Thursday, March 31, 2011

Travel Series: On Safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve (Nairobi, Kenya)

A few months ago I was in Nairobi for a week. Unfortunately that meant that I didn't have the time needed to take a trip to Kenya's most well known safari area - the Maasai Mara National Reserve - I had to settle for the Nairobi National Park instead. That's OK though, cos for this trip I've got a weekend to spare, and so away we go to the Maasai Mara!

The Park is about a 250km drive from Nairobi, and takes about 6 hours by van. Doing some mental maths that's barely above a 40km/h average - that's because the roads are brutal. Sort of feels like being on a speedboat going on high speed in choppy waters, if you've done that before. If you haven't, well, the roads were so bad that the bumps triggered involuntary grunting. Losing control of your vocal chords aren't fun cos you know ... vocal chords now, what's next? The bladder? Ha ha.

Anyways, since we signed up for the budget package, we find ourselves at a ... campsite, which is where we'll be staying the night.

To be honest it's actually a pleasant surprise, because the tour company had advertised this as "camping" - which it certainly isn't. There are beds, blankets, mosquito nets, an attached toilet and shower, electricity ... it's enough, really.

... oh and there's also hot water! Gotta hope it doesn't rain though, cos if it does, the rain puts out the fire and the water turns cold mighty quick!

Anyways, a 2day/1night itinerary only gives you two 2-3 hour game drives - these are in 4WD's or vans with the roof specially modified to be propped up so us tourists can stand up to ogle the animals.

On to the photographs of the animals then! Lots of different wildlife here ranging from Lions:



Various Birds:

Haha, OK, that's a remarkably sexist interpretation of 'bird.' :P ... anyway lets continue, with different kinds of deer/gazelles (sorry lah, I no wildlife expert, don't remember the names of any of these):



Surprisingly, I actually saw less animals in total here in the Maasai than in the Nairobi National Park - many more lions, though. Unfortunately, thanks to the 6 hour trip we didn't have a full day to go deeper into the reserve. If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to come, definitely go for at least a 3day/2night. And if you're able to schedule your trip, definitely make it around August-September when the Great Wildebeest Migrations happen.

Oh, and to sign off the post: Malaysia represent, yo!

I went with Kairi Tours and Safaris. Average all-in prices are about 18-20,000 KSh (rm 660) for 2days/1night, or about 25-27,000 KSh (rm 910) for 3days/2nights.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Restoran Ong Lai (Goh Kee) - Steamed Fish Head along Jalan Raja Laut

I wouldn't be surprised if the F&B industry - Restaurants, Cafes, Snack Bars and Food kiosks - have the highest rate of new business openings of any industry in the world. There are so many different places to eat that, even just in KL, it would probably take years to eat in every single one of them.

Which makes it great for us food lovers, of course. Each new restaurant that opens up potentially brings new flavors and pushes the standard of food gradually upwards. But on the flip side, this also means that restaurants that don't adapt risk getting left behind.

Case in point for me personally - five years or so ago I thought Secret Recipe's Lamb Shank was absolutely delicious, eating it sometimes twice or three times a month. But nowadays I've found it just mediocre-tasting at best.

It's with this thought in mind, then, as I find myself with the family hunting down a 'famous & delicious steamed fish head' somewhere in Jalan Raja Laut. It was one of my dad's personal favorite makan places back when he was working in Kay-El. He hasn't been back here for over 10 years, though, so we'll see if the restaurant has managed to stay relevant.

Initial signs are encouraging - the restaurant is full house! So many people can't be wrong ... right? Anyway, being a Chinese style restaurant, we go for a bunch of dishes, starting with Potato Leaves for the night's quota of veg.

Ong Lai's take on the Kung Pao chicken is delicious, with just the right amount of spicy 'kick' from the dried chilli.

The ku lou yuk (sweet and sour pork) follows, and is also pretty nice.

It goes a bit downhill from there, though. I forget the name of this dish - it's some sort of soupy noodles with 4 large prawns. Unfortunately the prawns aren't that fresh, and the souped-up noodles are plain and bland.

On to the main reason we're here though - for the fish heads! The restaurant only serves one kind of fish, but with four different styles - clear, ginger, assam, and ... erm ... there was one more cooking style that I forget. Oops :). The ginger style below is, to put it nicely, not the most appetizing fish head that I've had. Perhaps it's also because I don't really like ginger, so to have a dish just *swimming* in the stuff turns me off even before I start.

The 'clear' style is much easier on the taste buds. But it's also somewhat plain. And the meat of the fish is of the 'mushy' variety which I absolutely dislike. Give me some firmly flake'able fish (like cod or salmon) please.

Oh, I might as well also touch on the hokkien mee. It's the wrong type of noodle. And tastes a bit rubbish, too.

So the overall verdict? For me, the food was below mediocre, and I couldn't understand why there were so many people. The only reason I can think of is that they come from the nearby housing areas and are too lazy to drive elsewhere for better food.

And my dad's verdict? I didn't have to ask - the look of utter disappointment on his face said it all. Whether the standard of food at the restaurant dropped, or whether my dad's tastes have evolved over time, who knows?

Restoran Ong Lai is in the back alley on Lorong Tiong Nam 3 along Jalan Raja Laut. Our dinner cost about MYR200 including drinks - which isn't too bad for an 8-person family.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pao Xiang BKT (Bak Kut Teh) - Porky goodness in Pavilion, KL

I'm a huge Bak Kut Teh (BKT) lover. To the darling, not so much - she's less of a carnivore than I am :). To me there's just something special about chowing down hunks of meat drenched in savory soup, and then washing it all down with cup after cup of hot refreshing Chinese tea. And so it's kind of a bit odd, perhaps, that I've only got two posts about BKT.

Time to rectify that though - today, with a 3rd post about Pao Xiang BKT. We've seen and heard about this 'chain' in a few shopping malls, but never got round to trying it. I mean, BKT is supposed to be eaten in hot coffee shops, so how good can a clean fancy air-conditioned one be, right?

The Pavilion outlet is big, clean and bright, and nicely decorated with lots of teapots.

It's very pleasant to eat in a nice restaurant, of course, but it does initially cause a bit of unease as to how big a hit the meal will be to the wallet - particularly as Pao Xiang is on the top floor in Pavilion smack in the middle of that upmarket restaurants area.

Hot tea to start off the meal - and to end it later.

Rice and you char kway (油炸鬼) - the you char kway is a bit interesting in that its' texture is quite a bit more 'buttery' than normal.

On to the good stuff though - the meat! Every other BKT shop I've been to in KL is of the 'mix everything in one huge claypot' variety. In Pao Xiang, though, you order by small bowls of whatever kind of meat you want - one bowl is MYR15.00 and roughly feeds one mouth.

Advantages of these mini bowls is that you have much more control of exactly what meat cuts you want, but of course you take a hit on variety if you're just dining for two. I liked how the bowls were served with heaters below them to keep the soup hot.

Speaking of the soup, I thought it was pretty good. I'm a fan of this variety of more gravy-like soup, not the clear/herby kind. Meat was OK but my order of 'half fat lean' turns out to be 95% lean. Healthy? Yes, perhaps ... but I like some fats on my pork :D

Finish off with some oiled vegetables just so we don't feel so guilty about not having any veg.

Verdict? For about RM25-ish per person, I think it's very reasonable given the overall price of food in Pavilion KL. And it tastes pretty good too - definitely recommended if you're in Pavilion and have a craving for BKT

(I wouldn't say it's good enough to purposely drive all the way to KL city and pay exorbitant parking rates just to eat here, though).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sushi Tei Revisit @ Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya

**Surprise** **Surprise**

Sushi Tei is now doing charity to assist the immediate relief efforts and support for the Japanese people...

Today 25 March 2011, yes special only this Friday... Half of their Total Sales from all their outlets will be donated!

What are you waiting for? I'll be updating in this same post below this email image sent by my dear from Kenya! Heading there for early brunch... Definitely will be eating Toro to make dear jealous as a while ago he was craving for it~!!

Doing this as I LOVE Sushi, & Happy that Sushi Tei is thoughtful enough as a Japanese Cuisine restaurant to help out the Japanese victims.

I'll be playing my part in helping them to pool more funds. How about you? ^_^

Back from lunch~~~~~~~

Today I believe they were expecting a HUGE crowd to come. Dozens of new waiter and waitress without experience and probably sushi chefs too. Had some simple problem situations:
(a) to order Dai Dai Roll
Me: "are the Mango sweet today?"
Waiter A: "er....... ah? sweet. yes. sweet." answer given after asking 3-4 times.

(b) before ordering Toro Sushi
Me: "is the Toro cut nice today?"
Waiter A: "yaya." (but with blur look) called another waitress.
Waitress B: "it's imported all Toro cut is all same."
Me: "oh really? coz i ate 3 times 1 time the cut is horrible."
Waitress B: "nono, Miss. It's all the same."

This makes me feel that the quality of the service has dropped way too much since the first time me & dear first visited Sushi Tei here.

As usual for a Japanese Cuisine it goes pretty well with Green Tea Hot and Cold are served. MYR 2.00

Dai Dai Roll. MYR 13.80
with the crab meat, sweet mango, Purple Lettuce rolled up in the middle of sushi rice, then covered with salmon sashimi, Along with the combination of 2 different dressings and Ebiko makes it a very refreshing feel.

Salmon Ikura Oyako Don
(L) Size MYR 19.80
(S) Size MYR 12.80
Tons of sushi rice with the bowl top cover with salmon and salmon roe. The served salmon given was like only 2mm-3mm thin! along with 1 or 2 teaspoons serving of Salmon Roe. Would really rather go for individual sushi instead of this. Comparing this to MYR 4.80 for 2 large generous slice of salmon (5mm-6mm thick) on top of the salmon sushi.

Chuka Iidako MYR 6.80
Baby Octopus seasoned with sesame. It was okay only. Ordered because my little bro is crazy about this.

Unagi Avocado Handroll MYR 6.80
A full piece of seaweed, with sushi rice, served with a little unagi sauce at a corner of with Eel with Avocado in the middle. It only comes with a 1cm wide slice of Unagi in it. Pretty unimpressive but, the avocado made it sweeter and blends in well.

Unagi Sushi. MYR 6.80
It's a generous Portion served today compare to my last few visit. Yummy!

Toro Sushi. MYR 18.80
This extremely satisfying melt in the mouth best slice of fish ever. Dear & my favorite however, it is pricey. How it should actually looks like that you can taste that feeling, it's in the left side, today with the in-experience staff & chef i got the right slice where it had not enough fat~!!! rating for it dropped by half...

The bill came up to MYR 79.40 which i believe, MYR 39.70 will be donated. :)

Feeling good in heart for doing a indirect charity and also full happy stomach of healthy meal.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Please Vote for me at the MasTraveller contest!


Just a short little 'HELP NEEDED COME QUICK!' post. I've never asked of anything from you (dear reader), I do this as a hobby. But the darling and I are gonna ask for your help now ... we joined a contest on MasTraveller with some awesome prizes, and we're hoping you can vote for us! It's easy!

1) Just click here: Timing Visits A Maasai Village In Kenya And Comes Away Unharmed!
2) Watch the video of me being so nervous I can't speak properly
3) Scroll all the way down to the post and press the "Like" button!

That's it! Thanks thanks, and if you're also joining the contest leave a link in the comments and I'll return the favor!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rak Thai @ The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur

I have been wanting to blog about this restaurant since this is my third visit. It's name Rak Thai literally translated as “Love Thai”.

Took this opportunity to guide my little brother Joshua to drive to Mid Valley City for his future entertainment when I'm at Singapore for my next stop of career soon soon. Pitifully, I do apologize for the slightly poor quality of the photos for this blog post compare to the other posts I did. I am down with Heavy Cold & Flu since i woke up this morning, grab our baby 500D and headed down to Mid Valley City. Upon reaching, I only realize that there no card in the camera! So, I had to use my iPhone4 camera.

Starting off with Pandan Chicken, which was served giving the feel of it being very extremely oily. However, the chicken wrapped in the pandan leave was nicely favored with acceptable oiliness. Dip it with the Semi-Spicy Chilli Sauce that comes with it makes it a very delightful experience of Thai-ness. MYR15.90

I re-ordered Mango Chicken Chop Rice, as me as a Mango lover this dish amaze me in every way. The thick grave sauce with generous portion of mango mixed with it as non-spicy grave for the nicely fried Crispy Chicken Chop blends well. MYR15.90

Next, we tried Pineapple Fried Rice, the rice was 5star rating to me due to texture of it, along with the fresh prawns, crab cake, crispy carrot, etc. Not forgetting the appropriate garnishing of lemon-grass with fried onion gives a twist to the difference of it compare to Chinese-Style Pineapple Fried Rice when mixed together before consuming. MYR12.90

Lastly, the awaiting to share the STAR dessert that was introduced by my friend Lam upon my last visit here. Tub Tim Krob is a famous Thai dessert. Too bad I'm sick that i can't have this this time around. It is served with strips of jack fruit, shaved ice and coconut milk. The other dark pink jelly served are made out of water chestnut coated with tapioca, with the feeling of chewy and crunchiness which is the special ingredient that makes this dessert so special. It's freshing dessert to choose, reasonable price too compare to the other stall nearby selling normal local delicacy. MYR4.90

The stall not only serve food. They also sell some Thai condiments that you can buy home to cook yourself. ^_^

Rak Thai
LG 232 A, The Gardens,
Mid Valley City,
Lingkaran Syed Putra,
59200 Kuala Lumpur.