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About this blog

thisgirlabroad is an expat living, working, and eating her way through Hong Kong, and traveling throughout South East Asia without any plans to slow down. 

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thisgirlabroad
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Zuma Hong Kong has established themselves as a go-to brunch spot for people looking to dine on delicious Japanese food and drink bottomless glasses of champagne. Surprisingly, it took me six years of living in this city before I finally made it to Zuma’s weekend brunch. Although the price tag isn’t cheap, it’s a good brunch option when friends are in town, you’re celebrating a special occasion, or you just want to get together with your friends and drink and eat loads!

Vibe at Zuma Hong Kong Brunch

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I went to the earlier seating at 11:00 am and, I’ll be honest, there wasn’t much of a vibe. There were only a few other tables with people at them and there were a few kids there (I don’t know about you, but free-flow champagne and children just don’t mix for me), so it was more of a subdued atmosphere. That being said, when we were leaving at 1:00 pm, it was becoming much busier (unfortunately, there are only two seating times for brunch: 11:00 am and 1:00 pm), so I would highly recommend the later time slot. As for the service, it was fantastic. I can’t remember the name of our waiter, but he was so unbelievably kind and sweet – it was hilariously refreshing given Hong Kong’s usual poor customer service.

Drinks

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Zuma has recently partnered with Ruinart Champagne, so if you opt for the free-fow package (and why wouldn’t you?!), then you can enjoy glass after glass. If champagne isn’t your thing, there’s always the option of wine.

Food

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Be sure to wear your stretchy pants because there is literally tonnes of food at Zuma’s brunch. Start with the buffet counters where you’ll find a wide range of Japanese delights. From noodles to skewers and sushi to tempura, there is almost too much choice here. Everything I tried from the buffet was delicious, as expected, though I do wish there were signs in front of the food so I knew exactly what I was putting on my plate.

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After we were done pigging out on the buffet, a plate of grilled main course samplers of salmon, scallops, mushroom, asparagus, chicken, and beef came to our table. I especially liked the tender chicken and juicy beef.

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To finish up, the most beautiful dessert platter came to our table. Although at this point I basically had no room left in my stomach for anymore food. The homemade ice cream (vanilla and ube) was hands-down my favorite, but the cakes were a miss.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a good Japanese brunch in a more upscale setting, check out Zuma. While I really liked the food and thought the service was fantastic, I wasn’t feeling the earlier seating time and found it to be a bit of a shame that you only have your table for two hours given the price of the brunch.

Zuma Hong Kong 
6/F Landmark 
15 Queen’s Road
Central

Tel: 3657 6388


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thisgirlabroad
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If you’re visiting Taipei, it’s likely you’ve heard about the Beitou Hot Springs, as they’re arguably the most well-known and visited hot springs in the surrounding Taipei area. Unfortunately, because of their popularity, Beitou is often crowded and has become very touristy. A much better alternative to Beitou is the public Wulai Hot Springs; a 45 minute bus ride from Taipei. While Wulai has plenty of hot springs at guest houses and hotels, the natural, public hot springs are a must, offering visitors some rest and relaxation in a beautiful, natural surrounding.

Getting to the Wulai Hot Springs from Taipei

The cheapest and easiest way to get to Wulai is via public transportation. Hop on the Metro and take the Green Line to Xindian Station. When you exit, look for a small tourist center on your right side, just across from the bus platform. Right behind the tourist center is where you’ll find bus 849 (I believe it was around NT$20), which will take you right to Wulai (it’ll be the last stop, so don’t worry about missing it). The journey is incredibly beautiful and scenic, and takes about 45 minutes.

What to expect at the natural Wulai Hot Springs

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Once you get off the bus, head down into Wulai Old Street (where all of the little shops and food stalls are), cross the bridge at the end, and head right to “Ulay Hot Spring” (see first photo above).

As you’re walking down the road you’ll notice there isn’t a specific sign that tells you where to go to get to the public hot springs, however, there are two ways to get down on your left side (that I know of, at least). One is only a few feet down the road and is a bit more obvious; just take the stairs and walk down a bit (you’ll pass the feet only hot spring first [the last photo above] and then get to the larger hot spring shortly after). Otherwise, if you walk a bit further down, you’ll find another entrance with stairs leading down the hill. Once down, you’ll see the hot springs just to your left.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have great weather when we went, but the springs were very hot (just check out that steam coming off them) and still quite busy given the cold temperature. There are a few little ‘change rooms’ right by the hot springs for public use if you do decide to head on in. The majority of people using the hot springs were local and were very welcoming, so there’s no need to feel awkward about joining them in a hot spring. We even saw a couple people riding the current down the large (and what must have been freezing) river.

Bring a drink or two along and plop down in one of the hot springs (there were close to 10) for a few hours of rest and relaxation. If you’re not in the mood to completely drench yourself, there is a smaller hot spring (last photo above) made just for dipping your feet into.


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thisgirlabroad
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This was my third time visiting Montreal (despite living next door) and subsequently my third time climbing up Mount Royal, or Parc du Mont-Royal as the French would say. Not only is it completely free, but it’s a great way to get out of the city centre without having to hop in a car. Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Montreal below. Whether you’re there in the winter or summer, climbing up Mount Royal should be high up on your to-do list.

How to get up to Mount Royal (Parc du Mont-Royal)

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To get to the starting point of the trail, head up to the intersection of Pine Avenue West and Peel Street, minutes from the downtown core.

There are two ways you can head up to the top: one is a direct route that will take you straight up and the other is a much longer route that winds around the mountain. If you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a run, and have a few hours to kill (and if it’s not 20 below 0 outside!), then take your time while heading up. There are a tonne of trails that surround the mountain, and, while I haven’t actually gone this way, seem very straightforward to follow.

If you’re pressed for time, take the direct trail that goes straight up to the top of the mountain. Give or take, this route should take about 30 minutes to reach the top.

Why it’s worth the climb up

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mount-royal-montreal-6-1024x683.jpgClose-up of all the buildingsmount-royal-montreal-5-1024x683.jpgAs the sun is beginning to setmount-royal-montreal-8-1024x683.jpgPlenty of spacemount-royal-montreal-3-1024x683.jpgSnacks, drinks, and washrooms inside

Once at the top, you’ll see a large viewing area that will likely be crowded with dozens of other tourists. To avoid the crowd, try to come at an off-peak time (early morning, during the week, later at night, etc.). We made it to the top just as the sun was beginning to set and although it was busy, we managed to get a bit of space to ourselves to enjoy the views and take some photos.


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thisgirlabroad
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I’m sure any expat around the world gets the same question when they begin chatting with others: “why did you move here?” While it’s obvious people’s jobs play a large role, there are often a handful of other factors that fall into place. I mean, it’s a pretty big deal to pack up your entire life and move to a completely different country. I’ve been asked “why Hong Kong?” countless times since moving here five years ago. Surprisingly for me, the answer was pretty simple..

Why I first thought about moving abroad

Like most expats, my main motivation for moving to Hong Kong was a job. After finishing two degrees I thought that getting a job in my field would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, I was hit with the hard truth shortly after: the likelihood of landing a full time job was near impossible.

Moving abroad for work was honestly something that never even flickered across my mind until I realized how dire my job prospects were if I stayed in Ontario. I had a choice: either stay put and apply to every job available in my field (this would be part time work with no benefits) while likely living at home because I wouldn’t be able to afford rent in Toronto without a steady income OR put my expensive degrees to use and search for jobs in other countries. Obviously, I chose the latter.

peak-1.jpgFirst hike up to The Peak – October, 2012

How I landed my job in Hong Kong

I went to an international job fair with a close friend who was also in the same situation as me, but I didn’t really think too seriously about it. To me, the job fair was more of a “why not just go to see what’s out there,” since I had nothing to lose. Long story short, I landed an interview and was offered the job the following day.

Although naive of me, I didn’t do any research on Hong Kong before accepting the job (which I would not recommend doing). Without really thinking about, I called my friend (who thankfully also got the job). After speaking with her and solidifying my decision, I called my mom to tell her I was going to accept the offer. It all happened so fast, but knowing I was moving to the other side of the world with one of my closest friends certainly made things easier.

Even though I had no idea what I was getting into, I can confidently (and thankfully) say that I made the right decision to move abroad. Even though it’s been five years since I moved to Hong Kong, I get disheartened to hear that many other people I graduated with are still struggling to secure full time employment in their field. Aside from the hardships I’d face if I stayed in Canada, I truly ended up falling in love with Hong Kong and have had so many incredible opportunities arise from living here (like this blog!). Sometimes taking that leap of faith in life is the best decision you could make.

Are you thinking about moving abroad? If you’ve already moved, what factors persuaded you to do so? 


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thisgirlabroad
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I’ve been contemplating laser hair removal for awhile now, but have always put it off (mainly because I wasn’t ready to commit to the pain and price!). I finally decided to take the plunge and tried laser hair removal in Hong Kong. After speaking with a few friends, I settled on two different places to try (I’m a terrible decision maker in case you didn’t know): The Skin Gym for my underarms and Strip for my bikini.  Is it worth the money? Definitely! Is it worth the pain? Didn’t feel any!

Laser Hair Removal VS IPL

Okay, so apparently there are two different types of permanent hair removal (who knew?!): Laser and IPL. If you’re like me and really have no clue about either, you’re probably asking yourself why laser hair removal is more expensive than IPL. After a bit of research and speaking with the lovely team at The Skin Gym, I discovered that IPL is less effective in permanently getting rid of your hair because they emit a range of wavelengths (akin to a light bulb), and therefore aren’t focused and don’t always penetrate deep into the skin. Alternately, lasers emit a single concentrated wavelength, which specifically targets individual hair follicles. Thus, you end up achieving better and faster results with laser.

Laser Hair Removal Hong Kong: Underarms at The Skin Gym

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Try not to judge, but I always found that I get a “five o’clock” shadow on my underarms hours after shaving and I was just tired of having to shave every single day. So, I made an appointment at The Skin Gym to have my first laser hair removal session on my underarms.

Session 1

I walked in without any idea about what would happen next. Thankfully, the staff were friendly and informative, and the whole process was honestly painless. They started off at a lower voltage (I think I’m using correct terminology here..) and the device used almost looked and felt like a warm suction cup. I was in and out of The Skin Gym within five minutes.

After about a week without seeing any results (perhaps in part because I continued with my normal shaving routine out of sheer habit), I began to notice that my hair was much more fine and wasn’t even growing back. I was really surprised, as I didn’t think this would happen after only the first session. I didn’t need to shave for about 2 – 2.5 weeks, at which point random thin hairs began to pop up randomly.

Session 2

You’re meant to go back every 4 – 6 weeks, so I did just that and experienced almost the same results, except I don’t think I shaved for about 2.5 – 3 weeks after the hair began falling out (which happens about a week after the treatment). The second time around, the voltage was turned up a fair bit higher on the machine, and while it didn’t hurt per say, it wasn’t particularly comfortable.

Overall, I’m super satisfied with the results (and I’ve only had two sessions!) and would 100% recommend laser hair removal at The Skin Gym if you’re looking to permanently get rid of unwanted hair.

Laser hair removal for underarm: HK$1690 per session

The Skin Gym 
The Centrium
21/F, Room 6
60 Wyndham Street
Central

Tel: 2810 8088

IPL: Bikini at Strip

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Since I was so happy with my results from The Skin Gym, I opted to also get my bikini hair removed as well. Given the relatively sensitive nature of that area and my general curiosity of the difference between the two forms of permanent hair removal, I went with IPL.

For this  treatment, a cooling gel was put on first and then the laser went on top. It was completely painless and quicker than I had thought. My results were surprisingly similar to my underarms: after about a week or so, the hair fell out and didn’t start to grow back for about 1.5 weeks. Afterwards, a few random, thin hairs began to pop up. It’s been almost a month and there’s still very little there. I’m really happy with my results and will definitely go back for more sessions.

IPL hair removal for bikini: HK$1680 

Strip
9/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace
Central

Tel: 3950 3950

Featured image from mtlblog.com


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thisgirlabroad
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A couple of years ago, we would have said the craft beer scene in Hong Kong is starting to explode. Well, we can now safely say it has exploded and is here to stay. There’s even a Craft Beer Association of Hong Kong. It’s not just bars serving craft beer, there are breweries popping up all over the city, from Kwai Chung to Kennedy Town. Many do brewery tours where you can sample a bit of everything that they brew, so make it your mission to check them out over several weekends…or perhaps do a crazy pub crawl and hit a bunch up in one night. Read on for the ultimate guide to craft beer in Hong Kong.

Second Draft

On the ground floor of the cool hotel and neighbourhood hangout Little Tai Hang you’ll find Second Draft. The much buzzed about gastropub pours beers from celebrated local brewers Young Master and Carbon Brews, which you can sip alongside award-winning chef May Chow’s Hong Kong-inspired menu. Keep an eye out for their rotating guest tap brews, featuring some of the best international craft beer from New Zealand, Denmark and more.

Where: G/F, Little Tai Hang, 98 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang
Contact: 2656 0232

 

Little Creatures

Little Creatures brews craft beer daily in an impressive venue — when you walk in you can’t miss the 5 hectolitre brewery producing various beers served up in front at the bar, or in the large dining area. Their beer, like the signature Pale Ale, have unique key flavours such as citrus, nectarine and burnt toffee. Grab a bottle, along with a Bright Ale, Original Pilsner, IPA or Rogers Beer, as they´re sold to take home too.

Where:  Shop 1, G/F New Fortune House, 5A New Praya, Kennedy Town
Contact:  2833 5611 or info@littlecreatures.hk

 

Craft Brew & Co.

When the motto is “No Carlsberg. No Stella. No San Miguel.” then you know the bar is serious about craft beer. Craft Brew & Co., with three locations in Hong Kong, know their stuff and pour superb craft beer. If that weren’t enough, they also grill some damn fine gourmet sausages that are lean and made with all-natural casings. It’s the perfect accompaniment to their light and golden Summer Ale, or go for a Bohemian Pale Ale, Liberty IPA or Kung Fu Lager. Don’t know where to start? Book a tasting session (minimum 6 people) and learn the style, flavour and aroma of each beer.

Where: G/F, 17 Old Bailey Street, Central; 36 High Street, Sai Ying Pun; G/F, 27-31 Catchick Street, Kennedy Town
Contact: 2885 0821 (Central); 2559 0498 (Sai Ying Pun); 2246 8782 (Kennedy Town) or info@craftbrew.com.hk

 

COEDO Taproom

COEDO, an award-winning brewery from Saitama, Japan, serves craft beer at their Causeway Bay Taproom, the brewery’s first overseas venue. Featuring 12 taps, including all of their year-round beers, plus seasonal, limited and exclusive ones, you’ll happily spend a night here sampling the suds and nibbling on authentic Saitama-style yakitori and other savoury snacks.

Where: Shop C, G/F, 50-56 Paterson Street, Causeway Bay
Contact: 2619 9011 or info@thirstybrothers.com.hk

 

Pazzeria Italian Brewery

Who knew a place in Mong Kok would be a prime spot for sampling craft beer, Italian-style?  Pazzeria Italian Brewery has authentic Italian craft beers, bottled and on tap — 16 taps in fact. There’s also a Central location, and both spots pour mainly Italian craft beers, but there’s other European beers to try, and some mean Italian food too. Suggestion, if we may? Keep the focus on the beer and tuck into a cheese board with a variety of cold cuts and cheese, paired with a Birrificio Gaia IPA or a robust Tre Fontane Tripel.

Where: G/F 19 Hak Po Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon; 5 Elgin Street, Central
Contact: 2506 0016 (Mong Kok); 2540 7988 (Central)

 

K Pub

Here’s a nice little bar only a hop and a skip away from Kennedy Town MTR station. Great for a chill night catching up with a mate…and getting acquainted with the more than 30 types of craft beer from around the world K Pub pours daily. Decent pizza and burger specials too mean this may become a weekly outing.

Where: Shop 15, G/F, Sincere Western House, 69 Cadogan Street, Kennedy Town
Contact: 9683 2015 or info@kpub.com.hk

 

TAP – The Ale Project

When a day of haggling at Ladies Market has finally done your head in, seek some respite at nearby TAP – The Ale Project to cool off. Billed as a gastropub, and known for having one of the biggest selections of Hong Kong craft beer on tap, they pair carefully curated beers with a food menu featuring artisanal bread as the centerpiece.

Where: 15 Hak Po Street, Mong Kok
Contact: 2468 2010 or info@thealeproject.com

 

The Globe

An old favourite with British expats in Hong Kong, everyone should get to know The Globe, not just for some of the best fish and chips this side of England, but an excellent beer selection. They feature rotating guest taps, a great excuse to come often to taste the changing brews, as is the generous happy hour, running  from 9.00am to 8.00pm. Those wanting to know their malts from their ambers can sign up for a tutored beer tasting, tailored for a couple of friends or a large group.

Where:  Garely Building, 45-53 Graham Street, Central
Contact: 2543 1941 or info@theglobe.com.hk

 

65Peel

One of the trendier ones on the list, with a loyal Instagram following and hip Hong Kongers filling the joint inside and spilling out onto the street, the two-year-old 65Peel serves some of the best local beer from breweries like Young Master Ales to Nine Dragons. When your fingers are free from posting pics and sipping pints, dabble in some of the Asian-inspired cuisine on hand as well.

Where: G/F, 65 Peel Street, Central
Contact: 2342 2224 or 65peel@gmail.com

 

Cheers The Tap Room

An unassuming wee spot in Mong Kok with local and international craft beers on tap, where the staff is just as friendly as the clientele. And as it’s mainly a young crowd, there’s a good chance no one will be yelling out “Norm!” when you walk in (older readers will understand). Good for a beer flight to try a bit of everything, and a “craft pizza” to soak it all up.

Where: G/F, 13 Hak Po Street, Mong Kok
Contact: 2341 5999

 

The Beer Bay – Central Pier 3 & 4

You probably won’t head here for a night out, as it’s pretty much a small kiosk in the middle of Central piers 3 and 4, but you’ll be thankful for it when you’re waiting to board the ferry on a hot summer day. Despite its size, it has an impressive range of British and American craft beers, and lots of UK crisps to curb those salty cravings that often come with beer drinking.

Where: Pier 3 and Pier 4, Central Ferry Pier
Contact: 3481 7290

 

Young Master Brewery

While not set up for dining and drinking, this multi award-winning brewery does allow for sampling their craft beers on Saturday tours, and it’s definitely worth booking as these guys are known for starting the craft brewing movement in Hong Kong. Their Hong Kong-inspired beer is unique and enticing, like the Cha Chaan Teng Gose made with local salted lime.

Where: G/F, Sungib Industrial Centre, 53 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Wong Chuk Hang
Contact: 2783 8907 or info@youngmasterales.com

 

Black Kite Brewery

Black Kite Brewery calls Wong Chuk Hang home and lets you taste their product via monthly scheduled tours. Founders Dan and Dave Gallie use fresh ingredients from around the globe to make their beer in a range of signature styles, such as the Southside Ale, a fragrant light ale brewed with jasmine tea. For more daring palates, there’s the Oh, Bacon! Rauchbier smoked ale.

Where: 11B Derrick Industrial Building, 49 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Wong Chuk Hang
Contact: beer@blackkite.hk

 

Lion Rock Brewery

One of the originals, Lion Rock Brewery’s craft beer is made without artificial flavours, colourings or preservatives, brewed with the four premium ingredients all top brewers swear by — water, malts, hops and yeast. The flagship Lion Rock Signature Pale Ale is a lovely introduction, with a silky foam and fruity notes of peach and gooseberries. Grab a glass at The Globe, 65 Peel and many other bars across the city.

Where: Unit 2, 14/F, Man Shing Industrial Building, 307-311 Castle Peak Road, Kwai Chung, New Territories
Contact: 6308 0105  or info@lionrockbeers.com

 

Carbon Brews

New on the scene, Carbon Brews’ product can be downed at venues like Second Draft, K Pub and Craftissimo, where you’ll find their debut craft beer, 366BU, a double dry hopped pale ale with fruity aromas of melon, papaya, orange, lime and lemon. Also on tap is the Strawberry 100g/l, a refreshing dry-hopped American pale ale infused with, yup, 100g/L of strawberries.

Where: Unit A1, G/F, Union Industrial Center, 27-31 Au Pui Wan Street, Fo Tan
Contact: 2620 0095

 

Hong Kong Beer Co.

Hong Kong Beer Co. was launched in 1995 as Asia’s first craft brewery to sell beer exclusively in bottles and kegs. Fast forward a couple of decades, and their attractively-designed bottles can be found in major supermarkets and specialty booze shops across the city, and ready to pour on tap in hotel bars and pubs. With varieties like Dragon’s Back pale ale and Big Wave Bay IPA, you can’t get more Hong Kong than this beer.

Where: Unit 5A, Ground Floor, Wah Shing Centre, 5 Fung Yip Street, Chai Wan
Contact: 2580 2360 or info@hkbeerco.com

 

Gweilo Beer

HK expats have certainly heard the term “Gweilo” by now, but here it’s presented in a fun, fresh way — through refreshing beer. Known as “foreign devil”, the term has evolved to gentler definitions over time (plain old “foreigner”), and each bottle of Gweilo beer will too evolve, with the phrase on the label changing meaning over time. The Fo Tan-based brewery makes session-style ales ranging between 4% and 6%, like their IPA, brewed with European malt and a secret blend of South Pacific and American hops. Buy it and others online or in stores across the city.

Where: Fo Tan
Contact: info@gweilobeer.com

 

Mak´s Beer

This is beer made for locals by locals — three guys named Ball, Mark and Ken to be exact. They had a dream to bring Hong Kong Cantonese beer to the world, and they’re doing it, brewing exclusive craft beer using ingredients like dried longan and goji berries (Longan Pale Ale) and dried mint leaves and honey (Mint Beer). Sample some at pop-ups and markets in town, or at venues like HK Island Taphouse and Yum Cha.

Where: 12C, Jing Ho Industrial Building, 78-84 Wang Lung Street, Tsuen Wan
Contact: 6174 7740 or hey.bro@maksbeer.com

 

Heroes Beer Co

When picking up booze along with your groceries at city’super, you’ll no doubt spot the multi-coloured cans with vibrant illustrations containing Heroes Beer, with eye-catching names like Hangry Donut, an American wheat beer, or Munchy and Poshy fruit beer.  Take home some of their other cool cans from speciality beer shops in town, or throw back a glass at The Globe, The Roundhouse, Shake Shack and other locales.

Where: Room 1411, Remex Centre, 42 Wong Chuk Hang Road
Contact: 3996 9740 or info@heroesbeerco.com

 

Yardley Brothers Beer

You’ll soon recognise the Yardley Brothers label if you’re a bit of a barfly, as it’s poured throughout Hong Kong. The brewery in Kwai Hing where they make their staple brews (like Hong Kong Bastard Imperial IPA or Quit Your Job!, and other amusing names) has a production capacity of more than 5,000 liters, allowing the award-winning brewers to tackle numerous experimental single batch brews. Have a taste Friday evenings on a brewery tour from 5.30pm to 7.30 pm (no booking needed).

Where: Unit 10, 5th floor, Block A, Wah Tat Industrial Centre, 8 Wah Sing Street, Kwai Hing
Contact: 9543 4963 or beer@yardleybrothers.hk

 

Moonzen Brewery

Moonzen, “door gods” in Chinese, celebrates Chinese folklore and Hong Kong culture in their craft beer, drawing inspiration from Chinese mythology and using distinct flavours. Their hand-crafted beers can be found in stores and places like Strokes or Cheers The Tap Room, served in beautifully-illustrated bottles or signature golden gourd glasses. Better yet, head to their brewery to see how it’s all done, then hang out in the spacious tap room for a glass of their flagship Thunder God ale or a rich Moon Goddess chocolate stout.

Where: 2A New East Sun Building, 18 Shing Yip Street, Kwun Tong
Contact: 3709 2829 or beer@moonzen.hk

 

HK Island Taphouse

Beer lovers, a visit to North Point is in order to check out the largest number of taps (40!) in Hong Kong at HK Island Taphouse, where they dole out craft beer favourites from Gweilo, Lucky Dawgs and Heroes Beer, among many others. It’s also where you can try nitro beer, made by adding nitrogen, giving way to much smaller bubbles to create a smoother, creamier beer-drinking experience.

Where: 1A-1B Tsing Fung Street, North Poin
Contact: 3705 9901 or info@hkitaphouse.com

 

99 Bottles

This small craft beer bar and shop in Soho is good for popping in for a quick pint and some bottles to take home, or when en route to other drinking spots in the area. There’s a great selection of craft beer from local breweries like Yardley Brothers, along with international brands. It’s often standing-room only, or you can park your butt on the pavement outside, as it’s all very relaxed around there.

Where: 59A Peel Street, Central
Contact: 9772 3053 or 9772 3053

 

HK Brewcraft

Locals who like to make their own beer as much as they like drinking it should get acquainted with HK Brewcraft. The homebrew store and bottle shop has all the homebrewing ingredients and equipment you need, and they also offer homebrewing workshops for novice brewers. Or let others do all the work and just stick with drinking by hitting up one of their monthly tasting workshops. Bring home the ones that struck your fancy, with 350+ craft beers to discover online and in-store.

Where: 4/F, 15 Cochrane Street, Central
Contact: 5925 2739 or info@hkbrewcraft.com

 

The Bottle Shop

The Bottle Shop in Sai Kung specialises in international boutique beers, with claims to being the first retail store in Hong Kong with the largest variety of craft beers. You’ll take pleasure just strolling around the shop taking in all the foreign and local brands of craft beer, plus select spirits and wines. No worries if you’re not in Sai Kung, as they deliver to Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories.

Where: G/F, 114 Man Nin Street, Sai Kung
Contact: 2791 1600 or shop@thebottleshop.hk

 

Craftissimo

The highly-rated beer shop known for its excellent selection of local and international craft beer sells more than 280 kinds of beer from the best breweries in the world. Knowledgeable staff help guide you through the constantly changing selection, which often includes obscure and limited edition options from the world of craft beer. Join their beer club and they’ll send 12 bottles a month, for 3 months, from a curated selection right to your home.

Where: Shop D, G/F, 22-24 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan
Contact: 6274 3130 or info@craftissimo.hk

This article was written by Nancy Matos, The HK HUB.
Nancy writes for
The HK HUB, the first place you go to find out what’s happening in Hong Kong.

*Feature image by Little Creatures


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After moving here about four years ago, I spent countless hours researching where to get blonde highlights in Hong Kong and interrogating other fair-haired friends on where they got their hair done. I quickly learned that being a blonde in Hong Kong is not an easy or cheap affair: most local hair salons are inexperienced with blonde coloring and the higher-end “western” hair salons will end up costing you a small fortune. Thankfully, I’m about to save you the trouble and expense of  figuring out what hair salon to go to in Hong Kong to get your dose of blonde. I have two personal hair salon favourites that will leave you with beautiful, natural blonde highlights and that won’t burn a hole in your wallet (can I get an amen?!).

1. The Upper Room

I went to Ivy at The Upper Room for the first 2 or so years I was in Hong Kong because a) it was recommended by a colleague, b) Ivy was known to specialize in blonde coloring, and c) the price of highlights was significantly cheaper than other western salons (Toni & Guy, Private i Salon, Hollywood Hair, Jean Louis David, Sozo Hair Design, and the like; all of whom basically rob you because you’re blonde).

Ivy runs The Upper Room solo, so you know that when you make an appointment everything – color, shampoo, cut, and blow dry – will be done by her. She was trained in England and worked there for 12 years before moving back to Hong Kong to open The Upper Room. In the two years I had my hair done by Ivy, I was never once disappointed and I would highly recommend her.

Price: 
Half-head of highlights – from HK$995 
Add a cut to any chemical treatment – HK$350

The Upper Room 
Room 2206, Workingview Commercial Building
21 Yiu Wa Street
Causeway Bay

Tel: 2810 0550

2. Tommy Hair Design

After moving from the east of Hong Kong Island to the west, I wanted a hair salon that was equally as good as The Upper Room, but just a little closer to me (I’m lazy, alright!). I had read online and heard through a friend about Tommy Hair Design – a local hair salon, save for the fact that one stylist, Edmund, is known for his expertise at blonde highlights.

Edmund was absolutely fantastic – he listened to what I wanted and added his own expertise as well, and there were a handful of other expats coming in and out, which was a testament to the quality of service. Tommy Hair Design was a bit cheaper than The Upper Room and I practically got the same results, so for the last two years I’ve been getting my hair done by Edmund and would also highly recommend him.

Price: 
Half-head highlights + haircut – HK$900 

Tommy Hair Design
M/F, Union Commercial Building
12-16 Lyndhurst Terrace
Central

Tel: 9191 0682

Getting Blonde Highlights in Hong Kong: Before & After Photos

blonde highlights hong kong - beforeBEFORE highlightsblonde highlights hong kong - afterAFTER highlights

First of all, excuse the absolutely dreadful quality of the above photos – apparently taking selfies without your actual face in them was a bit more challenging than I had expected. Moving on, the first photo is about 6 months since I last got my hair highlighted, so the roots were coming in quite a bit. The second photo is after my recent visit to Tommy Hair Design where I asked Edmund to go a little lighter, but to still make it look natural so that when it grows out, my roots don’t look too horrible (I only color my hair about twice a year). After paying HK$900 for a great set of highlights (half-head) and a cut, I left Tommy Hair Design very satisfied!

Do any of you blonde babes in Hong Kong have a favourite hair salon? If so, please share the details below!


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what to eat in wulai

Anyone who’s been to Taipei knows it’s a foodie’s paradise; filled with cheap and delicious food at every turn. As you venture further away from Taipei’s city center, certain districts are known for different dishes. Wulai, like many other areas in Taipei, is filled with an abundance of food stalls, some of which you’ll only find here thanks to the area’s strong Aboriginal culture. If you’re wondering what to eat in Wulai, here are some of their most popular food items that you can try.

Wild Boar Sausage 
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Wild Boar sausage is one of the most popular and well-known local foods in Wulai. There are tonnes of little stalls along Wulai Old Street selling these sausages for NT$35 each. The meat is juicy, fatty, and all-around delicious. I decided which stall to go to based on whether there was a queue or not, and since it wasn’t a very busy day, the fact that one stall had a queue of about 5 people and the other stalls had none, made the decision quite simple for me (look for the stall in the first photo above, closer to the end of Wulai Old Street.

Muah Chee (Grilled Glutinous Rice)

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I was curious about what these tofu-looking sticks were and, unable to resist, decided to try one. I later found out that these were called muah chee; grilled glutinous rice, similar to mochi, with honey drizzled on top (you can choose from a few different toppings). They were incredibly chewy and dense, and were quite filling with a more subtle flavour. Given the cheap price (around NT$20), it’s certainly worth a try.

Honeyed Sweet Potato

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The honeyed sweet potato was my favourite of the snacks we had in Wulai. Though a bit more expensive at NT$50, these were well worth it. The sweet potato is coated in a thick, incredibly sweet honey and is served lukewarm (as you can see in the first photo above in the far left, the sweet potato sits out of the big pan). The portion is quite large, filling, and sweet, so it’s best to share it.

Other Dishes to Try

Aside from the above three dishes I tried, if you’re wondering what to eat in Wulai, there are a few other food items that are worth trying. A popular local sweet, boozy drink is the millet wine, which you can buy in a bottle and either bring back to your guest house if you’re spending the night in Wulai or take back to Taipei with you. Another popular dish we heard about is rice stuffed and served inside a bamboo shoot, which is typically found at local restaurants and not at the food stalls you’ll find on Wulai Old Street (unless you buy it to takeaway). Aside from these, you’ll be able to find your other typical Taiwanese food items like a variety of boiled eggs (including hot spring eggs, infused tea eggs, etc.), meat skewers, and much more.

For more information on how to get to Wulai, read my last post here


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Thailand is well-known for its delicious, inexpensive food just about everywhere you go, so it should come as no surprise that you’ll find plenty of delicious food on the island of Koh Samui as well. Admittedly, I’ve been to areas of Thailand that had a wider selection of food, Samui has a solid amount of options if you’re looking to devour all the Thai food in sight. These are my top 10 picks of what to eat in Koh Samui.

1. Pad Thai

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This is a no-brainer. You basically have to have pad thai while in Thailand (and definitely more than once). Although you can get this noodle dish at just about any restaurant, local and western alike, I would recommend heading to one of the night markets that pop up during the week. Here, you can snag a big portion of pad thai (just like the one above) for THB50 or a smaller portion where they’ll wrap it up in takeaway paper for THB10.

2. Thai Milk Tea

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I love all types of milk tea, but Thai milk tea is next-level delicious. I tried some in more western restaurants on the island, but they were around THB80 and not very good. Instead, try to find a tiny drink/smoothie stand and order one there. Better yet, try to find a spot where you can actually see them making the tea (I saw this when I went to the night market in Chaweng where the milk tea was only THB30). If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth (or just don’t want the extra calories), be sure to tell them you want “less sweet”.

3. Mango Sticky Rice

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Ah, the beloved Thai dessert – how can you not love mango sticky rice? Although this is one of my favorite desserts, it wasn’t as present in Koh Samui. They did have it at both night markets I went to, however the thin sugary topping that they have wrapped up in a bag isn’t quite the same as when thick condensed milk is drizzled (read: poured) on top.

4. Grilled Coconut Rice Wrapped in Banana Leaf

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This was a new Thai sweet that I haven’t had before, despite having been to Thailand multiple times. Inside each banana leaf is a sweet mixture of sticky rice and coconut. Although it looked quite plain, this turned out to be one of my favorite foods I had on the island.

5. Papaya Salad

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Yet another Thai staple is papaya salad. I had it multiple times in Koh Samui and each time I ordered it, the dish tasted very different than the last. Healthy, refreshing, and oh-so spicy, it’s a great snack to have midday or a starter to share with friends before a big meal at night.

6. Coconut Ice Cream

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Confession: I’m a complete sucker for Instagrammable food. I found these coconut ice cream stands at the night markets I went to and absolutely loved them. For THB50 you get four scoops of homemade coconut ice cream, fresh coconut shavings, and your choice of a variety of toppings including peanuts, mochi, and dried fruit.

7. Silk Worms

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I’ve seen my fair share of edible insects during my South East Asian travels, but I had never really felt inclined to give them a try (can you really blame me?!). I’m still not entirely sure what compelled me to try silk worms in Koh Samui, but I did. And I gotta say, they weren’t that bad. Oddly enough, the texture reminded me of chickpeas and there was a savory powder that was put on top of them that added a surprisingly nice flavor to the otherwise tasteless bugs. For THB30, you may as well go for it!

8. Thai Noodle Soup

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I found it rather difficult to find local food stalls around the more tourist areas of Koh Samui, so when I found a tiny soup noodle stand I was ecstatic. A bowl of Thai noodles only cost THB30 and I was able to choose which fresh noodles I wanted and how much spice I could handle.. I just wish that I discovered this place sooner!

9. Skewers of All Kinds

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You’ll likely walk past a few street-side vendors in the markets that have an array of skewers on display. Although most look like chicken, you should definitely get a bit adventurous with your choice. I suggest picking a random skewer or two and just take a bite – what’s the worst that could happen?!

10. Grilled Sticky Rice

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I was actually quite surprised when I came across these thick grilled circles of rice at one of the night markets, as this was something that felt much more Japanese than Thai to me. They put a coating of egg wash over the rice before grilling it, which creates that deliciously crunchy exterior while keeping the rest of the rice soft. The grilled rice was so simple, yet so delicious – an easy snack option.


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what to eat in jiufen 2

If you’ve been following my adventures in Taiwan or if you’ve been yourself, you know that there is no shortage of delicious food. Thanks to Jiufen’s street food and because of its picturesque views from the quaint streets and tea houses, Jiufen is a popular tourist destination in Taiwan. I would recommend arriving to Jiufen with a list of all the food you want to try along Jiufen Old Street so that you don’t end up wandering around for hours on end with the other throngs of visitors. Here’s a list of some of the street food you’ll find if you’re wondering what to eat in Jiufen, Taiwan.

What to eat in Jiufen

what to eat in jiufenEntrance into Jiufen Old Street

The entrance into Jiufen Old Street is about 5 minutes from where the bus drops you off. You’ll see a tonne of people crowded around the entrance to an alleyway; this is Jiufen Old Street.

A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Wrap

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Though peanut ice cream wraps are a popular snack found in many night markets in Taipei, this specific stand in Jiufen is well known. You can’t miss it while walking down the street; it’s a large stall with bright signs and pictures on the walls. Watch them put shaved peanut, taro ice cream, and cilantro on top of popiah skin and wrap it all up like a burrito for NT$45.

Hot or Cold Sweet Taro Ball Soup

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This is one of Jiufen’s specialties and a definite must-try while you’re there. There are plenty of stalls along Jiufen Old Street that sell these delicious bowls of hot or cold taro ball soup, but I would recommend finding one that has seating in the back of their shop, overlooking the buildings and mountains beyond. Prices range from NT$35 – $60 and include delicious homemade glutinous taro balls, sweet potato, and red beans (though there are other variations as well).

Tea Eggs

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It’s no surprise that Jiufen also sells an assortment of tea eggs, as they’re a very popular street snack throughout Taipei. Fresh eggs are boiled in a strong tea with a mix of spices, and once cracked open they almost look like a tie dye shirt (minus the bright colors). Tea eggs are a perfect snack for when you’re on the go, though it can be a bit of an acquired taste.

How To Get To Jiufen From Taipei

For more information, check out my detailed guide on the two different ways to get to Jiufen: 1. Train to Ruifang and then bus to Jiufen, or 2. Bus straight to Jiufen from Taipei City.

 


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When I travel, I love to immerse myself in as much of the local culture as possible. One way I do that is through my stomach. I love local food and always look forward to trying regional dishes throughout the countries I visit. Everyone knows a handful of Thai and Vietnamese dishes, but I was less familiar with what Cambodian food was all about before my flight to Phnom Penh. I certainly ate my way through the country at various night markets, little hole-in-the-wall shops, and street stalls, and really came to appreciate the local food scene here. Though not necessarily my top choice for Southeast Asian food, I really loved all the local food I ate in Cambodia while I was there. If you’re wondering what to eat in Cambodia, here is a list of my 10 favorite dishes.

1. Beef Lok Lak

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Beef Lok Lak is one of the most popular local dishes you’ll find in Cambodia. This dish can be found pretty much everywhere; from local shops to more Western-focused restaurants. This dish is comprised of tender stir-fried beef in a slightly sweet brown sauce with rice, a fried egg, a bit of veg, and a peppery sauce on the side. At any local restaurant, this dish will cost around US$3.

2. Fish Amok

Aside from beef lok lak, the next most popular Khmer dish is fish amok. The smooth texture and rich taste of the coconut curry will likely leave you wanting this for at least one meal a day while in the country (especially since it’s near impossible to find an authentic version outside of Cambodia). The fish curry is steamed and served in a banana leaf. This was one of my favorite dishes I had in Cambodia and is a definite must-try.
*Sorry, no photo – I was too busy stuffing my face!

3. Grilled Bananas

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If you love bananas, you should give Cambodia’s tiny grilled bananas a try. Admittedly, the idea of grilling bananas doesn’t exactly sound like it would taste great, but the bananas are warm, surprisingly firm with a softer inside, and have that grilled taste to them that I really love. Plus, this stick of four bananas costs US$0.50, making for a healthy and inexpensive snack.

4. Iced Coffee (from a street stall)

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If you like sweet coffee, you’re going to love the iced coffee in Cambodia (which is actually quite similar in most other parts of Southeast Asia). Found along random street corners throughout the city, these cafe’s on wheels serve up a ridiculously refreshing (and massive!) iced coffee made with condensed milk for only US$0.50 – US$1.

5. Beef Noodle Soup

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A breakfast staple for locals in Cambodia, the beef noodle soup here is fantastic and quite different from other noodle soups I’ve had throughout Southeast Asia. The egg noodles are made fresh, the beef is surprisingly tender, and the broth is rich in flavor. This specific bowl was purchased at “Chan Reash 10 Makara” (my go-to family-run restaurant while I was in Siem Reap) for US$2 and was the best I had in Cambodia.

6. Coconut Cake

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Found on a busy street across from Central Market in Phnom Penh, these little cakes stuffed with a variety of sweet ingredients (including peanut butter and red bean paste) were sold at a food stall. I opted for the coconut-filled cake, which had a nice fluffy yet moist interior surrounding the subtly sweet coconut filling.

7. Fresh Fruit Smoothies

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Easily found everywhere around Pub Street in Siem Reap, these smoothie stalls serve up some incredibly fresh, huge, and inexpensive smoothies. With practically every fruit imaginable listed on the menu, you’ll be sure to find something that tickles your fancy. Most stalls charge US$1.50 for one flavor. You can add multiple fruits to your smoothie and make it sweeter or less sweet with the addition or exclusion of liquid sugar.

8. Anything at a Night Market

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Heading into a local night market can be a bit of a daunting experience if you’re a tourist, but I promise it’ll be an incredibly authentic and tasty one as well. The Night Market in Phnom Penh is very local and serves up an array of skewered meat and seafood, and plenty of noodles (just be sure to have toughened up your stomach lining a bit before indulging).

9. Coconut Ice Cream

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This amazing dessert was also found at the Phnom Penh Night Market. Get ready for three scoops of ice cream (choice of coconut, chocolate, or taro) into a coconut shell with shaved fresh coconut, jack fruit pieces, peanuts, and condensed milk. This was the best dessert I had while in Cambodia and only cost US$1.25.

10. Pineapple on a stick

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Aside from the fact that eating fresh fruit off a stick in the blistering heat is pretty damn refreshing, I loved getting this pineapple for the experience. The lady will take a fresh pineapple and cut it in front of you using a massive knife to get the skin off and to create the swirling “design” in about a minute, which was pretty impressive. Afterwards, you’ve got yourself a deliciously sweet pineapple cut into four pieces with sticks in a bag, all for US$1.


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IMG_4970-150x150.jpg

When I came back from Cambodia, a lot of people asked me how I liked it and, likely surprising to most, I had a hard time articulating my feelings. I know lots of people absolutely love Siem Reap and for good reason – there was certainly many things I really enjoyed while I was there; the temples are beautiful, the history is rich, the food is great, and the people are lovely. But, as with any area (especially here in Southeast Asia), once it becomes popular with tourists, it tends to lose a lot of its authenticity. Essentially, the reasons why people originally fell in love with that place have been stripped away and replaced (ie westernized). This is how I feel about Siem Reap.

The reality of visiting Siem Reap’s temples

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Let’s begin with the temples, since most people visit Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. Without a doubt, the temples are absolutely stunning and are well worth a visit (read about all my temple-hopping adventures in Siem Reap here, here, and here). The history behind the temples and the structures themselves are fascinating, and to see them in person is beyond impressive. However, on both days I toured the temples in Siem Reap, they were swarming with other tourists to the point that I had a hard time fully appreciating them. Between getting constantly nudged around, watching dozens of people taking selfies throughout the temples, and finding it near impossible to get a photo of the temples without other people in it, my patience level was certainly thinning. That being said, I’m well aware I chose a bad time to visit (Chinese New Year), so the majority of the tourists were swarms of Mainland Chinese. Because of this, I would highly recommend planning your trip to Siem Reap when there are no Asian holidays taking place.

When the sun sets in Siem Reap

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What I found completely perplexing was the vast difference between day and night in Siem Reap. During the day you’re exploring all of these beautiful ancient temples, and are immersed in a whole lot of culture and history. In stark contrast to that, at night tourists flock to Pub Street, which, given the rather self explanatory name, turns into a giant street party. The streets are overflowing with tourists and have endless amounts of western restaurants on either side of the street, most of which offer pints of Angkor Beer for US$0.50 – $1.00 (which, let’s be real, I wasn’t exactly complaining about). As the night continues, buskers will come to the streets in various forms. I ended up seeing one who initially tried his hand at some card tricks (but then messed up [we’re fairly certain he was drunk and/or extremely high] and everyone could see that the stack of cards were not real, though we all had a good laugh about it) and later moved on to perform a fire show (which was quite nerve-racking given his state). To put it simply, Pub Street reminded me of a smaller version of Khao San Road in Bangkok, and not in a good way.

I spoke with a few locals in Siem Reap, all of whom told me that it’s the government who is pushing to turn Pub Street into a massive tourist hot spot because of the revenue it’s currently generating, and that the vast majority of locals do not want this. I just found it so sad that this beautiful country that was once (and not that long ago!) quite a “unique” and relatively untraveled place to visit is now crawling with tourists and much of that old, untouched, historical/cultural charm in the city center has dissipated and become westernized.

A few final thoughts

After taking time to reflect on my trip to Cambodia, I still have mixed feelings. On one hand, there really was so much I loved about the country; the history, culture, food, and people. On the other hand, the temples were hard to enjoy because of all the tourists and Siem Reap seems to be having an identity crisis; trying to keep their culture intact while also pleasing and catering to the increasing number of tourists (and yes, I realize many other places around the world do this, but I wasn’t expecting that from Cambodia, which was perhaps quite naive on my part). Ultimately, I would still recommend visiting the country if you’ve never been, but at the same time I feel no strong urge to return.

If you’ve been to Siem Reap, I’d love to hear about your experiences, positive or negative, in the comments below!


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westwood-carvery-pork-ribs

If you’ve ever done a bit of wandering through the alleyways around LKF, you’ve likely walked past Westwood Carvery along Wo On Lane. This is one of those restaurants you probably wouldn’t take much notice of, as it’s quite small and doesn’t really stand out among the other restaurants and bars lining the street. That being said, I ended up going to Westwood Carvery for dinner the other night and was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the food, vibe, and service.

Vibe at Westwood Carvery

Having originally thought that Westwood Carvery was only a small 15 seat restaurant, when I arrived I found out that they also have a second floor with more seating (though it’s often reserved for private functions). Either way, the friendly service certainly helps make the small space feel more comfortable. In terms of decor, don’t expect anything too fancy; the restaurant is clean looking and simple, and makes for the perfect after work drink or casual date night.

Starters

westwood-carvery-saladBeetroot & Pumpkin Salad (HK$138)westwood-carvery-musselsSteamed US Blue Mussels (HK$248)

We began with a Beetroot & Pumpkin Salad (HK$138) that was pricey, but tasty. I’m not sure what type of sauce was on top, but the combination worked really well together. Even though I’m not one to order mussels at a restaurant, I absolutely loved the Steamed US Blue Mussels (HK$248). The rich white wine and cream sauce that they were doused in was literally magical, and I was a little too excited when they brought out bread so we could soak up every last bit of the sauce.

Mains

westwood-carvery-pork-ribsSlow-Roasted Beef Short Rib (HK$568)westwood-carvery-truffle-mushroom-pastaSpaghetti Mixed Mushroom with Black Truffles (HK$188)westwood-carvery-uni-pastaUni Pasta (HK$208)

We began with the Slow-Roasted Beef Short Rib (HK$568), which was presented fully on the bone before they took it away to carve it up. While I did like the short ribs, I actually much preferred their signature USDA prime rib that was truly drool-worthy. To please the vegetarians at our table, we ordered the Spaghetti Mixed Mushroom with Black Truffles (HK$188), which was rich in truffle and had plenty of mushrooms throughout. Though I preferred the mushroom spaghetti, most people at our table went crazy for the chef’s special: Uni Pasta (HK$208). Once mixed, the uni coated each strand of spaghetti, giving every bite that strong and rich flavour the uni-obsessed can’t get enough of.

Dessert

westwood-carvery-cheesecakeNew York Cheesecake (HK$78)

Praise the foodie gods; Westwood Carvery actually serves real New York Cheesecake (HK$78), instead of that poor excuse for a cheesecake the local bakeries sell. It may not be the best cheesecake I’ve had, it’s damn good for Hong Kong standards and certainly satisfies your cravings.

Verdict

If you’re wanting to support more local businesses in a city where all the new restaurants seem to be opened by one of the dominating restaurant groups in Hong Kong, I’d definitely recommend paying a visit to Westwood Carvery for some tasty meat-filled dishes.

Westwood Carvery 
2 Wo On Lane
Central
Hong Kong

Tel: 2869 8111


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One of the things Japan is known for is their food: from the time and effort spent preparing a dish, to the quality ingredients used. Finding a “good” restaurant in Japan isn’t difficult. You could walk into any little place and know that whether you’re spending ¥1000 or ¥5000, you’ll have a great meal. Despite the ease of dining out, I wanted to try my hand at the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo at Cooking Sun studio. Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese meal involving many small courses. Since I was only in Tokyo for five days, Flight Centre Hong Kong arranged the cooking class in Shibuya before I landed (nothing beats a little less stress while traveling!).

Arriving at the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo

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Located in a cute neighborhood in Shibuya, Cooking Sun is about a 30-minute walk from the main Shibuya station and resides in a homey, bright apartment (though no one lives there). Our cooking instructor, Hiromi, took the time to explain how to make each dish and touched on the meaning behind the idea of Kaiseki.. there’s a big emphasis in Japanese culture to make the dishes look “beautiful”!

Course 1 – 4:

Sesame Tofu (ゴマ豆腐)
Steamed Veggie with Miso sauce (野菜の酢味噌和え)
Rolled Egg (だし巻玉子)

Dashi based Clear Soup (お吸い物)

kaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-2-1024x683.jPutting the bonito flakes into our dashi brothkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-3-1024x683.jBlack sesame tofukaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-6-1024x683.jLearning how to make the rolled eggkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-7-1024x683.jMy rolled egg masterpiecekaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-5-1024x683.jThe bowl for my dashi based clear soup

We began by making the Dashi broth, as it would be used in a few of the dishes. Dashi is incredibly simple to make. The only two ingredients (aside from water) are kombu (dried kelp) and bonito flakes (dried bonito fish), both of which give this broth that umami flavor. You can expect an arm workout while making the sesame tofu, since a fair bit of fast mixing was involved. While I initially thought this dish was meant to be a sweet dessert, we were told it would in fact be savory. After we let the tofu set in the cup, we poured soy sauce on it and added a dash of wasabi. I liked the texture of the tofu, but wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor. We then made miso sauce for our steamed vegetables (carrot and green beans), and lastly learned how to make the perfect egg roll. Hiromi modeled how to make the egg roll and then we all had the chance to practice on our own. Admittedly, I was pretty pleased with the way mine turned out!

Course 5 – 9:

Sashimi (刺身)
Wagyu Beef steak (和牛ステーキ)
Simmered Pumpkin with Wagyu Beef (かぼちゃの煮物)
Accordion Cucumber Salad (きゅうりの酢の物)

Ice cream with Kuromitsu and Kinako (黒蜜きな粉アイスクリーム)

kaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-10-1024x683.Cooking the wagyu beef steakkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-11-1024x683.Plating the wagyu beef steakkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-9-1024x683.jSimmered pumpkin with wagyu beefkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-8-1024x683.jAccordion cucumber saladkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-13-1024x683.Ice cream with kuromitsu

We lightly seasoned our wagyu beef steak before cooking it medium rare and adding sauteed mushrooms to the dish. The beef was tasty, though I cooked it a little too long (oops!). Hiromi told us that in Japanese culture, cutting food into three pieces is common because that way it cannot be “broken up”. We cut our pumpkin into three, punched cute cherry blossom shapes, and added slices of lean beef to our simmered pumpkin with wagyu beef (one of my favorite dishes I made). Though cutting the cucumber for the accordion cucumber salad required more effort than I usually put into making food, I was pretty darn pleased with how it turned out. Since the sashimi was raw (obviously), no cooking was required (also, obviously). We simply assembled our dish of scallop and salmon sashimi to “look beautiful”, as Hiromi would say. After we sat down to enjoy all the courses of our Kaiseki meal (all dishes are traditionally presented at once on a tray/mat), we were able to indulge in dessert without having to make it. Kuromitsu (a dark sugar syrup, akin to molasses) and kinako (soybean flour) were put on top of the vanilla ice cream. Needless to say, we ended our cooking class on a sweet note.

Verdict on the Wagyu Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo

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If you love Japanese food and are looking for a unique experience in Tokyo, I would highly recommend signing up for the Kaiseki Cooking Class at Cooking Sun. I spent a lot of time going to restaurants and little shops for food while in Tokyo, so I found it really interesting to be on the other side of things in this cooking class. I was able to get a feel for the time and effort that went into preparing a Kaiseki meal. Overall, the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo was a great experience.

Where to book the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo

This class was booked through and provided by Flight Centre Hong Kong. Prior to my trip, I had no idea that Flight Centre offered more than just flights. Flight Centre is incredibly helpful in arranging just about everything for your holiday. From flights and hotels, to holiday packages and activities, Flight Centre covers a range of countries and has an extensive list of travel options available. They have locations in Central, Happy Valley, and Wan Chai in Hong Kong, and their telephone service center is open 24/7 at +852 2830 2899.

Visit flightcentre.com.hk for more information!

More information about the cooking class

Time: 
Classes run from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm.

Price:
The cost of the class is ¥8,500 for one individual person, but you can get a reduced rate if you book in a larger group (¥8,000 per person in groups of 2-3, ¥7,500 per person in groups of 4-8).

Cooking Sun Tokyo
Shinanomachi 18
Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo
(Maya Shinanomachi 2, Room 314)

Tel: +81-3-6380-6028


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ura-wagyu-and-uni-rice

Having walked by The Wellington at least once a day for the past two years (when I begrudgingly worked out at California Fitness [before it went bankrupt]), I actually never knew that URA Japanese Delicacy was in that building. Having gone unnoticed for so long, when I did her about it, I decided to give their modern Japanese cuisine a go. You can expect a lively bar (and outdoor covered beer garden!), comfortable and spacious dining area, and sleek decor at URA.

Vibe At URA

When I was there for dinner on a Tuesday night, the bar was surprisingly packed with people slugging back pints of beer. Thankfully, we were seated in another area of the restaurant for dinner, which was much quieter. URA also has a hidden outdoor beer garden that would be perfect if you wanted to take your drinks to a more secluded spot.

Starters

ura-egg-sandoOsaka Style Egg Sandwich (HK$68)ura-egg-sando-2Inside the Osaka Style Egg Sandwich (HK$68)ura-minced-chickenCharcoal Grilled Minced Chicken & Prawn Skewer (HK$48)

Though I found it slightly odd to order eggs as a starter at dinner, I loved the Osaka Style Egg Sandwich (HK$68) from URA. A light and fluffy egg with truffle inside, sandwiched between two thick pieces of toast.. so simple, yet so good. While I appreciated the presentation of the Charcoal Grilled Minced Chicken & Prawn Skewer (HK$48), I couldn’t quite get over the little pieces of chicken cartilage that ended up in my mouth after each bite. Apparently keeping those little crunchy bits inside is a very common thing (but not to this expat), for reasons I have yet to understand.

Mains

ura-sashimiURA Sashimi Set (HK$188)ura-wagyu-and-uni-riceA5 Kagoshima Wagyu Steak & Sea Urchin Rice (HK$438)

If you don’t mind having everyone else in the restaurant turn to your table to ogle at what the waiter has put down, then order the URA Sashimi Set (HK$188). Though it appeared to be massive, there weren’t as many pieces of sashimi as you may think. That being said, the sashimi was incredible fresh and it was certainly good value. URA’s most Instagram-worthy dish is the A5 Kagoshima Wagyu Steak & Sea Urchin Rice (HK$438), so we had to give it a try. The dish is certainly impressive in appearance, however, if you’re not an uni-lover, this dish won’t leave you wanting more. While I certainly liked the dish – the wagyu was incredible and the soya sauce was the cherry on top – I thought it was rather pricey given the size of the dish (and, perhaps, because I’m not a massive uni fan).

Dessert

ura-matchaMatcha Bavarian (HK$68)

To finish off our meal, I had the Matcha Bavarian (HK$68), which was smooth, creamy, and full of flavour despite its small size. The matcha here is definitely “real” and not like the fake-tasting matcha drinks and desserts you may find at other shops around the city.

Verdict

While I can’t say I was head over heels for URA Japanese Delicacy, I did enjoy my meal there. The vibe is both fun and chill (the perfect people-pleaser), the food is presented well, and you can tell that the ingredients are all of high quality.

URA Japanese Delicacy 
2/F, The Wellington
198 Wellington Street
Central
Hong Kong

Tel: 2111 9381


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tycoon-tan-dessert-ball-150x150.jpg

Tycoon Tann has been around for a little while now, but they have recently added new Chinese/Western fusion dishes to their menu, so I figured it was about time I paid a visit. You’ve likely walked past Tycoon Tann multiple times thanks to its convenient location on Wellington Street in Central. Though it may look like a small bar at first glance, Tycoon Tann actually has three floors. Each floor is its own cozy, modern, and intimate dining space, which could be a great spot to go for a date or for a celebration since your dinner will be far from cheap.

Starters

tycoon-tan-cha-siu-1024x683.jpgCharcoal-grilled Hungarian Mangalica Hogs (HK$328)tycoon-tan-crab-1024x683.jpgBaked Crab Shell Stuffed with fresh crab meat, onion, and cheese

We began with the signature Charcoal-grilled Hungarian Mangalica Hogs (HK$328) in a light honey sauce. Each piece of char siu was tender, slightly sweet, and had the perfect fat-to-meat ratio. Despite enjoying the dish, I couldn’t help but gawk at the price for only ten pieces of meat. The Baked Crab Shell Stuffed with fresh crab meat, onion, and cheese (can’t remember the price and there are no prices on Tycoon Tann’s website [one of my biggest pet peeves about online menus]) looked promising and I couldn’t wait to tuck in. The crab shell was packed with crab meat and had a thick layer of melted cheese covering it, but I found the onions to be a bit overpowering.

Mains

tycoon-tan-beef-1024x683.jpgPan-fried Beef Cubes (HK$268)tycoon-tan-rice-1024x683.jpgFried Beetroot Fragrant Rice (HK$218)

The Pan-fried Beef Cubes (HK$268) with foie gras and Thai basil were, thankfully, less “foie gras-y” than I thought. Each tender beef cube was coated in a rich sauce and you could truly taste the quality in every bite. The Fried Beetroot Fragrant Rice (HK$218) with conpoy, yannan ham, and egg white was one of Tycoon Tann’s new dishes and came with rave reviews. In order to achieve the deep purple color, the rice is soaked in fresh beetroot juice, however, I really couldn’t taste any beetroot. Admittedly a beautiful dish, I found the overall flavor too subtle.

Dessert

tycoon-tan-dessert-ball-1024x683.jpgPearl of the Dragon (HK$248) – as presentedtycoon-tan-dessert-ball-2-1024x683.jpgPearl of the Dragon (HK$248)

The “Oooh” moment at dinner came when dessert arrived in the form of this massive glowing ball. The Pearl of the Dragon (HK$248) is a giant made-to-order Chinese sesame ball. The hollow sesame ball was brought out to the table for photo purposes only and was then taken away to be cut up and dished out (though everyone at the table would have preferred ripping apart this dessert ourselves for both the entertainment value and for the fact that when it was served to us later, it was a bit cold). There were some complaints that this dish was oily, but I actually really enjoyed it and believed the cooking method was in line with the traditional sesame balls you’d find at a local shop.

Verdict

On one hand, I could taste the high quality of ingredients in most dishes, I enjoyed the cozy and intimate atmosphere, and I have no complaints about the general service. On the other hand, the food came out painfully slow and I felt the dishes were priced far too high. If money or time isn’t an issue, I’d definitely say give it a go. Otherwise, you might be better off staying down at the bar to enjoy a delicious cocktail (their version of a negroni is fantastic).

Tycoon Tann 
74 Wellington Street
Central 

Tel: 3125 3228


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bitan taipei 4

There is so much to do and see (and eat!) in Taipei that you might not have enough time to fit everything into your weekend getaway. While the list of things to do in Taipei is seemingly endless, I’ve compiled my top 10 favourite things I did while exploring the city for five days that were either absolutely free or incredibly cheap!

1. Eat all the food at Taipei’s night markets

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One thing you will never have to worry about in this city is going hungry thanks to the incredible array of cheap street food. While wandering around the city during the day is sure to provide you with plenty of food options, it’s Taipei’s night markets that steal the show. My top picks for an evening filled with food are the Shilin Night Market (the most popular and widely known market), Raohe St. Night Market (my personal favourite), Tonghua Night Market (a much more local market), and Huaxi St. Night Market.

2. Stroll through the 228 Peace Memorial Park

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Don’t you just love it when a city has a little oasis smack-dab in the center of it?! Taipei’s version of this is the 228 Peace Memorial Park. With both stunning beauty amidst the buildings and ample historic significance (paying tribute to the victims of the February 228 Massacre), this park is a must-see. As you’re strolling through, you’ll come across a Memorial Museum, the 228 Massacre Monument, beautiful temples, and lush greenery.

3. Hike up Elephant Mountain

elephant mountain taipei 3

Instead of paying to go up Taipei 101 to snap some shots of the surrounding city, hike up Elephant Mountain (for free!) instead and you’ll be graced with stunning views of the city. The hike itself takes about 20 minutes and is incredibly convenient to get to. Read more about my experience getting to and hiking up Elephant Mountain here.

4. Relax in Wulai’s natural hot springs

wulai hot springs taipei 4

Aside from all the food, Taipei is known for its natural hot springs. While there are a few hot springs surrounding Taipei, I would highly recommend visiting Wulai’s natural hot springs because a) Wulai is a beautiful, culturally-rich town, b) they have specialty street food you likely won’t find in the city, and c) there are ample natural (free!) hot springs that offer stellar views of the surrounding area. Read more about my experience at Wulai’s hot springs here.

5. Visit the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

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Although a huge tourist attraction, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is absolutely stunning and should not be missed. Built in memory of Chiang Kai-shek, a former president of China, the hall itself is impressive, but the surrounding buildings, temples, and structures shouldn’t go unnoticed. One thing not to be missed is the changing of the guard ceremony that happens on the hour from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, daily (just be sure to arrive early, as it can get quite crowded).

6. Escape the city and head to Jiufen

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A popular day trip for tourists visiting Taipei, Jiufen offers a breath of fresh air from the busy city center. The area has countless narrow alleyways, colorful decor, endless amounts of street food, and a picture-perfect setting (Jiufen was the inspiration behind Spirited Away). Read more about my time in Jiufen here and here.

7. Appreciate the beauty of Taipei’s Temples

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Temples might not seem too special if you’ve done a bit of traveling throughout South East Asia since they’re literally everywhere, however, you’d be amiss not to visit a few temples around Taipei. My favourite was the Lungshan Temple; captivating by day, overwhelmingly stunning by night. If you can only make it to one temple in Taipei, Lungshan Temple is it.

8. Shop till you drop

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There is endless amounts of shopping to be done in Taipei; from designer shops to boutique stores and street stalls, this city has it all. One of the more popular areas to satisfy shopaholics is Ximending. This area has a range of shops, as it offers visitors bigger name brands as well as smaller shops selling unique clothing and accessories at a bargain.

9. Explore the innovative work at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

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Originally a tobacco factory, the Taipei government redeveloped this area into the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in 2011 in order to develop and cultivate the culture and creativity industry. You’ll find a museum, design lab, a garden, restaurants, and a relaxing pond, to name a few of the elements of the Cultural and Creative Park. So, if you’re into art and culture, this park should be on your to-see list.

10. Get lost wandering around the city

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Aside from the main tourist areas of Taipei, there are small pockets throughout the city that are full of charming old buildings and a rich local vibe. My recommendation is to head to Dihua Street for its quaint shops, including cafes, fabrics, and Chinese medicine. This area is an important commercial sector, so there’s always lots going on.


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bohol sunset

Panglao Island, Bohol is a good destination for those who are looking for an easy to get to short beach holiday. Panglao Island is a less developed version of Boracay, which for some might be great as it’s not as crowded (though it certainly looks like it’s becoming that way) or Westernized. However, that also means there’s not quite as much to do. In an attempt to fit as much as possible into a vacation, here are 10 things to do in Panglao Island, Bohol; from lounging on the beach and eating fresh seafood, to exploring Bohol during the day and watching a fire show at night.

Here are my personal picks of the top 10 things to do in Panglao Island, Bohol:

1. Soak up the sun on Alona Beach

bohol alona beach

Since you are on an island, heading to the beach is a given. Most people who stay on Panglao Island find accommodation on or close to Alona Beach, the most popular beach on the island. You can rent beach chairs for the day, grab a fresh fruit smoothie at one of the numerous cafes and restaurants along the beach, and, of course, take a dip in the water to cool down.

2. Trip around Bohol on the Countryside Tour

bohol countryside tour

Wanting to get out of Panglao Island for the day to explore the highlights of Bohol? Then spend a day on the Bohol Countryside Tour where you’ll see the Chocolate Hills, Tarsier Sanctuary, and much more. Though you can book a group tour, I highly recommend renting a driver for the day to take you around to the sights you’d like to see. This way, you’ll have complete control over how long you want to stay at each destination, and whether you want to skip an attraction or make a separate stop somewhere else on the island.

3. Cool off with organic ice cream from The Buzzz Cafe

bohol buzz cafe bohol ice cream

This Bee Farm turned organic cafe has two small locations on Alona Beach (as well as two others in Bohol). You’ll find the first stall on your way down the narrow road to Alona Beach (right beside the car park), serving only ice cream. The other shop, which is also a cafe with seating upstairs, is at the end of Alona Beach and serves ice cream as well as organic food throughout the day. Expect traditional flavours such as coconut, mango, and salted honey, as well as unique flavours such as ube (purple sweet potato), peanut kisses (a local chocolate/peanut candy), pandan, and durian. One scoop is 50 PHP (about HKD$8).

4. Enjoy a fresh grilled seafood dinner on the beach

bohol dinner

When the sun begins to set, you’ll see all of the restaurants along Alona set up for dinner service by putting tables and chairs out on the beach. By 6:00 pm or so, large displays of freshly caught seafood from that day will be laid out in front of the restaurants along the main strip of the beach. All you have to do is pick your catch of the day and they will grill and serve it to you while you dine with your toes in the sand.

5. Take a tuk tuk to Dumaloan Beach

bohol dumaloan bohol dumaloan beach

If Alona Beach is a bit too crowded for you, or if you just want to check out a different beach on Panglao Island, Dumaloan is a popular option.. But not with tourists. You’ll mainly find locals who come to this beach to relax and set up a picnic under one of the many shaded tables. The beach itself is quite long and worth a walk up and down in search of starfish and seashells. Depending on where the tuk tuk drops you off, you might have to pay an entrance fee of 30 PHP (HKD$5) to get onto the beach.

6. Go on an island hopping tour

Panglao Island Hopping - Virgin Island

Another popular tourist activity is the island hopping tour that forces you out of bed at sunrise to (hopefully) catch a glimpse of some dolphins. Then you’re off to snorkel on Balicasag Island, ending with a walk around The Virgin Island. While this wasn’t a tour I would personally recommend given my unpleasant experience, I have read many other blogs and reviews about it that were quite positive. Just be sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before going on the tour.

7. Head to the beach for a midday massage

bohol massage

What’s better than an hour-long massage? An hour-long massage on the beach. There are a few beach massage locations as you walk down the beach. Be sure to haggle a bit with them for a good price; a 45-minute foot and leg massage will set you back between 200 – 300 PHP, depending on your negotiating skills and the time of day. If getting a rather public massage on the beach isn’t your thing, then you can book a massage at one of two massage shops along the road down to Alona (just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time, as they do fill up at night).

8. Listen to live music while watching a fire show

bohol fire show

After you’ve devoured your seafood feast on the beach, stick around to watch a live fire show performance to the beat of some local instrumental music. If you’ve ever seen a fire show in Thailand, it’s pretty much the same thing.. Guy with two swinging pieces of fire carrying out some impressive tricks.

9. Head out for a day of scuba diving

Many people head to Panglao Island for the diving, as it’s said to be really good. Though I never personally went diving while I was there, you’ll find plenty of diving schools located on Alona Beach where you can sign up for a fun day dive or complete a diving course if you have the time.

10. Drink all the San Miguel’s

bohol beer

A staple of just about any holiday (or at least my holidays) is drinking, and when you’re visiting a country where a bottle of beer is almost as cheap as a bottle of water, there’s not real choice between the two. San Miguel is the Philippines’ drink of choice, so be sure to have one, a few, or a whole lot of these refreshing and delicious brews while you’re visiting whether on the beach, in a bar, or in your hotel room.


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tokyolima-raw-150x150.jpg

Having just been to Pici Pasta Bar, another of Pirata Group’s newest restaurants, I was keen to try their other new concept: TokyoLima. I heard rave reviews from friends who had tried their Nikkei cuisine (a blend of Japanese and Peruvian food), I was ready for an evening of strong cocktails, unique fusion dishes created by Peruvian Chef Arturo Melendez (formerly of Chicha), and great vibes. All of which TokyoLima delivered.

Vibe at TokyoLima

I walked through the front door to find the bar buzzing with people sipping on cocktails and happily chatting away. The dining area is quite large and has an open kitchen in the back with seating around it, while the decor is simple, dark, and modern. Don’t expect a quiet night at TokyoLima, as the restaurant was filled with loud conversations, plenty of laughter, and all-around fun vibes.

Starters

tokyolima-la-causa-1024x683.jpgLa Causa (HK$140)tokyolima-raw-1024x683.jpgHamachi & Maguro (HK$130)tokyolima-chicken-1024x683.jpg“Ki-mo-chi” Fried Chicken (HK$110)

We began our meal with Chef Melendez’s take on a traditional Peruvian terrine: La Causa (HK$140). This dish came with three small separate bowls each with a beetroot causa, prawn tartar, and charred avocado with prawn tempura on top. I loved the texture of the causa (similar to dense mashed potatoes), and the light flavors of these ingredients complimented each other incredibly well. Moving into the ‘raw and seared’ section of the menu, we settled with the Hamachi & Maguro (HK$130). The soyu citrus amplified the flavour of the fresh fish in this tiradito dish; both a light and satisfying starter. Though we may have had a relatively healthy start, that changed when we were recommended the “Ki-mo-chi” Fried Chicken (HK$110) by our waiter.  The karaage chicken thighs were great on their own and even better dunked into the spicy soy tare sauce.

Mains

tokyolima-t3-salad-1024x683.jpgT-3 Salad (HK$120)tokyolima-mushroom-1024x683.jpgPortobello & Nasu Sticks (HK$80)tokyolima-peruvian-rice-1024x683.jpgTacu Tacu (HK$210)

Though the T-3 Salad (HK$120) was under the ‘small plates’ section, this triple textured mountain of veg was anything but tiny. Piled high with pumpkin, mixed leaves, grilled fennel, tomatoes, glass noodles, and poached quail eggs, all lightly tossed in a nikkei dressing, this was an easy favourite. From the ‘sticks’ section of the menu, we tried the Portobello & Nasu Sticks (HK$80). The combination of grilled portobello mushroom, eggplant, miso mayo, charred leek, and pickled ginger may not have looked great after we mixed everything in the bowl (you’re not meant to eat them off the sticks!), but it sure did taste good. To wrap things up, we tried the popular Tacu Tacu (HK$210) dish, which had a great variation in textures thanks to the chewy Peruvian rice and veg “pancake”, the crunchy stir-fried snow beans, and the red and yellow peppers. While I loved the flavours present, this dish was a bit oily at the bottom.

Dessert

tokyolima-matcha-tiramisu-1024x683.jpgGreen Tea Tiramisu (HK$80)tokyolima-cheesecake-1024x683.jpgCheesecake (HK$85)tokyolima-chocolate-1024x683.jpgOye Papi (HK$110)

Our waiter recommended the Green Tea Tiramisu (HK$80), which was moist and lovely to look at, but I found the matcha flavor was too dull. TokyoLima’s Cheesecake (HK$85) was more of a deconstructed cheesecake with guava coulis, raspberry sorbet, and crumble at the bottom. Though my true love will always be a New York cheesecake, I did enjoy Chef Melendez’s version. The comically named Oye Papi (HK$110) was specifically meant “for choco lovers”, so we of course had to try it. While I wasn’t such a fan of the plating, the chocolate ice cream, brownie, and mousse were all good, but could be a bit more rich.

Verdict

TokyoLima’s buzzing atmosphere is a great place to go if you’re looking for a fun night of cocktails and food. The drinks were solid (order the Smoking Gun if you like negronis), and the vibe was excellent. While I’m no expert on Japanese or Peruvian food, I really liked the nikkei cuisine here (though I’d potentially pass on dessert, and instead try more savory dishes).

TokyoLima
G/F Car Po Commercial Building
18-20 Lyndhurst Terrace
Central

Tel: 2811 1152


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spit-to-manly-lighthouse-2

The Spit to Manly hike is a well-known route to any Sydney local and is the perfect day outing if you’re looking for something similar to the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, but less touristy and crowded. The walk is a relatively easy 10 km and should take about 3 hours, depending on whether you stop at some of the beaches. As you go on your hike, you’ll walk past over six beautiful beaches, some of which are quite secluded, that you can go for a quick dip to cool off before continuing the hike. This was one of the highlights of my time in Sydney and I would highly recommend it if you have the time.

How to get to the start of the Spit to Manly Hike

spit-to-manly-startCrossing Spit Bridgespit-to-manly-bridgeLooking out over Spit Bridge

The bus you take will depend on where in Sydney you’re starting from.. For me, I took the M40 from Darlinghurst to Wynyard Station, then transferred to the 178 which took me straight to Spit Bridge (about AUS$2.50 on your Opal card). If you go onto Sydney’s public transportation website, you can easily find the best route for you depending on your starting point.

Once off the bus, walk across Spit Bridge on the left hand side. At the end of the bridge, you’ll see stairs directly to your left and a little behind that will take you under the bridge – go down and cross here. After you come out on the other side of the bridge, you’ll easily see where the path of the Spit to Manly hike begins.

Since this walk is very direct and easy to follow, I won’t go into much detail in terms of direction (there are plenty of signs and you’re literally just following the path along the coast). Rather, I’ll show you the stunning beaches and views you’ll see along the way.

Sandy Bay

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This is the first beach you’ll come across shortly after you’ve begun your hike. Expect to see quite a lot of people on the beach, and throughout the park and grassy area behind. The beach is quite long – if you continue walking a bit further, you’ll be able to find a less crowded section.

Castle Rock

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Castle Rock is a lookout area; you’ll see beautiful waterfront houses across from you and luxurious yachts sailing through the bay. If you look down, you’ll also see a secluded, small beach that can only be reached via boat.

Grotto Point Lighthouse

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As you’re hiking along, be sure to take the quick detour to your right and walk down to the Grotto Point Lighthouse shortly after Castle Rock where you’ll be privy to some fantastic views.

Dobroyd Head

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No beach here, but nevertheless some breathtaking sights.

Reef Beach

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At this point, we were feeling a bit sticky and loved the quiet-calm of Reef Beach (which also happens to be about half-way through the hike), so we decided to head down the stairs, drop off our stuff, and make our way into the water to cool down.

Forty Baskets Beach

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Much busier than the last beach, Forty Baskets Beach is a larger, enclosed beach area. The views are lovely, with plenty of sailboats dispersed throughout the water.

Fairlight Beach

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After making your way around the north harbour, you’ll end up at Fairlight Beach. Though relatively small, the water is calm and it had a natural swimming pool at the far end.

Manly

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After walking through a bit of a residential area, you’ll eventually end up at Manly. Here, you can stay on this beach or cross over to the other side (to your left and past the shops and restaurants) and go to Manly Beach. Or, if you’re ready to call it a day, you can always hop on the next ferry back to Circular Quay.

Distance: About 10 km
Time: About 3 hours


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peak-to-aberdeen-hike-15-150x150.jpg

Aside from Dragon’s Back, heading up to The Peak is one of the most popular hikes (or walks) in Hong Kong. The route to the top has various starting points, but is relatively quick and offers fantastic views of the city below. If you’ve walked up The Peak many times and are looking for a change of scenery, I’d recommend trying The Peak to Aberdeen hike. This hike covers the Hong Kong Trail Stage 1 and 2, and Peel Rise. The hike is relatively easy and the stunning views over Aberdeen are well worth your time.

Starting point of The Peak to Aberdeen hike

peak-to-aberdeen-hike-1-1024x768.jpgHead down this street – Harlech Road

This hike starts at The Peak – you can either walk up to The Peak yourself (we did this – it’s only a quick 20-30 minute walk) or catch a cab to the top. From The Peak Galleria, begin walking down Harlech Road.

Harlech Rd to Hong Kong Trail Section 1

peak-to-aberdeen-hike-2-1024x768.jpgThe garden area on your leftpeak-to-aberdeen-hike-3-1024x768.jpgGo straight – this takes you onto Hong Kong Trail Stage 1

Continue walking down Harlech Road until you come across the garden on your left. Harlech Road will then become Hatton Road – instead of going down Hatton, go straight down the unmarked path. This is the start of the Hong Kong Trail Stage 1.

peak-to-aberdeen-hike-4-1024x768.jpgViews along the waypeak-to-aberdeen-hike-5-1024x768.jpgTurn left and go up the stairs. There is a few benches in this area with a lookout point and a set of stairs leading down – go down those stairs.peak-to-aberdeen-hike-6-768x1024.jpgHeading down towards Pok Fu Lam Reservoir

Follow the path and at the point where you see the large circular pavement and benches (see photo above), there will be a sign pointing to the “Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road” – head down.

Hong Kong Trail Section 1 to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir

peak-to-aberdeen-hike-7-1024x768.jpgAlmost at the reservoirpeak-to-aberdeen-hike-8-1024x768.jpgFollow the paved path – the reservoir is just on your right

As you continue to descend down the stairs, you’ll come across a few forks in the path – continue to follow the signs to the Pok Fu Lam Reservoir. Eventually you’ll come out to a very large paved road with the Pok Fu Lam Reservoir on the opposite side. Turn left where the large sign says ‘To Peel Rise via Chi Fu’ and continue walking along the reservoir.

peak-to-aberdeen-hike-9-1024x768.jpgTurn right to get to Peel Risepeak-to-aberdeen-hike-10-1024x768.jpgHead to the left up the stairs following the signs for “Peel Rise” and “Hong Kong Trail”

Eventually you’ll come to a fork in the path. Turn right, following the signs that say, ‘Peel Rise’ and ‘Chi Fu’. Continue following the path until you see the stairs leading up to the left – go up these stairs, continuing to follow the signs for ‘Peel Rise’ and ‘Hong Kong Trail’.

Hong Kong Trail Section 2 to Peel Rise

peak-to-aberdeen-hike-11-1024x768.jpgGo straightpeak-to-aberdeen-hike-13-1024x768.jpgFollow the pathpeak-to-aberdeen-hike-14-1024x768.jpgContinue along the pathpeak-to-aberdeen-hike-15-1024x768.jpgViews over Aberdeenpeak-to-aberdeen-hike-17-1024x768.jpgThe beginning of the descent down to Aberdeenpeak-to-aberdeen-hike-18-1024x768.jpgViews as you make your way down

At this point, just follow the path leading you down to Aberdeen. You’ll eventually come out into a clearing where you’ll be privy to some Instagram-worthy views of Aberdeen. Again, continue to follow the path down.

Ending point: Aberdeen

peak-to-aberdeen-hike-19-1024x768.jpgTurn right down these stairspeak-to-aberdeen-hike-20-768x1024.jpgThe end of the hike is in this estate building. From here, it’s a short walk into Aberdeen where you can catch a bus or taxi back to wherever you need to go.

The final turn you need to make is in the photo above – if you stay on the path, you’ll continue along the Hong Kong Trail, so turn right and go down the stairs to get to Aberdeen. After you turn right, you’ll walk past a few benches and then come out to a large walkway going left and right – turn left and head down the road. In a few minutes you’ll end up at the bottom of an estate building. Aberdeen is only a short walk away (I’d suggest just following Google Maps at this point) where you can hop on a bus (I took one to Central) or grab a taxi back.

Journey Length: 11.5 km
Total Time: about 2 – 3 hours


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pawn-brunch-steak-egg-150x150.jpg

I’m always on the hunt for a good brunch spot in Hong Kong and had recently heard good things about The Pawn. Having only been there previously for drinks, I jumped on the opportunity to head into Wan Chai for a long, lazy Saturday of eating and drinking. If you’re like me and aren’t a fan of buffets where you’re constantly interrupting conversation to fill your plate up with mediocre food, then The Pawn brunch is a great option. The starters and dessert are brought to the table as sharing plates and each guest chooses their own main course. Throw in some fab balcony seating vibes and bottomless Moet & Chandon, and you’ve got yourself one fantastic brunch.

Vibe at The Pawn Brunch

pawn-brunch-champagne-1024x683.jpgMoet & Chandon Rose Imperial

For those that have never been, The Pawn is situated in a heritage building in Wan Chai overlooking Johnston Road. The building is incredibly charming itself, and when coupled with the restaurant’s minimalist-modern decor, the whole area gives off a rustic yet contemporary vibe. If possible, try to snag a table on the balcony; the natural light, the hustle and bustle from the streets below, and the airy breeze certainly heightened my overall experience.

Starters

pawn-brunch-starters-1024x683.jpgStarters for sharing

We began our boozy brunch with a glass of Moet & Chandon Imperial Rose (life doesn’t get much better on a Saturday afternoon). I also tried the banana and oat smoothie in an attempt to be healthy, but it tasted off. Thankfully, the mango lassi that I ordered instead was much better.

Shortly after our drinks were served, the sharing starters came out. On one plate we had two slices of french toast with a blackberry caramel sauce and vanilla blackberry mascarpone. I’m not sure I would classify this as french toast, which is not to say I didn’t like it, but it had a very light, fluffy consistency, whereas most french toast I’m used to is quite dense. The sauce and mascarpone blended well together, adding the right amount sugary sweetness to the dish.

The brunch board consisted of housemade ricotta with balsamic, crushed avocado on toast that was surprisingly spicy, spinach salad that tasted great with the crab meat spread, grilled vegetables, and french fries. I thought it was an odd mix of starters, but each sharing dish was delicious, so I can’t really complain.

Mains

pawn-brunch-steak-egg-1024x683.jpg pawn-brunch-corn-pancake-1024x683.jpg

The minute steak, hash browns, and fried egg made for a very Instagram-worthy dish. Cooked to a perfect pink center, this dish was satisfying yet light. In trying to be somewhat healthy, I ordered the sweet corn pancake with grilled avocado. The pancake was thick and quite light with plenty of sweetcorn throughout. I liked the pancake, though I wish the flavor was more pronounced.

Dessert

pawn-brunch-dessert-1024x683.jpgPudding platter

For dessert, the menu said “unlimited refills for puds platter”, so here I was being all un-British expecting a platter of different types of pudding. You know, the kind of pudding you dip a spoon into and out comes a dollop of creamy, smooth, and sweet deliciousness. Totally wrong. Much to my surprise, pudding is just another word for dessert in the UK. On our pudding platter there was creme brulee, a chocolate tart, white chocolate with matcha mousse, a buttercream cupcake, and a treacle tart. My favorites were the creme brulee and the white chocolate with matcha mousse. As for the other three, I really wasn’t crazy about them. The selection of desserts at The Pawn brunch change regularly, so you can expect something different each time you go.

Verdict

The Pawn brunch offers chilled vibes, a great setting (make sure you get a seat on the balcony), and a wide variety of options for food and drink. I left brunch feeling satisfied without being sickeningly full (as I so often do because I have no self control). Whether you’re with a small or large group, I would definitely recommend paying a visit to The Pawn for brunch.

The Pawn Brunch Options

Set 1: Sharing starters, one main, unlimited dessert with free-flow soft drinks, orange juice, and smoothies – HK$498

Set 2: Sharing starters, one main, unlimited dessert, with free-flow Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial, Bloody Mary, house red or white wine, bottled beer, cider, soft drinks, smoothies, orange juice, coffee or tea – HK$598

The Pawn 
62 Johnston Road
Wan Chai

Tel: 2866 3444


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pavilion hotel phnom penh - main pool

If you’re looking for a hotel that’s in the heart of Phnom Penh, but doesn’t come with the crowds and loud noise, The Pavilion Hotel is your perfect spot. Nestled just off a friendly street, this hotel exudes French colonial charm and an incredibly welcoming environment. The staff are wonderful, the value for money is exceptional, and the atmosphere is a whole is hard to beat. Overall, The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh was the perfect place for me to start my holidays in Cambodia; I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

First Impressions of The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh

pavilion hotel phnom penh - walkwayWalkway into the hotelpavilion hotel phnom penh - lobbyHotel lobby

Don’t expect a big sign with “The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh” written on it when you arrive. Instead, there’s a small door just to the right of their little storefront. The moment I stepped through the door, it was as if I had entered a new world; from the busy, dusty, and noisy city streets to a private, quiet oasis. Filled with greenery, the lush open front boasts a beautiful pool and a handful of surrounding private lounge areas. The service is exceptional and a welcome lime drink, sticky dessert rice, and a cold towel was served upon arrival. Every guest also received a complimentary 25-minute massage, which you should definitely take advantage of.

My Room

pavilion hotel phnom penh - bedroomBedroompavilion hotel phnom penh - balconyBalcony

I stayed near the front of the hotel in a suite that housed a common area with a sofa, a very large balcony with a small table, chairs, and a sofa lounge, and a quaint room with a TV and desk. In the bedroom, the bed was done up with lovely flower petals all on it, and there was some fruit and two complimentary bottles of water on the desk. The bathroom was fairly standard and came equipped with basic toiletries (shower gel, shampoo, and soap). Overall, I was more than happy with the room.

Facilities at The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh

pavilion hotel phnom penh - main poolMain Poolpavilion hotel phnom penh - pool 2Second pool at the back of the hotel

As mentioned, The Pavilion Hotel has a main pool at the front of the hotel where the restaurant and bar are, with a handful of private lounge areas (each one fits two lounge cushions) to the one side of the pool. If you head to the back of the hotel, you’ll find another pool with surrounding lounge chairs and a small bar where you can order food and drinks. The hotel has a lovely French colonial lobby area and a spa if you’re wanting to treat yourself. Be sure to catch the sun slowly setting by the pool with a drink in hand; it’s the perfect way to wind-down at the end of a long day exploring the city (or a day of being lazy by the pool).

Breakfast

pavilion hotel phnom penh - breakfast

It’s always a bonus when the hotel you’re staying at offers a decent complimentary breakfast, and The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh is no exception. Breakfast is served from 7:00 – 10:00 am and it literally says on the menu, “order anything, as many times as you like”, which just about won my food-loving heart over. My favourites from breakfast were the fresh passion fruit juice, and the muesli with banana, honey, and homemade yogurt.

Verdict

If it wasn’t already obvious, I loved my time at The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh (so much so, that I literally didn’t leave the hotel grounds while I was there!). The hotel offers guests a unique experience that other larger hotels just can’t. From the beautiful French colonial design and humble rooms, to the friendly service and well-rounded facilities, The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh made for the perfect stay in Cambodia.

Note: The Pavilion Hotel only allows adults 16 and above to stay there (three cheers for no children running and screaming around the pool!).

The Pavilion  
227, Street 19
Phnom Penh 
Cambodia 

My stay at The Pavilion Phnom Penh was on a complimentary basis thanks to the hotel, but rest assured, all views and opinions are sincerely my own. 


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the-envoy-chicken-waffle

The Envoy, located inside The Pottinger Hong Kong, has just launched a new Colonial Inspired Sunday brunch. For those who have no clue what “Colonial Inspired” means, it’s basically various Indian spices infused with traditional British dishes. If you’re looking for something more “brunch-y”, The Envoy also serves up a selection of traditional menu options, like your classic eggs benedict. The quality of food at The Envoy won’t disappoint, but it’ll certainly cost you a pretty penny.

What To Expect For Brunch At The Envoy

the-envoy-teaYin Yang Latte / Pandan Latte (+HK$28)

Any brunch menu item you order comes with either coffee or tea (as it should for the prices being charged), but if you’re not content with a simple drink, you can opt for either a Yin Yang Latte or a Pandan Latte for an additional HK$28, both of which were quite sweet and dessert-like.

the-envoy-chicken-waffleButter Chicken Waffles (HK$178)the-envoy-lambSeared Slow-cooked NZ Lamb Rump (HK$228)

We decided to stick to the Colonial Inspired options to try something new, so we ordered The Envoy’s take on the classic Butter Chicken Waffles (HK$178). Unlike what I was used to, this version used saffron and cardamom waffles, picked cucumber, seared pancetta, and apple mango chutney on the side. Given the price, I did find the portion to be rather small, but the coming-together of the flavours in this dish were impressive. We also tried the Seared Slow-cooked NZ Lamb Rump (HK$228), which was fantastic and came with spiced potato and okra, cucumber yogurt, and red bell pepper jus. The lamb was cooked so damn well and I appreciated that no sauce was needed to enhance the flavour of the lamb; it was perfect just the way it was.

the-envoy-dessertMilo Lava French Toast (HK$88)

We ended our brunch at The Envoy with a bowl of drool-worthy Milo Lava French Toast (HK$88). The thick-cut toast was filled with a generous amount of oozing Nutella alongside a peanut butter crumble and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you love french toast, ice cream, peanut butter, or Nutella (basically, anything deliciously sweet), then this dessert is perfect for you.

Verdict

To put it simply, I really enjoyed the food at The Envoy’s new Sunday brunch, however, I’m not sure it’s worth dishing out that kind of cash given the countless other brunch options around Hong Kong.

The Envoy 
3/F, The Pottinger Hong Kong
74 Queen’s Road, Central
Hong Kong

Tel: 2169 3311


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the elephas

For those living in Shek Tong Tsui (otherwise known as the dead zone between Sai Ying Pun and Kennedy Town), there’s not nearly as many healthy food options as its two neighbouring districts. The Elephas is tucked inside The Warrior Academy fitness studio, but thankfully the cafe is not just for members. Anyone is welcome to navigate their way through a local shopping mall to find The Elephas and enjoy a wide range of nutritious smoothies, healthy salads, and gluten-free and raw desserts all at a reasonable price.

Vibe At The Elephas

Despite being in a very obscure location in Shek Tong Tsui, once at The Elephas, you’re instantly transported to a hip and modern cafe. I was surprised at how spacious the cafe area is: there’s a separate counter for smoothies and desserts, and another for salads and larger menu items, as well as ample lounge chairs around the coffee bar and more “formal” seating back towards the health bar. While the loud fitness class happening only a few feet away at The Warrior Academy was slightly distracting (if only because of the sweaty attractive men), I really liked the overall casual, comfortable, and slick atmosphere of The Elephas.

Mains

the elephas - kimbapKimbap Roll w/ Avocado HK$52the elephas - poke bowlSalmon Poke Bowl w/ mango (HK$78)the elephas - steak saladGrain Fed Beef & Roasted Beetroot Spinach Salad (HK$98)

I absolutely love Korean food (read all about how I gained 10 lbs in 10 days in South Korea), so I couldn’t resist ordering the Kimbap Roll with Avocado (HK$52).  Straightforward, yet delicious, we were certainly off to a good start at The Elephas. Moving on to some dishes with a bit more substance, I ordered the Salmon Poke Bowl (HK$78) with mango. I’ve tried a few other poke shops around Hong Kong and can honestly say this version done with quinoa takes first place. Lastly, I tried the Grain Fed Beef & Roasted Beetroot Spinach Salad (HK$98) as part of The Elephas’ “Thai Inspired Nutritious Salads” menu that are made-to-order. This was hands-down my favourite dish of the evening; the beef was beautifully done and the ingredients were simlpe enough, but complimented each other exceptionally well.

Dessert

the elephas - dessertSelection of desserts (from front): Raw Chocolate Tart, Coffee Roll Cake, Gluten Free Banana Cakethe elephas - lemon meringueRaw Lemon Coconut Cream Pie

Being the dessert-lover that I am, I couldn’t leave The Elephas without trying a selection of their gluten-free/raw desserts. I indulged a bit more than usual since they were meant to be healthy and tried a few bites (okay, okay.. maybe more than a few) of an assortment of cakes and pies. My favourites were the Raw Chocolate Tart and Raw Lemon Coconut Cream Pie, both of which didn’t have that “overly healthy” taste and had an interesting mix of texture. On the other hand, I found the Coffee Roll Cake rather bland and, while I did like the Gluten Free Banana Cake, it was a bit too dense and moist to be able to enjoy more than a few bites.

Verdict

Given the reasonable prices, tasty yet healthy, and well-presented dishes, I think The Elephas is a great place to grab a healthy bite on-the-go or to sit down and enjoy a nutritious meal if you’re in the area.

The Elephas 
Shop 118, 1/F, Hong Kong Plaza
188 Connaught Road West
Shek Tong Tsui
Hong Kong

Tel: 2838 3979


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