My Top 7 Croatia Experiences

The first month of Remote Year: overdrive on the senses and mind, but some of the most beautiful experiences possible in a part of a world I knew so little about.

1. Soparnik

This one is a huge credit to Remote Year for setting this up. RY offers tracks each month, various local experiences surrounding food, the outdoors, and culture, or all of the above in one day. We went rafting, bit of hiking, and while that was fun, the best part of the day was going to a local family farm run by an older couple who made us Peka and Soparnik, some best things I’ve eaten on Remote Year, a perfect combination of amazing ingredients and traditional cooking. They both involve burying food and slow cooking, but being able to see the multi-step process and enjoy the Soparnik, a Croatian version to me of 韭菜盒子 ,still remains one of my top RY memories a year out.

2. Mostar 

I talk more about the experience in this other post, but visiting Bosnia and Mostar was for me, of those travel moments that truly shake you with its beauty as well as its sadness. I definitely had one of my best meals all year and best times chatting with locals in Mostar, but everything from the scarred landscape to how a blonde police officer forced our driver to pay 20 euros (feels really little) as a bribe really informs you about the condition the place is still in due to its recent history.

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3. Swimming in the Adriatic Outside Workspace 

My first Remote Year workspace conveniently had a beach outside of it. Given how crazy my headspace was the first month, my favorite part was getting up everyday and swimming in the ocean with Croatian families. It’s one of the few places I felt super comfortable going alone and leaving my stuff out all year, despite being a super obvious foreigner (as you can imagine there weren’t many overweight Asian women swimming at a beach off the tourist-y areas). I felt so lucky everyday to swim in the pristine water.

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4. Greenmarket Shopping and Wandering Around Roman Ruins

The old town of Split, the old city center of roman ruins, incredible farmer’s market, and tourists galore (kind of gross). Even though parts of it are touristy-trappy, the farmer’s market is delightfully a place for the locals but friendly to tourists. I’ve had some of the best tasting produce I had all year and learned to enjoy it all with ajvar.

5. Island Hopping

Island hopping in Croatia from Split, can’t even describe how amazing, beautiful, and varied the experience can be. Swam in some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.  Fisherman’s House and Pension, run by a Scandinavian man who fell in love with a Croatian woman, served unpretentious fresh delicious seafood.

 

6. Meet the Barba: LAB Split Brewery 

Another Remote Year track “Meeting the Barba,” or the man behind one of first the craft breweries in Croatia. One of the best American Pale Ales I’ve tasted from the tap, can’t believe this guy just let us enjoy it. There’s not much high-end beer selection in Croatia, so this is your guy, who could easily go toe-to-toe with any California craft brewery.

7. Visiting a Working Shipyard 

Another Remote Year track and far off the tourist track, getting an up close look at the shipbuilding industry in Split. Took a look at the post-Yugoslavian socialist era to competing with much more modern and sleek operations globally. Wish them the best as they’ve got their work cut out for them.

Favorite Coffee Stops in Split, Croatia

The first thing my American ass I missed when I spent a month in Split was cold brew and drip coffee. Especially in the mediterranean, not really a thing. Croatia is still so recently a post-Soviet state with a small population to boot, so the sheer variety of such frivolities is still limited.

Luckily, a few places came to the rescue:

D16 

The most American style and first iteration of such coffee shops in Split Croatia. You can get Cold Brew growlers if you’re in town for awhile. Us American savages do not appreciate the slow drinking of espresso like the rest of the region.

Website

  • Dominisova ul. 16, 21000, Split, Croatia
  • ~$3-5 USD

4coffee soul food

More than decent stop for a good cup of brew while wandering around the old city. You can really feel the love for the bean here. They specialize in Italian style coffee, but have Cold Brew for American tastes as well.

Facebook Page

  • Hrvojeva 9, 21000, Split, Croatia
  • ~$3-5 USD

Remote Year Month One: All the Feelings about Croatia, and Bosnia. Where I was at and what what I learned. 

Where I Was At 

Every month on Remote Year, I wrote a bit about my mood and what I learned from each place each month. I got more disciplined about this over time, even taking a spreadsheet grid of each place I went to and what I liked. I’ll start posting that in the months to come. But it’s been more than a little over a year since I left and almost two months into my return, so I should start.

I have to say, a lot of my learnings are not necessarily the most happy, especially in the beginning, but I hope reflective and needed to decompress from a year as unbelievable I’ve had. I’ll start on some of the fun stuff soon. 

To start, I had a dark predilection for visiting and learning about unhappy places and sectarian conflict. I can easily draw a straight line back to my own family’s history. You project your own history on the history of others in the tragic tapestry of the human experience a way to sort out one’s inheritance. It’s a particular Asian American refugee neurosis for those of us in the tribe and other with similar experiences, but difficult for outsiders to comprehend that constant state of mind. Given world events the past few years the awareness I’d soon no longer be considered young, I was in a kind of mood. 

I wasn’t ready for a routine and not ready to settle down. At this point, I’d also gone through years of feeling figuring out my identity, that didn’t fit in anywhere and deprogramming myself from intergenerational trauma. Unfortunately through that progress I had evolved into the sort Asian female yuppy monster – you’ve seen them on the streets of NY, SF and LA, a bunch of recovering ABGs never too far from a needless act of aggression. 

My co-workers affectionately told me “you broke out of a middle class prison” by job hacking to work remotely for a year. I digress to say we’re better off than most New Yorkers, so it’s some real first world urban elite complaints. Still I wasn’t feeling it, so with the encouragement of a dear friend and mentor who did RY I put laptop on my backpack and got on a plane to Croatia, which had to be the most fitting places for both literally plunging into beautiful ocean and into dark history. 

All the Feelings About Croatia and Bosnia

In between daily gorgeous swims in the Adriatic outside of our beachy hipster workspace, exploring the islands, seeing insane natural beauty, running through roman ruins, and still working my full time job, I steeped myself in really terrible news articles and reels about Srebenica and the Bosnian wars for probably more time than was healthy and read Girl at War  and The Tiger’s Wife. I remember also reading S in college and remembered what Dr. Quinn, shout to one of the best professors I’ve had, taught us about the unfortunate nature of how history repeats itself despite knowing it and the shock to Europeans of it happening again in living memory at their shores in the Balkans. 

This behavior was probably not something someone should do on a couch with a view of the sea or anywhere for their psychological and emotional health. This month I had in Croatia and the next two were weird places for dark historical tourism juxtaposed to a kind of magical European vacation and drunken party Eurotrip alongside serious work hours and pressure on top of the madness of the first two months. Your sense of time and experience becomes warped and compressed in this way on Remote Year along with a sense of displacement. A friend told me about a French word dépaysement that describes it well I think.

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I felt this acutely traveling into Bosnia. It was really the first time I contemplated and saw blue hair blonde eyed White people in such a destitute ruins and recovering from such a recent and tragic history. 

In Croatia, it felt like the past wasn’t far behind, but the scars of war are visibly gone in most places a tourist would go. In Bosnia, bullet holes and no go zones with land mines are part of the tourism. It’s one of the early experiences that sticks with me. When I think about my time there, I think about one of the best meals I had all year and the beautiful landscape while sinking into a disturbingly recent shocking moment of humanity’s depravity. 

Dark tourism aside, I loved hanging out with a few college students telling me how their family saved the coffee roaster they got from Italy during the war and about Bosnian coffee. They asked me questions about what I was doing there and expressed how they wanted to join the EU and be like another EU member state, be able to travel and get jobs in places like Germany. Definitely a favorite moment of the trip, even if bittersweet. Really want better for them.

What I Learned

The enormity of how little I knew about this part of the world sank in, and I consider myself pretty cultured and well-traveled. Everything from the beauty, how charming the people were in a particularly slavic way, and histories I need to learn more about. 

So my lesson for the first month was fitting for the start: how little I actually knew and still don’t know. This would prove to be hypnotic contrast when I got to Asia, so in hindsight I felt grateful for the humility. I really leaned into that vibe as we traveled to Prague.

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First Transition Day aka traveling hoard of digital douchebags.

The Perfect Combo of Udon Curry and Gently Fried Veggies at Kuon in Kyoto

I’d see people lined up as if Kuon was the hottest club in town when I’ve leave my hotel (Intergate Kyoto – highly recommended with great food, coffee, and tea) to go do work at my to the hipster workspace. I’d be bummed and curious because I had to get my day started. Turns out the place had just opened and been featured on Japanese TV so people wanted to check it out.

Kuon specializes in udon noodles with Japanese style curry, which is more sweet than spicy, and various, mostly veggie, tempura skewers.

I ended up getting a table for two with no issue right as they opened for dinner. Come here in the evening if you’re on vacation so you’re not competing with the office lunch crowd, bored housewives, and retirees during the day. I ended up going here multiple times during my stay in Kyoto despite it being one of the pricier choices for a casual meal.

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Udon has what we Taiwanese term that QQ flavor, 嚼勁, or that rich al dente texture but still with that softness inherent to udon. Really high quality noodles paired with sauces and curry. It’s one of those places where the ingredients are such a cut above the rest and why people come back after waiting in line. They boast that their curry consists of over twenty spices and udon carefully sourced. Even the side dish of rice with egg tasted exceptional.

I’m a meat eater, but I have to say the vegetable dishes and those versions of the set meals are a standout. Get the avocado tempura, seriously. As a tourist, I haven’t found Japanese cuisine vegetarian friendly so I recommend it for the veggie-inclined.

The interiors have those beautiful warm wood hues and feels like a bit of a rustic oasis in a bustling part of Kyoto characteristic of so many of the small shops running in traditional Kyoto townhouses around the Kurasama neighborhood, which I highly recommend staying in if Kyoto. One of those rare places that can be good for a solo diner at the bar or a nice date.

Service is friendly, and they have English and Chinese menus. Highly recommended and worth going out of your way to eat at in Kyoto.

  • Website
  • 京都四条 くをん / KUON 420 Komusubidanacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8223, Japan/ 〒604-8223 京都府京都市中京区小結棚町420
  • $8-15 USD 

Chilean Sandwiches: I’ve Never Loved Tomato, Mayo, and Avocado with Meat So Much

Seriously. The food I miss the most from Santiago are the sandwiches. I had the fancy stuff, the delicious wine, and the upscale experiences, but sometimes the food I appreciate the most are the greasy pleasures after work with a beer.

First of all, I have to thank my from Maria from Santiago for recommending these delights to me and giving me some background. Chile, like the rest of Latin America and the Americas in general received immigrants from all over, including many Germans and Italians. At some point techniques and food culture combined with local ingredients transformed and created new dishes like Chilean sandwiches.

My must recommend for Chilean sandwiches is Fuente Alemana, styled like old school German diner with vague feelings of when I visited Bavaria, only in Spanish and a world removed. It was literally one of the first places I went to and one of the last places (both locations above) I went to in my time in Santiago with multiple visits in between.

Upon Maria’s advice, I ordered a Lomito Italiano that tasted like a melange of Chilean, Italian, and German with sliced cuts of pork, sauerkraut, tomatoes, and a generous heaping of homemade mayo that I realized is a signature joy in Chile. No Best Foods trash here; It tastes way more creamy, flavorful, and possibly more fatty yet doesn’t leave you with the feeling of self-hatred and disappointment when you squeeze it out of a bottle of artificial mass-produced Kraft goop.

I loved Lomito with the draft beer on top. Then I quickly discovered that one of Chile’s best crops and what people brag about are the tomatoes, the best and juiciest I had in the South America by far at these sandwiches, and avocado, called palta and this part of Latin America. The food is about the ingredients, and the avocado here tastes extra buttery and rich.

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I became obsessed with the simple combo found all over Chile of tomato, avocado, and mayo. It sounds so basic bitch, but every ingredient is so of top quality, especially paired with churrasco beef, which I personally liked more than the lomo, and the fica buns that vaguely remind me of a cross of NYC kaiser rolls and Italian ciabatta, again, the combination of the history of Chile here in my interpretation.

I think multiple orders of this the month I was in Chile singlehanded raised my cholesterol level for the year. Worth it.

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Of course, the classic that Chileans’ talk about and is available everywhere is the Completo, a hot dog with, you guessed it, tomato, mayo, and avocado. Fuente Alemana has a high-end version of it and was so loaded the waitress held it in place because it plopped over from the weight of all toppings as soon as I put it down after a first bite.

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While I loved just hopping over to the Fuente Alemana locations whenver possible, I have to give an honorable mention and strong recommendation when visiting La Vega, a must do in Santiago. La Vega is one of the biggest local markets for everything with a storied history and significance to the city, and I have to recommend Donde El Nano for their version of the Chacarero sandwich (who knew sliced green beans could taste so good and fresh with so much grease?), which they called the Veronica. I asked for lengua meat, which they made for me special along with the delicious broth with a generous heaping of cilantro. I can’t describe how satisfying this was.

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The owner is also such a jovial and friendly dude and really goes out of the way and clearly wants everyone visiting to have a good time versus the Fuente Alemana experience, while it might feel more authentic, feels authentically like a place people are popping in after work for comfort food and expected to tip and bounce ASAP.

Either way, the sandwiches are the must for me in Chile beyond any of the really nice fine dining with wine places I went to because I really felt like I was tasting local comfort food with history.

Learn more about Chile’s sandwiches. Don’t believe? Anthony Bourdain agrees.

Fuente Alemana

  • Website
  • Bourdain went to this one near Plaza Italia: Av Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 58, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • Close to Sky Costanera: Av. Pedro de Valdivia 210, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • $5-10 USD 

Donde El Nano

  • Website
  • Inside La Vega: local 235, Antonia López de Bello 743, Recoleta, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • $5-10 USD 

The Best Foie Gras Experience at Au Pied de Cochon

This is a Love Letter: disclaimer a place I haven’t visited in awhile (possibly months or a year) but still exists in a place I love dearly but no longer live full-time at the moment – check latest reviews on other sites accordingly as some items might be out of date.

I had one of the best dining experiences traveling alone at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal in the super cool Plateau Mont Royal neighborhood. It’s not a fancy pants white table cloth place, feels more like an upscale bistro/French brassiere that is unpretentious yet refined. Definitely fine dining although hipster beards and tattoos would not be out-of-place here.

I didn’t get a chance to try the famed foie gras poutine since I dined alone, but I definitely will if I have the opportunity to return to Montreal. Instead I had apps of a fresh baguette with butter, definitely above average. I do think it’s the sign of a good restaurant when items that are sometimes throwaway are given a lot of care.

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Then I felt adventurous and had the foie gras nigiri. I had something similar awhile back at A Plus Sushi in Taipei. Not the most pretty, but holy crap, it tasted amazing and genuinely like nothing I had ever before. Fusion food tends to be crap, but this combo of big ole hunks of high quality foie gras, good nigiri rice, topped with the slightest bit of soy sauce made this trip worth it alone.

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Of course, I had have what Anthony Bourdain had, the Canard en Conserve or Duck in a Can – literally a pound of duck and foie gras cooked in a can with vegetables and thyme so all the fatty juices melange. I rarely can’t finish a dish, but the richness and how tasty it was almost nasty. I kept trying to shovel more bites of the fatty duck, foie gras, and lard-glazed veggies but couldn’t especially after the plate of nigiri and bread. I ended up taking half it back with me. I joke around about eating heart attacks in a can, but very little hyperbole here. Perhaps kind of an abomination to French Canadian chefs, but it was bomb the next day reheated with sriracha sauce.

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Eating at Au Pied de Cochon and Jean Talon Market were definitely the highlights of my trip to Montreal. For solo travelers, it’s a fantastic place to dine alone with a long bar in front of friendly chatty kitchen staff. I was far from the only one enjoying a foie gras feast on a solo trip.

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Ironically, I’m writing this love letter I mentioned I had been there to an older Canadian couple on the same bus I was traveling on from Croatia to Bosnia, who I thought were surely French tourists at first but then turned out to be awesome friendly Canadians whom I talked food and politics all day after we bonded after I mentioned I had been there. Nothing brings together people like food.

  • Website
  • 536 Duluth Est, Montreal, QC, H2L 1A9
  • $30+ Canadian Dollars or so for entrees and $12 for apps 

The Original Yogurt Coffee at Cafe Duy Tri in Hanoi

Vietnamese Yogurt Coffee originated Hanoi’s Cafe Duy Tri. Cafe Duy Tri represents one of the atmospheric, what I call old school coffee places in Hanoi, but ups it a notch with its own roaster, selling beans out front and three low floors/crawl spaces to hang out in with free Wi-Fi. It’s a bit hot and can smell a bit cigarette-smoky but worth coming through for the experience and for the yogurt coffee.

Real talk, the yogurt coffee I’ve had here is second-to-none in Hanoi, and I’ve had a lot of yogurt coffee in Hanoi. The key difference is instead of the regular tart yogurt used by most places, they freeze theirs so it has a frozen soft serve quality that balances the stronger notes of the coffee differently than other place I’d been to. Really good. It’s a little out of the way of the old quarter area, but I enjoyed walking around the lake in this area. Much more calm, leafy, and residential. Stop by if you’re planning on checking out the One Pillar Pagoda, Chua Kim Lien, or Maison de Tet Decor nearby.

Coffee Master and Craft Beer at Vagabond Hanoi

One of my favorite parts of visiting Hanoi was chilling with one of the owners of Vagabond, a craft beer and coffee bar near the 24h street and train tracks that many tourists enjoy going to. We talked about the Lakers, Celtics, my thoughts on Hanoi as a Taiwanese-American, childcare, etc. Just a good time.

Vagabond has a variety of coffees, including traditional Vietnamese and Aeropress expresso, two draft beers on tap, cold-pressed juices, and more bottled craft beers. I personally preferred the blonde even though I’m normally an IPA-drinker, but both are worth stopping in for.

This place definitely represents a new wave of shops in Hanoi that might be taken as worldwide hipster generic if not for its showcase of indie Vietnamese brands as well as warm and very hip locals. It’s a good stop for people who need a little taste of home and to pick up some more upscale and unique gifts. I’m so happy I saw it and stopped in.

  • Facebook
  • Address:7 Tôn Thất Thiệp, Hanoi, Vietnam 100000
  • Price Range: $1-$3 USD

Amazing Longanisa at Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is known for clam chowder and Seattle Seafood, but as luck would have it, I had less than half an hour to spend there before a flight and found this gem. I lived next to Daly City for years and miss Filipino food so much living in NYC, and this is definitely some of the best longanisa I’ve ever had, paired with some awesome pancit and rice. Check out Oriental Mart if you’re in the area and don’t want the usual.

Longanisa with Rice and Pancit

Longanisa with Rice and Pancit

The people who work here are awesome too. Super nice and a fun bunch. The food stall has some serious character and Filipino pride that I appreciate by extension.