The French Connection

If you can’t go to France just yet, then let France come to you… or at least to your table. Learn more about French gastronomy through local restaurants/shops and experience the sophisticated flavors and textures of French cuisine. Here are some of my favorite French food finds in Manila:

Salade Lyonnaise from La Creperie

From the French region of Lyon comes this salad consisting of leafy greens, bacon, poached egg, croutons and vinaigrette. What’s not to love?

Salade Lyonnaise

Salade Lyonnaise

Beef Bourguignon from The French Baker

If you’re having a hard time pronouncing it, just say Beef Burgundy. This traditional main dish originated from the Burgundy region of France, hence its name. It’s  a stew that has beef slowly simmered in red wine.  Remember the movie Julie and Julia?

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Mille-feuille from Poetry & Prose Patisserie

It’s pronounced as mil-foy or something that sounds like that. What it literally means is “a thousand leaves” — it’s made up of sheets of puff pastry and layered with crème pâtissière. It’s very, very French and very, very delicious.

Mille-feuille

Mille-feuille

Beignet from Café Provençal

Beignet (pronounced ben-yey) is French for “fried dough” and is generally regarded as traditional French doughnuts, except that they’re square or rectangular in shape and without holes. Café Provençal‘s beignets are the softest and the lightest fritters I’ve ever sunk my teeth into. They felt like clouds of delicately sweet bread with a taste that’s so simple and yet so unforgettable. I can’t even decide which of the dips is my favorite — they’re both really good. Too bad, Café Provençal has closed down and has since resurrected as Duck & Buvette in Shangri-la Mall. I just wish it retained the beignet in its current menu.

beignets

beignets

Crepe from Café Breton

Did you know that the French word crepe was derived from the Latin crispa (meaning “curled”)? This very thin pancake is usually served with a variety of fillings that can be savory or sweet. Since I love sweets, my crepe of choice is this hot and cold treat, Adam and Eve from Café Breton. It has stewed apples with cinnamon embraced by delicate crepe and crowned with vanilla ice cream. I don’t think it can get any better than this.

Adam and Eve Crepe

Adam and Eve Crepe

Macarons from Sinfully by Makati Shangri-la

By now, everyone knows what macarons are. These colorful, dainty cookies are described in a Parisian website as “little bites of heaven” — crisp, chewy, melt-in-the-mouth delicious sweets that come in a wide variety of flavors. These gems from Sinfully by Makati Shangri-la are truly divine! Vive le macaron!

Macarons

Macarons

Mariage Frères Thé (available at Lartizan Boulangerie Française)

For tea afficionados, the Paris-based gourmet tea brand Mariage Frères (Mariage Brothers) is now being served at The French Baker‘s more upscale patisserie, Lartizan Boulangerie Française. I tried its Rouge Provence Tea once and its flavor and aroma instantly lifted my mood. Thank God for tea!

gourmet tea brand from Paris

gourmet tea brand from Paris

Oh, I can’t wait to visit Paris again!

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I Have a Dream…

When I was 18, I stopped schooling for a year and became a complete bum. It was during that time when I repeatedly watched a TV show called Steve O’Neal’s Remembering The Beatles on Channel 5. This was back in the early 1990s, when I suddenly got hit by Beatlemania — two decades too late. The show made a huge impact in my life. I fell in love with the legendary John Lennon and became fascinated with all things British. Someday, I told myself, I will go to London and walk down Abbey Road (a busy thoroughfare in London which is also the title of the Beatles’ 1969 album).

Yeah, yeah, yeah….

So much has happened since then. I came close to visiting London when I studied in Germany several years ago and applied for a UK visa while I was in Berlin, but then my passport was only valid for less than 2 months by the time I had saved up for the trip so my visa application was not granted. My dream trip to London remained just that — a dream. However, a couple of years later, I got married to my dream man who, according to some people, has a resemblance to John Lennon. Despite our considerable age gap, our mutual love for the Beatles’ music was one of the very first things that brought us together as friends. Perhaps he found it  refreshing to meet someone as young as I was (back then) who was so crazy about the Beatles.

"If you never chase your dream, you will never catch them."

“If you never chase your dreams, you will never catch them.”

At the start of 2014, I resolved to make one of my dreams come true. A guest pastor in our church told us one Sunday to “visualize your dream and surround yourself with things that will remind you of it” and that’s exactly what I did. I bought a lot of stuff that will constantly remind me of my dream destination: books, notebooks, pens, mugs, t-shirts, a passport holder, a luggage tag, and many more. I read somewhere that if you envision your dream and wish for it, it will be given to you at the proper time. I requested my closest friend, Rodelyn, to give me this travel guidebook “Top 10 London” for my 40th birthday last March. On the first page, she scribbled this quote from C.S. Lewis: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Well, guess what? I’d still like to pursue my old dream. It’s been 22 years since I dreamed about it, maybe it’s about time I make it come true.

"When you cease to dream, you cease to live."

“When you cease to dream, you cease to live.”

 “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

Categories: All About Me, Wanderlust | 3 Comments

Keep Calm and Eat Cupcakes

Did you know that the earliest reference to a cupcake dates back to the year 1796? It was a recipe that called for “a cake to be baked in small cups” printed in the first known cookbook written by an American and simply titled American Cookery. However, it was not until 1828 when the term “cupcake” was used in another cookbook. A cupcake, as everyone knows, is a small version of a cake that is meant to be enjoyed by an individual. It’s also known as a fairy cake in Britain, although it can be quite smaller than the average cupcake.

We’ve all been eating cupcakes all our lives, but when I was growing up they were mostly the homemade kind. Here in the metropolis, the first store that was set up solely dedicated to specialty cupcakes was Cupcakes by Sonja in Serendra. Established almost 8 years ago in September 2006, it has now expanded to 11 shops all over the metro. It’s always a delight to step inside the cute little shop in Serendra and instantly get a sugar rush just by looking at and smelling its sweet creations. I was among its first customers in its original store and have tried nearly all the cupcake varieties, but my favorite remains: the Berries ‘N Cream cupcake.

Peppermint Patty (pink frosting), Vanilla Sunshine (blue frosting) and my favorite Berries 'N Cream (white frosting)

Peppermint Patty (pink frosting), Vanilla Sunshine (blue frosting) and Berries ‘N Cream (white frosting)

Nowadays, there are so many cupcake brands available and, of course, I want to try them all. I’ve featured quite a few cupcakes here in my blog and on my facebook page, such as those from Vanilla Cupcake Bakery, Sophie’s Mom, The Royal Touch and Slice. But given my insatiable appetite for sweets, I’m forever lusting for cakes and cupcakes. I once bought half-a-dozen cupcakes from GIGI Coffee & Cupcakes in Shangri-la Plaza. Gigi Gaerlan, the maker of these cupcakes, is also known as the creator of the custaroon, a hybrid of custard and macaroon. Her cupcakes are reasonably-priced and extremely moist, so I was very happy with them, particularly the Green Tea cupcake.

assorted cupcakes from GIGI Coffee & Cupcakes

assorted cupcakes from GIGI Coffee & Cupcakes

Singapore’s famous cupcakery, Twelve Cupcakes, has made its way to our shores. The concept is anchored on 12 standard flavors, then there are a few various special flavors available everyday. I’ve tasted a lot of cupcakes and I mean A LOT, so I didn’t have high expectations for these babies because I know that Filipinos can whip up exceptionally yummy and lovely cupcakes. So I was pleasantly surprised when I took a bite of the Strawberry Vanilla cupcake — so delicately soft and not-too-sweet. My daughter Bea fell in love with the Red Velvet cupcake. In fact, when we were in Hong Kong a few months back, she requested me to buy one for her again.

Strawberry Vanilla, Red Velvet and Chocolate Vanilla from Twelve Cupcakes

Strawberry Vanilla, Red Velvet and Chocolate Vanilla from Twelve Cupcakes

Life is short. Eat more cupcakes!

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Easy Recipe: Graham Balls

A couple of weeks ago, when my daughter Bea came home from school, she excitedly narrated to me how her day went. They had their victory party in class to conclude their election, and everyone brought potluck-style food for sharing. She told me she ate pizza, barbecue and homemade graham balls. She couldn’t stop raving about the latter and told me that she wanted to ask her classmate for the recipe but she was quite shy as they are not yet close friends. So I googled “graham balls recipe” and found that it’s a very simple and easy to make no-bake dessert or snack. Even my ten-year-old can do it herself. I immediately bought the ingredients and we had fun making the balls.

Graham Balls

Graham Balls

You will need –

  • 1 pack (200 g) M.Y. San Crushed Graham Crackers [Honey Graham flavor]
  • 1 small can (168 ml) Alaska Sweetened Condensed Filled Milk [or any other brand of your choice]
  • 1/4 cup Alaska Evaporated Milk
  • 1 small pack of marshmallows
  • more crushed graham crackers for dusting

Procedure –

  • In a large bowl, combine crushed graham crackers, condensed milk and evaporated milk. Mix thoroughly until its consistency becomes similar to a dough.
  • Scoop a small portion from the mixture and press it flatly against the palm of your hand. Place a marshmallow in the middle then fold the dough to close. Roll it using both palms to form a ball.
  • Roll the ball onto more crushed graham to prevent it from sticking to the other balls. (You may also use candy sprinkles, dessicated coconut or chocolate powder.)
  • Refrigerate the balls for at least an hour then enjoy!

This recipe yields about 14 balls. The graham balls are absolutely delicious and nutritious as a snack for kids and adults alike.   They’re not too sweet, fun to make and even more fun to eat (ideal for baon to school). Try making them with your kids today.

Graham Balls with Candy Sprinkles

Graham Balls with Candy Sprinkles

Categories: Cravings, In My Kitchen | Leave a comment

Ascott Makati

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Ascott The Residence is offering special promo rates from April 1 to December 31, 2014 for all of its properties around the globe. Ascott was established in Singapore back in 1984 and has now grown into a leading luxury serviced apartment owner/operator. I took advantage of its online Flash Sale for Members last June to book a 3-Bedroom Deluxe for 2 nights in time for my dear mother-in-law’s birthday weekend most recently. We wanted to make this affair an annual family tradition (last year we stayed in Hotel H2O for her birthday weekend). I got a sweet low rate of P8,760+++ per night for the 3-bedroom apartment (without breakfast) that I booked online.

Ascott Makati Lobby

Ascott Makati Lobby

We checked in last Friday, August 8, and because it was our first time to stay in Ascott, we weren’t expecting it to be so elegantly grandiose. However, I was informed at the front desk that my preferred residence was not available that day due to “maintenance issues” and that the Guest Service Supervisor, Ariane, sent me an e-mail about it the day before. I told her that I do not check my e-mail everyday, hence I didn’t get to read her message. Anyhow, in lieu of a 3-Bedroom Deluxe, she offered me two units of a 2-Bedroom Deluxe for the same price, plus complimentary breakfast for 6 persons as “a gesture of our sincerest apologies.” So instead of getting three bedrooms, we got a total of four! How could I refuse? Well, then, apologies accepted!

welcome drinks and the birthday celebrator

welcome drinks and the birthday celebrator

Each 2-Bedroom Deluxe has a floor area of more than 100 square meters, which gave us massive family space. Each unit features a master’s bedroom, another bedroom, 2 bathrooms, a living area, a 4-seater dining table, a kitchenette complete with a kitchen sink and all the essential appliances and utensils that a family would need: a huge refrigerator with freezer, a big oven and a microwave oven, rice cooker, chinaware, silverware and glassware — the works! There’s even a washing machine and dryer. It’s really a home away from home.

our home for the weekend

our home for the weekend

Aside from a huge outdoor swimming pool on the 6th level, there’s also a fully-equipped gym, aerobics room, game room with billiards and game console,  spa and massage center, and — get this — tennis courts! Can any other hotel beat that?

fun in the pool

fun in the pool

Breakfast is served at Cafe on the 6th. Its breakfast spread is pretty basic compared with the other hotels’ offerings, but I loved the food (plus, it’s complimentary!) especially the pancakes, bacon, and the cheesy baked baby potatoes. Yum! I also truly appreciated the warmth and hospitality of all the staff. They even surprised my mom-in-law with a small, personalized cake and balloons while serenading her with the birthday song. Massive thanks!

Cafe on the 6th

Cafe on the 6th

Aside from its prized location (we just went down and there’s Glorietta and SM Makati), what I loved most about Ascott Makati was its high-speed wireless internet service (because, let’s face it, most of us can’t survive a weekend without the net). We had a remarkably comfortable stay and would surely recommend Ascott Makati to all our friends and relatives. My only complaint, which I’m sure can easily be fixed, is the clogged drain in the shower area of the bathroom assigned to us (Room 1805). It took a long while before the water went down the drain, which created a pool on the floor. But other than that, everything about our 2-night stay was nice and cozy. It’s another birthday to remember for our dearest darling Mommy, who is still pretty at 83.

Categories: Family, Staycation | Leave a comment

The Royal Touch Gourmet Cupcakes

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be royalty? Or do you fancy having an English tea party experience? Well, there’s a place in town that can satisfy the Anglophile in you: The Royal Touch Gourmet Cupcakes.

The Royal Touch in Resorts World Manila

The Royal Touch in Resorts World Manila

Sipping tea is one of my favorite things in the world, and I’ve always dreamt of visiting London ever since I became a big fan of the Beatles when I was 18. I’m still hoping to fulfill that dream, so I was very happy when I found out that this cupcake shop was co-founded by Chef Carolyn Robb, who served as Personal Chef to the Royal Family (Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and their sons, Princes William and Harry) for over a decade. Together with an American business partner, she established The Royal Touch to spread the British tea culture across the globe.

left: Queen of Nutella / right: Chocolate Strawberry Marchioness

left: Queen of Nutella / right: Chocolate Strawberry Marchioness

It’s no secret that I absolutely love tea and cupcakes, which is why The Royal Touch is such a happy place for me. It’s so lovely and elegant, it’s like a sanctuary where I can retreat and just quietly enjoy my tea. On my first visit, I had a pot of Buckingham Palace Earl Grey Tea (P100/pot) and the mere scent of the tea instantly lifted my mood. Surely, “there is little in life a good cup of tea cannot cure.” I’m not sure if the tea is from Harrods, London’s celebrated department store, but there are tins of Harrods tea on the display shelves of the store. Whatever brand it is, the luxurious tea is worth the trip to Resorts World.

left: assorted mini-cupcakes / right Apple Duchess

left: assorted mini-cupcakes / right: Apple Duchess

Meanwhile, the cupcakes are so pretty and with flavors so sophisticated (like the Princess Rose Petal and the White Chocolate and Cranberry Vidame), it’s so easy to fall in love with them as well. Each is a unique flavor and texture experience. For instance, the Queen of Nutella Cupcake has a chewy, brownie-like texture topped with Nutella buttercream frosting and garnished with Valrhona chocolate pearls; the extremely fudgy Chocolate Biscuit Cupcake — the cake version of which was served at the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton — is nothing like any other cupcake I’ve tasted before; while the Chocolate Strawberry Marchioness features a soft chocolate sponge cake with strawberry filling and topped with a fresh strawberry.

The Royal Touch is my favorite cupcake store at the moment. I’ve dined there 3 times in the past two weeks and I still want to come back for more. Until my dream trip to London is realized, this tiny shop will be my little piece of heaven in the city.

The Royal Touch Gourmet Cupcakes
Ground Floor, Maxims Hotel
Resorts World Manila
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Terrific Ten

My daughter Bea turned 10 years old last June 5. We tried to keep the celebration as simple as possible but, as parents, my husband and I take our little girl’s dreams very seriously. You will recall that Bea’s 9th birthday last year was a tribute to her most favorite celebrity of all, Taylor Swift. Then early this year, around February, it was officially announced that Ms. Swift was set to stage the Manila leg of her RED Concert Tour on June 6, a day after my little girl’s birthday. So what could we, poor parents, do?

Well, of course, I eagerly lined up for concert tickets the moment they went on sale. It was last March 7, a day before my 40th birthday. I was in SM Mall of Asia‘s concert ticket counter at around ten minutes past the mall opening and there were about 10 to 12 persons ahead of me in the queue. It was such a nerve-wracking experience as the much-coveted tickets got sold out in less than 2 hours! Fortunately, I was able to secure two VIP tickets for me and Bea. I was just as thrilled as she was!

red-hot ticket

red-hot ticket

Fast-forward to June 5, 2014 — the day of Bea’s 10th birthday. The “theme” was her top ten favorite things at the moment (including John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars). We invited her barkada to afternoon snacks at the Hard Rock Cafe Makati in Glorietta. It’s such a cool place to dine at because it offers kid’s meals for ages 10 and below.

birthday girl with her friends

birthday girl with her friends

Naturally, I brought in a cake because, what’s a birthday without one? I want to try a different cake-maker every year, and this year I decided to order from PH Bakehouse. PH stands for Project Happiness, but it might as well be a patriotic name for a proudly Pinoy online cake shop. I’ve known the homebaker, Iris, for years as an online friend and I really wanted to show my support for her business but I was hesitant to order a cake from her because she’s based in Cavite and I was afraid that I’d have difficulty with the pick-up. Good thing I inquired because I learned that SM Sucat is one of her pick-up points, and it’s very accessible from our house. This 6-inch custom-made chocolate cake covered with fondant was very well-crafted and scrumptious, too. Bea was so delighted, she ate the cake for days.

cake by PH Bakehouse

cake by PH Bakehouse

After getting full at the Hard Rock Cafe, the girls went on a group movie date in Glorietta Cinema. You see, it was the opening day for The Fault in Our Stars, the tearjerker movie, so I treated Bea and her friends plus one chaperone to the movie.  (I guess the universe conspired to make this birthday one of the most expensive celebrations to date.) Bea is such a huge fan of the book and now, because of it, she has added Amsterdam to her list of dream travel destinations. Guess who cried her eyes out in the movie house? Yes, it was me.

movie date

movie date

It was such a fun day but the celebration didn’t end there. The next day, June 6, we checked in at Microtel Hotel Mall of Asia, which is a stone’s throw away from the MOA Arena, the venue of the RED concert. The hotel is really nice and wholesome, perfect for weekend family getaways. Everyone in the staff was so courteous and friendly, they even let us check in earlier than usual. The food at the hotel’s in-house Millie’s Restaurant is also very good.

Microtel Hotel Mall of Asia

Microtel Hotel Mall of Asia

The concert was slated for 8:00 p.m. and by 6:30 p.m. we were all set to go. Bea’s friend Andy also went with us and they both could not contain their excitement. For my daughter Bea, it was her first major concert experience and I wanted it to be nothing short of spectacular.

at the MOA Arena VIP entrance

at the MOA Arena VIP entrance

The show actually started at exactly 9 o’clock, and as soon as the lights went down, pandemonium ensued. Seeing Taylor Swift in the flesh was a dream-come-true for my little girl and even I was awed and mesmerized by the beautiful superstar the entire night. She’s like a real-life Barbie doll, but so much better because she can sing, dance and entertain us with the songs she’s written. Taylor Swift is a such a sweet young lady and a phenomenal performer and she rightly deserves all her success in the music business. Here are two of my favorite snapshots from the concert –

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“We are never ever ever getting back together….”

Then Bea found this photo on Twitter (full credit and big thanks to the owner), which captured her story that night: she was close enough to touch her idol but the security personnel stopped her. At least, she has this photo to show for it –

"...close enough to touch..."

“…close enough to touch…”

Well, it was still a wonderful night and a very unforgettable concert experience for Bea. It showed her that it’s always good to dream and that anything is possible. Even though you don’t always get what you wish for, dreams are what keep us going. And although she wasn’t able to touch Taylor Swift‘s hand, Bea’s 10th birthday weekend was still awesome!

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Categories: Mommy Diaries, Staycation | 2 Comments

Ice Cream Dreams

With the summer temperatures soaring to as high as 39 degrees Celsius, it’s always a great idea to eat ice cream. Gone are the days when our flavor choices are limited to the usual chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, ube and cheese. We’re now in the age of artisan ice cream brands. Local ice cream these days comes in a variety of novelty flavors ranging from the  downright bizarre such as salted egg or sili (chili) to the seemingly absurd like green mango with bagoong (shrimp paste) or champorado with dilis (dried anchovies). I kid you not.

However adventurous I am with new tastes, I still haven’t found the chance to try the aforementioned flavors (I would surely love to!). But here are 3 ice cream flavors that I recently tried and loved:

Candied Bacon Ice Cream from Merry Moo (P70/scoop)

I first tried Sebastian’s Ice Cream‘s take on bacon-in-ice-cream a couple of years ago. It’s called Cheddar Bacon, but because of its sharp cheddar cheese taste, it didn’t seem like a dessert-type of frozen delight for me. It was good, but I prefer this Candied Bacon Ice Cream from Merry Moo. I just love anything with bacon in it — and this scoop is real meaty but still has that creamy, delicious sweetness that I look for in ice cream.

Candied Bacon Ice Cream from Merry Moo

Candied Bacon Ice Cream from Merry Moo

Half-baked Madagascar from Mad Mark’s Creamery and Good Eats (P85/scoop)

The “half-baked” part refers to the chunks of yummy chocolate chip cookies folded into its signature vanilla ice cream. The Creamery uses premium Madagascar vanilla beans to  make its special ice cream from scratch. It’s so good, I felt quite sorry about sharing the scoop with my daughter Bea. Next time we’ll go for double scoops!

Half-baked Madagascar from Mad Mark's Creamery

Half-baked Madagascar from Mad Mark’s Creamery

Rainbow Ice Cream from New Zealand Natural (P95/scoop)

What exactly does a rainbow taste like? Strangely, this Rainbow Ice Cream reminded me so much of the taste of my childhood favorite Mandarin Orange Royale from Coney Island Ice Cream. Well, simply put, it tastes like happiness! Swirls of orange, green and purple colors make this ice cream flavor very appealing, but its velvety smooth texture is a testament to New Zealand’s global position as one of the world’s leaders in exporting dairy products.  This well-loved imported ice cream brand started out as a small ice creamery in Christchurch, NZ some 30 years ago and is now being sold in over 20 countries around the world.

Rainbow Ice Cream from New Zealand Natural

Rainbow Ice Cream from New Zealand Natural

Forget about the calories. I’ll worry about my waistline later. For now all I want to do is indulge in one of the best things in life — ice cream!

Categories: Cravings | Leave a comment

Summer Getaway: Hong Kong

I know I said our family didn’t have plans for this summer vacation and that was true. But something incredibly wonderful happened and we just found ourselves packing our bags for a family trip to Hong Kong. It’s been 6 long years since we all visited so I was really looking forward to setting foot on Asia’s famed “fragrant harbor” once again.

It’s my 4th time to visit Hong Kong, but actually, our third time in 2008 was very brief since we embarked on a cruise ship from the Ocean Terminal and stayed only an extra night in Kowloon for some last-minute shopping. During our Hong Kong trips in 2002, 2007 and 2008, we stayed in only one hotel: Marco Polo Prince.  This time, we were booked in The Park Lane Hong Kong along Gloucester Road in Causeway Bay. Even though it was my first time to stay there, I instantly felt right at home. For one thing, its location is superb. And for another, the hotel turned 40 years old earlier this year — exactly as old as I am!

The Park Lane Hong Kong

The Park Lane Hong Kong

We called Room 811 of The Park Lane Hong Kong our home for four days and three nights. The Family Room wasn’t exactly huge, but it was comfortable enough for us. We loved the fact that shops like HMV and IKEA are housed in the hotel building, but once we step outside the hotel, an endless shopping paradise awaits.

If New York is the city that doesn’t sleep, I dare say that Hong Kong is the city that doesn’t blink. People are always moving, rushing about, crossing the streets, shopping, eating… the streets are bustling with activity! The lights are glaring (and not a single light bulb that’s not in order) and the sounds of busy feet echo in my head. Being one of the most densely-populated areas in the world, the city is so dynamic that to spend the day sleeping would be such a waste. As for me, traveling entails a lot of eating and that’s one of the best parts of being in a foreign land — sampling the culinary treasures of the place. So eat and eat I did.

a taste of Hong Kong

the flavors of Hong Kong

It was the perfect time to escape the summer heat in Manila as it was still spring in Hong Kong. The occasional showers in the day did not dampen our plans to revisit Ocean Park Hong Kong on our second day and Hong Kong Disneyland on our third day. Honestly, I preferred the drizzles and the chilly temperature over a hot, sunny day.

Hong Kong theme parks

Hong Kong theme parks

Ocean Park Hong Kong is a must-visit for any tourist in the city. I noted so many changes since I’ve been there in 2002 and 2007 — the park got bigger and added more attractions for the whole family to enjoy. Bea was totally thrilled to see real live giant pandas, penguins and arctic foxes. She was not so thrilled with the cable car ride, though, but I insisted on it because a visit to Ocean Park Hong Kong will not be complete without the cable car experience. The ride was scary and exhilarating at the same — it gives a panoramic view of the entire park and its surrounding area, with the highest level at 673 feet!

Admission prices for a day-pass:

Adult – HK$ 320  (about P1,800)
Child (3 to 11 years old) – HK$ 160 (about P890)
 

Hong Kong Disneyland is, of course, a magical destination for the young and the young-at-heart. We first took Bea to the park when she was only 3 years old so she has very limited memory of that time, if at all, but now she’s almost 10  and she felt like it was her first time (again).  It’s a relatively small theme park but because of the volume of visitors, one day is hardly enough to cover all 7 grounds: Tomorrowland, Toy Story Land, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Mystic Point, Grizzly Gulch and Main Street, USA.

Admission prices for a day-pass:

Adult – HK$450 (about P2,500)
Child  (3 to 11 years old) – HK$320 (about P1,800)
Senior (65 years old and older) – HK$100 (about P560)
 

I’m so grateful for our latest Hong Kong trip because it gave us another summer to remember as a family. I was really impressed by the MTR system in Hong Kong. EFFICIENCY is a word that constantly came to my mind as I keenly observed the transport systems in HK. I only wish that our country can learn from this global city.

Categories: Wanderlust | 2 Comments

Summer Getaway: White Rock Waterpark and Beach Hotel

Itching to go somewhere out of town but on a shoestring budget? Why not have a pocket vacation to a nearby resort? My family and I don’t have anything planned for the summer, so my daughter Bea and I decided to go to my hometown of Olongapo on the last weekend of March. Once there, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take a day-trip to White Rock Waterpark and Beach Hotel located in Matain, Subic, Zambales — just approximately 20 minutes away from Olongapo City.

Bea soaking up the sun in White Rock

Bea soaking up the sun in White Rock

The resort has been there since I was a kid, but I didn’t realize it had improved so much over the last several years. The sprawling 7-hectare property now boasts of two wave pools, a kiddie pool with water slides, an adult pool, a zipline facility, hotel rooms and villas, and a scenic beach, among others. The day tour rate is P650 per person and P325 for children ages 3 to 7. The fee includes a free use of kayak and access to the waterpark’s facilities. We totally enjoyed the Giant Wave Pool — Bea stayed there for hours dancing and just splashing in the cool water.  The waves run for 30 minutes every hour on the hour accompanied by loud, happy tunes. That was really fun!

White Rock Waterpark and Beach Hotel

White Rock Waterpark and Beach Hotel

We dined at the resort’s in-house Sunset Cafe, but bringing of food and drinks is allowed provided that the guests will rent a table. I prefer just ordering off the restaurant’s menu. Anyway, we haven’t had so much fun on the beach in such a long time! Because I grew up in a small city very close to beaches, I became so sick of going to the beach when I became older. I always avoided the beach and preferred to go somewhere rather cooler and indoors. But I didn’t want to deprive my little girl of some fun under the sun, and our trip to White Rock was definitely awesome. I wouldn’t mind going back. Just a piece of advice: Don’t forget to bring sunblock and apply it as often as possible.

Cost of this getaway:

Bus fare from Victory Liner Pasay station to Olongapo : P218 x 2 = P436
Jeepney fares to and from White Rock:  P92
Entrance fee to White Rock: P650 x 2 = P1,300
Lunch and snacks in Sunset Cafe: P975
Souvenirs (bracelet and keychains): P140
Bus fare from Victory Liner Olongapo to Pasay: P223 x 2 = P446

Total cost: P3,389.00

Categories: Weekend Getaway | 2 Comments