written by: Katie Cruz
It’s fair to say that Southeast Asia is a popular destination for traveling due to the accessibility and affordability of the region. Visiting Southeast Asia is always a good idea if you want to enjoy spectacular landscapes, beaches, exotic cuisine and tropical climate. While there are many countries to visit in the region, I will highlight one country that is incredibly rich in culture and cuisine – Malaysia.
The Malaysian culture
A country that has a multicultural society with a shedload of colorful history. Thousands of years ago, large waves of people migrated to the Peninsular Malaysia from mainland Asia, as it was easily accessible through the Indian Ocean. What shaped the budding country was the many foreign trades and customs that arrived in the land. Right now, the Malays make up the largest sector of the Malaysian population, followed by the Chinese and Indians.
In this day, the culture of Malaysia is multi-faceted due to the unique combination of ethnicities, yet each still manages to preserve their own individuality, beliefs and practices. The population of Malaysia predominantly practice the Islam religion, but foreign influences are also widely practiced as integral parts of the Malaysian life, such as Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Remarkable events happen in Malaysia every year, with festivities of all of these different cultures, such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Thaipusam and Deepavali. As such, the marrying of cultures is the result of Malaysia’s melting pot of exotic cuisines as it is now home to some of the world’s best dishes. Hence Malaysia is known as the “Food Capital of Southeast Asia”.
Breaking into Malaysia’s way of life
A pivot of different cultures, each of which have brought in all kinds of flavours to create a vibrant cuisine Malaysian cuisine is not limited to its local flavours of Malay, Chinese and Indian, but other continents have brought over an astonishingly strong influence as well.
For instance, Japanese cuisine has garnered a mass following due to its new trends for delicious bites. Nowadays you can find famous Japanese treats that are currently being hyped in Malaysia, like the Kakigori, baked cheese tarts, Taiyaki ice-cream, Teppanyaki and authentic ramen noodles. Time after time, the culinary landscape of Malaysia has gone through numerous blends of ethnicities between East and West while keeping up with its classic dishes. Malaysia’s food scene has successfully expanded to fit into the spaces of various fusion palates of the different nationalities and is even now spreading across the country.
Scrumptious delights in Kuala Lumpur
Those who are adventurous on broadening their palate should take Kuala Lumpur as a starting point of their culinary journey. One can never find a better local fare spread than the heart of Malaysia. You don’t need to search high and low for the best version of Malaysian food and amazing options for international cuisine. Every bite in this city is meant to be savored because Kuala Lumpur’s food scene is a way of life.
Only in Kuala Lumpur you will find the best of dishes that have been inspired by Thai, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian and myriad of other countries’ cuisine. Here is a glimpse into the food heaven. At 11am on a Sunday morning, hole in the wall restaurants are absolutely brimming with patrons. Here, there’s no menu, just mouthwateringly unctuous and spicy chilly pan mee. A dish comprising minced pork, poached egg, dried anchovies and homemade noodles – no fuss or frills. This is a pure indication of Kuala Lumpur’s relationship with food.
In the corner of every street, you will probably see a man grilling celebrated chicken wings on a charcoal heated grill, the smell perfuming everywhere. Deep, charred reddish brown, with a subtle spiced flavor. For about RM1 (0,25 US$) per stick, you can get savory lamb, chicken and beef satay too. Kuala Lumpur’s cultural mix doesn’t end there with the three main groups. Take roasted stingray for instance. This absolutely tasty Portuguese influenced dish comes with tangy chili sauce on the side. It offers an amazing contrast of flavors and textures with its crispy skin and soft white flesh.
As you explore the city, you might stumble into a German themed stall dispensing European beer or find rich minced pork noodles and beef meatball soup from a restaurant that has been around since 1945. Who knows what you might discover. Walking around the city is a fantastic way to truly get to know Kuala Lumpur’s unique mix of cultures that has created a fascinating fusion of simple yet delicious dishes. Kuala Lumpur may be gleaming with skyscrapers and shiny malls, but the soul of this city is in its food and as cuisine is becoming more and more influential on the way we travel, Kuala Lumpur’s diverse cuisine is now attracting many more travelers than just foodies.
Deep in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountains you’ll find Ciudad Perdida. More commonly known as The Lost City, it’s a site which takes five days to trek to from the coastal town of Santa Marta. Increasing numbers have been visiting it since it started being called the new Machu Picchu. But should you join them?
It’s a tough but rewarding journey. After all, like all great treks, it’s not just about the end destination. The entire trip has a lot to offer and you’ll be in awe of your surroundings from start to finish. It’s definitely something to add to your bucket list.
Here are five further reasons to consider a trip to Colombia’s Lost City:
1. You’ll learn to respect nature
As it was only discovered in the 1970s, having people trek through the jungle is still strange for some locals. As one told the Guardian: “For us it was never lost. We like the tourists coming if they want to understand our culture.” Responsible travel is, of course, of utmost importance. Locals are happy for visitors to come, but would like them to treat their surroundings with respect. The one thing you should understand about their culture is that the earth must be kept in balance. Locals here respect nature, and don’t kill the wonderful creatures around them as early explorers did. On your journey, you can take in the beauty of your surroundings, but the idea is to leave the area as you found it.
On a trek to The Lost City, you’ll probably be accompanied by a guide. Listen to what they tell you. It’s worth choosing an indigenous guide, as this also contributes money to their communities. They’ll be able to tell you stories and give you an in-depth insight into how locals live, as well as the history of the amazing end site itself.
2. It’s a tough trek
The best things are worth working for. That’s the case with Colombia’s Lost City. It’s a tough jungle trek – not for the faint hearted. Although most treks are a physical challenge, the hot conditions in Colombia make this one all the trickier. Although there are clear paths and no need to climb or scramble, it’s still a big achievement. The Independent’s travel reporter felt like “a wrung-out teabag” within an hour of hauling herself up a 600m hill in 90% humidity – and the entire trip takes four or five days. You quickly learn a thing or two about what you can achieve in such a hot, sweaty and challenging environment. It’s something you can be proud of yourself for.
3. It’s largely undiscovered by tourists
If you’ve already been to Machu Picchu in Peru and wished you’d got there before all the tourists discovered it, then The Secret Traveller says you better get to The Lost City as soon as possible. It remains largely undiscovered by the tourist hordes, despite its stunning location high in the hills. It’s a journey you’ll never forget.
Having less tourists means trekking groups tend to be smaller and you’ll get a more personalised experience as you get to know your guide. It’s also nice to soak in the atmosphere whilst it’s peaceful. At the end point – The Lost City ruins – you’re also more likely to capture that all-important picture without crowds of people blocking the amazing view. You’ll look back at your photos from travelling experiences for years to come – it’s nice to have a memory you can look back on fondly.
4. You can explore the rest of Colombia
The Lost City isn’t Colombia’s only highlight, nor is it the only inspiration site in the country. Once you’ve made the journey, it’s worth staying for longer to explore. The country manages to balance off-the-beaten-track travel with decent tourism infrastructure. What this means for you is that it’s convenient, yet still exciting and diverse.
Visit one of the many red rivers, enjoy the largest hammock in the world, taste amazing coffee or soak up the sun on a beautiful beach – you might need to after the trek to The Lost City. You’ll be able to find an activity which suits your tastes in Colombia, but the attraction of the unspoiled Caribbean coast is hard to beat as a retreat after your inspirational journey.
5. It’s an impressive build
It’s hard not to be impressed with what has been achieved here. After all, The Lost City was built by the Tairona people in around 800AD – meaning it predates Machu Picchu by around 650 years. . As The Culture Trip explains, the ruins consist of an impressive 169 terraces which are carved into the mountain. You can also walk along a series of tiled roads and small plazas. On a guided trek, you’ll get plenty of time to explore the whole site and soak in the atmosphere. When you think about the jungle location and tools (or lack of) that would have been available, it’s an amazing feat. You’ll be in awe, especially after you’ve managed to climb up the final 1,200 stone steps at the end of your journey.
As Ciudad Perdida is quickly becoming an iconic trekking opportunity in South America, these reasons should convince you to take on the inspirational journey yourself in the near future. You won’t regret it.
Have you visited Colombia? Share your experiences and recommendations with us.
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I´m a big postcard collector and buying postcards has always been a tradition for me ever since I started traveling 8 years ago. I´ve always loved to keep a photograph of the destination I traveled to and I even used to have a wall with more than 100 postcards from all different kinds of cities sorted by country, region and continent. However, it has been more than a year now since I bought the last postcard and still, my collection hasn´t stopped. On the contrary, it has even become larger and has better photos now. Let me tell you what I do, so you can start doing it too.
My first postcard was probably from my first trip during my exchange year in Germany. I went to Amsterdam with my language class for a weekend and when I saw these colorful photos of 6`x3` I thought this could not only be a great present to my friends and family, but also a nice thing to collect to keep some travel memories on my wall. My photography skills weren´t so good at the time and getting such a great printed photograph for less than 1 Euro sounded like a good deal to me. From Amsterdam I went to Brussels, London, Berlin and Prague; of course, whenever I traveled to one of these magical cities, I made sure to get a postcard for myself and one for my parents back in Colombia. Collecting postcards became a tradition.
After some years my photography skills improved, I got a better camera and I was photographing more interesting situations in every destination I visited. I was still collecting postcards, however, I started liking the photographs I took with my camera more. You probably know what I´m talking about: No matter how nice these postcards look, you always appreciate more that photograph you took yourself and that brings you back nice memories of these travels. I started losing interest in the postcards I saw in the souvenir stores and finding the right postcard for my collection became more of a challenge rather than a fun task to do before departing. I wished I could have my photographs as postcards instead of buying them.
I started using MyPostcard almost 18 months ago. I was trying out different apps for printing photographs and I simply loved the idea of getting my pictures sent home as a postcard only a couple of days after ordering them. MyPostcard offered me a possibility for creating my own postcards and not only sending a copy to myself for my collection, but also to my friends and family all over the world. All that while avoiding the sometimes-annoying process of finding the right postcard, getting stamps and finding a mailbox before leaving the city (a task which probably many of you are familiar with).
I stopped buying postcards at souvenir stores and started sending home postcards of the same photos I was sharing on Facebook or Instagram. I was even able to give a personal touch to each photo and send a personal message to my loved ones in a creative way. My family was able to see amazing destinations like China or Iceland from the same perspective I had at the time and I had the feeling my photographs started coming to life. My nice little collection of postcards hasn´t stopped either; and with my photography skills improving every day, I am now happy to be able to send home photographs that I´ve taken with my drone or underwater cameras.
Postcards are a wonderful travel souvenir and with mobile phone cameras taking excellent pictures, editing apps which work perfectly in a matter of minutes and apps like MyPostcard that send postcards within just a couple of clicks and for less than 2 Euros, I think I have a good reason not to buy postcards anymore.
Finding the right destination for your next holidays is not an easy task. Some of us prefer an all-inclusive holiday in a resort, some a backpacking trip to meet people and others a destination that completely isolates them from the stressful daily life back home. For quite some time now South East Asia has been a good destination to satisfy all of these three classes of tourists. However, the stories of Alex Garland or Philipp Mattheis about finding completely isolated locations with perfect landscapes and secret white sandy beaches now seem outdated, leaving behind overcrowded beaches and lots of cities full of European travelers looking for cheap beers.
The Philippines is a country that always brings back good memories to me. Its beautiful beaches, lovely people and adventurous getaways make it attractive to anyone. However, places like Boracay and El Nido can get very packed and hoped for refuges from stressful daily life can easily turn into party destinations like it happened in Koh Tao, Pha Ngan or Samui in Thailand.
I went to the Philippines with the hope of finding the most remote and underrated getaways and bringing back the Alex Garland stories about traveling off the beaten path. Now, after visiting some incredible locations in the Northern Philippines, I think I found exactly what I was looking for.
Sand dunes, perfect beaches and Spanish towns in Ilocos Norte
First, I traveled to the region of Ilocos Norte, which is located only a 1 hour flight away from Manila and is probablythe best alternative for backpacking in the Philippines, if you are looking for a destination off the beaten path. This area offers such a diversity of activities that you can spend not only days but weeks relaxing, hiking, exploring or even sandboarding.
In some cities you can also feel the Philippines’ Spanish heritage. Vigan is a picturesque town that will make you feel like you’re in Havanna, Santo Domingo or Cartagena. It´s Spanish tradition and lovely cobblestone streets make it the perfect romantic location for those traveling in South East Asia and looking for a place that offers the unexpected.
Untouched landscapes in Batanes
In more than 6 years of traveling, I think I’ve never used the word ‘untouched’ to describe a destination. For me, an untouched destination is something utopian and impossible to find in this modern internet era. Well, Batanes in the Northern Philippines has proved me wrong: A destination where restaurants might have no electricity and Wi-Fi passwords or mobile phone signals are simply impossibilities – the perfect resort for those who hate resorts.
A location so remote in the Philippines that it feels like the first scenes of the old Jurassic Park movies and where all the landscapes all around the island look like a postcard or painting. A place without big hotels like Hilton or Sheraton with onlysmall local pensions where locals play cards or watch sports during the warm evenings.
Batanes´ capital, Basco, is a small village where the airport’s runaway turns into a jogging lane at night and where people leave their doors open all the time. A place that´s proud of its 0% crime rate and where a fully relaxing holiday becomes a reality.
Batanes and Ilocos Norte surprised me. After spending 10 days around these locations, I feel like I´ve seen just a very small part of the region and I can´t wait for the day I can go back and experience again what it’s like to really escape from modern life and go back to traditions.