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.