I knew that I’d travel this year, but I had no idea where I’d be traveling to as the last days ticked away in 2011. There were no trips booked and no specific places in mind, and as it turns out 2012 ended up being one of my busiest travel years to date, one that began with my first trip to Central America and recently concluded with a fun two-night weekender to Kuala Lumpur (which followed the biggest travel oops of my life). In between, after over a decade in Williamsburg I said goodbye to Brooklyn, relocated to Singapore and squeezed in trips to Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, and Thailand (a few times). Phew!
Panama was… interesting. We spent a few days in Panama City, took a short flight to Bocas del Toro (a highlight), hopped on a bus bound for Boquete, then wrapped up the trip with another night in the capital city. I’d love to see more of the country at some point, but to be honest it’s not exactly a priority; I’ll leave it at that.
I published four short pieces on my trip in this space (and one longer feature for Cayman Airways Skies), but the one that stands out is my short, obscure-Ween-song-referenced post about my thoughts on some of the Panamanian food I tasted and watched locals eat in Panama City. I still don’t understand what the big deal is, but it certainly sparked some (misguided) outrage; in case you missed it you’ll find a small slice of it in the comments of the piece, below, but all sorts of other nice things are said about me on the version syndicated on USA Today. Some people called on Perceptive Travel editor Tim Leffel to fire me; many said I was “enjoying my 15 minutes of fame”; one so-called “journalist” even hunted my personal email address down and pleaded with me to delete the article — you’ve got to be kidding me.
I think it has something to do with the fact that we see very, very few travel articles or blog posts that have an even remotely negative stance or opinion about a given destination. Blame it on not wanting to burn freebie bridges with PR companies or tourism boards or whatever, but I see an alarming trend amongst some travel-writing circles to unequivocally sugarcoat everything or to at least not mention those things one may have not particularly liked or enjoyed during their visit. Seriously, I might barf if I read another writer say you can always find something positive about a destination and insists they don’t have a least-favorite one. Of course you can; that’s not the point. I’m not advocating negative travel articles because travel is a positive thing, and we all look for and remember positive experiences. I am advocating for a little more honesty from time to time, though, and less candy-coated PR copy.
Okay, mini-rant over — and for the record, I don’t think the Panamanian food post is particularly incendiary and it was never meant to be an in-depth examination of the country’s cuisine. It’s a very short, very honest blog post, and it’s all true: many Panamanians do cover their food in ketchup. Much of the food is a little bland. A lot of it is fried and greasy. And I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Big deal. It’s not a referendum on your Panamanian mom’s cooking — or is it?
I’ve been meaning to do some sort of “reflecting back on my time living in Brooklyn” post for the blog, but, eh, seems a little sappy (and yes, I realize the irony here). I’m lucky to have enjoyed so many good, good years in Brooklyn and to have met so many kind people and memorable characters. It’ll always feel like home, and I’m looking forward to visiting next summer.
Some of the Bangkok posts I published this year focus on my second stint living in Bangkok in 2011, but since moving to Singapore in late July I’ve already been back three times and will be there again shortly for our Thai friend’s wedding in early January. It starts at 7 a.m., and my role will apparently be to hold a plant for the duration of the ceremony.
I haven’t yet gotten around to writing more about my first trip to Bali, but the one experience I have written about, well, I just needed to get it off my chest. To tell somebody. Commisserate. My “favorite” part of the nude two-hour rubdown was when the taxi driver asked me to stand up, buck naked in the open-air compound, patted me dry with a dirty towel, and a bird (parrot?) from somewhere nearby began whistling and making the “woot woo!” sound. No, seriously.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a little over five months since we finally fulfilled a longtime ambition to relocate to somewhere in Southeast Asia on a more permanent basis by settling in to Singapore. We’re still getting our bearings, and I still feel like a newb when it comes to pontificating on the island’s famous hawker food scene, but one thing I have gotten a fairly quick grasp on is the burgeoning craft beer scene. There’ll be much more to come on that topic and others in the coming year.
I’m happy to say that 2013 is already shaping up to be another busy travel year, with Beijing, Bangkok, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Brooklyn, Detroit, London, and Amsterdam all already somewhere on the agenda and more places sure to be added. If you took the time to read any of my features or those from my esteemed Perceptive Travel Blog colleagues this year, thank you kindly, and we hope to see you back here in 2013; I’ll bring the fish swimming in ketchup, Panama City style.