Monthly Archives: January 2012

Caffeine Guide – Day 2

Day 2 of the caffeine guide! Read MSNBC Itineraries’ article here.

Turkey: Türk Kahvesi
Thick and dark, this will look more like mud than actual coffee. Yummy.

Hong Kong: Yuangyang
I’ve actually never had this drink any of the times I was in HK. It’s a combo of coffee and black tea with milk – talk about BUZZ!

Greece: Frappé
This is just like those cheap frozen drinks you’ll see on a breakfast-chain menu in the states. Frozen, ultra sweet, high in calories and made with instant coffee. But if you choose this sweet concoction, do like the locals and get it like James Bond – shaken, not stirred.

India: Kappi
Similar to New Orleans, this coffee is brewed with chicory (giving a rich depth to the taste) but is aerated before it’s served. Sounds delicious!

Vietnam: Ca Phe Sua Da
Hot water poured over a filter with coffee into a cup of sweetened condensed milk. Blah.

Categories: Adventure, Coffee, Drink, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Travel Tip Tuesday!

It’s that time of week again – Travel Tip Tuesday! This week: Tasty Trips

In light of my post about my vegetarian adventures in China, today’s travel tip is all about traveling with dietary “restrictions” (be it gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or food allergies).

CNN Travel posted a great article with tips that include planning, researching, understanding cultural differences (and trust me, there are LOTS of cultural differences when it comes to food preferences), even social media groups to join for support or advice.

While I disagree with how “easy” the article says it is to travel abroad with these certain diets, it does list some helpful websites that fellow veggies might wan to check out!

Gluten-Free Guidebook
Happy Cow
Farm Sanctuary
Robin Song Guest House

Categories: Food, News, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Caffeine Guide to the World – Day 1

This week, I’m posting a series of “guides” each day to various coffee drinks and caffeinated beverages around the world. If you’re addicted to that morning jolt (I totally am) and to travel, this series will feature a handful of countries each day and a profile on their signature red-eye concoctions.

My favorite refreshments are water, beer and coffee. When traveling, clean water can usually be found (or made) one way or another and beer is always an enjoyable thirst-quencher – a great way to understand local culture. But coffee, good coffee, is not always easy to come by. Each country has a different interpretation of caffeine but below is a great article from’s Itineraries called A Caffeine Addict’s Guide to the World. Here’s the skinny for today:

Italy: Espresso
It should have a thick crema layer on top and you should drink it like a shot of vodka – one gulp… while standing, of course. You have to get the full experience.

Austria: Melange
Just like a cappuccino (espresso, milk, foam and whipped cream) and served with water so you cleanse your palette in between sips.

Ethiopia: Buna
This is where coffee was “invented” and true to its roots, it’s served with salt and butter instead of sugar and milk.

Mexico: Café de Olla
This is a pre-sweetened beverage brewed with spices – cinnamon sticks and dark brown sugar.

Saudi Arabia: Kahwa
In traditional coffee shops (where women aren’t allowed – don’t get me started), you’ll find this bitter brew, infused with cardamom and served with sweet snacks. Ladies, if you want to enjoy this jolt, you’ll likely have to go to an upscale hotel in the capital.

Categories: Adventure, Africa, Backpacking, Coffee, Drink, Europe, Food, News, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Travel Tips, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Try It!

Categories: Adventure, Circumnavigation, Explore, Globetrotting, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel and See

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Asian [Food] Oddities

Being a vegetarian in China was particularly difficult for me on my first visit. I should have known I was in for a hard time when on the plane, my choices for a meal were beef, chicken and fish. Oh dear. Well, maybe the actual country of China will be different, I thought. I armed myself with phrases like, “No meat” and “I don’t eat any meat” in Mandarin before my trip, thinking I would avoid any misunderstandings. Not quite…

Airplane food on the way to China. I ate the bun, fruit and yogurt.

Once I arrived at my hotel (I met a group that I was teaching with and we all stayed at the hotel together), this was our dinner – very elaborate and beautiful but not very veggie-friendly.

The sculpture is made out of salt!

For a long time, I lived off of steamed white rice. When I felt like splurging, I’d find a Pizza Hut (Pizza Hut is among one of the many food chains that can be found in Asia), otherwise, I found these great “digestive cookies” that tasted just like graham crackers with about 300% more fiber. They were tasty.

Later on in my trip, I learned that a good way to communicate vegetarianism is to tell people you’re Buddhist or that you want “Buddhist food” or “monk’s food” since most Buddhist monks are vegetarian and do not eat meat. This trick only worked about half of the time. I think the Chinese were more confused as to why a white person would say she is Buddhist…. just another culture speed bump.

Other food oddities I found in China:

These were beside the fish tanks at a seafood restaurant. I suppose you select the frog you want to dine on and they’ll sauté it right up for you! Never seen anything like this before.

(they're live frogs)

Not sure what kind of fish these were but they sure were FLAT!

One night in Tianjin, my teaching group went out to eat at a Korean restaurant. I’m not familiar with Korean food or Korean culture – I’ve only had layovers at the Korean airport – but from what I understand, this was the Korean version of Chinese hot pot. Yes, that’s tofu in there… along with just about any kind of meat you can think of. I wasn’t a fan of this dish but it made for some interesting pictures. My fellow teacher friends really enjoyed it!

Seafood of some sort

It doesn’t take much to know that authentic Chinese food is nothing like the Americanized version of it. Many vegetable dishes I came across in China were served in a clear, gelatinous “glaze” – salty and very slimy. You won’t find this at Panda Express.

Chinese vegetables

I enjoyed exploring the local markets so I could better understand the culture of Chinese food. There were some very strange things I found at the markets, things I was not used to seeing as an American or as a vegetarian.

Pig feet

The red bricks on the left, I thought, were some sort of veggie-infused tofu. It had a similar texture and looked like it was a soybean relative. After asking a vendor, we found out that the “red tofu” was actually curdled pig blood.

This part of the market had a pretty foul odor

Then there were things like this in China:

Oh yeah, Hard Rock Cafe exists overseas.

And one of our favorite local hot spots in Tianjin was this place – Yummy Food.

And just as the name suggests, the food was YUMMY.

Yummy Food served things like veggie pizza…

Absolutely delicious.

and chocolate-covered banana pancakes!


Some things came across felt just like home. (Although, I’m totally a Jiff girl.)

Too bad this was confiscated when I flew from Tianjin to Shanghai.

While other things made me more ill than I have ever been in my life.

The real Ramen noodles (not really but same idea).

My first visit to Shanghai was a disaster, on many levels. I’m convinced everything went downhill when my peanut butter was confiscated at the airport. We met up with a friend of a friend and he graciously gave us a tour of the city. He raved about this little restaurant that served noodle dishes and told me I would surely find a vegetarian dish on the menu. I had read things and heard from other travelers, DO NOT EAT THE STREET FOOD, which usually goes for any country. But, I was not in a position to be picky or high maintenance for our lovely host, so I sucked it up and crossed my fingers there wouldn’t be any “aftermath.”

In hindsight, this sign is hysterical and seems to foreshadow ….

Not what you want to see outside of a restaurant halfway across the world.

This was the dish that, morning after, made me wish I was dead. I had the worst food poisoning of my life – vomiting + diarrhea + dirty squat toilets = most miserable time of my life. The morning after I ate this, I boarded a bus with some friends to go to Hangzhou for the day. My stomach gurgled and bubbled, my intestines rumbled and my throat hurt from puking so much. At one of the bus stations, I broke down and cried in the bathroom (again over a squat toilet) – wishing that I could teleport back to America into my cozy bed at home.

The dish of death!

Luckily, by the time we arrived in Hangzhou, my “illness” had subsided and I was feeling better. There were more odd foods along the way but this time, I had a new appreciation for Chinese food. And sometimes (for me anyway), it’s better to just observe the foods and appreciate their uniqueness. Like these:

Corn-flavored ice cream bars

Pea-flavored ice cream bar

I will always enjoy my overseas adventures with food – particularly as a vegetarian. When we take our trip around the world, we’ll likely modify our diets to include meat or at the very least, fish. Not only will it make traveling easier but it will allow us to enjoy more of the local cultures if we can experience their cuisines. I’m sure one can circumnavigate the globe as a vegetarian but I’m not sure I’m the vegetarian to try it. If you have any tips, advice or suggestions on either foods to try or places for foodies like us to visit, please let us know! We’re up for [just about] anything!

Here’s to never-ending adventures with food. Happy eating!

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Asia, Backpacking, China, Circumnavigation, Food, Shanghai, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Travel Photography, Uncategorized, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Just Because You Can’t See It…

…doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Categories: Backpacking, Beach, Conservation, Earth Day, Explore, Green Living, Nature, Sustainability, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Water | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Biking from Bangkok to Singapore

Nathaniel James Moody is an adventurous British expat who biked over 1,500 miles (about 2,500 km) from Bangkok, Thailand to Singapore. After Moody, a teacher stationed in Bangkok, bought a mountain bike from his friend, he was inspired to put it to good use as part of his healthy living lifestyle changes. From pedaling around the city to short day trips, Moody could not get enough of his bike. He then set out to plan a trip from Bangkok to Koh Lanta (over 500 miles) but when the Thai schools were shut down for an extended period of time due to the massive flooding, Moody re-routed his plans for an adventurous trip from Bangkok to Singapore via Malaysia.

Why do this? It’s all for the charity, “Life for Thailand” – a children’s home for disabled Thai children.

Moody’s trip took him 30 days total – 17 solid days of hardcore cycling through country sides, busy cities and villages averaging 90 miles (145 km) each day! Moody says that he’s not “that fit” and has never been a cyclist, he just enjoyed riding bikes as a kid. But he shows awesome motivation, perseverance and dedication to a good cause to ride across 3 countries! Read more about how he prepared for his trip and some of the challenges he faced along the way here. And be sure to check out his website!

Below are all pictures taken directly from CNN Go’s article on Moody. Click the pictures to be taken to the site.

Photo from CNN Go

Photo from CNN Go

Categories: Adventure, Asia, Biking, Charity, Cycling, Donation, Explore, Gear, Malaysia, Nature, Photography, Singapore, Thailand, Top Knotch Gear, Trails, Transportation, Travel, Trek, Trip planning | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s On Your Bucket List?

Categories: Adventure, Asia, Backpacking, Climbing, Hiking, Mountains, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Pinterest, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Travel Photography, Trek, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

It’s no wonder that most of these places are in Europe – a very expensive continent as a whole. But don’t forget that staying in hostels (compared to mid-average hotels) can really cut accommodation costs!



It’s no wonder that most of these places are in Europe – a very expensive continent as a whole. But don’t forget that staying in hostels (compared to mid-average hotels) can really cut accommodation costs!

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Categories: Adventure, Backpacking, Europe, Norway, Photography, Switzerland, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Travel, Travel Photography, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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