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Tuesday, March 28, 2017
AIR ASIA in CLARK: Flying to Kalibo and Back.

 The thrill of a hard earned vacation. Because, as we all know, WE DESERVE IT. Air Asia Philippines just came up with more reasons to fly. Building more connections and expanding in the country AIR ASIA is no longer just the other airline carrier but is now THE AIRLINE to be on.
Going back to its roots, AIR ASIA PHILIPPINES is now flying CLARK-KALIBO-CLARK. With 3x weekly flights, there's more fun and adventure that awaits everyone. Because of this, more passengers and guests are finding it easier to travel.
Philippine Air Asia CEO Captain Dexter Comendador was present in yesterday's Maiden flight in the Clark International Airport. He welcomed everyone and affirmed Air Asia's commitment to making travel more accessible and affordable.
 Guests were treated to refreshments and even a small program. Lucky patrons were given free round trip tickets and other goodies from Air Asia.
Along with Capt. Comendador, the event was graced with the presence of Mr. Alexander Cauguiran, President of Clark International Airport Corporation and Ronnie Tiotico, DOT (Central Luzon Regional Director).
A ceremonial water salute was prepared and given to the maiden flight of Air Asia Philippines Kalibo to Clark International Airport.
With a flight schedule that would entice guests to travel, it's no wonder why the AIR ASIA group has been awarded World's Best Low Cost Carrier for eight consecutive years running by Skytrax since 2009 to 2016. Flights would be on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Departure from Clark is at 13:35 while departure from Kalibo would be at 12:00.
Not just that, but AIR ASIA PHILIPPINES would restart the CLARK-DAVAO-CLARK connection at four times weekly starting April 22.
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Friday, March 24, 2017
TOURING TAIWAN: Ximending - Yehliu Geopark - Jiufen - Pingxi

There are a lot of reasons to visit TAIWAN. I've been there a couple of times already and I figured I still got a lot to cover. On my first visit, my family and friends didn't know where to go and what to do. Hopefully, I'm able to share the different places that might entice you to visit Taiwan.
As I mentioned before, XIMENDING is the perfect place as a base whenever visiting Taipei. It's walking distance to and from Taipei Main Station and there are a lot of things to do in the area.
Furthermore, you could stay at TAIPEI M HOTEL or DIARY if TAIPEI. Both are affordable and up to par with the traveler's hotel in the area. Just a few streets away from these hotels, hole in the wall restaurants would lure you to come in. Even if there are no english menus, you could always point to a picture and the staff would gladly take your order. Plus, the prices are extremely affordable comparing it to the quality and the flavors that you get.
Camera junkies would enjoy HANKOU STREET. This is where stores upon stores of photo equipment and gadgets are lined up. I'm not sure if they offer cheaper alternatives but I guess it's worth a look.
Just a throw away is XIMEN. This is the hip and trendy place that offers clothing and other items that might make you want to go shopping. Some would say that the place is comparable to Harajuku in Japan but for me, it's a place to visit and do a bit of people watching.
Since TAIWAN is known as a huge MILK TEA lover, you would get to find different stalls selling whatever you may fancy. If there was one constant that I urge you to try, it would be the MILK TEA found at the bottom picture. I'm not sure what the brand is but, it is definitely worth it. At less than 1 USD per bottle, I usually horde a dozen or so every time I go. They offer a lot of flavors as well so it's a mix and match depending on your liking.
For first timers, it's a plus to do a day trip to YEHLIU - JIUFEN - PINGXI. One could arrange this with your hotel's concierge. Although a bit pricier, it's almost the same. Usually, a day trip would consist of a driver and the taxi. He would drive you to the places that you indicated on your preferred tour set. The entrance tickets and other fees are usually not part of the tour unless specified. Since this one is a little out of town, it was the group's pick.
From the downtown Taipei, one would travel all the way to the Eastern part of the country. This is where most of these places are located.
Most would suggest to visit YEHLIU GEOPARK before lunch time. Don't let the huge crowd outside the entrance discourage you. Once inside, you'll understand that the place is huge.
This is a nice location to take your ootds and to check out the alluring rock formations that crawls towards the sea.
After staying for about an hour and a half, head on over to JIUFEN. This used to be an old gold mine that was transformed into a tourist destination. It was once said to be the place where the present milk tea was created from. From the array of food stalls to souvenir, one could do a little shopping here.
Also, this is where you could go for lunch. The Peanut ice cream wrap is what they're known for and is worth a try. BUT when it comes to flavor, you should always get sausages. From experience, the sausages in Taiwan are tremendously good. If in case you get to see one, go for it. It's also here where you can try the YU YUAN TARO BALLS and have a sip of tea.
A visit to Taiwan won't be complete without going for a sky lantern. At PINGXI, you are greeted by establishments lined up at the side of the tracks. Aside from snacks and other dishes, go for a sky lantern. Write down all your wishes, blessings and things to be thankful for. At the count of three, you get to release it into nature. Cheers!
Taiwan is more than just TAIPEI 101. Culture and history is present in every turn.

RELATED LINKS:
TAIPEI M HOTEL and DIARY OF TAIPEI HOTEL in XIMENDING
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017
OMBU KUSINA AT THE SEQUOIA HOTEL: Chef's Pick

Underrated and not easily noticed. That is how I perceived OMBU KUSINA. After a few hours of experiencing its dishes and vibe, I realized that it has a lot to offer.
Located near Timog Avenue in Quezon City, OMBU KUSINA is the in house restaurant of SEQUOIA HOTEL. Here, they serve dishes that would cater to different palettes. Named after a tree, OMBU wants to present dishes in a way that would bring out the Filipino Flavors in each bite. Granted that some might be foreign tasting, they want to mix and match making the most out of the Filipino produce.
Starting just this March, OMBU is offering CHEF PICK'S. These are dishes curated and prepared to celebrate the 4th year anniversary of the restaurant. The impressive list of dishes are as follows: from Gambas, Angus Beef Steak, Angus Salpicao, Baked Prawns, Fried Tuna Belly, and Pan Fried Sea Bass with Mango Salsa. Furthermore, just by adding a minimal amount, they could received desserts as well.
What was pretty impressive was the use of this ordinary yet fresh ingredients to create something unique and delicious. The Angus Beef Steak and Salpicao are tender and cooked perfectly. The Tuna was done just right. Surprisingly, I couldn't stop myself from getting more and more of the Pan Fried Sea Bass with Mango Salsa. The meat was soft but not overcooked. It was a bit sweet because of the glaze but the salsa balanced it to make an inspired dish.
In addition, other signature dishes like the SISIG PIZZA, LAING, FRIED CHICKEN, and the CRISPY PATA are known to get guests to come back for more.
I guess OMBU KUSINA is a restaurant where you would like to bring your balikbayan friends and relatives to partake of some good old fashion cooking with a bit of twists. The Filipino Flavors are present in each bite and the cooking was done just right.


OMBU KUSINA
Ground Floor Sequoia Hotel
Mother Ignacia Street Quezon City. 
Near Timog Avenue and Burger King.
 

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Monday, March 20, 2017
LEAF LIFE STEVIA: A better way to get your sugar high

Believe it or not, I have diabetes. Yes I'm only 31 years old and I have it. Maybe its because of my lifestyle and also because my parents have it too but none the less there are still things that I could do. Enter STEVIA.
Stevia is a 100% Natural Sweetener. It's guilt-free and better compared to other artificial substitution. A brand that we could use would be LEAF LIFE STEVIA. Very affordable and is something that would let you give into your sweet indulgence. Other than that, stevia actually has 0 calories and could help lower blood pressure and eases digestion. LEAF LIFE STEVIA gives you an affordable way to get your sweetness on. In an easy to bring packet, you could have this with your coffee and other drinks.
Leaflife Stevia is available with a SRP of Php 160. You could check out their website at www.leaflife.ph .


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Saturday, March 18, 2017
FOOD HIVE on VISAYAS AVENUE: Not Your Ordinary Food Park

Located along Visayas Avenue, the FOOD HIVE is a new up to date food park that would cater to foodies in the north. With a setup to attract millenials and oldies alike, everyone is welcome in this newly established food haven.
Having a lot to offer, FOOD HIVE prides itself as the only park that has celebrity chefs as partners. As such, dishes are quite up to par with some of the popular restaurants in the metro.
One could start of with JUICIFI when it comes to refreshments. Here, they provide you with a list of drinks that you will enjoy. From yakult, to milk and even fruits, you won't go wrong with whatever concoction you decide to go with.
If one would like to go for something heavy, BAB and BOY'S SMOKE SHACK got you covered. Here, they make it simple. Ribs that are fall off the bones and juicy. Each bite makes you smile with delight. Definitely a must eat with your bare hands. (Yes, they have plastic gloves).
If you're into Filipino Cuisine, BLAZE could offer you some SIZZLING BULALO SISIG. Served with some flair, it's best to be partnered with rice and with lots of gravy. A creation of Chef Ed Bugia, this one would make you forget about your diet.
For something unique, GOATCHA would be your peg. That afternoon, the KILAWIN and the KALDERETA were served. The kaldereta was a bit on the bland side. Too normal but the KILAWIN was spot on. The flavors were strikingly good. Your taste buds would jump for joy with each bite.
For some Japanese mix, HAMARU got you covered. This place is more than just a stall. It's actually a stand alone restaurant located at the back of the park. It has two floors of air conditioned seating and a dedicated wait staff. Unfortunately, you can't bring other food inside but you could order from them and eat the food in the alfresco area.
A couple of dishes that were pretty impressive would be the OYSTER MOTOYAKU and the SAKURA BLACK. The sakura is actually chicharon bulaklak or deep fried intestines coated with squid ink. It's basically laid down on some interesting sauce. The other dish would be oysters covered with different Japanese flavoring. Baked to perfection, one order is not enough.
Aside from these picks, there are  a lot more to try in the FOOD HIVE. A day or two is not enough to fully cover and appreciate all the dishes the place has to offer. Other than these, there are also wings, nachos, bubble wraps, porchetta panini, and some sweet desserts as well.
Needless to say, the FOOD HIVE has a lot to offer. There's a uniqueness in the food that they serve. You don't see them often. Also, there's a reason why celebrity chefs are featured on their poster. It's because these guys partnered with food hive to create some culinary surprises for its guests. You could check them out everyday from 12noon to 12 midnight. Parking is a little bit tough during peak hours as they could only handle a few cars double parked to one another. Better to come in early and save a spot.

THE FOOD HIVE.
Visayas Avenue, Quezon City.
Coming from Quezon City Memorial Circle, exit on Visayas Avenue.
After a 5-10 minute drive, you will see the food park on your right.

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Friday, March 17, 2017
TAIPEI M HOTEL and DIARY OF TAIPEI: Where to Stay in Taipei

In a span of less than 3 months, I have been to TAIWAN a couple of times already. It was that good that I wanted to return and do my own thing. A few friends would ask me where I would stay. My answer would always be somewhere to the south of TAIPEI MAIN STATION. To be more specific, it would be in the XIMENDING AREA.
Why there? Because the place is filled with hotels, local restaurants, and is walking distance to the TAIPEI MAIN STATION. Furthermore, it's near XIMEN and is an affordable base for your TAIPEI TRIP. 
Located in the XIMENDING AREA, would be a couple of hotels that I have tried which are similar in amenities, rates, and location. On my first visit, I was lucky enough to be booked in TAIPEI M HOTEL. 
Fairly new, this hotel is located right smack in the center. It's distance between the XIMENDING train station to the TAIPEI MAIN station is almost the same. Roughly 10 minutes to get to either one. Right outside the building is a small alfresco area where guests could indulge in unlimited coffee, tea, juices and water.
Apparently, this is the norm in hotels located in the area. 24/7 coffee and tea plus some bread snacks all day. As you enter, you'll see a small lobby. It's functional and has an old school feel.
The room we got was good for 4 persons. It also had a window which is a plus with these kinds of hotel. It was also squeeky clean and there are plugs all over for my gadgets.
 The washroom was a bit small but the shower area was good enough for a big bodied person like me. Thankfully, they have bidet installed. The essentials are placed in dispensers but they also provide toothbrushes, combs, and even razors.
Breakfast is served on the two top floors. Since the hotel caters to a lot of Chinese guests, they have mostly eggs, vegetarian dishes, rice toppings, noodles, rice, and some porridge among other things. The choices aren't as big as what you would get in western styled hotels but it is filling and gets you through the day.
Since the lower floor is easily filled up, they convert the top floor into a breakfast place as well. It's where they have a small gym area and an alfresco place. The viands are mostly the same but the lower floor contains a couple more dishes to check out.
This map basically shows the area where you could stay at. Believe it or not, walking from TAIPEI MAIN STATION to the hotel with luggage is normal even during the wee hours of the night. Most often than not, travelers would use the 1819 BUS from the AIRPORT to the TAIPEI MAIN STATION. Here, taxi cabs are available 24/7 as well. But if the weather is perfect, one could just walk to their hotel.
On my second visit, we arrived past midnight to our hotel via BUS 1819 from the airport. Recently, a train has opened up from the TAIWAN TAOYUAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT all the way to down town Taipei. This is a faster method to use if you're arriving during the day since it isn't 24/7. Honestly, the bus is still for me especially if I have huge luggage. Taxi from the airport is a little bit expensive since they use the meter and you even add toll. From Taipei, it's a different story though. If you are traveling with a group of 3-4 persons, you might consider using the taxi. Because of a mandate, they have a flat rate of NT 1,000 if you're going to the TAOYUAN AIRPORT. You can avail of this by having your concierge call you a taxi. It needs to be reserved so that the price would apply. Still, the bus is just a walk away and only costs NT 125.
This time around, my brother and I booked DIARY of TAIPEI MAIN STATION BRANCH. I'm not sure if they're part of the same group of hotels like TAIPEI M, but everything seems the same. From the amenities inside the room, to the breakfast and even the free all day drinks and coffee.
Located just a stone throw away from Z10 MRT EXIT, this one is nearer to the Main Station.  
One tip I could give you would be to have a mini food trip of the area. Buy whatever you want to go and bring it back to your hotel. From there, you could eat at the dining area with your free drinks. Don't forget to CLAYGO as it's a big no-no to leave your mess uncleaned.
With affordable tickets from local and international airlines, visiting TAIWAN has never been this easy. With all the seat sales happening, I would definitely return. Just don't forget to properly apply for the visa-free exemption online. Cheers.

TAIPEI M HOTEL
http://www.taipeimhotel.com/
Address: No. 64, Section 1, Hankou St, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100

DIARY of TAIPEI HOTEL- MAIN STATION
Address: No. 33, Section 1, Kaifeng St, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10044


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