It’s a common misconception with Japanese cuisine that sushi means raw fish, and while the jokes about eating it for the first time can be funny, it’s also misleading.
Like this old chestnut: A couple walk into a Japanese restaurant and pause to admire a tank full of tropical fish. They ask the waiter what the fish are called. “Sushi,” the waiter replies. But as any good waiter would know, sushi actually refers to the vinegared rice, with which raw fish – called sashimi – is often served.
Sushi actually refers to the vinegared rice, with which raw fish – called sashimi – is often served.
Sushi is believed to have started 14 centuries ago, when a common method of pickling fish and rice gained popularity in Japan.
The fish was slit open and packed with rice, and as the whole thing fermented for anything up to two years it took on a tangy pickled flavor. Later this process was speeded up, and later still, 19th century food stall owner Hanaya Yohei started creating sushi dishes with vinegared rice and raw fish in Tokyo.
In the 1970s, sushi travelled to the US and other parts of the world, and became part of a new age food revolution. Out of the simple seaweed, rice and raw fish combinations came the California Roll, characteristically bigger than the Japanese delicacies and packed with fish, meat and vegetables and wrapped in a sheet of seaweed, or presented ‘inside out’ with the rice on the outside and the seaweed tucked away with the filling.
But Japanese sushi chefs continued to evolve the delicacies known collectively as sushi into ever more graceful art forms.
There are several different forms of sushi, including:
To make sushi at home you need to buy the right ingredients.
There are only two of them – Japanese short grain rice and sushi rice vinegar. You can get them both from an Asian grocery store.
Your Asian grocery store may stock sushi rice vinegar, pre-mixed and ready to use.
If not, buy rice vinegar and mix half a cup of vinegar with three tablespoons of white sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small pan.
Heat until sugar dissolves, and sprinkle over the rice in a non-metal bowl. Mix thoroughly with a spatula, and your sushi rice is ready to roll and shape, using a sushi fan as you work to cool the rice. Store any leftover sushi vinegar in the fridge.
Whether you choose to make maki, nigiri, oshi or chirashi sushi, it is important to have the freshest ingredients possible.
Raw fish, such as tuna and salmon, are among the most commonly used ingredients, but if you cannot obtain these really fresh from the ocean, you will be better off using canned, smoked or cooked fish.
Avocado is a popular ingredient in California Rolls and most sushi sold today, but you can also include carrot sticks, celery, prawns, crab, chicken, lettuce strips, tomato and cucumber.
If you are rolling the sushi in seaweed sheets, a bamboo hand rolling mat (see photo above) will make the job easier.
This won’t stop people making jokes about raw fish, of course, but at least while you are laughing, you can gently correct them as you hand them your own delicious sushi creations.
Although many travelers visit Peru to explore its pre-Columbian heritage, most travelers passing through the nation’s capital, Lima, prefer to stay in the city’s most modern neighborhood: Miraflores.
Travelers choose Miraflores for its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, its vibrant arts and entertainment scene, and its wide range of attractions that appeal to every kind of traveler.
When you visit Lima, make sure to check out some of the very best that Miraflores has to offer.
Ricardo Palma was a Lima-born writer and thinker who oversaw the country’s National Library from 1883 to 1892.
Today, the government has preserved his long-time home as a museum where visitors can see the original furnishings, paintings, documents and art that he cherished during the last years of his life.
Currently, the museum is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 5:00, but is closed for a lengthy daily lunch from 12:45 until 2:30. Entrance is six soles ($1.75 USD).
For updated information and opening hour, visit their website>>>
If your trip to Peru doesn’t include time in Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, you can visit this sacred historic site that has been preserved on its original location in the Miraflores neighborhood.
It features a typical pyramid crafted from adobe and clay, surrounded by a central square and walls.
At press time, Huaca Pucllana is open daily from Wednesday to Monday, and regular entrance fees are twelve soles ($3.50 USD).
For updated information and current opening hours, visit the Huac Pucllana official site here>>
Larcomar is Miraflores’ most famous, and most architecturally interesting, shopping center.
It is carved into the seaside cliffs at the south end of Avenida Jose Larco and features several open-air and glass-walled viewing decks offering panoramic views of the sea.
Larcomar is home to several upscale restaurants and coffee shops, as well as the best selection of international clothing shops in town.
There are eight shops where you can stock up on high-quality athletic and outdoors apparel and equipment before your Inca Trail trek.
For updated information and current opening hours, visit Larcomar’s official site here>>
The malécon is a six-mile stretch of oceanfront parks, walking paths and cycling routes that runs along the Pacific Coast from the artsy Barranco neighborhood in the south all the way to the north end of Miraflores.
Active travelers will love going for a jog or bike ride beside the ocean, adventure travelers will want to try paragliding (buy your tickets from the booth at Block 2) and creative types will want to take in the many different sculptures erected along the walkways.
For updated information about the park (in Spanish only), visit Miraflores Parks page here>>
Also known as the “Park of Love”, Parque del Amor is Lima’s most romantic park.
At the center of the park is Victor Delfin’s gigantic red statue El Beso (The Kiss), shown above, that features two loves entangled, horizontally, in a kiss.
The park also has some of the best sunset views in the city, making it the perfect place to snuggle up with the person you love.
Situated in central Miraflores, away from the ocean, Parque Kennedy has become a controversial tourist attraction that often pits frustrated locals against wide-eyed tourists.
The park was named after John F. Kennedy and is frequented by buskers, shoe shiners and the elderly.
It is also frequented by the one hundred (or more) stray cats who call the park home. There are cats on the grass, cats on the benches and even cats in the trees.
While some consider the cats to be a public health hazard, other consider them an adorable addition to the neighborhood.
You’ll have to visit and decide for yourself!
Whether you want to explore the history of Lima, have an active holiday or simply relax with a cup of hot chocolate while you pet a stray cat, Miraflores has something for you.
It is also well-connected by bus rapid transit (BRT) to the historic center of Lima, so you can see the very best of old and new Peru during your stay.
If you don’t think you have the strength, willpower or mental fortitude to climb the highest peaks on every single continent, you’re not alone–only around 350 people, as of January 2012, have actually had the guts–and money–to accomplish this formidable task.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that, depending on whom you talk to, there are actually eight summits to climb if you want to have truly mastered this feat. If you dream big about mountaineering, wait a tic–scaling these majestic peaks is much more intimidating than you might have ever imagined.
Disputes about geographical boundaries mean that the Seven Summits have evolved into eight summits–when Dick Bass first completed the challenge in 1985, he climbed these seven peaks:
This is known as the “Bass List.”
However, Pat Morrow, another climber to scale the mountains early on, determined that another peak, Carstensz Pyramid (also known as Puncak Jaya) was the highest point on the Australian continent–not Kosciusko.
Carstensz is reputed to be significantly more challenge due to its steep vertical incline.
Morrow justified his decision by saying that the continental shelf on which Carstensz Pyramid resides is part of the Australian continent.
Reinhold Messner, a noted mountaineer, agreed with Morrow, and this variation become known as the “Messner List.”
Of the 350 people who have laid claim to completing the Seven Summits, just 30 percent have climbed both Kosciuszko and Carstensz–meaning they’ve done all eight summits. The latter is a more technically challenging climb and at 4,884 meters (16,023.6 feet), it’s more than double Kosciuszko’s 2,228 meters (7,309.7 feet).
There’s another controversy about the European mountain; however, it’s not widespread enough to make a switch on either of the official lists:
Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest peak at 5,642 meters (18,510) feet, is located on the Asia-Europe border as part of the Caucasus Range.
The majority of geographers place the peak in Europe; however, a few claim it’s actually in Asia–and that would make Mount Blanc Europe’s highest peak at 4,810 meters (15,781 feet). Therefore, you might someday have to scale nine mountains to truly be victorious.
The total sum to climb all Seven Summits varies widely based on your approach, your gear, your team and other factors. Generally speaking, though, it’s a pretty hefty chunk of change — a ballpark resides anywhere between $130,000 to $220,000.
The most expensive peak to climb, by far, is Mount Everest, which the website estimates at around $60,000 to $87,000. Time magazine places the price tag even higher at up to $100,000. The least-expensive is Aconcagua at just $850 to $5,000.
However, that’s just for the luxury of stepping foot on the mountains; don’t forget to add in $8,000 to $13,000 worth of gear, not just hiking poles, and clothing, another $5k to $8k for training and $9,000 to nearly $23,000 in airfare, depending on where you’re coming and going from.
On top of the costs, it takes a lot of your time to go on these expeditions.
Mount Everest alone takes an average of six to seven weeks to climb, even though it only takes five days to reach the summit–you must acclimate to the thin air for safety purposes.
Therefore, holding down a job can be quite difficult unless you have the most understanding of employers–or a whole lot of vacation time.
There’s no official report as to how many people have died climbing all Seven Summits.
However, as of 2013, nearly 250 people had died trying to ascend Mount Everest alone–and then in April 2014, another 16 were killed in one day in one horrific avalanche.
Every year, 10 deaths are reported on Mount Kilimanjaro, though the numbers are conflicting. In January 2009, five people died climbing Aconcagua. In other words, these mountains are deadly.
Death comes from altitude sickness, falls and hypothermia, to name a few possible maladies.
On some mountains, such as Everest, the risk and cost of recovering a dead body is too high–meaning future climbers can still see the eerie forms lying in the ice as they make their own ascent.
In fact, more than 200 dead bodies are still on Everest. Climbers have to maneuver past them on their way to the summit.
The total elevation of all the eight summits put together equals 45,592 meters (149,580 feet). That’s approximately five times the height of the average airliner’s cruising altitude of 30,000 feet.
The highest elevation is, naturally, Mount Everest at 8,848 meters (29,035 feet), while the lowest is Kosciuszko at 2,228 meters (7,310 feet). If you exclude this mountain from the list, the lowest is Carstensz Pyramid at 4,884 meters (16,024 feet).
You know that $8,000 to $13,000 you spent on gear and clothing to climb? It just might be worth it, as you’ll need warm clothing in these conditions.
It’s best to climb Mount Elbrus in July and August, but even then temperatures at night average a balmy 18 F (minus 8 C)–but that’s downright warm compared to some of the other peaks.
At night on the Carstensz Pyramid, the summit can be around 14 F (minus 10 C) and it rains for several hours a day.
On Everest, summit temperatures range from minus 4 F to minus 31 F, with wind speeds of up to 175 mph.
At Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, temperatures in early May–the earliest time of year you can begin to safely climb–can hover around minus 50F.
In some cases, it’s no easy feat to simply arrive at the base of the mountain to begin to climb.
To reach Carstensz Pyramid, for example, you have to make your way through West Papua New Guinea’s tropical jungle.
Add in government issues, political instability and tribal wars and it’s no wonder that it’s one of the least-climbed of the Seven Summits.
Even the trek to the base camp of Everest means getting to 17,590 feet–higher than the summit of some of the other mountains on the list. Some climbers choose to simply make the journey to the base camp, a difficult hike with a rewarding payoff that’s significantly less dangerous than going to the very top.
So many of the mountains are remote, as well, meaning that getting medical help in an emergency can be difficult. As you might expect from its location in Antarctica, the area surrounding Mount Vinson is entirely undeveloped. While Vinson’s not a technically challenging climb, the cold and location make it extremely risky.
That’s right–a death zone.
This is where the altitude is so high that the risk of death increases substantially.
It’s found on Mount Everest above approximately 8,000 meters (26,246 feet). Your body cannot replenish its oxygen store at this height, as there’s only one-third as much oxygen in the air as at sea level. If you have asthma, you might want to skip this one.
If you thought you might be able to break a record due to your age, think again.
After scaling Vinson in Antarctica on December 24, 2011, then-15-year-old Jordan Romero became the youngest person to officially scale the seven peaks. The American-born Romero beat the previous record, set earlier in 2011 by a 16-year-old Brit.
Setting records wasn’t new to the teen; he conquered Mount Everest at age 13.
Unlike some other climbers, Romero has scaled both Carstensz Pyramid and Kosciuszko.
It took Romero six years to achieve all Seven Summits, compared to the record-holding 134 days achieved in 2010 by Vern Tejas–who once held the record as the youngest Seven Summits climber.
The final intimidation factor of climbing the Seven Summits is realizing that, despite this achievement, some serious climbers might still scoff at you for not having done the harder versions–that is, the more technically challenging, albeit slightly lower, second-highest summits on each continent.
This is comprised of the following more difficult and deadly mountains:
However, you’ll be in good company, as all seven Second Summits weren’t scaled until 2012 when Hans Kammerlander completed the challenge. He remains the only person to have completed this feat.
The difference in danger between K2 and Mount Everest, both located in Asia, is particularly notable; in 2009 and 2010, nobody attempted to scale K2 at all because of potential death. Additionally, while Everest has a 4.14 percent death rate, K2’s is 26.47 percent. That means that approximately 1 in every 4 climbers that attempts K2 loses their life doing so.
Do you have the mental fortitude to scale all Seven Summits?
Do so, and you’ll go down in history as one of just a few hundred who have been able to do so.
To a viewer unfamiliar with mahjong, the game and how to play it can present a bewildering spectacle, what with its walls of tiles, talk of prevailing winds and the constant clatter of pieces being discarded in turn by the four opposing players.
Appearances, however, can be deceptive.
This quintessentially Chinese game is, in fact, very similar to a number of Western card games such as rummy. The goal in mahjong is to complete a set with your tiles similar to a poker or rummy hand.
Anyone used to card games where a winning hand consists of a straight flush or a full house can easily get their head around the basic rules of mahjong.
The most distinctive pieces in a mahjong set are undoubtedly the tiles.
Based originally on paper cards, the tiles are now solid, chunky pieces with an image or character on one side (similar in a sense to a domino) and a thick backing of bamboo or, more usually these days, plastic on the other.
As is the case with a set of playing cards, the simples fall into suits.
Each suit consists of nine tiles numbered one through nine. There are four copies of each of these tile in a set.
The honor tiles are divided between dragons (red, green and white) and winds (east, south, west and north) while the optional bonus tiles (flowers and seasons) are used mainly for the purposes of scoring and gambling.
A mahjong set will also include a number of dice with which players determine who is to deal and where the dealing is to begin and a marker to show who is dealing and which round is being played.
Some sets may also include counters to help with scoring and racks into which players may place their tiles so they remain hidden from the other players.
A standard game begins with the players choosing a dealer either by means of a high-scoring roll of the dice or by the blind drawing of wind tiles (featured in image below).
The dealer is assigned the position of East wind and play proceeds in a counter-clockwise motion to the other players, each of whom is assigned the wind respective to their position in regard to the dealer.
When a round is finished, the position of dealer shifts to the player on the dealer’s right.
Once a dealer has been chosen and the tiles have been shuffled, each player takes thirty-six tiles and builds a wall in front of them two tiles high and eighteen tiles wide, see image below for what this looks like:
The players then push their walls together forming a square, the hollow center of which will be used for discarding tiles.
The dealer then rolls three dice and, counting along the row of tiles to his or her right, begins dealing from the tile which corresponds to the sum of the dice.
One by one, over three rounds, the players take four tiles at a time and one last tile for a total of thirteen tiles each.
Game play proper begins with the dealer taking an extra tile and then discarding a tile of his or her choice.
Except when drawing a tile during a turn, however, a player should only ever have thirteen tiles in their possession.
In mahjong these groupings consist of:
If the tile cannot be used to complete a set the player then discards it.
When another player can use the tile to complete a set, that player is allowed to claim it and take the next turn.
Otherwise, following a discard, play continues in a counter-clockwise motion until someone has completed a hand.
In Western games a winning hand is often referred to as a “mahjong” and the player will call it as such when he or she has drawn the winning tile.
It is the unusual set-up of the game which often seems so daunting to the novice player of mahjong. But once a player is used to the assigning of winds, the building of walls and the dealing of tiles, mahjong is actually quite straightforward.
Games can, of course, get rather complicated once you begin to grasp the possible strategies involved.
Systems of scoring too can render the game overly complex, but a player can always just adopt the simple option of scoring winning hands only.
Ultimately mahjong can be as simple or complex as you wish to make it and this is perhaps the secret of its enduring success.
For those of you taking Heroic Adventures to your local China town or further wanderings to parts of Asia, knowing how to play mahjong can be a way to make a healthy connection with locals and gain deep insight into local culture.
Southeast Asia is one of the most popular destinations in the world for backpackers.
Comprised of eleven countries, this region offers rich variation in culture, customs, and tourist attractions.
Six weeks is more than enough time to see the best of the region, but it can be difficult to plan a good itinerary.
You might be tempted to visit all eleven countries, but you're better off focusing on three or four of them if you want to avoid a rushed experience.
Begin your trip with an assault on the senses in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city.
This sprawling metropolis is full of roadside street food stalls serving up delicious local cuisine until all hours, and a wild nightlife scene that doesn’t stop until sunrise.
Bangkok also features many must-see attractions, including Wat Arun, shown in main article image above, a majestic riverside temple, and the stunning Grand Palace, the former residence of Thailand’s royalty.
When you’ve had enough of Bangkok, travel north to explore the ancient ruins of Sukhothai.
The UNESCO World Heritage Sukhothai Historical Park features ruins from the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom of the 13th and 14th centuries.
After Sukhothai, you can catch a bus or a train to Chiang Mai.
Popular among expats and tourists alike, Chiang Mai is a place you’re likely to fall in love with.
Surrounded by lush jungle and mountainous scenery, Chiang Mai is the perfect location to go hiking, white-water rafting, or motorcycling. There are also some great night markets in the city, selling all manner of souvenirs and delicious food.
The people of Chiang Mai are friendly, and the Lanna culture of the north is worth learning about because it’s distinctly different from the rest of the country.
Be sure to treat yourself to a Thai massage when you’re in Chiang Mai because the city is famous for its spa and wellness centres.
The next stage of your journey takes you to Luang Prabang, a tranquil city in the north of Laos.
You’ll travel by two-day slow boat from the border town of Huay Xai, just a five-hour bus ride from Chiang Mai. The slow boat offers ample opportunity to relax while you take in the beautiful scenery of the Mekong river.
When you arrive in Luang Prabang, prepare to fall in love with its charm.
You’ll also be impressed with how clean it is. Simply sit along the waterfront and relax with some delicious Laotian food while you watch the sunset. Be sure to check out the Kuang Si waterfall when you’re in town because it is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in Southeast Asia.
Surrounded by a gorgeous karst landscape, Vang Vieng is a great place to relax for a few days.
Vang Vieng is a three-hour bus journey from Luang Prabang, and you’ll want to keep your eyes open for this trip because the scenery is incredible.
The town itself formerly had a reputation as a party town, but this has changed recently due to a government crackdown and because many young tourist were injured and even died while inebriated and partying in the water.
The main attraction of Vang Vieng is tubing. This involves riding down the Nam Song River on a rubber ring while you admire the glorious scenery.
The capital city of Laos, Vientiane, is just three hours from Vang Vieng.
While it’s not a hectic city like other capital cities in this region, Vientiane is a charming place to spend time.
You can go temple-hopping for a day and then relax in the evening with a beer beside the Mekong river.
Vientiane is also a great place to get to know Laotian cuisine, and it’s a good idea to do a cookery course in the city before moving on to Cambodia.
The capital city of Phnom Penh is a good place to start in Cambodia because you get to learn about the country’s dark history under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.
Visit the heartbreaking Killing Fields where the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot sent millions of people to be executed. Phnom Penh isn’t the happiest place to go, but it’s important to learn about the country’s tragic past.
The next part of your journey takes you to the stunning Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap.
This attraction often makes it to the top of the world’s must-see destinations, and it’s easy to see why.
The complex was built by King Suryavarman II during the period of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia. Prepare to be blown away by both the size of the complex and the intricate architecture.
The final leg of your journey is in the south of Cambodia.
Your first stop is Kampot, a sleepy riverside town famous for the production of peppercorns. You can visit temples, go to the local markets, or even visit a peppercorn farm. Make sure to try some crab with Kampot pepper for a truly delicious Cambodian dish.
Finally, you can spend a couple of days on stunning Otres Beach. With pristine white sand and clear turquoise water, Otres Beach is an idyllic location.
Feel free to relax by the sea with some Cambodian food, and get a cheap foot massage. This slice of paradise is the perfect way to finish your six-week trip in Southeast Asia.