My Time Capsule: May 2013

30.5.13

Hokkaido: Things To Do In Mombetsu

Japan, February 2013

Garinko-go II
Some little facts about Mombetsu, it's a city in the northeast of Hokkaido. The name Mombetsu came from "Moupetto" (calm river), a word of aboriginal Ainus of Hokkaido. I did some quick research before my trip to Hokkaido since I've never heard about a city called Mombetsu before. I found out that their specialities is crab which is reputably the best in Japan. Monbetsu is also famous for drift ice, a yearly phenomenon which reaches the city every January or February from the northern Sea of Okhotsk.

So what to do in Mombetsu ?

road trip to Mombetsu
1. Icebreaker Cruise

I was lucky to be in Mombetsu during winter and the yearly Drift Ice Festival, so I was able to experience the icebreaker cruise (January to March only). The name of the ship is Garinko-go II, used to pave the way for nautical routes so that other ships could still use the freezing oceans in winter to transport cargo. It was awesome and fun.....apart from freezing cold weather. I insisted to stay on the open deck during whole trip (more than 1 hour), because I want to take pictures. It was snowing quite hard during the cruise and the temperature drop to minus 18C. I was shivering and wet. My face was frozen that I couldn't smile, as if I've done too many botox, lol. My hands looked really red and it was hard to move even to press the shutter button. Glad I did that though, had I spent my time in the warm and cosy cabin, I wouldn't see and experience much. I love hearing the sound of ice cracking and breaking up.


on board the cruise



2. Seal Conservation Centre

Okhotsk Tokkari Centre
As soon as I arrived here, I jumped out the car then run gleefully into the building.....left my family behind and forgot about them. Yeah, it happens a lot when I see cute animals and I want to pet them :p
But it's not everyday I can pet a seal, right ? Not only one but there are about 30 beautiful seals which are called "Goma-Chan". Their fave food is Hokke fish, another speciality from Hokkaido.



gimme some fooood

make friends with some adorable seals



3. Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum

low temperature simulation
It's a hands-on science centre where you can learn the nature, culture and life of the area in a mysterious manner, and provides a wide range of information about sea ice, including the formation of sea ice and its correlation with global-scale climate changes. One interesting section is the low temperature simulation room which the temperature is minus 20C. I was confused when the staff handed a wet towel to me. I thought I was asked to wipe my hands with it. Turned out it was a demo tool. The staff asked me to swing the wet towel in the air and within seconds the towel became dry and frozen. Cool, huh! I need this kind of room to dry my laundry in a blink of an eye :p

Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum


4. Okhotsk Tower

Okhotsk Tower

It's the first underwater drift ice observatory in the world. There's a a 360-degree observation lounge on the third floor, where you can see all the way from the sea to the Shiretoko Mountain as well as an outdoor balcony cafe. But most important we can see all kinds of sea creatures in their natural habitat all year round.

"whatcha lookin at ?" said the angry looking crab

It's where I first saw the tiny transparent sea creature called Sea Angels. I haven't even heard about this creature before. I was so curious and when I finally caught a glimpse of it, I was in love. To me, sea angels are such beautiful creatures. They can only live in cold water with temperature between minus 2 to minus 10 Celsius. They "fly" in the water in a graceful moves using their 2 wings alike, thus they're called Sea Angels. I just couldn't get enough looking at them.

beautiful Sea Angels

the smoking snowman

5. Mochi Making

I was staying at an onsen resort called Mombetsu Prince Hotel. At night they have an interesting program, the mochi making. So those who want to participate should wear this cute outfit including the headband. And will be given the chance for pounding mochi while others shouting "Yosh!" as a rhythm for pounding. It was quite heavy but so much fun. And the mochi was delicious.

mochi making

Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Mombetsu. Also I found the people were generally very friendly. It still amazes me that when we were checking out from hotel, the hotel manager and staff send us to parking lot then bowed several times and waved their hands until our car disappeared from their sight. It touched my heart, seriously. I've never had that kind of kindness in any other countries.

To end this post, here's a short shaky video of the icebreaker cruise. Cheers :)


23.5.13

Poland: Warsaw Through My Eyes

Poland, September 2011

Warsaw
Unlike Paris, the famous city that lots of people would do anything to visit.....Warsaw is a bit out of radar, well at least my radar. Because as far as I can remember, I've never heard my friends or people saying they really want to go to Warsaw or raving about how special this city is. So I didn't expect much when I plan to visit this capital and largest city of Poland.

Relax and calm atmosphere, those words came to my mind when I was walking around the city. It's a busy city but not hectic, in fact Warsaw is a green city with almost ¼ of its area is comprised of fields, parks, green squares and lush gardens. I spent most of my day walking around to explore some beautiful places like Lanzieki Palace, Chopin Memorial Park and the Old Town. When I got tired, I just sat on one of those park benches or taking pictures of random things that catch my attention.


Lazienki Palace

city tram

Chopin Memorial Park

cobblestone street



Church of the Holy Cross



The oldest historic district of the city which is called The Old Town, is bounded by Wybrzeże Gdańskie,
along the bank of the Vistula, and by Grodzka, Mostowa and Podwale Streets. Since I'm not a fan of modern buildings,  every time I travel to any cities I've never been before, I tend to search where the old town is. Specially in Europe, I love spending my time wandering around the cobblestone street and admiring the medieval architecture. So when I went to Warsaw, I just had to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town Market Place. People were enjoying the warm sunshine in one of the cafes and some kids were chasing pigeons while laughing gleefully. Seriously, I just wanted to spend my whole day there.



Warsaw Old Town


the painter
In the end, I found myself falling in love with this pretty city....

16.5.13

The Food In Laos


This is a guest post written by Adam (@PergiDulu) one half of a travelling couple who blog at PergiDulu and Baca Resep Dulu

The first guest post on my blog comes from my favourite travelling couple Adam (Australian) and Susan (Indonesian). I've been following their blog since long time ago because they post great stuff. Please follow their twitter (@Pergidulu) and their blog PergiDulu to get interesting updates. This is a delicious post about the food in Laos. Do not read this post on an empty stomach :p

It’s no secret that we love food, so one of the things we do when we travel is try to taste as many of the local foods as possible. But we don’t just eat local food. We like to try all different types of food, just so long as it’s good.  

amazing noddle soup

 In Laos, local food is available everywhere at any time of the day. The main dishes are things like noodle soup, BBQed meat, fried rice and sticky rice. Normal fluffy white rice that you find in the rest of Asia isn’t a
available as often.


meat and fluffy white rice

sticky rice drenched in coconut milk

 If you really want to learn about Lao food when in Laos, the best way is to take a cooking class and one of the best cooking classes in the country is located in LuangPrabang and is called Tamarind. At Tamarind, you get to prepare a range of local dishes in a clean environment. We had the opportunity to prepare a couple of jeows (dips), a fragrant stick of lemongrass stuffed with minced chicken, fish in banana leaf, the famous Lao dish laap and black sticky rice with coconut milk, similar to ketan hitam in Indonesia.


Chicken stuffed lemongrass

black sticky rice

 Aside from all of this local food, in towns such as Luang Prabang and Vientiane there are a lot of other styles of food which are delicious. Because of the French influence in Laos, you tend to get fantastic bread and pastries. We also indulged in some fantastic croque monsieurs, croissants and tarts. Mmm….


delicious pastries in Luang Prabang

lemon tart in Luang Prabang

 But what else is there? Well, funnily enough, you’re also able to find a lot of Indian food in Laos. Even in some of the smaller towns we found Indian food and some of it was incredibly tasty. Our favourite was from Nisha in the town of Phonsavan. Simple but tasty Indian food in a basic restaurant.

Sometimes in more remote parts of Laos you really do have to eat like a local and this is sometimes a little difficult if you don’t know what it is you’re eating. We generally stuck to fried rice and noodle soup in these situations as well some awesome rice porridge.


fried rice is everywhere in Laos

one of the better soups in Laos

rice porridge

If all else fails in Laos, it’s almost always possible to get a baguette with some fresh herbs and vegetables and some meat of your choice. They’ll fill the hole in your belly and keep you going until you find something else you might want. 


baguette and jam

delicious sandwich in Vientiane

 So the food of Laos really is quite diverse. The local food may not be to everyone’s tastes, but most people will find something to their liking, especially when in the bigger towns like Luang Prabang. 
Hungry?

10.5.13

Indonesia: Babi Guling, The Famous Balinese Food

When you're in Bali and ask the local what's the special food of Bali, I bet most of them will answer "Babi Guling" or suckling pig. The pig is typically stuffed with a spicy concoction which is made from finely chopped of shallot, garlic, turmeric, cloves, ginger, chillies, coriander, pepper and salt. It's then mixed with coconut oil and sometimes added with cassava leaves. The method of cooking is traditionally spit-roasted over a fire charcoal until perfection, for about 2 hours. In my opinion the young suckling pig tastes the best because the meat is tender and not too much layers of fat.

traditional Babi Guling warung (stall)

Normally one portion babi guling consisting of slices of meat, skin, fried intestine, urutan (Balinese style pork sausage), pork satay, rice and lawar. Lawar made from chopped green beans and boiled young jack fruit then mixed with grated coconut and some spices such as ginger, turmeric, garlic, shallot, pepper, galangal and salt. There are 2 types of lawar which are lawar merah or red lawar (mixed with pig blood) and lawar putih or white lawar (without blood).

Babi guling can be found easily almost in every part of Bali from warung style (Indonesian traditional stall) to restaurant establishment. I won't say that I'm a babi guling expert but until now I think I have tried more than 30 babi guling warungs in Bali. I like to explore new babi guling warung so I can taste the difference from one to another.

Here's some review of babi guling warungs that I've tasted. All the opinion and scores are based on my picky and fussy taste buds. What I find delicious does not mean you will like it. And vice versa.



Babi guling Ratni
Babi Guling Ratni [3 / 5]

At Pasar Senggol Gianyar, you might have a hard time to choose which babi guling stall to eat in, since there are more than 10 babi guling stalls there. Babi guling Ratni seems like always has more customer than others. The pork skin is crunchy with a thin layer of fat, while the sliced pork is tasty. It’s accompanied with blood sausage, tum (chicken in Balinese spices and shredded coconut steamed in banana leaf) and pork crackers. Sate lilit (satay which is made from minced fish) is a bit bland. The soup is very spicy and a bit oily.



Babi guling Ibu Oka
Babi Guling Ibu Oka [2.5 / 5]

Babi guling Oka in Ubud is the most famous babi guling in Bali specially among tourist. Unfortunately I don’t find the authentic taste of Balinese babi guling here. It used to be my fave babi guling for quite long. But few weeks ago when I eat here with some of my Balinese friends, I noticed that the quality has drop significantly. I'm not sure if it was not my lucky day or they have changed the standard to fit the tourists preference. I even asked my local friends if the taste has changed or is it my taste buds suddenly went numb, and they said they were actually disappointed too. I sadly think it has lost its originality and became a crowd pleaser instead.

The meat are quite thick but a bit dry and tastes bland. The seasoning sauce is tasteless. I was expecting to get lawar but instead the babi guling is accompanied with big chunks of green chayote which is cooked in curry like yellowish sauce and also urap (vegetables mixed with grated coconut). The crackling is well seasoned and crispy. Best part would be the fried pork intestine which is crunchy and tasty.



Babi guling Sanur
Babi Guling Sanur [3.5 / 5]


Unlike other warungs, the lawar in babi guling Sanur consisting of ample chopped meat and has a zesty smell from lime. I love it. Generous portion of pork with some layers of fat, topped with quite strong seasoning. The pork skin is crunchy but a bit thick compares to other warung, with a layer of fat that melt on your tongue. Tasty sate with tender meat which tastes sweet and peppery in the same time. The broth based soup is thick and spicy but a bit oily




Babi guling Bundaran Renon
Babi Guling Bundaran Renon [3 / 5]


Been on business since 1988, Babi Guling Bundaran Renon is quite popular and have their loyal customers.  The pork is juicy but slightly tough while the seasoning has quite strong taste of herbs and salty.  Sate lilit (sate made from minced fish and chicken) is tasty. Tum ayam (chicken in Balinese spices and shredded coconut steamed in banana leaf) is a bit bland. The soup is clear and mild with some pork meatballs.  Lawar tastes mild and sweet




Babi guling Chandra
Babi Guling Chandra [2 / 5]


Babi guling Chandra is the second most famous babi guling in Bali after babi guling Ibu Oka, its quite well known among Asian tourist. Unfortunately I don't understand what the hype is about. Slices of pork are quite thick but tastes bland and dry. In the other hand the seasoning sauce is too salty. Lawar is a bit too greasy and taste mild. Soup is clear and salty. The only think that I find good would be the sate lilit (made from minced chicken and fish) and sate babi merah (reddish pork satay) which are well seasoned, tender and tasty.




Babi guling Handayani
Babi Guling Handayani [4 / 5]

Despite of located on the main road of By Pass Ngurah Rai, Tohpati, babi guling Handayani seems like out from tourist radar. Everyday it’s packed with locals who queue to savour the roasted pork. At a first glance, the meat looks quite pale compares to other babi guling. But it’s actually tasty and tender with not too much fat. The best part would be the crackling pork skin. The lawar (mix of vegetable, coconut and meat) is a bit oily and spicy with a hint of lime juice. Unfortunately the jukut ares (soup made from young banana tree) is a bit too salty and hot for my taste buds.  Sate lilit (made from minced fish) is smooth and tastes mild.



Babi guling Pak Dobil
Babi Guling Pak Dobil [4.5 / 5]


Opened since 1980, warung Pak Dobil is another well known babi guling in Bali, worth to try. Well marinated slices pork which are tender and juicy topped with a crispy tasty skin. The sauce is not overly spicy but the sambal mbeh (fried garlic chili) is quite mean for the taste buds.  The lawar tastes mild and succulent.  Compare to other babi guling eatery, warung pak Dobil serves bigger portion of jukut ares (soup made from young banana tree) with generous chunks of pork ribs. The sate babi (pork sate) is mellow and flavorful. Babi guling Pak Dobil has won my heart (or my taste buds) and now is my most favourite babi guling in Bali.


One rainy morning I arrived too early at a babi guling warung. I was waiting outside the closing doors when the owner was kind enough to invite me in, asking me to wait inside their house. I was lead to the backyard where they were doing the last preparation before serving the babi guling
Please enjoy my amateur video :)






Have you ever tried babi guling in Bali ? Which one is your favourite ?

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