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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. 

Entries in this blog

thisgirlabroad
divino-brunch-5-150x150.jpg

I love to indulge in a free-flow weekend brunch, but there comes a point where drinking glass after glass of champagne on a Sunday afternoon becomes a bit excessive (yup, even for me). I felt like I needed to give my liver a break, so I tried Divino’s new weekend Recovery Brunch and really loved it. Although typically a after work and late night hot spot, I would definitely recommend trying the brunch here. The food was healthy and very filling, and I didn’t feel like the rest of my day was a waste thanks to a food and drink induced coma.

Divino Recovery Brunch Drinks

divino-brunch-1-1024x683.jpgLemon, Ginger, and Chili Detox Water (HK$58)

I started with a glass of refreshing Sweet Herbal Apple Detox Water (HK$58), unlike the glass of champagne that accompanied my brunch the day before. Divino serves up three different types of detox water and they’re all refillable, so you can try all three. The other two choices are a lemon, ginger, and chili water, and pomegranate infusion tea with mint.

Food

divino-brunch-2-1024x683.jpgOven-baked Beetroot and Cottage Cheese (HK$138)divino-brunch-4-1024x683.jpgChef’s “Healing Bowl” (HK$138)divino-brunch-3-1024x683.jpgGreek Yogurt and Granola Parfait (HK$98)

For our mains, we ordered the Oven-baked Beetroot and Cottage Cheese (HK$138) with 24 year balsamic and basil oil. The beetroot were delicious, and the subtle addition of cottage cheese added a nice contrasting, smooth texture. We also shared the Chef’s “Healing Bowl” (HK$138), comprised of quinoa, smoked salmon, avocado, capers, baby spinach, poached eggs, and pesto sauce. I loved everything about this dish – the poached eggs were perfect and there wasn’t too much sauce, which meant you could distinctly taste each ingredient. To finish up, we couldn’t resist the Greek Yogurt and Granola Parfait (HK$98) and were impressed right away with the beautiful, Instagram-worthy presentation. Layers of fat-free Greek yogurt, banana, berries, and granola, with fresh passion fruit and bee pollen sprinkles on top made this parfait utterly irresistible.

Verdict

The Divino Recovery Brunch is a fantastic alternative to the endless boozy brunches available in Hong Kong. Not only were the brunch dishes at Divino healthy, but they were incredibly satisfying. I didn’t expect to leave this brunch feeling stuffed, but we literally waddled our way out of the restaurant.. at least it was all healthy, right?

Divino Wine Bar and Restaurant 
73 Wyndham Street
Central

Tel: 2167 8883


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thisgirlabroad
tokyo-150x150.jpg

As I was planning my trip to Tokyo, I was told numerous times that it was a ridiculously expensive city. I ended up bringing about ¥35,000 in cash for food, drink, and whatever else I wanted to throw some dollar bills at (not including my hotel), and only had about ¥2,000 left after five days. I’m a fairly money-conscious individual, but do like to indulge every once in awhile. While there were certainly things I didn’t do while in Tokyo given my time constraints (the Robot Restaurant, for example), I left feeling like I did everything I had originally wanted to and was able to really enjoy my time here. So, if you’re wondering “how much money should I bring to Tokyo?”, keep reading for the breakdown of all my expenses over five days.

Day 1:
Transportation, dinner, and drinks

Our flight touched down at Narita International Airport Saturday night and we had a bit of a tough time sorting out transportation to our hotel in Shinjuku. If we had more time (and if there was actually information in English), I’m sure we could have found a much cheaper way to get to our hotel, but we were tired, frustrated, and just wanted to get out of the airport.

After we checked into our hotel, we decided to wander over to Memory Lane for a late-night bite to eat. This is where we discovered a little shop selling the most delicious soba noodles (this was our cheapest meal of the trip). We then wandered over to the well-known area of Golden Gai for a glass of sake before passing out for the evening.

Breakdown: 
¥3128 – train ticket from airport to my hotel 
¥400 – the most delicious soba noodles 
¥900 – sake at a little bar in Golden Gai

Total: ¥4,498

Day 2:
Suica Card, the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had, Family Mart snacks and drink

Despite the wet weather, we wandered over to Harajuku with a beer in hand (gotta love the liquor laws in these countries). We later stopped by for a very sweet milk tea shaved ice dessert at Ice Monster.

After a bit more wandering around, we went to Kuumba du Falafel for the most incredible falafel sandwich I have had (and likely will ever have). Since the weather was absolute crap and we were exhausted, we decided to hit up a 7-Eleven for some drinks (read: wine and beer) and snacks (a mix of mochi, onigiri, and other odd things we wouldn’t fully know until opening the package) to take back to our hotel.

Breakdown: 
¥190 – breakfast danish  
¥500 – money added onto my Suica Card (used for the metro) 
¥500 – dessert at Ice Monster
¥135 – beer to-go from Family Mart
¥1200 – the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had at Kuumba du Falafel
¥636 – hotel late-night snacks (wine, mochi, onigiri, beer)

Total: ¥3,161

Day 3 :
Tsukemen, sake in a cup, cherry blossoms, ice cream

We started our day with a tsukemen ramen meal at Fuunji. For those who haven’t tried tsukemen before – it’s life-changing. Plus, Fuunji is meant to serve some of the best tsukemen in Tokyo and, after trying it, I would have to agree.

Since we were in Tokyo during sakura season, we went to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden to surround ourselves with all of the beautiful cherry blossoms. On our way home, we decided to try one of the restaurants in the metro for dinner, as we had heard they’re all meant to be really good. Unfortunately, my miso katsu wasn’t fantastic (the only meal I didn’t love in Tokyo), but thankfully my triple-tiered ice cream afterwards hit the spot.

Breakdown: 
¥1200 – Tsukemen ramen at Fuunji   
¥238 – cup sake from 7-Eleven (literally the best thing)
¥200 – entrance into Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (for the cherry blossoms)
¥1000 – recharge of my Suica Card
¥1100 – dinner (miso katsu in the metro)
¥470 – soft serve matcha, strawberry, and Hokkaido milk ice cream

Total: ¥5,408

Day 4:
Tsukiji Fish Market, omakase lunch, hilarious dinner

We were cursed with yet another day of rain, but it was our last chance to head to the Tsukiji Fish Market since it was closed the following day. So off we went, umbrella in hand, to devour all of the snacks and sushi from the market. By 10:00 am, we had eaten our fair share of snacks as we wandered around, but saved just enough room to enjoy a fantastic omakase lunch at Sushi Katsura.

For dinner, we went to well-known Narukiyo. There was penis paraphernalia everywhere, great music, a hilarious chef, and just all around super fun vibes. Although on the expensive side, I think the experience alone at Narukiyo is well worth it.

Breakdown: 
¥906 – snacks from the Tsukiji Fish Market (strawberry mochi, corn fritters, salmon onigiri, tomago)
¥280 – coffee at a local cafe 
¥1340 – lunch at Sushi Katsura 
¥596 – 7-Eleven snacks and drinks
¥10000 – dinner and drinks at Narukiyo

Total: ¥13,122

Day 5:
Cooking class, Sensoji Temple, Ippudo Ramen

I began my day incredibly hungover (thanks to three flasks of sake at Narukiyo, followed by a night of dancing in Shibuya), but managed to make it to my wagyu kaiseki cooking class at Cooking Sun (the cost of this class would typically be ¥8,500 per person, but it was sponsored by Flight Centre).

After a few cups of coffee and some food, we made our way over to the  Sensoji Temple where we walked around the area and ate plenty of snacks. We found an Ippudo Ramen nearby, and while there is one in Hong Kong, we figured we’d try the “real deal” here in Tokyo. As expected, it did not disappoint.

Breakdown: 
¥538 – amazing instant coffee from our hotel, found at a grocery store
¥150 – coffee at 7-Eleven (which was surprisingly good)
¥560 – Suica Card recharge
¥960 – snacks from the Sensoji Temple 
¥890 – Ippudo Ramen lunch
¥185 – pastry dessert

Total: ¥3,283

Day 6:
7-Eleven haul, coffee, flight back to HK

We had an early morning flight to make, so we were up at 4:30 am. After a quick 7-Eleven haul (including the most heavenly matcha choux cream puffs), we made our way to the Ginza line. We were headed to Ueno Station to catch the first train (Keisi Skyline) to the airport that departed at 5:58 am. The train is super fast, and we made it with a bit of time to spare (our flight was at 8:40 am).

Breakdown: 
¥660 – 7-Eleven haul before heading to the airport 
¥200 – Suica Card
¥2200 – Keisei Skyline to the airport transfer
¥130 – vending machine coffee

Total: ¥3,283

Hotel

I chose to stay at the Washington Shinjuku Hotel Annex for a number of reasons. Namely, because it was in a central location and it was one of the more reasonably priced hotels (you could definitely find cheaper if you want to stay in a capsule hotel). You can read my full hotel review here.

Total for five nights at the hotel: ¥48,925 (per person)

Grand total for five nights in Tokyo: ¥81,877

 


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thisgirlabroad
fuunji-tokyo-2-150x150.jpg

One of the great things about Tokyo is that you’re guaranteed a good meal at just about any restaurant or little shop you walk into. Heck, even the Family Mart and 7-Eleven offer great options if you’re on the go. While you could certainly eat up a storm in Tokyo without doing any research ahead of time, I’m pretty damn glad I did because I managed to have an incredible meal each of my five days in the city (as well as some great ones that just didn’t make my ‘top 5 places to eat in Tokyo’ list).

5. Kuumba du Falafel

kuumba-du-falafel-tokyo-2-1024x683.jpg

I know what you’re thinking: why in the world would I get a falafel in Tokyo?! Simply because it will be the best falafel you’ve ever had. Kuumba du Falafel is a little shop in the outskirts of Shibuya with only one thing on the menu: falafel. I ordered the full portion of the falafel sandwich (¥1,200) with all the fixings and was honestly in vegetarian heaven (and I didn’t even really like falafel before coming here!).

Read more about Kuumba du Falafel here

4. Tsukemen at Fuunji

fuunji-tokyo-4-1024x683.jpg

I had heard a lot about tsukemen (the type of ramen where you dip the cold noodles into the lukewarm, slightly fishy broth) before, but had never tried it prior to arriving in Tokyo. Fuunji was recommended to me and after doing a bit of research, I quickly discovered this was one of the most popular spots in Tokyo for tsukemen. Arrive early (or late) to beat the queues, as there are only about 15 spots around the kitchen, and indulge in a massive bowl of unbeatable tsukemen for a very reasonable ‎¥‎1,000.

Read more about Fuunji here.

3. Sushi Katsura

sushi-katsura-1-1024x683.jpg

A trip to Tokyo isn’t complete unless you visit the Tsukiji Fish Market and have an incredibly fresh omakase experience at a nearby sushi shop. While the more famous shops, like Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi, charge a pretty penny and have queues that start as early as 3:00 am, Sushi Katsura is a much more reasonable option. With no need to queue up at a ridiculous hour (it only opens for lunch and dinner) and an omakase menu that starts at only ¥950, Sushi Katsura is a perfect alternative for those who care more about the quality of sushi (and getting a decent night sleep) than the name of the restaurant.

Read more about Sushi Katsura here.

2. Soba Noodles on Memory Lane

memory-lane-tokyo-6-1024x683.jpg

I stumbled upon this little soba noodle shop along Memory Lane in Shinjuku on my first night in Tokyo at around 10:00 pm when we were scouring the streets for something to eat. There were about 10 seats crammed around the small one-man kitchen and five people queuing in front of us, which naturally led us to believe this place was a winner. For only ¥400 (the cheapest meal I had in Tokyo), I sat down to a delicious bowl of fresh soba noodles, a mountain of vegetable tempura, and a soft boiled egg.

Read more about the soba noodles on Memory Lane here.

1. Narukiyo

narukiyo-tokyo-7-1024x683.jpg

This was my one splurge during my time in Tokyo and I don’t regret a single yen spent. From the moment I stepped foot inside Narukiyo, I knew I was going to have a great time. The place is covered in penis paraphernalia (yes, you read that correctly) and I had the pleasure of sitting right in front of a massive black penis for my entire meal. As I’m sure you can guess, the vibe is incredibly fun (be sure to snag a seat around the kitchen) and we ended up spending over three hours in the restaurant. As for the food, you simply tell the waiter if there is anything you won’t eat and after a few minutes, your food starts arriving. We had three flasks of sake and 7 courses (three individual, four shared), and our bill came to ¥20,700.

Read more about Narukiyo here.


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

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

How to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market

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

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

Street snacks found at the Tsukiji Fish Market

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

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

Where to go for a sit-down sushi meal

sushi-katsura-2-1024x683.jpgSushi Katsura

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

Read more about my experience at Sushi Katsura here

Places to explore around the Tsukiji Fish Market

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

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

Things to know

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

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


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

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

First Impressions of the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex

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

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

My Room

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

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

Overall Thoughts

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

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

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


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thisgirlabroad

These are snippets of what I’ve experienced living in Hong Kong over the past years: from the funny to the weird, and everything in between. I’ll continue to update this post as I come across more strange and wonderful things around the city.

70. Where this anti-smoking ad is more likely to make you laugh than to quit smoking. 

IMG_6237

69. Where honesty is key.

IMG_4859

68. Where you’ll find “Monkey Head” on a menu.

IMG_4876

67. When monks wear “spicy” shoes on the MTR.

IMG_4860

66. When people have too much money and too little sense, and decide to cover their Porsche in black velvet. 

image1

65. When restaurants need to specify that liquor is intoxicating, as opposed to it being..? 

Photo 28-3-15 7 24 21 am

64. When these are the things I see on my commute to work in the morning. 

Photo 8-7-15 8 20 30 am

63. When the Hong Kong Observatory issues a T8 (strong typhoon warning) without it even raining, and the whole city literally shuts down..

IMG_3774

62. When precautions are taken very seriously around a work site..

Photo 3-7-15 5 05 31 pm

61. Where people need to be reminded of proper hygiene practices.

Photo 28-3-15 7 19 45 am

60. When it’s 30°C outside and people are wearing a down jacket and Hawaiian shorts.

IMG_3074

59. Where this outdoor display is meant to entice you to eat here. 

Photo 10-11-14 7 57 24 pm

58. Where the elderly take their exercising seriously.

Photo 25-1-15 3 04 23 pm

57. Where the world’s most insane beauty products exist. 

Photo 12-12-14 9 05 58 pm

56. Where people are badass.

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55. Where seeing this becomes normal.

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54. Where clothes can be incredibly ironic.

Photo 31-10-14 6 34 31 pm

53. Where you can purchase a “Mini Portable Toilet”.

Photo 2014-01-09, 5 32 29 PM

52. Where you can find people sleeping at the bottom of stairwells.

Photo 2-11-14 7 02 04 pm

51. Where soup exists for your hands. 

soap

50. Where department stores display Halloween and Christmas decorations side by side.

halloween and christmas

49. Where fashion is taken seriously.

fashion

48. Where products like this actually exist and famous soccer players actually promote them.

weird products

47. When you’re not sure what the marketing strategy is.

funny

46. Where people own incredibly large cellphones.

cellphone

45. Where you always get a good laugh out of locals wearing English shirts.

english

44. Where you can find a truckload of bamboo just lying on the street.

bamboo

43. When fancy port-a-potty’s equipped with carpeted floors, a full length mirror, and a framed picture are rented for the Rugby Sevens. 

toilet

42. Where drying your entire wardrobe along a public walkway is a thing.

DryingClothes

41. When a notice regarding “throwing animal discharge from height” is posted in your apartment building.

notice sign

40. Where the love of egg tarts is real. 

egg tarts

39. Where you’re just not quite sure what to do in some situations (so you just take a photo instead)

wig

38. Where you can wait for the bus in style.

bus stop

37. Where you have announcements like this in the MTR:
“Please hold onto the handrails and not just look at your mobile phone.”

36. When businesses run out of the back of a van.

business

35. Where you can get some exercise on the side of the road.

exercise

34. Where the food safety and hygiene guidelines are questionable.

butcher store

33. Where people will queue for hours on end.

apple store queue

32. When a water pipe bursts, construction workers are more concerned with taking a picture of the flooding street than fixing it. 

water pipe

31. Where advertisements sure know how to catch your attention.

advertisement

30. Where DIY projects consist of sticking oven mitts to the handle bars of motorcycles.

DIY

29. Where you can buy wine by the plastic glass in the grocery store. 

wine in a plastic glass

28. Where this is considered entertainment at a nightclub. 

play nightclub

27. Where your choice of local grocery store is based solely upon how much its name makes you laugh. 

grocery store

26. Where public stretching in short shorts and no shirt is serious business. 

stretching

25. When candy wrappers warn consumers that “children and elderly people should not eat absolutely.”

candy

24. Where you can’t walk more than two blocks without seeing one of these “litter cum recyclables” bins.

litter bin

23. Where you can find horse figurines, among other oddities, randomly stuck into large rocks.

horse

22. When these are a few words of wisdom imparted on you by a local restaurant owner:
“Don’t go back to Canada. So many animal. So few people. Don’t waste your life.”
*Mr. Wong from Mr. Wong’s, Mong Kok

21. When eating pig skin is considered a delicacy.

cantonese cuisine

20. When your concept of what dessert is  completely flipped around.

dessert

19. When signs like this are posted outside of the washrooms at a bar.

funny sign

18. Where people are really serious about Hello Kitty.

hello kitty

17. Where this is on display at an amusement park.

ocean park

16. When this becomes a regular sight on a night out.

costumes

15. Where adults dressing the same is a thing.

matching backpacks

14. When the smog is so thick you can no longer see half of the tallest building in your area.

buildings

13. Where embarrassment does not exist.

exercise

12. When the weather is more indecisive than I am.

11. When owning an oven is the epitome of wealth and the envy of all your friends.

10. When you can take the escalator up to the gym.
Bonus: having a McDonald’s right underneath.

california-fitness

9. When you can find preserved whole baby crabs in a snack bag.

asian-snacks

8. When Groupon sells stuff like this.

ostrich-pillow-portable-power-nap-micro-environment-7

7. When you climb up a mountain and have this as your view (just ignore the smog).

hike-hong-kong

6. When the only way to get hot water in your flat is by turning this on.

water-heater

5. Where people either fear or are obsessed with dogs.

Wrapping Up 2012 In Hong Kong 049

4. When families and couples coordinate their outfits so they all match.

4. Just Your Average Day In Hong Kong

3. When it is 20° out and people are wearing winter jackets and boots.

2. When you’re on the MTR and see a man plucking out his facial hair with tweezers.

1. When you’re at the gym and
a) Men are wearing shorter shorts than women
b) People are wearing their work clothes
c) One in five people are talking on their cellphone


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thisgirlabroad
discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-4-150x150.j

The Discovery Bay to Mui Wo hike is perfect if you’re wanting to get off Hong Kong Island without wasting much time getting to and back from your hike. This hike is very straight forward and offers fantastic views of Discovery Bay and the surrounding islands (if the weather is cooperating). The first half of this hike can be challenging, with a lot of uphill stairs and a fairly steep climb up to Tiger’s Head. However, the rest of the trail is flat and downhill. The hike ends at Silvermine Bay Beach, so bring your bathing suit and take a quick dip in the water before catching the ferry back to Central.

Starting point of the Discovery Bay to Mui Wo hike

Head to Central Pier 3 and hop on the Discovery Bay ferry (view the timetable here). The journey takes about 25 minutes and the hike begins 5 minutes from the pier.

Discovery Bay to Tiger’s Head (Lo Fu Tau)

discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-1-1024x768.Take the first right along this beach-side walkway

Once you’re off the ferry and at Discovery Bay Plaza, head right towards the beach. Depending on what time you start this hike, you could grab breakfast at one of the cafes (there’s also a Pacific Coffee there) beforehand. Otherwise, keep following the path towards the beach. Once on the walkway along the beach, you’re going to take the first left (where you see the people in the photo above) up the path between the housing complexes.

discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-2-1024x768.Go rightdiscovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-3-1024x768.Cross the street and go up the stairs where you see the green and white sign

Walk past the housing complex and make a right after the houses at the intersection (see first photo above). Walk down the path where you’ll have houses on your right and trees on your left across the road. At the first crosswalk, turn left and cross the street. You’ll see a green sign and a white sign (can see them in the middle-left of the second photo above) with stairs leading up. This is the start of the hike.

discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-5-1024x768.Views of Discovery Bay

Although not long, the stairs leading up to the Discovery Bay lookout are quite steep, and can be relentless on a hot and humid day. That being said, the views are fantastic once you reach the top.

discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-6-1024x768.Go rightdiscovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-7-1024x768.Take the first right and head up the dirt path

After you’re done taking a few photos, head down from the lookout point (just keep following the path) and turn right after you finish going down the stairs (if you head left you’ll see a helicopter pad followed by a gazebo with another lookout point). Only a few steps down that paved path is where you’ll make the first right and head up. From here, you’ll be going up a dirt path to get to Tiger’s Head (Lo Fu Tau Country Trail).

discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-8-1024x768.View from the (almost) top

At this point, you’re almost at the top – the dirt path you see in the photo above is the same one you’ll be climbing up to get to this point.

Tiger’s Head (Lo Fu Tau) to Mui Wo

discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-9-1024x768.View from Tiger Head (if you could actually see past the haze/smog)

If the skies are bright and blue, the view from the top would be stunning. Unfortunately, I had no such luck when I went and couldn’t see anything more than a few feet ahead of me (but at least there was a photo to show me what I was missing out on, right?..). From this point, the rest of the hike is all flat and downhill – just keep following the path.

discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-10-1024x768Turn left (follow the signs for Mui Wo)discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-11-1024x768Heading into Mui Wo

After about 20 minutes, you’ll come to a fork in the path with a little pavilion. Go left towards Mui Wo, which you’ll be able to see in the distance as you descend.

discovery-bay-to-mui-wo-hike-12-1024x768Go left (down the stairs) to get to Silvermine Bay Beach and the ferry pier

Once in Mui Wo, you’ll walk past a small waterfall, a few temples, and the Silvermine Cave. Shortly after the cave, you’ll have a point where you could continue to walk straight, but you’ll also see stairs looping down and going back in the direction you came just to the left beside the tree with all the signs on it (see photo above).

To get to Silvermine Bay Beach and the ferry pier, turn around and head down the stairs and continue along the path. After a 10 minute walk through the little local villages, you’ll reach the beach. From here, you can take a dip in the water, grab a snack, or head back to the ferry pier if you’re eager to get home. On your way to the ferry pier, there’s a cooked food center with tables looking out onto the water that I would recommend eating at if you’re hungry.

Journey Length: about 10 km
Total Time: about 2.5 – 3.5 hours


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If you want to visit temples in Japan, most people will direct you to Kyoto where you’ll find plenty. However, if you’re only staying in Tokyo, you’d be missing out if you didn’t make the trip to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. Although a very popular tourist spot, I loved walking around the Sensoji Temple and the surrounding Asakusa area. You’ll see plenty of locals partaking in various Buddhist practices, try a range of snacks at one of the numerous shops, and grab a souvenir or two before you leave.

How to get to the Sensoji Temple in Asukusa

The Sensoji Temple is incredibly easy to get to via subway, as it’s only a few minutes’ walk from Asakusa Station. Since Tokyo’s subway system is an actual mess (at least to those [like me] looking at the dozens of subway lines for the first time), I’d recommend just asking someone at the service counter for directions if you’re feeling a little lost. Or if you’re quite good at reading subway maps, just make your way towards the light red/pink Asakusa Line. Once there, take Exit 1. From here, it’s only a 5 minute walk to the Sensoji Temple.

What you’ll see

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There’s much more than just seeing a temple and then leaving when you visit the Sensoji Temple. As Tokyo’s oldest temple, the Sensoji Temple is beautiful and you can find a few other smaller temples nearby if you wander around. When I was there, I saw plenty of locals who were partaking in a variety of worshiping rituals: a water fountain where people would take a cup of water and “wash their hands”, tying little notes onto a display rack, and opening and closing little drawers filled with items I couldn’t see (but I could certainly hear). Aside from the religious aspects, you’ll find a range of little food stalls and souvenir shops (surprisingly, the only ones I saw during my time in Tokyo) lined up along the cherry blossom-covered main walkway.

What you should eat

senso-ji-temple-asakusa-8-1024x683.jpgThe main walkway to the Sensoji Templesenso-ji-temple-asakusa-10-1024x683.jpgMelonpansenso-ji-temple-asakusa-9-1024x683.jpgMatcha and Hokkaido Milk soft serve ice creamsenso-ji-temple-asakusa-11-1024x683.jpgRed bean taiyaki

One piece of advice: come to the Sensoji Temple hungry. There are dozens of little food stalls around the temple and though I didn’t know what a lot of the snacks were, they were so cheap that I just tried whatever I thought looked good.

Melonpan (¥250) is a very simple, but oddly delicious street snack that’s basically a slightly sweet bread with a crunchy outside. The matcha and Hokkaido milk soft serve ice cream (¥350) was good, but admittedly I’ve had better. Finally, the red bean taiyaki (¥160) was probably my favorite snack of the day. I found this little stall just outside the main area in one of the shopping tunnels. You get to watch the taiyaki being made before, so you know they’re hot and fresh. Since I had my eyes on a bowl of ramen from Ippudo for dinner afterwards, I didn’t go too crazy on the snacks, but there were plenty more to choose from.

Sensoji Temple
Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
Opening days: Everyday

Hours: 6:00 am – 5:00 pm (though the main hall is always open)
Entrance fee: Free


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Hong Kong is a city where weekends are filled with boozy brunches. If you’re looking to take your standard champagne brunch one step further, head to Ozone at The Ritz Carlton for their Ultimate Dom Perignon Brunch. Indulge in a buffet spread the size of a soccer field, eat copious amounts of Joselito ham, take in the sweeping views of the Hong Kong harbor from the 118th floor, and drink all the Dom Perignon 2006 you can handle. Held every Sunday, the Ozone brunch has #treatyoself written all over it.

Buffet Spread at Ozone brunch

ozone-brunch-4-1024x683.jpgAll-you-can-eat Joselito Hamozone-brunch-1-1024x683.jpgSushi /raw seafood startersozone-brunch-2-1024x683.jpgSalad barozone-brunch-6-1024x683.jpgRound 1ozone-brunch-7-1024x683.jpgDesserts

If you’ve only been to Ozone at night for cocktails, you’re missing out. The space is beautiful during the day, with massive floor-to-ceiling windows that offer an abundance of natural light and breathtaking views of the Hong Kong harbor.

What can you expect in terms of food? One of the unique offerings is the Joselito ham (which is meant to be the best in the world),  which is carved off the leg for you. The ham was incredible and I couldn’t help but go back for a second plate. The other stations throughout Ozone were typical of a grande hotel buffet: appetizers, sushi, raw seafood, salad bar, selection from the grill, eggs benedict, live waffle station, and a massive dessert selection. Some of my favorites were the Joselito ham, deviled truffle eggs, the grilled lamb, and the tiramisu.

Verdict

ozone-brunch-9-1024x683.jpgViews from the 118th floor

If you love Dom Perignon and are able to get your money’s worth by drinking a bottle of it during brunch, it’s definitely worth it. However, if you’re not much of a champagne drinker (or can’t fully appreciate the difference between brands), then it might be hard to justify spending HK$1,298 on brunch. Don’t get me wrong, the food was great and the views (after the haze cleared up) were fantastic, but there are also plenty of other restaurants in the city that put on a lovely champagne brunch for half the price.

Details

“The Ultimate Dom Perignon Brunch” is available every Sunday at Ozone from 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm.
Price: HK$1,298 including free-flow Dom Perignon 2006 OR HK$2,198 including Dom Perignon Rose 2004

Ozone 
118/F, The Ritz Carlton 
International Commerce Centre (ICC)
1 Austin Road West
West Kowloon

Tel: 2263 2270


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I was told to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market early (like, 5:00 am early), so that we could queue up for one of the sushi bars for breakfast. The two restaurants that were recommended to me were Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. After doing a bit more research and reading nightmare reviews of people queuing for up to four hours for an overly priced, mediocre omakase sushi breakfast, there was no way I was going to get caught in that tourist trap. Instead, I stumbled upon a fantastic alternative, Sushi Katsura (すしかつら), just a few blocks away from the Tsukiji Fish Market. You can expect an incredibly good-valued omakase lunch at Sushi Katsura with zero queues and no 4:00 am wake-up call.

Vibe at Sushi Katsura

sushi-katsura-5-1024x768.jpgSushi Katsura exteriorsushi-katsura-4-1024x683.jpgThe main sushi counter

We were the first ones in Sushi Katsura (it opens at 11:30 am for lunch) and there was a slow trickle of customers who came in shortly after, but it was nowhere near as busy as I thought it was going to be. The two sushi chefs behind the counter were all smiles while making our sushi. Sushi Katsura is simple, fuss-free, and serves up some fantastic sushi at insanely reasonable prices considering the area.

Omakase menu

sushi-katsura-6-768x1024.jpgEnglish menusushi-katsura-2-1024x683.jpgPart 1 of my “Sushi for 1.5 persons” omakase setsushi-katsura-3-1024x683.jpgPart 2 of my “Sushi for 1.5 persons” omakase set

I had read that Sushi Katsura didn’t have an English menu, however, they must have been getting enough business from tourists to create one because they handed us an English menu after we sat down. I ordered the “Sushi for 1.5 persons” which was ¥1,050 and came with 11 pieces of nigiri sushi, a maki roll, and a bowl of miso soup. The sushi is served on a bamboo leaf in front of you and comes out as the chef prepares it. My friend ordered the “Jo-sushi” for ¥1,900, which was meant to be a “high class” sushi set with a few more pieces of different nigiri. Though she did like it, the difference between my set and hers wasn’t worth the price difference.

Verdict

I would highly recommend Sushi Katsura as a solid alternative to the over-hyped sushi restaurants in the Tsukiji Fish Market. There’s no need to wake up at the crack of dawn to queue for a sushi breakfast, the prices at Sushi Katsura are incredibly reasonable (expect to pay three to four times the price at Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi), and the food is incredibly fresh and delicious.

Sushi Katsura (すしかつら)
2-15-4 Tsukiji
Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 3543 1800


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If you ask for suggestions on where to go for a fun night out in Tokyo, it’s likely that many people will tell you to head to Golden Gai in Shinjuku. This well-known area of Tokyo is famous for its nightlife. You’ll find 6 parallel alleyways with tiny bars crammed everywhere (there’s said to be over 200 bars). Many tourists come here for a bit of bar hopping (if you manage to find a seat), though there are a handful of bars that cater to a “Japanese-speaking only” crowd. While I can’t say I loved Golden Gai, I thought it was a unique experience that is worth checking out.

Vibe around Golden Gai

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We went to Golden Gai on a Saturday and, at first, it seemed pretty quiet. There weren’t as many people milling about the alleyways as I had imagined. However, just about every single bar that I walked by was completely packed. The bars in Golden Gai can only comfortably seat about 8 – 10 people, so it’s best to get there early if you wanted to go to a specific bar or if you’re with a group of 3 or more people. The majority of people in Golden Gai appeared to be tourists looking for a fun night of drinking far too much sake while having good conversations with friends and strangers, and taking in a bit of Tokyo’s past.

How to know which bar to go into

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I found walking through Golden Gai to be a bit overwhelming, since it can be difficult to decide which bar to go into. Many bars have a cover charge of around ¥600 – ¥1000, just keep your eyes peeled for the signs outside that usually say if there is a cover charge or not. Any bar that has English signage is a safe bet to go into, but there were a few bars that had signs saying they only wanted Japanese-speaking people to enter their bar. Since we were there quite late, most of the bars were already packed, but we managed to find one that only had three other people in it and didn’t have a cover charge. Drink prices vary, but I ordered sake (the glass was massive) for ¥900. Just don’t expect any menu with prices at the bars. You simply order and hope that it doesn’t cost a fortune when you ask for the bill.

Overall thoughts on Golden Gai

My feelings on Golden Gai are mixed. On one hand, I would recommend visiting the area because it’s a unique and historical part of Tokyo with plenty of character. On the other hand, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I was going to be. I didn’t like how most bars had a cover charge, that certain bars wouldn’t admit non-Japanese speakers, and how smoking was allowed inside the bars. Regardless, I still think it’s worthwhile to check out Golden Gai for yourself if you haven’t already!


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The Shinjuku district of Tokyo is a bustling, hectic, and very modern part of the city, however, there are a few spots only steps away from the busy main streets that offer visitors a glimpse into the old Tokyo. One such place is Memory Lane (translated from Omoide Yokocho, but also known as “Piss Alley”). Here you’ll find an assortment of tiny shops that serve up yakitori, soba noodles, and (of course) plenty of drinks.  Aside from just being really cool to walk through thanks to its narrow alleyways, cramped bars with people laughing, eating, and drinking, and Japanese decor strung throughout, this is where I found the best bowl of soba noodles.

What to expect down Memory Lane (“Piss Alley”).

memory-lane-tokyo-2-1024x683.jpgEntrance into Memory Lanememory-lane-tokyo-3-1024x683.jpgWalking along Memory Lane at nightmemory-lane-tokyo-1-1024x683.jpgAround 10:30 pm on Memory Lanememory-lane-tokyo-8-1024x683.jpgMemory Lane Tokyo

Memory Lane brings back feelings of Japan’s post-war era. While I was initially expecting to walk through a dirty, decrepit alleyway, I was pleasantly surprised that the name “Piss Alley” (the name originally came from the alley’s 1940’s black market bars and lack of toilet) was not directly related to the physical state of the area. In fact, I found Memory Lane to be incredibly charming and full of character. I would recommend having a walk through the whole thing (it’s really not that big) before choosing a place to sit down and eat. Just go with whatever jumps out at you and looks appealing (and actually has an empty seat!). This is how we found a cute noodle shop and ended up having one of the best bowls of soba.

Where to eat in Memory Lane Tokyo

memory-lane-tokyo-7-1024x683.jpgYou’ll find the best bowl of soba at this joint down Memory Lanememory-lane-tokyo-4-1024x683.jpgThe main (and only) chef working his magicmemory-lane-tokyo-6-1024x683.jpgThe best bowl of soba noodles with vegetable tempura and a soft boiled egg

Since we were walking around quite late at night (at this point, it must have been between 10:00 – 11:00 pm), there weren’t as many restaurants opened as we had expected. Most of the little hole-in-the-walls, which could only comfortable sit a maximum of 10 or so people, were completely full. Thankfully, just as we came around a corner, this brightly lit open-concept soba shop caught our eye. There was a small queue of people waiting, which told us the food was good. So, we waited about 10 minutes for a seat, sat down, ordered their best seller (there are only three options), and began slurping away. The dish consisted of fresh soba noodles, crispy vegetable tempura, and a soft boiled egg. All for only ¥400. This was one of my favourite dishes I had in Tokyo, not to mention one of the cheapest.

Omoide Yokocho; Memory Lane (Piss Alley)
1 Chome-2-8 Nishishinjuku
Shinjuku
Tokyo


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Fuunji Tokyo was said to serve up some of the best tsukemen in the city, and since I had never tried that type of ramen before (I know, I know) I was looking forward to trying it. The shop is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, so be sure to arrive early or go late, otherwise you should expect a queue (we went just after it opened and we still didn’t get a seat right away). There are only two things on the menu: ramen or dipping noodles (tsukemen), but the vast majority come for the latter. And trust me, it doesn’t disappoint.

Vibe at Fuunji Tokyo

fuunji-tokyo-5-1024x683.jpgOutside the ramen shopfuunji-tokyo-2-1024x683.jpgInside – looking to the back of the restaurantfuunji-tokyo-1-1024x683.jpgInside – at the front of the queue, looking to the entrance of the restaurant

Fuunji Tokyo is not somewhere you go to have a casual bowl of ramen and catch up with your friends. It’s definitely more of a get in, stuff your face with noodles, and get out kind of place. When we arrived, there wasn’t a queue outside the restaurant like I had read about (apparently the queues can be huge if you go during peak hours), but there was one inside. People actually queue up behind people eating, which certainly adds a bit of pressure to finish your meal quickly. Thankfully, we were able to get seats by the entrance, which meant no one was breathing down our back. There were a handful of other tourists there, which made me believe this place was more popular than I had originally thought. The main chef (perhaps owner?) had longer, light brown hair, was incredibly friendly, and could speak a bit of English.

Tsukemen Ramen

fuunji-tokyo-6-768x1024.jpgOrder and pay for your ramen through this machine firstfuunji-tokyo-3-1024x683.jpgTsukemen ramen (large noodles)fuunji-tokyo-4-1024x683.jpgTsukemen ramen

Right as you enter the door, you’ll see a big machine on your right. This is where you order your noodles. The choices are ramen (‎¥‎750), special ramen (‎¥‎950), dipping noodle (‎¥‎800), and special dipping noodle (‎¥‎1,000). I’ll be honest: I have no clue what the difference is between the “special” version and the regular version, but we knew we wanted the dipping noodle and everyone ahead of us ordered the special dipping noodle, so we just followed suit and did the same.

The noodles come in either small or large (no extra charge for the large), so I obviously ordered the large. Shortly after we sat down, an actual mountain of noodles arrived alongside the soup and I actually struggled to finish the whole thing. The tsukemen broth is a mixture of rich chicken with hints of fish. The fishy taste is heightened by the spoonful of fish powder on top. Not realizing the tsukemen came with an egg and seaweed, I ordered an extra serving of both (oops!) at ¥‎100 each. The tsukemen also came with a good amount of tender chunks of pork, hidden at the bottom of the bowl. One thing I was surprised about was that the ramen actually wasn’t hot; the noodles were cold and the soup was mild in temperature, but I really didn’t mind. It was pretty much love at first slurp with this tsukemen.

Verdict

The intense and rich flavored broth completely won me over and I would absolutely return to Fuunji Tokyo the next time I visit the city. If you’re looking for good quality tsukemen in an authentic Japanese ramen shop, head to Fuunji. Just be sure to arrive right when it opens or go late at night, otherwise you’ll likely be queuing for at least an hour or so.

Fuunji
2-14-3, Yoyogi
Shinjuku
Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 6413 8480


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There are so many fantastic restaurants in Tokyo that planning where to eat during your stay can be a bit overwhelming. Many well-established restaurants begin taking reservations upwards of a month in advance, so if you’re not in the know, you’ll likely miss out on an opportunity to have a fantastic meal. While many of these restaurants tend to be quite fancy, I discovered a hidden gem that I want to share with you: Narukiyo Tokyo. This restaurant only serves an omakase menu (meaning there is no menu), has insanely fun vibes (sit around the kitchen counter for added entertainment while enjoying the chef’s playlist and the awkward yet hilarious phallic objects scattered about the restaurant), and is basically guaranteed to be one of the best nights you’ll have in Tokyo.

Vibe at Narukiyo Tokyo

narukiyo-tokyo-1024x768.jpgEntrance into Narukiyo (can be a bit difficult to find!)narukiyo-tokyo-1-1024x683.jpgMy lovely view at the kitchen counternarukiyo-tokyo-2-1024x683.jpgAround the kitchen barnarukiyo-tokyo-11-1024x683.jpgThe hilarious head chef

The restaurant has a large open kitchen with about 10 seats around it. If at all possible, make sure you sit there. There’s also seating in a separate dining area if you’re with a larger group, but I promise that your experience will be much better if you can see all the action in the kitchen.

I had a fantastic seat at the kitchen counter where a massive black flying penis was hanging down from the ceiling, practically in front of my face (no, seriously.. check out the photos above). Aside from phallic references (and by references, I mean straight up penises) everywhere you turn, the restaurant may seem a bit underwhelming when you first walk in.

A few minutes after we were seated, we really got into the vibe of the whole place. Expect funky music (they had on a bit of rock while we were there) compliments of whatever the chef (who was hilarious and was wearing a pin that read “I love sex”) is feeling like that evening, a view into what’s going on in the kitchen, and lots of laughter and smiles among the other diners.

Omakase Menu

Here’s the thing about dining at Narukiyo. There’s no menu. We literally sat down, asked for sake, and then our food slowly began to arrive. Prior to making our reservation, we had heard that the chef actually determines what he’s going to serve you based on your appearance. So, my understanding is, if you show up looking all fancy and whatnot, you can expect many delicious courses, but be prepared to spend a pretty penny on your meal.

narukiyo-tokyo-3-1024x683.jpgBowl of cold local vegetables to start (individual dish)narukiyo-tokyo-4-1024x683.jpgWagyu beef (shared dish)narukiyo-tokyo-5-1024x683.jpgCold seafood box (individual dish)narukiyo-tokyo-6-1024x683.jpgRaw bonito fish (shared dish)narukiyo-tokyo-7-1024x683.jpgSashimi bowl (shared dish)narukiyo-tokyo-8-1024x683.jpgAsparagus with tomato (individual dish)narukiyo-tokyo-9-1024x683.jpgArtichoke (shared dish)narukiyo-tokyo-10-1024x683.jpgStrawberries and Cream

We began with a bowl of cold local vegetables that were simple, but delicious. A plate of medium rare wagyu beef came next that we shared. The wagyu was oddly chewy, but the flavor was great. I’m not a massive seafood fan, so I was slightly skeptical when a box of cold fish was put in front of us. Thankfully, the fish was quite good (bones and all!), albeit messy to eat. One of my favorite dishes was the raw bonito fish with a light peanut sauce, which was incredibly fresh. We then shared a large plate of fresh sashimi, including octopus, salmon, tuna, and some other fish that I honestly can’t remember (sorry; we were two bottles of sake in at this point!) aside from the fact that everything was insanely good.

The chef makes fresh wasabi by grating the wasabi root. If you’ve never had fresh wasabi, you should definitely try it – the taste is much different (read: much better) than what you’re likely used to. Next up, we each had an individual plate of asparagus and tomato. This must have been the largest asparagus I have ever seen, though I’ll admit I felt the dish was random. We finished up our meal with a sharing plate of artichoke with salt.

During our meal, we began chatting with a couple of fun guys who sat beside us and they ended up ordering a giant vase (with a penis handle, of course) of strawberries and cream. Aside from the hilarity that ensued from the condensed milk drizzled everywhere, these were some of the best strawberries I’ve ever had.

Verdict

All together, we had 7 courses (excluding the strawberries), three of which were individual and four of which we shared. When we were done our meal (we did have to tell our waiter to stop bringing the food out, otherwise I think dishes would have kept coming), a little piece of paper with the total came out. There was no individualized pricing for each dish, so I honestly have no clue how much each cost (though, if I do remember correctly, each flask of sake we had was ¥1,600 and we had three flasks over the course of our 3.5~ hour meal). In the end, our entire bill was ¥20,700.

You’ll be guaranteed an evening of fun and great food at Narukiyo Tokyo. I would definitely recommend checking it out on your next visit to Tokyo, just be sure to make reservations ahead of time and ask for a seat around the kitchen.

Narukiyo Tokyo
B/F, 2-7-14 Shibuya
Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 5485 2223


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When I was planning my trip to Tokyo, there was no thought in my mind that I would be eating anything other than all the delicious Japanese food my greedy stomach could handle. That was until the friend I was travelling with told me she had read about a shop called Kuumba du Falafel in Shibuya and how their sandwiches were insanely good. I’ve never been a big fan of falafels, so I was slightly hesitant at first. However, after doing a quick Google search and reading only positive reviews, I was quickly persuaded. Conclusion: the falafel sandwich I had at Kuumba du Falafel Tokyo was hands-down the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had.

Vibe at Kuumba du Falafel

kuumba-du-falafel-tokyo-4-1024x768.jpgKuumba du Falafel – outsidekuumba-du-falafel-tokyo-1-1024x683.jpgKuumba du Falafel – inside

I’m going to be honest – you’re going to walk into Kuumba du Falafel and think, “Uhh, am I in the right place?”. The exterior of the small restaurant is unassuming and it’s very easy to walk right by as there is practically no signage. The inside isn’t much better. It’s small, relatively bare, and has only a few seats. As for the service, don’t expect much. You’re probably wondering why on earth I’m recommending this place if the vibe is a bit cold (unlike most Japanese establishments). You only come to Kuumba du Falafel for one thing: the falafel sandwich.

The Falafel

kuumba-du-falafel-tokyo-2-1024x683.jpgFull size falafel sandwich

The only thing on the menu is the falafel sandwich in either half or full size. Obviously, I ordered the full size (¥1,200), which was so massive I basically got an arm workout just holding the thing for photos. The menu doesn’t tell you what other ingredients come with your sandwich aside from the falafel, but I promise you that they are all delicious. The pita wrap was packed with veggies and two or three (can’t even remember as I was too busy devouring it) falafel balls. The light orange sauce (some kind of kewpie mayo) was also fantastic. Add a bit of their homemade chili sauce on top for divine perfection.

Verdict

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If you like falafels (and, apparently, even if you’re like me and don’t) you need to try Kuumba du Falafel. The little shop is not really near anything and the service is far from great, but I promise, it’s well worth a trip over there to experience their heavenly falafel sandwich.

Kuumba du Falafel 
Me Building
23-1 Shinsencho
Shibuya-ku
Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 6416 8396


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

Arriving at the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo

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

Course 1 – 4:

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

Dashi based Clear Soup (お吸い物)

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

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

Course 5 – 9:

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

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

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

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

Verdict on the Wagyu Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo

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

Where to book the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo

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

Visit flightcentre.com.hk for more information!

More information about the cooking class

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

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

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

Tel: +81-3-6380-6028


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There are so many great brunch options around Hong Kong that it can often be quite the task to find something that sticks out from the crowd. One thing that this city lacks is a good selection of al fresco dining, so when I heard that Beef and Liberty were throwing together a massive weekend rooftop BBQ for a very reasonable HK$258 for as much as you can eat, I had to go (in fact, I’ve now been twice!). The Beef and Liberty BBQ Brunch is a great option: laid back rooftop vibes, selection of salads and grilled meat, DIY burger station, and free-flow drinks.

Vibes at the Beef and Liberty BBQ Brunch

beef-and-liberty-bbq-chef-1024x683.jpgBBQ Areabeef-and-liberty-bbq-rooftop-1024x683.jpRooftop Vibes

If you’ve never been up to the roof of Beef and Liberty in Wan Chai, you should definitely check it out. There were quite a lot of other groups having a great time when I went, which certainly added to the already fun atmosphere. While I liked almost everything about the vibe on the rooftop, I think having live music of some sort would potentially be a great addition.

Salad bar, BBQ, and dessert

beef-and-liberty-bbq-salad-bar-1024x683.Salad Barbeef-and-liberty-bbq-burger-1024x683.jpgMy DIY Burgerbeef-and-liberty-bbq-pulled-pork-1024x68Pulled Porkbeef-and-liberty-bbq-dessert-1024x683.jpDessert Selection – bread pudding & giant cookie with cream

All of the BBQ-ing takes place right on the rooftop, so you know you’re getting fresh, straight from the grill meat. The salad selection is simple, with choices of a classic caesear salad, coleslaw, or (my personal favorite) heirloom tomato and goat cheese. I then moved onto the DIY burgers, where I picked up a giant, juicy burger patty that must have been at least 3 inches thick and stacked it high with almost all of the toppings available: lettuce, bacon, red onions, pickles, and cheese. Not to give myself too much credit, but this was definitely one of the best burgers I’ve had in awhile. If red meat isn’t your thing, you could also opt for the piri piri chicken or the ribs (or all three!), which were all drool-worthy.

Besides the burger, I could not get enough of the pulled pork. The crackling was addictive and the pork was so tender, it practically melted in my mouth. Be sure to save enough room in your belly for dessert because you won’t want to miss the bread pudding and giant cookie skillet with cream.

Verdict

I really loved the Beef and Liberty BBQ brunch and think it’s a great choice in a city where rooftop restaurants are hard to come by. I enjoyed a tonne of fantastic food and plenty of prosecco on their laid-back roof, all for a very reasonable price. This is definitely a brunch I would 100% recommend.

Beef and Liberty BBQ brunch details

BBQ only (adult): HK$258
BBQ + free-flow drinks package (includes Bloody Mary, prosecco, Brooklyn Lager beer, and soft drinks): HK$388
BBQ only (kids under the age of 14): HK$128 

Beef and Liberty 
23 Wing Fung Street
Wan Chai 

Tel: 2811 3009


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

The reality of visiting Siem Reap’s temples

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

When the sun sets in Siem Reap

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

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

A few final thoughts

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

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


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

1. Beef Lok Lak

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

2. Fish Amok

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

3. Grilled Bananas

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

4. Iced Coffee (from a street stall)

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

5. Beef Noodle Soup

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

6. Coconut Cake

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

7. Fresh Fruit Smoothies

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

8. Anything at a Night Market

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

9. Coconut Ice Cream

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

10. Pineapple on a stick

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


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The first thing people said to me after I told them I would be travelling to Phnom Penh was that I had to visit the Killing Fields. My response: a concerned look followed by a mumbled, “I’m not so sure I want to visit somewhere so sad on my holidays”. Most people followed up by telling me that, despite it being difficult, the whole experience was exceptionally well-done and moving. After getting a similar response from so many other travelers, I knew that I should stop Googling “should I visit the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh?” and just experience it for myself.

If you’re asking yourself “should I visit the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh?”, the answer is a simple yes.

should-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnChoeung Ek Monument, built in 2012should-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnInside the monumentshould-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnInside the monument

Before I actually went to the Killing Fields, I wanted to educate myself about what actually happened in Cambodia between 1975 – 1979. What I gathered was that the Khmer Rouge came into power (and were SOMEHOW accepted by the UN) after the Cambodian Civil War and replaced the “military dictatorship of the Khmer Republic”. They saw educated citizens as a threat, and (to make a sickeningly unfortunate and long story short) thus began the Cambodian genocide. (More information here).

After paying the entrance fee, I was given an audio guide (they have them in a variety of languages) and was told to press 1 when I was ready to begin the tour. I really appreciated that I could go at my own pace with the audio guide; if I wanted to pause between sections, replay a section, or listen to an additional audio excerpt, I could.

The tour began and ended at the Choeung Ek Monument, which was the only structure standing throughout the Killing Fieldsbecause all of the other former buildings were torn down by angry and upset locals after the killings stopped in 1980. It’s eerily real, authentic, and chilling as you continue to walk around the site, led by your audio guide. I found it really difficult to put in words what I felt during this experience, so just trust me when I say that it is well worth your time to visit the Killing Fields.

What to expect at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields

should-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnYour guide will tell you when to walk to each station.should-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnOne of the mass graves of 450 victimsshould-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnThe saddest part (personally) of the Killing Fields: The Killing Tree
  • Expect your heart to break a little.
  • Expect to spend a lot longer inside than you may have anticipated.
  • Expect to be absolutely shocked and disgusted when you realize this happened LESS THAN 40 YEARS AGO.
  • Expect to be touched by the desperately sad but beautifully true stories you hear.
  • Expect and accept the fact that you will cry.
  • Expect to appreciate how thoughtfully and carefully this site was put together to enlighten and educate visitors.
  • Expect to be speechless.
  • Expect to be guided through mass graves, the “killing tree” (the most difficult part of the tour for me), empty land where buildings once were, various bones, and ripped clothing of the victims. 
  • Expect to feel off for a few hours after you leave.

Getting to the Killing Fields & Entry Fee

While many hotels can offer a taxi or tuk tuk to the killing fields, your best bet is to flag down a tuk tuk yourself. I paid about US$10 for a tuk tuk to take me there, wait for me to tour around, and then take me back to my hotel. The entrance fee for the Killing Fields was US$6.

Click here to learn more about what happened in Cambodia between 1975 – 1979.


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

Vibe at The Pawn Brunch

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

Starters

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

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

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

Mains

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

Dessert

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

Verdict

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

The Pawn Brunch Options

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

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

The Pawn 
62 Johnston Road
Wan Chai

Tel: 2866 3444


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

Starters

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

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

Mains

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

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

Dessert

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

Verdict

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

Tycoon Tann 
74 Wellington Street
Central 

Tel: 3125 3228


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The new Michelin Guide Dining Series, Hong Kong and Macau is making it much easier for you to to experience some of the cuisine found at various Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. Launched earlier this year, the dining series will showcase a different Michelin-starred chef each month for a 2 – 4 day pop-up dining experience in Hong Kong or Macau. I was lucky enough to partake in Chef Chen Kentaro of Shisen Hanten’s (two Michelin-starred Sichuan restaurant in Singapore) six-course modern Sichuan dinner with wine pairing.

Michelin Guide Dining Series: Chen Kentaro

I was originally expecting more of a local Sichuan dinner, but Chef Chen Kentaro’s style is much more modern and curated for a wider audience. His grandfather actually introduced Sichuan cuisine to Japan (Yokohama) in 1958, and he has since taken over and expanded the family business. Chef Kentaro is also widely known from his appearance on “Iron Chef” in Japan. In 2014 he brought Shisen Hanten to Singapore, which was given a 2 Michelin Star rating in 2016.

Course 1 – 3

michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantAppetizer of the Day paired with Champagne Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, RP90michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantStir-fried Lobster paired with Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale 20113, RP91michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantFoie-gras flanc topped with Alaskan crab and crab roe

We began our extravagant six-course meal with the Appetizer of the Day paired with Champagne Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, RP90. The trio of bite-size Chinese treats were comprised of cold shredded chicken, wagyu beef, and bitter melon. The first two appetizers were delicious, but I found the third to be too bitter for my liking. I loved the Stir-fried Lobster paired with Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale 2013, RP91. This dish was full of flavor and the lobster was incredibly juicy, but it was the lightly fried fish that stole the show. I promise that the Foie-gras flanc topped with Alaskan crab and crab roe tasted much better than it looks. While this dish may appear simple, the complexity of flavor was impressive. Underneath the crab layer on top, the foie-gras flanc was irresistibly creamy and had a more subtle flavor than what I had expected.

Course 4 – 5

michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantSteamed Japan Kue Fish and Hamaguri Clam paired with Le Petit Havt Lafite 2014michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantChen’s Mapodoufu paired with Chateau Corbin Grand Cru Classé 2010, RP92

The Steamed Japan Kue Fish and Hamaguri Clam was unwrapped at our table and was paired with Le Petit Havt Lafite 2014. The longtooth grouper was delicious and the Sichuan pickled chili added an interesting sweet/sour element to the fish. One of the star dishes of the evening was Chen’s Mapodoufu paired with Chateau Corbin Grand Cru Classé 2010, RP92. This signature dish made of tofu and minced pork in a Sichuan sauce was bursting with flavor, and had the perfect level of spice. Served with Japanese rice and pickled veg, this dish was certainly a standout.

Dessert

michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantMandarin Orange with Almond pudding – as presentedmichelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantMandarin Orange with Almond pudding – opened

We concluded our meal with a beautifully presented Mandarin Orange with Almond pudding. Both subtly sweet and deliciously smooth, this pudding was the perfect ending to an incredible meal.

Verdict

I really love the concept behind the Michelin Guide Dining Series. It’s a great way to showcase internationally recognized chefs and their restaurants that many people in Hong Kong wouldn’t get the chance to dine at. Though the price of these dinners is far from cheap (this dining experience was priced at US$285), if you have a strong appreciation for quality ingredients and really like ‘once in a blue moon’ dining experiences, these Michelin Guide Dining Series dinners are right up your alley.

What’s coming up next?

Local Chef Showcase: Umberto Bombana of three MICHELIN starred 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong, March 27- 28

International Chef Showcase: Yoshinori Ishii of two Michelin starred Umu, London, March 29  – April 1


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

Vibe at Dragon-i

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

Starters

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

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

Mains

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

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

Dessert

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

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

Verdict

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

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

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

Tel: 3110 1222


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

Neak Pean

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

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

Ta Som

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

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

Pre Rup

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

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


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