Monday, December 29, 2014

Around Bangkok in 3 Days

Normally, exploring a city would take more than a week to fully enjoy the place, the culture and the people.  But for some people who doesn't have the luxury of an extended vacation, a week is already too long.  Here's our sprint in the City of Angels - Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok was initially just our 4-hour layover from UAE going to Australia, but since we have a GC bound to expire soon, we decided to use it and spend additional 3 days in the city on our way back to UAE.  Our flight to Bangkok was on a Sunday at 4:00 pm.  I wanted to start our "sprint" with the Chatuchak Market unfortunately the traffic took us almost an hour to reach our hotel so the Sunday market was immediately off the list to visit.

Before I go on, additional info upon arriving in Suvarnabhumi Airport and navigating it, because some of the signages are confusing.  For those who will be taking the cab to their hotel, taxi stand is at level 1, upon going out of the arrival gate, turn right an escalator and a lift will take you to level 1 where the Magic Food Point fast food is located.  It is also where the exit going to the taxi stand is located.  Also, if you need wifi before taking the cab, wifi works better between the magic food point door and exit door.  A seating area is provided you can browse while waiting.  There will be a queue for taxi cabs.  We were lucky to land a very friendly driver, despite his limited English he was still able to converse he even included Filipino words. Our hotel was Cintadines 8 which is located in Sukhumvit 8.  Total fare paid was THB 450.00 including tip.

Khao San Road

Khao San Road 2

We have settled in our hotel almost around 6:00 pm.  I wanted to explore Soi 38 because I've read it's where most of the cheap but very good Thai street food is found and its just 3 BTS station away from us.  However, we were a bit short of time because we also wanted to go to Khao San Road on the same night, we decided to ditch Soi 38 and headed straight to Khao San Road.  Since there is no BTS near Khao San road we took the BTS from Nana Station to National Stadium then from there took the Tuk Tuk going to Khao San Road.  Note:  Haggle to your hearts content, we paid THB from the National Stadium to Khao San Road.  That's lowest we could bargain and we were already very hungry.

Once in Khao San Road, we were overwhelmed with plenty of vendors of street food particularly Pad Thai.  First order of business, a plateful of Pad Thai while walking along Khao San road.  The famous tourist trap is nothing but stalls of souvenirs and bars.  You can also do some fashion shopping and haggle for good price, but since it is a known street, most prices were jacked up.  We didn't find anything worth spending that night except food.  So we went back to the hotel with more packed food.

Second day was culture discovery.  Though, I have been to Wat Pho this is my first time going there DIY.  Way back, we hired a travel agent to tour Bangkok.  Now, its just me and the husband and we like to rought it out.. a bit.  So from Nana BTS we got off at Siam BTS and boarded the green line going to Saphan Taksin.  Riding the BTS is easy as informations and signs are readily available.  Once we reached Saphan Taksin, we followed most of the crowd going to the Ferry Boat Station of Chao Phraya River.  Most of the staff there are already aware of the tourist wanting to explore the city thru the ferry boat.  We paid THB 50 per person (if I remember correctly)  we are getting off at Pier 8 where the Reclining Buddha is situated.  It was not difficult to locate, you just have to follow most of the tourists.  Once inside you have to be decent.  Like most temples, you have to cover your arms and legs.  For the reclining buddha, they provide a sort of robe, to cover you.  Tourist guides are available by the entrance offering their service for a fee.  We decided to explore the place on our own.  It took us almost two hours to tour the entire place and had enough fill of culture for a day. Entrance at Wat Pho costs THB 100.00 with free bottled water.

Inside the ferry

Pier 8, going to Wat Pho

Next stop, malls!  Sorry, we already had enough culture discovery for one day plus it was just so humid.  Mind you, I was already wearing shorts and sleeveless blouse but still I was sweating.  From Pier 8 we went back to Pier 0 where Saphan Taksin BTS is located.  Boarded the train and got off at Chit Lom Station.  From my research, we need to walk towards the direction of Central World Plaza and not go in just on the road side.  However, pedestrian bridge is already available so jumping streets is no longer a hassle.  We followed the isntruction and it was very far.  It was better that you take a taxi or a tuktuk going there.  Platinum Mall was huge, plenty of latest fashion sold at a reasonable price and they even offer wholesale price.  Wholesale means you buy three of the same item.  After platinum mall we went to MBK this time taking the taxi.  It was cheaper compared to riding the train.  Just make sure the driver push the meter on.  They can be sneaky, like the one we took from Platinum Mall, once we were seated he immediately quoted us his price going to the mall but we insisted to put the meter on.  Since he refused we told him we are getting off, then he decided to turn it on.  Sneaky right?   

The day was exhasuting.  To cap the night off, I had a long Thai massage at a spa near our hotel.  Totally relieved my legs from all those walking.  Next day, our last day, we went to Baiyoke sky, since it was still early traffic jam is not yet apparent, so we took the cab.  Once we reach the place it was packed with vendors of clothes.  Considering it was drizzling that morning, it was just total chaos.  We can't even find the entrance of the hotel.  After a few round of the area, we finally did find the hotel and had a scrumptous buffet breakfast.  To walk off the calories, we decided to catch some Pratunam Early morning market a.k.a. that chaos outside the hotel.  Everything was way more cheaper than those from Platinum Mall and MBK and you can even haggle more.  It was paradise.  I was so overwhelmed I ended up buying only one garmet. Imagine that?!  For our last stop, we need to have our camera's lens fixed so we cross the road from Pratunam market towards Panthip Plaza.  If you have any needs for electronics and other gadget parts this is definitely the place. 

After Panthip, we headed back to the hotel to pack.  Bangkok is a shopper's haven.  Truly, if you want to do some fashion reselling, this is defitenitely the place to get all your supplies at a cheaper cost.  I'd love to go back there and shop, probably not with the husband.  The shopping experience is more for a girl bonding adventure.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bangkok: Foodie's Paradise

Asian food has always been a good motivation to eat out.  And among the Asian cuisines, Thai is always a winner.  A few months back, we were lucky to travel and celebrate three important occasions, my niece's birthday, our initial entry and my birthday.  Our last stop of that entire journey was Bangkok, Thailand.

If it weren't for a free accommodations we wouldn't have considered adding this country in our itinerary.  But since its expiring very soon, decided to do it.  Anyway, another reason to explore a new culture is a good excuse to extend a vacation.

I have been to Bangkok many years ago, with the whole family.  Back then, DIY vacation was not really a thing, so we spent most of our time hopping in and out of vans to visit every tourist attractions of the city.  We did a little exploring on areas near the hotel and the ones my parents were familiar with.  But this trip, my husband and I did most of the adventurous on-the-budget tourists do, DIY.

Maybe I should break down my posts into two.  This post will focus mainly on the food and the next one will be on how to go to places, well not all places in Bangkok just the ones in our itinerary.  So food!

Before leaving for Bangkok, I had to do some mega research on where and what to try in the city.  I'm a huge huge fan of Pad Thai despite it being seafood laden and I'm allergic to it.  Good thing though I can order chicken instead of shrimp.  

Pad Thai vendor

On our first night, I wanted to try Soi 38 Sukhumvit as I have read its the basic introduction to Thai street food cuisine and it is also near our hotel.  Unfortunately though, it was already a bit late and we are a bit tired from traveling 8 hours from Sydney.  So we headed straight to Khao San road.  True enough, it was a backpackers paradise.  It was a melting pot of tourists from all over the world.  right at the beginning of the street vendors sell Pad Thai, fresh fruits, crispy fried bugs, chocolate banana pancake and fresh fruit juice.  We were so hungry already so first stop was Pad Thai, ordered one heap of noodles and watch as the lady prepared our order.  Sorry don't have pictures of those fried bugs, you have to buy one to have a picture.  They were pretty strict about it.  So while eating our noodles we started exploring the street. Pad Thai cost with chicken is THB 45.00. Not bad.

Pad Thai

We stopped again on another stall that sells anything meat on skewers.  We bought this breaded chicken with some spicy sauce.  It was good but not really amazing.  The street is lined with bars and restaurants.  Most tourists, grab a table and had a couple of beers while they people watch or make new friends with fellow travelers.  We bought more meat on skewers and some rice and "not-so-spicy" viands to take home since the Pad Thai was not enough.  Oh and yes we ordered another plate of Pad Thai to take home too.  Cost of the grilled meat on skewers ranges from THB 20 and up.

The next day, of culture exploring, We stopped on some stalls along one of our walks to buy some food that looks familiar or smells really really good.  Like grilled pork, who could ever resist such delight?  And while waiting for our boat we bought this banana fritter that looks exactly like the maruya I am familiar with back at home.
Grilled Pork Belly THB 40

Banana Fritter THB 10

For lunch, we already started our shopping by then so we took it at the food court of Platinum Fashion Mall.  Unlike most fast food courts I know, Bangkok's food courts is bursting with local flavors.  You can choose a wide variety of culinary adventure.  Advice though, check most of the stalls first before ordering so you wouldn't be disappointed once you saw somebody else is carrying a yummier plate near your table.  Another good thing about their fast food, you need to change your money to vouchers/coupons so most vendors don't have to touch money when serving you.  Don't worry if you still have more fund your can refund it if you feel like you can't swallow another spoonful.  Most food costs ranges from THB 50 and up. 

Also, don't be afraid to try street food.  Most of them are worth the stop.  We bought a coconut ice cream while waiting for a cab.  It has young coconut bits, creamy coconut ice cream topped with peanuts placed inside a small coconut shell.  Truly refreshing especially if you have been walking for hours.

Coconut Ice Cream THB 20

On our last day, we decided to indulge ourselves and had a breakfast buffet at Bangkok's tallest tower.  Baiyoke Sky.  What can I say?  It was breakfast heaven!  Literally we are in heaven with the food and location.  There was so much to choose from.  I was not able to try out everything as I was already pretty stuffed by the time I had the second serving of bacon.  Oh yes!  We rarely eat those little devils that's why I hoarded.  Sorry.  Cost of buffet per head is THB 450.00. 

Table by the Window Baiyoke Sky Tower

The buffet was something I am willing to do over and over again.  For another time I guess.  There are still so many food to try next time and I believe Bangkok will always be open for the adventurous tongue.

How we got around the city click here.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saying Goodbye to an Alma Mater

I would have continued enumerating my Marisian highlights as what I have previously posted, but then I have a changed of heart.

It would be so fun to share more stories on how our speech lab gives me the creeps or the mysterious happenings during camping inside the campus.  The gossips and food shared on the red table that is not really red.  Or on how it never occurred to me why that space on the third floor of the library building is called Admin Bldg.  I could go on but then the inevitable point came where I needed to move out of that zone.  Yes, graduating.       

UCB - United Chrysolite Babes and Bugoys

In as much as most kids these days just can't wait to grow up and be a kolehiya, they don't really know what it is like to be a grown up.  They think they know - being a grown up means you have to be responsible.  Being a grown up you have to make decisions.  Being a grown up is just plain boring.

Saying goodbye to Stella Maris was bittersweet.  High school was so much fun.  Well for me it was.  High school meant I'm in that point where I can plan for my future but still remain childish.  I could joke around with my teachers and not be scared being graded while doing so ( I think!).  I have discovered that treating your teacher as some sort of a friend than a witch is much better for my learning.

Graduation could mean a lot of things for anybody  It was the culmination of all your hard work.  If it was enough for you to enter the world of collegiate.  It also means that you have to pass certain points to get into your preferred course.  It means you have to march on that stage with your head held high while your parents vigorously clap their hands knowing you have yet made a milestone in their plan for your future.  Graduation means you are almost ready to be an adult.

But for me graduation was something else, it was saying goodbye to all the 139 faces I see everyday for the past 12 years.  It was giving more space on the red table so somebody else could form friendships there.  It was returning all books so somebody else could learn from it too and perhaps doodle a little on the edges.  It was dancing one last time on the dirt covered ground for our field demo.  Pockets of good memories that could be a good topic when you meet up with old friends in the future.  That is just for me, I don't know what other 139 memories my classmates have in their pockets.

One thing is for certain though, we have one common memory that I am pretty sure that we will never ever forget.  Our graduation song.  You see, in Stella Maris we don't just adapt any inspiring song to be sung during our graduation rites, we make them.  So here is our graduation song, well just the lyrics, which sometimes I find myself singing while in the shower.

A Graduate's Farewell
by: Carnelian Class'96-'97

Look at us
See what we have become 
Feel our pride and happiness
See how far we have gone

We have reached the end of the path
Here lies the crossroads of life
Another adventure is about to begin
But do we have to say goodbye?

When the roads are too many
And we're too confused to choose
There is his rod to aid
And keep our pace
And wherever these roads roads lead
However far
Forget me not my friend as you and I
Reach our lives farthest star

Everybody bidding goodbye
Going ahead with their own journey
But I love you my dear friend
And before you leave
I have something to say
Through the blowing winds of time
We will leave nothing behind
(some lines missing...sorry)

Look at us..see what we have become   

And the song still rings truth.  We may have all went our separate ways but a Marisian will always be a brother or a sister to the rest of the Marisian community.  So I guess it will never be a goodbye, maybe its just a see-you-later thing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Marisian Life

It's funny how you sometimes do pieces of writing about little things that reminds you of a colorful childhood and it ended up being shared... like a lot?  It's overwhelmingly scary.  But in a good way...I think. I write stuff and after I think it is decent enough to reread for later I throw it into the cyber void hoping that nobody will find it.  (I'm weird that way).

Anyway!  To continue my celebration of my coral year as an acceptable human being, this is my last piece on the place I have spent 12 years of my life outside my home.  My second home - Stella Maris.

My prep Class Picture - Section Butterball

When I posted the previous piece, a lot of my friends and classmates commented on what they miss about Stella, so I'm compiling my top 20 and it is probably the same thing as most of the Marisian readers.

Grade 1 Cosmos (The Talisay tree behind is the only tree that doesn't have "til-as" - yes because it has no leaves and its probably dead already)

1.  Buying a ruler from the cashier is a very daunting task.  It was in 2nd grade, when an activity requires a ruler and I left mine at home.  But since I will be needing it in the afternoon I still have time to get one without going home.  P.S. I don't know how to get home because I take a carpool so going home is not in the list of my options.  So during recess I rushed to the cashier's office and bought a ruler or at least tried buying.
                                Me: "Ms. Teves tag-ilan ang ruler?"
                                Ms. Teves: "Walang tag-ilan dito!" (and bangs her window)
     second attempt (lunch break):  
                                Me: "Ms. Teves, may ruler po kayo?"
                                Ms. Teves: "Meron.  Ilan?"
                                Me: " Isa lang po.  Tag-ilan?" (bang! the window closed again)
So what seems to be the problem???  Maybe Ms. Teves doesn't like me.  I ended up asking my classmate to buy one for me instead.

2.  The pseudo artist.  Still in 2nd grade, it was a Thursday and our teacher informed us that we will be drawing  our favorite animal the next day, so we need to bring our drawing materials.  The ever prepared me did more than that.  I asked my Tatay to draw me a rabbit which of course I submitted the following day.  My teacher was so impressed so she posted "my" drawing on the best drawing board along with two other drawings.  Not only that, since she was so impressed she entered me to this inter-section drawing competition.  I was so mortified.  During the contest I was sweating profusely and the the thought of drawing stick people during the contest was just plain embarrassing.  So what should I do???  I fainted. The end. 

3.  The Bell.  I can't remember what grade level I was then, but there was this thing that everybody does when the bell rings during recess or lunch break.  Nope, we don't break dance, we did the opposite.  We freeze.  Whatever you are doing, when the bell rings you just have to stop.  It was weird but everybody in the school did it.  It was funny.  I could imagine those who were drinking from fountain when the bell rings.

4.  Toilet particulars.  I have developed an early hint of OCD when it comes to comfort rooms.  I must say it all started when I was introduced to the elementary CR.  It was dark, dank and dingy.  The triple D.  And it stinks like big time.  I wonder why.  And so, I have used my "tall-ish" feature and sneaked into the high school CR when I needed to tinkle. One time, during recess, I slipped into the high school CR when the bell rang, I did my business hurriedly inside the cubicle and ran outside.  And I noticed that some of the people were giving me funny looks while some sniggered.  When I reached the line I realized that my skirt accidentally got inserted in my ruffled knickers. Yes.  Red-face moment.

5.  Jeepers cleaners.  A section is divided into 5 groups that are assigned to clean the classroom at the end of the day.  Whoever is the leader will be a powerful individual.  I think, the cleaner leader and the class president almost have the same power.  You know why?  You have the power to report a classmate to the teacher.  Whoever escapes cleaning will be punished.  That's how serious cleaning is in Stella is. :)   I was so dedicated in cleaning that in 6th grade, I volunteered to clean the classroom during lunch break.  During lunch breaks all classrooms are closed/locked but since our classroom was at the newly added wing to the school and our teachers stayed during the break, we can go up there and clean.  Unfortunately for us, the janitor saw us and reported us to the prefect.  I cried so hard when we were sent to the office of the school's Prefect.  It was my first time but not the last.  As punishment, we swept the hallway floor from entrance to the canteen.  Traumatic.

6.  The Talisay tree.  The school ground is surrounded by big Talisay trees.  And each tree has this concrete bench around it.  It serves as a hangout place for everybody.  But there are two or three particular Talisay trees that breed the most hideous "til-as" ever.  When it gets in contact with your skin it is crazy itchy.   I have only loved those kind of trees when I reached high school.  The two trees fronting the high school building are the best places to copy assignments and people watch.

7.  Cheering grandslam.  We never won.  No matter how cute our cheer leaders were.  Or no matter how loud we were.  No matter how funny our cheers were.  We just can't have the title of a winning batch.  This is probably a curse.  Curse of the Che Che Bole.

8.  The short cut.  When an additional wing was built at back of the existing elementary building, a short cut was made so you don't have to go down just to go to the next building.  Rumor has it that a white lady guards that pathway.  That's why I never pass that short cut alone because I sort of believe it.  Or maybe because I'm just a scaredy cat.

9. Chit or Cheat or Cheet.  I will never know the correct spelling.  This is the money we used during special events in school a.k.a. Sportsfest and Foundation day.  Its one of the events in school I usually look forward to because I don't get to wear my uniform and we can buy junk foods that are usually sold outside the school.  But we don't use the real money, we change it into this sort of play money thing.  We call it "chit/cheat/cheet" I don't know where the term originated.

10.  The first time I fell in love.  No!  Not with a boy! I fell in love with books.  Who knew about love during elementary days?!  I haven't discovered comb at that time yet.  Books just took me to places.  That was the time when I wanted to be as adventurous as Nancy Drew or have a twin like Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield.  And this affair with the books have flourished until now and I think my friends still think I earmark the parts of "the birds and the bees."

So I have to cut the list short and make another post.  Like Harry Potter, Hunger Games and even Twilight have to cut their final chapter into two movies.  It's not because I wanted more attention (you think?!) but the post is too long already and I'm probably boring you.  So, off to the next page!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How I Survived Chinese School

It was 1986 while the Philippines was still singing the theme song for People's Power, my parents realized that having me ran around the entire day will only bring more scabs on my knees and nothing else.  So they have decided to enroll me to this good school that could probably give me the right education I need and be a productive citizen in the future - a Chinese School.

Me and my kababata Miss J

And you would wonder why.  Oh before we continue, a little background about me.  I was born and raised in a Filipino household with Filipino parents.  The only Chinese influence we ever had at home was limited to tikoy, chop suey and mahjong.  So it was a bit surprising why our parents chose a Catholic Chinese school - Stella Maris Academy.  I take that back, I wasn't surprised at all.  I don't even care back then.

I would have you know that I am actually very proud to have graduated from this prestigious school.  Let me tell you a little background on my alma mater.  Come to think of it, I don't actually know anything about it except that it is run by the Hijas de Jesus and we always celebrate the feast of Mother Candida every August and Foundation day on December.  Despite of that Stella is like home to me, even though I'm not Chinese I actually feel I belong to this institution. And so you would wonder how I was able to graduate even without any concrete Chinese background?  Here's 5 things:

1.  I have hard working parents.  Being enrolled to an expensive school is not possible if it weren't for my parents.  Yes, I am kicking off my 5 points in a sentimental note.  Back then I was not aware of the tuition fees of schools such as Stella Maris.  I go to school sometimes begrudgingly because I still want to sleep.  And I celebrate with so much enthusiasm if there is heavy rain and the school vicinity is flooded.  However, when it was my brother's turn to go to school I sometimes do his enrollment and saw the fee.  It was scary.  So I am forever grateful that my parents enrolled us here.

2.  I am a hard working student. Of course!  Hard working parents usually bore hard working children.  I study quite a lot.  Of all the subjects I have taken, Chinese was one of the easiest maybe because I just need to memorize, pronounce and write the characters.  Honestly, I can no longer remember the Chinese classes I took during elementary.  By the way, during our time, we were lucky that Chinese classes are only for elementary students.  When you get to high school you are free.  Anyway, back to my classes.  I could only remember a few words and characters.  Numbers was the easiest plus I could put it into good use especially when haggling for discounts. *wink*wink* The birthday song and half of Hail Mary in Chinese.  And lastly some cuss words.  Who could forget bad words?  They are the easiest to remember. 

3.  We have a close-knit community.  In Stella Maris, I know the same people from elementary until I graduated high school.  Some I get to bond and be close with.  The institution is located within a residential area so expansion is not possible.  Classes are limited to 4 sections per year level.  When I graduated in high school there were a total of 140 students.  That's just like the short guest list for a wedding right?  We know almost everybody.  Every face is familiar not just the students of the same year level but as well as the older and younger. 

4.  We have Manang Bining's Lumpia, Betty's Egg Sandwich, Nong Roger's bbq and the Fishball.  during break time, students flock the canteen for the fried lumpia.  And Manang Bining, the canteen overseer, is in charge of the lumpia.  It is always a best seller. The sauce.  Who could ever forget that weird sauce.  I'm not a big vegetable eater, but that lumpia just makes me want to swallow all the vegetables inside that spring roll.  A semi-expensive canteen in front of the school, Betty's also sells a very good egg sandwich.  As a treat every Friday, my friends, my sister and I will use our saved up allowance to buy one.  And if we are in a good mood we'd buy some pork barbeque from Kuya Roger.  And lastly the fishball, who could ever forget the fishballs?  For 1 peso you get to skewer 5 fishballs and dip it into the sauce.  *Sigh* I miss those vendors outside the school.  I wonder if they are still there.

5.  We have access to books and we interact with each other.  Before technology have taken so much of our time especially the youth who spend more time doing selfies and whatever, my friends and I hang out the library.  Yes, it sounded lame and nerdy but Stella's library back then was entertaining.  I guess for me and my friends, it was.  We get to use some of the facilities of the library and we get to sleep.  We were lucky we have befriended the librarian else we won't have those privileges.  Books and magazines were more appreciated back then.

So there you have it.  My big five factors that made my Chinese school experience awesome.  Yes we have zero base system which made most of us achievers, yes we have no special section which gives every student the chance to be on the top and yes we have a uniform that looks like a table cloth.  But, I love everything about Stella Maris.  Every nook and cranny of the the institution houses my fondest memories of my elementary and high school years from the moment I learned to say "Sensei Zao an." 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

5 Realizations Before Turning 10

I love mornings.  Everyday while I'm preparing breakfast, I can look out of our kitchen window and see our neighbor's help doing about their usual morning routine.  At around 7:15 am a lady will go out from a smaller building behind the main house which I assume is the kitchen carrying a huge tray with some food on it.  It is probably food as it was covered with shiny cloches.  Then after some time a man will also walk by from another small building still at the back of the main house carrying a big garbage bag, he'll take the service gate which is near the servant's quarter going outside the compound to throw whatever he was carrying.  Like clockwork, I witness the same routine every morning.  Its nice watching them do their chores unaware of me watching them.  After typing this I feel like I'm already invading their privacy.  Oh well.

Where was I? Yes, mornings.  I love it.  It reminds me of waking up in our house in Davao city.  At 5:30 am our house is already bustling with ordered chaos.  We have a bakery attached to our house.  So pandesal and a lot of other noises greet us in the morning.  Pandesal served piping hot for only 0.50 pesos.  At least that's how I last remembered it.  *Sigh* Simple life.  How I long to have those days again.

In a few days from now, I'll reach my coral year.  Yes, I am way up there already.  And the number just reminds me a lot of things, like simpler things.  Back then before I turned 10 years old there are just some things I should have not taken for granted.

Realization No. 1:  I am a girl and not a boy.  Before I was introduced to dolls and kerokeropi, I like playing with guns and running around with the boys in our village.  My Tatay made me this wooden toy gun which I put inside my pockets like you do to a holster.  I would wear a maong jacket and a fisherman hat and chase the boys like Fernando Poe Jr. or Erap Estrada would do in the movies.  (Sorry Robin Padilla and Jeric Raval came into the picture at a later year.)  My nanny would chase me while I ran and climb the gate to play with the village boys in the afternoon just to skip afternoon naps which then leads me to my realization number 2.

Photo taken from the Net

Realization No.2:  I should have taken those afternoon naps, maybe I would have been taller than I am right now *wink*.  Before the time of cable televisions, iPads, Xbox and what not, playing outside the entire day until its dark is the most important part of my daily life.  But this realization took quite some time because while in elementary I was tall.  I mean, I'm one of the tallest girls in class.  When we line up for the flag ceremony I always stand at the back as I am taller.  While my grade level increase my place in the line moves further in the front.  I ended up as one of the smallest in our class by the time I graduated high school.  Bummer.

Photo taken from the net (I'm not this cute)

Realization No.3:  Remember I mentioned above that we play until it was dark?  Part of my activity then was also reading outside.  Not books of course but comics!  And when I say comics not Archie and His Friends comics but those comics with 10 pages that are sold in sari-sari stores.  A small store near our house sells cigarettes, candies and other grocery stuffs display this kind of comics.  For those born during the 80's I guess the Tagalog Klasiks, Pinoy Klasiks, Komedi will sound familiar.  I'd stay outside that store pretending to man the store for the old lady, and if she's not looking I'll take one of those comics and read it under a very dim  street light.  I ended up wearing glasses at an early age.  Realization conclusion, I should have ran away with it and read it inside our brightly lit house.

Photo taken from the net
Photo taken from the net

Realization No. 4:  There are boys and there are other kind of boys.  In kindergarten, I think I had my first crush.  He was this frail looking boy who sits in front of me.  In preschool, we are required to sit on the floor cross legged and since I was a bit "taller" I sit at the back.   I stare at the back of his head everyday and it makes me smile when he turns around and looks at me with those big round eyes.  I remember one time he touched my hand while he was talking (I can't remember what we were talking about probably something to do with boogers and all), I can still remember my face warmed when he touched me (yes I developed those feeling early on, I blame the Filipino comics).  He was a talkative boy and laughs a lot and dances a lot.  One time because we were so noisy our teacher wouldn't let us go home so the girls started crying and he, well he just started doing the same but in a chicken-dance way.  My teacher was so angry she pulled him using her wooden cane ( I think that incident should have been reported).  So he cried more.  Among the boys he was the only one who cried.

Realization No. 5:   Never skip on eating rice.  You know how are kids are during dinner time.  Very unpredictable.  One minute they like fried chicken the next time they think its poison.  I was one of those kids.  One night, my nanay won't let us drink our Milo if we didn't finish our dinner.  I don't feel like eating rice then because well, I'm a kid.  My sister, good girl that she is, cried while she forced herself to swallow spoonfuls of rice and chicken.  While scheming me, got another plate took a tablespoon of rice smeared it on the new plate and ran to my nanay to show her I finished my plate.  She clapped happily and was about to make me some Milo when she saw my original plate.  Yes, I got an earful of loving words.  Now, as much as I want to eat as many rice as I can cook, I just can't anymore.  No, I'm not allergic.  Let's just say rice makes me swell like a balloon.      

Monday, September 1, 2014

My First Almost Hala Bira!

It has been discussed a hundred times in school and more during family dinners even the news features it during January but I never get to experienced it until this year - 2014.  In the Philippines, January holds one of the most prestigious festival in the country.  This festival is in honor of the child Jesus or commonly known as the Sto. Nino.  Most provinces in Visayas celebrate this feast on a Sunday of January.

The festival's highlight is when the Sto. Nino is brought out from the convent into the Main Church and the tribal dance parade.  Plenty of the locals flock the church to witness the Sto. Nino and to have the chance to touch the statue for healing powers.  It was believed that if you touched the statue you will be healed with any illnesses.

Luckily, I have relatives to take us to the church and take part in the ceremony.  After a short ride from Boracay pier, we were fetched by my cousin to go straight to Ibajay.  That is my father's hometown and where the Ati-Atihan will take place.  Before you get confuse, Ati-Atihan in Aklan is celebrated on different Sundays depending on the town.  It is common knowledge that Ati-Atihan is on January 15 but this is only in the city of Kalibo Aklan.  For Ibajay, it is on the 3rd Sunday of January.  We were there on the day before the festival so just in time that the Sto. Nino will be brought out of the convent.

We arrived at the church around 11 am.  This is usually the time the Sto. Nino will be carried to the Church from the Convent.  The church ground was teeming with locals and tourists who are all dancing in the drum beats of the bands who are basically circling the church.  It was loud, hot and sticky but the atmosphere is just amazing.  Everybody was dancing and smiling.  Some people were already smeared with "uling." It is a ground charcoal wet with water and is used as make-up during the festival.  While me and my husband were looking too clean, a lot of passers-by smeared us with "uling."  My husband got more uling on his face than I did.  To think he was taller than most average Filipinos there, people reached out to put some uling on his face.  Well, good for him. 

When the Sto. Nino was carried out, people followed it inside the church, my cousin told me we should get inside and hopefully touch the statue.  The throng of people inside the church was just too overwhelming.  We were pushed in every direction.  Good thing no stampede happened and I was not trampled over (which I was already thinking might happen during the entire course of being pushed inside the church).  We were able to go near the Nino.  I whispered a simple prayer when I received the shirt my husband threw to touch the statue.  I haven't done this before but it won't hurt if I believe.

 Unfortunately we were not able to stay longer as our flight going back to Manila was on the same day.  Perhaps another year to witness the tribal dance and yes get to know my relatives in Ibajay more.  Maybe the next time I come back my wish will already be granted and I'll get the chance to do the "sad-sad" and sing "hala bira!" 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fun Under the Boracay Sun

Today was one sweaty day.  After a tedious house hunting, smooth shifting and finally settling in, I was able to do more of my regular chores now.  One of which was doing some bank visits, so I have to venture the desert heat.  And it was absolutely torturous.  Good thing though it was windy and I have my handy umbrella to keep me shaded.  The warm wind and the scorching sun reminded me of our short getaway to the island where the party runs 24 hours - yes, it is Philippine's very own Boracay.


an adorable kid playing while I was lounging by the beach
A few months ago, we were lucky to take a short vacation to hop on a plane and visit the white sand beach of Boracay.  It has been over a decade since I last set foot on the island.  A lot has changed but the vibe is still there.  Albeit the overlapping of stores, restaurants, and hotels, Boracay still has that beat of tropical paradise.  The beach was as inviting as I remembered it to be.  The food, may I just say, was overwhelming.  Bars and restaurants teemed the island.  You can choose from any cuisine 24/7.  I was so happy - yes with the food and the massages being offered left and right (not for free of course!).

I can't possibly describe Boracay in one single blog entry.  I suggest you visit the island and experience it yourself.  But of course, every getaway needs to be planned ahead to have a headache free sun frolicking.  Finding hotels in Boracay is difficult.  Not because there are few but the exact opposite.  If you are the adventurous type, you can hop on a plane this very day and go to Boracay without any hotel reservation and will still be able to find one before the sun sets.

I found this website where I can download the map of the island.

Hotels are listed so you can take the name and search it online.  Or if you want to the easier route you can use the website for hotel reservation.  The link is here

Now, from the airport going to the island that is also another issue.  The island is being catered by two airports - Kalibo International Airport and the Caticlan Airport.  If you will be coming in from Kalibo Airport, it will be an hour and 45 minutes drive from the city to the ferry terminal.  While that from Caticlan will only take you 15 minutes.  Or you can even walk from that airport to the ferry terminal.  Since our plane will be landing in Kalibo we were lucky to find Southwest Tours Boracay.  They will make your transfer from the airport to your hotel in Boracay as smooth as possible.  Their rate was reasonable and inclusive of the taxes and fares at the ferry terminal.  Check out their different packages for their services here

Now the main experience.  Our first night we arrived at the hotel around 10:30 pm.  At this late you would be worried that no restaurants and shops will be open, but in Boracay the party is just starting.  Our hotel was located at Station 2 so walked toward Station 1 to look for good eats.  Fast foods are also everywhere if you don't feel like trying out the restos at the moment.  Since we were so hungry and overwhelmed with everything we ended up eating hotdogs and burgers at Jammers.  Its right by the entrance of the D'Mall.

First day in Boracay, we have to check the beach of course.  Luckily, it was a sunny day perfect for swimming.  If you are just strolling along the shore, a lot of activity vendors will be offering their services.  They offer banana boat riding, snorkeling, island hopping, and etc.  along the beach you can also do some serious shopping for beach stuff and souvenirs.  And to totally feel the Boracay experience have your hair braided and have a henna tattoo anywhere in your body.  Of course shops and services in this area is pretty expensive, good finds are located in D'Talipapa.

D'Talipapa is a hidden gem for seafood lovers and bargain hunters.  If you are buying souvenir stuff for a big lot, try to get it at the D'Talipapa you can get huge discounts plus they are a bit cheaper compared to the vendors along the beach.  At the D'Talipapa, the seafood market is where most of the seafood lovers hang out.  You can buy the freshest seafood you can find and have it cook there.  It's fresh in capital F.

At night, buffet dining is everywhere.  You just have to choose according to your budget.  Price ranges from Php 250 to Php 450.  After dinner, you need to walk off those calories and enjoy the cool breeze of the beach and watch some fire dancers light up the night.

Three days in the island, I think was too short.  It's not that I like toasting my already tanned body under the sun, but I just like the feeling of lying under the trees by the beach and enjoying the sound of the waves while munching on green mangoes.  *sigh*  Another time I guess.


Monday, May 5, 2014

The Life-In-Abu-Dhabi Calculator: Chapter 4 - Food and Grocery

Once you have settled in to your little comfort zone.  Next to consider is how to feed your tummy.  We don't want to forget that.  Food is the most basic necessity of every living and breathing entity.

If you are the cooking type, it will help you save a lot in your daily expenditures.  Most Filipino opt to cook as ingredients are cheaper and almost everything is available.  If you are just renting a bed space some landlords/caretaker lend their cooking utensils to the renters.  The thing is you have to wait for your turn if in case one tenant is using it.  So if you have extra cash buy yourself a small rice cooker, a small sauce pan and a frying pan.

Some of the things you would also be needing are spoon and fork, a mug, some bed sheets, blanket and pillow case.  There are some bed space that only provide mattress so you need to buy a pillow too.  Before using the provided mattress check with bed bugs.  It is a must.  Before I came here I didn't know what bed bugs were (don't judge!).  So my first week, my legs were full of red blotches.  I thought it was just allergy, turned out I was feeding a huge population of bed bugs on our new mattress!! The mattress was new but the place we rented was just full of bed bugs.  I guess they were there first before we did.  We have actually invaded their space.

So where to buy these stuff?

Abu Dhabi is full of grocery stores and supermarkets.  So you can choose where ever you want to buy your groceries from.  For specialty stores there are some small grocery shops that sell ethnic ingredients.  For Filipino ingredients the go to place is the Green House and Queen Saba.  There are two Green House stores in the city one is corner of Najda St., and Electra St and one is along the old airport road.  The Queen Saba store is in Tourist Club Area behind Al Salama Hospital.

Before we used to have a flatmate who is from Kazakhstan and she usually cooks her native dishes over the weekend.  Ingredients were particularly difficult to find in local groceries and she told me, she got it from a store near Russian Embassy.  I don't know the name of the store, so if you are looking for some Russian ingredients or cooked meals have a little tour around Russian Embassy area in Hamdan.

For Chinese ingredients, there is a Chinese store along Salam St., They have almost everything you need when you want to make your own "shabu-shabu" at home.  For Indian ingredients most of it are readily available in big supermarkets.  It is the same for Thai but a wider range of spices and sauces are available in Choitram.

So how much are you going to allot for the necessities?  Here are some of the prices of grocery stuff as of 24 April 2014:

Small rice cooker - price starts at AED 49 and up, depending on the size and brand.
Sauce pan - price starts at AED 15 and up
Frying pan - price starts at AED 15 and up
bed sheet - price starts at AED 10 and up, depending on the size
blanket - price starts at AED 10 and up, depending on the size
pillow - price starts at AED 15
Jasmine rice - AED 27.00
egg - AED 3.75 for 6 pieces pack
milk - AED 4.50 for tetrapak and AED 5.50 for bottled fresh milk
cooking oil - AED 6.50
coffee - AED 15.90 for Nescafe three in one box of 28 pieces
chicken - AED 9.00 for whole frozen chicken 800-1000 grams a piece.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The-Life-In-Abu-Dhabi Calculator: Chapter 3 - Transportation

Roaming around the city is one way of familiarizing with the place.  If you are a newbie going around Abu Dhabi it is advisable that you take the taxi.

Taxicabs here in Abu Dhabi is not so expensive compared to Dubai.  Flag down rate is around AED 3.00 during the day then a bit pricier by night which starts at AED 4.00.  If you will be riding the taxi around 9 pm and up minimum charge is AED 10 even if the meter reads less than AED 10.  Another plus point when taking the taxicab is you can be assured that you will reach your destination faster and safer than by taking the bus or by walking.  Taxicabs are the best solution if you want to be fresh and on time for an interview or to get to the office faster.  It would be difficult to get a taxi during school days, so better be early to avoid the morning rush.  You can also call a cab through number 600 53 53 53 to pick you up.

A few weeks in Abu Dhabi and you'd want to hop on that bus and explore more of Abu Dhabi.  I did that once, when I was still new here, I decided to be adventurous and took a bus ride.  Took the No. 54 from Hamdan going to Al Wahda mall.  After a few rounds in the mall it was time to go home.  From the same bus stop where I got off, I took the same bus and imagine my fright when the scenery was no longer familiar.  I ended up in Umm Al Naar Petroleum Institute.  Good thing the bus drivers were nice and informed me that I should alight from the bus stop across the mall.  Lesson learned the hard way - I got an earful from the hubby for that.

Anyway, here are some tips when taking the bus:

a.) Bus No. 5 Landmark stops:
                  -  Abu Dhabi Mall
                  -  Tourist Club City Air Terminal
                  -  Central Souq Market/ WTC Mall
                  -  Hamdan Center
                  -  Spinney's Corniche
                  -  Marina Mall

b.) Bus No. 8 Landmark stops:
                  - Lifeline Hospital
                  - Khalidiya Mall
                  - Philippine Embassy

c.) Bus No. 9 Landmark stops
                 - Philippine Embassy
                 - Marina Mall

d.) Bus No. 11 Landmark stops  
                  -  Al Wahda Mall
                  -  Philippine Embassy
                  -  Spinney's Corniche
                  -  Marina Mall

e. Bus No. 54 Landmark stops:
                  - Hamdan Street/ Al Salama Hospital
                  - Central Market Souq/ WTC Mall
                  - Al Wahda Mall

Bus fare is AED 2.00 if within the city, outside the city would be AED 4.00.  Before boarding the bus be sure to have enough change.  Bus cards or "Ojra Bus Pass" are also available in the amount of AED 30 for a week or AED 80.00 for one month.  For more information regarding bus fares, cards and routes click here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Life-In-Abu Dhabi Calculator - Chapter 2 Accommodation

So you have finally landed in the land of the zaby.

What's the next move?  Look for an accommodation, of course.  Some of you who ventured to visit UAE for employment usually has a contact here to assist you in your adventure.  If its your first time to go outside your own country, the first week would probably end up as the sight seeing period.  You would be so overwhelmed with the activities and the culture you are currently in.  The food, the place and even the people are just so interesting.  But after some time the excitement of being in another country subsides a bit, then you'd start thinking about why you came in this country.  The constant issues here for expats are housing and employment.

Finding a lodging where you are comfortable, near where you will work and cheap is very hard to come by.  Something is always missing among the three factors stated.  One factor will always be sacrificed. 

For the individual on a super tight budget.  The cheapest way to get a good night's sleep is through renting a bed space.  Bed spacing is basically what it is called you will only be renting a bed space.  In a room there will be three to four bunk beds.  Therefore there will be 6-8 person in one room.  If you want a little privacy you can put up a little curtain around your space so you will have your own little world within your bed area.  The bed space occupant will also have to deal with sharing toilet with the rest of the flat if the room you are renting doesn't have an attached bathroom.  Occupants can also vary, there are rooms with mix occupants and there are some rooms with one gender occupant.  Bed space cost ranges from AED 750 to AED800 per month. 

bed space picture grabbed from yahoo

For the individual with somewhat more moolah to spare.  The partition accommodation is your type of living space.  The partition rental is a room subdivided by a partition or in other words you will be sharing the room with one individual.  This is lesser crowd in the room and more space for you.  You can use cabinets/cupboards/ or curtains to serve as your divider.  This accommodation costs around AED 1000 to AED 1500 per month

For the individual who can afford a bigger space with privacy you can rent out an entire room.  You can have the entire room to yourself where you can set up your own living space with a sitting area and a small nook where you can eat and entertain.  Most couples/family rent this type of accommodation.  The room costs ranges from AEd 2500 to AED 3500.  The price depends if the room has an attached bathroom or a sharing bathroom.

For those who wants to have the whole units on their own a.k.a. not sharing anything with anybody (I'm not implying you are selfish - you are just shy *wink*)  you can rent out a studio unit or a studio flat.  This actually depends on the number of occupants.  If you are single a studio unit is fine.  But if you are single but likes to entertain a lot, a single bedroom unit is better.  Flats and units depend mostly on the size and location.  Most units located in the CBD will cost higher.  The good thing about living within downtown area is that transportation is easier but if you have a car parking is another issue.  Costs for studio units ranges from AED 30,000 to AED 60,000 annually.   For One bedroom units cost ranges from AED 45,000 to AED 80,000 annually.  If you are lucky, you can also find monthly rental for studio units. 

Advice to those who will be renting out to studio units, check with the agent if the unit has a tawtheeq or checked by the municipality.  A benefit if you have a rental contract and a tawtheeq is that it will be easier for you to get a visa for a family member if you want to sponsor any of them to go here.

Ads for accommodations can be found online through under properties and Dubizzle under properties for rent.  Some public bulletins also post ads like in Abela Supermarket, Spinneys in Corniche and even St. Joseph Church have this ads posted.  If you are keen, you can also find ads posted on lamp posts on the streets or phone booths.  People are just so creative to get the word out with less cost.  

adds on phone booth (grabbed from yahoo)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Life-In-Abu Dhabi Calculator - Chapter 1 Visa

I have been frequenting this forum where questions are posted about what needs to be done to go here in Abu Dhabi, or what is the average salary that could keep you comfortable living here or just how much everything here in UAE costs.  So I have decided to break down necessary parts of living the life of an Expat here in UAE with numbers.

So when traveling to foreign lands most of us would be required a visa.  For a Philippine Passport holder like me, we need it.  There are a few number of visas you could choose from depends on the type of stay you will be doing here.

Visit Visa - This is usually issued by a sponsor to be applied at Abu Dhabi Naturalization & Residence Directorate (ADNRD) at Al Saada Road.  Typing offices are located at the left side outside the office of ADNRD.  This is where you will submit the following documents:
                                                   -  photocopy of the sponsor's passport
                                                   -  photocopy of the visitor's passport
                                                   -  1 pc 2x2 picture
                                                   -  visit visa application form
                                                   -  employment contract
                                                   -  tenancy contract
When we applied for my parent's visit visa, we paid AED 200 per parent and a deposit of AED 1000 per parent.  This deposit will be refunded once the visitor leaves the country.  The visa will be couriered after 3 days to the sponsor.  Please take note that visit visa is only applicable for parents, wife/husband and children.

Tourist Visa - This visa can be obtained from many outlet.  Some airlines like Etihad Airways issue tourist visas to those who will be flying with them.  Also, hotels where you will be staying at can also issue tourist visa for you.  The most common, at least from what I know, is through a travel agent.  I also got my brother's tourist visa through the travel agent since siblings are not allowed to be sponsored.  Visa fees depend on the length of stay of the visitor here in the UAE.  The cheapest visa is the 14-day visa.  If you are really just going to visit a relative here in the UAE the 14-day tourist visa is what you need.  I have already bought two (2) tourist visa from two different travel agents.  The first travel agent charged me AED 550.00 for the processing plus another AED 100 for the printing.  The second travel agent  charged me a total of AED 500.  So I went with the cheaper one.  Of course!  The processing usually takes a week or so.  Then you can get the copy from the travel agent and send it to the person who will be visiting you. 

Another tourist visa usually requested by my kabayans is the 30-day visa or the 60 day visa.  The same process is being followed but the fee could go as high as AED 750 and above.  Documents required for tourist visa are the following:
                                                 -  passport copy of the sponsor
                                                 -  passport copy of the visitor
                                                 -  1 pc 2x2 picture of the visitor

If you are from the GCC countries, you don't need a visa to get into UAE.  There are also some lucky countries that are given a free of charge visa upon arrival.  If you want to know more or if your country is one of the lucky ones, click here.

While waiting for the release of the visa, you should apply for Affidavit of Support and an OEC from the Philippine Embassy.  These documents will be asked from the visitor once they pass through the Immigration Officer in the Philippines.

Entry Visa - I have used to this visa twice since I came here in Abu Dhabi.  First was way back in 2010 when there was not much required documents needed to apply for it.  Over the course of 3 years, it has changed and more and more documents are needed.  It will be more difficult to bring in a family member because of most of the accommodations do not provide the documents you need to apply for visa.  Like in our case, our rental contract doesn't have a Tawtheeq permit.  This permit is also needed when applying for this kind of visa.  The same procedure will be done as with the visit visa, you submit documents at the typong center beside the ADNRD Office. Here are the requirements for applying entry visa:
                                                      -  passport copy of the sponsor
                                                      -  passport copy of the wife/husband
                                                      -  1 pc passport size photo
                                                      -  sponsor's salary certificate
                                                      -  emirates id of the sponsor
                                                      -  employment contract
                                                      -  house rental contract with Tawtheeq permit

You would also be needing electric and water bill, depends on the officer evaluating your documents.  Sometimes, they will look for a copy and sometimes if you are lucky they could just waive it.  By the way, this entry visa will only be used upon entry to UAE a permanent residence visa shall be stamped into the passport of the wife/husband after a medical exam.  The cost for the entry visa is AED 250 which will take 3-5 days.  However, if you want it immediately you will need to pay additional AED 100.00.  Also, please take note that there is a minimum salary requirement for this type of visa.  For details please click here.

I hope I covered the necessary information or issue when applying for visas here in UAE.  Note:  This is only applicable to Philippine Passport holders.

Travel Agents:

Paradise Holidays LLC
Tel. No. +971 02 6666943+971 02 6666943
Look for Ms. Rachel

Al Maha Travel & Tourism
Tel. No. +971 02 6770222+971 02 6770222
Look for Ms. Mary