Monday, August 11, 2014

Back to Lodon!!!

Running around again to begin the year 2014! Packed my bags and flew down to dear London. Why you ask, is London dear to me. No, not for the (few if not all) snooty  British, but for my college mates who took the challenges to work in the UK. My trips there will not be complete without seeing them. And to that, I thank Ninang Jai, Gatz, Tita Shye and Daddy Vhit, for always being ready to meet me amidst their busy schedules and/or hungover state. Yeah, I meant you, Gatz...


So this time, Gosia, Ania and I, hit 2 birds with one stone. I was able to encourage them to try Jamie Oliver's 15 restaurant. I heard a lot about the good deeds that this ever popular chef has been doing. Helping get kids off the street. Turning them into competent cooks and giving them jobs to keep 'em off the street! Now that's one I would support. 

So armed with that knowledge, the three girls went to meet their food destiny. Hailed the famous London cab and road thru the light traffic to get to 15 in less than 10 mins. Yes we could have just walked. But come on! With my high heels on? No can do!!! 

As I stepped out of the cab, I breathed in the feel of this establishment, as I am not going to pass up this chance, no, not a single second. Then, I was greeted by the nostalgic hustle and bustle of restaurants dinner peak. Suddenly, I missed my hey day working at Mondo, Fat Willys, HRC, etc.!  
The dimmed lights gives off the mysterious feel and the brick walls, loud music and undertone lights of the bar tells me I missed night life. It is reminiscent of Fat Willy's. But I wondered, where do they serve the food?
 We were lead by a nicely dressed and cheerful host, down to a stair case that opens up to a wider underground level, though not so different ambient. The music is softer and the lights just a bit brighter. An open kitchen lets you peek in to the magical world (well to me it is) of food preparation. 

Our server was cheerful (a bit too cheerful for my taste) and knowledgeable of the dishes and gave us a good deal. She made us order different dishes in small portions to share between the three of us.

And the winner of the night is..... (drum roll please...)
Pulled pork cannelloni!

 I'd say I was just slightly disappointed as I expected way too much from a Jamie Oliver resto. Of course, the food was good. But it just lacks of something to be great. Or maybe, I just raised Jamie up the bar too high. Now I understand what my colleagues were saying. He is overrated.
But I still stand by my decision to come and dine at 15. As I will always support good deeds for children and their future.

On a side note: I made my own version of this dish at home:

I dunno yet when I will go back, as Gosia (my London trip buddy) just gave birth to a bouncing baby boy named Antoni.
 For now, see you soon, London!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Buda and the Pest!

My first time in a Hungarian city, and the only thing in 

 my mind is to have an authentic Goulasch! True to my dear friend, Gee's word, we found a very good place at Vaci Utca, Budapest, called 'Pauls Bistro' to get a taste of Goulasch soup! And I kid you not. I was in absolute amazement.

On my trips, I always look for the nearest wet markets. And mind you, I don't fail! Hah!

I must say, I wasn't so surprised to see that they sell ox tripe in abundance. But really, the cook in me had to buy a couple kilos of it to bring home to Tampere.
In here too, I found amazing paprika sausages, similar to chorizo.

Lucky as I am in most of my trips, I was able to enjoy the Christmas market and found a gift for my hubby. A Hungarian made tobacco pipe with engraving of the country's emblem.I know I should have tried the sweets, but I really controlled myself not to give in. Though I did try the
Kürtőskalács or chimney cakes.

Of course, the Hard Rocker in me, would always visit the HRC's! And am very glad to have made a new fan out of my friend. And my visits will never be complete without my favorite Tupelo Chicken and a Legendary burger!

 My six day trip in Budapest may be filled with the longest walks ever, but was never tiring. I loved every minute of my stay there and dreams of coming back with my monkeys. 

 Blessed with a very fine day for sightseeing! 

A tour of the underground tunnels just gave me the creeps. But it was totally worth it! (Try to enlarge this pic and check if you can see a ghostly image on the right side - spooky!)

And of course, immersing oneself in the hustle and bustle of the locals, is an experience you shouldn't miss!

So yeah, I will definitely come back to Budapest!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I'm coming home....

Yeah, Dubai was a bit of a disappointment I may say. It's a place of so much extremes. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Extreme laziness of some locals against hardworking foreigners.
It took me a long time to write another piece as an ending to my Dubai Journey. I wanted to save the best for last. But what entirely could be the best? Should the best be the thousands of designer shops in hundreds of malls? The magnificent 7 star hotel? The expensive cars flying around the roads of Dubai? The vast desert with camels nearing extinction? Or the mixture of culture from different countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas?
I may sound so benevolent with what I am about to write, but thats the thing, am only human. There are several thousands of men and women working in Dubai right now who aren't in any system. A friend of mine met a Pakistani woman who came to Dubai in search of her missing husband. Oh she found him alright. But the story doesn't end there. The husband came to Dubai thru an agent who found him and some hundred other Pakistanis, Indians, Sri Lankans, and Africans, jobs in construction sites. As you now know, Dubai is one big construction site in one big sand box. With high hopes of earning a bit more money to feed the hungry family, they went. First of the many injustices they faced was, they were given only 6€ worth of phone calls a month and 4€ for their daily meals (including breakfast, lunch and dinner). There's 3 shifts, of 10 hours each. You are lucky if you get the night shift for you won't last so long working under the scorching sun. Yeah they get accommodation and free bus rides in a cramped van with no air conditioning. But these are just the tip of the iceberg my dear friends. Their passport was taken. They can't leave the country until after the construction is done. So even if you find another place to work with better salary and better working condition, you cant!
There are still other branches to this story. But the truth is, there isn't anything you and I can do. For as long as there's a Gorshanis, Mazaris and Mundranis who will do anything to earn money to feed their young, there's always people who will take advantage. I may have left the country heartbroken and disappointed, but the country has left me with one true thing I will carry in my heart for as long as I live. And that's HUMANITY.
Goodbye Dubai... till we meet again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Burj Al Arab experience... part 2

Let these pictures give you an idea about the rooms at the Burj. This one costs about 7,500Dhms. (€1,500) Don't get me wrong. Am just a guest here. hihihi. All rooms at the Burj includes your very own butler. Upon check in, you'll get a bottle of wine, fruit platter and some more goodies like dates and pastries.

1. The elevator hallway.

2. Toni on the sofa in the family room, first floor. Equipped with 37inch plasma TV.
Behind him is a glass window, where a fantastic view of the coast and the island across greets you in the morning.

3. Still in the family room across the sofa. A Cleopatra style sofa. Feel ko lang.

4. Ria by the dining area, still on the first floor. Where we finished off our take out dinner.

5. Office area, equipped with a huge lap top and internet access. Swabe! And theres a toilet and a stock room on the first floor.

6. With Ria, Peewee, and Jinky by the staircase to the 2nd floor.

7. Ria in the jacuzzi with Jinky, Peewee and Toni. 2nd floor. With toilet on this same bathroom.

8. With 8 shower nozzles. There's also a his and hers sink, and all perfumes, lotions, soaps and I think the shampoos as well are from Hermes. And these bottles are not the miniature ones, they are big sizes I tell you.

9. Yes, thats the bed right there. King size of course. Fit for the royalties. Not me though :) With a sofa corner and another plasma TV.

10. Hope you can see tiny lil me, just to give you an idea how tall the floors are.

11. There should have been water on the fountain behind us, but well, this is the lobby anyways.

12. Its too dark, but this is on the escalator going down. This is the area of the huge aquariums.

My Burj Al Arab experience

A few months back, Toni told me about a guy who tried to bring his sons into the Burj Al Arab, the only 7-star hotel in the world to date. He said they were being asked to pay 50€ each just to get into the hotel cafe coz they didn't have any reservations, and neither are they billeted. So when I got to Dubai, I really did not intend to or even thought about visiting the hotel. 50€ is really a lot of money just so I can pay yet another maybe 50Dhms for a cup of coffee that I can get for 10Dhms somewhere else.
But then I was presented with the opportunity to be Peewee's guest in this lavish hotel, no need to think twice!
Armed with take-out dinner for 4, Toni, Ria and I drove to the gates of the Burj. About 20 feet from the main gate, theres a guard who asked for our names and who we are visiting. Passed that guy is the main gate that is similar to most Army bases gates. You know this steel metal block that rises up and down from the ground? Thats the main gate! Passed this, we had to cross a small bridge since the Burj is situated just off the beach area in Jumeirah. And while on this bridge, I can't help but feel ecstatic while looking at the majestic building shaped like a sail boat, with changing hues that illuminates it.
After the bridge, there was a round about, and of course we had to give our car out for valet. Our car in Dubai is this measly 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer. Pardon me for those who owns this car. I have no problem about it. Its just that in Dubai, it is a poor mans car. I hope you understand. And to add to my embarrasment, our car was the dirtiest ever that the Burj probably received! hahaha.
So we entered the huge main doors, adorned with the portraits of the Sheiks who built this hotel, I was again in awe, both sides of the escalators going up and down are these massive aquariums with real live fishes in it. (I would later find out, that in the resto aquarium lives a shark!)
On top of the stairs is this huge area surrounding a fountain, equipped with a Rodeo Drive shopping places, and elevators going to the different parts of the hotel.
Am sure you have heard about it being glazed with gold. Well yeah it is, but its just brass actually. When you look up, you'll see the balconies of every floor. It's just a beauty.
As we head to the elevators that will take us to the 7th floor where Peewee and Jinky are staying, I couldn't help but notice that there are loads of beautiful Pinays working in this hotel. And on that floor, we are now received on a small receptions, which I think every floor has. Here we had to show our passports which they copied. Talk about real securities here.
(to be continued)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

More Pics...

01. With heartthrob Guiller... It was unbelievably nice seeing one of my high school crushes and catching up. Haven’t seen this guy since ’96.

02. With Val… Still the reserve kind of guy I’ve always liked. Miss the Talyer days.

03. Dinner at Scarlet with Peewee and Kuya Rain. Thanks for the discount sister P.

04. A night out without Ria.

05. La lang, looking like as if I went shopping.

06. With Sky, at Stallion Pinoy Comedy club.

07. Fooling around at Stallion with Toni, Peewee and Sky.

08. Ras Al Khaimah desert highway.

09. With the camels in the deserts of Ras Al Khaimah

10. Closer to the camels now.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mabuhay ang Filipino!!!

(Taken at Magic Planet with Edith)

(With Peter and Edith)

More than 40% of Dubai’s ex-pats population composes of Filipinos, mostly working in the hospitality industries, shops and offices. It’s no surprise that I have at least a dozen friends and a dozen more classmates/ex-colleagues and acquaintances working or living here in Dubai. Some of them I haven’t seen for 15 years. So it is really nice to meet these people while am here.
Before I left Finland, I found out that an ex-colleague from Chili’s is here. Edith and I might not have been close friends back in Manila, but seeing her this time and spending some bonding time with her was a really good experience. From her I learned some stories of how it is to be working here in Dubai. Stories of love, hate, deception, common and uncommon, brought about by the passion to make a living for the love ones back home or just merely by the will to live.
Others just sway to the rhythm of Dubai beat and learn its steps, while others succumb to the poisonous aroma of bureaucracy. And this just makes me sick to the pit of my stomach, learning how other people live in severe difficulties while I complain at how I was treated by a flight attendant. How disgustingly ungrateful of me!!!
But this is one great thing that makes me so proud to be a Filipino. Our passion and will to live make us the best employees wherever we go. We know the meaning of “pagtitiis” (sacrifice) that we could live in these very trying times in very harsh conditions.
To the Filipino men and women around the world who’s working so hard to make ends meet and dancing to the beat of the music called LIFE, I salute you! Cheers.

I love nightlife....

(With Toni, Jinky and P-wee at the Jumeirah Beachcomber)

(With P-wee and Vangie at Manila 365)

As I sat down to the reserved table for four, I know already where to start in this beautifully arranged buffet of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. For 150 dhs. per head, I am determined to get my moneys worth, well in this case, Tonis moneys worth :) We had about 3 hours before we are to meet Vangie in Deira, so I tried to pace myself. From the chicken corn soup, to salads and appetizers, dimsums, tandoori and curries, to desserts, I enjoyed every spoonful. It was a heavenly experience to taste flavorful dishes that was the real deal. If I am to list the menu, this will take forever. I guess one mistake Jinky and I did, was to take green tea after that heavy meal. Find out why.
To add to the amazing food, the staff I will give a perfect 10. Not just because they are mostly Filipinos or Asians, but because they do deserve the score. The ambience I would say is up to par, for this 5 star hotel isn't boastful at all, which adds to the simplicity of the place with which you'll feel so at home.
Of course, next on our agenda was the picture taking, because Beachcomber is right by the shore with view of the picturesque Burj Al Arab. Thanks to P-wee though, for she got us a 50% discount on this wonderful meal.
About 20 kms. from this hotel, we are to meet Vangie at Chika Grill in Deira. It was my first taste of clubbing in Dubai, and man was I in Manila??? 90% of the population inside this club were Pinoys. I felt like entering a Malate club.

P-wee: Thats Vangie, pols.
Apple: No way! She's way too big to be Vangie
P-wee: No really, thats her, wait your phones going to ring.
(and so my phone rang, and I sent Toni to Vangie who was about 12 feet away from us)
Toni: Would you like to go out with me?
Vangie: (looking so amazed and surprised) Are you Toni?
Toni: No
Vangie: Oh, I'm sorry (now looking bewildered and a bit shocked)

A bit far from them, P-wee and I were laughing are asses off!!! Nyahaha

And so we moved to Manila 365. We had to put the healthy Vangie to sit in front so Toni, Angela, Jinky and I could squeeze in at the back seat of P-wee's car. Yes Awie, your wishes had come true. Vangie now looks like you!!! You bad bad girl!!!
As we found a parking place, we had to ask for directions to Manila 365. A local guy told us to walk straight on this one road. When we got there, a man told us to walk back. So in the sweltering heat, we walked more than 10 minutes, only to find out that we parked right next to the Ramee building where the club is located! Whew!!!
This club was no different. Toni needed to pay 25Dhs to get in, got himself a drink, there was no more place for us, so we ended up sitting on this couch right next to the drummer that my ears were still ringing the following night. All in all, the night was enjoyable, because of the company.

P-wee: Isn't Danke African for Thank you?
Toni: No, its German
Jinky: No its American!!! Di ba, Danke Donuts!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Harry Potter Mania...

(Warning: May contain some hints about the Deathly Hollows ending. So if you haven't read the last book yet, don't read this blog)

I know that when they release the Harry Potter Deathly Hollows, I will be in Dubai, so a month before the release, I asked Toni to pre order one for me. Which I thought was needed. But I guess Harry Potter isn't that famous in Dubai. There were still loads of books on the shelves when we went to pick up mine. Anyways, flash back to 3 months ago, I invited Ria's Scottish classmate Nathan, his sister Erin and mom Christine to watch the Harry Potter movies at home. Whilst I haven't read any of the Potter books, but have seen all first 4 movies, Christine have read all 6 books but have not seen any of the movies. We started talking about the story of Harry and I started asking questions about some plots that are quite mind boggling. And she advised me to read the books. Which I did. The following day, I went to the bookstore and found the first 4 books, and I bought them all. Read the Philosophers Stone in 18hours, Secret of Chambers for about 22hours, Prisoner of Azkaban for about 20 hours, Goblet of Fire for about 24hours straight. I read the books while I cooked, while I ate, and while I did number 2. I was just fascinated by Harry's world and his life. I certainly cried and laughed. Rowling was amazingly good, to be able to describe vividly the world that has long since been featured in Discovery Channel if it is true. (I still won't believe it anyhow)But still, it has given me a great amount of pleasure. While I waited for the Order of the Phoenix to be available in the Tampere bookstore, I checked some websites about Harry Potter, and man! there were loads of em. Can't believe people really put forth so much energy and time debating and scrutinizing every aspect of this book. After I finished the Half Blood Prince, (I bought the children edition first while I waited for the UK classic black covers) I knew I have to get a hold of the last book even if Toni kicks my ass for it. And, I had turned my friend Katsu into a Harry Potter fanatic as well. So, 2 days after the release of the book, I am truly satisfied with the ending. But I know that my inner child is craving for more. I will definitely wait for the Encyclopedia that Rowling will publish after her holidays.

The part where Harry was walking towards Aragogs cave to offer himself to Voldemort where he was accompanied by the ghosts of his mom, dad, Sirius, and Remus, really made me cry. And as Hagrid being the one to carry the then-know-to-be-lifeless body of Harry was a heartfelt scene. For Hagrid was the one who introduced Harry to the wizarding world and kinda became his watcher.

After reading that Severus actually was on the good side, I knew Harry couldn't die. Making him a father of three in the end, fulfilled a life's worth of longing for a real family for Harry.

Thanks to my dear friend Christine, (who is now well on her way to Scotland with her family for good) for introducing to me the magical world of Harry Potter.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Let's drink to that!!!

(Ria enjoying a dip on 40 degs summer heat)

(Taken at the Bin Majid pool bar: Ukko, Marju, Tero and Petri)

(Toni, knocked out after a full days swimming and drinking)

After a 2 nights and 3 days stay at Bin Majid Resort, its back to work for Toni, Tero and Petri. But not after we stopped by Barracuda Beach Resort where they sell alcohol from beers to wines to liquors for cheaper prices. This I find very amusing, that just about 60 kms from there, Al Sharjah is a very strict city. No alcohol of any kind is permitted in this place. Yet, most of the foreigners like us, who stumbles upon Barracuda, will of course drive thru Al Shrajah with trunks full of liquors. Toni got himself 3 boxes of beers (24pcs each) and I got myself a bestfriend: Jack Daniels, a bottle of Coco Rhum and a couple more bottles of wine.

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery so I have no evidence to show that I finally came face to face with not just one but more than a dozen camels. Which is actually the highlight of the trip for me. But no worries, Toni will probably take us back there whether to escape the summer heat of the city, or once he runs out of beer, whichever comes first... hehe.


My Body is a wonderland... or not!

(View of the Bin Majid Resort beach)

(The pool bar)

(text written on 27th of July, 5:30pm)
Eversince I arrived in Dubai, my body’s been wanting to get a massage. Today, that wish was granted. Driving 2 hours from Dubai, we arrived in Ras Al Khaimah last night. Bin Majid Beach Resort is quite nice. Good food and nicely situated by the beach with a nice view. We came here with Toni’s colleagues Tero with wife Marju and son Ukko, and Petri and wife Lara. There isn’t anything to complain about really. I enjoy the place. With very good company. What more, the staff are very nice, of course they are about 40% Filipinos. Most of them are restaurant staff.

For 100€ a night/room, breakfast, lunch and dinner included, you get to enjoy the pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, gym, play place, and of course the beach and the sun. The one thing that bothers me though is the water in the shower. Whatever time you take a shower, the water is always warm to hot. That Ria can’t take it. But I already fixed that problem in our apartment.

So, as soon as I got in the room, I checked the services for listing of massages. Ayurveda is the key to health! For 30€, you get 45mins of intensive body massage. As of this writing, I just enjoyed one 30 minutes ago. I can assure you that the massage is really good. Thanks to Tutchaya (I hope I spelled that correctly), she’s from Sri Lanka. But my body is accustomed to hard or very hard massage. In Manila, it is a necessity. Now a days, especially in Finland, it’s a luxury, I tell you. It is sooo damn expensive. But with this I pay tribute to the people who have lambasted my body through the years…  

SengSeng is my mom’s neighbor who was the first ever to give me a massage. I was 16 then and it was after a strenuous volleyball championship game at San Juan de Dios College (where I received my MVP… naks, just boasting). She was always there when I needed her during the time I was working in the restaurant. Up until now, whenever I go home to Manila she’s just a text away. And last February, I booked her for 5 Thursdays until I left for Finland. Fee: P300 (5€ /hr)
Maria is my favorite from the Grand Makati Spa I frequented while I was working in the office near it. She’s an inch shorter than I am, but she can flip me and rock me and just put me right back to my feet. Fee: P500 (9€/hr)
Cathy is an 18 yr. Old blind girl who I always call for home service when Toni and I lived in Makati. She can just relax my body and put me right to sleep. Fee P300 plus taxi fare.
Roquette is probably the best I ever had. Haha! Massage I mean. He’s a 50 yr. Old gay guy who is famous for torture massage in the island of Boracay. Torture? You ask. Because he can give the hard massages even under the sweltering summer heat. Well, not torture for the client, but for him. Though I always ask him to come to our room. If you are in Bora, go ask for him from any of the masahistas by the beach, if you are not sensitive about a gay guy touching you. Fee: Depends on the massage rate of the island. You pay the same price to anyone by the beach, except I’d give him about P100 more.
There’s this one Finnish guy who lives in Kerimäki near mummi’s place that I never fail to consult whenever we come to visit. He gives the sports massages but he wouldn’t complain about giving me hard ones. So he would really sweat a lot while am on the table. He’s also quite good, and sometimes loses track of time. Fee: 60€/1½ hrs. (But really worth it)