If you only have room in your brain to know three things about me, let them be this:
1) I love costumes
2) I love surprises—and secrets!—but am terrible at keeping them myself
3) I love food
Some people say that in life you should follow your heart, but we say that when traveling, definitely go with your gut.
It is primarily in the pursuit of food that our first stop in Malaysia winds up being the sleepy town of Muar. Our first impressions of the town are, quite honestly, not great. Based on the rhapsodic praise in our not-so-trusty Lonely Planet, we have arrived expecting a town that not only knows how to eat but one that is also “languorously Malaysian in mood and with the feel of a bustling Chinatown.” Instead, we find a city with lethal traffic, but whose streets are otherwise largely deserted; stepping off the main drag, the vibe that greets us is just a hair more lively than somnambulant. I don’t think tumbleweed is indigenous to Malaysia, but rest assured that if it were, it would be completely at home blowing through Muar’s streets.
As a Canadian, I’m always going to root for the underdog. On a map of the world, Singapore looks like little more than Malaysia’s toenail, so I probably should have felt some solidarity for this little sovereign nation all along. Alas, I can’t honestly say that before we left on our trip (and Chris sent me a sternly worded email that I clearly deserved) that I realized Singapore was a bona fide independent country in its own right. I guess I can consider it divine justice for my ignorance every time someone on our travels insists that “Canada is pretty much part of the United States”. My apologies, Singapore, and also: I get it. You’re your own country, and a pretty kick ass one at that.
In my mind, the only thing better than meeting up with people who love to travel is meeting up with people who love to travel AND who love to eat. While in Cambodia, we had the chance to sit down to dinner with with the wonderful Maddie and Paul who blog over at Two for the Road and, well, not to be melodramatic, but it was a bit like uniting with kindred spirits. The conversation never stopped and no one gave anyone weird judgmental looks when, despite copious amounts of food, we all decided that yes a little dessert would be in order. We had so much fun at dinner that we made plans for the next day and did it all over again.
For such a small country, Singapore offers an astounding number of ways to enter and exit the country; if traveling to neighboring Malaysia, you can fly, drive a car, take a train, take a ferry boat, take a private bus, take a public bus, or even walk! Having taken our fair share of flights since arriving in Asia (the only country we hadn’t flown into thus far was China) and with a little money left on our transit cards, we decided to try for our cheapest international travel day to date and entered Malaysia using nothing but public transportation.
Some eating experiences are transcendental, elevating the art of food to a higher plane, but good food doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, on our travels our most satisfying meals aren’t the high falutin ones with slices of lemon in our water glasses or multiple forks of varying sizes to navigate. Instead, I’ve been all about the no-frills meals that make me feel down-right primitive.
And nothing knocks me a couple of notches down the evolutionary chain more than when I’m attacking a plate full of crab.
“If you’re going to begin a show in Singapore, it should be in a Hawker Center—in fact, in my opinion, it should be in this [Maxwell Food Centre] hawker center—and you should probably begin with the most beloved dish in Singapore, chicken rice.” – Anthony Bourdain
I sincerely hope you aren’t coming to this week’s Chewing the Fat with an empty stomach because today we’re talking to the awesome young woman who helms the popular blog Ashley Abroad! Ashley is a 23-year old American writer and wannabe expat who has spent the last year living in Paris. She has been traveling abroad on her own since she was 15 and so far has lived in Chicago, Buenos Aires and Paris. Most recently, her travels have brought her to Asia for the first time where she is currently backpacking and eating her way across Hong Kong, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
When it comes to listing Asia’s top food destinations, most travelers are quick to name Thailand. It’s a hard choice to argue with, but when Tony & I were plotting our trip, there were two other destinations we honed in on with the intention of simply stuffing ourselves silly: Hong Kong & Singapore.
Prior to becoming a diver, there were few things in life I loved more than visiting an aquarium. I’ve written extensively on this site about my love of the water in general, as well as my love for aquariums in particular, but part of me wondered whether—having finally experienced the wonder of the aquatic world without reinforced panes of glass between it and me—my love affair with aquariums might wane.
There comes a time during every traveler’s foray through Asia when one is eventually confronted with Durian. Travel through this continent for any length of time and sooner or later, you’ll turn a corner and smell something so fetid and foul it will nearly knock you off your feet. You get used to the assault on the senses (particularly olfactory) that travel in Asia provides, but the odor that wafts about when durian is in the vicinity must surely be considered a crime against humanity.
It seems incredibly shortsighted now, but back when Tony & I were planning this trip, we were so focused on the places we would visit and the sights we would see that we gave no thought to the people we might meet and the ways they would change our journey. Looking back, I find it so hard to believe that we could have neglected this aspect of travel, a facet that I have now come to view as critical and the true motivating factor that keeps us going. In the end, it has never been the monuments or the beaches or even the food, that ultimately determines how much we fall head over heels for a country (though those things certainly play some role), but the people we have met and connected with while there.
Just in time to send you into the weekend in a food-induced coma, we’ve got another installment of Chewing the Fat for you, and this one’s likely to get tongues a wagging! Fresh off of several years of non-stop travel, Erica (also known as Locavorista) from Living If took the time to tell us about the highs & lows in her time eating around the world, a journey that ultimately took her and her husband to all seven continents!
Today marks 14 months on the road, and even if I’m marking the occasion curled up on a mercifully soft Nepali mattress battling a flu-turned-head-cold while a flock of pigeons coos lullabies outside our window, this still seems like something worth celebrating. In fact, if our time traveling has taught me anything, it’s that these are the moments that, whether through a whispered exhalation or a holler that shakes the skies above, deserve an offering of thanks.
Throughout the course of our trip, we have focused more on immersing ourselves as deeply as possible in the local culture of wherever we happen to find ourselves rather than bopping around obvious attractions that seem geared more toward pleasure-seeking holiday makers and vacation takers. We don’t have a hardline policy that eschews popular, well-known activities, it’s just that I have found that I tend to learn the most about the world by simply being out in it, wandering the streets and observing the locals living their lives, than I do when we seek out museums and similar diversions. I suppose I simply like my history alive, watching the eddy of time culminate in whatever is unfolding before my eyes in the here and now.