Posted by: afterbaedeker | 20 April, 2015

Thai Lunch: Sydney Edition

Newtown has an abundance of Thai restaurants and most of them dotted along King Street. Consider this part one of an ongoing assessment of Thai lunch options in Sydney’s inner west.

Thaiways Takeaway (Shop 3 @ Newtown Station, King St, Newtown)

Thaiways is an offshoot of Thai Pothong so expectations for the quality of the food should be high, and I found those expectations met. One of the advantages of Thaiways is that it is open during the “dead zone”: the shutdown period between the end of lunch (typically 3pm) and the start of dinner (usually 6pm).

My takeaway larb gai was fresh and tasty, and my only quibble was that it was light on chilli and lime.

Dish: Larb gai
Cost: $5
Food: 4 out of 5 spoons
Service: N/A (takeaway)
Atmosphere: N/A (takeaway)

Newtown Thai (177 King St, Newtown)

Newtown Thai is an institution and the lunchtime crowd sees the venue filled to capacity. This service is quick, the space boisterous, the food delicious.

My pad kee mao gai was a generous plate of wide rice noodles, with subtle flavours of fish and soy sauce, loads of veggies (including Thai basil leaves) but a little light on the chilli.

Dish: Pad kee mao gai
Cost: $7
Food: 4 out of 5 spoons
Service: 4 out of 5 spoons
Atmosphere: 3 out of 5 spoons

Thai Passion (234 King St, Newtown)

Thai Passion is twice the size of Newtown Thai but lacks the diners. For a quick and serviceable lunch, with less hustle and bustle than its competitor across the road, Thai Passion is a winner.

My pad see ew was generously proportioned and adorned with an unexpected layer of bean shoots. Unusual but a delight all the same.

Dish: Pad see ew gai
Cost: $7.50
Food: 3.5 out of 5 spoons
Service: 4 out of 5 spoons
Atmosphere: 3 out of 5 spoons

Kin Nree Thai Bar & Restaurant (186 King St, Newtown)

Kin Nree has an evening vibe about it, and I’d be keen to revisit it at night when it’s claim as a Thai bar can be properly tested. The space feels trendier than the other restaurants reviewed above, but for reasons unknown the lunchtime crowd is as thin here as it is at Thai Passion.

My pad kee mao gai was again lacking in chilli and the soy flavour was a little too strong, but it was the only dish of the four to come with a wedge of lemon and include Thai green peppercorns, which gives the dish some authenticity points in its favour.

Dish: Pad kee mao gai
Cost: $6.90
Food: 3.5 out of 5 spoons
Service: 4 out of 5 spoons
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 spoons

Image representative of pad see ew/pad kee mao.

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Posted by: afterbaedeker | 11 April, 2015

Tsuivan Comic

This is marvellous! Cal has captured a moment in time in Mongolia – the merging of making traditional dishes and modern means to do so. I love the style and colouring but the care that has gone into the storytelling makes the panels came alive for me.

Posted by: afterbaedeker | 11 April, 2015

Travel theme: One Colour

This week Where’s My Backpack has focused her attention on photographs with a dominant colour, and has asked fellow bloggers whether they can contribute to the conversation with images limited to only one colour.

I browsed through the photos on my phone, looking to see if any stood out as being mostly monochromatic: No bingo. Then I thought of places I’ve travelled and whether I associated those places with a particular colour: That’s a bingo.

Sydney: White

Photo Source: Lightbox Imageworks (gorgeous images from an Australian time-lapse and photography agency)

The white sails of the Sydney Opera House are iconic. When I think of Sydney I think of the harbour and the bridge but it’s the architectural marvel of those white sails above that I will always associate with my hometown.

Vienna: Yellow

Photo Source: Around the World in 80 Clicks (inspiring travel adventures from Boris Kester who has ventured to 174 countries! at the time of posting. Woah!)

It was Boxing Day 1999 when I saw Sunshine with my mother and my grandfather (a man who if not responsible for, was certainly a great enabler of, my love of movies). The film follows three generations of the Sonnenschein family set against the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s a superb film but one to discuss another time. After seeing the film mum was absolutely enamoured with the yellow that dominates Sunshine’s cinematography. “Ah,” said my grandpa, “that’s Maria Theresa yellow. You’ll find her colour all over Austria and Hungary.” Which indeed we did when we toured the imperial cities of Europe the following year (our travels inspired by the film), and nowhere was the colour as captivating as Schönbrunn Palace (seen above).

Paris: Red

Photo Source: LitReactor (brilliant writing community and great resource for writers and readers alike)

Colour of passion, city of lovers. A perfect match, non?

Of my many Parisian memories coloured red (the awnings of cafes along wide avenues, ornate metro signs, and of course the Moulin Rouge) my fondest is of the multitude of red kisses that cover Oscar Wilde’s tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Armed with Chanel (in New York Red) I, like thousands of others, made my Wilde pilgrimage and paid my (now thoroughly verboten) respects in 2007.

New York: Yellow

Photo Source: Allt om New York (Guide to NYC in Swedish)

What would the tourist traps of New York be without NYC yellow taxi merchandise to spruik?

Vientiane: Orange

Photo Source: Aspiring Imagery (gorgeous photography blog capturing the spirit of Laos and Indonesia)

From the robes of monks to the peeling paint of wats, I associate orange with Buddhism in Vientiane. The photo above is called “Line Dancer” and is found inside Wat Si Saket.

Ulaanbaatar: Blue

Photo Source: Two Year Trip (travel musings on Mongolia with lots of lovely photos)

Mongolia is known as the land of the blue skies, and with good reason. It may succumb to temperatures far, far below zero (try -40° during the depths of winter) and while there may be snow underfoot the skies overhead remain irrepressibly blue. During my multi-month stay in Ulaanbaatar (2014-15) the weather was certainly a challenge (mostly the smoke, but again, that’s a tale for another time) but the constancy and lightness of the sky made the adjustment to the temperature much, much easier to bear.

Fun Fact: -40°C = -40°F

Posted by: afterbaedeker | 10 April, 2015

Yoga: NY Edition

I was introduced, initiated I suppose, to the wonderful world of yoga back in the winter of 2006 when I was visiting NYC for a couple of weeks. My travelling companion, a young yogi, was keen to find a studio that wouldn’t break our backpacking budget but would nourish our spirits and nurture our bodies in amongst our touristical travails. So it was we found Yoga Vida and I discovered an appreciation for the ancient practice. Despite the nearly 10 years that have passed since then I am surprised and delighted to see that Yoga Vida still offers an amazingly priced introductory pass: in 2015 you can get two weeks of Unlimited Yoga for $20.

But when I was in NYC in 2013 for a multi-month stay a two-week budget stretching (but not yet breaking) pass was not really an option. While hunting for a yoga practice a local suggested I try Yoga to the People, a donation based practice, nestled in the East Village on St Marks Place. I took the local up on her suggestion and am so grateful I did; it became a small sanctuary in a sometimes stultifying city.

The St Marks studio teaches Power Vinyasa Flow – there are five other studios in New York which offer either Hot Vinyasa or Power Vinyasa Flow – all classes are suitable for all practice levels and they each abide by the following mantra:

I embraced being one of “those who seek”, one of the “able and crazy”, and am thankful to the New Yorker that pointed me in the direction of Yoga to the People. Lessons I learned, and would do well to remember:

  • Set good intentions
  • Let go of ego
  • Contribute what you can

I really can’t recommend Yoga to the People enough, so aside from simply turning up, my pro-tips are to arrive at least 10 minutes before the class commences (as the studios are regularly filled to overflowing) and bring water (side effect of filled rooms is plenty of heat).

~~/~~

East Village/St Marks YTTP: Studio located on St. Marks Place between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Map and subway directions (for lines N, R, W; 6; and Lhere.

99 University Yoga Vida: Studio located on University Place between W11th and W12th Streets. Map and subway directions (for lines 4, 5, 6; N, Q, R; L; and B, D, F, M) here.

Posted by: afterbaedeker | 4 April, 2015

Dear Baedeker…

Dear Baedeker,

We’ve got a few days in Sydney and would like to day trip outside the city to see something scenic and also stop at a wildlife park where we can see kangaroos, koalas, and such.  We were originally thinking of a Hunter Valley tour since we both like wine (there’s a tour that stops at Walkabout Park), but thanks to some scheduling issues with Hunter Valley, we’re strongly considering a Blue Mountains tour (stops at Featherdale Wildlife Park and includes a river tour back to Sydney).

If you only had one day and had to choose between Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley, which would you choose?

Temporary Tourists

Dear Temporary Tourists,

If you’ve just got the one day ~ and factoring in unique tourist opportunity as opposed to amazing food and wine enjoyment ~ then I think opting for the Blue Mountains is the way to go. The Three Sisters are a spectacular sight, and Featherdale is a good wildlife park. HOWEVER, just to throw a spanner in the works, if you only go to one zoo or animal sanctuary I really do recommend Taronga Zoo in Sydney, so if there’s a tour that goes out and back sans Featherdale that could be the way to go, or opt for the train which is pretty easy. But then the river tour sounds great. CHOICES! Perhaps you two will simply have to go to both Featherdale and Taronga and get as exposed to as many different native Aussie creatures as possible.

Basically, just check out where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (and baby Prince George) visited in 2014 and you’ll have a top itinerary: Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo, Blue Mountains, and Uluru.

Happy travels,

Baedeker

Posted by: afterbaedeker | 4 April, 2015

Travel theme: Smooth

Where’s My Backpack has asked fellow WordPressers to think on the theme “smooth”. As a predominately travel based blog, my thoughts invariably drifted to smooth travels.

To become a seasoned traveller do you need to navigate some rough waters (be they metaphorical or actual) to consider yourself as such? I’m inclined to say no, but then I’m a believer that an experience doesn’t need to be arduous to be authentic.

I don’t think it’s “more real” travelling in the back of a make-shift songtaew [สองแถว] or tuk tuk [ตุ๊กตุ๊ก] than getting to one’s destination by plane, train, boat, bus or car. My connection to my travels were not increased travelling in a third class carriage in Sri Lanka and were not diminished travelling first class in Mongolia. Similarly, I don’t feel that glamping is “less real” than camping if the object of the experience is to enjoy your surroundings, your company, and the moment. Glamping in Kanchanburi with my brother was likely more expensive, more comfortable, and less difficult than it’s camping counterpart, but not, I argue, any less real an experience to explore Hellfire Pass and the River Kwai.

But I do find that it’s when travels veer off script that memorable stories are made; those times when the sailing is less than smooth. So while smooth travels may make an experienced traveller, smooth travels never made for a tale of adventure.

Posted by: afterbaedeker | 25 March, 2015

Have you packed everything?

I have a rather laissez-faire approach to packing for trips, and by that I mean I generally leave it until the night before or the morning of travel to transfer stuff into a bag. This, to the shock of none, sometimes means I arrive at my destination without some stuff I rather wish I had.

To be clear, I remember the essentials: ticket, money, passport… and phone:

But it is in the forgetting of something that I value just how much it means to me to travel with it. Which is how I discovered my number one don’t-depart-Australia-without-it item is vegemite. At age 20 and after a couple of months backpacking in Europe I remember blogging to never leave home again without vegemite or a razor (sadly the second item was once again forgotten during my recent central Asia expedition, but I digress) because I was in desperate need of both. Ah, vegemite, you source of comfort (and vitamin b and iron) you, you’ve been my constant companion for more than a decade now.

vegemite

My revised DO NOT FORGET list includes:

  • hydrogen peroxide*
  • (my preferred brand of) Irish breakfast tea
  • multi-region adaptor
  • (my preferred brand of) toothpaste
  • vegemite
  • wet-ones**

Things I am grateful to have packed (when remembered):

  • bandaids
  • berocca
  • hairbursh
  • milo
  • razor

I’m curious as to what fellow travellers always pack when heading off to places flung far from home. Do you always remember to take a certain something because of convenience, comfort, necessity or habit? Or another reason entirely?


* hydrogen peroxide is a new addition to the list since my scrape with some coral in Belize. For someone who injures themselves as often as I do, I’m surprised H2O2 didn’t make the list sooner.


** recommended to me by a seasoned traveller before I moved to south-east asia, wet-ones are the ultimate hand sanitiser-tissue-toilet paper-face wipe

Posted by: afterbaedeker | 21 February, 2015

No Lights, No Lycra: Mongolian Edition

No Lights, No Lycra has a fairly no fuss ethos: “no light, no lycra, no teacher, no steps to learn, no technique, just free movement. NLNL is a space where you can completely let go, shake out the stresses of the week, and lose yourself in the music and the physicality of your body. NLNL is a daggy, non-pretentious place to completely be yourself.”

I would add that NLNL is also about: no shame, no judgement, no worries.

The spirit of the NLNL movement is well and truly alive in UB. Every Tuesday night a group gathers to shake it out like Florence, shake it off Swift style, and do it again (one more time) ala Robyn & Röyksopp. The group is predominantly expat, female, Gen Y, and white, but the occasional barrier breaker manages to diversify the NLNL crew to the delight of the regulars.

Posted by: afterbaedeker | 20 February, 2015

The Trans-Siberian Railway (Part 2: The Trip)

Step one in taking the train from UB to Beijing is to make it to the train station. Despite some rudimentary Mongolian language lessons my competency in the language never made it to my marker of basic language skills: giving directions to, and haggling a price with, a taxi. Fear not, there is an enterprising company that understands that English speaking travellers may want the comfort of organising transport ahead of time and be confident that their driver knows where to pick them up, at what time, and where they’d like to be delivered. That company is Help Taxi [+976 9965 2371] and I was impressed each time I used their service. To get to the station cost ₮15000 (AU$9.80/ US$7.70) which is about double what you might pay if you flagged a car down on the street.

Note: there is a thriving informal transport economy in Ulaanbaatar where you simply wave down a car (think of it as Uber without the use of an app, or hitchhiking with a fee) state your destination and take your chances. The going rate is around ₮1000 per kilometer.

I digress; I was picked up at 6.15am and made it to the station in time to see the train pull into UB from its previous Russian location at 6.35am.

For about half an hour I smugly thought I had the berth to myself, and met my next-door neighbours – a lovely young Spanish couple who I assume got the two discretionary tickets before my purchase – with whom I would share a washroom for the next 30 odd hours. The washroom is really just a sink and a tap but it’s nice to have that facility shared by four instead of forty. Back to my smugness. My travelling companion arrived soon enough with a host of family and a Tetris defying amount of luggage to position in the cabin, but stack and store it all did (the luggage, not the family, they were handy hands on deck).

There is something delightfully communal about long distance train travel. From the Danish woman who poked her head into our cabin to find out our story, sharing my Serbian apples and tangerines with my berth buddy and she in turn sharing her sister’s homemade khuushuur, to being placed with a young Dutch couple in the Chinese dining car for lunch and learning their travel story. I loved glancing up from my book to watch the snow covered vista unfold outside the window. I loved walking up and down the carriages, marvelling at the unmanned, uncovered coal fires in third class. I loved making use of the urn at the end of the carriage to get cups of hot water. From go to woe I loved the journey.

For a taste of the adventure I recommend viewing the clip below (most relevantly from 1.00 – 5.30) of a delightful father-daughter travelling duo who wing their way from KL to China and then train their way to UB.

Pro tips:

  • The journey runs spectacularly on time so simply refer to the timetable for expected arrival and departure times for Dzamin Uud (Mongolian Border), Erlian (Chinese border), and Beijing (main station).
  • At Erlian you can leave the train and mill about the station for a few hours (on the plus: access to food, toilets, and the outside; on the minus: it is bloody cold outside in February) or you can remain on board while the train is readied for the differently gauged tracks between Mongolia and China (on the plus: it is warm, it is possible to sleep (as I did) despite the juddering of the carriage as they transition; on the minus: the bathrooms are locked so be sure to make use of the amenities beforehand).
  • Remember you have access to hot water in all the carriages, so for those travelling on a budget ramen is a perfectly acceptable culinary option. Also bring a cup for tea, coffee, hot water as you will.
  • The dining carriage changes in each country so try and venture to all and compare the differences.

* ₮ = Tughrik = Mongolian Dollar

Posted by: afterbaedeker | 16 February, 2015

Everyone can stop looking

I found the traffic.

It was over near Liangmaquio. But it still isn’t the multi-day standstill I’d envisaged. Plenty of cars but plenty of lanes: not the rot tit maak [รถติด] of Bangkok nor the ubiquitous stop, start and stall of Ulaanbaatar.

I also found some bustle underground on the subway. I’m slowly immersing myself in this megacity.

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