Episode 27 – New Delhi with Saumya

Meet Saumya! A New Delhi native who’s here to share her recommendations so you have the most authentic, local experience while experience this vibrant city.

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

Saumya at the Red Fort

Saumya’s top guides and resources for visiting New Delhi and Agra (Taj Mahal)

Happy camel in New Delhi

Episode 24 – Japan with Ken

Ken from Japan is here to share his stories on Japan!

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

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Ken’s Recommendations on Japan:

FOOD:

One thing I love about Tokyo is the number of the great restaurants. Sushi, Sukiyaki, Ramen…

Top Restaurant in Tokyo: Yoroniku – The best Japanese BBQ (Yakiniku) in Omotesando area serving the best Japanese beef (Wagyu)!

Although this is BBQ, you don’t need to cock by yourself. Instead, servers will have them cocked perfectly in front of you, and they will propose you the best ways to eat them. Please note that Yoroniku is always very crowded, and you should get the reservation at least 2 weeks before.

ACTIVITIES:

I also like walking around Yoyogi and Omotesando area. If you’re tired from walking the busy city, you should go to spacious Meiji Jingu Shrine located right next to the Yoyogi station. This is relatively new shrine built 100 years ago, but you can feel the Japanese traditional Shinto spirits when praying at the main building surrounded by many trees.

Once you have refreshed, you can walk toward Omotesando station, the most fashionable city in Tokyo. You can enjoy shopping in the large shopping mall, Omotesando Hills, as well as tiny local shops in the back allies. This area is also really good for getting some souvenirs for your friends and families.

If you could luckily get the reservation for Yoroniku for your dinner, this is only 10 mins walk from Omotesando station.

Cherry Blossom season in Tokyo
Donuts in the shape of cats and ducks
Wedding at Japanese shrine in Tokyo

Episode 23 – Hungary with Dan

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

I lived in Hungary, specifically the capital city of Budapest, for three years from 2005-2008. Originally drawn to the country, like many of the other foreign men there, in pursuit of the woman I loved, I found myself immersed in the country’s vibrant evolution from reluctant Soviet satellite state to modern Western-facing democracy. Today, with the dark forces of right-wing authoritarianism threatening the progress made since the fall of the Berlin wall, and a flashpoint for the middle eastern refugee crisis, Hungary is once again a fascinating social and political place to study, visit, argue about, and fall in love with.

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Geographically located in Central Europe (NOT eastern – look at a map!), the current boundaries of Hungary contain a mostly flat country with one major city, Budapest, and several regional hubs. Most travelers will only see the capital, which is definitely of highest priority, but those with extra days to spare would be well served to check out the rolling hills, beautiful vistas, and colorful vineyards in other areas of the country. It’s worth reading up on the major events of the past century as much has happened that affected the country’s borders, population, culture, and more.

Budapest is a stunning European capital littered with examples of classic gothic architecture, cathedrals, castles, lovely bridges, an island park, public art, and more. Split by the Danube River in two halves, Buda and Pest, the “Paris of the East” is easily covered on foot and metro, or even better, by bicycle. Leafy-green and hilly Buda is the place to explore the castle area with its excellent views overlooking Pest. Take a ride up the riverside bike path and stop in a cafe for lunch, or ride around exploring Margaret Island (Margit Sziget), where you can join an acroyoga class, sip a froccs (wine spritzer) in a garden bar, see live music, or just take a nap on the grass. Pest is the place you’ll spend the bulk of your time, however, with many excellent museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops, markets, bars and much more.

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For accommodations, I’d suggest looking for an apartment to rent for a few days instead of a hotel room. Look for a location in the inner part of the Pest side, in the 5th, 6th, or 7th districts. On the Buda side, look for a location close to the river south of the castle, or perhaps choose the Gellert Hotel (which also contains one of the many Turkish-style bathhouses that are a must-visit).

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Any guidebook (and there are many) will have the major sights listed, so you can pick and choose what seems interesting, but for me what felt most rewarding was just trying to “fit in” to the rhythms of day-to-day life, albeit in famous places. Don’t just go to the grand market hall to gawk at the vendors – actually do some produce shopping there, and don’t forget to get a snack of langos (savory fried dough, best with cheese and sour cream) upstairs, washed down by a beer. During the summer months, you’ll want to do as much eating and drinking outside as possible – look for garden bars and “ruin pubs”, the most famous of which is called Szimpla. Often there are pop-up ruin pubs and venues that only last one season. Talk to locals or pick up the free English-language program guide Funzine to see where the latest hotspot is.

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GO to the bathhouses – at least two of them. The must-do bathhouse is in the city park (Varosliget) and is called Szechenyi; Gellert, Rudas, and Kiraly baths are all wonderful as well, with each having its own unique character. One fun way to do the baths is by going to a party in one – most Saturday nights you can get your groove on in the tubs with great light shows and sometimes fire performers.

You can probably skip the National Museum, the inside of the Synagogue, and the tour of the Parliament building – all of these are just as good from the outside. In fact the only must-go museum is the excellently designed House of Terror Museum (Terrorhaza), which documents the country’s oppressive past (and possible future?) under the Iron Soviet Fist. Speaking of fists, St. Stephen’s Cathedral has a quirky 5-minute diversion: in an antechamber to the main hall, you can pop a coin in a slot and light up a gold-cased mummified fist – “The Holy Right” – said to be that of St. Stephen, one of Hungary’s founding Kings and over 1,000 years old. For other funky off-beat sights, check out Atlas Obscura(whose founders got their start exploring weird sights in this part of Europe!)

If you have a week in the country, strongly consider spending a few days at Lake Balaton, Europe’s largest freshwater lake, which is an easy train or bus ride from the city. Here you can while the day away cycling around the lake, wine-tasting at vineyards, splashing around in the warm shallow water, exploring cute villages, and eating more langos.

Eat: langos, pogacsa, retes, burek, chicken or mushroom “paprikas”, chilled fruit soups, vegetable stews, gulyas, all the cakes and sweets you can handle, all the other things

Drink: Red wines from Eger and Villany, whites from Badacsony, Zwack Unicum (an herbal liquor), and maybe try some palinka (brandy)

Stay: AirBnB

Transit: Bike, metro, walk

Guides: TALK TO LOCALS (all young people speak English), Funzine, Where magazines As with all places you’ll go, the more research you do in advance, the better. Enjoy your trip!

Episode 19 – Mongolia with Ariunna

This week’s episode comes straight from the wide open grasslands of Mongolia, where Ariunaa takes us on a journey through her homeland. From experiencing the warmth of Mongolian hospitality to exploring the regional cuisine, you’ll be inspired to pack your bags for the land of endless green plains, nomadic herders, and two-humped camels. Please enjoy!

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

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Group photo

Mongolia

Mongolia is the least populated country in the world. Known for its vast open grasslands and the Gobi desert, the country is home to 3 million people. Nearly half of the country’s population carry on a 3-thousand year old lifestyle as nomadic herders.

The capital city of Ulaanbaatar hustles and bustles, not unlike many other Asian cities in this part of the world. However, the desire to see Ulaanbaatar is hardly the real reason that brings seasoned travelers to Mongolia. The countryside and the nomadic culture are what attract adventure seekers to Mongolia.

Where to Visit

Central Mongolia (aka the Khangai Region) — Endless green plains, rolling hills, pristine forests, wildlife that is unique to only this part of the world, and Karakorum, ruins of the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire.

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Northern Mongolia — The world’s second largest freshwater lake named Khuvsgul Lake and the surrounding natural beauty, the Tsaatan people (nomadic reindeer herders)

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Southern Mongolia (aka the Gobi Region)– The gobi desert, vast steppes that go as far as your eyes can see, beautiful sand dunes, two-humped Mongolian camels

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Western Mongolia — The snow-capped peaks of Altai mountains, Kazakh eagle hunters

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Eat & Drink

Khorkhog – authentic Mongolian barbeque, prepared by pressure cooking meat and vegetables inside an airtight container using hot stones

Khuushuur – deep fried dumplings with meat filling

Aaruul – type of dairy product made from dried milk curd

Mongolian vodka – vodka distilled from yogurt

Airag – fermented horse milk

Experience

Stay in a ger

Ger 1
Ger 2

Go horseback riding

Horse riding

Go camel riding

Camel riding

Visit a nomadic herder family

Nomadic herders

Stay in nature

See the Naadam festival

Festival pic

Shop

Ethically made clothes, accessories and blankets from natural textiles obtained from nomadic animal husbandry:

Cashmere

Camel wool

Yak wool

Further reading (as mentioned in the podcast)

The Mongolia Obsession, Tim Wu

Episode 14 – Japan with Ken

Ken from Japan is here to share his stories on Japan!

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

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Ken’s Recommendations on Japan:

FOOD:

One thing I love about Tokyo is the number of the great restaurants. Sushi, Sukiyaki, Ramen…

Top Restaurant in Tokyo: Yoroniku – The best Japanese BBQ (Yakiniku) in Omotesando area serving the best Japanese beef (Wagyu)!

Although this is BBQ, you don’t need to cock by yourself. Instead, servers will have them cocked perfectly in front of you, and they will propose you the best ways to eat them. Please note that Yoroniku is always very crowded, and you should get the reservation at least 2 weeks before.

ACTIVITIES:

I also like walking around Yoyogi and Omotesando area. If you’re tired from walking the busy city, you should go to spacious Meiji Jingu Shrine located right next to the Yoyogi station. This is relatively new shrine built 100 years ago, but you can feel the Japanese traditional Shinto spirits when praying at the main building surrounded by many trees.

Once you have refreshed, you can walk toward Omotesando station, the most fashionable city in Tokyo. You can enjoy shopping in the large shopping mall, Omotesando Hills, as well as tiny local shops in the back allies. This area is also really good for getting some souvenirs for your friends and families.

If you could luckily get the reservation for Yoroniku for your dinner, this is only 10 mins walk from Omotesando station.

Cherry Blossom season in Tokyo
Donuts in the shape of cats and ducks
Wedding at Japanese shrine in Tokyo

Episode 12 – Russia with Anya

Anya is from Russia and here to share her stories and recommendations around the country!

To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play

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Anya’s recommendations:

In Moscow:
Cultural Stuff:
– Red Square is a must
– museums inside Kremlin especially State Regalia one
– Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow – my fav of all time, a lot of provocative visual art
– Tretyakov Gallery for classic fine art
Restaurants:
– White Rabbit – there is an episode of a Netflix show about it, authentic Russian cuisine
– Turandot – prepare to be wow’d by everything, royal dining experience
– Zhivago – USSR themed, really authentic
Other:
– Book a Airbnb walking tour experience to see the best of Moscow. Russians love to stroll, so streets are beautiful and pedestrian friendly. There are a lot of parks and squares with cafes and benches to relax and enjoy the view.

St Petersburg:
– Hermitage
– Peterhof (takes at least a full day)
– boat tour of canals is an absolute must
– roof of Saint Isaac’s cathedral for the best view (in photos below)
– any rooftop restaurant
– St Petersburg is a gorgeous city full of history. Just walking around is great. There are bunch of historical palaces and churches. Food is great everywhere.
– Highly recommend doing it only in summer time though. It’s extremely cold in winter and a lot of beautiful sites and Peterhof are closed.

Other cool cities to consider:
– Sochi
– Nizhny Novgorod
– Kazan
– Samara
– If you have a little extra time, there is a really fascinating river cruise around what’s called Russian Golden Ring. Over a few days a cruise ship goes through small and big historical towns around European part of Russia.

Episode 9 – Philippines with Ted

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To access the Traveltalk podcast from your mobile device, try itunes or Google Play or Spotify

Ted lived in the Philippines for about 2 months exploring the area, volunteering, and living with friends for a more local, authentic experience.

If you want to enhance your audio experience check out Ted’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/tedwillistube, he documents his travel adventures and shares recommendations around the world.In the Philippines, here are his top recommendations:

  • Divisoria Market in Manila
  • Surfing in Mati
  • Taste Balut
  • Try Sisig
  • El Nido, El Nido, El Nido