It’s been six years since Tom and I were last able to travel in Southeast Asia, and we are excited to be heading there in a few days for a two-month stay. We are set to touch down in Kuala Lumpur just one week from today, after an overnight transit through Bangkok. For both of us, it will be a chance to renew old friendships and forge new ones. For me, especially, it really will be “back to the future” as I reconnect with former colleagues from my corporate life in the Philippines and Switzerland. These sassy shoes from a storefront in Hoi An, Vietnam made me smile, then and now…colorful Asia here we come!
A taste of the flavors awaiting us
As much as we love living in Europe—and we hugely enjoy our still-new-to-us hometown of Porto, Portugal—the fabulous food, vibrant markets, and welcoming people of Asia never cease to beckon. When we had an opportunity to attend a dinner from an Indonesian pop-up kitchen here in Porto last weekend, we took it as a sign of delicious things to come.
In a delightful meal organized by Gail Aguiar and prepared by Jakarta native Audry Maulana, we tasted Rempeyek, addictive peanut crackers with kaffir lime leaves, for the first time. We swooned at the aromas of Jasmine rice with crispy shallots and had seconds of Ayam Suwir Bali, a wonderful shredded chicken dish enlivened with chilies, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and coconut milk. The craft beers of Armazém da Cerveja were perfect accompaniments to our feast.
Where we’re going
We believe that food is a window into a country’s culture, and we can’t wait to travel on our stomachs in Malaysia and Indonesia. Cuisines in both countries are multi-faceted. The region has a complex history, and its foods present plenty of cultural fusion. We will spend December in Malaysia, where we are keen to taste the foods of KL, Melaka, and Penang, home to what some have called Asia’s greatest street food city. We look forward to seeing what happens when the Chinese cook curries, to enjoying superb seafood, and to getting to know Malay foods are well.
Do you have suggestions for food travel in Malaysia? Please share your recommendations in a comment!
For the new year, it’s on to Indonesia, for a dip into the culture and cuisine of Java and other regions. We have fingers and toes crossed that we will be able to experience Balinese culture as well. After that, our trip is an open book!
Dare we book Bali?
For some time, we have planned for the second stop on our journey to be Bali, home island of an old friend from my time at Asian Development Bank as well as a couple of photographers we know via Instagram. Thanks to the shenanigans of Mount Agung, though, our travels there are now in doubt. With our hopes dwindling that the volcano will calm down over the next few weeks, we are considering our options, aka Plan B.
A return to old haunts?
Six years ago, our base for travels in the region was Cambodia, where Tom spent over a year volunteering in Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh. Highlights of our travels then were a top-to-toe journey in Vietnam and the discovery of our favorite restaurant in Cambodia.
My essay about cooking with the former street kids of Phnom Penh has just been published in The Pilgrimage Chronicles, a marvelous anthology of quests all over the globe. I have had a peek at a few of the wonderful stories inside, and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and read the rest. If Bali doesn’t work out this trip, perhaps we will find our way back to Cambodia. What a treat it would be to see our Cambodian friends again!
Flexibility is key
If all this sounds a bit unstructured, well that’s because it is. We do not have everything planned out, which leaves us open to take advantage of opportunities that arise. If the stars align, we would love to go back to Vietnam and continue explorations there, starting with Halong Bay and hitting the floating markets of the Mekong Delta. Or perhaps we will take another leap into an entirely new destination. TBA!
No matter our interim destinations, we plan to end our travel in Southeast Asia in Thailand. We want to spend at least a few days sampling simple pleasures of Bangkok. Hopefully, we will be able to enjoy some fine dining in Bangkok and Indian food, Thai edition, before we head home to Portugal.
We welcome suggestions for “Plan B”…If you have a favorite restaurant, food walk or other foodie experience to recommend in Bangkok, please let us know in the Comments!
We aim to be back in Porto in time for the late-February Essência do Vinho and Simplesmente Vinho expositions.
Travel with us!
Tom and I will be posting updates as we go along and we would love to have your company on our journey. Won’t you join us on our Southeast Asia adventure? Here are coordinates to the social media platforms we use the most (AnitasFeast for me, TomFaklerPhoto for Tom).