All posts tagged: Travel

Melbourne

/exploring the woods and sampling local mineral waters at Hepburn Springs/ Over the past ten days, we’ve made our way from Melbourne to Sydney through notably Albury and Canberra, and back to Melbourne, our final stop from where we’d fly back home. R and I don’t remember the last time we went away on such a long vacation and we were glad to squeeze Australia in before the baby’s arrival. My highlight of the trip is easily the time we spent outdoors in the nature admiring the beautiful flowers and foliage, smelling fresh lemon trees, and noticing the strange, amusing things animals do in their natural habitat. On our very last day we spent the afternoon at a winery just a little outside of the city, with red wine (sadly none for me) and cheese and crackers. Brie is my absolute favorite, but I had just a taste since I couldn’t have much while pregnant. At our last dinner, we were served kangaroo steak at Tosaria cooked in three different ways with three difference sauces. …

Sydney

/coastal drive on Grand Pacific Drive/ Call me countrified, but the only images I’ve had of Sydney were either painted on canvases or printed on postcards. While we initially only planned to visit Melbourne, I proposed driving to Sydney since it’s only about 9 hours away by car. The perfect weather made for delightful walks in the city and through parks. We caught a matinée featuring the Australian Chamber Orchestra at the Opera House and wandered through the Royal Botanical Gardens. On our drive back heading for Melbourne, we cruised by the coast and stopped by for some gelato. In the evening we even spotted a fox! /late-night pancakes at Pancakes on the Rocks/ Note: the chocolate pancakes, which were really more like brownies (go ahead, multiply the guilt), were to die for. /striking plum carpet at the Sydney Opera House/ /passing through the Sydney Conservatorium/ /St. Mary’s Cathedral/ /nut-cracking at a nut farm/ /berry pie and pancakes at a berry farm/

Canberra

On our drive from Melbourne to Sydney, we stopped by Canberra. I was glad to be in warmer weather, with plenty of sunshine, and surrounded by autumn foliage. We only had half a day and spent most of it outdoors, briefly passing through downtown to eat lunch. I couldn’t be happier with my pulled pork burrito from Mexican Taqueria Guzman y Gomez, a comparable contender to Chipotle and the like, only with thicker skin (tortilla skin, that is). We spent the rest of the day idling on the green grass, parrot-spying, promenading by the quiet lake and through charming gardens, and collecting photographs. It was a day perfectly well spent. /simple breakfast at the hotel/ /stroll through a rose garden/ /met this little brave guy who was very territorial/ /lunch at Guzman y Gomez/ /checking for bump visibility/ /parrot-spying/ /late afternoon sun against the yellow foliage/

Kallista Tea Rooms

Scones are delightful things. Whether it’s the American or British style, I love them both for any time of day—breakfast, supper, as a snack, and preferably toasted and warm. Flaky on the outside, soft on the inside, scones make for great guest treats too. If you’re used to the American kind, which not surprisingly contains a whole lot more butter and sugar, you may find the British kind a bit plain. And while most American scones have add-ins like raisins, chocolate chips, blueberries, and others, British-style scones rarely have any. It’s not to say the Brits are terribly health conscious, but the difference is that they don’t mix in as much butter in the scones only to slather it later on as they eat it. Same goes with the sugar—jam-piling is what adds sweetness to the scones. And while American scones are shaped like a triangle, the British kind is round and resembles American biscuits. Our hefty breakfast at Tosaria has barely made its way down but we couldn’t say no to scones, especially not …

Juicy Bao

Anywhere we travel it’s impossible to miss Chinese food. And in between the sandwiches and steaks, we were in for some noodles and dumplings. Juicy Bao was recommended to us by a local friend, and it made for the perfect lunch spot while we window-shopped around Chinatown in downtown Melbourne. Because it was a late lunch, we decided not to over-order and stick to a few varieties: the signature steamed pork xiao long bao, pan-fried bao, pork and prawn wontons, minced pork noodles, and some stir fried Chinese broccoli. My favorite was the noodle dish, chewy and perfectly savory with some crunch from the greens. And of course, mixed in with a generous spoonful of chili oil. As for the baos, they were decent, with the exception of my little bao-juice-trickling-down-my-sleeve hiccup. But I have no one but myself to blame. Afterwards we continued our stroll around downtown, as our eyes roamed for a little something sweet. Pork and Prawn Wonton in Peanut, Chili, and Spicy Sauce Shanghai Noodles in Spring Onion Oil with Minced …

Tosaria

/Zucchini Fritters with poached eggs, mushrooms, beetroot relish, dressed rockets, and pea tendrils/ Our first deed upon arriving in Melbourne: breakfast. I had heard so much about Tosaria from my parents and brother on their last trip, one among the many things I missed out on. On this visit, we are generously hosted by two old friends of my parents’, proud owners of this family-friendly joint. Tosaria’s breakfast menu screams Sunday brunch and reminds me of places I’ve been missing. Between the savory and sweet, I wanted both. But the brioche French toast was tempting, and I thought I could always irritatingly fork in R’s plate. And to go with the brioche, my favorite: a cup of hot chai latte. At Tosaria, we are so well taken care of, so well that every meal leaves us in a state of swelling and coma. Everyone makes us feel welcome day after day, and we are even spoiled with off-the-menu choices. Portion wise, we expected big, and we got big. On top of fresh ingredients, plating was …

Top 10 Things To Do in Xi’an

1. XI’AN ART CERAMICS AND LACQUER FACTORY People—tourists, historians, archeologists—from all over come to Xi’an to see one thing: the Terracotta Army. Every group is assigned to one in-house guide who takes time to detail the making of the sculptures, step by step. The artisans use a mold or cast to form the general shape of the head, body, arms, and legs. Shaping the head, along with the nose, eyes, and ears prove to be the most challenging. As you know, in the actual site, each of the Terracotta warrior’s face and facial expressions is distinct and unique; there are no two of the same. Two things I found interesting: one, the head of each sculpture is made separate from the body, therefore it’s detachable; and two, the body is, in fact, hollow! At the factory, you’ll get to see actual artisans working on different pieces of art. And despite the variety, one thing was clear: the intricacy and detailing that went into each piece of work was incredible! 2. HUAQING HOT SPRINGS (华清池) Most famously known for the love story between …

Street Food Capital: Xi’an Muslim Quarter

Street food is always big part of our travels. We love to eat, but there’s something about the experience of buying and eating food off the street that’s unparalleled. It’s exciting because you don’t know what to expect. And even if you end up taking home anything, you still get a show! After our visit to the Great Mosque, we toured a little around the market and headed straight for what were endless rows and rows of food stalls. I’ll be straight. When I think of Muslim, China and Chinese are no words with which I would associate it. Call it cultural bias, prejudice, or disclosure (or lack thereof), but it is remarkable and fascinating to see Chinese women dressed in hijab and men with a kufi. One the one hand, it didn’t feel like we were in China. On the other hand, we were surrounded by Chinese. Maybe that’s just me and I’m just being silly. But the culture shock aside, the Muslim Quarter was truly a hub for street food! We were so overwhelmed by the potpourri of …

A Must-Eat Street Food in Xi’an: Crispy Crêpe (煎饼)

Xi’an may be most well-known and visited for its historical sites. But naturally, somehow, we find ourselves gravitating towards edibles. For instance, this popular street food equivalent to a crêpe (煎饼). Between the hot steam rising from the pan and my hungry eyes, I couldn’t resist. It was to be my breakfast. We intently watched as the youthful merchant skillfully poured the batter to form a crêpe circle, added what looked like fried wonton skin, an egg, some lettuce, and scallions, and wrapped it up the way one would a murtabak. I took my first bite (even though it was burning hot). The softness of the skin, the crunch of the fried fritters, the savoriness of the egg – I melted inside. I made a mess around my mouth but I didn’t care. Tempted? You’ll find crêpe carts like this one all over the city in the mornings. And guess what? One crêpe only cost CNY 3.5 (USD 0.57 or Rp. 7.000)! Need I say I recommend it? I’d say it’s a must-eat!

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 …