Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Photo Shoot in ANILAO

Anilao is a diver's paradise in the Philippines. It is popular because of its very beautiful and enchanted diving sites. Anilao is good for an amateur or novice diver as well as experienced diver. The waters are teeming with marine life, plenty of corals and fishes. Anilao is not far from Manila... actually it is only 2 1/2 hours away which make it the closest weekend paradise for divers. It is located in the southeast tip of Batangas in a town called Mabini. Anilao is not for beach lovers because there are lots of rocks and corals.... no powdery sand beaches... but the ocean facing it promises a tantalizing life of sea creatures.

Due to Anilao's steep location, all most all of the resorts here are built along the hillsides of the mountains overlooking the sea. Steep roads, and vertical steps inside the resorts can bring health benefits for weight watchers but very dangerous for children.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


After having this dumplings at the BINONDO WOK ... I decided to do some experimenting again in my kitchen.... this time.... I am trying to make KUCHAY and PORK dumplings. Kuchay are Chinese chives.. and it will be one of the main ingredients for my dumplings today. I guarantee you --- it is so easy to do--- you can have it for " merienda " ...


1lb ground pork
4 pcs. dried mushrooms ( soaked in water and chopped finely )
12 pcs. chives ( chopped finely )
1 whole egg
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
dimsum wrapper.. ( try to get the round wrappers instead of the square ones )

* to seal your dumplings --- you need a mixture of 1 tsp cornstarch and 2 tbsp water.


+ Mix all the ingredients above except the dimsum wrapper. Then get a tablespoon and spoon the mixture into your dimsum wrapper. Form them into dumplings. These dumplings can either be steamed or pan fried.  Leftover dumplings or dumpling mixture can be stored in the  freezer. Arrange them in a plastic container so that they do not touch each other.... ( don't  put uncooked dumplings in freezer bags  ).

Happy Cooking!!!!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bringing back old memories of Escolta

During it's golden days, Escolta was described as " THE STREET with many fashionable shops and department stores that display every item of imported and Philippine origin". It was the shopping capital of the rich and privileged Filipinos who were known as the Ilustrados.  In my younger days-- I would go to Escolta almost daily to fetch my dad who worked at Security Bank and on weekends I would be seen with my friends watching a movie at the Capitol or Lyric Theater.

I still remember  some of the big names before----Savory, Soriente Santos,  Rebullida, Heacock's, Botica Boie, Berg's, Syvel's, La Estrella del Norte, Oceanic ( where we would buy original watches ) to name a few... I had a favorite department store that time--- it was the one located near Quiapo , The Aguinaldo's Department Store. Most of the buildings are gone now... replaced by modern edifices occupied by banks and fast food chains. Yes, Escolta still exists but its glory is gone.

During the Spanish times , Escolta was the most expensive strip of real estate in the land. It is in Escolta where the country's first multi-storied buildings rose. Today, Escolta is in total decay. The banks have moved out. Capitol theater is now a shell. Lyric Theater was demolished and now a school has been built on its site. All the upscale stores that once lined Escolta are all gone.  My stroll down memory lane was a complete let down.

Although there were still a few buildings which I can still see as we walked down the main street. Some of the Art Deco buildings in Escolta still stand to this day.... marred by tangled electrical cables, there were still a lot of eye-catching architectural masterpieces that greeted us as we walked down the street. Here are some of the buildings I saw.....

REGINA BUILDING - This building was built in 1934 by Andres Luna de San Pedro. ( Juan Luna's son ). It was originally designed as a three-story commercial building. When the de Leon family bought the building from the Roxases, a fourth floor was added by Architect Fernando Ocampo -- who was the founder of the UST College of Architecture. This building also housed the world's largest steamship company, Madrigal Shipping.

BURKE BUILDING - This building had the first elevator in the Philippines. It was named after William Burke  who introduced and installed the first electrocardiograph in the country.

CAPITOL THEATER - It was built in 1935. It was designed by Architect Juan Nakpil. The Capitol theater was built in Art Deco style which was a rave in the 1930's. It was one of the two cinema houses along the strip of Escolta... the other one is Lyric ( I tried to look for it --- but unfortunately it was not there anymore )... Capitol Theater had a sitting capacity of 800 and had 2 balconeys. One for Lodge ( this was for group dates ) and Balcony was for lovers... I still remember that there was a beautiful mural in the lobby of Capitol Theater done by Victorio Edades, a national artist... Now this building is nothing else but a dilapidated shell.

SYVEL'S - was a very high end department store then.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A wonderful weekend in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, after Bangkok. After rediscovering Chiang Mai in my previous visits to Thailand ... Many tourists have already discovered Chiang Mai, and many of them come back several times as there is always more to see and do in Thailand's " Rose of the North ".  I prefer to always stay longer in Chiang Mai rather than Bangkok. Things are cheaper there, the people are friendlier, the pace of life is less hectic than Bangkok and there are a lot of photo opportunities in Chiang Mai.... and lastly.... the traffic situation in Chiang Mai is a hundred times better than Bangkok.

Chiang Mai is a very walkable city for those willing and able. But there are many transportation options as well. Public transportations include tuk tuks and taxis. Tuk tuks are very noisy, and the passengers are breathing exhaust fumes from the tuk tuk itself and the traffic the whole time... These tuk tuks are fun for short trips around Chiang Mai. Their taxis are also cute. They look like little trucks and the passenger sits at the back. The tuk tuk and taxis do not have meters, therefore you should agree on the amount to be paid beforehand. A typical tuk tuk ride is about 60 Baht for in town transportation, and the taxis charge around 120 Baht.

Among the many attractions in Chiang Mai, one can't ignore the decorative temples that adorn the city. There are 350 temples in Chiang Mai, some of them are as old as the city. I enjoy visiting many  temples every time I am in Chiang Mai. Even though there are many similarities, each one of them is unique in many ways.

Chiang Mai's Sunday Walking Street

To me, everywhere is great for shopping because I am a shopaholic--- who knows how to look for stuffs to buy.  I don't care much about brand name, but I buy according to my liking and mood at that moment. I had a great time shopping at the night bazaar of Chiang Mai but only managed to buy a little at the walking street. Some of the things are overpriced but you can bargain for a better price. If not, Just walk over to the next stall most likely you will find the same thing you wanted there.

Every saturday and sunday evening...right in front of the hotel where we stayed -- they would close the whole street and convert it into a walking street.  Yes, Chiang Mai has a walking street food market... wherein you can buy your meal for the evening from the traders. Do not worry... they cook the food right in front of you as you give your order.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


The traditional weaving is a slow and long " labor of love " process. Silk manufacture is an ancient craft. Thai silk is one of the finest fabrics in the world. Natural dyes are used to color the silk. After it is dyed and dried -- the silk is then spun into continuos yarn on wooden reels ready for weaving. Silk cloth is lightweight, but warm in cool weather. Real silk is comfortable in hot weather, because it absorbs moisture without feeling wet.

 The weavers operating with their hand looms can only produce about two to three yards of Thai silk fabric in a single day even if they are very skilled and experienced in their  craft.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flight of the Gibbon - my latest adventure

The Flight of the Gibbon is a unique zip-line adventure through a pristine, 1500 year old rainforest in MAE KOMPONG... a 1 1/2 hour away from Chiang Mai. There are 18 special viewing platforms,  3 skybridges and 3 vertical drop stations ( which they call rappel drops ) that connect over 2 kilometers of zip-lines that takes you through different layers of the rainforest. The adventure is around 2 hours up on the treetops, lunch and a one-hour river or waterfall trek. 

The participants wear a secured full-body harness, and are suspended from a steel cable strung between the trees. The participants are then clipped onto the cable with double carabiners. The trees  are absolutely magnificent and even high in the canopy many of the trees are sufficiently large that 2 people could not hug the trunk and touch hands. Many of these giant trees are over 100 feet high and standing on the platform in the canopy was like being perched on the window ledge of a very tall building. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Another look at Chiang Mai's Temples


There are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas, the majority of these temples are more than 200 years old. Apart from being a place of worship for the Thai people, the temples in Chiang Mai help to remind us of the rich heritage of the Lanna Kingdom.

The architectural styles of these temples include Lanna, Burmese and Sri Lankan. Many of the temples in Chiang Mai have the NAGA ( which are the dragon serpents ) stairways for protection, many beautiful woodcarvings and painted murals.

Most of the temples in Chiang Mai are open daily with free entry although a small doantion is always appreciated. Remember that these temples are places of worship so please dress with respect.

Today--- Oskie and I decided to go and take photos of the temples in Chiang Mai. We have made a list on which temples we wanted to see and take photos. On our way to or first temple,  I found out from our  Moo, our regular driver and tour guide whenever we are in Chiang Mai, told us that it was Buddha day this morning... there will be a lot of Thai people visiting the temples. I have already written in my blog last year , WAT DOI SUTHEP  ( see my blog ...   ). The Doi Suthep is one of the better known temples in Chiang Mai but if you have the time ---- it is well worth exploring some of the lesser known ones as well as there will always be a new treasure to discover.

 So we started off early... to our  first stop...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Visiting the Chiang Mai Zoo and Aquarium

Traveling is so much about leaving home, moving through space and time to new worlds full of exotic sights and smells. You are never out of things to do in Chiang Mai. One of the fun places to visit for kids and adults alike is the zoo. Chiang Mai Zoo is very large ( and you have to do a lot of walking --- unless you ride their tram express )...

It covers over 200 acres of land at the foot of the Doi Suthep. The zoo is certainly walkable ( or rather---- hikable ), but you can also get around by taking their tram ( which has 5 stops all over the zoo ) or their monorail.

The current star of the Chiang Mai zoo is the panda.... That was the main reason Oskie and I went to visit the zoo this morning. Our main reason for visiting the zoo was for the photo opportunity.  We bought the package tour package of 220 Baht ( which includes the entrance of the aquarium, the tram express and the entrance to see the panda).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

LUANG PRABANG, LAOS- ( Part 8 ) Temples of Luang Prabang

Visitors to Luang Prabang are usually struck by the serene, tranquil nature of this idyllic Laos town. Luang Prabang is so small and compact in fact, it is almost absurd to call it a city. The town is a lovely place to take a leisurely walk and soak up the peaceful atmosphere that surrounds you. No cough-inducing fumes, traffic jams or the unsightly presence of fast food franchises to ruin the landscape, just lots of French style architecture and tons of monks.

The wat is a photographer's dream, there is so much that beckons the eye, and one has to be quick to take advantage when a monk goes walking by. For me there is a timeless quality that is reinforced by not being able to see the monk's face. I think a photo leaves a lot to the imagination....

The temple structure in Luang Prabang contrasts to the southern Lao and Thai styles. The sweeping tiers of the multiple overlapping " saddle " roofs spread nearly to the ground. The most impressive example is the Wat Xieng Thong. The building is lavishly decorated with mosaics of tiny red, green and blue mirrors on a gilded background. 

There are a few customs to consider when visiting the temples or wats of Luang Prabang. First, always remove your shoes upon entering the temple. There will usually be a sign, but it general, take them off before going up the last few steps. Monks are not permitted to touch women, so female travelers should NEVER TRY TO SHAKE HANDS or pass something directly to the monk. The feet are considered the lowliest part of the body, so take care not to point your foot at any Buddha image. Finally, dress modestly on your visits to the temple. Short shorts or skirts will cause stares or possibly offense to the monks.