Time catching @ Coffee shops, Tel Aviv Day 1

Sitting in a little cozy coffee shop on a rainy day makes me want to write a blog instead of code. ūüôā
Sunday, is a work day in Israel. It’s a perfect day to hop around the popular spots since most people are at work.¬†I’m jet lagged and¬†wanted to get some work done so I decided to hop around different coffee shops instead. I must admit, my first realization on this trip¬†is having a job that allows me to work from anywhere and everywhere around the world is pretty darn awesome. Knowing my own personality, it helps me relieve my own stress of frequent travel (definitely a first world problem!) and minimizes¬†impact on work productivity.

My first stop – Cafelix

A quaint little coffee shop that specializes in artisan roasting of specialty coffee. It offers a good selection. You can ask them for items that are not on the menu such as flat white which is my favorite. I checked out the location at Levinsky market. There aren’t many sittings here but if you are able to get the sitting upstairs, it’s a quiet two people corner that is tucked away from the crowd that goes in and out of the shop.

My next stop – Aroma Israel

One of the largest coffee chain in Israel. Don’t let the word “chain” fool you, they still is able to deliver quality. Israelis love their cafe shops and most of them would tell you this one is worth checking out. They also serve food here, so a perfect lunch spot if you are in the mood for some food with a dose of caffeine. Opposite to the previous experience, this place is huge.¬†There is no problem finding a seat (at the location I went)¬†for sure.

Sitting at these coffee shops helped me feel like the time has finally slowed down for me to enjoy the moment. This sounds kind of odd because 2016 was an¬†great awesome year, so much has happened especially in the last quarter. ¬†It’s exactly for that reason why¬†I feel like time has flew¬†by and I don’t know where all the week days/weekend went. There was an occasion constantly to look forward to and I forgot how to enjoy the moment in the process. I have¬†a craving to relive¬†some of the memorable experiences except there are more in the making. They do say “time flies” when you are enjoying what you do. But Time, can you slow down a bit for me to catch up with you?¬†

Has it been a year?

Has it been a year?

Wow, it has been exactly a year since my last trip to Japan. It really doesn’t feel like¬†365 days has gone by since I remember it like it was yesterday. This trip was almost¬†a culinary tour of three popular¬†cities – Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. Can we¬†all agree that Japan has a sh*t load of delicious food that can keep anyone¬†busy for quite a while?

My most memorable and anticipated meal was at Sukiyabashi Jiro. For anyone who has watched Jiro Dreams¬†of Sushi¬†would know about the father and the son’s restaurants in Tokyo.

We dined at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Roppongi Hills, the younger son’s, Takashi (ťöÜŚ£ę), restaurant. The experience was impeccable! There are a number of reviews that has mentioned¬†the younger son’s restaurant isn’t as great as the flagship restaurant owned by his father. In my opinion, it was amazing! Maybe due to my novice knowledge of sushi. But hey! the only opinion that matters to oneself when it comes to food taste¬†is their own. Not to mention, the son and his sous chef both were extremely friendly, detail-oriented and the best part was they both speak English! We were able to get some explanation on the fish type/history/proper way to consume and other random interesting facts. It’s always an enjoyable experience for me when I¬†can communicate with the chef that is¬†preparing my¬†food.

We had 23 different omakase sashimi and sushi servings (captured most of them below), each one was mind blowingly delicious. I could barely move afterwards and yet my mind still wanted more. I seriously had never said more “mmMmmmMmmm” in my life!¬†Ôľą*ÔŅ£‚ąáÔŅ£*ÔľČ

















Chef: tasty?! Me(mouthful):MmmmMmmmHUmphhhh
img_5799
Can you tell how happy we were? ¬†ūüėÄ

Routeburn Hike

Routeburn Hike

This is a hike you would not want to miss out on when you are in New Zealand. It was¬†absolutely breathtaking; the trail was filled with beautiful alpine landscape and lush forests! I didn’t understand why people said they¬†loved it even though they hiked it through horrible weather condition for the whole three days. ¬†Now that I went, I am totally mesmerized by the scenery at every step. Fortunately, we were greeted with very pleasant weather so it made this amazing experience¬†even more unforgettable!

We hiked with Ultimate Hikes and I can’t recommend them enough! All the guides were very knowledgable and extremely friendly. This is a three days two nights hike totaling ~ 33 km ( 20 miles) with a climb of 1300 meters (4200 ft). Looking at the numbers, this is not a strenuous hike for advanced hikers. It’s definitely¬†a hike that an average person can do. With that being said, it was still a long hike for people who love photography¬†and that was us. ūüėõ It was so hard not to when it was so beautiful everywhere.


Day 1, it took us a few hours to get to the start of the Routeburn track¬†from Queenstown with a short stop at Te Anau. We hiked ~¬†12 km (7.5 miles) on the first day with an optional hike to Key Summit. I highly suggest checking out Key Summit, it’s very scenic. We had¬†the option of leaving our¬†backpacks with one of the guides before we¬†climbed the summit portion. This portion is not strenous and it’s about an hour return trip unless you take a long break on the top.


After the summit and lunch break, we passed¬†by another¬†highlight of the day,¬†Earland Falls. It’s one of the wettest section of the whole hike. We got pretty damp¬†passing through here and also decided¬†to take a break right by the fall with our snacks.¬†¬†The view was too pretty to not stop for a few minutes and take it all in, especially with a rainbow at the bottom of the fall, worth getting a little wet¬†for. ūüėÄ


After the fall, we had to go through a steep descent before getting to the lodge. I highly recommend bringing a trekking pole because your knee will thank you at the end of the day, mine definitely did! Oh my, Lake Mackenzie Lodge! Let me just prefix this with these Ultimate Hike lodges are the¬†BEST stay we had on this two weeks¬†trip! It’s minimal but it’s super comfortable and clean. It¬†had everything we¬†need and it was located¬†in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but breathtaking views! It made me wonder how the hell did they build such a nice lodge like this! Lake Mackenzie was right behind the lodge, hence the name. We went there both night and morning to check out the view. It was¬†rejuvenating, how can it not be when there is nothing but mountains, lake, stars and us. ‚̧

Lake Mackenzie Lodge
Love this mirror view @ Lake Mackenzie

Oh goodness, let me tell you about the food. The food was prepared so darn well, almost michelin star well IMHO. All the ingredients used were super fresh, meats were cooked perfectly (with sous vide) and desserts were made to perfection. After a day of breathtaking views we finished the day with a hot shower, delicious meal and a comfortable bed to sleep in. Boy, did we feel spoiled?!

  
Day 2, we started the day with delicious hearty breakfast. Did I mention the ingredients they used here were all natural, organic? The eggs were so tasty! The vivid colour of the egg yolks were not commonly seen in the U.S. unless you visit a local farmer’s market. I wish I had the stomach to eat two servings¬†of everything and that they gave me the choice to of course. XD


This is the most strenuous day out of all due to the optional section of climbing Conical Hill. We hiked out of the Lake Mackenzie which is an uphill climb, walked across the Hollyford Face to the Harris Saddle. The views were very pretty and we had to walk pretty fast to squeeze in time for pictures. Harris Saddle is where we had lunch at before we climbed up to the Conical Hill.

2/3 way to the top of Conical Hill
On top of Conical Hill
That’s Harris Saddle where we had lunch.

This is the most strenuous portion of the whole hike. It is optional but I’m so glad we did it. The view up on top is out of this world. With the clouds below you and an awesome 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains/lakes, I felt like I’m on¬†cloud nine. You get a great view of Martins Bay. The most difficult part of this whole experience is going back down. I thought going up was tiring, that’s before I realized that coming down was scary! o_O

From Harris Saddle, we trekked around Lake Harris before ending the day at Routeburn Falls Lodge. Similarly to the day before, the meal was prepared perfectly! The perk of these lodges were they had a full bar (almost). We had to get a bottle in celebration of surviving both days without any injuries! ;D

Woohoo… made it to our lodge!

Day 3,¬†it’s our last day on this trek. The weather was not cooperating with us. It was pouring so hard when we started our morning.¬†Interestingly enough, I was glad that it was pouring because I wanted to experience what other hikers talked about before. I can see how three days of trekking through rain can be a pain, my lower body was¬†totally soaked,¬†my waterproof hiking shoes were¬†filled with water. This is the easiest hiking day¬†of all three days. It’s only a half day hike. We passed by Routeburn Fall on the way out of the lodge heading towards Routeburn Flats. There were creeks¬†where we had to walk through that had calf-high water, hence the soaked shoes. The abundance¬†of beech trees was¬†interesting to see. Once we reached the Routeburn River, we were near¬†the end of the track and soon saw the bus that was¬†going to take us back to Queenstown. :/



¬†It was such an amazing and¬†memorable experience that we don’t mind doing over and over again. Now I only have pictures/videos to look back to, but the memory is still so fresh in my mind as if I was just there yesterday.

I hope when you¬†visit New Zealand, you also get to experience this fantastic hike and enjoy it as much as we did! Also, sometimes the person you are with also play a key role in that whole experience. ūüėČ

Love my view front, side, behind, below and above!<3

 

 

 

 

Acorn – what an experience!

Acorn – what an experience!

It took me a while to write this blog¬†post. I kind of got caught up with everything else going on, kept pushing this out to “tomorrow”. Finally, that “tomorrow” is today! ūüôā I told myself that I really need to write this up simply because it is a well deserved review on a very memorable dining experience I had while touring Bath.

It was an absolute pleasure dining at Acorn, a modern vegetarian restaurant that uses seasonal ingredients to serve each of their exquisite¬†dish.¬†The menu changes all the time since they only use seasonal ingredients.The restaurant offers the option of choosing two or three courses. I chose the three course (of course!)¬†with wine pairing and so did my partner. We both picked different items on the menu just so both of us could¬†try more dishes. ūüėĬ†I would suggest you do the same if you and your dining partner don’t¬†mind sharing. It’s the most awesome way to dine out. Hence why I love going out with big¬†groups when it comes to dining! ūüėÄ

First courses –

Carrot & Cashew¬†p√Ęt√© with pickles, salad and spelt crisps. I seriously thought I could eat this all day long. I’m not a huge fan of carrots. I think I only eat it because I was told that it has a lot of carotene which is apparently good for the¬†eyes. ¬†This on the other hand was phenomenal! The sweetness from the carrots and the nutty flavour of the cashew were just a perfect blend! I’m not even a vegetarian and I was still going nuts on this! I think this is the best p√Ęt√© I’ve had to date… forget about all the meaty p√Ęt√© because those don’t compare when it comes to compete with this delicious piece of art!

Chioggia Beetroot Slivers with aged cashew puree and local salad. This restaurant love their cashews and I can’t deny the fact they did a good job with this. The puree was palatable, it¬†has a light nutty taste to it. It wasn’t¬†as intense as the p√Ęt√© dish. It went well with the beets and salad without¬†dominating the flavour of the dish. This was enjoyable, however, between the two choices for first course, I would choose the¬†p√Ęt√© without hesitation. ūüôā

Second courses –

Smoke field mushroom with potato galette, salt baked celeriac puree and market greens. The mushrooms were very flavourful, the texture reminded me of dehydrated mushrooms. If I wasn’t told it was smoked, I wouldn’t be able to tell¬†how it was cooked just by tasting. I like mushrooms in general but smoked mushroom was fairly new to me. The mushrooms was glazed in rich mushroom demi-glace. I think the glaze helped making the¬†mushroom “juicy” and definitely added a touch to its presentation! The puree was again tasty. I don’t think there was one dish at this restaurant where I didn’t¬†enjoy the puree yet. ūüôā

Calabrese Broccoli & Confit Jersey Royals with spelt grain warmed in a smoked almond and olive oil emulsion, lovage and pickled cabbage. Seriously, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I ordered this dish. The dish was¬†definitely on the hearty¬†side because of the almond olive oil emulsion. The¬†term “emulsion” was new¬†to me so if you are clueless as well then read this or watch a video from serious eats or any other food network. I’m sure there are tons out there that explains this. I enjoyed the creamy, almondy flavour of spelt soaked in emulsion and loved the chewy texture. It kind of reminds me of my daily breakfast, bircher muesli, in a way. ūüôā

Desserts –

Compressed Cheddar Strawberries with pine nut parfaits, shredded basils and pepper. ¬†The pine nut ice cream is AHHHHHHHHHH….. MIND BLOWING good! Yes I am an ice cream addict but this WAS¬†heavenly. I got an non ice cream addict to back me up on this. ūüėČ That must count as something right? I’m not sure where the cheddar part of the strawberry comes from because I didn’t taste anything cheddar. At first I thought it was a type of strawberries but it wasn’t. The strawberries were good and went well with the pine nut. The highlight is¬†still the ice cream! It is a MUST try if they have¬†it on the menu.

Poached Rhubarb with thyme meringue, panna cotta, spiced gel & rhubarb sorbet. This is an interesting dessert because it just has so much going on here. I felt¬†like I was having three desserts in one! I enjoyed each on their own. I also tried to combine them in one bite and I didn’t think they all went together very well. The spiced gel was unique but¬†probably my least favorite part of the dish.

There is popular restaurants like Sally Lunn in Bath where¬†I find it odd that people rave about a place that serves large hamburger buns pretty much!¬†¬†To verify this, of course I had to go try it myself.¬†To¬†my expectation and own taste bud, it was very overrated!¬†Rick Steves has said that “it is unique but a completely forgettable experience!”, I totally agree and actually don’t even find it that unique! So if you have that planned in your schedule. I would suggest you to not waste your time/stomach space on eating hamburger bread and book yourself a table at Acorn¬†and enjoy some quality food! I’m only writing about this because I had such a great experience. I rarely do restaurant reviews but this was an experience definitely worth mentioning! ‚̧

Sights that will take your breath away

Sights that will take your breath away

without traveling far!…um.. I guess for some of us… ūüôā

I’ve travelled many cities/countries¬†abroad and yet I was awed by my¬†most recent trip close by. Have you had¬†this “take me away” kind of feeling and yet what you long for is actually¬†much closer than you anticipated?

I have lost words to describe how breathtaking Arizona is. The landscape and its natural rock formation looked out of this world. It’s quite dangerous to drive along scenery that is as beautiful as this because¬†you will be tempted to look at the scenery instead of the road. What a terrible problem to have eh? ūüėõ

We flew into Phoenix and drove up to Sedona then Page/Lake Powell. This trip can be easily extended for another week because there are just so much to see. I have only seen the Arizona side (I should say part) but there is still the beautiful side of Utah that I have yet to explore.

Sedona is famous for its red sandstone formations. The spectrum of red colors on these¬†rocks look amazing especially during sunset and I assume sunrise as well. Its hard to believe this whole landscape¬†in front of me was created by mother nature. A picture is worth¬†a thousand words but yet I don’t think these pictures truly show how beautiful this¬†place is. It’s a sight¬†that you must visit in person and see with your own eyes to really appreciate.

IMG_2799 IMG_2857

IMG_2800 IMG_2801

IMG_2969 IMG_2979

The drive from Sedona to Page is a very scenic drive, there are many scenic stops you can make along the way to enjoy the view and take pictures at. The views were¬†rejuvenating. When you stand on the side of the road which is a few steps from a cliff possibly,¬†with fresh air to breath in,¬†amazing views to indulge in and sharing all of this¬†with someone special gives you this on top of the world kind of feeling.¬†It’s fulfilling.

IMG_3025 IMG_3012

IMG_3136 IMG_3122

Antelope Canyon and HorseShoe Bend,  I was awed by the magnificent view of both of these two places. When you are standing at the horseshoe bend lookout that is a 1000 ft cliff drop, you will forget about all your worries or sickness (in my case) and simply be amazed by this gorgeous view and probably wonder how you have not seen this sooner.   

Antelope Canyon, its spectrum of colours is spectacular! I checked out both the upper and lower canyon and I must say I had an easier time capturing photos at the lower canyon because there was more light shine into the canyon. The upper canyon is a lot darker due to the depth so if you want to see light beams shine in then you definitely need to go during the prime time which is from ~10am to 12pm. The range of colours looked amazing and it changes constantly due to the light shifts. You can capture multiple shots at the same spot with totally different turn out.

IMG_3672   

  IMG_3893 IMG_3607

Lake Powell, a second largest man-made reservoir in the U.S. is absolutely beautiful and was definitely worth a trip. It’s so beautiful and relaxing, you can be the judge through these pictures.¬†I didn’t know it was a popular vacation spot that millions of people visit annually. I’m really glad that we decided to stay at the Lake Powell Resort. It is¬†a beautiful/well maintained resort and well priced so I highly recommend it! I would also recommend to go on¬†one of the boat¬†tours to¬†explore Glen Canyon.¬†It’s definitely worth checking out.

  

  

CHEESINESS ALERT!

This trip was memorable not only because of its spectacular¬†views but¬†also because of this ordinary guy who makes my heart smile! It’s a great feeling to be sharing these memorable moments with someone special. Looking forward to our many more memorable trips/moments together! ‚̧

IMG_3917

Taroko Gorge (late post but it’s better late than never:))

Taroko Gorge (late post but it’s better late than never:))

What a sight!

The view was breathtaking. I had to make this trip probably because I missed my hike to Machu Picchu too much. The withdraw to nature in the last few months was making me anxious to get back to it. Yeap and when I saw the pictures of this place, I mentally said to myself since you are illogical¬†enough to make a trip to Taiwan for a weekend then what’s with another day trip to another city?

Thank goodness the weather was good and I wasn’t welcomed with any rain. I flew with a 7am domestic flight and there was a tour guide to pick me up. There were a handful of people that joined the same tour. The tour bus was so empty. I have never been on an Asian tour with so few¬†people and it was awesome when you can have a whole row to yourself! ūüėÄ

The tour consists of Taroko Gateway, Tunnel of Nine Turns, Eternal¬†Spring Shrine, Swallow¬†Grotto, TienHsiang and ChiHsingTan Beach. ¬†I know most people enjoy visuals instead of written¬†explanations. So let¬†the pictures speak for itself… ūüôā

The view from the flight was really pretty!

IMG_7839

Taroko Gorge Gateway

IMG_8298 IMG_7864

Shakadang Trail

IMG_7931 IMG_7953 IMG_7970

Tunnel of Nine Turns and Swallow Grotto (Do you see the face? :))

IMG_7990 IMG_7974 IMG_8299

Kind mother bridge (playing with selfie stick can be confusing… hence the second pic >.<)

IMG_8259 IMG_8181 IMG_8186 IMG_8198 

Long spring bridge, Eternal Spring Shrine (so many red bridges)

IMG_8341 IMG_8384 IMG_8361 IMG_8436

TienHsiang, another bridge!

IMG_8282 IMG_8289

ChiHsingTan Beach

IMG_8404 IMG_8425 IMG_8406

Food I’ve indulged in the last few hours. Ahh I miss the food there, I’m hungry whenever I look at these pictures! I must avoid them at night. ¬†:S

IMG_8458 IMG_8452 IMG_8438 IMG_8464 IMG_8489

I highly recommend checking out this national park!¬†I didn’t get a chance to explore the trails so much since I was with a tour guide. I would have loved to hike around a bit more and explored¬†some of the other areas of the¬†park. ¬†I definitely want to go back for a revisit and give myself a bit more time to explore. ūüôā

My first 24 hours in Taipei

My first 24 hours in Taipei

ended up being my only time to check out Taipei.

The original plan was I had a full 48 hours to explore Taipei but that got changed when I saw a brochure of Taroko Gorge National Park. I was so mesmerized by the pictures so¬†I couldn’t¬†help it but booked a day trip there. This means I was left with¬†one day to explore Taipei and it was not nearly enough.

The best¬†way for me to maximize my one day in Taipei was to explore it with a tour group. I joined a morning tour that took me to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Martyr’s Shrine, National Palace Museum and some Traditional Taiwanese Temple. These places are perfect to check out with a tour group since¬†I wasn’t planning to spend hours at each and¬†they didn’t¬†take long to explore the important/interesting parts. ūüôā

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

IMG_7641 IMG_7638IMG_7629

Martyr’s Shrine, these soldiers were soaked in sweat standing in that heat! I felt¬†bad for them. :/

IMG_7572 IMG_7585 IMG_7596

Temple – forgot the name. um…

IMG_7541 IMG_7550 IMG_7552

National Palace Museum

IMG_7602 IMG_7605

I got back to the hotel at noon and decided to take an hour break. I was up at 6am and only slept for three hours. It was hard for me to fall asleep and stay asleep with the jet lag. I had a full afternoon of plans ahead of me. First I needed to get lunch, then check out the famous Taipei 101 tower and explore the surrounding area of Dong Men which is very well known for its eateries.

DIN TAI FUNG, I finally got¬†to visit the original location¬†and it was so fast to get seated for one! Perk of traveling alone!¬†ūüôā How could¬†I not have over ordered when I wanted to eat/try everything on the menu? Let’s just say I left with a food baby in my belly! XD

IMG_7647 IMG_7648 IMG_7652 IMG_7656 IMG_7657

The belly got spoiled and I decided to continue with the pampering with a hair blowout which consists of wash/massage/hair styling. It is so cheap in Taiwan. The whole experience lasted about an hour and it only cost me $300+$100 tip TWD! (~$13 USD) I loved how my hair looked afterwards but that put me a little behind schedule on my other plans.

IMG_7663 IMG_7669 IMG_7676

There was a huge line at Taipei 101 and I had to wait for an hour to be able to go up. I decided to explore the mall area downstairs that had all the high end brands. I really wanted to check out this high tea place but my poor stomach had absolutely no space. ūüė¶ I wish I ate less at DTF (first world problem!).

Finally made it up to Taipei 101 by 6:30pm and I told myself I had an hour before I have to leave to explore elsewhere. ¬†Once again, I didn’t go according to my schedule and also got greedy with the food court downstairs. I didn’t know most of the restaurants close by 9pm and I ended up missing this one beef noodle place (YongKong Beef Noodles) that I really wanted to try in DongMen! ūüė• I will have to save it for next time when I come back. However, I did cheer myself up with this amazing, fantastic, delicious shaved ice place I found! It was so good! Who needs beef when you can have green tea shaved ice with red bean topped off with Panna Cotta right? ūüôā

IMG_7686 IMG_7704 IMG_7716 IMG_7721 IMG_7737 IMG_7741 IMG_7784 IMG_7789 IMG_7792 IMG_7797 IMG_7760 IMG_7800 IMG_7820

By now, it was 10:30pm and I was getting really exhausted running on three hours rest. So I decided to head back and hoped that I could sleep a little more than I did the previous night. Adrenaline does wonders when you are excited and I was a bit too excited!

Let’s see how much I spent¬†for one day :

Tour : 1100  + Lunch : 580 + Hair : 400 + Taipei 101 : 500 + Food Court : 185 + Shaved Ice : 180 = 2945 TWD = ~100 USD

THIS IS PRETTY DARN GOOD! A whole day of fun only cost me 100 USD and I wasn’t even being¬†cautious with my spending either. ūüėÄ

If you were to use my one day expense to¬†calculate how much money you would need to¬†exchange when you are in Taipei, then you shouldn’t¬†need more than $100 USD per day minus shopping that is!¬†ūüôā

Taroko Gorge, that will need to be saved for another¬†post! ¬†Stay tuned… ūüôā