The writing is on the wall


The travels written so far, were within an 8 years look back period. There are more places I have not written about. I’m still trying to sort out the pictures from my phone. It’s quite difficult to blog from an app (and the editing isn’t that easy either. Thankfully, technology provides me the chance to update the blog posts.)

And I will pause the travelogues as I sort out the scattered pictures and diaries. Surprisingly this segment had tremendous feedbacks from friends and followers. Thank you for liking and sharing.

The poster on the wall of this blog post is the reason why I am sharing some of my travels with you.

We play hard at work to make a living. The fruits of our labor should make a life.

We need to explore the world in order to find ourselves. And while it is not an opportunity provided to everyone, to those it presents to, we need to grasp that moment while we still can, in order to find ourselves.

The photos are mine. The places we stayed at, the flights we took, the food we ate, everything we did in these vacation spots were personally paid for. Even if at the end of the day, it left me having to work triple time and with empty pockets, the memories were worth it all!

They are unbiased reviews of the adventure I and my family or partner took. There were no sponsorships to my vacations. Positive and negative points were highlighted. You see, every destination has its own story. And I am telling you mine.


The take home message? The writing is on the wall…

Bienvenue au Canada


Lonely Planet opens its description as

Don’t tell Toronto or Montreal but Vancouver is the real culinary capital of Canada. Loosen your belts and dive right into North America’s best Asian dining scene, from chatty Chinese restaurants to authentic izakayas…from farm-to-table movement…

And yes, I agree.  Not even Chinatown in downtown San Francisco could compare to the culinary spectacle that Vancouver brings to the table.

But Vancouver isn’t all about food. Our hotel against the backdrop of Stanley Park was enough to make us fall in love with both the hotel, the chilling in the city experience in this lotusland metropolis.

On our travel to Vancouver, we took Delta Airlines.  It was actually the last time we took Delta.  The travel on a US Carrier had become so costly you can fly to North America and Canada with their rates on biz class with other Asian or middle eastern airlines on the same biz class for 2! It was a Manila-Narita-Seattle-Vancouver leg (I know right? We were punishing ourselves). It’s sad that I’ve always loved Delta Airlines, unfortunately, economics would tell us to follow what is right.  The shorter flights.  The ones with less stops. The miles accumulated on the airline and its partner airlines. And of course, the cost.


We stayed at the Loden Hotel, which was conveniently located near Stanley Park.

The perks of the hotel was having bikes to use to get around for free! And what a welcome treat for those like us who took physical activity seriously.

If there’s one place that you should have dinner, it’s at Ringyo.  This hole in the wall Japanese restaurant packs one mean authentic Japanese fusion cooking! Even the salt came in three servings – Japanese, Utah, or Himalayan.

Aside from downtown Vancouver (which you can practically go around in a day), renting a car was the best way to go beyond the city to those snow-dusted mountains peeking and beckoning at you from the glass windows of your room. So off to Whistler Blackcomb we went.  The quaint town to the mountain peak alone was breathtaking.  And this was the site of the 21st Winter Olympics.

After a couple of days of debauchery and meeting some friends in Vancouver, the next destination was Toronto, on Air Canada.  And I thought only Philippine Airlines was “late”.  The plane we were taking had a delayed arrival from Sydney.  After getting delayed for over 3 hours we were finally boarded for Toronto.


Le Germain Hotel was home for the next few days in the most multiculturally diverse city in the world.

Interestingly is how this city alone is so culturally different with over 140 languages spoken and half the residents here born outside Canada live in harmony with one another.  Some call Toronto the New York of Canada.  Well, I guess to some degree you would say that, but it’s more of a sleepier laid back New York.  Unlike New York where life begins after dark, Toronto is more somber in its mood.  And like its sister Vancouver, the gustatory delights of Toronto will wow you!

Casa Loma, the CN Tower, St. Lawrence Market, and the Eaton Shopping Centre we definite musts in downtown Toronto.  Of course, why go to Toronto if you don’t drive to Niagara Falls.  That breathtaking view alone is enough reason to pass by Toronto! Thanks to my friend who took the time to drive us through the US Border (one throw to Buffalo, New York) for some retail therapy (the US is just plastered with so many outlets that there’s one right in the heart of Buffalo) as well.

When you’re in this side of Toronto, don’t forget to wine and dine at the Distillery District for a smorgasbord treat of what it’s like to welcoming the diverse cultures in the heart of Toronto.

Truly, Canada is one country that greets everyone Bienvenue!

Stereotypically wowed in Spain

Our final destination on the European trip was Barcelona.

Two years later, Barcelona, Madrid and Toledo were part of our itinerary on our return trip from South America.

Passionate. Sophisticated. La Vida Loca! y más!


Home to Catalan culture, modernism and the gastronomic feast of pure indulgence in eating with gusto! And as if traveling to one of the liveliest cities this part of the world isn’t enough, this city that rests its laurels on the architect Antoni Gaudi is home to Casa Milà, Casa Battló, and the famous Sagrada Família church.  The 1992 summer Olympic Games was hosted by Spain and held in Barcelona.

During our first trip, we stayed at the Ohla Hotel.  Swank and weirdly modern, the bathroom and shower was right in the middle of the room and the water closet hidden on a wall behind the bathroom.  It smelled so good and they serve champagne on check-in.  Their food at the Gastronomic Bar served excellent food!

Let me put it this way, every place we ate made our tastebuds tingle for more.  Your palate wrests on local Cava, sirloin steak in sea salt and pepper, tapas, mussels in white wine sauce, Sangria…what isn’t there to love when it comes to food in Barcelona? The word “diet” has no place in Spain.

There is a subway station right in front of Ohla Hotel and is in a more quiet area of Barcelona.  It is walking distance to the Hop On/Hop Off bus stop and located one block from the back of the hotel is the Barcelona Shopping Line, where you have over 5 Km of design and creativity.  It is Europe’s largest retail area and literally just a stone’s throw to the words “shop till you drop” district!

On our second trip we stayed at another boutique hotel called Omm.  This one was at the other end of the Barcelona Shopping Line and right in front of all the noise, chitter chatter, and night life of Barcelona! What better location than to be right beside Prada and Diagonal Exit Metro Subway. Of course, we got to explore more of Barcelona including La Rambla, where the Philippine Consulate is located.

The icing to the cake on this trip was courtesy of Hotel Omm.  They had a special feature for dinner during our stay.  And no, it wasn’t at their hotel.  We took a cab to get to Barceloneta Beach, where dinner was at the Pez Vela of the W Hotel.  And my God, what a spread.  This was dinner for two!

No wonder gluttony is so sinfully good.


Because technically, Madrid was a stopover en route to and from Singapore to Brazil, we made sure that we spent a couple of days in Madrid as well.  And it did not disappoint.  As a matter of fact, we loved Madrid more than Barcelona.  While Barcelona has that eclectic feel, that radiant vibe, that chutzpah as a city, Madrid is an artist’s palate of a city.   If you love the food in Barcelona, none of that matches the food in Madrid – and rightfully claiming the culinary capital of Europe. And the evenings in Madrid are made for fine arts and fine dining.  Never have I spent so much to taste food this great, and not regret a single Euro!

But eating is not the only thing that will captivate your hearts in Madrid.  From medieval mansions to royal palaces, from the lazy markets to the lovely garden Parque de Buen Retiro, none of the cities in Spain compares to how beautiful the city of Madrid is.


This can be either a day trip or a half day trip.  Take the bus from the market place in Madrid for this destination which is about 30 minutes by high speed train or a little over an hour by bus.  We took the bus.  And I would recommend just the half day walking tour.  Go first thing in the morning (so it’s not too warm), have lunch there and get back to the city.  The buses are every hour on the hour.

Dramatically set atop a gorge overlooking Rio Tajo, the stories have it that once upon a time, Christians, Muslims and Jewish communities co-existed peacefully in this place.  And you can tell during the walking tour of Toledo how deep that culture is. The forte of Toledo is the art of El Greco.  An impossible to classify painter, as synonymous as the city of Toledo.

If there is one country that one should just travel to (without having to hop from country to country), Spain is definitely among those on the top of my list.

The other two – Canada and Japan.

When in Rome…

The capital of Italy is home to one of the world’s most romantic and inspiring cities.

It was also the first stop in our whirlwind summer vacation going from Italy to France then finally Spain.

From Manila, Philippines, we took a night flight on Emirates Airlines with one stop in Dubai and changed aircraft to an A380 (double decker) for our flight from Dubai to Rome, Italy.

All flights from Manila were on a 777-300.  Unlike the lounges in Manila, the Emirates lounges in Dubai were sprawling.  And the upper deck of the A380 had its own access during boarding.  It was an experience on its own.  Food was good, amenities were great, entertainment was non-stop, and yes, this plane had a bar on its own for its first and business class passengers. Emirates is also the first airline to offer limousine service for passengers flying on biz or first class to and from the airport, to your final destination on arrival (in our case, our hotel).

Sofitel Hotel Villa Borghese was home to us for the next few days.  While it may not seem too fancy, it was comfortable enough because of its accessibility on foot to many of Rome’s quaint destinations. The Hermés bath amenities were two thumbs up!

For a country that is deeply rich in history and artistry, a trip to Rome is about living dolce vita lifestyle and embracing the arts and culture, people watching, sitting by the cafes and watching people drift by.  Oh, and yes, for the tourists like us, from the Fontana of Trevi to the Colosseum to the Pantheon, appreciating Rome on foot was an exhilarating experience.

It’s a great reminder that in the midst of the grandeur of Rome, lies a grander city, the Vatican City, where the seat of the Catholic Church lies.  St. Peter’s Basilica is the Vatican’s epic showpiece of Renaissance architecture. Take one whole day to appreciate the Vatican City (which is a country in itself with the Pope as its titular head of state) and immerse yourself with the history and feel of being at the pulpit of Catholic religion.  A guided tour is a must in order to appreciate your trip here.

A few tips from me.  Don’t eat in any crappy sidewalk cafe.  It’s really not worth it.  We had dinner of one pizza and one pasta for 50euros for two on our first night. Insanely, it was horrible food.  In short, don’t short change yourself with a lousy meal by eating on the roadside cafes.  Never again. Second, be careful of gypsies.  They’re all over.  They will distract you, and before you know it, your things are gone.  And they’re good.  Very very good. And that is part of the story of this European trip. Finally, make sure you have great walking shoes.  Rome is a small city.  And transportation is most efficient by taxi…or walking.

When in Rome…don’t look and act like a tourist.  When in Italy, be uber careful with your belongings.  And no matter how careful you get, here’s one country where you can’t get much help with the police.  Know the address and contact number of your embassy.  Believe me when I say that this will come in handy…in Italy.

Edgy with grace in Athens

This is one of two parts on our vacation to Greece.

Arriving at the world’s ancient capital, we decided to spend 3 days and 2 nights in Athens before traveling to Santorini.

We figured that traveling during a European summer would be the right weather.  Not! It was scorching hot when we landed in Athens, at 36 degrees centigrade. Not only was the weather not cooperative, the taxi drivers decided to go on strike the same day we arrived! (Which meant that we would need to do a lot of walking, and carrying, while we’re here!) Of course, as mythology would put it, curses come in threes.  We arrived on a Monday! After checking in the hotel and decided to have lunch and do a bit of sight seeing around in the early afternoon, lo and behold, the shops were closed. In Athens, most of the stores are open only from 9AM – 3PM.

What was there to do but enjoy our hotel in the scorching heat?

Home was the Grande Bretagne Hotel. It is one of the most grand (if not the grandest) hotel in Athens.  It faces the Parliament House, where you can literally see from the hotel lobby the hourly changing of the guards.

The location of the hotel was well within a few blocks walk of most of the places one should visit in Athens.  Kolonaki (about 2 1/2 blocks from Syntagma Square) was a perfect place for dining! Lunch at Pritanlon was excellent.  Servings were good enough for two people.  The evening was not as hot and dinner at Cibus in the National Gardens was the perfect choice to watch day change into night after 9PM. In the evening, the Parthenon on the Acropolis literally lights up for a perfect view.

The sweltering weather at 40 degrees Centigrade the following day wasn’t kind to the weary traveller.  And with the layers and layers of history, the remnants of Ancient Greece get the most attraction from its myths, dramas and philosophy.  One cannot forget what Greece had to go through in 2009, as its political and economic drama unfolded for the world to witness at how clearly one country can get  severely affected from an economic crisis. Lives had changed and businesses had become bankrupt.  I would have ventured that, had it not be for the thriving tourism industry particularly in the islands of Greece, the economic crisis may have been catastrophic to the Greek people.

Like many places in Athens, the perfect views from city had to be the Acropolis.  And at the 8th floor of Bretagne Hotel, where we had our breakfast, this was a sight to behold.


One train ride from the Syntagma Station (right under our hotel, thank God!, it would have been difficult to travel in the sweltering heat), to the Acropolis Station was our final destination.  As you alight from the landings, the Acropolis Station has many quaint boutiques and restaurants.

The trek up the Acropolis seemed it.

But looks can be deceiving.  If you don’t have the cardiovascular strength to complete this, you can simply photoshop yourself and say – you were here. But here’s some shots to show you that we did our cardiovascular share for the day.  And while all the sunblock (SPF50++) had eventually disappeared from all the sweat that drenched our clothes (literally drenched with sweat), that trip up and personal to the Acropolis was so worth the trek.

Fun and fear in Rio de Janeiro

The shortest flight from Manila, Philippines to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is via Dubai on Emirates. It’s about 26 hrs. Otherwise it would be more than 30 hours traveling from point A to point B.

But we took Singapore Airlines from Manila to Sao Paolô, Brazil and a local from from the latter to arrive in Rio after an almost 34hrs flight.

Rio is a seaside city in Brazil famous for the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches as well as the Christ the Redeemer statue above Mt Corcovado.

There are many lodgings in Rio. Nevertheless if you feel like having an urge to splurge and get a feel of opulence, one must truly stay at the Copacabana Palace Hotel (where all of the royalty, movie stars and heads of states stay). The Copacabana Beach is right in front of the hotel!

While Rio is famous for its laid back beaches and the annual carnival, there are other tourist must see areas including Sugar Loaf Mountain (Paõ de Açucar), the Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico) and Bairro De Santa Teresa, among a few.

In spite of the joie de vivre that Rio exudes, like most South American countries, it is not without its share of “annoyance” of crimes. Being smart and careful is mandatory particularly in touristy areas (like the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema), as well when going around during the evenings. Your best bet in transportation will always be a taxi. Being extra careful and traveling with companions is highly recommended when traveling to Rio.

Food is abundant, highly affordable, and excellent in getting a bang for your buck!

There’s really much to love and have fun in Rio. Festivities abound and it’s unmatchable that there’s a city where the sea presents a stunning sunset for you to appreciate how beautiful God has made our world.

Somber in Berlin

Berlin, the capital of Germany, tells the entire story of a nation. A city of art, artists and museums, Berlin is home to the Reichstag, seat of the German parliament.

Berlin is important because it was a constant point of concentration between the communists and the West in the first two decades of the Cold War.

On Nov 9, 1989 as the Cold War began to thaw, East Berlin’s communist party announced a change in the relations between the East and the West. Tearing down the wall and allowing citizens of the German Democratic Republic to cross.

Berlin is one of those cities rich in tangible histories. The city is rich in glamor and grit, ritzy and mesmerising, great food and mix of the fabulous, somber and sublime.

Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler and John F Kennedy are among those whose histories were shaped in Berlin.

As Lonely Planet describes it best –

this is a city that staged a revolution, headquartered by Nazis, bombed to bits, divided in two and finally reunited – all in the 20th century!

Life in Berlin is clearly laid back. We enjoyed this destination after coming from Vienna. How fast paced yet trendsetting the city is. The whole spectrum from rest and recreation to party lifestyle is what adds to the mystery of why one must travel to Berlin.

From Vienna with love

One of the loveliest countries in Europe is Austria.

On August 14, 2018, Vienna was voted as the World’s Most Liveable City in the Global Liveability Index. Dislodging Melbourne (after a record 7 years winning streak), with Osaka, Japan coming in third. It’s also the first time a European City is making it to the top of the list!

Rounding up the top ten are: Calgary, Canada; Sydney, Australia; Vancouver, Canada; Toronto, Canada; Tokyo, Japan; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Adelaide, Australia.

The survey rates cities worldwide based on 30 qualitative and quantitative criteria falling into 5 general categories: stability (crime, conflict and terrorism), health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Vienna and Melbourne scored maximum points of 100 in the healthcare, education and infrastructure categories, but Vienna edged Melbourne in the stability category by scoring 100 points, while Melbourne scored 95.  In the category of culture and environment, Vienna scored 96.3.  Overall, Vienna got 99.1 (Melbourne 98.4).

Vienna has a small population (less than 2 Million) and is known for its Baroque architecture and imperial palaces (especially the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the Schonbrunn Palace) dating back to the 13th and 17th centuries, respectively.

Vienna has a lot of green spaces and vineyards with sweeping views of the capital.  Public transportation is cheap and efficient and has a very low crime index and is one of the safest cities in Europe. Most of the city is accessible within 30 minutes and is well connected to other areas around Central Europe.

Did you know that at least 1 in 3 Vienna residents are non-Austrian, making the city a real melting pot of cultures. During our last trip to Vienna (last year), the doorman of our hotel was a Pinoy OFW!

These photos will probably not do justice the how lovely Vienna as a city is.  But it is without any doubt that one must visit Vienna so you will really know why it is the most liveable city in the world!

Winter wonderland

What if waking up and looking out your chalet, you just see snow falling, covering the whole expanse beyond what your eyes can see?

Pure powdery snow.

Welcome to Niseko. A ski resort on the northern top of Hokkaido, Japan.

To get there from the Philippines, you can take a 4 hrs flight to Haneda, Japan via PAL and change to a 2 hrs domestic flight via ANA into Sapporo airport in Hokkaido. (There is another route on Cathay Pacific via HongKong then into Sapporo).

Getting into Sapporo, one can take the 2-3 hrs bus ride (or if you’re splurging a bit, then spend for the private transfers) to the world’s most beautiful ski resort of Niseko.

While there are a couple of resorts one can stay in, for a family of 6, renting out a chalet can set you bank account a bit more, but the privacy and intimacy is beyond compare. And I would highly recommend KiNiseko at the Orchards.

This private getaway offers shuttle services to and from the resort residence to any of the ski resorts as well as to town at anytime of the day.

These photos do not do justice to the unforgettable relaxation and experience of enjoying the winter holidays (we went there the day after Christmas to spend the New Year there) in the most world’s most powdery snow land.

And if you think it’s just all about the resort or skiing, the food alone was worth the trip.

If you plan to get away from it all, and have to have that once in a lifetime winter wonderland vacation, I’d highly recommend Niseko.

Truly, one of the most beautiful sceneries you’d wake up to each day.

I want to live in Sweden

Those were my exact words on my FaceBook page.

First, is that it’s sparsely populated. It has a long coastline, extensive forests and numerous lakes. Because of it’s geographic location, Sweden enjoys a favourable climate.

It’s capital is Stockholm. And the whole of Sweden has a population of 10M people (much less than the total number of people that live in Metro Manila, Philippines alone).

We arrived in Stockholm through a local flight via SAS from Copenhagen.  The short 1 hr flight was on time as we flew on a beautiful day, with such beautiful weather.

Like the Danes, the Swedish people are kind, wonderful and beautiful.

The Arlanda Express from the airport into Stockholm City was a bit steep (280SEK per person per way, but there was a summer promo so we paid 150SEK per person). But the trains had air conditioning and was beautifully furnished and clean. Best of all, it was a short 20 mins ride from Arlanda to the city.

Nobis Hotel was home to us for the next 5 days. Situated right in the middle of the shopping district, it was accessible to public transportation at every corner! Getting a 72 hrs public transportation card for 250SEK was a good price considering that you could you use it for all modes of transportation (including boat and train).

If you’re complaining about paying taxes, the Swedes don’t seem to mind considering that the average income tax is about 44% and can go as high as 60%! Their VAT is similar to Denmark and is pegged at 25%. But like the Danes, the Swedes get a lot of bang for the buck they shell out.

Efficient road and public transport system. Excellent health care. Education.

Stockholm was relatively more compact than Copenhagen. A little more laid back and cleaner, Stockholm was more upbeat, less touristy and more eclectic and vibrant.

It his home to the musicians and the music of ABBA!

Their culture is rich in history and they’re way up there when it comes to design and fashion. Those pencil cut ankle length pants were their designs three years back. When it comes to innovation and design, the Swedes nail it! IKEA and H&M are Swedish companies that have made a global presence for form, functionality, design, practicality, and cost efficiency.

Science is also the cornerstone of discoveries central to the Scandinavian countries. Uppsala is home to one of the world’s best university – Uppsala University and the World Health Organization Monitoring Center (for pharmacovigilance).

Now this is my kind of country. After this trip, I will be back! To explore more of Scandinavia.

To recharge. Rethink. Rewind.