Category: Travels

TRAVEL: Boracay, Philippines. Love To Eat.

One of the best parts of beach life is to surrender to all the delicacies and cuisines that surrounds you. I am always looking for the type of food I can hold in my hand while walking around or even sit by the beach and sip on something cool and refreshing.

12 Fruit2SC

The beach life. It’s like no other feeling. I realize now that I make every effort to visit Boracay for one or some of several reasons. You may have some of your own perhaps.

You worked hard for that beach body.

You had a stressful year and need to unwind.

You haven’t been to the beach for the longest time.

You just need to get away. Period.

For me, it’s not just the beach life but it’s for the food with the beach life. So I say to myself, “Throw everything out the window and let my appetite take it’s course because this is my vacation and I earned it.”

This is how I feel when I’m in Boracay. I want to explore. I want to enjoy. I don’t want anything to hold me back. Well, as long as I’m not overdoing it.

I start off with a little bit of coffee in the morning. Beach view. Clear mind. Calm weather. Bright. Beautiful.

Coffee.jpg

After a few sips and staring out into the view, I completely lose track of time. Some time later my breakfast arrives. I’m not even thinking about how hungry I am until I look down at the most appetizing meal. A cup of garlic rice, marinated pork tocino, sunny-side up egg, with a little garnish of lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Delicious!

Breakfast2.jpg

As the morning passes on slowly, there are a few places I frequently visit every time I travel here. The first place I usually hit is a place called “Aria Cucina Italiana”. Like most places that have a beach view, I prefer to eat indoors because people like to sit around the outside seating area and smoke vigorously. I love the food here! Pastas and pizzas are such comfort food at the beach.

AglioOlio.jpg
Aglio Olio
AlFumeBaconBrandyEmmenthal.jpg
Al Fume
Gnocci.jpg
Gnocci
Margherita.jpg
Margherita Pizza

Soon after our fulfilling meal, we walk on over next door to “Aria Gelato” for some cold, refreshing, yup-you-guessed-it, GELATO.

gelato1SC.jpg

gelato2.jpg

We like to switch up the afternoon snack between a couple of places. There is this small café called “Ti Braz” that had gone through some renovations. They specialized in serving light breakfast and snacks but now added power shakes and alcohol drinks to their two other businesses just inside their café. I highly recommend choosing any of their crepes. Any type of fruit inside a heated pastry then topped with a scoop of ice cream makes for an amazing afternoon snack.

crepe1.jpg

Take a look at how this delicious crepe was made by clicking on both links below. I can watch this all day.

Part 1: Crepe Making in Boracay, Philippines

Part 2: Crepe Making in Boracay, Philippines

During our last visit to Boracay we decided to try a place called Halowich.  They make fruit sundaes and chilled desserts. It is so refreshing to have a cold dessert melt in my mouth! Tropical fruits mix so well in a dessert. If you don’t believe me, look at the size of the bowl that some kids next to us ordered. Stuffed with loads of mangoes and papaya. It was bigger than my hand!

BigBowl.jpg

At night, there are so many choices where to eat. You can eat at one of your favourite restaurants and sit alongside the walkway closer to the beach side. Sip on a cool drink while looking at the breathtaking night views.

Sometimes we ate indoors and enjoyed the convenience of air conditioning with less chances of being bothered by beach vendors and insects.

Carve2.jpg

puto.jpg

To be honest with you, I enjoyed eating both indoors and outdoors.

Taking part in the foodie life is such a wonderful experience. If you ever find your way into Boracay, you must have a taste of every type of food it has to offer. Writing this food blog now is making me daydream about my next trip to Boracay. When I find more things to eat there, I will definitely blog about it.

Check out my other blogs on visiting Boracay, Philippines.

TRAVEL: Boracay, Philippines. Road Trip To Vacation Is Part Of The Vacation

TRAVEL: Boracay, Philippines – Relax, Shop, Enjoy.

TRAVEL: Boracay, Philippines. Road Trip To Vacation Is Part Of The Vacation

TRAVEL: Boracay, Philippines. Heaven On Earth.

After enjoying the sunset, the walkway and D’Mall became full of tourists. It was so crowded that it was difficult to even find a place to eat. Happy hour started as early as 4pm so there would be a party crowd as early as 8pm. Drinks are fairly cheap even if you purchased canned beer at the local convenience store.

2 NightlifeSC

I never really enjoyed partying and consuming large quantities of alcohol so I like to turn in early and try to catch some of the early morning sun. It’s pretty cold around 6am so there aren’t too many people around but I do happen to catch some moments that answers why I liked to wake up so early. As soon as my feet touched the sand, I know that I have reached Heaven On Earth.

3 Beach4SC.jpg

4 WaterBoardsSC.jpg

After walking around the beach for a while, I like to retreat back a little to see the view behind the trees. It feels as if I’m looking threw a picture frame with the sky and water within arm’s reach. It’s also an outlook of how the morning succeeded from the night before.

5 SetupDiscoBallSC

6 SetupSailsSC.jpg

About 30 minutes walking distance along the white beach, we found a small island that is frequently visited by tourists. It sits just meters away from the beach shore. With the water up to our knees, we had to walk into the water to reach the first climb of steps.

7 Island1SC.jpg

Just above the first landing was a small grotto that held a statue of The Virgin Mary. I would see some people clutch their rosaries and say a few prayers as they passed by.

8 Island2SC.jpg

We would walk around the small island and snap photos. Out of the hundreds of photos I took, I think I liked this one the most.

9 Island3SC.jpg

Walking back, we happened to see a beachside resort setting up a small wedding and reception. We were so happy to catch this moment. How wonderful it was to see that a happy couple would exchange their wedding vows and celebrate their special day with family and friends by the beach!

10 Wedding1SC.jpg

11 Wedding2SC.jpg

As the day slowly turned into evening, we walked along the beach with slippers in hand, taking photos. The heat quickly moves on and a slight cool breeze set in. We would watch people enjoying the last minutes of the sun before it snuck underneath the horizon.

12 People1SC.jpg

We would sit and watch the colour of the sun change colour from a large yellow-ish ball to a tiny orange no bigger than a thumbnail. I still remember how much I became so hypnotized with the reflection of the light off the water. I could sit and watch the sunset in Boracay every night and not even look at my watch. Time doesn’t mean anything when it feels like you’re in heaven – except when you realize it’s time to go back to reality.

13 Sunset3SC.jpg

14 Sunset1SC.jpg

 

TRAVEL: Boracay, Philippines – Relax, Shop, Enjoy.

After such a long road trip, the only thing on our minds is to unwind and walk along the beach. We would always check into the hotel right away hoping that our room might be ready. If our rooms weren’t made, we would ask if we could temporarily leave our bags in storage or at the front desk until we returned.

Boracay has become a popular tourist destination. It is a lot more commercialized from when I used to visit back in the early 2000’s. There weren’t as many hotels, the number of tourists were probably half of what it is now, and prices were exponentially lower. Even just the logistics of traveling from the port into Boracay Island was a lot different. We used to disembark several meters from the beach, walk into the rocky shore with the water up to our knees. Now we travel from the main road behind the hotels and walk about 10 minutes through narrow passageways to reach the front desk.

It is still beautiful as I always remembered it. Everywhere I looked was a different scenery. To my left, right and straight ahead – I saw the water, the sand, and trees that touched the horizon in every different way.

2 Beach3SC.jpg

3 Beach2SC.jpg

4 Beach1SC

Sometimes I got a little sleepy and took a short nap but shortly after, I would take my wife shopping at the nearest outdoor market called “D’Mall”. Funny name, right? They have lots of things to do here from a mix between lower/higher priced shopping, snacks and restaurants, and a basketball free-throw court for entertainment. Every once in a while, I always liked to shop here if it was too hot to walk on the beach.

5 DMall1SC.jpg

6 Dmall2SC.jpgOn a very heavy rainfall, there were times when the walking area in D’Mall was just completely flooded.

7 floodSC.jpg

After the rain dissipated, the skies quickly cleared up. We ventured out along the walking path again. There were times when the path was clear and we could lazily walk up and down the main path to see anything that would catch our eyes.

8 WalkwaySC.jpg

9 Shopping1SC.jpg

10 Shopping2SC.jpgAside from seeing stalls upon stalls full of trinkets, jewelry, and clothing, we would come across the odd store that would sell fresh fruit ready to eat. They look so delicious and mouth-watering!

11 Fruit1SC.jpg

12 Fruit2SC.jpg

The sunset arrived very quickly. I had forgotten how quickly it came after watching everyone on the beach still catching as much sun as possible and smiling at the kids running in and out of the water. I remember sitting for on the beach with my wife and while I was looking out towards the horizon, I happened to see something that I never knew would catch my eyes. I managed to capture the moment when this long canoe was directly underneath the sun and it made for a great memory that will last a lifetime.

1 FeatureSunset2SC

Next Blog: Boracay, Philippines. Heaven On Earth.

TRAVEL: Boracay, Philippines. Road Trip To Vacation Is Part Of The Vacation

It’s summertime now and I’m feeling the heat. But I don’t mind the hot sun shining bright from above. Summer always reminds me about my short trip vacations to Boracay; an island just a few miles north of Panay Island in the province of Aklan, Philippines. It is a very special place for my wife and I. I will always remember the white-sanded beach that stretches way into the distance and the waves slowly disappearing into the horizon. The hot sun warming my body while I’m walking on the sand or taking a dip into the water. It is a breath of fresh air way from the bustling city life.

We try to squeeze time around our schedule to make our way to Boracay. Tourists will go to the ends of the earth to visit Boracay and for good reason too. For many flying in from other countries, there are only two ways to get to heaven on earth. Tourists will have to fly into Caticlan airport using a smaller airline service (possibly propeller) then take a 5 – 10 minute motorized transportation to the Boracay Jetty Port, then another 15 minute boat ride into Boracay. The other method is by taking a larger commercialized airplane ride into Kalibo then take a 1.5 hour bus ride to the Boracay Jetty Port.

With our travel, my family lives at the very southern tip of Panay Island so instead of taking an airplane ride in, we take a road trip starting as early as 5am. Early bird gets the worm, right? It usually takes us about 6 hours to reach the Boracay Jetty Port so it is about 3 times longer than those traveling from Kalibo airport.

1 roadSCThe road trip is a bumpy one. Some roads are unfinished, narrowed to one lane, or extremely muddy depending on rain conditions. Sometimes there is stop-and-go traffic because of the large trucks driving at a snail’s pace. But once you get into the rural areas, the road trip is a completely different experience.

2 RiceFieldSCThe rural areas of the Philippines are like no other place. Once you start catching the sunrise, the light reflects on the beauty of everything you see. Rice fields upon rice fields, workers slowly start their day of laborious, back-breaking work by planting each single crop. For other types of food, they spread out their grains to dry in the sun. Even if it’s roadside, it’s an opportunity for farmers to sell their goods quickly or use for their own consumption.

3 driedriceSCOnce in a while we catch a broken shelter that may have been a home or a small commercial storefront at one point. We saw piles of mud that became almost solid as concrete. These projects were planned to restore these structures but later abandoned.4 housebrokenSCAs we pass through some places and towns, the real beauty of nature is a sight to see. When there is no traffic on the rural roads, we drive as quickly as we can to make up for lost time which makes it difficult to take photos. Every time we were about to cross over a bridge, I would quickly pull out my Iphone and snap as many pictures as I can, hoping at least one photo would come out just right. And it paid off.

5 riverSCAfter the rural lands we start the up-and-down, twisting roads into the mountains. The forest is so dense that it became so hard to see anything beyond acres of trees and bushes. Green forestry with blue skies filled with puffy white clouds is something I haven’t seen for a long time.

6 MountainSCTraveling down the mountain, the view starts to clear with a brief picture of the water. I managed to take this photo to capture a bit of everything on where I was headed and what I have seen during this road trip. A little civilization, trees, hillside farming, mountains, and the beach.

7 AfterMountainSCAfter we disembarked off our motorized transportation and paid our way through the Boracay Jetty Port terminal, we started to walk towards our boat ride known as a catamaran. It is a small watercraft with two, very wide parallel hulls of equal size that can carry up to approximately 30 passengers.

8 CatamaranSCOn a clear day, the crew will keep the plastic roll-down windows open for passengers to enjoy the fresh air and view. The ride can get a little rocky when several boats are riding nearby. There are larger boats that can take us across the water but they cost more and they are completely closed off. With the catamaran, I like the feeling that I’m very close to the water.

9 CatamaranSideSCAs I’m starting to approach Boracay Island, the anticipation starts to set in as I see smaller islands filled with rocks and trees and small caves hiding in the sides.

10 CatamaranIslandSCThe catamaran slowly floats past more islands. The white-sanded beach can be seen in the distance. It’s just a few minutes away. I’m thinking now that nothing feels better than having small, powdery crystals of sand on my feet with the warm breeze on my back. But I could never forget how I arrived to Boracay as the journey will be the same going home.

11 CatamaranBeachSC

Next Blog: Boracay, Philippines. Relax, Shop, Enjoy.

Celebrating Canada Day 150th In Toronto With An Explosion Of Fireworks!

I wanted to share an explosion of fireworks during last night’s Canada Day 150th celebration in Toronto. Thank you to all my fellow bloggers and followers from around the world and hope this puts a smile on your face wherever you are.

Don’t forget to increase the volume and listen to all the fireworks and the oohs and aahs!

Click here to watch Canada Day Fireworks!

Walt’s Café: Hong Kong Disneyland. A Much-Needed Breakfast!

 

Walts9

All smiles from me!

Check out my review on Walt’s Café – Hong Kong Disneyland.

Click here: Yelp | Google Maps

If you are traveling to Hong Kong Disneyland, check out my Dim Sum experience at the Crystal Lotus Restaurant

Hong Kong DisneyLand: Dim Sum Culinary Experience – Crystal Lotus Restaurant

HKDL Resort
Welcome To Hong Kong Disneyland

Visiting a Walt Disney theme park is one of the most enjoyable destinations in the world for families and friends to spend time with one another. If you want to bring back memories from when you were a child and pass them onto your kids then this is definitely the place to visit. For me, I just wanted to feel like a kid again.

When my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong Disneyland on our flight in to see my in-laws, we just couldn’t pass it up. We wanted to find out if a Walt Disney theme park outside of the USA could be a completely different experience.

I had heard about the differences between HK Disneyland and Orlando Disney World such as some Disney characters talked a little differently only because of some translation issues with a slight Chinese accent. Some are the same like the fireworks and electric parade still light up the evening skies. But what I was looking forward to was the food experience. This is Hong Kong, China so I knew that our foodie trek would be quite different.

After looking over Disney’s website, we found the Crystal Lotus restaurant inside the resort we were about to stay in. We discovered that we had to make reservations in advance to dine at the restaurant. So just to be safe, we made our booking three months prior.

Crystal Lotus

We arrived a little early for our 12pm reservation so we had to wait in the front lobby for only 10 minutes until they opened their doors. We didn’t mind waiting at all so we took our time taking some pictures.

HKDL Hallway
Hallway Entrance

Front Lobby
Front Lobby

I remember telling my wife that I wanted to walk slowly into the dining area. I wanted to take as many pictures as possible so I could just take everything in. I mean the whole space was so grand that you just wanted to stand in one place and turn around 360 degrees and stare at how much effort was put into decorating the restaurant.

Dining area

Dining area2

Light
Beautiful Light Fixture Equally Spaced Out Throughout The Entire Dining Area.

When we had made our reservations a few months before, there were a few choices. They offered a la carte Chinese cuisine and other gourmet food but since my wife and I are such big fans of dim sum, we chose their “Special Dim Sum” lunch menu as our Disney dining experience because we were curious to see how they would present the food. When we had called them to inquire about their portions, they explained that the set menu was good for 1 person. After looking at some online photos, we saw there were a few pieces in each dim sum box so we decided to order 3 sets to accommodate our party of 6.

After a few moments of sitting at our round table our dishes started to come out. Three dishes of Scallops Salad with Pomelo arrived at our table.

scallop salad
Scallops Salad With Pomelo

After a few bites of this dish we were finished. The portion was small but it had great flavour since it was sprinkled with a light taste of a vinaigrette dressing.

Then the soup arrived and what I really liked about this soup was that it was simple. It fused both seafood and tofu together really nicely. Nothing better than chewing into pieces of crab with every bite!

Soup
Braised Crab Meat, Bean Curd And Crab Roe Soup.

What’s really cute and unique about eating at a Disney restaurant is that they shape as many pieces of food to a Disney theme as close as possible such as the next dish below. It’s absolutely crazy how the carrots are shaped like “Mickey’s head” and the zucchinis are “Mickey’s hands”.

ShrimpVegetables
Wok-fried Shrimps And Disney Root Vegetables.

Our next dish was the sesame chicken with lemon juice. Lightly breaded chicken with a tangy lemon syrup is probably close to a “Sweet and Sour Chicken”. This is a common dish with Chinese food and it felt close to home having this as part of my meal.

Chicken
Crispy Sesame Chicken Served With Lemon Juice.

The waiter brought out a few dishes of a rice topping of abalone with a small garnish on the side. Rice perfectly shaped in a cylinder topped with a well-cooked piece of abalone. This was only my second time having abalone and luckily both were cooked very well. It’s slightly chewy but the sauce that it is cooked in brings out the seafood flavour. It might be an oversized snail but it was really good!

AbaloneFriedRice
Abalone Fried Rice

Then the Signature Dim Sum came out. Let me tell you how impressed I was with the amount of detail and work put into each dish. As soon as each dim sum was placed in front of us, we all couldn’t help ourselves taking photos with our smartphones.

Little Pig
Little Pig Pork Barbeque Bun

GreenMen
Little Green Men Pork And Vegetable Bun

Seafood Pancake
Mickey’s Seafood Glutinous Pancake

Each dim sum dish had its own unique flavour. They were all cooked just right inside and out. None of them were undercooked/overcooked. But what I want you to see is the time and effort put into each dumpling and pancake. The choice of colours to create each character. The small shape of the pig’s nose and ears. The little antennae on top of the little green men’s heads. This sort of detail made our eyes lit up because it was so well made with such intimate detailing that it really brought out the Disney kids within us.

When Duffy the Disney Bear dim sum arrived, we were still impressed. Some of you remember the preview I showed a couple days ago. Well one serving actually came out on a single steamer tray with two small pieces of pudding. Look how absolutely cute and adorable Duffy is! Look closer at one of the puddings: One of them is shaped like Mickey’s hand!

DuffyandPudding
Combo of “Duffy” Steamed Red Bean Puree Bun, Chilled Dual Mickey’s Puddings

The final dim sum tray we had to order when they offered it to us at the table. It was an additional fee on top of our set menu but we didn’t care because we wanted to see for ourselves what it was.

Baymax

In one serving of a steamer basket came two dim sum pieces of Baymax. Something so simple as two hand rolled balls of white glutinous dim sum pieces looked so unique! Baymax may not have been one of the most well marketed Disney characters but to be honest with you, I absolutely love him!

PreviewBaymax
So Cute!
I can’t tell you how much fun I had at the Crystal Lotus restaurant. From beginning to end, I couldn’t stop smiling. If you are reading this and you are considering eating at this restaurant, there are a couple of things you need to know:

  1. Decide on whether you want the Disney Special Dim Sum Lunch Menu or the other special menus that are available.
  2. Reservations are required and I suggest you book well in advance. Although there weren’t too many people there when we first arrived but when we were near to finished eating, the entire restaurant was completely filled.
  3. For the Disney Special Dim Sum Lunch Menu, one order of the set menu is for only one person. My pictures, and other pictures on the internet, you might see a few dim sum pieces combined in one steam basket but really it is only one dim sum piece per order/basket. We made the mistake of ordering 3 sets for 6 people because of the online photos but I suggest that if you are going with a party of 6 adults, then order 6 sets.
  4. The Dim Sum Lunch Menu is not cheap (I think it was about $40USD per order at the time we went). So if you are really hungry, be prepared to still buy some food after you finish your meal as the portions are rather small. This was more of a Disney-themed experience for us rather than a buffet.
  5. The staff did their best to accommodate for our needs considering their English was very limited. But if you find one person who speaks English better than anyone else, get their attention as much as possible.
  6. Even though it is not common to leave a tip in Hong Kong, or Disneyland for that matter, we still gave a tip. The staff worked hard for our smiles and we enjoyed the entire experience.

Hope you enjoy your Hong Kong Disneyland dim sum experience like we did!

 

A Filipino Outdoor Market Experience: Food And So Much More.

img_0846

3-day Local Market, Iloilo City, Philippines

This weekend was a bit of a treat.

Inside the MegaWorld complex of Mandurriao, Iloilo City, Philippines held a local market named “Produkto Lokal Festival”. Usually these are run by organizers that attract local vendors to sell their goods and services in an open market setup. Ironically it was situated right in front of the restaurant I last reviewed.

Although it was a little bit out of our way, we were lucky to drop in on the evening of one of the 3 days it was running. From one tent to another, my family and I checked out what was available for sale. People from around the province were selling handmade weave accessories and freshly grown fruits and vegetables most commonly sold at a local farmers market. The choices were amazing. Take your pick from any large selection of mangoes piled on a table. How about choosing from a huge bunch of bananas and plantains?

img_0833

img_0850

img_0852

 We picked up a large bag of lettuce for only 50 pesos ($1 USD!)

Some vendors have made their own brand and made a whole line of products such as jarred pickled items and packaged dried food.

img_0832

img_0839

So impressed with the thought and effort put into each vendor’s stall.

I looked for some ready-to-eat snacks to eat. There was always something to find.

puto

img_0841

Some really delicious treats such as “puto” made out of ube (yam) and cheese and some crunchy snacks too!

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy the rest of the evening without a cup of fair trade coffee, grown and roasted in the Philippines. This local vendor brews their coffee the “cowboy” method. Much stronger in flavour with the right amount of strength to the taste. They also sold their other specialty, Matcha green tea, but my mind was already made up.

img_0843

img_0834

Even though the temperature remained hot and humid, I still enjoyed my special brewed cup of coffee, served to me with a smile and a “thank you”.

img_0847

If you have any type of outdoor market in your area, get out and support the local vendors. It is a fun experience!

Remembering Spain: The Simple Lunch

Recently I had this craving for a sandwich. But not any ordinary sandwich like a BLT or a Subway. I wanted something that would please my cravings but I couldn’t put my finger on what I really had the appetite for.

So I ran out to the grocery store and walked around the deli aisle. Batches of ham, roast beef and turkey all lined up in the showcase staring at me. Then I had a flash memory of the trip I took with my wife to Spain.

DSC_0112
A View Of Toledo, Spain

Two hours before our tour bus drove into Toledo, we stopped in a small town that had a deli with all these cured meats hanging from the ceiling. As appetizing as it looked, we wanted to sit down and enjoy our meal rather than taking it away.

DSC_0124
Cured Meats Hanging From A Local Deli

Then we stopped at this small cafe where I decided to order a sandwich combo with 2 bottles of 7up. Just 10 minutes later, out came our soft drinks along with a small dish of olives, a tapas plate of “Pa amb tomaquet” which is a bread with tomato, and a few chicken croquettes otherwise known to us as deep fried mashed potatoes stuffed with chicken and cheese.

DSC_0168
Chicken Croquettes

Soon after a large, crusty bread glazed with olive oil, filled with a few slices of prosciutto landed right in front of me. My eyes lit up! I remember how the sound of crunchy bread was music to my ears; the salty taste of prosciutto melting in my mouth. It was the best sandwich I had ever eaten.

DSC_0165
Prosciutto Sandwich With Olives And “Pa Amb Tomaquet”

So guess what I made at home? I modified that sandwich a little to the ingredients sold here in Canada. Fresh crusty toasted bread lined with margarine, filled with two pieces of dry prosciutto and a slice of swiss melted cheese. Yes, I must have the cheese! My wife reminded me that we paid 25 euros for that meal which was about $40.00 at that time. This sandwich just cost me $1.50. 

Anyways this is how it looks. My lunch made me smile not only because it tasted great but also that it came with such a great memory. I hope one day my wife and I will have a chance to go back again.

IMG_8441
The Final Result – Simple Yet Satisfying

IMG_8442

Try it for yourself and tell me what you think!