Sunday, December 24, 2023

Phở Thế Béo at Truc Bach island in Hanoi [Vietnam]

Travelling with the Greatest Kon has many advantages and one of them would be his deep research on what to do and where to eat! If I am the one planning for the trip to Hanoi, I doubt I would travel to this obscure area that's outside the old quarter and appeared to be more a local housing district.

Generally quiet, the main hive of activity came from the surroundings of a street hawker located at a cross junction. Customers were just queuing on the road, without a care for the danger from a possibly rogue motorist. 

Although operating hours were listed as 9am till 5pm on Google Maps; it was said that the stall operates till they sell out and it could be as early as before noon! That's the reason why Kon suggested making this the first trip for the day. 

In case you can't read maps, just note to order from the stall with this painted mural that was according to the likeness of the boss, who would likely be taking order from you.

I glanced at the menu and left the Greatest Kon to order as he had researched before. What he did, from my understanding, was showing the online pictures to the boss to order! The boss was friendly and I guess it's not the first time that tourists had purposely dropped by his stall.

He even gifted us as youtiao after knowing we were from Singapore! Not expensive stuff yet such hospitality warmed the cockles of our Singaporean hearts.

Next up would be finding tables for us to have our pho and it's difficult as the tables were all over the place along the street. How would we know if the one we sat on actually belongs to the stall?! 

Finding our table a bit too small, we were brought to an indoor area that was subdivided with tables and chairs. It felt a bit strange as the back of the space seemed like a living space. Oh well, guess indoor would be better than outdoor. 

Our orders were served within 10 minutes! Even though there were four of us, we ordered only three bowls of pho and that's a good decision after we realized how huge each bowl was, and it was filled with so much meat! 

We were expecting one or two youtiao per person, and shocked to see two full min-baskets! This totally derailed any initial plans to just drink soup, eat meat, and reduce starch intake! 

The full bowl of goodness known as Thap Cham! For a meat eater, this picture made me happy, especially when I am not a pho-lover, preferring the dry bun thit nuong or bun cha instead. 

A disclaimer here; I never like the noodles from pho and hence wouldn't be the best judgment. Soup wise, it was flavorful and in my opinion, tastier than Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su at the old quarter.

There was mix of beef parts within and my dismal knowledge on them means I can only identify beef brisket, slices of beef and beef balls. The slices of beef were alright, albeit overcooked;  maybe I spent too much time taking photos. Beef brisket was delish! 

Minced beef balls were bouncy, tender with a rough texture and inconsistent shape that implied they were homemade. Sadly, there was just one beef ball per bowl.

There were these special Beef Balls with Salted Egg that Kon had read about. I might not be a fan of salted eggs but I do enjoy salted egg lava buns, salted egg chips, and salted egg crabs. Maybe these salted egg beef balls would be nice? 

A large salted egg yolk took off quite a bit of meat from the beef ball and this resulted in a lack of blissful satisfaction (when our teeth bit through one whole meat ball made purely of beef), with added unnecessary saltiness. 

Dip it into the concoction of chilli and sweet paste to for better flavor, and to balance out the saltiness. For me, I would go for extra beef balls and remove this salted egg beef balls! Again, do be reminded I am not a fan of salted egg.

I had high expectations for the youtiao which felt so crispy! Unfortunately, they were super chewy and the soak in the beef broth from the pho failed to improve the taste. As the Greatest Kon rightfully pointed out; looks can be deceiving! 


There's no way I would be able to finish up the pho; there were just too much of the noodles and my focus was to clean up the beef parts, which were already so generous! 

16 P. Trần Tế Xương, Trúc Bạch, 
Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam

As above. 

Thap Cam - 100,000 Dong a bowl
Beef Ball with Salted Egg - 20,000 Dong each

Phed Mark - Serving Only Pad Kaprao / Spicy Basil Stir Fry near Ekkamai BTS Station in Bangkok [Thailand]

Mark Wiens is a popular blogger / vlogger known for his food and travel reviews, and when he opened an eatery with three partners serving just pad kaprao (stir fried basil with rice and meat); it immediately gained a lot of attention! 

Ever since I fell in love with this common Thai dish (thanks to Mixt Chatuchak Food Court), I had been wanting to check out Phed Mark given its rave reviews! The opportunity came when I visited Bangkok two months ago! 

Taking exit 2 of Ekkamai BTS Station, Phed Mark was just a 50-meter walk! So long you are walking on the pavement, you wouldn't miss the bright red-orange facade, and the noticeable mascot of a fire flame, that had a chilli and a basil leaf for his mouth, on the signboard.

Notice in Chinese although there's a similar one in English and Thai at the entrance. Basically, the ordering here required us to order from the counter first, pay, and if there is no seat inside, we would be given a queue number where the staff would call for once a table was released. 

Limited air-conditioned seating but I noted that people didn't linger after the meal. However, the fact that there were only so much tables meant it could still be a wait. I purposely dropped by after lunch peak, yet it was full house.

Menu wasn't extensive with only stir fried basil rice plus egg. You do have made some choices too; eight protein options, namely vegetarian, chicken, pork, sour pork, beef, wagyu, squid etc, and you are required to indicate the spicy level too, ranging from non spicy to very spicy! 

Our wait was bearable at just less than 10 minutes. 
Photograph was taken when we left after our meal.

I can't imagine there were covered bowls of extra chilli in sauce for those looking for an extra kick! What I did like was the provision of tissue paper to wipe the peals of sweat from the forehead. 

The power box outside the eatery was decorated with the mascot of Phed Mark too! So how does the name come about? Phed means spicy in Thai and mark had two meanings; it's the name of mark weins and mark is similar to mak, which much much. Hence, Phed Mark also infers very spicy. 

Pork Basil Rice - we asked for an extra fried egg as the Greatest Kon said it was the best thing ever! Just the look of their super orangey yolk was sufficient to kick up an appetite for any egg lovers! 

As this was for Alex, I specifically asked for non-spicy but there were specks of chilli in the minced pork. Strangely, it was indeed not spicy and I did love the nice flavor of basil and the delectable crisp edges from the pork! Only thing was that the minced pork didn't have much taste. The fried egg was perfect with an extremely rich yolk! p.s. duck eggs were used! 

Beef Basil Rice
- as I can take a bit of spiciness, I opted for little less spicy. While beef was more strong tasting, it wasn't as tender as the pork and overshadowed the basil flavor. Between pork and beef, I preferred pork although it could do with more seasoning. 

Spiciness from the little less spicy was just right for me as I was already sweating buckets halfway through, although I can't deny that my tongue was burning! Lousy me!  

Can't finish the rice as my stomach was bursting! Alex didn't quite like the Pad Kaprao and there's no way I can help him finish his! To be honest, the Pad Kaprao was good. However, I preferred the one from Mixt Chatuchak Food Court, which also cost much lesser (50%). What I would miss most from Phed Mark would be the fried duck egg!  

300 Sukhumvit Road, Phra Khanong, 
Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110, Thailand
(near Ekkamai BTS Station)

As above. 

Opening Hours
10.00 am till 7.30 pm
(last order at 7.00 pm)


As above.

ork Basil Rice - 129 Baht
Beef Basil Rice - 159 baht
Extra Duck Egg - 25 Baht

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel - Deluxe King Room 1506 @ Permas Jaya in Malaysia

We decided to splurge a bit more for a one-night staycation at our closest neighboring country last month and the choice we made was Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel; a five-star outfit that might seem far from the city center yet with a great advantage if your stay is on a Sunday! 

Stepping into this huge, great smelling lobby which had a centerpiece art installation that looked pretty similar! Had I seen it at Changi International Airport? Maybe same artist. 

Loving the Malaysian hospitality; provision of thirst-quenching infused water that had healthy slices of  lemon, oranges and apples! 

This staircase, leading up to level 2 where the grand ballroom and event spaces are, would be a perfect photo spot for those dressed up to the nines. Well, I was wearing the typical Singaporean attire; bermuda and tee shirt. 

Room was ready! Opened in 2012, Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel is part of the renowned Marriott International Group, which also consisted of The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, W Hotels, Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Le Méridien etc.

Lift landing on the 15th floor. 
Highest floor in the hotel? 17th.

Swimming pool right below. The lifts were located in the center of the hotel, with its 345 rooms spread out like a bird's wing; one towards the left, and another to the right. 

Corridor - heng not the dim, dim type. I have a vivid imagination and should I ever be alone walking along a dim corridor, my imagination towards the paranormal will run wild.

Room 1506 
Three knocks later and open sesame to our deluxe king room! I like to indicate the room number as it would serve as a reminder in the event there were weird happenings. p.s. it was an uneventful stay. 

At 34 square meters, it was spacious and the king bed didn't disappoint. There was actually a leaflet on the bed, titled pillow menu! Selection included buckwheat pillow, foam pillow, lavender pillow and memory pillow! 

The chaise lounge chair. Favorite of Alex as he loves to use such chairs to play his games, with snacks placed on the accompanying table. For me, its primary use was to hang my towel over it. 

I prefer a working desk since I had the tendency to bring along my laptop to clear some work. Now that I have someone helping at work (finally!), guess I would have lesser use for it in the future. 

Please be assured that the toilet can be hidden with the sliding wooden door. 

Amenities provided included the usual electric kettle, mini fridge, two bottles of water, cups, instant coffee, tea sachets etc. There was an ice bucket too and you can request for ice by dialing 0 using the phone in the room. 

Other provisions in the wardrobe; in-room safe, bathrobes, ironing board and even an iron! You saw those disposable slippers? I don't use them but I will always bring a pair back home as my sister loves wearing them at her home. 

Bathroom with rainfall shower, bidet spray, hairdryer, extra two bottles of water, and containers of Argus by Margot Elena shower gel, shower etc that were fixed to the wall for sustainable reasons. 

Nowadays, sustainability is the norm for hotels and one of the most frequent message was to reuse your towels instead of replacing them every single day! For me, the bath towel has to be everyday... Sorry. 

Amenities in the bathroom - deluxe dental kit, grooming comb, personal shave kit, cotton buds, shower cap, sewing kit, body lotion and bath soap. Would you chuck everything into your luggage?! I would only take dental kits, shower cap (good for shoes) and bath soap (if they smell good).

Time-lapsed video of the view outside our room! 

Even though I am no longer the fire safety coordinator at work, checking out the escape route is something I would do when I check in to my hotel room. The star signifies the assembly point in event of emergency. 

Swimming Pool
To be frank, the pool didn't impress; a basic, boring rectangular shape with a pathetically sized kid's pool that would have been mistaken as a jacuzzi tub. 

There were also hotel rooms on this level that were classified as pool terrace rooms. The key difference was the porch with chairs; not as if it was a direct pool access like the ones from BlueSotel Krabi AoNang Beach.

Depth of swimming pool - 1.4 meters.

View ahead of us; right in front were two schools and the background, towards the left, would be JB city centre. 

The tallest two buildings would be the twin towers of The Astaka; tallest residential skyscraper in Malaysia at 278.9m and 255.6m tall. Rich enough to secure a unit? You can check out the video from this funny youtuber here

Fitness Centre
I was impressed with the gym that took up an area of 1,400 square feet (about 130 square meters); it was well equipped to serve my needs, and pretty empty. 

Remember that I mentioned that the lobby was nice smelling? I caught a whiff of the same scent and the gym and traced it to this diffuser that was named the Renaissance Signature Scent! I guess we can buy although I doubt it would come cheap. 


Needless to say, I had a great stay at Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel with a good sleep on the bed. All the staff members I encountered, from concierge to counter staff and housekeeping, were polite and friendly. 

Imperfection existed in the sense of maintenance for the furniture but in this case, while they were eyesores, the scratches didn't result in any inconvenience.

What's more convenient was the close proximity of the hotel to the enjoyable Permas Sunday Night Market! At about 4-5pm, this road just diagonally across Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel would have stalls on both sides! 

2, Jalan Permas 11, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, 
81750 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

As above.

Deluxe King Room - S$108.36