Jump to content
All About Hong Kong
Sign in to follow this  
  • entries
    162
  • comments
    0
  • views
    6,578

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. 

Entries in this blog

thisgirlabroad
local-food-in-penang-3-150x150.jpg

If you’re an adventurous foodie who often finds yourself planning a travel itinerary based around all the food you want to try, then Penang is the perfect travel destination for you. The food found in Penang is insanely good, oh-so cheap, and most of it is difficult to find outside the country. Although I had made a stopover for a few days in George Town about five years ago, I never really explored all the local food this area had to offer. With that in mind, I made sure to do research on the regional food I could find in Penang. I ended up planning my days around pit-stops at local food stalls and night markets, and managed to put together this list of all the local food in Penang that I loved and that you must try.

1. Asam Laksa

local-food-in-penang-2-1024x1024.jpg

Asam laksa is arguably the most well known dish from Penang. While many people have tried the creamy version of laksa that is relatively easy to find around the world, asama laksa is unique to Penang and is difficult to come across outside Malaysia. Asam laksa has a sweet, slightly sour taste from the pineapple and mild fish base. You can find asam laksa just about anywhere – this bowl was from a night market in the beach area of Batu Ferringhi and only cost RM4. While the laksa at night markets was fantastic, a highlight for me was heading to Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Koay in George Town (recommended to me by the staff at Hotel Penaga) for a bowl of these insanely delicious noodles.

2. Cendol

local-food-in-penang-1-1024x683.jpg

One of the most famous desserts in Penang is Cendol – an iced dessert made with coconut milk, green rice flour ‘noodles’, red beans, shaved ice, and palm sugar. So famous in fact, that above one of the food stalls (Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul )selling this dessert on Lebuh Keng Kwee is a massive mural of a man taking a big spoon full of cendol. There is also a stall directly across from it called Penang Road Famous Chendol where I bought a bowl for RM2.90. We were actually told by a local to go to the latter one because the ‘famous’ one’s quality has declined since many tourists visit it anyway. Regardless of which one you go to, this is the perfect roadside treat to cool you off.

3. Local jelly desserts

moh-teng-pheow-asam-laksa-penang-6-760x1

Sticking with the theme of dessert, Malaysia has a variety of local jellied desserts that are popular. I actually didn’t know about this until we went to Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Koay, where they have a large selection of these homemade desserts for sale. The flavors we tried were: Kuih Bengka – Ubi, Kuih Talam, Pulut Tai Tai (Kaya Kuih), and one Abuk. These desserts weren’t overly sweet, which was certainly appreciated after a heavy meal, and ranged between RM0.60 – RM1.50, and RM3 for the Abuk (the one wrapped in the lotus leaf).

4. Curry Mee

local-food-in-penang-3-1024x1024.jpg

I discovered curry mee rather accidentally when I was trying to eat as much local food as I could possibly consume before my flight. I found this delicious curry mee at Pisa Cafe food market in Bayan Baru. This massive bowl of the most delicious, creamy noodles was only RM4.50 and came loaded with thicker yellow noodles and thin vermicelli noodles, tofu, and cuttlefish balls in a spicy coconut sauce.

5. Nasi Kandar

nasi-kandar-georgetown-2-964x1024.jpg

When I was doing research on the must-try dishes in Penang, nasi kandar came up numerous times with reference to a popular restaurant called Nasi Kandar Line Clear Restaurant. We popped in on one of our first nights in George Town and were welcomed with a mountain (no, literally, there was enough food to feed at least two people) of rice, chicken (you could choose your meat, but one of the staff recommended the roast chicken), fried bitter gourd, okra, green beans, cucumber, and a few other ingredients that I had no clue about. This was one of my favorite dishes I had in Penang and it only cost RM14.30.

6. Iced Kacang

local-food-in-penang-5-932x1024.jpg

This was another surprise dish found in Pisa Cafe on my last night in Penang. Although I had read plenty about Cendol and tried it in George Town, I didn’t hear about this dessert until I was wandering around the food stalls and came upon one selling iced kacang. I asked the lady behind the counter about it and, despite being incredibly full from two big dishes already, I couldn’t leave Penang without trying it. This refreshing dessert was comprised of red beans, grass jelly, nata de coco, and agar hidden under a mound of colorful shaved ice, sweet corn, condensed milk, and a scoop of taro ice cream.

7. Char Kway Teow

local-food-in-penang-4-683x1024.jpg

Char kway teow is another popular dish in Malaysia and can be found at almost any local restaurant or market. I didn’t find this dish as exciting as the others, since I can find it quite easily where I live, but it’s a great dish to order if you’re looking for some simple comfort food. This (rather small) plate of char kway teow was from the night market in Batu Ferringhi for RM5.

8. Street-side Indian Snacks

local-food-in-penang-6-1024x683.jpg

In the heart of George Town you’ll find an eclectic area called Little India. This section of small shops, eateries, and plenty of colorful characters is where you can get your hands on some delicious Indian food. There were a number of food stalls along the road selling a variety of snacks and desserts – I went for the vegetarian samosa (RM0.60) and instantly regretted only buying one. I then went on a mission to find gulab jamun (my favorite Indian dessert) and finally came across a little shop called Mr. Sweets where I filled a bag with 4 pieces of gulab jamun and 5 other mystery sweets that looked delicious for only RM11.90.


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
secret-theatre-project-mayhem-150x150.jp

The Secret Theatre Project is back in Hong Kong for its third year, this time with the theme of Project Mayhem. To put it simply, Secret Theatre Project is an immersive show that relies on audience engagement. The secret part comes from not knowing the venue’s location or all that much about the premise of the show. Sure, they give you the title of “Project Mayhem” and a bit of a teaser trailer, but you really have to just buy a ticket and cross your fingers that you’ll enjoy it. This year, the Secret Theatre Project has teamed up with Butcher’s Club to put on a three-course dinner before the show.

The Food

secret-theatre-project-mayhem-1024x833.j

I’m a big fan of Butcher’s Club (if you haven’t already been, you should check out their private kitchen – it’s amazing), so it’s no surprise that I loved the dinner. The three-course dinner consisted of Australian Black Mussels in the most delicious creamy garlic sauce to start. For our main, we each had a generous portion of their 45-day dry-aged Australian Black Angus Ribeye with bowls of salad and my all-time favorite thick-cut fries. To wrap up, we tucked into the most decadent chocolate cake. The meal also comes with a bottle of wine to share between two people. The only complaint I have about dinner is that we felt a bit rushed in the end, as we had to finish up quickly to start the show.

The Show

I obviously can’t say too much about the actual show, considering it’s meant to be a secret and all, but I will say that throughout most of the two hours I participated in the production I was confused. I really wanted to love the show (I’m a huge fan of theatre, especially musicals), but I constantly found myself asking friends questions about what was going on or looking at my watch painfully counting down the minutes until I could leave.

The first half of the show, there was heavy audience involvement – at one point we were doing push-ups and skipping rope, which I hated every second of. However, the second half of the show was when the actors took center stage. Although the acting was quite good, the story line completely lost me until the last 30 minutes or so. I understand that “Project Mayhem” was meant to be chaotic, but it was done in an incredibly unorganized way that left many of us feeling confused and disinterested.

Verdict

Like I said earlier, I wanted to love Secret Theatre Project and I was so excited to go, but ultimately I left feeling disappointed. Thankfully, the dinner was delicious, albeit rushed at the end, which helped to make up for the lack of clarity that followed our meal. Though I wouldn’t necessarily discourage anyone from going (some people might actually enjoy being immersed in disorder and chaos for two hours), if Secret Theatre Project offered refunds based on dissatisfaction, I would have asked for one.

Dinner & Show – HK$1,600
Show – HK$850 

To purchase tickets, go here


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
meats-hong-kong-5-150x150.jpg

Attention all carnivores: Hong Kong’s first meat bar has just opened in Hong Kong and it’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of. MEATS Hong Kong, one of Pirata Group’s newest restaurants, doesn’t mess around when it comes to curating a menu filled with carefully chosen and skillfully prepared meat. They utilize various techniques, such as slow-roasting and grilling over their custom-made Rotisserie and Robata Grill, to bring out incredible flavors. Perfect for a casual group dinner (the menu is all about sharing plates), MEATS is a great addition to Hong Kong’s dining scene.

Vibe at MEATS Hong Kong

MEATS has completely transformed the former Jaspas restaurant into a moody, modern, and casual eatery. There is a good variety of seating options available: on stools around the kitchen bar, tables in the middle of the restaurant, and indoor/outdoor windowsill seats (similar to Pici). The staff are incredibly friendly and the manager is quick to recommend dishes based on customers’ tastes.

Starters

meats-hong-kong-1-1024x683.jpgChicken liver pate (HK$140)meats-hong-kong-2-1024x683.jpgBeef tartare (HK$150)

The chicken liver pate (HK$140) had an interesting combination of PX vinegar balls and cocoa nibs. Although initially hesitant, this actually turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The mild mix of vinegar and bitter chocolate bits along with the smooth and rich pate was simply perfect. I also tried the beef tartare (HK$150) with cured duck egg yolk and pickled mustard seeds. The beef tendon crisps used to pile the tartare on added a nice variation of texture.

Mains & Sides

meats-hong-kong-3-1024x683.jpgIberian Presa (HK$170)meats-hong-kong-5-1024x683.jpgRotisserie chicken (HK$180)meats-hong-kong-6-1024x683.jpgIberian porchetta (HK$180)

The Iberian Presa (HK$170) was so tender and perfectly seasoned without overpowering the taste of the meat itself. One of the signature dishes at MEATS is the rotisserie chicken (HK$180), cooked using the custom Rotisserie and Robata Grill. The skin was cooked to a delicate crisp, and the chicken inside was tender and full of flavor (we didn’t even need the gravy!). Surprisingly, I haven’t had porchetta much before, but the Iberian porchetta (HK$180) with a green herb salsa at MEATS made me realize what I’ve been missing out on.

meats-hong-kong-4-1024x683.jpgUgly potatoes (HK$75)meats-hong-kong-7-1024x683.jpgSlightly spicy fried rice (HK$65)

To go along with our meat-heavy mains, we tried two different sides, both of which were fantastic. The ugly potatoes (HK$75) may not be the most photogenic dish, but damn were these fries delicious (and worth every single calorie). We also ended up trying the slightly spicy fried rice (HK$65) after we were told it was quite popular. Although it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the menu, the rice was so good we (read: I) couldn’t stop eating it despite being utterly stuffed.

Dessert

meats-hong-kong-8-1024x683.jpgCoconut lime pie (HK$80)meats-hong-kong-9-1024x683.jpgPear tart tatin (HK$90)

Growing up, I always cringed when my mom brought home a lemon/lime meringue pie. Looking back, she obviously did this fully knowing I wouldn’t eat any and she could relish in having the whole thing to herself. Over the past year or so, I’ve slowly shifted and began enjoying lemon desserts. Case and point: the coconut lime pie (HK$80) at MEATS. The classic combination of lime curd, meringue, and ice cream was perfectly executed.  Since one dessert is never enough, we also tried the pear tart tatin (HK$90). Both beautifully presented and incredibly tasty (that bourbon caramel, though), this dessert shouldn’t be missed.

Verdict

Although I’m always slightly annoyed at restaurants that don’t take reservations, I will definitely be coming back to MEATS Hong Kong. I would recommend coming here with a few friends so that you can order a range of sharing plates. The price point seemed reasonable for most dishes, especially given the quality of food and careful preparation of each dish. If you like meat, MEATS is a must.

MEATS
28-30 Staunton Street
Central

Tel: 2711 1812


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
things to do in wulai 3

While spending a couple days in Taipei eating and shopping is a guaranteed good time, there are also a handful of areas just outside of the city center that are well worth a visit. One of my favourites is Wulai. Located about an hour or so south of Taipei, Wulai is a small Aboriginal town home to the Atayal’s and famous for its hot springs. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth your time to visit this beautiful area, I’m sure these 5 things to do in Wulai will convince you to check it out!

1. Relax at Wulai’s Natural Hot Springs

wulai hot springs taipei 4

Most people who visit Wulai come here for the hot springs; either the numerous hot springs available at guest houses or at the free, natural hot springs located along the river (as seen above). I would definitely recommend the natural hot springs – there are a number of different hot springs you can sit in and they offer stunning views of the surrounding area. For more information about Wulai’s natural hot springs, check out my previous article.

2. Head to the Wulai Waterfall

things to do in wulai 4

Only a 20 minute walk from Wulai’s natural hot springs is the well-known Wulai Waterfall. Though not as impressive as many larger waterfalls, it’s located in a tranquil setting (when there’s not a tonne of tourists around) and is quite beautiful. There are benches scattered across from the waterfall, so grab a drink, take a seat, and enjoy the view.

3. Walk through Wulai Old Street and eat all the food

what to eat in wulai what to eat in wulai - boar sausages

Taipei is known as a foodie-haven, so it’s no surprise that Wulai also offers visitors an abundance of delicious street food. Aside from a variety of typical Taipei delights, you can sample a few items that are only found in Wulai, the most popular of which is Wild Boar Sausage. For more insight on what food you can expect, check out my last article on what to eat in Wulai.

4. Explore the Aboriginal (Atayal) souvenir shops

things to do in wulai 5

Originally home to the Atayal People, Wulai still maintains much of its Aboriginal heritage. After walking across the main bridge (just after Wulai Old Street) turn left and follow the path down for about 20 minutes until you reach a little stretch of local shops and cafes on your right and the Wulai Waterfall on your left. The shops sell a number of locally made souvenirs at reasonable prices.

5. Hike around Wulai

things to do in wulai 6

There are a number of hiking trails around Wulai; both easy and challenging. Unfortunately, since we were only there for the day and the weather wasn’t cooperating, we didn’t end up going on a hike. That being said, I had done a bit of research ahead of time and found some helpful guides here, here, and here.

*Note: We had read about a gondola ride taking you over the river and above the Wulai Waterfall to an amusement park, however, it wasn’t in service and we weren’t sure if it was open only on weekends or if it was permanently closed. If anyone has any information on the gondola, or if you have any other things to do in Wulai that I missed, comment below!

For a guide on how to get to Wulai from Taipei, click here


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
IMG_6461-150x150.jpg

After I tell people about why I moved to Hong Kong, I often get asked what has kept me here for the past five years. While there are plenty of factors, both big and small, I’ve managed to break it down to five reasons (’cause you know, five years/five reasons.. clever, right?). Over the past five years I’ve fallen head over heels in love with Hong Kong and I hope this post encourages you to visit this amazing city one day or, if you’re already living here, go out and do something different that’ll make the city seem new again to you.

1. Ease of everyday life

If you ask anyone in Hong Kong what one of the things they love most about the city is, they’ll likely say its convenience. Practically everything in this city is easy (except for banking and the post office – you’ll know what I mean if you live in HK). The public transportation is phenomenal – the MTR, bus, minibus, or tram can get you to any part of the city and costs practically nothing. 7-Eleven convenient stores can do far more than supply you with a beer to-go or a quick snack. You can pay your bills at 7-Eleven, return purchases from some online stores, hit up “Club 7” for cheap drinks, and much more. Hired help is also really easy to find (not to mention incredibly affordable), whether that’s in the form of a live-in nanny or a helper who comes to your flat to clean once or twice a week. Basically, life in general is pretty damn effortless.

2. Hiking trails are everywhere

One thing many people don’t realize about Hong Kong (and I didn’t either until I moved here) is how much greenery there is. Yes, Hong Kong has many areas that are densely populated with sky-high buildings, but it also has plenty of hiking trails all over. There’s a route for just about anyone: hikes for families, stellar views, trail running, ending at a beach, on different islands, ones with plenty of peaks, and everything in between. I couldn’t tell you how many hiking trails there are in Hong Kong, but I’ve been on quite a few of them and I love getting out there on a clear day to explore a quieter side of the city. I’ve written detailed guides on all the hikes I’ve done so far, which can be found here.

3. The beach is a short drive away

Given that it feels like summer the vast majority of the year in Hong Kong, I’m pretty darn grateful that there’s a handful of beaches to visit. Although geographically this makes sense since Hong Kong is an island and all, many people don’t realize that there are so many beaches around that look so “unlike Hong Kong” (almost akin to lying on a beach in Thailand) or some other tropical paradise. Many of the beaches are easily accessibly by public bus and only take 20 – 30 minutes to get to. My favorite beach in Hong Kong is Shek O Beach, located on the south side of the island – the water is usually clean, the sand is fine, you can rent out BBQ pits on the beach, and there are a few delicious restaurants in the little village.

4. Convenient and cheap travel

Thanks to Hong Kong’s central location in Asia, travel throughout this part of the world is not only convenient, but it’s also quite cheap. It’s not unlikely to hear talk of people jumping on a plane Friday after work and heading somewhere nearby, like Taipei, and then flying back on Sunday evening just in time to get a few hours’ sleep before work the next morning. If weekend trips are a bit too stressful for you, there’s plenty of public holidays to take advantage of and turn that two day weekend into a three of four day getaway. If you’re smart about planning your travel and aren’t a complete procrastinator (like I tend to be), you can score some incredibly cheap flights on various Asia-based budget airlines. The vast travel opportunities has certainly been one of my favorite parts about moving to Hong Kong.

5. There’s always something to do

Regardless of what your interests are, there’s always something appealing going on in the city. If you love the outdoors, there’s plenty of hikes to go on, a wide range of sports teams to join, and beaches to spend a lazy Sunday at. Love food (who doesn’t)? Hong Kong is a haven for foodie’s, offering every type of cuisine imaginable in all price ranges. Whether you prefer dancing till the sun rises or having a quieter evening with a cocktail and some live jazz, your Friday and Saturday nights are easily sorted. I often find I get excited about having a relatively quiet week coming up, and then get inundated with last-minute invitations to a variety of events happening throughout the city that week. Basically, you’ll never feel bored in Hong Kong.

What are your favorite things about where you live?


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
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 
what to eat in wulai - boar sausageswhat to eat in wulai - boar sausages 2

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)

what to eat in wulai - Muah chee what to eat in wulai - Muah chee 2

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

what to eat in wulai - sweet potato what to eat in wulai - sweet yam

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


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
coyotes-taco

If you’ve ever gone to Coyotes (one of my favourite Mexican restaurants in Hong Kong) during the week for their buffet lunch, and thought to yourself, ‘I really wish they offered this on the weekend too’, then you’re in luck. Coyotes has just launched a Sunday all you can eat and drink brunch that is great value and perfect for those looking to switch up their regular weekend eggs benedict routine.

Buffet Options At Coyotes

coyotes-brunch coyotes-drinks coyotes-taco

The Sunday buffet brunch at Coyotes is served on the second floor and is comprised of a variety of Mexican treats and all-you-can-drink options. Start with a bowl of corn tortilla soup and nachos with hot cheese sauce, and then move over to the build-your-own taco station to pile on a wide range of toppings (think salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, pulled pork, grilled chicken, and much more) onto your flour tortilla. Aside from your standard Mexican fare, Coyotes also had smoked salmon, sausages, salads, and a few other typical brunch items if you’re wanting something different.

The Deal

For only HK$188 you can feast on a wide range of Mexican buffet options and all-you-can-drink Carlsberg, margaritas, or ice tea from 12:00 – 3:00 pm every Sunday. It doesn’t get much better than this, people.

Verdict

If you’ve been to Coyotes, you’ll know that their Mexican food is legit: massive portions, quality ingredients, and satisfying AF. Their Sunday all-you-can-eat and drink Mexican brunch is great value, though I did find the atmosphere to be a bit dark if you’re there on a nice day. The only thing I didn’t like was that once you chose your drink (Carlsberg, margarita, or ice tea), they wouldn’t let you switch between drinks, which made no sense to me. Aside from that, if you’re looking to switch up your weekend brunch routine, Coyotes is the perfect Sunday spot to stuff your face with Mexican food.

Coyotes
114 – 120 Lockhart Road
Wan Chai 
Hong Kong 

Tel: 2861 2221


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
wulai hot springs taipei 4

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

wulai hot springs taipei 3wulai hot springs taipei 4 wulai hot springs taipei wulai hot springs taipei 2

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.


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
dragon-i-tasting-menu-dumpling-150x150.j

Talk of Dragon-i usually surrounds a few stories of late night misadventures where bottles were bought and far too much money was spent. It’s safe to say that most people in the city associate this well-known establishment with Russian models and messy, pretentious nights out. Dragon-i is now working a new angle to entice people to pop over for dinner well before the debauchery begins. In case you were unaware (as I was), Dragon-i actually serves dinner (not just all-you-can-eat dim sum) and they’ve just introduced a new dinner tasting menu for 4 or 6 people for a bargain. Only the test of time will tell if peoples’ outlook on Dragon-i shifts from a late night club to a restaurant/club.

Vibe at Dragon-i

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit weird going up the escalators to Dragon-i on a Wednesday at 7:00 pm. The restaurant area was dark, quiet, and empty; the latter of which are in stark contrast to a typical night at Dragon-i. Overall, I found it a bit hard to judge since the idea of going to Dragon-i for dinner hasn’t exactly caught on with Hong Kongers, which certainly had an impact on the atmosphere. This could be a good place to start your night with a late dinner and followed by drinks out on Dragon-i’s terrace afterwards.

Starters

dragon-i-tasting-menu-dumpling-1024x683.Chili Pork Dumplingsdragon-i-tasting-menu-soup-1024x683.jpgSun-dried Scallops and Bamboo Pith Soup

The Tasting Menu for 6 began with a very traditional chilled cucumber and jelly fish starter. Though that dish wasn’t my favorite, I loved the Chili Pork Dumplings that came next. These babies were stuffed with delicious pork, were surprisingly spicy, and were a personal favorite of the evening (so much so that I couldn’t resist sneaking an extra one in before the next course). Keeping in line with a very traditional Chinese meal, we were each served a bowl of Sun-dried Scallops and Bamboo Pith Soup. Admittedly not much to look at, I really liked the rich aroma and consistency of the soup.

Mains

dragon-i-tasting-menu-beef-1024x683.jpgSliced Spicy Beef in Szechuan Styledragon-i-tasting-menu-rice-1024x683.jpgPregnant Women’s Fried Ricedragon-i-tasting-menu-chicken-1024x683.jPoached Chicken with Root Ginger

Moving onto the large sharing plates, we began with a delicious Sliced Spicy Beef in Szechuan Style. The beef was coated in a delicious Szechuan sauce with just the right amount of spice. The Pregnant Women’s Fried Rice went well with the beef, although I still find the name to be a bit odd. We were all curious about the story behind this dish. Apparently, the chef’s wife, who was pregnant at the time, would come into Dragon-i and he would prepare this simple yet fried rice dish for her that included an array of healthy ingredients. Unfortunately, the Poached Chicken with Root Ginger just wasn’t my thing. I’ve never been a fan of Hainan chicken because of the bones and skin. Thankfully, those with a more local palate were more than happy to have my share.

Dessert

dragon-i-tasting-menu-dessert-1024x683.jPapaya and Snow Fungus Sweet Soupdragon-i-tasting-menu-fruit-1024x683.jpgSeasonal Fruit Platter

To finish off our meal, we each had a bowl of Papaya and Snow Fungus Sweet Soup. The warm papaya didn’t have that strong papaya taste that people either love or hate. Though I’m still not sure what snow fungus is, I liked the overall subtly sweet flavors of the soup. Lastly, we all shared a Seasonal Fruit Platter with honeydew melon, watermelon, pineapple, and kiwi. Nothing special, but the fruit was a nice way to cleanse our palate after our meal.

Verdict

My feelings are mixed on the new dinner tasting menu at Dragon-i. On one hand, I enjoyed many of the dishes (though the menu is certainly catered to a local palate). On the other hand, the atmosphere needs a bit of work. Dragon-i at 7:00 pm was a bit too quiet and still had that ‘club feel’. But, for the price, I think it’s certainly worth a try. Especially if you plan on making a night of it.

Dragon-i’s dinner tasting menu for 6 people is a steal at HK$1032 (under HK$200 a person!).
The dinner tasting menu for 4 people is HK$688.

Dragon-i
G/F The Centrium
60 Wyndham Street
Central

Tel: 3110 1222


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
blue-mountains-sydney-sublime-point-2

The Blue Mountains of Sydney is a world heritage area and natural park, consequently making it a very popular tourist destination. Located about 1.5 hours from central Sydney, it’s relatively easy to get to and, once there, you can spend the night in one of the many Blue Mountains hotels, go hiking, explore caves, ride a cable car, see The Three Sisters, and much more. Though I didn’t exactly find the Blue Mountains to be overly impressive (perhaps because, as a Canadian, I’ve grown up surrounded by vast greenery), it was a nice day trip to get out of the city center and explore the outlying areas of Sydney.

Echo Point Lookout

blue-mountains-sydney-viewpoint blue-mountains-sydney-view blue-mountains-sydney-view-2

Echo Point Lookout is the main spot to view the Blue Mountains and The Three Sisters rock formations. The reason behind the name Blue Mountains? The region is covered in Eucalyptus trees that give off oil droplets. This oil, in combination with dust and water vapour, emits blue light rays. Unfortunately, I can’t actually say I saw any blue shimmering rays as I looked out from Echo Point.

Aside from the Blue Mountains, you’ll also be able to view The Three Sisters to your left – three rock formations that are meant to represent three Aboriginal women who were turned to stone (read more about the legend here). They were interesting to look at, if only for the fact that they were the only thing other than trees that you could see for quite a distance.

At Echo Point Lookout there is a tourist visitor information booth, gift shop, and a short “Three Sisters Aboriginal Place” walk that takes you to a viewing point right in front of The Three Sisters (see last photo above). If you’re more curious about these rock formations, you can follow a path from that point down steep steps and into the formations.

Sublime Point

blue-mountains-sydney-sublime-point-2

Since I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the Blue Mountains or The Three Sisters, we asked the information booth for an alternative lookout point to see something a bit more “wow”-esque. She recommended visiting Sublime Point because it was far less touristy and offered a slightly different view. I was lucky in that we had a car, making it much easier to get around the area. If you traveled to the Blue Mountains via train, you’d likely have to take a taxi to get here. Again, I wasn’t overly impressed, but it was nice to take in the tranquility of the area without dozens of people around you taking selfies.

If you have more time to spend in the Blue Mountains, there are cable car rides, plenty of hiking, and cave explorations. You can read more about things to do here.

Where to Eat

blue-mountains-sydney-brunch

Before reaching the viewpoint for the Blue Mountains, I would suggest you stop along Katoomba Street for a bite to eat and a coffee at one of the quaint little cafes. There were plenty to choose from, but we stumbled upon Clean Slate Cafe and felt some good vibes. The coffee was great, everything on the menu sounded great and was at a reasonable price, and service came with a smile.

How to get to The Blue Mountains, Sydney

blue-mountains-sydney-townTown of Katoomba

By car: 1.5 hour drive from the center of Sydney (to Katoomba)

By train: 2 hour train ride from Central (around AUS$8 each way. Click here for timetables).


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
pre-rup-3-150x150.jpg

This is a continuation from my previous post on the first two temples (Banteay Srei and Preah Khan) I visited during the second day of my temple-hopping adventures in Siem Reap. After having seen five temples in the last 24-hours (I went to Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm the previous day), I had three more temples to tackle: Neak Pean, Ta Som, and Pre Rup. Despite being hot, hungry, and tired, I was looking forward to cramming in a few more temples before my Cambodian adventures were over.

Neak Pean

pre-rup-neak-pean-3-1024x683.jpgThe walk to get to Neak Pean

pre-rup-neak-pean-1024x683.jpg pre-rup-neak-pean-2-1024x683.jpg

Neak Pean was probably the most underwhelming “temple” I saw in Siem Reap. There was practically nothing to see at the temple sight, save for a small structure in the middle of a pond. Though Neak Pean didn’t impress me at first, the history behind this artificial island is quite interesting and different from the other temples I saw. Originally used for medicinal purposes, each body of water represented the Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. It was believed that going into these connected pools would stabilize the elements within you and rid you of disease (a bit of research can certainly make you appreciate something!).

Ta Som

pre-rup-ta-som-1024x683.jpgEntrance to Ta Som

pre-rup-ta-som-6-1024x683.jpg pre-rup-ta-som-5-1024x683.jpg pre-rup-ta-som-4-1024x683.jpg pre-rup-ta-som-3-1024x683.jpg pre-rup-ta-som-2-1024x683.jpg

I found Ta Som to be quite similar to Ta Prohm; the design of these temples resembled one another, both have not had much restoration done, and there were massive trees growing throughout and on top of the structures. Built in the late 12th century, Ta Prohm was certainly beautiful to walk through and wasn’t as busy the further into the temple you walked. There was also a section inside the temple where locals were selling some interesting handiworks and quite a few lovely older females who sold fruit at the entrance (can’t beat a fresh pineapple cut up right in front of you for US$1).

Pre Rup

pre-rup-2-1024x683.jpg pre-rup-4-1024x683.jpg pre-rup-1-1024x683.jpg pre-rup-3-1024x683.jpg

Pre Rup, meaning “turn the body”, was one of my favorite temples in Siem Reap. This Hindu temple wasn’t exactly large, but it was certainly high and the views were great. I sat at the top for awhile, taking in the tall structures scattered about, and the contrast between the red brick and sandstone and the bright green trees in the distance. I also liked this temple because there weren’t many tourists around, which was basically a miracle given my experience at some of the other temples. In short, Pre Rup was the perfect spot to end my last day of temple visits.

For more information on hiring a driver, entrance fees, and appropriate dress, read my previous article on Exploring Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm: Day 1 temple tour in Siem Reap


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
shinjuku-washington-hotel-3-150x150.jpg

Figuring out which area of Tokyo to stay in and then finding a hotel that doesn’t cost a fortune can be a logistical nightmare (especially when traveling over the popular sakura/cherry blossom season). After plenty of research on where to stay, I opted to pay a bit more for accommodation in a central area, as opposed to staying a bit out of the way to save some money. Shinjuku was on just about every travel guide and blog I read, so once I settled on that location it was time to choose a hotel. I narrowed it down based on price, distance from the metro, and facilities. The only hotel I found at the time to be within reason was the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex.

First Impressions of the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex

shinjuku-washington-hotel-5-1024x768.jpgMain lobby

To start, this is not a fancy hotel by any means. The hotel is located right next to the Shinjuku Washington Hotel (which we initially confused for our hotel) and you walk through a building full of restaurants and a convenient store (which ended up being very convenient) to get there. The lobby area is basic, but the staff do speak English fairly well and were able to help us with any questions we had. Check-in was painless and they offered a buffet breakfast (at an additional, but reasonable, cost) at a variety of different restaurants, depending on your cuisine preference.

My Room

shinjuku-washington-hotel-2-1024x768.jpgRoom with two single bedsshinjuku-washington-hotel-4-1024x768.jpgRoom facilitiesshinjuku-washington-hotel-1-768x1024.jpgPJ time

Though the room wasn’t large by any means, it still had ample space to move around and throw our luggage down (sorry – photos were clearly not taken when the room was clean!) without feeling like we were in each other’s way. The amenities were simple, but much appreciated – daily bottles of water and coffee/tea (side note: the pour-over coffee was insanely good. So good, in fact, we went on a mission to find a grocery store that sold this type of fancy instant coffee), freshly pressed pyjamas, a mini-fridge, and a hair-dryer. The bathroom was also equipped with shampoo, body wash, complimentary toiletries, and an amazing toilet. A flushing noise would come on once you sat down so no one would have to hear you do your business and it had a built-in bidet that would clean both ends. Originally I was skeptical about the bidet, but soon after became obsessed (TMI?) and am still wondering why these toilets aren’t used everywhere around the world.

Overall Thoughts

I would definitely recommend the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex if you’re looking to stay in one of Tokyo’s central areas without paying a fortune. The hotel has a decent sized room, basic amenities, and is close to the metro. I stayed at the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex for five nights during cherry blossom season at ¥19,570 per night including tax (of which I paid half since I was sharing the room with a friend – so around HK$700 per night).

Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex
2-9, Nishishinjuku, 3 chome 
Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo
Japan

My stay at the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex was paid for entirely by myself. As always, all views and opinions expressed are my own. 


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
villa-finder1-150x150.jpg

Koh Samui has become one of the must-visit destinations in South East Asia over the past few years thanks to its beautiful beaches, chilled out vibe, and relatively easy access. Although the island isn’t particularly large, the different sections offer visitors a different experience. The two most popular areas of Koh Samui are Chaweng Beach and Bophut. While you can find many hotels in each area, if you’re traveling in a larger group – with family or friends – your best bet is to rent a private villa with Villa Finder.

Chaweng Beach

villa-finder-chaweng1-1024x576.jpg

Arguably the most popular area in Koh Samui, Chaweng Beach has something for everyone. The main strip is quite lively and has plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops making it popular with a younger crowd. I spent three nights in Chaweng and I loved that the beach was minutes away, there were many dining options, and the area came to life at night. That being said, it was a bit crowded at times and felt a bit too touristy for my liking.

If, like me, you want all the conveniences of Chaweng, but are looking to stay in a more secluded area, I would highly recommend renting a villa through Villa Finder. Although most of these villas aren’t right on the beach, the facilities, views, and services they offer are incomparable to what you’ll find at many of the more generic beachfront hotels. Although you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from everyone, the villas are all a quick 10~ minute drive to a variety of restaurants. If you’re wanting to optimize your time in the villa, you can always ask the staff to prepare and cook up an incredible meal for you and your guests.

Bophut Beach

villa-finder-bophut-1024x576.jpg

Head to the northern part of the island and you’ll discover the tranquility of Bophut Beach. This area isn’t as built-up and touristy as Chaweng, and still retains much of its former Thai-Chinese influence and charm. Bophut’s chilled out vibe makes it a great area for families or those that are more interested in relaxing than partying. Although I didn’t stay in Bophut, I went to the night market by the Fisherman’s Village (held every Friday night) and loved the wide range of street food offered.

Most of the villas from Villa Finder around Bophut Beach are privy to a prime beachfront location and are absolutely stunning. These villas can fit anywhere from four to eighteen people in them and are equipped with everything you could possibly need. Need something a little extra? Villa Finder can make just about anything happen to ensure your vacation goes exactly how you want it.

About Villa Finder

Villa Finder began in 2012 and sets themselves apart from the competition by offering guests the complete experience: all villas are personally inspected by the team and from the moment you make an inquiry on the website, the Travel Consultants work to ensure they understand your needs and what you’re looking for during your holiday. Afterwards, they source out the villas that best fit the client’s needs. Once the villa is chosen, the Guest Relation team can take care of any other requests – from something as simple as an airport pick up to a romantic dinner or in-villa massage. One thing I really love about Villa Finder is that for every booking made, a tree is planted in Sumatra, Indonesia. Currently, Villa Finder has over 1,000 villas in Bali, Phuket, Koh Samui, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius.

 

This post was written in collaboration with Villa Finder.


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
bitan taipei 2

While the hustle and bustle of Taipei can be thrilling for a few days, sometimes you just need to escape. Cue Bitan Taipei (literally, “green lake”): a small, relaxing area only a short MRT ride from the city center. Though the weather was not on my side when I went, I enjoyed wandering about and taking in the riverside beauty (or at least what I imagined it to look like with clear blue skies!). Bitan is also the MRT station you need to get off at if you’re taking the public bus to Wulai, making it well worth your time to spend a few hours in the morning here before heading to the hot springs in Wulai.

How To Get To Bitan Taipei

bitan taipei

Only a 30 or so minute MRT ride from Taipei, Bitan is located on the last stop on the green line going south; Xindian Station. Once you exit the station, turn left down Xindian Road until you reach Bitandiao Bridge (a well-known suspension bridge that you can cross the river on). Basically everything to do in Bitan is a stone-throw away from here.

Things To Do In Bitan Taipei

bitan taipei 6bitan taipei 4 bitan taipei 3

Bitan Taipei is essentially a riverside park area that is popular with tourists and locals alike. People come here for the riverside restaurants, pedal boats, suspension bridge, and local snacks.

The suspension bridge is really beautiful (even on a crappy day) and connects the two neighbourhoods on opposite sides of the river, both of which are filled with great food and lovely sights. Cross the bridge to get to a hiking trail (starts just on your left after the bridge) that offers great photo ops of the opposite side of the river with its colorful houses and restaurants along the water. If the weather is cooperating, you can rent a pedal boat for a few hours and coast along the river. Afterwards, head to a riverside restaurant for a bite to eat or onto the street for an array of Taiwanese snacks.

Once you’ve had enough of Bitan, hop on the bus to Wulai for a day filled with more adventures! For more information on Wulai, read my other blog posts on: the hot springs, what to eat, and 5 things to do in Wulai



View the full article

thisgirlabroad
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

spit-to-manly-sandy-bay

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

spit-to-manly-castle-rock-beach

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

spit-to-manly-detour spit-to-manly-lighthouse-2

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

spit-to-manly-dobroyd-head

No beach here, but nevertheless some breathtaking sights.

Reef Beach

spit-to-manly-reef-beach

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

spit-to-manly-forty-baskets-beach

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

spit-to-manly-fairlight-beach

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

spit-to-manly-manly

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


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
mount-royal-montreal-7-150x150.jpg

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)

mount-royal-montreal-1-1024x683.jpgThe starting pointmount-royal-montreal-2-1024x683.jpgThrough the trail

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

mount-royal-montreal-9-1024x683.jpg

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.


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
fang-fang-brunch-3-150x150.jpg

Natural light fills the restaurant and the middle has been cleared away to make room for a long table filled with Fang Fang’s semi-buffet offerings. Although I don’t love the set-up, the display of food is impressive (especially the sushi platter). There’s a decent selection from the buffet along with four main dishes that are brought to your table. The vibe is pretty good, but it’s also very kid-friendly with a play area at the front of the restaurant. While this is obviously great for families, I can’t say I’m a fan of drinking glass after glass of champagne around children. The service was great, although they did run out of sake which we found a bit strange, but the dishes were a bit hit and miss.

Buffet Counter

fang-fang-brunch-1-1024x683.jpgSushi platterfang-fang-brunch-2-1024x683.jpgEntire semi-buffet counter

The menu is divided into different sections like, “from the basket”, “from the ocean”, “from the oven”, and so forth. While I appreciated the breakdown of options on the menu, the buffet counter was a bit disorganized. Perhaps organizing the table in these sections with the name of each item would have been helpful. Thankfully, the staff were quick to point out what each dish was when they saw us standing around the table looking slightly confused. Overall, the options were okay, but nothing really stood out enough to make me want to go back for seconds.

Mains

fang-fang-brunch-4-1024x683.jpgNew Zealand lamb rack & angus beef tenderloinfang-fang-brunch-5-1024x683.jpgAroma duck with crepefang-fang-brunch-6-1024x683.jpgWasabi prawnsfang-fang-brunch-7-1024x683.jpgMui choy pork belly

The first main to arrive was the New Zealand lamb rack & Angus beef tenderloin. I wished they had asked how we would like the meat cooked, as it was a bit well done. That being said, the lamb rack was quite tasty and was cooked more to a medium-rare than the beef. My favorite main was the aroma duck with crepe, which I found exceptionally tasty: the duck was both crispy and tender, and full of flavor. Unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly keen on the other two mains. The wasabi prawns had far too much dressing on them, which was a shame considering how large and juicy the prawns appeared. By the time the mui choy pork belly came to our table, we were both so full we could barely take a bite.

Dessert

fang-fang-brunch-8-1024x683.jpgNibbles from the dessert counterfang-fang-brunch-9-1024x683.jpgSesame ice cream

If I had been more hungry, I likely would have found the dessert table underwhelming. There was a selection of fresh fruit, a mascarpone/cookie crumble/mango cup, and some cake that had a very strange jelly-like outer layer. They also brought a scoop of ice cream to us. The sesame flavor was fantastic: strong in flavor and incredibly creamy. The masala chai, however, was not: it was very icy and didn’t really taste like much.

Verdict on Fang Fang brunch

I’m a bit torn with whether I liked the brunch at Fang Fang. On one hand, I think there was a large selection of food to choose from and the service was quite attentive. Also, everything is always better when there’s free-flow champagne. On the other hand, none of the dishes really stood out besides the duck and the set-up was a bit strange. I’ve been to Fang Fang for dinner and really enjoyed it, so I’m hoping that after a few more brunch services they’ll have things sorted out a bit better.

Price:
Food only: HK$398
Non-alcoholic beverages: +HK$50
Premium beverage package (including Moet champagne, beer, wine, sake, Bloody Mary, and bellini): +HK$160

Fang Fang
8/F, LKF Tower
33 Wyndham Street
Central

Tel: 2983 9083


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
supafood - pork salad

Given the fact that I’m gorging down delicious (but ultimately unhealthy) meals far too often, I’m always on the prowl for quick and hearty food that’s also good for you. As health trends continue to rise; cold-pressed juices, salads galore, and organic everything, Supafood seems to have found a good balance of offering healthy food that is oh-so satisfying. Serving up salads to rice bowls, and chia pudding to smoothies, Supafood has their healthy eats down to a T.

Smoothies

supafood - smoothiesBerry Happy & Choco Luv Smoothie (HK$68 each)

To start, we quenched our thirst with Supafood’s healthy smoothies. The Berry Happy (HK$68) had a magical mix of organic acai berry, blue berry, organic banana, local honey, and coconut water, making for a light and refreshing drink. We also tried the Choco Luv (HK$68), which consisted of organic cacao, organic peanut butter and organic almond milk. This smoothie was much thicker, and while I really liked the flavour, I found the texture to be a bit grainy.

Salads

supafood - fish saladBaked Sustainable Wild Caught Atlantic Halibut Salad (HK$108 for large)supafood - pork saladOrganic Apple Roasted US Pasture Raised Pulled Pork Shoulder Salad (HK$118 for large)

Since we were starving, we tried two incredibly large and satisfying salads. First up was the Baked Sustainable Wild Caught Atlantic Halibut Salad (HK$108 for large), made with a fresh mix of organic baby spinach, apple, cherry tomato, sunflower seed, roasted pumpkin and couscous mix with avocado yoghurt dressing. The salad was quite light (despite its large size) and the ingredients went together well, though the dressing was a bit bland. My personal favourite was the Organic Apple Roasted US Pasture Raised Pulled Pork Shoulder Salad (HK$118 for large), made with organic kale, cherry tomatos, pomegranate, pumpkin, chia seeds, feta and quinoa mix with apple cider vinaigrette dressing. Everything about this salad screamed “yes!” and I felt like I was feasting on a delicious meal without the #carbregret aftermath.

On-the-run

supafood - chia puddingChia Pudding (HK$48)supafood - protein ballCoconut Supaball (HK$28)

If you’re on the go, Supafood’s smaller takeaway options are perfect. Since we were absolutely stuffed, but not quite done trying all of the delicious options on the menu, we opted to bring a few healthy treats home. The Chia Pudding (HK$48) was a guilt-free bowl of goodness. There was a good amount of chia pudding, making this the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up. We also brought home a few Coconut Supaballs (HK$28 each) made with oat flakes, raw cacao nibs, peanut butter, golden flax seed, coconut chips and honey chia seed. I loved having this the next morning with a coffee to jump-start my day, and they were also the perfect pre- or post-gym session snack.

Verdict On Supafood

Supafood’s “mission is to reinvent fast food” by using healthy organic ingredients to create tasty, guilt-free dishes that won’t cost a fortune. The variety of options, quality of ingredients, and relatively large portions (the large salad could easily be two meals for most) make choosing to grab a bite at Supafood a no-brainer.

Supafood
1 Jervois Street
Sheung Wan
Hong Kong 


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
george-town-street-art-8-150x150.jpg

At this point, it’s not a surprise to many that George Town, Penang is home to  a variety of street art. In fact, a lot of people specifically plan to visit for exactly that reason: to discover the hidden streets and alleyways that this artwork is found on. The street art in George Town comes in many varieties and has been completed by multiple artists, however the original project came to life in 2012 when the municipal council hired Ernest Zacharevic to brighten up the town. He was commissioned to create a handful of murals to showcase everyday life in Penang. The unique, sometimes larger-than-life artwork found throughout the city has put Penang in the global spotlight: George Town street art is a must-see for all visitors.

George Town Street Art: Mirrors George Town

Ernest Zacharevic is a Lithuanian artist who lives in George Town. He was asked by the city council to create a handful of murals throughout George Town for a project called Mirrors George Town for the upcoming Penang George Town Festival. This project’s aim was to attract more tourists to the area, but also to shine light on the city’s unique heritage (it is a UNESCO heritage sight, after all). Although this was the first stage of street art, many other artists followed after and you’ll now see plenty of different forms of street art throughout the city.

Where to find the street art

When I was in George Town many years ago, I aimlessly wandered around and saw whatever street art I happened to stumble upon – such a shame considering he had just completed the project when I went. This time around, I did some research ahead of time and found this blog that put together a map of where to find Ernest Zacharevic’s murals (though I did end up missing two and one has since been removed).

Make your way around George Town by foot – it will likely take at least half a day, if not more, to visit all of the street art if you’re going at a leisurely pace. I was there in April and it was incredibly hot, but we did manage by foot (and by random stops inside 7-11 to cool down!). An alternative method is to rent bicycles for the day and go around if you’re pressed for time and are interested in exploring other parts of the city in the same day.

“The Awaiting Trishaw Paddler”

george-town-street-art-3-1024x683.jpg

“Little Girl in Blue”

george-town-street-art-4-1024x683.jpg

“Reaching Up”

george-town-street-art-5-683x1024.jpg

“Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur”

george-town-street-art-6-1024x683.jpg

“Boy on a Bike”

george-town-street-art-7-683x1024.jpg

“Little Children on a Bicycle”

george-town-street-art-2-1024x683.jpg

Stay tuned for my next piece on all of the other artwork we stumbled upon while exploring George Town!


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
schwartzs-deli-montreal-1-150x150.jpg

I originally thought about writing a general post about my favourite restaurants and food in Montreal, but I quickly realised my love for Schwartz’s Deli deserved a post of its own. If you Google where to eat in Montreal, it’s pretty much a guarantee that Schwartz’s Deli is going to come up. And for good reason. Whether or not you like smoked meat sandwiches or have never tried them before, I can pretty much promise you that you’re going to fall in love with just about everything on the menu at Schwartz’s Deli Montreal.

What makes Schwartz’s Deli Montreal special?

schwartzs-deli-montreal-2-1024x683.jpg

Schwartz’s Deli Montreal has been around since 1928 and is still located on the same street, Saint Laurent Boulevard. Aside from the most insanely delicious smoked meat sandwich, it’s the whole experience that I really love (shockingly, I almost don’t even mind the queue). Every time I’ve been, the queue takes around 30 minutes to get through. Once in, you’ll likely be seated at a table with other hungry locals and tourists. The atmosphere inside is busy, slightly chaotic, but filled with an authenticity that keeps people coming back.

Smoked Meat Sandwiches, Fries, & Pickles!

schwartzs-deli-montreal-3-683x1024.jpg schwartzs-deli-montreal-4-1024x683.jpg

The whole reason you come to Schwartz’s Deli Montreal is for their classic smoked meat sandwich (CAD$9.95). The sandwich is filled with the most delicious smoked meat: tender, slightly salty, and even better with a slight smear of mustard on top. Along with your sandwich, you have to order a plate of french fries (CAD$3.55) and a massive dill pickle (CAD$2.35) on the side. The fries are some of the best I’ve ever had and the pickle is one of the restaurant’s signature sides.

Despite being busy, the waitstaff are friendly and you can expect quick service. Although this isn’t exactly a place to sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal given the line of people waiting for a table, I’ve never felt rushed/pushed out of Schwartz’s Deli before. This place is a must when you’re visiting Montreal.

Schwartz’s Deli
3895 Boul. Saint-Laurent
Montreal


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
four-seasons-toronto-6-150x150.jpg

The Four Seasons hotels are known worldwide for providing high quality accommodation and service and the Four Seasons Toronto is no exception. Located in Yorkville, it’s the perfect spot to spend some time shopping and exploring the city. I was surprised by and quite liked the simplicity of the hotel’s exterior; there were no big signs indicating it was the Four Seasons Toronto, which I think fits in well with the make-up of Yorkville. Upon entering the hotel, you’ll find that the lobby is modest yet sleek and the service is impeccable. Whether you’re here on business, with your family, or are looking for a little staycation, the Four Seasons Toronto is a great, all-encompassing option.

First impressions of the Four Seasons Toronto Hotel

four-seasons-toronto-11-1024x683.jpgFront entrance of the Four Seasons Toronto

Door greeters, a huge smile plastered on their face, opened the front entrance doors for us with a friendly “welcome” and you can’t help but smile back. Our staycation was certainly off to a good start. We were tempted to grab a drink at dbar, the lounge located on the ground floor, before checking in since there were a handful of tables outside and I can’t resist outdoor seating (especially since it’s a rarity in Hong Kong). However, we put our temptations aside and continued to the reception. The lobby was humble and thoughtfully designed, and the reception staff were quick to get us checked in.

The room

four-seasons-toronto-1-1024x683.jpg four-seasons-toronto-2-1024x683.jpg four-seasons-toronto-6-1024x683.jpg four-seasons-toronto-10-1024x683.jpg

I loved the light teal tones used throughout the room. The muted color coupled with minimal decor gave the space a bit of a vintage vibe that I really enjoyed. Hands down, my favorite thing about the room was the bed. Living in Hong Kong means small apartments, which means small bedrooms, which means small beds. Not only was the bed at the Four Seasons nice and big, but the mattress was insanely comfortable and it literally felt like I was sleeping on a cloud. Real talk: I loved it so much that I chose to stay in for the night watching trash TV and drinking wine in bed instead of going out. This also made it very difficult to get out of bed the next morning, so I decided to keep my lazy pants on and lounged in bed until we had to check out.

Shortly after we arrived, we were greeted with a knock on our door and a lovely bottle of wine with some sweet treats and the cutest “Oh Canada” presentation. We definitely appreciated the warm welcome from Four Seasons!

The bathroom

four-seasons-toronto-3-1024x683.jpg four-seasons-toronto-4-1024x683.jpg four-seasons-toronto-5-1024x683.jpg four-seasons-toronto-7-1024x683.jpg

To say the bathroom was big would be an understatement – it literally must have been the size of my entire room, if not bigger, back in Hong Kong. Besides its size, the bathtub was put to good use at the end of the day (a luxury most people don’t have in HK) and I appreciated that the shower and toilet could be used without taking up the entire bathroom. The lighting in the bathroom was fantastic, but also showed every little eyebrow hair I missed when I looked a bit closer :P. There was also a television that was built-in to the mirror, which would be perfect for those who take way too long to get ready.

Facilities

four-seasons-toronto-8-1024x683.jpg four-seasons-toronto-9-1024x683.jpg

I’m not going to lie, I was really hoping for an outdoor pool at the Four Seasons Toronto, but I suppose since it’s summer weather for ~3 months a year it doesn’t really make sense. Regardless, the pool area is lovely and there is a small outside patio with lounge chairs for you to relax on. One thing I really liked about the pool was that they recently introduced family swim hours and relaxation hours, perfect for those (like me) who would rather enjoy the pool without hearing children scream and getting splashed with water (I swear I’m not bitter). There’s also a beautiful spa and a 24-hour fitness facility to use.

Overall thoughts on the Four Seasons Toronto Hotel

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Toronto and price isn’t a huge concern, then I’d definitely recommend staying at the Four Seasons Toronto Hotel. The location is great (especially if you like to shop $$$), service is outstanding, and you’re guaranteed to have one of the best sleeps of your life.

Four Seasons Toronto 
60 Yorkville Avenue 
Toronto, Ontario
Canada 

Tel: 1 (416) 964 0411

I partnered with the Four Seasons Toronto for this post. As always, all views and opinions are sincerely my own. 


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
beef-and-liberty-brunch

Beef and Liberty has recently opened up in California Tower in LKF, boasting an incredibly large dining area with ample seating outside on the terrace, and a beautiful open kitchen and bar. While most people are familiar with Beef and Liberty’s burgers, this is their first location to serve a weekend brunch (that doesn’t just consist of burgers and fries). There is something for everyone on the Beef and Liberty brunch menu; from granola and yogurt to a mac ‘n cheese sandwich, the vibe is great, and nothing is over HK$80, which is unheard of in Hong Kong. Basically, this is one kick-123 brunch.

Vibe At Beef and Liberty Brunch

The first thing I noticed was how big the restaurant actually is (for Hong Kong standards, at least); there is ample indoor seating as well as three separated terraces for those that like to eat outside. The kitchen is semi-open and the bar is also open at the back, which I’m always a fan of. Expect bright lighting, welcoming staff, and comfortable yet modern decor that gives off plenty of good vibes.

Mains

beef-and-liberty-brunch-mac-n-cheeseMac ‘n Cheese Sandwich (HK$68)beef-and-liberty-brunch-beans-and-eggBeans & Liberty (HK$78)beef-and-liberty-brunch-eggs-and-soldiersEggs & Soldiers (HK$48)

If you love mac n cheese (which is hopefully all of you), you must order the Mac ‘n Cheese Sandwich (HK$68) with elbow pasta, Isle of Mull cheddar, parmesan, creme fraiche, and bacon jam on the side. The sandwich was cheesy without being overly messy, and made for a fun alternative to your traditional mac ‘n cheese. We also ordered the Beans & Liberty (HK$78) without being entirely sure what to expect, and fell in love with the way this dish was presented when it came to our table. While it did look great, the combination of braised white beans, slow roasted pork shoulder, pork crackling, and a soft poached egg didn’t exactly blow us away. My favourite of the three dishes we had was the Eggs & Soldiers (HK$48), in part because of the super cute presentation as well as the super sweet maple bacon. Just cut off the top of the crispy battered eggs, dip either the toast or bacon into the runny yolk, enjoy, and repeat.

Dessert

beef-and-liberty-brunch-dessertThe King (HK$78)

I had heard a lot of talk about Beef and Liberty’s The King (HK$78), made with nutella, caramelized banana, roasted hazelnut, and crispy bacon, all sandwiched between a cinnamon sugar bun, which meant that, despite being incredibly full, we ordered one to share. Even though it literally had every ingredient I loved inside, I wasn’t wowed (perhaps because I was so full and this was just far too sweet). I would recommend ordering this if you haven’t gone too crazy on mains and have saved some room for a very sugary dessert.

Verdict

The Beef and Liberty brunch might just take home the 1st prize for HK’s best valued brunch of 2016. Dishes are not only cheap, but the presentation is #instagramworthy, and the overall quality and taste of each item we tried was spot-on. I don’t often go back to restaurants after trying them once (there’s just too much damn choice in this city!), but I’d absolutely make an exception for the Beef and Liberty brunch.

 You can opt to add on a two-hour free-flow package for HK$178, which includes red/white wine, prosecco, bloody mary, and draught beer. 

Beef and Liberty 
3/F California Tower 
30-32 D’Aguilar Street
Central 
Hong Kong 

Tel: 2450 5778


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
IMG_8774 - Copy

If you’re able to spend more than a few days in Taipei, I would highly recommend spending some time in Jiufen. Known for its large selection of street food along Jiufen Old Street and its picturesque views of the surrounding area, Jiufen is a breath of fresh air. Here’s an outline on how to get to Jiufen; either take the train to Ruifang and then bus to Jiufen or you can take a bus directly from Taipei.

what to eat in jiufen

I ended up taking the train first, then bus, as I didn’t realize you could take a bus directly there. Either way, you’ll end up in Jiufen, but here is a quick layout of your two transportation options:

1. Train to Riufang, bus to Jiufen:

Head to Taipei Main Station and purchase a ticket to Riufang Station. Once out of Riufang Station go straight and turn left onto the street in front of you. Cross the street and walk down for about 5 minutes or so until you reach a bus station. We were slightly unsure of which bus to take, so we asked the bus driver before we hopped on (I believe it was Keelung Bus 788, but double check the schedule). Stay on the bus until the last stop, which will drop you off a few minutes away from Jiufen Old Street. The train ticket is around NT$60 and the bus ticket is around NT$20.

2. Bus directly to Jiufen from Taipei City

Make your way to  Zhongxiao Fuxing Station (at the intersection of the Brown and Blue MRT line) and go out Exit 1. Take Keelung Bus 1062 – it will likely say Jinguashin on the sign, but don’t worry, it’ll take you to Jiufen. The bus ticket is around NT$100.

Once there, enjoy exploring the beautiful streets, lovely scenery, and – of course – all the delicious food!


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
tsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-4-150x150.jpg

The Tsukiji Fish Market is on just about everyone’s must-do when traveling to Tokyo, and for good reason! Earlier in the year, it was rumored that the fish market would be shutting down and relocating to another area of Tokyo. Thankfully, for those that have yet to visit the market, that plan has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. Until it does close, head on over to the Tsukiji Fish Market to try an array of street snacks, eat some ridiculously fresh sushi, and explore the wholesale market.

How to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market

tsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-1-1024x768.jpg

The Tsukiji Fish Market is surprisingly easy to get to. The market is about 25 minutes from Shinjuku Station and only a few minutes’ walk from Tsukiji Station (just follow the direction of all the other white people :P).

Street snacks found at the Tsukiji Fish Market

tsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-2-1024x768.jpgMochi with fresh strawberry (¥300)tsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-4-1024x768.jpgOnigiritsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-7-1024x768.jpgTonkatsutsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-5-768x1024.jpgTomago (¥100)tsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-3-768x1024.jpgCorn Fritter (¥320)

We arrived at around 9:00 am and stopped at just about every other stall to grab something to eat. We first tried the mochi with fresh strawberry (¥300). The massive mochi is filled with various flavors: red bean, matcha, chocolate, etc. and was an odd but satisfying morning snack. There were a few shops selling onigiri and tonkatsu, though everything was in Japanese, so it was a bit of a guessing game when choosing. I loved the simple and fluffy tomago (¥100), especially since it was served hot on the very cold and rainy day we decided to go to the market. The corn fritter (¥320) was definitely a highlight for me – the ones served at the market are made with a mild fish paste that was surprisingly delicious.

Where to go for a sit-down sushi meal

sushi-katsura-2-1024x683.jpgSushi Katsura

You’ve likely heard of some of the popular sushi shops by the Tsukiji Fish Market, like Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai, that people begin queuing up for at 4:00 am (or earlier!). Since there was no way I would be waking up that early just to stand in line for 3+ hours, I managed to find an alternate sushi restaurant only a few minutes’ walk from the Tsukiji Fish Market. Sushi Katsura (すしかつら) is a fantastic alternative with an omakase menu that starts at only ¥950 (compared with the above mentioned restaurants where it’ll likely cost triple). Sushi Katsura also doesn’t open until lunchtime, so you don’t need to wake up at a ridiculous hour to enjoy high quality sushi.

Read more about my experience at Sushi Katsura here

Places to explore around the Tsukiji Fish Market

tsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-9-1024x768.jpgWholesale areatsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-10-1024x768.jpWholesale areatsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-11-1024x768.jpIndoor markettsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-12-1024x768.jpWasabitsukiji-fish-market-tokyo-8-1024x768.jpgAlong the streets

You can head into the wholesale warehouse to explore after the auctions have taken place, however, it’s a bit chaotic and they ask you to put away your camera before going inside (I clearly didn’t listen to the rules). Things were winding down when I went in, but I did come across some of the largest scallops I’ve ever laid eyes on. There are also two indoor market areas you can walk through with little stalls throughout selling fresh sushi, sashimi, uni, and plenty more.

Things to know

Hours: 
The outer area of the market is open from 5:00 am – 3:00 pm (hours may vary slightly depending on the shops).
The wholesale area opens to visitors as of 9:00 am.

Days of Operation:
The Tsukiji Fish Market is closed on Sundays, holidays, and most Wednesdays. Be sure to check the calendar before you plan your visit.


View the full article

thisgirlabroad
hoi-an-night-market-2-150x150.jpg

Night markets are one of my favorite parts of traveling throughout South East Asia. I love the food, the knick-knacks, the mix of locals and tourists, and the general buzz that surrounds you. The night market in Hoi An has certainly come a long way since I was there over three years ago. Although the selection isn’t quite as vast as some other night markets, you can still find a good selection of sweet and savory delights, along with numerous stalls selling souvenirs and other trinkets at the Hoi An Night Market.

hoi-an-night-market-1-1024x683.jpgPicture taken from the end of the night markethoi-an-night-market-3-1024x683.jpgThe beginning of the night market – less than an hour later and these walkways were packed

What to buy at the Hoi An Night Market

I would recommend heading into the night market when the sun begins to set, as it gets very busy later in the evening. The little trinket shops sell everything from tableware to purses, though I found it a bit more difficult to negotiate here. I wanted a woven bag and the lady originally wanted to charge US$20 and would not go any lower than US$15, which I found to be expensive when compared to shopping in other markets. Regardless, most of the items you’ll find here you’ll have likely come across on your travels elsewhere.

What to eat 

hoi-an-night-market-6-1024x683.jpg hoi-an-night-market-5-1024x683.jpg hoi-an-night-market-4-1024x683.jpg

There are mainly sweet snacks with a few savory items. Start with a sausage on a stick or a fried shrimp pancake, though I would recommend having something more substantial beforehand. Personally, I went straight for the stalls selling sweets. You’ll find the ever-popular banana nutella pancakes and rolled ice cream, along with some lesser known treats that I hadn’t tried before. This thin crispy waffle with ‘dragon candy’, condensed milk, and chocolate sauce inside was an absolute highlight. I also ordered a thicker version made with shaved coconut and peanuts (both picture above). Most food items on offer will run you between 20,000 VND – 30, 000 VND, but you can sometimes negotiate if there aren’t many people around (I was able to purchase deep fried banana pancakes for 10,000 VND during the day). While I did enjoy the food at the night market, I much prefer these places to eat in Hoi An.

How to get to the Hoi An Night Market

The night market is located on the busy little island of An Hội. To get there, simply head into Hoi An Ancient Town towards the iconic Japanese wooden bridge. You’ll see a small and busy bridge right in front that leads you over the river. Cross over the water and turn right. Walk straight and take your first left – the street will be filled with vendors on both sides.


View the full article

Sign in to follow this  
×