May Reminiscence: Bali 2017

2 mins to the end of May and here I go to log in a blog entry (in order not to leave the month of May ‘completely blank) ……

Now where did ALL the time in May go?

Ended April & Started May in Bali – my only holiday for year 2017 so far (with plans for another one in the works). Came back to Singapore, came down with food poisoning / stomach virus (because it could be airborne as well), and spent pretty much the remaining 3-4 weeks of May (ironically the month of May is a 5 week month by itself) getting back my footing (and struggling quite a bit along the way) …… and experiencing quite a roller coaster of emotions. Somewhere along the way – had wanted to do 1 photo challenge as well but life got in the way.

And that sums up May for me!

And now for the highlights of my Bali Trip – the main title of this blog entry!

For this trip, we were based primarily in Ubud, and did not venture out to other areas (i.e. Seminyak, Canggur, Kuta etc.)

Very ‘quotable’ quotes that we spotted along the streets of Ubud

 

Not forgetting the delicious local Balinese cuisine we had throughout our 4 days stay ……

Starting right from the top – Bali Guling (balinese suckling pig) from Ibu Oka

2nd row, from the right side – Fried Duck from Bedek Bengali (which was only 5 min walk from our hotel!), Balinese style Paella from Casa Luna (easily one of the best meals we had, and fantastic blend of flavours and ingredients), Ribs from Pundi Pundi (within vicinity of our hotel as well)

3rd row, from right side – Seafood Skewers with Mash Potato from Pundi Pundi as well, Ayam Betutu (Balinese style steamed/roast chicken which looked very unassuming and took the kitchen rather long to prepare, but it was really delicious as well), Tomato Omelette & Fish from Run’s Warung (looked unassuming too but was really really delicious as well).

Weather was generally great save for 1 rainy day (3rd day of our trip). Even managed to capture a beautiful moon picture (with no headlights obstructing) after Yin Class on my walk back to the hotel.

Not forgetting the main objective of this trip – DIY Yoga Retreat. Ubud is literally yoga heaven. Which means Yoga Barn (of Eat Pray Love fame) was a must-visit!

Both myself and Z have very different objectives and ideas about our individual practices. For myself, I didn’t feel strong enough to do 2-3 classes in a day, and was intending to do like 1 physical asana class per day. Did end up having 3 days of 2 classes (out of which for 1 day i.e the rainy day we mixed 1 morning flow class together with a roll and release class, while I did a meditation & pranayama class on my last day). In the end, we were able to compromise and come to a common understanding on class scheduling and it worked out well.

Also visited Radiantly Alive – another major yoga studio in Ubud as well. Have heard about the stones that were given to ‘mark’ your attendance when attending class …… and I was really looking forward to receive them.

Below are the ones that I got for the 4 classes I attended at Radiantly Alive. Notice the pattern – prosperity (X3) + good luck (which was the last stone I got on my final day). Definitely a manifestation of my innermost consciousness as having a abundance vs scarcity mindset was consistently on my mind ….. while good luck was obvious as I had a challenging follow up to do at work.

The yoga itself deserves a separate entry of its own. Will blog if I can get over my acute writer’s block.

Ubud is also known for having lots of clean eating options, however the local Balinese cuisine (see earlier photo collage) was relatively inexpensive and too delicious to miss ūüėõ …… Do miss having the fresh cold pressed juices from Garden Kafe (part of Yoga Barn). It was not only fresh, but really cheap at 45,000 IDR (rupiah) – which is around SGD 4.70! A similar sized bottle from Juice Junkie goes for SGD 10 to 11 *gasp*

As much as this was meant to be retreat to rest/recharge/refresh and do lots of yoga – by the 3rd day, my mid back was starting to feel strained/tired simply by just holding downward facing dog. And so it was pretty much it, no more asana-based flow classes for the remaining 1.5 days in Bali.

Unfortunately too, immediately after touching down in Singapore, started to get the runs (which interrupted my sleep completely – when I didn’t sleep that well in Ubud) and it was full blown food poisoning post trip for the next 2-3 days that completely drained me and lost my appetite totally.

Instead of feeling refreshed and recharged …… I ended up in a really dark and negative state and being unhappy/frustrated at every single thing post trip and post food poisoning. It didn’t help also that I suddenly felt regretful of not enjoying much scenery (be it the scenic Bukit Campuhan Ridge walk or a gorgeous beach / sunset view) during the trip as well. Thankfully, I’m pretty much out of this negative state after some reflection and self-adjustment. After taking a yoga ‘break’ post trip, and despite having to rebuild my strength and flexibility again post food poisoning – am happy to say I’m getting the ‘mojo’ and enthusiasm back in my practice again, and with a stronger focus ūüôā

In fact, I am thinking of a return trip next year. Hopefully by then, I will be a much stronger yogi than I am now. And if I were to return – will definitely have mountain/ridge/beach/sunset time incorporated in as well.

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Food Mission 2016: nahm

Using the 1st day of the new year (year 2017) to play blog catch-up.

While I had quite a few foodie adventures in year 2016 itself, one of the highlights was definitely dining at Nahm while I was in Bangkok in April 2016. Incidentally, this is also my one and only overseas trip/holiday for year 2016.

More specifically, the reason why we ended up at nahm was because it was meant to be a birthday treat for Z – who really really wanted to check out nahm!

Apart from the many awards and accoldales nahm has received, notably being ranked in Asia’s 50 Best¬†Restaurants (No. 7 in Year 2015 and No. 8 in Year 2016), ¬†nahm is also notable as a set-up by David Thompson – an Australian chef specialized in Thai cuisine. Also noted from Z that Nahm is the ‘parent’ of Long Chim @ Marina Bay Sands that also serves similar styled thai cuisine.

Location-wise, Nahm is not difficult to find as it is situated right at the ground level of the COMO Metropolitian Bangkok Hotel in the Sathorn district. Which in turn was just 10 to 15 min away by cab from Pratunam (where we were staying).

No pictures of the restaurant though as we were busy getting ourselves settled down and relaxed at our corner table, and was a bit tired to be snapping away at the restaurant interior after our early morning flight into Bangkok.

We went for the 1,600 baht (before taxes) set lunch that works out to be around SGD 75 to 76. Rather than ala-carte, I decided the set lunch would be better for the complete dining experience + it was intended also to be brithday treat for Z.

And so, how does Thai cuisine cooked by an Australian fare in a smart casual setting?

The set lunch consists of 8 courses – which I combined into a collage and posted it on my personal instagram.

In the order from left to right to downwards (and sideways and downwards again) – our meal kicked off with a complementary¬†Amuse Bouche ‘Ma Hor’. This is essentially minced chicken, pork and prawn (which lumped together felt like ba kwa) covered with palm sugar topped with fried shallots on a pineapple. At 1st bite, it was refreshing, and the combination of sweet (i.e. the pineapple) and savoury (i.e. the pork) was perfect!

Next up, a canape (or rather appetizer) РThai satay + egg nets with prawns, wild almonds and kaffir line, which made for another sweet and savoury combination as well.

Followed by the mains – Scallop¬†salad with coconut & lemongrass …. Steamed coral trout fish with Bang rak yellow beans & prickled garlic (understand this was a signature David Thomson creation where the recipe can be found here) …. Beef rendang curry …. Hot and Sour Shop with chicken, prawns and wild mushrooms.

From the pictures, food wise and presentation wise, it looks like home cooked thai fare. The beef rendang curry was really fragrant, and while the hot and sour soup (aka tom yum soup David Thompson style) was not really that hot (in temperature), but was definitely spicy (although it looked otherwise). I personally liked the steam fish as there was a light lemongrass and garlic aftertaste that went well with the sweet soy sauce.

Thank god for the dessert – which was tropical fruits in scented syrup that took some of the spiciness from the soup off. And we were given a complimentary fruit as well.

Not a cheap meal by all means (as many Singaporeans travel to Bangkok with the expectation that food/dinning in Bangkok is cheap), but good experience to check out thai-style fine dining (as versus to thai-style street food) for a change. What I liked was that the food felt clean (as versus to street-like greasy), while retaining the basic thai sensibility of sweet and savoury flavours by using spices and condiments such as lemongrass.

Apart from the set lunch, Nahm also serves set dinner priced at 2,500 baht per pax Рwhich is a full tasting menu which consists of a canapes, 1 dish from every individual main course section and desserts. We almost went for that, but it was impossible to get reservations for dinner as it was booked out 2-3 weeks in advance. Will love to go back for that next time!

Details:

nahm

COMO Metropolitian Bangkok                                                                                                                         27 South Sathorn Road                                                                                                                       Tungmahamek Sathorn,
Bangkok 10120, Thailand

Tel:  +66 2 625 3388
Email:  nahm.met.bkk@comohotels.com                                                                                                         Website:  http://www.comohotels.com/metropolitanbangkok/dining/nahm

Opening Hours:

Lunch – Monday to Friday
12pm to 2pm

Dinner – Daily
7pm to 10.30pm (last order)

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Chaos

1st Photo Challenge in a long long while.

Finally managed to find some photos that fit into¬†this week’s theme – Chaos.

As documented on this blog, around this time last year (1st half of November 2015), I had my 11 day vacation to Japan. Had intended to do a summary/round-up of day trip to Karuizawa (from Tokyo) but it came to nil as I’m blogging a lot lesser these days. ¬†And so, this will serve in part as part walk down memory lane / reminiscence of my trip last year ūüôā

This was on the early part of our walk/hike around the Kyu-Karuizawa Area.

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Withered trees and a-almost deserted road ……

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Deserted houses covered up by overgrown trees/autumn leaves ……

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Another ‘deserted’ house we came across later along the hike to the pond.

I would term this as peace amongst chaos. While the walking/hiking trail looked messy due to the overgrown trees …… however it felt very peaceful walking through while enjoying the crisp clean air (as Karuizawa is a mountain resort in Nagano Prefecture).

The original challenge entry here

Japan 2015: Kobe Re-Visited

Totally unplanned but ended up re-visiting Kobe (for myself that is, sis has not been to Kobe before) for a day trip on Day 7 of our trip. It was a last minute tweak to our itinerary as we had originally planned to visit Ise (from Nagoya) Рonly to abandon it due to the longer journey it would take if we were to cover it using the JR Pass all the way.

Originally, the initial plan was to stay in Kobe for 2 days, and from Kobe, do day trips to Osaka/Kyoto/Himeji. However due to difficulty in securing accommodation for Kobe on weekend dates, we ended up in Takayama instead. The journey took about 1 and a half hours, via shinkansen to Shin-Osaka, then direct rapid service all the way to Sannomiya Station – the main hub of Kobe City …… and all covered by the JR Pass.

Started off our Kobe daytrip with a visit to Ikuta Shrine, located right in the heart of Sannomiya.

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Ikuta Shrine is a Shinto Shrine that is one of the oldest in Japan, with a history of over 1800 years. Apart from protecting the deity of Ikuta (Ikuta means the place with vibrant energy), there is another¬†interesting piece of history surrounding the shrine. In AD 80, 44 kambe (Á•ěśął) or court officials (fuko) who served shrines, were sent by the court to serve at this shrine. Thus gradually the area around the shrine became what is known as Kobe (Á•ěśął) city today. The shrine is also of great significance to the people of Kobe – as a symbol of resurrection …… as it has survived many wars and natural disasters over the years, with the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 being the latest.

Sources: Ikuta Shrine Official Website, Japan Experience

Thus it was also the place to offer some prayers right at the mid-point of our trip as well.

After visiting the shrine, crossed the road opposite to the huge Tokyu Hands – a building by itself about 5 stories high, with another basement floor. Looked around a bit before deciding to head off for lunch.

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Quaint looking European style shop/building in a corner of Sannomiya. Walked in to take a look and the shop sells exclusively Baumkuchen cakes.

We decided to get lunch in Sannomiya area itself. As sis does not eat beef, as such Kobe Beef is not an option , and eating at Wakkoqu was a no go! Did some googling and decided we could check out Nishimura Coffee for lunch – as they have an outlet right along the stretch beside Hankyu Sannomiya Station. Nishimura Coffee was also the same cafe where I packed a strawberry shortcake back to my hotel room during my last trip back in November 2013.

(Note: We did not manage to locate their iconic red brick outlet at Kitanozaka, which is around the corner from Ikuta Shrine)

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The cafe itself has a very 1960s vibe. And to our surprise, they allow smoking inside the cafe! So it was not that comfortable eating in a smoky cafe of sorts ……

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The dessert counter. Spoilt with choice with so many different varieties of cakes and pies to choose from.

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My lunch set! A little disappointed not to see any Kobe Beef on the menu ….. so opted for one of their set lunches instead. Can’t remember the exact name of this main course. Basically it is baked balls – one with bacon and cheese, another with an assortment of seafood ….. accompanied by a salmon & ham (within a jelly) ….. and minestrone soup. I must say the way they baked the balls is very creative & igneous …. retaining the western influence while incorporating some Japanese sensibility and creativity.

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Sis had a more traditional ham sandwich accompanied with salad and minestrone soup.

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Kobe – as a major port city, is also a gateway to western culture and influences. As such, they are well-known for their bakeries and pastries. ¬†So having a dessert is a must! Got a baked cheese cake to share as it is not so rich/heavy as we were to take a fruit tart / mount blanc / cream-based cake ……

Off to Kobe Harborland after lunch ……

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The iconic ferris wheel right beside the Anpanman Museum ….. with the Old Kobe Harbor Signal Tower in the distance @ the end of the harbour.

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Takahama Quay that is right below the Mosaic shopping area ….. which overlooks Meriken Park and the iconic buildings that flank it – from left to right …… Kobe Port Tower, Hotel Okura, Kawasaki Good Times World (Maritime Museum) and the Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel (that I stayed in during my last trip).

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As you can see, it is also a cloudy and pretty ‘grey’ day, ready to rain anytime. Still feel the million-dollar night views that I experienced back in year 2013 were way superior …….

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Flowerbed at the other end of the quay.

We wanted to proceed to the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens & Ropeway next ….. but by the time we reach there, it will be around 1630 Hrs. With sunset starting at 1645 Hrs and the Ropeway closing at 1700 Hrs …… and considering that its such a cloudy day with high chance of rain, went back to Sannomiya to do some omiyage shopping to end off the day trip (technically half-day only) to Kobe.

Food Mission 2015: Sakaguchiya

Ending of my Takayama series with a food review entry!

Sakaguchiya is another restaurant/eatery that we didn’t plan to visit initially. After reaching Takayama, we reviewed our hotel’s list of recommended restaurants, plus with some googling …… and from there, decided to pencil in a visit to Sakaguchiya for an early lunch after our morning walkaround the markets and in Takayama Old Town (Sanmachi).

It is also great that Sakaguchiya is located right in the row of old townhouses in the Sanmachi district ….. and which we will need to walk pass by again after visiting the Miyagawa Market and on route back to our hotel.

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Didn’t mange to snap pictures of the entrancce, but got some of the interior.¬†The restaurant itself has a more rustic feel, in part due to the dark brown wood interior.

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After ordering and while waiting for our food, I ventured a bit around the restaurant and spotted this garden at the back of the restaurant. They did a great job in preserving this garden – as a reminder of Takayama’s history.

Based from what I have googled, Sakaguchiya is famous for their Hida Beef dishes. With reference to the English menu here – one can indeed be spoilt for choice ūüėõ

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In the end it was a close call between the Hida Beef Bowl, Hida Beef Steak Bowl and Hida Beef Soba. Since we decided in the morning to go back to Keichan-ya for dinner ¬†to check out their other dishes (my plan is to try their Hida Beef with Hoba Miso) …… my final choice was to have the Hida Beef Soba – given that it was an early lunch, and my preference for something soup-based (after having buns, sandwiches along our walk).

The soba which most of us have more commonly will usually be cold soba (i.e. zaru soba), warm soba (with tempura), cha-soba (i.e. green soba). So to me, hida beef with soba is probably something different as I do not see this combo back in Singapore whenever I dine in Japanese restaurants.

The nice thing about the entire dish is that hida beef gives the broth sweetness Рwhich is something different from the more common kake (hot) soba. However, with the hida beef in thin slices, it was a bit difficult to savour the taste and texture of it. As I blog now 6 months later, I regretted not trying the Hida Beef sushi or the Hida Beef Steak bowl to better savour the Hida Beef taste.

On another note, the local hida soba was very flavourful, together with the hida beef infused broth, made it a very refreshing combination.

Sakaguchiya’s menu has a great variety of items, including non-hida beef based items for some who may not want to have beef. All in all, one of the restaurants to visit if you are in the Sanmachi district.

 

Details:

Sakaguchiya¬†Śĺ°ť£üšļčŚá¶ ŚĚāŚŹ£ŚĪč

90 Kamisannomachi, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture 506-0846, Japan

Opening Hours: 1030 Hrs to 1500 Hrs, Closed On Tuesdays

Website: http://hidatakayama-sakaguchiya.com/

Google Maps Р10 to 15 min walk from JR Takayama Station into the Sanmachi Traditional Preservation ARea

Japan 2015: Takayama Highlights Part 3

Sanmachi – the old streets that is preserved and the iconic district for sight-seeing in Takayama as well.

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Sanmachi is also nick-named ‘Little Kyoto‘ as it gives off the vibe of a quaint historic district, with the nicely preserved wooden machiyas (townhouses) with various shops selling various stuff (there’s one shop as above that sells various types of sake).

I personally like the ‘small-village’ feel of the place which is a nice slowdown in pace and not as commercialized as Kyoto is …… although that may change in the future once the main JR Takayama station completes¬†its re-development in year 2017 with a brand new station and a shopping mall right beside it (which will result in more tourist inflows).

Walked down the entire stretch before proceeding to the our next destination – Miyagawa Morning Market.

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Unlike Jinya-mae which we went earlier, Miyagawa Morning Market consists of a longer stretch of makeshift stalls set up right alongside the Miyagawa River. There’s more variety of stuff too ….. from food items to small trinklets to fresh produce etc.

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Various types of goods on sale ……

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There’s also a cafe building on the other side of the market.

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More stalls selling various types of items. The apples looked so fresh and crunchy that we wanted to get some to eat …. but decided not to due to the lack of a fridge.

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Some of the more interesting cooked food stalls – one selling tomato-based fried chicken, another organic herb tea stall and another one selling award-winning hot pudding.

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Got a bottle of pudding to try. The pudding is actually a ‘hot’ pudding that is freshly made and then soaked in hot water. By the time I consumed it post lunch back at the hotel lobby, it was more warm than hot. The pudding is actually softer (and sweeter), with a more tofu-like texture when consumed hot/warm.

The surrounding Miyagawa River. Clear day and specks of autumn foliage.

After our tour of Miyagawa Market, we slowly walked back to Sanmachi for an early lunch at Sakaguchiya (separate review as linked). Whilst checking my phone during lunch, saw on Facebook that there’s actually this one thousand year old ginko tree right in Takayama, at the compound of Hida Kokubun-ji Temple just 5 min away from our hotel. And so we walked there to take a look right before heading for our half-day tour to Shirakawa-go next!

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Japan 2015: Takayama Highlights Part 2

More sights of Takayama! Got up early the next morning and the plan for the greater half of the day was to head to Takayama Old Town and the Morning Markets for a walk + Lunch before our 1/2 day tour to Shirakawago in the afternoon.

(Note: Shirakawago was the main reason why we set up base in Takayama)

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The Old Town area was a good 10 to 15 min walk from our hotel. As Takayama lies within the mountainous Hida region of Gifu Prefecture, it is also a lot colder than in Yokohama (about 13 to 15 degrees in the daytime …… then drops to 10 degrees at nightime). But still, i it was a bright and sunny day. Also got to see some modern western/french restaurants along the walk (despite Takayama being more of a small quiet town) ……¬†with the streets adorned with colourful autumn trees.

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Unlike in Kansai, Tokyo/Kanto (where I experienced the autumn foliage back in 2013) …… autumn in Takayama/Gifu Prefecture comes a lot earlier in September/October, so the colours are not as nice as it should be given that it is tail end of autumn season in Takayama / Gifu.

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Towards our 1st ‘targeted’ destination – the Jinya-mae Morning Market.

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The plan also was to grab breakfast along the way. Chanced upon this stall and got a Hida Beef bun to start off the day! The shop also sells Hida Beef sushi – which I regret not trying as I write now ……

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The shop next door that sells various types of Hoba miso.

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Came across another stall selling grilled mochi …… and we got that to try as well!

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After our food-stop, continued to make our way towards the Jinya-mae morning market. More sights along the way ……

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The Jinya-Mae Morning Market. This market sells mainly vegetables, fruits and various side dishes and spices. The apples and grapes looked so fresh that we would have loved to buy some to enjoy …… but we did not do as there’s no fridge to store them (due to having to change the room on the day itself).

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This is the Takayama Jinya – a historical government house that was officially use from 1692 till 1969. Only took pictures from outside (and not pay the 420 JPY admission fee to go in).

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Heading to the Old Private Houses (Sanmachi) next. More¬†autumn foliage along our walk ……