Cynhynfa Country Guest House and Singapore hawker food

So, the story is that I belong to a Facebook group called Singaporeans in the UK and, a few weeks ago, I told the group that I was going on a road trip to Wales. I asked for suggestions and got a lot of helpful advice, which helped me plan my route.

Someone also mentioned that a Singaporean lady owns a bed and breakfast on the border of England and Wales. Since it was in a location that could fit into my then very sketchy route, I thought it would be a great idea to stay a night there.

And so we did!

This is Cynhynfa Country Guest House. (It’s pronounced something along the lines of “ker-nin-fa” if I recall correctly.)


Cynhynfa Country Guest House


Singaporean Nora runs the bed and breakfast together with her English husband. She’s full of funny stories, on Facebook and in real life, so it was a real pleasure getting to know her.

Her house decor is beautiful! Every piece of furniture and ornament seems to have been carefully picked and thoughtfully placed. The stylish setting indoors was a real surprise after driving through miles and miles of country.



Our bedroom:

Cynhynfa Country Guest House



Another bedroom, a little one with a slopey ceiling:

Cynhynfa Country Guest House



The dining room:

Cynhynfa Country Guest House



The view from the dining room:

Cynhynfa Country Guest House



Outside the house:

Cynhynfa Country Guest House


Nora was really hospitable. She made us feel at home immediately and fed us some homemade curry puffs because I’d told her that Piers is mad about them, haha. (I mean he is literally crazy about them. When we’re in Singapore, he turns into an excited puppy every time we pass by a stall or shop that sells curry puffs. He’ll be, like, “Oh looooook curry puffs omg!!!”)

She also cooked us a nice Asian dinner at no extra charge because I’m homesick for Singaporean food and it was gorgeous. She and her husband sat down to dinner with us and we had a nice time swapping stories and getting to know one another.



Sambal tomato prawn:

Sambal tomato prawn



Chicken curry:

Chicken curry


Speaking of Singaporean food, I told Piers about the Gordon Ramsay vs Singapore hawker food challenge and he was really excited because he’s a huge fan of Singaporean food and he thinks it’ll be good for the celebrity chef to try it.

Not quite the reaction I had expected.

Personally, I find it a bit silly because people of different cultures have different taste buds, so the winner of the challenge is going to be affected by where the judges come from and what sort of tastes they’re used to, so how will that prove anything?

Also, they’re going to make Gordon Ramsay cook something he’s probably never even eaten (he did mention a lack of experience in Singaporean food) against people who have cooked those dishes for decades. Huh?


Gordon Ramsay vs Singapore


Then again, this whole thing is just a publicity stunt to promote Singapore hawker food and give Gordon Ramsay as well as the organisers a lot of publicity, so it’ll probably just be an entertaining show where all parties come off winning, in some way or other.

Sorry about the digression but I had sort of come to an end, anyway.

So, Cynhynfa Country Guest House was a nice start to our entry into Wales. We didn’t really have time to visit around the area but if you look in the website, you will find many great places to visit nearby.

And that’s the problem with holidays, isn’t it? There’s always too much to see and experience, and never enough time to do everything!

Wales road trip: Overview

What a glorious place Wales is, lovely sights of endless pastures, mountains and sprawling horizons.

I know “sprawling horizons” sounds a bit strange and maybe oxymoronic, but that’s what it feels like. You gaze out into the distance and the horizon is a patchwork of rolling hills and fields.

I can’t really show you the extent of it in a photograph because it’ll have to be a bloody big photograph to even begin to relay everything the human eye can see, so you’ll have to make do with a photograph of me.


Sheylara in Wales


Yep, that’ll do.

Now, let’s start from the beginning.

Last week, Piers and I went on a road trip to Wales and back. We drove a total of 720 miles (1159 km) in six days, and stopped at a different bed and breakfast each night.

Here, I’ve made a map to illustrate the geography of the region so that what I’m going to talk about next will make more sense to non-UK readers.


Map of The United Kingdom


Piers and I live directly south of Wales, on the southwest coast of England, so we just drove north into Wales. But we kind of veered around outside of Wales before entering it near the northern part because of certain stops I wanted to make in England.


Our route


When we drove into Wales, I didn’t see any “Welcome to Wales” sign, either because I was daydreaming or because we went via a road that didn’t have it. I’m sure hundreds of roads lead to Wales so they can’t possibly have a welcome sign at every road, right?

I think we only knew we were in Wales when the road signs suddenly changed from English to Welsh.

In the middle of driving, Piers suddenly said, “We’re in Wales! Wow, Wales looks amazing!!”

I looked through all the windows and thought he was being stupid.

“It looks exactly like England, hon.” I said.


The difference between England and Wales


We bickered a bit on this point but I know he was just being silly. You will find many similarities between England and Wales in terms of physical appearance.

But the funny thing is that, after being in Wales for several days and loving the scenery, I thought I could feel a marked difference after crossing the Severn Bridge back into England.


Severn Bridge


England seems to be a darker green and maybe a bit more grey, overall, and there is a discernible lack of sheep.

But, to be fair, there are equally beautiful places in both England and Wales, just that Wales has more mountains so, when you’re driving through them, you get to see more fields and pastures around, which is probably why it seems more vibrantly green in Wales.

I will share more photos of the scenery in future posts. Today’s post will be a sort of a summary of the entire trip so you can have a preview of what’s coming up next.


Day 1

So, we started our trip by spending our first night in Bath (England). I’ve blogged about Bath before so I’m not going to say anymore about it. (You can read the two posts here: Bath is beautiful despite mouldy hot springs | Rude shock in Bath)

Here’s a photo of some cute scarecrows next to our B&B in Bath. If I ever have my own biggish garden, I will place a couple of cute toddler scarecrows in it, no adult ones. I don’t know if that would be scary enough for crows, though.


Cute scarecrows


Day 2

From Bath, we drove on to Cynhynfa Country Guest House, situated on the England/Wales border. We went there because it’s owned by a Singaporean but I’ll talk about it more in another post.

Olive parked outside the guest house:


Cynhynfa Country Guest House


Before stopping there, we passed through Ludlow (in England) and I decided to stop to have a look at Ludlow Castle.

The view is quite lovely from the top of the castle walls, even though the castle isn’t that tall, really.


Ludlow Castle


Because we stopped at Ludlow, we didn’t have time to stop at Shrewsbury as I had wanted to. Shrewsbury is where Charles Darwin came from so I thought it would be interesting to visit.

But it’s not a big deal. There are hundreds more places I want to visit in England and I still have the rest of my life to do it!


Day 3

After an early breakfast, we drove into Wales and stopped at the famous bridge (Pont Fawr) and tea house (Tu Hwnt I’r Bont).


Pont Fawr and Tu Hwnt I'r Bont


After that, because we’re way ahead of schedule, we had to find something to do before our next planned stop. We looked up Points of Interests on our sat nav and Gwydir Castle came up. It was only about 5 or 10 minutes away so off we went.

When we got there, we found out that it is more a large Tudor manor house than a castle and that they close on Mondays and Saturdays (which is the day we were there), so we didn’t get to visit!

At that time, I had completely forgotten that it was the castle I had mentioned in an earlier post, where I had found out we could stay but chose not to because it’s haunted.

I only realised it was the same castle after coming home and googling it.

What a shame it was closed. All we saw were walls and closed doors.


Outside Gwydir Castle


But we did see a bunch of peacocks and peahens roosting on top of the walls so we managed to while away some time, me taking photographs and Piers trying to attract their attention by imitating their call, which is a high pitched, long squawl. A bit like a seagull but longer and more melodic.

Yes, just imagine Piers squawling like a peacock. He loves doing that sort of thing, poor me.




That night, we stayed in a lovely B&B called Fir Cottage and went for a walk up a mountain next to the cottage, where we encountered a couple of runaway sheep, all of which I will elaborate in a separate post.


Fir Cottage


Runaway sheep


Up until then, we had been pretty lucky with the weather. It was moody, sometimes a bit sunny, sometimes a bit overcast, with some drizzling here and there, but on the whole it didn’t rain on our parade too much.

But it did the next day.


Day 4

Our first order of the day was to visit the Welsh Mountain Zoo. It was a terrible, terrible mistake. It rained intermittently, the wind was ridiculously strong up on the mountain, it felt nearly as cold as winter, and the zoo was rubbish at being a zoo.


Welsh Mountain Zoo


So we left the silly place some two hours earlier than planned. We then drove on through the town with the longest name in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. It looks impossible to pronounce but I will show you how to in a future post.

It was still raining and we had to carry umbrellas with us around all day, so we didn’t linger in the town.

Here’s Olive parked next to the railway station gatehouse with the full name of the town mounted on it.




Yes, you know the drill now: Details of all that will come in a later post.

We drove on to Caernarfon on the same day. Still raining, still cold, which was a pity because Caernarfon is a very cool town with a bustling town centre built inside the outer castle walls. And right in the middle of it all is Caernarfon Castle.

The rain and cold made us just want to go indoors and snuggle under the duvet, so that was quite the shame.


Caernarfon Castle


We stayed in a B&B inside these walls:


Caernarfon castle wall



Day 5

It was time to head back south and, this time, instead of driving through motorways we drove through mountain passes, which was a great idea.

The weather had tamed considerably so it was a wonderful three-hour drive to get to our next destination, with many stops along the way to admire the scenery, gawk at sheep and take photographs.


Sheep on mountain


Driving through a mountain pass


The only damper on our day was our failure to locate a famous waterfall in Brecon Beacons National Park, thanks to lousy mapping, unclear instructions and lack of signposts on the part of the tourism authorities.

It resulted in a two-hour trek (back and forth) through the most ridiculous, scary terrain, with nothing to show for it except muddy shoes and possibly an entertaining blog post to come.

We found refuge for the night in a nice B&B called Llundain Fach Little London, which has a nice cascading stream a very short trek away through a wooded area.


Llundain Fach Little London


Cascading stream


Day 6

Last day of our trip and the sun decided it was time to come out and play. My new £5 sunglasses came in use for the first time since we started the trip.


Sheylara's new sunglasses


It was a great last day.

We saw a waterfall (this one was much easier to get to and had clear directions but it was smaller), then decided to leave for home earlier than planned.


Henrhyd Falls


I had wanted to visit the National Showcaves Centre for Wales (Dan yr Ogof), which is an 11 mile (17 km) long cave system in south Wales featuring lots of cool cavern sights and a dinosaur park, among other things.

If you google image it, you can see loads of cool pictures of it. But Piers and I were both so tired out by our whole trip that we decided to give it a miss.


Dan Yr Ogof image search


We had received mixed reviews of it from our B&B host; some adults said it’s a waste of money and only cool for children, while other adults loved it. So I don’t know! Maybe we will visit it one day. It’s only about four hours’ drive from home, lol.

On our way home, we stopped at a burger bar on a mountain for lunch and trekked a short way higher up to enjoy the 360-degree view.

It was a bit sad leaving that mountain. Despite my tiredness, I felt like I could have stayed a few more days, or weeks.


A scene from Wales


After that, we spent the next three hours on the road for the last leg home, during which time I mostly slept while Piers drove, which is the natural order of things!

And that’s the end of this post. Like it or comment if you want to hear more stories and see more photos of our adventure!

Planning a road trip; not staying in a haunted castle

Just a quick one today to say that I’m off on a six-day road trip around Wales, so I might not get to blog much (or any at all) while I’m away.

I’ve been going crazy the last week or so trying to get everything sorted out (routes, accommodations, shopping for supplies… and spring cleaning, so that we can come home to a clean apartment).


Travel supplies


Also, I’ve been looking for sunglasses because I’m not sure where my current pair is. I don’t feel motivated to look for it since I don’t really like it. (It’s probably sitting in a forgotten drawer somewhere.)

The problem is that it’s extremely, nearly impossibly difficult for me to find sunglasses that look nice on me because I think I have a stupidly-shaped face and all sunglasses make me look even more stupid. So I always feel like I have to hunt for better ones whenever I’m planning a holiday.

I nearly bought an £80 pair of Calvin Klein shades yesterday but luckily I didn’t.

Because, today, I found a much nicer pair in New Look for just £5. It was kind of serendipitous; I was just about to go get the Calvin Kleins when I impulsively decided to quickly pop into New Look to look for sun hats.

I didn’t find sun hats but I found this pair of sunglasses.




Which I bought without any consideration. Since it’s pink and it’s £5 (Actually £4.99.)

Not that it’s going to do very much good since the weather has been forecast as being quite gloomy and rainy for the next week or so, starting tomorrow. Perfect. You can always count on the English weather to be perfect for whatever you’ve planned to do.

Still, you can also always count on the Meteorological Office to be quite accurate, so there’s hope yet.


Despite the promise of perfect English weather, I’m really quite excited about this trip because this is the first time I’ve been arsed to actually plan a trip. (Read about how Piers and I never plan our trips, just leaving everything to fate.)

I don’t know what came over me this time. Maybe it’s some kind of delayed growing up thing. I’ve always lived and acted by impulse, so it’s a gamble to see if my impulses turn out to be sensible.

As it turned out, my impulse this time was to make a very detailed itinerary with the help of Google search (to look for attractions) and Google maps (to plot a route).




I’ve also made bookings for five different Bed and Breakfasts, chosen around the spots that we want to visit.

There’s a castle along our route where you can book a room to stay in. I was really excited, thinking I could sleep in a real castle. It costs only £85 or £95 a night for a minimum of two nights. (Our other B&Bs cost between £60 and £80.)

Then I went on TripAdvisor to look it up and found out that the castle has a reputation for being one of the most haunted houses in Wales. So, no thanks. I don’t like ghosts, whether they’re real or not.

In case you’re interested, it’s called Gwydir Castle and the website is here. And if you want to read about the ghosts, here’s the Google search page.


Gwydir Castle


I always do this, don’t I? I always say I’m going to do a quick blog and then I end up going on and on and on and on like a Duracell bunny.

So, I’m going to make myself stop now. Still more chores to do tonight, get dinner, watch The Apprentice UK, start packing, try and sleep early so we can have an early start tomorrow morning. And it’s already 9 pm now.

To my Singapore readers: I’m really sorry that you’re going through all that crazy haze at the moment. It sounds really awful with PSI readings going into hazardous levels. I read that, while the 3-hour index shows a highest recording of 321, people have drawn graphs and made calculations to show that, at the highest point, it went up to 453 at 9 pm on Wednesday. That is pretty scary.

I hope it gets better soon and all of you stay sane and healthy!

Nice photos of nice hotel :)

I’ve been wanting to blog about Oxford because it’s such a beautiful, awe-inspiring city. But I have too many photos of it and it’s tiresome looking through hundreds of photos to pick the best for the blog.

So I thought I’d start off with just some photos of our hotel because it’s a smaller, more manageable task.

All the hotels in the city of Oxford were fully booked (thanks to our last-minute habit as usual) so we had to stay in this peaceful countryside hotel about 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre.


The Holt Hotel


It was a viable option only because we had a car, so we could drive anywhere quite easily.

I’m glad we had to “settle” for the Holt Hotel. It turned out to be really lovely and I wish we’d had more time to spend around that area, have a picnic or something, but then we didn’t have enough time for Oxford city as it was.


The Holt Hotel carpark
The Holt Hotel carpark


Hotel lobby
The lobby


Hotel room
Our room


Dusk at the Holt Hotel


View from balcony
View from our balcony


View from balcony
View of the hotel on the main street.


It’s a decent-sized hotel (86 rooms) and is fairly cheap (£82 a night incl. VAT). The price included breakfast but we didn’t wake up in time for it so missed a good English country breakfast.

Oh, well. In the mornings, my brain always tells me that sleep is more important than food. You can always eat when you’re awake, but you can’t always sleep when you’re awake.

That’s insomniac-speak, in case you’re not following.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the smiley in the title, well, I’m just in a mellow, smiley kind of mood today. :)

Okay, last photo before I wrap up.


Polite sign


Not really polite, is it?

Sightseeing in the snow

It snowed seriously in Seoul on Wednesday.

Instead of trying to take cover like everyone else did, I lingered out in the open, enjoying the feel of snow falling on my face and my clothes, taking endless photos at the risk of hypothermia to myself and my brave camera, who didn’t even flinch when snow fell into its lens.


Snowing in Seoul


Snowing in Seoul


The snow fell intermittently the entire day, not persistent enough to turn me into a snowman; it melts after a while.

Not that I would have stayed out in the open long enough to be turned into a snowman. But I might have tried for half one.


Snowing in Seoul


Snowing in Seoul


Snowing in Seoul


It was the coldest day I’ve experienced since coming to Seoul about three weeks ago. The temperature hovered at just under zero the entire day.

It’s fortunate that I just bought this fleece coat, which turned out to be really warm. I might have died if I’d gone out with the smaller jacket I’d brought from Singapore.

Of all days, Kay picked this coldest of days to go sightseeing.

We first went to the Japanese Embassy to witness a weekly protest by a bunch of old Korean women who had served as comfort women during the WW2 Japanese occupation.

The surviving victims who are still healthy enough (most of them are between 80 and 90 years old now) gather outside the embassy every Wednesday at noon to pressure the Japanese government into compensating them for their past sufferings and taking action against their tormenters.

They have been doing this weekly for almost 19 years now, to no effect. The Japanese government has all these years refrained from even offering an apology.



Korean comfort women protest


Korean comfort women protest


Only three victims attended this rally (maybe it was too cold that day for the others). The rest of the people around were their supporters and helpers, I suppose.

It was a very peaceful protest, even more peaceful than the anti-North Korean one I witnessed.

There was one woman speaking into a loud hailer, occasionally getting the small crowd to yell out in unison, but they were all rather gentle about it. After that, a bunch of young women got to the front and started singing Christmas hymns.


Korean comfort women protest


The brown building is the Japanese embassy. You can see some policemen stationed outside it, heh. Seems like policemen in Seoul are always sent off here and there to stand by at rallies and protests.

I wonder if some of them occasionally think, “Aww man, not again!” when dispatched for yet another such assignment.

The next place we went to was Changdeok Palace (or Changdeokgung).




After my last palace visit three months ago (to Gyeongbokgung), I decided that visiting Korean palaces is quite boring and not really worth the time. It’s just building after building, each building looking exactly the same as the one before.

All the buildings are restored to perfection so you can’t even feel any historic aura. You just feel like you’re visiting a movie set but there are no props or actors. You can’t go inside the buildings to look around and, even if you could, there’s absolutely nothing inside to see. They are all empty.

If you have a guide, it could be mildly interesting listening to some historical facts and trivia, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.

Kay didn’t heed my warning and insisted that he needed to see at least one palace since it’s supposedly one of the things you have to do if you come to Seoul.

So I went with him to Changdeokgung and we spent an hour freezing our butts out together with a bunch of tourists who didn’t look all too impressed, either. (The palace conducts two scheduled tours a day for each of four languages – Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese – each tour lasting an hour).




After the tour, Kay said, “I’ve come to the conclusion that palace visits are boring,” which gave me the opportunity to tell him, “I told you so!”

He had visited the Forbidden City in Beijing in 2007 and found it rather boring, also, so I can’t imagine what could have moved him to want to visit a Korean palace.

Anyway, it wasn’t all for naught. I took some photos in there.












After the tour, we went to sit in a nice cafe (within the palace) to thaw out a bit.

The cafe is classy, with nice decor and mood lighting. They serve all manner of hot drinks — coffee, tea, chocolate — all of which are produced from a variety of instant coffee machines.

The two counter girls stood there the whole time just collecting money and pushing buttons on the machine.

You can get a nice paper cup of instant hot chocolate for KRW3000 (S$3.50).


Expensive hot chocolate



We had a nice buffet lunch at a small vegetarian restaurant called Hangwachae (in Insadong) so that Kay could have some healthy, wholesome food that’s a lot tastier than whatever we can cook up in our meagre kitchen with our meagre talents (or lack thereof).






It’s a buffet, so I took a little bit of everything to try, except those that looked too gross to try out.

Most of the stuff weren’t really to my taste. I can’t quite describe them. I guess it’s just me because this place has got some good reviews by vegetarians on the Internet. But it was alright, overall. I felt very healthy eating this meal.

I did particularly enjoy the sweet potato fritters (not too healthsome!) and the boiled potatoes (with a nicely normal salty seasoning). And I liked eating the brown rice with something that tasted like preserved bean curd sauce.

So, basically, it was mostly starch for me that meal.

The price was quite reasonable for a buffet, at KRW12,000 (S$14) per person.




Latest update on Kay’s condition:

His swollen hand has finally subsided to almost normal after he diligently massaged it all night.

But he’s got the most gigantic, horrendous, evil-looking bruise at the back of his arm.


Kay's bruise


I’m considering entering him for the Guinness Book of World Records. What do you think?