Best things to do in Bangkok – Explore Bangkok Like a Local

Explore Bangkok Like a Local
Photo credit: Lae

If you’re looking to travel like a local and not like a tourist, you’ve come to the right place. Thanks to our amazing hosts in Thailand, we are bringing you a local tips destination guide that gives you the inside scoop on the best way to explore Bangkok like a local.

Here at Traveling Spoon, we strive to do our part in making the world a smaller place through meaningful travel experiences that encourage engaging experiences with locals and opportunities to dig deeper into understanding cultures and places that may be unlike our own. Read on for 7 ways to explore Bangkok like a local along with traveler tips, provided by our hosts and Bangkok residents, Pern and Lae.

Continue reading “Best things to do in Bangkok – Explore Bangkok Like a Local”

Best things to do in Bangkok – Explore Bangkok Like a Local

The Best Things to Do in Mumbai: An Un-Touristy Guide to the 15 Best Things to Do in Mumbai, India

Mumbai things to do

What are the real best things to do in Mumbai? Almost every travel site about Mumbai will tell you to visit the Elephanta Caves, Dhobi Ghat and the Bandra-Worli sea link. But Mumbai teems with a rich artistic, cultural and culinary scene beyond these major tourist sites.

For our guide to the Best Things to Do in Mumbai, we asked a local resident. What did she say? Cycle through Oval Maidan, taking in boys playing cricket in the humid afternoon, dine at a restaurant using sign language to order with your hearing-impaired waiter, catch the mad rush of the local train that transports millions every day, and visit a market guided by a local before returning to their home to enjoy a traditional Indian meal eaten with your hands.

Read on for a local’s guide to the best, un-touristy things to do in Mumbai and revel in the hidden gems that make up this frenetic, cosmopolitan melting pot of cultures in India. These are just a few things we as locals love about our city, and would want all those who visit to experience it as well. Come let us see what makes Mumbai so special.

Continue reading “The Best Things to Do in Mumbai: An Un-Touristy Guide to the 15 Best Things to Do in Mumbai, India”

The Best Things to Do in Mumbai: An Un-Touristy Guide to the 15 Best Things to Do in Mumbai, India

Explore, Dine, And Luxuriate In Istanbul

Views over Turkey

Istanbul is truly a melting pot. Straddling both Asia and Europe, the city is a unique blend of cultures, history, and modernity. From historical mosques and palaces to vibrant bazaars, Istanbul is bursting with points of interest at every turn. Spend a day (or several) exploring the city and don’t miss out on any part of this exciting itinerary. There are so many things to do in this incredible city, here are our top

Grand Bazaar Market Istanbul Things To Do
Photo Credit Rachel Crane

1. Wander the Grand Bazaar
One of the largest covered markets in the world and a central trading center since 1461, the Grand Bazaar spreads across 60 streets and 5,000 shops and attracts up to 400,000 visitors a day. But don’t let this deter you—it’s worth braving the crowds to witness the wide variety of goods on offer, from hand-made pottery to jewelry, carpets, spices, leather goods, and antiques. The bazaar’s complex also includes multiple mosques, fountains, hammams (more on those below), and cafes and restaurants. Spend some time people-watching at one of the cafes, or try your hand at bargaining at any of the shops.

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey Top Things To Do
Photo Credit Bilal Tahir

2. Climb the Galata Tower
Transcend Istanbul’s busy streets by climbing to the top of Galata Tower, one of the oldest and tallest towers in the city. Constructed in the 14th century, the beautiful structure offers striking panoramic views of old town. There’s a cafeteria at the top, but don’t spoil your appetite—great food awaits you later in the day.

Divan_Asia_Istanbul_Hamam_1140058

3. Soak Up Hammam
Take a break from roaming Istanbul’s vibrant streets by enjoying hammam. The traditional public bath experience has been beloved by locals for centuries and continues to inform the culture of Istanbul. You’ll start out in a steam room before attendants soap you up and exfoliate your entire body; then you’ll receive a full-body massage before relaxing with a cup of tea. Find hammams throughout the city (Not sure where to go? Check out The Grand Cevahir Hotel & Convention Center).

Homecooked Baklava Istanbul Turkey Cooking Class Top Things To Do

4. Enjoy Modern Turkish Cuisine Prepared with Love
After a long day of exploring, dine on home-cooked Turkish food with a personal touch. Hosts Nuray and Ipek are a mother-daughter team in Istanbul’s Ataköy neighborhood. A typical meal includes dishes such as lentil soup, kibbeh (stuffed meatballs), cheese-filled pastries, spinach and yogurt, beans stewed in tomato and lemon sauce, handmade burgers, and astoundingly good baklava. Visit on a Tuesday, and Ipek and Nuray will take you on a market tour followed by a cooking lesson and dinner.

5. Turn In for the Night in Historic Istanbul
Of the many great hotels in Istanbul, the Golden Horn Sultanahmet Hotel is one of the best. Located in Istanbul’s Historic District, the hotel offers a boutique experience at a reasonable price. In typical Istanbul fashion, the rooms feature bold colors and patterns as well as striking views of the old city or the hotel gardens. A host of famous sites—including the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, and Hagia Sophia—are all within a five-minute walk.

Travelers on a tighter budget should consider the elegant Kupeli Palace Hotel, which offers a buffet breakfast, steam room, dry sauna, and an outdoor courtyard and terrace, all within a mile of some of Istanbul’s most historic attractions.

Around every corner in Istanbul lies more architectural wonder, delicious food, and vibrant culture. However you spend your time in the city, be sure to soak it all up.

Explore, Dine, And Luxuriate In Istanbul

Insider’s Guide to Tsukiji Fish Market

While the local food movement and farmers’ markets only began to boom here in the U.S. in recent years, food markets have been a staple in other parts of the world for centuries. In fact, it is said that uogashi – riverside fish markets – date back to the 16th century. With 88 central wholesale markets in 56 cities throughout Japan alone, navigating these markets can be overwhelming. In this post, we’ll give you the scoop on the ins and outs of Tsukiji Market – the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. With over 400 different types of seafood, 42,000 daily visitors and more than 700,000 tons of seafood coming through the market each year, it’s easy to get lost in Tsukiji Market – here’s what you need to know.
Wandering Tsukiji

The market swings opens its doors at 3 a.m. most mornings, when products from all over the world begin to spill in, but the action really kicks off at 5:00 a.m. when the bidding on frozen tuna commences. While bidding is only open to licensed buyers, travelers can visit the market daily between 5 and 6 a.m. to watch the live auction and elaborate carving of frozen tuna and swordfish. Should you be interested in visiting the live auction, here are a few more important details to know:

  • The number of visitors to the tuna auction is limited to 120 per day.
  • Tourists who wise to see the auction have to apply at the Osakana Fukyu Center – Fish Information Center – starting from 5 a.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis. On busy days, visitors start lining up well before 5 a.m.
  • The auction is split into two groups – the first group of 60 visitors is admitted between 5:25-5:50 a.m. and the second group is admitted between 5:50-6:15 a.m.

The Fish of Tsukiji

Once the auctions conclude around 7 a.m., it’s time for a sushi breakfast. Finding sushi in this sea of fish is not difficult, but the freshest fish breakfast can be found near the wholesale fruit and vegetable market. If you’re willing to brave the sometimes two hour line, we highly recommend visiting Sushidai – where the sushi comes practically straight out of the water and directly to your plate. Stop by Daiwa Sushi for a slightly lesser wait, and be sure to check out their extra fatty tuna, which just about melts in your mouth.

Even if a 5 a.m. wake up and sushi breakfast isn’t for you, Tsukiji still has a lot to offer. Make your way to the edge of the market where the Shinto shrine, Namiyoke Inari Jinja, resides. Here, fisherman, traders and merchants pray for physical safety and for financial prosperity, and give thanks to nature for providing the fish market.

Tsukiji is also worth the trip solely to see the people and the bustle. The market alone employs approximately 10,000 people. Visitors are allowed to stand alongside tables where employees delicately cut and prepare the fish. Contrary to your typical American seafood counters, there is no modern technology or machinery in sight. Everything is done exactly as one would imagine it has been done for years before. When planning your trip, keep in mind that tourists are generally not allowed entry to the broader market before 9 a.m., and the market is typically closed on Wednesdays and Sundays.

We would eat these for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Whether you’re looking for an authentic experience or the freshest fish Japan has to offer, you’re guaranteed to find both at this sushi mecca!

Insider’s Guide to Tsukiji Fish Market

Aki kinu– The Coming of Autumn

There is a lovely Japanese expression “aki kinu,” which, when translated to English, means “the coming of autumn,” an expression those of us at Traveling Spoon love because it speaks directly to the transitional nature of the season. In the U.S., fall means back to school, work and routines; but for many, the season that brings shorter days and chillier nights is also the best time to get out and explore new landscapes and culinary flavors.Believe it or not, Asia offers one of the richest opportunities in the world to do just that – not only does the temperate climate provide perfect weather for canopy tours, river cruises and hiking, this region is also known for its glorious autumn colors and foliage and timeless regional delicacies.

Explore the natural beauty and wonder of the Daisetsuzan National Park on Japan’s second largest island, Hokkaido

Take Japan, where autumn is every bit as stunning as the famous springtime haname (cherry blossom) season.

Sapporo

Sapporo, the largest city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, gained international recognition in 1972 as the first place in Asia to host an Olympic games, but this location lands on our list because it is also the birthplace of one of our favorite meals, the delicious miso ramen.

Ramen noodle in miso based soup is miso ramen, born in Sapporo. The dish is accentuated by bean sprouts, sliced ham (or seafood) and other vegetables.

Typically covered in sweet corn, butter, bean sprouts, finely chopped pork (or local seafood) and garlic—this authentic Japanese dish of vegetable or animal broth and noodles is a regional specialty.

In fact, the dish is so well-loved that ten years ago, the “Sapporo Ramen Republic” (a ramen noodle theme park) was constructed as a way to offer visitors an opportunity to tour eight of the famous ramen shops from Hokkaido’s four great ramen areas: Sapporo, Asahikawa, Hakodate and Kushiro.

Mid-September is a perfect time to hike the Ginsendai, one of many trails leading into the Daisetsuzan National Park, the largest national park on the island—a paradise for hikers, outdoor lovers and one of the first places in Japan to experience the autumn color season.

Ancient Japanese temple located at the heart of the ancient city of warriors in Kamakura

Kamakura

Outside of Tokyo you’ll find the picturesque town of Kamakura, the ancient city of warriors and the former seat of Japan’s central government. Every September, this small town hosts the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Reitaisai, a festival dating back to 1187 (according to the Azuma kagami – a Japanese historical chronicle).

Before the official start of the festivities, local priests venture to the edge of the sea where they collect seaweed to hang on the gates of the ancient shrine as evidence of their purification and part of the annual “Purification of the Coast” ceremony. The three-day festival also includes a traditional tea-offering ceremony to the gods, classical Japanese dance and a pilgrimage to the shrine. The festivities conclude with a great display of Yabbusame, the 6th century Shinto ritual where archers on horseback shoot arrows at wooden targets.

Just steps from the shrine, you will find the historic Komachi dori shopping street which started as a market in front of the revered shrine. Here you will find more than 250 shops, restaurants and stalls full of local treasures, trinkets and smells.

Don’t miss the Kamakura Farmer’s Market where four groups of farmers take turns displaying their bounties throughout the week! The market is home to the “Kamakura Brand” of Japanese produce which represents some of the highest quality fruits and vegetables available in Japan.

With so many seasonal opportunities abounding, it seems to us that aki kinu is definitely a reason to celebrate.

Aki kinu– The Coming of Autumn

Traveling Spoon’s Food Guide: Hanoi, Vietnam

Over the past two decades, Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, has experienced phenomenal growth, transforming the city from being a poor, rural area to a city bustling with tall buildings that blend the traditions of the east with the modernity of the west. Although it still has strong French influences, Hanoi maintains its unique eastern flair with many traditional temples and cultural influences.

When we first visited Hanoi two years ago, we had the opportunity to venture around the city and try some of the best local food we’ve tasted. Today, we are excited to share with you an illustrated guide to Hanoi, including some hidden gems hand picked from our personal experiences to give you the best that the city has to offer.

TravelingSpoonIllustratedFoodGuideHanoi

To help you find all our favorite spots we made a Google Maps version! Check it out here. We’d love to know if you have any favorites we missed!


Traveling Spoon's Food Guide: Hanoi, Vietnam


Traveling Spoon’s Food Guide: Hanoi, Vietnam

Go through this alley to enter the hidden gem, Cafe Pho Cu (Photo Credit: Steph Lawrence)
Go through this alley to enter the hidden gem, Cafe Pho Cu (Photo Credit: Steph Lawrence)

Cafe Pho Cu

Start your day at Cafe Pho Cu, a hidden gem that opens up to an amazing view of Hanoi’s old quarter. This hidden cafe is tucked away behind a silk and souvenir shop on Hang Gai. Go through the narrow hall to the back of the silk shop, and order downstairs before climbing the stairway to the rooftop with incredible views of the Hoan Kiem Lake.

Order a cup of egg milk coffee and take in the breathtaking views of the city as it wakes up and begins another hectic day.

 


Dong Xuan Market is the kitchen enthusiast’s haven. (Photo credit: Minnie Fong)

 

Dong Xuan Market

For the real kitchen enthusiast, walk on over to Dong Xuan Market, a no-frills market where you can find everything under the sun. From dried food items to cloth and clothes. This isn’t a typical tourist market, so there are few souvenir items for sale, but a budding cook’s dream with the huge variety of local ingredients, spices, and utensils available.

 

Start your day with a hot bowl of Pho Bo from Pho Gia Truyen (Photo Credit: Minnie Fong)

Pho Gia Truyen (49 P Bat Dan)

You know a place serves good local food if even the locals line up to eat there. Line up for some warm Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) at Pho Gia Truyen, where you can find locals enjoying one of Vietnam’s most iconic dish. They make the broth for 24 hours and serve it piping hot to hungry customers.


A typical serving of Banh Cuon (Photo Credit: http://hanoistreetfoodtour.com)

 

 

Banh Cuon
It might be time for a little mid-morning snack after walking around the old quarter. Banh cuon is a dish you can’t miss while you are in Hanoi. You will see the vendors making rice crepes which are filled with a mixture of minced pork, mushrooms, and ground shrimp, and served with a light fish-sauced based sauce. We guarantee that you will want to go back for more.

 

 

Bun Bo Nam Bo (Photo Credit: Ed Pettitt / Buffalo Tours)

Bun Bo Nam Bo (67 P Hang Dieu)

This restaurant only serves one dish, and rightfully so. The restaurant is like a typical local lunch venue: loud and crowded with small tables, but we’ve found that they make the best Bun Bo Nam Bo in Hanoi, which makes you forget all the noise around you. A noodle dish with topped with marinated beef, herbs, and crushed peanuts, it is quintessentially typical of Vietnamese street food and will surely be an enjoyable treat.

 

Banh Goi (Photo Credit: http://www.vietnamonline.com/)

Banh Goi

After some more touring around you may need a little snack. Under a large banyan tree and around the corner from the St. Joseph Cathedral is a banh goi cart, where you can enjoy fried, “pillow-shaped” delicacies that have been stuffed with glass noodles, mushrooms and minced pork. Dip them into a traditional sauce of fish sauce, garlic, chili, lime juice and sugar.

 

Cha Ca (Photo Credit: Alia Al Kasimi)

Cha Ca La Vong (14 Pho Cha Ca) 

Finish the day with dinner at Cha Ca La Vong. Cha ca is catfish that is marinated with turmeric, ginger and galangal is cooked and served in front of you with dill and a traditional fish sauce. Prepare for some DIY cooking; charcoal grills are brought to the communal tables and you cook up your fish and serve yourself with noodles, lettuce and fried shallots.

From our bellies to yours, we hope you enjoy your self-guided food tour of our favorite food spots in Hanoi!

Traveling Spoon’s Food Guide: Hanoi, Vietnam