The Majestic Mount Mayon

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Mount Mayon: photo taken by Bella in December 2017

Before Mount Mayon erupted in January, I took the family to Legazpi for a short trip in December. NO, we did not bring the eruption to the volcano (although coincidentally, Mount Agung of Bali erupted days after we arrived in October).

Now called the Beautiful Disaster, the view of Mayon remains to be a majestic sight to behold. It was my first time to see it up close and personal, too, when we did the ATV ride around the volcano.

Mount Mayon is indeed beautiful, a national price for the Filipinos.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali: another face of the Island of the Gods

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Nusa Lembongan, Bali: walking at the beachfront with jelly legs after surfing

I’m one of them people who find solace when I hear the crashing of the waves and the echoes of the sea.

And whenever things get crazy in my day-to-day, my tendency is to fly out to Bali.

Last February, I went off to Bali once again (first for the year!) to take a quick 4-day break. This time around, I went to Nusa Lembongan.

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Nusa Lembongan, Bali

Nusa Lembongan is a small island off the southeast coast of the main island of Bali. Yes, it is still Bali, but a more laid-back, more peaceful and slower version of it.

Traffic, hawkers and pollution do not blemish the island…yet, and while this is the condition, I decided that it was good time to visit. It’s quickly becoming a popular attraction though, so I’m guessing that it’s only a matter of time that this paradise island will be affected by the main island’s hectic pace.

For now, if you want to just sit back, put your feet up and enjoy a cocktail or two, Nusa Lembongan is definitely a great idea!

I’ll be posting places to visit and things to do in this still-pristine island in the coming days.

In the meantime, happy Monday and may we all have that beach weekend soon!

Chinese New Year 2018 in KL

It’s been 2 years in a row that we’ve been spending Chinese New Year in KL. It has now become a family tradition that I look forward to yearly, where the yummy cookies and pastries in red-topped jars abound and Chinese aunties stuff you silly with all their cooking (not complaining!).

Aside from the usual Chinese New Year tradition of seeing the cousins, tossing the Yee Sang, eating, drinking…and more eating and drinking, Arshad and I also celebrated our 4th year anniversary.

The weekend was well-spent revisiting the old and discovering something new. 

We went back to Villa Danieli, the resident Italian restaurant at Sheraton Imperial, where he proposed 5 years ago. We haven’t been back since, so we figured, 5 years is long enough and revisiting it was in order.

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Bella and ze Hubs at Villa Danieli, Sheraton Imperial

Villa Danieli’s location is quite strategic, as the KL Tower is overlooking its outside patio.

I also loved the entrance’s styling and the restaurant’s glass-blown murano vases, lamp shades and the murals painted on the walls and ceilings. The ambience makes it very conducive for romantic dates.

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prossecoThe place reminded me of our nights in Florence and Venice when Arshad and I hopped from one restaurant to another, literally downing a bottle of prosecco each to chill ourselves during the hot and humid summer nights in Italy.

It was good that Villa Danieli had prosecco on the menu, as it was just appropriate to celebrate the occasion with something light and sparkling.

I had a better appreciation of this underrated bubbly during our trip to Italy and because of Nicky Pellegrino’s One Summer in Venice.

The food was also noteworthy. We shared the insalata di rucola (tossed arugula salad served with green apple slices, cherry tomatoes and gorgonzola dressing) and fungo portobello (oven baked mushroom with goat cheese served with cherry tomato confit and mixed salad).

Since the antipasti were already big plates, we decided to just share our main course of quattro formaggi, Villa Danieli’s take on the four-cheese pizza, delectably smoldered with mozzarella, gorgonzola, parmesan and taleggio cheese.

 

If you want a romantic dinner in the heart of the city with a good selection of wine, cheese and Italian food, Villa Danieli is highly recommended.

Villa Danieli details:

Address: Jalan Sultan Ismail, Chow Kit, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Hours: Opens 12PM

 Phone: +60 3-2717 9922

Mr & Ms pancakesFor the new find, I was specifically craving for pancakes. For months now, I’ve been craving for my Grandma’s pancakes and although I know nothing will ever come close, I still wanted to get my fix. Alas, I got it courtesy of Mr. and Ms. Cafe’.

The 3-layer pancake that I ordered came with banana and strawberry slices on top and blueberries on the side. I had the sweet butterscotch on the side, instead of drizzled on the pancake stack, so that I could control the sugar that I put.

Mr & Miss Spicy Baked Eggs and Sausages

Arshad, on the other hand, ordered the spicy baked eggs with chicken sausages. The baked eggs were topped with herbed chicken sausages, with sun-dried tomatoes, chilli padi (his favorite), potato hash and yogurt with bread on the side. Not bad for a hearty breakfast!

The ambience was also nice and inviting. The area of the cafe’ wasn’t that big but it’s definitely conducive for breakfast or if you just want to have coffee while reading or working on your Macbook.

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Mr. and Ms. Cafe in Damansara

Their menu was also quite exhaustive: they have a lot of salads, quite a selection of pasta, risottos, sandwiches and burgers. I will definitely come again to try more food on the menu!

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The Arshads enjoying their breakfast at Mr. and Ms. Cafe’

Mr. and Ms. Cafe details:

Address: Oasis Square, B-G-3A Block B, Jalan PJU 1A/7A, Ara Damansara, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Hours:  Opens 10AM

Phone: +60 3-7859 6665

Overall, Chinese New Year 2018 in KL was a blast! It’s a time to spend with family and friends, a time to revisit the old and a time to try something new.

Belated Gong Xi Fa Cai to everyone! May the Year of the Dog bring you good tidings and fortune.

Bali, in 3 days

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Suluban (Blue Point) beach, Uluwatu, Bali

3 more days to go before I return to The Island of the Gods, to the Lembongan area this time around.

Bali. Oh hell yeah, I’m seeing you again. This time, I ain’t just surfer watching. I’m catching the waves myself.

Uluwatu Top 5: Why Uluwatu is my new place to be in Bali

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I visited the Uluwatu Temple in late October when my friends and I celebrated my birthday in Bali. Although it wasn’t my first time to visit the temple, it was my first time to do a side trip and hang out in one of the more popular restaurant-bars in the area.

IMG-20171111-WA0019_Bella Expatria_UluwatuNeedless to say, I was hooked immediately and I couldn’t wait to go back! I wasn’t exaggerating: we’ve barely left Bali but Arshad and I already booked our tickets slated on the second week of November, with the sole intent of staying in Uluwatu.

Uluwatu is located in the Bukit Peninsula, Bali’s southern limestone cliff-fringed area. It houses one of Bali’s iconic temples, the Uluwatu Temple and drop-dead gorgeous coastlines with strong waves conducive for surfing.

Aside from the popular Uluwatu Temple and the kecak fire dance that commences during sundown, here’s my compilation of the top 5 reasons why I don’t mind going back to Uluwatu (again and again, and again):

1.  Single Fin. If I’m being honest to myself, my first compelling IMG-20171111-WA0050_Bella_Expatria_Uluwatureason to go back to Uluwatu is because of Single Fin Bar and Cafe’.  Single Fin is overlooking the cliffs, the waves and the entire coast, which makes it the perfect spot for sightseeing. The view in Single Fin is simply amazing!  I could stay in Single Fin for hours and hours on end, just reading a book, sipping wine or cocktail or surfer watching (the last one being my favorite thing to do).

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The enthralling view when you’re hanging out at Single Fin

Aside from the view, Single Fin offers delectable cocktails and vegetarian dishes. I love their different versions of margaritas and have tried both their classic Single Fin and their rosella margarita.

For vegan or vegetarian food, I’m a fan of their vegetarian nasi goreng. For light bites, I always order their vegan chips and dips, with dips including green lentil hummus, charred eggplant babaganoush and tomato relish. Their chips are made from cassava and sweet potato, which makes them a lot healthier. I loved watching the sunset while stuffing myself silly of margaritas and vegetarian bites. Such is a happy life!

After sundown, Single Fin becomes a cool, chill party place that plays very good house and RnB music. The crowd is mostly filled with foreigners, although I saw a handful of local tourists sampling their delicious spirits.

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Us at Single Fin with margarita and mojito in hand: my definition of a perfect night in Uluwatu

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Single Fin at night: they have a good DJ playing good dance music and the latest hits

Define addicted to Single Fin: I went back not once, not twice…but over and over and over again during my stay in Uluwatu.

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Single Fin frontage at sundown

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Single Fin frontage during day time

Single Fin’s contact details:
Address: Pantai Suluban, Jl. Labuan Sait, Pecatu, Uluwatu, Kuta Selatan, Pecatu, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali

Hours: 

Open ⋅ Closes 12AM
Phone: (0361) 769941

 

2. Coco and Poke’.  True to its name, this quaint, whitewashed shop that sits quietly beside Single Fin serves sumptuous Hawaiian poke’ bowls and Cocowhip, the world’s first vegan and bio-fermented coconut soft serve ice cream.

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Coco and Poke’s menu: you can either create your own or choose from their wide array of selection of house bowls

We were looking for a place where we can order and eat quickly, without going to a fastfood restaurant when we found Coco and Poke’. You can create your own bowl or defer to their house bowls. We ordered the Aloha and Ohana Bowls, both of which did not disappoint. Packed with brown rice, tuna, salmon, fish roe and avocado, the bowls were refreshing and filling at the same time.

Too bad we didn’t have space for their coco soft serve, but it’s another reason that I can chalk up to justify another trip. =)

Coco and Poke’s details: 

Address: Jl. Labuan Sait, Pecatu, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361
Phone: 0878-6061-2896

3. The amazing beach and the view. These are both more-than-good-enough reasons to stay in Uluwatu. I woke up to this view on a daily basis and thought to myself: “I can stay here forever.”

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Uluwatu’s limestone cliff and pristine coastline

This gorgeous coastline is a world-class surfing playground, with its wide coastal length opening to the Indian Ocean.

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My view every morning

In our first morning back in Uluwatu, I immediately checked out the beachfront. To reach it, we had to go down to Blue Point (Suluban) Beach, which is located closely to both the Uluwatu Temple and Padang Padang beach.

The word “Suluban” came from the Balinese word that means “walking or passing under something,” since we had to pass through a coral reef cave before  we reached the white sandy beach of Blue Point.

It’s a long way down the cliffs and an effort to pass through the coral reef cave below but once you reach the beach, everything is totally worth it! Suluban beach offers a jaw-dropping view of the Indian Ocean and the waves are perfect for surfers and surfing enthusiasts.

4. The resort: Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa – Strategically situated beside Single Fin and just right above the cliffs en route to the Blue Point (Suluban) beach is Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa.

We had 3 days and 2 nights to spend in Uluwatu and given that limited time, we had to be strategic in our choices in terms of location. Blue Point Bay is the perfect resort for us.

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Blue Point Bay Villas  Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa.

It had an amazing view of the Suluban beach, a pool, lounge chairs with parasols and an exhaustive cocktails and wine menu. A plus for me is their massive spa where you can get reflexology, hair treatment and full body massage.

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Lounging: the best thing to do beside the pool with a glass of wine

The resort offers packages with free breakfast and the restaurant has an amazing view of Suluban, with it’s floor to ceiling windows.

5. The forest monkeys frolicking in the area. Outside the Uluwatu Monkey Forest, you can still find these gray long-tailed monkeys climbing rooftops of restaurants, window sills of hotels and resorts or even walking with the tourists!

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Check out my early morning visitor: this furry little creature was making funny faces in front of my window sill

Although some of the tourists find them annoying, I actually find them cute! These little furry creatures add an exotic flair to Uluwatu, making the place more interesting and enigmatic.

A word of caution though: some visitors had mishaps and encounters with the monkeys, as they know how to seize and steal mobile phones, sunglasses, wallets, etc. Even in our resort, we were briefed not to leave our things unguarded as there are monkeys wandering around the area. I even saw one early in the morning snatching fruit offerings at the hotel front desk!

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One of the monkeys just casually frolicking around Blue Point Villa like it’s nothing =)

The entire Bukit area, surrounded by frangipani trees can actually be considered the entire money forest, so when you’re staying in Uluwatu, expect to come across these furry creatures along the way.

These are but a few of the reasons why Uluwatu is a great place to stay in when you’re in Bali. Overall, I love this area for its relaxing ambiance, clean and plant-based food and its waves. A repeat of this adventure is definitely in the offing.

My 2018 Travel List

2018 Travel List

What I love about being an expat: Travel becomes an integral part of your life. 

The challenge about being an expat in my industry: I’m not a travel blogger, nor do I make a living out of blogging. Ergo, I have limited vacation days and I maximize my travel by taking advantage of long weekends.

There is always a way to travel, limited vacation days notwithstanding, if you love traveling!

This year, I’ve made my list already:

1 .  Southern SpainI. love. Spain. This year, I want to explore Southern Spain more: Valencia, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, Ronda, Cadiz, Jerez, Seville and the island of Mallorca. Arshad has pretty much outlined the itinerary for us (thank God for an equally-wanderlustful partner!).

2 .  Donsol, Sorsogon – because it was very rainy in Bicol last December, our Legazpi-Sorsogon tandem trip was cut short. We didn’t make it to Donsol, Sorsogon for the whale sharks, but we intend to come back in the summer!

3 . Bali, Indonesia –  does not even need an explanation. Before January ends, I’ll be coming back to the Island of the Gods and I’ll be exploring the Lembongan area to surf, do my yoga and just frolic in the beach.

4 . Penang, Malaysia – is always in my wishlist, but I never get to go. Perhaps because it’s near and accessible to me, so I take it for granted. A culinary paradise, I’d like 2018 to be the year the I finally go and stuff myself silly with char koay teow, Penang rojak and my classic favorite: cendol!

5 . Colombo, Sri Lanka – I’ve been to Colombo a few years ago for work. Regrettably, I didn’t get the chance to go around and visit the temples, eat more local food and visit the beaches. Wishful thinking that I can dedicate one long weekend for this, finally.

6.  Kathmandu, Nepal – is very picturesque. I’d like to be able to say one day that I’ve been to ALL Southeast Asian countries. Nepal is good way to start.

These are the cities, countries and places that I’d love to visit outside of work. Some of them, I’ve been to before, like Bali and Colombo, but I’d want to go back and revisit them again, because these places always light my fire and they always make me happy. The reason is that simple.

To my traveling and expatriate tribe and comrades, may 2018 be adventure and travel-filled for you. May it bring us more excitement and more places to discover. Happy New Year!

Uluwatu and the Sacred Monkey

 

Monkey in Uluwatu, Bali

One of the forest monkeys who decided to hang out in front of my window in Uluwatu, Bali

As of this writing, I’m still editing massive amounts of photographs that I’ve taken during my recent trip to Uluwatu, Bali. MASSIVE.

While I’m still not done, I wanted to share this photo that I took of a monkey who decided to perch on our windowsill at breakfast. He was just there, hanging around early in the morning. At one point, he even stuck his face on the window, to seemingly say hello.

This is the lovely sight in one of the mornings I spent in Uluwatu: monkeys running around or just chilling, with the lullaby of the gentle waves and the bright blue sky. These are good enough reasons for me to want to go back.

Uluwatu, hold on tight. We have more adventures to come.

It’s always hard to leave you, Manila

“Ang hirap mong iwanan, Manila.”

When I’m in Manila, I always have a ritual a few hours before I leave for the airport: I lock myself in the masters bedroom to have a moment with myself to push the melancholy that I feel deep down into the recesses of my emotional pit.

An ultra emotional statement – but that is what I feel when I need to leave again.

Pack and go. Pack and go. Repeat. I do this all the time.

But it never gets easier.

The thing is, wherever I go, my roots will always be in Manila. The meaningful relationships and friendships that I’ve nurtured through the years are mostly in Manila.

Sure, I’ve made a lot of friends in cities I’ve lived in. Being naturally gifted for making friends and socializing easily, it’s not difficult for me to build social cliques from ground up.

It’s just that the friendships that I’ve cultivated through the years are mostly in my home city.

I hate Manila’s traffic. I hate it that it takes me an hour and a half, or worse, two, to get from the south to BGC. Traffic has become so much worse. I absolutely abhor the political divide that’s been happening in my country. I hate fake news and all the political leeches taking advantage of the current political milieu. I hate taxi drivers who always try to rip passengers off.

But here I am, sat in my favorite Terminal 3 cafe, listening to Christmas carols, feeling nostalgic that once again, I have to fly out and leave.

There’s just something about you that sticks, Manila. My friendships. People who always smile and who are ever resilient despite whatever shit they go through. Your Christmas feels in the beginning of September. Your food. Your way of making people feel they belong.

Manila. You are nowhere near perfect and you will always be rough on the edges. But you are my city and I will always come back to you.

See you in a couple of weeks for Christmas, Manila.

Let’s do this Christmas together.

 

Uluwatu: my new favorite Bali destination

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Drone shot of Uluwatu, Bali

I can’t wait to go back.  Uluwatu is now my top destination in Bali, toppling over my once-favorite Seminyak.

I know, I know. I’m such a late-bloomer but I’m glad I re-discovered this paradise when I celebrated my birthday in Bali. This cliff-fringed coastline is so beautiful that I had to go back to it just a few weeks after I was there! I can’t seem to get enough of it.

A more detailed post on Uluwatu coming up this week, but just in case you are wondering where to go in Bali, you must definitely come to Uluwatu!