The Sweetest Trend – After You

In many major malls across Bangkok, you will find a popular dessert chain – After You. This dessert cafe is known for its thick Shibuya Honey Toast (among many other dessert options). But what makes this cafe so well-known, even among tourists?

The extensive menu

From toasts, coffee, cakes, bread, and even kakigori (shaved ice), After You offers an extensive menu that even the pickiest eater can be satisfied there. Apart from the toast (which I will cover in my next point), I managed to score a treat with the Milo kakigori.

Milo Kakigori

This bowl of shaved ice came with bits of milo nuggets in the mountain of shaved ice. Topping this mountain is sweet Horlicks foam cream which is then powdered with milo. The little jug of milo sauce came on the side – which we quickly realised that pouring it required skills – a feat that we couldn’t achieve. Despite the mess we created with the milo sauce, the milo kakigori was decadent and was well worth-it.

Tip: Heard that the Thai Milk Tea kakigori is amayyyyzing. Do try it out if you like tea!

The toast

Shibuya Honey Toast

Shibuya Honey Toast – probably the toast that made them famous. The classic honey toast is served in a thick cut, smothered with lots and lots and lots (you get the point) of butter, and is surprisingly not overwhelming.

Served with two scoops of ice cream, the regular-size order also came with a fluff of whipped cream and nuts. I personally thought that there was too much ice cream and a single scoop of ice cream would have given the toast a better ice cream to bread ratio. Nonetheless, the other scoop of ice cream can be eaten alone!

Having eaten this toast trip after trip, I’ve got to say that it has remained consistently delicious over the years. If the toast is still not sweet enough for you, After You serves the toast with a small jug of honey that can be added to your toast.

Snacks

The macadamia meringue is a snack that is packaged in small gift bottles, making it easy for one to bring back as souvenirs. It has a slight crunch and the sweetness like many meringues, but the small pieces of macadamia nuts within the meringue is the icing on the cake. Every meringue is so light and refreshing that one can easily finish the entire bottle in a sitting.

Final Thoughts

The treats at After You are on the pricier side, but in my opinion, totally worth it. While frequented by many tourists, I’ve seen many locals also eating there. The queues can get a little long during peak periods but if you are at a less touristy mall, or go at off-peak hours, the wait isn’t that long!

The downside of Airbnb

Unwelcome greeting from a condo.

A warning sign welcomed us during recent stay in an Airbnb accommodation. “Daily/Weekly rental is illegal” was the warning plastered at the entrance to the development and on lift lobbies. And it sounded like they really meant it by stating that we would be considered as trespassers and prosecuted.

That wasn’t the welcome that we were looking forward to after arriving past midnight.

Our host had cautioned us not to speak to anyone or mention anything about Airbnb or renting. But, the whole situation made us feel like criminals waiting to be caught.

During our three-day stay, we did just that — made a quick beeline past the reception, look straight ahead and not speak to anyone, hope nobody got in the lift with us, and only opened our mouths after closing the door to our rented apartment.

As we glanced at those we met along the way — other than the staff — everyone seemed to adopt the same posture. No talking, just straight walking.

It tickled us to think that many of them are also renting an Airbnb unit and were instructed to do so just like us. If we chatted, we would probably be sharing the same story and even have a laugh over the whole thing.

But I guess nobody wanted to take the risk for fear of being evicted and prosecuted.

The warning could not have come about just because only one unit was listed on Airbnb. There must be many more to warrant such an action. Residents must be fed up of strangers staying in their secured compound, especially if the visitors are unruly or noisy. After all, they are tourists and may forget that they are staying in a private home rather than hotel room.

As a home owner myself, I can understand how the condo management must have felt and why such a decision was made.

And this is not the first time or country that we’ve encountered when staying at an Airbnb accommodation.

If such accommodation pose problems for renters, why not just delist them from Airbnb?

From our experience, we only find out the restrictions after we’ve made our booking. Personally, we’d rather not have to live in fear, especially when we’re having a holiday.

Remove the listing and holiday-makers don’t have to deal with such a problem.

This is a downside that Airbnb needs to sort out with the relevant authorities in the countries where it operates. Take away this dampener and we’d opt for Airbnb anytime.

Collin Street Bakery fruit cake: Still great after all these years

Worth every calorie!

I love fruit cakes and have tried many over the years. Some are memorable and leave me longing for more while others got me wondering why I bought them in the first place. Looks can be deceiving. Even price is no guarantee of quality.

Out of all the good ones that I’ve tried, only one brand has stuck in my mind since I first tasted it in the mid-1990s. My in-laws gave my family a Collin Street Bakery fruit cake when they returned from a trip to the US. And not just me, but my family, have got hooked on it since.

Founded in 1896, Collin Street Bakery has been shipped to 196 countries around the world. That’s quite an achievement considering that it has only one physical store.

Thanks to the Internet and online commerce, I need not make a trip to Corsicana, Texas, to get my fix. I’ve ordered it online several times — can’t afford to do this too often because the shipping cost is hefty.

Every year, I’d get a mailer (good old hard copy) from Collin Street Bakery in the last quarter. And the reminder never fails to bring back the saliva-inducing memories.

I yielded to the temptation this year and received my package today — about three weeks after ordering online.

Guess how many cakes I ordered?

OK, let me tell you why I think this fruit cake stands out from others that I’ve tried.

  1. Nicely moist. A great fruit cake must be moist without being overly wet. Collin Street Bakery’s Deluxe Fruit Cake is at the right level of moist.
  2. Loaded with ingredients. Besides the pecans and cherries that adorn the top, the cake is packed with ingredients. No matter how it’s sliced, there are plenty to chew on with every bite.
  3. Collectible tin. The cake comes in a tin that is worthy of keeping. Classic looking, the tin is air tight and can be used to store other food items.
  4. Keeps well. Fret not if you cannot finish the cake quickly. Keep it in the fridge and it’ll still be good to eat months later.
  5. Worthy price. At US$29.95 for the regular sized version, it’s not cheap but certainly worth its price. Goodness is guaranteed.
Traditional fruit cake that’s worth its price

Any time’s a good time for a nice slice of fruit cake. Christmas just makes a great excuse for ordering one.

If you love fruit cakes, do check out those from Collin Street Bakery. It’s still not too late to get them just in time for Christmas.

As for me and my family, we’re not quite sure if ours will last till December 25. We have starting eating ours and can declare unabashedly, “This fruit cake is still as good after all these years and worth every calorie.”

Juice for your devices!

With some vouchers on-hand earlier this year, I decided to purchase the iWalk Scorpion X Quick Charge 3.0 Power Bank (12000 mAh). Having a similar 8000 mAh one at home, I figured that the 12000 mAh version will come power-packed, and it did not disappoint!

This power bank is fast charging, allowing me to charge my device quickly from 40% to 100% in less than an hour. Considering my heavy utilization of my phone when I’m on the move, having a fast charging power bank is always a plus. In addition, it stores enough juice to recharge a full mobile device four times. When traveling in a group, the juice capacity definitely is a perk as it ensures that you still have enough power to charge your device after allowing others to charge it over a day. 

From the name of the device, the scorpion, it is not hard to notice why it got its name. With three cables attached to the power bank, it allows one to charge multiple devices (with different ports) – charging cables include the USB-C, Micro-USB and Lightning cables. It has a USB head to allow charging of the power bank with a wall plug or even your laptop. I particularly liked this feature as I am not required to bring additional cables to charge my power bank.

The power bank is approximately the size of an iPhone 11, and has a very sleek design. One side of it has a checkered and seemingly anti-scratch surface. As a 12000 mAh device, it is without doubt heavier than its 8000 mAh counterpart but still falls within an acceptable weight to carry around. 

A small flaw this power bank has, in my opinion, is that it does not contain a USB port. With many devices that do not utilize the usb-c, micro USB and lighting types, the lack of the USB port prevents me from charging other types of devices, much to my dismay.

Despite the small flaw, I would definitely recommend the purchase of this iWalk Scorpion Power Bank if you are looking for a power-packed charger! You can find it here

Magic MOGICS Power Bagel

MOGICS power bagel is an award-winning extension cord that is able to charge six devices at once. With two USB ports and four universal adapters placed in a circular shape, this power bagel is a nifty gadget to have, especially when traveling.

Features

  • 92 cm extension cord
  • 2 USB Ports – 2A if one is used, 1A each when both are used
  • 4 Universal Adapters – Circular shape ensures that even with chargers that have large charging heads, they still can be used simultaneously
  • 1 Universal Plug – Embedded in the middle of the bagel, the universal plug can be used in countries that do not use the US head.

Thoughts

On my recent trip to Taipei, I used the power bagel which allowed me to charge multiple devices at once, and I really enjoyed the use of it. 

Compared to the usual extension cord I usually bring around, this palm-size cord allows me to carry it in my carry-on bag rather than my luggage bag, allowing easy access to it even when in airports and cafes. With the four convenient universal adapters, it’s easy to charge devices that have different heads, without the need for other adapters.

It was especially handy at the end of the day when I had to charge my laptop, phone, fitbit watch, portable charger, and bluetooth earphones. All could be charged with a single power socket and the power bagel. 

However, while I really enjoy the use of the power bagel, there are a few points I’m slightly unhappy about. 

The universal plug provided seems to be a bit flimsy, and with poor instructions on how to use it, chances of breaking it are high, especially when trying to use the UK adapter. In addition, the head of the power bagel also seems a bit loose, and while I am able to secure it by force, I am constantly afraid brute force may ultimately cause me to break it. But as of now, the power bagel is still holding up well!

MOGICS power bagel is definitely a handy must-have travel item that I’d recommend to all travelers. While it does have a high price point, the convenience it brings definitely makes it worth-it. 

Planning for a trip doesn’t have to be stressful!

Have you ever tried planning for a holiday, not knowing where to start? Here are three ways to begin planning for a trip.

Find itineraries off the Internet, including package trips

Many people turn to google to explore itineraries and I think that it is always a good start to see how others have planned theirs. Many times, they’ll input their experiences and notes on each attraction which are very good points to consider. In addition, these itineraries are usually catered to specific groups of people and if you happen to be one that does not fall into a specific group, you can easily mix and match itineraries to your advantage.

Another way to plan for your trip is to look at how tour agencies package their itineraries. While they may not reveal a detailed itinerary, it is helpful to look at the main attractions they have highlighted as these itineraries are often planned with their customers in mind, and they know what customers will appreciate. Should you like their itineraries as well, and you’d like to have a land package instead of planning your free and easy trip, you can easily enquire on their services as well.

Look at sites like Klook or Kkday for inspiration

As I am one who like to plan for free and easy trips (you get to control your itinerary), I enjoy exploring sites like Klook and Kkday for inspiration on major attractions. These online platforms often form partnerships with local attractions to get reasonable tickets for customers. Also, their review system on their platform allows customers alike to leave their reviews on these attractions that can benefit others. 

Summary of destination by Klook

Klook, in particular, provides a summary of the country that you are looking to visit, including the best time to visit and local weather. This provides a quick view on what to expect in the country. For each destination, Klook provides telco, local attractions, experiences and travel options for every budget. With most of the items purchased coming in the form of e-tickets, it also makes tracking of expenses convenient.

Pin attractions on your Google Maps

Apart from browsing itineraries and looking at platforms like Klook and Kkday, it is always good to pin attractions that you are interested in on your Google Maps. While the attractions may not be on your planned itinerary, from past experiences, it is good to have them as reference. Pinned attractions can include recommended restaurants, cultural experiences, or parks and gardens.

On my recent trip to South Australia, I had pinned many locations on my Google Maps, just for reference. During the trip, I realized that these pinned attractions were useful especially when I had finished going to the attractions on my planned itinerary. Similarly, I have many pinned locations in Taipei and I eventually take time to explore these starred places.  

Pinned attractions on Google Maps in Taipei

Planning for a trip may be time consuming but definitely rewarding – so take time and research on the places before you trip to allow you to get the most out of it!

When tradition triumphs over technology

A 3G fixed desk phone

The young and tech savvy lap up technology and take to new devices without needing to consult user manuals or be taught how to use them.

Take the smartphone for instance. Everything feels so intuitive that most of us can easily switch devices or even platforms without feeling lost.

But there’s still a group that’s very old school when it comes to learning new things. One of them is my mum. She’s in her 80s and not accustomed to change or new things.

When she moved in her new apartment, we thought the best way to keep in touch with her was to give her a mobile phone. We opted for a feature phone with a keypad so that she doesn’t have to learn too many new things.

Alas, after more than a decade, she’s still wrestling with using the phone, so much so that she doesn’t bring it out with her anymore.

After much consideration, we thought of switching to a normal landline with a desktop phone for her. But, a check with our telco revealed a grossly prohibitive cost because analogue lines have disappeared and we needed to pay a hefty sum to activate a digital line.

If only there was a desk phone that uses a 3G SIM card. This way, we get the best of both worlds — desk phone with numerical keypad minus the need to install a digital line.

An online search revealed many offerings of such phones but most were China-made and run on GSM or 2G.

We dug further and finally found a phone that matches our requirement on Lazada. To be sure, we read and reread the specs. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any review so we didn’t have any inkling if it would work for us.

At S$62 without shipping cost, the no brand China-made phone was a low-risk punt that could solve an urgent problem for us. We paid an extra S$3.99 for priority shipping.

The phone arrived promptly and was easy to set up. My mum took to it like fish to water as it was similar to the phones she was used to years ago.

Here are five reasons why we think this phone is great for those who cannot keep up with technology:

  1. Quick setup. Getting the phone up and running was a breeze. The seller even provided an adapter to accommodate SIM cards of various sizes.
  2. Easy to use. It’s like any fixed line phone and doesn’t require additional learning. It handles like a desk phone.
  3. Accommodates SIM card. This is the clincher for us. Just slot in a SIM card and the phone is up and running.
  4. Affordable. At S$62, it is cheaper than a low-end mobile phone without compromising many features.
  5. Comes with mobile features. Caller-ID and SMS can be viewed from the LCD screen. What’s best is that this screen is bigger than my mum’s last feature phone.

If there’s an area of improvement, it’s the need to hit the call button after the numbers have been keyed in. But, that’s easily overcome with the quick dial feature where a call can be made by just holding on to a pre-determined digit.

Overall, we highly recommend this desk phone because it’s perfect for the elderly and those who are not as tech savvy. It’s functional, practical and offers great peace of mind. We found the phone on Lazada. If you find another somewhere else, do share the link with us.

Yummy Ya Kun!

“Screw the french press. We’ve got the sock”. 

Posters with these words are commonly found in many Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlets across Singapore. To the international audience, this may seem strange but to locals, we know that the sock refers to the sock filter that is commonly used in Singapore to strain and filter our local coffee, and we, too, agree that coffee made this way tastes awesome.

Aside from the coffee, Ya Kun Kaya Toast is more commonly-known as a home-grown outlet that many locals in Singapore grew up eating at. With the signature kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs, Ya Kun Kaya Toast continues to draw people to their shops to date. 

Kaya is a custard-like paste made with coconut milk and pandan leaves. It has a jam-like consistency and is very fragrant. There are two common kinds of kaya – Hainanese kaya and Nonya kaya. Ya Kun’s is more towards Nonya kaya.

Here are three of the must-haves in Ya Kun:

Ya Kun Kaya Toast Set A

The set consists of kaya toast cut into four separate slices, two soft-boiled eggs and a cup of coffee or tea.

Kaya toast – a slab of cold butter and thick kaya spread wedged in evenly toasted traditional bread (with the ends cut off).

Soft-boiled eggs – runny egg yolks with soft egg whites. You can add your desired amount of dark or light soy sauce and pepper into the eggs. The older generation prefers to stir the eggs and seasonings together and drink the egg but I personally prefer to dip the toast in the egg.

Coffee – Ya Kun’s coffee is unlike western coffee and produces a rich thick taste. You can request for evaporated or condensed milk in your coffee!

Kaya Crackers

Kaya crackers are more of a snack rather than part of a meal. It has the same filling as the kaya toast but instead of being wrapped in toasted traditional bread, it is sandwiched between two cream crackers. A must-have if you’re too full for bread but game for a snack!

Steamed kaya bread

I know of many who prefer the steamed kaya bread over the kaya toast and that’s because the steamed bread is more like steamed cake. Served in similar baskets used when steaming dimsum, the steamed kaya bread comes piping hot, with similar fillings as the kaya toast.

Ya Kun Kaya toast can be found in many countries, including Taiwan and China. However, if you would like to bring kaya back to your home country, you can easily purchase a jar of kaya from any Ya Kun outlets (there is even one at Changi Airport!) – just remember to check it in as it exceeds the airlines 100ml limit. 

The Blossom lounge experience

Changi Airport has won various awards and many of its amenities are highly raved by both local and international audiences on how pleasant the airport experience is. Hence, I was never really curious on how airport lounges were, especially in Changi Airport. During my most recent trip, I departed from Changi Airport Terminal 4 and decided to drop by Blossom Lounge in the transit area just for the experience. 

Compared to other lounges overseas, Blossom lounge was considerably emptier. With ample private, booth and table seating, passengers had the luxury of choosing an area they were comfortable with. The common seating area had power points available, making it easy for passengers to recharge their devices on-the-go.   

Now let’s talk about the food spread. Similar to other lounges, Blossom lounge offered warm dishes, including Singapore Laksa and Vegetarian Noodles. I would definitely have gone for the laksa if I weren’t too full as a hot soupy dish can help warm the stomach well before a flight. I went ahead with a small snack of cheese and crackers though – not much options for cheese, but this was pretty good.   

The drinks section was in a far corner of the lounge, and I actually missed it while in search of drinks. I had only seen apple and orange juice dispensers near the cereal bar and wondered why options were so limited in the lounge. Upon further exploration, I was contented to see the fridge filled with drinks from local brand “Yeo’s” – always happy to see local lounges promoting local products. For those that like to drink before a flight for a better sleep, there are alcohol options here as well.

Blossom lounge also has shower facilities which upon entering the lounge, you should seek a staff member’s assistance in getting a slot for the shower. Wifi is also available in the lounge, but if you forget to ask for the password, you can just hook on to the free Changi Wifi as the connection speed is similar.

Blossom lounge is honestly pretty good – it’s quiet, spacious and most importantly, provides the comfort you need before a flight. Do remember to constantly check the TV screens for your flight information as Changi Airport is a silent airport!

Reminiscing Adelaide

In the final installment of my South Australia trip, I’ll be sharing with you more on the capital of South Australia – Adelaide. 

Having flown in to South Australia from Adelaide, my initial thoughts on it weren’t really positive. Upon arrival, the Adelaide airport was exceptionally crowded, with only one functioning belt that delivered the luggage of around three flights – this caused a huge backlog of luggage along the belt and resulted in a long wait for our luggage. However, this probably happened because the arrival hall was undergoing renovations. I’m sure it’ll be much better in no time!

Adelaide was definitely the most crowded city/town we visited during this trip. It had a nice vibe to it. In our previous locations, our main mode of transport was car but in Adelaide city itself, we could explore it on foot as well as via the trams (free within the city!). 

Two of my favorite memories of Adelaide are Adelaide Central Market and Hahndorf. 

Adelaide Central Market

Adelaide Central Market is home to more than 70 traders and has a 150-year history. From fresh produce to cheese and even household items, its many merchants seem to have established their own customer base. 

While I did not purchase much from the market, I definitely enjoyed the whole atmosphere within the market. My family decided to have a break and we ordered desserts from a local bakery – a nice treat indeed. Peppered with tables and chairs along a corner of the market, customers were able to purchase food items from nearby stalls and consume it in this public seating area. This is a plus for many who like to order individual items from various stalls. 

Within the market, a stall that stood out was one that aimed to be environmentally-friendly. From selling toothpaste capsules to beans by weight (you bring your own bags/containers), this stall aimed to sell products that produced little waste. 

Hahndorf

Hahndorf
Road to Hahndorf

On a beautiful Saturday, my family and I decided to head out to Hahndorf. This town with German heritage is a mere 25-minute drive from Adelaide city centre. Our first stop was the Beerenberg farm which is known to produce its own strawberries. While we could not pick strawberries as it was not yet in season, we visited the shop which sold jams and sauces that tasted heavenly. The counter staff gave us samples of whatever we requested for – the jams were sweet gifts which we happily brought back home. 

Apart from the farm, we strolled along the main street in Hahndorf which had many small shops and rich in history. Some shops still stood in the original infrastructure that was build more than a century back. The highlight was the meal we had there in Hahndorf Inn. From live music to the quality of the food, Hahndorf Inn had the chill vibe which we really enjoyed on this afternoon. 

Live music in Hahndorf Inn

South Australia is amazing and I foresee myself heading back for more road trips in the future as there are many places that I’ve yet to explore!