramen. In 1971 he came up with cup noodle concept. In one survey the Japanese rated instant noodles as their greatest invention, even beyond karaoke and Walkmans. Now instant noodles are found across the world, including our kitchen. In fact, I had pot noodles for lunch yesterday! Ando-san, domo arigato gozaimasu!
I do wonder what Mr Ando would have thought of the recipes for instant noodle dishes on the Nissin foods website (Top Ramen Pizza anyone?).
We have spent the past few evenings re-watching the 6 discs of the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition. Both watching the movies and reading the books are the best way I know of taking a voyage while seated in your own lounge room. Through the incredible imagery of Tolkien you are there with Frodo and the other protagonists in a richly detailed world with a long history, sharing their joy and their suffering.
But Frodo's journey across Middle Earth is not a holiday. It is a quest, a journey with a purpose and a sense of satisfaction and achievement at the end. Many, if not most, of the travel books (not including guidebooks) that I have been reading over the years involve individuals on some sort of quest, be it to ride a bike across Russia, walk the Great Wall or visit the four compass points of China, even to visit all the places where his father has lived and worked. Most involve the travellers roughing it in cheap accommodation and becomming involved with the locals.
I took a walk yesterday for a few kilometres along the fire trails that follow Still Creek. Suddenly I was out of suburban Sydney and into the bush, the valley walls and tall gum trees obscuring all but the smallest glimpses of houses and streets. I had a walking companion with me. Kita trotted along to my left, the correct position though we did not train him to do so. He was obviously happy to be exploring, even more delighted when I let him off the leash near some pools of water, splashing and dancing around. It's good to know that he is not afraid of water!
I spent some of today along Kent Street, browsing the outdoor adventure shops for sale deals on various items for our upcoming trip to China and Japan. Kathmandu was pretty cheap with up to 50% off the normal price.
- Travel towels - for those situations where our hotel or train doesn't have towels. These pack small and should dry quickly.
- Silk inner sheets - For when we don't trust the hotel or train bedding to be clean. The silk sheets pack much smaller than the cheaper cotton versions.
- Pac-safe small shoulder/hip bag - for securely carrying cameras etc when the daypack must be left behind (eg museums). We found a small (but not particularly secure) shoulder bag very useful during our second trip to Europe.
- Small fold-up speakers - useful for hooking up to the laptop/PDA/mp3 player when I want to share the sound.
Entertainment on the go
While overseas we try to immerse ourselves in the local culture and treat English as the foreign language. Usually CNN/BBC World News is our only English entertainment and it's very limited and repetitive. I especially loathe CNN as being terribly uninformative. How so little news can be packed into a week is beyond my imagination. However, during our last trip to Europe on of the TV stations was showing the American movie Tremors in English. It's a deliberately B-grade horror movie, but it was nice to switch off from foreign languages for a little while and listen to English. Brain rest.
.: Magen brot
While in Frankfurt in 2004 we visited the Friday night street market/beer garden and stopped by the sweet stall pictured on the right. Convinced by the stall owner to try some magen brot we liked it enough to buy a bag. Initially we thought that he had given us too much, but then I found myself compulsively eating square after square of the ginger bread. My only regrets were not buying more and that it generates a fair amount of internal gas!
Liam D'Arcy Brown both speaks Chinese and writes excellent English prose. His book Green Dragon, Sombre Warrior, recounts his trip around the four compass points of China. He travels around China by train, bus and ferry, talking with the locals and those who have travelled from elsewhere in China along the way. What really stands out are the frustrations of the individuals he chats with. Ordinary Chinese who are unable to find jobs or to express themselves freely, who are constrained by corruption or tradition. I don't think that Brown set out to find these people, he just encounters them as he goes along.
In one frightening instance Brown is heavily drugged and robbed in his "soft sleeper" cabin on the train between Chengdu and Urumqi after sharing some food and drink with a couple of fellow passengers. So far as I can tell, that's not a common occurence on Chinese trains, but it does make me feel that much more paranoid about our own train trips planned for China.
We took advantage of a cheap promotion to spend last night in the Brighton Beach Novotel. Despite the $50 rate we were given a corner terrace room overlooking the city, the airport and the beach.
My colleagues speak poorly of the hotel, complaining that it's far from the city centre and that the surrounding nightlife consists only of young mediterranean men circling the streets in noisy cars. For the two of us, the Novotel is a place of precious memories and dreams. Our wedding night was spent there and the next day we wandered the beach until it was time to catch our plane to Paris. I would rather watch the planes take off or feel the sand under my feet than see the inside of a bar.