Steph, ca. 2010, in Montreal
I will not be the first person to tell you that in order to live a life of full-time travel, I had to make sacrifices. Everyone who has ever decided to travel for an extended period of time has had to give up something in pursuit of that dream—whether it’s cutting out daily trips to Starbucks or selling your car or your house—it’s no secret that people give up a lot in their pursuit to see the world.
But I might just be the first person to admit that one of the hardest things I relinquished in the face of our travel dreams was my hair. Specifically, my short hair.
When we originally launched Chewing the Fat, we had no idea how popular it would prove to be. We mostly just thought it would be fun to talk to some of our favorite travel bloggers about one of our favorite topics and the one thing that seems to unite us: food. It was our fiercest hope that our readers would enjoy the series as much as we enjoyed putting it together, but never in our wildest dreams did we expect the outswelling of enthusiasm and support that it’s generated. Week after week we read comments from you guys letting us know not just how much you’re loving this feature but also that it’s helped turn you on to a bunch of great new blogs. It’s stuff like that makes the time and effort we (& our interviewees) put into Chewing the Fat feel totally worth it.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: you aren’t the only ones who are discovering great new people and blogs from this endeavor. We’ve had countless bloggers who are incredibly passionate about food reach out to us wanting to take part in the series, and some of them have been folks who had flown under our radar. Even more exciting, we’ve had readers who aren’t bloggers contact us asking whether they can take part, to which the answer is a resounding: YES! The only prerequisite to sitting down at the Chewing the Fat Table is that you have an interest in learning a little bit about the world through food. You don’t have to write about it professionally or even for fun, you don’t have to have quit your job and sold all of your possessions, you don’t have to have more stamps in your passport than there are weeks in the year… I think that if there’s one thing that can bring the world together, it’s food, and Chewing the Fat shows us this all the time. Whatever your story, we want to help you share it!
In the spirit of openness and sharing, today we’re chatting with Christina Loiacono. Originally from just outside of Plattsburgh, NY (though her friends might argue that this is basically Canada), Christina is obsessed with all things food and wine, a love affair that started when she moved to New York City back in 2008 to work in travel. After five years in the city, she is now on a path of indefinite travel as a military wife and can’t wait to discover new food in every place she passes through! Although Christina doesn’t have a blog of her own, she does contribute to the blog over at Zerve.
Today with Christina’s help, we take a big bite out of the Big Apple as we talk about best destinations in the city to enjoy a drink (or two!), why the best NY bagels are actually found in Long Island (scandalous!), and the best neighborhoods for international cuisine that won’t break the bank… or require a passport! It’s all here—and more—after the jump!
Asia is a continent of superlatives.
Nearly every attraction we have visited is touted as the top of its kind and worthy of its own chapter in the Guinness Book of World Records. I’m not sure how many “biggest buddha in country X/Asia/the world/the universe” we have seen at this point, but suffice to say that number is way higher than the logical value of 1.
Given how much confusion there is over qualities that theoretically should be objective like size or age, it’s little wonder that things get even dicier when we talk about subjective judgments such as “best” or, since I’m talking about Malaysia and its food in this post, “tastiest”.
From day one, one of the things we loved most about Malaysia was its food. So, it was with a mixture of excitement and skepticism that we processed reports claiming that Penang was Malaysia’s culinary crown jewel—after the incredibly good eating we experienced even in random little places like Muar, it hardly seemed possible that any one place could stand out amongst a landscape of such fantastic food.
The capital of Penang province, George Town is known for several things: its food, its historic buildings, and its Thai embassy that issues 60-day tourist visas within a single day. I think you can all guess which of these three things attracted us to the city, but I’ll admit, in between eating (the topic for a future post), we actually did spend plenty of time soaking in the cultural sights on offer.
Founded in 1768 and named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, there are ample attractions—from beautiful mosques to the ornate homes of wealthy Chinese traders—to delight inquisitive travelers. But perhaps the city’s biggest draw is its preserved colonial core—the area is sufficiently compact that it’s easily walkable, but is large enough to allow one to escape the crowds (or the harried traffic that is inescapable in Asia, even in a purportedly pedestrian friendly area) by wandering down an overlooked alleyway and discover something new. As we quickly learned, the simple act of stepping out the front door in George Town is a bit like tumbling through the looking glass into a fantastic wonderland.
A surefire sign that you’ve acclimated to Asia is when spotting a wild monkey fills you with dread rather than joy. Monkeys are to Asia what skunks are to North America—menacing little scavengers that you’re best off giving wide berth. I don’t need to be sprayed by a skunk to know I wouldn’t enjoy it, and in a similar way, after catching a glimpse of a monkey’s incisors, I know I’d really rather not be bit by one and should steer clear of them. Early on in our travels, spotting a wild monkey would cause me to shriek or clap my hands with glee, but having witnessed enough nearly feral monkeys scrabble, pounce and scratch at people, I recognize and respect them for the little menaces that they are.
You don’t see wild monkeys running about downtown Kuala Lumpur (thank god!), but you don’t have to travel very far to find them. Just a short 1 MYR (~33¢) ride on the KTM Kommuter train spits you out at the Batu Caves.
And where there are caves, you’d better believe there are monkeys.