Video: ‘No Kitchen Required’ In New Zealand, ‘When Maori Attack’

Here at Gadling, we’ve been keeping tabs on the new BBC America reality show “No Kitchen Required,” which is taking cooking competitions to new highs (and lows). Battling for fame and glory are award-winning chef Michael Psilakis of New York’s Fish Tag and Kefi; private executive chef Kayne Raymond; and former “Chopped” champ Madison Cowan.

The chefs hunt and gather ingredients to prepare regional cuisine in various locations, including Dominica, Belize, Fiji, Thailand, South Africa, Hawaii, New Mexico and Louisiana. The show is a cross between “Survivor” and “Top Chef,” with a dash of over-the-top, Bear Grylls-style drama thrown in, but it’s all in good fun and provides a fascinating cultural and culinary tour of little known destinations and cuisines.

Here, we have a teaser clip from New Zealand that features the chefs watching a haka, or traditional Maori warrior dance, prior to having the local community judge their respective meals. Here’s hoping they didn’t give anyone food poisoning.


China’s “red tourism” commemorates 90th anniversary of Communism

red tourismCome up with a wacky tourism concept, and they will come. For the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party’s founding on July first, enterprising operators throughout China are creating a new crop of cultural and commemorative “red” tours.

On the idyllic island province of Hainan, visitors young and old alike travel to rural Qionghai, to visit Pan Xianying. At approximately 95 (Hainan isn’t so great at archiving old birth records), Pan is one of three remaining members of a famed, all-female Chinese Communist army unit. As such, she’s a living attraction on a “red” tour of Hainan, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Pan was about 15 when she joined the unit in 1931; the battalion was formed by a Hainanese Communist to promote gender equality. The unit was disbanded after several years, when Nationalist forces drove local Communists underground. In 1949, the women gained national attention after Chairman Mao overtook China. The battalion is now the subject of several films and a song.

Enterprising authorities in Qionhai are now offering tours of the unit’s former training ground and meeting spots, and offering hikes, during which one can experience the thrill of following a difficult route once used by Red Army soldiers. Adding a further note of authenticity: guides wear era-appropriate green hats adorned with red stars (also available as souvenirs), and hikers willing to cough up an extra 100 yuan can even slog in full soldier regalia. The hikes are said to foster “army-style camaraderie.” Does that mean dysentery is included?

Not surprisingly, there has been official encouragement behind revolutionary tours, although red tourism isn’t new. Mao’s home city of Shaoshan in Hunan province, as well as the Communist base of Yan’an in Shaanxi province attract tourists, and authorities in places like Chongqing encourage the learning of “red songs” printed in local newspapers or on websites.

Chen Doushu, head of the agency organizing the Hainan tours, says red tourism reflects a desire by many to look back fondly on the past, after more than 30 years of focus on the future during China’s rapid recent modernization. “Chinese people cannot forget their history, and the best way to do that is to go and remember it, to study it. That’s where red tourism comes from.”

Apparently, absence does make the heart grow fonder.

[Photo credit: Flickr user xiaming]

Video of super DIY Chinese street-sweeper


One of the coolest things about China is this street sweeper. Fashioned from dried plants or perhaps straw of some kind, it is the sort of thing that is conceived in the pockets of China where rural life and modernity intermingle to create interesting contraptions with a foot in each century. With the functionality of its modern counterparts and the charm of peasant ingenuity, the device appears to be plucked from Mao’s cultural revolution but remixed considerably to serve its purpose in the 21st century.

Photo of the Day – Chairman Mao Portrait

History is all around us, particularly in a country like China. Whether you’re walking along the magnificent Great Wall or gazing in awe at the Forbidden City in Beijing. Today’s photo, taken by Flickr user Trent Strohm, offers us yet another unique glimpse of China’s remarkable history: Chairman Mao, leader of the Chinese Revolution. Trent’s inclusion of the soldier in front of Mao’s portrait adds an interesting visual story to the photograph. It seems to be telling us the ghosts of China’s past are ever-present, asserting their watchful gaze over the present day.

Have any great photos from your own travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Travel read: Around the Bloc

I stumbled upon Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s writing on a stopover in New York City. She was reading from her third and most recent travel-related book, Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines, at Book Culture near Columbia University. I was immediately struck by her engaging use of language and her savvy presence. It’s a pleasant sight to behold a young, female traveler and writer who is curious about the world and daring in her attempts to understand it.

Her reading finished, I bought her debut book, Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana, and when I asked her to sign my book I told her I too was an aspiring travel writer, working on a memoir of my own. “Can’t wait to read about your travels someday,” she wrote in curly script on the title page. I have since been in correspondence with Griest, who has agreed to have me interview her in early January. Until then, I plan to review her three books for Gadling. Here is the first review, of her debut book on her travels around the Communist bloc of Russia, China, and Cuba.
Griest’s three-part memoir documents her experiences in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana during the late 1990’s, and it does so with humor and humility. It took nearly three months for me to make my way through Around the Bloc — not because it was a slow read, but because I wanted to gain an understanding of the three places she writes about in her memoir. Russia, China, and Cuba have long intrigued me as culturally rich places with politically backward power struggles.

Similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, where the traveler’s experiences are summarized by culturally specific activities, Griest’s journey around the bloc are punctuated by drinking, dining, and dancing:”…while Russians bonded over drink and Chinese over dinner, Cubans connected through dance.” Griest’s youthfulness and occasional naiveté captures just how eye-opening one’s travels abroad can be. It is clear by the end of the memoir just how much her experiences in these countries reshaped her values and shook the foundation upon which her life had been seemingly secure.

The tragic Russian Mafiya, Chinese propaganda, and Cuban Revolution stories swirling in Griest’s memoir make her self-discovery that much more palpable. Griest navigates the socialist and political struggle of being in the bloc, and walks away not at all unscathed. Rather, she sets her original assumptions straight again, allowing herself to understand her place in the world that much better.

Of the three parts presented in her debut novel, I must say the most enlightening was the first on her experiences in Russia. It seemed that here, in Moscow, Griest experiences the most profound awakening. I sense these early times, fresh from her undergraduate studies in Austin, that Griest transforms from a hippie wannabe to a truth-seeking, life-living journalist and hearty traveler.

If the popular Eat, Pray, Love is any comparison, I feel Griest’s Around the Bloc far surpasses Gilbert in all the categories I hold dearest to a literary travel writer. Griest masters the art of language and humor; she is finely atuned to her youthful innocence (and, at times, ignorance); just as in life, Griest does not tie her three parts together into a perfect red bow. Instead, there is an imperfection that permeates through her memoir that is raw and real — not just real, but realistic. If Gilbert’s travel memoir satisfied you just enough, then Griest’s will take your breath away. It will teach you things you didn’t know before, but more than this, it will make you get off your couch and out into the wide world, experiencing things you once dreamed of but now can see with your own two eyes.

My review of Griest guidebook, 100 Places Every Woman Should Go, is forthcoming in about a week. Should you pick up any of Griest’s three offerings during the holidays and have a question you’d like me to ask her during my interview with her in early January, feel free to shoot me an email (brendayun@gmail.com).