Tag Archives: 2016

Around Asia – Indonesia (Day 1: Malioboro Street, Kopi Joss)

Last September, I went on a 12-day trip around some places that I have been wanting to go to around Asia with my sister. It was a long shot when I first thought about this trip. We only had less than 2 weeks to plan when we decided to push through – it was definitely worth it!

To summarize our trip, here is the breakdown of where we were each day:

Day 1: Manila (Philippines) – Singapore – Yogyakarta (Indonesia)
Day 2: Borobudur (Indonesia)
Day 3: Mt. Bromo (Indonesia)
Day 4: Mt. Ijen (Indonesia)
Day 5: Mt. Bromo (Indonesia) – Surabaya (Indonesia)
Day 6: Colombo/Negombo (Sri Lanka)
Day 7: Dambulla (Sri Lanka)
Day 8: Sigiriya (Sri Lanka)
Day 9: Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka)
Day 10: Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) – Malacca (Malaysia)
Day 11: Brunei
Day 12: Brunei – Manila (Philippines)

Our first day was technically our “rest day”. We flew with Singapore Airlines from Manila to Yogyakarta via Singapore. I would have wanted to leave the airport to get some chili crabs from Jumbo but decided to stay inside instead. From my last visit (which was last May 2015), I noticed that they already renovated the food court. You can even order from any of the stalls through a vending machine.

From our early morning flight, it was already 5pm when we arrived in Yogyakarta. It was almost 7pm when we finally headed out from the airport. The line exiting from the baggage counters to the immigration took awhile; something I definitely did not expect.


We stayed at Inna Garuda for our first night. For one, this hotel was built in 1908 which definitely has some history behind it. It is also strategically located in Malioboro Street which is probably the most popular area to go to in Yogyakarta.



Our visit was timely as they were celebrating Eid al-Adha so there was a lot of happening around the city. The first stop we went to was to try some Kopi Joss (Charcoal Coffee) from Angkringan Kopi Joss Pak Agus. This drink literally has a hot charcoal dunked in your coffee. It is said to have some health benefits from the activated carbon of the charcoal. We also tried some of their chicken satay which was our first meal in Yogyakarta.



Keep in mind that most (if not all) establishments do not serve pork as with all other Muslim countries. I had to learn this the hard way as I kept forgetting about this and would sometimes ask if they had pork on the menu. Same thing happened when we visited A&W in Surabaya on Day 5. I was craving for some Coney Dog but of course… Definitely my bad!


How to get here: go to the opposite direction of Malioboro Street and you will find a train track. Keep walking ahead and you will see this establishment to your right along with other stalls and street vendors.


Afterwards, we headed back to Malioboro Street and walked around for a bit. There are a lot of side streets that you may also want to check as well. We ended up in one of those to try some more local food.


My sister really enjoyed trying out new dishes but I was the complete opposite. I have a bad tolerance for spicy food which is why I even forgot about taking a photo of where we ate afterwards. I did enjoy some of the Indonesian dishes we tried in the latter part of the trip as long as it was not spicy. We ended up going to a mall close by so I can order some McDonald’s to go before we headed back to the hotel.

It was probably around 10pm at this point and our call time was at 4AM the next day. Little did I know that 4AM was already late compared to the time we had to wake up for the next few days. We asked for it!


Taipei All Over (Day 3: Chia Te, Yayoi Teishoku, Airport Lounge)

Our last day in Taipei was a quick one. Our flight was scheduled around 8 in the evening which is why we wanted to leave by around 4 PM so we can still go around Taoyuan Airport

We headed to Chia Te located just outside of Nanjing Sanmin Station to buy some pineapple cake goodies! This by far is the only pineapple cake brand that we purchase to bring home. I suggest that you order their original pineapple flavor as well as the variant with egg inside.


Afterwards, I spotted this Japanese teishoku restaurant called Yayoi just a few steps away from Chia Te. Since we did not really plan where we would be having lunch that day, we decided to give this restaurant a try.


The first thing I noticed is the self service option where you can order straight from the screen on your table. Given that we were first timers here, we were eager to give it a try!


Again, let me just re-iterate how good Taiwan’s Japenese cuisine is. Their pork tonkatsu rivaled some of the premium tonkatsu places available here in Manila. Price was also very affordable!

After, we headed to Sogo located in Zhongxiao Fuxing to buy some last minute goods in the supermarket. Likewise, we also went back to Zhongxiao Dunhu to visit a store called Hot Dog Toyz where I purchased a few items for my brother.

When we arrived at the airport, it was still quite early. I was expecting a quick check-in so we still have a lot of time to go around. Unfortunately, we had to wait for almost an hour before the counter opened. There were already quite a few number of people in line waiting earlier than us. Good thing was we were the first to line-up in Business Class.




We had about an hour to go around Duty Free to buy some last minute items. Most of the high fashion brands are offering 50% off on select items. After we rushed around to look for some last minute purchases which included a necktie, some facial cream and a bottle of Japenese liquor, we spent our last 30 minutes in Taoyuan’s airport lounge.


I would definitely want to come back to Taiwan for the 3rd time this year if there is an opportunity to do so. Until next time!


Taipei All Over (Day 2: Addiction Aquatic Development, Maokong Gondola, Raohe Night Market)


After a much needed rest, Day 2 might be the best and most memorable day of our trip. We started our day by doing some creative shots along the hallway of Swiio Hotel. There was a cleaning service on our hallway so we had to move to another floor to take some post worthy shots.


For lunch, we headed to Addiction Aquatic Development. I was lucky to stumble on this place just a few days before our trip. They said that this was somewhat like the Tsukiji Market of Taipei. I have been to the latter as well so that information might be misleading. Nonetheless, we really enjoyed our time in Aquatic and would definitely recommend that you visit this place!


When you enter, you are first greeted by the huge open tanks filled with all sorts of seafood. Majority of them contained huge king crabs as well as other shellfish. Here, you can buy live seafood on a wholesale level.


As we moved further, we are greeted by a supermarket type section filled with all sorts of dried and fresh seafood. Likewise, their supermarket area also sell some meat, vegetables and other gourmet food.




The middle section is where all the action takes place. The outer area contains the seafood bar while the middle area is where the sushi bar is located. We had to queue and our number was around 160+. Also worth mentioning is the hotpot area located on the upper floor and an outdoor BBQ area when you exit.


We decided to try their bar section while waiting which offered wine and sake. You can also order some fresh oysters which we did not get and opted for the cheese platter instead. My girlfriend ordered some white wine while I had some cold sake.


After more than an hour of waiting, it was sushi time for us! A bit unusual but both the seafood and sushi area are both standing areas only. They probably configured it this way to maximize space.


We tried several dishes such as monk fish liver which is said to be the foie gras of the sea. It was delicate and creamy but I was not very fond of this dish. Also, on our table were some green sea urchin, both local Taiwanese and Japanese fatty tuna, clam soup and a sushi platter.


My favorite were both the Japanese fatty tuna and the sushi platter. Both were yummy! Too bad the more premium Taiwanese toro was not available at that time so it was hard for me to compare both cuts.


Lastly, we also tried some grilled king crab legs which we squeezed some lime on top. I would definitely come back for more of this! Definitely a great and memorable food experience during our visit at Aquatic. I can attest to what people say that the best Japanese food outside of Japan is here in Taiwan.



After our sumptuous meal, we headed to take the Maokong Gondola. We decided to head to the last station which was aptly called Maokong Station.


Here, you can see great views of Taipei from a mountainous location. We did not really have a plan when we arrived at the last stop so we ended up walking a bit before ending up in a tea place. We ordered some local tea served in a traditional way.





We spent more than an hour just serving each other some tea. We probably had 12-14 tea cups each before we headed back to look for some premium Taiwanese tea to bring home.


We ended up in a tea shop which prides themselves as being a distributor and direct from source shop, we did not expect to have another round of tea drinking before we purchased some High Mountain and Dong Ding tea. Definitely better than the one we tried before and we were given some tea 101 by the son of a tea master. At this point, we had so much tea in our system that it was already time to return to the city.




It was already sundown when we rode the cable car back to the city. My night shots were horrendous as the cable car was constantly moving. One big reason why I will do Elephant Mountain for my next Taipei trip.



For dinner, we headed to our favorite night market – Raohe Night Market. It was the same great night market that we visited last March which we really enjoyed. We tried several dishes that we did not eat before like the grilled abalone, grilled corn, matsusaka pork and boiled clams.




The matsusaka pork was very tasty but my favorite find is the grilled corn which had some sweet coating on the outside.


With our tummies full from another great Raohe Night Market experience, we decided to visit the Rainbow Bridge. I was quite disappointed to see that the bridge was not lit up. I just ended up taking photos of an unknown bridge on the opposite side.


That being said, we did not spend a lot of time here and just decided to head back to our hotel. It was already past midnight when we returned. We still have a half day ahead of us but we were already sentimental about going back home from our quick Taipei trip…



Taipei All Over (Day 1: Swiio Hotel, Presidential Palace, Ximending, Ningxia Night Market)

My latest trip brings me back to Taipei for the second time this year. I just had to book a flight with the awesome seat sale deal we found. For this trip, I was able to book two round trip Philippine Airlines business class tickets for only USD $322 per person. I will be writing a separate article on how we were able to purchase these cheap business class seats. Hopefully, that will not be our last!

On the downside, we splurged a bit more with the hotel. I usually book a few months or weeks before any trip. That is to ensure that I am able to get the hotel where I would like to stay. For this trip, we did something risky and booked just a few days before our actual trip. We were hoping to get some last minute promo deals which definitely backfired. From the initial list we had in mind, they were all fully booked or overpriced when we decided to book our stay.

Since we had no choice but to spend a bit more, we decided to book at Swiio Hotel Daan which we really enjoyed. They are currently ranked #2 on TripAdvisor as I am writing this. We were hoping to stay around Ximending but do not regret ending up in the more laid back and peaceful Daan area.


Once we arrived at Taiwan’s Taoyuan Airport, we decided to take the Kuo-Kuang (國光客運) bus #1819 from the airport to Taipei Main Station. From the Taipei Main Station, take the Red-line to Daan. We were consciously making this trip stay within budget which is why we decided to opt commuting over a hired taxi. Once we started walking from the Daan station to our hotel, it was evident that the weather in Taipei during late July is extremely hot. A shopkeeper even told me it was “not hot but heat” in Taiwan. That I did not understand…


We were sweating and drained from the weather when we arrived at Swiio Hotel. Luckily, our room was already ready even if check-in time was still a few hours after. Thank you Swiio!




The rooms were very modern yet functional. It definitely has a hip and very chic vibe to it. Our curtains were all automatic as well as the toilet which can be remotely controlled and the seat kinda lifts on its own. Quite neat!


After we freshened up, we headed out for lunch at Du Hsiao Yue (度小月) located in Zhongxiao Dunhua. This is probably my all time favorite place to eat at in Taipei. After a friend of mine introduced this place to me back in 2008, I was definitely hooked! I always make it a point to dine here every single time I visit Taipei. You must try their pork noodle soup and pork rice which is what I always order.

From there, we headed to do some shopping (at my girlfriend’s request) and strolling around the hip area of Dunhua (忠孝敦化商圈). Shopping comprised of some bargain buys from stores like Gu and NET which is along Exit 4 from the Zhongxiao Dunhua station. Across the street when you get out from either Exit 1 or Exit 7, turn to one of the side streets and you will end up seeing some hip shops (street wear, indie brands, cafes, etc) and similar establishments. I apologize for not taking pictures as I am explaining these areas. I was still too tired from the weather at this point.



Just before sundown, we moved to Ximen and visited the Presidential Palace. I was trying out my new lens and I am pretty impressed with how wide this can get even if I was just across the street taking photos of this building.





We then walked towards the more commercialized area of Ximending. We strolled for a bit just to have some feel good vibes from our previous trip. The place is still bustling and busy with a lot of people. It was a good thing that we decided to stay elsewhere during this trip.



For dinner, we went to Ningxia Night Market which we have not been to before. I have been hearing much about this night market. You can exit either in Zhongshan or Shuanglian MRT to get here.



With night markets, I look forward to the food more than the shopping. Ningxia did not disappoint on this as they had a whole strip dedicated to food. I tried some street style teppanyaki which I found just to be okay given that I paid around NT$230. My girlfriend opted for the popular blow-torched steak which was tastier than the teppanyaki I had.


One of the dishes I wanted to try at this night market was some oyster omelette. I just read in other blogs to try Yuan Huan Bian (圓環邊蚵仔煎) which is considered by some to be the best in this market and even in Taipei. It was easy to spot this place as there was a line in front.


Their oyster omelette had some sauce that tasted like light sweet chili on top. I actually prefer my oyster omelette dry which is why this one was just okay for me. My girlfriend on the other hand found the taste to grow on you after every single bite. This being one of the best in Taipei, maybe I have to give it another try next time!


At this point, I ended up just trying two dishes at this night market. The rest of the stalls can be typically found in other big markets which we will be going to again for tomorrow. I would recommend this night market over something like Shilin. Although you have to visit that place at least once as that might be the most popular of all the night markets. You can also find the popular cheese potato there which I really liked.

Time for me to rest!



Taiwan (Day 4: Du Xiao Yue, Chia Te, Ximending)

On our fourth day, we headed to have lunch at my favorite restaurant in Taipei called Du Xiao Yue (度小月). The restaurant has several branches imcluding one at Yong Kang Street. I always go to the one located at Zhongxiao East Road.


This restaurant was introduced by a friend of mine way back in 2008. Ever since then, I have made it point to drop by at least once when I travel to Taiwan.


I recommend that you order their danzi noodles which is what they are popular for. I always prefer to get the broth based one with the shrimp on top. You will easily see this on the menu.


You should also their Chinese Sausage (or lap cheong) as well as the mandatory bowl of rice with minced pork on top to accompany your bowl of noodles.



As it was already our last full day in Taipei, we were pretty much exhausted from the first three days of our trip. We probably managed to do at least 20,000+ steps each day on an average. That is apart from the multiple train stops we took everyday. This was the first time we managed to utilize their public train system during the whole trip. We avoided taking cabs as it was more expensive and only decided to do so when the metro was already closed at night.


In the afternoon, we headed to Chia Te to buy some freshly made pineapple cake. If you are going to buy some goodies to bring back home, you should try this sweet delicacy. There are other brands out there but we prefer this one.


I prefer getting the original pineapple flavor or the one mixed with salted egg inside. They also sell other flavors and other pastries you may want to try out.


At dawn, we headed to Ximending which is probably their hippest district. This area is very popular among tourists as well as young locals.


Within the main district is the Red House Theater. There was a small bazaar in front of the building when we visited at this time of the year. The shops were selling local trinkets quite similar to what we saw in the shops along Huashan 1914 Creative Park the other day.




After, we went inside the main area which is a mix of retail shops and restaurants. This is an alternative place to go to if you want to get away from the night markets. It was always a night market stop for us every night except tonight.




As my family decided to head back to the hotel, me and my girlfriend decided to meet up with a friend who was also in Taipei for vacation. We ended up drinking in a pub near the Red House Theater. Spent a few hours sharing stories about our experiences in Taiwan which were all equally great over some Taiwan Beer.


This wraps up my trip in Taipei last Holy Week. This place never fails to surprise me with something new even if I have been here several times already. There is still a lot more to discover and see next time!

– The Tourist Pao

Taiwan (Day 3: Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen, Huashan Creative Park, Raohe Night Market)

We continued to travel outside Taipei on our 3rd day in Taiwan. Today, we headed up north to visit Yehliu Geopark. Ever since I saw photos of these geological formations on social media, I have been planning to visit this place when I get to return to Taiwan.


The geopark is located along the northern tip of Taiwan and you can definitely see the coastline as you head here. Along the way, there was also a fish market and some restaurants nearby. I would have wanted to try these places out if we had the time.




I initially thought that this place would be along a sandy beach where you could see the rock formations scattered everywhere. It was quite the opposite as access to the site is well organized. Once you enter, you just follow the footpath that will present you the different types of shapes these geological formations have created.




Among them is the famous Queen’s Head which is probably the most popular rock formation here. There is a line if you wanted a photo op with the queen and the security was quite strict giving a time limit for each visitor.


Likewise, they prohibit you to trespass the boundary lines around the geopark. We wanted to take some shots along the rocky areas near the shore but be warned or you would get whistled by the guards.




Amidst the crowd, I can just imagine how beautiful this place would have been if it was left more raw and untouched.



Our next stop is Jiufen Walking Street located in a mountain town in the Ruifang District of New Taipei City. It is said that this place was the inspiration to the anime movie called Spirited Away. I am not a big anime fan but this movie was a huge blockbuster worldwide. Might be interesting to watch this movie one time.




The plan was to visit this walking street but I was surprised that this was only part of many other different attractions around the area. You can see waterfalls, hike mountains and visit a gold mine just to name a few.



It was already late in the afternoon when we reached the foot of the walking street. We decided to grab some food first before we went around




The highest point we reached was the viewing area to catch the sunset along the mountain coastline.


Personally, I really like the old-feel of this place. Although most of it is already manufactured to cater to tourists. I would have wanted to explore more but we did not have much time. We needed to head back before sunset as we were travelling back to Taipei. Traffic was a bit of a problem during this trip since it was the high season in Taiwan during this time of the year.


If you are the artsy type, you should visit Huashan 1914 Creative Park located near Guang Hua Digital Plaza which is a must-visit if you are a techy person. For the latter, I would recommend that you buy memory cards here as they are very cheap. I was able to buy a branded UHC-3 SD card for almost the price of a UHS-1 here in the Philippines. The challenge here is to find the cheapest priced store.





Huashan 1914 Creative Park is a huge lot that feature multiple buildings that housed various shops selling indie brands, a warehouse theatre of some sort and several hip restaurants. From hand-made trinkets to vintage second hand items, they all have it here. They also have an outdoor auditorium which was showing a local film when we visited.



If you do not intend to purchase anything during your visit, there is still something for you here. This place is also great for your own photo-op. Once can find your own corner or alley to take creative shots. My personal favorite are the hallways that looked like school corridors. It reminded me very much of the time when I was still an undergrad.




Another great spot to take photos would be the separate building near the parking lot that is made of red bricks. It had this old school gritty feel that I really like.



From Zhongzheng District, our last stop for the night was Raohe Night Market. We have been visiting night markets every single day to cap our evening. I would also recommend checking Shilin Night Market as this is the undoubtedly the most popular night market for tourists.




I must say, this one is our favorite among the bunch! The night market is literally just one long street where all the food stalls are lined-up in the middle up to the end of the street. If all you want is food and no other distractions at sight, then this is the night market for you.




Up until this point, I can say that bad food in a night market is probably an anomaly. We have not had any unappetizing food so far. Taipei is definitely the place to be if you would like to try some clean and tasty street food. Street food 101!




Just like every other night, we find ourselves in the night market until its closing hours before heading back…Good night!

Taiwan (Day 4: Du Xiao Yue, Chia Te, Ximending)

– The Tourist Pao 

Taiwan (Day 2: Sun Moon Lake, Fleur de Chine, Ita Thao Village, Shilin Night Market

On our second day, we headed to Nantou to visit Sun Moon Lake. We booked a private van that left around 9:30 am and arrived at the lake at 1:30 pm. At this point, we were so famished and decided to check the nearest hotel called Fleur de Chine. It was only after we left our trip that we realized that this hotel is from the same group as Palais de Chine.


The hotel mentioned that they had a teppanyaki restaurant called Rainbow Cloud. We decided to try it out as the other restaurants were already closed. To our surprise, the teppanyaki area is located in a very private area and there is no a la carte offered. They only provided us a set menu where the choice for your main course is beef or lamb. I decided to get the beef set!



I will let the photos do the talking…





Our lunch was definitely a stunner! The ingredients were fresh and every dish was cooked to perfection! The chef prepared every dish as if it was an art form – very well executed! He made me appreciate teppanyaki cuisine even more. I will definitely come back to eat here again!


After lunch, we headed to Ita Thao Village. Weather did not permit us to board the ferry right way so we had to wait for awhile until the fog cleared up.




Alas! We were lucky to be able to take one of the last ferries around. Sun Moon Lake offers a very calm setting with jade-like waters. Although away from the big city, they still offer modern amenities for tourists. You can even find a hostel or boutique hotel if you would wish to stay here, Definitely a must visit if you want to relax from the hustle and bustle of Taipei.



When we returned to Ita Thao, we went around the small shops and stalls. A must-try when you are here is the pork buns and Assam tea. There is also what they call tea eggs located along Xuanguan Pier. Unfortunately, we were not able to try most, if not all, because of the bad weather. Most of the shops were closed for business that day.




Other suggested sites to visit around the lake are Wenwu Temple 文武廟Ci-en Pagoda 慈恩塔 and the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway Cable Car.


It was already 10:00 in the evening when we returned to Taipei City. We decided to head straight to Shilin Night Market for some late dinner.


Now, this is more like the street market we expected! Time to do some food tripping!



We tried some blow torched steak, grilled scallops and deep fried mushrooms.





You must also try the popular cheese potato 王子起司馬鈴薯 located in the entrance of the night market.



Apart from the numerous food stalls you can try, there is a good amount of stores to shop as well. You name it, they have it! Though this was one of the most popular night markets around, there was not much people around due to the rainy weather. Still, Shilin Market was fully operational when we visited. Way better than last night’s night markets.



It did not take long when the shops started to close around midnight. Time for us to head back!

– The Tourist Pao