Tag: 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 =)

 

Airline Review: Turkish Airline

We were planning a trip to London and scouting for good, but reasonably priced airlines via Sky Scanner. Turkish Air came up as an option and when my husband researched on it, he found out that the airline provided an optional city tour to Turkey. I was psyched! I’ve wanted to visit Istanbul for a while now (Hagia Sophia!) so I really wanted to see how we could make it happen. We only had an 8-day leave from work so we had to squeeze our schedules to fit everything in. Alan found a connecting flight to London that had an 11- hour gap, which was perfect for the half-day free city tour.

Once we had boarded the plane, I immediately checked out its entertainment facility. It was a 12-hour trip from Manila to Istanbul so having a good selection of films is a must. Thank goodness Turkish Air delivered with individual touch screens per seat and a remote/game controller. The movies and Tv content were current, making it possible for me to watch many new releases that I had missed in the cinema (Incidentally, check out Fresh Off the Boat–funee!). Each economy class passenger was given a care pouch with slippers, toothpaste, toothbrush, socks, eye masks and lip balm. Kids have their own activity magazine and their very own care kit as well. At the start of the trip, they give each passenger a sweet treat (Turkish Delight), which is pretty addicting (bought a couple of boxes)!
We arrived in Istanbul at 5 am, but the counter for the city tour signup opened at 8 am so we had to find somewhere to sit in. Luckily, the shops in their airport opened early. We ate some bread and had coffee in a local bread shop. Then, we walked around to see the products of Istanbul. 
When the counter opened, they informed us that we would be having a boat tour of the Bosporus River, Golden Horn and Black Sea. But before that, we were treated to a free (yes, Free!) Mediterranean breakfast, which consisted of bread, three kinds of cheeses, a cold cut and Turkish tea. Then, the bus took us to the dock. The guide explained to us that Turkey has an Asian side and a European side divided by the seas. He also pointed to us the many beautiful structures in Istanbul, such as the Blue Mosque and the Sultanahmet. It was a beautiful sampler of the country. After the mini cruise, we got back to the restaurant for free (yes, it’s free again) lunch consisting of grilled chicken (a little reminiscent of our own inasal) served with rice and very tasty chicken soup. The guide told us that since our flight was at 6 pm, we couldn’t join the group for their walking trip to the different mosques. Not wanting to miss out, Alan asked how to get back to the airport via commute. Since it was easy and convenient, Alan said we could visit the Hagia Sophia on our own. While walking to the mosque, we passed by the Arasta Bazaar which is a definite must-visit place for anyone who wants to get authentic Turkish products. How I wish I could bring home the woven rugs and beautiful covers that I saw, but I didn’t want to burden Alan so I contented myself with a box of Turkish Delight, Turkish coffee and small souvenirs.
Finally, we made it to the Hagia Sophia, and what luck! We spotted the tour group so we got spared paying for the entrance fee. Going there was really an experience because you could see there the merging of Islam and Christian art– fascinating! 
All in all, our only expenses consisted of getting a Turkish visa online, the bread we bought and shopping. 
So for the free trip alone, I give Turkish airline high marks for promoting its country to first timers such as myself. Points for improvement: Food during the flight could still be better (on the bland side) and toilets could be cleaner. But overall, thumbs up to Turkish Air!

Tokyo Holiday ’16 (Part 1)

DSC02841
Santos Family in Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa

It has been a tradition for our family to celebrate and spend the New Year (not CNY, as this post has long been overdue, and we’re not Chinese) holiday with my husband’s family out of the country, particularly Hong Kong. We started with just ten people then. Now, our family is composed of 20 people, 10 grandkids and 10 adults. For this year, to coincide with my FIL’s 70th birthday, we went to Tokyo, Japan to celebrate.

Before, it was fairly easy to go around, we just used public transportation. But since this time we are far too many, and with small kids to boot, we had to hire a private service. Though we’ve all been to Tokyo before separately, this was the first time for all 20 of us to travel together so we wanted to go to the usual tourist spots as a group.

We hired Mr. Yosuke Yokokura of discover-japan-tours.com as our guide/driver.  Among the three companies that provided private tours that we inquired at (one of which was owned by a Filipino), he had the best rates for tours and airport transfers. He was also the most prompt in answering e-mails (which I take as a good sign). Mr. Yokokura is very fluent in English so communication is not a problem. He was very nice and accommodating. I highly recommend him when in need of private service in Tokyo.

IMG_5289

 

IMG_5157
With the highly recommended Yosuke Yokokura of discover-japan-tours.com

Our party of 20 stayed at Hilton Tokyo located in Shinjuku. It was about a 20-minute walk to Shinjuku Station, 5 minutes via the free shuttle service. The rooms are quite spacious compared to typical Japanese hotel rooms. It was relatively quiet, with no malls or restaurants nearby. The nearest Family Mart is about a 5-minute walk. If you want any action, you have to take the shuttle bus to Shinkuju Station. The breakfast buffet was not that impressive, in my opinion. They serve the same food Every. Single. Day. The hotel restaurants are very expensive, Michelin-starred (they they are not) expensive. I suggest eating elsewhere, Tokyo doesn’t lack for good, inexpensive food. Checkout was a breeze though. They send a form to your room on your last day, just fill it out, and leave it at the reception. And as expected, Japanese service was top-notch, the best in the world.

IMG_5110
Hilton Lobby

 

IMG_5146
Spacious rooms at the Hilton

 

A tip when going to Japan (or Hong Kong) in the winter – buy winter clothes when you get there. The moment we arrived, I hauled myself to Uniqlo to buy Heattech thermal and winter coats. They are so much cheaper there compared to here. Case in point, a woman’s thermal top cost P990 here, Y1290 on sale (P520) there. For our family of 5, I spent a total of Y50,000 (around P20,000) for 4 winter parkas, 10 thermal tops and bottoms, 5 knitted caps, and 5 gloves.  The savings was well worth freezing for a couple hours, if you ask me. Most, if not all of the shops are on sale by the end of December anyway. Better yet, take a trip immediately to the outlet shops in Gotemba, where there’s Columbia and North Face to get extra savings.

IMG_4709
All bundled up at the Hilton lobby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One for the Books

Since it’s Thursday, allow me to “throwback” with you the 3-week long “field trip” I went on with my three boys  Zaq, Ben, and Achi in 2011.

To celebrate Zaq’s grade school graduation, our family decided to go on a vacation to the United States in the summer of 2011. Prior to purchasing our tickets, my husband said he would not be able to leave his work for a long period of time. But since the trip has been planned and the kids were excited, he told me to go through with it. Yes, just me and 3 kids aged 12 and 10 years old, and 15 months. Kidding, right? I seriously did not know why I agreed to do it. Until now. Really.

The day of our flight, we had to go back to the house 3 times because I keep forgetting something. Was this a foreboding perhaps? In the airport, even before we entered the main gate, I was crying, like I was migrating to another country and never coming back. Then I saw my kids, and reined it all in and I thought to myself – I can do this.

We were flying Emirates, and I thought, why not stay over in Dubai? And so we did. We stayed 4 days at Hotel Rotana just off the main highway near Dubai Mall. What amazed me about Dubai is the sheer amount of Filipinos working there. Literally, everywhere we went, there was a kababayan always ready to help.

IMG_6061
Desert Safari

Continue reading “One for the Books”