Bo Innovation, Hong Kong, April 2018

Everyone take note – the greatest gift anyone can give the parents of a four-month-old child is time to themselves. My dad and stepmum gave us the gift of three hours to ourselves on our trip to Hong Kong in April 2018, when K and I took time to go and have a fancy lunch at Bo Innovation to mark his birthday.

It had been some time since we had had a meal at a fancy restaurant like this (probably not since Nora), so it was a real treat! It was also probably the longest I’d spent away from Matilda since she was born, so there was significant separation anxiety on my part. “Is she okay? Do you think she’s hungry? Is she missing me? What if she doesn’t nap?” Not quite the same kid-free conversations we would have over fancy meals in the past!

So, my top three highlights from Bo Innovation:

  1. The table set-up, with slide-out cutlery drawers, just like in traditional Hong Kong-style diners (cha chaan teng)
  2. The appetiser starter – a classic eggette, but extra crisp and fresh with fragrant spring onion
  3. Xiao Long Bao, molecular gastronomy style.

The whole meal really, was such an homage to classic Hong Kong flavours, dishes and culinary traditions that it really made me feel quite nostalgic. This is the food of my childhood, but up-scale and turned into an experience, rather than just everyday home-style comfort food. I would definitely recommend that anyone visiting Hong Kong with an interest in re-imagined Cantonese cuisine visit Bo Innovation.

It’s not somewhere I would take my 80-year-old uncle who refused to let me take him to high tea because “a cup of tea and an egg tart for $15HKD at the local diner will do me fine”, but for those 1.5 generation kids like myself yearning to celebrate a tenacious link to their cultural background? Bo Innovation is perfection.

Travel Tales: Kuala Lumpur, December 2016

It feels a bit redundant to be typing this blog entry, over eighteen months since we were actually in Kuala Lumpur on holiday. Still, I’ve had the photos edited and uploaded as a draft to the blog for months and months, so I might as well write a few short paragraphs to accompany the photo gallery.

After our visits to Singapore and Sri Lanka for my cousin’s wedding in December 2016, we (myself, husband, father and brother) spent almost a full week in Kuala Lumpur. We found a marvellous Airbnb right near the famous eating street of Jalan Alor, that was perfectly designed for our needs – three bedrooms each with its own ensuite, with a small living room, mini kitchen and laundry. And at about half the price of staying in a hotel, I really couldn’t fault the apartment at all!

Now the eating. Staying near Jalan Alor, we spent our first evening there in search for dinner and ended up at a hawker-style Chinese restaurant there…which clearly catered for tourists and served up tiny serves of not-particularly-great-food at inflated Australian prices. Disappointing. Much of Jalan Alor was like that – great for tourists who don’t know much about Malaysian food and don’t mind paying a bit more, not so great for us. 

We learned our lesson and from that point onwards, spent our time searching out the small hawker centres on street corners where the locals really eat. There was a lot of wonton mee, laksa, nasi goreng, hokkien noodles, oyster omelettes, roti canai, satay, ais kacang…all the traditional Malaysian dishes you could imagine featured in our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners every day.

As always, a highlight was the day we spent in Seremban with hubby’s extended family. These day trips are never complete until we have at least six to eight meals, making visits to all the local hotspots recommended by aunts, uncles, family friends, and cousins. My father amateurishly ordered a whole curry laksa for himself at the first stop, despite my warning that it was best to share dishes so you don’t overstuff yourself too early on. He regretted that decision!

A shout-out also to all the times the heat and humidity of Malaysia simply got the better of us, and we ended up finding a little cafe to sit down with a kopi ais, Milo ais or teh tarik, perhaps with a snack of kaya toast to go with it. Holidays in Malaysia are best spent at a slow and leisurely pace watching the world go by with a cold drink in hand. The humidity doesn’t really let you do much more than that!

It’s obviously been eighteen months since our last visit to Malaysia and at this point, I’m not sure when we might be back. My father-in-law actually told us to not go back until our little one is of an age where she can actually speak and tell us if she’s feeling unwell. I think he’s afraid the heat and humidity might be too much for her otherwise! 

Travel Tales: Singapore, December 2016

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this entry.

When we made the decision to go to Sri Lanka for my cousin’s wedding, it was pretty much a no-brainer that we would stopover in other destinations (Singapore and Malaysia) on the way there and back. Breaking up a long flight with two shorter flights makes sense right? 

Well it did. And then it didn’t. The afternoon before we were due to fly out, Jetstar cancelled our flight to Singapore and calling their customer service centre for a replacement flight gave us two options:

  1. A direct flight to Singapore three days after we were supposed to arrive, at which point we would have to leave for Sri Lanka almost immediately and not have time to enjoy Singapore at all
  2. Flights to Singapore on the day that we were supposed to leave….via a layover in Hong Kong. We essentially doubled back to Singapore after flying to Hong Kong, adding around eight hours to the overall journey.

Jetstar are known as Shitstar for a reason.

A crappy start to the holiday was thankfully improved with each day we spent in Singapore. While we all suffered in the humidity (my family are not summer people), it was good that we were able to start acclimatising to the humidity of South-East Asia in the relative comfort of Singapore and its air-conditioned malls – we certainly wouldn’t be able to retreat to air-conditioned comfort quite as easily during our stay in Sri Lanka! 

That’s not to say that we didn’t venture out of the malls of Orchard Road, because we certainly did. We spent one day in the Gardens by the Bay, the futuristic vast nature park that they’ve somehow managed to squeeze into densely-populated Singapore. We went on the Singapore Flyer which I’d never been on before, and managed to time our visit so that we had an entire pod to ourselves, sandwiching in nicely between two overcrowded pods full of Chinese tour groups.

The highlights though, were when we just spent time wandering around different parts of Singapore, sampling local fare at different markets. Having only visited Orchard Road, Chinatown, Little India and Tiong Bahru, I feel as though we’ve only scratched the surface of what those Singaporean districts can offer us…let alone, what the rest of Singapore has to offer! What about areas like Kampong Glam, Katong, Geylang…and I’ve never even been to Sentosa Island!

I guess we’re lucky that Singapore is so (comparatively) close to Australia, and that it would make for a great stopover to wherever we may chose to go on our next trip. Over the course of a couple of years worth of two or three day stays in Singapore, we may finally get to see, and eat, more around the country. Singapore…I’ll always be back.