Saturday, August 22, 2015

CITY OF ANGELS REVISITED: Finding the elusive Chicken Rice + Hipster-ish Luxx

LATE POST:  A couple of friends and i went to the City of Angels recently, a rather spur-of-the-moment trip actually (Well, 'spur-of-the-moment', for me, means only one week of intensive research on the sights and experiences that can be squeezed it, so it's all relative. Hehe :D)

Of course, with Bangkok having thousands of restaurants, it was really hard to choose where to eat. So when no other than Chef Gene Gonzalez (of Cafe Ysabel fame) recommends a place to you, you go out and search high and low for it and try it gaddemit. 

So, on our last night, after the day's (rather underwhelming) sporting events were done, off we went in search for Chef Gene's recommendation - a Chicken Rice place that has been around since, like, forever. 

We went down Platinum Mall, and started walking around following his scribbled directions. After some asking the locals, and a wrong turn or two, we ended up across the street from the nearby Palladium Mall. (Side note: Errr, what's next, Plutonium Mall?)

Ah, here it is! Chef Gene did not specify the name of the resto, but based on his directions and description, we surmised it was this one: Kuang Heng. There was a crowd, mostly locals (which is always a good sign); and we were able to get a table after a few minutes. The place did look like it has been around. . .well, not forever, but for quite a long time (it says 'since 1932' on their logo). Nothing fancy, no air-conditioning. 

Here's a (bad) photo of the menu:

By this time, we were all famished and quickly ordered the chicken rice, as well as ten sticks pork satay from the stall around the corner. Here is the chicken broth:

Our orders came quite quickly. Portions were just right. 

The chicken rice proved to be tasty and tender, and we sucked everything up in a good ten minutes. Talk about being famished! The satay came later, and they were very good, too. 

So, a bunch of merry men exited the resto and disappeared into the night that night. 

For this trip, we had opted to stay at the rather quiet Soi Langsuan area, which is just one BTS stop (Chit Lom) from the livelier tourist area of Pratunam / Siam Square. I heartily recommend it anytime, as this street is safe for walking and has more than enough restaurants and shops and spas. 

In fact, the neighborhood Starbucks turned out to be quite visually pleasing, both inside and outside: (Nope, i did not turn into a hack for Starbucks overnight; and i'm gonna bill them for this unsolicited advertorial. Hahahaha!! :D) 

They call it a 'community store' (vs. being a regular store?), so that might account for the difference in interiors. At any rate, it was a relaxing place to hang out, and talk about the recent days' happenings.

 Here's more photos from Bangkok-based blogger Jasmine here, just so you know what i'm talking about. 

Our digs for this trip was a boutique hotel called Luxx XL, which i stayed in two years ago (upon the wise counsel of my friend Jellybean), so here we were again!! :D Yeyyy.

What can i say? You had me at.....ferocious stone lion? No no! You had me at giant wooden doors ;-D

It looks like something that could be straight out of a stylish fashion-travel magazine. I've a mind to wake up at the dead of the night, and unfasten the screws on those huge wooden doors and ship them home (via courier). Haha!

The lobby ain't bad, no?  

I totally forgot to take photos of inside the rooms. Which might not have been a good idea anyway, as our sports wheel bags took up most of the free space, and gear was all over the room.

Here's the view from the resto where we ate our breakfasts. Lovely pool. Too bad the schedule was hectic, and there wasn't time to dip a smelly toe into the water.

Of course, Luxx XL is not a perfect hotel by any means. The breakfast selection could improve a lot, for one. 

And some of the stones surrounding the bath tub were a bit sharp, and the water pressure of the shower head was a bit iffy at times. 

But overall, the hotel was good value for money; accessible to a whole bunch of tourist places; and it just had this laid-back, chillaxing vibe that one wants after a whole day out. 

Dare i say it, see ya again next year? 

POSTSCRIPT:  Around two weeks after returning from our Bangkok trip, we bumped into Chef Gene and informed him we had a good meal eating at one of his recommendations and showed him photos of Kuang Heng. 

Unfortunately, it turned out we had gone to the WRONG chicken rice resto! We were supposed to go a bit further along the same street, as there was another chicken rice place even better - the one he recommended!!! OH NOOOOOO! [wringing hands and tearing out hair]

Only one way to settle the matter. Dare i say it, same time next year? 

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Yep, true to form, yours truly was too lazy to plan any trips during the recent long Easter holiday weekend. But, true to from, wanderlust stirred; and a daytrip to Tagaytay was conceptualized a few days before the holidays. 

One of our stops was Nurture Wellness Village (formerly known as Nurture Spa). I actually had been to this place before, more ten years ago; and remembered the unpaved dirt road we navigated then, as well as the sense of remoteness in getting to the place.

Well, ten years is quite a long time, and things have definitely changed. From Aguinaldo Highway, the road turning into Nurture Spa was concrete, and numerous arrows pointed to various housing developments in its vicinity.

Fortunately, it is still in a quiet corner of Tagaytay. And the facilities at Nurture Spa have been developed over the years, so there are more massage rooms and overnight accommodations now. Check out the lush greenery:

Their swimming pool, being 4 feet high, is not ideal for doing laps; but absolutely perfect for hanging out and chillaxing on a hot summer day. 

Warning, though: The tiles at the bottom of the pool are quite slippery.)

Here's a closer view of the pool:

We had booked their Ginhawa body massage, so at the appointed hour, their staff escorted us to our massage room. More lush greenery, look! ;-D  

 One of them mentioned that the total area of Nurture Spa was one hectare in total. My friend PM and i looked at each other quizzically, and debated whether one hectare was equal to 1,000 square meters, or 10,000 (or 100,000!?). Obviously, our math skills were also on holiday ;-D

Here's a photo of how the rooms look like from the outside, with their native feel. 

The massage proved to be excellent, with the masseuses solicitously asking if the pressure was correct, etc. It was actually hard to get up from the massage bed when it was over, i felt like i wanted to sleep there forever!

Nurture Spa is full of quiet nooks and crannies where one can pass away time reading, or simply sitting and ruminating. Check this out:

Another one perfect for an afternoon siesta :D

So I would say that an overnight stay at Nurture Spa would be great, if one wants a quiet 'get-away' from it all. This is somewhat aided by the poor Wi-fi signal within the spa (and even if you use your mobile data plan, reception can be wonky too.) 

And oh, i saw this lovely lass on the grounds as she was on her way to the pool. For a brief, shining moment, yours truly ceased to be GUS and transformed into WEHUS (Warm Erudite Happy Urban Slacker), and came away with her contact info. 

Address: Nurture Wellness Village Pulong Sagingan, Barangay Maitim II West Cavite, Tagaytay, Luzon 4120, Philippines
Mobile: +63 918 888 8772
Telephone: +63 2 710 9786

Friday, January 16, 2015

DAVAO EATS: Aling Foping's Halo-Halo + BluGre Coffee

During our first night in Davao, we decided to go to the Matina Town Square, a complex of shops, restos and bars, for dinner. I had imagined it to be a fairly upscale place, which proved NOT to be the case - it reminded me of Tiendesitas!

Anyways, I had heard of Aling Foping's Halo-Halo (via Instagram), so even if i wasn't feeling quite well with a dry cough and cold,  this proved not to be a deterrent to try their halo-halo. 

The order process starts by getting the selection list (pictured below). Basically, you customize your halo-halo by specifying which six (6) ingredients you want it to contain. If you want to pile it on relentlessly (like moi), you just pay extra - PHP20.00 for leche flan (creme caramel) and ube (purple yam), and PHP14.00 for the other ingredients. 

Then you pay at the counter, and after a couple of minutes' wait, they call your number and you get your customized halo-halo.

   And viola!

I really wouldn't say Aling Foping's is the best halo-halo ever, but it is quite good. It is chunky - you feel like you are biting into a lot of things, as compared to the more simple Kabigting's (the worst halo-halo ever, in my humble opinion) or Razon's of Pampanga. It is ideal for people who like to have lots of different ingredients. 

We also dropped by BluGre Coffee, a homegrown coffee chain known for using the exotic fruit durian in their concoctions. By way of background, the durian is known for its awful smell. 

This smell (or more accurately, stench) has been described by food writer Richard Sterling as 'pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock'. The New York Times allowed that 'when ripe, it can smell like a dead animal' Hmm, not very inspiring, huh? :D

But on the other hand, the taste has been described as 'heavenly' and 'custardy'. So it can't be all that bad, right?

BluGre has two items on their drinks list which are infused with the durian flavor, namely: Durian Coffeeccino (hot), and the Durian Arctic Blast Ice Blended (cold). 

We tried both drinks, and once you get past that distinct durian taste, they were actually good. We also ordered the Durian Dulce de Leche Cheesecake [sorry, no photo due to low-light conditions]; and it had good texture and a sweetish, pleasant taste. I wouldn't mind eating more of it in the future!

Moral of the story: (Tell your friends to) stay away from durian, but (let them) eat durian cheesecake.