Sunday, October 31, 2010

Montage Monday: NYC Halloween Edition

Happy All Saints' Day! This Montage Monday is dedicated to my favorite holiday of the year (yes, I consider Halloween a holiday) in my favorite city in the world, New York!

Probably the most ingenious Halloween costumes I ever saw: a can of Raid (roach killer) and a cockroach. Raid would chase after the cockroach in the NYC Parade, "spray" him with the insecticide and the cockroach would fall and die a horrible, chemical-induced death. It amazed us all to see that happen.

The Parade kicks off with crowds of people participating and hundreds more spectating, with the police in the middle trying to keep order. Chaos at its best!

I simply love spending Halloween with my friends and I'm sad to have missed it this year!

© Connie Hum 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Remote Island of Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island)

I'm sorry that this post comes rather late, but I was so busy after my time in Rabbit Island that I never got around to posting about it until now.

Sometimes, even while you're traveling (and perhaps especially when you've
been traveling for a long time), you need a holiday from the holiday. Don't roll your eyes, it's true! I had such a need in Cambodia and my friend, Judith and I decided to take a weekend holiday to the island of Koh Tonsay, also known as Rabbit Island, to get away from all the crowds and the relentless touts of mainland Cambodia.

Rabbit Island is a small and remote island just a short boat ride from the Cambodian town of Kep. The main draw of Rabbit Island is its sheer lack of things to do. Perhaps this is why the number of tourists here rarely go above the number you can count between your fingers and toes, but again, that's part of Rabbit Island's charm. It really is just a peaceful little island with a nice long white-sand beach to idle the day away on a hammock. There are no hawkers that troll the beach and no Full Moon parties on this island, which is a very nice change.

Judith and I spent the whole first day either sleeping in a hammock right on the beach or eating deliciously fresh seafood. So fresh in fact, that you can actually go out to the nets in the sea with your cook and pick out your fish! My favorite dish while on Rabbit Island was the shrimp curry. It was simply delicious!

Another of Rabbit Island's selling point is the little beach bungalows that you can rent for the night for a mere $5. Although quite simple, the bungalows provided us with a bed and a mosquito net, the bare necessities for the night. And with the ocean waves lulling us to sleep, we didn't need anything else.

The next day we woke up and lazed in the hammocks again. Eager to explore the island, Judith and I decided to hike the perimeter. We thought it would be quite easy and set off. It wasn't so easy. The trail disappeared at times and we found ourselves lost more than once. Luckily, we came upon a number of fishing houses with a few people living there, who were quite helpful in pointing us back on the right path. We were forced to circumnavigate a good portion of the island from the water. Given the shallow shore, that wasn't too hard. Except when our feet sunk into the quicksand-like mud. Hiking in flip flops, as it turned out, wasn't the best idea.

We finally made it back to the beach in time to catch our boat back to mainland Cambodia. As soon as we docked, tuk tuk drivers descended upon us again with a great Cambodian welcome, making me question whether just one night away had been enough...

© Connie Hum 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top 5 Dishes Most Tourists Never Eat in Thailand

**Originally posted on Kumuka Blog on October 21, 2010.

Thai cuisine is famous the world over for its spiciness and its intense flavors. Many tourists and food lovers often feast on more traditional Thai fare such as pad thai, green curry and tom yum gai but unfortunately, most usually miss out on other delicious (and sometimes hard-to-find) dishes in Thailand. Here are the top 5 dishes that you should NOT miss in Thailand!

1. Haw mok: Fish curry stirred until it reaches a mousse-like consistency then steamed in banana leaves, haw mok is a rare, Southern Thailand delicacy due to its long and tedious preparation process. You will have literally hit the culinary jackpot if you manage to find it. Haw mok is simply delicious! It's aromatic and full of flavor with lemongrass zing and chili pepper spice while managing to not be overbearingly fishy. As haw mok is something pre-cooked and sold on the street, you can't specify the level of spiciness so try eating haw mok with white rice should you need help to cool your taste buds.

2. Khao kha moo: Stewed pork leg doesn't necessarily sound like music to a foodie's ears, but just wait until you taste it! Khao kha moo is Thailand's answer to soul food. Juicy, tender pork leg over rice flavored with the stew it was cooked in and a side of mustard greens makes the perfect meal for those looking for something milder in Thai cuisine, but doesn't want to miss out on all the flavor. Luckily, khao kha moo can be found in most roadside food stalls all over Thailand.

3. Moo kata: Thailand's known for its hot weather and you would think the last thing you wanted to do was cook your own bar-b-que over a hot clay oven just inches away from your face. Oh, how wrong you'd be! Moo kata is one of the best things to eat in Thailand and it's a fun dining experience for all involved! First, you load up plates of food from the buffet that you want to cook up. Next, you choose accompanying dishes like a wide variety of noodles, vegetables and sauces. Once the cooking surface is prepared with a piece of pork fat, you start cooking your meal. Just be careful not to overload your cook space, it's easy to burn your food on the small, but hot surface if you forget to turn them over in a timely manner. Relish your own cooking skills and wipe away the sweat that's sure to be streaming down your face by now! It's a hot one!

4. Beef noodle soup: A generous helping of vermicelli noodles and plenty of accompanying vegetables in a delicious broth, flavored with fish sauce, pepper and a touch of sugar, Thailand's beef noodle soup gives its nearby neighbor, Vietnam's more famous version called pho a run for its money. One bowl is plenty for a hungry traveler and Thailand's beef noodle soup can soon become your daily food fix as it became for me!

5. Khao soy: Egg noodles are perfectly complimented with a spicy, coconut-y chicken curry soup to make your taste buds sing. Literally. The first time I ate this dish, I was absolutely blown away. The hearty curry-soup is seasoned with shallots, lime, and pickled cabbage. The chicken is amazingly tender. Khao soy practically begs you to eat more of it. Unfortunately, this dish is hard to find in Thailand except in the North, a rather confounding discovery given Thailand's near-obsessive love for noodles and curry.

© Connie Hum 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Montage Monday: Burma 2005

Take a walk down memory lane with me on this three-photo montage highlighting my best memories from past travels!

My first night in Burma and my extended family took me to the beautiful Shwedagon Pagoda. So much going on, especially at night, when the temperatures have cooled and you can leisurely walk barefoot (it is a Buddhist temple after all) without the pain of burning your feet like during the day. What an awe-inspiring and peaceful place! It's quite big as well so you have plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.

Riding through Inle Lake with my Burmese grandmother and my first cousin, Ko Ko Gi, whom I had never met before this trip! Inle Lake is such an amazing place to visit with traditional fishing houses and villages lining the perimeter, seagulls chasing after your longboats, Burmese fishermen rowing with their legs alongside you and the big, beautiful sky above you.

Yup, that's me in the middle. My mom really wanted family portraits, but why in ridiculous Burmese costume, I have no idea. Silly? Yes, but it ended up being a fun day at the photo studio with my parents, getting all dressed up and having people apply tacky make-up on our faces and fake hair onto our heads.

© Connie Hum 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spotlight: On Our Own Path

Bessie and Kyle quit their jobs in Chicago leaving for a year long backpacking trip, and they've been gone over 2.5 years. They traveled from Mexico to Argentina by land, volunteering over 1,000 hours and climbing lots of volcanoes. To keep funding their travels, they took jobs as English teachers in South Korea and created WiseGifter, a gift list website to help people have great life experiences, like traveling. []. They've spent a few months exploring southeast Asia, and now they're settling into Chiang Mai, Thailand for a few months with no plans of stopping traveling any time soon. Read about their continued adventures at OnOurOwnPath.

1. What has been your best travel experience and why?

Hands down, we loved our time in Colombia. The people were so welcoming, the scenery was so spectacular, and city after city we kept having eye-opening experiences. Locals on the street would regularly stop to talk to us, thanking us for visiting their country. We were welcomed into people's homes, invited to dinner, and the CouchSurfers were the most active we met in Latin America. We stayed our entire 2 month travel visa there, we loved it so much. Before we visited, we were convinced it was far too scary and dangerous of a place to travel, but travelers told us otherwise, and we learned a great lesson that you can travel safely, the key is traveling smart.

2. How do you two determine where your next destination/volunteer project will be?

We try to follow opportunities and also advice from traveling friends. Every time we decide to spend time somewhere it's pursuing a goal, whether that's work or because we're curious about a culture. We volunteered in El Salvador helping develop programs and promoting the work of a young non-profit because I had a work connection. We taught English in Korea because we had a friend that enjoyed it, and we knew we could save a lot of money. We're staying in Chiang Mai a few months working on our business, and after this, we'll see where the next opportunity takes us.

3. If all your luggage was stolen but you could ask the thief to return just one item, what would it be and why?

Definitely our external hard drive! We back up our images online, but everything work and personal is backed up there. (Actually, writing this is making me realize I should back-up online instead!) We travel with the assumption that we could have our bags stolen at anytime, so we don't travel with anything we consider we couldn't lose.

4. Do you ever feel that your relationship hinders your travels? Or vice versa?

With out a doubt, our relationship strengthens our travels, and our travels strengthen our relationship. We joke that spending the 1st year after we got married backpacking was sort of like 5 relationship years in 1. We spent almost all our waking hours together, so all of our relationship and personality quirks were all right there out in the open - whether it was on a 20 hour bus ride through the mountains or wandering through a street market. Really, we just feel lucky to have so much time to spend with each other. Although I can't say we don't drive each other nuts sometimes...

5. How do you find the balance between being together all the time and being individuals traveling together?

Balance is definitely the key word. It's important to keep up the things you like to do on our own and not make everything together time. Whether it's a few hours volunteering, exercising, whatever, a few hours apart always makes us a little happier to see each other, and gives us something to talk about that the other person can't just respond "Yea, I remember!"

6. What is the best travel advice you can give to someone?

Let go of the thought that travel is selfish and therefore bad. It's a potentially life-changing opportunity to learn things up close and experience the different ways the world works. You can get an education like nothing you'll get in school. And you'll find your boundaries and grow in ways you couldn't if you never left home. Along with that, I see a challenge to the traveler to give back by volunteering, etc, to travel responsibly by harming local cultures, and to share their experiences.

7. What is the best travel advice you can give to someone traveling with their partner?

In those moments of frustration when you feel like you've had enough, remember that your sharing in something most couples might never be brave enough to do. Take a breather, get some space and come back to the situation later. Compromise and spending loads of time together can be challenging, but it's also the base for an amazing relationship.

Thanks so much, Bessie and Kyle, for taking time out of your busy schedules to have this interview with me and for sharing your unique perspectives and travel experiences with us!

© Connie Hum 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Montage Monday: Grenada

Apologies for the delay but I've been bed-bound due to a nasty stomach virus even Cipro couldn't handle. That will teach me to eat "Western" food while traveling abroad...

Take a walk down memory lane with me on this three-photo montage highlighting my best memories from past travels!

Reuniting with my high school best friend, Milania, in the gorgeous Caribbean island of Grenada while she attended medical school there. Can you imagine studying for exams in this amazing place? You wouldn't be able to tear me away from the beach!

I met a wonderfully generous woman named Kathyann who invited Milania and I over for a home-cooked Caribbean feast and a fun afternoon at the waterfall and lagoon with her family. The children were adorable!

I was part of a group that went to learn more about leatherback turtles and we were fortunate enough to see one beach, lay her eggs and return back to the sea! It was an incredible experience! You're not allowed to take flash photos of the turtles, but one of the guys "accidentally" did and sent it to me.

For the full blog about my time in Grenada, read my blog post here.

© Connie Hum 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Glorious Phu Quoc Island

Phu Quoc Island is one of the rare and few paradise's left on Earth. It's a gorgeous teardrop-shaped island, Vietnam's largest, off the coast of Cambodia. Luckily for me, development hasn't progressed too much yet on the unspoilt island, leaving me miles of white-sand beaches, secluded coves and local restaurants to explore.

Most of the beach bungalows, hotels and tourist restaurants are located on the Western coast of the island on Long Beach. The beach is lined with hammocks and deck chairs, ready for your disposal. Restaurants offer superb, but a bit pricey, food ranging from Western staples to traditional Vietnamese cuisine right along the shore. The sun shines down with hardly any shade to offer you cover. The water is clear and calm, making it perfect for cooling off from all the heat. Because of the clear water, you can also snorkel on off Phu Quoc's shores. I've been told the snorkeling is better in the nearby smaller cluster of islands of An Thoi but even just off shore, I was able to view several types of colorful fish and crabs.

Relaxing on the beach has its perks but after a couple days of lazying on the beach, I found myself restless to DO something so I hired a motorbike. I set off to find local street food and
hit the jackpot just after five minutes of driving. A woman had a food stand on the side of the road, selling some of the best bun (a bowl of cold vermicelli noodles topped with fresh vegetables, grilled BBQ pork and sweetened fish sauce) and fresh spring rolls I've tasted outside of Ho Chi Minh City! She was lovely too! We couldn't communicate but we sure had a good laugh trying!

While I motorbiked around the island, I saw, to my dismay, a lot of development taking place with plans to build new hotels and resorts. The Vietnamese government has plans to up tourism by touting Phu Quoc as the next Phuket so m
ove fast if you want to experience Phu Quoc at its finest. You don't want to miss this island while it can still offer you beautiful, secluded, calm and peaceful surroundings to escape to! You can't enjoy a glorious sunset like this one while hundreds of others are surrounding you.

© Connie Hum 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Montage Monday: Washington DC

Take a walk down memory lane with me on this three-photo montage highlighting my best memories from past travels!

I made it down to Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival in 2008. It was my first time in DC and it was a spectacular Spring weekend. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Absolutely gorgeous!

Rekindling my love for space travel at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for a few hours. I was literally and almost figuratively over the moon! And yes, I am a space geek!

So I didn't do much else in Washington DC besides enjoy the sunshine, the cherry blossoms and relaxing on the grass. There's no shame in that! In fact, that's exactly what I had hoped to do!

© Connie Hum 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mekong Delta Days

I stay away from package tours like the plague on most occasions. I just don't like being told where to go, when to go, and how much time I can have in a given place. Unfortunately, traveling around the Mekong Delta was going to prove difficult and costly without a group tour. A bit reluctantly, but excited to see the Mekong nonetheless, I signed up for a 3-day mostly inclusive tour with an operator in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Day 1: The bus picked me up outside of my HCMC hotel at 8 am and we drove two hours to the ferry in the Mekong Delta. We took a boat and made our way across the Mekong, switching into a smaller boat to navigate the tiny canals of the Mekong. With the tour, I visited a coconut candy factory and bought some of the tasty treats on the way out (which I am pretty sure that I could have gotten at the local market for much less), a fruit orchard where we listened to traditional Vietnamese music and a honey bee farm where we tasted lemon tea with honey. Oddly, I got to try on a python at the honey bee farm as well. It was a rather terrifying experience but I'm quite proud that I managed to allow them to get the thing on me in the first place. Afterwards, we took another two hour bus journey to Can Tho, where we had a hotel waiting for us. 

Day 2: I was woken up at 6 am (!) by the tour guide and met up with the group at 6:30 for breakfast. After a quick breakfast, we walked a few blocks from the hotel to the boat dock where we boarded a small boat and headed up the Mekong to see the floating market. This was truly a locals' floating market as it only sold fresh fruit and produce. The most interesting sight was the bamboo stick that stuck up into the air in front of all the boats with the items for sale on display for all to see. Smart idea! After circling the floating market a couple of times, we headed further into the Mekong to a rice noodle making factory. Since I love rice noodles, it was interesting to see how they were made. The afternoon ended with another long bus journey to Chau Doc for our last night. On the way, we stopped at Sam Mountain to visit a lovely Buddhist temple and enjoy the views. From the top, you could see the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. 

Day 3: I had decided that I was going to skip the bus back to Saigon with the tour group and continue on to the town of Ha Tien, where I could catch a boat to Phu Quoc Island. I missed out on visiting the fish farm with the group, but I wasn't all that interested in the first place.

All in all, the tour itself was a bit bland and not my preferred method of travel, but it did allow me to experience the Mekong Delta and exposed me to some things that I normally would have skipped, such as the coconut candy and rice noodle factories. Besides, I got to handle a python around my neck and that was pretty cool, even though I was scared out of my mind!

© Connie Hum 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Montage Monday: Stockholm

Take a walk down memory lane with me on this three-photo montage highlighting my best memories from past travels!

One of my first sights in Stockholm upon arrival: High school students drinking and dancing in the back of a van to celebrate their graduation. At first, I had no idea what was going on. When I found out, I wanted to join them. Too bad I was about 10 years too late!

My friend, Matteo and I were so excited that we had "discovered" a secret underground restaurant in one of Stockholm's back alleys. After thoroughly enjoying our delicious dinner, we discovered that the restaurant wasn't so secret after all. We had just gone in through the back door where the staff throws out the garbage!

Another photo taken with my Diana F+ camera. On our last day in Stockholm, Matteo and I took a boat up to Vaxholm, a quaint little town located on the Stockholm archipelago. It was a rather cold trip on the boat, but once we arrived, the sun came out and we had a splendid afternoon.

© Connie Hum 2010

Have You Seen These?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...