Tag: Food Tour

China Travels: Kunming, Yunnan

China Travels: Kunming, Yunnan

October = Golden Week = Time to travel!

Due to the current circumstances we couldn’t leave the country, but thankfully, travel within China is still pretty unrestricted and China is huge with many beautiful regions. For this year’s October Holiday we picked Yunnan, a province in the Southwest of China. It’s a mountainous region with beautiful landscapes, home to different ethnic groups and borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. There is lots to see and do, so we planned a 2 week trip covering Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La. The first and last stop of our two week trip was Yunnan’s capital Kunming.

Green Lake Area and Yunnan Food

A taxi ride, a 3.5 hour flight and another taxi ride later, most of our travel crew arrived at our hotel, close to the Green Lake in Kunming. We started the trip right – by trying lots of delicious local food at Heavenly Manna. Mashed potatoes, eggs, mushrooms, goat cheese, beef … exactly what you need after a day of travel. After that, we walked around the Green Lake to make room for dessert, which we found at our designated Kunming Hangout spot, Salvador’s, where we went for breakfast, tea, snacks and drinks pretty much every morning and night we were in town. Can’t go wrong with Snickers ice cream and bagels!

Wild Animal Park

The Wild Animal Park was recommended to me by a local guide as a quiet place with lots of nature and animals. We spent a few hour wandering around and getting sunburned (that was mostly me). Some areas looked like the depressing parts of a zoo, others were quite nice with lots of space and well taken care of animals. My highlights were feeding a giraffe and some very hungry raccoons. They also had pandas and red pandas, which are so fun to watch 🙂

Yunnan in a Bowl

All that walking made us hungry, which was perfect, because for the evening, we had a food tour on the agenda. Our guide Joy from Yunnan in a bowl took us around town, showed us some sights and most importantly, made sure we tried lots and lots of local specialties.

We started with Bridge Noodle Soup, picked up spicy pickled fruit at our second stop and sweet mystery dessert plus fried potatoes cakes at a little stand in a market street. Our next sit down stop was a bit more adventurous: besides sprouts, beef and lotus root, we also tried stinky tofu (not as bad as it smells) and pig’s brain – surprisingly small and actually pretty tasty. Next up: Fried tofu, thankfully not stinky, and a yummy rice cake dish.

After a bit of a walk, seeing 2 pagodas and part of the city wall, we went for noodles and wontons, one of the best things on the tour, which we went for again on our last night of the trip. Our final stop was at a busy local place, where we had veggies with ham, grandma’s mashed potatoes, beans, fried goat cheese and some maggots and grasshoppers. The maggots just tasted like oil and the grasshoppers were not too bad actually 😉

Dessert is not pictured but was delicious: Kunming rose cakes! It was a challenge to find room for it but we managed 😉

Shilin/ Stone Forest Scenic Area

About 90 km from Kunming is an area which has a lot of limestone formations called Shilin or Stone Forest. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, so we took a day trip to see it. In the beginning it looked a bit like Disneyland for stones with nicely manicured lawns and wide, paved paths.

When we wandered more inside, it became a lot more quiet and rugged with lots of small trails and things to explore. It was really cool to see the different stones and formations (spot the elephant, the mushroom and the phoenix!) and besides getting a lot of steps in, we also took many cool pictures. Really worth the drive!

After some more ice cream at Salvador’s, we headed to our next stop Dali in the morning.

New Year’s in Paris

New Year’s in Paris

I’ve been back in Shanghai for a week now and it’s time to write about our last trip of 2019 before the next one starts!

We finished 2019 and started 2020 in Paris. Our friend Rich moved there in the summer and so we stayed with him for a few days. We had 3 great days of food, wine, catching up, hanging out watching Netflix, more food and some walks through Paris.

On our first day, we went to Caves du Louvre, a cool little museum/wine cellar. It was an interactive exhibit about wine and wine making and in the end you could taste 3 French wines from different regions. Afterwards, we headed to a market to buy some spreads, cheese and baguette and then hung out at home and watched too many episodes of RuPauls Drag race. So many references I finally understand now 🙂 We also had a great dinner at Jaja.

On the 31., we did a market tour with food tastings, another fun AirBnB experience. Our guide was really nice and gave us a lot of information about wine and cheese and local specialties.

For our NYE dinner, Rich had hired a great chef, who made us a lot of fantastic food. Truly a great last meal of 2019 (and there were so many!). Our spot for celebrating the new year was a little cabaret theater/bar, where Thorben was identified and mocked relentlessly as the only straight guy in sight. In summary: 2020 started with laughs, champagne, singing and dancing 🙂

After a very lazy first of January, we finally got off the couch as it was getting dark and went for a walk around Paris. We checked out Notre Dame, or the damage to Notre Dame and because I’m a silly tourist, I requested to stop at the Louvre and to take a very touristy photo in front of it.

Even though I’ve already been to Paris 3 times, I had this urge to go to the Eiffel tower. Like the trip to Paris would not really be a trip to Paris without having seen it 🙂 Thankfully, Thorben indulged me with this plan on our last morning, even though it meant another long walk – damn you, metro strike! We also got to see the Arc de Triomphe on the way. Trip to Paris: complete!

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!

Shanghai Night Eats Tour

Shanghai Night Eats Tour

It’s been more than a year and a half since Ellie and I went on the Shanghai Street Eats Breakfast Tour. Ever since then, I wanted to try the UnTour’s night tour and finally got around to going a couple of weeks ago.

June is the last month Cassie, a friend I met through GGI, was in Shanghai before going back to the US. She wanted to go as well, so we did it as kind of a fun farewell dinner. The tour was a culinary journey through China: We tried food from Xi’an, Guangzhou/Hongkong, Ningbo, Sichuan and finally Shanghai. I knew most of the cuisines from our China travels (and other food tours), but also got to try some new dishes, which was fun.

Xi’an Burgers

On our first stop, we got some Xi’an style “burgers” – crispy buns stuffed with pork. It was similar to the lamb buns we tried in Xi’an last year but I think even better.

Cantonese Food

Next, we walked over to a Cantonese place and had some really tasty sweet barbecued pork. I skipped the fatty pork belly, but also tried some fried noodles, pinapple bun and the mango tapioca dessert.

Tastes of Ningbo

The Ningbo restaurant was the most interesting stop for me because I’ve never been and never tried the food. I wasn’t a big fan of the jelly fish and fried fish they served, but loved the fava bean puree and fried bamboo chips. The rice cakes they served were also pretty good.


Spicy Sichuan

It’s a good thing we already did a food tour in Chengdu, so the rabbit head didn’t come as much of a shock 🙂 Our guide demonstrated very well how to take it apart and eat it, so Cassie and I tried some of the parts, cheek and brain to be exact. The cheek meat was good, I didn’t care too much for the brain, but maybe it’s just because it was hard for me to get over what we were eating. The spicy wontons, noodles and cucumbers were very tasty!

Shanghainese Goodies

And finally, we also had some Shanghai food – you can never go wrong with xiaolongbao 🙂

It was a really fun and yummy evening. Even though all the places are only a metro stop away, I would have never gone to any of them myself, since they’re mostly little holes-in-the-wall and Chinese only. Now, I have a map with all the stops and names of all dishes, so Marlyn and I are thinking to recreate the highlights of the food tour soon 🙂

China Travels: Chengdu

China Travels: Chengdu

As you could probably tell from Thorben’s post, the next stop after Xi’an was Chengdu. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province. It’s famous for 2 things: Spicy food and PANDAS!

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

I was very very excited about finally getting to see Pandas, so on our first morning we headed straight to the Panda base, or formally called the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Since pandas usually give birth in August we were lucky to see little fluffy adorable panda cubs!

We spent around 4 hours at the base. Mostly we watched the pandas eat and sleep (or eat while lying down) which is basically all they do all day. A sign in the park titled “Why do giant pandas always eat and sleep?” explained that the nutritional value of bamboo is very low so “They are not lazy, they are energy efficient!”

Lazy or not, they are so cute and clumsy and just all over awesome! I took way too many pictures and videos. If the guys wouldn’t have gotten bored I think my sister and I would still be there watching them 🙂

In addition to the giant pandas, the base housed quite a few red pandas. They are not as “energy efficient”, so they are not as easy to spot because they move a lot more, climb in the trees and are hidden in their enclosures. We got really lucky and had 2 awesome encounters. The first was early in the morning when it was just us and a couple little pandas came really close and Thorben was able to take great pictures. When we came back later in the day the keepers showed up to feed them, so many more came out to get some goodies.

They are so so so adorable and again, we had to be dragged away 🙂

People’s Park

After all the excitement of the morning, we headed to a tea house in People’s Park and spent a few hours relaxing and drinking tea. The guide book said getting your ears cleaned in People’s Park was the thing to do so Thorben went for the full Chengdu experience 🙂

Wenshu Monastery

Between the tea drinking and our next activity (spoiler: another food tour) we had a bit of time so we explored the Wenshu Monastery. It was very pretty with many different buildings and a little park, so definitely worth a visit.

Sichuan Food Tour

The last thing we did in Chengdu was to go on another food tour. Our guide Alina from Chengdu Food Tours showed us lots of different local foods, most of it pretty spicy. We started with bread buns stuffed with meat and rice noodles from a little street booth. Our next stop was a restaurant close to the monastery where they served sweet and spicy noodles, more rice noodles and rice cakes. At a local market Thorben went for the full Chengdu experience again and tried a rabbit head, including eyes, tongue and brain … yum. I passed, in case anyone was wondering 😉

After the rabbit head we tried some pickled vegetables and had a mixed vegetable salad, something a bit more western friendly. The market also gave us the chance to try some different baijiu – we took our favorite with us in a 0.5l plastic bottle 😀 We finished the night at a local “fly” restaurant (fly because it’s so busy it’s buzzing) with some more spicy food.

China Travels: Xi’an and the Terracotta Army

China Travels: Xi’an and the Terracotta Army

Last week it was Golden Week and there is much to tell but before that, I have to finish recapping our week of China Travels 🙂

After Luoyang, the second stop of our trip was Xi’an. The major attraction is of course the Terracotta Army, about an hour outside of the city, but Xi’an itself also has lots of cool stuff to see. Here is what we managed to do:

Muslim Quarter

On our first morning we walked past the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower to the Muslim Quarter. There is a ton of different street food and we tried a few different things including sticky rice, pomegranate juice, scallion pancakes, yogurt, lamb skewers and a bun stuffed with lamb meat. Thankfully, we also took a food tour the next day so we could try even more goodies.

Great Mosque

The Great Mosque is located in the Muslim Quarter and it’s one of the biggest and oldest mosques in China. It consists of several courtyards and different archways and buildings. It’s built in traditional Chinese style and looks more like a temple. However, there are some inscriptions in Arabic and Islamic art, so it takes a little exploring to discover it’s really a mosque.

City Wall

Xi’an also has one of the oldest, biggest and best preserved city walls in China. It wraps around the inner city and has a total length of 14 kilometers. It is a massive wall: 12 meters tall and also 12-14 meters wide at the top and you can walk or cycle the whole thing. We walked a portion of it and it is really impressive!

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

We came for the water show in front of the pagoda which is supposed to be really cool, but sadly it was not running the week we were there. So all we got was a couple of photos of the outside and silly selfies 🙂

Morning Food Tour

As already mentioned a few times, I love going on Food Tours to discover all the local goodies. In Xi’an we went with Lost Plate, which offers a breakfast tour by tuk tuk. We tried fried beef stuffed buns, a spicy stew with meatballs and veggies, some bread, a persimmon and a sesame red bean “donut”, some moon cake (it was right before mid autumn festival) and finally delicious hand-pulled noodles in a beef sauce – I think everyone’s favorite dish. Or maybe it was the fried beef bun? 🙂 In any case, we all left full and happy.

Terracotta Army

And finally, one of the trip highlights: The Terracotta Warriors of China’s First Emperor. We visited all 3 pits and it was really cool to see, definitely an item on the China Bucket List. It’s crazy to think that the statues are over 2,200 years old but were only discovered 40 years ago. While most pictures only show the rebuilt part, the site is still a huge work in progress, so it would be cool to go back in 20 years to see it again.

Xi’an by Night

While we were lazy at the hotel, Thorben headed back to the Bell Tower, Drum Tower and Muslim quarter to capture some pretty pictures by night.