Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Food: Melbourne Peking Duck @ Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar

In this town, there are restaurants that have such fanciful names, so much so that we can't tell what the places serves. On the other hand, there are places like Melbourne Peking Duck, which makes it very clear and obvious what customers are getting themselves into here. =D

We're told by the amiable owner that unbeknownst to many, the Peking Duck is a must-have in Melbourne - specifically at Old Kingdom, on Fitzroy St and or at another popular on in surburban Boxhill. We'd heard of the former during our uni days in Melbourne, but certainly couldn't afford splurging on something like Peking Duck on our student shoestring budgets. Thankfully, now someone has brought over a taste of Melbourne Peking Duck to Malaysia for us. You can also be assured that the taste is as authentic as can be, because the kitchen staff are trained by a Peking Duck master from Melbourne.

While it may be easy to spot the signboard, it may not be so simple to spot the entrance. That's because it's located on the first floor of shoplots along Jalan Telawi 3 in Bangsar, just a couple doors down from the PappaRich. Being on the first floor may bring cheaper rental, but it does have it's disadvantages, like the elderly having difficulty getting up the stairs. Perhaps once business starts flourishing, they could take up the ground floor as well?

When you reach the restaurant, expect to be greeted with a rather spacious setting. The furnishing is simple and modern and the touches of red keep it reminiscent of Chinese restaurants.

From the name of the establishment, it's obvious that the menu revolves around Peking Duck. Diners can choose from two Peking Duck Sets, which designed to use the entire duck. No wastage at all.

Set 1 (RM 78) consists of 16 pieces of Duck (the crispy skin and outer layer of flesh) served with pancake, scallion and cucumber, Fried Bean Sprouts with Shredded Duck Meat (the rest of the flesh), and a Duck Soup with Salted Vegetable & Tofu (boiled with the duck bones and any leftover meat).

Set 2 (RM 88) omits the bean sprouts, but insteads offers the Shredded Duck Meat with your choice of carb - fried rice, meehoon (vermicelli) or hor fun (flat rice noodles). We chose Set 2.

In the other local Chinese restaurants, it's common to only be served the skin with Peking Duck pancakes. We were told the difference with the Peking Duck from Melbourne is that chefs there slice a bit of meat together with the skin, compared with strictly just skin that we are more used to.

Waiters here are well trained in presenting the duck; each fowl is briskly sliced into 16 slices before your eyes (even Wendy's incessant photo-taking didn't throw him off one bit :p).

Of course, after his quick knifework, we were immediately served with the rest of the ingredients necessary for a tasty Peking Duck experience - pancake, scallions, cucumber, and sweet plum sauce. =D

If you've never had Peking Duck before, the way to eat it is pretty simple. First spread the sauce over the pancake, then put a slice of duck, a piece of cucumber and spring onion, and then roll it up and pop into mouth!

Purists would insist on a special technique (place the ingredients at a quarter-past-three position on your pancake - yeaaaah the picture above is totally wrong) but I say, don't be fooled by anyone trying to say there's a special way of doing this. It all tastes the just as good in the end!

We evaluate peking duck based on a few things, one of them being the texture of the pancake. The ones at Melbourne Peking Duck were very good, not overly eggy or dry; thin but holds everything inside together effortlessly. The sauce was also sweet, but not overpowering.

A closer look at the peking duck slices: crispy, shiny skin with a good bit of flesh beneath

Another dish, this one with a lower flesh:skin ratio

As for the bit of duck meat with the skin... well, we're both a bit divided on this. I'd still prefer it done the traditional way, but Wendy prefers it this way as it gives a meatier bite to the pancake. Serving aside, the peking duck really was good. The glistening skin was crispy and the layer of flesh, juicy. 

So while everyone is enjoying the Peking Duck pancakes, the rest of the meat is taken back to the kitchen for further use. They do leave the duck legs out though, which is we appreciated since the leg is usually enjoyed on its own. (As an only child, growing up it was a privilege to always get both duck legs whenever duck was on the table! =D) The duck legs here aren't as big or juicy as those commonly found in other roast duck restaurants though. In fact, we surprisingly even found it a bit tough in contrast to the flesh we tasted earlier.

Not long later, the Duck Soup with Salted Vegetable & Tofu will arrive. Sadly we found this a bit below par, as it tasted a tad MSG-ish to us, as compared to a more authentic duck broth. The whole thing was basically quite flat and we didn't really try to finish. For such a big bowl, it's definitely enough for at least 4 people.

As we had Set 2, we got the Shredded Duck Meat with Fried Rice. I was thinking of hor fun, but after their recommendation, we opted for fried rice instead. Our opinion on this also a bit is mixed; it was an good dish of fried rice, but we didn't feel like it was very special with duck meat. I still couldn't quite shake the feeling that the flavour of the duck might have been more prominent if fried with noodles. This was nice but not something we'd jump to recommend. Perhaps next time we'll really give the hor fun a go.

To round up dinner, we ordered a few other dishes from the side menu, just to have a bit of variety. These are the Marmite Pork Ribs (RM 18), one of the recommended items on the menu. Funny part was, the moment it reached the table our first question was "Where's the rib?". Turns out these were more like pork cutlets since there was a complete absence of any bone. This was nice and crispy, with the flesh rather succulent, but I thought I noted a strange aftertaste, maybe from the bed of cabbage it was on. Wendy liked it the way it was though.

The last dish we had - Kangkung fried with Sambal Belacan (RM15). The kangkung was present, but the unfortunately, the sambal never showed up. Not spicy enough for us, and we reckon not for a lot of you either.

If you're looking for a new and trendy place to take family, give this place a thought, especially if they like peking duck! We wouldn't quite vouch for their other side dishes though as even the owner himself noted that he would prefer if people just came to order the duck set, like how it happens in Melbourne.

We recommend the adeptly prepared Peking Duck here but as for the rest of the menu, well, we think it will get better thanks to the owner's passion and keen desire to improve (he noted down our feedback to relay to his chefs). Business is bustling so do try to reserve a duck if you're late or risk facing disappointment!

Melbourne Peking Duck | Facebook
No. 24-1, First Floor,
Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru,
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6 03 2202 1588
Opening Hours: Tues-Sun; 11am-3pm & 6pm-10pm. Closed on Mondays

Friday, March 22, 2013

Food: The Grind Burger Bar @ Section 17, Petaling Jaya

Food is like fashion. There's a cycle of trends, and a huge market following the trend! Since the 2nd half of 2012, we seem to have been on a wild burger trend, with a new and unique burger joint sprouting up every now and then over the Klang Valley (and even in Penang, we hear). Now we add one more to the list - The Grind Burger Bar at Section 17.

The Grind is not to be confused with The Daily Grind in Bangsar Village, as it has no relation whatsoever to that well-established burger joint. Vintage posters of burgers in various pose line the walls. We particularly like one that shows a traditional chinese lady holding a burger in one hand. It looks normal, yet inconceivable that she might have held a burger during those years... haha!

I also liked the warm lighting and the do-up of the place, though Wendy found the use of bricks throughout the place a tad excessive. Perhaps it saves on wallpaper cost? Either way, the vibe is relaxing and hip, attracting a mix of the after-office crowd and young uni students.

Obviously, the menu is mostly dedicated to burgers, but there are also some main courses - the likes of bangers & mash, hot dog, meatballs - for those who don't feel like a burger. For some nibbles, we had the Fried Onion Rings (RM 8). These turned out to be very well done, leaving us certainly satisfied! Each ring held just the right amounts of minced onion and crispy batter, not too oily.

But what really makes this special is the house sauce, a concoction that looks slightly yellower than mayonnaise, and contains something extra that we couldn't put our finger on. Unfortunately the wait staff couldn't tell us either. Whatever it is, dipping onion rings with that sauce turns it into one of those cannot-put-down snacks! =D

The JD Burger - porkified!

For almost all their burgers, there is a choice of pork patty or beef patty, an option which we appreciated. Burgers can be customized by adding on extra of whatever you fancy - more cheese, another patty, even a portabella - you name it.

We asked for a recommendation, and came away with  The JD Burger with pork patty (RM 18; RM 20 for beef), which apparently contains their secret Jack Daniel's sauce. When we heard that, we ordered it straight away! =D

Topless, unearthing a lovely coat of natural cheddar.
Unfortunately, I couldn't taste any bit of alcohol, while Wendy thought she caught a slight whiff of it at first bite, but I think that was just in her head!

Lack of JD aside, this was a good burger. The pork patty was sufficiently juicy and flavourful, and together with the crispy bacon, it was just perfect. This burger was still quite manageable to eat in whole mouthfuls, I would have liked to add in an extra patty or egg to improve this even morem but that's just me. =D

For a first visit, we naturally gravitated towards this namesake: The Grind House Burger with a beef patty (RM 21; RM 18 for pork), an impressive tower of patty, fried egg, bacon, caramelized onions and a list of greens. The menu also describes this as containing "dracula mayo", so don't be shocked when you see the ropes of pink goo spread all over the burger!

A closer look at that dracula mayo.

This burger is a far messier eat compared to The JD Burger. Each bite we took resulted in drippings of juice from the fresh greens, to the beef patty, the dracula mayo to the runny yolk - definitely not for dainty eaters! 

I liked the addition of the fried egg and the caramelized onions but on the downside, we found the beef patty lacking in flavour, as much as we wanted to like it. While the patty was large (a third of a pound, we're told) and made from only pure beef (no addition of breadcrumbs), it would have been a lot more satisfying with some extra seasoning. That night, we thought the pork patty was the clear winner. 

For drinks, The Grind has some unique names for common drinks. Perhaps keeping with the beef; White Cow for a Sprite float, Brown Cow for a Coke float, and Black Cow for a root beer float which I had. Sadly for RM 8, I didn't feel the floats were worth the money. Unlike other places like Betty's, The Grind doesn't give you the whole can/bottle of root beer or Coke, which I find a tad disappointing since I don't think a small glass like that holds an entire can of drink, especially with ice cream inside. 

Finally, I leave this picture till last, because this is what you will see at the end of your meal on the way to the  washbasin! A kitchen working hard at creating consistent works of burger-art. =D

All burgers come with a serving of fries and their special dip.

The Grind is the kind of place we really want to like. Open daily, no boisterous queues or long waits as yet, and parking at night is convenient for now, despite having neighbours I'm Spicy and Kanna Curry House along the same row of shoplots.

Bartop dining - casual night out

However, try as we might, comparisons are inevitable. For now, we can't bring ourselves to rate The Grind on par with MyBurgerLab though the fact that it has pork burgers will be a big plus for many. We'll still be back again though, to try some of their main courses and give their beef patty another go. More of their pork burgers, too!

The Grind Burger Bar | Facebook
No. 7, Jalan 17/45, Section 17,
Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Opening Hours: Daily, 10pm-3pm & 5pm-10pm

Monday, March 18, 2013

Travel: Our Top 10 Things to do in Krabi, Thailand

Krabi is one of the southernmost provinces on that little strip of land connecting Peninsular Malaysia and the mainland of Thailand. It is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destinations because of its close location to some lovely beaches and islands, relatively cheap and less commercialised than its popular cousin Phuket, and for us Malaysians, also close enough for a quick long weekend getaway.

Our other post on where we stayed in Krabi - Ao Nang Phu Petra Resort

We first got our first Krabi experience in 2010 (before we even started blogging!) and enjoyed our idyllic holiday so much that we planned another longer holiday there earlier last year in June. Here's a list of our top 10 things to do in Krabi compiled over our two visits. Enjoy!

1. Have some really awesome Thai grub

Spiciest tom yam we've ever tasted - Ruen Mai in Krabi Town

My favourite part about a holiday to Thailand has to be the food. Southern Thai cuisine, in particular, is known for having rather intense flavours. If it's spicy, it's really spicy. During our recent trip, we had some of the spiciest tom yam we've ever tasted! Besides that, Krabi's close proximity to the ocean also ensures that seafood is featured quite prominently on the menu.

Admittedly, we paid much more attention to the food ever since we started blogging. On our second trip to Krabi, Drops was already in full swing, so we didn't want to miss out on opportunities to try recommended Thai food :D

The lovely setting of Ruen Mai, a few mins drive away from Krabi Town night market

Green curry, full of meat and vegetables...and flavour!
Ruen Mai was one such place recommended by some bloggers, so we made it a point to seek it out during our trip there. The ambiance is nice, not unlike something like Subak in KL, but be prepared for the mozzies! Food-wise, some of the dishes are a real acquired taste, but others like the green curry are just like what we get at home, albeit with a lot fresher ingredients especially with the herbs, like basil leaves. 

Ruen Mai
No. 315/5, Maharaj Road,
Krabi Town 81000, 
Krabi, Thailand
Tel: +6675 63179


Streetside, there's also some really awesome food to be found from peddlers. Everything from pad thai stir-fried noodles and tom yum, to fried chicken can be found, to just name a few. One of my favourites was the pancake, with a texture very similar to our Malaysian roti canai with a wide variety of fillings and toppings. We chose the nutella and banana, and it was so so good!

2. Island hop... hop... hopping!

At the Ao Nang pier, you can buy tickets to any of the nearby islands - a common island hopping trip usually consists of the Phi Phi islands or the James Bond Island.

Adam had been before when he visited Phuket (the islands are also just as accessible from Phuket) and so we chose Railay (pronounced as rye-lee) Beach as our destination instead.

Railay Beach is quite a popular destination amongst sunbathers, so you may not get much privacy if that's what you're after. It's a nice long strip of beach though, flanked by some majestic limestone hills on either side.

Longtail boats docked on Railay Beach.

The longtail boats literally "hop" - the rides can get pretty bumpy and exhilirating (and wet!)

Longtail boats are available from the Ao Nang pier, and Railay Beach is about a 20 minute boat ride away. You'll be given your return tickets as well, so do hang on to them to take your longtail boat back to Ao Nang. It also helps to clarify with your boat driver to see if he will be the same one taking you home later in the day, if so, settle on a time for pick up and recognize his face and boat!

#throwback pic: Adam still had braces during our first trip in 2010 :D

Further up from the beach, there's also a small lane lined with souvenir shops and beach necessities. Also present are some (pricey) cafes for when you need to get out of the sun. Remember to lather up on sunscreen!

3. Hitch a ride on an elephant

During our first trip to Krabi, we took a day trip including items 3, 4, 5 & 6 below- quite a common combination looking at the various leaflets. Our first stop was riding elephants!

Our elephant guides were quite cheeky, leading our elephants through some swampy areas and through overgrown plants where the elephants stopped to feed, giving us a bumpy adventure that we remember till today. All part of the charm, we say.

After the ride, we also got the chance to buy some bananas to feed an adorable baby elephant. Definitely one of my favourite experiences in Krabi. :)

4. Climb up the Tiger Cave Temple (or not)

For animal-lovers, you'll be disappointed to know that there are no tigers here. Instead, some say this temple complex made out of a maze of caves, got its name from its rock outgrowth that resembles a giant tiger's clow. Others, on the other hand, believe that there once used to be tigers residing deep within these caves.

A pagoda within the grounds of the Tiger Cave Temple.

Folklore aside, this site some 5 km from Krabi Town, is a common stopover for many a Krabi day-tour. You'll see tourists with cameras milling amongst local Buddists who consider this a sacred site.

At the start of the climb!

However, to get to the main temple attraction and the beautiful view promised, you must first brave 1,272 steps.

We were convinced we would get to the top but we only made it as far as 275 steps before giving up but the steps were narrow and small, making it a very difficult climb, especially for those not fond of heights. :p

Still, those who have succeeded recommend it for the tranquility and amazing panoramic views at the peak. Attempt if you're in tiptop fitness. :p

5. Soak in the clear waters of the Emerald Pool

The Emerald Pool (Sra Morakot) is about an hour's drive away from Ao Nang and until today, remains one of Adam's and my favourite experiences to date.

There are two ways to get to the main Emerald Pool, a easier 1.4 km walk on a sandy trail or a more scenic 1.8 km route through the mangroves and forest. Our guide's choice was the easier walk - she didn't give us a choice! So, it wasn't us that was lazy ok.

After a short 15 minute walk, we reached the first stream that was a clear green in colour. We were already pretty amazed with the sight, wondering it was it. Our guide told us that we weren't, and told us to walk further in... and then we saw the Pool. It was absolutely gorgeous!

The water in the Emerald Pool has an enchanting blue-green hue to it, plus it's strikingly clear. It sounds like the stuff of fantasy movies, but we can tell you, it's right there in Krabi. According to our guide, the content of the bacteria and algae as well as the day's temperature makes a difference to the shade of the water.

The sides of the pool are really slippery because of algae and calcium carbonate deposit, so be careful...don't wanna have a premature end to your Krabi holiday! It can be a bit tricky getting out, but I see most of the guides hanging around with a ready arm to pull their tour groups out of the water, so you should be in good hands.

As beautiful as it is, the serenity can get a little compromised if there are lots of noisy visitors there as well.  We had a bunch of rowdy teenagers who kept on catapulting into the pool again and again - also a bit dangerous in my opinion, because the pool isn't that deep (I was still able to stand with my chin above water right in the middle of the pool).

There is no proper changing facility at the pool itself (though there is at the main entrance of the trail), so do come prepared with your swimwear under your clothes... and enjoy your afternoon basking in the lovely waters of the Emerald Pool!

6. Immerse yourself in hot springs

As part of our day tour, we stopped by at the hot springs after our visit to the Emerald Pool. The Hot Springs (Namtok Ron) aren't far off from the Emerald Pool, and before we knew it, we found ourselves at the bubbling springs, in the midst of dense forestry.

We'd never been to any natural hot springs before, so this was a genuinely interesting experience. Hot springs are rich with minerals and are supposed to bear healing qualities for skin-related ailments and other health issues like rheumatism. 

While we can't vouch for its magic, we can instead vouch for its heat. Only I went into the springs because Adam had suffered from a pretty bad sun burn the day before at Railay Beach. To my surprise, the gushing water at the top of the springs was extremely hot! Adam tried to at least dip his feet in (see above pic :p) but it got pretty uncomfortable after awhile. 

Enjoying my jacuzzi :p
Thankfully, the temperature drops to a more pleasant warmth the further you are from the source of the water. What was interesting was that the hot springs had formed terrace-like "steps", and in each step was some natural jacuzzi-like enclaves. You could just find your own "tub" and just enjoy the warm soak, while the hot water gushes against your back. It doesn't get anymore natural than this! Thankfully the surrounding stone is also very smooth, no jagged or rough edges that you need to watch out for.

Pic credit to:
The water gushes down past the natural enclaves to lead to a river below, where some like to also dip in but I would recommend staying near the top, as the water is far cleaner. Remember not to stay longer than the advised time of 20 minutes (or even earlier if you feel dizzy)!

7. Cook some tom yum!

On our first trip, I spotted cooking classes but we didn't have enough time to go for one. For our second trip, I made sure to do my research and book us a class before we went... so Adam had to endure a cooking experience that didn't include maggi mee and deep frying nuggets. :p

I made bookings on their website about a week before we went to Krabi, and the response was quick and satisfactory. I had chosen a morning Smart Short Class for THB 1,200 per person (approximately RM 120/US$ 40) that ran from 9am-1pm. A pickup truck comes in the morning to get you from the doorstep of your hotel and sends you back after the class.

Clockwise from left - Our choices for the class, fresh greens & herbs, our tom yum simmering on the stove

Our young instructor, Bunny, was extremely efficient and perky, sharing funny anecdotes while guiding us through the chopping and frying of each dish with ease and experience. We got to select an appetizer, salad, soup, curry (including the actual pounding of the paste), a stir-fry like pad thai or chicken with cashews, curry, and dessert off their classroom menu.

Clockwise from left - Getting ready to pound some green curry paste, adding few spoons of this, and a few of that; and voila! green curry in progress

Be sure to skip breakfast if you took the morning session like we did, because you'll get to select 5 dishes to learn and cook...and eat. We had a great morning of fun, and were completely and utterly stuffed by the time class was over. I think we just became beached whales for the rest of the day...

What I really liked is that they provide you with an entire recipe book, even including those items you didn't  choose from their menu. Have yet to practice the recipes since we got home though... soon, soon!

Yes, we made all that, and more!

Smart Cook Thai Cookery School | Site
No. 32/1, Moo 5 T. Aonang Muang,
Krabi, 81000 Thailand
Tel & Fax: +66 (0) 75661147
Mobile : +66 (0) 861863468
E-mail : [email protected]

8. Massage your weary feet and back

The two main streets of Ao Nang are dotted with massage parlours offering various types of massages. After a long day on your feet, an hour-long foot reflexology massage is just about the best thing to do. If you like a full body massage and have a high tolerance for pain & twisting, you could go for a Thai massage instead.

At the time of our last trip (June 2012), an hour-long massage session averaged about THB 200 (RM 20 / USD 6-7).

On our recent trip though, we stumbled across Let's Sea: Let's Relax. Rates are just a little higher (starting from THB 250 / RM 25 / USD 8) but the ambience is a lot better compared to the other massage parlours.

Where the massage happens. It's usually a lot dimmer and zen-like, but I asked them to turn the lights up so I could take a pic.
The setting is calming and comfy, with soothing music playing in the background. I thought the massage was pretty good, with just enough pressure for me, especially on my back.

If you're like me, who likes having cheery nails on holiday, you'll be pleased to know that they also do manicures and pedicures using Skin Food polish.

Let's Sea: Let's Relax is located opposited McDonald's. Look for the stone grey entrance, and take the stairs down.

Let's Sea: Let's Relax | Site
Opposite McDonald's in Ao Nang
No. 86/2 Moo2, Ao Nang Muang,
Krabi, 81000 Thailand
Tel: +66(0) 81-8239123, +66(0) 89-9225513
Opening Hours: Daily, 10am-10pm

9. See, smell, taste at the night market

Most tourists will commonly stay in Ao Nang, rarely venturing out other than island hopping. The (real) Krabi Town actually lies some 30 minutes away, and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, comes alive with the night market.

Like all other night markets, peddlers can be found flouting their goods for sale; from clothes to art to beadwork jewellery.

Clockwise from top left - traditional Thai dance by children, a bouncy castle to tire the kids out and the dining area

A topless man acting as a status, allowing everyone to paint over him.

There's also an entire area filled to the brim with food (no prizes for guessing where we spent the most time) with a space filled with tables and chairs. That weekend, there was a stage and a bouncy castle set up while we were there - you'll be entertained with performances while you buy your food from nearby stalls.

Clockwise from top left - skewer of your choice, fried noodles & rice, grilling meat to perfection

Clockwise from top left - fried quail's eggs, salted crusted grilled fish, coconut ice cream, deep fried chicken skin (!!)

Our favourite part was looking at all the various street food being prepared. Favourites were the grilled meat (so well marinated with a lovely smoky flavour from the grill) and the coconut ice cream (with bits of coconut flesh and served in a husk - so refreshing!) :D

10. Rent a motorbike

Traffic is quite relaxed in Ao Nang and most of Krabi, and a favourite mode of transportation for many tourists is the locals' choice as well: a motorbike! 

Bikes are available for rent along the main streets of Ao Nang, generally going for about THB 150-250  (RM 15-25/USD 5-8) per day, depending on the type of bike, its size and cc, et cetera. You'll usually have to leave your passport with the shop but you can also try to negotiate for just a cash deposit.

You can also try getting your hotel to arrange the rental for you: when we told our receptionist at Ao Nang Phu Petra that we were thinking of renting one, she offered to call one straight to the doorstep of the hotel.

The guy then proceed to give Adam some lessons as well... though it didn't quite go as planned for us, (I think we may have died at the rate Adam was learning so we decided to cancel the rental instead - we did give the teacher some good laughs in the process though) we've seen many tourists zipping around Krabi in great fun on bikes! 

Outside of the top 10: The above list don't float your fancy? There's really more to Krabi that we haven't explored yet. We hear rock climbing is pretty good there and we've also seen many day tours offer other more extreme activities like trekking through Krabi's national parks and water rafting. There is also a Factory Outlet on the way to the airport. Ask your hotel for more recommendations or drop by one of the many tour agencies dotting the main streets of Ao Nang.

Here's to a great holiday and many memorable moments exploring Krabi, from the both of us! :)

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