Inspirations

No Reservations to air final season

One of the shows which inspired me to get off my butt and see the world (with whatever my money can afford) is “New Reservations”, with my “old guy crush”, Anthony Bourdain, definitely one of the coolest guy currently seen in cable channel.

the hottest guy in cable TV. bar none.

All his Filipino fans definitely felt a swell of pride after the much-followed show finally landed in the shores of Manila and provincial Philippines! When Tony raved about how good Filipino lechon tasted, every Pinoy must have felt a collective surge of national pride.

…though I am not really a fan of Augusto’s story. I felt like Tony could have done a lot more in the Philippines, minus the burden of the back story of a returning “balikbayan.” But that’s just me.

Anyway, the ninth and final season of the Emmy-award winning and highly popular show will debut on September 03 at the Travel Channel.

I’ll definitely miss seeing Tony and his various culinary adventures–both exciting and the weird–when the show finally ends. (SOURCE)

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Travel Diaries

My Form of Identification

NOTE: This was previously posted on my other blog. I am reposting this here because I feel like this material belonged here. I also updated some of my answers here.

One of my fondest dreams is to be a travel writer. It’s not really a matter of earning a lot of money or even staying on posh hotels and eating a lot of those chi-chi food or meeting a lot of chi-chi people (on a related note, the word “chi-chi” makes me laugh. who came up with it anyway?).

And since my situation right now (lack of money and trapped in a 24/7 amazing role as a corporate lackey) does not exactly afford me the chance to travel at a drop of a hat, I have to save up money for months in order for me to experience a new place and a new culture for mere days. As long as I live I will be this person hungry for new experience and traveling my way through life.

Anyway, my lack of resources has made me live vicariously through other people–I consume travel sites hungrily and finds true enjoyment by reading the travel blogs of a lot of people.

Earlier, while researching about my newest target, “Taiwan”, I somehow ended up at the BBC Travel site and came up with this interesting feature. Forms of Identification feature some of the notable names in the world of travel and asks them a few interesting questions about their life as seasoned travelers.

And whoa–my old guy crush, Anthony Bourdain, is featured!

And because I am such as pathetic trying-hard girl, I am posting my own version of Forms of ID (all questions are from the BBC Travel blog linked above):

Seoul, 2012

Name: Lani Mesias-Suzon
Title/bio: Corporate Slave/Communications Junkie/Aspiring Travel Writer
Twitter/website: http://www.kamikazeegirl.wordpress.com/www.dplacesyouwillgo.wordpress.com
Current project: Bring parents on their first overseas trip and planning the ultimate Taiwan get-away!
Born in: Manila, Philippines
Currently living in: Manila, Philippines

1. Where would you rather be right now?
In a centuries-old ryokan in Japan; garbed in yukata and just about to go to sleep in order to catch an early trip to the foot of Mt. Fuji

2. Famous person (dead or alive, real or fictional) you’d most like to go on a trip with: Sal Paradise/On the Road

3. Tourist must-see you think is actually a “must skip”: Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum (in any location). I find it quite weird posing madly in front of wax figures — but that’s just me….

4. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3? United States

5. You’d be mortified if people knew you did what when you traveled?
Running out of fresh socks while in HK two years ago… it was a very hot and sweaty month when we were there.

6. Your most stranded, “oh-my-[deity]” travel moment:
A few years ago, I almost got stuck in Boracay after the “fun ship” which carried me and my co-workers ended up with two broken engines. Had to travel from Malay, Caticlan (Aklan – where Boracay is located) to Iloilo via rickety, old, rusting bus WITHOUT AIRCON. The bus promptly broke down in a secluded, wooded area which prolonged the already excruciating trip. From four hours — the trip turned to six hours of pure hell. The Manila-bound ship docked in Iloilo ended up being delayed a few hours cos it had to wait for us to arrive. The passengers were ready to kill us when we arrived a few hours behind schedule. And oh, we had to sleep at one of the dining areas cleared out and outfitted with mats cos there was no place to sleep anymore.

7. Best (or worst) person/people you’ve had to sit next to while traveling:
WORST: A screaming, annoyed, miserable infant on a VERY early flight to HK. (I didn’t get any sleep the night before and was counting on a few zzzzzs before I arrive HK). I ended up sleeping on the hotel during the first day.

8. If someone was visiting your town, what’s the one thing you’d show them? If it’s the Holy Week, I’d bring him to the city parish church showing age-old Filipino Holy Week traditions. Outside the Central Business District, we’ll visit the Walled City of Intramuros.

9. Travel-related invention you wish existed:
A wallet that automatically fills up with money so that I’d never run out of travel funds.

10. Your most embarrassing travel faux pas: I’ve got tons, here’s my top 3:

Being addressed and scolded publicly by a very pissed off client right at the middle of a very busy section of the Boracay D’Mall (public market). I wished the white sands had swallowed me whole.

Flashing my undies to the whole of Vigan, Ilocos Sur after I made the mistake of climbing an ancient bell-tower. In a short, summer dress. During a very windy day.

Having to stay (for a few hours) in a very chaotic, dirty, smelly dormitory in Singapore which the hotel we checked and booked online tried to sell itself as a dormitory-hotel. We had to call my sister’s Singapore-based friend to bail us out. The room we stayed in was very dirty and we counted not a few USED undies thrown haphazardly in the room. The occupants simply didn’t care!

11. Material thing you miss the most when away from home:
My bed.

12. Most unique souvenir:
A purse made of the upper half body of an overgrown toad. It’s so hideous, I had to give it away as soon as I received it.

13. Best celebrity encounter while traveling: NONE so far

14. Most unusual item you have traveled with:
A baby blanket which I use as my own

15. Coolest mode of transport you’ve taken:
holed-out tree trunk adeptly shaped into a make-shift banca. That thing effectively ferried us to another far-lying island. This is in Bataan, Northern Philippines.

16. The place you don’t want anyone to know about but are willing to divulge here: Bantayan Island, Cebu. Had the beauty of Boracay Island minus the utmost commercialism.

17) Travel-related film or book that inspires you to pack your bags:
“On the Road” – JD Salinger; “The Beach” – Alex Garland

18) Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
When in doubt, ask questions! Locals can be very helpful, but you wouldn’t know that unless you tried. Stop acting like a privileged traveler! Observe and respect local tradition. You wouldn’t want to be labeled “the annoying tourist”

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Manila!, Philippines

Posh Bargain Shopping – if ever there is one

If you’re the type who likes bargain hunting but does not want to risk being mugged or trampled upon by snot-nosed kids or pushy elders, I recommend you skip Divisoria (Manila’s shopping mecca) and head to Greenhills.

Located in Ortigas Avenue in the City of San Juan, Greenhills Shopping Center is considered one of the country’s premiere shopping havens with more than 2,000 shops crammed in a tiny space. Stuff sold here is not as cheap compared to Divisoria and 168 but Greenhills is easily more accessible and considered a tad more posh compared to Divi.

Anyway, following massive renovations a few years ago, Greenhills Shopping Center has become more interesting and offered a lot more goods to consumers. The complex has a lot of malls within the vicinity, including V-Mall (formerly called VirraMall), Shoppesville, the best place to scout toy collectibles and those massive 10-foot Superman and Batman replicas, as well as bazaar shops in between.

While we were there, we heard mass at the Chapel of the Holy Family, one of those churches located inside malls — giving an opportunity to shoppers to hear mass before or after their retail fix. It was pure pleasure hearing mass here as the chapel is quiet and does not have usual noise distraction associated with chapels within malls. The masses are quick but the homilies are very enlightening and heartfelt.

Chapel of the Holy Family, Greenhills

Mass Schedule, Greenhills

After fulfilling our spiritual obligations, Dear Hubby (DH) and I went around Greenhills. We have a plan in mind: buy if we really want it, otherwise save it for another day. Here are some of the stuffs you’ll see in Greenhills:

role playing board games for the hubby

toy collectible

Articulated Superman action figure (looked like Christopher Reeve)

Now, I’ve been salivating and pining away with the Superman articulated figure above that I can’t get my mind away from it every time I see it. A shop here in Makati is selling the figure for PHP13,000 while it retails in Greenhills for PHP11,000. A shop owner even approached DH and told him that he’s willing to sell this same toy for PHP8,000 (that’s like buying a new cellphone!) These toys were also the reason why we ended up in Greenhills since DH was looking for one particular model.

You can also buy clothes (haggling is encouraged), fake branded bags (please don’t buy fake even if you can’t afford a genuine Louis Vuitton), accessories, home decor, gadgets and even pearls and other precious stones. There’s also plenty of fast foods and restaurants in the area.

Note:
The Greenhills Shopping Center is accessible via private and public transportation and is just 20 minutes away from Makati.

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Traveling on a Budget

Cebu Pacific’s “Me and New” Sale!

Say all you want about Philippine budget carrier, Cebu Pacific and its delayed and over-booked flights but no one can deny that this thriving budget airline company made flying accessible to many Filipinos, this writer included.
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When I was younger, I had the impression that one must be filthy rich in order to ride a plane. For an average Filipino that earned just enough for an honest living, flying off to a distant land (domestic or international) is out of the question. That was then. Where families bear 18 to 24 hour ship travel from Manila to Iloilo or Cagayan de Oro for that once-a-year trip to see loved-ones. Flying off to international destinations is even more unlikely. Again, riding a plane back then was for the moneyed class.

And then came Cebu Pacific. The sixteen-year old airline company ushered the possibility of flying for ordinary Filipinos by offering cheap rates both for domestic or international flights. Yes, Cebu Pacific is not perfect — there are delayed flights, overbooked jaunts and even missing luggages (remember the infamous Thrilla in NAIA last May?)

Still, no one can deny that by offering cheap flights, many of my kababayans were able to realize their dreams of seeing foreign lands. Personally, Cebu Pacific and its famous “PHP88 Sale” gave me the chance to see South Korea last March. I also flew Cebu Pacific to both of my HK trips in 2008 and 2010 (for Singapore, I usually fly JetStar). This year, the cheap airline rates purchased last June is giving my mom and dad their opportunity to see Hong Kong for the first time.

Well, if you’re like me (someone who wants to bring the family abroad but doesn’t have much cash), you might reconsider your travel plans:

Seat Sale

Cebu Pacific Seat Sale! – Book Now!

Cebu Pacific is offering its “Me and New Sale” until August 21, 2012; travel period is from October 18 to 31, 2012.

For more infomation, go to www.cebupacificair.com.

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Philippines

The Philippine Travel Mart: The Philippines is On Sale!

travel mart

The Philippine Travel Mart 2012

Philippine Travel Mart

Welcome to the Philippines! We got 7,000 plus islands to explore!

There is a Filipino saying, “Huwag Maging Dayuhan sa Sariling Bayan” (Don’t be a foreigner in your own country) that should be hold dear by every Filipino travel junkie. I know that the Philippines might look like a pretty intimidating place–and I won’t be lying–and for a newbie, it really is. Thing is, usually the intimidating part of the country, the beautiful chaos and the rhythmic noise, is concentrated in the country’s capital, Manila.

But Philippine travel is beyond Manila. In fact, this country has 7,000 plus islands to explore and love! This is the premise behind this year’s “Philippine Travel Mart” organized by the Philippine Tour Operators Association in coordination with the Department of Tourism (DOT).

With a renewed vigor in the Philippine travel industry courtesy of a new department rallying cry, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”, the latest edition of the travel mart saw a full house of visitors during the three day affair.

As you can see, anything that would entail me to pack my bags is a serious matter to me. Somehow, my past travels to some of the cities in the Philippines is still not enough since I still have a lot of ground to cover (*see: 7,000 islands). So far, if my memory serves me right, here are the places I’ve been to: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur (Vigan), a few provinces in Central Luzon (Pampanga, Quezon, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan), Laguna, Batangas, Baguio, Palawan, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Boracay (Aklan), Roxas City (Capiz), Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Mizamis. But I haven’t been to Bohol (and saw the Chocolate Hills) and even my paternal side of the family’s birth province, Bicol (been there as a baby so that doesn’t count!)

Went around the exhibit areas and was impressed with the beautiful booths from the Southern Tagalog Region and Ilocos. There were a lot of must-sees: the aforementioned Bohol and their beautiful Chocolate Hills; the Rice Terraces and Sagada in Mt. Province; the waves of Siargao. This country has so much to offer!

philippine travel mart

The booth for Southern Tagalog featuring one of their beautiful Higantes

Philippine Travel Mart

Pretty native flowers and miniature beds. Asked the old lady for one of the birds, and she relented!

I love the booth from Southern Tagalog. They featured an old lady who was creative miniature flowers and birds from a banig strip. It was so pretty and the old lady was so skilled and her hands so dexterous that I spent a few minutes just watching. When my nosy self couldn’t help it anymore, I asked for one of the miniature birds and she gave me one! Score!

I didn’t buy any travel package this time because my family and I are HK-bound in October, and planning another trip–even if domestic–is already out of our budget. However, got vacation and birthday ideas for next year. Like maybe a leisurely trip in Corregidor, Bataan or finally the much-awaited Sagada trip?

Anyway, the exhibit made me realize that the Philippines have too much to offer, and too much beauty to share. I hope our foreign friends can give us a chance and look beyond the chaos of the capital. You will love it here, I promise. 🙂

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Asia, Hong Kong

A planned trip back to the Fragrant Harbor (My Hong Kong Diaries)

Picture from The Hong Kong Tourism Board website

I am currently arranging for an upcoming trip to Hong Kong and possibly, Macau this coming October.
I have been to the city twice, with my brother and sister as a pre-wedding get-away in 2008 and with the dear hubby in 2009 during our first overseas trip as husband and wife.

We are going back as a treat to our elderly parents, especially our mum who will be celebrating her 59th birthday during the trip. The upcoming trip is also our pop’s first trip out of the country. He is already 61 years old and we wanted him to experience traveling while he is still strong enough to do so. When he was 59 years old, we treated him to Bantayan Island in Cebu, and made him experience air travel for the first time. It was so priceless, like treating a kid to a candy store. Last year, my sister and I realized that we have been traveling too much in the last few years but we weren’t able to bring our parents who have yet to experience what it’s like being in a foreign country. So, we harassed them to get their papers in order in order to acquire passports. After a few months of searching for a trip for everyone, we finally settled with Hong Kong, especially since mum and pops would love to see Disneyland.

For the upcoming trip, we’ve decided to stay at City Econo Guesthouse in Nathan Road, based on the glowing reviews posted over Trip Advisor and the HK forum at PEX. Again, this is not the Hong Kong Peninsula, but we just wanted a place where we can dump all of stuff and crash peacefully/safely at night. I already arranged our stay and confirmed our reservation with the kind and efficient owner who did not collect a down payment for the stay but instead advised me to re-confirm our stay three days prior to the trip. I booked one quadruple room for HKD700 per night and one double room for HKD400 per night — cheap considering October is conference season for HK and all hotels/guesthouses gets filled up quickly.

I have yet to finalize our itinerary, but for the 4D 3N stay — we figured we’ll go to the time and tested tourist areas which my parents would love: Disneyland, the Avenue of Stars, Victoria Peak and Ngong Ping 360. Yes, we’ve been to these places before, but again this trip is not for us but for our mom and dad who would be seeing all these for the first time.

Well, HK Disneyland has always been a favorite. I love that place so much, like I was a kid once again and have managed to forgot (even for a while) all my grown up worries. (How’s this for super dork? I cried during the Fireworks Display)

HK Disneyland, 2008 (with the Queen and the little bro)

I am also trying to keep the cost down, considering that I don’t want my mom and dad to get overwhelmed with the expenses of traveling. While my sister and I will be spending for the plane fare and the hotel accommodations, I don’t want them to think that traveling is expensive. I pretty much have everything figured out: the transportation (we are taking the A21 bus to and from the airport), the budget per day, the itinerary for the three days (though we are still considering going to Macau) as well as the eateries we will check out while we were there.

Hopefully, I’ll have everything set by the end of August or first week of September. You know how OC I get when it comes to traveling.

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Asia, South Korea

The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince Cafe: Is it worth it? (The Great Seoul Searching Trip Day 6)

First, a short summary on the drama, “The First Shop of Coffee Prince”

Coffee Prince is a South Korean drama aired in 2007, starring Yoon Eun-hye from Princess Hours, Gong Yoo from One Fine Day, Lee Sun-gyun from White Tower and Chae Jung-an. It is based on the novel of the same name written by Lee Sun-mi. It was first broadcast in South Korea on Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) from 2 July to 28 August 2007. The drama is a love story between a tomboyish woman pretending to be a man and a young food empire mogul. Go Eun-chan played by Yoon Eun-hye decided to work for Choi Han-kyul (Gong Yoo) in order to support her mother and her annoying younger sister. After getting an ultimatum from his grandmother, Han-kyul takes over a rundown old coffee shop, later renamed ‘Coffee Prince’, to prove his ability, both to his grandmother and to his ex-girlfriend Yoo-joo. In order to attract female customers, he only hires good-looking male employees. Eun-chan, desperate for money, continues to hide her gender to get a job at Coffee Prince.(SOURCE)

The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince
(waffle guy and Min-yeop+ forever!)

This place is included in our itinerary because my beloved sister is a BIG Gong-Yoo fan and I myself liked the drama…and the cute guys that starred in it. My favorites are Lee Dong Wook who played the Japanese-Korean waiter who was discovered by Han-kyul selling waffles and Lee Eon (R.I.P.) who played Hwang Min-yeop. Sadly, Lee Eon passed away a year after “Coffee Prince” aired due to a broken neck he sustained from a motorcycle riding accident. His funeral was attended by his friends from “Coffee Prince” and Gong-Yoo even filed for leave during his military service in order to hold Lee Eon’s memorial tablet during the funeral. 😦

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Anyway, it was an opportunity to relive this wonderful drama, so on our second to the last day in Seoul, my sister and I trekked to Hongdae, the university area of Seoul, just to go to Coffee Prince. Finding the cafe was a challenge, it was located in the farthest end of Hongdae and if you are not familiar on how the cafe looks like, you might miss it. Fortunately, I did my research before we left for Seoul, thanks to this very efficient blog.

Here are the directions we followed:

1. Take the subway going to Hongkik University Station and get out on exit 8 – the blog used to say it’s exit 4 so we went out on exit 4 only to be miserably lost. While walking towards exit 4, we ran across a cute and furry creature:

“Pikachu Girl” is giving away hugs! Seemed to us like a harmless college org or sorority prank. We are, after all, within vicinity of Hongkik University, one of Korea’s best arts schools. Since we took the wrong exit, we got lost walking aimlessly around the Hongdae area. The first two people we met seemed like they don’t have any idea what Coffee Prince is, until we met Song-hae who kindly showed us the way to Seven Springs restaurant, which is the landmark to the street leading to the cafe.

2. Upon seeing Seven Springs restaurant, turn right and go straight until you see a big center island. Turn left into the junction, until you see a small, bushy round-about. Then turn right (look for the Dduk Takk restaurant, when you see it you will be turning right soon) then just walk uphill.

3. Just continue walking until you’re about reach a T-Junction. To your right, you will see the “1st Shop of Coffee Prince.”

Coffee Prince Hongdae

Surprised that it didn’t exactly like the one in the drama?

And here is the part where I will try to manage your expectations. Let’s go first with the positives. Obviously, a trip to this cafe is perfect for those who loved K-Dramas. If you are looking for a gourmet coffee experience, then this place is not for you. But if you want to drink nice coffee and yummy cheesecakes while daydreaming that one of the princes will come and serve you, then by all means, do visit. It’s an experience that is nice to have especially if you’re into the Hallyu Wave. It has all the memorabilia from the drama as well as personalized messages from the cast. The interior is pretty nice and cozy too — like a very hispter, youthful cafe with dose of attitude. And did I mention how good the cheesecakes were?

Upon entering the place, you will be immediately approached by a barista (a girl!!!) who will ask you to order first before you sit down. Probably, to ensure that there won’t be people inside the cafe who’s just there to gawk at Coffee Prince photos.

Coffee Prince Hongdae

Sorry no princes here — only princesses. And a chef, who looked far from being a prince.

Whatever you do, do not order on the Menu written on the board on the wall. Yes, the prices are affordable, but it’s also the prop menu from the drama. A taped sign says so. The real menu is propped in an easel. Nothing there is below KRW7,000.

A very pretty barista and the “make-believe” menu

My sister and I ordered two coffees each (KRW7,000) and the New York Cheesecake (KRW7,000) — I tell you it was the most expensive coffee I ever had in my life. Coffee is cute, but not exceptional while Cheesecake is probably the best cheesecake I had in Korea. Or in the Philippines, or anywhere for that matter. It was worth the KRW7,000 price tag!

The most expensive coffee we ever had

Everywhere you look, there is something to remind you of the drama:

Memorabilia and souvenir items — of course, we didn’t buy anything

Signatures from the cast of Coffee Prince

A good place to read or relax

Bring your friends and spend hours reminiscing the scenes from Coffee Prince here

Now, here are some of my observations:
1. The place now needs some serious repair. The walls are already peeling, outside looks depressing and there are a lot of areas in the wall covered taped with black paper.
2. A lot of the area in the cafe is out-of-bounds. Specifically, the areas highlighted in the drama. Access is prohibited for the second floor, too.

Sorry, off-limits!

3. Did I mention that coffee was expensive (well everything was!)

The highlight of any trip was the opportunity to post at the so-called mural “painted” by Gong-yoo in the drama. When we were there, all tourists will immediately gravitate to the wall as soon as it’s available. I hate to burst your bubble, but that mural is not exactly a painting. It’s a sticker. And the edges are already peeling 😦

My sister posing in front of the “Gong-Yoo” mural

Anyway, we had fun visiting the Coffee Prince cafe. I really wish they will restore it and fix some of the areas in order to ensure that it will remain attractive to other tourists. Coffee Prince was aired in 2007, so they have to make the coffee shop really attractive and relevant, especially since there’s a lot of really good restaurants and coffee shops in the area.

Coffee Prince meets KamikazeeGirl

My sister at the cafe front steps. A funny thing happened before this picture was taken.

Before the above picture was taken and just when my sister had posed for the shot, we heard a voice from behind us shouting, “No…no…no…no!” It was the pretty barista shooing us away, having mistaken us for fan girls out to take pictures but not about to buy anything inside. When my sister turned around, the barista recognized us as the Filipina girls who were inside earlier and bowed low, while saying “sorry…sorry…sorry” (cue SuJu music here).

Are we in anyway offended? Not exactly — pretty barista is just following orders and besides, business is business. If they will allow all tourist to stop by and just take pictures, the cafe will not earn anything and might close down.

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