Top 20 Pointers for Eating Overseas

On your home turf, you’re a food guru. You know exactly where to find the finest breakfast, and the very best coffee from an all day breakfast hot spot. As well as this, you know the ins and outs, where to sit, when to go, when to tip, how to order.

However none of that hard-earned regional understanding is helpful to you when you land in a foreign country for the very first time. And let’s face it, the quality of your dining experience can make or break your trip. So how do you prevent the tourist traps, find a really great meal, and not freak out when paying the bill all while getting a genuine taste of the city you’re in?

  1. GO BEYOND THE CONCIERGE

The concierge does usually have a little knowledge of the city you are in, however, they may not know what is the best or what is popular at the current time. They generally have a list of a couple ‘go-to’ suggestions that they offer, and you could miss out on something seriously good if you only go off their advice. If you do need their suggestions, ask them specifically what you are after, such as a good restaurant in a regional area, or a place that chefs would eat at.

  1. AVOID THOSE RESTAURANTS WITH SPRUIKERS

They can’t be missed in popular tourist locations, the bubbly waiter who promises you the very best Peking duck, paella, pizza or pasta in the world. If they were really as good as they were saying, then they probably wouldn’t need someone standing out the front of the restaurant trying to convince people to come in.

  1. INTERVIEW YOUR WAITER

Great restaurants will happily work together and promote each other; with just a quick chat with a quality chef or manager, you will be able to find a nearby breakfast cafe that does great coffee, probably even one that they go to themselves. You’ll also get a picture on great bars, eateries and before you know it, you’re on your way to an excellent culinary experience!

  1. SELECT YOUR TRAVEL DATES APPROPRIATELY

Having your heart set on eating a specific restaurant, only to find it not open when you get there, is a common mistake in travel, especially if you are travelling there during the holiday seasons, through local public holidays or big sporting events. Because guess what, those chefs you are travelling to specific restaurants for? They’re probably taking some time off too.

Heavy rains in the monsoon season can ruin the charm of outdoor noodle markets and dining terraces throughout south-east Asia from July to October.

  1. FIND OUT THE LINGO

Learn the basics of the local language so when you visit the world renowned restaurant and winery in Milan, Italy, you aren’t franticly trying to piece together a range of hand gestures and motions to try and convey that you need the bathroom, or you are ready for the bill.

  1. KNOW WHERE TO TIP (AND Just How Much).

You don’t tip in Japan and China, it’s optional in Switzerland and Sweden, but you need to in America. A service charge is included for you in France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hong Kong, and Singapore, but you can round the costs up if you want to leave additional for your waiter.

In America, waiters normally anticipate to get tipped around a 15 to 25 percent of the overall bill to compensate for their low earnings. In London, a 12 1/2 per cent tip is added to your bill, but in some cases, this won’t be written in the tips area of the bill in hope that you will tip again. If you are unsure, it is definitely OK to ask the waiting staff, they are more than likely aware that you aren’t a local. If you don’t want to ask, thanks to technology, there are a range of apps and websites you can quickly look up to find out what to do.

  1. PLAN AHEAD.

The finer the restaurant you plan to dine at, the additional time you need to give yourself to book your place. For some of the finest eateries in the world, bookings open months in advance and sell out quite quickly.

  1. EAT IN… YOUR HOTEL

It used to be that dining in your hotel would guarantee you  bland international food, but this is not the case anymore. Take a look at Heston Blumenthal’s Supper by Heston at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park or even the excellent yum cha at Above & Beyond at the Hotels Icon and Intercontinental in Hong Kong. Spectacular food is available at your doorstep, given you are staying in the hot spots of each city!

  1. DON’T ASK YOUR TRAVEL GUIDE

Hotel tourist guides are great for sightseeing and transport. As for dining, they are probably going to suggest to you the closest cuisine to what you have at home. If you are from Australia, they will suggest to you restaurants that offer Modern Australian cuisine, just like you can get at one of the restaurants in the yarra valley.

  1. GO LUXE.

The magnificent Grant Thatcher released the very first LUXE travel overview of Bangkok back in 2002, and remains a travel bible after selling out to Melbourne-based travel guide entrepreneur Simon Westcott. There are now 36 pocket-sized guides from Beijing to Barcelona; Miami to Milan; and Sri Lanka to Stockholm. They’re precise, honest and humorous reviews of every country.

  1. KNOW THE RULES.

It’s not just what you eat; it’s also how you eat it. When consuming with your hands in Morocco the Middle East or India, use only your right hand. In China, use the colour-coded serving chopsticks to serve your food, instead of your own. In Naples, a pizza must be eaten with your hands and slightly folded in at the middle. In America, double dipping is a criminal activity of the highest order.

  1. WHAT TIME’S DINNER?

Not everybody eats dinner at 8pm, in Spain and South America; it’s more like 10 or 11pm. You can roam around the streets of Madrid at 1am watching families with young children taking a leisurely after-dinner stroll. In many Arab countries, supper is generally eaten after 10pm, while Parisians and Romans tend to eat around 9pm. In Sweden, 6pm is considered completely appropriate, while in New York City, dining establishments have the tendency to have two dinner sittings, the first as early as 5.30pm.

  1. TO MARKET, TO MARKET

The local fresh food market doesn’t just offer your usual fruit and vegetable options, surrounding the market are usually some of the best coffee, bakeries, butcheries and cafes. The fresh food markets even offer tastings of beautiful wines such as ones you would find in a yarra valley vineyard.

  1. AVOID THE TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

Traveller tourist attractions bring with them, an influx of traveller dining establishments. So to get a more localised experience, get off the beaten track, even if only by a block.

  1. SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD TO QUEUE UP

There is a limit between wanting to eat where everyone is lining up to eat, and actually lining up yourself. Here’s when it deserves the wait; for a Bloody Mary Sunday brunch at Prune in New York City, for lunch at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier in Paris, for Dim Sum at Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan, and for Dumplings at Beijing’s Shandong QiangMian Mantou Dian.

  1. USE YOUR SIGHT

If you can’t read the menu, it’s not the end of the world. Take a walk around the restaurant and check out what other people are eating, if it looks good, ask the waiter what it is or just take a gamble and order it. Dinner is sorted.

  1. WALK AROUND

Get up, get out and walk around, or if you don’t know where to go, book a walking tour and work off lasts nights meal while you decide on tonight’s. Some good walking tours are John Paul Fortney’s strolling tour of Montmartre, including stops at three different regional dining establishments for entree, main course and dessert. Eating London’s East End Tour, which tells you about the history of the East End from the Excellent Fire of London to Jack the Ripper, with stops at different restaurants from a Brick Lane curry to traditional fish and chips and a pint of ale.

In New York, Myra Alperson visits the famous hot food suburbs such as Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn introducing eaters to off-the-beaten course restaurants, markets and coffee shops. In LA, it’s worth doing the LA Conservancy’s Historic Downtown strolling tour, if only to walk through the sensational 1917 Grand Central Market.

  1. USE YOUR PHONE

There’s a plethora of information available on the internet that will inevitably lead to many a late night of red wine and bleary eyes before you get overwhelmed and quit.

  1. USE THE TWO BLOCK GUIDELINE

Every city has a hot food precinct, whether it’s Potts Point in Sydney, Williamsburg in New York City, or the Objective District in San Francisco. Discover it, book a hotel neat it, and apply the ‘two block rule’. Only look within a two block radius of your hotel and you will undoubtedly find great coffee, a winery, or even a ramen bar that you might end up frequenting.

  1. FLY SOLO.

Choosing supper can be troublesome when you’re travelling solo. That’s why Japan developed sushi bars and Spain developed tapas bars, and why American restaurants have fantastic bars. Hot restaurants might be booked out months beforehand, however if you are only after a table for one, they may be able to accommodate you.

Myanmar Trip is a Rural Awakening

I have visited the country many times, mainly throughout my youth in the 1970s when my father worked as a diplomat while Burma’s military dictatorship was at its cruellest. More recently, I visited at the end of 2014, before the elections introduced the country’s very first civilian federal government in 50 years (albeit 25 percent of parliamentary seats were held for the army). As I travelled around Myanmar, about 6 months after the new federal government took office, there was a palpable state of optimism. Some residents say that the country is now the most democratic country in Southeast Asia, although some problems remain and Myanmar’s security forces have been recently accused of human rights offenses against Rohingya Muslims.

We began our journey in Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital and still its biggest city. It’s a bewitchingly old-new place of collapsing colonial architecture and a horizon etched with the largest cranes hired for development. We take a walking tour into the historical downtown area with our guide, Joseph, who accompanies us throughout the journey and is marvellously able to integrate the personalities of a caring shepherd, a clear-sighted baby-sitter and a fluent historian. In Yangon, we admire the streets lined with Victorian-era structures – some improved by structural and engineered timber beams, others losing the battle with greenery. Most importantly, we stop to discover the local life, tasting the products of a betel-nut seller and stopping briefly at Merchant Road where lawyers provide lunch break services, having carried their tomes and typewriters with them to the pop-up stalls.

In the late afternoon we visit the magnificent Shwedagon pagoda, a site that dates back 2500 years. Set on a hill in the heart of Yangon, this Buddhist edifice appears ethereally suspended over the city. Its 110m high top is encrusted with diamonds. Through a telescope, you can see the biggest, supposedly 76 carats. For most of our visit, however, I looked on quietly at the local people making flower offerings to astrological animals, at little kids sounding gongs, and at nuns in apricot-coloured bathrobes checking out bibles in side pavillions.

As the schedule hits full speed, there are challenging moments, such as the 5am start to catch a flight to the ancient capital of Bagan on Day 3. Departure from Yangon’s domestic airport is remarkably effective and we check out the nation’s most stupendous site by 8.30am. In between the 11th and 13th centuries the kings of Burma constructed countless pagodas in the area with great charisma. It’s a beautiful location where substantial pagodas stretch across the horizon and myriad little stupas pepper the fields in between. The best method to get around is by bike. We feel part of the landscape, states Joseph, as he takes us on a bike trip to many of the most amazing pagodas – Ananda with its stunning Buddha images; Thatbyinnyu, practically 60m high and offering scenic views from its balconies; and Bupaya, one of the oldest temples in Bagan.

I am shocked that just a few of the pagodas are out of bounds. Last August, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake shook the area and 200 temples were damaged. Yet Joseph informs us that it was a “great” earthquake. For several years, he says, UNESCO chose not to approve Bagan World Heritage status because of the crass advancement that occurred in the 90s. But the most significant hit of the earthquake destabilised those concrete additions and there is now a brand-new spirit of cooperation as UN professionals join Myanmar authorities in the painstaking repair and construction works with frannas that could not damage the undoubtedly endless beauty of the city.

Exactly what this means for visitors is the absence of access to the interiors of some bigger temples, such as Shwegugyi, and a horizon dotted with pagodas under scaffolding which, in this most stunning of nations, takes a kind of halos of filigreed bamboo. Our travel plan was made to also allow a couple free days, among which we can enjoy Bagan in leisure. I had spent a lot of this time biking to remote temples, admiring the archeological museum (filled with 11th-century Buddha images and, oddly, striking mannequins with real hair) and checking out a museum dedicated to thanakha, the bark that is ground into a powder and used as sun screen.

A few days later we roam around thanakha orchards near Myaing. Then the journey moved north to the tourist attractions outside the city of Mandalay (itself unattractive, although the distant sites, such as U Bein’s teak bridge, the temples of Sagaing and more, are jaw-dropping); to the station of Kalaw, where we make our way through plantations of oranges, tea and coffee; and to Inle Lake, where the Intha people have established an approach to fishing where they row with one leg to keep an arm free to catch the fish.

I return home with a kaleidoscope of images in my head along with my video camera. Yet of all these, it’s the vision of the Myaing lodge that remains greatest in my mind. Incredible white geese slid past my lakeside bedroom window; egrets gathering in the shallows by banana trees as I watch under the patio’s glulam laminated timber frames; big dragonflies hovered over pot plants. It was ineffably tranquil and for a brief moment, all appeared right with the world.

Can the City of Venice be saved?

Venice is a name which you won’t feel unfamiliar. It is a city located in northern Italy. Too many titles have been added on this city such as “La Dominante”, “Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City”, and “City of Canals”. The New York Times even described it as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”.
Venice is sinking

Our beloved city of water seems to be influenced largely by the global warming during recent years. As a matter of fact, this is not the first that Venice faces up with this flood problem, the city has a 1500 year’s history to battle with the wave starting from the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century.. However, in old times, the flood happened once or twice a year whereas now it happens every week. Therefore, you can even buy a pair of water-proof shoes from the ice cream vendors.

In old times, this kind of undesirable situation actually has brought Venice a lot of benefits. The city has become one of the most important ports along the Mediterranean Sea as it is surrounded by water and thus gets easy access to the sea. As a result, Venice has been one of the richest cities in the world by the 15th Century.
Between 1950s and 1980s, the city has sunk 20cm. 100 years ago, the time for the city to be covered by water in only seven days but now the number is shockingly 200; and Venice may only come across very high tides 5 times during one decade but now it seems that there were above 50 high tides only between 1993 to 2002.
Now when you come to visit Venice, you may need to find your way in the water because of the frequent floods. Even the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has launched the anti-flood policy which seems to be the last chance to save our beloved city of water. Nonetheless, the anti-flood programme will be huge and complicated which may involve more environment damages.

The flood of tourists

Although the city is endangered right now and everywhere is in the water even the shopping malls, it can not stop the flood of enthusiastic tourists. Venice is known to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It is estimated that there are almost circa 50,000 tourists per day and around 2.927 million tourists each year. The tourists are just like another flood to Venice.
When you come here, do not forget to try the canal which is the most famous transportation means here and can give you some unique experience.
Not sure if it is still a good idea to hire a car to explore a city, or maybe it is better to rent a canal. However, during the remaining 100 days when the city is not in the water, hiring a car is a good idea also. Car hiring companies like Avis, Sixt, Opodo, Enterprises, Europcar, Hertz, Carhiremarket, MyCarHire, and Expedia will take care of your car rental needs considerately.