Jaleo: Dining in Washington DC #1

When we first traveled to the Andalucia region of Spain eight years ago, I had never heard the word “tapas”, and was charmed by the concept of nibbling nonstop whenever we felt hungry instead of being bound by the three-meal-a-day convention. Tapas ranged from simple (fat, juicy olives) to surprising (dates wrapped in Serrano ham) to slimy (freshly-brined snails). Without exception, all used the freshest of ingredients. They were sublime. Better still, all came free, served with The Spouse’s beer and my sangria.

Andalucia: home of the tapa

Today, tapas are ubiquitous – we have tapas bars, tapas dinners, and even tapas parties. And none of them come free. Globally, these little nibbles have been elevated to a form of haute cuisine. Having had the opportunity to try tapas in their most basic form in Andalucia, their region of origin, I wanted to sample them in their more fashionable avatar. When I found myself in the Washington DC area last month, I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than at Jaleo (pronounced ha-lay-o), the tapas restaurant owned by José Andrés – the chef who introduced America (and arguably, the rest of the world) to tapas as a standalone fine dining concept. Keep reading…

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Walking Angkor

Walking through Angkor is surreal. You feel like you’ve somehow stepped into the brittle-with-age pages of an ink-illustrated, hardbound Rudyard Kipling novel. Except they’ve suddenly been painted to life with vivid color – oh, and there are tourists, cars, and touts. In abundance.

Despite that somewhat jarring fact, Angkor is jaw-dropping, no matter how many pictures you’ve seen, how many books or guidebooks you’ve read, or how often you’ve dreamed of visiting. The sheer scale of it will have you gasping – a sound you’ll hear escaping involuntarily from your mouth with increasing frequency once you start trudging over every inch of it in the blazing 32°C heat. At 11am. In the “cool” season. Keep reading…

The Divine Delights of Kobe Beef: Beyond Sushi #2

I recently had an out of body experience. It was called Kobe beef. In a nondescript yakiniku restaurant in a nondescript mall in Bangkok’s little Tokyo area, I ascended the proverbial stairway to heaven, and it’s an experience I’m keen to repeat.

Miraku restaurant in Thaniya Plaza

Miraku restaurant in Thaniya Plaza

First, context. We’d been wandering around this specialty golfing mall called Thaniya Plaza – yes, such things exist – looking at golf clubs, golf balls, putting mats, golf attire, and mostly useless golf widgets (for example – three varieties of exploding golf ball that will allegedly cause your golfing partners to roar with laughter, or more likely, rage) and we were starving. The kids and I parked ourselves on a bench outside a restaurant with a Japanese-sounding name and waited for our avid golfer to declare his shopping spree complete. On his return, we ignored his plaintive pleas to eat outside on the street (not Thai food again!) and insisted that a sushi binge was in order. Keep reading…

Bangkok’s other face: Ko Rattanakosin

old world charm

Ko Rattanakosin: old world charm

I’ve always  resisted the idea of visiting Bangkok. I’d envisioned it as yet another big, crowded city filled with skyscrapers, malls, traffic jams, and hustlers. Guess what? I was right. And yet… I would go back in a flash. Bangkok suffers from multiple personality disorder, and I got to meet several personae.

First off – and my personal favorite – was Old Bangkok. Think Mysore on a small dose of acid. You can tell when you’re nearing Old Bangkok, better known as Ko Rattanakosin, by the steadily dwindling height of the buildings. There are more tuktuks (autorikshaws, dahling!) than cars, more trees than buildings, and more canals than roads.

Keep reading…

Travel Flash: Ranganathittu and Kokkarebellur

Basic birding equipment

Basic birding equipment

A birding trip is certainly no picnic. You haul yourself out of bed at an unearthly hour, make sure you have all your optics and accessories on your person, and head out to your chosen destination. If, like us, your destination is a popular “picnic spot”, and if (again, like us) you’ve chosen to visit on a weekend, you drive like your ass is on fire – you want to get there a few minutes before the gates open. You spend all your time looking for birds that don’t want to be seen, trying to identify and perhaps photograph them from an impossible distance, and then – well, then you just drive back home. If that isn’t your idea of a great time, you aren’t a birder. Keep reading…

A Cook’s Tour

A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain

A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain will do anything in his quest for the perfect meal, even it means traveling with gun-toting maniacs in Khmer Rouge territory in Cambodia, slaughtering a pig in Portugal, eating a beating cobra’s heart – even selling his soul to TV (in his own, albeit borrowed, words: “We’ve already established you’re a whore. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”) Keep reading…

Bandipur: A Ride On The Wild Side

Bandipur National Park at Dawn

I like lazing on the beach sipping vodka and listening to the waves. Majestic mountain panoramas take my breath away. But if had to choose one, just one place where I feel calm and at peace, it’d have to be the jungle. And so this week, I decide to take a short trip to the Bandipur National Park, just 80km from Mysore. Keep reading…