Annecy: A Postcard Town

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Palais de L’Ile

It makes an absolute sense to visit the small, quaint French keepsake that is Annecy, when you’re already in Geneva.

The books detail Annecy with grandiose words and prose but words just don’t do it justice. It’s absolutely gorgeous and one of the most beautiful places in the world!

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Set along the scenic backdrop of the snow-covered French alps, Annecy is a classic styled old French town with architecture from ancient France and Switzerland, featuring even the 13th century Chateau d’Annecy – a castle which was once home to the Counts of Geneva.

You will also see 12th-century Palais de l’Île, located on a small triangular islet surrounded by the Canal du Thiou, it has been a lordly residence, a courthouse, a mint and a prison over the centuries.

Along the cobblestone streets, are boulangeries and patisseries that sell classic French pastries and delectable cured meats for cheap.

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We were able to try some authentic French crepes while walking around taking in the sights.

It’s one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the world and we will definitely be back someday.

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Milan Cathedral and the Holy Nail Relic

Months ago, I couldn’t be any happier to learn that I was going to Milan (for work)–the global capital of fashion and design. Like my previous trips, I did not have enough time to do an extensive research. Besides, I only had around 2 days to tour around; so I pretty much just visited the places around Duomo.

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A truly memorable experience when I visited the Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral on a Sunday. I was not required to pay the entrance fee because I attended the afternoon mass so I also did not have to join the long queue for tourists.

 

After the mass, I saw a lot people rushing to the altar, taking photos of the cross. I sat back and watched them as I took in the beauty of the 5th largest church in the world.


After 15 minutes, I got really curious why a lot of people were taking photos of the golden cross (and there are security who will stop you if you take selfies). I needed to satisfy my curiousity so I went up and talked to one of the security men (may I just say that Italians are indeed gorgeous hahaha). I asked what’s the history behind the cross…

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I found out that inside the cross is one of the Holy nails used during the Crucifixion of Jesus and also a fragment of the Cross. They say that the relic is only exposed for the public once a year (not so sure if it’s just for a week or the whole month of September). So yeah, hashtag really blessed. Truly grateful for this experience!

Holy Nail (YouGotStamp copyright)

The security gave me a card with a close-up photo of the Holy Nail and an Italian prayer at the back. I can’t believe I was able to see this Holy relic in person. (Kindly not copy the photo without permission from the owner).

 

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D ❤

Taipei Night Markets

When I first found out I would be visiting Taipei for business, I didn’t have any idea what the place was all about. I always thought of Taipei as just another asian city.

As a Filipino, I needed a tourist visa to enter Taiwan, and I’m happy to tell you guys it was pretty easy getting one. No fuss really, it took less than an hour and I just had to pay a visa fee, no interview necessary. It cost $60 (around Php 2,000) which isn’t bad.

Which means people can acquire one without much effort. And that’s a great thing, because although I didn’t expect much from Taipei, the city completely surprised me, and is now among the top three asian cities on my personal list.

There are various night markets in and around the city, and they are all massive. Rows upon rows of different stalls of street food, boutiques and small pop-up stores that sell everything from trinkets to magnets, sit-down restaurants that serve authentic Taiwanese fare.

There’s just so much to see, do and eat at Taipei’s night markets, you better make sure you eat very little during the day to make room for all the food available at night.

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Taipei’s night markets are absolutely massive and there’s just a ton of people there nightly. It’s a great place to waste the night away and try a lot of different things.


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This is what they call the Taipei burrito. Obviously inspired by the classic California-Mexican creation, it has reached Taipei but they’ve made it their own, of course. It has thinly sliced grilled beef and crispy vegetables. The wrap is made of a light, crispy flatbread much like an Indian roti prata.


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This is what it looks like ready and it’s totally delicious. The outside is crispy and the beef is tender and juicy. It’s a little on the heavy side so it’s great for sharing.

The best night market in Taipei in my opinion is the Shilin (Xilin) Night Market, because it’s so vast and has everything you would need or want to see, but they are all very good nonetheless.

And it’s not just food either, there are a lot of different stores that sell pretty much everything — Nike basketball shoes, tourist-y souvenirs, among others.

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This particular store sells a bunch of hats. Most are locally sourced and made. Taiwan is one of the major manufacturers of apparel, and you can find them all here for cheap at the night markets.


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This store sells original Nikes! I got a pair of Jordans for less than a hundred bucks here, and they are awesome. Check the label on your Nike shoes, they’re probably made in Taiwan. And if you get them here, the price will be a lot lower.


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They even have these little games stalls like the ‘perya’. Pop a ballon and win prizes!

But back to the food.

The food is the highlight of this place. The famous stinky tofu. The crispy chicken. Ice cold pearl milk teas. Fried milk (yes, that’s right. Fried milk). They can all be found here.

There’s just so much to eat. If you love street food, Taipei is the place to be.

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Fried milk balls. Chewy, mily, crispy on the outside little balls of goodness. Eat on the go with a poky stick


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Various grilled meat made right on the street. Much like our ihaw-ihaw, these stalls sell pig and chicken innards but with a distinct Chinese flavor that’s also very delicious. Best enjoyed with an ice-cold beer.


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This is a lady selling fried potstickers on a portable stove with wheels. Streetfood is actually not allowed, but it’s become part of the city that the authorities just let the vendors do their thing. Sometimes though, when the police clamp down, vendors make a break for it. That’s what the wheels are for.

Make no mistake about it, Taipei is one of the best places to spend a weekend because of these night markets.

It’s just an amazing place to roam around and get lost in. And I leave you with more photos of glorious street fare.

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Candied strawberries on a stick. Again, built for eating on-the-go.


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Various dried fruit for sale like sour plums and pickled mangoes, all made specifically for snacking and nibbling on while enjoying the sites and sounds of your surroundings.


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A Chinese lady selling steamed dimsum. Authentic, flavorful and satisfying. That about sums it up.


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Don’t miss the Taipei Night Markets, especially the Shilin Market! It’s totally worth it and you won’t forget the experience.

 

 

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C 😎 

Tung Po Dim Siu Yi Restaurant

My friend who works in Hong Kong took us to this “restaurant” near her place. While walking, she told us not to expect too much about the ambiance and cleanliness but she promised us that the food there was excellent. We’re not really picky when it comes to choosing where to eat, so long as the food is great!

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Good thing we agreed to eat there because Anthony Bourdain (you know, the guy who has the best job in the world: travels all over and eats all the best food you can possibly imagine) happened to visit that same resto and featured this on his show.

So we arrived at the place and yes, those are actual photos of the same exact place where the No Reservations host dined in. If cleanliness is your number one priority when choosing a restaurant, I’m not sure you’ll be too thrilled to eat here.

Tung Po is located above a wet market in Java Road. There are a lot of restaurants on this floor — it’s very well lit, with lots of tables and chairs, a lot of hungry people (both locals and tourists), busy staff, and steam from freshly cooked dishes! It’s quite chaotic and noisy but that’s the beauty of this place, it’s a go-to place for those who want to drink and eat authentic, delicious Hong Kong food!

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Tung Po Dim Siu Yi’s menu

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We wanted to try a lot of dishes but we only chose 3.

There was a lot of interesting food on the menu but we only ended up ordering three dishes:

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One of the dishes Anthony Bourdain also tried, Squid Ink Pasta

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Spare Ribs

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Buttered Garlic Shrimp

 

You can watch the No Reservations episode about Tung Po here.

The squid ink pasta was palatable, with the noodles al-dente and the sauce nice and flavorful, but squid ink isn’t really my thing. It’s a great discussion piece however, and I’m sure people will appreciate its adventurous quality.

The pork spare ribs however was my favorite dish among the three. The authentic preparation and burst of flavor did well to satisfy our late-night craving after a day on the road.

And of course, who could dislike buttered garlic shrimp? The prawns were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. And the garlic — oooh the garlic — absolutely yummy. Nothing can go wrong with these three ingredients.

Make sure you drop by Tung Po Seafood Restaurant when you’re in the North Point area. They’re open until late at night and you won’t regret the decision to eat there.

Tung Po Seafood Restaurant 東寶小館

2/F Java Road Municipal Services Building
99 Java Road, North Point
北角渣華道99號渣華道市政大廈2樓
Tel:+852 2880 5224
MTR: North Point Station – Exit A
Tram/Bus: King’s Road, North Point Station stops

 

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D ❤

The Henry: Cebu’s Hidden Gem

Cebu is a foodie’s dream destination.

The quality of the cuisine combined with the sheer amount of it is simply amazing. The city just does absolutely everything, in the best possible way imaginable. Looking for a place to stay while you’re there? There are a handful of places you can choose from, but we found one that truly stands out.

It’s a place where the highest levels of relaxation and chic, modern artistry meet comfortably in the middle.

Location

Situated near Banilad Town Center and just 5-10 minutes away from Cebu Business Park which harbours Ayala Center, The Henry sits comfortably just off the main road, hidden from the bustling streets and placed inconspicuously in a quiet corner of the metro. Beside it is arguably the best spa experience on the island, and since the hotel is located smack dab in the middle of the city, it’s easy to get to and from virtually anywhere.

Room Quality

Room quality is one of the most important things to consider when choosing accommodations. Staying in Cebu is no exception. The Henry boasts a distinct harmony between form and function. The room designs are both modern in its concept and comfortable to the core. They are huge (really huge) rooms with loads of space. We got to try out the Big Room (smallest one) and the Extra-Large Room.

The Henry's BIG Room. We were supposed to get the X-LARGE room but it wasn't ready yet and they were kind enough to let us take this room first so we could rest while waiting to be transferred.

The Henry’s BIG Room. We were supposed to get the X-LARGE room but it wasn’t ready yet and they were kind enough to let us take this room first so we could rest while waiting to be transferred.

This is the X-Large room! Notice the insane amount of space they give you to relax in. Complete with a comfy couch in front of a flat screen TV.

This is the X-Large room! Notice the insane amount of space they give you to relax in. Complete with a comfy couch in front of a flat screen TV.

The rooms are intricately designed with each element carefully thought out and turned into works of art. The walls are painted with murals, the lighting is unique and modern and there are a myriad of different trappings that all add to the feeling that you are being whisked away to another place.

Room Inclusions and Facilities

Even their most modest offering boasts a decent living space with an oversized king bed matched with pillows that feel like absolute heaven. Their much bigger Extra-Large Room is equipped with a 2-piece sofa set and a feathered rug placed right in front of the 32-inch flat screen LCD for some tube surfing.

The toilets are equipped with rainforest showers and hot water, and you get your typical set of towels (hand and body), toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and conditioner). Both rooms have a mini bar stocked with the usual cold beers and sodas.

This little red guy is the first thing you'll see when you enter the hotel. We arrived around 4 in the morning and had an early check-in.

This little red guy is the first thing you’ll see when you enter the hotel. We arrived around 4 in the morning and had an early check-in.

Works of art line the hotel corridors. It's like walking through an art gallery all the way to your room.

Works of art line the hotel corridors. It’s like walking through an art gallery all the way to your room.

The mini-library offers some interesting reads you can lose yourself in. Pick your poison.

The mini-library offers some interesting reads you can lose yourself in. Pick your poison.

A Work of Art

Everything about The Henry screams unconventional. Works of art line its walls. The end result is an experience quite like no other. It’s as if you are literally living inside an art museum. There’s a mini-library available for you to pick up a book you fancy and lose yourself in some obscure corner. Whatever the purpose of your visit to the hotel, The Henry makes sure you are absolutely comfortable, every step of the way.

There’s just no shortage of beauty within The Henry’s walls. It’s like a being awake inside a dream that you never want to end. Needless to say, our stay at The Henry was a memorable one.

Room Service

Much in line with The Henry’s top-notch service which we’re absolutely raving about, Room Service is just as equally satisfying. The entire staff is very responsive and kind in handling requests. They are prompt in their timing and make sure that your rooms are properly made up every day.

You won’t find the usual buffet line for breakfast however, as The Henry serves set meals for early morning grub – which has its advantages, not the least of which is higher quality food. Buffet breakfasts are usually in place for you to load up on bland and tasteless carbs getting ready for a big day of touring. The Henry’s breakfast boasts class cuisine, placing emphasis on quality versus quantity.

Crispy fried Bangus with spiced vinegar, scrambled eggs and garlic rice - a Filipino classic.

Crispy fried Bangus with spiced vinegar, scrambled eggs and garlic rice – a Filipino classic.

Americano. Slices of toasts with Strawberry jam and fresh butter. Strips of bacon with scrambled eggs.

Americano. Slices of toasts with Strawberry jam and fresh butter. Strips of bacon with scrambled eggs.

The Verdict

They say a hotel is only as good as the type of service it delivers – then this is where The Henry truly shines. Everyone – from the security guards, to the front desk, to the cleaners – all displayed genuine helpfulness and attentiveness. They did their jobs with smiles on their faces from as soon as we stepped into the lobby to when we checked out.

This type of service really goes a long way in making people feel welcome. The Henry, although already a beautiful hotel on its own, increased its value tenfold with the amazing top-notch service they provided. Whatever you need, the staff will be there to attend to it. If you need a cab, they’ll go get a cab; a bottle of water, just ask; if you need anything at all, they’ll do their absolute best to grant your wishes.

It’s befuddling why not all establishments strive to provide service the way The Henry does. For all its inherent beauty and grandeur, the way The Henry goes to great lengths to see to it that their guests are satisfied with their stay is the real beauty of the place.

Stamped by,

C