Category Archives: Travel

Home and other places

A Whole Lot of Effort Just to Order a Pink Gin

Gin Pahits in Kuala Lumpur

It’s noon. I’ve just exited the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, and am already sweating. It isn’t far to the Majestic Hotel, but the sun is brutal, and there’s a busy six-lane road to cross. While this might seem like a lot of effort for a drink, it isn’t just any drink I’m after.

The gin pahit was one of colonial British Malaya’s favorite cocktails, but seems to have fallen out of favor. It disappeared from the Raffles menu in Singapore years ago, and when I asked for one at the Eastern and Oriental in Penang, the bartender looked at me like I was speaking Aramaic.

From the corner of Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin and Jalan Sultan Sulaiman, Kuala Lumpur looks much … Read the rest

Let He Who Has Turned Down a Delicious Jianbing First Call Me Fatty

Jianbing in Beijing

While studying abroad in Beijing this past summer, I gained 18 pounds in a little more than two months. Jianbing, Beijing’s street food of choice, was almost single-handedly responsible for this.

My favorite place in this breakfast-obsessed city was an unassuming cart in a narrow Dongcheng alleyway, Da Hua Jianbing. I visited so frequently that the elderly vendor, Mr. Niu, nicknamed me Fàntǒng—Chinese slang for “fatty.”

Jianbing, a dish that comes from northeastern China, has a history stretching back nearly 2,000 years, though no one is sure of its exact origins. Mr. Niu liked to tell me his own personal spin on the story of Beijing’s beloved snack. He said it was rooted in the Three Kingdoms Period, when one of … Read the rest

Come for the Iceberg-Spotting, Stay for the Iceberg Beer

Iceberg Beer in Newfoundland

They call the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador Iceberg Alley, the place where ocean currents deposit icebergs that have broken off in Greenland and floated for two or three years before arriving on the North American continent. Something about the ocean currents and other forces of nature bring them closer to shore in early summer than at any other time of the year.

We thought it would be interesting to see a bunch of icebergs up close—you know, before they all melt. And since we would be on shore for the most part, there would be no risk of a Titanic-like disaster.

The Iceberg Finder app tracks the daily movement of icebergs so that people can follow them and spot them from … Read the rest

Good Lord, Is There Anywhere the Red Velvet Cake Trend Has Not Penetrated?

Cupcakes in Yuksom

After six days of trekking in Kanchenjunga National Park, we returned to Yuksom with leaden feet and plenty of food cravings. A sleepy little village in India’s West Sikkim district, Yuksom is the base for the Dzongri Goecha La mountain pass. Come April and October, there are more trekkers milling about than locals. The road leading to the park is lined with tiny stalls selling jackets, socks, shoes, poles, and other climbing gear.

There are only a handful of places to eat, Guptaji’s among them. Over the next two days, we went there to eat plate after plate of fried chicken, sample Tibetan bread, and drink copious amounts of black tea. From Guptaji’s, we watched children go to school in Jeeps and trekkers … Read the rest

Dude, Just Drink the Liquor and Take the Horn Home Already

Cojoyo in Nicaragua

Ometepe is an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, shaped like a figure eight, with a volcano on each “O.” It is rural and slow-moving: more people on horseback than in cars, noisy only with birdsong, gales, and howler monkeys. In its sole museum reside some 1000-year-old petroglyphs, and a 1,500 year-old dildo.

At least, that is the best guess of archaeologists. It sits unassumingly behind glass alongside other local prehistoric works, maroon-colored, and shaped like a water-bong on its side. We had all ventured, to the grinning silence of our boyish tour guide, Jol, that it was a pipe. But greater minds had determined that the artifact could not be smoked, nor played as an instrument.

Jol invited us for shots … Read the rest

Long Live Hong Kong’s Purveyors of Crustless Milk Toast

Egg Custard and Milk Toast in Hong Kong

The line outside Australia Dairy Company this morning is dozens deep. I’ve typically got zero patience for restaurant lines, but a trustworthy Hong Kong native has directed me here, to the Kowloon Peninsula’s Jordan neighborhood, in my pursuit of steamed egg-custard—bowls of which are stacked in the lightly fogged-up front window.

It’s named for the founder’s long-ago stint on an Australian farm, but Australia Dairy Company is a fully Hong Kong institution: a cha chaan teng, which is a sort of quick-serve diner that evolved in the post-war, newly urbanizing and industrializing city, whose swelling working class sought a place to sit and eat cheap but nourishing meals outside the home. Cha chaan teng food skews to … Read the rest

Peaches and Wheat Doesn’t Have Quite the Same Ring To It, But Trust Us, It’s Delicious

Rico mote con huesillo in Santiago

Plaza de Armas, Santiago’s central plaza, is crowded and noisy on a Sunday afternoon. Tourists take pictures of the famous monuments, fountains, and buildings lining the square. Kids chase pigeons and play among the trees. Artists sell their wares on the street, performers play music and dance, and women in traditional dress twirl their skirts.

We are in Santiago on a short stopover on our way to Easter Island, and I’m glad we decided to spend some time in the bustling square before heading somewhere far more remote.

The square is right above the Plaza de Armas metro station. The station entrance is surrounded by street vendors selling everything from clothes, to phone chargers to food. It all reminds me … Read the rest

The Sweat-Out-Your-Sins Power of Meaty, Starchy Stew

Urojo in Zanzibar

My first taste of urojo (“oo-row-jo”) was out of necessity. After a stint in Mombasa, Kenya, where I work for an NGO focusing on early childhood development, I was sent to Zanzibar, where I jumped, wallet-first, into the island’s flavors and cocktail hours. After three weeks of hedonistic bliss, I was happy, hungover, and heinously over-budget, and the 2000 Tanzanian shilling (US$1) urojo stand around the corner from our Stone Town offices had never been more enticing.

My guide was a local colleague, Adi. The stand was in an open corner of a concrete building, under a corrugated iron roof, looking out onto a dirt parking lot. With communal cups, ceramic bowls, stone benches, and flies buzzing incessantly, it didn’t look promising. But … Read the rest