I think I’ve done the rounds of most middle eastern airlines because for some reason, they have cheaper flights for trips outside of Asia.
For our trip to Italy/Spain, we went with Etihad Airways. The stopover of our flight was in Abu Dhabi.
Let’s run through my basic requirements.
In-flight entertainment. I can’t complain. They have an awesome selection of movies, and their screens are huge!
2. Food Selection. Well, one thing’s for sure–you won’t get hungry. They also have very cute meals for the young ones in case you have kids traveling with you.
3. Special Features. I particularly liked the windows that had a remote control “shade” or filter. You didn’t actually have physical shades or blinds to pull down. To darken the windows, all you needed to do was press a button. Very fancy.
4. Stopover. I think this is something that also needs to be included in the consideration. The entire airport of Abu Dhabi was open. All of the shops and restaurants were open. We arrived there in the wee hours of the morning and we could still shop and eat. It really does help that you can do something while waiting for your connecting flight.
5. Restrooms. My batting average is 3 for 3. I was not happy with the restroom conditions of all middle eastern airlines. I think that at this point, it is safe to say that this is not their forte.
Overall, I’d still fly Etihad again, if the price is right.
I’m doing a thread of smart travels to help those who are planning their future trips make the most out of their journeys.
Madrid, as I’ve learned, is a city that comes alive in the afternoon. Breakfasts at our normal Filipino times (7 to 8 am) is practically unheard of. When you go to the mall at 10 (yes, the mall does open early), don’t expect the dining places to be open earlier than 12 or 12:30.
TIP #1: Breakfast
If your hotel does not serve breakfast, make sure you go to the grocery and buy easy breakfast food that you can prepare, like fruits, cheese and bread. This is especially important if you’re traveling with kids. They will get fussy and no one wants that. Now, if you’re really not keen on making preparations, or stocking food, look for the San Gines Churreria which is open 24 hours. Churros dipped in hot chocolate is a perfectly acceptable breakfast for Spaniards.
TIP #2: Free Walking Tours
Now, if you’re ever wanting to learn about Madrid’s rich history and their leaders (eg. Isabel II), you might want to take advantage of some companies that give free walking tours. All you need to do is sign up online and you’re set for a walk around the city. Cost? Just tip your guide! You’ll also most likely have a coffee break at another Churreria 😊
TIP #3: Free Museum Entrance
Just like Milan, Spain’s museums offer free entrance an hour before closing time. By the time you finish your walking tour, have a coffee break and take a very late lunch (around 3-ish), you’ll most likely be just in time to take advantage of this freebie.
TIP #4: Flamenco!
Wondering what to do with the money you’ve saved taking advantage of all the freebies? Why splurge on a Flamenco night of course! Yes, it’s bit pricey (about €40), but it comes with a free drink and an hour long of feverish dancing! Cap your night off with some paella from the nearby mercato and you’re set!
Milan is quite an expensive place to visit, with museums costing on average € 15, and simple meals at € 10. However, if you’re smart, you can still save a few euros without depriving yourself of a good time.
TIP 1: Transport Cards
There are 2 types of transpo tickets that can get you around the city. One is a €1.50 card that expires within 90 minutes after use. There’s another that’s €4.50, that can be used for the entire day. Now, you might think that the obvious choice is the €4.50 one since it’s for the whole day. But here’s the thing—sometimes, you will really only need to use it twice (going to one place, and then going back to the hotel). That means you’ll actually be better off with the one-time use card. Remember, Milan is a walking city. If you’re going to the center where all the museums and shops are, you just might opt for walking.
*Note: kids 10 and below ride free.
TIP 2: Museums
How many museums can you possibly go through in a day? Now that really depends on the museum and your patience in walking. Some, like the Biblioteca Pinacoteca Accademia Ambrosiana, are all in Italian. While there are important pieces there from Da Vinci, like some paintings and his codex, there are hardly any English translations. You will need an audioguide to survive this. A complete walkthrough might take you about 2 hours. So, assuming you do a museum in the morning, take a leisurely lunch, a walk/in the park/shopping in the afternoon, you should just be on time to avail of the ‘free’ museum pass—around 4 or 5 pm, an hour before the museum closes. I suggest to research about the museum and go directly to its most important pieces to save on time. A beautiful place to visit in the afternoon is the Castellos Sforzesco. You can buy food-to-go and then eat it at the park.
TIP 3: Food
There aren’t really any “cheap” food in Milan, unless you prefer to eat standing up. But there are some good deals. We tried the Trattoria de Pino and it serves 3-course meals for only €16! It also comes with either mineral water or a glass of wine. You can also order ala carte for the young ones. Ask for the Filipino waiter so that he can explain the menu in English.
TIP 4: Souvenir Shopping
I really didn’t do souvenir research in any of my previous travels, until a recent one in Korea. Because there were so many products, I thought it would be best to search the net for recommended ones. I did the same for Italy and got some really good deals!
Unique stuff to buy:
Marvis Toothpaste: Yes, who would’ve thunk it would be a good idea to bring home toothpaste? Well, for one thing, it’s an Italian brand. It has a cult following that swears by it. And it comes in very quirky flavors and great packaging. Buy them in pharmaceuticals or select groceries.
Soaps: Italy is home to scents so don’t forget to grab a couple. I didn’t put here any brand in particular because they had so many suggestions.
Door Knobs: I swear I’ve never seen so many different knobs in my life! Sold in hardware stores
Frankly, I’m not what you would call a beach person. I love a lot of things about the seaside–obviously, one is that in most cases, the air is clean and pollution-free. I love strolling on the sand, looking at seashells and fishies when I go snorkeling and waddling. Swimming, on the other hand, that’s another story altogether. I have a little bit of a fear of the breadth and depth of the seas. And because I am a mom, I am doubly worried that I might lose sight of my child whilst I frolic in the waters.
But, having said that, I still find relaxation whenever I do go the beach. And as I also want you to have as stress-free time when you go with your family, here are five tips that I want to share with you.
1. Have your child wear his/her bathing suit before traveling. I am the type of person who hits the beach the minute I get there. If you’re that type as well, simply wear your bathing suit inside your regular clothes. Tours nowadays begin with island hopping anyway, so it’s most convenient that all you need to do is peel off your outer clothing and you’re good to go! Putting the bathing suits on your kids beforehand also saves on a lot of time. Your super excited kid won’t have to wait for mommy to put on his trunks.
2. Bring an inflatable life vest for your child. I used to pack an actual life vest for my daughter, but it does consume a lot of space. An inflatable life vest solved my packing problems, and it made it easier for us to lug the life vest in our carryon. (FYI: When my child didn’t know how to swim yet, I had her wear a life vest on the beach, just in case a strong wave hit the shore. I know, I am a worrywart. )
3. Bring 2 sets of slippers. You could bring a pair of aqua shoes, or just plain rubber slippers will also do, plus an extra one for when you enter your hotel room. This way you don’t bring in the beach to your room and the bed.
4. Bring mesh bags. Mesh bags are not only great to store your wet clothes in, they’re also awesome for storing your child’s sand toys! Again, this helps lessen the sand you bring home.
5. Check beforehand the government’s policy on shell-picking. There are are some places in the Philippines where bringing home shells from the beach is prohibited. Palawan and Romblon are two of those provinces. Knowing what is allowed will save on heartache when the child refuses to part with his/her beloved collection.
Okay, so the real reason we came back to Hong Kong was because of the Hello Kitty popup grocery that would be closing by the end of May. It wasn’t even a question of whether I’d go back. As my daughter puts it, “You simply have to go there.” So there. I am an obedient mother.
But as it was already our second return to Hong Kong for the year, I was determined that we would not just shop the way we usually do, but also try to experience more of what the city had to offer in terms of food. I was glad to find some dessert gems that we would definitely go back to.
Dim Dimsum – The one that we tried was in Mongkok. Thank goodness there was only a short line outside the restaurant. It is just a tiny place with simple furnishings, but my friends (who were big dumpling fans) really enjoyed eating a lot of different food! I personally liked the presentation of their milk tea, and enjoyed my piggy salted egg custard and pineapple buns!
Oddies Foodies- Located at the Soho district, this dessert place serves egg waffles with gelato. The one we ordered had brownies pressed into it. They also had packed Nutella meringue which you could buy to give away to friends.
Taste Cafe in Macau – Ok, so technically, it’s not in Hong Kong, but if you have time, Macau also has very interesting places to eat in. Sadly, I don’t know the exact location of this place, but it is along Senado, when you attempt to walk to the ruins. They had a purple yam sandwich, that was really a dessert because apart from purple yam, it had condensed milk as a topping!
I’m glad we explored a lot of eats in this trip! Happy travels =)
This year, I made a promise to my family that we would explore the Philippines more. We are avid travellers, but sadly, we rarely choose to go around places in our own country because 1) it is hot most of the time and 2) it almost costs as much, or sometimes more than travelling to certain countries with more pleasant weather. But, I told myself that I wouldn’t make any excuses this time and really put the Philippines in our travel agenda.
Dumaguete was actually our second planned trip around the country. The first one was to the Pagsanjan Falls in Laguna, which was really just a day trip so I don’t have a story for that visit.
Dumaguete surprised me with its natural beauty and accessibility. There are so many gorgeous places to go to in this tiny island of just over a hundred thousand people. But, as we were newbies, we took the more expensive route and hired a tour guide. You can skip this part, and benefit from my experience by reading along and finding a more cost-effective way of going around Dumaguete.
As I’ve said, all the major attractions in Dumaguete are just 30 minutes to an hour away from the main city, so if you’re travelling in a group, just hire a van. This will set you back Php 3,500 per day, but the van is very comfortable and can easily sit 9 people, ideal for families and groups of friends. If you’re on your own, best to hire your own motorcycle guy to bring you to different places. Of course, you have to risk it because Dumaguete doesn’t require helmets for motorcycle drivers and passengers (go figure).
Our hotel was located at the heart of the city, and I still think it’s a good idea to do that since all sights worth seeing are just walking distance from the hotel. Next time though, I would opt to book a hotel facing the Rizal Boulevard because 1) the scenery’s great. You’re overlooking the sea and the island of Siquijor; and 2) all the major restaurants are lined up along Rizal Boulevard.
The Places to Hit
Siliman University- Apart from being one of the oldest universities in the Philippines, it also boasts of its very own anthropological museum and the biggest library in Dumaguete. The library is open to the public, while there is a small fee for entering the museum.
Rizal Boulevard- For anyone who enjoys eating, or hanging out, the boulevard is the best place to walk through. More on what you can eat in this area later.
Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao- Oh my, this is probably one of the most gorgeous places you can visit. It didn’t even take us thirty minutes to get her from the hotel. Once you arrive, you can take a boat to see both lakes from a viewing point.
Manjuyod Sandbar- I’ve been to the Honda Bay sandbar in Palawan, but it’s tiny compared to the 7 km sandbar of Manjuyod. White sand, clear waters, boatmen selling fresh buko, who can say no to this gorgeous location? After you get your fill of walking (if you don’t swim) or swimming, they’ll whisk you off to the middle of the ocean to look for dolphins! Then there’s lunch on the boat where copious amounts of crabs, shrimp and fish will be served.
Pulangbato Falls and Sulphur Mountains- Pulangbato waterfalls is another easy-to-reach place in Dumaguete. You can swim here, so do bring your bathing suits along. Very near it is a hot springs resort that gets its heat from the sulphur mountains. The water is really rusty, and the stones are a magnificent copper color!
Eats Time to Eat!
I would be amiss if I didn’t mention all the wonderful food that you can eat and bring home from Dumaguete.
Budbod sa Tanjay – A good thing to snack on, and a cheap pasalubong to take home is Dumaguete’s version of suman (sticky sweet rice). You can choose from just plain suman, suman with chocolate (the one I got) and suman with mango. This is normally served along the marketplace. If you want to take some home, I suggest you refrigerate it, or store in the freezer until you’re ready to eat. I usually fry mine once I take them out in the freezer. Yummy breakfast!
Panda Fried Ice Cream-Located at Maria Cristina St. (very near Siliman University), this treat is like eating a donut stuffed with ice cream. I really liked it!
Sans Rival Cafe – You can get cheap meals here (some are not even Php 200 a plate), plus you can take home a box or two of their silvanas and sansrival. This, and many more restaurants are found along the Rizal boulevard. That’s it! I hope you learned a thing or two! Happy travels =)
I ‘discovered’ Osaka in 2010, and since then, have made it a pilgrimage country, one that I keep religiously going back to on an almost yearly basis. Here are the top three reasons why I love Osaka:
I love Osaka because it has a proliferation of Daiso/Seria stores, my favorite fabric stores and oodles and oodles of craft supplies. Yes, it might be weird for other people to see that this is my top reason to go back, what with Daiso stores being available here in the Philippines. But, guys! The Daiso stores here are Php 88! The Daiso stores in Japan are just Php 45-50 (depending on the exchange rate). Plus, the stuff available there are really not available here (particularly craft supplies!). So do you understand why it’s the first thing I go to when I arrive in Osaka? (I imagine people shaking their heads at me…hehehe.)
I love Osaka because of the proximity of very interesting places surrounding it. It’s a train ride away from Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara! It’s the home of Universal Studios, the home of Harry Potter! It’s where the Kaiyukan Aquarium is! Castles, temples! They have it all!
I love Osaka because of the food! Every time I’m there, I just have to order gyoza, katsu and karaage. Not the most adventurous set of meals, but I always get a kick out of how authentic the taste is. I have yet to find a gyoza place in the Philippines that can rival Osaka’s vendo gyoza, the cheapest gyoza you can find there! And the desserts are so plentiful! Methinks Japanese, like Filipinos, love their sweets.
So, on to my actual article. On this trip, we really wanted to sample more desserts. This was the first one I tried–a cream bun from Hop Chou ala Creme in the Shinsaibashi-Namba area. The outside looks like its hard bread, but looks can be deceiving! Inside is yummy, cool and creamy filling! I chose a chocolate-flavored one because you can’t go wrong with chocolate. The thing though is that it’s not heavy on the stomach, so you could be tempted to eat more than one bun. Plus there are many flavors to choose from, which is another temptation.
The next dessert I sampled was the waffle-on-a-stick at Maison de Gigi (Shinsaibashi Suji, Chuo-Ku). We each ordered our own flavor, and I again got the chocolate-flavored one, while Bumbum got the strawberry-flavored waffle. Okay, note that this was spring time in Osaka, which may have accounted for the waffle being a bit cold. But that said, the chocolate on mine was very good, dark (the way I like it) and the waffle had the sugar crystals that gave it a bit of crunch. Bumbum polished hers off in no time.
Finally, we ate the small cheesecake tarts in Pablo and the big premium one as well. I wasn’t able to take a picture of the premium cheesecake (too busy stuffing my face with it), but here is how it looks like:
I really loved the premium cheesecake with the creme brulee-esk top. Honestly, if left alone with this cake, I could probably finish off half of it. The burnt sugar top gives a wonderful flavor to this cheesecake.
I wish I could tell you that I ate more desserts, but sadly, I did not. After all, I’m always on a diet 😜
Although not intentional, I’m glad that I got to try a lot of different airlines this year, making it seem like my posts are cohesive and well-planned =).
For a family trip to Germany, we opted to take Emirates. When we were scouting for airlines, we originally planned on getting Singapore Airlines again. But, since we are a big group and Emirates was cheaper, we decided to give it a go. I was dreading it a bit because I really didn’t like the Dubai airport we stopped over in our trip to Greece, but thankfully, I was proven wrong because Emirates apparently had its own terminal, which was much better than the one we landed in the first time around. All the shops were open 24 hours and there was even a live band playing at one point.
On to the good stuff: First, I noticed that the Emirates crew made an effort to be friendly. They gave warm towels before the plane took off, which in my opinion is always a good sign.The stewardess even tried to chat with my daughter. Unfortunately, it was not reciprocated because once she is strapped in, she is in entertainment-mode and is primarily concentrated on how to figure out the screen in front of her. Speaking of entertainment, Emirates had enough movies to keep me busy and not bored with the very long travel time (7 hours MNL to DBX and another 7 from DBX to Germany). The meals were quite edible, with my daughter enjoying her kid’s meal and snack pack; and daddy giving his thumbs up on the double chocolate chip cookies. By the way, my daughter’s freebies included a lunch kit, a travel blanket and a strapped bag loaded with stuff to read and craft. And while this is a small thing, it was very relaxing for me to see that when the crew dimmed the lights, the plane had a lot of pin lights overhead, mimicking a very starry night. Maybe it was to comfort the kids, as the plane was never completely dark, but for whatever reason, it looked quite beautiful. Hubby was also pleased with the leg room (he’s about 6 ft tall). I, on the other hand never seem to notice leg room because I fit anywhere! Hahah, the benefits of being tiny.
But, in spite of all those good things, Emirates would not make it to my Top 3 because of the following reasons: First off, while daughter is happy with her freebies, mommy was not happy at all because she didn’t even get a free toothbrush! They didn’t give away a basic hygiene kit, and they didn’t stock their restrooms with any either. A good airline would either have a basic kit, or have some stocked in their restrooms. A great airline would have both =). Second disappointment was the restroom. I don’t know if it was just coincidence with Middle Eastern airlines, but just like Qatar Air, the bathrooms in Emirates weren’t very well-cleaned.
Overall though, I’d still recommend Emirates, especially when they have a good deal on the price of the ticket =)
I’ve posted two articles about my recent Hong Kong trip, mostly to share its culinary highlights. This will be my 3rd post of another culinary find.
Before you conjure up images of haute Asian fusion cuisine, let me warn you that this is just about the plain old burger. But if burgers are your thing and you happen to be in Hong Kong, then this place might be worth a visit.
One thing I liked about Beef & Liberty was its location. For the duration of my business trip, I was based in the very crowded Central business district so the departure to this gentrified area of old Wan Chai was refreshing. Beef & Liberty was smack in the middle of this quirky and (do I dare say?) “hipster” neighborhood scattered with eclectic shops, trendy residential buildings, and unique bars and restaurants.
This burger joint, which happens to be on the Michelin Guide, is known for its use of beef from grass-fed cattle raised by small farmers in Tasmania – supposedly in an area with the cleanest air in the world. Now, I am very far from being a burger or beef connoisseur so these things have no bearing for me. All I really care about is having a big fat juicy and tasty burger.
Big, fat, and juicy – yes! Plus points for juicy goodness dripping down my fingers.
Tasty – I’m a bit on the border on this because while I definitely taste the savory meat, I prefer mine on the salty side. But that was quickly solved with a dash of salt.
So is it really the best burger in HK as many food writers suggest? I suppose until Shake Shack arrives they have the crown.
Beef & Liberty is located at 23 Wing Fung St, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.
When it comes to food, I usually gravitate towards the hole-in-the-walls and places people’s grandparents and great grandparents might have enjoyed. That’s how influential Anthony Bourdain is in my life!
But the fashion-loving girl in me also craves the fancy-shmancy, posh, and even pretentious places that’s sometimes all about the ambiance than the food. What can I say? I am shallow in many ways.
So you can imagine how it’s extremely satisfying for me to find a place that combines these 2 elements in one restaurant. I found it in Hong Kong’s Mott32.
I must admit, I first learned about this restaurant through a fashion editor who I admire greatly and who just happens to love food. She also has a knack of finding restaurants that are very “editorial”, which I see all the time on her Instagram posts. I was hooked on Mott32 the moment I saw her photo of the oriental/vintage/industrial décor. It was so me!!!
The décor, up close and personal, was more beautiful than the photos. I fell in love with the silk embroidered walls which were reminiscent of old Chinese brocade.
There was also a section of the restaurant whose walls were lined with old calligraphy brushes. The effect was amazing!
There was so much to take in! Even the staircase leading down to the restaurant entrance was gorgeous. There was that feeling of 1930’s Shanghai or Great Gatsby created by the lights, chains, and mirrored panels. I was happy with the visual overload.
Now on to the food…
I can say with confidence that the food in Mott32 is an equal match to its visual extravaganza. The flavors and textures of the deceivingly simple dishes were truly notches higher than the usual Chinese fare. Below were my favorites:
Signature Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Iberico Pork Bun. The bun is very similar in texture as that of the famous Tim Ho Wan but it was the filling that got me. Although I appreciated Tim Ho Wan’s buns, their meat filling was too sweet for my taste. This, however, was on the salty side which I highly prefer.
Crab & Caviar, Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumplings. This takes Xiaolongbao to a whole new level with the very tender and flavorful pork and soup and the decadence of the caviar
BBQ Prime Iberico. Sweet, tender, and oh so decadent. It was actually difficult to finish even though we did not order a lot.
Pan Fried Turnip Cake, Dried Scallops and Shrimp, Dong Guan Sausage. Glad we ordered this because the bite in these cakes helped to balance the richness of our other orders.
I loved this place so much that the only downside was the cost. The food here, even the dimsum, was notably more expensive. I would imagine that some people would not feel that this is worth the splurge. But overall, I was satisfied with the experience.
Mott32 is located at the basement of the historical Standard Chartered Bank Building, Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong.