The Biggest Buffet(s). Ever.

Breakfast at Xin, a buffet on the first floor of our hotel:

  • almond croissant, bolo bao (Hong Kong style pineapple bun), coconut cocktail bun
  • you tiao (oil crullers) with shrimp and scallion rice rolls and sesame sauce
  • sago custard dumpling, vegetables, fried turnip cakes, baked beans, pumpkin glutinous rice ball with lotus cream filling, char siu bao (barbecue pork bun)
  • vegetable and cheese omelet
  • random ticket (3-day pass) from our time in Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap,

I ate all of it and it was awesome in a now-I-can’t-walk and that-was-so-worth-it way.

Macau is lovely because there is always a lot to see (shows and performances!) and do. We love wandering around the hotels, all of which have a unique theme. The Parisian and the Venetian are both beautifully adorned with European-inspired decor.

Another day, we had dinner at Yum Cha, a dim sum restaurant. We ordered some delicious food – I wasn’t expecting it to be so tasty. Along with a mug of sweet Hong Kong style milk tea, I ate:

  • shrimp siu mai
  • wok-fried beef slices with wide noodles (one of my favourite HK foods)
  • tofu rolls with mushrooms and broth
  • prawn dumplings
  • oil crullers wrapped in rice sheets, soy sauce and sesame dip
  • steamed charcoal buns filled with salted egg yolk and cheese (super unique, and loved the sweet and salty nature of the filling)

This was the centrepiece at Studio City, another nearby hotel.

These are some of my favourite photos of Grandpa. ❤

(All taken after I rode a 4D Batman Flight ride… twice. Truly felt like I developed vertigo after that experience!)

The same day, Dad and I had lunch at BRASSERIE, a lovely French restaurant. Dad had the set menu, which included a raclette cheese appetizer, a chicken Cordon Bleu with Comte cheese and French ham, and creme brûlée. My orders were à la carte – a French onion soup, Croque Madame, and creamy chocolate fondant with white cheese sorbet and vanilla cream, with fresh berries.

I love how it’s easy to go from one hotel to another, without having to walk too much outside.

One night, the three of us watched a show called the House of Dancing Water. It was a stunning show with powerful music, an easy-to-follow storyline, and spectacular special effects and stage changes. The athleticism, while not on the level of Cirque du Soleil, were very diverse and featured divers, contortionists, gymnasts, and ballerinas. The stage was incredible, as it morphed from a pool deep enough for 24-metre dives into flat land for floor acrobatics.

Another evening, dinner at Bene. I loved my creamy conglichie pasta in ricotta cheese, with cured pork loin and plenty of black truffle. I topped my plate with so much parmesan cheese after this photo. 🙂

Tiramisu for dessert. Dad and I shared one, and I asked the waiter to serve it on two plates. Dad was kind enough to give me the larger slice of tiramisu and some of his hazelnut gelato.

The following day, we had the biggest buffet breakfast. Ever. It was quite a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as we dined in Cafe 360, a rotating restaurant on the 60th floor of the Macau Tower.

Here we go! Along with a large glass of sweetened milk tea (very tasty)…

Plate 1:

  • Portuguese spinach soup
  • cheese and saffron bun

I liked tearing off chunks of the flavourful, cheesy bread and dunking it into the brothy vegetable soup.

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Plate 2:

  • naan bread, basmati rice, mango chicken vindaloo, homemade pickled lemon, spicy mint sauce
  • cheesy mushroom bread pudding
  • 2 char siu (barbecued pork) pastries
  • salmon fried rice with eel sauce
  • sago sweet dumpling with custard
  • glutinous rice in lotus leaf with chicken
  • Japanese style sautéed vegetables (cabbage, peppers, carrot, black sesame)
  • lentil dahl in small bowl on the side

Plate 3 (revisiting all of my favourites from Plate 2):

  • 2 sago sweet dumplings with custard
  • 2 char siu (barbecued pork) pastries
  • cheesy mushroom bread pudding

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Plate 4 (dessert):

  • serradura/sawdust pudding/Macau pudding (condensed milk pudding with whipped cream and crumbled Marie cookie), topped with coffee biscotti – this was my favourite part, and I’ve never had serradura before. It’s a Portuguese/HK dessert, and I loved the flavour/texture which reminded me a bit of a nutty, less-sweet, pudding-like caramel mousse.
  • Portuguese almond cake
  • hazelnut torte with raspberry jam
  • praline creme brûlée with fresh berries
  • slivered almond, cinnamon bread pudding with vanilla sauce
  • creamy apricot jam with crushed spice cookies
  • pecan pie with walnuts and whipped cream

At the end, I was so full that I could hardly walk. You know when you realize, upon standing up, that you have serious regrets about eating so much? That was me – because I wanted to do the bungee jump!

Okay, maybe I was a little really freaked out by the bungee jump. So I ended up doing the SkyWalk, in which I walked around the outside of the tower with a harness and an instructor who helped take pictures.

It was certainly not as exciting as the bungee jump, but I didn’t throw up all four plates of buffet food, like I would’ve if I did the bungee jump. So, I’d call this a success!

The view, while not comparable to the stunning beaches of Cambodia or rice fields of Nepal, was pretty cool. Everything seemed so still from up high, and the lake practically unmoving. The cars, people, and buildings were minuscule, and it almost looked like one of those decorative model cities.

What a spectacular couple of days. What’s next? Tomorrow, we will be leaving Macau to go back to Taipei, which is a one-hour flight. After a day and a half in Taiwan, we will finally be flying back to Vancouver.

Our trip has been exciting and invigorating, and full of new and unique experiences, but at the same time, I am 99% ready to go home and get back into my regular routine which includes banana oatmeal, walks with my doggie, and hanging out with my sister.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Night Market + Meals in Macau

Dad and I went to the Raohe Night Market on one of our last days in Taiwan. I tried some of his sugarcane juice (not my favourite – have any of you tried this?!), one incredible deep-fried taro balls filled with roasted shredded dried pork and egg yolk, and one deep-fried taro ball filled with salted egg yolk and red bean (my favourite), and a grilled corn on the cob.

 

I also had some bubble waffles! Dad and I bought one peanut bubble waffle and one cheese bubble waffle. I really liked both, since they were so hot, crispy and chewy, and fresh off the waffle iron. Then, I ate a tasty cheese wheel cake and two steamed rice balls (one sesame, one peanut). I love night markets, and next time I want to try the cheesy potatoes and pineapple buns.

 

The next day, we headed to the airport in the early morning for our flight to Macau. I had some Godiva hot chocolate and pork steamed soup dumplings, which came with shiitake mushroom and chicken soup.

 

It was one of the shortest flights I’ve ever been on – less than two hours.

 

We had the opportunity to wander around Sheraton, our hotel, for a little while. I love how Macau, from what I’ve seen in half a day, is a fusion of China with Portugal. This was surprising to me, but nice to see those great flaky Portuguese custard tarts amidst all the Chinese desserts.

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For dinner today, I was really hungry and got a stomachache after eating so much. First, I had some unpictured bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Our entrees came shortly:

 

  • Dad ate the carbonara, which was placed into a cheese wheel and tasted incredible (I ate a lot)
  • Dad and Grandpa both had the tomato seafood chowder with garlic bread
  • I loved my braised pork and beef ravioli with porcini mushroom sauce and black truffle topping
  • Grandpa enjoyed the seafood spaghetti, and I ate lots of his scallops, salmon, and shrimp
  • For dessert, I ordered two because I still wanted to eat. I had:
    • Hazelnut delight with whipped cream, hazelnut cream, hazelnut gelato, and hazelnut cookies in a parfait (this was so much larger than expected, and I inhaled the entire thing)
    • Apple crumble with almond polenta crispy pieces with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon on top (the cinnamon truly did it for me – I adored this dish and easily ate all of it)

It’s such a shame Dad and Grandpa don’t like sweets – it’s 100% my fault, for having such a sweet tooth, but I always end up with a major stomachache from eating too much!

 

In the morning (Thursday), I woke up at around 7:00, but lounged around in my bed for some time. Afterwards, Dad, Grandpa, and I watched The Amazing Race and American Ninja Warrior on TV for a little while. The athletes in American Ninja Warrior blow me away every time. They make it look so easy!

We had breakfast at Palms, the café/bar downstairs. Grandpa liked his combination congee breakfast, which came with Chinese donuts (crullers) and an Italian sausage sandwich.

I ate a parmesan, thyme, and chili quiche, and Dad had a chocolate donut. I also drank some lovely TWG black tea with milk and sugar, and a mango, milk chocolate, and hazelnut cake. Is there anything better than chocolate cake for breakfast? After an amazing quiche?

In the afternoon, I had a spa treatment. I was very lucky because we had some hotel credit that I got to use up, and I loved the milk bath, massage, hot towel, and body scrub that were included in my treatment. The Shine Spa at the Sheraton Hotel is beautifully-decorated and so ornate.

Afterwards, we went to Din Tai Feng, a restaurant famous for their soup dumplings!

They were all really, really tasty. I had a Hong Kong style milk tea, along with:

  • black truffle and pork soup dumplings
  • plain pork soup dumplings
  • a vegetable and mushroom steamed bun
  • black cloud fungus salad with sweet vinegar

Next up: sweet treats!

  • black sesame steamed bun
  • taro steamed bun
  • red bean paste dumpling with chestnut
  • cold taro sago

That’s it for today. Have a beautiful rest of the week ❤

10 Lessons from Exploring Cambodia with my 90-year-old Grandfather

I kicked off 2018 with a trip to Cambodia with my 90-year-old grandfather. Although I am certainly no travel doctor or gerontologist, I did learn numerous lessons about travelling with a senior that may be beneficial to others planning vacations with grandparents or elderly parents.

To start, let’s clarify the context: my grandfather is quite healthy, living with my grandmother in their quiet apartment in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. While he enjoys walking, my grandfather prefers to avoid hills, and walk only for short periods of time. He has limited mobility in his knees and takes daily vitamins and medication. His vision and hearing aren’t as good as they were a decade ago, and he is used to taking regular naps and having early bedtimes. Nonetheless, my grandpa is curious, loves to learn, and wants to see as much as he can. Fortunately, Grandpa doesn’t have any dietary restrictions, but prioritizes his health by munching on as many fruits, vegetables, and nuts as possible. Since he grew up in rural China and spent most of his life in Taiwan, he speaks perfect Mandarin and has been learning English for his previous four decades.

On the other hand, I grew up in Coquitlam, British Columbia, where I wholeheartedly consider myself Canadian. Moving to Ontario for school meant that I spend only a few weeks per year with my grandparents. I am an organized, though spontaneous (and overly-inquisitive), explorer when it comes to travelling. I like to know exactly where I will eat, and which menu items I’ll order, but at the same time, like to leave room in my schedule for impromptu hikes and photo sessions.

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There are countless reasons to travel with older adults you love, but the hassle often holds people back. Despite the logistical considerations to take into account, travelling with a grandparent or elderly parent is a rewarding, enriching experience. Many special memories were created during our trip to Cambodia, and I gained a valuable appreciation for my grandfather. Most importantly, the time that we spent together was a gift that I will cherish for a lifetime. Here are ten tips that I would offer to anyone travelling with an elderly loved one.

  1. When you have the opportunity to plan the destination for your vacation, find one that suits everyone’s needs. When my grandfather first asked where I’d like to go after our trip to Taiwan, I responded “Cambodia!” in a heartbeat. Looking back, while my experience in the Kingdom of Wonder was truly once-in-a-lifetime, my grandfather faced several challenges, from the bumpy tuktuk rides to the steep staircases in ancient temples. Perhaps it would’ve been equally memorable if I’d chosen a relaxing cruise, which is typically geared towards guests of all ages. Note: consider the terrain of the destination (ideally paved, flat, and even), especially if your companion has knee or hip issues. Additionally, try to stay in one city for at least four days. Grandpa and I spent four days in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, and this was just the right amount of time to visit the key tourist attractions, eat at all the restaurants I wanted to try, and spend some afternoons sipping coconut water by the hotel swimming pool. I also found it very valuable to involve my grandfather in the trip planning. As much as I wanted to climb mountains and wade in beaches spontaneously, it was better to hear his ideas and compromise. From my experience in hospitals and senior homes, I know that it is critical for older adults to retain independence; everyone should be actively involved in making decisions. In the end, I found that his priorities, which included time to relax in the hotel, shorter walks, and indoor seating in restaurants, contributed to a better, more restful, experience for myself.
  2. Find a hotel with lots of amenities. Since Grandpa often spent afternoons in the hotel while I checked out local attractions, I knew it was important for the hotel to have elevators, a lounge, swimming pool, or possibly a spa. One of my favourite memories from the trip was getting a traditional Khmer (Cambodian) massage in our Siem Reap hotel with my grandfather. Both of us were tired from exploring ancient temples in the early morning, so following his afternoon nap, I booked a couple’s massage room for us to experience a Cambodian spa treatment. Not only was this a refreshing change from the traditional massage, we had the opportunity to chat while stretching with the lovely therapists.
  3. Travel insurance is essential, regardless of the type of trip, particularly if your grandparent has medical conditions. We completed our travel insurance forms a month before the trip, though it could take even longer if travelers have pre-existing medical conditions. Bring extra prescriptions just in case. I am lucky because Grandpa has always been highly diligent about his medications. If not, however, I would set an alarm on my phone to keep dosages consistent. A few weeks before the trip, we also visited a travel doctor to fill up on travel medications and make sure we were up-to-date on vaccinations.
  4. Pre-plan for dietary restrictions. Each morning, Grandpa likes to have a few scoops of Fiber One and some sunflower seeds, so we made sure to pack enough of those necessities. For myself, I brought homemade muffins and a few peanut butter and chocolate LARABARS to snack on during the long plane rides. Though Grandpa is not picky, he definitely has food-related preferences. For instance, I learned that he adores fresh coconut water (less than forty cents in Cambodia!), hot soup, boneless fish, and vegetables. Eventually, we were able to figure out which restaurants provided tasty and customizable meals that would satisfy both of us.
  5. I learned that nighttime flights can be extremely draining, and are best to avoid. Travel during the right time of day. Seniors may lack the energy they use to have, so early-morning or midnight flights are exhausting. Grandpa and I found that mid-morning, or early-afternoon, departures were the least draining. I have terrible memories of travelling with my dad when I was little – he would insist on arriving at the airport five hours before the flight (I wish this was a joke), and I would sit around while he played games on his cellphone. As a result, I’ve always been very last-minute with airplane rides, normally arriving at the gate minutes before the final boarding call. Grandpa finally cured me of this terrible habit by suggesting we arrive 2.5 hours early to make sure we get through all the lines rush-free, and use the extra time to sit and have a nice meal.
  6. Like most, or maybe all, other parts of life, open communication was essential. I learned to warn Grandpa in advance if there were any long walks, and he often reminded me that he would prefer to take an elevator instead of the stairs. With good communication, no one will be offended if you want to go off on your own. Wherever I am, I like to have some alone time, and so does Grandpa. When I wanted to see the Kampong Trach caves, Grandpa was more than happy to watch TV at the hotel. Similarly, I was totally okay with him doing some morning aerobics while I slept in.
  7. Pack as lightly as possible, and count on doing laundry at the destination. We brought minimal clothing and travel-size everything, knowing that navigating the airport would not be fun with excessive and oversized baggage. Ideally, we’d pack carry-on only, so we wouldn’t have too much luggage to handle. Remind your loved one to bring comfortable shoes that are easy to remove and put back on. When we visited the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh, the heels of both of Grandpa’s running shoes snapped off (yes, both – how does that even happen?). We were very lucky to find a shoe store nearby and fit him with a soft new pair of walking shoes. On a side note, printed maps may actually be helpful! In Cambodia, I was completely lost when Wi-Fi was nowhere to be found, so I was more happy than embarrassed that Grandpa packed an old-fashioned paper map (and was a master at using it).
  8. Three key words: pack activities sparingly. Create plans that allow for freedom and flexibility – you don’t have to do everything together as a group. Instead, try to look for destinations that allow both of you to pursue your own needs and interests, and then reunite for meals. I learned to be more patient and understanding, and rather than rushing Grandpa, I allotted more time to each activity. Essentially, after each round of sightseeing, there should be some time to slow down, eat, or relax to rejuvenate. This tip was especially challenging for me, because I always want to jam-pack each free moment to the second. I discovered that, for the most part, one activity before lunch, and one activity after lunch, is enough. A slower pace, I learned, does not mean that I experience less. Rather, spending more time on each activity resulted in a more fulfilling experience. Avoid a packed schedule to allow time for early bedtimes and potentially naps in the afternoon. My grandfather is accustomed to afternoon naps, so we made sure there was sufficient time on most days, for him to return to the hotel to sleep. For instance, a typical day in Cambodia looked like this:
  • wake up naturally at around 8:00 AM
  • go for a walk in nearby area (beach, market, etc.), and/or relax in the hotel
  • walk or ride a tuktuk to a restaurant for brunch
  • head back to the hotel to drop off Grandpa
  • Grandpa watches TV, then takes a nap, while I go on a hike, explore caves, or visit temples
  • go back to the hotel to relax with Grandpa, and make dinner plans
  • walk or ride a tuktuk to a restaurant for dinner
  • head back to the hotel to rest
  1. Hire drivers if the city does not have good public transportation. I wanted to visit Cambodia primarily to experience the breathtaking Angkor Archaeological Park, a series of impressive monuments that testify to an exceptional ancient civilization. Since Angkor was quite far from Siem Reap, the closest city, we hired tuktuk drivers for the entire day to take us from one region of the park to another. Likewise, airplane rides are tiring and stressful enough; it is often worthwhile to book a driver to help with luggage and pick you up from the airport, then drop you off at your hotel. During long car rides, such as the three-hour ride from Kep in southern Cambodia to the airport in Phnom Penh, I reminded myself to ask the driver to make frequent stops for us to use the restroom, and move around to avoid discomfort from the drive.
  2. Choose activities wisely. Consider museums carefully. While most museums are air-conditioned and chilly, with tile floors, the National Museum of Cambodia was bright and humid. Furthermore, there were many flights of rickety stairs. There are few things that both Grandpa and I enjoy doing, and eating is one of them. Supporting arts, history, and cultural heritage is another. While we were in Cambodia, I made it my goal to find hospitality training restaurants that benefit students in the long-term. For instance, we enjoyed flavourful, delicious Khmer meals at HAVEN in Siem Reap and Friends in Phnom Penh, both of which train street children and orphans to cook (and eventually gain employment) and fund their studies in the meantime. Comparably, our favourite centre, Daughters of Cambodia, rescues young girls from the sex trafficking industry by giving them shelter, physical and mental healthcare, and employment (cooking and baking in the café, massage therapy in the spa, sewing for the souvenir shop, and more). Grandpa loved learning about the great causes behind each of these organizations, and he was always happy to buy souvenirs from them.

Above all, enjoy the peaceful, uneventful moments. On my previous trips to France and Nepal, being a tourist came first, with volunteering coming in as a close second. In Cambodia, however, I learned more about my grandpa than I’d expected. Grandpa often shared stories about his youth in 1950s Taiwan – memories that were triggered by the sandy roads, whirring motorcycles, cheerful street vendors, and stray animals of Cambodia. Initially wary about speaking English to the smiling servers and shopkeepers of Cambodia, Grandpa became bolder and happier. He was so charming to everyone, enjoyed every meal, and laughed lots. He had sufficient sleep, and gasped in delight at tiny details: unique leaves or trucks or characters in the Khmer language. These hilarious, simple, and touching moments were truly unforgettable – even more than the temples I’d photographed or amok dishes I devoured.

If I am ever lucky enough have the opportunity to do so, I would not hesitate to travel with my grandfather again. I wish you all the same: a wonderful trip, full of precious memories, with a grandparent or elderly parent you love.

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The Best Seafood Dishes of Cambodia

For dinner one night, we ate at Kimly Restaurant, a traditional Khmer seafood place near the crab market of Kep. We ordered:

  • prawns with deep-fried garlic
  • coconut milk crab with lemongrass, garlic, and onion
  • vegetable fried rice (no picture)
  • fish amok (no picture)
  • pineapple for dessert
  • caramel ice cream and chocolate ice cream with chocolate cream and Oreo for dessert

 

The next morning, we had a lovely breakfast at The Secret, a restaurant opened by Veranda Resort. It was a 12-minute walk from Le Flamboyant, our resort.

 

  • Dad had the seafood pizza, which had oysters, shrimp, and squid on tomato sauce with mozzarella cheese
  • I ordered the Khmer omelet, which was surprising because it was a fried egg dish with scallions, and raw vegetables on the side, and lots of white rice
  • Grandpa had coconut water and garlic bread with spaghetti bolognese
  • My dessert was a coconut tart with vanilla ice cream

 

Our resort is so lovely. There are a lot of unique tropical plants and flowers that I’ve never seen in Canada. Their colours are so vibrant and pretty.

 

In the afternoon, Dad and I visited the Kampong Trach caves. We were a little disappointed because the caves had dried up. It isn’t rainy season, so the caves, which are typically filled with crystal-esque blue water, was completely dry, with caked mud on the ground. There also should’ve been a waterfall, which we didn’t see either. We also didn’t get to see bats! I love bats, so this was definitely a disappointment.

 

We took a tuktuk to get to the caves, and our kind tuktuk driver allowed us to loop around the way back, giving us the opportunity to see Kep beach, which was full of locals, and the famous Kep Crab Statue. It was pretty cool, though I can definitely see why it’d be underwhelming if you’d come a long way just to see the statue.

 

Here is a skeleton of our time in Kep:

FRIDAY

  • 3:30 Kep National Park
  • 5:30 Sailing Club Restaurant dinner (no reservation)

SATURDAY

  • 11:00 La Baraka
  • 1:00-6:00 Bokor National Park
  • 7:00 Kimly

SUNDAY

  • 11:00 The Secret by Veranda Natural Resort
  • 2:30-5:00 Kampong Trach Caves
  • Kep Crab Statue (20 mins from hotel)
  • Kep Beach (20 mins from hotel)
  • 7:00 Holy Crab

MONDAY

  • 7:45 pickup for airport
  • 7:45-10:45 drive to Phnom Penh airport
  • brunch at the airport
  • 12:45 flight from Phnom Penh to Taipei

Since that was pretty much our whole experience in Cambodia, let’s commemorate with a list of all the tasty traditional things I had the opportunity to eat:

  • coconut milk dessert in the food stands
  • dragonfruit
  • jackfruit
  • prohok ktis (traditional fermented river fish, pork, coconut milk)
  • Cambodian Khmer red curry with baguette bread
  • fish amok (curry in a banana leaf)
  • omelettes
  • tropical sour fruits
  • Cambodian sandwich
  • grilled and fried bananas
  • Num sang khya l’peou (pumpkin custard with coconut milk on top)

And, sadly, a list of things that I didn’t get to try (next time, right?!):

  • bai sach chrouk (grilled sweet pork, broken rice, broth with onions on the side)
  • lok lak (stir-fried beef in brown sauce of oyster/soy/palm sugar)
  • ang dtray meuk: grilled squid
  • kuy teav (pork broth rice noodle soup with garlic, scallions, shrimp, lettuce, etc.),
  • kdam chaa
  • lort cha (stir-fry noodles with greens, bean sprouts, egg)
  • bobor congee
  • samlor korko (pumpkin soup, pork ribs)
  • Ah Ping
  • beef saraman curry
  • kaw (braised chicken or pork, topped with egg, sweet sauce)
  • tai krolap tea
  • lemon tea (tai kdao kroich chhmaa) with sugar
  • mango salad
  • Cha houy teuk (sweet jelly)
  • num banh chok (breakfast, thin noodles with green fish gravy)
  • bread with cream cheese
  • fried crickets

Here we have vegetable fried rice, crab amok (simply the best), onion rings, fish tempura, and clear fish soup. I loved my crab amok so much, and it was quite a generous serving, so I asked for even more steamed jasmine rice after finishing my serving so I could enjoy every drop of the curried, coconutty amok.

 

The next day, we had to take a plane from Phnom Penh back to Taipei. That morning, we left Kep at 7:45 to go to Phnom Penh – it was a three-hour drive to the capital of Cambodia before our flight at 12:45. Since we were early, we had time to eat a delicious breakfast. Here’s what we ate:

  • Dad had the English breakfast with baguette, tomatoes, potatoes, two fried eggs, and sausage, with an iced coffee
  • I liked my salmon eggs benedict with avocado and asparagus, which came with fried potatoes and grilled tomatoes as well (also some Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar)
  • Grandpa had the one-egg breakfast with toast, mushrooms, potatoes, and tomatoes

 

Before we knew it, we were in Taiwan! That night in Taipei, we ate at the local food court which was only a five-minute walk from our hotel. Also, look at that cutest dog ever, which was actually a stray doggie that we saw on the streets of Kep, Cambodia. I’m not a huge animal person but I have to say that this was one of the top three cutest pups I’ve ever seen in my life.

  • Dad had the dried tossed noodles with pork
  • Dad and I shared an oyster omelet, one of Taiwan’s special foods
  • I had the eggplant and braised pork dish, which came with rice, cabbage, and seaweed soup

 

That’s pretty much it! I’m now writing this in the plane on our way from Taipei to Macau. We will be spending five days in Macau, and I’m excited to see the shows, eat good food, walk around, and maybe do some spa treatments or something.

Have a good rest of the week!

Delicious Cambodian Meals and Bokor National Park

On our last day in Siem Reap, Dad, Grandpa, and I had dinner at HAVEN.

  • I ate the fish amok, which was the #1 fish amok that I’ve eaten in Cambodia so far. It was perfectly curried and coconut-scented, with just enough lemongrass, ginger, and chili to add flavour without overwhelming the delicate fish. Best of all, the amount of rice paired perfectly with the amount of amok.
  • Grandpa’s lok lac included vegetables, a fried egg, and plenty of peppery sliced beef.
  • Dad enjoyed the calamari with lime aioli, as well as a bacon cheeseburger with fries.
  • For dessert, I loved the banana bread with coconut crumble and mango-passionfruit ice cream, which I swapped with Dad’s caramel ice cream.

The next day, we had breakfast in Phnom Penh since we took a night bus. We ate in Raffles Hotel, where we had the breakfast buffet. I ate mango yogurt x2 and two blueberry muffins, along with two delicious Cambodian baguette sandwiches with fish pate, fresh dragonfruit, cheddar cheese, banana bread, and a very tasty slice of toasted rye with butter and papaya jam.

Before we knew it, we arrived in Kampot, which was a 30-minute tuktuk ride to our hotel in Kep. Our hotel was truly a tropical resort, with too many palm trees to count and two sparkling pools.

On our first day, we spent time at the Kep National Park. We walked for around 25 minutes before turning around to walk back down the hill. Despite completing just a small amount of the trail, we were rewarded with a lovely view.

That day, we liked our dinner at The Sailing Club. The photos did not turn out as expected since it was quite dark, but it was incredibly tasty nonetheless.

  • spicy Khmer chicken noodle soup
  • garlic baguette
  • crab cakes with spicy aioli and fresh vegetables
  • fresh white fish with vegetables and spicy garlic coconut sauce, steamed jasmine rice – this was mine, and it was hands down one of the top three savoury things I’ve ever eaten. The flavourful coconut sauce on the tender, flaky fish, paired with plenty of gently-sautéed vegetables and rice was heavenly.
  • cheeseburger for Dad (unpictured)
  • crispy fried banana with coconut ice cream and caramel sauce

The next day, we loved our brunch at La Baraka. We started with drinks, as usual, and I ordered tea with milk and sugar. Our meals arrived shortly after:

  • shrimp fried noodles in a pineapple for Grandpa
  • Croque Madame with fries for Dad (I tried some of his Croque Madame, and it was delicately fried and loaded with flavour from the ham and cheese enveloped within)
  • two fried eggs, bacon, salad, bread, and pineapple juice for me
  • garlic bread to share
  • dessert of chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream

Next, we went to Bokor National Park. It was a 90-minute drive from our resort in Kep. We had the opportunity to explore the legendary buildings from Cambodia’s colonial days, but were sad to miss the waterfall which is only “active” during rainy season.

I learned: Established by the French as a hill station in 1925, Bokor has been abandoned twice, during World War II and the Khmer Rouge period. The area including Bokor ‘mountain’ was established as a national park in 1993, with its 1,500 square kilometres spanning four Cambodian provinces. Despite substantial illegal logging, it’s home to leopard cats, gibbons, hornbills, civets and sunbears.

The Old French Palace was hauntingly beautiful, built by French settlers before 1920 for French social elites in Cambodia.

Renovators did add a wonderful curving road to the top of the hill, making Bokor much easier to access.

Today is our last day in Kep, or Cambodia for that matter, and I will really miss this incredible country. Soon, we are heading back to Taipei for a couple days and then flying to Macau for a short period of time.

Now, Dad and I are off to visit the Kampong Trach caves and I look forward to updating with more soon.

Exploring Angkor’s Grand Circuit

On Wednesday night, Dad, Grandpa, and I dined at The Sugar Palm, where we savoured the following Cambodian specialties:

  • fried prawn fritters with tamarind dip
  • prohok ktis (traditional fermented river fish with pork and spices), served with raw vegetables for dipping
  • coconut curried fish soup with green beans
  • Khmer red chicken curry with sweet potatoes, eggplants, onions, and Kampot peppercorns
  • fish amok soufflé

My dessert was equally delicious: fried banana fritters with vanilla ice cream. It was the perfect hot and cold, crispy and creamy way to end the meal.

On Thursday morning, Dad and I explored the hotel and our Siem Reap neighbourhood. After looking at the koi in our hotel, we headed to the old market, where we found vendors selling dried fish, household appliances, pencilboxes, clothing, perfumes, peppercorns, silk scarves, essential oils, and soap. We were tempted to purchase some jasmine-scented soap and pencil cases, to bring back to Canada as gifts.

The rest of the morning involved plenty of lounging around and relaxing. It was nice to do so, after waking up naturally to sunlight – especially since we’d woken at 4:00 AM the morning before to explore Angkor Wat during sunrise. All three of us loved the modern decorations and exquisite accents in Riversoul Residence.

We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel.

  • English Breakfast for Dad involved two slices of toast, scrambled eggs and bacon, mushrooms, English sausage, cheesy potato hash browns, butter and jam. He also had some iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk.
  • My Jackfruit Pockets had a vegan fusion flatbread with shredded jackfruit, passionfruit dressing, and a pumpkin hash. On the side, I ordered a raisin pancake topped with cream cheese (for some reason, came with maple syrup instead). I loved the Earl Grey tea that I had on the side with milk and sugar.
  • Grandpa liked his Kui Teiv, a southeast Asian noodle soup with bok choy, fish, and Asian condiments.

After brunch, I was eager to hop onto a tuktuk and head back to Angkor Archaeological Park to do another day of exploring. This time, we completed the Grand Circuit, passing Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom to visit some smaller, but equally mesmerizing, temples and monuments. The Grand Circuit is an extension of the shorter Small Circuit loop, taking in a few more key sites.

According to Travelfish: The main temples of the Grand Circuit are: Preah KhanNeak PeanTa SomEast Mebon and Pre Rup. This handful should help form the focus of your Grand Circuit tour, being the most interesting historically and visually with a variety of architecture. They also tend to be the only ones the tour companies take in or that tuk tuk drivers would think to stop at on the circuit.

The twisting, tendril-like tree trunks in one temple reminded me of the famous tree of Ta Prohm, though this one had much fewer tourists and just as many photo opps.

We thought this backdrop looked just like a painting. It was exhilarating, and I was struck by the stillness of the lake and picturesque vibrant colours of the surrounding jungle.

One temple, called Neak Pean (“entwined serpents” in Khmer) involved a walk on a long bridge before reaching a monument surrounded by a pond. Researchers believe this temple symbolizes a mythical Himalayan lake with magical, medicinal waters.

Neak Pean was originally designed for medical purposes (the ancients believed that going into these pools would balance the elements in the bather, thus curing disease); it is one of the many hospitals that Jayavarman VII built. It is based on the ancient Hindu belief of balance. Four connected pools represent Water, Earth, Fire and Wind.

Pre Rup was one of the most memorable temples for me. The views were breathtaking, and I wish photos could do it justice. Pre Rup, built with brick and other materials to give it a reddish hue, is a Hindu temple made in 961-962. The name Pre Rup means “turn the body”, which is significant because funerals were held at this temple, and ashes were rotated in different directions throughout the funeral.

The view from the top of Pre Rup was phenomenal, and I loved exploring each nook and cranny of the pagodas. Many, many questions arose, such as:

  • where did all the stones come from?
  • how were the stones carved without modern technology?
  • why does each carving look nearly identical?
  • what caused some structures to topple over, while others remain perfectly intact?
  • how many workers contributed to building these structures?
  • what was the purpose of countless door frames?
  • why did some of the small bricks have round indentations?
  • how were the stones carried up the stairs without cranes or other modern construction pieces?

It was truly an awe-inspiring experience to stand atop the temple and reflect on the fact that many centuries ago, Khmer kings and their guards, members of the royal family, and ancient monks spent their lives in these buildings. This peek into the ancient world was exhilarating and made me realize that I would love to visit more and more historical world heritage sites in the future.

Now we are in Kep, after a 6-hour night bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, a 2-hour layover (buffet breakfast was involved!), and a 3-hour bus from Phnom Penh to Kampot, then a 30-minute tuktuk ride to Kep.

Glad to finally be in Kep and explore southern Cambodia’s small, peaceful, scenic village.