Thursday, December 27, 2018

Mayon Volcano: The Muse Behind Catriona Gray's Ms. Universe-Worthy Gown

If the intricate beading and fiery color were not enough hints in figuring out the inspiration behind Catriona Gray's Ms. Universe-winning attire, then I guess its moniker "Lava Gown" was a dead giveaway.

I never expected anything associated with the term "lava" to be synonymous with something sexy; but, designer Mak Tumang proved everyone wrong when Catriona Gray had donned the intense-looking gown before she strutted down the 2018 Ms. Universe stage with what we now call as the "lava walk."

Having seen the Mayon Volcano up close, it's no wonder that the designer and the new Ms. Universe were so captivated to the point of creating an evening gown because of it.

The first time I saw this natural wonder located in Albay, the volcano's perfect cone was barely visible due to a group of obstinate clouds unwilling to let visitors bask in the volcano's complete glory.  

Old folks however have a different interpretation on this matter. Legend has it that when this happens, Panganoron, the brave warrior who loved Magayon, the only daughter of the tribal chief of Rawis, is indeed kissing her; and, when the rains do trickle down the slopes, they are actually Panganoron's tears as he mourns for his lost love.

Clouds swirling around the world-famous Mayon Volcano in Albay

But I didn't travel 11 hours from Manila to Legazpi to be found wanting. That's why I watched the volcano like a hawk from every possible angle.

Clouds start dissipating around the world-famous Mayon Volcano in Albay

Good thing is, the Mayon is so mighty and resplendent that it's impossible to see anything else when you're travelling all over Legazpi.

Mt. Mayon In All Its Glory

That translates to a plethora of chances for photo-ops, selfies and famfies.

It's A Triumph In Itself Just to See Mt. Mayon


I used Fujifilm X-A2 for this particular blog post.

Photo of Fujifilm X-A2

Kaye Langit-Luistro: Tagalog Voice Talent with Studio

Thursday, December 20, 2018

What Starbucks Was Like In Hangzhou & Shanghai (China)

Several months ago, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced that the coffee giant will close down about 150 stores in the US by 2019.

I can't help but ask whether this decision will affect its global satellite branches as well?

Though I'm in no position to speculate about such financial matters, I guess I have a thing or two to say about customer service in Starbucks' international stores like in China. What I'm pretty sure is that Starbucks in Mainland China handles clients differently from my home country, the Philippines. 🤓

Starbucks in Hangzhou Songcheng Park

If you're flying to China this holiday season, chances are, you're more than likely to get your cup of java and frappe fix from good ole Starbucks. Some people maybe biased against this juggernaut for a number of reasons with the La Boulange Mess at the helm of its most controversial business decisions. 😠

Despite this ill-fated, heart wrenching yet premeditated tactical maneuver, as some sectors believe, we can't deny the incredible pull we feel whenever we're confronted by Starbucks' delectable array of Hot Drinks, Frappes, Cakes and Pastas.

That was why when we had visited the Mainland, we took it upon ourselves to check the coffee landscape of Starbucks' satellite branches in Hangzhou and Shanghai.

The queue was long and I thought perhaps it was because of the language barrier. Little did I know that most tourists were in fact relatively good in Mandarin. What caused the delay was a spatter of follow-up questions about their orders simply because they weren't familiar with Starbucks' usual offerings in China.

I believe the less adept Mandarin speakers resorted to English at some point because the lovely girl at the counter was indeed proficient.

Earlier, I asked one of the staff whether the store's accepting Mastercard; and, to my disappointment, she said NO. Thank goodness I had the common sense of checking with the cashier whether this claim was true or not. Imagine my jubilation when she said that they do process Mastercard, but for some branches, VISA is the only credit card recognized.

Starbucks in Hangzhou, China 

After placing an order for a frappe, my mugs of choice were wrapped in paper and properly stowed.

To while away the time, I perused some of the store's offerings which included an alluring plethora of moon cakes, sandwiches, cakes and  signature mugs.

Starbucks Cakes in Hangzhou, China

Starbucks Sandwiches in Hangzhou, China

Starbucks Mugs in Hangzhou, China

The downside: It turned out that there was only ONE staff member in charge of concocting drinks which explained the terrible delay in my order. 🤔

Starbucks in Hangzhou Songcheng Park

Despite the 20 minute waiting time, I was able to get my frappe... 

                                     Frappe at Starbucks inside Hangzhou Songcheng Park

...and proceeded to have lunch at this resto right in front of Starbucks. 

Chinese Resto inside Hangzhou Songcheng 

Starbucks in West Lake, Hangzhou
This particular Starbucks branch is truly exquisite because it overlooks the infamous West Lake

It was just unfortunate that we weren't able to enjoy the view from the store because we had to comply with the tour itinerary, much to our disappointment.😢

Starbucks in Hangzhou, China

Although I wanted to come inside this branch and buy more mugs, I wasn't able to follow through with my plan because of the time restrictions involved in being part of a tour. #TourDownside

Starbucks in Hangzhou, China

Starbucks Shanghai Plaza

On our last day in Shanghai, I managed to veer away from the tour itinerary while the others were having lunch at a nearby building.

The only Starbucks in sight was the one at Shanghai Plaza, a shopping mall in the Huangpu district.  

Starbucks in Shanghai, China

Starbucks Banner in Shanghai, China

Although it wouldn't hurt for the staff to project a more friendly and warm demeanor...

...I still got my frappe through CASH transaction since almost all Starbucks branches in China don't accept MASTERCARD, just VISA#KudosTitoUnaki 

Starbucks Tropical Colada Frappe in Shanghai, China

It's always beyond interesting for me to window shop on comfort food because somehow my leptin, hormone that decreases appetite, is enforced, making me full minus the calories. 🤣

Starbucks Sandwiches in Shanghai, China

Starbucks Sandwiches in Shanghai, China

Starbucks Sandwiches in Shanghai, China

Starbucks Pastries in Shanghai, China

Starbucks Cookies in Shanghai, China

Starbucks in Shanghai, China

Starbucks Signature Mugs in Shanghai, China

My Starbucks Collection so far...

Starbucks China Collection


I used Fujifilm X-A2 for this particular blog post.

Photo of Fujifilm X-A2

Monday, March 26, 2018

Revisiting Hui Lau Shan Desserts in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Despite the gnawing chill that day, the fambam braved the 11 degrees celsius temp to visit my fave desserts bar, Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts. It might be ironic, to say the least, but the best way to beat the cold weather is by eating cool stuff as well.

I have to credit my dear Gyu Hye Sun who portrayed Geum Jandi in Boys Over Flowers for that nugget of wisdom. While filming one of my all time fave K-Dramas, she was asked how she dealt with the freezing temperature and she answered matter-of-factly, "By eating ice." 

                                       Second Time's a Charm @ Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Hong Kong

That rather interesting "nugget of wisdom" led us to improvise a little by pairing the proverbial ice with fruit royalty such as mango in all its glorious forms- pureed, sliced, and even frozen.  

                                                                                                                                                 Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Hong Kong

Jumbo Mango Chewy Ball (Below HKD 75)

Here's the dessert "that launched a thousand ships" so to speak. Transcendent in a pool of delectably sweet mango puree, my fave dessert is dotted with chewy rice balls, mango slices and topped with mango ice cream. Believe me, this is simply glorious! I'm not exaggerating if I told you that I even heard Handel's 'Hallelujah Chorus' at first bite; well, technically, it's my 2nd for I had this same dessert 8 years ago.

NO matter how many times I have this variant, it NEVER gets old!

                                                                                                                     Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Hong Kong

See? Even my dear fambam gave the thumbs up! 

Stewed Milk in Coconut with Oats (Between HKD 69 and HKD 86)

Another way to combat the cold weather is to take in something hot. A couple of the fambam did just that by ordering oats in coconut milk served in a creatively reproduced coconut husk.

                                                                                                          Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Hong Kong

This particular dessert variant was highly recommended by the staff as a natural insulator against the persistent cold weather. Tutapel all bundled up is living proof to the chill, man! 

                                                                                                         Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Hong Kong

NO matter the weather, I found the desserts at Hui Lau Shan incredibly refreshing and comforting. For me there's no better dessert than something with mango as the "Lead Actor for a Mini Series or Television Film"! 

                                                                                                            Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Hong Kong

It's worth mentioning that we came back a couple more times to Hui Lau Shan just to satiate my mango craving.

                                                                                                                Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Hong Kong

Double Mango (HKD 39)

We turned to their refreshing drinks on these occasions and developed a penchant for their Double Mango Drink without any add-ons just so we could enjoy the star fruit even more.

                                                                                                    Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Hong Kong

Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Additional Menu:

                                                                                                                  Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts Hong Kong

In all honesty, I feel that a trip to Hong Kong won't be complete without stopping by this popular dessert bar. From someone who is raised and born in a country like the Philippines known to have one of the best if not "the best" mango produce in the world, I guess, I know a little something whether the mango in question is drop-dead amaaaazing or not. 

Hui Lau Shan Healthy Desserts
Shop C,G/F, 49 Carnarvon Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Phone:  2366-8025


I used Fujifilm X-A2 for this particular blog post.

Photo of Fujifilm X-A2