Tag Archive: Food Trip



Touted as the “Venice of Japan”, this canal cruise couldn’t have been more fun if not for our singing gondolier named Nakamura-San. He reminded me of Confucius, with his long face and beard. He sang for us nearly the whole time, and his repertoire included a lullaby for the baby in our group. From time to time, he’d shout “danger, danger” as we passed the low branches of trees or under the bridges while punting along the Yanagawa river. That was our cue to duck lest we hit our heads.

We took off on 2 boats. This is Boat #1
And this is Boat #2

Yanagawa is a castle town just an hour away from Fukuoka. The centuries-old narrow waterways used to be moats surrounding the castle that does not exist anymore. Designated as a National Site for Scenic Beauty, there are plans to even expand the grid of artificial moats for a longer, more leisurely punt ride Yanagawa is famous for. I kept thinking the boat ride must be more fun towards sundown or early evenings when the lights are reflected on the river waters. But I’m glad we did it just after lunch and before the temperature dropped further.

The town’s so small it’s such a pleasure to walk along the canal ways.
One of the Boat Stations

While the highlight is the boat ride, don’t skip walking around town and along the canals. Even at low temps, it’s such a delight just walking around. On food choices, this town has a good selection of seafood options. Clams, flatfish, crabs, shrimps, eels, oysters, etc. Don’t miss that too.

Seafood galore
Our Lunch

So there. If you’re in Fukuoka, make a day trip to Yanagawa if only for your seafood fix and try a punt ride along the former moats of a now non-existent castle. Sayonara!

Not sure about what this vendor is selling 🙄
Meet Nakamura-San, our Japanese gondolier.

My last trip with these travel buddies was in 2020, returning back home just a mere week before a lockdown was declared. The idea of traveling together again gave us a high and by the time we were ready to go, our number has grown to 23 adults, 4 teens and 2 babies. A whole bus of happy travelers. It didn’t matter much where we were headed but Japan has always been a good idea. Besides, our last trip to Fukuoka in 2017 had a different itinerary.

Our Growing “Family”

On this trip, the abuelas fussed over the bebes while the abuelos trained the teens how to drink smartly. Cocktail hours were longer and more adventurous as the group now includes an award-winning barista who concocted cocktail drinks for the senior, middle-aged and young adults. As always, we enjoyed the company, the private jokes, the food and the onsen. The autumn colors provide good visuals but then again, Japan is good no matter which season.

Da Boys
Da Gels

The temps are dropping so we made sure to wrap ourselves good. The ryokan we are staying in now has an outdoor onsen and we made good use of that before our omakase dinner. Post dinner cocktails followed before we called it a night. It’d be a long next day with a long drive towards Takachiho Gorge plus a visit to a shrine where Shinto was born. So there. With the drop in temperature, wish us luck.

Mifuyenama Rekuen Garden
Where are the kids?

This Fish Market smelt soooo good. I was adamant to put oysters on the bed of my tongue as soon as I landed in Sydney and those cravings just had to be satisfied. I didn’t expect there were so many oyster choices! Good thing our food guru friend’s instructions were simple enough. Get the smallest oysters. Have the Balmain Bugs cooked with Singapore Chili. Then throw in a piece of lobster, calamari, grilled salmon and octopus on skewers, and some sashimi and Kani salad to start with.

Frankly, I couldn’t tell rock oysters from Coffin Bay oysters (yeah, what a name for a bay that yields really good oysters). Nor whether they were sourced from Sydney or Merimbula. I can only tell the Pacific Oysters are the largest, yet nowhere as large as those served to us in San Francisco, California. Enjoyed these appetizers way too much, along with the freshest tuna, salmon, scallops and other fish sashimi. I could have stopped there and gone home real happy but those bugs are still a-cooking! And the salmon and octopus a-grilling!

Balmain Bugs in Singapore Chili
Grilled Salmon and Octopus with Lobster Mornay

Heaven landed in Nicholas Seafood Bar in Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont. Next to our table is a band of athletic men feasting on scampi and bottles of wine. They were happy to down their alcoholic delights and the scampi was just an excuse to keep their stomach linings warm and not empty. In fact, they hardly touched them as they got busy with their spirits. Not so with us 3 Oriental ladies who feasted on all these lovely seafood finds like there’s no tomorrow.

An hour and a half passed and we were bursting at the seams. Even before we capped our lunch with a cup of our favourite brew, I was already planning on setting this gastronomic treat as a Sydney tradition. Unforgettable. Each morsel a culinary delight. All that for 3 ladies with discerning tastes. Please don’t judge us 🙄


It started out as a heritage house tour and simple get-together of long time friends, then as bienvenida for visiting family members, and finally as a pseudo wedding reception for a young couple whose most significant ceremony we all missed because of the pandemic. There were 18 adults and 2 toddlers meeting for the first time who hardly warmed up and interacted with each other. Topics covered a broad range and the long table divided between the senior and younger members of the family. All’s well.

Palacio de Memoria

We nearly went overboard with the pseudo wedding reception. A bridal bouquet, a flower girl’s flower basket, the ring bearer’s pillow, the wedding cake. All in good fun. That happens when we all felt deprived missing a young couple’s wedding. The sprawling garden provided a beautiful backdrop for our group picture as well as bridal bouquet toss up between a spinster and a widow! The little girls from the past have all grown up, some with their adult children and toddlers. And the more senior members have done away with the dyes, proudly bearing their greying hair. The laughter across the long table sounded just as loud and crisp, the jokes nearly the same, and the banter seemingly endless but fun.

All In The Family
The Long Table

Here’s one unforgettable get together of family and friends. Never mind that the museum tour was cancelled and the bar housed inside one of the airplanes (spotted the 3 aircraft collections parked in the lawn) were closed. We enjoyed the antipasti and the main entrée as well as the refreshing beverages and vanilla-flavoured wedding cake. The pre-ordered al fresco lunch was seamlessly served and there was time enough to loiter around the gardens. For sure, I’d be back for the guided tour and the date at the bar. Por supuesto!

The Antipasti and the Wedding Cake
A Choice of Lamb, Beef, Salmon or Pasta

Palacio de Memoria is now an events and auction venue consisting of a historic mansion restored to its pre-war glory. Abandoned for 2 decades and now owned by the Lhuilliers to house their antique collections including the 3 aircraft, one of which has since been converted into a bar. One can just imagine how this heritage mansion cut a majestic vista right along the wide Roxas Boulevard just across the Manila Bay before parts of the Bay were reclaimed. I bet many parties were held in its sprawling lawn while the breeze gusts in from Manila Bay. At the time we visited, tents were being set up in the front lawn for what looked like a wedding event. I can also imagine what great parties one can host here to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or just about any momentous occasion. And there’s La Loggia Restaurant housed in a separate al fresco structure right beside the Mansion to provide the Italian food and refreshments. I heard one can even arrange picnics under one of the trees or just outside the airplanes with a picnic basket packed by La Loggia. Swell!


The last 2 years were marked by non-activity and a much-limited social life. My last trip was just a few weeks before the lockdown and meet-ups with family and friends were restricted to zoom meetings and Viber chats. Finally, this.

Boracay

Flying into this island south of Manila was a thrill by itself. After all, it’s been 2 years since my last flight. Travel today involved many health protocols, but seeing this slice of Shangrila is worth all the “trouble”. The hotel was fully booked and it’s good that people are spending their holidays and traveling again. Overcast skies and intermittent rain didn’t deflate our excitement. In the four days we were in the island, we had 2 days of sun. Not bad.

Sunset Watch

Unlike our previous trips, this one tops the list in the leisure and R&R department. Most activities centered around the beach and the hotel pool. We even managed to put to good use the excellent hotel facilities for kids such as the entertainment center, fish feeding ponds and playground. There were shuttles to take us to the more crowded and busier boat stations and Resto/shopping spots, but the hotel has been our little corner of paradise we truly enjoyed staying in. A perfect way to enjoy this break from our pandemic confinement.

Happy thoughts. Happy memories. May this pandemic finally blow over so we can spend more holidays under the sun with sand between our toes, sipping our piña coladas, mango daiquiris and margaritas or cold beers. As the wind slaps our salty faces and ruffles our sandy hair, we feel grateful to enjoy these slices of paradise. A real Shangrila.


The pandemic seriously restricted our social life and daily routines. Online shopping, dining in, Netflix-bingeing and virtual meet-ups have become the norm. But I’m happy to note that the art world is still very much vibrant and many artists — forced to stay home and finding more time to indulge in their art — have drawn inspiration from everyday life otherwise taken for granted.

While we stayed home much of the time, we haven’t given up on the stuff we enjoy doing. Thank God our neighbourhood is lined with deli shops, restos, bar joints, art galleries, furniture shops and not too far away, specialty home decor shops where one can spend entire afternoons. Our white walls are now adorned with newly-framed artworks which made trips to our favorite framer so very pleasurable. The art galleries are such a delight to visit and the adjacent coffee and snack bars provide interesting breaks. The alley we frequent even boast of resident cats who’ve since become attractions of the place. Now, here’s one area where feline and human creatures seem to live in true harmony amidst all the beautiful artworks. Swell.

Eating out is restricted to only a few establishments which we found to be safely observing health protocols. But eating in is no less satisfying. We even sourced some of our dinners from our favourite restos as food deliveries have become our new normal. One lovely discovery is the joy of enjoying good meals without worrying about finding a parking slot nor of having to drive home. The convenience beats worries of prepping for meals and washing the dishes. Over time, we’ve grown accustomed to serving the food in their delivered state” to do away with stuff filling our kitchen sink. No big deal, really.

While we have since started brewing our coffee and creating our cocktails at home, we didn’t miss out on sitting in outdoor cafes and bars if only to immerse ourselves in the ambiance of shooting the breeze, so to speak. Besides, it’s really nice to sit it out for some beverages after being on one’s feet in the many neighbouring art galleries. The pandemic may have reduced the visiting crowd but certainly not the interest and enthusiasm of the few who come. Online shopping for art may be the new norm but a serious collector would still want to view such creations up close and personal. There comes also this newfound respect for young artists as one observes how their art evolved through this rough period.


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!