Koi Kemang: Brunch, anyone?

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Prosecco Treviso Cascine, one of my favorite prosecco

Champagne brunch is one of my favorite things to do when I spend my weekends in Jakarta. I call it champagne brunch but I literally drink anything vino – red wine, chardonnay, cava, prosecco, champagne – name it, I will down it!

Since 2010, one of my favorite brunch places in Jakarta is Koi in Kemang. Koi has witnessed a lot of my life celebrations with friends and loved ones and it continues to be one of my default go-to places. The quality of the food is consistent and the plenitude of red and sparkling wines are always great reasons to visit this place.

For me, Koi Kemang will always be a timeless classic!

Here are some of our favorites from Koi, which we usually order over and over again. These never get old for me.

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Koi’s wheatgrass shot with a slice of orange on the side.

I normally start my meal with a wheatgrass shot and I drink it clean and straight.  It’s a good way to start the meal as wheatgrass is power-packed with chlorophyll, which acts as a neutralizer of toxins in the body. It also improves blood sugar and detoxifies the liver (great when you are just about to indulge on the fizzies!)

Some mix the wheatgrass shot with fresh orange juice, but I just prefer mine straight up.

Although cheese is considered dessert, I normally order it as my appetizer. At Rp150k, Koi’s cheese platter has brie, gruyere and French blue cheese, with baguette on the side, roasted cashews and yummy caramelized onions.

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Koi’s cheese platter: brie, gruyere and French blue cheese, with baguette on the side, roasted cashews and yummy caramelized onions.

Arshad and I normally pair the cheese with either a light, fruity red, a bubbly prosecco, cava or champagne. My top faves: Corte Giara Bardolino from Italy and Trimback Riesling from Arsace, France.

Apart from cheese, we usually share a salad: caesar salad with honey and truffle oil.

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For the main course, we are creatures of habit. By default, I always order the poached eggs with spinach and hollandaise sauce. It’s basically their Eggs Benedict without the ham, since I prefer to eat mostly plant-based.

Aside from the vast selection of wine and their perfectly poached eggs, another primary reason why we keep on coming back to Koi is their steak and eggs.  Arshad has tried steak and eggs from other restaurants but they always pale in comparison. He keeps getting disappointed so the verdict was that if he wants his steak and eggs, we only go to Koi.

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Koi’s medium rare steak and eggs with herbed butter, vegetables and potatoes

For dessert, if you are a first-timer in Koi, it merits to try their dessert sampler, where a plateful of Koi’s best desserts can be had.

My newly-discovered heaven, though, is the flourless chocolate quinoa cake with vanilla ice cream on the side and vanilla sauce. After tasting this, the definition of dessert will never be the same!

After indulging your cravings for Koi’s delectable food, you can go to their second floor to check out teakwood furniture, paintings and other Indonesian fixtures. Koi also showcases beautiful curated Indonesian pieces from local craftsmen and furniture makers.

For all these and more, I’d say Koi never fails to make my Sunday wonderful. I will never tire of going back for more…and more. =)

Koi Kemang’s details:

Address: Jl. Kemang Raya No.72b, RT.7/RW.2, Bangka, Mampang Prpt., Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12730
Hours:  Opens 7am Closes 11PM

Phone: (021) 7195668

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!

Pause.

For the past 2 months, all my weekends were spent traveling, except for one when I had a Philippine Embassy event.

Today is a very rare Saturday when I’m staying put in Jakarta, and I’m relishing every single second of it!

I love traveling and I always will, but doing it non-stop for both work and leisure wore me down. I felt tired and consumed, day in and day out.

I’m taking advantage of this weekend to sit back and relax, catch up on my reading and writing.

To slow down. To pause.

Literally.

I have so much material for the blog, but unfortunately didn’t have enough time, not even to look at my stats. I have been an absolutely horrible blogger as of late!

The good news about it is that while I have been failing as a consistent blogger, I’ve been winning at recovering and living my life. I’m slowly finding my joie de vivre and my groove back.

It’s not a perfect process and I don’t have a bullet-proof solution. It’s a hit and miss, in fact. There were days that I was at a point of exhaustion that I had to bail on dinners and parties with friends, much to their chagrin and much to my social punishment (I have clingy albeit loving friends, which I truly appreciate).

Lesson learned: Balance. Balance is always key to wellness.  

 

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This Bella is on pause this weekend.

It may sound simple, common sensical even, but a lot of us take this for granted. We pack so much stuff in our schedules, in our mind space and in our lives that we forget to breathe.

This weekend is a glorious time to pause. To breathe and to claim my moment of peace.

To the weekend warriors, have a great one. I’m sitting this one down, armed with my Macbook and a cuppa.

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.

Depression has no face.

When I outed myself and admitted my depression, several friends and acquaintances reached out to me to disclose that they are going through the same thing.

Some people who are the same age as I am thought it’s the phase of us going through our big 4-0 that made us feel this way and that it’s just that – a phase that we have to go through.

You’ll be surprised to find out that those who have sent me private messages on my social media and in my messengers and some who even called me to admit that they have depression, ranged from ages 15 to 40.

I’m not a pro in this and like them, I’m still going through it. All I could offer is my time to listen (I may talk a lot but in moments like this, I’m helluva good sounding board), share what I’m going through or point them to the right direction of people and places who can help them.

I wanted to write about this and share what I’ve been through, what I’m going through and how I’m trying to deal with it, not because I wanted the attention or the sympathy of others. In fact, as much as my friends coaxed me to talk about it, I preferred not to. I gave the dossier to the closest circle of mine when we celebrated my birthday in Bali but I talked about it (at least those that I can share) only once and that’s it. That’s the first and last time that I wanted to talk about the deets.

I wanted to stop writing about it, but in the past few weeks that I was talking to a friend who is currently going through depression, I realized that outing myself paved the way for others to reach out to me, because they found someone who they can relate with, who will understand, who they can trust and who will not judge them. 

What we are going through ain’t pretty and it definitely ain’t a choice because if you ask me, I wouldn’t want to be in this rabbit hole over and over again.

These people I talked to, some of them were the paragon of happiness. At least on the outside. You’d see them laughing, engaged in conversations, sociable, participating and even spearheading social events. Some are even the life of the party, lighting the room by their mere presence. They’re your friend, your officemate, your kumare, your kapatid, your relative, probably even your partner. 

I remember one early Saturday morning, I woke up to an FB message from a friend in Manila asking me to pray for her. She said she was already having suicidal thoughts, plotting how she can kill herself without it looking like suicide so that her family won’t hate her for it. I ended up spending my entire Saturday morning just talking to her and sorting out her thoughts and why she feels like this.

Another friend said she found herself just frozen inside her bedroom, not wanting to move at all, as she stared at herself in the mirror for an hour because she didn’t know what to do with herself. She kept asking: “Why is my life just a repeat of everything? It’s the same thing everyday and I want it to stop.”

She told me that in the office, she found herself just frozen, unable to move and sweating furiously, thinking that if she got up from her desk, her knees will buckle and fall.

A fifteen year old girl who I didn’t personally know gave me access to her private blog to show me her writings and illustrations on how she sees her depression. She told me she stopped school for a while and is currently on medication. We don’t talk about what she’s going through. She just wanted me to critique her writing and her drawings.

Very recently, another friend of mine spoke to me that she had to confront the invisible elephant in her room and admit that she’s depressed. It took her almost a year to finally admit it to herself.

Another guy friend – and this one surprised the hell out of me – came out that he’s having panic and anxiety attacks, to the point that he’d bail on social obligations because he’d rather be alone. Most of our friends think he’s just a flaker who didn’t value his social commitments to our circle. He was recently diagnosed with clinical depression. I’m the only one who knows.

In conversations, we normally end up comparing notes.

“Ganito ba talaga? Minsan ayaw mo na lang magising. Paulit-ulit na lang. Nakakapagod na.” [Is it really like this? Sometimes, you don’t want to wake up anymore. Everything is just repeating and it’s exhausting.]

“Minsan, ayaw ko na bumangon. Iiyak na lang ako buong araw.” [Sometimes, I just don’t want to get out of bed. I’ll just cry it out the whole day.]

“Ayoko maligo. Ayoko kumain. Ayoko matulog.” [I don’t want to take a bath. I don’t want to eat. I don’t want to sleep.]

In trying to make light of the situation, sometimes we’d end up laughing at the silly things we go through.

Personally, I swung back and forth. There were times that I’d barely have 2 hours of sleep. At times, I slept my way through for 14-15 hours, which wasn’t normal for me because my average is 7.

That time when you didn’t want to do anything, not even take a bath? Yes. Gross but I went through it.

Until now, I catch myself (or my husband does) biting my fingernails when I’m feeling anxious, and the littlest and most mundane things can be a trigger.

There will be days, weeks and even months that things will be fine, until one day, I just wake up in the most miserable state of helplessness and hopelessness. 

Believe you me, I try. Except for medication, I tried everything to make things better. I got into yoga, I went back to weight and cross-fit training with a personal trainer, essential oils (helped me regulate my sleep) and I openly deal with my bouts of depression. I pause and try to declutter my cobwebs of thoughts whenever I go through it again.

The people who came to me to talk about their situation are the toughest nails and most resilient that I know. You wouldn’t even know when you come across them that they’re going through it.

A girlfriend told me that her friends were surprised that she was depressed. “Hindi ka mukhang depressed,” [You don’t look depressed] they said.

Well, people, the thing is, depression has no face. If you see me and if you know me personally, you wouldn’t think that I went through it.

Would you think of this person as depressed? Yep, ‘didn’t think so.

Depression has no face and depression can hit anyone – even that someone who seems to be the happiest person on earth.

This blog post’s message is more for those who are going through it and those who reached out to me in confidence.

To you:

Thank you for trusting me. We may not be that close or I may not be your best friend, but you found comfort in reaching out to me.

What you’re going through is not easy and I know there are days, and there will be moments that you will feel you want to give up. 

Don’t. 

Tell yourself this, and believe me that it is true and it will be true: 

You will be alright.  

Even in the worst of worst days, tell yourself in the mirror: You will be alright. 

Make that choice everyday. Amidst the hopelessness, make that choice everyday. In moments that you think you can’t anymore, ask for help from someone you think you can trust. 

But it all starts in making that choice. Everyday. 

You will be alright. 

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!