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Meal #16: Halo Halo (Filipino) with Ruben

by Drew on May 9, 2016 2 comments

Thank you for tuning into episode #16 of Monday’s Marvelous Meals!

In this interview-based food series, you’ll learn about the world’s tastiest cuisines from other travelers and travel bloggers.

In today’s episode, I am thrilled to host a fellow travel blogger named Ruben share his favorite Filipino dish!  This is a special one for me, beacuse I have eaten this dish about 20 times in the Philippines — and I am in the Philippines right now as I write this!

If you want to be the next person featured in this series, then please contact me with your favorite meal and I will send you the guidelines.  My aim is to cover all cuisines of the globe, so please try to contribute a meal that hasn’t already been covered.

Okay, now I’ll let Ruben take over!

Meet Ruben

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has been to 74+ countries around the world. If you value real cheap travel guides and offbeat destinations, he is your go-to guy.

Read his tips and stories in Gamin Traveler and join the community on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Question 1: Please share the name of this meal, and carefully describe what the magical ingredients are.

Halo-halo is my favorite and one of the most popular desserts in the Philippines. The Filipinos are very fond of their sweet food, and Halo-halo is usually popular during the hot months, however you can easily find it in a lot of places in the country whole year round.

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Depending on where you are eating it, it can be sophisticated or very simple. Halo-halo’s sweet secret is the right mix of crushed ice, sugar, milk and various fruits and sweet beans. It is made up of coconut, sweet purple yam (the best is their authentic Ube Halaya, another local dessert), colorful jellies, leche flan (another dessert), corn, sweet banana or saba, (or sweet potato), and of course, sugar and sweet condensed milk. Since it can be hot in the country even during the wet season, you can easily enjoy your halo-halo any time of the day, any time of the year.

Question 2: Where did you eat this meal? Did you discover it while you were traveling, or did you previously know about it?

Halo-halo can be found anywhere in the country. I haven’t heard of it before visiting the Philippines, but since my first visit in the country was during the summer season, I can’t help but discover it since it can be found even in local food stores and even sold by small street vendors. You may see other desserts in other parts of Asia that may resemble this one, but halo-halo’s taste is deliciously unique and refreshing.

You should easily find it anywhere. Ask a local, and since they can understand English well, they can easily point you to the nearest place where you can buy one, and will also tell you where the best tasting halo-halo of the area is.

Question 3: How much money did it cost, and where do you recommend to find it?

The best part of the halo-halo is its price. Prices can start from 35 cents (yup, it’s that cheap) when buying in very local places. Most of them are priced around $1 dollar, although the more sophisticated ones, or the ones served in restaurants can cost higher (although nothing significantly higher than than $2-$3). I stayed longer in the food capital of the Philippines – Pampanga, which for me is a recommended place to taste halo-halo. The best place to taste halo-halo is in the most popular dessert and local food chain in Pampanga, Susie’s Cuisine. Their halo-halo is served in its iconic and unique cup (this tall cup is uniquely made in the Philippines for halo-halo) and open from morning to evening.

Question 4: What is your overall favorite cuisine in the world? What makes it so damn tasty?

My favorite cuisine would be Thai food!

I can’t believe I will say this, but when I first visited Thailand (I have been to Thailand a lot of times), it immediately became my favorite, and food tasted even better in my home country, Spain. And you know how good Spanish food is 😉 …

Starting with the fresh fruits like mangoes, coconut, rambutan and fresh fruit juices. They have so much variety and fruits and juices, and you can see that eating fruits is infused in the local culture, because there are so many local street vendors who sell fruits all around Bangkok. I also love soups in Thailand (they have various kinds of soups), the popular Pad Thai, and their spicy dishes cooked with fried rice.

Sweets and desserts are also really good in Thailand. The most popular and my favorite is mango with sticky rice and coconut sauce.

The best thing is that Thai food can be quite cheap, and good cooking can be found everywhere, from small local street vendors to the big restaurants.

Question 5: Eating is my #1 favorite part about traveling. Why do you think it’s so important to eat local foods when you travel abroad?

Like you, trying local food is my favorite thing to do when traveling to a new country. Why? Because food is a big part of everyone’s culture, and traveling to a new country, learning about the culture should be a big part of travel – to learn what’s unique, different and how people live in a certain area of the world. Trying local food with the local people will definitely give you the most authentic experience – you’ll be able to taste and eat the food like how the locals eat it, while you are surrounded by all things local, unlike when you are eating in a fancy restaurant when everything will be served in fancy plates and platters, and sometimes the food’s taste will be changed/adjusted. This is why I really love to meet local people and spend time and eat with them.

I have tried to eat spicy food and curries with my bare hands, or even eat with plastic gloves, like in one local place in Singapore, while eating a local chicken dish. When someone visits me in Spain, I make sure that there is a lot of time to eat and enjoy local food (and beers!), and if possible, definitely home cooked dishes. I also try to cook a Spanish dish, like the Spanish omelette or Paella when visiting locals in another country, while Couchsurfing, or staying with locals so they can taste a little bit of the Spanish cuisine. To me, it is a great way for me to share with the new friends I meet the experience of the Spanish culture.

 

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DrewMeal #16: Halo Halo (Filipino) with Ruben

Meal #15: Ropa Vieja in Cuba with James

by Drew on May 9, 2016 No comments

Thank you for tuning into episode #15 of Monday’s Marvelous Meals!

In this interview-based food series, you’ll learn about the world’s tastiest cuisines from other travelers and travel bloggers.

In today’s episode, I am happy to have fellow travel blogger talk about his favorite Cuban dish!  After reading this post, your mouth might be salivating because it sounds so delicious!

If you want to be the next person featured in this series, then please contact me with your favorite meal and I will send you the guidelines.  My aim is to cover all cuisines of the globe, so please try to contribute a meal that hasn’t already been covered.

Alright, now I’ll let James take over!

Meet James

James recently started exploring his Latin-American heritage backpacking through Latin America. His most recent trips include visits to Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and most recently, Cuba.

Hoping to connect his love for coffee, culture and travel, James has big dreams of connecting the world one cup of coffee at a time.

Check out his coffee + travel blog, The Global Coffee Counter, and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Question 1: Please share the name of this meal, and carfeully describe what the magical ingredients are. 

This is ropa vieja. That’s Spanish for old clothes, the origin of this dish. It’s a slow cooked, shredded beef in a sweet and mildly spicy tomato-based sauce. Tossed in, you’ll often find  bell peppers, onions and sometimes a tomato wedge. Accompanying Cuba’s national dish, you’ll usually find yellow rice, black beans, yuca and an entree salad of cucumber, tomato and onion. And don’t forget the post-meal Cuban coffee. 

Question 2: Where Where did you eat this meal? Did you discover it while you were traveling, or did you previously know about it?

first had ropa vieja in a somewhat upscale private restaurant (not run by the Communist State). While it was delicious, I enjoyed ropa vieja much more the second time at our casa particular in Trinidad. Not only are casa particulares more common than hostels and hotels in Cuba, but you can also have bigger and better meals prepared for you at your casa. 

first heard about ropa vieja in Miami, actually. But, like with lots of Cuban food I ate on this trip, I chose to wait until Cuba to try it for the first time. Though I’ll definitely be having it whenever I’m in Miami next. 

Question 3: How much money did it cost, and where do you recommend to find it?

Dinner, like this one, usually cost $8-10 USD at your casa particular. They simply add them to your overall tab for your stay. I highly recommend having most of your meals at your casa. If you’re lucky like we were, you’ll have your host sit with you and tell you stories about life in Cuba. 

Question 4: What is your overall favorite cuisine in the world?  What makes it so damn tasty?

Mexican, hands down. I don’t know if it’s in my blood or what, but exploring flavors of corn and chiles in new and old ways turns me on. Though I’m probably biased having grown up half Mexican in San Diego, which is pretty much known for having some of the best Mexican food in the USA. But when I’m traveling in Mexico, it’s tacos, tacos, tacos. I also really enjoy tamales, mole and tasting salsas from different regions of Mexico. 

Question 5: Eating is my #1 favorite part about traveling.  Why do you think it’s so important to eat local foods when you travel abroad?

Same here. And drinking coffee too, obviously. Food is like teleportation/time travel for me. Think about it, dishes like ropa vieja have been eaten for years. And not just in Cuba, but Spain and other Latin American countries too. That’s one reason why even when I’m home I eat food from around the world. Home, or abroad, it’s quickest way to get an understanding of the culture, people and their history. That’s what traveling is all about.

Thanks for sharing, James! Have you ever tried Cuban food? Comment below!

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DrewMeal #15: Ropa Vieja in Cuba with James

Party #16: A Night in Florence with Kaitlin

by Drew on May 9, 2016 No comments

Welcome to the 16th edition of my series “A Party to Remember!”

In this interview-based web series, you’ll learn about the best parties and nightlife all over the world from other travelers and travel bloggers.

In this week’s episode, I am thrilled to have fellow travel blogger Kaitlin talk about her favorite Italian fiesta!

If you want to be the next person featured in this series, then please contact me with your party idea and I will send you the guidelines.  My aim is to cover nightlife all over the globe, so please try to contribute a party that hasn’t already been covered.

Alright, now I’ll let Kaitlin take over!

Meet Kaitlin

As a recent college graduate, Kait is a newcomer to the travel blogging scene.

When Kait is not dancing, she is researching as much as she can on youth and backpacking travel.

She writes about her experience as a millennial obsessed with travel on her blog Because Life is for Living.

 

Question 1: What was the party/event and where was it?

Partying in Italy is always a blast, but during my semester abroad in Florence, my friends and I were so excited to hear of a night called “La Notte Bianca” that would happen towards the end of the semester. It is a night where all the shops and restaurants, gelaterie and piazzas, stay open all night. They close in the evening and re-open around 10pm and stay open until the morning.

Question 2: How did you hear about this party/event?

There were flyers posted all over the city. It would be kind of easy to miss if you A) didn’t know Italian or B) weren’t an international student to have your professors tell you all about it. But regardless everyone found out somehow since there was so much talk about it the day of!

Question 3: Did anything funny or ‘out of the ordinary’ happen that night? Please share the story!

So much happened that night! I met so many new people, even though that was during my last two weeks in Florence! The craziest thing looking back on the night was the fact that we didnt even get to the clubs for their discounts and specials until after 3:30 in the morning! We spent the whole night and early hours of the morning jumping from piazza to piazza, buying drinks off people with coolers walking down the street, which in retrospect probably wasn’t the best idea…

Question 4: What were the top 3 highlights from that night?

  1. There are so many piazzas in Florence, and that night each and every one had something going on. In one of the lesser known piazzas there were Cirque performers doing silk and trapeze shows and other amazing acts! In Piazza della Signoria, one of the biggest piazzas in Florence, there was a stage with amazing lights and great music going all night into the wee hours of the morning.
  2. It wasn’t just the piazzas that were rocking til the sun came up, even the stores were open very late too! The closed after dinner that evening to prepare and re-open before the festivities that night. The stores had some discounts and even some shop owners would have special music or lights or things going on in their stores.
  3. Not only was this a great excuse to get dressed up and go out that night, it was a great way to remind myself to take in every moment and appreciate what it means to travel and be filled with wanderlust. Who know that in 2014 I would be partying all night long in the beautiful city of Florence, listening to great music with some great people. La Notte Bianca was and always will be one of the greatest highlights of study abroad. And ending the night watching the sun come up on Piazzale Michelangelo was definitely one of THE BEST experiences of my life so far.

Question 5: What advice can you give to anyone who wants to attend this event and party like you did?

Without a doubt I would recommend eating a late lunch and taking a nap through dinner. Since I got back to my apartment after 7am, I definitely wished I had caught a few more Z’s that afternoon. Otherwise, just be prepared for a wild night out in the city.

Question 6: I claim Seoul to have the best nightlife in the world, after living there for a year and a half…which city do you think has the best nightlife?

I definitely am a fan of Chicago’s nightlife since I prefer the casual scene, however the city can get kind of pricey. I definitely love Florence, even though I am a little biased, because there is something for everyone. If you love the raging club vibes you should totally go to Space. But if you want just a few beers with some friends, there is always Kikuya or Red Garter, and of course all the others in between. To me that is what really makes a city shine with nightlife, when there is something for everyone, and you can see the city still bustling into the early (or sometimes late!) hours of the morning.

Thanks for sharing your story, Kait! Have you ever partied in Italy? Comment below!

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DrewParty #16: A Night in Florence with Kaitlin

Party #15: Carnival in Brazil with Jennifer

by Drew on May 9, 2016 No comments

Welcome to the 15th edition of my series “A Party to Remember!”

In this interview-based web series, you’ll learn about the best parties and nightlife all over the world from other travelers and travel bloggers.

In this week’s episode, I am excited to have Jennifer share her experience at one of Brazil’s wildest festivals!

If you want to be the next person featured in this series, then please contact me with your party idea and I will send you the guidelines.  My aim is to cover nightlife all over the globe, so please try to contribute a party that hasn’t already been covered.

Ok, now I’ll let Jennifer take over!

Meet Jennifer

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Jennifer Schlueter quit her job in April to travel the world full-time. Her journey, tips, food, and stories about expats and inspirational people are shared on her blog Discovering LegaciesInstagramFacebook, and Snapchat (@discoveringleg).

She lives and breathes her motto “Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.” Her goal is to create a better mutual understanding among cultures and inspire others to travel and live the life of their dreams.

 

Question 1: What was the party/event and where was it?

Last year, I attended Carnival in the Afro-Brazilian capital of Salvador de Bahia in Brazil. It’s five days long and attracts millions of people.

Question 2: How did you hear about this party/event? Did you stumble upon it, or plan to go?

I’ve always wanted to go to carnival in Rio de Janeiro because I had seen it on TV. I was fascinated by Samba, the music, crazy costumes, and beautiful people. Then, my friend, who had been to Salvador as an exchange student, recommended to go there. According to her, it was better than Rio; thus, we booked two days of carnival in Rio and the other three in Salvador.

Question 3: Did anything funny or ‘out of the ordinary’ happen that night? Please share the story. 

Everything during carnival is out of the ordinary. The parties are not only at night, but last all day from about 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Random guys try to make out with you literally without even saying hello. Due to our obvious European looks, my friend and I often stuck out in the crowd and got smacked, sprayed on with “holy water” and otherwise “harassed.” If you join a bloco with an abada (a T-Shirt you buy with which you are allowed to walk inside ropes next to a music truck), you will find that they have guys carrying a porter potty during the whole parade. If you want to, you can pee while people are carrying you and others are knocking on the walls.

Question 4: What were the top 3 highlights from that night?

  1. As soon as the music on a truck starts, people fall into a trance and EVERYONE is super happy, dancing, and smiling, and you just can’t help it to be in the same state of mind as well.
  2. Seeing all the costumes and learning their meaning.
  3. Spending the money on an abada to experience what it’s like to walk inside the parade rather than just watching from the sidewalk.

Question 5: What advice can you give for  anyone else that wants to attend this event and party like you did?

  • Book in advance. By that I mean at least 6 months in advance because accommodations and flights fill up super quickly.
  • Research bands and their music and THEN buy an abada. Buy it from a hotel employee you can trust – there are too many scammers out there unfortunately.
  • Experience both carnival in Rio and Salvador.

Question 6: Which city do you think has the best nightlife?

For me, it’d be Atlanta because the dancefloors pack super early and people actually dance until they get kicked out. After that, it’s Lapa in Rio de Janeiro – the whole area parties inside and outside of establishments – it’s hot & humid, guys walk around topless, the music just makes you want to dance, and all kinds of cultures come together.

Thanks for sharing, Jennifer! Have YOU ever been to Carnival?

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DrewParty #15: Carnival in Brazil with Jennifer

I Just Went Skydiving in Australia!

by Drew on May 9, 2016 4 comments

In April of 2016, I spent 3 days in Melbourne on a long layover from Fiji to Singapore. It was my second visit to Australia (my first was to Sydney back in 2014) – and I enjoyed Melbourne MUCH more than Sydney.

Melbourne is a city that I could actually see myself living in. The city is very diverse, and the culture has influences from both Europe (architecture) and Asia (food).   It’s both artsy and hipster – packed with cafes, shops, restaurants, bars and graffitied walls. It’s also very affordable (unlike Sydney!)

Given that I only had 3 days in Melbourne, I wanted to make the most of my time. Skydiving has been at the top of my bucket list for a while, so I looked into various skydiving companies in Melbourne and I found an awesome one called Skydive the Beach!

Skydive the Beach operates in several cites across the Australian continent, and in the Victoria province, the jump is about 50 km outside Melbourne in the rich countryside area called Yarra Valley.  The company is very professional and has a great reputation of diving for more than 16 years. The staff at the office in Melbourne was so friendly and enjoyable to hang out with. They eased my stress and made me feel comfortable before jumping!

The days leading up to the jump, I was overwhelmingly nervous, excited and anxious. I had been bungy jumping 5 times in my life, but I had NEVER jumped out of a plane!

So, on the cold & breezy morning of May 2, 2016, I was picked up by a van and driven to Yarra Valley for the big jump!

Here’s how it went down.

When we arrived, we signed our lives away (literally) and then watched the mandatory 8 minute video with rules & instructions.

Then, I met my guide (who had already been on about 6,100 jumps) and he gave me a short briefing of what to expect.

A few minutes later, we were strapped into a small plane and up in the atmosphere, climbing above the clouds. On this particular day, there was a thick cloud shelf that we hovered above and it was really intimidating for my first jump!

I was trying to remain calm the entire way up, talking to my guide.   And then it was time…

The door opened, and a huge gust of cold wind hit my face and pierced my ears. My feet were the first limbs to hang outside the plane.

Before I had time to think, my head was positioned back on my guide’s shoulder and we jumped out!!

All of the nerves that I had before the jump had instantly disappeared after we jumped and hit terminal speed velocity. As cliché as it sounds, I was flying! I couldn’t feel anything because we were going so fast (220 km/hour).

The coolest part was when we zoomed through the cloud! I could feel the temperature suddenly drop (for about 2 second) and then everything cleared up and I could see planet earth below me.

After about 30 seconds of freefall, my guide pulled the parachute and we floated back down to earth. The views up in the sky were breathtaking – the valley below me and I could see all the way to the ocean!

It took about 5-6 minutes to parachute down and then I landed back on slid ground. I was alive!

Skydiving was one of the most thrilling and spectacular experiences I’ve ever had, and I am 100% going to go again somewhere else in the world.

If you head to Australia, then I highly recommend Skydive the Beach. It’ll be an experience that you won’t forget!

Disclaimer:  Skydive the Beach offered me compensation for going on their dive.  However, the words and recommendations in this post are my own and have not been altered in any way.

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DrewI Just Went Skydiving in Australia!

Singapore Travel Guide

by Drew on May 8, 2016 11 comments

*I’ve been to Singapore twice (in 2013 & 2016), and spent a total of 7 days in the city — it’s one of my favorite places in Asia!   In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.

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DrewSingapore Travel Guide

Highlights from 1 Week in Vanuatu

by Drew on May 4, 2016 10 comments

I visited Vanuatu for 8 days in April 2016.   Before I boarded the flight from Fiji, I had no idea about anything in Vanuatu. All I knew was that it’s a country in the Pacific islands, and that’s about it!

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DrewHighlights from 1 Week in Vanuatu