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Travel Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Travel

The Center Of Birmingham’s Balti Triangle: A Review Of Adil’s Restaurant

Did you know there was a balti triangle in Birmingham, England? Literally, an area so famous for introducing this northern Pakistani cuisine to the United Kingdom, the unofficial “Balti Triangle” is even listed in Google Maps. Don’t know what balti cuisine is? One of the best places to find out in the UK is at Adil’s, in the heart of the Balti Triangle.

You can see more in the video above or read on.

What Is Balti?

Originating in northern Pakistan, specifically the Baltistan region bordering China, balti is the name of the wok style dish the food is served in. Not only is the balti reminiscent of the Chinese wok, many flavors of course blend over ancient borders as well. Balti is a solidly spicy base of tomato sauce flash fried and traditionally served with vegetables as well as goat or lamb meat. At Adil’s you can order vegetarian varieties (no meat, more veggies) if you prefer.

balti adils birmingham

Why Adil’s?

Adil’s, in the 1970s might very well have been the first restaurant to serve balti cuisine in the UK. It’s in the southeastern part of Birmingham which has an Asian population of roughly 26%, 13.5% from Pakistan. Adil’s is well known in the area although opinions vary to whether or not it’s the best balti food in town.

Meals typically begin with a starter of papadum, a flat, thin fried bread cracker you can dip in various sauces. Those sauces vary from yogurt-based in garlic, to mint, plus onions or sweet and sour. You’ll also find more familiar appetizers like samosas as well. Keep in mind that alcohol is not served at Adil’s but they don’t restrict anyone from bringing their own. Literally everyone at the restaurant came in with their own bottle of wine so don’t feel uncomfortable doing the same if you want a merlot or Amstel with dinner.

Inside The Balti Triangle

Being “the best” might be subjective but the preparation of balti at Adil’s is straightforward, using flash frying techniques in vegetable oils with traditional masala spices.The restaurant itself isn’t very large, holding about 50 customers, getting much more crowded after 7 in the evening.

balti cuisine

Each balti has a spice flavor that will slowly creep up on you, requiring the occasional break for your taste buds to recover. The food isn’t so hot though that you can’t taste anything, it’s satisfying without being heavy or extreme. Anyone who can’t do spicy though, make sure you tell the server you want your balti as mild as possible. Make sure you get some rice (cooked with or without more vegetables if you prefer) or over-baked naan bread to continually cleanse your palate.

The Balti Triangle is a culinary adventure in Birmingham, a surprisingly low key city considering it’s England’s second largest. Most of the south Asian cab drivers I spoke with had a favorite balti place, giving me plenty of recommendations. Inside the triangle is certainly a good way to spice up a trip to Birmingham, worth taking more time to explore.

7 Great Travel Gifts Under $25

Travelers can be difficult to shop for since they usually have specific, pricier, items in mind they want for themselves. Getting a gift for someone who knows exactly what they want can be tricky since you might not know if that preference has changed, they bought the thing already, or maybe it’s over your budget.

There are however a lot of very practical, clever items you can get a wide range of traveler from frequent to business, all under $25.

1. Multi-Charging Cable ($14.99)

CHAFON multi-USB charging cable

Anyone who has seen one next to my laptop mentions what a good idea these CHAFON multi-USB charging cables are. All you do is plug in the USB-3 port into a laptop, portable charger, or wall outlet to provide power to multiple devices over USB micro, mini, A, C, or Apple’s lightning. Having one of these multi-charging cables means carrying less cables plus charge multiple electronics at once. And if you want to charge using the USB-C port, this converter will do the trick.

2. Herschel Travel Pouches 3-Pack ($24.99)

herschel travel pouches

Slim and coming in 3 color options, these highly durable poly ripstop travel pouches are perfect for cable and other loose item backpack organization. Not only is the material strong but it slides in and out of backpack pockets with ease for someone on the go. Lightweight as well, these Herschel travel pouches come in a 3-pack of sizes one small, medium, and large.

3. PortaPow Data Blocker ($12.49)

portapow

Not the most elegant name (PortaPow) but many people gladly plug their devices into plane seats and USB hubs at airports without knowing the dangers of being hacked. What these little PortaPow do is block the data line of USB plugs, so they can transfer electricity and nothing else.

4. Portable Humidifier ($15.99)

Hotel rooms often blow very dry air from the vents whether set to cold or heat. For someone with sensitive sinuses, this MZTDYTL portable humidifier might help them suffer less. It’s also USB-powered, just smaller than a soda can, plus lights up elegantly in multiple colors.

5. Glorious Large Gaming Mouse Mat ($11.99)

glorious gaming mouse mat pad

These 2-millimeter thin mouse pads have a rubber anti-slip base and a very smooth cloth surface allowing for very precise and comfortable mouse movements. Not just for gamers, another benefit is the Glorious Large Mouse Mat is machine washable with anti-fray stitching for high durability. Several sizes to choose from, all under $25.

6. SurviMate Filtered Water Bottle ($21.29)

survimate

One of the best filtered water bottle for travelers, the SurviMate has replaceable filters and can help anyone use less plastic. Using the FaucetSafe app (on iOS or Android) can show you where the SurviMate might be most needed, which makes a good addition to the water bottle.

7. Mossio Hanging Toiletry Bag ($10.99)

mossio hanging toiletry kit

Made of waterproof and durable 300D Oxford tent fabric, the Mossio is a toiletry bag that looks more expensive than it is. Aside from being practical, it’s also large enough for shampoo or other bottles that aren’t necessarily travel size.

Barely Over $25 Honorable Mentions

Although these other products are just over $25, you’ll often find them on sale through my Deals page on the tales sister-site. Anker’s PowerCore 13000 is a miniature but high capacity portable battery, the Soundbuds Curve are sports headphones that stay in your ears, and the Peak Design camera wrist and neck straps are the smartest ways to carry most cameras.

Did I miss anything? Let me know what you would add to the list in the comments below!

What To Do In London After Your First Trip

monty's seven dials market

London can feel at times like a dignified, obese man and all the people in it red blood cells getting by just enough to avoid causing a heart attack. You can meet him for a moment and see his proud hat, notice the odor, and after a trip or two think you’ve seen enough not to see more again.

This is where I found myself, somewhere in the third or fourth time I visited London, England. Knowing this year I’d be going again, for the (probably 8 or 9th time) since you voted it Best City in 2019, I though it was time to sit you down with London.

Let’s Talk

Yes, you can see Westminster and the visually jarring London Eye. Go to a pub, have a pint, visit the Tower of London – truly one of the easiest cities to have a first date with. Like with many massive cities (Istanbul, New York I’m looking at you), it’s natural to think that’s all there is to do. All that remains is just rat racing.

hyde park london england

The fringes though are where it gets interesting because those are where you’ll find the borderlands between locals, immigrants, and tourists hoping to get off some beaten path they saw on Instagram. London is not the most approachable place to get to know, it has to warm up to you and you to it.

Over Lunch?

Break bread with the city at a place in Seven Dials Market. Hipster haven full of whatever your particular preference, allergy, or indulgence might be. Take for example Monty’s, where you can find salted beef, pastrami, smoked salmon, and other classic deli fare. They call it “Jewish soul food” recently opened at Seven Dials after the closure of its flagship store.

Walk around the side streets shows on the map in my video above to try various other street foods from around the world nearby. You can learn a lot about a city from what it likes to snack on.

Head To The Hanging

A long, slightly isolating walk to Captain Kidd, a pub baring the name of the Scottish pirate who was hung nearby in 1701. Some nights you could probably write an entire evening television lineup based on the expressions of the patrons. Plenty of sarcasm for your comedy, drama politely loud enough to be overhead, and the occasional glassy eyes reflecting light between depressed and delighted.

Slightly bumping back to the nearest tube stop later in the evening, remember as you tip tap down the damp stairs that someone probably much drunker than you photographed Sir Winston Churchill’s ghost down below.

I for one, don’t quite see it but stare close enough, long enough, and you can vaguely begin to make out a shape. A lot like this city, London; hard to make out if you stick to the center but on occasion can become ever so tangible if you head to the fringes wherever you happen to find them.

What Do You Need To Declare At The Airport?

dublin airport

We’ve all walked under those big green and red banners at airports asking if we have anything to declare. Perhaps you’re undying love for rock ballads? No, that’s not what they mean but if you’re confused about airport declarations understanding what the question means can help.

Specific Disclaimer

Most countries will hand you a declaration form or under those declaration banners, list out specific items you should declare. Essentially customs are looking for things they can tax and prohibited items for the most part. Remember that every country has different rules so remember to brush up on what’s prohibited to avoid any legal trouble.

Governments Love Taxes

Technically, you can list every single item you bought in a foreign country that you’re bringing back home with you. Practically, for stuff under a few hundred dollars, “gifts” is a reasonable description. There’s a set total number (e.g. $1000) for taxable purchases abroad which is why customs often asks how much something cost.

dji mavic drone

Many places will differentiate between unopened boxed items as well so if you are pulled aside to have your bags checked in customs, electronics in plastic will likely get you stuck with a duty (i.e. tax) to be paid. A new set of headphones around your neck however, probably not.

Prohibited Items

Some might be obvious like guns but other prohibited items often include produce, meats, and other organic materials. Invasive species and other non-native seeds can disrupt local ecosystems so most everything that’s not sealed, packaged, or canned will likely need to be declared. A wrapped box of chocolates, highly doubtful.

Cash Money

Currency (for example in the United States) over $10,000 must be declared. Not doing so can lead to customs agents confiscating nearly all of it. The idea behind these laws is to disrupt smuggling and money laundering operations. With modern banking though for most people, it’s probably better just to bring a little cash for the airport ride then use the ATM afterward. Large sums of cash are easy to lose as well so unless absolutely necessary, keep it in the bank.

Pets

Any kind of non-human animal traveling with you (including service pets) need to be declared in many places. Keep this in mind as you walk through customs to have your pet medical information, as well as other documents, handy as you go through customs. Pet microchips will usually need to be scanned as well, plan accordingly and take your time.

I Declare Generalities

As I mentioned above, customs in every country vary (like regulations on drones) but their motivations are pretty much the same. Taxes on stuff you bought abroad, contraband, and live animals are what customs are controlling. The $5 magnet you bought for your mom isn’t on the table, unless that magnet is made of rare diamonds.

4 Great Non-Touristy Places To Eat In Istanbul

istanbul turkey tea cat

Istanbul is a massive, sprawling city, whose area and population make it better to break the city down into its neighborhoods. It should actually be 10 smaller cities but since it’s not, rather than focusing on specific parts of Istanbul (which would make this a much longer post), these are some foods that will take you a bit off the typical tourist trail.

1. Ev Yemekleri Lokanta

These home-food restaurants are local, canteen-style restaurants where you can choose from a variety of home-style dishes. It’s a great way to try more traditional foods served quickly, without the need to speak Turkish (just point and choose) – not to mention lokantas are almost always very inexpensive.

You can find one of my recommendations in the video below.

2. Vegan Istanbul

Canteen style lokanta are a good way to try various meat and vegetarian dishes. Many Turkish home foods are vegetarian or vegan naturally but if you want to try some meatballs or kebab dishes, Veganarsist in Nisantasi is a good choice. The restaurant is small (they serve takeout as well) so larger groups might want to reserve in advance. Veganarsist’s meat-substitute choices are surprisingly flavorful plus the cute balcony view is nice to if a seat’s available.

veganarsist instagram istanbul

3. Borekci

Every culture has a borek – stuffed dough with good stuff in it. In Turkey however, borek is borek, and there are places dedicated to selling only borek. Borekci translates into “borek place” and they’re pretty common in Istanbul. More of a snack-stop with tea as opposed to a full meal, Gundogdu Borek vs Kunefe (Osmanağa, Rıhtım Cd. No:14) in Kadikoy is a good choice. If you’re not venturing out that way, meander through some residential side streets and you’re bound to find one.

istanbul borek

4. Cig Kofte

Raw meatball that’s not meat at all, cig kofte isn’t a taste for everyone nor can everyone handle its spice. (Non-spicy is a bastardization of the whole thing, you might as well not try it.) There are a few places to try cig kofte in Istanbul but although he’s no longer there, Orhan Usta is worth mentioning. His stall outside of the Egyptian Spice Market represented an endangered tradition of independent artisans in Istanbul.

orhan usta istanbul

Serince Cig Koftecisi is a good choice down from Istiklal Street.

A Few Other Options

In most cases eventually good places to eat in a city are found out by tourists. The beautiful views from Ortakoy don’t hurt either but it’s still a good place to visit for kumpir. You can see how to order and some of my recommendations on the best stalls in the video below.

None of this is to say touristy areas aren’t worth visiting, the Hagia Sophia doesn’t look a day over 1,000 (do it for the gram). But a lot of touring around will make you hungry and possibly thirsty as well, in which case you should learn how to drink raki like a Turk.

Destination Star Trek Birmingham Review: Stuck At Impulse

Having recently attended Europe’s official Star Trek Convention Destination in Birmingham, it was hard not to compare it to Creation’s Las Vegas convention. These two events regularly trade places as the world’s largest gathering of Trekkies worldwide but Destination can learn a lot from its more mature competitor.

You can watch my full review and see some of the best cosplay from Destination Star Trek in the video above or read on. (For non-fans, here’s why people go to Star Trek conventions at all.)

Good Start

Despite thousands of attendees gathering in a massive convention hall, Destination Star Trek felt more like a smaller fan-run show. Having a huge wide open space in the National Exhibition Center (NEC) meant never feeling cramped and it was easy to get around. Unfortunately, this also meant that the speakers from various talks would often overlap, making them difficult to hear. Talks which were mostly not free to enter either, something you would have to have known weeks in advance to even see the most popular actors.

birmingham england

For some, the option to have weekend tickets, day tickets, plus have tickets that include some talks might be desirable. Generally though a more straightforward all-inclusive set of options would be less confusing and expensive overall. Hate luggage fees? Destination Star Trek’s ticket model feels too similar.

Space Seeds To Improve Upon

Like the paragraphs above show, the good parts of Destination Star Trek invariably lead to revealing its poor execution. Large open space? Great. Places to sit and take a break? Not many convenient ones inside. Cosplay? Enthusiastic but contest showing was obscured. Side events? A few. Where are they? Not clear nor are what the entry tickets include.

destination star trek 2019

Destination was very much more like a Star Trek trade show, rather than an immersive Comic-Con style weekend. Sci-fi television is what brings people through the door but meeting other fans, having drinks, and all the other reasons people people socialize is what keeps everyone coming back.

Learning From Vegas

The Las Vegas Convention despite its largest variety of talks and vendors, is ideal for hanging out. It’s what brings Star Trek fans back year after year, to hang out with the friends they’ve made at prior conventions. All the talks are included with the price of admission and there are plenty of seats to sit with several bar/cafe areas close to the action.

It has taken Creation’s Las Vegas Star Trek Convention a few years to recognize the need for these elements. Destination has a few other good starts like professional moderators (Las Vegas’ Convention co-founder shoehorning himself into insufferable fan-gushing over actors derails far too many talks.) Destination Star Trek’s Birmingham NEC location also had a good food selection (Las Vegas’ options are terrible and terribly overpriced) plus the staff were very friendly and helpful.

In the closing remarks the founder of Destination Star Trek mentioned his desire to improve the young (8 year old) convention year after year. Hopefully attendees will respond to their feedback emails and share this post as well – Destination has a lot of potential that will hopefully be realized before warp drive.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More


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