October 25, 2015

USA DIARIES PART 2: San Francisco, California

August 5, 2015. We were rewarded with beautiful summer weather on our first day in San Francisco perfect for al fresco dining on a sunny terrace overlooking the Union Square. The infamous fog has lifted and the sky was blue.

This area is the almost too comfortably familiar San Francisco as recognized from movie scenes, TV series and books. It does hold its charm with its all too perfect and manicured appearance and I am thoroughly impressed with how everything looked too symmetrical, too clean and too unspoiled.

After lining up for a lunch table at the always-crowded Cheesecake factory, we drove through the city's steep streets to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge famous the world over.

Driving through the bridge and later on at the view deck, it was easy to see why Frommer’s guidebook considers the red suspension bridge spanning the 3-mile channel between San Francisco bay and the Pacific Ocean the most beautiful and thus most photographed bridge in the world. The usual crowd was present but we found our spot. 

In the afternoon, we roamed the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts and lounged on picnic blankets under a shady tree leaving when the winds have picked up blowing our blanket and peoples skirts. It wasn't chilly that day but very windy. We ended the day with a huge box of takeaway pizza from Costco for dinner making us happy clichés.

October 19, 2015

USA Diaries Part 1 : The Long Haul Flight

Happy to be home after our 50-day trip in the US in August-September to visit the family but major lakwatsa withdrawals now wildly kicking in.

It seems just yesterday when we were bundling up for the cold and getting scared once the weather forecast reaches the low 50s and now we’re back home complaining how hot it is here ha ha. Time flies by so fast! Especially when you are having fun!

Our first 2 weeks in the US was packed and we couldn’t be any more pleased. The trip was even more special because we were with this side of the family to break the sourdough bread (I ate my weight in sourdough bread and Angus rib eyes!) and be tourists with. The last time we were all together like this, was back in 2010 on a trip to Cebu and Bohol.

We have about a billion photos, give or take, so I’m diving into the constantly wanderlusting corners of my mind to try to document the trip in a series for posterity. I don’t want to forget anything as everyday held some fascinating detail.


August 4, 2015. We landed at the San Francisco International Airport  (IATA Code: SFO) after a 16-hour flight from Manila via Cathay Pacific with a connecting flight in Hong Kong International Airport (IATA Code: HKG). Our short 4 hours in HK was spent browsing the impressive array of duty free shops. There was no shopping to be had in the transit at least so self-restraint was aided with a generous dose of extremely good Hainanese Chicken Rice.

It was our first long haul flight and first trip outside of Asia. I was prepared for it dressed in relaxed but still presentable travel clothes - garments that doesn’t wrinkle and comfortable enough to sleep in and ballet flats for easy slip on and off.  I am always cold so I dress in layers. I am one of those persons with neck pillows, socks pulled up and with dark glasses stuck to their faces.

My carry on that goes under the seat in front of me has more than enough snacks for Kimbee (takot magutom!), books and ipad and toiletries with lots of wet wipes and a moisturizing spray. 

Kimbee swears by noise canceling headphones and crossword puzzles. 

I can sleep anywhere, even upright so I slept some easily on the flight, ate, watched a movie, played some games, read and landed. Easy. But not typical for long hauls I understand. More often than not, it is a test of endurance. Attend to your hygiene so you don’t feel disgusting and would still feel and look fresh when you land. Stay hydrated, go for a few walks and stretch.

Being confined in a flying tube for extended period of time is not most people’s idea of fun so I guess, a positive state of mind and attitude helped a good deal. I remember feeling very excited because flying long haul was still a novelty to me so the trip went by in a jiffy.

Jetlag though was a bitch but an excellent excuse to eat at odd hours.

Next up San Francisco.

October 12, 2015

Vietnam Diaries: Hanoi Part 4

Aside from the (in)famous motorcycle traffic, Hanoi is also known for its pagodas.

A bit out of the way of Hoan Kiem District but a restful spot in a really busy city is Chua Tran Quoc, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi. The 1,450 plus year old Pagoda perfumed heavily with incence was constructed in the sixth century and sits prettily close to the water’s edge of West lake. It is so picturesque even on an overcast day.

Opening Hours: Daily from 7:30 to 11:30 and from 13:30 to 18:30
No entrance fee

Crossing the street, immediately adjacent to West Lake is Trúc Bạch Lake. We followed the delicious smell of cooking and found our lunch in one of the many restaurants along the banks. We picked the busiest place with the most number of local patrons knocking back beer and munched happily on the tastiest Vietnamese food. The mild weather made for a perfect al fresco dining.

Dessert is Bo Bia Ngot. A made to order delicious street side snack of thin crepes, sugarcane candy, freshly grated coconut and a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds which is then rolled like spring rolls. A treat for 10,000 VND.

Still in the vicinity of West Lake at the cross road of Thanh Nien and QuanThanh Street is the Taoist temple of Den Quan Thanh. The name means “Place of the Gods.” The impressive white entrance gate frames the shaded yard set before the temple.

Opening hours: Daily 07:30-17:30
Entrance fee: 10,000 VND.

This second trip in Hanoi  has done nothing but solidify our love for Vietnam fixing it on top of our most favorite country and I'm just so grateful to get another chance to see and experience more of it. Hopefully, next time, we get to do our dream of exploring the whole country from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi by train. 

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