Monday, September 29, 2014

Vietnamese Addiction of Pinoy Teleseryes in Hoi An (Vietnam)


I had to find an internet cafe to print my web check-in boarding pass.

Though there were several in this ancient city of Hoi An (A UNESCO World Heritage site), most of their printers weren't working. Finally, I found Thang Long Restaurant by the riverside and they offered printing/internet service. On a dead hour, sometime in mid afternoon, there was hardly anyone dining. Most of their half-a-dozen waiting staff were transfixed to a teleserye playing on a hanging television.

I'd sneak a peek and I thought, "Boy! These guys are addicted to teleseryes! And at 3 PM yet. Wicked." I'd mind my own business again and check on my USB stick. Intermittently I would raise my head towards the television. "Hmmm. So they have a Dennis Trillo lookalike in Vietnam," I'd tell myself. Our Dennis is better looking - and definitely a better actor. This one looked bland and too short for Pinoy standard. ;)

But while I was winding down my online activities, I suddenly noticed other familiar faces (Bianca King, et.al.) Reality hit me! This was a Philippine soap, one of those forgettable GMA teleseryes. So forgettable that it's been shown, dubbed in Vietnamese and lapped up by common Viet folks! They were glued to the screen I decided not to get my snack there! Or run the risk of getting ignored altogether. Thanks for the patronage, guys.

Hoi An, aka Faifoo, sits on the South Central Coast of Vietnam's Quang Nam Province. It is home to 120,000 people, once the epicenter of the spice-trading Chams. This well preserved ancient city is 598 kilometers (372 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon and 812 kilometers (505 miles) from the capital Hanoi.

Now let's kick the Chinese intruders and land grabbers out of our democratic existence, yeah? But wait, Vietnam is a socialist republic run by communists, isn't it?

This is the Eye in the Sky!






Friday, September 26, 2014

Turning Into an Icicle at Khustain Nuru's Ger Camp (Tov, Mongolia)


"Ger - traditional circular felt tent." 

Mongolian herders live in white ger camps characteristic in the country..

Sun setting over Khustain Nuru National Park. Most of the afternoon had been chilly, with winds pulling down the temperature scale. If there was ever a country used as a metaphor to freezers, Mongolia would be a candidate. In May, the chill is still unremitting. The solar panels from my ger camp helped a wee bit, but in the evening, without its solar power, everyone is set on a furnace fed with wood and, occasionally, charcoal. But it is hard to control the temperature. You're either shivering out of your wits or sweltering in 45 to 50 degree temperatures inside your camp. It isn't healthy.

That night, in my camp, I turned into an icicle.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kaishu - Delectable Dining at the NAIA Terminal 3 (Manila, Philippines)


Kaishu, a Japanese Restaurant, has been at the international pre-departure area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 for a while now, but I've never tried the place until recently (September 2014). The reason being, the place looks more expensive than what you're willing to spend just before an overseas trip. I'd either do the fast food row at the food court or the San Mig Cafe located in the middle of the hallway just across Kaishu at the international pre-departure area.

However, San Mig's serving is mediocre at best, served on a styro. Bland food for PhP150. Kaishu ups the ante, if you're willing to add a hundred bucks more. This already includes soup and a glass of red iced tea. For PhP250, you can choose from a short list: karage (3rd photo), tempura (above) or tonkatsu (below). There are half a dozen more for options. Add an order of siomai (4 pieces) for PhP100 and you're good to go. Taste, preparation and service are top notch.

Kaishu is right across a relatively new show shop (September 2014) called "Rest Toe Run". A massage shop called SM Kenko Spa (there's another branch near the food court outside) is operating behind Kaishu (you go through the restaurant to get there). If you've enough time on your hands, then Kaishu is a good place to try. Remember though that plane trips should be taken a a moderately full stomach; not empty, but not full either. That way, you can sleep during your trip and not arrive at your destination feeling bloated. Not a good way to start your adventures.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Tempura

Karage

Chicken pork adobo.



Transitory garden at the departure hall. Sometimes, it's there. Sometimes it isn't.

"Res Toe Run", the country's first restaurant-inspired multi-brand shoe store, is the first shop to open in the otherwise empty row.



They've opened another wing (serving gates 1 to 8) so there are more boarding gates.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Buffet Dining at Cafe 1228 (New World Hotel, Makati)


I've dined at the New World Hotel probably half a dozen times in the past but haven't been there in a while. There are, after all, so many restaurants all over the metropolis that it would be almost foolish to keep coming back to even a favorite restaurant. Variety, as the spice of life, is what everyone prefers, isn't it? Last November, before flying to Maldives, I brought a friend to the hotel's Cafe 1228, located at the hotel's ground floor. The place is quite accessible because it is just across Greenbelt 3 right in the heart of Makati, Metro Manila's financial district - where a government parking building can cost up to PhP2.3 billion (wink wink). That's a whopping $52 million, if you can't count. But I am digressing.

I've recently taken my family back because they haven't been to New World. This post accounts for the two visits. During each visit, the "cafe", which seems a misnomer for a grandiose spread of epicurean delight, had credit card promo deals, i.e. a buffet plate is cut 50% off if you use the credit card that's hosting the promotional offer (BPI last November 2013, BDO this September 2014).

Moreover, a senior citizen enjoyss further discount. That adds to a lot of savings. All in all, a bill that should cost me PhP15,000 was slashed to a mere PhP7,250 (for a party of 6). How's that for discounts? What's sweeter, I didn't even go there for the promo. I just wanted to take my family out for a relaxing, albeit sumptuous dinner. Half-price was the bonus.

The restaurant offers 5 live-cooking stations, including a Pinoy table, a seafood spread, a salad-and-international spread and a dessert table. And though I am not particularly fond of sweets, I have to admit (without guilt!) that their dessert selection is to-die-for. My favorite though is the seafood table where you could pick your choice of crabs, shrimps, oysters, clams or fish (e.g. snapper, grouper, tilapia, etc.) and have them "cooked" according to your own preference. I like them soaked in garlic - and I have one heavenly viand (below) that lets you drool pre-prandial and after. If I could choose a single dish here, this would be it - crabs and shrimp in garlic sauce. They cook it so well that the chambers are easily broken into pieces, yet the meat is left tender, not macerated. How's that for a contrast of gastronomic preference?

My favorite

I usually pick a little of (almost) everything. That way, I get to taste several of them then come back for seconds of what I found most delectable during the first haul. Yup, haul. You should see other people's plates - the way they pile them up like it was going to be their last meal before they croak and go to heaven.

Their "adobo" should be mentioned for its exquisite cooking, taste and quality of meat (pork and chicken). After all, what is Pinoy Food without the "adobo"? What I like about Cafe 1228 is its relaxed ambiance and the sprawl of the restaurant. Even during peak hours, the place doesn't feel like a culinary zoo. Ironically, my Monday visit was busier than the weekend dinner I had - so it's hard to second guess a more relaxed day.

Plus point includes chatting with one of their chefs who ears his toque to check out or even welcome the crowd. A pastry chef whispered, and "insisted", that I try their pannacota so I did and I was blown away by its sinful taste. Apple crumble? Lemon cheesecake? Have I gone to heaven? If it seemed that way, that wasn't a bad time to be on Earth.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

My first plate during my first (November) visit.

Pick a seafood and have them cook your plateful while you wait at your table.

I prefer a table away from the buffet spreads.





The Filipino spread includes your rice, menudo, adobo, etc.

My dessert plate during my second visit (September 2014).

They call this spread "fruit sushi". One look and you're full. :)





You could choose an intimate table for your date.


Information

New World Hotel, a 584-room, 25-floor deluxe hotel built in 1993 (but recently renovated in 2014), has 5 restaurants. They include Club Epicure (for exclusive members), The Lounge (for dining with live entertainment), Jasmine (for classic Cantonese cuisine), Bar Rouge (for evening cocktails and Cuban cigars) and Cafe 1228. Buffet is offered here. The restaurant is open from 6AM to 12 midnight and also offers a la carte menu. Yup, burgers and pasta could be had here. To book a table and reserve, call (632)811-6888 and have it connected to Cafe 1228. Please do not ask this blogsite for reservations and bookings. New World Hotel is located along Esperanza Street in Makati's Ayala Center just across Greenbelt 3.

Check out their website here -
http://www.manila.newworldhotels.com/en/overview/new-world-makati-hotel/

Facebook account here - https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldMakatiHotel.

Photo #2 and this photo only courtesy of the hotel's website.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Taxi Driver Who Knew What He Didn't - Llorente Blues in Cebu


TESTING PATIENCE 

It would be my 3rd hotel on one of my numerous hotel-hopping Cebu visits, Adelfa Hotel, a relatively new hotel right in the heart of Fuente Osmena. (What can I say, I like discovering new hotels.) 

There was a furrow on my forehead. My taxi driver was testing my patience so early in the day from Tune Hotel. Adelfa Hotel is modern, cool, comfortable, and conveniently located at Llorente Street just a block from busy Jones (Osmena). I have never been to Llorente before this but I have studied the map so I was oriented. 

When I got inside my taxi, the driver said he knew where Adelfa was, but when he started the car, you could feel his uncertainty. I told him the general directions: "From Jones, we turn right to Llorente just before reaching the Capitol". Very simple instructions. 

But he kept driving wayward so I started directing him: "Escario, Capitol, left at Jones, straight ahead, then just before reaching Fuente Osmena, turn right". Clear as cloudless sky, right? But at every darn intersection, he would point his hand to the east, "Ah Llorente is there, I know" and I'd go "No, it isn't!" 

He repeatedly asked for the name of the hotel and the street, interchanging the two terms 8x in 15 minutes. Was he inebriated? Or just simple minded? Or was he taking me for a ride? Oriented to time, place and person? I haven't been to Llorente so I am not 100% confident, but I had to be firm. 

We turned a street too early and he muttered, "No Llorente here. I know these streets (in Visayan)" then he started enumerating names of streets in the vicinity (San Diego, Carlos, Horatio, etc.)... anything but the street I wanted, then insisted that Llorente was North this time. I was at my wit's end never to erupt so early in the day, but I muttered a firm "No, straight ahead (in Visayan). Then at the next corner, lo and behold, Llorente Street, like manna from the heavens - and like the first drop of rain on a 10-year drought, I was where I wanted to go! No tips for you, buddy!


This is the Eye in the Sky!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ngong Ping Village, Hong Kong


When fog takes over Ngong Ping Village, you're transported into a dreamland. Mui Wo is a rustic rural town (population 6,000) at the eastern side of Lantau Island, accessible by boat from Central's ferry terminal. From Silver Mine Beach, I was the bus' only passenger (HK$17.20).

Ngong Ping Village is a specially designed community that's "culturally themed" to reflect the settlements around Ngong Ping area. Set on a 1.5 hectare land, up the Lantau hills, this artificial village is home to the cable car and the Tian Tian Buddha statue (the famed big Buddha up the hill). From here, you can take the cable car back to "civilization". I have to say, though, that if you want to maximize the awe-inspiring views during your cable car ride (roughly worth HK$105 for the standard cabin and $190 for the crystal cabin), visit early in the day and avoid late afternoons - or you will hardly see anything during your descent.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Negative Vibes All Around Mayura Water Palace (Lombok, Indonesia)


"Not worth it."

"Dishonest people."

"Run down."

"Do not go there."

Those are just some of the comments from different travelers all over the world about Mayura Water Palace that consists of an artificial lake and a floating pavilion right in the middle. This was once an important spot where royalty and his subjects conferred during the reign of the Balinese kingdom in Lombok. I went anyway, but my driver had warnings prior to my entrance.

I paid an entrance fee of 5,000 rupiah to get in. That's a cheap PhP18.60, but wait until touts, staying at the cashier, start their game on you. "You have to get a guide so you can enter the floating pavilion in the middle of the lake," said my would-be guide. "How much for your guide service?" I asked. "It's up to you," he said. That to me does not close a deal. "How much?" I insisted. "Most visitors usually give 20,000 rupiah (PhP)," he said. It's-up-to-you meant 20,000 rupiah? Though that isn't much, I wasn't willing to pay that much just to enter a pavilion on a lake I already paid my entrance for. I said, "No." I do not need to get inside the pavilion. More importantly, this was a very small place that doesn't require a guide. Besides, I can see the pavilion from the side of the lake, thank you.

He huffed. Huffed!!! I didn't care! He could be huffing like a dragon and it won't mean squat to me. I left and just walked around. Now I know why most comments about the place are nasty. So if you're planning on a Lombok trip and would specifically hire a vehicle just to visit this rather limited and rundown "water palace" that offered nothing else, don't!

This is the Eye in the Sky

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Buddhist Monks in Sydney (Australia)


Mismatched photographic elements? They have a term for this. I was nonetheless pleased. 

Meanwhile, I have squandered a bit (splurged, maybe?) for my Sydney travel cards. Since I couldn't decide which ones to take, considering each of their limitations, I got both. Convenient, but not in anyway wise because one of them is actually wasted. So do not follow this line of thinking if budget is tight. I have a MyBus travel card, worth A$26, that allows me to take the city bus and an unlimited MyTrain travel card (including ferry rides) worth A$21. Now here's the clinch: I chose to walk - a decidedly long walk - towards the city harbour overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Believe me, my feet were throbbing later! But it was something I'd never change for any comfortable ride.

The photo above was taken from the immense, and truly majestic, Royal Botanical Garden of Sydney, located just beside the Sydney Opera House grounds. There were uniformed Japanese navy lads (you'd think you got transported to a make-believe Japanese town) , school children, fitness buffs and Buddhist monks!

And they weren't camera-shy either.

This is the Eye in the Sky!


Monday, September 8, 2014

KL Moderne at the KLCC Shopping Mall, KL (Malaysia)


It can't be an extra-terrestrial structure. But it sure looks like one. The dome at the KLCC shopping mall called Suria KLCC, that sits on a 100 acre lot, is a feast to the eyes, further heightened both by natural light and interior lighting. As I have mentioned time and again, I am not into shopping but I like structures, forms, and hallways. At the center piece of this shopper's paradise is this incandescent display of symmetry and imagination. Who can resist the beauty here?

Just outside, of course, is one of man's most gorgeous architectural creations, the Petronas Twin Tower. If that isn't enough for the ravenouse senses, there's a pond, a pool and a dancing fountain, a parkland and a mosque mostly populated, not by the faithful, but by sleepy heads who can't resist the cold marble floors of the prayer hall. And I thought it was forbidden to sleep (eat, talk, etc.) there.

 This is the Eye in the Sky!


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Desert Abode in Khouri (Great Thar Desert, India)


Wouldn't you be enraptured with geometrically distinct abodes (above) made out of sandstones, right at the fringes of a desert?

I was fascinated no end. After a safari at the Great Thar Desert in north India, my camel owner took me to Khouri, a remote village in the desert. "Khouri" - that's how the sign post was written. But when I tried to look for any information about it, there's none to be found in the world wide web. Nada.

When I say "village", it would be in the context of a household operating within a community. But there weren't any other houses in the vicinity. It was like tapping a heel and you find a yellow brick road leading somewhere. Isn't that a joy?

This is the Eye in the Khouri Sky!



Friday, September 5, 2014

NAIA Terminal 3 - Covered Parking


The opening of Ninoy Aquino International Airport  (NAIA) Terminal 3's covered parking is a welcome development in the operations of T3. Suddenly, T3 seems to have spread itself wider. In fact, upon my recent arrival from Davao, I noticed a much longer walk to get to the baggage claim. Think LCCT's long walk to the immigration.

Why would anyone use the open air parking in front of the terminal when you have a more convenient parking area that's probably cheaper - and safer, for that matter. There's ample space and it's way way easier to maneuver your vehicles here. Moreover, you only have to walk a few steps to get to the arrival/departure area because the building is essentially contiguous to the airport terminal.

The spacing of cars/vehicles are quite uneven though. There's more-than-enough space at the sides (really wide space to open your doors), but spaces elsewhere are quite tight. The parking building has 5 levels. The top 2 levels (4 and 5) are allegedly reserved for the officials and employees of the airport, but this is yet to be verified.

TROLLEYS

Trolleys aren't allowed here. If you're coming from the arrival hall, you can take a trolley into the parking building but you'd have to leave it at the corner space provided (left of the doors, see photo #7, blue arrow). The concourse are mostly one way. Two moving vehicles hardly fit the main driveways.

FEES

Entrance fee is PhP40 which gives you 23 hours to stay in the building. After the 23rd hour, you'll be tasked to pay PhP300 (talk about exponential raise). If you lose the ticket, you'd have to shell out PhP400. This means that if you clock in at 11 PM today, you may stay as long as 10:59 PM the next day without paying additional tariff. Recently, they've increased the rate for lost tickets to P500.

OVERNIGHT AND EXTENDED PARKING

For those who plan to leave their vehicle in the covered parking overnight or for several days, no prior permission needed. Just go straight to the parking building. Inform parking authorities (security guard/cashier) about your extended parking, get their names (for reference), keep your parking stub (given upon entry) and expect to pay PhP300 per night (per 24 hours) plus PhP15 per succeeding hour. That means, If you're planning to park your car for 5 days, then expect to pay PhP1,500 plus PhP15 per succeeding hour. If you have further questions, call (63-2) 877-7888 and ask to be connected to Collection Department, the department that answers queries about the multi-level, covered parking.

NO MOTORCYCLES and BIKES

I asked the Collection Department about this. No, they do not have space for motorcycles and bikes - and do not allow them in the covered parking. There's an open parking in front of the terminal for that.

SHUTTLE BUS TO OTHER TERMINALS

If you're planning on parking your car at Terminal 3 even though you're flying out from, say Terminal 4, there is a Shuttle Service that parks at the Arrival Bay 8. this shuttle ride is free of charge for ticketed passengers. It will charge a minimum fee of PhP20 for nonticketed guests. The ride has a 24-hour service (though I honestly doubt if it really runs 24/7 specially during wee hours). Make sure you allott enough time to cover the usually-moderate-to-heavy traffic characteristic of the roads between terminals. this shuttle ride provides an option aside from the taxi ride.

NO CREDIT CARD TRANSACTIONS

The covered parking does not accept credit card as payment, and all payment transactions will be on a strictly cash payment basis.

MEDIA

This was asked by one of the readers so I asked the Collection Department about their policy concerning media practitioners. Media people who do not have tickets are NOT allowed to enter the departure hall unless they have prior permit from the management. This has to be arranged prior to the visit and is subject to requirements. The "no ticket, no entry" policy at the departure hall is strictly implemented.

AVOID MARY GRACE CAFE

And just so you avoid delays, if you're taking a meal or snack at the Food Court, we feel we need this special mention. Avoid Mary Grace Cafe. The place is messy, the servers take forever to serve you and they forget orders.

SECURITY

There are security guards who are quick to tell off drivers who double park (and there are a number). Vehicles HAVE to park to load/unload... unless you feel quite special to not park.

Parking at 1st level leads you straight to the arrival hall of the terminal. There's a security and an X-ray check upon entry into the terminal. Place your coins, wallet, keys and cellular phones on a canister and allow them to pass through the X-ray. If you're meeting an arriving passenger, then you'd have to walk a few meters to the greeting area. Very convenient. If you're parked at the 2nd or 3rd level, you may use the elevator situated at the extreme end of the main terminal, just before exiting to the parking building. Take note though: The elevator buttons are marked LA, LB, LC, LD, LE instead of numbers (photos # 8 and 9). This is means LA is level 1; LB is level 2, and so on. (Sigh! That was hard.)

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Entrance to the covered parking building from the ground level entrance (arrival level).

Some have generous space while others are a tight squeeze.






Red arrow points to the main hallway of T3 (this one's the arrival hall). Blue arrow points to where you should leave the trolley. Green X is part of the parking building.

4 elevators servicing the terminal.

Elevator buttons aren't marked with numbers but letters., thus Levels A to E.



The departure hallway area just before heading towards the parking building exit (to the left).

Hallway directly leading to the parking building. There's an X-ray machine there for incoming guests from the parking building.

Straight out of the plane, you walk into the building and before going down the escalator on your way to the baggage conveyors, you see the Well-Wisher's Area above which is mostly empty. Most greeters wait at the exit hall of arrival level, instead of here because you'd have to walk your way back to the arrival hall to meet them anyway. Unless you're extremely excited to see your arriving guest, that is. 

Two payment booths at the exit. Pay PhP40 within 23 hours of stay.

Upon exit, you head straight out facing Resorts World's parking building (below) and out into the highway (going right).