Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Superlatives: The Bests and Worsts of Travel

People don't want to hear about the things you kinda liked or thought were kinda interesting while traveling. They want to hear about the biggests, brightests, bests... or worsts. This is list of lists of those things; all the extremes split into bite size categories.

Best foods I ate:
  • Chicken in a chipotle sauce served at an Argentinean restaurant in Texcoco. Creamy, spicy, served with soggy french fries which are perfect to dab up excess sauce.
  • Cohorizo enchiladas in Chiapas that demonstrated how great a sausage can be. Crisp, vibrantly flavored, and dripping fat.
  • 30¢ tacos from the place by the movie theater in Texcoco. Savory and crunchy and salty and fresh and amazing. The best food I have ever had for 30¢.
  • A meal in La Olla, in Oaxaca City Mexico: Oaxacana pasilla chile rellano with refried black beans and fennel; tomato and tomatillo salsa with unknown savory spice; guacamole made with a nutty flavored local avocado.
  • Amazing Vietnamese spring rolls in Eat Me in Bangkok, Thailand. Duck, and mint leaves, cucumber, and sweetness. Made me feel like I was falling out of a dream.
  • Chicken in curry paste and pork in coconut cream with red chili at an unnamed roadside stand on Ko Chang. Both were so steeped in flavor that the tastes were lingering in the mouth well after I had finished eating them.
  • An amuse-gueule of salmon mousse with a tomato concasse and a little sesame stick. Appetizer of snails with wild forest mushrooms, cream sauce and thyme, with crispy crust. Main course of guinea hen with foie gras and wild mushrooms wrapped in a crust with brown butter sauce, with green beans, carrots, and small potatoes in Colmar France. After, I felt a bit like I would pop. (I did not).
  • In Genoa I had a pesto dish which made me a bit weak in the knees.
  • In Florence I had a pig side which tasted just like everything should taste. It was salty in a way which slid down your throat.

The most impressive things which were made by dead people:

Coolest Animals I saw in the wild
  • Parrots
  • Monkeys, monkeys, monkeys
  • Crocodiles (including babies!)
  • Raccoon
  • Puffer fish
  • Iguana
  • Geckos
  • Other small lizards
  • Turtles
  • Pelicans
  • Storks
  • Crabs
  • Guinea Pigs
Animals I saw on my plate:
  • Rabbit
  • Worms
  • Crickets
  • Ant eggs
  • Cow
  • Pig
  • Sheep
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Many unidentified fish
  • Snails
  • Baby cow
  • Guinea Hen
  • Goose
  • Scorpion (okay, not on my plate, but a mezcal which had a scorpion in the bottle and an obscene flavor.)

Strangest things I imbibed:
  • Mezcal – an alcoholic beverage which can best be described as if A-1 steak sauce decided to start producing tequila.
  • Tibetan Butter Tea – This drink is quite literally just a big glass of melted Yak butter. Even I, The Lover of Butter, couldn’t take it. Added a bunch of honey and was able to make it through half the drink – but not without feeling quite ill after.
  • Chartreuse - at a Mexican family birthday party I had this brightly colored drink forced upon me by a man who was taking a bit too much pleasure in forcing it upon me. The flavor was a bit like blindness.

Craziest things I have seen in transit:
  • In Mexico Ciy there are all sorts of things being sold in the metro - bubble gum, toys, CDs, brooms - whatever. There are also many people asking for money for various reasons - the blind, old women, musicians, small children. None were too out of the ordinary - except for one guy. One day I was on the metro, the doors opened and a man threw a white shirt full of something heavy into the center of one of the cars. He follows it in, shirtless, and begins to unfold the shirt, revealing broken glass inside. He proceeds to stand on his head as the train gets going, then throws himself onto the shirt, back first. He does this several times. Eventually he is bleeding a little and has some glass stuck in his back. He reaches back and pulls it out, puts everything back in his shirt-satchel, and goes on to ask for money from his unwilling audience. Craziest of all, some people gave it to him.
  • In India there is an ongoing competition to see what is the strangest thing you can fit on the back of a bicycle or motorcycle. I am not sure what the final prize is, but there have been some pretty good entrants I have seen around. Four goats in a basket on the back of a scooter (Trivandrum), nine mattresses on top of an auto-rickshaw, which was filled with pillows (Trivandrum), and about 25 flats of eggs and a man on a scooter (Trivandrum). Largest number of people on one scooter? Six. (Oh, and by the way, it's required that men wear helmets in India - but not women - apparently much protest that it would muss their hair).

How Long I was Where:
I know my map might be confusing. I went so many places - but here's the time axis for that bit

Time spent in… in days in hours in minutes Percentage
Mexico 98.20 2,356.92 141,415 24.66%
United States 0.13 3.00 180.00 0.03%
Thailand 11.43 274.25 16,455 2.87%
South Korea 0.12 2.92 175 0.03%
Cambodia 3.79 90.98 5459 0.95%
India 120.26 2,886.25 173,175 30.19%
Qatar 0.04 0.92 55.00 0.01%
France 87.19 2,092.58 125,555 21.89%
Italy 21.79 522.98 31,379 5.47%
Egypt 24.42 586.00 35,160 6.13%
Israel 8.11 194.57 11,674 2.04%
Latvia 1.25 29.92 1795 0.31%
Sweden 8.27 198.50 11,910 2.08%
Canada 9.83 235.83 14,150 2.47%
Monacco 0.01 0.30 18 0.00%
Vatican City 0.25 5.97 358 0.06%

Total known 395.08 9,481.88 568,913.00 99.19%
Flight and ship 3.21 76.95 4,617.00 0.81%

Total Trip 398.28 9,558.83 573,530 100.00%



Anne said...

Hey Nathan!
How wonderful that you have created this blog to document your experiences traveling.
It has been a pleasure to read. I especially enjoyed your reaction to the Israeli airport. It hit home in a nice way.
Keep traveling and best wishes.

General Sherman said...

As I sit here and type you on my iPod touch, having been stood up yet again for another coffee date, I can't help but think...mouse? Really? Crazy.

Anyway, if I get into PA school this year, I will be taking a couple of months off for myself. Should this happen, I'll try to make it down to the Bay area, because I miss The Nathan gosh darn it!

Take care!