Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year to travel for a couple reasons. Firstly, while other holidays rotate around, there’s no guessing which days you’ll have off for Thanksgiving – it’s a 4-day weekend every single year. Secondly, while domestic travel during Thanksgiving week can be a nightmare, it’s the perfect time to travel internationally. As an added bonus, you can essentially bank on the fact that there will be a premium cabin sales each year which means that you can fly in style, most often to Europe, for a fraction of the normal price.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the whole reason for this trip was to attend my coworker’s wedding in Hyderabad. While I’ve attended Indian weddings in the US, this would be my first one in India. And from the itinerary, it appeared that was going to be an action-packed several days.
This was far and way the most inventive meal we’ve ever had. Restaurant Andre currently sits at #46 and I think it’s going to continually ascend in the coming years. Unlike many restaurants on the list, it was surprisingly easy to get reservations to especially considering that this is a relatively small 30-seat place. They do require a small deposit, so perhaps that keeps people from making reservations speculatively, only to cancel later on.
Now for my favorite half of the trip, all the food! As I mentioned in the introduction, I’d rank Singapore as a close 2nd behind Japan as the best eating destination in the world. One of the big reasons that I could never rank it first? For a big-sweater like myself, it’s literally impossible to sit down and truly enjoy a meal at an open-air hawker center because of the insanely hot and humid weather. I’d literally shovel the food into my mouth just so I could get out of there faster and escape to an air-conditioned oasis.
Our time spent in Singapore can basically be broken into two buckets – the times when we were eating, and when we weren’t eating. It’s probably a 50/50 split. Let’s start with the non-eating stuff. It’s funny to hear that many people argue that Singapore isn’t really “real” Asia, whatever that might mean. To them, a trip top the “real” Asia probably involves navigating the sea of motorcycles in Vietnam or visiting the rice paddy fields in Bali.
We arrived in Maui with an ambitious to-do list, but were barely able to put a dent in it. The problem? Our stay at the Montage was so relaxing that we literally spent a couple days just lounging by the pool. That’s something that we NEVER do, and was probably a testament to just how amazing the hotel was. However, we did get out a few times to explore the surrounding areas, mainly in search for food. The food options in Kapalua are somewhat limited, especially if you don’t want to eat at the hotel. And even though we had a full kitchen at our disposal, we didn’t feel like cooking, but did stop by the neighboring supermarkets to pick up tuna poke and other snacks.
On the initial stop in Tokyo we were hoping to take advantage of our jet-lagged body clocks to wake up in time for the daily fish auction at Tsukiji Fish Market. Based on our research, we had read that you really need to be there by 4AM at the latest to secure a spot. But we ended up going 0 for 2 on our attempts, although I fully admit that I only gave it a half-hearted effort. After all, while on vacation there’s no way that you should be forced to wake up earlier than you do for work.
At Kyoto Station we hopped on the shinkansen for a very pleasant 2-hour journey to Tokyo. Even by the lofty standards of train systems in Asia, the shinkansen is truly amazing. We had received some mixed signals from the hotel concierge on whether to book our tickets in advance. Perhaps the they assumed that we were using the Japan Rail Pass, in which case you will want to make reservations ahead of time. Since we weren’t, we simply purchased tickets at Kyoto Station for the next Nozomi train which left every 15 minutes.
As a food-lover (I’m not a fan of the term “foodie”, but let’s save that discussion for another time), vacations are as much about seeing new places as they are about trying new foods. And as much as I love stuffing my face with street food, for me no trip is complete without also splurging on a fine dining experience. In past trips, a front-runner for that fine dining meal has naturally emerged as we conducted our research, including restaurants such as El Celler De Can Roca near Barcelona, Steirereck in Vienna, and Astrid y Gaston in Lima. But here’s the problem with Japan – there are simply too many world-class restaurants to choose from, evidenced by the fact that they have the most Michelin-starred restaurants of any country in the world.
As first-timers to Kyoto we realized that there was a LOT to see and do, and we were going to attempt to cram as much as humanly possible into the next 4 days. By the time we had settled into the hotel it was early evening, and we headed out to Gion with a couple goals in mind. Firstly, we wanted to find some good food, but we soon realized this was one of the few places where our “tourist trap” radar went off and ultimately decided to eat elsewhere. Secondly, we wanted to go Geisha-spotting, and had heard that around 5-6pm in Gion was one of the best times to do this.