February 23, 2012

AW KOON CAMBODIA: Old Market, Siem Reap

Siem Reap’s Phsar Chas or the Old Market is bustling with activities and has become a mecca for souvenir shopping. It has a wide and cheap selection of traditional Khmer goods making it hard to walk away without a bag or two on hand.


Products like silks, carvings, paintings, handicrafts, silver works and the Khmer traditional scarf Krama can be found on the side of the market that faces the river.






The market's interior also has a lot of interesting and some weird items like a scorpion and snake infused drinks. If you aren't that extreme, you can settle for an Angkor Wat bottle opener or maybe some knock-off designer watches or colorful art to hang on your wall.





All prices are in US Dollars but don’t worry as they will change you with dollars too. Here’s a quick tip though: do not accept first price offers, bargain, but bargain with a smile and remember that it’s their livelihood so please don’t be too cheap.

The old market is also surrounded by cafĂ©’s, local eateries and street food vendors.





HOW TO GET THERE: the old market is near the river and all tuktuk drivers know where its is.  It is also just a short walk from Pub Street and its alleys.

February 16, 2012

DINING: Dos Mestizos, Davao

Food lovers in bustling Davao City have another reason to celebrate. An authentic Spanish restaurant from Boracay is the new welcome addition to the burgeoning culinary choices scattered like gems all over this progressive city.

The softly lit restaurant framed by tall windows open to a manicured lawn right by the shores of the Davao Gulf in Pearl Farm Marina. Strains of mellow tunes greet the diners and set the mood for dining and relaxation.






Dos Mestizos was first conceived in Boracay in 1997 by Juan Carlos Remedios with another Spanish mestizo – Jose Ramon Nieto – thus the “Dos”. The “Mestizos” came from their proud Filipino-Spanish blood and heritage.

In the early 90's, Juan Carlos, also known as Binggoy to friends felt fortunate enough to come back to the Philippines after 15 years abroad from the U.S, Europe and the Middle East working for different food service companies. He is a beach person and understandably fell in love with Boracay. Davao is where he went to grade school and high school and has many friends that he grew up with and has not seen in 40 years. A childhood friend Tonyboy F. invited him to Davao and he felt good to be back.

As the owners and cooks are Spanish mestizos, they bring to the table classic Castillan dishes passed on to them by their grandparents. Even as they derive their cuisine from Spain, many of these dishes are from the northern region – the Basque country where many Spanish-Filipino comes from, so they have dishes that are very familiar to the Filipino taste like the lengua estofada, bacalao vizcaina, and callos to name a few.

Callos con garbanzos

Pollo al Ajillo

Lomo de Vaca ala Pobre

The four-week old roasted piglet, the cochinillo, and their very fresh seafood dishes; dorado fish fillet in parsley sauce (salsa verde), sopa de Mariscos are a must have. Paella of course is a bestseller. Green salad is also very popular as they grow organic produce such as different types of lettuce, coriander, parsley etc. in their own organic farm located in Nabaoy near the airport of Caticlan.

Paella Valenciana
For the first-time diners to Dos Mestizos, Binggoy, highly recommends the tapas while having sangria and to highlight the night with their famous seafood paella. For dessert, you can cap off the meal with bread pudding glazed in a light natilla sauce.

EDIT UPDATE: For reservations and inquiries, you may contact them at (082) 234-6987.

February 13, 2012

AW KOON CAMBODIA: Pub Street, Siem Reap

As its name suggest, the street is lined with a wide selection of pubs, bars and restaurants from end to end - each with their own creative decors and offerings of cheap cocktails competing for attention. The good news is, you don’t have to wait for happy hour to get your fix of mojito since most bars and restaurants are open during daytime. Some even have a buy 1 take 1 whole day promo to fully absorb you.






Restaurants with authentic Khmer food can also be found here, as well as other western and Asian cuisines.



Also popular in Pub Street are its alleys - The Passage, Alley West and The Lane. The Passage is also dominated by restaurants with a few bars and a smattering of shops and galleries. If all the eating and drinking is not enough to detain you, head on to Alley West. Here you’ll find a more artsy atmosphere with boutiques and shops selling handicrafts, accessories, clothing and other souvenirs.





While it’s borderline criminal not sinking your teeth onto some Khmer dishes while in Siem Reap, no visit to Cambodia is complete without watching an Apsara Dance at least once. This is a traditional Khmer dance drama performance and most restaurants have a nightly show for free as long as you dine with them.



HOW TO GET THERE:  Pub Street is near the Old Market area, a tuk-tuk can take you there no matter where you are in Siem Reap

February 7, 2012

WHAT'S ON MY SHELF: Inside the Lion's Den

CUSTOMS is a major and basic part of travel -- across all nations.

[It] Is an authority or agency in a country responsible for collecting and safeguarding customs duties and for controlling the flow of goods including animals, transports, personal effects and hazardous items in and out of a country. – Wikipedia

Those checkpoint counters at the airport where you submit your customs declaration card. - Tourist

Most corrupt government agency. – Ordinary Filipino Citizen

The Wild, Wild West of government, a den of thieves, a snake pit and a Lion’s den… but there is a lot more to this agency than what many people really know. – Angelito Alvarez, 34th Commissioner, Bureau of Customs

 

In the Philippines, Inside the Lion's Den gives you an inside look into Philippine customs. This book is a documentary journey of an award winning full time documentary photographer- Jes Aznar  , an award winning Manila based journalist and blogger- Iris Gonzales and edited by one of the country’s online journalism innovators Michael Marasigan.

This collection of superb images with biting essays offers an inside look on the daily lives of the extraordinary and hardworking men and women who works day by day and carries the stigma that is associated with the Bureau as not many people know exactly how the agency works. While graft and corruption is a reality, “it is not the only thing that defines the bureau,” says Commissioner Alvarez in the books’ foreword. To him, the book is about “ordinary Filipino’s occupying an extraordinary place in government service.”

It is Alvarez that granted the team full access to the agency’s operations including the different collection districts, ports and distant sub-ports in the Philippine archipelago.

The images in this book tell a story of the difficulties and hardships these men and women are faced with every day as they try to do their work efficiently with the very best intentions. Images that capture
the daily activities in the bureau and ports which ordinary citizen like us might never get to see.

A man in his 50’s is in charge of checking goods in a warehouse with almost no ventilation. He has asthma. A boarding officer drives a beat-up car and holds office in a borrowed container van in a middle of a muddy parking lot. An elderly employee has not received overtime pay for several months already. – except from the introduction by Iris Gonzales

The essays on the other hand offer a history on the bureau and the collection districts. It also does not shy away from exposing the rampant smuggling, corruption, the people who compromise the agency and the reform measures being taken.

Published in the Philippines by Europa PR with photo editing by veteran photojournalist Sonny Yabao, the book offers a never before seen, never before discussed insights to life inside an environment that struggles to improve.

Indeed, this is a journalistic aspiration fueled by curiosity and driven by a desire to recount something valuable in a society struggling to exist with purpose.


You can get your copy at major bookstores nationwide and at Bookay-Ukay Bookstore, Maginhawa Street, Teacher’s Village, Quezon City

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