I was in Beijing a few weeks ago. It was my first time visiting the capital of China and I enjoyed myself immensely although I was sick for 2 days due to the extremly cold weather ( the temperature dipped to as low as -3C at night!).
Whilst I gaped and awed at the magnificence and grandeur of the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City and sighed at the extravagance of Cixi Dowager at the old Summer Palace, I was equally fascinated by the hutongs, the residential neighbourhoods which still form the heart of Old Beijing.
Hutongs are alleys formed by lined of sinheyuan; a traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one sinheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another ( Source : Wikipedia).
I love the hutongs, which date at least few hundred years back. It offers a glimpse of the daily life of the grassroot Beijinger. Exuding certain aura of romanticism, it felt great to walk around ( or you can choose to take a pedicab ride) the hutongs. You would discover new things at almost every nooks and corners!
We were on a tour and the Beihai hutong tour was pre-arranged by the tour agency. If not due to time limitation ( which is a common characteristic of joining a tour), I could easily spend at least half a day at Beihai hutong. We took a pedicab ride that weaves through the narrow alley, stopping abruptly to avoid oncoming traffic ( mainly bicycles and other pedicabs).
We stopped halfway to visit a sinheyuan and continued our pedicab ride that brought us around Beihai park.
Some of these sinheyuan have been converted into cafes, restaurants and boutiques. I wish that I could chill for a while at these cafes, enjoy a cuppa, drink in the scenic sight of the lake and let life unfold itself. I will be back!
Ao Nang Day 2 : Visit @ Ao Nang Beach, Eat @ Wangsai Seafood, Haagen Dazs & Roadside Stall, Spa @ Let’s Sea : Let’s RelaxPosted: September 4, 2011
On the second day, we took our own sweet time to get ready in the morning. We were ‘glued’ to our bed, ignoring the ray of light that seeped through the light-colored drapes. As the accommodation did not include breakfast, there was no inclination on our part to get out from bed.
[ On another note, I would like to document that this day were also the day after the historical downgrade of USA by S&P from AAA to AA+ and the outbreak of riot in London]
By the time we stepped out, it was already 9+ am local time and the sun was already high up but the street was devoid of mortals! I think we are the weirdest couple on the street – sister seek refuge beneath her umbrella whilst I hid my face with my oversized sunnies and hat! Yeah…that is our idea of a beach vacation!
We had banana pancake for breakfast and as there were no proper seating, we had ours at McDonalds. Well, in order not to be chased out by McDonalds, we wanted to order its breakfast set but were informed that they could not prepare breakfast because there was an power disruption – as a matter of fact, the entire Ao Nang is out of electricity! Oh well, we would just enjoy our banana pancake. After a short while, the power came back on and we obligingly ordered our breakfast set.
Thereafter, we took a leisurely stroll towards the beach. As we approached the beach, we saw fluffy blue skies hanging above the horizon. The first sight of the beach was so surreal. Apart from the fact that the beach was clean and pristine (which should be the way actually!), it had a calming effect on both of us. We both sat underneath the shade whilst the gentle breeze swept across our face. For that brief moment, all worries seemed to have dissipated!
I told you that the beach was therapeutic. You do things that you don’t usually do!
We monkeyed around walked along the beach towards Nopparat for our lunch at Wangsai Seafood – reputedly to be one one of the best in Ao Nang.
On the way to Wangsai, we passed by a few stalls selling street food like grill chicken, sausages, banana pancakes,etc. Can you spot me in the photo?
Sister claimed that she tried the above before in Hadyai and it was very good and she recommended me to try it. I have no idea what it was, but it looked like some coconut stuff. I had my qualms but since it was quite cheap ( RM2 for a packet), we just bought a packet. Yeah, that’s me with my ipohne recording the the making of coconut kueh. Then during lunch, I realised that I did not press the record button! WTF
The coconut kueh
On the way to lunch. The wind was so strong that the flags were all upright.
No,no,no. Not having lunch here
Finally. Lunch @ Wangsai Seafood.
Apart from its authentic Thai food, the restaurant also overlook the beach! This is 5-star dining with 1-star price!
Green curry chicken. Love the burst of flavors of the gravy
Delicious pineapple fried rice
Squid with lemon sauce. The sauce was very tangy and invigorating to the tastebud and the squids were huge and fresh.
Fish with lemon sauce ( again). The fish was very fresh. However, it took forever to come, like maybe 20 minutes or so. We were so pissed of with the servers – we gestured them to come over but could not get their attention and of course, thereafter they reassured you that the fish is on the way. Apart from this minor glitches, customer service was ok. All in, the bill came up to RM80+ ( inclusive of coconut drink and Singha beer).
After the fulfilling meal, we walked back towards our hotel ( oh, it was so hot but luckily there were shades). We stopped briefly at Haagen Daz for dessert.
This is the consequences of having too much time at hand ( such a luxury!). There were 3 picture taking device in the above picture!
After our holiday-essential, i.e. afternoon nap, we walked towards the beach ( again) and on the way, saw this hawker stall that sell wanton noodle and noodle soup along the main road. Since we planned to go for a body massage later, we thought that we should eat something light – I ordered wanton noodles ( my first time) and my sister ordered soup noodles. Nothing much to shout about.
For massage, we went to Let’s Sea : Let’s Relax – a massage / spa parlour that is listed on the ‘must do things in Krabi’ in Tripadvisor. Though the place is located opposite McDonalds, finding it was not as easy as the entrance is quite obscure and the signboard is really small. Just open your eyes and you will see it. Once you locate the place, go down the stairs and you would be transported to a different world altogether. Perfect ambience – grayish unpolished wall with ambient light – just nice for a peaceful massage. We opted for an hour of body massage which was very cheap ( slightly more expensive than those normal ones with minimal décor) and it was every cents.
Sit down and relax
Washing the legs with tumeric
The place for body massage – there were only 2 of us, so it was very quiet.
After massage, we were so hungry so we went opposite and there was this roadside stall that sells a huge variety of grilled meat and ‘tai chow’. The few tables for customers were also fully taken, so I guess the food must be good. It is manned by a husband and wife team who are very friendly. The husband who was in charge of the grill quickly find us a spare table ( albeit a bit broken) and we were seated in no time. The food was quite decent and very cheap ( forgotten the exact amount) and I do not mind going back again. One plus point is that the food ( maybe with the exception of the chicken which must be grilled beforehand) is grilled fresh right in front of your eyes. We note that some of the stalls keep the unsold grilled sausages that has been dipped in sauce for tomorrow. Yeah, I mean, they are being thrifty and all and wastage = money to these petty traders who are trying to make a decent living. No right or wrong here but just a word of warning for those with weak tummy.
It is an unwritten tradition that we would normally have a short getaway in August, which is slightly after the half year mark, to rejuvenate and recharge. Last year, we went to Bangkok and this year, we flew to Krabi, Thailand. For these short getaway, we would opt for neighboring countries ( hence, shorter flying time) and of course, not-s0-challenging itinerary.
The picturesque beach of Ao Nang. These boats would take you to the nearby islands.
We bought the tickets more than a year ago and at certain point before the stipulated travelling date, we pondered on the idea of cancelling the trip as we could not feel the ‘travelling mojo’ in us during that point of time. That is the consequence of buying air tickets too early!
Closer to the travelling date, we did some research on Krabi and realised the following:-
Krabi is really a small town and most people head to Ao Nang beach ( approximately 30 minutes away by car) for the beach. Krabi is where the airport is. Krabi has a weekly night market every Saturday.
The most accessible beach is Ao Nang beach. If you want to go to Phi Phi Island, Railay beach – you need to travel by boat / long-tail boat.
Almost, if not all the activities / tour focuses on outdoor activities like island hopping, caving, abseiling, etc
There is no shopping mall in Ao Nang. EvenThailand’s pride, Naraya do not have an outlet in Ao Nang ( *sigh*)
The drive from Krabi / Ao Nang to Phuket takes 3 hours 1 way. The road condition is excellent with 2 carriageway both ways. It is very normal to rent a car and drive to Phuke to Krabi / Ao Nang and vice versa.
August is supposedly to be the rainy season and hence, tourists are generally lesser and the area is quieter too.There ain’t anything for us to do in Ao Nang. We don’t indulge in all these adrenalin pumping activities ( we already have enough in the office!), the sun is not exactly our ally, no shopping malls ( *sigh*) and moreover, it is supposedly to be the rainy season. So, instead of detailed planning, we just kept our options open but of course, we wanted to eat, eat and eat the delicious Thai food( that, we know).
Ao Nang town which was so quiet.
We were so tempted to self-drive to Phuket but we did not as the planned ( or the lacked of it thereof) holiday would be quite packed and with the car rental and additional accommodation, it may just be better to fly to Phuket directly.
Although there was no planning whatsoever, we still arranged our accommodation 2 months before the trip. Though we opted for budget this time ( as we have 2 more holidays planned out later this year), the picky and choosy me still researched diligently to ensure that the hotel is clean and proper.
We stayed at Haleeva Sunshine, Ao Nang, which is about 5 minutes walk to McDonalds, Subway and Starbucks ( where there is a row of street peddlers and mini night market) and another 5 minutes to Ao Nang beach. The location isn’t exactly fantastic – especially in the afternoon, the walk did seem a bit far but otherwise, it was a pleasant one especially in the evening where it was breezy and windy. On hindsight, we manage to try some really authentic Thai food ( not-so-touristy) which are located along the stretch of road from the hotel to the beach. If we had stayed along the beach, it is most likely that we would miss these great places.
The view from our deluxe room on the top floor ( 4th floor)
Three nights stay cost less than RM200! The room is clean with fantastic view of the cliff ( Krabi is famous for its cliff) and if you stretch your head long enough, you can catch a glimpse of the Andaman Sea!
The General Manager of the hotel, Sun was quite helpful and every time we saw him, he would ask if there is any problem with the room ( the air-cond was leaking on the 2nd night and he promptly fixed it the next day; the wi-fi in the room was not working properly on the 2nd and 3rd day, he tried to fix it but to no avail but the wife miraculously worked on our last day!). A word of reminder though, there is no lift in the hotel, so you need to climb those stairs.
Travelling from the airport to Ao Nang is easy peasy. You can take a shuttle bus ( there was one waiting outside the airport to ferry the holiday makers) which is very cheap, arrange for transport with the hotel or take a taxi from airport to Ao Nang which costs THB600 ( or RM60).
After collecting luggage and customs, there are 2 counters for taxi. Both were manned by 2 very friendly ladies, waving and luring us to go to their counter! Oh boy, I felt so bad that I had to choose between them.
We got our coupon ( pay later to the taxi driver) and in a blink of an eye, the taxi drive came and helped us with the luggage and brought us to his taxi ( a brand new Honda Civic 1.8 Vtec). He was so polite, so smiley and so radiant. He attempted twice to entice us to sign up some day tours with him but we politely refused. He did not bring up the matter again. We engaged him to pick us up from the hotel to the airport on the last day ( he voluntarily charged us THB500).
There is no traffic whatsoever in this part of the world. Things seemed to move slower. Even at the hotel reception, the staff took so long to record our particulars!
After checking in, we did what we are supposed to do i.e .to sleep! Haha…..After a while, our tummy was growling and we got ready for early dinner. The hotel recommended us to try out ‘No. 1 Thai Food’ which is located opposite the hotel. There weren’t anyone at the restaurant and we were a bit apprehensive but we thought that may it was the Ramadhan month ( Krabi is predominantly a Muslim area) and it was the low season. Anyway, we were hungry and we quickly ordered some dishes.
We just could not resist ordering salad with roasted pork. So hard to find it in Malaysia and if you do find one, it normally costs a bomb. This delectable dish is only RM8!
Fried flat noodles , just like our version of Cantonese fried, but this one is sweet. You are supposed to add in the condiments to the noodles on your own.
I have totally forgotten what is the above dish? It was recommended by the waitress cum chef. It was good though…
Stir fry morning glory. We try to incorporate greens into each and every meal as part of our aspiration to stay healthy. It was not too bad, as a matter of fact, full of ‘wok hei’.
And we washed it all down with ice cool Singha beer.
After the satisfying meal ( which cost us RM33), we took a stroll towards Ao Nang beach, passing by McDonalds and a row of street food. We walked past a lot of eateries that seem to serve more authentic Thai food as compared to the strip along the beach. The restaurants that operate along the beach predominantly serve Western food ( Italian, American).
Fake Tiffany & Co
We took in the view, stopping briefly if something interesting caught our attention. Otherwise, most of the stalls and shops sell almost the same time i.e. key chains, fridge magnets, fake handbags, beach mats, bikini, sarongs,novelty t-shirts, etc.
By the time we reached Ao Nang beach, it was already pitch dark so, we continued our ‘look see look see’ . The shops at the stretch of the beach sell similar items and before we knew it, we had already passed by the beach. There are still shops ( that sells identical items) leading towards Nopparat beach but this particular stretch was less crowded and quiet and hence, we made a u-turn towards our hotel.
The shops along the beach. The vendors would sit outside the shop enjoying the soft breeze or just to chat among themselves.
As mentioned earlier, the restaurants along the beach are predominantly western.
On the way back to the hotel, we decided to go for a foot massage ( RM25 for1 hour) at some random massage parlour. Though it was cheap, the massage lacks ummmph, no strength at all. The masseurs looked as if they were using all the strength that they have but we were so nonchalant. We later found out that there is a very good and proper ( with soothing ambience) just across the road with slightly higher prices ( but still much lower than Malaysia’s).
Also had a pedicure – vampish red for the rest of the trip at Ao Nang.
We called it a day after the massage.
445, Moo 2 T. Ao Nang
A. Muang, Krabi Thailand
No. 1 Thai Food
Moo 2, 4203 Road, Ao Nang
Krabi ( opposite Haleeva Sunshine)
Flew down to Johor Bahru a few days back for a meeting with a client. It was a day trip and since we had some time to spare before flying back to KL, client brought us The Tea Garden ( a modern kopitiam style café which is mushrooming in Johor, and equivalent to Old Town and Pappa Rich).
Though the formal meeting was technically over, I still need to act ‘appropriate’.Only managed to glance through the menu briefly. Nevertheless, noted that The Tea Garden serves some really ‘localised’ and ‘nowadays-rare-to-find’ snacks like steamed tapioca with shredded coconut and gula Melaka ( plum sugar) ( above).
It was served slightly warm. The combination of flavor was not overpowering. The gula Melaka was not overly sweet whilst the tapioca exuded certain natural freshness.
Some of you may remarked that this is quite a common dessert but I am ashamed to admit that I have not eaten this before in my life [I am not a fan of (kueh)]! As what my client said “ This is a very common dish during the Japanese occupation.”
Address : Franchise kopitiam available around Johor
Food are abundant in Ao Nang. Due to influx of westerners, there are a lot of Italian restaurants and cafes selling a vast variety of pizza, pastas and gelato. For that matter, there are some restaurants specialising in Indian food too! These restaurants and cafes are strategically located along the beach to capitalise on the booming tourism.
But, wouldn’t odd to eat pizza and spaghetti at Thailand which is fame for being a food heaven? So, for this trip, we tried as much street food and local delicacies as possible.
For us, we love its pancake the most. So obsessed that we ate 3 pancakes in a span of 2 days! It is basically freshly made pancakes made to wrap around a main ingredient i.e. banana, cheese, onions, eggs,tuna, etc and you can also include toppings like nuttela, chocolate, drizzled condensed milk, raisins,etc. It is a cheap as THB20 ( or RM2) for a simple ones and increase to THB45 ( RM4.50) depending on the ingredients and toppings.
On the first day, we ate banana pancake with chocolate filings and we love it so much that for the next 2 days, we ordered the same thing ( yeah, we are boring people, we know that) albeit at different stalls.
Yeah..so good that we need to document it in a video. The video was recorded in Cantonese, was planning to sub it but eventually realised that I don’t know how to do it.
Firstly, the pre-prepared dough would be flatten and tossed a few times. Thereafter, it is pan-fried lightly ( with substantial amount of oil) for awhile while bananas ( good quality ones and not those that are going to rot) are added in before it is wrapped. Served with toppings of your choice. Yummylicious.
At first glance, it looks like our own version of roti canai especially when the dough is tossed around. Only this one is way better. The pancake is very fluffy and crispy especially at the edges. The chocolate toppings are not overly sweet that you get turned off after the first bite. On the contrary, you can’t have enough of it.
These pancakes are widely available at street stalls that open as early as 9 am ( local time) and till 9 pm-ish. Scattered along the beach road and along the strip in front of McDonalds, you just can’t miss it. We chose the stalls in front of McDonalds ( there were a few stalls selling pancakes there) as we had this idea that instead of eating along the sideways and under the sun, we should just sit at McDonalds ( which by the way, is almost empty all the time!). But of course, we ordered some food from McDonalds too!
An another video of us eating pancakes at McDonalds, Ao Nang.
Location : Random street stall in front of McDonalds, Ao Nang
Excuse for different photo quality. The better quality pictures are from sis’ DSLR while the lower quality is from my Iphone 4.
United Nations of Dining – this is how I would like to describe Hai Lua – a make-shift stall outside Ben Thanh Market ( opposite Pho 24).
When Ben Thanh Market closes at 6.30 pm, the outdoor night market opens. The structures are built from scratch daily from 6 pm onwards and within a jiffy, the make-shift stall, complete with ‘fiery’ kitchen and proper table settings are ready. Even the waiter and waitresses are in uniforms!
Why United Nations of Dining ? Because there are so many nationalities congregated at Hai Lua, enjoying roadsides’ finest!
The first day I was there, I was sandwiched between a group of Japanese tourists and a family of 4 from either Hong Kong or Singapore. The second day, I sat next to a French guy with an English speaking Vietnamese wife.
This is one section of the dining area. There is another dining section segregated by the kitchen and BBQ pit.
The temporary kitchen. Very impressive.
The BBQ pit. The other side of the dining section.
Tables are combined and diners have to share the tables.
We ordered Vietnamese roasted pork. Not much different from our version.
Garlic mussels. Very liberal use of garlic ( I love) and very fresh and juicy and huge ass mussels. Very delicious.
Can you make out what this is? It is a frog / toad! I think it was skinless grilled 5-taste frog. You have the option of having it skinless or with skin. The waiter recommended skinless as he claimed that it is tastier. No idea if his claim is true. In any case, I don’t dare to try the skin. Although the outer layer looked charred, the flesh is actually quite juicy and fresh. Must try.
Garlic clams. As usual, very generous use of garlic and fresh clams too. Very huge ass clams.
Seafood fried rice. Very eggydelicious!
Chinese style fry kangkung with garlic. The taste is just nice.
This is freaking nice. Sorta like salad / appertizer. With rice vermicelli underneath,there were grounded peanuts ( I like), veges and bits and pieces of pork. Like pork salad. Very springy vermicelli.
Very springy rice vermicelli.
Tamarind crabs. The taste of the tamarind gravy is overwhelmingly good. Fresh crabs.
Fried calamari. A bit disappointed with it.
And of course, if you are at Hai Lua, you definitely need to order its signature steamed prawn in coconut. The prawns come together with the coconut together with dry ice.
It will then be lighted up!
And it goes up in flames!
After a short while, the waitress will help to peel of the shells!
And the shelled prawns are soaked in coconut water, ready for consumption! The taste is really a bit bland but I think the ‘fiery’ experience kinda make up for it.
Hai Lua is definitely a place to go to if you are in Ho Chi Minh City. The price is very reasonable. We had the above ( together with fruit juices and beers) for slightly less than RM200! And of course, the service is exemplary too.
Address : Outside Ben Thanh Market, facing Pho 24 ( there is a row of make shift stall but you would not miss Hai Lua because the crowd is significantly bigger at Hai Lua)
Apart from being a shopping haven, Hong Kong also offers supreme gastronomical delights. From fine dining to hole-in-the-wall restaurants / char chan teng, Hong Kong never fails to satisfy the palette, even for the most discerning ones.
Tim Ho Wan literally means ‘add good luck’ in Chinese. Located at the quieter part of Yau Ma Tei ( Yau Ma Tei is famed for its Temple and Women Street) and nestled amidst some mid to high rise residential, it has created so much buzz among the locals and tourists alike.
Reputed to be the cheapest Michelin- starred restaurant in the world, it serves dim sum at unbelievably rock bottom prices. Tim Ho Wan was started a few years ago by chef Mak Pui Gor, previously from Four Seasons Hotel, who is determined to bring good food to the masses. Despite being awarded Michelin star rating, Tim Ho Wan still maintains the price and hence, Tim Ho Wan is easily the cheapest meal ticket around.
Tim Ho Wan is located just a short distance from Yau Ma Tei MRT station and although business hour starts from 10 am daily, crowds start to trickle in much earlier than that as the waiting time can be quite long ( in the range of a few hours!) if you are late.
We reached the restaurant at approximately 9.30 am and there were already a long queue in front of the restaurant. I queued up and in a blink of an eye, there were already people lining up behind us! The crowds which were a mixture of locals and tourists with cameras hanging down their necks were quite civilised and were exchanging thoughts while ticking away the bilingual order form cum menu, which are available at the front counter of the restaurant.
As the restaurant is really tiny ( seats maybe, 30 persons at any one time), by the time Tim Ho Wan opened at 10 am, only a handful at the front of the line managed to get in. The rest would just need to wait outside the restaurant. I was considered lucky because I was the second on the line and was asked to return by 10.40 am! The server would scribble your queue number together with the number of pax on the order form. They won’t seat you unless you all the guests have arrived. By the way, if you are alone or come in two, DO NOT leave although your queue number is still far away, they may just call you in as you are expected to share table.
The rules and regulation of the restaurant. Before you start to think that how snobbish of them to have rules and regulation, these reminders are actually good and for the convenience of the patrons.
Business hour from 10 am onwards and 130 queue numbers will be given. These queue numbers must / will be seated by 3 pm.
By 4 pm, they will give out another 60 queue numbers and must / will be seated by 9.30 am.
Only allowed to enter the restaurant if all the guests are already here.
To pay, please inform the servers. Do not walk and stand at the cashier table.
Coming back to the restaurant at 10.30 am, the main entrance were huddled with eager diners. Waited for a while among the crowd and I could see envy on their eyes when they saw my queue number! Haha…After a while, the stern-looking server called my number to take my order form so that they can start preparing our order. Ooooh, I feel so lucky and I saw piercing glance from those latecomers with queue number in mid 30-s!
Ushered into a cramped restaurant and we were allocated with a 6-seat combined table. Soon, we were joined by another young couple. It was so packed that it was impossible to move your hands without nudging your neighbours. Ordered too much that there were no space on the table that we had to topped the baskets on top of each other. At one point of time, I can’t see my parents seated opposite me!
Of course, the star of Tim Ho Wan is none other than its baked buns with BBQ pork. It is like a combination of Mexican bun and char siew pao. The outside is crispy and with savory char siew ( roasted pork) fillings. You should not miss it for the world. Initially, we ordered a basket that comes with 3 buns but decided to submit to our gluttony and ordered another basket! It was so good.
Other notables were its steamed dumplings in Teochew style. It is kinda hard to find this dim sum here in Malaysia. The skin was very thin and the filings ( yambean, chives, peanuts, minced pork and dried shrimps) were very crunchy. And boy, I do not even eat chives!
Chee Cheong fun with pork liver filings. A rarity here in Malaysia ( do we even have it here?). I abstained myself from eating too much innards due to health reasons ( have not eaten them for ages) but since I was travelling, I broke all rules. The livers were not soggy and the fact that it was wrapped with rice vermicelli kinda reduce the guilt albeit slightly. Haha….
And of course, the often-taken-for-granted – prawns dumplings. It is not easy to find those with skin so translucent that you can see the fresh prawns inside.
The total bill came up to HKD250 for 17 ( yeah, 17!) baskets and jasmine tea for 4. Unbelievably cheap for HK standard, for that matter, for Malaysia standard.
Despite its bustling business, customer service was still very commendable. Dirty plates and empty baskets were cleared away promptly. Tea were refilled before you could even finished it. My dad dropped his chopsticks and the servers quickly replaced it. Our Malaysians should learn from them. The outlet manager may look stern but she is very friendly.
The address : –
Shop 8, Tsui Yuen Mansion
2-20, Kwong Wa Street
Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
( Exit A2 at Yau Ma Tei MRT Station)