Food

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Food, glorious food

It’s hard to get over what Ho Chi Minh is really today; I use its old name as much as as I do its ‘modern’ one and maybe that encapsulates what this place is really about. Crossing the road is the experience that I’d go as far as to say metaphorises Ho Chi Minh – hesitate and get caught in an interminable flow of traffic that will not stop; go slowly but surely forward and you’ll get to your destination much sooner than you think. The obsession with Vietnamese food continued well into the third day and searching out Cục Gạch Quán was an inspired decision, which, to my horror, proved that we...

The Saigon Miracle

The heat is on in Saigon. After a confusing and unintelligible one-sided conversation with a taxi driver who stopped abruptly at the side of the road to exchange vehicles with another taxi driver, we made it (relatively safely) to the hotel. But I think the true miracle lies in not merely observing the chaotic traffic but walking in it. In a city of 10 million people and 7 motorbikes, crossing the road and coming out alive seemed to be a miracle each time. A short day and a half later, I’m truly thankful – as 2014 comes to a close and as far as ‘self-reflection’ is supposed to go – for limbs...

The day of errands

After the drive north got cancelled, we found ourselves a little too lost with more time on our hands than we’re normally used to on our typical mad-rush vacations. The only things left to do were to rediscover the city centre and try out weird and wonderful food – there was whale meat, horse steak and reindeer salami from the Grillmarkaðurinn in Reykjavik – and window shop on a day that was miserably bleak and rainy once more. When the next (and last) day dawned in Reykjavik, TC and I decided that trying to climb Mt. Esja would be our workout of the day. Going halfway up through moss, melting snow and...

Groove in the Food

Back when I was last in Copenhagen, I had only vague—and most likely erroneous—ideas about Scandinavia. Those included Michael Learns to Rock, herring, The Little Mermaid and minimalist but expensive furniture. None of them included the cuisine at all. This is not to say I didn’t do the usual wandering around old town, venturing further into Vesterbro, Nørrebro and even around Ørestad to do the usual touristy things, with the usual transportation mishaps (mostly to do with malfunctioning ticket machines and several ways of paying for a fare) along the way. But how things have changed, at least on the culinary front. Danish cuisine has since then, developed a reputation...

Snowmobiling in Svalbard

A dummy in a snowmobile suit (complete with a Soviet-era-style helmet) sits in a lonesome chair in the corner, like a WWII relic that Svalbard had forgotten. In reality, it was exactly how we were supposed to dress, with no skin exposed to the elements. I for one, was dancing with joy to learn that the snowmobile had heating in the handlebars for the hands. With Christian (out German guide of Svalbard Scooterutleie) and two other Dutch tourists, we took off into Adventdalen once again, going further than the dogsleds could and up into the Pingo, an Inuvialuktun word that refers to a hill with a core of ice. Pingos,...

Precipitate of the wrong kind

The landscape of the Furano-Biei region would have been brilliant, if not for the intermittent rain and the heavy cloud cover that seemed to surround the encircling mountaintops. But the hotel room looks out over a few majestic snow-capped peaks (I think this is my travel fetish) and it sort of helps make up for the miserable weather. There’s nothing much to do in Furano now except to walk around a bit, do a bit of work and go for dinner. So after visiting the Furano Marche and buying relatively useless stuff (this revelation comes typically on hindsight), I made my way to Teppan Okonomiyaki Masaya. The fact that it;s...

Cloudy bay, cloudy skies

I’ve never driven onto a ship before until yesterday and it was fairly disconcerting not only to see huge 20-wheelers on board parked next to my tiny rental, but also to be treated like cargo freight for a moment. The miserable weather remained miserable just like an irritable old man on the road from the moment I departed Wellington for the South Island at the unholy hour of 7am. The 3.5 hr long ferry ride across the Cook straits in the massive, lumbering hunk of an Interislander ship that was thought to be one of the most scenic rides in the world turned out wet and cold. The boat slowly...

Into a reversal of seasons

When Schilthorn remained closed for yet another day, I was rather foolish to hope that the continuous snowfall would when we stepped out of the Berner Oberland into Vaud and Fribourg. Our route was fairly complicated, long but very scenic (I spent lots of time convincing myself during lull periods that it really was the journey and not the destination that mattered) and with the number of train/bus combination and changes to make any programmer blush, it finally looked like this: Murren cable car – Stechelberg via Gimmelwald, Stechelberg – Lauterbrunnen – Interlaken Ost – Zweisimmen – Gstaad – Montreux – Lausanne. I’m fairly embarrassed to say that I hardly...

Flavour of the far north

I think I fell helplessly in love with the world’s northernmost capital as the plane approached the large island from the southeast, even though it signalled the start of what is probably a gruelling journey of packed tours exacerbated by a persistent flu. Its notoriously changeable weather was in full force out of Keflavik airport, snowing small flakes as we queued like squashed illegal migrants on a tug-boat tussling for a space on the city shuttle. Coming in winter means spending one’s days in near-darkness with slivers of daylight, cloudy skies, hail and snow, but the prettily-lit streets and white surfaces makes it a classy Santa-land. Apartment K is cosy...

The gourmet trail

“Is my face getting rounder? Do I look heavier?” TC won the crown of longsuffering as he constantly endured my increasingly psychotic questions that popped up involuntarily a few times a day and particularly after each meal. Such questions weren’t totally unfounded actually; I think it’s fair to say that I ate myself out of my pants and thereafter thought guiltily and quite a lot of amping up my exercise routine when I got back. This is an example, and it’s only breakfast. Eggs from the Dirk’s farm, herbs from their garden and goodness knows what else is organic. Visiting Margaret River is akin to going on a trail to satiate the senses – it...