15 best travel tips for a first trip to Southeast Asia – Part I

If you’re a newbie in what comes to travelling Southeast Asia (SE), you’ve arrived safely my friend. Because if like me, you love to immerse in culture authenticity to its fullest, spend wisely your money with a bit of splurge, dream with 30º as your sea bath temperature, value an honest smile as the most generous customer service sign, wish all-inclusive deals would burn in hell, understand the non-verbal pleasure of a real foot massage and believe that Anthony Bourdain should be the only one using the #foodporn, you’re ready to visit Southeast Asia (SE). Didn’t I tell you before that it feels like my second home? So, I’ve been travelling quite a lot to those countries, with loads of previous preparation, seriously digging into the culture, must do’s of each area and gathering all the useful and needed resources to take most advantage of a trip to Southeast Asia (SE), so let me unveil the first 8 top travel tips collection.

Sunset in Dili, Timor @ TrenDestination
Sunset in Dili, Timor @ TrenDestination

Continue reading 15 best travel tips for a first trip to Southeast Asia – Part I

10 firecracker questions to… Fashion designer Katty Xiomara

Born in Venezuela, within a Portuguese family, Katty Xiomara moved to Portugal at age 18, settling in Porto. In 1997 ends the Fashion Design course at Citex (now Modatex), where she currently lectures.

Fills the fashion week calendar in Portugal since 1998. Earlier in her career reconciles the evolution of the brand with other projects in such diverse areas as children’s clothing, uniforms, theater, TV, music, dance and graphic arts. In 2000 designs the costumes for the adaptation of the play La Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri with Jean Paul Bucchieri choreography at Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon. A year later registers the trade mark, but only ventures internationally in 2005.

@ View Fashion Book

Katty Xiomara’s name treading the catwalks of Paris on several occasions and participates regularly in International trade shows. In 2007 opens her shop atelier in an old townhouse located in the emblematic Rua da Boavista in Porto. Since September 2013 presents its collections at Fashion Week in New York.

@ View Fashion Book

In 2014 awarded the Silver Winner award by the IDA “International Design Awards” and in 2015 repeated this feat to bend, as well as a new Silver Winner was awarded an Honorable Mention.

The brand’s philosophy falls within the concept of designer-driven pieces that are aspirational yet accessible, elegant and timeless, sophisticated but playful, ultra-feminine with tailored silhouettes, meticulous structures and shapes, bold use of color and print; for women who are confident in themselves and their style choices, strong attitude, individual style with a romantic spirit.

Katty Xiomara @ TrenDestination

Katty accepted the challenge to name her first thought when thinking about …

#1. Favorite spot for inspiration
KX: My home garden. But it’s not just a spot; is music, cinema, street art, traveling, etc.

#2. Restaurant with guts and character
KX: O Alpendre (Arraiolos – Alentejo)

#3. The unmissable with 30 minutes in Porto
KX: A walk from Praça da Liberdade, trough Torre dos Clérigos, Rua de Cedofeita to Casa da Música

#4. Porn dream food
KX: Dark chocolate

#5. Best way to spend 2,00€ in Porto
KX: Metro trip from Bulhão station to Matosinhos

#6. Influential leader to seat next to you on a flight
KX: Iris Apfel or Diana Vreeland

#7. Memorable and one-of-a-kind hotel
KX: Porto River

#8. Portugal on a plate
KX: Fresh fish, Cozido à portuguesa (portuguese stew), Tripas à moda do Porto (Porto style tripe with white bean stew)

#9. Perfect spot to travel within Portugal
KX: From North to South, it’s a small country that it is easy to plan a two weeks’ trip

#10. Most used expression in Portuguese
KX: Nada é pequeno!

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15 healthy & cheap products to buy in Martim Moniz asian supermarkets – Chapter I

I’m frequently asked to share which are the best products to choose in an asian supermarket since I buy all my asian stuff for at least half of the price (comparatively to a regular chain supermarket), avoiding to get ripped off and guaranteeing genuine authenticity (might sound weird coming from Asia, hun).

So first things come first, if you want the real deal – asian wise – you have to go roots style and find the source. Either products from Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, China, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, etc. There are 3 different asian supermarkets in Martim Moniz area where I divide my shopping list – I’ll put their names and more info in the end of the post. Whatever missing in one of them, the others will for sure list in. I’ll break the suggestions list into different chapter posts being this first one all about the best healthy products you should buy there. I’ll let you know also how I use each one of them but bear in mind there are at least 1000 other ways to use them so feel free to find the best suitable option for you – and share it with us by leaving a comment.

#1. Bio Green tea matcha (8,49€)

This is pure gold and it’s part of my morning routine as a tea to kick-off my day and my afternoons in the form of a matchinno – cappuccino version where the coffee is replaced for the tea. Sometimes I also add a tea spoon on my oatmeal pancakes or for cake baking. I’m seriously addicted to it and I recommend it to all the already green tea lovers, otherwise the flavor might be too strong for you.

#1. Bio Green tea matcha (8,49€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#2. Peanut paste sugar free (2,50€)

Yes, hon, it’s healthy when you choose the right one – 100% of peanuts like this one with no sugar or oil added – and if you don’t mix it with all the ice cream you can find in the freezer. However, eat it in the right measure! For me, suits me best after my RPM and HIIT workouts with an oatmeal pancake or if I’m really hungry, I also add a banana and some nuts with cinnamon on top.

#2. Peanut paste sugar free (2,50€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#3. Aloe Vera sugar free drink (0,99€)

Aloe Vera it’s the next big thing but just didn’t find its momentum in portuguese soil yet but it will. It has a very particular flavor which might not suit every taste but give it a try if you tend to like natural drinks. It’s claimed to be good for the immune system, skin in general and digestion, among others.

#3. Aloe Vera sugar free drink (0,99€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#4. 100% pure coconut oil (3,95€)

I started using it in Thailand for the first time and since then I’ve seriously fall in love. And I’m not one of those coconut oil psychos that use it everywhere BUT the truth is I don’t know any other multifunction product like this. I used mainly on my cookings as a substitute for oil and even olive oil, as a deep night hair mask and for dry skin, especially on winter. The jar option is the best one since it’s easier to withdraw the oil when is solid. However, if you choose to buy the bottle, just warm it up a bit on hot water before.

#4. 100% pure coconut oil (3,95€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#5. Rice paper (1,95€)

You’ll find a multitude of sizes! They look hard and are well-packed but there isn’t such delicate thing as a thin rice paper roll. They’re low in calories (circa 20 kcal per sheet) and require very little preparation. Just dip them in hot water and they’ll soften up easily. I usually cook them as a spring roll/wrap and put all kind of veggies inside. They’re a great option especially in the summer.

#5. Rice paper (1,95€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#6. Lemongrass (0,90€)

Its fragrance kills me (in a good way) and it’s universally recognizable. Lemongrass isn’t usually sold in normal supermarkets so the frozen option works perfectly for me as I only use in very specific dishes or for tea. You might be lucky and find its fresh version which of course has a punchier flavor.

#6. Lemongrass (0,90€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#7. Black sesame seeds (2,75€)

You won’t find them in any other supermarket type and I definitely preferred them in black (although I mix them with the white seeds) for their unique nuttier flavor and kick-ass presentation on the plate. I always toast them up a bit on a clean pan to release the flavor and fragrance as well as increase the crunchiness. Then, I use them to sprinkle on salads, yoghurts, soups, veggies, stir-fried or steamed dishes, pretty much everything. Google all the nutritious facts about these little gems – you’ll be surprised.

#7. Black sesame seeds (2,75€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#8. Sweet potato noodles (1,35€)

This specific type of noodles come from Korea and are made from sweet potato starch – totally gluten free – with a chewy and glassy texture. They’re an excellent option to rice noodles and for me work better on a broth or slightly stir-fried, otherwise, it gets too slippery for my taste.

#8. Sweet potato noodles (1,35€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#9. 100% natural Coconut water (1,89€)

There’s no other drink that makes me feel as refreshed and invigorated as coconut water. I always have one bottle on my fridge ready to drink – it’s kind of mandatory to drink it cold in order to reach its highest potential of freshness. Besides the simple one, I suggest as well the flavored with pomegranate and guava.

#9. 100% natural Coconut water (1,89€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#10. Tapioca pearls (1,20€)

I prefer the big tapioca pearls added on my tea latte but the small ones taste great on cold desserts combined with fruit as well. I usually don’t cook them at home because I got traumatized the first and only time I did – I thought it would be piece of cake so I’ve followed my cooking intuition and cooked it without any guideline whatsoever. Turned out too thick and gluey and for the dish I wanted to do the starch needed to be extracted. So, don’t pretend like me and search for the right way to prepare it.

#10. Tapioca pearls (1,20€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#11. Bok choy cabbage (1,50€)

They’re extremely common in China, in the same measure as our portuguese kale. Although it’s called cabbage, it doesn’t taste like it at all! I use both the leaves and the stems, again stir-fried (with a bit of garlic, ginger and sesame oil) or simply blanched. Note that the leaves and stalks have different textures needing distinct cooking times. The leaves are similar to spinach and the stems are crunchy and tend to be watery at the same time. It’s perfect as a side dish.

#11. Bok choy cabbage (1,50€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#12. Rice noodles (1,15€)

It’s incredibly cheap and definitely worth to buy. Its beyond simple cooking process (just soaked them in hot water with no need to be boiled) amazes me so it’s one of those unmissable staples in my pantry – love to eat them with a bunch of veggies or featured in a cold salad. You can find a multitude of sizes (thin/vermicelli, medium/linguine shape and wide/tagliatelle shape).

#12. Rice noodles (1,15€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#13. Dried rose bud & Dried jasmine flower (3,49€)

Love tea but don’t like the caffeine in it? Then, these two flower teas are for you. They’re extremely fragrant, look beautiful floating on hot water, caffeine-free and also perfect for a gift. I enjoy drinking it at night, after dinner, somehow it calms down the day fuss. Don’t confuse the dried jasmine flowers with jasmine tea – this last one has green tea added which contains caffeine.

#13. Dried rose bud & Dried jasmine flower (3,49€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#14. White and brown Shimeji mushrooms (1,40€)

I’m such a big fan of this type of mushrooms, especially the brown ones. You just need to remove the base and separate into small pieces. Again, they don’t need much cooking wise so the least you do, the better. I like them slightly stir-fried or simply steamed to keep all the juiciness and flavor, give me a hot rice bowl and some soy sauce and I’ll be happy. Keep it simple, it tastes better.

#14. White and brown Shimeji mushrooms (1,40€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

#15. Goji seeds (3,50€)

They act a superfood and antioxidant and I usually soak and rehydrate them in cold or hot water to release all the goodies, drink the liquid and finally eat the seeds as a snack or mixed on a salad/yoghurt. The flavor is at the same time sweet and sour which I love.

#15. Goji seeds (3,50€) @ TrenDestination
@ TrenDestination

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Supermarket Wan (biggest of all 3 with huge variety)                Address: Rua da Palma, 266, 1100-394 Lisboa

Supermarket Hua Ta Li (the owner speaks very well Portuguese in case you need some extra help and they have take away food)Address: Rua Fernandes da Fonseca, 16, 1100-238 Lisboa

Supermarket Amanhecer (a true blend of an asian supermarket with a portuguese twist – you’ll understand why) Address: Rua Palma 41, 1100 Lisboa

Tasca Kome | The best japanese restaurants in Lisbon | Beyond sushi

The LX Japanese tavern | Tasca Kome

Yuko Yamamoto is the lady Chef behind Tasca Kome. Before opening it, she used to be dedicated teaching others, in her own house, how to put flavor and authenticity into japanese dishes. Gotta tell you that I visited this restaurant for the first time right after its opening in 2013, but only after massive fails because it was always full (good for them, annoying as hell for me!). But since then, I can’t avoid ordering everytime the same – do you know those signature dishes you can’t run away from? That’s what you’ll find here. With their daily menus at lunch, it’s the only time I let loose and follow their suggestions.

Tasca Kome
@ TrenDestination

Continue reading Tasca Kome | The best japanese restaurants in Lisbon | Beyond sushi

Miss Jappa | The best japanese restaurants in Lisbon | Beyond sushi

First lady has arrived | Miss Jappa

Anna Lins is the super woman behind Miss Jappa and I met her for the first time at Umai when she and Paulo Morais were kicking ass together as the power couple they are in the kitchen. So, when she opened this restaurant was immediately included in my must-try list. What I like most in her approach to food is the unexpected route she takes by redesigning a distinct path between tradition and modernity.

Miss Jappa
@ TrenDestination

Continue reading Miss Jappa | The best japanese restaurants in Lisbon | Beyond sushi

KOPPU – Ramen Concept Food | The best japanese restaurants in Lisbon | Beyond sushi

Ramen, Amen | KOPPU – Ramen Concept Food

It was late already when I decided to chose KOPPU for dinner. My stomach starting screaming (Ramen, ramen, ramen…) and the only option to silent that inner crazy voice was by pleasing it. First things first, who doesn’t love a big bowl of soup full of nutrients, big punch flavors and an endless kick-ass broth? Hello, I’m Ramen! Continue reading KOPPU – Ramen Concept Food | The best japanese restaurants in Lisbon | Beyond sushi

Chimera Brewpub | A bold & cold pint

I met Adam for the first time when he was the Head Chef at The Insólito, and I always appreciated his approach and way of thinking towards food. So when he left to open his own restaurant – Chimera – with Thomas Mancini, I continued following him on his kitchen journey and now that he launched the Chimera Brewpub in Alcântara was the right time to re-visit him again.

Chimera Brewpub
@ TrenDestination

Besides Adam and his lovely wife, Raquel, I was greeted with… a pint (of course) and was indeed a bold welcoming!

Chimera Brewpub
@ TrenDestination

Continue reading Chimera Brewpub | A bold & cold pint

Only for fans | 6 Sweet Potato killer dishes you should eat

Whoop whoop, put your hands up, if you’re a sweet potato fan! Whoop whoop, put your (…)! Can you feel the beat? I bet you can if thinking about sweet potato makes your heart race (mine didn’t stop yet). I can’t think in another ingredient that makes me feel so excited. Once featured in any dish menu, it’s mandatory for me to order it. Roasted, boiled, fried, mashed, raw (ok, too much) baked, dried, pâté, whatever – it always tastes great. Obviously there’s a nutritional aka guilty by association side that makes me love this super tuber even more but it’s the texture mixed with its natural flavor. Continue reading Only for fans | 6 Sweet Potato killer dishes you should eat

10 easy upgrades every great hotel should think of

Luxury is so in the small details that sometimes can be easily forgotten and misunderstood by accommodation hosts – hotels, hostels and airbnb included. My definition of luxury means something you can’t put a price on. Or call it a double ‘P’ – Pretty Priceless. It’s not about the money anymore though about that little unforgettable detail experience. We often believe that some extra attention is exclusive from the 5 star top luxury hotels and this is a huge mistake. And you’re falling behind in the hospitality world if you’re stuck into this thought.

Finding opportunities to improve, instigating brand awareness and engaging everytime there’s an opportunity with your customer won’t cost nothing and in return you’ll have both loyalty and word spreading (which money can’t definitely buy) meaning = revenue. It’s a win win strategy.

@ TrenDestination

Treat your guest as if your best friend were visiting you in town for the first time and you’ll see how powerful is the true world-of-mouth. It’s not about selling rooms anymore – or you’ll have sleepless nights counting the days of your business. This is not for any specific hotel/accommodation category but exclusively to the ones looking for the simplest yet memorable guest experience.

#1. B2B

B2B in this case means Back-to-Basics and not Business-to-Business. What was one of the very first things you accomplished in school that made you run till home to show off your new skill (your first little kiss don’t count here)? Your full name. That’s right. That’s the one thing we always react no matter what. I’ll never forget that very first moment when I entered in a hotel and the doorman opened the door welcoming me using my name. Now I know how Obama feels. Hot tip: Aside from the normal tools, use your photography memory and present your guest with this little kind, polite and memorable treat everytime you can.

#2. The waiting game

In the technology/app era, why on earth is the check-in and check-out such a big pain in the… ? Flexibility is key nowadays and very much appreciated. I once visited a hotel in Thailand with a 24-hour rule, meaning checking-out only 24-hours after the check-in. Before that you can waive the do not disturb flag. Hot tip: Anticipate as much as you can the check-in process and think about keyless options. I still got a magnetic key-bracelet (to open the hotel room) from my past vacation.

#3. KISS rule

It sounds impossible but I still find accommodation places with no Wifi or only under payment. This is the most basic required asset to have nowadays. And don’t let the guest ask for the password, give it promptly in advance, you can even play with it and make it personal, memorable and if possible fun. A good friend of mine used to tell me this KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) rule in every situation and I must admit it was equally annoying as effective. Create a password / official hashtag to be used. The coolest password I found? YesICan. Imagine… “Can you give me the password please?”. I’m still laughing. Hot tip: Avoid complex passwords and why not offer a lollipop or a bonbon wrapped with the username/password in it?


#4. What’s this smell?

Smell is the first thing you sense when entering in a room. What if it smells bad? Basically, it will compromise and set the tone of your experience because then you’ll start wondering if it smells bad, the bathroom might not be so well cleaned, the sheets not so white, who was the last person here (…) and no one enjoys feeling like the second visit. We want to feel smellcomed. It’s the most basic comfort tool which immediately puts us in or out our comfort zone. Hot tip: Find a universally likeable scent that matches your brand/place, without being too-much-in-your-face type and make guests feel relaxed.

#5. My bag is kind of empty-ready

You can’t imagine the amount of amenities I’ve been seriously collecting from my hotel stays (#hoarderhustling). My drawers are happily screaming already!  And like me, a huge percentage of visitors do the same. But, it’s time to step up and realize that amenities are one of the most valuable branding tools, lasting in our minds for a long time and I can guarantee that no one forgets a one-of-a-kind amenity. But whatever you do, try to keep it local. Hot tip: Find that one thing your guest might forget at home (a pair of comfy socks or a hydrating lipstick with SPF?) or something so unexpected that rapidly turns memorable (a fresh mint chewing gum pack?).

#6. Who’s who?

Nowadays, it’s definitely a bad excuse saying you don’t know your client. I’m sure I was not the only kid playing that Guess Who game (but I got so addicted that ended up spoiling the other kids’ turn all the time). All this to say that this is a mandatory skill to be developed and applied to your guests. With the booking reservation, only by the name of your guest, you can find loads of info on the web and please make the best use of social media in your advantage. Hot tip: Google is definitely your best friend here and search like a professional stalker.

#7. Life & Style together

More than ever, we are in the free & low era. Sugar-free, low-fat, gluten-free, low-carb, lactose-free and the list goes on. So it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever assuming everyone drinks alcohol, love sugar or eat gluten. So be smart with your welcome or turndown gift and use it to promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Why not going for a natural flavored water or a bag of freshly made popcorn (cooked the healthy way)? Make the best use of seasonal products. Hot tip: Play with the open bar and put unexpected stuff in there – carrot sticks or some fresh berries #cantgetanyfresherthanthis.

#8. I’ve got the power!

Snap knew best when wrote this song. Everything is valid here: adapters, cables, chargers and avoid the solo iPhone route – hello Android! Put at disposal to be used and you’ll be thanked for the gesture. Dead cellphones represent a major buzz-killer in any trip. Hot tip: No need to have endless cables, there are other resourceful solutions available such as the 3-in-1 universal USB charging cable that might fit everyone’s shoe.

#9. That little special request

It’s definitely proven that breakfast plays a huge part in the accommodation overall experience. It’s that one thing everyone has always high hopes on. If it’s good, it’s memorable, if it’s bad it’s a no-go next time. In case you can’t have a full table breakfast (totally understandable), stay fresh and avoid saying you don’t take any customized order. Hot tip: Have at least one thing that can be served upon request, whether is a 2 to 2,2 minutes soft boiled egg, oatmeal with a tiny sprinkle of cinnamon or a freshly squeezed juice.

#10. 24-hour best friend

When visiting a place besides our home, we like to feel comfortable and tend to find someone to be relied on, even if only for a dinner suggestion or to know where is the closest pharmacy in case of an emergency. It’s part of human nature searching for our comfort zone and as hosts, that’s our role – create the ultimate trustworthy playground. Hot tip: Don’t be afraid of assigning someone (or even yourself) with name and contact to personal assist with specific requests.

NUmber One 728x90

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10 firecracker questions to… Founder of Castelbel | Aquiles Araújo Barros

Castelbel is the internationally known Portuguese brand manufacturing extremely high-quality home and body scented products that combines outstanding design with exquisite fragrances and the finest formulations. The name Castelbel derived from the combination of the name of the small town where the company has always been located (Castêlo da Maia) and the portuguese word for beauty (beleza). The company started their activity at the end of 1999 and nowadays, besides the USA., the main markets are the UK, Spain, Germany and Australia.

@ TrenDestination

Aquiles Araújo Barros is the founder and director of Castelbel. He’s the realest combination of an entrepreneur with a visionary. Continue reading 10 firecracker questions to… Founder of Castelbel | Aquiles Araújo Barros

Best of Portugal now | Inspirational Travel, Food, Culture & Lifestyle