The Cranky Barbarian's

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Beyond the culinary

The crowds and the smells always indicate that something food-related is near. Well, it’s certainly true of the legendary night markets in Taipei – there’re 14 of them at least, some lesser known to the tourists which locals frequent – that are noisy, bustling affairs of smoke, dirt and well, some delicious finds. We managed only 3 here and if the plan was to eat our way through the streets lined with stores and persistent sellers, there’s really only so much I could stomach when it comes to fried chicken, bubble tea and starchy oyster omelette, let alone consecutive days of this stuff. More traditional dishes do tend to be...

Taipei Eats: A food tour

It’s difficult to know where to begin with the mind-boggling food of Taiwan but one thing I knew when I planned this trip was that it would be near impossible to get around to the places the locals like without having an English-speaking local to bring us around. Going with Taipei Eats for a few hours of walking and eating traditional Taiwanese dishes was a god-send, as was the lovely guide Jean who took us through the maze of streets and wet markets – and straight into the heart of Taipei where shops could be holes in the wall with untranslated menus. The philosophy of Taipei Eats, as Jean explained,...

When mining mattered

I’ve hesitated for years about Taiwan, in part due to the language which has been prohibitive for me, despite how much friends of mine have said—and extolled—about this place. This time around, I have 3 travel companions with me and planning for all of them has been a bloody pain and travelling with them, an even bigger one. But Taipei at least, has impressed me from the very start and reminds me (and this is a complete generalisation here) of what China might have been like had Maoist communism   not taken root in the population. I found the people polite and incredibly service-oriented, almost like the Japanese in fact...

Have you brought it all?

Despite the incredibly officious sounding title, this is simply a post emphasising the importance of staying safe on the road especially when it comes to documentation and the very small but vital thing called the passport. It has been nearly a decade since I fell prey to a squat couple in the hills of Barcelona, who managed to snatch my passport, my debit card and a small amount of cash as they squirted something disgusting – resembling bird shit – on me. I wished I’d obeyed my instincts to whip around then and off them down that steep slope. What followed was a series of painful events that created unnecessary stress...

Travel planning and Templates

Setting up an itinerary shouldn’t have to be difficult. Neither should it suck because planning the time-out – as I believe as least – should be a joyful prelude to the actual holiday itself. Thankfully, templates do make it all easier. I started out with writing everything on paper, then got frustrated when I ended up cancelling and overwriting what I’d initially written down. The mess was horrifying, not to mention the amount of paper that was wasted that I should have been a bit more conscious of as well. Doing up a plan on a blank canvas like Microsoft word however, can be intimidating. Pulling together the information from...

A brief excuse for adventure

I never though I’d find myself in Krabi again, but I did. And did so for a few short days filled to the brim with diving and climbing…with some backbreaking, painfully agonising Thai traditional massages in between that left me more bruised than diving or climbing every did. Wanting to do something new each time I dive, I opted to try the PADI digital underwater course with The Dive Ao Nang. The course itself was a disappointment (apart from the bits that taught white balance in the water and the effect of colours at depth) and the dive sites (at Phi Phi) were abysmal with visibility that was no better than...

Embers and ashes

Not a week ago, an uncle of mine died very suddenly, in a hospital where he was being treated for a fall. He had been weak for some time, but his death was nonetheless a shock. He was joking with the nurses at 7 p.m. on a monday night; a half hour later, his heart gave out and he couldn’t be resuscitated at all. The details (and the full extent of) his ill health came later: the official cause of death was ischaemic heart disease, a ticking time bomb that was simply waiting to happen. My aunt – his widow – and the woman whom we know as Aunt D, had...

Staying Fit on the road

Being a creature of routine brings its own comforts when I’m back the my daily grind. After a few years, I’ve settled into a fixed sort of schedule that allots time for work and play and exercise. Going on the road changes that routine drastically and throwing in jetlag, the lack of movement makes me twitchy and sometimes, ill-tempered, because I think I can’t really handle sitting down and doing nothing for long periods. Long flights, needless to say, are extremely traumatic and painful for me. Some people tolerate it much better, but I think I’ve become a bear on planes. But I digress. There are some ways I sneak...

Dancing on walls

So said the climbing instructor last night, because climbers endeavour to ‘flow’ on walls, with one movement melding smoothly into the next in a series of twists, turns, smears and flags. Those definitions confound me and only make sense when they’re broken down into simple moves and repeated. It’s jaw-droppingly graceful when the instructor does it (so much that I felt like he needed a glossy magazine spread of his own), unlike my own stilted movements when I go from one hand-hold to another with gritted teeth. The last two weeks of sports climbing have been interesting, to say the least. Rather than learning rope techniques again, I signed up for a climbing...

Adventure Travel

I’ve toyed numerous times with adding a little more adventure to my travels. But this is an impetus that has only grown in my head recently as I started looking for something that went beyond walking around city streets and ducking into suburban lanes and cafés for most of a holiday. Having tried some white-water rafting, ice-climbing, snowmobiling and hikes as part of day trips, I think I’m hooked to some more adrenaline pumping moves that I want to explore: there’s climbing outdoors, Antarctica to visit, more rafting to do, canyoning, skiing, surfing and more diving in the Northern Hemisphere, visiting the world’s most remote islands and inland places… The list...