Hungary Winter Drive – First Taste

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It was a straightforward 23km drive from the Liszt Ferenc International Airport to our accommodation the Mecure Buda, which is on the western castle side of town. Budapest is aptly named, a combination of the Buda and Pest districts which developed separately over hundreds of years on opposite sides of the magnificent Danube River which runs through much of Eastern Europe.

Our hotel was in a rather quiet district, and was nothing much to shout about. After checking in, we looked for a good place to have our first dinner, and we found our way to this nearby restaurant:

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Márványmenyasszony Restaurant

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The lovely decor inside.

It was a cozy place with nice decor, and was practically empty at that time of the evening. We ordered some food and proceeded to enjoy our dinner. The food did not disappoint. Every dish was exquisitely prepared and well-presented, with a generous portion of food. The accompanying bread and butter was also tasty, and went especially well being dipped into the Hungarian Beef Goulash Soup which we ordered. The lamb and chicken were nice, and the mashed potato was amazing. The best part of the meal was the spicy paprika sauce!

This would prove to be one of our favorite restaurants for our entire trip so if you happen to be in the area, it is well-worth a visit! Click HERE for directions.

Generally, we found Hungarian food to be tasty, but a little too salty for our taste buds. True enough, the day after I returned to Singapore, I had to make a visit to the doctor to review my blood test results. He checked my blood pressure and commented that it had gone up from previous readings. He advised me to cut down on my salt intake, and immmediately my wife, who was beside me, could not help but burst out in laughter. She had been talking the whole trip about how salty the food was. 😛 I figure, it is better to be salty and tasty, than to be salty and not tasty. Okay, maybe it is time for me to detox after all the feasting on my vacation!

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Grilled lamb

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Chicken with cheese

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Beef Goulash


This is part 4 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  click HERE for part 5 where I share about our day trip out to the Matra Mountains where my daughter saw snow for the first time!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

 

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Hokkaido Winter Drive – Concluding Thoughts

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It was a fantastic time doing my first winter road trip in Hokkaido, Japan. I first fell in love with Hokkaido 10 years ago on our first trip there. This time, we experienced a whole new dimension and we found ourselves falling in love again with the country and the wonderful people here. This are the things we will remember from the trip:

  • Driving in the Snow – we had some truly unforgettable legs, especially at Jozankei and Niseko, where we were literally driving through a winter wonderland. It was a very surreal special feeling. What beautiful mountains and countryside they have in Hokkaido, and with the entire landscape capped in snow, it was simply magical.
  • Check the Dates! – can you imagine my horror when I went to collect my car rental in Sapporo, only to find that I had booked the car on the wrong dates? In my rush, I had carelessly put the month as October instead of November on my car rental booking. To make it worse, there was no longer any car available to rent from Sapporo. Thankfully, I had my brother-in-law to save the day. We managed to find an available rental car in Otaru two days later. So the first two days of the road trip to Jozankei and Otaru, we used my brother-in-law’s rented car to shuttle both our families.
  • The Wonderful People of Hokkaido – In Otaru, my wife and son had to wait for me at the hotel lobby while I drove back to Jozankei to pick up my brother-in-law’s family. After some time, my son became hungry, and my wife had to walk to the nearby convenience store to pick up some food for him. Now this would be a trivial affair for most of us, but my wife suffers from cerebral palsy which affects her walking and her balance. It can be quite a scary ordeal for her to navigate uneven ground or even steps. When she walked to the convenience store, she found the store front had steps at the door with no railings to help with balance. An elderly Japanese man was waiting for his bus at the nearby bus stop. He noticed my wife’s hesitation at the store front and asked her what the matter was and if she needed any help. After my wife explained the situation to him, the man offered him his hand to help her up the stairs, which my wife gratefully accepted. As my wife looked around the convenience store, she then noticed that the man came back into the store and he started speaking to one of the attendants at the convenience store. As it turned out, he explained to the attendant my wife’s situation and that his bus was about to arrive. He had asked the attendant to help my wife down the steps after making her purchase. My wife was extremely moved my the man’s simple act of kindness. He really went the extra mile to make sure that my wife’s needs were taken care off. When my wife shared with me what happened, I was really bowled over. How amazing the people are… so thoughtful, so sincere, so genuine. The world would be a better place if we were all like the wonderful people of Hokkaido.
  • The Amazing Food – I always tell people, it is almost impossible to find a bad restaurant in Japan. The food here is amazing, and even the fast food taste better than what we get back home. We believe that it is because the people of Japan take pride in what they serve their customers. The attention to detail, the commitment to quality ingredients and food preparation processes, all these result in a food paradise that is unlike any other country on the planet.
  • Thank God for Google Maps – This was a life-saver, especially when the supposedly English-enabled GPS unit in our car strangely did not have an English keyboard to input the required destinations. What’s the point of having an English-enabled GPS when there is no English input mechanism? SMH.
  • My Son’s First Experience with Snow – He took to the snow like a dog to a bone. 🙂

All in all, these four days on the road in Hokkaido really opened our eyes to a different world, one that we will always remember. We hope to go back soon!

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This is part 10, and the final entry of my Hokkaido Winter Drive blog series, look out for my next blog series which will start shortly!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hungary Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

Hokkaido Winter Drive – Kojohama

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After our visit to Hell Valley, we proceeded down the mountain to our accommodation for the night at the Kojohama Spa Hotel. We chose a Japanese style room with tatami beds which provided a more authentic local experience compared to the western style rooms we are more accustomed to. The only issue with our room was that we could not find the bathroom, even after opening every single door in the room. There was a toilet, a sink, but no bathroom. After going back downstairs to check with the reception, it turned out that the rooms literally DID NOT have bathrooms, and it was expected that the guests would use the onsen facilities, shared with other guests, to shower and bath. Interesting indeed. The only issue being the inconvenience for my wife, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy. Having poorer balance, it would not be easy for her to manage on her own in the shared bath with steps and slippery floors and all.

Thankfully, the hotel staff, after some consideration, offered us a complimentary upgrade to a bigger family-sized room, which had a shower facility inside the room. We were eternally grateful for their kind gesture, a real unexpected blessing indeed!

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After settling down in our new room, we proceeded out to a nearby Izakaya restaurant そばの池田 for dinner.

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This was a quiet place, where mainly the local people hang out, with hardly any tourists. With no English menu, it was a little difficult to figure out how to order, but the staff were very patient and helpful. With the food pictures that were available and whatever limited Japanese we knew, we made our orders. Man, the food was amazing!

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The tempura was the most well prepared we have ever tasted in Japan, fried just right, delicious, crispy but not oily or soggy. The sashimi set was amazingly fresh, and well presented.

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All in all it was a wonderful place to have our final dinner of our road trip, before heading back to New Chitose Airport in the morning. The prices, while not cheap, were still reasonable considering the quality of the food provided.

This is one of the greatest advantages of doing a road trip, you have the flexibility and convenience to drive out to find good food!

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After dinner, we returned to the hotel, where I had a long soak in the onsen. For the first time for the trip, I tried the outdoor pool. It was an interesting feeling, being completely naked outdoors in the freezing cold. Surprisingly, although the temperature must have been around zero degrees Celsius (it was snowing lightly at that time), it didn’t seem all that cold, perhaps because of the heat emanating from the hot spring. It was certainly a good way to unwind and relax, and I begin to understand why the Japanese love their onsens!


This is part 8 of my Hokkaido Winter Drive blog series, click HERE to read part 9 where I share about the final leg of our road trip as we head back to New Chitose Airport.

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hungary Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

 

 

 

 

Mumtaz Indian Restaurant, HCMC

After a six year absence, we are finally back in Ho Chi Minh City enjoying our favorite Indian restaurant Mumtaz along Bui Vien. This restaurant has been a must-try ever since our first visit years back and it brings back so many happy memories of our early years of travel as a married couple. The food is always of a high standard and the service excellent. 

For tonight’s meal, we ordered the Rogan Gosh, Bhindi Masala and Chicken Madrasi with a Garlic Naan and Butter Naan. The food was delicious, with generous portions of meat, cooked to perfection in terms of texture and taste! This place really lives up to its high ranking on Tripadvisor. 

Summary:

– Chicken Madrasi Curry

– Mutton Rogan Gosh Curry

– Bhindi Masala Curry (Lady’s Finger)

– Spices, Papadom, Ice Water

– Bill: VND317,000

Weekend Dinner Cooked with Love, Enjoyed by Family

Oh what a Saturday feast!

Oh what a Saturday feast!

Oh, did I mention that my wife is an excellent cook? Maybe that is stating the obvious, judging from the photographs on display and the fact that I gained more than 30 kilograms after meeting her. Now I’m suffering trying to lose my excess weight…. but well, I can’t complain much, I’ve been having it too good already 🙂 I’ll be posting pictures of my home-cooked dinners from time to time, to make all of you salivate. Well, if you really can’t resist anymore, then you can make an appointment to come to my place for dinner. Just give my wife a nice big Ang Pow for her efforts! 🙂 I can assure you, good home-cooked food is priceless…

Our dinner for the recent Saturday’s gastronomical delight: Pineapple Rice, Egg rolls with Minced Meat, Sliced Beef Rolls with Oyster Mushrooms and other Veggies, Baked chicken with Secret Herbs and Spices… I don’t know which spices, hence the “secret” label. 😛

Beef Slices Rolled with Oyster Mushrooms and other Veggies

Beef Slices Rolled with Oyster Mushrooms and other Veggies

Egg Rolls with Minced Meat

Egg Rolls with Minced Meat

Baked Chicken with "Secret" Spices

Baked Chicken with “Secret” Spices

Pineapple Rice

Pineapple Rice

Dinner Date @ Fish & Co (Clementi Mall Outlet)

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There is no better way to start the week after a long tiring Monday back at work than to cheer yourself up with a nice dinner date with that special someone in your life!

Today both of us were feeling hungry, and we decided to go for a good meal at Fish & Co.

This is our second time patronising this outlet, and we ordered our usual order of a Platter for 2, topped up with an upgrade with a soup of the day (Seafood Chowder, yummy!) and a special fizzy tonic drink.

I must say, the food was really delicious, and consistently so for both our visits. The fries and rice were nicely done, not too hard or soft. The calamari was succulent and tasty. The prawns were deliciously fresh. The mussels were nicely drenched in garlic butter sauce. The fish was soft and tasty. It was really a good meal, and as my wife put it, “WHAT IS THERE NOT TO LIKE?” The price was also reasonable for such a sumptuous meal – $48 for the upgraded meal, inclusive of service charge and GST, and also factoring in a 10% of for using your Citibank Credit Card to make payment.

The extra plus was that the service staff at this outlet were friendly and eager to please, Kudos to the restaurant for a wonderful dinner date! 🙂 As you can see, we cleared the whole plate… nothing was left except the shells from the mussels and prawns! 🙂

RATING:

Food – 10/10

Service – 8/10 (Staff friendly and helpful but too busy! Also they forgot our mints!)

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http://www.fish-co.com/

Reflections on Love / Wedding Dinner at St. Regis,

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Welcome to St. Regis, decked out in a Shangai theme, complete with the feathered frills, vintage songbird, and zany emcee. Its been awhile since we have attended a wedding dinner with such glitz and glamour. Every table had a towering tablepiece, which added to the grandeur, but posed a lot of problems with line-of-sight. I don’t remember seeing the emcee’s face at all the entire evening, for all his attempts to leave a lasting impression. Felt a little sorry for him, having to crack jokes in mandarin which no one in the ballroom seemed to understand or to care about.

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The food was generally good with excellent presentation, but perhaps trying a little too hard to impress. You’d have to say that it was certainly unique, not the standard Chinese wedding dinner fare. Portions were individually served in French style minimalist portions with great flair and an eye for detail. Service standards of the waiting staff was rather disappointing, I must say, with our drinks being forgotten at least four times.

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Amidst all this talk about the venue, the decor and the food, lets not forget what the wedding is really about, the celebration of love between two people joined together for a lifetime of commitment and companionship. The emcee quipped, “Marriage is not a word, it is a sentence… a LIFE SENTENCE.” Well perhaps we shouldn’t put it so negatively, but there is a lot of truth in that statement. The BIG DAY is only the beginning, the BIG CHALLENGE is to navigate the twist and turns and bumps and bruises of a lifetime of togetherness. Will the union stand the test of time? We always start out with the best of intentions, but a lot of the time we place expectations on our partners and on the relationship, and in so doing we forget what love is really all about.

Love suffers long and is kind: Are we prepared to exercise patience and grace to our partners? Do we accept that nobody is perfect, that in a marriage, you will often experience both the good side and the bad side of your partner? Are we kind to each other? Do we seek to understand before being understood?

Love does not envy; love does not parade itself:Don’t look at others and compare, don’t exalt yourself above the other. You might end up winning the argument, but losing the relationship.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things: Are we a pillar of support to our partners? Or are we a lighted fuse? Are we one that inspires and brings out the best in the other? Or do we make a habit of tearing each other down? Are we willing to go through the sun, the rain, the valley, the storm, through good and bad times with each other? Action speaks a lot louder than words. Many promises have been made, and many promises not kept. How much is your word worth?

Love never fails:True selfless agape love never fails to bring about the best in any relationship. True love is an emptying of yourself, your desires, your needs, and only focussing on the object of your love. You will give your all, and even your life, for the sake of the other person. A sacrificial love. A pure love, without any evil agenda. Love isn’t a feeling, it is a decision, a choice. Long after the fuzzy emotional feelings die down, true love will remain, almost spiritual in nature, it will stand the test of time. Are we committed to dying to ourselves and dying for others?

Marriage is a lifetime commitment!.