cait +tiff


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T / from russia with dumplings (and <3)

spilled-blood

Always look up at the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood.

Why go to Russia? Because it is an empire with the richest and deepest of cultures and histories. It’s the world’s largest country.  And St. Petersburg is magical.  It’s Europe’s Disney World.  Take Paris, Vienna and London and blow them up on an epic scale.  So when I was invited to Alina and Matt’s wedding, my response was “hell yes.”  Our hosts, my college buddy Alina is Russian-Canadian, set the best scene ever for their destination love fest: St. Petersburg.  From-Russia-with-Love

Setting aside world affairs and geopolitics, we landed and set out to eat and see everything we could devour in five days while I tried to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in nearly a decade.  Because globalization works that way.

Anyways. We barely scratched the surface.  But I thought I’d share a few little tips and tricks (like Svetlana’s gorgeous Airbnb we stayed in).


Eat-Your-Dumplings

Pelmeni (upper left), kninkali (upper right), and finish off with sour cherry vareniki (lower left). Yes more please.

I’m proud about my culinary heritage and the little morsels it has to offer. But then I had dumplings in Russia and opinions definitely changed.  Don’t tell the ancestors please. Pelmenya only serves Russian dumplings.  They are all delicious.  There are sweet ones too and you should order everything the menu has to offer and wash it all down with a cold mug of kvass.

Eat-in-RussiaEpic wedding aside, some of my favourite moments on this trip surrounded food (don’t they always?).  I haven’t seen some of these college buddies for years and I’m so happy that we got to catch up over three course meals in gorgeously curated restaurants.  The sun never sets in St. Petersburg, so I had no idea three hours had past. By far my favourite was The Idiot.  Yes, that Idiot.  Set in the basement in a centuries old building in the center of St. Petersburg, The Idiot offers the best of traditional Russian fare and they make sure you start it off properly: with vodka.  This was naturally followed by caviar.  Sadly, there was no room for the course of deep fried cottage cheese.


I mentioned that St. Petersburg is Europe on steroids, right?  Because it is.  You completely get a sense of the grandeur of the empire.  Everything is gilded in gold.  You’ll also want to get a proper Russian spa day with a good massage since your neck will always be craned upwards.  Start it off easy with a trip to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood (see top photo).  From the outside, you would never guess the bloody history.  It looks a bit like Candyland, doesn’t it?  But once you enter, you won’t be able to stop looking.  The entire church is a mosaic.  You know all those words they use to describe epically beautiful things? Resplendent. Imposing. All of those are in this building and pretty much everything you will see in St. Petersburg.

gild-everything-in-gold PeterhofLike Peterhof, the summer palace (as opposed to his Winter Palace), of Peter the Great.  For 750 rubles, take a 40 minute hydrofoil ride to what is basically a big royalty park.  Entry to the site is another 500 rubles, and each museum or historic building also requires additional fees (about 600 rubles for the Grand Palace).  But it is well worth it and do spend a day wandering through throne rooms, salons wall papered in Chinese silk, fountains and gold.

Bring-Your-PhoneWe capped off the five day spree with an entire morning and afternoon spent at the Hermitage.  You can hit up both buildings which separate the classical Russian from modern impressionism and all the Kandinsky you could soak up.  This will take you about seven hours, but it’s kinda worth it.  It’s also worth it despite the crowds and the never ending scene of smart phones raised up high.  They even have apps to take you through it all if you’re not the type that wants an audio guide (me).  Just one important tip: skip the ticket lines! They’re ridiculous!  Look to the left and you’ll find ticket machines with…wait for it…no line.Look-at-Art


Okay so after all the eating.  There’s the drinking in St. Petersburg.  We didn’t quite get into the mixology scene, but we did discover a few little secrets.  Rooftop cocktails at the Kempinsky or the terrace of the W Hotel.  Or perhaps you want to get a little freaky and take part in Russian drinking games at Purga, where every night is New Year’s Eve.  Purga

And all the hip kids hang out at Terminal Bar and all the other establishments on Belinskogo Utilisa, just by the Fontanka River.

This-is-MidnightI’m gonna cap off this post with a midnight boat right.  Russian summers are known for its white nights, so why not explore Venice of the north at midnight?


Oh right. The important details.

Go to Russia now! The ruble is weak (about 67 rubles to 1 USD) and everything is so affordable!

Get around on public buses (30 rubles, or about 50 cents) and the metro (28 rubles).  Admiralteyskaya Station is the deepest in the world.  The escalator rides are epic like the rest of the city.

If your feet can’t do it anymore, Uber is also available.

Get your visa first!  Either with an invitation from your hotel or through a travel website like this one.


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.  Cait+Tiff are not liable for any vodka induced poor decisions.


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humpjump (travel week)

hj

Good morning! Tiff is running around with lions today and Cait just got back to Phnom Penh. One of us is safari cruising in Kenya, the other is couch cruising and drinking as much coffee as a human body can handle. So basically doing the exact same thing. We are still technically on our week off, but one of us was moving out of London and didn’t have time to prep stuff so is playing catch up in her sweatpants this week. The air conditioning bill is going to be nuts, because I am not giving up on sweatpants. In any case, it’s a week to catch up with people, job stuff, blog stuff, make samples, unpack, start working out again, fix everything I need to and do all those emails. No pressure, should fine. OK more coffee.

Loving this little literary meditation on slow travel.

Oh great, because I needed more fuel for my “I NEED TO GO TO ICELAND” fire.

An Airbnb for food? Yes please!!!!  I’m totally giving the Cambodia one a spin when I’m back in town.

Light and Ink‘s Instagram is so lovely, and she shows off all of her great handmade treasures, including this awesome print.

Katie writes so well on how to travel intuitively.

I am into Nike’s N7 collection, which helps fund programming for Native American and Aboriginal empowerment.

When you travel (or live abroad), it means you’re away from home.  Which means these Instagrams from my home totally help. Thanks Anne!

Have you heard about Kordal? Their knitwear makes me want to move to a colder place (again).

If you’re headed to Oz, make sure you’ve got your Broadsheet. (Thanks Jane!)

I think I am allowed to post this since I was in both cities in the past few weeks.

Photo credit

 


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T / go away / a spanish road trip

Alicante---HeaderSo I had a couple of big takeaways from my most recent road trip through Spain: 1) damn that country is delicious and 2) there is a skill to avoiding nausea while navigating curvy European roads and being in charge of navigation and I do not possess it.

I also learned that southern Spain is where many northern Europeans choose to die.  I’m not joking.  There was a preponderance of gated communities filled identical semi-detached vacation homes to house pensioners hailing from north of the continent and related big box grocery stores from said region to serve all of those pensioners. The nail on the coffin (nervous laughter) was the number of insurance companies promoting burial and return of assets services.It’s a one stop shop, kids. It was pretty much straight out of a BBC farce.

Grating tourism for the elderly aside, I met up with my man and we spent a few days tooling around Alicante and the Valencian community.  We’re usually game for more off-the-beaten-path travel, but when the opportunity arose (parental birthdays that is), we jumped at the chance to eat and drink the hell out of the region.  So we weren’t able to make it up to Seville (to satisfy my Game of Thrones geekdom). But we did manage to re-adjust our Circadian rhythms to the Spanish time zone of siestas and late nights, with rolling mountains, the most delicious of fruits of the sea and an endless supply of tapas, cervezas and sangria.  I couldn’t think of a better way to recuperate after the marathon through London (which Cait just started!) and Copenhagen.

So I thought I’d share some of the shots of this beautiful region.

Wander-HeaderJune in the south of Spain is perfect.  From an expatriate in Cambodia’s point of view, the crisp mornings and evenings, and relatively sunny and cool afternoons are the perfect respite when escaping from 50°C and humidity.  The sky was pretty much always a beautiful blue, whatever shade you want to call it.  The streets were always pedestrian friendly (and sometimes only) and you could never get lost.  We started with so much beauty in Murcia. There were palm trees upon palm trees and cacti in Elche and checking off of World Heritage Sites. Got cathedral-ed out in Orihuela. And rounded it all off in Roman ruins in Cartagena.

Orihuela

Orihuela

Blue skies, negative space and towers in Murcia.

Blue skies, negative space and towers in Murcia.


 

Play-with-Colour-HeaderThe city of Alicante, and especially its historic quarter, are a colourist’s fantasy come to life. Everywhere we wandered.  Up the stairs and down.  Out of the Museu de Arte Contemporáneo de Alicante (MACA) and around cathedrals. There was so much colour.  And for someone who’s supposed to be delving into colour theory right now, I was basically at home. Alicante-PastelsColour-in-Alicante


 

Eat-Alicante-HeaderBecause there is no such thing as too many boquerones. Fried. In oil. Stuffed. What have you. Just get them in my belly.

With the fire of one thousand Bourdains, we drove into Dénia expecting gastronomic heaven.  And we were happy to have found the next El Bulli.  But we were told that the next table at El Baret de Miquel Ruiz was available in October.  I still can’t forget the maitre’d’s look of disbelief when we walked in asking for a table for two. With the thought of what could have been  clouding our minds, no other restaurant in Dénia really quelled our tastes. We were only left with the wont of what could have been.

Market-FoodBut that said, the days before and after this were heaven.  Being the breadbasket of Spain, the south is a treasure trove of fresh ingredients and palette bursting energy.  We stocked up on our own cured boquerones and queso at markets popping up in the residential areas of Torrevieja, where we were staying (sleeping is probably more of an appropriate word).  We discovered the juiciest donut-shaped pears and ate our weight in cherries.  The gluttons of Rome who conquered this area millennia ago would have been proud.

Dinner-at-La-Catedral

From left: truffled artichoke salad with ham, and the most sumptuous scallops with flying fish roe at La Catedral

We spent our last edible moments with the sun setting over ancient Roman ruins in front of us, dining al fresco on the best starters at La Catedral in Cartagena.  I couldn’t have thought of a better way to end this road trip through Spain. And I couldn’t wait to explore more of the north.  But I had some wurst and schnitzel waiting for me in Frankfurt.


All photos taken by Tiffany Tsang.  Please request permission for use.

 


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guest post / go away / hong kong

Our lovely and amazing friend, Lin, is covering for us today. We are still in our random parts of the world, not working, and she is allowing us to slack off. THANK YOU LIN! She was in Hong Kong a few weeks ago and from the looks of it, has done the city right. Enjoy! 


underpants

Dear classy readers, Hong Kong is a classy lady.

Readers in Cambodia, you know how time is sometimes not your own in Phnom Penh? For example, you have ten minutes to get to a meeting but the tuk tuk is out of gas so you guys have to stop at a gas station, and then you are late. Or your door knob is stuck so a locksmith shows up with only a hammer…and you know it’s going to be a long few hours. Anyway, when you are on vacation in Hong Kong, your time is very much yours. This might be a virtue of most vacations in über­-metropolitan cities. But you know, this is a post about Hong Kong.

linlu

I have four things I would like to tell you.

1. The Big Buddha is so much fun.

buddha-back

On the gondola ride up, you can look down on the hikers doing it the hard way (see photo below, this is the kid to beat on creative selfies). You can feel the vague sense of disappointment when you find out this Buddha was actually built in the 1990s, so not the historical pilgrimage you’d thought. But hey, you can also burn some incense and make a wish for your Chinese grandma. We all had one at some point, no?

selfie-time

incense

2. The walk along the Star Ferry Pier makes you feel like you’re in that Richard Gere/Julia Roberts movie that should have been set in Asia. Especially if you go at golden hour. I recommend getting a couple of Asahi’s, finding a bench you like, and sinking into the scene.

starferrywalk

3. Little Chili in North Point was so on point. Get the dumplings in chili oil (紅油抄手) and boiled spicy mutton or beef (水煮牛肉). For the dumplings, the key is in how they execute the chili oil sauce. Nailed it.

little-chili

4. Sheung Wan is that cool. Get off the MRT at the Sheung Wan station, have a look on Google Maps for how to walk from Sheung Wan station to LOF10, a “I want to live here but damn it’s hard to find” coffee shop with weird hours. Check ahead. I’d go in the morning because you walk by dudes carting around huge mounds of dried pork skin and shops with classic red Chinese character signs selling so much dried fish. Morning commerce bustle at it’s most adorable. If you see a couple doing their wedding photoshoot not anywhere near the day of their wedding ­ that’s cool too. It’s like spotting a deer in Oregon; ubiquitous but still special.

LOF10 Coffee

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wedding

I have three requests for adventurous urbanites.

1. Please go to the Monocle shop in Wan Chai and tell me how great it was. Or wasn’t.

2. Please go to a COS shop and tell me what thrilled you. Working and living in Cambodia, you’d become quite aware of the garment industry and while not anywhere near perfect, H&M (parent company of COS)’s sustainability report is smart, coherent, and at least updated.

3. Please eat at Yardbird and report back on how hip it is. Because from everything I’ve seen, it is so hip it hurts. And who doesn’t want to hurt from being hip. And delicious. I hear it’s delicious.

Details for details people:

We stayed at Butterfly on Waterfront. It was solid in that $100 per night, small room but comfy pillows, clean everything, pretty new fixtures, and in a great neighborhood way.

Flew Vietnam Air for a steal from Phnom Penh. Booked a week ahead for $250 return. But please note that we did have a sweet 12+ hour layover in HMC with a $60 visa fee and a $80 hotel bill (stayed at the Alcove Hotel: solid).


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T / go away / yogyakarta

16---headerWhen friends asked us where we were heading to for the Khmer New Year holidays, I had to repeat myself a few times. No. Not the bustling Jakarta, populated by 9.6 million people and a ton of traffic. We were heading to its hipper, artsier, more culturally oriented cousin, Yogyakarta (also affectionately known as Jogja), population 388,627 and located in Central Java.

I had long been hearing about it from friends. How calm and peaceful it was.  The high concentration of culture and artisanal production in the city and its surroundings.  Centuries old temples and volcanoes that had a tendency to rain ash all over its surroundings every so often.  I was sold.  We needed a longer-than-weekend escape from hot hot Phnom Penh (I don’t know if we’ve yet mentioned that for the past few days, it’s been 45°C or 1000F) and the general bump and grind of life and work in a city that does not hibernate.

So off we went, armed with nothing but recommendations from our dear friends who had lived there as natives, visited as children, former students of this college town and this very helpful article from CN Traveler.

KratonAfter an early morning flight (through Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia), we were met at the Dusun Jogja Villa Inn by owner and Jogja native, Amron “Paul” Yuwono, who used to run around the city as a university student with our good friend Stacy.  Complete with outdoor showers (where you might enjoy an enchanting late afternoon call to prayer from) and soft mattresses that you just melt into after a long day in transit, Paul runs a great city hideaway with attentive staff and great design.  This is in addition to the style services he provides to President Barack Obama’s half-sister, or screening thought provoking (and sometimes banned) films on Saturday nights on the hotel grounds.  Water-Palace

Sumur-Gumuling

Samar Gumuling, the underground mosque

With Jogja Village Inn located in a tranquil oasis amid the heart of the city, we ventured out to the Kraton – the Sultan’s palace complex.  But this area is not just about the majestic and very well maintained palace, where the Sultan still resides and serves as governor of the Yogyakarta Special Region.  Surrounding the palace are numerous other royal landmarks from the Water Castle and royal garden known as the Taman Sari, to one of my favourite locations – Sumur Gumuling, the underground mosque.

GudegAnd of course there’s gudeg, the culinary speciality of Jogja.  It is ubiquitous and each Jogjan will tell you a different vendor serving the best gudeg in town.  We discovered Gudeg Yu Djum was a common favourite serving this very sweet jackfruit curry with rice, egg, tempeh and chicken to locals.  I also couldn’t get enough of mie goreng for breakfast.

Yogya-Eats

More Yogya eats.

Plaosan

Plaosan, a temple at Prambanan Candi

Jogja is not just about its royal landmarks.  The areas outside the city are just as majestic.  Despite the rainy season, we took a motorbike out (that’s how we role: unprepared) to contemplate the steamy and very much still active Mount Merapi (which eerily looms on a clear day just north of Jogja), and an off-the-beaten path drive through happily irrigated rice paddies to Prambanan Candi, the massive ancient Hindu temples just sitting on the city’s eastern outskirts.

07---Mount-MerapiBorobodurAnd of course, there’s the other white elephant in the room. The temples of Borobodur.  Located about 45 minutes northwest of Jogja, and very much manageable as a half day trip, the millennium-old Buddhist temples and World Heritage Site serve as a vast reminder of once great dynasties that ruled Java centuries before traders India arrived. Visitors wind up the ascending levels of Buddhist cosmology before arriving at the highest level of enlightenment at the top of Borobodur’s massive stupa.  Each level comes with stories originating from Buddhist mythology carved into the breathing stones that maintain the giant stupa’s structure. Definitely pay for a tour guide (100,000 Indonesian Rupiah, or about 9 USD) to explain each of these stories for you.

D'Omah-TriadAfter a morning that began with a 230am departure for a mountain top sunrise, with the fog rolling in beneath us, and wander through Borobodur, we finally mentally checked into the D’Omah boutique hotel on the southern edge of Jogja in a village (or kampong) called Tembi.  And we could n0t have asked for a better way to take the last days of the trip.  With a room wallpapered with locally-produced batik, and a very well kept grounds that once served as the residence for local leaders of Tembi, we basically just sank into relaxation.  Breakfasts facing rice paddies, the sounds of calls to prayer resonating through the air.  How could we leave?

But we had to.  But armed with a good supply of local batik, coklat, and hand carved teak pieces, I knew I just had to share all this. Thanks to Stacy, Irra, Tish and friends for all the great recommendations!


PS – Here are the details!

Flights to Yogyakarta are available through Kuala Lumpur (via Air Asia), Singapore (via Silk Air) and Jakarta (on Garuda Airlines).

Peak season starts in June through September, when it is relatively dry.  The wet season lasts from October until June.

Dusun Jogja Village Inn rates range from about 60 USD (Deluxe Room, including breakfast, low-season).

Each room at the D’Omah is unique and housed across four different buildings with an additional private villa also available.  Rates range from 60 USD (Deluxe Room, including breakfast, low-season) to 123 USD (private villa, including breakfast, low-season).

Scooters are available to rent for about 100,000 Rp per day (about 9 USD) and cars for about 350,000 Rp daily (about 30 USD).  Please note that Indonesian roads drive on the left.

Beware touts who linger around the temples at the Kraton who will tell you that the temples are closed and will try to take you to purchase batik from overpriced shops.


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

 

 


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C + T / oh the places we go

We are four days into our Spring Break/Khmer New Year/Lazy week, and today we’re doing round up (brag post) of all our travel posts. It’s so much fun to go back through these posts and look at our memories and the fun things we did, and ate. Living in this part of the world gives us access to some of the prettiest beaches, biggest temples and best street food in the world. We try to take advantage of that as much as we can, and appreciate how spoiled we are by our surroundings.

It’s been a nice eight months. Enjoy!


September 11th- Kep Two Ways

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September 30th-Goa, India

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October 2nd- Sushi Yasuda in New York

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October 30th- Malaysia Eat and Drink

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November 4th- 36 Spare Hours in Dar-es-Salam

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November 6th-Fewer than 24 hours in Venice

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November 11th-Chaing Mai

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November 14th- Sailing in the Andaman

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January 29th- A Weekend Jaunt to Kampot

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February 3rd-Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon

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February 12th- Cambodian Mountain Getaway

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March 25th-Kep Weekend

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April 10th- Inle Lake

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…aaaaand we are lucky to have TWO amazing post from friends this week.

April 14th- The Minimal Things Jen Brings

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and of course, Yesterday’s Minneapolis Love

Photo Credit: Alissa Pries

Photo Credit: Alissa Pries

After putting this together, I want to plan another trip. Is it bad to plan a vacation, while on vacation?
xo, us

 


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T / happy monday / let’s get out of here!

Photo Credit: Unknown via Jai Martin Creative

Photo Credit: Unknown via Jai Martin Creative

So here I am, sitting in my bed at a Condé Nast Travel approved hotel in Indonesia, planning a morning motorbike trip over to these temples, that volcano, and taking the biggest exhale ever. The last six months in Cambodia have evolved to be so busy and creative!  On the eve of my early Saturday morning flight, I found myself still strapped to my Adobe Creative Suite, closing in on a deadline.  And I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities that friends have given me.  This also means we’ve been going full throttle (ha – a bike pun was inevitable) with no allay, so it’s time to take C+T to take a whee break near and far.  This Khmer New Year getaway commences a three month long period of marathon travel for me, and Cait will be getting away soon too.  I can’t wait for the both of us to discover new sources of inspiration, breath in some fresh air (because let’s face it, emerging Asian economies also mean a lot of exhaust fumes), get some new flavours in this mouth, and share them with you of course.

I guess you can tell the theme for this post (and perhaps week) will be travel, huh?  It’s the best thing ever.  We both think that you should do it.  Have experiences.  Go near. Or Go far.  Just get out.

So I hope this little video about two brothers and their big trip to Vietnam will serve as a nice kick in the pants.

The road story Vietnam from Georgy Tarasov on Vimeo.


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C / field trip / nagar glass factory

glass-headerA bunch of Phnom Penh friends have jumped ship for the newer, more exciting emerging market of Myanmar, and now live in the Yangon. Those guys are the worst. But it means that I travel to Myanmar every few months to catch up, eat a different kind of noodle, and explore a new place.

Honestly, in the 10 or so times I have been here in the past two years, I have never really loved it. The people are amazing and kind and smart and funny, but it has been tough for me to be excited about the actual city. It’s a working city and not made for tourism. So in my struggle to find cool things that make the city fun, my buddies Laura and Bill pointed me to an old glass factory that had long since collapsed. The prospect of wandering through a condemned building and overgrown vines to dig for chunks of broken glass sounded like the best treasure hunt ever to me. It was.glass-3So this past weekend, we did just that. After being warned of the massive mosquito/spider/possible giant snake situation ON THE WAY THERE, we arrived and bathed in Deet. It felt like equal parts Indiana Jones and Terminator, but with looking for decorative vases. glass-4glass-7I found a few vases and glasses I love, but my favorite things were the fused glass chunks that I dug out of the dirt. When I brought them up to the very lovely lady managing the little shop, she laughed and gave them to me “as present.” Apparently no one else wants glass garbage.glass-2After this field trip, I am coming around on Yangon. I think I am spoiled a bit in Phnom Penh, as it only takes 20 minutes to get anywhere, and it’s easy to get around in English. Yangon might be more difficult to get navigate, but there are treasures here that are well worth the trip.

I will go back to the glass factory, and next time with more water, more bug repellent, and a big old basket. If you are in the neighborhood and want to check it out, you can find the factory here:

The Nagar Glass Factory

Address No.152, Yawgi Kyaung Street, Hlaing Township

Tel.: 95-1-519718, 95-1-526053

glass-6

caitsig


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C+T / top five

top-five-headerThere are always things that are making us happy during the week.  So we decided to share them with you!

Cait: dulce de leche

I don’t really know how this started, i think it was when Alissa made alfajores and I was transported back to my days of backpacking with my best friend in Argentina, and eating dulce de leche out of the jar. It so weird that I gained all that weight there…I have been making it, giving it away, and putting it on everything this month. No signs of slowing down.

Tiff: cortado

Ever since Corbett started the soft open of the Kettlebell Café (more on that next week!) at Crossfit Amatak, none of my mornings have been complete without this little glass of a one to one ratio of espresso and foamy milk.  I’m a diagnosed coffee addict, so you can imagine how I’m reeling after a 630am work out.  This cup of wonder solves the sweaty zombie problem.  The good company that comes with the coffee is nice too.

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Photo Credit: Brooks Brothers, Tonlé

Cait: Brooks Brothers Man Shirt

My mom gave me this for Christmas and it show up about 2-3 times/week. It’s big enough that it’s somehow cozy and cool at the same time, but doesn’t look gigantic. I have it in white, so it feels classic, especially when I drop my pad thai down the front. (Tide pens were created for me.)

Tiff: Tonlé Kampot Skirt ($32 USD, available in Tonlé’s Phnom Penh boutique)

Last year I got to try this skirt on at a super fun photo shoot for Tonlé.  I loved it so much, the way it draped, and hugged my curves and flaunted what I struggle to heart about my body. So of course I had to take it home with me.  Now it’s my go-to piece for cocktails with the girls, date night, or an evening of live music and dancing.  I’m currently sad it’s in the laundry.

Photo Credit: kahle1bd and sögreni

Photo Credit: kahle1bd and Velorbis

Cait: Japan

I want to go back. I think about how I can get there on the daily and dream of slurping noodles in crowded alleys and chillin’ with monkeys in hot springs. Its a thing.

Tiff: Copenhagen

In June, I’m heading to Copenhagen to see my amazing, super smart, saving the world from obesity and its discontents friend Jo.  I can’t wait.  In preparation, I’m watching this, and planning to see the city by cycle while Jo’s at work.

jan-30---hear-seeCait: The Imitation Game

I saw this a few weeks ago, and it hasn’t left my brain. It was profound and beautiful and sad. And how bouncy was Kiera Knightly’s hair?

Tiff: In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye

I’m all soaking up all the photography and layout skillz right now, so when I saw this coming on, my week got better.  Getting to know the ladies behind the photos and the looks is exactly what I need right now.

Photo Credit: Pocket Yoga, Davines and Xtava

Photo Credit: Pocket Yoga, Davines and Xtava

Cait: Pocket Yoga App

This thing is awesome. It has different classes, music, class lengths and backgrounds. I am partial to the desert class. There is a very nice lady that feels like a real yoga teacher taking you through each class. In the last few weeks, it has made me less crazy and I can touch my forehead to my knees now, which makes me look crazy anyway. Success.

Tiff: Davines Curl Building Serum and Xtava Collapsibe Diffuser

When I got my hair chopped off last year, Vaughn decided to work with the natural waves I have and build it to this great wavy curly ‘do that I’m so digging and will get out every so often these days.  He taught me how to build this look using a curl building serum by Davines and this nifty collapsible diffuser that I can bring with me on travels.  I’ve been avoiding the diffuser since I thought it would take ages to set, but I was basically wrong.  10 minutes.  Bam.  So happy about this new look.

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Go Away / Alissa’s 36 (spare) Hours in Dar-es-Salaam

Since cait + tiff are no good, lazy bums and on vacation this week, we have enlisted a few friends to help out with le blog. dar-es-salaam-alissaOur first guest writer this week is Alissa, who is one of our favorite people in Phnom Penh. She’s has a discerning palate and eye, and we are constantly in awe of her effortless cool. Hailing from Minneapolis, with feet stamped in New York, India, Nepal, Senegal, and beyond, the girl has some serious street cred when it comes to adventure. I mean, come on, her favorite cookie is the alfajor.  Alissa is our first contributor to C+T (!), and she’s taking us to Tanzania. Enjoy! 

Work travel is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s a fantastic opportunity to visit a place you would otherwise not have the chance to see, but in reality you are so busy you don’t have time to see much. But traveling for work does not preclude you from exploration! Being a ‘worker-tourist’ does mean you are short on time, but it also opens the doors to seeing another side of a city/country that you’d never experience as a ‘tourist-tourist’. My advice is to make use of 2 precious resources: 1) weekends and 2) the expert and insider advice from colleagues.

36 (spare) Hours in Dar-es-Salaam.

Dar-es-Salaam is Tanzania’s largest city of over 1 million people. Dar-es-Salaam aptly means ‘harbor of peace’ and it is home to many a type of Tanzanian; people of African and Indian descent, Christian and Muslim, tribes from all over Tanzania, living together harmoniously in this city on the coast of the Indian Ocean. The official language is Swahili, which I declared to be the best language ever. I can’t really describe it, but the cadence and pronunciation make it a really fun language to speak. While the traffic is a beast in Dar, the city is generally walkable, full of trees and flowering plants, and Dar-es-Salaamers are friendly and with an excellent sense of humor.

What To Do

fabricAs a self-diagnosed textilephile, I knew one of my first free days in Dar would be spent fabric shopping. Having promised some bright bolts to the lovely founders of cait+tiff and wanting to replenish my own cloth stock, I headed downtown one Sunday morning. While I quickly found out this was the worst day to go (almost every store owner closes shop on Sundays), a colleague and I made the most of what was open and as we elbowed our way through available vendors, we couldn’t even fathom what the crowd flow would look like on a regular day. We first hit Uhuru Street to visit fabric wholesalers who don’t bargain but offer loads of variety, and then ventured on to nearby Kariakoo Market to weave through the maze of shops in Dar’s largest market.

batik-and-kitengeThere are 3 main types of fabrics available: kanga, kitenge, and batik. Kangas are ubiquitous in Tanzania – colorful wraps that tout a Swahili message, often religious or political. They are commonly given as gifts, handed out at weddings and celebrations. Because they display messages as women wear them, these mobile billboards are often used to promote during political or health campaigns, displaying messages varying from ‘Vote for this guy!’ to ‘Take your child for a measles immunization!’ Rumor is there was even a kanga made with Obama’s face on it during his visit to Tanzania. Kitenge is also very common in Tanzania. They tend to be a bit higher-quality than kangas, and are used to tailor outfits – dresses, skirts, one of our enumerators even had a sassy kitenge romper. The patterns are bold, bright, layered with intricate patterns and geometric shapes. Finally, there is batik, with which I had a love affair in Dar. These are hand-dyed fabrics, often with just 2 or 3 deep, vibrant colors and a bold pattern created in the dyeing process. Unlike kitenge, which are mostly imported from Nigeria, Ghana, etc., batik is often produced locally in Tanzania. From my experience, batik and kitenge are comparable in price depending on quality, and kangas are a bit less expensive. These fabrics are all sold in bolts of 3 or 6 meters, so buy what you like and share with friends back home!

mbudya-islandGorgeous Mbudya Island is just a mere 20 minute boat ride away and provides all the beachy splendor one needs to rejuvenate if weekend travel to Zanzibar isn’t possible. Colleagues and I caravanned a few bajajis (autorickshaws) and headed north to the White Sands Resort where one can access ferries to reach the island. After trudging through the low tide, spotting lots of sea slugs and bright red-pink starfish along the way, we boarded a wooden fishing boat, painted the same shade of turquoise as the waters surrounding us. The boat and entrance fee to the marine reserve that is Mbudya Island is around $25 total, and it is worth every Tanzanian shilling and more.

Upon landing at a tiny island of white sand paradise, spotted with wispy little pines, we scoped out the options of thatched bandas where we would laze away the day. After selecting one with optimal shade and ocean view, we laid out our towels and plopped down. The mantra of the day was swim-splash-eat-catnap-repeat. From our banda heaven, we were able to order lunch, options being grilled fish, octopus or tiger prawn. Those of us who opted for octopus got to see our meal arrive wriggling from the hands of the fishermen who plucked them fresh from the sea. You can also bring your own snacks and beverages and picnic in the banda. Between the fresh seafood on Mbudya and all the amazing locally produced snacks in Tanzania (banana chips seasoned with chili, fresh roasted cashews, fried salted cassava) you are bound to happy and tanned belly by the end of the day.

Eat

Dar is a meat lover’s paradise. And also a starch lover’s paradise. These two components make up many a Tanzanian dish, in a multitude of combinations. The meats range from roasted beef, goat, seafood to tomato-ginger stews with chicken to the infamous and the too, too delicious mishkaki. This delectable meat treat is a skewer of perfectly grill meat chunks, essentially a shish-kabob with less of those pesky veggies. Again through the insider-knowledge of a colleague, I was introduced to my first mishkaki at a local joint called Lukas on the Msani Peninsula. This peninsula is where many expats live and many ‘worker-tourists’ stay, but Lukas was a mix of Tanzanians and foreigners, all enjoying the savory delight of mishkaki. My meat-of-choice for the evening was beef, but chicken, fish and goat were also on the menu. For just a couple dollars, you can eat your fill of some incredibly tasty red meat. Another favored meat of Tanzania is nyama choma, grilled meat, often goat. It is so loved that there is even an annual Nyama Choma Festival! After skillful roasting over an open flame, the meat is chopped up into chunks and served with a starch of your choice. And what are the starch choices? Oh, the options astound. French fries (aka chips), cassava chunks, fried banana, boiled banana, ugali (stiff cornmeal porridge), or rice. For those that need a vegetable accompaniment, load up on the fresh and spicy kachumburi salad – chopped up tomatoes, onion and lots of chili peppers. And if it’s not spicy enough, request a side pili-pili – Tanzanian hot sauce.

donutStreet snacks also abound in Dar, serving as a quick and delicious fix. On the road, I favored picking up a newspaper-fashioned bag of freshly roasted (still warm) peanuts, conveniently sold by vendors weaving through the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Dar. Another common and sinfully good snack is mandazi, which is kind of like a doughnut… but so much more. These pieces of fried dough, often set in cast iron circular molds, are best when still piping hot and with a slight sweetness from the addition of coconut milk.

zanzibari-mixThere was one street food that I had heard murmurings of for weeks from several sources, and knew I needed to try before my time in Dar ran out – Zanzibari Mix. A snack only found in Tanzania, and Zanzibar of course, this dish is a great representation of the mixture of Indian and African cuisines in Dar. It’s essentially a combination of little fried lentil dumplings, potato dumplings, onion, coconut chutney, more fried crispy things (perhaps garlic), all in a coconut milk-lemony broth. Desperate to give it a taste before I departed, I obtained directions to one of the best Zanzibari Mix vendors in the Upanga neighborhood of Dar and off we went. Winding through the streets of Dar, we stopped outside a nondescript gate. Peeking through the metal we could see a sea of people bent over tiny bowls, and the Zanzibari Mix maven at work in the front, vigorously dishing up the snack. It was well worth the hunt, this dish is unlike any other thing I’ve eaten, a zesty combination of bright citrus, mellow coconut and savory, salty tidbits. Unfortunately, the directions to this particular shop are lost to me, but be sure to ask friends or colleagues in Dar and seek this out!

Finally, though my timing didn’t work out, I would recommend that every traveler to Dar-es-Salaam try to schedule a visit to coincide with the Goat Races.

All photos by Alissa.  Please request permission for use.

Thanks Alissa!  See more of her beautiful pictures from all of her adventures here!