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Five Hamburg Neighborhoods Best Explored By Bike

By Megan Eileen McDonough
January 27, 2022
Bike in Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Megan Eileen McDonough

This article was written by Megan Eileen McDonough, Founder of Bohemian Trails.

Despite being Europe's richest city, Hamburg's humble neighborhoods don't show off, but rather, showcase both old and new influences in true style. From alternative Sternschanze and lively St. Pauli to modern HafenCity, these five neighborhoods showcase the many faces of Hamburg. The next time you find yourself in the Baltic Sea Region, head straight to Hamburg and rent a bike for the best city views.

Sternschanze
Perhaps one of Hamburg's best examples of gentrification, Sternschanze, or simply "Schanze," is Hamburg's hippest neighborhood of the moment. The graffiti-covered buildings and walls give the area a charming grungy appeal while the high-end restaurants, trendy cafes and fashion boutiques provide a stark contrast. Due to an increase in rents, many families and couples have flocked to the area but it's still a cultural playground for all residents.

HafenCity
Even from a distance, HafenCity looks completely different than anywhere else in Hamburg. This brown development project, when completed, will affect a total of ten neighborhoods of different sizes. In a nutshell, the entire area is undergoing a serious revamp, with hotels, offices, shops, buildings and residential spaces replacing old port warehouses. From an architectural standpoint, it's impressive to say the least and easy to get around by bike.

St. Pauli
St. Pauli might be better known as Hamburg's "red-light district," but there's also a bit of Beatles' history here. The Reeperbahn is the main street and serves as an unofficial divider between day and night attractions. On one side there are galleries and on the other, a slew of nightclubs. Things generally pick up around 11pm and it can get rather crowded, so keep an eye out for traffic. Swing by INDRA, the music venue where the Beatles first performed.

Karolinenviertel
Although technically the northern part of St. Pauli, Karolinenviertel has a distinct look and feel that deserves just as much attention. Park your bike near Marktstraße and and wander in and out of the shops. This area has experienced quite a bit of gentrification as well yet there are still remnants of what it looked liked years before. Fashionistas should head to Maison Suneve and those on the hunt for home goods with a twist will appreciate Lockengeloet.

Altona
An independent city until 1937, Altona is now part of Hamburg and an emerging one at that. The Altona Museum gives a great crash course into the area while Ottensen is the main street for shopping as well as bars, cafes and restaurants. Since Altona is more west than the other neighborhoods on this list, biking is a quick and easy way to experience everything from the architecture to the bohemian atmosphere and multicultural flair. 

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Foodie Alert: The Ultimate Guide To Street Food In Penang, Malaysia

This article was written by Milda Ratkelyte, the travel community manager at AsiaRooms.com. She is currently exploring Asia and capturing the best moments in stories, photos, and films. Penang is a small tropical island connected to the northwest coast of Malaysia where, as one says, "the weather never changes so everyone talks about food instead." The island's fertile land and seas combined with a mixture of Malay, Chinese (mostly Hokkien with a smaller group of Cantonese and Teochew as well as the Straights-born Chinese known as Peranakans) and Indian cultures holds Penang as Asia's top city voted by CNN and the New York Times for street food for several years now. On top of that, Penang is also one of the safest places in Asia to try street food—the competition among the street vendors is so high that any dip in quality of the food is not tolerated here. During a recent trip to Penang, I rolled up my sleeves and hit the island's most famous hawker centers to find out for myself what all the fuss is about! Char Kuay TeowThe ever fragrant, garlicky and rich Penang Char Kuay Teow holds a special place in the hearts of foodies all over the world. Apart from sourcing the right ingredients and using them in the right ratios, the essence of char kuay teow is in how it's cooked. Wok hei, a smoky quality that translates as the breath of the wok, is essential. To get it, the hawker has to be working the wok with one hand while manipulating the fierce heat of the gas burner with the other, and because the dish is served scalding hot the second it's finished, there's no opportunity to taste and adjust the seasonings. Flat rice noodles together with oil, minced garlic, fresh prawns, soy sauce, bean sprouts, egg, and chives are fried in an iron cast wok to achieve the smoky aroma. The last ingredient is the cockles. The big plate of mouth-watering char kuay teow costs between $2 and $3. Asam LaksaIt was the Asam Laksa that launched Penang into stardom in the world of food. Ranked 7th in CNN's "World's 50 Most Delicious Foods" 2011 list. It is the only noodle dish in Penang to have a fish-based broth, which is made from pouched, boned mackerels stewed with lemongrass, chillies, and asam (tamarind). The rich broth is served with thick rice noodles, finely chopped ginger flower bud, sliced onions, cucumber, lettuce, red chillies, mint leaves, and prawn paste (har kao). The price for a bowl of heavenly laksa starts from $1.50. Hokkien MeeA bowl of comfort Hokkien meal in Penang is eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This dish of yellow noodles and rice vermicelli drenched in a think and spicy broth made of both prawn and pork is served with a garnish of water spinach and crunchy bean sprouts. It is usually finished off with a few slices of lean pork, boiled egg, prawns, and a sprinkle of fragrant fried shallots. To add more flavor, a spoonful of fried chilli paste is served along with it. This dish usually costs around $1.50. Nasi KandarThis famous meal originates from Penang. It is rice served with a host of curries, meat, vegetables and other side dishes. What sets the dish apart is the variety of curries. My recommendation for beginners would be to order "kari campur," which means a combination of various curries. The curries range from chicken, fish, beef, prawn, lamb, and many more. The price range is from $1.50 to $3. Chee Cheong FunThis famous dish is made of rice flour that is steamed and rolled up to about 10 cm long, hand-sliced, and served with a mixture of chilli paste, shrimp paste, a reddish sweet sauce, and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. The shrimp paste creates a slightly spicy taste. A plate of chee cheong fun costs about $0.60. Roti CanaiThe Roti Cenai is soft, buttery, and fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside, very much like Danish pastry. The dough goes through an intense process of kneading before it is tossed and spun in the air until it becomes a very thin sheet. It is then fried on a hot iron skillet with lots of oil until the outer layers become golden. It is normally served with dhal, lentil stew, chicken curry, or anchovy sambal. Price starts from $0.60. CendolI must admit, I was not keen on trying cendol at first. The green, chewy noodle-like condiment made from rice flour and local herb "pandan" (which makes it green), palm sugar syrup, finely shaved ice, red beans and fresh coconut milk just seemed to be too much going on for one thing. But never judge by the first impressions, it turned out to be a very refreshing tropical delicacy, which is great in the heat Penang seems to always be in. One bowl of cendol costs about $0.60. Let's not forget the crispy seafood poh piah, super spicy curry mee, springy noodle wan tan mee, the signature mee goreng, the crispy and sweet peanut pancake, refreshing and sweet ice kacang and so many more mouth-watering dishes. Here is a short directory on where you can find these delicacies: Red Garden Cafe Food Court: north Jalan Penang; open 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Joo Hooi Cafe: 475 Jalan Penang; open noon to 5 p.m. Gurney Drive Esplanade: Persiaran Gurney; food served after 6 p.m. CF Food Court: 49-F Pengkalan Weld; open from 6 p.m. With so much food to try it's hard to feel like I've even skimmed the surface here in just one visit. Penang establishes the benchmarks and resets your perspective on just how good hawker food can be. And I cannot wait to go back.

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5 Snacks To Try In Singapore

This article was written by Sia Ling Xin, who travels and writes about it for Asiarooms.com, a blog and online community focused on travelling in Asia. You can also find her on Twitter. It is undeniable that Singapore is known for great food. For all the talk about how the city-state is sterile, expensive, and without flavour, naysayers have to concede that this tiny Southeast Asian country, known as the Little Red Dot for its placing on the world map, is chockfull of strange and wonderful tastes. The dishes here may not be as famous as Thai food and not as intricate as Japanese cuisine, but they pack a certain punch those who have tried them won't forget in a hurry. The third in a series of what to eat in Singapore, here is a list of popular tea-time snacks under $3. If traipsing around under the hot sun is making you crave an afternoon pick-me-up, go ahead and order up one of these goodies, available at most hawker centers or coffee shops. Epok epok (for the sinful eater)Pronounced: ae-poke  ae-pokeBudget: $0.70 to $1.50Commonly known as a curry puff, this traditional Malay snack is spicy, heaty, and addictive. Some call it the Asian version of a Calzone. Curried potatoes, onions, chopped chilli, hard boiled eggs, and chicken are enclosed within a deep-fried pastry of made of flour, salt, and butter. The result is a crispy, greasy, and extremely satisfying snack that even young kids (with a taste for spice and adventure) love. A popular variation is the sardine puff, where canned sardines are used instead of chicken. Most stalls sell both types. To differentiate, look out for a coloured dot on the pastry—red indicates curry and green, sardine. Putu Mayam (for those who like it sweet)Pronounced: Poo-too Mai-yumBudget: $1.50 to $2.50Those with an affinity for clean, simple foods will enjoy this. Rice flour mixed with coconut milk is made into vermicelli-like noodles that are steamed with pandan leaves for additional aroma. It is then served in palm-sized portions, with freshly grated coconut and date palm sugar. The plain taste of the steamed flour is a perfect accompaniment to the crunchy coconut and sugar. The sweetness level can be personalized as the coconut and sugar are served separately from the main item. It is a simple dish that everyone from the young to the old can enjoy. Chee Cheong Fan (for those who love variety)Pronounced: Chee Chi-ong FunBudget: $1 to $1.60There are endless variations of this dimsum snack, but the basic version is made of corn, tapioca, and rice flour. These flours are steamed, rolled into thin tubes, and have a thick, sweet gravy poured over it. Some places also serve it with prawns, char-siew (a sweet barbequed meat), scallions, fried onions, sesame oil and chilli sauce. It is a very light, easy-going dish that makes a great breakfast item, midday munchie, or late night summer snack. If you find a stall that serves it with different toppings, try all of them, for they taste very different and you may feel neutral about one but love another. Steamed bun (for vegetarians and more)Pronounced: BaoBudget: $0.80 to $1.80Same as with the Chee Cheong Fan, there are many types of steamed buns. The usual suspects: char siew bao (a sweet, charred pork filling), da bao (which means big bun, and filled with pork, cabbage, egg, scallions), lian rong bao (a sweet lotus paste), dou sha bao (red bean paste, similar to the Japanese azuki bean but in a jam form). Vegetarians can ask for the zhai-bao, usually filled with a delicious mish-mash of local vegetables cooked to a stew-like consistency. Depending on if you want a sweet or savoury snack, just a tiny bite (usually the sweet buns are smaller) or have a rip-roaring appetite (go for the big bun), a well-stocked bao stall will be able to cater to your every whim. Mi Chaim Kueh (for the pancake lovers)Pronounced: Me Jee-arm Ku-ae or mee-ann jee-ann kowBudget: $1 to $2.50Imagine a super-thick and gummy pancake, filled with crunchy crushed peanuts and topped with another layer of the uber-chewy pancake—that's what this snack is like. Instead of just a limp, flour-y mix, the pancake is moist and slightly yeasty. A well-made pancake has lots of little holes for air, and a crispy, slightly charred exterior. Insist that yours is made fresh upon order, or run the risk of it tasting flat and cardboard-like. Nowadays, new-fangled flavours like chocolate, blueberry and kaya (coconut jam) are available, but always try the original crushed peanut filling first.

Inspiration

Have You Ever Faced Your Fears While Traveling?

I've done some pretty exciting things in my life, usually on vacation as a way of checking amazing things off my travel bucket list. I've zip-lined over alligators at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm & Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Florida. I was part of a "Splash and Dash" during a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a stunt where the hot air balloon pilot drives the basket into the Rio Grande, skirts the surface of the water, and shoots back up to regular flight height. I've kayaked in almost complete darkness through mangrove tunnels at Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico to get a look at the famous plankton that light up underwater as your paddle passes by them. I guess you can say I've become kind of a travel adrenaline junkie, as long as it's within reason and I'll end up with a great travel story for when I get home. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'll ever have the nerve to try something like bungee-jumping or jumping out of a plane (too many "what-if" scenarios to make me feel comfortable enough for something that extreme), but this time next week I am going to be facing one of my biggest fears: swimming with sharks in Cancun, Mexico. I'm going to be visiting Cancun for the first time next week, spending a long weekend exploring the beaches, hotels, nightlife, and nearby hotspots like Isla Mujeres. I will be posting from the road, so please follow along on our @BudgetTravel Instagram page! The highlight of my trip is going to be the opportunity to swim with whale sharks. I know what you're thinking: But whale sharks aren't scary, they don't eat people! They're like giant, friendly, vegetarian sharks. The truth is I'm not afraid of that part, it's the fact that we're going to be in very deep water to meet them and I'm nervous about what else will be swimming around out there with us at those incredible depths. The boat ride itself takes about two hours to get to the sweet spot off the coast where we'll be able to see them, and I'm just hoping not to bump into any other kinds of sharks out there along the way. I've never had a run-in with a shark or even come close to it, a remarkable feat given the fact that I grew up in Hawaii and Florida, both of which have had their fair share of shark attacks from time to time. I know people who have visited the Galápagos Islands and went swimming with sharks at Kicker Rock who told me it was a very peaceful experience that totally cured their irrational fear of sharks. Maybe someday I'll get to that point, but for now, I'm sticking with whale sharks and hoping for the best. So now it's your turn. We want to know: have you ever conquered your greatest fears while traveling? Did you feel better about it afterward and was it worth the experience? Tell us your story below!

Inspiration

Off The Beaten Path Costa Rica: The Mysterious Ancient City Of Guayabo

The mist slowly dissolved and trees and vines became visible. Other shapes, not from nature, also materialized through the morning drizzle. It was my first glimpse of Guayabo, Costa Rica's ancient lost city. The patina of antiquity on these rock walls and roadways made them look like they have always been here in the highland jungle. Guayabo's earliest structures date from 3,000 years ago. The peak of the city was between 800 and 1300 AD when up to 5,000 people lived here. By the time the first Spanish arrived in 1502, the site had long been abandoned and overgrown. The remains seen today are stone cobbled roadways, foundations, aqueducts, fountains, and drainage systems, and the waterworks still function after 3,000 years. One fountain reminded me of the Inca royal baths near Cuzco. Below Guayabo's bathtub-sized pool is a larger reservoir, replenished from the smaller pool. Cattle watered here 50 years ago in the same place where kings and queens once bathed in the regal splendor of cleansing ceremonies. Little is known about the way of life because the archeological context is lost, with most of the more intricate objects looted or re-purposed by local people over the past century and a half. Until 1973, when it was declared a national monument, the Guayabo site was used as a cattle pasture. Petroglyphs carved into the larger stones depict animals, including an alligator and a jaguar. One controversial example is a spiral design that has been theorized as a map of the community. Other curvilinear forms carved into rock might have been a form of writing. The extent of Guayabo was only realized after NASA images taken from space were analyzed. Based on these photographs, archeologists are certain that the excavated portion that is on display is the true center of the community. Several similar cities, along with connecting cobbled roads, were recently found with the help of NASA space imagery. Only a small part of Guayabo has been cleared from the jungle. A still smaller portion has been fully excavated. Among the objects unearthed are small jade and gold ornaments, as well as larger stone statues depicting jaguars, crocodiles, and other powerful predators. Anthropologists think these had religious, shamanistic, as well as political significance. In 1882 Anastasio Alfario, director of Costa Rica's National Museum began digging at the site shortly after it was discovered by farmers who colonized the area. In 1968, Professor Carlos Aguilar and the University of Costa Rica began excavations in a plan that is still being followed. Today excavation and interpretation are being carried out by the University of Costa Rica with the National System of Conservation Areas. Researchers from American and British universities are also involved. Guayabo is located at 1,150 meters above sea level where the atmosphere is a little cooler, but the Caribbean watershed is a very damp place and nothing made of wood or fabric lasts too long if left exposed. The structures that have been restored include stone foundations in a circular pattern that were the base for huge conical residential buildings, like teepees of wood. To get to Guayabo, you must first travel to Turrialba, a city with a population of about 30,000. A mid-morning bus leaves Turrialba's main station and you can catch the return bus at 3:30 p.m. The route is very scenic. If you're driving, take Highway 1 from San Jose, through Cartago and Turrialba, continuing through town and across the bridge. It is 84 kilometers from the capital. Admission is six dollars and guided tours are available twice daily. There is also a nature trail where you might get a glimpse of toucans, woodpeckers, thrushes, and other birds, as well as coatis, armadillos, sloths, lizards, snakes, and butterflies. You can camp near the ruins, though services are limited to just restrooms and picnic tables. Archeological tourism is on the rise in Costa Rica. The Park and Museum of the Stone Spheres opened in April 2014, and other new sites are also being considered for excavation and interpretation. Born in The Hague, Andrew Kolasinski arrived in Canada as a small child riding in the luggage rack of a DC-7. Since then he has felt at home anywhere. As the publisher and editor of Island Angler, Andrew spends half the year fishing for salmon and trout, and in the off-season he travels the world looking for a story. He wrote this article for South American Vacations, specialists in Costa Rica tours and travel all over Latin America.

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