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Posts Tagged ‘food and drink’

I am about to place my order for two Samosas, my mouth watering and stomach growling, as a man shoots into my field of vision. “Come join us for the open house – free food!” He points to a row of large tents, where a colorful mix of people weave their way past food stands.

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KA-POW!

Check out our updated route map! By clicking on a location marker, you can find out more details about our journey.

A less appetising choice of cuisine.

The best and the worst of travel is often found in the food. I’ve been surprised and put off by a deep-fried baby chicken -beak and all- on my breakfast plate and humored by the delight found by others indulging in offal barbecue. Thai food on the other hand, is a consistent display of food genius, opposite to both the disasters and consistently good, yet mundane.

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What could possibly be noteworthy about yet another bus journey? Surely, I must be running out of things to say. Indeed, that is my own hope as I embark on the 24 hour journey from Pleiku, Vietnam near the Cambodia border, to Hanoi. A boring and restful trip would be perfect. Things are looking promising: AC works and the seats recline surprisingly far. So far in fact that I could quite comfortably pluck the eyebrows of the man seated in front of me as he reclines into my lap for a mid-morning nap. This closeness feels a touch too familial.

Instead I take the chance to investigate his long thumbnail.

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Pleiku, an altogether nondescript Vietnamese town becomes a forced, one-night stopover on the way to Hanoi from northeastern Cambodia. No map, no Vietnamese Dong, and we don’t know where the center of town is or where to find a cheap hotel.

Ryan remains at the bus station with our luggage as I shuffle off to source some money. The asphalt is burning under my feet and I can feel my skin sizzle as I trot off along an empty highway, head hanging low. Nobody speaks English and I am at a loss as to where an ATM might be this far out of town.

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Lao-lao trekking

Arriving in the first village on our Laos trek, we enter animal theater. The livestock is in continuous motion, each actor antagonizing the next. Pigs, dogs and chickens chase each other from trough to trough and fight for anything vaguely edible in the dust. With disbelief, we learn that there is no specific customary latrine place in this village — the animals eagerly consume all human waste wherever it falls with sickening zeal.

Drinking alcohol is central to our glimpse of life in the village. Upon our arrival in mid-afternoon, we are shuffled into a hut to share lao-lao shots poured out of a plastic jug, labeled “engine oil.” It goes around and around the circle, and the bug-eyed host keeps pouring. Our guide purchases a fifth of the clear, strong spirit and proceeds to dole it out until his bottle is empty as well. (more…)

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We have much catching up to do! Check out our freshly updated travel map, and read on to hear about the adventures we’ve been having.

We cross the border into Laos on a longboat. As we wait for visas, an immediate paradox for communism in today’s world: lowest fees are charged for entry of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cubans, but all must pay in USD.

Leaving Thailand, standing on the launch pad for Laos.

The Lao border town of Huay Xai is quiet and comfortable. We relax on the guesthouse roof watching candle-driven paper lanterns drift into the heavens from a nearby hilltop wat (temple). Music and a DJ’s voice blare. There is some kind of Sunday night party going on. We are welcome, the guesthouse proprietor tells us. Just climb the steps up the hill; the full moon party is happening to raise funds for the monastery. (more…)

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This was written in mid-January, when I first arrived in Bangkok from Kolkata, before flying to Burma.

Preparing myself mentally for Bangkok, I thought: I am not ready for the hyper-modern critique that this place will demand. To go from India and Bangladesh to Bangkok is too big a leap, too many eons of wealth, technologies, too big of a shift of position vis a vis Western culture.

Now I am here, and I am overwhelmingly preoccupied with the food. New flavors lurk everywhere, and so far they enthrall me. Noodle and lemongrass soups with fish sauce, chillies and sugar, squid on a stick with spicy and tangy sauces, fruit with sugar and chillies on top, Thai coffee, condensed milk in a good way, seafood a delight. Here is an adventure of unfamiliarity. (more…)

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