Mar 19, 2017

Best Food to Try in Hong Kong

Just came back from a 4 day food trip to Hong Kong which the main aim of the travel is to eat as much as we can. As my parents are huge Cantonese food lover, we had like 5 meal per day. Here's are some of the best food we savored for the 4 day trip.

1. Dim Sum
Dim Dim Sum 
112 Tung Choi St, Mong Kok (there are a few branches ie in Jordan and Wan Chai)
Hands down this is one of the best dimsum we tasted in Hong Kong. We reached the restaurant around 3.30pm on Saturday and had to queue about half an hour to get a seat. But the wait is worth it as this restaurant had the most innovative dim sum we ever tried. Some of the must have dim sum are the chu cheung fun with prawn spring roll, pineapple polo bun, wasabi 'ham sui kok', piggy buns. Do try their ice milk tea.

Polo Bun with pineapple filling

Wasabi 'Ham sui kok'

Piggy Bun (must have!!)
I won't disclose the filling here

Love this prawn roll in chu cheung fun

Ice milk tea
Notice that the ice is actually outside of the cup to prevent dilution of the tea
 Luk Yu Tea House
Hong Kong, Central, Stanley St, 24-26
The Monday morning before we embarked for Cheung Chau Island, I decided to bring my parents for a traditional dim sum experience. I was thinking between Luk Yu Tea House or Lin Heung Lau but went with this instead. My dad claimed that this is best dim sum he had, while my mum and I preferred Dim Dim Sum than this. And we got a shock of our life when the bill came to about HKD 550 for 3 person for 8 types of dim sum. So if you want more affordable dim sum, I won't recommend this place.
The egg tarts are quite good and this 'siew pau pastry'
Dim Sum in Airport
You can just forget about the dim sum in the airport. Not worth the money or the stomach space

2. Wanton Mee
Mak's Noodle 
77 Wellington St, Central
We had this no.1 wanton mee in Hong Kong on our second last day and it totally surpassed every wanton mee standard we had. Definitely one of the best wanton mee we had in Hong Kong minus the alkaline after taste. And I read that Mak's noodle are the origin of wanton mee.
Mak's noodle. The portion is smaller than other shop

Dad giving his thumbs up for the best wanton mee in town

Mak Man Kee
51 Parkes St, Jordan
Mak Man Kee actually opened a branch in 1 Utama in KL but I did not have the chance to try. So I wanted to try in Hong Kong, the origin place. I quite like the noodle but my parents were not too keen as there are some alkaline aftertaste.
Mak Man Kee 

Dad enjoying his wanton mee

Shek Kee Wanton Noodle
UG, 386 Portland St
We had wanton mee from this shop 6 years ago when we stayed at the nearby hotel. Back at that time, I did not research much on food and hence my parents still think highly of this place and this time my dad requested to go back for the noodle. We felt that the noodle is too hard.

3. Dessert
Kai Kai Tong Sui
29 Ning Po St, Jordan
I got to know about this dessert shop from another blogger and apparently it's one of the Michelin star street food acknowledged not too long ago. The shop is actually relocated due to the enormous hike in rental after being awarded the Michelin star. Read this in a Bloomberg article which depicts why sometimes having Michelin star award is not all good. We ordered the mango dessert, red bean and black sesame and added extra tong yuen. Nothing too spectacular but the tong yuen was good.
the tong sui that we ordered

Yee Shun Milk Company
513 Nathan Rd, Yau Ma Tei (there are a few branches but this is the nearest to our hotel)
I classified this as dessert as we had our supper here instead of breakfast/tea. We ordered the steam milk with red bean and the french toast. We actually went back on the last day of the night coz I was craving for their steam milk.
Steam milk with red bean

French toast, love this so much

Steam milk with ginger. Love the silky smooth texture

Cha Chaan Teng
1. Australian Milk Company
47 Parkes St, Jordan (it's just a few doors away from Mak Man Kee)
We had breakfast here on a Sunday and I had to drag my parents out early morning to avoid the crowd. We managed to get a table within 5 minutes in queue and I gotta admit that the staff are rather rude but we enjoyed the food especially the scrambled eggs a lot. It comes with a breakfast set with macaroni soup and tea/coffee and the portion are rather huge.
Macaroni and ham soup

One of the best scramble egg

Polo Bun
1. Kam Wah Cafe & Bakery
47 Bute St, Mong Kok
The butter melting in the piping hot polo bun. Need I say more.

Egg Tart
1. Tai Cheong Bakery
35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central
We did not try much egg tart in Hong Kong. Only this and the egg tart from Luk Yu Tea House. The egg tarts here are so so and I have tasted much better ones in Malaysia.
Kind of meh to me

Overall, I am quite satisfied with all the food that we managed to had during this trip. A piece of advice though, go for the famous places during off peak hours. We were quite lucky that most of the time we reached before a long queue is formed and the most we waited was 30 minutes for a table for Dim Dim Sum. If I had to choose my top three food for this trip, it would be Dim Dim Sum, Mak's noodle and Yee Shun steam milk.

I will do another post covering food in Cheung Chau island.

Feb 17, 2017

Central Japan Winter Travel Itinerary (Takayama, Kanazawa, Gero and Nagoya)

UNESCO World Heritage - Shirakawago

This is actually my first winter travel in the last 7 years or so since I am back from UK. Most of the time I would avoid winter travel like a plague as I hated the heavy wrapping of layers of clothing and the frozen feeling of my toes and hands. However, this time I took the plunge and went ahead with a winter holiday in central Japan covering mostly Gifu area. We were actually lucky to score a good deal via Thai Airways which we flew to Osaka and back from Nagoya. The air ticket actually cost less than RM 1k (to be exact, its RM 980.90) and we transit for an hour each in Bangkok. We took the overnight flight from KL and reach Osaka the next early morning.
Kanazawa Castle
Day 1 - Kanazawa
We reached Osaka about 6.30 in the morning and we proceed to take the Haruka express to ShinOsaka and then the Thunderbird to Kanazawa. By the time we reached Kanazawa, it's about 12.30pm. As it's yet for us to check in, we decided to get the day bus pass which costs 500 yen and went to our first destination, sushi at Omi-cho market. It was raining the whole day and for the first time, KC actually disagreed with me to share a sushi platter but to have our own platter each instead. Our first sushi costs us about 2200 yen with 10 pieces and the feeling of sushi swimming in my tummy was enough to warm us up for our next stop, Kanazawa castle. We did not entered the castle but instead took some photos outside of the castle compound. Initially we wanted to enter the Kenrouken garden to see the hanging trees with snow but it was raining and no show, hence we decided to save the money instead. We went to Higashi Chaya, the old town of Kanazawa for some nice portrait shots before calling it the day and went back to our hotel for check in. We stayed in Oka Hotel for a night which costs us 5600 yen for one night. The hotel was old but it was comfortable and quite near to the train station. We hoping to catch some snow today but was disappointed that it rained instead.


Day 2 - Takayama
When we stepped out from our hotel the next morning, we were greeted with snow and lots of them. It was such a sight to behold as the last time I saw snow dropping down from the sky was 8 years ago in Edinburgh. The whole town was covered with snow but we did not have much time to admire as we rushed to the train station for our train to Takayama, the highlight of the trip. We took the Shinkansen to Toyoma station and changed to Hida train. We actually got the 5 day Takayama-Hokuriku pass which costs us 14,000 yen in Malaysia and the pass basically covers all our intercity train travel and also Nohi bus. We reached Takayama quite early, around 9.30am and it was snowing!! We were so excited but faced some difficulty in dragging our bags through the snow pavement. And since it's not time to check in yet, we dumped our bags at our hostel, J Hoppers and went out to explore the town. The first time we saw the famous red bridge in Takayama, we were totally blown away. Almost every corner was postcard perfect and we can't stop snapping photos. Plus I had my prime lens with me and every photo turn out great. I practically ooh and ahh at every single photo we took! We took a leisure stroll along the old town and ate soba for lunch. As we had an hour to kill before we can view the sake brewery, we went around the town and stopped by a grocery store. Bad decision as I can't stop buying ramen, soba, and all sorts of Japanese noodle to bring home. Meanwhile, KC was down with stomachache and had to rush off to the nearest toilet.
We joined the sake brewery tour with another two young Western guys as the rest of the guide only speaks Japanese. We get to sample some sake and I even bought a sake for myself eventhough I rarely drinks. I swore Japan has its way of making me want to spend all my money there! As KC was not feeling too well, we went back to the hostel to rest and while she slept, I was too hyper to sleep. Must be the side effect from the sake! We had a simple lunch as a nearby restaurant and went to sleep early.
On the way walking up to the observation point

Pretty gassho covered in snow

Stumble upon this while walking around the village

Day 3 - Shirakawago
I could say this was the highlight of the whole trip and we prepared ourselves with ear muffs, lots of heat pad, thick socks and gloves for the day trip to Shirakawa village. We took the earliest Nohi bus from the bus station and the whole journey was filled with heavy snow. I was a bit worried as we might not be able to get to the view point and we reached Shirakawago around 9am. It was still snowing quite heavy and we took some time to eat our breakfast, pile on the heat pad and a quick toilet break before embarking on the journey to walk up the observation point. Initially, we wanted to take the shuttle but after KC bumped into a girl in the hostel, she specifically mentioned that we need to walk up as the scenery is stunning along the way. As we still deciding to walk or sit on the shuttle, the snow began to stop and we just go ahead with walking. The girl was right! The scenery is stunning, so beautiful that every photo was just like a postcard. We can't stopped gushing at every corner and the 20 minutes journey up turned into 30 minutes. It was not a tough walk and fairly doable. Highly recommended to walk up instead of taking the shuttle. Many bus passes us by and I guess they probably felt pity seeing us walking up but we were actually pity them for not able to appreciate the scenery like we do, haha. Once we reach the observation point, it started snowing again and we loitered in the souvenir shop for some time for the snow to stop. The view? If I were to compare photos from summer/autumn with winter, winter wins hands down! Nothing compare to seeing the little gassho houses covered with white snow !

We spent some time exploring the village, taking photos in every nook and crook and not forgetting posing and using my modelling skills. Pity KC for being forced to model and taking photo of this fake model. When I looked back at the photos at home, every single one of them was gorgeous. I felt like a winter wear model, lol. And for the first time, I had so much good photos of myself instead of my travel partner. We took the 3.15pm bus back to Takayama and since we did not reserve the bus, we went to the bus station earlier. Luckily for us, we managed to get into the bus and reached Takayama around 4.30pm.

Day 4 - Gero
The following day we went to check out the market in Takayama and for the first time, I almost could not feel my fingers and toes. Forgot to bring out my gloves and did not check the weather forecast. Later only we found out that it was -5 degress outside. No wonder my toes and fingers were frozen. We did not stay too long outdoors and we took the 11.30am train to Gero. This is the day we will be spending a night in a ryokan and have our Kaiseki dinner and breakfast. I have booked us a cosy family owned ryokan and the owner was kind enough to fetch us from the train station to the ryokan. This time, the ryokan was larger than the one we had in Hakone but we had to eat at the dining hall instead in our room. I told KC that next time, I want to try out the resort style onsen. Gero town is small and we basically covered it in less than 2 hours. With nothing much to do, we went back to the ryokan and went for our onsen. This time we were not culture shock to shower naked in each otehr presence unlike the first time, lol. The onsen was great and it's good to dip our tired bodies into the hot spring water and unwind. It's time for our multiple course dinner and after that we went out to see the fireworks and a free Kabugi at the nearby hotel. Kabugi is basically like a Japanese opera but since it's spoken in Japanese, we can understand only bits and pieces of the play.

Nabana no Sato

Day 5- Nagoya
We set off from Gero station leaving towards Nagoya around 10am after taking a last dip at the onsen and our breakfast. As it stared snowing in Gero, the whole town was covered in snow. Kind of sad to leave the town when it started snowing and once we reached Nagoya, there was no snow, only rain. The main reason for getting to Nagoya is to see the famous winter illumination, Nabana no Sato. It is located a far bit from Nagoya and we got the package comprising of train, bus and entrance ticket amounting to 3,700 yen. At first, when the train ticket counter told us about the price, we were very shocked as we did not know that it comes with the entrance ticket as well. After getting some assistance from a lady who was stationed nearby the counter who can actually speaks English, only then we realised there's a package with train, bus and entrance. We took the Keitetsu line train from Nagoya station to Kintetsu Nagashima station and then the shuttle to the entrance of the illumination. The entrance ticket included 1000 yen voucher which we used for buying food.

Day 6- Flying back
It's the day to fly back to KL but not forgetting stocking up on Japanese snack in the airport.

Total Cost                                        RM 3,901
Flight                                               RM 980.90
Takayama-Hokuriku pass                RM 561.00
Hotel + Transportation + Souvenir  RM 2,360.00 (actual hotel costs are = RM 860)
If you do not buy much souvenir, RM 3,000 should be enough to cover the entire trip.

Feb 15, 2017

How to Dress for Winter Travel

With my down jacket, blocktech pants, Ugg style boots and a pop of blue

I recently went for a winter trip to Japan and I realised my previous winter clothing in UK were not able to withstand the harsher environment and snowing situation in Japan. Plus I swore never to buy one of those puffy down jackets that makes me looked like a penguin. But this changes after I saw some photos of Japan covered in snow and makes me overhaul my whole winter travel wardrobe.

So how do I managed to survive and bundle up against the winter? Here's are some of the tips

1. Have a good base layer. For this, I bought the Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech which is very good in keeping the body warm.

2. Get a good down jacket preferably with down duck feather. Check the label to ensure it's feathers. Best is to get one with detachable hoodie and water resistant as I realised winter weather mostly comes with rain and snow. I got mine from Mango Spain which surprisingly is stylish yet warm.

3. Layer and layer and layer up. The best is to wear a few layers and I usually layer a wool based shirt/top after my heattech.

4. Buy lots (and I mean LOTs) of heat pad. I particularly find this very useful after I almost could not feel my toes while walking around Takayama. For your info, I worn a pair of thick woolen socks with Ugg style boots and still my feet are extremely cold. I put the heat pad on top of my toes and the warm feeling makes the walking much more pleasant. I kept some heat pad in my down jacket pocket so that it can keep my fingers warm.

5. Pack gloves and earmuffs. Personally, my hands are not so cold compare to my feet.

6. Pack some colour popping scarf. Trust me, this could change the outfit in an instant and makes your photos pop.

7. I bought a blocktech pants and a heattech legging pants, both from Uniqlo. I find that both the pants can block the wind better than jeans.

Here's come of my ootd shots from Japan
All wrapped up with beanie and gloves
With my shades as a fashion accessories

With my Uniqlo Heattech Leggings Pants. As you can see here, I took out the hoodie
Different way of styling the scarf
Adding shades and different colour scarf brought a different feel

Jan 6, 2017

Viewing the Midnight Sun in Tromso, Norway

First post for 2017! Hopefully I can keep up with the writing and photography this year. Last year I wrote only a grand total of 5 posts for the whole year. Definitely one of my worst year in blogging, career and personal wise, hence the missing in action. I am not a person who make new year resolution or going to recap what happened in 2016 but hopefully this year I can start moving towards achieving some of my long time dreams. Now back to writing business.

View of Tromso

One of my biggest wish travelling to Norway is to witness the midnight sun. During summer, the sun never sets in parts of Northern Norway, at the Attic Circle and since I could not stand bitter cold winter, I have to settle for midnight sun instead of Northern Lights.

Did some research and set on flying to Tromso from Helsinki. What I did not expect was the epic coldness and wind chill which can make the temperature fell below 5 degrees and stupid me for not bringing a pair of gloves. We spent two nights in Tromso and the town was pretty small but fill with stunning scenery and that's how I fall in love with Tromso.

Cold and feels like winter

view from the harbour

The town is practically surrounded by mountains

On the first day, we decided to take the cable car up to the viewing point at night to see the midnight sun. Instead of the sun, we were 'rewarded' with windchill and I practically ran back and forth between the viewing point and the waiting room to warm myself. Scenery wise; astounding and eerily beautiful.

The next morning, we took the city bus day ticket costing NOK110 and went out of the city center. We went to Telegrafbukta to see the amazing mountain view and Prestvannet for the lake and it was quite easy to navigate around using the bus.

View from Telegrafbukta

And we are the only two person there

From Prestvannet
Even the view from the airport is amazing. While many travel guide would recommend coming to Tromso for the Northern Lights, I would say ditch that and come here for the midnight sun. It's less colder, less tourist plus the sun never sets!

Amazing scenery even we were about to fly off 
We actually walked out from the airport after checking in to take more photos

Dec 21, 2016

Hiking the Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) at Stavanger, Norway

The famous Pulpit Rock, inspiration for the Frozen movie

One of my dreams of going to Norway to hike some of the famous landmarks but I realised most of them are quite difficult to reach either with public transport or it's still snowing when I was there in May, one of them being the famous Troll's Tongue. So imagine my surprised when I googled for Pultpit Rock and it's a doable day trip from Stavanger, and Stavanger was not part of my initial itinerary. I decided to cut short my days in Bergen and did a trip to Stavanger, just to hike the famous Pulpit Rock. I read that Frozen's backdrop is inspired by Pulpit Rock and when I was at the top, I know why!

So it began my research on how to get there the most cost efficient way. I read that most people will take about 3-4 hours ascending and descending from the Rock and I budgeted that I would take around 5 hours. 

There is no direct train services from Bergen to Stavanger, so the most reliable option is to get onto a bus, which takes around 4-5 hours. It costs about NOK 400. It's advisable to book the tickets online from the website before reaching there as the bus was quite full when I boarded. 

I booked myself a nice studio apartment at City Housing- Kirkebakken 8 for my two night stay in Stavanger which cost around NOK 1200. I was ready to conquer the Rock! 
Ferry schedule from Stavanger to Tau
The package combination by Tide bus
 To get to Stavanger, you need to first take a ferry from the harbour in Stavanger to Tau,  then transferred to a bus which will take you to the starting point of the hike. There's a package combining both the ferry and the bus but I decided to take it separately as the cost was cheaper that way. The package cost NOK 300 for return but if not mistaken, buying the ferry tickets only cost NOK 110 for return and bus NOK150 return. Be mindful that there are two bus companies to Pulpit Rock and I took the green one (Boreal) instead of the Tide bus (which is package together with the ferry).
The start of the hike

The dramatic drop of the Rock

Enjoying the view

The fjord, alternatively you can take a cruise to view the Rock from the fjord 

Me and the Rock

I started the hike around 9am. The hike is fairly easy at the beginning but turn rocky from the middle towards the end. It took me about 2 hours to reach the Rock and I was rewarded with the most beautiful scenery ever. Feels like singing 'Let me go' on top of the Rock, hehe. To get the view of the Rock against the fjord, I climbed up to another level and just sat there to enjoy the view and had my salmon sandwich, lol.

After that, it was descending time and me being the very clumsy type, managed to slip and fall a few times and got a few scratches from the trip. Painful but very rewarding hike.

Dec 14, 2016

Norway in a Nutshell On Your Own

Little coloured houses at Myrdal station

Wow, time flies! And it's already end of the year. Personally many things had happened this year and I had gone through major changes within a year. Not going to dwell much on my personal front in a public space but let's just say I grew up a lot from the experience and learn to love myself more and hence more shopping and travelling guilt.

Been meant to share about my experience of doing the Norway in the Nutshell on my own but after my laptop crashed, the idea had been shelved for months. Well, better late than never. Basically, Norway in a Nutshell is a combination of bus, train and ferry from Oslo to Bergen or vice versa which is something like this:

Oslo → Myrdal → Flam→Gundvagen→Voss→Bergen

You can actually booked Norway in a Nutshell via a tour but basically the tour requires you to take the train, bus and ferry as well.  So I guess I tried to save some money and did the whole thing on my own using the Norwegian train timetable and this website as a guide. The tour can be done in a day but I decided to break the journey into two days and spend a night in Flam.
Check out all the snow

Never been so excited to see snow in May

The red lady which I thought is a ghost

My plan was to start from Oslo and took the train to Flam but along the way, we need to change train at Myrdal to a smaller train, Flamsbana. What I did not expect was in May, I can still see snow along the way. In fact, it was still snow in Myrdal which makes the weather pretty cold and pretty, haha. The Flamsbana will stop along some pretty stops for tourists to take photos. Do spot the lady in red singing at the waterfall. For a second I thought I heard and saw a ghost!! The whole journey through the Flamsbana is very interesting and very very scenic. And once it gets into Flam, the town is very pretty although it was raining by the time I reached there and there went all my plans to do some hiking around the town. I ended up just walking around the town to get some food and went to bed early. I stayed in Flam hostel which was not too far away from the train station and the ferry port. Basically the port and the train station is just next to each other. I had booked for the earliest ferry to Gundvagen at 8am. Glad that I took such an early ferry as I managed to snap some really good photos although the sky seemed quite cloudy along the whole cruise. There were only me and this other Korean family in the ferry.
As the Flamsbana going into Flam town

View on the cruise 

Love the reflection. Early morning before the ferry ride to Gundvagen

It's gloomy yet it's so mysterious

When I reached Gundvagen, I got a bit confused as I was not aware of the bus schedule to Voss and waited almost an hour for the bus. Take bus number 950 from the bus stop just right in front of the souvenir shop.  The bus timetable is slightly different during summer and winter. I read that there's actually an express bus to Bergen from Gundvagen but one of the perks of getting the bus to Voss and then train to Bergen was the view. As the bus to Voss will take you up to the Stalheim hotel which will goes through Stalheimskleiva hairpin road which cost around NOK 110. That was one of the highlight of the trip! Once in Voss, it's just a direct affair to Bergen using the train.

Total rough estimate for my diy Norway in a Nutshell trip (as prices may change depending when you reserved for the train from Oslo to Flam)

Train from Oslo to Flam     NOK 800
Ferry to Gundvagen            NOK  260
Bus to Voss                         NOK 110
Train to Bergen                   NOK 94
Accommodation in Flam    NOK 300
Total                                    NOK  1564
which is still cheaper than the tour quoted at NOK 1770