Taking a Blogging Break

Taking a Blogging Break

Today I arrive in Madrid to spend the weekend with friends and fellow bloggers. You may know them: Julika from Sateless Suitcase, Jessica from Curiosity Travels and Amanda from Farsickness. We’re crashing in a gorgeous apartment provided by Go With Oh! and planning on drinking lots of red wine and consuming metric tons of pata negra. (Well, at least I am.)

And next week, I fly to Paris, a place that has become a second home to me. I plan on revisiting all of my favorite things: Le Marais, Saint-Félicien aux truffes, steak frites, as well as check out some new ones like Red House and Sainte-Chapelle. (Finally!)

But like Madrid, I’m there to spend time with friends. Friends I’ve missed, friends I haven’t seen in almost a year.

As you may have read, I didn’t bring my laptop to Europe- I prescheduled all the posts you have read in the last six weeks when I was back in Michigan.

This is probably my last long-term trip. I don’t want to be a nomad forever so I have to put the laptop away and live in the moment, as clichéd as it sounds. I’ll still be taking photos and writing notes  on my adventures but I won’t be sharing them via my blog until this summer.

After Paris I fly to India, where I will spend six weeks training to become a yoga instructor in Rishikesh and trekking the Indian Himalayas with a good friend. I have pledged to stay tech-free for a month (besides my Kindle) while staying at the yoga center- wish me luck!

I’m taking a break from blogging, one that should last about two months. But I promise I’m not done forever. I sincerely love blogging and this site is one of the things I’m most proud of. When I return to Michigan this summer I can’t wait to share all my adventures with you, and receive your comments that I love reading so much.

And until I resume blogging I’d love to connect on Instagram and Twitter where I plan on sharing slices of daily life. Have a lovely spring everyone!

My Local Eats: Goa, India

My Local Eats: Goa, India

Hi! Welcome to My Local Eats, a guest post series in which foodies from around the globe share their favorite local places to eat and drink.

Today’s guest post comes from Rachel, a masseuse and travel blogger who blogs at Hippie in Heels. Rachel is a fellow Midwesterner as well as one of my favorite new bloggers so give her site a look! Today she tells us about what to eat in Goa, India, her home away from home.

I’m an American living in Goa, India, for the past year. There are so many Indian foods that you MUST try when you visit India; from veg curries with rice and fried veg pakora, to chai tea and dosas. The Indian food you’ll have here won’t be anything like the restaurants in the U.K. or U.S. so be warned if you come here already “loving” Indian food, you actually might not know what it really is! Everything is cooked with ghee, a form of lard, so be prepared to gain more weight here than anywhere else you may travel.

For lunch and dinner a nice thali or curry might be on the menu, but I want to introduce the street food you get in the villages along the Arabian Sea. Street food is not the same all over India; Goa is tropical and so is the food! In my new home, I am always shocked by the yummy snacks I never saw on my previous journeys through India.

1. Corn on the cob with lime and salt. It tastes a little like Mexico! These mouthwatering treats (my favorite) are at all the markets on Wednesday and Saturday, but you can also get it in small towns on a daily basis or at any festival. It costs about 40 rupees and is more than worth every cent. Served in the husk to prevent dripping, it makes me wonder why we didn’t think of that in the U.S.!

india corn

2. Shawarma- some consider this Israeli food, but actually many countries have their own take on this sandwich and consider it their local food. You can get a foreigner’s version for 300 rupees, but it won’t be near as good as a local’s 50 rupee one in Siolim or Mapusa. Usually Chicken or lamb (but actually goat…) is used from a kebab. It’s sliced off as you order and put in a poi (a local bread) with mayo, tomato, and onion. You might need to ask for less mayo, as they love to pile it on! Of course, the Indian touch makes this shawarma unlike any other: spicy as can be! The same goes for samosas; they can be found all over India and the world, but Goa has a special spicy take on them.

shawarma india

3. Sugar Cane Juice or Sweet Lime Soda. These are at all the street stalls and are “cures” for any form of stomach-ache or Delhi belly. The sugar cane is VERY sweet, so maybe you should try a small one first. It’ll cost you about 10 rupees. Sweet lime soda is great for a hangover and will cost about 30 rupees. Normally made with soda water, lime, and sugar, they can also make it “salty lime soda” with salt, lime, and soda water instead if you like.

sugar cane juice india

4. Fresh fruit juice. Obviously, a staple in more diets than that of India, but because of the social culture of fruit juice here, it must be mentioned! Unlike in America, where groups get together to drink booze at night, Indians also socialize during the day, early in the morning. They aren’t the type to sleep in. Don’t be surprised if your Indian friends call you up and ask the typical “Wanna get juice?” There are “cool” places like Ganesh Fruit Stand in Chapora, where the hippies hang. It’s a very trendy thing to do and can take hours! I usually get some fruit salad with ice cream by the end of it.

fresh fruit india

5. Fresh bread from the local bike-riding bread man. Why buy bread at the market when an adorable dude on a bike is going to come by on a bicycle honking his horn to sell hot fresh bread at a better price? Better yet he may make the yodel-like bread call that’s he’s rolling by. We get our weekly poi,bagels, and roti from him. You’ll know it’s the bread man because he’ll have a big circled bucket on the back of his bike covered with a blue tarp.

hippie in heels

6. Cashew Feni- this one isn’t necessarily street food, but it is LOCAL. This is only available in Goa; nowhere else in the world makes homemade cashew feni. Like a moonshine, this comes from a cashew tree and bars make it in bulk. They have HUGE containers in the back and you can have a shot for about 50 cents. It’ll knock your socks off, so beware! It’s the number one thing Indian tourists stock up on to take home. Some call it “wine” but trust me, it’s more like rubbing alcohol… even the Indians use this as an antiseptic when they get a cut. To cure anything my driver says, “Pour feni on the bad place, then pour feni in your mouth… then pour feni on it again. Now rest.”

Rachel considers herself a contradiction: part dirty hippie/ part girlie girl. She is a travel blogger and masseuse, having quit her job as a nurse. She currently lives is Goa, India and blogs about traveling glamorously on a backpacking budget in India and beyond.If you want to get in touch with her you can follow her blog Hippie in Heels, or contact her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Why Working as a Digital Nomad is Not for Me

Why Working as a Digital Nomad is Not for Me

During my four-month trip to Asia, I worked remotely as a freelance writer and blogger, earning the bulk of my income from freelance writing.

While I worked several freelance writing jobs, my main gig was as a Category Expert for Answers.com. Commissioned to write between 10 and 20 articles each month, I hustled hard to reach my monthly quota. Some months I would churn out one or two articles a day, other months I would ignore my workload for weeks and then lock myself in a hotel room for 72 hours, stopping only to eat, sleep and shower.

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Over time I came to resent the weight of my laptop- the physical weight, as well as the emotional weight. The emotional weight manifested itself in a myriad of emotions: the guilt of not working harder, the regret of working so much on the trip of the lifetime and the resentment of knowing I had to work to continue traveling.

And while I loved having a consistent stream of income on the road, working as a digital nomad sucked the fun and excitement out of travel for me. No longer could I disappear for days. No longer could I flit about with few possessions. The pressure to work, work, work began to smother my enjoyment of travel.

Something about being a digital nomad didn’t jive with me but it took me a long time to pinpoint what  it was. I finally realized that it’s not the physical discomfort of long-term travel; I can happily live out of a bag, sleep in a $7 hostel and wear the same clothes for months at a time.

What bothers me most about long-term travel is the lack of community. The disconnectedness you feel when you realize you’ll never see anyone in the hostel again, that the main social interactions in your life are drunken make-outs and two-day friendships.

Working on the road taught me I don’t want be a digital nomad. In five years I don’t want to be sitting in paradise with a Chang and a laptop, surrounded by strangers. And while that lifestyle works for some people, the idea of such a transitory existence fills me with dread.

In Asia I learned all of the beautiful surroundings in the world will never make up for what really matters in life- relationships with other people. While I’d love to be an expat again, I don’t think a long-term solo trip while working remotely will be in the cards.

Other travel bloggers have touched on the same feeling:

When you are travelling, you are what you are in that moment, your most immediate self. The people you meet see only that version of you, and it’s hard to maintain your wholeness in this fragmented and transitory existence. – Hannah Loaring, Furtherbound

 

You see, when you’re sick with two kids, in a foreign country, you become aware of how fragile the relationships you have really are. There isn’t anyone to bring me chicken soup or to help Drew watch the kids, or to just stop by and see how we are. - Christine Gilbert, Almost Fearless

 

So on my big trip to Europe, India and possibly Asia, I’m not bringing my laptop. I’ll be traveling off of the money I saved while living in Michigan. I’ll be seeing lots of friends and spending as little time as possible as a solo traveler (I hate to say it but I’m really over solo travel for the moment.)

And I’ll be doing long-term travel my way.

Simplifying My Travel Photography Setup

Simplifying My Travel Photography Setup

Confession- I heart photography gear. My shopping cart on Amazon is perpetually filled with camera gear I desire (and can’t afford), and DP Review is kind of like my virtual candy store.

Normally when I travel I bring an SLR, a point and shoot, a smart phone and a whole bunch of tech gear. But no longer!

These days, as smart phones are endowed with such impressive photography skills, there’s really no point in a point and shoot. This year on my big trip to Europe I’m taking along only my SLR and iPhone. (more…)

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My new set-up!

One weak spot in my camera set up is that I don’t have an underwater camera- I’d love, love the GoPro HERO3+:Black Edition but can’t really justify the $400 price tag.

(Also my little brother said, “Why do you need a GoPro? You can’t even do any cool tricks.”) Ouch, little bro.

iPhone 5s

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Instagrams of my snowy life in Michigan… all courtesy of my new iPhone 5S!

 I upgraded to an iPhone 5S from an iPhone 4 this Christmas and am so impressed with its photographic capabilities. Now I actually enjoy using Instagram!

Photo editing apps really amp up iPhoneography- I’m particularly a fan of Snapseed.

In Europe I’ll use my iPhone on days when I don’t feel like lugging my SLR around and for nights out.

Accessories: Case and screen cover

Favorite camera apps: Snapseed, A Beautiful Mess, Afterlight

 

Canon EOS Rebel T2i with Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens

While someday I’d love to upgrade to a full-frame SLR like the Canon EOS 5D Mark III for now I’m more than happy with my Canon EOS Rebel T2i. Plus, it’s way lighter than the Mark III.

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I love my new lens’ bokeh!

And after my beloved Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 started malfunctioning in Asia (I accidentally bumped it into a tiled wall, ugh) I upgraded to its big brother, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4.

I absolutely adore this lens. It takes such crisp, quality images with the creamiest bokeh (that’s photog-speak for a blurry background)- I can’t wait to try it out in Europe. Thanks Candace Rardon for the recommendation!

The only problem is that it’s a 50mm so I can’t capture wide shots. For wider shots I use the Canon kit lens, the Canon EF-S 18-55. While I’m not a huge fan of this lens, I can’t afford an upgrade right now. Someday.

Accessories: extra battery, LCD screen protector, camera bag

 

BlackRapid Metro Camera Strap

I love this accessory so much I had to write a whole blurb about it. Anyone who uses an SLR NEEDS to get this strap.

While a normal camera strap goes around your neck, resulting in neck soreness and limited motion, the BlackRapid Metro Camera Strap goes across your body and allows you to access the camera in a fluid swinging motion, much like a rifle strap.

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Me demonstrating how the strap works. Putting these pics on the internet is proof of how much I love you guys!

I will never, ever go back to a regular camera strap.

 

Editing Programs

Photo editing goes such a long way. Last year I invested in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 when it was on sale for $100 and I LOVE it. While the learning curve is steep, once you get the hang out it it’s a cinch. And the editing capabilities are worlds away from Picasa, the photo editing program I used for years.

And I actually do still use Picasa for organizational purposes. With Picasa I can quickly access my photos in an easy to use format (Lightroom can be confusing for organization because photos seem to “disappear” easily.)

Take a look at the magic of Lightroom:

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Before

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After!

Photo Backup

I have lost so many photos in the past because I never backed up. Don’t make that mistake!

I use Time Machine on my Mac to back up my entire computer, and I bring an external hard drive when I travel. I also have another external hard drive at home just in case I lose the other one traveling.

One thing I probably should start doing is cloud backup- though some places I travel to, like Southeast Asia, don’t usually have fast enough wifi for that.

What’s your travel photography setup like? I’d love to know!

Note: None of the companies listed paid or perked me in any way for mentioning them. And the Amazon links above are affiliate links for which I will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting Ashley Abroad!

My Ultimate Packing Challenge: Packing for a RTW Trip

My Ultimate Packing Challenge: Packing for a RTW Trip

So as you guys may have seen on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) I’m going to INDIA! I’ll be heading there with my friend McCall for six weeks of yoga teacher training and trekking in the Himalayas. And of course, the Taj Majal. Lonely Planet India But first I will spend six weeks in Europe (I leave tomorrow, by the way!) and then fly to Delhi in April. I’m currently debating if I will add another six weeks in Southeast Asia onto the trip but I’ll decide that further down the line.

Anyway, what does this all mean for packing? Well, it means that packing will be a mother. I have to pack stylish winter clothes for Europe, yoga and trekking clothes for India and warm weather partying clothes for Southeast Asia.

Oh dear. Here’s my game-plan- I’m packing tons of leggings because I can use them in Europe (with boots) and in India (for yoga). McCall is generously bringing a few things to India for me like hiking boots and sunscreen. And if I make it to Thailand, I’ll just go on a Thai shopping spree in Bangkok. (I’ve always wanted to do that anyway).  

Bags:

Packing Around the World Trip JoTotes Camera Bag- My day bag and where I store my valuable electronics: camera, Kindle, chargers.

Wristlet – Daytime it’s a wallet and nighttime it’s a clutch! Genius, right?

Backpack- All clothes organized into packing cubes.

Clothes:

Packing Around the World Trip

1 peacoat (will ship home after Europe) (not shown)

1 pair touch-screen gloves (won in Angie Away giveaway! Thanks Angie!)

1 hoodie

2 light sweaters

2 t-shirts

1 chambray shirt

1 lace dress

1 tight, knee-length skirt

1 cotton dress

1 pair jeans

3 pairs leggings

1 pair of pijama shorts and lots of tank tops

1 pair of athletic shorts (double for pijama shorts)

5 pairs socks, 1 pair thick socks (skiing, hiking)

7 pairs underwear

2 bras (1 nude, 1 black)

1 pair tights

Shoes:

1 pair tennis shoes

1 pair black Tieks ballet flats (also won in the Angie Away giveaway!)

1 pair lace-up boots

Electronics:

Packing Around the World Trip

Canon EOS Rebel T2i + LCD screen protector + camera case + BlackRapid Metro camera strap + Canon 50mm lens f/1.4 + Canon kit lens

Kindle + case

iPhone 5S + case + screen protector (not shown)

iPod

1 mini speaker

Accessories: headphones, earbud splitter, 1 extra battery for Canon EOS Rebel T2i, 3 memory cards (16 GB, 4 GB, 4 GB), 2 converters (one europe, one u.k.), USB

Chargers: Camera, Kindle, iPhone, iPod, mini speaker

Extras:

5L dirty laundry bag

2 eye-masks (lost mine last time and had trouble sleeping for a month. Never again. Bringing two.)

1 Moleskine notebook and pens 1 mini Moleskine (to carry around during the day)

1 bikini (On my Southeast Asia I brought two which was great, but for this trip I won’t be on the beach as much.)

1 travel robe (won in Angie Away giveaway!)

1 mini travel towel (for washing face)

Combination padlock

Tiny flashlight

1 pair small scissors

1 pair earrings, 1 necklace

Sunglasses + case

 

Toiletries:

Shower: 2 small bars soap, Venus razor and 4 extra blades, deodorant

Skin: Face wash, acne medication, moisturizer with sunscreen, tweezers, Neutrogena face wipes

Hair: Lush solid shampoo and case, Lush solid conditioner and case, 1 mini brush, John Freida frizz serum, hair ties

Teeth: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, retainers

Makeup: foundation, blush, bronzer, powder, mascara, eyeshadow, brow pencil, liquid eyeliner, lip balm, lip stain, brushes, pencil sharpener

Miscellaneous: Tampons, nail clippers Medicine: sleeping pills, Midol, cold medicine, Advil, melatonin

 

Debit and credits cards:

Main: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card (has chip-in pin, great for Europe), Charles Schwab debit card (no international transaction fees, refunds the other bank’s fees)

Extra: (In case I lose others): Chase debit card, AMEX Starwood Rewards credit card

 

What my friend is bringing to India for me (thanks so much McCall!) 1 pair hiking boots, 1 pair black flip flops, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, Imodium

 

 

What I’m doing differently from my last backpacking trip:

I upgraded my iPhone from a 4 to a 5S so now I don’t need a point and shoot!

I’m also bringing stronger sunscreen to India, SPF 50, as I got horrifically burnt in Thailand.

I cut about six inches off my mane so now my hair will be so much easier to take care of. I used to spend around 45 minutes a day brushing my long, damaged hair.

I’m going to make sure to have a tiny notebook on my at all times to jot down in-the-moment observations.

I’m also bringing lots of make-up (Europe) as well as acne medication as I broke out so much in Asia. Never again!

And once I get to Asia I will always have toilet paper on me- there are so many bathrooms that don’t come stocked.

And surprise! I’m not bringing my laptop this time. I hated lugging my heavy laptop around Asia and working on the road definitely hampered my trip. As this is my last big trip I’m not working at all. (Plus I lost my main freelancing gig anyway.)

I’m also not bringing my PacSafe- as I’m not bringing my laptop I doubt I will need it.

What are some of your packing tips?

If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it! Also, I’d love to keep you updated on my adventures in Europe, Asia and beyond, so feel free to subscribe to Ashley Abroad by email in the sidebar or connect with me on TwitterFacebook or Bloglovin.

My Top Eats in Singapore

My Top Eats in Singapore

While my stint in Singapore was (sadly) short-lived, I still managed to cover a lot of gastronomic ground in four days. Which had no small part to do with my extensive preliminary research- besides grilling Edna, I also devoured as many Singapore food guides as possible.

Once I hit the ground I quickly learned that Singaporeans know how to eat; Singapore’s a nation positively obsessed with food. Which is no surprise- Singapore is a culinary wonderland, a delicious blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine. (more…)

One trick to finding the best grub in Singapore is to follow the lines- The longer the line (or the queue, as Singaporeans would say), the better.

Here are the best things I ate in Singapore.

 

Xiao Long Bao

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My first meal in Singapore was xiao long bao, one of my favorite Asian dishes of all time. Xiao long bao are Shanghainese soup dumplings, thin-skinned dumplings that release a rich, pork-flavored broth when poked.

Here’s how to eat them: mix soy sauce, chili sauce, sesame oil and garlic in a soup spoon, pick up the dumpling with chopsticks, place dumpling on soup spoon, poke dumpling with chopstick to release broth, sip the broth and gulp the hot dumpling down. Repeat.

Where to find it:

Ju Hao La Mian Xiao Long Bao #01-29, Lavender Food Square, 380 Jalan Besar Rd.

 

Laksa

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Laksa is a Peranakan noodle and cockle soup. It’s a spicy yet satisfying dish; I loved the creaminess of the coconut milk combined with the al dente bite of the noodles, all accented by a fiery dollop of sambal belacan.

I ordered my laksa spicy and paid extra for cockles, which were grilled the traditional way over a charcoal fire.

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And what is Peranakan cuisine? The Peranakans descend from Chinese and Indian merchants who settled in Malaysia in the 15th century. To read more about Peranakan culture in Singapore check out my article in the Culture-ist! (That reads like a shameless plug but to be honest I just don’t feel like explaining it again, ha.)

Where to find it:

Sungei Road Laksa (Top 33 Kopitiam Food Court, Stall 01-100, 27 Jalan Berseh 200027, 9am-6pm, closed on first Wed of the month) $2.50 for a bowl of laksa and 50 cents extra for noodles.

 

Bah Kut Teh

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Bah kut teh is a Chinese pork bone broth that literally means, “Pork bone tea” as the pork bones are simmered for hours in an herbal star anise and pepper broth.

To be honest, the meat was a little too fatty for me; I was all about that peppery, fragrant, porky broth. And to my delight the server kept bringing more and more broth around for free! For sides I ordered iced tea, greens, rice and fried tofu.

It’s a shame that Singapore has such a hot climate because bah kut teh would be the perfect soup for a cold day. (Can someone PLEASE bring bah kut teh to Detroit?)

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Popiah

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I think out of everything I tasted in Singapore, popiah was my favorite.

Popiah is a wheat crepe lined with hoisin sauce and stuffed with Chinese sausage, prawns, hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts, caramelized onion and cooked carrot and turnip. During my time in Singapore I returned to the Lavender Food Square daily to get my sweet and savory popiah fix.

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Where to find it:

Miow Sin Popiah & Carrot Cake: 380 Jalan Besar #01-04, Lavender Food Square, Singapore 209000

 

Carrot Cake (Chai tao kway)

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The same stall that serves my beloved popiah also serves carrot cake which bears absolutely no resemblance to American carrot cake. The Singaporean version of carrot cake is made with daikon radish, not carrot, and is fried with eggs and preserved radish (chai poh), and topped with sambal and green onions.

(Basically you could put sambal and green onions on top of anything and I would like it. But still, this is a tasty vegetarian option.)

Where to find it:

Miow Sin Popiah & Carrot Cake: 380 Jalan Besar #01-04, Lavender Food Square, Singapore 209000

 

Roti Prata

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Roti prata is a crispy fried pancake of Indian origin. It’s pleasantly greasy and is filled with egg, and is served with the red curry sauce seen below. I loved the textural contrast of dipping the crunchy roti prata into the thick, flavorful sauce- it was vaguely reminiscent of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Alhough I had roti prata at three in the afternoon I can imagine it being the ideal late-night option.

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Next we had murtabak which I can’t say I enjoyed. Sorry!

Where to find it:

Sin Ming Roti Prata #01-51, Jin Fa Kopitiam, 24 Sin Ming Road

 

Wanton Mee

Wanton Mee are wanton noodles dressed in a light, sweet sauce and topped with pork char siu (barbecued pork), greens and wanton dumplings.

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I loved this dish because when is barbacued pork ever a bad idea? And order your wanton mee spicy like I did- it was extra delicious with a kick of spice.

Where to find it:

Kok Kee Wanton Mee: 380 Jalan Besar, Lavender Food Square, #01-06, Singapore 209000

Chili Crab

On my last night in Singapore I tried Singapore’s signature dish- chili crab.

Though ordering black pepper crab appealed to me more (I adore black pepper), the friend I met for dinner was dead-set on having the famous chili crab.

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Which I can’t say was a problem- the enormous crabs came out drenched in delicious chili sauce and I swilled them down with icy beer- delicious. The best part was mopping up the sweet, spicy sauce with the pillow-soft mantou buns.

And although I wasn’t even hungry when I ate it (fair, considering how much I had eaten by that point in Singapore), I was still smitten with the sauce-drenched crabs.

Where to find it:

Mattar Road Seafood Barbecue, #01-63 Old Airport Rd, Singapore 390051, closed Tuesday and Wednesday. We paid $35 ($17.50 each) and the crab was $45 a kilo. But it was worth splurging for! 

 

And not on the list of my favorite dishes in Singapore?

Chicken rice.

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I may be virtually crucified for this, but chicken rice was quite literally lukewarm chicken with steamed rice- it reminded me of a meal I might prepare when I’m too tired to cook. Maybe I should give it another try?

 

One great resource in Singapore is HungryGoWhere, which is like the Singaporean Yelp.

And the dishes I wanted to try but didn’t have the time (or stomach room) for include kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs, curry fish head, fish head bee hoon, rojak and BBQ sambal sting ray. Next time!

What’s your favorite thing to eat in Singapore?

If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it! Also, I’d love to keep you updated on my adventures in Europe, Asia and beyond, so feel free to subscribe to Ashley Abroad by email in the sidebar or connect with me on TwitterFacebook or Bloglovin.