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Monday, April 8, 2019

 Some friends has been asking me where I stayed in Las Vegas. I told them, I went for an affordable yet clean and comfortable hotel. When I told them that I stayed at THE HOOTERS HOTEL, their faces were full of questions. Believe it or not, this restaurant chain has a Las Vegas Hotel right at the end of the famous strip. It's located just in front of the MGM grand making it quite ideal for a tourist to check out and stay at.
As you enter, you might notice that there is a distinct smell of cigarette smoke. If this bothers you, remember to reserve a room on the non-smoking floor. Also, it's because the first floor has a number of slot machines and table games were you could play.  
Check-in time isn't as strict as other places. As long as you get there an hour or two or if your room is prepared, they can definitely give you the card. 
 ROOM wise, it was pretty basic. It is a 3 star hotel after all. The a/c is pretty old but still works fine. The television has all the basic cable needs. The toilet is pretty basic but clean. Unfortunately, they don't have a bidet here. I guess most hotels in the US doesn't have those.
 Since I went during the Winter, the pool was closed. Unfortunately, it could get a little too cold for a swim. In terms of dining, they have a number of establishments on the ground floor. Of course, there is the HOOTERS restaurant that is always packed during dinner. There's a diner type restaurant as well. If you forgot to bring toiletries or other essential needs, they have gift shop that doubles as a convenient store.
 Always go for their wings and if you're a fan, don't forget about the pickles.
The place isn't really as glam and wonderful as other hotels on the strip. BUT, if you're looking for a clean room and isn't as expensive as the other hotels, this would be your bet. It's one of the few hotels in the area that has free parking spaces (no need to validate your stubs).  Also, it's walking distance to the strip. For me, this is the perfect place to sleep in especially if you don't want to pay extra for something you could easily get.

115 E Tropicana Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89109

Disclaimer: Wrote this based on my experience. Paid for my stay and meals.
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Monday, February 25, 2019

 After Tokyo and Osaka, there is another place in Japan to check out when you want to relax and have some great grub. Believe it or not, there is this place called FUKUOKA and it's one heck of a place to visit. For a foodie like me, I had a lot to do when I spent almost 2 weeks here.
  It's been a couple of years since I've been to Fukuoka but having some friends ask me for advice on what to do and where to go made me want to make an updated itinerary with tips and tricks just for you. Now, there are links at the bottom of this page that might help you decide on where to go or what to visit. Hopefully, these tips help you out.
When you arrive, the International airport, you might want to go downtown which would be Hakata or Tenjin area. You could go there by using the bus or the subway. One thing to note though, the subway is not connected to the International terminal. Rather, you would need to take the free shuttle bus to the domestic side and follow the signs. From there, you could ride the subway. The subway operates between 0530 and 0025. The buses, on the other hand, could get you directly where you need to go but could take some time and deciphering.
There are two places that you would want to stay at. The best places to stay at would be near train stations. To be specific, HAKATA and TENJIN area would be your best bet. Staying near train stations would be the best because they are surrounded by malls, restaurants, and stores that would definitely tickle your fancy. The shinkansen passes through Hakata station making it a hub. Hence, there are tons of stores that might make you enjoy it. Tenjin has a long walkway filled with stores and restaurants where you could do your shopping.
Sightseeing wise, you might want to take the 100 yen bus. This bus would go around passing through most of the city. It connects Hakata and Tenjin so you could definitely see different places without having to pay a lot. You might want to also visit CANAL CITY which is a huge shopping mall that has a huge multilevel MUJI to cater to your needs.
As you can see the route of the 100 yen loop bus takes you to the main places that you might want to check out.
Going back to the real reason why I went to Fukuoka. The Food! Fukuoka is known for a lot of things. One of them is being the birthplace of a ton of ramen restaurants. Known worldwide, this is where ICHIRAN started. Seen here, is their headquarters. They have a few floors of Ichiran eating open to the public. If I'm not mistaken, this is one of the few, if not only, Ichiran that offers people to sit together when they eat. Normally, Ichiran only serves ramen per booth per person. 
Locals though prefer another RAMEN chain only present in Fukuoka. SHIN SHIN RAMEN is more of your traditional Ramen place. The branch near Tenjin offers a no frills straight to the point dining experience. You will definitely see people lining up outside even during the wee hours of the night.
One thing you have to understand about Japanese restaurants is that they usually offer only one type of cuisine. This says that it's their specialty. One restaurant that I will never forget would be TEMPURA NO HIRAO. The place I visited was located in a small building with a cinema near Tenjin station. Unfortunately, the building closed down and is now being renovated. Great thing though is that in its place two TEMPURA NO HIRAO opened up in the area. The latest one being in Acros. Now, TEMPURA NO HIRAO is a chain that serves freshly cooked tempura. They only cook it when you order and right infront of you. They offer unlimited side dishes. Plus, the sets are not that expensive. I ate here around 3x when I stayed in Fukuoka. It was that good. The batter and the freshness of the oil made sure that the taste will not be rancid.
An expensive yet worthy meal I had when I visited Fukuoka was when I had lunch in GANSO HAKATA MENTAIJU. FUKUOKA is known for mentaiko. This is pollock roe. Usually, you would see this mixed in pasta or other Japanese dishes. In this restaurant, it is served on rice and even in TSUKEMEN. Having it in dessert works as well. I'm thankful that Fukuoka is a great city to walk at. After eating meals, I would usually just walk home. Not just because I was super full, but this one meal was a little expensive. BUT, I will definitely do it all over again.

There are a lot of other restaurants that you could visit in Fukuoka. I went to a few more but as someone that had been to Japan a number of times, I realized that for Breakfast, you could buy at the KONBINI or 24 hour convenience store the night before. The stores in Japan would actually have delicious snacks, meals, and desserts that are comparable and even better than some restaurants I know. For dinner, I would suggest going to a depachika. These are the basements food halls of department stores. At around 1830, the different stalls located there would have their food at a discount up until closing time which is usually around 2000.

There are also a number of sites to check out when in FUKUOKA. From the OHARI PARK and the castle ruins near it and also a number of shrines. One of the main places to visit though would be DAZAIFU. It's located a few stations south of TENJIN. AS such, you ride at the TENJIN station. Better to pick the express so that you won't need to change trains on the way there. If you're visiting DAZAIFU, please check out the KYUSHU NATIONAL MUSEUM. They are both connected by a long escalator and has an amazing view as well.
Another place to visit would be the ASAHI factory. The Asahi Factory offers a free tour of the plant that ends with free beer and snacks. You must make reservation at least a day before as they don't accept walk-ins. You could do this by calling them or through their website. I would suggest having your hotel concierge to make the call for you. It would be better to have an English speaking tour but slots are limited. If you don't have the time, you could still go and they'll lend you a translator. It's all fun seriously! Just remember take the subway or a taxi going there. If you take a bike or drive a car, they won't let you drink. Don't forget to visit DON QUIJOTE as well. This 24/7 "department store" offers a lot of food, items, appliances, and more that are duty free if you bring your passport. You could get items here for giveaways to your relatives back home. One thing about the stores in Japan is that if you reach a certain amount and you have your passport with you, they could give you a discount because of DUTY FREE. So remember to always bring your passport!
If you're thinking about a place to stay at, you might want to go for SUNLIFE HOTEL 2.3. This one is located just across the HAKATA STATION and you can't beat it for location and price. Since I traveled alone, this was suitable for me. I had a bed, clean shower, television, and wifi. Granted that the hotel room was pretty small but it was quite normal for Japanese standards.  Plus, just across the hotel is a bus stop that you could ride straight to the International Airport. 
Hope this helps you out. 
If you want to ask for more tips or what, let me know.

Places to eat at:
GANSO HAKATA MENTAIJU (Offers mentaiko as the go to in their menu! Worthy of a splurge!)
TEMPURA NO HIRAO (Tempura! Not expensive and frequented by locals.-New locations)
SHIN SHIN RAMEN (locals like this more than Ichiran.)
YOSHIZUKA UNAGI (offers Unagi or Eel as their best seller )
CHIKAE FUKUOKA  (no longer offers lunch sets but the novelty of eating infront of an indoor fish pond makes it pretty good.)
PORK STEAK TOICHI (lunch set meal ftw!)

Places to Stay At:
SUNLIFE 2.3 and other things to do in Fukuoka (right infront of the HAKATA STATION)
FIRST CABIN in FUKUOKA (Airplane themed- hostel located  above Don Quijote in Fukuoka)

Visitor map of downtown Fukuoka.
From The Airport: Transportation to Town
Tourist City Pass: Might be worth it.

Disclaimer:wrote this based on my experience and opinions. I paid for my trip. Please verify all information as it might change by the time you visit Fukuoka.

Photo Disclaimer: some of the photos/diagrams here are not mine. Credits to the original owners.
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Monday, February 11, 2019

I think I didn't want to write this post ever. That's why it's almost been a year since this happened and I'm here talking about it. Yep, this happened early in 2018. It was the last time I saw my friends collectively known as the KTG. It was shall we say, a despidida.
In true KTG style, there were tons of food. Left and right, you can get whatever your heart and tummy desires. Each one of us would definitely bring something to the residence of one of the greatest food bloggers in the metro. It was sort of like a tradition. A summer outing, almost every year, we would have a small party and watch the sun sets over the metro. Plus, we also get to swim and play on the trampoline.
There were lasagna from bhest which were pretty good. Nona's and Greenwhich were kind enough to send pasta and pizza as well.
There were tons of Filipino Styled Spag right there ready for the taking.
Of course, other Filipino food were on the table as well.
LEONARDO'S LECHON is always present when it comes to our little get togethers.
It's more than just your normal lechon. It's stuffed with tons of flavors and delicious meat like sausages and more.
 The plaza, known for their delicious ham, also sent over some sweet stuff.
Waffles on a stick were there too. Waffable has been a brain child of the people behind some delicious restaurants around the metro.
To be truthful, I really didn't want to write about that day. April 28, 2018. Saturday. Thinking about it and even writing about it makes me homesick even more. I miss all the laughter, the stories, and most of all, the people that I have come to know and treat as my family. The KTG is more than just bloggers, writers, photographers, and foodies. To me, they are family. It just makes me tear up and cry like a baby every time I think about them and the stuff we went through.

I know it's already 2019, but I think I still needed to write about it. Just so that I remember everything. From the start, they were there. I don't know were this goes but heck. It was one hell of a ride.

April 28, 2018

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Monday, February 4, 2019

 Traveling alone has always been a thing with me. Last time I did this was when I visited LAS VEGAS for the very first time. I really didn't know anything and was really giddy about the trip. One of the few things I did enjoy about it was the freedom to choose where to eat. IN Vegas, food quality is never a problem. Granted that it may be quite expensive, there are some places that could make your taste buds jump but not lighten up your pockets.
Located in the COSMOPOLITAN HOTEL in LAS VEGAS, Tekka Bar is one of the few "stalls" in this mini food hall. It's basically a counter top Japanese Sushi Restaurant. IF you get pass the casino on the first floor head on up and you get to see the different stores and restaurants that might help you through the night.
 You sit down and order what you want from the staff. They create it for you and place it on top of the napkins. I know it's a bit simple but the quality of the seafood was spot on.
 It may be a little bit too much for some, but it's a steal for me. Going for the foursome, you get 4 different types of rolls. It's a set already and they serve it in order. One after another. The chef checks on you and only makes the next roll when you're done or about to finish with the one they just served.
You could definitely eat with your hands but I'd rather use my chopsticks. Although, they don't cut the rolls for you into small bite sized pieces, you could still handle it.
On the other hand, an affordable and open up until late would be SECRET PIZZA.
You go through a long hallway with no signs and you end up in a small pizza place. It has a few chairs that could be used by a few but it's basically where you get your carbs fix just before going home. They're open up until 5am, so it's a good place to visit after everything.
 Pizza slices aren't as expensive but are quite simple as well. It's pretty good considering the price. Others just get a whole box of pizza on the way to their hotel rooms.
If that's not enough, you might want to visit Eggslut as well. It might be overhyped for some, but why not? Have a bite and check it out.

The Boulevard Tower, 3708 S Las Vegas Blvd Level 2, Las Vegas, NV 89109

Disclaimer:Paid for my meals. wrote this based on my experience.
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Monday, January 28, 2019

 One of the best things that came out of Japan would be their version of noodles. I mean, they have different soup/broth based dishes that compliments their noodles. They even have a lot of types of noodles. Some are soba, some are curvy while others are just big. Big like udons. This thick wheat flour noodle is usually served with a simple yet filling broth. During my visit to Los Angeles, I was brought to one exceptionally good udon restaurant. ENTER MARUGAME MONZO.
 MARUGAME MONZO is located in LITTLE TOKYO in downtown Los Angeles, California. When my family and I arrived, my uncle led us to this restaurant. There, we lined up for almost 45 minutes and saw how the line would go all the way past the building. This was a pretty good restaurant, I told myself. Seeing people queue for some food makes my tummy excited.
 After getting in, we knew what to order. We started with some crispy chicken skin together with some beer. It was also pretty much exciting for me to use what little Japanese words I knew since the staff were Japanese. Thankfully, this wasn't like the other places I frequent that only specializes in one thing. Although when you look at the menu, they all point out to their udon varieties, MARUGAME MONZO also offers other Japanese Treats like TEMPURA.
 If you're not up to stirring things up, you might want to go for the traditional UDON. Served with clear broth, the noodles were pretty good and the soup flavorful and filled with umami. Not too soft, I realized why. It's because they make them in house and cook it only when you order. You also get to see a staff member kneading and creating noodles through a glass window. The noodles are all handmade.
 If you're more adventurous, MARUGAME MONZO has some other not so traditional udon dishes for you to try.  If you're not up to the idea of something eastern, you might want to try out their MISO CARBONARA UDON. It's similar to the white sauce dish but it's noodles are chewy and big. Because of the udon, you get to enjoy a different mouthfeel with each bite.
 If I were to pick only two dishes to try (and I'm saying it with a BIG IF), it would be the SEA URCHIN UDON and the MENTAI CREAM UDON. The sea urchin was filled with the flavors you might expect from uni. It's extremely creamy and smooth. On the other hand, MENTAI or pollock roe brings back good memories of when I visited Fukuoka. Mentaiko  is a specialty of Fukuoka and this one delivers. Together with other seafood bits, it makes you want to eat more even after finishing the bowl.
When you visit MARUGAME MONZO in LOS ANGELES, be ready to queue up and wait. It's worth it. Also, you won't be seated if your group is not complete. There's no reservation as well.

BY the way, MARUGAME MONZO is quite near the STAPLES CENTER. Probably a 15 minute drive, you could have an early dinner before heading out to this entertainment center to enjoy a Lakers game.

329 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Little Tokyo, Downtown
Monday 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5–10PM
Tuesday 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5–10PM
Wednesday 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5–10PM
Thursday 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5–10PM
Friday 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5–10PM
Saturday 11:30AM–10PM
Sunday 11:30AM–10PM

Disclaimer:wrote this based on my experience and opinions. Paid for our meals.

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