Had the urge to book a holiday in Canada when reading my friend's account of his recent road trip to Montreal. Here's an extract of his super amazing weekend... Thanks Y for this!

I just got back from a 6 hour car ride from Montreal and I'm completely exhausted right now. But I have to tell you about this hotel I stayed at while I was there. It's called Hotel Godin (pronounced "go-deen"), and it's located at the heart of Downtown Montreal's Plateau Mont-Royal district (equivalent to SOHO in London) where all the trendy clubs and restaurants are. Looking from at it from outside, I could not believe it was our hotel. It looked more like a modern museum than anything. As we walked inside and into our rooms it only got better and better.

Honestly and humbly, it was the nicest hotel room I've ever stayed at in my whole life. The interior design was as trendy as it can get. Every piece of material from the toilet paper to the bed sheets and the matresses to the humongous flat screen TV/computer screams elegance. Even the soaps and shampoo and cream (all come in lychee flavor) were specially made in France and shipped over to Canada. They even have their own water brand. The best part is, it is not part of a hotel chain. Just simply a privately run local hotel in the city of Montreal.

FYI... http://www.hotelgodin.com/en/godin.htm

The room cost us CND$260ish in total including tax and everything, which was a really good deal considering it was Canada's civic long weekend holiday.

As for Montreal, it was an amazing city! In all honesty, even though people have told me many great things about the city before, I wasn't too thrilled about going there the whole time. Even when we first got there, I was thinking to myself "so this is Montreal, what's so special about it?). But as we spent more time in the city, I have come to realize the greatness of it that everyone talks about all the time. I totally felt like I was in Paris or some major city in France. It was like a mini Europe within North America. For a while I forgot I was in Canada. Everyone spoke French and it was hard to even find a road sign with English on it. The streets in Plateau Mont-Royal were sooo beautiful, with all kinds of trendy restaurants and lounges crammed in the entire area. And the food was oohhh so amazing!! I had a scallopini marsala (veal) and I was already impressed by the side spaghetti before I got to the veal. And as you would have expected, all the restaurants have outdoor seating like the ones in Europe and although we have those in Vancouver and Toronto as well it didnt feel quite the same in Montreal. I guess it was the ambience and the people around you that made the difference. Everyone is just so laid back and happy. Almost everyone (even the pedestrians) had a glass of wine in their hand.

And then finally, the club that we went to at night... I'm not exagerating, but it was also the nicest club I've been to in my life. It was situated on the roof top of a skyscarper (the RBC building) in the financial district. From the patio on the 41st floor, we could see the entire city beneath our feet. Not to mention that there was a lot of good looking people inside. Seriously, everybody (girls and guys) looked like Italian models.

All in all, the short lived vacation was quite an amazing experience for me. I would definitely go back again if I have time and I'd stay at the very same hotel for sure. If you ever come to Canada, Montreal is one place you MUST visit. You won't be disappointed I assure you.

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Ordering afternoon tea has become a daily ritual for our office these days, probably as a way to re-energize our tired ol’ selves for the long nights ahead. Everyday at around three thirty, people would start gathering round and begin a heated discussion on what and where to order from, flipping through the huge stack of delivery forms that we have compiled over the years. The choice normally narrows down to two – Honeymoon dessert and Honolulu. 

Honolulu is a Hong-Kong style chachanteng also renowned for its egg tarts. This is of the flaky, layered puff pastry variety, and differs from the Tai Cheong Bakery ones. (For those eager Tai Cheong fans, no, it hasn't re-opened yet, but you can bet that HKFoodie will be amongst the first to visit its new store when it does!) Must admit the glazed golden yellow custard and the slightly browned multi-layer pastry looks extremely tempting and inviting, especially as I am a fan of all custard based dessert. Sadly, somehow, my stomach is always a bit unsettled after consuming a flaky egg tart like this, and I'd feel greasy and lethargic for the rest of the day (nope, am not exaggerating). Not sure if this is because of the extra fat that the bakers used to make the flaky bits. For Chinese egg tart, I prefer the Tai Cheong style one for crust.

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Ever since HKFoodie and I started this blog, I have become the designated person to decide on venue whenever there is a group gathering. Recently, a friend came back from London and a few of us decided to gather round in Happy Valley for dinner. Was flipping through a local mag which raved about Le Coquillage and its Araignees crab soup and its seafood in general - so I promptly made a reservation.

We walked into a relatively busy restaurant and happily settled down at our table next to the bar. Since it was rather late already at eight thirty, we quickly placed our orders for the set menu, which included a seafood platter, the signature asparagus crab soup, and main courses. At HK$238 per set, we agreed that it sounded like good value for money. Of the mains, two were meat dishes and one a fish. Was told they ran out of the daily special fish so opted for the alternative (salmon) instead. Was mildy annoyed (first of many) when they came back and told me they ran out of salmon as well (there were a few tables occupied but it not that busy a night) and that only the meat dishes were left. When I mentioned I would very much prefer a fish, the waiter was indfferent, and hence I was forced to choose the lamb unwillingly.

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I always look forward to my foodie friend's birthday in mid-July~ he always try to organise a themed celebration dinner, and this year, the star of the show is yellow-oil crab. Yellow-oil crab is only in season in the summer, between the lunar months of May to August. These are deformed crabs, which had been exposed to the sun and heat so much in the summer that their fat (roe) turns into a liquid form, which rolls throughout their whole body.

There are three grades of yellow-oil crab, so classified depending on the amount of fat within their body. In general I prefer hairy crab over yellow-oil crab, as the chef's skills very much determine how tasty your yellow-oil crab is. Last time I tried one in Lei Yu Mun, it was first chilled in ice water and then steamed, which is one of the most popular method, but resulted in all the yellow-oil turned into a boring hard solid form, that's not different from your normal mud crab. This time, my friend hosted his dinner at Fu Sing in Wan Chai, which has fast emerged as one of the top tier restaurants in HK. I walked in with low expectations in spite of its good name, as I said, yellow-oil crab is normally not my cup of tea.

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Apart from Mister Donut, a Japanese sandwich shop is driving another queuing craze in Taipei - Romankan Yokohama, loosely translated as The Romantic House of Yokohama, specialises in pork sandwiches. Being the investigative journalists as we are, we decided to check it out on our recent visit. Romankan Yokohama, opened in March 2005, is situated in the corner of the food court for Breeze Shopping Center, and is hard to miss with the super long queues close to the escalator. Unfortunately we cannot show you this incredible sight, as the shop does not allow photography in its vicinity, for reasons totally beyond us.

The shop offers four different types of sandwiches - Porkloin, Chicken, Hamburger, and Vegetable patty. Prices ain't cheap at NT$75 a piece (breakfast for three at Yung Ho was only NT$80), so expectations were set high. Since it was early and we had all the time in the world before the shops opened, we stood there observing every single step involved in producing a sandwich in front of the open kitchen. In true Japanes tradition, division of labor was practised to meticulous perfection, with someone in charge of deep frying the meat, another in toasting the bread, someone else preparing the ingredients, and the final touch of assembling everything together being done by a fourth person. At the till, two young femal attendents were busy sticking the item labels to the small plastic wrap. 

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C’est bon! is located in Tsing Yi, one of the satellite developments in the New Territories of HK. Before your mind goes completely blank and dismiss this area, recall your Airport Express journey from the airport, and you'd remember that first station it stops at is called Tsing Yi, yup, that's where we went..

Must admit that I rarely venture out to the dark side, let along the New Territories… so imagine my surprise when my friend told me that you have to book at least three weeks in advance for a weekday booking for C’est bon!, a newly opened fine dining French restaurant in Tsing Yi. Knowing little about the place, except that it is a branch of the extremely popular original C'est bon! in Bangkok, we held our Octopus cards in hand and made an outing all the way to NT.

We were very impressed with the light, French bistro style decor of the place, with full-length glass windows on the far side of the restaurant overlooking a calm sea. We felt transformed to one of those sidewalk bistros in Europe, and were only brought back to earth by the tacky saying plastered on the plates in front of us... =)

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While I prefer The Ritz for its luxurious comfort, my colleague prefers staying at Raffles The Plaza. Located close to the Chijmes and War Memorial Park, Raffles The Plaza is affiliated with the renowned Raffles Hotel, which is where Singapore Sling was first invented. I think one of Raffles The Plaza's strongest selling point is its interconnecting shopping mall with its sister hotel, Swisshotel The Stamford. One has very easy access to a wide variety of shops within the complex, not to mention restaurants. If you get bored of the selection, you could always venture out using the MRT station located within the complex.

Make sure you get a room in the revamped wing when checking in - while the rooms in the old wing are of a similar size, the decor is tired and unattractive. The thing I like about Raffles The Plaza is that one can control all the lights and curtains in the room, plus the temperature, via the bedside panel, saving the need to get out of bed to do it late at night (total lazy bum, I agree).

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Whenever I stayed with my relatives on my infrequent Taipei visits when young, I always eagerly looked forward to the break of dawn, when my cousins would bring me to the local street stalls to devour a bowl of piping hot sweet soy milk, a Taiwanese traditional breakfast choice.

Sweet soy milk (tian dou jiang/ 甜豆漿)

Nowadays, it has been so commercialised that there seems to be a branch of the famous  Yung Ho Soymilk (永和豆漿) just about any corner one turns, with some even operating on a 24-hour basis and have introduced new products like turnip cakes to complement their selection.

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Was deliberating whether to recommend Fullerton for a while simply because it is such a gem for tourists. Decided in the end that sharing is better~ ha. Fullerton has two branches within Taipei, located in close proximity to one another. We chose the Fullerton 315 for our recent trip as the Fullerton 41 branch was fully booked. The latter is not only newer, but also more suited for weekend tourists, as it is within walking distance to the shopping district around the massive Sogo dept store, while 315 is closer to the business district.

Recently there has been a flood of boutique hotels in Taipei, and one that has been frequently recommended is Les Suite Taipei. I have not stayed there personally, but have visited a friend at the hotel and found it below my expectations. While the minimalistic, chic decor was very refreshing and unique for Taipei, I was let down by the service level - or the lack of service. You rarely see more than one attendant in the entire lobby, and it takes ages for room service to answer calls. In short, the hardware is all there, but it is in dire need of better software. At Fullerton, I had a much warmer welcome and the service was definitely on par. Not only did everyone speak extremely fluent English, serivce was also prompt and satisfactory.

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Was reflecting on my bad luck in the month of July on my flight to Taipei over the weekend, and realised that I was probably jinxed...

- Another scary horse riding incident involving a thunderstorm, an irritating classmate that provoked my horse, an agitated and out of control horse, and almost toppling over on cement grounds. 

- The absolute WORST flight ever when returning from Singapore - this deserves a proper entry another time.

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Somehow I always assumed that Tapas Bar would be situated on the top floor of Kowloon Shangri-la, as people keep mentioning its gorgeous night view. Imagine my surprise when I realised it was located close to the lobby on the ground floor. The place had a chic, modern feel to it, with wine bottles filing up one side of the wall, the open-style kitchen at one end, and the bar at the other end. For those in search of a view you would not be disappointed by the full-length glass windows which give you an unobstructed panaromic view of the georgeous Victoria Harbour. 

Tapas Bar specialises in New World wines and what else, tapas - we had a special treat the night of our visit, as it was doing a promotion on Aussie oysters and wine for the month of June. We took on the waitress' expert advice and ordered a few different oysters to try out with our refreshing white wine.

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That fateful morning, we were heading for the DMZ tour all the way at the border - our dear friend YS decided to swing by to give us a ride to the meeting point @ Lotte Hotel across the river, in spite of him having only landed in Incheon two hours earlier from his week-long US business trip.

Because we were out till late (or early morn could be more appropriate) the day before, everyone was totally knackered and took longer than one should in getting ready. This meant we only had 20 min to get to a place on a car journey that normally takes 45 min. Knowing that we had each forked out US$65 for the trip, YS decided to risk it all and was driving, should we say, in a similar manner to what you see in the latest canto-movie, Initial-D.

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Craving for some pho the other night, we decided to have Vietnamese for dinner last Friday. Since we were catching a late night movie at IFC, our restaurant choice was restricted to the Central area. The options as we realised were extremely limited- with Song being too far away and Na Trang not suited for a long relaxing dinner, we settled on an old fave- Indochine in California Tower.

It's been a while since my last visit, my first impression when walking in was that while it looked broadly the same as before, the place was a bit worn down. It was also unnecessarily ill lit up (reason for the horrible and few pics here) ... Sorry but the rattan chairs really did not evoke a romantic feeling, if that'hs what was intended. Another discomforting sign was that the place was swamped with Westerners... Makes one wonder whether the cuisine was authenic or not.

While waiting for my friends, I nibbled on the prawn crackers, which were crispy and fresh, alleviating some of my concern.

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My friend has been raving about this little gem in SoHo for a while, but only managed a visit recently when looking for a quick bite before movie the other night. Tuk-Tuk Thai is located close to the Central wet market, and is a stone’s throw from Mizu, with little signage, it is easy to miss.

We warmed to the place immediately when we entered, with simple and rustic furniture and sparsely decorated, the place was welcoming and cosy like a friend’s apartment. The waitresses were all Thai-looking, which is always a positive, although the clientele was predominantly foreigners, which was a tiny warning signal to us. We were skeptical to the notice that said "No MSG!" on the front window, but settled in quickly.

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While a freshly prepared and cooked dinner waiting at home upon your return from work sounds enticing, more often then not, eating out is a more practical alternative for most people these days. However, good and affordable restaurants are in general hard to find, and while I adore the street vendors one sees in abundance on the streets in Taipei, sometimes I do prefer a proper sit-down meal in an air-conditioned environment. Found a street that specializes in this type of restaurants on my recent visit to Taipei.

One is greeted with an enormous selection of dishes upon entering 小李子 "Little Lee" (Direct English translation). Every dish is on display, and when you see something to your fancy, you can order with the waiter standing right behind the counter and collect your dish from him immediately.

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