One of the most dreaded things that a person has to undergo would be to transact with the government. Unfortunately, we all have to experience this as good citizens. Most if not all would always have some business with the LAND TRANSPORTATION OFFICE or LTO.
This post is about my experience in renewing my non-professional driver's license at the SM NORTH EDSA LTO office in the government's one stop shop in the Annex. I had an expired license that was roughly 5 months overdue. Good news: everything went perfectly fine.
When you arrive, you will be greeted by 3rd party stalls such as this clinic where you should get your medical exam. You need to fill up a form, pay for the exam, and wait for your number to be called.
Once you're up, you have an eye exam where they will check your eyes through a machine and ask you to read a line on the wall.
After checking your weight, you are interviewed by the doctor. From here, they take a photo of you and print a document which you will need for the LTO.
Going through this process would take 5 minutes tops if there is no line. After getting your documents, go further in the space to see the LTO desk at the back end. There, you need to submit the paperwork together with your old driver's license. Thankfully, you won't need to answer any forms. They will check your license for hits and liabilities and will then ask you to take a photo.
Afterwards, you would need to visit the SM CASHIER which is a few desks away. Granted that there is a small convenient fee (I think about 5 Php), this was pretty fast and painless. I had to pay extra since I had an expired license. After paying, you show your papers back to the LTO desk and then they will ask you to go to a back room.
In the back room, there are two terminals where staff will input your information. You will submit your papers here together with your old license. According to the new rules, you must surrender your old license. You will be able to see the information on screen to double check everything.
They will then take your photo and ask for biometrics together with a signature for your license.
Everything ends with you signing out on a piece of paper and receiving your brand new license.
Thankfully, I underwent the entire process in less than an hour. The medical exam took roughly 30 minutes as I was 15th in line. The LTO process though was extremely fast. I believe it only took me less than 20 minutes. This is how government should work. Painless and easy with the end user in mind. Thank you very much LTO OFFICE SM NORTH EDSA.
LAND TRANSPORTATION OFFICE SATELLITE
SM NORTH EDSA
Government One Stop Shop
BASEMENT LEVEL ANNEX
Disclaimer: Wrote this based on my experience. I paid for my license.
Interesting how the market for Chinese food hasn't really changed in the past year that I was gone from Manila. People are still going gaga over it. I still remember all the craze with the buns and properly cooked dimsum. At Marco Polo's Lung Hin, they would capitalize on the fact that they enjoy having one of the best Chinese Restaurants in the Ortigas Area. LUNG HIN has been known as a the place to enjoy unparalleled views together with scrumptious Chinese Dishes.
Just a few weeks ago, LUNG HIN introduced their PREMIUM DIM SUM LUNCH SET. BY choosing this, guests are able to enjoy unlimited servings of dimsum together with select choices of appetizers, soup, main course, and dessert.
If you're not familiar with dismum, this would be an excellent place to start. Given that you are handed with tons of choices to pick from, you can't go wrong with any of them. Plus, you get top quality dishes.
If you ask me, I'll go for the tried and tested picks that I learned to love and hold dear. The Pork Siu Mai with truffle sauce is a twist in it's own. Usually, you see this as a tiny meat flavored dish at supermarkets. Here, it's elevated in a sense that premium ingredients are used. The fact that they added truffles makes everything full circle.
If meat is not up your alley, the Shrimp Dumpling or Hakaw might be your best bet. Their version is packed with real shrimps and topped with gold leaf. They just make everything here luxurious.
More than just shrimp, they even have scallops as a form of dumplings. The addition of corn bits gave it a bit of a crunch.
Aside from the baked barbecue pork buns, the fried glutinous rice dumpling is a treat. The rice shell is incredibly hot so be very careful when getting it on.
Furthermore, your rice and noodles are also unlimited. You could go for something stir fried or maybe just rice. This had shredded pork and was extremely delicious. It wasn't too oily nor was it overpowering.
On the other hand of the spectrum, you're given tons of choices for your "real meal". Unlike the dimsum, these dishes are not unlimited but would definitely fit the bill.
The Stir Fried Squid with mashed salted egg is perfect for salted egg lovers. This one is actually great with plain rice.
For soup, you could choose between the spinach and the hot and sour. I chose the latter as I tend to stay away from "too healthy" dishes. Each person in the group gets to pick their soup, appetizer, Hong Kong Barbecue, and dessert. For the Main Course, you get to pick based on the number of people dining in. If there are 1 to 2 persons, they get to pick 1 dish. If there are 3 to 4, two main dishes may be chosen and so on.
Since we were a large group, we were able to pick a number of main courses. The HOT PRAWN SALAD can be anyone's favorite. Huge prawns are deep fried and covered with a special sauce.
Visiting a Chinese restaurant would not be complete without sweet and sour pork. These deep fried goodies are coated with a tangy sauce that makes it great for kids and kids at heart. Having berries gives them a contrast to the sweet flavor.
Another excellent main dish would be the Spare ribs with black vinegar sauce. The jolt from the vinegar would wake up your taste buds. Again, plain rice would work with this one.
Dessert is a choice between mango pudding, mango sago with coconut milk, and chilled coffee jelly.
The Premium DIM SUM LUNCH SET is available from Monday to Saturdays lunch time. It's at 1,888Php with a 25% discount as well.
Marco Polo's Lung Hin is located on the 44th floor of the hotel. With unparalleled views of the Ortigas Skyline, this Chinese restaurant has an impressive track record that makes you wonder how they have unbelievably affordable price points. Impeccable dining service and delicious dishes, LUNG HIN is a must visit when in Ortigas.
Meralco Avenue and Sapphire Street
San Antonio, Pasig, Metro Manila
Disclaimer: Wrote this based on my experience. Was invited to check out this new offer from Marco Polo.
Options. These are the things that makes us wonder "what's next?". With buffet places left and right, diners would ask themselves this question every single time they eat. At Diamond Hotel Manila, they try to give guests all the food possibilities that they could handle.
Corniche has been DIAMOND HOTEL'S go to buffet restaurant. It's here that they serve everything but the kitchen sink. On Friday Dinner time, they started doing the SEAFOOD COOKED A LA MINUTE. The spread has some added seafood that you get to pick and cooked based on your preference.
You could have your fill of squid, shrimp, huge shrimp, and even lobsters.
You don't even have to worry about everything because they cook everything for you then they deliver the dish to your table. You could have these babies baked, grilled, cooked with butter and garlic and more. Personally, I enjoy the rock lobster baked with tons of cheese.
These in addition to a plethora of appetizers, Chinese dishes, Filipino cuisine, and even a whole Japanese station that could be a restaurant in itself with all their spot on offerings.
Furthermore, this is in addition to their already loaded meat section. You could ask for steaks and other marinated meat to be cooked right there and then as well.
To be honest it was a lot to take in but that's what a buffet of this caliber is. Giving you everything that you may need and want right there and then.
Oh and don't forget about the carving station as well.
Dessert was also a blast. They have a bunch of sweet delicacies to choose from. There are cakes, in house gelatos, and a chocolate fountain to indulge in.
SURPRISINGLY, I got home to a package of grapes. As I was coming close to it, I found out that they're from our friends from Down Under. To be specific, these grapes were from Australia. Since they are now in season, I can't help but be glad to receive this package.
Granted that it may not be my name on the package, (our helper did check the manifest and it did say my correct name) I overlooked this because these are awesome grapes from Australia. I am not joking when I say that they are super fresh and sweet.
I'm also happy that these grapes are a great source of antioxidants, fiber, calcium, and vitamin C. They're also a great source of water to help rehydrate our body. Just pop them in the ref for a few hours to get them ice cold.
Furthermore, TASTE AUSTRALIA is giving away Gift Certificates worth 2,500 Php weekly to chosen readers. It's pretty simple.
"We encourage everyone to post their most creative photo featuring table grapes accompanied by the wittiest of captions.
To join, one must simply LIKE and FOLLOW Taste Australia Philippines’ Facebook and Instagram. "
Simply post your creative entries and TAG US by using the following hashtags: #ItsAGrapeDay #TasteAustralia #AustralianTableGrapes #FunWithGrapes.
Posts must be set to public in order for us to track your entries.
Some friends has been asking me where I stayed in Las Vegas. I told them, I went for an affordable yet clean and comfortable hotel. When I told them that I stayed at THE HOOTERS HOTEL, their faces were full of questions. Believe it or not, this restaurant chain has a Las Vegas Hotel right at the end of the famous strip. It's located just in front of the MGM grand making it quite ideal for a tourist to check out and stay at.
As you enter, you might notice that there is a distinct smell of cigarette smoke. If this bothers you, remember to reserve a room on the non-smoking floor. Also, it's because the first floor has a number of slot machines and table games were you could play.
Check-in time isn't as strict as other places. As long as you get there an hour or two or if your room is prepared, they can definitely give you the card.
ROOM wise, it was pretty basic. It is a 3 star hotel after all. The a/c is pretty old but still works fine. The television has all the basic cable needs. The toilet is pretty basic but clean. Unfortunately, they don't have a bidet here. I guess most hotels in the US doesn't have those.
Since I went during the Winter, the pool was closed. Unfortunately, it could get a little too cold for a swim. In terms of dining, they have a number of establishments on the ground floor. Of course, there is the HOOTERS restaurant that is always packed during dinner. There's a diner type restaurant as well. If you forgot to bring toiletries or other essential needs, they have gift shop that doubles as a convenient store.
Always go for their wings and if you're a fan, don't forget about the pickles.
The place isn't really as glam and wonderful as other hotels on the strip. BUT, if you're looking for a clean room and isn't as expensive as the other hotels, this would be your bet. It's one of the few hotels in the area that has free parking spaces (no need to validate your stubs). Also, it's walking distance to the strip. For me, this is the perfect place to sleep in especially if you don't want to pay extra for something you could easily get.
HOOTERS HOTEL 115 E Tropicana Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89109 Disclaimer: Wrote this based on my experience. Paid for my stay and meals.
After Tokyo and Osaka, there is another place in Japan to check out when you want to relax and have some great grub. Believe it or not, there is this place called FUKUOKA and it's one heck of a place to visit. For a foodie like me, I had a lot to do when I spent almost 2 weeks here.
It's been a couple of years since I've been to Fukuoka but having some friends ask me for advice on what to do and where to go made me want to make an updated itinerary with tips and tricks just for you. Now, there are links at the bottom of this page that might help you decide on where to go or what to visit. Hopefully, these tips help you out.
When you arrive, the International airport, you might want to go downtown which would be Hakata or Tenjin area. You could go there by using the bus or the subway. One thing to note though, the subway is not connected to the International terminal. Rather, you would need to take the free shuttle bus to the domestic side and follow the signs. From there, you could ride the subway. The subway operates between 0530 and 0025. The buses, on the other hand, could get you directly where you need to go but could take some time and deciphering.
There are two places that you would want to stay at. The best places to stay at would be near train stations. To be specific, HAKATA and TENJIN area would be your best bet. Staying near train stations would be the best because they are surrounded by malls, restaurants, and stores that would definitely tickle your fancy. The shinkansen passes through Hakata station making it a hub. Hence, there are tons of stores that might make you enjoy it. Tenjin has a long walkway filled with stores and restaurants where you could do your shopping.
Sightseeing wise, you might want to take the 100 yen bus. This bus would go around passing through most of the city. It connects Hakata and Tenjin so you could definitely see different places without having to pay a lot. You might want to also visit CANAL CITY which is a huge shopping mall that has a huge multilevel MUJI to cater to your needs.
As you can see the route of the 100 yen loop bus takes you to the main places that you might want to check out.
Going back to the real reason why I went to Fukuoka. The Food! Fukuoka is known for a lot of things. One of them is being the birthplace of a ton of ramen restaurants. Known worldwide, this is where ICHIRAN started. Seen here, is their headquarters. They have a few floors of Ichiran eating open to the public. If I'm not mistaken, this is one of the few, if not only, Ichiran that offers people to sit together when they eat. Normally, Ichiran only serves ramen per booth per person.
Locals though prefer another RAMEN chain only present in Fukuoka. SHIN SHIN RAMEN is more of your traditional Ramen place. The branch near Tenjin offers a no frills straight to the point dining experience. You will definitely see people lining up outside even during the wee hours of the night.
One thing you have to understand about Japanese restaurants is that they usually offer only one type of cuisine. This says that it's their specialty. One restaurant that I will never forget would be TEMPURA NO HIRAO. The place I visited was located in a small building with a cinema near Tenjin station. Unfortunately, the building closed down and is now being renovated. Great thing though is that in its place two TEMPURA NO HIRAO opened up in the area. The latest one being in Acros. Now, TEMPURA NO HIRAO is a chain that serves freshly cooked tempura. They only cook it when you order and right infront of you. They offer unlimited side dishes. Plus, the sets are not that expensive. I ate here around 3x when I stayed in Fukuoka. It was that good. The batter and the freshness of the oil made sure that the taste will not be rancid.
An expensive yet worthy meal I had when I visited Fukuoka was when I had lunch in GANSO HAKATA MENTAIJU. FUKUOKA is known for mentaiko. This is pollock roe. Usually, you would see this mixed in pasta or other Japanese dishes. In this restaurant, it is served on rice and even in TSUKEMEN. Having it in dessert works as well. I'm thankful that Fukuoka is a great city to walk at. After eating meals, I would usually just walk home. Not just because I was super full, but this one meal was a little expensive. BUT, I will definitely do it all over again.
There are a lot of other restaurants that you could visit in Fukuoka. I went to a few more but as someone that had been to Japan a number of times, I realized that for Breakfast, you could buy at the KONBINI or 24 hour convenience store the night before. The stores in Japan would actually have delicious snacks, meals, and desserts that are comparable and even better than some restaurants I know. For dinner, I would suggest going to a depachika. These are the basements food halls of department stores. At around 1830, the different stalls located there would have their food at a discount up until closing time which is usually around 2000.
There are also a number of sites to check out when in FUKUOKA. From the OHARI PARK and the castle ruins near it and also a number of shrines. One of the main places to visit though would be DAZAIFU. It's located a few stations south of TENJIN. AS such, you ride at the TENJIN station. Better to pick the express so that you won't need to change trains on the way there. If you're visiting DAZAIFU, please check out the KYUSHU NATIONAL MUSEUM. They are both connected by a long escalator and has an amazing view as well.
Another place to visit would be the ASAHI factory. The Asahi Factory offers a free tour of the plant that ends with free beer and snacks. You must make reservation at least a day before as they don't accept walk-ins. You could do this by calling them or through their website. I would suggest having your hotel concierge to make the call for you. It would be better to have an English speaking tour but slots are limited. If you don't have the time, you could still go and they'll lend you a translator. It's all fun seriously! Just remember take the subway or a taxi going there. If you take a bike or drive a car, they won't let you drink. Don't forget to visit DON QUIJOTE as well. This 24/7 "department store" offers a lot of food, items, appliances, and more that are duty free if you bring your passport. You could get items here for giveaways to your relatives back home. One thing about the stores in Japan is that if you reach a certain amount and you have your passport with you, they could give you a discount because of DUTY FREE. So remember to always bring your passport!
If you're thinking about a place to stay at, you might want to go for SUNLIFE HOTEL 2.3. This one is located just across the HAKATA STATION and you can't beat it for location and price. Since I traveled alone, this was suitable for me. I had a bed, clean shower, television, and wifi. Granted that the hotel room was pretty small but it was quite normal for Japanese standards. Plus, just across the hotel is a bus stop that you could ride straight to the International Airport.
Hope this helps you out.
If you want to ask for more tips or what, let me know.
I think I didn't want to write this post ever. That's why it's almost been a year since this happened and I'm here talking about it. Yep, this happened early in 2018. It was the last time I saw my friends collectively known as the KTG. It was shall we say, a despidida.
In true KTG style, there were tons of food. Left and right, you can get whatever your heart and tummy desires. Each one of us would definitely bring something to the residence of one of the greatest food bloggers in the metro. It was sort of like a tradition. A summer outing, almost every year, we would have a small party and watch the sun sets over the metro. Plus, we also get to swim and play on the trampoline.
There were lasagna from bhest which were pretty good. Nona's and Greenwhich were kind enough to send pasta and pizza as well.
There were tons of Filipino Styled Spag right there ready for the taking.
Of course, other Filipino food were on the table as well.
LEONARDO'S LECHON is always present when it comes to our little get togethers.
It's more than just your normal lechon. It's stuffed with tons of flavors and delicious meat like sausages and more.
The plaza, known for their delicious ham, also sent over some sweet stuff.
Waffles on a stick were there too. Waffable has been a brain child of the people behind some delicious restaurants around the metro.
To be truthful, I really didn't want to write about that day. April 28, 2018. Saturday. Thinking about it and even writing about it makes me homesick even more. I miss all the laughter, the stories, and most of all, the people that I have come to know and treat as my family. The KTG is more than just bloggers, writers, photographers, and foodies. To me, they are family. It just makes me tear up and cry like a baby every time I think about them and the stuff we went through.
I know it's already 2019, but I think I still needed to write about it. Just so that I remember everything. From the start, they were there. I don't know were this goes but heck. It was one hell of a ride.
Traveling alone has always been a thing with me. Last time I did this was when I visited LAS VEGAS for the very first time. I really didn't know anything and was really giddy about the trip. One of the few things I did enjoy about it was the freedom to choose where to eat. IN Vegas, food quality is never a problem. Granted that it may be quite expensive, there are some places that could make your taste buds jump but not lighten up your pockets.
Located in the COSMOPOLITAN HOTEL in LAS VEGAS, Tekka Bar is one of the few "stalls" in this mini food hall. It's basically a counter top Japanese Sushi Restaurant. IF you get pass the casino on the first floor head on up and you get to see the different stores and restaurants that might help you through the night.
You sit down and order what you want from the staff. They create it for you and place it on top of the napkins. I know it's a bit simple but the quality of the seafood was spot on.
It may be a little bit too much for some, but it's a steal for me. Going for the foursome, you get 4 different types of rolls. It's a set already and they serve it in order. One after another. The chef checks on you and only makes the next roll when you're done or about to finish with the one they just served.
You could definitely eat with your hands but I'd rather use my chopsticks. Although, they don't cut the rolls for you into small bite sized pieces, you could still handle it.
On the other hand, an affordable and open up until late would be SECRET PIZZA.
You go through a long hallway with no signs and you end up in a small pizza place. It has a few chairs that could be used by a few but it's basically where you get your carbs fix just before going home. They're open up until 5am, so it's a good place to visit after everything.
Pizza slices aren't as expensive but are quite simple as well. It's pretty good considering the price. Others just get a whole box of pizza on the way to their hotel rooms.
One of the best things that came out of Japan would be their version of noodles. I mean, they have different soup/broth based dishes that compliments their noodles. They even have a lot of types of noodles. Some are soba, some are curvy while others are just big. Big like udons. This thick wheat flour noodle is usually served with a simple yet filling broth. During my visit to Los Angeles, I was brought to one exceptionally good udon restaurant. ENTER MARUGAME MONZO.
MARUGAME MONZO is located in LITTLE TOKYO in downtown Los Angeles, California. When my family and I arrived, my uncle led us to this restaurant. There, we lined up for almost 45 minutes and saw how the line would go all the way past the building. This was a pretty good restaurant, I told myself. Seeing people queue for some food makes my tummy excited.
After getting in, we knew what to order. We started with some crispy chicken skin together with some beer. It was also pretty much exciting for me to use what little Japanese words I knew since the staff were Japanese. Thankfully, this wasn't like the other places I frequent that only specializes in one thing. Although when you look at the menu, they all point out to their udon varieties, MARUGAME MONZO also offers other Japanese Treats like TEMPURA.
If you're not up to stirring things up, you might want to go for the traditional UDON. Served with clear broth, the noodles were pretty good and the soup flavorful and filled with umami. Not too soft, I realized why. It's because they make them in house and cook it only when you order. You also get to see a staff member kneading and creating noodles through a glass window. The noodles are all handmade.
If you're more adventurous, MARUGAME MONZO has some other not so traditional udon dishes for you to try. If you're not up to the idea of something eastern, you might want to try out their MISO CARBONARA UDON. It's similar to the white sauce dish but it's noodles are chewy and big. Because of the udon, you get to enjoy a different mouthfeel with each bite.
If I were to pick only two dishes to try (and I'm saying it with a BIG IF), it would be the SEA URCHIN UDON and the MENTAI CREAM UDON. The sea urchin was filled with the flavors you might expect from uni. It's extremely creamy and smooth. On the other hand, MENTAI or pollock roe brings back good memories of when I visited Fukuoka. Mentaiko is a specialty of Fukuoka and this one delivers. Together with other seafood bits, it makes you want to eat more even after finishing the bowl.
Believe it or not, one of the most memorable, delicious, and affordable meal I had on my previous California trip was to a Korean Buffet place named BULGOGI HOUSE. Located on a corner with a huge parking lot, this Korean bbq buffet place is worth a shot.
We arrived fairly early and was able to see a huge hall with lots of banchan ready for the picking. Another reason why I liked this place was that the ventilation was pretty good and we didn't smell even after eating for almost two hours.
The spread was pretty decent. It had a number of carbs, vegetables, salads, fruits, and of course kimchi.
Ordering wise, you get to pick between menus. Either A, B, or C, you definitely get what you paid for. We opted to go for MENU A as it was the cheapest. Even so, the meats that they served were pretty good and is of quality. You could get three types of meat at any given time.
The beef was pretty good and well marinated. Personally, I prefer beef over pork but it really depends on you.
Cooking wasn't a problem as well as the wait staff would always check up on you and offer to change the grill when it becomes too dark or burned.
If you prefer more options, it would be better to check out B and C. They have seafood and other items to choose from.