Originally published on and adapted from Expedia Travel Blog HK
Taiwan has never failed me as a destination spot, not to mention a highly affordable one too. Every visit is full of surprise and I never seem to run out of places to visit – night market, sakura sightseeing, beaches, just to name a few.
You will barely have time to enjoy your stay in the hotel room but many locally owned hostels and hotels have great hospitality at value prices. My favourites so far are the cozy ones at Check Inn or the iTaipei2 Service Apartment. If you are traveling with the family, I highly suggest the latter since it is an apartment style.
Locals are surprisingly slim given the variety of irresistible street foods, which are far beyond the typical bubble tea and fried chicken. I suggest you skip the touristy ones and check out the local ones such as Raohe (饒河) and Ningxia (寧夏) Night Market. The food will be very overwhelming so make sure you have company and order in small quantities to ensure you can try out all the variety! My favourites are the mini pancakes with sweet fillings, grilled sweet corn, fried taro balls, stinky tofu and scallion pancakes.
Let's not over glorify this breakfast place but I promise this is worth lining up for! Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿) is also a local favourite and way to start the day before work and the line begins as early as 6am. This breakfast spot is located inside a local canteen with limited seats but it just tastes that much better eating in than taking out.
Likewise, if you rather skip the lines, you can always pop into any breakfast store and they all serve the typical Taiwanese breakfast. The must-try item is the egg crepes (蛋餅) enwrapped with your choice of pork floss, corn, ham or cheese, drizzled with a sweet chili sauce on top. You can also opt for a healthier crepe made with wheat flour but remember to pair it with a cup of fresh soy milk – Trust me, you will be asking for seconds not long after.
I had come to Taiwan with no intention of shopping but I ended up getting lost in Ximending and its neighbouring night market. There are numerous street vendors and shops luring you in with all sorts of goodies – phone accessories, clothes, toys and local handicrafts, etc.
I love boutique stores and Eastern District (東區) became an instant favourite shopping spot. The streets are structured in squares and you will discover interesting finds block after block. An additional plus for photographers – the streets offer plenty of intriguing graffiti and wall mural photo opportunities.
Truthfully my first time seeing sakura and it was beautiful. Catch them in late February at Yang Ming Shan (陽明山) and I highly recommend renting a car, it's a beautiful drive along the way and truly #nofilter photogenic.
Atop the hill, there are a few farm-to-table restaurants serving local produce and foods. Special highlight goes to this soft and moist man tou bun (饅頭) which comes in various flavors – taro, sweet potato, brown sugar and just plain.
Just outside of iTaipei 2 Service Apartment, there is a small market selling local produce and fresh fruits. Sweet, juicy, succulent fruits – how can you resist? For your next trip, do pack up a boxful of wax apples, sugar apples, papayas, muskmelons and the vendors will know to wrap it up nicely and convenient for traveling!
Originally published on Expedia Travel Blog HK.
Korea proved to be more than just a shopping paradise; my third time here and my souvenir back this time was a few extra pounds. Most flights from HK to Korea are red-eye flights which allow you to maximize your travel time but a nap is still highly recommended. It was a long wait before stores opened and hotel check-in at 2pm. My stay at Ramada Encore was pleasant and the hotel was conveniently located a few subway stops away from main districts like Dongdaemun coupled with very friendly staff and added services like currency exchange. The plan was to stuff my face and shop till I drop dead, which I achieved more so with the former than latter.
Though I have low tolerance for spicy food and ended the trip with a funny stomach, surprisingly there were plenty of other non-spicy and delicious options.
I didn't miss American food desperately but Issac Toast (funny enough, it's pronounced “ee-zac” toast and the only pronunciation locals understood) was still worth a try. Call it the Korean version of Dunkin’ Donuts, they offered buttery bread toasted with Bulgogi (marinated beef), spicy rice cake or just ham & cheese. Mmmm, a sweet, piping hot toast to start the day.
Ginseng chicken is the perfect hearty meal after venturing out in the chills below 6°C. Stuffed with glutinous rice, chestnuts, garlic, ginseng and more ginseng, the whole chicken came in black or regular. The rich, flavorful soup left me satisfied with a paradoxically bittersweet and earthy aftertaste, and hopefully a boost for my immune system.
Korean Seafood Barbeque
I love the Crustacean family and got my unlimited fixing at a local all-you-can-eat-seafood barbeque restaurant. Several rounds of abalones, scallops, oysters and clams later, I fell in a sweet coma. Believe it or not, barbequed seafood was much better than the typical carnivorous barbeque in Korea. If you are a disciplined traveler, I suggest you save the quota (and cholesterol) for the seafood. Simply fresh, sweet and delicious.
Local Seafood & Produce
And I did it! Here at the local fish market in Korea, I tried the infamous live octopus tentacles which squirmed in my mouth and sure enough, its tentacles suctioned on my tongue – an interesting but strange feeling. The fish market was located at the Seoul World Cup Stadium where I got to pick my own seafood favourites from different vendors and pay a reasonable 3,000KW per person to cook’em up at the kitchen on the second floor!
There were also numerous stalls of vegetables, red hot spicy-looking kimchis and goodies alike, and juicy, huge, sweet strawberries. To conclude, delectable and definitely bang for your buck!
Marinated Raw Crab
If there was one thing you have to try in Korea, it would be the raw crab sashimi at Sinsa-dong. Picture does speak a thousand words, which none can describe the taste of the creamy and abundant crab paste and raw meat – divine in both soy sauce and mixed with rice and seaweed. On top of that, we sent a live octopus straight to its death bed in a boiling hot soup in its flavor and I admit, it was very cruel but satiating.
Budae for “soldier” and jigae for “stew”, the dish originated during the Korean War when food was scarce and Korean soldiers stewed up Spam and hot dogs from the U.S. army with kimchi and hot pepper paste. Budaejigae Street in Uijeongbu district, a poor village home to army bases then, now boasts a stream of restaurants solely dedicated to this dish – best served with beer and good company.
Finally, you cannot miss the street foods while shopping and will be lured by all sorts of snacks like custard-filled waffle biscuit, sausage skewers, French Fries coated corn dog, churros with cream cheese filling, and much more!
Originally published on Expedia Travel Blog HK.
Diversity, tropics and exotic are what come to mind when I think of Thailand. As with all my travels, location trumps all for accommodation which is why I chose Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square. It was walking distance to the two main districts Siam and Chit Lom, and also convenient enough for me to drop off my goodies before hitting the next destination.
A Day Well Spent at Siam
Siam is a top tourist spot and central to all shopping malls, from wholesale to local vendors to big brand names. Above ground level at the BTS Skytrain stations Chit Lom, there is a long bridge which extends a good 5 blocks and connects to the three Siam and premium malls, and prestige hotels.
Right outside Central World sits the Erawan Shrine, which is a popular attraction and representation of the Hindu creation God Brahma.
My first stop was Thann at Siam Paragon, a local brand best known for its authentic Thai style massage and fragrant rice bran oil-infused products. I splurged on a hot stone massage and what can I say – it was absolutely divine. Bangkok lives true to its name as a spa heaven and houses many other local aromatherapy brands but my verdict is you get what you pay for.
After the massage, I splurged on an afternoon tea set at the Erawan Tea Room at Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok. Unlike the British style most people generalize, the tea set offers local flavours in both savoury and sweet bites. I worked my way bottom up with the Hor Mok Pla, steamed curry soufflé to Thai spring rolls up to sweet sticky rice with Kanom Pheauk, one of the fragrant, coconuty goodies.
Touristy at its best, I booked a half-day tour through our Novotel Siam Square’s concierge service cruising along the rivers and Dumneon Saduak Floating Market. Aside from the local handmade goodies, the most interesting of all was what looked like a beauty pageant competition turned out to be a competition for the best grapes in town.
Soi Cowboy, Red Light District
Introducing the infamous Red Light District from The Hangover II and of course, the Internet had the Hangover scenes mapped out, one of which was shot at the Tilac bar at Soi Cowboy (Soi for street in Thai). Sure enough, this street was mainly populated with the expected target market or “buyers” and then there were curious tourists like me. It was an interesting dynamic and rather commercialized. As for the rest… well it’s for you to decide.
An all-time favourite, shopping at local markets get more interesting and cheaper than the mainstream shopping areas. The Chatchum market offers all sorts of goodies at bargain prices. The best part is that there are plenty of street snacks to keep your spirits up in case you got tired and dehydrated.
As my final stop before leaving, I scouted all my last minute souvenirs here and realized I underestimated the suitcase size needed. I will be back for more, Bangkok!