June 21, 2014

The Top 5 things I miss when in Asia

The top 5 things - what I miss when in South East Asia

I promised myself once that I'd never do one of those "The Top 5 things I [fill in the blank]" lists.
It's a common trick to get readers to a blog and it's not quite my way of writing.

And then a friend (Joy at My Traveling Joy posted a list of the top things she miss when outside of her native country, USA, and it got me thinking. I quickly realised I can't make the same list or even a similar list – top five things that I miss from home: Home is where I leave my hat and I don't feel a stronger connection to one place over the other.

But there are things I do miss from Europe when I am in South East Asia.

Here they are, in no specific order

    Cheese. Real good, well matured cheese, cheese full of flavour. Especially hard cheese. Sure, you can find it in special stores in Asia, but it is not a part of the normal diet. And I am a cheese addict.

    I crave strong, well matured cheese, I just can't resist it; French cheese, Swedish hard cheese (hard to beat a well matured "Västerbotten" or a strong "Greve", both cheese very special for Sweden), Italian special cheese, a Portuguese Serra de Estrela, a sheep cheese, hard outside, soft inside, best eaten with a spoon and often relatively smelly - in short; Cheese is a passion, and it is difficult to enjoy that passion in South East Asia. But then again, I always found it difficult to find good cheese in Germany as well, the Germans are fantastic at other types of food but don't, is my experience, have a strong cheese culture. 

    Sun protection for the face, without bleach. You would think that South East Asia, a part of the
    world pretty much obsessed with pale skin, would have an enormous selection of sun protection. Well, they don't, especially not for the face. Normal sunscreen I can get, for the body, also without bleach, even if it takes some effort, but for the face. It's overall very difficult to find products for the face that don't contain bleach and with my sensitive skin, bleach is an absolute no-no: I have even had friends from Europe having to SEND me sunscreen from Europe. Even what looks like the same products in Asia vs Europe often aren't, if you read the fine print – for the Asian market bleach is added.

    With weather like this - sunscreen is needed... 
    An oven. The cooking style in South East Asia is mainly built around cooking on the stove or steaming, and most homes don't even have an oven. Baked bread is becoming more and more common, the western influence is strong, but people buy their bread, they don't bake themselves. Those who have an oven normally have a little separate oven, similar to what you see in caravans and campers in Europe; A tiny thing you put on the kitchen counter. Better than nothing but for someone like myself, who base a lot of my cooking normally on things I can do in the oven, it is sometimes hard; I like slow cooking on low temperature. You find ways around and adjust your cooking but I do miss it.

    Herbs, especially fresh herbs. Cooking with herbs. It's too hot in South East Asia for the herbs like rosemary, tarragon, thyme and others to grow really well, except for in the winter, and these kind of spices/herbs are hard to find most of the time; There isn't really a market for it either, the South East Asian cooking is full of garlic, ginger, sesame, coconut milk (not so much Taiwan, more Thailand), lemon grass and other specialities; All fantastic spices and things I use a LOT, with the exception of the coconut milk, but now and then a girl needs her common spices, variation is good.

    And last? Well, I could have said friends and family, but with family spread all over the world I am always close to some and far from other people that are important to me, so while I of course miss friends and family I miss friends and family regardless of where I am (and always appreciate seeing them) – so the last thing on the list have to be being close to France

    Odd as it may seem, I seem to have developed an addiction to France, I love visiting the country, would love to live there for a while even – there is something about the people, the food, the air, the nature – France is the biggest country in Europe with amazing nature, from high mountains to a long coastline, which is so important to me. I love being able to pop over the boarder, meet french people, practise the language (which, by the way, is getting better and better, even though I need to work on the grammar), chitchat, go to the market, cook. And, I admit, French people are very charming, when you have an open attitude and a smile, especially when you travel alone. I have had some of the best time in my life in France. I miss being close to France when in South East Asia. It may have something to do with the cheese, too...   

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