Kota Kinabalu: Stress-free City Walk on a Valentine’s Day

KK Day 3. Feb 14. The sun was shining brightly that day, perfect for some DIY city tour. Holding a city map in my left hand and clicking away with my right, we managed to navigate past Gaya street, crossing Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, and making a stop at the Atkinson’s clock tower.

We continued the photo walk, passing through the city courthouse, city hall, and park then took a rest with a view of the sea at KK esplanade. To sate our inner shopaholics, we went to Suria Sabah Shopping Mall and took advantage of some clearance sales. Dog tired and famished, we ate lunch at Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa Kampung Baru. Laarni ordered Nasi Lemak Sambal Udang Petai. It’s dish consisting of prawns in spicy curry paste with a siding of peanuts, anchovies, egg & nasi lemak or rice cooked in coconut milk. I ordered Nasi Lemak Ayam Goreng Berempah which consists of the same elements as the first dish except that chicken was served instead of prawns. Kept it all down with Tea Tarik or cold milk tea. Many thanks to the Filipina manning the counter; she helped us with our meal choices as well as our Malaysian pronunciation. We then hopped to gaya centre to buy Malaysian simcards since using it made it cheaper to call to the Philippines. We chilled at Fong Ip Cafe while figuring out how to activate it. Whew! The day ended without us even realizing it was valentine’s day. well not really. I got track of the date when I saw a red tback on sale at Suria Sabah. It was fashioned to look like a rose and packaged to be the perfect valentine’s gift. hahaha

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KK: Of Strenuous Trails, Fish Spas, Sumptuous Stews and Creamy Teas

A free spirit.That is what I want to be. I want to let go. Feel free and unattached. I want to learn to talk to strangers and not feel fear. I want to be in a new place and not feel alienated. I want to get lost but not break down or complain. Do you know when I get to experience all those things? It’s when I travel. Traveling revives your soul and lets you discover things about yourself. It’s also a very humbling experience. You get to marvel at how beautiful sunsets are and how lucky you are to be able to witness several of them. You come to realize that no matter how many places you’ve set foot on and even if you’ve lived in several of these provinces for a fraction of your life, there are still so many places to discover and innumerable things to experience. You realize that you need not worry about most of the things you’ve been mulling over. You appreciate the slow pace of island life and the simple joys of reading a good book or basking under the tropical heat of the sun. You ask yourself, “Why have I been rushing all this time?”.

Last Feb 12-16, I had the chance to mute the career girl in me and amplify my nomadic tendencies. A free spirit was what I became. My office mate, Laarni, and I availed of the promo flights to Kota Kinabalu (6months prior) and were able to purchase round-trip tickets Clark-KK at a jaw-dropping deal of just 1026pesos (RT/pax). On the day of our scheduled flight to KK, we hopped on a Philtranco bus in Pasay (fare to Clark DMIA is 450PhP). the trip didn’t take that long, just around an hour and a half. Since it was the last day of the Hot Air balloon festival, we were still able to catch a glimpse of the huge balloons.

My first ever AirAsia experience was pleasant. Check-in was a breeze thanks to their web check-in facility in the form of a computer counter that lets you scan the barcode on your itinerary receipt or encode the transaction reference number and then automatically prints out the boarding pass. Hooray! No more long queues! Once you get the boarding pass, you then proceed to the bag-drop counter for luggage check-in (if there are any) as well as document check. They really encourage the passengers to check-in via web; they charge fees for those who still want the traditional/regular check-in.

I always pack light so I can skip the luggage check-in and the additional fees plus I can carry the pack wherever. During this trip, I was able to use my new travel buddy, a 42-L Deuter Futura Pro red daypack which was given to me as a gift. It was more than enough to carry 5day’s worth of clothes and other necessities. Even moreso since I only bring with me light fabrics and mostly shorts, tanktops, and thin cardigans when I go backpacking.

On our first night, we tried Bak Kut Teh which literally means “Pork Bone Tea”. We actually didn’t know anything about Malaysian cuisine when we went to KK but upon strolling the long stretch of Gaya Street and having seen the mob forming outside a certain stall, we went in to try the food. We didn’t know how to order and the waiter found it difficult to explain, so he just led me to where the stew was being cooked up and where the selected cuts of pork are on display. We tried the stomach and ribs and boy the soup was really savory! The distinct taste of Bak Kut Teh can be attributed to the herbs with which it is cooked such as star anise, ginseng, cloves, garlic and fennel seeds. It also came with sidings of fried bread and blanched veggies.

The following day, we went to KK National Park, Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, (after seeing Mt. Kota Kinabalu from a view deck-cum-souvenir center) and explored the botanical garden (1.5 hrs from the city).

Then we had lunch at Poring hot springs 1 hour from the botanical garden still part of the huge national park. While the others went for a soak to experience the supposed medicinal wonders of the springs, Laarni and I opted for high fashion, quite literally, by following the 30-minute trail to the start of the canopy walkway (definitely not for the acrophobic) covering 4 hanging bridges 100ft high above the treetops.

To ease our sore muscles and wobbly knees, we made our way to Kipungan Falls (though it was discouraged to go there if it’s past 2pm) and dipped our feet in the cold waters, much to the delight of the little fish who feasted at our calluses.

Come night time, it was dinner at the Fong Ip Cafe and tea time, of course. We were already addicted to tea especially Tea Tarik or milk tea (downing at least 4 cups a day). We capped the day meeting up with a friend. Shukri was a Malaysian coal exporter and a young businessman I’ve known through a college batchmate.

It would have been nice to spend a day more at the national park or another two days to hike the highest peak in the Malay Archipelago. With a national park of size twice that of mainland Singapore (yep, I was paying attention afterall to our tour guide!), you can never run out of fun things to do in KK.

Kadayawan 2011: A Food Safari

Foreword: Two months after my Davao trip and I still haven’t written about the dining experience I had during the Kadayawan festival. Having joined the bloggers for the PTB meet-up in Apo View Hotel organized by the great Olan Emboscado, I was fortunate to be part of the three-day gastronomic journey starting with Lachi’s desserts, moving on with the sumptuous lunch at Grab-a-Crab in Abreeza Mall, hearty snacks care of Mam Beb’s Bakeshop, the quintessential Durian-Coke combo, and the 99-peso lunch buffet at Tita D’z.

Firedancers weaving hearts of fire at the Apo View Hotel

          Rubbing elbows with flaming rings. Gahd I wish I knew how to dance with poi.

August 19- After getting a hint of burnt hair (we did a short dancing stint with the uber talented firedancers), we then went to Lachi’s, a restaurant known for its mouth-watering desserts. I was particularly drawn to the Durian-laced cakes (Sans Rival and cheesecake) as I still haven’t tried fresh durian at that time. I figured it would be good to start with these cakes to gradually introduce Durian to my palate.

I instantly became a fan of their desserts! I wrote about the cakes already when their main dishes were as equally tempting. Continue reading

Coffee with a Kick: Kangaroo Coffee Co.’s Durian Mocha


 

It was past noon when our bus from Calinan finally reached the city center. I was the only passenger left and the driver asked me my stop. I saw the Central Bank at Quirino Avenue and I alighted from the bus because I wanted to treat my eagle overload with a sumptuous lunch. I walked about two blocks towards the corner of V.mapa and Tionko St. Yes, I had a map with me actually, Google maps printed prior to the trip. Haha, prepared.

Kangaroo Coffee Company. The interior gives off a cozy ambience probably due to the sofa benches arranged in separate cubicles with a large rectangular table in the center complete with separate lighting fixtures and with a touch of intimacy provided by the separate heavy cream curtains. Hats off to the idea of setting up a mini-library within the cafe for free leisurely reading for the customers. I, for one, love reading in coffee shops and in the event that I fail to bring along a book of my own, I could easily browse through the diverse collection provided by the cafe.

I had such a whale of a time in the bathroom. haha. I fancy the sign for ladies-gents represented as jacks-jills, staying true to the Kangaroo analogy. I love how it poses as a private sanctuary where you could let out everything (more than youknowwhat). The perfect dim lighting, the artworks mounted on the walls, the books and magazines just laying out there waiting to be browsed through. I could spend a whole afternoon there but of course out of shame and self-worth (haha), I limited my stay (?nagcheck-in) to a standard 10 minutes.

I ordered the Durian Mocha Heaven Ice-Blended drink and boy did it kick my taste buds! When I raised the cup to my mouth, the strong durian aroma hit me, truly a blow to the nostrils. The fruit bits married the mocha beautifully, imparting a sweet and juicy textured lot to the otherwise usual caffeine fix. I ordered the Salsa Amaya, as recommended by the lady manning the counter, composed of spaghetti tossed in olive oil and topped with fish flakes, mushrooms, olives, and parmesan. It was absolutely divine! Brilliant combination of flavors with the meatiness of the mushrooms enhanced by the saltiness of the fish and balanced by the bitter-sour taste of the olives, and finished off and flavors rounded off by fine parmesan.

 

I left the cafe satisfied, happily hopping about with the pouch on my tummy filled with great food and delectable coffee with a kick.

Gourmet Eating In Dumaguete: Sans Rival’s Eggplant BLT and Heavenly Silvanas

 

It was a sunny morning and we had to take a heavy filling breakfast for our last day in Dumaguete. Strolling along Rizal Boulevard, we originally planned to drop by Shakey’s for some fat-filled lovehandle-inducing morsels all too familiar to the tastebuds. Having seen the “closed” sign and realizing how early we got up, we walked and loitered some more till we found the homegrown beauty that goes by the name of Sans Rival.

We ordered the Sans Rival’s modern take on the classic BLT sandwich. Their version included eggplant with a light vinaigrette dressing perfectly complementing the bacon, lettuce, and tomato. With tasty chips on the side for that extra crunch to go with the perfect blend of sweet acidity of the dressing and the salty goodness of the bacon, it was a party going on in my mouth. Their homeblend brew was the perfect companion. And for only P28, it sure was tempting to get a refill. I don’t know with you guys but caffeine is my kryptonite and I treat palpitations like my sweetest downfall.

I love the employees’ uniforms! Blue apron on crisp white knee-length dress makes you feel the warmth of grandma’s slow-cooked meals. It’s as if the recipes where handed down from generations to generations from when dinos roamed the earth.

After breakfast, we ordered two boxes of the quintessential Dumaguete pasalubong, SILVANAS! Seriously addicting at 105pesos per box of 10, I ended up eating half of what I intended to give to friends. Oh well, I certainly have to blame the melts-in-your-mouth meringue sandwich filled with smooth sweet light cream. Squeeze each piece and you’ll see heaven gloriously oozing out from the edges. Ooooh, drool.

A Dumaguete favorite, Sans Rival has been churning out tasty pastries and brewing good coffee since 1977. The best thing about the homey resto is that its menu won’t hurt even the most frugal person’s pocket. Really inexpensive yet exceptionally good food, folks. Not only do they serve cakes and pastry treats, their vast selection of gastronomic delights has extended to pasta dishes, sandwiches, even meat entrees. They also serve set meals per day for less than 200pesos, inclusive of main entrée, side, dessert and beverage.

Legazpi market: a cultural bazaar

thanks to spot.ph for telling us what to do on a sunday in makati.

Every Sunday at the Legaspi Car Park (Legaspi corner Herrera Streets) is a bustling food haven and product fair where one could find just about everything weird, quirky, organic, delicious, entertaining, and uhhmm cultural!

There are a lot of foreigners selling food and other merchandise native to their own country. There is one particular stall that caught my attention because of their Samba drum beats. I think they were selling authentic leather sandals. Among the fave finds are the himalayan salt, quiche, and schuemli. Thank heavens for free tasting and non-coercive sales talk.

Refreshments of all kinds are sold. Here in this photo is N shelling out for some dalandan and lemonade. There are also stalls selling tea, fruit shakes, and coffee.

Native filipino rice cakes of various shapes and colors!

Dulong is actually Anchovy fry. This particular stall sells a variety of seafood pâté including Bangus (Milkfish) and Dulong.

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Kikufuji and Little Tokyo: An Authentic Japanese experience

Situated at Chino Roces corner Amorsolo St. in the back alleys of Makati is a small resto village known as Little Tokyo. Dishing out authentic Jap cuisine, the place is gaining popularity among foodies (I’ve actually read about little tokyo in ourawesomeplanet.com) and has quite a large following. We dined at Kikufuji, very well appreciative of the great filleting skills of the sushi chefs preparing the food before our eyes.

I have been to Kikufuji on two occasions already. If you don’t want to spend much, the restaurant offers set meals for just 220 pesos, without any service charge at that! This meal includes grilled fish (your choice of saba, sanma, etc.), steamed rice, vegetable side dish, tuna sashimi salad, miso soup, cucumber salad, and iced coffee. And typical of a Japanese resto, they serve complimentary house tea. The fish came out perfect! It was grilled just right with the meat still juicy and tender, while the skin has a nice crunch to it. Dipped in Japanese soysauce and calamansi, the fish was divine. The tuna sashimi salad is spicy and the fried batter bits gives the much needed contrast from the tuna’s softness.

What certainly builds the air of authenticity is the set-up of the place. Central to it is the sushi bar where you could very well feast on the view of chefs plating up perfect cuts of fish and other seafood if you’re seated in the counter. Surrounding the bar are family tables where one needs to take off his shoes before sitting. There are also comfy seat cushions in place.

The place is really packed during lunch time so better reserve by calling them if you prefer their family tables. Walk-in diners usually settle by the sushi counter.

In terms of taste, ambiance, value, and authenticity, the resto is a must-try!

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