Thursday, November 12, 2015

Day 1: We're off to Hong Kong!

  Now it just so happened that around this time Philippine airports were embroiled in what is called the Tanim Bala scandal. Basically the news outlets and netizens were outraged when a bullet would be found in the luggage of departing passengers. The craziest thing about it is when the reports would say a bullet was found in the luggage of senior citizens, a woman in a wheel chair and a guy who was in the country as part of an NGO. Their profiles don't lend themselves well to a story where they brazenly bring a bullet to the airport. They were "caught" and made to either confess that the bullet is an amulet or they were threatened with jail if they didn't cough up the "fee" for letting get away with it.

  Worrywart that I am, I could barely sleep the night before our plane ride. I was so paranoid that I taped, yes taped, the zippers in my luggage. Good thing nothing happened to us on our way in. I made sure that no one was allowed to touch my luggage even if it was huge and heavy. Plus, I always kept my eye on it. Now that was difficult since I also had to keep an eye on my kid. However once we were able to check-in our luggage, I was able to relax.

  I'm not sure if you're interested in knowing that I used a two bag system for carry-ons. I had my Pacsafe messenger bag for critical items like phones, camera, wallet, passports, tissue and sanitary spray. Then I had a backpack that contained snacks, extra shirts and jackets for me and kiddo. The messenger bag is just too convenient because I have my hands free and yet can easily access items inside.

  Why do I need my hands free? Because I needed to hold kiddo's hand at all times. Kiddo has this habit of running off so I didn't want to lose him. Yes, I hardly looked like a sosyal traveler but I've always prioritized convenience and comfort over style. Hubby may disagree since there was that time I wanted to go around in boots but I swear I've learned my lesson!

  Despite the fact that it was crowded at the gate, kiddo was thrilled to be going to another country. He refused to eat the food on the plane though so I noted that we'd need to grab food after checking in the hotel. We landed safely in Hong Kong airport and was able to exit immigration with no hassle. I bought airport express tickets and we rode the train to Kowloon station. From there we took the K2 bus to our hotel.

  After checking in, we were famished and decided to go to my favorite place for cheap food, the Silvercord food court. However when we got there, it was under renovation! I was so sad. We ended up at Din Tai Fung on the top floor of Silvercord and it was a good meal.

  It still wasn't check in time so we went around the mall, had coffee in Starbucks and checked out the view of the harbor. Once we were able to check in, I made sure kiddo slept since he must have been exhausted. In fact, we all had a brief siesta. When we woke up we checked out the toy store where kiddo gravitated towards the Star Wars toys but I told him we wouldn't purchase anything yet since it was only our first day.

  I forgot where we had dinner that day. Kiddo ended up enjoying the bath tub and building a volcano out of bubbles. Next post, Day 2: Hong Kong Disneyland!

Day 2: Hong Kong Disneyland

  I like to plan so basically I already knew that I would purchase the tourist all day MTR tickets for us. We walked to the nearest MTR station and I didn't even need to show my passport to get these all days tourist tickets. They were quite cheap too at HKD55 for an adult.

  Thanks to the HK MTR app, I knew which lines to ride and interchange with. It was very easy to finally get on the Disneyland line which had cute train windows cut out to resemble the iconic Mickey Mouse ears. The train was very comfy too with cushioned seats.

  Once we got to Disneyland, hubby lined up to retrieve our pre-bought tickets and he was able to get them by showing identification and the credit card used. We got there a bit early but just in time for rope drop. Now the technique from what I've researched is that you want to go to the farthest rides first since those will probably not have any lines.

TIP: Go on a week day!

  We rushed ahead to the It's a Small World attraction where there were no lines to speak of. Kiddo liked it a lot and when we got out it was fairly easy to ride the tea cups, go to PhilHarmagic, Mystic Manor and the caterpillar-like ride. The only one we really lined up for was the Parachute drop. We lined up for less than 5 minutes for the Grizzly Gulch mine cart ride.

 Around lunch time we found the nearest food court and ate over-priced blah food. Gosh, the food was so expensive and simply edible. I wish I could say there is an alternative but there isn't unless you bring your own food.

  We wanted to go watch the Lion King but the lines were too long and after the visit to Tarzan's tree house we were wilting in the heat. Kiddo emphatically wanted to go home already less than 4 hours after we arrived. I wanted to tell him there were fireworks at 8PM but everyone was exhausted. If we stayed at the Disneyland hotel we could have rested up and set out again but we made our choice.

  So off we went to ride the MTR again back to our hotel. Once we got back we had a a siesta were everyone rested up. I think this is when we decided to go eat at Delicious Kitchen. We came across it yesterday when I was buying a prepaid HK sim and I remember my friend's notes about it. Short review: It was delicious! It was also quite affordable. Yum-yum, too bad we weren't able to return for a second meal there.

Preparations for J's first foreign trip

  Whew! It's been quite a while since I last blogged but that's probably because I've been distracted with work, family and video games. Anyway, last year we asked kiddo if he wanted to go to Disneyland or go have a birthday party. Last year he wanted a birthday party so we had one at McDonald's and invited all his friends and classmates. This year however he decided he wanted to go to Disneyland so that is what I had to plan for.

Buy your plane tickets
  First of all, you want to get cheap tickets. If you plan this far in advance you can probably wait for a Philippine Airlines sale. I'm not recommending Cebu Pacific because I don't want to worry too much about flights being cancelled or being bumped off a flight when I have my child with me. Other people will remark and say the deals are too good to discount but I'd rather have peace of mind.
 So go ahead and wait for a sale so that you can get a good deal on the those airline tickets. I'm assuming of course that you've also decided when to go. Since kiddo has school, we had to check and see if there was a time when he had a stretch of no school days. We found it in his semestral break.

TIP: use the web check-in to get desired seats ahead of time. PAL's web check-in needs passport details so be sure you have them on hand.

Where to stay?
  After you have tickets the debate over whether to stay at the HK Disneyland hotel or not begins. There are various pros and cons to it. One, if you do stay at that hotel you'll be right where the action is. A friend told me that the Disney characters even go around during breakfast so you'll be able to have your picture taken with them with minimal lines. Apparently in HK Disneyland, you have to line up to have your picture taken with the characters. This is in contrast to what I remember of Disneyland in Anaheim where they just roamed around.

  Secondly, despite us going at the end of October, it was still quite hot. Staying at the Disneyland hotel would mean that you could go in the morning. Return to your hotel at lunch time and then go back to Disneyland in the evening. Don't forget that Disneyland has fireworks every night. We also went during the Halloween celebration so the characters were dressed in their spooky best.

  Lastly, staying at the hotel would mean probably packing up and moving to another hotel once your stay is done. So that is a bit of a hassle.

  After thinking about it I decided that we'll just stay at our usual standby Marco Polo Prince and then just take the MTR to Disneyland. One, less hassle with checking in and all. Plus I think kiddo would enjoy taking the train. So we booked the Marco Polo Prince.

Buy park tickets ahead of time
  Now if you've read my previous travel preparations post you'd know what comes next; purchasing the Disneyland and Ocean Park tickets ahead of time. I love the internet! I needed to decide though when we'd go to Ocean Park since you need to choose the date upon purchase. So I mapped out what we'd do every day. Yes, I'm a bit of a freak like that.

  Now there was probably something wrong with my credit card when I bought my Disneyland tickets because I got charged without getting my tickets confirmation code for Disneyland. I was a bit frazzled because those tickets were expensive. My first order of business was calling my credit card hotline where they told me that the couldn't cancel the transaction because it was still on a floating basis. I was pissed because what's the use of the sms notifications to call their hotline if I can't do anything? They did however tell me to call Disneyland and have it canceled there.
  Wow, I have to make an international call? That is going to end up so expensive. However I came upon this service called Roamer that only charges cents on the dollar for SIP calls. So I loaded up 10 euros worth of credits and called HK Disneyland. I only got charged about $0.12 for 12 mins and it was very good quality. In the end, I was very impressed with the customer service of HK Disneyland because they were able to cancel it before the charge came through on my credit card. If it was on my credit card I would have ended up with 45 to 60 days disputing the charges.

Check the weather
  Also, be aware of the weather. I was expecting cool weather but in fact it was quite warm. Good thing we had a friend who was there a few days ahead of us and she told me frankly to go in a shirt and shorts. So I tossed out my scarf, hat and long sleeves. I swapped in my t-shirts and shorts. I did the same for kiddo since we were sharing one maleta. I also packed his medicine for allergies, colds, fever and cough.

Be prepared.
  I had double print outs of all our tickets and reservations plus photocopies of our passports stowed in our luggage. These were also accessible online via my storage accounts in case anything happened. I also prepped kiddo to know what the name of the hotel we were staying in was.

Was it enough? Find out in my next posts.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Kikufuji and their amazing wagyu sticks

I celebrated my birthday last week and treated the family to Kikufuji. It was my family's first time though hubby and I have eaten there before. I made sure to order what I considered the cheap but yummy grilled sticks. I ordered the wagyu sticks, chicken wings, chicken skin, enoki wrapped mushrooms and a seaweed salad for hubby. Hubby also opted for some salmon sashimi which he said was very fresh and had nice thick slices.

For kiddo, I ordered the chicken kaarage and the katsudon lunch set since we all share anyway. Unfortunately, kiddo is so used to fried chicken that he barely ate. Sayang talaga yung food that I had him try.

On the flip side, I ate a lot of the wagyu sticks which is so soft and yummy. I also ate the other sticks but shared with my siblings. My sisters also ordered a sushi platter but I don't eat sushi. I do however eat shrimp tempura so we ate 3 orders of that as well. You can also order the fried rice from their sister restaurant. That will just be included in a separate bill.

We ordered so much and I still spent around only P4k++. That's for 11 hungry people. Heck, the wagyu sticks would get snatched up and I'd just say that we'd order more. I kept telling them to try everything and if they liked it, we would order more.

For those who ordered lunch sets, it also comes with some appetizers and a free dessert. In our case, we had the iced coffee for dessert.

This is a fantastic place to go for some delicious Japanese food but note that if you go during lunch, be sure to make reservations. They have a smoking and non-smoking area so be sure to specify which area you want to reserve a table for.

Izakaya Kikufuji
Little Tokyo, 2277 Chino Roces Avenue, Legaspi Village, Makati City

Wagyu sticks P125 a stick

Enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon P52 a stick

Chicken wings P50 (I think) a stick

044 Chicken Kaarage

047 Sushi

Sushi platter

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Korean multi-step skin care regimen: it works!

It's been quite a while since I last blogged and a lot has happened. I have a 7 month old daughter and I've been purchasing items mostly for her. However, I now find myself with more time and was aghast with the condition of my skin. While I was pregnant, I really did have that pregnancy glow. Right now though, all remnants of that glow are gone and my skin is now troubled and uneven.

I wanted to go back to my tried and tested Retinol products but my pediatrician advised me against it since I'm still breastfeeding. So I can't use anything with Retinol, Salicylic acid or those other AHA/BHA acids. I was feeling quite sad so I did what any normal person these days does and turned to Google for some alternatives.

Thanks to Google and several beauty bloggers, I stumbled into the latest fad which is the Korean skin care regimen. In ye olden days, I could get by simply by washing my face and applying a cream. I was in fact using my Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation cream but after several weeks, no transformation was visible. Then I read about snail cream. Yep, this beauty blogger raved about the Mizon Snail cream and online shopping addict that I am, I bought one when I saw that a site was selling it. There was a little mixup however and apparently not all snail creams are the same so I ended up with the Mizon Black Snail cream when the blogged about product was the All in One but hey, same brand naman.

I kept researching though and then found out that Korean beauty brands are apparently 10 years ahead of the Western beauty brands. They are the ones who came up with BB creams. Plus, Koreans love natural products and are constantly innovating. Turns out, Korean women start in their teens with a multi-step regimen so I decided to sort of follow it myself and pray that my skin improves.

Daytime regimen:
Step 1: Cleanse - I wash my face with Etude House Happy Essential Foam with Collagen. I just asked the sales lady what was the best selling facial wash and she recommended this. There's a slight scent but it does clean my face.

Step 2: Tone - I bought the Hada Labo lotion some time ago because I read about it being very popular. It is very watery and I usually apply it with a cotton ball.


Step 3: Essence - OK, I just got this Missha Time Revolution essence yesterday and used it last night. When I woke up this morning, 80% of the redness on one cheek was gone. I can only imagine what will happen with long term use.

The story here is that I've been longing after the SK II Facial Treatment essence for years. I just could not bring myself to buy a bottle for approximately PHP4k-5k. Then I read online that there was a dupe and based on reviews not only was it cheaper but some people said it was better. I bought my bottle on eBay.


Step 4: Moisturize - Whew, talk about a lot of steps! Anyway, I found the Mizon Black Snail cream too thick for day time so I use the Mizon Snail Recovery Gel for day time. My skin is oily and a thick cream will just not do. I bought mine on BeautyMnl but you can get it on eBay as well. It absorbs after a few seconds and so far I am liking it.


Step 5: Sunblock - Yes kids, use sunblock every day. I use VMV's Armada when I go to the beach because it's not sticky and my skin does not break out with it. If it's a normal day I use the Shu Uemura UV underbase since it is sunblock and a primer in one. It also helps my make-up last longer. If I'm really lazy I'll just make sure that my bb cream has SPF.

Gosh that was long. My night regiment is practically the same except I double cleanse. This means I use an oil based make-up remover then I wash my face.

Step 1: Remove make-up - I've been using the Shu Uemura cleansing oil but just ran out. Thus I'm now trying the DHC cleansing oil. For stubborn eye make-up I also use a separate eye make-up remover.

Step 2: Cleanse - I wash my face. I also exfoliate 3 times a week with my Clarisonic Mia. Sometimes I'll use a mask. I have this Puressa mask my family brought back from Japan for moisture or if I feel like I'm super oily I'll use my Snoe calamansi and charcoal mask.

Step 3: Toner
Step 4: Essence
Step 5: Moisturize - This is where I use the Mizon Black Snail cream. When I get zits, it usually takes two weeks for the scars to fade a bit. Ever since I started using this cream I noticed that a fresh acne spot is fading after three days.  It seems the instructions for use are to pat, not rub it in so that is what I've been doing. This texture of this cream is quite sticky, it settles in after maybe 30 mins? Once it does, my skin's texture is quite supple. I noticed that it sort of plumps up my skin.


I bought this from Taste Central last year and only got to use it now. There's a new version which is the Mizon All in One snail cream which you can get from Beauty Mnl or on eBay. They're on sale right now on Beauty Mnl so I bought 2 because I am impressed.

I'm going to keep at this and update this post over time. Oh, I also bought the Mizon Snail BB cream. I'm very convinced with the efficacy of these products and can't wait to try other Korean beauty products.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Va Bene is a dream come true

I've heard so many things about Va Bene and have wanted to visit the restaurant for such a long time. It just happened that I was able to cajole hubby into taking me there when we happened to have a Friday night free.

Va Bene is located at the Petron Gas Station on EDSA and I was a bit scared that we wouldn't find parking but we were luckily able to. There's a guy who will help you find parking if you tell him where you're headed.

For starters I got the mushroom soup. It was ok and I've had better for a much cheaper price. For my main, I decided to get the squid ink pasta with Seafood in a light tomato sauce and it was amazing. The usual squid ink pasta I get is the Al Nero from Cibo but sometimes it doesn't taste consistently good. This squid ink pasta from Va Bene was so yummy and it didn't have a funky taste at all. You could taste a slight lemony tang and the blending of the seafood with the tomato sauce. This dish was so good I wanted to lick the plate clean.

Mushroom soup P299

Black Squid Ink Pasta with Seafood in a light tomato sauce P390

Hubby had the truffled mushroom pasta and he liked it though I found it a bit bland. I definitely can't wait for the next opportunity for me to go back. One caveat though is that the prices are quite high. Then again if you note all the new restos popping up over the metro, this is sadly becoming the new price range.

Truffled mushroom pasta P390

Va Bene
5569442 2169879
Second Floor, Petron Gas Station,
EDSA Corner A. Arnaiz Avenue,
Dasmariñas Village, Makati City
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