Monthly Archives: February 2013

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The One With Daycraft & Booroos – Online Shopping & Reviews

It was a no brainer, really.

I shopped online at Daycraft before. Necesity did a great job of recommending good local merchants, and finding an iPhone case which I liked, I did my part to support local businesses.

This time round, I was asked by my good friend, Min to do some online shopping and do a review for Booroos, the online shopping reviews website she founded from Singapore. I thought, of course, Daycraft would be perfect for this.

First, a word about Booroos.

Booroos

Booroos was created to answer familiar questions from online shoppers when it comes to service quality, website experience, products and services purchased and the like. The open collaborative website which allows everyone to share and review their online shopping experience allow avid shoppers to be be online “Buying Guru”. Booroos’ reviews are written by every day shoppers – like yours truly – who offer objective third-party reviews and therefore able to offer would-be online shoppers a trustworthy source of information.

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The One With Simple Market & Good Cho’s – A Delightful Afternoon In Taipei

Simple Market came highly recommended by some of my friends when I asked for recommendations on things to do in Taipei. The market itself only open on Sunday, so the better half and I made sure we booked the afternoon to visit. There was very little information online… at least, for the non-Chinese literate like me. So imagined my surprised when I stepped out from the cab to realise that Simple Market is very near to Taipei 101!

Simple Market

The surprise was doubled after we took in the surrounding and soak in the buzzy atmosphere. Unlike night markets in Taiwan, Simple Market has a mix between crafts, food and fashion that immediately made you feel kinda hip to be amongst the youngsters, who seem to be the target crowd. Just check out these adorable merchandises.

Simple Market

The bustling market.

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The One With Manor Seafood Restaurant – Damn Good Suckling Pig

Once a month the shakers (of salts) and movers (of cheese) from the #hkfoodbloggers Facebook group will gather to collectively wield our cameras at unsuspecting waiters and create comfortable, unified silence as we devour plate after plate of delicious food. I might be green to this, but I am very sure seldom you can find a whole bunch of folks who can talk about nothing else but food all night long. And that night at Manor Seafood Restaurant, we sure have plenty to talk – and complain! – about.

Manor Seafood Restaurant

Sizzling claypot oysters.

Let’s just say that places like Manor will do well to learn that, in the service industry – the customer is always right. Here’s the story: We booked a table for ten, and upon arrival we were seated in a nice private room. Being the dedicated foodies that we were, we already pre-ordered some popular food items, and after some haggling over the extensive menu we ordered a few more. Halfway through the dinner, the captain came in and told us that, hey, we are $1K short of our minimum charge, and please can we please order more food?

Manor Seafood Restaurant

Signature stir-fried noodles with soy sauce.

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The One With Symphony Surabaya, Part 5

The eye of the crater was smoking, bellowing smoke serenely into the air with a calm belying the fierce burning lava that was boiling underneath. The cliff of the caldera was steep, smoking sand, its lips at most one metre wide. One misstep will send us tumbling down into its fiery jaw with nothing in our path to offer any chance of salvation.

It was a situation too surreal for words. And here I am thinking I am being dramatic – trust me, I am not.

Symphony Surabaya Day 5

The scene was one Mount Bromo, an active volcano three hours drive from Surabaya which last erupted in 2010. To reach the rim of the caldera, one has to cross a marshland of almost mystic proportion. It was dawn, the sun has just risen, and the entire plain was shrouded with fog. I can’t see more than five metres in front of me, and wherever I look up I saw tall, dark walls looming in the distant.

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The One With Symphony Surabaya, Part 4

For the second half of our trip, we were lucky to have a very efficient and knowledgeable tour guide.

For one, thought we made a mistake with the pickup time, we were still able to make it packing our stuff that very morning and have a somewhat leisurely breakfast while the guide waited patiently at the hotel lobby, perusing the local newspaper like he had all the time in the world.

For second, he had the foresight to make us to make the trip to Madakaripura – one of the more dramatic waterfalls in Java – today instead of tomorrow, since the weather was relatively good (and that we would be probably too tired after our Bromo hike tomorrow).

Symphony Surabaya Day 4

The plan was simple enough – we will leave the hotel to Lava View Lodge where we will be spending the night, and on the way we will make a pitstop at Madakaripura. I had no idea what was in store for me, but the guide told me I would need an umbrella, I had my first red flag.

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The One With Symphony Surabaya, Part 3

It was one humid, hot afternoon in Surabaya, and I found myself in the land of too much onions.

Surabaya 2013

It would have been an awesome sight if you are in that kind of thing. There were onions everywhere. Baskets after hundreds of baskets of all sizes, hanging in sacks overhead, on the head of passing women, or just strewn on the floor. Even cats got into the action (I will leave that to your imagination).

Symphony Surabaya Day 3

Pasar Pabean is one of those darkly lit market designed to invoke anxiety attack for those who suffer from claustrophobia. We were walking around in Chinatown when we accidentally stumbled upon this market which sold everything imaginable under the sun.

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The One With Symphony Surabaya, Part 2

There was an irritating bee buzzing around my head. I was standing in the middle of some dark caves, with water dripping onto my head. The light from my phone was hopeless trying penetrate the dense darkness. The only thought that I had in mind was…

… what the fuck am I doing here?

Some context, if you please. Chris and I ended up at some caves the Japanese used to hide in during the war (which one, I don’t know, the Indonesians have had way too many wars) as we wanted to get away from the hot spring. Let me tell you know, my readers, that an Indonesian hot spring is very, very different from the one in Taipei.

Symphony Surabaya Day 2

Although the Cangar Hot Spring is located at the top of a mountain which took us some two hours plus to get to, the weather was far from being pleasantly cold. It alternated between acceptably breezy and scathingly hot. The place was packed with locals – nary a foreigner in sight so Chris and I stood out like two sore thumbs – and every men, women and children were crammed into very few pools. Nobody seems to pay heed to the many signs around the place – they smoked and ate away merrily. In the water.

All Chris and I dared to do was to soak our feet into the suspiciously murky-looking water. Ah, the joy of a true Indonesia experience. Not.

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The One With Symphony Surabaya, Part 1

Did you know in Chinese, Surabaya is called “Four Water”? As in 泗水 (pronounced “Sìshuǐ”)

I learned that from the very pixelated, very old screen of the inflight entertainment of my Cathay Pacific flight to Surabaya. The four hour flight was uneventful, except some Indonesians (maids) who seem to have no reservation to chat right across me. So I did the polite thing and held up my magazine higher and higher in a fruitless attempt to block out their line of sight.

And oh, this is the closest I ever get to the equator. It might come as a surprise to you (as it was to me) that Surabaya is actually located in Java, not Sumatra, and that it is located between Jakarta and Bali.

And that it is rather close to Australia!

First impression of Surabaya. It was a rustic town, kinda like my own hometown of Menglembu, with instances of “modernity” and “urbanisation” here and there. It is quite disconcerting to see a towering new hotel built right next to a slow flowing river where thatched huts and abandoned old buildings hugged the riverbanks.

Symphony Surabaya Day 1

We got in to Surabaya rather late in the day, and checked in directly at the hotel. Garden Palace Hotel is a large, clean and unpretentious accommodation of choice by my travel buddy, Chris, located within a large compound with at least one bar and one club (which for some reason thumped our some real loud music from 6 a.m. onwards one day. Goodness knows what the youngsters were up to. This old chap needs his sleep!). The hotel is well equipped with restaurants – Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, Western – and throughout we sample some of them. Some were okay, others were not worth mentioning.

Thank God for the nearby shopping mall.

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The One With Symphony Surabaya

For the past couple of days I have been way too preoccupied with work to even think about my upcoming trip Surabaya. During those rare minutes between office and home when my brain was free to disengage itself from normal operation, the only thought I had (on loop, I might add) was…

… what should I name my blog posts?

A definite blogger job hazard if there’s one. But hey at least I got an answer. Hence Symphony Surabaya.

Surabaya

(Image Credit)

It would be too much detail for me to go into why I am heading to Indonesia for Chinese New Year. If you know me as well as I think some of you do, a holiday in the tropics leaving behind a winter in Hong Kong (okay, in reality that’s all relative) would be entirely out of character for me.

Give me cold, chilly holiday. Snow? Oh yes please!

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The One With Da Shan Wu Jia – An Extraordinary Yilan Food Adventure Into The Mountainside of Taipei

I have been debating with myself if I should be writing additional blog posts on my recent trip to Taipei, since I have already blogged daily. While I risk the danger of repeating myself somewhat, I reckon some of my experiences were worth an entire blog post by themselves, lest I would forget about them. At the very least, they will come in handy for those seeking to experience the same joy.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Waterlily chicken soup.

Da Shan Wu Jia (大山無價) was certainly one of those priceless experience worth spending the time to write about. Encouraged by fellow food blogger Peter, I made it a point to have dinner at this place, with only a passing warning that Da Shan Wu Jia will be “slightly out of the way“.

Well, that would be the understatement of the year. We took a cab from our hotel at Xinyi Road. Upon knowing our destination, the driver looked puzzled and asked, what could you be possibly looking for at such a remote place? In broken Mandarin I told him there is this restaurant highly recommended by a friend, and he in turn wanted to know if we were after some illegal stuff. Like, you know, some sort of endangered animals which we were not supposed to eat. Language failed me to defend myself, and in my slight panic I did wonder if Da Shan Wu Jia does serve such exotic – albeit illegal – morsels of cruelty?

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