Tag Archive: Asia

Yes. It’s a wrap. All of 8 days and 7 nights. As someone in our group said, “Sri Lanka was a revelation”. There were some mishaps, some missed sites, some meals not making the grade, a few frustrations, but this trip was just marvelous. Sri Lanka has much to offer. I do not think they’re there yet in terms of promoting their country best but it should get a lot of attention soon. Hopefully too, tourism promotion does not adversely affect the character of the people here — smiling, helpful, charming.

We feel this trip deserves a repeat. I enjoyed the safari but won’t do it again unless my family is going with me. (Birdwatchers would!) Instead, I’d return to Nuwara Eliya in time for tea harvest, do a bit of hiking in Ella to view the Nine Arches Bridge and Adam’s Peak, climb Sigiraya Rock, visit the Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy’s Peradeniya (we missed it as we lacked time), take another scenic train ride, spend more time in Weligama and stay in the same Jetwing and Marriott Hotels we booked including those in Negombo and Kaduruketha! I’d also enjoy the same hotel breakfasts and dinners there and make sure to do better for our midday nourishment. 💕💕💕

Thank you, Sri Lanka.

(Just click on the links)

Dambulla Rock Caves

A Sri Lankan Safari

Ancient and Sacred Cities

A Scenic Train Ride

Budurugawala Temple

Stilt Fishermen of Sri Lanka

The Ramparts of Galle

Last Day in Colombo

Travel buddies, young & old

Different folks, Different strokes

Foodies, shoppers, culture vultures

Tell me, do we hold a future?

Morning strolls, cocktails by dusk

Chatting each day’s highlights in a flash

Oh what a journey with these peeps

As we discover food, places & pet peeves.

It was nearly a chore coming back to the city. We enjoyed the beach and countryside so much we had to brace ourselves for the humidity, traffic, heat, crowds, noise and chaos to be found in the metropolis. Colombo is no exception. The city is a mixed bag of modernity amidst remnants of colonial rule. Upon arrival, I felt disoriented but not disheartened. Colombo is very clean despite the “clutter”, and culturally rich. The temples and Buddha statues compete with highrise buildings for attention. The old and the new, stand side by side. There is an eclectic variety of foreign and local elements present in the many parks, lakes, monuments, districts, structures around the city.

. Independence Memorial Hall

A young republic, yet it is the oldest democracy in Asia. Two rival political clans represent the 2 biggest political parties in the country. In 1960, the world had its very first elected woman head of government. Sri Lankans are very proud of their first woman Prime Minister, serving twice, Sirimavo Bandaranaike from 1960-65 and 1970-77. She was the widow of Ceylon’s 4th Prime Minister. Among South Asian nations, Maldives and Sri Lanka rank highest in terms of Per Capita Income and Human Development Index. As visitors to this island nation, we see it in their infrastructure projects and high literacy rate. The road network is impressive, young Sri Lankans get free university education and heritage sites are well-maintained. Beat that!

A Government Hospital

The attractions being far apart, we only managed to get off our bus to visit the Independence Memorial Hall and one temple. The Hall is in Independence Square, built to commemorate independence from British rule in 1948. A statue of its first Prime Minister — deemed Father of the Nation — stands at the head of the monument. Our motley group of travelers found it apt to have our picture taken here. If the Hall looks familiar to you, you may remember it being used as a pitstop in the popular “Amazing Race” series. Well, it wasn’t a race for us. But it was amazing!


Gangaramaya Temple

While it was difficult adjusting to the city noise, we found refuge in 3 places. One is the temple. The 2nd is our hotel’s roofdeck bar. And the 3rd our last lunch in this island nation.

Gangaramaya Temple is both a Buddhist temple and education center. There are traces of Sinhalese, Chinese, Thai and Indian elements in the architecture of this most-visited temple in the capital. This was the last time we’d shed our shoes to enter a place of worship. A piece of Buddha’s hair is enshrined inside. Many locals were there to worship. Oddly, we also found donations in the form of dining furniture and vintage cars.

The old Victorian Cargills Department Store

If there are hostels, there must be a lot of backpackers

Being our last day, we were on the last few bars of our energy meters. Having found this refuge, we took comfort in the peace and quiet provided by this temple. We wished we were able to visit the Red Mosque as well but the guide said our bus cannot negotiate the narrow alley leading to it. And we weren’t really up for walking in the city heat.

Entrance to Gangaramaya Temple

Inside Gangaramaya Temple

Inside Gangaramaya Temple

2nd refuge: The roofdeck bar of Jetwing Colombo Seven with a panoramic view of the city is exactly what we needed upon reaching the last leg of our journey. There was a lap pool on the deck but who’d like to go swimming? Cocktails seem to be a better idea. Best time? Sunset, of course. There were other hotel guests and locals with us, but we seemed to be the only ones agog over the sunset. Well, we’re tourists 🙄

Photo Credit: Rick C

Photo Credit: Annabelle C

On our way to the airport to fly out of Sri Lanka, we decided on having lunch in 4-month old Shangrila Hotel’s Table One. Our last refuge. Located in Galle Face, the hotel has a commanding view of the Indian Ocean. Table One’s buffet spread offerred everything we wanted for a last decent meal in Sri Lanka. Crabs, prawns, lamb, curries, cuttlefish, squid, steaks, hoppers, noodles, dimsum, salads, soups, and an assortment of sri lankan desserts. I had a few pieces wrapped to eat on the plane as I wasn’t hopeful about the inflight meals. I brought them all the way back to Manila instead. And that coconut cookie with cashew nut was my morning upper! Swell 🤤

It’s been over 400 years yet the fort in Galle still manages to enchant its visitors. The Portuguese started it (16th century) and the Dutch fortified it (17th century). The old town of Galle and its fortifications – more commonly called Galle Fort – lying on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. The ramparts made of granite stones and corals are its biggest attraction, along with its lighthouse, which unfortunately had too many scaffoldings at the time we visited to render a good photo.

The old town within the walls has the charm of an old European village combined with East Asian architecture. One finds multi-religious and multi-ethnic influences with robed men roaming the streets and locals sneaking in and out of mosques and churches. The settlers include Portuguese, Dutch, British, Sinhalese and Moors. All these add character to the Old Town of Galle. I can spend an entire day here walking aimlessly — on ramparts and along the narrow alleys — sneaking in and out of museums, quaint restaurants, cafes, the art galleries, handicraft and gem stores. If only we had time 😔

(If i knew we’d have a lousy lunch, I could have skipped it and walked around town instead, maybe while licking an ice cream bar)

Photo Credit: Annabelle

The signages I found were enough to intrigue me about living here. I’ve read half the population are Moors. The mosque I passed walking towards the lighthouse is most charming in its all-white exterior. So are the structures in Mediterranean colors with interesting wood carvings all around town. So colorful, just like its history. I can only feel thankful that this town was restored and preserved even after it was badly hit by a tsunami on that Boxing Day in 2004.

Art and culture, as well as religious traditions, flourished here. Peaceful co-existence and harmony. I would love to stay a few days here. Perhaps meet anew that crazy jumper who poses for a buck. Free if you’re a young, charming lady. Ahem. Walking mindlessly, enjoying the seascape and the colonial houses with gables and verandahs. The streets have very curious names : Lighthouse, Church, Pedlar (peddler?), Hospital Streets. For sure, it would be very hard to get lost here. I even read that dining here can be a foodie’s adventure. (Not our luck) The mixed bag of hotels, coffee shops, jewelry stores, tea shops is an enchanting medley of European, Moorish and Asian influences. No wonder this town attracted many artists, photography buffs, designers and literary figures.

If Nuwara Eliya is Sri Lanka’s “Little England”, this must be their “Little Holland & Portugal”

We spent way too little time here, methinks. We’ve seen many monuments, the former moat surrounding the walks, the drawbridge, clock tower, Dutch Reformed Churches, and more bastions — on a bus. The bygone colonial era flashing across bus window panes in an area small enough to be walkable. 😭 A few likewise went for a stroll but had to head back to where we had our unforgettable lunch. Oh, Sri Lanka. I’m NOT done with you. Not just yet!

Not done! Not yet. 😭😭😭

No, he’s not one of the Crazy Jumpers. Just one photography nut. Can’t blame him. He’s married to one.

Took me a few minutes to roll out Buduruwagala without stuttering. Budurugawala means “the rock with the statue of Buddha”. It is the largest standing Buddha statue in the island’s Wellawaya in Uva Province and is actually all of 51 feet. Easily 5 stories high. It is also one of 7 rock sculptures to be found in this ancient Buddhist temple complex dating back to the 10th century. A trio of statues stand to the left and right of the 15m central Buddha. With that streak of faded orange, one can only imagine how this set of rock statues must have looked back then. Impressive now, it must have looked truly majestic then.

(Trivia: It is the tallest standing Buddha statue now after the Taliban destroyed the one in Afghanistan in March 2001)

Our bus brought us to the complex gate, after driving past a lake and through this very narrow bridge. Certainly required skillful driving and in that instant, I forgave our driver for all the times he alternated between speeding, overtaking on curves (omg!) and suddenly stepping on the brakes esp while I’m sleeeping. Pheww!

(Trivia: Sri Lanka’s crime rate is largely comprised of road accidents/traffic infractions. That plus adultery, according to our guide)

The complex gate entrance is a short and pleasant walk through a park to where one finds the 7 rock statues. Very well-maintained with a “zen ambience”. The walkways are hemmed in by full grown trees that provided shade on that otherwise hot and humid day. You hear birds chirping and find many butterflies around in this very serene complex. Two resident dogs were found sleeping just before the rock. Took a photo of the pair while my pseudo Buddhist friends paid their respects. Hmmmm.

(Trivia: Other historians have actually dated the statues to the 6th century)

To the left and right of the gigantic standing Buddha is a trio of rock-cut figures all belonging to the Mahayana school of thought. The one on the left is believed to be a Mahayana deity Alokiteshvara, flanked by an attendant and his consort, Tara. The trio of sculptures on the right consists of Vajrapani ( the Tibetan Bothisatva) flanked by Natha (the future Buddha) and Vishnu. The rock on which these were carved looks like a kneeling elephant with a head bent towards the ground. Tantric influence can be gleaned here as one finds Vajrapani holding an hourglass-shaped thunderbolt symbol of Tibetan origin. Of interest is the hole near the right foot of the central Buddha statue. Shaped like a flame from an oil lamp, it is always wet and smelling of mustard oil. There is not one explanation for this.

(Last photo: Thanks, Angel R)

Buddhists, Pseudo Buddhists, Buddhist-wannabees and non-Buddhists will all enjoy the serenity of this place. So peaceful, so quiet. You may visit way too many temples and shrines in Sri Lanka, but please don’t miss this if only for a few minutes of calming silence. Besides, you don’t need to take off your shoes here. 😊

It took 3 hours via train that meandered through mountain ranges, tea gardens and the occasional water falls.Nuwara Eliya is such a revelation. As is the entire Sri Lanka! We drove south from hot and humid Sigiriya and Kandy towards the largely Muslim Nuwara Eliya where temps dove to as low as 14 Celsius. We arrived late afternoon in this land of the Ceylonese Moors. Pretty, pretty. The lush green tea plantations blanketed this cool hill country as we zigzagged up just as the fog cleared. Swathes of lush tea bushes greet you in Nuwara Eliya. The aroma of tea gardens puts you into a mood that cocoons you off all negativity and hostility. The serenity embraces you. Trust me on this 😊

(Photo Credit of the Falls: Topper R)

We only wish we could stay longer in this rather odd hotel with so much wasted space. Not that we’re complaining, but a room for 2 with a maid’s room, a powder room, washing machine, a kitchenette, three toilets, a massive dining table and living set? It may not be as tastefully done, but we felt like royalty. And the dinner buffet which included local food and our own chicken adobo (they must have Filipino kitchen staff?) plus the inviting spread of yummy desserts sealed a happy, sweat-free weekend in Nuwara Eliya. Back on topic though (how I digress…), we could have taken the 60 km bus ride in an hour instead of the 3 hour train journey but heck, why miss this majestic scenery, pray tell? The nearest train station is Nanu Oya, just 15 minutes away. By itself, the train station provided a glimpse of life here. Many European tourists joined us on this train ride, as did school children in their starchy white uniforms. Come boarding time, we dodged our way among the strawberry vendors and the resident sleeping dogs. In the first 30 minutes as the train chug-chugged out of Nanu Oya Station, all hell broke loose. There was a frenzy to slide down train windows to get better views of the gardens and falls. It was drizzling but no one cared. The more adventurous opened train doors to literally hang out of the moving train. The view, the entire scenery has that effect on everyone.

(Thanks Topper for this photo.)

(Thanks, Iyay, for these “hanging” photos)

Those 3+hours breezed by and we found ourselves with so many photos of the train, rail tracks, tea plantations, and more. There was a break among the hills and the trees as we waited to snap more good photos but the mist fogged out all the views. Before we knew it, we were already in Ella. Warmer now, but eager for more adventures. Oh, Sri Lanka — you pulled out so many surprises for us! 💕💕💕

Six plane rides. Long drives. A choice of horse or ox carts. Countless boat rides. Yes, it was tiring but the Bagan temples, gold-domed pagodas, innumerable Buddhas, skirted men, tribal women, placid lake of Inle and insights into a monk’s life kept us going.







In Myanmar, it is a natural consequence to be awed and stupa-fied. Listed below are my blog entries on these adventures.




Bagan: A Plethora of Stupas

More Temples, Pagodas and Monasteries

Yangon’s Shwedagon : All That Gold!

Bagan Thande Hotel



Photo Credit: Maricel Buhain

Photo Credit: Maricel Buhain




Sun-Baked In Inle Lake

Happy Birds of Lake Inle

Indein Village

The Long-Necked Women From The Padaung Tribe

Shwe Inn Tha Floating Hotel Resort



Padaung Women

Padaung Women




U Bein Bridge & Temples of Mandalay

The Monks of Myanmar




A Whiff Of Mirth In Myanmar

Eating Around Myanmar

Monday delights. Left Manila at noon via Thai Airways, made a brief stop in Bangkok, then flew onwards to Phuket. It’s the biggest island in Thailand and we found our retreat here in Mai Khao. The beach resort is blessedly isolated and away from the tourist crowd. Very much self-contained with an option to do some retail therapy in the nearby TurtleVillage. But who wants to get out? A 2-room villa with its own plunge pool tempts you to stay in. In fact, we opted to dine in and used the well-appointed kitchen to cook our pasta pomodoro dinner to go with a bottle of good shiraz. L.U.X.U.R.Y. Pure luxury. This is the life! Happiness 🙂




JW Marriott Phuket


It is tempting to just stay IN in JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa



In the end, we decided to skip the shiraz. It can wait till tomorrow. We turned in early to prep for a whole day of activities tomorrow. The stroll around the lovely resort hotel can wait too….. and so with a dip in the plunge pool. It could have been perfect. Four friends around the pool, each holding a glass of wine, chatting like there’s no tomorrow, while keeping their heads dry and the rest soaking in the pool. Holy cow! We must be getting old. All we wanted to do after dinner is to climb into our heavenly beds.




One of 2 villa bedrooms in Marriott Vacation Club in Mai Khao, Phuket.


That’s the plunge pool right outside the room in Marriott Vacation Club



This is NOT an advert. But MARRIOTT VACATION CLUB in Mai Khao, Phuket is a lovely place to stay in. The 2 bedroom villa with a well-appointed kitchen is a sanctuary for weary bodies and tired souls. The plunge pool is a bonus. Easily, the villa can accommodate 6 pax. Maybe even 8 pax. Best for families or good friends. You can even choose to stay in, buy your supplies from the nearby Turtle Village, cook and dine in. Tonight, that’s exactly what we did. Tomorrow and days after, we’d be in serious search for Pad Thai and some curries. 🙂




Who’s cooking dinner tonight?


Towel elephant on my dining table!


The Living Room. Marriott Vacation Club. Mai Khao, Phuket.

Just an hour away from Thimpu. We passed this site and drove another 1 .5 hours to reach Punakha just a couple of days before. No chance to get off the car to count the stupas. But you can bet your bottom ngultrum (Bhutanese currency) that they do number 108. No more, No less.



There you go. All 108 Chortens.



Dochula Pass sits right along the road on the way to Punakha from Thimpu. It was built to honor the casualties of a recent war resulting from a conflict with rebels from the South who wanted to secede. The King himself personally led an army of about 7,000 volunteers to drive out tens of thousands of rebels. Not one to glorify war nor their victory, the King had this monument built instead to honor both the dead soldiers and dead rebels from the conflict.



I can sit here all day. But do throw me a blanket!



At 3,150 meters above sea level, you can ID a number of mountains from the Himalayan Range on a clear day. But I’m telling you……… even on a cloudy day, it is still a worthwhile trip to make it high up here. Just a short walk from the Pass, have a cup of steaming coffee or tea at the Dochula Cafeteria. In our case, we had lunch. I am not exactly a big fan of Bhutanese cuisine, but one thing’s for sure. They grow their vegetables and grains organically. The mountain rice tastes better. The dumplings filled with cabbage and cheese dipped in some spicy sauce called MOMOS are so simply made, and tastes “healthy”. I passed on the fish, knowing that Bhutan is landlocked and assuming that the fish must have been transported all the way from India. The vegetables were cooked just as simply. Nothing fancy, really. But no worries. Altitude has a way of making you feel funny. It also affects one’s appetite, so I hardly complained.



Just a short walk to watch a cultural performance.



Just a few hundred meters from the Pass, we walked along a dirt path lined with prayer flags to watch a cultural performance. Since the dance routines have not been watched by the King yet, no photographs were allowed. Such is the rule in this land. Seated in an open-air site in 6 Celsius temp, we watched in amazement how some half-naked dancers can stand the cold. Mind you, the performance lasted well over an hour! I am borrowing some photographs here to give you an idea of Bhutanese dance routines.







Where's the BLANKET????

Following a week in Bhutan, we chose to spend 3 nights in Bangkok. Stubborn us, we were hoping to visit Ayutthaya. No luck. After the floods, we decided against it and instead concentrated on this lively city. And its food 😉

I can't get enough of this mango salad!

Served at Novotel's Airport Hotel.

I’ve been to Bangkok several times in the past when I was still working. I have been to Ayutthaya myself, not too long ago. But my friend is visiting for the first time and she longed to see the old capital. Perhaps another time. After Bhutan, we were just too happy (and tired?) to be with old friends to relax and indulge ourselves. And how we did! On our way to Bhutan, we slept a night at Novotel Airport Hotel as we needed to be up early for the next day’s flight to Shangrila. Homeward bound, we broke our journey with 3 nights at the Pullman Hotel where we found our Manila travel buddies waiting for us.


With good old and not so old friends 😉

Reunited with Old Friends, Meeting New Ones

Our couple-friends and a niece with her 3 friends from Manila joined up with us in Bangkok. An ex-secretary now based in Bangkok hooked up with us too. The ex-sec I haven’t seen in over 20 years! Happy to see her after all this time. And very proud of her too!


Hot Pot Dinner With Fellow TravelBloggers Peter and Mari

It was also a chance to meet up with fellow bloggers Peter and Mari from my TravelBlog community. Peter and I are both Moderators in TravelBlog and feel we’re “old friends” after reading so much into our lives and the adventures we blogged about.

Those Thais Truly Excel in Food Presentation, don't they?


The Fish Is A Pretense At Eating Healthy 😉

Food Pornography

What a party. Which makes dining such serious business for this group. After all, Bhutanese cuisine pales miserably in comparison with Thai food. Well, come to think of it, I never complained about food in Bhutan — perhaps I even found it insignificant to deserve any mention — and that’s saying a lot coming from me. Looking back, my friend and I survived on mountain rice, Emma datse (chilis cooked with cheese, very spicy!) and momos or dumplings with cabbage and cheese fillings. I surprised myself (and my friend) when I ordered a burger and pasta at our hotel on the eve of our departure from Bhutan. You can guess what happened to that plate of spaghetti, right?

Bhutan's Momos or Dumplings Filled with Cabbage and Cheese Dipped in Chili Sauce! We survived on these!


Having convinced ourselves that we were “starved” in Bhutan, we looked at every Thai dish on the table as our well-deserved reward. Let the photos speak for themselves. But really, more than that, this last leg of my recent rip was a celebration of friendship.

You may also want to check out our visit of the famous Oriental Hotel by the banks of the Chao Phraya River where we tried Pierce Brosnan’s favorite Thaijito. Just click on this link.

Never Say NO to Desserts. Wherever. Whatever. No Regrets.


They Call it Thai-Jito. A favorite drink of Pierce Brosnan. Only at Oriental Hotel.

Family Playcations!

I love my family. We all live in a condominium building where space is gold and where we feel cramped as the kids grow taller and the adults grow wider 😦

Over time, we spilled over 2 more units in the same condo building but share THE SAME SQUARE dining table I bought when I was still living alone. How we fit or take turns at the dining table is a practiced skill!

And so family playcations is a tradition in this family. Summers and Christmas breaks are popular holiday dates for us, but we’re one family who also make good use of long weekends.

We took a vote and came up with this list of top playcations for us. Thought I’d share it with you as suggestions for your next family adventure.




To this day, our 3day, 2 night cruise sailing out of Singapore for Melaka (Malacca, Malaysia) holds truly fond memories for adults and elves. Royal Carribean’s Legend of the Seas had this $306 per pax, twin-sharing promo rate which we grabbed. All 5 meals and snacks included!


READY TO SAIL! Kids board Royal Carribean's Legend of the Seas



The FIRST family playcation out of the country is of course nothing less than memorable. When the elves were 5 and 2 visiting Disneyland (Los Angeles, USA) for the first time, they were too young to appreciate it. This time around, they knew exactly what they wanted, and how many “teacup spins” they needed!

From HK Disneyland to Macau. What a horrible ferry ride!


We were back the year after. The fireworks at the Avenue of the Stars fronting the lovely HK Harbour is the highlight of the New Year’s Eve revelry, but the dinner prelude was just as exciting. No mercy was our mantra, as we stuffed ourselves with Peking Duck and other Chinese dishes at the Star Cafe. Just as memorable was walking with the thick Chinese crowd in the middle of the road at 2am to reach our hotel.




Shelly and I flying in to Shanghai from a month-long trip in Turkey and Greece.  The rest of fam flying in from Manila.  What a reunion!


The Bund. Shanghai, China



Can’t resist this. It’s the closest we can get to a world tour.  Very educational for the children.  Very satisfying for the adult gluttons. 🙂

World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China



It was a weeklong holiday. A road trip. We booked only for our first 2 nights in Donsol, Sorsogon where I brought the family to experience this awesome animal encounter. After that, we sort of felt our way through looking for places to stay in Legazpi City and Naga.





Yes, 12. My family and my friend’s family. We flew to Laoag, then cramped ourselves into a van, and then a jeepney around Laoag and Vigan. Food Trip to the max.  Gee, now I miss their Pinakbet Pizza


Walking out of Malacanang of the North. And yes, we were 12 in the group!


Not our “usual” Baguio trip. This time around, we explored the lesser-known destinations and relished the surprisingly enjoyable vegetarian joints in this city. Even the elves loved their “kamatis (tomato) pasta” in Oh My Gulay Resto!

Taken at Bencab Museum Garden.


Who’d dare argue against spending New Year’s in the lovely island of Boracay?  We spent all of 5 days here. What a great relaxing way to welcome and start the new year!




Again, we were lured by the promo package offered by this lovely resort along the shores of Taal Lake in Talisay, Batangas. A weekend that’s really value-for-money. The rooms have 2 big-sized beds, the resort has 3 swimming pools, a fish spa, food is good, service is excellent, and THE VIEWS! C’est magnifique!