Exploring the world one bite at a time

Category: Asia (continent) (Page 1 of 3)

The continent Asia

Singapore Zoo: “Excellent Zoo”

Very beautiful zoo that takes pride in showing the animals in their natural habitat. No cages whatsoever, you get to enjoy the animals up close and personal. I got a chance to encounter a snake. 🙂 The panda’s are an absolute highlight and don’t forget the night safari which is a very special experience.

Singapore Zoo
Mandai Lake Road 80
Singapore 729826

Visited October 2013. You can find my review about Singapore Zoo also on TripAdvisor.

The Japanese onsen experience

If you’re looking for Japan traveling tips, please read my previous article.

In this article I would like to talk about Japanese hot springs. When visiting Japan soaking in the naturally heated water of an onsen really is a must. I hardly can think of anything that is more relaxing after a day filled with activities.

When my boyfriend and I went on a bike tour through the beautiful landscapes of Hokkaido, we stayed in lots of traditional ryokans, which all had an onsen. Although we weren’t exactly experienced bike riders, we never once had a muscle ache. Up till this day I am still convinced that the steaming hot bath we took every evening helped prevent any pain. And sure, the water of some onsen is considered to be good for your health.

Be warned though, most onsen are separated by gender and in rural areas you’ll find some people staring at you, strange foreigner. It happened to me more than one time that I had one half of the bath to myself, while the rest of the Japanese women preferred sitting as far away from me as possible. Actually I didn’t mind. More room for me! 😉

One very important rule to remember when visiting an onsen: it is considered very (VERY) rude to enter the hot bath without washing yourself thoroughly beforehand. Most of the bathing facilities offer shower gel and shampoos, but you can, of course, bring your own. The washing is done on a little stool and make sure to wash of any remaining soap, so that you can enter the communal bath squeaky clean.

More on onsen etiquette:

Some absolutely beautiful onsen to visit:

Batu Caves: “Situated 13 km outside of KL”

Beautiful natural caves with an impressive gold colored statue. The hindou temple inside the cave wasn’t that special, but the location definitely is, with the wild monkey’s roaming the stairs looking for foods to steal from tourist. You also should visit the dark cave. We took a 45 minute tour in the dark cave and got an excellent explanation about all the creatures living there.

Batu Caves
68100 Batu Caves
+603 – 6189 6284

Visited October 2013. You can find my review about Batu Caves also on TripAdvisor.

The Helix Bridge: “Impressive architecture”

The architecture of this bridge is quite stunning. The bridge itself offers great views of the Marina Bay area. At night it is beautifully lit. A top photo spot!

The Helix Bridge
Between Marina Bay (Marina South) and Marina Centre
Singapore 038981

Visited March 2015. You can find my review about The Helix Bridge also on TripAdvisor.

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia: “Beautiful art in a gorgeous building”

To be honest, I visited this museum because I was mostly interested in the architecture of the building, but the islamic art presented was of a very high quality en very beautiful indeed. The museum offers clear explanations of the objects shown. The view from the terrace is also definitely worth the visit, plus I was very impressed by the beautiful decorated domes in the building.

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Jalan Lembah
Kuala Lumpur 5048

Visited October 2013. You can find my review about Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia also on TripAdvisor.

Tatsu Japanese Cuisine: “Excellent Japanese cuisine”

We ate her twice during our stay. We were very impressed by the quality and authenticity of the food. The first time we took a course meal which was absolutely delicious. In the weekend, you can have an ‘all you can eat’ menu. You can choose from all kinds of different menu-items the ones you prefer and as much as you like. Definitely worth a visit!

A tip for management: the airco is set to a very low temperature. I had to put on an extra jacket to not be cold.

Japanese restaurant Tatsu
Intercontinental Hotel
165 Jalan Ampang
Kuala Lumpur 50450

Visited October 2013. You can find my review about Tatsu Japanese Cuisine also on TripAdvisor.

Travelling to Japan: Where to start?

In recent years I have visited Japan twice. The first time I went to Japan with my boyfriend, my brother and his girlfriend. We took a fairly standard trip around Japan. The second time my boyfriend and I attended a wedding in Tokyo and afterwards we went on a bike tour in Hokkaido. Something totally different, but a truly unforgettable experience. Never have so many people stared at me in my life. 😉

Since Japan is a country where tourism is on the rise, I frequently get asked about my experiences there by people who would like to explore the country by themselves. So that’s why I decide to combine some of my tips for traveling to Japan.

In general:

  1. Look into buying a Japan Rail Pas. It is not always the cheapest way to get around Japan, but you can’t travel to Japan and not experience the marvel that is the shinkansen (Japanes bullet train).
  2. Book at least one stay in a ryokan. An authentic Japanese experience you simply can’t miss out on: sleeping on tatami mats, enjoying bathing in an onsen (women and men strictly separated).
  3. If you’re lost or don’t know how to do something, ask help. Japanese people are very friendly, they will always try to help you the best they can. Don’t know how to buy a ticket to your destination. Give your wallet to a Japanese bystander and they will do the purchase for you and even accompany you tot the right train track.
  4. Visit a traditional Japanse onsen. But make sure to clean yourself thoroughly before entering the hot pool. Japanese people don’t want any filthy people in their baths.
  5. Don’t forget to take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Drinking tea isn’t as straight forward as you thought!
  6. Go for food in a traditional Izakaya and ask for recommendations. Be adventurous about your food. I have hardly ever had a bad meal in Japan. Don’t worry about food hygiene, Japanese cooks know what that are doing. Remember: Japanese food is so much more than sushi. Tip if you like sushi, but don’t want to pay too much: kaiten sushi.

When to visit?
Most websites will say: in spring, so you can enjoy the cherry blossoms (sakura) or in autumn so you can enjoy the beautiful red and yellow colors of the leaves. But if you asked me, each season has its own charm. I would love to return to Hokkaido in winter, to participate in a snow festival. Be warned though, summers on Honshu can be very hot and humid.

Useful websites:


  • Japan Rail Pass. If you’re not sure if it’s worth buying a rail pass, use the Japan Rail Pass Calculator.
  • IC cards are rechargeable cards that can be used to to pay public transportation fares and to make payments at vending machines, shops and restaurants. Examples are Pasmo and Suica.
  • Domestic flights: domestic flight are rather cheap in Japan.
  • Busses
  • Or you can always rent a car. Don’t forget your international driver’s licence! And be warned: in rural areas signs won’t be translated in English. Oh and one more thing: in Japan they drive on the left side of the road.

Where to stay?

What to eat (besides sushi, of course):

  • Okonomiyaki: a kind a savory pancake
  • Sukiyaki: a hot pot dish
  • Japanese Noodles: ramen is of course the most known dish in Europe and the United States, but don’t forget to try the soba or udon noodles.
  • Gyoza: those dumplings are one of my favorite dishes
  • Teriyaki: who doesn’t love the sweet taste of teriyaki?
  • Kushiyaki: skewered and grilled meat, seafood or vegetables. Also known as yakitori (although this term is mostly reserved for chicken skewers).
  • Wagyu beef: if you can afford it
  • Mochi: a Japanese rice cake. Traditionally eaten at New Year, but available year round. You can also have mochi ice cream, which is very good.
  • Do try some Japanese fruit: so much tastier than the fruit we are used to!

Please let me know in the comments if you have any further questions.

Singapore Flyer: “Moët & Chandon Champagne Flight”

The Singapore Flyer offers a unique experiences and outstanding views on Singapore. The giant wheel moves very slowly, so you have lots of opportunities to take great pictures. It takes about half an hour to complete the tour.

We booked the Moët & Chandon Champagne Flight in advance. No hassle with waiting lines, very comfortable. Staff was super friendly and accompanied us to the entrance. We had the cabin all for ourselves! It was great. The champagne was excellent and there were strawberries and chocolat to have a bite with the champagne.

Singapore Flyer, 30 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039803, Singapore
+65 6333 3311

Visited March 2015. You can find my review about Singapore Flyer also on TripAdvisor.

Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore: “Top location! But renovation needed”

Nice hotel with very friendly and helpful staff. We booked the club formula and were happy with that. We enjoyed the happy hour at the club, although sometimes there wasn’t enough room for everyone and it could get rather crowded. The club had a nice selection of wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages. The canapés weren’t that great and the food selection was limited (although I really enjoyed their cheese). No problem for me though, a great way to start off the evening with some nibbles and go out for dinner afterwards.

Breakfast at the club was great: a nice selection of food with all the classics combined: English breakfast, dim sum, bread and cheese, vegetables, yoghurt and fruit. A few times we were lucky to see the sunrise from our table by the window. Breakfast in the cub was never too crowded, so we could enjoy the start of the day in a relaxed manner.

We also tried the breakfast at the Ellenborough Market Café on the ground level: the breakfast buffet was abundant and very good: almost every Asian cuisine was represented. I loved trying all the different dishes and was very fond of the noodle soup which changed every day. Dim sum selection was also excellent. At the egg station the chef prepared your eggs any way you wanted. The Market Café is rather busy in the morning, but staff is efficient and we almost never had to queue for dishes.

I also had lunch at the Ellenborough Market Café and was really impressed by the excellent buffet: a nice selection of all the different flavors of Singapore. Really good and a great option if you (like me) like to try out new foods.

The room in Swissotel was comfortable, although the view wasn’t anything special (our window looked directly at another building). Staff went to great deals to assure we were satisfied and came by at least twice a day to make sure we had everything we wanted. Everyday we got new water bottles and chocolates and fresh fruit was waiting for us on arrival. In the hallway were always green apples available to have a healthy snack. The bathroom could use a make-over though. Although it was clean, it was clearly worn out and I even spotted some mold in the corners of de bathroom sink. I’m also not a big fan of taking a shower in the bathtub.

I also used the spa facilities for an express pedicure, but I have to say, I have had better pedicures at home. The girl messed up the nail polish a little bit, but she was very nice overall. Very useful: laundry machines are available for washing and drying your sweaty clothes (not a luxury in the Singapore heat).

The location of the hotel is great, right next to Clarke Quay, every evening bustling with life. The hotel is located right next to an MRT station, really useful if you like to explore the city. I also really enjoyed the pool. Never to crowded, very well taken care of and with a beautiful garden. If you like, you can have a cocktail in the Blue Potato, situated right next to the pool. I found the staff at the Blue Potato not very helpful (didn’t dry the seats after a heavy rain shower).

My boyfriend and I really had a lovely stay in this hotel and felt very welcome. Only complaint is the bathroom, which really needed a make-over.

Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore, 20 Merchant Road, Singapore 058281, Singapore

Stayed March 2015. You can find my review about Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore also on TripAdvisor. My scores: value 4/5, cleanliness 3/5, service 4/5.

Restaurant Andre: “Outstanding lunch”

Restaurant André really is a little gem. And in Singapore, which has so many excellent restaurants, that means a lot. The kitchen is mostly French, with a touch of Asian cuisine. Each course is carefully constructed and very well balanced. The food is great, no doubt about that, but what makes this restaurant really stand out is the wine selection: Restaurant André imports its own wine. The wine journal is a real book with some extra pages added. Those pages contain a lot (too much to read it all) of information for wine lovers and enthusiasts.

Since I’m from Belgium, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the sommelier of Restaurant André, Vanessa Masse, worked for years in restaurant ‘In de Wulf’, one of the best restaurants in Belgium, in my opinion. Needless to say, my expectations were very high. I was not disappointed at all. We started our meal with a lovely spumante. We were presented with a lovely appetizer to cleanse our palate. I was really impressed by this variation on a mojito, served as a little bite.

Each following course was a little work of art. So very beautiful and tasteful! My favorite courses were the Winter Root Vegetables with Cured Spanish Mackerel and Wild Herbs and the Pearl Couscous With Razor Clam, Emulsion Of Chorizo, Puree Of Clam With Basil.

Serving staff was very professional, but not to stiff (as can be the case in this sort of restaurants). The staff was really friendly and with a sense of humor. I like that!

The atmosphere in the restaurant is refined and elegant. Really loved the fake sheep which had as only purpose to serve as a handbag holder. I had some troubles opening the really heavy door of the toilet. Luckily there was always a staff member present to open the door for me.

Whith each course we got another lovely wine. It was clear (!) that Vanessa Masse had a thing for unfiltered wines. And I couldn’t be more pleased with her selection. All the wines were excellent. Really nice to taste all these different flavors.

When asked for a suggestion to end the meal in style, Vanessa proposed an umeshu (Japanese plum liquor). Without a doubt the best umeshu I have ever tasted in my life. So, we just hád to order another one.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant when visiting Singapore, but be warned, a dinner at restaurant André comes with a hefty price tag. Lunch is a more affordable option.

Restaurant Andre, 41 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089855, Singapore
+65 6534 8880

Visited March 2015. You can find my review about Restaurant Andre also on TripAdvisor. My scores: value 4/5, service 5/5, food 5/5.

« Older posts