Oral hygiene in the land of strong people

In our Pakistan and Afghanistan, this is how the strong folks brush their teeth. You bite off a bit of the bark of the "miswak" (arak tree twig) to expose the fibrous core, and scrub your teeth. The juice destroys bacteria. Don't need any of that paste. You can use a twig for a week. I also remember using rolled mango leaves and neem twigs for oral hygiene in childhood days. Let me know if you want to try the miswak, I usually have a few fresh twigs in my bag.

Taking the wrong bus

"And the heat. Your shirt is straightaway a rag. You can hardly remember your name, or what you came to escape from. But at night, there's a breeze. The river is beautiful."

Tourane, now known as Danang. 

The quote is from the movie "The Quiet American". It was filmed in the nearby town of Hoi An. Danang is my favorite city in VN, even though no one ever goes there much. If you are here, you are probably transiting, or you took the wrong bus. I often take the wrong bus.

The contraband

You hear Thai voices outside and you know that the van it is here. The larger immigrant community have their own ethnic enclaves, but the smaller ones have to make do with such mobile stores. The van has stuff from all over Thailand - condiments, snacks and food. Half a dozen Thai women are around the truck, grabbing the best stuff. I know better not to join the raid - I won't stand a chance.  These ladies are from the neighbourhood Thai spas. They get stronger by the day, squeezing, stretching, and manipulating out of shape, big car driving neighbourhood clientele. I let them have their pick. I concentrate all my mental gaze on that box of pad kra pao gai (minced chicken), hoping that I can make it invisible till the ladies leave.

Soap, shampoo and shaving gel alternatives

Often on the road, I ended up spending a lot of time looking for small bottles of soaps and shampoos. The airport security will get you to dispose bigger bottles and tubes. I wasn’t happy making more mess in this world of ours. For some time I have been looking for natural replacement.

At Fernloft Hostel, Singapore.

I am using lime juice as soap and shampoo. I have found that lime juice substitutes well as a deodorant too. Coconut oil is great for shaving, no need of shaving gel or foam. And you don’t need moisturizer after the shave.I am experimenting using eucalyptus oil as a replacement for chemical mosquito repellent. 

Eating well while traveling

These days, I try to prepare my own meal. Most hostels have microwave. A head of broccoli takes about 2 minutes on medium heat to cook. Cut into small pieces, place in a ziplock bag. Don’t seal the bag. Careful with the steam when you unload into a bowl. 

Indonesia, Flores and Sempu Island

Wall art in Surabaya

Fufu, our journalist and traveler friend from Indonesia,  introduces us to some of the lesser visited places. She also talks about the Jazz scene in Indonesia and some places in her hometown Surabaya where you can interact with the locals. The song at the end is “Kampuang Nan Jauh Dimato” by The Upstairs.


Visiting Flores – one of the lesser visited, larger islands in Indonesia

Flores –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flores

Riung – 17 islands – http://www.indonesia.travel/en/destination/874/the-paradisical-17-islands-riung-marine-park-of-flores

If you are in Java (where the capital Jakarta is) and have a couple of days, try visiting Sempu Island

Pulau Sempu (Sempu Island) – http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297710-d3296788-Reviews-Sempu_Island-Malang_East_Java_Java.html

If you end up in Surabaya, and want to make local friends, head to these places.

Taman Bungkul – http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297715-d3974881-Reviews-Taman_Bungkul-Surabaya_East_Java_Java.html

House of Sampoerna  – http://houseofsampoerna.museum/e_visitorinfo_openinghours.htm

Jazz festivals in Indonesia

Java Jazz – http://www.javajazzfestival.com/

Jazz Gunung – http://www.indonesia.travel/en/event/detail/868/jazz-gunung-2014-jazzin-up-mount-bromo

Song at the end, thanks for the band for releasing the song under a Creative Commons License

“Kampuang Nan Jauh Dimato” by The Upstairs – http://freemusicarchive.org/music/The_Upstairs/CCIDAP2012/06_Kampuang_Nan_Jauh_Dimato

This travelspy podcast is also available under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

We like pretty

I grew up in a country, and in a time, where products were mostly designed for utility, and how they looked was secondary. In 1980s Bombay, we used to fetishize images of cars and gadgets that we glimpsed on the pages of foreign magazines. Even in the 1990s and early 2000s companies like Nokia or Dell would produce a utilitarian model for the mass and a “posh” model for those who would pay more. In the late 1990s, when I started traveling, I often heard from people that companies like Apple would never succeed in Asia, as the price point is too high, and most audiences did not care for the design. 

The other day I was in Phnom Penh, near Soriya Mall and I spotted a shop selling a slick plastic cases - not for phones - but for household cooking gas cylinders!!.  

Backpacking in South East Asia, and the best hostels

The Shophouse

The Shophouse, one of our favourite budget places in Singapore

Prabhu is a prolific backpacker. He has good experience traveling around South East Asia. We talked about budget stays in Singapore, backpacker places in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. The appeal of Indonesia and diving trips to Malaysian islands.

01:11 – Prabhu’s top budget accommodation picks in Singpore and why?  Shophouse, Hong Kong Street – Rivercity Inn, Lavender Street – Rucksack Inn

2:14 – Why stay in hostels?

2:55 – Favorite hostels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Sunshine Bedz

04:15 – Favorite backpacker hangout  – Discovery Cafe in Melaka (Malaysia)

05:00 – Old Penang Guesthouse in Penang

05:35 – Backpacking in Vietnam – The Old Quarter of Hanoi

06:20 – What is the main difference staying in the hostels in Singapore versus staying in hostels in other destinations in South East Asia

07:20 – Beginning backpacking in Seam Reap –  7 USD for stay with a pool – Jasmine

08:43 – Traveling in Indonesia – Local hostel owner most keen to show the city

12:00 – Travel experience in Indonesia from a Indian traveler’s point of view

13:40 – Owners running a guest house  just to meet other travellers

14:25 – How does one connecting with locals while traveling

16:00 – Hanoi Morning Tours

17:57 – Diving trips out of Singapore – How to plan weekend dive trips to Malaysia (Tioman and Pehrentians) over a weekend

21:20 – Traveling to Sarawak and Sabah (Borneo)

Explore Phnom Penh with a local

We talk to Phnom Penh resident Kounila about her city. Kounila has recommendations on places to stay, eat, relax and play.

Phnom Penh resident Kounila shares her recommendations on accommodation, eats, cafes and nightlife. Use the time code below to move to the area in the audio that interests you.

00:00: The places to stay in Phnom Penh – Street 172. Near National Museum. BKK2 and BKK3
0:55 : Head to Sissowath Quay for fancier hotels
1:30 : No need to change currency if you are bringing in US dollars
02:00: Going from the airport to the city
2:30: Cafes and working from Cafes in Phnom Penh. Kiriya Cafe, Wings Coffee,
4:25: Kok Ouk Mmor -Japanese restaurant favoured by some locals
4:52: Korean food
6:00: North Korean restaurants
6:15: Indian Restaurants – Just skip the rest and go to Taste Budz
0:655: WiFi everywhere in Cambodia
07:10 Blue Pumpkin – Ice creams and fun place to hangout
07:30: For late night hangouts go to Street 172. The end of the street near Soria Shopping Centre is party till late
8:55. Trips outside Phnom Penh (about 1 to 2 hours). Ba Khaeng and Tonle Bati
10:10: For weekend trips visit Kompot or Kep (around 3 hours drive)
11:00 Check out WheninPhnomPenh.com, Reviews from local point of view.
11:55: Check out metahouse.com and ladypenh.com

Introducing Kimchi Dosa

It is said that Koreans form one of the biggest expatriate community in India. But what’s the point if we still have not combined the greatest frood from the two countries. As someone who was born in India but has Korean stomach, I decided to myself undertake this responsibility. Presenting the kimchi dosa.

Here is the humble dosa, a staple South Indian food. And Cabbage Kimchi from our Korea.

Combine the two and you get healthy and crunchy Kimchi Dosa.