Travel Blogs

Recommended Reading - Stranger in the Forest, by Eric Hansen

Stranger in the Forest
Recommended Reading - Stranger in the Forest, by Eric Hansen
Eric Hansen was the first westerner ever to walk across the island of Borneo. Completely cut off from the outside world for seven months, he traveled nearly 1,500 miles with small bands of nomadic hunters known as Penan. Beneath the rain forest canopy, they trekked through a hauntingly beautiful jungle where snakes and frogs fly, pigs climb trees, giant carnivorous plants eat mice, and mushrooms glow at night. At once a modern classic of travel literature and a gripping adventure story,…

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Regional Recipe - Jungle Juice

Jungle Juice
Regional Recipe - Jungle Juice
Jungle Juice was not originally the centerpiece of collegiate parties, but has a storied history that dates back long before it hit the fraternity circuit. American soldiers stationed in the South Pacific during WWII were prohibited from importing liquor, so they began distilling their own alcohol. The punch made its way to the United States, and was often made with any old bottom shelf liquor and powdered punch mix.  Here, however, is a simple formula that is summery, easy-drinking……

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Borneo & Sumatra, Asia’s safari destinations

Komodo Dragon
Borneo & Sumatra, Asia’s safari destinations
The islands of Borneo and Sumatra are the only places on Earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans, and elephants live together. The forests are also home to marvelous creatures like the proboscis monkey, sun bear, clouded leopard, and flying fox bat, and endangered animals like the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhino, and pygmy elephant. Did someone say safari?    The Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, located on the Equator, are home to some of the world’s most diverse…

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SE Asia’s wildlife hot spots

Orangutan
SE Asia’s wildlife hot spots
For those with a wildlife check list, here are the places to go to see Asia’s most iconic animals.  All of these can be worked in to a general itinerary.  1.  Komodo dragon - Indonesia Also known as the Komodo Monitor, the world’s largest lizards are found on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Flores, Rinca and Padar. The scaly giants can grow up to 12 feet in length, and weigh up to 150lbs. While the dragons are the main attraction, this region also offers some of the…

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Recommended Reading - A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding: A Novel by Jackie Copleton

Recommended Reading - A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding: A Novel by Jackie Copleton
Although not about responsible travel, this lovely novel was recommended by a friend who is a travel agent, and, after reading it, I agree that the story is powerful and the insights into Japanese culture are fascinating.  Pam and I have known each other for almost 30 years and, like many friends, enjoy recommending great reads to each other. If you have a book that you would like to let others know about, please feel free to contact me: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email…

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Regional Recipe - Responsible fried rice

Fried rice
Regional Recipe - Responsible fried rice
Responsible travelers eat local ingredients that have not been shipped long distances, and reduce their meat and dairy intake. This recipe is vegetarian, or vegan if you leave out the eggs. Use veggies from your garden or farmers market to be truly responsible!  INGREDIENTS • 1 ½ teaspoons + 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided • 2 eggs, scrambled • 1 small white onion, finely chopped • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped • 2 cups additional veggies, cut into very small pieces…

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In praise of public transportation

Rickshaw
In praise of public transportation
Flying is usually the largest component of the carbon footprint of international travelers, and it is largely unavoidable. But there are fun ways to avoid adding to that carbon footprint in country.  Public transportation not only reduces carbon footprint, but can be part of the adventure. Using subways, trains, buses, ferries, tuk tuks and rickshaws to get from point A to B is easily doable. In many large Asian cities, private touring by public transportation is the way to do more…

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Plastic water bottles

Plastic bottle pollution
Plastic water bottles
With good reason, international travelers avoid drinking tap water, but plastic bottles are a major environmental problem. Globally, humans buy a million plastic bottles per minute.  91% of all plastic bottles are not recycled.  What simple action can you take to reduce plastic, and urge others to do the same? Take a drinking flask. A flask also makes a responsible bon voyage gift.  Tuck a note inside asking the traveler to do this small thing to reduce the number of plastic…

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Asia for the Solo Traveler

Private guide in China
Asia for the Solo Traveler
Asia Answers Perfect Week journeys are locally escorted by a private guide, which provides great peace of mind for those traveling on their own. With a bilingual guide, travelers feel secure, have assistance with everything from bargaining at markets to ordering the right food in restaurants, and can even get advice for what to do and where to go after the guide goes off duty.  While a guide isn’t necessary for relaxing on a beach in Bali or Thailand, having a guide definitely enhances…

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Regional Recipe - Pad Thai for one

Pad Thai
Regional Recipe - Pad Thai for one
Finding a recipe for one can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean solo diners should sacrifice a great meal.  Here is a scaled recipe for that beloved Asian dish, Pad Thai.  INGREDIENTS • 4 ounces pad thai noodles • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil • 1/2 clove garlic, minced • 1 large egg • 3 teaspoons soy sauce • 3 teaspoons fresh lime juice • 1 tablespoon brown sugar • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce • 1 small pinch red pepper flakes (optional) • 1 green onion,…

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Recommended Reading - The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel by Nicole Mones

The Last Chinese Chef
Recommended Reading - The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel by Nicole Mones
In her satisfying, sensual third novel, Nicole Mones takes readers inside the hidden world of elite cuisine in modern China through the story of an American food writer in Beijing. When recently widowed Maggie McElroy is called to China to settle a claim against her late husband’s estate, she is blindsided by the discovery that he may have led a double life.  Since work is all that will keep her sane, her magazine editor assigns her to profile Sam, a half-Chinese American who is the…

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Regional Recipe - Garlic Green Beans

Garlic Green Beans
Regional Recipe - Garlic Green Beans
In 2010, the Din Tai Fung’s Hong Kong restaurant won a Michelin Star. Yes, it’s that good. One of their signature dishes is Garlic Green Beans, and this is a close approximation: INGREDIENTS: • 1 lb green beans, washed and trimmed • 6 cloves of garlic, minced • 1/2 tsp- 1 tsp salt • vegetable oil for frying • ice for water bath DIRECTIONS: 1. Cut green beans to half their length, making them easier to cook and eat. 2. First, blanch the beans. In a large bowl, fill with ice and…

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Hong Kong & Taiwan Dumpling Wars

Dumplings
Hong Kong & Taiwan Dumpling Wars
While hot sausage and mustard may have been what Oliver Twist and his hungry cohorts craved, dumplings and Chinese mustard would be more likely to inspire people to burst into song today. Two dumpling restaurants – one in Taiwan and one in Hong Kong – have earned Michelin stars and become destinations in their own right. Ranked as one of the world’s Top Ten Best Restaurants by The New York Times, Din Tai Fung has its roots dating back to Taiwan 46 years ago, when the owner of a cooking…

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10 most popular Japanese dishes for travelers

Bento box
10 most popular Japanese dishes for travelers
Japan is to Asia as France is to Europe – elegant, mysterious and unfailingly fashionable. It follows that Japanese cuisine is now as revered as French cuisine. Were the late Julia Child starting out today, it’s likely that she would be mastering the art of slicing sashimi as well as whipping soufflés. Beyond sushi and teriyaki, here is a glossary of the 10 most popular Japanese dishes you’re likely to encounter in Japan. Shabu shabu is a Japanese hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and…

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Recommended Reading - The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
Recommended Reading - The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
A classic, The Great Railway Bazaar is Paul Theroux’s account of his epic journey by rail through Asia. Filled with evocative names of legendary train routes – the Direct-Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Delhi Mail from Jaipur, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Hikari Super Express to Kyoto and the Trans-Siberian Express – it describes the many places, cultures, sights and sounds he experienced and the fascinating people he met. Here he overhears snippets of chat and…

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Recipe - Eastern & Orient Express’s Beef Pepperpot

Beef Pepperpot
Recipe - Eastern & Orient Express’s Beef Pepperpot
This recipe for Beef Pepperpot, by Jonathan Phang is a signature dish aboard the Eastern and Orient Express. Ingredients 2 tbsp vegetable oil 2 lb stewing beef (not too lean), cut into large chunks 1 habanero pepper, seeded and finely chopped 4 tbsp granulated sugar 2/3 cup aged balsamic vinegar 12 cloves 2 large cinnamon sticks, broken in two 1 tsp West Indian hot pepper sauce or Sriracha chili sauce Salt and Pepper to taste Instructions Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium…

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Iconic Asian Rail Journeys

Eastern & Orient Express
Iconic Asian Rail Journeys
Asia Answers’ team votes the following Asian rail journey’s their top three: Belmond’s Eastern and Orient Express from Bangkok via Kuala Lumpur to Singapore; the Palace on Wheels from Delhi to Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi and more; and Kyushu’s Seven Stars. Eastern and Orient Express – the golden age of travel lives on aboard the Eastern & Orient Express luxury train. Winding through some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic landscapes, it voyages through Singapore, Malaysia and…

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Recommended Reading: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians
Recommended Reading: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
The good news is that if, like most people,  you find this book funny and well written, there are more books by Kwan that are equally entertaining, and a movie version of this book is coming in August 2018. When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks…

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Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice
Mango Sticky Rice
Mango sticky rice, a popular dessert sold at food carts throughout Thailand, is synonymous with festivity and dancing in the streets Ingredients • 1 1/2 cups glutinous sweet rice • 1 1/3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar • 1/4 teaspoon salt • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted lightly • 1 large mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into thin slices (at least 24) Instructions 1. In a bowl, wash rice well in several changes of cold water until water is…

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Whacky Festivals of Asia

Tiger Dance festival Kerala, India
Whacky Festivals of Asia
If classic isn’t of interest,  there is a plethora or weird and whacky celebrations to join or just photograph, because otherwise no one is going to believe you.  South Korea’s Boryeong Mud Festival has grown to an excess of 2.2 million visitors since its inception in 1998. While originally conceived as a marketing vehicle for Boryeong mud cosmetics, the two-week event has become popular Koreans and foreigners alike for its fun-filled, skin-friendly activities. India’s…

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Wonderful Festivals of Asia

Taiwanese Lantern Festival
Wonderful Festivals of Asia
Some of us like classic festivals that celebrate the seasons, honor ancestors or tastefully ring in the New Year. If that sounds like you, here are our recommendations… China’s Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is perhaps the largest ice and snow festival in the world. Taking place from 5 January to 5 February, this unique festival showcases beautiful ice sculpture artworks, ranging from small mythical creatures and beautifully lit ice lanterns to awe-inspiring…

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Japanese Sento

At the sento, olden days
Japanese Sento
The bath culture in Japan extends back to the 6th century. In Buddhist teachings, washing dirt from the body was considered to be an important duty. In the early 13th century, the first public bathing facility for people, called a “Sento”, was established, and by the 17th century the number of Sento in Tokyo grew to as many as 500.Heading to the local sento before bed was a daily ritual until homes with private bathrooms became common. Even in today’s uber modern Tokyo, there are still…

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Recommended reading - The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things
Recommended reading - The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy A modern classic first released in 1997, this Man Booker prizewinner and New York Times best seller may have escaped your attention. It’s a worthy place to start, and, like your first trip to India, reading The God of Small Things will leave you craving more.  The novel is equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama. Seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevocably by the arrival…

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Slow cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala
Slow cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
• 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs cut into 1.5” cubes • 1 large diced onion • 4 cloves of minced garlic • 2 tbsp minced ginger • 1 x 29 oz can of tomato puree • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt • 2 tbsp olive oil • 2 tbsp garam masala spice mix • 1 tsp tumeric powder • 1 tbsp cumin • 1/2 tbsp paprika • 2 tsp salt • 3/4 tsp cinnamon • 3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper • 1-3 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on your heat preference • 2 bay…

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Doing yoga in India, the birthplace of yoga

Yoga
Doing yoga in India, the birthplace of yoga
Yoga started in India 5,000 years ago. A typical yoga class in the US has almost nothing in common with experiencing yoga in India. This is how it differs: YOGA WEAR – don’t bother packing your $150 designer spandex yoga outfit; most of your fellow yogis will be in pajama like outfits – and some may actually show up in their pajamas! Think loose, think cotton; and definitely leave revealing garments at home. INSTRUCTOR– will likely be a gentle, humble person who says very little.…

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Dragon’s Back Hiking Trail

Dragon's Back Hike
Dragon’s Back Hiking Trail
Considered the best urban hike in Asia, Dragon’s Back features trails that wind along mountains, through forests and down to the white sands of Tai Long Wan (Big Wave Bay). Gaze over Hong Kong and the South China Sea, and have time to swim or relax on the beach. The walk ranges from easy to moderately challenging. This is a year round hike and can be enjoyed in most weather conditions; it’s particularly great on sunny days or days with good visibility and best during the autumn…

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Recommended Reading - 13.67

Recommended Reading - 13.67
In the United States, there are the Edgar Awards; in Britain, it’s the Dagger Awards. In the world of Chinese-language mystery and crime fiction, perhaps the most prestigious is the biennial Soji Shimada Mystery Award established by Taiwanese publisher Crown Culture Corporation. Hong Kong writer Simon Chan Ho-kei, who won the Shimada award in 2011, capped that achievement in January when he took one of three fiction prizes awarded by the Taipei International Book Exhibition for his…

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Din Tai Fung style Egg and Shrimp Fried Rice

Mmmm Din Tai Fung style Egg and Shrimp Fried Rice
Din Tai Fung style Egg and Shrimp Fried Rice
Ingredients: 3 cups day old cooked rice 1 slice bak kwa, cut into small pieces (optional) 8 raw peeled shrimp 1 teaspoon baking soda 2 eggs, beaten (add half teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon oil) 2 tablespoons chopped green onions 1 teaspoon minced garlic 1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning or half teaspoon chicken seasoning 2 tablespoons vegetable oil Method: Clean and dry shrimp, toss in baking soda and set aside for 10 minutes. Rinse baking soda and pat shrimp dry. In the meantime, pour the beaten…

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Recommended Reading - The Living Reed

The Living Reed
Recommended Reading - The Living Reed
The Living Reed, by Pearl S Buck, tells the history of Korea through the lives of one family. Buck paints an amazing portrait of the country, and makes us empathize with their struggle for sovereignty through her beautifully drawn characters. This epic novel follows four generations of the Kim family, beginning with Il-han and his father, both advisors to the royal family in Korea. When Japan invades and the queen is killed, Il-han takes his family into hiding. In the ensuing years, he and…

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Regional Recipe - Bibimbap

South Korean Bibimbap
Regional Recipe - Bibimbap
Ingredients: 8 ounces lean freshly ground beef, turkey or chicken 1/4 cup dark soy sauce 2 teaspoons sugar 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 1 cup medium-grain rice, steamed 1 teaspoon butter 4 cups thinly diced vegetables such as carrot, zucchini, cucumber, radish, green onion, and spinach or bean sprouts 2 eggs Gochujang sauce, to taste. To make sauce, combine 5 tablespoons…

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What happens at a Korean temple stay?

108 bows, Woljeongsa Temple
What happens at a Korean temple stay?
Typically, your day will start at 3 a.m when you will be woken by rhythmic drumming which summons everyone to the morning chanting service. At 4 a.m.you perform 108 bows, a practice followed by monks to cleanse the mind of earthly attachments. To bow, you get down on your knees, sit on your heels, place your palms on the floor in front of you, bow your head down, lift your palms above your head, and then get back up on your feet. Traditional Buddhist prayer beads are used to count to 108, and…

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Regional Recipe – Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki Chicken
Regional Recipe – Teriyaki Chicken
Not all Japanese dishes require exotic ingredients and time commitment, Teriyaki Chicken is easy, quick and healthy.  Ingredients • ¼ cup soy sauce • ⅓ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1½ medium or 1 large oranges) • 3 Tbsp honey • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger • 1 tsp sesame oil • 1½ to 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat • 1 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil • 1½ Tbsp butter or margarine • Green onion and sesame seeds for garnish,…

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Recommended Reading - The Ginger Tree

The Ginger Tree, by Oswald Wynd, a wonderfully researched, moving, historical fiction novel following a young Scottish woman’s experience in China and Japan in the early 1900s. This is a wonderfully researched, moving historical novel following a young Scottish woman’s experience among Chinese and Japanese mores and landscapes. It begins in 1903 and follows her through the beginning of WWII. It was made into a 4-part, 1989 collaborative mini-series by the BBC and Japan’s NHK.

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Inns and ink - are tattoos a no go at ryokan?

Onsen (public bath) at a ryokan
Inns and ink - are tattoos a no go at ryokan?
One of the paramount experiences in Japan is to stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). One of the paramount experiences at a ryokan is soaking in the public bath.  But if you are covered in body ink, here’s what you need to know. Until recently, the only people in Japan who got tattoos were yakuza (Japanese mafia), a pretty rough crowd not known for their gentility.  To forestall any trouble, and without seeming to deliberately single out yakuza, ryokans made a rule that…

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Explore Land and Sea in Hong Kong

Explore Land and Sea in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a place still finding its own identity; still barely 19 years out of British colonial rule, the city is currently straddling the line between its past as a former colony and its handover back to China. This melding of cultures has helped Hong Kong blossom into a voice all its own, and its residents as well, from friendly fisherman in the floating village of Aberdeen to the chattering merchants of the night market at Temple Street. While Hong Kong may still be discovering itself,…

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