under the coconut tree

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!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Hot (and spicy) nights in Bangkok

KL and I spent 4 days and 3 nights in Bangkok recently for a short well-derserved break (well, for him anyway!). We booked ourselves into the hotel, Silom Serene I stayed in a few years ago when I was in Bangkok for work. I had fond memories there (long working hours aside, of course), bargain shopping in Pat Pong and the late night supper along Silom Road with my then colleagues.

The buffet breakfast was as I remembered it - really good. It had a huge variety and array of food that suited everyone - I was not disappointed!! KL, who is not usually a breakfast person (his first meal of the day is usually lunch) had a plate of Thai fried rice, followed by fried noodles and congee!! That's how good the food was!

Food aside though, the service was rather disappointing - most of the staff (with some exceptions) seemed to wear perpectual frowns on their faces. It was something I did not expect for Thai hospitality. The staff I remembered were extremely pleasant and very generous with their smiles and "Sawa-dee-kap"s. Oh well, maybe things do change over time. In fairness I was here more than 8 years ago.

We usually skip lunch after the heavy and filling breakfast. So we normally have a sumptous dinner to compensate. We headed to Chinatown for dinner after a recommendation from my aunt and uncle who were there recently. A seafood restaurant at the corner of the main street in Chinatown that goes by the name TK Seafood Restaurant. You'll smell the place as you get closer since the seafood gets BBQ-ed in the open charcoal grill outside. If that fails, look out for the illuminous, bright green t-shirts that the staff wears.
The charcoal grilled mama prawns! Thank goodness we went for our annual medical check before we left for Bangkok -our cholesterol levels would have hit the roof after this trip!
I am aware that there are many photos here. So, before you think "My god, these two can really eat !!", we actually went back to the place on two separate occasions. I really really (yummmmy) loved their tom-yum-kung, with its fresh seafood, creamy yet spicy soup and the taste of lemongrass which just balanced the whole dish perfectly. It has got to be the best I had ever tasted!
I absolutely love the fish dish below too. Fresh off-the-boat fish steamed with slices of garlic, bird's eye chili, lemon grass, onions and (I think) a squeeze of lime/lemon juice too. It's was soooo good but KL thought it was too spicy for his liking.
Crab fried rice. A rather plain but tasty dish cooked with a lot of shredded crab meat.
Pan fried omelette with oysters.
Kangkung belacan - KL's favourite dish.
I just couldn't resist - a plate of grilled cockles. Went down extremely well with a bowl of bird-eyes chillies in fish sauce.

To wash it all down, we went with the ever-trusted coconut juice - an excellent complement for the many spicy dishes we had.
Ok I have to go now. I am too hungry to continue............. :)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Monkeys in the jungle - trek up Ulu Gombak

Our plans to Taman Negara had to be shelved much to KL's dissappointment. Now in his 30's, he's starting to find motivating a bunch of middle aged men and women to take on leech infested rivers and slippery mud trails quite a task. List of excuses for non-attendance included pure laziness (re: Roy), work commitments or family obligations. Truth be told, we were partially to blame as we extended the invite pretty late due to KL's work commitments! Anyway, we thought it would be worth checking out what the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur had to offer. KL found this link that gave us a few interesting waterfalls treks in Malaysia.

And so, KL managed to find 2 new outdoor recruits in the form of my two young and eager cousins for a trek up Ulu Gombak. The Pisang Waterfalls was an hour drive away from PJ, heading towards Karak Highway (East Coast Highway).

We parked near the pumphouse and followed the short well-trodden path along the river. Then, we had to wade through the Sungai Gombak to get to the tunnel below the Karak Highway in search of the Pisang Waterfalls.
Trudging along the wet, foresty and muddy terrain, I was so confident I was going to be bitten by leeches. Never did like those gross, black slimey things.... that's why I was never keen on any tropical jungle treks. Thankfully, my cousins and myself were spared and only KL got bitten by 3 pesky leeches.

Since we ran out of durian puffs, my cousins tried their luck spearing for fishes. Did we get any? KL waded upstream and sat there as he waited ("By my calculation the chances of the boys landing a fish is as good as a roti-canai floating downstream right into my lap!")
After a 30-minute trek, we decided to turn back as it was getting rather dark. No waterfalls this time - but I reckon we'll definitely be back. This time with more food for a nice picnic and more dry clothes (my little cousin - bless him - was so exhausted from the trek that he started tripping over himself often and landing with his bum in the river)

We stopped near the camp ground nearby for a swim. The boys had a really good time 'mandi sungai' (swimming in the river) as it was their first time, though they were shivering the whole time in the cold stream water.
We ended the day with a well-deserved teh tarik and roti canai at a nearby mamak in Batu Caves.

I'm now back in HK after spending a month dividing my time between home, Singapore and a spot of travelling in Thailand. Hence, the silence on the blogging end!

The trip home has been great - managed to meet up with friends, spent time with the family, met a new addition to the family (my cousin sis just had a baby) and of course, stuffed ourselves with local food.

My big bro took us to many great eats in Singapore this time round. Among them Tian Tian Chicken rice (reputed to be the best chicken rice in S'pore), Porridge in Outram Park, Cumi Bali (Indonesian food) at Duxton Road, German food (yes, German -great beer and finger licking pork knuckles). If you are out looking for good food in Singapore, don't give the above places a miss!

Admittedly, as Singapore does not have a big reputation as a food-haven (we Malaysians liked to think of S'pore food as nothing more than a second-grade imitation of our own delicacies) we were pleasantly surprised by what we encountered! Don't get me wrong Singapore food is still sub-standard in general, but there are some good places if you know where to find them!

Our lack of faith made us leave our camera behind on most eating outings, except for the Soup Restaurant in Paragon. The place is well known for the samsu chicken dish. The cold deboned chicken is served with delicious ginger dipping sauce and cucumber slices. It's eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves. Yum-mmy..!

The other dishes we had - steam fish with light soya sauce garnished with spring onions and coriander. KL commented that this comes pretty close to Wah Chai's restaurant in Menglembu, near Ipoh.
Deep fried japanese tofu with prawns & egg white in sweet-sour sauce.
So all in all we left Singapore when a fairly happy tummy and possibly few kg's heavier!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

To market, to market

Hong Kong is definitely a mecca for those who enjoy shopping. It has something for everyone whether it be highly expensive branded goods in huge departmental shops, small boutiques or bargain road side markets. It never fails to amaze me that the shopping outlets are always jam packed with people all day (and night) long! I guess the locals not only work hard but they shop like crazy too!

I have more or less covered the various types of market in Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon at least more than once! Ladies market, Temple Street market, Fa Yuen market, Bird Market, Jade Market ... you name it, I've been there.

After a few markets, you more or less see the same things that are on sale. That said, I still enjoying passing my time there. Apart from taking photos, it's rather interesting to watch tourists and locals alike haggling over their purchases. Things you do when you have too much time on your hands! ;)

The photos below are taken from Stanley market located on HK island's south east shore. The town is a pretty seaside town where both locals and tourists congregate during the weekends. A place to shop, swim or to relax at one of the many overpriced alfresco restaurants lining the streets between the market and the Stanley Plaza.

An old signage.Amongst the bric-a-bracs that are being sold in the market. The man himself, Chairman Mao.
The terracota warriors.
T-shirts with your chinese name written for a price.
Immaculately carved bird cages.
I included the following photo KL took along the narrow alleyways in Stanley market. The chef looked totally out of place in the kitchen with his attire and his gold accesories around his neck and wrist! He's looks like one guy you don't want to piss off!
Some shots from Jade market.