Cambodia: Sunrise and Sunset at Angkor Wat

At 5 AM, our driver took us to Angkor Wat where we joined at least a few hundred others.  It was dark but I had my miniature flashlight to light the way  as we cautiously made our way to the lagoon area to wait patiently for the sun to greet us.

The area was already very crowded.  Many people were already homesteading their perfect camera view.  They must have arrived at 4:30 AM.  I walked around, wandered to an area  where very few people gathered.  That view was actually better.  I stood, camera poised, listening to the stories being described around me.  One person said that his mother had been to Angkor Wat a few years ago and she was the only one there to view the sunrise.  Many young couples were sitting in front of me, holding hands, making the moment as romantic and memorable for them.  An older gentleman with his cane was being helped by his companion, smile on his face, happy to be there.

At last the sun woke up and started to rise, higher and higher into the sky, lighting it very quickly, moving between the pillars of the temple.  Light in the sky and darkness still shadowing parts of the ruins.  People quickly exited the area.  It was already hot and it was only 6:30 AM.  Later during the day, we watched a breathtaking sunset at Angkor Wat…pictures can better describe the breathtaking beauty…

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Cambodia: Sunset at Bhaking Hill

My son and I decided to take a trip together.  He needed time away from work and stress and I was having withdrawal pains from not traveling.  Cambodia and Vietnam were on my bucket list so we decided why not.  After much consultation and emails with friends Ames and Marion on recommendations, started to plan.  I researched everything, even speaking to a few travel agents who promised me the world.  Although I explained to each one that I could not do a full day of walking or anything too adventurous, proposals came back the opposite of what I had asked.  Finally, after two weeks of not getting anywhere, decided to plan it myself.  (Job search was on hold.  I mean, really, why bother looking for a job when an adventure was waiting.  I could only focus on one thing and that feeding my need of travel).

We left from San Francisco on a gorgeous day heading for Singapore first to spend one night and early next day to Siem Reap.  We arrived in Singapore, dead tired after a very long flight.  I could barely walk off the plane.  I was in torturous pain.  My right leg was aching with stabbing pains.  The drive from airport to hotel was a complete blur.  Just wanted to get to the room and lie down to wake up to turning around for Siem Reap.

We departed Singapore without any problems.  I barely closed my eyes when we landed in Siem Reap.  Our driver picked us up on time.  So far so good.  It was not difficult at all to go through customs as I had arranged for visas in advance.  I arranged for drivers, tours online via email and prayed that everything will work out.  The drive from the airport to our hotel reminded us so much of the Philippines.  I felt almost like I was there instead of Cambodia.  It was so very hot and humid!

We stayed at the Le Meridien which is a beautiful hotel, with very friendly and courteous staff.  Best of all, very close to the ruins.

On our first day, we opted to do the sunset at Bhaking Hill, along with 300 other people!  Only 300 people were allowed at a time as there were renovations  and it was very small area. It was a very long and dusty walk.  Everyone was competing for the same spots, hoping that it would provide the perfect photo op.  It was very hot.  People were everywhere.  I found a spot to sit and people watch.  Large groups of tourists from China.  Finally the sun started to go down and cameras flashing everywhere.  Faster than the sun setting, people exited.  My son and I walked around a bit more, waiting for the sun to descend to the bowels of wherever it was going.  It was beautiful, different colors changing with each second.

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We walked around admiring the ruins, with sweet memories of a golden sunset.

By ccortez78 Posted in travel

Dinner with Rhea, Allan, Abraham…starring chocolate cake

Sunday was a lazy day, recovering from all the dancing from Tiara’s reception Saturday night.  I was in pain but no pain, no gain.  One cannot go to a Filipino gig without some dancing!  Abraham insisted we dance..what is a mother to do!  It was so good to see the families and friends who came to celebrate my first niece’s grand occassion in an intimate and informal setting.

Sunday was in anticipation of Rhea’s visit.  She and Allan came  for a home cooked meal.  I cooked skirt steak marinated in Miso and Nobu salmon with a side of asparagus in sesame dressing.  We started with heirloom tomatoes with sliced avocado, burrata cheese, basil, Nunez de prado organic extra virgin olive oil, drizzled with 25  year old traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena. Vouette et Sorbet champagne Fidele to complement the food.

Just cut up the heirloom tomatoes (get the firm ones) any way you please.   Leave at room temperature.  Slice the avocados.  I like large slices.  I bought yellow and red tomatoes.  I laid out the tomatoes with the sliced avocados like an artist would paint a canvas.  The plate is your canvas.  You want  the picture to communicate and  insprie all your senses.  If you want to add salt, add fine seasalt and/or pepper.  Add a dollop or two of burrata cheese.  Sprinkle basil over this and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Very simple and very fresh.   Yum…

Steak was not as good as normal.  Hmmm…I overcooked it.  I will have to make this again on their next visit.  Salmon was very flaky tender and just the right amount of miso.

The star of the meal was the Orange and Bourbon Chocolate cake.  The recipe is from the Spotted Pig in NYC, 314 West 11th St.  I followed their recipe but made a few tweaks.  I used 80% Valrhona chocolate and a little more bourbon (maybe that is why it was so popular)  and a huge orange for the zest.  I think this will be Allan’s cake and each time he visits, will have to make it.

Spotted Pig Orange and Bourbon Chocolate Cake 


½ lb bittersweet baking chocolate (at least 70%, I used Valrhona 80%)

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick, cut up)

3 tbsp bourbon (I used more))

1 orange, zested

4 eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

Spiced cream

¾ cup chilled heavy cream

2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cardamom

1/8 tsp ground cloves

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour sides of a round 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper
  • Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring until smooth.  Mix in bourbon and orange zest; set aside.
  • With an electric mixer, beat eggs and granulated sugar in a bowl until mixture is thick and pale yellow ribbons form, about 6 min.  Fold mixture into chocolate little by little.  Spoon batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake for 35 min or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.
  • With mixer, beat cold heavy cream until frothy.  Add confectioners’ sugar and spices; continue beating until soft peaks form.  Chill in refrigerator.
  • Transfer cake to serving platter; garnish with spiced cream and chocolate shavings.
It was a very relaxing dinner with family, sharing food, recipes, “how to” on cooking,  Allan gave me lessons on wordpress.  We laughed, ate some more, a chance to get to know each other.  Rhea enjoyed browsing through the library of fashion design, jewelry and cook books.  The evening ended with a promise to return and Allan coveting the leftover choco cake inside a takeaway container.  I sent them on their journey with wine, jams, salad dressings, olive oil and bread.   The next day Rhea and Allan enjoyed leftovers in Big Sur.
A career is temporary, family is permanent.
Life is life!

Abraham Menor Art Show at Cukui

Abraham’s Art show is currently at Cukui, 229 Jackson Street, San Jose…Japantown. His artwork will remain posted till 11 May. Go see it. This year’s show is creative and edgy…get brainsoiled! And support a very talented person who’s life is about giving back to his community and family.Whilst there, buy one of Cukui’s t-shirts, if you dare to be cool….

An evening with Patrice Rushen

After cooking for a couple of days, time to unwind and take in a different kind of food:  music for the soul.  I must have music.  When I first moved to London, after dumping my belongings in the reception room of my flat, I went in search for my new CD player.  The flat was too silent without music.  I didn’t want to listen to my own horrific singing!  When I attend a good concert or listening to great jazz, I am in a different world.  I forget all my worries and stress and let the music consume me.  I needed a music fix after the dinner so my friend Virginia and I headed to Yoshis in San Francisco.

We went to see and hear Patrice Rushen and Friends.  Friends were Ndugu Chancler, Doc Powell, Everette Harp, Freddie Washington.  These are music greats and have been around bringing us much joy with their music/playing.  It helps as well that Everette is easy on the eyes as well as an exceptional sax player.

We had dinner first and Virginia had uni for the first time.  We paired our dinner with Prosecco and Rose champagne.  We had lobster blossom, lobster sushi roll and warm beets and asparagus salad.  After we were satiated, we headed to the venue. We were both excited and so looking forward to the concert.  That saying, “it is a small world” was real that evening.  As we headed towards the venue, Virginia recognized several of her co-workers.  They had attended the first show and were raving at how fantastic the music/concert was.  We were in for a treat!  We were not disappointed.  Go out and find a concert and feed your heart and soul with music.

Voila – Dinner

I almost forgot to take pictures…we were halfway done when we remembered.  Every dinner I host must tease and please the senses.  Food should be beautifully presented on dishes that may reflect the season or the mood  or because they evoke certain memories.  They should be pleasing to the eyes (perhaps even have some artistic bend) and therefore, theoretically may enhance the total experience.   I learned this lesson from visiting, working and living in Tokyo.  The Japanese really know how to unfold the evening to an adventure of all your senses when dining.  For this dinner I chose the color green, reminiscent of Spring as the main color for serving, specifically Japanese Oribe from Japan and locally made by potters who were influenced by Japanese design.  The exception was the beef burgundy which was cooked in a red casserole by Emile Henry…I love these red cooking pots.

Everyone had their own personal favorite but all agreed that the beef burgundy was even better than last time.  I used Julia Child’s recipe but I added a full bottle of wine and only 1 cup of broth.  I braised the leeks in sake.  I picked the meyer lemons for the tarte from my brother’s tree.  The Krug Flannery (the one that looks like a woven basket) was a Christmas gift from my good friend Ames.  You can get one from K&L Wines in Redwood City:  If you do go, ask for Gary Westby, the friendliest and very knowledgeable champagne buyer for all of K&L.  I have learned much from Gary and you will too.

No pics of the fish as the photographer was iPhone challenged, had a few glasses of champagne!  The fish was very moist and I threw chervil, chives, tarragon, olive oil, garlic in the blender to marinate the fish overnight, then grilled right before dinner.

The chicken came out well but I liked the taste of the chicken better on Sunday.  I used fresh hedgehog, chanterelle and dried morel mushrooms and generous amount of wine.

We wind down dinner with Port and music of Greg Adams and East Bay Soul in the background,  happy to be in each other’s company.

I was elated that my friends enjoyed the food…their joy and satisfaction were my rewards.