Category Archives: Travels

NAPA VALLEY Stroll. Explore. Prost.

My love affair with this place started when I saw Carrie Bradshaw talking to Mr. Big regarding his move from New York to Napa Valley.

“Well when you’re tired you take a nap-a you don’t move to Napa.”

From then on, it made me wonder, what kind of place will you exchange for New York? When I was planning my itinerary for San Francisco, my eyes caught a glimpse of the small letters “Napa” on the map and asked? Is this The Napa Valley? Yes, an hour away from the city. My heart pounded and like so many things in my life … Serendipity stepped in…. A pleasant surprise.

The Famous Napa Landmark

The Famous Napa Landmark

Napa Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area ( a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury) located in Napa County, California, United States.

Napa Valley is considered one of the premier wine regions in the world but production of commercial wine started in the 19th century only.

The combination of Mediterranean climategeography and geology of the region are conducive to growing quality wine grapes. John Patchett established the Napa Valley’s first commercial vineyard in 1858. In 1861 Charles Krug established another of Napa Valley’s first commercial wineries in St. Helena. Viticulture in Napa suffered several setbacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including an outbreak of the vine disease phylloxera, the institution of Prohibition, and the Great Depression. The wine industry in Napa Valley recovered, and helped by the results of the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, came to be seen as capable of producing the best quality wine – equal to that of Old World wine regions. Napa Valley is now a major enotourism (refers to tourism whose purpose is or includes the tasting, consumption or purchase of wine, often at or near the source. Where other types of tourism are often passive in nature, enotourism can consist of visits to wineries, tasting wines, vineyard walks, or even taking an active part in the harvest) destination. – Wikipedia

I was discouraged so many times to visit because of the massive valley fire that hit Napa during the time that I was there. But my heart can’t allow something that is within my reach to go unfulfilled. Like a love that you had to let go because circumstances aren’t right. But still you take it head-on … Life is short for what-might-have-beens.

And Lo! And behold. I felt my heart skipped a beat when I saw the rolling vineyards slowly unfolded as we traversed the valley. With all the drama, I told myself … Mr. Big have every reason to move here … I would have.

The Vineyard

The Vineyard

So many wineries … so little time.

Peju – Tony Peju purchased the 30 acre land because of love for farming and passion for wine. Inside Peju, you can have wine tasting, buy wine and merchandise. They are famous for handcrafted Peju ceramics and custom logo Peju apparel. There is also an access to the wine cellar for visitors. This is also one of the winery featured at the Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Peju

Peju Cellar

 

Grapes in the Vineyard

Grapes in the Vineyard

Castello di Amorosa – located at St. Helena, Calistoga. It is a 13th century inspired Tuscan castle in a 170 beautiful acres of forest, hill, lake and stream. All the metal in the castle was hand-forged over the open flame by the one of the last remaining blacksmiths in Umbria, Italy. Activities: guided tour and tasting (25 USD), wine and cheese pairing and royal food and wine pairing.

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Wine Tasting with our wine guy, Vincenzo Coppola

Wine Tasting with our wine guy, Vincenzo Coppola

V. Sattui Winery – it stands today as the result of hard work, dedication, and the extraordinary vision of two men who happen to be related.  Vittorio Sattui started the business in 1885 after emigrating from Genoa, Italy.  But it was Dario, the grandson who resurrected the business in Napa. This winery has a deli unlike the others. You can buy food and have a picnic outside the lawn.

Entrance of V. Sattui

Entrance of V. Sattui

Robert Mondavi Winery – with a legacy of more than 40 years of winemaking, it is a shining symbol of Napa. The architecture of Cliff May reflects the missions of early California history.

Façade of Mondavi Winery

Façade of Mondavi Winery

Afternoon Solace by the Garden

Afternoon Solace by the Garden

Here is the list of additional wineries in Napa recommended:

 

Hagafen Cellars                                                                      Domaine Chandon

Artesa                                                                                      Beringer

Rutherford Hill Winery                                                           Duckhorn Vineyards

Domaine Carneros                                                                 Etude Winery

Paraduxx Winery

 

Did you know?

  • Wine is fat-free and contains no cholesterol
  • A six ounce glass of wine contains approximately 130 calories
  • California produces approximately 77% of the US wine grape crop
  • Although red wine can only be produced from red grapes, white wine can be produced from both red and white grapes. – Wine Country

 

3 Simple Steps to Wine Tasting

  1. Swirl – swirl the wine vigorously in the glass. As the wine coats the sides of the glass, it releases its aroma of bouquet.
  2. Sniff – Insert your nose into the glass and inhale by taking quick, full sniffs. The aromas can be quite different depending on how far into the glass your nose goes. At the top of the glass, they are more floral and fruity; deeper in the glass, they are richer. Try to detect the full range of scents from berry to floral to spicy to woody … and so on.
  3. Taste – Sip a small amount of wine and move it over your entire tongue so that all your taste buds come in contact with it. Taste for sweetness or dryness. Or is it flat and flabby? Tannins (used in red wines to keep them from spoiling) will feel sort of prickly on your tongue. The ideal touch is a mellow softness – a velvety feeling in your mouth. – Wine Country

Trip Tips

  • Start the trip in the morning. Wineries close at 5pm
  • Wear cotton and your sunnies. It can be very hot during fall.
  • Coffee Break at Dean and Deluca.
  • Have a designated driver who won’t drink. DUI isn’t cool.

Napa Valley will always be a place close to my heart. It will always hold a special memory in my psyche each time I take a sip of wine.  It will always be a place that I will remember with fondness and love. In life, there will be people in your life that will come and wander far … you will tend to forget … like wine kept in a cellar for long.  When it is the perfect time, they will come back, a little older, a little wiser but the essence will remain and this time they might stay. Just like aged wine, it will be at its best, at its finest when it finally touched your lips. Prost!

There are moments, above all on June evenings, when the lakes that hold our moons are sucked into the earth, and nothing is left but wine and the touch of a hand. – Charles Morgan

 

 

MY KHMER SUMMER

MY KHMER SUMMER

When my life took a heavy toll on work … I have forgotten or I simply never had the time to write … not that I have found it less fulfilling … but I simply never had the time.  Then by some divine intervention I was “forced” to rest … I had the time but with much prodding from my one avid reader, Direk Vincent Dy Buncio, one of the artistic geniuses behind Eat Bulaga, the longest noontime show in the land,  now known as EB. And if someone whose mind is as keen as that and looks forward to my travelogues … I am deeply humbled.

Cambodia … one of the most beautiful Asian country, a friend once told me.  So when my close friends had their calendar cleared … we flew … not knowing that I will be flying to a new adventure that I will forever remember for the rest of my life … when my creativity is acknowledged and adored.

Best Time to Visit: Feb 17-23

Weather: Hot and Hotter … warm, humid, sunny

Outfit: Cotton / light colored / krama (Khmer scarf) / shades/ hat / sandals or Crocs (it’s personal)

Two hours and 19 minutes … Siem Reap International Airport.  One airport that looks like a museum with gigantic stone statues that is worthy of my Instagram post  in urhighnessqueenV.

Siem Reap International Airport

Siem Reap International Airport

Lo and behold, when my Agoda Voucher said … with free airport transfers … I was impressed … but when I saw the “transfer” that it was a “tuk-tuk” … my innate “social climber” instinct said not LO AND BEHOLD  but LO AND HOLD IT!!!! I will ride that with a driver named Rat? This Rat touched our hearts as the days passed… a young man full of sad stories, dreams and ambitions.

Airport Transfer : Tuk Tuk with Driver Rat

Airport Transfer : Tuk Tuk with Driver Rat

For paying tourist the fares are : $7 (taxis) and $5 (tuk-tuk)

Tip #1: Never change your US Dollars to Cambodian Riel … they use USD in Siem!

Cambodian Riel

Cambodian Riel

The night scene of Siem Reap from the airport looks like Laguna … very rural. 

We stayed in Secrets Pavillion Villa which I helped transform and can be found towards the end of this blog.

After the much practiced speech and welcome drinks from the man whom I will found out is the owner of the place who got a dose my ADHD streak, we proceeded to where the night life is.  The owner is Sothearith Voeun  or Sivatha for an easier recall.

Welcome Drinks

Welcome Drink

We headed for the PUB STREET.  The street name that made my bestie said YES! to this trip which initially she didn’t want to take. Yes, and every night … we were here!

The Pub Street !

The Pub Street !

DAY 2

I woke up to a coral-colored sun. This one will kick the daylights out of you.  Amazing!

Coral-Colored Morning Sun

Coral-Colored Morning Sun

Breakfast … wow! Eggs with bread /butter and fruits (banana/watermelon/melon) for FREE!

FREE Breakfast

FREE Breakfast

TEMPLE TOUR 1 CENTRAL ANGKOR (SMALL CIRCUIT)

Map of Temple Tours

Map of Temple Tours

Hire a tuk-tuk to take you to the temples $15 for 8 hours.  Hire a tour guide $20-25 a day.

On the way to the Temple Run

On the way to the Temple Run

Tip #2: Book a tour guide beforehand … especially during peak season.

Park Admission  One day : $20 / Three Days: $40 / Seven Days: $60

Tip #3: Children under 12 enter for free after showing a passport so always bring it with you.

Tip #4: Krama .Sunscreen.Cottons.Comfy Shoes … Must haves for this Temple Run

Tip #5 Take the Elephant Ride for $15 .  I never did … regrets!

Elephant Ride for $15

Elephant Ride for $15

The Small Circuit takes in several of the major and minor temples in the area. Beginning at Angkor Wat and running for seventeen kilometers the circuit takes in the major elements of Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, and Banteay Kdei, and some of the minor but interesting temples such as the Baphoun, The Terrace of the Leper King, The Terrace of the Elephants, the Twelve Prasats, Spean Thma and Sras Srang before returning to Angkor Wat.  (Cambodia Travel.Com)

Entrance at the South Gate of Angkor Thom (Big Thom) 3-walled moated royal city. There are 2 rows of giant statues on the left (facing the gate) are the Devas (deities) and on the right are the Asuras (nature-beings)  carrying the Naga ( giant serpent ).

Entrance at the South Gate of Angkor Thom

Entrance at the South Gate of Angkor Thom

Moat Surrounding the Temple

Bayon is amazing known for its giant faces and most recognizable in Khmer Art  with 37 standing towers.  Massive!

Bayon

Bayon

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Interior

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Picture for a Fee

 Baphuon  … Recently reopened after the restoration that began in 1970s. Note the large reclining Buddha on the west side.  But we were so tired to enter this.

Baphuon

Baphuon

TIP# 6 : Always bring a cold bottle of mineral water.

Terrace of the Elephants …  2.5 meter tall, 300 meter long

Terrace of the Elephants

Terrace of the Elephants

Terrace of the Leper King  … the statue was found here  with its lichen-eaten condition that gave it the appearance of leprosy.

Terrace of the Leper King  ( Cambodia Travel.com)

Terrace of the Leper King ( Cambodia Travel.com)

Ta Prohm  … sprawling monastic complex … fig and silk-cotton trees grow from the temples. Enthralling!

Walls of Ta Prohm

 Ta Prohm

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Walls of Ta Prohm

Tip# 7 Guides/Drivers get free lunch in the restaurants where they brought the tourists.

Drivers' Lounge

Drivers’ Lounge

THE REVERED ANGKOR WAT . Angkor means “Capital City or Holy City”. This is the centrepiece … visually, architecturally and artistically breathtaking … but at 2 in the afternoon you can add  swooning-ly sizzling  in the adjectives…

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Outside Angkor Wat’s Gate with a Monk

Tip # 8 . 1st trip to this is imperative after 2pm because backlighting obscures the view.

 This is a temple mountain dedicated to Vishnu. Walls are covered with bas-relief and carvings and while the guide is explaining … I just wanna walk away because I can’t understand a word he is saying … and here I was…

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Walls with Carvings

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Background: 12-meter tall brick & laterite pyramid - funerary temple— at Prasat Baksei Chamkrong

Background: 12-meter tall brick & laterite pyramid – funerary temple— at Prasat Baksei Chamkrong

Monkey w/ the Angkor Wat Backdrop

Monkey w/ the Angkor Wat Backdrop

   

Monks Outside the Temple

Monks Outside the Temple

RELECTION SHOW 6 TOWERS BUT IN FRONT YOU WILL ONLY SEE 5 TOWERS

RELECTION SHOWS 6 TOWERS BUT IN FRONT YOU WILL ONLY SEE 5 TOWERS

  

Vishnu

Vishnu

Vishnu – maintainer or preserver / “ to settle”  In the Puranas, Vishnu is described as having the divine blue colour of water-filled clouds and as having four arms. He is depicted as holding a padma or lotus flower in the lower left hand, a gada or mace in the lower right hand, a shankha or conch in the upper left hand and a Sudarshana Chakra or discus weapon in the upper right hand. Vishnu is also described in the Bhagavad Gita as having a ‘Universal Form’ (Vishvarupa or Viraat Purusha) which is beyond the ordinary limits of human perception or imagination.  (Wikipedia)

ANGKOR BALLOON RIDE  $ 35 for 10 minutes within the temple complex … Pretty safe because this is tied to a cable.

Tip # 9 . Best time to go is 5pm but pre-book to avoid waiting.

ANGKOR BALLOON RIDE

ANGKOR BALLOON RIDE

This is aerial shot of Angkor without using a light aircraft but needed long lens for a better pix and it is pretty hazy.

Aerial Shot of Angkor Wat

Aerial Shot of Angkor Wat

NIGHT MARKET SHOPPING  – Old Market ( Phsar Chas ) . Souvenirs, trinkets and anything under the moon.

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MASSAGE … to wrap up the day

1.       FISH MASSAGE  – $ 1 – let the fishes do the massage

Fish Massage

Fish Massage

2.       FOOT MASSAGE – $ 1 – 15 minutes …

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Tip # 11 .Try this after the Temple Run.

 PAY IT FORWARD … Just do this.

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Tip # 12 . Be generous.  They are working hard for this … not just begging.

DAY 3

 Take 2: Breakfast … wow! Eggs with bread /butter and fruits (banana/watermelon/melon) for FREE!

TON LE SAP LAKE TOUR  – Take a Tuk tuk $15 . Admission Fee: $15.  No need for tour guide.

This is amazing for Caucasians or Europeans but ordinary to Filipinos.  This huge dumbbell-shaped lake stretches across the NW section of Siem.  Floating Villages/Community  and  Stilted Houses  (like in Samal). 

There is a floating restaurant with souvenirs and with children carrying snakes around them begging for cash if you want a picture taken with them.  Sad. Why do I have to pay $15 for this … to scare myself?  Will it go to the community? Do I need to Cambodia to see this while it is a common sight in my country. Was the $15 a waste … in my heart , I don’t think so.

And it got me thinking ….

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Taken from : Child Safe FB Account. To find out ChildSafe Traveler Tips log on to : http://www.thinkchildsafe.org/

Tip # 13 . One of the reasons why I love to travel … learning compassion.

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DAY 4

Take 3: Breakfast … wow! Eggs with bread /butter and fruits (banana/watermelon/melon) for FREE!

The twenty-six kilometer Grand Circuit is an extension on the little circuit but taking in Preah Khan, Preah Neak Pean to the Eastern Mebon and the various monuments like Ta Som, Preah Rup, before returning to Angkor Wat and is highly recommended for anyone spending three or more days in the complex. The Big Circuit encompasses a good representation of the rich variety of architecture here. (Cambodia Travel.Com)

Preah Khan – sacred sword – huge monastic complex . This is one of my fave temples. Better because there are not much tourists.

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Preah Neak Pean which means coiled serpent. This is surrounded by a pool . Water has healing properties according to the legend.

_DSC0043 _DSC0048 _DSC0069Ta Som – small Bayon-style monastic complex and the miniature version of Ta Prohm . A huge tree is is growing on top of the eastern gopura which is destroying the gate and a photo classic.

_DSC0112Preah Rup – architecturally and artistically superior temple mountain.

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DAY 5

 Take 4: Breakfast … wow! Eggs with bread /butter and fruits (banana/watermelon/melon) for FREE!

More Shopping and going around town

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VNC – my fave shoe store in Siem Reap … and sale!

Hello Kitty!  in Siem

Hello Kitty! in Siem

Exhibit by John McDermott

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Ceramic Making

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 HomeStyling … my make over in this blog …

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/secrets-pavillion-boutique-villa/

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Arriving in a Tuk tuk but leaving in Lexus … not bad at all !

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FOODIE IN KHMER’S KITCHEN

STREET FOOD …

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Foodie Radar … won’t stop at nothing even street food! My Saigon trip will always be remembered as my best street Pho in the world. So again I took the leap .

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Now, it can be told … the Crepes sold in the street … man, you gotta try this!  $ 1

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 Noodles  – $ 1 – this is yummy! filling and cheap!

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ANGKOR FLOWER

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–           Home of best Coconut Shake in Siem!

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1.       Fried Rice Vegetable  with Egg – $5 – good!

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2.       Fried Rice with Seafood – $6 – better

3.       Fried Rice Spices with Seafood – $6 – best

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4.       Noodles with Seafood – great

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 5.       French Fried (sic) with Beef Lok Lak – $6

Beef Lok Lak from Smokin’ Pot Restaurant submitted by corykaplin

These ingredients serve 1, so multiply up as you wish.
– 150g chicken breast, beef, even shrimp – sliced (shrimp would not be sliced)
– 1/2 teaspoon sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
– 1/3 teaspoon chilli sauce (optional, preferably vietnamese or chinese chili sauce)
– 1 teaspoon oil + extra for cooking
– 1 tablespoon soy sauce
– 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
– 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
– 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
– 1/2 an onion, chopped
– A few lettuce leaves
– Rice
For the pepper sauce:
– 1/2 teaspoon sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon crushed back pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
– 1/4 of a lime

 Mix sugar, salt, pepper, oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup and garlic in a mixing bowl, add meat and coat thoroughly. Marinate 30 to 60 minutes. Mix salt, sugar, pepper and garlic in small bowls (pepper sauce for each person) Add oil to a wok, sauté onions until brown and add chicken, stir fry 5 to 10 minutes, until done. Mix in chili sauce as desired. Prepare serving plates with rice and a bed of lettuce. Just before serving, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime into the pepper sauce and stir lightly. Serve chicken over lettuce with pepper sauce on side. The chicken is eaten wrapped in a lettuce leaf and dipped into the pepper sauce. For a little more punch, add chili sauce to marinade rather than while cooking and marinate an extra 30 minutes.

     CAMBODIAN SOUP RESTAURANT

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–          Great Food .  Average meal:  $5.

Tip # 10 . Upstairs : Free Apsara Show recommended by Lonely Planet.

  1.  Personal Favorite is the spare ribs. 
  2. Tried the most talked about Khmer Amok (pieces of fish fillet with coconut cream, onion, cauli flower leaf, egg and traditional Khmer spices … my 1st and my last.  $3.75
  3. Khmer Curry – Traditional Khmer chicken curry cooked with carrots, onions , potatoes and long beans in coconut cream
  4. Fried Khmer Spring Rolls – yum!

THE BLUEPUMPKIN – icecream

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LIM KIM CHENG RESTAURANT 

–           Typical Khmer food in the market place

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THE GOLDEN COCONUT

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THE RED PIANO – made famous by the visit of Angelina Jolie

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Tip # 10 . Don’t miss this bar. Try Tomb Raider Cocktail.

ANGKOR WHAT

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THE PHSAR LEU BAKERY 

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KHMER FAMILY RESTAURANT

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Khmer Dessert – Khmer traditional dessert similar to palm fruit with ice, sugar and coconut milk

Must Have: Shrimp with Long Beans / Vegetable Rice in Pineapple Container/Spare Ribs

 ANGKOR PALM

 – Siem Reap’s Restaurant of the Year

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Must Have: Angkor Palm Platter good for 2 at $ 10 : Fresh Spring Roll, Mango Salad, Local Spare Ribs Pork, Fish Amok, Homemade Green Curry, Cha Ta Kuong (stir fried water spinach) , Rice, Dessert

SAM BROTHER

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 – found in the local Cambodian Pub Street

–  Must Have: Stir-Fried Corn

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 Must Buy: Watermelon Seeds

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BEER/WINE

Angkor Premium Beer  

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Cambodia Beer

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Bye Cambodia … see you again!  What makes it a cut above the rest of the Asian countries I have visited?  People are warm and nice and as hospitable as the Filipinos. May they be able to maintain what they are despite the popularity this country is gaining.  We gained friends here … learned from them.  Don’t lose the naivety … this makes you special and different , Cambodia.

SECRETS PAVILLION BOUTIQUE VILLA

#120, Angkor Night Market Street, Steoung Thmey, Siem Reap Central Area, Siem Reap, Cambodia

http://www.secretspavilion.com

Telephone Number: 088 727 2737

Sous-Dey … Hello!

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Buddha guarding the Entrance

It was a place suggested by Agoda to our group.  It opened in September 2012. It was chosen because of the price and its proximity to Angkor Night Market and the Pub Street which is the center of Siem Reap’s night life.  Like so many things in life, the people that you will meet have been predetermined … even before we were born.

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Walkway

This is a charming Khmer Villa with a very affordable price manned by a very warm and hospitable staff … all willing to be of help, of service.  Genuine customer   satisfaction is their aim. 

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Exterior

There are only few rooms in this hotel but there’s a room good for a family of four which we took.  This includes pick-up from the airport using the tuk tuk ( 15 minutes ) and free breakfast of different ways the egg is cooked … poached, fried, omelet and scrambled – served with coffee or tea, toast and fruits. Not bad for a very economical room.  Though electricity is very pricey in Siem, there is an air-conditioning unit (a relief!) and 2 extra wall fans.  Wait … there is more: free bottled water. 

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Family Room

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Room for 2

 Even the floor of the lobby/restaurant is clean … they remove their shoes or slippers when entering it but tourists are not required to do so.

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Stylist: Vanessa Zapanta

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Stylist: Vanessa Zapanta

The best thing is its proximity to the Angkor Night Market and Pub Street.  You can take a tuk tuk going there or walk.  There is a “secret passage” or a shortcut to the place.  Each room is given a key to the gate so you can enter in and out of the shortcut.  As Sothearith Voeun aka Sivata, the owner, said : “it looks not safe but it is”.  You will pass by a small pedestrian road but the bad thing is that you have to pass by a “smelly” canal which he always emphasize that will be covered soon. 

They have their own tuk tuk driven by Rat whom we are so fond of … we taught him words like beki and charot … and he loved it! He became my hubby’s BFF and he told him his life and his frustrations.  We particularly loved the story about his dog that died and he cried for a week.  He is fun to be with and even gives free cold water after the “temple run”.  He is so shy that he doesn’t want to join us for lunch.  My heart goes out for people who never took advantage of other people’s kindness.  They are always apologetic even when not necessary.  Very careful with words.  We have developed good relationships with them and I paid it forward by re-styling their lobby. 

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Rat and his Tuk Tuk

More than the clean rooms and hospitable staff … it is the very heart of Cambodia that captured me … too trusting, too pure, too kind.  Some are victims of the landmines … but doesn’t want to beg … they would sing and you can pay them.  There is pride in their hearts and a legacy etched in their temples.  Yes, it is hot in Siem … but not as warm as their hospitality.

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Joul Moury !!

Will I go back to Secrets Pavilion?  … yes, a hundred times more.  Siem Reap aside from its magnificent ruins and temples has a heart of that I have never seen and felt in the places I have been to.

 

CORON … Palawan’s Crowning Glory

Coron, Palawan, Philippines….

For a travel and food aficionado a celebration had to involve such … this is my birthday destination … so who cares if it is the rainy season. I’ve done so many things in life that defied the ordinary, indulged in guilty pleasures and lived life like it’s the last.

I was once told by a diver, the other side of the island could be rough and stormy but the other side could be calm and sunny. No two dives are the same … not every encounter is as good as the last one, it could be better. With that in mind … let the adventure begin.

Relationships can climb a notch higher.  I live and breathe friendship … I have a lot because of the work that I do and a handful that I can entrust my life to … anytime, any day.  It’s apt to celebrate it with friends and with travel… and of course, with food.  

I was never a fan of diving, snorkelling, island hopping but I am surrounded by people who love it.  Knowing how to deal with such differences … I have my way of enjoying the vacation on the boat.

The trip to Coron will start with the plane touching down the Busuanga Airport or the Francisco B. Reyes Airport.

This is the only town in the Philippines that you will have to fill up an arrival card because they want to keep track of the numbers of tourists visiting the place. No conveyor belt systems. No x-rays. Nothing complicated. Just plain ol’ get your bags and go .

Arrival Card

Just outside the airport are the vans for hire (Php 150)  to take you to Coron Town proper.  It is a 30 minute ride … some roads are bumpier than the others. It is passing through rows of greens and mountains.

Our hotel  is called Seadive Resort.  This is home to Coron’s only PADI authorized dive center and Palawan’s only recompression chamber.  It is situated in the city proper but with privacy because to get there you have to cross a small bridge.  It was built on top of the waters of Coron. 

Seadive Resort

The rates start from Php 800.00 – 1400.00, depending on your need and the facilities it offer.  We took the top of the class – Php 1400.00 with the view of the islands and the pier on the terrace.  There are no televisions inside the room but has a hot/cold shower facility (this is a must for me).  Maybe because, it wants to separate you from the city life.  Throwing your oars and let the waters bring you where it wants.

View from the Room

Food Trip:

1.       SEADIVE RESTAURANT is home to the most fabulous looking foreigner /divers.   How would you like to have a beer with the look alike of Daniel Craig, Clive Owen, Justin Bieber, Alec Baldwin, Channing Tatum, and Jason Mraz passing by your table?  This is akin to Hollywood’s red carpet event … in wet suits and board shorts and sometimes with bare naked tanned torsos. Delish!  Need you order appetizers? I don’t think so.  Ladies, this is one hot restaurant!  And I don’t know who put a news blackout on this. Now the secret is officially out! This is the hot place to be. But this is only open until 9 pm.

Seadive Restaurant

Roasted Rice Coffee – FREE! Anytime, any day – this contains a natural compound with anti-tumour and anti-cancer properties with insoluble fiber that is good for digestion. This has no cholesterol, no caffeine, and low in sodium and does not increase your heart rate or blood pressure.

FREE Coffee !!!

 Beef Burritos – Seadive Style – Php 210 – ground beef, shredded Baguio Petchay and grated cheese in a soft tortilla with creamy garlic sauce.  This is served without Mexican rice in it. I’ve tasted better Burritos.

Beef Burritos – Seadive Style

Shrimp Salad – Php 280 – shrimp with ice berg lettuce or Baguio Petchay, Pineapple, Pomelo, with other vegetables and citrus dressing.  Finishing it because it costs much in a place like this.

Shrimp Salad

(*) Tapsilog (tapa/sinangag/itlog or “dried or cured beef/fried rice/fried egg”)  – Php 160 – 2 fried eggs with beef tapa with steamed or fried rice. This is good.

Tapsilog

 Longsilog (longanisa/sinangag/itlog or “Filipino sausage/fried rice/fried egg”)– Php 160 – 2 fried eggs with longanisa with steamed or fried rice.

Longsilog

Pancit Bihon – Php 210 – rice noodles with chicken and mixed vegetables.

Pancit Bihon

Buco (Coconut)  Shake – Php 65 – coconut meat mixed with milk and ice then blended.

Buco Shake

(*) Mocha Cake – Php 40 – topped with gooey caramel with coffee granules. I can taste coconut as well in this.  Yum!

Mocha Cake

2.       Then the fun continues at the HELLDIVER’S BAR … in the same resort but is open until 2am.   This is one economical night life with just Php 50 San Mig Light … the “pulutan” is FREE! Aside from the view, popcorn is also free but don’t expect the kind that Chicago Popcorn goodness – this is tough , maybe too much exposure to air.

Helldiver’s Bar in the Morning

3.       BISTRO CORON – Don Pedro St., Coron. This is owned by a Swiss named Bruno who is married to a Filipina – Continental and European Cuisine

 Salad with Tuna and Eggs – this is one good salad with fresh tuna and vegetables with bread on the side

Salad with Tuna and Eggs

(*) Fish Fillet – this is the best food ordered in this batch. This tastes really good.  The rice is so limited though that you have to order for seconds.  Top pick for this restaurant.

Fish Fillet

Radler – this is the German mixed beer. Order a beer and a sprite. Mix it depending on your ratio. Voila! A Radler!

Radler

Pineapple Flambé – usually rum is placed on the pineapple, it is then flamed and served. The pineapple is served with cinnamon and star anise. The flaming was done in the kitchen and we missed the fun of the seeing the flames engulf the alcohol. Party pooper.

Pineapple Flambé

Bistro Pizza – made up of beef, mushroom, cheese, tomato, green bell pepper. This was recommended by the server, I wish I didn’t listen.

Bistro Pizza

Bolognese Pasta – red meat pasta sauce on spaghetti. Nothing spectacular. 

Bolognese Pasta

4.       JACKIE’S RESTAURANT – this is your typical carinderia in this laid-back town. 

JACKIE’S RESTAURANT

(*) Fresh Danggit (rabbit fish or spine foot) w/ Fried Rice and Fried Egg – Php 90.00 -I am biased when it comes to this particular fish which part of the siganus family.  This is my all time favourite breakfast especially when eaten with fresh tomato and fish sauce.

Fresh Danggit w/ Fried Rice

 5.       MANG  MENRY’S BARBEQUE STAND – this is the best pork barbeque in Coron because the meat is fresh.  This is situated near Seadive’s entrance. This is a must for only Php 8.00 per stick.

 

MANG MENRY’S BARBEQUE STAND

Things to do in Coron:

1.       ISLAND HOPPING

Book your Island Hopping Tours with Corongaleri. This is owned and managed by Mae and Al Linsangan.  Their numbers are 0919-9926766 / 0915-2543246 / 0917-5526766/02- 984-7795. Address 11 San Agustin St., Bgy.   Inclusive of entrance fees and lunch.

Coron Island Tour or B1– Php 650 per pax 8:30AM – 3:30pm – This is truly an ultimate tour for everyone, a whole day trip which provides a variety of experience. This tour comprises of

a)       Hidden Lagoon – swimming activity in the 7-feet deep waters with sand and mangroves on the side.  During summer this is the most serene place with the songs of the birds and the sounds of the monkeys that would complete your nature trip.

Hidden Lagoon

b)       Coral Garden 1– snorkelling activities in the 7-feet deep waters with corals, fishes, sea urchins, etc.  There is a sea wall near the island so be careful.  This is in front of the Bulungan Beach.

Coral Garden 1

c)       Minor (?) hiking activity to Kayangan Lake (75 steps up and 75 steps down). This is swimming inside a cove. This was voted and won as the cleanest lake for 3 times. There is a cave in front of the best view of the lake. This is known as the home of the needle fishes.  GMA’s Dyesebel was shot here.

Hike to Kayangan Lake

Top View of Kayangan Lake

d)       Back to Bulungan Beach for lunch.  It was called Bulungan Beach because this was used by the natives as a place for healing where they whisper to the gods to make the sick get well. This is also the home of the medicinal plants. 

Bulungan Beach

A native kubo  (hut)  is the venue for the lunch which the boatmen cooked while the guests are swimming. This is the typical lunch for the day: … mind you this is one good lunch.  Two thumbs up!

(*) Grilled Tuna – so fresh that it is actually sweet

Fresh Catch of the Day for Grilling

(*) Grilled Pork –  this is good! Great marinade.

Grilling the Pork

(*) Sea grape/green caviar salad (Ar arosep or Lato) with tomatoes, onions, soy sauce and vinegar

Ar arosep Salad

Banana/ Mineral Water/ Boiled Rice

 (Everything is cooked and prepared on our boat.)

e)       Twin Peaks Reef – a small island and a big island which is 10-feet deep with corals and fishes.  There is a hole in the island where the natives used to bury their dead.

Twin Peaks Reef

f)        CYC or the Coron Youth Club Beach – with fine white sand akin to Puca Beach of Boracay.  This is a good venue for swimming because this is only 3-feet deep.

 Islands that used to belong in this tour but us now closed to the public: Twin Lagoons and Atwayan Beach.

Las Islas Tribal Eco-tour or B2– Php 750 per pax8:30AM – 3:30pm

1.       Mangrove – Ancestral Domain of the Indigenous Cultural Communities of 23 hectares of mangroves (bakawan). This is home to the lobsters, crabs and shrimps. This is on the North side of Coron. Barangay Lajala is located here.  This is a community of the natives of Coron, the Tagbanuas.

Mangrove

Balinsasaw Resort – this is a private resort facility. This is found between the mangrove and the coral garden 2

 2.       Coral Garden 2 – another coral reef great for snorkelling which is 10-feet deep

3.       Dimanglit Island – this is in front of the Coral Garden where lunch is usually served.  This was bought already ( we met the new owners)  and by the time that we will be back; this might not be as rustic as it is. This is has a beach and lookout. This has also mangroves and a bamboo bridge which is ideal for pictorials.

Dimanglit Island

Bamboo Bridge

Exotic Plant in the Island

 Typical Lunch for this Tour: Grilled Fish and Grilled ChickenSea grape/green caviar salad (Ar arosep or Lato) with tomatoes, onions, soy sauce and vinegar/Banana/Mineral Water/Boiled Rice

4.       Barracuda Lake – home of beautiful rock formations above and below.  This is majestic in its highest form .  This is a must see among the islands of Coron. This is 30 to 100-feet deep.  This is nature’s skyscraper at the bottom of the sea. To get there you have to again climb up and down the lake. This used to be home of the Barracuda but according to the natives they can’t see it anymore.

The Trek to Barracuda Lake

Barracuda Lake

Panoramic View

5.       Siete Pecados (Seven Sins) – there are 7 islands surrounding this Marine Sanctuary.Bring with you a loaf bread so that the fishes will come to you.

Siete Pecados

Islands that used to belong in this tour but us now closed to the public: Banol Beach, Calachuchi reef, Skeleton Wreck and the Sunset Lagoon.

 2.       MOUNTAIN CLIMBING

Climb  the top of Mount Tapyas – this is one of the mountains of Busuanga with 718 steps and stands at 210 meters above sea level. This is overlooking the whole of Coron and the islands of Calamianes. It has a summit cross which is lit at night.  It gives you a preview of what the island can offer.

 3.       DIVING

Dubbed as Forbes’ top 10 scuba wreck diving sites in the world.  In September 24, 1944,  12 Japanese ships were sunk by the American warplanes in the Coron waters. 

4.       MAQUINIT HOT SPRING

 Water starts at 40 degrees. This offers large pools warmed by the geothermal water spring in the area. The hottest pools cascade into a large pool that empties into the ocean. This is a beautiful place to hang out in the evening after a long day of activities. This is accessible by boat or by tricycle from town (Php 300 per tricycle for 4 pax) roundtrip. Best time to go : 8pm.

 5.       CALAUIT WILDLIFE

 An island inhabited by imported African wildlife living in harmony with Palawan wildlife. (Local accommodation is required as it is about a 4 hour boat trip from Coron)

Typical 4-day Itinerary in coron

day 1 – Arrival / Mount Tapyas

day 2 – Coron Island Tour / Coron Town Tour

day 3 – Las Islas Island Eco-Tour

day 4 – Coron Market / Departure

 This trip is full of “adventures” that I didn’t dare write about … but mind you, this is our 2nd lease on life.  This is how I have lived my 4 decades.   This is how I blended in the things that sometimes I didn’t even want to do.  This is how I manage to find beauty in even the most unlikely things.  This is keeping the friendships and nurturing it … it takes a whole lot of effort knowing how work and other collaterals  can take you away from the things that matter.  This made me say: “I will do what I want more regardless of the odds or the consequences”. Maybe I even emerged braver.  This is a realization that the spirit might be willing but the body just isn’t keeping up with time. This is having fun and loving life more. Maybe it is not Coron … maybe it is the company that made it all worthwhile … no it is not a maybe … IT IS the company that made it all worthwhile.

 “We cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop. There is at last one drop that makes it run over. So in a series of kindness there is at last one drop that makes the heart run over.”
 

“I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.” ― Jon Katz

 

 

THE HEAT IS ON IN SAIGON

Ho Chi Minh City commonly known as Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). It was renamed as such in 1975.

AIRPORTS AND TERMINALS

My 1st time to travel Cebu Pacific internationally and after the “Thrilla in Naia” … and the many warnings from friends, I think I came equipped and prepared. Each time I travel outside, I get myself a travel insurance in cases of delayed flights, lost baggage, hospitalization and even other untoward incidents.  This is for only Php 228.00 (Chartis Philippines Insurance Inc)   – peace of mind for an OC like me.  Be there 3 hours before the flight and make sure you are at the gates during the boarding time or the risk of not being accepted if you are a minute late.  Prepare Php 1620 for travel tax and Php 550 for terminal fee. Of course when flying Cebu Pac on a promo fare be prepared to pay everything from baggage to seat to insurance, etc.  No meals inside the plane unless you will buy from them.  Be prepared also to move from one gate to another … happened to us twice this time.  Aside from the change in gate … my Cebu Pac experience is superb. Staffs are nice and accommodating. Never late … even earlier. I can never forget their legacy to us Filipinos – everyone flies – because it was made affordable and the market has been very competitive ever since and for travel enthusiasts like me – this is a milestone and a gift.

Cebu pacific Gate 109

It is fairly easy to get off the Tan Son Nhat Airport in fact there is no Immigration Card issued on the plane. Through the immigration courtesy check booths and directly in front, baggage can be claimed at the lower level via the escalator.

Even before I go to Vietnam, I wanted to have Vietnamese Dong with me in case the hotel failed to fetch me ( which they did) just to have a money for the taxi.  Lo and behold – none of our money exchange establishment even as big as Sanry’s and Czarina’s … and even banks such BPI – will change your peso or dollars to VND. It will be wise to see who went there and offer to change their VND to peso.  Not even our very own airport exchanges USD to VND.  When you arrive in Vietnam, even how late or early it is … there is a money changer.  The exchange rate is fairly reasonable … and the fact of the matter is … you simply had to. The exchange in the airport may charge a commission as high as 3% but for me, it doesn’t matter really as long as I have VND with me.

I have been warned so many times on how bad Vietnam is … too many rude people who will rip you off your money and belongings even.  I had to be thankful for this … but my experience is a lot better (with much prayers and caution) … I had been known to be as detailed as possible in trips … and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And yes, my hotel failed to fetch me … why am I not surprised! Outside the airport there too many people offering everything from hotels to taxis … just don’t talk to them and act as if you are in a familiar territory.  Ask from the airport officials, the ones in brown. Since it is not an English speaking country , have a paper or small notebook  and  ball pen ready to write instead of talk … and it will help you if you will print this blog . You can underline the words that you wanted to ask. Get the map at the airport –  you will  receive a free ‘VN Trip Map – for travel and coupons’ by Vietnamese women wearing the traditional ao dai dress as you are leaving or if there is none, in your hotel or in any Saigon Tourist Center.

TAXIS

This is important because there are taxi companies that can rip you off. In the airport go to Bay 3 that is on the left side of the airport and ask an officer that you want to ride a VINASUN or Mai Linh taxi.  You will then be asked to talk to the person in charge in dark green (they are all over the city w/ the name Vinasun on their necktie).  I can only vouch for Vinasun though. Never ridden any other taxi. Always point to the meter before the ride starts so they will use it, never bargain.  Have the complete address of your hotel written in your small notebook and just show it to the taxi warden in green and show it again to the driver. 

Vinasun Taxi

Mai Linh taxi

Caution: Some gangster taxi group will change the spelling a bit to lure you (know your spelling)  – VinasOn or VinasuM instead of VinaSUN, MEi Linh or Mai Lin or M Taxi.  Various over-price scams target foreigners in particular, usually involving eager touts who will try to get a hold of your luggage. A dishonest driver might start driving without starting the meter, and demand a high fare or try to negotiate for a fixed price at a location where it’s difficult for a tourist to hire another cab.  Taxi drivers earn commission by taking customers to certain hotels, so be explicit about exactly which hotel you want to be driven. To trick visitors into staying at other (commission paying) hotels, drivers may come up with any kind of excuses, e.g., “no vacancy”, “that hotel burned down recently” and similar stories. So have yourself booked … AGODA is highly recommended if you using an on-line booking. Just print the Hotel Voucher and show it to the hotel.  Safe and dependable.

Getting around the city can be by foot, bus, taxi, motorbike  or a ride on a cyclo, which is sort of akin to a reverse tricycle with the passenger sitting in a front seat, through downtown HCMC is a great way to see the city the way the locals do. But I just don’t have the heart to try this. 

Caution: Be careful with your cameras and bags while walking . There are also unscrupulous locals who can get pass you and get your valuables while driving their motorbikes.

Crossing in Saigon  can be a nightmare. It is always scary, for some they will get used to it quite quickly. If ever in doubt, Saigon’s Tourist Security  officers (guys in marked green uniforms) will happily help you across or answer your questions. They made me change my mind about Saigon because of their courtesy and helpfulness.  A quicker way of getting across is to simply follow the lead of a local crossing the street. Never hesitate when crossing so that the drivers can read your moves. Remember, Vietnamese people value life very much as well and they regard killing another as bad luck .

No Traffic Lights

 

The Bicycle in Front of Motorcycles

LANGUAGE

This is tough … they can’t understand you or you can’t understand them. Use the small notepad or calculator when shopping.

Hello: Sin Chao\ Excuse Me, Sorry: Sin Lao\ What is this/that?: Die La Kai Gee \Thank You: Come Ong \Very Good: Ra Tot\ Bye: Tam Byet

PLACE TO STAY

Depending on the budget and the purpose of the stay … there are numerous hotels and inns in Vietnam.  I saw the Sheraton, Intercon, Sofitel etc for  the 5 star experience. There are 3 Star hotels that can cater to your basic need – sleep and bath.   There are also backpacker’s inns available.

We stayed at Thien Xuan Hotel – and I can recommend this – the room is on sale in Agoda.  This is centrally located in the business and commercial district . This is 30 meters away from Ben Thanh Market, 20 minutes away from the airport, 10 minutes away from Reunification Palace and 15 minutes away from Notre Dame.

Entrance Thien Xuan Hotel

Reception

They provide good breakfast and a clean place to sleep.  They  can also accommodate 3 pax in a room.  The staffs are nice and try very hard to please the customer.  For me, this is a good thing.  They always try to warn you about not taking your passports while shopping or providing a Vinasun taxi to take you anywhere. You can also ask questions that they tried very hard to answer … again with the small notebook in hand.

PLACES TO SEE

My trip to Saigon is not to see the tourist spots or immerse myself in the war tours. It is simply a food trip but  here are a few that you can see :

REUNIFICATION PALACE (Di Tich Lich Su Dinh Doc Lap) . Entrance is at  135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street. Open daily 7:30AM-11:00AM, 1PM-4PM. Also known as Independence Palace (this is the old name). This has been restored and it is like walking in the time warp to the 60s. This was formerly South Vietnam’s presidential palace … the war ended on April 30, 1975 when tank #843 crashed through the gate. A replica of that tank is now parked on the lawn outside.  

REUNIFICATION PALACE

The Gate

The war ended on April 30, 1975 when tank #843 crashed through the gate. This is a replica of that tank .

Be sure to check out the recreation room, featuring a circular sofa, and the eerie basement, full of vintage 1960s phones, radios, and office equipment, supposedly left exactly as it was found when the North took over. There is also a photo gallery and a propaganda film recounting how the South Vietnamese supporters and American imperialists succumbed to Ho Chi Minh’s indomitable revolutionary forces, upon which point the South Vietnamese supporters were forgiven and everyone lived happily ever after. Tour guides are available and are free if there are ones available. Entrance Fee is  30,000 VND.  Since I am not a  fan of Vietnam War … I can do away with this.  This is just like touring the Malacanang of the North.

Dancing Floor

Banquet Room

 

Caution: Bring towel or fan or a bottle of cold mineral water. This can be a very hot and humid tour. It can be suffocating.   If you are allergic to musty smell, skip this.   Whatever you like in their shop, buy it specially the replicas because you won’t find it anywhere else.   

TAO DAN PARK – this is the park from the Palace to the Notre Dame where you can rest and watch the locals eat and date.

TAO DAN PARK

A Local Praying the Rosary in the Park

SAIGON NOTRE-DAME officially Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is just a 5 minute-walk from the Reunification Palace. Han Thuyen Street, facing down Dong Khoi (next to the Post Office). Closes at 11AM  and on weekends. A French-built Catholic cathedral in the city centre. All building materials were imported from France. This was finished in 1880.  The outside wall of the cathedral was built with bricks from Marseille.Tiles have been carved with the words Guichard Carvin, Marseille St André France (perhaps stating the locality where the tiles were produced). Some tiles are carved with the words “Wang-Tai Saigon”. Many tiles have since been made in Ho Chi Minh City to replace the tiles that were damaged by the war. There are 56 glass squares supplied by the Lorin firm of Chartres province in France. The cathedral foundation was designed to bear ten times the weight of the cathedral.

SAIGON NOTRE-DAME

In 1959, Bishop Joseph Pham Van Thien, whose jurisdiction included Saigon parish, attended the Holy Mother Congress held in Vatican and ordered a Peaceful Notre Dame statue made with granite in Rome. When the statue arrived in Saigon on 16 February 1959, Bishop Pham Van Thien held a ceremony to install the statue on the empty base and presented the title of “Regina Pacis”.

“Regina Pacis”

Trivia: During October 2005, the statue was reported to have shed tears, attracting thousands of people and forcing authorities to stop traffic around the Cathedral. However, the top clergy of the Catholic Church in Vietnam confirmed that the Virgin Mary statue in front of a cathedral did not shed tears, which nevertheless failed to disperse the crowd flocking to the statue days after the incident. The reported ‘tear’ flowed down the right cheek of the face of the statue.

SAIGON CENTRAL POST OFFICE is a post office near Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. The building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century. It has a Gothic architectural style. It was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel in harmony with the surrounding area. This is where Nicole’s parents met and fell in love.

SAIGON CENTRAL POST OFFICE

Foodie Notes: It is enchanting to drink coffee on the shops located in the vicinity like Coffee Beanery , NYC  Dessert Cafe  or May Coffee.  It is surrounding yourself with Europe’s architectural wonders and Saigon’s coffee experience.

NYC Dessert Cafe

CITY HALL, end of Nguyen Hue Street. Originally called the Hôtel de Ville and now formally re-branded the PEOPLE’S COMMITTEE HALL, it’s a striking cream and yellow French colonial building beautifully floodlit at night. No entry, but the statue of Uncle Ho in front is a very popular place for photos.

PEOPLE’S COMMITTEE HALL

SAIGON OPERA HOUSE was built in 1897 by French architect Ferret Eugene, the 800 seat building was used as the home of the Lower House assembly of South Vietnam after 1956. It was not until 1975 that it was again used as a theatre, and restored in 1995. Shaped like the Opera Garnier in Paris. The façade is shaped like the Petit Palais which was built in the same year in France.

SAIGON OPERA HOUSE

SHOPPING

CHợ BếN THÀNH AKA BEN THANH MARKET – recognizable because of the big clock tower on a large traffic circle.  This is divided into 2 – wet and dry market (for souvenirs). This is trap for tourist – know the price. Home of home decors made of lacquer, Khai Silk, etc.  They mark up their prices up to 100%. Don your haggling caps. While some sellers are rude, there are also nice ones. Call them friend and get discounts.  They know words like ganda, mura , etc.

BEN THANH MARKET

Top View of BTM

Shopping Tip: If you have the luxury of time, browse over 1st , ask the price so the you will know the range.  If you haggle, make sure you will buy it or you will hear nasty things (that you don’t understand, anyway).  It is also very helpful to carry with you a printed conversion table (VND to Phil Peso) because the decimals are too much that it gets so complicated.  Bring a shopping bag so you can place all your loot in one container. Be wary. It is better to be paranoid or get yourself robbed in a foreign country.

For coffee and other food items, I would suggest that you go to supermarkets for a better deal.  Cheapest is that one from Thuong Xa Tax in 135 Nguyen Hue, Dist 1 called Sheu Thi Tax . There is also a supermarket in  Vincom Center called Select.

NIGHT MARKET (just outside of Ben Thanh Market). Open from 6pm-12mn (when the Ben Thanh Market closes).  The 2 major streets surrounding BTM are full of stuff that you can buy. You can also eat here.

SAIGON SQUARE – this is a better shopping alternative- opens at 9am to 9pm – air-conditioned bazaar place. Nice place for clothes and bags.

SAIGON SQUARE

CHợ BÌNH TÂY in the Chinatown – they said the cheapest in prices but I never get to see this.

VINCOM CENTER – Jimmy Choo, Armani, Mango, Zara, Versace, Swarovski, Make Up Forever, Furla, Just Cavalli, Shoebox New York, Replay, Karen Millen, Face Shop, Yves Rocher, Orlane & Annayake, Debenhams, Gap, UCB, Vera, Charles & Keith,

VINCOM CENTER

PARKSON – in front of Vincom Center – Guerlain, Coach

PARKSON

DIAMOND PLAZA – near Notre Dame , home of Omega

DIAMOND PLAZA

REX ARCADE  – Chanel, Ferragamo, Rolex

REX ARCADE

The LOUIS VUITTON STORE is located 161 Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

LOUIS VUITTON STORE

SAIGON CENTRE  don’t mistake this for Saigon Square . Mango , Nine West, FCUK, Nha Xinh

SAIGON CENTRE

FOODIE @ WORK

My journey took me to Saigon … home of the Pho, spring roll and coffee.  General rule of thumb is – a local Vietnamese do not necessarily have to eat anything worth over VND 50,000 (Php 101.00)  on a good meal.

 SIDE STREET OF LE THANH TON

Pho Bo ( Beef Noodle Soup)  – My best Vietnamese Beef Pho (soup) which I found on the side street in the Le Thanh Ton corner Ph B. Chau (just below Song Anh Hotel  right across Ben Thanh Market in front of Noa Hang Mon Hue) … but let me warn you …. this place isn’t what you can call decent. It is one of those street food places that spring after the establishment closes (a jewelry store).  They have small chairs and tables (like the ones used by kids – plastic type).  The food is cooked in the food cart. Since it is near the market, it is not so sanitary looking and the smell isn’t of the peppermint aroma therapy level.   We saw a rat in fact. But this is Ra Tot! After tasting more than my year’s quota of Pho – I can rightfully say this. But this is quite expensive for a street food – VND 40,000. This price is for mid-budget Pho in a good restaurant already.  After eating this – I never had a stomach upset or anything – so this must have been boiled well to get rid of the unwanted elements. 😉 Soft drinks (the country is more of Pepsi products than Coke ) : VND 10,000

The Best Pho Bo found on the side street in the Le Thanh Ton corner Ph B. Chau , HCMC

Trivia: Phở is served in a bowl with a specific cut of white rice noodles (called bánh phở’) in clear beef broth, with slim cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). The broth for beef phở is generally made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, charred ginger and spices. For a more intense flavor, the bones may still have beef on them.  Seasonings can include Saigon cinnamon or other kinds of cinnamon as alternatives (may use stick or powder), star anise, roasted ginger, roasted onion, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. The broth takes several hours to make.

The Best Pho Bo in Saigon

Typical garnishes for phở Sài Gòn are: onions, chili peppers, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts, and Thai basil.

Vietnamese dishes are meals typically served with lots of greens, herbs, vegetables, and various other accompaniments such as dipping sauces, hot and spicy pastes, and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, it may also be served with a black substance called Hoisin Sauce. The dish is garnished with ingredients such as green onions, white onions, Thai basil (húng quế) (not be confused with sweet basil, Vietnamese: húng chó or húng dổi), fresh Thai chili peppers, lemon or lime wedges, bean sprouts and coriander (ngò rí) or cilantro (ngò gai). Fish sauce (nước mắm), hoisin sauce and chili sauce may be added to taste as accompaniments.

Several ingredients not generally served with phở may be ordered by request. Extra-fatty broth (nước béo) can be ordered and comes with scallions to sweeten it. A popular side dish ordered upon request is hành dấm, or vinegared white onions.

THIEN XUAN HOTEL  – along Le Thanh Ton a stone-throw away from Ben Thanh Market

Flat Rice Cake – to be eaten placing the flat rice cake 1st then put the sauce (vinegar) , pork slice (cha lua) , lettuce, and crunchy  onion

Flat Rice Cake

French Baguette – this is one of the best tasting ones – very crunchy and flaky on the outside and soft . It is the symbol of France in every country but it varies on the place – the Vietnamese bánh mì uses a high proportion of rice flour. Just with butter or jam – this is superb.

French Baguette

Trivia: Bánh Mi is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread. Fillings may include meat and soy fillings such as steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, spreadable pork liver pâté, pork floss, grilled chicken, chicken floss, canned sardines in tomato sauce, soft pork meatballs in tomato sauce, head cheese, fried eggs, or tofu. Accompanying vegetables include fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and pickled carrots and daikon in shredded form. Spicy chili sauce is normally found in bánh mì sold by vendors in Vietnam. In southern Vietnam, homemade mayonnaise is commonly added to the sandwich. Laughing Cow cheese is also a popular filling in Vietnam.

There is a Bánh Mi Bistro in Vietnam in 76 Vo Thi Sau, District 1.

 Soup w/ Scallops and onions – this you have to put green onions

Soup w/ Scallops and onions

Vietnamese Congee – taste is bland but with the caramelized onion w/ pieces of meat – this is good!

Vietnamese Congee

PHO 2000 – where President Clinton ate his Pho. This serves Pho along with other Vietnamese dishes. One is located directly in front of Saigon Centre.  You won’t miss the neon pink signage.

 

PHO 2000

 MOCHI SWEETS – Vincom Center –  Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and moulded into shape with fillings of your choice and ice cream in the centre. Sakura, their signature mochi is very good for VND 22,000 (Php 63.00)

MOCHI SWEETS

Trivia: In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki. While also eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time

CHOCOLATE GRAPHICS – Vincom Center – a chocolate store that combines treats and art.  This is also often used as a souvenir for weddings and birthdays

CHOCOLATE GRAPHICS

LONG MONACO CAFE – located in Vincom Center B3

LONG MONACO CAFE

1. Com Truing Chien – Vietnamese Omelette – VND 45,000 – with a generous filling of enoki mushroom, meat, onions, shrimp, and bamboo shoots served with sticky rice and garnished with cucumber, parsley and tomato. This can be eaten with Tuong Ca (Tomato Sauce) and Tuong Ot ( Hot Chili Sauce )

Com Truing Chien

2. Suon Nuong sa Kho – VND 62,000 served in a pot , this spare ribs is good nestled in a generous serving of rice ( which was stickier for my preference ) garnished with cucumber, parsley and tomato.

Suon Nuong sa Kho

3. Bo Xien Que Com Chien – Beef BBQ – VND 62,000 – great tasting beef barbeque skewers w/ green bell pepper and onion served with a cup of rice and an egg.  This is the best I have tasted in this restaurant.

Bo Xien Que Com Chien

Drinks:

1.      Nuoc Ep Dua Hau – Watermelon Juice – VND 25,000 – real watermelon goodness

2.      Nuoc Cam Tuoi Da – Orange Juice – freshly squeeze

3.      Dua Tuio Uop Lanh – Cold Fresh Coconut – VND 25,000 – fresh in its shell

 

Foodie Notes: if you have your wet wipes with you or tissue paper, just use that, the ones in a plastic packs which are wet wipes will be charged to you if you use it for VND 2000.

Wet Wipes

THAI EXPRESS- There are 3 outlets of this restaurant: – Vincom Center B3, Le Thanh Ton, and Crescent Plaza in P. Tan Phu

THAI EXPRESS

1.  Hu Tiu Sup Nau Dac Biet Voi Rau Muong – Sen Lek Nua – VND 85,000 – a Thai adaptation of a classic Loatian dish – stick noodles w/ sliced beef in beef broth.

Hu Tiu Sup Nau Dac Biet Voi Rau Muong

2. Khao Kluk Gapi   – Bagoong Rice – this was dubbed as the King’s favourite … and mine – so good! Rice has been flavoured with their classic Thai shrimp paste with shrimp. squid and beef incorporated while being fried served with a lemon wedge, slices of scrambled egg, tomato, cucumber and shrimp paste.  

Khao Kluk Gapi

 3. Beef Curry – it lacks the curry taste that this dish should have.

Beef Curry

4. Fried Tofu w/ Basil Leaves & Spring Onions – this is also very good.  Crunchy outside and flavourful as you bite in each piece of tofu. It has a tinge of chilli and spring onion in it which makes it more exciting to eat. It is served in a bed of lettuce w/ tomato and cucumber as garnishing.

Fried Tofu w/ Basil Leaves & Spring Onions

 5. Thai Iced Tea – iced tea with milk – our version is better.

Thai Iced Tea

PHO 24 – located across the Ben Thanh Market.  This was also widely reviewed across the world by visitors. The interior looks clean. Servers are nice and accommodating. Very good photo murals – the best I’ve seen in fact.

PHO 24

1. Pho Bo  – VND 52,000 (Php 148.20 )  with a choice of Tai (fillet) , Chin (well done flank)  and Nam (brisket)

Pho Bo

2. Cha Gio – Fresh Spring Rolls – VND 42,000 (Php 119.70). This is the must have in this restaurant for me.  This is cooked crisp and fresh.

Cha Gio

3. Pho Xio Gion – Crispy pan fried noodles – VND 55,000 (Php 156.75) This is good as well.  The noodles are crispy (expected) and with a good amount of veggies and meat. 

Pho Xio Gion

4. Drinks :

Mineral Water – VND 18,000 (Php 50.00)

Soft drinks – VND 22,000 (Php 68.00)

Ca Phe Sua Da – Iced Coffee w/ Condensed Milk – VND 30,000 (Php 85.50)

Ca Phe Sua Da

 MON HUE – Le Than Ton St., Ben Than Ward, Dist 1, HCMC

 

MON HUE

1.      Nem Huong Euon Bánh Trang VND 66,000 (Php 188.00) – Minced BBQ pork served by rice paper and herbs.  There is too much herbs though, I’d say. This is the best dish during this meal.  The beef is tender and tasty.  Beef is wrapped in rice cakes w/ herbs and the yellow sauce in it.

Nem Huong Euon Bánh Trang

2.      Com Am Phu VND 51,000 (Php 145.35) – Hue style rice (this one I prefer) and BBQ Meal.  This is good as well but the fish paste, unlike our local paste, has too many big chunks of fish in it.  The pork is just steamed and as usual this was served with an almost-too- generous amount of herbs. 

Com Am Phu

3.      Banh Khot – savory rice cake  with bean sprouts, onion, red bell pepper, parsley and a yellowish sauce.

 

Banh Khot

TRES LES JOURS XIN JAO – located in Vincom and Le Loin – This is the home of all baked goodness.

TRES LES JOURS XIN JAO

1.      Cream Cheese Pastry – VND 16,000 – the best tasting cream cheese pastry.  This is a must try for cream cheese lovers.

2.      Pizza Baguette – VND 45,000

3.      Red Bean Bread – VND 16,000

4.      Baguette – VND 15,000

Trivia: Baguette is “a long thin loaf of French bread” that is commonly made from basic lean dough (the dough, though not the shape, is defined by French law). It is distinguishable by its length and crisp crust. A standard baguette has a diameter of about 5 or 6 centimeters (2 or 2⅓ in) and a usual length of about 65 centimeters (26 in), although a baguette can be up to a meter (40 in) long.

KEM BACH DANG ICE CREAM – located in front of Saigon Square where you can sit down and be amazed at how the motorcycles in throngs pass by without hurting each other. I got curious – I just had to try … ice cream parlours are everywhere maybe because of the “very” hot weather.  This is the only place in Asia that triggered a headache for me. But honestly, I would still vouch for Blue Bunny, Arce and Haagen Dazs.

KEM BACH DANG ICE CREAM

1.      Kem Chaoux – Puffs and Ice cream ( Kem va Bánh Su) – the ice cream is in between the cream puffs w/ cream and a fresh slice of watermelon-  VND 65,000 ( Php 182.25) with coconut flavoured ice cream which I like.

Kem Chaoux

2.      Cafe Liegeois – Coffee Shake w/ cream on top and chocolate bars and slivers – VND 65,000 ( Php 182.25)

Cafe Liegeois

Foodie Notes: unlimited cold iced tea served for FREE.

FREE Iced Tea

TOKYO CREPES – Parkson’s Le T Ton food court

TOKYO CREPES

            Crepe with Nutella Filling – VND 25,000 (Php 71.25)

Crepe with Nutella Filling

KITCHEN JAPAN – Parkson’s Le T Ton food court

KITCHEN JAPAN

Kep Bánh Mi – VND 36,000 (Php 102.60) – Shrimp sandwich w/ tomato and lettuce served with French Fries

Kep Bánh Mi

TAPIOCUP – Parkson’s Le T Ton food court

TAPIOCUP

Tapiocup Raspberry flavour – bubble tea

 

Tapiocup Raspberry flavour

LOTTERIA – Parkson’s Le T Ton food court. Their version of McDonald’s – even the colours was reds and yellows. Serves burgers and chickens.

LOTTERIA

1.      Bulgogi Burger – your typical beef burger with an Asian twist served with French Fries – this is good!

Bulgogi Burger

2.      Cheese Burger – universal junk food – but Jollibee tastes better

Cheese Burger

COFFEE

Vietnam is the world’s 2nd  largest exporter of coffee after Brazil, and cà phê is very popular among the Vietnamese. It’s a paradise for coffee-lovers. The local style is strong and sweet; key words to remember are: sữa (sweetened condensed milk), đá (ice), and nóng (hot, pronounced “nowm”). I am no coffee drinker/lover – but this time – I just might change my mind.

Coffee Shops: (among hundreds)

1.      The Coffee Bean

2.      The New York Dessert Cafe

3.      Trung Nguyen Coffee

Trung Nguyen Coffee Shop

            Coffee Brands:

1.      Hai Khanh Tuong – taste like coffee with chocolate in it ( the best I have tasted but we failed to look for its store)

Hai Khanh Tuong

2.      Gourmet Blend of Trung Nguyen Coffee –  Formerly known as House Blend, this is Trung Nguyen’s famous Gourmet Blend of all four bean varieties: Robusta, Arabica, Carimor, Excelsa., in two 250-gram foil vent bags within decorative boxes (500 gram total, 1.17 pounds). This is the traditional House Blend coffee served at over 1000 Trung Nguyen coffeehouses throughout Southeast Asia. -TN

Gourmet Blend (Trung Nguyen Coffee)

3.      Trung Nguyen – S –  Chinh Phuc – Cafe Rang Xay Thuan Viet –Considered a “Home Blend” in Vietnam, this special blend is a slightly milder version of the Gourmet Blend. We obtained a limited amount of this stock, usually not available for export.

The Buon Me Thuot Special is a blend of Arabica, Robusta, Chari (Excelsa) and Catimor beans. In traditional Vietnamese roasting and flavor balancing style, Trung Nguyen created a trademark “every occasion” coffee with a rich, broad flavor and buttery mouthfeel, with excellent aftertaste and keeping qualities. This is a highly affordable coffee with great heritage, sophisticated balance and many hints of chocolate, fruit and nut. – TN

Cafe Rang Xay Thuan Viet

4.      G7 Ca Phe Hoa Tan – also by Trung Nguyen. G7 instant coffee is extracted directly from the coffee bean, which gives a better cup of coffee than conventional freeze-dried coffee crystals. -TN

G7

5.      Kozi Coffee – Moka – since 1968. You can buy in a pouch and may come with a Vietnamese Coffee Press

 

Kozi Coffee

Kinds of Coffee and Prices:

  1. 1.      Ca Phe Den – Black Coffee – VND 24,000 (Php 68.40)
  2. 2.      Ca Phe Da – Black Coffee w/ Ice – VND 28, 000 ( Php 79.80 )
  3. 3.      Ca Phe Sua Nóng – Coffee w/ Condensed Milk – VND 28,000 ( Php 79.80 )
  4. 4.      Ca Phe Sua Da – Iced Coffee w/ Condensed Milk – VND 30,000 ( Php 85.50)

Caution: Since ice might or might not be made with purified water, strictly cautious visitors should avoid it, though long-term residents consume ice from reputable cafes and restaurants all the time.

The Phin Filter  is made up of a little metal cup on top of a coffee cup.  It has holes in the bottom, acting as filter.  A few teaspoons of coffee are placed inside the press. On the cup condensed milk is placed.  Fill the press with boiling water then let it drip atop the condensed milk. This will be completed 4 minutes or so. After this stir it, it can be taken hot (ca phê sua nóng) or traditionally it would be poured over ice (ca phê sua da)

Phin Filter with Coffee Bean Grinder

It is good that I didn’t listen to those who were telling me that HCMC isn’t a good vacation destination … because for me it is … if you are into the arts, architecture, food and coffee – this is your place, this is my place.  Every corner there is am art supply shop, art gallery or a small bookstore. This is the nearest you can get to Europe … in Asia.  Most people aren’t rude, they just find it hard to speak in English and the frustration that they can’t convey their message turns into exasperation. When you lived all your life in Manila – these warnings aren’t new. Just be careful so as not to ruin your vacation and have a space for patience and a little understanding- you are there to enjoy anyway.  Yes, there are also people who aren’t nice (they are everywhere in the world and not in Vietnam alone) and would rip you off your Vietnamese Dong … but know your prices, be smart. I was able to haggle even inside a department store – this is my ultimate test of how good a haggler I am.  

Travelling in a foreign place takes a lot of precautionary measures but don’t let this ruin your perception of a place.  I was never a believer that one thing can be judged wrongly by another and that you have to believe it. Give it a chance!  Cebu Pacific and Vietnam are two words that has a bad reputation that precedes them … I would say so otherwise … I’d fly Cebu Pac again … I’d go to Vietnam again.  The experience is a once in a lifetime adventure – I’ve put in so much joy and importance to simple things at this point in my life … it makes me too easy to please that is why I am happier. And I think it is better.

My 1st Broadway debut on stage is a role of a bar girl in Miss Saigon staged in Hotel Intercontinental Manila.  Not in my wildest dream have I imagined myself that I’d go to Saigon and see it myself … smell their coffee, walk in their afternoon drizzle or  experience the hot sun.   It was a gift … it is precious to me … it is a personal journey … it is a gastronomic delight … it is where one of my best friend’s roots is  … the place is close to my heart.

If you’d ask me if I’d go back there? … yes, a hundred times more and back … in my bicycle wearing Ao Dai ( dress )  and Non La (Conical Hat) 🙂

Vietnamese Lady wearing Ao Dai and Non La

 Mahaha dinn Bru (goodbye, till we meet again) , Vietnam!

Some Trivia Source: Wiki

 

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS SINGAPORE

My Best Attractions:

1. Lost World – Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure & Waterworld
2. Far Far Away – Shrek 4-D Adventure
3. Madagascar – A Crate Adventure & Madagascar Boogie
4. Ancient Egypt – Revenge of the Mummy
5. Sci-Fi City – Battlestar Gallactica Cyclon/Human
6. Hollywood – Silver Screen Collectibles
7. New York – Lights , Camera, Action & Rockafellas

Trip Tips:

– Book on-line so you won’t have to queue. Keep in mind you have a 10 SGD worth of food and items. I forgot this.

– Start from the Lost World (back part) – tnx Nikki! – so that you won’t have to waste your time queuing.

– Bring a bottle of mineral water and an umbrella … it is HOT, HOT, HOT

– If you plan to get wet in Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure or Waterworld, don your board shorts and flip flops. Bring your waterproof bags and cameras. In Waterworld, you will be soaking wet (as in a bucketful of water ) … should you dare choose the “soak” part of the seats. But there are “dry” seat less the fun , of course. Bring extra shirt or buy one.

– When having your picture taken with the characters, make sure you are in front of the queue because they usually cut it off after a few minutes or so.

Don’t miss:

Shrek 4D Adventure – See, hear and FEEL the action right from your seat as you join Fiona and Shrek in a fairytale adventure.

Lights, Camera, Action by Steven Spielberg – Amazing ! An empty sound stage became the setting of a major hurricane about to hit NYC.

Madagascar Boogie – Come “move it, move it” with the cast

– Catch our very own Streetboys as the Rockafellas-New York.

For the Daring and Bold : Battlestar Gallactica’s Cyclon and the Revenge of the Mummy

You can miss this : Canopy Flyer and Donkey Live! – but those with kids, go see, definitely not for mature audience

 

Dining at the Universal: Expensive!

Food Stall at Ancient Egypt : Corn Dog – 3.5 SGD – ordinary / Softdrinks – 3.5 SGD

Discovery Food Court – features SG’s must try favourite local dishes, desserts and drinks in a Jurassic Setting.Their Crispy Noodles – 9.50 SGD

Mel’s Drive-In – Classic 1950’s drive-in that serves all-american faves like burgers, fries and sodas

Chilli Burger ( w/ fries and drinks ) 10.80 SGD/ Double Patties Cheeseburger ( w/ fries and drinks ) 12.50 SGD

Don’t Miss: Hershey’s Store

BEST THING I EVER ATE … A WORK IN PROGRESS

This is revealing what makes me happy and is a part of what I am now, knowing what I want and standing up for it. This is my journey to the delights of the tongue and the palate . The trip which added additional fat deposits to my love handles ( as if it needs more ). This is a continuing saga of my love affair with food , loving each moment, enjoying every bite. An almost sensual experience of taste and texture. Bon Appetit! When I say it is good … you can bet it is!

(*) CHANG’S CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS

PF Chang’s

Lower Ground Flr,

Corte de las Palmas ,Alabang Town Center,

Muntinlupa City, Philippines

Our signature appetizer. Wok-seared minced chicken, mushrooms, green onions, and water chestnuts served over crispy rice sticks and served with cool, crisp lettuce cups.”  This also comes in a vegetarian dish using tofu.

My Best lettuce wrap! Crisp lettuce cups can be ordered per piece as well for only Php 25. This is deliciously fresh.  The lettuce just gives it a delicious crunch that adds to the symphony of flavours.  This is like biting into a day after it rained with the coolest of the morning dew to complete the scene.  Fresh and carefree – new love.

I super ♥  the sauces that were explained fully by my server and would be asked if you’d like it mild, medium or hot … they come in six kinds: 3 in bottles: soy, vinegar and chili oil  and 3 in little white ramekins: hot mustard, potsticker sauce, chili paste.  They can mix it for you or you can mix it yourself.

POTSTICKER SAUCE :

  • §  ¼ cup water
  • §  ¼ cup soy sauce
  • §  1 teaspoon chili paste
  • §  1 tablespoon vinegar
  • §  2 tablespoons sugar
  • §  1 teaspoon fresh ginger, ground

 https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/p-f-changs/

LEMON-FLAVORED ALMONDS

Don Limone , 199 Aguirre, BF Homes, Paranaque City, Philippines

This is actually a part of the cheese platter … this gives a twist to the good ol’ almond that we all love.

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/don-limone-il-mio-piccolo-paradiso-italiano-my-little-italian-paradise/

LUMPIANG SARIWA (Fresh Spring Rolls)

Quiksnack, Carvajal St., Binondo, Manila , Philippines

My mom’s favourite and the search for the best one is still on-going but EUREKA! I have found it. I was never a fan but this one – I like!  It will be served without having to properly introduce itself and say , “eat me, I’m good” … in fact, I should call it unassuming.  As you peel of the plastic wrap … the crepe-like wrapper is smooth without dominating the whole dish , inside is a symphony of delicious goodness and identifying it would lead to a kaleidoscope of ingredients that in the end you won’t bother to find out … you just have to finish it.

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/my-binondo-girl-philippines-chinatown/

Lumpiang Sariwa

NILASING NA HIPON (Drunken Shrimp)

Quiksnack, Carvajal St., Binondo, Manila , Philippines

It is so crunchy and tasty and you would wonder, is the shrimp drunk or I wanna get a sub-zero and get drunk myself.  Whether dipped in vinegar or as is … best drunken shrimp I’ve met one fine noon. This has batter mixed with beer that is why it is called such.

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/my-binondo-girl-philippines-chinatown/

Nilasing na Hipon

BUFFET BREAKFAST

Sonya’s Garden , Tagaytay City, Philippines

This is all fresh and rustic … my kind of food .  The hearty breakfast consists of fried rice with vegetables, egg omelet, crispy fried fish marinated in vinegar and garlic and chicken pork adobo with fruits as desserts and fresh dalandan juice.

Breakfast Nook

KOREAN BARBEQUE

Seoul, Korea

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/seoul-searching/

Best food in Korea … Korean Barbeque . Yum-O! Korean barbecue (gogi gui) refers to the Korean method of grilling beef, pork, chicken, or other types of meat. Such dishes are often prepared at the diner’s table on gas or charcoal grills that are built into the center of the table itself. The most typical form of Korean barbecue is galbi made from marinated beef short ribs. After grilling, place the sauce on the meat and wrap it in lettuce. Must try!!!

USAMGYUP ( Grilled Beef Belly ) 

Sam Won Garden, 226 Aguirre cor J. Ramirez, BF Homes, Paranaque City, Philippines

Commonly known as a Korean Barbeque. It consists of strips of beef belly (Samgyupsal cut- thinly sliced) and is often served as an evening meal. The Banchan in this place is better than most I have tasted.

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/sam-won-garden-heart-seoul/

Usamgyup

 HOMEMADE YOGHURT

Shamrock Cafe or Bilig Cafe , Sagada , Philippines

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/sagadas-mystique/

Even before the proliferartion of yoghurt stores in Manila , when I visited Sagada a decade ago … this was rocking the mountains … !

MARSHMALLOW PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH

PB Co , Katipunan Ave., Quezon City  , Philippines

Sweet sandwich made of melted marsmallow and peanut butter. Benissimo!

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/nuts-about-you/

Marshmallow Peanut Butter Sandwich

THE FAMOUS AMOS CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Suria KLCC, C32 Concourse Floor, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/malaysia-truly-asia/

Famous Amos

I am no fan of chocolate chip cookies … but this defied all my biases when it comes to cookies. Freshly baked … soft and chewy … Yum!!!!

 SILVER ROLL BREAD & HONGMA

Tasty Dumplings , 620 Ongpin St., Binondo , Manila , Philippines

Bread is deep fried with texture that resembles a siopao . Hongma tastes like pata tim (pork legs simmered with sweet broth made of pineapple, soy sauce, rice wine, laurel leaves, hoisin, pepper corns)  .  This goes well with the silver roll bread.  One is not complete without the other.

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/my-binondo-girl-philippines-chinatown/

Silver Roll  Bread

 ONION TART

EDSA Shagri-La Manila

Onion Tart

One of the few entrees that I love … caramelized onion served on top of flaky bread .

CARAMEL POPCORN

Chicago Popcorn Shop, Mall of Asia , Pasay City, Philippines

Caramel Popcorn

Crunchy and Not too sweet … none of the typical popcorns with hard kernels in the middle.

Chinese Minced Pigeon Lettuce Wrap

Xin Tian Di , Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ortigas Center, Pasig City, Philippines

Minced pigeon meat served with hoisin sauce.  Place the meat on the lettuce leaves and wrap it . Eat a mouthful … divine!

 

Minced Pigeon Wrapped in Lettuce

Chinese Minced Pork Lettuce Wrap

President’s Tea House, Binondo, Manila

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/my-binondo-girl-philippines-chinatown/

Minced Pork Lettuce

Minced Pork with sherry, onion, ginger, garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce,  water chestnut, cilantro and pine nuts served with hoisin sauce and iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap the mixture.

HOT PRAWN SALAD

Sofitel Hotel, Pasay City, Philippines

Hot Prawn Salad

 Prawns with mayonnaise and fruit salad .  Super yum!

CEASAR SALAD 

TGIF , Glorietta, Makati , Philippines

 My best bet in this category. Creamy without being too overpowering. One can taste a hint of anchovies, croutons crispy , lettuce fresh – of course, when it is this good – you have to pay much as well.

Ceasar Salad

COM SUON CHA

Bawai, Brgy. Bukal, Silang Cavite

Grilled pork liempo with mushroom egg tart served with greens and rice. This is my top pick.  This is almost like eating fish because of its tenderness.  This is meat-falling-off-the-bone scenario.  This is so tender that the fat part of the liempo literally melts in your mouth.  It tastes so good that I think the rice serving is not enough.   There goes my diet outside the cool midday delight.  The mushroom egg tart is something new but reminded me of the Japanese egg omelette , Tamagoyaki without the mushroom.

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/bawais-private-vietnamese-hideaway/

COM SUON CHA

HAI KHANH TUONG COFFEE 

THIEN XUAN HOTEL  , Le Thanh Ton St., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Coffee with a taste of  chocolate in it ( the best I have tasted but we failed to look for its store) . This started my love affair with Vietnam Coffee .

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/?s=saigon

Hai Khanh Tuong

POMELO SHAKE

AhfatSeafoods Plaza Davao 1 Victoria Plaza Compound (Parking Lot) J.P. Laurel Avenue Bajada, Davao City 8000 Telephone Number: (082) 224 0002; 226., Davao City

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/discovering-davao/

My best bet in this category … with real pomelo pulp bits to refresh you

WINTER MELON JUICE

Tasty Dumplings , 620 Ongpin St., Binondo , Manila , Philippines

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/my-binondo-girl-philippines-chinatown/

Wintermelon Juice

It is from the “kundol” extract … reminds me of gulaman and vanilla.

BANANA PEANUT BUTTER SHAKE

Jonah’s, Boracay , Panay Island, Philippines

What is sunset without this … my favorite thing in Boracay … lounging and watching the sun go down sipping this! This is life!

SHRIMP PASTE RICE  (Bagoong Rice )

THAI EXPRESSThere are 3 outlets of this restaurant: – Vincom Center B3, Le Thanh Ton, and Crescent Plaza in P. Tan Phu (HCMC , Vietnam)

this was dubbed as the King’s favourite … and mine – so good! Rice has been flavoured with their classic Thai shrimp paste with shrimp. squid and beef incorporated while being fried served with a lemon wedge, slices of scrambled egg, tomato, cucumber and shrimp paste. 

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/?s=saigon

Shrimp Paste Rice

FRENCH BAGUETTE

THIEN XUAN HOTEL  , Le Thanh Ton St., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 this is one of the best tasting ones – very crunchy and flaky on the outside and soft . It is the symbol of France in every country but it varies on the place – the Vietnamese bánh mì uses a high proportion of rice flour. Just with butter or jam – this is superb.

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/?s=saigon

French Baguette

PHO BO ( Beef Noodle Soup)  

 found on the side street in the Le Thanh Ton corner Ph B. Chau (just below Song Anh Hotel  right across Ben Thanh Market in front of Noa Hang Mon Hue), Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 … but let me warn you …. this place isn’t what you can call decent. It is one of those street food places that spring after the establishment closes (a jewelry store).  They have small chairs and tables (like the ones used by kids – plastic type).  The food is cooked in the food cart. Since it is near the market, it is not so sanitary looking and the smell isn’t of the peppermint aroma therapy level.   We saw a rat in fact. But this is Ra Tot! After tasting more than my year’s quota of Pho – I can rightfully say this. But this is quite expensive for a street food – VND 40,000. This price is for mid-budget Pho in a good restaurant already.  After eating this – I never had a stomach upset or anything – so this must have been boiled well to get rid of the unwanted elements.

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/?s=saigon

Po Bho

 NYONYA PAI TEE

The Chicken Rice Shop

Along Katipunan (Blue Ridge) , Quezon City, Philippines

This appetizer is a must have !!! Delightful. Ranks high in taste department.  Small things come in small packages … and this one comes in a crisp pastry shell called “top hats”with julienned vegetables like and jicama, carrot and chopped chicken topped with caramelized onion.  This is served with a sweet and tangy sauce w/ chili.

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/the-chicken-rice-shop-chicken-rice-and-more/

Nyonya Pan Tee

KOREAN BEEF STEW

Jang Ga Nae – BF Homes , Paranaque City, Philippines

This one literally melts in your mouth – falling off the bone tenderness – Delish!

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/jang-ga-nae-korean-restaurant/

Korean Beef Stew

BEEF GYUDON

Yoshinoya, Park Square, Makati City, Philippines

Beef Gyudon

Best eaten with Shichimi tōgarashi (Japanese 7 spice mixture) . This bowl is both filling and delicious.  The beef strips are thinly sliced almost like a bacon.  This can be a meal for my “cheat day” . 

SALTED FISH FRIED RICE
Zong
Fort Strip, BGC, Taguig City, Philippines

The right saltiness and a glorious blend of flavor without upstaging the main event. It is low carb diet’s nemesis on the loose .

Zong’s Salted Fish Fried Rice

KARE-KARE – Been around the Philippines and back … noboby can top my Mom’s Kare Kare ! Meat almost melting in my mouth … with a peanut sauce that no one can beat for its taste and goodness . To Aling Gloria … your the best! This is one of the many reasons why we always come home every weekend.

Gloria’s Kare-Kare

GRILLED TUNA BELLY
Ang Pulo, Autocamp
Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City, Philippines

Grilling while you wait and drinking your Sub Zero. Moist and not charred. No put-ons just plain tuna goodness. In combi with vinegar, garlic and capsicum frutescens (siling labuyo) … Eat by section as it falls off the main meat. Good for 2 drinking buddies.

GRILLED QUITONG

Metrocenter Restaurant, Tagbilaran City, Bohol

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/bedazzling-bohol/

This is my 1st encounter with this fish … and I would say … it had me at Fish Be with You!

FAMILY PLATTER

Jamaican Grill
Carlrose Bldg, 288 Pale San Vitores Road
Tumon, Guam
(1-671) 647 3000/ 4000

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/guam-where-americas-day-begins/

BBQ Family Platter

The Jerk – BBQ Family Platter $36.95 offers a palatable introduction to the medley of sweet, aromatic, spices that comprise the blend called “jerk seasoning”. These spices are primarily chillies, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, allspice, and onions, which can be made into a wet paste or rubbed on the surface in its dry form.

The Boston Beach Ribs are succulent – the meat almost falling off the bone, the Kingston BBQ Jerk Chicken is cooked just right and the fish doesn’t have the fishy taste. The Fresh Fruit Salad is a refreshing blend of fruits which is not commonly eaten with ribs. I’m a condiments girl but this time … I’m contented with the taste. The “orange rice” doesn’t try to take the center stage of the whole meal … a very good support of the hearty meal. The fruit juice that comes with the platter is good as well.

KARAAGE (Fried Chicken)

Fuji Ichiban
Pale San Vitores Road
Across Acanta Mall
Tumon, Guam
1-671-647-4555

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/guam-where-americas-day-begins/

This chicken dish (Karaage)is superb priced at $4.75. And this won’t be complete without the Chahan (fried rice). Simple batter and can stand on its own without gravy. This is a must try.

FISH AND CHIPS 

 Starfish
Molsworth St.,
Wellington New Zealand

Starfish- Fish & Chips

By far, the best fish and chips to-go . Placed inside a brown bag , the fish and chips are crispy and not too oily . Comes with tartar sauce.

NASI LEMAK
Food Junction
Malaysia

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Food Junction’s Nasi Lemak

The national dish of Malaysia. This comes as a platter of food wrapped in banana leaf, with cucumber slices, small dried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, hard boiled egg, and hot spicy sauce (sambal) at its core. Rice is soaked in coconut cream and steamed. My fave! Delish!

CYMA CHOPPED SALAD

Cyma
G/F, Greenbelt 2, Ayala , Makati City
729-4387

The House Salad – mixed greens, sundried tomato, peaches, walnuts, parmesan and bleu cheese w/ vinaigrette. A healthy option priced at P320

PIZZA MARGHERITA

Piadina
Glorietta, Makati City

This is best Pizza Margherita without pretensions. Simple mozzarella, tomato and basil in a crust that makes the difference. No chili flakes for Piadina but Passion Oil. For only 280 per pizza … you can’t get that taste and price anywhere else.

PIZZA PANIZZA

C’ Italian
Don Juico Ave., Angeles City ,
Pampanga

Panizza

Chef is Chris Locher whose pizza is one of the best I have tried . It is a rectangular pizza w/ alfalfa sprouts and arugula leaves w/ cheese or slices of seafood or meat that you have to roll on your own to enjoy the taste.

PINAKBET PIZZA

Herencia
Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Pinakbet Pizza

Thin crust pizza concocted by Sammy Blas w/ a mix of veggies found on a regular pinakbet like eggplant, tomato,okra and longanisa with fish bagoong as pizza sauce. Mozzarella cheese finishes the gastronomic delight Divine! With the historic Paoay Church on the background … this is life!

QUATTRO FORMAGGIO PIZZA
Gumbo, The Block, SM City North EDSA
Quezon City, Philippines

Quattro Formaggio

There is something about the crust … not too salty.

FOUR LEAVES

Singapore City

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This is the leading bakery chain in Singapore. Mini World – wide range of mini pastries and buns – YUM-O! My favourite is their version of pigs in a blanket.

YELLOW CURRY (Beef, Pork, Chicken, Shrimp)

 Som’s Noodle House
Branch 1: Alger St., Poblacion, Makati City
Branch 2: Rotonda, Mandaluyong City

The best for me is the shrimp, their beef is not tender almost needs fighting to tear it using your teeth. I’m not a big fan of curry – but this one … I’d order each time I’d go there. It is subtle and creamy w/o being too thick. Php: 150.00

SIZZLING BEEF

SR Thai Cuisine
965 P. Noval St., Sampaloc
Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone Number: (63 2) 734-5443

Simple and tastes very good. Beef was marinated in Thai spices and served in a sizzling plate with a piece of tomato and 2 string beans. This is served with a generous serving of rice already. Php: 70.00

PAD THAI

Delice by Nicole Cruz
Private Caterer – contact me if needed

Food Styling: Vanessa Zapanta

I’m biased … this is the best I’ve tasted. A dish of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chilli pepper, plus any combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu, garnished with crushed peanuts, coriander and lime, the juice of which can be added along with Thai condiments. Pad Thai is one of Thailand’s national dishes.

CURRY LAKSA

Pondok , Rasapura Masters, Marina Bay Sands Singapore

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Curry Laksa

 (in many places referred to simply as “laksa”) is a coconut-based curry soup. The main ingredients for most versions of curry laksa include tofu puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Laksa is commonly served with a spoonful of sambal chilli paste and garnished with Vietnamese coriander, or laksa leaf. Yum-O!

BAKED OYSTER

Via Mare
Shangri-La Mall – 632-0350
Greenbelt
Serendra
Alabang

Oysters

And true to its namesake, Via Mare, which means ‘by the sea’ … one of their best dishes is the the Baked Oyster, whose five dishes are baked in five styles of modern cuisine. But you can order combination platter to taste all of them

1. Oyster in Dubbary Toppings ( cauliflower w/ creamy cheese sauce )
2. Oyster w/ Mushroom Ragout (combination of shiitake, champignon and oyster mushrooms with chopped tomatoes and herbs )
3. Oyster Boursin ( With 3 cheese blend, garlic and herbs )
4. Oyster Parmesan (With garlic butter and Parmesan cheese) * best of the 5
5. Oysters Rockefeller ( With spinach, bacon and 3 cheese blend )

It can be eaten as is . Some wants it eaten w/ hot sauce and liquid seasoning while others eat it w/ freshly sliced parmesan cheese and chili flakes. Best taken w/ Sub Zero San Mig Light with a good dose of very witty conversation to boot. It is a good relaxing conclusion to a toxic day … it makes me wonder , what makes it an aphrodisiac . Some says it’s the zinc … my answer? it’s the visual impact of the oyster 🙂 It is highly suggestive of better things to do at night than talk.

OYSTERS

Coning’s , Iloilo City

https://tripsandthecity.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/iloilo-sugar-and-more/

If you want the basic boiled oyster … this is your place .  Their oysters are small  … I like this better.  The place when I went there 10 years ago was still uncemented and full of flies … this makes it authentic . 🙂 But food is good.

LECHON (suckling Pig )

Alejos from Cebu City

Alejos Lechon

Crunchy … soft meat … no need for sauce

CNT Lechon Cebu

1377 Rama Ave, Guadalupe, Cebu City

This lechon was eaten and loved  by Anthony Bourdain … the flavor of the  meat you will never forget … needs no lechon sauce.

PALITAW ( Rice Cake )

Makati Supermarket Coffee Shop

Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa, Philippines

Palitaw

Among the Pinoy ricecakes … this is on the top of my list .  These are sweet , flat rice cakes made from sticky rice boiled in water and would float ( litaw , hence the name) when done. This is served with sugar, coconut and toasted sesame seeds.  The taste of this particular palitaw is almost close to the taste I grew up with and love . 

PUTO Bumbong (Rice Cake cooked in Bamboo Tube)

Via Mare, Greenbelt 1, Makati City

This is named as such because the rice cake is cooked inside a bamboo tube.  This is sticky, thin and purple in color.  This is a Christmas food in the Philippines but you can eat it all year round in Via Mare .

MOCHI SWEETS

Vincom Center , HCMC, Vietnam

Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and moulded into shape with fillings of your choice and ice cream in the centre. Sakura, their signature mochi is very good for VND 22,000 (Php 63.00)

Mochi Sweets

Sinful Chocolate Cake

Ala Creme
Angeles City

Sinfully delicious chocolate cake w/ you-can’t-get-enough-of-walnuts mix . Delish!

UST Dirty IceCream

 owned by JR (pronounced as Gee-R) – roving around UST Grounds
Espana, Manila

In chocolate, cookies n cream and cheese flavors, this icecream stand has been an iconic figure in the UST Grounds for 37 years now. He can go to your party and serve his icecream ,,, just let him know a day or two.

Enriched Chocolate Bar ( Korean Ice Cream)

any Korean grocery or restaurant

This is ice cream on a stick – vanilla and chocolate goodness.  At the core is a chunk of chocolate that is meant to surprise a sweet tooth.  The chocolate covering is smothered generously with peanuts!!!

Enriched Chocolate Bar

Macadamia Nut Ice Cream

Haagen Dasz
Clarke Quay, Singapore

Macadamia Nut

In vanilla ice cream … this literally melts in your mouth without hiding behind the sugar … pure and simple … mixed with macadamia nuts.  … this is not your ordinary everyday treat… but a palate luxury.

BEST CHOCOLATES … my NUTTY obssessions

1. Whittaker’s White Macadamia – 1896 New Zealand ( introduced to me in NZ) The name says it all …

White Macadamia

2. Kirkland’s Macadamia Nut Clusters – from the US – decadent sweet-and-salty combinations. Fine-quality macadamia nuts from Hawaii are lightly dusted with sugar and salt, covered in soft, creamy caramel to form clusters and then enrobed in chocolate( introduced by Dr. Rino Sobrepena )

Macadamia Nut Clusters

3. Ritter Sport’s White Whole Hazelnut and Whole Hazelnuts – Germany – the hazelnut is Turkish, Crunchy and Perfect!

4. Almond Joy – almonds and coconuts … divine . It’s a candy bar manufactured by Hershey’s. It consists of a coconut-based center topped with an almond and enrobed in a layer of milk chocolate.( introduced by Essie Elwick )

Almond Joy

5. Peanut Butter M & M (Introduced by Essie Elwick ) … looking for something different under the shell?

6. Ferrero Rocher – is a spherical chocolate sweet made by Italian chocolatier Ferrero SpA, the producer of Tic Tac and Nutella. The chocolates consist of a whole roasted hazelnut encased in a thin wafer shell filled with hazelnut cream and covered in milk chocolate and chopped hazelnuts and walnuts. Rocher actually comes from French and means “rock”.

Ferrero Raffaello – a half almond, surrounded by meringue and milk cream, encased in coconut wafer coated with coconut flakes … yum yum yum

7. Beryl’s Panned Chocolate (Almond Milk Chocolate) – Beryl’s
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Individual bites of heaven … need i say more

8. Reese’s Nutrageous Candy Bar (Hershey’s Store, Singapore ) is made with chocolate and loaded with crunchy roasted peanuts, smooth rich caramel and the distinctive taste of REESE’S peanut butter.

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