My first trip

It’s summer in the Northern hemisphere, so probably many of you are thinking about holidays, or at least escaping outside now and again. So for this month’s collaborative post we’ve been thinking about travel. If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, well, maybe you will read this and dream of the summer that’s coming up.

Colombia, the USA, India, Bulgaria… PocketCultures contributors from around the world write about their first trip abroad (or – since we haven’t all had the chance to travel abroad – their first big trip). Read on to find out where they went and what they did!

Nuria (Costa Rica)

I took my first trip abroad when I turned 15 years old. My parents and sisters celebrated this special birthday, Quince Años in Spanish, with me in San Andres Island, Colombia. It was the first time I was ever on a plane, so the trip was really exciting although it was only about an hour! I remember the day before leaving, I did not feel so good and I had a rash, so I went to the drugstore but they told me it was only an allergy. So, I did not pay that much attention to it. But the next day when we were at the airport, I had a fever and did not feel that good the following days. Since I thought what I had was a simple allergy, once I noticed some itchy, red dots on my legs, I just scratched them all.

Getting my hair braided


August 15, 2012 2 comments

From Our Contributors: Week of August 6

Your weekly dose of interesting reading matter has arrived, courtesy of our contributors ‘ blogs. 

Mike, our contributor from Japan, published a photo essay titled The Twisted Umbrella at Manzamo about a visit to Manzamo on a very windy day.

 ”There is a Tropical Storm named Haikui hanging around Okinawa. The darn thing isn’t strong enough to be called a typhoon, so far. So, RyukyuRusty and I decided to take a ride while the rain was stopped.”

RyukyuMike struggling in the wind (photo: Mike Lynch)

Rathina, our new contributor from India, muses about rain and food on her post Rain, Rain, Come Again

“Rain for me is a steaming cup of tea that is prepared with a pinch of shredded ginger.  What better than the cuppa prepared in the Amruttulya stalls across the city? No posh coffee outlet could replace the taste and feeling of heaven on earth that one would get by sipping this nectar (amrut) comparable (tulya) drink.”

Liz, our contributor from Australia, recommends places to eat in the vibrant city of Melbourne.

“MELBOURNE offers a little touch of cosmopolitan Europe in Australia – think a cool, cultured urban centre, winding laneways packed with cafes, hidden arcades and interesting neighbourhoods. Melbourne attracts weekend getaway crowds for its sporting and cultural events, but these drawcards aside, there are excellent eats, small bars and cafes to explore. Here is a trio of possible pitstops on a quick Melbourne getaway”

Ana, our contributor from Argentina, wrote about a medieval Spanish monastery in Miami (USA)

” The monastery was built in Segovia, Spain, between 1133 and 1144 and occupied by Cistercian monks for seven centuries. In the mid-1830s, social unrest caused the monastery to be sold and converted into a granary and stable. Cut to 1925. William Randolph Hearst purchased the cloisters and outbuildings, had them dismantled, packed in 11,000 wooden crates and shipped to the U.S.”


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From Our Contributors: Week of July 23

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August 7, 2012 3 comments

Are some cultures more kid-friendly than others?

Out for Lao food in Sydney. Pic: Liz Ledden.

Out for Lao food in Sydney. Pic: Liz Ledden.

As someone who likes to eat and drink out – a lot – it was inevitable that when kids came along they’d be joining in the fun.  Baby number one soon got to know Bangkok’s assorted eating spots, albeit while mostly asleep, and as a toddler ran amok in Saigon’s restaurants. Well-meaning staff would pull her back from the edge of enticing turtle ponds and others knew her by name and even her regular order. Staff were super friendly to the kids and we felt welcome everywhere, from cheap and cheerful local restaurants to higher end places, and even cool cocktail bars (at family o’clock I mean!).

Now living in Australia, cafes and restaurants are still on the agenda for both our girls, but time and experience has shaped where we take them, and when. The anything goes mentality of much of Southeast Asia does not always apply in Australia – while some places are decidedly kid-friendly with toys, chalkboards and babyccinos on tap, others seem not so enamoured of small people. Reluctant service, withering looks and ‘too cool for school’ attitudes are the hallmarks of the un-family friendly places we’ve encountered, though thankfully, rarely. While I realise certain places at certain times are off limits (and I sometimes enjoy these too, kid-free), I’m talking cafes (in the day, in suburbs full of kids) that should know better.

We most often head to Asian eateries, as we know the kids will always be welcome. Noisy, crowded yum cha restaurants are always a winner, but it’s small, friendly, family-run Vietnamese and Thai places that always seem to accept the kids with open arms. Italian, Lebanese and other Middle Eastern places have also been really accommodating, which makes me wonder, why are these places so kid-friendly and others, not so much? Is it that in some cultures, there is more importance placed on extended family, and a tendency to include kids in social events? Has something been lost along the way in some Western cultures when it comes to tolerating kids in public places?

I don’t know the answer to this, but I do know I’ll continue to take my kids out and about to experience different tastes, cuisines and cultures, and gravitate to the places I know they’ll be happily accepted.


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A taste of the Middle East in Sydney’s Lakemba

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June 22, 2012 6 comments

From Our Contributors: Week of May 28

Our contributors have updated their personal blogs. Go have a look!

Hydrangea garden in Japan

Mike, our contributor from Japan, published a photo essay on a lovely hydrangea garden: Treasure in a Flower Garden: A Photo Essay

There is a village on the Motobu Peninsula of Okinawa, Japan called Izumi. Today Doc Graff and I went to check out the Hydrangea flowers.

Anu, our contributor from India, visited a miniature railway museum in Pune (Maharashtra, India).

My fascination with model railways goes back a long way. From the time I read in books about people setting up their own model railways in their lofts to when I grew older and heard of actual miniature villages with working models of trains running through them. Unfortunately, the nearest I could get to a miniature train was one going round and round in a track.

Aledys Ver, our contributor from the Netherlands, writes about how to go about getting your ice-cream in the Netherlands.

After nine years of living in the Netherlands you would think that by now, I have seen the country from top to bottom and been to every possible corner – it is quite a small country, after all.

Liz, our contributor from Australia, writes about two must-see movies set in Asia.

Because Asia is a place so close to my heart I’m a sucker for any show, movie, book, blog or anything set in my favourite continent. So I was pretty excited when I found out about Wish You Were Here, an Australian-made movie partially filmed in Cambodia (specifically, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville)

Ana, contributing editor from Argentina, lists a few things to do in Buenos Aires for free.

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From Our Contributors: Week of April 2

May 29, 2012 Comments disabled

Easter around the world

Our contributors describe Easter celebrations in their countries, how traditions have changed over the years and the history and significance of those celebrations. They share their family traditions as well. Learn more about Easter in Australia, Costa Rica, France, Portugal and the United States.

Easter bilby

Photo: Australian Bilby Appreciation Society

Australia – Liz

Easter in Australia can be summed up in one, sweet and very commercially oriented word – chocolate! For at least a month leading up to Easter chocolate eggs and bunnies can be spied creeping their way all over the supermarket shelves. While the religious meaning of Easter is pertinent for some, most Australians enjoy the four day weekend and chocolate fest that ensues.

Popular options include the Lindt gold bunny, Cadbury crème eggs and the uniquely Australian chocolate bilby, a chocolate incarnation of a near extinct native animal, similar to a bandicoot. People also love to scoff hot cross buns which appear in bakeries during the month leading up to Easter.

The Easter bunny traditionally leaves chocolate eggs for kids overnight in the vein of Santa Claus, while some families have adopted the Easter egg hunt, though this isn’t something that has always been typical of the Australian Easter (when I was a kid no-one did this – I think we’ve adopted this from Europe and the US in recent years). However the chocolate arrives, as long as it does I say!

Costa Rica – Nuria

Nuria shared that “in Costa Rica it does have a very religious meaning, and we actually celebrate the whole week, so for us it’s “Holy Week” instead of just “Easter”. Read more about Costa Rican Easter celebrations here. (more…)

April 4, 2012 2 comments

Meet Liz, our new contributor from Sydney!

Meet Liz! Liz is our newest regional contributor here at Pocket Cultures, and joins us from Sydney, Australia. Liz has lived and travelled all over Asia, but now she and her family have settled in Sydney, at least for the time being. In today’s interview, Liz tells us all about the best and worst parts of living in Australia, and what surprises people most when visiting her in Sydney (hint: contrary to popular belief, there aren’t kangaroos running wild all over the city!)

Tell us a bit about yourself

I live in Sydney, I’m married with two little girls and I love to travel, eat and write. I used to be Deputy Editor of AsiaLIFE Phnom Penh, a lifestyle magazine where I wrote a lot of the food articles and interviewed interesting locals and expats, plus the odd celebrity like singer Ronan Keating when he toured Cambodia. I updated the Phnom Penh section of two editions of the Cambodia & Laos LUXE city guide, wrote a Saigon column for Tiger Tales magazine and have freelanced for various other publications and websites. I also joined the blogosphere a few years ago, first with A Girl in Asia where I blogged about food finds, shopping, cafes and travel in Asia, and now at devoured ( which has similar topics but a Sydney focus.

February 9, 2012 5 comments