Hong Kong

Returning home tomorrow, so this’ll be my last post. Thanks for tuning in!

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Like that chase scene with the Triads from Rush Hour 2! Which was actually set and filmed here in HK.

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The ubiquitous won ton

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Board games in the park. Parks seem to be a popular hangout spot for elderly men. You see these guys reading the newspaper, exercising, smoking, kicking around soccer balls. My favorite was the circle of sprightly dudes playing hacky sack with what looked like an oversized shuttlecock. They were really good.

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Some great views from Cheung Chau, a small island only a short ferry ride from the city. You can kinda see Hong Kong in the background there.

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Hong Kong (HK Island, to be more precise) by night.

Street food isn’t as big here as in some of the other cities I visited, but still a lot to offer. From the left, rice noodles with some kind of sweet red sauce, fried beef balls, and a sticky rice dish (topped with peanuts, Chinese sausage, and green onions) that reminded me a lot of the nuo mi fan dish that my dad makes.

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Singapore

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Reunion with the Singaporean guy I met and traveled with in Laos! Here we are at what’s called a hawker center (centre?), essentially the indoor equivalent of the street food scene we all know and love from my many food photos. According to my friend, the government requires vendors to operate in hawker stalls instead of — as in many other SE Asian countries — food carts out on the streets. Easier to regulate and conduct safety inspections.

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Chai tow kway, also called “carrot cake”. Looks a bit different from the American version, right? Tastes different too. The name comes from the soft noodle-like chunks consisting of radish(!) and rice flour.

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Singapore’s reputation for cleanliness is completely deserved. By far the tidiest city I have ever been in.

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I was surprised by the amount of parks and gardens and other green spaces here. This is an elevated canopy walkway, about 75 feet off the ground.

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Lor mee, a noodle dish with rich gravy-like broth, topped with fried fish/boiled egg, and a generous dollop of chili sauce and minced garlic thrown in for good measure. One of my friend’s favorite meals in Singapore (not least because of the $1.75 price tag), and I could see why.

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Rojak, one of the most interesting dishes I’ve tried in SE Asia. We’ll start with the ingredients, which as best as I can recall includes pineapple, fried dough, bean sprouts, peanuts, cucumber, and possibly shrimp paste(??). The sauce is a mixture of palm sugar and chili pepper, creating a sweet and spicy tang unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. It’s a incredibly weird combination of incongruous textures and flavors, and it was probably my favorite food in Singapore.

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A close second though is this dessert of shaved ice topped with soursop fruit. The name isn’t the best advertisement, and so I wasn’t expecting much when it was suggested to me, but the flavor is actually a wonderful blend of citrusy sour and sweet somewhat reminiscent of lemonade or, if you will, a daiquiri.

Penang

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Four days on Penang, an island off the west coast of Malaysia. Famous for its street food, wonderfully atmospheric streets, and quirky street art!

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Hike to the top of Penang Hill, which ended up taking the better (best?) part of a day…

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Worth it! View of Georgetown.

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By far my favorite street food here, lok lok. A hotpot setup similar to shabu shabu and da bin lo, you take a skewer of food (ranging from meats to vegetables to fried things) and stick it in the boiling soup for a while to cook, then enjoy! You also get a plate to mix up the sauces to your liking. Hard to see, but the skewers are color coded according to price so the vendor can easily tally up the total when you’re finished.

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Hiking in Penang National Park. This route went along the coast…

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… over a seriously unstable looking bridge…

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…through a few beaches, which may or may not have contained poisonous stinging jellyfish (I didn’t risk finding out)…

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… and culminating at a lighthouse at the corner of the island!

Ipoh

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Quick stop here for a few days. Third largest city in Malaysia with a population in the hundreds of thousands, yet the downtown area has a small-town feel. Colorful buildings, well maintained sidewalks, few skyscrapers…

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… and a lot of restaurants, a many of them Chinese. This is Ipoh’s signature dish, bean sprouts chicken. (Not sure what the soup is, I didn’t do a wonderful job of ordering and just said yes to whatever they were asking me, so I ended up with soup.) They say the bean sprouts here are extra crunchy because of the water from the limestone hills surrounding the city. They also say the water gives you better skin and the girls here are prettier as a result. I’ll not involve myself in that latter debate, but this dish (including the crunchy beansprouts) was delicious!

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The beansprouts restaurant, with its mainly Chinese clientele.

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Happened upon the Sunday morning market. Fried jackfruit!

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I tried the bandung cincau. Water and condensed milk flavored by rose syrup (gives it the color), topped with grass jelly.

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This impressive looking heap is ais kacang, a popular Malaysian dessert. The base is shaved ice drenched in coconut milk, the peak mango(?) ice cream, and the slopes forested with corn, grass jelly, peanuts, and red beans. Sounds like a strange combination but it works, trust me.

Kuala Lumpur

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Obligatory shot of the Petronas Towers. Yep, I was splashing around in a wading pool with all the other kiddos. Sweltering 90 degree heat and what feels like 200% humidity will do that to you, dignity be damned.

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Exhibit at the National Museum featuring the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia (Malay, Chinese, and Indian). Nationally, Malays are the largest ethnic group, but in Kuala Lumpur Malays and Chinese make up the same percent of the population, and Indians are a sizable minority. It’s a multiculturalism reminiscent of back home, and it makes for a fascinating experience walking around the city. The common tongue is Malay, though you hear plenty of Cantonese and Tamil in the respective Chinese and Indian enclaves. Chinese and Malays chowing down on roti canai (see below!). Few restaurants serving beef, and even fewer pork (Malays are–by definition–Muslim).

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Nasi Lemak, considered the national dish of Malaysia. Very popular breakfast food — almost every Malay (and many non-Malay) restaurant had it on the menu. Coconut milk flavored rice accompanied typically with a boiled egg, cucumber, fried anchovies, and peanuts. Traditionally wrapped in a banana leaf (portability!), although most restaurants just serve it on a plate. Usually there’s a meat side dish you choose to go with it, in this case a very hefty chicken thigh smothered in some kind of red gravy.

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Tastes much better than it looks. At many of the Malay restaurants I visited, the custom is buffet style dining: You start with a plate of rice and get to choose from several usually stew-like dishes. The pricing scheme is a little confusing — I think they just kinda eyeball it and come up with a price on the fly. This particular dish I wasn’t able to identify  much but I think the dark red meat stew on the left is beef rendang.

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Roti canai. Another popular breakfast food in Malaysia for Indians and non-Indians alike. Usually a pretty simple affair: flatbread eaten with some kind of curry — in this case, dhal (lentil curry).

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Entrance to Batu Caves, located just outside the city. The giant statue is of Murugan, the Hindu god of war. I actually just barely missed visiting on Thaipusam, a Hindu festival where thousands of devotees ascend to the caves, many under trance and bearing loads of several hundred pounds.

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A giant mound of fried rice (nasi goreng! they have it in Malaysia too apparently, not just in Indonesia) that was my mid-afternoon snack. I still haven’t gotten used to the larger portion sizes here. Can’t quite do the same 5-6 dishes / day that I was doing in Thailand. (I mean, I tried but… endless food coma)

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Breakfast at one of the many Chinese restaurants near where I was staying. Chicken and roast pork, coconut bao, chicken seasoned rice, and chicken broth. Good way to start the day!

Phnom Penh

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Independence Monument

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A typical street scene. I still can’t figure out if the storefront sign is in jest or an actual tribute.

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One of many cramped aisles of the Russian Market, where vendors sell all manner of things including clothes, food, and apparently, power drills. There’s probably even a kitchen sink in there somewhere.

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Almost a month into my trip, I got the burger cravings bad. And yes, that is chili sauce in addition to the catsup.

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Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. A former high school used for the imprisonment and execution of thousands under the Khmer Rouge.

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Burger cravings (somewhat) satisfied… now, Green Curry! This was the “small” serving size. I think it’s meant for family style eating, but I was more than up for the task.

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A relaxing evening by the river

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While wandering the streets, I stumbled across a restaurant serving this skillet-sizzling dish of beef, egg, and onions. It was delicious, though my later exhaustive attempts to identify this dish didn’t turn up any hits.

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Speaking of beef… On the way to Phnom Penh, through the countryside. This was the best photo I could get of just how gaunt the cows are here. Really a different sight from what you see back home, driving down I-5 or even just past a neighbor’s pasture.

Angkor Archeological Park

Home of Angkor Wat and several other temples. I decided to rent a bike to get around, as the temples are located several km from town (and from each other). Along for the pedaling was a friendly Mexican traveler I met at the chaotic Thailand-Cambodia border crossing.

 

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Angkor Wat! Apparently this is a famous (yet secret?) location to take photos. You get a good angle of the temple with what appears to be a pleasant river in the foreground. It’s actually a very underwhelming pond. The camera sometimes lies?

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A small temple on the Angkor Wat grounds.

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Some of the many smiling faces at Angkor Thom.

The very very very steep stairs of Ta Keo, a multi-tiered pyramidal temple and a great calf workout. The climb actually wasn’t too bad, and you’re rewarded with an amazing view from the top. On the right, you’ll notice my new friend bravely recording his ascent up the cliff with his selfie stick.

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Ta Prohm (Ritchie, thanks for the rec!), famous for its appearance in the Tomb Raider movie and the several trees growing out of the rocky ruins.