I keep coming back to Manila

A portion of my humble home in Manila

Four months. This is by far the longest time that I spent not going back home to Manila, which I dare not repeat. Four months seemed like forever to me and at some point, I felt increasingly depressed already, not seeing my family, not being in the comforts of my home.

I normally come back home to Manila every 2 months,  alternating with KL, but the early part of this year found me with a role expansion that quadrupled my team and responsibilities. Not that I’m complaining. It is a role that I have been looking forward to, which also needed more time and focus. Thus, the delays in my usual Manila trip.

our Dachschund Dinozzo and Himalayan ASH Manuel

Yesterday morning, as I opened the door of my home, it greeted me with the familiar smell of vanilla and honey candles, my daughter running to kiss me and hug me tightly, the noise of my dachshund barking and excitedly wagging his tail that his human is back, the nonchalant stare of my stoic Himalayan-Ash cat and most of all, the smell of my mother and yaya’s freshly prepared Pinoy breakfast, perfectly paired with warm pan de sal and a pot of aromatic brewed coffee.

Yas! I am home. The sensory assault makes the red eye flight all worth it. The hugs and kisses of my family, the warm embrace and the familiar faces of my long-time friends. It’s just great to be home.

with my daughter Abby enjoying gelato amidst the heat of Metro Manila

I love my job, I love being an expat and travel has always been second nature to me and my husband. I have long come to terms with my paradox that although I am a traveler and wanderlust runs through my veins, I always find myself amidst Manila’s discord. As crazy as that may sound.

With barely 36 hours in Manila, for now, let me enjoy my Mom’s sopas, tinapang bangus and ginisang monggo. Ahh. Definitely home.

Sick Singapore weekend

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View from my hotel at Scotts Road in Singapore

Singapore is a 2-hour flight from Jakarta so it’s easy to fly in and out. Since it’s a long weekend for Indonesia, I decided to fly in with Arshad. I came down with something last Thursday afternoon though, so this weekend I will be on eat-sleep-recover mode, with some shopping here and there if my energy permits.

My flu shots are keeping the flu at bay. I guess the message of this blog post is that when you travel a lot – FLU SHOTS. Always keep your vaccines updated every year. It helps to also be armed with your go-to medicines all the time. Thank God for Bioflu and Kamillosan throat spray. Mental note: replenish my stash as soon as I get back to Manila!

Easter Sunday Bazaar at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis

Easter Sunday Bazaar at Tugu Kunstkring PaleisI love bazaars! When I got the announcement from a friend that Tugu Kunstkring Paleis is hosting an Easter Sunday bazaar, I knew I had to go.

Bazaars for me are not just about shopping. It’s the experience. I love looking at rare and hard-to-find bazaar items for sale, since these are normally not sold in the malls. That’s the appeal of bazaar shopping for me.

Tugu Kunstkring Paleis’ Easter Sunday Bazaar was a sensory assault – just the way I like it. There were A LOT of merchants selling batik, jewelry, house ware and other unique finds. Aside from these, there were also bands playing, a Dutch family photo booth where you can don Dutch costumes, a fortune teller (in Bahasa, though), a Japanese clay workshop and a lot of food concessionnaires.

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One happy Bella scouring the ground floor with antique finds

Oh, it was dogs’ day too, since dogs were encouraged to be brought in the bazaar venue.

Here are my interesting finds:

The ground floor teemed with antique items: from Chinese ceramics, maps, furniture, accessories and paintings.

As usual, I was enamored by notebooks and journals with printed batik covers. I cannot have enough! On this day and age, I think journal writing and writing letters by hand are both a dying art.

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At the entrance of the bazaar on the second floor, a booth selling items from Holland greeted customers:

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There were also a lot of locally made products, one of my favorites was the one selling canvass pouches, ID and card holders, pencil cases, vanity and notebooks, with cute and creative printed designs:

A welcomed sensory assault of colorful batik clothes and local accessories were sold on the second floor, too.

Overall, there were a lot of great finds. I had to stop myself from buying things that I don’t need but they were very tempting. In the end, I went home withTK_antique mirror wm one item that I felt I couldn’t let go of: an antique mirror with a blue Chinese ceramics design and a jade handle. I went back for it three times just to make sure I really wanted it. It’s a much-coveted piece to be included in my own antique collection!

The great takeaway from this visit is that in the weekends to come, I will definitely go back and visit Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, not for the bazaar, but for the bar, the restaurant and the antique collection inside that I can still scrutinize and marvel at. Definitely in my bucket list for to-dos over the weekend!

Majestic Mount Bromo

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Mount Bromo: taken this morning a few minutes after the sunrise

Mount Bromo at sunrise: literally no filter. It is beautiful and majestic as it is.

I’m in Malang this weekend and will be posting about places I visited in this gem of a city in East Java.

Coming soon!

 

On another level: Altitude at The Plaza Brunch

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One giddy, happy Bella at The Altitude buffet brunch

One glorious, fine Sunday morning, I posted my favorite view of Jakarta. I was also in one of my favorite brunch places that time at Altitude, The Plaza, where three powerhouse international chefs came together to offer a rare brunch buffet.

The buffet itself is a rare occasion worth celebrating, since this buffet triad happens only once or twice a year!

Arshad and I are both fans of Salt Grill by Luke Mangan. We celebrate most of our life milestones here: my birthday, our anniversary, promotions, etc. Last year, we even won gift certificates from The Altitude, so naturally, he is part of the mailing list.

When the email came in about the buffet brunch with the 3 restaurants combined, it was a hands down “Yes, we are definitely going!.” We decided to celebrate Arshad’s birthday, albeit a belated one, at The Altitude to feast on this rare and sought-after buffet.

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Celebrating Arshad’s birthday at The Altitude’s buffet brunch

At Rp500k net for the food, I say it’s definitely worth it, what with the quality and vast choices. Free-flowing sparkling wine, red wine, beer and cocktails can be had for an additional Rp490k. I don’t think it’s a surprise what we opted for!

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Sunday Super Brunch at Altitude, The Plaza

As usual, I started my feast with salad and cheese, both of which came from The Salt Grill. Like I said in my previous post on brunch buffets, I rate restaurants based on how good their salad bar and cheese selection are, being the pescatarian that I am. As expected, my favorite restaurant did not disappoint.

Aside from these, Salt Grill was in charge of the carvery, where Arshad feasted on steak Arshad with his plate of meat from Salt Grill_wmand lamb. He said it was good, but since I don’t eat meat, I will have to take his word for it.

Salt Grill is well known for its no-nonsense grilled meat and steak, where it’s the quality of the meat that matters and the sauces are meant to enhance the flavor, not overpower the meat. For the meatlovers, this is definitely a highly recommended restaurant. They also offer salmon and barramundi for those who prefer fish and the restaurant does not take vegetarians for granted, either. That’s why for my husband and I, we get the best of both worlds at Luke Mangan’s The Salt Grill.

After the salad and cheese, my next go-to station is the sashimi and rolls, and Enmaru’s Executive Chef Takashi Tomie made sure that the diners had a fresh selection. Arshad even witnessed how Chef Takashi sliced and served a gigantic yellow fin tuna. The sashimi selection was very fresh and the salmon sashimi melts in your mouth!

Not to be ignored are the freshly-made rolls, but since I’m cutting the carbs down, it was best for me to stick to the mouth-watering sashimi.

Gaia by Oro Ristorante, on the other hand, offered the freshest seafood buffet alongside pastas, risotto and cheese. I was pleasantly surprised that they had freshly made burrata on the buffet spread and I gladly paired it up with my truffle risotto prepared inside a gigantic grana padano wheel.

I only went back to the Gaia buffet for the burrata but when I caught a whiff of the decadent truffle oil, I had to do a double take and ask for it! What was I saying about rice and carbs again? Yep, ignore that. Totally.

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freshly made burrata and truffle risotto from Gaia by Oro Ristorante

For the seafood spread, the oysters were very fresh. We thought they were air flown from Australia but we were surprised that they came from the nearby islands of Pulau Seribu. At the same time, the octopus which was flavored with Italian herbs and spices was also something to be had.

For the sweet tooth, desserts are a aplenty. again, the Gaia spread was impressive, with all the pastries, cakes, different varieties of pana cotta and fresh fruits.

I’m not a dessert person, but the ice cream teppan from The Salt Grill was irresistible, so much so that I had two servings. Yep, you read that right. Two. I had fun watching how they made the ice cream teppan and they had the magic ingredient that I can NEVER say no to: honeycomb. Vanila ice cream + generous amounts of crushed honeycomb = BLISS for Bella. Honeycomb reminds me of my childhood and Violet Crumble, my favorite chocolate bar.

In summary, the Sunday Super Brunch was a great experience and this has now become my favorite Sunday brunch place here in Jakarta.

Three great restaurants, quality selection of wine and a spectacular view of Jakarta rolled into one make up a wonderful Sunday experience in my beloved second city. Will I go back for another round should they do this again? Definitely! Never mind the hours in the gym that I had to spend afterwards! Everything was all worth it!

Altitude will have another event on the 5th of May. Though it’s not a joint buffet, the restaurant triad promises a night of sumptuous dinner, alcohol and entertainment to celebrate their anniversary. Too bad I won’t be in Jakarta at this time, but if you want to go, see the contact details of Altitude The Plaza below.

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Altitude The Plaza’s Anniversary Dinner

Altitude The Plaza, 46th floor

Jl. M.H. Thamrin, Kavling 28 – 30
Jakarta 10350
Ph: (62-21) 2992 2448
Direct No.: 085939922799
Fax: (62-22) 2992 2447
E-mail: info@altitude.co.id
Follow them on :
Facebook : Altitude The Plaza
Instagram : @altitudetheplaza

 

The experience is definitely 5 stars for me, with a lot of repeats in the future!

PS: This is not a paid promotion from any of the restaurants. I’m a real, raving fan of the restaurant triad. =)

5-out-of-5

Jalan Surabaya: A Charming Weekend of Antiques

Jalan S_lamps_wmTraversing Jalan Surabaya is literally strolling down memory lane, what with all the lovely antiques that you can discover in the whole stretch of this quaint street nestled in the upscale neighborhood of Menteng. Quite a paradox, actually, after seeing posh houses with sprawling yards and lush green lawns, you will be transported to a different scenery, teeming with beautiful antiques.

Solely dedicated to the trade of charming memorabilia, the wide array of items lined up in Jalan Surabaya will definitely pique the interest of antique enthusiasts or amateur appreciators like me.

The Antique Market in Jalan Surabaya was founded in 1974 by the then Governor of Jakarta, Ali Sadikin. The street became home to antique traders who used to sell their goods walking around Kota Tua (The Old City of Jakarta). The current traders manning the stalls are usually the second generation family members of the former Kota Tua traders.

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Ceramics: one of my favorite finds in Jalan Surabaya

There are several shops selling antiques including woodwork and wooden sculptures, wooden masks, wayang or puppets, paintings, woven cloths, silver and brass cutlery, metal and earthenware souvenirs, antique lamps and old fashioned accessories. You will also stumble upon telephones, cameras, typewriters, phonographs, telescopes, watches and jewelry. It will be a delightful surprise to discover that there are a handful of shops selling ship rudders, dials, compass and even old diving helmets and brass suits! There are several shops specializing in old books, plates and brassware. At the far end of the street, you can find stalls selling old bags and luggages.

My favorite purchases: ceramics displays, lamps and old Balinese paintings.

I’ve been back as an expat in Jakarta for 18 months now and I realized that I haven’t gone back. Immediately, I called my friend Mark who has never been there for a spur of the moment visit.

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with my fellow Pinoy expat Mark at one of the shops in Jalan Surabaya

As expected, Jalan Surabaya did not disappoint. Until now, this street never fails to enthrall me. The plenitude of items lined up on the street always catches my attention…and my wallet.

I had two specific items that I had in mind: an old typewriter and an old-fashioned stand fan, which will both be a nice addition to my antique collection back in Manila. While going through the shops one by one, though, I kept my eyes open for other interesting finds.

A few practical tips that will come in handy when you visit:

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  1. Getting there: For tourists who are not very familiar with Jakarta, this will be tricky. I strongly recommend getting an Uber, Grab or Blue Bird taxi. If you are buying in bulk, it is highly recommended to bring your own car if you have one. Stall owners allow customers to park alongside the shops.
  2. Location: Jalan Surabaya is located at the heart of Menteng, which is an upscale neighborhood. It’s near Jalan Cikini, Cikini Market, Proclamation Monument and Suropati park
  3. Best time to go: In the morning or afternoon over the weekend so there is a lot of parking space on the side street. For me, a Saturday afternoon is always ideal.
  4. Amount of time spent: Make sure you have plenty of time, but based on experience, I spend 2-4 hours, give or take. It is, after all, an entire street of antique shops! It is always more pleasant when Jalan Surabaya is experienced at a leisurely pace.
  5. Outfit: Wear casual clothes that are not too warm on the skin as the weather can get hot and humid in the afternoon.
  6. If you are not very fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, it is always best to bring a calculator with you so you can type in the price of the items. This is a necessary tool of the trade, so to speak, when bargaining for the price.
  7. If you are not an expert in antiques, bring a friend who has some knowledge about it. Not all the items are antiques and there are a lot of replicas. Most of the time, though, the real ones are stored in glass cabinets inside the store. Although this is not always necessarily true.
  8. Walk the entire stretch and compare prices before buying anything. This is an important reminder. When I was a newbie shopper in Jalan Surabaya, I had buyer’s remorse when I was too excited to purchase my antique ceramics, only to find out that the stores further down were cheaper!
  9. Bring cash! The shops don’t accept debit or credit card transactions. Everything is paid on cash basis.
  10. Most important of all: haggle. Haggle fiercely. The prices of the items in the stores depends on your willingness to pay for them. As a rule of thumb, ask for BIG discounts, as high as 70-80%. Yes, you read that correctly: 70-80% because some of them are willing to budge. Even if they don’t, if you get the item at 50% discount, it is still a huge win.

Armed with sheer curiosity for the old and some cash, an afternoon spent walking through the shops in Jalan Surabaya is something that I strongly recommend to expat friends and foreign visitors. Whenever someone asks me for an itinerary in Jakarta for a quick weekend trip, my list will always include a trip to this nostalgic street.

And for me, Jalan Surabaya, ironically, will never grow old and will stay as one of my favorite things to do on one fine Saturday afternoon.