Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun

Myanmar – Balloons over Bagan

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Balloons over Bagan

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Japan – Deer oh Deers! Nara’s Most Famous Residents at Nara Park

Nara DeersNo visit to Nara will be complete without meeting its most famous resident, the free roaming wild deers (シカ ‘shika‘ or 鹿) at Nara Park 奈良公園, which is also the location of many Nara’s attractions including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and Nara National Museum.

Nara DeersNara Park is just a leisurely five-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station or a a 20-minute walk from JR Nara Station. The park can also be reached by bus. If you are ever in doubt, just follow the deers which are literally EVERYWHERE you can think of, like in the shrubs or even inside a drain.

Nara DeersConsidered to be holy messengers of the gods, Nara’s 1,200 deer have become a symbol of the city and designated as a natural treasure under the Cultural Properties Protection Law. According to local folklore, deers in Nara were considered sacred due to a visit from Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine, who appeared on Mt. Mikasa riding a white deer. Killing one of these deers was a capital offense punishable by death up until 1637.

Nara DeersSo these deers literally do whatever they feel like. Including stopping traffic.

Nara DeersNara’s wild deer are super chill with people, although they can get a little pushy when you start feeding them. They can be quite a handful at times as well…

Nara DeersLike this one who happily trotted into the pond just outside the Nara National Museum for a dip.

Nara DeersAnd came to ask to be fed after its skinny dipping. Shika biscuits, which smelt just like the wafers we eat (I had to resist trying them myself), were sold at kiosks along the park at 150yen for a stack. Our hotel kindly prepared a little bag of biscuits and bottle of water for our little adventure.

Nara DeersWhile the deers are generally tame, just be cautious as they can get aggressive. Afterall, they are wild animals.

The deers are pretty intelligent, and have learnt to bow to ask for food.

Nara DeersOnce the deers see the biscuits, be prepared to be surrounded and nudged around like a superstar. They butt you with their heads when you don’t feed them quickly enough, and the one behind lightly bit my arse to get my attention.

Nara DeersSee the affection they show just to get their treats.

Nara DeersThis clever one went for the shortcut and simply stood in front of the deer biscuit stall :D

Nara DeersGreedy little fellas. They are also very practical – they leave you as soon as you run out of biscuits to feed them.

Nara Deers“No biscuits for me? Bleahhhhh.”

Nara DeersOnce they are well-fed, they pick a spot and start snoozing. Nothing you do will move them, not even putting a biscuit right under their noses. So come early in the day when they are still hungry.

Nara DeersWe caught some hotties in traditional costumes playing ball at the park too. There was a festival nearby as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with the locals, both human and animal.

Nara DeersOne for the wefie album ;) It was quite an experience getting upclose with the deers after hearing so much about them. It was totally worth the trip, not to mention there’s so much cultural sights to visit in Nara. I will be back to visit my furry friends…with thicker pants.


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Yilan – Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Just across Ji Mi Park in Yilan is Chalet Gelato, a cute little cafe serving gelato made from the season’s freshest produce.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋It’s also a great rest stop especially on a hot day to enjoy a well-deserved dessert.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋How does a lemonade topped with freshly plucked peppermint leaves or matcha freeze made with tea leaves from Shizuoka prefecture sound? :)

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋The floor to ceiling glass lets you take in the greenery surrounding the little cafe while staying cool.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Really helpful to have the popular combinations of gelato flavours listed out on the board, and look out for the seasonal flavours. What’s your favourite?

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋All the flavours look just as tantalizing. The flavours are usually determined by what fruits or nuts are in season, and kept as natural as possible. When in season, they have an interesting dragonfruit flavour.

Nothing artificial is added when making the gelato, just lots passion and hard work. Can you imagine squeezing a whole bucket of oranges by hand?!

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋I chose a lychee rose and matcha flavour combination.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Time to enjoy. The texture was smooth and not overly sweet, with nature’s taste filling your palate.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Time seems to move slowly in Yilan, as you automatically slow down to take in sights of its mountainous naturescape.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋I enjoyed the refreshing peppermint lemonade.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋And an affogato makes the day even better. Coffee, anyone?

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋
Address: 宜蘭縣宜蘭市和睦路鐵道一巷27號(宜興路與民權路交叉路口)
No. 27 Hemu Railway Road, Lane 1, Yilan, Taiwan
Tel: +886 3 933 3030
Opening Hours: 9:30AM – 6:00PM daily
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/chalet.gelato

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Thailand – A Taste of Thip Samai: Bangkok’s most famous Pad Thai

Thip SamaiPad thai, apart from tom yum soup, is one of the most famous Thai food, and not trying it while in Thailand is like not having chicken rice in Singapore. My quest for the best pad thai in Bangkok brought me to Thip Samai, which has been around since 1966.

Thip SamaiLocated just minutes away from the The Giant Swing (Sao Ching Cha), is it not difficult to spot the stall with the perennial long queue outside as it is popular with tourists and locals alike. Locals know the place as Pad Thai Pratu Pi (Ghost Gate Pad Thai) because it’s located near by the gate of The Golden Mountain, which houses the dead body of Wat Saket. Be prepared to queue about 10 to 30 minutes, unless you get to the stall once it opens at 5pm.

Thip SamaiCooking is done on the sidewalk outside the stall, so be entertained and tempted with smells while you wait in line. I was a bit doubtful whether if it would be as good as its reputation with the clockwork-like cooking. That said, I noticed that they used charcoal stoves to attain the coveted ‘wok hei’ flavour.

Thip SamaiHe must have been doing this for a long time judging from the fury of his pan flipping. The heat was also scorching hot; it must be tough standing in front of the sauna stove for hours.

Thip SamaiYumz! What a tantalizing wok of phad thai! Someone pass me a pair of chopsticks…At its most basic, pad thai is thin, flat rice noodles fried with tofu, preserved radish, dried shrimp, and seasoned with dried chili, tamarind pulp, sugar, and fish sauce. Egg is fried together with the noodles or, increasingly, wrapped around them in the form of a thin omelet.

Thip SamaiDespite its nationalistic-sounding name, pad thai was only introduced in the 1930s. Few versions of its origins exist. One version that is often heard is that pad thai came from Vietnam, where it is known as pho sao. The Vietnamese made this dish during the Ayutthaya period and, at the time of World War II, the Thais adapted it and named it pad thai.

Another version claims the street dish came into being during Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsonggram’s stint as prime minister between 1938 and 1944. Due to the bad economic situation during these war years, the government encouraged Thais to eat noodles as it was cheap, filling and nutritious when fried with pork and vegetables. Recipes were distributed to teach the people how to cook it. Others also claim that pad thai originated from the Chinese owing to its stir-fry method and use of local ingredients such as tamarind pulp and fish sauce.

Thip SamaiFinally seated! The ambience felt traditional and it was reassuring to see many locals around.

Thip SamaiThe menu is quite a no-brainer – just pad thai. The original pad thai comes in 2 sizes, and they also offer Superb Pad Thai/Pad Thai Haw Kai Goong Sot (ผัดไทห่อไข่กุ้งสด) which is pad thai wrapped in egg omelet, and Pad Thai Sen Jan Man Goong (ผัดไทเส้นจันมันกุ้ง) which is noodles fried with juices from the head of the jumbo shrimp (oh cholestrol! but sinfully good).

Thip SamaiDo also order their shaved ice coconut or orange juice to go with your plate of pad thai. The orange juice is almost as famous as the stall as it is chockful of pulp. The price differs from day to day based on supply. It is not exactly cheap, costing almost as much as the plate of pad thai itself, but worth it.

Thip SamaiI sipped on my orange juice and watched the crowd as I waited for my pad thai to arrive.

Thip SamaiTa da – le Superb Pad Thai! I never knew fried egg could smell this good, and I felt like I was opening a treasure box. The dish comes with lime wedges, raw bean sprouts and garlic chives which you can mix into the noodles.

Thip SamaiAdd chilli flakes and a dash of sugar for extra oomph. For me, as-is was good enough. It was memorable enough to make me return for a second visit on my next trip. This time, it wasn’t as good as the first time I had it as the noodles were a little soft for my taste. Be nice to the staff, cos’ they gave me a Thip Samai sticker as souvenir when I left, haha.

Thip SamaiI would probably give other pad thai stalls a try in my quest for the most authentic and delicious pad thai the next time I am back in Bangkok. Thip Samai would still remain my recommendation if friends ask for a pad thai place in Bangkok. Afterall, it is an institution for this particular street food loved by locals and foreigners.
Pad Thai Thip Samai (Pad Thai Pratu Pi)
Address: 313 Maha Chai Road, Samran Rat, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200 Thailand
Hours: 5:00PM – 3:00AM daily
Phone: +66 2 221 6280

What you can show to the taxi driver or when asking for directions:
ผัดไทยทิพย์สมัย (ผัดไทยประตูผี)
313 อาคาร บริเวณภูเขาทอง ถนนมหาไชย (มหาชัย) แขวงสำราญราษฎร์ เขตพระนคร กรุงเทพฯ 10200
เปิดทุกวัน เวลา 17.00-03.00 น. (หยุดทุกวันพุธต้นเดือนและปลายเดือน)

Getting There
Take a taxi. There is no nearby BTS not MRT. It is quite close to downtown Bangkok so it should cost less than 100 baht by metre. Plan your visit together with the following places of interest in the late afternoon (remember they only open at 5pm) – about 15 minutes walk from Khaosan Road, few minutes walk from the Giant Swing / Democracy Monument / Golden Mountain (Wat Saket). I used Google Maps to guide my walk.

If you really wish to take the train, you can take the Silom Line to Saphan Taksin Station (S6 Station), go out through Exit No. 2, take Chao Phraya Express Boat to Ta Chang Pier and take a taxi or tuk tuk to Thip Samai. That is, if you have loads of time to kill.