Tag Archives: travel

LOVE_travel BBC Travel – Piecing together puzzles in Cambodia

A coincidental piece was posted on BBC Travel 3 days before my Cambodia post here.  It may be a bit of a read, but truly indicative of how I felt after 3 days in Siem Reap – Kind of bewildered, slightly uncomfortable. Since returning from Cambodia, I’ve watched this movie and have gained a whole new perspective after talking to a few people about the history and condition in Cambodia.  I knew that I missed out on experiencing the authenticity of some parts of Cambodian culture when we were there, but I didn’t push myself.  This article really makes you reflect on the underlying culture and histories of the destinations you visit and how they can have a distinctly profound effect on you after.
just one good reason to travel

The article from[WORDS & WANDERLUST] by Don George follows:

As Mr Kim navigated his car onto the puddled, potholed road that led to Banteay Chhmar, he turned to me. “Where are you staying?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

He looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “There are no hotels in Banteay Chhmar.”

“I know,” I said. “I arranged a homestay. On my computer.”

“OK. Where is the home?”

“I don’t know.”

He swivelled to face me. “Where should I take you?”

This moment seemed to symbolise my entire Cambodia trip: Where was I going? Why was I here?

I had arrived in Cambodia after a week-long tour consisting of lectures, book readings and writing workshops in Melbourne and Singapore. When I was planning that tour half a year earlier, I realised that Siem Reap was just a short flight from Singapore. I had been wanting to visit Siem Reap since childhood, when I had seen a photo of Angkor Wat in a National Geographic magazine. Some kind of seed had been planted then, and over four decades, its stony tendrils had blossomed into an irresistible longing. I had to see that place, touch its ground, smell its air. Now it would be just two hours away by plane. I booked a one-week visit.

Over the ensuing months, as I was researching Siem Reap, I discovered a village about 160km to the northwest called Banteay Chhmar, where an organisation named Community-Based Tourism (CBT) arranged homestays. There was scant information online, but what I found promised amazing ruins and kind people. At first I thought I would base myself in Siem Reap and spend one night in Banteay Chhmar. Then I decided to make it two nights. As time passed, the image of going off the map to little-visited Banteay Chhmar took hold of me, and I ended up reserving a three-night stay through the CBT’s website.

(Candace Rose Rardon)

Mr Kim met me at the airport to take me to my Siem Reap hotel. During the 20-minute drive, he spoke easily and impressed me with his knowledge, English fluency, and calm, kind air. I asked him about getting to Banteay Chhmar. A few years earlier, he said, the drive would have taken most of a day, but recently a paved highway had been built almost all the way to the village, and now the journey would be about three hours by highway and just 30 minutes along bumpy, unpaved paths. “Of course,” he added with a wry smile as a sudden downpour turned the windshield into a washing machine, “it’s the rainy season, so it might take longer.” I asked if he could take me, and he said sure, that he liked that part of Cambodia and had served in the army there.

Over the next two and half days, I immersed myself in a giddy, deluge-dodging round of ruin-hopping and restaurant-gorging in Siem Reap. I saw Angkor Wat at dawn and dusk, mysterious strangler-figged Ta Prohm, the benevolent, beguiling faces of Bayon, and exquisite Banteay Srey. I slung back Indochine Martinis at the seductive Miss Wong bar and savoured a six-course seasonal feast at acclaimed Cuisine Wat Damnak. I was exultant to have reached the place I had dreamed of for decades, but somehow among the thousands of balloon-panted, sarong-wrapped, selfie-snapping foreigners, I sensed the essence of Cambodia eluding me. Even immersed in the cultural heart of the country, I felt somehow distanced from the place.

[more] via BBC – Travel – Piecing together puzzles in Cambodia : Cambodia.

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Hong Kong is the ultimate travel hub for most of Asia.  Travel to most of South East Asia can be made through transfers through the HK airport.
We arrived in Siem Reap on Tuesday morning just before noon. As I write this, I’m excited with anticipation of seeing a completely new culture. (obviously I wrote this with every hope of posting this earlier)  What I’m not doing well with is the thought of 30+ weather. All I hope for is less humidity –  nope, no such luck.
We walked out of the airport, past the drivers offering transfers to the hotel, looking for these ‘Tuktuks’. Now, the sun and humidity were beating down, and we weren’t so sure where to find them.  Luckily enough, our friend D chatted up ‘Chet’ who took us over to his tuktuk, just outside the airport gates. He strategically fit all our bags into the motorised rickshaw and checked into our hotel.

Here are the top temples on our list: 

Lady Temple (Banteay Srei)

Pre Rup. (Prae Roup)

Angkor Wat

Ta Prohm

We made it to Banteay Srei, the Lady temple, and watched the sun set from the Prae Roup. The Ladies temple is known for its intricate and numerous seductive lady figures carved throughout the monument.  Our tuktuk driver, Chet, seemed to know the drill.  He took us to Prae Roup, along with all the other tourists to watch the sunset.  What a beautiful place, I had a fantastic time running around catching the setting light – also lost the group a few times. Prae Roup had steep-as-hell stairs to the sky it seemed.  If you are afraid of heights, i’d say stay far away from the edge.  There are no railings except on the stairs.  After sunset, we headed to Pub Street in Siem Reap for dinner.
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Weds Morning


When did i get up this morning, 4:30 am. 😐  This exciting hour calls for coffee and not much else, but instead we shuffled ourselves down to the lobby to meet our TukTuk driver, Chek. (HINT: Bring a flashlight/torch & bug spray!)  Off to another sunrise with about 500 other tourists at Angkor Wat.  I said in Hawaii, that I wouldn’t ever get up on holiday for another sunrise, but I made an exception.  This is Cambodia and it’s phenomenal
This was the most interesting experience, rushing to find the best photo spot, but not to worry, i used my elbows.  The most interesting bit proceeded not to be the sunrise, rather the vendors at the gates greeting us with names like Harry Potter no. 5, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and none other than James Bond!  They were selling hot tea, coffee, and other breakfast items.   Harry potter even gave us some photo tips.  As instructed, we stood near the pond past all the crowd to the very left of the path so as to capture all five peaks of the domed temple.  We explored after sunrise, and came back to have a coconut shake at Harry potter’s place.
Next stop, we visited Ta Prohm known for its characteristic tree roots and eerie feel.  Restoration works have been going for years now, but during our visit, they worked industriously still chipping away at the rock and filling crumbling pillars.  After losing my group once again, we were templed out for the day and caught some much needed R’n’ R at the beautiful pool.
That night we hit the night market full of various textiles, endless scarves, and local street food. (tarantulas and bugs in syrup!) Nope didn’t have the gutts.
And that was cambodia.

I’ll tell you about our cooking class & stay next time 🙂

If you’ve been to Cambodia what were your highlights?? Comment below.

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NEW Year, What’s NEW?

“happy new year!” … are we still saying that?

I heard somebody at the airport ask the same question when I was traveling. He asked the the guy on the other line, is it too late to still be saying this? – it’s only…. 13th of January. Well I think it’s never too late since I haven’t seen any of you yet this year but, I have been meaning to say lots and lots of things. 

You know, New Years is a season of expectation and anticipation, sometimes almost too much anticipation.  Like I get it, it’s a reset where we can evaluate how we’ve done in the past year and set new goals, but it seems as though there’s this looming expectation for us all to do everything that we haven’t done in the last year or years of our lives ALL at once and achieve it, ALL!

We decide to kick every bad habit that we have, lock the liquor cabinet (or have ‘dry January’), hit the gym, eat better, be better people, be more successful, hope for better things, start the things that we have always said we would but haven’t, and pretty much everything else that we can think of – or maybe that’s just me. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, that sounds hugely daunting!

Downfall of a New Year

No, forget all the S.M. a R.T. goals but even the smartest goals won’t help me feel positive about that.

nobody talks about about (OH my goodness), what if you wake up on the other side of the new year, and it’s JANUARY. it’s grim and grey. and it’s the coldest time of the year in most places (not Australia). You don’t feel like setting any goals or tackling the mountain of things that you haven’t done.

I was really encouraged after coffee with food-friend, Vincci. (cecinestpasunfoodblog.com). It made the new year seem more achievable!

It’s more difficult to break bad habits, than it is to form new healthy ones.  Recently, we’ve been talking about culture and society in food at school, and this involves knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours.  What this means is just because we know something is good for us doesn’t mean it changes how we think about it or behave. For instance we know that eating healthy & drinking less, and getting active is better for us, but so many other things in our environment or daily lives get in the way of that happening.

Before you know it, you’re at the till in tesco/superstore after work, and you’re crumbling to the temptation of one little bit of mars bar ;P Is it not easier to form new habits? You don’t have to go cold turkey and never touch a drink again! Just focus on moving towards a new little thing, like eating one more serving of veg a day, or maybe just ONE beer this week 😉

Get a buddy for motivation!

My point: new years resolutions are frustrating when we don’t stick to them. December doesn’t have to be the month to live it up and detox later.  Maybe a constant dose of sanity and fun along the way and we don’t have to put so much pressure on in January.

Tell me,  what you have all signed on for and committed to this January?  

this is what I did on new years!

this is what I did on new years!

…. P.S. I should also show you how we (ATE) rang in the new year, right??

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Love _Hong Kong

Hong Kong-

Is a very, very special place.  It’s many things, depending where you are in the small area of space we call Hong Kong, it can be a combination of a chaotic, raw, confined, roaring mess; contrasted by beautiful, amalgamation of modern culture and thwarted histories.  It is densely populated.  It is the product of its colonial past.  Despite the old, it is a progressive place with an undying desire to grow and renew itself.

People here are proud and open-minded in some regards; they work extremely hard and also eat like at all hours.  It also has an international population with lots of expats choosing to reside in the bustle.  Food culture in Hong Kong can be extremely interesting.
There are the tourist must-sees, and also the new movers & shakers who are doing cool new shite.







photo: prestigehongkong.com


First night I landed and my friends were off to Yardbird.  They heard about it on the Peninsula blog but I was super excited because Yardbird was genuinely on the list!  This trip was off to a great start.

We ordered up a storm. One of our friends is vegetarian, and we found the menu very veg-friendly with lots of mushroom and vegetable dishes. Take for example, the sweetcorn tempura, grilled mushroom, and KFC (korean fried cauliflower).  Honestly, not much of a sacrifice, because it all tastes amazing.  You didn’t even notice!

After finishing the meal, one of our friends called the establishment – a hipster gathering. I was a bit surprised, but the atmosphere feels like you’re actually NOT in Hong Kong. The food and service are both quite North American, and the diners are a mix of locals and visitors with a mosaic of different-sounding languages being spoken. One thing that is constant though, that everyone is enjoying the conversation and the Yakitori (Japanese-styled bbq). Since its opening, it has received much praise and lots of accolades (here and here), which may be attributed to the fact that there really isn’t anything else like it in Hong Kong.

[apologies in advance for the photos, I was camera-less]



From the top-left:

[1]Sweetcorn Tempura

[2]Grilled Mushroom

[3]KFC: Korean Fried Cauliflower, yuzu-chili




Overall I was inspired by the savoury asian flavours presented in a snack-styled bar.  The food was satisfying and the KFC was one of my faves.  It had a thin coating of sweet chili and tangy soy batter…. and i believe the chicken is confit and grillé-ed.  A definite must try.  No bookings, just turn up.

There you are, yet another amazing inspiring food pioneer hailing from Canada.  🙂


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Sunsets in Ireland

a single photo from this past weekend, because that’s all I have so far!

I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally be seeing this surreal scenic country we have been living in for about two years now.

This last weekend I travelled 4 hours to Connemara to visit the very special Dillisk Project.  I have been wanting to get out for way too long.

this is just the beginning…




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Worthwhile Weekends in Dublin – Jen’s Hen

Another weekend.  Saturday night, you’re getting set for another night on the town. Couple weeks back we went out for my friend’s bachelorette, or as they call it here in Ireland (and this side of the pond, in general) – a Hen party.

**Tickets GIVEAWAY! ** – scroll to the end for deets on the LIQUOR ROOMS Sunday night bash!

Planning a hen? 5 Tips to having a great one.

no male strippers & no dangerous living, unless you count dancing dangerously awesome 😉

IMG_0631 Tip 1: 
Start drinking, start early.  
We started at VCC, one of our favourite places for a classic cocktail, tasty treats, and punch bowls.



Tip 2: 

Involve the groom 
As you do, always have a quiz or game ready to see if the couple really are a match made in heaven.
Make sure to have prizes! Pictured here, an extinguisher full of ‘screwdriver’



Tip 3: 
Have fantastic food – and/or fantastic slop that takes the cake
On this occasion we suggest the tastiest of burgers at *Rick’s burgers* after a little drinks top-up at Exchequer.

















Tip 4: 
Class it up with some burlesque 
No silly, I don’t mean to partake, I meant show up and get hot and bothered watching them talented ladies.  We were at the Button Factory for a special occasion burlesque show, lucky us! hear that feline roar.



Tip 5: 
Dance like there’s no tomorrow, 
because there’s nothing like a little limbo to loosen you up
We danced the night away with some nice shots & cozy dance floor at Ukiyo Bar; a sushi joint turned bar at night time.

That pretty much concludes our adventures in Dublin. We called it a night after all the early fun.

GIVEAWAY TIME: a nice friend at the Liquor Rooms has given me a few tickets to their Rock Your Northern Soul tomorrow night – free ‘Twisted Wheel’ Cocktail comment below or tweet me if you’re interested!


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Catalunya, Spain obliterates my liver – Week 1

I wrote this a week ago, but never ended up posting.  Welcome back everyone!

I’ve been wanting to share where we’ve been the last week.  A quick blurb, Sunday we had a 6am flight that we nearly missed! So we were almost not at all in Spain.  We started in Barcelona seeing the sights of the Sagrada Familia & Gaudi.  I’m glad that this time around we have guided tours, the last couple times I have been unmotivated to explore the city beyond the hop-on hop-off bus.


This time, beyond just a great design city I’ve begun to understand the catalan culture, modern design and I am finally learning to appreciate  Gaudi’s influence on design throughout the city from the residences to the garden (Parc Guell) and the iconic Palau de la Musica Catalana.  I  am more and more in awe of his mimicking of nature as seen in his tree-like pillars of the Sagrada Familia.


This trip is focused mainly on food & wine, which makes it perfect!

Wine count: 17

Food count: one michellin star, and three samplings of modernist catalan cuisine so far!
Gelonch, Alkimia, Tickets, here we come.


Here we have a little taste of our goodies from La Boqueria, the market in Barcelona, which looks amazingly unchanged since last May when we visited. As S’ dad said, even the fruit stands are selling the same mangoes in the same place! Also a a sampling of our food and wine from Tickets, and foreshadowing of PRIORAT!


From Barcelona, we headed to the Priorat wine region through the hills of Montsant (holy mountain).  We have seen the town of Falset, and stayed in the cutest little town Gratalopps.  With its narrow cobblestone streets and hilly landscape, you really get a feel for the landscape and how hilly this area really is.  The wines in this region are known to have high minerality and low producing vinces.  It was amazing to see each and every one of the wineries has vines that are terraced in to the hill.  What’s even more spectacular, are the sights and the drive up to these little towns.  The towns are all tiny, hilly, red-toped & nestled in the between rows of terraced vineyards, olive groves, and other nut trees.  I’ve never seen anything like it; arid and winding.  More pictures to come and we’ll try to share each special meal or winery with you!

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Deli Bros. – Frankfurt Airport, Germany

For those of you who didn’t know, I embarked on my new adventure on Thursday.  From #YYC to #DUB (that’s DUBlin, Ireland).  Although it was a very emotional goodbye to my amazing friends and family, I was trying hard to stay focused on where I was going- To begin a new adventure with S, my husband.

Of course, count on me to find the most hipster eatery in the airport.  I scoured the land… of the four-hour layover at the Frankfurt airport.  This airport fine food deli/grocer, is very stylized and resembles an american deli.  The servers are dressed in jeans and 3/4 length plaid shirts with a round patch on the arm DELI BROS.  The deli makes its own Hot Chili Marinade, bottles pre-made dry ingredients of cookies, and made-to-order Breakfast all-day.  One side is retail the other is for restaurant service.  With several biers on tap, the server asked me if I was serious when I asked for a glass of tap water.  He said he doesn’t recommend it, nor does he drink it himself.

For breakfast, they offer themed Euro breakfasts.  For example, the Swiss breakfast includes muesli, fruit, and yogurt.  The French, a croissant, and of course I was out for a ‘cultural’ experience, of which I can’t tell if its authentic or not.  I chose the the German one that comes with two boiled breakfast sausages (Brühwurst) and a pretzel (Bretzel) with sweet mustard.  House made, might I add.   The boiled wurst was spiced nicely, but I’m not sure I fancy the texture of boiled sausage. The meat is so finely ground and homogenous that it has an almost processed texture.  It is crisp and bouncy if that can even describe it.  I think this calls for a return to Germany.
The store is filled with quaint food/eating/design books – Create, and Delicate.  They also sell in-house cured sausage.
Where: Terminal 1
Chill Chairs: 3.5/5 for creating ambiance in a busy airport terminal!

Service: helpful, friendly

Likelihood to return: hm, maybe next time I’m at Frankfurt Terminal 1

Food/Coffee: Black coffee was an americano, food decent – I especially liked the rustic feel, homemade appeal

Chillness: 3.5/5 for creating ambiance in a busy airport terminal!


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Pichet [Dublin, Ireland]

I spent Christmas in Dublin this year. Getting acquainted with the ol’Irish-livin’, ok, that was bad, but I really enjoyed my time there. The people are friendly, there’s lots of beer and pubs ‘poobs’, and it feels quaint and European.

S took me to one of their favourite restaurants in Dublin- Pichet. He boasted about how it is always a very solid meal, delicious to the last bite.

Nick Munier, the owner of Pichet is possibly he hardest working restauranteur I have seen. If you don’t know him, he’s kind of a big deal in Ireland – He is known for his maitre-d role on the Irish Hell’s Kitchen. In the short time that we were there, he greeted guests, checked coats, bussed tables, plated meals, pretty much wore every had under the sun in this restaurant.

The meal was delightful.

After the mains, we took a peek at the desert menu; this of course, being my favourite course! I was stuck in a dilemma between my favourite of all time: Sticky Toffee Pudding and the intriguing Pavlova. Pavlovas are similar to ‘Baked Alaska”, but upside down, minus cake and, pretty much not at all alike except for the baked meringue.

Pavlovas originated in Australia and were named after a Russian ballet dancer believe it or not. It is essentially a meringue crust; with the outside baked to a perfect crisp and filled with dense marshmallowy insides; topped with either whipped cream/Chantilly cream; finished with fruit compote. The mouthfeel of this dessert varies from moment to moment. I love and respect a great pavlova because I have battled with getting the meringue OFF the pan or parchment- quite the art, I must say.

Back to my dilemma, Mr. Munier crouched down two see if we had any questions about the dessert and I asked what his favourite choice would be, I mentioned that I was torn between the usual favourite and my curiosity for the pavlova. He empathized with my dilemma and said he flip flops between the two- Great! that wasn’t helpful at all right? I chose the sticky toffee pudding.

Dessert is served

My sticky toffee pudding came first. It was gooey, sweet buttery cake with sprinkles of toffee bits. I was very pleased with my decision. S ordered a Chocolate Fondant Cake, in North American terms I think it’s a molten lava cake. Can’t go wrong.

The server came by with s’ dessert in one hand and another dessert in the other. I caught a glimpse of it, it was the beautiful Pavlova, I suddenly had dessert-envy. Can I question my decision now? To my surprise she gestures to put it on our table, I’m suddenly shocked and confused- oh no, I think he misunderstood me. I can’t imagine the shock and confusion on our faces as she explained that he wanted to send both by so that we could try them. – I’m thinking…. this is too much, how am I going to do this and STILL fit in my dress?

Well, I am so glad that we had all three desserts. I’m pretty sure I finished about 90% of them and S had merely a bite of each. I am wowed by the relaxed and conversational atmosphere of the bistro. The Gin&Tonic was solid, thanks to Hendricks. – and there, another inspiring meal.

Thought I wouldn’t finish – need I say more?


Happy St. Patrick’s Day Dear friends in Ireland.


Service: laid back but busy, cozy, seemed like lots of returning regulars there, over the top nice – hospitality

Likelihood to return: 5/5 Can’t wait to go back!

Food/Coffee: 4/5

Chillness: 4.5 chill chairs

Highlights: aside from the warm smiles, fresh cut bread, and triple desserts – two words, SCOTCH EGGS!

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Cork & Canvas – Propose a Toast to your Orchestra

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Last night saw the kick-off of the annual Cork & Canvas Festival- a month of wine, drink, and art.  Pick your poison, whether it be wine, beer, whisky, or tea, there is something catered to stimulate senses and support local live music.  The festival is filled with enjoyment of the finer things, but also incorporates love of all styles of music- including, yes… the Barenaked Ladies.

The crowd was lively and spirits were high last night.  As we worked our way around the room, the tasting stations were spread out with wines from various regions and food stations.  I will let most of the photos do the talking.  With each event that I attend, I try to take notes on what I’m tasting and eating, but I’m really starting to gain an appreciation for how difficult it is to keep track of everything.

Great Events Catering offered:

Moroccan Lamb Tajine – black sesame cone topped with bamboo rice fritters.

Ahi tuna Fish Tacos with wasabi aioli, soy reduction and pickled ginger – I felt like this was the Alberta special, the ahi tuna trend that is often the card played as the crowd pleaser.

Basil Marinated Scallops breaded with panko and served with a sake injection shot- Now THIS, was an interesting experience!

Hotel Arts served:

Beet root Cured Sokeye salmon with Fairwinds goat cheeese and house-grown micro greens- Delicious cured salmon was the bed for the surprisingly flavour rich goat cheese.  Chef Duncan Ly topped this dish with smoked Maldon salt, what an interesting dimension!

Belgo’s team plated:

Pan Seared Scallop with lentil salad, truffle culiflower purree, port caramel, and crispy smoked bacon – this was a very sweet dish with the predictable but a nice contrast to the wine.

The evening wouldn’t complete without the serenading and folk sounds of Cellist, Morag Northey– creatively strumming her cello like a guitar and singing rhythmic lyrics, she created a mood of alluring exploration and expression.   I should add that each time she played, she was introduced by the clanging of a large gong.

The silent and live auctions were varied in cultural adventures and vintage wines and ports.  I missed out on bidding as I was too busy tasting and honing the palate- and failing.  Honestly, who wouldn’t want to bid on a 7-nights accommodation in France including a wine tour?  Folk fest tickets anyone? How about a meet and greet with the Barenaked Ladies? or an Urban getaway, in my backyard at Hotel Arts.  It all came to an abrupt end, way too fast, and before you knew, there was money all over the floor! – kaput!

What an evening! – even ran in to some unexpected friends 🙂

UPCOMING events for Cork & Canvas: [click for tickets]

“Beer is the New Wine” on Mar. 8 @ 7 p.m. at Willow Park Wines & Spirits.  Craft beers with top local restaurants, check.

High Tea at the Fairmont Palliser. Mar. 10 @ 2 p.m. The event will feature specialty blended teas, pastries and sandwiches, and a live classical serenade ** there may even be TWO quartets!

Four-course luncheon at La Chaumiere restaurant.  Mar. 14 @ 12 p.m. The meal will feature vintage wines and a live auction

The Art of Whisky through 100 of the world’s finest whiskies Mar. 21 @ 7 p.m. at Willow Park Wines & Spirits

Winemaker’s Dinner on Mar. 31 at 6:30 pm


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