Wonder Where You Can Kayak and Lilo on the Same River? Storms River Can!

After swing from treetop with Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour in the morning, we left the village and drove to Tsitsikamma National Park for the most anticipated activity of the day, Kayak and Lilo adventure!

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To tell you the truth I have awed by the promotional video on their social media page. So without even a hesitation, this activity jump straight onto the top  of the trip’s To-Do list.

The kayak and Lilo is a combination tour where you first do the kayaking on the Storms River then you leave your kayaks midway and go on to the lilos.

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This activity is quite popular so booking is required in advance, and make sure that you book way ahead during peak holiday season. The office Untouched Adventures, located in the national park, is where we gear up and sign our death warrant etc etc. I would also recommend that you wear close shoes for the trip. As we went during early autumn time so the river water is quite warm so you don’t really need a wetsuit.

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The activity takes about 3.5 hours. Depend on how rough is the sea, you will either do ocean kayaking from the river mouth into the river and lilo afterwards (what I dreamt of doing), or else hike along the river from the suspension bridge up to the jetty where you then get on onto your kayaks. Unfortunately on the day the sea was quite rough so we have missed out on the sea kayaking and hiked to the jetty.

During the kayak and lilo, the guides stopped for a few times for us to admire the scenery and also talk about the rich nature of the area and the indigenous surroundings.

When we switched to the Lilo, the guides allow us to jump from the cliffs. As I have done a few canyoning/kloofing adventures, how could I miss the fun!

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Overall the views were breathtaking, and it is far different when looking from the suspension bridge. The trip is not physically demanding, but some do feel the hike to the jetty is a bit strenuous. The guides were friendly and very patient. I would recommend it to anyone as it was really safe, and unforgettable. Just teeny-tiny disappointed that we were not able to do the sea kayaking, hopefully the next time Poseidon will chill down the sea a bit. But would definitely do it again!

Just a tip: The guides do not take pictures during the activity but you more than welcome to bring your GO PRO and they also provide dry bags to store valuables.

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Be a Tarzan at Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour®

It is often that most travelers will relax for a day at Port Elizabeth before their Garden Route road trip, and this is what we have done before the start of the our trip. And believe me, it is highly advisable, especially for a designated driver, driving and traveling together can became tiresome.

From Port Elizabeth direction, our first stop on the Garden Route is the Storms River Village, where the infamous Tsitsikamma National Park is located.

As an avid “mild” adrenaline junkie (I categorized myself as mild because there is certain adventure activities I will avoid if possible, bungee for example), Garden Route is my favourite trip when looking for fun activities to do. From as easy as hiking, cycling, super fun canyoning/kloofing, ziplining/canopy tour to as extreme as bungee jumping off the world’s highest commercial bungee bridge (which I will avoid), most of the action packed activities are found at Storms River.

Up early in the morning we have arrived at the office of Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour® at the Storms River Village. What I love about this tour is that this Fair Trade company supports the local community, it only keeps 43% of the profits and the rest goes into the community projects.

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We were welcomed by a group of young and bubbly guides at their “briefing” office, which they explained all safety rules for the tour and dressing us up with safety gears. After briefing, we hopped onto the truck for the canopy tour, two guides and one photographer accompanied us during the tour. The first two zip lines are shorter for warm ups, afterwards all the zip lines are much faster and longer. During the tour you either scream your heart content or you pretend you are the king/queen of the jungle.

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The guides are helpful, informative and entertaining. As my friend Mart is a bit scared of height so they did tried to ease her nerves away (by pushing her off the platform on the count of 2 instead of 3). The tour is not only about zip lining from tree to tree but the guides also shared stories and information of the forest with us.

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The highlight of the tour is the spectacular view. I really cannot explain how breathtaking the indigenous forest is and how huge the yellowwood trees are. The platforms are built around these giant Outeniqua Yellowwood trees and some are as old as 700 years old! Because the tour is eco-friendly, even the platforms on the treetop does no harm as they don’t drill or nail the trees.

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The whole tour last for about 2.5-3 hours, with a total of 10 ziplines and a light meal after all the slidings. In general I found the tour relatively safe and fun (if you do not have a height problem). Definitely a must-do when at the Storms River Village.

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We finished the canopy tour at 12pm, but we later scheduled my most anticipated activity, Kayak & Lilo with Untouched Adventures at 2pm (coming up in my next blogpost), in between the 2 hours we decided to check out the other sightseeing landmark such as the big tree and Storms River Bridge.

Details:

Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours

Address: 101 Darnell St, Storms River, 6308

Tel: 042 281 1836

Operating Hours: Open 7 days a week. 8am – 5pm

Website: https://www.stormsriver.com/

How to spend 24 hours in Port Elizabeth – the Friendly City – with a R300 budget

So every South African knows whereabouts Port Elizabeth is, the city that known as the Friendly City or the Windy City. Besides just hanging around the beachfront, do you know where else you can go or do under 24 hours, and spend less than R300?

07:30 Start the day with some scrumptious breakfast at Victorian veranda of Savages Fine Food. There are many great breakfast spots in Port Elizabeth, Vovo Telo, Friendly Stranger to name a few, but my favourite have to be Savages Fine Food. While many eateries are booming with coffee culture, it is good to find a place that caters for the tea lovers. Their tea creation are innovative, just imagine popcorn in your tea! Their pastries and breads are freshly made at the premises so you wouldn’t find any pastry alike elsewhere.

09:00 Visit St George’s Park and Pearson Conservatory. After breakfast, take a leisure walk across the road and explore one of the historical landmarks in PE, St George’s Park. However my favourite part of the park is the quiet, 135 years old conservatory, it is quiet well-maintained and sooooo Instagram-worthy.

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10:30 Overlooking the coastline of the Friendly City at Donkin Reserve and appreciating the surrounding 67 public artworks. I have visited Donkin Reserve on numerous occasions but the view never dies on me. With the installation of the art project, Route 67, Donkin Reserve are more lively and vibrant than ever. You can actually spend a good 3-4 hours here!

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As one of the best known historical attractions in PE, Donkin Reserve features a renowned lighthouse and a stone memorial pyramid. Both the Donkin Reserve and St George’s Park are parts of the 51 historical landmarks on the Donkin Heritage Trail, so if you are a history or architectural fanatic, it is worthwhile to do a 5km self-guided walk to explore the rest of the interests. (Just do it in group so safety reason, please!)

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We have tried to explore as much artworks as possible, but as the wind start picking up (like a typical windy welcome from the city), the clouds and rain just came out from nowhere and have shortened our outdoor walk. But at least we get to see some of the my favourite landmarks in PE, like the architecture of public library, the artworks Voting Line and the beautiful Piazza Mosaic.

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13:00 Treat yourself to some fresh catch at This Is Eat. I could recommend many places by the buzzing Richmond Hill or the ever-popular promenade, but as a seafood lover, This Is Eat is a local’s favourite. By lunchtime, this simple and casual joint is packed with locals. With freshly prepared seafood, decent portions and very reasonable price, their fish and chips win my heart any time.

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14:30 Be a beach bum at Sardinia Bay Beach. This is my favourite beach in South Africa (so far), it is less crowded and the wildlife is undisturbed. The sand dune are just pure magnificent and is so high that you can sand-board freely, and kite-surfers can be spotted occasionally. Besides chilling on the sand, you can go for a tranquil 8km walk on the wild uninterrupted stretch of pristine beach, where further down you can snorkel in the tidal pools. Just remember to bring your gear because there are no shops around the beach.

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17:00 Sundowner by the Pier. If you go watch the sunset, I still think the pier have the most beautiful sunset in PE (unless there is another local can suggest a better one for me to go explore next time!). Get free parking inside the Boardwalk Casino and walk your way to the pier. The colours of the wild orange and subtle blue sky will amazes you.

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20:00 Burgers and shakes at Something Good or at the legendary Stage Door of Phoenix Hotel. If you want something casual roadhouse dinner, Something Good is located in a refurbished 1950s Port Elizabeth landmark overlooking Pollock Beach, or else you can head to Stage Door that have been opening its door since 1837 for some pub food. Both restaurants are well priced and popular amongst locals and travelers.

As a street art lover, I have also noticed a bit of graffiti masterpieces around the city, particularly the works of Joff. Love his work!

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Joff’s masterpiece by Something Good

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One of Joff’s works by Baakens Valley

There are lots more to do in Port Elizabeth and 24 hours are barely enough, next time I would also make time to visit the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre (SAMREC) where they occasionally release rescued penguins and organize monthly moonlight walks.

But until next time the Friendly City!

South Africa Road Trip Stop – Graaff-Reinet

If you happen to be in the Great Karoo, and happen to be around a small town called Graaff-Reinet, make some time to stop here for a good break of 3 hours or more. The sleepy town, one of the oldest town in South Africa (4th to be exact), is known as the Gem of the Karoo.

Before we reached Port Elizabeth, we have decided to stop for a 3 hour break here (as many have recommended us), and check out specptacular view of Valley of Desolation in Camdeboo National Park and a few architectural great such as the Groot Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church).

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On the way to Valley of Desolation on the right.

We first make our way to Camdeboo National Park, which is a short 14km drive from town. Most of the visitors, like us, head to the world-renowned Valley of Desolation, and its panoramic viewpoint.

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Valley of Desolation

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Valley of Desolation

The Valley of Desolation rock formations consist of dolerites which have formed jointed pillars over a period of 100 million years. Erosion of the softer sedimentary beds has left dolerite pillars which rise to heights of 90 to 120 metres. This national monument is breaktaking but sadly my pictures don’t do this view any justice.

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Groot Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church)

If time is not an issue, also try to visit Obesa Nursery, which is the biggest private cacti collection on the planet and apparently it is a sight to behold. Imagine ten spikey hectares of cacti!

Rumour also heard that the oldest grapevine in the world is at Reinet House Museum, planted in 1878 and still growing.

So the next time I am closeby Graaff-Reinet, I will definitely head to Valley of Desolation during sunset (yes it opens till as late at 8pm!), visit more historical buildings, see the massive field of cacti and indulge  in some Karoo lamb!

Berry Overload – Bon-Af Berry Farm

If you ever driving by this area (which is just off the N1), I highly recommend everyone to stop by to this little gem.

I’ve been to quite a few pick-your-own-fruit farms: strawberries by Polkadraai Farm in Stellenbosch (Western Cape), cherries by Klondyke Cherry Farm in Ceres (Western Cape) and peaches by Camdeboo Farm in Fourways (Gauteng); but this farm is probably one of my favourites. Because there are so many different types of berries on the farm!

After staying in Joburg for four months, many locals that I know of doesn’t know about this farm, which only located 1 hour away from the city. Most probably they don’t advertise that much. The farm is easy to find and there are plenty of parking space.

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The farm is super laid back and mellow – you get the boxes inside (or bring your own), pick the berries, then weigh your haul, calculate the money owed and pay at the till. I was able to pick a full box in just two hours (plus time to pop berries into my mouth). The entrance fee to the farm is R35 and you can eat as much as you can in the farm. If you want to take some home, it is R145 per kg. It may be a little higher but farm picked is so much fresher and lacks that produce taste and smell that you get from berries that have been sitting around for a bit during delivery.

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The berries season is runs from end of November to end of March. I visited the farm during beginning of Feb and there were so many huge juicy berries ripe for the picking. Space wise, the farm is huge, so it didn’t feel crowded or felt like I had to compete for my berries. We went straight to the blackberry rows and began our quest for large juicy black beauties. Between the 3 of us, we only got to walk down like 3 or 4 rows and we had pretty much filled our boxes of blackberries.

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But my favourite part is wrapping up the day with their delicious homemade berry ice-cream at their tea garden. Mmm delicious! Wholesome berries and sweet creamy goodness. Aside that they also have homemade berry juice, berry muffins and cakes, roasted coffee, and jam. There are couches, outdoor picnic tables and chairs to sit on and relax or enjoying your picked goodies.

IMG_20150208_123435It was great getting to just wander around and find berries of all sort. The staff at Bon-Af are friendly and will tell you which areas are ready for picking. They also give useful tips like pick the darker berries. And raspberries and blueberries will come off quite easily if they are ripe. Before you go, it is better to check the website or call the farm ahead of time to see which berries are ready to pick.

Just beware if you are not an insect fan, you will spot quite a few spiders hiding in the bushes and bees and wasps buzzing around.

I had a great time at Bon-Af and cannot wait to try picking some other fruit next season.

Bon-Af Berry Farm details:

Website: http://berry-farm.co.za/

Tel: (056) 811 – 3966

Cell: (083) 650 – 8365

[Travel & Food – Taiwan] Japanese cuisine with Taiwanese touch at Tian Cai Refreshment Saloon 添財日本料理

Name: Tian Cai Refreshment Saloon 添財日本料理
Visited Location: No. 6, Ln 16, Wuchang St Section 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City  武昌街一段16巷6號
Website: http://www.xn--qevngt1bf8pd6hz03b.tw/about.html
Price range: NT$ 400pp
Food: Taiwanese styled Japanese cuisine
Favourite dishes: Seared halibut nigiri, cabbage roll oden, daikon oden, burdock tempura oden

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Red lanterns hanging outside the restaurant

This family run restaurant has been around the Taipei Train Station for quite a while, and I went online and did some research and it is actually almost half a decade old!  Now it is managed by the second generation of the family.

The restaurant we visited is the main branch (there are only two anyway). Behind the Presidential Office and near the Ministry of Defense, the two-storey restaurant locates in a small dim alley, and is buzzing with customers. The decor of the restaurant is simple with wooden tables and chairs, but cramped. If you would like to check out the chefs working their magic, you are also welcome to choose to dine by the sushi bar. And have a look of the fresh ingredients and the catch of the day placed along the displaying fridge along the side of the bar. You will spot lots of different type of fish other than the common tuna, salmon and swordfish.

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Sushi bar

If you only had NT$200 are looking for some sushi just to filled your hungry tummy, you might need to stop reading now. This restaurant is relatively expensive because of their historical value, delicious food and great quality.

Despite its price, the place fills up very quickly and most of the customers are older and looking very comfortable with the staff and the restaurant. Regulars and nostalgia seeker I guess.

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Full house

After been seated, we were served promptly with hot tea and hot towel. On the menu, they offer a wide variety of Japanese dishes, from shashimi of various fish, donburi, grilled mackerel, chawanmushi (steamed egg custards), tempura, udon noodles, shabu shabu…

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Must-have items: Rolled cabbage, daikon and burdock tempura oden

To save you lots of time deciding what to order, the best to go for is the oden, one of the Tian Cai’s most appraised dishes. Oden consists of several ingredients, such as sliced daikon, fish balls, and tofu products, boiled in a soy broth. Tian Cai keeps a cooking vat of oden next to the sushi bar, and customers can choose the items they would like to eat from there. However unlike most odens of other eateries, Tian Cai does not offer the broth for customer’s consumption as the broth is only for the flavoring of the food. Their burdock tempura (牛蒡絲甜不辣), daikon (大根煮), and rolled cabbage (with hearty pork meatball in it) are a-must. With over 40 years of mastering their broth to perfection, all three mentioned above are soft, succulent and flavourful. It must be the best daikon oden I’ve had, you can still taste the sweetness of the daikon turnip even though the broth has cook the vegetable for hours. The cabbage rolled oden is completely different to the ones you get from 7-11! It is divine. The cabbage is sweet and meat brings out the appetizing aroma inside the vegetable.

The seared halibut nigiri is also one of my favourites. The smooth texture and creamy-ness of the fish is so yum and rich that we enjoyed it with great satisfaction. The other nigiri we had is salmon. Both fish is fresh and of great quality.

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Salmon and halibut nigiri

The miso soup is full of ingredients. Normally the miso soup we get from other restaurant lacks ingredients with a few tofu pieces, but here you can actually see the fish meat in their soup.

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Miso soup

The grilled chicken drumsticks are nicely grilled. The meat is tender and skin is crispy. They do not add any sauce to their grilled food so the flavouring might taste blend to some who likes heavy on their flavour. The grilled squid is also just above average.

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Grilled chicken

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Grilled squid

It is my first time trying the dobin mushi, and it is a great one as well. It is a traditional Japanese seafood broth, steamed and served in a tea pot with shrimp, chicken, soy sauce, and shitake mushroom. The broth is light with lots of fresh seafood.

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Light yet flavourful dobin mushi

If you are still hungry you can try their beef donburi (or gyudon), which is thinly sliced beef, fried onions and veggies served on top of rice. Their beef is tender and the onion is sweet. It fills you up quick!

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Beef donburi

The meal ended with a bowl of sweet mung bean and barley soup for dessert. It is tad sweet but great to clean your tummy after a sumptuous meal.

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Sweet mung bean and barley soup

Overall, the food is great and the service is fast. But somehow it just doesn’t arouse me to come back again, perhaps it is the ambiance or the cost can be one of the factors. But if you would like to try their fantastic Japanese cuisine, with a hint of Taiwanese flavour, the experience is definitely something to look forward to.

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40-odd years old = traditional Taiwanese with bits of Japanese influence decor

My Sushi Meter rating of Tian Cai (best of out five):
For ambiance:                               calicalicali
For Service & price:                    calicalicali
For food:                                             calicalicalicalicali

[Travel – Franschhoek] Fall head-over-bumper at Franschhoek Motor Museum

Le Zebre 1909 Type A

Le Zebre 1909 Type A

If you are spending a weekend at the picturesque village of Franschhoek in the Western Cape, you are probably planning to lavish on wine, great food, vineyards and more wine. But there is more to this French Huguenots town than renowned cuisine and award-winning wine estates, if you don’t know this yet, there is an awesome place to pop in for an hour or two that will left you gasping and snapping away to Instagram it! And that is the Franschhoek Motor Museum.

Just 10 minutes away on the outskirt of Franschhoek central, Franschhoek Motor Museum is located in the magnificent setting of L’Ormarins wine estate.

From what I’ve known about this museum, is that it is a private collection that spans 130 years and has been put together by three generations of the Rupert family, one of the richest families in South Africa. Couldn’t imagine how it is like to open your garage door(s) and view these incredible vehicles everyday.

Aston Martin DB3S 1955

Aston Martin DB3S 1955

Peugeot 1948 Racing Special

Peugeot 1948 Racing Special

Jaguar D-Type 1955

Jaguar D-Type 1955

Exhibition hall

Exhibition hall

The eye-opening collection includes more than 100 years of motoring history in four huge barns. The collection exceeds over 300 vehicles, ranging from the vintage 1800′s right up to some of the fastest super-cars in the world; 1903 Ford, 1935 Rolls Royce, 2002 Ferrari…you name it. But actually it is most likely you will set your eyes on couple of cars that you have never seen in your life before. However, only 80 cars can be displayed at any given time, and is rotated every six months. But you can check on their website to see what cars are currently on display in the exhibition halls. Continue reading