Every year I find myself in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a week. It’s inevitable, and always enjoyable.
Angkor Wat is, along with Bagan in Myanmar, one of the two most spectacular temple sites in Asia, if not the world. I’ve come back again and again with friends, or by myself. Although lately I barely spend time in the temples of Angkor Wat, I love the cafe and bar scene of nearby Siem Reap, a charming little French colonial town adjacent to Angkor that now serves as the tourist-amenity center of the region. Though a tourist town, it’s far from a tourist trap. There is something about the clear blue sky, slow clouds and that long twilight that I love here. And, there’s the drinks.
Pub Street is famous here. It is the center of Siem Reap and the fulcrum of activity in … Read More »
There is an old saying that:
“the Chinese eat everything that flies, except airplanes; everything with four legs, except tables; and everything that swims, except submarines”
Food is central to Asian culture, not just the Chinese, but throughout all of Asia. Asian food is generally delicious, and often very strange, to an American traveler. Asians tend to use the whole animal. Sometimes the results are great, sometimes not so.
Here are 15 of the strangest foods I’ve had:
15. CHICKEN NECK
It’s the neck of a chicken, skewered on a stick and served with cheap drafts of local Tsingtao Beer. It’s mostly skin and bone. I actually like spicy duck neck, as there is some meat to enjoy on there, but the chicken neck is just not much of anything.
IS IT GOOD? 2/10
14. GOAT BRAIN
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Goat brain came served in a hot … Read More »
Depends on what you’re here for.
Different countries = different prices for different things.
Do you want to explore cities, see the big attractions, or experience the food and drink? For example, if you’re here to party, the Philippines generally has the cheapest drinks at restaurants and bars. In contrast, Chinese bars and clubs are expensive- comparable to North American prices, but the daily Chinese necessities (subway, street food, bottled water) are damn cheap, so if you’re here to take photos and explore the city life, China will be cheaper than the Philippines. Accommodation also varies in quality, type and price. Your sleeping standards could make or break your budget. In Vietnam, $10 may get you a comfy room with A/C, wifi and free breakfast. In the Philippines, a $10 room is nearly impossible to find.
Asia is a place that people … Read More »
“I was driving myself, pounding out the miles because I was no longer hearing or seeing. I had passed my limit of taking in or, like a man who goes on stuffing in food after he is filled, I felt helpless to assimilate what was fed in through my eyes. Each hill looked like the one just passed. I have felt this way in the Prado in Madrid after looking at a hundred paintings—the stuffed and helpless inability to see more. This would be a time to find a sheltered place beside a stream to rest and refurbish.”
–John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley (1962)
Travel can be hard work. Adrenaline may keep our heads spinning and our feet moving, but it’s important to consider the hidden exhaustion of long trips. Weeks of momentum, scheduling and packing/unpacking will take its toll on your body and dull … Read More »
Upon my first visit to any new Asian city, I am most excited to try the local food. Perhaps the second-most interesting feature unique to each new destination is the creative ways that people are transported across the city. Below are some of my favorite modes of transportation across Southeast Asian cities:
BAJAJ: JAKARTA, INDONESIA
A bajaj, named after the Indian Bajaj motor company, is a motorized rickshaw. There are an estimated 20,000 of these in Indonesia’s “Big Durian” capital of Jakarta. They will seat two comfortably and even accommodate five or six with a little motivation. The drivers are generally upbeat and fairly honest, though a little negotiation is necessary. Just ask a young local what you should pay to your destination before getting in.
The ride can be fun. These guys will fearlessly make a … Read More »
How is there so little street crime?
Don’t get me wrong, there is crime in Asia. There is government corruption, bribery, domestic abuse and organized crime. However, a traveler is highly unlikely to get caught up in this. “Street crime” such as robbery, assault, rape and murder are astonishingly low, especially in North Asia (Mongolia somewhat excluded). In large Asian cities, I have no fear listening to my iPod and walking home through unknown neighborhoods for two hours in the middle of the night.
Travelers and expats appreciate this quality over here, yet can’t seem to explain exactly why it is. Rich and poor are living together. Surely, there are plenty of “opportunities” for crime walking down the streets. So why is Asia so safe?
Here are a few factors that likely influence the low street crime of Asia:
THE SHAME FACTOR
In the USA, … Read More »
Phnom Penh has a bit of a dangerous reputation among travelers, even though most guidebooks tell us it is safer than it looks. No doubt, the place feels a bit unsafe upon a first visit. Is it?
At night, many of the city streets are dimly lit, and shadowy silhouetted figures gather on the street corners. I am accustomed to utilizing the same judgment I would in an American city- where dark, empty streets are suspicious alone after dark, especially with others loitering about. However, coming here from other Asian capitals, I am so accustomed to walking freely with little fear. Is Phnom Penh different?
Given the amount of guns and Cambodia, along with the discrepancy between the income of the locals and the value of a tourist’s backpack, it is a wonder that there is not actually more crime in Phnom Penh. Certainly, the kindness of local strangers … Read More »
So, what’s the difference?
To a non-Asian, the divide between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia is a curious one that takes much time to understand. But as a first-time traveler may find out, there are obvious differences in the people, the traditions, the daily lives and the social and political characteristics between these regions. Let’s try to break it down a bit:
Northeast Asia (China, Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia the Koreas, Japan and Taiwan) and Southeast Asia(Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore) are both extraordinary places to visit- with thousands of years of history, crowded metropolises, warm people and wonderful culinary traditions.
Generally, North Asian countries, while all having unique characteristics, are largely influenced by Confucianism and ancient China. With the recent economic rise of China, the continuing growth of South Korea and Taiwan and the established prosperity of Japan and Hong Kong, North Asia is one of the world’s most prosperous regions and also one of its … Read More »