No Excess Baggage

The Leftovers of a Travel Experience

22 Foodtastic Penang!


Penang is a food mecca. It’s the place of convergence  for dishes coming from all over Asia, influenced strongly by Chinese, Thai, and Indian cooking traditions. I lost myself in this place as I was basically just inhaling all the food around me, thanks to my travel companion Vince.

I only had a couple of days in this wonderful island, but I took in as much as my stomach could. And my heart was just so happy trying out all of these wonderful dishes. So go print out this list once you plan to drop by Penang. Vince, who’s been in Penang for quite some time, helped me out in coming up with this list of 22 food places to try. I guarantee that I have tried all of these and they are all good!

Jemput makan!

1. Springly Dry noodles with Chicken Chop – Old Town Coffee
2. Alu Ghobi Masala – Kapitan
3. Cendol – Lebuh Keng Kwee
4. Nasi Lemak – Nasi Lemak Ali at Lebuh Pantai
5. Chicken Floss Bread – Any Malaysian Convenience Store
6. Twiggies Tiramisu – Any Malaysian Convenience Store
7. Apple Fruit Drink with Aloe – Any Malaysian Convenience Store
8. Milo Nuggets! – Any Malaysian Convenience Store
9. Dimsum – Tai Tong Restaurant
10. Durian Ice Cream – Kek Seng Coffee Shop
11. Salted Egg Lotus Biscuit – Seng Seng Heang at Ayer Itam
12. Dry Wantan Mee – Lebuh Aceh
13. Bottled Lemon Drink – Huey and Wah Cafe
14. Lo Bak – Kheng Pin Cafe
15. Wantan Mee Soup – Lebuh Aceh
16. Tea C Peng Special or Three Layer Tea – Most Hawker Centres
17. Nutella Cake – China House, Georgetown
18. Laksa – Jalan Penang
19. Lotus Biscuits – Ming Xiang Tai
20. Pork in Black Vinegar – Pit Stop Cafe at Lorong Chulia
21. Specialty Fried Chicken – Pit Stop Cafe at Lorong Chulia
22. Pad See Ew – Pit Stop Cafe at Lorong Chulia

Vincent Ian Zabala is a Filipino-American based in Malaysia. He is a food enthusiast and an avid traveler like me! 

Remembering Patan Durbar Square


With well-preserved structures dating back to the 1600s, Patan Durbar Square has been considered a UNESCO Heritage Site — a true gem of Nepal. I was lucky enough to visit this place before the big Nepal Earthquake and it is just an amazing sight to see. I have never seen an architecture so intricate and unique anywhere else I’ve been and it actually surprises me how they’ve been standing for so long and just survive the elements (except for the earthquake).


The Durbar square is actually a complex of Hindu temples though Nepal is a unique mixture of both Buddhism and Hinduism. Both religiions sit side by side at peace. (How I wish Islam and Christianity co-existed peacefully here in the Philippines.) Because of this openness in religion, the experience is so unique that I don’t think there’s any other country in Central Asia that has this kind of dynamic in religion.

PhototasticCollage-2015-09-21-22-07-10It’s a piece of Nepal’s history, sadly taken down by the Earth’s tectonic movement. Structures were shaken to the ground. And much of the pictures posted here have vanished along with the innocent lives that have given life to this peaceful place.

A colleague of mine works for Teach for Nepal. One of their teachers died in the incident. Recovery efforts are still ongoing and if you would like to help please visit to know more about the organization and how to donate.


Alluring Leura


If Sydney has attracted me with its bright lights and busy streets, going to the countryside has made me appreciate the quieter side of New South Wales. Just near the famous Blue Mountains National Park,  there’s this place called Leura, a charming small town surrounded by beautiful foliage and old-style homes and stores.

It was such a cozy place to just chill-out, relax, and appreciate the scenery.


Compared to the big and overbearing malls we often see in the city, Leura has their strand of little shops and cafes that will win your heart for sure. I personally appreciated the little stores that sold candies in jars and a shop that sold handmade dolls.

Best of all, I found a bench dedicated to “bored husbands”. A perfect place to sit while the rest did their shopping.

You can reach Leura by car or by train. Just check out the Sydney transportation website!


A Taste of Nepali Milk Tea


Sweet. Nutty. Rich.

That’s how I described it the first time I had a taste of the popular Nepali milk tea. I am used to the milk tea here in the Philippines as it recently became a craze– every corner has a milk tea shop now. So what I am used to is the Taiwanese style of milk tea. Good Taiwanese milk tea is light, a bit more diluted perhaps, since it has less milk usually or because soy milk is used as substitute.

On the other hand, Nepali milk tea or chiya for the locals is denser and creamier. It felt like it had more milk and was mixed in brown sugar and had a little hint of nutmeg. I was so intrigued tasting it for the first time because I never tasted milk tea this way before. I also looked at its color and it was not the usual light brown I see in Taiwanese milk tea. This one had a deeper brown and orange color.

In Nepal, chiya is a staple drink. They usually have it for breakfast instead of coffee, and they have another one in the afternoon. One of my friends, Shisir, told me that chiya was so important in their meals that they take this tea first thing in the morning even before having a breakfast meal.

This curiosity of mine lead me to one of the houses in the community I stayed in. So before having breakfast with my foster family, I was fortunate enough to watch the mother make chiya. It was an amazing sight to see because the tea was “cooked”.

She cooked the milk, had it simmer, then poured brown sugar. When everything came to a boil, she put the tea leaves and towards the end, some spice that I would later on identify as nutmeg. She scooped out the thin film that formed on top of the brew and poured it on a strainer to take out the leaves.

Voila, chiya!

It’s a good thing I’m able to do it at home.

Tea time!


A Healthy Bite of Leura

Loaves and Dishes

It’s crazy how Australia puts other countries to shame when it comes to food freshness. They grow some of the best vegetables I’ve ever tasted and every restaurant I’ve been to serves them fresh,

Leura, a particular suburb I’ve been to, has this place called Loaves and Dishes. It’s a beautiful and simple nook along the strand arcade of this quaint little town. You won’t even notice its there until you’ve passed through the other stores.

This small cafe serves delicious, healthy food, and even gluten-free options. The dishes on the menu were nothing strange so we went ahead to order some salad, fritattas, and pumpkin soup. To cut this short– everything we ordered were just darn good.

And healthy…so I did not feel guilty having a full stomach.

Just drool over these pictures. :)





Capones Island Throwback


It’s been nine years since my first Zambales trip but Capones Island remains to be one of my most memorable beach experiences. The fact that it was an outing after graduation and with your best college buds, the memories always made me smile.

From San Narciso, Zambales, we took a banca to Capones Island which was around an hour. (Typically in the Philippines, boat rentals are cheaper when you are in a group.) The island is isolated from the bustling shorelines of Zambales. It was pretty much uninhabited except for the occasional tourists that camp overnight. We only went there for a few hours and did our own exploring.

What was so beautiful about the place was the part where I discovered a pathway to a “hidden cove” where shallow water converged with the white sand. It was like your own little universe where you could just pass time as the ripples touched the soles of your feet.

This was the kind of place I’d often daydream of.

Now back to reality.



I Slept in a Capsule


One of the first things I tried in this trip to Malaysia was the intriguing Capsule Hotel at KLIA2. Capsule hotels have been featured several times in blogs, online articles, and magazines and it was something that always shunned my interest as I wasn’t comfortable of tight spaces.

As I planned for my trip to Penang, I realized after confirmation, that I booked a red-eye flight to Kuala Lumpur (which is common to cheap airfares) and I had to wait six hours for the bus that will take me to Penang. There was no turning back so I had to find an alternative solution. I was worried with this set up because I had no plans of staying the night on an airport waiting lounge and I did not want to exceed my travel budget by booking a hotel in KL.

I came across this capsule hotel idea online in search for a place near the airport that I could stay for six hours. I didn’t like the idea but I had to just go for it. For a price of 1000 pesos, I booked for a “capsule” good for four hours. It was enough time for me to just chill and take a nap before the first bus to Penang arrived.

It excited me in a way but it also made me feel apprehensive. There was no way I could survive a tight space, locked-in like I was in a casket.

I arrived 1 am in KL and I had to face reality. The Capsule Hotel was waiting for me.

I was welcomed by a friendly hotel attendant and he oriented me on how to use the facilities. I got the key and upon entering, I actually found the place kind of cool. The Capsule Hotel was composed of several container vans stacked on top of each other giving this modern, industrial feel. I had to admit– it as kind of hipster. And I actually ended up liking it.

The capsule was not a casket, it had an opening that can be closed with a roller curtain. It was comfortable. The bed was nice and the pillows were soft. It had a phone and a socket for charging. It had a mirror underneath an Ikea-like foldable “on-the-wall” table. It had a chillout corner with books and magazines. It had a common bathroom with a nice and huge hot shower…

Okay, I’ll admit it. I liked it.

It totally debunked my idea that sleeping in a capsule was crazy.

And I think you should try it too. :)



capsule-hotel-collage capsule-hotel-collage-2

From Manila to Malaysia


This is probably one of the most memorable trips in my travel history. Aside from visiting a good friend in Penang, this trip was a lot of firsts for me: the first time to travel alone for the whole duration of the journey; the first time I traveled from city to city in another country; the first time to stay at a hotel in a foreign land by myself; the first time to do something crazy and exciting for my birthday.

I stayed five days and four nights in Penang and briefly in Kuala Lumpur. I was able to do a lot in five days and it was an exciting journey. Vince, whom I met in Nepal, knew Penang a lot and was able to tour me around the murals and have a taste of all the great food the place had to offer.

Watch out for my next posts as I feature the wonderful things in Penang and the crazy, fun adventure in between!

  • MR

Shopping at Thamel, Kathmandu


Thamel is the busy commercial district of Kathmandu. Bright lights, loud music, honking cars, this district is far from the tranquil environment of Nepal’s landscape. But it’s a refreshing escape from the wilderness when you want to feel the energy and lively vibe of tourists and locals. In the evening, Thamel is lined up with dance clubs, bars, food, and intense traffic.

This is also the place to shop for Nepali products like tea, condiments, Himalayan pink salt, clothes, swords, flags, souvenirs, and so much more. This place is also famous for the unique papier mache figurines only made in Nepal. Other shops also sell Hindi products from India and even metal ornaments and jewelry.

Don’t forget to use your best haggling skills when visiting here and scout first before buying!

By the way, the Philippine Peso has a strong rate here and they do exchange pesos to rupees!

The famous tea shops and I spotted a bar with San Miguel beer logo!
The Nepal flag, swords, paper mache products

Thamel on Google Maps

The Elusive Guardian of Kathmandu


Kathmandu Valley is as astonishing as the mountains that surround it. It is at the heart of Northern India’s mountainous regions and not far from this location is the stunning view of Mt. Everest, the tallest landform above the ocean. It’s presence is truly breathtaking, like heaven descending on land. The snowcapped summit only reveals itself, according to local legends, to people who are lucky or fated to be in Nepal. On a monsoon September, Everest is very elusive as it is usually hides behind the clouds.

I was a bit unlucky to see Everest on my first day in Kathmandu as it had been drizzling prior to my arrival. But the second day was promising with clearer skies. Early in the morning, I rose from bed and saw from the rooftop of a house I was staying in, the elusive white mountain.

It was a rare sight to see and how lucky I was to witness this.


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