under the coconut tree

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We're back ....(with a new addition!)

Time flies … I didn’t realise that it has been over a year since my last post. During this time, KL and I has since started new jobs, bought a flat, car and had a baby (all in that order).

So, it has been a busy and exciting time for the Wong family. We have now settled into more-a-less routine with baby Ian and hope to introduce him the joys of travelling! Our previous 2 mini trips to Wales and Paris went well. Next stop – Malaysia! I’m looking forward to our trip home though am very apprehensive as to how Ian will take to flying on a 13-hour flight and not forgetting the hot and humid weather when we touch down. We had wanted to make a short flight to Europe with the little man as a trial run but we somehow never got round to it.

Anyway, Ian’s Cadillac (pic below) finally arrived yesterday in anticipation of our trip home and in preparation for future trekking trips to Scotland and the Alps. Both grandmas will probably start worrying right about now – just when they thought having a baby would finally ground us!! Hah! ;)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Duck Frenzy

KL and I are finally back in London after a long 6-month stint in Hong Kong, and not before making a detour back home for Chinese New Year. Apart from the tiring commute in a short 2-weeks span (covering Singapore - Kuala Lumpur - Kuantan - Taiping - Ipoh and back to Singapore), it was nice to be home for the festivities. After all it has been 7 years since we last celebrated CNY with the family.

Anyway, one of the first stop over when got back to London was to make our way to Four Seasons restaurant for its juicy roast duck. We've decided to try the new outlet in Chinatown, but sadly it can't compare to its flagship restaurant in Bayswater. Looks like we'll be making a trip to Bayswater soon! That said, this new restaurant had a more refined and higher end feel and the waiters were far more friendly and less harrassed than those in Baywater.

Note: This post is specially for my big bro. I'm hoping it'll be a major lure to get him to visit London again soon?? Hehehhe....

Since I'm on a roll, thought I'd add on to the post ......

If you are ever in Hong Kong, you have to try out Peking Garden Restaurant in Tsim Tsa Tsui. It's a restaurant that serves delicious Peking duck served with the pancakes, Hoi Sin sauce, cucumber and spring roll. It's by far, one of the nicest dish I have had in HK. But, I have to say didn't care much for the other dishes that we had. Bad choices, maybe?

Alritey, enough on food .... time to get some work done.

Friday, January 04, 2008

On our recent trip to China, we were heavily contemplating between a trip to Guilin or to a nearby town, Yangshuo. After much reading & research over the internet, we decided to opt for the later. It's apparently a smaller town, less hectic and touristy. I definitely needed that after living smacked in the hustling and bustling of HK for so many months.

We stayed in this quaint little hotel, Yangshuo Riverside Retreat. It was a cosy and comfortable place with clean and spacious room. The staff was very friendly and speaks really good English. Oh...the restaurant serves pretty good food too. We had some local rice noodles, banana fritters (and among others) which was just excellent!

Do bear in mind though, the hotel is relatively far from the town centre. It was either a cab each time you head out or the ferry which was about 15-20 minutes away. That said, the walk to the ferry was very pleasant - you walk through vegetable patches and fruit trees with limestone hills as the backdrop. Nice!KL and I always enjoyed heading out to the local market. This time though, I gave it a miss while KL ventured in. Having heard that dog meat was widely sold - I just lost interest totally and was contented waiting at the entrance.

Dog meat anyone?
All the vegetables sold here were humongous. It was 2-3 times bigger than what we were used to in UK or Malaysia.

We rented bicycles to head out to Lima, a nearby picturesque village. Honestly, I wouldn't reccommend it for the faint hearted. It was pretty scary with the many cars, motorcycles on the narrow roads (lots of contruction when we were there) and highly polluted streets. I sighed with relief when we got to the village in one piece. Thankfully, the scenery made up for the stress involved in getting there. =)
Sugar cane plantations in abundance.The following day we took a river cruise up the Li River from Xingping.
On of the stopovers, where snacks were sold and rides-on-a-cow was readily available for a fee.
The night markets in Yangshuo.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

KL brought me for a lovely birthday treat to a French restaurant, Le Pont De La Tour on our short trip back to London last month. It has a lovely view of the Tower Bridge and a nice formal atmosphere. The only complaint I had was the tables were too close to one another. To make matters worse we were seated to a very loud American. Thankfully, he left soon after that we were able to enjoy our meal in peace.

For starters, we had gin & tonic followed by:
Native Oysters No.2
Roast Les Landes foie gras, figs, almonds & banyuls vinaigrette
Main Meal: Scottish venison, prunes, bacon, spiced red cabbage & celeriac
Today's special - breaded pheasant served with some pasta.
Finally for dessert:
Valrhona chocolate fondant, pistachio ice cream.
Apologies for the half eaten cake, I was too busy eating before I remembered that I was supposed to take a photo! =)

Overall, we thought the starters (and the chocolate cake) was so much more enjoyable than the main course itself.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


This trip was over a month ago but never got round to finishing it.

After a trip back to Malaysia and armed with brand spanking new passports, KL and I are on the road again! First stop, Macau (err...well, after Thailand and of course Singapore :p)!

Since Macau was just a couple hours away, we thought we'd explore it on a daytrip over the weekend. We blissfully strolled to the ferry ticket counter that Saturday morning to purchase our tickets - big mistake!! In Hong Kong one should always, always book everything in advance - dining, massage, movie tickets etc. On hindsight, we should have known better. After all, many chinese people are known for their love of gambling and many have been known to spend the weekend in the casinos of Macau.

The ticket counter with its massive queue. We eventually got on a ferry 3 hours later.The alleys of Macau. The pace in Macau is clearly much slower than its neighbour. The older generation relaxing in the park with their prized birds.
The famous ruins of St.Paul's cathedral. This landmark usually come to mind when Macau is mentioned, thanks to its potrayal in the many Hong Kong movies we watched growing up.
The patterned cobbled streets in the main square.
A trip to Macau is definitely not complete without a stopover in one of the many casinos. After much observing and contemplating, we decided to try our luck. Since we couldn't find a table which would accommodate our stake (which was by the way very low!), we ended up at a computerised roulette table. We were certainly not born natural gamblers. I'm not sure how others did it but each time the wheel spun, I'd have my heart in my mouth. As and when money was deducted, I broke into cold sweat. The sad part was, we are just talking about a meagre sum of HK$100 (GBP7)!! Anyway, after half an hour of unnecessary stress and near heart attacks, we decided to cash in while we were ahead.

Happy KL with our winnings!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Swimming elephants and floating women

I've always wanted to go to the floating market but never realised that it was a 2-hour drive away from Bangkok! It was definitely a long (and early) ride for a market that opens for less than half a day.

We were warned by friends and family alike that the market has turned extremely touristy in recent years. So we were prepared to jostle against tides of tourists but were extremely lucky to be mingling only among the locals out having breakfast. Guess it pays to be the early-birds!

There were 2 sides of the market - one of which sold hot food and fruits to locals while the other dabbled more on arts and crafts catering mostly to tourists. In addition, you still have many river traders that paddled up and down the canal hawking their wares. A rather delightful market experience but boy, was the whole place hot and humid!!
The four ladies taking a break by the canal to catch up on gossips.
A scene of the floating market.
Traffic jam at the canals.

We stopped over at Saiyok Elephant Park before making our way to the Tiger Temple. Slightly out of character, we succumbed to being "tourist suckers" and paid for an elephant ride. In fairness, it was my first time sitting on something so big and hairy!! :p Well, the jungle "trek" was a mere 20-min walk through the bush, down a valley and just to give us a cheap sense of adventure, a foray into the River Kwai.
KL considering a career change. He didn't get vey far, the elephant absolutely refused to budge!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tiger, tiger burning bright

Yoohoo... we're back in London. Nice cool weather, lots of greenery and I'm in the comforts of our home, treating ourselves to some nice home cooked meals. =) Even though it's just 2 weeks before we head back to HK, I intend to fully utilise my time at home.

Anyways, back to our Thailand trip. We were in Bangkok's Khao San area looking for tours that included the floating market, elephant rides and the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi. After much scouting around and not finding what we wanted, we decided to rent a car along with a driver for 3500B. Quite a good deal considering we started our trip at 7am and only got back to the hotel at 7pm and most importantly we were able to tailor the day to meet our specific itinerary.

KL have always wanted to go to the Tiger Temple ever since it was featured in the Discovery Channel. We have been reading up on the place and found a fair bit of negative reviews on a few popular travel forums. As KL has a big soft spot for big cats we went ahead anyway with little expectations.

The entrance fee to the temple was 300B (US$10) : "expensive for what you get" was a common comment amongst fellow travellers. To be honest, having travelled extensively around the world - I personally thought it wasn't too ridiculously priced. Well, I guess if you were with a tour group making a quick in-and-out visit, you'd probably feel somewhat ripped off. We on the other hand spent the whole afternoon there - observing, photographing the tigers and spent some time exploring the temple grounds. After all, from our safari experiences patience and plenty of time are required where 'wild' animals are concerned.

The tigers in the temple are usually orphaned cubs that were brought in by neighbouring villagers. As far as we know the temple has lived up to its promise to take in and care for all living creatures for many years now, so we would expect some grown-up tigers. These cats get a daily outdoor "exercise time" in the afternoon, which is open to the public.

With the entrance fee, you get to have your photos taken next to the tigers (that are in good mood) in the canyon as many times as you wish. The tigers are chained and we were heavily supervised by each tiger's caretaker. On top of that, those feeling generous could opt to pay 1000B (USD30) to have a 'special photo's taken with the tiger's head resting on your lap.

As far as the negative reviews and controversies we had heard about, I do think some of them may have been a little unfair. Based on half a day's visit, the caretakers certainly seemed to be very fond of the tigers and clearly looked after them very well. Many travellers also brought up suspicions of the tigers being drugged to keep them sedated; we reckoned the sluggish tiger behaviour was because big cats normally rest during the day and would only be on the prowl between dusk and dawn. Anyone who has been to Africa would have seen really really lazy looking lions under an Acacia tree, dead to the world (even to the rumblings of a 4x4 jeep). And, true enough, they got pretty restless towards the later part of the afternoon - growling and pacing within the limits of the chain. All this said, I do have reservations about wild animals being chained and paraded to tourists in such a fashion. Surely this cannot be good for the welfare of the animals? And to the tourists also......standing within striking distance of one the the world's most lethal predator?

Tourists queueing for a photo oppurtunity with the tigers.

The excited yet apprehensive me posing with a sleepy full grown papa tiger under the watchful eyes of the abbott.
Towards later of the afternoon, the tigers were all up and about waiting to be brought back to their cages.
The abbott playing with the tiger cub.
A caretaker giving the cub a piggy back ride back to the temple grounds. Doesn't the cub look oh-so-cute?

KL taking the tiger out for a stroll. Or, is that the other way round?
After the hordes of tourists left, we got to spend some time with the cubs. This one was particularly playful (and hungry) as it was nibbling on KL's a fingers all the time. Hmm.... maybe he should have washed his hands after the KFC bucket!
The other inhabitants of the temple. The water buffaloes and a rooster that will soon to be flatten if it doesn't start to move out of the way soon.
The many wild boars (?) who turned up in huge numbers out of nowhere when the feeding bell was rung. Kinda frightened us, the onlookers as it looked like a mini stampede heading our way.
All in all, we were rather pleased we went to the Tiger Temple. A long drive from Bangkok but we thought it was well worth the trip. After all, not many people get the oppurtunity to get up close and personal with tigers and baby cubs!