A Trini’s ABCs of Travel

On all the travel blogs, The Travel ABCs is a sort of game going round the blogosphere, one of those “credential” post that travel bloggers make (like an accent tag on YouTube). I see it as a combined self-examination exercise and travellers’ curriculum vitae. A bit like my credentials for presuming to blog about travel to an unsuspecting public. I’ve very much enjoyed reading other bloggers answers and found the exercise very revealing. Without further ado, here are my Travel ABCs:

A. Age you went on your first international trip:
18 …
  My first international trip was when I left Trinidad to go to Montreal for university. I’ve told this story to multiple people on my travels, and they found it completely unbelievable – but such is what happens when you’re from a lower middle class home in Trinidad. I went to very prestigious boys college, where a lot of my friends had parents with very good salaries and perks to take them around – but unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity – but I didn’t miss anything – my parents did the very best they could do, and one can’t ask for more than that.It does make for an interesting comparison to my North American friends who had tons of childhood exploits. It just goes to show, that even if you start later in life, you can always catch up and see the rest of the world on your time.

B: Best (foreign) beer:
I didn’t start drinking until I was in university and I never ever did develop the taste for beer. In Trinidad, we had Carib, Stag and Heineken (if you were rich). Still to this day, I really can’t say that I have a beer that made me sit up and think. My best beer drinking experience though was in Belgium on side trip for the World Cup 2006. The Belgians definitely know how to do their beer and chocolate. I had three pints of Westvleteren 12. It was fantastic, and I can’t stress how much I don’t prefer beer. Those goddamn Monks (I guess they have nothing better to do than pray and brew beer in complete silence) I also had 1/4 pint of Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter with a steak. I remember the owner recommending this beer to me and for years, it was also voted the best beer in the world – I can’t say I liked it at all!

C: Cuisine (favourite):
This has to be toughest question for me. My favorite food would have to be “Hakka Cuisine”. Traditional Hakka cuisine comes from a very specific region of China, but I’m not that big a fan. However in India and other regions with significant Indian populations like Toronto, the locally known “Hakka cuisine” is actually an Indian adaptation of original Hakka dishes. This variation of Hakka cuisine is in reality, mostly Indian Chinese cuisine. It is called “Hakka cuisine” because in India many owners of restaurants that serve this cuisine are of Hakka origin. Typical dishes include ‘chilli chicken’ and ‘Manchurian chow mein’ (an Indianised version of real Manchurian cuisine), and these restaurants also serve traditional Indian dishes such as pakora. Being very popular in these areas, this style of cuisine is often mistakenly credited of being representative of Hakka cuisine in general, whereas the authentic style of Hakka cuisine is rarely known in these regions.

Before all the Trinis go crazy on me … Hakka Cuisine is very similar in nature to Trinidadian food. It’s super savory and super spicy. So in honor of that, here is an EPIC PLATE of rice, callaloo, curried shrimp, curried chicken, mixed chunky vegetables, curried mango and Stew Chicken.

D: Destinations, favourite, least favourite and why:
As much as I love going home to Trinidad, I would never rank Trinidad as a fantastic destination (outside of Carnival time – and even that’s dying). It’s just not that type of place and we suck as welcoming visitors. Every country so far has had its own charm but for my personal taste, a destination has to have the following

  • Fantastic food (no dairy though)
  • Outdoors adventures (Waterfalls, Volcanoes, an epic vista)
  • History and architecture
  • Fascinating culture!

The only place I can think that had all of that, was Thailand.  Here’s a picture from the Phi Phi Island.

The Philippines ranks a close second, but I wasn’t the greatest fan of Filipino food, even their high end hotels truly have the best buffets I’ve ever eaten at. Europe is great for a generic, affordable and accessible travel experience – Krakow, Prague and London are pretty stellar cities. For island beauty and stunning water : Maldives, Philippines, Virgin Islands are definitely on top. As for my least favorite – I don’t have one, but since I have to pick one, I’ll go with Guyana for now,  BUT every country I have visited has had its own charm.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say, “wow”:
That’s easy for me. The single best travel experience for me was going to Germany to see Trinidad play in the FIFA World Cup. Trinidad Carnival is pretty epic as a party also. Trinis definitely know how to party. So the World Cup was the combination of the following

  • Carnival
  • Epic travelling
  • Seeing Trinidad on the world stage
  • Trinidad saving face with Sweden and not having the Swedes kill us (if we had embarrassed the English, they would have been out for blood)

Ballooning over Cappadocia was also pretty epic!

F. Favorite mode of transportation:
Definitely any train. Something about the “romance” of train travel I love, especially in Europe. A very close second is a road trip through the Maritimes in Canada or driving along the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

G. Greatest feeling while traveling:
The moment I de-plane into an airport in a brand new country, when I have to battle the culture shock, scams, people and adrenaline for all I am about to see and experience. I do love that feeling, even though I turned into an altered beast, if anyone negative crosses my way. There is the moment within a moment where I do have intense gratitude for everything that preceded me – the sense of having the movies, documentaries, books and atlas be real to me is something that I never knew I could have. Whether a million other people have seen it or no-one, I love being blown away, again and again, by our incredible world.

H. Hottest place you’ve traveled to:
I’m from the islands …  but Morocco, Arizona & New Mexico were definitely too hot for me. However, the worst for me was hiking up to Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines.  I’m not really a hot weather person so I’m quite amazed I managed to do anything at all, let alone go hiking.

I. Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:
Any SPG hotel in Latin America, Asia or Turkey. With my Starwood Status – they constantly amaze me at their excellence. Here are a couple examples of excellence : Maldives, Turkey, Guatemala, South Korea, Brazil. Need I say more …. they’re the hotel brand to sign up for.

  J. Journey that took the longest:
I’ve taken many, many flights over the years, but the longest journey was a road trip from Ft Lauderale to Atlanta. That was the most boring and mundane journey I’ve ever done. There is nothing to see along the Panhandle. Seriously. I was 19, had little money and couldn’t fly.

K: Keepsake from travels:
I used to keep a lot of crap from my travelling when I was in my 20’s. I guess it was to prove that I was worldly and experienced. I no longer buy a bunch of crap, but rather invest in the experience. That being said, this blog is really my main keepsake from my travels.

L: Let-down sight, why and where:
I can’t think of any complete fails and let downs, but I do have an overrated list, if you’re into that sort of thing – if there was a let down, then I probably wasn’t in the right frame of mind or the environmental conditions weren’t the best.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel
It’s hard to pinpoint the moment where I fell in love with travel. I’ve been in love with travel for so long I don’t even remember the specific moment in happened, but it might have been in Glasgow, in a castle with some scotch. However, it happens all over again every time I experience something for the first time in a new place. I was in love with who I grew into and the life and perspective I had gained, as a result of traveling the world and exploring life’s possibilities. Travel is transforming.

  N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
See point I above … Any SPG hotel in Latin America, Asia or Turkey. With my Starwood Status – they constantly amaze me at their excellence. Here are a couple examples of excellence : Maldives, Turkey, Guatemala, South Korea, Brazil.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
Gross foods of the world, toilets of the world, funny signs of the world and panoramic city skylines.

 P. Passport stamps, how many and from where?
Too many to list … seriously! Getting on a plane every week and going international once a month at least, does that to your passport, yet it’s still not enough

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
The Forensic Museum in Bangkok. Penis museum in Iceland. It always some weird museum.

R. Recommended sight, event or experience:
This is a such a subjective question. Everyone will have their own preferences and attractions that speak to them. Personally, I don’t care what anyone does, as long as you step away from the remote and go do or see SOMETHING new and do it often! The challenge is that you actually USE your vacation days to go explore something new. A whole world awaits you.?

S: Splurge — something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:
Food, Wi-Fi and a room with a fan or A/C. Go see points I and N for details.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
I do numerous “touristy” things in each place that I go –  those things are all fun and worthy, but my favorite thing to do is go off the beaten path – no matter where you go, you’re a tourist. There is no authentic experience while travelling, unless you’re living and doing it – and then it couldn’t really be considered travelling.

U. Unforgettable travel memory:
I have a whole page from my experience inventory dedicated to this, but the most recent was my proposal to my fiancee.

V: Visas, how many and for where?
Two passports (48 pagers) -Visas for Brazil, Vietnam, USA, Indonesia, Turkey, Cambodia

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
Not a fan of wine … so no best glass of wine. Best glass of scotch however was in Heathrow, at the World of Whiskies store – 1929 Glenfiddich. Epic at 10,000 Cheap Moldovan wine from a Walmart equivalent supermarket in Moscow.

X: eXcellent view and from where?
So many great views … here is my Skyline post for that one.

Y: Years spent traveling?:I’ve been travelling consistently since 2004. I had sporadic trips before then, but in making the choice to have a travelling job – I’ve spent the better part of 6+ months on the road since then.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:
I will always be a die hard West Indies cricket fan and Boston Celtics fan.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at rishi@rishiray.com

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