As I sit here and write this we’re in a tiny windowless hotel room in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, the closest we could find to the airport we’ll be flying out of tomorrow. It’s Christmas Eve and it’s now officially been 10 months since we left Australia on our culinary travel adventure…
We’re spending Christmas with our friends in Singapore and if I could put my excitement into words it would probably look something like:
Yep, 10 months ago when we left our home in Adelaide I had no idea what this adventure would have in store for us. We’d sketched out a rough plan of course, something along the lines of ‘Let’s start teaching in Japan (because yay Japan!). And afterwards we could go to South Korea then spend some time in Southeast Asia and see what happens.’
It seemed like a good plan, until we started looking up weather patterns and realised we’d be in South East Asia for a huge chunk of the worst time of year – also known as the monsoon season.
So when we found some really cheap flights from Seoul to Paris we pounced on them. Summer in Europe? Yes please!
Despite initially thinking Europe would be far too expensive, we soon realised we could make it work.
And that was just the start. From there our plans have chopped and changed so much, you’d have thought we had none. They’ve been influenced by lots of factors… from meeting crazy awesome people (too many to name, but you know who you are!), hearing about amazing food we just have to try, or just dealing with various weird and wonderful transport connections.
(Or insanely cheap ones amirite? Helllloooo $2/13 hour Megabus from Naples to Venice!)
Our travelling life has definitely led to some crazy shenanigans along the way…
Like that time when a cooking lesson in Cappadocia turned into having a few drinks in an underground cavern. Which then turned into an impromptu BBQ of Turkish sausages where we forgot the lighter and used a trusty blowtorch instead. Which THEN turned into spending the rest of the night gazing at the Milky Way from a 1000 year old monastery, talking endlessly about movies, TV shows and our favourite video games.
You know. The important stuff in life.
Or that time we bartered our way onto a local fishing boat in Nong Khiaw, Laos, only for both fishing lines to end up snagged on hidden rocks in the river and then get lost overboard completely.
Which was totally not our fault by the way! I’m actually serious.
There was also that time we hiked back and forth across the German/Austrian border in Hallein to sit on top of the world (aka Kleiner Barmstein), and take photos from our own version of ‘Pride Rock’. Pretty sweet view too.
And that time we both traced our family heritage back to their roots in Scotland, and discovered a bloodthirsty history of war, sieges, massacres and ruinous castles while driving through the stunning Scottish Highlands.
This last 10 months has been a helluva ride.
And Then Came the Food…
So much food. Like I can’t even tell you how much. It’s a good thing we share most meals and walk pretty much everywhere.
Japan! Stop being so delicious all the time! Honestly.
Some of our favourite memories from Japan were when we learnt to make udon noodles with our feet, and discovered a brand new love for beer all because of a Japanese monk.
You should have seen the look on Sarah’s face when Jiho-san plonked an oversized can of Asahi in front of her at our temple homestay. She downed it like a reluctant hero, only to be handed a brand new frosty one.
Funnily enough, Sarah decided she liked beer after that.
We also shared so many incredible meals with our Osaka-mum, but our all time favourite was at Mi Wa Tei, a hugely popular yet oh-so-tiny Japanese/Chinese fusion restaurant with only a handful of tables. Scoring the very last one that cold windy night, we tucked into our favourite crispy fried prawn rolls, garlic greens and seafood congee, not once but twice!
Okay, maybe three times.
Of course, we’ll never forget the incredible Indonesian community we met in Kagoshima who invited us to eat some of the best Indonesian food we’ve ever tried. Even if I spoke a mishmash of Japanese and Indonesian half the time, I’m pretty sure you all understood. XD
Our very first night in Busan we walked right past the tourist joints and wandered deep into the back streets, with zero Korean language skills and zilcho knowledge of Korean food. But what we did have was a hasty snapshot of the phrase ‘What do you recommend?’ from Google Translate.
As we came across a likely dinner spot and stood there planning our move, a tall man in a suit and top hat walked up and called out ‘This is the Number 1 Restaurant in Busan!’ before swinging his cane and wandering off into the night.
Okay he probably didn’t have a cane. But somehow that’s how I always see him in my mind’s eye.
We ventured inside, begged a nearby customer for help with our trusty screenshot, and scored a pork rice soup with spicy Korean kimchi and vegetables – which only happened to be the signature dish of Busan. We would’ve looked like pros too except for the fact (which we learned later) that we’d eaten it completely wrong.
Thanks, Korean Top Hat Man!
We ended up Couchsurfing our way through Europe which helped us to save some money while getting a more local experience than a hotel. The experience of Couchsurfing was great on its own, but what we never expected was to make so many incredible friends.
And funnily enough, the best times we had were usually when there was food involved.
So much so that we decided we were no longer ‘Couchsurfing’ – we were ‘Cooksurfing’!
Learning how to make pizza dough with our Italian mamma was so much fun. She spoke no English and we spoke even less Italian, yet by the time her daughter came home we’d cooked up an Italian feast together.
After all, who needs spoken language when you understand the language of food?
Not to mention that time we wearily arrived at our new host’s place after a 20 hour bus ride from Edinburgh to Brussels (yeah, that was a long one) only to walk into a homecooked Belgian Dinner Party in our honour.
Annnnd I’m still drooling over this deliciously savoury Viennese Beef Roulade with our host in Vienna, shared with a bottle of red and endless laughing conversations.
Then there’s those immense slices of pizza we ate in Venice… Just look at them! They were literally bigger than our heads! And I didn’t even have to share…
South East Asia
Food opportunities abound in South East Asia. You can’t even walk one street without stumbling across a new discovery. I can easily say we’ve had some of the best meals of our lives here, and most of them have been out on the street sitting at tiny plastic tables, in tiny plastic chairs.
We’re going to miss Asian street food when we get home… Hell I miss it already and we haven’t even left yet.
Hello. My name is Laura and I’m a food addict. Cough.
The flavour and ingredient combinations we’ve learned in Asia have been incredible. I don’t know about you, but I’d never heard of a spicy pork and olive dip before, much less paperless spring rolls!?
We’ve learned so much about all things FOOD on this incredible adventure and there’s still so much more to uncover.
And share with you guys!!!!
So Long 2015!
Wow, if you’ve made it this far you’re our new best friend. Thanks for sharing in our 10 months of rambling reminiscence!
2015 was an incredible year and one we’ll never forget. And who knows what 2016 will bring as we return home and focus our energies on bigger and better things.
We’ve got great things planned for Wandercooks, and we’re just a little bit excited to get home and start ramping everything up. Are you ready to join our adventures?
Two months to go Adelaide. We’re coming for you. I think it’s about time we cooked some Australian ‘tucka’ for all our overseas friends.
Have a Merry Christmas everyone, and an awesome New Year!