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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Friday, November 22, 2013

Travel: Hanoi Day #5 - Ha Long Bay Cruise Day 3 (Leaving Nam Cat Island and back to the Imperial Cruise!)

Remember how in our earlier post we mentioned that the beach was no fun at all because the tide had receded? Well, the next morning it was gorgeous!

The waves were crashing onto shore and there were a few people swimming, but we didn't have enough time for that because we needed to make it for breakfast and rush back to catch the next Imperial Cruise back to Ha Long. It really was a pretty sight though! :)

If you were one of those lucky enough to get a chalet further out, you would have woken up right in the middle of the water.

Lovely shades in the sky

Took a last walk around the island "bungalows" while it was still early and peaceful.


Breakfast was a simple affair at Nam Cat Island, just lots of toast, fried eggs and bananas.

If only we had more time here to kayak!

Leaving... on a crickety pier

As we mentioned in our previous post, the Imperial Cruise we selected had options for either 2D1N (1 night onboard the cruise) or 3D2N (1 night on the cruise and 1 night on Nam Cat island which we chose). Those that chose 3D2N switched boats to be brought to Nam Cat, while the remaining 2D1N guests on board headed back to Ha Long.

The next day, we were brought back to the boat, joining another group of 2D1N guests onboard heading back to Ha Long.

Back on board, we quickly got down to business with a quick Vietnamese spring roll demo!

The filling, consisting of glass noodles and an assortment of carrots, cabbage & mushrooms amongst others, had already been prepared so they just walked us through the recipe... it really was more for us to have a bit of fun rolling the spring rolls up!

Obviously, we had to encourage the guys to give it a go! 

Never before (and probably never again) have we seen Adam Zhen Han rolling up spring rolls. :D

All wrapped up in rice paper

Beware... you never know what's lurking in the shadows :P

After that, we had to give them a bit of time to deep-fry all our spring rolls of various lengths and thickness so we headed up to the top deck for one final time to enjoy the beauty surrounding us. Nothing really beats the wind whipping through your hair and seeing all the majestic rock formations go by.

Classic photo of ZH's disgusted face when Adam puts on my sunnies LOL

Soon after that, we wistfully bid the top deck goodbye as we were called down to the dining hall. There was a quick thank you/farewell speech from our guide before lunch was served.

First, the spring rolls! Vietnamese spring rolls (or nem, as they call them) quickly became my favourite during our Hanoi trip actually, I think it's something about the crisp, crackly rice paper wrappings!

Credit to the Imperial Cruise cooks have to be given, we didn't have one unsatisfying meal on board - every meal was delicious. :) You'll be surprised to find out that chunky fries (top left pic) are a staple part of their menu... could it be the French influence in Vietnam? Lol.

Grilled pork skewers for our last lunch there!

Reluctantly, we left our boat and began the long bumpy bus ride back to Hanoi. I think the journey back felt much longer than the journey there - simply because the excitement was gone.

When we reached Hanoi, it was already getting dark and the rush hour madness was just beginning. We got dropped to the doorstep of our hotel and got freshened up for our next agenda of the night... Adam's birthday dinner. Unbeknownst to him, we had a nice place we were headed to for the night, but that's a story for another post! :D

For our other Hanoi posts, check out the links below:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Food: Bad Boy Cooks @ Oasis Square, Ara Damansara

Oasis Square is shaping up to be another hidden gem in terms of food. It took awhile to get ourselves over there too, and our first target was actually gonna be brunch at Mr. & Ms., but with queues there very obviously long from the outside, we detoured over to Bad Boy Cooks instead!

There's a real relaxed diner-esque atmosphere at Bad Boy Cooks. We like how there's plenty of glass to let the sun in, giving off a nice bright and cheery mood. It's the perfect sort of place for a Sunday hangout with the gang. And yes, we did see groups of students (who always know the latest places to visit!) and families coming here for brunch or late lunch. =)

The menu is quite standard, with the usual array of chicken, hot dogs, burgers, and pasta on demand. What really surprised us though were the prices. These days it's hard to find any new place that will let us have a decent meal for under 20 bucks. Even if you could, you'd probably be restricted to the salads and soups. But at BBC, 20 bucks surprisingly buys quite a lot of choices, and with some change to spare! =D

Meet the Super BB (RM 18) - a bun filled with cheese, grilled onions, chicken sausage beef bacon, onion rings, with a tomato-based Pomodoro sauce. I think we may have added on a fried egg for RM 1.

Digging in deeper...
We have to admit it sounded better on the menu than it actually tasted. The sausage was small and run-of-the-mill, while the bun was rather dry and the combination felt a bit dull, like the items were all just thrown together.

What impressed us instead was the Mad Nemo (RM 9), half the price of the Super BB above, but double in terms of taste. 

The Mad Nemo comes with the same uninspiring bun, but with three chunks of fish fillet.

The fish was very good, to our surprise. Deep-fried to perfection yet fresh and flaky within, it was also topped with a fiery mayo sauce that complemented it very well. I'm dying to just have the Fish & Chips the next time. 

Also fresh out of the fryer was the Fried Chicken (RM 10), a bread-crumbed golden brown chicken breast fillet. Something that was very simple, but executed well. The fries served with all three dishes were also very enjoyable, fluffy yet crisp.

Most if not all of the main courses can be upgraded to a set meal with just RM 1 for a drink - you can choose from either a Green Tea, Lime Juice or Lime Tea. Pretty good deal if you ask me.

When I see the name Bad Boy Cooks, I imagined food that was sinful, naughty, dangerous... And although food here is simple, I'd say Bad Boy Cooks lives up to its name for its fried food. The wait staff can be quite brusque and portions are small, but food-wise, it's admittedly a pleasant change from the complicated flavours we're so used to having these days... sometimes you just want to bring things down a couple of notches. (My wallet agrees too.) I wouldn't say you have to travel long & far just to give this a try, but worthwhile if you're in the area.

Bad Boy Cooks | Site
Lot R-07, Central Plaza,
No 2, Jalan PJU 1A/7A,
Oasis Square, Oasis Damansara,
47301 Petaling Jaya
Tel: +6 03 7832 3969
Opening Hours: Daily; 11am-11pm

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Travel: Hanoi Day #4 - Ha Long Bay Cruise Day 2 (Cycling & trekking on Cat Ba Island, staying at Nam Cat Island)

Note: Hi everyone! It's been a really long hiatus from blogging for us because things just got really crazy at work, and then we also just took an awesome 10 day holiday to Taiwan! But before we can talk more about it, let's try to finish up some of our Hanoi backlog :p
A serene Ha Long Bay before everyone else wakes up

We continue the 2nd day of our Ha Long Bay cruise at the crack of dawn. Or at least Wendy and Mel did. In an effort to catch the morning sunrise, they woke up nice and early and prepped themselves for the rising of the sun. 


Unfortunately it turned out into a bit of a disappointment because the skies were overcast that morning, so there was not going to be a spectacular photo op for a sunrise! *insert Wendy's disappointed face here*

I was not around during those earlier pictures, because I was still sleeping nicely. I emerged somewhere around this time, when it was later and the skies were brighter! I admit, just having a good view of all the boats moored around in the still of the morning is a real treat. It makes everything seem at peace. =) 

Sails! Almost all boats now have no sails, and are painted white, following directives from the government

But soon enough it was morning, and the world started waking up. Sounds of motorboats and generators come roaring to life, with the splashes and waves of the smaller fishing boats going by.

Small boat, vast ocean

And let's not forget the "floating mini-markets", who sell all kinds of things that someone on a boat could possibly need! Although this was taken in the morning before breakfast, I remember some came up to the boats at night too, and they will use long poles to pass goods and money over to passengers. It's weird because they can see into the rooms, so if you're the self-conscious type, don't sit around in your room half naked expecting lots of privacy. =P

This shot taken by Wendy, sitting at the window of her room. Below is the Moleskine Travel journal, which I generously bequeathed to her. =D

After the spreads for lunch & dinner the day before, breakfast was an exercise in self-control. Though wonderful to have sausages and eggs and bread in the middle of Ha Long Bay on a cruise, the rationing of one sausage and one egg per person wasn't quite nearly enough to satisfy our big appetites! Oh did I mention the sausages were tiny? The bananas were at least 3x the size! =D

Group shot!

Soon the boat was on its way again, off to our next destination, Cat Ba Island!

But before that, our cruise included a quick stopover at a pearl farm. Being the poor, stingy Asians that we are, we stayed on the boat because we were too lazy to walk around knowing we wouldn't buy anything. =P

...Instead we just lounged around the deck doing our own things.... =D (Those slippers were provided in the room btw. They're not mine! =/ )

After the rest were done with the oyster farm visit, we hopped onto another boat that would bring us to Cat Ba Island, while the original cruise we were on would carry the other passengers (who had opted for 2D1N instead of 3D2N like we did) back to Ha Long. By boat, we crossed over from Ha Long to the Haiphong province where Cat Ba Island, the largest island in the Bay, was located.

When we finally got to Cat Ba Island, we knew there was going to be some cycling involved, but we weren't prepared to see the old granny-bicycles-with-baskets-in-front that were awaiting us!

I think we were the most unprepared of the lot, since Wendy and I hadn't ridden a bicycle in years, Zhen Han was still recovering from torn ligaments in his foot, and Mel didn't know how to ride!

To make matters worse, Wendy was in FitFlops and Zhen Han wore Asadi slippers. I'm amazed we made it to the end at all... =D  (Mel skipped this part and got a motorcyclist to zoom her to the pit stop instead.)

The route was pretty hilly and narrow so soon we were nicely huffing and puffing away. The wind in our faces, coupled with the lush scenery was awesome though!

Crossing the fields

Wendy also suddenly rekindled her love for cycling so she pretty much pedalled ahead and had to wait for Zhen Han and I quite a bit. That's us coming down the lane, finally!

Our guide pointing out where we were, and where we were heading

After we pedalled and pedalled, past the bay with the scenic view, deeper into Cat Ba Island where we passed fields and oxen, finally arriving at our destination, the rest house where we stopped for a breather and left the bikes, continuing the next part which was a trek around the island! Nearly half the island is covered by a National Park so I guess it only seemed right that this was part of the tour.

With so many of us, the guide couldn't really stop to make sure each of us was keeping up. We had to make sure we weren't left behind! Plenty of nature's dangers to watch out for though, like these low hanging thorny branches that could have sliced our faces if we walked through it.

Got to cross a small stream? No sweat. Just put 2 planks over it, and away we go! Slipping is not an option of course.. =D

Halfway through the trek we took a break after coming out through the other side of this cave.

Our guide was glad enough to show us how one of the roots hanging just outside cave was strong enough to withstand all his weight. We were all worried of course because below was a long fall down the hill!

For Mel, who we think felt left out because she didn't get to ride a bicycle, this was the perfect chance to have some fun of her own! So when obviously no one volunteered to give the hanging root a try, our dear friend had to do her best tarzan-and-jane act. =D

Pedalling through gorgeous views like this one in Lan Ha Bay on Cat Ba

On the way back, we pedalled back to the boat the same way we came. Because we didn't want to be the last to arrive like how we were on the way there, we got a head start and pedalled off first. Everyone else took awhile to catch up, which we later found out was because an accident happened to one of the little boys in the group, who had to be rushed off to hospital immediately. It was all quite scary and dramatic, but it was unbeknownst to us at the time.

Our next and final destination for the day was Nam Cat Island, where we would be spending the night in our bungalows... or 'bung-gah-laus' as our tour guide put it!

But before we even got to see the bungalows, it was time for lunch first! This time portions were better and servings bigger, so we each had enough for our fill. Food on the cruise tasted better, but after the trek and the bike rides we were famished so it didn't matter to us.

All occupied for the night! I think we got 302 and 304.... =P

The exterior

The best way to describe the bungalows is with 2 words - Bare Minimum. 2 single beds, 2 wall fans, toilet, sink, and shower. The girls' room had a bit of trouble with the hot water, so the resident handyman had to spend pretty much the whole afternoon sorting that out.

Nam Cat Island was advertised as having lots of activities to do. Those who wanted to go off the island could also take a short boat trip to nearby Monkey Island which we opted out on. Unfortunately, staying on the island didn't really work out for us. There weren't enough oars for us to go kayaking, and besides that there really wasn't much else.

To make matters worse, we hit the beach when the tide was receding, so we couldn't even take a quick dip in the water.

Yup, that's exactly how dry and depressing it was -__-

In the end, we just alternated between bumming around on deck chairs and playing with the cute little kids from other families. =D

The kitchen getting started!
The second night of our cruise ended with a barbecue dinner, which we were looking forward to. (Somehow we always seem hungrier on holidays :S)

Dinner was good! The barbecue took awhile to get going so we were left waiting and chatting to some of the other tourists but when it finally came it smelt great!

There was a barbecued assortment of chicken, pork and beef, plus some clams and squid as well. No better place to have a barbecue than in a thatched hut on the beach, we say!

And that concludes the end of our Day 4 Hanoi (and Ha Long) adventure! More coming really soon... in the next post, we rejoin the cruise and sail back to Ha Long, plus we also celebrate my birthday back in Hanoi =)

The full set of photos for this post can be found at our Facebook page here.

For our other Hanoi posts:-

Accomodation - Rising Dragon Cathedral Hotel, Au Trieu St, Old Quarter

Day #1:
Breakfast at Pho 10 / exploring Old Quarter, visiting Hoan Kiem Lake & drinks at Avalon Cafe / dinner at Bun Cha Dac Kim / water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Day #2:
Vietnam Military History Museum / Temple of Literature / dinner at Ly Van Phuc (Chicken Street)

Day #3:
Ha Long Bay 3D2N Cruise Itinerary / Sung Sot Cave (Cave of Surprises), kayaking

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