Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Food: Crystal Jade Restaurant @ The Gardens Mall

*Update 9 Oct 2012: Unfortunately, Crystal Jade Restaurant at the Gardens has now been closed down.

We interrupt our Macau posts with something closer to home. We think it's only fair we don't leave out the local fare for too long while sharing our holiday experience. =)


There are precious few Chinese restaurants in Mid Valley / Gardens. There used to be Spring Valley, but that's already been closed down. Now there is the Han Room, but dining there can be an expensive affair for the whole family. Crystal Jade is also in the similar league, but it's been around longer. We make this place our Sunday dinner venue with family sometimes, and it so happened that on a recent Sunday night there was a promotion - 50% off the 6 Course Super Value Promotion (original price RM 598, serves 4) - which we promptly settled for. =P



The meal started off with the Braised Shark's Fin with Bamboo Shoot & Shredded Chicken. A simple bowl of sharks fin soup you might say, until we take a look at what's inside the soup! The soup itself is of top quality, obviously being boiled for many hours judging by the raw flavour of the soup. But it is the combs of sharks' fin that really seal the deal on this soup. Take a closer look at the bottom 2 pictures and behold what a real comb of sharks fin should look like; if up till now you have just been seeing those fat strands of "sharks fin" in your soup, rest assured that those are most likely just jelly. This is the kind of sharks fin that we had, and each of us did have our fair share of it, so it wasn't just one piece in an entire big bowl.



Next we each had a Baked Stuffed Crab Shell with Cheese. Again this is a simple-sounding dish, but it was prepared well with lots of cheese packed inside it. Not as cheesy as the ones I'm used to at dim sum restaurants, but certainly more generous with the meat.



For mains, there was the Deep-Fried Spare Rib with Champagne. 4 plates with 2 pieces each, 1 plate for each diner. I was nursing a flu that day, so my taste buds weren't very acute. I felt this was nice, although the small portion didn't win any points. Neither did I feel there was anything special about it; I couldn't taste any champagne. 


Next up was the Steamed Garoupa with Scallion & Ginger. For a restaurant like Crystal Jade, customers should be excused for expecting top quality all the time. Here's another example of the chefs rising to the challenge, with a wonderful fish that tantalized each of our taste buds. The meat was soft and smooth, and the sauce was just right, without being too bland or salty. The fish wasn't huge, but it did feed the 4 of us perfectly, with plenty of leftovers after everyone took the first helping. This and the sharks fin were definitely the main highlights of the night's dinner.


For vegetables, we had Baked Assorted Vegetable with Garlic. Presented while still wrapped in tin foil as proof of its authenticity, it is then cut open by the helpful waiters. Nothing much to say about this dish, except that the veggies were definitely fresh and juicy and to top things off, healthy instead of the usual way of being fried with oil.



Lastly there was the Fried Rice with Abalone Sauce wrapped in Lotus Leaf. This was actually served in the lotus leaf before being cut and served, but we missed taking a picture of it :S

It was nicely wrapped up, like money bags; however, albeit the great presentation, the taste was disappointing. The rice could have been fluffier, and was rather bland.



For dessert, there was a pot of Herbal Jelly for each of us, known by the Chinese name of Gui Ling Gao. The rule of thumb is the more bitter the taste, the healthier it is! and apparently this one was really bitter! I say apparently, because my nose was so clogged that I couldn't taste the bitterness of the jelly, so I had no problems downing it in a few gulps unlike my usual self =P

(Wendy: It was soooo bitter! And although Adam was sick, he still hogged all the honey so there wasn't much left for us to mask the bitterness with :p)

Once again, a failproof Sunday night dinner with my parents and as always, a satisfying one at Crystal Jade where there are far more hits than misses. This offer that we had should be over by now, but there are always new offers and promotions for credit card holders, so check now and then to see what the latest are! =)


Crystal Jade Restaurant | Site
Lot T 210, 3rd Floor,
The Gardens Mall,
Mid Valley City,
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6 03 2283 3129

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Travel: Macau Day #1 - Lunch at Kam Lung Wan Nam Mai Sin 金隆雲南米線, Ruins of St. Paul

Last post I stopped at the kai dan zai and how we were wandering around looking for Cheung Kei for har zi meen. Well, we never found it (because it was on the opposite side of the main road, not even close to where we were walking! -__-), so we settled on the nearest place for lunch, that turned out to be...




...Kam Lung Wan Nam Mai Sin 金隆雲南米線! (pronounced Jin Long Yun Nan Mi Xian in Mandarin). Kam Lung / Jin Long is the name of the place, and Wan Nam Mai Sin / Yun Nan Mi Xian just refers to the popular noodle from Yunnan. Please forgive our amateur-ish attempts at Chinese phonetics!



The restaurant is actually downstairs at basement level, underneath a Mannings store (Chinese name of Guardian pharmacy). Can't tell you exactly how to get there, but according to the Mannings website there are only two Mannings in the whole of Macau so it shouldn't be too hard to find =)


The place inside isn't very big, so space is at a real premium. Going in pairs makes it easier to get a table, 4 is also a good number. We had 5 so we had to wait a bit and squeeze a bit more.



That's us looking like homeless people while waiting for a table. We walked in at about 1-2pm and the place was packed. It remained more or less the same the whole time we were there until 2-3pm, so don't try and aim for any quiet periods because there doesn't seem to be any.


When we finally did get a table it was actually a booth meant for 4, so Bryan had to sit on the outside. By that time we were already so tired and hungry we didn't really care anyway.. =P


We had no clue what to order, and looking around other tables only hinted that portions were quite big. With that in mind, we ordered 4 bowls of noodles for 5 of us to share. A fantastic decision, because each bowl of noodles that came out was huge!

This one is the 金菇肥牛米线 (Golden Mushroom Meat Noodle - MOP 26). As you can see from the picture, it was a very clear soup, but the flavour was extremely porky thanks to the generous servings of pork in the bowl! There was minced pork, streaks of pork bacon, and also a ton of shiitake mushrooms - almost as many as the noodles itself I think! (I kid =p). For us Malaysian Chinese not used to seeing big bowls of pork noodles, it was a slight culture shock to say the least..haha.



Although the pork noodles had a strong pork flavour, the clear soup was welcome because it balanced out the spicy noodles we had, like this one. This is called 炸酱香酥肉米线 (Noodles in Spicy Bean Broth with Crispy Pork -  MOP 26). This one was really spicy and slightly tangy with the peppering of preserved vegetables, and it came with some crispy, well-marinated fried pork on a side dish. It was another super big bowl of noodles, and I can't imagine eating a bowl of spicy noodles like this by myself!




Continuing in the same vein, we had 杂锦猪肉米线 (Assorted Pork Noodle - MOP 29). This one was also spicy, but not as bad as the previous noodle. I actually liked this one the most of all the noodles we had (not to say I didn't thoroughly enjoy the rest!), because this was most flavourful, and there was big chunks of fried belly pork inside. It's not to say I didn't enjoy the other noodles in clear soup, but this one just had that extra "oomph" for me! Anyway, if anyone is looking for a hearty bowl of spicy and yummy noodles then I will definitely suggest this!



And lastly, with 3 bowls of noodles we decided to have at least one rice, so we chose the 飘香鸡汤泡饭 (Rice in Fragrant Chicken Soup - MOP 29) after a recommendation from our waiter. I said the previous noodle was my favourite of all the dishes, but this one came a very close second! It was basically just rice in chicken soup together with a big piece of chicken, but the broth tasty and full of flavour that it could have rivaled the ABC chicken soup made by Mum at home! If you're not a fan of hot and spicy food or are worried about sore throats, this is the perfect bowl of rice for you. Some side condiments are provided, but are not necessary to enjoy the meal. =)



We weren't very adventurous with drinks, because I just saw these tiny bottles of milk tea in the fridge and we all ended up having one each. It looks cute, but cute things never can contain much, and this of course couldn't hold much tea either. It cost about MOP 10 each, so it wasn't that cheap for the amount in each bottle. I also felt it didn't go very well with the noodles, so perhaps it's a good idea to drink something else when eating here.


And that was the end of our first lunch in Macau! Energized and happy that we had discovered good food for lunch, we went back to sightseeing with a smile on our faces.



There are plenty of smaller shops selling similar kinds of food around Senado Square. This was the longest queue we saw outside such a shop though. The queue had about 10-15 groups standing in line waiting for that Kam Wai Beef Offal place. There are a few other shops that sell the same steamboat thing, but I'm not sure what's so popular about this. We didn't stop to try.

A tip though, if you're planning on trying Kam Wai - there's no queue at night! We went up this lane on our last night in Macau and the queue was non existent.


Whilst wandering around the cobbled streets of Macau, we also took a detour by chance into the Casa de Lou Kau 卢家大屋. At that time we didn't know what it was, but a bit of research after returning home tells us that it's actually one of the 22 sights within the Historic Centre of Macau and is also inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It's not big, but an interesting (and cooling) getaway from the busy (and hot) streets of Macau and a closer look at the olden architecture and fittings. There are regular traditional art exhibitions held there (when we were there it was hand made kites) and also guided tours if you're interested. :)


After that venture off our pursuit of the Ruins of St. Paul, it was quickly back to full force again. To get to the Ruins, just follow the signs placed at most street junctions - that was what we did and we soon found ourselves on this narrow uphill street leading us to the Ruins.


Many travel articles recommend budget travellers to visit this street for a meal as it's packed with bakery & sweet peddlers offering you samples...and they weren't kidding! Be prepared for friendly yet overbearing staff offering you trays and trays of peanut sweets, almond biscuits and even dried meats. :D

Once you get past the hustle & bustle, at the very end of that street stands the majestic looking Ruins of St. Paul.


The Ruins of St. Paul 大三巴牌坊 was once a cathedral in the 16th century but as a result of a fire, most of the building was destroyed, and today, only the facade remains - making it one of Macau's most popular tourist landmarks.



The weather was still bright and sunny when we arrived, but by the time we reached the top it had started to rain. Thankfully there are also some indoor exhibits there, as a result of the conservation of the ruins.

(R): Some really big paintings line part of the wall.
(Bottom left): Where the foundation was in 16-17 century. Also has human bones on display.

It's not a lot, and can be covered in about 5 minutes. But it gave us a place to shelter from the rain and also provided all-important air-conditioning (because we were sweating like pigs after all the walking)! So we stayed for quite awhile..hehe



When we emerged it was still raining slightly, hence the umbrellas. We hurried back down because the rain was still drizzling, but Mel had to use the toilet...


There was a smudge of rain on the lens right where ZH was so he turned out blurry. :p
....So we sought shelter conveniently under a ledge that could just fit us! (We took this after Mel got back..that's why she's in the picture. =P)

We were all so tired from the walking and getting wet under the rain, so we hurried back to the hotel to get ready for the night's main activity - a casino crawl through the city The House of Dancing Water Show! That's coming up in next post. =)

*

Kam Lung Wan Nam Mai Sin 金隆雲南米線 (below Mannings)
Rua de S. Domingos No 20 (板樟堂街20號),
Edf. Commercial Lung Cheong
Res-do-chao A. Macau
Tel: (853) 2835 6956
Opening Hours: 11:30am-1am

Casa de Lou Kau 卢家大屋
No.7, Travessa da Se (大堂巷7号)
Opening Hours: 9am-7pm daily except Mondays (excl. PH). Guided tours available from 10am on weekends and PH

Monday, September 26, 2011

Travel: Macau Day #1 - Best Western Hotel Taipa, Bus 33, Senado Square

It was the trip we had waited 10 months for. 5 People (originally 6 - that's you Laura!). 2 Destinations. Lots of bags. It was a whirlwind trip 6 days 6 nights at Hong Kong and Macau, and Boy was it hectic! Over the next few posts we'll be covering all the things we did during the trip, while paying special emphasis on the wonderful food and attractions we visited along the way. We hope that sharing our experience helps your planning, and most importantly, helps you decide on where to eat while on holiday!

Looking sleepy having had to wake up at the crack of dawn!

We flew from LCCT at 6:45am. Flying time to Hong Kong or Macau is around 4 hours; not too short, but not too long to give you deep vein thrombosis. The flight was about 70% full, with a majority of passengers from Malaysia or from China (heading home I presume).




A little bit of introduction to Macau: Macau is divided into four parts - there's the Macau Peninsula up north (where you're able to walk over the border to Zhuhai, China), the two main islands of Macau, namely Taipa (where the airport is) and Coloane, and in between the two islands, there's Cotai (the name is a combination of Coloane & Taipa :p) which is a new strip of reclaimed land where all the glamourous casinos are.


The Venetian free shuttle bus from Taipa Temporary Ferry Terminal

For our first night in Macau we stayed at Best Western Taipa Hotel Macau. This was the cheapest 3-star accommodation I could find about 2-3 months before the trip - it cost us about RM90 per person. I had read that the easiest way to get nearer to the hotel was to first take the free shuttle from the airport to The Venetian, which is what we promptly did upon landing.

There's plenty of free shuttles to the five star casinos/hotels with helpful staff ready to assist, so this is a easy and great way to travel if you're on a budget. No time (or money) to feel thin-skinned about scrounging off a free trip. =P



Presenting the newest band in town - The Suitcases! =P
The Venetian really does look like a grand hotel, and there's always the hustle and bustle of people checking in and out of the hotel.

For us, we stood in there awe-struck and snapping pictures for awhile, until finally we pulled ourselves away to catch a cab to our own hotel. The cab ride from The Venetian took no more than 5 minutes and cost us about MOP 25 to 30 per cab with baggage. We made a similar trip back to the hotel at night after spending some time at The Venetian and it only cost us about MOP 15 to 20.

(P.S. - The currency of Macau is called Pataca aka. MOP, but Hong Kong Dollar is also accepted here. In fact it is preferred. The rate is 1:1, so don't worry about using HKD in Macau! =)

The facade of Best Western Taipa
Best Western Taipa is actually located just down the road from the Cotai Strip where all the 5 star hotels are. It's near enough for a quick drive, but a bit too far to walk. Cab drivers seemed familiar with the hotel (if they do not, try telling them "Gak Lan" Hotel (格蘭酒店), which is the hotel's name in Cantonese), and its located next to a main roundabout so it's easy to find.

The lift lobby.


The process of checking in is fast, but getting to my turn took awhile because only one person mans the reception desk. The wait wasn't long enough to warrant a complaint, but it's something that could be improved.





The rooms were clean and tidy, the toilet and shower worked well and there was proper TV reception - all the important requirements for a standard hotel room. =P

All of us agreed the beds were way too hard though; any harder and we might as well have been sleeping on wood! But we were only there for a night, so it was bearable for all of us. 

Walking out for the bus - our first glimpse of Taipa!
It was about 1pm by the time we checked in and dumped our bags. Best Western is located in Taipa, so we needed to travel either by bus or cab to cross over to the Peninsula - we were starving by then, so lunch was first on our minds!

The nearest bus stop from our hotel - Flower City



Crossing from Taipa to Macau is actually very easy because there are countless buses plying routes that overlap quite a lot. But of course we still needed to know a bus number before we could our trip. Thankfully the bell boy at our hotel understood enough of our questions to recommend Bus No. 33, which became the only bus we used for our entire time in Macau! =D

The view crossing over to Macau =)
The route for Bus 33 is actually just a continuous loop and gets you from around Taipa, across the bridge and around Macau Peninsula, and back again. The cost of each ride is MOP 4.20, no matter how far you're going. It's advisable to have the right change ready because none will be provided to you!


We weren't sure exactly where to get off, but we followed the crowd and we found ourselves in front of Senado Square! I didn't realize it at first because truth be told, I was expecting something a bit grander than that. But anyway, there lots of people were walking around so we knew we were in the right place. The famed wavy tiled ground gave it away too. It was all decked out in hanging lights, which we suspect was for Mid Autumn Festival. If you're taking Bus 33, stop at Av. Infante D. Henrique (毁皇子马路), it's the second stop after you cross the bridge. :)



For lunch we were actually looking for one of the places on our To-Do List (which we will also share with you readers!) called Cheung Kei, that apparently does very good Har Zi Meen (shrimp roe noodles). We started off confidently thinking we should be able to find the place knowing the name and address, but as we walked and walked we realized it was going to be a lot tougher than we first thought.

The area around Senado Square are all walkways where no cars can go through, and paths branch off in all different directions. There are signboards to the major landmarks like the Ruins of St. Paul, but looking for a specific road can be like looking for a needle in a haystack!

Asking locals doesn't help either, because they won't be familiar with any of the Portuguese road names. Do come armed with Cantonese (or Mandarin should do too) names and addresses since that will be much more useful compared to the English ones, as we found out the hard way many times. (That's why we'll also be trying our best to give you the Chinese names of the places we went to, if we can.)



After a long and arduous trek around Senado Square that lasted about 15 minutes, I was getting hungry and very thirsty (because the weather was so hot!). The nearest place to get a drink was Cafe Golden Carriage 金馬輪咖啡餅店. They also sold egg tarts, and that's where our egg tart adventure began!



I also bought some funny-shaped sponge cake, but that was unremarkable. Many local butter sponge cakes taste better than that. 


This is the egg tart from Cafe Golden Carriage. It cost MOP 5, and the taste was just so-so. It was definitely an unconventional start to our food hunt, but at least some place different from all the popular spots, although the place also showed off some newspaper clippings where it was featured. Not a place we will recommend though.

A little down the road from Cafe Golden Carriage, Wendy spotted a small stall selling some street food that she immediately stopped for. Kai Dan Zai (MOP 6) - loosely translated to egg cakes - is a popular street snack in Hong Kong & Macau and is slightly similar to waffles, only much sweeter.


The batter is put into these skillets with round grooves to get the cute egg-like shapes. It's honestly nothing spectacular, but eating them is quite fun - tear a ball off and pop it into your mouth and you'll be greeted with a sweet waffle-like texture, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Best eaten piping hot!


....So that ends the first post of our trip. Watch this space for our next post which will cover the restaurant we finally stopped at for lunch! =D

*

Best Western Hotel Taipa Macau (Gak Lan Jau Dim) 澳門格蘭酒店 | Site
Estrada Governador Nobre Carvalho
No. 822, Taipa, Macau SAR-China.
Tel: (853) 2882 1666; Toll Free Tel : 800 - 903295
Fax: (853) 2882 0333; Toll Free Fax: 800 - 903296
E-mail: info@hoteltaipa.com

Cafe Golden Carriage 金馬輪咖啡餅店
50 R. dos Mercadores,
Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, Macau Peninsula
(新馬路營地大街50號)
Tel: 853 2857 2385
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