Author Archives | Brian

George Town: The Foodie Capital That Wasn’t

Bowl of noodles, George Town, Penang

A rather tasteless and unpleasant bowl of noodles

We arrived in George Town, Penang, with high expectations and rumbling bellies. Our expectations were set by the countless articles we had read describing this small island city as the foodie capital of Malaysia. Some folks went so far as to crown George Town’s street food as the best in all of Asia, which is high praise considering how outrageously delicious we found northern-Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.

Our empty stomachs, meanwhile, were the result of a strategic decision to skip lunch on our way into town. We were so eager to get started we wanted to hit the ground chewing.

And while we came to George Town hungry, we didn’t land blind. Before arriving we read extensively about what to eat in this provincial capitol. Somehow, though, none of the articles we devoured told us anything about when to eat. It’s almost like they withheld the secret decoder ring to the city. Even after a week of trying, we never did figure it out.

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This is Your Trip on Tour

Shannon and I have never been big consumers of packaged tours. But that’s not because we’re too travel-snobby for them. We really do believe there are tons of great reasons to take a packaged tour, and we don’t generally look down on people who utilize them (except when they exhibit symptoms of “Tour Brain“).

Mostly we don’t use tours for our personal travels because we prefer to do our own thing, at our own pace, and on our own schedule. That’s not really possible as part of a group so we tend to avoid them.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed another problem with group travel. As I recently watched waves of cruise and bus crowds wash into place after place, clog streets and cafes for a time, and then roll out again like an ebbing tide, it occurred to me that tour members must experience every destination while standing amongst an an omnipresent horde.

This is your trip on a tour

Not only do they step off the bus as one giant mass of humanity, but their transport often arrives at exactly the same moment as every other bus is unloading its own payload of packaged tourists. It’s a recipe for instant mayhem at every stop. And that seems like something every tour participant must necessarily endure.

I guess that’s why we hear so many people complaining about crowds. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The great thing about tour groups is that they eventually go back to their buses.

We’ve found that a side benefit of our style of slow travel is that we can usually outwait the masses. Instead of day-tripping into a place with everyone else, we’ll stay at least overnight and oftentimes longer. That way we can enjoy the destination before everyone else’s bus rolls into town and then get to toast them a joyous bon voyage as they leave.

How Not to Achieve Balance in Your Life

In what has to be the most dystopian ad campaign ever, Microsoft has released a new info-graphic demonstrating how we can fill all of those unproductive moments in our lives with something totally worthwhile, like meetings. 

Work on vacation

It goes without saying that everyone wants to work on vacation, because what’s the point of going someplace different if you can’t swaddle yourself in the same exact bullshit you deal with every other day of your life?

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Why We Love Much-Maligned Siem Reap

1$ Tapas night at Ivy Guesthouse is hard to beat

1$ Tapas night at Ivy Guesthouse is hard to beat

Siem Reap gets no respect. It’s true, it’s a western enclave. There isn’t much to see in town, and it exists mostly as a basecamp for Angkor Wat. And if you’re looking for immersion in Cambodian culture, this isn’t where you want to be. But having said all of that, it’s wrong to conclude, as so many people do, that Siem Reap isn’t “real” or is somehow inauthentic. Siem Reap is very much a real city, albeit a heavily westernized one. I say that because there are plenty of places in the world where people live and work that are very much like Siem Reap. We know, because we used to live in, and still love, one such place.

To us Siem Reap felt like the Hoboken of South East Asia. Now that probably doesn’t mean anything to anyone who hasn’t lived in our former city, but suffice it to say, Siem Reap felt a bit like home to us.

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Lessons Learned: Tips for Touring Angkor Wat Like a Pro

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We spent seven days in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and three days exploring the temples of Angkor Wat. Here are some of the things we wish we knew before arriving at the largest religious monument in the world.

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