Colombia by Bus

The bus careens around another hairpin turn and I’m met with a cold blast of mountain air from the window in front of me. Behind me, a child continues happily banging on my headrest and I consider pulling on my headphones to listen to a guided meditation for patience. Or at least Jack Johnson. Something — anything — to pass the next two hours quickly.

But I don’t.

To put on my headphones and drown out the world around me would be a shame. (Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD, right Kim?)

Bus rides through the clouds in the rainy season

Bus rides through the clouds during the rainy season

It’s been just over a week since I’ve been in Colombia, my first destination in what will be at least nine months on the road. This has actually been one of the shorter bus rides so far, and truth be told, I really do enjoy them.

So instead of pulling on my headphones, I pull my scarf a little tighter. I watch as we pass small country fincas with cattle grazing mountainous terrain, like goats. The driver veers a bit to avoid a random horse in the road. Eventually the winding country roads we left in Guatape curve into a two lane highway. As we near the city of Medellin, semi trucks and motorcycles whiz past. It’s October, one of the two wettest months in Colombia and as the rain begins to pick up, the woman in front of me finally closes her window. Ahhhh, warmth!

Beautiful views from Bogota - Medellin

Beautiful views from Bogoto – Medellin

Less than a week ago we followed this same road on a 10+ hour bus ride from Bogota. Colombia is way more mountainous than I’d realized, so most of that ride also had me gripping my seat as we sped up narrow mountain roads and into winding valleys, just barely escaping collisions on what felt like more than a few occasions.

On that trip, around 1am as the lights of Medellin spread out below us at each curve, I remember being in awe that so many dwellings were pushed so far up into the mountains, glowing like landlocked stars. They say Colombia is famous for the magical realism made popular by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and in that moment I could feel why.

Colombia really is magical!

Colombia really is magical!

For the next two weeks, Kim and I will be slowing down a bit – today we are catching a bus for Salento in coffee country and then we will move further south to visit friends in Cali, the Salsa Dancing Capitol of the World! As I work on restructuring the blog and catching up on a few non-blog projects to pay the bills, the best way to follow along is via social media, as I’ll be posting frequently there.

>> You can find me just about daily on Instagram and Twitter, and photo albums will go up on the Shoyu Sugar page on Facebook.

Me photobombing Kim at the top of La Piedra. (pc: Kim On A Whim)

Me photobombing Kim at the top of La Piedra. (pc: Kim On A Whim)

And now, a proper introduction for Kim, who has been my travel companion all over the world. We met in Bali in ’08, took a cruise to Greece & Turkey later the same year, attended TBEX conferences in Toronto (’13) & Cancun (’14), went hot air ballooning in Utah, and now we’ve reunited in Colombia!

We will be heading separate ways later this month for (badly needed) Spanish language classes, then meeting up at some point before March, when we both head to South Africa. Once a corporate attorney in NYC, now a globe-trotting travel blogger, she is doing a fantastic job at keeping her new blog updated, so I highly recommend you take a peek!

>> Follow Kim’s Whims at Kim On A Whim.

Before I Leave Honolulu…

I moved to Oahu a few months before my 21st birthday. Sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago, but as I look back through old photos before I pack them away, I can remember discovering Honolulu through my 21-year-old eyes.

image
(Ok, and mayyybe through a bit of the haze of a 21-year-old hangover.)

Coming from Maui and having had a brief taste of living in New York, I was restless and wanted to do and see more, more, more. I was ready for new adventure. So Honolulu was my compromise – the “big city” nightlife and culture, better job opportunities, but still close enough to my family on Maui.
Continue reading

Tofu McNuggets in Japan?

This morning my dad sent me a link to an article on Huffington Post about McDonald’s Japan launching Tofu McNuggets which made me laugh with their dramatic reaction to the news:

Tomorrow, they’ll premiere their first completely tofu nugget, called Tofu Shinjo Nuggets, and we don’t know what to think. Some are saying it’s a sign of the end times, and to be honest — it just might be.

A sign of the end of times, really? ;)

Personally, although I don’t frequent McDonald’s at home – or many fast food restaurants in general, when we have such great non-chain options in Honolulu – I admit that I sometimes seek them out when traveling. While in Paris, I lamented that I was turning into an American when I gave in to a craving and stepped through the Golden Arches for a Royale with Cheese.

CIMG0691And in Thailand, if the wafting aroma of salty, crispy french fries doesn’t get you as you walk by, Ronald McDonald will even bow slightly with palms pressed together to welcome you in. In addition to the regular menu with Big Macs and Egg McMuffins, you can get items that cater to Thai tastes (congee, anyone?) similar to how we can order saimin or Portuguese Sausage, Eggs & Rice at McDonalds in Hawaii.

So it’s fitting that the launch of tofu McNuggets coincides with the first trip my brother Todd and I will take together – to Fukuoka, Japan! We will investigate and report back. ;)

Pan-fried tofu patties were actually a staple of childhood for us… My grandma often made them, sometimes with canned salmon or tuna added. I actually went back through her recipe cards and found this one that she had copied by hand out of one of her many local cookbooks:

tofu pattiesSo the thought of Tofu McNuggets actually makes me a bit nostalgic. We’re heading to Fukuoka in less than two weeks… stay tuned!

Brewery Hopping in Southeast Portland

Portland is like Mecca for craft beer lovers. You can find small breweries and brewpubs specializing in many different types of brews – sour ales, barrel aged beers, super hoppy IPAs. Thanks to it’s thriving food scene, you can also find many food-friendly beer pairings to go with your food cart finds, shared plates at brewpubs or even to take into your favorite taproom. Drink up and get those walking shoes on for a tour of some of Southeast Portland’s walkable breweries.

Here’s the ground we covered on a recent trip to PDX:

Brewery Hopping in Southeast Portland

Lardo – Eastside

Pork Belly Gyro ($9) at Lardo

Pork Belly Gyro ($9) at Lardo

We started off with a late lunch at Lardo’s Southwest location, but for the purpose of this brewery hop, we’ll suggest you start at their Southeast outpost instead. You can get the same tasty pork-heavy sandwiches (try the Cuban or the Pork Belly Gyro) and wash them down with a good selection of frosty beers on tap – all from the Pacific Northwest. The sides are also worth a try, especially if you can split with friends – the portions are large! Don’t miss the “dirty fries” which comes loaded with pork scraps, parmesan and fried herbs. This was definitely a substantial way to fill up before heading out for the serious beer tasting route that we had planned for the afternoon! Continue reading

Where to Eat in Portland: First-time Favorites

A month has gone by, yet I’m still craving some of the great meals that I had in Portland. If you love food, this town is serious about ingredients and giving them the respect they deserve before they end up on your plate. Whether it’s a lunch with beer and charcuterie, crazy flavor combos in doughnuts or artisinal ice cream, or a quick bite one of Portland’s many casual food carts, it’s hard to leave disappointed.

Here are some of my favorites from my first visit to Portland:

Little Bird Bistro

IMG_8874

Charcuterie and cocktails at the bar at Little Bird Bistro

Little Bird Bistro and it’s big sister restaurant Le Pigeon came up on almost everyone’s list of recommendations for dining in Portland, inclluding Eater’s list of best deals for Portland Dining Month. While we originally planned on getting the Dining Month menu, it was close to the late night happy hour, so we opted to order ala carte instead. For excellent French bistro fare in a cozy setting, this was a great place to catch up with my classmate, Annebelle (of Pulehu Pizza) and to linger over cocktails and wine.

Little Bird Bistro
219 SW 6th Ave
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 688-5952
Reservations | Facebook | Twitter | Yelp

The Woodsman Tavern

Enjoying a variety of oysters at The Woodsman Tavern

Enjoying a variety of oysters at The Woodsman Tavern

This was my first restaurant in Portland, based on my cousin Daniel’s recommendation. As you can see from the photo at right, I didn’t get the memo to wear plaid as an homage to the Pacific Northwest. I said that jokingly when we first arrived, but in reality there were references to lumberjack culture everywhere, including on the menus. To get into the spirit, I started with a cocktail called The Hunting Vest (charred cedar campari, rye & vermouth) which warmed me up right away.

Just about everything we ordered was excellent, but I think the highlights were the platters of Pacific NW oysters from the raw bar, NY steak with marrow butter, the american ham selection, and the cheeky cocktail names. Just about everything is local and brought in from artisinal purveyors as much as possible and the staff is well versed in sourcing for just about everything on the menu. A bit pricey, but worth it.

The Woodsman Tavern
4537 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97206
(971) 373-8264
Reservations | Facebook | Twitter | Yelp

Lardo (West)

Pork Belly Gyro ($9) at Lardo

Pork Belly Gyro ($9) at Lardo

Lardo was another “no brainer” stop because we had gotten so many recommendations for it. When my beer-loving friend Edwin came to meet me in Portland, we chose Lardo to start off a day of beer tasting (blog post to come) with a substantial lunch. Edwin opted for the Smoked Coppa Cubano and I loved my Pork Belly Gyro. For sides we got the Dirty Fries (pork scraps, marinated peppers, fried herbs and parmesan – sooo good!) and Pickled Vegetables.

In a city with such a huge variety of local craft breweries and a menu full of meat-filled sandwiches, it only makes sense that the beers on tap would be tasty compliments to our lunch. I opted to go with the staff recommendation of a local IPA while Edwin got a Pinup Porter and we were both pleased. It was the perfect start to our afternoon!

Lardo – Westside
1205 SW Washington St.
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 241-2490
Facebook | Twitter | Yelp
Continue reading