Monthly Archives: April 2017

PB Travels… Mekong River

Onward to the next destination – North Thailand, but at a leisurely pace. I’ve been to Bangkok and some islands but never to the northern part. Everyone carries on about Chiang Mai – so that is where I’m eventually heading. How? On a slow boat down the Mekong river. We checked out of Laung Prabang pretty early to catch the 7am slowboat. And what a magnificent beauty she is, and rightly so, seeing that I’ll be spending almost 10 hours a day for two days 😬. 

I didn’t stay on the boat overnight, but in a quaint little hotel in Pakbeng, a sleepy town along the way. 

Where am I staying? 

By the time we got to Pakbeng it was 6.30pm and minutes before a spectacular thunderstorm – pouring rain, lightening and thunder – the works. BKV Villa is a 3 minute uphill (and I do mean uphill) drive from the banks of the Mekong.  And the reward for being up so high? Stunning views. 

The bedroom was lovely but dark, but I didn’t mind as I was there to sleep. Fluffy towels, complimentary water, loads of sockets. Nice. Along with what I’m realising are the standard Laos hotel room amenities – a fan, a good air conditioner and bum jet. 

Ratings: 

  • Grubbiness factor: non existent. Or too dark for me to see 
  • Bed: 10/10. Comfy bed, comfy pillows and the reason for the high score is a duvet! No bed sheet, no horrible blanket (usually the standard issue), but a fluffy duvet. Niiiiice. 
  • Shower: 5/10. Lukewarm water, did the trick, nothing else to report. 

What did I eat… on the boat? 

Breakfasts was soft, fibre free, white bread out of which I made banana and PB sandwiches.  There was this excellent Loatian tea too – of which I drank copious amounts. 

Lunches were really good. One day we had a Laotian Minestrone with fresh silken tofu – jam packed with veggies – carrots, mushrooms, pumpkin and fresh herbs followed by a veggie stir fry with mushrooms, carrots, onions, chilli, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato. Excellent with a bit of rice. 

What I absolutely loved was the local river weed. Sheets of mildly flavoured seaweed, topped with sesame seeds. Crispy, flavoursome, and easy to eat, I may or may not have eaten about 12 sheets. 



Lunch the next day? More of that river weed, this time with a spinach soup bad bamboo shoot and glass noodle stir fry. I haven’t had proper greens for a while, these definitely hit the spot and I added more to my noodles which were also super tasty. Well balanced and textured. How this lady cooks such amazing food on the back of a boat is beyond me. But go girl!

What did I eat… in the hotel?

Breakfast in the hotel was lots of nice fruit – the most variety I’ve seen in a while, along with my PB. No complaints. 

Dinner the previous night was included too. I tried the local Lao beer – very light and fresh tasting. There was another soup to start off, similar to the minestrone at lunch but this had potato. Just as delicious. Rice paper deep fried spring rolls – when these babies are hot and crispy (as these ones were) they are super yum. Crunchy, soft and an excellent peanut sauce.

I got stir fried pumpkin (omnis got the same but with oyster sauce). But the winner of the night was this yellow coconut curry with potato, carrot and green beans. Accompanied with some purple sticky rice it was a super meal. That curry was so good that even the omnis were fighting over it. Maybe their Buffalo Laap 😔 didn’t hit the spot. 


What did I do? 

Watch the same scenery going by for 9 hours a day for 2 days. It was very beautiful but what struck me was the lack of wildlife in the area! There were a handful of egrets and sea ducks, but absolutely nothing else. This river was like the Rio Dulce in Costa Rica – whereas that one was teeming with birds, animals and reptiles, this one wasn’t. What I did see a lot of were cows, goats and buffalos. Hmmm. What I liked though were miles and miles of forest and greenery.. hope that remains… 



We also stopped by the Pak Ou caves – there are two, and upper and a lower cave, lots of steps but all very civilised with handrails and proper steps. The upper cave is in complete darkness, I needed a torch to get around. Lower cave has steeper steps and is better lit. I loved visiting these caves, and it was interesting to understand the various Buddha positions and what they all mean. Hands out in front? No violence, thank you. Hands in lap? Meditation posture. 


It was really nice to relax and watch the world go by on this part of the Mekong in Laos, I’m glad I did it and I’m glad it was only 2 days – wouldn’t have been able to do it for any longer! 

PB Travels… Luang Prabang

Next stop? Laos! Never been here before and was really looking forward to it. The flight from Hanoi (super slick airport, I’m impressed with something here!) was over before it lasted, and the ride from the airport to our hotel was only 10 minutes – the shortest I have ever experienced! 

Where am I staying?

Villa Kieng Kham, a 10 minute walk from the town centre. Nice spacious room, equipped with tea/coffee making facilities, a fan and a powerful air conditioner and free water courtesy of the reception water cooler (tip – always travel with a water bottle, most hotels will have free water.. Buy less plastic!). I did chuckle when I saw the sign in the bathroom. The hotel reminded me a lot of an Indian hotel room. 


Ratings:

  • Grubbiness factor: low. A few threadbare towels but that was it mainly 
  • Bed: 7/10. I slept well, apart from the last night when there was a thunderstorm at 3 in the morning.
  • Shower: 9/10. Powerful, hot water, no complaints. The loo even came equipped with a bum jet. Whoo! 

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts in the hotel, it was time to whip out my peanut butter (thank you pip n nut) and a miso soup (thank you King Soba). 

Lunches? Went to Garden Restaurant, a cute little place after the King’s museum. There was a section for vegetarian food, but I still had to reiterate that I didn’t want any fish sauce. I went for the summer rolls, filled with carrot, noodles and lots of coriander with a really good dipping sauce. Refreshing and cooling in that heat. I also went for a papaya salad which was just as refreshing and also very spicy and perfectly balanced. YUM YUM. They also do smoothies (anyone for a mongo smoothie?) and home made ice cream, but I didn’t try.. well, couldn’t try any. 

Coconut Garden was another excellent place. I ordered a giant coconut water, so sweet and delicious. I also decided to try the Laap (national dish of Laos, usually made with beef) just to see if it would beas bad as the one at Utopia the night before. This Laap was made with mushrooms and tofu. STUNNINGLY GOOD. full of lemon grass, garlic, fresh chillies, dried chillies, mint, coriander, meaty chunks of oyster mushroom, thick slices of tofu. It was a generous portion and so so so tasty, I didn’t need or want the rice. 


There are lots and lots of brilliant restaurants in Luang Prabang, but I made the mistake of agreeing to go to Utopia. Beautiful restaurant at night, would be gorgeous during the day, yes, there is a but. But.. It was full of teeny bopper backpackers and I was with an older crowd. Loud music and almost complete darkness – don’t mix. I went for the Laap, also made with tofu and mushrooms, served with sticky rice and herbs. What I got was a tasteless mound of tofu scramble with spring onions and mushrooms. The redeeming factor was the big pile of watercress. The others has Luang Pra’bangers and mash – very witty – with the local spicy sausage, another national dish, and loved it. I would have liked to have gone back to check the place out during the day, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more. 


Tamarind is another popular restaurant with tourists, they also have a cooking school attached. We had some complimentary fried bamboo shoots to start. Who would have thought how tasty they would be? So delicious! I started with a lemongrass and ginger cooler. Very cold and sweet but just what I needed.


I chose the ‘trio of salads for my mains. – Laap (once again for comparison purposes – Coconut Garden still wins), papaya salad and a warm green salad. They also had frog and buffalo on the menu, if you are that way inclined. It was a giant portion. The Laap was vey restrained. The green salad with river weed was amazing. I can’t describe the flavour, but I felt very righteous eating it. The papaya salad was stellar. Now apparently you wrap it in the (raw) cabbage leaf and pop that in your mouth. I tried it but preferred my salad neat. There was also half a rice cracker (not those horrible polystyrene discs but made with proper puffed rice) thrown in for good measure. Sadly too full for dessert or I would have gone for their purple sticky rice with mango. 

Snacks? Those tasty coconut pancakes I’ve had at borough market (5 for 50p) made out of rice flour and coconut milk. Yummy. I also found a bakery – Ori Bakery – in front of Indigo Cafe that had a vegan chocolate cupcake, so had that too. Pretty crumbly, yet moist at the same time and not too sweet. Yummy x2.

What did I do?

I knew I would like this place while walking to the town centre. Wide streets, beautiful French influenced buildings, NO traffic, beautiful flowers everywhere. 

I walked up and down the breadth of the town – in the middle, by the Mekong river, by the smaller river. So picturesque, even the 35 degree heat with 50% humidity didn’t stop me.

I went into lots of temples, some I needed to pay to get into, some were free with donation boxes dotted around. They were all really peaceful and the monks very polite. 

I also woke up at 4.30am one morning to watch the monks on their morning procession to get alms. What I didn’t want to do is what other tourists were doing – giving the monks sticky rice that local women were selling to them just so I could get the money shot. I was told that this ceremony is carried out by locals virtually every other day primarily to offer respects to their ancestors. So I maintained a respectful distance, look a few photos and let the monks (and intrusive tourists) get on with it. 

Morning market after that… Bursting with amazing fruits, vegetables, mountains of green herbs… And also rat on a stick, fried crickets, boiled worms, buffalo skin… and buffalo legs – which I couldn’t get myself to even look at. Wowza. This market is only open from 5am – 9am, and I would recommend it to everyone. It was a riot of colour, sounds and smells.. excellent experience. 

I though I’d do one museum, so went to the Royal museum, the residence of the king who ruled Laos while the French were there. What opulence! So much gold! So much china! Enough there to hold my attention, I thought it was worth doing. Things to remember – you can’t take pictures in the museum itself and it is pretty hot inside.  

I also went to the Kuang Si falls. 45 minutes from the town centre to the falls (I paid 50,000 kip – travelling in a shared yuk yuk ). Very beautiful and picturesque. It was exactly like Agua Azul in Mexico. We left at 8.30 so when we got there it was relatively empty.. Perfect. The water was cold, but once in, I didn’t want to get out. 

En route to the waterfalls was the sun bear sanctuary, with a whole load of rescued bears. There are pathetic people out here who cage these beautiful little bears and extract their bile for medicinal purposes. May those people lose their gall bladders in a painful accident. 😡 It was sad to learn about it. But good to see how relaxed and happy these bears looked. Really really lovely, another definite recommendation. 

Sunsets on the Mekong river were also very very beautiful, we wandered down there, found a bar with a good view and took in the sun with a sundowner. G&T in a jug for only £4? Don’t mind if I do! 

The night market is another stop for all the souvenir shopping. It’s on the main road, starts at 5pm every day until 9pm, you can get everything. Clothes, magnets, sarongs, scarves, books, tea.. How much time do you have? I bought a few more money purses (lightweight and they make good gifts) and a couple of dresses for my niece. That was it. 

I really enjoyed this town, and I would have been happy to spend longer here. Laid back, relaxed, cultural, full of character. To be honest, I haven’t come across anyone who doesn’t like it.. and I now understand why! 

PB Travels… Halong Bay

So one of the reasons why I decided to come to Vietnam again was to go to Halong bay – again. I had been there in December, when it was freezing cold and foggy. All we did was sit on a dingy little boat, sleep in a dodgy little cabin, and the only thing I did was go to the surprising cave – which wasn’t very surprising but very pretty. 

So this time round I was booked to go on a Pelican ‘luxury’ cruise. With no expectations, we set off (they pick you up from your hotel / name on bus was different to the cruise company – there are hundreds out there). 4 hours, including a half hour stop at a proper tourist trap of a place, I arrived and was transferred to a pretty tidy boat. 


Where am I staying? 

On board the Pelican 3. My room is big, bold and beautiful, with double doors opening so I can lie in bed and watch the bay (which I did) or sit in my armchair and watch the bay (which I did). Stunning! 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: non existent. Everything was pristine
  • Bed – 9/10. So comfy, I didn’t even realise I was on a boat!
  • Shower 9/10. Nice hot water, big, I didn’t even realise I was on a boat!! 

What did I eat? 

What didn’t I eat – ask me that. This is why I didn’t have many meals in Hanoi – this food was still in my system! They had been warned about my dietary requirement before hand, and has honoured them. This was good, seeing that all my meals were included. So. Lunch. A set menu. This is what everyone else was having.

This is what I had. Pumpkin soup to start, pleasant enough. The fresh spring rolls were excellent – stuffed with noodles and herbs galore, they came with a soy chilli mixture. I love these babies. Refreshing, chewy, herby flavour bombs with every bite. 

Next course – the omnis got a prawn cocktail, basically got bhajias 😂. Soft potato covered in a crispy crispy but sweet batter. Why and how they were so sweet, I don’t know but I didn’t enjoy them. Or finish them.  It was literally like having a sweet waffle batter around a slice of potato. No thank you. 

I was almost stuffed at this point – and the mains hadn’t even arrived yet. 4 more dishes to come!!! The ubiquitous sticky rice dish, a shockingly disgusting yellow curry. It was horribly bland with NO flavour at all. Eugh. What had oodles of flavour was the tofu in soy sauce, ginger and chilli. Perfectly balanced flavours and soft melting tofu, it was perfect with the rice. Top it off with some braised lettuce, perfect meal and I was spectacularly full. 

Omni courses? Mixed rice, same horrible yellow curry with chicken and apparently a very tasty fish dish. This meal was 45% local, 55% touristy. 

Onto dinner. Ho boy. To start, a really tasty and creamy sweetcorn soup for me, seafood for everyone else. A golf ball portion of papaya salad. Veggies were nice but there wasn’t any other flavour – no chilli or sourness. Hello tourist version! Omnis got the same with a prawn on top. 

Veggie spring rolls on pineapple (dramatic presentation) were really yum. I do like a good Vietnamese spring roll. Dipped in some chilli lime sauce – excellent. Predictably so, I was pretty stuffed by this point so I left the tempura – or rather scraped it off (as sweet as before) and just ate 2 giant pieces of broccoli – mmmmm. Broccoli! I also got a plate of oil laden chips. Which were also left alone. 

The omnis on the other hand were oooing and aaahing over their food. A seafood boat with barbecue prawns and oysters, beef with vegetables, fish with broccoli. 

The last dish for me – ‘pasta’ with noodles and.. Lets be honest. A tomato jam. I took one bite and couldn’t eat any more. It was a bizarre dish – full of oregano, garlic and sugar. Dessert? While everyone else had this banana cream tart, I had a mango hedgehog. Delicious after that heavy meal. 

So onto the final meal on the boat – there were two breakfasts available, one at 7am (before a visit to the surprising cave) and after at 10am. After all that food yesterday, I couldn’t face breakfast #1, so lazed until 10am. Another billion course menu. Now bear in mind. This is breakfast. First course? Soup. Broccoli soup. Nope. Thank you. Not in the morning and definitely not for breakfast. Insipid and watery. 

Next? These super sweet, super naughty and super tasty deep fried balls of goodness, filled with taro and coconut. Piping hot, crispy, soft interior, pretty, sweet – YUM. Apparently they are made for special occasions. 

Onward and well, downward into my gut – veggie fried rice (YUM), deep fried sweetcorn (you know, that breakfast staple – toooooo heavy) and mixed veggies – aubergine, carrot and potato in a pool of oil (the bits not oil soaked were actually nice). All in all another bizarre and filling meal. Oh. And for dessert – sweet sweet pineapple. 


So if you go on this cruise, you definitely get your money’s worth. I think they chicks introduce smaller portions and save a lot of money. Drinks are chargeable, from the water to beer to wine – they have everything including 2 happy hours in the evening. 

What did I do?

Take in the scenery from my room and on the upper deck. Some advice. If you want to come to Halong Bay, please don’t expect it to be as serene and calming as it seems to be in the photographs/on the Internet. Don’t get me wrong, it is a super majestic awe inspiring humbling place with stellar sunsets. Just be prepared to share it with 50 other cruise liners (yes, I am aware I contributed to this), speed boats, noisy chugging boats and 10000s of tourists (yes yes, like me). 

So I didn’t go to the surprising cave, instead I went on a bamboo boat to this lagoon via a cave tunnel. Really stunning and peaceful. 

Next stop – Ti Top, with a man made beach. Did not like it – too many people, and why people would swim in that water, I don’t know. Really good place to people watch though! 

All in all, I suppose I’m glad I did it the second time and actually got to take in more of the bay, but it isn’t on my ‘I want to come back here’ list. 

PB Travels… Hanoi

Getting to HKIA on the A21 was a piece of cake again, and I checked in, glided through security and immigration, got on the plane and promptly fell asleep so the 2 hour flight from Hong Kong to Hanoi went without a glitch. Thank you travel gods.

Plan in Vietnam? Hang out in Hanoi for a couple of days and go to Halong Bay again before heading for Laos. The main reason for doing this is the convenience of flights and times. The other reason was that the last time I was in Halong Bay, it was in December and it was cold, foggy and I didn’t fully enjoy the experience.

Where am I staying

Flower Hotel, just outside the old quarter is a decent hotel. 10 minutes walk to the Lake. Well, longer if you’re like my mum (love you) and scared of crossing roads when they are teeming with lorries, cars, bicycles, carts, other people. Sheesh. My motto is don’t show fear and just go for it. It always works 😬.

My room was actually a suite. My own little kitchen (of no use), my own lounge (of no use), my own massive wardrobe (of no use). Nice bedroom though!

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: non existent. Everything was very clean
  • Bed – 7/10 softer pillows that I would have liked, but I slept like a baby. Still not sure if it was because of the bed or the 1.5 hour massage I had.
  • Shower – 6/10. Hot water, did the job but points lost due to a fixed shower head – pointing upwards!!

What did I eat? 

Breakfast were included in the hotel. Nice selection of fruit (dragonfruit – yay!! Love it), western and Vietnamese options, a few pastries. I saw beans and got all excited. Oh my word. They were vile. Tasteless and full of sugar.. The coffee was OK.

I didn’t bother with breakfast after that, and in all honesty it was good to take a break – I feel I’m eating waaay too much. No lunches either, just some nuts and fresh ripe mango.

Dinners? One night I went to Yin Yang and yes, loads of options for me but I had to make it clear – no fish sauce. One of the responses was ‘little bit ok’? ‘No, no ok!’ I went for the veggie spring rolls. The filling was tasty and they were hot but as GREASY as hell with darkened undebellies. Not impressed.

What did impress though was my main of fresh tofu with tomatoes and mushrooms – served with sticky rice. Yummy. Tangy, hot, full of umami, it was throughly enjoyable.


The next night I went to The Veg, a newly opened vegetarian restaurant with a conscientious ethos – organic, pesticide free, supporting local farmers.. It was pretty empty – there was just 2 other people there. The menu looked good, western and local dishes. I went for the tofu (eating too much of it and I know there will be more) with lemongrass. However they were out of bok choy, and replaced it with lettuce. Yummy.

They were really generous with the tofu pieces, and the sauce with lemongrass with very moreish – it had chilli but I could have coped with more.. I think the target market are tourists so the chilli level reflected that. The accompanying coconut rice was excellent. They also have a really good tea and coffee menu, and breakfasts too. Sadly I ran out of time.

img_7444

What did I do? 

I walked around. I had been in Hanoi 5 years ago, and I had the same feeling now that I had back that. I love cities as much as I like being in the middle of nowhere. But Hanoi for me is just a bit too much. There seems to be that much more going on that I can process (and that is saying something since  I love places Bombay and Hong Kong).

There is also this underlying feeling of ennui. I wasn’t comfortable here last time and it was the same this time. What I liked though was a motorbike tour around the old quarter and the French quarter. Sheesh. Too many people and too much madness, but at least it was fast and I was cool.

To escape the madness I had massages (makes sense in my world) both foot and body. Found a nice spa called Vi Spa, more expensive than the other places, $27 for 2 hours is still cheap. But boy oh boy, were the massages good!! These little Vietnamese girls are super strong!

PB Eats… Vegan Hong Kong 

So Hong Kong’s vegan and veggie scene is booming.. and yes, Hong Kong is a meat eaters paradise and will always be, but the past few days were nothing short of heavenly for me. I am so impressed with all the options! 

Breakfasts were in the hotel – and by that I mean in my room. I had brought two avocados with me from London.  With some fresh bakery bread and a bottle of Tabasco, avo sandwiches were the perfect breakfast.  

So I tried a number of places, and there are so many more I want to try when I come back. So in no particular order..

Loving Hut, Wan Chai

Ok. I lied. No particular order after this one – Loving Hut was my favourite. 5 minutes walk from Exit A3 at Wan Chai MTR and you’re there. 


There is a VAST menu, but I was drawn to the set meals for $58 that include 3 veggie dishes, rice and a drink. 


The first time I went for pumpkin with black bean (so frigging delicious), radish with veggies (cooked radish is a revelation!) and marinated vegan shank (really really tasty). I also went for a cold malt tea.  They also have hot lemon water that you can help yourself to. 


I think the vegan shank was made of seitan, which made it really chewy – not bad at all to be honest, it was full of flavour! 

The next day I went back (and yes, I will go back quite a few more times), and went for the tofu with pickled veggies (delicious), vegan ‘steak’ (still undecided) and braised cabbage (yum). They also have this killer chilli sauce that hit the spot.  This time I went for the hot malt tea, which I preferred over the cold. 


Both meals were so tasty – very filling and nourishing, and for that price, you can’t go wrong. 

I also got a takeaway for one evening – noodles with veggies and ‘soya slices’. Mock meat – this time I didn’t like them, but the rest of the dish was tasty.  

Now. HK is known for their egg tarts and the last time I was here I was literally living on them. Flaky pastry, custardy filling, and when they are freshly baked, oh my. Addictive for sure. 

Loving Hut do a vegan version that is extremely popular. So I ordered a portion to take away one day. I’m always sceptical of veganising these things but I was very pleasantly surprised. How they did I don’t know and I don’t want to. Crumbly pastry, creamy filling, really nice mouthfeel. Success! 

My other dessert from there was Laughing Cow ice cream (nothing to do with the website). There were a whole load of flavours but if there is a dessert with sesame, especially black, it’s mine. The ice cream was rock hard and took a while to defrost. But once it thawed – super success. Creamy, distinct flavours of both white and black seeds without any hint of bitterness… wowza. 

So Loving Hut is excellent, and I look forward to returning! 

Happy Veggies 

This restaurant is slap bang in the middle of Nathan Road, in a building devoted to restaurants. 


They don’t speak much English, but thankfully the menu is in English. I absolutely loved this page… super handy, and helpful for both customers and staff 

You have an option of the tea you can have – I chose Pu’er. I wanted something relatively light so went for the braised/cooked lettuce (my love for which is almost the same as avocados) with ginger. Slightly flavourless to be honest – I had to pimp it up with salt. They do make it clear though that they use less salt; so I can’t really blame them. I also ordered dumplings stuffed with carrot, cabbage and mushrooms. They came with a vinegar did. Slightly chewy, bursting to the brim with lots of veggies, and a proper HOT chilli sauce. The combination of dumping, vinegar and chilli was excellent! 

Really polite and sweet staff (some of whom are deaf too). I liked it here and I’ll go back. 

Veggie Family 

Another highly recommended place in Happy Cow. A small restaurant, I went relatively early so got a table – even though it was pretty packed. 

 

So what I didn’t realise is how mock meat heavy the menu is. I wanted to try their dumplings – so went for the Shanghai style dumpling. What arrived was a dish swimming in a supposedly chilli oil and peanut sauce. Peanut – yes, and yummy. Chilli – not a trace. The dumplings were stuffed with some kind of mock meat. It was ok but my gut didn’t appreciate it the next day. I also went for their sour and spicy shark fin soup. This was much better, the shark fin was some kind of agar agar/konjac thingi – will have to google this. Tasty, and it did what it said on the tin. It was hot, spicy, sour and very filling.  

Maybe it is just me and what I ordered, but I’m in two minds whether I’ll come back. Tongue was happy at the time, gut wasn’t (too much info? I have more 😆), so maybe not.  There are more places I can try out. 

Hui Lau Shan

Not a restaurant but a chain specialising in mango and coconut based drinks. I used to love these and have them all the time, so when I saw one outside the TST ferry pier, I went in to order my regular – mango and coconut with sago. 

Past memories – this used to be sweet and refreshing, the perfect balance of the fruits. But this time? Just didn’t taste the same. I found it tooth numbingly sweet, waaay to much mango for the coconut and a ginormous amount of sago. Some memories are best left in the past. 

Last but not least, need to mention Pacific Coffee for a killer soya latte, good soy milk, good coffee, this cup was massive – and it was only a medium. 


So that is all (sheesh. No. That was a lot of food) I had in Hong Kong – there are a few places I will visit on my return – LN Fortunate Coffee, Greenwoods, LockCha tea house.. Arrgh. So many restaurants, so little time! 

PB Travels… Hong Kong – Pt 1

The travels have begun (again 😁😁). I’m kicking off with Hong Kong 🇭🇰. The main reason for starting with HK is purely down to the fact that I could redeem my airmiles on Virgin Atlantic – my favourite airline. I’ve never had a bad experience with them, a few dodgy meals but that is it really!  Seats, service, people, and that clubhouse!  So for 120,000 airmiles and taxes, I managed to bag myself an upper class return.

I played it safe and got to the airport 4 hours before my flight. In your face, all you scaremongers! In their defence though, the roads are so busy during a holiday, this time, they were empty. Private check in, private security channel and straight into the clubhouse. PERFECT START. Loads of space, comfy seating and enough food and drink that you could possibly want.

First things first, off to the spa to book in some complimentary treatments. I booked myself in for back to back hair wash/massage/blow dry followed by a facial. Lovely and the girls were so professional and friendly!

Suitably refreshed, onto some stomach related treatments. I decided to have an early meal, basing it on the experience of vegan food in upper class last time – slightly sub par mains.

I went for a Bramble cocktail, with fresh blackberries and lemon. A tad to sweet and icy for me.

Lots and lots of options, with a few veggie/veganisable options too.


I wasn’t feeling the salad or soup, or even the small plates, so I went for the burger, sans Brie and mayo.  I had forgotten how GOOD the chips were. Hot, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Super tasty. The burger was nice, bread a bit too soft for me and I could have done with a few more mushrooms.  No desserts that I could have..

The flight itself was a night flight, so I was planning to sleep (supine 😬) for most of it. Why wouldn’t you when the seats are like this?

I wanted dinner not because I was hungry – But too see what the food was like. Starter – carrot and coriander soup, nicked from the clubhouse menu me thinks. Pleasant but not exciting. Mains? Exactly the same as I had in September last year!!!! Well, not exactly. This time it came with edamame (good), but the rest was the same. Ratatouille with acidic tomato sauce and aubergine. Yes. Aubergine. 🍆. NOT GOOD. Need to let Virgin Atlantic know that they need to jazz up their vegan options!!  I ate the spinach and edamame and left the rest. No dessert again – I think it was fruit but I was ready for bed.

3/4 of a movie later and I got my bed made and I literally slept for about 6 hours. I woke up, finished watching my movie and has breakfast. Green tea and a plate of veggies. Yummy.

I landed and got through immigration and baggage without a problem. I’ve always loved Hong Kong airport – it is gigantic but so well run and organised.  So my options to get into the city (I’m staying in Kowloon) were many – MTR, taxi (HKD 250) or the A21 bus (HKD 33). I opted for the bus, and would recommend it to anyone. Efficient, quick and cheap and everything is marked in English so you won’t get lost. You can get an octopus card at the station – another recommendation. It can be used on all forms of public transport and even in shops.  So convenient and that is exactly what I’ve been doing.  Loading it up and using the card in the MTR, buses, trams (HK’s public transport is excellent) and in shops like 7 eleven.. one on each corner!

Where am I staying?

Hong Kong can be as expensive or as cheap as you want. Yes yes, I know you can say that about most places, but I really feel it here.  I didn’t want to stay in some luxury hotel for £400 a night, nor did I want to stay in a dodgy hostel in Chungking mansions for £20. In the end I chose Lodgewood by L’hotel Mongkok (thanks Lil for pointing me in this direction! 😁).

Lovely bright lobby with complimentary tea, coffee and fruit. They even have macs to use. 

Reasonably priced, and the room, may be small, is perfect for me.  It is on the 20th floor, so the views are pretty nice.   Loads of storage space, a draw full of crockery and cutlery, a microwave, a safe, a kettle – everything I need. No iron, but hey, I’m on holiday, and I’m sure if I asked I’d get one.



One thing though, don’t book this room if you’re travelling with other halves, friends or family you’re not fully comfortable with. Check out the view from the loo! And yes. The shower curtain is OUTSIDE the shower. So no privacy and if you have any in the shower, you can’t control it. Haha.. I love it though!!!

Ratings will continue..

  • Grubbiness factor: non existent, the only problem is inconsistency with housekeeping 
  • Bed = 9/10, nice bed, nice pillows, the only problem was my jet lag!
  • Shower = 10/10. Perfect pressure, size, hot water – everything. 

What did I do?

I’ll be coming back to Hong Kong after my travels for some retail therapy and more touristy stuff, so for now I’ve been checking out my old haunts (I was a frequent visitor many years ago). Some things haven’t changed – my favourite shops, cafes are still there, Mongkok is as manic as ever, full on interesting stuff and excitement.  I also went on the Star Ferry – loved it. 


As for food, that is one thing that has changed for me, thankfully I am very pleased to say there are so so so many options for me. Whooo! Separate post for that. 

PB Eats… Caravan Bankside

Walking to this dinner venue was very very nostalgic for me – and even more so when I got there.  Caravan Bankside is ‘housed on the ground floor of an old metal box factory’. 10 years ago, I worked in that very building on the third floor, and it was a dodgy building, with a dodgy lift and no air conditioning….  my my my… how times have changed!  It is now a trendy hipster building (with air conditioning, no doubt) with a trendy hipster restaurant, and if this restaurant was there when I was, I would be there every day, no doubt.

Gin has become very popular and trendy over the last few years, but this is the first place I’ve come across that makes their own tonics!  Had to be done – I went for an orange and cucumber tonic with Hendricks.  Refreshing, light, a touch sweeter than I wanted, but really really good.  Go home made tonic!  We also had some juicy olives and almonds – so good that M ordered that again for dessert! 

IMG_6545

The meaties ordered a few dishes which they enjoyed; air dried beef and oxtail (meat good, black beans – hard).

I loved the fact that there were SO many options on the menu that were vegetarian and could be veganised.  We went for a whole load of them, the highlight being the squash, with miso and herbs (no blue cheese).  This was so good, the fresh thai basil, mint and spring onion perfectly complementing the soft squash and the deep, sweet miso.  The spiced cauliflower (with pomegranate yogurt on the side) was also very good.  Soft cauliflower sitting on this spicy harissa sauce – really really really good.  We also ordered some potato bread (that came with olive oil instead of lemon thyme butter – thank you :0) which was soft, flavourful with an excellent crust.  YUM!  The crispy, chilli salt tofu was excellent too.. silken tofu, with a super crunchy coating, and lots of yumminess – black beans, coriander, soy sauce, spring onions.. I thought the portion size was a lot smaller than the other small dishes.

The other dishes we ordered were the quinoa dish (this dish contains honey – why? not sure, I don’t see the point. I only ate the peanuts, which were copious and delicious).  The molasses roasted beets and onions with loads of seeds was super salty – I suppose the goat’s cheese curd (on the side, which was apparently VERY good) was to balance it, but I wasn’t a fan of the dish. 

Overall it was a really tasty meal, really enjoyable and I already want to go back and try the other dishes I didn’t!

Another really good meal to mention this week, at another regular restaurant – Chawallas. I decided to go for a vegetarian thali instead of my usual Chana Masala, and other than the yogurt and dessert, I could eat most of the food. Really delicious and just under a tenner for all this food. I didn’t even take a pic of the three giant puris and the poppadom that came with it. Large enough to share, or enough for one greedy person. Yum yum yum. 

Countdown to Asia is in full swing.. I still need to finish my packing and I only have a few days to go!! Sooo excited!