One Million Stars

Hi everyone!

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Pearl Cafe breakfast and lunch menu

I hope you are all having an absolutely lovely Easter weekend so far.

Recently, I’ve been very excited about visiting some new restaurants in the area (since we’re on Easter break and the mid-semester reading week!). This restaurant, Pearl Cafe, is one that tops my To-Visit list. I really want to try their homemade angel hair spaghetti with silky eggplant, chilli, and goat cheese. Doesn’t that sound amazing? There are a couple other places that are high up on my list, including Naim (for brunch), Gerard’s Bistro, and Sassafras Canteen.

Here’s the bulletin board at my local yoga studio, Zama Yoga, where I volunteer as a Karma Yogi. That wonderful title just means that I help to vacuum, mop, wrap up garbage, and dust, once a week.

Back home in BC, Arnie is doing well. I have no idea what warranted this photo, but Mom sent it over to me one day. Seline, Mom, and Dad went on a day trip a few days ago to Victoria, where they visited the University of Victoria. Seline is possibly going to UVic next year, so I’m glad they had the opportunity to look around the campus, get a sense of the student life there, and, of course, try one of Victoria’s famed restaurants! They ended up going to Original Joe’s.

Mom sent me these wonderful photos of their meals from Original Joe’s. Seline loved her bacon jalapeño mac and cheese, and Dad enjoyed the chicken tenders. Mom’s bruschetta chicken fettuccine with pesto cream sauce was also very popular amongst the three of them. Though I wish they’d also tried that chocolate fudge brownie ice cream with cookies and cream crust (!!!), they were too full for dessert.

Studying on campus. Sometimes when I have a commitment after school (i.e. aerials, my only commitment LOL), I pack my dinner. This time, it was a delicious hearty Botanica salad mix and some yogurt with blueberries and a muffin.

This looks very fancy, and it was! Because I didn’t make it. 🙂 I got the salad from a vendor at the Jan Powers market, and cooked up an egg with cheese, and fried some of a pumpkin and spinach scone on the side.

Same meal, different day, different filter?

This is One Million Hearts, a super cool exhibit that opened up at King George Square in Brisbane’s city centre. I love this exhibit because of its vibrancy and lovely cause.

I’ve been really into walking recently! I will come back to this with a special post shortly.

And yes, still very much in love with veggies, rice, and halloumi. I could eat this every single day, and I do.

This lovely plate included salads from Botanica, a crushed falafel, and an egg that I cooked up with some grated cheese (I think it was provolone, but I’m onto some Gouda now!). The salads tasted wonderful and very refreshing.

I bought a few tennis balls to roll out some knots, but within half an hour, I broke BOTH of them! This was my first time seeing the inside of a tennis ball, and I guess I was surprised by how fragile they were, and that they were hollow inside.

So I ended up buying a $2 spiky massage ball from Kmart, which is much tougher and has been helping immensely for relieving muscle tension.

spiky-ball-exercises

On Saturday last week, I visited a new (to me) part of town called New Farm. New Farm is known for their lovely markets, performances, and cafes. This cafe, called MYLK + KO, is famous for their vegan, vegetarian, and gluten/dairy-free brunch dishes. I started with the cocowhip, topped with tons of peanut butter, cocoa granola, strawberries, and berry coulis.

My main dish was equally beautiful: falafel, a maple pumpkin slice, halloumi, roasted red pepper hummus, tons of grilled veggies, savoury dukkah, and sprouts. One of the best veggie breakfasts I’ve ever had, and it was so fun to photograph.

On a different note, I am now really into chai lattes! After purchasing a box of chai tea bags, I’ve been brewing up the chai religiously every morning. The creaminess of the milk, mixed with gentle spice from the tea bag, and sweetness from the honey is perfection.

Cindy’s Chai Latte

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 chai teabag
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • vanilla extract OR vanilla bean paste, to taste
  • cinnamon, to taste
  • 1 tbsp honey

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine water and milk in a saucepan. Simmer until it almost reaches a boy;.
  2. Break open the teabag. Pour the loose tea into the saucepan. If you don’t, the tea will be weak. Whisk and allow to simmer for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, giving the tea even longer to brew. Add honey, vanilla, and cinnamon.
  4. Strain out the tea leaves using a fine kitchen sieve, or even coffee filters/paper towels.

Last night I ate something that was unbelievably delicious – milk chocolate enrobing a perfect piece of feathery light Aussie honeycomb. This was from Noosa chocolatier, and one of the best chocolate things I’ve ever eaten. The chocolate was creamy and rich, contrasting with the airy honeycomb. I can’t wait to go back to Noosa for another.

Finally, a tasty salad mix with a variety of quiches! There’s quite a lot on this colourful plate:

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  • 1/4 pumpkin red onion quiche (Botanica)
  • 1/4 spinach quiche (Botanica)
  • 3/4 spinach goat cheese egg quiche (homemade)
  • 1/4 Botanica salad (coleslaw, sweet potato pesto couscous, carrot quinoa, spinach and rice with pumpkin)

That’s pretty much all for now. Wish I had more to share, but I really have not been doing much recently. I wish you all a beautiful weekend full of delicious eats!

Cooking, Baking, and Books | Lately

Good Sunday morning!

I’ve been back in BC for a little over a week, and things have been going so smoothly. I’ve been relaxing at home with the family, seeing friends, and spending time with my sister, who has just started her second semester of her last year of high school.

Some eats:

  • braised ribs with vermicelli noodles, carrots, quail eggs, Chinese greens, brown rice
  • coconut curry with chicken breast, cauliflower, edamame, and steamed green beans
  • coconut curry with chicken breast, cauliflower, edamame, and steamed green beans
  • purple rice, tofu with ground pork and scallions, steamed broccoli, carrot scrambled eggs
  • butter noodles with fried chicken breast and poached egg

 

  • purple rice, tofu with ground pork and scallions, steamed broccoli, carrot scrambled eggs, baked fish
  • honey garlic chicken wings and drumettes, lotus root patties with ground pork, sautéed green beans
  • satay chicken, tofu with ground pork, sautéed vegetables with scallion oil, rice

Another day, Mom and I baked an almond flour cake, that we topped with frozen sliced peaches, berries, and sliced almonds. This tastes so good, and I love the texture that almond flour lends to baked goods.

After a lovely dinner (lobster ravioli for me, steak and fries for Seline) at Joeys, Seline and I watched the Death Cure, the third movie in the Maze Runner trilogy. I first watched it in Taiwan, but was happy to see it in theatres again, this time with my sister. I was (and still am!) a lover of James Dashner’s writing, even when the Maze Runner books first came out back in 2009. I felt like the movies did the books justice, and loved the action. This series, in my opinion, made the best movies compared to Divergent, the Hunger Games, and other YA book-to-movies.

A book that I read yesterday, by Tommy Wallach, has been stuck in my mind. I love books full of unpredictable twists. Another afternoon, I made a collage of things I like and value. You can see the aerials and yoga, the studying, a map and camera to represent travel, some of my favourite quotes, my bookshelf, and of course, my family.

Seline and I spent some time with her friend at the local mall, where I devoured this taro and oolong tea soft serve, which was topped with sweetened condensed milk. In between the layers of soft serve, you’ll find plenty of pureed taro and whole red beans.

Since today is Seline’s birthday, we are going to Brown’s Social House to celebrate. We have a lot of exciting things planned for today, since she is turning 18. 🙂

  • 10:00 buy helium balloons
  • 12:00 lunch at Browns
  • 4:00 Juillet Cafe?
  • 5:00 Diva mani/pedi
  • 6:00 dinner
    • mushrooms, onions, garlic cooked and mashed with shredded gouda and spices, into puff pastry wheels
    • mashed potatoes
    • corn on the cob
    • bread machine bread
    • chicken
    • garlic green beans
    • Dairy Queen cake dessert
  • 8:30 I, Tonya movie

Have a lovely rest of the weekend!

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!

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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Angkor Archaeological Park

Yesterday, I got to check off an item from my bucket list.

✓ visit Angkor Wat!

Angkor Wat is actually one of many structures in Angkor Archaeological Park, which involves many other magnificent remains. The park is in north Cambodia, about 6.5 hours from Phnom Penh, the capital. Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple are also famous. While Angkor Wat is the grandest temple of the Angkor Archaeological Park, Angkor Thom is the ancient capital.

We woke up at 4:00 AM, hopped on a tuktuk at 4:30 AM, bought tickets, and arrived at the park by 5:30 AM for the sunrise. There was a massive rainfall, and all of us got soaked before finding cover in the blackness, but even our wet clothes and shoes didn’t distract from the overwhelming historic beauty of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Archaeological Park is over 400 square kilometres of subtropical forest, featuring the stunning remnants of the capital of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to 15th centuries. It is the largest pre-industrial city in world history. Around 25 years ago, Angkor Archaeological Park became a UNESCO World Heritage site. I felt so honoured and amazed to get a glimpse into these legendary temples.

The Angkor Archaeological Park itself has no accommodation and very few facilities (no bathrooms near the temples), so tourists stay in a nearby town called Siem Reap, which is 6 km to the south. I was surprised to find that Angkor Archaeological Park is truly located within a jungle, with monkeys, hogs, wild dogs, and centipedes (?) swarming the area.

Interesting note that I discovered with some reading: the word ‘wat’ means temple in Khmer (Cambodian language). The structure, however, doesn’t quite look like a temple. Researchers believe that it is a temple where Lord Vishnu was worshipped, and later became a tomb for the Khmer (Cambodian) king.

The remains of the Bayon Temple were my favourite. It was richly decorated, and most likely built during the 12th or 13th century for a Buddhist king.

Another structure, Ta Prohm, is famous because trees have interlaced themselves with the stonework, resulting in strange, but marvellous, beauty. One website describes Ta Prohm as “a stunning display of the embrace between nature and the human handiwork”, and I couldn’t say it better myself.

Ta Prohm is world-renowned, and immensely popular, because of the wood-stone combination, and because of various scenes in Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider. I found the sides of the Ta Prohm complex quiet and magnificent, with unstable bits of rubble and stone debris. Many sections have been blocked off, since they are at risk of collapsing.

For lunch, we dined at Sister Srey Café, which I adored.

  • Grandpa had the creamy pumpkin soup with bread to start, and then grilled mackerel with steamed jasmine rice and sauteed spinach
  • Dad enjoyed savoury stuffed French toast with cream cheese, bacon, and tomato chutney. To drink, he had two caramel milkshakes
  • I loved my corn fritters (surprisingly, both vegan and gluten-free!), topped generously with feta cheese and served with a poached egg, smoked salmon, and tomato chutney

For dessert, Grandpa had some chocolate ice cream while I enjoyed an amazing carrot cake with cream cheese icing and plenty of walnuts. This was tender, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and had great texture and crumb. I do wish, however, that there was more cream cheese icing.

Then, it was back to our hotel for a much-needed break from all the walking!

Tapas, Buffet, and a Seven-Course Meal

Good evening from Siem Reap on this warm Tuesday, January 9.

Recently:

  • Seline often sends me screenshots of conversations that she has with Mom. I thought this one was particularly sweet, and it made me reminisce the wonderful time we spent at Sunshine Coast during both 2015 and 2016
  • Spiders at ROMDENG, a restaurant in Phnom Penh – I chickened out 😥
  • Dad and Grandpa on a tuktuk this morning; it was in the high 30s temperature-wise

The Wat Langka temple was timelessly beautiful and impactful. We also had the opportunity to see the Independence Monument (second photo), and buy new sneakers for Grandpa from the local Adidas store, since his old ones broke on the train ride from Taipei to Taoyuan (the city in Taiwan where the airport is located).

For brunch after the temple exploration, we enjoyed another meal at Daughters of Cambodia. They are truly so lovely for their great cause (everything goes towards helping girls forced into the sex trafficking trade in Cambodia, to learn skills like cooking, massage, sewing, and more).

  • Dad had the baguette BLT, which had bacon, cucumber, spinach, and tomato with an onion chutney
  • Grandpa enjoyed corn chowder and a fish burger with fries
  • I loved my creamy parsley pumpkin soup and cheesy garlic baguette

We purchased a few things from Daughters of Cambodia; namely, some little coloured pouches with powerful words in the Khmer language such as ‘dream’, ‘pray’, and ‘believe’. Grandpa will give these to his family doctor, teacher, and dentist.

We spent the afternoon lounging around the hotel pool. Grandpa was happy with his fresh coconut water. It’s astonishing how much larger these coconuts are, compared to the ones he’s enjoyed in Macau, and even back home in Vancouver.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Friends, which is part of a greater company called TREE. TREE is a series of training restaurants that invest profits in students who train there. Money goes towards social programs that help them become skilled, productive, healthy and happy young workers with secure future careers. They not only provide high-quality service and food, but also help young people in developing countries (most are orphans, former street children, or other marginalized, at-risk groups) develop skills that they need to be employable in the hospitality industry. The training that runs here helps build confidence and skills, so students graduate with better futures. 10/10 for sustainability and impact, in my book.

For the tapas, Friends recommends ordering one or two per person. Since the three of us went, we decided to order five. These were some of my favourites (okay, I ended up listing them all):

  • Crispy zucchini and cheddar fritters with Thai Sriracha mayonnaise
  • Fish cakes with garlic, leeks, roasted red pepper puree (these were unbelievably good)
  • Burmese chicken curry with crispy noodles, smoked chili, pickled mustard greens (super spicy, but incredible flavour)

  • Crusty bread with EVOO and dukkah spice

  • Ricotta gnocchi with spinach and corn (I truly loved these, and my dad, who typically doesn’t like gnocchi, enjoyed them!)

For dessert:

  • white chocolate ice cream for Dad and Grandpa (I had a taste, and it had a superb white chocolate aftertaste, unlike some white chocolate ice creams which are simply excessively sweet)
  • black sticky rice pudding with coconut ice cream, caramelized pineapple, and roasted peanuts

The next day – this morning – was a little hectic because we had to clean out the hotel room and check out before a long bus ride to Siem Reap. I was a little sad to say goodbye to our lovely hotel room.

Breakfast buffet in our hotel.

I enjoyed:

  • a cheese omelet
  • two Cambodian sandwiches with ham, cucumber, and spicy mayo (I didn’t think I would like this, but I wholeheartedly enjoyed it. The bold flavours stood up to the fresh baguette, and everything seemed to work well)
  • baked beans
  • chive potatoes
  • fresh passionfruit and dragonfruit
  • banana bread
  • blueberry muffin (crumbled over the plain yogurt)
  • dragonfruit custard danish (surprisingly delicious for a not-crispy Viennoiserie! I wanted another.)
  • plain yogurt
  • mango yogurt with vanilla cream swirl
  • toasted wholemeal bread with butter and pineapple-papaya marmalade (it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed toast, plain and simple, with butter and jam – this was absolutely delightful)
  • raisin custard danish
  • apple cinnamon muffin (crumbled over the mango yogurt)

Both my stomach and my heart were incredibly full as we boarded the Giant Ibis bus at around 9:45 AM for our 6.5 hour trip to Siem Reap.

The views were unlike anything I’d seen before. One thing that stood out to me was the houses that were built on stilts. Most houses between Phnom Penh (capital of Cambodia) and Siem Reap (North Cambodia) were on stilts, with hammocks and shelves and tables underneath for shade.

The bus stopped three times, with two of the three stops being rest stops for bathroom breaks, and one for a 30-minute lunch break.

Lunch at the Banyan Tree restaurant had a number of options, which was a pleasant surprise since I’d assumed very few options for a food place in the middle of sand and palm trees.

When we arrived at around 3:30, we boarded a tuktuk with all three of our suitcases and two backpacks to go to our hotel, the Riversoul Residence. Riversoul is about fifteen minutes from Angkor Wat, which is why we chose it. It is modern and beautiful in a unique, complementary-colours kind of way, but I do miss the traditional nature and French influence of our first hotel, Raffles in Phnom Penh.

I was amazed by the lack of people in the hotel; it was very empty when we checked in, and my dad attributed this to the fact that the Riversoul Residence is fairly new.

Check out that swimming pool and those lawn chairs which are styled to look like boats!

We took a 10-minute walk to the old market of Siem Reap, which was close to our dinner restaurant, EMBASSY.

EMBASSY has a set menu for each month of the year. They serve French food with a Cambodian twist, using fresh, seasonal, local ingredients from Siem Reap and the surrounding area. All of the stems, leaves, flowers, and garnishes were completely edible. We really did devour every drop.

The three of us ate this seven-course meal:

  1. AMUSE BOUCHE – steamed Chreau village tomato with minced shrimp stuffing
  2. APPETIZER – Kampot scallop with ground toasted rice, kaffir lime leaf, galangal, lemongrass, passionfruit sauce
  3. SOUP – traditional Kdat Soup with turmeric paste, green bass leaf, black chicken (by far my favourite dish of the day, since it was rich, hearty, with a beautiful blend of textures and unique, yet familiarly comforting ingredients)
  4. SORBET – soursop fruit sorbet with fermented black sticky rice and alcohol drizzle
  5. MAIN COURSE 1 – grilled Tonle Sap fish with soybean pickle, ginger, green onion
  6. MAIN COURSE 2 – pork shank from Takeo province, slow-cooked in sugar palm caramel, mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes with coconut milk (also delicious – the meat was very tender and mildly sweet, with great unami flavour from the mushroom gravy)
  7. DESSERT – cashew mousse with red dragonfruit ice cream (the cashew mousse part was spectacular. You can truly taste the cashew, and I appreciated the crispy, chewy, and sweet brown sugar crumble that complemented the nutty mousse)

It was delicious, and now I am dead from deliciousness and excitement for tomorrow, because we’re going to see Angkor Archeological Park!