A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about food

KL // Local Style

Kuala Lumpur

sunny 90 °F
View Laos/Vietnam, June 2011 on jkirsch's travel map.

Our travels already feel far behind us as we're at last settled in St. Louis and I've even started work, but what better way to keep that holiday feeling going that with a couple final posts.

We capped off our travels with a great couple of days in Kuala Lumpur. While it may not seem like a natural stop on the way home from Vietnam, it was the best option for using miles (thus free tickets) and gave us a great chance to visit the city and some friends there. We ended up having a great time, especially thanks to our wonderful tour guide and friend Hooi Ling. Going in, we'd expected something like Singapore, but found KL to be much more authentic and diverse with arguably better food to beat!

Petronas.jpgPetronas Towers from the Skybar at the Traders

According to Ling, food is especially important in Malaysian culture, and thus food-related activities appropriately consumed roughly 50% of our time in KL (likely leaving us a little heftier on departure). On our second night, we actually had dinner at an Indian restaurant, followed by dessert at a Cantonese-style cafe, and capped off the night directly after with Malaysian specialties in a night food market, thoroughly enjoying each stop. I tried to capture some of the action in the photos below, but they still don't quite do it justice.

Food.jpgAnother successful meal
preserved_store.jpgSampling buckets of preserved "goodies" (At times a stretch of the word)
food_stalls.jpg"Western food" was a loose interpretation...Nasi_Goreng.jpgSurprisingly amazing Oxtail Nasi Goreng at Indonesian chain Es Teler 77
chestnuts.jpgRoasted nuts are universal...

We didn't just eat though, and still managed to take in some of the city's sites, including the Petronas towers (even cooler in person) and the national mosque. Escorted by Hooi Ling, we also enjoyed a fish spa and intense reflexology treatment. All-in-all, a great finish!


Posted by jkirsch 19:15 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur food spa petronas_towers Comments (0)

Southern Vietnam = Food Heaven!

Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

sunny 95 °F

Wow, we are REALLLY behind in our blogging....I am actually posting this from our new apartment in St. Louis. Apologies to all those die-hard followers who must be on the edge of their seats waiting to hear about the second half of our trip. I attribute our tardiness to the fact that the trip flew by and that we had an amazing time. That, plus the heat and copious amounts of inexpensive massage made us incredibly lazy!! :)

After Hue, Jake and I made our way down the coast to Hoi An, a town about 30 minutes drive away from Danang. Hoi An was one of the highlights of our trip; although it is very touristy (much like Luang Prabang), it manages to retain a lot of charm, especially at night when most of the shops close and the streets empty out. From our three days there, it seems like Hoi An has two main attractions: (1) delicious food and (2) affordable tailoring. We took part in both.

A shot of Hoi An's scenic Old Town area.

One of Hoi An's many assembly halls, built by Chinese traders working in Hoi An. Different halls were built for each of the major ethnic groups.

Our tailor of choice was Sun Cloth Shop, which was recommended by our hotel. We got lots of great stuff made for us, for a really good price. The turnaround time is incredible - they made my dresses in about 24 hours, and Jake's shirts took only a few hours! I've never had tailor-made clothing made for me before, so the experience itself was highly worthwhile.

As far as food goes, it was hands down our best food in Vietnam. We liked the place we ate dinner the first night (Miss Ly's) so much that we went back again the second night, only to discover an even BETTER place (Morning Glory) on our last night.

Cao Lau at Ms. Ly's. Cao Lau is one of Hoi An's special dishes --- YUM!

I also had the best tuna sandwich ever at a really cute little cafe called the Dingo Deli (halfway between Hoi An and the beach) -- the perfect lunch after hanging out at the beach.

The beautiful beach in between Hoi An and Danang. Sadly, it's being madly developed by every major hotel company imaginable!

After Hoi An, we flew to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for our final days in Vietnam. It's amazing how different Saigon seems from the rest of Vietnam (in particular, from Hanoi). The central part of city feels very European - wide, tree-lined streets, manicured parks and gardens, lots of sidewalk cafes and boutiques.

Saigon's Post Office

Notre Dame Basilica in Saigon. Apparently it gets packed at mass-time! Who knew there were so many Catholics in Vietnam?

Given our short time there, we didn't have too much time to sightsee, but we managed to fit in visits to the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace, both of which were really worth seeing. The Palace especially was cool: it has basically been left untouched since the end of the war in 1975, and you get to visit the map rooms and other offices where the military was overseeing the war.

Reunification Palace, still kept as it was at the end of the war in 1975. A definite must-see.

Gastronomically speaking, the highlights of the city were a Vietnamese BBQ place called 3T Quan Nuong, conveniently located next to our favorite ice cream place (Fanny, of course). We ordered prawns that were given to us skewered but still alive, which we sadisticly enjoyed cooking and eating with this really good salt-pepper-lime mix.

Prawns at 3T Quan Nuong. Delicious.

Fanny!!! We miss you already!!!

We also encountered a very nice Budweiser sales girl who gamely agreed to take a picture with Jake. By "sales girl", I mean these women that are in alot of the bars and restaurants throughout the city. They wear a uniform promoting the beer, and visit your table and try to convince you to buy that brand. The San Miguel girls seemed to be the most pushy -- at one place, the girl wouldn't leave our table until we agreed to buy two San Miguels!! I'm glad she did though, because it was delicious and might now be one of my favorites.

Jake and the Bud girl at 3T Quan Nuong.

Sadly, our time in Vietnam had to end at some point. We had a really great time (despite the heat) and hope we can come back again at some point. Given all the compliments we've gotten on our Hoi An tailored clothes already, we'll definitely have to go back just to get more clothes made!

Stay tuned for Jake's posts on Kuala Lumpur and SE Asian beers!

Posted by nhilde 11:34 Archived in Vietnam Tagged food restaurants vietnam saigon hanoi hcmc fanny tailoring Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh and Colonel Sanders - the same person?

Hanoi and Hue

sunny 95 °F
View Laos/Vietnam, June 2011 on jkirsch's travel map.

You have to admit, the similarities are uncanny.

I’m writing this on the train from Hue – Vietnam’s imperial capital – to Da Nang and Hoi An, where we’ll spend a few days before heading on to Saigon.

Despite the mercury pushing 95 and high humidity, we’ve had a great first week in Vietnam, certainly helped by frequent breaks for ice cream and iced Vietnamese coffee. Initially, we had planned to split our first few days between Hanoi and Sapa – a scenic hill station in the country’s northeast – but liked the capital so much, that we decided to stick around (it was also a nice break from rural life after Laos). We stayed in the historical center of Hoan Kiem and really liked the city’s energy and overall feel. Slightly less fun was crossing streets without lights and in the middle of traffic, but we eventually got the hang of it (walk straight, move at a constant speed).

Traffic.jpgNo unexpected moves

Despite the widespread lack of indoor A/C, we still managed to hit up the major sites including Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Military Museum, the Temple of Literature, the Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton), and a show at the acclaimed Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. The Mausoleum was particularly interesting as we made the arguably poor choice to go on a Sunday morning. Apparently, a visit to “Uncle Ho” makes a popular outing for a non-negligible portion of Hanoi’s population and we waited in the sweltering heat for over an hour to get a 30 second walk-by glimpse of his preserved body (at least he gets A/C).

line.jpgTook us almost 20 minutes just to get to the start of the line
security.jpgBreaktime for Ho's guard

At the sites dealing with the Indochinese war(s) – against the French, and the US – it was especially interesting to see the Vietnamese narrative. The below relic from the fall of Dien Bien Phu was pretty representative. Still, outside of these sites, both wars seem pretty far in the past.

helmet.jpg(Caption reads: Evidence of the failure of the French)... Guess they should stick to fine wine and museums
remnants.jpgNot sure what this would imply about US aircraft manufactuing

As usual and with my “digestive problems” behind me, we also managed to take full advantage of the food on offer in Hanoi. Of particular note were the street stall specializing in bun bo nam bo – grilled strips of beef, served over noodles – at 67 Hang Dieu Street, amazing homemade ice cream at Fanny, and ex-pat hangout, Puku. Also worth mentioning, even for this non-coffee drinker: café sua da (Vietnamese ice coffee), with just a bit of condensed milk has become a new drink-of-choice.


After Hanoi, we spent a couple of days in Hue, Vietnam’s imperial capital. If possible, the city felt even hotter and we’d be sweaty and drowsy from the moment we stepped outside. Despite the malaise, we made it to the Dong Ba market and the Citadel. Apparently, the heat kept most other foreigners away as we had the sites largely to ourselves. We also rallied for the second cooking class of the trip. Worth noting: the uniforms definitely make you feel like you know what you’re doing.

Hue_sunset.jpgSunset over the Perfume River

That’s all for now – Happy Travels!

Posted by jkirsch 03:43 Archived in Vietnam Tagged food hanoi hue vietnam_war ho_chi_minh Comments (0)

A tale of two cities (Old Delhi and New Delhi)

…plus a wedding and the Taj

sunny 65 °F
View India, Jan 2011 on jkirsch's travel map.

Our final days in India were spent in Delhi, which was aptly described to us as India’s Washington D.C. (as compared to Mumbai, which is its New York). I had fairly low expectations of Delhi – primarily because I’d heard that there was a lot of poverty and begging – but I really enjoyed our time there. It was particularly interesting the see the vast contrast between the Old Delhi part of the city and the New Delhi part of the city. Old Delhi is a congested maze of bumpy dirt roads and colorful shops, CRAMMED with cycle rickshaws, motorcycles, pedestrians, and shopkeepers. In comparison, New Delhi seemed almost like a European capital! The streets are wide and well-paved, with fairly minimal traffic; there are lots of green spaces; and there is a general sense of order and planning to the layout of the area. I think the best way to express the contrast between Old Delhi and New Delhi is to share the highlights of our time in both areas.

Old Delhi

One of the highlights of our day in Old Delhi was going for a cycle rickshaw ride through the markets; it was exhilarating and little terrifying (I can’t believe we didn’t collide with anything!). We got stuck in traffic at an intersection with a broken water main, but our industrious driver managed to negotiate a path through oncoming traffic (physically picking up and moving empty rickshaws and getting motorcycles to pull to the side of the path) to get us on our way. Talk about service!

Old Delhi Street Scene
Public Works in Chandni Chowk Market
Taking our Rickshaw for a Testdrive

One of our top meals of the trip was also in Old Delhi, at Karim’s, a restaurant that has been around since 1913. We feasted on a lamb leg, a whole fish, mutton (goat) curry, and tandoori chicken, all of which were cooked in a clay oven. It was a meat lover’s dream!!! The fact that the bill was only about $8 per person was also greatly appreciated.

Quite possibly the world's best lamb

New Delhi

We didn’t have much time to explore New Delhi, but Jake and I managed to fit in a quick trip to the Modern Art Museum, which was having an exhibition of work by Anish Kapoor. It was a great exhibit, and a nice break from visiting temples and forts. On our last day, we also drove over to the Lodi Colony area for a delicious lunch at Ploof (thanks for the tip, Jevon!) and some shopping. All in all, very civilized and not-at-all like our time in the rest of India.

New Delhi's Green Streets (courtesy of http://indianghar.com/)


As we’ve mentioned before, the impetus for our trip to India was our friend Nupur’s wedding. The wedding festivities were fantastic, and we felt very lucky to have been invited. The absolute highlight of the wedding was the groom’s (Rizi’s) processional. It was out-of-this-world! I kid you not: there were about twenty live musicians (mostly drummers and trumpeters), people carrying lamps on their shoulders, 80 or so people decked out and dancing down the streets of Delhi….and oh yeah, the groom riding behind it all on a HORSE! Although the processional only covered a distance of about one-quarter of a mile, it took about an hour, so I was happy to arrive at the wedding venue, where we enjoyed a delicious Indian buffet and tried to figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, we had an early train to Agra the next morning, so we had to leave before the actual ceremony began (at about 1AM apparently!).



Finally, I have to mention the Taj Mahal, and just how amazing it really is. We visited in the late morning and returned later that day to watch the sunset. The second visit was in some ways even better than the first: I think we all felt a little like, “Wow! It really IS as amazing as I first thought it was!” It’s not my favorite site ever (the temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia still take the cake), but it really was awesomely huge and beautiful. And it’s amazing that it took only 22 years to build, given the detail of the marble inlay work and the fact that it's solid white marble.



To sum up, our time in India was really special and so much fun! We’ve already started talking about where we’d like to go when we come back, which I think says a lot about how much we enjoyed our time here.

Thanks for joining us and please do come again!

Posted by jkirsch 05:17 Archived in India Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises food markets india monuments delhi agra Comments (1)

Jet lagged and traffic jammed...

Mumbai (Bombay), India

sunny 78 °F
View India, Jan 2011 on jkirsch's travel map.

After 24+ hours of travel and a short overnight in Delhi, we spent most of our first day in Mumbai recovering. Of course this had to include some eating and we enjoyed a fantastic late lunch at Mahesh Lunch Home, a seafood restaurant in the relaxed northern suburb of Juhu. Unfortunately, after some large-format Kingfishers and a large meal, we succumbed to jetlag and a 2-hour nap.

Delicious Chili Garlic Prawns at Mahesh Lunch Home

We were, however, determined to make the most of our next 36 hours in the city.

We stayed at the intimate Juhu Residency Hotel just down the street from Mahesh. The area was great, but lay about 12 miles north of the city's epicenter on Nariman Point. This, combined with Mumbai's notorious traffic meant that we spent a significant portion of Thursday – our second day – traversing the city in taxis. At least they're incredibly cheap, and even our hour-plus ride home from dinner in the south that evening only rang up at $5.50.


In spite of the long transits, we still had a great day and highlights included an auto-rickshaw ride to Bandra to pick up traditional outfits for the coming nuptials (photos will definitely follow), enjoying a snack in the Sea Lounge at the Taj Mahal Palace, and meeting up with our friend Annie for a beer at Leopold's (a tourist and backpacker favorite), a walk through central Mumbai and dinner.

Gateway to India (with the Taj on the left side)

Leopold's Cafe in Colaba

Mumbai at Night

We headed north on our final morning in Mumbai in the company of Amin – a wonderful guide recommended by Gary Leff on his blog A View from the Wing. Amin’s story is worth a bit of a digression. He had run away from home in one of the city’s slums after his father passed away and lived on the streets between the ages of 5 and 8. Jesuits spotted him in a train station and brought him to live in one of their orphanages. Later, their support would lead to jobs and his purchase of a used car to start his tour business. Amin had an incredibly warm and kind personality reflected in his current sponsorship of several orphans and offer to accompany us in Mumbai should we return, even if we couldn’t afford to pay.


Amin brought us to the Kaheri Caves, a 2000-year old Buddhist site set in a nature preserve a world apart from the chaos of the city just a few miles away, especially as we were left to explore it almost alone (though hordes of young schoolchildren appeared just as we were leaving). The caves had been carved into volcanic rock and served as residences and a center for learning and meditation. They were remarkably well preserved, with ornate carvings and several frescoes remaining inside the caves.


The site also featured monkeys, which we’re always suckers for.


After the caves, it was back into the Mumbai traffic for a ride to the airport. Next stop, Kochi and Kerala!

NB: Amin Sheikh can be reached through his website http://www.snehatravels.in/

Posted by jkirsch 23:30 Archived in India Tagged traffic food india city mumbai Comments (1)

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