UP DILIMAN: Chocolate Kiss Cafe at Night

July 18, 2013

UP DILIMAN: Chocolate Kiss Cafe at Night

There is this nice cafe at Bahay ng Alumni at UP Diliman, Quezon City, that serves home-cooked meals. It's frequented by students and professors by day. By accident, I visited it at night. I never thought it's a nice place to hang out at night. The ambience is totally different at night, with dim lights and a fantastic duo playing the violin and piano while you quietly dine and enjoy their home-cooked meals.

These are the things I enjoyed most when I dined there at night while waiting for my daughter to finish her meeting:

1. The reasonably priced meals that has a flavor of  a home-cooked meal. 

Below is the sample menu: 

I ordered the spaghetti carbonara

2. The music

I was surprised that there was music at night at the Chocolate Kiss Cafe at night. It can be a venue for a date night for people who want reasonably priced meals and a romantic ambiance . Below is a sample of the music that Royce and Gary played that Thursday night. I actually enjoyed it so I'm sharing it with you: 

Apparently, music is played every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Below is the schedule I got from their website. Music is played from 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM at the Second Floor of the UP Kiss Cafe:

Bong & Bobot
guitar duet

Gary & Royce
keyboards & violin

Rudy at the piano

Where it is  located

2nd Floor Magsaysay Avenue, Ang Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman, Quezon City 1101
(02) 433 9183 ‎ · thechocolatekiss.com

Other photos of the venue:
At the main entrance, where most cakes are displayed

The inner part of the cafe

The announcement at the front door as to who's playing tonight
Royce and Gary playing at the inner part of the cafe

Food Tripping at UP DILIMAN: The Dynamite at Vinzon's Hall

July 17, 2013

Food Tripping at UP DILIMAN: The Dynamite at Vinzon's Hall

What is the Dynamite?

The dynamite is green chili stuffed with cheese and few pieces of ground meat, wrapped in lumpia wrapper and fried. The green chili used is the chili used in sinigang and dinuguan, which Filipinos call siling mahaba (long sili) to differentiate it from siling labuyo (hot chili).

This is how they fry it.

The finished product with dipping sauce. 

What's inside: The green chili, the cheese and some ground meat

How much is the Dynamite

One serving of dynamite is 4 pieces for 24 pesos.

My verdict

I took a bite with the dipping sauce and it was a great combination of spice and creaminess. It's like eating spicy cheese sticks. And for 24 pesos, it's a very cheap and filling snack.

Where to buy the Dynamite

At the stall in front of Vinzon's Hall at UP Diliman. It's at the right side of the sloping road leading to the entrance of Vinzon's Hall

This is the stall. You can see at the extreme right is the College of Education building.
At the left side of this stall is the sloping road leading to Vinzon's Hall

A close-up of the stall and their food choices

View Vinzon's

SYDNEY: How to Choose Your Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour

July 11, 2013

SYDNEY: How to Choose Your Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour

Australia is known world-wide as a wine region. If you're visiting Sydney, Australia, the nearest wineries you can visit is located in Hunter Valley. Hunter Valley is around two hours drive from Sydney. 

I'm sharing with you what I discovered as I search for the right wine tasting tour for my husband who's visiting Sydney. You may have different tastes or preferences so I'm sharing with you the options I found so you can find the right wine tasting tour for you.

After looking at all the possible options for a wine tour in Hunter Valley, I realized there are three (3) styles of wine tasting tours that are currently available.

1. FIRST TOUR: Visit 5 different wineries in one day, taste 6-8 wines per winery, then go to a cheese shop and a chocolate shop.

2. SECOND TOUR: In the morning, visit an old and established winery (1850s era) in the Hunter Valley region, taste around 16 wines in said winery, visit the vineyards and see the wine-making process in a working wine cellar, then have in-depth wine tasting lessons with a wine expert. In the afternoon, visit a post 1960s winery, to taste 5 cool climate wines.

3. THIRD TOUR: A visit to the Walkabout Wildlife Sanctuary to see kangaroos, wallaby's, emus and koalas, then wine tasting at 3 small boutique wineries, then visit a chocolate factory, cheese shop and local brewery.

If you have an idea what tour you wish to explore, below are more details to help you decide:

Hunter Valley Tours

FIRST TOUR by  Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tours

Price per person: $125 internet price

Price inclusive of: round-trip transfers from Sydney (listed hotel and non-hotel pick-up points), wine tasting, cheese tasting, chocolate tasting and gourmet style lunch at Hunter Resort, You cannot bring your own lunch.

Maximum Number of Guests per tour: 14

How many hours: 11 hours (4 hours round-trip travel from Sydney, 7 hours tour)


MORNING: 6:30 AM pickup at listed hotel and non-hotel pick-up points, stop at a coffee shop for morning stop before Hunter Valley, wine tasting at 5 wineries (6-8 wines per winery), lunch at Hunter Resort

AFTERNOON: Visit a cheese shop and chocolate shop, then return to Sydney by 7:30 PM.

Traveler's reviewsTrip Advisor review link

Who should do this tour: People who would like to taste 30-40 wines from different wineries. They can't inform you beforehand the wineries they will visit because the tour guide decides what wineries to visit only on the day of the tour. Therefore, it will depend on what bus you are assigned to at the time of booking.

Wine Country Tours

SECOND TOUR by Wine Country Tours of Richard Everett

Price per person: $150 

Price inclusive of: round-trip transfers from Sydney (pick-up at your hotel or accomodation), morning coffee, tea and baked goods at Pepper's Guest House, all wine tastings. Lunch at your own expense.

Maximum Number of Guests per tour: 2-8 guests

How many hours: 9 hours (4 hours round-trip travel from Sydney, 5 hours wine tour and tasting)


MORNING: 8:00 AM pickup at your hotel or accomodation, stop at a coffee shop for before going to Hunter Valley, wine tour and tasting lessons at Tyrell's (16 wines to taste), lunch.

AFTERNOON: Visit Hungerford Hills to taste 5 cool climate/high altitude wines. 5:30 PM return to Sydney

Traveler's reviewsTrip Advisor link

Traveler's blog showing how the tour was conducted: Hunter Valley with Wine Country Tours by Wine Monologues dated April 2013

Who should do this tour: Those who want an in-depth tour conducted by wine expert Richard Everett, which includes visiting and walking through the vineyards of Tyrell's, one of the oldest wineries in Hunter Valley, seeing the wine-making process at a working wine cellar, and having private sit-down wine tasting lessons conducted by a wine expert.  This  includes tasting 16 wines from Tyrells (1850s era winery) and 5 high altitude or cool climate wines from Hungerford Hills (post 1960s era winery).

THIRD TOUR by Kangarrific Tours

Price per person: $ 99

Price inclusive of: round-trip transfers from Sydney (pick-up is at designated locations), morning tea at Walkabout Wildlife Park, 3 wine tastings, cheese tastings. Lunch, chocolate tasting and beer tasting is at your own expense. You can bring your own lunch.

Maximum Number of Guests per tour: 13 guests

How many hours: 10 hours


MORNING: 8:00 AM pick-up at designated locations, morning tea at Walkabout Park to meet kangaroos, wallaby's, koalas and emus. Visit Hunter Valley chocolate factory. Visit 2 wineries and a cheese shop. Lunch

AFTERNOON: Visit a 3rd winery and a brewery. 6 pm return to Sydney

Traveler's reviewsTrip Advisor link

Traveler's blog showing how the tour was conductedHunter Valley Wine Tour with Kangarrific Tours by Diary of a Yorkshire Expat

Who should do this tour: Best tour if you have kids with you. They allow kids 7 years old and above to join the tour. The price is the same as the adult price.

LAGUNA: Visit Calamba and Los Banos with Kids

May 20, 2013

LAGUNA: Visit Calamba and Los Banos with Kids

This is my itinerary for a day trip to Calamba to see the Rizal shrine followed by a trip to Los Banos to visit the University of the Philippines Los Banos campus.

This itinerary is best done on a Sunday because there's less traffic on a Sunday. The timing is important because it ensures you avoid traffic at Calamba exit and the SM Calamba intersersection.

This itinerary presumes you're using a private vehicle for this trip.

What you need to do prior to this trip:

1. Call the Rizal Shrine to book a guided tour with film showing.

Why call: The guided tour and film showing is not offered to walk-in visitors. The shrine do not employ regular tour guides. They request tour guides from the city hall who are actually students who are on-the-job training. So you need to request in advance for this service. 
To see the film, they also need a technician on hand to operate the equipment. They also turn on the air-con in the audio-visual room in advance if they know what time you're arriving. 
Contact Nos.: (+63)(049) 834 1599

2. Call Max Restaurant, Monte Vista Resort to reserve tables for lunch with your group.

Why make advance reservation: Since this restaurant is situated beside a resort, I presume it's always full on a Sunday. So to make sure you have a table when you arrive, make a table reservation. If you're going to be late in arriving, call to inform them that you're on the way so they continue to hold the reservation. 
Why this location: This restaurant is along the National Highway between Calamba and Los Banos. If you're going to Los Banos, this restaurant is near the boundary of Calamba and Los Banos, and therefore along the route of your destination from the Rizal Shrine, which is Los Banos.
Why this restaurant: This restaurant gave fast and very good service to our group of 19 people. After a tiring and warm stay at the Rizal shrine, we arrived with a private room already reserved for our group. Within 10 minutes of giving our order, the food was served to us. The quality of food was consistent with our expectations. Other amenities of this restaurant worth mentioning: cool air-conditioning  and very fast free WiFi. 

3. Call Lety's buko pie to reserve buko pies for your group.  

Why reserve buko pie: If you're going to Los Banos in the afternoon, the buko pie tends to run out. So to be safe, reserve buko pie in advance to ensure you have buko pies set aside for your group.
Contact Person at Lety's Lopez Avenue: Josephine Siapo (+63)(929-7255070)


7:30 AM:
Leave Quezon City area

My tip: By leaving early, you avoid traffic at the Calamba exit and the SM Calamba crossing, which is the intersection of JP Rizal Street and the National Highway

9:00 AM:
Arrival at Rizal Shrine

My tip: Make sure to go to the Rizal shrine in the morning to avoid heavy traffic in this area on Sunday afternoons. This is the tip I got from the museum personnel of the Rizal shrine.
Opening hours of the Rizal shrine: Tues - Sun: 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Contact numbers: (+63)(049) 834 1599
Address: J.P Rizal corner Mercado Street 
How to go to the Rizal shrine: The entrance of the Rizal shrine is along JP Rizal street. The property is located at the corner of J.P. Rizal and Mercado Street. It's across the St. John the Baptist Church.
You need to go there through Burgos street and make a left turn at Mercado Street then a left turn at J.P. Rizal street because Burgos and J.P. Rizal streets are one-way.

Alternative Route if there's traffic at the Calamba exit and SM Calamba crossing: Make sure to turn right at the San Vicente Ferrer Road along Real Road after the Calamba exit.

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM:
Mass at St. John  the Baptist Church

Why see the Church: This is a century-old church where Jose Rizal was baptized.
For mass schedules: http://www.mass-schedules.com/catholic-church/748/saint-john-the-baptist-parish.html

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM:
Guided tour and film showing at Rizal shrine

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM: 
Lunch at Max Restaurant, Monte Vista Resort


2:30 PM - 4:00 PM:
Visit Lety's Buko Pie along Lopez Avenue, across 711

4:00 PM - 5:30 PM:
Travel from Los Banos to Manila

Where to pass to avoid traffic at the junction of Lopex Avenue and the National Highway: Take the Jamboree Road and go out the National Highway where the Los Banos municipal hall is located.

How much you should budget for this trip:

Gas: around 20-30 liters of gas, or P800 to P1200

Toll: from C5 to Calamba exit: P218 per way, or P436 roundtrip

Meals: P150-250 per person depending on what you will get at Max Restaurant

Pasalubong and souvenirs (optional): The price of Letty's buko pie is P160. We bought books, shirts and ref magnets that amounted to almost 1000 pesos.

Tips for guides (optional)

Tips for waiter (optional)

Donation to Rizal shrine (optional)

Map of the Itinerary

 A    Rizal shrine (birthplace and residence of Jose Rizal) 
 B    Max Restaurant, Monte Vista Resort 
 C    Lety's Buko Pie 
 D    UP Los Banos

Where to Find the International Airports in the Philippines: Summary of Airlines and International Destinations

May 9, 2013

Where to Find the International Airports in the Philippines:
Summary of Airlines and International Destinations

What's so interesting about finding out where the international airports are located in the Philippines? Knowing the international airports in the Philippines will allow foreign visitors to go straight from their home country to the nearest island or tourist spot of their choice without passing by Manila. The same holds true the other way. It will allow residents to go to the airport nearest their hometown, without passing by Manila.

It used to be that the only access to the Philippines was through Manila. But it's good news that there are other points of entry other than Manila. The safest is to choose Manila but there are other options now other than passing by Manila

The term "international airport" in this post is loosely defined as an airport that has flights to international destinations.

Below is a list of international airports in the Philippines,  the international airlines flying into the airport and international origin or destination of airlines flying into the airports.


Manila International Airport

You can fly directly from almost all international destinations to Manila. This is the main airport of the Philippines. It's safest to fly into this airport because this airport has access to all other international and domestic airports in the Philippines. 

Laoag International Airport
You can fly from Honolulu to Laoag (via Manila) via Philippine Airlines.

Clark International Airport
You can fly directly from the following international destinations to Clark:
  1. Hongkong: via Cebu Pacific and Southeast Asian Airlines
  2. Bangkok: via Cebu Pacific and Southeast Asian Airlines
  3. Singapore: via Cebu Pacific and Southeast Asian Airlines
  4. Macau: via Cebu Pacific
  5. Kota Kinabalu: via Southeast Asian Airlines


Kalibo International Airport
You can fly directly from the following international destinations to Kalibo:
  1. Hongkong: via Cebu Pacific 
  2. Busan: via Zest Air, Philippine Airlines
  3. Seoul: via Zest Air
  4. Shanghai: via Zest Air
  5. Taipei: via Zest Air, Mandarin Airlines

Cebu International Airport
You can fly directly from the following international destinations to Cebu
  1. Hongkong: via Cebu Pacific, PAL Express, Philippine Airlines operated by Cathay Pacific Airways 
  2. Kuala Lumpur: via Cebu Pacific 
  3. Singapore: via Cebu Pacific Tiger Airways
  4. Taipei: via Cebu Pacific 
  5. Seoul: via Philippine Airlines, Zest Air, Asiana, Jeju Air, Jin Air, Korean Air
  6. Tokyo: via Philippine Airlines
  7. Busan: via Air Busan, Korean Air

Iloilo International Airport
You can fly directly from the following international destinations to Iloilo:
  1. Hongkong: via Cebu Pacific
  2. Singapore: via Cebu Pacific


Davao International Airport
You can fly directly from Manado, Indonesia to Davao via Wings Air

Zamboanga International Airport
You can fly directly from Sandakan (Sabah) to Zamboanga via PAL Express.

BORACAY: My Guide to Parasailing with Kids

May 4, 2013

BORACAY: My Guide to Parasailing with Kids

Parasailing looks dangerous so a lot of parents are hesitant about letting their kids do this activity. Some adults are not inclined to do it because it looks scary as the parasail goes very high up over the water at dizzying heights. This guide aims to show step-by-step how parasailing is conducted at Boracay white beach. 

What is Parasailing?
Parasailing is a water activity that involves a speedboat towing a parasail (it looks like a parachute) like a kite up into the air while one or two people are harnessed to the parasail in a seating position. This is not to be confused with paragliding.

1. Register and pay at the parasailing booth. You sign a waiver of liability at the booth.

These are the water sports booth located at Station 1 across Astoria Boracay.

This is the booth of Napoleon Seasports, where we booked our parasailing activity.

Registering and paying at the booth

2. You wait until the speedboat arrives to bring you to the parasail platform.

Waiting at a tent across Astoria Boracay

3. You ride the speedboat for around 5 minutes to go to the parasail platform.

From the White beach, we ride the small speedboat that will to take us
to the parasail platform.

Enjoying the fast and bumpy 5-minute ride to the parasail platform

This is the platform where the small speedboat takes you.

4. From the platform, you ride another speedboat, which is the speedboat that will tow your parasail.

From the platform, we ride the bigger speedboat that will tow the parasail.

5. While the speedboat goes to the middle of the sea, you put on a life vest that you will wear while parasailling.

6. When the speedboat arrives in the middle of the sea, they unfurl the parasail. Then, you climb to the edge of the speedboat to put on the harness attached to the parasail.

7. Then UP, UP and AWAY!!!

You sit down as you prepare to be taken slowly up in the air.

You are taken slowly and gradually up in the air.

The ride took around 10 minutes.

My kids say the view is fantastic up there.

Where to book:

Look for Christine at (+63919)395-9054


800 pesos per person

What my kids said about their experience up in the air:

1. It's so peaceful and quiet up there. You cannot even hear the motor of the speedboat running.

2. They saw the corals clearly from up there.

3. They saw a sting ray swimming underneath the waters.

4. They should have brought a camera with them up there.

1. The best time to do any water sports activity is in the morning, around 10:00 AM. We did the banana boat ride in the morning and the weather is cooler compared to when we did parasailing. 

2. If possible, bring 2 cameras. If you don't have a companion who can take your photo from the boat, leave one camera with the boatman so they can take a picture of you from the boat. Bring a camera with you up there while parasailing. According to my kids, the view from up there is a great photo opprtunity.

3. In our case, we asked if we can accompany the kids even if we're not parasailing. They allowed us to join them in the speedboat that will go parasailing.

4. You can choose to do parasailing alone or with another person. The rate is the same. But if you're with your sibling, relative, friend, or spouse, it's a better experience to share the ride and the view with someone close to you.