A Culinary Tour of Asia

The very heart of your Asian vacation isn’t the exotic locale, the invigorating massages, the majestic ancient temples, or even the warm, friendly people. It’s the food. When you’re at home, food is a centerpiece of activity and fun-the backyard cookout, the Friday evenings with friends, or the romantic dinner. When you’re on vacation, it will be even more memorable if you keep food enjoyment high on your list of priorities.

Food is more than mere sustenance. It is a social experience, and a sensory treat that will be remembered long after you return home. Asia is well-known for its exotic cuisine, and no Asian vacation would be complete without thoroughly enjoying the food. In every major Asian city, you’ll find your usual array of the familiar favorites from back home: KFC, McDonalds, Sizzler, and so on-but why not enhance your foray into the unknown with something new on the menu?

The cuisine is as varied as the continent, ranging from the aromatic curries of India, to the fiery-hot tom yum goong of Thailand, to the European-influenced Macanese cuisine found in the Chinese autonomous region of Macau. Wherever you travel, you’ll find unique and fresh ingredients, presented delightfully in authentic surroundings and delivered by friendly, smiling staff.

You’ll find your environment as memorable as the food itself. You may find yourself sitting under a straw roof, sitting cross-legged and eating off of a banana leaf, or enjoying the most elegant, five-star posh surroundings you’ve ever witnessed. And don’t neglect the local specialties. A meal of dim sum (“yum cha” in Cantonese) in a Hong Kong tea house is an event unto itself that will never be forgotten. Take a boat cross the bay to Macau for a trip back to old Europe, where you can enjoy High Tea in the afternoon, and one of the country’s characteristic egg tart specialties. And when you tour Japan, you’ll discover that there are dozens of different varieties of sukiyaki, which is customarily cooked right at the table.

You’ll also find very informal street cafes throughout most of Asia, which are little more than a handful of plastic tables and chairs on the sidewalk, overlooking a kitchen that consists of a propane tank and a wok. If you’re adventurous enough to try one of these places, you’re likely to find very local cuisine that you can’t find in the “normal” restaurants, including wild game, insects, and parts of animals that you never knew you could eat.

Desserts are not to be missed. Unlike the rich, gooey, chocolatey sweets of America, Asians tend towards the lighter, more delicate tastes in sweets. A Chinese sweet red bean bun is very tempting (and does not have the usual disagreeable side effect that beans often do). Japanese sweets (wa-gashi) also frequently use sweet bean paste and are quite delicate. In Thailand, you may enjoy bua loy naam qing (literally, “floating lotuses in ginger water”), which delivers an enjoyable contrast between the strong ginger tea and the delicate rice flour sesame balls floating within.

Often overlooked are the unusual tropical fruits found throughout Asia. If you think of fruit as apples and watermelons, think again-the taste of the lichi, mangosteen, and rambutan are incomparable and a sheer delight to the senses. Beware of the infamous durian though, the heavy, spiky “king of fruits” that has a decidedly foul, almost fishy smell and is definitely an acquired taste.

You’ll find that in most Asian countries, meals are very social, and are often served to your table communally, as opposed to the Western style of each person ordering individual dishes. Don’t be surprised if your host serves you and continues to refresh your drink throughout the meal. Bone up on how to use chopsticks. Here’s a chopstick etiquette tip: You’ll sometimes see diners at inexpensive restaurants rubbing together the chopsticks before eating. This is done when using the inexpensive, wooden disposable chopsticks, to make sure there are no splinters. Avoid rubbing your chopsticks together at somebody’s home or at an upscale restaurant, as it would be considered an insult-you’re saying that the chopsticks are inferior when you do that. But, not every Asian country uses them. Thais eat European-style with a fork and spoon. In China, you’ll use chopsticks, but will never see a knife at your place setting, because it is considered aggressive. In some very rural parts of Asia, such as in the Laotian countryside, you’ll eat with your fingers. But regardless of how you convey the food from plate to mouth, you’re in for a real treat.

Girl to Girl Tips for Travelling in Southeast Asia

Talk to most backpacker lads and they’ll generally agree that as long as they’ve got a supply of decent T-shirts and a stash of cash, they’re good to go. Not so for us girlies. While we’re just as intrepid as the boys, there are unfortunately a few extra things that we need to consider. Here are some tips I wish someone had told me, girl to girl, before heading to Southeast Asia. Here I bequeath my wisdom to you, fellow backpacking ladies!

Laundry services in Southeast Asia are often excellent but they’re ruthless; your clothes will be scrubbed and thrashed within an inch of their lives. Leave your best threads at home and stock up at markets (in Thailand) or shopping malls (in Malaysia) and put together a backpack-specific wardrobe. Clothes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam tend to be more for locals than Westerners. Make the most of Bangkok while you’re there!

Most cosmetics in Asia will be packaged to look like the real thing, but they’re just low-quality copies of home brands. It’s difficult to find good quality make-up unless you go to retail outlets such as Boots in Thailand or a Revlon store in Cambodia.

If you’re on the pill, bring as much as you can from home. If you can only get a short supply, don’t panic – just bring the box and advice leaflet with you. Common brands such as Dianette are available over the counter under different names (Diane 35 or Sucee).

It’s difficult to find non-scented, lightweight moisturisers by makers such as Neutrogena or Simple. In Southeast Asia, old school cold creams and heavily scented whitening creams abound. If you’ve got sensitive skin, bring a supply of small throw-as-you-go bottles of your trusted products from home.

Fans of waxing take note: beauty salon experiences are very hit and miss. It’s impossible to buy waxing strips (I’ve spent eight months looking!) so unless you’re willing to take the risk with boiling wax and uncoordinated hands, switch to a decent brand of razor for your trip.

Sanitary towels are cheap and easy to find, but tampons are like gold dust in smaller towns. There’s no need to bring a supply from home, just stock up in major cities as you go.

Finally, my golden tip: underwear. (How I wish someone had warned me about this!) Asian ladies wear teeny tiny polyester bras and knickers, so if you’re anything above a 32-inch bra or hip size, bring at least three bras and lots of new cotton underwear from home. Hand wash any sexy look-at-me naughties or they’ll be lost/ruined/stolen before you know it!

Travel Asia

If you are looking for a change of scene as far as holidays are considered, try travel Asia for a truly unique traveling experience. Apart from being the largest continent Asia is also home to a cross section of intriguing cultures and myriad people from different countries spread across Asia. Traveling in Asia, is a unique experience in itself if you are ready to experiment with something new. A word of caution at the outset though, prepare yourself for the unexpected, ranging from the bizarre to the incredulous, from Elephant rides to animals on the street Asia, is truly a maze that you will find amazing!

Home to more than five billion people, Asia boasts of diverse attractions that would be difficult to cover in a single trip, though you could try seeing the best of the most interesting Asian features. Amazingly so, countries such as India, Malaysia, Indonesia Nepal, Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Singapore, etc are all as different from each other as could be. Most of these countries boast of attractions like great scenic beauty, superb architecture, art and architecture, traditional fairs, bizarre costumes, mouth watering food and traditional customs and systems that are ingrained into the life of the people.

Travel Asia leaves most tourists with a breathtaking experience. When you visit India, you have a wide choice of things to do and see. From visiting heritage sites like Taj Mahal, Ajanta and Ellora Caves, and Khajuraho Temples, to Kerala’s backwaters, tigers in the Indian forests or taking an elephant ride, experiencing an Ayurvedic spa, or viewing the majestic Himalayas, you have it all!

While on a travel Asia trip make sure you visit China in order to visit one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. Visit there the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, Potala Palace, West Lake, the Forbidden City, etc. Japan the land of the rising sun will fascinate you with attractions such as Kyoto’s Higashiyama area, Nara Park, Kin Osaki, and Himeji Castle. Your travel Asia trip would be incomplete without visiting Bangkok, in Thailand and Singapore two major tourist attractions in Asia which are not only cheap but extremely diverse in all that it has to offer. In Thailand you will witness lovely pristine islands, impressive monuments apart from other local flavors. Visit the gothic ruins in Bangkok or go shopping like crazy or relax by the Phukhet cool waters, its paradise all the way! The Singapore island kingdom is an amazing tourist experience from its ravishing street sea food culture to the botanical gardens, etc.

While on your travel Asia visit , it will be hard to miss out on the Philippines, with more than 7000 islands or Maldives too which boasts of the most pristine waters with different shades and more than 1,000 coral islands perched in the tranquility of the Indian Ocean.

A bit quirky at times, fascinatingly diverse and colorful at others the sheer size and immensity of travel Asia holiday will leave you flustered and gasping for more. If you want to truly experience Asia do local and soak in the vibrant culture you find on the streets, it will leave you with warmth and enriching experience that is hard to get over. Sheer diversity and natural splendor ensure that Asia proves to be a most rewarding holiday destination for all.