Welcome to the Bowsing Around the World! This is my new and improved travel/food blog. It has finally occurred to me to consolidate all of my travel blogs for ease of browsing. I have left my original travel blogs on tumblr (see below) to remind me/us of the good old times. Speaking of the good old times, I have even imported my China travel posts from my Blogger account. I have, however, separately exported my food blog to bowsingnomnoms and will be updating it separately, since it does not fit my travel theme. I tried my best to reformat everything to be cosmetically pleasing; however, I am aware there may be some minor inconsistencies. Life is not perfect, and it’s ok. Looking back, I am also aware there are some possible typos/grammatical errors here and there, so I apologize. Fun fact: most of my posts were originally typed using my phone using “notes” while I was on the road and then uploaded to Tumblr when I had access to internet or when I returned home. I have purchased a portable bluetooth keyboard in preparation for my next trip (coming soon!!) to minimize typographical errors and also so I will not end up with thumb cramps. Hope you enjoy my posts as much as I enjoy writing them!

Old Tumblr Blogs:
Costa Rica

Kelowna Road Trip Day 3: Kelowna – Coquitlam – Vancouver

Kelowna Road Trip Day 3: Kelowna – Coquitlam – Vancouver

Featured image: Mountain view on our way back from Kelowna.

Last day in Kelowna was pretty much a travel day for us. The coffee-lovers amongst our group needed their morning coffee, so we quickly stopped by Pulp Fiction Coffee House before our journey home. This was highly-rated online and was as hipster as it gets. I did not have the coffee so I can’t really comment on that; however, I did see they have a maple bacon donut, which looked deadly.

Our trip back was pretty unremarkable except for 1. A quick pit stop at a rest station where none of the toilets flushed. It was a quite the experience to say the least. 2.  Another quick stop at a bamboo farm for Aaron to look at some prospective garden plants.

We couldn’t end our trip with a bunch of food-lovers without a delicious feast, so we stopped in Coquitlam (AKA Korea Town central) for some comforting Korean food.

We were really craving gamja tang and budae jjigae, so we headed to Ta Bom, which had both. More importantly, they served their budae jjigae on a hot plate with your choice of sides. We chose cheese, sausages and corn. It was an amazing budae jjigae experience! We even asked for extra rice at the end to make a nice fried rice with the leftover soup/ingredients! The gamja tang, on the other hand, was lack-lustre. Sadly, I would not come here for that dish. The popcorn chicken dish, however, was pretty good. We even had to order seconds!

Spicy Popcorn Chicken @ Ta Bom
Budae Jjigae Hot Plate @ Ta Bom
Gamja Tang @ Ta Bom

So that ends our short getaway to Kelowna. If you’ve been to Kelowna/The Okanagan and there was anything else we missed, please leave me message below.

Kelowna Road Trip Day 2: Wine and Cheese Tour

Kelowna Road Trip Day 2: Wine and Cheese Tour

Featured Image: Wine tasting @ Quail’s Gate Estate Winery. Photo credit: Aaron.

One of us fell sick overnight so we took it easy this morning and started our day a little later. Luckily, we decided not to join an organized wine tour so our schedule was relatively flexible.

Quail’s Gate Estate Winery

Led by our amazing trip planner, Bear Woman, we headed towards our first winery – Quail’s Gate Estate Winery. We had lunch reservation and we arrived a little early so we took a quick stroll around the vineyard and ended in the tasting room for some wine tasting. It was $5 for 4 “Estate and Reserve Wines” and $10 for 3 “Rare and Collectible Wines”. Tasting fees were waived with the purchase of 2 or more bottles of wine. I decided on the “Estate and Reserve Wines”. I started with one of their most popular wines: the 2016 Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris. I’m not a huge fan of dry whites in general which this was. It was really light in taste. Then I had the 2016 Gewurztraminer which again was too dry for my taste. Next, we moved on to the reds. I first tried their 2016 Pinot Noir. Full disclosure, I’m usually not a fan of pinot noir and this one did not change my mind. I ended with the 2015 Stewart Family Reserve Old Vines Foch and finally found something that I actually enjoyed. It was full bodied and rich, just the way I like my red wines. I did not end up purchasing it as it did not find it was worth the $40+ price tag.

Quail's Gate vineyards
Quail’s Gate vineyards

It was time for our lunch reservation so we headed over to the restaurant.  We were fortunate enough to have been seated on the patio overseeing the vineyards and lake. A+ for ambience! For lunch, Aaron and I shared the oysters (nice, light in taste, did not taste too much of the ocean), butternut squash risotto (good flavours, not overly heavy), and the duck fettuccine (simple ingredients, made with fresh pasta).  Overall, I felt the food was good and it was quite worth the visit accompanied with a nice glass of wine and the scenery. It looks like their menu changes regularly so when you visit, there will most likely be different menu options.

Oysters @ Old Vines Restaurant at Quail's Gate Estate Winery
Oysters @ Old Vines Restaurant at Quail’s Gate Estate Winery. Photo credit: Aaron.
Butternut squash risotto @ Old Vines Restaurant at Quail’s Gate Estate Winery. Photo credit: Aaron.
Duck fettuccine @ Old Vines Restaurant at Quail's Gate Estate Winery
Duck fettuccine @ Old Vines Restaurant at Quail’s Gate Estate Winery. Photo credit: Aaron.

Our lovely organizer has also booked a winery tour for us and we were able to explore the different parts of the winery and learn about their production process. We concluded the tour with some more wine samples (included in the price of the tour). They were generally accommodating to the fact that we’ve already tried some of their wines. We got to try their chardonnay (again, not a fan of dry whites), rose (not usually a fan of rose but this one was not bad) and the pinot noir again (did not change my mind yet again). After our tour, we went back to the wine tasting room for some final wine samples. We tried two of the dessert wines – each served in a chocolate cup! We had the 2014 Riesling Icewine as well as the 2016 Optima Botrytis Affected. If you like super sweet indulgent dessert wines, the Riesling Icewine is the one to try! The Optima is less sweet for those who prefer a more subtle flavour.

Ice wine served in a chocolate cup @ Quail's Gate Estate Winery
Icewine served in a chocolate cup @ Quail’s Gate Estate Winery. Photo credit: Aaron.

Mission Hill Winery

Next, we headed to the nearby Mission Hill Winery – one of the largest wineries in the region.  Here we tried the 2015 Perpetua, 2013 No. 23 Crosswinds Syrah, 2015 No. 32 Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc and the 2012 Compendium. Aaron was put off by the somewhat pretentious naming system of their wines. All the wines were $50+ but we did not find them particularly outstanding. I would still recommend coming here for the beautiful architecture. It really reminded me of the Getty Centre in Los Angeles.

Mission Hill Winery
Mission Hill Winery. Photo credit: Aaron.
Mission Hill Winery
Mission Hill Winery.

Tantalus Vineyards

Next, it was time we visited a boutique but lovely winery – Tantalus Vineyards. Here, there is a huge balcony overlooking their beautiful vineyard. We tried their 2017 Riesling Lab (exclusively sold at their winery) as well as the regular 2017 Riesling. Both were nice, crisp, fruity and very easy to drink. We decided to purchase a bottle of their Riesling Lab at a very reasonable price point of <$20.

Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm

It was time for a non-wine stop, so we visited Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm. I’m not a fan of goat cheese but we still had a good time. For a nominal fee of $2, you were able to try many of the cheese they had in stock. I didn’t sign up for the tasting officially but I did take a nibble of Aaron’s samples. The soft cheeses actually tasted quite mild and cow cheese-like. It was only when it got to the harder cheese and blue cheese varieties when I had to step away. They pride themselves in their natural, less sweet gelato made from goat’s milk, so we had to give that a try before leaving. Fortunately, there was no hint of goat taste so it was quite enjoyable even for me. The whole vibe of the place was very friendly and cozy with cute hand-drawn price tags!

Goats @ Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm
Cheese @ Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm

Summerhill Pyramid Winery

For our last winery stop, we went to the nearby Summerhill Pyramid Winery. It was near closing time when we arrived so we did not get to tour the great pyramid on site. Apparently, the pyramid serves as more than a tourist attraction. They claim that the wine stored in this facility is smoother and more aromatic. This was definitely the most laid back winery of them all, which had a totally different presence compared to the larger wineries like Mission Hill. The tastings were mostly complimentary, except if you want to try the icewines. They specialize in organic and vegan wine. Apparently, animal by-products are often used in the winemaking process, making them non-vegan. We tried their 2016 Organic Riesling, Ehrenfelser (a very nice white), and I was blown away by their 2012 Keter (which was like velvet, as described by their staff). We ended by trying their two red icewines – 2012 Merlot Icewine and 2013 Sweigelt Small Lot Icewine, both of which were delightful but not too sweet. What a lovely way to end our full-day wine tour.


Red Fox Club

It was almost dinner time, so we headed over to Red Fox Club, at Indigenous World Winery. This is a restaurant serving aboriginal inspired dishes using local ingredients. We started with the baked brie (not my favourite, the cheese was not molten enough) and the pork belly (can’t go wrong with pork belly). For mains, I had the Haida Gwaii Salmon. It was flavourful and not too dry. I am usually cautious about ordering salmon at restaurants because they are usually too dry, but in this case I was not disappointed. Aaron had the Harmony Beef Tenderloin, which was really nice, especially with the dollop of caramelized yeast butter on top.

Baked brie @ Red Fox Club at Indigenous World Winery
Baked brie @ Red Fox Club at Indigenous World Winery
 Pork belly @ Red Fox Club at Indigenous World Winery
Pork belly @ Red Fox Club at Indigenous World Winery
Haida Gwaii Salmon@ Red Fox Club at Indigenous World Winery
Haida Gwaii Salmon @ Red Fox Club at Indigenous World Winery. Photo credit: Aaron.
Harmony Beef Tenderloin @ Red Fox Club at Indigenous World Winery. Photo credit: Aaron.

It was a wine and food-filled day for us, so we once again all retreated into our rooms in a food coma once we got home.

Kelowna Road Trip Day 1: Vancouver – Abbotsford – Chilliwack – Kelowna

Kelowna Road Trip Day 1: Vancouver – Abbotsford – Chilliwack – Kelowna

Featured image: Elvis Platter @ Memphis Blues. Photo credit: Aaron.

I know. I’ve been slacking on the travelling front. So, recently while we were in Vancouver, we decided to go on a road trip/getaway to Kelowna, BC!

Any awesome road trip should start with a good breakfast. We decided to stop by Scandilicious before we left Vancouver to fill our stomachs before hitting the road. This is the place to go if you’re craving some good waffles, whether you want plain waffles or waffles blanketed with savoury/sweet toppings. Aaron decided to indulge in the 2 Brussels waffles, two eggs, two sausages and potato nuggets breakfast and I just had the classic Brussels waffle given I’ve been overdoing it on the eating in Vancouver for the previous week. I needed to pace myself. If I had more of an appetite, I would usually choose the Scandilicious option with boiled eggs, shrimp, cucumbers, lemon dill sauce and dill. As expected, the waffles were a balance of sweet and not too sweet, just how we remembered them to be. Although Aaron, the maple syrup lover, had to purchase maple syrup in the middle of the meal because the table syrup just did not meet his standards.

Scandalicious Waffle Breakfast
Waffle Breakfast @ Scandilicious. Photo credit: Aaron.

After breakfast, we were on our way to beautiful Kelowna. Our amazing trip organizer “Bear Woman”, has planned a few stops for us. First stop was at the Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival. We visited on a Friday so it wasn’t too busy and tickets were only $10 ($25 on the weekends!). Here you will find rows and rows of tulips. If you also given a pamphlet with the names of all the tulips so you can place an order to plant some at home if you so wish. They have some photo spots e.g. the “Lock Lips for Tulips” photo booth, perfect for couples or non-couples… who just would like to lock lips!

Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival. Photo credit: Aaron.

Next stop, we only had a drive a little further to reach Bridal Veil Falls in Chilliwack. It was definitely great bang for the buck, given a short 15 minute walk was all it took for us to reach the scenic falls. This is quite efficient given sometimes you’ll need to hike a few hours just to see the main scenic point of a trail.

Bridal Veil Falls in Chilliwack
Bridal Veil Falls in Chilliwack, BC

Before long, we were off on our path to Kelowna again. We were able to locate our Airbnb quite easily and quickly settled down. The Airbnb was actually quite modern and spacious. It was then I noticed that we had 3 women and 3 men, living in a nice house. I laughed at the fact that this reminded me of Terrace House – a Japanese reality show that I’ve been recently (obsessively) watching, where it shows 3 women and 3 men, living in a house with no script. Since the other ladies of the trip are also big fans of this show, we decided to catch up on an episode as soon as we arrived. We had some time before dinner, so we just chilled, had some local beer and played some Settlers of Catan while our trip organizer/driver got some rest.

We had originally planned to have pizza for dinner at Antico Pizza Napoletana but Memphis Blues caught our eyes after we parked, so we changed our plans to go there instead. 1 huge plate of meat for 6 hungry people. Why not? We decided on the Elvis Platter. Easy Peasy. No need to make too many decisions. My favourites on the plate had to be the beef brisket, rib ends and double smoked farmer sausage. The BBQ chicken was also not bad – very juicy and full of BBQ flavours. My only disappointment was in the ribs. I felt it was a little too dry and tough. For sides, we indulged in some coleslaw, potato salad, fries, beans and cornbread. The cornbread definitely did not disappoint. Supposedly meant to feed 5-6 people, this platter was quickly devoured. Our server was obviously impressed with our eating capacity. The food coma from our heavy dinner quickly set in before we called it a night.

Memphis Blues Elvis Platter
Elvis Platter @ Memphis Blues

Top 7 must eats in Vancouver, Canada – 2017 edition

Top 7 must eats in Vancouver, Canada – 2017 edition

Featured image: Sho Ka Do Bento @ Raisu.

Those who know me would know that I have certain food cravings every time I return to Vancouver. The food scene in Ottawa is not bad if you know where to go, but the selection is definitely not as impressive as that in Vancouver, especially when it comes to Asian cuisine. Here are a few of the items I try to cross off my list whenever I’m back in Vancouver.

1. Sushi

Without a doubt, the number one food craving I always have is sushi! The number of sushi/Japanese restaurants is really astonishing. From the economical and humongous portions found at Samurai Sushi and Sushi California to the mid-range Sushi Aria to the upscale/tapas versions at Raisu/Kingyo/Miku/Suika/Guu, you can get good sushi at any budget. For those who really want a unique dining experience try Sushi Bar Maumi. It is an omakase style meal meaning you are sitting right at the bar with 9 other sushi lovers and the sushi is served piece by piece directly by the chef. The menu is pre-set. There are only 2 seatings per night, so you must make reservations. At the end of the meal, you can also order some more pieces a-la-carte. Be ready to spend $75+ per person, but it’s well worth it!

Mania roll @ Sushi Mania
Mania roll @ Sushi Mania
Deluxe seafood bowl @ Raisu
Deluxe seafood bowl @ Raisu. Photo credit: Aaron.

2. Xiao Long Bao (XLB)

If you hear people talking about XLB and have no idea what they’re taking about, let me explain. XLB (=xiao long bao 小籠包) is a soup dumpling, originating from Shanghai. The soup is first gelatinized and mixed in with the pork filling, and wrapped in a flour skin. The dumpling is then steamed in a (traditionally, bamboo) basket; hence the name, “little basket bun”. To eat, make sure to puncture a hole in the dumpling first and catch the hot, now-melted soup with a spoon. Make sure the soup has cooled down somewhat prior to drinking the soup, or else you will lose all sensations in your tongue for the rest of the week. You have been warned. I have had bad XLB in the past which were shrivelled up with minimal soup. That’s a bad sign. The texture of the skin is also another way to judge the quality of the dumpling. I prefer the ones with thinner skin which is not overly doughy and dry. The most popular chain is Dinesty. They have multiple locations located throughout Greater Vancouver. If in Richmond, you can try Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant or Shanghai River.

XLB @ Dinesty. Photo credit: Aaron.
Close up of XLB @ Dinesty (Look at that soup!)

3. Ramen

Another popular choice of food in Vancouver is ramen. Most have a simple menu with a limited number of broth options and a few side dishes/appies to choose from. This only means that they stay true to what they do best. If you are shopping along Robson close and Bidwell, you will find a cluster of these small ramen shops. Popular choices are Santouka (I like their tsukemen option, where you dip the noodles in a concentrated broth), Kintaro (known for their tonkatsu broth), Motomachi (known for their bamboo charcoal ramen) and Marutama (known for their chicken broth). Be prepared to wait in line during peak hours though! These get busy!

Tsukemen and gyoza @ Santouka
Tsukemen and gyoza @ Santouka

4. Beef noodle

Speaking of noodles, those who like tender pieces of beef swimming with egg/flour noodles in a flavourful umami-filled broth, should try the beef noodle houses here. My picks would be No 1 Beef Noodle on Willingdon Ave. and Wang’s Taiwan Beef Noodle on Granville St. I advise you bypass trying to find parking in the tiny lot of No 1 Beef Noodle and just park on the street. Otherwise, you may run the risk of someone double-parking behind your car.

Beef noodle @ No 1 Beef Noodle
Beef noodle @ No 1 Beef Noodle

5. Phnom Penh chicken wings

Alright, I have a confession to make. I was kinda late to jump on this bandwagon. I don’t know how I was not familiar with this place before I moved away from Vancouver. Thanks, “Bear Woman” for introducing me to this! The chicken wings here are apparently famous. These are so addictive that I know someone who needed to bring these with her even when she moved to another province to freeze so she can always have a taste of Vancouver wherever she was. Aaron describes it to have the Southeast Asian flavour, which is definitely appropriate as it reminds me of the chicken wings I’ve had in Malaysia. The batter is light and flavourful and the wings itself is juicy and tasty. The restaurant is super busy and they don’t take reservations except for huge groups (8+) so be patient if you want amazing chicken wings.

Chicken wings @ Phnom Penh
Chicken wings @ Phnom Penh. Photo credit: Aaron.

6. Korean food

I was trying really hard to think of a specific dish instead of using a whole category of “Korean food” but I couldn’t choose between all the deliciousness. The Korean food scene is pretty impressive here. The Korea Town of Vancouver is unofficially along North Road, close to Lougheed Mall, AKA Burquitlam. I’ve been to a few places here with Bear Woman (my personal food guide of Vancouver) and have never been once disappointed. For amazing kimbap (Korean sushi) you cannot just have one of, try Kimbap Cheong Uk. For some makgeolli (Korean rice wine) with nice authentic dishes, try Bukchigo Jangguchigo. If you are downtown, I would recommend Sura for a nicer dining experience or Dae-Ji for a quick no frills experience. If in Richmond, you must try Samsoonie Noodle & Rice for their bossam (sliced flavoured pork belly, that you can wrap in lettuce, cabbage or turnip, along with various side dishes such as kimchi, spicy radish, and raw garlic etc). Remember to pre-order a large and share it with some friends/family. You won’t regret. I promise. If you want just a nice boiling pot of budae jjigae, they have it at Chosun in Burnaby or Midam Cafe in Richmond.

Budae Jjigae @ Chosun Korean Restaurant
Budae jjigae @ Cho Sun

7. Asian desserts/Bubble tea

This is another one where I cannot choose between the various dessert options. Usually even if we’re stuffed after eating a delicious meal of one of the above, we still want to maximize our food adventure fun. We will usually choose amongst one of the following. The classic hang-out place after dinner would have to be a bubble tea shop. These have been around since the 2000’s and they’re still staying strong. These sweet and milky drinks originated in Taiwan but has been a worldwide sensation since then. I always preferred the original milk black or green tea with or without bubbles/pearls/tapoica balls depending on my mood. For those who don’t want a sugar shock to their system, I recommend you get it half-sweet. Those who are more adventurous can try the various flavours available. On this trip, I tried the Okinawa Pearl Tea with roasted brown sugar at ShareTea and I really enjoyed the roasted flavour. ChaTime is another popular chain that is pretty consistent. For a special treat, try the Earl Grey Milk Tea at Mr. Moustache in Marpole. (Note: They are currently closed for renovations). I have never had anything else like it! Another favourite of mine is the Korean bingsoo (shaved ice) at Snowy Village. I even dedicated a full post to this. While you’re there, try the fluffy croissant pastries with various hot fillings – the croissant taiyaki. 

Mango bingsoo @ My Frosty
Mango bingsoo @ My Frosty. Photo credit: Aaron.

And that brings us to the end of my list. If you’re interested in even more food recommendations in Vancouver, let me know! If you have other items you think should be on the list, comment below!


9 practical tips for travelling carry-on only

9 practical tips for travelling carry-on only

It’s been a while. Having to pack again recently inspired me to write this post. Whether you are packing for a 2-week or a 2-month trip, the principles are the same. Earlier this year, I had to pack for a 2.5 month trip across Asia for the 30+ degree celsius tropical climate of Thailand as well as the below-zero weather of South Korea. All I had with me was a carry-on suitcase as well as tiny backpack. Trust me. It’s possible. But first, why travel carry-on only?

  1. Save time – We were able to bypass so many long line-ups at the airport because we did not need to check in bags. Once you get off the plane, you are good to go. No need to wait around at the carousel for your bags.
  2. Save money – Most airlines charge for check in bags now. Sure, for long international flights, there may still be 1-2 free checked bags but this isn’t the case for most domestic flights and short-haul flights between nearby countries.
  3. Save you from missing your next flight – For those of you who are planning to explore many cities in one country or to choose a flight which has multiple transfers, travelling carry-on only will save you a lot of headache. Imagine having the added stress of waiting to pick up your bag to transfer onto a tight connecting flight. Or imagine losing your baggage in transit to Bangkok, when you’re leaving for Chiang Mai in 3 days. What if it doesn’t make it here on time?

If I’ve convinced you that this a good idea, please read on for my tips for travelling carry-on only.

  1. A trusty carry-on luggage

Those who have followed me on my Asia trip adventures might have remembered that my original suitcase was not too trusty. (See post here.) It actually ripped within the first 2 weeks of my trip. I managed to purchase a better one in Vietnam, which lasted me for the rest of the trip. Lesson learned. The suitcase should be sturdy enough to withstand a long journey with multiple stops but at the same time light enough for you to carry around. I considered using a backpack for my Asia trip but then I would need to carry two backpacks and my back would not be happy. If the luggage is light enough, then it should be easy to transport, even up and down stairs in subway stations and easily lifted into the overhead cabins. I find the clam-shelled ones to be more practical and helps with organization. I got a small hard-shelled one (similar to the one below) and Aaron had purchased a soft-shelled one from MEC (no longer sold) for quite a decent price right before we left.

Hard-shelled carry-on suitcase

2. A trusty “personal item”

Check the different airlines you are flying with for the weight and size limits. Some of the more discount airlines have very strict limitations. The 9kg backpack you were allowed to carry on in Canada might be overweight for the smaller airline in Vietnam. I used a tiny little backpack for my travels but found it was very annoying to, for example, have to take out my medications, toiletries, and sunglasses, etc. to get to the headphones I needed at the bottom of the pack. If possible, get one that has many compartments so you can access your belongings easily. I really liked the MEC packpack that Aaron got for the trip. It looked really compact. You can even wear it on the side and say it’s a laptop bag. It has a lot of compartments, including a nicely padded section just for your laptop.

3. Pack for 1 week

It doesn’t matter how long your trip is. Just pack as if you’re going on a 1-week trip. I.e. only pack enough underwear, socks, outfits etc. for 7 days. You can always do laundry. You’re always on the go, so no one will know you’re repeating outfits (except for your travel companion, who should not be judging. And if they are, you need to find yourself someone else to travel with).

4. Pack versatile clothing

Don’t pack those trendy yellow jeans that only matches that one white top. Pack items you can mix and match. That racer back tank top is not only for the hiking in Chiang Mai. Layer on a cardigan for the breezy evenings in Hanoi, and add on a scarf and toque for the snowy days in Seoul.

One thing I wish I had brought on my trip was a sarong. Not only can you use it as a cover-up on the beach, you can use it for modesty at temples as well as a scarf in colder cities, or maybe even a towel or a blanket, if needed! It is a great alternative to having to wear jeans when it’s hot and humid. (Read about my struggles in my Wat Pho post.)

And don’t forget about the tourist pants. What’s that you say? I’m talking about those thin, loose-fitting harem pants you see many backpackers and other casual travellers wearing nowadays. I know… I know… before you start judging that these will only make me stand out as a tourist, I’m sure I already have other features which make it obvious that I’m not a local. For example, my language, my mannerisms and the fact that I constantly have a confused look on my face while starting at Google Maps on my phone. In all seriousness, these pants are great for modesty in temples, just roaming the streets or even as PJs. For example, I did not want cause myself to have a heat stroke hiking in long pants in the mountains of Chiang Mai but I knew we were going to make stops at temples along the way and wanted to be respectful. I kept my tourist pants in my backpack and threw it over my shorts once we got to the temple grounds. Keep in mind these are not the best quality since mine had a big hole in it by the end of my trip but no complaints given I got it for only a few Canadian dollars from a market in Bali!

Tourist pants

5. Leave the bulky clothing at home

The best investment I made for this trip was probably my Columbia Women’s Mighty Lite Hooded Jacket. My biggest dilemma for this trip was how to stay warm in South Korea without having to lug around a huge winter jacket for the entire duration of my travels. My friend suggested I look into compressible jackets. (Thanks Vanessa!) It kept me warm and I was able to compress it down to the size of a thin sweater. It was amazing!

Compressible jacket

For those who are more risk-loving, you can purchase seasonal items en route so you don’t even have to carry it around with you. Aaron purchased this compressible winter jacket from Uniqlo while we were in Seoul.

6. Packing cubes and organizers

Organization is key when it comes to packing light. Packing cubes allowed me to create little dense packages of clothing. I rolled them up tightly and was surprised how much I can fit in each of these.

Packing Cubes

For bras, I put them in a little laundry bag and stuffed it with socks to keep the shape. This bag was handy to double as a laundry bag for delicates during the trip.

Bra laundry bag

If you have some items which seem to take up a lot of space, try compression bags. These are also great for packing away dirty clothes. These ones we got don’t require a vacuum to release the air. Just put your clothing in, zip it up to leave a small hole, push all the air out and then zip it all the way. Alternatively, just get some heavy duty ziplock bags!

Compression bags

7. Wrinkle-free

Try to avoid clothes that easily wrinkle. With all the rolling and compressing (see above), it’s best to bring clothing that is easy to care for. Leave that cute blouse at home. If you are presented with a few wrinkles, try to hang it in the bathroom while you shower. The steam can sometimes help to release some of the wrinkles.

8. Travel-size toiletries

If you are travelling carry-on only, you must adhere to the liquid rules. As such, it’s important to either shop at the travel size aisle for teeny tiny version of your favourite toiletries or just get some reusable toiletry bottles and fill them up with your products of choice! Be sure to test for leaking extensively though! Even if they spill or if you did not bring enough, that’s ok! Unless you are travelling to remote areas, chances are you can always just pick up some toiletries along the way (especially when travelling to countries known for their great skin care products – e.g. Korea and Japan).

Travel bottles

9. E-travel books

I purchased only 2 travel books for my 4-country trip. For the other 2 countries, I found that electronic resources actually handled the job quite well. I mostly relied on Mark Wien’s travel guides as well as the Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet Guides. Please refer to my previous post for a more in-depth review of some travel apps.

So those were the lessons learned from my travels. I would love to hear about any other suggestions you may have. Happy travels!


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26 hours in Montreal, Quebec, Canada – Day 2

26 hours in Montreal, Quebec, Canada – Day 2

Photo of the day: Poutine @ La Banquise. Photo credit: Aaron.

St.-Viateur Bagels

After a late night last night, we decided to slowly get out of bed just in time to check out of the hotel. We drove over to St.-Viateur Bagels for some classic Montreal-style bagels. We picked up two sandwiches – the smoked salmon, cream cheese one on a sesame bagel, as well as a smoked meat sandwich on a rosemary and sea-salt bagel. They had in-house seating with pretty good looking salads to make it a meal, but it was a nice day so we took our sandwiches over to a bench at Parc La Fontaine. This reminded me so much of my days as a student here, when I would bike through this park to pick up bagels on the weekend. My bagel sandwich was quite disappointing. The meat juice has soaked through the bagel and made it very soggy. At the same time, the parts which were soggy were very hard and dense. The meat itself was not as good as the ones we had yesterday at Schwartz’s. Aaron’s sandwich, on the other hand, was nice and soft with quite generous amounts of cream cheese. I’ve realized that Kettleman’s Bagel in Ottawa is actually quite comparable in quality so it’s a great alternative for those who do not want to drive the 2 hours for Montreal-style bagels.

Smoked meat bagel sandwich @ St. Viateur’s Bagel.
Parc La Fontaine

Le Moineau Masqué

After breakfast, we walked around the park and checked out the neighbourhood of Plateau Mont-Royal before stopping at Le Moineau Masqué for some coffee. This was a very cute cafe with a lovely outdoor area with bean bags, a nice cushioned bench and even a cat to hang out with. We are not sure if the cat is a store cat but nonetheless, it stayed there on our table the whole time we were there. I quite enjoyed my iced matcha latte, which was nicely unsweetened; however, I will pass on the shortbread cookie here next time.

Le Moineau MasquĂ© – quite a cute cafe.
My iced matcha latte and the cat who kept us company @ Le Moineau Masqué.

La Banquise

We were not too hungry at this time but figured we were in the neighbourhood so we must check out the popular La Banquise for some poutine. Our friends tried to come here yesterday but gave up because the line was too long. When we arrived today, around 4pm, the line was not too bad. In a matter of minutes after we joined the line though, another 10-20 people appeared behind us. The wait itself was not bad, especially if your phone is already preloaded with podcasts for your road trip. We decided to just split the regular-sized classic poutine and I tried a bottle of local Bec Soda, sweetened with maple syrup. I chose the lime-flavoured soda and it was an interesting twist on a Sprite-like soda. It is less sweet and does have a very distinct taste, which makes it not as easy to drink as any regular soft drink. The poutine itself definitely lived up to its name. The potatoes were nicely sweet and seasoned, the gravy not too salty and the cheese curds were nice and “squeeky”. If you prefer the soft, melted cheese curds though, you will not find them here. See photo of the day for a visual representation of this deliciousness.

Old Montreal 

Before we headed back to Ottawa, we decided to stop by Old Montreal for some exploring. There seemed to many events happening here including a poutine festival as well as a cultural festival called Orientalys showcasing many different cultures, from Moroccan dance performances to an animated wood sculpture craving show by a man from France. Aaron really wanted to do the zipline across the Old Port, so we paid our fees, donned our gear and hiked up the metal scaffold to the top and experienced maybe <1 minute of zooming across the sky. For those who have done ziplining previously, this is not too exciting but it’s a great chance to experience it for those who have yet to do it.

Old Port of Montreal.

After our mini aerial adventure, we walked by a truck called M Churros Mme Banane selling churros and you know Aaron had to stop for one. It was a clever concept. They only sold 2 items on the menu here – churros and frozen bananas. These can both be customized with your favourite filling/coating. It looked like both items were equally popular and most groups bought one of each. We just got the original churro without any filling and the frozen banana with milk chocolate and peanuts. The churro was pretty average while the frozen banana was quite a delightful way to end our trip to Montreal!

Churro and frozen banana @ M Churros Mme Banane.

And this marks the end of our 26 hours spent in Montreal. It was definitely food-heavy but we’ve both been here in the past to do all the touristy things. I should really be renaming this post “26 hours of eating in Montreal punctuated by minimal exploring while digesting our food”. Till next time!