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The Long Slog to Seoul

“USA? USA?”

On board a Seoul subway train at half-past midnight, an elderly man who appeared drunk or lonely (or both) was accosting a young Western couple sitting just across from us. Bama averted his gaze and I bowed my head, closing my eyes to feign sleep while clutching the handle of my suitcase. Neither of us had the patience or energy to deal with his babbling. Not at this time, not after an exhausting journey that had been turned into a 20-hour ordeal by the whims of nature. You see, our Korean drama had begun the previous night, long before we had even landed at Incheon International Airport. Read more

Sydney: Road to the Opera House

It was a blanket of thick cloud that set the scene for our early morning arrival into Australia’s largest city. Heralding the end of a seven-hour overnight flight from Jakarta, this gloominess suggested that much of the day would be spent indoors, though it barely dampened our excitement as the waters of Port Jackson came into view. “Look!” Bama gestured from his window seat toward the span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the nearby Opera House: two landmarks I had longed to see ever since I was a child. We descended past the skyscrapers of the Central Business District, gliding lower and lower above the rooftops until the inner suburbs gave way to warehouses and the wheels hit the runway. We were in a new country, a remote outpost of the Western world – and a far cry from the place we had left just the night before. Read more

Penang: Street Art and Street Eats

Some of the most memorable travel experiences are those we encounter by chance. And so it was on a sultry August day in Penang, Malaysia, when Bama and I found ourselves staring into two heavenly bowls of curry mee at a quiet hole-in-the-wall on Lebuh Keng Kwee. This street food favorite was an ocher-hued coconut curry soup laden with yellow egg noodles, succulent cuts of chicken, crunchy beansprouts, fresh mint leaves, and porous tofu puffs that absorbed the rich, spicy flavors in the soup base. Read more

Tales from Bhaktapur

Arriving in a taxi, the first thing that caught my eye about Bhaktapur was the warm, rust-red brick that seemed to glow in the fading afternoon light. It was our first day in Nepal, and Bama and I had come straight from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan airport, where we navigated a melee at baggage claim to get to our well-worn backpacks off the conveyor belt. Fellow blogger Lex had likened her own experience at Tribhuvan to a wrestling match, and we could see why: no one knew exactly which of the two belts inside the overcrowded hall would spit out their luggage. In the confusion that followed, it took a certain amount of stoicism and readiness not to be shoved aside by aggressive Indian matriarchs. Read more

The Miraculous Jungfrau Railway

Adolf Guyer-Zeller was a man with a singular vision. The Zürich entrepreneur had inherited a spinning mill from his father and founded his own textile export business, but in later years he would set his sights on the lucrative pursuit of building railroads. Switzerland at the end of the 19th century was in the grip of “mountain railway fever”, and Guyer-Zeller was determined to create the most impressive and daring of them all. Read more

Winter in the Swiss Riviera

It might be an expensive and touristy affair, but on a cold December evening, Montreux’s Christmas market is a joy to wander around. It’s a cluster of brightly decorated miniature chalets on the waterfront, where visitors can peruse the stalls for seasonal ornaments, artwork, and souvenirs; hand-blown glassware, artisanal soaps, candies and cubes of fudge; and perhaps most importantly, vin chaud – mulled wine of both the red and white varieties. Read more

Australia: Lessons on Immigration and Racism

Ethiopian cuisine is not something one would readily associate with Australia. But in Melbourne, Victoria’s state capital, Bama and I get our first taste at Saba’s on Brunswick Street, the main artery running through the bohemian inner-city suburb of Fitzroy. The young proprietor, Saba herself, serves us her mother’s recipes with a gleaming smile. Bama and I share a platter of injera, a spongy flatbread made from fermented teff flour, tearing off large pieces with our hands to mop up a tantalizing assortment of meat and vegetable stews. Read more

A Sydney Food Crawl

When my friends and coworkers learned that I was going to Sydney, those who had been all agreed on one thing: the cuisine was a major highlight. “The Asian food there is so good!” quipped one. “If you’re a seafood person, make sure to eat lots of it,” said another. “It’s the best!”  Read more

Jakarta Blues

Many moons ago, at the height of rainy season, I left the office in the middle of a howling storm. The lashing rain was blown almost horizontally in the wind, and my umbrella, now turned inside-out, was practically useless. This was, I thought, almost like the typhoons I had grown up experiencing in Hong Kong. Much of the usual route home was covered with murky, ankle-deep water; in nine months of walking from work, I had never encountered this much flooding. Read more

In Search of Singhasari

Two summers ago, while exploring the Central Javanese highlands of Dieng at the start of our six-month Spice Odyssey, Bama and I came upon an illustrated timeline inside a museum. It charted the evolution and development of the candi (pronounced “chaan-dee”), a catch-all Indonesian term for the ancient Hindu and/or Buddhist ruins scattered across the island of Java, and to a lesser extent, Sumatra. The great majority are quarried from volcanic andesite – whose color varies from tan to slate grey – with the most prominent examples being the UNESCO-listed temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. Bama had been to both icons several times, but as he traced his finger over depictions of their smaller and lesser-known counterparts further east, he declared with a sigh, “I’ve always wanted to visit these temples in East Java.” Read more