Chiang Mai, the hidden gem in Thailand

Hello, I’m back!

It’s been a while since I have blogged, maybe I have very little to talk about, or perhaps just too lazy to ‘be in the moment’ and document things a little lesser. Either WAY, I’m back – and fresh from a family vacation to Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai.

Traveling from anywhere in Asia, Chiang Mai is a great short weekend destination, and definitely have tons to offer. Here is a short guide on how you can spend 3 days in Chiang Mai at ease.

#Traveltips : Do go on a weekend, as I loveeee the Sunday Night Market. 1.5km of markets with very unique, different things to see, buy and eat.

There are tons of markets in  Chiang Mai, but most isn’t really worth the time (yes, I went to a few for a peek but to no satisfaction post going to the night market!).

Day 1 : Arrived in time for lunch or dinner, and fit in the night market! Wonderful place to eat, shop, and experience!

Day 2 : Start in the center – walk around the old town and you will be seeing temples after temples..but probably not all in 1 day! (You can, but it might be really tiring and you miss the little things that makes each unique!)

Day 3 : Take an excursion outside the city! We chose an Elephant sanctuary tour to get close to elephants without harming them in the making. Avoid riding them!!!! *check it out on Klook, or there are plenty of travel sites that offers them.

Day 4 :Back to temple time and go up the famous Doi Suthep! On a good day, you should be able to see the entire city pretty clearly. If you are into a good view, head up there!

I’ll be adding more details around each individual day and amazing food we have tried and tested, so check out my other posts on Chiang Mai!

Love,
Alyvds

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Pullman Phuket Arcadia , our favourite playground

So we got married at Pullman Phuket Arcadia a few years back, so coming back here was an amazing walk down memory lane (pun intended) along  the protected Naithon beach.

Firstly, we were welcome back with much love: a platter of fruits ornately arranged in a cubic shape, alongside with an actual cubic.

Main pool view
View from our room

We love the surrounding beaches too, from the Sirinat national park where we did some light snorkeling and Banana beach for some serious waves, and just lazy time in the pool.

Beach along Sirinat National park..

The breakfast spread in Pullman is amazing, from Bloody Mary stations, proper waffles, Thai noodle soup, ham, and many more.

Thai soup noodle
Ham. Enough said..

Bloody mary station

For cheaper food option, right along the beach are at least 10 Restaurants if not more. One of our favorite recurring ones are great for grill seafood and everything Thai : green and yellow curry, Tom yam, sticky rice, banana fritters, and more. Couldn’t go wrong even if you point randomly on the menu but they do serve some Russian food which we did not try. Nope, not in Thailand (at least for me).

Grill goodness~

Cashew chicken. Tomyum, Vege (half eaten cos I can’t keep their hands off!)
Mango sticky rice

All and all, the perfect weekend getaway.

TravelTips: Taxi is cheap to Pullman  but metered taxi

Check it out : www.pullmanphuketarcadia.com

Love,
Alyvdstravel

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Matsusaka beef : Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M, Osaka

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big foodie, and visiting Japan definitely satisfy much of that!

Two years back, I have made a trip to Kobe to experience the hyped Kobe beef, and the hype was indeed true. This time around, we set our goals to try out Matsusaka – the Japanese black beef, to see if we need a pitstop to Kobe. Boy, we were not disappointed. In fact, it was so great, that we did it twice!

We picked Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M, and picked the platters to share.

We chose the platter for tasting with 6 different parts that comes with vegetables as well.

Firstly, to grill the wonderful meat and vegetables, we use the fats for Matsusaka beef.

Amazing food in the making.
The garlic rice was awesome. Really simple, and great.

To mix it a little, we ordered the Japanese Black pork as well. It’s pretty good but no match for our love of Matsusaka beef.

Japanese black pork.

The room (all dining are private) was really small, so unfortunately the moment we ask if there was any table – the waiter eye us from top to bottom. We were lucky we fit the bill.

The second time, we visited the branch –  .We ordered the same platter, but with a few different parts in it. Just as good, just as fatty(the right amount) and delicious.

Their Yuzu sherbet was also really delicious, and I completely forgot about my reservation note – to celebrate my Mum’s birthday. The waitress came in with an awesome birthday cake/dessert – and made that day a really special evening.

Top notch on the services, and food – amazing and memorable.

#Traveltips : Make reservation to avoid disappointment ; because despite having quite a few branches, each can accommodate perhaps not more than 10 groups of guest.

Check them out : http://www.matsusaka-projects.com/english/
Price :~ 15,000 -20,000 yen per person.
Ambience : Cosy 
Rating : 4.8/5.0

Cheers,
Alyvdseats

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Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

On the last day of our Japan trip this year, we have a good half day to kill. I have always been a huge fan of Aquarium, and Osaka’s Kaiyukan is something special.

We took a short boat ride from Universal Studio via the Captain Line, and the ticket was slightly reduced when purchasing it with the Kaiyukan’s entrance fee.

The moment we enter, we were greeted by a beautiful walkway; tunnel-shaped tank with amazing rays and fishes.

Next, we took a quick escalator, going all the way up to the top, and move your way down slowly. Firstly, we saw the Japanese forest and see some of the tiny small-clawed otters, salamanders and crabs- before moving down towards the jewel of the aquarium.

The beauty. Star of the Aquarium.

From sea otters, seals, sea lion, capybara, penguins, to whale sharks. WHALE SHARKS!!!! The aquarium is definitely amazing to walk around , and the interactive exhibits was great for kids and adults(yes, touching sharks and rays, seeing ringed seals so close – that was amazing!!).

It takes a good 2 hours around the aquarium on a weekday ; possibly a little more over the weekend. I’ll definitely come back again in the future!

Look at Patrick Star~~~

#Traveltips : There are tons of luggage storage locker ( cost 700 yen for a big one) so it is quite convenient to make this our last stop before flying! Bigger and easier storage would be the ones before entering the aquarium outside the souvenir store.

Check them out : http://www.kaiyukan.com 

Location : 1-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato-ku, Osaka City 552-0022

Hours : 10.00am – 8.00 pm
Fee : 2,300 yen for adults, 1,200 for kids.
         2,700 yen with Captain Line ferry ride ,  one-way

Cheers,
Alyvds

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Pike place market , Seattle

Pike place is a market with charm from the 80s. Every store around it is a gem, with very authentic and marketplace buzz.

I particularly love the Beecher’cheese store, the spice shop, the many fruits and vegetables store, the pasta store, oh my it’s heaven for foodie!

Walking to the market from waterfront
the original (third?) starbucks with super huge queue…

Beecher’s cheese curd in the making..

The best mac n cheese~~ yummz~~

Pasta store with amazing, even exotic flavour~

Spice heaven here in MarketSpic

 

Variety of tea to choose from!

I can’t do justice with the amount of things I’ve seen and those that I’ve not had the chance to try out, so I’ll definitely put that on my list for a redo. There are many restaurants and musicians around, enough to make you spend many hours here exploring!

#Traveltips : If you really want to go to Starbucks, be sure to be really early as the queue gets ridiculously crazy!

#Traveltips: Get some light bites instead of sitting in a restaurant. Tons to  try – ie some of those fresh seafood, mac & cheese, and so much more!

Check it out : http://pikeplacemarket.org/

 

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Enmaru – The Altitude, Jakarta

Japanese food is one of my favorite cuisine in the world, and so when I was at Jakarta for business, I look frantically for it. Enmaru, at The Altitude was full of surprises to my palate, with a great ambiance and affordable price range.

One note-worthy dish is their Foie Gras Chawanmushi (~7SGD). It’s tiny but mighty ( literally the size of a shot). The yakiniku was great, and you can’t really go wrong randomly ordering from their menu (this, I’ve learnt)!

 

The bespoke, Foie gras chawanmushi ~
The bespoke, Foie gras chawanmushi ~
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Fresh sashimi!
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Beef toungue~
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3 style pork~
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Tender, juicy, duck~
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Juicy, lovely, sword fish fillet!

#TravelTips : I highly recommend making reservations for window seats, so you can enjoy great food and view at the same time.

About Enmaru
Location :Plaza Indonesia, Jakarta
Price: $$ ~SGD40/person without alcohol
Hours : 11am – 11pm (except for Friday)
Ambience : Fine dining
Rating : 4.6/5

Cheers,
Hungry Alyvds

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Wildlife spotting along Kinabatangan | Sandakan

Continuing our experience in Sabah with an amazingly easy and rewarding trip to Sandakan. (Check out Kota Kinabalu  too! )

I would say it is one of the best wildlife spotting experience I have ever had, thanks to an amazing group of guides( ours called Lat!) that went above and beyond to ensure we have the most memorable trip.

First and foremost, we start our trip at the conservatory for both Orang Utan, learnt a little about Sepilok’s conservation efforts and Orang Utan’s characteristics, and move on to the Sun Bear Conservatory, which was right next door.

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Wonderful orang utan in action! @sepilok – before going to Kinabatangan
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Wonderful, tiny little sun bear!

It was a pleasant ride the whole way with active engagement and funny facts and encounters from the guides. Onward, to the real deal.

We stayed at a lodge along the Kinabatangan river. The stay, experience and meal are all inclusive, and we went out on boats 3 times a day.

We saw tons of proboscis monkey, macaws, hornbills, wild Orang Utan (believe it or not , it is not the easiest thing to spot in the wild !) , different species of birds, crocodiles and snakes hanging above our head during our boat tours, and more. Wild boars running around the lodge area, as well as tree frogs on our door frame.

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Wild boar alert ! found during lunch~

You can say the whole thing was pretty WILD, and we love it. (shame that we were a little too far from the pgymy elephants 🙁 but someday I might return! )

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Spotting reptiles and birds along the river
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Quick stop to enjoy birds flying around us with a cuppa and biscuits…7am in the morning~
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Dominant male Orang Utan spotted in the jungle. #raresight
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Proboscis monkey, Proboscis monkey everywhere!
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A lucky still of a speedy Kingfisher!
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Its brown, but its rich!
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A misty morning at the lodge.

#TravelTips : Mosquito repellent (obviously) and binocular is a must! Pack light, and forget about snacks – you will be well fed if you are on the tour!

It was an unforgettable, easy trip that went above my expectations, so long you aren’t bothered by wildlife, mosquitoes, and none-ACed room

#TravelTips : Sandakan have this really unique Seafood Bak Kut Teh, so I’ll definitely be back for that!

Price per adult : ~RM 1700 (3D2N itinerary)
For more adventures , check this out!

Cheers,
AdventureAlyvds

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Kota Kinabalu | Island hopping

My in-laws were in town for about 2 weeks. This time around, Stef and I would liked to show them the beauty of Malaysia. We have decided to do a trip to Kota Kinabalu for the islands, Sandakan for the wildlife, and Kuantan – my home sweet home for a quick stroll. #visitmalaysia

First stop: Singapore – Kota Kinabalu

It was easy to get around Kota Kinabalu, taxi was cheap – and getting to the islands are super convenient. We walk to the Jetty from our hotel ; and chose Sapi Island for day 1.

Sapi Island was beautiful. The boat ride was slightly disappointing looking at the amount of rubbish and plastic bottles along the way , but the island itself was beautiful with pristine water.

There wasn’t too many shades, and the bigger part of the island was closed off. However, the snorkeling experience was breath-taking.


Day 2 : We chose Manukan island, and the cost and time took to the island was similar ( #Traveltips : there are no set pricing for the boat rides, so prepare to negotiate slightly below ticket price if you wish )

Manukan island is slightly more touristy as there are resorts on the island with better facilities in general. The beaches are nice, and I personally preferred the private beach as it is more beautiful to snorkel in. (#Traveltips : Beware of sea urchins, they are big and everywhere)

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It was easy and relaxing if you are en route to something else like climbing the mount KK or wildlife spotting.

Boat ride : RM 25 per person
Snorkel set : RM 20 per set
Conservation fee : RM 30 (you can go multiple islands with it )

#TravelTips : Haggle! Costing of boat ride dependent on your negotiation skills, but it’s not too much anyway.

Love,
TrippinAlyvds

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Rawa Island

For our annual company trip, #hootcamp, and this year it was at the wonderful Rawa Island, 30 minutes boat ride off Messing. I have been to plenty of islands in Malaysia, and this is definitely one of my favorite.

Let’s not talk about the journey to get there, as whatever that might be, pleasant or not ; it’s totally worth it once you’re there!

The island itself is small, with only two resorts ; one family friendly, the other party-animal friendly. We stayed at the family friendly one of course ( it looks much nicer and the food was amazing – check below for a variety )

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A whole lot of goodness!

The water was pristine, slides are super fun, and you can get amazing thai massages there ( it’s a must do!). There are peacocks everywhere and a resident beagle that is super adorable and friendly at parties.  Plenty of hammocks and beach chairs by the beach as well.

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#nofilter #noedit
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The gorgeous fun slide on the left~!

You can hike around the island in less than 30 minutes, but be prepared to go up hill quite a bit to see the full view of some island in the vicinity.

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The climb was worth it!

The favorite part of my trip was simply the snorkeling experiences. I can literally sit down on the ground, wear my goggles, and see fishes swimming around me. That’s how clear and how healthy the corals are. I did about 2 hours of snorkeling sessions too and spotted tons of amazing clams, sea cucumbers, corals, and fishes.  My only regret was that I did not bring an underwater camera to show what I mean.

The theme of the party was #pinktropics ; so the photos are amazing (all without any filter).Sunset was beautiful from the deck tucked along the hiking trail too. It was a great place to bond, simple and not overly luxurious – which makes it suitable for a quick getaway.

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Sunset from the deck~!

All and all, it was only a short trip from Singapore, and definitely a place I would revisit!

Cheers,
Sun-kissedAlyvds

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A trip down under| Margaret River and around

Quick itinerary view : 3 days 2 nights out of Perth
Perth – Fremantle – Margaret River – Mandurah – Penguin Island – Airport

I personally am a beach bum, so our day trips to wrap up our vacation was without a doubt the easiest to plan. We drove from Perth towards Margaret River, passing through Fremantle market, and back to Mandurah the day after for ease of going back to the airport. We took our own pace, enjoying one beach after another, strolling through vineyards, and do practically nothing at all (the best kind of vacation).

On the way from Perth, we drove through Fremantle to the famous Fremantle market. Parking was easy to find around the Fremantle prison, and the market was very accessible. There are quite a number of eateries within the market, and we tried a number of them – good’ol Australian breakfast, Spanish, Korean, German, Turkish, and more.

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Paella
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Fried chicken, waffle and ice cream! (best breakfast combo)

On the shopping side, it was not as interesting as I’d imagine it to be (most of the items can be found anywhere around South East Asia at a cheaper price). Other than that, we enjoyed the food and fruits, strolling around and soaking in the busy market atmosphere, and head on to Margaret River.

The drive towards our hotel was great. It was scenic, and we could easily stop and look at the amazing coastline, and was extremely happy to arrive at our villa for the night. The beach is right outside our villa, and so secluded there’s almost no one at all except for some surfers in a distance. 

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Beach near our villa..
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Home for the night

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We wander around and found a gem! An amazing Thai restaurant called Chang Thai, fully ran by Thai staff, homey and delicious !

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Next day, we drove to some caves and a beach, and immerse ourselves in some fun before spending a night in Mandurah at Hamelin Bay. Apparently you are able to see Stingrays coming close to the beach, but can’t attest to that.

#TravelTips : Caution, drive slowly or cautiously!! We saw a kangaroo crossed the road and wow it was HUGE! 

For our final day, we drove over to Penguin Island to visit the wonderful penguins and sea lion. The boat trip was really pleasant, superbly calm that you can opt to walk across to the island ( yes, I meant WALK! ) if you want to.

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After seeing the penguins on the island, we got on the glass-bottomed boat to see the sea lions. Getting in touch with nature in close proximity was nice, it was superbly hot, and we manage to get through the whole boat tour in time for lunch and to the airport.

Perth, I’ll be back someday! =)

Cheers,
CrickeyAly

Check it out : http://penguinisland.com.au/
Cost of boat tour : $38.50 / adult ; $29.50 / child

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