A year in review: 2017

December 31, 2017

I hope you all had a great Christmas! and got all the good things that you wanted. 
I can't end the year without doing my year in review because it summaries my year and I love looking back to it. 

This year was full of weddings! Two to be exact. And also a lot of work. I didn't get to go to as many places as I wanted so now my list is getting longer and longer. 

I started off my travels in February where I spent my birthday in sunny Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba. I've been there before and I really enjoyed the quiet and white sand beach. I knew I wanted to have a relaxing birthday so that's where we booked our first trip. 
We swam, snorkelled, rode an old school convertible car, ate a lot, and drank mojitos. 

In July/August, I went to Greece for the first time. We went to Athens, Santorini, and Aegina. It was amazing but oh my god was it hot. We were melting every single day. Athens was full of character and I loved exploring this ancient city. 
The food was delicious and I could not get enough of eating spinach pies. I had one almost every day. 

We took a boat from Athens to Santorini. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. It was an amazing experience. I did not mind being inside a boat for 8 hours. We loved it! 

Santorini was amazing of course. We stayed in Fira but we also explored other parts of the island like Oia. I will have to post about my trip next year. It was love at first sight. It is a very beautiful island! Had the best seafood too and the nicest people! 
From there, we flew to Cyprus for a wedding. It was hotter there than Greece. Nicosia was very interesting. And the wedding was great! 

After the wedding, we flew back to Athens for a few days and we took a day trip to Aegina. It was a good call to go there last minute. We loved the island and it's famous for pistachio's. 

Flew home to Toronto and attended another wedding that very same weekend. It was wedding season last summer! 

In October, A and I took a road trip to the Adirondacks. It's only a 6 hour drive from Toronto to Lake Placid. It was very scenic. I loved it! 

We stayed in a cabin in the Upper Jay and it was very cosy. I want to come back there. It was very nice! 

2017 has been good to me. It obviously had its up's and down's but I can't complain. I had to go through those challenges for me to grow and believe in myself. I gained more confidence this year when I kept getting disappointed. I'm surprised at myself for not giving up. I kept going no matter how bad it got and I'm happy that I did because it finally paid off. I reached 2 of my top goals this year. And I intend to keep going. 

Happy New Year my friends! I am wishing you courage for 2018. Keep going no matter what. 

What I Ate: Zubuchon

December 24, 2017 One Mango Mall, General Maxilom Ave, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines

I made sure we made a pit stop in Cebu before flying back to Hong Kong. I was not going to leave the Philippines without visiting the famous Zubuchon. I've been reading Market Manila for ages and when Joel opened Zubuchon, I knew it was going to be a hit! And Anthony Bourdain loves their lechon.
I already planned to have this on our first dinner. We walked to the Mango Mall location. My friend gave me the best hotel recommendation because we can walk to most places. Thanks Kat! 

I was so excited to eat but when we got there, they already ran out of lechon. My expression changed and I was so disappointed. I wanted to cry. I told A that we are not leaving Cebu until I eat here so we vowed to come earlier the next day. 

He consoled me by walking to a Larsian. See entry here.
We came back early the next night. The restaurant was still empty but I didn't care. I must eat my lechon before leaving Cebu. There was no other way! I was determined and I made sure when I walked in that they had lechon in stock.
The menu of Zubuchon..part of it anyway. I wanted to eat everything but I told myself the main purpose was lechon. The other items will have to wait when I visit next time.
The lechon came in a sizzling plate. It was really good and I love the crispy skin. My partner loved it as well. We kept on talking about it that we even purchased the frozen lechon to bring back to our friends in Hong Kong.
Fresh coconut juice! I really love island life :)
And to counteract the cholesterol, we ordered ensaladang talong (eggplant salad). We tried re-creating this several times at home and it just never tasted the same. 

We also ordered rice with this meal because you have to! 

We were so full after eating that we had no room for dessert. Or I had no room for dessert. 

The lechon was amazing! And the service was also great! 

We left happy and full.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!!! And have a fantastic New Year :) 


December 12, 2017 Alona Beach, Bohol, Philippines

I took a break from doing touristy things in Bohol to relax on Alona beach. I wanted to relax and floating on the ocean is the best way to do that. This is probably my favourite thing to do aside from snorkeling.
Just floating and clearing my head. Concentrating on my breathing and letting it all go.
Thank you to my friend Jem for letting me borrow his go-pro. We took it everywhere with us. And for A for taking the photos above.

We have some snow on the ground now but my thoughts are still on island life. One day..

What I Ate: Larsian

December 4, 2017 Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines

Going to a Larsian was recommended to me by Dutched Pinay Travels. I would have never found this place without her. 

After my failed attempt in eating lechon in Zubuchon (they ran out early). We decided to walk to Fuente Osmena to experience Larsian.
Larsian is all about grilled and barbecue food (meat and seafood). It's a big outdoor square with different stalls selling meats/seafood. I didn't count how many stalls they have but i'm sure it's over 20. They all essentially sell the same items.
I didn't know how to pick a good stall so we just randomly picked one to order from. It was packed with people enjoying dinner. We loved it! It was mainly locals dining and enjoying grilled food.
You pick the stall that you want. You pick your meat/seafood and order it. And of course you can't forget to order rice. The grilling takes place at the center of the square. 
It smells wonderful here!
They bring you the food in plates covered in plastic so they won't have to wash the plates each time. We opted to eating with our hands so they gave us gloves to use.
Everything was delicious!
This is how the rice was packaged. Never seen this before. Only in Cebu?
We really wished we had more room in our tummies to fit more barbeque's but we gave up after ordering a few different types of meat. 

It was a fun experience. And the price was very cheap!

I highly recommend visiting a Larsian when you visit Cebu. 

Alona beach

November 29, 2017 Alona Beach, Bohol, Philippines

I found a quieter spot on Alona beach. This was in front on Hennan resort. We didn't stay there but we sat on the beach since it's a public space and they can't kick you out ;)
The water was shallow on this spot. We kept walking from the main entrance of Alona beach. Of course we passed by all the vendors first before getting here. Everyone was selling something or offering massage on the beach.
This was the only quiet spot. Just explored the rocks here and took photos.
The water was clear and shallow. Perfect for goofing around.
I love the free things in life.
And I love being near the ocean. It provides an automatic calmness and ease. We spent a few hours just sitting here and looking at the water. It was bliss!

It's almost December 1st, did you start Christmas shopping? Are you ready for the holidays?


What I Ate: Jollibee

November 17, 2017 Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines

We found a Jollibee walking fistance from our hotel in Cebu. A has never had Jollibee food before so I made him walk to the restaurant with me. I was so excited!!! 

Jollibee is a popular fast food chain much like Mcdonald's. They have their own mascot and they have the popular chicken joy (fried chicken) and jolly spaghetti.

Even the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau knows the first stop when you arrive in the Philippines is Jollibee! I was so happy when I saw all the photos of him interacting with staff and other patron's inside Jollibee. He's so nice and friendly. He is definitely popular in the Philippines.
I ordered the two most famous dishes in their menu. The jolly spaghetti is Filipino style pasta. It has a sweet tomato sauce. If you're not used to eating it then it will taste weird. But growing up and going to birthday parties in the Philippines - this is a staple to any party.
A ordered the burger steak with rice and spring rolls. It was not that great. He ended up stealing my food instead. 

I am waiting for Jollibee to open a restaurant in Toronto. I've been hearing rumors of the opening this year but that hasn't happened. I hope next year we will finally have one but I'm sure the line will be very long as many Filipinos will be there longing for nostalgia and a taste of home. 
I just hope it will taste the same.

15 Random Obervations of Hong Kong

November 14, 2017 Hong Kong

It was my first time visiting Hong Kong and here are my random observations.
You can read about my random observations series here.

1. Great transportation. The MTR is clean and efficient. 
2. They use barriers for passengers for the MTR trains.
3. They use bamboo poles on construction sites.
4. No one ever gives out napkins so you have to carry around your own tissues.
5. The stores will sell winter clothes in 30 degree weather.
6. They have double decker street cars.
7. Watch out for air conditioner drip of water while you are walking on sidewalks.
8. And everyone blasts the air conditioner so you will freeze when you go inside buildings.
9. Recycling and garbage pick up happens at night.
10. Expensive real estate.
11. Cheap food though.
12. Consists of many islands.
13. Cheap taxi's.
14. Awesome shopping and you can go to night markets as well.
15. The milk tea is amazing!!!

Balicasag Island

November 7, 2017 Panglao, Bohol, Philippines

Part of our boat tour was stopping at Balicasag Island for snorkeling. We decided to bring our own snorkels for the tour. You can also rent it there but honestly, it's so cheap to buy it in Panglao if you forget to bring your own from home.
I bought mine at Pacifica Dive shop. It was close to our hotel and the staff there were so friendly and helpful. They took the time to help me shop and also gave me a discount.
 All the little boats gathering on the snorkeling spot

Our boat docked at the island and we were greeted by the locals. Our captain dropped us off at the restaurant and you can chose to order food or just use the restaurant to relax. They also have change rooms/washrooms for tourists.  

The food and drinks at the restaurant is more expensive so bringing your own food/snacks comes in handy if you want to save some money.

I talked to my snorkeling guide in Tagalog and he was able to tell me about the island. He said that the population of the island is about 1,000 and they have 120 homes. Electricity only works a couple of hours a day. 
They make money by doing tours, selling food and pearl jewellery. His wife was one of the vendors for pearls and I bought earrings from her.
There was a lot of little kids on the island and I had a bag of chocolates with me that I gave away. They were so cute and polite. I wish I had more chocolates and other toys to give them. If I had known then I would have been more prepared. 

Will definitely bring more things for the kids next time I go there.
Our guide took us snorkeling using a little wooden boat. We had 5 people on that boat including our guide. I asked for a life jacket because I'm not the best swimmer. 

It was really crowded on the reef that we went to. Our guide was the best and helped me move around because we were in a sea of people literally. He took me around and I was a bit nervous at first but I started enjoying snorkeling. I trusted him with my life. Plus I was also wearing a life jacket, haha.
My partner was the one taking pictures of me. 

I was really happy to see the corals and all the fish. I was expecting more school of fish but maybe they got scared of all the tourists there (including us). Mmm..makes me want to learn how to dive. Should I do it? 
 In love with this dog. So sweet! This dog was acting like he doesn't know me in this picture (which is like my bf, but totally in love with me ;) )

After over an hour, we went back to the island. You also have the option of paying extra to see the turtles on the island. We decided to just walk around the island before going back to our boat.

Bohol boat tour

October 24, 2017 Alona Beach, Bohol, Philippines

There is no shortage of vendors trying to sell boat tours in Alona beach. Every time we stepped outside our hotel, every person will try to get us to sign up for a tour. We found Julius who was the nicest and most polite out of everyone I talked to. 

We got along very well so I decided to give him my business and he gave me a discount for our tour. I paid ₱600 pesos per person for the tour. We had wake up really early because Julius was going to pick us up.
He was very prompt and met us at our hotel lobby. When we got outside, I was expecting a car but I saw his scooter. I was shaking my head because there is no way we were all going to fit into that scooter but we did! Oh my god, it was hilarious! 

I was so scared but Julius is a pro and we made it in one piece at the beach. 

We had a bit of time before the boat left for our tour as we were waiting for more people to show up so we bought snacks, bread, and water. It really came in handy later on.
Also, if you have a dry bag then use it for this trip. We bought one the night before so we can store change of clothes, camera, and any valuables in a dry bag. Some people had plastic bags but I didn't trust those especially when it started raining really hard and we all got wet.
We had 12 people on our boat plus the captain and his assistant. And of course you can do a private tour but for the 2 of us, it just didn't make sense. If you have a larger group then it will be cheaper if you book a whole boat.
Alona beach was packed with boats all going on different tours. The first thing we did was dolphin watching. I did see a lot but I was so slow in taking a photo. 

But look at those dolphins though. 
So nice to see this so early in the morning. It was definitely worth waking up for.
And the our first stop was Balicasag Island. More on that on my next post.

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