Travelling in South Korea (or living in Korea!) is always a joy no matter what time of the year, but there is something very special about summertime on the Korean peninsula. And when the snow melts and the sun comes out, Koreans like nothing more than to chill with some good food (and Soju).
Naengmyeon is a traditional Korean dish of long and thin handmade noodles, served in a tangy iced broth, with a boiled egg and cold boiled beef. Traditionally, these long noodles would be eaten without cutting, as they symbolised longevity of life and good health.
Dotorimuk may only be a form of jelly made from acorn starch but when sprinkled with copious amounts of kimchi and pickles this side dish is eaten throughout Korea in the summer, as a treat before the main meal.
Jangei Gui is the Korean name for grilled eel. This is a tasty fishy treat that is perfect for summertime, and it can be found in great quantity throughout the street food markets of Seoul.
Oi Muchim is a spicy cucumber salad that is devoured by Koreans in the heat. Usually a side dish (banchan), it is preferred on the hottest days of the year as the spiciness helps people sweat and thus stay cooler!
Subak Hwachae is a simple watermelon punch, that is drank in hot weather to keep cool. The best version is the punch that is served inside the sliced half of watermelon – very Instagrammable!
Samgyetang is a famous ginseng chicken soup that has been exported all over Asia. This hot soup is always served as a summer favourite – and the hotter the day, the more this dish gets eaten!
Patbingsu cannot be ignored when talking about summertime snacks in Korea. Traditionally an after-dinner treat, this is a famous Korean shaved ice dessert topped with fresh fruit and red beans. It is no surprise that Koreans eat Patbingsu by the bucket load!
Whatever you decide to eat when travelling in Korea this summer, make sure you take plenty of pictures for Instagram, as I find Korean cuisine very photogenic (not to mention very tasty, too!).
Despite travelling for a long time in Asia, Africa, and South America, it took me a while to fully appreciate the majesty of the Mediterranean. Now, however, I have made up for lost time and explored some of the region’s finest landmarks. Many countries lay claim to having a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Libya, and Morocco. But which are the finest destinations in the Mediterranean? Here are my top 5!
One of the easiest things to see and enjoy when in Reykjavík is the Blue Lagoon, situated just a half hour drive west of the Icelandic capital. It is a very impressive attraction and reminds us all why Iceland is so beautiful!
Photo: Guide to Iceland
This geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland, and even better, in the dead of winter (or on a particularly chilly day), no one will say no to escaping the freezing elements by soaking in some warm geothermal waters! Soaking in the milky blue waters is a wonderful way to de-stress and say goodbye to any worries you may have, all while keeping you warm in the intrepid Icelandic weather and doing wonders for your skin!
Upon arrival in Iceland, your hotel or hostel can arrange a trip to the Blue Lagoon, and bookings can be made with them. When you get to the Blue Lagoon, you will need to show your confirmation ticket at the counter, and you’ll receive a wristband that allows access to all of the facilities, including a locker (handy if you’ve come directly from the airport!), and will also be used for any purchases you make during your time there.
Before you enter the lagoon, you will need to shower naked to make sure you are clean. This freaks a lot of people out but there are private showers for any self-conscious people out there. When you’re clean and ready to go, put on your Speedos or swimsuit and enjoy the warm water! The lagoon is spread out with enough room for everyone (especially now that they began limiting the number of people using it at once), and be sure to explore the different parts – including the funky swim up bar!
Sure, if you accept Easter as part of your culture, then you will probably love receiving some chocolate eggs during the festivities each year. However, there are some amazing foods from around the world that are eaten traditionally over the Easter and Lent period. Some of these you may know, some you may not, but they all look extremely tasty – and probably healthier than chocolate eggs, too! So let’s now look at 14 of the finest Easter snacks that you could munch on in 2018!
Tsoureki is a sweet, egg-enriched bread that can be shaped either into a circle or into two large braids and sprinkled with nuts or blanched almonds. It is served with red Easter eggs that have been dyed to represent the blood of Christ or red rosebuds.
Kulich is a kind of Easter bread that is traditional in the Orthodox Christian faith and is eaten traditionally after the Easter service, when it has been put into a basket, decorated with colourful flowers, and blessed by the priest. Blessed kulich is eaten before breakfast each day. Any leftover kulich that is not blessed is eaten with cheese Paskha for dessert.
Schinken im Brotteig, Germany
Schinken im Brotteig is a simple German snack which is basically ham inside bread. It is a traditional Easter snack, but can also be eaten at other times of the year.
Capirotada is a traditional Mexican food similar to a bread pudding that is usually eaten during the Lent Period. It is one of the dishes served on Good Friday.
Advocaat is a traditional Dutch alcoholic beverage made from eggs, sugar and brandy. The rich and creamy drink has a smooth, custard-like flavour.
Cape Malay Pickled Fish, South Africa
Cape Malay Pickled Fish is a traditional meal for many South Africans over long weekends, such as Easter. The fish takes a few days to marinate in the fridge, but when festivities are in full swing, it can be served with green salad, or even some chips!
Mammi is traditionally made of water, rye flour, and powdered malted rye, seasoned salt, and dried powdered Seville orange zest. The mixture is then allowed to go through a slow natural sweetening process before being baked in an oven until set with Maillard reaction. Preparation takes many hours, and after baking the mämmi is stored chilled for three to four days before being ready to eat. Generally, mämmi is eaten cold with either milk or cream and sugar, and less commonly with vanilla sauce.
Torta Pasqualina, Argentina
Torta Pasqualina is usually eaten for Easter breakfast and is a light flan made of egg, spinach, and herbs. It is very similar in texture to a quiche.
Hot Cross Buns, United Kingdom
Hot Cross Buns are spiced sweet buns made with currants or raisins, marked with a cross on the top, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The buns mark the end of Lent and different parts of the hot cross bun have a certain meaning, including the cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices inside signifying the spices used to embalm him at his burial.
Fanesca is a soup traditionally prepared and eaten by households and communities in Ecuador during Holy Week. It is a rich soup, with the primary ingredients being figleaf gourd (sambo), pumpkin (zapallo), and twelve different kinds of beans and grains including chochos (lupines), habas (fava beans), and lentils, together with bacalao (salt cod) cooked in milk, due to the Catholic religious prohibition against red meat during Holy Week. The twelve beans represent the twelve apostles of Jesus, and the bacalao is symbolic of Jesus himself.
Chipa is a type of small, baked, cheese-flavoured roll, and is a popular snack food in Paraguay. At Easter, Chipas will become more widely-consumed and usually cut into all kinds of strange shapes, perhaps representing Easter motifs. The Chipa is very similar to the street food known as Pão de Queijo from Brazil.
Hornazo is a Spanish meat pie eaten in the provinces of Salamanca and Ávila in Spain. It is made with flour and yeast and stuffed with pork loin, spicy chorizo sausage, and hard-boiled eggs. It is traditionally consumed around Easter time.
Gubana seems to be a fruit and nut cake originating from northern Italy. It is very similar to a strudel from Austria. The distinctive snail-shaped markings of the Gubana are seen in villages everywhere over the festive period.
The battle for the skies is hotting up in South East Asia as two heavyweights of the aviation industry as regularly competing for the same kind of passengers. Garuda Indonesia and Malaysia Airlines are similarly structured companies, but which can lay claim to besting the other?
Garuda Indonesia (GA) was founded in August 1947 and is national flag carrier of Indonesia. It is named after the Holy bird of Hinduism, the Garuda. Skytrax rate Garuda Indonesia as one of the new 5 star airlines in the business, and since 2014, Garuda Indonesia has been part of the SkyTeam alliance.
Malaysia Airlines (MH) commenced operations on 1 May, 1947. It is the largest airline and flag carrier of Malaysia. MH has been part of the OneWorld airline alliance since 2013. In the past few years, Malaysia Airlines has been in the news for the tragic crashes of Flight MH370 and Flight MH17.
Garuda Indonesia has its main hub at Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK). This airport will not win any awards for its access from the city, check-in experience, or peak-time crowd control, yet over the past few years there has been a marked improvement at CGK with the opening of Terminal 3, which provides a much better departure experience. In 2022, Terminal 4 is planned to open, which will hopefully further alleviate the crowds at one of the busiest airports in the world (and busiest of all in the southern hemisphere).
Malaysia Airlines’ main hub is at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), and it is where its long haul international flights depart. Smaller hubs are in Penang and Kota Kinabalu. KLIA is one of the region’s better airports, although there has been issues with security in the past. As far as passengers are concerned, the departure and transit experiences are very good, and Malaysia Airlines has many lounges for its premium passengers to enjoy before take-off. Airside, KLIA is relatively spacious although at peak times it does not always feel that way due to an already outdated design.
Garuda Indonesia have a very large and varied fleet, but with 24 A330s on the books, this is considered their trademark medium-haul aircraft. Servicing an archipelago, GR obviously need plenty of narrow body aircraft to make quick island-hops, and the bulk of these planes are B737s, of which GR own over 70! Garuda also have 10 B777 aircraft, which are used on trunk routes to Europe and (eventually) beyond. It is surprising that Garuda have not placed any order for ‘modern’ wide-body aircraft such as the B787 Dreamliner or the Airbus A350, but who knows what the future may hold?!
Malaysia Airlines’ A380 big bird
Malaysia Airlines have an all-Airbus fleet of wide-body aircraft, and an all-Boeing fleet of narrow body aircraft. In 2017, MH received the first of their six ordered Airbus A350s, and have been flying the A380 “SuperJumbo” since 2012. The bulk of the MH, however, is made up of 15 Airbus A330s, each fitted with a new business class interior. A long-time flyer of the B777, MH now stores all of these aircraft (8 in total) in a disused hangar in Kuala Lumpur, awaiting buyers from overseas.
With Garuda Indonesia, your flight experience in economy class very much depends on the kind of aircraft on which you are flying on that given day. There is considerable inconsistency in my experience with the comfort values onboard with GA, at least when comparing its international aircraft and domestic aircraft (even the same aircraft model, but with different interior catering to different markets).
Despite some uninformed misgivings from passengers before experiencing for themselves, the general consensus AFTER you have flown with MH in economy is an extremely positive one. It is true that the new A350 and even the A380 have impeccable standards of presentation in the economy cabin, although older aircraft such as the B777 and especially the B737 narrow-body have outdated seats and entertainment systems. Yet when Malaysia Airlines gets it right, as they do with the newer in-flight products on the A350, you can safely say they are a joy to fly with; even ultra long haul flights from London to Kuala Lumpur cannot get boring.
Garuda’s Business Class offering aboard the B777
Garuda Indonesia’s business class is known as Executive Class and on the B777 it is situated in the middle of the aircraft. Containing 42 flat-bed seats with 180degree recline ability, it is no surprise that Garuda get very good reviews for this cabin. On their narrow body aircraft to fly around SE Asia and throughout Indonesia, GA have a smaller Executive Class cabin with 12 reclining seats.
A380 Business Class with MH
Malaysia Airlines have their award-winning business class at the front end of the A330 with around 27 lay flat seats/beds, even though these are considered quite narrow at only 20″. There is no first class on the MH A330 so business class always seems to be fully booked with happy passengers. On the Airbus A380, MH has its business class located on the upper deck only, in 2-2-2 formation.
With some airlines relinquishing their first class cabins these days, it is surprising that both Garuda Indonesia and Malaysia Airlines persist with the high-end seats, at least on their respective wide-body aircraft. MH have 8 open suites on the A380, whereas Garuda has impressive first class seats on the older version of its B777 (newer versions do not have a first class cabin).
I have always been impressed the cabin crew of Garuda Indonesia. Even in the days when the airline was in much worse shape than it is now, its cabin crew always stood out and provided a great example of Indonesian hospitality and customer service. Now that standards have risen, it could be forgiven that members of GA’s crew sometimes lapse but this is not typically the case. On short-haul flights, Garuda’s cabin crew provide a simple service to complement your quick method of travel, yet on longer journeys, the cabin crew provide a more fulsome (yet in no way imposing) service to contribute to full meal services, menu distribution, cleaning duties, customer queries etc. – all with smiles on their faces.
Malaysia Airlines has always been known to have had a very friendly cabin crew, even dating back to the days when it was the same brand as what we now know as Singapore Airlines (before independence). If there was a criticism of MH cabin crew it..
I have rarely been as impressed with a country’s landscape as I was when I travelled through Bolivia. From the Andes to the Amazon, everywhere you look you can find amazing examples of just why so many people are continuing to travel to Bolivia. Here are 5 hidden gems (or not so hidden) that you can seek out in Bolivia, although I am excluding Lake Titicaca from this list, as I have covered it already from the Peruvian side in another blog.
Cerro Rico is a mountain in the Andes near the Bolivian city of Potosí. Cerro Rico was famous for providing vast quantities of silver for Spain during the period of the New World Spanish Empire. The mountain, which is popularly conceived of as being “made of” silver ore, caused the city of Potosí to become one of the largest cities in the New World up to the beginning of the 18th century.
Valle de la Luna is situated about 10km from downtown La Paz. It consists of an area where erosion has worn away the majority of a mountain, composed primarily of clay rather than rock, leaving tall spires. It is an important site of the famous holiday, Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The appearance of Valle de la Luna very much reminds me of the national parks of Malaysia and Madagascar.
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat and is located near the crest of the Andes and is at an elevation of 12,000ft above sea level. It was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. The large area, clear skies, and exceptional flatness of the surface makes Salar de Uyuni an ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of Earth observation satellites. Salar de Uyuni also serves as the major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano and is a major breeding ground for several species of flamingos.
Tiwanaku is a major Incan ruin in Bolivia
Tiwanaku is a very popular ruin site and may have been inhabited as early as 1500 BC as a small agricultural village. During the time period between 300 BC and AD 300, Tiwanaku is thought to have been a moral and cosmological centre for the Tiwanaku empire, and one to which many people made pilgrimages.
The Bolivian Amazon
Madidi National Park ranges from the glacier-covered peaks of the high Andes Mountains to the tropical rainforests of the Tuichi River, and is recognised as one of the planet’s most biologically diverse regions. If you can find your way here, there are plenty of cheap eco-lodges to rent, and it gives you the chance to say “I slept in the Amazon!”.
I had only came to Chennai briefly to see the glorious monuments of Mahabalipuram, but while in the area I thought I would check out another of the city’s major attractions: The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust.
The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust is the largest crocodile park in the whole of India, and must be one of the largest in the world. However, what sets this one in Chennai apart from others I have visited is that there is real good progress being researched and undertaken for the crocodiles. There are nearly 2,500 crocodiles here from 14 different species, including ‘Salties’, alligators, and false gharials (those slender-snouted ones on the left of the photo above). I was surprised to pay only the standard 55 Rupees to enter, as I thought I would be charged more as a foreigner.
There isn’t much for tourists to do in Chennai really, so if you’re looking for a way to spend a couple of hours then I would really recommend the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust park. It is not just crocodiles here (although they are the celebrities, for sure), as you can see turtles, tortoises, snakes, lizards, and even Komodo Dragons from the far eastern reaches of Indonesia! One of the best exhibits I saw when walking around was actually at a research station where there was a cool display of every egg from the crocodilian family. It was nice to see the difference in sizes between a caiman egg and an alligator egg, for example.
The park is open 6 days a week (closed Mondays) with the last admission being 5pm each day. On the east coast of India, the sun sets after this time, so it means that even at closing time you will still be able to clearly see the crocodiles and other reptiles and amphibians in their enclosures – and for safety reasons I am thankful that I am not walking around in the dark with 2,500 crocs! For the fearless among you, the night safari here at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust might also be a great way to spend an evening (just make sure you’re prepared to fight off the mosquitoes!).
One of the greatest Empires in history is that of the Romans. Most of us learned that at school. But when on our travels, exactly which parts of the world can we see some of the best examples of Roman architecture? From the Roman heartland of Italy to present-day Syria, there are certainly some impressive cities to visit, some of which were built and some of which were just invaded. So what did the Romans ever do for us, eh?
Umm Qais, Jordan
5. Umm Qais, Jordan, is the modern name for the city that was once known as Gadara, itself a major city of the Greco-Roman Decapolis. The Bible also says that Umm Qais was the historic location where Jesus cast out the Devil from two Demoniacs into a herd of pigs. Nowadays, many visitors come to Umm Qais on day trips to see its extensive ruins and enjoy its panoramic views.
The tragic tale of Pompeii, Italy
4. Pompeii, Italy, was an ancient Roman city near modern-day Naples. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was mostly destroyed and buried under 20ft of volcanic ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. These days, Pompeii has UNESCO World Heritage Site status and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, with approximately 2.5 million visitors every year.
Palmyria, Syria, before ISIS occupation
3. Palmyra, Syria, is an ancient Semitic city in present-day Homs Governorate. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic period, and the city was first documented in the early second millennium BC. Palmyra changed hands on a number of occasions between different empires before becoming a subject of the Roman Empire in the first century AD. In modern times, religious extremists have destroyed much of the site, including three of the best preserved tower tombs and even buildings with no religious meaning. Reconstruction in underway.
2. Baalbek, Lebanon, is a city in the Anti-Lebanon foothills east of the Litani River in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, about 53 miles northeast of Beirut. Following Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia in the 330s BC, Baalbek (under its Hellenic name “Heliopolis”) formed part of the Diadochi Kingdoms of Egypt & Syria. It was annexed by the Romans during their eastern wars. The settlers of the Roman colony “Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Heliopolitana” may have arrived as early as the time of Caesar. It retained its religious function during Roman times, when it attracted thousands of pilgrims. Baalbek, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture.
The Roman Coliseum
1. The Roman Coliseum, Italy, is located in the Italian capital and laid at the heart of what was known as the Roman Empire. It was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre and was commissioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian to stage deadly combat of gladiators publically fighting wild animals. These combats were attended by the poor, the rich, and sometimes even by the Emperor himself. One contest after another was staged in the course of a single day. Should the ground become too soaked with blood, it was covered over with a fresh layer of sand and the performance went on. Now it is a must-see attraction when in Rome.
Fed up with those Saltwater Crocodiles infesting your nearby river? Chuck ’em on the barbie. Spent a bit of time in Asia and suddenly have a craving for dog? Go catch a Dingo. However, those animals are not particularly what you would call “cute”. Australia has its fair share of native cute animals, some of which are regularly appearing on a menu near you.
Can you eat them? No.
Why not? All koalas are protected by Australian law and I learned that it is illegal to keep them as a pet in any country around the world. Supposedly Koala is on the menu within some discerning Chinese towns, and allegedly the meat has a feint taste of eucalyptus…
Can you eat them? Yes.
What does it taste like? Emu meat is similar in taste and texture to lean beef, but lower in cholesterol, fat, and calories. The tenderness of emu meat enables it to be prepared in a variety of ways. It is best prepared lightly grilled or pan fried.
Can you eat them? No.
Why not? The platypus is highly toxic so it is in no way suitable for Human consumption. In addition, the platypus is also a protected species in Australia.
Can you eat them? No.
Why not? Although high in muscle and fat, wombats are a protected species so cannot be eaten Down Under. But why would you want to eat something as docile as a wombat anyway?!
This kangaroo was found at the Blue Mountains
Can you eat them? Yes.
What does it taste like? I would say that kangaroo tastes like a cross between venison and buffalo meat. It has a wonderful gamey taste that adds a lot of flavour without being overpowering – perhaps because kangaroos feed on grass and shrubs. The texture of kangaroo meat is not quite as dry as deer but nonetheless leaner than buffalo.
I am not a big fan of exotic meats, in fact I find a lot of its sale and consumption disgusting. However, travel around the world opens up knowledge of new cuisines (and not just in Asia, as I did see guinea pig on the menu in Peru!). I would much rather enjoy these cute Aussie animals in the zoo rather than in a restaurant – but for meat like kangaroo and emu, there are people out there who enjoy this kind of thing and see it as no different to munching on chicken, for example.
I had always wanted to visit Hainan island, which is marketed as the Chinese version of Hawaii. The climate is certainly the same as Hawaii, and the sheer amount of luxury hotels around Hainan is also similar to what you would find across the Pacific. But what is there to do on Hainan island for a mere backpacker?
Sanya Phoenix International Airport was my arrival point
I flew to Sanya from Singapore (with a short layover at Hong Kong Airport – didn’t bother going downtown this time), and I usually make the mistake of arriving at a new destination in the evening, which means more trouble and stress to find my way to the hotel or hostel. Not this time. I finally learned from my previous mistakes and made sure I knew what I was doing as I embarked on my tropical trip!
The icon of Hainan: Nanshan Temple
First impressions of Hainan were very good. I have been to other tropical parts of China, such as Xishuangbanna and even Guangzhou/Shenzhen, but never this island. What you need to know when you come to Hainan is that a lot of Chinese tourists use this as their ‘getaway from life’ kind of trip. Passports are expensive in China, but Chinese people can visit Hainan almost free of charge (minus airfare) as they don’t need a passport to get here.
Yalong Bay is the scene of many luxury hotels
The St. Regis Hotel, Sanya
My cheap hotel was in Sanya in the south of the island, which is also where most of the luxury hotels are based, in particular around Yalong Bay, and Haitang Bay. I enjoyed experiencing the city life and had a walk along the beaches, although I did get the feeling that a solo backpacker was not particularly welcome near these luxury hotels. As far as I know, none of the beaches are private, but you still have to watch where you are going, as the resorts organise water sports activities for guests, and if you are not staying at that resort then you are unceremoniously ushered away if you don’t show your hotel key card upon request.
Pristine rainforest on Hainan island
Monkeys were everywhere!
So if you’re not a millionaire, what can you actually do here on Hainan island? Well, what I found most fascinating was the rainforest in the centre of the island. I spent 2 whole days sweating profusely as I explored the Yanuo Tropical Rain Forest Resort, all the while watching my footing for poisonous snakes. Thankfully, I didn’t see any snakes, but monkeys are everywhere – I hate monkeys!
Qilou Old Street reminded me of Saigon
For culture, the Binlang Ethnic Village is a great place to stop at, to learn about the life and art of the minority Li and Miao tribes, and for food, drink, and general joie de vivre, Qilou Old Street was a main hang out of mine. I didn’t meet any other travellers to talk with (most people were rich, middle-aged holidaymakers) but I did enjoy the vibe at Qilou Old Street. There is a fairly good wildlife park here on Hainan island, too, as well as many shopping centres – but, again, unless you have lots of money there may not be any suitable souvenirs or memorabilia to take back to your hostel.
I will plan to go into more detail about these places when I get a more stable internet connection!