Monday, September 25, 2017

Chocolate review: Villars dark pure 72%

There is another Villars bar that we had before my trip to Australia last July (so you know this is quite a late post). I remember purchasing this from Santis one time I was getting wine to be given away as tokens for speakers at an event we hosted. This bar "got lost" under the other chocolates as we tried to enjoy the ones we bought earlier and were to expire ahead of the others.

Villars dark pure 72%
Details about the chocolate at the back of the box
This chocolate claims a minimum of 72% cacao content
Nutrition information

This chocolate was surprisingly good for one with 72% cacao. It was smooth and not so bitter for a 72%. I got this from Santis so its easy to get some of these bars if necessity calls for it. I think we currently have a lot of excellent chocolates in stock at home as the Australian chocolates have only seen one bar consumed and I recently bought a good sampling of chocolates from Vietnam. There are also Italian chocolates and some Valrhona bars. Still, I think I would be getting a bar or two of this chocolate should I be at Santis again.
-

Atis in Vietnam!

Atis or sweetsop is my favorite fruit. One of the highlights of the trip to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) aside from the conference I attended, was going to Ben Tanh Market where may of us got our souvenirs to take home. On the Sunday we were there, we checked out the fruit stands to get some to eat back at the hotel. I was delighted to see they had atis, which was also in season in the Philippines, only that theirs were larger and heavier. We haggled a bit as we tried to get a feel of the prices for fruits. My friend brought lanzones, too, and both of us thought it over if we were going to buy some of the large chicos that was also available and ready to eat. The atis, we were told, can be eaten the following day.

I bought a couple of these large atis
Here's a standard pen for reference on the size of the atis

We didn't get to eat our atis until 2 days later. It was worth the wait though as we were treated to really juicy fruit with just the right sweetness. I shared my fruits with other colleagues who weren't able to join us at the market earlier.

I brought some of the seeds with me back to Manila. I will be planting those and hopefully they will grow and bear fruit in the future.
-

Saturday, September 23, 2017

NAIA terminal transfers guide

Here's something useful. I took the following photos from Philippine Airlines' inflight magazine. I hope these are helpful to travelers like me who like to have information on the airport terminals of cities I am visiting. Ninoy Aquino International Airport with its 4 terminal spread out and without a transport system directly connecting them with the airport complex can be daunting to travelers transferring between international and domestic flights particularly between Terminals 1 and 3.



-

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pho 2000

Since this was my first trip to Vietnam, I was looking forward to enjoying their food. After a nice long walk around our accommodations where we were able to take a few photos of attractions like the Opera House and City Hall, we ended up at Ben Thanh Market to check the prices of some items we planned to purchase before coming home later in the week. Satisfied with our expedition, my friend and mentor took me to the nearby Pho 2000, which became famous when then US President Bill Clinton ate there. There we had our rather early dinner.

They had a simple straightforward menu
There were only a few of us eating at the restaurant as it was only 5:30 PM when we were there.
The logo of the restaurant states "Pho for Presidents"
We both ordered chicken pho that came with bean sprouts and mint leaves
We also ordered and enjoyed fried spring rolls
As we were tired from our walk, we also ordered coconut water in the shell. This was quite a refreshing drink and so suitable after our walk.
The restaurant has a lot of framed photos of former US President Clinton enjoying his meal there.
The original restaurant was on the ground floor of the building. That area has since become a branch of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Pho 2000 moved to the 2nd Floor but access is through CBTL. They have good food and an efficient staff at this restaurant. Its perfect for those who want to enjoy authentic pho but also want a clean, safe place where they could have a good meal.
-

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ho Chi Minh City landmarks

I am currently in Ho Chi Minh City, attending an international conference. The city that was formerly but still popularly named Saigon is a vibrant one with a city center that's practically walkable. There are lots of motorbikes, which are still the main mode of transport. Even Uber and Grab have motorbike features in their apps and it is surprising that you don't see road crashes involving motorcycles quite frequently given their riders' behavior and maneuvers in traffic. Following are a few photos of landmarks that I took during our free time from the conference.

Panoramic photo of the replica of Notre Dame cathedral and surrounding areas.

Replica of Notre Dame
City hall and a statue of Ho Chi Minh
Opera House
More on Saigon soon!
-

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Swatch automatic - my first Swatch

I got my first Swatch not when I was in high school when it first came out or in college but many years after when I was already earning a decent salary. Back in the day, my classmates who were financially better off brandished their Swatches while I had a more humble Seiko quartz. They even had Swatch guards as the plastic watches were not scratch proof. I wondered then how they could tell the time when the guards practically covered the watch face.

My first Swatches were my first Swiss watches. The other one is my divers watch. The old watch's original strap was plastic. The plastic buckle already gave way but I have it stashed in the box. I replaced it many years ago with an authentic Swatch bracelet/strap shown in the photo.
This watch came out in 1993 but I got it in 2005. It was brand new but an old model that I got for 1,980 yen (tax included). It is now 24 years old (12 years with me).
The automatic movement contains 21 jewels. The watch still gives good time and is among my choices for everyday use.
There is another automatic Swatch that I bought in 2005. That still has its original strap and is occasionally used by the Clairvoyant when she's in casual wear mode. More on watches soon!
-

Monday, September 11, 2017

Swatch auto quartz

I checked our Swatch watches over the weekend to see if the batteries had run out on any of the three quartz watches. Three of these were divers' watches with 200m water resistance ratings and perhaps are the watches of choice when we go out and expect to be swimming or snorkeling. And then I saw one watch that I have tried to preserve because it is becoming quite a rare one in its current condition. The watch is a Swatch with an auto quartz movement. Auto quartz is the Swiss version of the Kinetic produced by Seiko and they have stopped producing the movement for almost 2 decades now.

The watch with its original leather strap
This watch caught my attention when I was diving into the Swatch watches on sale at a popular duty free shop in Akihabara in Tokyo. I immediately picked this one (the only one in the pile) among others that I ended up purchasing in 2008. The brand new watches were still practically being sold cheap at under 2,000 yen before taxes.
The transparent back allows a nice view of the movement.
This one shows the watch contained 15 jewels.
This watch came out in 1998 but I got it brand new back in 2008 at a Tokyo shop. Now it is almost 2 decades old and still functioning quite well considering its capacitor's old though not used often.

Swatch released only 10 models using the auto quartz movement and along with this model, I recall purchasing 2 others that I gave as gifts. One is with my brother and the other is with a good friend. I've seen them wearing their Swatches from time to time so I know the watches still work but just not the watches of choice for everyday use. More about watches in future posts.

-

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Yakan Weaving Village, Zamboanga City

The trip to Zamboanga cannot be complete without getting souvenirs. On our first day there, we tried to go to the Yakan Weaving Village after we finished our meetings that day. We, however, did not look up the place ahead and at first could not figure why we couldn't get a tricycle to go there. As it turned out, the village was a bit far from the city center and one cannot conveniently just go there. Fortunately, the following day a friend took us to a quick tour of the city and that included a stop at the village.

Weaver creating a work of art
This is an example of a very intricate, complicated patterns woven by the Yakan. These are one of a kind and are understandably the more expensive items.
There are the more common weave designs but still difficult to make. I decided on this design, which was colorful, and perfect for our dining table. It ended up unfurled and displayed at our staircase. You can actually get half of the weave but given the significantly lower price of the item (compared to if you got them at a bazaar or trade fair), I got the whole item.
Other items you can purchase at the village as souvenirs are swords (kris), chests with pearl inlays, brass decors and wood carvings. There are antiques, too, but we opted not to take a look as we had limited time to purchase items before proceeding with our quick tour of the city.
The shops at the village provide excellent selections for customers. There are table runners, pillow covers, shawls, scarves, etc. of various sizes and designs. You can haggle prices but don't go so low as these are hand-made, authentic designs by a people who are proud of their work that you cannot get elsewhere just like weaves from other parts of Mindanao, the Visayas and the Cordilleras.
Here are more designs to choose from. One of my colleagues bought place mats for their dinner table. The lady bug pillow is not included in the items for sale. :)
I had a really difficult time choosing from among the items. I thanked the shopkeeper/owner for being patient with me.
Your budget is basically your limit if you come to the village to get some souvenirs. I promised to myself to return to Zamboanga soon and that is somewhat sure because of a couple of projects we are doing in the city. The next time would likely be with a few more friends in tow as some would like to just go there and enjoy the place.
-

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Alavar Seafood Restaurant, Zamboanga City

Trips like the one we had to Zamboanga City last month will not be complete without sampling the food scene. Our first meal in Zamboanga was at Alavar seafood restaurant. One might be familiar with their branch in Quezon City near Timog Ave. but nothing beats eating at the original.

The main entrance to the restaurant is missing the sign.
They do have a roadside sign in front of their bed & breakfast. Parking spaces were quite limited but many people come by tricycle, which is the dominant mode of public transport to go around the city.
The interiors looked both formal and homey at the same time.
They had several long tables suitable for families dining together. Make no mistake. This is a family restaurant and we spotted some families having their lunch their on the weekday that were there.
The menu is good and features their house specialties. I am not a fan of crabs but they serve really good crab dishes that my colleagues enjoyed very much.
Notice the menu is both in English and the local dialect Chabacano, which adopts a lot of the Spanish language
They have items and sets for all sizes of groups with very reasonable prices. Students can have a good meal here without compromising their daily allowance.
Our shellfish soup was good
This is what remained of our seafood platter set, which we didn't take long to finish as we were already very hungry by the time our food arrived at our table. We had very light breakfast and had no snacks during our flight.
There were three of us who ate at Alavar. Hopefully, we'll have a bigger group the next time we are in Zamboanga so we can order more dishes to enjoy.
-

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Chocolate review: Los Lacayos Nougat

One of the highlights of my trip to Australia was going around a Saturday outdoor bazaar in Sydney. There, I spotted a stall where they were selling artisan chocolates. This attracted me and I struck up some small talk with the vendor, who explained their chocolates were all handmade and not the mass produced kind. I forgot to ask about the exact source(s) of the cacao but she did say it was fair trade beans. I got a few bars for 4 dollars each, just making sure I got only the dark chocolates instead of the milk chocolates. It didn't hurt that the packaging are quite attractive, too, as evidenced from this dark chocolate with nougat


The details are at the back of the package
The chocolate is produced by Cicada Artisan Chocolate and proudly made in Australia. They have a website that you can easily google for more information about their chocolates. This one claimed 70% single origin chocolate from Papua New Guinea. The chocolate itself was enjoyable and the nougat sandwiched by the chocolate gave you something to chew on especially if you stored the chocolate in the refrigerator for quite some time and ate it immediately after taking it out of the ref. My only regret is getting one bar to take back home. I probably should have bought at least two. :)

-

Monday, August 28, 2017

Bondi Beach

I thought it would be nice to post about the beach as it has been raining hard the past few days. Well, the sun finally came out last Saturday and yesterday was quite warm. Today looks like another bright, sunny day. 

While going around in Sydney, my friend suddenly had an idea to go to the beach to admire the sights there. Bondi Beach is famous for its waves and is lose enough and very accessible from the city. I have read about Bondi Beach and it being very crowded during the summers. When we got there, it turned out it also attracted quite a crowd during winters! None of the bikini-clad women that we joked we probably would see in the summer but mostly people out on picnic, a walk or...surfing! Aussies seem a hardy folk and most came with their wet suits so they could brave the chilly waters. Some didnt even bother to wear wet suits and just donned their trunks or bathing suits before wading into the cold waters with surf boards in hand.

Bondi Beach as seen from our bus
Many people were just seated, walking or picnicking at the park facing the beach
The waves were inviting to a lot of people and a lot brought their cars and surf gear to the beach
Here's an idea of the parking situation that afternoon at the beach.
There was quite a crowd at the beach itself
The scene is not what you'd expect during the winter. But how can you blame people for enjoying the sun when the temperature was 21 degrees C?
The boulevard was line with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Someone even proposed via a aerial message and that added to the sights that afternoon. We stayed there for a couple of hours before going back to Sydney to continue our "walking tour" of the city.
-