Travel Archives

In this travel archive, you’ll find some of my best travel stories, photos, and recommendations. I initially published these travel posts on my Instagram, but as I’ve moved away from social media, I decided to republish them on my website.

Now, I can share my tips guilt-free, by not making others spend the time on social media that I’m trying to avoid myself. It’s a win-win-win, without the hypocrisy, plus better readability.聽Just don’t click on any # tag or @ sign. 馃檭

It’ll take me a while to have everything up, so for now, enjoy going through the places that I already added.

However, if you need recommendations for the cities yet to come, send me a super sweet message (including your favorite song of the moment), and I’ll hook you up.

Lastly, if you find a broken link, please聽let me know. I’ll repay your efforts in life-changing quotes.



Published
AustraliaMelbourneSydney
Bosnia and HerzegovinaSarajevo
Sri LankaColombo
IsraelTel Aviv
JapanTokyo

Coming
The Netherlands 路 Amsterdam
Thailand 路 Bangkok
Singapore 路 Singapore
Spain 路 Madrid
The USA 路 California 路 San Francisco 路 New York

Last update: November 25, 2018


 

Australia

Melbourne

For sunset-watching coordinates, a trio of pubs, my new, all-time favorite brunch and dinner spots, and a bit more,聽see聽10 Things to Do in Melbourne.

Sydney

Skyscrapers at Pitt Street

#469 路 August 10, 2017

Tomorrow, I鈥檓 heading Down Under. First to Melbourne and then Sydney. I haven鈥檛 been to Melbs before, but by the Google of it, I think I鈥檓 going to like it. 馃尦馃殝 As for the Sydney part of the trip, it feels like some kind of homecoming. Strange, yes. But here I am, nevertheless, looking forward to a morning jog in the botanical gardens, and swoon, that bit along the Opera House. 馃悮馃帲 A cold pint of 鈥3 Sheets鈥 @lordnelsonbrewery is also on my mind. 馃嵒馃 Gumbo with chorizo, fried chicken, okra, kale, pickled slaw, prawn crumb & housemade cornbread + a flat white @paramountcoffeesydney. 馃構馃尳 A visit to my hairdresser (believe it or not). 馃拡馃拋馃徎 The replenishing of my stock of @ikouinspire, @frank_bod, and @sunbum. 鈽锔忦煃 Birthday celebrations at Mr. Wong. 馃巿 And bike rides by those magic, edgy, bays and wharves.

Write the book you want to read” 鈥揂ustin Kleon
Coincidentally, daydreaming about this trip and working around the clock to finish my last post this week, reminded me how much I like researching a city鈥檚 hot spots, but also, the best in apps, books, lifestyle ideas, etc. It鈥檚 the one thing I haven鈥檛 stopped doing since I was a teenager. Thus, it鈥檚 no wonder that this post, 鈥My All-Time Favorite Resources,鈥 is one that I would love reading myself. It’s packed with the good stuff that I only recommend to my friends. I hope you’ll like it as much as I do. 馃尙鉂わ笍

馃搶 Pitt Street, Sydney, Australia

 

View of Sydney city seen from the ferry

#427 路 June 2, 2016

Sydney, you’ve always been my mom’s worst nightmare. The 24-hour flight one that could come true. I guess, she must’ve always known, like only mothers do, I’d fall head over heels for you. I’m going to tell her that I’m taking you off my mind, and reducing you to a mere top 10, but just between us鈥揑 hope to see you again.

Collected over a week’s time in Sydney, follow my fresh off the press must-do’s at your own risk:

1. Follow @xplore_sydney, @twogirlsonefork, and @cityofsydney for ideas, impressions and insider tips. 馃嵏 And @missarahglover just because she’s way cool. 馃嵆馃弰馃徑

2. Walk in the direction of the Opera House without map or plan and allow yourself to get lost on your first day in town.

3. Join @imfreesydney for the Free Sydney Sights Walking Tour.聽馃毝馃徔

4. Rent a ride at @bonzabiketours and ask the guys there to map out a couple of city routes. Do ignore any well-intended suggestions about crossing the Harbour Bridge halfway; it doesn’t count unless you go ALL the way. 馃弫馃毚馃徎

5. Go for a morning jog in the Royal Botanic Gardens (@RBGSydney) including a quick stop at Mrs. Macquaries Chair and a lap around (!) the Opera House. 馃

6. Find freedom and inspiration among the many bays, wharfs and harbors, like Pyrmont Bay, Walsh Bay and Woolloomooloo Wharf.

7. Check out Sydney’s pub scene for cloudy ciders, home brews and original UK grub. Tested & liked: “The Royal George”, “Ryan’s Paragon Hotel” and “Harts Pub.”聽馃悷聽+ 馃崯

8. Spend a long afternoon caffeinating 鈽曪笍, eavesdropping and getting local in Surry Hills. 馃憠馃従聽For a Surry story and a not-to-miss ice cream tip, look for the snap with a zebra crossing (#419).

9. Take the ferry to Manly, with bike in tow, and do one or both parts of #thegreatmanlytour:聽#425 + #426. 馃毑鉀碉笍

10. Do one thing I didn’t do: climb The Sydney Harbour Bridge (@bridgeclimb), visit hipster hoods Newton and Glebe, have dinner at a restaurant (馃槷) or head to Bondi Beach.馃尨

馃搶 Manly Ferry, Sydney

 

Friends sitting on a bench looking at the ocean

#426 路 May 31, 2016

As promised, today I give you part 2 of “The Great Manly Tour.” Although you could do both part 1 (see #425) and part 2 on the same day, I definitely recommend you take two days instead or, if you don’t have that much time, do only one. 馃椇馃毚馃徎 Taking your time allows for chance and unexpected encounters, and for you to linger longer at your favorite-looking spots. 馃嵐馃尨 Assuming you’ll be following my advice, note that part 2 starts out the same as part 1 but takes a different direction almost immediately. Here we go:

RENT 馃毑馃毑 at @bonzabiketours 鈥 TAKE ferry from Circular Quay to Manly 鈥 RIDE & SEE

1. The Corso Manly [optional stop: 馃悷 and chipies at Manly Ocean Foods OR (even better) scramble a picnic from the many food and wine shops you’ll find in this street and pack it up to enjoy very soon 馃崡馃嵎]

2. Coastal ride along Manly Beach (in the direction of Freshwater Beach)

3. Freshwater Beach [take Moore Rd towards Freshwater Beach and you’ll arrive at your perfect picnic patch of green with hypnotizing views over the surfer’s line-up 馃弰馃徑]

4. CurlCurl Beach [optional stop: @Gusto_on_the_Beach for coffee, superfood treats and I’m-never-leaving chills]

鈥 HEAD BACK taking “The Board Walk” until you hit Freshwater Beach, then leave the coast, riding back through the center of Freshwater all the way to Manly Beach [optional direction: the real-hipster heart of Freshwater, around @Albert_and_Moore & Co.]

鈥 END your day at @ManlyWine or @4PinesBeer before taking the 鉀碉笍 back to mainland. 馃嵒聽#thegreatmanlytour

馃搶 Freshwater Beach, Sydney

 

People canoeing at Shelly Beach

#425 路 May 29, 2016

You can’t leave Sydney without visiting some of the nearby beaches. But with so much blue on the map, where do you go? 馃椇 Most guides will send you off to Bondi Beach, some locals will tell you to go to Manly instead. If you’re lucky, like I was, you’ll stumble upon a hero who’s willing to spill all the beaches. 馃尨 Now it’s time for me to pay it forward and share with you part 1 of “The Great Manly Tour” which goes a little something like this:

RENT 馃毑馃毑 at @bonzabiketours 鈥 TAKE ferry from Circular Quay to Manly 鈥 RIDE & SEE

1. The Corso Manly [optional stop: 馃悷 and chipies at Manly Ocean Foods]

2. Manly Beach [optional stop: drinkies at @ManlyWine]

3. Shelley Beach [optional stop: brunchies @TheBoathouse]

4. St. Patricks Estate (馃帴 set of “The Great Gatsby/Leo” and where Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban tied the knot)

5. Fairfax Lookout 馃憖

鈥 BIKE all the way back and hop on the ferry [mandatory stop just before taking the 鉀碉笍: @4PinesBeer] 馃嵒聽#thegreatmanlytour

馃搶 Shelley Beach Manly, Sydney

 

View at Fairfax Lookout

#424 路 May 25, 2016

After 20 kilometers on the bike and who-knows-how-many hills later, Mr. G and I reached the last stop of the day, Fairfax Lookout. Its raw splendor brutally lost on both of us, who were more than anything, looking forward to taking those long, steep hills, in a sense of sweet revenge, downwards this time, our minds set on a cold and well-deserved pint. 馃嵑馃毚馃徎 馃毚馃徎

Every now and then, I love going on outrageously packed sightseeing days, but this 20K+ itinerary is better split in half. In the next two posts (聽#425 + #426), I’ll show you exactly how to do this without missing any of the good stuff. 馃嵐馃弰馃徑馃尨 #thegreatmanlytour

馃搶 Fairfax Lookout, Sydney

 

View over Pyrmont Bay Wharf

#423 路 May 25, 2016

After hills upon kilometers with hardly a non-local in sight, passing through King Street Wharf and Darling Harbour was somewhat of an anti-climax. But as I kept following the water edge, leaving the restaurants, attractions and snappy tourists behind, I arrived at another, calmer side of the harbour, from where now the commercial chaos had transformed into a beautiful mess. 馃敟

Life at the water, along harbours and wharves is edgy, sexy, and unattached. Spots like Pyrmont Bay, Walsh Bay, and Woolloomooloo (!) Bay is where I find freedom, meaning and inspiration. 猸愶笍

馃搶 Pyrmont Bay Wharf, Sydney

 

Pint of beer and pork pie

#422 路 May 24, 2016

If you decide to ignore your guide’s instructions 馃檴, and to cycle over to the other side of the city, turning your non-hilly route into one of a 1000 downs and ups, may I suggest that once you find your way back to the “right side”, you treat yourself to a cold pint of “3 Sheets” (pale ale) at The Lord Nelson Brewery? It’ll go down like milk and chocolate chip cookies. But better. 馃崻馃嵓

Come back to the brewery in the evening and try the “Old Admiral” (old ale) and “Nelson’s Blood” (porter) too鈥損referably with that awesomely-looking ploughman’s platter of oven-bread, pickles, cheeses and what else. 馃馃崬馃嵑 And if you got some space to spare in your suitcase (or hotel minibar), totally get your favorite of the 3 hops bottled and boxed up. Makes for a sweet gift.. 馃殌

馃搶 Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, Sydney

Bicycle lane on top of Harbor Bridge

#421 路 May 20, 2016

The floor beneath me was slightly shaking. Looking down through the gaps I could see the sea. To my left were flashes of lovely Lavender Bay. On my right trains raced by. 馃殜 I recorded my first video with voice commentary in a while. It was a short one sentence affair, but it felt good to be back at it again鈥揻ree and fearless. 馃帴

I met a lot of people in the past few months. Great people who for some reason can’t seem to tap into their own greatness. They don’t see themselves the way I see them. They don’t see the possibilities. It made me wonder more than ever what we’re all so afraid of. 馃暦聽#justdoit聽“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again.聽Fail聽again. Fail better.” 鈥揝amuel Beckett, “Worstward Ho”

馃搶 Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney

 

People basking in the sun under the Harbor Bridge

#420 路 May 19, 2016

With something of a roughly mapped out route, a shiny red helmet on my head and a tire repair kit (which I wouldn’t know how to use), I speeded all over North Sydney yesterday afternoon. 馃挮 It was absolutely magic. Sydney is magic. And I can’t imagine a better way to see this city than by bike. 馃毚馃徎聽P.S. I rented my bike with聽@bonzabiketours. They seem to have the best deal in town. For $20,- (AUD) “Bonnie Doon” (name of my rental and which may or may not mean something like “in the middle of nowhere”) can be yours for 4 hours. Matt, the owner, is really nice and will tell you exactly how to get lost too. 鈽勶笍

馃搶 Hickson Road Reserve, Sydney

 

Couple crossing the street

#419 路 May 18, 2016

Only a stone’s throw away from the skyscrapers and main sights of the city center is Surry Hills. In this quirky, gritty hood, awash with Victorian terrace houses, bars, and restaurants, one can easily spend an entire afternoon along the main drag, Crown Street (stay between Oxford and Cleveland Street for most of the good stuff). 馃尦馃懎 Relax, take a side street here and there (check out @BourkeStreetBakery, @ReubenHills, @BodegaSydney and a few great-looking coffee places along the way), pause every now and then to read your city guide and look for a few lucky shots. 馃椇馃摳 Whether you stray left or right, make sure you don’t miss @gelatomessina, Sydney’s most popular ice cream shop. 馃崷 Queen bee or not, all I know is that when I had a taste of the “Coco Republic” (coconut gelato with passionfruit curd and pineapple cake), my face folded up in Mark’s (@migrationology) signature look鈥搕he one when he eats something yum. 馃構

馃搶 Goulburn Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

 

Man reading a paper in cafe

#418 路 May 17, 2016

Roisin McGee (@roisin.mcgee), photographer, 1/3 of @igerssydney, freelance journalist and marketing & advertising student (aka multi-talented stunner 猸愶笍) kindly agreed to meet me for lunch yesterday. We met at Paramount Coffee Project (@paramountcoffeesydney), Roisin’s suggestion and a painfully perfect one. 馃檶馃徎 Paramount Coffee Project is housed in a gorgeous industrial space, complete with a superman staff and one hell of a menu. I could’ve had everything on offer, but being in the land of @kayla_itsines and @_sarahwilson_ I decided to tone down with a humble soft scramble on sourdough toast鈥搉o regrets. That was a damn fine scramble, I tell you. 馃崬馃嵆(Swearing is en vogue here in Sydney by the way.) However though, if you had a look at my Snapchat (馃懟mirhamasala) yesterday, I’m sure you’d agree that Roisin’s lavish pick, waffles with fresh figs, honey/pistachio ice cream and drizzles of spiced orange syrup and throws of crumbled pistachios, is what you should be going for, every time. 馃構 It’s places and meet-ups like these that make me want to come back to a city, again and again. And often I do, if only in my mind. If only in my mind, I’m a regular already. 鈽曪笍 P.S. I’m told their coffee is pretty stellar too.

馃搶 The Paramount Coffee Project, Sydney

 

Sunrise over the harbor at Finger Wharf

#417 路 May 16, 2016

Good morning, Sydney! I’m here for the week! Quietly, I’ve already been sneaking around your city center and mesmerizing waters for the past 2 days. 馃槑 Without much of a plan, I’ve been trying to get a feel for you. So far it’s pleasant confusion all around and I’m starting to think you’re one special bird, not easily boxed up. 馃摝馃挮 I’m going to dive into a city guide now but will be out lunching and strolling around Surry Hills later. If you have any must-do and must-dine tips, please do let me know. Also, if you’re up for a walk or coffee sometime this week, I’d love to meet you. 馃馃帲

馃搶 Finger Wharf, Sydney

 

Bosnia and Hercegovina

Sarajevo

Tunnel of Hope in Sarajevo

#450 路 November 15, 2016

My father doesn鈥檛 talk about the war. And thus, I rarely ask him to. But on our way to Sarajevo鈥檚 most-visited tourist attraction, 鈥淭he Tunnel of Hope鈥, the underground passage through which he left the war-torn city twenty years ago, I pried for information. Short answers followed, no emotional details.

On the morning of July 28th, 1995, my dad went to his office, carrying a bag and a letter that would allow him to flee Sarajevo.
路Was he scared? Nauseated?

Upon seeing the bag, his colleagues asked if he was leaving. He joked he was bringing Christmas presents. It was July. He had nothing to hide, he stressed. There was the bag鈥搊f course, he was leaving.
路 Did he feel judged? Ashamed?

From his office, he walked, and ran, through sniper alleys, to the only safe passage out of town鈥揳n 800 meters long tunnel dug next to the airport, through which he passed, his head and back hunched.
路 How did the feel? Claustrophobic? Could he breathe? Did he have second thoughts?

Once out of the tunnel, he walked to Hrasnica where he found a man who was willing to drive him, and some couple, for $70,-, to Tarcin鈥搕he place where he would board a bus to Zagreb, a place of no war. It would take two days and one night to cover the 400 kilometers long route, which was saturated with checkpoints.
路 Was he afraid someone would take him off the bus? Kill him on the spot? Oh, dear dad, did you get ready to die?

In Zagreb, the officials couldn鈥檛 trace his letter of guarantee. And so he was stuck there, for a month, waiting for a visa..in some room he rented..
路 Was he relieved? Confused? Lonely?

I was nine years old. I didn鈥檛 know any of this was going on. Our memories don鈥檛 overlap. But I do remember, and always have remembered, my mom pushing the phone in my hands, crying, desperately, asking me to tell the person on the other side, to please, please, let my father come to us. Perhaps a child鈥檚 voice would help speed things up鈥搒he must鈥檝e thought.

On August the 28th, 1995, my dad landed at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and finally rejoined my mom, my brother and I.
路 Did he collapse inside? Was he happy? And what about now?

馃搶 Tunnel of Hope, Sarajevo

 

Deep-fried olives stuffed with cheese

#449 路 November 10, 2016

something old 馃懙馃徑馃嵈
Deep-fried olives stuffed with cheese at my all-time favorite restaurant in Sarajevo, Dveri. This place is also home to the most delicious leavened bread, and the best steak I’ve eaten yet.

something new
Many new places opened since the last time I visited Sarajevo, and I wish I could’ve tried them all; however, this year I decided that gaining 5kgs in a week’s time (not kidding) wasn’t worth the aftermath. And thus, I kept away from the sweets and stuck mostly to revisiting my old favorites, but the one place I made an exception for was the newly opened, Baklava Du膰an. It’s here that they make an almost-forgotten type of baklava, called d啪andar baklava. It’s exceptionally delicate, less sweet than the usual suspect, and just ..very, very good. (馃搶聽膶izmed啪iluk 20, Sarajevo)

something borrowed 馃枈
“At night, Sarajevo hums with its particular blend of local and worldly energy. To be in Sarajevo is to be here but also everywhere.” 鈥揜eif Larsen

something blue 馃椇
If you’re planning a trip to Sarajevo, have a look at my city guide The Girl with the Blueprint. Although I haven’t updated it in a while (it was part of Spin-Off 6 路 Be an Entrepreneur), the places for Sarajevo should still be pretty spot on.

馃搶聽Dveri, Sarajevo

 

View over Sarajevo from Bijela Tabija

#448 路 November 8, 2016

Sarajevo pulled me into a vacuum, like a letter in a pneumatic tube, and held me within itself, without release. In a tub of recognition, it bathed me in the sounds of my language鈥揳 sacred place where the art of humor lives. I recognized myself in the faces of strangers. And for the first time, I surrendered to the city that has always been my home, even when I couldn’t remember it, lost it鈥揺ven when I had grown convinced that I didn’t have a place to call home.

During my last trip to Sarajevo, I felt like I was seeing my hometown for the first time. More than ever, I was mesmerized by the city’s overwhelming beauty: the valley it’s held in, the greens, the blues, and the red brick rooftops. All I wanted was to walk, to get lost. And every day I would find some place high where I could stare at the city, get to know it, and come home at last.

Looking down from the hillsides, it never failed to escape me just how well you can see the people walk. And it’s not that I asked how someone can pull the trigger from such a cowardly range, but I did wonder how that person is doing now.

Does he have nightmares? Does he wake up in the middle of the night? When he closes his eyes, does he see the people he shot as clearly as the day he killed them? Do they appear, like they must’ve appeared, like ducks in a county fair shooting game? And how, exactly, does it feel to switch off someone’s light?

馃搶 Bijela Tabija, Sarajevo

 

Portion of 膰evap膷i膰i

#447 路 November 4, 2016

The scent of grilled meat, roasted coffee beans, and raw concrete, mixed with whiffs of washing powder, chopped wood, and trails of freshly baked bread and chicken soup, fill Sarajevo’s air. It’s this smell that I long for when I’m away. 馃尙馃敟馃崬

Whenever I visit Sarajevo, one of the first things I’ll do is to make my way to the old part of town for a portion of 膰evap膷i膰i鈥揳 type of grilled beef kebabs. 鈽濔煆火煒 They are irresistibly smoky and juicy and come served with a Bosnian flatbread, called “somun”, which is steamed on top of the grilling meat, giving it that signature, greasy, charred flavor. 猸愶笍猸愶笍猸愶笍 I like to eat my 膰evap膷i膰i with a side of minced onions (the sweetest you’ll ever have), a blob of clotted cream (kajmak) and a glass of homemade yogurt. 馃憣馃徎 Of course, every local has a favorite spot, but “Petica” (@peticaferhatovic) is my undisputed 膰evap膷i膰i queen鈥揳nd just between us, she’s unbeatable. 馃枛馃徏馃懜馃徎

馃搶 膯evabd啪inica Petica Ferhatovi膰, Sarajevo

 

Arapova street in Sarajevo

#443 路 October 5, 2016

I wandered around, trying to get lost, letting whatever detail would catch my attention guide my next turn. And after a while, it did seem like I didn鈥檛 know where I was any longer, but then, as I found myself standing in a street I knew well, I wondered if I had been lost or just trying to get here. 馃彙馃毝馃徎鈥嶁檧锔

I was staring at the kitchen window of my grandparent鈥檚 old house, a square frame into my past, and I remembered how I used to stand under it, a moment before I would ring the doorbell, listening to the noises inside. I recalled the voices of the radio, the sound of a wooden spoon stirring around a pan鈥揳nd then, I remembered it all.

Through the walls, I could see the garage. Lost in memory, I smelled the grease, the dog. I rang the bell and kissed my grandpa鈥檚 mustachey face hello. I followed him into the cool corridor, over speckled tiles, leaving the dark brown door behind. I touched the window sill made of sheet metal and peeled off a sliver of dry paint from the window frames. I looked through the glass and into my grandma鈥檚 twinkling eyes.聽馃懙馃徎鉁

Like this, I kept following my memories, one after another, for the first time unafraid of what I might not find: childhood friends that helped shape who I am today; memories of long days spent playing outside.

I turned my look away from the house that I could no longer enter and into the street in front. Here were the stairs that I climbed a hundred times and there stood the fence behind which my imagination used to run wild. And this, this was the house of a childhood friend, and behind those gates was a fountain, where now, only a memory of a long day spent playing outside was left鈥揺vidence of a childhood I thought I never had. 馃悶

馃搶聽Sarajevo,聽Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Sri Lanka

A fork-full of string hoppers

#432 路 July 6, 2016

At beach hotel Well茅 Wadiya in Kalpitiya, where an oh-so-talented cook resides, I tried a range of crazy elaborate and deliciously coconutty traditional Sri Lankan breakfasts. Eight sunrises and morning meals later, there’s one dish that beats them all: the string hoppers aka idiyappam.聽馃尪 Made by pressing rice flour dough into threadlike noodles and then steaming the lot. Served with fiery bowls of malu hodi聽(a not-too-creamy gravy of coconut milk, fenugreek, turmeric, cinnamon, pandan, and curry leaves with green chilies and chunks of tuna fish 馃帲); pol sambal (a mash of freshly grated coconut, dry red chilies, Bombay onions, Maldive fish and lime juice); and parippu (tempered red lentil curry). All is mixed up, preferably eaten with the hands (though I’m still mastering level “chopsticks” 馃) and accompanied by a hot cup of frothy, spiced and condensed-milk-spiked chai. 馃檶馃徎

馃憠馃従聽Do also try the following breakfasts when in Sri Lanka: kiribath (a sort of sticky rice pudding that’s cut in diamond or square-shaped blocks); pittu (steamed cylinders of rice layered with scraped young coconut); and pol roti (coconut flatbread made plain or with chopped onions and green chilies). All three dishes are usually served with either pol sambal (see 鈽濔煆) or lunu miris聽(same ingredients as former but minus the coco) and a meat or fish curry. Talking about taking breakfast to a whole new level.聽#poachedeggswhatever

馃搶 Well茅 Wadiya,聽Kalpitiya

Coconut husks in white sand

#431 路 July 5, 2016

The city is where I get lost, lost in doing instead of being. The beach聽is where I come home. It’s here that I mellow out, remember how short life is, and how much shorter it could still be. The sea breeze brings back to mind all that matters: friends, family, a life lived slowly, simply. Inner peace is only a gaze across the waves away. “One more thing”, at last, dismissed by the sound of silence and swaying palm trees. 馃檹馃徎馃尨

馃搶 Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka

Roadside fruit stall

#430 路 June 25, 2016

Passing tropical landscapes and quirky fruit stalls with heaps of rambutan, coconut, mango, and other awesomeness. 馃崒馃尨 Seeing plenty of humbling smiles too. 鈽猴笍馃槉馃槍 Just touched down in Sri Lanka and already enchanted with the place.

馃搶 Sri Lanka

 

Colombo

Train passing in Colombo

#441 路 August 1, 2016

Imagine an infinite coastline, crumbling buildings Havana-style, and a mellow, surreal city vibe fueled by collective kindness. Then throw in some palm trees; fast upcoming hipster spots; Southern Indian influenced fare; vintage trains bobbing by where you’d least expect them; and my list of top 10 must do’s below… and you have plenty of reasons to plan a 2-day stop in Colombo聽while on your way to Sri Lanka’s less urban hideouts. 馃弰馃徑馃尨

1. Zoom into Colombo on Alice Luker鈥檚 Instagram photomap (@styleinsrilanka) for her Colombo favourites and scavenge yamu.lk for killer reviews of the city鈥檚 sights, restaurants, etc. 馃嵈馃嵏

2. Join the locals for an early morning jog and gymnastics at Galle Face Green and then come back around sunset for lazy evening strolls and oceanside munchies (try the deep-fried lentil prawn patty known as issu vadai). 馃弸馃徎

3. Book a city walk with Mark Forbes (Colombo City Walks) and prepare to be stunned as he takes you around 鈥渢he Fort area鈥, uncovering the Colombo of the past, present, and future, one impressive colonial building after another. 馃椇

4. Try your hand at Instagram鈥檚 Boomerang and Hyperlapse apps in Pettah (#434) and allow yourself to get a little lost.

5. Follow the train rails for magical city vibes and snaps. 鈽濔煆火煋

6. Race from sight to sight in absolute royal style with聽@tuktuksafari. (#440)聽馃憫

7. Get a feel for where Colombo鈥檚 colonial heritage is going and the army鈥檚 (yup) insane renovation skills at the Dutch Hospital and Arcade Independence Square. 馃敤

8. Visit the Independence Memorial Hall by night 馃彌鉁 and be like 馃槷.

9. Feast on lip-smacking street food in a place with no name at Abdul Hameed Street (next to no. 73 – see #437) and don鈥檛 leave the city without trying the string hoppers in yet another nameless spot at 466 Union Place (walk into Salaka Senada City and you鈥檒l see a cafeteria-ish looking place鈥搕hat鈥檚 it!). 馃構

10. Do one thing I didn鈥檛 do: eat some crab 馃, take the train to neighboring beach town Mount Lavinia聽馃殏馃尨, do a self-guided tea tour 馃嵉 or have a cocktail at Galle Face Hotel聽馃嵐.

馃搶 Colombo, Sri Lanka

City guide dressed in a Zookeepers uniform putting his socks on in front of a temple

#440 路 July 27, 2016

When Mr. G and I walked out of our hotel, our city guides were already waiting for us. Dressed in quirky zookeeper uniforms and with excitingly friendly smiles the two young men introduced themselves as 鈥淵ogi Bear鈥 and 鈥淏ob Marley.” They offered us chilled, amber yellow coconuts (known as 鈥渒ing coconuts鈥) and wrapped jasmine garlands around our necks. 馃懗馃徑馃嵐 Yogi and Bob then went on to show us our ride for the evening: a shiny blue and yellow tuk-tuk that was pimped with nifty features. The coolest of them all must鈥檝e been the convertible top, which allowed us to stand up in the moving vehicle, letting the sea-breeze blow our hair (and handsome bold head), Paris-Hilton-limo style. 馃尙馃拋馃徏 Then again, there was also the sound system to which we could hook up our own music and a cool box which came stocked with cold beers, and water鈥搄ust in case we cared to follow the 鈥1 drink 1 water rule鈥 for once in our lives. In this superbly cool three-wheeler, we were blazed from one city sight to the other, as if we were the king and queen of 鈥淪pain-Bosnia.鈥澛狆焽焽 馃嚙馃嚘聽P.S. If you鈥檙e after Colombo鈥檚 history lessons, you might want to consider a different kind of tour, but let鈥檚 face it, I already had you at 鈥渮ookeeper uniforms.鈥

馃搶 Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devasthanam, Colombo 路 With聽@tuktuksafari

Dinner spread with chicken, dhal, onion-yoghurt salad, and flatbread

#437 路 July 19, 2016

A little girl in a yellow dress with big, blue circles ran past me, teasing for me smiles. It was the same girl who only minutes ago was hiding shyly behind the legs of her dad. Mr. G and I were sitting outside a restaurant without an immediately discoverable name in a street we tried and failed to find the evening before. Two young men dressed in zookeeper uniforms sat in front of us. A hungry evening crowd sprawled in all directions. 馃懗馃従馃悕馃懗馃従 I ripped a thick strip of a hot and flaky flatbread that was doused in ghee, soaked it into a bowl of curry, and as soon as I tucked in, I knew we had missed out on all the good stuff. We feasted like kings on barbecue chicken; a lentil dhal so rightly spiced and spicy it鈥檚 bound to hunt me in my dreams; and a red onion, 聽yogurty salad, that curiously-so reminded me of my mom鈥檚 cooking and left a trace of her far-awayness in my soul. 馃尙馃挃 We almost ate the tips of our fingers, barely stopping to breathe, as if we had fasted unstoppably for the full 30 days of the Ramadan鈥搃ts ending celebrated a day ago.馃毝馃徔 馃晪 馃毝馃徑馃毝馃徎Water was poured over my hands, a cold wet towel provided, and as we drove away with my hands still damp, I quickly locked in our position on my phone. For I was certain there was something magically strange about this place. A 9 3/4 platform that only a lucky few know about. The only explicable reason why, when we were here yesterday, none of this was. 鉁

馃搶 Abdul Hameed Street (right next to “Bismi Grocery” at no. 73), Colombo

Street with traffic in Colombo

#436 路 July 17, 2016

Colombo鈥檚 crossings had me completely hypnotized. Perhaps it was the exhaust fumes or the deafening honk sounds that put me in a state of trance, but I spent minutes transfixed watching the play of traffic as every type of vehicle drove by. 馃殟馃殰馃弾 I also experimented with Instagram鈥檚 apps, Boomerang and Hyperlapse on the spot. None of the vids are particularly shareable, but it was good fun. I like video. I like watching it back. 馃摻 I鈥檓 also getting quite curious about aerial photography. I blame Ms. Lusano (@wrenees) and her awesome drone footage for that. 馃殎馃摳

馃搶 Colombo, Sri Lanka

Two boys playing on the street

#435 路 July 15, 2016

When it comes to mapping out my walking routes, I鈥檓 not particularly picky about the landmarks I choose to visit. They usually serve merely as guiding points that help me make my way in a place. More often than not, it鈥檚 whatever is in between these historic landmarks that turn out to be the sights I fall in love with. 馃洡馃尩馃尛 Thus, having still enough time left after visiting Pettah, I randomly picked the next landmark on Colombo鈥檚 map, Anthony鈥檚 Shrine. Where once arrived, I spent exactly half a minute. 馃槾馃晬 Just before the holy stop, however, I walked into Newnham Square: a Havana-like concrete jungle with crumbling colonial houses painted in lollypop colors and complete with neatly-hung laundry left to dry, tuk-tuks parked at the front doors, chattery neighbors and a few tiny shops. 馃嵀 It鈥檚 also here that I met these two rascals 鈽濔煆 who followed my every step as I wandered around, determined to spoil each picture with their smug little faces. They asked me 101 questions in broken English and another language I do not speak, cheated me into sharing my bag of rambutans with them, and just as I thought we were friends, pleated me for cold hard cash. 馃槶馃挼 I took the later request as my cue to get going, exclaimed 鈥淢oney!?鈥 in outrage, murmured something about their dads and continued walking until they could follow me no more, crossing what must’ve been the border of their play limits. 馃

馃搶 Newnham Square, Colombo

 

#434 路 July 14, 2016

Electrical supplies stall
It took only a short morning run to realize that Mr. G鈥檚 and my presence wouldn鈥檛 go unnoticed in Colombo. The locals were openly curious about us, the tourists. Most people stared our way while others waved and shouted 鈥渉ellos.鈥 It was odd to be standing out this much. 馃槑馃摳 All this attention seemed to be of an innocent nature, and yet, sometimes, it made me feel uncomfortable. It also made me somewhat apprehensive about exploring the city on my own. That鈥檚 why, when the tuk-tuk dropped me in Pettah, Colombo鈥檚 commercial heart, I was pretty nervous. 馃悾 At first glance, however, Pettah looked like the ideal place for wandering around incognito. Its streets lined inch-by-inch with shops and crowded with people and traffic everywhere; the pavements chocked with merchandise, fruit wagons and double-parked tuk-tuks. A triple-headed elephant would have a hard time attracting attention. And yet, it was as if I was walking around in neon spandex, slinging around fireballs. 馃懜馃徎馃敟 There was no place to hide, not even behind my camera. I took 9 more pictures of this exact same spot, but this is the only one in which no one is looking into my lens. Famous for a day, I surely was.

馃搶聽1st Cross Street,聽Pettah, Colombo

 

Israel

 

View of Temple Mount in Jerusalem

#325 路 July 18, 2015

I didn鈥檛 have any expectations of Jerusalem; however, I didn鈥檛 rule out the possibility of experiencing a divine force in the hometown of prophets and kings. 馃挮 I thought, that perhaps, in a place holy to three religions, I might feel something: an overwhelming feeling of love, for myself, for others鈥搊r, perhaps a kind of divine peace within and around me. 鉁 But I didn鈥檛, and instead, I saw rivers of people aggressively making their way to their houses of prayer, petty rules about how short God likes our skirts, a palette of faces ranging from sad to stern to cranky, and an astonishing police force to keep everyone from killing each other in the name of God. 馃檹馃徎 I wondered if people realized they all believe in the same thing? You know, tomato, tomahto. And, I realized myself that it’s perfectly possible for people of different religions to live in the same place. All they need is someone to watch over them. Someone a little more qualified for the job than God. Like someone with a machine gun.聽馃敨聽#tooholy

馃搶聽Temple Mount, Jerusalem

 

People praying at the Westen Wall in Jerusalem

#324 路 July 18, 2015

Me: G, I only see men here.
Mr. G: …
Me: No, seriously. There are no women.
Mr. G: …
Me: I don’t think I’m allowed here.
Mr. G: Nah.. they’d tell you ..
Me: Hmm..

Oh, shit!
G..look..the women are all over there..
Mr. G: Oh, shit..
Me: Let’s get out of here.
Slowly!
(once out and in front of the female part of the wall)
Me: Hey! What the fuck?! Why do we get the smaller, ugly part of the wall? Seriously. Ugh.. 馃檷馃徎聽#totallyillegalfromwhereimstanding

馃搶聽Western Wall, Jerusalem

 

Tel Aviv

View of Tel Aviv's coast line

#326 路 July 20, 2015

It’s time I wrapped Tel Aviv up, but before I do here are my top 10 things you must do in Tel Aviv.聽#mirhax10

1. Rent one of the 1800 green Tel-O-Bikes 馃毑 (for cruising along the beach, easy city rides and a spin around HaYarkon Park)
2. Book a Carmel market tour with the market queen Nurit (@nuritgoss) 馃崏
3. Do a self-guided audio tour of Old Jaffa (pick one up at Old Jaffa Visitors Center – @touristisrael)
4. Invite a local Instagrammer for a cup of 鈽 @nahat_cafe
5. Have beers at Minzar (and don’t forget to order a “chaser”) 馃嵑
6. EAT!! 馃構 (go for the hamburger pita @miznontlv // get a steak at NG // don’t forget the corn @los_burning_tacos // soak up some hummus at Shlomo Ve Doron // introduce yourself to shakshuka @dr_shakshuka // visit top restaurants Gedera and Mizlala // have more yumminess at Taqueria and Vong // book a dinner with @habanotohavot via @eatwith)
7. Check out the underground party scene 馃幐 (I’ve only been to @pasaztlv, but also got recs for The Block, Duplex and Kuli Alma)
8. Buy a couple of beers, pick a spot along the seashore and enjoy the sunset. Or, go stargazing with the Sky Guide app. 猸
9. Go on a day trip to Jerusalem (don’t be silly booking ridiculously expensive tours, take the public bus)
10. Do one thing I didn’t do: rent a SUP, go surfing, dip your toes in the sea (馃槷) or check out the extensive cocktail scene. 馃嵐

馃搶聽Tel Aviv, Israel

 

Cobblestone street in Old Jaffa with palm trees and a distant view of the sea

#323 路 July 17, 2015

I can’t believe I never thought of doing an audio tour before. I totally dug doing one in Old Jaffa鈥搕he ancient port of Tel Aviv. It was way cool! And not because I now know some random stories about a ridiculous-looking fountain, but because it felt like I was on a treasure hunt. 馃敠 Plus, I felt great about not being at the mercy of some bad comedian turned tourist guide. 馃悘 馃悘 And, I also very much enjoyed looking like a fool with my headphones on, an audio device hanging from my neck, a map, and camera in one hand, and phone in the other. 馃槑 The best thing about wearing silly big headphones is that no one cares to bother with stupid pickup lines. 馃憦馃徎 It’s like wearing the cloak of invisibility鈥 or, I don’t know, something like that. Speaking of cloaks, I think it’s high time I watched the Harry Potter series.

馃搶聽Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv

 

Cup of pistachio ice cream

#322 路 July 17, 2015

Romantic evening walks and ice cream stops. 馃崷 Never know what to choose. And never want more than one scoop. Five minutes of contemplating later, I went for pistachio which was oh-so fine. And sorry to stay, but you really might want to get that ticket now, because this is very likely the best ice cream I’ve ever had. 馃挜 Yes, even better than Gelato Classico in Mountain View. And yes, better than Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco (#mirhadreamsoficecream). What else? Hmm, well, did you know ice cream is my favorite sweet poison? 馃構聽Actually, I think I like semifreddo (half cold heaven made by using equal parts of ice cream and whipped cream) a little better.. but it’s not something one can get on every corner of the street. Dani, a good friend of ours, once made a pistachio semifreddo with pumpkin seed oil. I still cry every time I think of it. So good.聽#shouldvehadtwoscoops

馃搶聽Anita Gelato, Tel Aviv

 

Yarkon river in Tel Aviv

#321 路 July 17, 2015

Tel Aviv is officially the most ridiculous city ever. 馃槀 Not only does it have miles of easy-accessible beach and surf, a promenade that runs the whole length of those same beaches, a lively city booming with the best of restaurants and bars, but there’s also a beautiful big urban park鈥揟he聽HaYarkon聽Park. 馃尦 A river runs the entire length of the park and so do bicycle lanes from both sides of the water. 馃毑 With so many patches of green, quirky trees and deep shade, it’s the perfect place for practicing one’s frisbee skills and slack-lining tricks, barbecues, playdates, birthday celebrations and anything else you can think of. #seriously

馃搶聽Park HaYarkon, Tel Aviv

 

Blue, pink, orange sky with clouds

#320 路 July 16, 2015

For the past 2 weeks, I deliberately refrained from thinking about the political situation in Israel and chose to not enter into discussions about it. Somewhat hypocrite, sure, but I wanted to experience the city of Tel Aviv and it’s people free from heavy prejudice or inner conflict. To be completely honest, I might’ve chosen to temporarily ignore the truth out of fear of spoiling my visit. Perhaps it’s both reasons, and I’m not sure if it matters which one it is, because it worked. I completely fell in love with Tel Aviv and everyone I met. But then, it also didn’t work, because I always knew, that sooner or later, I’d have to come down from cloud nine, and look my summer love in the eyes. Now, this is difficult for me. Because I’m not sure if as a blogger, I want to have a public opinion about politics. Let alone, if I should. However, being in Israel, and not even acknowledging the situation, feels wrong. So I came down from my cloud and read about the who and the why and the what. And even had a discussion. Both left me feeling sad and uncomfortable. I’m confused: can I stay in love with Tel Aviv knowing what I know? Can I separate the city, the country, and the Israelis from its’ politics? Should I? Or, would that be unethical?聽#peace

馃搶聽Tel Aviv

 

Group of people playing the drums in front of a graffiti wall

#319 路 July 16, 2015

Every Friday, just before sunset, a circle of drummers gathers at “drummers beach” to call in the Sabbath. 鈽 The public is a mix of locals, a lost tourist or two and plenty of drugged out bums. It’s a bit of a sleazy happening, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the power of the聽drum聽and setting sun. Bring a couple of cold beers and you’ll blend in just fine. 馃嵑 Speaking of which, Mr. G did a little more than blending, as he picked up a free drum and played awesomely along for a song. What guts! 馃憦馃徎 It was such a beautiful sight to see him tap away happily with a friendly crowd who bonded with him from beat one. The setting convinced me that my second round of spin-offs will now also include drummer for a month. 馃幎 I already planned to play an instrument but was still doubting a little between piano and drums. That decision is made now. By the way, I used to play the violin for years. Hated it. 馃幓 I also played “korfbal” for a long time (like basketball but less cool) and tennis for a while. I blame my parents who didn鈥檛 see I’m clearly a rocker and skater. Luckily, I was too chubby for ballet. #mummmm

馃搶聽Drummers Beach, Tel Aviv

 

Dish of steamed scallop dumplings in turmeric coconut cream

#318 路 July 16, 2015

The evening at聽Taizu聽started out so good with that crispy rice cone with delicate soy foam and tuna tartare coated in black sesame seeds and flying fish roe. Delicious. 馃憣馃徎 But the only time that word would come to my mind again, was when these steamed scallop dumplings in turmeric coconut cream came around. The other 6 dishes served were either unbalanced or just not that great. 馃槙 What added to the disappointment is that we had given the kitchen carte blanche so that they could not only choose the dishes for us but also make sure that the courses would perfectly complement each other. Didn’t happen whatsoever and the flow was as unbalanced as some of the dishes on their own. Which makes me wonder if chef Ben Neria was even present. 馃敧 Worst of it all? The pictures turned out fabulous but will now have to remain unseen to the public. Good thing? The evening totally made me appreciate the lunch menu we had at restaurant Nahm in Bangkok (#mirhadoesnahm). Looking back, that really was something else.聽#samesamebutdifferent

馃搶聽Taizu, Tel Aviv

 

Elote, corn on a cob Mexican style

#317 路 July 15, 2015

I remember the first day Mr. G and I arrived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. 馃尩 It was late, and after checking into our hotel, we went hunting for food. Walking on those broad concrete streets made me feel like we were in The USA. 馃嚭馃嚫 Lil’ curious, considering back then I was yet to visit The States. Even so, familiar scenes kept flashing by. Everything looked like in the movies. 馃帴 Such a strange feeling to be walking on a real life movie set. Somewhat scary too (to the amusement of Mr. G), because in that dim street light, I felt it could’ve perfectly been the set of a street gang film. 馃敨 I forgot all about my shakiness when I saw a street vendor selling聽elote: grilled (or boiled) corn on the cob smeared with salt, butter, cheese, chili powder, lime juice, and mayonnaise. 馃尳馃尳 I couldn’t believe my eyes! This was so my thing. One bite in though, and I was totally put off by the stuff. Bleh. Never tried it again. Until it was recommended to me at a small Mexican joint in Tel Aviv. I don’t know how else to explain how freakin’ good this corn from Los Burning Tacos is, except to say that I’m pretty sure it’s capable of achieving world peace. 馃挮 You really need to try it. And while you’re at it, have the tacos with shredded beef (carne de res) too; they’re as authentic as it gets.聽#thatmeansnottexmex

馃搶聽Los Burning Tacos, Tel Aviv (closed)

 

A dog in an alley in Old Jaffa

#316 路 July 15, 2015

I wonder who’s gonna chicken out first ..聽#placeyourbetsplease聽馃惀 Also, I can’t believe I almost left Tel Aviv without seeing any of these cobblestone alleys of Old Jaffa. They were right under my nose and yet I kept walking past them. 馃檲聽#somuchforbeingatraveler

馃搶聽Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv

 

Shop selling baskets and souvenirs

#315 路 July 15, 2015

Buying stuff you don’t need is quite time-consuming. Especially, when you’re traveling. Not caring much for shopping in general any longer, I nowadays have more time to explore the more fun and important sights of a place. 馃嵐 I work on having a more minimalistic lifestyle every year. Being a wannabe-minimalist doesn’t mean I’m not a consumerist; it means I rather accumulate experiences than clothes and designer chairs. 馃毥 I like to travel and to go for dinners. 馃殎馃嵈 I prefer quality over quantity. And I don’t care about flashy big cars. It’s liberating. Though I haven’t always been as minimalistic as I’m nowadays. I used to have a lot more stuff than I needed. 馃摝馃摝 Lots of traveling changed this. Seeing my room on fire must’ve helped too. And so did reading the blog of聽@theminimalists. I can recommend the first and latter, and a visit to the Old Jaffa flea market too. But just don’t buy that vintage-looking couch, instead get yourself a聽simit聽at the highly praised Abulafia Bakery and snap lots of pics.

馃搶聽Jaffa Flea Market, Tel Aviv

 

Bowl of Thai glass noodles with seaweed, cucumber, sprouts, green papaya, cabbage, basil, mint, lime, peanuts and crispy chili

#314 路 July 14, 2015

Food photographer Sarit (@saritig13) brought me to one of her favorite restaurants in Tel Aviv,聽Mizlala. In this beautiful space, we were treated by chef Shtern to an absolute feast. 馃挜 He kicked the indulgence off with a range of appetizers and starters, like these phenomenal Thai glass noodles with seaweed, cucumber, sprouts, green papaya, cabbage, basil, mint, lime, peanuts, and crispy chili–definitely my favorite of the bunch. 馃構 I also loved the salad of purple-smoked lettuce, pickled beets, apples, red onion, yuzu yogurt and walnuts in a citrus vinaigrette. And, I’ll certainly be daydreaming of the聽kubaneh (Yemenite Jewish pull-apart bread) which was served with fresh grated tomatoes and green chilies. 馃崬馃崊 My main dish though really blew me out of the water: slow-cooked chicken breast on a bed of soaking red coconut curry rice, crunchy vegetables, and explosions of lemongrass and galangal. 馃敟 My only regret (if one can call it that), besides saying no to dessert, is that I wish I could’ve eaten it all. On a side note, I can tell you that taking food pictures in the presence of a pro food photographer, is rather awkward.

馃搶聽Mizlala, Tel Aviv (closed)

 

A waiter behind the bar at restaurant Mizlala

#313 路 July 14, 2015

Before jumping on that plane, I nowadays like to look up my destination’s most interesting Instagram accounts and temporarily follow them. This trick lets me tap into a great source of insider’s tips wherever I travel to. 馃嵈馃拡 After stumbling upon Sarit Goffen’s account (@saritig13) and falling in love with her food photography work, I really wanted, besides just digitally stalking her, to also meet her in real life. So I invited her for a cup of coffee and she accepted. 鈽 Our coffee turned into lunch as I grilled Sarit about her life and career. It was an inspiring conversation which made me all the more confident about following my passions, keeping learning and going forward. 鉁 Our talk also got me excited about food photography and wanting to skill up in that area. I’ll definitely be trying out the photographer lifestyle in the next round of spin-offs. 馃摲 I also realized how important it is to meet up with people who share your profession or have similar creative pursuits. As such, I decided that no matter where I am, be it traveling or in Amsterdam, from now on, I’ll strive to meet up with one blogger or Instagrammer a week. 馃檵馃徎 Lastly, I’d like to tell you that if you have a passion, you’re one of the lucky few. Most of us, like yours truly, still haven’t found it and perhaps never will. If you, however, do know what it is, then please, do something with it. 馃憡馃徎 Don’t quit your office job, but also don’t keep waiting until you can. Slowly start building your dreams into realities by spending an hour a day reading a book, or a few hours a week taking up a course to complement your skills. Just keep moving. 馃敟 It’s exactly what Sarit did when she decided, after 15 good years in the corporate world, it was about time she got back with her first love and passion, photography.

馃搶聽Mizlala, Tel Aviv (closed)

 

Tel Avivian sunset

#312 路 July 14, 2015

A sunset a day ..

馃搶聽Tel Aviv Promenade, Tel Aviv

 

Couple of women sitting in the sunshine in a cafe

#311 路 July 13, 2015

The Tel Avivians got this whole drinking thing spot on. You see, what they do, is to order shots of strong liquor (f.e. vodka) while they keep drinking their main drink of choice (f.e. beer). They call these “in-between” shots, chasers. And I tell ya, with the chance of sounding like a complete boozer, it’s my new favorite way of drinking. 馃榿 馃嵑 Preferably paired with sunset light and talks about a dreamy future with Mr. G or with plenty of bad jokes and newly-made friends. Oh, what a life..聽#everyoneisdoingit

馃搶聽HaMinzar, Tel Aviv

 

A plate of the local dessert called malabi

#310 路 July 13, 2015

On the second day of our stay in Tel Aviv, we passed a joyful little place with pleasant al fresco dining and the most beautiful light. It was busy, the food looked awesome and the street was filled with sounds of happiness and clinking glasses. 馃嵏 I couldn’t decipher what it was called, but I was pretty sure I had discovered a gem. A week later, I found myself invited by the most lovely local crowd, feasting in my mystery place. 鉁 Turns out, Gedera 26, is somewhat of a local institution and not so much of a secret. The chefs here serve up an admiring menu with Iraqi, Israeli and Swedish influences. 馃嵈 Think meatballs served with mashed potatoes and red berry jam, seafood kubbeh filled with goat cheese, shrimps and crab meat in a fish bisque, or this gorgeous homemade聽malabi. A soft milk pudding flavored with rose water and topped with chopped pistachios, chunks of nectarine and a splash of syrup.聽#perfection

馃搶聽Gedera 26, Tel Aviv (closed)

 

Graffiti on a wall: "Don't Forget to be AWESOME"

#309 路 July 13, 2015

After raving for days about how awesome Tel Aviv is, I guess it’s time I told you what I found under the hood. The first thing that comes to mind is how expensive life’s in the city. I totally didn’t expect it, but it’s costly to live and play in Tel Aviv. 馃捀 Furthermore, honking and queue-skipping seem to be the national sports and “gallantry” definitely doesn’t appear in everyone’s dictionary. 馃挘 Also, if you’re driving a car and hit a traffic light, the trick here is to always stop on the zebra path, never before the white line, and in general, to block the way for pedestrians as often as possible. 馃敧 Lastly, what the rest of the world calls graffiti, is here dubbed as street art.聽#dontshootthemessenger

馃搶聽Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv

 

Druze pita

#308 路 July 9, 2015

Delicious, freshly baked Druze pita spread with labneh (similar to Greek yogurt), a mixture of couscous and parsley (I think), olive oil and za’atar. 馃憣馃徏聽The later is perhaps my favorite kind of condiment. It’s made of dried oregano, basil, thyme, savory and mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac, and salt. 馃構聽#nevernoteating

馃搶聽Rambam Street, Tel Aviv

 

Entrance to a house in the Tel Avivian hood Neve Tzedek

#307 路 July 9, 2015

By the 1960s, Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish hood outside of the ancient Jaffa city walls, looked almost like a slum and plans had been made to demolish the area. 馃挘 Those plans, fortunately, didn’t go through, as many buildings were placed on preservation lists and renovated. 馃敡 Nowadays Neve Tzedek is the most expensive hood of Tel Aviv, where among other artists and superstars, Israeli top model Gal Gadot (@gal_gadot) lives. The latter is mentioned in almost every conversation I have and after a quick Google search, I now can finally nod my head in agreement. 馃榿 But, chitchat aside, Neve Tzedek is a lovely hood for perfect little walks. 馃尩聽#neighbourhoodnumbers

馃搶聽Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv

 

Pan of shakshuka, a little plate with pickled cabbage, and a basket of bread

#306 路 July 9, 2015

#Shakshuka聽is made by poaching a couple of eggs in a sauce of tomatoes, onion, chili peppers and cumin. It’s served in a pan and with plenty of bread to mop up the sauce. 馃崊馃嵆馃崬 Commonly a breakfast dish, but in Israel, rightfully so, eaten for dinner as well. We savored our portion in the most atmospheric courtyard of Dr. Shakshuka and gulped away a big jar of cold homemade lemonade too. 馃崑馃崑 When I sent my mom this picture, she replied with: “Ah, eggs.” And then went on to send me a photo of her dinner, showing her famed meatballs. 馃槀聽#ashakshukaaday

馃搶 Dr. Shakshuka, Tel Aviv

 

Sunset at Tel Aviv Beach

#305 路 July 8, 2015

In case I failed to prove my point in the previous post.. 馃尨聽#killersunset

馃搶聽Tel Aviv Promenade, Tel Aviv

 

Tel Aviv Promenade

#304 路 July 8, 2015

I always pictured myself living in a place that has a beach and a bustling city life. 馃殩馃尨 Having spent more than a week in Tel Aviv (which has both), I’m more certain than ever that that’s exactly the kind of place I want to spend my life with Mr. G at. 馃崈 The beach allows for empowering sunrise runs, playfulness in the surf and sand, long bonding romantic walks and reviving sunsets in front of a vast sea which is willing to swallow up all the drama you might’ve collected from 9 to 5. 馃悹 A bustling city life on the other hand, ensures one doesn’t get too claustrophobic and allows for new friendships, creative collaborations, top of the pop music performances and long al fresco dinners with friends and family. 馃嵎聽It’s urban perfection.

馃搶聽Tel Aviv Promenade, Tel Aviv

 

Young man preparing a pita sandwich

#303 路 July 8, 2015

I know there’ve been a lot of food posts on my feed lately, but I’m afraid there gonna be a few more 馃檲 ..because, just WOW! What an insane food paradise Tel Aviv is! Take Miznon, for example, which is an eatery specialized in gourmet pitas. Yes, you read that right, !gourmet pitas. Think classic street food done at master/celebrity chef level. 猸愨瓙猸 I almost chocked myself in the incredibly tasty and juicy hamburger pita. 馃憣馃徎馃憣馃徎 Wondering now if can squeeze in another visit to try the chicken liver pita with green onions and the whole roasted cauliflower.. hmm 馃槒.聽#igot99problemsbutanappetiteaintone

馃搶聽Miznon, Tel Aviv

 

Pita bread with falafel

#302 路 July 8, 2015

I found out about The Happiness Joint from an interview聽@eatdrinktelaviv聽did with Inbal Baum, the owner of the leading company for food tours in Tel Aviv,聽@deliciousisrael. 馃嵈 In this article, Inbal mentions a few must-visit restaurants and her favorite falafel spot of the moment, The Happiness Joint. 鉁 Recommendations from people who are immersed in local food day in day out are worth gold, so I obviously went and checked this place. And I have to say the falafel is real good at The Happiness Joint (105 King George Street). 馃憣馃徎 It’s not, however, how the classic Egyptian stuff tastes like, which is made with plenty of herbs like parsley and coriander and with broad beans (or a mix of both broad beans and chickpeas) instead of only chickpeas but more like a deliciously delicate 2.0 version. One that I’ll definitely be craving for from today on. 馃嵒 This all being said, tonight I’ll be heading to Falafel Gabai (another best falafel spot 馃槈) and am also planning to leave enough room to try out one other and final falafel joint. So please, dear Tel Avivians, don’t be shy and tell me: what’s the best place for聽falafel聽in Tel Aviv? 馃構 On a different note, I wonder why tour companies in Israel aren’t publishing their tour prices online? It’s so damn annoying to have to contact everyone by email only to find out how much a tour costs. Just saying, it’s crazy. 馃檴聽#mirhadreamsoffalafel

馃搶聽Mifgas Hosher aka The Happiness Joint, Tel Aviv

 

People having drinks at a sidewalk cafe

#301 路 July 6, 2015

Come early evening, the streets of Tel Aviv may start feeling a little abandoned but it’s only because everyone is enjoying the fabulous life in the numerous hip bars and outstanding restaurants. 馃嵏 Best thing? It’s all very unpretentious, easy-going and nobody waits only for the weekend to get out. 馃帀 Meeting up with friends for a drink and a bite is an all-days-of-the-week gig here. Perfect for restless souls like yours truly. 鉁岎煆宦#theactualcitythatneversleeps

馃搶聽Rothschild 12, Tel Aviv

 

People sitting under parasols at Tel Aviv Port

#300 路 July 6, 2015

Inspired by聽@teddyco聽I decided to try and look at Tel Aviv through a more artistic lens. While I spot this shot and am about to take it, two guys walk past me and assess my photo skills. 馃摲
Big guy: What is she taking a picture of?

Little guy: “I don’t know. I don’t see anything.”

Big guy: “We should ask her to take a picture of us.”

Little guy: “Why?!”

Big guy: “Well, she’s obviously a photographer.”

馃搶聽Tel Aviv Port, Tel Aviv

 

People walking at Tel Aviv Port

#299 路 July 6, 2015

Nothing beats cruising the long and beautiful seashore of Tel Aviv on a bike. 馃毚馃徎 This is made pretty easy by the Tel Aviv Municipality who recently set up a network of 1800 green rental bikes and 180 super handy pick up and return stations throughout the city. 馃憣馃徎 For only 70NIS (about 19$) a week, I get to use this fabulous system and cruise around as much as I like. Having a bike and a mobile internet data plan makes me one very happy traveler. 馃槉鉁#bicyclebicycle

馃搶聽Tel Aviv Port, Tel Aviv

 

Pita bread with falafel

#298 路 July 3, 2015

Obviously, like every self-respecting Tel Avivian, Levia (@tlvcoffee) had to share her favorite falafel spot with me. 馃構馃憣馃徎聽#mirhadreamsoffalafel

馃搶聽Hakosem, Tel Aviv

 

Cabinet with different coffee cups

#297 路 July 2, 2015

Regulars get their own cup at Cafelix. The kind of cup (cappuccino, espresso etc.) you pick makes it super easy for the barristers to know what to prepare for you each time you walk in. 馃憣馃徎鈽暵#nowthatssmart

馃搶聽Cafelix, Tel Aviv

 

Cold brew in a bottle and an ice latte

#296 路 July 2, 2015

The first time I drank cold brew was only weeks ago in Georgetown, Malaysia. 鉁 I was introduced to this way of making coffee by a super serene DJ girl who was staying in the same hostel as I did. I remember finding it very special that she invited me to share her coffee with me, and even more so, after finding out that to make cold brew one needs to soak grounded coffee beans for a prolonged period of time–usually 12 hours, or in this case, overnight. 鉂勨槙 This 馃憜馃徎 outstanding brew at聽@nahat_cafe聽pleasantly reminded me of that morning in Malaysia and also of my promise to prepare a cold brew for Mr. G once back in Amsterdam.

馃搶聽Nahat Cafe, Tel Aviv

 

Waiter in a coffee shop standing behind pots of coffee beans

#295 路 July 2, 2015

The lovely Levia from聽@tlvcoffee聽agreed to meet me today for a cup of coffee. 鈽 Levia, which means the lioness in Hebrew (how cool is that!), had read on my Instagram that I was interested in seeing some of the architecture of Tel Aviv and thus suggested to meet at聽@nahat_cafe. 馃崈 Not only to share with me some of the best coffee in town but also because this caf茅 is surrounded by gorgeous Bauhaus architecture. 馃憣馃徎 How amazingly thoughtful! And even though Levia was supposed to be packing and hotel hunting today for her Milan trip tomorrow, she took all the time of the world to share her personal hotspots and love for coffee with me. 馃檶馃徎 Seriously .. am I meeting the kindest people of Tel Aviv or what?!

馃搶聽Nahat Cafe, Tel Aviv

 

Market man selling falafel

#294 路 July 1, 2015

When I was 6 years old my mom and I fled to Jordan to avoid getting caught up in the Bosnian war. In Amman, we were fortunate enough to be able to stay with friends of the family. 馃檹馃徎 I don’t have many memories of our time there, but I do vividly remember driving with my mom, the family we were staying at (they have 5 kids I believe), and myself, all squashed up in a white Mercedes, to the city center on the hunt for falafel. 馃殫 The deep-fried chickpea patties might not have actually been the purpose of our trip, but that is how I remember it. I never forgot how good that falafel tasted and have many times tried to find a similar one. I never even came close though. Well, that is, until now. 馃憦馃徎 The young man in this picture sells according to many Tel Avivians the best falafel in town. And I have to agree, it’s the best I’ve had in 22 years. However, it’s still somewhat different from the falafel I remember. But, hey, it’s close. REAL close. And that makes me pretty excited because I got the feeling I just might find the falafel from my childhood right here in Tel Aviv any time now. 馃構馃榿聽#mirhadreamsoffalafel

馃搶聽Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

 

Woman and man buying fruit at a market stall

#293 路 July 1, 2015

I gave it a second thought and decided to not post the phenomenal yet very explicit picture I took of gigantic and dead cow heads. Instead, I just want to say: the cherries are in season y’all. 馃崚

馃搶聽Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

 

Side street of Carmel Market in Tel Aviv

#292 路 July 1, 2015

You know how this market tour started? With聽Nurit (@nuritgoss)聽pulling out a chilled homemade cocktail (Campari, white wine and mango juice) out of her bright pink trolley and serving it in champagne glasses in the middle of the Carmel Market at 10:30. 馃槏馃嵐 That was my breakfast. 馃槀 At the almost end, Nurit pulled another magic potion out of her bag and shared 2 shots of khat juice with us. Khat leaves are supposedly famous for their euphoriant effects. I don’t think it did much for me, but then again, I was already pretty high on all the delicious food we’d tried and awesome people we’d met. 鉁#mykindoftour聽#thatwasmybreakfast聽#waterisforfish

馃搶聽Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

 

Pita stuffed with mashed potato, egg, and chopped tomatoes

#291 路 July 1, 2015

Something I never tried before: burekas (the Kobi way). Kobi at Kobi Burika makes his signature burekas by deep frying a very thin dough on which he layers a mixture of mashed potatoes and what else and a raw egg. 馃嵆 On the side, he slashes a dash of secrets and a bunch of veggies onto a pita bread and then pops in the fried goodness in between. 馃構 It’s a crispy, mushy and silky miracle that you get served with lots of pride and a big smile. 馃檶馃徎

馃搶聽Burika Center Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

 

Coffee shop owner signing

#290聽路 July 1, 2015

I just came for a coffee.聽鈽曫煈忦煆 And then I almost cried. Seriously, how awesome is this sweet man! And he serves a damn mean cup of mud too.聽鉁#instaopera聽#blackmagic

馃搶聽Caf茅 Cohen, Tel Aviv

 

Bowl of hummus topped with chickpeas

#289 路 July 1, 2015

The best聽hummus聽in town according to聽Nurit (@nuritgoss). For now, I definitely agree; however, one can’t call herself a proper Tel Avivian resident without having a personal favorite hummus (and falafel) joint to defend. 馃槇 In the spirit of reaching temporary Tel Avivian status, I’m gonna have to try a lot more hummus places and pick a favorite one, so I can participate in the next “best hummus” discussion. 馃構 All Tel Avivians, please rise, and tell me: where do I find the best hummus in Tel Aviv?

馃搶聽Shlomo Ve Doron, Tel Aviv

 

Two women at a halva market stall

#288 路 July 1, 2015

Don’t let these innocent faces fool you. Grande strategies are being discussed here on how to overtake the market vendor and get away with the mountains of sweet gold without anyone noticing. 馃挵 The stash I’m referring to is called halva聽and here in Israel, it’s heavily based on tahini (an oily paste made by grinding sesame seeds) and sugar. In Bosnia, we have the same thing and in Holland, one can find it in Turkish stores too. I wasn’t a big fan of the sweet because the ones I tried were usually very dense, too sugary and even bitter. 馃樂 However, the halva I tried at this Tel Avivian gem was delicious. Perfectly crumbly and delicate and not overwhelmingly sweet. For a second I thought of buying it all but then I remembered I’m in bikini city. 馃槶聽#howtonotquitsugar

馃搶聽Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

 

Boxes of spices on display

#287 路 July 1, 2015

#thespicegirls聽鉁岎煆 Please feel free to pitch in with a funny tag! 馃榿

馃搶聽Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

 

Tour guide holding a box of spices

#286 路 June 30, 2015

Just came back from a food tour with The Absolute Market Queen, Nurit Goren. 馃憫 Whooa! I loved everything about this woman and the many wonderful stories and local gems she shared. Nurit was also clearly loved by all market vendors we visited and who, without a doubt because of her alone, allowed us to have a peek into their hearts and stores for the day. 馃尳馃崚 I can’t wait to share more pictures with you!聽@noam_klinger聽thanks so much for recommending Nurit to me, you totally hit the spot! 鉁煓忦煆烩湪 And,聽@chazbart聽I loved meeting you and having you as my market buddie. 馃槝 I’m one big mushy pool of love now, dear people. It’s kinda disgusting, but you can blame it all on Tel Aviv for making me soft. 馃槑聽#suchasuckerforfood聽#redelephant

馃搶聽Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

 

Crowd having a drink on a roof terrace in Tel Aviv

#285 路 June 29, 2015

This was, without doubt, the most fun evening I had while traveling and I’m so grateful that we got to be part of something so absolutely local and special. 鉁 Though we started out a little rough with the all-local crowd, we found ourselves chatting with the core only a few vodka rounds later. 馃槑 One of the guests, Gideon, an older hippie-gentlemen, kindly let us join him and his friends. Such a fun company with whom we had the best of conversations and got all the insider tips one could wish for. 馃尩馃嵐 When Gideon and his friends left for a concert, we stayed with聽@samyd聽(who’s beyond a super sweet person also an amazing ceramic artist), the most lovely hosts of the evening (@habanotohavot) and some of their communal friends with whom we shared the last few talks and laughs. 馃懐 An unforgettable experience that showed me how I’d like to spend my future weekends and life with Mr. G: free, quirky and absolutely unpretentious with plenty of good company, music, and food. 馃巿聽#modernhippie

馃搶聽Tel Aviv

 

A platter of grilled red peppers

#284 路 June 29, 2015

I seriously need to do something about my non-existing BBQ skills. It’s such a healthy and delicious way of preparing food. These roasted peppers and eggplant (in the background) were topnotch. 馃崋馃憣馃徎 Besides doing a 1.0 BBQ course, I’m thinking I need to do a cooking spin-off too. Though I’m not a bad cook at all, I’m not great either and would love to be fantastic. Any ideas on how I might get there? The ultimate secret to becoming a master chef? 馃嵈

馃搶聽Tel Aviv

 

People having dinner on a roof terrace in Tel Aviv

#283 路 June 29, 2015

Awesome food, chilled beer, shots of vodka, DJ + local crowd and sunset vibes at a roof terrace in the center of Tel Aviv. Seriously can’t imagine a greater first evening in this amazingly vibrant and loveable city. I’m sold. 馃巿聽#pictureperfect

馃搶聽Tel Aviv

 

Platter of grilled zucchini and feta

#282 路 June 28, 2015

One of the many beautiful dishes served at聽@habanotohavot‘s summer party: grilled zucchini with feta cheese. 馃構 Rest of the feast included awesomely delicate sesame and rosemary crackers, roasted red bell peppers, eggplant, and corn cobs, mountains of cauliflower salad, hot peppers filled with white fish, perfectly barbecued chicken, fish and liver, “very-popular-never-got-a-chance-to-grab-one some kind of pizza slices”, and more. 馃嵈 All this gorgeous food was accompanied by rounds of vodka shots and never-ending beer supplies. 馃嵑

馃搶聽Tel Aviv

 

People having dinner on a roof terrace in Tel Aviv

#281 路 June 28, 2015

Before coming to Tel Aviv I spent a good day on the net hunting must-does. This is how I stumbled upon聽@eatwith聽and聽@habanotohavot聽and ended up yesterday at the most wonderful summer party/roof terrace BBQ. 馃崋馃嵏 I’ll share plenty more impressions and stories with you later, but for now, I urge you to have a look at eatwith.com and see if you can book a dinner in the city you’ll be traveling next or even in the place you live. I highly recommend it. If anyone knows about a good food tour in Tel Aviv, I’d love to hear about it. 馃嵒

馃搶聽Tel Aviv

 

People enjoying themselves on the Dolfinarium Beach in Tel Aviv

#280 路 June 28, 2015

My first impressions of Tel Aviv are somewhat confusing. And I still can’t grasp what it’s all about but I’m looking very much forward in finding out. Two things I can already report though is that people seem positively quirky and the vibe in the city is electrifying. 馃尨聽#lookatthatbody聽#iworkout

馃搶聽Dolfinarium Beach, Tel Aviv

 

#279 路聽June 28, 2015

It was Sabbath (the holy day of rest) yesterday. Shops were closed, the streets deserted and it looked like the Tel Avivians had left their city. But then we found them ..聽#tothebeach

馃搶聽Dolfinarium Beach, Tel Aviv

 

#278 路聽June 28, 2015

This picture was taken moments before I’d make the mistake to be (unintentionally) cheeky at passport control. 馃榿 I didn’t realize that the “interrogation techniques” involve asking the same questions multiple times, so when the immigration officer asked me for the second time (minutes apart) what my dad’s name is, I said: “Nedzad. Do you want me to spell that for you?”聽馃槼 I tell you, if eyes could kill, I’d be pretty beat now. Fortunately, though, they can’t, but I did get sent off for interrogation round no.2. 馃槀 I loved walking in this space by the way and it made me think I might want to do an architecture tour in Tel Aviv. I don’t have a particular interest in architecture (which is perhaps somewhat sad considering my mom is an architect), so it normally wouldn’t be the first thing I’d explore when in a new city. However, I think it’d be fun to get to know a place from a different perspective.. and through the eyes of my favorite woman in the world. 鉂ぢ#catchmeifyoucan

馃搶聽Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv

 

View of Tel Aviv from a plane

#277 路聽June 28, 2015

After somewhat of a long journey we finally arrived in Tel Aviv yesterday. Our plane which was scheduled to leave one hour after midnight had been delayed with 80 minutes. This sucked because it would mean we would miss our connection in Istanbul. 馃捄馃捄 Luckily the awesome people at聽@pegasusairlines聽decided to wait for us and we were still able to come along. 鉁埪燱ith all the public shaming that goes on nowadays, I think it’s also important to not forget and praise companies when they make amazing efforts like in our case. 鉁煓忦煆烩湪 On a less serious note: good morninggg, Tel Aviv! 馃槑

馃搶聽Somewhere above Tel Aviv

 

Japan

 

Snow-covered mountains and landscape in Rusutsu's
#465 路 February 24, 2017

Rusutsu’s winter landscape didn’t impress straight away. I suppose my memories of The Alps interfered, images of rugged mountain ridges and overexposed sky blue skies. It’s those bumped up contrasts and rising heights that make me gasp. 馃彅鈽锔 The glory of Rusutsu lies in the far more subtle. It takes a while to seep in, but when it does, it’s the constraints in color and height that awe. Hills covered with patterns of scallop shells in somber shades of gray and Aegean blue appear. And trees pass stoically, with branches swirled in white frozen candy. 鉂勶笍馃椈

Our routine in Rusutsu was a pleasant one. Our breakfasts scrambled together from a 7-Eleven: one cup of plain yogurt, one banana, a handful of nuts鈥揳nd off to the pistes it was. 馃崒馃弬

We gorged on sushi and swallowed bowls of ramen for lunch. 馃崳 馃崪

We got cans of hot caffeine from vending machines and shared daifuku mochis, torn through the middle, sweet pumpkin filling flowing out鈥揳nd back to the pistes it was. 馃崱馃嵉

Once we could board no more, we went soaking in our hotel’s hot spring, alternating hot baths with cold ones. Males and females separated, both left to indulge in self-care and quiet. 馃泙

Back in the room, softened by the bathing ritual, we’d sit down at the kitchen bar, sipping whiskeys we didn’t like, and drinking beers with silky foams that reminded of the Spanish ones. And right there, just behind the glass, we watched adults become kids again, playing outside until it was dark. 馃寱鉀

Our evening finales included sharing plates of sashimi and gyoza, servings from a bottle of sh艒ch奴 that was kept hidden in the back, and conversations with strangers who would become friends for a night鈥揳ll squashed together in a tiny space and graced with Japanese kindness and warmth. 馃懇馃徏鈥嶐煃仇煃

Yes, our routine was a pleasant one. But it wasn’t routine that we had come for; it was pow鈥搕he pow, in “Japow.”聽馃尙鉂勶笍鉂勶笍

The white dust that we had heard so much about, however, stayed away, each day but the last, adding to the routine, mornings of crushed expectations, left to melt with the remainders of old snow and ice on rooftops.

馃搶聽Rusutsu,聽Japan

 

Tokyo

The top of the Nakagin Capsule Tower
#461 路 December 21, 2016

Ending my Tokyo travel stories with a 10-things-to-do list. 馃枛馃徎

1. Spend a lazy morning in Ura-Harajuku聽馃崅鈽曪笍 (#452) and settle down for fluffy, chubby pancakes at Burn Side St Cafe聽or have craft beers and Japanese pub food at聽@harajukutap. 馃馃嵒馃崨

2. Cross the Shibuya intersection (at least 20 times), taking photos and time lapses of the crowd.聽(#453)聽馃帴馃毝馃徏馃毝馃徎鈥嶁檧锔

3. Do as the Japanese do and run a hot bath every night before bed. 馃泙

4. Wake up early and go to the Tsukiji Fish Market for photos and sushi.聽(#457)聽馃崳

5. Follow聽@RebeccaMilner‘s walking route “Shopping in Daikanyama & Naka-Meguro” in the聽Lonely Planet Pocket Tokyo. 馃崈馃嵆鈽曪笍

6. Do Ebisu proud: start with frozen sake slushies at Buri 鉂勶笍馃嵍鉂勶笍, then squeeze yourself into Ebisu Yokocho for food and original hipster vibes and end your evening with a tub of ice cream聽@japanese_ice_ouca聽(think black sesame 锕, matcha green tea聽馃嵉, and sweet potato 馃崰鈥搚um.)

7. Slurp your soul out over different types of r膩men at Ichiran,聽Afuri, and 銈併倱寰 浜屼唬鐩 銇ゃ仒鐢 楹圭敽搴. Try all three! (Ichiran and Afuri have multiple locations).聽馃崪馃崪馃崪

8. Have grilled offal skewers (just close your eyes and point your finger to the menu) with copious amounts of sh艒ch奴 (spirit) at any of the following izakayas (pub-eateries):聽J艒mon (Roppongi), Momotaro (Ebisu) or 涓夊叚 璧ゅ潅搴 (Akasaka).

9. Get a bottle of Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky at the airport鈥搚es, even if you don鈥檛 like whiskey: trust me. 馃 Then try not to drink the entire bottle while (re-)watching Lost in Translation. (It’s fitting, like popping bonbons while watching Chocolat聽or gulping down a good bottle of red wine over Sideways.) 馃檶馃徎

10. Do one thing I didn’t do: rent a bike 馃毑 (check the MUJI flagship store in Marunouchi and bring a passport 馃う馃徎鈥嶁檧锔), go to an onsen (hot spring) 馃泚, find a killer rooftop view (preferably one that comes with cocktails) 馃嵏 and eat a ton of mochi .聽馃崱

馃搶 Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo

 

A couple standing in front of 21 21 Design Sight Museum

#460 路 December 20, 2016

Some of the best travel days and moments go unrecorded. And so it is with this travel day, which besides being dotted with architectural masterpieces like this one 鈽濔煆火煂拆煂, was also packed with grande inspirational encounters (@patternsandportraits) 馃鈽曪笍, magical life stories (@hiki_k) 馃嵉馃 and buckets of love (Mr. G).

馃搶 21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo

 

Skyscrapers reflected in the waters of Kyu Shiba Rikyu Gardens

#459 路 December 19, 2016

During my stay in Tokyo, I almost didn’t visit any of the city’s many urban oases or sacred spaces. 鉀 馃帇 In 9 days, I saw one temple and one garden, and the former only because I walked into it by chance. It’s not that I was avoiding the red lanterns and fall leaves on purpose, but more that city life was pulling harder at my sleeve: its energy, the people鈥搕heir kindness and grace. 馃寚馃挮 But even though I was hardly ever getting away from the crowds, this trip still had a hugely re-energizing effect on me. 馃挌馃泙 Tokyo left me feeling similar to how I felt coming back from the 10-day meditation course I did earlier this year. My emotional balance restored. Life, yet again, a concept of possibilities, and pick-and-choose realities. Kindness, an art the people of Japan have down to a science, changes everything. 馃枛馃徎

馃搶 Kyu-Shiba-Rikyu Gardens, Tokyo

 

Trio of sushi

#458 路 December 18, 2016

When Mr. G and I were making plans to work from Mexico a few years ago, I only thought (and talked, and possibly, bragged) about all the tacos, quesadillas, and guacamole that I was going to drown myself in. 馃尞馃尞馃尞 Imagine my disappointment when I found out that my idea of Mexican food had nothing to do with Mexican food. 馃槱

The menus didn’t say anything about cheese drenched mountains of hope. 馃鈿★笍Tacos translated to soft, bland, flour tortillas, not hard-shell deep-fried corn awesomeness. 馃尟 And two squashed avocados with barely a pinch of salt were being passed off as guacamole. 馃馃槶 Luckily we found a non-authentic Mexican invention, a killer pi帽a colada, in which I submerged my sorrows instead. 馃嵐馃強馃徏

I was drunk and food broken for a week, and then, I started getting into the whole au naturel thing. Nowadays, I prefer Mexican over Tex-Mex. Thus, when three hours after touching down on Japanese soil, I realized that I had made another now-classic Tex-Mex-sort-of-assumption, I knew I would be alright鈥揺ventually. 馃崳馃馃挱

For my trip to Tokyo, I had reduced my aspirations and travel goals to stuffing my face with as much sushi聽as possible. The first bite of authenticity was hard to swallow, though; my dreams of sushi shattered. 馃樂 The real-deal turned out to be a whole lot plainer than what I was used to. It was disappointing at first, but I also knew, at the end of that first sushi omakase, there would be no going back to soy-drenched packages of rice, and wasabi-burn contests.

馃搶聽Tsukiji Sushi Say Honten, Tokyo

 

Woman getting admin sorted at Tsukiji Fish Market

#457 路 December 15, 2016

If rising at dawn to eat raw fish is your idea of fun, you might first consider therapy.鈥 鈥@luxecityguides 馃拪

Although I do think we could all use a few sessions on the chaise lounge, and you may wake me up for sushi anytime, getting up at 02:00 to attend a tuna auction鈥揺ven if it鈥檚 the one where Jiro buys his sushi dreams鈥搃sn’t my idea of fun either. 馃槾馃悷

08:00 was the best I could do. This hour of the day didn’t get me into the auction, but it did allow for a quiet morning stroll around the Tsukiji outer market, a peek into the 鈥淪eafood Intermediate Wholesalers Area鈥, ample of photo opportunities, and yes, raw fishies for brunch. 馃崳

But besides the Tsukiji market being a photographer鈥檚 and pescatarian鈥檚 dream, it’s also a world of its own. A world about specialization. As I walked through it, observing the fishmongers at work, immersed, seemingly content, I thought about the choices we make in life and work. 馃悰馃捈

In Tokyo, specialization is the working standard. I like that. It makes people good at what they do. It sounds peaceful too. From the sideline, my journey looks less straightforward. The “jack of all trades鈥搈aster of none” is a bumpy, scary ride. But then again, so must be its opposite. Thus, how do you chose? And does the choice matter? What if it isn’t about what you do for a living, but about how you do it.

馃搶 Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

 

Overlooking a canal in Naka Megoru

#456 路 December 14, 2016

Tokyo’s neighborhood, Naka-Meguro, bears a striking resemblance to Amsterdam, that is, the Amsterdam where grimy-looking waters and run-down social housing instead of postcard canals and gingerbread houses define the cityscape. 馃彋 Naka-Meguro has both of the former, plus proper canal-side cycle paths and plenty of bikers. The gray skies pushed the comparison even further ahead, while the people wearing flip-flops in cold weather completed it. 鈽侊笍

It might be then the similarities with my second hometown that make Naka-Meguro, along with nearby Daikanyama and Ebisu, my favorite hoods in Tokyo so far. 馃檶馃徎 Although my fondness for this area also has much to do with a traveling encounter I now treasure, the afternoon I met H茅ctor Garc铆a (@kirainet), the writer of A Geek in Japan.聽馃馃捇

It’s this encounter that unraveled more nostalgia, memories of good days, which I hadn’t yet before identified as such. It’s our afternoon spent over coffees and matcha lattes that threw me straight back to those after school days when a friend and I would cycle to town and nestle in a “brown caf茅” (a Dutch pub). 馃嵒馃毑

Shielded from the bitter Dutch wind, and while the rest of the city was either still in school or at work, we talked life over beers and hot chocolates with rum until it was time to go back home for dinner.

These were careless hours filled with musings over big questions that neither of us thought to call naive yet. Talk void of gossip, politics, and alternative motives. Subdued ambition. Free-flowing ideas. Calm. 馃挱

It’s the uncovering of these good memories that makes me think that there may be more of them and that perhaps my teenage years aren’t as bleak as I tend to remember. That perhaps my memories and past aren’t complete, not because I don’t remember, but because my future experiences are yet to shape them.

馃搶 Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

 

Man and woman praying at Senso-Ji

#455 路 December 13, 2016

I imagined Tokyo鈥檚 historic district, the low city of Asakusa, to be a far more romantic place than what initially looked like a dull Christmas market鈥揳 tourist banality. 馃嵑馃巺馃徑 I cursed the guidebooks for sending me here. Realizing it was too late in the day to change course, however, I tried to make the best out of the situation. 馃椇馃敟 Instead of avoiding the moving crowd, I melted into it and started making time lapses. I zoomed in on people’s faces, focused on their expressions, and looked for their worries, their smiles. 馃懗馃従馃懙馃徎馃懕馃徑 Then, slowly, as often happens when you stop resisting, I eased into the area. I found alleys that I loved, foreign sweet delights, and rituals that follow traditions and superstitions that aren’t mine.

馃搶 Sens艒-ji, Tokyo

 

The inside of Tokyo International Forum

#454 路 December 12, 2016

The square in front of the Tokyo International Forum, with its food trucks, and the suits taking their lunch breaks on the scattered benches, reminded me plenty of Zuccotti Park in New York City, while the railway alley just behind the forum transported me straight to a Ninja Turtles comic. 馃惛鈿 The building itself, which looks like a ship of glass, was surprisingly quiet when I visited. I happily took charge of the deserted 7th deck, parading around as the captain of the crystal vessel, and making the space momentarily mine. I may or may not also have pretended to be shooting for a travel channel while recording a few Instagram stories. 馃摻馃檮

馃搶 Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo

 

People crossing the Shibuya crossing

#453 路 December 1, 2016

Just in front of the Shibuya Station, you鈥檒l find the famous Shibuya crossing, also known as “The Scramble.鈥 At this busy intersection, the traffic lights turn red all at once, stopping the traffic in all directions and leaving the junction free for pedestrians to cross from all sides. 馃殾馃殨 馃殾馃殦

The scene is an invitation for playfulness, a place of metaphors. It says: this is life. There鈥檚 more than one direction. We are one. You need to keep moving, but while you鈥檙e at it, why not have some fun. 馃巿馃毝馃徏

I could鈥檝e spent half a day here going back and forth and taking photographs. It鈥檚 such a fun rush to stand still in the middle while everyone passes you by. I can recommend two other places in this area that鈥檒l keep this kind of joyful silliness going. 馃殌

The first is Purikura no Mecca: an arcade jam-packed with photo booths that produce snapchat-filter-ish images. There’ll be teenagers. There鈥檒l be an initial shock. You鈥檒l want to run away鈥 but don鈥檛. The experience alone makes for hilarious travel memories, and the photos are the best Tokyo souvenir you鈥檒l find. 馃懜馃徏馃懛馃徎

My second go-to is the ramen joint Ichiran (@ichiranjp). There鈥檚 one just across from the arcade. Not only do they serve superb bowls of soup, but they also sport private slurping booths. If that’s not enough “haha” for you, then there鈥檚 nothing like ordering extras just to hear the waiters murmur away in Abracadabra (Japanese). 馃崪馃槀

馃搶聽Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

 

People having a drink on an outside terrace

#452 路 November 29, 2016

After saying goodbye to Hao (@menghao), I returned to the back streets of Harajuku, known as Ura-Hara. This cluster of alleys is only a side street away from the crowded, designer brand lined boulevard, Omote-sand艒, and yet it throws off an entirely different, far more towny vibe. 馃崅鈽曪笍

I found this contrast all over Tokyo. The main streets crammed with a crowd so intense that you start renouncing city life. But take any side street, and you find yourself walking in an Austrian village on a late Monday evening. 馃槾馃帲

Ura-Hara reminded me of Austria too, with its quirky wooden houses and shops. The place is grungy but in a mild, happy kind of way. It鈥檚 authentic, subtly hipster. Mr. G said it reminded him of the U.S., and I could see that too. There’s this San Francisco feel to it. 馃尩

There are skate shops, clothing boutiques, cafes, and hair salons in every nook and corner. Locals seem at ease, in peace. And they all have an enviously flawless sense for fashion. My favorite image is that of people’s heads hurled together, over some hot beverages, and what I like to think were grande creative plans. 鉁

馃搶 Ura Harajuku, Tokyo

 

People strolling the streets of Ura-Harajuku

#451 路 November 15, 2016

I had that 鈥淗ey guys, I just woke up in 鈥 鈥 kinda feeling when I walked out of the subway and saw Tokyo for the first time. It was a textbook blue skies/crisp air morning. 鈽锔 And just as if I had lived here for ages, as if it was one of those typical lazy Sundays, I met with a friend of a friend, and we talked like we already knew each other, while we waited to have pancakes for breakfast. 馃嵂馃悵

馃檹馃徎聽Thank you,聽@menghao聽and聽@soakuptheworld

馃搶 Harajuku, Tokyo