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Lake Toya, Japan

Spot of Tranquility.

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Little India, Singapore

Spices, gold and splashes of colour!

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Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay

Garden City, City in a Garden.

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Bryce Canyon, USA

Thor's Hammer

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Chocolate Test, Singapore

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." -Charles M Schulz

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Elafonissi Beach (Greece)

Every 2-3 months, I get hit with a bout of wanderlust. While searching for new destinations to travel, I will look back at photos taken during previous vacations just to look back at the great times. 

Two things about travel that are certain.

Firstly, I don't regret anything about my travel decisions (albeit sometimes on hindsight!)- the ending up in the middle of nowhere, the staying in crappy hotels etc. Even something unpleasant can teach us a thing or two. Secondly, travel is a drug- it leads to a never ending craving. 

Last July, I went to Elafonissi Beach- also known as the beach with pink sand. We went early because we wanted to avoid the crowds and reached at around 9+ a.m. The crowds were out but we managed to secure vacant deck chairs. You have to pay something like 6 Euros for a day to rent the deck chairs. 

We are not beach goers and I am a heavy sunblock user. But we were left in awe when we saw the clear and azure sea- never saw anything like this! The water was so cold that it took a lot of courage to plunge into the water.

The legendary pink sand occupies an incredibly small strip. If you tried hard enough, you will find it at the intersection between the sand and the sea. After a while, the focus shifted from looking for pink sand to just enjoying the play of light on water and taking dainty steps on the soft sand.

There was another area which had very shallow waters with considerably warmer waters. This is safer for children who have not learnt how to swim but would like to soak in the waters- 50 magnificent shades of blue!

To get here, it is around a one and a half hour plus drive from Chania. For such views, it is worth it even if you are not a beach-goer. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fish & Chicks

Fish and chips in food courts are common. But fish and chips doused in chilli crab sauce and salted egg yolk sauce? 

As we were in a dilemma whether to choose the chilli crab sauce or the salted egg yolk sauce, the only rational thing to do was to order both.

The Best of Both Worlds ($14.80) comprises salted egg and chilli crab sauce over two pieces of fish, together with fries and a choice of side. One portion is good for a hungry teenager. But if you are inching towards 30 like me (or older), it would probably be a good idea to share. The moment my partner took a bite of the fish, he declared that he liked the batter of the fish - not too thick, not too oily and crispy.

Between the chilli crab sauce and the salted egg yolk sauce, I preferred the salted egg yolk sauce because the flavours weren't as overpowering as the chilli crab sauce.

Like my partner, I enjoyed the fish. However, I took issue with the onion rings. There was a grand total of 5 onion rings which tasted frozen. The onion rings were hard and lacking crunch and juiciness.

This is pretty value for money and innovative. They just need to get those onion rings in order.

Fish & Chicks 
Cathay Cineleisure Orchard
8 Grange Road
Basement 1 (Koufu)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Ministry of Crab (Sri Lanka)

Ministry of Crab has been included in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2016. To round off our trip in Sri Lanka, we visited Ministry of Crab. Try getting reservations ahead of time. We were lucky that we went before the lunch crowd started streaming in and managed to get a table. 

Ministry of Crab was set up by former cricketers from the Sri Lankan cricket team and a celebrity chef. Their website is very interesting- which is rare for a restaurant's website. In their Constitution, they state things like "We are proud of the reputation sri lankan crabs enjoy in singapore- thank you singapore! But we're even prouder of bringing the finest institution in sri lanka dedicated to serving you the best of our crabs here in their home country."

Everything about this place felt polished- the location, the decor, the service etc.

We wanted to order a medium crab (up to 800g) only to realise that they did not have such crabs that day. We ordered a small crab (up to 700g) to share which was a little small for two people. On the menu, they had options like chilli crab, curry crab, baked crab and pepper crab etc.

Given that we usually eat chilli crab and pepper crab, we decided to try the Garlic Crab (Rs 4400- small). Needless to say, the crabs were incredibly fresh- the meat was so tender and moist and we concurred that it was better than the ones we ate in Singapore.

This is a wok fried crab and the sauce is a mixture of Italian olive oil, Japanese soy sauce and garlic. Initially, it tasted a little too salty. But after a while, it was incredibly addictive to soak the oil up with the Kade Bread (Rs 320). The garlic taste was just nice, without being too overpowering.

The kade was nicely toasted, with crispy sides and fluffy centres.

After eating the crab, it was a little anti-climatic to eat the Chicken Curry Rice (Rs 1520). We swapped the Japanese sticky rice for Kade bread to dip into the curry sauce. It did not elicit the same kind of joy when dipping the bread into the garlic oil. The curry chicken was decent - it was slightly spicy and cooked well but a little underwhelming after eating the crab.

Ministry of Crab
Old Dutch Hospital, Colombo 01
Sri Lanka 00100 Colombo
Tel No: +94 11 2342722

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Horton Plains National Park (Sri Lanka)

A couple of years back, pictures of blue skies and vast plains appeared on my newsfeed. Upon some stalking, I found out that they were pictures of Horton Plains National Park

The views you get are weather dependent. If you want to catch the sunrise, I suggest that you get there before 6:30 a.m. 

We reached Horton Plains at around 7 a.m. After paying for our tickets, we entered the National Park where your bags would be searched. You would be asked to tear off the plastic labels on your water bottles and dispose of the same. 

You could either take the route from the left or the route from the right- in terms of distance, it does not make a difference because it is a circular route. The total distance is around 9 km. 

For the most part of the route, the walk was rather straightforward without requiring too much exertion. 

However, at some parts of the trail, you would have to navigate some steep steps or slippery rocks.

The vegetation of the National Park is rather distinct as well. It can be classified into two distinctive groups- grasslands and evergreen forests.

Our first destination was to Mini World's End, followed by World's End. We were pretty lucky because it was not misty on the day we visited. We heard from our driver that the previous day, another couple had to cancel their trip because it was too cloudy.

World's End is a cliff with a drop of about 4,000 feet. As usual, no matter how tempting it may be with your selfies, please exercise caution because you wouldn't want this to be the last picture you take.

According to Wikipedia, the largest and most commonly seen mammal is the sambar dear. We didn't see any animals during our trek, except this.

The final attraction is Baker's Falls. To reach here, there were some pretty steep slopes to overcome. Reaching here was probably the most difficult part of the trail. To be honest, the falls were a little underwhelming after all that effort to reach here.

After Baker's Fall, it was a stretch of plains again. As there is no shade, I highly advise that you start the trail as early as possible, so that it lowers the chances of clouds rolling in, and it wouldn't be super hot by the time you start the trail.

We took slightly under less than 3 hours to complete the trail. Remember to bring your water and sunblock! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Eliyanth Udawalawa Hotel (Sri Lanka)

1) Location 

Eliyanth Udawalawa Hotel is located around a 20 minutes drive from the safari. It is located in a rather secluded area without any restaurants in the vicinity. There is a convenience store (with very limited items) around 200 metres away. 

2) Room 

The room was spacious. Insects are to be expected in the room given the proximity to the forest- spiders, mosquitoes, houseflies etc. The mosquitoes had a good feast when I was sleeping at night. 

There was a small TV monitor which had a limited choice of international channels, which included CNN and Discovery Channel. 

The toilet was good- the water was hot with good water pressure. 

The Wifi was extremely slow and/or not working the first day we were there. However, the second day, it worked perfectly fine. 

3) Food

So bad. 

When we first arrived, we were served with a cup of watermelon juice. All's nice and well except that they added sugar to an already sweet cup of juice. 

That's still fine until we got presented with a New Year Eve's menu. There was a "special" menu just for New Year's Eve- when we asked whether they had the normal menu, they said no. 

We were very surprised when we saw the NY Eve's menu. They charged 3500 rupees for the BBQ chicken set (which included toasted bread, rice, meatballs, dessert etc.) and the cheapest on the menu was 2000 rupees for BBQ sausages. By any measure, this was exorbitant by Sri Lankan standards. 

Given that we had no food options in the area and did not want to starve on New Year's Eve, we decided to share one portion. Honestly, this was absolutely the worst New Year's Eve dinner I have ever had. Despite it being a "BBQ", everything on the plate was cold. The sausage which was supposed to be BBQed was cold, and so was the fried rice. They also served cheese biscuits which had softened. 

At the end of the meal, we were asked what ice cream flavour we wanted. We were not served with the caramel pudding that was supposed to be part of the set and had assumed that the ice cream was a substitute. We were shocked to find out when checking out that they had charged for this. After some to and fro, they waived the charge of the ice cream. 

Breakfast- definitely can be improved. Cups of watermelon juice were left untouched on the tables. Houseflies were circling around the bread. The eggs tasted weird I didn't finish them. 

Although I didn't get to try their Sri Lankan dishes, they may be better off not doing Western food until they get the hang of it. 

4) Service

Service can definitely be improved. 

The staff are friendly- but they need to be able to better communicate. When one of them asked whether we wanted any drinks at dinner, we said no. Five minutes later, he asked if we wanted any water, we said no. Ten minutes later, he put a bottle of water on our table.  For breakfast, he asked what eggs we wanted, I said "sunny side up". Once again, he looked very perplexed. 

The owner was the only person who could communicate fluently in English and he was willing to accept our suggestions / comments. 

5) Conclusion

This place has potential, but they need to have better food and better communication.

Eliyanth Udawala Hotel 
2036/4, Walawegama, Udawalawa 70190
Sri Lanka 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Udawalawe National Park (Sri Lanka)

I associate safaris with South Africa, not Sri Lanka. 

However, since the safari in Sri Lanka is known to be pretty popular, we decided to make a visit to the Udawalwe National Park. Food options and accommodation nearby are few and far between- do yourself a favour by not staying the night or at least pack some food (just in case). 

It was my first ever visit to a safari in a jeep and I must say it was quite an experience, trying to spot the animals. 

Two of us were on the jeep, while the driver would stop to point out certain animals. 

We saw so many elephants in the park. It was quite exciting to observe the elephants up close- the way they use their trunks to pull out the grass, how they feed themselves etc. We also learnt to identify male elephants from female elephants. 

After a while, the novelty of seeing elephant after elephant wore out a little. Till we saw the elephants having a mud bath! It was also rather hilarious how some white bird would always follow the elephants, apparently because they would like to eat the insects circling the elephants.

As we travelled on, we also saw storks. I was struck by how they were more or less facing the same direction.

We were ever ready to press the shutter button to take pictures of the water buffaloes- until we heard some angry stomping and frightened elephants running away. I never knew elephants could run that fast That scene was quite memorable because it was the only drama in the otherwise seemingly peaceful safari.

We got to spot a number of peacocks as well, their calls are unmistakeable.

While there were plenty of birds flying around, the most colourful was none other than the honey bee eater.

After the initial congestion of jeeps near the entrance, it felt as though you were the only people in the safari to enjoy nature for the remaining journey. This was a birds haven where birds would perch on the branches of these weathered trees.

The whole tour took around 2.5- 3 hours.

Overall, going to this safari was definitely an eye opener, seeing animals in their natural habitat and being in awe of nature.

Lucky Fort Restaurant (Sri Lanka)

We were excited to try the food at Lucky Fort Restaurant- 950 rupees for 10 curries certainly sounded like quite a steal. The set is good for two. Plus there were plenty of good reviews for this restaurant. I also liked the greenery around the restaurant.

Many of the curries were pretty interesting, such as mango curry and pineapple curry- those were firsts for me.

However, while the food was decent, it was not as spectacular as others make it out to be. The curries seem a bit muted in flavours, although you can certainly ask them to make it spicy. They will also give you some sambal upon request.

While we overheard the next table saying that the mango curry was so "awesome", I couldn't really taste the mango as it was overwhelmed by the curry. The eggplant curry was pretty interesting- it was deep fried and sprinkled with sugar, making it an addictive snack.

A cheap meal with different kinds of curries, but not really worth the hype.

Lucky Fort Restaurant
No. 7 Parawa Street
Galle, Sri Lanka

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Original Rocket Burger (Sri Lanka)

We are usually not burgers people but The Original Rocket Burger looked pretty enticing. 

The shop occupies two stories although the seating area at the second floor was rather small. 

There is a hipster vibe to this place with interesting posters around. I especially liked this: "Annoying the cook will result in smaller portions". 

I ordered the Shipwreck (900 Rs) which consisted of the catch of the day (mahi mahi), tamarind sauce, coleslaw, onions, ketchup and mustard. I have to say that ever since I had eaten Ferberger in New Zealand, all other burgers pale in comparison.

That said, the burger was decent and had a large piece of fish. The mahi mahi was a little dry for me but it might be due to the nature of the fish.

The Fries (Rs 200) were not greasy and had a slightly crispy skin.

If one had had too much curries, this might be a good break! 

The Original Rocket Burger
24 Pedlar Street
Galle Fort
Galle, Sri Lanka 

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Highlands (Sri Lanka)

1) Location 

While the hotel is located on the slope, it is around a short 10-15 minute drive to the city centre. 

2) Room

The room was tastefully decorated and I was impressed the moment I stepped into it. The bed and pillows were comfortable. 

3) Amenities 

Wifi was strong. 

There was an open area with sofas and a foosball table. 

4) Toilet 

When we wanted to take a shower, all that came out was cold water. We were told by the staff to wait for 5 minutes for the water to heat up. Alas, the water was very mildly warm / never hot. We were essentially bathing in cold water when the temperature outside was 11 degrees. The room was cold and there was one little portable heater on the table. 

5) Service 

Initially, we were quite impressed when the staff served us with cookies and fruits in the afternoon. 

But there were several misses. 

After we made payment in cash, the staff at the reception told us that he will pass us the change later as he didn't have enough change at that time. The change never came and we forgot about it. 

Also, we were impressed when the staff asked us what time we wanted breakfast the next day. We told them that we were leaving the hotel at 5:30 a.m. the next day and that we might not be able to have breakfast. The staff said that it was no problem and they would be able to pack sandwiches for us. We appreciated their gesture. 

However, the next day, when we were about to leave, we asked the staff at the counter whether the sandwiches were ready. Looking extremely puzzled, he said that there were no sandwiches. Had we known, we would have bought our own breakfast the previous day. 

6) Conclusion

While this property looks luxurious, improvements await- in particular, service and fix that heating please!

The Highlands 

41/3A Unique View Road
Nuwara Eliya 22200 
Sri Lanka

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Karmagali Suites (Bali)

Given that we had visited quite a number of attractions in Bali the previous trip, this time we decided to have a short and relaxing trip, so relaxing that we didn't even plan an itinerary beforehand. 

We booked Karmagali Suites in Sanur, and it proved to be a good decision.

(1) Location 

Karmagali Suites is around a half an hour drive from the international airport. By using Grab, we only paid 50,000 Ruppiah (with an additional toll of 11,000 Ruppiah if you wish to take the quicker route). Karmagali Suites is a little deep in from the main street but that shouldn't be an issue because it takes around 5-10 minutes (really dependent on the weather) to walk out to the main street to get your fix of local food / massage etc. 

Given that we are always on the hunt for good food, we appreciated that one of the maps provided in the room was a food map- where they pointed out the recommendations for food. 

(2) Room

We booked the Frangipani Suite. The room was a good size, the pillows were comfortable and the greenery around was simply therapeutic. There were plenty of TV channels to choose from as well.

Although the room was closest to the street, it didn't really bother me since the noise wasn't loud, but if you are bothered, there are earplugs provided in the toilet

(3) Toilet 

The toilet was nothing like I have seen before- it was spacious and boasts of nature elements. The soap and body gel smelt sweet and refreshing.

For those who love rain showers, you have got it here.

(4) Breakfast

Breakfast was personalised. There is a menu in the room, containing breakfast items, lunch / dinner items, drinks and desserts. Breakfast was part of the room price. We were served breakfast at the area outside our room. Minus the pesky houseflies and the occasional mosquito, it was a delight to be sitting below strips of bamboo and enjoying a delicious breakfast.

You could choose from the French, Continental or Indonesian menu. We opted from the French Menu, which came with a platter of fresh fruits, fresh juice, coffee / tea and a selection of French pastries (coupled with jam / butter). The French pastries included croissant, crepe, brioche and lemon cake (choose any 3). We enjoyed the lemon cake and crepe.

(5) Amenities 

There is a swimming pool shared by the five suites. During the time we were around, we didn't see anyone use the pool but it was indeed inviting. Wifi was strong. They also provide laundry services for an extremely reasonable rate. 

(6) Service 

Service was exceptional. From the owners to the staff, each of them were friendly and helpful. The housekeeping also made the room spick and span.

Karnagali Suites 
Jl. Pungutan No. 24B
Sanur, Denpasar 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gills N Shells

We dropped by Gills N Shells one Saturday evening. The foot traffic was pretty low and I think this place certainly deserves more customers. 

We ordered the Hae Bee Hiam Pasta with Soft Shell Crab ($18.90). Sometimes, creating fusion dishes may result in disasters but this was not one of those. The pasta, coated with a generous amount of flavourful and spicy hae bee hiam, was a perfect combination with two relatively large pieces of soft shell crabs. If you are one for spicy and deep fried food, this is for you.

We also ordered the Truffle Infused Cod ($24.90). The pan-seared cod was doused liberally with truffle oil, with chye poh on the cod. While the chye poh added some welcome saltiness to this dish, I felt that it was a little over-fried, resulting in the preserved radish losing its distinct crunch. There was a choice between pilaf rice, fries or mashed potatoes. Since fries and mashed potatoes are so common, we decided to go with the fragrant pilaf rice.

To round off the meal, we ordered a Gills N Shells Tiramisu Jar ($10.90). I was initially a little skeptical when I saw the glass jar as it seemed to consist mostly of cream. To my delight, there were abundance of lady fingers soaked in coffee liquor.

While the service was attentive and the food generally good, we found the portions a little small. 

Gills N Shells 
Hotel Boss
500 Jalan Sultan #01-19
Singapore 199020
Tel No: 6493 2238