Thursday, October 30, 2014

The 240 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I'd say that one of the most important questions to answer when planning for a trip is: where to stay?

This is where your main priorities come into play. Are you a seasoned budget traveler who don't mind staying in a simple hotel or even to rent a room from Air BnB? Perhaps, you're more like me, a pro-leisure tourist who values comfort and cleanliness above all. Don't get me wrong, it's just that for me, my choice of hotel is important as this is essentially my home away from home throughout the duration of my trip. Nothing beats being able to head back to a nice, spacious and clean room which is complete with all the amenities and facilities after a tiring day exploring the city. Of course, not all the time I can just indulge and stay in a classy hotel. This is where I'm so thankful for boutique hotels. Small-sized hotels with about a dozen rooms yet you are still well taken cared of and every corner, every room is just sparkling clean.

As we were planning for our Cambodia trip, C was able to discover a number of newly opened boutique hotels in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. I love that the hotels that we have chosen were strategically located within the walking distance to restaurants, pubs and interesting landmarks making it such a breeze to go there even for breakfast or during the late nights. For our overnight stay in Phnom Penh, we booked our rooms at The 240 which is just a stone's throw from the Royal Palace which the rest of our companions planned to visit the following day. 

hotel 240 phnom penh
Our big group of 7 were divided into three rooms: Paul and I took the Standard Double Room  ($53) which I'd say was so spacious and big. We joked that it looks like a honeymoon suite complete with a loft-type set-up and a wooden canopy bed.

hotel 240 phnom penh
The only thing that kinda ruined the "honeymoon" experience for us was when I had a bad fall after taking a shower. I ended up wincing in pain with a can of ice cold beer on top of my leg to lessen the swelling (got to hand it to Paul's resourcefulness!). This incident left me a terrible looking bruise on my leg months after. Ouch! Note to self, hold on to the handrail when going down a slippery marbled staircase after taking a shower to avoid flying all the way down.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

La Rose Restaurant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

One of the best decisions that we've made during our trip to Cambodia was to hire David as our tour guide. You see, there are no cabs around both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap so to go around either you walk or take a tuktuk. Since there were 7 of us, it was wise to avail of a full shuttle service that will allow us to follow our own schedule and to be able to maximize on our itinerary too. It was indeed worth every penny as we were all well taken cared of complete with a daily supply of ice cold water. If only David can supply Wi-Fi in his van too to save us from boredom during the 6 hours drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and back, that would have just been perfect. Well, you can't have it all.

la rose phnom penh 3
So, on our first day, after visiting the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center / Killing Fields, we asked our driver Sim to recommend a good Khmer restaurant for lunch. Sim immediately knew where to take us and off we went to La Rose Restaurant. To be honest, I've never heard of La Rose as I only took note of the top 10 restaurant listed in Tripadvisor but to be ranked 45th out of 700++ restaurants is pretty amazing too. 

La Rose is a Spa, Boutique and a Restaurant too. No wonder we were greeted with the comforting sent of lavender as we entered the restaurant. We were the only ones there making us feeling a bit doubtful if Sim really did brought us to the right place. Well, let's see how the food fared. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cocina Cartel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

One thing why I love traveling with the NKids is because we all love to EAT! No kidding. During our trip to Cambodia, our bags were all filled with chips, snacks, drinks and even chocolates to ensure that no one goes hungry at any point in time. We try to make the most of each meal by researching well on the different restaurants to try both in Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap.

cocina cartel 2
I will be sharing with you where we went to eat during our trip but let me jump to our very last meal in Phnom Penh. Since we took the late afternoon flight, we had the chance to leisurely have a good lunch before heading to the airport. Our hotel is surrounded by a number of interesting cafes and restaurants that the challenge actually was to choose only two from close to ten options. Since we've been having local Khmer food for the past days, we decided to deviate from it for our last meal. The choice was to try Cocina Cartel, said to be one of the best Mexican restaurants not only in Cambodia but in Asia based on the reviews on Tripadvisor. Woah!

We got there quite early so we were immediately able to get a nice long table for 7. The menu was very simple and easy to understand. First, you choose your meat -- Beef Barbacoa, Shredded Chicken, Pulled Pork or Veggies. Next, you decide if you want it served as a burrito, burrito bowl, quesadilla or tacos (3 pieces). This is followed by a wide-array of toppings or fillings that will go with your meat. You can choose as many as you like! I find this to be really cool and so generous of them. Lastly, choose if you'd like any sides with it.

cocina cartel 1
Paul and I decided to share a Beef Barbacoa Burrito ($6.50) filled with black beans, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa fresca. The burrito was quite big so I was glad that Paul and I just shared one piece as we were still full from our heavy breakfast a few hour before this meal. It was packed with tender stewed beef which perfectly blended so well with all the other fillings that we chose. I love that they served a bowl of mexican rice with refried beans on the side. Needless to say, I was impressed.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia : Travel Spots to Visit

After a year of no new travels aside from our regular trips between Manila and Singapore, Paul and I finally got back to our yearly travel routine. Yahoo!

phnom pehn 5
Normanton Kids in Cambodia
A few months ago, we joined the NKids for our first ever out of the country trip to Cambodia! Planning started months in advance where C and I took charge of researching and coordinating with our very reliable tour guide David. It was a 5 days trip where we flew to Phnom Pehn and headed directly to Siem Reap where we spent 3 wonderful days and later went back to Phnom Pehn again for a full day before flying back to Singapore. With David handling all the on-ground logistics, this has made our itinerary so smooth flowing and totally stress-free. 

This is the start of my Cambodia Travel Series where I shall tell you about the different sites that we were able to visit around Phnom Penh

For most of my readers who probably have read my past travel entries, you may have noticed that I'm more of a cosmopolitan-loving traveler. Indeed, the term "roughing it" is not really part of my travel vocabulary. I prefer staying in nice, comfy hotel rooms, enjoying a number of good meals and appreciating the sights and sounds of the bustling city. So, when we began planning for this particular trip, I have to admit that I was somehow bracing myself for the physical challenge that awaits us. Well, I survived and I'm mighty proud of it! 

As soon as we landed in Phnom Penh, I was really impressed with the airport. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting much from a country that has recently just gained its independence not so long ago. The Phnom Penh International Airport was very clean, it smells amazing and the service was efficient. How I wish that NAIA will someday be like this too. *sigh*

phnom pehn 6
We met our driver Sim who was so helpful and kind. He brought us to our first stop which was the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center a.k.a. The Killing Field. This was where we had our first lesson about Cambodia's history which happened not so long ago (1975). 

phnom pehn 3
A ticket costs $3 and you'll receive an audio guide spoken in the language of your choice. All you have to do is to follow the number per stop and press this on the player to hear the narration about it. I don't want to ruin the experience for you but this stop taught me a lot about the terrible and rather gruesome past of Cambodia. It's really terrible to hear how millions of people were massacred in this place and mind you, this is just one of many killing fields in Phnom Penh. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Soulscape Singapore 2014 [Event Coverage]

I strongly believe in the saying that "health is wealth". After all, the worst thing is to spend your hard-earned money on medications and hospitalizations when you can try to avoid all these in the first place. I'm glad that as I'm trying to up my physical activity level lately, I'd come across local activities that would challenge me to go even further. No more excuses now and I'm learning to push myself to the limits and to see what else I can do.

soulscape sg 10
A month ago, I came across a Facebook sponsored ad about a fun yoga and wellness event in Tanjong Beach Club, Sentosa. The name is Soulscape Singapore and browsing through their website, I was immediately drawn towards the two exclusive yoga sessions -- Sunset Yoga and Yoga Rave. It was to be conducted by True Yoga making it even more enticing. I asked my dear friend D, who has been a great influence to me to eat healthy and to stay fit, if she wants to join as well. It only took D a few minutes to browse through the website and told me that she was game! Yay! :) 

We got the Full Yoga package (S$55 for early birds) which entitled us to access to all activities, a goodie bag worth S$100, one free non-alcoholic drink and free entrance to Sentosa. Not bad at all! After all, I was really after the two yoga classes and being able to experience doing my poses by the beach.  

soulscape sg 5
D and I got to the venue at 430PM yesterday. We were an hour early for the Sunset Yoga class so we just checked out the booths present during the event. I just love the beach! Okay fine, we all know that Tanjong Beach is man-made but walking on powdery sand and feeling the cool breeze blowing on my face somehow gave me a nice, relaxing beach vibe. 

Here are some of the booths that caught my eye:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Recipe : Fusilli with Mushroom Pesto Cream Sauce (Vegetarian)

Singapore celebrated Deepavali / Diwali last Wednesday so we had a full day off from work! Since the non-working holiday was right in the middle of the week and I badly needed to catch up on sleep as we came from a quick weekend trip, Paul and I agreed to just spend the entire day at home with our friend O. The night before that, I told the boys that I'll cook pasta for lunch. It has been a while since I've cooked this dish and I'm glad that finally, I found the time to do so. Cooking can really be so therapeutic.

frannywanny recipe 1
Some of you may have remembered that I've prepared a similar pasta dish 5 years ago. This time though, I made use of wholemeal fusilli noodles and made use of a different type of pesto sauce too. What I noticed is that wholemeal noodles have a more dry texture and it has a rather grainy bite. It's not too bad though but it sure needs some getting used to. Well, I'm really so careful now with the carbs that I eat every since I vow to go with a low GI diet.

Here's an easy pasta dish that you can try at home too:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spilling the (Coffee) Beans : Whale & Cloud, Niven Road

Who doesn't love to hear a good secret? I'm pretty sure we all do. 

Not so long ago, word has been going around about this "secret" coffee shop here in the Lion City. You see, the 3rd wave / artisan coffee trend is booming here with at least one coffee shop opening every week. There are just a lot right now that I was so happy when fellow food blogger Daniel came up with a comprehensive list of all the new cafes in Singapore for 2014. Daniel is one of the few food bloggers whom I diligently follow to know about the new restaurants in the city. He writes in such an objective and really organized manner that makes the OC in me really happy. 

Anyway, so Daniel and a couple of bloggers began talking about a secret coffee shop called Whale & Cloud and that opens only on Saturday. In fact, it's not open on all Saturdays too! All these talks got me really curious and after asking more details about it, Paul and I decided to spend one Saturday afternoon to try it out ourselves.

whale and cloud 8
The address says 48¾ Niven Road. Have I just been transported to Harry Potter's world or what?! Finding it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. What we weren't expecting though was the growing queue outside the coffee shop. Since it's located within a quite, hidden alley, this means having to stand outside without any shade, no air-conditioning, no seats and definitely no guarantee as to how long you'll have to wait. I'd normally start whining at this point but I wanted to check Whale & Cloud so badly that I quietly waited along with the others. Well, I would sway my legs from time to time while eyeing the open canal beside me with a bit of paranoid dengue fear.

Finally, after 30 minutes of waiting, the magical blue door opened and the two customers left. Hooray! This means there's now room for the 1st 2 in the line. We were the 4th couple in the line but more customers followed the 1st couple who left. I guess they were batch 1 and we were part of batch 2. 

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