Oh Nepal

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The news of the earthquake in Nepal have left me utterly heartbroken.
So many lives lost, so many ancient historic buildings and temples destroyed, so many homes in ruins. And so many villages not even accessed yet.
We are fortunate because so far, all of my relatives are safe. The same goes for close family friends. We’ve been in contact with them and the stories they’ve told are devastating.

My grandmother is afraid to go back inside, my uncle has been wandering the streets of Kathmandu and a close family friend who’s also a heart surgeon is almost constantly fighting ti save lives. People are being treated in hospital hallways, out in the open in front of hospital buildings and everywhere else where it’s needed.

Nepal is a country with a rich culture and history. The people are warm and friendly, welcoming to everyone and they need our help.
The infrastructure of the country is weak at the best of times so I cannot even imagine what it’s like now. The government barely said anything so far and neighbours are trying to safe neighbours sometimes with just their bare hands.

#prayfornepal seems like a popular hashtag and I’m thankful for it all but let me be clear: praying alone, being sad alone isn’t enough. Please consider donating whatever amount you can to help to a reliable charity of your choice.
Right now getting basic supplies, medicine, clean water and food and equipment to save people buried in the rubble is probably the top priority, but the rebuilding of the countr y will take a long time and for that too, ressources are needed. Please don’t forget that.

The New York Times has listed some charities here. Austrian readers can also donate to the Austrian Red Cross.

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ETA:
I forgot: Facebook has enabled the safety check, where people who are in the affected regions can mark themselves as safe and let their friends and families know that they are alright. Should you be looking for someone, the google person finder may be able to help you. And last but not least, viber has made calls to nepalese landlines free using viber out.

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Language, Barriers and Open Doors

My second post over at The Blog Wander is up and I’m still really excited to be part of such a fun and inspiring project. And mind you, ‘inspiring’ isn’t usually a word I use lightly.
So what are you waiting for? Head over and read the posts of these fun and brave girls who reflect on their lives, loves, and travels. They’re talented writers and their stories will suck you right in :)

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My new post is about languages. I am convinced that languages have an insane power. They’re also endlessly fascinating and by trying to speak even one or two words of the local language while in another country, you’ll convey a totally new picture of who you are.

“Learning these words and phrases was worth it in more ways than just reveling in their surprised faces. It was me showing them that yes, I am from a different country, yes, I am just visiting and yes, I might just be a young girl, but I really am trying. I’m trying to understand the local customs and traditions. I’m trying to communicate with you, even though we both speak different languages and can barely understand each other. I’m trying to make the most of it. I’m trying.

And isn’t that really all that we can do?”

You can read the entire post here.

 

Travel Stories: Water & Food Culture

Let’s talk a bit more about food, water and food culture, okay?

Water:

I’ve been sick because I drank bad water before. It happens. I’ve never had something serious (thank God!) but it’s definitely annoying. Still, it’s very important that you stay hydrated. Especially in countries like India, Thailand or Nepal where it can get super hot! (Believe me, fainting twice in the middle of a sightseeing tour is not a fun experience!).

So what do you have to look out for? Again – most of this is probably common sense:

Don’t drink tap water. Just don’t. Maybe you’re not used to drinking tap water anyway, but in Austria we have great tap water, super clear. I usually always prefer tap water to any other drink if I’m thirsty so this is something I always have to remind myself of.

A lot of private households will have a filter installed and it’s mostly safe to drink the water. The occasional ice cubes in a drink won’t kill you either, but if you’re unsure, just say you don’t want ice in your drink. That problem is solved easily.

If you’re out sightseeing and you buy a bottle of water from street vendors or little shops, make sure that the cap is still sealed and cracks when you open the bottle. Sometimes people will collect used bottles and fill them with dirty water, put on the top and sell it again. Please pay attention to this!

When I discussed this with a group of friends, a different topic came up: namely the issue of waste. If you drink about 3 litres of water per day – that’s a lot of garbage. Especially in countries where the recycling system isn’t as elaborate as it is in Europe or North America.

We came up with a couple of alternatives:

1) Chlorine tablets: This may not taste so great and it’s probably also not the healthiest solution if you’re staying long term, but it makes the water drinkable.

2) Solar filter: This is a bit pricier but my friend swears by it. She said she traveled for months and always used this and never got sick and would recommend this to everyone who’s traveling for a longer period of time. It’s a small solar filter you can stick into a bottle of water for a few seconds and the water’s clean. I have no personal experience with this but it may be an alternative.

Food Culture:

Don’t waste food. Only take as much on your plate as you can eat – you can always get a second serving if you’re still hungry.

I know from my experience in Nepal and India that people sometimes can consider it rude if you don’t help yourself to a second serving. In this case it might be wise to purposely take less at first so you can agree on a second serving.

Be a bit adventurous. Try new things – you might like it (or you might not at all, but try it anyway!) I’ve had fish ice cream (there was this store in Singburi, Thailand that only sold food made from fish. Cakes, chips, ice cream… not my favourite but a lot of fun to try!) I’ve also tried scorpion (uhh…. what can I say? It tasted very bitter….). These things might not be culinary highlights but they’re fun and if you get the chance, why not give it a try?

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[Above: Fish ice cream | Below: Scorpion we ate on Khaosan Road in Bangkok]
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However, it doesn’t have to be stuff like that: Asian countries are well known for their great food. Try curries, salads, noodle and rice dishes. In touristy places they won’t be very spicy (if you ask them to make you authentic Thai food, they will be though!) anywhere else: spice is good. I love spicy Asian food because even though the seasoning is hot, it doesn’t override the actual taste. With European food, if you eat hot there’s the possibility that all you taste is spicy and hot and no actual taste – that’s not the case with Asian food (if you eat well, of course ;))

Keep in mind: spicy is healthy. It will quickly clear out a blocked nose, for example.

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[Above: a typical Thai-BBQ. The water heats up so you can boil vegetables while you can grill meat in the middle. | Below: Self made Papaya-Salad (Som Tam). Super easy to prepare and super tasty – However, take care, this can be extremely spicy!]
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[Above: Pad Thai. Personally, I don’t quite like the texture of the noodles. Nevertheless it is one of the most well known thai dishes and still very delicious. | Below: My lunch during my week at the beach in Koh Samet. Just some fruit – it was too hot for anything more than that.]
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Some more important info:
Thai’s like to decorate and season with peanuts. Be conscious of that if you dislike nuts or are allergic and make sure that you tell them when ordering your food.
In general vegetarians shouldn’t have huge troubles finding food they can eat. If you travel to places that are less touristy, ask a receptionist (who almost all speak English as well as Thai) to write down that you’re a vegetarian on a piece of paper in Thai script. You can show this paper at a restaurant and people will understand.
If you eat in a typical thai restaurant, you will probably never find a knive. Knives only exist in the kitchen. Cutlery consists of forks and spoons. This is mainly due to the fact that typical thai food doesn’t consist of huge pieces of meat that you have to cut (like a big steak). Most of the food will have the meat and other ingredients cut into small, bite-sized pieces. Not having a knive makes things like spreading butter or nutella or jam on a piece of toast kind of interesting, but it does work with a spoon as well. It just takes some time getting used to ;)

DISCLAIMER:

All opinions and recommendations on this blog, but especially concerning these travel stories, are solely based upon my own experiences and in no way imply that anyone else will have a similar experience. All travelers are encouraged to use good sense and to keep their eyes open whenever venturing forth into a new place. Please use your common sense and listen to your own instincts.  Each traveling experience is unique to the person having it and I hope you have many!

[If you think these posts are helpful, or if you think there’s something missing then please let me know! They’re part of a presentation  I gave with a group of friends and we will hold it again twice next autumn. If there’s something we can do to improve it I’d really appreciate some feedback! Thanks.]

Travel Stories: Presentation!

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[Thailand 2004]

Yesterday was the day!
Together with 2 other girls, I held a presentation about how to travel safely and smoothly through Thailand. We were a small group, roughly all in my age and it was quite a lot of fun. The Feedback we got was very positive as well and we’ve been asked to do it again once or twice in September or October. So if you’re in Vienna and planning to travel, come say hi?
There will be presentations about Nepal and India as well, and I’ll probably join that preperation too. (Presentations about East Africa and South America will be offered as well, best see this website about information :))

All in all we spoke for about 90 minutes, which we think was maybe a bit too long and it will be held shorter next time. Still, I think the personal stories and experiences made the whole presentation a lot livelier and fun :)

As an unexpected bonus we were told we’d get paid a tiny amount from the organisation who approached us – it’s not much but a nice sentiment none the less. However, I’d love to make a job out of this. Would anyone sponsor me? Any volunteers? That would be a dream come true.

Until that happens, I’ll continue to crawl my way to the end of the uni semester and try to get some last minute travel preparations for this summer done. That’s not too bad either, I think :)

We ended last night talking about the feedback and the experience (first ever presentation that wasn’t for university or school, but work!) while sipping this really nice lemonade:

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Sparkling water, lemon juice, mint leaves and ginger. Yummy and so refreshing!

I hope everyone had a lovely week as well,

xo Kristina

Travel Stories – Food: Street Vendors

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Food is a huge topic when traveling, no? It’s an even bigger topic when you’re traveling to what we’d call a developing country.

Let’s address some topics that might be of concern:

Street vendors (and food sold at markets):

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People often warn you, “Don’t eat food from street vendors!” But should you really? Is it really that unsafe?

In my opinion: No.

It can be, sure, but if you pay attention you can very easily find out where it’s safe to eat from and where it is not. Keep your eyes open, and observe closely. Are there other people buying from that vendor? Does it look clean and fresh?
A tip (and this goes for street vendors as well as restaurants): if there are a lot of locals it’s most probably safe and definitely delicious.

My experience was – not only in Thailand but in India and Nepal as well, – that you can find the absolutely best, most delicious and authentic food in tiny roadside restaurants or at street vendors. When I travel with my family, we generally always try to stay clear of typical tourist restaurants. We stumble in the most unlikely places and have the craziest, but most delicious and yummy food you could ever imagine. Plus, it’s much cheaper!

The same thing goes for local markets. You can find amazing fruit, vegetables or pastries there, but rely on your common sense and if you’re unsure about it, then I’d say better safe than sorry.

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Raw food:

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In general there’s this rule you should stick to:

Cook it, peel it or leave it.

That’s it, not much more to say about this one. It’s pretty self explanatory.

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[Photo credit goes (sadly) not to me but to a close family friend. All pictures were taken in 2004 on my first trip to Thailand. We forgot to take our own camera. Stupid, I know.]

DISCLAIMER:

All opinions and recommendations on this blog, but especially concerning these travel stories, are solely based upon my own experiences and in no way imply that anyone else will have a similar experience. All travelers are encouraged to use good sense and to keep their eyes open whenever venturing forth into a new place. Please use your common sense and listen to your own instincts.  Each traveling experience is unique to the person having it and I hope you have many!