Scents and the Cities
Smell, the strongest and most powerful sense, is closely linked with memory, perhaps more so than any of our other senses. Have you ever caught a pleasant smell of roasting coffee that reminded you a memorable visit to a nice café in Vienna? Or the heady bouquets in a flower market may transport you back to your wedding day. Let’s explore some cities with unique scents which can make them linger in your memory, possibly for life.
While the words “pâtisserie” and “boulangerie” are liberally used worldwide, there meaning is sometimes a little loose. In France and Belgium, (where food is taken very seriously indeed!), their use is restricted by law: a patisserie is a bakery that employs a licensed master pastry chef, and the word boulangerie signifies a French bakery that bakes bread on the premises. In addition, there is another classification - “viennoiserie” - which falls somewhere between pâtisserie and boulangerie, and produces mainly “sweet bread”. These distinctions aside, one thing everyone agrees is that the irresistible aroma of the freshly baked bread is likely to make you stop for a brioche or croissant (these two types belong to viennoiserie). There are more than a thousand bakeries around Paris to enjoy, each with its own personality. If you are looking for something fancy and upscale, the trendy district of Le Marais and swanky Left Bank are home to a wide choice of well-known pâtisseries and boulangeries.
The rich aroma of roasted cacao beans makes chocolate a mouthwatering snack, especially high quality varieties which contain multi-layered scents and flavours. It is difficult not to indulge yourself and embark on a journey of rich aromas and tastes when strolling along an alleyway lined with chocolate treats, from basic to artisanal and avant-garde creations. Brussels is home to around 1.2 million people and 500 chocolatiers! Whether big names or local makers, basic or sophisticated, you will find Brussels has an answer for you. For chocolate aficionados, there are even a few chocolate museums to explore: Museum of Cacao and Chocolate or Choco-Story, Belgian Chocolate Village, and Planète Chocolat, which has a demonstration of chocolate making.
The fragrance of coffee beans can be so strong and evocative that it virtually allows us to taste what we smell, and coffee aromas can easily trigger good feelings and memories. Perhaps this is why visiting a coffeehouse is often more meaningful than simply a part of our daily routine. Just by opening the door, good (or bad) memories can spring up, and when combined with extravagant décor a wide variety of coffee types, lavish pastry creations and piano music, a visit to a coffeehouse can be an extraordinary experience. Vienna is a city with a centuries-old coffee culture. Throughout its history, cafés have welcomed countless numbers of famous writers, intellectuals and other influential people, so no visit to Vienna would be complete without exploring at least one café. And there is plenty of choice; from the classic, century-old cafe where Sigmund Freud was among regular customers, to the post-industrial chic coffee stops serving organic dishes.
With a history of around four millennia, Varanasi, one of the seven holiest cities, is where ancient beliefs continue, and where life and death both play their part. A boat trip on the River Ganges will take you to the rituals of life and death which are performed all around you. While Manikarnika Ghat is the main and most auspicious ghat for cremations, Dashashwamedh Ghat is the liveliest bathing ghat where Hindu pilgrims come to wash away sin in the sacred waters and perform religious rituals, including Ganga Aarti, the fire worship, in the evening. Clouds of incence minglke with the smoke of cremations, and the narrow alleys are redolent with the odours of curries and cows! Though the pungent smells of Varanasi may be overpowering at first, especially for those who first encounter this magical city, there’s no denying that they embody the rich festival that is the city’s celebration of life. A visit to this ancient place is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will never forget.
Filled with the sacred scents of faith, Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal where all movement appeals to the senses. Temples date back to the 12th Century in Durbar Square, a World Heritage Site and home to the city’s holiest Tibetan Buddhist monument, Boudhanath Stupa, Nepal’s most important Hindu temple of Pashupatinath lies nearby. Along with Swayambhunath Pagoda, these places are at the top of most visitors’ lists of things to see. Although several temples in Durbar Square were destroyed in the 2015 earthquake and you can still see the damage it caused, there are many places that survived the disaster, some standing in hidden courtyards and waiting to be discovered, such as Kathesimbhu Stupa, a small version of the Swayambhunath temple. Also, many places have been restored and so it is a very good idea to visit the city with the sacred scents, especially as every rupee you spend will help the inhabitants of this magical city get back on their feet.
Taipei, People’s Republic of China
This year, 24 Taipei night market stalls were listed in the Taipei Michelin Bib Gourmand Selection, an honor that signifies “good quality, good value cooking”. To qualify, eateries must offer a three course meal for not more than NT$1,000. says a lot about Taiwanese street food culture and just how much there is to explore. From stinky tofu, a classic Taiwanese night market snack, to pork rib soup and a myriad of noodles and other choices, Taiwanese night markets will overpower your senses with the smells of scrumptious local recipes. Shilin Night Market, the country’s most famous night market with more than 500 food vendors, is home to the Michelin Bib Gourmand like Chung Chia Sheng Jian Bao, Good Friend Cold Noodles, and Hai Yu Pork Ribs. Rohoe Night Market, the second most popular night market in Taipei, is where you’ll find award winners like A Kuo Lu Wei Beef Noodles and Beef Entrails Soup, Chen Tung Pork Ribs Herbal Soup, and Fuzhou Black Pepper Bun While no dining establishment on Jiufen Old Street was awarded a Michelin distinction, this small village in the mountains, about two hours from Taipei, is really worth a visit. Apart from the restaurants, cafés and souvenir shops, you can enjoy tea at one of the many teahouses, especially at the most famous three-storey teahouse with its stunning view.
Take a vacation in the cities filled with scents and memories with THAI flights operating between Bangkok and Paris, Brussels, Vienna, Kathmandu, and Taipei; and Thai Smile between Bangkok and Varanasi. Book now at thaiairways.com and thaismileair.com