Otto’s Cantonese Restaurant


This is my favorite restaurant in Beijing. Seriously, this is where I went my last night before going home and the first place I visited on a two day layover. It’s the only place in the world I’ve had ginger yogurt and ginger yogurt is delicious. If you love ginger or yogurt it’s worth a try.

Next are the chicken wings. They are magically seasoned, wrapped in foil, and baked into soft submission. The staff will bring you plastic gloves to keep your fingers from getting covered in the delightful sauce.

The wings and the yogurt are my personal favorites from the restaurant but there’s also assorted fresh fruit in coconut milk and fried sliced beef and rice stick with homemade chili paste. Yum! There’s probably over 100 dishes in the menu so everyone should be able to find something to enjoy.


The staff doesn’t speak much English but the menu is in Chinese and English with pictures included. The food is very affordable with the dishes ranging from $5.00 to $10.00 USD. Fair warning though if you come after 8 pm they’ll probably be out of ginger yogurt and possibly the wings.

Otto’s is located across from the entrance of Houhai Lake. It’s easy to combine a trip to Houhai. My personal suggestion is to go for an early dinner and then bar hop around the Lake. Every bar has live music, outdoor seating (several have rooftops), and you’ll find a few hookah bars as well. It’s a fun night out.

I’ve included a google map the address is 14 Di’anmen Xidajie however if you type in Otto’s Restaurant you won’t find it on google maps. The restaurant is easy to get to by subway just exit at beihai north exit b and walk straight. You’ll walk past Houhai’s gates and the Otto’s will be on your right.

Side note: Google doesn’t work in mainland China. This includes google maps and google play store so write the address down or screen shot the map.

Let me know about your experience at Otto’s.

Cambodia: More than Angkor Wat

Recently I’ve heard fellow travelers state they didn’t enjoy Cambodia and left the country earlier than expected. Whenever I hear this I always ask “Where did you go?” The answer is always the same: Siem Reap, Phnom Phen, and Sihanoukville. 

Now don’t get me wrong these cities are great but they’re tourist towns. There’s a plethora of tours, tuk tuks, and souvenir shops setup to give foreigners a quick commercialized view of Cambodia. I spent three weeks in Cambodia and didn’t visit everything I wanted.

While Angkor Wat is magnificent it wasn’t my favorite part of Cambodia and I honestly never made it to Sihanoukville. I was spending a little extra time on a bus getting a little further from the pack of tourists. 

So if you’re headed to Cambodia take a look at some of these options and get off the beaten tourist path.

1. Mondulkiri my favorite part of my trip!

Walking through a hill tribe on an 18 km trek

Spending the night in a hammock in the jungle.


Feeding and washing elephants in a Cambodian River.  
Trekking past waterfalls. All this was possible through Mondulkiri Project, a project that rescues trained elephants and supports the Bunong minority. 

A chance to observe Cambodians in their daily routines.

Also in the area are several other waterfalls to explore on motor bike. 

2. Battambang this is an easy stop between Phnom Phen and Siem Reap.

One of the temples at Phnom Sampeau and one of the friendly monkeys.

View of the country side. Also every evening a bat cave nearby comes to life when thousands of bats make their nightly exit. 

A ride on a bamboo train that can be disassembled in under three minutes. A quick word of caution if you pinky swear to buy a bracelet from one particular child do not buy from someone else. It becomes very uncomfortable.

An empty temple I stumbled across early one morning.

Battambang also has a wonderful market that isn’t geared to tourists located in the middle of the city. You can do some shopping for an inexpensive krama (Khmer scarf) or eat some local food.

3. Kampot and Kep the two cities are only 30 minutes from each other and can be explored using either city as a base.


Explore Bokor National Park by scooter. There is an abandoned casiono, a waterfall, rice fields and amazing views.


A day trip to rabbit island.

Crab pulled fresh from the sea and cooked in a famous Kampot pepper sauce. There are also tours of nearby salt and pepper plantations.

And the main reason I went to Kep for breathtaking sunsets at The Sailing Club.  The hotel is out of my price range but they have happy hour from four to six and drinks are half price. One of my best evenings in Cambodia.

Here’s the places I didn’t have time to visit: Prasat Preah Vihear, the Irrawady dolphins in Kratie, and Koh Kong. So obviously a return trip to Cambodia will have to happen. 

If you’re heading to Cambodia I encourage you to add one of these destinations into your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed.

View From a Scooter


The light turns green and I dart out to turn right. I push through the intersection but find unwilling to complete the turn. In front of me I see a six inch curb fast approaching. I grab the hand brakes somehow twisting the throttle at the same time. I feel the scooter sway beneath me and release the brake the curb even closer. I crush the brakes under my hands fear gripping me. I lean right praying the bike will turn. My hands hit the pavement as the scooter lands crushing my foot beneath it.

Puffs of gas soaked air hit my face as I weave through traffic. I guide my scooter through spaces barely big enough pulling my stomach in an attempt to make the bike smaller. My side mirror clanging against a tuk tuk. Cars are at a standstill but I’m part of a tide of scooters that ebb and flow around cars like water around a rock. The road curves and a new tidal wave of traffic joins the swelling roads. The wave of traffic stops at a light watching the counter countdown to the green light. 3, 2, 1! Engines squeal to life and I zoom ahead in a race with everyone. 

A blur of green runs along side the scooter. The beach town’s two lane highway is empty at night. I enjoy the ride as a passenger and look up at the stars undiminished in a clear night sky. The warm air rushes around us pulling at my legs and turning my hair into a mass of tangles. We slow turning into the bungalows and a lone dog charges. He chases us growling and barking narrowly we avoid the beast with a burst of speed.

Lights flash, horns beep, and music seeps into the air as we weave through Saturday night traffic. A sudden stop sends my lips crashing into my taxi drivers helmet. He maneuvers between taxis and Range Rovers with barely enough space to walk. We turn the corner and are suddenly on a deserted four lane road. Sounds fall away into nothingness as the scooter speeds away unhindered. The street lights overhead create a silhouette of our image on the street. I watch my shadow’s ponytail flap happily behind. 

I wait in the middle of the street for an opening in the other lane. A lone scooter approaches in the right lane. I roll forward to leave space for the scooter to pass behind me but instead she drifts towards the center aimed directly for me. I watch helplessly as cars and scooters roll by blocking my path forward. I glance again hoping she has changed course but she is locked onto her target. I see an opening in traffic ahead trying to pull it closer by thought. Smack!

With one left turn I leave the highway and drive along a simple concrete road running between rice fields. Cows canter through the fields unattended clanging as they walk. There a few wooden houses decorated only by brightly colored spirit houses that seemed to jump from a sea of green. I swerve right as a cow meanders into the street in search of the greener side. Palm trees shoot up randomly between the rice fields and in the distance a line of mountains stand guard. I reach the end of the street and turn right joining the stream of highway traffic. 

Swimming in Stars

Music drifted out from Jam Bay into the warm night air as I gazed out at the Gulf of Thailand under a moonless sky. Orion’s belt shimmered above barely outshining the plethora of stars on display. As the waves crashed in the distance they created a line of momentarily iridescent foam.

I walked to the edge of the shore. The water hit my feet creating an explosion of sparkles. Stretching down my hand I splashed the water smiling as it came alive with glittering bioluminescent algae. Overcome with amusement I laughed and began kicking the water making the ocean glisten like the sky above.

After a moments hesitation I left my dress on the shore and charged into the ocean. The only light coming from the water as I danced further in. I gazed up admiring the twinkling sky as I swam through a sparkling sea. Filled with ecstasy I soaked in the beauty of the moment grateful for my life.

Jungle Trekking in Khao Sok

The tour group hopped on a long tail boat headed to a jungle island in Khao Sok National Park. We arrived at the densely bamboo lined shore 20 minutes later and stepped onto a rain soaked jungle floor. My first jungle trek was about to commence.

Our Smiley Bungalows guide, a clean cut Thai man with a big smile named Sam, tied the boat to one of the sturdy bamboo trees and led us into the forest. I followed timidly behind carefully placing my feet in puddles of oozy mud trying not to get dirty. He ushered us along a narrow path nonchalantly pointing out the no entry sign. 

I followed yanking my feet out of the mud as it threatened to steal my shoes. The path quickly came to a river crossing. Tentatively I began to wade into the river but quickly found myself swimming in neck deep water. I climbed out of the river and was greeted by two dozen multicolored butterflies.

Sam continued through the lush green jungle pointing out different plant species and entertaining us with his wild trekking stories. The path ambled back and forth across the river as we traveled deeper into the jungle. Finally the mud thinned and we began to climb across small boulders until we reached a cave the river flowed through. Sam informed us we could only go a short distance in the cave because rainy season made it impassable.  

Flipping on my head lamp I followed the group through the narrow opening. Immediately I was in knee deep water and felt loose stones beneath my feet. I stumbled along trying to get my balance and adjust to the darkness. My light dance along the dark grey walls and shimmering pale yellow stalagmites. Staying in the middle of the group I waded through the cave nervous of being left behind in all consuming darkness. 

Sam led us through several rooms each different from the last. One room was so deep I swam through splashing water on the walls and in my mouth. The next room I tried to avoid holes that landed me in waist deep water. The cave was tormenting and every step was an effort. 

Finally we stopped in a large circular room and Sam gathered us all together on dry land. He informed us of a waterfall in the next room but the passage was narrow creating a strong current. He asked if anyone wanted to brave the passage. Quickly we all nodded our heads in affirmation.

Heading towards the sound of rushing water Sam led the way. Nervously we glanced around at each other to see who would follow first. I took a deep breath and rocketed forward. As I reached the passageway I observed it was barely wider than shoulder width. I started to push through the current as it tugged at my legs. The water grew stronger and I began to grip the walls of the cave to gain more traction.

Handing me a rope Sam reappeared from above a rock. He instructed me to place my right foot on a rock and pull on the rope but my foot couldn’t find the rock. I placed my left foot on one wall and my back on the other gaining a little more stability. Again I reached with my right foot but couldn’t find the correct placement.

I trembled with the fear of falling and getting banged up in the narrow passageway. I reached with my right foot a third time and still was unable to find the placement. Glancing back I looked at those behind me and felt the pressure to find a way. I picked up my right foot and placed it on the wall next to my left foot holding myself between the two walls. Stepping with my right foot and I slid my back a few inches along the wall dragging my left foot behind. I continued moving forward pressed between the two walls until I passed the swiftly moving water.

I stepped past Sam allowing him to help the others and took a solitary look at my first cave water fall. It bounced down a mound of stalagmites making the water sparkle as it landed in an ankle deep pool. Gazing up I followed the waterfall as it climbed into the darkness and out of my view. 

Adrenaline pumped through mybody. I trekked through the jungle and climbed over dangerously moving water. I was so proud of myself. Jungle trekking was completely out of my comfort zone and I rose to the challenge. I gained confidence to continue trekking and plan an overnight trek in Cambodia.

The Wanch: My Debut


I tossed Gone with the Wind on my bed, threw on my shoes, and walked out of Check Inn HK. I had spent the day exploring Hong Kong solo, and had had enough alone time. I needed a night out with a friend.

I met Josh, a short, friendly Filipino-Canadian, approximately five minutes ago in the common area of the hostel. He immediately invited me to The Wanch, a bar that is known for their live music. The man had arrived in Hong Kong after a few weeks spent traveling around southeast Asia and checking out the local dive bars. He seemed an expert on the subject.

We walked out into the cool night air and headed out on our journey. The city was lit up and enticing. We walked past markets, food stalls, and club entrances guarded by matronly madams.

The Wanch was a tiny hole-in-the-wall with three booths smashed into a short side wall. The band was crammed in front of the windows, and drew glances from pedestrians. The dance floor stood between the stage and bar, and was about the length of a King-size mattress.

About 30 people, mostly older foreign men coupled with young Asian women, had somehow managed to fit inside. The band’s drummer was off beat and the guitar players missed chords but their enthusiasm energized the room. We pushed our way to the bar and bought a beer.

The crowd sang and danced along with the band. There were two backpackers in the middle of the dance floor back packs still on dancing from one side to the other. Some how Josh navigated me through the obstacles to an empty table.

“The next band is better.” Josh stated as we sat.

We sat, watching the crowd dance and told our “stories,” or traveler’s basics: Where are you from, Where are you going and how long are you traveling? We finished our beers and knew each other well.

“Let’s dance.” Josh suggested.

We gave up our table and joined the crowd. The band strummed a few chords and the crowd began to cheer. The band began to sing “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

At the chorus I began to sing along with all the other drunken fools.

Woah, we’re half way there

Woah, livin’ on a prayer

Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear

Woah, livin’ on a prayer

The band began the second chorus and the place was in full swing. Everyone was up singing and dancing. The lead singer locked eyes with me, cocked his finger at me and waved for me to join him. I shook my head as Josh pushed me forward and in two steps I was on the stage with the band mic in my hand.


We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got

It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not

We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love

We’ll give it a shot
Woah, we’re half way there

Woah, livin’ on a prayer

Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear

Woah, livin’ on a prayer

Livin’ on a prayer

The singer stood next to me whispering the words in my ear while Josh snapped pictures. I did my best to sing in sync with the band and stay in tune. The song finished to an enthusiastic round of applause and I gratefully rejoined the crowd.

The experience was exhilarating and terrifying. It was the only time I’ve been pulled up on stage at a moments notice and expected to just jump right in. I learned how to be present in the moment and enjoy it without fear of failure.

We made our way to the bar for another round of beers and the next band began to setup. The second band was well rehearsed and had a set list. They did an awesome mashup of Back Street Boys and NSYNC. I spent the rest of the evening on the dance floor.

The evening was perfect—great music, a new friend, and a new experience. This was exactly the kind of adventure I hoped to have when I decided to move abroad—after one night, Josh and I have since become lifelong friends.

Traditional Chinese Dumplings 


Stella and I carried bags of groceries through the narrow alleys of Hefei, a capital city in the centrally located province of Anhui. I felt excited to spend a few days with a Chinese family during the Chinese New Year and Stella had agreed to teach me how to make Chinese dumplings.

Snow fell as we wound our way through the alleys, passing doorways that LED to traditional Chinese courtyard homes. We arrived at Stella’s Grandmother’s entrance and passed through the circular archway into a courtyard that faced a three story concrete house.

Her grandmother greeted us at the door in Hefei dialect, unintelligible to me. She was old and wrinkled from time. She birthed five sons years before the one child policy and now was honored to have great grandchildren.

“Ni hao.” I said with an awkward smile.

“This way.” Stella directed and we climbed the stairs to the second floor.

Behind us I heard her grandmother huff and puff as she slowly climbed after.

As we reached the landing we were greeted by Stella’s extended family. The 20 family members immediately relieved me of all my bags and I followed the parade to the kitchen in the back of the house.

The crew directed me to a seat and handed me green tea and nuts for a snack. I watched enviously as they started cleaning and chopping vegetables to make dumplings.

“Can I help?” I inquired.

“We’re just chopping cabbage.” Stella answered.

“I can chop.” I volunteered and walked over to where she was chopping.

“Okay.” She relented. Stella handed me the knife. She had promised to teach me how to make them. “You have to chop the cabbage into tiny pieces.”

I sliced the cabbage into quarters and started chopping away. Pieces of cabbage were flying in every direction under my enthusiasm.

“Are the pieces small enough?” I asked. “They need to be a little smaller.” She instructed.

I diligently returned to my chopping when her oldest uncle stormed into the kitchen. He yelled at Stella in Chinese and waved his finger at me. My knife paused. Stella responded to her uncle and the room went silent.

“What’s wrong?” I timidly asked. Her uncle looked furious.

Stella turned to me with a small smirk and said, “He’s angry you’re chopping cabbage.”

“Why? I just want to learn to make dumplings.” I stated.

“You’re a guest.” She explained. “In traditional Chinese culture he’s supposed to cook for you.”

“Will you tell him I want to learn to make dumplings. It’s fun for me.” I said.

Stella relayed the message to her uncle. He responded with more shouting and stomped from the kitchen.

I returned to chopping and contemplated her uncles anger. I wanted to learn to make dumplings- didn’t he want to teach me? I finished my small task and then returned to my tea. I didn’t want anymore confrontation.

In a large metal bowl Stella’s Grandmother mixed the cabbage with pork to make the filling. At another table seven or eight women gathered around and folded the filling into thin dumpling wrappers. Again, I watched. I didn’t want to offend the family when they opened their home to me.

Stella pulled me to the table and showed me how to stuff the filling in the wrapper. It felt wonderful to be included in the festivities and culture. A 5,000 year old culture that is steeped in traditions that have been passed down for generations.

Her uncle returned as we filled the dumplings. I felt his anger as he observed my dumpling making abilities and my disregard for tradition.

“You make dumplings like a man.” He commented in Chinese.

“Please show me the proper way.” I said with a smile.

With a shrug he scooped up some filling with chopsticks and placed the filling on one side of the wrapper. Then he folded it in half pinching the dough to completely seal the dumpling. I tried again following his instructions.

“Better.” He grunted.

We all worked together and filled a large bamboo tray with the finished dumplings. Her uncles anger shrunk to annoyance, but he was clearly still unhappy to let me help.
Stella and her aunts took the dumplings and dropped them in a pot of boiling water. As the first batch of dumplings were pulled out of the pot her uncle guided me to a seat. He filled my plate with dumplings and refilled my green tea.

The dumplings tasted delicious. But under her uncle’s heavy glare, I realized I wouldn’t be making any more dumplings or anything else. I eased into my chair, and felt myself returned to my role as a guest. The rest of my time at Stella’s I ate, drank and let myself be waited on, even though my American-learned niceties made me cringe.

Rickshaw Gone Wrong


I just finished eating and shopping with friends in Sanlitun, a very popular expat area in Beijing, and decided I would take a rickshaw home. I loved taking rickshaws. They’re open and the breeze as it moved through the streets cooled me perfectly on a warm summer afternoon. Plus it was thrill to be zipping alongside traffic in a rickshaw, there was an element of danger involved.

I walked to Sanlitun road where I quickly found a rickshaw. The pedaler happened to be a woman and I could immediately tell she was migrant worker, not a Beijinger. Her skin was tan from working in the sun and her Chinese had a thick dialect accent. I hoped she would understand me. 

“Jiuxianqiao (geo-she-in-chee-ow) road” I said in Chinese.

“Ok 30 yuan,” she replied.

“20 yuan,” I countered because everything is negotiable in China.

“Ok,” She agreed.

I climbed into the rickshaw and relaxed. I looked forward to a pleasant, quick ride home.

As she weaved through traffic I realized her bike wasn’t electronic. She was powering the rickshaw with just her own strength. It was going to be a slow, smelly trip, I realized. She had been working all day in the sun in a long sleeve flannel shirt.   
She began going down the side streets towards an outdoor high end mall. As we arrived she began to slow. 

“No. Not here.” I said in Chinese. “Go straight. Jiuxianqiao Road.”

She continued to pedal. I directed her to turn right on the main road, and she did. Then about a hundred feet along she stopped. 

“Go straight.” I directed. “Jiuxianqiao road.”

“Jiuxianqiao road is too far!” She exclaimed. She turned around to look directly at me. “30 yuan.”

“No, it’s not far. It’s very near.” I said using my newly learned words. “20 yuan.”

She had stopped the rickshaw next to a bus stop and people began to stare. “Jiuxianqiao road. 30 yuan.” She demanded. “It’s very far.”

I felt myself getting angry. We negotiated the price up front but now she was trying to take advantage of me. “No!” I yelled. “Jiuxianqiao is near. 20 yuan. If you stop here 10 yuan.”

People at the bus stop began to walk over to watch the altercation between the two of us, the migrant worker and the foreigner who could only speak a little Chinese. We must have been great entertainment.

“Jiuxianqiao 30 yuan.” She stated again.

“No.” I said. I was going to stand my ground. I wasn’t going to be taken advantage of just because this wasn’t my country. “10 yuan.” 

She continued to argue for the 20 yuan but I wanted to be finished with her. I placed my hands on the bench, leaned forward and began to lift myself out of the rickshaw. 

But she placed both her hands on my shoulders and shoved me back into the seat. I was completely taken aback and shaken. I had never been in a physical altercation in my life, let alone in China.

Meanwhile the crowd only seemed to be growing. I felt helpless and outnumbered. I reached in my purse, and pulled out exactly 15 yuan. I scooted across the bench and edged myself out as I handed her the money. 

“Fifteen yuan.” I stated resolutely and stomped off to the bus stop. I didn’t need her rickshaw. I could take the bus home.

She pedaled the rickshaw away and the crowd began to disperse. I could still feel eyes on me as I stepped onto the bus to my apartment. I couldn’t wait to get back to the safety of my apartment and away from the horrible pedaler and the people who just stood around watching an ambitious migrant worker try to fleece a foreigner. 

I spent that evening inside and ordered delivery. I didn’t venture out of my apartment until the next morning. It was the first time I felt so helpless and vulnerable in my life. Everything about the situation was out of my control. The only thing I could do was hand over the money. I was glad I didn’t give her the full 20 I originally negotiated for, but still felt angry.

After that experience, rickshaws stopped being a fun way to get around Beijing. I vowed never again to take one alone.