Uniqlo Launches Mums And Babes Collection

Forget fat and frumpy! The preggars amongst us battling the office air-con, the hospital chill or just taking off on a winter holiday need not despair. Winter is not going to be about hiding the layers but accentuating them.

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Uniqlo, our favourite Japanese basics retailer has just launched a Mums and Babes collection which includes comfy leggings and ultra-stretch jeans for mums at good price points that start at only S$19.90 for maternity leggings. Soft, comfy and easy to fold – they look great for just folding into your travel bag or keeping handy.

 

If you are picking up a gift, there are sleepers, bodysuits and onesies for baby which effectively wrap babies in warmth and softness. Pieces are designed to be durable enough to withstand daily washing without losing shape while remaining delicate enough for newborn skin.

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Available this month at UNIQLO Suntec City and online in Singapore here, while all other items are available in selected UNIQLO stores including UNIQLO’s Global Flagship Store at Orchard Central and online. Prices range from $9.90 for Babies & Newborns’ Bib (2pc) to $59.90 for a pair of Maternity Ultra Stretch Jeans.

The baby range is also available now in Hong Kong stores and online here. 

 

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Road Trip To Rotorua, New Zealand

The next time you are in Auckland, New Zealand put a 2 day road trip to Rotorua into the itinerary. It’s a rare opportunity to get out of the city, a fairly leisurely drive and just enough activities to get you busy, immersed in both nature and a bit of Maori culture for two plus days.

I love how the Kiwis just get to the point with their quick deals.

This was evident pre-trip, when we headed to JUCY rentals and emerged having rented a car from their El Cheapo range of budget cars.

Our trusty rental was a great deal – a 1.6 litre sedan at about NZ$50 a day. We added on a rental GPS (although you could use your phone if you have data) and we were off out onto the open road with a rough itinerary in mind.

Can you see the rainbow in the distance on our front windscreen?

Day 1

From Auckland to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves 

The drive to Rotorua is about 3 hours long. Leave in the morning and stop for lunch,  coffee and cake along the way. New Zealand coffees are just the best – perhaps its the weather or the fact that you have enough time to savour your cup of joe instead of hastily gulping it down before rushing to your next meeting.

 

Our first stop was Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. I would rate this a must-go, something you do before it gets dark (closes at 5pm) and a max 1.5 hour stop. Don’t expect a glitzy theme park experience from this nicely set up, modern looking ticketed attraction with a gift shop ensuite. This is definitely all-nature and all about your experience taking a peek into it. You are literally brought into the experience, rather than having it present itself to you so it takes a bit of an open mind to appreciate the visit. First up, you are ushered by a guide into the cave where there is a request for silence or minimal noise. Leave the bawling babies and noisy kids at home. You listen to stories told in first person by an experienced host about the history of the cave and how it was discovered. After a short walk in, you get on to a boat and ride the rest of the way into cave – all mobile devices on silent, in complete darkness – right into the heart of the cave where you see glow worms nesting in the recesses of the cave ceiling above you, their tiny bodies giving off an eerie faint blue light. You look up and it seems that the night has come and all you see above are a million stars. Surreal!

Check into Hotel and have dinner at Food Street

Staying along the Lakeside – would be my advice as the main city of Rotorua is built along the lake. You know that you have arrived when you wind down the car windows and the pungent smell of sulphur greets you head on. The closest description of the smell is rotten eggs. We stayed at the Novotel, Rotorua Lakeside. Very comfortable, has its own mineral spa (think onsen) inside the Hotel which is free for guests and is right next to the pubs and eateries along the next door main dining thoroughfare known as Food Street in Rotorua.

Day 2  

Tepuia Hot Spring Geysers

Tepuia, is the closest hot spring geysers to visit in Rotorua, This is a ticketed attraction with a walking guided tour, a visit to the Maori cultural centre in side and gift shop.

The pools are hot enough to cook food in and most definitely not safe for a swim or leisurely dip of any kind.

After the walkabout, wander into the Maori craftsmanship areas where weaving and boat building techniques are explained and demonstrated.

Expect to spend about 1.5 to 2 hours here. In perfect time for you to drive back down to the Lakeside area and check into the Polynesian Spa which we did not visit this trip as we were already too spa-ed out at the Hotel spa.

Tamaki Maori Village 

Our dinner highlight on Day 2 was boarding the bus arranged by the Tamaki Maori Village which took us to the village, about half an hour away.

The Maori villages are actually run and owned by existing Maori families here in New Zealand.

Here, we were given the works – a Maori traditional welcome ceremony, an explanation of the significance of each tradition. This was followed by an engaging evening of Maori folk songs, dancing and performances which ended in a traditional Hangi meal.

The Hangi is a meal much like the Hawaiin Luau where the food served has been buried in a pit below ground and using the natural volcanic heat and a combination of steam heating, meats and veggies are cooked and served in a large communal buffet style spread.

Day 3 

To Hobbiton and then back to Auckland 

We wanted to get our trip time’s worth so with some Trip Advisor Forum advice, we managed to craft a detour from our original trip to Hobbiton and the Shire, before heading back to Auckland.

Make sure that the day you head to this ticketed attraction is dry as there is a fair bit of walking to conquer around Peter Jackson’s set which apparently was torn down after the movie and recreated again on premises.

A stop by the village pub – The Green Dragon is mandatory.

Definitely a must-visit for all LOTR fan’s.  With that under our belts, we drove back to Auckland back to the safe haven of The Langham Hotel and the comforts of its marvellous Club Lounge.

Below – the round-trip route for anyone who wants to brave the journey.

6 Sumptuous Afternoon Teas To Tuck Into In Hong Kong

If the tai tai life is what you are after in Hong Kong or if it just means that you have the perfect excuse to sit down and refuel after that fast and furious shopping trip with your girlfriends at one of Hong Kong’s many seasonal sales then Afternoon Tea is just the meal that you don’t want to miss out on … here are 6 lovely locations where you can book your table now …

The Langham’s Honey Afternoon Tea

… is a collaboration between The Langham Hotel in TST and beauty brand Guerlain who have launched a few new products that incorporate royal jelly and honey as part of their Abeille Royale Collection.

The Hotel’s Honey Afternoon Tea is served on a unique honeycomb stand and features honey from an organic bee farm in Hong Kong. Sweet morsels include The Bee, a golden macaron filled with dark chocolate and honey nectar, Chocolate, a mini tartlet made with salty caramel, honey ganache and milk chocolate and Honeycomb, an Earl Grey crémeux, honey and orange jelly, topped with chunks of homemade honeycomb and sprinkles of gold dusted white chocolate pearls. The spread also features Mango and honey mousse, a French Mille-feuille with honey cream infused with vanilla and yuzu. Not just sweet, but also savoury, there is a delicious Lavender-infused Honey Glazed Duck Breast, Cucumber and Cheddar Cheese Sandwiches and a Norwegian Smoked Salmon Dome Stuffed with Crab Salad on Corn Bread. On top of everything, there is a selection of exquisite afternoon tea blends to go with the food, the comfort of the lovely ambience of one of Hong Kong’s classiest tea lounges where you can just sink into the forever of their plush and lovely sofas and just spend all having a chi chi afternoon catch up.

Available at The Palm Court Lobby Lounge from NOW till end 30 September 2017 at HK$348 for one person and HK$598 for two persons, subject to a 10 per cent service charge

Served: Weekdays from 3:00 to 5:30 pm and on weekends and public holidays in two sittings, from 2:15 – 4:15 p.m., and 4:30 – 6:30 p.m
Call: (852) 2132 7898

 

The Cakery’s Guilt Free Afternoon Tea

Is there such a thing as a guilt free afternoon tea? Well, for those with a conscience, step into The Cakery. Owner, Shirley Kwok serves up a 100% gluten free tea that uses natural, nutrient- rich ingredients like brown rice flour, tapioca flour, millet flour, almond flour, buckwheat flour, oat flour and Arrowroot flour to create the pastries on her special menu. All her sweets are also made with low-sugar or refined-sugar free, and there are vegetarian and vegan items featured.

Presented beautifully on a fan-shaped three-tiered sleek white tray, find Truffle Chouquettes which is an Italian truffle cream cheese mousse with gluten-free choux pastry, Mini Pizzas made with sweet potato, baby corn, red onion, mushroom, parmesan cheese, tomato sauce, Lobster Crepes featuring US lobster galette, cream cheese, gluten-free crepe, Salmon and Cream Cheese Sandwiches made with gluten-free vegan chia bread. The sweets include Bite-size Cupcakes except that these are gluten-free and/or dairy- free, egg-free, low-sugar and low-fat. There are also Lemon Tarts made with gluten-free pastry and White Chocolate Goji Berry Mousse Pots and Mini Chia Puddings, Gluten-free Scones served with homemade strawberry raspberry basil jam, clotted cream. Enjoy all that with homemade Red Date & Goji Berry Tea or a Ginger Spice Tea or The Cakery’s Tea and Organic Coffee selection and go home guilt-free (well, almost!)

Available at The Cakery Lee Gardens Two, from NOW at HK$388 (per set for two persons)

Extras: Make a booking a day in advance and get a 10% discount.

Served: Daily from 2.30pm to 6.00pm daily, subject to 10% service charge.

Call: (852) 2816 1838

 

Yeh! Shanghai Afternoon Tea at The W Hotel’s Woo Bar

Here’s a promising mini food tour around Shanghai whilst you are in Hong Kong at the W Hotel’s WOOBAR! Their Afternoon High Tea has a Shanghainese theme and the Yeh! Shanghai tea set starts with delicious morsels of crispy suckling pig, fermented bean curd paste and caviar, transferring you to a traditional Chinese BBQ restaurant, however only for a second before you move onto succulent seafood treats such as the prawn cocktail with light spicy sesame soya sauce and sago.  Not just savouries but also sweets, the set includes black sesame dumpling with white sesame tuile and chocolate and cinnamon croissant twist.  The favourite item being their signature “Xiao long BAO” – a cake consisting of vanilla-pistachio mousse, raspberry jam on feuilletine.  On weekends, expect an Afternoon Tea Buffet spread.

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Drink’s wise, the Hotel is not just stopping at a simple cup of Chinese tea but has used the Chinese inspiration of four flowers, each representing four different seasons with the Chrysanthemum representing Autumn in its beverages and alcoholic drinks. There are concoctions like The Qipao, a fresh blend of Belvedere Vodka, Lemon juice, Chrysanthemum tea and a unique blend of Osmanthus syrup, The Shanghai Pour, served in an oriental teapot and cup with a mixture of Chinese white wine, The Wild Flower, a fresh combination of egg white, lemon juice, gin with a Yuzu paste flavour or The Pearl, perfect for the whisky and date lovers.

AvailableNOW to 31 October 2017 at The Woobar at The W Hotel

Served: An Afternoon Tea Set is served on Monday – Friday (except public holidays) from 2:30pm at $418 + 10% for two whilst an Afternoon Tea buffet is served on Saturday and Sunday including public holidays from 2:30pm – 5:30pm at $330 + 10% per person. Cocktails are priced at $140+10%

Call: (852) 37172889

 

‘The history of Whoo’ Afternoon Tea at The Intercontinental

If you are into Korean culture, cosmetics and food, the Lobby Lounge at the Intercontinental has also partnered with premium Korean skincare brand, ‘The history of Whoo’, to launch an Afternoon Tea Set that is all about consuming ingredients that preserve one’s beauty and prevent ageing, all inspired by Korean royal court beauty secrets which kind of reminds me of a throw back to that immensely popular K-drama, ‘Jewel In The Palace’ some years back.

Their Afternoon tea is both savoury and sweet so there are items like Ginseng chicken rolls, an Angelica slow cooked Pork belly on brioche bread and a Comfit Foie Gras and goji berry chutney on crispy bread, served alongside pastry items like the Whoo Macaroon, a Calvados Jelly Apple Pie, Almond Cream, Tea Cakes, Panna Cottas and Scones.

Available at The Intercontinental Hotel’s Lobby Lounge 18 Sep to 30 November 2017

Served: There is a Weekday Afternoon Tea set at $608 for 2 persons (Monday to Friday) and a Weekend Afternoon Tea Set at $628 for 2 persons (Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays)

Extras: The Tea Set is inclusive of two special ‘The history of Whoo’ Bichup Royal Anti-aging Kits (valued at $500 each) plus two gift cards with special offers for products at “The history of Whoo” shop in Harbour City. Beauty afficianados who bought items at ‘The history of Whoo’ with a receipt can also enjoy 20% off of the Afternoon Tea Set for 2 persons.

Alongside this, the Hotel has arranged a series of Korean Handicraft Workshops on how to make simple Korean style accessories like Dried Flower Bracelets on Friday, Sept 22, October 27 and November 24  and a Korean Knots Workshop on Friday, Oct 13 and Nov 10. Details here.

Call: (852) 2721 1211

 

A Van Cleef & Arpels Nature-Inspired Tea at The Peninsula

With a new boutique just opened at the iconic Peninsula Hotel’s Arcade, jewelry brand Van Cleef & Arpels have gone the extra mile to commemorate the occasion by launching a high tea that aims to serve up a range of treats that is almost as exquisite as the jewelry they sell.

Presented on a silver platter, there are fruit tarts like the Lemon and Basil, Chocolate Tarts with Milk Chocolate Chantilly, apricot macarons, a mango and passionfruit choux that reflects the brand’s 3D heart shaped petals in their collection and savouries like the nicoise salad, croquet monsieur, smoked salmon rolls with lemon cress and carrot bread and the Pen’s all time favourites, the dill-marinated cucumber sandwiches and their freshly baked scones with organic strawberry jam and clotted cream.

AvailableNOW till 30 September 2017 at The Peninsula’s Lobby Lounge

Served:  Daily from 2pm to 6pm at $388 per person or $688 for 2 persons. Champagne is at an extra $220 per glass. Each table gets a Van Cleef & Arpels notebook from their iconic Frivole jewelry collection, evoked by enchanting blooms (whilst stocks last)

Call: (852) 2920 2888

 

Afternoon Tea with Cody The Red Panda at The Cordis

If your kids are coming to tea with you over the weekend, then tea with Cody, The Red Panda at The Cordis Hotel, is an absolute MUST! Cody is the Cordis Hotel’s red panda mascot and he is a hit with the youngsters and will be hanging out at The Place every weekend and on public holidays during the Hotel’s Afternoon Tea Buffet.

He is endangered as red pandas are, so make sure that the time with Cody is well spent and make it an educational experience for your young ones by visiting the booth at the buffet that explains what is being done to protect the red panda. Each child at the buffet will receive a red panda backpack with different Cody themed goodies. There are activities for the kids including handicraft sessions for kids to turn some of the hotel’s recyclables into toys and a colouring contest with attractive prizes. Kids can take pictures with Cody or pick up a plush toy where proceeds go towards the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation to support wildlife conservation including the preservation of red pandas and their habitats.

Cody is a particularly generous guy so kids aged 6 years or below are invited to enjoy the buffet for free. The buffet is tailor made and filled with kids’ favourite tea time items, including Cheese Spring Rolls, BBQ Chicken Drumsticks, and Pan-seared Japanese Pork Sausages, delicious desserts including assorted Cody-shaped Cookies, Blood Orange Cody Mousse Cake, and Cody Cupcakes. Kids are also invited to make their own crepes and puffs. One of the most comprehensive tea buffets available, find Pineapple Chicken Salad, Melon Salad with Shrimp, Salmon Sashimi, Snapper Sashimi, California Maki Roll, Deep Fried Shrimp Toast, Scrambled Egg with Black Truffle Paste, Wok Fried Korean Fish Cake, Korean Dumplings with Vegetable Broth, Japanese Soup Noodles, Indian Vegetarian Curry, Hong Kong Dim Sums, Coffee Opera Cake, American Cheesecake, Strawberry Panna Cotta, Mövenpick Ice Cream and more on the menu.

Available16 September till 15 October 2017 at The Place, The Cordis Hotel at Langham Place, Mongkok at $248 for Adults and $198 for Kids and Seniors.

Served on weekends and public holidays from 16 September to 15 October 2017

Extras: Each Cordis Kid will receive a red panda backpack with different Cody themed goodies. They can also join the complimentary handicraft session to turn some of the hotel’s recyclable into toys. Each adult can bring up to 2 children, 6 years and under for free.

Call: (852) 3552 3028

 

A New Concept For Dan Ryan’s In Hong Kong’s City Plaza!

For me, the 90s marked the era of the American diner, grill and steakhouse. I remember the excitement when Dan Ryan’s first opened in Singapore next to the Regent Hotel.

Famous for its free kid’s balloons held down by a free collectible logo key chain, paper table clothes where you could doodle endlessly on and innovative kid’s menus – no one would have guessed that this restaurant chain was actually born and bred in Hong Kong with its first outlet opened at Pacific Place in 1989.

Dan Ryan, it seems, was a Chicago politician who lived in the 1940’s.  He was renowned for his ability to get things done through his close contacts in Washington D.C, mainly local political and social leaders. Why this particular American diner chain was actually named after him remains a mystery to me – but his name has undoubtedly lent authenticity to the Chicago grill concept that has since stood the test of time.

Today, there are solo outlets in Singapore and Taiwan with three restaurants in Hong Kong at Harbour City, Festival Walk and a new outlet at City Plaza in Tai Koo Shing which opened in May this year. We popped in to check out the new concept at the latter and to try the newly minted signatures off their menu which has been tweaked with healthier ingredient and superfood options.

How different was it from its parent concept that featured a good vibe, upbeat background jazz music, a drinks bar with a choo choo train track, paraphernalia up on the walls and huge portions of American style fare – to be truthful, all of that was still there – the only change being a longer track train and the more colourful paintings on the wall by American artists Leroy Neiman and Steve Penley. Instead of having a closed entrance where you walk into the bar, the new concept feels more ‘open’ where you can easily check your reservation at the entrance and walk into the thick of the action.

The kitchen also has gone from a back of the house feel to a lighter more open show-kitchen feel.  We popped by just before the recent Fathers’ Day weekend and what greeted us was a restaurant packed to the brim – a convivial atmosphere with families, balloons at each table, crayon canisters amidst a blurr of efficient waiters moving platters of steak and generous mountains of American salads, sides and sandwiches efficiently around the room whilst the queue outside kept growing longer. The place was buzzing!

The biggest change is noticeably its menu. No longer a grill room style listing that steak houses normally favour but a menu that features photos of its signatures which have also notably changed – keeping the hearty but introducing the healthy.

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My favourite item – the Dan Ryan’s muffin arrived before the rest of the meal. If I could sneak one or two into my bag, I would – as in my humble opinion, Dan Ryan’s makes the best muffins I have ever eaten. The taste is made complete when complemented by one slice of slightly melted salted butter or whipped butter.

 

 

We picked a few items to share starting with the Super Green Salad (HK$188) which is a very large salad that you can order to share between 3 to 4 people. It  has a base of fresh baby spinach, quinoa and rocket leaves, complete with avocado, broccoli, pears, fresh blueberries and toasted pine-nuts for added crunch and sweetness.  I really liked this and made a mental note that I would pop into their Harbour City outlet again soon to grab this one for a quick and satisfying takeaway.  The salad comes with a homemade wild blueberry dressing is drizzled on top for maximum flavour.

This was followed by the Chi Town Combo (HK$298), a signature big sized combo platter of Baked Potato Skins, hand breaded Onion Rings and Buffalo Chicken Wings. Great with a glass of wine except for the Onion Rings which I prefer to be crisp rather than soft and mushy like these tended to be.

The choices on the Hand Cut Steaks and Chops were outstanding. I was tempted to order the US Tomahawk 32 oz Steak to share (HK$998 – pictured above) but it was sold out for the day.  So instead, we ordered the US Prime Flatiron Steak (HK$328) which turned out to be an excellent choice and featured a melt-in-your mouth ‘butchers cut’ of hormone free beef, char-grilled to perfection served with Tomato Vinaigrette salad and mashed Chipotle Lime Buttered Corn and Sweet Potato Fries.

We ended the meal sharing a Salted Caramel Double Fudge Brownie (HK$78) which maxed out my calorie count but made a perfect ending.

Things I would have ordered if my stomach had the capacity : the Deluxe Chili Burger,  the Seared Hokkaido Scallops and the Dan’s Dessert Sampler (pictured above). Definitely reason to return!

Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill at Cityplaza is at:
Shop 311, 3F, Phase 1, Cityplaza, 18 Taiko o Shing Road, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2845 4600

Click HERE for a list of the other Dan Ryan outlets in Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore.

 

Tapas, Sangria and Beer Adventures in TST

Tapas is everything but a light meal especially when downed with a jug of good Sangria. Despite how often I convince myself that this meal is or could be a light affair, I often succumb to the temptation of ordering more than I should. And that’s exactly what happened at this new go-to that I recently discovered in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong or as the locals call it ‘TST.’

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Playa De Papagayo is my latest find, in terms of Tapas outlets. Located at Observatory Road just down from the Mira Hotel, next to the Empire Hotel and across from the Audi Showroom, you can’t miss this cute place with its patio setting, bright blue exterior and distinct beach hut hangout feel.

The enterprising owners apparently also own another smaller tapas restaurant of the same name, at Hanoi Road nearby and they also own the fantastic Japanese yakitori restaurant right next door.

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Papagayos, as it is called short-form beckons with a fun vibe. It’s not your typical Spanish joint but has a nice laid back feel and if the weather is nice, you can sit outside on the patio where there is casual seating.

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Wandering inside, the surprisingly spacious interior has a mix of sofa seats, lounge chairs, high tables with stools and bench seating, amidst the usual tables and chairs.

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A neon sign or two, a large open bar and the quirky menu with its beach theme feel add to the chill-out vibe.

The drinks are creative, portions good and not the nasty watered down version you get at most places. In terms of food, the menu is extensive from Spanish Tapas to Soups and Salads, Pastas and Mains, things from their Fire Grill oven and a small selection of dessert. The tapas portions are over-all ‘smallish’. I was not overly impressed with the usual tapas favourites like the Garlic Shrimp and the Octopus. Don’t get me wrong, they are definitely tasty but you would need two portions if you are more than 3 people sharing.

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However, with a menu this extensive, normal should not be what you order at a restaurant like this. We decided to be adventurous and that spirit landed us some amazing eats like this list of top things to order that we are recommending. We are quite sure that you won’t get tapas like these anywhere else.

1.  Foie Gras Terrine, Fig and Rice Crispy Treat – HK$88

This bite-sized gourmet looking morsel looks like its ready to be served at a high end cocktail party. It is the perfect size to daintily pick up with your fingers and pop into your mouth. You get more than a generous bite and an explosion of tastes out of this very decent bite-sized piece of medium-rare foie gras, topped with delicious fig jam, a slice of fig with a delicious popcorn morsel perched on the top. Wash this down with a glass of fruity red and you are immediately ready for another piece.  I would definitely order two portions of these as one of these beauties as one plate is simply not enough.

2. Crab Meat and Avocado Roll with Salmon Caviar – HK$88

I am clueless as to how they make the gold coloured gel-like skin that looks like a wonton wrap and envelopes the tasty crab meat and avocado filling inside this almost beautiful h’or oeuvre.  Garnished with a dash of mayonnaise and Japanese caviar, this is delicious to the boot.

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3. Iberico Ham in Raw Tuna Roll with Half Boiled Egg – HK$78 

Not quite a main course, but this is a good sharing portion that you want to order a side of garlic bread for, just to mop up the runny egg. The tuna is just lightly seared, the way you would see it at a Japanese restaurant and really goes well with the egg.

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4. Kurabata Pork Chop with Apple Paste – HK$298

This pork dish makes an excellent main course if you are dining alone or slice it up and you have a decent main course to share along with the other tapas treats that you have picked.

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5.  Spanish Style Beef Ribs – HK$368

The beef on the bone that was served was literally huge. More than adequate for sharing and way too much for one person to finish alone. Beautifully coated and grilled in black sesame seeds, this gave the meat a juicy and tender texture. Definitely, a new favourite meat dish for those with carnivorous leanings, like me.

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6. Must-Order Paella – HK$288

We saw many people order this dish which comes served in an impressive Moroccan style tagine instead of the usual paella pan. I was intrigued and ordered the Squid Ink version (not shown in picture – as squid ink does not photograph well) which truly turned out to be one of the best paellas I have ever eaten. Moist, full of exquisite flavour – each bite leaves you abandoning all courtesy so that you can dig your spoon in for another bite.  At the end, all I could see was the satisfied smacking of everyone’s slightly-stained black lips.

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7.  Excellent Sangria, Beer and Creative Cocktails 

This restaurant gets my vote for good Sangria. The bartender serves an excellent mix – not too sweet, just the right amount of fruit and definitely enough vino to give it a good ‘kick’ start to a fun evening.  My 12 year old swears by the Mango non-alcoholic cocktail.

By the end of the meal and a few more jugs of sangria later, we were too full to try dessert which definitely gives us a reason to return.

Where: 

Playa De Papagayo is at

Shop N3, G/F, Podium Plaza, 5 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 – 2739 1808

and

Shop 2 , 5 Observatory Rd Tsim Sha Tsui                                                                                                     Tel: +852 – 2323 1379

 

Visiting The Three Gorges Dam

If you have a thing for world’s first and engineering marvels then this is one trip that you would want to make this Summer, and have it ticked off the bucket list.

Architectural Model – Photo taken at the Three Gorges Dam Museum showing the 5 ship locks bringing a boat downstream into the main river

The Three Gorges Dam or the Sanxia Da Ba (三峡大坝) is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam created to both produce electricity and increase the Yangtze River’s shipping capacity as well as reduce downstream floods. A project that started construction in 1994, it was fully functioning from 2012 complete with five ship locks and fully completed with a ship lift in December 2015. See TEN interesting facts that you may want to note about the Dam project here before you book those tickets.

As for us, we were curious to see what a project that saw China relocating 1.24 million people in 2008 to achieve, costing them US$27.6 billion or RMB180 billion to construct-looked like in reality.

Getting there was easier than expected, there is a 3 hour train ride option from Shenzhen but we decided to fly domestic. So we took the train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen via Lo Wu. From there, boarded a 2 hour flight from Shenzhen’s Airport into Yichang.

A map of the tribal villages living along the Dam – at least 360 million people live here in the stretch from Yichang to Chongqing

Seeing the entire Dam and the expanse of land that is home to almost 360 million people is no mean feat and the most common way to fully appreciate it is to take a 4 to 6 day cruise and there are many cruise companies that arrange tours with English-speaking agents and guides.

With limited off days from school and work, we opted for the shortest way to see the Dam – via a Day Tour and got it arranged via the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Yichang (where we were staying). They recommended an English speaking tour guide, Christine who turned out to be a real gem. With a good command of English, knowledgeable, friendly and passionate about her job, she arranged a 2 day itinerary which included a day out on a tour boat down the Yangtze river and a second day out to see explore the Ba tribal village, one of the many small ancient villages that snake around the Yangtze.

Day 1

Saw us getting on to a tour boat that would take us on a leisurely cruise down part of the Yangtze to cross the ship lock of the Gezhouba Dam, go inside the Dam area, view the museum, have lunch, and then take a bus back to Yichang.

The Boat Tour – TIP: For better all around views – pay the extra 40RMB per person and sit on the top deck which is shaded with a canopy
Scenic views along the way

Entering a SHIP LOCK – think of it as an elevator of sorts but this SHIP LOCK allows the vessel to sail in and brings you 22 metres down stream in 20 mins (about the rate of 1 metre per minute). The ship is literally “locked” into the contained area that you see ahead to prevent the water from rushing in and then carried down stream.

CLOSE sesame! We are inside and the doors lock shut once the vessel is in. Water tight – our 20 minute journey via the ship lock brings us another 22m further downstream the Dam

You can’t fly over the Dam because of security issues and you need special military permission to do that – so a bird’s eye view of how the Dam operates and comes together is pretty much out of the question. Thus, a visit to the Dam museum to look at the model of it and how it all works and comes together is mandatory.

Day 2

We headed by bus to the catch another boat that would bring us to see the Ba Village, a  tribe of people who have lived in the region for centuries and in a village built by the banks of the Yangtze River. After which we would catch a bus to eat at the famous cliff side Weng Restaurant, one of the only 8 cliff restaurants in the world.

The boat moors at the Ba Village dock. We have travelled up stream to  visit the BA tribe to see how they live, explore local customs and experience the geography in the area.
The BA Tribe – a breathtaking ancient Kingdom built alongside the banks of the Yangtze
A river runs through the village ending in a stream and a waterfall at the heart of the village
The Coffin Caves were where the Ba Tribe buried their dead – Do you see two coffins in this shot?
Inside the village

Leaving the serenity of the Yangtze behind, we hopped on a tour bus back into Yichang city but not before stopping for dinner at the world-famous hanging Fang Weng Restaurant.

This restaurant is built into the side of a cliff – one of only 8 cliff restaurants in the world
The inside is a cavern that has been converted into a spacious dining room

The most famous dish there is a fish dish in milky soup where the fish has a distinct gelatinous texture. Look out for our detailed review later.

Total cost for the 2 day itinerary – 500 RMB per person (inclusive the boat and bus transport and minus a tip for the guide, the meals, an Uber or what China calls a “didi” back to the hotel). Definitely a great way to spend a long weekend.

(This trip was my own personal holiday, paid fully by myself. Recommendations here are not paid for, simply that we want to share the great finds.)

Spa That In-City Getaway

Somehow when I think ‘Spa’ – my mind wanders to Thailand and Bali. The concept of relaxation does somewhat equal resort getaway but what if being in the city is the only option … for now.

Just last night, I popped into the opening of the new Chuan Body + Soul, an in-city Spa on the 15th floor of the chi chi Langham Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.

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Blame the twinkly fairy lights, the skinny cocktails (nothing over 250 calories) that I was plied with or maybe one of those uber healthy Acai berry bowls or the on-trend novelty multivitamin jellies that I was served, but my evening there, did somehow leave me lightheaded and open to the possibilities of a stealing a sneaky getaway right here, yes, during office hours under the bosses nose, right at the convenience of my Kowloon doorstep.

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Opening its doors to membership for the first time, Chuan Body + Soul (previously just for Hotel guests) is offering a Health Club membership (with access to the pool and fitness facilities) at HK$1,800 per person, per month with a HK$250 per month fee for a locker.

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The newly renovated premises offer stylish treatment rooms for massages and various treatments using private label essential oils saunas and showers, a rooftop swimming pool and a split-level fitness on demand health club.

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IMG_8678What I actually thought was particularly ‘buzzy’ and exciting was their new retail element – the sale and launch of Deborah Mitchell’s, Heaven product line and her award-winning bee venom therapies. An award winning aesthetician, she created and patented the Bee Venom product line ABEETOXIN®, used as the natural alternative to Botox by harvesting bee venom. Her Bee Sting Facial Therapy (HK$1,380 for 1 hr 15 mins) is said to give that instant natural face lift without the injections.

Another notable – Chuan also launches her Bee Peel Facial (HK$780 for 30 mins), the first of its kind to launch in Asia, designed with organic coconut, apple, raw sugar cane and 18% glycolic peel to deliver Medi-spa results by minimising visible fine lines, scars, pigmentation, sallow skin, blemishes and enlarged pores. A definite must-try if you are into what I term a ‘prevention is better than cure’ mantra.

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Members get the use of the gym, access to Personal trainer and can join the range of classes such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Meditation and Singing Bowl Sound Therapy or simply use the pool to swim or jacuzzi-away after a hard day at work.  Members’ Friends and Family  enjoy a HK$200 per person Monday to Friday rate / HK$300 per person Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays.  Not a bad deal if you want a fun girls’ day out!

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And if you are afraid that you will undo all the good from your soak, work out and massage then meals at the Spa offer a nutritious menu with healthy Sandwiches and Wraps alongside dishes like Açai bowls, homemade cereal bars, artificial-free fruit popsicles and energy boosting smoothies packed with antioxidants for long-lasting fuel.

If its a getaway to mark a special occasion, book a retreat – their Chuan Retreat Package at HK $5,000 offers a night’s stay in a One Bedroom Suite, a Signature Balancing or Chuan Harmony body massage for Two and access to The Langham Club lounge. Reservations at +852 2378 9988

Membership details see HERE or call: call +852 2378 9988