Category Archives: Asia

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Sihanoukville – An Unavoidable Stop Over pt2

11th June 2015

The second day in Sihanoukville was a lot better than the first.

We were quite far away from the main area so went for a walk along the beach. The beach front took a long time to resemble anything we were use to. It just seemed to be Cambodian people sat around in areas that were full of plastic chairs but with no bars or restaurants. And a lot of litter. We were starting to get a little worried until we came to the very end of the beach and found some real bars.

rubbishbeach3 rubbishbeach We took a seat in a comfy looking beach bar and were told by the staff that they were on the break and wouldn’t be serving anyone for a few hours. So we got up and headed as far as we could until children stopped hassling us and arrived at ‘above us only sky’.

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Does anyone know what this lovely bird is?

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The Cambodian 'morning glory' vegetable

The Cambodian ‘morning glory’ vegetable

IMG_1939 IMG_1947 This bar was our little savior in the town. We loved it here. Nice music, nice service and a great view. We sat here for about 3 hours because we didn’t want to head into they main area again. We organised our boat to Koh Rong Samloem in a local tourist building (as adviced by our hotel) and headed back to our hotel. We had a nap and woke up in time for dinner. We started to get ready to head out when Lee and I caught each others eye…looked at our laptop containing all of our unwatched Game of Thrones episodes…and ordered a pizza.

It was the best night we could have hoped for. We did also make a quick stop at a local In supermarket to stock up on supplies for our island trip since we had heard there was only one shop in Saracen Bay that only occasionally opened .. we bought the important supplies of gin, tonic, chocolate and soju. Very adult of us.

Do we like Sihanoukville? No. Is it as bad as you read online? It depends where you are since we did have glimpses of really pretty places and very nice people but I would view it more as a stop off before you head to one of the islands surrounding it. Then again this may have something to do with pooping my insides out, being attacked by ants and backed up toilets….who knows? signature

 

Sihanoukville – An Unavoidable Stop Over pt1

10th June 2015

About a year ago Lee and I came home from work and ran up to each other shouting ‘have you seen Emma’s photos!’ a friend of ours had just put up the most beautiful photos of an island called Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia. We decided that we had to check it out for ourselves.

As we started researching we realised that with the bus times and boat times it was inevitable that we would have to spend one night in Sihanoukville before catching the boat to Koh Rong Samloem. To begin with we were both happy about this since we love seeing as many places as possible. That was until I started researching the place. To say the reviews were bad is an understatement. People seemed to hate this little town. “oh well” we thought “how bad can it really be!” . The answer is that the term ‘so-so’ has been invented for this little place.

We arrived mid-day and we were instantly harassed for about twenty minutes while we walked to our hotel . People aggressively wanted us to get into their trams/tuk tuk/taxis. When we eventually arrived at our hotel we were pleasantly surprised. It looked really nice , despite being quite cheap and having awful reviews (but still the best reviews we could find).

It was at this point we discovered that we’d made an error with our planning and we had to spend two days in Sihanoukville. I can’t say I was happy but I was excited to make our own opinion of this little town. We walked for a little bit and found a lovely restaurant on the road. The people were nice , the food was cheap and the portions were plentiful…but most importantly …the beer was cheap. We returned to our hotel happy and upbeat for the next day. That’s when the hotel started to show it’s true colors. We tried to open our door but it refused to budge. We pushed a bit harder, both having individual ‘you must be doing it wrong’ turns. That’s when we noticed the door had obviously been kicked open a few times. Due to poor locks we basically had to break into our own hotel room. Once we huffed and puffed our way in we sat on the bed and I grabbed two glasses to pour ourselves a well deserved class of diet coke….this is when the inside of the glass seemed to be moving in front of my eyes. I refocused since I had had one beer at dinner…inside the glass were a million ants. This is when we started to look around the room and realise it was swarmed with them. The more our eyes adjusted , the more we saw. We jumped up and ran to the reception desk. The staff seem to clock off at a certain time so we were stuck in the ant room. Lee cleared them up the best he could and I headed to the bathroom. I wasn’t feeling great .

Not feeling great turned into my insides trying to escape…very quickly and very aggressively. This , as everyone knows, is not the best feeling when on holiday. But in Asia it seems inevitable. I let my body attack and finally felt slightly human enough to leave the bathroom. Being ill is an awful feeling and at that moment I didn’t think it could get much worse…that was until I flushed the toilet. Watching  the toilet water starting to go up instead of down puts dread into a human like nothing else.  I won’t go into too much detail here in case you are sitting down reading this with a lovely breakfast but to say ‘it was the worst of times’ in that bathroom probably wouldn’t sum it up. Lee and I have been together a long time but the things we’ve both had to deal with on this trip has matured our relationship extremely quickly…and luckily made us laugh a hell of a lot. Leaving that bathroom to face Lee and explain the horrors that awaited behind the door was not my favourite moment. Cleaning it up because I refused to let him enter the bathroom was yet another of my least happy memories.

When the ants, toilet and door were all distant memories and we settled down to sleep I was secretly dreading the next day and wishing with all my might that we could just leave for our island paradise the second the sun shone.

Sihanoukville – 1

Us – 0

(Luckily there are no photos to accompany this post !)

 

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Phnom Pehn – Our First Glance of Cambodia

6th June 2015

banner Well it’s been a while since i’ve updated our little blog. Mainly due to just having too much fun. We have now moved on from Cambodia but I can’t wait to tell you all about our trip.

Neither of us had any clue what to expect from Cambodia. We wouldn’t have even have added it to our travel plans if it hadn’t been for the rave reviews from our friends. We knew we wanted to go to Siem Reap to see the temples of Angkor Wat but other than that we were a bit stumped.

Since we were heading there from Vietnam we decided to start in the capital of Phnom Penh and see what we could find.

cambodia2 cambodia What we found was a city on the brink of becoming a big cosmopolitan and a ‘must visit’ city. The Cambodian people were very kind and always smiling which made being in the city much easier but there were a lot of sellers trying to entice you to buy their wears at every turn. Unfortunately it also seems very popular in Phnom Penh to use your children to get money. I’m not a fan of this and it upsets me so much to see little kids being pushed to sell bracelets but PLEASE don’t buy things from them as you just proving that it pays to take your kids out of school. I know i’ve banged on about this before so I’ll stop my blog-rant but try to hold back as much as possible.

amok temple palacegate The highlights of this city definitely seem to be the palaces and buildings. Such detail is put into the surrounding architecture. A normal government building would have me taking pictures for far too long. Cambodian food is also a highlight. Quite a few people we talked to had suffered from food poisoning so unfortunately it is better to eat in  restaurants than on the street but hopefully this will change as the country grows. My personal favourite food was the Amok curry… a coconut, creamy yellow curry sometimes served in a coconut. mmm I miss them already.

beer Surprisingly Cambodia is a lot of expensive for food and drink than Vietnam. In Vietnam a beer and a meal would cost about 2 dollars where as here it would be closer to 6 dollars. Still incredible compared to our home in the UK but its worth noting if you are traveling here thinking it will be the same as Thailand and Vietnam.

palace4 palace2 palace The moments that will stay with me most from our trip to Phnom Penh will definitely be the time we spent in the war prison. This old converted school is haunting. The blood still paints the floors and the eerie feeling of the horrors that took place here still hang in every room. It is a disturbing place to visit that will pull your day down but it is something I’d recommend. I’m really glad we got to understand the country we were in a little more. It is also shocking when you realise how recent all these events happened in Cambodia and how every person we met on our trip near our age or older was effected in some way by the events put into place by Pol Pot and his Communist regime. I didn’t take any photos  , out of respect, while I was there . I couldn’t bring myself to snap anything in such a place but please take our word for it that it is a haunting place and one that should be visited.

We only spent three days in this city but I really liked it. I am excited to see how it changes and grows over the next few years. toiletman

The part of us that use to live in Korea found this Mr Toulet sign and the placement of these flags very strange (that's north Korea by the way who have an embassy in Phnom Penh)

The part of us that use to live in Korea found this Mr Toilet sign and the placement of these flags very strange (that’s north Korea by the way who have an embassy in Phnom Penh)

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These creatures are called the Khmer and Cambodians believe that they come from these creatures. They believe Cambodia was underwater until one of their kind fell in love with a human and created the race we see today.

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Casual street banana trees

Casual street banana trees

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Saigon / Ho Chi Minh – A Blur of a Visit

25th May 2015

poster When we arrived in Saigon we were welcomed by running into the beautiful Kaleena (from Kaleena’s Kaleidoscope and if you haven’t read it yet you should instantly follow this link and read all of her fantastic tales). Running into someone in a huge city should have been a huge surprise but the secret of Saigon is that it is mainly contained in about 3 streets. These three streets are located in the area called district one and are the main travellers hub.

We also met up with another friend from Korea who has recently moved to Saigon. She showed us the sights but mainly the gin…oh the gin!

IMG_1897 IMG_1910 We did see the war museum , or as Lee thinks it should be renamed ‘A photographic history of hating America’. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t’ truth on the walls of the museum. It just means that its a very one sided and extremely gruesome history told from the winners perspective. Please don’t get me wrong though, it is a horrifying history and needs to be told but it is worrying when rooms are called things such as ‘The real truths’ or when tanks are labeled ‘Americans death machine’ while Vietnamese tanks are labeled ‘Vietnamese liberation vessel’. It would have been fantastic to see a un-biased account of event which would still show the horrors the Vietnamese people and the Americans both experienced. But I don’t have a degree in History so definitely don’t have the right to an opinion on this place. It is still an interesting place to see either way.

place plane2 rain We also indulged in our favourite past time and headed to the cinema. It was great. Quiet, cheap and with fantastic salted popcorn. The Vietnamese had a great sense of humour and laughed at everything which made it a great experience.

We also managed to see the 1920’s style post office as well as the Notre Dame cathedral. but we mostly spent our time eating and taking in the city. We sat on many tiny plastic chairs and guided our way across the terrifyingly busy roads.

seoul window building karaoke shirts shrek I think it’s definitely a city to live in rather than visit…UNLESS you know some people to enjoy the city with. There is so much to do here but it’s more relaxed things that require insider knowledge.

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Mui Ne – The Perfect Rest For Two Weary Travellers

23rd May 2015

IMG_1815 Mui Ne was a place we added last minute to our itinerary . I was interested in the fairy stream and the sand dunes. Weirdly the one thing we didn’t do while we were there was see the sand dunes…yes I know that’s crazy but the reason for this decision was mainly this place…. IMG_1822 tania tania2

We stayed in a simple hostel right down the end of town by the fairy stream. On our first day we decided to chill out and explore. The heat was crazy so we walked across the road and saw a beautiful pool and hotel that we could pay to sit at for the day. One day became two, two days became three and before we knew it we never wanted to move again.

fairystream fairystream2 fairystream3 fairystream4 fairystream5 sanddunes We headed to the fairy stream which didn’t impress Lee. Mainly because I forgot to tell Lee that he had to wade knee deep in mud and sludge. I liked it but mainly because it was free and next to our hotel. I wouldn’t have paid for it. There was a teenager asked for money to go to the stream. Please ignore this guy. He isn’t legit and needs to go back to school. Money is keeping him at the stream. The lady in our hotel was very upset about the child beggars and explained how they drop out the second they realise they can make money begging. DON’T SUPPORT IT!

Preaching over. Anyway where was I…oh yes, us being lazy buggers.

We had been traveling for almost two months and we just needed a rest. It was a great rest too. Unfortunately I am not sure Mui Ne is for everyone. It’s mainly aimed at Russian Tourists and you need to take taxis to get up and down the long road. The beach wasn’t clean at all, we even saw some chemical waste. There are also quite a few scams being run all over the place such as kids threatening people after pushing them down on sleds at the dunes and police waiting for foreigners so they can fine them. But if you go to restaurants reviewed on Trip Advisor and get good tours you should have a good time. We just needed a pool and some margaritas and Mui Ne definitely provided. beach flowers tania3 flowers2 palmtrees pool sunset

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Hoi An – Lanterns, Dreamy Nights and Yellow Walls

20th May 2015

hoian Oh Hoi An!

I’ve taken a while to write this post mainly because I don’t know what more to say about this place apart from. I LOVE IT!

bike2 birdcage japanese bridge Lee and I arrived with high expectations. Every person we know told us we would just love it . We are the type of people that like to go into a movie not hearing it’s great so that we can be pleasantly surprised , and we are the same with countries so we were ready to be under whelmed but some how this magic place was all we had heard and more.

My friend Kaleena wrote a post here that explains it much more eloquently than I ever could.

but here are some things to do when in Hoi An:

.Drink 9p fresh beer – it’s basically water but so so cheap you just have to give it a go.

beer .Try rose dumplings – a specialty in Hoi An and they are really tasty.

bike .Ride a bike to the beaches – this was my first attempt at riding a bike. Lee was a great teacher but it was terrifying.

.See the lanterns – just stunning. Such a magical feeling seeing the town lit up.

lanterns1 lanterns2 .Put a wishing candle on the river – You can by them on the street for a dollar and they all look so beautiful. We both agreed to wish to come back.

.Eat at Bahn Mi Queen – THE BEST Bahn Mi in Vietnam/ the world. We also tried the really famous one that Anthony Bourndain recommends but the 88 year old Bahn Mi Queen just hit the spot like no other  and it was so cheap. We ate far far too many .

bahnmi . Get something tailored – Lee got a stunning suit, I got a dress and a playsuit. My recommendation would be to get a pinterest board set up of all the lovely things you want. Show them and make sure you have a few days to have a few fittings squeezed in.

.Take a cooking class – We went to the Thuan Tinh Island class which was recommended to us and we adored it. It was great. They took us out to a special island, gave us all we could drink passion fruit juice and just loved it all. Now we can hopefully take Vietnam home with us.

cook1 cook2 cook3 cook4 cook5 cook6 cook7 .Eat Cake – We went to Cargo a restaurant for desserts and ate our weight in chocolate cake. Worth the extra pounds. All travel pants are elasticated anyway.

There are so many other things to try and do in this city but these are just a few of the things we loved. I want to take every one of my friends there to rent bikes and drink wine outside in the sunshine. Lee and I can’t wait to go back. cook9 market night oldquarter1 yellow yellow2 yellow3

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Hue – Come for the Citadel, Stay for the Food.

19th May 2015

citadel hue5 Hue – A city of history and pancakes

Hue is known for many things, being the old capital of Vietnam, having a UNESCO awarded Citadel, the perfume river and many more things but I was there for one reason and one reason alone. Food!

Hue is known around Vietnam as the food capital of the country. It is said that when Hue was the capital of Vietnam the emperor would bring all the best chefs to the city. Each chef was in charge of a different dish. There were typically 53 dishes per meal. Obviously this was long ago but all of these recipes and skills seemed to have hung around the city because everything we ate was divine.

hue pancake One dish in particular blew our socks off and had us returning again and again. Bau Khoai is a fried rice pancake filled with shrimp, pork and beansprouts. It’s served with what I could only work out to be really ripe avocado and the traditional pile of herbs that seems to a company all Vietnamese dishes. The best part though is the sauce…oh the sauce. A perfect tongue pleasing combination of satay and thin hoisin. I could drink gallons of it. You combine all of this in a bowl and consume. I’m drooling just typing this.

The restaurant is famous on trip adviser and in the Lonely Planet but we think we went in the fake next door rather than the real one. The real one is called Lac Thien. I can only image how good the real one is since this one blew us away.

When we weren’t filling our faces we were absorbing the history. The very expensive history. Getting into the citadel was much more than we’d read online and in the guide books, but it was worth it to see inside. We had read it would be 2 pound (or 55,000 dong) but instead it was close to double that at 120,000 dong. The sad thing about it is that so many wars and natural disasters have ruined the original buildings so pretty much everything you’re seeing is a restoration. It’s still great to see but such a shame that the real history is gone. We loved stumbling on an area when the restoring hadn’t begun and you could see fragments of the real citadel under the grass.

citadel hue3 hue girl 2 hue girl 3 hue girl original hue citedel It was a beautiful city but did suffer from a quick rise in tourism. We didn’t even dare walk by the lake since we were hassled as if we were on the beaches of Boracay. The people would be quite aggressive and rude. Which is a shame. I wish the government would step in and help change this because the city will be ruined beyond repair soon and not worth a visit. I think we would have bought more and definitely taken tuk tuks and boat rides if we hadn’t been chanced down the street at every turn.

citadel hue dragon boats hue fish fight garden hue hue sunset Hue is a good city, but it definitely could be a GREAT city if tourism was nurtured instead of attacked by putting high prices on things and hounding people. I realise that sounds like I didn’t enjoy my time here. I did but it’s sad to be able to see how fantastic this place could be. Saying all that, it’s worth coming for a few days for the food and a glimpse at the beautiful architecture. citadel hue2 citadel hue4 citadel hue signature

A Great Alternative to Halong Bay – Catba Island

17th May 2015

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A trip to Vietnam isn’t complete without a trip to one of the natural wonders of the world… Halong Bay.

We researched Halong bay until my internet told me I had an addiction. The problem seemed to be:

  1. It was really expensive
  2. It was full of tourists

It seemed that even if you paid a hell of a lot you’d still end up on a shit tour unable to see anything through the throngs of tourists. So we tracked down an alternative. We decided to go to Catba .

Catba is an island the other side of Halong bay. Its bay is called Lan Ha bay but is still officially Halong bay. It’s just the other quieter side.

17 20 It was two thirds of the price and seemed just as beautiful. We jumped at the chance to visit.

We dragged out two visiting Irish friends with us and landed in Catba to discover it was the quiet season. The VERY quiet season. This wasn’t a bad thing since it meant really cheap accommodation and whole bars to ourselves.

We spent our first night catching up over gin and juice, trying the mysterious laughing gas (which is just an odd few seconds) and laughing…a lot.

16 catba I really liked the sleepy town of Catba but like all of Vietnam it closes early here with all street lights going off at 10 and bars closing about 12 (although you can track down places that go till the wee hours).

The next day we hit the high seas and went on our boat trip. We did our trip through Asia outdoors and I’d recommend it to anyone. So cheap (at just 25 dollars) and really well organised.

We sailed past the floating fishing communities and saw the bay emerge around us. It was spectacular.

10 11 (2) We then had the opportunity to ride the seas ourselves and hoped in Kayaks. Seeing the mountains from so low down only added to their spender. Photos really don’t to this place justice.

After a delicious lunch and more kayaking we were ready to say goodbye to the bay feeling like we’d all earned the right to draw a big line through a bucket list item. I’d definitely recommend the Catba route.

3 6 19 That night we chatted lots more over beers. We reminisced about Korea, congratulated Ciaran on his fantastic travellers beard and exchanged travel stories (both the good and the disgusting). We weren’t sad to head back to Hanoi when it came to it but I loved every minute of our excursion to the bay.

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You’ve got a little something on your face Ciaran

hazel2 If you are interested in this trip then I definitely think you should grab a Hazel and Ciaran for the journey. If that’s not an option then just the bay will do.

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Discovering Hanoi – (or more importantly discovering Bahn Mi)

12th May 2015

hanoi streets I could not for the life of me remember the name of Vietnam’s capital before we got there. I constantly called it Hoi An (it had consumed my brain because I was so excited to go there) that was until I realised that Hanoi sounds like a posh person saying ‘how annoying’.. honest it does.. Give it a go. Lee found this funny…the first two times. After that he ironically found it very annoying.

This was the extent of lee and my conversations about this place. That was until we got a message from our best friends.

Our two Irish friends (and one of our favourite couples) had been traveling across Asia together for 4 months and had one last stop before flying home. It just so happened it was the exact same time as we would be there. Hanoi was instantly my new favourite place.

We were both so distracted with the excitement of seeing these two that we didn’t think about the fact we were entering a new country. So it took us a little by surprise when we were in our taxi and flying past rice paddies, tea fields and people in pointy hats.

train tracks hanoi pond opera house We loved Hanoi. It is vibrant, busy and down to earth. The French influence is apparent everywhere. When the French left Vietnam in 1954 they left behind their architecture and most importantly their bread.

bread The old quarter of Hanoi looks like Paris was squashed up and abandoned in Asia. Thin buildings with balconies and shutters surround you from all sides and every inch of space is used. I don’t think I saw one area of the street that wasn’t occupied by a tiny plastic chair.

hanoi bars fresh beer wires hanoi It was cheap, delicious and full of life.

On top of the place looking and being fantastic, the Vietnamese people that fill it are great too. We had some of the nicest hotel staff I’ve ever met and everyone was so willing to help you. (The hotel was called Icon 36 and we would highly recommend it).

We spent our few days in Hanoi catching up over 9p beers or as the locals call it ‘fresh beer’ with a stupid amount of fried spring rolls.

I tried my first phò which was instantly a new favourite. We also had Bun Cha which consists of fried pork spring rolls, noodles, a delicious broth and chunks of beef. All with bitter melon and a ton of herbs. My taste buds that hadn’t experienced a fresh herb for two years in Korea were happy.

bun cha We didn’t spend long in Hanoi, we could have stayed for weeks, but we squeezed in some sightseeing and a trip to the water puppets which was originally started in North Vietnam. The water puppets is a hard one to explain. Imagine puppeteers stood waist high in water behind a curtain and you watch these wooded creatures tell you Vietnamese tales. It was fantastically bizarre but very worth the few pound to watch it. Water puppets originated when workers would entertain people on the rice paddies with the puppets 1000 years ago but now has evolved into a great tradition and something I’d recommend. Weirdly and wonderfully Vietnamese. Like most things here. Lee and I spent the whole time quizzically looking each other trying to gage if the other person had a clue what was going one which inevitable ended in a fit of giggles.

water puppets2 water puppets The other thing about Hanoi…it’s so cheap!!! After Japan and the Philippines we were happy campers to be paying less than 50p for a Bahn mi sandwich. If you don’t know what Bahn mi is then instantly throw your computer away. Go into the nearest Vietnamese restaurant and experience one/as many as you can force in your face. Imagine a chunk of perfectly soft and crusty French bread. Fill it will pate, mushroom paste, bean sprouts, lettuce, carrot, BBQ pork, lemongrass chicken, cheese and a fried egg. Top it all off with a sweet and sour chili sauce and you have a classic Bahn mi. I honestly think it is the discovery of the trip so far. Our wallets and we were very happy to be in Hanoi. We can’t wait to see what the rest if the beautiful country has to offer. bahn mi

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The Food of Hong Kong

6th May 2015

noodles Our Hong Kong trip can be summed up with one word….FOOD! We ate our way around the islands of Kowloon and Hong Kong.

Since it’s been a long time since we were in a Western country I have to warn you that we spoiled ourselves with the tastes of home. After all , Hong Kong is like being in a fancier version of London…and with better noodles.

So what treats did we discover… skirt burger the diner 2 skirt burger the diner the diner

 

  • The Diner – Skirt Burger & Memphis Burger

Lee and I sometimes joke that he should have a special section on this website dedicated to his burger reviews around the world. I can’t tell you how much this man loves his burgers. So when I tell you that Lee thought the Memphis burger may have been the best burger he’s ever eaten you know that its a good’un. I am not a connoisseur like him but the Skirt burger is the best meat and bun to cross my lips….and just look at that cheese!!!

The Diner’s website…no booking necessary and after 10pm on Wednesdays ladies get free Mojitos double happiness butchers club double happiness

  • The Butchers Club – Double Happiness

Yes, it’s another burger. Lee checked many lists for the best burgers in Hong Kong and on ten lists he found a different ten recommendation every time so we had to try a few.

The But hers club is a famous Hong Kong restaurant  with a minimal menu that includes 1. Burger and 2. Fries. That’s it….unless you know about the secret menu that is. The double happiness was huge and I fought to finish it. Lee spurred me on…so much so that I’m starting to think he’s a feeder.

it wasn’t my favourite since the cheese wasn’t great but still tasty. We’d just been spoilt at The Diner.

The Butchers Club (you need a QPR reader to view the secret menu) french toast

  • Hong Kong French Toast. I waxed on about this heart attack on a plate in our last post. To summaries: Bread, peanut butter, condensed milk fried and served swimming in more butter. I think you gain calories just looking at it.

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  • Tea – Lee was reunited with his one true love…an English cuppa. Just filled with condensed milk instead for a sweet , teeth crumbling kick.

 

  • Dumplings- we discovered this is more of a Northern Chinese thing but Hong Kong special BBQ pork buns were fantastic. They cost pennies and can be found in lots of cheap restaurants for about 10p

egg tart hong kong

  • Egg tarts – left over from the Portuguese conquest of Macau, these little delicious tarts were creamy, rich and perfectly custardy cadburys in hong kong pork pies

plus some extra treats…. It’s safe to say our time in Hong Kong wasn’t spent hungry.

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