July 28, 2011

DINING: Ristorante Spirale, Davao

Our addiction to this restaurant is on an upward spiral - my theory is that, this constant cravings stems from their mouthwatering menu and also from my insatiable wanderlust, but since we can't afford the trip to Italy (YET! as if!), I just have to content myself with stuffing my face silly with their authentic Italian dishes

Masarap na pakunswelo de bobo. (Does this have an English equivalent?)

Ristorante Spirale is located in a quiet nook of Damosa Complex. The place is homey, cozy and with brightly lit interiors with a casual charm that attracts families and first-daters (just like the couple beside our table). The food is such a treat every time - there are extensive dishes to choose from and to shake things up with fresh ingredients resulting in flavors that blends nicely. Below are our personal favorites.
appetizer (prosciutto, salami, assorted cheeses, roasted peppers and olives)

 roasted rosemary and garlic chicken

gordo pizza (tomatoes, mozarella, ham, sausages and olives)

chocolate fondue 


 penne saliscce

 alfonso pizzata


step 1: place an arugula leaf on your pizzata strip
step 2: roll the strip with the arugula on it
step 3: get your jaws on them and enjoy!

This is also one of our fail-safe-go-to-restaurant every time we have visiting friends as the service is consistently nice and the food over and over again delicious.

CUISINE: Italian
PRICE RANGE: php200-1000
LOCATION: Damosa Complex, Angliongto Road, Lanang, Davao City
TEL. NO.: (082) 234-6298

July 25, 2011

PLANNING: The Joys & Pains of Planning A DIY Trip (Part 1)

It's less than 2 months before the next big-ish trip and I’m fleshing out the itinerary.

Money - constraint that is, dictates the pace of this upcoming (pseudo backpacking) travel and I want to make sure that whatever remains of our meager travel peso reserves is going to be well spent. Our budget largely determines the type of accommodation we’d stay in, our mode of transportation and how to get from point to point, activities to maximize our days, dining options and must eat at places, even our schedules. This desire to be efficient tends to border on being anal, but don’t worry, that’s all in the pre-trip stages. We do know how to enjoy ourselves when there.

Work (as we’re both in freelance), that is synonymous to irregular paychecks have been slow in coming this year. Also, our previous forays in CEBU-MOALBOAL, BOHOL,VIETNAM, CHINA and  BORACAYalso went beyond our quota of 1 in country and 1 out of the country travel a year that has ultimately done serious damage to our shallow accounts; yet we can’t afford to cancel this next lakwatsa.

Our Davao – Manila; Manila – Legaspi; Naga – Manila; Clark – Kuala Lumpur; Kuala Lumpur– Siem Reap; Siem Reap - Kuala Lumpur; Kuala Lumpur – Clark; Manila - Davao has already been bought and paid for as early as the last quarter of last year. 18 tickets between the 2 of us and it will be such a terrible shame if it will just go to waste. Granted, these are bargains from the budget airlines’ 0 seat sale fare which we got at not even a quarter of a regular price. Still, we would loath to let this chance go.

If push would come to shove, guess we could drop the Legaspi-Naga part since it’s easier to get local tickets on the cheap and easier to travel in country. Besides, as previously mentioned, our yearly goal (to travel in-country) has already been met three folds. But you know how irresistible the siren call of the Philippines is.

Anyway, with the finances hitting an all time low, I’m back to the drawing board and my ever-dependable spreadsheet to figure out the practicality of this trip and to crunch numbers – ahh the joys and pains of planning a DIY itinerary for 3 countries in 9 days. If you include our domestic lakwatsa in Luzon, it’s 4 countries in 2 weeks.

The nitty gritty of the plotted itinerary HERE on Part 2.

July 24, 2011


For the second consecutive week on Sunstar Davao. Find the original post HERE.

July 21, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Sarangani Highlands Garden & Restaurant, Gensan

A beautiful highland resort tucked away in our very own land of the promise, Mindanao.  Sarangani Highlands Garden and Restaurant/ despite the name is actually located in General Santos City and is one of the most frequently visited places by tourists and locals in the area.

It is a serene landscaped but still with a rustic charm garden overlooking Sarangani Bay. The restaurant serves great tasting and moderately priced dishes.  And when you chance upon the doctor owners on your visit, expects your meals to go with conversation peppered with "politically incorrect" humor.

HOW TO GET THERE: Sarangani Highlands is just a few minutes drive from Gensan's city proper.  It's best to bring your own car or travel by taxi since the restaurant is on a hilltop and public transport does not usually ply that route.  

ADDRESS: Brgy. Tambler, GSC
TEL. #:  083 3040752

July 18, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Chemas by the Sea, Samal Island

Because of Samal Island’s proximity to Davao and the efficiency of the TRANSPORT SYSTEM in getting there, the resorts in this area can get pretty crowded.

Such is not the case with Chemas By The Sea. This whimsically named resort 10 minutes boat ride (P200.00 per trip for a group of 10 person or less) away from The Waterfront Hotel limits the number of guests therefore ensuring you of a precious little peace and quiet and your valued privacy.  The owners who are hands on in management take pride in the serenity and tranquility of the well designed and maintained beachfront resort. And because visitors are kept at a minimum, all of your needs are well taken care of. It is the policy that one staff is assigned to every couple of guest and that feels like having your own butler.


Every time we have visiting friends and family and want to go to the beach, we bring them to Chemas and it never fails to impress. Even the pickiest and most traveled lot loves it.

The charming detached cottages in the hillside facing the ocean are more like a villa and it’s just gorgeous! It is a well thought out beautiful space with your own al fresco dining area in the terrace and pockets of sitting area/reading nook. Each cabana is tastefully and uniquely decorated with well designed furniture furnished with modern amenities like air conditioning in the romantic canopied bedroom, generous supply of hot and cold shower in your en suite bathroom, and a flat screen TV to guarantee a comfortable luxurious stay. Plus it is spotlessly clean. The standards are almost that of a 5-star resort hotel but better with a fraction of a price.

can comfortably accommodate 2 people with its king sized bed
air-conditioned, private bath, tv

FAMILY ROOM  php8000
can accommodate a group of 8, air-conditioned, private bath, tv 

huge bed, can fit up to 4pax, no private bath but don't fret as even the common bathrooms are impressively clean and well appointed and with a dressing room

The beach is probably the best swimming beach in the Davao gulf, as every low tide; the staff and even Quincho - the owner, with its sweet playful Labrador Sam, wades in to pick out dead corals. Cleaning out drifted matters is also round the clock.

When it’s low tide, there’s a salt water infinity pool amply shaded by old trees that is a great refreshing alternative to the beach. 

In the midst of a lush garden sits a restaurant that offers reasonably priced food. Order an hour or so ahead of your dining schedule as food is cooked only upon order.

And if Quincho takes a liking to you, it’s free beer! All you want, all you can. Uh oh!

with owner Quincho, Jez Aznar and Iris Gonzales of On the Road to Puka and your lakwatseras 

HOW TO GET THERE: when already in Davao, take a cab and head to The Waterfront Hotel where a boat will pick you up at the Pirata Bar (at the far end of the hotel) and will take you to the resort.

FOR RESERVATIONS: (082) 3030235, (0917) 8140814, (082) 2861352

July 13, 2011


Black and white is always a great combo and the perfect foil to everything – like this playful petal mustard color shorts that I’ve thrifted for only Php50 or just about a dollar! The tuxedo blazer that I got at a 60% discount levels the t-shirt combo and wards off the chill of the arctic climate at the grocery, while ballet flats are the easiest footwear to slip on to polish the look. A lazy comfy outfit to run errands accessorized by the ubiquitous stacked bracelets and aviators.

July 11, 2011

NI HAO MA CHINA: Sleeping in Shanghai

Because we didn’t think we’ll be granted entry to the Peoples republic of China due to the usual 4 days VISA processing stretching to almost a month of unbearable waiting time and follow ups, we got so discouraged we didn’t do enough research prior to our trip to Shanghai. Our preparation consisted of few speed readings from Lonely Planet’s China guidebook and some unfocused internet research.

It’s bad enough that we didn’t do much research on such an expensive city and haphazard cyber hotel hunting just won’t cut it. Did I mention that Shanghai was hosting the World Expo at that time? Meaning, thousands of tourists from all over the world flocked to the city and made it even more difficult for us to book rooms. We also got scared with the bed bug horror stories we’ve come across on cheap hotel reviews so we're looking in the mid range accommodations.

Through agoda.com, we booked for 2 nights at the MANHATTAN BUND BUSINESS HOTEL, for Php 3,100 per night (or USD 63.26. At the time of travel, exchange rate is 1 USD = Php 49). Manhattan Bund Business Hotel sits just a block away from the Bund’s riverfront viewing deck and Nanjing Road and a couple of blocks from the train's ticket center. For the very central location, the rate at agoda is a great steal. Although the rooms were really small it was spotlessly clean and the ensuite bath with ample hot and cold water was spacious enough, complimentary toiletries were also laid out neatly. It has a flat screen TV with zero English channels and an electric water kettle for your coffee. The bed was comfy enough, white linens and best of all, no bed bugs! I find it a little odd though for a business hotel to have mirrors right above the bed - a round- shaped bed. Our flight landed a quarter before midnight and we checked in at about 1 am but we we're shown to our room right away.

Manhattan Bund Business Hotel
hotel's restaurant
kinky round-shaped bed
even kinkier mirror right above our bed
that's how much walk space you have
really clean bathroom
We were hoping to catch a sleeper train to Beijing when we get to Shanghai so we did not book for the
remainder of our stay, but as it is, train availability were even scarcer. We thought we could also scout
around the area to look for cheaper hotels and get to inspect them first, but as you’ve guessed, they are
all booked to the brim and even if something opens up, it will be beyond our budget as everything seems to be priced north of USD150.

We would have stayed for 2 nights more, but since we only have reserved for the previous 2, we had to move to another hotel.

HOTEL TOPSUN ON THE BUND was our second hotel. The location is not as great as we need to hop on a cab to get to the Bund but the room was bigger than our first one. It had an office desk, a couch and a center table, starched white linens, comfortable bed and fluffy enough pillows. The ensuite bathroom have an ample supply of hot and cold shower, complimentary toiletries and a bath tub . The hallway and the lobby needs a bit more polishing and tidying up though as it wasn't as clean as it's supposed too. Service is lamentable and we paid Php 3,750 (USD 76.53) per room per night.

Hotel Topsun on The Bund standard room
bath tub, yes that's our bed!
hot and cold shower
view from our room
We find that the best feature of Topsun is the nightly street side feast just outside its doors. The best tasting grilled lamb kebabs, stir fried noodles and aromatic steaming bowl of hand pulled noodles on the cheap. A convenience store is also situated in front while the international fast food chain KFC with their divine Portuguese egg tarts right at the corner. These egg tarts are so good we hoarded and brought some home.

 MANHATTAN BUND BUSINESS HOTEL : No.81-85 Dianchi Road, Huangpu District

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HOTEL TOPSUN ON THE BUND: No.36 Huimin Road,Shanghai  

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