Sure as Autumn Flame


Bangkok Jam

So I took the risk of a Groupon deal and signed ourselves up for a 4 day 3 night getaway to Bangkok.

There are many wonderful reasons to travel to Bangkok: (a) it’s a shopping paradise because of the strong currency exchange, (b) it’s pretty easy to get around with improved train systems and relatively cheap taxis, (c) food’s good, (d) and there is a rich mix of traditional arts, craft and culture.

So here’s my Bangkok hit list, from the last trip up. I decided to take an easy (ie. non-adventurous) trip which revolves around cafe hunting, new malls and a good traditional Thai massage.

Street Food: en-route from P2 hotel to Pratanum area

You’ll find these stalls almost everywhere, at a really affordable 20 baht per plate of phad thai, rice etc. The chicken/fish goes for 35 baht (I think) after some negotiation, considering I do not speak Thai at all. Option: wash it down with some local beer.

Grey Hound Cafe, located in Siam Square


Greyhound Cafe has a few branches across Bangkok, and is a particular favourite that I like to return to. They have a comprehensive all-day breakfast menu, great pastas, lovely side dishes and a chill-out vibe to top it all off. Tiny Japanese-inspired wooden chairs and sofas complete the clean, cosmopolitan look while an available wi-fi allows mindless idling and chatting the entire afternoon away.

Must orders are chicken wings, calamari, duck parfait (?) and basically anything with the chef’s hat icon.

You & Mee at Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok

Great beef noodles and every type of noodle in soup. Grand Hyatt is a walking distance from the major shopping malls, and the patisserie next door has everything on 50% discount after 6pm.

New Shopping Mall: Terminal 21

Terminal 21, located just next to Asoke station (and is a 5-minute walk from Bangkok’s famous massage centre – Healthland Spa) is the city’s newest shopping centre to boot. With seven city-themed levels and hundreds of stores and local designer-ware, it works even better when each level can be systematically explored by going round, and round and around. Each level follows the decor of a city (eg. Rome, Tokyo, Beijing etc), sometimes tastefully done – I had to take a picture with a giant Japanese cat – sometimes bordering cheesy. Gentlemen, there is a dedicated level just for you at Level 7.

Supermarkets and chairs I want to bring home

“Domesticated” comes to mind when I trawled the aisles of Siam Paragon’s supermarket. Edgy shotglasses, wooden serving boards, coffee takeaway-cups (comes with the lids), unique tableware were amongst the first few to land themselves into my basket. I returned on the last day to buy a carton of fresh mangoes back…mmmmmmm. Note to self: Check-in a box in future.

Bangkok trippin’ ended just like that, S$376 in 4 days of ambling. I could use such getaways more often.

 

 

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Cape Town: The Food Diary
May 16, 2011, 11:23 am
Filed under: Food, Globe-Trot | Tags: , , , , ,

A mention of Cape Town has been long delayed, and having mulled (and procrastinated) over it for two months, I decided to break the 10-day journey into various topics, with Food Diary being my first (and probably shortest/easiest) recall of the beautiful province.

Nestled in the lush valleys of South Africa yet flanked by the Indian and Atlantic Oceans just a stone’s throw apart, Cape Town boasts a long history of fresh local ingredients, sustainable ocean catch and great cooks. The country’s colourful history has created a blend of Eastern, European and African fare resulting in a variety of spice finishes, flavourful dishes and fusion creations. No trip to Africa is completed without a sampling of game meat or barbecue, amongst which ostriches and springboks rank top on my list for that ten days.

Locals and travel guides have recommended their top favourites, we just decided to pick the ones that coincide with a slight biasness for local recommendations – after all, nothing beats having someone who’s lived there the past decade tell you a perfect combination of affordability, great ambience and mouth-watering food.

Game meat:

Beluga and Sevruga roll off our host’s tongue upon mention of game. Best consumed medium-rare, an ostrich contains as much (if not more) oomph than a piece of steak, slightly chewier but leaves a salty-sweet aftertaste in the mouth. Springboks (part of the deer family) are super juicy, almost sweet and perfect for those who are not as adventurous in their palate selections.

Sushi is a common starter, or cold dish to begin. It is a pity that they did not prepare their rice properly with vinegar, but instead serve plain cooked rice with the freshest fish we have ever tasted. So that lack of vinegar resulted in a somewhat bland sushi, but hey, locals swear by it. We think they just haven’t had Japanese sushi.

Seafood, real fresh seafood:

Drive along the bays for guaranteed fresh ocean catch of the day, from seared tunas to exotic blue nose, grilled line fish and king flips with chips, to juicy prawns and longoustines and lobsters with tender chewy calamari to complete every meal. Best consumed grilled/seared with lemon and herbs, or salt and pepper, there’s nothing left to imagination except for lip-smacking bloody fresh catch.

A pleasant surprise with cold wind and great views (of the harbour and if you are lucky, you catch playful seals rolling around in the waters) at Brass Bell at Fish Hoek and The Lookout, along Hout Bay. Simply order the seafood platter for everything-on-the-menu, or opt for something decadent such as the lobster (at The Lookout) if you are in the mood for one. For its size and quality, one can’t really complain paying under SGD 30 for a delicious reddened lavishness.

For the ultimate ocean taste, try Codfather’s anytime. Situated in uppity-class Camps Bay, Codfather has no menu. Your dinner lies in the display of fresh fish in a fishmonger-style counter (in names that I can hardly remember, let alone roll off my tongue) in all shapes and sizes. One gets to pick any fish, any portion, any amount. Our sampling included swordfish, tuna, butter fish, bluenose, king prawns and more which ranged from succulent and juicy, light and buttery, to robust and full…almost like describing steak, aint’ it? Starters simply include calamari or sushi. Yum-yum.

Weekend food markets:

There is no way I could have missed such markets. Known as the Neighborhood Goods Market located at the Old Biscuit Mill, that summed up two heavenly Saturdays during my time in Cape Town. Discovered really, quite by accident in our second day in South Africa, it was a flurry of Origins coffee which was simply the best coffee in Cape Town, and making decisions between Mother Shucker Oysters and ten other different foods. Of course, Mother Shucker Oysters won.

Had to try the BLT Breakfast sandwich which looked really delicious (so did the chef) but didn’t turn out as spectacular as it looked. It was good but not great, if you know what I mean. Other indulgence included Belgian waffles (Classic way, with sugar and maple syrup), croissants, lime fruit punch, quiches, crepes, olive pastes and OH – rosti with bacon and poached egg – the best of the trip. See pictures if you need more reason to salivate.

Wine tours:

Located about two hours drive away is Stellenbosch and Franschoek, the two famous vineyard regions in the lush valleys of South Africa. We picked Franschoek first – 15 types of wines, four bottles back home. Loved the views of endless greenery tucked in the valleys, deemed the best climate and environment for harvesting good grapes.

Wild guesses got us by, with a star recommendation from almost every local we spoke to. Rickety Bridge brought about “oohs” and “ahhhs”, dubbed as the region’s best. And true enough, their Chennin Blanc and Pinotage were complex on the tongue, but to make life easier for both you and me, I will just term it as “astonishingly fruity and woody with the right balance”. Light yet full in flavour, worth the plane ride home for tropical consumption.

Special memories:

A great Italian restaurant tucked away in a seemingly dodgy street – 95 @ Keerum. A group of dark-skinned Africans greeted us when we first drove into the area, and first thought that raced across my mind, “Oh damn it, I’m prey.” The restaurant certainly knew to hire bouncers, road watchers and carpark attendants to ensure their guests wine and dine safely, so all was good. On the menu: lobster linguine (see picture), three types of game – wildebeest, kudu and springbok, tiramisu (YES!) and lava chocolate cake (don’t bother). Call ahead to book.

Takeaway from Giovanni’s deli if you must have a picnic, they have got a great assortment of lasagne, noodles, vegetables and bread, perfect for Cape Town’s weather and many sights. Amazing gelato from Love.Revenge.Cappucino, a really random name for an expresso bar located in the shopping centre at V & A Waterfront.

More suggestions are located in TimeOut Cape Town, or Lonely Planet – after all, that was what we based our adventure on, only to discover more hidden mysteries along the way.



Wonderland, just an hour away
April 19, 2011, 11:27 am
Filed under: Food, Globe-Trot | Tags: , , , , ,

I love the idea of planning a weekend getaway on impulse. Better still, I love the fact that this weekend getaway is justan hour away from home (ie. Singapore).

Highlights include: The long boardwalk that takes you right out in the middle of the sea, having a perfect view of the horizon without ships to spoil it all, pinching bread from the buffet breakfast spread to feed the fishes (that you can see at the end of the boardwalk), a 3-metre deep pool for you to cannonball in at any time of the day.

A typical vivalavidaviv’s post will almost always include food. Indonesian seafood, half the price of your Singapore fare. All you need is a quick drive out to a nearby eatery to chomp on their famous nasi goreng!

The view of the (infinity) pool at night is really beautiful. It reflects the atmosphere of that part of Batam (yes you heard me right, this is Batam) – peaceful and relaxing – just the perfect getaway if you really, really, can’t spare much cash and time but are in dying need of a break.

And if you STILL don’t know where I’m referring to? Go to www.turibeach.com



So I turned a year older…
February 10, 2010, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Globe-Trot | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

…and found myself on board a Jetstar airplane, cruising towards Perth for a weekend getaway. In retrospect, taking the opportunity to jet away for a holiday on one’s birthday was a pretty good idea, and we were glad to have made that irrational decision to book a pair of tickets to Perth during Jetstar’s 1-for-1 promotion. Just think, SGD 400 for two to travel!

It’s amazing how our hearts are always close to the sun and sea, such that almost every holiday destination consists of burying our toes in warm sand and donning on our favourite aviator shades. They said that Perth will be awesome except for its crazy summer – but I loved Perth for the sun, its cold breeze and fresh air.

Nay to the delayed departures on Thursday evening AND the return flights, and stuck with crying babies on both aircrafts for the record. Arrived in Perth at an ungodly hour (1am) but hey, I ain’t complaining. Miss Maud Swedish Hotel makes a pretty decent breakfast (their sausages are scrumptious!) and lands us in the middle of Perth city, making it pretty easy to get around.

Renting a car (with GPS, please) is a must – with scenic drives, windows rolled down and hair a-blowin’. Penguin Island, located off Rockingham was a lovely discovery, a little conservation island packed with seagulls, pelicans, other bird species and ten Little Penguins. I discovered my deep fascination with seagulls simply because they looked so cute with their fat bodies and twiggy legs, and found myself constantly chasing after them for a good close-up shot. The boyfriend was amused, of course.

No trip to Australia is complete without a drive to the vineyards for wine (and cheese) tasting. Swan Valley in Guildford area was the nearest drive to where we were, so that fills up Day 2. Swung by Caversham Wildlife Park to feed the kangaroos, hug the koalas (no, I didn’t do that although I attempted a self-shot photo with a kangaroo) before heading up to Swan Valley to devour some really good food.

The allure of dining out in the countryside left me at a loss for words. One could forget all troubles and worries of life lounging in a wickerchair overlooking the rows of grapevines. Shiraz topped our list of reds, smooth and velvety with a hint of Perth’s summer within. Coming back to the topic of wine and dine – I swear my gym work was futile, with their mouth-watering baramundi, fish & chips, kangaroo meat, steaks……not to mention the late night Masters chocolate milk to tuck us both into bed.

So, that summed up my three short days in Perth, yet it seemed like I have packed alot in. The next time Jetstar has another one of their 1-for-1s, I’m headed up again. This time, to Albany and Margaret River. Great company, budget flights and long weekends, I’m definitely loving it.



I LOVE NIKOI
March 24, 2009, 12:23 am
Filed under: Globe-Trot | Tags: , ,

Nikoi

“Nikoi is a truly private island and we may not have what you request – our ingredients are dependent on seasons and the day’s catch.”

Nikoi was an amazing weekend getaway. An island off Bintan, white granite boulders and rock stacks surround the island, sitted in clear blue waters and an unspoiled pristine beach. Our huts were constructed from logs, right down to dining tables, beds and a thatched roof made from dried leaves. Whatever the island had, they had taken it and built a sanctuary from what the forest provided.

It wasn’t all bright and sunny when we arrived at the island but that suited us just fine. The pavilion/hut we stayed in had a living room that faced the sea and the seemingly-unlimited horizon, bedrooms with sliding doors that opened to waves crashing in just 50m away, daybeds both outdoor and indoor, lounge chairs and sand, if we wished. There was room for everyone to find his/her own cosy corner – where we curled up for a cigar, a glass of whisky, and a good ol’ novel. There was no need for air-conditioning given the natural ventilation of the construction, the sea-breeze came around and tickled our toes, played with our tresses and darted away as quickly as it came.

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Food was awesome, what else could be used to describe our hearty meals everyday? Food was cooked according to the times we wished to eat, so that it was served fresh and piping hot. Stir-fried vegetables probably grown right outside the kitchen tasted so sweet – there wasn’t any real need for additional condiments except soy sauce and perhaps a little oyster sauce to taste; although the tenderloin steak (grilled thick, pink and dripping with juice) and the day’s catch of grilled crabs lingered on our palates till today. Crabs at East Coast Park could not compare to these crabs, with soft succulent melt-in-your-mouth quality that no Sri Lankan crab came close to achieving. Yums!

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The tropical storm came howling at our doorway on the second night. It was the best night I have ever experienced, being so close to the crashing waves, with each lightning bolt illuminating the entire sea before our eyes. Rolling white caps came beating up the shores, the salty wind came licking at our faces. Huddled in blankets and the flickering lamps (minimal lighting in our pavilions), whisky and cigars never felt more comforting. I slept soundly that night with the mosquito netting flapping madly around my bed, with the rain pattering on my face – I was warm and safe in the thick sheets that have became my cocoon that night.

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There was the beach bar which doubled up as everybody’s meeting place, the information kiosk, the place to sip at Yogi’s (the bartender) famous cocktails, the place to laze the afternoon away. There was also Yogi’s friend called Sushi – the resident spider who was the size of my face (and bigger, probably). She scares the hell out of all of us, but Yogi claimed she was pretty friendly and even invited us for a pet-Sushi-session. I declined, of course. His pina colada was a tastier and more tempting option. Yogi’s bar had a different allure about it. Bathed in yellow lights, one sits back on the deck chairs and listen to a harmonious blend of him with the shaker, the waves washing up the beach, the soft whisper of the wind. You think to yourself – this is heaven, and indeed, I was a step closer to my haven. Free of the sense of time, the running thoughts, it is too easy to find inner peace here. We couldn’t bear to leave.

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I would return to Nikoi someday again. For that serenity, for that peace, for the concerto of the salty sea. For sun-kissed skin and salt-laden hair…what I would give for another getaway there, especially after a tough month at work. 🙂



Bali in a nutshell.
November 17, 2008, 1:00 am
Filed under: Globe-Trot

A short trip up to Bali over the weekend made me realise experiencing Bali can be summarized into two variations: 1. Enjoying the tranquility and natural surroundings in your own private villa, or 2. Surf and party hard.

Option #1 did it just right this time – Bali this time was a summary of mouth-watering, fantastic, fresh seafood, Belvedere, lounging in the pool and jacuzzi and the thrill of outdoor showers. There were over 6000 villas in Bali to choose from, and taking a risk with Pat Mase proved a good start to our villa shopping. Located up the hill of Jimbaran area, Pat Mase unveiled a private 3-bedroom (of course, only one was used) plus private dip pool plus outdoor living room nestled in a forest of frangipani flowers. The days were spent lounging in the pool, sitting on the wooden deck dangling my legs in the pool, soaking in the bathtub and when it rained, taking a shower amidst the trees – it was almost like revisiting Jungle Boy’s upmarket kampung.


When our stomachs growled, it took a mere 15 minutes to ramble down to the warungs at the beach for the 3kg worth of snapper and too many king prawns to satisfy the night. And it was back to beers and prancing around in the rain. Then there was the luxury of a free upgrade to a bigger (equally private) villa with a semi-indoor jacuzzi – the entire evening was spent turning myself into a raisin with more vodka and orange juice.

What made me fall head over heels in love with Bali was the peace and tranquility never to be found in Singapore. Sitting by the edge of the pool, legs in the pool, breathing in the rather comforting cigarette smoke and looking up at constellations – I found it ironic how we have to pay for such peace given the pace we are thrown into these days; losing the sense of time has became the gem in our lives. Bali transformed how I saw him, and brought to surface the inner demons I have been battling. It made me vulnerable to the concept of love, and shown me how simple the human heart can be. It showed me how scarily insecure I can be if I allowed myself to be; it also promised me wonderful times should I trust Love with abandon.