Saturday, September 23, 2017

Five Unexpected Street Foods to Eat in Thailand
 Five Unexpected Street Foods to Eat in Thailand

Every traveler eats pad thai when they get to Thailand—hey it’s famous for a reason. But why stop there? Here are five more delicious street foods to add to your travel list.

1. Pad See Ew ผัดซีอิ้ว
click here to see a blog by a guy who is crazy about Thai food

It’s time for some new Thai noodles in your life: the smoky, chewy noodles of phad see ew. Stir-fried with eggs, local greens, chilies, soy sauce, and wide rice noodles, this dish has a bouncy mouth-feel that kids of all ages can enjoy. Choose chicken or pork, then add vinegar to taste and these noodles will be always hit the spot. My old favorite on Sukhumvit 38 has moved, so my chef friend Joe recommended a new place near his house.

Phad See Ew stall in front of Teens of Thailand, Charoen Krung, Bangkok open 5-9pm

2. Yam Khai Dao ยำไข่ดาว
fried egg salad. this version has either mushrooms or fish maw, not sure tbh

If you are in the mood for a spicy delight, try a Thai fried egg salad. Crunchy celery greens, tomatoes, crisp onions, chilies, coriander, and a light dressing of garlic and mild fish sauce make this salad hearty and fresh. The best part is the Thai-style egg with crispy edges and a soft yolk. Fun fact: khai dao means fried egg but translates to “star egg”.

Tam Sang stall opposite Route 66 Nightclub, Royal City Avenue, Bangkok open 12-5pm

3. Bua Loy Nam Khing บัวลอยน้ำขิง
bua loy + lod chong in the background

Not particularly beautiful, a bowl of bua loy looks a lot like marbles floating in milk. In reality, this warm ‘dessert soup’ is a deliciously comforting way to end a meal. Imagine slurping up hot ginger syrup and coconut milk with soft rice pastry floating in every bite. My favorite bua loy is found in Bangkok’s Chinatown, where the ping-pong sized rice balls are plump with black sesame paste--reminiscent of warm, gooey peanut butter.

Sweettime dessert stall in front of Nai Ek Roll Noodles, Yaowarat Road, Bangkok open 7-11pm

4. Jim Jum จิ้มจุ่ม
check out for more amazing street food blogs

Hoping not to ruin your diet on vacation? Look no further than jim jum or traditional Thai hotpot. Full of flavor, it is a ‘clean’ eating option and a great meal to share with friends. When you order jim jum you can choose pork, chicken, vegetables, or seafood. The broth arrives at your table simmering over hot coals and ready for a group cooking experience. Throw in fresh Thai veggies, mung bean vermicelli noodles (low glycemic index), meat, and an egg and simmer until the tender meat is ready. Add plenty of Thai basil and you won’t be disappointed.

Issan food van opposite Thonglor Soi 2 near the Pridi Banomyong Institute, Bangkok open 5pm-2am

5. Phad Grapao Gai ผัดกะเพราไก่
always a good choice

No street food list is complete without pad gaprao gai or Thai stir-fried basil chicken. It’s not the most exotic thing, but it is a standout favorite among locals. Did you honestly think Thai people eat bugs at every meal like you see on Khao San Road? The standard plate from any street or hotel restaurant is the same: stir-fried chicken, holy basil, chilies, and a rich brown sauce over rice. Ask for a khai dao fried egg on top and you will have the same lunch as millions of Thais across the country!

Try any street stall or restaurant in Bangkok! Look for a large wok and you are in business. My favorite versions of this dish are in casual restaurants like Foodland and Sabai Jai Gai Yang because the chicken quality is a little nicer.

me + a scrimp
Stacy + a chicken wing
gaprao gai, yam khai dao, and bik gai thod fried chicken wings at Sabai Jai
me w some visiting friends in February 2016 at the Issan food van post-jim jum

What unexpected street foods have you tried and loved?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Five Places Worth Another Visit

One of the most obnoxious things I hear from tourists as they come through Bangkok is that they’ve “done” a country. “Have you done Laos?” “Yeah I did Laos right after I did Cambodia.”

It’s a pretty dismissive and ethnocentric thing to say.

As if by visiting a city or historic site you can see everything there is to see. As if your short trip has exposed you to all the cultural intricacies of a country’s history. As if the entire country is something to be consumed by foreigners.

Each new place we visit is a rich, diverse, complicated place where people actually live. It’s more than just a vacation spot.

Given the time and money, you could return over and over and discover new things each time. You could live there for years and still not understand exactly how everything works (ahem...Thailand).

With that in mind, here are the top 5 places that I want to go back and visit again.

probably Bui Vien in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I’ve been to Vietnam twice. The first trip was to the south in January 2014 during Tet or Vietnamese New Year. I went to Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon and then spent some time at the beach in Vung Tao.

outdoor show for Tet

HCMC was buzzing with incredible traffic, delicious coffee, and neatly groomed public parks. A nearby tour of the Cu Chi tunnels was eye-opening. It was the first time anybody called me an “American devil” to my face.

The second trip to Vietnam was in December 2015. I went to Hanoi in the north and Cat Ba Island on the southeastern edge of famously beautiful Ha Long Bay. To me, northern Vietnam was sleepy. Even Hanoi was calm.

Lan Ha Bay on Cat Ba island, Vietnam

That trip included the most adventurous bathroom I’ve ever used. It was an open room with a trough around the outside edge. There is a giant trashcan of water in the middle of the room for…how should I put it…splashing up after yourself.

It's also the most recent time I’ve been cold; the kind of cold where you can feel it through your clothes.

Vietnam is worth another trip because I know the Mekong River Delta in the south looks gorgeous in photos. I’d love to go to the far north near the Chinese border with the bright green rice terraces on the mountainside. I have no idea what is the middle of the country. I should go see.

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Burma

I’ve been to Burma twice. The first trip was in June 2014 to Yangon, the Burmese capital city until 2006. I visited the famous Shwedagon Pagoda. I saw a family put their baby through the metal detector on the way in.

A taxi driver took me to eat mohinga, a Burmese fish stew, before he took me to the airport. He said he couldn’t imagine someone leaving the country without trying his favorite food. He paid and everything.

downtown Yangon

The second trip to Burma was in April 2016. My cousin Kike was visiting from Chile so Stacy and I took him to Bagan. There are so many ancient temples, they fill the horizon and span thousands of years.

Bagan, Myanmar

The country has only been open to outsiders for a relatively short time. There are untouched islands with crystal clear lagoons in the south. I heard a train ride across the country is breathtaking. I was invited by Kariang coworkers to visit their homeland on the eastern border with Thailand.

There’s so much I don’t know about the country. Maybe by going back I can learn more.

view from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Hong Kong back in February 2016 was the closest I’ve been to the Chinese mainland. The city is gorgeous and reminiscent of San Francisco: tons of buildings crammed onto hillsides, all cascading down to a beautiful bay. 

soho neighborhood in Hong Kong

I went to Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. Even though I saw the coolest monkey-shaped fireworks, a lot of the city was shut down for the holiday.

Causeway Bay in Hong Kong

I climbed Victoria Peak, rode the double-decker streetcars, and ate a ton. I know there's a lot more to see in HK.

El Nido, Palawan island, Philippines

I took Stacy to the Philippines for her birthday in August of 2016. The Philippines has everything: great cities, great beaches, great food, and great people. There is just nothing uncomfortable or unwelcoming about the country.

Filipinos are definitely the Latinos of Asia. Everyone speaks perfect English too, so getting around is 100% less intimidating than most other places I’ve been. The extrajudicial killings are a little nuts, but I won’t hold it against the whole country.

off the coast of Mactan Island, Philippines
Kawasan Falls in Cebu, Philippines
oldtown + downtown Manila

Also, I love Manila. I had been hearing for years how horrible it is. People told me it’s dangerous, drab, and smelly. Not from what I saw--hip restaurant culture, excellent cocktail bars, great local food, and the prices were super affordable.

In Pasay City, a friendly prostitute taught Stacy and I how to eat our first (and last for me!) balut. Hospitality at its finest.

rode bikes up Phnom Krom 'mountain' in Siem Reap

I went to Cambodia for Thanksgiving in 2014 and I can't get over Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia

I’d love to say I found something small and unknown that caught my attention, but what fascinated me about Cambodia is the same thing that fascinates everybody in the world.

The famous ruins outisde of Siem Reap are the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen.

Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia

It’s an ancient temple complex but it looks like an entire city. It. Is. Huge.

Stone roads, statues, massive multi-room buildings, and fortified walls as far as the eye can see. I spent one day and saw a small portion of the first two temples.

As majestic as the Incan city of Machu Picchu is, the sheer size of Angkor Wat makes me dream about going back to Cambodia.

the port in Valparaiso, Chile

I am half Chilean. My whole family lives in Chile. I grew up in the US, so I’ve been to Chile plenty of times. That said, the place I’ve spent most of my time in Chile is my abuelita’s kitchen in Viña del Mar.

I mostly help cook meals, wash dishes, smoke a million cigarettes, drink a million cups of tea, and catch up with my aunts and uncles and cousins.

I’ve never done much sightseeing.

This last trip in 2014, Stacy and I decided to go for it. We spent Christmas with the family and then took off on our own. We rode bikes all over Santiago and then flew south to Coyhaique to explore beautiful Patagonia.

las capillas de marmol Marble Caves en Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Chile
I can't forget the stunning countryside views from the bus going down the Carretera Austral, the old ladies who hosted us in their little hospedajes, and the striking nature. I’m not super great at nature, so this part was intense for me.

Glacial Exploradores, Chile

This one’s a bonus, because of course I will go back to Chile. I just needed another photo for the title graphic to look symmetrical. Hope that’s ok 😅

What about you? What places have you been that you would go again?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Why I Don’t Ride Tuk-Tuks in Bangkok

Ah the tuk-tuk: the world-famous motorized pedicab from Thailand. A three-wheeled motorbike with a passenger bench; it’s the adorable vehicle you see in all the tourist photos.

Brightly painted in primary colors with shiny chrome guardrails and quirky personal decorations from the driver, it’s easy to see why everyone wants to ride—and take photos—in a tuk tuk.

Every country with a dire need for cheap transportation has its own version of the motorized rickshaw. It’s the resourceful way to turn your cheap, personal motorbike into an income. I’ve ridden the mototaxis in Peru and the tricycle of the Philippines but nowhere have I seen them more prevalent than in Thailand.

mototaxi pulling a friend in the Sacred Valley, Peru
tricycle in El Nido, Philippines 

About 20,000 tuk-tuks are registered as taxis in Thailand, 9,000 in Bangkok alone. Some people have personal tuk-tuks for trips to the grocery store, and countless hotels have tuk-tuk shuttles for sending customers to the BTS skytrain in style. They. Are. Everywhere.

In parts of Bangkok, it’s common to see tuk-tuk drivers milling around outside a tourist attraction. “Tuk-tuk?” they shout at passing tourists.

tuk tuks waiting outside the 7-11 near Thammasat University 

So when visitors come through Bangkok they are surprised when I tell them that I don’t take tuk-tuks. Like, ever.

Sorry. Maybe a few friends have been disappointed because it was on their travel bucket list. I mean, sure you can take one for the experience but it’s not like I use them just because I live here.

I don’t have anything against them…they just don’t make sense.

They make sense in the countryside. Big open roads mean tuk-tuks can squeeze by car traffic and be a cheap, convenient way to get from A to B. Plus, it’s nice to hop in the back and feel the fresh, natural breeze on the way.

my girlfriend Stacy & I riding a tuk tuk in Chiang Mai, Thailand 
Chiang Mai, Thailand 

I remember a late-night tuk-tuk ride in Chiang Rai towards the center of town. We needed a lift and our driver approached from down a dark road in a blaze of brightly-lit glory with a proud smile

tuk-tuk in Chiang Rai 
L-R in Chiang Rai: rickshaw, songthaew, bicycle, motorbike, car 

But in Bangkok traffic? In Bangkok weather? With Bangkok pollution? That’s a no for me, dawg.

Bangkok has two kinds of weather: hot and rainy.
Tuk-tuks are open-air vehicles.
You do the math.

If I am going to sit in traffic in the middle of the city, I’ll do it with a roof over my head in the air-conditioned luxury of a taxi cab.

Or if I’m in a rush, I hop on a motorbike taxi. Motorbikes are slimmer than tuk-tuks and can weave through cars so I still make it to work on time. Without having to sit in exhaust fumes, thanks.

motorbike taxis on Sukhumvit Road 

Maybe it’s because I live on Sukhumvit Road, the busiest thoroughfare in all of Thailand. There are just so many better ways to get around this city. For 50 baht I can get all the way to work on the back of a motorbike taxi AND get a free hair blowout at the same time!

About once a year I’ll catch a tuk-tuk in Chinatown at 5am when the taxis have cleared out. Even then, I just get out when I see a regular taxi. I dont want to go across town in slow motion. Once I took at tuk-tuk from a wholesale market, but only because I knew the exact price.

bumper-to-bumper traffic on Sukhumvit 

Did I mention that it’s hard to get a fair price from a tuk-tuk driver in Bangkok? They are so used to tourists who have no clue about local pricing or the value of the Thai baht that they don’t blink at a 500-baht ride.

When I see tourists riding in tuk-tuks I like to play a game. It’s called Guess-How-Much-They-Paid-Based-On-Their-Clothes. Elephant pants are about 300 baht per person. Bandage dresses and high heels at night jumps to 350.

Travel blogs like Lonely Planet always recommend bargaining for tuk-tuk rides. As if it's possible to do. In English. By tourists.

Even if you got down to 150 baht for EVERYBODY for one ride—which let’s be honest won’t be further than a kilometer or two—the fare is so inflated it’s laughable.

As a point of comparison, I pay about 180 baht for a taxi from my place in Thonglor all the way out to either airport.

Hey, I don’t blame tuk tuk drivers for squirreling money out of people, but not me.

late night tuk-tuk ride in Siem Reap, Cambodia 

With my foreign face and speaking Thai, the only response I’ve ever gotten for asking a fair price is a simple rejection. No driver needs to put forth the effort to drive me anywhere when tourists will pay their entire day’s salary with a single ride.

So that’s the long and short of it. Tuk-tuks are a famous mode of transportation here in Thailand. I love them for being a cheap, convenient, and whimsical way to get around in countryside towns. That said, I won’t be taking one in Bangkok anytime soon.

tuk-tuk in Siam area of downtown Bangkok 

Monday, August 21, 2017


I'm starting this blog back up again. Its been almost 6 years since my last post.

I made a new header and everything. Does anybody know what famous temple is in the picture?

Better question: Do people still read blogs?

I wrote a new bio. If anyone wants to catch up on my life, click on these:
i gram
i tweet

Maybe we can all play Spot the Differences with my life 😂

Monday, October 3, 2011

the yay area

muir beach, ca

Looking back on  the friendships, the memories, and the entire experience of living in Dublin...I am confident I'll live abroad again. Next time it will be Chile or Germany or Spain or Thailand...the possibilities are endless.

Picking up and moving across the globe one year ago made it so simple to do again--I think it gets easier each time. I plan to test that theory!

Right now I am enjoying spending time with my dad, toasting in the California sunshine, eating Mexican food constantly, exploring Oakland with hubs, and making a whole new life. I feel mobile, light, happy.

muir beach, ca

Saturday, September 10, 2011

adios Dublin

farewell party - Against the Grain, Wexford Street, Dublin 2

As most of you already know, my time in Ireland is over. This blog has been a great way for me to keep friends + family caught up with my adventures. As you can imagine, things are on hold for a bit. 

For those of you that don't know, I'm back in the states. Just before my visit, my dad became extremely sick and was hospitalized. On his 65th birthday he was diagnosed with cancer and told me over the phone what was going on. Thanks to a minor surgery and a few meds, my dad recovered from the hospital trip and has started treatment. 

As I was packing to go home, I realized that returning to Dublin probably wasn't an option. I couldn't imagine being 5,000 miles away from an important doctor's appointment or a difficult day of treatment. Hubs and I decided pretty quickly to keep our return flights in order to pack up our stuff in Dublin and move in September.

The last two-and-a-half weeks I spent in Ireland were unforgettable. What a gift--to return to a city I love, see friends, and say a proper goodbye. Everybody was supportive: from the landlord who ignored the lease dates + gave us our full deposit early to the Spanish folks that cleared out our apartment to all the friends who made time for a final drink...I can't thank you enough.

Life is constantly in a state of change and the best I can do is enjoy myself along the way. This change was sudden, but I've had an exciting year. Besides--as every single person in Dublin reminded me--California is certainly not the worst place to go.

my final meal at Crackbird - South Williams Street

check you later - Liberty Lane, Dublin 2

Saturday, September 3, 2011

culture shock: part deux

dear salade nicoise, we met in 2011. thus began our love affair.

After three weeks in the states, it felt odd arriving back in if my brain couldn't decide which place should feel more like home. I saw with fresh eyes; noticed every small differences for the second time around. It's impossible to explain the exact feeling but my association with what felt familiar was I didn't belong anywhere. It's not the most productive thing to do when you move, but I find my tendency is to constantly evaluate the differences between my old home and my new home.

Each tiny perceived 'difference' is merely a cultural norm that exists cohesively within Irish culture. I could easily say things like, 'Irish customer service is worse' or 'Irish public transportation is better' to try and explain what I feel. Though somewhat true, these statements dont even begin to tell the whole story.  Yes, compared to the US, the customer service in Ireland is less attentive...but have you ever been to Spain? And yes, compared to most US cities, it is easier to get around Dublin...but have you seen Germany?

Instead of trying to place arbitrary better/worse labels on every moment, I learn to be thankful for the simple enrichment of living it. Each time somebody says to me, 'good woman' or I turn the corner to see the statue of yet another Irish literary figure, my life is changed. I can almost feel my brain cataloging differences in language, in lifestyle, in visual imagery, in history...every bit is added to the spectrum of my life experience. However corny, this year has been about loving the cultures of the world because of--not despite--our immense diversity. Returning to Ireland helped me to realize it has all been worth it.

With that profound thought out of the way, some snapshots:
Irish people make ice in blister packs. it boggles the mind.

nobby's nuts. any questions?

spreading a message of peace

7 years of bad luck right thurr.

obviously it's love. me + Skips + rachel = 4eva.

ladiez night out at the globe

tourists be jumpin' in random pictures.

fashion show at Jervis. the models were 10 yr old babies.

the beautiful + historic Gee Pee Oh

my first feijoada + one more step towards ominvorianism (word?)
cheese, guava, + dulce de leche dessert looking straight-up '1979 retro starfish'

mick wallace was making kissy-lips at us all night

this is how we flirt back