Category: Food Trip



This family trip was just an idea a few months back. Frustrated with a domestic trip to Boracay or Siargao, we finally found a date to travel together. Semestral break and vacation leaves filed, we were off to the Indonesian island of Bali! Same beach holiday, plus throw in some art and culture. My second time and a first for everyone else. Our lodgings are in the more quiet part of the island — Nusa Dua — but I planned on at least a whole day here in the more hip, more vibrant Seminyak.

Entrance to the Potato Head Beach Club

Potato Beach Club

Potato Beach Club

Todo Gayak Sa Seminyak! (Loosely translated: All geared up for Seminyak!) Both Seminyak and Nusa Dua are resort towns in this Indonesian island province. Nusa Dua (where I stayed the last time) is nearly at the southern tip facing Bandung Strait while Seminyak is on the island’s west facing the Indian Ocean. Both boast of high-end hotels, cafes and bars. Where Seminyak will “dictate” your holiday pace, Nusa Dua lets you have it on your own pace. More tourists and expats find Seminyak more vibrant, while Nusa Dua’s gated resorts promise a lot more quiet and exclusivity. You can bet the golfers are in Nusa Dua as the only golf course in the island is here. But the party people? They’re in Seminyak. Not wanting to miss this vibe, the young adults in our family just have to be here! And true enough, they were not disappointed.

Kaum Restaurant is on the 2nd floor with a perfect ocean view.

Sundown Cocktails

And so, here we are landing in Denpasar International Airport one early morning with a full sunny day ahead of us. What to do? To start the day, we had a forgettable breakfast in The Haven. Bleh. Big mistake. Wasted money on a mediocre buffet. After brekkie, some explored the shops while a couple of us found a spa. Now, you can’t go wrong on that. Next, we trooped to Potato Beach Club for beer and sundown cocktails. The calamari and nachos complete the scene. So did the many day beds and poolside lounge chairs facing the ocean. C’est la vie! We have dinner reservations at Kaum Restaurant in Potato Beach Club but that will have to wait till sunset at 6pm. Meanwhile, the beach beckons. My sleep-deprived family hits the beach like there’s no tomorrow. Happy here, even just having a drip and people-watching.

The pool by the shore.

Pre-dinner aperitif

As for dinner, we got that one right. KAUM Restaurant offered good Indonesian dinner and a great sunset view. Just that I need to go easy on spices lest my hyperacidity acts up again. Indonesian dinner through and through but spices on the side please. The Gado Gado, Nasi Goreng, Sate Babi and Sate Ayam, the Grilled Prawns with special sauce (2 orders of those prawns please!). There’s the fresh tuna marinated in lime and other spices (ooops….), plus the shrimp dumplings. You bet the sun set without much fanfare as we wolfed down every yummy morsel. Oink Oink. πŸ–πŸ–πŸ–

Seminyak Sunset

Dinner at Kaum Restaurant

By the time we were done with dinner, we were eager to go back to our hotel and take a dip in the pool. Alas! The pool water’s cold! You’d have thought it’s warm being summer, but Bali enjoys very pleasant temps — warm during the day but not sweltering hot, and cool, breezy evenings. And cold water in your pool πŸ§œπŸ»β€β™€οΈ

Pool in Potato Beach Club After Sundown

Our own pool in the Villa.

I’ve always been in awe of the grandeur and expanse of the Roman Empire. At its peak, it ruled over much of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. An empire that stretched from Great Britain to the Middle East. There may have been bigger, longer-lasting empires but in my book, the Roman Empire’s mark in our history, art and culture strikes a special element of sentimentality and psyche. Think gladiators in those Roman Colosseos! (And the hedonists in the Roman Baths too) Years ago, I thought there was only one — that grand colosseum in Rome, Italy. Until I found similar, though lesser-sized amphitheaters in Verona (Italy), in Arles (France), in Pompeii (Italy), the Roman Theatre in Pamukkale (Turkey), in Nimes (France), in Ephesus (Turkey), Caesaria (Israel), and surprisingly, a well-preserved Greco-Roman amphitheater in Aphrodisias, Turkey. So very, very impressive. Oh, Caesar!

Pula Arena or Amphitheater

World’s 6th Largest Amphitheater

The amphitheater in Pula is one of the oldest and best-preserved. Pula credits this Roman heritage for putting this Croatian city on the tourist map. It is said that as many as 25,000 spectators can be seated here back in its prime. For what? Gladiator combats of course — that most cruel ancient game. Built around the same time (1st century AD) as that in Nimes, both can house the same capacity crowd which is really just half of the capacity of Roman Colosseo. Nevertheless, the Pula Colosseum remains very impressive. Still used these days as a default place for concerts and other festivities, it is also the city’s best attraction and activity place. The Old Town is right behind it, and promises more attractions.

Visible is the Church of St. Anthony past the Arena

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Pula Cathedral

The Roman amphitheater is right along the coast, where seafood restaurants, souvenir shops and a busy marina are. We took a long table with a view of the marina in a seafood trattoria before we did any sightseeing. Need all that energy as the midday sun was bearing down on us and sapping us of our last bars of energy. The squids were very fresh, and the beers paired well with the steaks. Except that one of the steaks was well-done versus how we ordered it — medium rare. Hmmmm, still a good source of the protein we needed on that hot, sunny day. And for good measure (and to up our supply of potassium), we had our fill of Swiss Chard. Without risking being branded as pesky tourists, we politely complained over our steak doneness only after we paid the bill and got ready to leave. Bravo to patient diners!

Order your seafood!

Lunch done, we took the road to the Town Square in search of the Temple of Augustus Caesar, the 1st Emperor of the Roman Empire. Likely it was built during his lifetime, when Pula was still known by its Roman name: Pola. It is only a reconstruction of the original since the Roman monument was bombed and destroyed during WW2. Now a museum, some ancient Roman sculptures are housed inside. Right beside the Roman Temple is the City Hall housed in a 13th century former palace with both Gothic and also Renaissance features. Both are within the same Forum Square or Forum Romano, making up the “Little Rome” in Croatia. Tracing our way back to the Amphitheater, we stopped for some gelatos and took a break in front of the Pula Cathedral which also faces the Marina. The Cathedral’s early 18th century belfry is unique, and distinct in that it was built from blocks removed from the famous Pula Arena. Who’s to say why they did that? Perhaps they found it more meaningful to build a Cathedral using antique pieces from that part of the city’s Roman history.

Temple of Augustus Caesar

Pula City Hall

Rounding up the entire Colosseo, we chanced upon the Church of Saint Anthony from where there is a vantage point of this Roman antiquity. Pula is fortunate to house the world’s 6th largest surviving colosseum. It is now used for open-air concerts, ballet, sports events, opera and the film festival especially during the summer months. As it was summer, the mood was festive around the Arena. The wharf looked busy with yachts and small boats, the Arena was surrounded by vendors selling ceramic souvenirs, and the seafront restaurants and those around the town square were doing brisk business. We liked the vibe here. But it was our hottest day on this trip. After rounding up the Colosseo, we were eager to go back to our air conditioned vans to escape the summer heat. No amount of gelato would convince me to walk further in search of the Twin Gates, Hercules Gate and some other Roman monuments and ruins. The Arena, The Temple, Cathedral, Forum Square and City Hall Palace meet our day’s quota of history lessons. Enough already. πŸ™„

St. Anthony Church

Inside St. Anthony Church


Just like Groznjan, Motovun is another medieval village in the heart-shaped Istrian Peninsula where locals are largely part Italian and part Croatian. The character of the village is no less different, considering that it’s only a half hour drive apart. But where Groznjan is into arts and music, Motovun is into films. In fact, they hold Film Festivals here where international films from all over the world are screened. Also, there’s a more pronounced Tuscan fortified town feel in Motovun perhaps because of its medieval walls, tunnels and well-preserved 13th century bell tower from where one glimpses a panoramic view of the verdant valleys below. At the same time, the town also reminds me of Le Baux De Provence in France. But comparisons aside, Motovun is truly a charming village to visit.

Because it rises high above the Motovun Forest, the village is also popular for Istria’s famous truffles. Both the white and black varieties of this fungus abound in this dark, damp forest. Some of the visitors here actually go on truffle hunting adventures with certified truffle hunters along with their canine assistants. Here in Istria, I have so much respect for their pride in having their own truffles, Motovun wine and Istrian prosciutto. Having said that, you’d think it’s a no-brainer to choose Motovun as our lunch place. Well, our local driver actually recommended we lunch here and we stumbled upon this place visited by much-admired Anthony Bourdain called Konoba Mondo. There was a photo of dear, departed Tony with 2 of the trattoria’s waiters (or is one the owner?) and a New York Times article proclaiming it as the best little bistro in town. There was indoor seating and an outdoor terrace. Menu expectedly listed truffle dishes. At our table, we each ordered a dish of truffle pasta (no sharing!) but we shared a bowl of salad. The servings were generous, with many slices of the coveted truffles. πŸ˜‹

Lunch done, cravings satisfied. We got ready to walk slightly uphill tracing the city walls and through 2 short tunnels towards the church. Passing more outdoor cafes along the walls, I imagined many happy sundown cocktails here, while enjoying the amazing view of the terrain. Most diners were locals and there was hardly any crowd in Motovun. I hear ding-ding-ding for another medieval village worth visiting. I won’t suggest staying the night here though, as there seemed to be a lack of lively town square vibe here. Well, perhaps it has an appeal to the artists, the writers, who need their “space” and find it here in this ancient hilltop village. Me? I’m happy with my truffle pasta lunch. πŸ‘


Back in 1986, I visited a couple of fishing villages near Amsterdam. I thought then how sooo Dutch these fishing villages were. Cheese, herring, clogs, and more cheese. It was an unforgettable experience especially for someone traveling solo. No digital camera. No credit card. No ATM or debit card. And just one jacket. I came to Holland for the tulips and windmills. I found them but my fondest memories were those spent in Volendam and Marken, eating herring and cheese. 😜

Fishing Villages Near Amsterdam

Heaven!

I tried to relive that 1986 episode by revisiting these 2 villages. Those cheese wheels still leave me salivating and I was in heaven tasting all kinds of Dutch cheeses in this shop where the staff offers cubes and cubes and slices of aged cheese. By the time I was lined up to pay for my purchases, I’ve had a good sampling of them cheeses. Dipped in mustard, honey or herbed oil, this tasting left us buying more. Someone is happy πŸ’•

Volendam Cheese Shop

Fishing Village of Volendam

There is also the excitement over the prospect of an herring lunch in Volendam. Kibbeling fish and chips plus a bottle of the local beer completes the deal. My love affair with pickled herring began in 1986 and still burns strong this 2019. I craved for it daily since this day trip to Volendam. I heard that snacking on one herring sandwich a day won’t hurt and is actually good for one’s health. Naaaah…… I made that up. πŸ˜‚

(But we need our omega -3, right?)

Herring and Robust Beer for Lunch

A Cheese Shop in Volendam

Marken is just a 30-minute ferry ride away from Volendam. Separated from the mainland after a storm in the 13th century, then reconnected in 1957, it managed to preserve its many local traditions. Like Volendam, seafood delicacies abound and you’re never short on choices. A clog making workshop still exists and draws in many tourists. It’s not a chore to circle the “island” if one has the time. The stilt houses may look more modern than traditional now, but I still find these colourful wooden houses quite charming. Lovely day trip and it’s so near from the capital!

Fishing Villages Near Amsterdam

Fishing Villages Near Amsterdam

Touchdown, London


It has been a while since I visited London. Back in 2000, there was a teenage goddaughter and her family whom we visited. Soon after, I was back on a business trip in 2003. My goddaughter is a full-grown adult now, ready to march down the aisle to meet the man of her dreams. How time flies!

I arrived to the same London I remember, except only that there’s the “Harry Potter” phenomenon and London Eye attraction adding to those sites from Canterbury Tales, palaces, and Westminster icons. We arrived nearly midnight in Central London. Still sleep-deprived, we managed a very productive first day outing the next morn. The usual drill: Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Borough Market, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, British Museum, Tower of London, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and London Bridge. Oh ok, add Dragon Alley and Bridget Jones apartment to that.

It is a pity that Big Ben and parts of Westminster Abbey and Cathedral are up for major restoration work. No photo op with all those scaffoldings. The Nelson’s Column still stands dead Center of the Trafalgar Square. It was teeming with tourists the time we visited. And you’d find them again at the British Museum amidst the Nereid Monument, Elgin Marbles and around the Rosetta Stone.

London’s and Westminster’s major attractions maybe all must-see’s but we enjoyed Borough’s Market best. It was a very late lunch here after a 3 hour walking tour and we weren’t just bushed when we got here. We were hungry! Hard to resist those empanadas and Argentinian steaks in a bun! Walking around the market, we likewise didn’t miss the Scotch eggs, asparagus and doughnuts!

By the time we were back at the hotel, we were very tired. All of 18,000 steps in a day. Skipping dinner, I called it a night early. Phew!

PorteΓ±a at Borough Market


Kuala Lumpur was like a stopover and pit stop on the way to and out of Penang. But we made good visiting some sites in KL and checking out a couple of recommended restos by a local. And Penang may be warmer πŸ₯΅ but certainly more interesting! We had a leisurely holiday but managed to cover as much ground as we could.

Stopover in Kuala Lumpur

First Day in Penang

Street Art in Georgetown

The Heritage Mansions of Penang

Going (Eating) Peranakan

City Hall of Penang

How we managed despite the high temps and humidity? A good, leisurely breakfast at the hotel, out by 10am to hit the Museums/Mansions/Temples πŸ•ŒπŸ•πŸ«, lunch, back to the hotel🏩 by 2-3pm to rest πŸ’€, out again by 5pm to hunt for street art πŸ–Ό and check out the jetties ⛡️, dinner then back to hotel 🏨 . For an even better appreciation and comfortable travel though, go during cooler months. December and January should be good months to visit. And soon! Many street art installations are in serious need of repair and restoration. Enjoy! πŸ‘£πŸ‘£πŸ‘£

Passed by Batu Caves As We Exited KL

Passed by Kek Lok Si Temple On Way Out of Penang

Going Peranakan


We’ve had our taste of Peranakan in Singapore, Malacca, Indonesia, and even some parts of Thailand. Peranakan is derived from the word “anak” meaning child or descendant. And they are — from Chinese immigrants who settled in these parts of Southeast Asia. Today, we see the Peranakan heritage in architectural styles and cuisine. Descendants of Chinese immigrants fully assimilated in Malay traditions and subsequently exposed to European influences when the British ruled the land. The 2-storey colonial-era buildings stand side by side with Chinese tea houses and shops, amidst a more modern skyline dotted with Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu temples, Anglican and Catholic Churches, some 19th century mansions, forts and high-rise condominiums. A perfect blend of Oriental and Western tastes.

We’ve visited houses here and found the Peranakan style and architecture very apt for the Malaysian high temps and very humid weather. The courtyards provide natural lighting, breeze and the space to “cool down” in this state just above the Equator. Louvered shutters, stained glass and stencilled window panes, gargoyles, heavy wooden doors make you pause to imagine how they were in the olden days. The spice and flower gardens, if any, provide the aroma as wind blows in. It’s both comforting and nerve-soothing despite the high temps. A second floor foyer provides ventilation on humid days and once more, I like the concept of looking down through the cast iron railings to the courtyard to see who’s coming for dinner. 😜 But what I’d really love to see is how the courtyard transforms into a pool as it collects rainwater on rainy days. Must be really cool to experience that while tea is brewing and some Nyonya cookies and biscuits are warming. πŸ‘

And speaking of Peranakan’s Tambun biscuits, we’ve tried some and loved the variety available. some sweet, some savoury. So with their cuisine — a harmony of Chinese and Malay culinary traditions. Some sour, others salty, or spicy or really sweet. Baba Nyonya cuisine as it is fondly called draw direct references to Baba (an honorific title applied to males) and Nyonya (as applied to females). In those days, the Nyonyas spent a lot of time at home, mostly doing embroidery or in the kitchen where they obviously whipped up “magic” integrating Malay and Chinese cooking. These Nyonya dishes acquired an altogether different cuisine quite distinct from that of plain Chinese or simple Malaysian. From Laksa to Nasi Lemak to Itik Tim to Nyonya Fish Head Curry to Kari Kapitan to Babi Pongteh, prepare those taste buds for an explosion of flavors.

Fish Head Curry

Babi Pongteh cooked in Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar)

Soft -Shell Crab Fried in Salted Egg

Many directed us to the hawker markets near the jetties, or in Gurney Drive or the more central market near Sunway Hotel for our coveted seafood dishes. There were also suggestions to stay around Love Lane but when we checked, there were mostly bars and a vibrant nightlife rather than the serious eating we were planning on. 😜 In the hawker markets, we found many choices but were discouraged by the crowd, chaos and the heat! And so we went in search of more quiet roadside eateries and found one. Not exactly that quiet as it opens up to the hawker market but the young chef-proprietor by the name of Vincent welcomed us in and promised to cook anything we fancy. His wife was there to assist but Vincent ruled the kitchen. And how we enjoyed our dinner! Vincent even allowed me to buy my new fav Chendol and some flaky tambun biscuits to bring in to eat. The following night in Penang, we got even luckier. We decided to hunt for street art by sundown as it was cooler and chanced upon The Nyonya Legend House. We were the last customers allowed in and we had a wonderful, authentic Nyonya dinner. A dinner that we couldn’t even finish as the servings were very generous!

Vincent’s Dinner

Tambun or β€œDragonball” biscuits

The Nyonya Legend House In Lebuh Chulia

All told, we have fond memories of Penang. We like what we found, enjoyed what we saw, and savoured what we ate. The heat is a damper but over time, one gets used to it. In my case, Chendol and Ais Kacang were my friends. I had them every time I sensed a full migraine coming. It doesn’t choose a time of day, and I swear I can eat these flavoured ice shavings with fruits and other stuff anytime and anywhere. My only regret is I failed to try as many Nyonyan desserts as my stomach could hold! As for my travel companions, they were over the moon with their durian finds!


Sweating it out here in KL after an early 7:30am flight from Manila. It’s been a long Monday, a quick city tour in the afternoon and a good Malaysian welcome dinner. We saw what we planned to visit, mostly around the Independence Square. And thank God we hired a van to drive us around the square. The Mosque, the Museum, the government offices are all around the Merdeka Square but walking in this hot, humid weather does not make walking around a pleasant activity. Besides, we’re only spending a day and a night here in KL. Tomorrow, we’re moving to Penang after a quick visit to Batu Caves.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

It’s been years since I was here but I still remember how humid it was getting around. I skipped the Chinatown tour while my friends had their durian fix. But they bought jackfruit slices for me. Yum. After mandatory visits to the attractions around Merdeka Square and the Menara KL Tower, all I could think of is a long shower and a good dinner.

Jamek Mosque

And Madam Kwan’s didn’t disappoint. Nasi Lemak, Nasi Bojari, Nasi Goreng, Mixed Satay, chao kuey teow (noodle dish)and a fish head curry dish. It was also convenient that it’s housed in a Mall just right beside Petronas Towers. We initially planned on a nightcap at the Banyan Tree for a sip and a good view of the Towers at night, but it’s been a long day and that dinner at Madam Kwan’s made us all lazy and feeling lethargic.

And so, Monday ended with that dinner to prep for the next morning’s visit to Batu Caves and finally to spend more time in Penang. Funny, but by the time we reached Penang we all felt like we’ve been here a week. Perhaps it’s the long hours together doing all the touristy stuff as well as the endless chatter that made us feel like we’ve been together far longer. Not that we’re complaining. We shared many jokes and laughed and ate heartily. Well, we’re on holiday! Watch for updates in the coming days.


This is one trip packed with so much adventure. Judging by the itinerary, our giddiness was rightly justified. There was an element of fear especially for some adventures unfamiliar to us. Like winter sports. Like water sports. Make that ICE water sports. But here we are, still grinning from ear to ear, happy that we survived this trip without mishaps and with so many happy memories. This is our story.

Ready to Rumble

Drift Ice Walking

Wildlife-Watching Cruise

Snow Walking & Frozen Waterfalls

Speeding Over Frozen Lake Akan

The Red-Crowned Cranes of Kushiro

Camping 101 in Ikoro Forest

Food Trip in Tsurui

Jingisukan in Sapporo Beer Garden

And should you need a local tour operator for your Hokkaido trips, here’s one we’ve tried 3x and highly recommend. This coming from a satisfied customer.

Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel Inc

Travel Planner: Megumi Takeda

http://www.hokkaido-sightseeing.com/en

mailto:info@hokkaido-treasure.com

Hokkaido is ❀️

Excitement Overload!

Megumi and Nobu – our Hokkaido gems!


Care for unlimitted lamb and unlimited beer? There are other jingisukan in Sapporo but what’s unlimited lamb without unlimited freshly-brewed Sapporo draft beer? Six types of draft beer at that! Housed right inside the red brick building with a towering chimney that was built in 1890 as a sugar factory before it became a malting plant (until 1963), it has since operated as the Sapporo Beer Garden. Dining here combines history, tradition and mugs and jugs and steins of good Sapporo beer.

Late February and the place still looks Christmas-y complete with a lighted pine tree. By itself, the red brick building is a tourist attraction. Genghis Khan (or jingisukan) is what they call that famed Hokkaido dish of lamb grilled on a dome-shaped metal skillet that drains off excess fat down to the side. A cube of fat is provided to grease the grill that somehow resembles the helmet of Mongolian warriors back when the preferred meat was lamb or mutton. The story goes that these warriors used to cook their meats using their helmets. The special sauce here has traces of apple and lemon, and goes perfectly well with the tender meat and an assortment of veggies.

I’m not a big fan of lamb and one jug of beer is all I can handle. But our boys were all happy diners. In fact, very serious diners. After all, the “unli” feature holds for only 100 minutes , so they were quick to grill their meats and just as quick to down their golden liquids. Yeah, stuff them good. Mow them down. Drink away! Cheers. Enjoy! 🍺🍺🍺

P.S. When they hand you a plastic bag, it’s a cue for you to take off your jackets, coats, gloves, mufflers, etc to stuff inside including your bag. Hopefully, the smell of grilled meat won’t reach them 😜

Happy Diners!!!