Friday, December 7, 2012

TRAVEL - Yogyakarta Day 2

We left Jogja around 5am and arrived at the temple grounds of Borobodur around 6am.  By this time, there's already a cue for foreign tourists.  I think foreigners can come in earlier as the cue for locals have yet to open at this time...probably a trade off for the exuberant entrance fee.

USD 20 per head in my opinion is just too steep.  Knowing locals just need to pay USD 3 doesn't help the cause either.  But what the heck, I came here to enjoy the experience of Borobodur.  Upon seeing Borobodur though, my immediate reaction was not WOW but WTF!!!

It's being renovated!?  While a good thing in terms of its preservation, couldn't they have scheduled it after my visit!?  I think this is already a curse as the same thing happened during our visit in Angkor Wat.

But a photographer makes no excuses!!!

Taken with a Canon 5D Classic, 17-40 4L, ND400 and .9 GND

Myself in courtesy of my friend Robby
It was really tough taking photos of the temple not just because of the tourists, but the security personnel who are all wearing ultra bright reflective yellow vests.  I actually have a wider shot of the temple but unfortunately they are all in the way.

Climbing the steps of Borobodur Temple and going around its walls, I just can't help but be in awe of all the stone carvings along its walls...and the way the colors pop when hit by the sun...

At a glance all walls may look the same but they are distinct in every way...

Walls are filled with impressive stone carvings such as this

Unfortunately, I only have so much time wondering around these walls.  Tourists are starting to arrive in droves and I can't afford not to take my desired photos of Borobudur's famed stupas.  So I blazed my way to the upper platform and managed to get these photos...

Achieved this shot via HDR...combining 5 photos in 1 stop increments.  Taken with a Canon 5D Classic, 17-40 4L, ND8 and CPL

Taken with a Canon 5D Classic, 17-40 4L, Hoya ND8 and .9 GND

Underexposed my shot to show a silhouette of the 2 mountains.  Taken with a 5D Classic and 24-105 4L

A few minutes later, place is already jam-packed both by local and foreign tourists.  Locals are composed mainly of students probably on their field trip.  I would've wanted to take more photos but there's just no way I can get the shots I want.

I just enjoyed roaming around the temple as a tourist and just took these snapshots on my way back...

Can't get enough of these stone carvings...

And another...

For some reason I'm still not that satisfied of my shot of the temple.  After going around looking for a better angle, I ended up with this.  Nothing really original but at least I got my shot...

Solution for tourists ruining your photo?  Blur them out! Taken with a Canon 5D Classic, 17-40 4L, ND400 and .9 GND

With more time to spare, we went to tour the foothills of Mt. Merapi.  An active volcano that erupted last October 25, 2010 and caused major damage to the city of Jogja.  Unfortunately, rain has started to fall and there was nothing but gloomy skies to show.  

These are the photos I managed to scrape up...

This huge boulder was spew out kilometers away from Mt. Merapi's crater

Myself enjoying the surroundings of Mt. only if the damn helmet didn't smell so bad!

Remains of the vehicles of Mt. Merapi's spiritual guardian  Mbah Maridjan.  He stayed at his home during the exlposion and was found dead in a praying position.

Local dessert...which name I forgot but will update as soon as I get to know it :)

This was my first time to experience the adventure lifestyle of Indonesia and I was not disappointed.  Never have I been this excited to go back to this country.  Good sites, good vibes, good views and a good travel buddy...

How can you not love life? :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

TRAVEL - Yogyakarta Day 1

Finally...another destination crossed out from my bucket list.

Borobodur Temple has always been a target destination of mine ever since I first went to Indonesia 5 years ago.  Time and company (I just don't want to be a lone traveller) has always been an issue so when the opportunity came, I didn't dare pass it up.

Our adventure started when we rode a Kereta Api train from Jakarta to Yogyakara (IDR 335,000 for the Exclusive seat).  My local companion, Robby, was actually surprised that I opted this mean of transportation when we can simply board a plane paying just 30% more.  I countered that I want to authenticate our adventure so here we go...

I am a bad traveller in a way that I don't get much sleep while on the road

View of our train carriage
We left Jakarta 2030 and arrived in Yogyakarta 0830...3 freaking hours OFF our ETA of 0530!  I was told that since it was raining hard in Yogyakarta the past couple of days, some railways were damaged. The delayed travel time I can live with...but RAINING!?

As it was too late to go to Borobodur, we went around Yogyakarata.  First stop is the hotspot Malioboro street...

Myself strolling around the busy...though not at this time...street of Malioboro

Travel in style with Jogja's local tricycle Becak

Something to cool the nerves...a bowl of sugar cane like juice with jellies and scraped melon for a measly IDR 6,000

While we're at it, had some traditional meals as well

I opted for this mixed green veggies smothered in sweet peanut sauce...and it ain't bad at all!  And it only cost IDR 6,000

Along the way, we saw a bulding calleded Vredeburg.  We entered it for the sake of curiosity and was surprised that it was a museum of some sort.  This is where I got to appreciate more of Yogyakarta and its relevance in the history of Indonesia's independence (not sure if the photo below has a relevance to it...but I consider it a shout for joy).

With more time to spare, we rented a becak to go around Yogyakarta...

All I can say is riding this is a lot harder than it looks...specially maneuvering the bike.
First stop was a spot wherein you have to cross in between two huge trees...BLINDFOLDED!  The gap between the trees was huge (probably 10 meters or more) but surprsisingly, the success rate of doing so was really low...even despite directions from the locals or your friends.

It is said that when you're successful in accomplishing this task, you have a good spirit and you can make a wish.  The former was the one that made me really confident...OR NOT ;)

View from my start point
I'm well on my way!!!
I actually failed in my first attempt but managed to do it in my second :)  While finding your way is a challenge, the toughest part for me was ignoring the smell of the blind fold they used.

Second stop was a couple of mosques/ temples.  It was a good "teaser" for our trip to Borobodur the next day.  Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera but thank goodness there's alway my iPhone.

Ain't no larger than life structure but still impressive nonetheless

After passing through a couple of awnings we were greeted with this view
View from atop...had to insert my hands and phone out the window bars to take this shot
Some local handicrafts...hammer head at the bottom is from a bull's horn

Another mosque we visited...I swear I will clone that arm at the right with Photoshop
As to my friend Robby, a similar setting from the Immortals movie...unfortunately I was not able to get photos without tourists as it was jampacked
So that's it.  Day 1 is a wrap.  It was still quite early but had to catch up with WORK so we called it a day.

Stay tuned for Day 2 :)

Friday, November 30, 2012

FOOD - Turning Japanese in Cebu

Given the huge number of Japan tourists in Cebu, it follows that there is an abundance of Japanese restaurants to cater to their longing of Japanese cuisine.  The more famous ones are Nonki/ Kagura (along AS Fortuna) and Yakiniku Tajimaya/ Banri (along Crossroads Banilad).  There are of course the so-called "underground or really authentic"...and one of the is Ofuku-San.

I have actually ignored this restaurant for almost 3 years due to its location and rusty look.  The fact that it's been there for more than a decade with minimal (if not no) renovations is a testament to that!  But in our search for better Japanese restos, we gave this a try and man, where we in for a big surprise...

Interior very much reflects its exterior.  It is old and rusty which in a way that it reflects its authenticity.  This is actually a good selling point but doesn't really spell premium which is how its products are priced.  But these are all for the food...

As mentioned, price is on the high side but the serving size and taste justifies the cost.  I had the Inaka Barasushi and Hot Inaniwa Udon set which is priced at P370.  As you can see, serving is generous and the taste...really authentic and good.

My wife in the meantime had the Ebi Furai Bentoh.  A combination of Breaded Tiger Prawns, Chicken Teriyaki, Age Deshi Tofu and Rice.  All priced at P360.

If there was a letdown, it's their Japanese rice.  I wouldn't even go to the level of considering it as one.

All in all, this is one Japanese resto we would eat over and over again and which I would highly recommend.  But stick to their noodles as this is their specialty.  Not sure of their sashimis though...but I would guess they are good also.

Ofuku-San is located along the chain of restaurants of Gaisano Country Mall at the GF.

Monday, November 12, 2012

FOOD - Portland

One thing I love about Portland, other than shopping tax free, is the chance to enjoy good local food.  I have been to the famous and expensive restaurants such as the likes of Jack's Crawfish, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Picnic House and 23 Hoyt among others but for some reason, it doesn't satisfy my craving for local food.  So I made it a point to go where majority of the locals go...


Whenever I think of US food, first thing that comes to my mind is "Burgers".  So when I asked a friend of mine where the best burger in Portland is, without hesitation his response was Five Guys.  I was like huh?

I was told that the establishment name was derived on the history of its owners.  Just five guys who thought about opening a joint that offers the best burgers in town. only if putting up a business is this simple.

Don't let its name fool you though.  This establishment has won numerous awards as the best burger in town and for good reason.  If their perfectly grilled burgers is not enough, you have the option to choose as many toppings as you wish.  And free peanuts!!!

One thing I found weird (no surprise's Portland!) was the choice of a single or double the same price.  But heck, I sure am hungry so a double patty for me please!  And oh, they claim to offer less calories than other burgers...


Another staple part of Portland's food industry is its food carts.  You have a plethora of choices ranging from Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, etc.  But one food cart stands above them all...Nong's Khao Man Gai.

Food cart is headed by Nong Poonsukwattana who not only is the boss, but order taker as well.  Her cart has won Portland's best food cart and continue to be one of the more if not most lined up carts in the city.

Best and most popular dish is obviously the name of her store.  Khao Man Gai chicken.  I was surprised that for something so simple, it just packs a lot of flavor.

You know it's good Thai food when Thai people love it...and my Thai friends just can't get enough of this dish.

There are actually a lot more like Voodoo donuts but unfortunately, I had the tonsils back then so no sweets for me.  Oh well, probably next year again if I get the chance :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

FOOD - Best Burger in Cebu

Looking for the best burger in Cebu?  We finally found it in BIG TOM'S!!!

Just how good is it?  It's tagline alone speaks for itself...Freshly Ground, Never Frozen, Handmade Daily!  Still not sold?  Juvvy just finished a 4oz burger, on a diet and she still grabbed my last bite!

After tasting their burger, we vowed never to go back eating at Army Navy, Burger Joint, Jollibee...uhm...wait, this is too much to ask...let's just leave it to those serving charbroiled burgers!

Big Tom's is located along Juan Osmena St., Cebu City.  Note that it's not really a formal restaurant/ joint.  You need to call if you plan to dine in as it's really a residential place which garden was transformed to an outdoor dining area.  Having your burgers delivered or picked up may prove to be the best way to enjoy their burgers.

They are planning to build a restaurant by December.  I can't wait as surely, we will be a regular visitor once it's up and running.  And I expect others to do the same so don't wait...grabe one now and enjoy this hidden treasure of Cebu.

For deliveries/ inquiries, just call 032 5147007.

FOOD - Gusteau's GenSan

When talking about GenSan, only one word comes to mind...and no it's not Pacquiao, Tuna, etc.  It's Gusteau's!  Gus-what you might say?  

Gusteau's is one of the best and probably most famous seafood restaurant in GenSan. .  Restaurant is not much to look at but once you see all those eating inside, you know you're in the right place.  Staff are very courteous as well.

Their must haves are as follows...

GARLIC TUNA's crazy how perfect they cook this dish.  It's crispy on the outside yet the inside is so fresh and chewy.  Serving is actually good for 2-4 persons but it's so damn good, I can finish the whole thing!

SPICY PRAWN...I would actually like to change it to sweet and spicy prawn but you know what, it doesn't matte as it's so good as well!  Deciphering its ingredients, they used olive oil, tons of garlic, pepper (too much though based on my last meal), and sugar.  I'm sure there's a lot more but these are the ones that pop out.  You have the option to order specific sizes and quantities as well.

OCEAN KING CRAB...oh man...let me just put it this way.  I hate eating with my hands...EXCEPT when I'm eating this!  Only the tons of garlic standout but there should be a lot more herb and spices as it is so tasty!  

When in GenSan, make sure to stop by the place.  It's located at the 2F of Sun City Complex which is along the National Highway.  Note that cooking usually takes time and the place gets filled-up easy so it's best to pre-order.  Their number is 083 3048682.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

FAMILY - Liam's Report Card

It was something I really didn't expect doing until Liam is 5 yrs. old or something.  That is meeting with a teacher to discuss my son's report card.  Yup you heard it right.  A report card for a less than 2 yr. old toddler!

Liam, despite being the youngest in his class, turned out to be one of the fastest developers.  He knows quite a number of shapes and colors already and his attention to his teachers is top notch...even if he's just going around the room doing his own thing.  And he loves to sing and dance.

Only issue: He has the social skills of his father ;)

FOOD - Mr. India Restaurant

When you talk about the best eats in Cebu, the usual restos pop-up: Casa Verde, CNT, AA's, etc.  But now being a long term resident, these establishments have lost their glamour among our taste buds.  Thus the urge to look for other varieties...heck, we now appreciate Shakey's more than ever...

Then we came upon Mr. India.

This establishment is situated along the chain of restos of Gaisano Country Mall.  It's a small and simple place butyou can feel its authenticity.  Disclaimer: I haven't been to India so this is very much a personal view.

One thing that really caught my attention, which honestly is not much of a surprise, is the abundance of foreigners and their "local" partners.  If you are sensitive about this then this might not be the place for you.

But it's all about the food and in this regard, they did not disappoint.  Their servers stress that what they serve is authentic.  Since I haven't been to India, my educated guess is they are 70-80% accurate.  Bottom line though is it's surprisingly tasty...and CHEAP!

I ordered their Chicken Biryani meal which set me back just P109. For this price, you get a big plate of Basmati rice and underneath it is a quarter sized chicken.  Size of the chicken is not big nor small but it's tasty enough that you will have the urge to eat more than your usual serving of rice.

It also came along with a freshly served Papadum (ala fish cracker).

As for Juvvy, she ordered their Non Veggie Thali meal.  It's a combination of 1 Dal (Lentil soup), Non veggie dish (which varies daily), 1 Rice (which Juvvy changed to another Papadum), 1 Naan Paratha (tortilla), 1 Papadum and 1 Desert (milky syrup with mini tapiocas).  All these served on a "prison" like plate.  It won't win any award in terms of presentation nor will make you appreciate it more but once you start eating it, it's also surprisingly good.  And oh, all of these just cost P99!

It's only now that I'm blogging about this place but we've actually eaten here multiple times already.  I'm sure there are better and more authentic Indian restuarants within Cebu but if you just want a no frills value for money place, look no further.