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Learning To Cook Classic Valencian Paella

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Heading to Spain, there was one thing I knew I wanted to try. Paella! Originating in Valencia, I decided to make a trip down the coast and take a class to learn how to make the original Valencian Paella.

The first time I tried Paella was at one of my bride’s wedding that I was photographing. They both loved Spain and decided to serve Paella as their main course. I remember it containing mussels, clams, shrimp, and andouille sausage. So many different flavors that all mixed together really well.

Upon arriving in Valencia, I learned the original Paella, wasn’t seafood but made of chicken, rabbit, snails and four kinds of beans. A stark contrast to the seafood creations I’ve had.

MARKET TOUR

First up was a market tour at Mercado Central de Valencia where we purchased all the ingredients. We learned the best way to get the most flavor is for each piece of meat to have a bit of bone in it. We also went to purchase saffron and learned about the different qualities and the best one to use. This recipe also calls for four types of beans, FOUR! Each brings its unique flavor to the dish.

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

 

MAKING VALENCIAN PAELLA

Our teacher had us pair up in teams. Instead of showing us how to cook with us just watching, he talked us through it having use do each step of the process. Each team used a 16-inch diameter pan to create the dish. I thought it would be a lot for two people to finish, but we had no problem polishing it off, snails and all!

To make the dish, we first made the broth from scratch in the pan, then added ingredients with a few fun techniques that I explain in the recipe. After adding the rice and waited for the paella to finish we were served plenty of wine with mussels.

After our creations were complete, we went outside for an epic picture and then sat down to taste the results of our labor. Surprisingly everyone’s paella tasted different. We all used the same ingredients, but some may have used a little less or more salt or cooked their broth just a little bit longer or shorter. Just these little tweaks made a huge difference in flavor. All of them tasted really good!

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

When I make paella in the future, I know no two will ever taste the same. Now that I have the base for making paella I can branch out and create my own. I can make it with traditional meat, using local seafood, or creating an amazing vegetarian version. This recipe is one that doesn’t follow strict rules.

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

 

Paella Cooking Class - Valencia, Spain - Robyn Around The World

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A Week In Barcelona, Spain

 

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Barcelona is home to great artists Dali, Picasso and Gaudi. The small alleyways are packed with boutiques, bodegas, and the hole in the walls selling amazing tapas and cava for super cheap. Mixed with a great vibe and outdoor cafes at every turn it’s my dream city. It was love at first sight. Here’s a list of things I did while I was in Barcelona.

VISIT BARCELONA’S BEACH AND WATERFRONT

Being a water girl, one of the first things I did was walk Barcelona’s water-front and spend time at the beach. The waterfront is filled with seaside restaurants and shops. There’s also a mall and an aquarium too. The beach is packed with locals and tourists a like. It’s a great day out and feels like you’re nowhere near the city when you’re really only a couple of blocks away.

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

 

WITNESS GAUDI’S ART

One can not come to Barcelona without visiting at least one of Gaudi’s pieces of art, whether you visit the famous dragon at Park Guell, the amazing house of Casa Batllo, or the La Pedrera residences. His works of art will amaze you. I could have stayed in Casa Batllo all day!

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World



 

VISIT LA SAGRADA FAMILIA

One of Gaudi’s most famous art work is the Sagrada Familia which has been under construction since 1892. This Catholic church is a whole façade of sculptures of Gaudi’s vision. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, and Pope Benedict XVI consecrated it in 2010. It is planned to be completed in 2026 which is the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

 

EXPLORE SANTA CLARITA MARKET

I loved this market! You can find everything here from fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese, and wine. There are also a few cafes outside and inside the market. Don’t miss out on eating at Bar Joan and having their Menu Del Dia (Menu of the day)!

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

 

STUFF YOURSELF SILLY ON TAPAS

I stuffed myself silly on tapas! Spain knows how to do it right! From potato bravas to la bombas, there really wasn’t anything I didn’t like! My friends over at In Pursuit Of Adventure published a guide to eating Catalan cuisine having lived there during their travels. I ate at over 15 restaurants in their book! If you’re heading to Barcelona, this book is a must have on your Kindle!

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World



 

WANDER THE STREETS OF BARCELONA

I had the best time just walking the streets of Barcelona. The windy alleys were so inviting. There are so many boutiques and cafes in each nook and cranny. I’d wander through alleys and Bodega hop, stopping for wine and tapas along the way.

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

 

PICASSO MUSEUM

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside, but this is definitely worth visiting. It showcases Picasso’s work from the very beginning to his death. It was beautiful to see the progression of his craft through the years.

 

Top Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain - Robyn Around The World

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Santorini: The Greek Island Of Dreams

 

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini has been on my bucket list for years. When deciding where to stop first in Europe after Egypt, Greece was high on the list. The tickets were the right price and the flight was short so off I went after my 10 days in Egypt.

Santorini lived up to every expectation I had. The pictures I was able to capture rival those that you find on-line. Honestly, it’s hard to take a bad picture in Santorini. From the beautiful beaches to the hillside homes, Santorini is every bit picturesque and mesmerizing.

SANTORINI’S FAMOUS OIA

I stayed in the slow beach town of Perissa to get away from the crowds of Fira and Oia. That is the one downfall of Santorini. It is one of the most popular islands, which means big crowds from cruise ships and tourists alike. I rented an ATV and went to Oia in the morning. By 11am the cruise ships had docked and the streets were lined with people. There are many great places to take pictures of the hillside, but the best by far is at the Byzantine Castle Ruins. I went during the day to get the best shots. I decided to not come back for sunset, because the area was so small and with all the tourists, I’d be fighting for space to get the epic sunset shot. Not my cup of tea.

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

PYRGOS VILLAGE

I did get my sunset picture though. I spent an evening over at Pyrgos. This smaller village is not by the water but is less crowded and is every bit as beautiful.

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

I spent 8 days in Santorini and was everything I imagined it to be. I’d love to come back in low season when the streets of Fira and Oia aren’t so crowded, but was worth it none the less and can’t wait to come back again someday.

 

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

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Egypt: Giza Pyramids & Cairo Museum

 

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

On my way back west I decided to stop in Cairo, Egypt to break up the flight, visit friends and see the Pyramids of Giza. They’re just as magnificent in person as the pictures you see online.

Tourism is really hurting there from the bombings (There was another attack while I was there). Russia was their primary tourism, but since the attacks, Russian cut most of its flights to Egypt. There were only a handful of people at the pyramids when I was there.

GIZA PYRAMIDS

My transportation around the pyramids was via horse and buggy, but they took me by camel and horseback ride in some of the areas inside. Because I was escorted by the pyramid staff (a special tour arranged by friends), I was allowed in areas, not authorized by the public. So amazing to see a piece of history up close.

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

CAIRO MUSEUM

In the same day, I went to the Cairo museum, which holds all the artifacts of the tombs. Three levels of hundreds of thousands of stuff! It was like walking into Indiana Jones! I spent 3 hours there and still didn’t see it all. I was so overwhelmed with all that history in front of me.

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

IS EGYPT SAFE?

People asked me if Egypt was safe. I never felt unsafe while I was there. It was nice to have the pyramids to myself, but sad to see the economy hurting due to the lack of tourists going to Egypt. My friends who are from there escorted me, but the city never felt unsafe. Eat Sleep Breathe Travel wrote a great post on ‘The Most Dangerous Places for Female Travellers.’ I think her post sums it up best. Every place can be dangerous, even in my home country the United States. Looking back, even if I didn’t have an escort, I would have done Egypt on my own.

 

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

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Indian Cooking Class: Tastesutra, Delhi

 

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

One of the things I knew I wanted to do when I went to India was to take a Indian cooking class. I found Anchal through TripAdvisor and reached out to her a couple of months before I came. Her class was the one thing I was looking forward to after my whirlwind tour of the Golden Triangle. I took an auto rickshaw to her studio and walked up the stairs into her beautiful kitchen.

Her studio is painted with bright colors of blue and is welcoming soon as you set foot in the door decorated with things she personally upcycled. She made a beautiful mirror frame out of rolled up paper, and you will also find puzzles and needlework framed and on display on the walls. Anchal started the classes 22 months ago leaving her career in marketing to follow her passion for teaching others Indian cooking how to make traditional cuisine.

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

THE INDIAN KITCHEN

Although I was the only one who booked her class for the day, she agreed to do the class for me privately. I looked at our menu for the class and was excited to learn we’d be making eight dishes and sides! Salted Lassi (Chaas), Pakoras with chutney, Chicken Curry, Dal Tadka, Paneer Labadar, Roti, Rice, and Phirni. Anchal first went over all the spices. She mentioned every Indian family would have a spice box of 7-9 spices in their house. They keep small tins in a larger tin, instead of individual jars. They do this so the spices are readily available to use since most of them are used in all dishes they create. She went over medicinal properties of some of the spices and how they are used in each dish (Asafetida helps with stomach gas in lentil dishes!). She also said she grinds all her spices fresh from the whole spice then just puts them in a spice grinder to create her own spices. I’m going to try this instead of buying McCormick’s which will be a fresher way to make my own spices and probably cheaper?

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

INDIAN DISHES

We then started making the dishes. Because Indians make all their meals fresh (they don’t have leftovers that they put in the refrigerator) they use pressure cookers to speed up the process. The Paneer and Curry dish were made with the same ingredients of tomato and onion but cooked differently. The Paneer cooks the vegetables first then blends them, where the curry makes the vegetables into a puree first then cooks them. Two completely different flavors just by changing the way they’re cooked.

All the dishes were simple to make, just a lot of spices. But with the spice box readily available with everything you need in them, it makes for an easy task. After cooking all our dishes, we sat down to eat, and she showed me how to eat with my fingers. She told me the Indians eat with their finger for two reasons. First is because you are feeding with and to your heart. Second, it helps with portion control. You tend not to over eat and take smaller bites when you use your fingers. I love the story behind this, but in America, there are not many dishes that we could really do this with (Burgers anyone?).  But, I do love the history behind it none the less and ate my lunch sans fork and spoon.

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

MARKET TOUR

After our meal, Anchal took me on a market tour. Most of the market was closed because it was a Monday. It was nice to see it not full of people as I’ve seen all week long in the other parts of Delhi. It was such a great morning and so glad she made the exception to teach me. I’m looking forward to cooking her dishes at the next place I land that has a kitchen.

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Cooking Class Details

Tastesutra

anchalbhalla@tastesutra.com

www.tastesutra.com

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Check out the other cooking classes I’ve taken around the world:

International Cooking Classes

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

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Photo Essay: India’s Golden Triangle

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

 

I spent ten days in India’s Golden Triangle where I walked the crazy streets of Delhi. I visited a community kitchen that feeds anyone who’s hungry four times a day with a hot meal. I then made my way over to Agra to visit one of the Seven Wonders, Taj Mahal. I thought it was a religious site, but it is actually a token of an emperor’s love to his wife after she died 19 years into their marriage. After Agra, I went on to the final city in the Golden Triangle, Jaipur which has many historic forts. Here is my ten days in a series of photographs.

 

AGRA, INDIA

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

One can not fly to Delhi without visiting the Taj Mahal. It is one of the 7 Wonders of the World and is stunning to witness.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Another tomb in Agra is the lesser known, Baby Taj.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

The details of Baby Taj are intricate.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

All made of marble.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Kids and families play down below Baby Taj, along the river.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

An older man at Fatephur Skiri.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A family of 8 piles into an auto rickshaw.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A family on the streets of Agra.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Women selling fruits and vegetables.

 

RAJASTHAN, INDIA

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Abhaneri Stepwells. Pre-Escher, maybe this is where he got his inspiration from?

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A stray dog walks down the rails of Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

The gardens inside Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

View of the city below Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

There are many monkeys that live around the fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Elephants take tourists up a steep hill in 100F+ weather. Only females are used and they can be seen resisting being forced to go up the hill. Please do your research before riding one, elephants are not meant to be ridden.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Her sad eyes tell a story of being worked hard in the strong heat.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Water Palace is out in the middle of the lake, but soon to be made into a café.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Camels are used for work in India, you can see them in most cities/villages.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A man talks on his phone and rides his horse in the middle of street traffic.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Jaipur market where you can find fruits, vegetables, clothes, and other textiles.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A woman sells pottery at the market in Jaipur.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A woman shows bangles to a girl.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Woman buying vegetable from a vendor.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Fresh dried tamarind ready to be ground into powder.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Jaipur Market.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

More Jaipur market vendors.

A woman sells her vegetables on the streets of Jaipur.

 

NEW DELHI, INDIA

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Men washing themselves at Jama Masjid.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Locals seeking relief from the hot sun inside the walls of the mosque.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Worshipers praying at Sikh Temple.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Volunteers peeling vegetables at the community kitchen.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A happy volunteer stirs a vat of dal to be served at lunch.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A women makes roti for the community kitchen.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Cows can be seen walking down the streets of Delhi.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

An auto rickshaw.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A man carries goods down a busy street in Old Delhi.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Tiles of religious figures are mounted to the walls of alleys to discourage men from peeing on the wall.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Laundry is done with an iron heated by coal.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Many stray dogs live on the streets of India, surprisingly there were only a few cats.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A man sweeps out in front of his shop.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Old lady walking the streets of Old Delhi.

 

I’m so glad I made the time to stop in India, even though it was only for ten days. To do it right, you’d really need at least a month or two to be able to explore all the India has to offer. But this little taste has changed my perception of India, as I felt safe and well taken care of while I was there. I know many have had bad experiences, but I opened my heart and decided when I landed that I would not let other people’s experiences dictate mine, and it was an incredible time with beautiful, colorful people.

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

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Savedra Beach And Community Cleanup In Moalboal, Philippines

 

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

What I love about traveling is when I get to be involved in the community where I visit. I had the chance to join a beach cleanup while I was diving in Moalboal. Savedra Dive Center was organizing the cleanup with the local kids and invited me to take pictures and join in on the fun!

Moalboal Diving Town

Moalboal is a small peninsula located on the southwest coast of Cebu Island. This little diving town brings people from all over the world to swim their famous sardine run. The sardines are just 100 meters (328 feet) off the Panagsama house reef. You can see the sardines year round, which makes Moalboal a great place to visit any time of year. I dove with the sardines three times and snorkeled with them once. I went out early morning, just me and my snorkel gear, which was my favorite time swimming with them.

 Savedra Community Cleanup

Savedra Dive Center organized the cleanup to bring awareness and education to the local children and teach them about litter and how it hurts sea life and the environment they live in. Saverdra’s instructors went to Basdiot Elementary School to give a talk about litter and see how many kids would be interested in participating in the cleanup. By the end of the talk, there were more kids that wanted to do the cleanup than there were teachers to supervise! The kids were really excited about the prizes, which included scuba courses and snorkeling equipment to the kids who collected the most trash.

Volunteers were made up of ninety-five students from grade five, along with twelve teachers and fifteen members of Savedra staff. Both the faculty and Savedra staff pitched in to make the day a success. We started at 8:00 am, the teachers organized the students into ten groups, and each student was given a large rice bag to collect trash. Each group was designated to head to one of four beach and community locations. After getting their trash bags, and bags of snacks to take with them, the kids were off to collect trash! And I was off on the back of a motorbike, I had a personal driver for the day!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

The Final Tally!

The kids really got into it by picking up everything from glass to paper to metal in order to clean up the streets and beach areas. By 2:00 pm the kids were back at the school with their bags filled to the brim. In total, the kids collected 917 Kilograms (2000+ Pounds!) of trash!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra also does regular reef cleanups with their divers. But, for this small town, the community cleanup is an excellent way to bring locals and expats together. It’s something that benefits everyone in the community. The kids enjoyed it, and I loved being a part of it!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World




Should You Swim With The Whale Sharks In Oslob?

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World.

Swimming with whale sharks, a divers dream, but there is a lot of controversy about swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob. Many divers refuse to swim with them in Oslob because they feel the conditions are unfair. I originally wasn’t going to go. I didn’t want to condone the behavior. I changed my mind after talking to some local and expat dive shops and hearing their take. I decided to check it out and experience it myself and try to keep an open mind while I was there.

Shark Finning In The Philippines

Before this tiny town became a popular area to swim with the whale sharks, they were being harvested and their fins sold for income. Shark finning is illegal in the Philippines now, but it wasn’t for some time, and the whale shark populations were dwindling. The act of shark finning is when a fisherman catches a shark then slices of its fins and drops the rest of the body, alive, into the water to die. The sharks aren’t used for their full body meat, just the fins. Shark Fin Soup is very popular in Asia and the fins fetch a high dollar ticket when exported out. Many chefs, like Gordon Ramsey, have promoted not putting fins in shark fin soup. The fins don’t have a taste and have just become this commodity that has drove demand over the years.

How Swimming With Whale Wharks In Oslob Started

Local fishermen use shrimp as bait to catch fish, and the whale sharks were drawn to the shrimp and stuck around the boats. A local dive shop owner encouraged the fishermen not to fin them. He said to bring them into the bay by feeding them krill where they could share them with the community and tourists alike. The small town of Oslob went from not being able to send their children to school and living in shacks with no bathrooms to now where children have education, and families live in homes with plumbing and electric. If it weren’t for the sharks, this small town would still be struggling.

A foreign dive shop owner, from the UK, talked to me about not supporting them for years, in an effort to do their part in helping to put an end to it. He realized that divers were just going to other shops when his shop refused to go. His shop now offers dive trips to Oslob again, but his staff gives a thorough briefing along with educating his guests about the whale sharks and Oslob’s history with them.

My Experience Snorkeling With Whale Sharks In Oslob

My first impression upon arriving was that it wasn’t so bad, organization wise. Once there you are ushered to get your ticket (snorkeling is 1000 pesos and diving is 1500 Pesos). You then head off to another area to listen to a briefing on the do’s and don’ts of swimming with the whale sharks. I like that they have a briefing, but not everyone attends nor does everyone listen to what they are saying. The briefer did hit all the major points: stay at least 6m away from the whale sharks, don’t use sunscreen, and no swimming off from the boat to chase after them.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Once the briefing was over, I waited for my number to be called then headed out to the boats. The boats are regulated, and there weren’t more than 20 boats out at a time when I went. The boats were also all daisy chained up in a line, so there was some organized fashion with the boats, they’re not just a free for all in the Bay. Once chained up to your neighboring boat, you’re allowed to get in the water, staying next to the boat to wait for the whale sharks to pass you.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Here’s where the mixed emotion comes in. There are a few smaller boats in the water with a single fisherman on each, and he is hand-feeding the whale sharks buckets of krill. There tends to be one whale shark per boat, and they just follow the boat up and down the path of the tourists, eating the krill. In my eyes, this is not really an authentic experience. The whale sharks aren’t concerned about anything other than getting fed by the fishermen. They’re basically pets without leashes following their owner.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Why Feeding The Whale Sharks In Oslob Is Hurting Them

What I first noticed is none of the boats have propellers which are great, the whales won’t get chewed up by coming in contact with them, but what I witnessed is the whale sharks still had scrapes and cuts on them. The theory is because these sharks are used to being fed, they are going up to any boat once they are outside the bay thinking they’re going to be fed and are getting hit with the boat propellers.

Feeding the whale sharks is also breaking their migratory patterns. A local dive shop said that it’s the smaller whale sharks that stay in the bay and only for a few years then head off, but there’s not much data proving this.

Final Thoughts

I was surprised to see there were more local tourists here than foreign tourists. Since the whale shark tourism isn’t going away anytime soon, I feel it’s a great way for the local tourists to see what’s in their waters and learn how to protect them and why they’re so important. They are also supporting the locals, giving them a better life. For the foreigners, I felt like I was at Disneyland. Many were screaming like they were on a wild ride. You’re not offered fins unless you bring them. I was the only one on my boat with fins, which helped in getting underneath the manic tourists. Most of the people in the boat, once in the water, were kicking and screaming when the whale sharks got close, and some even kicked them. Not really my cup of tea.

I honestly only spent about 10 minutes in the water with them. Absorbing what was going on around me, I took a bunch of pictures, yelled at a few tourists on my boat who were getting too close and generally just freaking out, and then got out. I honestly don’t know if paying the extra money to dive with them would have been any different.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

As a dive professional, I believe, this is not the way to see these beautiful creatures. When you see one of these beauties in the wild, it’s like you are given a gift. Going to a place like Oslob where you know you’re guaranteed to see them, it takes the thunder away from seeing them in their natural environment. This was my first time seeing them and now more than ever, I want to see them when it’s not a guarantee, but when one randomly shows up on one of my dives. That will be an experience of a lifetime and one to remember and cherish.

 

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World.

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Cooking Filipino At Ven’z Kitchen

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

 

If you’ve been following along for a while you know, I love learning how to cook local food! Philippines is the 9th country in Southeast Asia where I’ve taken a class, and I fell on it by happenstance. I had planned to find a cooking school in Cebu City. When I arrived at the small diving town of Moalboal, I fell in love with one of the restaurants there (I ate there almost every day!). I saw they offered classes, so I inquired, and the owners gave me a private class!

Venus and Venisse run Ven’z Kitchen. Venisse is from Manila and worked in IT in Malaysia for four years. Venus is from Davao and worked as a pharmacist for five years before opening the business. Both of their passion is cooking, and they decided to take their passion and open a restaurant on Cebu. They found their space in Moalboal and opened in April 2016.

Their food is a mix of local staples like Adobo and Pancit, but also serve local flavor fusions making an array of vegan dishes for the non-meat eaters. You must try the banana heart salad. It tastes like tuna but is all vegetables and absolutely delicious.

MARKET TOUR

On the day of my class, Venisse took me to the market to pick up the ingredients for our dishes – Chicken Adobo, Pork Kare-Kare, and Ginataang Talong – and gave me a tour of the market. We picked up a coconut and had it shredded that would be used to make the coconut milk and cream for the Ginataang Talong. This was a treat to learn how to make, I’ve learned how to squeeze coconut milk from shredded coconut in Thailand and Indonesia, but this technique was different. They use the coconut meat, where the other countries use the meat and the flesh.
Back in the kitchen, Venus was waiting for me to explain the ingredients and talk me through how to make the dishes.

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

 

FILIPINO DISHES

The first thing we did was extract the milk and cream from the coconut. You take a small amount of water and squeeze it through the coconut shreds. This first press creates the coconut milk. We then added another small amount of water and pushed it through a strainer, which created the coconut milk. Honestly, as long as there is coconut around, I will never use boxed coconut milk or cream again! So easy and it doesn’t get fresher than this!
Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

After the coconut milk and cream were made we moved on to making the dishes. First was Chicken Adobo. You’d think these recipes would be so complicated to make, but they are very simple and packed with flavor. Adobo was the first dish I had at Ven’z, and the chicken just melts in your mouth with the savory sauce. The ingredient that surprised me? Ketchup! You don’t even know it’s in there!

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World
The second dish we made was Pork Kare-Kare. I have to say I was a little concerned when Venus put a beautiful piece of pork belly in boiling water. I was like, what is she doing to the pork?! I’ve always had pork belly roasted or sauteed; I thought boiling it would take away flavor and texture. I was sooooo wrong. The boiling made the belly even more tender than it already is. We used the broth the pork was cooked in to make the sauce and just brought out all the flavors of this dish that just melts in your mouth. I can’t wait to try this one at home!

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

The last dish we made was Ginataang Talong, eggplant in spicy coconut sauce. This is where we used the coconut milk and cream to make the sauce. Such a simple dish with a nice spicy kick.

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World
After all the dishes had been complete, I sat at their bar table and ate my labor of love. I stuffed myself silly trying to finish all the dishes. One of my favorite cooking classes to date!

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

Ven'z Kitchen - Moalboal, Philippines -Filippino Cooking Classes - Robyn Around The World

 

Check out the other cooking classes I’ve taken around the world:

International Cooking Classes

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