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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
okra-hong-kong-9-150x150.jpg

Okra has been in Hong Kong for two years now and, despite living only a few minutes away, I only just dined there for a much-anticipated feast. Over the past years, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about Okra Hong Kong, so my expectations were admittedly quite high. I won’t beat around the bush: every dish that I tried was incredibly unique and delicious, and the atmosphere was cozy yet upbeat; something that most restaurants struggle to provide. If you’re looking for a different dining experience in Hong Kong, I would highly recommend heading to Okra.

Vibe at Okra Hong Kong

The dining space at Okra is small so it’s best to go with only one or two other people. There is seating around the bar/kitchen, which I would recommend trying to snag, and a few tables for two if you’re looking for something a bit more intimate. The music, which is curated by Okra’s chef-owner Max Levy, is a fitting mix of Dead Kennedies, The Misfits, and the like. I also loved the massive risque mural adorned on the wall inside. As the night continued, conversations grew louder, the sake continued flowing, and the vibe kept getting better.

Sake

okra-hong-kong-7-683x1024.jpg“THE COCK” Junmai Ginjo (Fukuoka) HK$108 per glass or HK$798 per bottle

Okra Hong Kong has a great sake list that is broken down into a few different tasting notes. We opted for the hilariously named (although appropriate given that 2017 was the year of the rooster) “The Cock” Junmai Ginjo (HK$108). Aside from the slightly acidic and refreshing tasting points of this sake, I liked that it was made in collaboration with Tsui Hark specifically for Okra.

Starters

okra-hong-kong-1-683x1024.jpgNigari Sai Farmhouse Tofu (HK$98)okra-hong-kong-2-1024x683.jpgGoose Blood Toastokra-hong-kong-3-1024x683.jpgGoose Blood Toastokra-hong-kong-4-1024x683.jpgSalt Tomato (HK$88)

We began with the popular Nigari Sai Farmhouse Tofu (HK$98) with Okra’s handmade Pigeon Sauce. The handmade tofu was silky smooth and paired beautifully with the fresh cherry tomatoes. Although this is not a dish I would typically order, the Goose Blood Toast was on the specials board (sorry, can’t remember how much it was!) and I was curious to try it. The goose blood was somewhat similar to a pate and was full of flavor. We also tried the Salt Tomato (HK$88), which was on the specials board. Despite the simplicity of the dish, this was one of the best tomatoes I’ve had in ages (in case you weren’t aware, Hong Kong is not known for its produce).

Mains

okra-hong-kong-5-1024x683.jpgDry Aged Beef Tongue (HK$168)okra-hong-kong-11-1024x683.jpgDry Aged Baby Tuna (HK$118)okra-hong-kong-8-683x1024.jpgUnabi Fun (HK$188)

Moving onto the mains, we began with the Dry Aged Beef Tongue (HK$168) from the specials board. I wasn’t entirely sold, given that I’ve never tried tongue before, but I have to admit it was really tasty. The thick pieces of cured meat were absolute perfection and I had to stop myself from devouring the entire plate. Another really interesting dish was the Dry Aged Baby Tuna (HK$118), also from the specials board. Dry aging fish heightens the taste, giving it that umami flavor everyone raves about. Despite living in Asia for 6.5 years, I had yet to try eel (I know, it’s shameful), so we decided to order the Unabi Fun (HK$188) – eel on crispy sushi rice. The eel had a delicious smokey flavor and the rice around the clay pot was perfectly crispy.

Dessert

okra-hong-kong-9-683x1024.jpgUji Matcha Cookie Boy (HK$76)

We finished our meal with the Uji Matcha Cookie Boy (HK$76) – a roasted green tea and red bean cookie with smoked cream and lemon salt. Although I liked the overall flavor of the cookie, I wish the outside was crispier.

Verdict

From the cozy yet lively atmosphere to the delicious pours of sake, and incredibly unique and refreshing dishes on the menu, I loved everything about Okra Hong Kong. If you’re tired of the same restaurants in the city and are looking for something different, you need to try Okra. Perfect for a date night or an intimate catch up with a friend, the setting compliments the food flawlessly and I can’t wait to go back and slowly work my way through the rest of the menu.

Okra Hong Kong
110 Queen’s Road West
Sai Ying Pun

Tel: 2806 1038


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For years I’ve heard people rave about Megan’s Kitchen, the well-known hot pot restaurant in Wan Chai that attracts locals and expats alike. Megan’s Kitchen is best known for its interesting and unique hot pot soup bases – they have everything from tom yum cappuccino to Japanese miso tofu. Although I can’t say I particularly enjoyed my last few hot pot experiences, I decided to give Megan’s Kitchen a shot when a group of my girl friends were organizing a night out. All in all, I ended up having a really fun night (most of which was thanks to the company and the free flow wine we ordered), but like everyone else had already told me, it was expensive considering you basically cook your own food.

Vibe at Megan’s Kitchen Hong Kong

megans-kitchen-1-1024x683.jpgRestaurant Interior

Megan’s Kitchen is pretty plain. There’s not much decor, the orange chairs are less than appealing, and there’s large flat screen TVs playing some type of Chinese soap opera around the room. Thankfully, we didn’t come here for the ambiance. The staff were friendly and nice, and were quick to refill our empty wine glasses (much to my later demise).

What we ordered

megans-kitchen-2-1024x683.jpgMake your own dipping saucemegans-kitchen-5-1024x683.jpgKimchi Dumplings, Pork Dumplings, Vegetable Dumplingsmegans-kitchen-3-683x1024.jpgBeefmegans-kitchen-6-1024x683.jpgRainbow Cuttlefish Ballsmegans-kitchen-4-1024x683.jpgOur feast

We began by making our own dipping sauces (they charge a rather ridiculous price of HK$25 per person for this), though I’m not entirely sure why since the soup bases are already flavored. For drinks, they had a free-flow package available, which included white and red wine and sake for only HK$138 per person, which we all obviously opted for.

The menu is massive, so we ordered a little bit of everything. The kimchi (HK$88), pork (HK$88), and vegetable (HK$88) dumplings were all surprisingly delicious, though I’d say the kimchi ones were my favorite. Since we had a few vegetarians with us, we only ordered two meat dishes: Australia grass-fed rib eye (HK$298) and another beef dish, but I honestly can’t even remember what it was (oops – I’ll blame it on the wine!). We also ordered a range of vegetables, noodles, and the popular rainbow cuttlefish balls (HK$98). As for our soup bases, we went with the tom yum cappuccino (HK$188) and sichuan (HK$168). The sichuan one was a bit too spicy for all of us, so we pretty much put everything into the tom yum soup, which was still a bit spicy for some but I really enjoyed it.

As a heads up, if you don’t want the century eggs or other “welcome starters” they automatically place on your table when you arrive, you need to tell the staff right away. Otherwise, you will be charged.

Verdict

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my time at Megan’s Kitchen. Though, I’m sure that was mainly due to the company and the obscene amount of wine I consumed throughout dinner. The food was good, although nothing really had that wow-factor, except for the kimchi dumplings. For HK$600 per person for a table of 5, we left absolutely stuffed with both food and wine. If you haven’t been yet, I would recommend getting a fun group of people together for dinner at Megan’s Kitchen. That being said, I’m not exactly racing back to spend that kind of money to essentially cook my own food.

Megan’s Kitchen
5/F Lucky Centre
165-171 Wan Chai Road
Wan Chai 

Tel: 2866 8305


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There’s  no shortage of places to get together with a group of friends on the weekend for a little (or big) boozy brunch. Just like most expats here, I’ve been to my fair share of them: from a la carte menus to buffets, and cappuccinos to champagne. Although I love all brunches, I was in the mood for something a bit more refined, so I decided to check out the ON Dining brunch – Le Grande Brunch, and boy do they know how to put out a great spread. We went through a whopping 6-course brunch (accompanied by champagne, of course) filled with a wide range of exceptional dishes.

Vibe at On Dining brunch

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I’ve only been to the bar area of ON Dining (absolutely love their outdoor patio space), so when we went down the stairs to the restaurant portion, I fell in love with the clean, simple, and modern decor. The floor to ceiling windows are also perfect, day or night, to take in the view of Hong Kong.

To start

on-dining-brunch-2-683x1024.jpgBread Basketon-dining-brunch-3-1024x683.jpgOyster, King Crab, Beef Tataki, Cauliflower & Salmon Roe, Caviar Tartlet

We began with the most delicious bread basket that came with croissants, pain au chocolat, panatone, and baguettes. On the side, we had a three-tiered tray with a variety of preserves (passion fruit, chocolate, and strawberry), fruit, and yogurt. Next, we had a beautifully presented plate with a variety of bite-sized snacks including oyster, king crab, beef tataki, cauliflower & salmon roe, and caviar tartlet. I liked that we were able to try a range of nibbles without having to commit to just one.

Starters & mains

on-dining-brunch-4-1024x683.jpgStarter: L’Oeuf d’Okinawa – Chanterelle parmesan cheese & shaved black truffle

There were four options for starters on the menu, but my heart was set on the L’Oeuf d’Okinawa, comprised of Chanterelle Parmesan cheese and shaved black truffle. Simply put, this dish was amazing: the ingredients harmoniously came together and I savored every single bite.

on-dining-brunch-6-683x1024.jpgLes Cavatellis – Homemade cavatelli, seafood ragout, carabinero prawnon-dining-brunch-7-1024x683.jpgLe Boeuf – Prime beef ribs teriyaki, creamy mushrooms, romaine saladon-dining-brunch-5-1024x683.jpgLe Bar de Ligne – Wild sea bass, artichoke puree, spinach, sea urchin emulsion, pearl barley, black truffle julienne

Although all four mains on the menu sounded delicious, I opted for the Le Boeuf – Prime beef ribs teriyaki, creamy mushrooms, romaine salad. Honestly, the picture does not do this dish justice. I could have used a butter knife to cut the beef, it was so tender and the creamy mushrooms were an absolute treat. The other two dishes my food-loving friends ordered were the Les Cavatellis – Homemade cavatelli, seafood ragout, carabinero prawn and the Le Bar de Ligne – Wild sea bass, artichoke puree, spinach, sea urchin emulsion, pearl barley, black truffle julienne. Both dishes were greedily lapped up within a mere minute, so it’s safe to say they really, really liked it.

Cheese & dessert

on-dining-brunch-8-683x1024.jpgCheese selectionon-dining-brunch-10-683x1024.jpgDessert platter: Homemade pastries with fruit and sorbet

After we were done with the mains, a good selection of cheese was brought to our table. Each cheese was explained to us and we were directed to try the cheeses from left to right. I usually prefer more mild flavored cheese (though the stinky ones are beginning to grow on me!), but I actually loved every single cheese here.

To wrap up, it was time for a beautiful dessert platter with a variety of homemade pastries, fruit, and sorbet. My favorite dessert was surprisingly the mini lemon meringue pie (quick background story: my parents used to always buy lemon meringue pie when I was growing up and I absolutely hated it – in hindsight, I think they totally did this because they knew I wouldn’t eat any! – but recently lemon desserts have grown on me and I actually really enjoy them).

Verdict on ON Dining brunch

The ON Dining brunch – Le Grande Brunch – is a fantastic option if you’re looking for an elegant brunch experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the six-course meal and would highly recommend it. Although it is a bit pricier than other brunches, the quality of the food more than makes up for it.

Price

Le Grande Brunch – HK$688 per person + HK$228 for additional 2 hours of free flow champagne, wine, beer, and soft drinks

ON Dining 
29/F, 18 On Lan Street
Central 

Tel: 2174 8100


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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

skin-gym-1024x699.jpgImage from The Skin Gym

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

strip-1024x379.jpgImage from Strip

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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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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There was a whole lot of hype surrounding the opening of Black Sheep Restaurant’s newest addition, New Punjab Club, and I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. As the name suggests, the restaurant serves a mix of Indian and Pakistani, and wanted to bring these authentic flavors to Hong Kong. The vibe is post-colonial with large pieces of interesting art plastered on the walls. If you’re looking for a fun, new place to delve into the world of Punjabi cuisine, New Punjab Club won’t disappoint.Vibe at New Punjab Club

Getting a weekend dinner reservation wasn’t particularly easy (without a month’s notice), but they managed to squeeze us in for the following Friday at 6:00 pm. Upon arriving, we were greeted at the main door by a large man looking sharp as ever in a fitted post-colonial suit. After we we were seated, our waiter (I forget his name now, but he had just moved to Hong Kong to work at New Punjab Club) brought over their gin cart for us to peruse. While we were waiting for our drinks, our waiter came by to explain the concept of the restaurant and the menu. He started by going over the different regions of cuisines offered at New Punjab Club and then went through the entire menu. It’s been awhile since I experienced this level of customer service in Hong Kong and it was incredibly refreshing and welcomed. Aside from the top-notch service, the decor is also very cool; a post-colonial vibe with large leather booths, dark wood tables, and large boisterous art throughout.

To Start

new-punjab-club-1-1024x683.jpgKeema Pau – spiced mutton, milk bun (HK$118)

We started with the Keema Pau (HK$118) – a spiced mutton curry that you’re meant to eat with a milk bun. The fragrant curry was delicious and the milk buns were so damn good that we actually ordered a second plate of them (to be fair, the ratio of curry to bun wasn’t exactly equal).

Mains

new-punjab-club-2-1024x683.jpgRoasted Sirloin Tandoori (HK$268)new-punjab-club-3-1024x683.jpgMughal Room Makhani – braised chicken tikka, spiced tomato & Butter Naan (HK$148 & HK$48)new-punjab-club-4-1024x683.jpgAloo gobhi – cauliflower, potatoes (HK$118)

We knew we wanted to try a dish from the tandoori section, as the tandoor ovens at New Punjab Club are the same ones co-founder Asim Hussain’s father used when he opened an Indian restaurant in the city many years ago. We opted for the Roasted Sirloin Tandoori (HK$268) with a burnt garlic chutney. Unfortunately, this wasn’t our favorite dish – the sirloin was very well done, making it a bit tough to chew. Thankfully, the Mughal Room Makhani (HK$148) made up for it. The large pieces of braised chicken tikka in a spiced tomato sauce were divine. After devouring the meat, we lapped up all the sauce with delicious pieces of Butter Naan (HK$48). We also ordered the Aloo Gobhi (HK$118) on the side, which was underwhelming considering the price tag.

Verdict

I had a really great time at New Punjab Club; partly because of the food and partly because of the service. Majority of the dishes were amazing (save for the sirloin tandoori and aloo gobhi), the presentation was great, and the service was bar none to anything I’ve seen in Hong Kong at a similar-priced restaurant. The atmosphere is fun, yet cool and classy. Overall, I would recommend checking out New Punjab Club if you’re looking for a fun date night or to catch up with a smaller group of friends.

New Punjab Club
34 Wyndham Street
Central
Hong Kong

Tel: 2368 1223


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Thailand wasn’t my original plan for my Christmas holidays, but life threw a few curve balls my way and I had to look for an alternate vacation destination. I settled on Thailand, a country I’ve been to many times before, but never to Koh Samui. I spent a week there right before Christmas and had a love/hate relationship with the island. Half my time in Samui was spent at a wellness/yoga retreat in the south and the other half was spent in the popular area of Chaweng – two very different experiences. So, if you’re planning a trip to Thailand and wondering is Koh Samui worth visiting, read on to find out more about my experience.

The Good

I spent the first four days in Koh Samui in the south at Samahita Retreat where my days were filled with yoga, meditation, and eating healthy vegan food. Needless to say, it was amazing. I loved how relaxing and peaceful the environment was and I left feeling so refreshed. Afterwards, I made my way to Chaweng Beach for the next three days of my holidays before I flew back to Phuket.

For those that aren’t aware, Chaweng Beach is the largest and most tourist-heavy area of Koh Samui. I chose to stay in Chaweng for a few reasons: it was cheaper than the other areas of Samui, I was simply curious about the area I had heard so much about, and I wanted to have a different, more lively experience compared to the one I just had on my retreat.

The good things about staying in Chaweng is that everything is basically at your finger tips – the beach is big and quite nice, there’s a Family Mart or 7-11 at every turn (perfect for those Chang beer runs), plenty of beachfront hotels, and a plethora of restaurants and cheap massage shops. If you’re looking for a fun night out, Chaweng is where you want to be – we saw some great live cover bands and a few of the beach bars have nightly fire shows.

The Bad

is-koh-samui-worth-visiting-1024x683.jpgHawkers on the beach

At the end of the day, there was nothing special or unique about Koh Samui (cue the hate-mail). Sure, if you’re just wanting to book a fancy hotel on the beach and stay there, it’s great.. but so are a million other places around South East Asia.

Plus, it ain’t cheap to get to: a round-trip flight from Hong Kong to Koh Samui is anywhere between HK$5,000 – $7,000 thanks to Bangkok Airway’s monopoly on the airport. Taxis are also quite expensive compared to other parts of Thailand – a 15 minute drive from the airport to Chaweng will cost you 300 THB and 900 THB to the south of the island.

While the beach itself is beautiful, I was constantly pestered by people trying to sell me trinkets; everything from inflatables and ice cream to sarongs and beach towels. Yes, I am fully aware they do this for a living and I completely respect their ability to hustle, but when it’s happening multiple times an hour and all I want to do is listen to the waves under the sun, it gets annoying.

Basically, the island has capitalized on the tourism industry, which is great in that it provides employment for many locals, but it also means that much of the island’s original beauty has been commercialized (as I’m sure we’ve all seen happen to so many other places around South East Asia).

Overall thoughts on whether Koh Samui is worth a visit

If you’re heading to Samui for a wellness or yoga retreat and don’t mind paying a million dollars to get there, I’d say definitely go for it. However, if you’re planning a trip to Samui because you think it’s a beautiful island oasis, you might want to think again. Instead, I might recommend somewhere like Koh Lanta or even Phi Phi if you’re wanting something a bit more lively.

That being said, I only spent time on my retreat, in Chaweng, and a bit of time in the north of the island to visit a bar for sunset drinks and a feast at a night market. I’m sure there are other parts of the island that are much more chilled out and tranquil, so it would definitely be worth it to look into alternative locations on Samui.

Obviously everyone has different opinions on a destination based on their expectations and experience, so feel free to take what I say with a grain of salt. I would never tell someone not to visit a place, rather, I think people should be aware of both perspectives on a destination instead of making a decision to visit somewhere based on all the insta-worthy photos out there.


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samahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-11-1

I’ll be honest – I had never really considered going on a retreat before. I’ve had friends who have done ones in various places throughout the world and they talked about juice cleanses and completely detoxifying their bodies (I’ll let you use your imagination there), and slightly bizarre treatments. Needless to say, they didn’t exactly sell it to me. That is until a friend told me about Samahita Retreat Koh Samui – a yoga, health, and all-around wellness center in Thailand. It sounded perfect for people looking for more of a general relaxing getaway, so I spent three days there and left feeling completely refreshed. Here’s what my experience was like..

Programs at Samahita Retreat Koh Samui

Before I get into my experience, I’ll quickly explain what Samahita Retreat is all about. Having been in the business for 15 years, though originally as a yoga-focused center, Samahita offers fixed and flexi-date programs that cater to every individual. The fixed programs usually happen when a guest teacher comes to Samahita or for teacher training courses. If you’re looking for something more flexible in terms of days and length of stay (minimum of three days), the flexi-date programs are perfect. The flexi-date programs available are YogaCoreCycle, Detox, De-stress, Weight Loss, and Wellness Spa. I opted for the Wellness Spa Program because it offered all the classes from YogaCoreCycle along with one spa treatment a day, ranging from massages to facials.

A tour of Samahita Retreat

samahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-6-10Samahita Retreat – from the outsidesamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-21-1Receptionsamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-7-10Walking into the centersamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-8-10Meditation areasamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-9-10Buddha & Ganesh Shalasamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-15-1Cycle studio on the right, beachfront shala on the leftsamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-14-6Swimming pool

Samahita Retreat is located in the southern part of Koh Samui on Laem Sor Beach, about a 40 minute drive from the airport. The center is relatively small (it can accommodate up to 60 people and I think there was around 25 guests at the time I was there) and there’s a real earthy vibe to it. From the moment you step in, you’ll be surrounded by greenery, friendly smiles from the staff and other guests, and tranquility. Overall, I would use the word homey to describe Samahita Retreat Koh Samui.

As you walk through the grounds you’ll pass by their eco-friendly store, an outdoor meditation center, the Buddha and Ganesh Shala (where yoga and meditation take place), the spa, juice bar, steam room, dining area and buffet, swimming pool, cycle studio, and beachfront shala (where I did most of my morning yoga sessions). Though it may sound like there’s a lot going on, I still felt like I had my own space and the communal areas didn’t feel overly busy. Basically, you can be as social or as anti-social as you would like.

For my video tour of Samahita Retreat, click here.

Accommodation

samahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-5-10Walking into the living complexsamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-4-10Entering my roomsamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-1-10Bedroomsamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-2-10Bathroom

Accommodation at Samahita Retreat is comfortably simple: there is no television in the room and minimal decorations. The bed was very comfortable and the bathroom was very spacious. The only drawback of the room was that the sliding door was a massive window, so I had to pull down the blinds in the evening.

For a video tour of my room at Samahita Retreat, click here.

Delicious vegetarian food

samahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-12-1Dining areasamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-13-1Daily menu displaysamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-3-68Breakfastsamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-16-1Lunchsamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-20-1Lunch 2samahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-10-6Midday snack

There are two meal times at Samahita Retreat: 9:30 am – 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. The food served is all vegetarian and is buffet-style, which I really liked. The menu for each meal is written on a large chalkboard and, though I’m not a vegetarian myself, I can honestly say I loved every single dish I tried (especially the curries and pizza!). If you’re doing Samahita’s Detox Program, there is a specific section of the buffet dedicated for you, although anyone at the center can eat that food as well. I walked away from each meal feeling completely satisfied – I actually had to stop myself from getting seconds and thirds a few times!

Aside from the food itself, the dining area has large communal tables, making it easy to meet other people. Or, if you’d prefer, you can head to a comfy couch and enjoy your meal solo.

Daily schedule – yoga, meditation, cycle

samahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-19-1Morning yoga in the beachfront shalasamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-17-1Practising my Warrior IIsamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-18-1Cycle studiosamahita-retreat-koh-samui-thailand-11-1Relaxing on the beach

There is a weekly YogaCoreCycle schedule at Samahita Retreat and you’re welcome to join as many or as few classes as you’d like (there are 6 – 7 classes each day). Personally, I loved starting my day with the 8:30 – 10:30 am Dynamic Centered Yoga followed by a late breakfast. Then, I would relax by the pool or head down to the beach with a book for a few hours until the Core Fitness class at 4:00  pm followed by a Fun Cycle at 4:30 pm. There are also a few off-site activities throughout the week: a temple walk on Tuesday, a snorkeling boat trip on Wednesday, and a night visit to two different walking streets on Friday and Saturday. My program also included a 1-hour massage (honestly some of the best massages I’ve had in my life) and a 30-minute sauna session each day.

Overall thoughts on Samahita Retreat

From the yoga classes and friendly staff to the fantastic food and life-changing massages, I loved my time at Samahita Retreat. I was only there for four days/three nights, and I will say that it wasn’t until the third day that I really started to feel relaxed and get into the whole thing. If possible, I would recommend booking your stay for a minimum of five days. I left Samahita Retreat feeling refreshed, healthy, and positive – I would definitely go back in a heartbeat. The only thing I didn’t expect before arriving was that there would be small children there. While I would have preferred to not see kids running around, I do understand that Samahita wants to create a family-like feeling.

Samahita Retreat Koh Samui
55/20-24 Moo 4 T. Namuang 
Koh Samui Surat Thani 84140
Thailand

Tel: +66 (0) 77 920 090

My stay at Samahita Retreat was on a complimentary basis.  As always, all views and opinions are sincerely my own. 


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Being the massive food-lover that I am, I was excited to check out the Koh Samui night market tour after my very healthy wellness retreat. The tour, arranged through Flight Centre Hong Kong, began with a drive up to the north of the island where we ordered a cocktail and watched the sun slowly set in front of us. Afterwards, we made our way to Bophut for the night market tour (the location of the market changes depending on the day you book the tour) to feast on local delights.

Sunset drinks

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My tour guide picked me up at 5:30 pm and we took a 20~minute drive from Chaweng up to Sunset Garden Bar, a funky and chilled our bar just north of the airport. The unobstructed views of the sunset were perfect, though I wish we had arrived a tad earlier to enjoy the experience a little longer. You can order any drink off the menu (one drink was included in the tour), so I went with a classic piña colada which tasted as good as it looked.

Eating our way through the night market

koh-samui-night-market-tour-4-1024x683.jEntrance to the night market in Bophutkoh-samui-night-market-tour-8-1024x683.jStarting off with an appetizer of insectskoh-samui-night-market-tour-7-1024x683.jA wide range of Thai foodkoh-samui-night-market-tour-11-1024x683.I can never resist a plate of pad thaikoh-samui-night-market-tour-5-683x1024.jSlightly sweet, grilled bananaskoh-samui-night-market-tour-6-683x1024.jTraditional Thai dessert of sticky rice and coconutkoh-samui-night-market-tour-9-1024x683.jCoconut ice creamkoh-samui-night-market-tour-10-1024x683.The market

After about 30 minutes, we made our way to the Bophut Night Market. My tour guide, Tok, took me around and explained the different local foods. Since I’ve traveled to Thailand many times before, I was quite familiar with most dishes being served, but there were a few things I’ve never tried before. Tok convinced me to try silk worms, saying they were good for you and were quite tasty. Since I’m fairly open to trying new foods, I went for it. There was a light seasoning on them, which added a bit of flavor. In terms of texture, it almost felt like I was eating chickpeas. I didn’t mind eating a handful, but gave the rest to Tok for him to enjoy.

I also hadn’t tried the slightly sweet dessert of sticky rice, condensed milk, and coconut that was wrapped in a leaf and grilled. This was probably one of my favorite foods of the evening. The prices for food ranged from THB10 – 60, but everything we ate (and we ate a lot) was included in the tour. Aside from the food, I had a chance to browse around the other part of the market and ended up buying a few colorful scarves to add to my (already way too big) collection at home.

So, should you go on the Koh Samui night market tour?

I really loved the first part of the tour – heading to the northern part of the island to catch the sunset with a refreshing drink in hand was truly perfect and something I wouldn’t have done by myself. My guide was lovely and helpful, but there really wasn’t anything special about the night market portion – I could have easily done this on my own instead of paying for a tour guide. That being said, you might find a guide much more helpful if you’re less experienced with Thai food.

Where to book the tour

I booked this tour through Flight Centre Hong Kong before arriving in Koh Samui, so everything was taken care of ahead of time. Flight Centre can literally plan your whole trip: flight, accommodation, and tours, making it a simple and fuss-free experience. They have locations in Central, Happy Valley, and Wan Chai in Hong Kong, or you can call them at +852 2830 2899.

Visit flightcentre.com.hk for more information!

More information about the tour

Time: 
5:30 – 8:00 pm (there was really no set end time – the guide brought me back to my hotel when I had enough of walking around and stuffing my face).

Date:
Thursday, Friday, Sunday


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Curry Bay Private Kitchen is all about regional Indian cuisine with a modern touch. The three ladies behind Curry Bay – Rashmi, Deepali, Iena – have ensured that the food is clean, fresh, and “homely”. As each dish arrived at our table, one of the ladies explained the ingredients used, the region the dish came from, and answered any questions us curious diners had. The sample menus can be modified to include your favorite Indian dishes and the ladies are more than happy to accommodate vegetarians. The kitchen is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 6:00 pm – 12:00 am.

Vibe at Curry Bay Private Kitchen

Although the private kitchen was a bit difficult to find (there’s no signage), the space is quite intimate with a large open kitchen so you can see each dish being put together. The dining area can seat up to 14 people for a 5-course regional Indian tasting menu or up to 35 people for a canape evening. The venue is BYOB, which always makes dining out more fun, not to mention saving your wallet from a bit of a battering.

5-course Indian Menu

curry-bay-private-kitchen-1-1024x683.jpgRoadside Churmuri Chaatcurry-bay-private-kitchen-2-1024x683.jpgDisc Indiana

We began with the Roadside Churmuri Chaat – dough crisps, tangy chutney, potatoes, and pomegranate. This popular street food in India set the tone for our meal. Each bite had a variety of textures and flavors that complimented each other perfectly. We were served the Disc Indiana next – minced chicken discs with mint yogurt sauce and an avocado and pineapple salsa. Although the presentation wasn’t exactly wow-worthy, this dish was delicious. The chicken discs were soft, without crumbling apart when I cut into them, and the salsa was a refreshing addition.

curry-bay-private-kitchen-3-1024x683.jpgWickedly Pickledcurry-bay-private-kitchen-4-1024x683.jpgChennai Special

For the mains, we began with Wickedly Pickled – chicken in pickling spices with fried okra and minced cottage cheese, pea curry, and tomato salsa with multi-grain naan. I was surprised with how much I liked the chicken curry, since I’ve never been a huge fan of okra. The cottage cheese curry was also fantastic. Despite feeling quite full at this point, I polished off the Chennai Special – madras salmon curry with fragrant vermicelli. Normally, I wouldn’t order a seafood curry when dining at an Indian restaurant, but this dish was delicious and the addition of vermicelli as opposed to rice was an interesting change.

curry-bay-private-kitchen-5-1024x683.jpgThe Sweet Ending

We finished our private kitchen experience with The Sweet Ending – baked yogurt, strawberry, and pistachio, and carrot halva tarts with salted caramel. Both were amazing, though I was especially surprised at how much I enjoyed the tart. Along with dessert, we enjoyed a warm glass of masala chai.

Verdict

To put it simply, I had a great time dining at Curry Bay Private Kitchen. The staff were welcoming, and each dish from the menu was intricately assembled and full of flavor. I especially liked that each course offered a dish from a different region in India, and was explained to us as it was served. The 5-course set menu is priced at HK$500 per person with a minimum spend of HK$5000.

Curry Bay Private Kitchen 
Wan Chai 

For inquiries or to make a booking, click here.


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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


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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

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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


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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


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The Drunken Pot has been in Hong Kong for almost two years now (with a newer branch located in Causeway Bay), serving up a range of hot pot broths and unique dishes. After living in Hong Kong for six years, I really want to love hot pot, so I went back to The Drunken Pot (my third hot pot experience) to give it another go. The restaurant decor is dark and modern, with plenty of tables and a small outdoor terrace. For someone who is relatively new to hot pot, the service wasn’t particularly helpful, so we winged it 99% of the time. While I could appreciate the unique flavor concepts and dishes, I did find the price-point to be high.

Vibe at The Drunken Pot

When we arrived at The Drunken Pot TST at 8:30 pm, there was still a fairly large queue outside the restaurant. Although we were seated fairly promptly, it actually took over 15 minutes before we could track someone down who spoke English and who could take our order. That being said, when we did place our order, the food came out promptly, though the staff struggled to explain the dishes to us. While I used to think The Drunken Pot was more of a “Western friendly” hot pot place, if you’ve never been to hot pot before, I would recommend going with people who know what they’re doing.

Hot Pot

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We ordered one of the newest additions to their menu: The Vagabond Pot (HK$298). The pot consisted of four different broths: chicken in Chinese wine (“Drunken Chicken”), fish in beer, seafood in sake, and oxtail in red wine & tomato. My favorites were the oxtail and the spicy seafood in sake. To dunk in, we had the very Instagrammable Local Hand-cut Beef. After only a few seconds in the broth, these thinly sliced pieces of beef were ready to be devoured. Although they were cute, the pink black truffle, beef, and cheese dumplings (HK$88) were a bit of an odd combination. The simple deep-fried homemade bean curd and seaweed rolls (HK$58) were delicious after a quick swim in the broth. We also added a mushroom platter (HK$58) in an attempt to feel a little more healthy. There was a good variety of mushrooms and they soaked up whichever broth we threw them in. Finally, the handmade seven-color cuttlefish balls (HK$88) were a very interesting take on a Hong Kong classic. Personally, I’m a huge fan of fish balls, but some of the flavors here were a bit too far out (like the strawberry and carrot ones) for my liking. We also had a variety of seafood and three “fortune bag” dumplings, but at this point we were ready to be rolled out of the restaurant.

Verdict

The Drunken Pot offers more of a modern take on Hong Kong’s traditional hot pot scene. I would recommend going if you’ve ever been curious about it. That being said, don’t expect exceptional service and don’t go if you’ve never been to hot pot before, as you’re not given much help or guidance from the staff. I liked that the broth had different flavors to it and wasn’t that numbing broth I’ve had from more local hot pot joints. Finally, The Drunken Pot isn’t cheap. There were only two of us (mind you, we did leave absolutely stuffed) and our bill came to around HK$1,500 without any alcohol.

The Drunken Pot 
2/F, 8 Observatory Road
Tsim Sha Tsui

Tel: 2321 9038


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There’s nothing quite like a Japanese omakase dining experience, which is why I was excited to hear about the recent opening of SUSHI TAKI in Tsim Sha Tsui. Their dishes are crafted using authentic flavors, traditional methods, and seasonal ingredients. The restaurant is intimate, service is prompt, and the entire dining experience will absolutely captivate you. If you love and appreciate Japanese food, you should definitely pay a visit to SUSHI TAKI.

Vibe at SUSHI TAKI

SUSHI TAKI is a small restaurant that seats 30 guests: 7 seats at the sushi bar, 17 in the main dining area, and 6 in a private room. If you’re going with one other person and are interested in an experience, I would highly recommend sitting at the sushi bar. I was completely captivated watching the chef create each dish; the time, patience, and dedication are truly commendable. While I do understand and appreciate the usual subdued, quiet atmosphere that comes with dining at the sushi bar (in most cases), I did wish it were a bit more lively.

Matsu Omakase Menu

SUSHI TAKI offers three different omakase menus: Matsu (HK$1580), Take (HK$1180), and Ume (HK$800). We decided to go all-out and order the Matsu menu, which features a starter, five types of sashimi, a grilled dish, three types of sushi, a fried dish, four types of sushi, a handroll, soup, and fruit. The one thing I found interesting here at SUSHI TAKI, which I haven’t experienced at other sushi restaurants when dining at the kitchen bar, was that the chef waited until we were finished each piece of sashimi or sushi before preparing and presenting us with the next one. On one hand, I felt a bit awkward that he was just watching and waiting for us to finish, but on the other it slowed things down and we enjoyed each piece that much more.

Starter & Sashimi (5 types)

sushi-taki-1-1024x683.jpgPlatter of seasonal dishes to start

The starter we began our Matsu omakase menu with was an absolutely stunning platter of seasonal dishes: Japanese cucumber miso, cod roe egg, Japanese edible seaweed, Ishikawa taro, and sea bream. Every piece was truly delicious and I loved how the chef used a variety of textures throughout the platter.

sushi-taki-3-1024x683.jpgRosy seabasssushi-taki-5-1024x683.jpgTuna loinsushi-taki-2-1024x683.jpgWild yellow tailsushi-taki-4-1024x683.jpgThread-sail file fish

We began with a very thinly sliced flounder sashimi. The flavor was quite unique, given the homemade sauce of pomelo peel, sour sauce, and shiso flower that it was served with.

The rosy seabass was lightly roasted on the top in order to release more oil from the fish, which also gave it a bit of that delicious smoky flavor.

Next was the tuna loin from Nagasaki. I was impressed to hear that this tuna is actually shipped to Hong Kong chilled as opposed to frozen in order to ensure freshness and to maintain its original aroma. They served one piece of medium tuna and one piece of fatty tuna – it’s surprising what a stark contrast there is between the two.

We also tried the seasonal wild yellow tail from Hokkaido, and, finally, we had the thread-sail file fish, which was wrapped around the fish’s liver. The sweet flavor and creamy texture of the liver made for a unique sashimi dish.

Grilled dish & sushi (3 types)

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The salt-grilled beltfish, also known as ayu, had the most beautiful flavor. Despite it being served with a slightly sweet syrup, I much preferred the fish on its own. The only issue I had with this dish was the numerous small bones I had to pick out.

sushi-taki-7-1024x683.jpgBotan shrimpsushi-taki-9-1024x683.jpgMackerelsushi-taki-10-1024x683.jpgPreparing the salmon roe sushisushi-taki-11-1024x683.jpgSalmon roe sushi

We started with the botan shrimp, where we watched the chef butterfly each piece and take out the shrimp fat that is stored in the carapace. This fat is placed on top of the shrimp in order to give it a more rich, intense shrimp taste.

We were mesmerized as we watched the chef prepare the mackerel by carefully slicing the fish and putting the sushi together. The mackerel was cut into three slices to add more texture and was garnished with perilla leaf.

The salmon roe at SUSHI TAKI is quite unique in that the fresh roe is left to sit in a sauce for two days in order to balance the saltiness and bring out the sweetness. Unlike many other methods, the salmon roe here is served with its membrane intact.

Fried dish & sushi (4 types)

sushi-taki-12-1024x683.jpgSakura shrimp tempura

The sakura shrimp tempura was made with a 1:1 ratio of fresh sakura shrimp and bay leaf in order to preserve the aroma of the shrimp. I didn’t find the shrimp taste to be too overwhelming, although I think I would prefer a variety of simple vegetables instead (hello, sweet potato!).

sushi-taki-13-1024x683.jpgPacific Saurysushi-taki-14-1024x683.jpgTuna loin sushisushi-taki-15-1024x683.jpgShirahige sea urchinsushi-taki-16-1024x683.jpgAbalone sushi

The Pacific Saury from Hokkaido used a dip made with its own liver, adding a richness to the overall flavor, and the tuna loin from Nagasaki was exceptional. Comprised of three slices, the finer cut adds a different texture and the combination of different cuts really heightened the flavor.

Although I’m not particularly fond of uni, the Shirahige sea urchin was truly fantastic. There was a generous portion of uni atop a bed of rice and I didn’t find the usual strong, overly rich flavor of uni present.

The last piece of sushi we tried was the abalone. Again, I’m even less of a fan of abalone than I am uni, so I can’t say I was particularly surprised that this was my least favorite sushi on the menu (though that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it!). The abalone was steamed, but still remained quite chewy.

Handroll, soup, & fruit

sushi-taki-17-1024x683.jpgTuna handrollsushi-taki-18-1024x683.jpgSea bream soupsushi-taki-19-1024x683.jpgCantaloupe

The tuna handroll was carefully prepared in front of us. Despite having had tuna twice already this evening, I welcomed the chance to have one last bite before the night was over.

The sea bream soup was an interesting take on the typical miso soup to finish and was prepared with sea bream bones and delicate chunks of sea bream.

To finish our omakase menu up, a juicy slice of fresh cantaloupe was served.

Verdict on SUSHI TAKI

I loved the entire omakase experience here at SUSHI TAKI. Everything from the service to the ingredients was exceptional. Although the atmosphere was a bit more quiet than I would prefer while dining out, I really enjoyed sitting at the sushi bar and watching the sashimi and sushi being made. It was also great to be able to converse with our chef and ask questions, although his English wasn’t that strong. If you’re looking for a new omakase restaurant to try in Hong Kong that is grounded in traditional dishes and seasonal ingredients, I would highly recommend SUSHI TAKI.

SUSHI TAKI 
17/F 17-19 Ashley Road
Tsim Sha Tsui 

Tel: 2706 2028


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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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Although Hong Kong sees dozens of new restaurants pop up every month, they’re often wallet-draining and oh so disappointing. That’s exactly why I love the concept of Test Kitchen. Every month or so, Test Kitchen hosts global chefs from around the world for a few nights who cook up a storm for a hungry group of foodies. These chefs showcase a range of much-loved dishes from their restaurant and/or worldwide travels to other kitchens. This month’s collaboration was with Rice Paper Scissors, a South East Asian-inspired restaurant from Melbourne.

Vibe at Test Kitchen

Test Kitchen is located in a quiet area of Sai Ying Pun on Connaught Road. The venue is three stories high, the set-up is focused on communal dining with a large 10-person dining table on each floor), and the staff are incredibly warm and welcoming. The open kitchen is located on the second floor, so I’d recommend sitting there if you enjoy checking out what goes on behind the scenes. Vincent, the founder of Test Kitchen, really pours his passion for enjoying great food in a unique and fun way into this concept. That alone makes me want to come back again and again.

About Rice Paper Scissors

Rice Paper Scissors is one of Melbourne’s hottest restaurants and is based on the hawker dining bars of South East Asia with the concept of shared plates (they’re all about #useyourhands). Both Chef Ross Magnaye and owner Rahmie Clowes were at Test Kitchen to bring diners bold Asian fusion dishes strongly influenced by Ross’s Filipino background.

Starters

test-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-1-1024xKangaroo tartaretest-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-2-1024xMarket seafood with traditional condimentstest-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-3-1024xFilipino ceviche ‘kinilaw’test-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-4-1024xSquid in its own ink

We began with Rock Paper Scissors’ famous kangaroo tartare. This was the first time I had ever tried kangaroo and it tasted similar to other game meat I’ve had before. The spices and seasoning were fresh, giving the meat a lighter taste. The market seafood with traditional condiments was a fresh way to start our meal and the sauces were delicious, though I  can’t say the dish was all that memorable. The Filipino ceviche ‘kinilaw’ was my favorite starter. the pickled vegetables added a slightly acidic taste, while the fermented coconut sauce helped give the dish a bit of sweetness to balance everything out. Finally, we had a bowl of very tender squid in its own ink with garlic and coconut vinegar. The mild flavor of this dish allowed us to truly appreciate the fresh squid on its own.

Mains

test-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-5-1024xDavao style bbq chickentest-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-7-1024xFilipino style ‘caldereta’ (lamb shoulder)test-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-8-1024xFilipino ‘lechon kawali’ (pork belly)test-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-6-1024xSides: salad, ‘pinakbet’ vegetable stew with okra

The davao style bbq chicken had an incredible flavor profile that tasted akin to the dressing often put on Vietnamese vermicelli noodles. Although I really did love the salad on top and the smokiness of the chicken, the texture of some of the pieces were a bit too tough to bite into. My favorite main was hands-down the Filipino style ‘caldereta’. This slow cooked lamb shoulder in a traditional rich tomato sauce was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Unfortunately, we found the Filipino ‘lechon kawali’ (crispy pork belly roasted in Cebu-style spices) to be far too fatty for our liking. To accompany these main dishes, a bowl of rice, a garden salad, and ‘pinakbet’ vegetable stew with okra and pumpkin (a very traditional Filipino dish) were brought out as well.

Dessert

test-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-9-1024xMango floattest-kitchen-rice-paper-scissors-10-1024Mama Riza’s rich peanut chocolate cake

Of the two desserts individually served, the mango float was by far my favorite. The fresh mango sat atop a layer of thick cream and was sprinkled with a peanut-like dust. The other dessert, Mama Riza’s rich peanut chocolate cake, was too dry for us to enjoy, although the dollop of custard underneath did help.

Verdict

If you’ve never been to a restaurant pop-up event before or have never been to one at Test Kitchen, I would highly recommend going. Not only do you get to try a range of dishes from a well-respected and popular restaurant from around the world, but the experience is unique and a tonne of fun. Most dinners sit around the HK$1000 mark, which includes 6 – 8 individual and/or sharing dishes and 3 – 4 alcoholic drinks. Be sure to check out Test Kitchen’s Facebook to see who will pop up next!

Test Kitchen
Shop 3, Kwan Yick Building 
158A Connaught Road West
Sai Ying Pun

Contact: info@testkitchen.com.hk


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Lamma Island is well-known for its relatively easy Family Walk; from Yung Shue Wan (the main pier) to Sok Kwu Wan (the ferry pier on the south side). If you’re wanting to head to the island, but are looking for something a bit more challenging, head to the south side of the island. This Lamma Island hike takes you from the Sok Kwu Wan ferry pier, east to Mo Tat Village, south-west along Shek Pai Wan Beach and then back up to the pier. Along this hike, you’ll pass through a few villages, see beautiful views of the south side of Hong Kong Island, and have the opportunity to end your hike at the beach or with a seafood feast along the water.

Starting point of the Lamma Island hike

Head to the Central Ferry Pier and take the Lamma ferry to Sok Kwu Wan (check the schedule ahead of time, as this ferry isn’t as frequent). The journey is around 40 minutes.

Sok Kwu Wan to Mo Tat Old Village

lamma-island-hike-1-1024x683.jpgAfter you’ve passed the restaurants, with the temple on your far left. Head straight and up the stairs on your left.

Once off the ferry, head right, along the walkway of a dozen or so seafood restaurants until you come out into an open space with a small temple on your left. You’ll see a slightly hidden set of stairs going up into the trees in front of you and to your left (just to the right of the small shed in the photo above).

lamma-island-hike-2-1024x683.jpgFirst fork in the path. Turn right for a quick photo op first, then head left.lamma-island-hike-3-1024x683.jpgPhoto op views. There’s also a few large rocks to the right that make for great photos/views.

Once you’ve climbed up the stairs (and passed a few cemeteries along the way) you’ll reach a fork in the path (Ling Kok Shan) where you can go straight, left, or right. Head right for a quick photo op – there’s a pavilion and a few large rocks to stand on that overlook the surrounding area. Once you’ve updated your Instagram story, head back down to the fork in the path and turn left instead (technically, at this point, you’ll be going straight).

lamma-island-hike-4-1024x683.jpgLooking out at Aberdeenlamma-island-hike-5-1024x683.jpgThe trail you’ll be going alonglamma-island-hike-7-1024x683.jpgLooking down at Sham Wanlamma-island-hike-8-1024x683.jpgLooking down at Mo Tat Wanlamma-island-hike-9-1024x683.jpgDescending down the hill

The trail is all paved, so you really can’t get lost along the way. The trail takes you east along the ridge top where you’ll be able to see some great views of Aberdeen and the south side of HK Island (depending on how clear the skies are), as well as the the south side of Lamma Island. When you reach the bottom of the stairs leading down to Mo Tat Wan, turn right (there are public toilets right there) and continue to follow the path.

Mo Tat Old Village to Yung Shue Ha to Tung O via Shek Pai Wan Beach

lamma-island-hike-11-1024x683.jpgAlong the way to Yung Shue Halamma-island-hike-12-1024x683.jpgWalking into Yung Shue Halamma-island-hike-13-1024x683.jpgYung Shue Halamma-island-hike-14-1024x683.jpgShek Pai Wanlamma-island-hike-15-1024x683.jpgAt the end of this path, turn right and follow the sign that says “Sok Kwu Wan”

At this point, there are a few little shops (basically people’s houses) that sell drinks and snacks if you’re wanting to take a quick break along Shek Pai Wan beach. I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the water, as every time I’ve done this route, there has been mass amounts of garbage floating in the water and along the shore. Regardless, I found the little village of Yung Shue Ha really interesting and appreciated the signs that were posted, briefly explaining the history of the village and who currently inhabits the area.

After you reach the end of the path (in the last photo above), turn right, following the sign to Sok Kwu Wan. Continue to follow the path (shortly after you’ll veer right up a set of stairs) which will lead you to Ling Kok Shan where the pavilion was. From here, just retrace your steps back to the Sok Kwu Wan pier where you can finish your day with a seafood feast at one of the many seaside restaurants along the way.

Journey Length: about 7 km
Total Time: about 1.5 – 2 hours

 


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Generally speaking it’s best to focus on destinations before specific attractions. But the Taj Mahal in Agra, India is one of just a handful of man-made structures that essentially functions as its own destinations. It’s right up there with the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids, and the Eiffel Tower in this respect – except that, with no disrespect to Agra, it doesn’t exactly have Paris or Cairo surrounding it! These are some of the highlights some travelers experience visiting the Taj Mahal.


Legendary Photo Ops 

You should never travel anywhere exclusively for a photo op, but the Taj Mahal makes for one of the most famous backdrops anywhere in the world. In fact (without any definitive stats on the matter to prove it), it may be second only to Machu Picchu. An article on how millennials are reshaping travel, which is actually a pretty interesting read, made note of the fact that every time one goes online, one encounters pictures of 20-somethings posing on Machu Picchu. It’s almost like a rite of passage and, again, the Taj Mahal is close behind. Whether you simply pose smiling with the incredible tomb at your back, or you go the traditional route of making it look like you’re pinching its spires between your fingertips, it’s a photo you’ll always treasure.

Aladdin Flashbacks 

There’s actually a lot of debate about where the fictional kingdom in Aladdin is meant to be. Currently there’s a bit of a controversy about Disney casting a non-Arab actress to play Jasmine in a new remake, as many assume Agrabah is Arabian. Similarly, a video game online called “Genie’s Touch,” which is unofficially based on the old animated Disney movie, says the game’s designs are “based on a Middle Eastern theme.” The game’s slot icons and background certainly resemble those from the film. That said, however, the same look resembles the Taj Mahal perhaps more than any other actual structure. That, plus the fact that the Taj Mahal is in Agra, make a pretty compelling case! If you grew up loving Disney, you might enjoy the simple fact that you’re basically touring the real life Sultan’s palace.

Authentic Cuisine

One thing that’s terrific about Agra is that it has enough traditional Indian cuisine to satisfy just about any traveler who comes to see the Taj Mahal. Popular restaurnats include Dasaprakash, Pinch of Spice, and Shankar Ji, among others, and at any of them you can find authentic Indian flavors and preparations. Particularly at a destination where the primary goal is sightseeing – spending a lot of time walking and hanging out outside – it’s nice to know that there are great options if you work up an appetite.

Peaceful Gardens 

One attraction quite close to the Taj Mahal that isn’t always mentioned until you’re actually there is Mehtab Bagh, also known as the Moonlight Gardens. Said to be the last of 11 gardens that once lined the river, organized by Emperor Babur, Mehtab Bagh now serves as a sort of oasis for tourists. These aren’t the lushest gardens you’ll find in the world, but they’re peaceful, separated from the main throngs, and give you a unique and different view of the Taj Mahal in the distance. If you’re making the trip, you should absolutely check this area out.

The Tour 

Finally, there’s the actual tour, which of course is the primary highlight. The Taj Mahal is striking from a distance and perfect for photos (or for stoking the imagination of your inner Disney fan). But seeing it up close in a guided tour is an absolute must. There just might not be a more spectacular or interesting building in the entire world.

Note: this is a sponsored post.


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I grew up eating my Nana’s homemade pierogi and potato pancakes, and my mom’s homemade cabbage rolls, among other Eastern European dishes. Since it was always so readily available, I never realized how much I would miss Ukrainian food or how difficult it would be to find authentic dishes after I moved abroad. Dacha is one of the only Eastern European restaurants in Hong Kong, and although I’ve walked by it almost every day since it opened more than a year ago, it wasn’t until recently that I went in to try the food. Whether you’ve never tried Eastern European food before or are simply craving a bowl of borscht, Dacha’s comforting, homemade dishes are well worth a try.

Vibe at Dacha

dacha-hong-kong-8-1024x683.jpgCozy dining areadacha-hong-kong-9-1024x683.jpgBar

Unlike the majority of new restaurants in Hong Kong, the interior at Dacha isn’t modern and sleek. Instead, the vibe is very homey and retro. When I first stepped inside the restaurant, it was as though I was walking into my Nana’s house; doilies on dark wooden tables, black and white framed family photos on the walls, and Ukrainian/Russian floral decor. While some people may not fully appreciate this type of restaurant style, I found it comforting; a little piece of home.

Starters

dacha-hong-kong-1-1024x683.jpgHerring Under A Fur Coat “Shuba” (HK$130)dacha-hong-kong-2-1024x683.jpgHerring Under A Fur Coat “Shuba” (HK$130)dacha-hong-kong-4-1024x683.jpgBeetroot Fries (HK$128)

I had originally wanted to order the Baltic herring,  but our waitress recommended the Herring Under A Fur Coat “Shuba” (HK$130). She said it was a special dish comprised of layers of herring, potato, carrot, and beetroot, and was a must try. While I prefer my herring to taste more salty, this dish is perfect for those who aren’t quite used to such a salty fish. Although not exactly Eastern European, we couldn’t resist ordering the Beetroot Fries (HK$128) coated in sea salt and rosemary. Our favorite part was the parmesan and goat cheese dip, which we were tempted to smother over everything else we ordered.

Mains

dacha-hong-kong-3-1024x683.jpgKhachapuri (HK$125)dacha-hong-kong-5-1024x683.jpgDacha Combo Platter – Polish sausage, cabbage rolls, pierogi, potato pancake (HK$245)

I tried Khachapuri (HK$125) for the first time at Dacha, and I absolutely fell in love with it. This Georgian dish is comprised of cheese, butter, and a runny egg in a “bread boat”. Although it may sound simple enough, I can’t describe how satisfying this dish was. Since so much of Dacha’s menu was nostalgic for me, I wanted to try a bit of everything. The Dacha Combo Platter (HK$245) came with Polish sausage, cabbage rolls, pierogi, and potato pancake, and was a perfect way to sample a variety of my favorite foods. The pierogi were surprisingly similar to the ones my Nana makes. For the cabbage rolls, I prefer a more balanced mix between rice (which there wasn’t much of) and meat. The potato pancake and sausage were also good, although at this point I was falling into a carb-induced coma.

Dessert

dacha-hong-kong-6-1024x683.jpgHomemade infused vodka (HK$85)dacha-hong-kong-7-1024x683.jpgHoney Cake “Medovik” (HK$85)

To wrap up our meal, we were encouraged to try Dacha’s homemade Infused Vodka (HK$85/shot). We ordered the raspberry & jalapeno and mango & chili and I really did love both. Each shot, which is meant to be sipped, had a bit of a kick without being painfully spicy. I had also read about Dacha’s well known Honey Cake ‘Medovik’ (HK$85), so we ordered a slice to share. After biting into a spoonful of this delicate cake, I was surprised at how smooth the texture was and how the sweetness from the honey was more subtle than expected. I was tempted by the other desserts on the menu, like the cheese and vanilla or very berry pierogi, but I’m glad I tried this cute cake instead.

Verdict

Dacha is a unique, cozy restaurant that does a great job in bringing a variety of Eastern European food to Hong Kong. I do find the price to be a bit high for some of the dishes, but I realize rent and prep time (making pierogi from scratch is a time-consuming, monotonous process) plays a huge factor. Because I grew up eating these dishes at home, I’m partial to the way my mom and Nana make them. That being said, I think the atmosphere and food are quite authentic, and I would definitely go to Dacha when I’m craving a home cooked meal and am missing my babushka.

Dacha Restaurant & Bar
G/F, 38-40 Hollywood Road
Central

Tel: 2420 3555


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After spending over five years in Hong Kong, I’m surprised that us blondes still have such a hard time getting our hair done in this city. Many of the “expat salons” charge a small fortune to cut and color blonde hair (or any colored hair for that matter) and taking a chance on a cheaper/local salon can be risky. Though I’ve used a local salon for a few years, I was looking for something more higher-end to breathe some life back into my brassy hair. If you’re looking for a great hair salon in Central, especially if you’re a blonde, look no further than O2 Hair Studio on Wyndham Street.

O2 Hair Studio – Interior

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I’ve walked past O2 Hair Studio multiple times thanks to its prime spot in Central, but never realized how big it actually is. Hands-down, it’s the largest hair salon I’ve seen in Hong Kong. Although the interior is a bit basic (the salon will be getting a complete makeover soon!), the staff are incredibly welcoming and I found the large space refreshing. While you’re getting pampered, you can enjoy a cappuccino or sip on a glass of bubbly.

Highlights and a cut

Owner and head hair stylist Rudy is exceptionally knowledgeable and has been working in Hong Kong for the past 22 years. Not only is he hilarious, he specializes in blondes and will work some serious magic on your hair.

o2-hair-salon-1-683x1024.jpgBEFOREo2-hair-salon-2-1024x683.jpgBEFORE

I went into O2 Hair Studio desperate to get rid of my roots (I know: my hair looked tragic). I had previously gone to a different salon to have balayage done for the first time in hopes that when my hair grew out there wouldn’t be such a stark contrast between my roots and my colored hair. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly grow out the way I had imagined (I was under the impression it was meant to not look so harsh when my roots grew out).

Rudy recommended highlighting mainly my roots to avoid build-up on my existing colored hair. He used two different shades of blonde (one lighter and one more natural) and then combed them through after I had spent some time under the heated contraption and the color had set.

As for the cut, I told him I loved my long hair and just wanted to get rid of the split ends. He respected what I wanted and didn’t press me to cut it shorter (despite later confessing he would have liked to chop a few more inches off) or give me more layers.

The results

o2-hair-salon-4-683x1024.jpgAFTERo2-hair-salon-5-683x1024.jpgAFTER

I love everything about my cut and color. Rudy understood exactly what I wanted (a blunt cut and natural-looking highlights) and my hair came out looking fantastic. Because I don’t get my hair done often (it was literally almost a year since I had my hair cut last – terrible, I know), I try to stick to a natural look as much as possible. Rudy was able to blend the highlights he did at my roots with the previous color I already had in my hair perfectly, making me one happy customer.

After-care products

I’m always careful with what hair products I’m putting on my hair after I get it colored, since I want to preserve the color for as long as possible. O2 Hair Studio offers a range of products to keep your hair looking just as great months later. I’m currently using the PHYTO Paris intense hydration brilliance shampoo (PHYTOJOBA), the express conditioner (PHYTOBAUME), a repairing thermal protectant spray (PHYTOKERATINE), and Revlon’s blonde detangling leave-in conditioner. All of these products (and much more) can be found in the studio and the staff are able to recommend which products best fit your hair type.

Price

Highlights (full head) – HK$1800
Cut – HK$990
*Note: these prices are specific for my hair. Charges may vary depending on hair length, texture, stylist, etc.

O2 Hair Studio 
G/F, 38 Wyndham Street
Central
Hong Kong 

Tel: 2529 6289

O2 Hair Studio is open until 9:00 pm Monday – Friday (a rarity for salons in Hong Kong), making it easy to #treatyoself and get your hair done after a long day at work!


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I recently spent three weeks back in Canada, which was mostly spent eating. Toronto has a solid selection of restaurants, covering any and every range of cuisine, vibe, and price. Although I by no means tried all the must-eat restaurants in the city, I managed to dine at a handful of solid places that I would recommend. Here you’ll find my 7 favorite restaurants in Toronto; everything from brunch to healthy eats, and budget-friendly to patios.

For a lazy weekend brunch

restaurants-in-toronto-7-1024x683.jpgHummus with lamb koftarestaurants-in-toronto-8-1024x683.jpgShakshuka

I was on the hunt for shakshuka in Toronto when I came across Fat Pasha. Coincidentally, a friend had also recommended this restaurant when we were looking for a spot to get together for brunch. Before arriving, I had no idea it had a large patio out back – perfect for a lazy summer brunch. Even though I came for the shakshuka, it was the hummus and lamb kofta that stole the show. Brunch is available Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm.

For after work patio vibes

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Bar Hop Brewco is a three-storey pub located between Queen and Richmond Street. The patio on the third floor is where you’ll want to be in the summer months. Try to arrive early, as it gets quite busy (especially on Friday) and you’ll likely have to wait for a table on the patio. Aside from the solid range of craft beers on tap, Bar Hop Brewco also has a decent bar menu. Since I was only in the city for a few weeks, I had to get my Canadian food fix, so I ordered the bone marrow poutine, which did not disappoint.

For healthy food that doesn’t skimp on taste

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Most bars that I’ve been to don’t exactly have the healthiest menu and usually after a drink or two, food is required. Thankfully, District Eatery is a bar (they specialize in craft cocktails) that serves healthy dishes. They also have a decent patio upstairs as well as some street-side tables on the main floor. I’d recommend ordering the Bowl of Zen: ahi tuna, grains, kale, avocado, and other greens (be prepared for a kick, as they use fresh Thai chili).

For unique BBQ and fried dishes

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If you’re looking for a super chilled out, old school spot to grab some grub, try Rose and Sons. Leave your diet at home, ’cause this tiny spot serves up fuss-free plates of fried/barbecued goodness. For a different kind of brunch, head there on the weekend for a range of interesting dishes like this brisket and brie cheese on a slab of cornbread with a fried egg on top.

For the budget-friendly

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Yorkville is known for being anything but cheap, so I was surprised when I stumbled upon this hidden gem: The Pilot. Not only is the rooftop patio massive, but the food was simple and delicious. Go on Sunday’s when they offer a CAD$7 menu, featuring nachos, burgers (with insanely good fries), and pints of Ontario craft beer.

For a decadent dessert

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I managed to make it to Adelaide Eats (a food market that was on this summer) after seeing a handful of drool-worthy posts on Instagram of this cheesecake on a stick from Heirloom. Authentic cheesecake is hard to find where I live (Hong Kong), so I was pumped to try this. I opted for the coconut cream pie cheesecake with caramel and it was so good, albeit a bit too rich for only me. They currently run on a pop-up only basis, though Heirloom has plans to open a permanent location in Toronto this fall.

 


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The Tai O Fishing Village is a popular tourist destination, known for being one of the oldest fishing villages remaining in Hong Kong. Despite its popularity with tourists and locals alike, it took me five years of living in Hong Kong before I finally made the trek out to Tai O. Honestly, I couldn’t really give you a good reason for why I waited so long. The pictures I saw of the village were beautiful and I had been wanting to go for ages, but just kept putting it off as it was so far away. Finally, the opportunity arose for me to hike to the Tai O Infinity Pool, which is right beside the fishing village, so I managed to squeeze the fishing village into my trip as well.

How to get to the Tai O Fishing Village

You can either take the ferry from Central pier and then the bus, or you can take the MTR to Tung Chung and then catch the bus from there. For more details on either route, click here.

What to see

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As the name suggests, the main attraction at the Tai O Fishing Village is the village itself. You can spend an hour or so just aimlessly wandering around the village, admiring the tiny homes on stilts above the water. Try to arrive earlier in the day, as the water begins to recede in the afternoon.

When you first get off the bus, locals will try to sell you a boat ticket to take you through the village for about 15 minutes, which costs around HK$20. Even though that isn’t much money at all, we decided not to go on the boat, as we wanted to take our time walking through the village by ourselves.

Aside from the houses on stilts there are plenty of little shops throughout the village that sell touristy items, dried seafood, and plenty of food.

What to eat

There are quite a few different foods in Tai O that you can’t easily find elsewhere in Hong Kong, so be sure to arrive with an appetite. I did a bit of research beforehand on what to eat while in the fishing village and I managed to find and devour all three: charbroiled egg puffs, Tai O donuts, and jumbo fishballs.

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The charbroiled egg puffs were good, but didn’t have that charcoal taste I was expecting. Frankly, I much prefer the waffles with peanut butter and condensed milk that you can get just about anywhere in Hong Kong (though the best one I’ve had is in Shau Kei Wan).

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I was surprised at how much I liked these donuts. We were lucky that we got there when the donuts had just been made, and were piping hot and fresh. In terms of taste and texture, they had a slightly crispy, sugary exterior and an airy inside.

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The Tai O Jumbo Fish Ball stand was only a few feet from the bus terminal. You can choose between regular and spicy fish balls, along with a few other seafood snacks on a stick. I had one spicy and one regular fish ball, which were both really tasty (just be warned that the spicy one was more spicy than I was expecting).

Is it worth the trip?

Personally, if you’re going all the way to Tai O just to see the fishing village, I’m not sure it’s worth it. However, if you go and can combine a few sights to see and things to do, then I would say it’s definitely worth the trek. When I went, we originally explored the fishing village first and then made our way over to hike to the Tai O Infinity Pool (which is a waste of time, FYI). You can always visit the fishing village and then head to one of the beaches along Lantau or start/end a hike at the village as well to make the most of your time.

 


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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

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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

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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

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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

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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. 


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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?


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