All posts filed under: Travel

The Art of the Making: Terracotta Warriors

People—tourists, historians, archeologists—from all over come to Xi’an to see one thing: the Terracotta Army. We hopped on a 2-hour flight ride from Shanghai to get to Xi’an. I recommend pre-booking a tour guide during your stay here because the airport is a ways away from the city center, getting around isn’t easy, and because the city isn’t a major city or a popular vacation destination, most places aren’t tourist-friendly or -equipped. We hired a tour guide with a driver and van for our 3-day stay (he was great and I’d be happy to pass his contact – simply comment on the post below). He took us to our very first stop: the Xi’an Art Ceramics and Lacquer Factory, even before the site museum to avoid the wild morning swarm, which turned out to be wise. As expected, the place was brimful of not just clay, but also tourists. We even met a friendly old couple from Tennessee who was brimming with as much excitement as we were. Every group is assigned to one in-house guide who takes time to detail …

Craving Americanized Chinese? Come to Cha’s Restaurant

I love Chinese food. As a family, we eat it on a regular basis. But equally, I love Americanized Chinese food. Think Panda Express and the like. Think General Tso’s Chicken. Walnut Shrimp. Crab Rangoon. Egg Drop Soup. Simple, comfort food that’s sure to fill me up. Or what my Dad would call “fake Chinese food.” Alas, since I don’t live in the US anymore, not every day can be orange chicken day and egg foo young day. Needless to say, cravings are a part of my daily life. And while I haven’t found a worthy equivalent of Americanized Chinese in Jakarta, Cha’s in Shanghai was sufficing. Seeing the restaurant packed with mostly youngsters, and having to wait in line for about 10 minutes, we couldn’t wait to have a taste! Pineapple Bun with Sliced Butter | 8 RMB We opened with a little something sweet and warm: the Pineapple Bun with sliced Butter (you absolutely cannot go wrong with this pairing) – perfect to enjoy with some hot milk tea: Cha’s Milk Tea (Hot) | 16 RMB The …

Dongtai Road: An Anything-and-Everything Kind of Antiques Market

Among the myriad of things to do in Shanghai, visiting Dongtai Road should be one of them. Rows and rows and stretches of stretches of shops selling antiques are a feast to the hungry eyes. Even if you’re not a fan of antique objects, the experience of window shopping is quite pleasant. And just like at any antiques market, you’ll find items that are genuinely archaic, as you’ll come across others that have been reproduced to look antique. Antiques savants would be able to tell the difference and likely be radically selective. But knowing that many supposed “vintage” items aren’t 100% “original,” if I like something I’d get it. Of course authenticity is always a plus, but it’s not like I’m buying to sell or auction. At the market, you’ll find the most random and odd objects – anything from bigger items like furniture, kitchen ware, television, and other household items to tiny trinkets like a hat, lighter, watch, and jewelry. If you really were scouting, I’d say plan to spend 2 – 3 hours as there …

Shengjian at De Xing Guan: A Shanghai Must-Eat

Yesterday’s Xiao Long Bao was rewarding. Today, we were eager to have another bite. But instead, we found an equally mouthwatering treat: Shengjian Bao (生煎包), a Shanghainese breakfast favorite. Shengjian is a small, panfried and steamed bun filled with pork and gelatin that melts into a soup when cooked. Among the soft top, savory and juicy middle, and crunchy bottom, it’s no surprise that this little delicacy is a commonly loved breakfast item among Shanghainese. Can I say that it’s also become mine? We just couldn’t help ourselves. Another round of xiao long bao? Why not? And although these ones were decent, yesterday’s at Lao Sheng Chang remained our winner. And of course, the mandatory noodle soup… The shengjian is decidedly one of my absolute favorite breakfast food in Shanghai. And while cha siu bao, xiao long bao, and other dim sum tidbits are easily available in Jakarta and all over the world, one would not find shengjian just anywhere. And boy have we landed in the right place! Since we didn’t get to take home our xiao …

For a Solid Xiao Long Bao, Come to Lao Sheng Chang

Shanghai is known for many things. Chief among them: Xiao Long Bao! And even though most shophouses may claim to serve the best xiao long bao, being discerning eaters, we know better, right? This soup-filled steamed bun is so delicate, I will say the making of it is an art. Or at least demanding a remarkable skill only few have mastered. Early this morning, our taste made no complaints whatsoever. How could they? Lao Shang Cheng’s xiao long bao was solid! Lao Sheng Chang was just a few minutes away from our hotel. Strangely, the first thing that caught my eyes was the busy staircase written with menu items. Be careful not to get too engrossed – watch for your steps! Champignons on a Fish Noodles  | 19 RMB Yukina the Braised Pork Noodles | 18 RMB Soup Bun with Pork and Salted Egg Yolk | 18 RMB/4 Going crazy over noodles! It’s interesting to observe that noodle soups in Shanghai and many parts of China are cooked with a milder broth, compared to those in Jakarta. I never worried about something being too salty, which I …

Eat with Noodles Flying over Your Head at Hai Di Lao Hot Pot

Not a prank or gag. Just a stunt (and we suspect a little mischief) on the part of the noodle whisperers at Hai Di Lao. Hai Di Lao is no ordinary hot pot restaurant. In fact, it’s no ordinary restaurant. Really, it’s no ordinary place. I can’t think of another restaurant where you can eat with noodles flying over your head. Or get a manicure and pedicure while waiting in line. Get this: waiting tables are converted into game tables. And enjoy some milk tea while you’re at it. Your kids throwing a temper? Let them throw their temper at the kids’ playground. Heading for the washroom? Feel free to take your time and enjoy its amenities including a toothbrush, toothpaste, toothpicks, cotton buds, mouthwash, hand lotion, hair ties, bobby pins, hairspray…oh the few gazillion little things women need. And don’t be surprised when your personal washroom butler stands right next to you at the sink to pump your soap, hand you a towel, and squeeze a dollop of hand lotion to make sure your hands have just the …

Packing Light for Travel

I used to be an overpacker. I would bring way more than I needed because I felt like I wanted options. I was afraid of being limited to whatever I had in my suitcase. And worse, I used to be paranoid about forgetting things. But then I got tired of having to roll around a heavy suitcase and waiting for my luggage to come out at the airport (which we all know takes forever). So I decided I needed to be a smarter, more efficient traveler. These days, when I travel for a few days up to two weeks, I fit all my things in one carry-on suitcase. No more check-ins, no more annoying waits. There’s a certain pride that comes with successfully fitting your two weeks into one dainty little sack (I gotta be honest, I take a lot of pride in this accomplishment). You may think it’s hard to do, but no! All that’s needed is a little pre-planning! Now, I’m happy to share with you my tips on how I pack light …

Kupat Tahu Pelopor

Speaking the truth, this is agonizing. Having to review and revisit every color and pixel of this nothing but tempting treat. Only to inspect it from outside looking in. Like an abandoned stray cat straggling around the bushes hoping a stranger would pick it up and take it home. If only I could relive the experience right this instant… To expound (and justify) my attachment to this particular fare, long story short, let’s just say I never thought I could relish and respect food I have just met as much as I do kupat tahu. It’s like meeting someone, falling in love at first sight, and knowing you’re going to be with that person for the rest of your life. Although nothing about this humble setting says “romantic,” I’ve developed my own not-so-secret romance with it. Kupat Tahu is a traditional Indonesian dish made up of ketupat (a type of dumpling made from rice packed inside woven palm leaf), fried tofu, bean sprouts, cabbage, with a peanut sauce and sweet soy sauce. And if Kupat Tahu is what you seek, …

Elo Progo Art House

During our travels, we try to make the most of the time we spend outdoors since we don’t get much of it in the city. We drove from Amanjiwo through a village town, and after making several stops along the way to ask for directions, finally found ourselves at El Progo Art House (Rumah Seni Elo Progo). Owned by painter Sony Santosa, a Sumatran native who grew up in Jakarta, this 2-hectare art house is a one-of-a-kind venue hosting an art gallery, hotel, creative spaces for theatre, painting, and art lovers, not excluding laymen who are looking for a back-to-nature holiday spot. Located about 5km from the Borobudur temple, the Art House is around 1 hour away from the city of Yogyakarta. Interestingly, it sits on the edge of a cliff where the rivers of Elo and Progo meet. Its idyllic setting surrounded by green valleys, mountains, and the sound of flowing river water pulls us close to mother nature, reminding us to appreciate the natural beauty visible all around us. One of the first sights that caught …

Amanjiwo Hotel

One obvious reason to visit the area is of course, Borobudur. But another compelling interest is to stay, or at least make a stop, at Amanjiwo Hotel. Amanjiwo (aman meaning peaceful; jiwo meaning soul) is one remarkable resort belonging to Aman Resorts, a luxury hotel group with a worldwide presence. But get this: all their resorts are located within a view’s away from major historical landmarks all over the world (for example, Aman at Summer Palace in Beijing, China with access to the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven). We first made our way to the grand library where a fresh pitcher of lime and lemon tea awaited us. While we took a sip of the refreshment, our eyes veered across the room at the prim display of books and gazettes. When we got to the restaurant area within the rotunda, we were greeted by warm sunshine and of course, a view of the stately Borobudur temple. A hot day called for some ice cold cream! We were still good from …