Traveling on the Worldwide Web

During this time of quarantine, many of us are “artist in residence” or “banished from the realm” — all depending on how you want to phrase it. I have been in splendid isolation. Free to travel the worldwide web. Armchair traveling is actually one of my favorite forms of travel because it’s comfortable, cheap, not sweaty, and I don’t have to get on a plane. Deep in the outer galaxy of this blog, is my travel page where I list many of my favorite travel writers and quotes. I revisited my travel page and actually re-bought a paperback book of one of my favorite travelogues.

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” –- Benjamin Disraeli

Much of the Internet, podcasts, YouTube videos, Instagram, Facebook, IGTV, etc. reminds me of that book, The Diary of a Nobody. Most of us are nobodies. Equal among other nobodies. Driveler among drivelers. So why not add my voice to the cacophony? On my media page (and here on Google Podcasts), there are links to the other platforms from where I’m catching the virtual cyber train. In preparation, I’ve been exploring, adventuring, and I found there are so many new places to visit, people to talk to, and things to eat. After my residence as “artiste in residence” is done (or “digital content creator” as is the new name on the street), I’ll be back out there.

One of my newest gadgets is a tripod/selfie stick with light.

On Facebook, there is a group called, “View from my window” and I’ve enjoyed it. Very positive people and it makes one realize how beautiful, and similar, this world is.

On Instagram, I’ve delighted in the mother-daughter E. and S. Minchilli (yes, that’s their last name!) cook, talk, answer questions, and adore Rome, and everything Italian.

On YouTube, I discovered that I could pay for programs and get really high definition videos (much higher definition than when I watched the original shows in the 1990s).

On Stitcher, I’ve been listening to The Fantastic History of Food (who can resist a title called, “Piracy, Witches and Hot Chocolate.“?) Plus, since I’ve learned so much about cacao from Amanda at El Cacaotal, I see/hear about cacao and want to learn more. Also, on Stitcher, it’s comforting to hear Christopher Kimball (from when I watched lots of PBS) on Milk Street.

On Podbean, I listened to surprisingly entertaining banter about hunting and nudists on The MeatEater Podcast, Ep. 220.

As I’ve explored podcasts, I realized that this is basically radio, that old fashioned technology that like many technologies, can change the world, or bring comfort (like FDR’s Fireside Chats — check out the film of him giving a chat). I would call podcasts, “audio-blogging” and you are welcome to call it that too.

And as the quote above indicates, much of life is stranger than fiction so why not read, see, hear, more of it, without the hassle of airplanes (for now). Happy adventures from splendid isolation!

Tourist Trap Lima – Be Part of the Entertainment, Not!

“Eat seafood at the fisherman’s harbor.” That sounds authentic, cheap, and quaint, no? I allowed myself and a friend to get taken there.

I had driven past this beach and harbor many times. The area is almost always a traffic choke point as the cars going to the Regattas club inch past the millions going to the public beach and Chorillos harbor.  This time, we stopped.

Like in Thailand and Mancora, and other tourist traps, the restaurant ‘sharks’ were corralling anyone who came within the harbor area to eat at their restaurant. Laminated menus with English writing and tatty photos glittering like confetti.

We sat down on plastic chairs and a table covered in a sticky plastic plaid table cover. There were a few other foreigners, crispy pink from the sun, sitting around us as it was early (1 p.m.) but otherwise fairly empty. As we waited for our food, the ‘entertainment’ started. A troupe dressed in jungle costumes and a green yoda-like creature with a painted green body stocking… (note: this was a representation of a real mythical creature from the Amazon — a chuyachaqui) then a sad patriotic clown who set fire to his thick hair… then a guy dressed in a brown monkey mask and brown body fur… At the same time, trinket salesmen and women flogged their goods. At one point a man with the saddest face serenaded us in a gruel-thin reedy voice. At this point, I realized that WE were part of the entertainment. Along with the other customers. It was a hot day but the two ladies next to us were dressed in puff down coats and wool hats. By way of official entertainment, a young Venezuelan guy sang love ballads making the waitresses swoon. The vendors of everything were joined by beggars.

The only thing not offered (to us) was drugs or prostitutes.

My observations were interrupted when the waitress brought the nutcrackers.

For the crabs. My seafood rice was mounted by a half crab with a hard red claw. My fried seafood was topped by the other half (I think, although probably not because only the right claw is big, right?). My friend managed to crack hers sending a grenade of crab shell ricocheting across the table. I tried to crack the other claw. No way was this crab fresh. The claw had petrified.

I never felt in any danger at the harbor even when I went to the toilet. The staff in the toilet even wanted to help flush the toilet for me but I’m also used to the ‘water jug gravitational’ method of flushing. Odd thing was that the sink had running water even though the toilet did not.

Later, when I relayed this adventure to my upper class Peruvian friend, the tightness around her eyes told me that we should never have gone to such a place, but she realized that we gringos will do silly things. She would prefer to spare us this touristy experience.

The food was not that good and for three people it cost 132 soles. Not cheap. Not quaint. But I got a blog article out of it.

The friend who went through this with me said, “Is this for your blog? Or are you just trying to make sure that I see the full spectrum of restaurants in Lima?” Two days later, we ate at Kjolle, one mile but three or four worlds away.

Mancora – The Hawaii of Peru?

If you have never been to Hawaii, then maybe. If you have, then no. I think the main attraction of Mancora is the wind. If you are into kite sailing, then this is the place for you. Or if you are into wind.

We went in search of sun in winter. It took twelve hours to get there from Lima, including airplane trip, hotel stay, and almost three hours by car. Plus the flights were about $250. Collectively, I think for a sun vacation, one could fly to Cartagena for the same travel time.

I chose a mainstream hotel with gorgeous photos on TripAdvisor, and while the food was good, the place lacked many other things that I expect for that price per night (hot water, elevator as restaurant was downstairs, towels, lack of peeling paint, cleanliness, etc.).

It’s probably a better experience if one stays a private villa with butler and cook. Or at K!chic (one can also eat there even if not staying there).

We flew through Tumbes and I think I actually enjoyed that experience more than Mancora. Tumbes just got its first mall.

The downtown part of Mancora is touristy like Thailand. It’s not a cute town that one would wander about soaking up the culture… I think you go to eat seafood fried rice, chicken wings, drink, and admire the crusty tourists.

In Mancora, the seafood is good and black clams are the specialty.

M’s Adventures Lima Edition Nueva Andina Cuisine Tour – 3 Days

Bites to whet your appetite at Statera

Five years ago, I visited Lima for a weekend. My friend and her family, are my experts on Peruvian food and culture. She turned the weekend into a Peruvian food tour. Now that I have lived in Lima for a few years, here are my recommendations for a three-day food tour of Lima. Of course, if you plan your travel here around reservations at Central or Maido, then do that or go to one of the other places on my list of 100 places to try. This list is focused on showing your visitors some of the variety and best of “nueva andina” cuisine.

Must Do

El Cacaotal, Jr. Colina 128A, Barranco: Closed on Sundays. Grab a coffee or hot chocolate at this premiere chocolate “library” of Peruvian fine chocolates.

Dinner (open from 7:30 p.m. except for Cosme that is open from 6 p.m. Reservations are better but not requisite. Merito does not take reservations, show up at 7:20 p.m. and stand in line)
Statera, Av. Mariscal La Mar 463: The former R&D chef at Central, who also worked at Noma, opened his own place. All the inventiveness and intellectual complexity of Central but without the prices and hype.
Cosme, Tudela Y Varela 160-162, San Isidro (the other side of the street is Miraflores): Cozy and delicious.
Jeronimo,
Merito, Jr. 28 De Julio 206, Barranco: Venezuelan chefs who worked at Central = haute cuisine with a Venezuelan influence.
Half a fish at La Picanteria.
Lunch (these cevicherias, like all traditional ceviche places, are only open for lunch and sometimes breakfast)
La Preferida, Calle Julian Arias Aragüez 698, Miraflores: This original location is very local to this upper-middle class neighborhood. No tourists.
La Picanteria, Calle Santa Rosa 388, Surquillo: Internet-famous. Lots of food tours go here. Pick the fish and have it cooked two ways. Family style eating. Also serves non-fish.
Al Toke Pez, Av. Angamos 886, Surquillo: the chef is famous for being a Ph.D. who has chosen to honor his father’s culinary tradition (his father opened Matsuei) by opening a hole-in-the-wall.
Breakfast
El Pan de la Chola, Av. La Mar 918, Miraflores: Still my number one restaurant. This is consistently good food, good service, and world class
Cordanos, Jirón Ancash 202, Cercado de Lima: If you are touristing downtown, this former political moshpit near the main square, still serves atmosphere with good food.
La Isolina, Av. San Martin 101, Barranco: This place is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The owner is the son of Isolina, who opened La Red. La Isolina serves her recipes. The son has now opened Las Reyes in a tribute to his mom and her sisters (as in “the King girls”), all good cooks.
Las Vecinas, Jirón Domeyer 219, Barranco: Just down the street from La Isolina. Gluten-free, vegetarian, healthy, and all those other feel good options. Cute interior too.
Markets
Here is my list of eco-bio-farmers’ markets. If you want to buy the plates that you ate off of at the fancy places, shop at Jallpa Nina or Dedalo.
Ham and cheese with avocado added, at El Pan de la Chola.

Secret Eco-Rooms With A View of Gocta Waterfall

fullsizeoutput_1ebNo that you have done Machu Picchu, you want to do the next big thing… Kuelap, the Gocta Waterfall, and so on. Then, the question is where to stay. The secret, secret, place to stay in Gocta… no, not that one… is… Gocta Natura. But only if you like “natural” and bohemian (and no WIFI). This small organization will give you ALL the FEELS. Warm, fuzzy, friendly. Gocta Natura has five cabins in the woods overlooking the waterfall. The price is per person and they employ a gourmet chef. Like I said, ALL. THE. FEELS. You’re gonna love it. If you like rustic, eco-friendly. If not, stay at the famous Gocta Lodge hotel located up the hill behind Gocta Natura. (Note: I have not stayed at either of the Goctas. This is just based on the rave reviews of someone I know who is “in the know”.). To see the waterfall up close, you can ride a horse for part of the hike, as it may be hot and sweaty. Then, once you have seen “the nature,” you get to go back to your peaceful cabin and enjoy gourmet cuisine.

fullsizeoutput_1ecThe closest village to Gocta Waterfall is Cocachimba. It’s got a village green and the village doesn’t seem to consist of more than the buildings surrounding the green. The Gocta Lodge is at the end of the village behind a high wall. To get to the Gocta Natura, you have to walk the path on the way to the waterfall. Cocachimba’s altitude is 4,000 feet above sea level, making this village a better place to sleep if you suffer from altitude sickness. Chachapoyas is at 7,600 feet (2,300 meters) and Kuelap is 10,000 (3,000 meters).

NBQ-zoYyUGKo-Kt9puXvQJLa8hJMnDM0VliVWZtYhqp7DvPBFXproGE46UnE18JMfilsFsfqY7WEt9GhZvu_wnxBSUFu7RY_o9VJLYF_1gZgZPUEf8fFZ3FhxUyTQfLmigOp6tMXuAJPVpiH8UGc9V9MGOnMi4BWRUWSXgmeXs5j4Iiod994erOl0CI7d_A1bUV19uNWUKn4yPVtwNaooyEboBogAbYI liked the drive up to the village of Cocachimba. Amazing views and amazing coffee. All along the road, locals were drying their coffee beans on tarps spread out in front of their houses. At one of the village restaurants, I had a delicious mug of coffee. When I asked what brand they had used, they explained that it was their own coffee, from their own beans, from their own tree. They weren’t showing off.

The photo of the fighting cocks was taken at a spot along the road to Cocachimba that had a spectacular view of Gocta waterfall. When I saw the location of the cages, I wondered why the owner of that house didn’t open a B&B in that location. I would think that tourists are a better source of income… and with fewer feathers?

Tour Dhaka in One Day – Visit Bangladesh

Tourist in Dhaka? I get asked where to take friends and family when they visit Dhaka. Depending on how long the visit (hopefully it’s at least a week so that your guests can recover from jet lag), here is my run down of what to see and do, and frequently asked questions (FAQ):

When to visit? In the winter. The temperature will still get up to 70-90 F. You know that saying about “mad dogs and Englishmen”? Well, it’s true. If you go outside in April-October, you may become a mad dog from the heat. Not sure if you will become English…

The river in Dhaka.
The river in Dhaka.

Travel agencies and tour guides? Yes, use them if you want to. You can usually talk your way to about 2,000 taka per person for a group of six or more for half a day. Most tour companies include riding around in a minivan, called a “micro-bus” in Dhaka, bottled water, and long talks about the sites. That said, at almost every site, actually all the time, you will be surrounded by friendly Bangladeshis eager to talk to you, about the site or not. The official guides, or random fellow who opens the site for you, appreciate a tip (10, 20 taka for the random fellow) as almost anyone likes a tip (like the guy watching your car).

Self-guided? It can be done… if you want to attempt it in one day, here is how I would do it (but, I would try do this over two days leaving the Liberation War Museum and New Market for a different day):

“Bangabandhu” – site of assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the current prime minister of Bangladesh. It’s located at Road 32, Dhanmondi. Opens at 10 in the morning. There is a nominal fee and you cannot take anything (no purses, no phones, nothing), into the museum. Leave it all with a driver in the car. Agree on a time when the driver will come get you.

Parliament: It’s an award winning building. If you want a tour of the inside, you will have to work your contacts.

Lalbagh (there is a bath house and weaponry if you get someone to unlock the door for you): It is the site used when the TV show, the Amazing Race, came to town the first time. But, it’s so much more.

Pink Palace (Ahsan Manzil): It’s a pink mansion turned museum. It has large steps which allows for a sweeping view of the riverfront.

Eat at Nirob — Lunch (if the traffic is flowing, you could be here by 1:30 p.m.)

Old Dhaka/Hindu Street: Buy shell bracelets (called “shakha”). These are usually worn by married Hindu women as a symbol of their wedded state.

Bracelets made from conch shell.
Bracelets made from conch shell.

Liberation War Museum: This is not for the faint of stomach. Gruesome photos and explanations about the war in 1971.

Dhaka University – Curzon Hall is a notable building.

New Market: buy whatever you can find, from lace, sarees, curtains, carpets, etc.

BBQ Tonite: enjoy the smoky courtyard atmosphere and grilled meat on a stick… if you have the energy.

On another day:

Boat trip on the river (can include visits to jamdani weaving workshop, jute factory, etc.). These day boat trips are relaxing once you get on the boat. They usually include lunch on board. Book through a tour company. They will pick you up and drop you off at home. One of the companies even has a boat shaped like a peacock. There are many companies but I liked this one: Tourist Channel Bangladesh… 02-8189273. Or 9130260. CEO is Iqubal Hossain. Touristchannelbd@gmail.com. It was 50,000 taka ($633 and the boat can hold 25-35 adults and 10 children, or something such combination) for the whole boat for the day including the bus to and fro, and lunch and tea. They were efficient without being overly “talkative.”

Rickshaw factory tour: Arrange through a tour company. If your guests can visit Dhaka when the Rickshaw Relay happens, even better. (The Rickshaw Relay is a fundraiser which is popular with expats.) There are half a million rickshaws in Dhaka, so you will see many of them, and I’m sure that any one of the rickshaw drivers would be happy to let you drive them around if you want to give it a try.

Go to the spa. Get mehendi(henna) tattoos. It wears off after a few weeks.

Shop in Gulshan: Shops include Aranya, Jatra, Aarong, Folk International, and Artisan (where “reject” Western clothes are sold, like TJ Maxx or Ross).

Fly to Cox’s Bazar, the world’s longest beach, or Sylhet tea country, or take a multi-day cruise in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. Look for the Royal Bengal tiger. I know people who have actually seen one in the wild.

Attend a wedding: If you ask your Bangladeshi friends, they are usually very happy to include your guests. Then your guests will have the fun of getting dressed in the traditional Bangladeshi clothing.

Explore! Or try some of the restaurants and find more than the 100 I tried.

Keep in mind that the traffic may change how much you can see in one day, or on any day. Take water, mosquito repellent, light cotton clothing, a good camera, nuts or other snacks, and sun protection (hat, umbrella, scarf). I have been on these tours in June and I sweated so much that I began to hallucinate that I was a fish. But, I got lots of photos!

L for Lips and R for Rub – Milk and Honey in Your Purse

I’m slightly obsessed with travel-size containers. I like things that will fit in my purse (leaving enough room for my huge camera). Unlike in Bangladesh, where I almost never thought about cold weather, the cold weather in the U.S. in January made me realize that I need to carry lip balm and moisturizer in my bag. I was standing in the Container Store evaluating the options and realized that nothing was small enough. As I looked at their fashionable contact lens containers, it struck me! I would re-purpose a contact lens case. I used a cheap contact lens case.

Milk and honey at the fingertips.
Milk and honey at the fingertips.

Left for lips and Right for rub.

I decided to use some products which are as “natural” as possible. I recommend both. I simply cut the lip balm (it is egg shaped inside) and placed it in the lens case. The lotion was even easier to squeeze in. But, you could use whatever products you like.

For other small containers, I recommend REI for all things travel. I just like to go there to dream and imagine all the inventions and adventures to be had.

Two Years of Madventures.me

It has been two years of food and adventure blogging on Madventures.me. Thanks to those who have read, recommended, commented on, and taken part in the adventures chronicled on my blog. The search engines have had one more year to consume year one. Here are the top search terms in the last year:

Top search terms November 2012 - November 2013
Top search terms November 2012 – November 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And these are are the top blog postings:

Top blog postings November 2012 - November 2013
Top blog postings November 2012 – November 2013

The Kingdom of Bhutan, Land of Gross National Happiness

The Paro valley and red chiles drying on a rooftop.
The Paro valley and red chiles drying on a rooftop.

Bhutan. Land of Happiness. Land of Gross National Happiness. Land of the Thunder Dragon. The Hermit kingdom. Whatever the name, it is unlike any other place in the world.

As a non-Indian, Nepalese, or Bangladeshi, getting to Bhutan must be done through a tour company. The company takes care of your ticket, visa, hotel, and itinerary. We used a fledgling company called Bhutan HappyLand Tours. While some of the kinks need to be ironed out, overall, I’m glad that we went. Indeed, I feel myself yearning to go back. Our guide was unflagging in energy and answered every single one of my vast array of questions, from early in the morning till late at night.

When working, the men must wear the national costume.
When working, the men must wear the national costume.

They filmed Seven Years in Tibet — in Bhutan —  and you might want to stay that long. If you can afford it. It is not cheap to visit at $250 per night, $450 for the ticket from Dhaka, and $40 visa. But beyond that, the only other money you will need is for souvenirs and to tip your guide. Everything is best paid in U.S. dollars (100 bills are best). Druk Air, Royal Bhutan Airlines, is the national carrier of Bhutan and there are only two flights per week from Dhaka to Paro.

Prayer wheels spinning in this Buddhist country.
Prayer wheels spinning in this Buddhist country.

There are many itineraries to choose from but we chose the three night tour of Bhutan. We saw archery, graphic wall art, butter churning, monks praying, and much happiness.

Since the country is shrouded in mystery, there are many things that set Bhutan apart from other countries. More in a future blog posting…

Rickshaws in the Monsoon

Note the head protection.
Note the head protection.

And now for the weather. The monsoon arrived. When it rains, the rickshaws are still a popular form of transportation. The driver will often cover his hair in a plastic bag (banned as carrier bags two decades ago) and the passengers get a blue tarp to pull over their legs.

Double protection.
Double protection.

Jute Bags Sales For Charity

Jute bags in all colors and sizes.
Jute bags in all colors and sizes.

Jute is one of the major commodities of Bangladesh. Jute is a grass that is harvested and turned into string and fabric (it is often on the bottom of carpets). Tarango is an NGO that teaches women how to make jute bags and then sells them. Just one more thing to buy in Bangladesh and feel good about. The jute is quite rough so the bags make good heavy duty grocery bags.

Lady sewing jute bags.
Lady sewing jute bags.

Bangladeshi Mashup or “Bhorta” in Bangla

Bhorta dishes.
Bhorta dishes.

Bangladeshi food includes these specialty which involves many dishes of mashed up vegetables, served cold, some spicy, and some saucier than others. There are also small dishes of fried fish, chicken, and it is all served with a plate of white rice. All the dishes are brought out and at the end, one pays only for what one has tried. There were so many different dishes from tomato salsa, eggplant, white root vegetable with green chiles, potatoes, taro root, red spinach, green spinach, and so much more. The whole of our meal cost under 500 taka ($5) and we only found this place because we went with a Bangladeshi friend. The restaurant is quite large once one has gone in through the “hole in the wall” doorway. I almost missed it entirely and kept taking photos of the wrong doorway. As always, thank goodness for local friends!

The doorway to the restaurant.
The doorway to the restaurant.