Browsing Category: Travel

Sunday: Arrival 2

On Reykjavik Roasters

Reykjavik Roasters was in the university area of town. Early on a Sunday, it had a hushed but not unfriendly atmosphere tinged with a hipster coffee shop vibe familiar to Seattlites. My oat pudding breakfast even had chia seeds served in a mason jar.

Reykjavik Roaster's Chia Seed Pudding (Yiling Wong October 14, 2017)
Reykjavik Roaster’s Chia Seed Pudding (Yiling Wong October 14, 2017)

As we drove out of town, I was at first struck by the prevalence of blocky buildings.

I felt a vague awareness I was supposed to find them ugly, surprised instead to find a quiet calm in the uniformity of seeing so many blocky buildings set side by side. Perhaps they were built by a somewhat boring but practical people.

Reykjavik buildings, October 14, 2018
Reykjavik buildings, October 14, 2018

The sky continued to lighten, and we sped out of the city.
Continue reading

Sunday: Arrival

Approaching Thingvellir from Keflavik airport, Iceland. October 2017 Yiling Wong

Dear Reader~
This is the first installment of my #100DaysofAllThingsWater per Day 1/100 of the the #100DayProject kickoff. I’ve got some ideas jotted down, but am working first on the long-procrastinated scribing of my backlogged travel adventures from Iceland. Water-related, per the name, and the landscape. I’m setting a minimum of 5 minutes a day to work on this and post something related on Instagram. Follow me there to get more! fresh! content!

Much affection,

y

___________

Sunday Morning. We arrived bright-eyed but sleep-starved, at 6:30 AM on a Sunday. The forecast had been for overcast sky and drizzly rain all week, which wasn’t a step down from Autumn in Seattle. I had red that it was a strange land, but being there was still a whole other reality. The sky lightened and the sun rose, but through some cosmic joke, that white orb stayed floating across the sky around 45 degrees, as though uncertain we were worthy of more. Then, gradually, she would sink back down around six. At least for now, it was dry, and not too blustery. We count ourselves lucky for what sun there was.

After a stroll outside to a lengthy line of uncertain-looking new arrivals, we beat the twenty-odd other travellers to the desk at Gold Car/Blue.[1] The two employees at the desk seemed conspicuously lacking in that friendly, reflexive smile often associated with customer service, until I remembered we were not in the U.S. They apologized repeatedly for the wait and explained and re-explained to each new customer in soft, stoic, tones.

The driver orientation was both alarming and fascinating. I felt smug that we had reserved an all-wheel-drive vehicle, daunted by the various sheep and one-lane-related signs, yet adventurous enough to add myself to the driver’s list. The offers of rock chip coverage and warnings not to off-road were plenty. After more waiting, we were off and cruising out of Keflavik, stopping for coffee at Reykjavik Roasters, and on the road out of town toward Thingvellir.[2]

To be continued…

Next in Series

Iceland Arrival 2

Glymur Falls Dayhike

Footnotes:

1] Iceland logistip: we’d been warned car rental in Iceland would be a substantial part of budget, renting a All-Wheel-Drive/4WD with a local car rental agency was definitely cheaper than it would have been. As of 2017, it was $79,185 Krona, a little under $800 USD. We had a good discount via large corporate employer affiliation [$145], so estimate just under $1k for budget of 8 days.

2] For car-related phone accessories, K and I road-tested and use these: power inverter car charger (hard core), and a conveniently small phone holder the attaches to the A/C vent. Don’t forget your phone-to-usb cords! If you stay in a hotel, you can always ask the front desk if anyone’s left theirs behind.

More tips for driving: Seven Practical Things to Keep in Mind When Driving in Iceland (I Heart Reykjavik)

A sampling of road signs in Iceland
A sampling of road signs in Iceland

Pro-Tip Tuesday:
Waterproof Camping Matches, an Anti-Tip

When I was a kid in Minnesota, I went to this one summer day camp where they taught us, among other things,* to waterproof regular matches by painting clear nail polish on them. Years later living in Seattle, I diligently painted and dried each match this way. That’s the Dahlia Lounge matches you see in the picture. Then for about 4 years I brought them with for car camping and found they were annoyingly hard to strike, delaying my access to delicious and/or experimental dehydrated camp meals. I ended up defaulting to regular ones, like the ones above from Fish and Game Hudson here. Conclusion: you could also always go for survival matches like the ones above, or regular ones in a ziploc bag. Sometimes DIY is overrated.

From left: stormproof matches, regular matches, DIY waterproof matches with nail polish, and a gas canister with camp stove.

*I vaguely recall them also teaching us to cut radishes into rose shapes…

I learned to bike when I was 18

I learned to bike when I was eighteen. I had gone on the University of Minnesota’s excellent study abroad program to Tianjin, China. It’s two hours south of Beijing by train.

The first week Charles Sanft, our Program Director took us to buy bikes for $20 apiece and told us that’d be our main transportation for three months.

My roommate Diana and I got up early every day to try and ride our bikes in circles in the pavement in front of the luxe dorm*, and circle after circle, we got it. For three months, this $20 piece of clever machinery carried me through the foreign streets of sweltering Tianjin, to shop in the markets for red, white, and pink shirts (I never seemed able to find other colors in women’s sizes), to the clubs with hydraulic dance floors and Qingdao beer cheaper than water. I’d pay a coin to the kid watching the bike parking lot, hop off and stroll into the internet cafes to write home and also to squint at the AOL news ticker bar at the top of the instant messenger to read the non-censored world news. I’d learn that it would be wiser to walk my bike home from the bar rather than bother riding recklessly late at night. ,It would take me back to the dorms and class* to gain(briefly)full literacy. Thus began my love of biking, and now I use it for commuting, watch for bike options when traveling, and gleefully burn the calories of delicious food I so savor via two wheels.

This story commemorates the close of May
Bike Month
in the U.S.

What’s your bike story?

Share in the comments below or via social media.

*In one Chinese language class, my professor had us read a story of a man riding a horse, who gets off his horse to ask for directions. This was meant to illustrate how to be polite if you stop your bike and need to talk to some one, and I still think of it to this day.

Singapore: Hawker Centre Crash Course

Singapore is famous for its food culture, and although there are certainly high-end top-dollar restaurants with 10-course menus that would charm the foodiest ex-pat executive, the heart of that food culture lives in the local hawker centres.
Street food is a common cultural institution throughout the world, but has a special place in Southeast Asia in particular as the dominant working-class cuisine and in Singapore’s case primary meal option. The hawker centres themselves are the result of a typically Singaporean government effort in the 1970’s to improve food safety and keep an ever-increasing army of food hawkers from blocking traffic. The government built and maintains the cavernous markets themselves, and administers licensing and health codes. Despite this standardization, the hawker centre is still a vibrant part of the local culture and a wonderfully chaotic den of unexpected delights to western palates and challenges to preconceptions about “eating out”.

Tekka Centre, Singapore. Photo by Mike Borchert.

The centres are organized as long lines of narrow, no-frills stalls, each operated by a different vendor, each with their own specialties and styles. Although the cuisines tend to be dominated by the ethnicity of the surrounding neighborhood, it’s still a grab-bag of curries, dumplings, soups, hot pots, noodles, satay, fruit juices, and everything else that’s taken root in this culinary crossroads. Continue Reading

5 Tips to Get Around Taipei

Taipei Youbike station (Photo by Yiling Wong, 2017)

Folks, I went to school for 24 years, the last few of which focused on urban policy, and my urban planner friends will be entertained when I say,

Taipei has SOLVED the last mile problem -down to the last two feet.

It is SO easy to get around! ..once you take a few steps to get going. Here are a few tips I learned from my trip there.

5 Things to Know About Getting Around Taipei

1. Take the MRT from TaoYuan Airport to the Taipei Main Station. There’s an express train, you’ll need NT broken into 100s, the machines won’t take large bills you’re likely to get from the ATMS. Go to a nearby kiosk for change. If there’s a lady standing next to the ATMs gesturing at you, that’s probably what she’s been hired to try and tell you.

2. An Easycard can pay for the MRT, subway, buses, some cabs, Youbike rental, and even the 7-Eleven. That’s right, you could buy yourself a convenience store lunch, or water to stay hydrated in the humid climate. Buses are a breeze if you have a smartphone and a data plan, even without a mastery of Chinese. The buses are very frequent. I heard from my mama’s retired friends that retired folks with a national ID get a number of free rides per month. They say they take the bus all the time and never run out of credits! Continue Reading

The Tapas of Al Andalus in Spain

A guest post by Karl:

Besides the amazing architecture of Al Andalus (the name of southern Spain during the times of the Islamic rule from ~700 – 1492, the area now known as Andalusia), the area is also known for tapas.

Tapas
Tapas are generally served in most bars and restaurants.  Some only serve tapas, and are known as a tapas bar.  With each drink that you order, you get small bites of food that come with the drink.  This is tapas.  I described it to others as a Spanish dim sum while drinking.  It’s a whole culture in Spain.  And it’s fantastic.

The type of tapas that come with your drinks can vary widely.  From the very basic potato chips with your beer to a small plate of calamari with your sangria.

Continue Reading

Pro-Tip Tuesday:
Alt Uses for a Water Bottle While on the Road 2

Here’s one from my significant other’s mountaineering class. I froze my ass off camping in in Bryce Canyon so you don’t have to.

While camping, you can fill a large nalgene (or other water) bottle with hot water before bed, and put it in your sleeping bag for extra warmth all night! If you find the surface a little burn-y to your skin, you can wrap a bandana around the bottle.

Yours Truly, wearing 9 layers to make up for freezing in my 32F sleeping bag since it was 25F in Bryce Canyon. I look a bit of a gremlin in my clothes + K’s clothes, but I do feel warmer.

Bonus warmth points if you drink all the water once you wake up. Staying hydrated, friends!

Also see: Pro-Tip Tuesday: Alt Uses for Your Water Bottle While on the Road 1

What alternative uses do you have for your nalgene bottle? Please share!

Pro-Tip Tuesday:
Alt Uses for a Water Bottle While on the Road 1

Discovery in the desert, Moab, Utah near Arches National Park:

While on the road, you can use a large Nalgene bottle (or other water bottle) as a stand-in for a foam roller to roll out your thighs and other muscles, a great plus if you, say, went for a hike while car camping and have sore muscles! For my petite frame, my size water bottle worked (see slightly awkward feature photo for this post). If you have larger thighs, try a longer water bottle. Gonna be thirsty anyway.

For a video demo: Kinetic Sports Rehab’s Youtube video on how to foam roll your quads, my local neighborhood therapist.

For other ideas on foam roller usage: Runner’s World Foam Roller How-to

Also see: Pro-Tip Tuesday: Alt Uses for a Water Bottle While on the Road 2