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Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 1 – Arrival and Dinner at Jek Be-Ak

Published by on July 24, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

So off we go with the actual travelogue. We took off from KLIA2 at about noon and landed in Don Mueang Airport in about 2 hours. After navigating our way to Victory Monument we took a 3 hour ride by van to Hua Hin (you can read about my transportation guide here). The van actually seated 11 passengers including the driver, with the one seat in the last row removed to use as luggage storage. We stopped a few times nearing our destination to drop off passengers (and one time for driver to hand deliver a mail package).

The journey to Hua Hin is a straight drive using highway all the way, and traffic was very good on a drizzling Monday afternoon.

Reaching Hua Hin, my first impression was that it is rather small town but spread out. There are many resorts and hotels as far out as 5 km from the town centre. Once in the town centre, we can see the familiar trait of most Thailand towns and cities – rush hour traffic jam. After clearing the traffic lights on Petchkasem Road which probably took a good 10 minutes, we were dropped off near Royal Pavilion Hotel. Our hotel was less than 2km away, so we decided to lug our luggage and walk.

Finding our hotel was quite easy, it was on the next road facing the beach. Our hotel for the next four nights is the Verona Riviera, or known as just the Verona. Its a very small boutique Italian themed hotel with only 14 rooms.

This is the view of the swimming pool that looks out to the sea. The hotel is superb for the price we paid, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay here. Its not in the town centre though, but a walk there would take about 20 minutes or THB 100 for a tuk-tuk.

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(view of our awesome pool)

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(our apartment has two bedrooms with attached bath)

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(our master bathroom. Didn’t use the bathtub)

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(fully equipped kitchen came with complimentary drinks and a coffee machine!)

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(and a large living room. Even larger than the one at home)

Once we’ve unpacked, we took a tuk-tuk town for dinner.

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Our first meal in Hua Hin was at Jek Be-Ak. This is the most popular and famous restaurant in town, and you can see the line to get a table. It’s only open in the evening, during the day time it is a coffee shop. And you need to be early, too. The last order is 8pm sharp, and closes at 8.30pm.

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This place seem to be around a long time, even the royal family has visited it before.

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I think we stood in line for like 30 minutes, when we finally got a seat. They’ll take your order while in line, and they can understand basic English (menu is in English, Chinese and Thai). The shop is famous for the sukiyaki clay pot (seafood or pork) and the steamed glass noodles with crab. Unfortunately, the latter was sold out when we were there.

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(menu for the day time coffeeshop)

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(Claypot pork stew. Delicious!)

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(deep-fried sausage and sotong)

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(fried egg omelette, very popular here, and stir fried veg)

Our initial plan was to walk the night market after dinner, as it was just across the road. But seeing that this was our first night after a long day of travelling, so we decided to walk back to our hotel for an early night.

We took a different route back, taking the road nearest to the beach, so we could check out the beachside hotels and restaurant. There were many restaurants here, and with specialized cuisine from all over the world to cater for tourists.

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(this place looked nice with an upstairs seating area)

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(Greek taverna in Hua Hin!)

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(one of the few Irish pubs I saw here)

Next – Floating market.

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Transportation Guide

Published by on July 17, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

Transport between Bangkok to Hua Hin and around Hua Hin is an important consideration, so i decided to put up a separate post for it, just like i did for my recent travelogues for Korea and Macau.

Transport from Bangkok to Hua Hin

Bangkok is the most likely entrance point for most people, so we’ll start from there. There are two ways to get to Hua Hin (HH), taxi or van.

If by taxi, you can call a private taxi or limousine via the internet or a travel agent. It costs about THB1600 one way, and they can pick you up anywhere in Bangkok, whether at the airport or your hotel.

The cheaper alternative is by van from Victory Monument (VM). VM is a huge roundabout in the centre of Bangkok. Around it in the side streets and traffic islands you can board vans to travel to areas around Bangkok. To get from Don Mueang Airport to VM, at the arrival hall, find exit 6 and turn right. You will see this bus stand:

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Wait for the orange bus A2 which comes every 30 minutes or so (depending on traffic). It costs an el cheapo THB30 per person (pay to the conductor on board) and VM is the 7th and final stop. You can’t miss the huge roundabout when you reach it. It should take just an hour in normal traffic. When you disembark from the bus, turn left, cross the road using the elevated pedestrian crossing, and you will arrive in a large traffic island surrounded by stalls. The HH van counters are at the centre of the island.

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Alternatively, you can A1 bus (comes every 5 minutes) which stops at Mo Chit BTS, where you can ride the SkyTrain to Victory Monument BTS. However, this costs more and takes a longer time. If you are arriving via BTS, exit the BTS and walk on the elevated walkway towards the huge circle. When you reach the circle, take a left and descend the first staircase you see and will arrive at island.

If you are lost, just ask around for “Hua Hin van”, and they’ll point you in the right way.

There are actually many companies plying this route, so there are a few places to buy tickets, so my description may differ from others. Once the van fills the 10 passengers, off they’ll go. The trip should take just under 3 hours. Sit back, take a nap or read a book. Before you know it, you’ll reach Hua Hin.

Arriving in Hua Hin

In HH, you will most likely arrive near Hotel Royal Pavilion off Petchkasem Road. I’ve also noticed some other companies stop further up on Petchkasem road nearer to the night market. From there, depending on where you hotel, get to Petchkasem road to board a taxi or tuk-tuk. Our hotel was less than 2km away so we actually walked.

Getting around Hua Hin

HH is a rather small town, and easy to navigate with a tourist map. Most attractions are easily accessible using tuk-tuk. If your negotiation skills are halfway decent, any trip should cost THB100 (THB150 for slightly further destinations). For some of the tourist destinations outside HH, like the floating market, Swiss Sheep Farm, etc., its best hire a taxi for the entire day (9am to 5pm). There are lots of touts around the night market holding signs promoting all the destinations and taxi services. You can try soi 55 between the night market and Jek Be Ak Restaurant. Our taxi was THB2,000 (THB500 per pax) but we haggled down to THB1,300 for one day. In retrospect, it was a very good deal and we were very happy with our driver and car.

Next – we’ll start with the travelogue proper.

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016

Published by on July 13, 2016

Some time two months ago I was sitting in my office, feeling a little worse for wear due to work, and I thought of a blue skies holiday.

Not knowing what else to do, I logged onto AirAsia. A while later, I had decided to go to Hua Hin for my Hari Raya break. I’ve heard of Hua Hin before, and it has always been on my bucket list, so why not do a few days there plus a weekend in Bangkok. Back in 2013, we did 6 days in Bangkok, so we’ve covered all the main tourist attractions. This trip was mainly Hua Hin, but we wanted a weekend to visit Platinum Fashion Mall and Jatujak Market.

Something about Hua Hin. A friend of mine went there a few years back, the report was really good. Most people did a day trip from BKK, but I thought of a relaxing beach / poolside holiday, without the rush of travelling. Hua Hin is promoted as the first and most traditional beach resort in Thailand, starting from the time the Royal Family built their holiday home here back in the 1920s (yup its been almost 100 years).

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And it is traditional in more ways than you think. It differs greatly from other beach resorts like Ko Samui, Phuket or Krabi. There are less foreign tourists here (most tourists are local Thais from Bangkok), and the small town retains much of its charm as opposed to the commercial crush of businesses pandering to Westerners.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll start with the itinerary soon.

Posts in this series:
Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Transportation GuideHua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 1 – Arrival and Dinner at Jek Be-Ak

Christmas in Ipoh & Penang 2015 – Part 2

Published by on May 21, 2016

This is a second part of a two-part series. Read the first installment here.

Dinner for the first night in Penang was in New Lane. The last trip I was here we ate lots of char kuey teow, but I was told that the Pork Intestine Porridge here is very good. So this I came back to try it. My MIL also tried a bowl.
The congee was smooth, but the intestines were fried to a crisp. It’s quite different to the Ipoh style which I am more used to.

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After walking around New Lane (its turning into quite a commercial area these days, with the new biscuit shops)

The next morning, we planned to walk around Georgetown, so breakfast was at Pulau Tikus. While having curry mee, we bumped into Lee Yen (her parents’ house were just around the corner) back for the weekend.

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After breakfast it was down to Georgetown. My nephew hasn’t been here before so we went round the usual circuit of wall murals, street food, roadside stalls, etc.

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(that’s quite a heavy meal)

Weather was blazing hot so in the late afternoon we went back to the hotel for a snooze and a dip in the pool. In the evening we didn’t have any place to go, so we went down to Gurney Paragon and Gurney Plaza. It was 2 days before Christmas so the malls were bedecked with décor.

First we had dinner at Gurney Drive. It was quite packed with folks, and I had to line up 20 minutes for my char kuey tiaw.

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(view of Anjung Gurney from the mall carpark)

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The next morning, we had breakfast in the apartment. When Penang, what other touristy stuff can we do? Penang Hill, of course! We haven’t been here since my first kid was a toddler (>10 years) and since my nephew hasn’t been here, etc.

Penang Hill on a holiday weekend + school holidays was crazy packed as you would expect. The lines for the funicular train was super long. But they’ve made a lot of improvements to the station recently to handle crowds.

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we couldn’t really stay long since we had to get back to the apartment and check out. After that we drove home to Ipoh. For our early dinner that night, we tried this little roadside stall in Gunung Rapat. The stall is run by a very old (and slow) couple and their son. Although its just 3 plastic tables at the side of a quiet road, the stall is immensely popular especially with call-in and takeaway orders.

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The next day was Christmas eve, we went around town doing some errands – buying a Christmas gift for my daughter (a backpack), kaya puff for my colleague (the line at Sun Eng Heong was 3.7km long, we went to Ming Yue in Pasir Pinji), and a visit to Chin Han Guan. Everything popular in Chin Han Guan was sold out clean, and new orders would only be ready in Monday. Monday next week!! It was only Thursday!

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Christmas eve dinner was a hearty Hakka dinner by my MIL.

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The next day was Christmas Day! Not sure what we did but for dinner we went to Tuck Kee in town. The place was so full we didn’t bother waiting for a table.

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We went to this place opposite (my BIL knew the owner) and we had cream custard and Tuck Kee delivered the food across the street to us. If you are in Ipoh you need to try this Gui Lin Tong. The cream custard is simply amazing. They also have a variety of homemade herbal jelly and drinks.

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On the way out we passed by Lou Wong Beansprout Chicken and you can see the crowds here. THe place is so popular a whole auxiliary side market has emerged around it in the form of trucks and stalls selling biscuits and drinks.

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The next day was Saturday, it was time to drive back to KL. thus ending our one week holiday up north. Until the next time, then.

Christmas in Ipoh & Penang 2015 – Part 1

Published by on May 14, 2016

Last year just after our Korea trip I decided to take a whole week off from work during Christmas week and go back to Ipoh. I also took advantage of an offer to stay two nights in Penang at the By The Sea resort (opening promotion offer was RM400 for a two bedroom apartment). Well, I thought, since we’ll be in Ipoh for a full week, we could fit in 3 days 2 nights further up in Penang. It has been about 2 years since my last visit anyway.

We had always done only a few days in Ipoh, usually over the CNY or long weekends. But this time we had some time to stay longer, although we had to come back a day earlier due to some unforeseen commitments. But 8 days is more than enough time for everything we wanted to do. Besides, this was the first time we spent Christmas away from home.

On Saturday morning we helped EFC man the popcorn counter for their Children’s VBS, after packing up during lunch (we had our fill of popcorn for brunch) we set off on the PLUS highway up north. We reached Ipoh just before dinner and went straight to my BIL’s house for a Christmas gathering.

The next morning, was Sunday, time for dim sum brunch. Over the past 20 years in Ipoh, we’ve tried lots and lots of dim sum places – from the traditional old-timey places to the upstart new ones to the noveau fusion places. These days we get recommendations for new or undiscovered smaller places (most of the time from my SIL). Today, we were going to visit newly opened Aeon Falim, so we went to try Sun Kim Aik in Jalan Lahat en route to Aeon.

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It’s located on a row of very old shoplots (although the shop isn’t as old) on the very busy Jalan Lahat. So busy that’s it damn near impossible to make a right turn or reverse out of the parking.

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Restaurant was overflowing with patrons, which is always a sign of good business.

So anyway, on to Aeon Falim. Recently, Aeon has been on an aggressive expansion mode in Ipoh. A few years back there was Station 18 in Pengkalan, then 2 years ago they opened one in Klebang (in Ipoh, not the Klebang in Melaka).

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A lot of the shops in the mall wasn’t opened yet, but that didn’t stop the throng of people from coming.

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After Aeon we went back to town and en route home, we stopped by the new Chang Jiang White Coffee place. They use to own a few coffeeshops in Ipoh, but now they run this place from a refurbished one-storey bungalow. A cold iced coffee for some respite from the scorching Ipoh heat.

So we spent the rest of day playing chor dai dee and eating roast pork, two of the important things in life.

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That night we went for dinner in Taman Seri Botani. Very good food as usual, goes without saying.

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Don’t ask me what my nephew is doing in this picture.

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The next morning we set off to Penang with my MIL and my nephew.

First stop – to Taiping to eat char kuey teow at the Larut Matang Food Court. The famous stall wasn’t open, so we had to make do with a second choice. The other thing to do here – buy the squirrel brand hiong peng.

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Chinese Methodist church.

Then it was onward to Penang. This time we took the new 2nd bridge.

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Straight into the island, we went to Kek Lok Si. Not to visit the temple (did that before), but to eat the Ayer Itam assam laksa. It’s the famous one beside the wet market. I know its always mentioned as the best in Penang, but I thought it was as great the one opposite inside the food court. Anyway, maybe they had an off day.

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From Ayer Itam, we took a long drive to Batu Ferengghi to our hotel. By the Sea is a newly opened apartment, but some of the units are managed by the developer as a service apartment available for short term rentals. During our stay we were probably the only ones in the whole apartment complex. It has a nice facilities podium overlooking the sea.

We really like our apartment. Its fully furnished with 2 bedrooms and full kitchen facilities.

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we took one room while my kids took another, plus an extra bed set up for my MIL. I guess my nephew is sleeping on the couch, then.

To be continued.

Macau & Hong Kong 2016 : Wrap-Up

Published by on May 8, 2016

This is the conclusion of an ongoing series. To start at the beginning, click here.

So on Saturday early morning we got on our flight and flew back to Malaysia. that’s the good thing about Macau, you can get a cab in anywhere 24 hours a day.

I think in retrospect, in the 5 full days we spent in Macau, plus the one day in Hong Kong, we saw everything we wanted to see in Macau. Plus some more. We didn’t want to go to Zhuhai, but that’s somewhere you can consider going if you have the time. We’ve been told the seafood is good and cheap, but the border crossing can be hectic.

if you have only a day to spend in Macau, there are many itineraries you can search on the Internet. But for us, the highlights that you should not miss are the Guia Lighthouse, ruins of St. Paul and Senado Square (nothing much to see, but is the icon of Macau), the Venetian. And you must eat the Portuguese egg tart at Lord Stow’s, the biscuits (like Koi Kei) and pork chop bun. If you have an extra day, do Coloane and Taipa.

Because Macau is so small, one trip is enough, which means we will not likely return, unless we ever do a day trip from Hong Kong. But it is definitely a place to go if you haven’t been.

Until our next trip at the end of the year, then!

Macau & Hong Kong 2016 : Part 11 – An Extra Day in Macau

Published by on May 2, 2016

This is part of an ongoing series. To start at the beginning, click here.

So Day 6 we were supposed to fly back to KL at 10.45am. So we took an early cab from the hotel to the airport. The morning was very misty and we arrived in the hotel very early. After waiting around for the shops to open, we had breakfast at the McDonald’s. They serve macaroni soup in McD’s here.

So then we checked in our luggage and propped ourselves in the waiting lounge and waited. they have charging stations and limited free wifi there. As we approached boarding time, we noticed none of the morning flights were taking off, due to the thick fog. Outside, on the runway, visibility was only a few meters. Our flight was delayed, but as it approached noon, the fog lifted and a few flights were able to take off. But not ours, as the incoming flight didn’t land. In fact, it was diverted to Hong Kong.

So long story short, Our flight was delayed to the next day, Saturday 7 am. So we practically, had one extra day to spend. Since I bought AirAsia’s TuneInsure and a separate travel insurance, the claims totaled up to about 40% of our whole travel expenditure including hotels and tickets. But of course, the claims can only be processed once we returned home safely, so at the time in the airport, we had some other things to settle.

First thing, since it was about 12.30pm, the airline gave us meal vouchers for the lunch at the airport restaurant. Most of the restaurants were packed as we weren’t the only flight delayed. We had a choice of curry chicken or beef noodles, we all chose the former.

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After lunch we had to be taken by the staff to go through immigration again, then claim our baggage. We then took a cab to Taipa, the nearest town to the airport. The driver recommended this hotel called Inn Hotel. Yes, I know, what a name for a hotel…

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the hotel was quite nice, about MOP750 a night for a twin sharing room. The room was pretty big and newer than Beverly Plaza.

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After checking into the hotel and depositing all our stuff, we went out into Taipa for a walkabout.

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(view of Cotai from across the lake. The fog had returned in the early afternoon).

Basically, we visited all the sights we missed during our earlier visit here.

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(our lady of Carmo church, during our earlier visit we were too lazy to walk up the hill to see this)

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(Some famous Portuguese poet)

We then walked down to the newer part of Taipa village. We found this café called E.S.kimo with a really good offer on pork chop buns. So we actually ordered two.

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The day was still early, so we checked out Galaxy Hotel and Casino.

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(monkey faced orchid)

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(the hourly show with the chandelier and giant diamond. You’ll understand when you see it)

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Next – when we REALLY leave Macau.

Macau & Hong Kong 2016 : Part 10 – Lung Wah Teahouse

Published by on April 23, 2016

This is part of an ongoing series. To start at the beginning, click here.

Day 5 greeted us with light showers. Not heavy like in Malaysia, anyway its a good thing we’ve done most of the outdoors stuff over the earlier days. Today’s plan is to go across the city to try this dim sum place called Lung Wah Teahouse. If you’re an avid fan of Hong Kong TV serials and movies, you’d no doubt have seen this place before. Most recently it was featured in the Chow Yuen Fatt movie ‘From Vegas to Macau II’.

Had to take a bus up north of the city and get off once you see the Red Market. The teahouse is just next to it.

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(it was rainy and cold)

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(you need to take the pedestrian walkway to cross the road)

And there it is above.

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Take the stairs up.

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if you can, take a seat at the booth seat next to the iconic green windows.

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Its called a teahouse as they sell a wide variety of Chinese tea. The dim sum is self service, but they have an all-Chinese menu at your table.

The place was surprising quiet that morning. Maybe it’ll get busier during the weekends. The owner was very friendly and correctly guessed that we were from Malaysia. He even gave us a couple of Macau postcards. Not that anyone sends postcards anymore.

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After breakfast we took a walk through the Red Market. It’s a wet market and it was quite busy that morning. The stalls spilled out onto the road behind.

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In a well hidden shop, we found this old couple selling traditional biscuits. We bought some to try, there’s a particular type I haven’t eaten since I was a kid.

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Next on the itinerary, wanted to walk in the areas surrounding Largo Senado. Near the St. Joseph Seminary & Church, I saw this place. Maybe our St. Augustine had coffee here a few centuries ago?

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St Joseph is quite a large church.

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Just opposite the church is Dom Pedro V. Theatre. Rather small theatre in a very beautiful old building.

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Sooner or later, we ended in Largo Senado and ruins of St. Paul again. And this crowded food street again.

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But today for lunch, we were on hunt for a well-known restaurant serving roasted duck and chicken. Took awhile in the confusing side streets to find this.

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(and a plate of sang mee)

Nearby this place is something else you must not miss – Leitaria I Son milk pudding (Yee Shun). Reputed to be the best in Macau, the milk pudding is milky and smooth. And when you are there, try the milk tea also. We stopped by here while waiting for the rain to lighten up. Too bad we didn’t take any pictures.

We ended up walking back to the hotel, but taking a stop at Margaret’s for egg tarts for tomorrow’s breakfast.

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We didn’t go out that night. We were supposed to fly back to KL the next morning, so we thought to have an early night. We had some roast duck leftover from lunch, so our dinner was instant noodles with roast duck with coffee.

Who’d knew we’d get an extra day in Macau thanks to AirAsia. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That’ll be next.

Macau & Hong Kong 2016 : Part 9 – The Venetian & Taipa

Published by on April 22, 2016

This is part of an ongoing series. To start at the beginning, click here.

After our walkabout in Coloane, we took the same bus back to Cotai. It was time to visit Taipa village. Taipa is just on the other side of the Venetian Hotel. So we took a shortcut through the Venetian, at the same time took a quick look around.

The Venetian is truly impressive. Before coming to Macau, I have heard about this mega resort / casino / hotel / 16th wonder of the world, but to see it, wow. You have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate it.

This ceiling fresco is leading to the one of the many gambling halls. Here was the only place I took a walk into the gambling hall. The hall was too big to take in in a short while, but from what I can see, most of the gamblers (Chinese mainlanders) like to gamble either baccarat or the traditional big / small.

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Another part of the resort that is often featured in ads is the shopping arcade. This two storey arcade is lit to look like the open day time sky 24 hours a day. And for a hefty sum, you can take a short gondola ride by a Chinese guy / girl dressed like an Italian.

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Anyway, after awhile, the crowd and bustle of this place can get a little too much. Exit on the other side of the Venetian (it can be a little tough to navigate this place without having to ask), and you take a overhead pedestrian crossing over the highway to Taipa.

There’s a stretch beside a park where there are travellators. Only in Macau. Travellators outdoors.

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Taipa is a slight bigger and more urban town compared to Coloane. At the fringe of the town there are newer shoplots where you can find a wide variety of pubs and eateries, but the most popular tourist street is in the centre of the old town. Here you can find the usual biscuit shops, restaurants, and the more traditional cafes.

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(workers at Koi Kei making their famous almond cookies)

We stopped by here for a tea-time snack.

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Walnut and almond muffins straight out of the oven.

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Pork chop noodles.

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After walking back to the bus stop, we took another bus all the way back to the peninsula an back to our hotel.

That night, we took a walk to MGM, located next to Wynn.

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(a fleet of Rolls Royce)

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(the entrance foyer to MGM Macau)

There are two main attractions in MGM. One is a free art gallery on the 1st floor. The other is the giant cylindrical fish tank.

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Outside, guarding the hotel facing the sea, is the iconic lion of MGM.

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Next – Lung Wah Teahouse and our last day in Macau.

Macau & Hong Kong 2016 : Part 8 – Coloane

Published by on April 17, 2016

This is part of an ongoing series. To start at the beginning, click here.

Day 4 in Macau, and we are going to Coloane and Taipa. These are two small islands south of the main peninsula. The straits between the two islands have been reclaimed and is called Cotai (Coloane + Taipa = Cotai, get it?). It is now home to a strip of luxury casinos like The Venetian, Sands, City of Dreams, Galaxy, etc.

First we took the free shuttle bus from the ferry terminal to Sands Cotai (same one we took 2 days ago, but this time to the Sands Cotai instead of Sands Macau). From Sands we stepped out into the cold to see the Venetian across the road, and it really is very impressive.

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On the other side of Sands is City of Dreams, which was no less impressive, but slightly smaller. They are currently doing some renovation works, so we didn’t go in to have a look see. Behind City of Dreams is Hard Rock Hotel, hardly visible among the mega hotels / casino.

Sands itself is pretty impressive, housing 4 world class hotels, shopping, DreamWorks Experience, etc.

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(the fountain inside Sands)

Anyway, we’re just passing through here. We took a public bus from Sands to Coloane. Both Taipa and Coloane are really small villages, quite detached from the excesses of the rest of Macau. If you walked around the town, you can circumnavigate the town in less than half and hour on foot.

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(the local post office)

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(locals having breakfast)

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(a local nursery selling bonsai)

In the densely packed town centre, the main attraction is the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, built by the Portuguese in 1928. It is fronted by a small square and faces the straits with the peninsula across.

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(Alyssa in front of the square. Sporting all black look today)

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(one of the attractions of this chapel is the painting of Madonna and child in a very Chinese style)

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(I’m guessing this is St Francis himself)

the main reason most people visit Coloane is to buy Portuguese egg tarts from Lord Stow’s Bakery. His original shop is right in the middle of town. We had many egg tarts in Macau, including from his ex-wife and main competitor, Margaret, but Lord Stow’s is undeniably the best. Between the 4 of us, we shared 12 tarts.

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(super yummeh)

Next – We explore the Venetian and on to Taipa.

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