There’s only 3 more days in 2019, time flies, but it’s still not too late to write about the diving trip at Komodo Islands that I went back in September. This is the first part of the trip – a visit to view the famed Komodo Dragons.
Welcome to Rinca Island, here be dragons
Since there’s no direct flight from KL to Labuan Bajo, the Western fishing town of Flores closest to the Komodo National Park, we took the flight from KL to Bali, and then Bali to Labuan Bajo.
A note though, never fly Lion’s Air if your life depends on it. Other than the plane being old (which is acceptable), the service level is downright bad. On our return flight the computer system broke down and the ground crew refused to check us in manual method until the plane landed, which delayed things further on an already delayed flight, almost made us missed the connecting flight back to KL.
After spending a night at Labuan Bajo, we headed on to our liveaboard (more on that boat in next post), and the first destination was Rinca Island – one of the three largest islands included in Komodo National Park.
a bit of forced perspective doesn’t hurt any dragon
All visitors to Rinca island must be accompanied by a local guide, and it was obvious from the get go that it’s for our own good, preventing stupid tourists such as us to get ourselves into trouble with these magnificent creatures. These things looks almost like your usual monitor lizard but just, wayyyyy bigger, like size of a crocodile.
There were some pretty sad looking deer around the park too, and we were told that these were dragon food, which kinda explained how they look the way they did, dohhh.
a guide is definitely mandatory for dragon sightseeing
The guide did his best in explaining to us about Komodo dragons, their behavior, life cycle, and even helped us take some pretty neat photos. Wikipedia does a better job than I ever can, so I’m not going to even attempt, check out the entry here.
The tour lasted some 2-3 hours, we walked around the foot path to the top of one of the hills, where more dragons were loitering around. The view on top was quite neat, worth it.
the pink beach is due to all these coral bits (I think)
As a bonus, we also got to stop by a tiny island comprises entirely our of sand – and they’re pink! Yes, the famous pink beach of Komodo National Park.
pink beach island
The pinkness of the beach is from a sort of red coral bits making up part of the sand. Makes for a good photo if you pump up saturation a bit, otherwise they’re not exactly overwhelming to be honest. One of those things that looks better on instagram than in real life, oh well.
Some diving photos and what we managed to see underwater on this trip to come, it was a very tiring and overly satisfying few days of diving.
There are two types of travelers, the one that plans for everything including transportation, hotel, point of interests, and which restaurants (and sometimes what to eat) to dine in; then there’s the type who likes to have a bit of surprises and a sense of adventure. It’s not surprise which type is me, and luckily, my brother is pretty much the same.
pork offal soup with rice, breakfast of champions
One of those adventures brought us to this pork offal soup with rice place when we went to Bangkok over CNY with mom.
This little stall is located on Soi Sukhumvit 55, the road in which we walk by on the way from our hotel to the Thong Lo BTS Station (Bangkok Mass Transit System, not that Korean boy group thingy..)
What intrigued us was how busy the stall is, and that it is seemingly a slice of time capsule wedged in between two roles of shop houses in this increasingly modern city that is Bangkok. So we did a bit of pointing here and there and had our orders for brunch.
blood, intestine, kidney, liver, and meat
As it turns out, they serve only one dish – pork offal soup with rice, and yep, just like Klang, there are people who has rice and porky goodness as breakfast.
the stall is wedged between two buildings
The soup came with a good mix of coagulated blood, intestine, kidney, liver, and pork slices, the soup is quite flavorful if slightly too salty for my taste, there’s also generous amount of cilantro to provide some balance to those fatty bits. The chili sauce condiment accompanying the dish is rather spicy too, as you’d expect from Thailand.
It was overall a rather yummy dish and one of the best meals we had in Bangkok. For 35-40 baht per bowl, this was also one of the more affordable meals too.
there’s a coffee stall next to it too
Address: Pork Offal Soup (Opposite El Gaucho) Soi Sukhumvit 55, THONGLOR KLONGTON NUA Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand GPS: 13.730904, 100.581437
Earlier this year, mom, brother, and I decided to head to Thailand for Chinese New Year. Our first stop was Hat Yai, the Southern town that has been a pretty popular spot for Penangites since way back when Penang Bridge wasn’t even a thing.
Tanatip Restaurant, Hat Yai, Thailand
Our overall plan was to take KTM Komuter from Sungai Petani, switch over to Thai railway at Padang Besar station, spend a night at Hat Yai, and then fly to Bangkok the next day.
The primary reason was that flight from Hat Yai to Bangkok was 3 times cheaper than Penang to Bangkok at the same time period. Plus you get an extra meal or three in Hat Yai, win-win the way I see it!
fried roasted pork with basil
We arrived at late morning, the stalls at the market has already mostly stopped selling at the time, while walking around we chanced upon this restaurant with some beautiful roast pork displayed outside, which was a sign that we as a family couldn’t ignore. That’s how we ended up at Tanatip Restaurant (sign board only in Thai..)
shrimp tomyam, fried century egg with ginger
We ordered three dishes to go with steamed rice for lunch, and naturally the first dish was to fried roasted pork with basil (80 baht), and it was as you would imagine, roast pork, fried with Thai basil, fish sauce, and the all important chili padi. It was spicy, fragrant, and so delicious I wonder why nobody serves this in Malaysia, simply love this dish.
Naturally, our first Thai meal must include tomyam, the shrimp tomyam (120 baht), it was of course freshly made from scratch, spicy, sour, and tastes as strong as you’d expect. The prawns was quite fresh too.
sumptuous lunch for the three of us at Tanatip Restaurant
Our third dish was something I’ve never tried before – fried century egg with ginger (70 baht). Yeap, if you love century egg, they are actually even better deep fried (what isn’t?). There’s generous amount of cashew nuts with this dish to probably make it a whole meal by itself if you’re on keto diet.
The random chanced upon restaurant Tanatip turned out to be more than satisfying, while the restaurant itself can perhaps be cleaner and more organized, we have nothing to complain when it comes the food itself.
Banh mi, or bread in Vietnamese, was developed in the 1950s as Vietnam’s own interpretation of baguette. It is a classic marriage between ingredients from both East and West – baguette, pate, and mayo from their French colonial times, and local ingredients such as pork, grilled chicken, or even cilantro.
If you find yourself at Hanoi like we did earlier this year, a freshly made banh mi makes for a great option as breakfast on-the-go.
Banh Mi by street vendor in Hanoi
This vendor selling scrambled egg banh mi set up her “stall” at the market just right outside the Ancient Lane hotel we stayed at Hanoi. We just had to give it a try after walking by and smelling the freshly made dish for the second day in a row.
The scrambled egg was prepared on the spot using her tiny frying pan with ingredients that undoubtedly involved fish sauce and pepper. The whole thing is then stuffed into this lovely baguette that was soft and yet crunchy on the outside, some thinly sliced cucumber, a bit of cilantro, a squeeze of chili sauce, and there you have it – one of the simplest form of banh mi.
Baguette with freshly cooked omelette
It turned out to be a lovely simple breakfast, and one that would go well with some local coffee for sure. Banh mi stalls can be found pretty much everywhere in Hanoi, give it a try, this version cost 15,000 VND if not mistaken.
Part of the charm of visiting a new city is to try some of the local dishes, and when it comes to Hanoi, there are plenty to choose from, with one of them being Bun Oc, or snail soup.
bun oc hawker by the streets of Hanoi
While this dish may sound a little weird at first, do remember that most of us readily eats all sorts of shellfish, clams, and even escargot, which isn’t at all too different from this Vietnamese offering.
We chanced upon this Bun Oc place by the streets at Old Quarter in Hanoi (you can find quite a number of these stalls) and decided to give it a try.
The snails are cooked and extracted out from its shells before being served in a sweetish soup base that’s packed with fresh vegetable and a hint of fish sauce (what else doesn’t have fish sauce in Vietnam?)
a warm bowl of snail soup, anyone?
The dish usually comes with vermicelli to make it a meal, we opted out of the carbs since we had just completed a full meal prior. The snail has a subtle taste with texture that isn’t unlike topshell or well cooked shellfish, which was quite pleasant. I