October 29, 2010

NI HAO MA CHINA: Ancient City of Suzhou

Suzhou is a city in the province of Jiangsu, China well known for its classical gardens, bridges and canals.

This 2,500 year old city dating back from the Shang Dynasty lies on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the shores of Taihu Lake. Due to its location, its surviving canal scenes and meticulously designed gardens, Suzhou earned its banal status as the "Venice of the East".

Yuan (meaning gardens) in Suzhou were built according to the style of Chinese paintings and originally there was more than 200 gardens, now only a handful existed but with the time constraint and the pouring rain, we’re still lucky to have visited two - the smallest and the biggest for comparison=)

(Chinese Name: Wangshi Yuan; 30 RMB or Php 207)
Is the smallest but considered one of the best-preserved gardens in the city. It was built in the 12th century but was later restored in the 18th century as part of the home of a retired official turned fisherman thus the name.

The main entrance of the garden is at Kuojiatou lane where stalls selling antique goods and Chinese ornaments line up.

(Chinese Name: Zhouzheng Yuan; 70 RMB or Php 483)
Is the largest of all the gardens and considered to be the most impressive. This well kept 5 hectares of zigzagging bridges, pavilions, and lotus ponds dates back to the early 1500’s.

You will be needing at least two hours if you wanna see the whole garden, like I said it is the largest and believe me when I say that the Humble Administrator’s Garden will not disappoint you.

If only we had more time it would have been nice to see more of Suzhou's gardens.

Here’s a list of Suzhou’s other top attractions:
Lingering Garden
Canglang Pavilion
Lion Grove Garden
Couple’s Retreat Garden
Tiger Hill
Hanshan Temple
Suzhou Silk Museum

TIP: Gardens are usually a buffet for insects, so bring with you anti mosquito repellents and take yourself off the menu.

written by KIM & MJ

October 28, 2010

NI HAO MA: Transit and Sleeping in Suzhou, China

"We will be stopping on the next station in a few minutes. Next station Suzhou. Next station Suzhou. Be careful not to forget your luggage behind or pick up other passengers luggage by mistake." Word for word transcript of the the recorded voice that drones on the overhead speaker with a subtle warning for TOURONS (tourist morons) and notorious bag thieves that prowls the trains.

When we travel outside of our Lupang Sinilangan and Bayang Magiliw, we also like to check out the scenes in the neighboring province, so for our China trip we decided to venture some 120 kilometers out of Shanghai to see the “Venice of the East - Suzhou”

Booked our train tickets with some level of stress because of the absence of an English speaking ticket attendant but after an hour or so of charade and pantomime, we were able to secure a round trip ticket for 2 in a first class bullet GTrain.


The carriage leaves at 8am and as advised we were at the train station two hours before departure. The Shanghai Railway Station is huge with several terminals and looked so much like an airport that my i third world kayumanggi ass was suitably impressed.

Shanghai Railway Station

waiting area

WARNING: The train works like a dream so expect the station to be always full of passengers and locals who have a terrible habit of spitting anywhere and anytime. Go with an open mind, avoid sitting on the floor and carry a face mask with you.

We were even more impressed upon boarding. The train was way bigger and better than the plane that took us to China and boasts of reclining seats, extendable seat cushions and extra leg room. With that said, I still love Cebu Pacific more with their really dirt cheap flights that enables my wanderlust.

inside the bullet train

assigned seat numbers

instructions on how to recline the seats and extend the cushions

Zooming smoothly at past 300 kmph and 25 minutes later, we were gracefully deposited at a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its beautiful gardens and traditional waterside architecture.

From the train we took a short walk to the taxi stand. The queue was long but it was moving steadily with no local jumping the line (they have a notorious habit of nudging their way in) and soon enough we were on the air-conditioned Volkswagen cab and headed to our hotel.

Yes we maybe in an ancient city but we stayed where modern creature comforts can be found.  Booked ourselves a room at the Shangri-la through agoda and got an upgrade with all the fancy trimmings plus an admission to the Horizon Club (read: free flowing booze, food and great views) because upon producing our passports, the kind guy at the front office saw that it was Mj's birthday on that day. Happy happy birthday indeed!

 Shangri-la Lobby

our room

king sized bed with welcome apples

view from our room on the 43rd floor

complimentary toiletries

Merienda Buffet at the Horizon Club Lounge
assorted cheese board  
assorted cold cuts 

pork kebabs

Breakfast Buffet at the Horizon Club Lounge

(muffins, bread, croissants)

waffles and pancakes 

hash browns with baked tomato and cheese

TIP: Flying is not the only the option when traveling to another city in China, everyday more than 70 trains run between Shanghai and other cities including Beijing, Xian, Qingdao, Harbin, Chengdu, Hong kong etc. You can book tickets at the station or at the ticket office located at the Bund, or you can ask your hotel to get them for you. Sleeper trains usually sell tickets 10 days before departure date.

written by KIM & MJ

October 19, 2010

FINAL CUT: Baraka (1992)

Baraka is an ancient sufi word that translates to "blessing."  It is a non-narrative film meaning no dialogues, just music and a collection of images that transcend language.

The movie begins in Japan with a monkey sitting in a hot spring followed by breathtaking landscape, ancient ruins, vast rainforests, diverse tribal practices and religious rituals. The mid part of the film show the result of global evolution, poverty, rapid urban life, factories, logging, strip mining, over population and war. The 3rd act is what most people would call redemption. Man returns to nature and prayers.

google images

October 18, 2010

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS: Suitcasing with the World Traveler Virginia Series

For my recent trip, I have invested on a 48 cm World Traveler lightweight 4-wheeled suitcase from the Virgina collection. It has a nice purple and mint green checks that pops out in a sea of dark colored bags on the carousel, the color scheme certainly decreased the chance of grabbing the wrong bag.

The 48 cm is a standard carry on size so if you opt to not check it in, there is a greatly reduced chance of losing it to misrouting. Some airline also provides an incentive for those with no checked baggage because it requires less fuel to move you and your things (there’ s also less greenhouse gas emission or something to that effect). It's not very often that the most convenient option is also the most environmentally responsible.

As opposed to the conventional two wheeled luggage, the 4 wheels has a greater base support that prevents it from toppling over. There is less physical strain in moving the bag as there is no need to tilt and pull. It glides easily on a normal upright position and from that angle, another bag can be stacked on it leaving your other hand free thus providing you with extra flexibility.

Paring down what to pack into the essentials sometimes can get a bit of a chore and a hard decision making process but I agree that lugging less stuff could result to a more productive and stress-free travel experience. Going light indeed is the best way to go and with mostly paved road nowadays, traveling light doesn’ t always mean strapping on a backpack or hoisting a duffel bag.

written by MJ

October 17, 2010

DINING: Cuillere, Manila

Cuillere (kwee-yer) : french for spoon

While French dining seems intimidating, our experience in Cuillere is just cozy-and-lipsmackingly-good! The place offers the best of French comfort food stripped of pretentions.  Never mind that the menu can't roll of my tongue right and my photos does ill justice to them because my taste buds understands just how good it was.

Kim had the Filet de Bœuf Sauce Fromage Bleu (Tenderloin Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce), cooked medium well and served on a bed of spinach and artichoke hearts. The meat is juicy, tender and lean and there was no scrimping on the cheese but does not overpower the dish. Every bite is exquisite with the blue cheese sauce. I can't stop gushing about this as much as I can't resist forking more than just a few slices.

 Filet de Bœuf Sauce Fromage Bleu (php575)

I was already looking forward to order duck confit which they unfortunately run out of that night, (another reason to go back) I still hit jackpot with my Brochette d' Agueau (grilled lamb skewers with ratatouille mint rice). Hands down the best lamb dish I've ever had which unsurprisingly Kim who's very picky and not too adventurous also liked. Very much!

Brochette d' Agueau (php495)

Even though our entrees were already rich, we just can't skip dessert so we ordered Apple and Calvados (stewed apples with toffee syrup, whipped cream flambeed with calvados, served with French vanilla ice cream) and Chef Kat Arce Kuhn (who owns the resto with Arlene Arce) sent us complimentary strawberry shortcake. Merci Kat!

Apple and Calvados (php195)

Strawberry Shortcake

CUSINE: French
PRICE RANGE: php195-1700
LOCATION: Bonifacio High Street, The Fort, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines
TEL. NO.:    (02) 856-3325

written by MJ

DINING: Tiny Kitchen, Davao

I don't really have a sweet tooth, but these I can't resist:

Oatmeal Fudge (php150 small box)

Chewy and a slight crusty texture with just the right amount of sweetness, Tiny Kitchen's Oatmeal Fudge is the perfect dessert to end a meal without having to hurt your teeth.

Tiny Kitchen’s Dulce Vida Confections offers a variety of pastries to choose from, from sinful cakes and brownies to multi-grain and whole wheat breads.

This literally tiny but charming kitchen also serves Spanish dishes, the Paella being their specialty. Unlike any other restaurants, you don’t have to wait over 30 minutes for the Paella to be served, yes the kitchen is tiny, but they’re pretty efficient. Owner Enteng Rodriguez who is also the chef makes it his priority to ensure customers satisfaction in every way.

 Salpicao (php235)

Gambas al Ajillo(php240)

Paella Muriscos (medium sized php635)

Aside from the 3 types of Paella’s you can chose from (Valencia, Mariscos, Negra), the menu also includes sandwiches, pasta and pizza.

CUISINE: Spanish
PRICE RANGE: php150-2000
LOCATION: Torres Cor. Mabini Street, Davao City Philippines
TEL. No.: (082) 305-9232 / (082) 234-6095

written by KIM

October 15, 2010

It's back!


google images

McDonalds Twister Fries is back baby!

October 13, 2010

WHAT'S ON MY SHELF: Archive de nuit

A certain feeling of uneasiness came across me when I first saw the images in Archive de nuit. Black and white photographs of a cut-open anatomical body from a wax museum and a male urinal with ice isn’t exactly my idea of a relaxing photograph.

October 10, 2010


The Bund, also referred to as the Wall Street of the Orient, is one of the most recognizable architectural symbols of Shanghai. 

This historical riverfront strip (right across Huangpu River) has thousands of tourists hopping off buses all four seasons of the year, be it on a cold winter night or a scorching hot sunny day. 

view of the Orient Pearl Tower in between two classical buildings 

The Bund Tea House right in front of
The Manhattan Business Hotel in Dianchi Road 

 The Bund's riverfront view deck

Children and teenagers, overly strict parents, and grannies over the age of 60 who’s too tired from walking ,even couples take a break from holding each other’s sweaty hands as they all pull their cameras out for a souvenir photo of the famous Pudong Skyline. 

 The Bund's main attraction at night, Pudong Skyline

They say that if you've never been to the Bund, then you've never been to Shanghai. So almost every night, we'd linger around the Bund para sulit, our hotel is just about 3-5 minutes walk from there anyway. 

 Customs House 

 street across the view deck with fast cars zipping by

Head west from the Bund's center point and there lies Nanjing Road, reported to be the world's longest shopping district (around 6 km long) and attracts over a million shopaholics daily.

 Plaza 353 fully illuminated at night as are all the malls in Nanjing 

 Mall-lined streets of Nanjing from international and local clothing brands

TIP: take your own DIY walking tour of The Bund, and make the riverfront view deck your last stop, the Pudong Skyline is lighted up from 7pm till 12md.

Shanghai attractions map

written by KIM

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