Tag Archive: Asia



The last week-long family trip (to Korea) was when I turned 6-Oh. Bali was next choice and should have been scheduled last year when I turned 65 but I was out of the country then ticking off a dream trip. So here we are — the entire caboodle minus 1 πŸ˜” — finally having our highs in BALI.

We touched down on an early morning flight to Denpasar and was promptly whisked away to Seminyak to spend the rest of the day there. Potato Head Beach Club was planned as an entire day’s destination and activity and on hindsight, that worked out really well. A friend has just been here and we thought the young members of the family would enjoy the vibe here. And so we started our holiday in a beach (Seminyak) and ended the holiday week in another beach (Nusa Dua). In between, we managed to develop temple fatigue πŸ˜‚πŸ™„πŸ€£

First Day in Seminyak

Taman Ayun and Ulun Danu

Selfie and Swing Shots in Bali

More Temples in Ubud

Kopi Luwak, anyone?

Marriott Vacation Club


In Bali, we stayed in Marriott’s Bali Nusa Dua Gardens. Nusa Dua is at the southern tip of Bali and its gated hotel and beach resorts form an enclave providing a more quiet, even more reserved resort vibe than its Legian and Seminyak cousins. Marriott Vacation Club opened this Nusa Dua Gardens only 3 years ago, and built it right alongside Courtyard by Marriott.

Our hotel room is on the ground floor and opens up to the lagoon pool and Lazy River area. Just a short walk from it is the Courtyard by Marriott where they have another poolside bar, a fitness Center and 5 dining venues. A hotel shuttle brings guests to the Nusa Dua Beach where Marriott has an exclusive space and to the shopping arcade for some retail therapy. The arcade has plenty of dining options too. But I like the beach vibe best. Lounge chairs, umbrella tents and white sands. My idea of a Bali holiday.

If you choose to linger in the beach, Marriott has set up a bar to make sunset watch truly fun for its guests. It’s so relaxing here. We felt pampered as the lounge chairs were comfortable and the staff so accommodating. But we headed back to the hotel after a couple of hours here. The landscaped lagoon pool and the Lazy River were just as inviting and we liked the idea of the poolside bar to enjoy our happy hours.

Marriott Vacation Club’s newest holiday resort in the Asia-Pacific is tops. May I just say that the morning we prepped to head for the beach, I had a minor mishap. I missed a step but held my balance, albeit awkwardly, and at the expense of putting my weight on my big toe to break the fall. The very gracious staff attended to me without delay — asking if I wanted to be brought to the clinic, giving me water, a pack of ice on my toe, and never leaving my side. Thank you May and Chandra, and a couple more whose names I can’t recall. Thank you, Marriott, for giving us another wonderful holiday.

For those interested in buying membership in Marriott Vacation Club (Asia-Pacific), let me know. And no, I’m NOT doing this advert because I’m on Marriott’s payroll. Just a satisfied member of Marriott Vacation Club here. Ta Ta!

Bali Shots!


When you travel with younger members of your family, you’re bound to be doing things you’d normally not do. Like these crazy snapshots on a “nest”, a heart-shaped or round “frame” on the edge, a “hanging bed” or a swing at the edge with the perfect ocean view! We’ve seen these photo opps all over Bali, and found many young people line up for the selfie-shots. What’s that term again? Instagrammable. Some risked their lives for that instagrammable shot. Oh yes! We instantly liked the round and heart-shaped frames as they seemed “safe”. At first, no one wanted to take a swing at the swing. I did. Hmm, why not? I calculated I can just sit there for the shot without really swinging. And voila! 😜 Everyone else in my caboodle followed suit after me and actually ended up doing more poses, more photos.

Look Grandma…. no hands!

Hanging around with apo.

By this time, temple fatigue was about to set in so it was a timely break. The panoramic view in this corner of Badung was quite refreshing and the “selfie pros” that comprise the staff were at one’s service to give you all the tips for a good “instagrammable shot”. Oh, this was insane. But lots of fun. Those frames and hanging swings, beds, nests and cocoons may look steady but we could actually feel it shake! While there was no need to really swing away, the prospect of falling off and sliding into that ravine still posed a bit of a scare.

That tattoo was their idea!

Posing for the camera.

Pardon me for this photo dump. We spent a good half hour here, maybe more, just to indulge ourselves. Many more came after us. Never thought this could be good business! For IDR 60,000, you get lotsa laughs doing all these selfie shots! Hooray for camwhores πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

My first shot. Look at that grip!

A hanging cocoon?

This is where it all happened. IDR 60,000 pp.


You can’t visit Bali without hitting the temples dotting the entire island. Balinese architecture is very distinct and it shows in its many temples. Whether on land, up in the hills or by the lake, these temples, big and small, adorn the entire island. While Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, the island of Bali is 90% Hindu.

On Day 2 in this island, we visited 2 temples: Ulun Danu Beratan and Taman Ayun. We timed our visit to Tanah Lot at sunset but we failed to consider Bali’s traffic jams. And what horrendous jam we were in — lasting nearly four hours! When we realized we’d miss sunset here, we scrapped Tanah Lot and headed straight back to our hotel in Nusa Dua. Nearly 9pm when we reached it. Maybe another day. Two temples today will do for my caboodle.

Ulun Danu Beratan is a Shaivite water temple on the shores of Lake Beratan. There was a good crowd when we visited, but we noticed they were mostly locals. You may say it’s their Sunday family day since the temple complex includes restaurants, and a garden park. I like this temple complex as it is well-maintained and any temple by the waters is a natural charmer. Being in the highlands via a zigzag road much like our local summer capital (Baguio City), the weather here is cool and breezy. And because it was far from the island capital, there were not as many tourists. Most visitors were locals. By late afternoon, it was foggy around the lake near the highlands of Bedugul mountains when we passed it a second time on our way back to the hotel. Foggy in Bali! And yes, did I say it was cooler too?

Pura Taman Ayun required us to wear those shiny green sarongs. Sun was shining brightly but temps were actually tolerable. We didn’t break a sweat even as we rounded up the temple complex. Because this temple is only 17 kms from Denpasar, it’s among first-of-mind temples to visit for tourists. Built in 1634, it claims to be the mother of all temples in Mengwi. With Chinese inspirations, this Balinese temple with its moss-lined walls and lily ponds is a Bali landmark that shares the same anniversary as another iconic Bali landmark, Uluwatu Temple. Across the temple complex is a Museum which features Balinese rituals and passages. If you don’t want to go too far from the capital and have limited time, this is a good temple choice. And without the traffic!


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!


Who goes to Penang and fails to visit the Blue Mansion owned by Cheong Fatt Tze and the Green Peranakan Mansion? We enjoyed our guided tours of these two mansions in Georgetown and appreciated how the Penang elite used to live in those days. The official name is Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, after the man who rose from rags to riches in this corner of the world. Tagged by NY Times as the “Rockefeller of the East”, Cheong was born to a poor family from Guangdong, China but his industry and business savvy earned him prominence, wealth and errrrr….8 wives. The house’s architecture is an impressive fusion of Oriental and European architecture, an impressive display of British and Chinese artisanship. Truly, a masterpiece deserving of the “Most Excellent Project” awarded by the UNESCO Heritage Conservation Awards in 2000. The owners of this late 19th century house certainly did not scrimp building it. Peranakan tiles alone are some of the best and loveliest, and it was crazy walking over these original tiles in the Mansion. No wonder the hit movie “Crazy Rich Asians” used this Mansion in that poignant mahjong scene. And crazy rich may well describe how this heritage house was built. And subsequently restored.

Regarded as one of 10 greatest mansions of the world, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has 38 rooms, 7 staircases, 5 courtyards and 220 beautiful windows. The lucky number 8 pervaded around this eclectic masterpiece — in the number of pillars, number of steps in a staircase, etc. As one very prominent migrant known for his philanthropy and business acumen, his charms and fortune extended to his many wives and children. The Mansion claimed “Feng Shui” perfection but such good aura and chi must have worked only while the old man was around. His trading empire expanded around Southeast Asia but he made Penang his base, and this house essentially his favorite 7th wife’s. Tan Tay Poh was 20 when a 70 year old Cheong took her as his 7th. Imagine that gap – 50 years! She bore him one son but she died early at age 42, leaving the house to a son who allegedly squandered away his inheritance. The Mansion suffered disrepair and was in fact heavily dilapidated, with as many as 34 illegal squatter families living in it. Then a group of conservators bought the Blue Mansion to make sure this heritage house is lovingly restored and preserved. Hallelujah!

Mercifully, the restoration followed best-practice standards for the benefit of both locals and tourists who can now be reminded of the flamboyant lifestyles of Penang’s old rich. The indigo blue facade and walls invite attention and it is truly very fortunate that the conservators who purchased this Mansion from the descendants of Cheong Fatt Tze in 1989 turned it into the heritage home and boutique hotel it is now. Its fine dining resto called “Indigo” holds promise judging by its opulent decor and elegant style. We noticed too that its serving staff seem to know every diner like they’re regulars. Looks very exclusive, if you ask me. I’d love to dine there, but not keen about booking a room in the 18-room boutique hotel even for a single night. I bet it’s haunted.

πŸ“Έ Weng S

On the other hand, the Peranakan Mansion is another Penang gem. Likewise owned by another Chinese tycoon by the name of Chung Keng Quee, this green Mansion showcases Penang’s Peranakan heritage. Penarakan is a culture unique to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Chinese migrants who settled in Southeast Asia and married locals gave birth to this new culture and heritage fondly called Baba Nyonya. Expressed in its architecture, cuisine and traditions, these Baba Nyonyas assumed an altogether unique culture. And you bet this green-hued residence and museum was also quite a popular and favorite movie set for international movies and TV shows like “The Little Nyonya” and “The Amazing Race”.

On display are paraphernalia and memorabilia of the Straits Chinese. Apparently, the Chinese penchant for anything gold, beady and ornate is adequately expressed in the costumes, ornamental decor, even Nyonya slippers to be found here. The hand-crafted jewelries and hand-embroidered wardrobe and footwear must have given rise to local businesses which flourished then. I am particularly impressed with one item where feathers from a kingfisher bird were actually used to adorn an outfit.

Not turquoise beads, but kingfisher feathers!

A trip to Penang should include visits to these 2 mansions. It’s very educational and both these Mansions tell an awesome story! The guide in the Blue Mansion did an impressive job. So did the guide (Ricky) in the Peranakan Museum except that he had a very heavy accent and we had to strain to listen to him. Just the same, we left learning so much more about the Baba Nyonya culture. Chinese migrants, Peranakan Chinese, Straits-Born Chinese. They’re called all these. Peranakan is a Malay word that translates to “local born” . It is not s separate race, but rather a sub-culture within the Chinese community. Peranakan cuisine blends Chinese cooking with Malay traditions. Think LAKSA. 😊


We seriously went in search of more street art. But the heat and humidity compelled us to do the hunt at night when the temps were more bearable. Changed into a loose-fitting housedress too for comfort and switched to more comfy, airier sandals for the hunt. After all, we needed to scour the streets of Lebuh Acheh, Armenian, Cannon, Ah Quee etc to find all these Zacharevich art and other murals by local artists. The first set of our finds is in my earlier post but these new street art finds demanded a separate blog. Much too fascinating to be dismissed.

Reaching Up. Cannon Street.

That Zacharevich painting of a boy in yellow shirt on a chair reaching up came with an actual wooden chair. Just like that of the “Old Motorcycle” and the “Kids on Bicycle”. Same with the “Brother and Sister On A Swing”. As in there was really another swing. I’m not sure what this contemporary art style is called, but I bet the Millenial Kids would love this art installations where the urban landscape and recycled objects are fused into an art form. Well, the senior adults enjoyed it too. Kind of frustrating though that the map to search for this urban street art isn’t exactly accurate, but we managed and just missed very few. We also found more — to include those not listed in the city map we had. Seems like many local artists were inspired to showcase their talents as well. Zacharevich or Zach as he is fondly called, may have led the way but he has obviously inspired many local artists. Very artsy! Zach may have been born in Lithuania but the Malays consider him as one of them, and even call him the “Malay Banksy”, whatever that means.

Boy On A Bike. Ah Quee Street.

There were a couple we failed to see while walking the streets but easily found while cruising the same streets on a cab. Where we failed was to look upwards for murals adorning walls that will likely fade over time. Many need a serious retouch. Of course we can only sigh in despair as we cruised past them, unable to take a decent shot. And the ones along some unlighted alleys required some persistence not to give up the search. Luckily, we were a group of 8 friends and enjoyed the search like we were on a treasure hunt. Not too many tourists we met that night, as most of them were already having cold beers inside bars.

Some of those not included in the list were quite outstanding. The city should revise that list to include them. There was no attribution so we don’t know who the local artists were. A pity. I like the concept behind that wall with cigarette stubs and a man with oxygen mask. We also liked the grandma vendor handing a bowl to a boy. Susu Soya? And of course, I couldn’t resist another shot with the “Kids on Bicycle”. Yes, this time in my house dress!

Little Children on a Bicycle, Armenian Street.

The mural “Children Playing Basketball” was in a dimly-lit alley that we nearly missed. It’s in terribly bad condition. I like the energy of this mural but the local government should do something to preserve many such murals that are nearly faded on walls that seem pockmarked.

Our map guide listed a few which locals claim have long been gone. Not sure why, but I suspect the wall on which it was painted may have been torn down or the paint may have completely faded. After all, it’s exposed to the elements and near the sea.

Some paintings obviously were done to promote a nearby shop or restaurant– but that doesn’t take away the thrill of finding them. You just have to give it to these local artists who found an expression of their art that now entertain and amuse visitors like us.

Little Boy With Pet Dinosaur. (Too faded) Ah Quee Street

Be it a wall, a gate, a door. All art. Street graffiti if you like. All for our amusement. By the time we were done, it was past 9pm. No wonder most other tourists were already inside the shops and bars. Way past our dinner time and only this Peranakan Restaurant reminded us we should nourish ourselves.

Before heading back to our hotel, we were convinced many more artists will find ways to express themselves around town. While Georgetown prides itself as a UNESCO Heritage Site, this contemporary art expression seems to complement the more traditional architecture and environ of this historical district.

Of them all, our favourite is this. A child in blue pajamas that we missed but won’t give up on. Found it the next morning, after instructing our cab driver to bring us there. Now, we can say we’re all done! 😊

Little Girl in Blue. Muntri Street.


In the tiny village of Tsurui, we took a break from our everyday sashimi, sushi, sukiyaki, yakitori meals and settled for some home cooked non-Japanese midday meal. Nestled on a small hill, the tiny cottage was big enough to accommodate us 20 pax, but likely not more. The atmosphere was more Provençal than Oriental, def more sophisticated than your normal bar chow. We liked the place even before we even began to savour those starters.

How about a pet goat as your welcome mascot? Very friendly, very fine, smooth fur. Almost like that of a Labrador, except that he tried to eat my scarf πŸ˜‚ The salad plate came with a quiche, some yam, mashed squash, homemade cheese, radish and the sweetest carrots! We ate every morsel. We tried nearly everything we found atop our table. Every dip, sauce, oils, dressing, every condiment. You’d feel cheated not to try. The bread was served freshly-baked. The pizza just off the oven. I was full even before the main pork dish was served.

Walked out of the cottage for fresh, nippy air and some banter before heading back inside. It was all snow outside the cottage where a small kiosk stands behind a tree where hangs a birdhouse. Little details that set the mood. It must be pretty in spring here. Back inside, we settled for the last chapter of our lunch. The cheese and honey were a dream. And I couldn’t ask for a cup of better coffee to pair with a slice of the finest cheesecake. Using only ingredients sourced locally like the shiawase milk from Hishinuma Farm and the Tsurui natural cheese, that cheesecake is truly unforgettable. Well, if I must break away from Hokkaido’s fine seafood meals, this meal makes it a perfect break.

Trivia: Shiawase means happy! 😊

Our Travel Planner here in Hokkaido certainly knows her craft. Near that point where the finest seafood meals may seem repetitive and a tad cloying, she introduces this surprise break. Home cooked and elegant without seeming formal and stiff. It’s like we were welcomed to a local’s home. A local whose French parent made sure she can whip up French dishes with a slight Japanese touch. And that extends to the home decor.


Just arrived for 2 nights in this lovely lantern town of Hoi An. An ancient trading port in Central Vietnam, it’s a melting pot of cultures expressed in its cuisine and architecture. Hue may have its temples, pagoda, royal tombs and Citadel but Hoi An is very quaint with its mustard-colored merchant houses, lazy canals and a Japanese covered bridge! Being Sunday, it looked like the entire population of 200,000 is out having a family day along with the many tourists agonizing where to dine in its many restaurants housed in old French-colonial buildings.

I’ve read about Hoi An being a lantern town, touristy and looking like a mini-Venice with wooden boats in lieu of gondolas. I was delighted to explore its narrow streets and alleys. My only regret is not using the free bicycles from our hotel to save me the 20 minute walk in this very humid evening. Still, it was a pleasant pedestrian tour of this heritage town. We reached the Japanese bridge just as the sun was setting and it sure was lovely.

Many Portuguese, Japanese, French, Chinese and other nationalities must have lived in this ancient trading port. Cooking classes housed in its many French colonial houses seem to be in vogue among the many tourists. Those round basket boats plying the waterways even add more charm to this heritage town that was mercifully spared from the ravages of war. Most hotels, even home stays, offer bikes to their guests. One can bike along quiet lanes or brave the old town’s streets dodging many tourists here and there, or be more adventurous hiring motorbikes and scooters to explore the fragrant rice paddies just outside town. Or perhaps do both. Our walking tour is set for tomorrow but we couldn’t wait. No brainer to explore on our own. One doesn’t waste time here, or you’d miss the charm of a village well-lighted with colourful lanterns or a canal where many boats take in tourists for a ride (literally and figuratively). You can even float lighted lanterns on the river and watch them glide under the bridge.

Though there are many dining options, I’ve heard many tourists asking for directions to Morning Glory restaurant. We found it very near the bridge and being rather early, found a table by the window. It was very hot and humid and most restaurants and shops were not air conditioned. Yet, many locals and tourists don’t seem to mind. Like an instant immersion into local life? The charm of this well-preserved town must have sent very positive vibes and they radiate in the way locals and guests behave even in very dry, humid conditions.

More to discover in our walking tour, I bet. Plus there are the beaches and rice and vegetable paddies to visit. Can’t wait to see where our lunch and dinner ingredients are sourced, or where we can dip our tired feet. Till the next blog, friends. 😘 Watch this page.