Archive | January, 2014
January 28, 2014

A Foodies Guide to India

Lassi – India picmonkey

Lassi - India picmonkey

Indian food is one of the few cuisines that has not yet undergone Jamie Oliverication. The wrinkled street merchant remains the custodian of the cooking tradition. There may be the risk of “delhi-belly”, but for foodies like me that’s a worthy trade of for knowledge that I am biting into authenticity. If you’re the type to constantly quest for mouthfuls of glory, here are three experiences that cannot be missed.

Street Food in Mumbai

Street food is the heart and soul of Indian cuisine, and Mumbai is full of it. Begin your journey five minutes from Central Station with Sardar’s pav bhaji, a spicy dish that originated on the streets of Mumbai. Follow it up with vava pav from Anand, fried balls or triangles coated in garlic and chili powder. Wash it down with a juice from Bachelorr’s if you can find a seat, or walk along the streets and see what other culinary delights catch the eye. A warning to ye intrepid traveler, do not forget the triple C of safe street food – Customers, Cleanliness, and Checking for strange growths.

Fine Dining in New Delhi

At the other end of the price scale, (but still blissfully easy on the wallet by Australian standards) is New Delhi’s emerging fine dining scene. At the Taj Hotel you will find the restaurant Varq. Rated one of Asians best, Varq present street food with a modern twist, offering contemporary dining that actually tastes as good as it looks. Another favourite is Indian Accent. Located in a small boutique hotel, chef Manish Mehrota’s blend of lavish ingredients, Indian spices and international flavours has actually pulled a large enough crowd to fill the seemingly endless rows of tables. Last on my hit list is Karmin’s. Not all of Dehli’s best fine dining is contemporary – Karmin’s is over one hundred years old. Since serving the Imperial kitchens of the Mughal Empire in 1913, Karmin’s legendary favourites, (including a mouthwatering tandoori chicken) pack the place out with locals and tourists alike. A bit of a feat considering Delhi contains at least one place to by tandoori chicken per square metre.

House Made Masala Chai

You won’t have to look very hard to find authentic Chai in India. With Chai Wallahs on every corner, aged 7 to 70, chances are you’re going to be drinking a lot of it. Like aeroplane exit doors however, each Chai Wallah is subtly different. Some add saffron, ginger, or even sprinkle spicy garam masala on top. Others are masters of the “metre pour”, decanting the liquid back and forth from a height, creating foam in manner similar to south Asian stretched milk tea. Try it whichever way takes your fancy, but make sure you do. And while you’re on a sugar bender, why not follow it up with gulab jamun milk dumplings to complete your desert?

Check out our post on the 25 best street foods under $1

You can also make your own Chai at home

January 27, 2014

Finland in the summertime

To outsiders, Finland can seem a cold, dark place. But though winter nights can be long and light-free in regions such as Lapland in the north, it’s a different story when the seasons turn. When the winter breaks and spring arrives Lapland is a wonderland of things to do and see. Here are some things you’ll experience if you decide a Lapland holiday or a trip around Finland is for you.


On April 30th, revelers gather together in the streets to celebrate. It’s a scene out of a movie, with students and non students alike donning their white hats to celebrate the end of school. In Helsinki, the partiers start off in the street and head to market square, where the statue Havis Amanda stands. Here, at 6 o’clock, she receives her white student cap as well. The party continues until the next day, where you’ll see people camped out in parks picnicking, enjoying fritters and “sima”, homemade meade.

Restaurant Day

I’d be remiss if I did not mention restaurant day in Helsinki. It happens four days a year, with this years springtime date falling on the 17th of May. The concept is simple, anyone can open up a restaurant for a day. No permits needed, no leases need to be signed, all you need is an idea and a space on the street. It allows any and everyone to be the chef they dreamed about, and for visitors? It gives you a taste of a huge variety of foods, and some food combinations that you definitely would not have thought would work together.

The Countryside

One of the biggest reasons people go on cheap holidays to Finland is for her natural beauty. The Finnish countryside is filled with soaring mountains and glassy lakes: views that you only usually find in movies or photographs. A trip in April is the best time if you are a ski enthusiast, as the best conditions for skiing are at this time. There is still lots of snow, the weather is a bit warmer, and you have lots of sunshine. This is especially true for the cross country trails.

If you prefer to enjoy your holiday in nature, Finland has you covered as well. In the summer, you can rent one of the famous Finnish cabins, where you’ll spend time in the woods with your only company for miles the animals in the forest. What’s more if you go in August or September, you’ll get a show put on just for you. The Northern Lights dance and twirl in the sky at this time of year.

So squeeze in a trip to Finland before the winter sets in again, and you’ll find a whole different world of northerly delights to explore…

Image by M. Passinen, used under Creative Comms license.

January 8, 2014

Holidaying in New Zealand – A Few Important things You Need To Know

auckland nz

New Zealand is my country of birth and despite being widely travelled overseas I don’t think I am unduly biased in believing it to be one of the most beautiful countries on earth. When visiting New Zealand there are important things you need to know in order to make the most of your time there and keep safe.

We have a stunning coastline and many beautiful beaches (e.g Abel Tasman, the Bay of Islands, the Coromandel Peninsula) but be very careful when swimming at them. Many of our beaches have major under-tows so only swim between the flags and when there are surf lifesavers on duty. Don’t swim at all on the South Island’s West Coast beaches as they are too dangerous.

In New Zealand we drive on the left side of the road. For visitors who come from countries where driving on the right side is the rule, it is very important to drive cautiously. Tragically quite a number of tourists are killed each year by veering onto or pulling out onto the wrong side of the road. This often happens when they pick up a hire car/camper van after a long haul flight when they are over-tired. It is best to stay overnight at your city of arrival and set out on your holiday after you are well rested. Make sure the front seat passenger stays alert to help with navigating and keeping the driver awake.

I would not recommend hitch-hiking in New Zealand. Many young travellers do it any get away without any problems BUT every 1-2 years a hitch-hiker is abducted, sexually assaulted and/or murdered in our country. Many of our tourist destinations are are isolated and unpopulated so it is just not worth the risk. New Zealand is generally a safe country but like anywhere we do have a few bad people so be sensible. For e.g don’t leave valuables within plane view in your vehicle when you stop to go for a walk.

New Zealand is an island country in the South Pacific, but don’t fooled into thinking that by South Pacific this means it has consistently hot, fine weather like the “tropics”, because it doesn’t. Again, unlike the tropics the sea water at NZ beaches is COLD. As a child I was hardy like my fellow country folk and would happily brave the waters with the best of them. Now I have been spoiled by the warm waters of Malaysia, Thailand and Mexico, I am no longer able to cope with New Zealand’s freezing waters and just go for paddles up to my knees. If you are from the UK maybe you will find our waters refreshing :-)

As the famous song by NZ band Crowded house says, New Zealand often has “Four Seasons In one Day”. Yes we can and do have temperatures in the low 30s (86-92 F) during December through February but our weather is very changeable because we are made up of several narrow islands. If you’re looking for a consistently hot summer, you’re better of choosing Australia.

In New Zealand it is a good idea to wear layers that you can strip off or add on, depending on what the weather is doing. Bring a jacket that doubles as a rain coat and wind break.

When planning a trip to New Zealand many tourists underestimate the time they need to see the county. I often hear of people coming to NZ for 1 week and only visiting Auckland, the Bay of Islands, Rotarua and Queenstown. This is a travesty as there are so many other amazing places to visit with vastly contrasting sceneries. I realise that people have a limited vacation time and budget, but if they are going to all the effort and expense of travelling thousands of kilometres to get to NZ they should see it properly rather than barely scratching the surface. I would recommend a minimum of 1-2 weeks in the North Island and 2 weeks in the South Island. My personal favourite places are the Coromandel, the Abel Tasman National Park, the Catlins, Lake Waikaremoana, the Milford Track, and the South Island’s West Coast.

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