The Cow Parade is On in Perth

From 31st October to 11th December, Perth is hosting the Cow Parade, a public art installation which features 40 cows (not real ones!) across the city. Perth just becomes one of the few in the world to host the art event whereby cows that arrived as blank canvasses are painted, crafted and embellished by artists and designers from across Western Australia.

Their works are then displayed on various locations, such as parks, shopping centres, buildings and areas of interests, whilst some will be auctioned off to raise money for medical research.

 

Cow Parade Perth
Artwork by Peter Farmer, located on Museum Street in Northbridge
Cow Parade Perth
“Beauty X Ethics” by Benjamin Kontoolas
Cow Parade Perth
“Missy Moo” at Elizabeth Quay

Sayonara, Manila!

purple bagsNearly 12 months of communicating mostly online, patiently waiting for school holidays to come around, and traveling thousands of miles to be together for just a few days, this is what it comes down to.

While the last three weeks have been absolutely stressful, thanks to having to deal with red tape and braving Christmas traffic to get from one point of Metro Manila to another (hello, Pasay to Kyusi in a day!) to run after certifications and official documents, I still count myself absolutely lucky to have the chance to be with The One and to be given the opportunity to work in another country. Things fell into place just when I was about to give up and embrace life-long singledom (nothing wrong there, mind!) or accept the prospect of working in the same city until for the rest of my productive years. Continue reading “Sayonara, Manila!”

Best Holiday Ever! Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu Sunset
Kota Kinabalu sunset

Who knew that Kota Kinabalu would be one of the most special places I would ever visit? The week spent in the city famously referred to by locals and travelers alike as “KK” has been one of the most enjoyable in recent memory, thanks to the charm of the place itself, its people, and the company of someone who would eventually claim a special place in my heart (perhaps, my heart itself).

Thanks to the peak travel season in the Philippines in the summer, especially during and right after Easter/Holy Week, everything cost nearly twice as much, particularly airfare and hotel. And so on top of wanting to avoid crowds, this only encouraged us to consider other destinations in Southeast Asia.

Thus, upon recommendations on the Web and from friends alike, we decided on KK, a convenient, tourist-friendly, and very affordable destination. Kota Kinabalu is this little nook on the northwest coast of Sabah, Malaysia, facing the South China sea. Whilst it was one of the more popular gateways to Malaysia, Borneo or the rest of Southeast Asia, KK after Easter was not teeming with too many tourist. We were informed by locals that the city did host a considerable number of visitors a few weeks prior, so I guess the timing for our holiday was just right. Continue reading “Best Holiday Ever! Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu”

Tales of El Nido

IMG_0100I first visited El Nido three years ago upon the invitation of a friend whom I dated very briefly. I must have been living in a bubble all my life for I never knew how relationships with visitors worked. Since then, I treasured a hate/hate relationship with this destination popular amongst backpackers.

And so excited to visit a place that I only knew about from travel magazines, I booked tickets to the nearest major airport, not knowing full well about the harrowing land transfer between Puerto Princesa and this tiny town sitting on the edge of nowhere: six hours of commute on some of the roughest roads I knew. If you asked me now, I would pay anything to avoid spending a total of twelve hours that I could never get back on a backbreaking road trip.

Continue reading “Tales of El Nido”

Travel Is a Lot Like Life

Air Travel
Somewhere over the West Philippine Sea

“Travel is little beds and cramped bathrooms. It’s old television sets and slow Internet connections. Travel is extraordinary conversations with ordinary people. It’s waiters, gas station attendants, and housekeepers becoming the most interesting people in the world. It’s churches that are compelling enough to enter. It’s McDonald’s being a luxury. It’s the realisation that you may have been born in the wrong country.

Travel is a smile that leads to a conversation in broken English. It’s the epiphany that pretty girls smile the same way all over the world.

Travel is… a street full of bearded backpackers looking down at maps. Travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was. It’s the rediscovery of walking somewhere. It’s sharing a bottle of liquor on an overnight train with a new friend. Travel is “Maybe I don’t have to do it that way when I get back home.” 

— Nick Miller, New Girl

Last year was the only one in the past six that I didn’t leave the country. Maybe it’s time to get a new visa or use up what’s remaining of what I still have. Or maybe it’s time to dust off my old camera and drive hundreds of miles to capture the beauty that my country is known for: its rich traditions, its people, the kindness of strangers whose languages I don’t even speak.

Travel brings out the worst and the best in us. In it, we find ourselves and realise how strong and brave and patient we can be. Along the way, we find friends and along the way, I may find what and who I have been searching for.

Travel opens our eyes to certain truths: are we there for the whole journey or are we just tagging along until the next pit-stop, the next station? Are we travelling with the right companion and going in the right direction? Travel has its perils, too: wasted time, false promises of a good adventure, lost resources, physical threats, heartbreak.

Sometimes, these pitfalls make me wonder if some travels are worth taking. Not all travels are equal, and we cannot keep on making reckless decisions with our limited time and resources. Maybe some journeys are better taken towards other directions.

Take the next or the first step; bring out the map; take with you only what is necessary. Keep it simple. Follow your inner compass. Sing if you are afraid, dance when you are happy. Meet fellow travellers; treat them kindly and respectfully.

Travel is life. Have faith. Find your courage. Travel is why I don’t have nice things. But oh, I would not want it any other way!

Eats Boracay

Notwithstanding the misadventures with my choice of hotel, everything went well with the latest trip to the island. It did not feel like it had been more than three years since my previous visit until I decided to venture outside Station 1. There are new hotels, shops, tiangge, and restaurants, all of which I did not recall having seen in previous visits. Most of all, there are more clubs now than I can remember–all right, I knew only places like Cocomangas or Epic, but the new ones are just proof of how alive the night scene is on this island.

On our first night, we hit Club Paraw, which takes quite a long walk along the beach if you are staying in the more crowded/popular sections of the island. While it was already open by the time we arrived at past-11, the party did not start until midnight. By then, the place was packed with partygoers–mostly inebriated–grinding to lively dance beats.

Inside Club Paraw

One upside of my hotel’s location is that there are a number of food stalls selling pancakes, waffles, hotdogs, sliders/bugers, and dimsum. Sometimes, eating street food can be really comforting. I tried the Korean hotdog, having no idea what exactly it was, initially. It turned out that it was a sausage dipped in sweet batter, fried, dipped in batter again, and fried again. It must have been the most unhealthy mix of carbs and oil that I had in many months, but to a hungry traveller, it might as well be manna from heaven.

Korean hotdog is served with a sprinkle of sugar and a dollop of ketchup.
Super sweet lemonade. The only thing missing was vodka.

Dinner on the first night was at Steakhouse Boracay on Station 1. I loved my beef steak (medium rare), served with tartar sauce and stir fried veggies. While the menu is a bit high-end or pricey, the serving sizes are massive; I could not even finish half of my steak.  It goes without saying that the steak was best consumed with a glass of red…or two.

Steakhouse Boracay, steak
Did someone say, huge serving of steak?

California red Steakhouse Boracay
I had nearly finished my glass before I remembered to take a photo for posterity (i.e., blogging)

I could not find Zuzuni’s, one of my Boracay favourites, so I ended up at Cozina, which I think is what now occupies the former Greek restaurant. The Spanish restaurant has only been around since January, according to their Facebook page. For lunch, I had chicken with bacon slices and herbs inside, set in tomato sauce, and garnished with fried potato strips and some greens.

Cozina Authentic Spanish Restaurant Boracay
Grilled chicken with bacon, herbs, and tomato sauce. Yum!

Cozina serves one of the best mojitos I know. It’s a must if you’re in Boracay.

Mojito Cozina Boracay
Mmmmmmojito!
Cozina Boracay red wines
Want some red to go with your tapas? Cozina has a few selection.
Cozina Spanish Restaurant Boracay
Inside Cozina. I love the simple unpretentious interiors.

Besides food, what I like about Cozina is the service. They have among the friendliest and efficient attendants and they never fail to smile or ask if there is anything you need. They ask how you like your food, and such. The only time I remember someone asking me how I liked my food was when I was in New York, and that was years ago! I give Cozina two thumbs up for both food and service, and I am definitely going back on my next visit to the island.

For Italian fare, the slightly fancy Don Vito Restaurante on Station 2 in front of Mandarin Island Hotel is worth a visit. I thought I had enough of meat for the weekend, but then again, I knew it was okay to be a little naughty with my diet once in a while, so baby back ribs and Chardonnay sounded all right. I would pay it back with more time doing cardio and Body Combat, plus good old-fashioned strength training session with my Fitness Trainer.

Don Vito Boracay
Baby back ribs. Just the right serving size for a hungry traveler.
Don Vito Boracay
Don Vito Boracay
Chardonnay went well with the ribs. Not a famous pairing, but it was fab.
Don Vito Boracay
Outside Don Vito.
Where I did not stay, hah! Mandarin Island Hotel.
Don Vito Boracay
One of the guys explained that he did not knew Cosmo was a “pa-girl” drink. I don’t blame him; he missed all of Sex and the City.
Don Vito Boracay
Watermelon Shake. No alcohol.

Cure for Hangover

After having too much to drink the first night, I woke up with a massive hangover. Unfortunately, there was no food served at the hotel, so I had to crawl out of bed hungry and force myself to walk in blinding sunlight for a good meal. My search was rewarded with a fabulous American breakfast served all day at the Bamboo Chinese Lounge: more bacon than I was willing to finish, two eggs (I asked the staff to serve only egg whites), fruit slices, jam, butter, wheat bread, and orange juice. Coffee was an additional order, and diners have options between Lavazza and local brew. I decided that my coffee didn’t have to be fancy.

American breakfast, Bamboo Lounge Boracay
Bamboo Lounge’s American Breakfast. Not in the photo: jam, butter, and bread slices.
Orange Juice served at Bamboo Lounge Boracay
It’s real orange!
Bamboo Lounge Boracay
Inside Bamboo Lounge

Afternoon Coffee

Coco Cafe is a good alternative to “that coffee chain”. The place is right beside Coco Bar, where one can also ask for fish and chips.

Coco Cafe Boracay
I would guess they’d ran out of cup sleeves, so they served my to-go coffee in double cups.
Coco Cafe Boracay, Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips are okay. On the other hand, I wasn’t excited about the mayo-and-ketchup dip. 

As much I as I love their coffee and their fish-and-chips is not bad at all, I just enjoyed the place’s interior, for some vague reason. Maybe it has to do with the massive logo installed on the ceiling and the fact that it’s not packed to the rafters like Starbucks.

Coco Cafe Boracay
Inside Coco Cafe.
Boracay Coffee
Coffee is hard to come by early in the morning. 

I anticipate your needs*

Sandbar Boracay

Can this day be any better? After having my brunch at nearby Bamboo Lounge, I decided to rent a beach chair and got very lucky to find one available at The Sandbar for only 100 pesos for a day’s use. Unfortunately, there was no available beach umbrella, so the attendant manning the place moved my rented chair in the shade and promised to get me one once it became available.
While I was out in the water, he found me an umbrella and immediately set it up beside my chair. I don’t normally get this kind of service anywhere else, as a lot of attendants merely pay lip service when they tell you they would do something for you. Say, it’s a way for them to dismiss you.
Sandbar Boracay
When I was reading under the shade of my umbrella, he offered water spritzer to keep my skin hydrated. I didn’t realize that even under the shade and wearing sunscreen at SPF 100, the noontime sun could still be terribly harmful. So after spritzing cold water on my arms and legs, he left the spritzer with me, but not before making sure that its contents were kept cool by placing the bottle in a bucket of ice. 
Twice during the rest of the afternoon, he moved my umbrella to make sure I was in the shade properly and replaced the ice bucket to keep my water spray cool. Having the kind man around also meant there was someone to keep an eye on my beach bag, book and gadgets whenever I had to take a dip in the water,  and he did.
That was just excellent service unlike any other that I encountered anywhere, especially the pricey joints in Makati. I didn’t have to ask him for more assistance yet he was kind enough to offer them, and so I couldn’t be more glad to give him a good tip when I left.
Sadly, I failed to ask for the Kuya‘s name. But if ever you feel like lounging by the beach on Station 1 in Boracay, choose Sandbar and look for the middle-aged gentleman who usually sits by the juice stand beside Bamboo Lounge. He will keep a good eye on your belongings and make sure you are comfortable. Don’t forget to give him a fat tip.
—————–
*According to some literature that I have read in relation to my work, anticipating a customer’s needs is one of the behaviours that lead to advocacy, whereby people have a higher probability of recommending your business to their peers.