The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 27 March 2017

Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden

A couple of months ago, my cousin-in-law was in Hong Kong for an acting course. This was her second visit here, and she had already done all the touristy stuff on the first trip, so I suggested we go check out the Chi Lin Nunnery. I'd heard that it's a beautiful place, a tranquil sanctuary from the busy Hong Kong, and it's been on my list of places to visit in Hong Kong since forever. For some reason, I just don't feel like it's the kind of place to visit with kids, and I'm truly too busy on any given day to make the visit on my own, so I've never had the opportunity to visit the nunnery. It's truly quite a refreshing experience to go sight-seeing with a solo female as a solo female without kids. And more so when she is a professional photographer who used to do wedding photography as a job. Let's just say I'm not used to be the one in front of the camera, and it was actually rather enjoyable! She's got an eye for a beautiful shot, and it was great to have someone else also looking out for a good angle. The Nan Lian Garden adjacent to the nunnery was beautiful, and it was nice to escape from my busy reality for a short while.

A gold pagoda and a red bridge in Nan Lian Garden:

The pagoda and bridge stand out a lot with their vibrant colours:

With my pretty cousin-in-law:

The courtyard of Chi Lin Nunnery:

Juxtaposed against the city skyline:

Lotus flowers:

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Date night @ OZONE [Ritz-Carlton], Hong Kong

Hubby and I had a bit of a fun date night recently, at Ozone in the Ritz Carlton, which is literally next door to us, making it a lazy but fancy choice. We hadn't been out on a date night for a while, so we decided to splurge a little - staying out a little longer, spending a little more. Both of us noticed Skyline Cocktail on the drinks menu, and while hubby was interested in the mix - Zacapa 23 Years, Absinth, Imperial Oolong Syrup, Pink Grapefruit, Lime Juice, Dom Perignon Foam, Chocolate Stones and Apple Wood Smoke - I must admit that the first thing that stood out to me was the hefty price. Being a bar at the swanky Ritz, everything at Ozone is generally quite a lot more expensive, but the Ozone signature cocktail, the Skyline (HK$295!), has to be the most expensive I have ever seen. It was also prepared with a certain flair and finesse, no doubt mostly for the visual benefit of those who order it (watch this cocktail process video to get an idea of how it's made). After a brief discussion with hubby, we decided to give it a try, with no special occasion to celebrate other than the fact that we'd put the kids in bed and we were out without the kids at the highest bar in the world.

The smoker dome being lifted off:

I really liked the smokey flavour in the foam. An easy cocktail to drink:

Hubby's Choc Negroni (HK$188) was also delicious:

118th Floor
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
International Commerce Centre
1 Austin Road West
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Hong Kong
Tel. +85 2 2263 2263

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Fong Da Coffee, Taipei

I am not a coffee connoisseur, but I do appreciate a good brew. When I was planning for our girls-and-bubs' trip to Taipei last month, I turned to Eating Asia for ideas, as Robyn's recommendations for good eating experiences had proven to be excellent in both Hanoi and Kaohsiung. (She has recommendations for many other locations and countries on her blog, and I'm sure I'll be turning to her website time and time again when I need ideas for my future travel.) It was one of her articles on Wall Street Journal that pointed me to Fong Da Coffee, one of Taipei's original coffee shops that has been in operation since 1956. Fong Da retains much of its heritage, choosing to use vintage equipment to roast, grind and brew coffee. There are many varieties of coffee beans to choose from, and several ways to have your coffee. It's very popular, and the dining rooms both on the ground floor and upstairs were filled to the brim on the weekday afternoon we visited. It was hence not by our choice to order our coffees to go, but we weren't going to wait around for a table - not when we have two 1-year-olds in our midst. We still had to wait about 10 minutes for our coffees, and I used that time to admire the machines and buy the snacks at the front of the shop.

The queue (for takeaway and tables) was long:

I'm guessing this is a grinder (it was not in use when I was looking):

Roasting in a action:

Iced drip coffee, anyone? This apparatus makes four cups in six hours!

Enjoying our coffees with the snacks I bought from Fong Da - almond, peanut, sesame and mung bean flavours (in the background are two bottles of freshly-pressed sugar cane juice, bought at a street vendor on our way home, not at Fong Da):

Fong Da is worth a visit for coffee lovers in Taipei.

Fong Da Coffee 蜂大咖啡
No. 42 Chengdu Road
Wanhua District
Taipei City
Taiwan 108
Tel. +886 2 2371 9577

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Sunday brunch @ Cafe Deco [The ONE], Hong Kong

Our favourite restaurant at the Peak closed down after 22 years due to mall renovations last year. Café Deco reopened in Tsim Sha Tsui a few months later, and we tried out their Sunday brunch with my aunt-in-law and her hubby (who introduced us to the original Café Deco at the Peak 6 years ago). The Sunday brunch was more affordably priced than at the Peak, presumably because rent in Tsim Sha Tsui is relatively less prohibitive. For HK$398 per adult, we could enjoy the seafood buffet with freshly shucked oysters, live cooking stations for mussels and crêpes, and it includes a choice of a main course from a list of many, should the seafood buffet not satisfy. There's always room for dessert at buffet affairs, and the dessert selection was pretty good. Cafe Deco's Sunday Brunch is also a good family-friendly option, only HK$158 for kids 4-11 and free for under 4s. The only thing they could improve on is the coffee. I have to honestly say it was one of the worst coffees I've had served to me, and I hope that it has improved in the past couple of months since our visit. Everything else was faultless, like before the move. Service was impeccable. The food was delicious. And the restaurant boasts views of the Peak.

Chef doing his thing at the pancake station:

Galettes Bretonne (savoury buckwheat crepes) with gruyere, black truffle bechemel, cotto ham and onsen egg:

The Seafood Bar: sashimi, freshly shucked seasonal oyster, tiger prawns, blue mussels, salmon tartar, diver scallop, freshwater crayfish:

My first round was heavy on the seafood, featuring the Moules Mariniere which was freshly prepared at the seafood bar of Dutch black mussels cooked with butter, garlic, white wine and thyme. My favourite was of course the freshly shucked oysters:

In addition to gorging our faces out on the galettes and seafood, we ordered four main courses from the menu.

Tandoori Chicken with Naan Bread and Raita:

Pan-fried Red Mullet and Grilled Mussels on Olive Couscous:

Seafood Fried Rice with Shrimp, Asparagus and Scallops:

Grilled Beef Filet Mignon with Black Truffle Rosti Bites:

Dessert included tiramisu, raspberry trifle and doughnuts:

Lots of mini cakes and tarts and puddings:

Vanilla Crepes with berries:

The Sunday Brunch at Cafe Deco is pretty good value for the quality and range.

[Prices quoted above do not include the 10% service charge.]

Cafe Deco [The ONE]
20th Floor, The ONE
100 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Tel. +85 2 2849 5111