A very exhausting Asia trip (1 of 6)

Yes, I was gone for a while, a month exactly. hence that explain the lack of blog update.

Well, if you haven’t notice, I do a big International trip every other year, like in 2011, I went to Egypt, in 2012 I went to Bahama (small trip), then in 2013, South East Asia (big trip). Well, that’s just how I can make my dive trip affordable and maximize my vacation time.

I planned my South East Asia dive trip back in December of 2012 when there was a special dive trip sales organized by an Underwater Photography supply store in Seattle, and this dive trip is a real photo expedition, which mean I will get to learn from the pro and dive with divers that don’t just swim through coral but actually stop and take photos!

So when come time to travel, let’s see what happened. The trip began in late May, May 20th to be exact.

The trip fly out to South East Asia is probably one of the most exhausting one I ever experience. First I was under the weather the day before I fly out, as I was staying up late to play PS3 game!

My flight leaving Kansas City was about 6:30am, instead of have my friend wake up at 3 am to give me a ride to the airport, I asked him to drop me off at the airport 10pm the night before, which means I will wait 8 hours at the airport!!! I thought I could get some rest at the airport, but I was wrong! The airport was cold, the seat was not comfortable, and every 10 minutes the PA system will make loud announcement about “do not leave bags unattended……”. Needless to say, it was a long night for me.

So, 4 hours flight time from Kansas City to Los Angeles, then 5 hours of layover in LA to catch a flight to Singapore. The journey from LA to Singapore took 20.5 hours (there was a 1.5 hour layover in Narita). Once we arrived in Singapore, we had a 5.5 hours layover before catching a 3 hours flight to Manado Indonesia. So, let’s see, from the moment I leave my house in the US, I spent: 8 + 4 + 5 + 20.5 + 5.5 + 3 = 46 hours of no shower and proper bed rest!!!!!!

I thought I was going to crash and get sick like a puppy by the time I get to Indonesia, but luckily I manage to get some rest on the way out to Japan, and drinking a lot of hot Green Tea on the plane help push the bloated air out of my system, and prevent me from getting a cold.

I found the dive group when I was in Japan, and from that point on I felt more like going on vacation since I know I’m not alone!

We arrived at Manado Indonesia around 3 pm in the afternoon. Despite I was quite hungry, I actually miss shower more than food!!!

The crew from the resort picked us up at the airport after we collected our luggage. The van ride to the resort took about 2 hours, not because the resort is far from the airport, but it’s because the traffic was so bad!

The humidity of Asia didn’t really hit me until when we step off the van, that’s because it rained before we arrived, and when we were out of the van, we didn’t have air condition while we were at the registration counter.

The front office of the resort is an open area, no air condition and open bar and meal sitting tables.

Besides accommodating divers and tourist, the restaurant part of the resort also serve locals for casual dining or wedding reception, so they have a lot of dining table space.

Once we register ourselves, we got our key, and direction to our own room unit. Since I don’t have a travel buddy, I ended up with my own room, and it’s on the second floor.

The moment you enter the room, there is a seating area.

Next to the seating area is the closet and office table.

Across from the closet and office table is the bathroom, which is a pretty good size.

The other side of the unit is the bed room, with bed facing a big open window that overlook the pool.

From the bedroom, you can see the pool, but most of the view is blocked by tall trees.

We didn’t check into our room until about 5pm, and you think we can finally get long shower, a good bed rest and properly unpack? NO! We were told we need to get to the dive shop at 5:45pm to provide our dive certification information, equipment need and rental sheet, follow by schedule briefing!

So, I quickly took a shower, go through my luggage to get my essential items and head to the dive office.

In front of the dive office, the war is painted with local area dive sites map.

At the other side of the dive office, there is actually a camera room for divers to charge batteries, and manage their dive camera.

The front of the camera room is the path to the jetty.

The jetty is where the boats are.

The other side of the jetty is a public beach, that’s separated from the resort by fence and brick wall.

The resort can accommodate a lot of divers, I mean, look how many boats they are!

Since we have a group of 13, we have the big boat to ourselves.

In front of the dock is the compressor room and dive tanks get refill.

At the far end of the jetty is another dining area, mostly for breakfast, where divers have breakfast, then head to the boat next door.

Behind the breakfast area is a bar, and the house reef, where divers and do night dives.

The jetty just over look the open ocean, basically the ocean is the resort’s backyard!

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Smoke like a pro (backward posting)

You know, you can’t say I didn’t try to make an effort. Last year I was super busy, but in between planning for my Austin trip, family’s visit, running a baking group, I snaped photos of project that I thought would be good for a blog entry. However, time flew and before I had the chance to get to them, it was already change of season. Now that things kind of slow down a bit, I think it’s a good time to go back and post one of the “toys” I have that will become crucial in my future culinary adventure.

Anyway, back in late last Autumn, after I returned from my Austin trip, I decided to get back into BBQ because I didn’t get very satisfying BBQ down in Texas. I looked around my house, I have a small charcoal smoker, and then I have a modified gas smoker. But both didn’t really do a great job in doing low and slow smoking. So I decided to break out something that has been hiding in my garage for years.

I bought this Bubba Keg smoker probably 3 years ago when they have some sort of closing out sale at Home Depot website. I ordered it online, had them delivered and I just put it in the garage as I was going through different kind of phase when come to cooking and baking. The smoker was about $700, but I got it for $450 during that sales. Anyway, with the help of my friend, we moved the whole box to my patio:

I have to say, putting together the whole smoker by myself could be challenging, especially I have no idea how bulky it could get. Upon open the box, it looked like everything was well packed, the support frame was on top of the Styrofoam.

Once I removed the Styrofoam, there is just a big metal keg inside:

The metal frame and leg doesn’t require any assembly, sweet!

Just for size comparison, putting the frame and the keg together sort of make my realize: “It’s going to be a big keg!”

I was going to lift the smoker keg out of the styrofoam base, but it’s way heavier than it look! So I had to open up the keg, and remove all the goodies they put inside the keg:

Hiding inside the keg were the handle, cooking rack made with cast iron, and 2nd tier cooking rack made from stainless steel, manual and a few more tools. No wonder the keg was heavy!

After read the manual, I put together the handle in no time.

With the handle on the keg, it’s so much more easy to handle the keg, and I was able to lift the whole keg up to the metal frame by myself, and got it snap in and secured it!

The smoker keg actually come with plastic tray that can be snap to the handle, pretty handy!

In term of feature, the smoker top has the vent control, marked with number for ease of heat level control.

The bottom of the keg also have vent that can be slide to close and open, very straight forward.

Inside the smoker keg, there is nothing complex, just a flame bowl for you to put charcoal.

You can put the cast iron grill rack on top of the flame bowl, or a few inches above it by resting the grill rack on the stainless steel stop.

A smaller stainless steel grill grate is provided, and you just snap onto the the cast iron grill grate.

By snapping in the stainless steel grill grate onto the cast iron grill grate, you can rotate the stainless steel grate out of the way to access the food below it, so well thought out!

To properly use the smoker keg, you need a special tool that they provided. It looks like a wand with a bend L shape end. This wand actually allow me to push the smoker vent, lift the cast iron grate, empty and scrap out the ash at the bottom of the air vent.

The next week or so, I seasoned the smoker based on the manufacturer’s instruction, and smoked some spare ribs:

The advantage of this smoker keg is that it holds heat very well, thanks to its double wall water flask way of insulation to keep heat in, while the outside of the smoker is cool to the touch. It performs as well as those ceramic smoker that coast a lot, and too heavy to move around.

Smoking spare ribs is very effortless. Within a few hours, I can smoke the spare rib to the point that the meat start to pull away from the bone, and the browning is very even.

I didn’t make my own BBQ sauce to base the rib since I have a lot of BBQ sauce stocked up. My favorite BBQ sauce is sticky , spicy and sweet, a few applications and it totally transform the ribs from dry looking slab of meat into moist tender smoke ribs.

My favorite meat to smoker is spare ribs, it’s because it’s meaty and flavorful, yet doesn’t take whole day to smoke.

Overall, I’m really glad I picked up this smoker when they were having close out sales, not only because it performs really well. But that company now sold the production to other BBQ companies. So now it get rename to Big Steel Keg, or Broil King Keg. Not only that you have a confusing market, it also have confusing price point, from $700 to $900. So, yes, it might have been an impulsive $450 purchase a few years back, now, you probably know who’s laughing and having some finger licking good smoked BBQ ribs!

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