Macau: Las Vegas of Asia

November of 2010, if my memory serves me right, Me and my family went and used our booked flight going to Macau. I never really expected anything when we left. I didn’t even know what to wear and what to see there. So a couple of days before we went there, I did a little research about the place and poof! 1 term stood out, Las Vegas of Asia, so I imagined, lights, gambling and night life. Was it all that I expected? Well, not really, it was heck more!

Arriving at Macau was one of the first reasons that my new passport (one that does not have my baby picture in it!) was stamped! and I felt ecstatic. No visa is needed when entering Macau (for Philippines), you just need your passport. Although most of the tourists who visit the place usually make it a side trip from when they arrive in Hongkong since its only a ferry boat away. We opted for a solo trip tour in Macau and nevertheless, it was still worth it.

For one, we had —I tell you!– the best Hotel accommodation. When we booked our flight, we also booked for a tour since we were not very familiar with the country. We were in a group tour and I don’t know how my mom booked us our hotel, but it was truly a blessing. Hotel Sintra is a really simple yet beyond excellent hotel to stay when in Macau. It is not very pricey but the location and the food is your best catch. As our tour master (I forgot the name) said, it is very accessible to the very places that tourists would like to visit when in Macau. The food is also REALLY great. Simple but their breakfast buffet is to die for! So moving on, the strategic location of the hotel is a walking distance from the different Casino attractions. The Grand Lisboa, known for the Lotus design building, the New Yaon which is a great high end shopping mall, only 15 minutes from the airport and, with its central location, you can walk around all you want to nearby attractions and casinos. It was really lucky for us to book there for our whole stay. It was an excellent choice.

Another thing to love about Macau is the transportation. They have taxis but their public train and their bus rides to various casinos is what makes it even better. They have organized public train (well, it was more like a bus that looks like a train really!) and you get to ride their Casino buses for FREE! crazy really! You get to visit the Venetian Hotel, Wynn Hotel, MGM, and all others, for free! Who wouldn’t be happy with that?! Speaking of the Venetian Hotel, that is one of the most humongous hotel/casino I have ever seen. The structure itself is Portuguese-medieval inspired. And for all those Asian peeps out there, do you remember Jun Piyo of the Boys over Flowers (Korean version of the hit F4)? There was a scene there where Jun Piyo and Jandi met in Macau, that heartbreaking scene at the Venetian right on the bridge? I stepped on that bridge and well, I was like a little girl asking my mom for a new candy bar when I saw it. It was that silly! On top of that? Who would have thought that you can ride a Gondola without having to visit Venice at all? You can find it and enjoy it at the Venetian hotel in Macau.

Another notable place in Macau is the Senado Square. This is the place to shop. From branded to local favorites, you will find it here. The place is usually packed but you will not be sorry you visited! There are also food restaurants and Fast food chains so you won’t worry about food. Oh, before i forget, you should also know that Macau accepts both Macau dollar and Hongkong dollar. But Hongkong does not accept Macau dollar. You might wonder that sometimes they give you a mix of Hongkong and Macau dollar as change, that is normal. Going back, another place is the St. Paul Ruins. Its an old church ruin that has been preserved over the years and sits atop a small hill. you have to go up a long flight of stairs in order to get there. The view up there was exceptional so we couldn’t miss it!

If you were to ask me about souvenirs and anything to bring home, well, of course Macau would not miss something like this. Most of the note worthy things to buy locally are actually the various local delicacies. They are very generous when it comes to taste testing there so you will know which ones are good! Spicy beef Jerky is one of my favorite there and their local Portuguese egg pie. Last on my list you should not miss when in Macau, that I unfortunately did not have the chance to try, is the bungee jump at Macau tower. It is said to be one of the highest towers for bungee, so for those who are adventurers at heart, might want to try it!

To end this escape, I would like to say that Macau is an exceptional place. That certain place where you can walk the clean streets and enjoy the cold air. A place that I surely would like to come back.

Cold Mornings in Baguio

Right smack on my list of favorite travel destinations is the wonderful city of Baguio.

Baguio City also known to be the summer capital of the Philippines lives up to it’s nickname even today. It is one of the favorite nature ridden destination in the country today. This quaint city does not only offer best sights to see, refreshing cold weather, but also gastronomic delights that will surely titillate your taste buds!

When we visit Baguio, we usually stay in a hotel with a good location, a place where you are able to walk when going to favorite downtown destinations such as the Burnham Park or the famous Session Road. There are many inns and pension houses for backpackers if you are in a budget. While most of them have non-air conditioned rooms at affordable rates, the weather makes it work for you because it is really cool during night time. We usually  take the Bus from Manila to Baguio to reach our awaited destination. The road going there is good so you will not have a problem when you travel there. I would describe it as a more of a roller coaster ride because of the crisscross roads, in fact it makes me queasy at times but generally, you’ll survive it. I like night travel rather than day because its much cooler and the ride much quieter too. It will take about 5-6 hours by Bus depending on the traffic.

The first things that I love about Baguio is the lovely weather. The cool breeze makes the walk in the park perfect for families, lovers or even solo backpackers. Baguio offers so many sights from parks to the famous Presidential Mansion. I just love walking during mornings where you know there is sun but you can’t help but walk the roads because of the cool wind you catch. The many pine trees of the city are what makes the place cool plus the fact that it sits atop a mountain. Furthermore, the people of Baguio are also very friendly and accommodating to tourists. The local language is Ilocano but the general public also speak the local “Tagalog”.

Another thing I love about Baguio is the Gastronomical adventures I get to have especially when I visit Mine’s View park. My most favorite food is the dried squid. It’s salty and tastes lovely with spicy vinegar! Baguio is also very known for their fresh veggies and Strawberries. I have never seen such a vast expanse of strawberry plants than what I have seen in La Trinidad of Baguio city. In the strawberry fields, you can purchase already freshly picked ones or you can also pick them out by your self in the field with the help of the accommodating “manang” there. The best part of them all? You get to eat them all by yourself! Aside from the actual fruit, you can also enjoy the strawberry jam, wines, candy and all other delicacies that you can make out of strawberries. Moreover, the best strawberry jam great for “pasalubong” are the ones that can be bought in Good Shepherd Sisters. I love how they make them more chunkier and more strawberry filled too. (drool!) So, moving on, Another really great food trip in Baguio is the local Taho! they mix it with strawberry jam and I tell you, you really have to try it. You will realize that it’s not only M&M’s that melt in your mouth. =)

Of course aside from the gastronomical adventures that you must try in Baguio, shopping is always a girls best friend. Baguio is very known to store varying knitted items from clothing to booties or scarves. I always love buying these type of goods here because aside from being cheap, they are also well made because the people of Baguio are known for making them personally. They usually sell it by wholesale there like 3 for 100 pesos type of deals. Another great thing to shop is the many wooden carvings. They have flutes and traditional sandok and sungka. Their wooden key chains that you can have engraved with your names are also a hit for tourists.

Last thing I highly recommend when going to Baguio? Taking a stroll at night at Session Road or a day of picnic in Burnham park. Session road is one of the famous roads of the city. This is the road where parties go and a lot of shops and restaurants are. It is known to be one of the night life of the city, although not much of nightlife there. You can find urban restaurants such as Army Navy, Andoks, and Sizzling Chef there. On the other hand, Burnham park is one of my favorite places in Baguio. It’s one of the heart of Baguio. There you can ride a swan boat in their man made lake or take a stroll with a rented bike. You can also enjoy the sunshine while eating bread with ice cream (something I always do!) or you can just stroll the whole park and enjoy the sight of people laughing and having a good R&R time with the family.

I just can’t wait for another Baguio adventure soon. I always have a good time there. Wishing to visit during Penagbenga Festival there. I would love to see the flowers!

Davao: Life is Here

“Life is here” — this is the very known tagline of this bountiful and wonderful city, my home, Davao City.

Photo from adoborepublic.net

I am born and raised here in this eclectic city for as long as I remember. I watched it become what it is today – One of the most Livable city in the Philippines.During the countless times that I traveled to other places, nothing replaces the comforts that I feel when I am home. From the fresh winds to the abundant greens of the city, it will always be a dream for me to live with stability and be contented as a “Dabawenya”.

Davao City is presently governed by Hon. Mayor Sarah Duterte. Being the mother of this wonderful city, she has made it a peaceful and orderly city that it is now. She takes upon the leadership and iron fist of her father the now President Rodrigo Duterte. After all the time the city has been under the Duterte administration, it has flourished to be the gem it is today. Although there are so many regulations and rules in the city, all of it are for the benefit of the people. Some of the most popular regulations of the city includes the Anti-Smoking Rule, The recent Speed limit for Driving in the City and the famous Firecracker Ban for the City. For years, the people of Davao has been diligently obeying these rules. I , for one, believe these rules make of a better and newer breed of Filipino citizens.

The most popular fiesta in the city is the celebration of the “Araw nd Dabaw” (every march 16th) and the famous “Kadayawan” Festival (every August). It is only here that you can enjoy the freshest harvest of Durian, Mangosteen, Lanzones, Rambutan and Suha. You will be able to satisfy your cravings for these seasonal fruits here in the city. Of course the various restaurateurs in Davao will never fail you in giving a taste of the gastronomic delights in the city. From the sumptuous desserts to the freshest catch of seafood, Davao has it all. On the other hand, if you are the striving student or the backpacker, enjoy endless street foods in San Pedro Street near the City Hall, Roxas night market or the affordable foods of the many unlimited rice barbecue offerings all around the city.

Davao City Hall Photo by davaoportal.com

Do you need the time to relax and enjoy? Your best destination is one Torres Street or Matina Town Square. You can also have drinks with your friends and enjoy the blues and music of local bands at the various bars and drinks districts in The Business Class down by Bajada street or drop by the famous Damosa Gateway. If you are looking for the more family-friendly place visit the burgers and pizza chains in Davao that offer sumptuous burgers, fries and more to the whole family. You can also cool down and have ice cream with the kids at the various Ice Giants food chain in the city. Do you have that last song syndrome “LSS” and want to wash away all your stress through belting songs from Beyonce or Maria Carey, visit the many Karaoke establishments in the city namely K1 Videoke or Iron Voyz Extreme. If you are a beach bum like me, take in the beauty of clear beaches and white sands of Island Garden City of Samal which just so happens to be 10-15 mins away by boat. Now isn’t that just convenient?

Now another thing I look forward to when in Davao? I don’t get lost! why? Cabbies here are known for their honesty and the Jeepney’s here are so easy to go around. You simply have to know where you are going and when hailing a Jeepney, you just read the signs attached to their windshields or painted on their jeepney bodies and you will get there!! The International Airport of Davao is also home to popular airlines that serve you domestic and international flights.

Pearl Farm Resort Photo by Kurt Damada

A good tip though when you travel in Davao is to speak a little Bisaya. Terms like “Tagpila ni?” (how much is this?) and “daghang salamat” (Many Thanks) or maybe “wala nay hangyu?” (Any  lower price for this? or a form of haggling) will go a long way when you are here.

In conclusion, other people may say Davao is just a “Province” or that people here are “probinsyano” but in reality, people of Davao are more honest, hardworking and really happy people. I wouldn’t just say that Davao is a Province, I’d say its Home.