Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Quick Boracay Summer

So there I was again, without any plans of going to Boracay, I got dragged by a friend who wanted to celebrate her birthday at the island. I was only able to make up my mind on the last minute. And because we took Air Asia, it meant another delayed flight, so we waited for more than 2 hours. 

We flew from Manila to Kalibo International Airport, where we met up with our friend who came from Dumaguete, but flew via Cebu. It was already midnight when we got to the boat from Caticlan to Boracay. The boat rates really inflate at those hours so it's better to take day flights. We got to the island at 1am and we just headed out for a quick meal before going to bed.

So basically we did a lot of eating, photo op, and partying (without even drinking much). But I would say that eating was the highlight of our trip haha! In fact, this was the only Boracay trip wherein I have completed all the daily hotel breakfasts. It's because we've been going to bed early because we're not drunk. Talk about change! haha

It's also great to find out that some other friends were there too, so I got to hangout with them. Anyway, here's how the trip went on:

Boracay Getaway from Roycie S. on Vimeo.

Day 1
Station 2 - Friend got a Henna Tattoo
Two Seasons - Oyster Sisig and Four Cheese Pizza (never fails!)
Station 1- Photo Op and a bit swimming by the beach until sunset
Olé - Late dinner
Summer Place - Friend met up with a guy from Tinder but ended up being with a better person we met by the bar
Epic - I met up with my friends from Manila and hung out 'til the break of dawn

A photo posted by Roycie S. (@royciepoisie) on


Day 2
Puka Beach - Swimming and chilling (super pretty beach but the drinks were overpriced)
Spider House - Dinner with new friends
Epic - Party (and some drinking)

Day 3
Real Coffee - Lunch
Don Churros - Churro and Lava Cake fix
Jonah's Fruit Shake - Of course, we won't miss this
Las Brisas - Swimming and bonding by the pool
Station 2 - Buffet Dinner (another must for every Boracay trip)
Epic - My friend's birthday celebration
Then while we're a bit tipsy 'coz of our drinks, we had to go back to the hotel to get our stuff; then we headed to the port then the Kalibo Airport to catch our red-eye flight. However, our flight was ultimately delayed for like 4 hours, so we wished we just stayed and rebooked our flight (it's free anyway).

A photo posted by Roycie S. (@royciepoisie) on

And that's another quick but awesome summer trip! Where to next? Just wait for it! :)

How an Overnight Cebu Trip Turned 5 Days

Even I can't believe it. I didn't even have plans of joining my friends but I ended up staying there for almost forever. I was dragged by a friend straight from a Saturday night party  to the airport to catch the earliest flight to Cebu. Since the first flight was fully booked, we had to take the next one. We bought our plane ticket there and we didn't even get a ticket back home.

Instead of posting a lot of photos here, I just made a video of the trip. Feel free to comment below if you have any inquiries. 

#CebuHits from Roycie S. on Vimeo.


Here's a rundown of all our activities in that 5-day trip:

Day 1

We left first thing on a Sunday morning, went straight to our friend's hotel, the Big Hotel to check-in and take a nap. Then we had breakfast at the hotel resto. Right after breakfast, we were informed that our JCI friends from JCI Mandaue have prepared a boat party so we joined them. We went on a food trip and we had crazy drinking games while on board. 

We rushed back to the hotel to prepare for JCI Womandaue's induction and turnover ceremonies. After the event, we had drinks at the hotel bar. Then some of our JCI Cebu Inc. brothers invited us for a karaoke party at the KTV located next to the hotel. It was at around 1am when we moved to our friend's acoustic bar/KTV lounge, Open Mic, where we continued our craziness until 3am! That was a really crazy night.

Day 2

We all had lunch at a restaurant in SM Cebu. Then we chilled at Ibiza Beach Club at Movenpick Hotel and Resort in Mactan 'til after sunset. For dinner, we headed to a restaurant owned by our friend, Ampersand, wherein we had the best steak in Cebu, and all other sumptuous dishes and drinks.
A photo posted by Roycie S. (@royciepoisie) on

Day 3

We had our lechon fix at Rico's during lunch then we visited a new acquaintance's auto shop, Euro Technik for coffee. It was a lazy afternoon so while some of our friends headed to the airport to go back home, me and some of our Cebu-based friends indulged on a 1.5-hr foot and back massage at the Park Mall. It's my first time to try a massage conducted by blind people, and it felt so good. For dinner, we've gone to a local restaurant (like a big carinderia -- which I forgot the name of) that's known for their native chicken. After dinner, we had tea and dessert at Tinder Box. But just when we thought our night was over, we craved for wine and cheese so we headed to La Vie en Parisienne to satisfy our cravings.

Day 4

And out of our spontaneity, at 3am, after our wine sesh, we headed to the port to catch the first barge to Bantayan Island. That was a 2.5-hr drive, which can usually take 4-5 hours during the day. Anyway, we we're only able to catch the 2nd barge at 6:30am and it took us an hour and 15 mins to cross the water to Bantayan Island. In Bantayan, we had breakfast by the market, then we shopped for really cheap seafood. How cheap? Like Php 20/kilo of scallops. OMG! We headed to SantaFe Beach Club, where we checked in. We had the seafood we bought at the market cooked in the hotel and that's what we had for lunch. We were extremely full that we fell asleep after. We failed to wake up in time for our trip to the cove so we just headed out for dinner at Chef Panyang's. The food there were really cheap and yummy. If I come back to Bantayan, it would probably because of two things: the beach and the food. We got free dessert c/o the restaurant's manager. We were also able to have a JW Gold Label we just bought from a store nearby. We continued our drinking sesh at our hotel by the beach front while watching a movie on laptop.

Day 5

The next day, we woke up late again. We felt guilty for having the boatmen wait for 1.5 hrs for our island hopping. Our first stop was at Hilantagaan Island where we bought fish, rock lobsters, and crabs for our lunch. Next stop was at Virgin Island and I super loved it there. It's a lot better than Boracay. While we did some snorkelling, our boatman prepared our lunch. After lunch, we just rested for a bit and headed back to our hotel in Bantayan to catch the soonest flight we can get back to Manila as we still have a formal event to attend to in Taguig. At the airport, we bought our plane ticket and while waiting for boarding, we had our last dinner together.
A photo posted by Roycie S. (@royciepoisie) on

That Cebu trip was probably the best and most spontaneous trip I've ever done! It's so exciting to not have exact plans, not even a return flight because it gives you a lot of freedom. Just remember to overpack (while packing light -- to avoid paying for extra baggage) a bit. Be sure that you have extra clothes for any activity -- casual (shorts, tank tops, shirts, skirts), beachwear (maxi dress, short summer dress, cover up, swimsuit), smart casual (polo and pants), footwear (flats/sneakers, flipflops) -- so you won't have a problem.

Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Nagoya in 4 Days!

Well the title actually sounds crazy. How were we able to visit 5 cities in 4 days and spend only less than Php 20,000? Here's how...

From Nagano, I took a night bus to Osaka. My friends were already there in the Airbnb apartment that we booked (I think that cost us around Php 1000/pax/night), so I went straight from the Umeda Bus Station to our apartment somewhere like a few stations away from Umeda. Had I contacted my Osaka-based aunt earlier, we could've stayed at her place and saved from spending on accommodation. Anyway, although a bit sleepless, we headed straight to the Universal Studios Japan. It was my second time there, but first time to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I had so much fun this time with friends 'cause it felt different the last time I was there with family.

Harry Potter!!!
Oh Christmas Tree!
feeling like a kid again with Elmo
the light parade
The next day, we went to Nara via train. We bought a discounted 2-day unlimited Kintetsu (line) pass for our Osaka-Nara-Kyoto-Osaka route. At the first day of its usage, we went to the Nara Deer Park and played with the shikas (shika = deer in Japanese), checked out the Todai-ji (temple) then headed back to Osaka for shopping at Shinshai Bashi.

autumn :)

Todai-ji
of course, food!! 
Shinshai Bashi

sushi dinner
 On the third day, we went to Kyoto and visited the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and the Fushimi Inari Taisha (temple). We tried our best to make it to the Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple) but we got there at 6pm just after it closed. It's really not possible to explore Kyoto in 1 day. I promise to be back and do the temple hopping and geisha hunting. There are really a lot more tourist spots I want to visit there. We headed back to Osaka and just spent the night packing our stuff because we're about to go home the next day.

in the train 
Kyoto Tower 

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
souvenirs handcrafted by an old man
groufie!!!
tonkotsu ramen for late lunch
Fushimi Inari Taisha


it took me so long to get a shot without a photobomber (haha)
our cute apartment c/o AirBnb
On our last day in Japan, we woke up late. We failed to explore Osaka's tourist spots such as the Osaka Castle and the Rinku Outlet Stores (oh shopping...), but there will always be a next time. Anyway, I rushed my way to the Osaka station to meet up with my Osaka-based aunt and she brought me to Kobe, yeah the home of the famous Kobe beef. But besides, Kobe, what I was more eager to have was the Matsusaka Beef but we didn't have time to get ourselves to Matsusaka. Luckily, I was able to have a taste of this beef in Manila at Smith Butcher and Grill. Sorry, that's quite off-topic haha. Anyway, we've gone to the Kobe Harbour Park. We've gone window shopping, we've viewed the Kobe Tower, and we had sumptuous lunch buffet at The Canary Warf. Everything was sponsored by my generous aunt. 


Kobe Tower
my aunt and her son
we're the first customers
this was only my first round and I had a second one haha

I am a certified matcha addict

shinkansen
off to Nagoya Airport from Osaka for our trip back to Manila
From Kobe, we headed back to Osaka to meet up with my friends and we all took the bullet train (shinkansen) to Nagoya International Airport. Too bad we didn't have time to explore Nagoya for a bit. The entire trip was tiring but truly fun and exciting. I've been to Japan 4 times already but there were still a lot of places for me to explore and activities to try. I would never really get tired of coming back to this country. On my next trip, I plan to explore Nagoya, Osaka, and Kyoto further plus include the historic city of Hiroshima. And on a winter trip, I must visit Sapporo in Hokkaido. I heard beer and food are extra yummy there! Oh, can't wait!

Nagano Quick Shopping and Food Trip

On my trip to Japan last November 2015, I was lucky enough to squeeze in a 4-day trip to Nagano, where my relatives live. It is actually where I usually stay whenever I'm in Japan. But since I was only there for 4 days, I wasn't able to do much. In fact, I opted to stay home and prepare FIlipino dishes for my family because I knew they really missed them. But as a reward, I got treated like a real guest.

From Shinjuku, Tokyo, I had to take a 2.5-hour bus ride to Suwa Interchange in Nagano, where my family picked me up. They immediately brought me to my favorite kaiten sushi place, Sushiro for lunch. Of course, I had the grandest time eating all of the sushi I could.



The next day, we drove to Karuizawa to go outlet shopping at Prince Shopping Plaza, where the biggest brands of apparel are available at really cheap rates. I got to score a Levi's dress that only cost Php 500 (if converted into Php) and a Nike FlyKnit at only Y10,000 or around Php 3,700 (because exchange rate at that time was really low).




Before shopping, we had soba for lunch. It's located 30 mins away from the outlet shops. There, I was able to see how soba noodles were being made and I was able to taste the best soba I've had in my life. For dinner, we had "yakiniku" near our home in Suwa City. In Japan, the things I love to do are: shopping, taking photos, and of course, EATING! They have the best food in the world (at least for me).









The next day, my cousin and I visited one of my favorite and most authentic ramen places in our city. I had miso ramen and I was truly satisfied.



I spent my last day in Nagano at home, cooking Filipino food for the family and packing for my trip to Osaka. I didn't spend anything while at Nagano, thanks to my family! Can't wait to be back! :)


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Binondo's Not-so-Hidden Secrets

(As published in the January 2016 issue of Hardware Zone PH Magazine) 

Better known as “Chinatown” of Manila, Binondo has so many things to offer, which may not be known to many, most especially to non-Chinese people. What you might not know is the fact that Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world, as it was established in 1594. Since then, it has been the center of trade and commerce for the Filipino-Chinese community.

I must admit that I am not really a Binondo person. Although I’ve had a couple of Filipino-Chinese friends from this district, I haven’t really gone around it and I still consider myself a Chinatown-newbie.  While I have visited Divisoria for a couple of times before, this is actually the first time I have explored Binondo. Let me share with you a couple of my discoveries in this quick tour.

1.     Lucky Chinatown Mall is both a good and bad idea. It’s good to finally have an upscale mall and a secure parking space in Chinatown; however, getting out of the parking building from the topmost floor could take up to 2 hours most especially during rush hour. Sometimes, taking public transportation could be a better idea.


2.     Chinatown Gold Center is like a gold mine! I’ve never seen that much authentic gold in my life, all in one place. There, they sell different karats of gold jewelries, which come from multiple countries – Saudi gold, Russian diamond, etc. – and they are selling it like a commodity. One can buy a simple 18K golden ring at around Php 3,500 or a small 18K golden pendant at Php 1,500. I have also learned that they have online sellers for those who cannot personally visit Chinatown; but I suggest you do because there are a lot of pretty items there to choose from.



3.     Authentic yet cheap Chinese food are just within the streets of Binondo. I have tried the Original Chicken Mami from the famous Masuki Mami House in Benavidez Street and it’s probably not the best mami I’ve tasted but it’s equally good. I actually like their siomai more. Don’t be surprised if it’s priced at Php 35 per piece because it is actually big and tasty. To satisfy my xiao long bao and hakaw cravings, I headed to Ongbin Golden Dimsum in Dasmariñas Street, as advised by a Fil-Chi friend. And good news, their food did not disappoint! I also passed by the oldest standing restaurant in Binondo, the New Toho Food Center, established in 1888, which can be found along T. Pinpin Street. I was too full to give it a try so you better go try it yourself to know why it has been there for more than 100 years already.


xiao long bao at Ongbin Golden Dimsum
huge siomai at Masuki
yummy Mami at Masuki
4.     Attract good luck with Binondo’s lucky charms. There are a couple of shops selling lucky charms, from small trinkets to huge Buddha statues. Their peak season is around January as people prepare for the Chinese New Year. They also share some forecasts for the incoming year so you would know which stuff to buy. 2016 is the Year of the Fire Monkey, and if you want to know which lucky charm would best fit you, visit these shops in Chinatown.



5.     Whatever you could think of buying can be found in Binondo. From gift items to furniture to clothing, you can all find them there, and at a way cheaper price. You can also avail of wholesale prices, and this would benefit you most especially if you plan to resell these items because people would usually pay for convenience. There are a lot of good finds in 168 Mall, 11/88 Mall, and 999 Mall, or just by the side walks and other shops within the streets of Binondo such as the Ongpin Street. Just don’t forget to haggle and enjoy shopping!

Just a few tips for you to be more comfortable and safe while touring Binondo: wear simple clothing and flat shoes, and do away with jewelries and branded accessories. Better to have someone with you and refrain from using your mobile phone.


And those have been my discoveries. Now it’s time for you to discover these “not-so-hidden” secrets of Binondo I have shared, and go find out more!

wasn't able to take much photos during this trip so I just took a selfie instead haha

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Quick Boracay Summer

So there I was again, without any plans of going to Boracay, I got dragged by a friend who wanted to celebrate her birthday at the island. I was only able to make up my mind on the last minute. And because we took Air Asia, it meant another delayed flight, so we waited for more than 2 hours. 

We flew from Manila to Kalibo International Airport, where we met up with our friend who came from Dumaguete, but flew via Cebu. It was already midnight when we got to the boat from Caticlan to Boracay. The boat rates really inflate at those hours so it's better to take day flights. We got to the island at 1am and we just headed out for a quick meal before going to bed.

So basically we did a lot of eating, photo op, and partying (without even drinking much). But I would say that eating was the highlight of our trip haha! In fact, this was the only Boracay trip wherein I have completed all the daily hotel breakfasts. It's because we've been going to bed early because we're not drunk. Talk about change! haha

It's also great to find out that some other friends were there too, so I got to hangout with them. Anyway, here's how the trip went on:

Boracay Getaway from Roycie S. on Vimeo.

Day 1
Station 2 - Friend got a Henna Tattoo
Two Seasons - Oyster Sisig and Four Cheese Pizza (never fails!)
Station 1- Photo Op and a bit swimming by the beach until sunset
Olé - Late dinner
Summer Place - Friend met up with a guy from Tinder but ended up being with a better person we met by the bar
Epic - I met up with my friends from Manila and hung out 'til the break of dawn

A photo posted by Roycie S. (@royciepoisie) on


Day 2
Puka Beach - Swimming and chilling (super pretty beach but the drinks were overpriced)
Spider House - Dinner with new friends
Epic - Party (and some drinking)

Day 3
Real Coffee - Lunch
Don Churros - Churro and Lava Cake fix
Jonah's Fruit Shake - Of course, we won't miss this
Las Brisas - Swimming and bonding by the pool
Station 2 - Buffet Dinner (another must for every Boracay trip)
Epic - My friend's birthday celebration
Then while we're a bit tipsy 'coz of our drinks, we had to go back to the hotel to get our stuff; then we headed to the port then the Kalibo Airport to catch our red-eye flight. However, our flight was ultimately delayed for like 4 hours, so we wished we just stayed and rebooked our flight (it's free anyway).

A photo posted by Roycie S. (@royciepoisie) on

And that's another quick but awesome summer trip! Where to next? Just wait for it! :)

How an Overnight Cebu Trip Turned 5 Days

Even I can't believe it. I didn't even have plans of joining my friends but I ended up staying there for almost forever. I was dragged by a friend straight from a Saturday night party  to the airport to catch the earliest flight to Cebu. Since the first flight was fully booked, we had to take the next one. We bought our plane ticket there and we didn't even get a ticket back home.

Instead of posting a lot of photos here, I just made a video of the trip. Feel free to comment below if you have any inquiries. 

#CebuHits from Roycie S. on Vimeo.


Here's a rundown of all our activities in that 5-day trip:

Day 1

We left first thing on a Sunday morning, went straight to our friend's hotel, the Big Hotel to check-in and take a nap. Then we had breakfast at the hotel resto. Right after breakfast, we were informed that our JCI friends from JCI Mandaue have prepared a boat party so we joined them. We went on a food trip and we had crazy drinking games while on board. 

We rushed back to the hotel to prepare for JCI Womandaue's induction and turnover ceremonies. After the event, we had drinks at the hotel bar. Then some of our JCI Cebu Inc. brothers invited us for a karaoke party at the KTV located next to the hotel. It was at around 1am when we moved to our friend's acoustic bar/KTV lounge, Open Mic, where we continued our craziness until 3am! That was a really crazy night.

Day 2

We all had lunch at a restaurant in SM Cebu. Then we chilled at Ibiza Beach Club at Movenpick Hotel and Resort in Mactan 'til after sunset. For dinner, we headed to a restaurant owned by our friend, Ampersand, wherein we had the best steak in Cebu, and all other sumptuous dishes and drinks.
A photo posted by Roycie S. (@royciepoisie) on

Day 3

We had our lechon fix at Rico's during lunch then we visited a new acquaintance's auto shop, Euro Technik for coffee. It was a lazy afternoon so while some of our friends headed to the airport to go back home, me and some of our Cebu-based friends indulged on a 1.5-hr foot and back massage at the Park Mall. It's my first time to try a massage conducted by blind people, and it felt so good. For dinner, we've gone to a local restaurant (like a big carinderia -- which I forgot the name of) that's known for their native chicken. After dinner, we had tea and dessert at Tinder Box. But just when we thought our night was over, we craved for wine and cheese so we headed to La Vie en Parisienne to satisfy our cravings.

Day 4

And out of our spontaneity, at 3am, after our wine sesh, we headed to the port to catch the first barge to Bantayan Island. That was a 2.5-hr drive, which can usually take 4-5 hours during the day. Anyway, we we're only able to catch the 2nd barge at 6:30am and it took us an hour and 15 mins to cross the water to Bantayan Island. In Bantayan, we had breakfast by the market, then we shopped for really cheap seafood. How cheap? Like Php 20/kilo of scallops. OMG! We headed to SantaFe Beach Club, where we checked in. We had the seafood we bought at the market cooked in the hotel and that's what we had for lunch. We were extremely full that we fell asleep after. We failed to wake up in time for our trip to the cove so we just headed out for dinner at Chef Panyang's. The food there were really cheap and yummy. If I come back to Bantayan, it would probably because of two things: the beach and the food. We got free dessert c/o the restaurant's manager. We were also able to have a JW Gold Label we just bought from a store nearby. We continued our drinking sesh at our hotel by the beach front while watching a movie on laptop.

Day 5

The next day, we woke up late again. We felt guilty for having the boatmen wait for 1.5 hrs for our island hopping. Our first stop was at Hilantagaan Island where we bought fish, rock lobsters, and crabs for our lunch. Next stop was at Virgin Island and I super loved it there. It's a lot better than Boracay. While we did some snorkelling, our boatman prepared our lunch. After lunch, we just rested for a bit and headed back to our hotel in Bantayan to catch the soonest flight we can get back to Manila as we still have a formal event to attend to in Taguig. At the airport, we bought our plane ticket and while waiting for boarding, we had our last dinner together.
A photo posted by Roycie S. (@royciepoisie) on

That Cebu trip was probably the best and most spontaneous trip I've ever done! It's so exciting to not have exact plans, not even a return flight because it gives you a lot of freedom. Just remember to overpack (while packing light -- to avoid paying for extra baggage) a bit. Be sure that you have extra clothes for any activity -- casual (shorts, tank tops, shirts, skirts), beachwear (maxi dress, short summer dress, cover up, swimsuit), smart casual (polo and pants), footwear (flats/sneakers, flipflops) -- so you won't have a problem.

Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Nagoya in 4 Days!

Well the title actually sounds crazy. How were we able to visit 5 cities in 4 days and spend only less than Php 20,000? Here's how...

From Nagano, I took a night bus to Osaka. My friends were already there in the Airbnb apartment that we booked (I think that cost us around Php 1000/pax/night), so I went straight from the Umeda Bus Station to our apartment somewhere like a few stations away from Umeda. Had I contacted my Osaka-based aunt earlier, we could've stayed at her place and saved from spending on accommodation. Anyway, although a bit sleepless, we headed straight to the Universal Studios Japan. It was my second time there, but first time to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I had so much fun this time with friends 'cause it felt different the last time I was there with family.

Harry Potter!!!
Oh Christmas Tree!
feeling like a kid again with Elmo
the light parade
The next day, we went to Nara via train. We bought a discounted 2-day unlimited Kintetsu (line) pass for our Osaka-Nara-Kyoto-Osaka route. At the first day of its usage, we went to the Nara Deer Park and played with the shikas (shika = deer in Japanese), checked out the Todai-ji (temple) then headed back to Osaka for shopping at Shinshai Bashi.

autumn :)

Todai-ji
of course, food!! 
Shinshai Bashi

sushi dinner
 On the third day, we went to Kyoto and visited the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and the Fushimi Inari Taisha (temple). We tried our best to make it to the Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple) but we got there at 6pm just after it closed. It's really not possible to explore Kyoto in 1 day. I promise to be back and do the temple hopping and geisha hunting. There are really a lot more tourist spots I want to visit there. We headed back to Osaka and just spent the night packing our stuff because we're about to go home the next day.

in the train 
Kyoto Tower 

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
souvenirs handcrafted by an old man
groufie!!!
tonkotsu ramen for late lunch
Fushimi Inari Taisha


it took me so long to get a shot without a photobomber (haha)
our cute apartment c/o AirBnb
On our last day in Japan, we woke up late. We failed to explore Osaka's tourist spots such as the Osaka Castle and the Rinku Outlet Stores (oh shopping...), but there will always be a next time. Anyway, I rushed my way to the Osaka station to meet up with my Osaka-based aunt and she brought me to Kobe, yeah the home of the famous Kobe beef. But besides, Kobe, what I was more eager to have was the Matsusaka Beef but we didn't have time to get ourselves to Matsusaka. Luckily, I was able to have a taste of this beef in Manila at Smith Butcher and Grill. Sorry, that's quite off-topic haha. Anyway, we've gone to the Kobe Harbour Park. We've gone window shopping, we've viewed the Kobe Tower, and we had sumptuous lunch buffet at The Canary Warf. Everything was sponsored by my generous aunt. 


Kobe Tower
my aunt and her son
we're the first customers
this was only my first round and I had a second one haha

I am a certified matcha addict

shinkansen
off to Nagoya Airport from Osaka for our trip back to Manila
From Kobe, we headed back to Osaka to meet up with my friends and we all took the bullet train (shinkansen) to Nagoya International Airport. Too bad we didn't have time to explore Nagoya for a bit. The entire trip was tiring but truly fun and exciting. I've been to Japan 4 times already but there were still a lot of places for me to explore and activities to try. I would never really get tired of coming back to this country. On my next trip, I plan to explore Nagoya, Osaka, and Kyoto further plus include the historic city of Hiroshima. And on a winter trip, I must visit Sapporo in Hokkaido. I heard beer and food are extra yummy there! Oh, can't wait!

Nagano Quick Shopping and Food Trip

On my trip to Japan last November 2015, I was lucky enough to squeeze in a 4-day trip to Nagano, where my relatives live. It is actually where I usually stay whenever I'm in Japan. But since I was only there for 4 days, I wasn't able to do much. In fact, I opted to stay home and prepare FIlipino dishes for my family because I knew they really missed them. But as a reward, I got treated like a real guest.

From Shinjuku, Tokyo, I had to take a 2.5-hour bus ride to Suwa Interchange in Nagano, where my family picked me up. They immediately brought me to my favorite kaiten sushi place, Sushiro for lunch. Of course, I had the grandest time eating all of the sushi I could.



The next day, we drove to Karuizawa to go outlet shopping at Prince Shopping Plaza, where the biggest brands of apparel are available at really cheap rates. I got to score a Levi's dress that only cost Php 500 (if converted into Php) and a Nike FlyKnit at only Y10,000 or around Php 3,700 (because exchange rate at that time was really low).




Before shopping, we had soba for lunch. It's located 30 mins away from the outlet shops. There, I was able to see how soba noodles were being made and I was able to taste the best soba I've had in my life. For dinner, we had "yakiniku" near our home in Suwa City. In Japan, the things I love to do are: shopping, taking photos, and of course, EATING! They have the best food in the world (at least for me).









The next day, my cousin and I visited one of my favorite and most authentic ramen places in our city. I had miso ramen and I was truly satisfied.



I spent my last day in Nagano at home, cooking Filipino food for the family and packing for my trip to Osaka. I didn't spend anything while at Nagano, thanks to my family! Can't wait to be back! :)


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Binondo's Not-so-Hidden Secrets

(As published in the January 2016 issue of Hardware Zone PH Magazine) 

Better known as “Chinatown” of Manila, Binondo has so many things to offer, which may not be known to many, most especially to non-Chinese people. What you might not know is the fact that Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world, as it was established in 1594. Since then, it has been the center of trade and commerce for the Filipino-Chinese community.

I must admit that I am not really a Binondo person. Although I’ve had a couple of Filipino-Chinese friends from this district, I haven’t really gone around it and I still consider myself a Chinatown-newbie.  While I have visited Divisoria for a couple of times before, this is actually the first time I have explored Binondo. Let me share with you a couple of my discoveries in this quick tour.

1.     Lucky Chinatown Mall is both a good and bad idea. It’s good to finally have an upscale mall and a secure parking space in Chinatown; however, getting out of the parking building from the topmost floor could take up to 2 hours most especially during rush hour. Sometimes, taking public transportation could be a better idea.


2.     Chinatown Gold Center is like a gold mine! I’ve never seen that much authentic gold in my life, all in one place. There, they sell different karats of gold jewelries, which come from multiple countries – Saudi gold, Russian diamond, etc. – and they are selling it like a commodity. One can buy a simple 18K golden ring at around Php 3,500 or a small 18K golden pendant at Php 1,500. I have also learned that they have online sellers for those who cannot personally visit Chinatown; but I suggest you do because there are a lot of pretty items there to choose from.



3.     Authentic yet cheap Chinese food are just within the streets of Binondo. I have tried the Original Chicken Mami from the famous Masuki Mami House in Benavidez Street and it’s probably not the best mami I’ve tasted but it’s equally good. I actually like their siomai more. Don’t be surprised if it’s priced at Php 35 per piece because it is actually big and tasty. To satisfy my xiao long bao and hakaw cravings, I headed to Ongbin Golden Dimsum in Dasmariñas Street, as advised by a Fil-Chi friend. And good news, their food did not disappoint! I also passed by the oldest standing restaurant in Binondo, the New Toho Food Center, established in 1888, which can be found along T. Pinpin Street. I was too full to give it a try so you better go try it yourself to know why it has been there for more than 100 years already.


xiao long bao at Ongbin Golden Dimsum
huge siomai at Masuki
yummy Mami at Masuki
4.     Attract good luck with Binondo’s lucky charms. There are a couple of shops selling lucky charms, from small trinkets to huge Buddha statues. Their peak season is around January as people prepare for the Chinese New Year. They also share some forecasts for the incoming year so you would know which stuff to buy. 2016 is the Year of the Fire Monkey, and if you want to know which lucky charm would best fit you, visit these shops in Chinatown.



5.     Whatever you could think of buying can be found in Binondo. From gift items to furniture to clothing, you can all find them there, and at a way cheaper price. You can also avail of wholesale prices, and this would benefit you most especially if you plan to resell these items because people would usually pay for convenience. There are a lot of good finds in 168 Mall, 11/88 Mall, and 999 Mall, or just by the side walks and other shops within the streets of Binondo such as the Ongpin Street. Just don’t forget to haggle and enjoy shopping!

Just a few tips for you to be more comfortable and safe while touring Binondo: wear simple clothing and flat shoes, and do away with jewelries and branded accessories. Better to have someone with you and refrain from using your mobile phone.


And those have been my discoveries. Now it’s time for you to discover these “not-so-hidden” secrets of Binondo I have shared, and go find out more!

wasn't able to take much photos during this trip so I just took a selfie instead haha