Top 5 Places to Eat in London

1. Dishoom
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Rated London’s top restaurant in 2015, I knew I had to try this bombay-style cafe, especially since I love Indian food. The menu was extensive and it was a pity I could only try the Deep fried Okra, Chicken Ruby and Chicken Briyani.

In my opinion, your experience at Dishoom very much relies on how wise your selections were. Next to us was a table of two which ordered naan and chicken ruby, and they were very angry about how small the portions were and how they had to go find more food after dinner. In contrast, Sandra and I traded the naan (even though it would have been lovely to have some naan dipped in curry) for biryani (basmatic rice) and had a satisfying meal.

They were very generous with the chicken pieces in the biryani, and I loved how quirky the dish was, with a sprinkling of cranberries to add a British twist to this Indian dish. The Chicken Ruby was a curry that was quite spicy, actually so spicy that the lady had to place a jug of water on our table instead of constantly refilling our glasses haha. But it was so flavourful that we wiped the entire bowl clean. There was not a single drop of curry left. The deep fried okra was a pleasant starter to our meal. I loved the Indian spices in the batter and how seemingly healthy this dish was (because ladies fingers= daily fix of veggies). It definitely made me feel less guilty about my deep fried okra addiction.

As long as you are in London, you HAVE TO try Dishoom even though the queues are long. At least they give out hot chai while you wait in the queue :>

Check out their locations at http://www.dishoom.com

2. Patty & Bun


BEST BURGER EVER. Enough said. I posted a photo of their burger on my instagram and other people agreed that this was the best burger they ever tasted. Everything on their menu looked so good that Huifen and I spammed order. We each ordered a “Smokey Robinson” burger, shared a “Winger Winger Chicken Dinner” and Chips with Roast Chicken Mayo and Chicken Sea Salt. Even their names sound awesome.


The “Smokey Robinson” consisted of a beef patty, caramelized onions, bacon, tomato, lettuce, cheese, ketchup and mayo. I loooooved the melted cheese, it was all over the burger and the paper wrapping the burger. I ordered my beef patty as Medium (they usually do it Medium Rare) and I found it to be cooked perfectly. Loved how thick the patty was and how it actually had a substantial taste of beef, as compared to the burgers found in Singapore.

Check out their locations at http://pattyandbun.co.uk/contact/

3. Burger & Lobster

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There are only 3 things on the menu at Burger & Lobster, you choose a whole lobster, a lobster roll or a beef burger. I guess ordering the beef burger is a bit silly and I’d rather eat a whole lobster than less lobster in a roll (unless you are lazy to crack open the lobster) so Sandra and I each spent 20 pounds on a whole lobster. Steamed, then grilled, with a garlic butter sauce to go with it.

The garlic butter sauce overwhelmed the natural sweetness of the lobster, so in the end, I just enjoyed the lobster by itself. The sauce was instead used as a dip for my fries, which I ashamedly cleared the entire cup of. Comparing prices with Singapore, getting a lobster for 20 pounds (S$40) is a steal. Plus the lobster was fresh and perfectly cooked (thank god they didn’t boil it because that would be stupid), so what’s not to like?

One of my friends commented on how he went to Burger & Lobster twice recently. London has too much good food for you to try B&L twice (please don’t waste your precious meals) but at least try it once. It’s worth the 1 hour wait and the 20 pounds.

Check out their many locations at http://www.burgerandlobster.com/home/locations/london/

4. Little Social

Burrata with Truffles Cod Brandade Braised Irish Ox Cheeks
This French-inspired British bistro is opened by Jason Atherton which means the food here was no doubt excellent. I particularly enjoyed the braised Irish ox cheeks and the roasted bone marrow. The ox cheeks were really tender and the bone marrow was really fatty. Other dishes that we ordered were burrata with shaved truffles, cod brandade with tapenade and a roasted turbot. It’s a pricey restaurant so visit it if you decide to splurge one night or if you are with the parents.

5 Pollen Street, Mayfair, London W1S 1NE
Tel: 020 7870 3730

5. The Mac Factory

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Found in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of Camden Lock market, this Mac & Cheese shop is a gem. They give out free samples to people so that you can decide if Mac & Cheese is your kind of thing but seriously, how can it not be your kind of thing?! We ordered the truffled Mac & Cheese for 7 pounds, plopped ourselves down on the stairs and ate away. They fry the Mac & Cheese for you on the spot so that when you eat it, it’s all warm and gooey and you can’t stop reaching for more. Writing about it is making me really really hungry. Now I want my mac & cheese >:

Camden Lock Market, West Yard
Open 10am to 6pm

A Guide to Lauterbrunnen

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If you’re ever visiting the Bernese Oberland and at a lost of which village to stay in, stay in Lauterbrunnen! It is the most accessible village and the scenery in the valley is beautiful too! I stayed in Lauterbrunnen for 3 nights and I loved each and every night. I’ve compiled a list of things you should do and eat in Lauterbrunnen and also the places you can travel to from Lauterbrunnen:)

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Eat

1. Hotel Oberland Rosti

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Can I just say that this was the best Rosti I had ever eaten in my entire life. I’m not even kidding about how good the Rosti was. I couldn’t stop putting it into my mouth. And the fact that it had bacon and onion hidden between the strips of potatoes, topped generously with melted Alpine cheese just sealed the deal for me. You cannot miss this Rosti when you’re in Lauterbrunnen!

2. Swiss Restaurant Weidstuebli

I loved the vibe of this restaurant, especially since it was World Cup period and there was a TV for everyone to cheer on their favourite soccer team while eating their food. The food was relatively reasonably priced (for Swiss standards) and well portioned. Though this restaurant veers off the normal touristy path, the walk to and fro was quite enjoyable.

3. Flavours

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This cafe just opened when I was there last June and we tried their burgers which were delicious while the oven baked potatoes that came with it were addictive. Besides the food, I also loved the design of the cafe. There were bean bags and fake grass outside the cafe for cafe-goers to lie on and chill while people-watching. A pity that we only visited Flavours on the last day of our Lauterbrunnen trip. We would eat there again if we ever had a chance to!

4. Airtime Cafe

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This is a really popular cafe with tourists, maybe because it offers adrenaline-packed activities and free wifi besides food and drinks. I came in just to pack a vegetarian sandwich for my walk which was quite passable but honestly, not really worth the money. But if you’re looking for a place to buy food to-go, this is one option.

Do

1. Walk the Mountain View Trail to Murren

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There are different ways to get to Murren from Lauterbrunnen. You could choose to hike all the way, which is only for the experienced hikers due to the super steep slope; you could choose to take public transportation all the way which would mean a gondola up and a train to the village or you could be like us and do both. We took a gondola up and then decided to walk to Murren. Even then, you have two choices: to walk on flat ground or to walk the Mountain View Trail.

We decided to walk the Mountain View Trail so as to get a vantage point of the breath-taking scenery around us. I mean it’s not every day that you can walk alongside mountains so we chose the more scenic route. However, the route was quite taxing and the terrain quite rocky

2. Visit Trummelbach Falls 541A6991

The sound of gushing water of these glacier waterfalls could be heard from a distance and it scared me bit. But the Trummelbach Falls were so magnificent. The water in these falls originate from Jungfrau and the falls are the only glacier waterfalls in the world accessible underground by lifts, stairs and pathways. Don’t miss this if you are in Lauterbrunnen! It really is a sight to behold.

3. Take the cruises on Lake Brienz or Lake Thun
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One of the perks of buying a Swiss pass is that cruises like these are free. We decided to capitalise on the fact that there were free and went on both cruises even though they were quite similar. Hence, my suggestion is to take just one of the cruises for the experience and also because it’s a different way of taking in the sights. I would recommend cruising on Lake Brienz because the lake has nice, calming turquoise waters which is really unique. The cruises can be found near Interlaken OST and you can stop along the way to visit small little villages.

4. Vist Jungfrau-joch 541A6678-2 541A6690 541A6850

Even though the trip to Jungfrau-joch will set you back by about $200, it is worth it to head up to the tallest reachable point by tourists in Europe. The views were so spectacular and breath-taking that we stayed up there for 4 hours, being fascinated with the snow and snow capped mountains. A warning first though, your body may have problems adjusting to the altitude, resulting in altitude sickness and a general lack of energy. Manlin faced problems breathing and felt tired really easily due to the lack of oxygen. After 4 hours on top, my head felt heavy and I came back down with a sunburnt face ): So lesson learnt is to always apply sunblock before heading for the mountains even though it seems very counter-intuitive to me.

5. Take a day trip or stay over at Mannlichen

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Männlichen is easily accessed by taking a train from Lauterbrunnen to Murren and then taking a gondola up to the mountain. We stayed in Berghaus Mannlichen for 1 night because we wanted to experience staying up in the mountains. However, because it was summer, the clouds were low and shrouded the entire mountain which meant that we spent an entire afternoon just chilling in a blanket of white mist. It was a frustrating experience to a certain extent but a unique one. What made the stay up there really worth it was the view in the morning. I jumped out of bed at 7am and was overjoyed to see that the clouds had cleared and the scenery was just breath-taking. Words can’t describe how amazing it felt to be surrounded by mountains so I’m just going to leave you with photographs.

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Stay

1. Hotel Stabbauch

Hotel Stabbauch offers attic rooms at a cheaper rates to budget travellers like me which I found to be a very good deal because I didn’t see the need to pay extra for a room view of the Stabbauch falls, considering that I could see the falls from anywhere in town and the hotel also had public balconies to chill and view the falls. The breakfast was not very memorable but at least it filled us up for our day ahead. I loved the fact that the hotel had a common lounge with a TV set and a piano for guests to hang around and watch soccer together. Also, the hotel staff here were incredibly helpful. There was this pregnant lady who loved Manlin and I, and never failed to answer all our questions and give us recommendations as to where to eat. The service in this hotel was impeccable!

2. Valley Hostel

We ended up with a free night with no lodging so we decided to bunk in at Valley Hostel where the person kindly offered us a 4-bed room at a 2-bed room price 🙂 The hostel had basic amenities and the room and sheets were clean, nothing to complain about as long as it gave me a comfortable night stay. What I loved about the hostel was this common porch right outside the room that allowed guests to sit on the benches and watch the trains go past. It was such a chill thing to do, just watching the world go past while enjoying the occasional breeze 🙂 It’s moments like these that make me fall in love with travelling.

7 Must Try Places in Hong Kong

1. Dim Dim Sum Dim Sum Restaurant

We laughed so much because the name was hilarious and sounded like a joke but the food was no joke. Generally, the dim sum served here was the best, even better than Michelin starred Tim Ho Wan and One Dim Sum. Although this has no michelin star, it is well reviewed and recommended by Anthony Bourdain in TimeOut.

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The Har Gao here had the best tasting skin, it was thin and soft, delicious to eat! Besides the usual fare, they also have creative dim sum inventions and modifications.

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The Prawn Cheong Fun was stuffed with tempura fried prawns, a modern twist on this traditional dim sum. I loved it! There was also mushroom buns which were baos that looked like mushroom with a curry-like filling. They didn’t taste particularly fantastic though.

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Lastly, you have to try the brinjal with prawn paste on top, it was so delicious we ordered two plates!

The service here was the best, with kind ladies recommending the good food to you and always having a smile on their faces. I almost tripped over my chair while walking over to settle the bill and all the waitresses instantly had this worried look on their faces while saying ‘Be careful!!’. What wonderful people that make me want to go back again and again 🙂

G/F, Man Wah Building, 23 Man Ying Street, Jordan
Tel: 2771 7766
MTR: Jordan
Mon.-Sun. 10:00-01:00

2. Tim Ho Wan at Sham Tsui Po

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Tim Ho Wan is famous for its unique creation of crispy skin barbecued pork bun and it did not disappoint. The filling was meaty enough and salty enough to complement the sweet crust. However, I felt that it would have been better if the crust was a little more baked.

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Another star for me was the Siew Mai. The meat was not fatty and instead of putting dyed ‘fish roe’ on top, they put gei ji, a pleasant change. The filling of the Har Gao (shrimp dumpling) was the tastiest, though the skin could have been softer and thinner. 

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The turnip cake left an impression on me because it was filled with turnip and less floury than usual, which is how I like my turnip cake to be. Besides their buns, Tim Ho Wan is also good in the usual dim sum dishes.

Visit Tim Ho Wan in the morning, around 10am, when there is no queue at all. We were delighted to get our table immediately 🙂

9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po
深水埗福榮街9-11號地下 (10 min walk from Sham Shui Po MTR)
Tel: +852 2788 1226
Opening Hours: 8:00am – 9:30pm (Daily)

3. One Dim Sum

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We ate One Dim Sum twice because it is near Mongkok, which was where we shopped every single day. One Dim Sum has this screwed up way of arranging seating, so be prepared to wait 30 minutes for a table. I loved the boiled vegetables in One Dim Sum, so much so that I ordered one whole plate for myself. Call me a veggie freak.

Besides that, the century egg and pork congee is worth trying and so is the Har Gao and Siew Mai, typical dim sum dishes. Don’t bother trying the overly floury turnip cake.

15 Playing Field Road, Kenwood Mansion, Prince Edward, Shop 1 & 2, G/F,
MTR: Prince Edward
Tel: 27892280

4. Australian Dairy Company

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The BEST ever scrambled eggs I’ve eaten in my entire life. Seriously, you need to try their scrambled eggs and toast. The eggs don’t steal the entire show because the warm buttered toast is amazing as well. Try the egg pudding too which tastes like the chinese version of creme brûlée. My friends loved it but it was too sweet and eggy for me. Don’t bother trying their milk tea because it is tasteless.

The waiters here may be busy but they are quirky amidst their busyness. My friend took a photo on her iPhone and a waiter who walked past peeped at her photo and said that it wasn’t nice, hahahaha.

Visit Australian Dairy Company in the mornings for breakfast. Don’t book a hotel that includes breakfast because you’ll be wasting one meal and your money too! You have to eat at Cha Chaan Tengs for breakfast. Live like a local!

47 Parkes St, Hong Kong
MTR: Jordan
Tel: +852 2730 1356
7:30 am – 11:00 pm daily, closed on Thursdays

5. Mak’s Noodles

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I tried the Wanton noodles and Dumpling noodles here. They came in small portions which left me wanting for more. The noodles were very springy and the wanton skin was thin and delicate, making it easy to slurp each prawn wanton up. The dumplings had more filling in them, so order them if you want more meat.

G/F, 77 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong,
Central MTR – Exit D2.
Tel: +852 2854 3810
Operating Hours: 11 am to 10 pm Daily

6. Tai Cheong Bakery

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Egg tarts, egg tarts, egg tarts. These are the freshest egg tarts I’ve ever eaten. They are sold right out of the oven, with the egg custards still wobbling and the tart still too hot to eat. The pastry is the buttery, crumbly kind, not the flaky Portuguese egg tart kind. I like how the tart shell melts in your mouth and is salty, complementing the sweet egg custard.

35 Lyndhurst Terrace, 中環擺花街35號地下
Central MTR – Exit D2.
7.30am-9pm

7. Lucky Desserts

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Lucky Desserts is famous for it’s durian desserts. The durian pancake was much raved about online but I felt that it was overhyped. The mediocre cream ruined the durian pancake, it felt like I was eating more cream than durian and wasting my calories on cream from the can.

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My friends loved the durian cream with sago but I much preferred the mango cream with sago and pomelo. They were very generous with the mango, with at least half a mango inside my bowl. The thickness was just right as well and it wasn’t too sweet. The perfect end to the day 🙂

G/F25-27 Soy St, Mong Kok 旺角豉油街25-27號
1pm-2am

Maldives

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I visited the Maldives for a week-long break in May to enjoy the sun and sea with the family before going off for college. The cluster of islands in the Indian Ocean is a well known holiday spot, and for good reason too. It is the perfect place to unwind and disconnect from city-life – basically, do nothing. So if lazing around on the beach for a week is your kind of thing, the Maldives is a must-visit; but be warned, if your idea of a holiday is packing as much sight-seeing as possible in the daylight, I suggest you try somewhere else.

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Guests pretty much just spend the entire day suntanning.

{Pre-Trip}

A couple things to note before you head off, firstly, the Maldives is a Islamic country. So when packing, do keep in mind that all alcohol is prohibited, and bring along a sarong to cover up. If you intend to buy one there instead, USD is the accepted currency on most of the resort islands. Additionally, you might want to bring along snorkeling/diving equipment and swimsuits rather than rent them to save money. An underwater camera and sunblock would also come in most useful.

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View of the capital.

{Malé}

Singapore Airlines is one of the few flights that can get you to Malé, the capital of the Maldives. While slightly pricey  for a round-trip from and to Singapore, the 4.5 hour flight is a comfortable one, especially during off-peak seasons where you can get an entire row of seats to yourself.

The airport itself is on a separate island, Hulhulé . After alighting, we were met by representatives from Hotel Octave and boarded a ferry to Malé where we stayed a night. Maldivians are incredibly friendly and welcoming to tourists, but unfortunately we experienced rather poor service from Hotel Octave with the wrong room and late pick-up drivers. At USD300 per person for a night and breakfast the next day, I suggest you search for another hotel nearer the ferry jetties.

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Locals going about their daily business.

I would recommend you spend half a day on Malé to soak in the local atmosphere. Just take a stroll down the narrow streets, pop by the fish markets and mosques. Although keep in mind for both men and women to respect the local culture and dress modestly. Do grab a couple of bottles of water as well, as drinks on the resort islands often cost quite a bit.

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Hello paradise!

{Maafushivaru}

After a morning on Malé, we headed to our resort island, Maafushivaru, in the South Ari Atoll via a seaplane. The islands are up to 40 minutes away from the capital and not accessible by boat. So the ___ plane ride though expensive, is compulsory. Although, you do get 40 minutes of to-die-for scenery as the seaplane rides just among the clouds.

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Killer view from the seaplane.

We were greeted by incredibly friendly staff as stayed in the beach villa which opens out into your private patch of the beach. The entire island is only about half a kilometre long, and you can stroll around it in 20 minutes. Amenities wise, it has a water bar, a cuisine gallery for meals, a spa centre with a yoga pavilion, and a diving school.

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The first one to great us on upon arrival.

Maafushivaru is actually smaller the other resort islands, but no less gorgeous. Fine white sand to squish your toes in? Check. The clearest, bluest waters you’ve ever seen? Check. Idyllic and romantic? Check. Most of the other guests wake up at a leisurely 10 am, take a dip in the ocean in the morning, spend the afternoon sunbathing on the beach with a book, and hang out by the water bar for drinks in the evening. Like I said, people come just to relax, although there are a few activities you can take part in.

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The oncoming storm.

House Reef

Surrounding the island is Maafushivaru’s own coral reef where you can snorkel among the entire cast of Finding Nemo, and even a black tipped reef shark! There is a USD$10 introductory snorkeling course conducted by the resident marine biologist. I gave that a pass and snorkeled around on my own, but I highly suggest you go for the course if this is your first foray in the ocean.

Just some of the colourful marine life you can see.

Just some of the colourful marine life you can see.

Whale Shark Expedition

For USD$55, you can join a marine biologist and a boat crew out and snorkel with whale sharks. You will get to swim right next to the most gorgeous gentle giants you will find in the waters, but be ready to bump into snorkelers from other resort islands as well. Let your breath be taken away by the immensity of the ancient beast, admire the graceful sweeping of its fins, but do respect the whale shark and not touch it.

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Gentle giants.

Manta Ray Expedition

Like the Whale Shark Expedition, the boat will take you around the atolls and when a manta ray is spotted, you’ll be signaled to jump in and swim after them along with the instructors. Similarly, the whale sharks and manta rays all have distinguishing marks and if you can catch a good photo, the individuals can be identified by the researchers studying the marine life of the Maldives. If it’s a new individual, you even get to name it!

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Manta rays are badass.

The expeditions are a four hours each and you get to enjoy a boat ride out to the sea with your fellow resort guests. But if you get seasick easily, do take the seasick pills which the instructors will offer. With any luck, you may also get to see sea turtles and pods of dolphins along the way!

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Baby dolphins chaperoned by adults from the main pod.

Sunset Fishing

This was my first try at fishing, and I’m glad to say I was successful! Everyone is given a spool of fishing wire with a hook and weight, along with bait. You get to watch the sunset as you wait for that telltale tug on your line. I caught a 3o cm red snapper (biggest of the trip!), while others caught white snappers, yellowtails and parrotfish, which were all grilled for lunch the next day.

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Fishing yachts floating along.

Lonobu Island

Maafushivaru owns a much smaller island next to the main resort. There are daily trips to Lonobu Island or you can even book it for an entire day and get the whole place to yourself. This, along with a private dinner, is a popular choice for couples on a retreat.

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Nothing like a dramatic sunset.

There are more water sports and diving tours you can try. But we only stayed for five days, unlike other guests from the US/UK who normally stay for three weeks minimum. The benefit of the small size of Maafushivaru is that you get to interact with guests from all around the world. Through the expeditions and meal times, I befriended with most of them which contributed to the jovial atmosphere all around the island.

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Having a beer by the sea.

The Maldivian economy relies mostly on tourism, so tax rates are rather high. But as a once-in-a-lifetime trip, the money is well worth it, and it’s an experience you’ll definitely relish!

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This is a guest post by Suzanne Ou.

Beijing (I)

Beijing

It’s been a while since I posted because I’ve been away on holiday to Beijing to visit my aunt who stays there. Having an aunt who is an expatriate there means going to good restaurants and eating good food :)) Everyone has this perception that all food in China is greasy and unhealthy which is true to a certain extent if we are only talking about their local food but China has so much more to offer besides their local food. The food scene in Beijing is an exciting one, with many foreign chefs setting up shop to offer Beijingers all kinds of cuisine.

In the short span that I was there, here were the eateries that left an impression:

1. Temple Restaurant Beijing

600 year old temple

Named as Timeout Beijing’s top Restaurant of the Year 2014, I can see why. Service is impeccable once you sit down but note, only once you sit down. This restaurant has a terrible practice of overbooking which meant that even though we reserved a table for 1.30pm, we still had to wait 15 minutes for a table (even after complaining like a Singaporean). The manager blames the customers who take longer than expected but they should really figure out a way to solve this problem. Asking your customers to wait while handing out free champagne to pacify them is not the solution

Temple

Complaints aside, the ambience was top notched. The restaurant is situated in an old temple, hence its name. Weekend Brunch includes baskets of pastries and bread. You get to choose a 5 course or a 8 course meal, with or without wine pairing. The food was fantastic though the servings were tiny. Special mention goes to the sea bass which was so fresh and smooth and the cream of mussel soup which tasted like the sea, in a good way.

Dessert

嵩祝寺23号, Shatan N St, Dongcheng District
Beijing, China
+86 10 8400 2232

2. Flo Brasserie

Flo

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Beef Patty

Flo is Beijing’s oldest French restaurant and it is of no surprise to me that it is the longest surviving. Its set lunches are very reasonably priced, a deal that you cannot find in Singapore for this quality, 125 (S$25) RMB for 2 courses and 155 (S$31) RMB for 3 courses. The freshly baked mixed grain rolls were delicious and so was the rest of the food we ordered.

Crepe Suzette

Their menu offers Crepe Suzette for an extra $10, which my dad did not hesitate to order as its his favourite dessert. We got a flambé show and enjoyed the Grand Marnier soaked crepes. Yum!

18 Xiaoyun Rd, Chaoyang District
Beijing, China
+86 10 6595 5135

3. Duck de Chine

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duckdechine

Duck de Chine serves Peking duck in the modern way, with almost no fats under the skin. The pancake was a tad too thick for my liking but the sauce accompanying the duck was interesting, a mix of Hoison and Sesame sauce, if I’m not mistaken. Although this Peking duck was the most expensive one that I ate, it was also the best. The skin was crispy and the meat was flavourful, delicious enough to be eaten on its own or in a pancake. Other noteworthy dishes are the Wawa vegetable broth (simmered local cabbage) and the stir-fried lamb.

1949 Club
No.98 Jinbao Street, Dongcheng District
Beijing 100027, China (Tian’anmen / Wangfujing)

4. Lost Heaven

Jiaozi

I hope heaven has such delicious Yunnan food because I would die for their jiaozi, filled with pork and lemongrass, a unique combination that appeals to my Southeast Asian palette.

Mian Xian

Their mianxian (noodles) in soup was such a tasty dish that showed how sometimes, simplicity is simply the best. A must try is their grilled pork! Once dipped in their magical sauce, you’d feel in heaven.

No.23 Qian Men Dong Da Jie
Beijing, China

5. Haidilao

Haidilao

Haidilao is the most famous steamboat chain in Beijing, they even have a branch at Clarke Quay in Singapore. I went to the branch at Baijiazhuang and at 3pm, there were still people streaming in to eat this steamboat. There are 3 choices of soup, spicy and non-spicy. We chose the clear soup, called 三鲜汤 (san xian tang) and ordered a whole variety of meat and vegetables. I especially enjoyed the vegetables, prawn balls and beef slices. The beef was not very expensive and of good quality.

The best part of this local restaurant is their warm hospitality, very unusual of a restaurant in China. Trust me, most of the waiters and waitresses in China are grouchy. Haidilao has games and even nail painting services to keep customers busy while waiting for their seat.

Noodle dance

They also have noodle dances where a man dances around while stretching the noodles that you ordered. Eating here is full of fun!

Visit http://www.haidilao.com for locations of their branches

6. Central Perk Cafe

Central Perk

For everything that China imitates, this is the best replica ever. This cafe is modelled after the Central Perk Cafe in Friends. The furniture and the decor may not be the exact replica but they are similar enough to create that atmosphere which all fans of Friends always wanted to indulge in. The cafe even has a cat (because Rachel gave Gunther her cat in one episode)!

Central Perk

Central Perk

If you are a die hard fan of friends, spend your afternoon in this cafe watching reruns of Friends while sipping on a Cappuccino (they serve good coffee).

616, Bldg A, Chaowai SOHO | CBD, Chaoyang Distrtict
Beijing, China

7. Beijing International Youth Hostel Cafe

Beijing International Youth Hostel

Flowers

This cafe is easily the prettiest cafe I have ever been to in my entire life. That sounds like I am exaggerating but trust me, I am not. The doorway of the cafe is filled with pots of roses and hanging yellow flowers. The inside of the cafe is not lacking in flowers either, with a pot of flowers on each table. It’s a great place to chill and smell the flowers.

No.113-2 Nanluogu Alley, Dongcheng District
Beijing 100006, China (Tian’anmen / Wangfujing)

8. Rooftop drinking at Sanlitun

Nali Patio

Sanlitun is the hippest place in Beijing and you can’t get any hipper than drinking on a rooftop, perhaps Nali Patio?

Spain

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My family hates going on tours because it goes against everything a holiday should be. A holiday should be relaxing, full of good food and getting lost. Tours have the most hectic schedule, I remember sleeping at 12am and waking up at 2am in Cairo to catch a domestic flight when I went on an Egypt tour, and provide shitty chinese food when there’s amazing Italian food next door. After our bad experiences with tours, my family has sworn off tour groups and always goes free and easy on every single trip.

Free and easy in Spain was a bit of a challenge for us because my father had never driven on the right hand side before and we had to plan for all 15 days. So we took the easy way out. We copied the Chan Brother’s itinerary hahahahaha and tweaked it a bit.

Here’s how we traveled: Barcelona –> Alicante –> Granada –> Cordoba –> Sevilla –> Segovia –> Madrid –> Barcelona We drove in the end which was really fun because you get to see the different sides to Spain, like how some parts are near the ocean while other parts are dry and very Mediterranean like. A road trip is always fun. So here are the highlights of my trip and places you definitely should go to if you are visiting Spain!

Top 10 highlights

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia Exterior

Sagrada Familia Interior

1. Sagrada Familia {Barcelona}

Carrer de Mallorca, 401,
08013 Barcelona, Spain
+34 935 13 20 60
Nearest Metro: Sagrada Familia

When you visit Barcelona, you definitely have to visit this gothic church. When you see the construction scaffoldings, don’t freak out. The church is not undergoing renovations, it’s being built. This unfinished church was designed by Gaudi, an extremely talented Spanish architect, in the 1800s and everything is so intricately designed. If you think the exterior is stunning, wait till you see the interior.

Retiro Park

Retiro Park

2. Parks {Barcelona & Madrid}

Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona
Nearest Metro: Arc de Triomf

The Retiro Park in Madrid
Nearest Metro: Retiro

Maybe it’s because I come from Singapore where we do not have large parks to laze around in but I love European parks and always make it a point to visit them. They are fascinating, especially on Sundays when the locals gather for some fun under the sun.

Alhambra

Alhambra scenery

Alhambra

3. Alhambra {Granada}

Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n,
18009 Granada, Spain
+34 958 02 79 71

The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage site which has a limited number of tickets everyday, so it’s best if you could either reserve online or buy the tickets as early as possible. There’s a specific timing each person is allowed to enter the Nasrid Palaces so be sure to take note of yours. The grounds contain a mix of Muslim and Catholic influenced architecture, reflective of Spain’s past. All the intricate geometric designs representative of Muslim art and carved onto walls and ceilings were mind-blowing. The craftsmanship and splendour of the palaces kept me constantly intrigued the entire time I was there even though I was tired from all that walking.

Mezquita

Mezquita

Mezquita

Mezquita

Mezquita

4. Mezquita {Cordoba}

Calle del Cardenal Herrero, 1,
14003 Córdoba, Spain
+34 957 47 05 12
10:00 am – 6:00 pm

This is another place which captures Spain’s history. What is so special about this place is that a cathedral is built inside the mosque. Forgive me but it gets a tad boring seeing cathedral after cathedral so the Mezquita fascinated me.

5.  Attending mass in Sevilla Cathedral & Cordoba Cathedral

We didn’t have time to see both the Alhambra in Sevilla and the Cathedral so we did not have the chance to see the cathedral during normal opening hours. After dinner, we saw a bunch of people standing outside the cathedral holding candles and became curious of what they were doing. Turns out there was a mass for youth being held and haha we decided to join in the fun because we could also see the insides of the cathedral (for free). We sightsee in unconventional ways haha.

We were in Cordoba on a Sunday and being Roman Catholics, we can attend mass anywhere which meant that we could attend mass in the cathedral. The mass was held in a small chapel with only 10 people and we were the only tourists. You have to try attending mass in a foreign country because the feeling is totally different from mass here in Singapore, perhaps because of the murals. It really is an experience.

Aqueduct

6. Aqueduct {Segovia}
The massive scale and splendour of the aqueduct just blew my mind away. A Unesco World Heritage site, it is well preserved. It transports water from the mountains 17km away into the city and there are signs carved onto the ground for you to follow the route of the water.

7. Museo del Prado {Madrid}

Paseo del Prado, s/n,
28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 913 30 28 00
10:00 am – 8:00 pm

If you appreciate art, then Museo del Prada is your place. If you don’t appreciate art, you still have to visit the Museo del Prado simply because it boasts one of the finest collection of European art and is considered one of the greatest museums in the world. I spent hours wandering the galleries of del Prado and especially enjoyed the royal paintings of Velaquez; I can’t imagine the number of layers he painted for the skin to look so life-like.

8. Museu Picasso {Barcelona}

Carrer de Montcada, 15-23,
08003 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 56 30 00
10:00 am – 8:00 pm

I’m being biased because Picasso is one of my favourite artists. This small museum, located along the alleys, houses collections that provide great insight into the beginnings of Picasso as an artist. There were sketches and oil paintings Picasso did as a student and also clay work which we seldom associate Picasso to. The collections document the various phases Picasso went through, such as the Blue period where all his paintings were blue. A really fascinating museum for all Picasso lovers.

Casa Batllo

Mosaics

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9. Casa Batllo  {Barcelona}

Passeig de Gràcia, 43,
08007 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 16 03 06

It stands out from the regular buildings in Barcelona in a funky way. One of the most renowned masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi, it was designed to reflect nature, as seen from the roof arch resembling a dinosaur’s back. The audio guide was comprehensive and explained every feature of this unique piece of art.

10. La Ramblas {Barcelona}
Shopping!!! ZARA, Stradivarius, Bershka.  Need I say more?

Top 7 food highlights

Salad

Bamboo Clams

Grilled Cod

Collage

1. Tapas at Cerveceria Catalana {Barcelona}

Cerveceria Catalana
C/ Mallorca, 236,
08008 Barcelona, Spain

In my opinion, the best tapas in Barcelona. It was so good, we went there thrice. After trying other tapas restaurants along La Ramblas, we felt that Catalonia was the most value-for-money. This place is constantly crowded which means a high turnover rate and freshly prepared food. Most of the dishes were cooked on the spot and had just the right amount of seasoning, not too salty but not too bland. My favourite dishes were the grilled cod, the bamboo clams and the grilled cuttlefish. Just keep ordering their grilled seafood because it is reasonably priced and fresh. The cuttlefish was so tender and juicy.

Appetizers Main Course

2. La Catedral {Madrid}

Carrera de San Jerónimo, 16,
28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 915 23 35 56
http://www.la-catedral.es

Admittedly, the decor of this restaurant put my mother and I off. One look at the wooden furnishing and we branded this restaurant as ‘traditional’. That, to us, meant that it was probably a dirty place which should be shunned. But the menu drew us in. It charged 13 Euros for a 3 course set meal, inclusive of wine, a deal unheard of and the place was brimming with people (mostly locals), indicating its popularity. Each course was delicious and came in large portions, another plus point. Try their mixed fish platter and the seafood pasta! Also, choose their yogurt for dessert because it tasted so amazing that I wished they gave me a tub.

Yog & Bluffin
3.  Froyo {Alicante}

Yog & Bluffin
Calle San Ildefonso, 11
03001 Alicante, Spain
https://www.facebook.com/YogBluffin

This frozen yogurt may not be part of a chain but it has the right amount of creaminess and sourness that I love. It’s not icy at all. The best part is that it’s about S$2 for a small cup of yogurt, just enough for one person, with a free topping 🙂 How awesome is that!!! Cheap and good froyo makes me very happy.

Los Diamentes

4. Free tapas in Granada

Los Diamentes
Calle Navas, 26
Granada, Spain

Getting free tapas with drinks somehow only happens in Granada. You order a drink and you get a free plate of tapas. It’s that awesome. Los Diamentes is famous for its seafood and the place is always packed. Although you can’t choose what free tapas you get, everything’s probably delicious. It’s strange to be served red wine in a cup but fine dining isn’t what you’re looking for in Los Diamentes. It’s the experience that you’re going for when you come to this place- squeezing together with the locals just to drink and eat. Pray hard that you get the simmered clams in white wine, they were delicious.

Sardines

Grilled Squid

Grilled Sole

5. Seafood in Alicante

Miramar
Calle Juan Bautista Lafora, 9
03002 Alicante, Spain

The sardines here were so delicious that we ordered them twice. Spanish squid is amazingly tender when grilled. Top it up with that smoky smell, it’s one of the best and simplest seafood dish Spain offers. Once again, just keep ordering their seafood! If you want to enjoy the sea breeze and sunshine and people watch, you’ll love sitting outside.

Recommended Hotels 

1. Hotel Jazz {Barcelona}

Carrer de Pelai, 3,
08001 Barcelona, Spain
+34 935 52 96 96
http://www.hoteljazz.com/‎

It has a great location being situated in La Ramblas and being near the train station. The beds are comfortable and the rooms are clean. It’s a new modern hotel worth staying in for the few nights you spend in Barcelona.

2. Alhambra Palace {Granada}

Plaza Arquitecto García de Paredes, 1,
18009 Granada, Spain
+34 958 22 14 68
http://www.h-alhambrapalace.es

Alhambra Palace is within walking distance of the Alhambra, which is to your advantage if you would like to visit the Alhambra multiple times (day and night) or you would like to be early in the queue for tickets that are quickly snapped up, especially during Summer. The best part of staying in Alhambra Palace was definitely the view. It is situated on the hill and overlooks the entire town. It was really relaxing sitting at the cafe, waiting for the sun to set and for darkness to blanket the entire town.

3. AC Hotel Cordoba by Marriot {Cordoba}

Av de la Libertad, 24,
14006 Córdoba, Spain
+34 957 76 83 80
http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/odbco-ac-hotel-córdoba

I love how its just opposite the Jewish quarters which means free time is spent wandering around the Jewish quarters. Once past the Jewish quarters, you will arrive at the Cordoba Cathedral, another tourist attraction. The breakfast in Marriot was one of the best throughout my holiday, as expected of a 5 star hotel.

If you wish to maximise the money you paid for your airplane ticket, you could also travel to surrounding countries like Portugal and Morocco, a little something we learnt from other travellers. There’s still so much more to explore in Spain, especially Northern Spain. But I have enough of cathedrals for now (never enough of tapas though), so another holiday to Spain would probably happen later.

Singapore: Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network Cycling Trail (I)

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I just bought a new foldable bicycle, the Tern Link C7, and am on a quest to conquer all the Park Connectors in Singapore. There are only three, the Northern, Western and Eastern one but NParks is building more 🙂

For those who do not have their own bicycles, do not fret because there are 6 PCN Pit stops along the Eastern PCN that rent bicycles out. You can rent a bicycle from any pit stop and return the bicycle at another pit stop which means you do not have to back track.

I started at Pasir Ris Park because we (my friend Bridget and I) didn’t know that there were PCN Pit stops so we thought that Bridget had to rent her bicycle from the bicycle shop in Pasir Ris Park. From Pasir Ris Park, you have to cross the wooden bridge that leads to the mangroves. You can dismount and take a stroll through the mangrove boardwalk. There are clear signs indicating the direction of the park connector. You can either choose to head to Bedok Reservoir or Changi Beach. We headed to Changi Beach and it’s a 7km ride from Pasir Ris Park.

Changi Beach

Along the way, there are bumpy pavements that make your ass hurt but there are long stretches that are downhill which is just plain awesome. It takes about half an hour to cycle from Pasir Ris to Changi Beach and you will be rewarded with the sea breeze and shady coconut trees.

Coconut Trees

Japan: Kyoto & Nara

JR train

In January, I visited Kyoto & Nara with my friends, Sandra and Qy, as our post A levels trip. It’s the mandatory kind of overseas trip that you have to make with your friends before everyone parts ways and heads for university. We decided on Japan because it was not a usual destination (us being hipster haha) and we love Japanese food. Everyone thinks that Japan is an expensive destination but it really isn’t if you manage to find the cheapest flight and the cheapest accommodation.

We took Malaysian Airlines, which on hindsight wasn’t a very good decision, but it was the cheapest full service flight and only a hundred bucks more expensive than a budget airline flight. I dislike taking budget airlines because the price they state isn’t always the price you pay. I’ll still have to pay for the luggage and the airport taxes; all the miscellaneous fees makes me go mad. The Malaysian Airlines flight was one of the cheapest because it had to stopover at KL International Airport, which is a really basic airport. The only thing you can do there is eat and drink coffee but wasting 2 hours with my friends didn’t feel that long because of the company. If you’re wondering, we paid about $500 for our roundtrip air tickets.

Although we landed in Osaka, we decided to give sightseeing in Osaka a miss because it was just another city filled with shopping malls and shopping in Japan isn’t one of the most exciting things in the world. We headed straight for Kyoto, formerly the imperial capital, a city filled with cultural sights and good food (as with any part of Japan). We spent 4 days in Kyoto before heading out to a small town called Nara, famous for its deers, near Kyoto and spent 2 days there.

For all those planning to travel to this part of Japan, I’m sorry I can only advise you on these two towns but sometimes discovering things for yourself makes the trip more exciting as well 🙂

Here are the top five things you should do when in Kyoto:

Bamboo Forest

1. Arashiyama
It is really easy to take a train from JR Kyoto Station to Arashiyama so there’s no excuses for not doing so. Arashiyama is a small area that can be walked so take your time to spend a day here. We didn’t have a particularly good meal here since everything was pricey with it being a tourist attraction but the sights made up for it. The bamboo forest was breathtaking, the only thing missing was a cute fat panda bear. It’s not a very long stretch of bamboo but long enough to get the peaceful feeling of being amidst the green. We also visited a Unesco heritage site for a temple which was just like another Japanese temple, I’m sorry I can’t appreciate such cultural treasures. Arashiyama has a river in the middle where you can paddle boats or just sit at the bank to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We didn’t pay to enter the monkey forest since we have so many monkeys in Singapore and we can see them for free anyway, but we stopped in our tracks for a musical box shop, contemplating whether we should buy a pretty Japanese musical box back home. I mean it’ll be cool to have a Totoro spinning round while playing the Totoro theme song right?

Kamo River

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2. Cycling along Kamo River
Sandra and I rented bicycles from Kyoto Cycling Tour Project because they rent helmets too and we, being afraid of dying in a foreign land, had to find a shop which rented bicycles and helmets at the same time. In my opinion, renting the bicycles wasn’t too expensive, it was 1000yen for a day. Being amateur cyclists, we didn’t cycle to travel to places because we wanted to avoid cycling on the roads. Instead, we just wanted to cycle to enjoy the scenery so we chose to cycle along the Kamo River. Well, we had to cycle along the streets and try not to kill pedestrians along the way but cycling along the river was easy peasy. It’s a different way to see Kyoto and a calorie-burning way as well so that you can make way for more sushi to come.

Kinkakuji

3. Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
It’s just a really pretty temple, that’s all. When you go to Japan, you’ll have to visit one temple at least and the best temple to me would be the Kinkakuji. If you’re not a temple fanatic like me, just visit this temple and be on your way to your sushi restaurant.

Fushimi Inari

 

Fushimi Inari

4. Fushimi Inari Taisha
What makes this place unique is the thousands of red wooden shrines. The first time we saw it, we took photographs with it at any opportunity that we could but after that, it got very repetitive and we became quite bored. This place is situated on a hill which means a lot of walking. There also appears to be some mistake with their maps, we walked for quite a bit already but the map showed that we only walked a very short distance. When all of us saw the map, we were like WHAAAT and we gave up. We weren’t the only ones daunted by the map, a lot of other tourists turned back too.

Gion at night

5. Gion

Try spotting a real geisha. It’s easier if you walk the back alleys of Gion during dusk to see the geishas shuffling from one house to another. Don’t worry if you don’t manage to spot any geishas. There are plenty of matcha tea houses around for you to drown your sorrows in green tea.

Here are the top five food places you should try in Kyoto:

Kyoto station sushi

1. Kaiten Sushi in JR Kyoto Station

Apologies for the inability to find the name of the restaurant but it’s difficult to miss this place because it is packed no matter what time it is- morning, afternoon or night. This meant that we ate our sushi whenever we wanted to, for tea, dinner or supper 🙂 Furthermore, it’s in Kyoto Station which makes it convenient for you to eat it any time.

Kaiten Sushi

2. 130 Yen Kaiten sushi
Near JR Nijo station

I’m sorry that I do not have the exact address of the shop because it really isn’t a very famous touristy restaurant. QY was crazy over kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) and wanted to eat cheap and good sushi so we asked the waitress in this cafe near Nijo castle where we could find good kaiten sushi and she directed us to this place. It’s a place where locals frequent, we were the only tourists around and there’s a long queue to enter this huge restaurant. You have to get a queue number, sit and wait for your turn. For 130 Yen, which is about S$1 something, sushi can’t get any cheaper. The quality of the sashimi is really good, as with most places in Japan but one thing different about this restaurant is that it serves really delicious cooked sushi. The beef sushi with some special Japanese mayonnaise on top was perfect and so was the seared salmon belly sushi.

Tacos


Quesaedilla

3. Lajolla

http://www.lajollagrill.jp

536-8 Waraya-cho,kamigyo-ku,Kyoto,602-8144
075-821-4745

I know it’s very strange to eat Mexican food in Japan. To add to how strange we were, we actually reserved a seat at the restaurant before we even left for Kyoto haha. That’s what Singaporeans do when there is a lack of proper Mexica
n food here. This is a really small Mexican place that serves really good quesadillas (cheese cheese cheese!!!) although it is really difficult to find this place. If you don’t look carefully, you’ll just walk right pass this restaurant. It’s more ideal to find the place when it’s bright because I think you’ll get really scared walking down dark alleys trying to find this place.

Nishiki

4. Nishiki Market

Go ahead and try all the different Japanese food this market has to offer. Don’t bother paying 400 yen for that fishcake, I regretted paying so much for it. If you are an oyster lover, you have to visit the shop that sells oysters at the start of the Market. There will be this guy shucking and barbecuing oysters outside. At first glance, I thought no one visits the shop because there seemed to be no one from the outside but I was so wrong. To eat the oysters, you have to be seated in the restaurant inside, and the restaurant is packed full of people indulging in oysters. Try both the barbecued and fried oysters, you won’t regret it. I love the barbecued oysters more though because of the smoky smell and how the oyster is half-cooked. Another hit for me were the tofu doughnuts. The last time I went to Kyoto, there was a long queue for the doughnuts and I didn’t get to try it but this time, there was no queue at all, probably because it was winter and a weekday. The shop selling tofu doughnuts is quite conspicuous, probably around the middle of the Market. If you are still feeling hungry after your food adventures in the market, you can go try Ippudo ramen near the start of the Market. It’s a huge bowl of ramen but they serve the thin kind of ramen which didn’t satisfy me. I love my chewy thick ramen!

Parfait

5. Gion Kinana
570-119 Higashiyama-ku
Gion-machi Minami-gawa
Tel: +81 75 525 8300
Daily: 11am – 7pm
Nearest Station: Gion Shijo (Keihan Line)

I’m warning you first, this place is expensive for the budget traveller. You bust more than ten bucks on matcha parfaits but it’s worth it for the experience and the amazingly smooth ice cream. Their black sesame ice cream was the best I ever tasted. One thing to note is that each person has to order one dessert which means everyone’s wallets die together 🙂

Here is a list of my favourite food places in Nara:

Unagi Don

1. Edogawa, Naramachi 
43 Shimomikadocho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8365, Japan

The unagi rice is really so damn good. It’s pricey, I admit, but it was the one meal that we all decided to splurge simply because you don’t get fresh eel anywhere in Singapore. It was also quite an experience to sit on tatami mats and watch the waitresses turn large tables into smaller tables simply by moving the bamboo screen that separates one table from the next. There were many locals, a sign of good food, and the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations, another sign of good food, so be sure to go early because there is sure to be queue in the restaurant during meal times.

2. Mahoroba Daibutsu Puddinghonpo
Nabeyacho, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan

The pudding is to die for. I tried the original caramel flavoured one and only bought one small tub, a decision I deeply regret in hindsight )’: There was a huge bottle of pudding on sale, I guess it’s a family size for everyone to dig in and share or just the right size for a greedy pudding lover. Anyway, when the first spoonful of pudding slipped into my mouth and melted, I was in bliss. I was depressed that it was my last night in Nara which meant that I couldn’t go back to buy more pudding to eat. It was really that good. My friends tried the cheese flavoured one and said it was good. Yup, they have a whole range of quirky flavours you can try. I doubt you’ll ever get sick of that sick pudding.

 

Udon with Tempura

 

Tonkatsu

3. Kanoko
Tel: 0742-27-5036 / 1307-1 Takabatake-cho, Nara / Open: 11:00-15:00 (reservation only for dinner time) / Closed: Thurs.

I can’t stress how much you have to go eat at this place, it’s probably about S$13 for a set that consists of noodles, rice and tempura. They are good with their udon noodles, most people order it in a huge clay pot and you eat it with a huge spoon too. Also, you have to try the tonkatsu simply because the way they cook it is so fascinating. The fried tonkatsu comes in a cast iron kind of pot, you lift up the lid and pour the raw egg in, coating the pork with all that eggy goodness, place the lid back on and wait, rather impatiently, for that tonkatsu to be ready with his fellow eggsmen.

Tea

White Chocolate Cake

4. Patissier Karaku
http://p-karaku.sakura.ne.jp/about.html

Compared to Singapore cafe prices, this place is really reasonable for their cakes. Their cakes are priced at about $3 something Sing :O And the best part is if you sit there and eat their cakes, they serve you a free pot of tea (or two). Anything free for a Singaporean is a plus point. I tried their white chocolate cake (good) and the mont blanc (so-so). But if you’re looking for a tea time place to rest your feet after walking round the town, here’s the place to relax. There are only two tables but in the 3 hours that we were there, no one else sat down. Everyone else walked in to take away cakes. We were also the only tourists there, which made them quite fascinated with us I guess, so go enjoy this gem near the JR Nara Station!

Hostels we stayed in:

Piece Hostel

1. Piece Hostel
http://www.piecehostel.com
21-1 Higashikujo Higashisannocho, Minami Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 601-8004, Japan

All we could say for this hostel was “Spoil market.” For a private room for two, Sandra and I each paid about $40 per night which is competitively priced and so worth it because it is such a hip place to live in. Furthermore, this hostel just opened in April last year which means it is new and clean. I love the modern minimalistic concept that is welcoming and homey at the same time which is a balance really hard to strike in interior designing. I guess since we were the youngest lone travellers in the hostel, no one wanted to make friends with us except this 40 something year old lady with her two children. The hostel serves both Western and Asian travellers but on some days, we seem to be the only Asians and on some days, we blend into the Asian crowd. The hostel offers free movies which you can choose to watch while eating your supermarket dinner/supper. There is also free breakfast in the morning, the cheese buns are really good! Although toilets are shared, I never once had to wait to use the shower which surprised me. Also there are toilets on every level which makes you less nervous when you get ‘the feeling’ (of pooping). Don’t worry, the toilets are so clean, you’ll poop in peace. The location of this hostel is also superb, a 5 minutes walk away from the JR Kyoto Station. Although it’s difficult to find this place, you can always ask friendly Japanese people for directions. This man cycled all the way with us just to show us the hostel 🙂

2. Nara Guesthouse Komachi
41-2 Surugamachi, Nara, 630-8357, Japan
Tel: +81 742-87-0556

We took about an hour to find this place because the woman at the information counter gave us the wrong directions. Basically, google maps this place out before you go on your trip. This guesthouse is only a 5 minute walk from the JR Nara Station which made it an ideal choice for us because we had to leave at 6am to take a train to catch our flight home. The rooms are comfortable and clean, fulfilling the two most important criteria I have. There are bunk beds for 4 in a room and a double bed and tatami mat for 3 in a room. They have a PlayStation 3 in the common area and a TV where you can choose from a whole selection of movies. We watched The Matrix there. The receptionist was really helpful with all our questions and you have to take their map which states where all the good food is.