Tag Archive: Food Trip



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. 🙄

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. 😋

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. 👍


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 🥵 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 🕌🕍🏫, lunch, back to the hotel🏩 by 2-3pm to rest 💤, out again by 5pm to hunt for street art 🖼 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! 👣👣👣

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. 👍

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 “Dragonball” 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!


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!!!


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 😂 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.


My first encounter with a horse was a short ride around a park in our country’s summer capital. That horse was short, thin, and looked lazy and sad. Then I met Donnie, my friend’s retired racehorse which he used to breed more racehorses back in Dallas, Texas. I still remember how Donnie went galloping to meet us from the stable to the entrance of the stud farm. He reminded me of pet dogs eager to be cuddled by its masters. I was “properly introduced” to Donnie and my friend kept reminding him to be gentle as I mounted the retired racehorse. I was excited but a tad scared. But the experience changed my whole attitude towards these elegant animals.

📸 Megumi Takeda

📸 Megumi Takeda

Here in Ikoro Forest, we learned Camping 101. Oh ok, it’s really not hardcore camping. More like glamcamping 101. We met the friendliest horses and learned how to sap a maple tree for its syrup. The same syrup we used for the pancakes cooked in the open, crisp air of Hokkaido’s winter. A table of sliced fruits was set up, ready to be skewered with a twig to roast in an open fire, along with marshmallows. The coffee was boiling, and the big boys engaged in snowball games while the little boy built a snowman that’s really more like a bear. Still others tried chopping wood or carving little receptacles out of wood. All that in this winterland forest where temps rose just slightly higher than zero.

The time spent in Ikoro was just what we needed to “wind down” after all the adrenaline-pumping winter adventures we engaged in. The friendly horses 🐎 tempered our moods and the “back to basic” activities kept us amused in a low-key way. After all, it is not your everyday thing to go into a forest in the dead of winter. The staff we met here were so accommodating, eager to teach us basic camping skills without imposing. Chopping wood for the men; woodcarving and cooking for the ladies. The little boy can throw snowballs and sled!

Pancakes with Fruit Compote?

Families with small children should do this. We’re a mixed group of “milleniors” and enjoyed this camping experience. But I’m sure the youngest in our group had the best time. I loved the forest walk towards the horse farm. Such a delight to see horses eager to be pet. And those pancakes with fruits and marshmallows? Love it. This time being winter, we left just when the sun was prepping to set. The sun rays filtering through the bare forest trees should be any photography nut’s delight. I only have a phone cam but I’m quite happy for this memory keeper to remind me of this Hokkaido hangover. Truly, Hokkaido surprises all the time no matter how many visits you make.

And should you plan a trip here, try Hokkaido Treasure Island, Inc. We found this local operator and used them 3x — each time, our Travel Planner Megumi Takeda outdid herself. From 2 pax minimum to an entire squad. This is NOT a paid advert. Just a thumbs up from one satisfied customer. No, make that a bus-ful of happy customers! 😊

A Photography Nut’s Delight!


Italy. What better way to go on a food trip than visiting Italy’s gastronomic capital? Turned out Bologna also happens to be a good homebase for day trips to neighbouring cities and towns, each of which boasts of its own delicacy, art, history and culture. There were only 5 nights to spend in Italy but it was enough to do the day trips and meet up with the rest for scrumptious dinners. Here’s how we enjoyed our Bologna getaway – just click on the highlighted links.

Homebased in Bologna

Balsamico Di Modena

Prosciutto Di Parma

Ravenna of My Dreams

San Marino, World’s Oldest Republic

Ferrara, Not Ferrari

It was a wonderful time with these foodies and travel buddies. Some others headed for Florence and Rome, then back for the night in Bologna where dinners were planned out. So much laughter across the table too. And we sure had some very memorable meals.

And for food trips in and around Bologna, check this out:

Food Coma in Bologna

Ciao!


Left our Bologna hotel before 8am to catch our train to Modena. The half-hour journey was uneventful and we got off the Modena Station and walked towards the Centro Istorico. We did not join any tours as we’ve decided to wing it on our own. We couldn’t get over the cheap train fare of €3.85 as we journeyed to the city of Luciano Pavarotti and balsamico. We walked leisurely and deliberately, stopping at every interesting shop and historic building. And those were many stops … and tastings of Modena’s balsamico!

Palazzo Ducale was our first “tourist” stop. This former residence of the Este dukes of Modena from 1452 to 1849 now houses a portion of the Italian Military Academy. Next we went on our way to the Duomo e Torre Ghirlandina. The church was dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary and its former bishop Saint Geminianus. Declared a World Heritage Site, there were a lot of restoration/construction work inside the Duomo but the interiors won’t fail to impress you.

Nearby is the Mercato Albinelli. We lingered where we found all sorts of cheeses including the local “squacquerone”, a soft, creamy, spreadable cottage cheese from the area of Emilia Romagnia. Outside the mercato, we claimed a table to have our cafe espresso and cappuccino. It was cold but we “managed”, all the while checking the goings-on in the nearby flea market and the parked choo-choo train bearing small children.

Lunch was in Trattoria Aldina which is just a stone’s throw from the Mercato Albinelli. The place was packed with many locals eager to partake of the trattoria’s home-cooked favorites. We ordered the lasagne, tortellini in brodo, roast beef and meatballs with peas. Likewise, we ordered the house specialty egg dish served with truffle. (Yey!) Leaving room for dessert, we had no regrets. A word of unsolicited advice: go ahead and have your dolce. The zuppa inglese, in our book, was quite outstanding!

Trattoria Aldina’s Dolce