Now That's Tasty!

Monday, 24 September 2012

From Across the Table

Originally composed on: Day 2: Thursday, April 9, 2012. Reggae Mansion, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Liquor is the law. It's the people and the poisons that make the place. In good company the most mundane of surroundings tend to turn into the most hospitable.

You could say you've had the same conversation a thousand times—I wouldn't doubt you for a moment. I've been there...
"How's it going?"
"Good, can't complain! I'm halfway around the world [from wherever it is I live] and I'm loving every minute of it!"
"And the beer is so cheap!"
"Amen to that, brother!"
The usual where from's, where ya been's and what's next's tend to follow. But I like the banter. People do some pretty cool shit when met with inhibition-less travel, a solid exchange rate and no return ticket.

I met a  stunningly beautiful, and intriguingly intelligent German girl named Maria, who's managed to convince one of the largest international medical assessment and pharmaceutical firms in the world that she's capable and qualified to act as one of the marketing managers. So competent, in fact, that she took the job over dozens of applicants who are decades older and more experienced than she. I met a Brit named Ben, who climbed Kilimanjaro in honour of his late father and raised over £16,000 for prostate cancer. Met dudes that shear sheep and others that pick up foreign accents.

There's a world of interesting vagabonds constantly roaming the world. It's merely a matter of who you're sharing a pint with today.

View from a main intersection near China Town

The Petronas Towers

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Bake for 4.5-months at 5500ºF

Originally composed on: Day 1.5.2: Wednesday, April 18, 2012: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The heat comes first!

The heat always comes first. As soon as I cross the threshold of the cabin door I know where I am. It's sticky, humid and heavy. Outside the clouds are intermittent and the sun pokes through at irregular intervals.

Baggage claimed, some money exchanged and I hit the KLIA Express direct to Sentral Station. Rolling out of the station and taking my first up-close glimpse of Malaysia through the smudged cabin window; the country is remarkably, though I suppose predictably, dissimilar from any other Asian landscape I've encountered. The scenery is lush and green. Some small rolling hills here and there, the occasional shanty farm with a few cows and not nearly as much sprawling development than I would have imagined. I can't help thinking: what a nice place to carve out a golf course. Sure enough, one appears.

Once the ultra-modern, wifi equipped train breaches the boundary of the city centre the portrait outside my window is entirely different from the outskirts of town. Honking horns and grumbling motorbikes. Decrepit storefronts and dingy crumbling facades. There must be an allure to the place yet, but it's not apparent to me now. There's a striking contrast between the state of Reggae Mansion and its neighbors. The foreigner-only hostel is a pristine white building with large french doors, marble floors, clay tile courtyards and bumping techno music in the bar.

The evening will likely pass lazily as I await the arrival of my travel companion and decade-long friend, Yoni, and attempt to adjust to the time difference after 24-hours in transit.

So, it has begun!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Stopover

Day 1.5:
Originally composed on Wednesday, April 8, 2012: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), Taipei, Taiwan.

It's a dreary dawn in Taipei. Dry and conditioned inside TPT; separated from the soggy exterior by large window panes. The tempered glass feels warm. Inside it's bright and the orchids are blooming. Two decisively different atmospheres a mere few feet apart.

Only just after 5am and it looks as though the humidity is pushing the thick cloud cover closer towards street level. Now more than 16-hours have passed since takeoff and the notion of leaving seems to be slowly setting in.

Orchids inside TPE
I saunter through the hallways of the terminal to stretch my atrophied limbs and sore back. You could be in any airport terminal in the whole world and the only thing that would change is the language on the signs and the script on the Coca-Cola machine. The smells is eerily similar, the laminate flooring and the moving carpets, all alike--except Taipei. Each individual gate-side waiting area has a unique design and accompanying theme. I sit in the futuristic techno-lounge, with power outlets at the foot of each curved, post-modern plastic seat. There's a jungle themed space with vines, trees and floor-to-ceiling murals. Even a Hello Kitty room, with decals of pink polka dots.

My meandering took me into all the various Duty Free shops where I was waited-on at each browse. I figured, given my carabiner clad backpack and thrifty travel threads, the salespeople would have deciphered that I wasn't the ideal candidate to purchase a $5,000 Cartier watch. It's more if a cultural thing, I know (or simply just good courteous business practice), but I did feel a bit bad that these pretty, immaculately made-up Taiwanese women were following me around the stores constantly asking me if I wanted help--or much more uncomfortably, just standing silently at my side. Maybe they took me for a thief?

Despite my 4am in-flight congee breakfast (baby shrimp, bonito fish flakes, cold tofu and all!) I stumbled upon something I should have anticipated, and would have welcomed at any level of hunger--airport dim sum! I am not a man of great temptation (now looking back at this piece of writing five months later I might be inclined to revise that statement with a more circumstantial preposition), but if there's one thing I can't resist, it's dumplings in the morning. While I opted out of the shitty looking shu maii, A $9 USD serving of xiao long bao, accompanied by a soothing bowl of chicken consommé with black oyster mushroom and pieces of moist boiled chicken later, and I find myself back on the airplane. Unexpectedly, I'm lounging in the luxury of an extra-wide, executive coach seat. My feet are propped up comfortably on the extended ottoman and I'm on the final leg of my one-way ticket to the trip of a lifetime.

I wonder what's for breakfast #2?

Notice the man in the Taipei airport sporting golf shoes! Maybe I missed the golf theme lounge?

A Time to Refelct

As the air becomes more crisp and the sun sleeps at an earlier hour, the greenery mellows and the school bells bellow. A turning of the season marks a time for reflection. For, the summer has past and the fall is the future. It's a time to look back and remember the rays. Remember the meals and remember the days. Remember the friends, the folly, the fun. The journey has passed, now the story's begun...

As soon as the airplane took off on April 17, 2012, I began to write. In the young hours of the morning, the ink bled through the first pages of my Moleskine as I broke the horizon on an adventure that would take me 139-days into the unexpected. At that moment, there was no foreseeable end. A pile of cash and a one-way plane ride to what I could only imagine was paradise. 

Looking back on the journey, now exactly five months later; from atop the folds in my bed sheets, the fading light pooling on to the hardwood floor of my bedroom through the rectangular panes of my south-facing window in the city of Toronto; so many of the sounds, smells and sensations of Southeast Asia are still fresh in my mind. Some of the best times are a blur. The beaches are tactile. The mountains, so magnificent they're a mystery. The cities, my pulse. The food, my muse. 

Here is the start (once again-- read my first blog of the trip here) of what went down through nine countries, with no plan, some free time, and a major yearning to live it up while I still can. 

...Oh, and did I mention that booze is cheap and phenomenal food is practically free? Ya, that makes for some inspired writing! 

Check back often as my hand-printed pages hit the hardwire. 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Midtown Maki Madness

Back in Toronto and seriously backed-up on blog posts. While I know you all wait in anticipation for the tales of my travels in the meantime, here's some new blogTO material for you to chew on. 

Loosen your belt a couple of notches before busting your gut at this Midtown mecca of sushi. Choose from over 100 items on their AYCE menu or stop in for a quick, cut-rate lunch special. 

Read my full blogTO review HERE

Avocado Bombs

Chicken Wings

Shiitake Mushroom, Tobikko, Tamago, Inari, Unagi nigiri

Spicy Tuna Roll, Yam & Avocado Roll

White Tuna, Salmon, Surf Clam, Spicy Salmon Roll, Salmon Skin Hand Roll, Dynamite Hand Roll

Seaweed Salad and Green Salad

Broccoli Tempura