Prelude to the "Zhao Super Asia Trip 2009"! / by Alice Zhao

Ok, seriously. This is huge. HUGE!!! We've finally booked all our flights and hotels for the Zhao Super Asia Trip 2009! I realize that we technically "leave" this weekend, but we have just been dragging our feet on hotel booking as we've been waiting to confirm restaurant reservations in Japan. We have planned out most of our meals, but have no idea what to do in between them! =)
This all started several months ago during one of this past summer's rare hot nights when I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned and thought about our original plans for a big European trip next year. I suddenly felt frustrated and worried that it would be too long of a wait for a grand vacation. So I jumped out of bed and started searching online for top international foodie cities. Lo and behold, Singapore kept popping up on all the lists. We've always wanted to go to Singapore but now this just seemed like a positive sign! Around 3am, after a lot of online research, I tried a little hypnosis and repeatedly whispered into Jared's ear, "I want to go to Singapore... I want to go to Singapore.... ". A sleepy Jared attempted to mumble an "huh? ok", rolled over and fell back asleep.
The hypnosis apparently worked because we spent the next couple of weeks checking work schedules and counting leftover vacation days. At first it looked doubtful, but after some pushing and pulling the stars seem to align, our work vacation times happened to sync up perfectly, and we even found out that our favorite foodie friends would also be in Singapore for a few days. If this wasn't a sign that we needed to go, then I don't know what is!
At first we were only planning to visit Malaysia as well as Singapore, but then while we were searching for flights, we saw that many flights had a stopover in Japan. And on top of that, a cheap flight kept popping up on JAL. W.H.A.T. A cheap international flight on JAL? And a layover in Japan?! Jared and I both stared each other wide-eyed and a devilish smiled appeared on both our faces. We had both just realized that we could squeeze in a short vacation in Japan. It turns out we will do ANYTHING to get ourselves back to Japan!
So here's the rundown of our trip and it gets a little crazy!
-This Saturday, we are first driving down to St. Louis to be photographers for a wedding that is to take place on Sunday Oct 11th. Immediately after the wedding, we'll be downing copious amounts of red bull to drive all the way back up to Chicago, unload all our camera gear, and finish packing for the big trip, and head back out to hop on the Blue Line to O'Hare airport. RIDICULOUS!
-We'll arrive in Singapore around midnight and spend the wee hours of the morning at the airport hotel only to hop on a 10am flight to Penang. We'll spend 3 days eating our hearts out in Penang before we catch an early morning flight to Kuala Lumpur, just in time to take part in the Deepavali festivities. CRAZY!
-The next morning we'll be flying to Singapore to meet up with some friends and continue our eating bonanza. Jared's made reservations at Iggy's and a friend of ours has compiled a grand list of local hawker food stalls to try. What what.
-AND THEN for the last leg of our trip, we return to our first foodie country love, Japan!!!! We'll head straight to Osaka, where no doubt we'll be visiting Namba Parks, the spot where Jared very sweetly and unexpectedly proposed to me 2 years ago. :) Jared's also made reservations at Kahala. Um yes, this trip is totally going to kill me. I've been dieting so that I won't feel so guilty when I start eating 5 meals a day on this trip and gain 20 pounds! It's also going to clean out our bank accounts, but seriously life is short. We can't waste this trip!
ALSO! New development- we'll be meeting up with Marc of NoRecipes and Stephane of ZenCanCook in Kyoto (assuming we can arrange it all over email!). I seriously can't wait. If you haven't heard of them, check out their websites. Some seriously amazing photos and recipes and writing... you might never return to this one :)
Here are some highlights from our Japan trip 3 years ago

Soba and Chopped Tuna over Rice in Tokyo, Crazy Marbled Kobe Beef at Market, What real chirashi should look like, Famous crab restaurant on Dontonburi street in Osaka, Super cute obachan who charged us 30 bucks for some delicious grilled beef tongue and a beer in Fukuoka, Fresh Takoyaki off the street, Okonomiyaki in Osaka, Soh Ice Cream from any given Family Mart, Mouthwatering Yakitori Spread in Kyoto

Here are some goals of ours for the trip and you can hold us to it.
I want to...
-Ride around Penang on a scooter
-Eat fresh durian even though I loathe the smell
-Hug a vending machine selling piping hot Kirin Gogo no Kocha in Osaka
Jared wants to...
-Eat crab at every meal in Malaysia
-Meet a ... wait for it... "legendary" knife maker in Sakai
-Eat Soh Ice Cream every day while we are in Japan... and that's pretty much it. =)