Month: January 2016

Oh-some Osaka

The most mind-blowing image in Osaka...nay...the world!
The most mind-blowing image in Osaka…nay…the world!

We love to travel, and we love Japan.  Since 2010, we’ve tried to come back at least once a year and experience the wonder of the land of the rising sun. We’ve been to Tokyo and Nagoya, but we’ve been to Osaka the most times. Try to visit between the months of March-May and October-November, where it’s neither too hot nor too cold. June-Sept is usually hot as hell, while Dec-Feb is usually cold as hell (unless you like it in hell). Here are a few of my experiences on the whats, wheres, and hows of Osaka.

We’ve never taken a guided tour in Osaka, so I became the de facto tour guide. All the info I’ve gathered comes from our good friend Google and his sister, Google Maps.  There are also numerous free apps (I use Rail Map Lite) for your phone to help you navigate the complex trains and stations around Osaka. Even without these, though, the stations are full of helpful information (yes, in English) that, depending on your patience and sense of direction, will eventually get you where you want to go. I’ll organize this “guide” in chronological order.

Starting with getting into Osaka via Kansai Airport. We usually get our Yen right after we get out of immigration since I found it hard to find a money changer in the city, but our friend and fellow blogger, Odessa, recently suggested that we get our Yen in Manila for a better rate. I usually book a hotel in the Namba area for two reasons: it’s an awesome place to base your stay, and it’s an easy train ride from the airport.

There are 2 trains going to the city: the JR Airport Express and the Nankai Line. The Nankai Line gets you to Namba Station, while the JR line takes you to Osaka (Umeda) station. If you’re going to more than 2 cities outside of Osaka accessible to the JR Lines (like Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe), I would recommend the 3 or 5 day JR pass, which gives you unlimited train rides (including the Airport train). But if not, you’re better off just buying tickets at the station (or getting a prepaid card, which I haven’t tried, so I won’t discuss it here).

Hotel
We usually get a hotel with a good breakfast selection, using that qualifier to balance out the cost. Our hotel selection process goes like this: near Namba station, good enough breakfast, the pictures featured in Agoda doesn’t look like a prostitute was killed there. We’ve been using Agoda  to book our hotels for a while now, and we’ve collected enough points to either get rooms for free, or get a big discount on 5-star hotels. We stayed at the Osaka Floral Inn with a big group, and we were surprised to find a big room with 2 big beds. We could’ve booked fewer rooms and it would still fit our big group. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but we were very happy with the rooms and breakfast. It also sits right at the entrance of Shinsaibashi, so the location was ideal. Unfortunately, we haven’t been back there since, it seemed to always be fully booked. We’ve also tried Hotel Il Cuore Namba. This is way classier and a bit more expensive than Floral Inn, and is just a few steps from Namba station. The latest hotel we’ve tried is APA Hotel Namba, which is another business hotel. This is the farthest hotel from Namba Station we’ve tried, and on the last day I found out this was closer to the JR Namba station. If you’re staying here, I would suggest taking the Airport Limousine Bus instead of the train, as the bus station is much closer to this hotel.

Food
I would relegate this section to our other contributors like 0de3s5a, since we usually don’t have a planned itinerary for food. We usually walk-in restaurants that have pretty pictures    when hunger finds us, so I can’t really make any specific recommendations. What I can say, though, is to dispel the seemingly popular notion that eating in Japan is expensive. While it’s not hard to find expensive food, it’s equally easy to find reasonably priced food, and I’m not talking about the convenience store variety kind. You can get awesome tonkatsu, gyoza, sushi, and even bentos in the Y300-Y900/person range (P120-P370). All you have to do is walk around (and some of these restos are even in the big malls).

Places to Go
Namba and Umeda
If you took my hotel recommendation, then you’re already here. Commonly accessed through the Namba station, this area is where you basically do your food and shopping duties. Dotonbori, Osaka’s famous food strip, is also here, as well as the long covered shopping street of Shinsaibashi.

Shinsaibashi, huge covered-street shopping complex in Namba
Shinsaibashi, huge covered-street shopping complex in Namba

Whether you’re a budget shopper or a splurger, you will find something here. You will find Uniqlo, Apple, H&M, Tokyu Hands (a giant craft/DIY store), Forever 21, high-end brands, as well as numerous Daiso stores in this area.  Don’t miss Namba Walk as well, which is the underground shopping network that connects the train stations under Namba station. There are plenty of shopping and dining options here. A bit southeast of Namba Station is DenDen town, a place to visit if you’re a big Anime fan. Here you will find maid cafes, gaming areas, and toy shops. It is the equivalent of Akihabara in Tokyo. Another commercial shopping center is Umeda. We haven’t explored that area well (another reason to return). We’ve only extensively explored Yodabashi Camera, a big shopping complex for gadgets, clothes, and toys, as well as a collection of restaurants at the top. This is a must-go for me, as I am an avid toy shopper. You might also have some great deals here with huge discounts for gadgets and accessories (including bags and luggage). Yodabashi Camera can be accessed directly from the Umeda train station.

Namba Walk, shopping center under Namba Station.

Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan Market
After getting awestruck by the giant manta rays and spider crabs at Osaka Aquarium, cross-over to the Tempozan Market to get some meals and do some shopping. If your kids still have energy, tour them around the Lego Discovery park in the same building.  Use Google Maps to determine if you can reach it by bus (Bus 88), as it drops off/picks up right at Tempozan Market. We used to take the train here, and some of our groupmates complained about the long walk.

Lego Discovery Center in Tempozan Market, right beside Osaka Aquarium.

Kobe
I know the first thing that comes to mind when “Kobe” is mentioned is beef, but unfortunately, I cannot eat beef anymore. Kobe is about an hour away from Osaka by train, and in the two times that we’ve been there, we’ve only been visiting one area: IKEA, UCC Coffee Museum, and Kobe Science Museum.

UCC Coffee Museum, with free espresso shots and a UCC history test with certificate.
UCC Coffee Museum, with free espresso shots and a UCC history test with certificate.

These three places are all within crossing distance from each other. After letting the kids expend all their energy in the science museum, we took our lunch at Ikea (probably a force of habit from living in Los Angeles). Check the websites for museum closures, as museums are usually closed on Mondays (though in this case, the coffee museum has a different schedule than the science museum, so plan your trip accordingly).

Nara
If you love deer, walking, and temples, then head on to Nara, about an hour’s train ride away. It’s pretty easy to get to the deer park and Todai-Ji Temple, which features giant buddhas and miniature dioramas. If you

It took every ounce of her courage to fake pat a deer 10 meters away.
It took every ounce of her courage to fake pat a deer 10 meters away.

want an unforgettable experience with the deer, buy a bundle of deer crackers the vendors are selling there. You will have a new appreciation for Bambi.  We usually spend the morning and have lunch in this area. You can be back in Osaka for some more shopping as early as 3pm.

Universal Studios
Aside from the usual Universal Studios rides and features, probably the main reason to come here is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It can be tricky getting in though, as apparently you need some kind of lottery ticket to avoid the long lines (and there are long lines, every single day, whether it’s a holiday or not). If you know Japanese or someone who can navigate a Japanese website, get your reserved and special passes to Harry Potter on the Universal Studios Japanese website (yup, it’s not available in English). And it wouldn’t be Universal Studios Japan without Hello Kitty.

What? Hello Kitty in Japan? No way!
What? Hello Kitty in Japan? No way!

You will find live Hello Kitty bands, Hello Kitty fashion museums, HK cotton candy…you get the idea. If you decide to skip the park, you can also stroll around Universal City walk to eat and shop.

Budget Shops

A trip to Osaka is not complete if we don’t bring shopping bags home from the following budget shops: Daiso (Y100), 3 Coin (Y300, found in the subway shopping centers of Umeda and Namba, as well as in the covered street shopping center of Shinsaibashi), and Seria (another Y100 store, classier than Daiso). These shops are all over Osaka, a quick consult on Google Maps will help you find them.

Other Places to Go
Another point of interest is the Nissin Ramen Museum

Customize your own Nissin cup noodle!
Customize your own Nissin cup noodle!

in Ikeda (Ikeda station, accessible from Umeda Station). It’s about 30 minutes away from Umeda. There is a tourist guide right at the Ikeda station exit, and is about a 10-minute walk to the museum. Aside from learning about the history and evolution of the cup noodle (free admission), you can also customize your own Cup Noodle. So if you want a shrimp-chicken-beef with egg and curry cup noodle, you can make it here! Also visit Osaka Castle for some history and culture,

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle

but expect to walk for a bit as it is a huge complex and far away from the train station.

As you can see, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what we can do in Osaka. We haven’t even explored Kyoto so much (about an hour’s train ride away) except for the Toei Studio Park. We’ve barely explored Kobe. Osaka and the cities nearby are huge, and we’re looking forward to visiting it again numerous times and still discover new places every time.

 

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Hooked on Hallyu

My name is Odessa and I’m a K-Drama addict. There, I’ve said it and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m hooked on Hallyu.

Hallyu or the Korean Wave is Korea’s greatest import. Korean dramas and Korean pop (K-pop) gained popularity in the 90’s and has spread not only in Asia but in Latin America and United States as well.

In the Philippines, “Koreanovela” was first broadcast in 2003. Local networks have been constantly airing them ever since. According to Wikipedia, the first Koreanovela aired here was “Bright Girl.” And I remember I used to watched it then. But my fascination with K-Drama didn’t start there. It actually began when I read an article at refinery29.com more a year ago about “Coffee Prince.” Since then, I have been addicted.

One of the many reasons why I liked K-dramas is because of its format. They have a pre-determined number of episodes, usually 16. A couple of episodes are added depending on the show’s popularity. Meaning, the storyline has a definite end and it doesn’t drag on forever. It’s just like watching a really long movie.

Korean dramas are also diverse. They deal with a lot of topics. There are historical dramas, medical dramas, crime, television production, cooking, horror, comedy, and of course, romance. I noticed that they are well-researched, especially the medical and historical, ones. Plot and story lines are generally very complex, not usually straight forward. Some dramas feature a lot of prologues and epilogues to explain these storylines. Admittedly, many plots involves a chaebol (rich heir) falling for a poor girl. Sometimes, it’s just cringingly cheesy, but often times it’s much more than it seems, and the poor girl can kick some serious behind. And I really like dramas with a strong female character who doesn’t need a leading man.

That is not to say there aren’t bad dramas. Believe me, there are. There are shows that I’ve thought were a complete waste of my time. I wondered why I bothered watching past episode 4.

Here are a few of my favourite K-Dramas. Almost all of them are light, comedic-dramas and romance. I prefer not getting depressed over tragic endings. I’d take getting giddy and happy every time. I’m shallow like that.

*Descriptions taken from Dramago website.

Secret Garden 313

Drama Titles:

Sikeurit Gadeun, 시크릿 가든

Description:

The drama tells the story of Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin), an arrogant and eccentric CEO who maintains the image of seeming perfection, and Gil Ra Im (Ha Ji Won), a poor and humble stuntwoman whose beauty and body are the object of envy amongst top actresses. Their accidental meeting, when Joo Won mistakes Ra Im for actress Park Chae Rin, marks the beginning of a tense, bickering relationship, through which Joo Won tries to hide a growing attraction to Ra Im that both confuses and disturbs him. To complicate matters further, a strange sequence of events results in them swapping bodies.
I have to say that this one os my favourite. Primarily because the female lead character is one tough chick. Damsel in distress, she is not. There is a fantastical twist, but if you can get over that, this one’s really good, worth watching over again.

Healer 4933

Drama Titles:

Hilleo, 힐러

Description:

A mysterious messenger of the 22nd century, an online newspaper reporter who only concerns her own interests, a popular reporter who agonizes over the truth and reality. When these three people meet, a passionate romance starts and the truths from the past and present reveal themselves to the world. This drama features young people and how they grow into real reporters.
It’s about an annoyingly persistent female reporter who like to get her way, and a shady guy who falls in love with her.

My Love From Another Star 3670

Drama Titles:

My Love From the Star, My Lover From The Stars, You Came From the Stars, 별에서 온 그대/Byeoleseo On Geudae

Description:

Do Min Joon is an alien who lands in the Joseon era, and then lives through the next four hundred years to the present day where he works as university professor and falls in love with a haughty top actress, Chun Song Yi.
The breakout drama of 2014. It would not be fair if I leave this one out.

Fated to Love You (Korean)

4451

Drama Titles:

Woonmyungcheoreom Neol Saranghae

Description:

An ordinary woman happens to spend one night with the successor of a large company. She finds herself being pregnant…..

This one is just so damn cute. And I like the part where the “ordinary woman” makes something of herself.

67Coffee Prince

Drama Titles:

The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince

Description:

The life of Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) is not easy; she works many jobs to pay off debts and even gave up her feminine image. Choi Han Kyul (Gong Yoo) is the heir of a big food company, but his grandmother wants him to settle down, so she arranged many dates for him. After Eun Chan bumped into Han Kyul and was mistaken for a boy, Han Kyul decided to hire Eun Chan to be his gay lover in order to avoid the arranged dates. Desperately in need of money, Eun Chan had no choice but to accept. Han Kyul’s grandmother also made Han Kyul in charge of a filthy coffee shop in danger of being bankrupt. Eun Chan begged to work at the coffee shop, and not long after, feelings start to spark, except, how would Han Kyul accept his “homosexuality”?
The drama that started it all for me. Great acting by the female lead, and a very handsome male actor.

5565Oh My Venus

Drama Titles:

O Mai Bineoseu, Oh My Venus 2015, 오 마이 비너스

Description:

Kim Young-Ho (So Ji-Sub) is a personal trainer for Hollywood stars. Even though he comes from a wealthy family background, he suffered a devastating injury during his childhood days. Now, he overcomes his problems with patience and stubbornness. Kang Joo-Eun (Shin Min-A) is 33-years-old lawyer. She has struggled to support her family. Now, Kang Joo-Eun is overweight and not so attractive.
Another Cinderella story, I know. But again, don’t judge the book just yet. The female lead is great, and whatever she puts her mind to it, she can do it, just as she always says. So Ji-sub, the male lead is hot. Like sizzling.

5320My Love, Eun Dong

Drama Titles:

Beloved Eun Dong

Description:

A top star’s love for one woman spanning over 20 years.
Speak of enduring love. This is the kind of love every woman dreams of. That is it.

2855A Gentleman’s Dignity

Description:

A drama about the careers and love lives of urban professionals. It will tell the story of four men in their forties as they go through love, breakup, success and failure. Kim Do Jin, an architect with a scathing tongue have romantic relationship with strict high school teacher Seo Yi Soo, who moonlights as an umpire at amateur baseball games. Im Tae San is dating a cold-hearted woman but wonders if there is someone else out there for him. Choi Yoon tries to heal his heart after losing his wife seven years ago. Lee Jung Rok marries an older woman for money but may lose his comfortable lifestyle in a divorce.
So funny, this one. Each episode has a prologue and an epilogue. The four main actors chemistry is undeniable. It has a lot of LOL scenes, always a good way to pass time.

5665.jpgCheese in the Trap

Drama Titles:

Chijeu In Deo Teuraep, 치즈 인 더 트랩

Description:

Hong Seol and Yoo Jung attend the same college, but they couldn’t be more different. Hong Seol is a poor, unpopular student with no money, while Yoo Jung is rich, well-liked, extremely smart, and popular. Hong Seol just wants to get through her college career quietly, but finds herself getting caught up in whatever Yoo Jung drags her into. Can Hong Seol break away, or will she continue to be the only person who sees Yoo Jung’s true self?
I’m just on the 3rd episode on this one, but I’m really liking it a lot. Complicated characters, especially the male lead. We’ll see how it goes.

3419Running Man

Drama Titles:

none

Description:

Running Man (Korean: 런닝맨) is a South Korean variety show; a part of SBS’s Good Sunday lineup, along with K-pop Star (K팝 스타). It was first aired on July 11, 2010. This show is classified as an “urban action variety”; a never-before-seen new genre of variety shows. The MCs and guests complete missions in a landmark to win the race. It has garnered attention as being the come-back program for Yu Jae-suk, the main MC of the program, after leaving Good Sunday’s Family Outing in February 2010. 

This one is a variety show. As time went on, I got to know Korean stars and they appear on this show. I really find this one funny, really laugh-out-loud funny, like people-looking-at-me-LOL funny. I am amazed by the lengths the production people go through with  different challenges/missions at every episode.

So there. I hope you would enjoy watching Korean Dramas as much as I do!

 

 

 

Have Kids, Will Travel

Trips aren’t just for the young (and single!) ones. As Titas (and Tito), the call of adventure still beckons. Even if it means towing everything with you because the baby *might* need something!

Let us share some of our tips when traveling with babies, toddlers and kids.

Val’s plane tips:
1. Bring extra clothes for you and your baby in your hand carry bag.
Surely you’ll remember to pack extra clothes for your kid/s, but, remember to bring a set for you, too! One time, my baby vomited and who do you think still smelled of it all throughout the flight?

2. Never use the water from the toilet for anything.
Not even to wash their toys with. Ask the flight attendant for some bottled water.

3. Never mind the other passengers.
You paid for your tickets, too. Just help your kid. I used to feel guilty but most people understand specially if they are parents themselves. For those annoyed people, just chill and ignore. Karma has a way to get back at them.

4. Bring a carrier and or stroller.
Life savers for non-walkers!

5. Pack snacks.
While traveling, it’s difficult to know when hunger will strike. Flight attendants usually serve the kids first. But, you never know! Better to have snacks ready so the kids won’t be h-angry.

6. Wipes are handy.
Use them everywhere! Wipe down the plane seats, tray, remote control. Little hands, faces, bottoms.

IMG_0841Val started traveling with Little A when she was barely 3 months old. They both wish to travel more often!

Od’s tips:
1. Have medications ready and on-hand.

Store medicines like paracetamol, antibiotics, antihistamines in your carry-on luggage. You’ll never know when you might need them. Just make sure you store them in ziplock bags and that they are not more than 100ml in size.

2. Antihistamine is your friend.

When all else fails, a little antihistamine  will go a long way. Especially for long-haul flights.

3. Info-ready

Put all your family’s passport information in one place. You can have it printed out in a small paper or on the notes in your cellphone. So you don’t need to take out all your passports when filling out immigration forms.

4. Carry-ons

US domestic flights charge an arm and a leg for checked-in luggage. So have all your stuff in a carry-on luggage. I discovered most hotels have laundry rooms where you wash and dry your clothes for a few cents.

5. Disposable Bottles

For small babies still bottle-feeding, use disposable ones. I used Playtex. That way, you won’t have to bring a bottle sterilizer which is too bulky. I just wash the non-disposable parts like the nipples and bottles with dishwashing liquid and boil them in hot water in electric kettles provided by hotels. Then just throw away the plastic bottles.

6. Small Formulas

When using baby milk formulas, just bring the small tetra-packed ones that come in boxes. Avoid bringing the large cans. That way, when you finish with one formula box, you can just throw that away and you don’t have to lug the big can with you all the time. Plus, you’ll have extra luggage space.

7. Clothes

Packing cubes are the best. I have packing cubes color-coordinated for each one of us. Pack socks and underwear in one cube, sleeping clothes in a cube,  and going-out clothes in another. Keeps all your belongings organised. To lessen luggage space, repeat sleeping clothes. You can use them twice or thrice, so you don’t have to bring much. You just use them for sleeping, anyway.

8. Huwag Maselan!

Don’t be overly picky or sensitive when it comes to our kids. They are more resilient than we think! It’s okay to get a little dirty sometimes, desensitizes them even! A little dirt doesn’t hurt.

IMG_8204

Od is a courageous mom who travelled to the US alone with 3 kids. The youngest was just 15 months old then.

 

 

Freya’s Tips:
1.  If you’re traveling with a kid on stroller, always remember that Elevator is your friend too. Make sure to look for them in malls and train stations. In Japan, all train stations have elevators. Use them.
2. Make sure to bring enough milk and diapers.
3. Bring toys and things that can distract them when they’re not in the mood. This comes handy esp. during long haul flights.
4. If you are traveling with more than 1 child, talk to the older ones to help take care of the little one. Or get them to agree that they will behave and will not add to the stress.
5. Pray for patience. Everyday.
6. Make sure you have a day that is light and not full packed so u and the kid/s can rest.
7. Baby carriers and strollers!
8. Take Vitamins and energy drink for you so you can last!
9. Bring a yaya if you have budget!

12548987_10206562616436471_998869705871094726_n

Freya, a mom of 3 girls aged 8, 7 and 3, travelled recently to Osaka.

So, go travel! It is one of those few things you buy or pay for that makes you richer– and your family closer 🙂

Single?  Travel!

Single? Travel!

My group recently collaborated on an article about travelling with kids and although I have been asked to give my contribution, for the life of me, I could not come up with anything!  The answer is quite obvious: I am single with no kids.

But the thought of writing about travel excited me because it is one of my life’s passions.  I say this without exaggeration because travel has changed my life.  It has definitely made a big impact on how I developed into the (what I believe) multi-faceted person I am today.

Therefore I am writing this to share my point of view on travel.  I hope this will resonate with other single ladies like me (as well as those happily attached who continue to live the single life).

travel18

One:

Leave the budget travel to the backpackers.  If you are single in your 30’s (like moi!), the likelihood is you have a stable job and some extra money.  What differentiates you from some young travellers is that extra spending money.  Although I am very budget-conscious, I also believe in spending extra for experience.  I’ve had my fair share of budget travels and I have travelled with friends whose food choices are limited to the local KFCs and McDonald’s.  Those made for great memories too!  But in your 30’s you might have reached a level of sophistication that makes you seek more out of travel than the usual stamp in your passport, city tours, and pictures in the usual sightseeing landmarks.

Our tastes vary but I’m sure it’s not hard to find that special something that will up the ante of your travel experience.  Why not try to…

Stay in a heritage hotel!  What better way to experience a city than to stay in a place that is part of its history?  Heritage hotels are usually historical buildings (old palaces, government buildings, private homes, and the like) that were repurposed as hotels.  The next best thing for me would be boutique hotels that offer something unique, luxurious, or authentic to the country you are visiting.  Some surprisingly come at very decent prices.

travel4
Hotel Monaco, Washington DC, housed in the neoclassical Post Building built in 1839
travel20
Medieval farmhouse along the River Thames converted to a Four Pillars hotel
travel1
Serene Angkor Village, Siem Reap
travel3
Going color-crazy in Udaipur, India

Make a reservation to the restaurant of that chef you have been admiring for years … and try his/her tasting menu!

travel5
MORIMOTO is the man!
travel6
At the bistro of one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Mario Batali
travel7
Bukhara in New Delhi.  One of the world’s best restaurants.  A favorite of Putin! (they say)

Get great seats to that play/ballet/opera/football game you have only dreamt of watching.

travel8
Getting a little culture with Madama Butterfly.  Metropolitan Opera.

Two:

Shop for the unique.  I love to shop and I love to look for bargains – and I consider this a talent.  But my habits when in Manila are quite different when I’m abroad.  I avoid the outlet stores and global retail stores whose merchandise I would normally find back home.  Yes, the reduced prices are usually tempting, but I don’t travel to look for bargains anyway.

Instead, I make an effort to find local designers because fashion is also my passion.  I also look for clothes and accessories that are unique to the country – and these may not necessarily be made by local designers.  If you do enough research and go around enough, you will find good sources of these items that may be hand-made, has special beading or embroidery, use indigenous fabric, etc. that are usually made by local artisans.  My finds are not necessarily expensive.  In fact, there are great bargains to be had if you know where to look.

travel9
Shopping in Hanoi

I don’t limit my hunting to clothes.  I also look for work by local artists and craftsmen.  So I make a point to visit art galleries too.

travel2
Gallery hopping in the Dominican Republic. I did not buy this painting but I brought home 2 small ones.
travel19
Searching for a thangka in Nepal.  Found one that fit my home just right.

And because I am a thrifty person by heart…I cannot resist flea markets!  I always try to find one when I am abroad. The appeal of flea markets for me is not just the curiosities I will find but the kind of interaction I can experience.  If you are used to flea markets, you will know that the sellers are usually very accommodating.  You can ask where the item is from, from what era, how it was used, who used to own it, etc…

travel12
Brooklyn Flea
travel10
Chatting up this adorable seller at a flea market in Barcelona.
travel11
Bag from the 60’s.  One of my flea market finds in the US.

All of these for me make for the ultimate shopping experience.

Three:

Meet people.  When you are single there will always be a time when you are confronted with the option of travelling alone.  The older you get the harder it will be to find someone who is in sync with where you want to go (Morocco anyone?) how much you want to spend (no to the tasting menu?!?!?), or have the same free time as you.  It just happens!

But every stumbling block is also an opportunity and one of the best things is really the opportunity to make friends.  If I can’t travel with anyone, I will go out on my own and find other travellers who are happy to share the experience with me.  With the travels I’ve made (enough but not a lot), I have gained friends from different parts of the world.

One of the easiest ways how is to join a travel group or organized tours.  It’s always fun to go around town with other people – especially if you need someone to take your pictures (hehe).  Travel groups and tours can vary in size, specialization, and profile of travellers.  I’ve experienced going around town on a food trip with only 2 other people.  You can’t help but talk, laugh, and share about your lives – really great way to meet new friends!

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Robin in BKK.
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Tu and David in Vietnam
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The Travel Factor crew in Nepal
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The Brits in Harlem!

I have many other thoughts to share but those can wait until my next posting.  My main message is really for single ladies to go for what they want.  Want to travel but have no companion? Travel anyway!  You have extra money? Splurge on that boutique hotel/spa!  Want a special memento?  Get that hand-embroidered gown!  You have the power to live the life you want in your own terms.

New Travel Words to Watch Out for in 2016!

travel-words

Let’s start the year right with a bit of light comedy and a dash of cornballs! Here are my best bets for new travel words that might be added to the Oxford Dictionary…nay…Wikipedia…or best yet, the Urban Dictionary!

Note: If you choose to use these words, please do credit the inventor/s =) 

Ca-toes-trophe
When your toes look and feel like they’ve been strapped to the rails of a train after a long day of nonstop shopping and/or sight seeing.
Fine Dime-in
You promise your husband that you will eat in good restaurants when you travel. But due to poor shopping estimations (eg. You overshopped yet again), you feed your family with a daily bowl of steaming hot instant noodles from the nearest vendo or convenience store.

 

Harry Packer

You have magic skills in packing all your newly bought stuff! Now, how to make your bill  disappear when the airline informs you that your bags are overweight?

Cebukas Na Ako Tutulog

When you stay up in the wee hours of the night to wait for a seat sale in Cebu Pacific and catch up on sleep in the office instead

Cebukas Na Ako Papasok
That extra day you will definitely need after an all-nighter of waiting up for Cebu Pacific’s delayed flights.
Here’s to many, many travels this year!
A Secret Garden: Maria Luisa’s Garden Room

A Secret Garden: Maria Luisa’s Garden Room

In the Makati CBD where I work, there is an abundance of nice places to eat at all price points.  One does not need to look far to find a great and unique place.  Maria Luisa Garden Room is a great example of such of those good finds.  Its appeal, for me, is not the food – although the food is really good here too!  It is tucked just adjacent to the bustling Ayala Avenue but what welcomes you as you approach is almost an image of “grandma’s house and garden”.  And it’s a real garden!

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I understand that this members-only restaurant is mainly patronized by women who love plants and gardening.  But my boss (who is male) is a member here too.  So I guess he is one of the exceptions to this demographic.  But the place definitely looks like it was decorated with “ladies who lunch” in mind.

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I have been invited to lunch here too many times to remember.  Thus, I’ve become familiar with some of their favourites.  For the newbies, I would recommend they try either the Chilean mussels, the duck confit, the cassoulet with fabada and sausages, and the Scandinavian platter.  It being the New Year, however, my most recent visit to the Garden Room was all about the healthy stuff.

My most recent meal consisted of the Scandinavian platter – which is one of my favourites.  It’s not often that you find a restaurant that serves pickled herring.

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I also tried their cold cucumber soup which tastes just like the Pinoy cucumber salad but purified and served in a fancy martini glass.

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The salads here are always good.  This time, I had the Jamon Iberico salad.

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The restaurant bakes their own bread every day which is a treat for me!

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Although this is a members-only restaurant, I understand the membership is quite reasonable.  If you are regularly in Makati, it’s good to have a secret haven like this.  Maria Luisa’s Garden Room at the Makati Garden Club is located in Recoletos cor. Ayala Avenue.

A Healthy Start: Misto Salad Lunch Bar, Seda Hotel

A Healthy Start: Misto Salad Lunch Bar, Seda Hotel

Nothing screams healthy as well as a fresh green leafy salad; and for the New Year, what better way to convince yourself of living up to your resolutions than heading to the salad bar.

I did just that on my first day of work.  My boss, who loves food as much as I do, introduced me to the salad lunch bar at Seda Hotel’s lobby restaurant, Misto.  Like the rest of the hotel, Misto has a clean and minimalist feel, with only a few black & white photographs as accents.  It’s a great space for a quick lunch meeting in the BGC area.

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For P650++, you can help yourself to a generous spread of soup, several kinds of greens, other vegetables like corn, carrots, cucumber, and olives, as well as various nuts, dates, and cheese.  My favourite, of course, has to be the smoked salmon which I topped generously on my self-made salad.  There were other protein choices as well such as grilled salmon, bacon (which I avoided!), grilled chicken breast, and tuna.

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There was an option to make your own salad or go for the prepared varieties.  I personally find it more fun to create my own.  There was an option to create your own sandwich as well, complete with enough varieties of bread.

Any salad bar is not complete without fresh fruit juices.  The selection here was few, but just right.  There were also a few choices of veggie-infused water.

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Overall, I find the salad bar sufficient and well-worth the price.  It pales in comparison to the Salad Room in Tapenade, Discovery Primea, which I love!  However, the Salad Room’s recent price increase does not make it an easy go-to place anymore.  Misto is a good alternative.

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Misto is located at the lobby of Seda Hotel, 30th Street cor 11th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City