Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thank You 2015

Grateful for...
  • my travel financer (disguised as a job)
  • waking up every day so I could earn my travel fund (salary)
  • my manager for approving my leaves and for not kicking me out for taking too much time off
  • getting sick when I was close to my own stinky bed. I don't like getting sick, but at least when I did get sick, it wasn't when I was out gallivanting away from home.
  • getting invited to eat, eat, eat at Ramen SoraFamily Mart, Marissa's KitchenTatang's Boneless Lechon, and Salinas (and to other events that I had to turn down because of work. So, you know, I could fund my travels.)
  • my friends from the piggery: Justinne of Babe for Food and Brennan of Baktin Corporation. Pigging out is not something I am ashamed to do with you!
  • travel companions who researched, made itineraries, negotiated rates, booked accommodations/van transfers/tour packages when I was too lazy to
  • travel apps
  • cool heads of tired and lost travel buddies
  • perfect timing: reaching the bus/train station five minutes before the bus/train is scheduled to leave or reaching the jeepney/bus stop as the jeepney/bus approaches (especially in areas where jeepneys/buses don't come by often)
  • the boat captains who took us on the roughest boat rides of our lives
  • my friend for treating me to some Treat Street treats
  • a nice sunny day during our impromptu uphill hike along transcentral highway and then getting rescued by a jeepney an hour into the impromptu hike
  • JJ Express for responding so quickly to my request for bus ticket reservations
  • Mr Phone for his kindness and hospitality: for welcoming us into his home, letting us have a nap in his living room, feeding us lunch, and letting us take a shower in his house
  • my friend for feeling sleepy so early that he volunteered to go ahead to Dalaguete town proper (while we frolicked in the beach) to find our group a place to stay in for that night
  • the owner of St Therese Beach House in Dalaguete for the discount
  • the chance to revisit Moalboal, Gilutungan Fish Sanctuary, Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Kawasan Falls, Mantayupan Falls, and Osmeña Peak
  • first time visits to Balabac, Guimaras, Camiguin, Carnaza Island, North Sandbar, Tumalog Falls, Obong SpringDalaguete Beach Park, and Mt Manunggal
  • seeing more bird species than was expected during our off–season birdwatching session in Olango
  • El Ideal Bakery for turning itself into a baggage storage while we strolled around Silay
  • my cousin and his wife for driving us around Iloilo
  • the lady in Nelly's Garden for accommodating our request for a tour on a Sunday (her rest day!)
  • honest tricycle/habalhabal drivers and boatmen for not overcharging
  • a friend's birthday boating treat in Moalboal
  • the pod of dolphins that showed up when we weren't looking for them
  • meeting the awesome sea turtles and sardines of Moalboal
  • strong swimmer–guides for towing us lazy snorkelers
  • the very helpful boatman in Moalboal who volunteered to take underwater photos and videos because I wouldn't sink thanks to the built–in flotation device round my middle (in truth I am a very bad swimmer)
  • the cold, cloudy, windy day we hiked Mt Manunggal
  • hitching a ride on an open–bed truck from Manunggal to Balamban town proper
  • China and Japan for granting me entry
  • my close friend from highschool for the free ride to and from Mutianyu
  • crowds missing from the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China
  • never give up attitude: this is how we found DaDong Roast Duck in Beijing
  • my legs for not surrendering when it had to walk 15x more than its lazy daily average
  • free use of pocket WiFi from our Tokyo and Osaka airbnb accommodations
  • the brains to understand the subway system in Tokyo and Osaka
  • deciding to splurge on a farmhouse stay in Ainokura...it turned out to be the best part of our trip
  • Yamamoto-san for the half English (me) half Japanese (him) chat while on the shinkansen to Himeji
  • Ryo, a Japanese I met in a bus in Cambodia in 2012, for traveling two hours from Kobe to Kyoto to meet me, for treating me to some street eats, and for the omiyage
  • the people who sent me emails to ask questions, to ask for recommendations (making me feel like a fake expert), and to send words of appreciation. Your emails made my day.
  • the readers of this blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you. All the hours and sweat (it is warm in the corner of the room where I have my PC... uh, yeah, I don't have a laptop.) I have spent on this blog weren't for naught because of you guys!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What's in a (Business) Name? Cuarenta y siete

Have a break from biking.
Spotted along Cebu Veterans Drive, Lahug, Cebu City

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Let's Have a Lechon Party with Tatang!

Christmas Season is almost over and, unfortunately (or miraculously), I haven't had any lechon at all! Anyone want to throw a party with me before the year ends? Tatang's Extra Crispy Boneless Cebu Lechon has party packages good for 8 to 10 persons.

Party Package A (Php 1350)
30 pcs puso
1 kg regular or spicy lechon
20 pcs ngohiong
Lechon kare–kare

Party Package B (Php 1350)
30 pcs puso
1 kg regular or spicy lechon
20 pcs ngohiong
400g lechon flakes

Party Package C (Php 1250)
30 pcs puso
1 kg regular or spicy lechon
20 pcs ngohiong
Dinuguan

Clockwise from top left: dinuguan, lechon flakes, ngohiong, lechon kare-kare, and lechon
(Photo by Baktin Corporation)

Or if we reach 40 persons, we can have the Lechon Wrap and Lechon Station (Php 7900, good for 40 pax) instead!

Lechon Wrap and Lechon Station Inclusions:
Lechon chopping stand and side table with Lechonero (2 hours)
8 kg regular or spicy lechon
120 pcs wraps
Wraps garnish: fried garlic, cucumber, singkamas, hoisin sauce

Lechon wrap (Photo by Baktin Corporation)

I can just taste the spicy lechon and hear the delicious crunch of its skin. And the lechon flakes...ahhh, I can munch on it right about now. And the lip–smacking peanut–buttery lechon kare–kare. And the lechon wrap which reminds me of Peking duck (which reminded me of lechon the first time I tried it!). Nom nom nom, lechon everything!!!

Come on, friends, let's have a lechon party! But let us not invite our doctors. We will surely get a talking to!



Tatang's Extra Crispy Boneless Cebu Lechon
Corner Pasteur St and Wilson St, Lahug, Cebu City
(032) 316 4719


Note: Party packages should be booked at least a day in advance, while the lechon wrap and lechon station should be booked at least four days in advance.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

What's Baking in Marissa's Kitchen?

If I knew how to bake, I would invite all of you, my friends, to Mustachio's Kitchen. Since I only know how to burn a cheese sandwich in an oven toaster, let's just go over to Marissa's Kitchen in Talamban for some proper baked goodies.

Go–Shen Building, Gov M Cuence Ave, Talamban (just after Piazza Elesia)
0926 634 2123
Monday to Saturday 9AM to 9PM


I have always loved Mrs Marissa Unchuan's (yes, the wedding cake maker extraordinaire) classic silvanas and, back when her baking venture was just home–based, would occasionally and, though anyone was welcome to do so, timidly pop over to Mrs Unchuan's house to buy a pack.

Since she opened Marissa's Kitchen in Talamban a few weeks ago, I can now confidently march in and tow friends along without worrying about disturbing her home to buy a pack of classic silvanas. And more. It was here that I discovered she created more than just wedding cakes and silvanas.

Product menu (click to enlarge)
Missing from the menu are: tostados (Php180),
choco krunch (Php180), prune cake (Php280), 6" cakes (Php350)

Marissa's Kitchen has readily available goodies for walk–in customers: classic silvanas, polvoron, lenguas de gato, oatmeal thins, tostados, choco krunch, and 6" cakes. Silvanas, if one pack will make your blood sugar skyrocket, can be bought per piece for Php 20, and cakes can be sampled by slice (around Php 55 per slice) and paired with coffee. The rest would have to be pre–ordered.


Chocolate cupcakes

I haven't dug my teeth through all her goodies, but from what I have tried—classic silvanas, chocolate cupcakes, black forest cake, ensaimada special, frozen brazo de mercedes, lenguas de gato, and oatmeal thins—not one disappointed me. (My favorites would have to be the classic silvanas, ensaimada special, and frozen brazo de mercedes.) Only the scales groaned in disappointment under my weight after eating all these goodies.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Eats Recommended at Suria KLCC

There were two places in Suria KLCC that came highly recommended that we just had to try them.

The receptionist of Orange Pekoe Guesthouse excitedly told us to have lunch at Madam Kwan's for some authentic Malaysian fare, and my officemate, who visited Kuala Lumpur months before me, droolingly and envyingly suggested to try the mille crepes of Humble Beginnings.

Level 4, Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur
Several branches in Malaysia and one in Singapore



When we arrived at Madam Kwan's it was peak lunch hour, almost all the seats were taken, and, if my observation was right, almost all the customers were locals. This must be a really good place then.

I ordered Nasi Bojari™ (MYR 24.90) because of the trademark and the "Madam" in the description: Madam's tri–colored rice with assam prawns, beef rendang, and deep fried chicken drumstick. I was disappointed with my almost Php 275 equivalent (not including tax and service fee!) Nasi Bojari — it was only a dollop of rendang, two pieces of assam (tamarind) prawns, and the fried chicken was, well, like any other fried chicken.

Good thing we had ordered other dishes from their "From the 'Wok'" menu: claypot seafood beancurd (MYR 25.90) and Hong Kong Kailan with garlic (MYR 18.90). Without knowing it, we had partly taken heed the advice printed in their "From the 'Wok'" menu: "When in doubt, order at least two veggie dishes and a meat dish." Good advice.

Signature Food Court, Level 2, Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur
Two branches in Penang and one in Singapore


French vanilla (left) and Nutella banana (right)

Humble Beginnings has 18 flavors of mille crepe to choose from but after our lunch at Madam Kwan's we only had space for two slices. We chose French vanilla (their bestseller) and Nutella banana (because I am nuts for Nutella) for MYR 10.90 each.

Humble Beginnings' mille crepe contains not a thousand ("mille") layers but just 20 layers with cream and vanilla in between. Which was just as well—it would have been difficult to eat a thousand layers. The top of the French vanilla mille crepe had a thin caramelized coating. The Nutella banana had two layers with bananas and Nutella and the top was dusted with chocolate. Humble Beginnings' mille crepes weren't as lovely and their crepe layers weren't as thin as the mille crepes from Nadeje in Melaka, but Humble Beginnings' mille crepes satisfied our mille crepe cravings (besides, pretty food still turns into mush inside the stomach).

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Orange Pekoe Guesthouse

The second time we were in Kuala Lumpur, we let our stomachs decide where we would eat sleep. It picked Orange Pekoe Guesthouse because...it's a fruit! Plus—and this is a big plus—it's just a 5–minute walk from the delicious smells of Jalan Alor, the food street.

1-1, Jalan Angsoka, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2110 2000
info@orangepekoe.com.my

Family room (169 MYR, can accommodate 4 persons) with ensuite toilet and bath

Pantry

We patted our stomachs for a great job of choosing Orange Pekoe Guesthouse:
  • I repeat: Jalan Alor, where all the delicious food is, is just a 5–minute walk away.
  • Raja Chulan Station is also just a 5–minute walk away.
  • From the airport, there are different options to get to the guesthouse:
    • Take the Airport Coach/Bus (10 MYR, 1 hour) to KL Sentral Station. From KL Sentral Station, take the monorail to Raja Chulan Station (2.10 MYR, 20 minutes), and then walk about 5 minutes to the guesthouse.
    • Take the KLIA Ekspres Train (35 MYR, 30 minutes) to KL Sentral Station. From KL Sentral Station, take the monorail to Raja Chulan Station (2.10 MYR, 20 minutes), and then walk about 5 minutes to the guesthouse.
    • Take the Airport Coach/Bus or KLIA Ekspres Tain to KL Sentral Station. From KL Sentral Station, take a taxi (about 15 MYR, 15 minutes) to the guesthouse.
    • Take a taxi (105 MYR, 1 hour and 15 minutes) straight to the guesthouse.
  • The guesthouse is clean and cozy.
  • The staff are friendly and helpful. They can assist in getting a taxi, suggest places to see, and restaurants to try.
  • There's complimentary breakfast of cereals, bread and butter or jam, coffee, and tea.
  • There's WiFi.
  • They allowed us to leave our bags at the reception area when we had to checkout at noon but didn't have to go to the airport until late night.
  • There are restaurants, bars, and convenience stores nearby.
  • There is a GoKL bus stop 300 meters (5 minutes by foot) from Orange Pekoe Guesthouse. GoKL is a free bus service to the central business district of Kuala Lumpur. Some lines pass by tourist spots like Dataran Merdeka or Merdeka Square, Petronas Twin Towers, and KL Tower.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wisdom from the Road #34

On Gut Feel
Trust it.

We arrived in Beijing Capital International Airport tired, sleepy, and four hours late. It was at least two hours until the first bus out to downtown. We just wanted to get to the hostel and sleep.

I followed my friend out of the airport to the taxi stand. The first cab guy showed us a card listing down the rates: 450 to 580 RMB for our destination. We said no. (We had already been informed by the hostel personnel that it would only cost around 130 RMB by meter.) As I was telling my friend that we should go back inside the airport and ask around, another guy approached us saying that his is a metered taxi. He put our bags into the trunk and we got in. Once in, I checked if there was a meter, but there was none. He was busy getting something on his left side, then turned to the right and connected that something to some wires. After some seconds of tinkering, he showed us his "meter." I had a bad feeling about it and wanted to get out of the taxi and get our bags from the trunk, but was stupidly too tired to persuade my friend. True enough, it was a scam. His "meter" ran up to more than 300 (and on the way, when we passed a toll booth, he said that toll is 80 RMB).

He did take us to our destination but stopped a few meters away from our hostel. It was a little after 4AM and the street was deserted. There was nothing else we could do, but pay up.

Lessons learn: Trust your gut feel. Walk away when you can. If you have failed to do so (like we had), learn from it, but don't let it ruin the rest of your day (and the rest of your vacation).


For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.

Monday, November 30, 2015

What's in a (Business) Name? Cuarenta y seis

Where caddies dined before the Cadillac took over
Spotted in Mabolo, Cebu City by Brennan of Baktin Corporation. Thank you!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

One Day in Kuala Lumpur for Two Years

Been to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, twice, but, regrettably, only spent a day for each visit.

In 2014, we managed to do three things:
  1. Take a mandatory tourist photo of the Petronas Twin Towers. We were too stingy to spend MYR 85 (about Php 1000) to go up to the observatory. How to go to Petronas Twin Towers: Take the LRT to KLCC Station.
  2. Window shop at Central Market. Stingy still for shopping, so it was just window shopping for me. I would rather spend my money on food (see next item). How to go to Central Market: Take the LRT to Pasar Seni Station. Central Market is a 5–minute (400 m) walk from the station.
  3. Eat in Jalan Alor, a food street in Bukit Bintang. How to go to Jalan Alor: Take the monorail to Bukit Bintang Station. Jalan Alor is a 5–minute (400 m) walk from the station.
Petronas Twin Towers

What it says above the entrance

Jalan Alor


In 2015, our one day in Kuala Lumpur was spent sightseeing:
  1. Masjid Jamek, a mosque built in 1907 and is the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur. It was a scorching day and we were in clothes appropriate for the beach and not for a mosque. Thus we could not step foot inside and just took a quick snap from the gate. How to go to Masjid Jamek: Take the LRT to Masjid Jamek Station.
  2. Merdeka Square (aka Dataran Merdeka), where we took pictures of buildings (Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Royal Selangor Club) and went in the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery. For just MYR 5, we saw an awesome 3D mapping of the metropolis (called the Spectacular City Model Show) in the KL City Gallery and had a snack, too (the admission ticket could be used to purchase anything from the gift shop and cafe inside the gallery).  How to go to Merdeka Square: Take the LRT to Masjid Jamek Station. Merdeka Square is a 6–minute (450 m) walk from the station.
Masjid Jamek... as seen from the gate

Merdeka Square

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Inside the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery

Should I attempt a third one–day visit in 2016? Maybe not. But, if and when I do find myself in Kuala Lumpur again, I would be sure to spend more than just a day in this metropolis.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Capsule by Container Hotel at Gateway@KLIA2

Mustachio and friends had eight hours to kill at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) and they had three options:

Option 1 Escape KLIA2 by going to Kuala Lumpur city center, an hour away, to go on a food trip at Jalan Alor.

Option 2 Go to Gateway@KLIA2, the mall within the airport, to shop (some shops are open 24 hours, some up to midnight) or to eat, eat, and eat (most restaurants are open 24 hours).

Option 3 Get some sleep on an airport bench (free) or a proper bed (not free). There are three accommodation options in KLIA2: Sama-Sama Express, Plaza Premium Lounge, and Capsule by Container Hotel. Sama-Sama Express is located in the International Departure area (no need to clear immigration) and is only for guests on transit to another international flight. Plaza Premium Lounge and Capsule by Container Hotel are located at Gateway@KLIA2.


How Mustachio and Friends Killed Eight Hours:

Because their next flight, an international flight, was at 655AM, they decided to spend their time at Gateway@KLIA2 and do Mustachio's two most favorite things: eat and sleep.  (The last train out of KLIA2 was at 1255AM, and the first train leaving KL Sentral going to KLIA2 was at 5AM.)

They ate dinner at Nando's, and bought a tub of yogurt and some fruits from Jaya Grocer. Then checked in at Capsule by Container Hotel, which Mustachio was pretty excited about—it was his first time to stay in a capsule hotel.

Mustachio and friends booked Capsule ahead via the hotel's website: MYR 5 cheaper than the walk-in rate. There are three options: 3 hours (MYR 50), 6 hours (MYR 75), and 12 hours (95 MYR).

Upon check in, they were given a bag (which they could keep) with a towel (to be returned), a key card to access the sleeping area, and a locker key.

They excitedly stored their bag in the locker, went into the sleeping area to see their assigned capsule, inspected the toilet and shower area, then hung out at the lounge or common area.

The capsule was clean and comfortable (might be scary for the claustrophobic). It had two pillows, a blanket, a comfy single mattress, a reading light, a phone (don't forget to request a wake up call!), a small table that folds into the capsule's wall, a secret compartment, an outlet, a shoe compartment, and a roller shade for privacy.

Sleeping Area

Common Area/Lounge

The toilets and shower rooms were clean. Shampoo and soap were provided. The common area or lounge interiors looked really cool with benches made of crates.

Their 6–hour stay at Capsule was pleasant and quickly became a favorite that they stayed there again on their layover at the end of their journey.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Wisdom from the Road #33

On layovers
Layovers can be a bore.
But take this as an opportunity to:
* catch up on your reading
* recharge by sleeping
* get a massage
* make a new friend


Catch up on your reading

Bring a smartphone or tablet loaded with an ebook or two or a whole library of ebooks. Just make sure your gadget is fully charged or that you have your charger or powerbank with the right cable for your gadget. Or, if you're old school like me, a book. But be sure you don't get too caught up in the story that you miss your flight.

If you have a smartphone and there's WiFi, you can also check emails and do some work, but I do not recommend this if you're on vacation!!!


Recharge by sleeping

If you're a professional sleeper, then you can probably catch some Zzzzs in any position anywhere. If you have to sleep in a horizontal position on chairs, don't occupy too many seats please! During peak times, please take just one chair and sleep in a sitting position!!! Don't be a hog taking three extra seats plus one more seat for your bag. If I see you do that, I will sit on you!

If you can only sleep on a bed or a soft and comfortable chaise lounge, you might have to shell out some money to stay in an airport hotel or lounge (if the airport you are in has one). Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 has The Wings Transit Lounge on the 4th floor. It would cost Php500 for a 4–hour lounge stay with a very light meal.

But be sure you don't sleep too deep that you miss your flight.


Get a massage

Some airports have spas or, in the case of small domestic airports in the Philippines, stalls offering massage. But be sure to check the price first...sometimes prices can be high.


Make a new friend

If you don't like reading books, are not sleepy, or don't have money for a massage, how about talking to the person next to you? But before striking a conversation, check that he or she is not reading a book or sleeping!



For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.

Friday, October 30, 2015

What's in a (Business) Name? Cuarenta y cinco

Might be better than a plane.
Spotted in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur by Pinay Travelista. Thank you!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bigote and Friends Go to Mt. Manunggal

Two months ago today, Bigote and some friends went on an adventure. To a historic place in Cebu: Mt. Manunggal, 1003 meters above sea level (MASL), where the presidential plane "Mt. Pinatubo" crashed on March 17, 1957, killing the Philippines' 7th President, Ramon Magsaysay, and 25 other passengers, and leaving only one survivor.

To start off the adventure, Bigote and friends met at the Ayala Center Cebu Terminal where they piled into a van (V-hire, Php 120) headed for the municipality of Balamban. An hour of snaking through the mountains of central Cebu via the transcentral highway, the driver dropped them off at a dirt road which the driver knew to be the easiest and shortest way to Mt. Manunggal.

The winding transcentral highway

These pot heads were seen chilling somewhere along the highway

Bigote and friends tumbled out of the van and were greeted by a blast of cold air and a view of Balamban and Tañon strait. Before starting the hike, the band of adventurers quickly zipped open their bags to fish out their jackets.

They followed the (5 or 6 km) road made up of segments of dirt and concrete to Mt Manunggal, with numerous stops for breath and for photographs. Somewhere along the way, a brown dog decided to be their guide. Whenever the group stopped, the dog would stop and wait too.

The guide dog

Several motorcycles and a truck passed but none offered a ride. No matter. The walk was sprinkled with beautiful scenery, cool greens of grass and trees, some houses, hanging laundry and rubber boots, lots of grey clouds, and welcome gusts of wind.

A segment of dirt road


Green to soothe the eyes

Boots!

In the course of almost two hours, the group encountered two Ys. Ys in the road. On the first fork, the group took the left one. On the second, they took the half concrete road on the right.

In those two hours, the group also encountered many whys. Why did they go for a hike when they could be at home sleeping? Why did they even plan this hiking trip? Why? All those whys were asked with tones of regret while trudging up slopes. And then forgotten about when they reached flat land with the sign "Mt. Manunggal."

Flat land! Almost there!

The group paused for breath and water and when they decided to continue on, the guide dog had disappeared. The dog had probably gotten tired of waiting for these slowpokes. The group continued to follow the road, found some steps in between tall agoho trees, and finally reached the campsite: a wide grassy area with a stage, concrete bleachers, open cottages, and President Magsaysay's monument.

Steps in between tall agoho trees

At the campsite: Ramon Magsaysay's monument and concrete bleachers


But where was the plane's engine that marked the crash site? They looked around the fringes of the campsite and found a girl who pointed them to a small path off to the side of the monument. They followed the path until they found the engine and a list of the passengers.

Mt. Pinatubo's engine

After some mandatory pictures, they pushed on, still following the path, but not knowing where it would lead. Through fog and rain, they eventually reached a row of pine trees...the same pine trees on the flat land with the sign "Mt Manunggal." They chuckled to themselves and, with the wind blowing leaves around, settled on the grass to refuel with snacks and water.

Hitchin' a ride

Note: The same route Bigote and friends took can be accessed by motorcycles or any vehicle. After all, Bigote and friends just followed the road. But if you, like them, take the v-hire and walk, it might be difficult to find a v-hire going back to Cebu City. There is a slightly higher chance of finding a seat on a v-hire going to Balamban, and from Balamban just ride another v-hire back to the city. Or you can stick out your thumb and hitch a ride. Bigote and friends were lucky to have hitched a ride on a truck that was headed to Balamban.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wisdom from the Road #32

On hats and headgear
When Mr. Sun is out, cover your head, not in shame, but in love...for your scalp.

Protect your scalp with a hat, a scarf, or something...anything...from Mr Sun's fierce rays. Worried that your headgear emphasizes the roundness of your head or that you look ridiculous? Don't worry about what other people think. They're not thinking about you at all. Really. Besides, it's not their head that's gonna get a giant piece of skin that will look embarrassingly like dandruff in a few days.



For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What's in a (Business) Name? Cuarenta y cuatro

♫♪ Pearl y shell, from the souv'nir shop ♪♫
Spotted in Coron, Palawan by Doyzkie of iluvcebu. Thanks!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Welcome to Cebu, Family Mart!

Oh, glee when I walked by a manila paper covered section of eBloc Building with a green signage peeking out: Family Mart. My favorite convenience store is finally coming to Cebu! That was on the third week of July.


Family Mart is a Japanese convenience store chain, but, to me, it doesn't evoke memories of Japan, probably because my memories of Japan have been covered by cobwebs. Instead it brings back memories from my trips to South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, where I had at one time or another bought a quick snack or a meal from this convenience store chain.

Family Mart opened its first store in the Philippines in 2013. In just two years, Family Mart has grown to over 100 stores in Luzon, and now it has expanded south, with five branches in Cebu: 
  • eBloc Tower 1, Cebu IT Park
  • eBloc Tower 2, Cebu IT Park
  • eBloc Tower 3, Cebu IT Park
  • Arc One Capitol Square, Escario
  • Streetscape, Maria Luisa Road, Banilad

The five Cebu branches opened simultaneously last July 31 and I was giddy with excitement. Family Mart had many food items that weren't in any of the other convenience stores: bento boxes, ramen, sushi, onigiri, green tea buns, UCC coffee, Kirin beverages, and green tea and black sesame soft serve ice cream.

Bento boxes, salads, ramen, pasta, desserts

Exclusive Family Mart snacks...and green tea Pocky!

Kirin beverages, UCC coffee, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf drinks, and more

Twirl all you can for only Php 30: green tea, black sesame, or combo

The weeks following its opening, I found myself going to Family Mart almost daily. It kind of made me fatter (black sesame ice cream!) and my wallet slimmer.

Clockwise from top left: chicken teriyaki don (Php 125), turkey ham with raspberry cream cheese sandwich (Php 98), smoked ham with swiss cheese sandwich (Php 98), and revel bar (Php 37).

But I couldn't stop myself from coming back for these again and again: chicken teriyaki don, oyakodon, turkey ham with raspberry cream cheese sandwich, black sesame soft serve ice cream, and the revel bar.

Well, that is until my wallet cried out in pain.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wisdom from the Road #31

On Sleep
Get enough of it.
Especially on the night before an adventure.

If you don't, you will be having an adventure in crankyland or in snoozeland, and you cannot appreciate the beauty around you.

I had only had three hours of sleep and the long journey to Carnaza Island had drained what little was left of my energy. Half my time in the island was spent snoozing, missing out on the beautiful sunny weather, the beach, and the company of friends.


For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Guimaras Island Hopping

Alubihod Beach is the jump off point for island hopping trips. Because Raymen Beach Resort's boat was already fully booked for the day, we were pointed to a small booth on the beach, between Raymen Beach Resort and Alobijod Cove Resort. This is the Alubihod Motor Banca Owners Association (AMBOA) booth or the Island Hopping Station.

Our island hopping boat

At the booth, we were asked to write our name and number of persons in the group on the logbook. But we could not choose the time. We were to wait for the next available boat. If they called our turn and we had disappeared into our room or anywhere away from the booth, they would have given the boat to the next person on the list. Not wanting to miss our turn, we positioned ourselves near the booth, all ready with our snorkeling gear and snacks.


Island Hopping rates:
10 pax Php 500 for the first hour plus Php 150 per succeeding hour
15 pax Php 700 for the first hour plus Php 300 per succeeding hour
20 pax Php 1000 for the first hour plus Php 300 per succeeding hour

Our wallets allocated just three hours worth of island hopping and in three hours we were able to visit just five spots.

Fairy Castle
The boatman just pointed Fairy Castle out to us and proceeded to steer the boat to the next destination. From afar it looked like a good place for a swim so we asked the boatman to take us to the shore. Nearing the beach, we were disappointed to see that it was rocky and very shallow.

Lamurawan
Lamurawan was the next place they took us to. It had a small grotto with a nice view of the surrounding islands. But its waters did not tempt us for a swim.

Baras Cave
The boatman and his assistant steered the boat into small and semi–dark Baras Cave. But my friends did not want to swim in semi–darkness. Next please.

Ave Maria Islet
Ave Maria Islet had a small patch of white sand but the rest was just rocks. We spent a bit of time snorkeling in its surrounding shallow waters. Several boatloads of tourists have come and gone, but we were still there looking for fish.

Jannah Glycel Resort
Because we have not had enough of snorkeling in Ave Maria Islet, we asked the boatman to take us to a good place for snorkeling and he brought us to an area near Jannah Glycel Resort. Here we enjoyed looking at the colorful fish, but not at the dead corals.

We weren't taken to one spot that was supposedly included in the standard island hopping route: Pawikan Caring and Feeding Station. Baras Beach and Isla Naburot were just pointed out to us because these were privately owned and off limits. Overall, the island hopping tour in Guimaras was just okay. If you're looking for islands with fine white sand beaches to swim in, you will not find it in this tour. You would be better off just spending your time at Alubihod Beach.


Notes:
  • Take note of the time you started your island hopping trip. If you're on a tight budget, be conscious of your time: if you use up just a fraction of an hour, they will charge for a full hour.
  • Know where you want to go. If you'd like to be taken to the optional areas (see above island hopping route map), let your boatman know. If you won't tell them, then they'd only take you on the standard route.
  • It seemed to me that the boatman was in a hurry to go back and start with another group. Not because he didn't like my face, but because they can make more money that way.


Guimaras:
Guimaras Island Hopping (you're here!)