Our three best kept travel secrets

Here we want to share what we consider as our 3 best kept travel secrets (believe me, it’s really hard to pick just 3!) This article is a part of the Tripbase blog tag project: Three best kept travel secrets, it’s a cool project by Tripbase to gather a great list of top travel recommendations directly from many many travel bloggers’ own experiences. Thanks to Earl, from Wandering Earl, who tagged us to participate in this fun program. Earl himself just published his three secrets recently. So, after a tough time choosing only 3 between many of our favourite travel moments, here are our three best ones that you might not know:

Blue Mosque’s Ramadan night bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

If you are lucky enough to be in Istanbul during the Ramadan month, be sure to go to the Hippodrome beside the Blue Mosque in the evening, for the Ramadan night bazaar! Every evening this bazaar is full with people: locals and tourists from Turkey and neighbouring countries. They start arriving before the sunset, and many stay pass midnight. The Hippodrome beside the mosque is transformed into an amazing Turkish carnival city full with tents and stalls of food, souvenirs, toys, and shisha. There will be a lot of Turkish music and dance performances, including the famous whirling Dervish! Feeling peckish? You can find various types of kebabs, colorful sweets, various types of Turkish snacks, and my favourite one: chewy ice cream!

Blue Mosque Ramadan night bazaar - sweets and ice cream

Left: Colourful sweets, made on spot. Right: Tricky ice cream man.

This ice cream is not your typical ice cream, and not served by your typical ice cream man! This ice cream man will perform tricks with your ice cream before you can have it. He would lift up the whole ice cream bulk from the container using a spatula, and swing it over his head. He will hand you the ice cream, and as you hold the cone, your ice cream disappear! Then you will see your ice cream actually stick back to his spatula that he swings around above you. It’s so much fun! The ice cream itself is a new experience to me. The texture is like what I imagine a frozen chewy marshmallow will be, but can melt and will drip like a regular ice cream. Very fun to chew!

Blue Mosque Ramadan night bazaar - Blue Mosque with chai and Hagia Sophia

Enjoying chai with fantastic view. Left: Blue Mosque, right: Hagia Sophia.

After enjoying the bustling carnival atmosphere at the Hippodrome, go to the benches area in front of the mosque, the one that is facing the Hagia Sophia, for a calming moment. You will heard these quick chants “Chai, chai, chai, lira, lira, lira….” from the tea sellers. A lira for a cup of tea, served with sugar cubes. Sitting in the benches, enchanted by the beauty of illuminated Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, with a modest cup of hot sweet tea in my hand, this is one of my favourite moments during traveling. I’m so in love with it, we visited this spot nearly every night during our stay in Istanbul. (By Dina)

Watching seals in their natural habitat in Cape Palliser, New Zealand

Cape Palliser: a natural habitat of seals Cape Palliser is located on the southernmost tip of the North Island, New Zealand. It’s rocky, remote, isolated, and beautifully scenic. It’s about 3 hours drive away from Wellington but it feels like you’ve reached the end of the earth. Along the beach you’ll see hundreds of seals basking, barking, and frolicking. You can get pretty close to them, but be careful that one doesn’t sneak up on you while you’re distracted. You also need to drive carefully as they can wander out into the road. There’s one lonely red-and-white striped lighthouse perched on the edge of the rocks peering out into the foggy ocean. It’s 258 steps to climb up to the base of the lighthouse but well worth the climb as the view is just beautiful. (By Ryan) Cape Palliser seal montage

World’s Best Fried Chicken: Ayam Goreng Suharti, Indonesia

Ayam Goreng Suharti

Ayam Goreng Suharti (picture by Florina)

Like most travelers, one of my favourite things to do in every place we visit is eat. I love trying new foods, especially local specialties. Things you can only get in one place, that use ingredients and techniques found nowhere else. It’s never the fancy restaurant meals that stand out – what I remember are the simple things, found in little shops here and there or sold from carts on the street. I love almost anything that’s fried, grilled, served on a stick, wrapped in a banana leaf, or in a paper cone. When I reminisce about a place what I always think of first is the food, and when I think about my time in Indonesia I always think of Ayam Goreng Suharti. Ayam Goreng Suharti is restaurant with several locations around Java, Indonesia. We’ve been to branches in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, and Bandung. Nyonya (Mrs.) Suharti is the founder and is a sort of Indonesian Colonel Sanders. You can get pretty good fried chicken most places in Indonesia, but I have not found better bird than Suharti’s. This chicken is so far beyond what I’m used to getting outside Indonesia that there’s no comparison. It starts with the meat: they always use small free-range chicken, called kampung chicken. Nothing industrial or factory-farmed about it, so the meat is always rich and full of chicken-y flavour. The chicken is poached first with a rich bumbu, or blend of herbs and spices. Rather than just coating the skin with the seasoning, the whole of the meat is infused with the flavour of the fresh spices.

Ryan and Nyonya Suharti

Ryan and Nyonya Suharti

After poaching the whole bird is deep-fried, including the head, feet, and all. Heart, liver, etc. aren’t included but you can order them as sides. I sometimes get a bit squeamish seeing that deep fried head staring at me but Dina always polishes it off first so that doesn’t last long. The chicken is served with sambal (fresh chili sauce) and fried bumbu, the crunchy little crumbles of seasoning that were strained out of the deep fryer. Spread over rice the fried bumbu tastes incredible, with just the right amount of crunch and flavour. It goes perfectly with the rice which makes sure nothing ever feels too greasy. We always add an extra order of extra fried bumbu – it might not be on the menu but they’ll always bring you more if you ask. On the side, I’d recommend sayur asem, a delicious hot and sour soup made from tamarind, peanuts, and various vegetables. The sour and spicy taste is an excellent counterpoint to the sweetness and crunch of the chicken. Everyone eats with their hands, dipping bits of chicken in sambal and kecap manis (sweet, thick soy sauce) and then scooping up little fingerfuls of rice covered in fried bumbu. Wash it down with my favourite drink: Teh Botol Sosro, a strong, sweet bottled cold tea. I’m told by one of the workers that Nyonya Suharti is still actively involved with the restaurants, and travels around making stops in the kitchen at all her restaurants to make sure they are still cooking the chicken the right way. I missed out, but when you visit ask if she’s around – you might get lucky and meet the lady who created the world’s best fried chicken! (By Ryan)

The blog-tagging continues. We are tagging Ashley from the No Onion Extra Pickles and Nancie aka. LadyExpat from the Budget Travelers Sandbox to continue this 3 best kept travel secrets project. Ashley and Nancie, we are looking forward to reading your secrets! What about you? What do you consider as your 3 best kept travel secrets?

Update Here are Ashley’s 3 best kept “museum” secrets! Check it out, Ashley will tell you her favourite museums form Barcelona, Rome, to Beijing! I want to see that Colossus of Constantine!

The Travel Secret eBooks by Tripbase is up! Download it for FREE HERE! Now only it’s free, but for each download, Tripbase will donate $1 to Charity:Water to provide clean drinking water to those people that don’t have access to it yet. Great cause, isn’t it! We are proud to be a part of it. You will find these 3 secrets we are sharing in this post in that eBook. What are you waiting then?

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21 Responses to “Our three best kept travel secrets”

  1. Dina
    7 April 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    We are missing the chicken picture! My sister is going to help us taking the picture in a day or two, thanks a million, De!

  2. Earl
    8 April 2010 at 3:41 am #

    Excellent list and thanks again for participating! After reading this post I’m not sure what I want to do first, fly directly to Istanbul or to Java! But I am planning on being in Turkey this year around Ramadan, so I just might make it to that night bazaar.

    I’m also a huge fan of food so I always keep a list of places recommended by other travelers – Ayam Goreng Suharti has now been added. Actually, I’m going to send it off to a friend of mine currently traveling in Indonesia!

    • Dina
      8 April 2010 at 9:09 pm #

      Earl, thanks to you that invited us to the project!
      It’s great to know you might be in Istanbul the nest Ramadan, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

      Have you been in Java before? When people visit Java, they usually go to Yogyakarta (near where the crowd of Buddhist and Hindu temples located, including Borobudur). I’m sure you can find the restaurant easily there. Hope your friend can find it and like it too!

      • Earl
        9 April 2010 at 1:06 am #

        I haven’t been to Java before. I spent some time on Sumatra, but not Java…I’m sure I’ll get there eventually though!

  3. Mary R
    8 April 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    What a fun blog!

    These are great recommendations. I have experienced the Turkey one you mentioned, so I’ll have to add the other two to my goal list.

    It’s interesting how fried chicken is one of those foods that transcends all cultures and countries and you can find a version of it everywhere!

    • Dina
      8 April 2010 at 9:22 pm #

      Hi Mary! Did you enjoy the bazaar too? We happened to stay in a hostel very close to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, so we visited the bazaar very often. With that or not, almost every night we stop for the tea anyway

      Interesting that you mention about the fried chicken having many versions. Currently I’m in Sydney, staying around the downtown. There’s a Korean restaurant nearby (called Arisun) that has this great “soy fried chicken” (not sure what’s the Korean name). I’m hooked on it!

  4. Dina
    8 April 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    @Florina: Thanks so much, De, to go to the Suharti restaurant to take the delicious chicken picture for this article!!

    I bet you enjoyed the food!

  5. Ashley
    9 April 2010 at 4:33 am #

    Thanks for the tag :)

    The chicken sounds soooo delicious…totally on my ‘must eat’ list now.

    • Dina
      10 April 2010 at 7:27 pm #

      Hey Ashley, you are very welcome :)
      It is indeed delicious, I hope you will try it someday!

  6. keshie
    14 April 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    hahaha gw baru sekali makan di ayam goreng suharti. jadi mau cobain lagi, soalnya uda lupa rasanya kayak apa :D thanks for reminding me! :p
    hmm turkey and new zealand are definitely on my traveling wishlist :D
    .-= keshie´s last blog ..booking tiket =-.

  7. Dina
    16 April 2010 at 12:20 am #

    Keshie! You really need to go there and eat the chicken! Don’t forget the sayur asem and deep fried liver ;)

    Turkey and NZ are amazing indeed, I would love to visit there again. I want to taste more of them.
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..Alpacas, angora goats, and showbags at the Sydney Royal Easter Show =-.

  8. Nancie (Ladyexpat)
    16 April 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    I’m surprised I didn’t comment on this before. I really liked this post and your photos.

    Thank you for tagging me. I am working on mine now. Sorry I am a bit slow, but I have been fighting a nasty cold. My head has felt like mush all week.
    .-= Nancie (Ladyexpat)´s last blog ..Wanderfood Wednesday — Andong Jimdak =-.

    • Dina
      17 April 2010 at 3:59 pm #

      Thanks Nancie! And you are welcome, I like your blog, so I tagged you :) I hope you are feeling better soon! I’m looking forward to reading your secrets, but take your time, get better first! (I don’t think the Tripbase project will close anytime. I hope I’m not wrong)

  9. Monica
    27 April 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    OMG! When did you go to Istanbul? I went last year in September during Ramadan and got to see all the festivities. It was amazing! Did we go around the same time?

    • Dina
      28 April 2010 at 4:10 am #

      OMG! I think we were there in the same time, hahaha! We were there September 2009 too. Did you stay in one of the hostels behind the Hagia Sophia/Blue Mosque as well? Backpacker heaven back there.

      Did you get the chewy ice cream?

  10. Migration Mark
    28 April 2010 at 3:08 am #

    I never had that fried chicken when I was in Indonesia, but I did eat countless piles of ambrosial sambal. Looks like I will have to return to Yogyakarta to get some Suharti’s!
    .-= Migration Mark´s last blog ..What To NEVER Do in Krabi =-.

    • Dina
      28 April 2010 at 4:13 am #

      Hi Mark! Welcome to our blog! Definitely you should go back for the chicken :D Where did you go in Indonesia before?

    • Dina
      28 April 2010 at 4:27 am #

      And how do you enjoy the Indonesian various sambals? I heard you are spicy food connoisseur :)

  11. Adam @ Sit Down Disco
    8 May 2010 at 7:32 am #

    The Indos do love their Ayam Goreng. It’s everywhere. I agree with Ayam Kampung also. Those scrawny chickens taste so much better than the ones we get at home… they actually taste like chicken! My favourite chicken in Indonesia is the Nasi Ayam in Kedewatan, near Ubud, Bali.
    .-= Adam @ Sit Down Disco´s last blog ..Myanmar (Burma): Yangon, Bago & Golden Rock =-.

    • Dina
      13 May 2010 at 2:12 pm #

      Hi Adam! That will be nice if the whole world using ayam kampung :) I’m not sure we’ve tried Bali’s Nasi Ayam or not, but definitely it’s something we want to try next time we go there again!


  1. No Onions Extra Pickles » Blog Archive » My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets - 3 October 2010

    […] My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets Posted April 16th 2010 at 4:30 pm by Ashley @ No Onions Extra Pickles Thanks for visiting No Onions Extra Pickles! If you're new here, don't forget to subscribe to the RSS feed for all the NOXP updates.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginThis post is part of an amazing blog tag project, started by Katie over at Tripbase, to gather travelers’ 3 best kept secrets from their adventures around the world.  And I must thank Dina and Ryan from Vagabond Quest for tagging me – you guys are awesome! If you find yourself wondering where to get the best chicken in the world, or are planning to visit Istanbul during Ramadan, you’ll need to check out their 3 best kept travel secrets. […]

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