Food Highlights of South East Asia 2014 – Itinerary suggestions


South East Asia has so many great places to visit and so many food opportunities to enjoy that it’s hard to choose some of the highlights. But here are some ideas of good places to stay,  great places to eat, and interesting things to do, usually food themed, but not always.


Phnom Penh

Book six nights

How to get there

Fly with Thai Airways via Bangkok, or Singapore Airlines via Singapore.

Visas are available on arrival, but so much easier and quicker to get an e-visa on-line before you leave for $US37.

Where to Stay 

The Pavilion Hotel is a great pick. Go for the cheaper rooms as the central pool area is the loveliest place to spend time.

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What to Do and Where to Eat

Day 1

Enjoy your included poolside breakfast and complimentary 25 min massage.


Then walk to the nearby Royal Palace and National Museum.

Head to Malis for dinner.

Day 2

Get a tuk tuk to the Russian Market early in the day while it’s cooler.

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Lunch at nearby Jars of Clay, (the Lok Lak is excellent).


Enjoy the pool at the Pavilion in the warm afternoon, then dine at Romdeng Friends International Restaurant. Don’t miss the exquisite icecreams, wonderful cocktails and of course,…this is the best spot to try the famous Cambodian deep fried tarantulas with Romdeng’s amazing dipping sauce.


Take your swimmers and enjoy a dip in their pool if you’d like which is open for the use of guests.

Day 3

Enjoy the Central Market, especially the fresh produce section .

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Wander the riverfront and enjoy happy hour 5-7pm (two for one drinks) at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.


Dine at the original Friends Restaurant.

Day 4 & 5

Join Intrepid’s Cambodian Real Food Adventure later in the day, or book an extra couple of nights at the Pavilion and copy Intrepid’s itinerary ideas:

Visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Memorial (very sad and challenging but a necessary part of understanding life in Cambodia and paying respect to your hosts.)


Cyclo tour that includes the riverfront and Royal Palace at sunset, and the Independence Memorial after dark.


Visit the local food stop at Sisovath High School to try deepfried battered frog and ‘special’ duck eggs.


Try to include Sunday evening in Phnom Penh in your planning so that you can catch the picnicking families on the lawns of the Royal Palace.


Battambong (with Intrepid or copy their itinerary)

How to get there

Take a local bus or organize a hotel transfer

Stay one or two nights

What to do and where to eat.

Lunch at My Kitchen along the river near Sosabike.


Soksabike tour of local cottage food industries


followed by a Home cooked meal


Early morning or sunset bamboo train


Banteay Chhmar

One night

How to get there

Contact the Banteay Chhmar Community-Based Tourism, the local organization for a pick up

Where to stay

Banteay Chhmar homestay


(Ask for

What to do

Kick back and enjoy local village life, close up.

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Watch your meals being prepared in the co-op Kitchen.


Visit Banteay Chhmar temple and take a sunset drink and snack.


Siem Reap

Three nights

What to do and where to eat

Explore the temples (don’t miss Angkor Wat at sunrise).

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Visit the Old Market (Psar Chhaa)

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Check ou the Cambodian Circus, Phare


Stop at the night market


Eat at Marum Friends International Restaurant

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And at Pub Street, full of good picks like Amok, Khmer Kitchen Restaurant or Cambodian BBQ, followed by icecream at Blue Pumpkin nearby

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Book in for a rural setting cooking class with Beyond Unique Escapes


Northern Laos

Luang Prabang

How to get there

Lao airlines fly via Pakse in the afternoon, arriving in Luang Prabang in time for dinner.

Luang Prabang

Where to stay


Villa Santi is a heritage property that has an excellent location on Sisavongthong Street for sharing early mornings with passing monks, for restaurants, sunsets on the Mekong and the night market.


However, the Apsara is also a good choice and there are a range of lovely, well positioned guest houses that are more budget friendly like Pak Luk Villa, Villa Champa and Villa Saykam.

After checking in, have dinner at Tamnuk Lao across the road from Villa Santi  (the chicken, eggplant and bean curry with sticky rice is sooo good.) Book ahead by email.

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Rise early with the locals to see the monks walk from the northern Wat past Villa Santi  and along Sisavangvong Street, gathering  early morning alms. Check with staff for  the best times.

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Then breakfast on Villa Santi’s balcony watching local life below.

After breakfast, walk along the Nam Khan River road down to the meeting point of the two rivers, enjoying the heritage architecture. Head back along the Mekong River road

to the Morning market before it winds up around 11am.


Stop for a traditional Lao coffee or mango/pineapple/papaya shake along the way

Head to Mt Phu Si, well worth the short climb to see the great view


Visit the TEAC Centre (closed Mondays)  to learn a little about traditional Lao life and textiles.

Staff here speak very god English and love helping visitors in any way they can.

Lunch at Coconut Garden

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(the laaps are especially good, and so is the soft serve icecream).

Buy your Hobo map here for 30,000 kip, a great resource for finding your way in Luang Prabang.

After lunch organize a trip to Kuang Si falls trip for day 2. Travel agents along Sisavangvong Street sell tickets for a minibus (seats 11) 4 hour round trip for 50,000 kip per person. However, this can be quite a hot, cramped and uncomfortable trip. Consider going by boat (see the boat captains behind the palace) for 40,000 kip per person. The boat trip is one hour longer and includes a10 min tuk tuk ride at each end. Both options need you to purchase a separate entry ticket for 20,000 kip per person when you get to the falls.

Also possibly:

Enjoy a Lao massage ($8 per hour)

Dip in pool at Villa Santi


Visit the Ock Tok Pop shop

Or check out the palace.

Get a great photo from the platform behind the Palace and watch the sunset over a Beerlao and Mekong riverweed.


Dinner at the nearby Riverside BBQ Restaurant (book ahead) then head to the night market for chocolate crepes or coconut cakes for dessert and some open air, friendly market bargaining.



After enjoying breakfast explore the rest of the peninsula in the cool air and possibly have a longer look at the morning market, help out with conversational English lessons at Big Brother Mouse, wander the temples or just enjoy the French cafes and lovely mix of colonial and traditional buildings.


Late morning head to the Kuang Si falls for lunch with a great view at the café and a swim in the gorgeous pools.


Take the pool path both ways (not the road) to the long drop at the top.

Go for another sunset drink along the Mekong.

Then head for dinner across the bamboo bridge over the Nam Khan River (or by boat if the bridge is missing)  at Dyen Sabai. Do book ahead by email, get there in time for two for one cocktails (12noon-7pm) and be sure to order the whole fish (amazing).


Stop at the night market stop on the way home


Nong Kiaw

How to get there

Mandala Ou Resort or Nong Kiaw Riverside can organize a 3 ½ hr private air conditioned mini van pickup ($US120 up, $US100 back). It is also possible to travel by local bus or by boat for part of the way (but not all, due to the dams being built).

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After lunch (either at your accommodation or in one of the recommended Indian or Lao restaurants near the bridge (Deen’s, Chennai or Vongmijay) (a 15 min walk from Mandala Ou, but very close to Riverside).

Explore Nong Kiaw by bike or foot.


Watch the sunset from the bridge and try another recommended restaurant for dinner.

Next day:


Take a day boat trip to Muang Ngoi further up the Nam Ou gorge and Sop Jam (a smaller weaving village) for 550,000 kip (staff at your accommodation can organize this, but worth emailing them to give them a heads up).


Lunch in Muang Ngoi on the way back from Sop Jam at the Riverside Restaurant which has a great view. Choose the chicken laap which is their standout dish. Their coffee and mango lassi is also very good. (Or try ‘Ning Ning’ guesthouse, that is also recommended for having a nice restaurant with a great view!)


Next day:

Take the private minivan back to Luang Prabang

Enjoy another lovely sunset drink on Mekong.

Dine at Tamarind and try their tasting platters


Last day in lovely Luang Prang

Catch up on things you haven’t yet had a chance to see/do/eat or take a trip to the PakOu caves or visit the Santi Resort and Spa via complimentary shuttle from  the Villa Santi


Possibly a cooking lesson at Tamarind, Bamboo Kitchen or Tamnak Lao


Take sunset boat ride (30,000 kip per person) and see the sunset go down over the Mekong, (take your own drinks and snacks)


After a last Mekong sunset, dine at Café Toui (perhaps the best meals in Luang Prabang)


Next day

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Fly to Chiang Mai in the afternoon with Lao airlines.

Stay three nights

Where to stay

Rimping Village is great value, has a lovely pool, complimentary transfers, a location that is convenient to the night market, Riverside restaurants and the amazing Rimping Supermarket.

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What to do and Where to eat

Dine at one of the Riverside restaurants and try Chiang Mai’s famous Kow Choy curried chicken noodle soup then enjoy shopping at the night market or the Saturday or Sunday Walking Streets.


(There are plenty of attractive restaurants at the Sunday Walking Street, but not so many at the Saturday walking Street. There is also plenty or interesting street food at both but stick with freshly cooked foods from busy stalls).


Rimping supermarket is close by and great for supplies like Gin and Tonic for a drink on the balcony, snadwiches and ice creams.


Enjoy a cooking lesson with Cooking@Home or Asia Scenic

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Hire a taxi and drive up the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai to the Buddist temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

It is particularly beautiful as the sunsets when the lights come on.


Opportunistic foodie travel experiences everywhere


Some foodie travel experiences are more obvious – restaurants, cooking lessons and food tours.
But don’t miss other windows of opportunity that can be equally rewarding and easy if you are looking out for them.
They can come at any time and are often free and flexible. A great idea for a break in the itinerary or for a rainy day.
You often come across more opportunistic experiences if you know a bit about what you’re looking for. A resource like The Penguin Food Guide to India is a great tool for developing a ‘short list’ of regional dishes and foods that you can highlight and flag in the handy electronic version, great for your phone.
Then just keep an eye out for those more surprising opportunities to ‘taste’ through the list including…..

In-flight meals..

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Baked Besan (chickpea flour cakes) with mango chutney
Cottage cheese ( Paneer) and fig dumplings, with Dahl and rice, pappadoms, curd and pickle
Milk dumplings in sweetened milk and coconut ( Raismailer?)
Masala Chai
Kulcha bread

Breakfasts…often include regional dishes and buffets mean you can try a little of many different flavours. Don’t be limited…. if there’s sweets to try, or chaat snacks…why not!

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Thalis….lots of small dishes and accompaniments

Watching your guesthouse meal being prepared

Supermarkets…especially good for learning more about the ingredients in a food or to buy some to try (terrific for gifts to take home too)

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Chattting to locals about their meal…(everyone loves talking about food)

Local food markets

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Local food magazines

Popular snack bars on the street or in stations (look for busy spots where the food is quickly prepared and sold)

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On the train

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Food shops….



Best of the West – A foodie itinerary to West India


Best of the West – Highlights of West India Foodie Itinerary Ideas


Why Go?

Workers from across India, seeking to make it ‘big’ in the bright lights, bring authentic regional food  to Mumbai including India’s best range of creative street food (like Vada Pav, Behl Puri and Pao Bhaji).


Try Parsi cuisine, originally from Persia…most fun at Britannia and Co.

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Don’t miss the dabbawallah unwritten delivery system that takes thousands of home cooked lunches to workers every day.


Visit local food markets and Sassoon Dock fish market.

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All set against stunning colonial architecture…and surprisingly innovative and creative high density living in Mumbai’s many ‘slums’.

Check out:

Reality Tours and Travel – Excellent, great value tours around Mumbai that include the famous Mumbai street food, the dabbawallah delivery system and a socially responsible, sensitive Dharavi slum tour.

Where to Stay?

Colaba is the best area to stay, and a night in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (while quite expensive) is a once in a life time experience.

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Another good spot in Colaba is the Ascot Hotel  – more budget friendly prices, but still an excellent location.


How to get there?

Mumbai is a major airport in India and good airlines often have specials. Check out Singapore Airlines for regular specials.



Why Go?

Dine with fantastic rood top views of the mighty Mehrangarh Fort and beautiful ‘Blue City’.

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Head to the clock tower to try regional snack food favourites including the famous rich lassi, have lunch with a local village family and experience a delicious Rajasthani thali at Gypsy Dining Rooms.

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Where to Stay?


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But also consider Castle View Home Stay for an amazing view, very thoughtful and kind host and great prices.

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How to get there? 

Mumbai to Jodhpur return $186 Jet Airways (online booking).


Why Go?


Dine roof top on the massive, sandcastle-like fort that rises out of the desert, above this ‘Golden City’ and enjoy regional Rajasthani dishes in between visiting gorgeous havelis and perhaps enjoying a camel safari.

 Where to Stay? 

Garh Jaisal

Gorgeous, well priced rooms with window seats, each a different colour and lovely roof top spot for drinks and breakfast.


How to get there?

Hire a good sized car (e.g. Toyata Innova) from one of the many car and diver businesses.

(About 4.5 hours from Jodhpur. Stop for a snack or lunch at Manvar Resort and Desert Safari Camp or Samsara Resort long the way).


Why Go?

A distinct Portuguese influenced cuisine in a setting of post colonial architecture featuring whitewashed churches and colourful villas as well as beautiful beaches.

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Lunch at a spice plantation, visit local Mapusa market on a Friday and marvel at the lush greenery of rice paddies and coconut palms.

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Where to Stay?


(home to the famous Wednesday Flea Market)

Casa Anjuna


or Marbella Guest House (Candolim)

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How to get there?

Mumbai to Goa return $152 Jet Airways (online booking).

Tamil Nadu, South India – 10 Top Foodie travel spots – on my Wishlist


On My Wish list – Top Ten in Tamil Nadu

Top ten in Tamil Nadu Map (source Lonely Planet – South India and Kerala)

1. Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

About 1-1 ½ hours south of Chennai on the coast.

Why Go?
Visitors stop here to see the World Heritage listed temples and carvings, particularly lovely at sunset, but I’m hoping to sample the fish curry at the Seashore Garden Restaurant, that Rick Stein declared was the best curry in all of India.

Where to Stay?
Grande Bay Resort and Spa (Grande Chalet room $160 incl. breakfast)

Book on or contact Samuel (phone works best) from Australia 0011 91 9840793960

How to get there?
Grande Bay Resort pick up from Chennai airport costs about $42 if travelling down the scenic east coast.

2. Puducherry (Pondicherry)

Why Go?
A former French colony on the coast, where Indian and French foods and architecture blend to achieve some lovely street scenes, good shopping and creole cusine.

Where to Stay?
L’Orient Hotel (every room is different but try the Karikal for about $185)

Les Hibiscus – A Lonely Planet Guide top pick in Tamil Nadu

How to get there?

Hotel pick up from L’Orient Hotel costs about $40.

3. Tranquebar

Why Go?
A little coastal town and former Danish colony, with a lovely place to stay.

Where to Stay?
Bungalow on the Beach (again, every room is different, but try the Queen Anna Sophia room (approx.. $179 incl. breakfast)

How to get there?

Drop off from Les Hibiscus $45, from Hotel L’Orient $53

And two stops in different Chettinadu towns:

4. Karaikudi
Why Go?
Stay in a mansion and enjoy authentic spicy Chettinad cuisine.

Where to Stay?
The Bangala – Famous for it’s food – the set lunch or dinner is a Chettinadar wedding feast

How to get there?

Drop off from Bungalow on the Beach $82

5. Kanadukathan
Why Go?
Stay in a beautifully restored mansion and enjoy authentic spicy Chettinad cuisine.

Where to Stay?
Visalam – A Lonely Planet top pick in Tamil Nadu, a gorgeous art deco restored mansion with great style and a lovely pool and garden.

How to get there?
Local taxi (only 20 mins)

6. Madurai

Why Go?
One of the oldest cities in India, that traded with Ancient Rome and home of the amazing Meenakshi AmmanTemple and Foodies Day Out tour.

Where to Stay?

The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai
How to get there?

Drop off from Visalam $45

7. Kodaikanal

Why Go?
A misty hill station in the Palni hills. Popular for it’s spectacular lookout points, waterfalls and very pretty lake.

Where to Stay?
Lonely Planet’s top picks:

Villa Retreat
Great views over the valley


The Carlton
Nicely situated on the lake and recommended by Lonely Planet for its restaurant.

Book through the hotel website to get a special two night package that includes sightseeing and a romantic boat ride.

How to get there?

Pick up from Villa Retreat/ The Carlton Hotel approx. $45

8. Coonoor

Why Go?
Coonoor A hill station with beautiful scenery in the Nilgiri Hills and on the Nilgiri Toy Train Railway line.

Where to Stay?

180 McIver – A Lonely Planet top pick in Tamil Nadu and a classic 1880s British bungalow

How to get there?

Drop off from Villa Retreat/ The Carlton Hotel approx. $85

9. Ooty
Why Go?
Ooty another hill station of the Raj era in the Nilgiri Hills with great scenery.

Where to Stay?
Savoy Hotel

How to get there?

Take the famous toy train to Ooty leaves 10:40am (very cheap)

10. Chennai

Why Go?
Chennai the gateway to Tamil Nadu and a major airport in Southern India

Where to Stay?
Best location in Chennai to stay is T.Nagar near the Pondi Bazaar and some good spots to eat.

The Residency Towers has a great package for $155 for a Club Room on 18th floor for 24 hours (i.e. check in time is check out time) that also includes buffet breakfast, airport transfers, use of the Club Lounge for breakfast and free drinks between 7:30-8:30pm and a pool.

Contact the hotel directly to book.

But a cheaper, good option also in T. Nagar is the Lotus Apartments

(Make sure you pick the branch on Venkatraman Street).

How to get there?
Being such a major airport, it’s easy to get specials on airfares from some of the best airlines.
keep an eye out for Singapore Airlines specials that often drop to around $1150 return ex Canberra/Sydney.

If you have extra time, consider continuing on to Mysore (a wonderful palace) and the Coorg or Kodagu region (for coffee estates, hill staions and a distinct regional cuisine), in Karnataka and then flying back from Bangalore.

Asian foodie travel – what to pack


Pack lightly and plan to wash and wear, to leave plenty of room to fit in shopping. Metallicus stores have great, quick drying, no iron mix and match pieces  that roll up to almost nothing, often on sale. Join the loyalty club at no cost and get $15 off a shop each month that you spend at least $1. Rinse clothes out each night in the basin, using soap/bath gel/shampoo provided, wringing out well, laying flat in a towel, rolling it up and twisting it. Hang clothes on clothes hangers in air conditioning and they will be dry by morning.






Add sunscreen, insect spray (Bushman’s), alcohol hand rub, camera, phone, iPad/tablet/power plug adapter, toiletries, underwear, makeup, hairdryer, ear plugs, first aid kit (consult your own medical practitioner for your individual specific needs, but ask about medications for treating gastroenteritis and cold and flu (and preventing malaria)) also documents including e-ticket, passport, visa, booking confirmation print outs, insurance details, money, ATM cards if using, small change purses.

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A 70 Litre backpack with wheels and daypack/ small bag is ideal. (Kathmandu has some good options when they are on sale.)

It’s a good idea to pack essential items and a change of clothes in carry-on luggage in case checked-in baggage is delayed.

Also consider packing a light extra bag that packs thinly, to carry-on extra shopping or fragile items on the way home.

Breakfast when travelling – a great time to try Indian specialties


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Dal and Pakwan                              Baked yogurt, idli

Breakfast in India, when travelling, is a great opportunity to try a wide range of regional and national specialities. Often a buffet selection of a range of Indian dishes is offered so it’s easy to try a little of lots of things. If breakfast is a la carte, usually there are one of two Indian breakfast options included.  And it’s even worth trying the same dish several times as each cook has their own style.

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Marsala Dosa                                  Baked yogurt and more

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Pao Keema                                                       Dal Makarni and Pakwan

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Dal Chakori                                      Poha

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Poha, Puri and Sambhal, Indian sweets       Marsala Dosa

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Chakori, Mirchi Pakora, Samosa                    Poha

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Goan Pao bread                                    Besan ka cheela

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Medu Wada, Aloo Bonda ,Goan breads Vegetable Xacuti, Butter Pao , Aloo Pakoda, Upma, Poori bhaji, Sambhar and coconut chutney


Aloo Paratha




The joys of exploring the world through food


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Exploring a country through food can be a wonderful way to engage with local people and culture and a window into family, social, religious and economic life. Whether choosing a specialty food tour or designing your own itinerary good food-themed opportunities are endless including local markets, festivals, street food stalls, small family run restaurants, home-stays, cooking lessons and opportunities to watch cooks at work.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_0201_2 IMG_5214 IMG_4248 IMG_0630 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA iphone culling 308 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA iphone culling 256 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA iphone culling 259