December 27, 2014

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After years of just never being on our list of places to go in Asia, we finally decided to give Bali a shot. Staying in the heavily-touristy area of Seminyak, our assumptions of the island were pretty much confirmed as soon as we arrived: tourist-trap-tastic. Despite the abundance of Billabong/Rip Curl/Quiksilver stores and western restaurants, we still managed to find lots of things to love about the Indonesian Island and this trip will go down in my books as the most memorable holiday of our 9 years together. Here's what we loved:

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Lilin at Potato Head Beach Club

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Motel Mexicola

Nom Nom:
Lilin at Potato Head Beach Club
Ignore the fact that this place feels like one gigantic tourist trap, Potato Head Beach Club is one of the coolest spots in Bali to just be in. Serving up fusion-ish Indonesian food amongst an outdoor, beachside setting, Lilin's tapas style plates are perfect when you don't feel like settling on one thing. The beef salad and crab curry were BOMB.

Another tapas place, Cuca's setting is romantic, quiet and ideal when you're feeling just a little bit fancy~. OOOOMG dishes include ceviche with watermelon ice and bbq octopus with fresh apple - both super refreshing and pairs perfectly with Bali's balmy heat. On your way out, don't forget to pick up a tin of Cuca's signature salt rubs so you can at least attempt to recreate that yumminess when you cook at home.

Motel Mexicola
This was our last dinner of our trip and by far the best. Everything from the retro, tacky decor to the fun atmosphere and addictive food makes this place a must-go in Bali. The fresh guacs and grilled fish tacos from their Taqueria were some of our favorite things, but really, anything you order will no doubt be served with a gigantic serving of friggin nomz. For those that are feeling extra zesty, order the Acapulco Tropicale cocktail, and don't forget to bring your sombrero!

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Amana Villas
There are, no joke, a gazillion villas and hotels to choose from in Bali. We decided to go with a smaller, lesser known boutique choice. Tucked away on a quiet lane in the middle of Seminyak, Amana Villas is personalized luxury done right. Decked out in a minimalist, contemporary style, the villas come in 3 tiers: Pool Villa, Waterfall Villa and Signature Villa. Each one comes with a pool of your own, a butler and amazing service. Before you arrive you're asked to fill out a guest menu to tailor your experience exactly how you want it (into hip hop music? Let them know and the iPod in your room will come preloaded with your kind of beats). The premise doesn't have any facilities yet (no restaurant, communal pool or gym), but all of that doesn't even matter when you have the luxury of in-villa dining and a spa that will put you to sleep within 10 minutes. My complimentary Balinese massage was SO relaxing I had to book another one in on my last day.

If you're looking for a home away from home while you're in Bali, Amana Villas is your place. It's so private that during our 5 days there, I think we only saw 1 other couple walking around the premise even though it was almost fully booked during our stay. Room tip: a Pool Villa is enough for when you just want to enjoy some privacy, but if you're feeling splurgy then pick the bigger Waterfall Villa (but be prepared to walk up and down stairs from your bedroom to the living room).

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Pro Surf School, Kuta
Again, there are tons of surf schools to choose from in Bali but we chose Pro Surf School because I'd read good reviews about it. We enrolled in a Beginner's semi-private class, and was lucky enough to get 1 instructor for the both of us, so it felt pretty private. The class is 2.5 hours and after 30-45 mins of theory and practicing standing up on land, we hit the water and got right into it. Within 15 minutes of water time, we were already standing up and it's one of the most satisfying feelings ever. Okay so the ride only lasts like 5 seconds, but when you're up there, it feels pretty damn good. I've always wanted to try surfing and Bali is one of the top surfing spots in the world - so I'd highly recommend to give this a shot if you're a newb like me, you'll still come away with a pretty amazing experience.

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August 3, 2014

taipei eats

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Fellow Hong Kongers will know, the best weekend trip to get some serious eats in is Taipei - a speedy 1.5 hour plane ride away. NGL, there's really not much else to do there besides eat, eat and eat. Those who follow me on Instagram will probably have seen these pics already, but here's my quick go-to list of places to hit up when you've got a case of the munchies:

Yong Kang Beef Noodles (永康牛肉麵)
Within 24 hours of arriving in Taipei, we had already tried 3 different Taiwanese beef noodle joints. Yong Kang was by far the best. The broth tastes like it's been boiled since the beginning of time, and the braised beef tendon seriously melts in your mouth. Be prepared to wait at least 30 mins for a table in the blistering heat (if you go in summer), but trust me, the sweat and almost-tears is well worth it.

No. 17, Street 31, Jinshan South Road Section 2, Taipei.

Din Wang Spicy Hotpot (鼎王麻辣鍋)
Taipei is home to A LOT of spicy hotpot places, but Din Wang is one of the more well known ones (I think). The spicy soup is rich and flavorful, and the best part is when they refill, they ACTUALLY refill your soup with soup and ingredients - none of that plain hot water BS. I'd say don't bother with a yin yang pot and just go all out spicy. All you need is paper-thin sheets of beef and lamb and you're good to go. For carb lovers, you'll be happy to know the buffet table has unlimited rice, so fill your bowls with steaming white rice, and ladle the spicy soup over it and you have yourself a DIY congee.

No. 89 Guangfu N. Rd, Songshan District, Taipei.
Tel: 886 2 2742 1166

Kanpai Classic (老乾杯)
You can almost never go wrong with Japanese BBQ and Kanpai was by far my favorite meal in Taipei. We got the Wagyu beef set, which is basically a platter of fresh, red, marbly goodness. The restaurant provides a variety of different dipping sauces, but the meat is so juicy you don't even need to bother with that. Reservations are a must and this restaurant is best maximized when you're with a group of 5 or more.

No. 44, Lane 280, Guangfu South Rd, Taipei.
Tel: 886 2 8773 1150
Other locations here

Honey Creme
Soft serve ice cream topped with a piece of honey comb. It doesn't get any simpler and yummy than that. Perfect for a momentary escape from 36 degrees celsius.

1F, No.8, Lane169, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da'an District, Taipei.
Tel: 886 2 740 7070

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June 29, 2014

the big guys

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OMG!! ELEPHANT CUTIES!! A quick google search for "ethical elephant park Chiang Mai" gave me Elephant Nature Park, and I knew instantly that's where I wanted to go. No riding, no tricks and gimmicks, just pure crazy cute elephant epicness! The park will arrange a van pick up directly from your hotel, where you're immediately greeted by your guide (ours was Psy and he's damn funny) and the group you'll be with for the rest of the day. A sleepy 1.5 hours drive into the country side and you'll reach Elephant Nature Park.

This park differs from a few of the others that exist in Chiang Mai, because it rescues abandoned and abused Asian elephants - they even take in stray dogs and cats that mingle around the park! As soon as we arrived, I couldn't believe how free-roaming the elephants were, and we pretty much got right into it with a full-on feeding session - pumpkin and watermelon are their faaavess. Following a quick lunch break (provided by the park), we went over to the river where you can really get friendly with the elephants at bath time! This was probably the funnest part for me, so if you're not ready to get wet then I'd say you're seriously missing out. Dani (the elephant) is so super cuties and she's so friendly you can get right up there and give her a scrub down.

After more feeding, meeting the babies of the herd (so cute but so feisty so be careful!), we were driven all the way back to our hotel. Hands down one of the best experiences of my life, and I'd go again and again in a heartbeat! For those that are interested, here's what to bring:

  • hat
  • sunblock
  • a crap load of water
  • an Otterbox case (or some sort of waterproof case for your phone)
  • flip flops
  • mosquito repellent
  • change of clothes (just in case you get cray cray at the river bath sesh)
  • Elephant Nature Park | #elephantnaturepark

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