Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Australian Food

Being the foodie that I am, I was looking forward to trying all the native Australian cuisine when I signed up to study abroad. I was frequently asked before my departure "what kind of food do Australians eat" and "what food is Australia known for," and at the time I honestly had no idea.

I knew of the more publicized items like Vegemite and Tim Tams, but other than that I wasn't sure what I would be eating over the course of the semester. I've found that meals in Australia are very similar to that of the United States. They do however seem to have a larger variety of foods everywhere you go, including a lot of Indian and Thai food.

Vegemite is a spread that is commonly put on toast that has been buttered. It often gets a bad rep due to people eating it incorrectly or its extremely salty usual flavor, but I actually really enjoy Vegemite toast and will definitely make it when I get home (I already have a new jar packed in my suitcase).

Tim Tams are biscuits with a chocolate cream filling and chocolate coating. They come in a variety of flavors like caramel, dark chocolate, white chocolate, mint, and more. While these are the more commonly known biscuits, I have tried many others including Mint Slices that are just as good. This may have made it harder to fit into my pants at the end of the day, but it's been worth it!

My all time favorite Aussie dish has been meat pies. I was so skeptical when I first saw them and was explained what they were, but turns out they are delicious. Meat pies are comparable to a shepherds pie in the US. I have had a few different kinds now including an original beef pie, a chicken curry pie, and a potato pie. They are often topped with tomato sauce, like the picture below. However, some places offer mashed potatoes and/or mashed peas on top with gravy...YUM.

The all time strangest thing I've tried in Australia has been fairy bread. It is literally just white bread topped with butter and rainbow sprinkles??? It was being served the first week I was here, during our orientation week, and everyone seemed to be really excited but I was just confused what I was eating. Lol.

Below are pictures of some more Aussie foods I have tried while being here. Weet-Bix is grainy cereal that comes in the form of large biscuits. A sausage sandwich or "sausage sanga" is a grilled sausage on a piece of bread (yeah no bun, just bread... I'll never understand) with sauce and sometimes grilled onions. These are VERY common barbecue items served on campus here. This is something I will not particularly miss as I had my fair share during orientation week. Lamington's are a vanilla sponge cake coated in chocolate sauce and coconut shavings. I tried the one in the picture below at the library on campus, and I would definitely recommend. Last, but not least, a kangaroo burger. I had this burger while on an excursion in the Blue Mountains and it was mighty good! I thought it tasted very similar to beef, but it was slightly sweeter. However, recently an American friend and I tried to make kangaroo burgers ourselves, and they didn't turn out to be so good. So my advice, stick to the restaurants if you want to try some roo.

Sausage sanga from our sausage sizzle during O week.

As you can see, I've had my fair share of food while living in Australia for the past 4 months. I will definitely miss the meat pies, Arnott's biscuits, and Cadbury chocolate bars but I am also looking forward to not having to squeeze into my pants due to my lack of portion control. 😄

Monday, June 12, 2017

Easter Break- Thailand Edition

Thailand is a place I have been wanting to visit for a time. When I decided on Australia for my semester abroad, I knew I was going to have to make the trip! Luckily, my sister and brother-in-law felt the same way so we planned it into their trip to Australia. We went for 5 days, visiting Phuket, Phi Phi Islands and Ko Yao Yai island.

Our flight to Phuket landed late at night, so we stayed at a hotel near the airport. The next morning, our driver picked us up (highly recommend because people drive crazy in Thailand, and drivers are insanely cheap) and we headed to the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates elephants that have worked in the logging and trekking industry. Although heartbreaking, it was amazing to hear all of their stories and know they will be living out the rest of their years in total freedom. The entire tour was incredible, as we were able to feed and pet the elephants and watch them roam and swim on their own terms. Later that afternoon, we hopped on a ferry and headed to the Phi Phi Island, Ko Phi Phi Don.

When in Thailand, travel by wooden benches in the back of an old truck!

Phi Phi Islands are made up of 7 islands. We visited the largest, Ko Phi Phi Don, which is a tourist hot spot. The island was filled with activities, restaurants, and shops. The views from the island were beautiful, with the giant rocks in the background, the greenery, and all of the long boats on the shore and in the water. We just stayed here for a single night, in a beach resort across from the water. We spent the afternoon relaxing at the pool, we went to a couple clubs after dinner, and spent the next morning on the beach. We quickly found out that the night life on this island was pretty wild!
Our bungalow at the beach resort

The next afternoon, we got on another ferry and headed to Ko Yao Yai. This island was the opposite of Ko Phi Phi Don. It was very secluded and extremely peaceful. We stayed on a resort called the Ko Yao Yai village, which was a wonderful experience. The bungalows were great and very outdoorsy, the staff was lovely, and the views from the two pools were incredible! We stayed here for 2 nights, before heading back to Phuket.

The two days were spent mostly relaxing at the pool and beach taking in the views, eating great Thai cuisine, and I even got a Thai massage... heaven!

After an early morning speed boat ride to Phuket from Ko Yao Yai island, we had the entire day (literally... our flight left for Sydney at 1:50 AM) to explore the city. Courtesy of my sister, we had quite the lengthy "to see" list. We had another driver pick us up at the dock and haul all five of us around for the day. We started at Monkey Hill, which is basically a monkey playground on a hill filled with wild, rambunctious monkeys. For the sake of not getting bitten and contracting some sort of disease, we just took pictures and watched them. Although one of the sneaky monkeys did jump into our taxi, stole my sisters headphones, and ran into the forest with them. But not before looking at her so she noticed they were missing. LOL. RIP headphones.

Wat Chalong Temple, the most important of the
29 buddhist temples of Phuket.
While we were in the city of Phuket we visited the Wat Chalong Temple, Big Buddha, Jui Tui Shrine, and the Naka Market (not pictured). The temples and shrines were stunning to see in person, and being able to see Big Buddha up close was equally as amazing. We ended the day at the Naka Market, which had everything from authentic Thailand made souvenirs and clothing to knock-off name brand items. I bought two silk and cashmere scarfs for my mom and myself, a bowl that was made from half of a coconut shell with pieces of tile and a painted elephant on the inside, and a couple of magnets. If I had more cash and space in my luggage I would have gotten a few more items, as everything in Thailand was extremely inexpensive. The scarves I bought are nicely made and were only 100 Thai Baht each, which is about 3 US Dollars.

Arch in front of the Jui Tui Shrine (pictured above)