31 August 2010


All these years, we’ve considered Behrouz, Scout Tobias, Quezon City a favorite –- even with the resto's bad service (waiting time always feels like ten years; their servers are among the unhappiest persons we’ve known), we stuck by it for the kebabs. But after our unfortunate experience yesterday, Monday, August 30, we say – We’re done, dalandan!

Loser Late Lunch: We arrived to an almost empty Behrouz. There was only one table occupied, and the group’s done with their meal when we got in. We ordered our kebabs at 1pm. By 1:30pm, we were growing restless (and really hungry!). But we stayed calm. Thirty minutes is the normal waiting time in this branch. By 2pm, still no orders -- not even our drinks. Hubby then went into the open kitchen to follow-up on our meals. The bad surprise: he discovered our kebabs are being prepared pa lang -- an hour after we ordered! And there was no apology whatsoever from the servers ha! Unbelievable!


26 August 2010


These may not be enough to keep the Rolando Mendozas of the world away but you must agree, safety travel tips are worth considering in every pasyal plan.

As one Travel Safety website says, “Life is full of threats and we make our way each day by deciding how to create an environment that provides us as much safety as possible while we pursue our existence. Travel is no different. Think about the threat of terrorism, consider how you would adjust your travel to compensate, and get on with enjoying your life.”

[Photo: Gov.ky]

What hubby and I have been doing:

1.Research on local laws, customs, places to avoid, scams, etc.

2.Photocopy passports, tickets, hotel reservation. Keep copies in each bag.

3.Pack an extra set of passport photos to make replacement of your passport easier in the event that it is lost or stolen. (Yes, I'm that prepared. O.C.!)

4.Leave flight details, hotel address and number, itinerary with family members.

5.Have a copy of your credit card numbers. Know the number to call for lost credit cards.

6.Make sure your cell phone is on roaming, and is always fully-charged.

7.Try to learn phrases (especially emergency phrases) in their language.

8.No jewelry. Just my cheap, chic accessories.

9.Have a belt / money bag.

10.If you carry a purse, carry it across your chest.

11.Do not show large amounts of money.

12.Bring one or two major credit cards (or traveler’s checks) instead of cash.

13.Make sure hotel room is locked, bolted.

14.Study the hotel’s suggested emergency exits.

15.Be cautious of scams (illegal taxis, strangers inviting you to supposed secret shopping stalls, etc).

For our next trip, we’re adding this to our To Do list:

1.Note the emergency numbers: the local police, the local tourist information office, the hotel, the airline, the Philippine Embassy; etc.

Do you have more safety travel tips to share?

25 August 2010


Theres The Rub
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:43:00 08/25/2010

YOU COULDN’T have watched the last few moments of the hostage-taking last Monday without feeling weak in the knees. And violently angry. The spectacle of so many dead, among them women, when they did not need to be so, there are no words to describe the absolute idiocy of it.

Sacking the entire officialdom of the Philippine National Police won’t do justice to it. A group of ROTC trainees or village watchmen, one that hadn’t undergone any training in the art of negotiation, would have done better.

What is the first rule in hostage-taking? Secure the safety of the hostages.

What was the first thing the cops did? Act like they were in an action movie.

Why in hell couldn’t they simply agree to all the hostage-taker’s demands? Or put more brainlessly, why in hell couldn’t they simply have humored him? Was he asking for the release of the most dangerous criminals from Hong Kong? No. Was he asking for a jet that would take him to another country? No. Was he asking for a cache of weapons to be delivered to a terrorist organization? No. Was he asking for the most unreasonable, atrocious, despicable things in the world? No.

He was asking to be given back his job.

Which alone must suggest the brittle, fragile, stretched-to-breaking-point state of his mind. If you’re reasonably sane, will you possibly entertain the prospect of being reinstated after embarking on a course of action that terrorizes women and children, embarrasses the government, and threatens an international incident? You know you’re dealing with someone like that, and you don’t just go along with him the way you would a mental inmate holding a knife? What will it cost you to do it? You figure you’ll be bound by any agreement you get into that way?

The tack of humoring him, or appeasing him, or calming him down was already producing results. He asked for food, and upon being given food, he released some hostages. He asked for gas to keep the engine and air-conditioning running, and upon being given gas, he released some hostages.

He asked for the media, but that one wasn’t given to him. Now I can imagine that some anti-terrorist code book must say that terrorists should not be given the outlet to perorate on their agenda, but again what were we dealing with here? A guy who believed he was sacked unjustly. Who might have cluttered the airwaves with his views about how robbery and extortion are not just grounds for sacking a cop a few months going before retirement, but who cares? Talk is cheap.

Lives are not.

Was it so utterly inconceivable to the minds of the so-called negotiators there that if they had given him everything he asked, none of which remotely constituted murder, he would have released all his hostages?

What boggles the mind is not understanding the mind of the hostage-taker, it is understanding the mind of the hostage-freers. Later they would keep saying as though it were proof of their professionalism, skill and preparedness that one of their sharpshooters managed to take the hostage-taker out with one shot after he went on a killing spree. Big deal. The question is: Why did he have to go on a killing spree to begin with? Leaving a trail of 10 dead bodies behind, including his own?
That wasn’t unprovoked. What triggered it was the police deciding to storm the bus after “negotiations broke down.” Specifically after the hostage-taker flew into a rage after his brother, who had been brought to him and fulminated with him about the injustice of his plight, was removed from the premises, and he fired a warning shot. Why should that justify an assault? A hostage-taker flies into a rage, you wait for him to calm down. Negotiations break down, you wait for them to resume. Of course every hour that the situation drags on makes the hostages more tired and hungry and fearful. But better that than that the swift conclusion makes them dead.
It was raining like mad that night. You could barely make out anything through the television cameras. The whole day, some officials were saying on TV that if this dragged on, it could hurt tourism. It would make the country the laughing stock of the world and keep the tourists out. So rather than pitch tent, drink coffee, and wait out the darkness, the downpour and the downed talks, the cops decided to attack. Who knows? They probably saw their names in the international news as the heroes of the day. They probably saw their names in the marquees in movies made after the deed.

All they will see now is their names spattered in blood. All they ought to see now is their names spattered in blood.

The Hong Kong government has slammed Philippine authorities for bungling the crisis. The world has slammed Philippine authorities for bungling the crisis. They have every reason to. This wasn’t a case of someone who was willing to blow himself up and everybody around him if the world did not convert to his beliefs. This was not a case of someone who was willing to shoot everybody up and himself along with it for the greater glory of his God. This wasn’t a case of someone who was willing to reduce the population of this planet because he heard voices in his head.
This was a case of a deluded cop who wanted his job back. If you can bungle something like this, what can you not bungle?

But beyond the anger, all I could see in my mind last Monday night while watching the mayhem with mouth agape was the faces of the hostages. Men, women and children who had been laughing earlier that day, taking pictures of the Luneta, reveling in the vistas of another country, wondering what new wonders the day would unfold. Who had now been thrown into depths of anguish. Who were now lying in stretchers, broken in mind and body. Who were now dead.

I was ashamed. I am ashamed. Deeply, deeply ashamed.

18 August 2010


Q: Do they speak English?

A: Hardly. We were able to survive thanks to hubby's basic Mandarin lessons. No actual conversations but we were able to communicate, enough to get what we wanted or needed.

The train, airport, street signs are translated in English. And of course, there are maps in English.

Photo from Livelearnteach.com

14 August 2010


FAQs about our recent trip to Taipei:

1) Do you need a visa to visit Taiwan?

Filipino visitors with visas to the U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, or the European Union can now visit Taiwan without a visa (but I think you have to apply online for an exemption?).

If you don't have those, here are the requirements, check out the Taiwan Embassy website

For those who intend to travel to Taiwan, Republic of China
for a short visit, submit the following:

A duly filled up visa application form which can be downloaded from http://www.boca.gov.tw
Indicate N/A if not applicable

Two (2) passport size photos 1.5x2 with white background (taken w/in the last three months)

Passport valid for at least six months and old passport showing previous travels

Birth Certificate issued by NSO

Marriage Contract (if applicable) issued by NSO

Supporting documents such as:
a) Air ticket or Booking Certificate
b) Letter of permission to leave from the employer
c) Financial statements of the applicant such as:

c.1)Income Tax Return
c.2)Bank Book or Bank Statements
c.3)Certificate of Employment and Company ID
Or Certificate of Business Name Registration

2) How much are the Taiwan visas?

Single Entry: Php2,400
Processing Time: 3 working days

Expedite Fee: plus Php1,200
Processing Time: 1 day

3) Where's the Taiwan Embassy in Manila?

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines
41F, Tower 1, RCBC Plaza, 6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati City 1200
Metro Manila, Philippines




Visa Filing Time: Monday to Friday, 8:45-11;45am
Visa Releasing Time: Monday to Friday, 1;45-4:45pm

Personal note: We had a better experience at the Taiwan Embassy compared to the very crowded Chinese Embassy (see my "Travel Visas to China" blog entry). We arrived first, was given number one (yey!), we accomplished the filing and paying in less than 30 minutes (8:45am-9:10am). It could have been faster if the cashier opened on time. =)

4) Was it stinky in Taipei?

There were stinky alleys in the night markets but nothing you cannot take, especially if you've survived (and actually enjoy - we do!) Quiapo and Divisoria.

5) How was the shopping?

It was OK. Based on our limited travel experience, Hong Kong is still the shopping mecca of Asia.

Actually, I was not in a shopping mood while we were in Taipei (I was on tipid-ity mode for the September trip).

If you're into brands, almost all the malls we visited house luxury boutiques. If you're into bargain finds, you'll be excited by the night markets.

I got me a navy summer dress from one of the stalls at the Ximen Pedestrian Area for only NTD380 (around Php500). It looked something like the F21 (Megamall) dress I wanted but didn't buy because it was over Php2,000.

Check out the local store Net, branches may be found everywhere. Got basic shirts, a military jacket and an Alexa-inspired bag from there. Their shopping bags look like Zara's (navy blue paper bags, and Net carried a similar font). Their website: Net

6) How was the train?

Efficient. Clean. On time. Affordable. There are helpful maps all over the stations. It wasn't as crowded as Hong Kong, Singapore or Shanghai (Grabe tao dun! Ramdam ko talaga ang pagiging World's Biggest Population!)

Ximen Station
5-min walk from our hotel

Train Tokens
Single journey: between NTD20 (Php26) and NTD65 (Php85)
Taipei Pass: 1-day Pass for NTD180; 5-day Pass for NTD700

Green efforts at one of the Taipei City Hall train exits

Operation Hours
6am to 12midnight
The train arrives every 4-7 minutes


Last weekend, hubby's FB status read, "Cats lulled (us) to a couple of catnaps."
But it wasn't a total waste of time, thanks to:

1) The Highlight: Lea Salonga's powerful performance. World-class talaga. To quote one review, "She's one Fine Feline!"

2) The stray cats during intermission. They were interacting with the audience. One even purred on my ear.

3) J knows his way through the Cultural Center of the Philippines. During the 20-minute intermission, every one headed to the ground floor food stand (There was only one and it was packed!). We sneaked to the empty CCP canteen for spaghetti and leche flan. Yey! At the end of the show, people were blocking the main exits. But since J knew his way around, we got out quicker than the rest by taking the Performers' Exit. Naaliw ako! He's really one cool cat! *wink*

After the show, we headed to Fely J's Greenbelt for the purrr-fect dinner. I had my favorite catfish (Cat pa rin? hehe) with buro (fermented rice), J had his fave adobo.

Happy Weekend!

11 August 2010


J to Me: If we have to travel the world in small steps then we'll make it our lifelong journey.

There’s no one way to travel. We all have our own styles. Based on our limited travel experience, we’ve come to know that:

1. We love taking photos. Yun lang, masaya na kami.

2. We enjoy tasting something new, observing customs different from ours, watching people, experiencing every day things as if for the first time.

3. We prefer designing our own itinerary. We research online and buy travel books. Then we design an itinerary that suits us.

4. Nothing too hard-core for the not-so-athletic me.

5. As a mountaineer, J has traversed the roughest of terrains (he’s climbed every Philippine peak). But when we design our itineraries, I’m his top consideration. Awwww.

6. We don’t like doing “package tours.” We’d rather explore on our own. We hate being bound by other people’s time, style and plans. Sayang ang oras!

7. We check out the tourist spots.

8. But we also try to immerse ourselves into the local culture by doing something not-so-touristy.

9. We don’t mind getting lost. It’s part of the fun!

10. We're budget travelers. Budget airfare. Budget hotels.

11. We can survive on street food, hawker centers, food courts. Once in awhile we do indulge in restaurants but that's not the rule.

12. We love walking. We enjoy commuting. It's our way of life.

13. J travels light. I'm slowly learning the art.

14. He lets me take the window seat. Always. (Even before Adam Sandler's song from the film "The Wedding Singer," ganyan na siya.)

15. We always vow to return and try the less-traveled route.

16. No matter how much we enjoy our travels, there's nothing like coming home. We love our cozy condo (or years back -- our lovely Asian apartment)!

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

08 August 2010


#4 Authentic Chinese Reflexology

If you've been following my blog, you'd know we're massage addicts. In Taipei, we tried three different reflexology clinics and all are highly recommended! Just how good? Gusto namin sila iuwi!

We were seriously discussing the possibility of starting an authentic reflexology clinic in Manila, with our Taipei reflexologists as trainers / teachers.

The massage clinics I've been raving about before Taipei are all kulang compared to what we've experienced. Yes, even the KL foot massage that has been number one on our list for quite some time now, has been dislodged from its position.


Saturday: Foot Massage
24-hour shop in the Shilin Night Market area
Name: It was in Chinese but their green shirts said Chung Lung
NTD400 each (roughly Php560)

Sunday: Foot & Shoulder Massage
Spa in the Ximen Night Market area
Name: I think they were called Royal Bali
NTD1000 each (roughly Php1400)

Monday: Back Massage
Spa in the Ximen Pedestrian area
Name: Again, it was in Chinese. Just look for the sign.
We're assuming every one is good.
NTD400 each

**Spas can be found everywhere, within the night markets / shopping districts.
Just look for the reflexology feet sign. =)

Why are we raving?

1) Our daily Kuala Lumpur foot massages were very, very good. Authentic. But the Taipei reflexologists were better because their style was not formulaic. They personalize the service. J and I always asked for the same service but we'd get different styles (we are always seated beside each other so we can see). The details of the massage would depend on what your body actually needs.

2) The Taipei reflexologists tried to tell us, in their limited English, what were the problem areas. That has always been my dream - for the masseuse to tell me what was wrong, what that painful pressure point says. Taipei reflexologist to me: "You problem sleep." (No thanks to the hotel pillow!)

3) They were very thorough. You'd know if a therapist is lazy or has no idea as to what s/he is doing (I've experienced both types). In Taipei, they were so into the massage! Yung mga akala kong masipag dati, malayong-malayo sa kanila!

4) Whatever was sore before the massage, felt lighter, rejuvinated, healthier after each session! You don't feel sleepy. You feel a surge of new energy!

5) The male reflexologists wear surgical cloves when working on females. I appreciate that para di skin on skin action. =)

6) They so know what they're doing.

Our massage experience in Shanghai was so-so. Same in Hong Kong. We were not able to try the services in Singapore and Macau. The Thai massage in Bangkok was good. But I'm not really a fan of dry massage. We have favorites in Manila, and Kuala Lumpur has always been number one, but I'm now declaring our Taipei experience THE BEST EVER!

Photos? None.
Who would want to take pictures of their tired feet?
Or node-filled shoulders and backs? Hehe.

07 August 2010


#3 Art
From installations to graffiti, there were eye candies everywhere

Taipei 101 Damper Babies
Damper technology was used as earthquake protection for Taipei 101

Taipei 101 Damper Baby

At the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall garden

Entrance to one of the Malls

Caged Tree along Dunhua South Road
(area of the Eslite 24-hour bookstore)

Can you see the yellow birds?

Even the construction panels are decorated.

Black & white mural at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial.

Chess pieces at the Taiwan World Trade Center
J loves chess. These photos are for him. =)

Red and green mailboxes

Exhibition Hall
I love how they maximize outdoor branding!

Love at the Taipei 101

Graffiti, Ximen shopping area

Photos: Mine and J's

06 August 2010


#2 Food Trip
From night markets, street stalls, food courts and tea rooms

Ximen Night Market
Less than 5mins away from our budget hotel (love our location!)

Squid Balls, NTD20 per stick (around Php28)
The squid flavor is more intense than Manila's.

Strawberry Snow Ice, NTD 120 (around Php168)
Perfect for the heat. The temp ranged from 35-38C while we were there.
We loved how generous they were with the fresh strawberries!

Bitter Melon Juice, NTD 45 (around Php63)
The bitter melon juice stands were a hit based on the long lines! And they were everywhere. It tasted like medicine. I'm sure it's very healthy but I prefer my ampalaya (bitter melon) as a vegetable side dish.

Oyster Omelette, NYD 45 (around Php63)
Love this anywhere - in SG, Manila or Taipei

My favorite discovery: Curry Dumplings, NTD 5 each (around Php 7)
They were too good -- a burst of curry in every bite!

Shilin Night Market
To get there: take the red MRT line. Go down at the Jiantan station. Take the underpass or cross the street. Signages are everywhere, you won't get lost.

Chicken Rice with Taiwan Petchay, good for two, NTD260 (around Php364)

711 Mineral Water, around NTD30 I think.
Love the design!

Porkchop Meal
Eslite Bookstore food court (the 24-hour branch, found at No 245, Section 1, Dunhua South Road)

Roast Pork Meal
Eslite Bookstore food court

Beef Noodles, NTD 140 (around Php196)
Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Dept. Store

Tofu, side dish of the Beef Noodles

Eslite Tea Room

J's earl gray tea

My chamomile cup with a yummy biscuit

Our daily hotel breakfast: congee, toast, scrambled eggs, Taiwan petchay

Strawberry Sherbet

Mos-try: MOS Burgers!
This is the Chicken Sandwich Meal with fries and soda, NTD 130 (around Php182). The chicken's so tender and juicy! The vegetable so fresh, the sauce so flavorful! We hope someone can bring MOS to Manila.

Sizzling chicken and tofu meal
Taipei 101 food court

Tan Tzai noodles with steamed Taiwan petchay, NTD 100
Taipei 101 food court

We loved that good food was everywhere in Taipei (we had a hard time finding cheap food stalls during our last trip, the Shanghai trip last April). And everything was very affordable (my top find, the curry dumplings, were only NTD5!). But based on our limited travel experience, Singapore is still the ultimate Asian food trip destination!

Photos: Mine and J's