Of sun,sea,sand and finding a hero.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Enjoy Tuscany with a glass of wine

Finding Felicity in El Nido

Pink painted skies in El Nido,Philippines

Quaint Girona

Off the beaten path in Girona

Good Morning,Vietnam

Cruise the emerald water of Hanoi

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dumaguete: Of University Town and Wondrous Food

Being a small city,the best thing about Dumaguete is that you can get a decent hotel/hostel in the downtown area and you can just walk to most of the tourist and dining spots in the city. Situated in the heart of the city are several hotels that are priced reasonably and with ample facilities. Getting a hotel/hostel near the famed Rizal boulevard can save you the multicabs fare and one thing I noticed in Dumaguete that most multicabs driver would hike up their fare if they knew that you are a tourist.

A stone’s throw away from Dumaguete port is the American founded Protestant university which is Silliman University. The layout of the campus is comparable to a scaled down version of the prestigous state university – The University of the Philippines. Most of the campus building is designed after colonial American architecture. There is a large open field and numerous huge trees that provides the much needed shade. The university is not really what you can consider an ‘open’ university where one can just go in the university ground, as a visitor you are required to leave an id with the guard at the university’s gate so you can get the visitor pass.

Fronting Silliman University is the famous Rizal Boulevard which can be considered as Dumaguete’s version of the Manila Baywalk. This ubiquitous boardwalk is lined with lamposts and rows and rows of trees. As the sun starts to set, most locals will flock the baywalk to walk or sit around and talk as the sun begins its descent. On the opposite end of the boulevard are several small stalls selling tempura (but this is not the Japanese tempura) where you can sit amongst the multitude of plastic monoblock chairs bathed by the glowing rays of the setting sun as you dip your hot out of the frying pan tempura into a tangy sauce.

Along Perdices street, is the Dumaguete Belfry which stands out amongst the modern buildings and the busy street because of it’s century old stone structure. This bell tower is considered as one of the historical places in Dumaguete.

Synonymous to the city of the Gentle People is the term “Food trip” .Unofficially dubbed as Philippines ultimate Food Trip Capital,Dumaguete did not fail to deliver these gustatory delights. Head to the famous SansRival store/bakeshop at San Jose street to grab any daily lunch special and satisfy you sweet tooth with the famous sylvannas and sansrival. Their sansrival and sylvannas are nice,smooth and creamy and I personally noticed that the butter is not overpowering rendering a distinct taste that make you want to grab another piece. If you want to bring a slice of Dumaguete’s famous sylvannas you can preorder a 10pcs. boxed sylvannas for P105 which you can pick up before your flight back to Manila.

Move over Starbucks because Dumaguete got it’s own Cafe Antonio with a wonderful spanish-inspired interior. With antique like chairs and tables, old pianos, stained glass windows and even wooden porch swings transporting you to a scene in Noli Me Tangere. I did not try any coffee drink but I can highly recommend their very own Hot Choco which is priced at P65. It is what a hot choco must taste like because you can really distinctly taste the cocoa.

If there is one food place that Dumaguete is known for it will be Jo’s Chicken Inato along Silliman Avenue. A dish of grilled chicken (Chicken Inato) is priced at P85 which is reasonable and affordable enough. For less than a hundred you get to feast on a tasty grilled chicken and a cup of rice.Chicken Inato is similar to chicken inasal but it has a distinct taste which makes it more flavorful and juicy than the inasal dish which tends to be dried.

Aside from these three places there are still a lot more food havens in Dumaguete that I personally haven’t sampled (which are reasons enough to find myself back in this university town) – Fried Icecream, Mamias and one of the well known seafood restaurant (which I forgot the name).
For your pasalubong shopping you can head to Handumanan along Perdices st. You can grab native home decors, kitschy cellphone charms, various designs of keychains and ref magnets as well as Dumaguete and Silliman University shirts.

They say that food is the way to a man’s heart, the same thing goes for Dumaguete as well. Dumaguete’s food and laidback charm is the way to any traveler’s heart.

Siquijor: Loco Over Coco

Tucked in the Island of Fire is a resort that promises quality service and total relaxation. Roughly fifteen minutes from the port of Siquijor is a little gem of a resort called Coco Grove. You will be greeted by a unassumming gated establishment with a small well-maintained garden. The reception area is very Filipino in architecture and interior from the nipa thatched roof to the wood decorations and rattan chairs. You will be warmly received by the hotel receptionists in their very cute and floral uniforms. They would address their guests by their name and not the usual generic greeting of ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. The reception area also houses the resident parrot named ‘Macky’ but a word of caution you can take picture and admire but you are not allowed to touch him.
Beyond the reception area are stone steps leading to the grounds of the resort.There are two swimming pools in the resort, one is near the reception while the other one is near the diveshop. The one near the diveshop got a swim up bar so you can literally sip your cocktail in the pool.

The cottages/rooms in the resort are done in a sort of Bahay Kubo architecture but no need to worry it is totally concrete it’s just that the design is made of nipa and bamboo to evoke a Pinoy cottage house. Each cottage comes with it’s own veranda where you can stay and enjoy the breeze from the sea or just to chat with your next door neighboor. There are several types of cottages that you can avail depending on your required capacity. The bigger cottages or villas have lofts to accommodate a whole group or family perfect for your bonding getaway. To truly make you relax and unwind, there are no television sets in the room, so make sure you pack some engaging paperback if your going solo or a mean boardgame that you can play with your travel buddies. With no pesky television set which glues you on that comfy bed and under the sheets, you can walk along the shore, sit and soul search in the many small huts scattered within the resort or just chill out and admire the stars while lying in one of the hammocks.

The resort boasts of a white sand beach that stretches for about 800 meter as well as a clear sea. The shore are dotted by tall and magnificent coconut trees that renders a very picturesque quality of the beach.
Though you have to go farther in the sea during late afternoon because of the low tide. You might find that morning and early morning are the best time to enjoy swimming in the beach. If you are an avid snorkeller, there is Tubod Marine Sanctuary near the diveshop but you need to pay an additional 50 Php to snorkel here. This fee is for the marine conservation.

Coco Boat
There are two restaurants within the resort, the prices of most meals are quite pricey compared to the standard restaurants. Price range of a single meal is around Php200 and onwards. Breakfast is free and already included in your room price but don’t expect much they do have an extensive lists of breakfast menu but the serving is measly.Here you can enjoy a candlelit dinner by the beach serenaded by the resort’s singers which has a very extensive songs repertoire.

Coco Grove’s rate is actually pricier when compared to the other beach resorts in Siquijor but when you consider the service, facilities and beach it is good value for money. Quality service, well maintained facilities and a magnificent sunset will make you go loco over Coco.
View from Sunset Restaurant

How to get Here: You can take a habal-habal/multicab from Siquijor’s port. I was charged Php200 pesos for the ride from the port to the resort. Another option is to avail of the resort’s own pick up service this is convenient and economical if you are in a big group since you have to basically rent the jeep (the resort’s transport service is a converted jeepney) or you can try to check with the resort if they can tag you along if there is also a group that will be picked up in the port on the same time of your arrival so you can split the pick up rate with them.

Website: http://www.cocogrovebeachresort.com/

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Siquijor:Enchanted by a Visayan Island

I did not have any expectations with Siquijor, knowing that it boasts of white sand beach is enough for me just like a contented little girl with a lollipop. Until I disembarked in Siquijor’s port, my initial decision is just to stay at the resort since I am not comfortable of hiring a multicab (trike) countryside tour considering that I’m a lone female traveler. Talk about a serious case of paranoia – I just kept on remembering the incident of a US peace corps volunteer who got murdered in the Mountain Province. I was among the last passenger to approach the exit gate of the port which explains that there seems to be a lesser crowd of multi cab driver offering their services. I walked along without any eye contact with any of the multicab drivers (in Pinoy slang, dedma lang). One persistent driver, followed me and continued to ask if I need a service going to
the resort. He quoted 200 Php, I’m not sure if this is a good enough rate but it is cheaper compared to getting the resort’s own pickup transport. I agreed and told him the name of the resort and when I was about to get into his multicab, he told me to get the ferry ticket first for tomorrow’s return trip to Dumaguete (Note: It is advisable to get your return ticket once you reached the island, there is a small ticketing booth just outside the Siquijor port’s gate. If you can’t find it just ask around). After purchasing my return ferry ticket, the driver offered me my ‘dreaded’ countryside tour and he quoted 1000 Php for the whole package inclusive of dropping me first in the resort so I can leave my backpack and returning me back to the resort at around 4-5pm. I don’t know why or how, but i just found myself agreeing and even haggling for the rate (Blogger’s Note: The rate seems to be reasonable since during my trip research it is around 1000 for the tour package with multicabs).But I remember uttering a simple prayer before I reach the island that may the good Lord provide me with a trusty and good multicab driver since I also want to see the other places of interest in the Island instead of getting holed up in the resort. Answered Prayer? for sure.
Kuya Romeo (multi-cab driver) toured me in the following places:
  • 400 years old Balete Tree – spend a few minutes to snap some photos.
  • Crocodile Point – An elevated point where the sky, road, trees and sea meets. Considered as an overlooking point in the Island. Don’t expect much, it is just a shabby cottage like structure nestled between two private houses.
  • Lazi Convent – Old convent building that uses the design principle of Bahay na Bato. There is a small museum inside the convent but I personally did not went into the museum.There is a minimal entrance fee into the museum.
  • Cambughay Falls – This is one of the reason why I want to go back, I want to take a dip here. The water looks inviting and clean. There is a group of guys that were having the time of their life swimming and diving into the falls during the time I was there. But before you can see this work of nature – you have to trek down 135 steps. No problem going down but it’s definitely tough going back up. There is a parking fee of Php15 (parking fees are not included in the tour package rate quoted)
  • Salagdoong Beach – This is the government owned beach property. The beach is very picturesque but the shore is littered with coral like stones. There is a Php 15 entrance fee and Php 15 parking fee. Before you reach the beach you will traverse a road that is canopied with trees creating a rainforest like ambiance.
  • Souvenir shop – I personally requested to drop me off in a Souvenir shop so I can get some souvenirs/pasalubongs. I overheard one customer looking for the ‘love potion’ – apparently this is a well known souvenir item to get when you are in Siquijor.
Clockwise: Balete tree, Crocodile Pt. view, Lazi Convent, Cambughay Falls

It was a good enough calculated risk of hiring a multicab tour, if I have opted to just remain in the resort there is so much that I could have missed and I wouldn’t have encountered the real Siquijor which lies outside the confines of the resort.
Siquijor is truly a well kept hidden travel gem which remains uncorrupted by capitalistic tourism. It does get its fair share of tourists but it still retains the charm and mysticism that it is well known for. There are no malls or even fastfood outlets that I saw during my countryside tour but there are a lot of green fields, canopy of trees and postcard perfect beaches.It made up with its deficiency in size (considered as the third smallest province of the country) with its big heart and winsome charm. I started out as a girl happily contented with a miniscule lollipop but Siquijor gave me a feast beyond what I expected.
Salagdoong beach
How To Get There: Take a fast craft ferry from Dumaguete Port. Most popular ferry is the Delta Fast Ferry. Fare (as of May 2010) is Php 160 one way. Ferry schedule changes, you may request the latest schedule from your resort. Travel time from Dumaguete to Siquijor is about 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Out On Vacation went Solo!

Note: I am temporarily suspending my Seoul posts to giveway for my posts on my first attempt on solo travel. 

I am not a loner and I do enjoy the company of a group of friends but I also do appreciate spending “me” time and not thinking about anything and just soaking in everything during travel.I have read blog posts of solo female travellers and lurked around forums and websites dedicated to this particular topic.Ahh..just the thought of doing a solo travel sents shivers down my spine as I imagine an adventure packed travelling with no one to mind but yourself, doing everything on your schedule and following your own whims.

When the year started,I remembered that I have sort of created a bucket list of things I want to achieve and experience this year and one of those entry is to do a solo travel. Before planning everything, I remember telling myself “If not now then when?”,this thought proved to be my motivation of finally booking a fight and lugging Migo for his virgin voyage (Blogger’s Note: Yes, I do give names to my favorite things which started with Eli (my camera), Faramir (my computer) and the new addition to the family – Migo (my backpack)).Let’s do away with procrastination and let me finally tick a checkmark in one of my bucket list entry for 2010.
I have three top choices for my solo trip which were derived from a so-callend intensive research during the lull moments at work – Sagada, Boracay and Dumaguete. I have always wanted to experience the mountain and what perfect way to do it but in Sagada but I have finally decided that a high octane adventure which involves hours of caving and leg numbing trekking needs to be shared with a bunch of crazy fellows thus Sagada is out. Yes, I have an ongoing love affair with the sun,sea and sand. Since I am not spending a fortune in all those whitening pills, I have no qualms in soaking up the sun and being sunkissed in the process. I also find the calmness and tranquility when I’m in the water.But this is Boracay, it party..party..party..and I felt that it would be nice to paint the beach read with a buddy or two and I’m no party animal either and I just felt that Boracay has somewhat lost its charm with the deluge of tourists. Dumaguete promises a laidback province and a food wonderland. I also wanted to visit Silliman University and experience a University town. But there is one thing lacking – if I can’t get my mountain adventure, I would want to soak up the sun in a pretty and tranquil beach. Well I could go to Bais and see the dophins and enjoy the beauty of the Manjuyod sandbar with its pristine white sand but as I scoured the net, I found out that this option is quite costly for a solo traveller unless you can hook up with a group and tag along because you have to rent the boat which will take you for the dolphin watching and to Manjuyod.As I continue to do searches on Google regarding Dumaguete trips, a diamond in the rough emerged – Siquijor which is a 45 minute ferry ride from Dumaguete. The province famous for ‘witchcraft’,'sorcery’ and ‘black magic’ and synonymous to “Capiz” ironically consists of unspoilt white sand beaches, old churches, springs and refreshing waterfalls,definitely an off the beaten path destination. Dumaguete-Siquijor trip got me fishing out that plastic card and punching away on my computer for a two way ticket for a 3 days and 2 nights solo adventure.

How about you reader, what itinerary can you suggest for a first time solo traveler?

Seoul: Fusion Of Modernity and Antiquity

One of the remarkable thing I noticed about Seoul is the fusion of the old and new. Seoul being a bustling metropolitan is teeming with high rise buildings and remarkable architectural contructions but it still retains the richness of its heritage as several palaces are located beside these modern structures. There is no need to go out of Seoul to have a cultural experience, there are already several grandiose palaces that you can visit within the city.

Blast from Past

Right after we deposited our bags and settled our arrangements with the hostel, we headed to Changdeokgung Palace to catch the morning schedule for the palace tour.This palace can only be visited via a guided tour. We are just in time for the first English tour of the day which is at 11:30 am. The tour ran for roughly an hour and 30 minutes. Changdeokgung Palace is the second palace of the Joseon dynasty after the more popular and grander Gyeongbukgong Palace.
Palace Roof
We were ushered into the huge and sprawling courtyards and intricate palace rooms.One special feature of this palace is the Secret Garden but too bad with all this weather anomalies,spring has not yet caught up during the last week of March.So it was just bare trees and dried grass but I’m imagining that it will be very beautiful and colorful during autumn as the color of the foliage changes.

Changdeokgung Palace
How to get there: Take Line 3 to An-guk Station – Exit 3
Tour Schedule: 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm
Admission Fee: 3,000 KRW (Adults)
Note: Can only be visited via guided tour
Closed Every Monday

Back to the Future
If Singapore got Orchard Road, Manila got Ayala/Greenbelt, New York got Fifth Avenue and Japan got Shibuya well Seoul got Myeongdong from brands to local bazaars they got it all just like SM. Myeongdong is one of the shopping district in Seoul and it is teeming with locals and tourists. Shopping centres and boutiques lined the whole street and makeshift mobile carts littered the streets selling optical glass frames (at dirt cheap prices and funky style), korean made shoes, bags and accessories, every conceivable styles and colors of socks (I just can’t understand the fascination with the socks) and of course street foods ranging from dried squid to chicken wraps – one can indeed shop til you drop.
If you are looking for Korean facial product shops, Myeongdong is your one stop place. It seems like this particular place has a very high concentration of these facial product shops.An almost permanent fixture in the entrance of these facial shops are young Korean women waving product samples, handling small shopping baskets and urging you to go into their shops with their high pitched singsong voice

If you are a koreanovela fanatic and wishes to copy their ‘fasyon’ (fashion) statement, head to Migliore which is several floors of uniquely Korean apparel at an affordable price.It is very similar to our 168 in Divisoria but the prices are higher but the merchandise are of better quality and style. Don’t be afraid to haggle even if you are a tourist but do so in a nice manner, I was personally able to get a discount for my purchases by flashing my charming smile and saying the few korean phrases I know courtesy of Lonely Planet’s chapter on korean phrases.But if you are a brand-whore and would want to get some stuff from these high class stores, you can head to Lotte department store.

Looking to have a shopping fix of an authentic South Korean brands – the answer is  SPAO which has floors and floors of retail galore. SPAO is like South Korea’s answer to Japan’s Uniqlo. Clothes are of high quality and affordable price. Check out the Sale items because you might just get that elusive tailored white shirt at 50% discount. And if your a K-Pop fan, they have merchandise for two famous K-Pop singing group sensations which are the Girls Generation and Superstar Junior.Other stores you can checkout are Uniqlo and H&M. Though during the time we went there, H&M has just opened so there is queue to get in during the weekend but weekday should be less crowded.

Free Hugs, Anyone?

How to get there: take the subway there is a Myeongdong station

Our first day has been a full-packed day from getting lost in translation to a cultural experience in the Changdeokgung Palace and finally capping it with a retail therapy at Myeongdong.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seoul: Getting In and Around Seoul

Visiting non-English speaking countries is usually done by getting package tours so as not to bother with the communication.But being a non-fan of the package tour travel type, I have opted to do a DIY for South Korea because of one key reason and that is the extensive subway system that they have. I have this personal belief that if there’s a good public transport system, one can definitely do a DIY travel.And what better way to immerse yourself in the country but in these public trains and buses instead of being confined inside a tourist bus and herded left and right by the tourist guide.

You can get a copy of the Seoul Metro map or you can also print it from their website (http://www.smrt.co.kr/Eng/index.jsp) .Most travel guide books like Lonely Planet and Frommer’s have a pullout section for the metro map.

There are two options for your fare ticket: Single trip or a Reloadable Transport Card. The single trip card can purchased in the ticketing machines in the station before you ride the train. Single trip ticket charges more compared to the reloadable card since there is a 100 KRW discount given for reloadable/prepaid cards.

I encountered two types of Relodable Transport card in Seoul – the T-Money and U-Pass.You can use both of them for riding the subway and buses. But the T-Money can also be used to pay for taxi fares, convenience store and other establishments that accepts T-Money.Basically, T-Money is a cashless debit card that a Seoulite can use for transport and other purchases.Both have a card fee that is not refundable. You can purchase T-Money in the subways stations it’s like a vendo type ticket machine. Purchasing direction has an English translation so again no need to worry over that language barrier. On another note, if you will go to the Incheon airport terminal (which connects to Gimpo airport) – this terminal only sells U-Pass (as of March 2010).You can only  use the U-Pass for train and bus rides.You need to tap the transport card into the card reader above the entry gates so you can go inside the station.

U Pass
T Money

Subway map, Transport card, good sense of direction and an attitude of adventure is your definite key to doing a DIY tour in South Korea even if you don’t know any smattering of korean language.

Seoul: Almost Getting Lost In Translation

The hostel that we booked gave us a very comprehensive (when I say comprehensive it is literally a step by step guide) of transportation mode that we can take from Incheon International Airport to Seoul. We were given three options: By Subway, By Bus (Airport bus service), By Taxi. Taxi is definitely out of the option because Seoul’s taxi fare doesn’t come cheap and the airport is about an hour drive to Seoul which translates to expensive. Subway is also a good option but we need to transfer stations but this means lugging our suitcase during train transfers. Among the three taking the Airport Bus service is the best option to take: fare is reasonable at a flat rate of 9,000 KRW, No carrying of luggages and No transferring of trains. There is not much difference in travel time since this is an airport service the stops is fewer than the usual city bus routes.

Obviously we have made a choice – Bus service is it, anyway according to our hostel owner the bus announces the stop names in English so there will be no problem in the possibility of missing our stop. What could possibly go wrong. We just need to make sure that we boarded the correct bus number, hand our luggages to the driver and take our seats and doze off for 30-45 minutes…and that is what we thought.
We did get on to the correct bus but we should have taken the error in reading of our u-pass card as an omen of things to come. Prior to queing in the bus stops outside the airport’s arrival area we purchase the u-pass card in the airport’s train station and loaded it up with enough money value since we will be using it for paying the airport bus. Actually all this time we thought the u-pass card is the t-money because according to my research, Seoul’s transport system used this “smart money” device for paying the fare. Since we cannot find reloadable cards except for the u-pass we thought that this is already the t-money card(more on this on a future post).Once we boarded the bus, we tapped the u-pass card into the card reader and we got an error. I tried tapping three times but to no avail, by this time the driver is already frustrated and he was saying something in Korean which of course I didn’t understand even a single word.With panic written all over my face, I rummaged through my bag to just pay in cash but I was having trouble finding my purse and the driver was now getting more frustrated. My friend noticed this and she was able to hand me a 10,000 KRW note that I hurriedly slipped into the cash slot. Wheew, definitely not a good start.

With almost 45 minutes travel time and coming from a red eye flight, I dozed off after the bus pulled out from the airport. I awoke when I heard the stops announcement, after about two stops – we noticed  that the bus will onlystop when someone presses the stop button. So we were very alert to make sure we won’t miss it when our stop is announced.Until it is just us and a group Korean women were the ones left in the bus  when we had this doubt that there is a big possibility that we missed our stop.My friend asked the driver by saying our stop which is “Sungkyunkwan” – the driver took out our luggage and said just one word “taxi”. It might be the lack of proper sleep, the coldness of the air or the utter shock of forcing us out of the bus and telling us to take a taxi – that the only thing I was able to do was to stand in the sidewalk and look helpless as the bus sped down the street. I still cannot comprehend how we can miss our stop when we were definitely listening to the stop announcements – I just had this feeling that the driver cannot understand us  and just wants us off his back so he dropped us in this place that we don’t even know the street name.

Now the great dilemma, where do we walk? to the right,left or straight? As we scanned around the area we noticed that there is a staircase heading towards the Metro just in the corner of the street. Hope at last! but there is no elevator or escalator just this glorious gray staircase which means literally carrying and lugging our suitcase up and down through the subway. We checked the station where we are and it was just the same line as the nearest metro station of our hostel. Finally, after 2900 miles of air travel, one hour bus ride, half an hour of aimless wandering in looking for a metro line, half an hour of figuring out the Metro and actual train ride and half an hour of walking and getting lost along Hyewhadong – we have arrived in our home away from home and are ready to start off our Seoul Searching.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Seoul: Seoul Searching

The Challenge is to do a DIY in a non English speaking East Asian country.  Three choices arose – Japan, South Korea and China.  I was finally won over by the spiciness of the kimchi and the allure of the koreanovelas – so it was off to South Korea. But before hitting all those Lonely Planet guides and internet forums, I was off to the South Korean Embassy to apply for my travel visa. I collated all the required documents and submitted it to the consulate. All documents and visa application guidelines can be found in the website of the Korean embassy (http://embassy_philippines.mofat.go.kr/eng/as/embassy_philippines/main/index.jsp).

There is a 3 working days wait period before they can release the result (approved or denied) but as a Philippine passport holder, Korean visa is considered as Gratis meaning we don’t have to pay for the visa application for a stay of until 59 days.

Once I got my visa approval, I scoured the internet forums, travel blogs and Lonely Planet guide.I would recommend Lonely Planet’s Korea guide – which was of great help in preparing our itinerary and it also has a good list of recommended places to eat and hostels to stay. Additionally, Lonely Planet has an extensive list of Korean phrases that you can use when the communication gets though. Pinoyexchange’s forum on South Korea is also a treasure throve of recommendations and tips but you got to backread through the hundred plus pages. Buhaykorea.com which is a blog of a Filipina Seoulite also has some travel related posts regarding Seoul but what I appreciate more are the stories on how a Pinay is living and raising a family in Seoul. On another note, Buhaykorea also has a very extensive blogposts on the cosmetic market of Korea which you women can hoard during your trip. If you want to couch-travel and see Seoul virtually, www.lasnoches.multiply.com has ‘takes your breath away’ travel photos.
One thing I learned, an extensive research and a good subway/train system are your tickets for survival in a Non English speaking DIY tour.

Phuket: Sapryt anyone? And Other Tales From The Plate

Another thing that I look forward to when going to Thailand is the gastronomic wonders that await me.From the spicy goodness of the tom yam to the sweetness of the sticky rice with mango who am I to resist all these yummy delights.

Of Phad Thai and Sapryt
Once we have registered in the hotel, we immediately went in search for our lunch.As we walked along the main road we found a busy Thai restaurant named No.6 Restaurant which is not beside No.5 or No.7 restaurants.

We were seated at the table right beside the sidewalk and given copies of the menu. I want to start my with something I consider as my “Thai comfort food” which is Phad Thai. It is a dish of stir fried glass noodle which can have seafood, chicken, pork or beef (whichever you prefer). The taste is way different from the usual noodle dishes commonly found in the Asian region. I got a plateful of tasty Chicken Phad Thai for 60 Baht.

Together with the dish that I ordered, I also ordered a cold soda – Sprite. And a somewhat bizaare converstation ensued between me and the waitress.

Waitress: Ok, so you ordered…… 1 coke and 5 Sapryt

Me: Sorry..we ordered Sprite (looking confused)

Waitress: yes 5 Sapryt

My Friends: Sprite is Sapryt!!

Me: Yes, 5 Sapryt!

Of Fresh Seafoods and Another Sapryt

For dinner on our first night, we already have an idea where we are going to eat since we saw these rows of restaurants earlier that has fresh seafoods that you can choose from and they will cook it for you based on the dish you ordered (For Pinoys, this is your Thai version of Dampa). We headed to these seafood restaurants near Orchid Resort/Hotel. We ordered the following main dishes: Tom Yam soup, Steamed Fish and Pandan chicken.As for refreshments it’s not Sapryt but we opted to go au naturel and ordered fresh coconut juice.Service is excruciatingly slow and personally I wouldn’t say that it’s value for money since there is really nothing special in the way the food tasted

On our second night, we tried to go towards the market where there are also several stalls of “Dampa” style restaurants. We got attracted to this restaurant when we notice that the guy inviting people in is the same guy pictured on the tarpaulin which says “Mr.Jai, Good My Friend”. 
Oh,yes it’s Mr.Jai himself inviting people into his restaurant.

It’s our last dinner at Phuket so we ordered a bit more compared to the previous night’s dinner. We got grilled fish, stir fried kangkong, tom yam soup, steamed fish, grilled pork and few pieces of oysters and (drumroll please) oh yes…the infamous bottles of Sapryt.Mr.Jai didn’t let us down, service is good and prompt, food is tasty and flavorful and the best part the price is cheaper.Our total bill is just a bit higher than the previous night’s dinner considering we ordered way more dishes than the previous night.With satisfied grins and full stomachs we can really say “Good My Friend!” (I cannot recall the actual address of Mr.Jai’s restaurant — if you are interested to meet him in person and dine here I would suggest you can ask your hotel or the locals for directions to this restaurant )

Capping it with some Green, Yellow and White
Before lugging our baggages to the airport we grabbed some lunch at the Jungceylon Mall’s Foodcourt. Similar to foodcourts in Bangkok – you need to get a prepaid card that will be used to purchase your food. No worries, any remaining amount can be encashed back to you by returning the card. Found my remaining Thai food must eats which are Green Chicken Curry and Sticky Rice with Mango to satisfy my sweet tooth. The green curry is ok not something to rave about with small pieces of chicken. I’m always partial to Sticky rice with mango for me it always taste great no matter where I bought it.

Phuket is not only sun,sea and sand but also a gustatory delight. Cheers to that with a bottle of Sapryt!

Phuket: The Yin and Yang Of Our Phuket Getaway

The Yang

The “Yang” is characterized as fast and aggresive which is the perfect description on how we started our Day 3 at Phuket. We hit Patong beach at 9 am and amazingly there are just a trickle of early sunseekers since most of the tourist were out partying until the wee hours of the morning. With the liberty to find a good place to lounge, we decided to stay near the sun bleached Thai guys manning the Water activities booth.We were just settling down when we were approached with offers of different  activities ranging from the fun banana boat ride to the wild “I had a bad case of vertigo” parasailing. But we have our eye on one water sport activity to feed our thirst for speed in the waters – Jetski. With a bit of talk about Manny Pacquiao and some haggling, we were able to rent a 2 seater jetski for 1,100 Baht for 45 minutes (originally it is only for 30 minutes rental). The weather was good, the sea is like a calm glass and since it is still quite early there are very few boats docking in the beach – and it was the best 45 minutes of speed rush we experienced. At first, I was quite hesitant to put the jetski into a full speed since I’m not really a speed daredevil but once I felt the wind on my face and the taste of the salt water, I just can’t help but to set it to full throttle and cruise along the expanse of the deep blue.

As for the parasailing, I just don’t have the courage to overcome my height phobia so it was a definite no for me. But my friend “I” being an “adrenaline junkie”  tried the parasailing for 1,500 Baht which is about 10 minutes of being suspended over Patong Beach.

The Yin

The “Yin” is characterized as slow,soft and tranquil – Oh yes, we are treating ourselves to an hour of massage after a morning of cruising and swimming in the Andaman Sea. For those who want to rough it up – you definitely have to try an authentic Thai Massage. But for me since I wanted to relax and unwind and not wince in pain (ooppss..did I just said that) – I choose the aromatheraphy massage using Sakura oil. Thai Massage is priced at 350 Baht while the Aromatheraphy massage is priced at 500 Baht. The aromatheraphy massage is very similar to a swedish massage plus the use of aromatheraphy oils while Thai massage is a whole different experience that can’t be described by mere words. After rinsing our feet, we were ushered into individual massage cubicles with a futon (mattress) and what follows is an hour of pure massage bliss as muscles are kneaded and muscle kinks and pains are relieved.

As we end our three days of island getaway, we are all energized to start the year with zest and vigor. I never knew that it is a good thing to start the year by already taking vacation leaves. Now there’s a thought – end of year trip followed by a start of the year trip.If a cellphone needs to be recharged so does this corporate slave needs to be energized to face another year of  an 8 to 5 deskjob.