January 27, 2016

MEXICO DIARIES PART 1: Cancun

Almost 2 weeks into the trip to the US and still struggling adjusting to the Pacific time zone, we took a United Airlines red eye flight to Mexico for 5-days. The flight from Las Vegas commenced at midnight and was broken with a 5-hour layover in Houston, Texas.

It was raining hard and there was a thunderstorm that evening in Vegas delaying our flight for 2 hours.  The flight and connection was a blur to me as I slept the whole way through but Kim always has a problem sleeping in moving tin cans especially if said tin can is a few thousand feet above ground.

Our proudly Pinoy made Laggu towel that we brought specifically for this purpose has served her well as she desperately tried to doze off in a fetal position behind the seats on the floor of our boarding gate during the 5 hour layover in Texas. She looked a bit kawawa (pitiful).


Views of Cancun were awesome from the sky as I have observed from the brief and few times I’ve braved to open my tightly squeezed shuteyes during the pretty turbulent descent. I think it was the tensest landing for me ever and I was praying very hard and squeezing Kimbee’s hand just as hard the whole time. It was so rough that Kimbee was a little bruised and I wanted to kiss the ground the moment our, well, my a little wobbly feet hit the ground!


Philippine passport holders with a valid US visa do not need to apply for a Mexican visa and we breezed through immigrations.

We were stationed at the all-inclusive Ocean Spa hotel in Zona Hotelera. A pre-arranged van picked us up at the airport and delivered us right to our hotel’s doorsteps about 40 minutes after. The airport transfers was included in the package as well as unlimited food and drinks but we heeded the sister’s advice and brought 1-dollar bills for tips and we were greatly appreciated and well taken cared of by the locals.




By then it was past 1 PM local time and some confused body time. Cancun time is 2 hours advance than in California.

Check in wasn’t until 3 PM so we left our stuff at the concierge, ate lunch at the hotel restaurant sat sumptuously by the Carribean on one side and flanked by the pool on the other, then back to the lobby for the orientation with a muscly concierge who looks straight out of a Mexican telenovela. And then our room was ready.

The cool sea breeze from the ocean and the sweet view of the garden, the pool and the beach from our balcony more than made up for the struggles and brutalities of transit and long and delayed flights were soon forgotten.



The spacious cool room, big beds and crisp fresh white linens were practically calling our name so we laid down for a long nap and just woke up in time for dinner and a little tour of the hotel grounds and the sorrounding area. This is what our holidays is mostly about, lots of lounging and eating and some sight seeing.

A money changer, a convenience store, a taqueria, a church and a bus stop are conveniently situated just across our hotel.





Well settled and rested from a good night sleep, we were bright and early on our second day. Fueled with a big and satifying breakfast by the lake at Sunset Yacht Club Marina and in our swim wear, we are better prepared to take on Cancun.

Cancun’s scenery consists mostly of white sugary sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters peppered with suntanned boozy tourists. It is better known as 21st Century Mexico and the domain of sun worshippers and party animals but we were too lolas to check out the party scene as we’re usually back in our rooms after dinner toasting our cups of decaffeinated coffee and tea. We’ve become those kind of tourists, retiree levels without the pension.



Cancun’s strip of sand facing the Caribbean is lined with huge and luxury resort one after the other boasting of great views. The extravagance of the Zona maybe somehow got into our heads and we checked out some million dollar beach front vacation places and pretended for a moment that we could afford them! I’m half a mind to blurt out, “Dudung, bring out the diamonds, I’m playing bowling!”



That’s all with zero alcohol in our system! Julio, Enrique and Emmanuel from the bar are commendable in their efforts in trying to spike our virgin smoothies and fruit juices with tequila but I was nursing a pharyngitis and on meds so I had to decline, sadly, their generous offer. I think they were more disappointed that they missed the chance to extoll the virtues of their proud and famous local flavor.

Next up: Tulum

January 6, 2016

USA DIARIES PART 5: Viva Las Vegas

August 11-13, 2015. Even with a late night partying at the wedding and tidying up the décor after party, we all woke up bright and eager to catch our early morning flight to Las Vegas. Airport breakfast was take away wedding cake and pizza.




The flight is a short hop and we landed at Mccarran International Airport (IATA Code: LAS) after flying for 1 hour and a half. It was obvious that we have arrived at the “Entertainment capital of the world famous with its mega casinos” upon exiting the plane and being greeted with slot machines. Don't fret, those kids at the slot machines were promptly shooed away by the attendant as minors aren't allowed to gamble.


The airport is just 5 miles/8 kilometers away from downtown Las Vegas. Cabs were lined up right outside the airport and we jumped in one, paying $30 for the traffic less ride to our hotel. We stayed at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino located at the center – Strip. Our room had a view of the tallest ferries wheel in the world – The High Roller.





We did the requisite gambling and my beginners luck rewarded me with a $6.15 win at the slot machine. Our "winnings" promptly went into flaky bittersweet and rich chocolate croissant. That was the extent of our betting so we directed our energies to tamer Vegas activities like people watching, over the top Vegas shows starred with mile high legs clad in glitters and sequins and buffets and outlet shops. I’m still sporting the expanded waistline to show for our efforts and our luggage has doubled with just a week in.





DC and NY were traded for Mexico on this trip but I’m glad we hit the jackpot in Vegas with the culinary wonder that is SHAKE SHACK.






August 14-18, 2015. And then it was off to Mexico to frolic in the Caribbean and Mayan Riviera, gaped at the important Mayan civilization icons of Chichen Itza and Tulum and checked out million dollar beachfront vacation places and yachts pretending we could afford them.

We were only in Mexico for 5 days and I never tired of the food.

Thanks family for gifting us with this taste of Mexico trip and indulging our lakwatsa aspirations. It’s a dream come true too soon and now we couldn’t stop thinking and talking about going back!

I hope we could return some day to Mexico, stay longer and explore whatever we left out this time.


Next: Cancun, Mexico

December 9, 2015

USA DIARIES PART 4: Surprise bridal shower and a stroll through Chinatown

August 8, 2015. Back home and just 2 days away from the #soINGlove wedding, we stealthily planned a bridal shower for Mausy. It wasn’t an easy task given the short time and her well-honed radar to pick up even the subtlest of clues and slightest hint that something is up but I’d like to think that we pulled the surprise successfully. Family and friends came with overflowing food and gifts and everybody had fun and were super competitive at the games.

August 9, 2015. On a Sunday, our LA based good friends Ruth and Isaac, brought us to Chinatown. The hanging laundries clipped on lines to prevent them from flying greeted us and signaled the delineation of the area from the rest of San Francisco. There was a functional chaotic vibe in the area so different from the rest of the city we’ve seen so far. It was huge and lively and there’s a cacophony of Asian tongue. Chinatown is successful in retaining its own identity.





We walked the streets up and down ducking in steamy dimsum restaurants debating whether we should sample the goodies in their bamboo trays, but we just had breakfast and saving room for lunch. We passed windows lined with peking ducks and whole roasted birds, passed stores with dried fruit candies, passed deeply colored fruits and vegetables spilling into the sidewalk with their skin glistening in the sun. The smell of aromatic herbal and Chinese medicine is in the air.





And then we came by a seafood store with huge aquariums.  It was unfortunate that we got there in time while a huge fish was being whacked mercilessly while still clearly alive. Poor fish was trying its darnedest to slither away and escape. The fishmonger sliced off only the tail part and brought the top half of the squirming fish back on display with gills gasping weakly. Beside it are turtle meat ripped out of their shells. I had nightmares that night. That was our cue to start walking away.



We followed our noses to find Stinking Rose for lunch. Ruth made reservations at this contemporary Californian-Italian restaurant showcasing garlic. The resto is located in North Beach, the renowned little Italy of SF.





We were promptly seated in a booth and we appreciated the restaurant’s whimsical décor. We ordered the sizzling iron skillet of mussels, shrimp and crab, the forty-clove garlic chicken roasted on the bone and Italian garlic meatloaf with pan gravy. It was more food than the 4 of us can muster but we gave it our best efforts. It was indeed garlicky and we loved all the dishes. Oddly enough, even after the Chinatown whacking scene, we still have our appetites.





In the afternoon, after driving over the notoriously curvy Lombard Street and couldn’t find parking, we were dropped off at the hotel to meet up with the family. We’ve taken residence for 2 nights at the Comfort Inn and Suites near the airport in South San Francisco so we are closer to the wedding venues and for our flight to Vegas.


Dinner was an introduction to Double-Double and animal fries at the beloved Californian burger chain In-N-Out in Daly City. It’s particularly good with thick vanilla milk shake and we’ve had it several more times for the rest of our stay.


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