Saturday, January 28, 2017

What Did I eat in Amsterdam?

In only two days in Amsterdam I had to be picky. At the top of my list was Indonesian food. Why? Because I love Asian food and it’s famous in Amsterdam. Due to colonialism, the Dutch brought back recipes from the east Indies and have incorporated it into their national cuisine. Having been to Indonesia, I was curious to taste some familiar flavors and to try the Dutch version of these dishes. The thing to order is a Rijsttafel, which means Rice Table. It’s an order of white rice with a dozen or so little samplings of meats, curries, and vegetables. I was surprised that although some of the spices were familiar the dishes themselves were not.



The second thing on my list was herring. I like seafood and pickled things, so I thought it would be a win-win. We were lucky enough to be staying near a famous and popular-with-the-locals herring cart. We ordered it Amsterdam-style, which comes with pickles and onions. I was surprised at how soft and flavorful the herring was, and not at all pungent or sour. The crunchiness of the onions and pickles really complimented the soft chewy fish. It was so good we went back the same day and got it again. 


The third things is pancakes. I heard that Dutch pancakes were definitely something to experience, so as soon as we landed I leaded to Pancakes Amsterdam. I ordered a savory pancake with Camembert and a sweet pancake with apples. I love the thinness of the pancakes, which are more like crepes. 



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

3 ArchivingTechniques While Traveling



Looking back on over a decade of travel and six years of blogging, I have  realized that I'm doing something right. The way I record and archive my adventures is the perfect technique for me. This methods helps me remember what I want to remember, and gives me a permanent record of everything I have done and experienced so that I can refer to it for accuracy way down the line.

I think I first realized how special my method was when my bus broke down in Malaysia. The drive hustled all us passengers into a McDonalds jut outside Kuala Lumpur, and there I sat for four hours talking to a young British couple who were also backpacking around SE Asia. Whereas our journey was just beginning, theirs was coming to a close. Over ten countries in 8 months, including a short working holiday in Australia. They must have had stories to tell. The problem was, they could hardly remember anything they did. They forgot how many countries they saw or how long they were in each place, or whether a certain event took place in one country or another.

“You know, after eight months,” the guy said, “it all just starts to blur together.”

I was horrified.
Here you spend thousands of dollars (or pounds) on the trip of a lifetime and you can’t even keep your memories. What good is it then, if it all just blurs together? I realized that this has been my greatest fear. I am an experience collector, and if I can’t remember my own experiences then what’s the point.

This was not the beginning of my archiving, I had been doing it for years since I went to Hong Kong in 2007, but this was the moment I realized how special it was.  So here it is:

The 3 archiving techniques I will always do on trips

1.     Record every expense
First, I need to know if I am meeting or exceeding my budget. This is very important so that I can maintain comfort and ease on the present trip, but also so that I can plan for the future. It’s also good to know where I splurge and where I save, because that shows me what is important to myself. For instance, I will always pay more for comfortable accommodations, because those influence the entire trip to me. But I don’t need to buy a lot of souvenirs or visit expensive amusement parks.

2.     Record every activity I do each day
This doesn’t include repetitive tasks like brushing teeth and showering or packing. This is meant to include the cafes restaurant, sights, or people I visit. It also includes long activities that take more than one hour, for instance, reading at home. I also generally don’t record commute time unless it is greater than an hour.  I go record the times I wake up and go to bed, and naps longer than an hour. This isn’t meant to be obsessive, but it is a very revealing piece of information. It shows me what I generally like and how I prefer to spend my time when traveling. This helps me set reasonable expectations for the next time I travel, so I don’t overbook myself or get bored. This log is not in narrative form, it is usually just a bulleted list with activities and times.

3.    Journal as often as possible
You might say, with a record of everything I do, why would I need to journal? But there is a fundamental difference between journaling and recording. While the above mentioned is a list of activities, the journal holds my thoughts, feelings,  and meaningful observations. The journal assigns value to those activates. The journal is how I know whether I enjoyed myself or not. I don’t need to repeat the activities involved in the day unless I am adding details – remember, I can always reference activity log for recap. I also don't’ need to analyze my thoughts or feelings unless I am somehow compelled to do so. Because of my journal, I will also know that I had my first travel breakdown in Hua Hin, Thailand. Or that every single day I wrote at the XinDIan Starbucks in Taipei I loved every moment of my time there. These thoughts and feelings are an important element to your story, and you need a way to preserve them.

There are so many advantages to archiving this way. This methods helps you remember your story, and provides detail and evidence for you to share. Don’t rely on your faulty memory and turn your greatest moments into a blur. Preserve them in all their richness for years to come.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Jumbo Grocery Odyssey

The parking lot as we approach the entrance of Jumbo

With only two days in Amsterdam, visiting a grocery store was not on my to-do list. Don’t get me wrong, I love grocery stores in other countries because they are so revealing of the culture. But two days in a city with tons of museums and coffee just didn’t seem like enough time to do it all, let alone wander around a store. Thankfully, I did end up at a Jumbo (pronounced Yumm-Bo) and it turned out to be the best experience I had in Amsterdam.
 On this particular trip to Europe my father came with us, and my the second day he was already stressing about where to buy gluten free bread in preparation for our visit to the remote island where my extended family lives (with no gluten-free bread).  Hearing that Amsterdam had a large supply of gluten-free products in their grocery stores, we walked fifteen minutes from our airbnb apartment to Jumbo. My expectations where low; I expected a small disorganized market. But when we approached the large industrial structure with an enormous parking lot my hopes soared.

Welcome to Jumbo Foodmarket




Jumbo was an incredible adventure. Not only is it gorgeous and sprawling and clean and well-designed (what did I expect – it’s the Netherlands), but it had an assortment of groceries that delighted me with their unique Dutch-ness.

Aisle after aisle of cheese

Overwhelming selection of cured meets

A kind of cake no one at the bakery could describe in English

Gigantic meringues!

So much Gluten-Free food

A posh bakery inside the store

Old Amsterdam Cheese - the best!

Fresh orange juice squeezed by machine right in front on your eyes



It was the best orange juice I ever had

Monday, January 16, 2017

Amsterdam Street Style Day 2


 Day 2: lots of walking so I wore my tennis shoes. Jacket and dress were for weather as it was a bit chilly. Dress was for comfort. 



eating the famous dutch herring

Denic Cropped Jacket: H&M
Dress: Target
Scarf: vintage
Shoes: Nike


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Signage all over Asia

Every once in a while in SE Asia I would turn the corner or look up from a map and see a particularly curious sign. I didn’t keep a log so when it came time to collect these images I had to scan through all my files. There is nothing cohesive about this collection except that they are all signs that fascinated me at one point or another.





No Durian. No Balloons.



Don't wear purses with money symbols on them.



No excessive shopping (bottom right corner). 




Disk. Bobbop. 


No death by electrocution.



Stop. 



No Indecent Behavior. 


Walk with long strides here. 



Any of these bikes are ok. 



Death box. 



Look away when being farted on. 



Don't mix flammable gas with hamburgers. 


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Photo Diary: School Lunches in Japan





The best thing about working in a public school in Japan is the cultural exposure. Here you get to see a side of Japanese society that tourists typically don’t see, but ironically, my first exposure to school lunches was as a tourist of 14 years old. For one day I visited an elementary school with my Japanese friend and ate lunch with the kids. I remember having a yogurt drink called Yakult, which I thought was the most delicious thing on the planet. My memory of the school lunch was divine and I couldn’t wait to have them when I moved to Japan. 

Japanese school lunches are a strange affair. 

On one hand, they are touted and being the epitome of healthy eating: hyper-local, hyper-seasonal, balanced to the point of obsessive.

Yet on the other hand they are  often over 1,000 calories a lunch (fine if you’re on a sports team, but for anyone else, hello weight gain), extremely carb-heavy (like, pasta with a side of bread and a cake for dessert), and very processed (some items like cheese are past the point of recognition). 

The other thing is, not all lunches are created equal. There are some districts that have appalling lunches, as documented by the resident English teachers here and here. Then there are districts like mine, where the school lunch is actually…not bad. 

I didn’t photograph the lunch every single day, so these shots are of lunches that particularly fascinated me, whether for better or worse. 











Photo Diary: a day in Pingxi

Pingxi is a small town in the mountains about a two-hour train ride outside of Taipei. Often overlooked by tourists for it's more popul...