Category: Travels

Discover Desserts @ Hong Kong

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!

Filled with hot salted egg custard, these pig buns are cute AND yummeh!
The ice outside the milk tea keeps the drink cold, but doesn’t dilute the taste!

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.

Egg waffles are a very popular dessert in HK

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!

Taste served cold brew coffee in this beautiful container

I’m glad we explored a lot of eats in this trip! Happy travels =)

 

Dumaguete on the Cheap

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.

Transportation

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).

Accommodations

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.

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.

The sprawling campus grounds of Siliman University
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!

Twinning in Pulangbato Waterfalls
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 =)

Chocolate silvanas? Yes, please!

Sweet, Sweet Osaka

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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!
  3. 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:

*photo borrowed from http://mogmog.us/category/review/106/

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 😜

 

Airline Review: Emirates

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 =)

If Burgers are your Thing

If Burgers are your Thing

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

If You Wanna Go Fancy in Hong Kong

If You Wanna Go Fancy in 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!!!

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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.

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There was also a section of the restaurant whose walls were lined with old calligraphy brushes.  The effect was amazing!

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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.

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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.

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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

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BBQ Prime Iberico.  Sweet, tender, and oh so decadent.  It was actually difficult to finish even though we did not order a lot.

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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.

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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.

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Mott32 is located at the basement of the historical Standard Chartered Bank Building, Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong.

One Lucky Goose

One Lucky Goose

On a recent business trip to Hong Kong, I was lucky to have stumbled upon a gem of a restaurant in the middle of the pulsating central business district.

 

I just came straight from the airport, ready to freshen up, when I found out my hotel room would take about an hour to get ready.  Faced with the unexpected idle time, I decided to explore the area right outside my hotel, which was actually the (in)famous party streeet Lan Kwai Fong.  So there I was, walking along the side streets and merrily observing the work crowd who seemed to be rushing through their lunch hour, when I spotted a long line in front of what looked like a very unassuming establishment with roasted meat on display.  I had no plans so I shrugged and thought I’d join in on the fun.  What have I got to lose?

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It was fate.

The stars aligned perfectly on that particularly warm lunch hour.  I would come face to face with the most delicious roasted duck I have ever tasted in my life!  Well, not exactly duck…but its close cousin the goose.

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The storefront was in Chinese characters so I learned while checking my GPS and waiting patiently in line that I was at Yat Lok Goose Restaurant – made famous for gaining a Michelin star.  I was still a bit wary though.  Places with long lines have a way of building expectation and disappointing me in the end…but not this one.

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The cramped space, unfriendly staff, and steep prices (HKD 165 for the goose thigh/leg) all made up for it.  The meat had the perfect combination of crispy skin, melt-in-your-mouth fat, and juicy and very flavorful meat all the way to the bone.  All it really needed was a hot bowl of rice and I was in heaven.

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I loved it so much that I went back for the same thing before heading to the airport.  I even brought a friend along!

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Yat Lok Restaurant is at G/F, 28 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong

 

Fukuoka Food Delights Part 2

ramenA food trip to Fukuoka would not be complete without ramen. Hubby researched that Ramen Stadium was a good place to pick our ramen meal, and so off we went! Ramen Stadium is a floor located inside a beautiful mall, called Canal City Mall, so yey to hitting two birds with one stone! As hubby is very sensitive to certain meats and veggies (no cabbage, beansprouts, potatoes and beef), we had to be extra careful in choosing our ramen. We went to Marufuku Ramen (I hope I got the name right…all signs were in Japanese) and selected via their vendo a Tonkotsu Ramen. Of course I’ve had these before so was really curious what the difference would be. For 800++ yen, we got a bowl with two pieces of chasu, kelp, an egg and nori on the side. We noted that the aroma of the ramen was a bit stronger than what we were used to. Methinks its because the chasu was smoked. It did not disappoint. The flavor of the broth was very rich, the chasu was so soft it was like chewing butter. Noodles were nicely cooked, not soft or soggy, rather on the firmer side. Even Brie polished off her plate! Maybe next time, we shall order more meat, but again for the price, quite a satisfying meal.

I’m sure it will also be worthwhile to visit the other famous ramen places at the Ramen Stadium, Canal City, Hakata.

Fukuoka Food Delights Part 1

To celebrate our 15 years of marital bliss, hubby and I decided on a less familiar, but still familiar travel destination: Fukuoka, Japan. Why Fukuoka? The answer: food!We’ve always been a great lover of Japanese food, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to see what Fukuoka had to offer. Incidentally, we discovered that some of our fave Jap food in the Phil (Uncle Tetsu for cheesecake and Nagi Universal Ramen) originated from Fukuoka.

Just so you know, we’re not really foodies. We don’t do in-depth research on the places to eat in. We’re kinda the “let’s-get-lost-and-go-into-the-resto-with-nice-food-pics” people. So on our first night, that was exactly what we did. Our hotel wasn’t really in the busy and tourist-y district so no English translations. When we entered Ten Jin Cha Han, we pointed to what looked good, while our very gracious waitress tried to understand what we were attempting to say. I ended up with a set meal composed of thinly sliced beef steak cooked in garlic sauce, cha-han (fried rice with pork bits) and vegetable salad. Hubby ended up with cheesy cha-han and Brie got her safe, but sure karaage. Since I got the house specialty, I assumed it would taste decent. And boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t decent…it was obscenely delicious! The beef required very little chewing and was flavorful, so good choice on the garlic sauce (the other option was Wasabi sauce). Although I’ve always been a “well-done” kind of beef-eater, I have to say that their medium-rare is heavenly. Didn’t taste a drop of blood, no slimy aftertaste. Each slice had a bit of pesto, which added a very interesting flavor. And it paired nicely with the cha-han. Hubby also gave a thumbs up to his meal and said the karaage was flavorful and crispy. To top it all off, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. It was actually a very cheap meal (1,600 Yen, or about 800 Php) for ALL of us. Yup! That’s what I call a successful first day!

Palawan: Paradise Found

Palawan: Paradise Found

 

I am not proud to say this… but I am a foreigner in my own country.  I am even a foreigner in my own hometown of Cebu.  Most tourists know it better than me!  I am always dreaming of seeing other countries that I sometimes overlook the many beautiful natural wonders this country has to offer.

I mean, I have never denied that the Philippines is beautiful.  But being out there and experiencing it firsthand is something I can definitely do much more of.

But hey, it’s never too late to make changes right?

And so I went on my maiden trip to one of my country’s most loved, most talked-about, and most praised beautiful islands: Palawan.  And what a wonder it truly is!

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Our trip was a toss between 2 popular areas in Palawan: El Nido or Coron.  Both locations are equally beautiful but my sisters and I finally settled on Coron – mainly because we discovered Club Paradise, a resort that offered a huge expanse of rose-gold beachfront and clear turquoise waters only steps away from our cabana.  Now that was hard to beat!

The amenities of Club Paradise leave much to be desired.  It was obvious that the resort was old and in need of renovation (which was actually ongoing when we went there).

But who cares about amenities when you have the perfect beach??? No one!!! Not me!!! The place was perfect!!!  We were really in paradise!!!

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I will let my pictures do all the talking…

The gorgeous beachfront.  The best place to watch time go by.

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The unbelievably crystal clear turquoise waters

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The gorgeous sunset.  Namaste to that!

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For the times we wanted to be active, there was a great hiking trail with gorgeous views of the entire island of Club Paradise.

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Not in photos but definitely a big deal were the snorkeling sites only a few meters away from the beachfront.  It was a surreal experience to be surrounded by a school of silver fish – not once but 4 times in less than 2 hours!

It is true…paradise is real!

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Namaste!

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