More fun than a (wheel)barrow of monkeys!

Lindsay HB Durians

I had so much fun today. I met up with Lindsay (of yearofthedurian.com fame) and we went to two organic durians orchards, where we ate a lot of durians. I even tried a new one today – the D144 Durian (a hybrid of D2 and D24). I have 10 (!!!) durians (mixture of D24 and D88) and 1 cempedak in the boot of my car, courtesy of the kind people at the durian orchards. Lindsay is flying back to Oregon at 2 am so the fruits all went to me. smirk

Funny story: I was in Penang with my better half over the weekend and went to eat some durians. There was a couple who walked past me while I was sitting there enjoying my Susu Durian and I overheard them talking loudly in Hokkien about an ang mo (Caucasian) who knows a lot about durians and blogs about it while they were inspecting the stall. Haha.

Lindsay HB BFM

I just came back from sending her to the airport – it’s been quite a long day, I picked her up at 9 am. It was a blast and although we couldn’t visit the third durian orchard that we planned to go to due to time constraints, I actually learned more than a few things about durians today. I also found out that the Bentong/Karak area has a lot of durian stalls by the roadside, all fully stocked in the morning (since the orchards are nearby).

I’ll write more tomorrow, I have to finish some work. We were also on BFM 89.9 just now (the segment isn’t live and wouldn’t be aired yet) to talk about durians. Thanks for organizing everything Lindsay, and for the wheelbarrow lift. :)

6 things we did during our Raya staycation

1. Had dinner at one of the best restaurants in KL

Sage KL

My better half surprised me with this treat. It’s actually the second most expensive meal we’ve ever had in KL (the first being the Michelin star Le Gavroche chef who came to town) but I thought it was worth it. Delicious appetizers and mains – thanks for booking us dinner at Sage dear.

2. Watched Ant-Man

Ant-Man

I’ve been wanting to watch Ant-Man for a long time. We even had passes to the premiere screening but missed it coz I thought it was the next day. Thus, I got ourselves Premier Class tickets (RM 63) at The Gardens to go watch the movie. I had actually wanted Gold Class but my dear thought it was too expensive. It used to cost RM 40 per pax but that’s the price of Premier Class now – Gold Class is double.

GSC Premier Class

It’s still quite an exclusive viewing experience though – the seats are all couple seats, which you can remove the middle partition so you can snuggle up together. That’s actually a *necessity* since the air-conditioning was so cold everyone in the Premier Class cinema was shivering. It’s still better than watching it in their regular cinemas though, this is a more intimate environment where no one talks loudly or uses their mobile phones – the higher ticket prices weeds out most badly behaved cinema goers. Ant-Man was awesome, a nice conclusion to Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

3. Ate escargots and drank Valrhona hot chocolate

Yeast Mid-Valley

We had lunch at a Parisian style bistro/bakery which also serves wine. I had Escargots a la Bourguignonne while my dear had a ham and cheese croissant (Croissant au Jambon et au Fromage). This was our lunch the day we checked in, she also had a Valrhona hot chocolate – we bought a lot of the famous French chocolate a while back, it’s not for kids, their single origin stuff is utterly bitter, in a good way.

4. Walked around the mall

Lifejuice Gardens

We loaded up with fresh cold pressed juice before spending most of the day walking around the mall. My dear wanted to get a clutch bag and we went to most of the stores in The Gardens and Mid-Valley but couldn’t find one that she wanted. I was secretly observing at what kind of bags she was looking at so I could KIV for our anniversary. smirk

Lifejuice

The Sun Kissed Stress Reliever (RM 13) is a mixture of ginger, red apple, pineapple, orange, carrot and grapefruit in a glass bottle. I liked the Nutty Professor Energy Booster (hazelnut, almond, cashew, soy milk, raw cacao, Medjool dates) and 50 Shades of Grey Stamina Booster (Earl Grey team hazelnut, Himalayan salt, coconut, agave necter) too.

5. Chilled in our hotel room

St Giles Gardens

I booked a room as St Giles The Gardens, the best hotel among the 3 at Mid-Valley. I also considered Pullman Bangsar (which has a shuttle service to Mid-Valley) but ultimately wanted to stay at Mid-Valley itself since we were out almost the entire day!

6. Had a hearty breakfast

Antipodean

This was at Antipodean, which my better half wanted to try. It was decent and cheap (relatively) fare but not as good as their original Bangsar Telawi II outlet, probably due to the huge crowd here. We had to wait five (5) minutes in queue while we got seated and that’s considered a very quick seating. The service was good though and I quite liked my order of Eggs Marlborough with Salmon.

I think we spent only 10 hours or so total in our room but it was fun and we got to spend the time with each other during our staycation. :)

Our Hari Raya Aidilfitri Staycation @ St Giles The Gardens

The Gardens Hotel

I decided to surprise my better half with a night at a local hotel during the long holiday weekend. Yup, it’s our biannual staycation, where we spend a night (or two) at a KL or PJ hotel and chill, eat and shop. My better half suggested Mid Valley this time but I don’t really like Cititel Hotel (although it’s the cheapest option, the rooms reek of cigarette smoke).

MidValley Gardens

Thus, it’s down to St Giles Boulevard or St Giles The Gardens. The latter is slightly more grand, a step up in both standards and price so I splurged a little and went for that. The rooms are significantly larger than St Giles Boulevard (27 sq m) and make the ones at Cititel Mid Valley (18 sq m) look almost like closets. smirk

St Giles The Gardens

All three hotels are managed by the same people – it’s supposed to be for different segments of the market with St Giles The Gardens as the premier choice, with larger rooms (38 sq m). I paid USD 116.26 (RM 442.35 per night) for our room and thought I overpaid coz I forgot to switch the currency to MYR. It turns out that MYR was even more expensive at RM 452 so it’s a good thing I have a PayPal account with USD inside.

St Giles The Gardens Rooms

I almost went for the 72 sq m 1 bedroom suite which is about RM 80 more but I ended up going for a deluxe room instead and the extra cash went towards a single glass of wine (more on that later).

St Giles The Gardens Us

It was a lot of fun, we crammed all the things couples do into a 24 hour period – ate at a restaurant rated as one of the best in KL, watched a movie we’ve missed and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a great and relaxing staycation, plus we managed to stay within the budget of RM 1,500 for everything – can’t wait to do it again! :)

I’ll write more soon.

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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...