NOMA

NOMA Copenhagen

It felt like winning the lottery, when we found out we got ourselves a booking at the world’s Number 1 restaurant (currently No. 3 in 2015)! It really was difficult to contain our excitement and lower our expectation knowing that it’s the best restaurant; so honestly my emotions were just in such a mix of confusion I just didn’t know what to expect.

When we first stepped inside, we were literally welcomed by something like 10 staff standing at the reception; all smiling and eager to take us on this culinary journey. It was a very different start to another Top 10 restaurant I visited earlier in the trip.

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True to its concept, the interior felt incredibly organic and calming. Now I can’t possibly include all the 17 courses and matching wine in one post, but I’d love to show you some of my personal favourite dish and my thoughts.

NOMA Courses Colours

Fermented wild plums & wild beach roses

As NOMA operates on set menues, between the moment we sat down and the moment that our first dish landed in our plate, it was surprisingly fast. Our first dish reminded us of beetroot and it wasn’t quite like that. While it looks moist, it was actually quite crispy and light. Although I have to point out that all 17 courses were fairly light, otherwise we’d have difficulty making through 17 courses.

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The first shoots of the season with scallop marinade

Here’s the thing about top 10 restaurants, they are no longer just food, and they are no longer just experiences; each dish is an artwork. Carefully crafted by many men and women to arrive in front of us in the most exquisite manner. The charred fresh shoots were beautifully arranged on – what I can pretty much say with confidence – one of my favourite set of crockery, that have been brushed with scallop marinade. To be complete honest, it felt wildly organic yet indulgent.

NOMA dish may 2015

Cabbage and roses

I hope I’ve captured the delicate nature of these cabbage leaves. They were semi transparent leaves that felt like would disintegrate as soon as I touched them. Thankfully they held together long enough for me to get them to my mouth.

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Monkfish liver

This dish was made by first freezing the monkfish liver, then shaved onto this perfect grilled bread. How perfectly grilled? There’s a guy that standards at the grill and only puts on the grill two at a time. Just the right amount of fire…

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Here’s what you get with an AUS$600 meal: nothing short of perfection. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who are dedicated to their art and craft. While my friends and I laugh at the prospect of grilling two pieces of bread on a BBQ for a whole afternoon, we know perfection is not a laughing matter. It might be two crispy bread, but it was one of the most delicious bread I’ve ever had. Knowing someone carefully cooked it for me, makes me appreciate it even more.

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White asparagus, black current leaves and barley

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Lobster and nasturtium

Before we go on, I need all those vegans and vegetarians out there to stop reading here and just keep scrolling until you get to the bottom, because after you’d probably not like me after I describe this amazing dish.

This, ladies and gentlemen, might not look like much, but it’s simply the most exquisite lobster soup with leaves. When I say the most exquisite lobster soup, this isn’t cooked with water with lobster in it, oh no no, it’s lobster cooked until it’s disintegrated and liquified. Lobster soup cannot be more lobster than this soup. More of the work in progress photos later. Keep scrolling.

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Rhubarb and sheep milk yoghurt

This is how I NOT normally have my rhubarb and this is certainly not how I have any sheep milk yoghurt. It is one of the most refreshing thing I have ever tasted. And I that is perhaps one of the beauty and success of NOMA; it reimagines an ingredient and gives you its taste at its finest and purest form.

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Forest flavours, chocolate and egg liqueur

That’s the thing about well presented dishes, they look SOOOOOOO good I almost don’t want to eat it.

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The tour after the meal

I don’t know how we found out, but diners are able to request for a tour of the kitchen following their meals. You may or may not know that I LOVE the behind the scene stuff, so touring the kitchen was a HUGE deal for me. You see, only after you go through the behind the scene of NOMA you truly appreciate that this isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an institution. 
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Here’s the first thing that strikes me, IT IS SO CLEAN. It’s definitely a show room kitchen. I don’t know what these people use and what type of training they go through, but hell, it was so neat. These guys in the photo above are cutting up asparagus into thin two inch wide pieces. Look at that neat pile.

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Now I don’t know how you deal with lobsters, but I can barely keep my face clean when I’m EATING a lobster, let alone cooking one. Look at this work of art below, these guys are cleaning and sorting out the lobster for the 2 dishes that they will serve their patrons: Lobster soup (as shown earlier in the blog) and a lobster tail dish (not shown in this blog).

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Granted, this is a Scandinavian kitchen that’s been awarded No.1 restaurant in the world; and they deserve it in every category. Quite honestly, I imagined for the kitchen to have lobster guts spilling and water dripping all over place when it comes to cooking this crustacean, but there isn’t a tail out of place and a shell mismanaged.

Now the Ground floor showroom kitchen ends here, but the REAL behind the scene of behind the scene starts. Above the magnificent restaurant lies an even larger institution that makes NOMA, which houses a large kitchen preparation space, where any cook from the world can be an intern at their kitchen for 3 months;

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a communal lunch room, where they obviously use for prep. talk as well;

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their own green house;

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a library of food;

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a library of books;

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a creation space, where these artisans talk about what their next creation would be. These guys only use the freshest ingredients, that is, whatever is in season. While I was there, I was informed the next ingredient they were looking to incorporate is fresh peas. Ahhhh, just think about all the possibilities that peas could be other than mash….

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Annnnnd the big surprise, the main chef himself. Ta-da!

While we were there, we were fortunate enough to meet the man himself and talk to him about the many interesting concepts. Now that I know that he’s coming to Australia to house NOMA, everything he has said to me at the time has taken on a completely new meaning. Knowing that he lived in Australia for a period of time, and the fact that he brought NOMA to Tokyo, naturally we asked the one seemingly uneducated question any fan-girl fan-boy would ask: When is NOMA coming to Australia?

Looking back, Australia was obviously in the works and he would have been thinking about for quite some time. At the time though, we were seriously confused by his question to our question, which was: “What is Australian food? Australia is well known for your steak, so is Australian food a really good steak? But you can find good steak anywhere. What are some of Australia’s traditional food? What are some Australian traditions. We know there is an indigenous community in Australia that haven’t integrated very well into the society, and what if they had? How would that shape the food you know? “

At the time, we thought Rene was giving a round-about way of saying no. Who knew all these questions were part of a grander scheme. All in all though, I have to say this was a really eye-opening experience. I felt like I ate the essence of Nordic food in that 17 courses.

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Before I sign off I just want to leave you with this pictures which is the group of chefs and helpers preparing staff lunch. Quite honestly, it looks like the food I’ve been served at other fine dining restaurants. It’s not that NOMA captured me in just their food, and it certainly isn’t the price of the meal that surprised me, but it’s their utter dedication to their art and the intensity of the passion they have for culinary perfection. What a privilege to have been there and experience all of Rene Redzepi’s creations.

And borrowing words from Anton Ego, the incomparable food critic from ‘Ratatouille’, I look forward to (and really hope to go to) NOMA Australia, hungry for more.

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Iceland: The Destination Part II

Architecture
 Icelandic houses
Icelandic Architecture
Icelandic Architecture
Most of the structures I found in Iceland definitely fit into the nordic architecture I learnt about; thermal mass walls, pitched roof, small windows. Beautiful and clean, and slightly austere. And then, I’d drive along the beach (yes, beach in Iceland) and fine modern buildings like these:
architecture in Iceland
I love the geometric shapes of all this modern building sitting next to a very traditional church.
Not all churches are like the above, for example, there’s a little church in Reykjavik.
Church in Iceland Reykjavik
Iceland Reykjavik Church
 And by little, I mean not little at all. It’s so freaking amazing I’m pretty sure I stood there in front of the church repeating ‘OMG OMG OMG’ to myself. Which, considering it’s a church, is semi-appropriate. It’s a pity I never got to explore the interior of the church, because I can just imagine the incredible ceiling and workmanship.
Landscapes
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Iceland Hot River trek
Funny thing is, the vast landscape fuels the existential thoughts over many moments on the road. The empty land and the howling wind makes me question so many ridiculous things about life.
How did people start a fire here if the wind is so strong? Are the grass here constantly wet? Am I cold or just hungry?
Gelato or Ice Cream? What are the puffins thinking?
Iceland in Spring
Iceland
HOT SPRING!
Iceland hot springs
I can’t talk about going to Iceland without talking about the Hot Spring. Of the time that I spent over there, I can definitely say we found one of the best hot springs and I enjoyed the experience even more than the famous Blue Lagoon hot spring. Yep. Really.
Let me break it down for y’all. Hot springs are awesome. Hot springs with nice facilities are even better. Now, imagine those beautiful blue water filled with tourists, so it’s loud and it’s crowded. That’s what Blue Lagoon is like at times. Beautiful hote springs with great facilities are like a tourist magnet.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a was very nice experience probably because I had an in-water massage (which I don’t really know how I got through so smoothly, considering I have an irrational fear of water). You get these special mud to put on your face so you get to have a mini free facial while soaking up the sun in the warm water. Not only that, you can purchase beer from the bar in the middle of the pool!
I can honestly say it was a pretty cool experience.
Now, before I go onto to describe to you my favourite lagoon/hot spring experience, let me explain to you the process of getting ready to go into the lagoon. They have strict rules when cleaning yourself for getting into hot springs and swimming pools. I feel the need to explain this because during my research, it didn’t really come up; and while there were diagrams and signs, I didn’t know just how STRICT it was.
Follow these steps and do not jump backwards or skip the steps:
1. Leave your shoes/slippers outside of the change room
Once you enter the change room, you could essentially walk bare foot from shower to the hot springs and vice versa.
2. Use the bathroom
Of course, you don’t have to, but if you need to use the bathroom, now is the time
3. Undress and leave everything in the locker. IMPORTANT: Take your towel & swimmers with you!
You get fully undressed and take everything you think you need later with you. For example your sunnies and or hats. Don’t try to put your swimmer on at this point, but be sure to take them with you. You’re suppose to only put it on after you’ve washed yourself completely. This is a DRY area, so don’t come back to get your swimmers after you shower.
4. Hang up your towel & swimmers near the shower section
If you’re anything like me, you would have trouble undressing in front of strangers. So you’d be wrapping yourself in towel to minimise that awkward nakedness exposure. This is the moment to put away that towel and let your bare butt be cleansed like an Icelandic bather would want you to.
5. Wash yourself well. Every crevices and follicle MUST be washed well.
Get those shadowy areas washed. ‘Nuff said.
6. After you’ve scrubbed the SH*T out of yourself, you may put on your swimmer
You should have taken your swimmer with you before, so put it on. You are NOT ALLOWED to go back to the locker. Wet areas are wet. Dry areas shall remain dry.
7. Finally, it’s time for the hot spring!!!
Take your towel with you and enjoy the hot spring!
When you come back later, it’ll be that step completely reversed. The idea is, the wet area doesn’t mix with the dry. So if you’ve washed yourself, don’t walk back to the locker dripping wet.
 Hot springs in Iceland The Secret Lagoon
Now, The Secret Lagoon is the place I recommend if you want a more private experience.
We went to the Secret Lagoon on the day when we travelled around the Golden Circle. So it was after a night of sleeping in the camper van without shower…not the most memorable experience but still a special one. Then, after going to all these cold and wet sights, we arrived at this quaint little place with hardly anyone.
While their facilities aren’t as elaborate as the Blue Lagoon, the Secret Lagoon has all that you need and it’s CLEAN.
 The Secret Lagoon Iceland facilities
The lagoon is basically a large swimming pool with foam noodles provided!! So for a group of Australians who have endured 24 hours of 8 degrees celsius temperature, it was like heaven.
 Iceland hot spring locations
I will definitely go back, call me crazy, but the next time I go back it’ll be in winter. I can’t wait to see the northern lights and the landscape covered in snow. I completely and totally and absolutely recommend Iceland as a stop-over or even a destination to everyone.
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I’ll leave you with this picture of me on the morning of our second day. Standing at the top of a crater I felt like I could see the ends of the earth. Go forth earthlings. Iceland is to be explored.
 Iceland

Iceland : The Destination Part I

Iceland view from plane before landing
First of all, I have to say, you guys have no idea how long this post has taking me. Or maybe you do. I think people might have left and came back from their maternity leave and I’m STILL writing a post about Iceland. Anyway, we all know I can get lazy sometimes, but this one time it’s because there are just so many things to tell you. I couldn’t fit it all into one post, because it’d take you hours to load the photos and days to read it. So I’ve decided to separate it into two parts. So here it is:
For the longest time I don’t quite understand why people kept travel diaries, it all made sense when I started experiencing multiple mind blowing experiences in one day.
Iceland in Spring
 Iceland is absolutely amazing; it really deserves all the hype. From the valley to the hot spring, it’s really not something you’d see anywhere else. My 4 day camper van experience was nothing short of amazing.
To give you some context into how I travelled, we began the journey as a party of 10 in 2 camper vans. Note: great idea if you are travelling with people you are compatible with. Iceland is such a beautiful place everyone has lots of opinions and different ideas, so you all need to agree on decisions like to skip a waterfall and trek to a hot spring. The beauty of having two camper van was the freedom to split up. The other thing I need to explain is that we couldn’t go far because we had to return to Reykjavik half ways through the trip to pick up another member, that meant we only traveled around the south & southwest of Iceland. Still good, but touristy.
Now, the fun part of this post, what we saw.
For most of the first day, we travelled around the Golden Circle. I’ve put together a simple map for anyone who’s looking to do a short trip like me. Just FYI, I would definitely spend more time in Iceland and actually travel around the whole island if I could, but we’re bound by lots of different factors and were only able to travel down south.
Iceland The Golden Circle
We began with travelling around the Golden Circle. During the research stage I read sights around the Golden Circle can be seen throughout Iceland, but the route around the Golden Circle is just shorter. Don’t be surprised, it’ll be packed with tourist.
To start this whole thing off I’m going to introduce to you this waterfall. There are an abundant of waterfalls in Iceland, but this is the largest and the grandest I have seen. (Note: I haven’t been to Niagara Falls.)
The waterfall was enormous and it was so so cold. It might seem like a warm spring day in Iceland, but it’s colder than our Sydney winter. But then again so many places are colder than our Sydney winter. The ridiculous good weather meant we saw this magnificent waterfall against this blue sky and rainbow.
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Iceland Waterfall scene
Gullfoss Waterfall
 Images above: Gullfoss Waterfall
The Geysir
If you like nature doing amazing but random things, be sure to check out the Geysir. Honestly, I’ve seen blow holes before, but they’ll never cease to amaze me.
iceland geyser

The Geysir or also known as blow hole. #travel #iceland #onlyiniceland #instatravel

A video posted by Little Bennet (@littlebennet) on

The second day we drove outside of the Golden Circle and went further down south to this town called Vik. The town is basically two streets and it’s perhaps one of the smallest ‘towns’ I’ve been to so far in my travels. The most impressive thing around Vik is this place called Black Beach. We arrived at the Black Beach around 11pm and it is truly a sight. It was windy, cold and wet but this place was simply too amazing to stay inside our warm camper vans for.
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This wondrous place starts from the minute you step onto the beach. Instead of sand, the beach is full of wet and smooth black pebbles of different sizes. When you look straight down, all I can see are these perfectly round pebbles.
And juxtaposed with those pebbles are the caves that are made of these jagged rocks that almost resembles the Fortress of Solitude.
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It is too bad that I didn’t take a shot like this:
Star Trek Into Darkness
 If this was ANYWHERE on this planet to get a shot like that without dramatic lighting and a ton of photoshop after shot work, BLACK BEACH is it. Interestingly enough, some French television crew at the same idea. While we arrived on site, we saw a television crew preparing for some filming inside one of these caves.
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No doubt, I had to take some pebbles home with me to remember this experience. If you do end up taking the rocks back like I do, think about how you intend to display them before you take them back. Otherwise you might take 1kg worth of rocks back from Iceland and leave them on the shelf for couple of months.
There are so much more things to tell you about Iceland, including the architecture and most importantly – The HOT SPRINGS!!! Like I said at the beginning of the post, I had to put it into two posts because I don’t want you to spend an entire day waiting for the pictures to load and read through it.

London : Afternoon Tea

English people have tea. And one mustn’t think that tea is just TEA. It’s an event, an art form, a culture and above all a necessity. Well, when in London.

Truthfully, I hardly gave Sketch London a thought since the moment I booked it. You wouldn’t think it’s anything more than a place with comfy seats and delicate crockery but it is so much more. 

  

Sketch is almost like an art gallery that services food. A concept realised by chef Mourad ‘Momo’ Mazouz and his team of talents, an 18th century 9 Conduit St was converted into a combination of art, food and music. 

 From the moment I stepped into the building I was already overwhelmed by the art work in the hall way. And once I was led downstairs I was immediately drawn to the exotic and completely ornate rooms. 

   

It’s not a coincident that they decorated this entire room in a nature green theme, just as I was standing there I could feel a wave of pink surrounding me.

  
   
     

They had the loveliest pink velvet chairs that reminded me of the sponge fingers, and an extensive wall art by David Shrigley, which includes 239 frames of witty and funny sketches.

Even the crockery was trying to say something. You can purchase these handmade gems. You’re looking £100 for four tea cups and saucers. Not cheap, but neither are work of art.
These copper lamps and champagne glasses are exactly what I need at home.

   

And then there’s the food.  

 Here’s the thing, every single time before I enjoy afternoon or high teas like these, I always think there are so little food. These tiny cakes and sandwiches ain’t ever gonna fill this belly up! But every time I walk out of the place and feeling so stuffed that I feel like my belly is about to explode.

Everything is delicious. My special favourite is eclair that I think is hazelnut in case anyone is wondering.

We were fortunate enough to be seated next to the bar, and this picture should sum up the bar pretty well.

  

There is so much gold, copper and brass in here I was practically delirious with happiness. 

Now, under normal circumstances I wouldn’t ever mention the bathroom in a post like this. I’m going to make this post an exception. I knew I had to post about the bathroom about at the time when the lovely staff who directed me towards the bathroom and said ‘Take your camera.’


The first thing you would notice when going towards the bathroom is how prestine it is. It’s curved stairs is white. Blindingly white.
Just as you get mesmerised by the colourful glass tiles in the ceiling, you arrive at the bathroom complete with duck nest and eggs.
Each egg is a cubical and there isn’t a clear men and women, so I think it’s safe to assume it’s unisex.   

 

 Not only is the whole environment feels so far removed from the usual public bathrooms, there is even a staffed dressed up like a French maiden directing you. 

I thought it’s only appropriate to end this photo with a photo of me Instagramming, because that’s what I was doing the whole time I wasn’t eating or photographing. 

  
If you want afternoon tea just for food, go somewhere else. I’m sure you can find cheaper food elsewhere. But if you want an experience of food and art, all within a couple of wonderous hours, go to Sketch. You won’t regret it.

Packing for Europe

packing for europe trip

 

There is no doubt packing for travel is a fine art.
Everyone has a way of packing for travels and I always love to read or hear about how people do it; you never know what kind of great ideas you’ll pick up.

I have to say I really admire people who travel in a carry-on, and I’m not talking about a night away, I’m talking about 2-3 weeks long holiday. And if that’s how you want to travel then I’d suggest for you go take a look at Oh Happy Day for inspiration. For me, this trip isn’t just to a single destination and it isn’t just site seeing; the things that I pack have to work for me in temperature as low as 4 degrees Celsius, and as high as 23 degrees Celsius. Not only that, it needs to work for a wedding in Bergen and hiking in Iceland. As you may have figured out by the image above, I’ll be hitting 7 cities within 29 days and it’ll include a wedding in Bergen, a campervan trip around Iceland and a dinner at the famous NOMA in Copenhagen.

Thankfully, my work has been halved thanks to my travelling uniform. When I say ‘uniform’, I meant sets of outfits that I’d take regardless of where I go; they usually include pair of jeans, white shirt, white tee shirt, little black dress and a pair of flats. I try to bring items for the predictable weather, for everything else there’s MasterCard. (OMG I’ve been waiting to use that for so long!)
I’ve always liked the idea of landing with 2 empty suitcase and a pair of undies; then just purchase everything I need when I land. But sometimes it’s near impossible trying to find a long coat within 1 hour on a budget. Especially in places like Iceland, do you really want to hunt for a waterproof jacket instead of walking the glacier or getting pampered IN the Blue Lagoon????

So here are just a list of the things I’ll be bringing and the tips I’ve received from my friends.

packing list for europe in autumn

1. Trench Coat : Don’t even both to use the umbrella in London. There’s a reason why Burberry makes trench and it’s from England.
Try this trench from ASOS.

2. Coat : For dressy times like the wedding or my fancy dinner.
Try this coat from The Outnet.

3. Waterproof Jacket : Two friends who returned from Helsinki suggested that wearing a waterproof jacket is a MUST. Not water resistant jacket, but a waterproof one. It’ll all make sense when the rain flies horizontally towards your face.
Try this jacket from Amazon.

4. Shearling Jacket : I’ve trialed this in the Shanghai winter and it’s a life saver. I can’t go back.
Try this jacket from Neiman Marcus.

5. Black Blazer : You always need one. Ask Emmanuelle Alt.
Try any black blazer in Zara.

6. Navy Blazer : Part of my travel uniform and see above. Although I am considering culling this one and just take the black blazer. Need more time to consider.
Try any navy blazer in Zara.

7. Blue Smart Casual Dress Shirt : Part of my travel uniform.
Wouldn’t try any other than Uniqlo.

8. White Dress Shirt : Part of my travel uniform and I’d probably purchase another one when I’m there.
I get mine from Charles Tyrwhitt. Great quality and I can wear them without a slip.

9. Stripe Shirt : Who goes to Paris and NOT wear a stripe shirt? Lots of people. But this is my travel uniform.
Try this from Charles Tyrwhitt.

10. Long Sleeve White Shirt : I wear this out and as an undershirt. Also my travel uniform.
Try this basic shirt from Forever21.

11. White Tee Shirt : Should be self explanatory.
Try this basic shirt from Forever21.

12. Black Sweater : Just as versatile as my white shirt / tee.
Try this sweater from Country Road.

13. Grey Sweater : Similarly versatile, part of my travel uniform.
Try this sweater from Witchery.

14. Black Cardigan : I purchased mine from Zara men. It’s wonderfully oversized and warm substitute for a large coat.
Try this from Uniqlo.

15. Grey Turtleneck Sweater : If you too thinks wearing turtleneck is like someone really weak choking you throughout the day, then disregard this. If you don’t mind and would love to wear turtlenecks instead of wearing scarf and sweater, then carry on.
Try this from The Outnet.

16. Wrap Dress : Or any dress that looks flattering on you. Doesn’t have to be black or wrap. Just, a dress that makes you feel good. Also room around the waist to allow for rapid expansion of the mid-region of my body during a nice meal at NOMA.
Try this dress from Mytheresa.com

17. Black Trousers : Like a black jacket. I intend to wear this with my black jacket at the wedding instead of a dress. But then it can be dressed down with a white shirt and a pair of grey sneakers.
Try this pair from Matchesfashion.com

18. Black Tights : Let me make this very clear, I don’t wear this under a dress. Ever. It’s just a pair of thick skin tight pants or jegging.
Try this exact pair from Uniqlo.

19. Jeans : Believe it or not I don’t wear jeans that often, but it’s definitely a travel essential.
Try this pair from Seed Heritage.

20. White Pencil Skirt : Why white? Why pencil skirt? Because it’s feels a little more formal and less work than black.
Try this skirt from Saks Fifth Ave.

21. Swimsuit : From my research there are lots of natural hot springs around Iceland. I intend to visit them.
Try this from Anthropologie.

22. Black Flats : I wouldn’t know what to do without them. Another usual suspect of the travel essential team.
Try this from Shopbop.

23. Ankle Boots : So comfortable and stylish. Not my usual travel essential, but I’d take it with me when I travel to cold places.
Try this from Witchery.

24. Grey Sneakers : Biggest steal, that I got this pair from Target for $5. Usually I’d take an old pair of comfy shoes and wear it now during the trip, where I’d throw away just before I head home.
You can get a pair too!

25. Black Heels : Some people can get away with dressy flats, but I can’t imagine going to a Hen’s party in Berlin without heels. So I’ve opted for a pair of worn and comfy black heels and as oppose to a pair of sky-high neon pink pump.
Try this from Net-a-porter.

26. Large Blanket Scarf : This scarf saved me from the winter chill of Tokyo. I found it in a boutique shop somewhere in Tokyo and I’m hoping it’ll save me again from the winter chill of Bergen & Iceland. I could use this as a blanket if I really wanted to, that’s how big and thick it is.
Try this from Net-a-porter.

27. Grey Knit Scarf : Wrapping yourself inside a blanket isn’t a solution to everything. I’m thinking of dropping this one, since I’d probably survive with the blanket in the early part of the trip.
Try this from H&M.

28. Black Gloves : Stylish & practical. The only downside is we can’t take use our iPhones without taking it off!
Try this from The Outnet.

29. Beanie / Hat : I’m totally a hat person. I try to bring location appropriate hats with me. Considering I’m heading to mostly cold climate cities, I opted for a beanie.
Try this cap from Country Road if beanie isn’t your thing.

30. Belt : Something that goes well over your jackets, cardi, scarf or dress.
Try this from Country Road.

31. Carry All Tote : Sometimes, it’s just easier to throw it all in and go. This is the bag I bring on the plane, so it’s include all the I intend to get one soft enough so it can be a pillow, too.
Try this from Ever Lane.

32. Dressy Bag : This could be a clutch, a shoulder bag, a mini tote. Whatever that you use for a fancy dinner and it’s not entirely necessary.
Try this from Net-a-porter.

33. Everyday Bag : This could be a back pack, a small shoulder bag or in my case, a small tote. It’s whatever you’d use for your daily travels.
Try this from Longchamp.

Researching for Holiday: The Gathering

holiday research

Ah, Europe. The continent I’ve wanted to see for sooooooo long. Finally, I get to go this May for a luxurious month.

Now, people travel in many different ways (and I won’t even bother going into details about how different travel methods will affect your research), what I will say is after trying many different styles of travelling, I’ve finally found my style: Strolling with a purpose.

I have to say, it took many trips abroad, and many trial and errors for me to arrive at this point. I’ve tried not doing ANY research and just wing it. I’ve tried following excel spreadsheets (no kidding) that categorises NYC into food, sight and shopping. And I’ve definitely tried going with the guidebooks, that brought me (along with some sheer dumb luck) to the most amazing sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to in my life thus far. I’ve loved some aspects of those methods, even the spreadsheets. When I’m armed with spreadsheets worth of info, I’m not afraid of anything except for the single fact that I won’t be able to draw them out and put them back quick enough to pretend to be as a local.

This time, it’s a little different. I went nuts with the researching (FYI, I love researching for holidays) and the information gathering, and there’s no such thing as going to far for research you guys. I’ve literally asked everyone who have been to Europe for their itinerary; even the locksmith that works with me. I really love to hear stories about how people discovered a charming cafe in the corner of London; or how they happened upon the best bakery in Paris.

So what am I trying to tell you here? Stay with me, there’s a point here I promise. But first! A fun fact from Captain Obvious, everyone travel & plan their travels differently.

No doubt, everyone consider their way to be the best way to travel but some plan their trips around shopping, while others plan around eating. Here’s a fun and short anecdote: I turned up to NYC armed with information from my friends and their friends, then I traveled to 2 restaurants with raving reviews listed on this Bible of spreadsheet, and it was closed down. Was I devastated? Sure. Was I pissed? No. I should have checked if I really wanted to go.

That’s the point folks, regardless of what information you get (unless it’s a museum or a volcano which are unlikely to be relocated), check it first before you travel thousand of miles to see it.

One of the challenges I’ve had so far in my information gathering stage is for Iceland. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a shortage of information out there; but during the research, I realised there are so many suggested information that doesn’t apply to me. Whether it’s the route, or the number of days required, or even the time of year, some things just don’t apply to me! Then I decided there was only one way to do this: the old school way.

iceland holiday in may research

So I printed a map and comb through all the information to get to a somewhat reasonable plan for my 4 Day road trip in Iceland. While I can’t tell you what’s the best thing to do, I thought I’d share my version of how I plan my travels.


LONDON-map-with-tourist-attractions

The absolute first thing I’ve done when researching is marking all the locations I’d like to see, then I’d travel to a district a day and spend the entire day slowly meandering through the streets and gaps. Perhaps I might not get to see everything I intend to, but at least I’d get to see parts of London really well. And maybe it’s just me, but I feel more relaxed knowing that I don’t have to rush from tourist attraction to tourist attraction.

Then I move onto something with a little more detail. Since all the Europe ones are still work in progress, I’ll show you something I’ve made a little earlier: NYC.

new york travel planning itinerary

Sure that’s going a little excessive, but when travelling to places like New York and London, I have a serious case of FOMO; so I let OCD self run wild and colour code my spreadsheets. So in about few weeks I’ll probably update you with more information I found about Iceland, but until then, I’ll be mapping out Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin.

 So that’s it. I hope now that I’ve shown you the maps & spreadsheet, it may inspire you to plan your own adventure. Then come back and we can talk about why our own methods are better.

Happy Hump Day!

Happy Hump Day!

I’d like to think I have a little bit of a green thumb, I mean a little bit because I’ve only killed 2 plants in the last year and I consider that a win.

Now I’m in the process of actually combining all my little terrariums together (and when I say ‘in the process’, I’m at a contemplative stage), which means I’m on the lookout for some very interesting terrariums and planters. I think either one of those can work. I’ve seen the bottom terrarium in real life, and it’s AMAZING. It’s such an organic shape it’s my preferred terrarium right now.

Top: Miniature Concrete Planter {A+R}

Bottom: Wood + Glass Terrarium {West Elm}

Shanghai in 3 Days

China Shanghai

This time I went to Shanghai at short notice and wasn’t able to do a lot of planning; but we did achieve a reasonable amount and tried quite a number of interesting things.

Accommodation

Shanghai Airbnb Accommodation

There are many aspects to shanghai; you could experience both an old and new city at the same time. We stayed at an Airbnb accommodation in the middle of a shopping district. To give you a very quick reference, it’s right next to West Nanjing Rd Station (each red dot is a subway station). The we stayed around the blue line area, but that’s not the ENTIRE shopping street; the shopping district continues, pretty much almost all the way down past the last subway station before The Bund.

shanghai shopping map

I’m pretty happy I stayed in that district, because it was just so convenient. Apart from the high end department store, it was also close to Sephora, Uniqlo, H&M and most importantly, what I’ll show you later, the amazing small local eateries.

shanghai shopping district
Image Above: West Nanjing Road (shopping street) during the day

West Nanjing Road Shanghai shopping district
Image Above: West Nanjing Road (shopping street) at night

Food

Food in Shanghai

I have to say, one of the thing I look forward to the most when I go to China is the food. Chinese people are all ABOUT THE FOOD! And it’s fantastic! While there isn’t a really big coffee culture, I have to say it’s getting better. Let me introduce you to a few things that you HAVE to try in Shanghai.

Chinese Crepe Jian Bing

Chinese Crepes. NOM NOM NOM! It’s a savoury crepe and people tend to have this with their soy milk as their breakfast. It cost $4 RMB and it’s oh so delicious. While there aren’t as many Chinese crepe makers as there are convenience stores, but there are still an abundance of them around.

Mini wonton Food in Shanghai

I can eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days straight.

It’s hard to say what’s a “good” mini wonton place because it’s different taste for everyone, but I had the one above here and it was pretty packed when we went.

Mini Wonton location in shanghai

Marble Egg in Shanghai

Thankfully, you don’t have to go far to get this Marble Egg, you can get it from most convenience stores. I think it’s everywhere because it’s something EVERY Shanghainese would eat, and it’s cheap and delicious. So naturally, it’s a favourite.

Sure, there are lots of other very traditional Shanghainese dishes, but you’d have to go to proper restaurants to try those and the list would be ENDLESS. But let me tell you one thing about typical Shanghainese food, specifically Shanghainese: There are a lot of bones and shells. You’ll see lots of mini snails, mini prawns, little crabs, boney chicken & duck. Like this dish:

River Snails delicacy in shanghai

This is not a delicacy, it’s a street food and can be ordered at restaurants. If you’ve never tried, I’d suggest to not attempt this without the help of a local. Mostly so that a local can show you which part can be eaten, and which can’t.

Attractions

Considering we had limited time, I didn’t get to go to that many places, but I still got a chance to hit a few attractions. I won’t show you the typical stuff you’d find on TimeOut or Trip Advisor; these three places I’m going to show you are place you won’t think of going when you’re in Shanghai.

Feng Jing Old Town

About an hour and half outside of Shanghai city is a city called Feng Jing.
You can get there by bus and it’s a place most residents of Shanghai would know about, so you should get good directions when you’re lost.
It’s not one of those places you’d think of going if you’re not a local (I had to go with family), but I have to say I really enjoyed the atmosphere. It wasn’t full of tourists and people were more relaxed. I didn’t get a chance to walk the entire town, but it’s not small.Feng Jing Old Town near Shanghai Chinese Old Towns

IMG_5188

chinese old heritage towns

Considering I spent the first decade of my life in Shanghai, I couldn’t go pass these delicious Stinky Tofu.
Yes, I do think they are delicious. 

stinky tofu food in china street food

Don’t worry, if stinky tofu is not your thing, you can find lots of other delicious and acceptable things to try.

People always say Chinese are bad drivers, because we do crazy things on the road. Well, I beg to differ; we’re just quick thinkers and very adaptable. I mean, look at this guy here, how else do you want him to move these enormous and awkward sized card boards?

 chinese riding a scooter

Jing An Temple

Jing An Temple shanghai attraction

If you REALLY want to feel what it’s like being a typical Chinese, then you should visit a popular temple like the Jing An Temple of Shanghai.
Going to the temple and say your prayers to the various Gods are no longer JUST a religious event, it’s now a Chinese culture.

03

When you do get a moment to breath through the smoke of incense, or the heat of all the people, look anywhere and you’d be able to admire the work of art around you.

I’ve been told that everything is handmade, and some of those things have been there for hundreds of years.

Jing An Temple

If you don’t have a tour guide with you, I’d say read up on some rules before going in.
Beside the usual rules at religious buildings, here are a 3 things I was told since very young:

1. You should never buy, or light up someone else’s incense for them.
Incense is an extension of someone’s respect for the Gods, so you should let that person show it themselves.

2. Don’t blow out the fire on the incense with your mouth. Do it with your hand.
I believe it’s dis respectable to blow it out with your mouth. 

3. Don’t ever stand on the door ledges. NEVER. EVER.
I was never told the reason behind this one, but I’m going to guess that it’s probably to do bad luck.

Jing An Temple 03

Shanghai Antique Market

shanghai antique market dong tai antique market

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an unhealthy passion for antiques. I don’t know much, but I just really like looking at antique stuff.
So no doubt, with a few hours to spare, I HAD to check out the antique market in Shanghai.

shanghai antique market

antique market in shanghai

Long story short, it’s not great as an antique market, but it’s a great place to get souvenirs if your friends are into this kind of stuff.
Everything is fake. Even that painting cost $5,000 RMB it’s a fake; but check it out anyway, you might find lots of things to take home for friends.

Unfortunately, I didn’t walk away with anything, but that was because luggage space was limited and I just did not have the energy to bargain.
If I did feel like bring things home, I’d probably go for one of these cars. While I wouldn’t say they are very “Chinese”, you are more likely to get a cheaper price here than anywhere else.

shanghai antique market

Or you could try one of these, but then not everyone is into the figurines.

figurings chinese antique market

So, that’s my 5 days loosely documented.

It’s hard for me to describe or recommend Shanghai; I spent my first decade there so there are a lot of things I still remember and love, yet I rarely go back and I hardly recognise some of areas I frequented but have been completely redeveloped.

Although I might not go back for a while, I definitely look forward to the next time I get to have some more mini wontons…

For other inspirations to travelling in China, check out these sites:

Oh Happy Day

This Is Glamorous

Reiss

The Glamourai

Happy New Year!

2015

Happy New Year everyone! I know we’re into the 3rd week of January 2015 and the new internet sensations have probably started and died, and here I am wishing everyone a happy new year.

Truth is, the last month hasn’t been the easiest for me. Long story short, during my Christmas holiday, I was told my grandmother passed away and I had to fly back to Shanghai as soon as possible. Once I got to Shanghai, I received the sad news that one of my guinea pig passed away.

While I can’t accurately describe what I feel, I’m just so grateful for everything that I have and the wonderful people that are around me who made this less than pleasant experience as easy as it possibly can be.

So I spent majority of Sydney’s New Year’s eve on the plane, and the early morning of 2015 new year unpacking my suitcase. I hope everyone else had a better start to the year than I did; if you too had a rough start, I hope you are blessed with friends and family who helped you through the tough times.