My scratch map

I super duper love this scratch map!!! One of the best gifts I’ve received this season. Thank you baby bro!

Before
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After (as of December 2016)
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Can’t wait to scratch some more as I travel the world! So far scratched off and “unearthed” 12 countries, including the Philippines of course. I’m not sure if I can scratch countries where technically I’ve set foot on but only because I had layovers, but haven’t gone outside the airport (Japan, Qatar and Jordan). Oh well, I know in time, I’ll reveal more and I am soooo excited!

Palm Boutique Hotel

My stay in Cambodia was made more comfortable by the Palm Boutique Hotel. It’s a quaint little thing right at the heart of Phnom Penh. I was actually surprised by its modern facilities amidst its Hindi-Buddhist decor. And for only US$39/night, the accommodations are at par with 3- or 4-star hotels elsewhere. I loved my room with its crisp white king bed accented by fluffy white and orange pillows. The dim but cozy lighting was restful. Zen bathroom was also superb. Most of all, wifi is two thumbs up! (I was expecting to be disappointed lol).

Those indoor ponds though are disasters waiting to happen, especially at night. With the lights turned off most of the time, and with an inattentive guest, a spectacle is bound to happen, which I and my companions witnessed first hand as a guy using his mobile phone plunged knee-deep into one of them.

Food is also kind of forgettable, although what we had was breakfast anyway. They’re also always late in opening the restaurant. For us who needed to get an early start, we didn’t get to enjoy it as much because we always had to hurry.

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Cambodia Heritage sites

I was lucky enough to do my work outside the country from time to time. On the outside, I would affectionately complain about how hard it is to make travel arrangements, prepare my presentations, and leave the comfort and embrace of my family. But afterwards, I always look back with fondness at the places I’ve been to. I know that despite the stress and anxiety it entails, travelling with always be that drug that spikes my blood. It always enriches my soul, and I know part of what I am is a product of all the experiences and places I’ve been to.

This was my first trip to Cambodia. Frankly, I was not expecting that much because I thought it would be just like the Philippines, or Thailand. In a way it is, but I was pleasantly surprised that it offered a lot to the discerning traveller. Too bad I only had a few days to savor its sights and sounds, and I was confined to the capital city of Phnom Penh. Most days I was inside our embassy, but I was glad we got about half a day to score some obscure designer items at the Russian market, and savor the city’s heritage sites.

The Royal Palace is a huge compound that showcases the great architecture and rich history of the Cambodian people. Apart from being the official residence of the Cambodian King, several other buildings are located within the complex, such as the Throne Hall where the king receives guests and where ceremonies are held, the Silver Pagoda which houses national treasures, including gifts received by the king, various statues of royal personalities, gardens, and a lot more. The tour is very enriching thanks to our guide, a Cambodian young lady who works for the Philippine embassy.

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The night also provided us a glimpse of the Independence Monument, situated at one of the rotundas in the city. It symbolizes the Khmer’s freedom.

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Too bad the Angkor Wat complex is five hours away in Siem Reap. I would have loved to see that.

Paradizoo

One of the places we visited during our last sojourn to Tagaytay City is Paradizoo. It is actually located in the nearby town of Mendez, just about 5 kms. from the city center. And while there is nothing more that makes me happy than seeing my daughters happy, I have grown tried from always going to Skyranch, which is Mischa’s favorite, and this visit to the zoo is a refreshing change from this (although we would still end up in Skyranch the following day). She was a bit petulant at first, but as kids are wont to be, she would enjoy herself as soon as we reached the animals.

It was drizzling when we came. Parking was a bit of a problem since the one they have can only accommodate, I think, 3 cars. Parking on the street outside was not an option since the zoo was on a town highway, and it was situated on a sloping part. Oh well, good thing there was only a handful who were crazy enough like us to traipse around a zoo on a rainy day.

What I liked about the zoo is that it is not very commercialized and the creatures that are inside are mostly in their natural habitats, and not caged or fenced, as bigger establishments usually do. Maybe it is because the animals are the tamer breeds – camels, ostriches, llamas, goats, sheep, rabbits, ducks, etc. Mischa was able to go inside an enclosure where she fed the animals. Both she and Maxine had fun observing and interacting with the animals.

But aside from the featured animals, there was also a huge flower garden, a butterfly santuary, a pet cemetery, of course, a souvenir shop, and a cafe. If anyone is interested, there are available cabin rooms for overnight stays.

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Garden Palace Hotel Roxas City

I stayed in this hotel last April during one of my official travels. The draft must have been pushed far back that I have completely forgotten about it until now.

The Garden Palace Hotel is a house that has been converted into a small hotel that opened earlier this year. It is located at the Pueblo de Panay, Roxas City’s business hub, and a stone’s throw away from Robinson’s Mall. Unfortunately, I heard from one of my friends that this has been temporarily closed because of ownership issues within the family that runs it. I was told that an estranged couple was fighting over the rights of the house. Oh well, I am glad we were able to stay in it before it happened.

The family’s main line of business is actually catering before they started branching out to hotel management. And that was so evident because what really struck me during my stay was how good the food was! I mean, the food they served were honest to goodness Filipino dishes but there was a kick in every dish. Everything was tasty, and you could sense that they didn’t scrimp on ingredients. They could do well in the presentation department though. But really, it’s okay as long as the belly is satisfied.

The rooms, on the other hand, are very basic. They were clean but as they haven’t had the much customers yet, they were full of mosquitoes. The sheets, blankets and pillows were a little threadbare too. And as it is formerly a house, soundproofing is still a thing of the future. I wouldn’t have minded at any other time, but since our room was next to the dining area (they offer lunch and dinner buffet), the buzz of people talking goes well into the night.

In general, it was a comfortable stay. I would return (if they open again) to eat again, but I would probably opt for the comforts of a commercial hotel in Roxas City.

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Cafe Terraza

Over a month ago, during an official trip to Roxas City, we went up to Pueblo de Panay, a newly reinvented/reconstructed business district in the city for dinner. We were recommended to go to Cafe Terraza, which is situated all the way up a hill, which overlooks the city. It was stunning to say the least, especially at night when all the city lights are open. There was an exhilarating feeling right in the center of your chest akin to watching a feel good movie.

The setting was set for a feel-good evening anyhow. There’s nothing better than comfort food coupled with breezy air and magnificent view to cap a working day. It erases your worries and stress for a while. And Cafe Terraza did just that.

However, as it is on top of a hill, you usually have to have your own private car to come and go. But since we’re visitors, we contracted the services of a good old manong and his tricycle.

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KBL or kadios, baboy at langka

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Seafood kare-kare

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Calamares frito

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An assortment of cakes, clockwise from left: blueberry cheesecake, red velvet and dulce de leche.

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Buto’t Balat

I have dined twice in Buto’t Balat in Iloilo City. Beyond the unassuming entrance, one would be surprised to see a garden restaurant right at the heart of the city. And for visitors like me, it is always refreshing to eat at local stores that offer more than fast food fare. It serves mostly Filipino favorites aside from the usual Ilonggo specialties.

Most of the decor are also native. However, the lights are a little bit too dark if you ask me, and since the area is open, you sometimes get visited by flies or mosquitoes. It must also sizzle during the summer months.

But all in all, I like the place, and I probably would go back if I am staying anywhere near for my next visit. I have lost the number of times I’ve been to Iloilo for official activities, and eating has been the only times I could consider “touring” this wonderful city with the people with the malambing accent.

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Calamari frito
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Binagoongan
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Laing
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Adobong native chicken
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