Archive for the ‘Wanderlust’ Category

When I visited Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, I made sure that I would have my fill of their infamous pho or Vietnamese noodle soup. I was hellbent on trying as much pho as I could that it was actually my first meal in Vietnam (our breakfast in Ben Thanh Market). But there was one restaurant that made its mark on me, mainly because their noodle soup was really good.

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The restaurant was just an accidental discovery but it was already way past lunch time and it was the only restaurant we spotted around the area. We didn’t know anything about the place but we bit the bullet and went in anyway. Upon entering, I was appeased when I saw one wall plastered with photos of locals enjoying their food. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if locals frequent the place, yeah?

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When we got seated, we were immediately served with some sort of pastry. We weren’t exactly sure if they were complimentary but Timmy was too hungry to bother so she went ahead and ate one. I was saving room for my main meal so I only took a small bite off of hers. It was actually delicious! The pastry was flaky, and the filling (which I suspect to be minced pork) was tasty and savory.

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Also on the table were the usual accompaniment for pho – mung sprouts, cilantro and chives. There were also some additional condiments like garlic oil, sliced peppers, marinated garlic and three types of sauces that I honestly didn’t use so I never got to identify them.

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After a short while, our orders were served. Timmy and I got the same thing which had everything on it. Wantons, shrimp, pork balls, and egg noodle soup. My favorite part was the “pork chops” which were actually boiled pork reminiscent of our very own nilaga. The pork pieces were so delightfully tender and the broth was really tasty. I think the dish cost around ~Php120, honestly a fair price for such good quality.

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If I ever have the chance to go back to Ho Chi Minh, I would definitely pay this restaurant another visit. If you’re going to HCMC, this is a must-try! It’s around 8 minutes by foot from Ben Thanh Market.

Check out my previous posts on my Indochina trip here:

Late last year, Cris and I visited Cebu. It was my second time in the city, and a first for Cris. I actually saw Fort San Pedro during my first Cebu trip but I wanted to show Cris the usual Cebu City Tour – which I think always includes this stop.

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Fort San Pedro used to be a military defence structure built by the Spaniards. The fort is triangular in shape, with two sides facing the sea and the third fronting land. It has been slowly restored throughout the years and the main building now functions as the Cebu Office of the Department of Tourism.

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The lieutenant’s quarters now houses a small museum which was not yet there during my visit in 2010. The museum holds a small collection of Spanish artefacts such as paintings, sculptures, documents and miniature models of different boats used in the olden days.

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The fort is built of stone mortar and during restoration, coral stones were hauled from under the sea along Cebu coastal towns to restore it as close to the original as possible. Fourteen cannons used to be mounted all over the fort and most of those are actually still in the area (albeit being nonfunctional).

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There really isn’t much to do inside Fort San Pedro but it is a good place to relax and people watch. It is also perfect for intimate conversations as the place is pretty quiet and solemn.

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After walking around the observatory roof garden, we circled back down to the inner courtyard. I learned that the yard also serves as an open air theater. Too bad there were no shows during both of my visits.

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When it started to get dark, we made our way out of the fort. I must say I love the look of the place better at night thanks to the yellow flourescent lights. It appears to be more mellow and somber with the night light but I could see how it could also be creepy to some.

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Fort San Pedro may not be as grand as other forts in the country but I think it is still worth the visit. There is a minimal fee of Php30 for adults, and Php20 for students.

Around two weeks ago, Vlad mentioned that he was planning on a weekend getaway with his High School friends. Since I was also free, I happily tagged along.

They initially planned on going to Cagbalete but a storm signal was raised on Thursday and the Coast Guard were not allowing boats to sail off. Everyone else was hell bent on hanging out at the port and wait til the Coast Guard raises the sailing ban. However, given my previous mishap with Quezon’s Coast Guard, I insisted we settle with a different beach. Our Plan B was Kuwebang Lampas and that is where we spent our Saturday night at.

We broke camp early on Sunday and after a very filling brunch at a floating restaurant, we made our way to Kamay ni Hesus. They persuaded me to climb up to the very top (never again LOL) and then we rewarded ourselves with Pancit Habhab at Buddy’s (Lucban.)

I managed to capture most of the weekend on video and condensed it in a 4 minute montage. Check it out below.

 

Have you ever been camping? Where is your favorite camping spot?

 

This year’s Holy Week vacation, I brought along Cris and our friends (Tina and Timmy) back to my hometown – Ilocos Norte. I took them to places my family usually visit when I am home or if we have visitors over. Most of the places we visited are at most 10 minutes away from home, including the small mountain/hill that we climbed to get a sweeping view of the newly-erected windmills in our town. I also took them to the infamous Paoay Church and Malacañang of the North. Please watch the video below – though Youtube butchered the video quality. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Have you ever been to Ilocos Norte? What is your favorite tourist spot to visit there?

On my most recent trip to Baguio, I got to try out quite a number of restaurants for the first time – one of them is Oh My Gulay. I have heard a lot of good things about this restaurant so I was really excited to taste their food. I got so winded after the long trek up 5 flights of stairs, but was immediately appeased at the sight of the restaurant’s interior.

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Oh My Gulay is housed at the Victor Oteyza Community Art Space (VOCAS) so be on the lookout for random art scattered all around. The space has a high ceiling and big open windows that invites a lot of natural light in. It is so calm and serene, perfect for an afternoon of chitchat with friends while eating good food.

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When we walked in, the place was a bit swamped which was quite surprising because it was already way past lunch time. We took our time perusing their menu which wasn’t really that varied, in my opinion. When we all had our picks, we beckoned a waiter over to our table only to be disappointed when almost everything we ordered were out of stock. We asked for more time to re-pick our orders and by the time we were ready, we were informed that the kitchen is temporarily closed for additional orders without any assurance on what time it will open again. WTF?!? My friend who recommended the place took matters to his own hand and ordered directly from the kitchen – which apparently was not closed. LOL what is up with that?!?

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We settled on three items to be shared among us four.

Anak ng Putanesca | Php130Our version of putanesca, enriched with a hint of cayenne pepper.
Don’t be fooled by all that cheese, this was as tasteless as a piece of paper. We had to add a loooot of ground pepper (we would have added some salt but the waiter never got back to us when we requested for some, seriously what’s up with the terrible service?!?). I think I should also mention that we never got any individual plates so we all had to eat off the serving plates haha. Back to the putanesca, the only good thing about this dish is that the noodles were cooked al dente.

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Pancit Gulay | Php135Egg noodles with tofu and ten assorted vegetables in season with your choice of spicy or non-spicy special pancit sauce.
To start off, the tally of vegetables did not come up to ten. At best, there must have been five in there. Rip off! But the good thing is that the egg noodles were perfectly cooked and the sauce was tasty. It felt like eating Chinese-style pancit canton without all the grease.

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Talong Parmigiana | Php135Breaded eggplant over whole wheat bread topped with our special red sauce, pesto and cheese.
My favorite among the three dishes we got that day. The sauce was tangy and slightly sweet and the fried eggplant tasted fresh. However, I would have wanted the bread to be more crisp (I swear I am not nitpicking!)

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We would have loved to order some coffee to beat off the cold but with the kitchen situation going on, we figured we should just spare ourselves the trouble. In fact, some diners got so pissed off that they refused to pay the service charge.

I seriously hope that it was just an off-day for Oh My Gulay because I honestly believe that their food have great potential. It’s cheap and healthy, and the ambience is really a hit so maybe I will give them another try on my next visit to Baguio.

Oh My Gulay is on the 5th Floor of La Azotea Building along Session Road and tehy are open from 11am to 830pm

While looking for a hotel in Alaminos, I came across numerous posts with recommendations to try the food at Maxine by the Sea’s in-house restaurant. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to eat good food, we decided to book a room and stay there for the night to be able try out as many of their meals as we can.

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Before I get to the restaurant and the food, I will quickly talk about their room accommodation. We reserved a room that could fit all 7 of us because we wanted to stay in just one room. We’re clingy like that, LOL. The room we got had 3 double beds and we requested for an extra single bed. With all the beds in there, the room didn’t feel too cramped – we still had space to move around. It was pretty basic, exactly just what we needed.

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The restaurant is built on the water and it offers a vast view of the distant Hundred Islands. You are able to smell the sea breeze as you eat in their al fresco dining area. It was quite perfect to beat the summer heat. It is also extra calming to stare out into the open sea while you wait for your food to be served. Service could get real slow during busy hours so you really need to calm yourself down LOL.

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Our accommodation came with a free breakfast which we eagerly gobbled down upon waking up. They have a selection of the traditional -silog meals and I had the Bangus-silog. When in Pangasinan, eat bangus! It was perfectly deep-fried and the marinade was mild yet tasty. We also ordered a platter of fresh fruits in season and everything was so fresh and sweet. The day before that, we all had our fair share of their fresh fruit shakes – I especially loved the ripe mango shake.

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But my favorite was the SEAFOOD GRILL PLATTER. Capslock para intense haha! This was what we ordered for our lunch during the whole day island hopping tour and OMG it tasted even better than it looks. It had grilled eggplant, boiled okra, grilled shrimp, bangus, liempo, squid, chicken, seaweed ensalada, kinilaw na oyster, fried saba and unicorn blood and glitters. HAHAHA. I am seriously drooling right now! We also brought bottles of gourmet tuyo and bags of chicharon. I mean, heaven right? It was a VEEEERY satisfying lunch.

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We all thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Maxine by the Sea and especially loved their food. I would definitely stay there again if I ever go back to Alaminos and I highly recommend you stay there, too. Or at least taste their food because it was THE BOMB DIGGITY.

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Maxine by the Sea Lodge & Restaurant is located near Lucap Wharf and you may check their website out for more information –> http://www.maxinebythesea.com/home/

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After our mini trek to the top of Governor’s Island, we made our way to our next destination – Quezon Island, which was named after our late President Manuel Quezon.

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Out of all the other islands, Quezon Island seems to be the busiest. There are large concrete huts all over the island dedicated to all sorts of recreational activities. When we got there, all tables were already occupied mostly by families and we did not even bother fighting for one because we were more interested in swimming rather than just lazing around. We plopped our things under the rock with the Alaminos City sign, and immediately got into the water.

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We swam all the way to that floating gazebo (pictured below) mainly because we had nothing else to do, and also because the water near the shore is a little murky due to more construction still ongoing all over the island. I’m afraid this island will be over crowded and abused in a few years’ time. 😦

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Midway, we realized that we underestimated the distance of the gazebo from the shore. Not wanting to let our efforts go to waste, we pushed through anyway and made it after quite some time (the strong winds didn’t help much either). It was like a private party in the middle of the sea because not many people dared to swim that far off. When we got back to shore, our boatmen led us to where the giant clams were, but no photos because I didn’t have an underwater camera with me that time. Nonetheless, we thoroughly enjoyed the view of the Giant Clams and corals inhabited by a variety of fishes.

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After that long swim, we were quite worn out so we spent some time rolling around the fine white sand, people-watching while trying to get re-energized.

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By this time, we were more than ready for our lunch but our boatmen insisted that we just eat when we get to our next destination – which I will share with you next. 🙂

Edit: LOL scratch that last part. As it turns out, I do not have any photos from the day’s last destination but believe me when I say it’s amazing. We rolled around the beach’s powdery white sand and hiked up a hill just to jump down a large basin of water inside a cave. I swear it was amazing. But no pictures, bummer! 😦