Category Archives: Food

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

~ B & K

Guarded by a giant golden statue, with the cacophonous yells of monkeys, you’ll find the Batu Caves looking down upon Kuala Lumpur. Weathered and rugged limestone hills steeply climb upwards, adorned with festoons of jungle foliage, giving way to one of the most popular Hindu shrines in the world outside of India.

Upon coming to Kuala Lumpur, we knew that this was one of – if not the – top things that we wanted to see. It’s very easy to access as you can take the rail line directly to the town of Gombak where the shrine resides for RM 4.40 (~$1.50) from KL Sentral Station. For us however, we had to take an Uber to the caves, as we were in Petaling Jaya at the time, which did not have access. But this was not really an issue, it was pretty cheap, quick, and efficient.

Consecrated Gold Statue of Lord Mudrugan

Upon arriving to the caves, the first thing that you’ll notice is the golden statue of Lord Murugan. It towers above you at the entrance to the long staircase. Which brings me to the second part you’ll notice immediately – the stairs. There are 272 concrete steps that will bring you to the cave complex within the hill.

Batu Caves Stair Entry

As the Batu Caves are an active religious site, you should come dressed appropriately; which for men means wearing shirt sleeves and covered knees, and for women to cover their shoulders and legs. If you don’t meet these requirement, you will not be allowed to enter – however there are usually attendants at the base of the stairs that will rent you sarongs for only a few RM each. Actually entering the cave complex itself is free though.

We began our climb in the late morning under the surprisingly warm January sun. We took our time going up the stairs, but it only took ten or fifteen minutes to reach the first landing. Along the way, we took time to admire the jungle and local inhabitants of the caves – namely monkeys.

Climbing the Stairs
Monkeys Just Hanging Out
Mischievous Monkey

The monkeys will keep their distance for the most part, but as we’ve learned in other locations as well, they are wildly unpredictable, curious, and will take a swipe at food or loose items. On the way up, we saw a baby monkey that had managed to swipe an entire ice cream cone.

Monkey With Ice Cream
Monkey Stealing a Waterbottle

Dark Cave

We took our first stop at the landing at Dark Cave. The Dark Cave is an undeveloped part of the cave complex, which you can take tours of. You can take the 45 minute guided tour for RM 35 (~$10) which runs every 20 minutes. If you have a larger group and advanced notice, you can book a 3 – 4 hour tour which further explores the cave complex for around RM 80 (~$22) a person.

Dark Cave Entrance

We didn’t take the tour, mainly because we didn’t have closed-toe shoes, but if you have the time and opportunity it is a great tour. The caves are home to the rarest spider in the world, endemic geckos, and other fauna found only here. The 2 km complex also exhibits a wide range in geological formations with stalagmites, stalactites, cave curtains, flow stones, cave pearls and scallops and other features. So, instead of taking of the tour, we looked at the informative plaques at the entrance to the cave, and watched the antics of the monkeys – very entertaining.

Cave Map
Batu Caves Flow Stone
Plaque at Batu Caves

Temple Cave

After a half hour or so, we continued our way up the last third of the stairs to the shrine. When you arrive at the top of the stairs you will find a large landing that opens to a large cave atrium. Here, you will actually then need to descend more steps into the main “room” which houses several small shrines.

Kyle and Bri on the Steps
Inside the main room
Shrine within Batu Caves

Various small vendors will sell you trinkets, drinks, and other such items while up here. Keep in mind that the drinks up within the shrine are more expensive than at the base due to the fact that everything must be carried up by hand – no elevator or wheel-chair access here.

You can proceed further into the cave and find another shrine in the back. Here the roof gives way and allows light to enter the cave. This allows for the cave to feel much more open and inviting than many other cave complexes you may encounter.

Staircase to Interior Shrine
Shrine Within Batu Caves

Batu Caves is actually a rather recent development, in the grand scheme of things. While the caves themselves are estimated to be 400 million years old, and has been used by the indigenous Temuan people, modern day usage of the caves began in 1860 when Chinese settlers began excavating guano for fertilizer. The caves then became famous after being recorded by colonial authorities and the American Naturalist, William Hornaday in 1878.

An Indian trader named Pillai was inspired by the ‘vel’-shaped entrance to the cave and in 1890 founded the Sri Mahamariamman Temple within the cave. Wooden steps to the temple were originally put in, but concrete steps were placed in 1920 to accommodate the heavy number of visitors to the site.

Thaipusam

The Batu Caves serves as the premier place to be outside of India for the Hindu holiday of Thaipusam. We are still kicking ourselves for not visiting the temple during the time (we were in Kuala Lumpur during it).

The festival begins in the early hours of the morning and features devotees walking several kilometers from the the city, ultimately winding up at the Temple Cave. During their march, devotees (kavadi bearers) will pierce themselves will large metal skewers, and elaborate shoulder carriers called Kavadi, as a display of their devotion. Priests tend to the devotees and sprinkle consecrated ash over the flesh of the participants.

Thaipusam

This display is made to offer milk to Lord Murugan, the god of war within Hinduism – though he also features prominently within some sects of Buddhism in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India as well.

Thaipusam

Photo courtesy of: nina.bruja

While the display can come off as extreme and macabre, the surreal experience is viewed as a purifying event that will bring good luck in the coming year. The festival itself is extremely crowded and busy, attracting over a million visitors and devotees on the day (which takes place in late January or early February.

Thaipusam

Other Attractions

At the base of the stairs, you can also find two other cave temples: the Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave. Both of these caves feature Hindu statues and paintings. For those interested in the history of the lore of Murugan and other Hindu teachings, these are excellent places to check out – though they are not free like the cave temple.

Art Museum Cave

There are also numerous shops and stalls surrounding the entrance to the cave complex that will sell various souvenirs, trinkets, clothes, food, and drink.

I enjoyed my first of many coconuts on our travels here. Briana also managed to grab some vegetarian food very easily and for a very reasonable price.

Kyle with Coconut
Veg food at nearby stall

We really enjoyed the Batu caves and recommend it for anyone who is visiting Kuala Lumpur. It’s a great activity for most anyone, especially families and active adults.

Things To Keep In Mind

  • This is an active religious site, and as such you should dress and act respectful and modest
  • The complex is large and will take several hours to properly explore
  • The temple requires strenuous physical activity as there is no elevator or wheelchair access
  • Pay attention to the monkeys, we recommend not carrying food, and keeping water out of site when not actively drinking.
  • Keep all loose items on you or in a bag, don’t let the monkeys grab your stuff
  • Monkeys have personalities, some are far more bold and aggressive than others
  • Once a monkey has an item, it is no longer yours – don’t get bit by a monkey fighting for an item

Briana Descending Stairs
Angry Monkey

Golden Gate Park San Francisco

~K~

After a decidedly wet winter here in the California Bay Area, we decided to take advantage of a nice sunny day by going to Golden Gate Park. While we’d been to San Francisco several times previously, we had never actually been to GGP.

One reason that we had not been to the park before, was because of parking. Parking in San Francisco is not cheap, and it can be an absolute pain to find a spot. Many parking spots can range from $10 – $20 an hour and as such we make a point to not do that – we’ll take BART or find some free way to do it if we can.

On this outing, we elected to park in one of the few free places that we’re aware of – Land’s End. The Land’s End area is on the west side of the Peninsula with a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin across the bay. It is a little removed from the Presidio which is connected directly south of the GGB. Land’s End is also a great access to the Sutro Baths, Sutro Heights, and Ocean Beach.

Lands End from the Parking Lot
Sutro Baths

By parking at Land’s End, we got a great view of the ocean and cliffs as we walked down Point Lobos Ave, along Ocean Beach, finally arriving at the west entrance to Golden Gate Park after about a mile.

Rock Outcropping

The wind that whipped up from the beach was pretty substantial and occasionally blew a little sand in our face, but it wasn’t a big deal. In all honesty, the beach looked pretty nice, with large flat expanses of sand for whatever you would want – playing sports, playing with pets, laying out, cycling, swimming, surfing – it was all there.

Ocean Beach

But that was not our destination. We turned into the park at John F Kennedy Dr with our first waypoint being the Dutch windmill. It’s pretty iconic, and difficult miss as it stands above the surrounding trees.

Windmill from the Beach
Kyle near the Dutch Windmill

At this point, we needed to use the bathroom, and thankfully, there are public restrooms throughout the park. We chose to go to the closest to us, which were at the Chalet Soccer Fields.

View of Windmill from soccer fields

Golden Gate Park is a large park developed in 1871, organized in a similar manner to New York’s Central Park – a long rectangular park. In comparison to Central Park, Golden Gate Park is 20% bigger at a measurement of 0.5 miles by 3 miles.

Purple flowers

After our quick restroom break, we continued on to our next destination which was the Bison Paddock. Golden Gate Park has kept Bison in the park since 1891, and at one point housed over 100 Bison. Today, the number is far lower at 5, but that makes the animals and their size no less magnificient. It stands as a testemant to the beauty of the west and American heritage.

Bison in Golden Gate Park

After a relaxed photo shoot of the bison, we proceeded on towards Strawberry Hill, where we planned to ultimately end our day’s excursion. But that was actually quite a ways away from our current position. As such we made multiple stops along the way.

Horse Tours
Dog Park in Golden Gate Park

The first of these stops was at Spreckles Lake. The lake was quite lively, with plenty of people and wildlife enjoying the lake. We even got to see a few impromptu boat (miniature) races. It was very reminsent of Lumphini Park in Bangkok.

Bri at Spreckles Lake
Seagull with a Muffin

Continuing on from Spreckles Lake, we walked along John F Kennedy Dr coming upon Lindley Meadow. It appeared that there was some sort of a Yoga event that was being set up for here. We could see some people practicing AcroYoga in various areas, booths selling natural products, and other such items.

Wanderlust Yoga Festival
Aerial Yoga set up

We didn’t make a stop at Lindley Meadow, but did take a break upon arriving at East Meadow. By this point, we’d walked several miles and were needing a break. It would have seemed that a whole host of families had thought the same thing, and the East Meadow was filled with families enjoying the day. It does make for a nice picnic spot.

Briana in the Forest Trail

After resting for roughly twenty minutes, we made the final push towards Strawberry Hill. Our (my) main interest here, was a waterfall. After passing under the Park Presidio Blvd, we made a quick cut through a forest path before arriving at the Stow Lake Boathouse. Here you can rent paddle boats for Stow Lake, which a small lake that surrounds Strawberry Hill. Strawberry Hill is by extension, an island. But that is no worry, because there is a bridge to get you across. Multiple trails meander around Strawberry hill, with a few culminating at the very top.

Stow Lake Boats
Bri on Strawberry Hill Bridge
Forest Trail Stairs

We were a little less interested in climbing the hill, so we put a focus on seeing the waterfall which is on the east side of the island. We enjoyed the falls for a few minutes before calling it a day and beginning our several mile walk back to the car.

Strawberry Hill Waterfall
Strawberry Hill Waterfall

Our trip was pretty simple, but it should be duly noted that there is a tremendous amount to see and do while at Golden Gate Park. The park offers multiple days worth of activities and ultimately can’t be seen in one day.

Conservatory

Carousel

Botanical Garden

Hippie Hill

National AIDS Memorial Grove

Shakespeare Garden

Kezar Stadium

Polo Field

Archery Range

Golden Gate Nursery

De Young Museum

Academy of Sciences

Japanese Tea Garden

Turtles in Stow Lake
Duck and ducklings near Strawberry Hill
Black Bird On A Log
Goose In Golden Gate Park
Robin with worms

dessert

Coffee, Desserts, and other Sweets We Ate in Belgrade, Serbia

~B~

Onto the coffee and desserts we tried in Belgrade, Serbia! During the five weeks we spent there we primarily got our desserts from the grocery store and bakeries, and our coffee from three-in-one packets, but we also tried out a couple cafes and a creperie. I’m going to cover them in a similar manner to my Desserts in Budapest post which has been relatively popular post for our site (in terms of traffic). Serbia definitely has less tourists, but probably partly because of that, there is less written about it on the web. 

Desserts We Ate in Belgrade, Serbia

I’ll begin with the coffees and desserts we tried out:

Hari’s Creperie
Strawberry chocolate crepe
hari's creperiecreperie

Because they seemed fairly popular there and I hadn’t had a ton of them in my life, I decided that if I had to try only one dessert out in Belgrade, it would be a crepe. We first made them ourselves (about that later) but I also wanted to try one out. It seemed the best-rated/most popular places were Hari’s Creperie and Glumac. It was getting near the end of our stay before we decided to give it a go and ultimately chose Hari’s because it was closer to us and open late (until midnight everyday). I think we made our way there around 11pm one night (I talked about schedule we were keeping in our roundup for that time) to finally indulge.

At that point it was tempting to get a waffle because they all looked so appealing and we both enjoy a good waffle, but I had already decided- crepe. Hari’s offers both sweet and savory crepes (like omelettes, basically) but we were obviously there for dessert. We decided to share one, both because of the size, and the price. They were cash only and one item plus a small tip would take what we had left at the time (not much- we needed to go to an ATM) so it was really our only option. I read that tipping is not necessary in Serbia, but in this case we did because we felt the service was good (and it feels not to unless we’re somewhere you’re not supposed to tip). They were quick to seat us and bring our food. They also gave us water which had not been the case everywhere.

Our crepe included chocolate, strawberries, and a cream/yoghurt. Very good. And very filling. By the end we were glad we shared. So service, food, etc. all good. I will say that their television programming was rather unprofessional, though. I may send them a message advising them to change it.

Info:
Located: Kraljice Marije 8, Beograd 11000, Serbia (less than a kilometer from the Church of Saint Mark)
Website: Here is their Facebook page. They also have a regular site but it’s only relevant in terms of looking at their (Greek) origins and some of what they offer. The menu and prices were a little different in Serbia.
Cost: The crepe we ordered cost 420 Serbian Dinar which currently equates to $3.58. There were a couple slightly cheaper options and also, obviously, more expensive items. The simpler the item, the cheaper, and the more ingredients (such as multiple fruits, candies, or whatever in your crepe or on your waffle), the more it will cost.

Coffee Dream
Coffee Dream Outside
Coffee Dream SeatingCoffee Shake
Kyle at tableKyle with coffee dream

We also wanted some coffee experiences. Vietnam really got us into trying local coffee and with Belgrade’s heavy cafe culture (I think we saw more cafes here than anywhere else), it was almost hard not to!

At Coffee Dream, you can choose to dine in or take-away your ordered items. We did not realize this so when we went up to the counter to order, they assumed we were getting take-away. We should have begun by sitting down at a table. Flavor options for the various types of coffees include cinnamon, choco-cookie, caramel, and even pumpkin! You can see the menu here. We think (see below) we ordered a caramel freezeri which was basically like an coffee shake. It was just what we wanted. Despite accidentally ordering the coffee to go, we first sat down and enjoyed it for a few minutes before taking off to stroll around and finish it off (we shared).

Info:
Located: Coffee Dream is actually a chain with several locations throughout Belgrade and even throughout Serbia. Each location is a little different.
Cost: We paid 245 ($2.24), yet online it says 275 for what we think we ordered so it’s possible we got something else. Prices may also vary slightly by day or location but in generalmost are similar and you can approximate prices on the menu.
Website: http://www.coffeedream.rs/ 

Cafe & Factory
Caramel coffeeGood coffeecafeandfactoryKyle with coffeee

Cafe & Factory (or one of its locations, apparently) was just down the street and around the corner from our Airbnb. We’d often pass it and enjoy the nice aroma drifting out. One day, we decided we’d skip our 3-in-1 packets and head over there to start our day. It was then that we found out that “cafe and factory” means cafe AND factory. They make fresh coffee there and inside we saw people stand in line to get it freshly ground. We thought about getting some of their ground coffee (maybe we should have) but we didn’t have a coffee machine at our Airbnb there or at our next place and still had a couple months before we’d be heading back to the US so we just ordered some coffee to enjoy in the cafe. I think we got the Latte Macchiato Caramelo and Cafe Mocha Bianca. It was something along those lines. It was as good as it looks!

Info:
Located: There are six locations http://cafe-factory.net/ja/index.php/locations
Cost: The total cost for both of our coffees was $3.90 (430 Serbian Dinar)
Website: http://cafe-factory.net/ja/index.php

Ice Cream
me with coffee gelatoCoffe ice cream
ic flavors

On one of our first days in Belgrade, after Kyle got his first Pljeskavica (burger), I found myself hungry as well. The first thing we came to that suited my tastes was ice cream. I chose the coffee flavor and we headed over to the Church of Saint Mark and strolled around the park with our food.

Info:
Located: It was somewhere between Park Manjez and the Church of Saint Mark. It looks like it might have been around Bacio Gelato but I’m not convinced that’s where I got it.
Cost: $0.64 (70 Serbian Dinar)
Website: not sure

There are plenty of other ice cream/gelato places that looked really delicious too, though! Just wander around and you’ll see.

Gelato

Bakeries

We made nine bakery visits. Some visits involved the purchase of a single pastry and on others we chose multiple items. I’m going to go over costs in advance for this section as I am not including every single item we purchased. We spent a total of $8.75 at bakeries. Try that in France or Switzerland! The macaron cost 100 Serbian dinar ($0.91), one of the donut visits cost 120 Serbian dinar ($1.10), and my other visits I simply listed in my finances as “bakery” or “pastry” but those visits respectively cost $0.63 (2), $0.64, $0.89, $1, $1.43, and $1.52.

Pekara Trpkovic

Belgrade bakery popularPopular placeSweet item

This is allegedly THE place to get burek in Belgrade (or so I have read). Every time we passed it there was a line out the door. Now, we did not get burek here because we did not feel like it when we visited but we did try some food. Kyle got something which was more of a savory snack and I chose the item you see above which basically tasted like fried dough soaked in honey.

Located: We went to this location: Nemanjina 32, Beograd, Serbia, but it looks like there is another at Dimitrija Tucovića 60, Beograd, Serbia
Website: http://pekaratrpkovic.rs/

Hleb & Kifle

Donuts in a box
Macaroondonuts from bakery

This is a higher-end bakery in Serbia. We saw them throughout and tried items from a couple of them. It was actually only my second time having a macaron (the first time was in Sri Lanka) that I can remember. All scrumptious!
Located: There are many locations throughout Serbia. You can find them on the website.
Website: http://www.hlebikifle.rs/

German lady near school

pastry from german woman

Our first attempt at visiting Park forest Zvezdara was not entirely successful but we did have a nice day exploring. On our way back to our place we were hungry and decided to make a stop at the bakery. Kyle knew he’d be able to find something (a burger) along the way but I needed something to help me along until we were home. The place was run by a friendly German woman. We spent a little time talking to her before we went on our way.

Location: There is no listing online and we can’t find it recognized anywhere, but here is the location on Googlemaps (unmarked).
Website: No website

Other Bakeries

Pastry

There were obviously other bakeries we visited as well but I don’t remember them. Like the previous one, many have no online presence- even on googlemaps which makes it difficult to find them. I might remember better if they had allowed photographs but the couple times I tried to take a picture they “no photos”. Interesting to me because other people taking photos and posting them on their blog or social media is basically free advertising but maybe they want privacy or the ability to more freely change items/prices, etc. Who knows. Anyway, the pastry you see above was one of my favorites from another bakery we visited a couple times. It was filled with chocolate.

Onto the desserts we tried at home:

Here are the treats we got from the grocery store.

Ice Cream Cakes
Chocolate ice cream cake
White Ice Cream Cake BelgradeBerry Ice Cream Cake
Ice Cream Cake BoxChocolate

When we were in the store and saw the prices on these things (like $2), we thought, it can’t possibly taste good too. THEY WERE. As you can see, we basically tried every flavor we found.

Other Ice Cream at Home.
ice cream bar

We were more focused on the ice cream cakes in terms of ice cream but we also tried a couple ice cream bars. This one was called Kapri.

Homemade Crepes
Crepe with berriesBerry crepeHomemade Crepe

At the store we were able to buy prepackaged crepes- similar to the way tortillas are normally packaged. We found them in a refrigerated area near produce, under the gnocchi and other pre-packaged pastas. Kyle warmed/cooked them in a pan, sometimes cooked a berry mixture, and then we added beli sir (local cheese) and/or yoghurt, etc. It was one of my FAVORITE things I ate abroad period. If only I could have it now!

Candy Bars, Chocolate Boxes, and other Grocery Store Treats
Alpine milk chocolatecoconut candy
Coconut barChocolate box
Milka Bar

There was this area in our grocery store that would have made you think Valentine’s Day was coming up, but it was just always like that!! The candy was fairly affordable too so we treated ourselves and brought back some for our families. We tried several kinds and found everything to be really good. Because we tried to give some type of candy to everyone (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.), basically half my backpack was filled with candy on our final flight home.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal yoghurtRaspberries on oatmeal

Oatmeal?! Well, when you add brown sugar, fruit, and possibly yoghurt and/or nutella (yes, we found nutella there) well, it starts to taste a little like dessert!

Honorable mention: Airplane yoghurt! (Plane ride from Athens to Belgrade) 

Plane foodHoneyyoghurt

This may not count as a dessert and it’s also Greek, but it was sweet! I’m mentioning it because it was such a luscious combination of cream and honey and there’s nowhere else to put it. Greek yoghurt was also popular in Serbia though I couldn’t find this exact package at the store (I looked).

I’ll finish off with the way we’d normally start our day, with coffee.

Coffee

There you go. If you had another great dessert in Belgrade feel free to comment!

Budapest Desserts

Desserts We Tried in Budapest!

~B~

When I first saw Kevin and Amanda’s popular post: Everything I Ate in Budapest!, I showed it to Kyle and we used the article, along with several others, to get some ideas about different foods we wanted to try in Budapest. Because we found it useful and have made similar type posts in the past, I decided to try something like it with the desserts we tried in Budapest!

If you know me, you know I love my sweets, and Budapest did not disappoint. There are many markets, bakeries, cafes and so on where you can find various types of sweets. I included coffee in this post because the few cups we tried out were pretty dessert-esque. We were in Budapest for nearly a month and a half so we had time to try a few spots. Like most other places, we also didn’t have an oven (for baking) which made it necessary to find items to satisfy our (mostly my) sweet tooth. With as many sweets as we did eat, there were plenty of great places (or, at least, places with great reputations) that we didn’t make it to during our time in Hungary. Feel free to make a comment if there was another place you loved in Budapest!

Budapest Desserts

Onto the sweets!

Chimney Cakes (Kürtőskalács) from a stand
Chimney Cake
Chimney Cake at Christmas Market
Once you take in the scent of this sweet dough roasting, you will find it necessary to try some! I first saw chimney cakes at a mall in Kuala Lumpur (so much international food there!) back in January of last year. We considered getting one, but we had already eaten and they cost a little too much for us at the time. Unfortunately, when we returned to KL in May, we found the place was no longer there. Budapest was already high on our list, though, and I figured we would get it there- and we did. Depending on where you go, you can find different flavors like cinnamon, walnut, and coconut.

Where to find it: We saw many stalls roasting and selling them at the Christmas markets, as well as a few others throughout the city. If you do a lot of exploring you’ll probably come across one. We ate at a random stand near a train station.

Cost: Prices vary widely, but I think the more permanent stalls tend to run cheaper. We found some for 350forint ($1.21) but we saw them going for around $10 other places. They will especially run high at the Christmas markets, but Christmas markets and chimney cakes are a pretty great combination! You will also find that some of the variation in price is due to size. Different stands may have different sized chimney cakes.

If you want to learn more about chimney cakes and better specifics on prices and where to find them, check out The Best Winter Treat in Budapest on the We Love Budapest site. We used this site quite a bit during our time there. Additionally, we didn’t go here, but this place looks delicious and highly rated and I have seen other bloggers mention it.

Ice Cream-Filled Chimney Cakes at Street Cakes
streetcakesKyle with Street Cakes
Now, take that chimney cake, choose your preferred flavor, cover the inside with nutella, and add ice cream and toppings. During one of our first days in Budapest we were out walking down Andrassy street and saw a few people eating these treats. At this point we hadn’t had chimney cakes at all. I knew I had to try one!

The shop is small and might be easy to miss if you don’t notice anyone eating ice cream outside. I wondered why the place wasn’t better known yet- it’s probably because it’s new. You can also add all kinds of toppings like fruit and chocolate bar pieces, cookies, candies, etc. but we just stuck to the basics because we weren’t sure how much it would cost. If you’re curious about the pumpkin decoration- we got these in late October. I assume they might add cute decorative toppings for other holidays as well.

How it works: First you choose a flavor for the chimney cake, then decide if you want Nutella, jam, or whipped cream spread on the inside, choose your ice cream, pick your toppings, and add sauce (chocolate, caramel, etc.) if you want. When we visited, the only ice cream flavor options they presented to us were chocolate, vanilla, or swirl soft-serve but I think I’ve seen pictures with a pink strawberry-looking ice cream online. They have savoury options and drinks as well. P.S. I loved the cinnamon flavor for the chimney cake.

Where to find it: Budapest, Andrássy út 61, 1062 Hungary.

Cost: It will vary depending on your choices, but it cost us $6.94 (~$3.47 each) for chimney cake + ice cream + Nutella in one.

Website: Here is the Street Cakes Facebook page.

Also to consider if you’re interested: Later on in Budapest we were walking around and found this other place that looked amazing- chimney cakes filled with all kinds of other things- I think pudding, whipped cream, etc. (hey! we couldn’t try everything) so if you are on the lookout you may find other places which offer interesting twists on the chimney cakes.

Cake at Ruszwurm Cukrászda
Chocolate Cake Ruzsworm
Caramel Cake BudapestCakes in BudapestAt RuzswormInside the old pastry shop
Located in the Castle District close to many attractions, this pastry shop is known for being one of the oldest in Budapest (from 1827). Therefore it’s extremely popular and likely the most famous pastry shop in Budapest. If any blogger/traveler, etc. has one dessert recommendation, aside from chimney cakes, it’s typically this shop. You can sit inside or outside. We sat outside because it was all that was available at the time and, for November, it was a really nice day! You can also get drinks here- from alcohol to coffee. Though I thought we ought to just share a piece, Kyle didn’t have to twist my arm to convince me we should each get our own slice. The chocolate piece was very rich, almost like fudge, and the caramel cake had a nice flavor and creaminess to it. Let’s just say they’ve been around nearly 200 years for a reason.

Where to find it: 1014 Budapest, Hungary Szentháromság u. 7.

Cost: A slice is somewhere around $1.50-$3. It cost us 1245 forint (~$4.42) for the two pieces you see above. I believe drinks cost more but we didn’t get them. Small water cups came with our cake.

Website: The Ruszwurm Cukraszda website includes more information about the origins of the shop.

Tip: If you’re looking to get the cake that any person/blog/website always shows for Ruszwurm Cukraszda, it’s called “Cream Cake” (perhaps the “Traditional Cream Cake” or something along those lines). I originally thought I would get this slice but the menu has no pictures so it’s difficult to discern the appearance of a given piece simply from its menu description. The servers also tend to be busy due to the place being so popular.

So now you know about that cake but if you are looking for another particular slice, or want to be prepared, just scroll through the pics on TripAdvisor– many visitors label their cakes. Additionally, though I didn’t realize it, at first, you actually can go inside and look at some of the cakes on display (though you might have to navigate a small crowd for a peek). I was actually a bit more in the mood for chocolate anyway when we visited so it was fine. In the end we both had absolutely delicious desserts so I really don’t think you could go wrong with anything here, but it’s information to keep in mind.

Ice Cream at Gelarto Rosa
GelartoRosaMe with Rose Ice CreamGelarto Rosa ShopFunnyA Rose
Rose-shaped ice cream. Pretty + sweet = pretty sweet, right? Interestingly enough, this was not the first time we found rose ice cream. We first tried such a treat in Seoul at a place called Milky Bee. We both love ice cream and it’s such a fun idea. I don’t always expect things which look so pretty to taste amazing but this ice cream was GOOD. If I’m going to be honest, the rose ice cream was a tad bit better in Budapest than Korea. If nothing else, they certainly had the advantage of more decent flavor options. You can choose either two or three flavors. I think I chose pistachio, sour cherry, and lavender white chocolate and Kyle chose mango and strawberry. They serve other desserts and drinks as well.

Where to find it: Budapest, Szent István tér 3, 1051 Hungary (near St. Stephen’s Basilica).

Cost: ~$2.35/piece. It cost us $4.69 for two ice creams- one with two flavors and the other with three.

Website: Gelarto Rosa

Gelato at Fragola
Fragola Nut Ice Cream
Fragola againKyle's ice cream at the top
FragolaGelato
One night we were craving ice cream so I did some research to find the best option factoring in cost and distance from our location. It was Fragola. I tried strawberry cheesecake ice cream and it was the last bit of it for the night so the woman really filled my cone. Kyle ordered a nut ice cream. Both were good. We visited a different location while out another night something and I got lemon and Kyle got something with chocolate in it. The ingredients are Italian and they don’t use any artificial flavors which is nice (I believe both of those statements are true about Gelarto Rosa as well). Flavors include white chocolate, gorgonzola, caramel, chestnut mascarpone, and more.

Where to find it: There are several locations throughout the city. You can find the various addresses on their Facebook page. Also see the Fragola website.

Cost: 280-300 Forint, or ~$1. It cost us 560forint (~$2) for two ice creams. The second time it was a little more because we opted for waffle cones over cake cones.

Shake at Sweetheart Milkshakes
Sweetheart WafflesSalted Caramel Ice Cream
This was a pretty cute little place. We decided to share the Salted Caramel Pretzel Shake but they have waffles and regular food as well. It was a little more salty than I preferred but it was still good and Kyle was fine with the saltiness level.

Where to find it: Budapest, Wesselényi u. 18, 1077 Hungary

Cost: The item we got cost ~$3.49. Most of the other items were more expensive which is why we elected to just share the one item.

Website: Sweetheart’s Facebook page.

Crepe (Gundel Pancake) at Frici Papa
Crepe at Frici Papa BudapestFrici Papa Restaurant
I came across Frici Papa when I was scouring small blogs for interesting/different things to do and try in Budapest. Kyle had mentioned that one of the dishes he most wanted to try in Budapest (there were a few) was the chicken paprikash. A particular blogger (sorry, no longer remember where I found it) raved over this dish there and it was reasonably priced so we decided we would give it a shot one day. The restaurant actually has pretty good prices. I was a little bit more in the mood for sweets at the time so I chose to get a crepe. Yum! It was very different from other crepes I’ve tried. Re-examining the menu I noticed it was actually called a “Gundel Pancake” which is a type of Hungarian crepe. You can find the menu here. My crepe was so good. The inside was filled with a sweet cheese and the outside was covered in yoghurt and chocolate (or so it seemed). It was pretty filling too.

Where to find it: Budapest, Király u. 55, 1077 Hungary

Cost: Our whole meal cost 1500 forint ($5.34). My crepe specifically was 539 forint ($1.86).

Website: http://www.fricipapa.hu/eng/

Honey Gingerbread Cream Dessert from Panineria
Gingerbread dessertPanineria
It was our last night in Budapest and we were hungry. We thought about our options and decided on Panineria which we had passed quite a few times, but hadn’t yet tried. We ordered sandwiches (we’ll talk about them in another post) but I was thinking I might want a dessert after since we had none left at home. Though I couldn’t find the menu online, I believe it was “mézes puszedli pohar kremIt” which translates as “macaroon cream cup honey”.  It was basically cream with little gingerbread (that’s what it tasted like to me) pieces with honey and, as good as it looks and sounds, it tasted even better.

Where to find it: Oktogon tér 4., Budapest, Hungary

Cost: The total cost for two large sandwiches and the dessert was $8.95. I don’t recall the specific cost of the dessert but I believe it was somewhere around $1-$2.

Website: They don’t have a website but they are right next to a place called Made in Pasta and I think they might be run by the same people.

Donut from The Donut Library
Oreo donutdonut library budapestDonut LibraryThe Donut Library
We went here late one evening after trying to go to the Pinball Museum (unfortunately it was closed at the time). Because it was evening, there weren’t many donuts left so we just chose one to split. For the same reason (I assume), the donut was a little on the dry side. We chose an oreo donut which was good, but I’ve had better. Maybe try them in the morning. They are supposed to have really cool flavors. Either way, the place was cute and cozy.

Where to find it: There are three addresses: Pozsonyi út 22. XIII. kerület; Karinthy Frigyes út 18. XI. kerület; Károly krt 7. VII. kerület

Cost: Our donut cost 360 forint ($1.24) but some donuts cost more.

Websitehttp://www.thedonutlibrary.com/

Waffle from Habros Goffri Waffle
Habos Waffles
Habros Gofri WaffleHabos Gofri Sign
We came across this place one rainy night on our way somewhere. I thought it looked good and after I checked out the prices I thought it looked even better. We just got one because Kyle wasn’t much in the mood for sweets but it took a little to decide- there were so many spread options like cherry chocolate pudding, peanut butter, and apricot jam. I chose the chestnut cream spread because it seemed fitting for the night and weather. It was good. Overall: good taste, lots of flavor options, and a price you can’t beat.

Where to find itFerenciek tere 4. Budapest, Hungary (near Ferenciek square)

Cost: 200Forint ($0.69) waffle one topping

Website: https://www.facebook.com/HabosGofri/

Strudel from a stand in front of Oktogon Bistro
StrudelOktogon Bistro
We were walking home one day and this lady was selling all these, strudels (I think) in front of a restaurant. She looked hopeful that someone would buy them and I knew we didn’t have any candy bars at home at the time so I decided to give them a look. I hadn’t tried something exactly like it so I opted to give it a shot. I am not sure exactly what kind of fruit filling I chose but it was decent. The only downside was that there were some really hard pieces (like pits) inside as well. I assume that would not be true of all of them.

Where to find it: Though I’m not positive if it was associated with the restaurant, there are several locations, including Budapest, Teréz krt. 23, 1067 Hungary

Cost: Less than a dollar.

Website: http://www.gastlandbisztrok.hu/

Tiramisu Coffee at Lira Pont 
Tiramisu CoffeeEnjoying coffee at Lira Pont
Lira Pont was literally just across the street from us. We passed it constantly on our way across Hunyadi Park to get to the market and our host’s girlfriend recommended it to us while she was over one time. One late morning we decided we were in the mood for some nice coffee and walked over after getting through some work. It’s a cute, pleasant place and our choice (tiramisu coffee) was definitely a good one. It had a great flavor. Lira Pont also offers sandwiches and many other drink choices. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, but on that particular November day we thought inside was best.

Where to find it: Hunyadi ter 5, Budapest, Hungary, 1067

Cost: Varies. It cost 750 forint ($2.58) for the drink we shared.

Website: Lira Pont Facebook page

Cat-puccino at the Budapest Cat Cafe 
At the Budapest Cat CafeCoffee at Cat CafeCat-puccino
Everywhere we go, I check to see if the city has a cat cafe. If they do, we try it. There are actually two cat cafes in Budapest but we decided one would be fine. I couldn’t resist getting the cat-puccino (how cute!) but Kyle got something different. They were both good but Kyle’s drink (sorry, don’t remember the name) was really good.

Where to find it: Damjanich utca 38, Budapest 1071, Hungary (The Jewish Quarter) 

Cost: It cost us 1600forint (~$5.79) for both drinks and the privilege to spend time at the cafe.

Website: http://catcafebudapest.hu/

Cake from Hunyadi Square Market
Market Cake
Delicious cakeCake from the Market
I’m sure you could find similar desserts at any of the markets, but Hunyadi was the closest market to us. I had to get what slightly resembled the cream cake I wanted at Ruszwurm, but the slice of cake I had another time (see below) was even better.

Where to find it: Budapest, Hunyadi tér 4, 1067 Hungary (or any other market)

Cost: The options will range from less than a dollar to a couple dollars. Mine were both at the lower end of that range.

Desserts from Grocery Store Bakeries
Pastry from the Store
Great Pastry from the StoreCake
Cake from the storeJam-filled Donut
We tried many grocery store bakery desserts because we could just pick one or two up anytime we went to the store. Kyle’s favorite pastry which he seemed to get most times is the first one you see above. Each grocery store has a slightly different selection and we shopped at like ten different grocery stores but most of the treats came from a Roni ABC. We always picked them up with other groceries so I can’t say the exact prices but like most other things, they were pretty affordable.

Candy Bars from Grocery Stores 
Candy bar puzzle
Cream FudgeChristmas Bar
We could have made an entire post reviewing candy bars but we didn’t try anything weird or outrageous and we also didn’t take the time to review them so they will just go here. We found many of the same candy bars we liked so much in Serbia and then some others. The seasonal options were a special treat. There were many great flavors available including bars filled with raspberry and strawberry, caramel, etc. Yum! You can find different candy bars at any grocery or convenience store.

Honorable Mentions

Mulled Wine
Mulled WineMulled wine CF
Does this count? Because it is sweet and amazing. It is perfect for walking around the Christmas markets.

Burger King
Burger King
After deciding the New York Cafe was too posh for us we searched for several ice cream places only to find them closed (it was late at night). So we went to Burger King.

Muffin from Unknown
Muffin
I don’t remember where I got this muffin. It was not the best muffin.

We also saw into both the New York Cafe (known as the “most beautiful cafe in the world”), and the Alexandra Book Cafe and both were stunning. When we passed by we never felt that we were dressed well enough and, especially for the New York Cafe, the prices were on the high side but if you can manage I would recommend either of them just for the experience of dining in such an extravagant place.

Cake sign

If you want to see similar posts, check out Yogyakarta Sweets,  Sweets and Bakeries in Hanoi, or our Korean Ice Cream Reviews.

Beer and Alcohol Review from Cyprus, Serbia, and Hungary

~K~

Just as I reviewed the various beers and alcohol that we encountered in Asia, I reviewed the alcohol we encountered in Europe. We did not spend as much time in Europe as Asia, but we did get a good selection to choose from. We spent the most time in Cyprus, which is really more the Middle East than Europe, but it is in the EU. We then spent time in Hungary and Serbia. I’m also including beer from Lebanon, because it just didn’t fit with the Asian review, despite it technically being in Asia.

Unfortunately, I am somehow missing a few photos, but most are here.

Lebanon

Almaza – 4.2 ABV: Light, slightly bitter, and hoppy pilsner. Bright with a clean finish. Excellent for accompanying standard Lebanese fare such as hummus and Labneh. 3/5

Cyprus

Keo: 4.5% ABV. 350ml can. Pours smooth with small head. Clean, but slightly bitter. Small metallic taste. Is alright. Very drinkable though not exceptional. It is the primary beer of Cyprus and can be found everywhere. The company also has water, wine, and spirits. 3/5

Keo

Inselburg: 4.5% ABV. 500ml can. Pours smooth with no head. Clean and crisp taste with slight fruity notes. Corn brewed lager. Cyprus in origin. 3/5

Finkbrau: 4.9% ABV. 350ml bottle. Pours gold with small head. Smells and bubbles like champagne. Short, dry, bitter finish with hints of fruit. 3/5

Fix Hellas: 5% ABV. 350ml can. Greek beer. Light and fruity. Very slight hoppy taste. Lager. 3/5

KrauserBrau: 4.8% ABV. 350ml can. Moderate head. light hoppiness. Bitter afternotes. Pretty good and very easy to drink in a session. 3/5

Krauzer_Brau

Carolo: 11% ABV. White Wine. Semi-sweet with a dry finish. Fruity aromas of pineapple and apple. Very smooth and easy to drink, but I found it to have an ever so slight fishy taste as well. 2/5

Carolo: Red Wine. 12.5% ABV Semi-sweet with a dry finish. Not overly tart, with a clean crisp finish. Very easy to drink. Better than the white. 3/5

D’Angelo Lambrusco: 7.5% ABV. Sparkling Rosato wine. Sweet taste, with a clean crisp finish. Very fruity. Slight strawberry flavor. Bubbly, but not overly so. Tastes very good. 3/5

Karseras:  12.5% ABV. Red semi-sweet. medium bodied with a dry finish. Not very well filtered. Tastes ok, but the last bits are not very good as it’s filled with sediment. This was a local wine from the winery in Dhoros. 1/5

St. Panteleimon Red: 12.5% ABV Red semi-sweet. Medium bodied with a slightly sweet finish. Slight sediment at bottom, but tastes very good. 4/5

St. Panteleimon White:  12.5% ABV. White semi-sweet. Medium bodied with sweet finish. Very clean and well filtered. Excellent taste and highly recommended. 4/5

Karseras Commandaria: 20% ABV. Commandaria wine from the local Karseras winery in Dhoros. Hailed as the oldest dessert wine in the world, it is a specialty of Cyprus, and can only be produced in the Commandaria region of Cyprus from Limassol to Troodos. Excellent taste, very sweet, and very strong.  4/5

Commandaria

Serbia

Jelen: 5% ABV 500 ml can. Crisp Pale lager found virtually everywhere in Serbia. Somewhat hoppy, but mostly crisp. While not exceptional, certainly sessionable. 3/5

Jelen

LAV: 5% ABV. 500 ml can. Very light and clean tasting. Very light carbonation. Smooth with a hint of fruit. Very good. 3/5

LAV

Tuborg: 4.6% ABV 500ml can. Crisp and hoppy taste. Clean finish, with moderate carbonation. Bitter, but not overly so. Light hints of citrus and malt. Very good. 4/5

Tuborg

Niksicko Pivo: 5% ABV. 500 ml can. Clean and a little light on taste. The after taste sets in with slight bitter notes. Light carbonation. Rather ordinary in flavor and not particularly notable in flavor. Lager. It’s alright, but not great. 2/5

Niksicko Pivo

Niksicko Tamno: 6.2% ABV. 500 ml can. Dark Beer. Rich, strong caramel flavor. Not overly hoppy. Mildly sweet. Thick, almost stout-like.  4/5

Niksicko Tamno

Somersby Blueberry Cider: 4.5% ABV. 500 ml can.

Briana: Good… berry taste. It tastes blue. I like it.

Kyle: Strong aroma of blueberries, somewhat artificial but nice. The taste is pleasant and not overwhelming, with a hint of apple. Sweet, but not too sweet. Light carbonation.

Somersby

Dunderski Svetlo Pivo: 4.8% ABV. 500 ml can. Strong caramel and malt flavor while a little light on the hop. Nice mouth feel and a pleasant after taste. Not overly bitter, but not sweet either. Nice heavier drink. 3/5

Dunderski

Budweiser Budvar: 4.7% ABV 500 ml can. Dark lager with a strong caramel and malt flavor. Light hops flavor. Decent. 3/5

Budweiser Budvar

Lowenbrau Original: 4.5% ABV 500 ml can. Bright and hoppy with a strong mouthfeel. Somewhat malty with subtle notes of chocolate and citrus. Taste dissipates very quickly. Good. 3/5

Lowenbrau

Staropramen: 5.0% ABV 500 ml can. Strong and hoppy. Thick bodied without much extra flavoring. Quite good. 4/5

Staropramen

3ajeyapcko: 4.5% ABV 500 ml can. Bright and hoppy with a watery body. I have no idea how to pronounce the beer, and I’m pretty sure that is not how to actually spell it, but it’s the closest I can get without a Cyrillic keyboard. 2/5

3ajeyapcko

Grimbergen Blonde: 6.7% 500 ml can. Very light and clean, with a hint of fruitiness. Belgian abbey beer. Finishes with a mild bitter note. Slightly creamy. Excellent. 5/5

Grimbergen Blonde

Lasko: 4.9% ABV 500ml can. Dark and bitter lager. Very hoppy. Good sipping beer. 4/5

Lasko

Kozel: 4.8% ABV 500 ml can. Czech Lager: Smooth roasted caramel flavor with a hint of hops. Full mouth feel with a medium body. Pretty good. 3/5

Kozel

Visnja Rakija: (Cherry Brandy) 35% ABV. Smokey aroma with a touch of cherries and wine. Rakija is the drink of choice in the Balkans, especially in Serbia. It is a spirit, very similar to Brandy.

Kyle: Warm and smooth with complex notes of smoked wood and cherry. Very sweet, but not syrupy.

Briana: It’s like eating a little Christmas spiced candy. Feels weird on my tongue.

4/5

Palinka

Plum Rakija: 40% ABV. Smelled like rubbing alcohol but with a slight plum aroma. Gave both of us headaches.

Briana: It’s a little rough. It reminds me of wine, but stronger.

Kyle: A lot more powerful than the Cherry. It feels like vodka, but with a hint of sweetness. 2/5

Hungary

Konigsbrau: 4.0% ABV. 500ml can. bright, hoppy lager with a fruity after taste. pleasant mouth feel. 4/5

Konigsbrau

Arany Hordo Vilagos Sor: 4.5% ABV. 500ml can. Light, hoppy lager with a crisp taste. 3/5

Arany Hordo

Barths: 8.3% ABV 500ml can. Strong, flowery, with a sharp bite. Reminiscent of an IPA, but not quite as strong a bite. 4/5

Barths

Kobanyai: 4.4% ABV 500ml can. Light and flowery taste. Strong taste of wheat with a light mouth feel. Leaves very little aftertaste. Very sessionable. 3/5

Kobanyai

Frisch Fassl: 3.0% ABV 500 ml can. Completely uninspired.  Tastes like natty light. Worst beer I’ve had abroad. Very cheap 1/5

Frisch Fassl

Borsodi Bivaly: 6.5% ABV 500 ml can.  Excellent chocolate and caramel notes, complimented with a smooth and heavy finish. Light amount of carbonation gives a light mouth feel to a near creamy drink. A very good Hungarian Lager. 5/5

Borsod Bivaly

Dreyer Bak: 7.3% ABV 500 ml can. Very hoppy taste, with a smooth caramel taste. Little carbonation. Mildly sweet. 4/5

Dreher BAK

Adelskronen: 4.9% ABV 500 ml can. Strong bitter taste. Slightly metallic. A little foamy. Some hints of citrus. 2/5

Adelskronen

Soproni 4.5% ABV 500 ml can. Bitter with a heavy wheat taste. Pretty pure on taste and unadorned. 2/5

Soproni

healthy travel

SE Asia Fruit Review / Fruit! While Traveling

~B~

In the same way we reviewed ice cream bars in Korea and Malaysia, and soju and other alcoholic beverages in Korea, we also reviewed some of the new fruits we tried in Southeast Asia! Oh how I could go for some of these fruits now! Of course, I am a big fan of fruit but even Kyle who is not usually big on fruit found himself eating it often when we were in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, and (especially) Vietnam. Many of these were packed with nutrients, keeping us healthy while we worked and traveled.

Groceries

We had actually already tried a couple of these (I’ll mention it) in the U.S., but there were others we hadn’t even heard of until we saw them! Not all of these fruits are native to Asia. Some, like dragonfruit and rambutan actually originate in regions in the Americas but they have all come to be common in parts of SE Asia. Because of the weather, many are available year-round. With the growth of supermarkets like Whole Foods, some are bound to be available in the U.S. more frequently now as well, though. Once we are back in San Jose we plan to return to the big Asian grocery stores there in hopes of finding some of them. Unfortunately, there is no way most (if any) of it will be as cheap as it was in Asia, but we’ll see!

Siem Reap Groceries

For each fruit I’ll note the name we used and other names it may go by, where we tried it first, a little bit about our experience with it, our initial reviews, and variations we encountered. At the end I will also mention some fruits we didn’t get to try and our experiences with some other fruits across our travels.

More Fruits

Dragonfruit
Dragonfruit
Also known as: pitaya/pitahaya
We first tried it in: Saigon, Vietnam (District 1)
Story: Due to our circumstances, Vietnam was a sort of last minute decision (I believe we bought tickets less than a week in advance) and we found ourselves a little preoccupied our last few days in Kuala Lumpur so we didn’t have time to do a lot of research on the country before we arrived in Ho Chi Minh. That actually made it even more fun! Really! We actually got to experience a little shock. Anyway, once we arrived in Ho Chi Minh, as per usual, we found ourselves to be hungry. We went wandering but all we found was people selling food in little stands on the street and we had trouble discerning what might be vegetarian (or really what any of the food was in general). Exhausted due to the day’s journey there, we returned to our place and Kyle went out looking for groceries. He returned with a bunch of fruit (including dragonfruit) he had bought in what he said had appeared to be someone’s living room to give us energy to figure things out. Dragonfruit was one of these fruits. We were both pretty excited about it because of how crazy it looked.
We actually weren’t wild about the taste at first, but over time it really grew on both of us. (We also prefer it refrigerated.) As Kyle says below, you expect it to have some crazy flavor because of the outside, but it is really a rather mild (yet refreshing) fruit. We ate tons of it throughout our time in SE Asia.
Dragonfruit preparedDragonfruit in bowl
Initial Reviews:
Kyle: “Very visually appealing, but misleading because the flesh is actually a lot milder than you’d be led to believe. The flesh itself is kind of um.. sort of fibrous, but it has a nice crunch to it from the seeds which is kind of similar to a softer kiwi and the flavor is like a more mellowed out kiwi but with a little more sweetness than sourness.”
Briana: “My initial reaction was that it definitely wasn’t bad. As I eat more I find that it is quite good. The flavor is mild, not strong (like Kyle said). There is a crisp crunch to it which sort of makes me think of a melon or even an apple but it is much softer. It is quite soft. There is a hint of sourness but it is not sour.”
Variations: On Bali we also tried red dragonfruit and really enjoyed it. The taste is a little sweeter but watch out because it stains!
Bali BowlDragonfruit stain

Rambutan
Rambutan OutsideRambutan
Also known as: chôm chôm
We first tried it in: Dallas, Texas.
Story: I don’t think we reviewed it in Texas (where we found it at the store) but it had been a couple years by the time we tried it again in Vietnam so it felt fairly new again. This was also among the first fruits we tried in Ho Chi Minh. This was a favorite of Kyle’s.
Reviews:
Kyle: “Initially, I’d say that the rambutan looks like a red gum ball tree but honestly it tastes really sweet to me, very similar to a cherry. It has the texture of a cherry but the flavor of a coconut.”
Briana: “The texture is really something different. When you take off the outer layer and eat it, it kind of reminds me of grape without the skin on it but a little bit chewier. It is juicy and sweet.”

Star Apple
Star Apple Inside
Also known as: milk fruit, cainito, vú sữa (milky breast in Vietnamese), estrella
We first tried it in: Saigon, Vietnam (District 1)
Story: Our first place in Ho Chi Minh was actually a studio to ourselves but the owner still sent a maid to bring us a nice fruit gift basket with a card for Tet (the Vietnamese New Year). This fruit, among others, was in the basket.
Fruit Basket
Initial Reviews:
Briana: “Soft, sugary. Reminds me a bit of an apple, sort of in between a baked apple and applesauce. I like the firmer part of it. It’s different.”
Kyle: “It’s very sweet. It’s got a very light, kind of off texture. Tastes very sugary. Kind of tastes like its own thing.”

Papaya
Papaya OutsidePapaya Inside
Also known as: papaw, pawpaw, tree melon
We first tried it in: Orlando, Florida
Story: We tried this together in Orlando and thought it tasted terrible. We wondered if it was over-ripe or just bad but I think we tried it again and also didn’t like it. It’s possible that we had it before this too but if we did we don’t remember. We tried it again in Ho Chi Minh because it was in our fruit basket.
Reviews (from HCM):
Briana: “Ohh ewghl. Not for me. It seriously reminds me of spaghetti with tomato sauce on it and it just doesn’t seem right for a fruit but that is definitely what it tastes like to me. I do like the aftertaste which is weird to say but it’s more fruit-like. It appears really good and refreshing so I keep wanting to give it more tries but I don’t like the taste, at least for a fruit.”
Kyle: “Well it tastes better than I remember. It’s got a decent aftertaste but the initial taste is.. kind of weird. It’s almost got like a burnt flavor.”

Custard Apple
Custard appleSugar Apple Outside
Also known as: Sugar apple, Buddha’s head, many more
We first tried it in: Saigon, Vietnam (District 1)
Story: We don’t remember.
Initial reviews:
1st try:
Kyle: “Tough, but it doesn’t taste bad.”
Briana: “Looks weird. First taste, not so good. I know it’s fruit but it makes me think of chicken. Maybe I will try another one when it’s ripe.”
2nd try:
Kyle: “It’s definitely sweet. The seeds are certainly a pain in the ass to get out. It kind of reminds me of like what an avocado would be like if it tasted like a pineapple.”
Briana: “It tastes better but I am still bothered by the flesh. I think it would be good for people who like chicken. It is also hard to eat because there are so many big seeds. It also sometimes feels like I can literally taste grains of sugar in it or something.”

Water Apple
Water Apple InsideWater Apple
Also known as: Java apple, wax jambu
We first tried it in: Saigon, Vietnam (District 1)
Story: I was a bit more fond of these than Kyle and thought they made nice light snacks. Kyle eventually (in Hanoi) tried making it into a spicy fruit salad with mango, water apple and pepper which was good (but spicy).
Fruit Salad
Initial Reviews:
Briana: “There is a crispness like a regular apple. It also kind of reminds me a little bit of a potato. It is a little juicy, a little sweet. It’s different, but like many things. It’s good.”
Kyle: “It’s honestly kind of tasteless. It’s definitely got that texture of a raw potato. Tastes like a very mild plum. It’s a very mild fruit. I could see this going well with a salsa.”

Jackfruit
JackfruitJackfruit and other fruits
Also known as: jak
We first tried it in: Saigon, Vietnam (Go Vap District)
Story: Kyle went downstairs to clean a couple plates and make our lunch one day when he found the mother and uncle of our host laying down on the kitchen floor staring at the ceiling. They took the plates and handed him a plate of jackfruit. We thought it was nice of them and enjoyed the jackfruit, but we were even bigger fans of jackfruit chips. They were one of our favorite snack foods in our place in Hanoi that didn’t really have a kitchen (but we ate them throughout SE Asia). At one point my friend Jessica mentioned that she has seen people eat it in the states so it must be available in some areas there. I have seen it listed as a meat substitute some places as well.
Initial Reviews:
Kyle: “Got a nice solid texture and flesh. The flavor is kind of mild but what does it remind you of? It kind of has the taste of a slightly unripe mango but crunchier and more mild and slightly nutty. It’s also got a taste almost similar to banana-ish- it doesn’t taste like banana to me but there’s something like it.”
Briana: “We had the jackfruit chips here first (a Vietnamese speciality) so were somewhat familiar with the taste. It also kind of reminds me of the milk teas I have been having down at a local cafe. It’s pretty good. I agree somewhat about the comparison to a mango. It almost has a somewhat artificial taste to it.”

Asian Guava
Dragonfruit and Guava
Also known as: not sure (Note: the stuff below the dragonfruit is guava. We can’t find a pic of our own of the outside but here is a link to someone else’s pick.)
We first tried it in: Hanoi, Vietnam (we think)
Story: We picked up one when we first arrived in Hanoi and ate it before it had ripened. It seems that the fruit is always a little hard but it smells and tastes nice. Later, in Weligama, Sri Lanka we tried a guava smoothie, yum! I actually did get paranoid about the seeds for a little bit when I read something about them and appendicitis, though.
Initial Reviews:
Briana: First try- “Hard and the seeds are hard but good taste. Difficult to bite.”
After ripened (different guava)- “Very good. Strong smell. Would make a great juice. Seeds are just a slight annoyance.”
Kyle: “Very pungent aroma that actually reminds me of durian but without the acrid overtones. The taste is very sweet, kind of creamy, very unique to itself and the flesh reminds me of a moderately ripe pear though there are many very hard seeds that can’t be easily chewed but are easily eaten.”

Passion Fruit
Passionfruit yumPassionfruit Outside
Also known as: maracuya
We first tried it in: Hanoi, Vietnam or Siem Reap, Cambodia
Story: Our first taste of passionfruit was in a drink our host Dai made for us in Ho Chi Minh. We can’t remember if we first tried the fruit itself in Hanoi or Cambodia (I didn’t note it by the review) but this was another fruit that, while we liked it at first, our fondness for the taste grew even more over time. In Galle, Sri Lanka (not SE Asia) I tried passionfruit ice cream which was delicious as well.
Initial Reviews:
Briana: I first had this in a smoothie. I really like it. It’s tart, sour, and sweet. There’s crunchy little black seeds. A little bit slimy, but good. Makes a good juice or smoothie, but it’s also good alone.
Kyle: The skin is far more difficult to cut through than you would expect, but once through, a very vibrant and sweet aroma disperses. The interior doesn’t look very appealing, it almost looks rotten, but the slimy appearance is fine because the taste is very good. Tart and sweet with a nice crunch from the seeds.
Variations: Bali decided to be different again. At first when we got passion fruit here I thought it had gone bad because the coloring was very different inside. I was hesitant to eat it at first but it turns out it was just a different kind of passionfruit. I would describe the taste as similar but a little more mild/less tart (still tasty). We also tried a slightly different looking one in Sri Lanka.
Passionfruit outside baliBali Passionfruit
Passion Fruit Inside

Longan
Longan PackageLongan outside
Longan
Also known as: not sure
We first tried it in: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Story: We just found them at the grocery store and tried them.
Initial Reviews:
Briana: Less sweet than other fruits. It’s nice that the seed doesn’t stick to the flesh like rambutan. Texture is similar to rambutan, gel-like. Not a strong taste.
Kyle: Tastes like a slightly less sweet rambutan. The flesh is thinner than rambutan and has a much larger, but easier to eat around pit.

Snake Fruit
Salak Packages
Snake Fruit Inside
Also known as: salak
We first tried it in: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Story: Same as above.
Initial Reviews:
Kyle: Very sharp, sour taste. There is a slight caramel after-taste. Kind of a citrus taste. The flesh is decent, though the inner-skin is weird. Very big pit inside.
Briana: Soft, sweet, kind of citrusy. There is a skin on the outside that I don’t like, the texture of the flesh is a little weird, but I like the taste.

Mangosteen
Mangosteen
Also known as: the “Queen of fruit”
We first tried it in: Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Story: The elusive mangosteen! We expressed to our friend in Kuala Lumpur that we weren’t fond of the durian smell and he told us that everyone loves mangosteen and we should try it and so we (Kyle in particular) were on the lookout for this fruit for a long time before we finally found it. Part of the reason we had trouble finding it was because Mangosteen has a distinct season. It was May when we finally laid eyes on it. I obviously wasn’t in a mood to review fruit when I first tried it as you see my review is a bit simple but this fruit is yummy! I prefer the parts of the fruit that can come out of the shell properly (so good) than to eat around the seeds, though. We were able to find it in Bali (also Indonesia) as well.
Initial Reviews:
Kyle: “It’s very sweet. The flesh reminds me of a very ripe peach. Its taste kind of reminds me of a cross between a rambutan and an orange but without the citrusy bit to it.”
Briana: “Sweet, tart, soft texture, pretty good.”

Pepino
Pepino OutsidePepino
Also known as: sweet cucumber
We first tried it in: Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Story: While we were in Yogyakarta proper, we saw it at the store one day and decided to give it a try! We don’t remember seeing it elsewhere.
Reviews:
Kyle: “Tastes very familiar. It kind of reminds me of a cucumber, but something else as well. Like
cucumber and melon basically. Oh wow, the seeds are sour. It’s a light and cucumber-y kind of fruit. Very refreshing. It’s got the texture of watermelon rind. This could probably be a good replacement for anything that requires cucumber.”
Briana: “Immediately reminds me of a cucumber. I agree with Kyle’s cucumber melon combo. Smells and tastes fresh. Could be the new big lotion scent.”

Here are some of the fruits we didn’t try that are available in this region:
Durian We did have durian ice cream and we saw durian all over the place but it was so acrid we couldn’t bring ourselves to try the actual fruit. We do regret that in a way but, well, have you ever smelt durian? It’s banned in many public places in Asia.
Soursop
Fruits in Yogya
We bought this fruit in Yogyakarta but it never ripened. Instead, it just began molding. We were pretty disappointed because it’s supposed to be really good.
Pomelo We actually tried this in San Jose but we saw it in Asia but don’t remember trying it again. It’s good, though.
Wood apple We asked our host in Sri Lanka about this because wood apple juice was common in the stores there but he said that you don’t really eat it. We tried the juice and it was fine.
Pulasan This fruit looks very similar to the rambutan. There is a small chance we could have eaten it thinking it was rambutan but we don’t think so.
There are also a number of fruits that are allegedly available in this region that we didn’t eat because we weren’t as aware of/weren’t looking for and/or don’t remember seeing (or some other reason) including: yangmei, breadfruit, longsat, noni, and sapodilla.

Other fruits from our travels that we have anything to say about (but did not review):
Mango
Mango
Oh, mangos! We had many different types of mango in Asia. We enjoyed eating them fresh, in smoothies (love those <$1 Vietnamese smoothies) and in cooking. In Kuala Lumpur and Siem Reap I tried mango sticky rice (so good). In Thailand, Kyle started making mango salads. In Indonesia Kyle figured out a method for eating them that many people reading this may already be familiar with but it was exciting for us as it made it a little less messy (see above). We were eating mangos in just about every country until we got to Europe where they got a little more expensive and/or less available.
Coconut
Coconut
Kyle loves coconuts and I didn’t hear the end of it while we were in Asia. I like shaved coconut but I’m not as big on coconut water/drinking out of the coconut. I no longer remember just how many we had but we had quite a few across Asia, including the golden coconut in Sri Lanka.
Star Fruit
Starfruit
We enjoy this in the states when we can find it and the same was true in Asia.
Lychee
In Petaling Jaya (Kuala Lumpur) we had a lychee juice which meant water with lychees and sugar in it. We also bought lychee drinks from the store in Vietnam. We never did find it to try it on its own though.
Kiwi
Korea Fruits
I’ve always been a fan of kiwi but don’t often get it. In Korea we could sometimes get lots of kiwis for a good deal. That was nice. They aren’t bad here in Budapest, either.
Pomegranate
pomegranate
This was the other fruit which we sometimes found good deals on in Korea (and somewhere else). We took advantage of it when we saw them because we both really like them and they are more rare and expensive elsewhere.
Bananas
Fried Green Bananas
In Vietnam Kyle finally found a banana he liked! We fried up lots of little green bananas as snacks while in Hanoi and Bangkok. In addition to dried jackfruit, I also enjoyed dried bananas as a snack in Vietnam and Cambodia. When we couldn’t find regular bananas I’d always be a little upset though because I like them as a nice filling snack as well.
Lime
We didn’t really see lemons much abroad but we did see limes (which were sometimes called lemons). We like to put lime in our drinks and Kyle will sometimes cook with them. In Vietnam and Thailand we had kaffir limes.
Berries
Serbia had great deals on frozen berries, especially raspberries and blackberries. The deals on frozen berries in Budapest aren’t bad either. Here I have bought boxes of frozen berries (albeit not large boxes) a couple times (blackberries, strawberries, cranberries) for around $2. In Serbia I had my fair share on oatmeal and in crepes we made. We did not really have any strawberries in Asia because wow can they get expensive! I’m talking $20-$100 for a regular package in the SE Asia countries we visited. I have to wonder who can afford them. They must be for special occasions for the rich or something. I think we did find an alright deal in Korea a couple times, though.
Apples
Green Apple
I do enjoy my granny smiths (others too, but those are my go-to). Across the world, if possible, I like to eat at least one a day. They have been available pretty much everywhere but the quality is not always good. Many places I can only find apples covered in bruises, with wormholes, etc.
Cherries
Cherry
We talked about our experiences with cherries in Bcharre in other posts but we also had cherries in Cyprus because there were good deals the first few weeks.
Watermelon
Watermelon
Aside from coconut, this is one of Kyle’s favorites. In Sri Lanka our hosts would often serve us watermelon with our morning tea. I have to note that there was variation in taste from the north to south, though. We also ate it in Cyprus when Kyle’s parents bought a large one at a stand on the side of the road.
Grapes
Grapes grew above our hot tub in Cyprus which was pretty neat! We ate some of them and also bought some at the store.
Jujubes
We almost forgot all about these! We picked up some dried jujubes early on in Korea as a snack food and would eat them anytime either one of us thought we might not be feeling our best because they are supposed to be really good for you. The taste was not bad but there is a seed in the middle.

Across our travels (some in Europe) at some (or multiple) points in time, we also found: pineapples, oranges, melon, plums, and apricots. There is a chance I’ve forgotten something but I think I’ve covered a lot of fruit! Technically avocado, tomato, cucumber are also fruits and we found those as well. Obviously we weren’t able to find all of these fruits in one place at one time. Each place has a little something different to offer. It’s been a great culinary adventure and we are grateful for this healthy part of it.

Dragonfruit and Tea

Taking In Cypriot Food

~K~

We spent our time on Cyprus house-sitting with at a lovely house with seven cats in the small village of Dhoros, in the foothills of the Troodos mountains. We had a kitchen, so we cooked for ourselves mostly – with that being said, we did get a nice sample of Cypriot food.

Koilani Tavern

Eating out, one of the first things you’ll find is that you’ll be offered large quantities. The key food here is meze. The above picture is from a great little Taverna called To Korineon in Koilani, a space village in the Troodos mountains. I know this isn’t really an individual food, rather a manner of serving the food, but it’s an important distinction here. Unless you’re at a very touristy spot in a place like Pafos, you’ll be treated to a meze – an assortment of dishes for the entire table to share. And there’s plenty of food to share.

We got them to eat orderly

Cypriot food has key influences of Greek and Turkish foods (which makes sense if you consider the island’s heritage, geography, and current state of occupation). So you’ll find that kebabs, olives, tahini, hummus, goat cheeses, and pitas dominate. Due to the arid, island climate, you don’t find much beef product on the island, instead it’s pork, lamb, and chicken, as well as seafood on the coast.

My Dad With A Chicken Kebab

We were told though, that the sea surrounding Cyprus is actually “dead” due to poor currents, so there is not much fishing that can be done. If you get fish, unless it’s rather small fish, it has most likely been imported from abroad. However, octopus and squid can be found in abundance, and they prepare them excellently. I had the best squid I’ve ever had here. This restaurant was called “Sunshine”, and was just below Kourion ruins, at Kourion Beach.

Seafood Platter

You’ll recognize many items here, if you’re familiar with Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern foods. Cypriot Souvlaki, is essentially a Cypriot version of a gyro, with a slight twist from traditional souvlaki. The Moussaka is a hearty eggplant, potato, sausage dish one should try with a prepared and empty stomach. My favorite was the sheftalia, an excellent spiced lamb and beef sausage.

Cypriot Souvlaki
Mom With Mousakka
Sheftalia

I’m not sure what this was called, but it was a delicious lamb stew I got at Kykkos Monastery.

Cypriot Lamb Stew

There are many different cheeses you can get on the island as well. Since we were on a budget, we didn’t get a chance to sample many of them, but we did hit the two primary cheeses of the island: halloumi and anari cheese. Halloumi, is a firm, salty cheese that can be grilled and is a great addition to any dish, or can be a main all to it’s own. Anari, is a softer cheese that comes in two varieties: dry and fresh. Fresh anari is great in deserts served with honey or carob, while dry anari is more akin in parmesan. Of course, you’ll still find classic Greek cheeses such as Feta as well.

Grilled Halloumi
Mediterranean Salad

The Cypriots also have a fondness for sweets. You won’t find much chocolate here or what you might think of as traditional desserts, but what you will find are carob desserts and spoon sweets. Spoon sweets are dried fruits that are preserved in fruit syrups and honeys, very similar to jams or jelly. As well, you’ll find Cyprus delights. These delights are very similar to Turkish delights, but you’re on Cyprus, so they’re Cyprus Delights – not Turkish. The Cypriots can be a touchy when it comes to the Turkish.

Cypriot Delights
Waffles
Strawberry Icecream

Due to the large British expat community, you can also find some more “familiar” fare as well, such as Fish ‘n Chips. This dish I got on my birthday while in Pafos at Gourmet Taverna, next to the municipal baths. If you’re along the waterfront in Pafos and on a dime, I also will recommend Mar Bianco Cafe Bisto for a great meal with a great view of the bay.

Fish and Chips

Of course there are also the familiar items with the Cypriot twist, such as olive oil flavored potato chips and McDonald’s Greek Burger which was made with lamb instead of beef and served inside a pita bun.

Local Flavored Olive Oil Chips
McDonalds Greek Burger

Cyprus also has a longstanding, alcoholic tradition. The region where we were in north of Limassol is a historical region of wine production known as Commandaria. They produce the Commandaria dessert wine, which is very good, very sweet, and very strong. It is in fact, the oldest dessert wine in the world. Another local drink is Ouzo, which is made by double distilling dry wine with anise seed. It is a very strong flavor reminiscent of licorice, and is in my opinion best drunk straight rather than mixed.

Briana With Commandaria Wine At Karseras Winery Dhoros

Old Quarter Hanoi Vietnam Gecko Restaurant Coconut Curry Tofu

Gecko Restaurant Hanoi

~K~

During our second stay in Hanoi, we did not have access to a kitchen, so we were forced to go out and find food from a restaurant or hawker everyday. One of the places we frequented was the Gecko Restaurant. I won’t bother with giving an address because there are literally dozens of them, particularly in the Old Quarter – you can’t walk for more than a few hundred feet without running into one.

We ultimately visited two different Geckos (the first one was further away from our AirBNB than the other) and they were slightly different from each other. The first place was very long and thin, hardly 8 feet wide and maybe only space for a dozen people. The second was far more spacious. We ended up visiting somewhere around 5 or 6 times total during our last two weeks in Hanoi.

Gecko Restaurant Hanoi

The food was the same at both places, and they had an extensive menu. You could get traditional Vietnamese food, western, pizza, and some vegetarian. They also had a pretty decent drink selection, although we never did end up getting one – but a mixed drink for around 50,000 Dong (~$2.50) is pretty good. They always seemed to be promoting some discounts and specials, but it seemed like it was really always part of the menu and they were just trying to trick you into thinking you were getting some special deal.

Gecko Restaurant Menu
Gecko Special

The first time we went, I got a chicken fried noodle, that was honestly pretty uninspired. It tasted alright, but I was rather disappointed. Briana went with a stewed tomato tofu that looked and tasted pretty good. On our subsequent visits we rotated between stewed tomato tofu, and spicy/non-spicy stewed tofu curry. I really liked the spicy tofu curry – it was a coconut curry broth that was well balanced with the thai chilis. All of them came with potatoes, carrots, and broccoli. I also tried a seafood chowder that was quite good – but small.

Stewed Tofu

We did have a few issues with Gecko. Right from the start, they were slow. We waited close to an hour our first night to receive our food, and they came at drastically different times. I understand, especially here in Asia, that sometimes the food comes out when it’s ready, and they don’t wait for the entire table’s food to be ready – but this was to the point where I thought they didn’t even bother to prepare my dish until after Briana’s dish was on the table. We experienced prolonged waits every time. While typically good, the quality was not consistent – sometimes, it tasted great, other times like it was left over, the portions changed sizes. The hygiene was also questionable at times: with the occasional ant being found in the food, as well Briana says she saw someone pick their nose then go right back to handling food barehanding (I didn’t see this, but neither do I doubt it). That was the last time we visited Gecko.

It was also rather uncomfortable at times, as it seemed that the staff would just sit and watch you eat for your entire meal, sometimes just a few feet away. I’ve read from other bloggers that this is a somewhat frequent occurrence in South East Asia, for reasons that are beyond me.

Gecko Restaurant TAble

All in all, if you’re wanting a decent restaurant that can meet your needs – Gecko will have you covered. It’s certainly not the best – but with a wide selection, fairly reasonable pricing, and many locations you should be happy for a time or two. If you really want something truly authentic though, you’ll want to find someplace else.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you enjoyed this post, check out these others we’ve picked just for you!

Bo De Quan Vegan Restaurant Hanoi

Vietnamese Food

Loving Hut Hanoi

Vietnam Vegetarian Restaurant

Loving Hut(s) in Hanoi (Vegan Food)

~B~

I was happy to find that Hanoi is a place where it’s pretty easy to be a vegetarian (or even vegan- relatively). I could almost always find something vegetarian to eat at a given restaurant and there were a number of exclusively vegetarian/vegan restaurants as well. One, or rather, at least two, of these was Loving Hut.

Outside The Big Loving Hut

While I didn’t know about Loving Hut for a long time (but have been a vegetarian for a long time), if you are vegan or vegetarian and have lived in a major city, you probably know about it as it’s one of the few vegan chains out there. I first found out about it when I was in college. I would regularly feed the homeless with a group (though a couple times it was just me) starting my freshman year and the local Loving Hut would regularly donate food for the feedings. Thus it would usually be a stop on the way to downtown. While waiting, I would occasionally watch their (what I thought was) strange television programming. I thought it was just some Asian religion which they used as the basis for their beliefs. This, in fact, was true. I have since discovered that the founder of Loving Hut, Ching Hai, developed her own sort of spiritual method (the ‘Quan Yin method’) and has her own tv channel which plays in many Loving Huts. Anyway, despite the television programming featuring the founder, I’m not sure I even realized that it wasn’t just a local restaurant until several years later when I saw one in another state. Since traveling, we have found out that Loving Huts are all over the world (there are something like 138 locations) and the founder, Ching Hai is actually from Vietnam.

We went to two locations in Hanoi. The first place we planned into our itinerary on one of our first outings in Hanoi. We did not yet realize how veg-friendly the city was and wanted to ensure that I would not go hungry as we were planning to do a lot of walking that day. The second we just stumbled upon.

Loving Hut 1: 192 Quán Thánh, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Inside The Little Loving Hut

On our first stay in Hanoi we were staying a bit farther up/away from many of the more touristy activities. One day early on we were walking down this direction to see Chùa Trấn Quốc and to buy tickets to the Water Puppet Theater. We almost missed the restaurant as it was a little off to the side. Not surprisingly, the relatively small (it maybe had 6-9 small tables) restaurant primarily contained other westerners. Vietnamese will sometimes be vegetarian for religious reasons but it did not seem to be very common.

Waiting On Food In The Little Loving Hut

A board to the right showed various famous vegan people and the extensive menu contained many dishes with fake meat ranging from chicken and beef to tuna and shrimp. There were vegan versions of many local Vietnamese dishes. I personally tend to not be much of a fan of the fake meats seeing as I have absolutely no taste or interest for real meat but there were plenty of other options too. I don’t remember the name of the dishes  but I think we both ordered normal vegan-ified Vietnamese dishes and they were good. Our meals together cost 65,000VND (~$2.91).

Little Loving Hut Meal
Delicious Loving Hut Meal

Loving Hut 2: Loving Hut, 33 Bà Triệu, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Outside The Big Loving Hut

Not only was this the nicest Loving Hut I’ve ever been in, but it was probably the nicest restaurant in which Kyle and I have dined, ever! After finishing up at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, we were hungry. All we had to do was walk down the street, though and we saw a Loving Hut sign. Yay! 

As we walked towards it, we could not discern the location of the restaurant, though. It looked like there was just a Loving Hut grocery store, something which I didn’t even realize existed. We were a little disappointed as we wanted to eat right then but then I saw another sign which said restaurant. I asked a guard who was standing outside and he said “Yes, right this way,” or something along those lines and escorted us into an elevator. ‘Uh-oh!’, we thought, both in the elevator and as we stepped out. I’m pretty sure the restaurant had only been open a couple months (if even) when we visited (March 2016). The waiters were wearing tuxedos and the decor was elegant. I would have taken more pictures (which don’t really do it justice) but we were pretty much being watched the whole time so I tried to be discreet. We were worried we might not be able to afford anything but we couldn’t really turn around now as there was a guard/escort at the elevator and it would have been rather embarrassing.

Dining Room Of The Big Loving Hut
Table Settings

They presented us with the menu and we were reminded that, while this was a very nice restaurant, we were still in Vietnam. Prices for many items were a little high for our very tight budget at the time, but it was all extremely reasonable (even cheap) considering the great quality of the place, service, and food. We ordered a single green tea to share in case water was not complementary (as we have found is the case in most restaurants in Asia). I think we may have received water, though. Because we were quite hungry, we also ordered an appetizer to share. We both opted for meals which were at the lower price-end of their dishes, with me getting the fried eggplant and Kyle ordering bun chau him chay.

Vietnamese Green TeaFried Spring Roll
Fine Dining Nem Chay
Fried Aubergine

Each time the waiter brought a dish, another waiter would stand there along side, lifting up the special platter covering thing (or that’s how I remember it) basically and serving us. I think they might have even had on gloves. I remember being just a little uncomfortable from feeling under-dressed (though they did not treat us in this manner) and because I did not know any further etiquette I might ought to have been practicing there but the food was well-presented and delicious.

Waiting For Food At Loving Hut

Our meal at this fancy vegan restaurant which included one appetizer, one drink, and two meals came out to 205,000VND (~$9.19) We were given a discount due to International Women’s Day (though it was not technically on the day- but that was great!) which reduced the price to 185,000VND and we ended up paying 200,000VND. Tipping is not typical in Vietnam but with the discount and quality, we had to do so. I think we thought about giving more but did not have appropriate bills to do so. Plus, we were still on a budget. We had decided to call this a sort of anniversary meal even though it was a little early.

They provided us with a coupon for a future visit and we did think about returning but did not have a ton of time left in the city and it was not super close to us so we did not end up making it back. I would still highly recommend the place, though and if you don’t go to the cafe at the Vietnamese Women’s museum, it’s a good option for a place to get food afterwards.  

From what I can tell online, there may be at least one more Loving Hut in Hanoi as well (looks like: Loving Hut Nguon Coi Restaurant, 3 Ngách 10, Ngõ 121, Phố Chùa Láng, Quận Đống Đa, Hà Nội, Vietnam) but I cannot verify anything about it as we did not visit this location.

  • If you are looking for more delicious vegan/vegetarian food in Hanoi, also check out: Bo de Quan
  • For good vegan/vegetarian food on Cat Ba island (just a few hours from Hanoi), check out: Buddha Belly
  • And finally, for a nice vegetarian restaurant in Ho Chi Minh, take a look at: Hum Vegetarian

Paphos, Cyprus – Activities And Adventures

~K~

Paphos

The coastal city of Paphos lies on the the southwestern most shore of Cyprus. Easily reached via the A6 highway, it is a very direct route from the primary airport on the island in Larnaka, and is just under an hour’s ride from the major port city of Limassol. Paphos is also home to Cyprus’ second largest airport. The city is a bustling resort town that enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate and is considered to have the mildest temperatures on the island.

Paphos Lighthouse

The city is made up of two parts: Old and New Paphos. Old Paphos has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and was the center of the cult of Aphrodite at Petra Tou Romio and various pre-Hellenistic fertility deities. New Paphos contains the modern buildings and resorts, as well as ruins and archaeological sites from the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.

We visited Pafos on two occasions during our stay on Cyprus: once on my birthday and another time with Briana’s dad while he was visiting us.

Paphos Waterfront

Waterfront

Paphos Waterfront

The Paphos waterfront is a lively resort area with numerous cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. You’ll also find plenty of public “beaches”, or rather swimming spots. The waters surrounding Cyprus tend to lend themselves to go swimming, but often lack any sand but instead have large pebbles. In this case, there aren’t even pebbles, just a spot to jump in. We didn’t partake in any swimming, but dozens of swimmers were enjoying themselves.

Paphos Waterfront
Paphose Waterfront

We ate at two different locations on the waterfront. Once for my birthday, which had a pretty good basket of fish n’ chips, and a really strong Irish coffee. Generally I think of an Irish coffee as a bit of Bailey’s in the coffee, but they just threw in a bunch of whiskey on this one. The other place (Mar Bianco Cafe Bistro) was right along the main boardwalk with Briana’s dad who treated us to some wonderful Cypriot food. In both cases the food was plentiful, a trend we found across the entire island.

Meal At Paphos
Paphos Food

We also enjoyed a delicious smoothie from an ice cream shop on our first outing.

The famous Pink Pelican of Paphos Harbor will also make itself seen frequently, and has become a bit of a tourist attraction. While sadly not the original, you’ll find him most days at the Pelican Bar which is aptly named for the bird.

Pink Pelicans At Paphos

Paphos Castle

Paphos Castle

At the very end of Paphos Harbor you’ll find the historical Paphos Castle. Originally built as a Byzantine fort, it was reconstructed in the 13 century after the earthquake of 1222. It was dismantled by the Venetians in 1570 and then fortified by the Ottomans when they captured the island. The castle has served as fortress, prison, and warehouse throughout it’s long history guarding Paphos harbor, but today stands as a listed landmark.

We didn’t go inside while we were in Paphos, but we did take a few pictures of it. It is a little bit on the small side, but apparently well worth the visit. It costs 2.50 Euro to enter (at the time we were strapped for cash and were more interested in the Archaeological Site).

If you’re interested in visiting, the hours are:

Winter (Nov 1 – March 31): 8:00am – 5:00pm

Spring (April 1 – May 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Summer (June 1 – Aug 31): 8:00am – 7:30pm

Autumn ( Sep 1 – Oct 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Archaelogical Site Paphos

This was one of our favorite things that we did while on Cyprus. I chose to do this on my birthday after we dropped off the homeowners of our housesit at Paphos Airport. The Archaeological Site Paphos is just a few hundred meters north of Paphos Castle along the waterfront.

Ruins At Paphos

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a vast complex of monuments. Here we found beautiful and well-preserved mosaics in the House of Dionysus – the god of wine.

Mosaics At Paphos
Mosaics At Paphos

The house of Thyseus, named after a mosaic showing the Greek hero Thyseus fighting the Minotaur.

Mosaics At Paphos

The House of Aion and the House of Orpheus also contain great mosaics.

Mosaics At Paphos

The Roman Odeon stands as a well preserved amphitheater and is still used during the summer for musical and theater performances. The Hellenistic theater, a theater cut into the rock is also still used to this day.

Archaeological Site Paphos Amplitheatre

As well there are the remains of an Agora dating to the 2nd Century BCE and the Asklipion, a temple that served as a hospital named after the god of medicine.

Paphos Ruins
Archaeological Site Paphos

If you’re interested in visiting, it costs 4.50 Euro and the hours are:

Winter (Nov 1 – March 31): 8:00am – 5:00pm

Spring (April 1 – May 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Summer (June 1 – Aug 31): 8:00am – 7:30pm

Autumn ( Sep 1 – Oct 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Be sure to bring some water, it gets hot!

Tombs Of The Kings

Tomb Of The Kings

Another one of our favorites, and an awesome UNESCO site to check out located about 4km north of the archaeological site is the Tombs of The Kings. The tombs themselves are not actually of kings, but rather belonged to the rich aristocrats of the 4th century BCE through to the 3rd century CE.

Briana In A Tomb
Tombs Of The Kings

The tombs are carved and cut into the native rock. Some are more simplistic while others contain Doric columns and frescoed walls. All contain alcoves in which the dead were placed (though none now remain.)

Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings

The site is made up of 7 tombs spread out over a large area. Tomb 3 is the largest and most impressive of the tombs.

Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings

We enjoyed climbing about through the stone caved ruins and trekking through the rough desert landscape.

Tomb Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings Stairs
Tombs Of The Kings
Briana At Tombs Of The Kings

Entry is 2.50 Euro and it’s hours are: 8:30am – 7:30pm year round.

Ayia Kryiaki Chrysopolitissa

Church

The Panagia Chrysopolitissa church was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the largest Byzantine basilica on Cyprus. The church was originally 7 aisled, but due to damage throughout the years has been reduced and rebuilt into a 5 aisled church.

Church Ruins
Church Ruins

The church still operates today, but also serves as a historical site. Mosaics remain on display and can be viewed from the cat-walks that surround the standing building.

Church Ruin Mosaics

As well, you can view St. Paul’s Pillar, whether tradition states that Paul was flogged before the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity.

St Paul's Pillar

The interior of the present standing church can also be visited. The church is smaller, but well decorated and contains many paintings.

Inside The Church
Brotherly Love
Panagia Theoskepasti 
This is another church, just a little down the road from Pangia Chrysopolitissa. We weren’t able to visit it, but it is still operating and can be visited during service. The church was built in the 10th century, and is today listed as a part of the greater Paphos UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original church was destroyed, unfortunately, but was rebuilt upon it’s foundations in 1923.
Church of Panagia Theoskepasti

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