Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pizza done right

 It all started with a bad craving. I wanted truffles. On pizza. NOTHING LESS.

And that craving led me to a new restaurant in Greenbelt, Bilbao:

I won't prolong the agony, let me get to the good part first. Introducing the Spinach truffle pizza:

It has spinach, prosciutto, and truffles! OMG, I cannot tell you enough how perfect this is! The crust is super thin and crispy. The spinach was fresh and really tasty and the truffles were not over powering like with some dishes. So good!

Apart from pizza, I also got a four cheese risotto. It was good but kinda lacked that extra oomph for me. Or maybe it wasn't cheesy enough?
My godmother got the spinach linguine with shrimps. She liked that the pasta was freshly made. It gave that added chewiness and freshness to the linguine :)

 For my drink, I tried their blue velvet which is blueberry and cream cheese. I can't really taste the cream cheese part, but it wasn't so sweet which I liked.

Overall, I say Balboa did a good job with making the food authentic. I would have loved to go through the dessert menu too but I was so full already! I would go back there for the truffle pizza in a heart beat! Then churros for dessert. That sounds  like a good plan for me :)

Greenbelt 3 Branch
2nd Level, Greenbelt 3
Esperanza St. corner Makati Ave., Ayala Center, Makati

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A blushing Christmas

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. It's memorable for me but more so this year because our usual Christmas eve mass became an instant "artista" moment for me :P

Went to hear mass at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and suddenly got dragged as a reader at the mass. I've never refused any invitation to participate during mass and I figured it would be a blessing especially since it's Christmas. Well, to my surprise (and slight) horror, the mass was televised!

My knees were shaking then! I don't usually get so nervous speaking in front of people, but when it's in a 3-level theater filled with strangers, my knees start to wobble :| Thank God it didn't show in my voice :) Also, I'm really glad I wore something nice for the occasion. That wasn't what I was supposed to wear then, but by some bizarre twist of fate (isn't it always that way?) I ended up with this dainty number from Apartment 8 Clothing:

 I love its color and that it's conservative enough for mass but still trendy. I'm so glad I ended up wearing this dress. It's just perfect for what I ended up doing that night :)

Truly, the most amazing experiences happen at the most unexpected times. And when it's meant to be, it will be. I still can't believe that just happened. Good way to spend Christmas eve, indeed :)

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas celebration with your families! Sending you all happy vibes this holiday season :)

Pink dress - Apartment 8 Clothing
Pink shoes - Payless
Clutch bag - Department store

Monday, December 15, 2014

Guide to Myanmar

Myanmar has been on my list of places to visit for years now. It was my godmother's photo at the golden Shwedagon pagoda that first triggered the fascination for me. Then, I got to see photos of Bagan and right then and there, I knew I just had to visit Myanmar.

But the political unrest in the country and the lack of cheap flights to the country has kept me from visiting it sooner. But finally, after years of wanting to go, I got the chance this year :) So here's the lowdown on my week-long visit to Golden Myanmar!

For now, there is no direct flight from Manila to Myanmar. But there are more airlines offering promo fares. We book a flight with Tiger Airlines with a stop over at Singapore. I won't lie, it was a long-ass trip. The flight themselves also took around 7 hours altogether but we spent a lot of time in the airport which extended our travel time to around 13 hours.

For us, it was simple. We wanted to go to Bagan. And Yangon was going happen simply because it was Yangon (the golden temples, yo!) It was great too because we timed our trip during their full moon festival, which is actually their new year so we were excited for all the lights! We stayed in Yangon for 3 days, then another 3 in Bagan. We had to travel in between because Bagan is far from Yangon (10 hours by bus, 1 hour by plane). We had no set itinerary, because we had so much time and we're actually spontaneous like that :P It wasn't very hard though. Finding transportation to take you to the temples was very easy. In Bagan, we spent two days going around the temples in a horse cart.

Bagan itself is very safe, more like a province for those who's used to city life. So everything is more laid back and less glamorous. But it doesn't mean it's not beautiful because it is! Like I said in my last post, there's something about the serenity of Myanmar that makes it ideal for meditating and self-discovery.
 Bagan is one of those places I won't mind going back to. Apart from the sad fact that I didn't get to ride the hot air balloon there, it's just one of those places I feel like I connected with. One of those places that you will never ever forget.

After a three-day stay in Bagan, we went back to Yangon via Golden Myanmar Airlines. Unfortunately for us, it rained the whole time we were there so we didn't get to go out much, save for the night of the light festival and of course, shopping day (hehe!)

I won't tell you where to go in Myanmar because it's so easy to google the tourist spots. Instead, let me give you a run down of things that you shouldn't miss out on (and those that other guides won't tell you):

1. Get your hands (or whatever body part) painted at select temples in old Bagan. We really enjoyed this one because it made us feel more connected with the place.

2. Drink Myanmar beer. I've started to get used to testing out local beer in the countries I go to. Myanmar beer is quite good. Not so bitter and has the right amount of alcohol. I can't say it's my favorite but it's definitely something you should try :)

3. Get your fortune told outside Sule Pagoda. This is one of the highlights of our trip. The whole trip itself was already very meditative for me. I got to reflect on my life and where I am at. Having my fortune told there kinda helped me plan out my next steps. Even if you don't completely believe in them, in a way it just completed the whole "self-discovery"; "enlightening" experience in Myanmar.

4. Buy metals and precious stones. I know, I know, this sounds so cliche but believe me, they are so worth it! The quality is amazing and they are so cheap! I gave them out as pasalubong and everyone loved them! No one would suspect how inexpensive they are because the gems were authentic! Loved shopping!

Before I end this post, I know there are some important things that you probably need guidance on and these are the ones that guides don't normally tell you:

People keep emphasizing how you should be very conservative in Myanmar and that was my biggest problem cause I don't own a lot of pants/long dresses. Well, turns out it's not so bad when you get there. The only restriction is if you want to go visit the temples because they really won't let you in if you wear shorts/sleeveless tops, etc. It's best to wear something long and to always bring a shawl just in case. I packed a lot of maxi dresses and jumpsuits to be on the safe side. Bagan is worse, but in Yangon you can get away with less conservative clothes if you just wanna go around the city.

Hotels in Myanmar are a bit expensive. We stayed in Family Treasure Inn in Yangon and for the same price, we could have easily stayed at a 4-star hotel in Vietnam. It was the same case in Bagan. We figured it was because Myanmar's tourism sector hasn't taken off yet so they weren't very tourist-friendly yet. Even the amount of tourists in the places we went to weren't as many as compared to other ASEAN countries. I do not recommend Family Treasure Inn because it wasn't very clean and I can be very picky with cleanliness that way :| Our hotel in Bagan was better though. We stayed at Bagan Nova hotel and it was a dainty hotel ran by really kind female locals. It was a nice place but weirdly, it was in an inside street (which was unpaved) so you won't really think it was a hotel at first.

Can I just say internet in Myanmar is very bad? Posting anything was almost impossible. The internet providers weren't dependable. There was even a time that there was no internet connection in the whole of Bagan. Yes, it was that bad.

We had the option to take the bus to Bagan from Yangon but it would lose us two days for the trip lasts for more than 10 hours. It was definitely cheaper though, just around 700php per way but we wanted there fast so we decided to take the plane. It cost us around 2,500php per way but it was definitely more convenient. The planes though are very small and kinda scary. But honestly, I was more scared of taking a bus for 10-hours :|

I can't emphasize enough how much I enjoyed my trip to Myanmar. It was really worth the wait. I'm just so glad I finally got to tick it off my bucket list :) Thank you Myanmar for the wonderful memories! As the line from Wicked goes, "I don't know if I've been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been changed for good." :)

Related post: Golden Myanmar

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Festival Eye liners

I've been wanting to feature a cool find I got from Singapore since I got it last month but I was looking for the right opportunity. Well, the opportunity didn't come and I really want to post this so here goes. Say hello to my latest cool find: Sephora Festival Eye liners!

Was so excited when I saw these at Sephora Singapore. I didn't have any intention of buying anything then but I just had to get these.cause they were so cool!

I was supposed to go to Sonic Carnivale with my godsister and I intended to debut these babies then but we didn't get to go so instead for another music festival to come along, I just decided to feature these babies festival or no festival (in the comfort of my own home) :P

 I put on the black liner first then put a thin layer of blue eyeliner. It's very easy to apply because the brush is much like a thin paintbrush making application really easy. It glides on smooth too, just like paint. And since I want to pile on the fun, I decided to put a little bit of pink eyeliner too just because I can :P

I love how the color just pops. And because it's a liquid eyeliner, it can stay intact for hours which is great if you wanna go partying. I have to admit though, the black liner smudges a little. And in terms of how hard it is to remove, it is very hard! I am used to water based liners so I don't have eye make up remover so I find it hard to use these.

It's nice to have in your make up kit though for those times you want to amp up your make up without much effort. It's so easy to use and immediately gives you that "festival" look.

Hoping you're all having a great December so far! :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Maybe just stick to Pizza

You all know I love pizza... and pasta while you're at it. Well one of my favorite brands is Yellow Cab. I am absolutely crazy over their Tribeca Mushroom pizza. If you haven't tried it, I highly suggest you do. You won't even realize it's vegetarian ;)

Well, one day, my colleagues and I decided to order Yellow Cab for lunch. We settled on a party sized cheese pizza, carbonara and their new offering, the Aglio Olio pasta. The Aglio Olio pasta was "for me" because it's the one that is vegetarian friendly (without the shrimp). I didn't mind because Aglio Olio is actually one of my favorite pastas. Well, you can only imagine my utter disappointment to find that the Aglio Olio is super bland!

I tell you, it tasted like spaghetti with oil! It was THAT bad! We were trying to justify it but we really couldn't. It was tasteless. It lacked salt, garlic, sundried tomatoes, basil, even the shrimp lacked salt! I cannot emphasize enough how disappointed we were. If we weren't so busy at the office then, we would have called them and demanded our money back.

It's the first time that I got this disappointed over Yellow Cab. I know it's a new dish,but really, didn't they even conduct product sampling first? It was just really unacceptable as a dish. And to think it's the most expensive pasta dish they have on their menu :(

To those who'll be going to Yellow Cab, you have been warned.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Colorless just got Colorful

You know I'm a big fan of Haruki Murakami's books and although I didn't really enjoy his last novel that much (See post: Colorless lacks Color) I have to admit, I'll still buy it because it is still a Murakami novel (and I am that big of a fan).

Well since the novel came out, I was already obsessing over its cover. The first time I saw it, I was so disappointed at how plain it looked only to find out it came with stickers! Apparently, the idea is for the readers to design their own cover of the book! So cool, right? The first week it came out I couldn't stop obsessing over it only to be gifted my own copy of the book by a dear friend. As happy as that made me, I still wasn't 100% excited cause the one I got was not the Harvill Secker First Edition version with the stickers :(  So imagine my happiness when I chanced upon the Harvill Secker version in Changi Airport during my layover enroute to Myanmar!

I present to you, my version of Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage:

I am so proud of my cover! I have to admit though, when I saw the stickers I got so confused. There's so many of them! I wanted to pile them all! But of course, that wouldn't make such a great cover.

The plain cover. The one on the right is the cover leaf, the book itself is the one on the left :)

The stickers were created by six Japanese artists. You'd think they're just nonsensical stickers, but if you read the book you'd realize that each one has a reference to the book. I am glad I read the book before putting on the stickers cause it made them more meaningful.

The stickers themselves are really nice cause they're printed in a good quality clear sticker paper so they don't look tacky when you stick them on the book.

I had so many extra stickers when I was done so I just piled them on in the inside back cover just because I didn't want to throw them away :P

Thank you Murakami for the really interactive book cover! I enjoyed it so much! More so because the book now feels more limited edition to me. Because apart from the fact that it is a first edition version, no one else in the world has the same design cover as mine. It has Ninin all over it :) Yay for uniqueness!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bibingka pancakes

'Tis the season to be jolly! Falalala lala la la! Merry Christmas, everyone! What better way to jump start the season than by having your favorite seasonal food items? One of my favorites is bibingka so imagine my surprise (and glee) when I found out IHop had a bibingka pancake!

I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it tastes! It is so good! I particularly love the salted egg in the pancakes cause it gives it the authentic bibingka taste. And I think that even if I wasn't a fan of bibingka, I would still enjoy it because it really is very tasty.

I didn't finish the pancakes because they are very filling so I had the rest to go. I reheated it at home and it still had that same amazing taste! The first bites were just heavenly for me *yum*

I cannot encourage you enough to go to IHop at your earliest availability to try it. Two thumbs up (and toes too!) for this!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Golden Myanmar

If my life was a story book, this Chapter would be mystical; reflective; serene and inspirational. Myanmar is beautiful precisely because of this. My trip to Myanmar is a bucket list trip. My god sister and I have been dreaming of going there for years but in the past, Myanmar hasn't been too open to tourists. That, and the lack of easy transportation. But like all things, timing is everything. And now is finally the right time for us to visit. Say hello to beautiful Myanmar!

Thank you Myanmar for the amazing memories! It's really one of my profound trips. I feel like I lost myself, left something behind in Myanmar, then found myself again. It's amazing how travelling can change you and make your life better. And this trip reminded me why I like travelling to "off the beaten track" destinations so much-- because you're pulled away from everything you're used to and you get to think. To just take in the natural beauty of the world. To remind you that there are so many aspects of life and if you just detach from the material world for a while, maybe-- just maybe you'd finally find what you've always been searching for.

Maybe I found a little piece of my missing self in Myanmar. And how can I not when the place just evokes that. It is so naturally beautiful that you start seeing the world with fresh eyes. You ask yourself when was the last time you stopped... really stopped to watch the sunset? Or see the sun rise? Myanmar gave me that opportunity and for that (and more) I am eternally grateful.

Thank you for the memories, Burma!

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