Author Archives: pbeatsntravels

PB Eats.. London Night Market

The London Night Market, essentially an outdoor food market was set up in Kensington Gardens for about 10 days in June.  So let me be honest. I wasn’t expecting to find anything to eat here. Maybe some chips, but that was it. How wrong I was! I liked the way this place was set up – the food trucks and stalls, there was a lot of seating space dotted all around, and if you didn’t want to sit on a chair, there was a whole load of green to sit on.  The whole market had this really relaxed and chilled vibe. It was a Saturday night, the weather was glorious, the sun was shining until 10pm and everyone was smiling. What more could I ask for. Oh yes. The food. That was EXCELLENT!

First stop? Get something to drink. There was a Cobra Beer stall and loads of bars and cocktail stalls. I had a grapefruit Collins with Tanqueray 10 year. Nice, but definitely not worth £8. What was better was the pint of Pimms that was also £8 – and not an ice cube in sight!

First stop? Mama Jerk for some fried plantain – only £3. Fresh and super hot, it was super delicious. They were offering mayo (why? nooo!) or a tomato salsa as a dip. But what took it to the next level was the (vegan) jerk seasoning paste that I went for. OH MY WORD. I have ever tried a jerk paste this good. Perfectly balanced with all the flavours and chilli. Amazing amazing amazing. Good start. Very good start.

There was a gyoza truck but the queues were so long that I wasn’t willing to queue.. until next time. Next? Spicebox. I had never even heard about this place – all vegan, all plantpowered and all tasty. Such different options – I went for the jackfruit tikka masala and the tandoor cauli steak, on a bed of quinoa.  It was all topped with super tasty chutneys, coriander, pickled onions and chillies.  I was so impressed. Fresh, zingy flavours, and each mouthful was literally a flavour explosion – right down to the last mouthful. I was so so impressed with this power box of tasty food. I’ll be tracking them down to indulge again.

The rest of the gang indulged in a lot more food – a truffle burger (all hype and all fat and no truffle apparently), Goats cheese veggie baos (apparently very horrible) and raclette (which I adored in my cheese eating days, that went down very well).

Onto desserts. Churros! Which I could eat – but I couldn’t have the chocolate sauce. And that was completely ok as the churros were so tasty. Crispy, soft and not too sweet. So so good. I was told the chocolate sauce was virtually perfect.  Yorica also had a presence there. Now I usually have the frozen yoghurt, but they had run out. So we chose the salted caramel and the chocolate and orange flavours. Whoa! The salted caramel flavour was by favourite.. lovely – not overpowering and not too sweet. Loved it.

A brilliant evening with brilliant food and company.  And so much food for me – so happy and so impressed.  I have to say, there are so many vegan options in London at the moment – grateful.com. Definitely signing up for the next night market.

PB Eats… Mildreds

I’m back in London, will be back at work in July, so am enjoying the last few days of ‘freedom’.  I have to say the glorious weather has definitely helped – they’ve chased my holiday blues and jet leg away for sure.  First meet up was at Mildreds, a place I’ve been meaning to try for a while.   Vegan heaven, super popular and amazing food.  Aaah.  So the food was not as good as hoped, and I’m not sure if it was down to them being so busy or whether it was poor choices on our part.  But poor choices aside, the food should taste good, right?  We kicked off with a cocktail, I went for an Aperol Spritz – perfect drink for a sunny day.  

Instead of going for a main course, we decided to share some small plates/starters, and go with the flow.  I thought we chose a good selection of dishes.  Gyoza with a soy/sweet chilli dipping sauce.  The filling was soy mince I think, not my favourite, but the outside – hard and chewy dumpling wrapper, and not in a good way.  Next? Smashed avocado with lime and chilli and organic corn chips.  Beautiful avocado, but lacking in terms of seasoning and lime – which let everything down.  The purple corn chips were quite yummy though.  

Now I love miso aubergine, or nasu dengaku, and when done right, this dish is luscious.  Meltingly soft aubergine, hot, almost fluffy miso dressing, sweet, sour, salty, umami overload.  Sadly this dish was an epic fail.   Barely lukewarm aubergine, I couln’t taste any miso.  Bland bland bland.  The best small plate was tenderstem broccoli with confit garlic and chilli.  Perfectly cooked, the dressing was so delicious, and the garlic was divine.  Loved this dish.  One decent dish out of four, I wasn’t happy and didn’t want to spend any more time or money on the savoury stuff.  

So bring on desserts. Vegan desserts.  Now We Are Talking.  The BEST vegan dessert I have had.  Chocolate hazelnut brownie, salted caramel sauce and ice cream.  Served warm, it turned out to be one of the best vegan desserts I have had. Seriously chocolate my, seriously caramel, seriously creamy, seriously good. That with a cup of green tea – lovely. 

In hindsight, I think I should have just gone straight in for a main course – but it was such a hot day, the idea of having a pie or a burger or a stir fry/curry or a dish with rice (yep, still not feeling it fully) was not welcoming.  I will give this place another try and check out the main courses – just to make sure the problem might have been with me and not Mildred.

PB Travels… Hong Kong Pt 2

I’m back in Hong Kong, the start and end point of my Asia travels. The plan was to do some shopping, sight seeing, but the main focus was to explore the other side of HK. people rarely look past the sky scrapers and congestion and madness of this place, but there is another beautiful side – which I discovered.  I stayed in the same hotel, Lodgewood by L’hotel Monk Kok, and I would so recommend this place.  Really reasonable, the staff always happy to help, and the room was excellent with LOADS of storage space. Details in Part 1.

I’ve also got a separate post for food, so I’ll just focus on my highlights of HK.   I could have had a blog post for each of these – but for now you’ll have to do with just this one. 

Shopping

So over the years my shopping threshold has dropped drastically. I don’t have the time or patience for it, I’m usually a ‘I know what I want and I’m going to get it’ kind of gal. So where did I go in HK?

Citygate Outlet Mall

I was off to Tian Tan (the Big Buddha) and I had to get to the last stop on the MTR – location of a massive mall.  A whole load of sports shops, fashion stores and a massive supermarket stocking familiar goodies (hello Waitrose!) it was packed.  It had a mixture of normal and high end shops, all with really good discounts. Worth going to check out the bargains.

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Mong Kok

This place has always been manic, Ladies market especially. Street upon street of same same but different fake but original crap. 100% tourist focused, if you go here, you must bargain. The main reason I went here – to get these amazing durable reusable bags (yep – those ones Lil!). I got about half a dozen – starting off at HKD39 for one down to HKD10 for one. Don’t mess with me!

I also went to Sai Yeung Choi Street in the heart of Mong Kok – lots of high street clothes shops and electronic shops – where I did a bit of shopping – clothes for my niece (Giordano, Bossini), toiletries (Sasa, Bonjour), a couple of ipads, a cool camera and basically that is it.

The rest of the malls I visited were FULL of high end names (why spend money there? Save it for food and travelling!!), and I was merely passing through to my next destination.  So if you are a shopaholic, this is the place for you, but not for me.  I will say that the place that brought me joy was M&S – after months on the road, a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and a tub of hummus tasted utterly gorgeous!

Dragon Boat Festival

I was fortunate to be in HK when the Dragon Boat Festival was on, and I got to see two flavours of it!

Stanley 

So this was clearly a big deal for locals – the plan was to get a bus from Central, we got there but the bus terminal was PACKED but in true HK style, organised and efficient. We spent only 15 minutes queuing before hopping on a bus. Once again, the ride (which took about an hour) was pretty scenic. The atmosphere in Stanley was excellent. It was a beautiful day, perfect for chilling and watching the races – which is exactly what happened. While there, I also visited the Tin Hau temple – most enjoyable.

Central

The other place where I checked out the action was Central. Very crazy but without the chilled vibe of Stanley. There were loads of food stalls (nothing for me to eat), activity stalls and beer stalls.  A lot of fun again – but I preferred Stanley.

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Tian Tan Buddha 

The plan was to take the Ngong Ping cable car from Tung Chung MTR station to the peak, but unfortunately it was closed for maintenance. I ended up taking a terribly scenic bus ride up to the statue. I actually preferred it this way – so much more to see.

The Buddha was as majestic as I had remembered from last time.  Even the hoardes of tourists didn’t put me off.  You can easily take pics from the bottom of the statue and then go off exploring, but I wanted to go to the top. I did buy a ticket (entry to the museum at the top and a standard lunch), and I think it was definitely worth it.  The paid for museum has some of the best oriental watercolours I have ever come across. Sadly, we couldn’t take photos so you’ll have to take my word for it. The lower free ‘museum’ is also interesting, but not as impressive as the paid one. It was a seriously hot day, but there are so many souvenir shops before getting into the complex, there was no shortage of cold drinks.

Touristy stuff done, I went off the beaten track and walked around the trails – a beautiful one being the wisdom path – absolutely stunning and peaceful.  I loved this place and spent a whole day here. Quiet, peaceful, so much greenery, bugs galore – yep. This is HK nature. Whoo!

Hong Kong Park 

This has always been one of my favourite spaces in HK. A beautiful and chilled out park, surrounded by sky scrapers. I also visited the Botanical centre in the park – loads of flowers – stunning stunning orchids, cacti, a tropical garden, definitely worth visiting, more so if you have kiddies. That, along with a waterfall, enough benches dotted around, makes for a lovely space. Loved it.

 

Victoria Peak 

Hong Kong island does have one of the best skylines in the world. I love seeing it from Kowloon side, and from the peak. So even though I had done this before, I wanted to go up again. So the last time I went in the Peak Tram. Guess what? Under maintenance.  So, the bus it was. And once again, SO much better. The views were truly excellent – I would so recommend this over the tram – and it is cheaper :). The other thing – don’t pay to go up to the observation deck.  The views lower down are just as beautiful.

What I LOVED doing was walking down all the way back to Central instead of taking the bus back. The walk is very safe, all paved, but you’re surrounded by trees and lots of foliage.  It did take about 30 minutes and it was a surreal experience.  I did think I was in the middle of a nature walk, until I’d get a glimpse of a tall apartment block or hear some traffic. You are literally going downhill the whole way, so if you have dodgy knees, be careful. Better than coming up though – some people were doing that, and they were panting like dogs.

HK Biological and Botanical Gardens 

This is another green space in the centre of the madness, and another pretty space.  Along with all the flora and fauna dotted around, there are loads of animals and birds. I’m not the biggest fan of zoos and caged animals, thankfully the largest animal was a lemur. But birds? No! Birds are meant to fly! This place was full of locals, very few tourists on the day I was there.  The highlight? A pond with musical amphibians. Very entertaining.  This is the perfect place to animal watch if you want to take a break from people watching (love HK for that – so many characters!)

Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Gardens 

So, as you can tell, I’m on a nature roll, and the next stop was mentioned to me by a friend – and that is where I met my newest friend in HK (Hi J!). I know I sound like a broken record, but I LOVED this place. A trek to get to – but very clear directions, and this place has it’s own bus stop so if you get lost, well.. you have a problem then.

There was the option of using the Farm shuttle to take me to the top of the farm and on the way, stop and check out certain attractions.  It was either that or walking uphill for a couple of hours. Alright then. Bus it is.

The Fern Walk and Orchid Haven were exactly that.  Lots of ferns of different shapes and sizes. The orchids – just a handful were flowering – but still worth it. The memorial pavillion was a very pretty space, with views of the mountains and trees. My favourite stop was Kwun Yum Shan, a space dedicated to the goddess of love and compassion. Beautifully manicured garden, a circular path surrounding the statue – and a beautiful energy to the place.  The butterfly park was excellent – lots and lots of butterflies and flowers, I spent almost an hour here just checking them out. That meant that I missed the shuttle bus so walked back down to the main farm – another hour – but more stops on the way – birds, pond life, places to sit and take it all in. You could walk around the farm, there were greenhouses with more beautiful orchids, a small organic garden, a pig sty with ginormous pigs – I would so recommend this place. The vegetarian cafe onsite was also great, but a tad expensive.

HK Wetland Park

The wetland park was another expansive space, it took a while to get to, using both the MTR and the LRT.  Now I assumed that they both use the Octopus card (they do) but I didn’t realise I had to tap out of the MTR and into the LRT. Result? I got a telling off! And a warning! I wasn’t fined as ‘I was a tourist’. Moving on (quickly), I picked a searingly hot day to explore the park. There is an entrance fee to pay (HKD30) that gives you access to all areas. There was a massive, modern exhibition centre with an education zone (full of cute kids), a souvenir shop (nothing worth buying) and a cafe (overpriced and not very good I was told). I didn’t spend too much time indoors, but we walked around where we could. Lots of shades areas, lots of nooks and crannies to cool down in when the sun got too hot. Lots of birds (there were even bird watching shelters), butterflies, flowers and crabs – among the mangroves.  I would love to come back to this place in the winter – or when it is colder – I think it would have a completely different feel to it. Another must see.

A Symphony of Lights – Victoria Harbour 

Yes yes, possibly cringingly touristy but I loved it. Walking along to the harbour on Kowloon side, we noticed it was pretty packed. Whoo! Light show! But first, I took lots of stunning photos of the harbour. So so pretty. All those colours.  The light show – also very colourful – was very kawaii to watch, with cheesy music too.. I did this on my last night, I think it was a perfect way to end my HK adventure. 

I’ve always liked HK, and discovering her green side made me love the place. Don’t let anyone tell you it is all skyscrapers and madness and crowds. It is all that – but there is a lot more, and all you need to do is scratch below the surface… looking forward to the next visit already!

And that is it for all my epic travels in 2017. I have loved every day of travelling – some more than others. The highlight? Culture and Nature goes without saying. But the people. I met so many people. Locals, fellow Brits, a whole load of Aussies – so many wonderful people who I am keeping in touch with and already planning dinners and visits – it has been an amazing experience.

So back to work soon – but it isn’t going to be just work – I’m planning 2 holidays for the rest of the year. That should keep me going. Until then? Keep your eyes open for my ongoing London food adventures.

Here is to a lifetime of good food and never ending travel! 😘

PB Eats… Vegan Hong Kong – Again

So following on from my previous post of HK vegan eats back in April, I was looking forward to exploring and enjoying more restaurants in Hong Kong.  I won’t talk about breakfasts – they were in the hotel, either avocado on oat cakes, or finishing the rest of my bars – primal pantry and my favourite ones.  I also got a stash of fresh fruit – dragon fruit, mangosteen, mango, whatever looked good and tempting. Look at this perfect avocado!!


And since HK was purely on my time and schedule, I used to have a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, go out shopping and sightseeing and then have a late lunch. No dinner because I’d be so full. This worked out perfectly as I could really pig out for lunch 🐷.

There are some restaurants I went back to, and there are some I avoided.   The main reason for this is Captain Hindsight and my gut.  There were some restaurants that my gut just didn’t like, so I stayed away.  I think it is down to the mock meat used in some of the meals, and I found out that some MAY contain dairy!! Argh!  I did explore quite a few restaurants, and there were still quite a few that I just didn’t have the time to check out.  Good thing there’s always a next time!

One thing I will is that the Happy Cow app was so useful and quite precise in terms of their direction, especially in HK. I used it virtually everyday to decide where and what to eat! Thank you Happy Cow!

Veggie Family 

I went here the first time around and really liked the food and concept so decided to go back again. I ordered off the menu last time, but this time was different – I went at lunch time and saw everyone eating what I assumed to be a set lunch – I was right. Using my very limited Cantonese and a lot of sign language, I found out I could get 3 veggie dishes, rice and soup for only HKD48. Result. I went for greens, mixed veggies and curry tofu. I asked for some extra chilli sauce and I was good to go.

This meal was really delicious. No nasties, low salt, but it was still full of flavour, and a very big portion! Sadly for the rest of the time I was in HK they were closed so I couldn’t go back.  But I definitely would have – so recommend this place and very very easy to find – slap bang on Nathan Road.

Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant 

So after a full morning and 1/2 an afternoon of exploring the Big Buddha (Tan Tian) and walking along the many paths surrounding the statue, I stopped at the vegetarian restaurant for lunch. I bought a ticket for HKD100 that included lunch and entry to the museum at the top. Pricey for what I got, but I wanted to try it out. You don’t have to go for this lunch, there is also a cafe that sells snack items that looked very popular too. The set menu included soup, three veggie dishes, rice and tea.

The soup was pretty dull and bland, with big chunks of boiled carrot. It tasted like hospital food. Not nice to be honest. The rest of the food was much better. Greens with mushrooms – excellent, and didn’t need any pimping as the shrooms added so much flavour to the dish. Mixed veggies included mock meat (left it alone) and cooked cucumber and celery (so yummy). It was. Very comforting dish, but to be honest I could have done with a chilli kick. Last dish? Crispy bean curd stuffed rolls. Yummy. Crunchy, jam packed with carrot and radish, these provided a different texture to the whole meal.  Overall, a pleasant meal.  I did meet some omnis who I had lunch with and they were pretty depressed and did not like any of the food. One of them outright refused to eat it. A bit extreme methinks!

Lock Cha Teahouse

This was one of my favourite places to eat in HK. Set inside Hong Kong Park, which is one of my favourite spaces in HK anyway, this restaurant specialises in dim sum, with a menu that has daily specials.  They do use dairy and eggs, but they speak English and were quick to point out what I could eat and what I couldn’t.

So I went a couple of times and mostly ordered the same stuff (if it ain’t broke why fix it) and a few specials. It is a beautiful space. What I loved is that each table comes with its own kettle – which meant I could drink hot tea until I popped, which is what I did. On one occasion I ordered the white tea, and the next an oolong – both of which were excellent and I truly enjoyed. Each tea was served differently with the aim of enhancing the drinking pleasure.  It worked.

My fav dishes? Bean curd stuff with veggies – this was really yummy.  I used to love turnip cake but never found a veg one, the normal ones always had bits of pork. This one had bits of carrot, and was melt in the mouth. Super good. The har gau looked very very omni like, but tasted nice, though I wouldn’t order them again as I found the filling very soft. One of my favourite dim sum dish is steamed glutinous rice, and this version was stuffed with mushrooms. Oh my word. Absolutley loved this – texture, taste, mouthfeel – everything. I could have ordered just this and made a meal of it :). Finally, shanghai dumplings stuffed with veggies and served with a vinegar dip. These were nice, but the wrapper was too fat.


Now these dishes were very mushroom heavy, not a problem for me, but if you’re vegan and can’t have/hate mushrooms, this might be the place for you. I loved this place – and would recommend it to everyone. The decor, the teas, the service and the food was all great. It was pretty expensive, I paid approx HKD220 for each meal, but I will caveat it by saying it does depend on how many dishes you order and the tea – which varied between HKD50 – HKD150!

Zero – Langham Place

So after a long day walking around Mong Kok, I decided to nip into Langham Place to see what foodie delights they might have. Lots, but all meat centric, until I walked across this place. Mmmm. Pizza.  And create your own too. Whoo! I ordered this orangey drink, very nice, and decided on my custom pizza. So this place isn’t cheap, HKD98 for a base with sauce, cheese and herbs (obvs sans cheese for me), and then HKD12 for every other topping. I went for a romanesco sauce with asparagus, peppers, pineapple (yes, it belongs on a pizza, esp a cheese free pizza), artichoke and chillies.

I was pleasantly surprised with what I got. The sauce and toppings, good. But the base – oh my word. Crusty, chewy, yielding – very very impressed.  I would go here again – but be prepared to pay!

Vegetarian Japanese – Fife Street

So I don’t know the English name of this restaurant, but I know it was ok Fife Street. For those who can read the lingo – the name is on the menu 😬.  So this place isn’t vegan, but they could veganise everything on request, and I realised that is just by laying off the mayonnaise. We ordered a handful of dishes, some more successful than others.

Mango and alfalfa sprouts hand roll – very nice once I got rid of the mayo and the bits of mock meat. The meaty stuff was like a marinated bean curd, it was a horrible dish. Dry and flavourless, not worth ordering. The veggie gyoza on the other hand were well made and well stuffed, very moreish and delicious! Final dish – sushi stuffed with crispy tofu topped with avocado. This was also very good. My favourite dish of the lot!

Another enjoyable meal, and pretty reasonable – HKD 180 for this meal, if I remember correctly, including endless tea, as is the norm in HK.

Green Common – Harbour City

For months I’ve been reading about the Beyond Meat burger. Dairy free, soy free, meat free obviously… and Green Common in Hong Kong sells it! So even though I’m not the biggest mock meat fan, I wanted to try this as it was made not of soy but pea – so what’s the worst that could happen? The space is small, clean and slick, and there is also a mini store where you can pick up a lot of vegan stuff.

So I went for the burger with extra avocado. You could add on fries and a cold pressed juice and make it a meal deal, which I did. Juice – mmmm. Green juice I love you. Fries – nice and crispy and hot. Burger? Oh. The burger. It looked meaty. It felt meaty (I’m an ex meat eater so I know!). It blooming tasted meaty. It was so weird eating this. The flavour was a bit one dimensional, but the texture and mouthfeel? Spot on. That has definitely been perfected.

Would I order it again? I don’t think so. I’ve tried it, and I’m satisfied with that. And without going into too much detail… You know what happens when you go to the loo after you’ve had too much beetroot or asparagus? I had the same with this burger 😆.  If I had more time I would have gone again – they had some cool salads and those fries were really good! Worth checking out.

Pure Veggie House 

This was one of the food highlights in Hong Kong. Pure Veggie House in Admiralty.  Organic, fresh vegetables and not a mock meat in sight. This menu was very extensive but I decided to go for the dim sum options, as the a la carte options looked too large. I went for a pot of Puerh tea – very very good. I ordered three dishes – the most I think I could eat, and I was right. A schezhwan noodle soup with sesame and peanut – and a good hit of of chilli. OMG. what a sensational bowl of soup. All the flavours, perfectly balanced and every mouthful was pure pleasure. YUM! The mushroom spring rolls were also stunning – crispy, well filled, so tasty – see people, you can cook tasty food without MSG! And those veggie dumplings – or rather, steamed herb dumplings. Amazing and full of flavour. I loved all those dishes.

I so recommend this place to everyone, including omnis, it was so so delicious and it will be the first place on my list when I do come back to HK. LOVED IT!

Mana! Fast Slow Food 

Central on Hong Kong island seems to be the place with a lot more vegan and veggie places, and everyone was raving about this place – online, vegan blogs, instagram, everywhere.  On Wellington Street, a 7 minute walk from Central (exit D2), this place is so tiny I walked past it the first time.  There are few places to sit and eat, there is a ledge with bar stools but I wouldn’t want to perch on there. Saying that, there was a shared table at the back, but with no AC and a big fan, takeaway was the way to go.

A green juice to kick off – spinach, green pepper and a few other things – you can’t go wrong with this, I’ve never met a green juice I don’t like. There are salads to order and wraps I chose the falafel wrap, with humus, pickled vegetables, salad and obviously falafel. The wrap was a bit to thick for me, and the falafel seriously dry!  I also thought they were way too big. Not good. Saying that, the pickled veggies were really tasty and sour and they were generous with the humus and salad.  What was good was the raw chocolate cake – nutty, chocolatey and not very sweet. Delicious!!

I thought Mana! was reasonable, a half wrap was HKD50 and quite filling.  I did go back and have the tofu wrap, which was a lot more successful and juicy.  Definitely a good place for a filling snack on the go – choose wisely!

Sun Garden Cafe, Kadoorie Farms

I spent one day outside the madness of HK in the new territories on Kadoorie Farm. So much to see and do and so much walking – by the time I had seen everything and got back down I was famished! Thankfully there was a vegetarian cafe onsite, with a decent menu and a specials board too.  The country salad looked tempting but unneeded something more substantial and picked the rice and pumpkin. Yummy! Well cooked, hearty, full of vegetably flavour – definitely a good choice.  I also had a iced soy coffee. This was a great meal, and a really brilliant cafe. I really enjoyed this place and the food.

Veggies SF

Veggies SF is a fully vegan restaurant in the heart of central, on the 10th floor of a building packed with other restaurants.  A proper themed restaurant, modelled on 50s Americana. It looks very cluttered but in a good way – it added to the character of the place.

Virtually everyone was having these epic looking burgers – and that is exactly what I wanted. So much choice! I am Fabulous (thank you) was picked. The burger was HKD168, but at lunch time they do a deal that for the same price, a drink and soup are included. Whoo! I chose a typical HK iced lemon tea drink – perfect accompaniment to the burger. The soup was tomato and lemongrass. It was tomatoey in a home made way, but I couldn’t taste anythinf else. Pleasant. The burger was epic. Look at it! I had to deconstruct it to eat it. The patty was very soft but very tasty. And those pickled onions were so delicious – great addition to the burger. It was definitely a fork and knife job. The salad was also good, but I could have done without the wedges – they were too chunky and slightly undercooked. Didn’t finish them.

I liked this burger, I liked the restaurant and it is on the list of ‘I’ll be back’ places in HK. K

Saravananaa Bhavan

I’m saving my North Indian feasts for when I’m back home, but after all the Chinese and western food, I was craving some Indian flavours. Cue Saravanaa Bhavan or SB.  This is a chain of restaurants around the world. I’ve been to the ones in India, Kenya, England and I wanted to check this place out. The menu here was a lot more extensive than back home, but my favourites were also there.  I was very excited and ordered two dishes. The first one – my all time favourite, an idli and medhu vada with sambhar and all the chutneys. Lush. Steaming hot idli, crispy vada, and all the chutneys were sensational.  Loved it. The Mysore masala dosa, my second dish, was also great – gigantic, slathered with a spicy chilli chutney and yummy potatoes.


This meal was lush – this chain prides themselves on food consistency worldwide (like McDonald’s haha), and in this case – thank you very much. Loved this meal – spicy, hot, deliciousness. Thank you SB.

Jade Vegetarian 

This restaurant is in the heart of Mong Kok, On the same road as Langham Place. A tiny vegetarian restaurant, packed with people – takeaway was the order of the day. The staff were so lovely, spoke perfect English and confirmed they don’t use MSG. There were so many options, quite a bit of mock meat too. I wanted something simple and delicious so I just chose the noodles with vegetables, and and and – cheung fun. One of my favourite street food dishes. The noodles tasted home cooked and oh so comforting. Loved them. The cheung fun was doused with hoisin sauce, chilli sauce and sesame seeds and oh my word. You need to try this if you haven’t. And if you have – you know how SUPER TASTY this is. YUM.

I loved this meal – simple, tasty, flavourful. All boxes ticked. Yay!

Fresca 

Final meal in HK – Fresca in Central. Essentially a juice and salad bar. A cute little space, I think I went for a large salad book that comes with a base of leaves and then you can choose 4 salad toppings. I wanted to try the tofu – and there was very little left so I was told I can have another topping. Whoo! I also had beetroot and walnut, creamy vegan coleslaw, chickpea and sweet corn salad and this cucumber and radish salad. Each salad on its own was excellent. And together – even better. Oh my word. Best salads I have EVER had. I cannot tell you how tasty this food was. If I lived in HK I would be here everyday – but I would go for the small salad box – they are very generous with their portions here.

This was my last meal in Hong Kong – I was so full and so happy – a perfect end to a perfect break.

I will mention the meal I had on the plane. The Plaza Premium Lounge at HKIA was well stocked with booze and food, but my only options were spring rolls, a roasted veggie sandwich and crisps. So I didn’t have  much there. On the plane? I need to write to Virgin Atlantic and tell them to stop using aubergine in their vegan meals. And to be more creative with their desserts. Cold or hot, aubergine does not taste good – and I’ve hadit in  every meal, whether I fly to America or Asia. Starter – vegetable terrine, or rather cold eggplant, onion and tomato topped with cherry tomatoes and thee cubes of sweet potato. Pi$$take. Mains were better but over heated to an inch of it’s life. The tomato carrot lasagne was quite yummy. But the broccoli was overbooked and the potato wedges tasted like cardboard. Epic fail. Dessert – fruit. :(. Thankfully that giant salad from Fresca kept me going. Sort it out VA.

And that completes my epic food fest in Hong Kong. So as you can see, I had so many options and I ate A LOT of food, thankfully all of it MSG free and tasty. So if anyone says you can’t eat well as a vegan in HK – LIES! All lies! I ate like a queen!

PB Travels… Manukan Island

After my exhilarating time in Sandakan, the next stop was an island off the coast of west Borneo.  We took a quick flight back to KK, and we went straight from the airport to the seafront to catch a boat to our hotel.  The marina was pretty impressive with all these super yachts.  We were off to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, essentially a marine park made up of 5 islands. Manukan island is the 2nd largest, and that is where we were going to be staying.  I was super happy – blue skies, sandy beach, sea, snorkelling on the menu – what more could I ask for?

Where am I staying?

Oh mama.  Now this is the life.  This hotel was truly excellent.  Manukan Island Resort.  I’m weary of ‘island resorts’, particularly since the last one in Malaysia was vile as hell.  This was really lovely – reminded me of the hotels in Goa.   Beautiful rooms, in house restaurants, a pool, on the seafront and sunset spots within the resort.  LUSH.

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: ask me about the cleanliness factor! Beautiful room, well stocked and free mini bar (don’t get too excited, only soft drinks and water), porch, sofa, two beds… lush lush lush
  • Bed: 9/10.  Lovely and comfy
  • Shower: 9/10. Just as lovely and comfy.  The bathroom was massive!

What did I eat?

Buffet breakfasts were included in the outdoor, sea facing restaurant.  There was SO much food (yes, you guessed, all meaty and fishy and milky), but they had fresh fruit, fresh fruit juices, and my go to, beans on toast. They also had lovely Danish pastries, which I couldn’t have, so I made my own with a bread roll, peanut butter, kaya (coconut jam) and nuts. Perfect.

Lunches were either in one of the restaurants on the resort or on the go (no pics of these). They were very well balanced in my opinion – salad and chips. Perfect. And coconut water whenever I could get it.

Dinners were on another level. Along with the a la carte menu, there was a special every evening. One night there was Laksa – and yes, the chef made a version for me. So so delicious, I asked for another bowl just of the sauce. I may or may not have sipped it through a straw. I had another coconut water too.

The next night – char kuey teow, essentially flat rice noodles with veggies and prawns and lots of naughty things. I hadn’t been able to have an authentic version so far because nobody wanted to make one without animal fat or seafood, until this lovely chef was more than happy to. So tasty, tangy and full of flavour.  That with a mango mojito? Perfect meals in the perfect location. Oh I do love to be beside the seaside!

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What did I do?

I relaxed, I read, and I chilled. I also went snorkelling. So most of the coral in his area was bleached due to overfishing – it was only brown on the first snorkel site. The fish however were delightful – lots of marine fish. We went to 2 other sites, around the other islands in the park – each one better than the one before, with more life in the coral – massive ones at that, and more colour – green, lilac, blue. A clam or two, and loads of sea urchins. I also went snorkelling from the beach near the hotel. Not a lot of coral, but lots and lots of fish. I absolutely love snorkelling – next investment needs to be a go pro!

I also went ziplining between two islands, Gaya and Sapi.  This was excellent – I do love a good zipline, and this was on a decline from one island to the other – and speeding across the sea was pretty cool.  Sadly no pictures, didn’t want to risk my phone/camera falling into the sea.

The hotel had a path within the grounds that lead to a beautiful sunset point. The walk was stunning – secluded, surrounded by trees and lianas and lots of fungi. The sunset was also very impressive, very peaceful and very worth it.

And that brings my travels in Borneo to a happy end.  The trip got better and more enjoyable with each day.  The group of ladies (and one lone man, lucky him) I travelled with were wonderful and we all got on really well.  Borneo, with all it’s palm plantations made me sad, but the wildlife and nature got me so so happy, and the beach holiday at the end was the perfect way to end this part of my travels.  Next? Final destination, Hong Kong, and then home!

PB Travels… Sandakan

Leaving the river, we headed to the next destination, and one of my favourites of the trip – Sandakan.  There was so much that was packed into the time we were there, and I enjoyed every minute I was there.  Sandakan is one of the bigger towns that I visited in Borneo, and it reminded me so much of Hong Kong, in terms of the style of buildings and layout.  And then I was told that Sandakan was once known as ‘Little Hong Kong’.  Whaddaya know! Oh, and the sunsets were beautiful.

Where am I staying?

S’kan Style Hotel, is right on the waterfront.  The room was a welcome change after the previous hotel.  Modern, clean, slick with a good shower and decent air conditioning.  The location was excellent too – facing the sea, a market right outside the hotel, a mall 2 minutes walk away, walking distance to restaurants, it was a perfect little hotel.

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor? None – the room, sheets and towels were lovely and clean
  • Bed: 8/10.  Comfortable enough, but I was so exhausted after all the day’s activities that I would just pass out
  • Shower: 9/10.  Lovely and powerful, and very decent toiletries.

What did I eat?

So I was still playing it safe on the food front, sticking to water with some soda bicarbonate – nice and alkalizing, never travel without it!  Breakfasts were either baked beans on toast (hash browns one day! whooo!) or bananas with PB.  Nice and simple, no dodgy additives either.

Lunches? Well, I played it safe one day and missed out on a lunch we had at a local place. I did have a lovely lunch in the Sepilok Sanctuary – a veggie noodle dish – once again, simple and delicious.  That, with a cup of lemon tea was exactly what I wanted, and needed.

Dinner one night was at at the Ba Lin Rooftop Restaurant.  Stunning views,  and I was starving – so I went some pasta, with courgettes, cherry tomatoes and pumpkin..mmm – but a few mouthfuls in and the alarm bells stared ringing.  MSG?!? Yep.  In Pasta! Come on.  They got a proper telling off!  Dinner another night was on the seafront – where there were oodles of restaurants.  We chose the Harbour Bistro Cafe and I chose a lovely dish of tofu, pumpkin, green beans and carrots with rice.  Clean and simple again. Whoo!

What did I do?

First stop – Gomantong Caves, where swallow’s nests are harvested and sold at astronomical prices to people who think that swallow’s spit is good for their skin.  Seriously people!  When my sister visited the caves 6 years ago, she was shocked at the conditions of the workers in the caves harvesting the nests – no safety harnesses…well, no health and safety.  I’m glad to say that has been improved – metal ladders, harnesses, hard hats – but this is all we were told about.  Sadly when I went to the caves, it was just after all the nests had been picked.  Now I loved the caves.  There was a little, and I mean little exhibition, that was packed with information on the layout of the caves, the birds, nest production and all that science stuff.  There was a scenic 10 minute walk to the caves – where I saw stunning bugs, amazing dragonflies AND A GIANT LEECH! – and then the caves.  Don’t worry about feeling claustrophobic (the caves are massive), what you need to worry about is the stench of guano (barf) and the thousands – and no, I’m not kidding – of cockroaches.  They were everywhere, on the handrails (don’t even dream of touching them), the walk way, the cave walls – argh!  A very interesting walk but go prepared with decent, waterproof walking shoes and a decent torchlight.

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Next stop? Another memorial – the Sandakan War Memorial, set in the grounds of the POW camp.  A beautiful space, lots of greenery, a waterlily pool, stunning flowers.  There was a room dedicated to information, a chronological walk through the Death Marches, including quotes from survivors about the conditions of the camp and the walk.  I was in tears.  It was so so so sad to read, and as with the Kundasang Memorial, I just kept on thinking that we all need to learn from these mistakes.  Humanity is what matters, not wars and power. 😦

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Next on the list? Animal galore – in sanctuaries.  I’m glad we did this after seeing all these animals in the wild, but at least in this was we get to see them much much closer.  First stop? Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.  The plan was to hang out here for most of the day and be there for the for the feeding sessions – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  It was such an excellent experience. Even though we couldn’t go near them, we got pretty close – or rather they got pretty close to us.  And we even saw an ickle baby!! Not a rescued baby, but one born in the sanctuary!! What a brilliant sight!  We were for about 3 hours in total – and every minute was entertaining.  They took their time to do everything – moving at leisure, eating slowly – so so interesting to watch, each one with their own personalities and quirks.. such amazing creatures.  Cliched maybe, but this was the highlight of my trip to Borneo.  I loved loved loved it here.  Even the 90% humidity and high temperatures didn’t dampen (ahaha) my spirits.

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Next stop – another sanctuary.  The Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.  Now driving to this place – which was about 1/2 hour away from the Sepilok Sanctuary – was not nice.  We were not driving alongside the plantations but IN them – and this place was right at the end.  It was set up to ensure that the area wasn’t cleared for more palm – and after what we saw, that is a good thing!  Walking in (at feeding time), we were greeted with about teeny silver leaf monkeys – tiny things, and their babies – well, even smaller, and orange! They were like squabbling teenagers – very very vocal, expressive and running around everywhere – we needed to be careful where we were stepping!  After that – proboscis monkeys.  Wow.  Loved watching them.  They were the young adults – calmer, but still energetic.  They gobbled their fruit up almost instantly, unlike the wizened old orangutans.  Once again, it was an amazing experience, they were so interesting to watch – and the males? Well, you couldn’t really miss them!!!!!! Put it away I say! 😭

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Not only were the monkeys brilliant, the smaller bugs were just as interesting and fascinating (including some cute fungus).

My time in Sandakan was excellent – the hotel, the activities and the animals – all were truly great and I thoroughly enjoyed my time here.  Next (and final) stop? The beach! Whoo!

PB Travels… Kinabatangan River 

The next couple of days were spent by the side of the Kinabatangan river to explore the wildlife and birds. So exciting!

Where am I staying? 

Myne Resort, literally in the middle of nowhere, and a beautiful resort at that. A lovely dining area where we were all hanging out and eating all our meals. The rooms were scattered around (mine was waaay up these flights of stairs), and big at that. The only thing – and completely understandable (in the middle of the forest, next to a river, in a place where it rains everyday) was the mold in the bathrooms – not good!!! I did give my constructive feedback before I left 😬. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: very high due to mold in bathroom
  • Bed: 8/10. Lovely – and I had a choice 🙂
  • Shower: 0/10. See first point. I wasn’t impressed and spent as little time as needed in there.

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts in the hotel were pretty extensive – as were all other meals. All meals were included – as we were so secluded we couldn’t just walk down the road to a restaurant. The breakfasts were a variation of the pic below – interesting to have French fries for breakfast! I basically stuck to beans on toast and that was it. The ‘local fruits’ were basically papaya (which I enjoyed) and watermelon (which I didn’t).

Lunches and dinners were the same – a buffet, with at least 2 veggie options that I could eat. With rice. One night we had coconut tofu which was quite nice.  Lots of greens,raw salad and loads of garlic and ginger. Very tasty – at first I thought it was the garlic and ginger – and then it dawned on me after a couple of meals.. M S G. Oh no. I was pretty intolerant to it a few years ago, but bizarrely over the years, the tolerance was manageable – until now. Now it came back with a vengeance.  I suspect it is the minimal doses I’ve been having over the past few weeks that have been building up.  And because it was ‘bulk buffet catering’, I unfortunately couldn’t walk into the kitchen and demand an alternative.

I actually started feeling the effects – constructed throat, headache, nausea – seriously people, this was not in my head. So I basically stopped eating for a day,  and ate very little the next and that helped immensely. Big shame since the food looked really good. STOP using MSG!

What did I do? 

We stopped at the Sabah Tea Plantation, the only one in Sabah. We had a lovely guide from the plantation who walked us through the the whole tea making process, and we ended in the restaurant for a tasting session. Tea flavoured naturally with herbs and leaves.  Pandan (my favourite), geranium (alright), lemongrass (sadly vile), and a few more for general wellbeing, including a natural viagra. Hehe. There were also amazing views of Mt Kinabalu. I Really enjoyed spending time in this place.


I did buy some packets of tea – some lose leaf and the pandan flavoured one. One of the girls bought some tea biscuits – which were actually quite horrible. Did not like them one bit.

So onward to the river the main reason why we were there.  We would go out twice everyday to check out the wildlife. I loved it. On a boat, racing up and down the river, bird watching – amazing hornbills!! Monkey watching – we saw wild orangutans!!!! And Pygmy elephants!! It was truly excellent. The only time it wasn’t truly excellent was when it rained one day when we were on the boat. It was torrential – same as on the walk – but rain when you’re on a speeding boat is painful and prickly.  I was so glad to be back in the resort!  Not only did I see so much on the river, the resort was also a hotspot. Lots of giant moths, wild boars – I cannot complain. Not at all.

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Back in the lap of nature, where I am happiest, and this place was no exception – dodgy bathroom and MSG laced food aside, this place was beautiful.  I didn’t see as much wildlife as I have in other countries with the same environmental set up (Costa Rica, Madagascar), but it was still so very worth it.