Girls’ trip to Bangkok

There’s nothing better than a girls’ weekend away – especially when the destination is Bangkok! Charlotte and I both have a real soft spot for this vibrant city: everything about it is on another level.

If you’re heading to Bangkok soon, here are our tips to make the most of 48 hours in this big, bright city…

Where to eat

nahm

The beautifully crafted menu, tranquil setting and top-notch service are just some of the reasons why nahm took the top spot on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year. If you love Thai food this is definitely to indulge. You really can’t go wrong when it comes to ordering, however, the Coconut and Chicken Soup with Deep Fried Garlic, Green Mango and Chili is a must! In terms of cocktails, the Tomyumtini gets a 10/10 from us. Don’t forget to book in advance!

Issaya Siamese Club

We. Love. This. Place. Tucked away from the commotion of passing traffic in a quaint, low-key neighbourhood, Issaya Siamese Club has to be one of Bangkok’s best kept secrets. Set in a restored colonial-style villa, the atmosphere is quirky and relaxed. If you’re heading there for dinner, try snag a table on the outdoor terrace (it’s divine). Make the most of your time there by enjoying a few drinks on the colourful bean bags scattered across the front lawn afterwards.

DSC08729

DSC08719

BKK skyline

Where to drink

Banyan Tree

Bangkok isn’t really known for its rooftop hangouts, however, Banyan Tree’s Moon Bar is a fabulous place to toast the city as the sun sets. It can get rather jam-packed so be prepared to stand for a while if there aren’t any seats free.

Sirocco

Commonly known as the ‘Hangover bar’ having featured in The Hangover 2 movie, if you haven’t paid Sirocco a visit before then it is box you must tick. Although it’s become a bit of a tourist trap (the drinks are quite overpriced for what they are), the view is exquisite.

IMG_2163

IMG_2104

IMG_1022

What to do

Let’s face it: one of the best things about Thailand is the food. If you’re keen to channel your inner Master Chef, the Blue Elephant Cooking School gets the big thumbs up from us. Two half-day classes are held daily (morning and afternoon); they involve a trip to the wet market to learn more about key Thai ingredients, live cooking demos, hands-on cooking classes, AND the opportunity to eat it all in their restaurant at the end. Really fun and well worth your time if this is your sort of thing.

DSC08734

DSC08720

DSC08717

IMG_1013

Where to shop

Siam

A trip to Bangkok wouldn’t be complete without giving your credit card a bit of a workout. If you enjoy mall-hopping, the Siam area is a one-stop-shop. From Siam Paragon to Central World, all the major luxury and high street brands are on offer. Most malls along the Siam strip run alongside the Sky Train air bridge making them no sweat to get to and easy to navigate. Be sure to wear comfy shoes (#shoppingtip101).

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Of all the outdoor markets we’ve visited on our Asia travels, this is by far the biggest and best. Vendors at Chatuchak sell everything under the sun; from vintage clothes to delicious Thai street food, ceramic home wares to costume jewellery, it’s all waiting to be found amongst 27 sections spread across 110,000 square metres. Although you can tackle Chatuchak with a mapped out plan, we find the best buys are those you stumble across along the way. Here are a few key tips:

  • Grab a map when you arrive – most stall holders have these to give away
  • If you’re looking for clothes and handbags, sections 4-6 are great for clothes
  • If you’re looking for cutlery, ceramics or ornaments, sections 21-26 are best for home wares
  • While some stalls and boutiques sell goods at fixed prices, most are open to bargaining
  • Don’t risk ‘shopping around’ – seriously, the place is too big. If you see something you like, buy it then and there
  • Make the most of the delicious food on offer! Fresh coconut ice cream is a particular fave of ours
  • Have a water bottle on hand; don’t let yourself get dehydrated!

IMG_2152

BKK ice creams

DSC08750

IMG_2155

When you’re done with shopping, wining and dining, don’t forget to squeeze in a bit of pool time – no Bangkok getaway would be complete without it! Enjoy…

E x

Hong Kong’s best hidden coffee spots

Tucked along quiet laneways… hidden from street view… located in parts of town you’d never think you could find a decent brew… undercover coffee spots are scattered across the 852!

As the city’s café scene continues to explode, here’s a round-up of our favourite ‘low key’ spots.

{sfs} St Francis St 

Named after the street it sits on, {sfs} is a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop that doubles as a compact lifestyle gallery. The owners have done well to create a relaxed, friendly atmosphere that feels a world away from the chaos of Queen’s Road East. When it comes to the coffee and food, quality is the magic word. Independent, award-winning UK coffee brands Nude Espresso and Climpson & Sons are used. The selection of cabinet food by A Piece of Delight is short and sweet (in a good way!). Founded by local baker Aimex Kwong, A Piece of Delight creates simple, flavoursome scones, cakes and pastries.

Shop B2, 9 St Francis Street, Wan Chai

sfs Wanchai

Mansons Lot

Nestled in the labyrinth that is Wan Chai, Mansons Lot could be one of the Hong Kong café scene’s best-kept secrets. With fabulous coffee (specific shout out to their flat whites) and a decent food menu to boot, this quaint hole-in-the-wall is one of my favourite Wan Chai discoveries. If you have time up your sleeve, I recommend settling in to enjoy your brew. Although the place isn’t huge, there is enough space and seating to get comfy and happily chow down.

G/F, 15 Swatow St, Wan Chai

ZAI FE

One of my most recent coffee discoveries and quite possibly one of the best… ZAI FÉ – which translates to mean ‘strong black coffee’ in colloquial Canto – is a glittering gem in Quarry Bay’s treasure trove of cafés. While the café itself isn’t exactly roomy, the space is modern and sleek. Along with having mastered the art of a perfectly poured cappuccino, tasting ZAI FE’s flavoured coffees – specifically the orange mocha – is an absolute must! These guys won’t stay hidden for long – Central and Kowloon locations are already in the works. Stay tuned!

24 Finnie St, Quarry Bay

Zai Fe - BGBC

Common Ground

Situated midway along Shing Wong Street (the stairway that runs from Caine Road, over Bridges Street down to Hollywood Road), is where you’ll find Common Ground. Understatedly cool with a grungy urban, yet chilled out atmosphere, the coffee here is worth traipsing up (or down) the stairs for. With no cars whizzing past, the stairway location makes it easy to forget this café is sandwiched between two of the busiest roads in Mid-Levels. I’m a particular fan of Common Ground’s iced coffees – unlike some cafes around town which serve iced beverages that taste sad and watered down – Common Ground’s version is balanced and delicious (perfect for summer)!

19 Shing Wong St, Central

The Cupping Room

Located directly off Queen’s Road Central along Cleverly Street (discretely below McDonald’s), you will find The Cupping Room. With an extensive beverage menu and a two-time Hong Kong barista champ at the helm, The Cupping Room is all about coffee – serious coffee. The contemporary setting makes for a warm and friendly atmosphere and allows plenty of room to park up and settle in. There are a number of breakfast and lunch options on the menu, however, for me; the coffee here is the main draw card.

299 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan

Amical

This place pretty much serves as the dictionary definition of a ‘hidden coffee spot’. Apart from one small over-hanging street sign, this undercover café is perched above street level overlooking Wanchai’s trendy Star Street Precinct. The coffee here is exceptional. The baristas are highly skilled and passionate about brewing coffee in all its forms. I’m a huge fan of Amical’s little al-fresco balcony (a perfect urban escape adorned with leafy green pot plants), but what gets me the most excited is their latte art! From cats and bears to little moustachioed faces – it’s worth ordering a milky brew just to see what shapes they pour into it!

1/F, 1 Sun St, Wan Chai

Amical Hong Kong

Rabbithole

Sandwiched within a dense row of shops is Rabbithole, a modern café and hub for coffee enthusiasts that prides itself on understanding the science behind pouring the perfect brew… The coffee here is fantastic and is made even better with a great food selection (the Korean BBQ beef sandwich is next level). If you’re keen to sit in, I find the best time to swing by tends to be in the morning as it becomes very busy at lunchtime.

3 Landale St, Wan Chai

The Mixing Bowl Café

Newly opened on Shing Hing Street (a set of steps that links Hollywood Road to Gough Street), the Mixing Bowl doubles as a baking school AND café! Given it seems to position itself as a bakery/ baking school first and a café second, make sure you visit with an appetite and not just for the coffee. Trays of freshly baked goods (all made on-site) line the counter top: loaves of bread, cinnamon rolls, scones, pies, and the most insane red velvet cake… no shortage of foodstagram material to say the least. Taking the term ‘fresh’ to a new level, each table has its own toaster to allow you to toast your own bread at your leisure – forget about BYO, these guys are all about TYO! Genius. Beyond the baked goods, my experience with the coffee has been smooth sailing so far. Definitely worth popping in for a visit!

5 Shin Hing St, Central

Unar Coffee

If you’re making a trip on the Star Ferry from TST, swinging by Unar Coffee before boarding is a must. Although this joint isn’t technically ‘hidden’ (they’ve landed a prime location within the ferry terminal), because it only opened recently, stumbling across it was like discovering a real desert mirage (… you know what I mean). Whether you’re in the mood for a heavy duty caffeine hit or something more fun and flavoursome, Unar Coffee’s grab-and-go bevvy menu covers all the bases. Although I’m loyal to the latte, I thought both the Banana Caffe Mocha and Chocolate Mint Caffe Latte were delicious. Non-coffee drinkers will be pleased to know the tea selection is extensive too.

KP41, 1/F, Star Ferry Terminal, Sailsbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui

Unar Coffee Hong Kong

E x

NB from BGBC: none of these coffees were freebies, we happily paid ourselves!

An adapted version of this post originally ran on Sassy Hong Kong 

Sunday smoothie

I’m a firm believer that what you put into your body, you get out. Eat well, your skin will glow, your hair will shine and you’ll feel a million dollars. That’s a great philosophy and something I try to stick by, but in reality when it’s 4pm and you need a pick-me-up, popping down to 711 for a Mars bar (or two!) is the easiest option.

After a few weeks of eating what I want and feeling pretty average, I’ve decided to start treating my body to one delicious, nutrition packed smoothie a day. Starting now. With all of the amazing fruit & vegetables we have at our disposal in Asia, I thought I’d kick off Sunday’s smoothie with some beautiful, eye-popping red dragon fruit.

Dragon Fruit Smoothie

Red Dragon Smoothie

  • 1 packet of sliced red dragon fruit
  • Coconut water (my personal preference is CocoWater because of the low sugar content)
  • Kombucha (available at Just Green)
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Ice
  • Chia seeds
  • Coconut flakes

Pop the dragon fruit, coconut water (amount depends on how thick you want your smoothie to be, I used 1 cup), a dash of kombucha, lime and ice into the blender until smooth. Top with a teaspoon of chia seeds and coconut flakes. Serve in a mason jar. Because everything looks prettier in a mason jar.

C x

 

The big cheese

In a city that serves an array of international cuisines, caters for all palettes and has official ‘foodie heaven’ status, it’s a wonder good, specialty cheese is an uphill battle to find. I’d resigned myself to thinking it just wasn’t on Hong Kong’s culinary priority list, until I made a recent discovery…

The Dutch Cheese & More is a store specialising in exactly what the name suggests. Located along Queens Road Central in Sheung Wan, chances are you have already walked past the shop multiple times (there is also another store is based in Sai Kung).

The Dutch Cheese 1

Literally packed to the brim with delicious Dutch cheese, there are around 18 semi-hard varieties (all produced in wheels) sold in a range of maturities: young, mature, aged, and extra old. It’s interesting to note a lot of Gouda on the market is uncertified – in order to be the real deal, the milk used needs to come from North Holland. Completely authentic, The Dutch Cheese & More has Gouda flown in from Holland every few weeks.

You can’t really go wrong with any of the cheese choices on offer; however, my favourites are the chilli cheese, the black truffle cheese (#nextleveldelicious) and the aged farm cheese with salt flakes.

The Dutch - 2

The happy hour deal has to be one of the best kept secrets in Central. Running from 3pm – 8pm, you get two (generously poured) glasses of wine and a platter with two types of cheese and Dutch condiments for just $120. A selection of craft beer and cider is also available. Although the store isn’t exactly spacious, a small group can park up comfortably at one of the bar leaners. Happy days!

If you’re not much of a cheese expert, the staff are well schooled on what cheeses pair well with what wines and food. Perfect for dinner parties or gifts, they can create custom platters and gift baskets. The store is also available to hire for private events and cheese master classes!

Whether you’re a cheese fanatic or just keen to scope out something a little different (and delish), we think this joint is well worth a visit – especially during happy hour!

Click here for store locations and opening times!

E x

NB from BGBC: this wasn’t a comp, we happily paid ourselves!

An adapted version of this post originally ran on Sassy Hong Kong

Blissful Bali

It’s no wonder Bali is a must-see destination: the food, the people, the culture and the beauty are magnetic (and we barely scraped the surface during out trip). There’s something for everyone – whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, girls’ weekend, family holiday or a spot to do some soul searching, Bali is the perfect place to kick back, relax and live the island life.

Getting there

As mentioned in my Gili T post, getting to Bali is relatively straightforward and there are a range of airlines that fly to Denpasar from Hong Kong.

Where to stay

There’s no shortage of beautiful hotels in Bali. Catered to the Australian and Asian tourism markets, you’ll be able to find anything within your budget – you just need to work out where you want to stay. Personally, if you’re a first timer to Bali, I think staying in Seminyak is the way to go. You can easily get around (taxi, moped or hire a driver) and explore other parts of the island, but the area itself is catered to tourists and offers and incredible array of places to eat, shop and drink.

Alternatives include:

Ubud: find your inner hippy – spiritual, beautiful

Uluwatu: surf until your hearts content – high end, stunning

Canggu: rice paddy fields and private villa rentals – a little bit more local, breathtaking

We stayed at The Kayana Bali, which is ideally located in Seminyak – right next to Potato Head Beach Club and W Hotel Bali – and offers private pool villas and gardens in the heart of all the hustle and bustle.

IMG_2830

Where to eat – Seminyak

*It’s worth noting that making a reservation in advance at all of these places is highly recommended! We couldn’t get into a couple of restaurants because they were fully booked.

Motel Mexicola

An Instagrammer’s dream, Motel Mexicola is a funky Mexican restaurant with off the wall decor, delicious cocktails and tacos to boot.

Jl. Kayujati No. 9 X, Petitenget Beach, Seminyak, Badung, Bali 80361

Sardine

My favorite spot of the holiday. Set on a rice paddy field, the food and service blew us away – no photo I took could justify quite how beautiful Sardine is. Dine in the restaurant before moving to the terrace for cocktails and dessert.

Jalan Petitenget No., Badung, Bali 80361

Sea Circus

Sea Circus has laid back, beach house vibe serving yummy seafood and tacos!

22 Jalan Kayu Aya, Oberoi Rd, Seminyak, Bali

Chandi

I would go back to Bali purely for the healthy, veggie Nasi Goreng served at Chandi! Elegant and sophisticated without the “look at me” vibe that other places in Bali have.

Jalan Laksmana 72, Seminyak, Bali 80361

If you’re looking for somewhere to while away the day, in the sunshine, eating and drinking, check out Potato Head Beach Club (get there before 11am to avoid disappointment!) or Mozaic Beach Club for something a little less flashy!

Motel Mexicola Bali IMG_3018 Motel Mexicola Bali Ice Cream Bali Sardine Bali Motel Mexicola Bali

Where to drink

Ku De Ta

A place to see and be seen, Ku De Ta is considered to be one of Bali’s drinking (and eating hotspots). Worth popping in for a cocktail if you can nab a bed by the beach!

Jl. Kayu Aya no.9 Seminyak, Indonesia

Rock Bar

Sunset drinks at Rock Bar. Get there early to avoid disappointment!

Jalan Karang Mas Sejahtera, Bali 80364, Indonesia

La Plancha

Sunset drinks in a more chilled out, vibrate setting. Colourful beach umbrellas, bean bags and scrummy cocktails.

Seminyak Beach, Badung, Bali, Indonesia

Where to shop

There’s no shortage of incredible shops in Bali – from home wares to clothes to jewellery, put aside a little bit of time during your stay to check out the likes of Mister Zimi, HOBO, Drifter Surf Shop and Lulu Yasmine.

Bali SunsetThe Yoga Barn UbudBali SunsetPotato Head Beach Club

C x

 

 

 

Gili getaway

I’ve fallen in love with Indonesia. Having returned from an amazing trip to the Gili Islands and Bali, I have a serious case of the Bali blues and am already planning my return!

Getting there

Getting from Hong Kong to Bali isn’t rocket science – Cathay Pacific, Dragon Air, Garuda, Tigerair and HK Airlines all offer direct flights at various times.

If you want to get to the Gili Islands, you have two options: flight to Lombok, car journey and a short boat ride or alternatively a two hour boat ride from Bali. We organized our journey through Gili Getaway and I would highly recommend taking the boat… I was beginning to lose my patience a bit on our trip to Gili T which seemed to take forever!

Gili T IndonesiaWhere to stay

Ko Ko Mo
We tried to stay here but unfortunately they were full! Beautiful villas, great location, set at the end of the central strip.

Gili Eco Villas
Although not set in the best location, we stayed at and loved Gili Eco Villas. It’s located on the exact opposite side of the island to Ko Ko Mo and involves a good 30 minute walk to get to any of the eating hot spots.

Gili Eco Villas, Gili T

Gili Trawangan

Where to eat & what to do

Ko Ko Mo
A standout favorite – the food was fantastic, service second to none and desserts that I would fly back to the Gilis for.

Scallywags
Fresh, local seafood on the BBQ. Doesn’t get much better than that!

The Night Market
Admittedly, we didn’t eat here but we scored a couple of fresh coconuts and corn on the cob whilst we wandered around looking at what’s on offer.

Pearl Beach Lounge
We spent a day relaxing on the beds at Pearl Beach Lounge – it’s got a great atmosphere, the staff are friendly and living comes easy!

Exile
Aptly named given its distant location, drinks at Exile are worth the walk (or bike ride!) Lounge on beanbags listening to Bob Marley and watch the sun set over the beach. Perfect.

Exile Gili T

Peal Beach Lounge Gili T

Gili T Indonesia

Gili Trawangan Sunset

If you’re a water baby, Gili T is ideal for you – there are regular dive tours and snorkeling, paddle boarding and surfing are all readily available at little cost. If you want to stay dry, check out the islands cooking courses, yoga classes (I’d recommend Gili Yoga) and glass bottom boat rides.

The Gili Islands are undeniably beautiful and if you have time, I would recommend checking out Gili Air and Gili Menos – the smaller, less touristy islands, for a true getaway break.

C x

Lunchtime pedicures at The Loft

 

Image

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than using your lunch break for a little R&R. We advocate a midday foot massage or afternoon blow dry, so with summer in full swing, we thought it was time for a (long overdue) pedicure.

As big fans of The Nail Library in Poho, we’ve been meaning to try the salon’s new ‘in town’ little sister, The Loft, for ages. Set in an elevated, modern, minimalist space, The Loft offers the same chic, sophisticated vibe as The Nail Library but with the added element of convenience given its location in the the heart of Central (literally right beside the Mid-Levels escalator). Glasses of bubbles are offered upon arrival and the same incredible array of polishes is available, including Tom Ford, Illamasqua, Chanel and many, many, many more.

The Nail Library’s pedicures are out of this world, so The Loft had a pretty high standard to beat. Needless to say, they knocked it out of the park. Both of us left like we were walking on clouds with perfectly pampered tootsies.

If you’re looking for somewhere relaxed, funky and a little bit off-beat, The Loft gets top marks from us. We’ll definitely be back!

E & C x