Remains of dumplings

Exploring (But Mostly Just Eating) Taipei

July 1, 2015 | Taiwan | 10 Comments

I’d had no plans to go to Taiwan.

It’s not like I had anything against the country. It’s just that, like most other Westerners, I knew little about it. As a tech geek, I was aware many of my gadgets were made there — but even for me, a tour of the Asus factory didn’t seem a compelling reason to visit. If it wasn’t for Lauren, I probably wouldn’t have gone there at all.

She’d spent five weeks there a couple of years earlier, and just couldn’t shut up about the place. As in, every time someone asked what her favourite country was, the reply was instant and vocal. “TAIWAN!!!”, she’d shout. I could almost see the exclamation marks, hanging there in the air with a faint hint of accusation that not only had I never been, the country wasn’t even on my radar.

So, when a direct flight from Yangon showed up as we were figuring out where to go after Myanmar, I couldn’t resist.It was time to swap rickety buses for shiny metro stations, mohinga for dumplings and glacial Wi-Fi for some of the fastest speeds I’ve ever seen.

First stop: Taipei.

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Negombo sunset

A Budget Traveller’s Guide to Sri Lanka

October 2, 2014 | Sri Lanka | 91 Comments

Sri Lanka. Empty beaches and crowded cities. Terraced tea plantations and wild jungles. Elephants and leopards, whales and monkeys, friendly people and incredible food. Ignored by travellers during two decades of civil conflict, tourism is only now starting to reappear on this teardrop-shaped island off the bottom of India.

While package tours are popular,they’re far from the only way to see the best of what the country has to offer. I spent three weeks travelling independently around the southern and central parts of the island by bus, train and tuk-tuk, and the experience put Sri Lanka firmly near the top of my list of favourite destinations.

If you’re considering budget travel in Sri Lanka, here’s what you need to know.

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Snails and beer in Saigon

Snails, seafood and soup in Saigon

December 31, 2012 | Travel, Vietnam | 6 Comments

I love Saigon.

I also love street food.

Match made in heaven? You bet.

Perhaps even more than the rest of South East Asia, street food is everywhere in Saigon. In most neighbourhoods you can’t walk five metres without seeing a little banh mi stall on wheels or stepping around someone slurping a steaming bowl of pho on a little plastic chair.

Smoke billows from chicken on charcoal grills, vendors walk past offering chewy dried squid, cooked ducks hang inside glass boxes … and those are just the things I can identify.

Eating is a serious business in Saigon, and more often than not, it’s done on the streets.

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Longtail on the beach, Koh Nok

The 11 Things I Will Miss Most About Thailand

April 30, 2012 | Thailand, Travel | 50 Comments

175 days after I flew to Thailand last year, I finally left. The country got under my skin more than anywhere else I’ve ever been, and I miss it every day.

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Chiang Mai gate night market

A slice of life in Chiang Mai

December 17, 2011 | Thailand, Travel | 17 Comments

“Sawadee ka … pad krapow gai kai dow?”

It takes me a second to decode the stream of rapidfire Thai as it emerges from behind the surgical mask, the crinkling of the eyes betraying the hint of a smile.

“Krap, krap. Korp koon krap”, I reply.

I’ve only been here a few short weeks but the local night market food vendors already know me well. Why yes, indeed I would love some ground chicken and basil on rice, with a runny fried egg on top. It wasn’t that hard to guess, I suppose – I’ve probably ordered it from her at least three times this week.

She has been playing with me lately, though – quietly turning up the heat in each meal to see just how much it takes to make me sweat.

It’s an experiment I’m happy to be a part of.

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Sheep at Chiang Rai night market

The Friday Photo #32 – Now that’s one funky sheep

When a large group of us hired a van and headed to Chiang Rai for the weekend recently, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Saturday night market, but it turned out to be really good fun. The deep fried crickets were surprisingly tasty, and the huge group of locals line-dancing to cheesy Thai pop was great to watch.

The highlight of the night, however? This spit roasted specimen wearing a cap and sunglasses. Now that’s one funky sheep.

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Cooking@home school

Learning to cook in Chiang Mai

November 24, 2010 | Thailand, Travel | 5 Comments

Those who know me well are very aware of my skills as a chef. These skills could be kindly described as ‘functional’, and more accurately described as ‘occasionally one step above food poisoning’. There’s a very good reason why I used to live less than 100m from a street full of restaurants and cafes in Melbourne, and it certainly wasn’t because I worked in one of them.

Despite this lack of ability, however, I was determined to have a go at learning how to cook, Thai style. After more than a month in this beautiful country the one thing I loved more than the beaches, mountains and people was the incredible food. Having never ventured far beyond the traditional options of green curry and spring rolls while living in the West, the diversity and flavour of the food in Thailand was an absolute revelation. I couldn’t get enough of it, and decided that I needed to be able to recreate the joy of every mealtime after I left the country. It was time for my first ever cooking class.

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