Fathom Questionnaire

Meet the Traveler: Robyn Eckhardt

by Robyn Eckhardt

Hanging with shepherds (and their charges) in Kars province, Turkey. Photo by David Hagerman.

Hometown: Penang, Malaysia via Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

Occupation: Food and travel journalist and in-progress cookbook author.

Favorite destinations: Turkey, Taiwan, Georgia (the country), Mexico City, Siem Reap.

Dying to visit: My visits to both Georgia and Mexico City in 2014 were too short, just one week. I'm eager to return and stay for at least a month in each.

Bizarre travel rituals: Not necessarily bizarre, but I never get on a long (four hours or more) flight without packing a well thought-out sandwich. If I'm leaving from my house, it will be made with home-baked bread and, often, salmon roasted especially for the occasion. If I'm leaving from elsewhere, I'll make sure to procure quality ingredients and plastic wrap ahead of time, and I'll assemble it in my hotel room (or vacation rental) just before leaving for the airport. Traveling is such a demoralizing experience these days. Knowing I have something delicious to look forward to on the journey helps a tiny bit.

In-flight relaxation regime: Work, booze, sandwich (see above), movies, sleep. In that order.

Always in carry-on: My day planner. I don't have an iPhone or any other mobile device, I still use the paper kind.

Concierge or DIY? DIY for sure. Besides, I rarely stay in the kind of hotel that comes with a concierge.

See it all or take it easy? The former. I prefer to travel slow and see where the road takes me.

Drive or be driven? Drive. I love a road trip. David Hagerman (my husband and EatingAsia's photographer) and I recently passed the 20,000-kilometer mark in Turkey.

Travel hero: Any traveler who doesn't describe him or herself as a 'nomad'.

Weirdest thing seen on travels: More like the most disturbing thing seen on travels: a large fruit bat in a cage on the road from Medan to Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia. The bat was meant to be someone's lunch or dinner.

My favorite hotel is Karakoy Rooms in Istanbul because, the rooms are large, the beds are comfortable, the bathrooms are well designed, and the location is terrific — steps from Galata Bridge and my favorite Bosphorus-side tea stall.

I dream about my meal at Laopai Niurou Lamian Da Wang, a beef noodle place near Taipei Main Station. Thick, chewy hand-pulled noodles, rich broth flavored with star anise, falling-apart tender beef, preserved mustard, and Sichuan-style chili paste on the side. Plus fabulous boiled pork dumplings.

Best hotel amenity: Enough hot water to see me through my shower.

Favorite childhood travel memory: We used to spend two weeks every summer in a beach house in Bermuda. I most fondly remember that the house cook, Alice, made amazing apple pie and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. And her hugs were all-encompassing.

Everywhere I go, I check out the nearest farmer's market or Asian wet market.

When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by walking aimlessly, notebook in hand, in search of something to eat. Can't remember the last time I used a guide book (or guide materials of any kind).

I always bring home liquor, cheeses, cured meats, olives, good olive oil — anything I can't find (or buy at a reasonable price) in Penang.

If I never return to Longshan, Guangxi, in China, it'll be too soon because, it was an ugly crossroads backwater filled with miserable hotels occupied mostly by truckers and soldiers and the working women who serviced them. (Granted, this was in 1997.)

I travel for the discoveries: new foods, visually appealing and/or intellectually riveting places and, especially, all of the interesting people I meet along the way. That said, I'm a travel writer; sometimes I travel first for the work.


Website: robyneckhardt.com
Blog: EatingAsia
Twitter: @EatingAsia
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