aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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Tag: Asia
pregnancy is like backpacking through southeast asia

Children in CambodiaA baby in Cambodia

I've spent about as much time backpacking through Asia and Africa as I have been pregnant and, to be honest, there isn't all that much difference between the two.  Pregnancy is like backpacking through Southeast Asia because:

  • in the beginning, you're disoriented, exhausted, and disbelieving (Did I really just cross over two continents in 17 hours?  Is there really a tiny human being growing inside me?)
  • you could wake up on any given morning and vomit
  • after a little while, things even out and you start to feel great and love this place
  • it's January and the ceiling fan is running on high
  • fantasies tend to involve wine, really good soft cheeses, and Kosher dill pickles
  • personal boundaries disappear as strangers ask about every element of your life (What is your job?  How much do you make?  Did you plan this pregnancy?  What are your labor and delivery plans?)
  • soon, you're carrying an extra 25 to 30 pounds of luggage, making you wobble like an ungainly penguin

. . . keep reading pregnancy is like backpacking through southeast asia after the jump


the taste of two years

The savor of the last two years lingers on our lips.  We have eaten countless meals at street stalls, restaurants, cafes, cooking classes, and homes in 19 countries but no meal has been the same as any other.  This post collects the most memorable tastes of our travels and we hope that you enjoy this (mostly) salivating journey through the world, as seen by our cameras and remembered by our stomachs.

Drinks outside of Sydney Opera House

The effervescence coating our tongues and minds from our first champagne and beer toast to our round-the-world trip.  Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia.

Mamak roti canai

Impossibly light, flaky, and sweet roti canai with vanilla ice cream that we tracked down on three different nights, claiming that we had "photography issues" and needed to take better pictures.  Mamak, Sydney, Australia.

Mangoes and papayas

The weeks spent in small towns in Australia where we ate EVERY SINGLE meal with french fries (even my lasagna came with fries), and our relief at finally finding fresh fruit.  Port Douglas farmers' market, Port Douglas, Australia.

Charles Melton vineyard

The explosion of strawberry and flowers in the dry 2009 Rose of Virginia wine, which continues to be the best rose we have ever tasted.  Charles Melton vineyards, Barossa Valley, Australia.


The creamy, oniony, and healthy mujadara we made with our own hands while camping through New Zealand, a much needed respite after a month eating restaurant food.  Our kitchen.

Milford Sound

The fact that we were too exhausted from flipping over our kayak in the frigid Milford Sound to photograph the best meal we had in New Zealand, including a beetroot cream cheese, a basil pesto, and a white bean hummus served with wheat bread on a rustic plank, roasted and stuffed red peppers, and venison with roasted portobello mushrooms.  Redcliff Inn, Te Anau, New Zealand.

Blue cheese souffle Wairau River

The sinful smoothness from eating a blue cheese souffle under a deep blue New Zealand sky with fields of vineyards at our feet.  Wairau River vineyard, Marlborough region, New Zealand.

St. Joseph's Belgian Tripel

The rich nuttiness of a MOA Barrel Reserve beer, each aged in a wine barrel from the Marlborough region.  MOA, Marlborough region, New Zealand.


The wormy appearance and texture of the delicate whitebait, which tasted somewhere between crab and a white fish, and is much sought after in New Zealand.  Cafe de Paris, Hokitika, New Zealand.

Hangi sweetpotatoes

Our amazement that noxious sulfur makes vegetables and chicken taste delicious when cooked hangi-style.  Cosy Cottage International Holiday Park, Rotorua, New Zealand.


Learning how to make sweet kozhakattai (coconut dumplings) from my grandmother, the woman in whose kitchen I first learned to appreciate food.  Patti's house, Chennai, India.

Noodles at Wat Chedi Luang

The generous welcome from the Thai people as we arrived for the feast at the head monk's funeral at Wat Chedi Luang, and ate plate after plate of noodles and rice with masses of Thai people dressed in black and white.  Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Red chili paste

The eye-blistering smell of red chilies being mashed for what would become the best Thai curry we have ever eaten.  Asia Scenic Cooking Class, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

 Mushrooms on a stick Lampang

Pulling semi-dried mushrooms off bamboo skewers with our teeth while wandering around the colorful throngs as night fell on Lampang.  Weekend night market, Lampang, Thailand.

Bamboo in elephant's mouth

Sharing a meal of vegetarian fare, bananas, and bamboo with our elephant friends --- and, yes, they ate way more than we did.  Patara Elephant Farm, Chiang Mai, Thailand.  

Spring rolls Rice fields
Spring roll dough Rice paper wrappers

Realizing that the rice paper wrappers we use to make simple spring rolls take months of toil in rice fields and hours of back-breaking labor over a fast-spinning stove in Southeast Asia.  Rice fields, Sukhothai, Thailand; rice paper wrapper visit, Battambang, Thailand; spring rolls made in our kitchen.


The joy of purposeful charity as we watched Cambodian street children make and serve us amok, a stew of coconut, fish, and curry, as training for future jobs in the hospitality industry.  Romdeng and Friends, restaurants run by Mith Samlanh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Introducing our traveling friends to the best vegetarian restaurant we have ever tried; their mushroom and eggplant dips were akin to the nectar of gods.  Chamkar, Siem Reap, Cambodia. (sorry, no picture here)


Tofu fried Tofu flecked with vegetables

Awakening to the power and beauty of tofu, boiled and served with soy sauce, served as cold yuba (tofu skin), grilled with miso paste, flecked with vegetables, or any of the other innumerable ways it may be served.  All over Kyoto, Japan.


Discovering that though okonomiyaki --- a light pancake filled with cabbage, cheese, meat, barbeque sauce, and mayonnaise --- may sound disgusting, it is actually one of the most delicious food finds in this world.  Okonomiyaki joints, Hiroshima, Japan.

 Sashimi bowl

Eating the best sushi ever in a bar with laminated countertops and stools that could fit no more than 20 people at any given time, right outside the Tokyo Fish Market.  Tokyo Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan.

Kaiseki dinner

Indulging in a kaiseki dinner, the ultimate Japanese meal, at a traditional ryokan after spending the day relaxing in mineral baths.  Kamesei Ryokan, Chikuma City, Japan.


 Adjusting to the sweet and squishy world of Japanese desserts All over Japan.

South Korean food

Ordering four items that appeared to be vegetarian in order to find one Korean vegetarian dish because vegetarianism simply does not exist in South Korea.  Busan and Seoul, South Korean.

Pizza Hut South Korea

Our ninth anniversary meal: an amazingly delicious Pizza Hut pizza, with a crust ringed by cheese and sweet potato puree, found in a South Korean subway station after five exhausting hours spent on a bus.  Seoul, South Korea.

. . . keep reading the taste of two years after the jump


china: the low-down
a wrap up

What we did: 29 days in China split up as follows: 8 days in Beijing, 2 days in Datong, 3 days in Hohhot; 3 more days in Beijing hanging out with friends; 4 days in Xi'an; 5 days in Shanghai; 4 days in Huang Shan; and, then, 3 final days in Hong Kong.

Would we do it the same way?  Yes.  And, we liked the amount of time in each city because spending more time in fewer places makes sense in China because of the long distances and travel times.

Our advice to future Chinese tourists:  We recommend planning all transportation and hotels before you arrive in China, rather than trying to book hotels while in China, especially if you are traveling in the summer.  At times, it can seem like all 1.3 billion people are vacationing at the same time, leading to a dearth of train tickets and hotel accomodations.  In addition, Internet access is often poor in China so it is significantly easier to book hotels using ELong and train tickets using  Travel China Guide when you are outside of the country.

Peking duck restaurant in Beijing

Best food:  For Akila, jiaozi in Beijing.  For Patrick, barbequed lamb in inner Mongolia

Runner-up for best food: For Patrick, Peking duck.  For Akila, mock Peking duck at Behai restaurant in Beijing. 

Worst food:  Mock tuna sashimi but ONLY because it actually tastes like real very low-grade tuna sashimi.

Our favorite part of China:  The unexpectedness.  Everything we thought we knew, we didn't know; everything we hated, we were surprised that it happened to us; everything we loved, we couldn't believe it existed.

The worst part of China:  Communication barrier + masses of people = the most difficult country we have ever traveled in and our worst day of travel ever.

Forbidden City lion

Forbidden City lion

Indispensable item/gear:  Deodorant.  There are 1.3 billion people in the country and toiletries are expensive.  Bring an extra.  You'll need it.

Second indispensable item/gear:  The Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook.  (Do not buy the useless Immersion Guides Mandarin Phrasebook.)

The best deal: We purchased last minute first-class tickets from Tunxi to Hong Kong because they were the last seats left on the plane.  The flight was delayed by four hours and we were so happy that we were able to luxuriate and sleep in the comfy couches in the first class lounge.

The biggest rip off:  Less of a rip off and more of price gouging, expect to pay over-the-top prices for lodging, food, and pretty much everything else on top of the mountain in Huang Shan.  Granted, every single thing brought to the top of the mountain is carried up by hand, but the prices are well outside the range of the average backpacker budget in China.

. . . keep reading china: the low-down after the jump


November 2010

chinese cuisine
diversity in deliciousness
November 19, 2010

unbelievably beautiful
huang shan mountains
November 15, 2010

crazy politicians
the terracotta army
November 10, 2010

edamame and pea dumplings
November 2, 2010

October 2010

when travel sucks
datong to hohhot
October 29, 2010

jiaozi (chinese dumplings)
October 25, 2010

the great firewall of china
circumventing censorship
October 19, 2010

lost in translation
a bit of chinglish
October 12, 2010

progress hungers
yungang grottoes and datong
October 7, 2010

the aliens have landed
October 5, 2010

September 2010

favorite world expo pavilions
surprising beauty
September 07, 2010

August 2010

arts and crafts
in beijing
August 31, 2010

1.3 billion people
and beijing
August 27, 2010

rainbow beijing
colors in a city
August 24, 2010

the locals' route
at the great wall
August 20, 2010

the absurdity of the dmz
in north korea
August 17, 2010

transnational fast food theorem
in south korea
August 13, 2010

south korea in a whirlwind
1 week around
August 10, 2010

japan: the low-down
a wrap up
August 6, 2010

turning japanese
at the end
August 2, 2010

July 2010

japanese desserts
sweet and squishy
July 30, 2010

is a japan rail pass worth it?
transportation on a budget
July 28, 2010

paper cranes and peace
July 23, 2010

splurge japanese cuisine
so worth it
July 20, 2010

buddha deer
July 18, 2010

hot tub monkey machine
July 15, 2010

budget japanese cuisine
many ways to eat
July 8, 2010

12 hours in nikko
day trippin'
July 1, 2010

June 2010

kyoto for free
japan on a budget
June 22, 2010

kyoto in photos
streets and gardens
June 15, 2010

powered by tofu
in kyoto
June 11, 2010

rainy days
in tokyo
June 8, 2010

that alternate universe
June 5, 2010

May 2010

cambodia: the low-down
a wrap up
May 24, 2010

4 countries, 40 hours
the journey back
May 18, 2010

vegetable summer rolls
May 6, 2010

April 2010

on the bamboo train
in battambang
April 26, 2010

unexceptional wonder
kompong chhnang
April 20, 2010

silky stylings
artisans d'angkor
April 16, 2010

how to avoid temple fatigue
in 5 easy steps
April 14, 2010

the color of resiliency
the people of Cambodia
April 9, 2010

March 2010

art of man, power of nature
at angkor
March 31, 2010

the currency of kindness
at angkor
March 26, 2010

thailand: the low-down
a wrap up
March 23, 2010

the scuba saga
koh tao
March 15, 2010

just another city
March 9, 2010

how to not be a stupid tourist in thailand
March 4, 2010

February 2010

the importance of doing nothing
in mae sot
February 24, 2010

sukhothai in sepia
filtered ruins
February 19, 2010

lovely lampang
undiscovered charm
February 16, 2010

trained by elephants
at patara elephant farm
February 12, 2010

elephant beauty
at patara elephant farm
February 4, 2010

January 2010

thai feast
asia scenic cooking class
January 29, 2010

unexpected funeral
at wat chedi luang
January 26, 2010

at mahabalipuram
January 22, 2010

kozhakattai (sweet coconut dumplings)
January 18, 2010

the low-down
a wrap up
January 11, 2010

June 2009

ready to go
June 9, 2009