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
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. 

Fifth Time in Singapore, Lah!

To celebrate his birthday, one of my teammates, David, decided to visit Singapore and invited me to come along. I thought since I had only been to the city-state four times, why not make it five? Just because.

We were lucky to catch a good deal with Singapore Airlines, as airfare for the same flight a few weeks later nearly doubled. It was my first time to fly with SIA and the PHP12,000 or so that I paid was well worth the excellent service, fantastic food, free-flowing wine, and entertainment aboard the aircraft. Oh yes, we left NAIA3 on time, too.

Day 1 – Arrival and Marina Bay

After clearing immigration, we took the Airport Shuttle that brought us directly to our hotel. We stayed at Amara Hotel on Tanjong Pagar Road, just on the outskirts of the Central Business District.

We arrived two hours earlier than check-in time, so we decided to walk towards Chinatown, which was just three blocks away, to have lunch. Afterwards, we decided to take a bus going to Alexandria Road to check what we could buy for our respective apartments from Ikea. Verdict: Nothing much, except for the usual kitchen utensils. I wouldn’t want to have to ship stuff all the way back to Makati.

We got back just in time for checking in and freshening up, then off we went to Marina Bay. We took another bus going to Marina Bay Sands. I was glad I took the trip, as I had never been to Marina Bay before, and this was the first time I set foot on the other side of the bay area.

Marina Bay Sands is lovely at dusk, when the setting sun is reflected on its west facade.

We walked around Marina Bay and were lucky to catch some air show of sorts–there were half a dozen fighter jets flying over Marina Bay / CBD. It looked like they were celebrating a national holiday, but what it was, we did not bother to ask around anymore.

The Helix Bridge, 7PM

Day 2: Sentosa, Universal, and Chinatown

We left early-ish for breakfast at Tanjong Pagar Plaza. For SGD4.70, I got a plate overflowing with fried noodles, fried rice, eggs sunny side up, fish cakes, and luncheon meat, plus the famous drink, teh. That was all I need to get me through a day lining up for rides at Universal Studios.

Going to Universal, we stopped by Harbour Front shopping centre to look around. It was a good thing that they had opened the rooftop water park. It was soo hot and humid, all I wanted was to walk barefoot into the water.

We reached Sentosa mid-morning and the lines to Universal was already crazy. It took us roughly 20 minutes to get tickets, and once we were in, we had to line up some more to get into the attractions–some kiddie rides, musicals, movie making special effects, and the Transformers 3D ride, which I totally enjoyed! I gotta try it again on my next visit. We didn’t have the guts for either Battlestar Galactica or The Mummy, though. And getting soaked on the Jurassic Park ride didn’t appeal to us. I’d tried this ride before, but I don’t think it was worth waiting at another super long line this time. 
Waterworld Show: Sit on the wrong section of the stadium if you wish to get drenched.

Madagascar super kiddie attraction, where you have to take a boat that takes you through a river running through a tunnel where you’ll meet characters from Madagascar. Totally kid stuff. We felt we sooo belonged in here!

And the rest:

Transformers 3D Ride

Battlestar Galactica, Universal Studios-Singapore

After Universal Studios, we took the monorail going to the next station, near the beachfront. After a quick look-around, we took the Sky Ride going back to the top of the island where the cable car station was located. The cable car was the best (though not the most affordable) way to cross back to the City, as it provides stunning views of Sentosa and Singapore.

Cable Car, Sentosa Island, Singapore

For SGD26, the cable car takes passengers from Imbiah Lookout Station on Sentosa to Mount Faber, where they were provided with free non-alcoholic drinks. Of course, we opted to pay for beer instead. After about an hour at Faber Bistro, we took the Cable Car going towards the nearest station to Harbour Front where we took the MRT to Chinatown for dinner and souvenir.

Cable Car, Singapore

Faber Bistro, Singapore

Hawker’s dinner on Smith Street

Smith Street in Chinatown district is famous for super cheap hawker’s food. You just have to be a little less queasy about the idea of eating your dinner on the street that can get pretty crowded. The tough part, however, is choosing what to have for dinner, as there are so many dishes offered at various stalls. I usually get either the chicken

Smith Street, Singapore

Tiger Beer
Singapore’s ubiquitous beer. Unfortunately, they only sell this fantastic brew in 500ml bottles, and there was no way I could down that much in one go.
Chicken and Pork Satay
Pork and chicken skewers with peanut sauce.

I wish I had discovered this kitschy neighbourhood just across Chinatown going to the CBD direction. I just love looking at the facades of the small buildings around the city, as if their government made a conscious effort to keep things sort of old-world in some districts, where things hark back to the 60s (or earlier) before skyscrapers started to change Singapore’s skyline. These structures house cafes, restaurants, boutiques, delis and pubs.

Scarlet Hotel, Singapore
The Scarlet boutique hotel. 

Day 3:  Breakfast in CBD, Last-minute shopping on Orchard Road and Bugis, and flying back home

We wanted to have a meal at a more “proper” restaurant, so we were so lucky to discover this little gem of a restaurant in the middle of CBD. How about a proper western breakfast after two days of noodles, rice and milk tea? Visit the Coffee Club at Raffles Place.

Coffee Club at Raffles Place, Singapore

Since we lived in a metropolitan peppered with massive shopping malls and bargain centers, it did not make a lot of sense to do a lot of shopping in Singapore. The only reason for me to visit a shop was because it was not available in Manila, so H&M and Cotton On were worth checking. Otherewise, there was good old-fashioned window shopping and comparing Manila, SG, and Australia prices. For the most part, SG prices were even steeper than Australia. Really??

H&M on Orchard Road, Singapore

Ngee Anh City Orchard Road, Singapore

Orchard Road
Add caption

Bugis Street Shopping Centre
Prices at bargain center Bugis is way way waayy more expensive than, say, Greenhills.  Their stuff are less interesting, too.

Ion Orchard
Ion Orchard is always worth a visit.

Henri's Pub Changi
Last stop before our flight: Henri’s Pub for wine at Changi Airport

Anybody up for some Filipino food?

Tom Parker Bowles, Camilla Parker Bowles’s son and food editor of Esquire Magazine, visited Manila to discover this “dreadful” metropolis’ culinary secrets. It turned out that the trip was well worth braving the horrors–actual or imagined–with which Westerners typically define this megacity of roughly 20 million souls, majority of which live under $1 a day.

Anyone for Filipino food? (Tom Parker Bowles, Esquire Aug. 2011)

But where is everyone?

The littlest sister and I had been planning to visit Venice Piazza on McKinley Hill in Taguig City since last week, and so when we finally found a good time to discover a new place, we pushed through with our plans. Suffice to say that the place was virtually empty at 8:00 in the evening on a Sunday while everywhere else was overflowing with human traffic.

venice piazza mall, taguig city
The place is lovely…but where is everyone?

I’m not sure if this tower has any commercial purpose at all, but if you are having a hard time locating the place, it serves as some guide of sorts because you can spot it from afar.

Maybe in a year or two, Venice Piazza will become another cool new happening place, much like when Eastwood or The Fort were starting. There are a number of housing complexes and BPO office buildings around the place, so I guess Venice Piazza’s target market is composed of BPO yuppies, expats, and those who’ve managed to escape Makati’s congestion. In this photo: tiny sis and her former employer’s building.

Somewhere in the back is a little nook called Sol Gelato. Theirs is not the best ice cream in town, but being the only ice cream parlour in a far-flung mall, Sol Gelato will do.

UPDATED: Malaysia 2010 Part 1–Romancing Petronas, haggling for scarves, and engaging in much debauchery

It was a great four-day frantic tour of Kuala Lumpur, Putra Jaya, Genting Highlands, and Selangor in Malaysia, and the newly opened Universal Studios on Sentosa Island in Singapore with badminton friends. I’m still too tired to be coherent, so I’m only posting photos of the trip that used up much of my energy but I would most likely take again if or when given the chance. It’s been years since I went on a trip with the Titans, and I’m crossing my fingers that we’d have more of this again…though I hope in a less frenetic fashion.

Inside the KLIA Express, which took us from KL Central Station to Putra Jaya in 20 minutes. The train was very clean, comfortable, and mighty fast.
Malaysia’s preferred mode of transportation is still driving, therefore although it has very decent railroad and subway networks, more people are going around in their compact cars. And yes, there are more compacts than your typical sedan in Malaysia; more people are driving national car brands than foreign ones, as well. 
The first impression that Malaysia gave me was that it’s infrastructure was top-notch, it’s highways were nothing but impressive. Still, because of the massive number of motorists it hosts, KL is far from being traffic-free. We got stuck for an hour in rush-hour traffic, going from Sogo mall to Petaling Jaya.
Doing cougar-y stuff at Petronas Twin Towers
The steel work on this building is very impressive.
Inside the Skybridge
 Romancing the twin towers, where works the handsomest security guard in the world. Is it time to feel cougar-y yet?

View of the park from Skybridge. It’s pretty, no?

Just below the towers is the upscale six-level mall, Suria KLCC.
Of course, Petronas is grand. It’s pretty, it’s famous, it’s fantabulous! We all know these things already. But what the ladies didn’t know was that the men who made sure that all visitors behaved as they should were just nearly as pretty as the national symbols of might that they guarded.

This guy was scanning visitors’ bags as our batch was lining up for the lift to the 41st level. I thought he would stay by his x-ray scanner, but alas, after everybody entered the lift, he got in, trying to look as if he was about to clobber any misbehaving fool within his sight. But us fools noticed he was tall, and had nice cheekbones, and nice eyes and eyelashes that stretch to out theeeeere!, and that looking stern never looked sexy. Purrr!

And then we all ended up giggling like high schoolers. And then we kept telling, whispering to each other that the man in uniform could give Piolo Pascual a run for his money (plus that he is most unlikely gay). And then we just kept looking at him. And then I couldn’t help it anymore, so I asked Rodel with his hi-tech camera to take my photo with Manong Guard. And then everybody wanted to to have their photos taken with him as well. Bah, nauna ako kay Manong Guard ha?

And then he just didn’t know what to do. Dealing with silly misbehaving women maybe wasn’t part of his “looking stern” conditioning. And then he was helpless; these cougars are fierce!

And then this sort-of smile. The poor man’s shift is 2:00 in the afternoon on weekdays.

Food, food, food and more food!

One of the highlights of the trip was food. Malaysia offers among the best fusion of Indian, Malay and Chinese cuisine.  I like my food zingy, but after days of taking in unheard of flavors (and smells) that vary from hot to super hot prior to taking this trip, I began to crave for good old McDonald’s pancakes and fried chicken. Still, for a newbie, Malaysia is a flavor haven, and everything that you could buy is worth a try. I enjoyed our breakfast of spicy rice and sweet-and-spicy chicken at a stall just outside the Asia Jaya MTR station.

Nando’s on the concourse level of Suria KLCC serves good food. Too bad, the waitress that served our food was awfully rude. 

 Breakfast at Nando’s: bread, sausages, eggs, and grilled tomatoes. Not mine, though. I bought a blueberry and chocolate muffin from Starbucks to go with my usual latte. Coffee is not a popular drink in Malaysia, but they have really good milk teas.

Lamb kebab set served at a Persian restaurant at central station. The kebabs were drier than I was used to, but were super filling, no less.

I could have five of this super delish pistachio yogurt ice cream in one go.

A pork-and-tofu soup dish that went well with steamed rice. The pork used tasted like luncheon meat, but how did they know that I loved the flavor of cilantro?

Our best and biggest meal was at the buffet shabu-shabu restaurant in Selangor. Here, we were waiting for the broths to boil before adding crabs, shrimps, veggies, noodles, shomai, and seaweeds.

You need to get there as early as possible to avoid the long line. We waited for more than an hour to get a table, but the food was well worth the wait.

Something familiar: meatballs and fries in overflowing gravy and blueberry sauce, cheesecake, chocolate chip muffin, and bottomless cherry soda at the Ikea food court. I must have paid only RM16 for these. I’d love to go there again!

Carbonated Benadryl never tasted this refreshing! This Poly Strawberry-flavoured soda was bought at a stall in front of the mosque in Putra Jaya.

Now this, I am used to. Even their MickeyD coffee cups are prettier.

Haggling for shawls and scarves

I wasn’t planning to buy scarves, but seeing the girls going gaga over the pretty things at this old shopping district that sold modesty stuff made me lose my resolve and gave in to the colorful lovelies that were a coral pink glossy pashmina shawl and a marine and aqua blue silk scarf, all for only RM18, or roughly P200. The Pakistani stall owner was no match to our haggling charms.