Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quirk Overload: Singapore's Kki Sweets and The Little Dröm Store

In my last post, I fell in love with sexy and dramatic Scarlet Hotel. I arrived the night before, and I was tempted to stay in, but good thing I had the good sense to venture out. I knew I wanted to go to indie knickknack shop Little Dröm Store, located two minutes away on foot from my hotel at Ann Siang Hill. I didn't know it also shares space with Kki Sweets, a fine pastries purveyor.
my heart skipped a beat when i saw these signs. i scoped out
ann siang hill in my first morning in singapore. the place opens at 11 am
kki sweets share the premises with little dröm store. their cakes are lovingly made, and cute!

exhibit a: the little red riding hood. choco mousse encased in dark choco,
with raspberry center. moist, rich, and pretty

i had tea with my order.
the place has a very scandanavian design sensibility--
blonde wood, clean lines, but with a sense of humor

table top ornament. less is more

quirky knickknacks galore. it was difficult to choose a souvenir. felt like a kid again,
with all these nostalgia-triggers on display 
ultimately, this little cherub went home with me from singapore.

i thought my little angel, a kewpie doll, was a girl, until i noticed  his
pototoy. kewpies, as they are called, are based on illustrations
by rose o'neill that appeared in the ladies home journal in 1909

For my next post, I'll write about how I stumbled upon the Hainanese Chicken approved by Anthony Bourdain.

Kki Sweets
The Little Dröm Store
No. 7 Ann Siang Hill

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Traveling Solo: Singapore's The Scarlet Hotel

I've written about how I enjoyed my first solo leisure travel three years ago here. A handful of similar travels later, I decided it was time for my first solo out-of-the-country leisure travel, using my frequent flyer miles. I was supposed to go last January 2012, but for some reason or another I had to resched to late November.

If you're the handful of people following this blog, you'd know I have a peculiar way of traveling, like most people I guess. I splurge on the things I deem important (like hotels and inland transport), but I'm not above a good bargain (there's not a hawker center I didn't like). I don't feel smug, neither do I feel any less, because of the way I travel. What I can't stand are sanctimonious people who proclaim that their mode of traveling is more authentic than anyone else's. That's probably true, after all what they say reveals more of who they are, and what feels right to them, but I don't give a hoot. I maintain this blog because I want to share my love of traveling, and if this is of help to someone else, then well and good. Now on to the subject of this post.

Smart traveling involves a lot of planning (something I should do more, LOL). In the weeks leading to my departure date I accumulated a sheaf of clippings on the island-state, and one thing that stood out was to book this quaint boutique hotel, The Scarlet, conveniently located at Chinatown, and a hop and a jump away from the Maxwell Food Center and the vibrant bar scene in Club Street, which reminded me of Malate in the 90s. 

the morning after. the night before, a friday, my taxi deposited me at this corner.
i had to take a few steps to the left to reach the lobby. this was a quiet corner in a
happening area, but i decided to rest rather than go out. i liked early morning jaunts
when traveling. the less people, the better

christmas was quite upon us, and thus the decor. still, it was all about gothic drama.
one of the receptionists during my last day was a filipina. it's quite a comfort meeting
compatriots in strange places

my room! so excited

what could be gayer than this? my singapore-based told me as much.
what it lacked in size, my room made up in attitude

my welcome drink--blood orange italian soda. thankfully, it
wasn't that sugary at all. 

my favorite corner, where i'd scribble the day's events in
my diary and pore over  the receipts of my purchases
(not that i did much at all)

this could have been overdone, but they know when to rein in their maximalist tendencies

detail of the bathroom lighting

table lamp situation

muted colors tempered the exuberant details

this is my favorite design element--so witty!

just above the lobby

hotels with fresh flowers are always a plus

Let's just say that in spite of my teeny room, I love this hotel. Many rooms have no windows--luckily, I had one, so ask before booking. The hotel is near a few bars, but I was roomed in the quieter section, and so I slept soundly. Very accommodating staff, fast and reliable WIFI. Try the rooftop bar, if you're into it. I skipped that, opting to stay in my room, instead. Which is not a bad idea at all, staying in.

The Scarlet Hotel
33 Erskine Road, Singapore

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Peek at Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino

Fort Ilocandia bills itself as the only 5-star resort hotel in the northern Philippines. Sand dunes, a pine forest, black-sand beach, and buildings made of red bricks make this complex unique. It's also quiet and quite secluded. I'm here for work--the hotel can handily accommodate the seminars and conferences I manage. It's really grand, but a little too dark and dated for my taste. Obviously, this is not for the budget traveler. 

For breakfast, a must-try is the garlicky Laoag longganiza. For adventure junkies, you can ride the horses or the all-terrain vehicles, let off steam at the shooting range, or go surfing. 

the lobby. pictures of VIP guests stare at us from the walls
all i need are colonial-era costumes, and i'm set
what is it with hotels and koi ponds? 
this was taken 4 years ago using my camera phone. those bouganvilla vines
are lovely,  and they soften the look of the brick buildings

another photo from the archives

my room has a balcony, but i rarely use it. it was so humid outside.
i own a tv set as bulky as this one

blast from 4 years ago: early morning walk along the beach.
not recommended for swimming, though

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ilocos Norte Qick Day Tour 3: Windmills, a Church, and Restaurant Options

In related posts I wrote about visits to a dragon fruit plantation, the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, and the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. This is my last post for the series.

It was beginning to get dark, but we still have time to visit the Bangui Windmills. Imagine twenty wind turbines all in a row along the shore of Bangui Bay, facing the West Philippine Sea. The wind farm is located at the north-west tip of Luzon. 
Up close I find the windmills both eerie and beautiful 

this is to show how big the turbines are 
time to say goodbye to the windmills
We wanted to have dinner at Paoay's Herencia Cafe, but it was under construction. I'll just have pinakbet pizza next time. Right across, the baroque church, all lighted, was all the more lovely. 
the church and its distinctive buttresses on the side and at the back
Ilocano cuisine is very distinctive, with may of the dishes relying on fish paste for flavor. In Laoag, find time for meals at La Preciosa Restaurant. I love their crispy dinuguan and poqui-poqui

eating at La Preciosa felt like dining at one old, grand house
Saramsam is also a good bet. I love their bagnet.

love the quirky details
a wall is devoted to souvenir shopping
And that concludes the series on our quick trip around Ilocos Norte. There are still places we haven't been. Hopefully I'll get to write about them soon. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ilocos Norte Quick Day Tour 2: the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

In my earlier post, I wrote about our visit to a dragon fruit plantation and the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. Renting a van made this lightning visit very convenient, and having a knowledgeable driver navigate us through the old (the lighthouse) and the new (the plantation) sights made the trip worthwhile. Next on the agenda was the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, a place we've never been before, having only known it myself through the local edition  of Project Runway, where it served as inspiration for the work of one of the contestants.

The Kapurpurawan Rock Formation was located minutes away from the lighthouse.
Kapurpurawan refers to the "whiteness" of the exposed  limestone

To get to the rock formation, we had to walk through this 
At one point the trail was blanketed by the trees

the rocky coast of Burgos

We could have settled for this--stopping by the view-deck.
...but we soldiered on, going round the cliff to get a better view...
...and it was worth it!
We had to be careful--one false move and we'd plunge down here 
Allan was surefooted, and he earned this winning shot. Note the thorny twigs just below him?
They were placed there to prevent people from attempting to cross  the more perilous side
The exposed cliff provided many opportunities for cam-whoring. :-)

Some of us went exploring here, and saw some fish...
...and spindly crabs!

It was near-dusk when we returned to the van. The moon has already
made an appearance, but we still have one stop to go
Next stop: Bangui Windmills