Footscray Rickshaw Run @ Monday, March 19, 2012

Coffee at Flinders, spontaneous choice: Hot Chocolate from the Spanish Doughnut place. Wrong choice, though their coffee is horrid and too watery, their hot chocolates are a different story. I ordered a caramel hot chocolate and received a hot chocolate custard "drink" with caramel flavouring from the bottom half. It was so thick and sweetly sick that I couldn't finish it. $5 wasted. If I wanted custard I'd go to the supermarket and get a litre for $3. 

Arriving at 10.45 (I left half an hour for getting lost/distracted time), I was the first to arrive at the Rickshaw Run site. The crew was taking out the rickshaws from big blue shipping containers, some drilling and assembling happened. The rest of the "volunteers" (the college signed us up) soon arrived, wearing pink hats and signed in. We helped set up bar tables (which where heavier than they looked!) and I almost knocked over a few in the container, and then marquees, 4 corners, you grab one corner each and pull - just hope it's not a windy day :P. We were then given highlighter yellow vests (the ones that construction workers wear) to wear, and given a quick brief, 20mins at each place, tell them when there's 5mins to go.

The team leaders then dropped us off at our locations, I was stationed at stop no.3, Hao Phong, armed with a clipboard (for security, I like my props) and a walkie talkie (that worked half the time), we had almost an hour to kill - though couldn't actually leave the location. Plus my purse was in the shipping container, so I couldn't go to the bakery a few doors down.

Fast forward to an hour later, and I have asked a waiter how to say the name of the restaurant twice, pronounced as "how pho-ong", (the 2nd part mightn't be right), and come to the conclusion that service at this place depends on who you get, and like all yum cha places - if you don't speak their language, don't expect service. Plus when you're eating asian food, you're there for the cheap food - not service. 

The first lot of rickshaws passed by, and disappeared around the corner. I completely freak out that they missed the stop. A few texts and calls later, and it was confirmed to be a test run. About 15mins later the first group arrive, I escort them to their table, get the sauce plates, pour the tea and suggest the sauces that should accompany the pho. A Vietnamese noodle soup, served with beef/chicken, and Asian basil, mint leaves, lime, and bean sprouts. 

After 15mins I inform them there's 5mins to go, the Rickshaws with the next group of 8 arrive and they leave, as the next group enters. Repeat 4 times. After the first round we gave up on the sauce plates, the eatery was quite popular and slightly understaffed for this event, and as a result they didn't offer tea to the party - which I took on the initiative, and also set out the tea cups for each party after the first. After pouring tea, I was meant to hang around outside, as a marker for the rickshaws, where they were to stop. Everyone was quite friendly, minus the incident where the toddler broke a tea cup, and the woman at the counter being unfriendly occasionally - she did hand me the tea thermos before I asked once. I found the first group, made up of older Australians slightly snobby though, the other groups were nicer.

After the last group left we headed back to the main site, collected our bags and were given raffle tickets to claim lunch, at Pho Tam. I made the mistake of not ordering pho, because that was clearly the specialty of that place - but I didn't realize it at the time, and thought it was the name of a person rather than the dish. I ordered crispy chicken with fried rice (fried rice, crispy skin fried chicken, salad, colestraw with side soup) and a custard apple smoothie as take away, as I was running late for my next appointment. Oh and found out you don't get the colestraw with side soup, if you get take away. Epic fail - especially since they had a picture of it on the menu. Service was minimal as expected and usual (remember: here for the food, not service), and our waitress got distracted half way through the order, showing other customers to their table. Oh and they ran out of plastic (TA) cutlery too, so I bought a packet of 20 forks from the supermarket. We won't be back.

The "crispy" chicken presented with orange rice, a small container of chili fish sauce and a packet of a few slices of veggies. The chicken wasn't exactly crispy, and to me it tasted like yesterday's chicken reheated. The supermarket's deli chicken are much much nice - and you can be guaranteed they're fresh. I liked the custard apple drink, but unfortunately it tasted as artificial as Boost, or perhaps even more so. 

Overall the experience of volunteering with the Footscray Rickshaw Run was interesting, not something I'd do again - but it's not the worst voluntary experience, that was the going around asking people for donations at the mall, borderline harassment (not my idea). It was a bit stressful though, as I only found out about it on the day, unlike with MS where they send you info, where/when to meet and exactly what you're doing (in dot points) and a Q&As sheet.

Oh and the Rickshaw Run is part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Not a fun ride, like the name suggests. It's $70-ish per a person for a food tour of Vietnamese food in Footscray, and you travel in a rickshaw (think horse and cart, but with humans pulling it, and the cart is made for two) from each stop. At each stop you'll served a classic/popular Vietnamese dish. The best stop is the bit where you get to make Summer Rolls.

Stops & Food:
D&K Live Seafood - oysters (alive, hope you swallow :P)
Little Saigon - fruit market
Sen (74-76 Nicholson Street) - DIY rice paper rolls (summer rolls)
Hao Phong - pho (noodle soup)
Sapa Hills - bun cha Ha Noi (Hanoi Style Vermicelli with Grilled Pork)
Dong Que - traditional VN spring rolls (blend of minced pork, black fungus, bean thread noodles
in wheat wrappers)
Pho Tam - your choice of sweet drink (they recommend one of the iced coffees)

I've just realized something. What happened to dessert?! A friend says that they don't do dessert, instead they have the fresh fruit from the market as dessert.

P.S. Here's a review of the event by Andrew Turner, perspective of another volunteer. And one from Lauren, Ms Baklover.

An hour and a bit later I find myself at a church. I've been here a few time before, but it was always full of people and you don't see much of the architecture. It's amazing though, and was styled with the Gothic transition era. There were a few tourists, a few in prayer and a teenage couple a few pews in front of me - eating each other's faces. I feel odd going to church, it's not that shivery feeling you get watching scary movies at night, but it's something.

As a result of not turning up to dinner & the play on Friday, with the excuse that he fell asleep, we planned to meet today. And of course he doesn't turn up, and doesn't text/call either. I carry on as always, and make a trip to Chapel st for some frozen yogurt. YoBar, is a new yogurt bar, a new trend replacing the ice cream parlours, as we become more health conscious. 99% fat free, though no mention of sugar. :P
1. We start with a size: s/m/l,
2. Pick a base: vanilla, choc, strawberry, lemon.
3. Add some sauce: choc/caramel/*forgot the other one...*
4. And last of all add topping from a range of candy, fruit, and breakfast cereals. (70c each)

I had with a medium vanilla with caramel sauce and crushed tim tams. It was lovely. And costs $1.70 ($1 for the deal) and 70c for each topping. Though the caramel sauce was too liquidly, as if the sugar and other parts of it have separated like oil & water in the bottle. The range of topping was quite nice. They had strawberry, kiwi, mango, canned lychee, dried blueberries O.o, oreos (warning: made in china), coco pops, rasp/white choc candy, tim tams, rainbow sprinkles and a few other things.

It's nice, but with only one location and not very convenient locating, we'd rarely go there. Though still with two vouchers left we'll be pack. Do try it if you happen to be on Chapel st sometime, they're open till 11pm.

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