Tulip Time @ Corbett Gardens, Bowral, NSW

[Pops out from behind wall  👻]…BOOH-YEAH! It’s been a seriously long time. Thanks for sticking around even though I seem to have died for the last few months… I have been kept very occupied in Malaysia, but I’ve also been fortunate to go back to Sydney for a quick break where I met my Beau! 

Date:  October 3 2015

Since Beau and I had nothing planned for the October long weekend, Beau suggested that we drive to the Bowral to see the tulips exhibition while at the same time show me  where he spent most of his school holidays as a boy.

The tulip exhibition is in Corbett Gardens. Entrance fee is $10 per person, which I later found out is the only week that entrance fee is charged. Never mind that!  The seas of tulips were stunning! 🌷🌷🌷

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The rows and ROWS of tulips…in an amazing assortment of colours…

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Different varietals of tulips were exhibited.  Flaming Parrot is by far my favourite amongst the various varietals.

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Flaming Parrot

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Tulip with frayed edges

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I am able to recall that black tulips were all the rage over a decade ago (if you can remember that, then you are old too!😜) – a single stem costs up to $100 – an obscene amount of money…

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Black Tulip

 

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Beau said that this cherry blossom tree is a century old.  He could remember having picnics under that tree.

Some light entertainment under the rotunda…

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Jazz under the Rotunda

As with all public fairs, there were several stalls selling fast food, drinks and gourmet produces.

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1st Hotdog for Spring!😋

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Poffertjes with maple syrup

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Cider that we both enjoyed, which is also available at B&W liquor shops

We spent around an hour and a half in the Gardens, then continued with our road trip to Kangaroo Valley

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We stopped at Cambewarra Mountain Lookout for a quick break.  This lookout is 678m above sea level.  Some notable landmarks can be seen: Seven-mile Beach, Jervis Bay, Nowra bridge, Shoalhaven River mouth, St Georges head, St Gerges Basin, etc…

Cambewarra Mountain Lookout

We proceeded to drive back to Sydney on the Grand Pacific Drive via Kiama…

Expedition To Canberra

Date of Visit:  April 18 2015

A quick pictorial post of my visit to the capital of Australia, which is not Sydney but Canberra.  I made this trip primarily to see James Turrell’s Retrospective at the National Art Gallery in Canberra (my post on his Skyspace installation here).  It was also the first time that an art tour in the buff was introduced in the NGA (here)

Unfortunately I can’t post any pictures from the exhibition because photography was prohibited.  However, I do remember, that I was quite blown away by the surreal experience of immersing myself in the lights, fully clothed – so those in the nude would have had an out-of-this-world experience!  In any regards, if you are interested, do check out Artsy’s James Turrell page for more in-depth information on the artist.

I met a friend of mine attached to the Foreign Affairs, so he took me for a walking tour of Canberra.

Trees are especially pretty in autumn, one of the ideas for the design of the ‘Garden City’ is to promote a distinctive European feel…And walking by the artificial lake was very relaxing.

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Hues of Gold

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Hues of Reds

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Flags of all countries with an embassy in Canberra

Canberra is a geometric city with radials and axis… The direct axis from Parliament House to War Memorial

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Parliament House

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War Memorial

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The National Carillon on Aspen Island

A walk on Anzac Parade with many sculptural memorials…

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A hike up Mount Ainslie – the highest point in Canberra

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Panorama of Canberra

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Note the distinctive axis

I stayed at Hotel-Hotel, the newest and coolest hotel in Australia at the moment…

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Entrance

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Rear of Hotel-Hotel linking to cinema, offices and alternative exit to the street

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Small, tight hotel reception

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Restaurant/ Cafe

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A play on linear-planes using recycled timber

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My room

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Artwork on walls

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External artwork – more bikes

We had a good dinner at the hotel.  Prices are comparable to Sydney.

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Octopus with smoked curd (?)

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Duck breast with figs and cherries

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Apple crumble

This breakfast cost $14.50!  Very steep for 2 crumpets – and a cup of Long Black! Totally not worth the $$! 😓

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2 small crumpets, honey and butter

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Cute salt container

External of the hotel at the back…

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Facade treatment at the back, sun-shades and vertical gardens…

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Origami facade at the frontIMG_2586

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The art gallery outside the hotel (at the back)

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More artworks… an eagle crafted from metal

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Overall, I enjoyed Canberra and look forward to visiting it again – although my friend told me that it’s small and dull! 😉

Sunset @ La Perouse & Bare Island, Sydney

Date:  April 2015

La Perouse is a suburb in the south Eastern suburbs of Sydney with one of the most magical sunset and sunrise views in Sydney.  I was there to practice my photography and here are some pictures I took… enjoy!

While standing on shore at the car park, I watched the cargo boats pulling in…

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…to the oil refinery at Port Botany

IMG_2801La Perouse is also a popular spot for bridal photos because it provides a unique and dramatic backdrop,  I spotted 7 bridal parties photographing around the cliffs.  Can you spot the ladies in white?

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Trying my hand at candid wedding photography.

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Bare Island is the only island in Botany Bay and it’s also home to a historically significant fort that was built in 1885 to protect the area from an expected Russian invasion.  A guided tour ($10) is available on Sundays.  If you think that it looks familiar, you are right! Bare Island had been in Mission Impossible 2 with Tom Cruise.😜

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Bare Island

On Bare Island, I took a walk around the cliff. There were many people taking pictures. The grounds are slippery in part, but some people seem to be able to walk and jump off the ledges in flip-flops!  The landscape is pretty –  the weathering of the rock has created a sort of alcove with striking strata of colours.

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More dramatic sunset on its way – cotton pink clouds and golden orange cliffs…

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…and the ‘blue hour’ is not to be missed.

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The oil refinery at Botany Bay

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Dramatic sunset

La Perouse is also a great spot to watch the planes come in to land at Kingsford Smith Airport.

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Planes descending towards Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport

Task accomplished… then off to dinner at The Grounds, Alexandria.

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Lamb cutlets

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Ping Pong Chicken served in a pot

A 4-hours Drive Up North To Watch SBS??

Date of Visit:  Aril 3-6 2015

This Easter past, a friend and I went up north to Camden Haven for a 4D3N break.  Our plan was to do some hikes around the Greater Port Macquarie area – and Laurieton, being quite central, became our base.  We stayed at the ground floor of a river-front apartment.

Lakes and rivers are a feature of the locale, thus explaining the number of boats and fishing activities.  If we had known that the weather will be so gloomy, we would have brought along our fishing rods!

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Aspire Pelican H2O Apartments

Gloomy skies greeted us for the first 3 days we were there…

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Dark grey sky and fog passing for winter scenes in Scandinavia!

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Fog covered the North Brother Mountain

Fortunately, on our very last night, the sky cleared.  We got an awesome sunset – and some colours at last!  😊

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With the rain subsiding, we did not want to lose the opportunity to walk off the chocolate easter eggs and chips we had indulged, so we did a brisk walk around the track nearby before it gets too dark… Seems that the local residents have the same idea!

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Mangrove

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Mangrove

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One of the many fishing boats in the area

Views of the lake, glowing in gold!

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Breathtaking sunset

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Pretty picture taken by my friend on her iPhone

Happy with our short ‘hike’, once we returned to our rental, we switched on TV to watch news on SBS (ethnic TV station)  … there really are not many TV channels in small country-towns.. but nevertheless, we were happy with our vacay!

Why Malaysians Have Zits On Their Faces 😜@Mamak, Chatswood

Date of Visit: August 21 2014

When one made the decision to embark on a fitness competition – yeah, I engaged the Número Uno Fitness Competition Coach in Australia for a 6-weeks foundation prep while I’m back in Sydney for a bikini fitness competition sometime in March or May next year (haven’t decided on the competition yet) – ethnic food DOES NOT sound appetising at all! 😰

But since my friend ‘…really, REALLY want nasi lemak (sic)‘ (to quote her) and I’ve not met her for a long time, I gave in…  We met at Mamak Malaysian Cuisine in Chatswood, a suburb in North Sydney.

On the menu… Carbs, carbs and more carbs with loads of sugar to edge off the hot spicy chili…

I couldn’t find anything lesser in carbs (or sugar)  content, so I settled for a half dozen beef satays.

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Beef Satay (A$9 for half-dozen or A$16 for a dozen).

What can I say??  The satays at Mamak were better than Malaysia Airlines’ –  although a bit tougher! I didn’t try the peanut sauce because I know it is very sweet. I gave to my friend who polished it off – along with the 4 extra serves of sambal with her nasi lemakl!  I can only look on – saying nothing – but totally astonished! Here is a skinny woman who is ALWAYS complaining that she is fat, yet wolfing down calorifically-laden junks –  at the same time explaining that she eats a lot (I can see that).  Still, complaining that she is fat;  in-between mouthfuls, when she is skinny, is totally not on!  😤 😤 😤

Peruvian Immersion For A Day @ National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Date of Visit: March 29 2014

If your much anticipated hiking trip to Peru is cancelled what would you do?  Well, Bestie and I made a road trip to Canberra to gawk at the exotic Inca treasures of the ancient Peruvian civilisation at the National Gallery of Art in Canberra – aptly called ‘Gold and The Incas: Lost World of Peru” (here).

The exhibition is a key component of Canberra’s centenary celebrations in 2013 and also significant in that it marks the 50th anniversary of Australian-Peruvian diplomatic relations, and is organised in co-operation with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.  As such, the works of art are lent by the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú and its fraternal collections, the Fundacion Museo Amano, the Museo Larco and the Museo Oro del Perú – museums that were on our trip’s agenda –  as well as the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Would it  surprise you that the Inca Empire lasted only 100 years?  This is a very short time for such a vast and famous enterprise!

In a nutshell:

“The Incas conquered all of Peru and much of Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador.  The state governed from the capital city of Cuzco by a system of duties, taxes and rewards.  20,000km of roads enabled efficient and speedy communication.

The Emperor was The Son of The Sun God and the pinnacle of an extremely hierarchical society.  The Inca state region demanded scarifices, human and animal – even textiles were burnt as offerings to the Gods.  Architecture, e.g. the famous World Heritage Site Machu Picchu, was the glory of the Inca culture (and still is!).  Temples, palaces, terraces and fortifications of huge stone blocks were fitted together, mostly without masonry.

Sadly, our knowledge of Inca society is filtered through the world view of Spanish chroniclers. The Inca state of at least 12 million people fell very rapidly, due to superior European military technology, civil war and new diseases, especially smallpox.  Perhaps 90% of the native population, more than 10 million people, was killed or died of disease and famine after the conquest.

Almost every artefact that survives – what we see at the exhibition today – was buried with their owners.  As the cult of the dead infers, both noble and common people were interred in different ways according to tiers of importance – from ruling lords, priests, military leaders and retainers – as exemplified by their respective accoutrements and placements in their graves.

A rather kooky rite is that adorned mummified Inca elites form part of annual postmortem ceremonies where their corpses were paraded around the city of Cuzco.”

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Poster Child of the Exhibition: Gold Relic of the Sun God

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Children’s’ Discovery Area where photography is permitted

In summary, this is a well-curated exhibition with over 200 objects showcasing  exemplary artefact from each period of the Peruvian civilisation  from gold regalia, intricate jewellery and striking vessels to elaborate embroidered and woven cloths.  So, don’t miss out!

*****

It is only appropriate to round up our excursion by having a Peruvian themed lunch at the Sculptural Garden Restaurant.

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‘Cones’ (Bert Flugelman, 1976/82) in polished stainless steel

Finding it needed a bit of detective work as it is located outside the gallery, tucked away to the side of the garden and in a tent by the Marsh Pond.

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Sculptural Garden Restaurant

In the Marsh Pond (part of the sculpture garden) is a powerful work by Dadang Christanto, an Indonesian artist based in Darwin.  The pond is filled with bronze heads with extra eeriness supported by the mist-maker.  His works speaks of victims of oppression and social injustice.  If I remember correctly, this piece, “Heads from the north’,  is about the genocide in East Timor.

(PS:  Would I want to hold a reception in the restaurant by a pond filled with heads?  Probably not!😰)

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‘Heads from the north’, Dadang Christanto (Photo credit: http://www.pbase.com)

For this special occasion in conjunction with the exhibition, the interior of the restaurant is styled by designer Megan Morton to play up combinations of colour, good times and of course, corn – to accentuate the joy of food and family that the Peruvian culture delights in!

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Interior of Restaurant

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Maize ‘Chandelier’

Only Set Lunch is served in the restaurant.

What we got for our 2-course Set Lunch at $35 per person

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Wholewheat Damper

ENTREE

Presented on a wooden paddle pan as is very fashionable now,  we have Ceviche of Salmon with Lime, Jumbo White Corn and Coriander.

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Ceviche of Salmon with Lime, Jumbo White Corn and Coriander (GF)

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Jumbo White Corn

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Quinoa: Baked quinoa toped with avocado wasabi cream and a rocket leaf. This is bourgeois peasant food!

MAIN COURSE

Sometimes, it is best not to heed recommendation of a fellow diner who you don’t know…

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Twice-cooked Beef Short Rib with Chimichurri and Huancaina Potatoes.

This is a plate of disappointment of sorts:  The beef was dry – yet full of fat!  The most obvious explanation is that it is not a good cut of meat which has been pre-(over)cooked and reheated thus rendering it very beef-jerky-like in texture.  The exotic sounding ‘huancaina’ is basically a spicy cream which is otherwise ‘meh’.

Check out my leftover plate of fat!

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FAT!! Fat-Die-Me! 😱 😱 😱

Not a very satisfying lunch, so a Diet Coke at the Gallery Cafe is in order…

QF127 From Sydney To Hong Kong

Date of Visit: April 5 2014

I am a regular at the Qantas Biz Lounge because it code-shares with Cathay Pacific. Thus far, I’ve yet to take pictures of the lounge simply because it looked rather ordinary and overdue for a freshening up.

For this trip to Hong Kong, I took Qantas because I wanted to use my flight credits from my cancelled Peru trip – THE trip that I’ve been anticipating for over a year.  Why am I not going?  Because the travel agent made a mistake with my name thereby ‘lost’ my Inca hiking trail permit!  Either that, or she left it to the very last minute (end of January) to book when in essence any hikers would know that the permit is released in the beginning of the year!  Needless to say, due to reasons unclear to me, and I’ll just leave it at that and happy to get a full refund!

Seeing Marc Newson design early in the morning – 6am – is entirely different under softly-litted illumination.  I’d say the design looked good!

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Qantas Business Lounge designed by Marc Newson

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Bar Area

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Bar Area

I had my usual fruit muesli and yoghurt for breakfast from the self-service buffet.  As for reading materials, there’s nothing of interest for me.  I managed to find 2 copies of Australian Bazaar and Australian Vogue – both in Chinese language, mind you.  Intriguing since this is my first time coming across Chinese-Australian fashion magazines.  I guess the world is awash with Renminbi $$$ with the Mainlanders as consummate consumers.

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Muesli and Chinese editions of Australian Bazaar and Vogue

Once on board the QF127, I was offered beverages – juice, water or champers.

Food on-board is designed by Neil Perry of Rockpool fame… and the wine list comprised of Australian wine hall of fame, enticing enough for me to switch to Qantas from now on!

For my aperitif, I chose 2012 Philip Shaw The Architect Chardonnay from Orange, NSW.  Apparently Philip Shaw is the architect of some of Australia’s greatest chardonnays.  I find it tight but with a good acidity.

I also got a Kate Spade amenities bag!  I find it more useful (larger) than the Agnes B that Cathay Pacific disperses.

Lunch service started with a choice of sourdough or rye bread and green salad.

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Salad of Garden Leaves with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Sour Dough

I switched to Gewurtztraminer for lunch.  At the back of mind, I  remembered traminers as uncousously sweet wines, but surprisingly Cargo Road was rather dry with with a good line of acidity with notes of lychee permeating through both the nose and palate!

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Tasting notes for the Gerwurztraminer

SMALL PLATES

Mild, not sweet which I liked. Beef is a bit like beef jerky – well seasoned but not too dry. Bits of red chilli pepper flakes to lift the notes to the otherwise bland/ tasteless vermicelli . Some shredded carrots and cucumbers for crunch and juice -and of course herbs because it’s Vietnamese!  I like! 👍

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Vietnamese Style Salad of Beef Brisket, Fresh Herbs and Nuoc Cham Dressing

With Qantas, the wine pours are very generous with lots of wine top-ups, unlike some Asians airlines…also the wine glasses for lunch is larger than the aperitifs! 😄

MAIN PLATES

I chose the Big Bowl of Soup because I like root vegetables.  It’s a light but filling course with rich beefy (vegemitey?) savoury broth with sweet aniseedy/ herbaceous notes.  Risoni, kale, chestnuts and parsnips went well with Getwurztraminer!

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Big Bowl of Braised Lamb, RoastChestnuts, Parsnips and Orzo Soup

DESSERT

To finish – Lemon Curd Tart or Cheese?I chose the Cheese selection of goat’s cheese and cheddar, with accompaniments of candied pear and fig.  I was also given a Varholna dark chocolate baton to go with my Long Black.

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Selection of Cheese, Valrhona Chocolate Baton and Long Black

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Selection of Cheese, Dried Fruits and Crackers

After lunch service, we were offered T2 Apple Tea, but no thanks – too full !

PRE-LANDING MEAL

I opted for the Shanghai noodles with stir-fried mushrooms and snow peas with lots of puffed tofu.  This came in a Chinese take-away paper container.  It was very salty…I finished since I’m not going to eat dinner when I get home tonight!😜

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Shanghai Noodles Stir-fried Mushrooms and Snow Peas

So here I am, back in Hongkers!