Although I spent most of my time in Taiwan in Taipei, I did take a few trips to some of the smaller towns south of that city. One of those towns was Wulai, a small town that I had seen featured on Bizarre Foods — but it wasn’t just food that brought me there. I’d heard that it was a beautiful town with a nature preserve, with an impressive waterfall. I tried to board one of the crowded buses out to Wulai but so many people were ehading there for the day that most of us couldn’t get on board. I ended up sharing a taxi with 5 complete strangers, splitting the fare 6 ways. It was a quick ride out of the city, and when I got out of the taxi I was greeted by the sight you see above. Wulai is an unbelievably beautiful place, almost unreal.
In February I went to Taiwan for a week, and had an amazing time. Because it was the week of the Lunar New Year, many restaurants (particularly the vegetarian ones) were closed. Luckily, Taiwan has a vibrant street food culture. On my first day I stopped by a road-side stand around the corner from the City God Temple for a taste of Taiwan’s signature dish: chou doufu, aka stinky tofu. Yes, that’s really what it’s called. It’s tofu, left to ferment, until it develops its signature aroma: a mix of rotting garbage and unpleasant bodily odors.
I have the travel bug. You know that bug. We all get it some times. It’s especially hard when the bug wants to go to places like Tokyo, Iceland, ooohhh the Easter Island, and Ushuaia. I know where my bug came from. I’ve been diligently catching up on old episodes of No Reservations and The Layover. Plus I just recently watched 180 Degrees South, a documentary about this guy’s journey to Patagonia. AND currently I have a friend eating delicious fresh sushi in Japan and our very own Howard is in Taipei exploring the night markets.
Many times Bourdain would say, on his show, to just go and travel. While I would love to do it, money has always been THE biggest factor. How am I going to pay for this trip to Patagonia? I guess I can save but then I got so much crap to deal with here at home (rent, bills, bills…BILLS).
Of course I can start off with places more nearby. Did you know one of the places on my to-go list is Mt Rushmore? Yep. I like that sort of stuff. Toronto and Montreal is also nearby enough to do a quick long weekend trip. Heck even places like Portland, VT would probably make a good trip. Hopefully this year I’ll make another trek out to Seattle and go abroad (somewhere close like London).
Where would you like to go this year?
When I visited Vietnam back in 2004, we were warned not to drink the tap water. This warning extended to beverages with ice in them, as well as to fruits that may have been washed in the water. We were there for a few days before we realized that plenty of fruits we found there had outer husks or peels, and that those fruits would be safe to eat. This is when I first discovered things like longans and dragon fruit. Since then I’ve pounced on opportunities to eat usual tropical fruits when I find them here in NYC but there’s nothing quite like eating them at the source, where they’re as fresh and delicious as you can get. When my sister and I were in Singapore and Malaysia in June, we made sure to eat as much fruit as we could find. (You may recall my eating fresh durian.) In the basement of Singapore’s Chinatown Complex we found the fruit section, and picked up some fresh lychees (a first for my sister) as well as bell apples, a first for both of us. The lychees were wonderfully sweet and juicy, though the bell apples were hardly sweet at all.
I recently visited Singapore and Malaysia, and here’s a short video shot by my sister while we were in Kuala Lumpur. Jalan Alor is a busy street, lined with restaurants and fruit vendors, where we sampled many fruits of Southeast Asia. Here’s my reaction to eating fresh durian for the first time. If you’ve never heard of durian, the outside resembles a spiky football. Inside are creamy lobes of fruit flesh surrounding large pits. Oh, and it smells like rotting garbage and is an acquired taste. It’s considered a delicacy, but because of the stench it’s been banned in many places, including our hotel.
Not seen above: I actually went back for a second piece. Once you get past the initial flavor, it starts to take on notes of caramel, which is great. But it’s still a struggle to eat it, and two pieces was all I really wanted to eat.
It’s impossible to talk about food in Barcelona and not mention tapas. Of course, it isn’t easy to define what exactly tapas are. On top of that you have pintxos, which are basically little snacks, and bocadillos, which are usually little sandwiches. All of which can usually be found at bars, some at restaurants, and all comprising different ingredients. In this post I’ll touch on all of those things, or at least the best ones I had while in Barcelona, as well as paella. I should point out that La Rambla, Barcelona’s main tourist thoroughfare, is lined with “tapas” places, but you should avoid those at all costs. The one really terrible meal I had was at a tapas place in a very touristy area, and it put me off of tapas for a few days afterward.
One of Barcelona’s (justly) famous landmarks is La Boqueria, an enormous market just off of La Rambla. The market is overflowing with live seafood, exotic fruits, cured meats, fresh vegetables, and more. I actually visited La Boqueria twice, because my first was late in the afternoon when many of the stalls were closed. Less known to visitors is the Mercat Sant Antoni (pictured above), with a slightly smaller selection but no tourists (except, of course, for me).