Author: marina

Thanksgiving in Arizona

Thanksgiving in Arizona

This year, the annual US trip was a bit slower than last time, only Arizona was on the agenda, so no crazy flying around between 3 states. We spent 7 full days with my host family, and had lots of fun and food.

Family fun

Games, charades, swimming in the pool, cooking, baking, eating together, snuggling (or yelling at) the 4 dogs, watching movies, and just hanging out talking – that’s how we spent the majority of our trip. I was lucky that I got to see 4 of my host siblings, plus my host sister’s super adorable twin girls, which let me practice my auntie skills a little 🙂

Burgers & Shopping

In N Out deserves it’s own category! I managed to get 2 cheeseburger meals in, which we worked off with a day of outlet shopping. We also took a trip to Costco to give Thorben the full American experience 🙂

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was our second to last day and we spent the day before and half of Thanksgiving itself making lots and lots of yummy food. We had an awesome buffet with all the classics: a 15 pound turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and a potato hash casserole (which I named heart attack potatoes), homemade rolls, green beans and roasted veggies. The desserts were an American-German collaboration: pumpkin pie, pecan pie bars, apricot bars and Apfel-Streusel-Kuchen plus the first round of Christmas cookies, which I’d finished just in time for our trip 🙂

I’d say the 2019 US trip was a big success. As always, I wish it could have been longer and hopefully, I’ll manage to see the Utah part of the family on my next visit! Thanks to my awesome host family, it’s been 13 years now that they put up with me at least once a year 🙂

Indonesia Part III: Bajawa

Indonesia Part III: Bajawa

Before we head off on another trip tomorrow (Hello, Arizona!), it’s time to finish recapping our Indonesia trip! The last part is about our 2 days in Bajawa, another beautiful place on Flores. Only a very short plane hop away from Labuan Bajo, we went there to explore some traditional Indonesian villages.

Tololela

Our guide Santos picked us up from the airport and after checking into our hotel, it was time to explore. We trekked through the jungle for about one hour to reach our first village. On the way, Santos pointed out lots of native plants like cinnamon, cashew, mango or coconut trees.

The village Tololela was inside a cloud. It was actually quite warm and sunny that day, the pictures just make it look grey. We learned a lot about life in the village and some traditions they have, like sacrificing chickens, pigs and buffalo for special occasions.

Afterwards, we went to Gurusina village, which was in the process of getting rebuilt. Most of it burned down and so they are currently reconstructing. During the day, there was a ceremony where they butchered 27 chicken, pigs, and buffalo, one for each house which was being rebuilt. Thankfully, we missed that part. We arrived just in time for the feast and got to sit in one of the half built houses and eat some rice with pork.

Manulage Hot Spring

The next morning, Thorben and Marlyn got up at 1am to hike Mt. Inerie, Flores’ highest volcano. With an altitude change of 1.100m and no fixed trails, I decided to give it a miss and slept in instead. When I met the hikers again, they were covered in dust, so we went to Manulage hot spring to clean off and soak their tired muscles. The hot spring is a place where a cold stream and hot water from the volcano meet, so you can find your sweet spot.

Bena

Our third traditional village was Bena, the biggest one we saw during our time in Bajawa. It was really pretty and this time, we didn’t get caught in a cloud. Bena is also where Thorben took his favorite picture of the trip: the one with the child peeking out between the woven scarves 🙂

Heaven’s Door

After so much exploring (not so much for me), it was time for another plate of Nasi Goreng. Our lunch spot was really pretty: high up in the hills and with a great view of Mt. Inerie.

Wolobobo

Our last stop of the day and of our trip to Bajawa was Wolobobo. It’s a beautiful place where you can see Mt. Inerie and watch the sunset from above the clouds.

Indonesia Part II – Labuan Bajo

Indonesia Part II – Labuan Bajo

Here is the second part of our Indonesia trip: Our Labuan Bajo adventures.

Labuan Bajo

After 3 nights in Jakarta, we flew over to another island: Flores. We arrived in Labuan Bajo at around 11, so we started with a lunch of Nasi Goreng, followed with some relaxing by the pool. That was the plan anyways … Half an hour into our pool time, Marlyn hit her head after a dive gone wrong. Long story short, we went to the hospital and she had to get 3 stitches. Thankfully, the hotel had a car, the hospital was only 5 minutes away and there were no other injuries. It was definitely a much more turbulent start to our trip to Flores than what we had bargained for!

We took it easy the rest of the day, had a relaxed dinner at our hotel and enjoyed the pretty sunset views. Marlyn was prepared with a hat and we practiced some poses to hide the band aid for our next day adventure. Pro tip: Pictures from behind always work 😉

Speed Boat trip

The second day was the whole reason we came to Labuan Bajo for. It’s the gateway to Komodo Island, where you can see Komodo dragons! The island will close next January, so that was our initial motivation to plan the trip. We booked a full day speed boat tour which got us to lots of beautiful places. First was Padar Island, a place with a fantastic view which we got to enjoy after a short, sweaty hike.

Next, we went to Komodo Island and saw 3 fully grown Komodos. It was really cool! They are pretty big, so I was glad we were in a bigger group with a ranger. They got pretty close to us and Thorben got a lot of great shots of them.

The rest of the stops were about swimming, relaxing and snorkeling. We went to pink beach, which lived up to its name and had pretty, pale pink sand. Sadly, people keep taking the sand home as souvenirs, so the color keeps fading and might be gone soon.

I don’t remember the names of the other stops, but they were all amazing: crystal clear water and pretty fish. At one point, we jumped straight off the boat to snorkel with Manta rays! The water was cold and the current strong but I saw 3 huge ones and Thorben saw even more. On our last stop, we hung out on a small island and had some fun on a swing like the typical tourists we are 😉

Pool and Beach

After 2 days in Bajawa (Part 3 coming soon!) we spent 2 more nights in Labuan Bajo right at the beach. We had some more Indonesian food, chilled by the pool (no diving allowed!), walked along the beach and enjoyed one last sunset.

Indonesia Part I – Jakarta

Indonesia Part I – Jakarta

Almost a month and a half after our Golden Week trip to Indonesia, it’s time to catch up on the blog posts. Thorben already shared a lot of pictures, so here come all the details … and more pictures :).

We planned our trip to Indonesia together with Marlyn (who’s from Indonesia), so our first and last stop was Jakarta, where her parents live. In total, we spent 4 nights in Jakarta and 6 on Flores – Part II coming soon!

Marlyn’s Birthday

Our first full day in Jakarta it was Marlyn’s birthday, so she made the plan and we just went along with whatever she wanted to do. Mostly, that meant eating a LOT of Indonesian food. We started with going to a local market, had some food there and also bought some fruit we had never seen before. Next, Marlyn wanted to eat something that translates to “brain brain” – she said there is no brain inside, just fish and flour. No way to confirm her story so we just went with it 🙂 We also had a seafood omelette and the first of many plates of Nasi Goreng (fried rice). To get to a supermarket to buy some snacks, we took a tuk tuk. Our driver seemed quite excited to take around the only foreigners in sight 😉

After a short rest at home, it was time to eat yet again, so we went to another restaurant for some meatball soup. Also, we picked up the birthday cake, which we had after dinner (yes, more food) at a nice seafood restaurant overlooking the water.

Jakarta sights & food

On our second full day, Marlyn’s dad was our tour guide and took us around Jakarta for some sightseeing and more Indonesian food. We started with noodles and wonton soup for breakfast and then went to a banking museum which was inside a cool colonial building. We also saw Jakarta’s first train station and wandered around in an old market square. During our time in the city center, Thorben and I got interviewed by some students who wanted to practice their English.

The second part of the day, we visited a “mini Indonesia” theme park. They had lots of different buildings, showing the different cultures and architecture of the different islands. One place we visited in detail was the Komodo museum, in preparation for the next stop of our trip 🙂 There was also more food: we had a very late lunch/early dinner at another Indonesian restaurant and then picked up some “martabak”. Martabak could be described as diabetes and a heart attack rolled in one – it’s a giant cake slathered with butter, peanuts, chocolate and sweetened condensed milk, but it was super tasty!

Even more food

After coming back to Flores, we spent one more night in Jakarta. I think Marlyn’s mom was worried we didn’t eat at all during our 6 days away, so she prepared a huge feast for us. I forgot the name of everything but it was delicious!

Overall, our time in Jakarta was really fun, especially since Marlyn’s parents were so nice and took so much time to show us around and feed us 🙂 It was really cool to experience the city more from a local perspective and not just as a tourist.

Jana, Marina & the Chocolate Factory

Jana, Marina & the Chocolate Factory

There’s a Zotter chocolate factory in Shanghai – Austrian chocolate in the middle of China – who would have thought? Technically, it’s a “chocolate theater”, because they don’t really make much chocolate there, but you can learn all about chocolate and taste it until you’re sick … which is exactly what Jana and I did at the end of September.

I got 2 tickets to go to the tasting tour for my birthday and one of the dates for it lined up with Jana’s visit. Coincident? I don’t think so 🙂

The tour starts with a movie about the company, its founder and how chocolate is made from bean to bar. After that, it’s 2 hours of non stop indulgence. We tasted the beans, cocoa powder, milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, soy chocolate, chocolate in liquid form, in bars, with fruits mixed in, chocolate coating nuts and fruits, drinking chocolate … You name it, they had it. 150 varieties of it.

After the tour, we hit the store … and then I had to recover on the couch for a few hours.

Besides going to the chocolate factory, we also did some other stuff during Jana’s 4 days in Shanghai. Namely, have Vietnamese food, go for pancakes, have brunch, and another brunch, eat burgers, get sushi … To work it off, we also went for a walk with Khan. And then had pasta and pizza 😉 In summary – a great Shanghai visit!

DIY Food Tour

DIY Food Tour

We just got back from our Golden Week vacation a few days ago and I’m very behind with the blogging. Spoiler: We went to Indonesia and it was great! Before I get into it (still got lots of pictures to sort), I still have a couple little things to share from before our trip.

Marlyn and I had been wanting to recreate the food tour I did in June, and we decided it was time in the middle of September when it finally got a bit cooler. We met after work at the metro, booklet from the tour in hand and ready to eat our way through China and take selfies 🙂

Stop 1 – Cantonese

Our personal food tour was off to a rocky start because the planned first stop, the Xi’An Burger, had been closed down 🙁 It didn’t get much better at the second stop – a Cantonese restaurant. They had sold out of the barbecued pork, this dish I was most excited to eat again at that place. Fail. We tried duck instead, which was okay, but not nearly as good as the pork. The pineapple bun and a mango tapioca dish were good; those cheered us up again.

Since we met around 20 min before the food tour starts, we kept seeing one of their groups. They usually came into the restaurants when we had already started eating. We made sure to hide our booklet and pretended we were just in the know about local restaurants. Not sure we succeeded 😉

Stop 2 – Ningbo

The second stop – the Ningbo place – was much better! We got my favorite 2 dishes from the tour, fava bean puree and crispy bamboo chips. Marlyn was skeptical at first, but came around after giving it a try. The beans really taste much better than they look!

Stop 3 – Sichuan

Third stop: Sichuan Noodles, no rabbit head this time 🙂

Stop 4 – Shanghai

And finally, some xiaolongbao to finish the night.

Just as we were about to call it a night, we saw the guide again. He ducked into a small bakery, telling the group “I’m just gonna buy something for later”. So obviously we went in right after he left and requested 2 of whatever he bought … which gave us our dessert 🙂

To anyone who wants try food from across China: Come visit and eat with us – Marlyn and I are ready!