If any of you have become regular readers of “Business Insider”, you might have have read about an incredible $74 round-trip price from Newark to London in business class. In their article on February 11 at 8:39 am they had the following things to say about this “deal.”
This might be the deal of the year.
United Airlines is offering travelers first-class tickets from London to Newark, roundtrip, for 487 Danish krone. At 6.58 krone per dollar, that comes out to $74. Newark is just minutes outside of New York City. DansDeals found this first.
(The original article can be found here: United Airlines First Class Tickets )
I have a few problems with this. Firstly, the author is referring to this as a deal that “United airlines is offering.” My first reaction was that such a phrase did not seem a very genuine description of what was most likely going on. At least in my opinion it implies that United offered these rates intentionally. But…I’ll get to that later.
I don’t see these fares as deals offered by anyone. I see them as glitches that a person could potentially take advantage of, but that the person is not entitled to.
In my niche, we call these glitches “mistake-fares.” They are fares that the airline does not intend to offer, but because of a glitch in the pricing process, the price gets listed and programmed as much lower than intended. Often times it’s a coding issue of some kind, leaving off a fuel surcharge for instance.
No surprise, just a few hours later Business Insider UK reported that the “deal” was dead.
That is indeed the norm for such “deals,” or rather, mistakes. The reality is, these prices only last until the airline or aggregator realizes the issue and fixes it. And the more people are chatting about the deals online or in widely-read media outlets such as Business Insider, and the more people who are purchasing the fare, the more quickly the airline or aggregator will catch on to the issue.
Now, I have no problem with a great deal getting exposure so that lots of people can take advantage of it, (if the airline ultimately decides to honor the rate). The risk however, is that someone may misunderstand the glitch as an intentional deal and may try to call the airline asking about it.
There are all sorts of reasons people call when they’re booking a trip. Perhaps a person can’t find availability for the time they’re interested in or perhaps they want to make sure the rate will be honored.
But the key thing to realize with these mistake fares is that they are (except perhaps in a few suspicious cases that look a bit like publicity stunts) almost certainly unintentional. And therefore not a single person is entitled to anything more than a refund. Thus, the airline in no way needs to help you understand or book this accidental fare.
I can’t be more clear about this: if you are booking a mistake-fare like this one, do not call the airline to ask about it unless you genuinely wish to end the deal. If you feel a moral obligation to let the airline know about the mistake-rate so that they can end it, then I am certainly not going to be the person to tell you not to do that. Go for it. But that is the only effect calling will have.
You can consider this my little “mistake-fare” PSA: if you call the airline about its mistake-fare, they will shut the rate down.
Now, earlier I referenced a bit of distaste for how Business Insider referred to the fare as something United was offering. But since my initial read-through of BI’s article, I came across another article by View From The Wing that sheds light on why an author might not describe such a deal as a mistake-fare.
According to VFTW’s article, the DOT is possibly reconsidering its current stance holding airlines accountable t0 honor such fares. Apparently the DOT is seeking a way to defend the consumers who honestly think the low rate is a real rate while not letting other consumers (who see through it as a mistake) get away with knowingly taking advantage of the mistaken rate. While I can’t begin to fathom what the DOT will end up doing about this concern, the distinction between consumers who are naive of a mistake and those who are suspicious of it seems to provide an incentive for journalists and bloggers to remain vague about low rates, publishing no assumptions as to whether or not the rate is a mistake.
Whether or not Business Insider knows that this rate was most likely a mistake, I have no idea. But when you see a rate that’s too good to be true, know that it probably is. And therefore, don’t call the airline about it and, if you want to be extra cautious, don’t publish anything online about it either!
Hometown: I come from an average size city in Northern Poland. Name won’t ring a bell to anybody.
Quote: “Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.” – Lisa St Aubin de Teran
Many people head to southern Thailand for beaches, islands, and the relaxed vibe of coastal life. Ao Nang is a bit more relaxed than larger cities like Phuket but still has a vibrant tourist draw and is an easy jumping-off point for many activities like rock climbing, island tours, beach lounging, hiking, and diving.
Cost of living:
If you’re trying to save cash and are settling down for a while, a monthly rental can be found here for about 9,000 baht if you’re willing to stay a few kilometers away from the main beach area. Doing this will save you cash and the restaurants and shops get cheaper as you move farther from the beach. A scooter rental will cost you 250 baht per day or only 3,000 baht per month. If you were to eat all three meals a day at restaurants, your daily food allowance would need to be between 350-500 baht per person. However, stocking up on groceries and eating breakfast and/or lunch at home can save some cash and drop your daily food costs down to 150-250 baht per day. Prices at restaurants can more than triple when you get to the main beach strip and the quality of food isn’t any better. Sometimes you have to give in and spend 200 baht on that piña colada so you can watch the sunset at a beachside bar.
Growing up in Long Island, New York, my comfort zone was very small. I certainly never thought I’d leave that tiny suburban town for other coasts or other shores. After that first trip abroad everything changed. I had no idea then that harnessing fear of the unknown would be the thing that actually facilitated a growth spurt for my ever so tiny comfort zone. Little by little it started to grow and although, at times the fear tries to blur the lines, the desire of that comfort zone to stretch continues to win out. Almost twenty years after I graduated from a small university outside of Boston, I’m actively exploding that zone wide open and travel, for me, has been the blasting tool.
Even with strife and destruction happening daily in the world, I’ve yet to ever find a reason why the decision to travel could be a bad one. Day after day there’s sadness and devastation with people who aim to do evil striking at the heart of good. I’m not suggesting to directly put oneself in the line of fire or to go where those in the know say to heed, but travel will always open doors, help to defy stereotypes and change the world one traveler at a time.
Travel continues to provide endless gifts of perspective, growth, understanding and compassion. Comfort zones are great, but as we all know, minimal growth happens in them. Learning happens each time those boundaries are pushed and with even the slightest bit of movement, people are forever changed. Have you ever traveled by yourself and noticed those fears creeping in when what would be an adventure with a friend feels like disaster waiting to happen? Have you ever muttered the words ‘I’d never do this at home’ with a smile knowing that some sort of magic is about to happen even though you have no idea what, where or when? Have you ever found yourself wandering down a foreign land’s street filled with insane chaos, maddening sounds, bustling crowds, endless odors thinking just how different this is to your ‘normal Tuesday’ and how utterly amazing it is that you’re enjoying yourself as much as you are? We continue to surprise ourselves, if only we let ourselves.
Strange as it may sound – boundaries are pushed and comfort zones are meant to expand. As we grow, we learn of what we’re capable, what scares us and what, just maybe, we might want to push through. It’s the feeling of that little one finally letting go of a few fingers when she learns to cross the street or shouting, ‘let go, let go’ when he tries to take off on that first two-wheeler ride. Parents stand proudly by watching as that fine line swarms around them wondering, ‘do I run after him to keep hold or let him see what he can do on his own’. Now, we’re those grown up little ones guarding our choices and teetering on the edge of can I or can’t I, will I or won’t I and pushing ourselves to take that risk knowing that we’ll be alright whatever the outcome. Each leap really is one of leaps and bounds.
Travel has been the force propelling me forward. That desire to see the world, visit other destinations, meet new people, experience and wonder has frightened me, pushed me, amazed me and changed me. It gave me direction when I had little. It showed me paths that I would have never before taken. It introduced me to impactful people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. It showed me that different isn’t bad, difficult is worth the struggle and that change shouldn’t only scare me. I owe a debt to travel and the best way I know to repay it is to keep on going and thanking travel each day for helping me to explode that comfort zone.
Things I never thought I could…and did!
Jump into the edge of Victoria Falls
Go on an around the world honeymoon
Make my way through a language barrier
Walk with lions
Road trip across the USA
Quit my job to travel
How do you explode your comfort zone? How did a travel experience push your boundaries?
For more of Stacey’s travel musings, check out her blog.
Every now and then long-term travel is rough.
The lifestyle of never remaining in one city or continent for more than a few months requires commitment and sacrifice.
Traveling alone means experiencing days and occasionally weeks without making friends and starting over in a new place can seem tedious.
When this happens, travelers often feel overwhelmed with homesickness, wishing for old friends and all the comforts of home.
Through my experience on the road, I have learned long-term travel requires determination, but the rewards and perks of this astounding lifestyle outweigh the battle of loneliness.
Let’s talk about a few ways to combat loneliness on the road.
Embrace Your Feelings
Loneliness is a good feeling. When it is creeping up on you, use it as a time for personal growth. With no one around, there is ample time to reflect on your adventures and how traveling has transformed you as a person.
Reflection is a tool to help us learn more about ourselves. Evaluate the lessons the road has taught and ponder where your path might lead.
Embrace your loneliness. Within a short period of time, you will feel renewed and excited for the journey ahead.
Beginning a project is a vital way to keep loneliness from entering your mind. If you are journaling, video editing, or photo sorting; long hours in trains, buses, and airports become desirable.
For example, many times my travel blog, and other projects keeps me extremely busy. I often look forward to alone time so I can get caught up. I don’t even have a chance to get lonely.
Find something you are passionate, or start a travel job and pour yourself into it when you start to feel alone.
We live in the golden age of travel. With easy access to Ipads, laptops, and smart phones the world is easily accessible. New discoveries and knowledge are just clicks away.
When I started traveling, I promised myself every day I would try to improve as a person.
One goal was teach myself a new language. This not only took my mind off of being alone, but also gave me a better cultural understanding of the countries I was visiting.
Use loneliness for self-improvement and you will not only become a better person but a more responsible traveler.
Remember Your Goals
Having travel goals is one of the best ways to deal with loneliness on the road.
Goals help keep long-term travelers focused and are a continual reminder of why traveling is important.
Whether you want to see every country in the world or to just sip wine under the Eiffel Tower, goals keep your ship pointed north when it wants to go astray.
Talk to Strangers
This is going against everything you mother taught you since you were two years old, but one lesson the road teaches quickly is that 99% of people want to help.
If you are missing home or feeling alone, just start talking to someone in the area.
Chances are you will make a new friend which can ease loneliness.
I’ve seen loneliness break travelers and honestly, it has almost broken me a few times.
Knowing how to deal with loneliness is vital for any long-term traveler.
While the feeling is not always pleasant, it can be a gift to learn more about yourself, break out of your shell, and grow as a person.
While I already have quite a few posts about what travel hacking is, I think ultra-beginners to the topic can benefit from hearing about it in a context of what it ISN’T as well. Because to be honest, the media has picked up on bits and pieces of the travel hacking hobby and…as is often the case with the media…twisted it into the most sensationalist version possible.
For instance my husband and I were approached by a TV scout once and it was painfully obvious that he wanted the travel hacking of days past. He wanted us to have stories of digging through airport trash-cans for ticket stubs we could turn in for miles.
Well that’s (mostly) not how it works anymore.
So in case you too have heard bits and pieces about travel hacking from the media, let me clarify what it isn’t.
1.) Travel hacking is not illegal.
If you’ve heard about the unfortunate situation Aktarer Zaman is now dealing with because of a computer program he was using to help people book “throw away tickets” that would make their trips cheaper, this point may seem a bit confusing.
But let’s be clear about the fact that there is a difference between breaking a law and breaking terms and conditions of a program/product or service. Technically the strategy Zaman was using on a large scale was against United’s terms and conditions. (Article II, Item 31 includes “throwaway ticketing” in the definition of “prohibited practices.) So that means United absolutely has a problem with what he is doing and can absolutely attempt to sue him if they wish.
But Zaman’s “throwaway ticket strategy” is one thing. Basic travel hacking is another.
Most travel hacking practices are NOT in violation of terms and conditions and are instead simply designed to take full advantage of existing benefits. For instance getting a credit card with a mileage bonus even if you aren’t otherwise interested in the card. This is the most common travel hacking strategy for earning miles and is neither against terms and conditions nor illegal. It’s simply intentional.
But aside from the debate of whether or not these practices are or are not against terms and conditions, travel hacking strategies are not against the law. It is not illegal to collect and use points, even if you do so obsessively. It is not illegal to do what you want with your own credit, applying for or canceling cards as you wish.
2.) Travel hacking did indeed inspire the pudding-cup part of “Punch Drunk Love”, but it’s hardly ever that interesting anymore.
Once upon a time “Healthy Choice” decided to give away a certain amount of miles for various products if you mailed in the labels. A man who the travel-hacker community calls “Pudding Guy” discovered the cheapest item included in the promotion was a 25 cent pudding cup so he went all out and bought over a million miles’ worth of pudding cups. You can read more about his incredible story on his wikipedia page and of course, you can catch the reference in Adam Sandler’s Punch Drunk Love.
His is not the only amusing story about mileage enthusiasts buying pallets of food they didn’t intend on eating because of mileage promotions, but I don’t expect many more for current or future enthusiasts.
Why? That’s just not the trend of marketing these days for products outside of the credit-card world. More and more mileage earning opportunities are appearing in credit-card bonuses and spending rather than other markets.
Perhaps a new movie will come out including a scene inspired by obsessive credit-card collection, but I doubt it will seem as entertaining as the obsessive collection of pudding cups.
3.) Travel hacking isn’t the “extreme couponing” of travel because not everyone can do it.
Many people have compared travel-hacking to extreme couponing, but the truth is there is one very important difference between travel hacking and extreme couponing. Not just anyone can be a travel hacker.
The core strategies of travel hacking are accumulating miles via credit cards. This means you need to have a good credit score to get anywhere in this hobby. Sure, there are few strategies that don’t require a good credit score, but the bulk of travel-hacking comes down to collecting rewards credit-cards. And these are the kinds of credit cards that will require good credit.
Not to mention it is significantly more difficult for non-US residents to pursue travel-hacking. Again, this has to do with the trends we see in various marketing strategies as well as the credit-card culture of various countries. Europe for instance just does not have the same kind of credit-card culture that we do in the US.
4.) Travel hacking isn’t backpacking.
If you’re earning hotel points in addition to frequent flyer miles, you will find yourself staying in fewer and fewer hostels. Why? Because they’re honestly not as cheap as the free luxury hotel you could get by using hotel-points.
Ironic as it is, it’s true. We spent over a week at the InterContinental Fiji for free using points.
Now, sometimes I kind of miss the social aspect of hostel-life. It certainly serves a purpose other than just budget. But when I want a free place to stay, the luxury hotel is where I’ll be.
Maybe this article doesn’t spell out exactly what travel-hacking is, but hopefully if you thought you knew what it was, this article has helped to clarify some of the common misconceptions.
Traveling slowly with my husband across Southeast Asia has been a great way to leave our jobs and lives in Canada behind to explore the world on a small budget. It also means we spend a lot of time together. Every meal, every walk, every bus ride to a new city, is together. Where once we saw each other only in the evenings and on weekends, we now see each other all the time. Where we once had schedules and habitual activities alone, there was now a much more shared and aligned schedule. This is fine, really, but we don’t always agree that something is worth our time or energy. Sometimes we need to split off and spend some time apart.
When we were living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I felt the need to take our scooter to some neighboring towns to see other temples, other roads, other food stalls. This little adventure interested only me so I took off down the highway with the scooter and left the husband behind to revel in his alone time with his fantasy football activities. I put a single earbud in, had Google maps speak directions to me and put on some music. I immediately got lost on a small residential road due to my inability to grasp the distance of 200 metres and turned too soon. I almost ran over a chicken that was literally crossing the road (why it was crossing the road is beyond us all.) Once back on the highway, I decided to trust the navigator voice and made my way south on Highway 106 to Lamphun. The drive passed under towering rubber trees that lined the road and went in and out of clouds of incense and smoke from barbecued pork. Each rotund tree had an orange swatch of fabric tied to it, indicating it was blessed by monks, therefore protecting it from logging. The roots had overgrown past the road and were pushing up the pavement along the edges. I took it slow and drove only as fast as I wanted with Blood Orange’s Chamakay setting the mood.
I stopped at a couple of different wats (temples) in Lamphun: Wat Phra That Hariphunchai and Wat Kukut respectively. The first was almost deserted compared to the wats I had visited in Chiang Mai. No more than four tourists and about five or so Buddhist monks were wandering the grounds. This was a much more peaceful way to visit a wat than pushed around in a throng of tourists, constantly moving and talking over each other. Little bells blew around in the wind and broke the silence with soft tinkling sounds like wind chimes. Wat Kukut was completely deserted. The only human I saw was a Thai man who came into the front gates briefly to release a small bird from a tiny wicker cage and then leave. I had a great opportunity to take my time and photograph every small detail that fascinated me: small wooden elephants casting long shadows, tiny figurines placed in flower pots and along walls, standing Buddhas along the walls of the chedis, catching just the right amount of light on my lens.
On the way back to Chiang Mai, I waited at a stoplight and saw a small girl staring at me from the car beside me. She shyly opened her window and waved. I waved back from my scooter with a big smile and saw the delight in her face right as the light turned and I sped off up the rubber tree highway, Kanye West’s Bad News taking me home.
Had my husband been with me, this day trip would have looked quite different. On the back of our scooter I would have been navigator, looking at my phone and directing rather than driving at my own pace, stopping whenever I wanted, and taking my time in the deserted wats. I probably wouldn’t have had my headphones in. Sometimes it’s nice to have a soundtrack of my favorite music to accompany an experience. It was nice to have a day that was my own with my own agenda. If we had been on a short two-week vacation, we would have been rushing to maximize our time and fit as many activities into our schedule as possible. A day trip to Lamphun wouldn’t have been considered when there are flashier attractions nearby that we would both enjoy. It’s a healthy exercise to spend time alone and be forced to rely on your own strengths and spend time with your thoughts as you travel. Growing up as an only child, this was standard. Spending time alone used to come so naturally to me. Since being married, I can sometimes forget the way my brain works and thinks differently alone. While it is an incredible journey my husband and I have taken on together, having a solo adventure here and there has enriched the overall experience.
To read more about Maryanne’s travel adventures check out Unknown Home.
We long-term travelers sometimes get caught up in the length of a trip. We advocate taking a year to backpack, using a summer break to explore the far corners of the earth, and digging into a new culture for longer than the average winter break from school. There is a reason we do this- long-term travel has limitless benefits. But what about the shorter trip? The weekend getaway, the week spent across the border, the brief vacation between longer journeys? We forget sometimes that these shorter trips have benefits as well.
Brief trips can be windows into what we want to see next. For some, shorter trips are like dipping their toes in the water to see what they can do, what they can handle. For others, shorter trips can be a respite from the day to day- even if the day to day is being experienced on the road. As any long-term traveler knows, traveling quickly resembles any other “normal” life in many ways. Bills still have to be paid, planning must be done, visas need to be obtained or renewed, hostel rooms must be cleaned, dentists may need to be visited. Of course there are long walks on beaches, spectacular sunsets, unbelievable meals, personal growth on many levels, and conversations with locals that go on for hours but long-term travel is not always glamorous and for many it’s just… life!
So why do we turn our collective noses up when others describe shorter trips? After all, more than one of us has visited a hot spring in Guatemala to “get away” for the weekend and many of us have taken advantage of a visa run across the border to enjoy a brief “vacation” of sorts. If even we, the never-conform-travel-until-we-drop tribe, need a brief change of scenery every now and then, why do we deny the same need in those who live the “normal” life?
There is no denying the benefits of long-term travel and I am admittedly one of “those people” who thinks everyone should take a genuinely long trip at least once in their lives, thinks every education should include a major travel component before it is considered “completed”, and believes that exploring unfamiliar countries, corners, cultures, and cuisines is best done in a deep manner without regard or how many stamps have been collected. I believe in long-term travel as much as the next traveler. But I also recognize the regenerative nature of the short trip.
I am currently writing in Fort Myers, Florida. It is not exactly my idea of a dream destination but it is warm and sunny none the less. We will only be here for a few short days- hardly long-term travel. Previous to this, my husband and I traded our constant journeying to spend one year, somewhat cooped up in upstate NY, homeschooling two lovely young people. The experience of co-creating individualized educations for two unique individuals is wonderful. Right now, it also happens to be hard work in a cold area of the world. The snow hits our tiny area and we can’t even get out of the driveway. My wanderlust is screaming from within on most days. There is so much I love about how we spend our days and yet… there is so very much I need a break from. So, we packed up the car and drove all the way down to Florida to visit family, get re-accqauinted with Vitamin D, and, most importantly, to enjoy a change of scenery. Do I wish I were in Thailand, snorkeling by day and enjoying a coconut by night? Do I wish I were planning our next visa run, getting ready to cross another border? Sometimes. But for now, a day spent on the beach, searching for shells, is enough to recharge these batteries.
Sometimes I think there is a belief that if you can’t get away for months at a time that it “isn’t worth it”. I wonder what “it” is because sometimes a short trip can lift spirits, bring already existent perspective into focus, and make life seem exciting again. All of those “its” are certainly worth something!
How many of us can think back to our first weekend in NYC, our first week spent on the beach in Costa Rica, our first three week cross-country trip with family, our first weekend camping trip, our first class trip to France? Even those short trips were enough to get us excited about exploring and planted the very first seeds of wanderlust. Digging deep into a foreign land and culture is beyond amazing but, in truth, feeling that wonderful sense of freedom as you drive coast to coast, in a borrowed car, within the boundaries of your own home country can be pretty amazing as well.
Life is truly a journey. It cannot really be broken up into segments of experiences as it all flows together and creates the one unique path we are traveling. Short or long, any travel is a part of shaping our experience of the world. Next time your cousin tells you he is headed to Mexico for a week, fight the urge to tell him it “isn’t worth it” unless he can go for longer. Instead, smile, wish him well, and take joy in knowing that he will soon experience a break from his own “norm”- a break that just might expand any number of things for him. If you can muster that, than maybe you can cross your fingers that his wanderlust will grow If it doesn’t, at least you know you might have a buddy for those mini-breaks you’ll inevitably need from your own long-term journeys!
What do you think? Do short trips have their own value?
Stroll past the dozens of stalls serving food to the fascinated tourists excitedly pointing at giant, steaming woks of noodles, dried sticks of skewered insects and whirring blenders filled with local fruits, and you’ll find the experience to be an exquisite assault on the senses. Bright lights above each stall harshly illuminate the menus, which are rarely also in English. If the menu can even be seen through the steam and smoke from the never-ending cooking, the blended smells will only confound customers looking for something recognizable for dinner.
Although the intense variety of culinary choices attracts some foreigners to Thailand, many more are drawn by the comparatively low cost of living. Begin always by knowing what the currency conversion rate is so you can have a strong understanding of what prices really are. One Canadian dollar works out to about thirty Thai baht, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on being precise; Thailand ends up being so cheap that it’s not worth counting pennies over it.
Chiang Mai is a city that is always in motion, yet retains the slow, old-world charm that Bangkok seems to have long ago left behind. The centre of Thailand’s second-biggest city is a grouping of several blocks consisting mostly of old temples, schools, and residences, and shaped almost as a perfect square. Protecting the old city is its moat that symbolically keeps modernity from encroaching too far inside. The food, however, hasn’t been able to maintain the same degree of separation from the influences of the new millennium and the globalization that increased tourism brings.
For the traveller looking for something delicious and different from the norm, Chiang Mai not only offers reliable favourites, such as the ubiquitous Pad Thai and green curries, but lesser-known meals such as Khao Soi and Som Tam salad can be sampled for about a dollar. International dishes are very easy to locate, as one can find a bacon burger or cheese pizza being served beside someone else grilling an entire squid over a barrel fire.
The way to really travel and eat cheaply is to seek out the food stalls and put aside any unfounded lingering fears over the possibility of food poisoning. Cooks take great pride in serving tourists something authentic, clean, memorable, and probably a little spicier than expected. It can all be done without making a significant dent in anyone’s wallet.
Typically, a cheap walking-street dinner is done by visiting several carts that sell a few bites of some sort of tasty local dish. A meal might start with a light appetizer, perhaps a fried spring roll, sliced curry sausage, or a piece of grilled chicken on a skewer. Patrons jostle for the vendor’s attention, and those clutching exact change will find their order quickly filled. My large elbows are a blessing in times of hunger, and my stomach thanks them for their unwieldy size as they help keep my position at the front of the queue. I’m not a monster, I’m just hungry.
In Chiang Mai, it’s crucial to try the regional dishes that are nearly impossible to find back home, and that includes Khao Soi. With neither pictures nor translation for one to point to, the cook will only need to shout its name and everyone will know what to expect. Served in a bowl, it is a wonderful lightly spiced chicken curry sauce poured over fried yellow noodles, topped with pickled vegetables, often accompanied by a stewed chicken drumstick. The server directs customers to sit at a nearby folding table and it is lined with locals working their way through their own bowls. One serving could fill the void in most travellers’ stomachs, yet I must remind myself to avoid the compulsion to order a second bowl, for Khao Soi is oily, and there remain far too many other things to try.
A voracious appetite might need a plate of Som Tam to fill the cracks at this point. It’s a papaya-based salad that is tossed with sweet and spicy ingredients, mixed with a clay mortar and pestle only at the moment it is ordered. Although sublimely refreshing, Som Tam can set one’s mouth ablaze if proper care is not taken as to the level of hot pepper added; it has the potential to create a serious need to guzzle a gallon of ice water or beer. Speaking of beer, the cheapest brand of lager is Chang, followed by Leo, Tiger, and Singha. None is particularly remarkable in terms of quality, but I am not one to complain about cold beer after spicy food.
Dessert is acceptable, no matter how full the last three dishes have made anyone feel. On the off-chance that fried dough with sweet milk seems too heavy, there is always the Thai classic: ancient ice cream. Ancient ice cream surprises most with its rectangular shape, and that it is served on a stick. Made with coconut milk and ice, individual portions are cut from large slabs, and can be eaten as is, or inside a piece of bread. With no dearth of flavours from which to choose, the usual suspects such as vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry are common favourites. While coffee, caramel, and coconut are some of the more subtle flavours, the few brave will try durian, matcha, or maybe red bean. The alternative to ice cream is roti, a flattened piece of soft dough, which can then be filled with bananas, chocolate, egg, or any sweet fruits, then fried gently on a large pan. It is wrapped up in itself, chopped into bite-sized morsels, and never runs more than a buck fifty.
The reaction inside my body at this point of dinner is overwhelming. It is not from excessive spice, nor is it something possibly undercooked that my stomach is trying to digest. The feeling is one of incredulity at how much time I’ve wasted in life not eating this amazing cuisine. It is appreciation for the opportunity to travel just to appease the foodie nature of the heart. It is a sense of smug satisfaction at having spent only four dollars on stuffing my belly so completely that I feel like giving away the rest of my budgeted money. It is contentment. Chiang Mai is accessible to the world, and it is a place of deep exploration for the lovers of food. It can be pursued and discovered again and again in every meal eaten.
Tony Hajdu writes more over at Unknown Home. Head over there and bookmark it!
Always travel with snacks. Eat local. Taste the street food. Try the cuisine specific to this culture. Have you ever had something so delicious? These are all things travelers hear when heading to a new destination. But for me, some places are harder while others make my taste buds soar with delight. I’ve been a vegetarian for just under ten years now. There have, as in everything in life, been ups and downs and easy and hard spots, but all in all I feel better. As a traveler, there’s a huge draw to eating local and checking out the cuisine of places. We travel with snacks, of course, but can’t wait to dive into local cuisine. Some places have been easier than others to be a vegetarian. We’ve traveled to those vegetarian friendly and others heavy on the carnivore delights and have found some more manageable and enjoyable than others.
IN MY TRAVEL EXPERIENCE AS A VEGETARIAN…
Easiest country to be a vegetarian: INDIA
Even my meat-loving husband went vegetarian for a time while on our India holiday. We even got to share dishes. Almost every restaurant we went to had an entire section of the menu dedicated to vegetarian cuisine. Nowhere was it ‘just have a side dish’ or ‘can you tell me what the base of that sauce is, please?’ Here there was even street food available for me to enjoy the same as anyone who is a meat eater and perhaps…even more. Samosas, pakoras, chapatti, naan and flavourful dishes filled with spice mixtures and colourful sauces adorned my plate and tickled my palate. This is the land of vegetarians…all are welcome!
Favourite place to be a vegetarian: AUSTRALIA
I love this country! In a land of all things close to water, the land down under is veg-friendly. Where you’d never find me eating sushi in a mall in New York, I can’t wait for my Sushi Sushi fix shortly after landing at Tullamarine airport in Melbourne. At most food courts there are vegetarian friendly choices with pumpkin or aubergine and for those pescaterians, smoked salmon abounds. Tandoori vegetarian pie at Pie Face, the garden goodness burger at Grill’d or the fabulous fries at vegan Lord of the Fries only scratch the surface of available options. It’s fresh and easy….she’ll be right!
Hardest country to be a vegetarian: EGYPT
Incredible sights, unbelievable artifacts, amazing culture but not such great vegetarian friendly cuisine. In a land where travelers must stay away from fresh vegetables and many others are fried, Egypt wasn’t the easiest place I’ve found to be a vegetarian. Although falafel and hummus are available, it’s definitely harder to find variety or non-fried options. I can say that between French fries, falafel, bread, noodles and eggs, I was content for the trip.
Most surprising place to find a fabulous vegetarian restaurant: BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Argentina is steak territory! My husband was in carnivore heaven the entire time with one piece of meat larger and tastier than the next. In search of a restaurant that could cater more to me for a meal, we found one that won’t soon be forgotten. Bio, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant was so good that it not only satisfied my vegetarian taste buds with a quinoa risotto, but the lactose intolerant friend and two carnivore husbands were thrilled with their dishes.
As anyone with dietary restrictions or food allergies knows, being out of a food comfort zone isn’t as easy as being in one. Check the base of soups and sauces, ask your questions, have your questions written out in the local dialect and source out as many suggestions and reviews as you like on the web. Remember, you can always find a grocery store to pick up things you know you can eat and as an extra back up plan…always travel with snacks!
For more of Stacey’s travel musings, check out her blog.