LEGO Friends LIVE @ Legoland Malaysia

LEGO Friends Concert

LEGO Friends LIVE is actually products and cartoons turned into real people for a musical. These are the little one’s favorite characters in LEGO! She watches the cartoons religiously and knows all about Andrea, Mia, Emma, Olivia and Stephanie. Her bigger sister is more into Chima nowadays.

LEGO Friends Dancing

Little E was looking forward to seeing the LEGO Friends characters in real life! smirk

LEGO Friends Stephanie

We were at Legoland over the weekend and we actually spotted the characters of Lego Friends twice – once when we were having breakfast in Legoland Hotel on the first day and the second time just as we were entering the park on the second day.

LEGO Friends Legoland Malaysia

Unfortunately, we were in the midst of eating the first time so we didn’t go out to take photos with the girls of Lego Friends and we wanted to get a family photo with a LEGO character the second time and by the time we were done the cast had finished their photo session and walked past us to get ready for their first show.

Real Life LEGO Friends

We could actually enter the Legoland Theme Park at 9:30 am since we were staying at the hotel (a full 30 minutes before everyone) and I’ll write about both the Legoland Water Park and the Legoland Theme Park separately.

LEGO Friends Cast

I just wanted to talk about us experiencing the first ever LEGO Friends musical performance in Asia!

Giant Balloons

There’s giant balloons which they threw to us and we bounced around back to them – a nice interactive touch!

LEGO Friends LIVE

It was quite a surreal experience – having watched the cartoons from the little one’s iPad, it took a bit of processing to see real life people looking and dressed up like LEGO Friends characters and *acting* like them too! They each have different personalities which are amped up in the musical performance.

I filmed a video of the sound check, skit, interaction between the real life LEGO Friends and a bit of the start of the concert. I loved how they really got into character – the kids enjoyed it, and so did we! I got the little one a nice purple t-shirt of LEGO Friends too (the bigger one wanted a LEGO Chima one).

LEGO Friends Real Life

We had an awesome time, it’s a good thing we made the time to drop by LEGO City Stage to see this musical. More about our family Legoland trip soon! :)

Greetings from Legoland Malaysia!

Greetings from Legoland Malaysia

We’re here on a 3D/2N adventure with the kids before school starts! We were at the Legoland Water Park for the whole day yesterday and we’re going to the Legoland Theme Park today. It’s a good thing we’re staying at the Legoland Hotel coz guests can enter the park earlier at 9:30 am before it opens to the general public.

The rooms are gorgeous, will write more about it when I come back. It’s time to go get some breakfast – we had room service last night coz the kids were tired and it wasn’t good at all. Unfortunately, most of the items were cold and one dish was inedible (stringy, dry chicken) but otherwise the experience here is great. The service and attentiveness of the staff is awesome!

*cue Everything is AWESOME!!!!* smirk

Adelaide: Foodie mecca and top wine destination!

Adelaide Central Market

Adelaide has one of the best food markets in Australia with the Adelaide Central Market. I’ve always been very impressed with the amount of fine fresh local produce there. There’s all sorts of artisanal products like farm-to-table speciality deli meat and craft bakeries producing delicious bread.

Wild Loaf

I even brought home a whole 1 kg loaf of fig and walnut sourdough bread when I was last there! This is from Wild Loaf by James & Emanuel Katsarelias and they’re renowned for their handmade artisan sour dough range.

Lucia Fine Foods

Lucia’s Fine Foods is one of the most popular coffee houses in the Central Market and I had a very nice chai latte while I was there. It’s one of the places you must visit when you’re in Adelaide, just sit and relax with a brew in hand while people watching (and there’s no shortage of that for the Central Market is vibrant and packed with visitors).

Barossa Gourmet Weekend

However, if you’re the sort who prefers a nice glass of wine and you’re going to South Australia this year, you’re in luck! The Barossa Gourmet Weekend is going to be held on the 14-16 August 2015 and it’s located in the world famous Barossa Valley. This is an amazing opportunity to enjoy Barossa wines matched with food from Adelaide’s leading restaurants at cellar door events throughout the Barossa.

Barossa Gourmet

There will also be “Winery Days” where you can enjoy world renowned wines, fresh produce and live entertainment (as well as a good dose of Barossa hospitality). If you’re looking to visit the Barossa Valley, keep this in mind as this will be the absolute best time to go – there will be events every single day, including long lunches and dinners, cooking classes and wine master classes showcasing the best of the Barossa.

Winery Days

If fine local Barossa wine and decadent degustation menus are your thing, you have to make it down to the Barossa Valley in the third week of August to see what’s what. Check out barossagourmet.com for more information before you head off to this celebration of wine, food and life!

Chai Latte

I’ve also had the pleasure of walking down Gouger Street, which is one of the most well known eating streets in Australia (kinda like how Hardware Lane in Melbourne is to cafes and weekend brunches). Unfortunately, I only managed to have one meal there as my visit time was limited but I’ll like to go again since there are so many restaurants offering modern Australian cuisine there.

Gouger Street

Adelaide has seen an explosion of fine restaurants as the Australian Good Food & Travel Guide (Australia’s answer to the Michelin Red Book, without the politics) illustrates. One restaurant I’ve always wanted to try is Magill Estate. It’s helmed by chef Scott Huggins who used to work at Tokyo’s three Michelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin. It offers an 7 course degustation menu for AUD 425 (with the Icon and Luxury wine pairing option, which features Penfolds best vintages) and it’s located at the home of Penfolds.

Magill Estate

Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations at the time but I’ll be sure to make one before I go next time. It’s one of the best restaurants in South Australia and a look at their 2015 Seasonal Menu offers a peek at the simple contemporary Australian food philosophy they have – “Partridge, Jamon, Last years pickled peach”. It’s definitely a must visit if you’re heading to Penfolds. I’ll go again just to eat at their showcase restaurant.

Polenta

That’s just one of many examples that the food revolution that’s swept Australia, in part due to TV shows like MasterChef Australia. Andre Ursini (Season 3 finalist) opened an award winning restaurant in Adelaide called Andre’s Cucina & Polenta Bar that I’ll love to visit again. It has a “Consigli” menu written on the board with daily specials that’s mouth-watering to read and I couldn’t try more than one main last time I was there!

Artisan Cheese

I’ve always considered food as an important part of travel and you won’t go wrong by ensuring your travel plans are in sync with Tasting Australia. It’s Australia’s premium eating and drinking festival and it’s been around for more than fifteen years! This biennial event will be held next in 2016 and it’s the perfect time for foodies to go.

Tasting Australia

There was more than 80 free and ticketed events over the course of eight days in the CBD and Tasting Australia is perfect for travelling foodies to enjoy and learn more about food and wine right in the heart of Adelaide. I’m really excited about this and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before! I would really love to go back to South Australia just for the chance to attend the various Tasting Australia events.

It’s going to be an annual festival starting from Tasting Australia 2016 so if you’re planning to go next year, find out the dates from the Tasting Australia website.

Australian Cuisine

There’s just so much to eat, drink and do in Adelaide that planning in advance can be part of the fun too! I’ve always enjoyed browsing potential festivals, events, restaurants and wineries and talking about it with my better half before we actually go on a trip and southaustralia.com offers plenty of good food and wine, in addition to amazing festivals dedicated to cuisine and vin. You’ll love the festival scene in Adelaide if you’re a true foodie!

Dolphins, Adelaide Hills and the beauty of South Australia

Wine Tasting South Australia

I was first introduced to the charms of South Australia when I was studying in Australia. I was based in Melbourne then and Adelaide was just a short 8 hour drive away. I didn’t think there was much to do there at first, but I was seduced by the sheer beauty of South Australia and loved it so much that I went back again 3 years ago.

Barossa Valley

I love food and wine and the latter is very abundant here. South Australia is home to Penfold’s and Jacob’s Creek! You can have wine tastings all day long and even if you’re not studying to become a Master Sommelier – if you truly are a foodie, you’ll love wine country. That alone is worth a trip here.

Wine Tour South Australia

I shall not bore you with details like how Adelaide has free transportation throughout the city – let that be a pleasant surprise when you come here. Chances are, you’re not going to stay in the CBD much anyway – most of the attractions are just a short distance away and I sure hope you didn’t come to South Australia to shop (nothing wrong with that, there’s just better things to do).

South Australia

Like I said earlier, you’ll not be disappointed with what South Australia has to offer in terms of wine tours. There are 18 wine regions in the state alone! Yup, I got that figure from a brochure but you have to admit it’s pretty amazing. I’ve been to wine tours and tastings in Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, and Barossa. The Barossa Valley is said to have the world’s best Shiraz. Make sure to take some time to cycle along the Riesling Trail at Clare Valley, it’s truly a wine lover’s paradise and it’s the best way to get to the next flight of wines!

South Australia View

Of course, there are other things to do besides wine tours. Adelaide has a warmth and “smaller city” vibe which you can feel from the locals. People are generally less hurried and more helpful. I have a lot of friends who loved it so much that they stayed on and started families there. It’s also home to the World’s Biggest Rocking Horse! :)

World Biggest Rocking Horse

I’m not kidding, you can actually climb up and enjoy the fantastic view from the Horse’s head. I was told that in the past, the Horse was used as a lookout by the local South Australian Country Fire Service! It’s located in Adelaide Hills and is also home to The Toy Factory (largest in Australia) and a park and picnic area which have animals from kangaroos and wallabies to alpacas (the ones that look like llamas) to emus.

I also visited Hahndorf, a small town in the Adelaide Hills region. It’s a very beautiful place which has a strong German heritage – someone asked me at a dinner recently about my favorite place in South Australia and I had to struggle to remember the name because it’s so unusual.

There are a lot of restaurants serving German food in Hahndorf and if you love architecture, the fachwerk timber construction and the old heritage buildings would make this place a priority on your itinerary. It’s the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia and art and culture enthusiasts would be spoiled by the museums and galleries in Hahndorf.

Horse Drawn Tram Tickets

Victor Harbor is another beautiful destination I wholeheartedly recommend in South Australia. It has some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen in Australia. There’s something for everyone too – The Horsedrawn Tram takes passengers from the mainland using the wooden causeway to Granite Island every 20 minutes.

Victor Harbor Tram

Granite Island is where you can immerse yourself with a bit of nature and get some exercise done at the same time!

Kaiki Walk

I highly recommend you take the time to wear comfortable shoes and walk around the island – it’s worth your time and effort! The Kaiki Walk circumventing Granite Island take about 40 minutes and the various lookouts provide for beautiful scenes. Be sure to pack warm weather gear if you’re going in autumn though.

Victor Harbor Horsedrawn Tram

Eyre Peninsula is where nature aficionados would want to be – there’s everything from wildlife parks where you can see animals in their native environment. This is where I went swimming with the dolphins! It’s a really interesting once-in-a-lifetime experience that just cost AUD 150 (at the time). You can also spot sea lions! The dolphins are friendly and would come up and rub against you – this is perfectly normal behavior so don’t freak out. Dolphins are very social creatures and it was one of the highlights of my trip. Anyone can go – even if you can’t swim, since the provided wetsuits are naturally buoyant! It was a dream come true for me and my only regret is not having a waterproof camera. I strongly suggest you invest in one (even the disposable ones) if you go.

Dolphin Cruise

South Australia is also home to the popular Port River Dolphin Cruises. There are a few operators departing from this location and the best thing is that it’s just 20 minutes away from Adelaide CBD. You’re also guaranteed a dolphin sighting! I managed to see several pods of dolphins swim right up to our ship!

Dolphin Pod

The dolphins are very friendly and they’ll actually break the surf to try and be close to you. I loved the experience and I’m sure you’ll be charmed by our mammalian friends in the sea too!

Dolphins

South Australia is an often overlooked destination but to both the new and seasoned traveller it can offer up a lot of exciting experiences. There are direct flights to Adelaide from Kuala Lumpur and the best thing about the city is that it’s compact, with most attractions within close proximity of the CBD. Visit southaustralia.com for more details! Your Malaysian driving licence is valid in Australia too!

Our biannual staycation in KL!

Hotel Royal

We have made a tradition of taking time out to do a staycation (which refers to staying at a local hotel, not staying at home) twice a year in addition to our yearly overseas trips (Melbourne last year and Frankfurt and Paris this year) and our shorter trips like to Hat Yai about a month ago.

Pavilion KL

You could say that travelling is our passion in life. :)

Timelapse Hotel

It’s actually a lot of fun and you get to experience the city where you live from a visitor’s perspective!

Hotel Royal KL

This time around, we stayed at Hotel Royal in Kuala Lumpur and basically:

Staycation Food

1. Ate a lot of food

Mamma Mia Musical KL

2. Caught a musical

Blurry Photo

3. Enjoyed each other’s company.

Staycation 2014

I’ll write more tomorrow, part of the purpose of having a staycation is to get away from the daily things you do and not do anything remotely work related. smirk

Posted: 10:38 pm Kuala Lumpur time

An unexpected meal by 1 Michelin Star Chef Dirk Maus in Germany

Lufthansa Dirk Maus

I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to experience this exclusive event – a meal prepared by Chef Dirk Maus of Restaurant Dirk Maus in Domherrenhof, Essenheim in Germany. He holds One Michelin Star and was invited to do a short collaboration – Lufthansa x Dirk Maus.

Lufthansa

His meals are only available between April – October 2012 for European flights on Business Class only (there is no First Class for domestic flights). I fulfilled *all three criteria* when I flew from Berlin to Frankfurt on the 25th of June 2012 and was pleased when the cabin attendant told me about the specially crafted menu by Dirk Maus.

Warsteiner Beer

The dishes are all from Rheinhessen – this is Chef Dirk Maus’ interpretation of the cuisine in the largest wine producing region in Germany. He’s taken the time to perfect his creations for 35,000 feet since things tastes different when you’re flying. My better half (who shared a delightful meal at the 2 Michelin Star Relais LOUIS XIII with me earlier this year) told me about how tomato juice goes well with flying and it actually has a scientific reason!

The two culinary treats awaiting for us on board was:

Chef Dirk Maus

Brennnesselsalat mit Grapefruit und Orangensegmenten
Nettle salad with grapefruit and orange segments

I had just recovered this batch of photos from a damaged HDD and also found the “tasting notes” which I have recorded on my phone as soon as the flight attendant told me that I’ll be having a meal created by a One Michelin Star chef. Heh. I liked the nettle salad – some of the leafy greens in there are quite bitter but it’s tempered well with the mild nettle and the juicy grapefruit and orange segments.

Auberginen-Ziegenfrischkäseterrine
Terrine of eggplant and goat’s cream cheese

I’ve eaten a lot of terrine and this is visually different from the terrine which I’m used to eating. The contrast between the white goat’s cream cheese in the middle and the aubergine outside was accentuated with a chunk of apricot in the middle. It makes for a very rich and rewarding experience – I didn’t know eggplant could taste this good and it’s seasoned well – salty, but not overtly so.

Dirk Maus HB

I wished that I was on a longer flight so I had a more substantial meal. This is just a small meal on a short hop on a domestic flight in Germany but I’m glad I had the chance to eat Chef Dirk Maus’ creations during such a limited time (and place) promotion. Eating a Michelin star meal at 35,000 feet is one of the more unusual places I’ve done it too (the other being our rented apartment in Paris). smirk

8 photos from our road trip to Sarikei

1. Big Sarikei Pineapple

new sarikei pineapple statue

There’s a new twin statue of the iconic Sarikei pineapple in the older part of town! This is the “unripe” version, it’s green instead of yellow. smirk Technically, it’s not a statue since it’s not an effigy of a figure, person, or animal but a fruit – pineapples are the primary export of Sarikei and they’re famous for producing these prickly fruits.

2. The Journey from Sibu

sarikei 2014

My better half flew down with me from KL to visit my dad over the weekend. I decided to drive down to Sarikei since she’s never been there before so the three of us packed into a car and headed down to the small town. It’s roughly an hour’s drive from Sibu on a two lane road.

3. Entering Sarikei

red bridge

A beautiful red curving bridge is located at the border between Sibu and Sarikei. You can also reach there by a ferry service across the river but we took the route that takes us through Bintangor (another rural town).

4. Sarikei Clock Tower

sarikei clock tower

This is another famous landmark in town – erected in 1973, it’s been around for a while and recently the town seems to have found some funds to refurbish it. Yes, this is NOT the original clock tower – I have a photo of the earlier tower with a hollow center during my Sarikei trip in 2008.

5. Pasar Sungai Rejang

sungai rejang market

This roughly translates to “Rejang River Market”. Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia and connects much of Sarawak. This building houses the old wet market in town and there’s lots of interesting stuff in there!

6. Scenes from Sarikei Wet Market

sarikei market

There is a stall here that sells authentic home made Sarawak laksa paste but unfortunately it was closed by the time we arrived.

7. Salted Fish

salted-fish

Salted fish is a much beloved food item here. There are many different kinds of fish being dried, salted and sometimes fermented – everything from whitebait to local species to imported cod.

8. The Original Sarikei Pineapple Statue
(accept no substitutes)

sarikei pineapple statue

This is the original (bigger and ripe) Sarikei pineapple! It’s located by the waterfront and it’s almost bleached white from the constant cleaning. Contrast the Sarikei pineapple statue with a post I wrote when I went on a trip with a couple of friends during my winter holidays back from university in Melbourne – this is Sarikei back in 2002 where it’s a much dirtier but vibrant shade.

Thai Boat Noodle Soup in Hat Yai

boat noodle soup

Boat noodle soup is known as guai dtiaw rua (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ) in Thailand. We happened to chance upon this popular stall during our last day in Hat Yai. This place seems to serve both pork and beef noodles according to the signboard but the cook told us it’s pork noodles.

boat noodle soup hatyai

Better still, the stall makes their own pork rinds! It’s hanging above the stall and these beautiful pork crackling is the product of the deep fried skin of the pork and is meant to be eaten with the noodles. They carry other brands on the table too but their own is the one with the red pig.

Just listen to the pork rind crackling in the boat noodle soup!

boat noodle soup thailand

The name boat noodle soup came from the early days when boats will pull up to the pier and tie off before serving soup to people who would come and eat at the banks. There are still markets like these in Hat Yai e.g. Hat Yai Floating Market but mostly boat noodle soup has become a land based operation.

boat noodle soup locals

You can choose from several kinds of noodles from rice vermicelli to kueh tiaw and we tried two different ones. The serving is really small – probably 2-3 heaped spoonfuls of noodles in total. However, it’s loaded with pieces of pork, meatballs, and pork liver as well as a smattering of vegetables.

thai boat noodle soup

There’s also a side of raw vegetables and bean sprouts as per Thai custom. I’m not sure if it’s THB 35 or THB 40 per bowl coz we didn’t ask but I know the pack of pork crackling is THB 15.

boat noodle soup pork rinds

You’re supposed to add the pork rind into the boat noodle soup before you eat it. The soup base is delicious – they actually put blood into the broth and season it with various herbs and it tastes fabulous. The soup base really has all the five tastes inside – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami! I was very impressed.

boat noodle soup pork crackling

This is indeed a good find as we saw that the patrons of the stall were almost all locals. They did not seem to charge us a “tourist price” either. The total came up to 110 baht for two bowls of boat noodle soup, a pack of pork rinds and drinks.

The best pork leg rice in Hat Yai

pork leg rice hat yai

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this place. My better half wanted to come here for lunch – she’s been here before and thought it was delicious. We had just arrived in Hat Yai and checked into the hotel before taking a short walk to this place.

khao kha moo hatyai

Braised pork leg with rice is called khao kha moo in Thai. Obviously, my Thai is limited so I don’t actually know the name of the stall but it’s located on Prachatipat Road. It’s very close to Lee Garden Plaza Hotel – turn left after you walk out and it’s two blocks down, at a very conspicuous corner lot that’s always *packed* with customers.

pig in bikini

There’s a really funny life sized cast of a pig dressed in a bikini sitting on her own chair beside the stall. You won’t miss it, it has a way of catching your eye. smirk The meat served here is braised pig’s trotters, one of the best parts of the pig! They only have one cut of meat but that’s a good thing coz they do it so well.

sugarcane juice

It was a hot day and we ordered a big bottle of nam oi (fresh sugarcane juice) to share. It comes in a recycled 640 ml beer bottle and costs 100 baht (RM 10). It’s worth it though, the chilled raw sugarcane juice here is undiluted and comes complete with sediments. I asked for ice cubes so it made it all the more refreshing (and it boosts energy from the sugar too).

thai condiments

You have the choice of a plate of pork leg rice with egg for 60 baht (about RM 6) or platters for two starting from 140 baht, excluding rice. There’s also the option of having the pig trotter meat on top of your rice or served separately – we went for the former.

It didn’t look like much when it came – there were a few slices of choice pork from the trotters, braised pig’s skin, egg, pickled vegetables on top of a plate of rice with the gravy poured over it. However, when I ate the first bite, I was instantly converted. It’s crazy good!

khao kha moo

The Thai style salted vegetables are slightly sweet (unlike our local salty pickled vegetable) and goes very well as an acidic component on the plate. The smattering of fresh coriander (whole stalks, not just the leaves) adds a great dimension of flavor and the star of the show, the braised pork leg is absolutely fabulous – fork tender, melt-in-your-mouth porcine goodness.

I told my dear that I wasn’t very hungry then but I polished off my plate faster than she did! Even the humble braised egg adds a lot to the dish. The khao kha moo here is delicious and everything on the plate belongs there, including the Thai style chilli sauce. I like how they’re generous with the gravy too.

pork leg rice stall

I could eat here everyday and not get sick but since we’re on holiday, I had to limit myself to just that once so we could eat other things. The bill came up to THB 222 for two. I’m thinking fondly of this pig trotter rice now, I would certainly go back again next time we’re in Hat Yai! :)

Greetings from Hat Yai!

hat yai

We’re in Hat Yai! My better half got me a trip here as a surprise for our anniversary. I was only told to bring my passport and did not know the destination until we flew! She booked the flights and hotel (we’re staying in Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel) as a gift.

hat yai us

It’s just a weekend trip but I’ve never been here before – we did go for a trip to Bangkok last year and this is our return couples sojourn to Thailand.

miss piggy

The food is pretty good here. Say hello to the decidedly plus sized Miss Piggy, where we had a nice pork leg rice lunch! It’s awesome, I’ll write about it soon.

lee gardens plaza hotel

Security is extremely tight here, there was a quartet of bombings by Muslim insurgents earlier this May 2014. You have to go for mandatory screenings before entering shopping malls or hotels but since we’re Chinese (there are a lot of Malaysian and Singaporean tourists here) we passed through easily.

hat yat security

There’s a certain element of profiling going on here – Muslims are subjected to rather intense scrutiny, they’re understandably worried about another attack – there has been several throughout the years!

Posted: 5:20 am Hat Yai time (GMT +7)

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