Saturday, November 30, 2013

Boracay Pub Crawl

and other things...

I woke up early and hung out the Coco Restaurant to freeload off the WIFI.  The signal was actual pretty decent so I spent hours posting a day and a half blog post. 

The Mo joined me for the breakfast buffet included in the room price.  The food was OK, it was your typical western bacon, eggs, cheese, pastries along with Asian dishes such as

Friday, November 29, 2013

Boracay ATV Tour up Mount Luho

I woke up to a mosquito bite to my right eye.  So much for the mosquito net shielding us.  We packed our things and checked out.   There were a couple of discrepancies on our bill, they charged us for transfers that we had already prepaid via an online agent and for our “welcome drinks.”  The receptionist was very friendly and she took care of it right away.  We received a 10% discount for all our meals and drinks with the Boracay Guide VIP card.

Thankfully, our poolside room at the Red Coconut Hotel was ready and we were able to check-in at 8:00 AM.  The room was smaller than what we had been accustomed to but we were thrilled to have AC and call it home for the next 5 nights. 

Here is an aerial view of the hotel courtesy of

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Boracay adventures: Fly Fishing, Helmet Diving & Parasailing

We woke up once the generator was turned off around 6:00 AM that morning.  The Mo and I are early risers but it’s very difficult to sleep in a humid environment.  We got out of our mosquito net covered bed and ventured out along the Diniwid Beach.  We enjoyed a beachfront breakfast at a local restaurant along the beach called Wahine Cafe.
I ordered pancit bihon, a traditional Filipino stir fried glass noodles with shrimp and pork.  The Mo ordered a traditional American breakfast.  We sat on the beach and people watched.  There was an MMA training nearby on the beach that made us feel like fat

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fresh Seafood feast at D’Talipapa in Boracay

After an afternoon of swimming and hanging out at the Spider house resort, we showered and changed and headed into town.

With our new friends that evening, we ventured out to D’Talipapa: Fresh seafood wet market + souvenir shops.  The area is known for paluto restaurants that would cook your fresh seafood purchased at the market to your liking.  We bargained with different seafood vendors and ended up with a kilo of baby clams, blue fish, squid, 2 crabs, and ½ kilo of prawns.  With the metric system not being prevalent in American schools, I was quite confused many times.  I had to keep asking the vendors what a “kilo” looked like.  I was happy we had Sky with us, he is an engineer student and great with math and conversions.

Alfresco Rustic Room at Spider House Resort in Boracay

Hello Spider House

We were awoken by our hotel courtesy wake- up call at 3:30 AM and left what we called home for the past 4 nights and made our way to Cebu International airport.  The flight to Manila was a little over an hour.  We debarked the plane via stairs instead of the Jetway like we are accustomed to. This made it a bit tricky for my heavy carry-on(s).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Little Saigon Big Bangkok in Cebu

With an early flight the next day, the Mo and I decided to lay low.  Our flight was at 5:45 AM which meant we had to be at the airport by 4:30 which meant we had to be up by 3:30 AM.  We hung out by the pool until late afternoon then packed up all our clothes and belongings so we wouldn't have to do it later that night.

We headed towards I.T. Park for some pre-dinner drinks and people watch.  I really wanted to sing karaoke so I was hoping to get the Mo drunk so I could
coerce him into singing a few tunes with me at the 24 hour karaoke joint.

Casa Verde, an "American style casual dining" restaurant was bumping the previous night so I wanted to give it a try.  It seemed as if pre-dinner drinks were not the norm around here, the waitress was confused why we wanted to sit at the bar and order drinks in lieu of a comfortable table.

CNT Lechon...better than Zubuchon

I was so unimpressed with Zubuchon per my last post, that I wanted to give lechon another try, this time at its #1 rival, CNT Lechon.  No, this place is not as recognizable the competition but the hotel's front desk suggested it, besides it was only a short 5 minute walk from our hotel.

Since the day was cloudy and had potential to rain, we nixed our plans to go to Plantation Bay and spent it poolside at The Henry.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Zubuchon "Best pig Ever" just OK

The highly acclaimed Zubuchon left much to be desired.  Cebu is known for their local staple dish, the lechon, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia 

Lechón is a pork dish in several regions of the world, most specifically Spain and its former colonial possessions throughout the world. The word lechónoriginated from the Spanish term lechón; that refers to a suckling pig that is roasted. Lechón is a popular food in the PhilippinesCubaPuerto Rico,Canada, the Dominican Republic, other Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America, and Spain. The dish features a whole roasted pig cooked overcharcoalAdditionally, it is a national dish of the Philippines with Cebu being acknowledged by American chef, Anthony Bourdain as having the best pig

After watching Anthony Bourdain's Zubuchon feature on his show "No Reservations"  we had to give it a try. The restaurant received fab reviews from other bloggers and

Shangri-La Mactan Island:A Day in Paradise!

I had originally planned on staying at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort and Spa as the "splurge" hotel on our honeymoon.  The luxury chain had really great reviews and the photos on tripadvisor looked awe inspiring.  The thought of us sitting around for days going between the pool and beach seemed a bit daunting.  I know normal people relax on vacation but we get bored very easily and are always on the move.  Also, I read that the food and drinks were very expensive so I was turned off as soon as I heard that.

I still wanted to check out the resort so we bought a day trip package for 3500 Pesos (almost $80.00 a person).  What an expensive day trip?!?! Then I rationalized that I've spent more on jet ski rentals, spa treatments, etc. so I quickly got over it.

Our taxi approached the grounds of the Shangri-La and it was incredible.  The view overlooking the pool and ocean from the open air lobby was magnificent.

The staffed smiled and greeted us throughout our visit.  I thought we would be treated like an ugly

Game Day Grub at Marshall's Irish Pub in Cebu

The Mo had his heart set on watching the Pats vs. Broncos game on our trip.  He emailed and sent FB messages to different bars nearby and in the city.  Marshall's Irish Pub at Mango Square replied back that they would be broadcasting the game and the bar would be open at 9:00 AM.

We had a mini "fast" for almost 20 hours and didn't eat anything.  Here is the short story,

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cebu City Tour

Last night, we past out at 8:00 PM and woke up around 3:00 AM with nothing to do. I know I mentioned we are early birds but 3:00 AM is a tad bit early.  We killed time by watching the current season of American Horror Story then finally left the room to grab bao's at the 7-Eleven across the street.

The forecast predicted thunderstorm today so we cancelled our plans to go to Plantation Bay and

Cebu best lunch at Larsian BBQ

After our Cebu City Tour, our driver took us to a local place for lunch.

Not for the faint of heart, Larsian BBQ is an outdoor eatery in Cebu specializing in grilled food items.  One can choose from the many vendors that hawk a variety of meat and seafood to be freshly grilled for you on the spot.  Upon arrival, the Mo was very thrilled, “this is the place I saw on YouTube!” he said excitedly.  Myself on the other hand, not so much.
I’m all for street food, but it was too early on our trip to risk getting sick.  I didn't know how long the raw meat and seafood has been sitting out for.  The temperature reached about

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Henry ... Like No Other in Cebu City

The Henry prides itself in being a unique boutique hotel.  We will call it home for the next 4 nights in Cebu.  The decor is whimsical and the hotel has an industrial/textile feel to it, similar the some of the renovated mills apartments in my home town in Lowell, MA.

I originally booked the "Big" room back in states and got a great rate on  I figured we would be out and about and only needed a room to shower and sleep.

Photo courtesy of hotel's website (since we didn't actually stay in this room)
Since the hotel was a bit further away from downtown

"Wok On" at the Radisson Blu in Cebu

The Radisson Blu was Cebu was our first choice hotel for Cebu City.  It's the most well recognized hotel in the city and very popula with tourists and business travelers alike.  The outdoor free form swimming pool is what intrigued me the most.  Unfortunately, there was a conference going on at the hotel and there were no rooms available when we decided we wanted to stay.

During my travel research, I read that the hotel's restaurant Feria offers some of the best meals in the city.  Many people suggested their "Wok On" theme night which featured Chinese and other Asian dishes.  I contacted the resort via email to see which nights the special menu took place and the concierge advised that the special buffet took place on Saturdays for lunch and for dinner.  On top of that, she advised that every Saturday, they offer promotional discounted rates on Saturdays.

The hours of the special "Wok On" meal on Saturdays:
Lunch is served from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM
Dinner is served from 6:30 PM to 10:30 PM

In the email, I was quoted a price of 645.00 (Pesos) nett per person excluding drinks which is about $14.75 per person USD.

The email suggested that I made reservations, so I had the front desk of our hotel coordinate reservations for us for 7:00.  The plan was to get to the hotel a couple of hours early and have pre-dinner drinks at the lobby bar.

Getting to the Radisson Blu at that time took forever with the insane Cebu traffic. I was on edge the whole time in the taxi ride as our cab driver maneuvered his way around jeepneys, trucks, motorbikes and even pedestrians.

Upon arrival, we had to go through security at the gate and the officers checked the trunk of our cab.  Before we walked into the hotel, we also went through a metal detector.  This level of security is common in prevalent in high end hotels in the Philippines as there has been terrorism activity involving hotel bombings in the past.

We were welcomed in the grand entrance lobby by a massive Christmas tree.

Best Western Lex in Cebu City

Although we got in late last night and didn't go to bed until 3 AM, we are still early risers and was up by 7:00 AM.  I couldn't sleep in, there was so much to do and see! I did want to take it easy and not have any "set in stone" plans that required booking a tour or reservation.

We had the breakfast buffet at our hotel restaurant that was included in our $50.00 room rate.  There was a great variety of offerings for both Western and local travelers.  The buffet had common items such as pastries, pancakes, sausages, cereal, cheese, fruit and an omelette station. There were menu items that caught my eye that aren't typical in Western breakfast buffets such as: mango/fish sauce salad, chicken Marsala, fried rice, and fish and chips.

Friday, November 22, 2013

5 point cafe Happy Hour bacon for breakfast and Korean Air Bimbimbap for dinner

It took us a little more than 25 hours from our check-out at our Seattle Hotel before checking into our hotel in Cebu City.  We started our morning with a quick breakfast at the 5-Point Café, a dive bar that serves alcohol at 8 in the morning.  Although we didn’t get bloody mary’s or beers as the other diners, we did take advantage of their early morning happy hour special, the Mo got French toast for $3.00 and I got a delicious thick cut apple bacon egg and cheese sandwich for $2.75.
Delicious $ 2.50 breakfast sandwich
The hotel courtesy town car drove us to the Westlake LinkRail station where we caught airport shuttle.  The train set us back only $2.75 each compared to the $50.00 cab ride we paid upon arrival.

Check- in and airport security was a breeze and we were sitting at our gate in no time.  Funny story, the Mo tried to surprise me with a “Special Occasion” cake on the flight by requesting one in advance. Of course, the ticketing agent verified this information in-front of me and I had no idea what she was talking about.  The Mo looked all panicky and bothered and I finally got it. LOL, it was supposed to be a surprise and she ruined it.

Shortly after our Korean Air flight took off, we were served honey roasted peanuts and drinks, of course I got red wine.  Our meal choices were pasta, chicken or Korean bimbimbap.  Both the Mo and I went with the Korean staple dish.  The flight attendant gave us a “recipe” card on how to assemble our meal with the separate rice, sesame oil and red chili paste.

After several glasses of wine and catching up on the last jaw dropping episode of Homeland, I passed out to Celine Dion's Greatest Hits album.    I woke up a few times and watched 3 different movies.

After 10 hours we arrived in South Korea where we herded through airport security again.  I appreciate the extra security but it was quite the hassle.  We stood in line for almost an hour with anxious passengers fearing they would miss their connection flight. People were shoving and yelling at each other as the line slowly moved.  Finally the TSA agents had to let those passengers with “Final Boarding Calls” through the line so they would make their flight.

Our flight was slightly delayed because we had to wait for other connecting flights to arrive. I suspect it was the emergency/disaster relief teams from other nations.  Once the final group arrived, we boarded.

I have never rode on a 777-200 before with 2 decks of seating.  Our seats were in the back where there were only 2 of us in a row and the Mo appreciated the extra leg room.

After our dinner of Chinese beef and lo mein was served, the flight attendant brought out our “surprise” celebration” cake.  

I was too tired to eat it so we put it aside.  Every time I fell asleep, I would be woken by the turbulence.  It was not a good flight.

We arrived in Cebu City and were greeted with a warm welcome by both the Korean airlines crew and the employees at the Mactan/Cebu airport.  Immigration line was a bitch!  We stood in line for 30 minutes in a hot room with people pushing and cutting the line.  I had a little” freak-out” moment when a lady decide to tend to her baby at the very bottom of the escalator causing a bottleneck situation that led myself and others  to fall along with our luggage tumbling on top of us.  All she had to do was take one step aside so everyone can get through.  We had nowhere to go and it was not a pretty scene.

The airport taxi stand was very efficient and the line went by fast.  Two to three taxis would line up and the airport employees helped us with our luggage and wrote down our taxi number for us in case there were any issues. 
It was raining when we arrived in the city and the airport transfer to our hotel was about 20 minutes.

I was relieved to check into our hotel, the Best Western Lex Cebu, it was listed #5 on Tripadvisor and we will actually be staying in the #2 hotel later.  Upon entering the hotel, I felt like I walked into Christmas.  The lobby was adorned with a beautiful Christmas tree and the speakers piped out Christmas carols.  The modern hotel only set us back $50.00 for the night.  

The room boasted a large king size bed, LCD screen and separate tub and shower.  It was very similar to the Pan Pacific hotel we just stayed at with the large soak tub having a view of the bedroom.
We were too tired to go out and explore.  We took a nice bath, ate our cake and called it a night.

The 5 Point Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Happy Hour at Seattle's Belltown Pub and Pan Pacific accommodations

After  3 months elapsed after our wedding, we are finally taking our honeymoon.  The itinerary is as follows, Boston to Seattle to Mactan Island/Cebu City to Boracay to Manila back to Seattle and then back home.  We have quite a few flights, hotel reservations and airport transfers to make.  You would think we would want to relax on our honeymoon but I think the "backpackers" in us loves the adventures.  We got hit with a major game changer last week with the massive typhoon and thought we would have to cancel our trip.  Upon research, the areas we are visiting in the Philippines weren't affected as catastrophic as the other regions.

Our car service arrived on time to bring us to the airport. I definitely felt like the Mo pulled out the red carpets on this one.  I'm so used to lugging around my backpack and taking multiple transfer such as the commuter rail, fung wah bus, subway etc. before we finally end up at Logan or JFK.

We excitedly sipped on champagne on our way to the airport and luckily there was no traffic at all.

Since our domestic flight to Seattle was JetBlue, we knew meals would not be served on the 6 hour flight.  Thanks to my work Thanksgiving potluck earlier in the week, I had leftovers to make us steak tip pita pockets.  Instead of dishing out $10-15.00 for burgers and pizzas at the airport, I packed us dinner and saved the money for something more important, pre-flight drinks.

I passed out right after we boarded the plane and woke up when the flight attendant was handing out snacks.  I've never been on a JetBlue flight before and I must say it was very comfortable. I've never had my own LCD screen on a domestic flight before.  The in-flight entertainment had great offerings.  The ample amounts and variety of complimentary snacks and drinks were praise worthy.

The flight would have been smooth sailing up until the last 3 hours with an infant in the row in front of us crying.  I always hear horror stories of a flight with a crying baby but this was nonstop for almost 3 hours. I felt bad for the baby and the mom. I could sense the fellow passengers getting irritated as well.

We landed on time in Seattle and took a cab to Pan Pacific Hotel.  It is ranked #6 on Tripadvisor and I wanted to stay somewhere nice on our first night.  The Pan Pacific luxury hotels and resorts chains embodies a blend of the culture and heritage of the Pacific Rim.  The Seattle hotel is the only Pan Pacific hotel in the states.

The Premium King city view room was on the top floor.  It boasted a large bathroom with a huge soaking tub and a separate shower with glass doors.

Within minutes of settling into our room, we received a knock on our door.  The hotel had sent us a bottle of chilled champagne and truffles to celebrate our honeymoon. I thought that was really generous of the hotel and it was greatly appreciated.

Since it had been more than 9 hours since we ate at the airport, we ventured into the city to grab a bite. I read about late Happy Hour specials at  Belltown Pub.  It was a 15 minute walk from our hotel and cold Seattle weather.  On our walk, we could see the Space Needle.

Upon arrival, I was disappointed as it looked empty and we walked by numerous other livelier places.  When we entered the bar, I realized there was a 2nd floor and a back area that had much more people than the front entrance windows led to believe.

At the table, there were trivia cards from all sorts of decades and genres that could keep patrons entertained while waiting for their drinks and food.  I thought that was a really cool idea.

I ordered the "Elderflower", cupcake Prosecco and St. Germain, a sweet liquor crafted in the artisan French style from elderberry flowers.  The champagne flute was garnished with an orange peel.  The Mo ordered a a craft beer.

We shared a Jameson fondue & soft pretzel and a bacon burger with sweet potato fries that was $5.00 and $7.00 respectively.  The meal was great and satisfied our bellies and we walked back to our hotel.

After the cold walk back to our hotel, we rewarded our body with a hot bubble bath and champagne.

It was a great start to our honeymoon.

We're going to grab breakfast and head for Seatac.  We are off to Korea then to Cebu. A couple of days will lapse before my next post.

Until next time....

Belltown Pub on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

$1.00 Oysters and an affordable steakhouse in the Boston area

To celebrate our 10 years together, the Mo and I had planned on going to one of my favorite steakhouse, Del Frisco's in the Seaport district.  I had everything planned out, reservations was made for Sunday at 6:00 PM and I already knew what I was going to order: The "Prime Pair Sunday" special which included a salad, 8oz filet, with a choice of their delicious crab cake, shrimp or scallops and a side dish.

On our way to Boston, I had a sudden desire for raw oysters on the half shell.  I didn't want to splurge and pay the premium price for oysters at Del Frisco's so I wanted to go somewhere else beforehand.  We were already on 93 near Stoneham when I suggested the detour.

I made a quick call to Del Frisco's and pushed back our reservations to a later time slot.  A coworker told me about a place in Medford with $1.00 oysters. I forgot the name but I knew it was a Japanese/Chinese restaurant. After a Google search for "Japanese restaurants Medford" and calling the mystery restaurant, we were seated at the lit up bar of Yoki Restaurant & Sushi Bar.

The restaurant was a happening spot for a Sunday night filled with many couples both young and older sitting at the tables and bar area.  We were greeted by a friendly bartender that asked us if we were staying for dinner or drinks.  We were upfront and said we were there for drinks and the $1.00 oysters and she was happy to take our drink orders.

I started with their signature lychee martini, which the bartender said was their most popular drink.  The tasty drink was a concoction of Ketal One vodka, black raspberry,  lychee and pineapple juice shaken and poured into a chilled martini glass and garnished with two plump lychee fruits.  The Mo got his usual scotch on the rocks.

Within the hour. we slurped on 2 dozen of succulent oysters.  They were definitely fresh.  We will be back on another Sunday night to for more oysters and give their menu a try.

As we were walked towards the car, I came up with another suggestion, to venture out and try a different steakhouse, other than Del Frisco's.  I saw Frank's Steakhouse in Cambridge featured on Phantom Gourmet one weekend morning and looked it up.  "The Phantom Gourmet gave Frank's Steakhouse an "86" rating as well as placing it in the 'Top 5" for steakhouses, comfort food and neighborhood restaurants.  The reviews on Google, Yelp and Tripadvisor all looked promising so we gave it a shot.

The restaurant was easy to find on Mass. Ave and we were promptly seated upon arrival.  The decor is a bit dated and nostalgia of a '60's style steakhouse.  The menus were a little tethered but were still functional.  The Mo had another glass of scotch and I ordered a half carafe of house red wine, fancy huh? The half carafe only set us back less than eight bucks, what a steal!

The complimentary loaf of bread was served hot on a cutting board with a serrated knife and pats of butter.  It was good but we didn't want to get full off of bread so we both stuck to a slice each.  it was nice and crusty on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.

Random fun fact, the menu features the restaurant's story on their "About us" page.  Based on local legends, the restaurant didn't have a name at first and there was a regular "town drunk" name Frank that always sat at the first stool at the bar, so the owners named the restaurant after him.  I thought it was a cute coincidence that our favorite TV show drunk on Shameless is also named Frank.

Also, another fun fact, back then, there was a Chinese chef name Wee Leo that cooked the best Chinese food in the area upon request.  So during those decades back, one can go into Frank's and order the best prime rib in town as well as the best egg foo young at the same establishment.

 We were intrigued by the 3 pound Delmonico steak with sides for $49.99 and had planned to order that.  After looking through their extensive menu of steaks and comfort foods, we finally came up with a conclusion.  We would start off with their Kansas City Wild Wings, fall of the bone, braised pork shanks based with BBQ Sauce.  The meat was definitely tender and tasty but I wished there was more BBQ sauce smothered on the meat.  I'm a big sauce person and would have definitely appreciated it.

For dinner, I got their lamb shank Osso Bucco with mashed potatoes. The Osso Bucco is a staple Italian stew.  I died and went to heaven.  The slow coked dish was full of flavors that delighted my palate.  I could taste the fragrant tomato, onions and carrots in their rich sauce.  I've made braised lamb shank before and I've only had it with a red wine reduction so this was definitely a great change and yes I will try to imitate this dish at home.

The Mo had the "prince" cut prime rib with fries and rice pilaf. He said it was very good.

We both wanted to do a "Surf & Turf" combination but shared the seafood platter appetizer in addition to our own entrees.  The fried shrimp, calamari and succulent scallops were breaded and fried perfectly.  Of course our eyes were bigger than our stomach and we had plenty of leftovers.

 I felt like we were on a fun scavenger hunt that night looking for $1.00 oysters and great steak, why not end it with dessert? We considered going into the North End but didn't want to deal with the limited parking so we stopped by the Cheesecake Factory in Burlington on our way home.  The Mo doesn't really do cakes or sweets but he does like cheesecake.

We sat at the bar and ordered a cappuccino and the 5 year old little girl in me wanted a hot chocolate so I ordered the Dulce de leche.

I couldn't decide on which cheesecake to order so I walked over to the display to survey all the offerings.  The red velvet, pumpkin and Oreo were all front runners.  The winning choice was the 30th anniversary Chocolate cake cheesecake with layers of original cheesecake, fudge cake and chocolate truffle cream.  It was absolutely decadent.  We couldn't even finish the dessert.

The night was a success! We found two new restaurants that we enjoyed and will return.

I truly learned that I have to be less neurotic and take it easy sometimes.  Less planing and do things on a whim based on what we I feel like doing at that moment.

With our planned trip to the Philippines coming up in a couple of days, I am going to try to take it day by day. We shall see how that goes!