Going on a Hong Kong food safari: don’t miss these dishes

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photo by CC user Morsesp3  on wikimedia

Heading to Asia’s answer to New York City anytime soon? Those that adore the food of this region owe it to themselves to go on a Hong Kong food safari. If you decide to search for the best dishes that this place has to offer on its sidewalks and in its alleys, be sure to hunt the following treats down…

1) Stinky Tofu

Out of all the foods available on the streets of Hong Kong, this pungent staple gets the most attention due to its uncompromising name. While you might be tempted to skip this smelly treat, take one for the team and buy it just once. It tastes way better than it smells, and actually going through with seeking it out and consuming it will earn much respect from native Hong Kongers.

2) Cha Siu Bao

Those looking for something far more appealing will want to snack on Cha Siu Bao, which is a pastry that is the stuff of dreams for many locals and visitors alike.

A steamed bun filled with pork tenderloin that has been slow roasted in a sweet sauce, it is a universal favorite in dim sum restaurants on this island territory, so be sure to show up early before they run out!

3) Yuk Song Bao

Another savory pastry that you should have on your radar when wandering the streets of Hong Kong is Yuk Song Bao, or the pork floss bun. A roll that is coated with extremely fine shredded pork that has been soaked in a mayonnaise batter, it is an excellent protein-filled way to begin your morning before heading out to explore this massive metropolis.

4) Ngau Lam Tong

While Hong Kong tends to be a warm place, it can get a little bit chilly during the winter months. On days where the weather is less than inviting, or if you are looking for a meal that is lighter than other available options, Ngau Lam Tong is a lovely choice that will have you going back for seconds.

A beef brisket stew that is jam packed full of seasonings and spices, the flavor filled spoonfuls you’ll enjoy will bear witness to the many hours of painstaking preparation it takes to bring a pot of this hotly sought out soup to completion.

5) Gai Daan Jai

Looking for a dessert to finish off your day in Hong Kong? Gai Daan Jai, or the egg waffle will tantalize your taste buds with a sweetness that strikes the right balance between being too bland and overdoing it.

So named for the shape they take on after sizzling in one of many street side grills located citywide, you too will find yourself impatiently waiting in line with locals for a serving that will bring your day to a successful close.

Charming bed and breakfasts in the English countryside

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photo by CC user Trish Steel on geograph.org.uk

Heading to Britain, and looking to explore this country outside of the major cities? If so, you are in for a treat, as the charming towns and villages in this nation will earn a special place in your heart when you get to know them.

When staying in these rural areas, the following charming bed and breakfasts in the English countryside will be part of the reason why this trip here certainly won’t be your last.

1) Orchard Barn, Bridport

Put together everything you’ve ever considered when it comes to the dream bed and breakfast in the English countryside, and you’ll likely come up with something that looks like the Orchard Barn, which is located near the English countryside town of Bridport.

While this place inhabits a large country house, a separate wing for guests ensures privacy for those that crave it, while still permitting access to the Corbetts, the lovely couple that runs this place for much of the year. Spend your nights by a roaring fireplace with ample firewood standing at the ready, anticipating the gourmet English breakfast that will be waiting for you the following morning.

2) Brick House Farm, Buntingford

Want to stay on an actual working farm during your getaway to the English countryside? The appropriately named Brick House Farm will be an inspired choice for those seeking to check this desire of their bucket lists, as it mixes the elegance of a top line bed and breakfast with the authenticity of a farm that runs in the way it has for generations.

The agricultural bounty of this property inevitably finds it way into the first meal of the day, served in a lovely garden for one of the more romantic moments you will experience if you are traveling with your significant other.

Additionally, if the summer weather should get a touch sweltering, the on-site pool will grant the opportunity for refreshment, so don’t forget to pack a swimsuit!

3) Cherry Trees Bed and Breakfast, Chipping Campden

Situated smack in the midst of the Cotswolds, the Cherry Trees Bed and Breakfast makes for a great base to explore this region while having a place that feels like home to go back to at the end of the day. Located within easy walking distance of the postcard perfect country town of Chipping Campden, you won’t have to go far for many of your sightseeing adventures.

When the time comes to head back to this accommodation, you’ll love the daily tea and cookies, luxurious shower and bath in your ensuite, and the local knowledge and companionship of your hosts, Angie and Steve.

Experiencing the best of Cartagena Colombia

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photo by CC user 43355249@N00 on Flickr

Heading to Colombia soon? If you plan on experiencing the best of Cartagena Colombia, it is advisable to look up a guide to plan your travels there. Thankfully, this article will do much to help you in this quest, as you will see below…

1) Walled City of Cartagena

Constructed to fortify this vulnerable trading settlement from attacks by opposing colonial powers and pirates, the Walled City of Cartagena became a formidable challenge to any invading force upon its completion in the early 19th century.

In the present day, it is a charming place for travelers to explore and discover sights and experiences that can be found around any given corner. From historical and cultural sites that will be explored in further detail below, to bars and restaurants offering up the finest in Colombian cuisine, there is much to like about this corner of South America.

2) Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

The spearhead of this cities’ offensive prowess was Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, as it is located on a point of land where the comings and goings of ships could be tracked. This allowed the highly valuable shipments of gold bullion to be protected from pirates within sight of land, and it also acted as a deterrent to those that sought to lay siege to the city.

Its superior positioning ensured its survival to the present day, with tons of battlements in pristine condition compared to similar fortifications around the world.

3) Las Bóvedas

When invading buccaneers were caught by security forces over the years, they were taken to Las Bóvedas, the city’s dungeon. While these thick cell blocks within this section of Cartagena’s walls once held prisoners that despaired their bad fortune, today they are home to a number of boutiques that trade in a variety of Colombian handicrafts, making it a great place to pick up souvenirs for loved ones back home.

4) Plaza Santo Domingo

If you are looking for a place to chill out, people watch, and enjoy a great meal, there is no better place within Old Cartagena then Plaza Santo Domingo. With statues, lots of classic Spanish architecture, and numerous restaurants to choose from, it is the perfect place to enjoy the Old City after the sultry equatorial sun has set.

5) Cathedral de San Pedro Claver

Finally, make sure you make time to see Cathedral de San Pedro Claver before moving on in your Colombian adventures. Named after a priest that made it his mission to help newly freed slaves get their footing after being liberated from their servitude elsewhere in the West Indies, the story of the padre behind this place will be equally as captivating as soaring arches and design of this place.

Knockout national parks near American cities

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photo by CC user Tiner Ralph, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (image in public domain)

As much as America’s best urban environments offer, sometimes the call of nature is too alluring to resist. When you seek to answer its call, do so in some of the best national parks near American cities…

1) San Francisco: Yosemite National Park

Renowned worldwide for its spectacular granite massifs (like El Capitan and Half Dome), waterfalls, and massive sequoia trees, a trip to Yosemite National Park has long been a way for many from the Bay Area and across America to cast off the stress of the city in order to reconnect with nature on their holiday time.

Gawk at the power of Yosemite Falls, scale Half Dome via the assistance of via ferrata cables, and do some day hikes that will get you away from the tour bus crowds and deep into this park’s amazing nature … any of them will get you hooked on seeing more of America’s natural heritage.

2) Denver: Rocky Mountain National Park

Within sight of Denver’s downtown core are the Rockies, which is arguably America’s most famous mountain chain. While any place west of the city will put in their midst, the best place to experience their nature in a protected state is within the appropriately named Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Continent Divide passes through the centre of this park, which makes for a drier eastern section, and a moister and more lush western section. Those that are into mountaineering, rock climbing and wildlife spotting will be at home here, while those wishing to drive the highest paved road in America will find it along the Trail Ridge Road, which peaks at 12,000 feet above sea level.

3) Miami: Everglades National Park

Fixing to leave the socially competitive scene of Miami behind for a weekend of exploring South Florida’s complex nature? If so, the biodiverse wetlands of Everglades National Park are but a short drive away from the sands of South Beach, where you will trade sun loungers for swamp boats. From crocodiles to manatees, the waters of the park are filled with amazing animals that are just waiting to be discovered.

4) Boston: Cape Cod National Seashore

In the sweltering heat of a New England summer, many overheated locals do the only sensible thing on weekends and on their time off from work: they load themselves into the family car and head off toward Cape Cod National Seashore.

In addition to harboring a large quantity of high quality beaches, it also protects cliff dunes, salt marshes, and pine and oak forests inland. While camping is not available on Seashore lands, many private campgrounds are situated outside park boundaries, making for a fun weekend (or week) during the height of summer in the Northeast.

Experiences, not things: Three outstanding travel gift ideas

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photo by CC user FlashBuddy on pixabay

These days, a backlash has begun against the materialism that has replaced actual thought when it comes to getting gifts for our loved ones. While it is nice to get the latest technological creation from the likes of Apple, Google or GoPro, these devices often lack the emotional context that presents used to have in prior years.

By getting your loved ones experience based gifts this year, you’ll be giving them something that grants them memories that will last far longer than the temporary rush of getting the latest gadget. To underscore the desirability of giving your family and friends a day of exhilaration instead of a new stand up blender, we will illustrate three travel gift ideas that we believe will give them one of the best (if not THE best) birthdays that they have had in their lifetime.

1) Learn how to drive a rally car

Looking to give your best pal one last adrenaline-soaked weekend before he ties the knot with his beloved fiance? Have you thought about getting your fellow lads together and passing the hat around to buy him a weekend of learning how to race rally cars.

Highly experienced and trained instructors will show him and all of you how to push street legal cars to their limit on the blessedly empty rally tracks where you needn’t worry about civilians or the police getting in the way of your fun.

2) Roll down a hill inside of a giant plastic ball

On laundry day, have you ever stopped to wonder what it would be like to be inside of a washing machine as it tumbles around and around?

In the extreme sports world, there is an activity that gives you the chance to experience this surreal sensation, as Zorbing has you enter into the inner sanctum of a specially constructed giant plastic ball, which is filled with a small amount of lukewarm water.

Once you have entered the fray, your Zorb attendant will send you down the hill on your way, giving you ten to fifteen seconds of one the most unique experiences that you have ever had in your life.

3) Float above the Earth on a hot air balloon ride

Know a special couple that could use an amazingly romantic activity to re-spark their love life? Why not give them the surprise of a lifetime by gifting them with a hot air balloon ride? Many of these encounters happen as the sun breaches the horizon in the early morning, or as it sinks into it in the evening, making for an hour or two that you will never forget. Make sure your balloon package includes champagne, as a flute or two of the bubbly pairs well with this activity.

Bangkok: 4 Things You Can’t Miss

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palace

You’ve just booked your flight to Bangkok, but what are you going to do when you actually get there? It’s a city of 600 square miles: you could get lost in a heartbeat. The tons of spicy food that you can eat for days, the crazy tuk-tuk drivers that hopefully speak English, and the Grand Royal Palace are just some of the experiences that you shouldn’t miss. Don’t be surprised if you end up extending your trip after checking off these four epic items off your bucket list.

Try REAL Thai Food 

Thai food is some of the best food in the world, and where better to indulge than Bangkok? The city offers many traditional Thai culinary delights like noodle dishes, meat kebabs, and exotic fruits. Those travelers seeking more non-traditional fare can search out Angry Bird fish balls and various roasted bugs, while the truly brave can try grilled scorpion. Aside from the many traditional Thai restaurants, the experience that you’ll be begging to have imported around the world will be found in the street markets. Make sure you’re ready for a taste bud overload after munching on some of the local treats.

Tuk Tuk Tour 

The public transportation is good in Bangkok but if you want a real adventure, hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you on a tour of the city. Wind will blow through your hair while you are zipping in and out of the heavy traffic Bangkok is known for. Iconic selfie pictures are necessary, especially if you make friends with your driver.
The best English speaking tuk-tuk drivers hang around Khao San road. If you’re looking for the cheapest hotels in Bangkok, this is also the best area to look.

Thai Boxing Match 

Adrenaline junkies will get a secondary high from all the excitement surrounding a Thai boxing match. Finely-honed fighters will duke it out one-on-one in the ring and you’ll be standing on your feet encouraging your favorite fighter. The sweat will be dripping down your face but whether it’s from the Bangkok heat or all the excitement? Hard to tell.

For those fitness junkies that want to try the sport out, many Thai boxing schools are scattered all over the city. Just ask your favorite tuk-tuk driver for the best place to go.

Grand Palace

Those travelers that want to see all the opulence Bangkok has to offer should head to the Grand Palace. Centered in the heart of the city, the multiple-structure palace is the definition of luxury in Southeast Asia. The gold painted towers, hand-chiseled statues, and well-manicured landscape will create memories that you’ll keep the rest of your life. Most holidays and festivals bring large celebrations at the Grand Palace, so try timing your visit to catch it at its best.

Any history-loving travelers will be satisfied after a visit to the Grand Palace. Some buildings in the compound were built over 200 years ago with new structures being built with each coronation of a new Thai king.

This article is part of the #hipmunklove project. I would never recommend a site I didn’t use myself. I recently booked a trip to India and after looking at several providers, they were actually the cheapest.

Whistle stops on the Trans Siberian Railroad that you won’t forget

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photo by CC user InvictaHOG on wikimedia

While many romanticize the process of traveling on the Trans Siberian Railroad, many people don’t realize how tedious spending seven days and nights on a train can be. Break up your trip by visiting the following whistle stops along the way…

1) Suzdal

A short trip from Moscow (relatively speaking), Suzdal will make a great first stop along the Trans-Siberian Railway, as it is a small town that has the distinction of having the most churches per capita in the country.

Preserved by the government as is dating back from Soviet times, those looking for a peek into Russian country living will be in for a treat here, as elderly women washing clothes by hand down by the river, loose livestock wandering through the streets are common sights here. Try some medovukha (a cider made from honey) but watch out for fakes – ask a local where you can find the real stuff.

2) Perm

Getting deeper into the vast Russian interior, the Siberian city of Perm may not make a favorable first impression due to its industrial appearance, but its location in the foothills of the Ural Mountains make it a great hub to enjoy a variety of recreation options year round.

Skiing, hiking and whitewater rafting are just a few activities of which you can partake, while those that are less athletically inclined can indulge in the city’s rapidly growing arts scene, which includes frequent events and a number of excellent museums and galleries.

3) Tomsk

While Siberia is a wild and interesting place, it can be hard to find a person with which an intelligent exchange can be had. Tomsk is the exception that rule, as this university city of a half million people offers much in the way of cafes, culture and boisterous nightlife.

4) Lake Baikal

Being one of the most famous natural attractions on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Lake Baikal will nonetheless surprise you with its deep blue hue, which is a shade produced by being the deepest fresh water lake in the world.

This 1,637 metre deep, 636 kilometre long rift lake contains over a fifth of the world’s drinkable water (in most places, you can drink right out of it, as its purity approaches distilled water). Camping, diving, boat trips, fishing and other outdoor activities are possible here, so take your time in this natural paradise.

5) Ulan-Ude

When it comes to religion, most associate Russia with the Orthodox Church, as its onion-bulb cathedrals are practically one of its national icons. However, Buddhism has a strong presence in the city of Ulan-Ude, a city founded in Asiatic Russia due to its proximity to well-worn trade routes with Mongolia and China.

Get the lowdown on how this faith is practiced within Russia at Rimpoche Bagsha, a relatively new temple on a hill overlooking the city. Also, the world’s largest head statue of Lenin can be found here … so you could see that if Buddhism isn’t your thing.