Author: anjelmc

“Hawai’i has often been called a melting pot, but I think of it more as a ‘mixed plate’—a scoop of rice with gravy, a scoop of macaroni salad, a piece of mahi-mahi, and a side of kimchi. Many different tastes share the plate, but none of them lose their individual flavor, and together they make up a uniquely ‘local’ cuisine. This is also, I believe, what America is at its best—a whole greater than the sum of it’s parts.”
Honolulu by Alan Brennert

The Shape of International Cuisine

Chefs will always tell you, “Presentation is everything.”  Well I’ve noticed that in a few types of international cuisine, it really is!  

In Argentina the popular snack food empanadas are shaped based on their fillings.  A traditional meat, or “carne”, empanada will look like a half circle with a frilly edge, but a cheese and onion one might look more like a full circle or a pot pie.  Study up so you’ll be able to choose your flavors like a pro!

Empanada Shapes

 

In Tibet and Nepal, they have “MoMo’s”, a type of dumpling.  These too are often shaped based on their filling (though it doesn’t seem to be very consistent).  A vegetable MoMo will look like a little purse or pouch, where as a meat one will resemble a crescent.

MoMos

 

Just some interesting Food for Thought!  

Travel Tips #3: Pack from your Kitchen

You may or may not have heard this, but there are some wonderful travel products right in your own kitchen!

The first is a tried and true traveller’s tool: Baking Soda (aka Sodium Bicarbonate).  It can be used for:

  • brushing teeth
  • washing your face (yay exfoliant!)
  • washing your hair (be careful though, it dries it out)
  • washing dishes or laundry or vegetables if you are camping
  • deodorant (under your arms or in your shoes!)
  • dry shampoo (be sure to brush it out else you look gray!)

It’s unscented, safe, kid and animal friendly, bio-degradeable, cheap, and easy to obtain anywhere in the world.  Best of all, it’s not a liquid and therefore totally carry-on friendly.  And powders weigh less than liquids in general as they are more condensed.  If you can’t get behind this trick, or prefer something with a scent, checkout solid shampoo/body bars.  There’s some great ones by LUSH and they too are fairly multipurpose (except brushing your teeth maybe).

Another item you may have in your kitchen is Coconut Oil.  Many people have already raved about this, but here are some of the many uses to travellers:

  • hair conditioner (especially if you wash it with baking soda)
  • health supplement (a teaspoon a day!)
  • body moisturizer (especially in extreme cold or after a lot of time in the sun)
  • light scent (most people enjoy the scent of coconut, I am not one of them)
  • cuticle cream (keep that mani-pedi fresh after hours of sightseeing!)
  • makeup remover (works like cold cream)

And, like baking soda, it too is relatively cheap, easy to find most places, natural, safe (unless you’re allergic to coconut), biodegradable, and not a liquid (it is solid at room temperature).  Plus a little goes a long way, so you needn’t carry huge bottles of lotions around on your travels!

The last useful thing you might find in your kitchen is ziplock (plastic) baggies.  Small ones can be used for separating different toiletries or protecting valuables in a moist environment.  Larger ones can act similar to packing cubes (though if you travel a lot, I really recommend investing in a set of proper packing cubes, you and your dorm mates will thank me!)

Things To Do: Waterparks

Growing up in Florida, I had never been to a water park (why pay when the beach is free?!) When I was 22 I got a part-time job in a theme park, which gave me free entrance to the adjoining water park. Since then I’ve been hooked! My job on a cruise ship has brought me many places, and many of those places have water parks within metres of the ship’s terminal. What better way to relax, relieve some stress, and have fun with your co-workers for an afternoon? I mean, there are only so many temples, marketplaces, and bars you can visit in the world. Below I’ve compiled a list of some of the most fun water parks I, or my colleagues, have been to around the world.

Adventure Island

Located: Tampa, Florida, USA
Last Visited: August 2016
Approximate Admission Cost: $50, valid all season
Favorite Attraction: Key West Rapids

Being the first water park I ever visited and so close to home, Adventure Island is the standard for which I measure others against.

Located 20-30 minutes from both the port and airport, this park is more for the locals. It has nice beaches for relaxing and they allow you to bring in small coolers with bottled drinks and snacks (and maybe a Publix Sub if you’re lucky!). There are picnic areas and also a few places with food and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) available for purchase.

To provide fun for the whole family, there are both toddler and children’s areas as well as slides of all thrills, including the newest and fastest – the Colossal Curl. There is also a large lazy river, racing slides, corkscrew slides, and mega drop slides. There is even a large beach volleyball area for a little waterless fun. And, one of the things I love the most is that they play real pop music instead of cheesy theme-park elevator music. You can enjoy a day at the “beach” without having to bring your own stereo!

The park is only open seasonally, from Spring Break until Labor Day. In the heart of summer, they extend their hours until sunset in an event titled “Summer Nights” with extra music and dancing on the beaches. A one-day pass can be a bit pricey, but it lets you in every weekday for the whole season (again gearing it more towards locals).

Vinpearl Land

Located: Nha Trang, Viet Nam
Last Visited: March 2014
Approximate Admission Cost: $20-30USD
Favorite Attractions: Space Hole, Family Rafting Slide, and Wave Pool

Probably one of the coolest parks on this list. You get to the park via a cable car, which, if you came by cruise ship, passes right over your ship!

While the park has no theme, per se, it has some of the most unique rides of any park on the list. Rides include a “half pipe” Tsunami slide you can ride in with a one-, two-, or three-person tube – Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub! There is also a wave pool where you sit in (or flip out of!) inner tubes instead of the usual treading water. There are the usual racing style slides and a few tunnel style ones. There’s one that dumps you into a “UFO” bowl before you drop another 3 feet through the middle. Lastly, there is a family style rafting slide where you carry your own raft to a hook and pulley (hey, it IS Vietnam!) For the less adventurous, there is also an aquarium and dolphin show in the park and a beach with access right to the sea!

Admission costs around $20-30 USD (depending on exchange rates) and there are plenty of bars with snacks and beverages for purchase at a reasonable (by Western standards) price. Best of all, admission gets you into the regular amusement park as well (you have to go through it to get to the water park) where you can check out the toboggan ride. There’s usually a DJ by the entrance and last I checked, the park also held monthly Full Moon Parties. Definitely worth checking out if you’ve already done the standard temples and markets deal.

Aquatica (Sea World)

Located: Orlando, Florida, USA
Last Visited: August 2016
Approximate Admission Cost: $50 USD
Favorite Attraction: Roa’s Rapids

In the land of theme parks, this on isn’t so much to write home about, but it does have some major thrill slides. It is most known for it’s Dolphin Plunge slide, where you slide through a clear tube and if your timing is spot on, a dolphin swims past you. There are also slides which you enter via a trap door dropping out from under you – not for the feint of heart! My favorite attraction is Roa’s Rapids, a “not-so-lazy” river (the actual Lazy River is less than relaxing and more like an LA Freeway at 9am). Downsides are that there are no real “beach” areas to relax, and it is always crowded with long lines. That being said, it’s still possible to go to Aquatica and SeaWorld in one day.

Maya Lost Mayan Kingdom

Located: Mahahual (Costa Maya), Quintana Roo, Mexico
Last Visited: January 2017
Approximate Admission Cost: $89 USD
Favorite Attraction: Hurricane

This park is one of the better themed ones on my list. Everything centers around a giant Mayan pyramid – of which the bottom level is lockers, restrooms, juice bar, and elevators or stairs to the attractions.  (You read correctly, ELEVATORS!  They definitely gear towards cruise ship tourists)

There are lots of slides – some with mats, some with tubes, some body ones.  The nice thing is that there is plenty of good signage giving you a picture of the slide’s layout, safety information, and thrill level (in English!) so you know exactly what you can handle.

They also have two zip-line courses and a “Zip Coaster” (zip lines aided by a metal track) – all of which end in the water.  The lazy river is an Expedition style, salt-water lazy river with lots of photo ops.  There are lots of photo ops on every ride and photos are very reasonably priced (for 4 people for the day, it’s $39 for all your photos on a USB stick, or $5 to have one photo delivered to you via email).

There is also a really nice pool area with loungers and beds – for free.  They also offer massages and a snack bar with reasonably priced Americanized Mexican food (think Moe’s Southwest) and delicious smoothies and juices (no alcohol in the park though!). They also have free WiFi (a perk for cruisers!)

The park is really clean and well maintained, with a focus on safety (there’s safety briefing before each ride!) All staff are well-trained and speak perfect English.  The admission fee is a bit hefty – $89 for adults and $79 for kids and it is definitely geared towards cruise ship passengers as it is right outside the port. They sometimes make a deal for ships’ crew though!

Scandinavia doesn’t have a lot of water “parks”, per se, but they do bring a whole new outlook to the community pool.  An honorable mention to a couple water “parks” I visited in Norway (they’re more like indoor aquatic complexes, but they have water slides!)

Pirbadet

Located: Trondheim, Norway
Last Visited: July 2013
Approximate Admission Cost: $20 USD

Right next to the cruise terminal, this indoor aquatic complex features three water slides, a rock-climbing wall that falls into the wave pool, diving platforms, large inflatable rafts and icebergs, a lap pool, a rapids river, and of course a sauna and steam room.  And like most Scandinavian pools, free showers! (Be prepared to get naked though!)

Aquarama

Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Last Visited: July 2013
Approximate Admission Cost: $20-30 USD

Similar to the above park, but slightly newer.

Finally, a few other parks that friends have recommended, but I have yet to make it to:

Aqua Fantasy – Kusadasi, Turkey

WaterPark – Rhodes, Greece

Blizzard Beach (Walt Disney World) – Orlando, Florida

Typhoon Lagoon (Walt Disney World) – Orlando, Florida

Also be sure to check out this list of some of the world’s best water parks!  Perfect for summer travel plans!

Reading List: Wanderlust

Part of my job the past few years has been leading book clubs of travel or regional based literature.  I thought I would carry some of that over and share it with you in a series of reading lists.  I will only include books that I myself have read, but please use the comments section to add your own recommendations!  Also check out this great list.

This first list includes books covering world-wide travel – to inspire the wanderlust in all of us.

  • Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne – This book was my earliest inspiration to travel.  It has also been the inspiration of numerous books, movies, TV shows and games.  Challenge accepted, anyone?
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Cliché, I know, but isn’t the reason most people start travelling to “find themselves”?  Or to find love.  In any case, it gives three distinctive reasons to travel – food, spirituality, romance.  It certainly inspired by ‘I’ travel list. Also, the book is way better than the movie, as always.
  • One Year Off by David Eliot Cohen – This is an older, little known book about a family with three children who sell everything and embark on a year long journey around the world.  It’s done in that time just before the internet blew up when reservations were still made by fax and phone. It’s a true testament that you can travel no matter how many things you think you have “tying you down” if you really want to.
  • It’s Only the Himalayas by S. Bedford – I read this book when I was, how appropriate, trekking in the Himalayas.  But don’t let that fool you, the Himalayas is only a small chapter, the book also includes tales of Africa and Southeast Asia.  More importantly it’s a tale of how everything probably will go wrong on your travels, but that’s half the fun of it!

And finally, one of my favorite books of all time….

  • The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner – The tale of a journalist’s search throughout the world of what makes people happy.  It’s an interesting outlook on travel, because ultimately aren’t we all on a journey towards true happiness?  Plus he’s very witty and snarky, so it’s an entertaining read.  I am currently reading his sequel, The Geography of Genius.

 

So there you have it folks, the first of what I hope will be a few book lists!

Click on the book covers to get more information on any of the titles.
If you purchase them through their links, I get credit 😉