Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines, Summer 2016

From NAIA Terminal 3 via Cebu Pacific, we arrived at the Puerto Princesa International Airport after about an hour from Metro Manila. We were picked up by our driver going to Astoria Palawan, our home for the next four (4) days.

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Beach view

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Grounds

Our lunch upon arrival:

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Sinigang

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Binagoongan

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Halo halo

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Bibingka

After a short rest, we swam, went kayaking, paddle boarding and biking.

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Beach

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Paddle board

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Kayak

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Biking

We started our second day exploring one of the seven wonders of the world, The Puerto Princesa Underground River. Located in the Saint Paul mountain range, it’s the longest subterranean river in the planet accessible to man. The cave has a medley of stalactites, stalagmites, several large chambers, and lots of bats. A spiritual experience… We are truly awed by God’s creation.

IMG_0077IMG_0078IMG_0079IMG_0080After, we paddled along the mangrove forest, which serves as filter and keeps chemicals and mud from reaching the sea. It’s a dwelling place for other marine species and it’s a perfect location where fish lays its eggs.

IMG_0085On our third (3rd) day, we had our city tour covering the Crocodile farm,

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Baker’s hill (bought delicious hopia monggo and other sweets),

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Mitra’s farm,

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Butterfly Eco-garden and Tribal Village(where we met the Palaw’ans introducing us to their culture),

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Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral

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and Plaza Cuartel.

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Later at night, we went to Iwahig firefly watching tour (with star gazing).

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On our fourth (4th) and last day, we just played and swam in the newly opened Palawan waterpark by Astoria.

IMG_0073IMG_0074IMG_0119Another summer fun adventure!

Tokyo (Japan) Spring Days 5 and 6, Mount Fuji and Disneyland- May 2016

On our 5th day in Tokyo, we went on a bus ride going to Gotemba Premium Outlet Store. We went here mainly to get a view of Mt. Fuji in all its splendor and it was beautiful!IMG_9865

We had a smooth bus ride from Shinjuku using the Odakyu bus.

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We just walked, window shopped and ate at the Outlet mall.

 

 

We slept with all smiles on our faces because our destination the next day was Tokyo Disneyland!

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Here are the attractions that we explored:
1.Monsters, Inc. Ride Go and Seek

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Together with little Boo, and lots of monsters, including Sulley and Mike, We played hide-and-go-seek through the Monsters, Inc. offices and the streets of Monstropolis. Here, we used our flashlights to “find” the funny, hidden monsters.

2. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

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Here, we were in the middle of superb action in Star Wars movie in 3D!

3. Haunted Mansion

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This  gothic mansion is haunted by 999 ghosts, goblins, and ghouls. We had a scary interaction with all of them as we explored its grounds and interiors.
4. Splash Mountain

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A boat ride which took us to the world of Disney’s classic film, Song of the South. At the end of our journey, there was a 45-degree drop down and a 16-meter high waterfall. What a surprisingly wet experience!

5. Big Thunder Mountain

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A train ride up the mountain where we careened at high speed through the old, abandoned gold mine. What a thrill!

6. Pirates of the Carribean

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As we rode on a boat, we lived through the adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow, where cannonballs flew and splashed into the sea. We truly enjoyed the rough voices of pirates shouting as we sail through the Carribean.

7. Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall

Of course, nothing beats  warm, hearty sweets and treats after our exciting ans thrilling experience in Disneyland. We ate here at the Royal banquet and felt like royalties as we feasted on steaks, veggies and delectable pastries. Thank you Tokyo Disneyland for a whimsical last day in Tokyo!

Tokyo (Japan) Spring, Day 4 – May 2016

Today, we had our “breakfast buffet” at The Tsukiji Fish Market. Located in the central Tokyo, it is a large wholesale market for fish, fruits and vegetables. We weren’t able to witness the tuna auction, but we were able to sample the fresh produce in the outer market.

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At 9 a.m., we had tuna sashimi,

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tuna sushi at 9:15 a.m.,

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giant fresh oyster and  giant grilled scallop at 9:45 a.m.,

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strawberry daifuku at 10 a.m.,

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assorted yakitori at 10:15 a.m.,

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fresh uni at 10:30 a.m.,

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grilled crabmeat in miso sauce and grilled gindara at 11 a.m.,

and strawberry ice cream at 11:15 a.m.

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What a feast!!!

Next stop was Asakusa.

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Upon exiting the train station, we walked through the streets going to Nakamise, a shopping street where we saw a variety of local snacks and souvenirs.

At its end  is Asakusa’s  main attraction, Sensoji. A very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century.

After lunch, we headed to futuristic Odaiba, an artificial island in Tokyo Bay.

IMG_9818Here, we saw Gundam in Diver City Tokyo Plaza,

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and explored the high-tech Toyota Mega Web.

We also strolled along the Venus Fort.

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Indeed, a fun day today with the old and new Tokyo.

Tokyo (Japan) Spring Day 3 – May 2016

With our pretty Japanese guide Itsuko, we braved the rains  today. We started our tour at the Tokyo Main Station.

From the station, we walked going to theTokyo Imperial Palace and the gardens surrounding the Chiyoda ward. This is the former site of Edo Castle, with vast gardens surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo. It is the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family.

We continued our stroll through the double bridge, then headed straight to Ginza, which is the high fashion center of the city and contains many upscale shops and restaurants.

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In the afternoon, our daughter Issa got her time to look through the 6 floors of Sekaido art store.

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We then ended our beautiful day in Shake shack Meiji Jingu gaien.

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Tokyo (Japan) Spring Days 1 and 2, May 2016

Our Tokyo trip last May 2016 was very enjoyable and fun, especially for our kids, since we traveled with their cousins. We arrived early afternoon and went straight to a local ramen house in Shinjuku. We ordered gyozas, ramen and tsukemen. All were so yummy!

 

The weather was really nice at this time of the year. Cloudy at 16C, that’s why we opt to walk going to Harajuku, a trendy place full of shops and eateries where youth pop culture rules.

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Here, we ate yummy crepes,

IMG_9751Custard cream Taiyaki,

IMG_9755and Takoyaki.

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On our 2nd day, we started our morning walking along the streets of vibrant Tokyo. We went first to Hanazono-Jinja Shrine, a shinto shrine in Shinjuku.

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Second stop was Tokyo Government Building, where we experienced eating in their office cafeteria and looking at a bird’s eye view of the city for free.

Third stop was Shibuya, one of the most colorful and busy districts in Tokyo, packed with all kinds of shops and restaurants.

IMG_9762Here, we met Hachiko.

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Our afternoon was spent strolling along Yoyogi park,

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Meiji shrine, another Shinto shrine,

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and snacking on Luke’s lobster roll,

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Pablo cheesecake,

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And Croissant Taiyaki.

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With our hearts and belly full of beautiful Tokyo, we slept full of dreams, excited to explore more of this beautiful city.

Hanoi, Vietnam 2016

This trip was a rare one for our family since only me and my husband were the only ones who traveled to Hanoi. We arrived at 3 a.m. in the legendary Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel. Located in the heart of the french quarter, this hotel is very luxurious with its french colonial and neo-classical design. We had an easy check-in and a breakfast trolly welcomed us in the lobby.

 

 

Our first stop was lunch consisting of Bún  Chá with fried seafood roll (Obama combo) at Bún Chá Huong Lien.  This is a noodle soup topped with vegetables and grilled barbequed pork. A party in a bowl!

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Dessert was Cá phé naú and cót dúa càphê at Cong Càphê,

 

and macaroons, tiramisu and eclair at L’ Epicerie du Metropole.

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After a quick nap, we had a rainy stroll at the Hoan Kiem Lake,

 

and Ngoc son temple, which was built in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty.

 

Afterwards, we “snacked” on  Banh my/pho sot vang and pho bo at Huyen Dung restaurant.

 

Dinner was Cá thang long, pork skewers and fried spring rolls at Chaca Cá Cuong restaurant.

 

We capped off our night with an egg coffee at Giang cafe.

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A clear day welcomed us on our 2nd day  in Hanoi. We were early birds at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum… And it was a surreal experience.

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We then visited the yellow Ho Chi Minh presidential palace,

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his residence and his stilt house,

 

Ho Chi Minh museum

 

and the one-pillar pagoda.

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Next, we explored The Temple of Literature and National University, which is dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars.

 

Next stop was Hoa Lo prison,which was used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War.

 

Lunch was at Wrap n’ roll where we had pho and various types of spring rolls.

 

In the afternoon, snacks were mixed meat and bbqed chicken Banh mi at Banh mi 25 and iced coffee at Highlands coffee.

 

Late in the afternoon, we watched the very entertaining Thang Long water puppet show,

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and we joined the Legend Metropole’s Path of History tour where we went to the bunkers built during the civil war.

 

Though our trip was short, we were able to maximize the rich culture and food haven that is Hanoi!

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN – Christmas 2016

The kids and the “kid-in-us” are all waiting for this day… Universal Studios Japan! We’re flying high in this blissful place!

 

Itinerary:
1. Jaws – based on the film with the same title, we were aboard a boat cruising through Amity Harbor. Here, we experienced a harrowing chase between the craft and a very determined great white shark.

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2. Jurassic Park – The Ride – A water cruise where we journeyed through a jungle featuring all the dinosaur species. Out of nowhere, we chanced upon the ominous “restricted area” of Jurassic Park, where they keep the dangerous ones. Suddenly, a T. rex appeared before us where it exposed its sharp teeth before we plunged in a pitch-black 85-foot drop.

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3. Backdraft – a show where we learned how pyrotechnic effects were created. We witnessed exploding oil drums, gushing pillars of fire, encroaching walls of flame, and  hot blasts.

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4.  The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D – as riders, we became reporters into the world of Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man. We rode the Daily Bugle vehicle known as the “Scoop” and we witnessed how the evil Sinister Syndicate  captured the Statue of Liberty with an anti-gravity gun. This evil group is made up of many famous Spider-Man villains, including Doctor Octopus, Scream, Electro, Hydro-Man, and the Hobgoblin.

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5. Terminator 2: 3-D – A super-3D movie where we witnessed The battle for the future between humans and cyborgs.

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6. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – 4K3D – as we explored Hogwarts, we were thrown in a scenic dark ride. Here we journeyed through the  Hogwarts castle. We had an encounter with the Whomping Willow and a horde of Dementors, and plunged in the middle of  a Quidditch match.

 


7. Flight of the Hippogriff – A junior roller coaster ride, we went on a test flight of the Hippogriff over the Forbidden Forest and Hagrid’s Hut. Here, we had a full aerial view of The Wizarding World and experienced drops, dips and turns around Hogwarts Grounds.

 

We were in this grand place Christmas time. A very happy place, indeed, to celebrate our holidays.

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Balesin Island, Quezon Province, Philippines (2016)

Despite the rainy weather in Metro Manila, we were very lucky that Mr. Sun welcomed us in the Island of Balesin.

IMG_1771IMG_1778IMG_1782A unique, members-only, leisure get-away, it’s a 25 minute plane ride from Metro Manila.

It has seven-themed villages, namely, Balesin,  which is Filipino-themed,

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Bali,

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Phuket,

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Mykonos,

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St. Tropez,

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Costa Del Sol,

 

and Toscana.

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Each recreating the getaway destination it represents.

The most exclusive amongst them is the Balesin Royal Villa, designed as fusion of the best of Asian royal heritage and blended it into something wholly original.

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We had a magical time in this island. Indeed, a must-visit patch of paradise in the Philippines.

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Phuket-Phi Phi-Krabi, Thailand, 2016

For our kids’ semestral break, we decided to have a part laid-back, part adventure trip, to Phuket-Phi Phi Island-Krabi, Thailand.

We stayed in the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort, which is a huge complex in the middle of Bangtao Beach. This is one of the best places to stay for families in Phuket. The view is spectacular and the contrast of greens and blues is just extraordinary.

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On our first day, we just ate, swam, play and lounge in the resort.

Our second day was spent in Krabi. From the Royal Phuket Marina, our speed boat brought us to the Monkey beach, Phi Phi Lay, Phi Phi Don, Maya bay and Khai Nor Island. We capped of our day with cocktails and sumptuous Thai dinner.

Our last day was a free and easy day as we drove around Phuket town. We went to Baan Teelanka (the upside down house), old Phuket town, Wat Chalong Temple, Big Buddha and a little outlet shopping sighting.

Seafood Delight: Seabass, Wild Prawns and Octopus Recipes

For a dear friend’s birthday, I decided to put together a seafood-packed dinner, which are all very easy and quick to prepare.

A. Baked Seabass

IMG_9426Ingredients:

  • 1 500gms seabass fillet
  • salt
  • pepper
  • lemon
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 small head of garlic, minced

Pocedure:

1. Pre-heat oven to 180C for 20 minutes.

2. Season the seabass fillet with salt, pepper and lemon.

3. In a bowl, mix mayonnaise, parmesan cheese and minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Place the mixture on top of the seabass fillet and bake for 40 minutes at 180C.

5. Garnish with buttered corn and carrots. Serve.

 

B. Wild Prawns in Creamy, Sun-dried Tomatoes  Spaghettini

IMG_9425Ingredients:

  • cooked 200gms spaghettini
  • 3 tbsps butter
  • minced garlic
  • 500gms wild prawns, cut into pieces
  • 300gms dries tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups cooking cream
  • 3 tbsps grated parmesan cheese
  • salt, sugar and pepper

Procedure

1. Sautee garlic in melted butter.

2. Add prawns. Cook until pink.

3. Add chopped sundried tomatoes.

4. Add the cooking cream and cook in low heat for 2 minutes.

5. Add grated parmesan cheese. Season with salt, sugar and pepper.

6. Remove from heat then pour over the cooked spaghettini. Serve.

 

C. Spicy Wild Prawn Heads

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Ingredients:

  • 500gms prawn heads
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 1tbsp chinese soy sauce
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt, sugar and pepper

Procedure:

1. Sautee minced garlic in butter.

2. Add prawn heads and cook until color turns into pink.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve.

 

D. Pickled Octopus

  • IMG_9434.PNGIngredients:
  • 500gms octopus, chopped
  • vinegar
  • red onions, chopped
  • cucumber chopped
  • ginger, chopped
  • salt, sugar and pepper

Procedure:

1. Mix all ingredients.

2. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hrs.

3. Serve.