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Traveling invigorates me. Visiting new places opens my eyes and enriches my soul. My wanderlust has taken me to manyplaces but believe it or not, I have never set foot outside the borders of Thailand. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I had myfirst opportunities to embark on the journey beyond the motherland to two very different countries within the span of two weeks.

My first destination was Vietnam and backpacking with 6 of my close friends sharing my fate. I must admit, I was quite thrilled tobe going to a foreign land for the first time. We had nothing planned, no trains nor hotels booked. All we knew was which cities wewanted to visit.

The rest was left for us to discover and getting lost and scammed would surely add some colour to our adventure!Aside from the city scape and its people and traditions, it was through the taste of local food that I got to know Vietnam in a moreintimate way.

Every meal I had pledged to order Pho, a Vietnamese style noodle soup. There are various kinds of Pho depending on whichtown or region you go to. Some places use chicken, some duck. Where supplies are scarce, you can expect to find more noodlesand less protein with your soup. As I could never be sure what type of meat was used, to avoid accidentally dining on fido,I sometimes requested my Pho be vegetarian. Every bowl of Pho has a story to tell. It gives us a reflection of the local culture aswell as the socio-economic status of that region.

Shortly after returning from Vietnam, I set off to Japan for 5 days. I was invited as a representative of Thailand to perform at theThai Festival 2014 in Tokyo. This trip was quite different as I was a guest under the care of the Royal Thai Embassy. They madesure my stay was comfortable and I was taken sightseeing to the popular landmarks of the city and of course taken to experienceauthentic Japanese cuisine.

Unlike Vietnam, I had no set menu planned for each meal as there is so much variety too good to passup on. One thing that was similar to Vietnamese food however was the noodle soup the Japanese call ‘ramen’. The ramen noodlesare thick and soft. Every noodle spot tries to be different from the others by having their own concoction of soup recipes- someoffer clear broth while others make them a cloudy white. All are very rich in flavor.

Japan has a deeply rooted tradition when it comes to food. Meals are meticulously prepared for their good taste and overallpresentation, paying attention to the smallest of details. This is true everywhere from fancy restaurants down to ready meals soldat convenience stores or train stations. It is amazing how every dish has its own particularity. Through food, the authentic Japaneseways unfold from a whole new perspective. Having returned from both trips I was asked which country I preferred. My answer was that each country has its unique charmand offers very different kinds of experiences. In comparing a bowl of Pho to a bowl of Ramen, I would say, both are delicious intheir own way and offer an intrinsic values that mean so much more than just a bowl of noodle soup to a traveler like me.

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