Wednesday, August 18, 2010

♥ The Wedding of the Year and a Month to Remember ♥

Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia; Three scenically stunning and culturally vibrant countries. Having spent the last month traveling the lot now leaves me physically refreshed, culturally enriched, and longing for more! many beautiful spots to explore on this continent!
The friendly people, the cheap prices and the endless options of fun and stunning destinations, makes South East Asia a travel hotspot, leaving everyone happy and with plenty of amazing memories. No matter the age or background, there is something for everyone and I am certain I will return many more times.
I have my cousin to thank for this amazing trip as he got married in Kuala Lumpur just recently and served as the inspiration for myself and the rest of the family to travel to Asia. We decided to check out Vietnam first and definitely got a nice taste of the culture, weather and landscape. Booking a flight into Ho Chi Minh (ALL the way at the bottom end of the country) and a flight out of Hanoi (ALL the way at the top end of the country), left us having to travel the entire coastline in 9 days. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a bad thing…just a bit of a time-restraint issue, which definitely kept us on our feet. We took two long overnight train rides (each +20 hours) with an in between stop-over is the gorgeous town of Hoi An. Such an adorable little town! Old streets, lined with hundreds of tailors (that’s what it is famous for) and paper lanterns light up the streets at night.  After our second long train ride, we arrived in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam in the northern end of the country. Love that city. A great vibe of outdoor city life, night dining on the streets, endless avenues of markets and shopping of all sorts and friendly people all around. There is even a kilometer-long strip of dog meat restaurants 10 km’s north of the city, if you’re into that :/ Impressions of Vietnam? Beautiful landscape and lovely people, EXTREMELY hot weather (in fact I’ve never been in such intense humidity heat in my life) and a great experience all round. Halong Bay is stunning, too many tourists though. Seafood there is great and get ready to have chicken noodle soup and spring rolls for breakfast if you go to less westernised spots J
Shot from the train in Vietnam
Strolling round Hoi An
Fish-Eye view of Halong Bay
After 10 days in Vietnam, we flew down to Thailand and straight to Phi Phi Don, which I can pretty much call absolute paradise! Thailand, I simply love the country! The food is healthy and so good, it is easy to travel within the country, talk to the locals and it is impossible to have a bad time.  Sun and beach in the south, hiking and beautiful hills in the north. This time around, we simply stayed on Phi Phi Island for five days and enjoyed the crystal blue water and white sand, monkeys on the beach, massages by day and fun tunes and drinks by night.
Traditional long-tail boats on Phi Phi
After Phi Phi, our days in paradise definitely didn’t end, as we flew up to Malaysia to meet the rest of the family on Tioman Island. A tiny little aircraft flew us out there with a slightly sketchier landing than what we are used to in larger machines. 4WD pick up trucks picked up the whole gang and drove us out to the East side if the island, straight through the jungle, to a strip of beach that had nothing other than a few beach shacks, snorkeling gear, monkeys and ourselves. It was great! Five days we slept in little beach bungalows under mosquito nets, playing beach volleyball, sun-tanning and snorkeling by day and playing cards and dice games by night. An Aussie guy and his Malaysian wife own a little piece of property out there, which they renovated into what they call ‘The Beach Shack’. Such a friendly and welcoming couple. We had dinners cooked for us every night, with seating arrangement on cushions on the floor. J Dinners were simple, yet very good and I even got my little go at local Malay cooking in their kitchen. I learned what Tea Tare was and Roti Canai (both so yummy!). It was an ideal chill out spot for the entire family, especially before we were all about to experience an epic four-day wedding in the hussle-bussle of asian city life.
Our very own beach on Tioman

Sunset on Tioman
All paradise days have to end at some point but luckily it wasn’t time for ‘real-life’ just yet. We were all flown back to Kuala Lumpur with at least a few more days of vacation. It was now finally time for the long-awaited and highly-anticipated wedding. The wedding of the year! What a cultural experience it was! My cousin managed to get the entire German family over for this event (Aunt, uncles, cousins, siblings, grandparents and the whole lot). The bride is Malaysian and I definitely learnt that they do not kid around when it comes to weddings! Everything from our very own police escorts clearing the streets for our ‘family’ bus to pass at peak hour traffic in the city, to buffet dinners four nights in a row, to every guest receiving a little present after each wedding event to over 1,000 guests enjoying a sit-down dinner on the final day at the official wedding reception at the hotel! Yes, 1,000 guests and beautiful it was! The pictures can only tell so much. I got to experience being a bridesmaid for the very first time. I got to eat the most amazing food (also if we only at after 10:30pm ever night J). I got to dress up and make myself pretty every single night! I got to explore KL by day (Chinatown, Little India, go on the Flowrider at a waterpark and even try out a skydiving simulator!). And most importantly, I got to spend all day, every day with the most amazing family in the world! It is an event none of us will ever forget and most likely ever live again.  Congratulations to my cousin and his stunning wife and thank you to everyone for making it an unforgettable four days and an unforgettable month in Asia!
Action shot :)
The most amazing family in the world!
The past month has been amazing thanks to the places I got to experience and the people I got to experience them with. I am now refueled with inspiration, curiosity and drive, a feeling that re-visits me everytime I travel. I wish everyone the chance to see this world, or at least parts of it, for we live on a wonderful planet with endless places to see and experience I cannot wait for my next adventure! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

ÜÜÜber-moist Nani Cake

Oh bananas, they are such a versatile fruit. You can fry them, bake them, freeze them covered in chocolate, wizz them into smoothies, slice them into your cereal, mash them up into joghurt or simply eat them raw. If apples, magoes and grapies weren't around, bananas would definitely have to be my favorite fruit!

Ueber moist!
 I've posted a few banana-related recipes on Baked In Love. Why another one? Firstly, there are never too many (because nani cakes are oh so good!) and secondly, this recipe is different from any recipe I've ever tried. It involves placing the cake into the freezer directly out of the oven (when it is still steaming hot!). Apparently, this technique makes the cake turn out extremely moist. It is one of those recipes you just have to try and add to your baking journal if it turns out as magically as all the reviews say. 

Into the freezer straight out of the oven!
I'd also just like to mention, before I get into the parise of this cake, that I let at least six other people have a go (taste it, I mean). So when I say that it tasted absolutely AMAZING, MOIST and Y.U.M.M.Y, I have proof from other :).

It did turn out beautifully though. Moist and slightly fluffy, but with just the right amount of density in the texture. I loved it, I really did. The icing, perfect! Very sweet but that is exactly what you want.

This cake obviously doesn't match up to Stella's famous Banana Bread, but it is a 'cake' after all and very much recommended. Go for it if you want to try something simple and yummy.

Banana Cake Recipe:

1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed, ripe
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 1/8 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened (225 gr)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
2. In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
4. In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one
at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla.
5.Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in banana mixture.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in
center comes out clean.
7. Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. This will make the cake very
8. For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Add icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.
9. Spread on cooled cake.

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