Thursday, 20 June 2013

Go Vietnam!

As promised I will share my travels with you and would like to start with one of my favorites: Vietnam!
I lived in Hong Kong at that time and took a direct flight with Dragonair to Hanoi. It takes about 30 minutes from the airport to arrive in the city. The best option to stay is the Sofitel Metropole Hotel, in the Hoan Kiem district. This 5-star colonial hotel has beautiful rooms with high ceilings and elegant interiors. The location is perfect (walking distance from the city centre), it has good restaurants, a nice spa, a gorgeous pool and a great outside bar to relax after a day walking in dusty Hanoi. Would you like to spend less money, but still want a great location, than Hanoi Elegance boutique hotel is a good choice. The family room is big enough for two adults and two kids and the breakfast is great. You will not have a pool or a nice bar to relax, but you can always walk to the Sofitel Metropole Hotel and order a cocktail at their bar! To spend your time in Hanoi it's just great to walk through the old city centre, visit the beautiful galleries and great little shops, check out the wet markets and taste the delicious street food. The Temple of Literature is worth visiting but skip the zoo, there are not many animals, it's too busy and a bit poor. Hanoi has plenty of nice restaurants. Madame Hien and the Green Tangerine are definitely my favorites, just try them out! Oh and before you leave this interesting city, do not forget to see the Water Puppets show... Cheap and silly, but a must-do!
The deck
After spending two days in Hanoi we were picked up by the people of Paradise Cruises Halong Bay, where we booked a night on the Paradise Peak, a beautiful 5 star Vietnamese junk! The trip from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay takes about 5 hours, but after 3 hours we made a stop at Yen Duc Village. Good to stretch your legs, experience the local village life and have the most delicious fresh healthy lunch you can think of before you continue the drive to Ha Long Bay. This is all worth it as the moment you have checked into your cabin and the boat has left the wharf, you will feel all the hustle and bustle from Hanoi sliding of your shoulders. Ha Long Bay is a Unesco World Heritage site. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes, which makes this one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The serene and peaceful feeling you will get when sailing through these huge and amazing isles, is something I will never forget. Especially when you wake up and you open the curtains it feels you are still in a dream... Besides the pretty surroundings, the Paradise Peak junk is an amazing experience as well. Each cabin has it's own private butler, you will have breakfast, lunch, cocktails and candle light diners on the deck, you can go kayaking and visit impressive caves or you can indulge yourself with a relaxing spa treatment. After two days on the water and saying goodbye to the friendly crew, your driver will bring you back to Hanoi airport, where your journey continues...
Ha Long Bay
The Paradise Peak
From Hanoi you can take a flight to Da Nang with Vietnam Airlines. This only takes an hour and from there another 30 minutes to your hotel in Hoi An. We stayed at the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort, which I can highly recommend! The resort consists of small village-like houses, has it's own private beach, a beautiful large pool and is located only 5 minutes from the ancient town. Hoi An, also listed on the Unesco World Heritage list, is a colorful little town full of fine restaurants, galleries, great architecture, cheap tailors and beautiful shops. This last part of your trip to Vietnam gives you time to relax at the pool or the beach, eat delicious Vietnamese food and experience the kindness of the locals of this delightful little town!
Victoria Beach Resort
Hoi An
Local life

Then it's time to go home. Or... instead of flying back via Hanoi you can also fly from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)! Just spend a few days in this interesting city and then fly back home! Just an idea...

Friday, 14 June 2013

Just too good not to mention!

This is absolutely not a hidden gem but just something too good not to mention. I am talking about Bills. This well-known restaurant is located in Darlinghurst, Surry Hills and Woollahra. After Sydney, owner Bill Granger also opened his Bills in Japan and the UK. Besides his restaurants Bill is also famous for his amazing cookbooks and his popular tv series viewed worldwide. But actually all of this is not the reason why I want to mention Bills. Last week I finally had my first brekkie at his cafe in Darlinghurst. I was not only completely in love with the relaxed atmosphere and the gorgeous interior, it was the food and the coffee what really blew me away! This sour cherry-apple loaf with ricotta and honey, combined with my strong Piccolo, was so good that it is definitely worth mentioning. That's why!

Monday, 10 June 2013

What's in a name of the perfect cup of coffee?

It took me 10 months living in Sydney to find the name for my perfect coffee. I know I am picky about the perfect cup, but how hard can it be? I like my coffee strong but softened with some milk. Not too much milk as I need to taste coffee and NO chocolate on top as I need to taste coffee!! The Macchiato made in Italy is the one I like. Great coffee with a dot of milk, not too strong, just simple and perfect.  But when you order a Macchiato in Amsterdam you will get a lot of milk and a tiny bit of coffee... When I am in Hong Kong I order a 'Macchiato with some more milk', as the coffee is way too sour when you ask for a regular one. In Perth you just have to say: a 'Macchiato topped up'. They just put more milk on your espresso, as simple as that! Unfortunately in Sydney they do not get this and I always get my Macchiato way too strong. For a while I thought I had the solution: a double shot cappuccino WITHOUT chocolate. That last request really is too hard for the coffeemakers. No chocolate on a cappuccino is completely out of the box and therefor I had a 50% chance I would get my double shot cap without the chocolate.... But finally, finally I found the name for My coffee: a strong Piccolo!! A double espresso in a small glass or cup topped up with just enough milk, that's it!! But the question is: what will I get when I order a strong Piccolo in Asia or Europe? Well, I am able to figure this out in 2 weeks. To be continued...

Friday, 7 June 2013

No need to cross the water anymore!

Two former chefs, one more experienced in pastry and the other more in bread, had the same vision: opening the perfect bakery which was small, homely and timeless. And so they did: in 2004 they opened their first one, Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills. After this came Marrickville, Alexandria and Potts Point. But the good news is, for people living on the 'other side' (like me!), they finally made it north of the bridge! They took over the Central Baking Depot in Neutral Bay, which is the perfect location to sell their famous loaves of sourdough and their chocolate and sour cherry cake. The only down side: Don't think you can only order your bread for the weekend... It is just too hard to resist all their lovely hand made bites with this delicious, honest, rustic, mouthwatering look and smell..., jumm!
The Bourke Street Bakery, Grosvenor St. 19-25, Neutral Bay