February 11, 2014

Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden, Hong Kong

Not having an itinerary means not having to get up early in the morning and while I take a shower at 10am, MJ checks out leaflets handed to us by our hostel upon checking in and decided quickly that we were gonna spend the rest of the day north of Kowloon.  Yes, that's how we made our itineraries, in between showers.

After gorging on roast ducks and Chinese-style pork BBQ for brunch, we took a bus ride to Diamond Hill.  Chi Lin Nunnery is located in urban Hong Kong adjacent Nan Lian Garden, entrance is free and is open daily from 9am-4pm.

First stop, the Nunnery.  Chi Lin Nunnery is a Buddhist monastic temple built according to architecture of the Tang Dynasty.  One amazing fact about this temple complex is the absence of the use of nails; the entire structure is made of wood, clay and stone - held together by traditional bracketing techniques. The complex also has a lotus garden with 4 ponds and houses quite an impressive number of bonsai plants.  Photography is limited though in the lotus ponds and the courtyard.

Fronting the Nunnery is the very tranquil Nan Lian Garden.  Landscaped based on the Tang Dynasty style, this serene and rather calm place makes you forget that you are in Hong Kong.  The garden also has a souvenir shop and a vegetarian restaurant which we did not bother to even check (we tend to run away from everything vegetarian, me at least).

LOCATION: Diamond Hill, Kowloon

HOW TO GET THERE: take the MTR to Diamond Hill, get off at the C2 exit in Plaza Hollywood and walk a few meters.  You can also take the bus as some routes stops near the nunnery, do check a map, it’ll tell you which bus to take, there’s also a list of bus routes at every bus stop.

September 11, 2013

Crash Course Mong Kok

For the first time since we started travelling together, MJ did not have a printed excel file of our itinerary, because… well, we do not have one.  What she had for this trip though was a little notebook that contained her “outfit changes”, a list of what to eat and addresses of H&M branches throughout Hong Kong.  As for the sight-seeing part, we kinda relied on the tourist map we got from the airport, crossing out Disneyland of course (as you know by now, we’re not that kind of tourists - no offense to those who are).

Our 1st day was spent pretty much in Mong Kok and despite being the busiest district in the world (noisiest too if you ask me); we loved it there.  The blinding neon signs, the cramped-up alleys, traffic noise, the crowded streets and the stench of boiling pig innards, what’s not to love?  Oh did I mention that there’s an abundance of shopping and lots of places to eat?

In Mong Kok you’ll find anything and everything for all ages and genders; clothes, shoes, cosmetics, jewelry, traditional Chinese medicine, bags, electronics, roast duck, dimsum, traditional Chinese street-side food, milk tea and burgers and fries.

There are also quite a number of hotels and hostels in the area, some money changers and 24-hour 711’s that sell tiger balm for a cheap. 

Getting to Mong Kok is easy as it is quite a popular place; just get on a train and get off at Mong Kok Station.  If you are looking for a particular shop, best to do a little research and bring a map, asking locals for direction in a place like Mong Kok can be challenging as everyone seems to be moving in a very fast phase. -KIM

May 20, 2013

Sleeping in Hong Kong

After a really short direct flight from Cebu, we have arrived in Hong Kong in the middle of the night. It’s funny how the HK locals on the plane were outfitted with shorts, tank tops and flip-flops while I was bundled up in denim, chambray, jacket and - boots! The boots is a dream come true by the way, ha ha!

Amazing how the Philippines in March is at the peak of summer, while we arrived to an 11 degrees in Hong Kong just less than 3 hours away. 11 degrees might not be cold for you, but add to that the gustiness and the fact that this girl from the islands has lived her whole life in the tropics, I felt like I was freezing my a** off! Even after filling my suitcase to the brim, I felt that the clothes that I packed were inadequate. Good thing this destination is also famous for shopping. Wink!

The Chek Lap Kok Airport (IATA Code: HKG) is the main airport in Hong Kong and is well served by public bus routes that transport was no problem even past midnight. From HKG, we took the N21 bus to Kowloon for HKD23 or roughly about Php138 per person. Travel time was about 30 minutes. The prefix N in the bus number means it is an overnight bus service.

We’ve set up residence for 5 nights at Ah Shan Hostel and this was the directions lifted from their website: “Get off at Mong Kok MTR Station - the 6th bus stop, before Argyle Street; 688 Nathan Road outside Argyle Centre; You will see the Bank " Shanghai Commercial Bank. " This is the Cross of Nathan Road and Argyle St. Turn "Left " to Argyle Street. Then go straight cross 2 pedestrian traffic lights. You can see the "CRC Care" Shop and Mong Kok MTR Station "D" Exit. This is the first Trafflight . After the first traffic light you can see Hui Lau Shan (許留山) on your left.

The building in front of you is the Sincere House (先施大厦), directly opposite Baleno.”

Don’t get overwhelmed by the directions, follow this step by step and you’ll find Sincere House with As Shan Hostel’s reception at the 14th floor of Sincere House.

Now let’s orient you with Sincere House. I believe it is like most buildings in Hong Kong - a little rundown that hosts a number of cheap accommodations along with several apartment tenants. There’s always a queue present in the tiny lift (but surprisingly can squeeze in an impressive number of people all at one time) during daylight and believe me when I tell you that it is very busy. We were initially shocked to be greeted by hanging intimate laundries at the hallway but the novelty soon wore off and we got used to it. The rooms, especially the restrooms are cramped. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s discuss the merits of why we still chose to stay here. And for 5 nights at that!

This building is located right across the Ladies Night Market and Langham Place (read: H&M). Major factor. There’s a 711 in the corner, few money changers, an abundance of camera shops, lots of international fast food joints, local eateries with some that are open 24 hours, and the yummiest duck roasts! Those duck roasts still haunt me to this day! There’s also a bus stop, a taxi stand and the MTR station.

The very strategic location makes it a good base for us while the white sheets and the clean room saved us from being miserable and took some of the sting of our being too cheap to pay for a decent hotel.

I swear, when I become a certified Senior Citizen, no more of these hostels, I will put the GRAND in grandmother, with 25 percent discount, guaranteed! - MJ

August 12, 2012

MY PHILIPPINES: Kadayawan Fiest at the Apo View 2012

The Kadayawan Fiesta at the Apo View Hotel is now running on its 5th year and has become a yearly tradition for us for 3 years in a row and I must say the activities and offerings just keeps getting better. You don’t even have to be a staying guest to watch and join the festivities as it is free and open to all.

From August 7 to 19, a celebration of Davao and its neighbouring regions rich and diverse culture is showcased at the city’s most popular address.

Feast on the abundance of local produce with the Tropical Fruit and Kadayawan Food Festival, check out the local artists amazing and world class talents through their photos art exhibits, cultural presentations, fire dances, and the Mandaya tribe at work while weaving intricate designs on Dagmay Fabric. You can even buy a piece of authentic ethnic creation to bring home with you.

For the complete line up of activities, see photo below.

For inquiries and reservations, check out: http://www.apoview.com/

July 18, 2012

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS: Survival and Comfort Kit

Mj teases me about how my packing for a survival kit is like preparing for doomsday.  Of course, as always, she's exaggerating. I'm only packing little comfort items and practical medical supplies enough to last while on the road. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re going to a rainforest or a remote island, or sightseeing in an urban city with 5 star hotel accommodations because if there’s anything I have learned in all my years of existence, it’s that life doesn’t always go as planned and so it’s always better to BE PREPARED.

Pre-trip research usually tells me what to pack for a trip: weather conditions, modes of transportation and the number of hours allotted for it, challenging food and health conditions, and the level of communication difficulty all play a big factor on packing but almost always I have the same items on my survival kit.

TNF ALTIMONT WINDBREAKER designed as a wind breaker but repels water like a raincoat. It’s easy to carry around all day, it folds small and flat and bounces back from wrinkles quite well.

INSECT REPELLANTS AND ANTI ITCH LOTIONS for those pesky mosquitoes. I prefer slip on anti-mosquito bands. I wear it on either of my ankle or wrist all day and forget about it. I find it more convenient and effective compared with lotions where you have to reapply every now and then. I stay away from those mosquito patches, granted that it’s much cheaper than bands or Off Lotion, but it sticks like a stubborn chewing gum leaving unsightly marks on clothes. For anti-itch lotions I rely on AfterBite, its shaped like a pen, really easy to carry around.

LINT REMOVER/ROLL OF MASKING TAPE for that persistent lint. Lint removers are a bit expensive and they come with rollers so it takes up space, masking tapes on the other hand are cheaper, packs easier and it does the job quite as good as lint removers. Plus of course you can use it for its own purpose.

NAIL CLIPPERS keep my nails nice and clean, also serves as scissors for those loose threads on my clothes and to cut off plastic wire straps that I use as extra lock to safeguard my bigger luggage.

MINI LED LIGHT OR HEAD LAMPS are always useful for those times when you’re fumbling with your things and you can’t always switch the hotels lights on.

LITE TOWEL for accommodations that don’t offer free towels. Lite towels are incredibly absorbent and fast drying, also serves a blanket on long flights or train/bus rides. And as for Mj’s case for accessorizing as a scarf.

FACIAL TISSUE & WET WIPES are great for cleaning oneself from the remnants of the road. And besides, who doesn’t need tissue?

EYE COVER/NECK PILLOWS are must haves. It doesn’t provide the comforts of a hotel but it sure as hell makes sleeping in airports and moving vehicles a lot better.

RUBBER FLIP-FLOPS for those shared bathroom instances.


MAP true I can’t read a map but it comforts me to know that I have one.

HAND SANITIZERS/ALCOHOL I buy hand sanitizers by the barrel and I like to just transfer them in small containers and refill when needed. A small refillable container usually lasts me a week. I also like carrying around those small Bath and Body Works sanitizers. There are also times when hand sanitizers just won’t do so I always also gotta have a small container of alcohol within reach.

FACE MASKS are also must haves. I’m a bit paranoid and whenever someone coughs or sneezes, I really get jittery.

MP3 PLAYER/ A GOOD BOOK to keep myself from going crazy over long rides.

SMALL NOTEBOOK AND A PEN keeps all my flight details, hotel accommodations, addresses, information and thoughts i gather while on the road.

MODIFIED FIRST AID KIT AND A POCKET PHARMACY pre-packed first aid kits available on the market contain a lot of stuff I don’t really need so I made one and modified it according to what I think will be useful.  A pocket pharmacy is a small pack of basic meds that can fit right into my pocket or Mj’s purse.

Pocket Pharmacy:
Diatabs or Imodium
Benadryl Anti-Histamine
Topical Analgesic

Modified First Aid:
Band-AidsPaper Tape
Alcohol Wipes
Sterile Gauze Bandage

As for my carry-on survival kit, it mainly consists of my pocket pharmacy, hand sanitizer, face mask, a few munchies and my ipod.

Most of the items don’t take much space and weight and they really make a difference on my travels so I make sure I pack each and everything little thing. Next kit, my Zombie Survival Pack. Kidding.

June 5, 2012

DINING: Cellar de Oboza, Davao

It was a beautiful quiet weekend after several months of whirlwind events and what better way to cap it off than by a simple but delicious dinner in a charming restored grand old house.

Cellar de Oboza is located at the ground floor of a 2 story impressive ancestral house of the Oboza’s that dates back from 1929 and, sits regally along Rizal Street. The French restaurant Claudes’ occupies the 2nd floor. Cellar de Oboza used to be a favorite old haunt in Habana compound but was then known as the Italian bistro Salutti. We were saddened when it closed so just imagine our glee when we stumbled upon its reincarnated better and bigger self.

To celebrate this re-discovery, we had the usual – chicken breast fillet in mushroom cream sauce with a side of mashed potato for Kim and steak ala pobre (it’s a fillet mignon actually) cooked medium well with steamed white rice for me.

I tried Kim’s chicken and it’s exactly how we remember it to be. The chicken was cooked perfectly tender and was the perfect vessel for the delightful creamy mushroom sauce. The mashed potato has that smooth consistency that I favor. My steak was 3 pieces of tenderloin wrapped in bacon with a good sear on the outside and a still pink juicy inside. The meat was packed with flavor and very tender.

We would have ordered our usual dessert, that decadent chocolate fudge cake if only we weren’t too full. There were also a few additions to their menu that we did not get to try, another reason to go back I suppose.

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