Coffee Shop Review: Blugre’s Durian Coffechino

Yesterday, hubby and I had a date at SM City General Santos and he finally got to try Blugre’s Durian Coffee.  I mentioned this to him several times over the years since I first tried it when Manny Pacquaio first brought the Davao franchise to GenSan.

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The first Blugre outlet in GenSan was first opened in Pacman’s commercial building.  I think they closed that one down and moved it to SM when the mall opened.  This is the interiors of the coffee shop. It’s a tad cramped and it smells really stale inside the coffee shop.

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Durian Coffechino (Php150)

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The Durian coffee still had the smell and taste of Durian but not as strong as it was years ago.  That makes it a bit disappointing given this is something distinct about the product. And a cup of Durian cofffee is really expensive at Php150.  There’s a lot of residue at the bottom of the cup, so much so that it ruins the coffee experience.

Overall, the store is stale-smelling so they really should do something about that.  I wish there’s more of Durian in the coffee but otherwise it would do for a Durian fix for now.

 

 

 

Food Review: Don’s Original Spanish Churros

 

For this overnight-trip-turned-daytrip to Tagaytay, we made Solenad 2/3 as our last stop on the way back to Manila.  We were still debating if we were going to stay in Tagaytay for the night or not (though we later decided not to).

Going around Solenad 2, we were pleasantly surprised to find the mall finished and some stores operational already.  One of the stalls that caught our attention was Don’s Original Spanish Churros.

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Don’s Original Spanish Churros Menu

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The server putting on her gloves.

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The regular churros is about the length of the girl’s open palm as you can see her measuring and cutting in the photo.

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Original and Cinnamon (Mix) Churros) – Php79

We ordered the 8 sticks  of long churros in two flavors – Original and Cinnamon with the Chocolate dipping sauce.  The container is similar to Churreria la lola’s with 2 dipping cup holders.

2015-11-10 15.52.42The back of the churros holder.

Verdict:  I loved the crunchiness of Don’s Spanish churros, I think it could go for a bit more crisp on the inside so maybe lower the fryer a bit?  The chocolate dipping sauce while good (not too sweet) is too liquid…I wish it was more thick like Cioccolata (at Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros).  But this is  definitely a more inexpensive churros fix compared to La Lola (though I haven’t tried it yet)

#BucketList: Our Maldives trip in a nutshell

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Like everyone else who leaves the beach, the Maldives has always been on our travel bucket list.  A series of events led us to take a risk and book that last-minute flight to the Maldives for our week-long anniversary trip.

My husband and I like traveling together, not just to tick off some places in each our bucket lists but to enjoy these travel experiences together.  Since I’m the one with the OCD, my husband usually leaves the trip planning to me.  We have long ago, agreed to list of places we’d want to go to for our anniversaries, one of those places is the Maldives. While vacationing in the Maldives seemed like a distant dream before, reading about Rappler’s article “Maldives on a budget” as well as following Never Ending Footstep’s blog entries on “How to Travel the Maldives on a Budget“, stirred up a longing for the actual experience.

Taking heart from all the articles I saw online extolling the virtues of budget travel to the Maldives, I decided to do my research, work on a realistic itinerary and crunch numbers. It took a few weeks for me to scour the internet with feedback from locals who’ve been to the Maldives.  To help decide how to pin down our itinerary and budget, we had to pin down how many days we wanted to spend in paradise (forever would have been a great idea!), airline (the cheapest available of course!), whether we’d be willing to sacrifice an extra day each way for cheaper airfare but longer layover time, where we would be staying when in the Maldives (hostel, guesthouses, resorts or hotels??), and what we really wanted to get out of the trip, in terms of experiences.

We are perhaps the worse budget travelers nor will we even bother pretending that we are DIY travelers or backpackers.  In my younger days (back when backpacking was not even popular and booking trips via travel agencies was the usual way to go), I have done a lot of backpacking and camping with friends around the Philippines. Now that I’m older, I must admit, my body can’t take the same abuse anymore.  These days, we make plans to travel at the spur of the moment or a few weeks before the actual trip, mainly because our schedules are very unpredictable.  So what we do is  we usually bulk up our travel fund as much as we can during the year in preparation for the following year’s travels (we follow something like the 52-Week Money Challenge but we up the amount depending on where we’re planning to go), this means we scrimp as much as we can during the  year.  We eat out only on special occasions (not even fast food!) or sometimes once in a weekend, we buy our groceries in bulk, we plant our own vegetables, we save on utilities, etc.  We usually list the activities we want to do or sights we want to see for our place, make our trip itinerary with detailed budget and see whether we can afford such trip (trimming some activities along the way).

When you’ve spent weeks researching and reading about Maldives, you suddenly realize there’s so much to the country than just it’s beautiful white sand beaches and breathtaking underwater creatures.  Each article and blog I’ve read only fueled my interest and determination to visit the Maldives but at the same time, it added to the confusion and the what-seems to be a mounting checklist to tick off.

Following Rappler’s recommendation, we decided to give budget Tiger Airlines a go. In hindsight, I realized that “budget airline” isn’t necessarily true especially if you haven’t booked your flights under promo fare or you’re booking a trip at the last minute. In our case, Tiger Airways was the “cheapest” available flight for our target dates, of course we’d have to endure the long layover at Changi Airport Singapore.  Although we did pay extra (SGD48 per person) for TigerPlus which according to their website provides the following benefits: dedicated check-in, SATS Premier Lounge, priority boarding. One of the main reasons we paid extra for these items is because we wanted to see what the fuss is really about. More of Tiger Airlines and our flight details on a separate post.

So with our airline decided upon, we checked the dates around our anniversary to make sure there were available flights.  Working around the available flight schedules for our preferred dates, the length of travel time (including lay over time), the weekend (Fridays to Saturdays) being observed in Male Capital where we were touching down, as well as planning our itinerary to ensure that we would spend our last few days (as well as our anniversary date) at the island resort, we were able to come up with a workable 10D/9N itinerary.  To sum up our entire 10D/9N-day trip to the Maldives: we spent almost 2 days/nights for the round trip flights (MNL-MLE (via Singapore)-MNL) including layover times + Overnight stay at Male Capital (Sala Boutique Hotel) + 3 nights at the local island of Maafushi (Equator Beach Inn) and 3 nights at the island resort (Kurumba Maldives).

There were so many intricacies in planning our Maldives trip – from the logistics, how to get to each place, where to stay, what to do and where to eat.  Being the OCD person that I am, these were something I wanted to ensure even before we arrived in Male. For each place and activity, I wanted to set a budget mostly to reassure myself that we had enough cash in case of emergencies.

One thing’s for sure, if and when you decide to go to the Maldives, be sure to bring along your sun glasses, swimsuits, coveralls, a hat, sunblock and after-sun lotion!  The sun shines bright and hot everyday when you’re in the Maldives so sunblock/sunscreens and after-sun lotions will be your best friends. Most of all, sit back and relax and enjoy the beach.

So come join me as I reminisce on our Maldives trip in the next couple of entries, but for now here’s our Maldives trip in a nutshell.

Day 0 – Manila to Singapore (Singapore layover 7 hours)

Day 1 – Singapore to Male (Arrive Male 11am) / Overnight at Male

Day 2 – Male to Maafushi / Overnight at Maafushi

Day 3 – Maafushi

Day 4 – Maafushi

Day 5 – Maafsuhi to Male (for ferry to Kurumba Resort) / Overnight at Kurumba

Day 6 – Kurumba

Day 7 – Kurumba

Day 8 – Depart Kurumba / Male to Singapore (Singapore layover 5 hours)

Day 9 – Singapore to Manila

 

 

 

Kurumba Maldives: Beachfront Deluxe Bungalow

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Entrance to our room – Bungalow 253

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Beachfront Bungalow

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Beachfront Bungalow

View of our room from the outside. Veranda has outdoor table and chairs as well as outdoor daybed perfect for daytime reading.

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Beachfront with our designated sunbeds + Kurumba reusable bag to keep our borrowed snorkeling gears

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Each bungalow has outdoor table and chairs.

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Outdoor daybed.

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This is the ashtray and trash bin just along our beach front.

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King-sized bed with super comfy pillows and linens

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A cute stuffed dolphin to remind us about being environmentally friendly with our towels and linens.

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Beautiful high ceiling.  Ceiling fan is available in case the a/c is not enough on really hot days – not that we ever needed during our stay.

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Day bed next to the desk

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TV with DVD player.

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This is the area behind the bed where the mini bar, vanity table and closet are located.  To the left is access to the indoor and outdoor shower.

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Room mini bar along with the coffee, tea and hot chocolate-making facilities.

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The complimentary items are the 2 1-liter bottles of water (of course), Nespresso pods, milk assorted packets instant coffee, creamer and sugar and green tea as well as Van Houten hot chocolate packs and cookies.  These complimentary items are replenished twice a day – during the day during housekeeping clean up and evening during turndown service.

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So in love with the Nespresso coffee machine and the Nespresso pods they generously refill at least twice a day.

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Addicted to the Van Houten hot chocolate packets…I am not ashamed to say I snuck them (as well as my remaining unused Nespresso pods!) into my luggage twice a day for my supply back home 🙂

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Next to the mini bar is the closet where we have 2 bathrobes, beach slippers, the iron and ironing board.

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Hangers, laundry bags, hair dryer and a large beach bag (to carry the beach towels and snorkeling gears we borrowed from the recreation center)

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Vanity table where the “Make your own cocktail bar” is also located (this includes cocktail mixer/shaker, assorted cocktail glasses and cocktail mix guide).

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This is the other side of the door along the closet hall.

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Bathroom has double vanity, indoor and outdoor shower and a bathtub. Ample bath towels, hand towels and face towel provided as well toiletries including facial tissue and cotton balls.

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This lavatory is the main one we used everyday.

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Molton Brown amenities – love the scent (a mix of vanilla and coconut that just soothes and relaxes).

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Kurumba provides decent shaving kit for men (I say decent because this is still disposable razor but one that is really cute).

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This is one of the doors that lead to the outdoor shower.

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The indoor bathtub with view of the outdoor shower.

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Outdoor shower and bamboo rack for wet clothes.

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The other side of the huge bathroom which has the laundry basket, water closet as well as the other vanity complete with handsoap and cotton balls/pads and facial tissue.

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The water closet.

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Perfect view of the sea and sand from inside our room.  Our little piece of heaven.

Each room (regardless of room category) has assigned outdoor sunbeds with the room number so you’re always assured of having a sunbed to use anytime of the day.

Our room was perfect mainly because the other beachfront bungalows on both sides were a few meters away so it was like having our own private beachfront.and our room was also close to one of the outdoor water gazebos which made it perfect for taking photos of the beautiful sunrise or sunsets everyday.

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Stunning Sunrise on the morning of our anniversary

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View from our sunbeds…one of the outdoor water gazebos that surround the island resort.

Restaurant Review: Butao-Causeway Bay!

For my birthday dinner, it was a toss between Butao and Ippudo at the Causeway Bay area and given all the raves we heard and read about Butao, we decided to try the former out. So we left our hotel in search of Butao around 6:45PM. By the time we found the alley, there was already about 15 people ahead of us. Not bad considering there were talks about really long line. Turns out they were right, the line we were on was actually the second line!

Butao waiting line

After about 20 minutes of standing in line, a guy in black and wearing an apron, came out and started handing out order sheets and taking orders. Our turn came and we asked for the English order sheet so the guy skipped us and went back in a few minutes later. Even though I already knew what I was going to order, I still wanted to see their menu in English.

Butao Menu
Butao English Menu

Butao Service Sheet
Butao Omotenashi Sheet (Service Sheet)

I figured since everyone was lining up and willing to wait this long, there really must be something about their ramen that’s worth all the fuss and wait, right? RIGHT??

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Peek at the Butao Kitchen from the outside while waiting in line

Huh. The wait for the much-raved about ramen ended after 1.5 hours of standing in line. Hungry and cranky, we were ushered into the last table inside this teeny tiny restaurant. We sat in a cramped table along with 3 other people and a few minutes later, two bowls of ramen were plunked unceremoniously in front of us; two glasses of water followed and that was the extent of their service. In the middle of the table was a container of chopsticks, toothpicks and assorted condiments (such as pepper, garlic cloves with garlic press, vinegar, etc) which we didn’t bother to try.

B ordered the Original Butao ramen as he didn’t like a lot of fuss in his food and he wanted something he was sure he would eat.

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B’s order: Original Butao (HKD80)

Butao King
My order: Black King (HKD90)

I ordered the Butao King with normal taste, light infused oil and light garlic as well as the complimentary BBQ pork and cabbage.

B didn’t have much of a comment on his order. I guess he was too hungry. I never got to taste his ramen as I assume the broth is the only thing different between our orders. I have always liked all dishes that use squid ink and I had high hopes that this was one of those dishes (let’s not forget that everyone was positively raving about the Black King). I was sorely disappointed. While the broth itself was aromatic, the “black ball” and the garlic got to me so quickly that I couldn’t even finish half my bowl. I ordered my ramen light on both the oil and garlic but given that I was overwhelmed with it at that rate, I could imagine what normal must be like! The noodles were good but nothing to rave about. While other people like the umami taste of the ramen (or their food in general), B and I had no affection for it. We were left dried-mouth and thirsty.

This was one of those rare times that I absolutely couldn’t finish my food since I became an adult. B bravely finished his bowl of ramen, maybe because he was THAT hungry or maybe because he hated to let an expensive bowl of noodles go to waste. Since he didn’t like squid ink, he didn’t bother finishing my bowl. As soon as we were finished, we paid and left in a hurry.

As we walked along Times Square, the strong aftertaste of what we ate remained in our mouths. I think we finished off almost a liter of soda and water just to wash it off.

While it’s always good to experience whatever food hype and craze that goes on, it’s always good to take these raving reviews with a grain of salt. After all, one’s taste bud is different from another. This is certainly proof of that. As for B and me, we certainly don’t feel that the 1.5 hours of waiting and standing in line is worth the time and effort for 2 bowls of ramen. But again, that’s just us.

Address: Butao Ramen, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Date Visited: July 11, 2013 (Dinner)
Food/Beverage: 2
Service: 3 (Well, they did hand out fans for us to use during the long wait)
Place: 3
Overall Value for Money: 2

Restaurant Review: Breakfast of Buttery Goodness at Lan Fong Yuen

We were at Central yesterday and couldn’t locate Lan Fong Yuen so I was quite happy to see it at the Shun Tak Center (Sheung Wan) Ferry terminal. Since we weren’t able to buy our ferry tickets to Macau for the day, we decided to take the morning easy and have a quick bite at Lan Fong Yuen. This particular branch requires a minimum of HKD20 per person but it’s not so hard to reach though.

Lan Fong Yuen
Lan Fong Yuen Entrance at the Shun Tak Center

While Lan Fong Yuen servers don’t speak English, you can easily point out what you want from their menu and if what you want isn’t available, he’ll grunt and shake his head and point to a different item in the menu. That’s sign language at its best. After your meal, you’ll get your tallied bill on your table so you can just pay at the cashier on your way out.

Lan Fong Yuen Menu
Lan Fong Yuen Menu

I was quite disappointed that they were out of their ever popular porkchop bun, so we settled for the BBQ pork bun, a cold milk tea and a Hong Kong-style French toast to share.

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BBQ pork bun and cold milk tea (HKD35)

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Hong Kong-style French toast (HKD19)

The BBQ pork bun was decent and surprisingly, the bread isn’t stale! The cold milk tea was refreshing. But it was the French toast that was the highlight of this meal. Only two words to describe it – buttery goodness! I wish we didn’t order the pork bun and instead had 2 extra French toast. Or maybe three more of this yummy French toast.

All in all, it was a quick meal. In and out in 30 minutes, no waiting in line. Not bad since we had a lot of things planned for the day.

Address: Lan Fong Yuen, 3/F Shun Tak Centre, Connaugh Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Date Visited: July 11, 2013 (Breakfast)
Food/Beverage: 4
Service: 3
Place: 3
Overall Value for Money: 4