Don't Miss the New York Travel Festival
If you happen to be in the New York City area the weekend of April 26th and 27th, you won't want to miss the New York Travel Festival, now in its second year, and offering a wide variety of seminars and presentations by some of the biggest names in travel.
On Saturday, the Festival will take place at Bohemian National Hall, located at 321 E. 73rd St. between First and Second Avenues. Registration opens at 9:15 a.m. with seminars and events happening all day until about 7 p.m. Come to hear about the latest in travel tech start-ups, see presentations by Travel With Val and travel editors from Afar Media, and learn how to travel 675-days with your signicant other without killing each other from the founders of HoneyTrek.com, a couple who did just that. Other seminars include What's Yummy in Travel with Matt Gross and friends, Queens, NY: The World's Most Diverse County, and Celebrating the Dead in San Miguel de Allende, a special presentation by the San Miguel de Allende Tourism Board. Don't forget to stop by the Mexico Bar on the fourth floor between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to try mezcal and sample other delicious Mexican delicacies.
On Sunday, the Festival will take place at Hostelling International New York City, located at 891 Amsterdam Avenue and 103rd St., and will feature expert panels, workshops, and performances starting at noon. You'll hear great travel stories and tips from speakers like Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to visit every single country, and learn how to successfully quit your job and travel the world in a panel hosted by Rainer Jenss and Meet, Plan, Go! You can also sign up for the Matador Network Speaker Series, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., which will feature G Adventures' founder, Bruce Poon Tip, who started the company in 1990 by maxing out two credit cards to follow his dream—G Adventures is now the largest adventure travel company in the world and offers more than 1,000 tours on all seven continents. His new book Looptail—about the how he reinvented the business model by focusing on the human element, karma, and happiness within the company—recently became a New York Times bestseller.
As a special treat, all ticket holders will receive exclusive discounts on tours from participating companies like On Location Tours, A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Bike and Roll NYC, and Shop Gotham, Carreta Tours, Cititrek, Gotham SideWalks, Metro NYC Tours, NYCindy Tours, NYC Subway Art Tour, SusanSez NYC Walkabouts, Turnstile Tours, Urban Oyster, Wall Street Walks, Whistlin' Pup Tours, and Urban Adventures from Intrepid Travel—I'll be taking their Tenements, Tales, and Tastes tour in a few weeks and writing about it, so stay tuned!
Tickets are on sale now through the New York Travel Festival website: $45 per person for both days; or $12 per person for Sunday only including lunch ($15 per person at the door). Please visit their website for a full schedule of events and more information.
Myanmar’s Culinary Delights
Myanmar's rich and varied cuisine is a direct reflection of its fertile land, variations in climate, and ethnic diversity. Having been fairly isolated from much of the world until recently, the country's culinary influences have come almost exclusively from neighbouring countries like India, China, and Thailand. While the spice levels are toned down when compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours, traditional Myanmar fare proudly stands on its own with strong flavors like ngapi (shrimp or fish paste), unique offerings like laphet thoke (a salad of pickled tea leaves), and its rich mix of spices such as turmeric, lemongrass, tamarind, and cilantro. A Typical MealRice and noodles are staples nationwide and are normally served at every meal. However, lunch is generally regarded as the main meal of the day. A typical Myanmar meal usually consists of a main dish of curried meat (often mutton or goat) or seafood depending on location and availability. Curried vegetables and salad often accompany the meal. A soup is a requisite part of a Myanmar meal, but plays the role of beverage, as wine and water are not customary. And when soup is not available, green tea is the next best thing. SnacksDuring the rest of the day, people snack. Savory snacks like Myanmar's unofficial national dish mohinga (fish broth with rice noodles) and ohnnoh khaukswe (coconut noodle soup with chicken or fish balls) are typically enjoyed at breakfast. The most popular Myanmar sweet snacks like shwe yin aye (coconut cream sherbet) are made from rice and/or coconut sweetened with sugar or jaggery (palm sugar). Some unusual and delicious varieties of fruit are available as well, especially at the local markets. DessertsWhile most people outside of Myanmar would not consider pickled tea leaf salad a dessert, laphet thoke often finishes a meal. Thagu (tapioca pudding sweetened with coconut jaggery) may provide a sweet finish to a typical meal, while shwe kyi (semolina pudding) and kyauk kyaw (seaweed jelly with coconut milk) are sweets reserved mostly for special occasions. Dining EtiquetteEating is an important social activity to the Myanmar people. During meals, dishes are placed in the middle of the table to share among the group. Eating with the hand is commonplace; however, it is always with the right hand and never with the left as this is considered unclean. Noodles are eaten with chopsticks. And it's not completely uncommon to be offered a fork, spoon, and sometimes a knife. When using a fork and spoon, the spoon is used to eat from while the fork is used to push food onto the spoon. Myanmar has been isolated from most of the world until very recently and so has remained untouched in many ways, including its culinary influences. But as this Southeast Asian nation continues to open its doors to tourists and diplomatic relations, the culinary landscape will no doubt shift as global food brands and other international influences slowly seep into the cultural zeitgeist as they have everywhere else. And on the other side of those doors, as Myanmar begins to showcase its rich culture to the rest of the world, there is no doubt that its flavours will also begin to bear influence on the international culinary scene. This article was written by Marianne Comilang, an adventurer filled with wanderlust. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she traverses across continents and can proudly say she has set foot on every one (except Antarctica). If she isn't writing, editing, and strategizing to make others look good, she is probably teaching yoga or posting on her blog MoveStillFree.com.
Journey to the Shipibos of the Peruvian Amazon
Tara Leigh has traveled extensively in South America, where she had a wonderful time enjoying the food, taking in the sights, and meeting the people of that fantastic continent. This article was written on behalf of the Tambo Blanquillo, a family-owned Amazon jungle lodge. As my plane took off from the Lima airport, I watched the Pacific Ocean sparkle below in the summer sun. I was on my way to Pucallpa to meet my Shipibo friend Wilder, who'd invited me to participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony in his community 15 hours up the Rio Ucayali in the Peruvian Amazon. I was super-excited about this amazing opportunity, but a little pensive as well, not knowing what to expect on this journey so deep into the Amazon! The immense, snow-covered peaks of the Andes pierced the clouds below the plane, and dipped down into rolling hills that gave way to the flat, green expanse of the Amazonian rainforest. Descending onto the tarmac, I marveled at how the trees completely blanketed the earth, interrupted only occasionally by a muddy river snaking through their midst. Wilder and his friend, an anthropology student from Argentina, met me at the Pucallpa airport. After stopping at Wilder's house to pick up a few more people, we took moto-taxis to the tiny, bustling Pucallpa dock to find a place on the crowded boat that would take us to our destinatination. We climbed onto the rusty, electric green barge by way of a precarious gangplank and strung our hammocks up together near the middle of the boat, where they levitated over crates of pop, packages of toilet paper rolls, and bags of rice destined for the villages up river. Passing tugboats hauling garbage and lanchas ferrying passengers to neighboring riverside communities, our boat left the harbour for the open river. A bit stifled by the crowd below, we climbed onto the roof of the boat and watched the green riverbanks roll by for hours, enjoying the river's breeze on our faces. As the sky began to turn pink with the sun's departure, the mosquitos chased me back down to my hammock for the night, where I tried (with little success!) to catch a bit of sleep before our arrival. We arrived at the muddy riverbank of the community at 4:30 a.m. Wilder's mom, a diminutive but strong Shipibo woman who wore no shoes, greeted us there with boys who quietly ferried our luggage into the waiting moto-truck. We piled into the back of the truck and drove to the village, as Wilder's mom good-naturedly cawed driving instructions him in Shipibo while he navigated the pot-holed dirt road. Mindful of the need to fast for the ceremony that evening, Wilder's cousins prepared us a small breakfast that morning of plantains, sugar cane, and tea. We literally hung around in our hammocks for a few hours, chatting and drinking maté until Wilder returned from some errands and drove us to the local creek to swim. We stopped to pick guavas and guanabanas on the way, which we feasted on for the rest of our jolty ride. After a few hours of swimming in the creek's clear, cool waters, we rested until it was time to head to the moloka for the Ayahuasca ceremony that evening. The Ayahuasca ceremony was a powerful healing experience. Wilder and his mother's Shipibo Icaros were incredibly beautiful, and their loving presence made me feel healed and protected. I woke up the next day feeling elated and clear-headed, full of gratitude and love for these wonderful people. Soon, though, it was time for me catch the boat to Pucallpa, and after a quick lunch and some warm hugs from Wilder's mom, I was ferried off in a community boat to wait for the "barco rapido" in the nearby village. The boat never stopped for us, however, as it seems an earlier rainstorm delayed its departure, causing it to fill up faster than usual! With few other options for transit, Wilder offered to take me, and the other would-be passengers, all the way to Pucallpa in his little boat. We gladly took him up on his offer, and piled in! Wilder hung my hammock up inside the boat, and I stayed there until we reached Pucallpa, watching the river scenery slip by as we motored along. A perfect end to a perfect trip!
What To Eat In Singapore: Lunch Under $5
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 second in a series of what to eat in Singapore, here is a list of local lunch choices for under $5. Visiting a new country can get a little daunting and tiring as you traipse up and down the sunny streets—still, look forward to lunch, for you will always be able to find something that will perk you right up. Mee Soto AyamPronounced: Mee So-toe Ah-yum (for the picky eater)Cost: $4This dish of yellow noodles in a mildly spiced chicken broth is the perfect choice for a fuss-free meal. Topped with shredded chicken (ayam means chicken in Malay), beansprouts, and fresh coriander, it tastes fresh and clean. The dish is also a major crowd pleaser—everyone from young kids to grandpa and grandma can appreciate this light and flavourful soup. Mee Soto Ayam is also a common breakfast dish, if you feel like loading up first thing in the morning. Hainan Chicken RicePronounced: Hai-Nan-Jee-Faan (for every single visitor)Cost: $3.50This is hand's down Singapore's most famous dish, no matter for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This dish of sliced poached chicken served atop fragrant white rice was even on the royal menu when Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton visited the city-state two years ago. Properly executed, the chicken meat should taste springy, and the skin smooth with a thin layer of gelatine that makes the dish all the more sinful. The star of the dish is always the rice—cooked with pandan leaves, garlic, and chicken broth, it's fragrant, silky, and delicious. It's the perfect meal that won't leave you breaking out in sweat on a hot day. Minced meat noodle (for the pasta lovers)Pronounced: Bak Chor Mee (Bahk-Chore-Mee)Cost: $3.50Skinny yellow noodles go surprisingly well with morsels of minced meat, silvers of pork liver, braised mushrooms, and the tastiest of all guilty indulgences: crispy pork lard. Usually served with a small bowl of fish ball soup and a leaf of raw green vegetable, this dish relies heavily on a well-made sauce. Various options include: dark (sweet black soya sauce), chilli or tomato sauce (depending on whether you want it spicy) or white (sesame oil). The first few are heavier on the palate; those who love aglio olio would love the last preparation method. Nasi Briyani (for the adventurous spice lover)Pronounced: Na-see Bree-yarn-neeCost: $4 to $6.50 depending on what you addExtremely fragrant, highly exotic, and perfect for when you're in the mood for a hearty meal. Basmati rice is cooked with a variety of herbs such as cinnamon, saffron, and lemongrass, and the result is a plate of orange-and-yellow grains that look like the sunset and tastes just as glorious. Its slightly spicy tang goes great with a side order of fried chicken. If you're bent on having this, order a cold drink to bring down some of the heat. Lontong (for the vegetarian)Pronounced: Long-tongCost: $4.50Vegetarians and meat-lovers alike should check out this traditional Malay dish. Rice is tightly wrapped in banana leaves, boiled, cut into small pieces, and drenched with a mild vegetable curry. The vegetables—usually carrots, beans, and potatoes—are cooked until extremely tender. Sometimes, hard-boiled eggs and bean curd are also added into the mix. Together, they form a whole meal in a bowl of delicious curried stew—especially perfect for rainy days.
What To Eat In Singapore: Breakfast Under $5
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 first in a series of what to eat in Singapore, here is a list of local breakfast choices for under $5. You won't be able to resist them even after stuffing your face with your hotel's breakfast buffet. Kaya Toast (for the sweet tooth)Pronounced: Kar-yah breadBudget: $1.50 to $5 depending the set you orderKaya is a jam made from coconut milk, pandan leaves, eggs, and sugar. It is sweet, sticky, and extremely fragrant. Kaya is typically served between two slices of toast, squashed in between with a slab of margarine. The margarine is not presented as a mere spread; it shares the centerstage with the kaya jam with its smooth richness balancing out the grainy texture of the kaya jam. They go surprisingly well with two soft-boiled eggs you can order from the same stall. Roti Prata (for the pancake lover)Pronounced: Row-tee Pra-taBudget: Around $1 per pieceA savoury pancake made of flour and vegetable oil, Roti Prata can be served with curry, sugar, or plain. Some may like the 'egg prata' which is thicker and chewier. Your best bet is to order one plain and another with an egg, and try them out over curry and sugar. The humble piece of fried dough also comes in spruced up variations: with cheese, chocolate, or even ice-cream, for the adventurous. Nasi Lemak (for the hungry ones)Pronounced: Na-see Ler-makBudget: Around $2 to $5 depending on the ingredients you addWhite rice cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaves yields a fragrant, almost sweet rice. While the ingredients involved sound similar to the Kaya toast, the taste is much different. This is a traditionally Malay dish. Commonly served with fried ikan bilis (fried anchovies), a boiled egg, and sambal—a sauce made of shrimp paste and other spices—it makes a fortifying meal for any time of the day. Popular accompanists include fried chicken, fried fish, or stewed beef. Chwee Kueh (for those on a diet)Pronounced: Chee-wee-Kayh-ayeBudget: Around $1.50 for four piecesSteamed rice cakes that essentially taste like gruel in a viscous, jelly-like form, this simple dish can get strangely addictive if done right. The plain cakes are topped with preserved chopped radish and a chilli sauce that add an instant zing. Those who cannot take the heat can cautiously ask for chilli on the side. Chwee Kueh is best when served piping hot from the steamers. Vegetarian bee hoon (for the vegetarian)Pronounced: Zhai-mee-feenBudget: $1.50 to $4 depending on the ingredients you addWhen Singaporeans opt to go vegetarian due to religious festivities, the vegetarian beehoon stall sees a huge boom in business. Brown vermicelli lightly fried forms the body of the dish. Other items such as vegetarian char-siew (a sweet, red mock meat), stewed potatoes and peas, or vegetarian curry, are popular add-ons. There are countless vegetarian side dishes to accompany the vermicelli, so if you are unsure, ask the stall owner to choose two or three of the most popular for you.