New Philippines Restaurant to Open in London

I have just heard that a new Philippines restaurant will open in London. This is great news because I won't have to travel halfway around the world to get my fix of dishes like Adobo.

The new restaurant is opening for a 3 month trial run at first, before deciding whether to invest in a property next year. My guess is that they will have great success because there are many immigrants from the Philippines in London. And we know how much Filipinos love their food.

Luzon restaurant is going to be serving a kind of neuvo Filipino cuisine by the looks of it. The video below should give you more insight. I am thinking of it as modern fine dining Filipino style. Sounds exciting to me.

 

This new Filipino restaurant in London isn't alone. There are other choices serving Filipino cuisine. Luzon restaurant looks like it is going for a much more "cutting edge" approach to set itself apart from the competition. The decor is really cool and industrial looking. The dishes look very modern and well crafted. The chef is of course a Filipino.

There are many thousands of Filipino people living and working and raising families in London. I believe they will find this place to be a great addition. It opens on the 6th August and then will open for lunch and dinner every Thursday and Friday for 3 months. My mouth is watering already after watching the promo video.

Boracay Beaches Eroding but Still a Paradise Island

Boracay is an awesome island with white sand beaches. However there is often too many tourists as well as environmental problems. Therefore you need to choose wisely when to visit and where to stay.

Over the festive season and Holy Week the main White Beach is too busy. From February to April the water on white beach has algae, making swimming unpleasant. The northern section of White Beach is also eroding either due to natural currents or climate change.

Boracay White Beach eroding in Station 1 March 2015


The second best beach on Boracay used to be Diniwid, just north of White Beach. However this once idyllic bay is now also a victim of erosion. See below for a recent photo which was not a nice picture to take...

Diniwid Beach eroded and covered in algae March 2015
However, despite these issues, most of White Beach is great for most of the year. The best time to visit is probably January, when temperatures are not too hot and when the festive season crowds have thinned out. Plus the algae season will not of arrived. If you do land in algae season be sure to visit Puka Beach in the north.

Boracay Sunset March 2015
One thing that Boracay will never lose is awesome sunsets. Boracay sailing is one of the best ways to enjoy a sunset, either on a local paraw (simple sailing boat) or luxury yacht (the ultimate sailing experience with food and drink). It is a must to go sailing at least once at sunset. The rest of the time you can just relax on White Beach with a happy hour beer in your hand.


Edit 2017: We have an updated post about the island at Gay Boracay




Boracay Travel Update March 2015

Boracay is busier than ever, both with guests and new construction. The algae is here big time. March 2015 is not the perfect time to visit the island. The best would of been a month ago with clear water and lower temperatures.

The north of White beach in Station one is eroding badly. Diniwid Beach looks awful with the tide out, as does most places really. As a former resident, I don't miss the place. There are new shanties, we have heard there may be some tuberculosis going around by an expat too.

Boracay algae March 2015 in Station 3 (south end of White Beach)

Top 5 Best Malls in Manila

This is a post on my favorite malls in Manila. I have been in the city on and off for 5 years so this is the culmination of my experience visiting one or two malls each week over this time.

1st Greebelt in Makati

best mall in Manila Greenbelt
Greenbelt is the best mall in Manila in my opinion. It is  a row of restaurants and stores set around an outdoor garden area. This makes it unique as most malls in Manila are simply big block buildings with no greenery or outdoor areas. This makes Greenbelt a great place to dine outdoors, especially at night when the palm trees are lit up very nicely. There are ponds and lovely landscaping at Greenbelt.

The stores are international on the whole, with some local (more reasonably priced) ones in the oldest Greenbelt 1 section. The most exclusive stores like Gucci are located in the most recent addition at Greenbelt 5. There is a plethora of international cuisine to choose from. You will also find an excellent cinema complex in Greenbelt 3, I personally prefer the 2D screens which are like watching a high definition TV. There are older screens in Greenbelt 1.

There is a semi-outdoor church in the garden which seems very popular at times. There aren't many bars at night but you will find a good place for a drink. For a hip crowd playing quality dance music M Cafe is the place to be in Greenbelt 4 or 5. There is also a live music venue on the 2nd floor of Greenbelt 3.

2nd Mall Of Asia in Pasay

2nd best mall in Manila- MOA
Mall of Asia is also known as MOA. This enormous mall is one of the largest in Asia. You will find all of the expected shops you would expect to find here. You will also find all of the major food chains too. There are department stores and lots of specialist stores too. For example there is an area for electronics.

MOA is located on the edge of Manila Bay. The Bay Walk is a pleasant area for a stroll, especially at night when it comes alive with bars with live music. You can choose fresh seafood at small market stalls and have it cooked in one of the restaurants. On Thursdays and Saturdays there are fireworks. There are also various rides for kids too.

There are plenty of activities at this modern mall. This includes a center piece ice skating rink. There are also cinema screens including IMAX, plus ten pin bowling, video game arcade and billiards tables. This is the best mall for families and it is common to spend the whole day here.

3rd Powerplant Mall in Rockwell

The Powerplant Mall is new and modern. It has a fairly basic rectangular layout but it just seems to work well. There is a decent selection of stores here and not many bargains to be found. The lower level is designated for restaurants. There is a nice selection available and often someone is playing the grand piano which is a nice touch The Rockwell area is rather posh and this spreads inside. The Rustans supermarket is excellent for international and deli items.

4th Greenhills in San Juan

This is the place to go if you are looking for a bargain. It is a large complex split up into different sections. You will find low priced clothing and much more here. There is a whole floor inside the V Mall dedicated to computers. It can get pretty busy here so best to visit at quieter times. You will find that you money goes 10 times further than in somewhere like the Powerplant Mall.

5th Robinsons in Malate

Robinsons Mall in Malate is a large mall which has been added to over the years. There is the usual range of eating and shopping establishments. There is nothing spectacular about this one which is why it is not further up this list of the best malls in Manila. It is however a convenient place to shop and dine. Close by there are plenty of bars which come alive at night for live music.

Others worth mentioning:
SM Mega Mall in Ortigas is a very large complex which offers a great variety of shopping options.
Robinsons Galeria in Ortigas is a medium sized complex which has a convenient area of sports stores.
Market Market! in Fort Bonifacio is a pleasant place with a good variety of cheap and brand name shopping options. Close by is the upscale High Street which features nicer shops and restaurants.
Cash and Carry and Waltermart are both smaller options in Makati for a quick shop.
Glorietta connects to Greenbelt in Makati and features large department stores and loads of shops.

New Boracay Hotel Rooms Beachfront at Ti Braz French Bistro



Ti Braz beachfront hotel rooms in Boracay now open

The famous Creperie and French Bistro Ti Braz has now opened up 2 hotel rooms above the restaurant. Ti Braz has been a travellers and locals favourite for a long time. This is thanks to the perfect location just north of the busy area of D'Mall (on the border of Station 1 and 2), and the excellent service.

The sand is very white at Ti Braz, the beachfront features the most comfortable beach loungers on the island. The restaurant serves fine dining French cuisine as well as moderatley priced dishes like crepes and filipino specialities.

Ti Braz also has an excellent cocktail list and extended happy hour which is perfect for sunset. The 2 rooms are decorated in the classy, elegant style of the restaurant. The rooms don't have a balcony overlooking the beach, but patrons can literally walk down the stairs and be on the white sand in seconds.

The simple but stylish rooms are tastefully decorated and each has a flat screen TV and DVD player. The Ti Braz hotel rooms are perfect for people that want to be as close to the beach as possible, in a nice location, just minutes from the busy areas of Boracay.

Ti Braz Hotel Rooms Pricelist:

  • Low Season: til Sept. 30, 20101 Queen: P1,8002 Queen: P3,300
  • High Season: Oct. 1, 2010 to May 15, 20111 Queen: P2,6002 Queen: P4,900
  • Peak Season: Christmas/New Year – Dec. 20, 2010 to Jan 4, 2011; Chinese New Year – Jan. 31, 2011 to Feb. 8, 2011; Holy Week – April 18 to 251 Queen: P3,2002 Queen: P6,000

Ti Braz Hotel Rooms Ameneties:

  • Hot & Cold shower
  • Air Conditioning
  • Ceiling Fan
  • Beach Lounge Beds
  • Beachfront access
  • LCD TV with Cable and DVD player
  • Wifi access in restaurant
  • Limited Room Service
  • Standby Generator

For more information visit---> Ti Braz Hotel

Thinking of having a tattoo done in Boracay?

Getting a Tattoo in Boracay


Tattoo artist Grisha Maslov 2010Image via Wikipedia

There are lots of tattoo studios in Boracay, many offer henna tattoos. These are temporary tattoos, most commonly applied in tribal designs, prices start as low as 200 Pesos. Boracay hotels are used to replacing sheets that have been stained with henna tattoos, so be aware that you may get an extra charge on your bill if you ruin the bed sheets or towels. Hennas are painted on the skin with special paint, they last around 2 weeks. Real henna ink is brown but the ink used on the island is black.

Real tattoos can also be found on Boracay, there are at least 5 studios along white beach. Reputation is important as this is a permanent thing, so it is best to get a recommendation from someone that has used a particular artist before. Boracay tattoo artists charge very different prices, for example foreigners may get ripped off at a busy place such as Noels in the busy area of Station 2. The best advice is to go in with a local so you get the real price, or at least get a quote off a few studios so you get a feel for what is a fair price.

All studios will use clean equipment but it is still worth asking to make sure they will be using new needles. The most famous studio is Yanniks which is beachfront in station 3, but there are also good artists elsewhere. It is definitely worth visiting a few shops and they will happily make you a design before you have to commit. Take note of the aftercare advice as it is easy to get a tattoo infected on the beach climate. Swimming after a permanent tattoo should be avoided for a few weeks and the artists will advise you of the best cream to use which should be applied for a week or two.
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Boracay Hotels and Resorts, cheap to expensive options

Boracay Hotels and Boracay Resorts suit all budgets...


The great thing about Boracay is that there are hotels and resorts for all budgets and tastes. Boracay Philippines hotels are spread across the island but the majority are located on White Beach which is the main stretch. At around 4 km long, White Beach has a hotel or resort for everyone. There are 3 areas named after the old beach docking stations 1 to 3:

Boracy Hotels in Station 1:


The hotels and resorts at the northern end in station one are generally the higher class ones. The sand is whitest here, like a powder. At the far end of station 1 is Discovery Shores which has just been included in a top 15 list of Asia, it is a top class resort in a quiet area. There are lots more including the new Palm Springs, White House, Boracay Beach Club etc... Expect to pay 10,000 Pesos or more in this area.

Boracay Hotels in Station 2:


Station two is central and the busiest part of the beach. This is where D'Mall is situated and many shops and restaurants. For those that want to be close to the action, station 2 is the place to be. There are all types of resorts with some of the more popular being Boracay Regency, Tides, Red Coconut. Some may find the area a little too busy especially in the peak season but these Boracay resorts and hotels are very conveniently situated.

Boracay Hotels in Station 3:


Station three gets quieter the further south you go. Backpackers flock to the southern area for places like Daves Straw Hat Inn. There are more expensive options too like Boracay Sands and Hotel Isla. There are limited eating options in station 3 but many love the fact that life feels slower in this area.

Other notable resorts on the island include Shangri La in it's own large grounds in the North West of the island. This Boracay resort is the cream of the crop, definitely the place to stay for a Boracay Honeymoon. Golf lovers will want to stay at Fairways and Bluewater in the north east. Golf buggy carts are a fun accessory here. On Diniwid beach cliffs is the impressively located Nami Resort but the elevator may scare some people.

Kiteboarders will want to stay at a hotel on the East side of Boracay. Hotels on Bulabog beach cater for long term backpackers and there are some nicer places like 7 Stones. The beach is usually rough here so it is really just an area for those interested in water sports.

Moving to and Living in the Philippines, some basic info for those considering a life in paradise...

If you want to move to and live in the Philippines, it can be daunting so here are a few of the basic questions I was asking when I considered the move:



What is the visa situation for people moving to the Philippines?
If you will not be working in the country then most people will get the normal 21 day tourist visa. It can be extended at the airport to 59 days but I recommend against this. After a day travelling from the UK I found it a real pain dealing with this. If staying in Manila you can visit the Intramourous Immigration Office within 21 days. They will extend it to 59 days and some extra (up to 2 months extension). After this the visa will need renewing every 2 months for a fee of around 3000 Pesos. You may need to leave the country for a day after 18 months or 2 years.

If you are retiring or working in the Philippines, you will need to apply for the relevant visas. These will be long term visas but involve more cost and effort to set up.

I have found provincial immigration offices to be faster than the one in Manila, which is worth considering if your travelling around. Fore example it took me 10 minutes in Subic and Palawan, in Manila is has been as quick as 20 minutes or as long as 2 hours. Getting to Intramouros can be a 2 hour+ round trip from Malate or Makati.

How to I get all my stuff to the Philippines?
Long haul airline usually accept checked baggage of 25kg or 30kg, which is a very large suitcase. Weigh it at home before getting to the airport in your country or you will be dumping books and toiletries like I did in the airport. They also allow 5-7kg of carry on luggage so make use of that (small suitcase). If your really pushing it you can wear heavy items and put them in the carry on bag once you have checked in.

Shipping things is expensive and can take a lot of time. It is better to take the essentials on the plane and buy large items when your in the Philippines. The post service is awful in the Philippines and they love to open packages and charge customs tax. So if you must send anything remember not to send new items, and use a quality shipping service.

How much does it cost to live in the Philippines?
Although the country isn't rich, costs can be higher than you would expect. If you stay in a city rent will be much higher than in a province, depending on the area. For example a condo in Makati is likely to be triple the price of one in a province. The country is hot and sticky and that means that air con costs can easily be $150 a month if you like it all the time. Try and pick an apartment with good ventilation to lessen air con costs. Apartments in popular areas of Manila like Makati start at 20,000 Pesos for a studio.

Imported western foods are usually more expensive than in the west too. For example a tin of Heinz baked beans costs almost $4, so beans on toast will be an occasional gourmet meal. If you are happy to eat local dishes it will cost less than a dollar for a home cooked meal. Beer is quite cheap if you buy local brands. The cheapest being Gold Eagle which is $1 for a big litre bottle, you return used bottles to avoid paying 5pesos extra each time. The excellent local Tanduay rum is less that $2 for 750ml.

Basically if you live away from the city, don't use too much aircon, and enjoy local food and drink, the cost for 2 people can be as low as $20,000 per month. There will always be extras like travel expenses, appliances (similar price to the west), visas etc...

Scuba diving in Philippines, 5 of the best Pi diving destinations

The Sanctuary, Apo IslandImage by dachalan via Flickr There are over 7,000 islands in the Philippines and the weather is tropical. So naturally it is a place for scuba divers to enjoy. Many places are not great because of fishing methods but there are some amazing scuba diving destinations in the Philippines. Here is our top 5:

1. Apo Island is an island near Negros. It is a tiny volcanic rock that has some of the best diving not only in the Philippines, but in Asia, and possibly the world.

The reason it is so good is because it is remote and protected by a marine sanctuary. Visibilty is excellent and the area is home to various big fish as well as beautiful corals. It is accessed from Manila via Dumagete Airport.

2. Coron Bay is world famous for its wreck diving. The area is home to many spectacular ships which are still largely intact. The area was a base for many ships that were sunk in World War II. Visibility isn't always great but the chance to swim inside these ships is worth a visit.

3. Anilao is the nearest spot to Manila. It is a few hours drive from the capital to the Batangas province. The area is home to the famous Cathedral Rock in a marine sanctuary. The area has a good variety of life under the sea.

Other top spots include Puerto Galera, Camiguin, Malapascua and Moalboal (both in Cebu). There are many more places in the Philippines for scuba divers to visit. If taking a long vacation it is worth mixing things up by visiting a few places.


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Airlines of the Philippines reviewed

Cebu Pacific is the largest domestic airline in the Philippines with over 45% of the market share.

Our opinion: This is the airline we always check first, it flys to many destinations, has reasonable prices and the on board staff are excellent. Deffinitly our top choice, delays are regular especially with flights later in the day. We suspect this is because they give very little time in between flights, so any delays build up through the day, however given that this airline isn't premium priced we can't expect exact times- international flights will always get landing priority so a few extra circles of Manila before landing is ok with us. We have heard reports of bad customer service but haven't experienced them yet.

Fleet size: 28

Commenced operations: 1988

Website: http://www.cebupacificair.com/

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PAL - Philippines Airlines has flown almost 5 million passengers and is the 2nd biggest domestic carrier in the Philippines.

Our opinion: We have only flown with this airline twice. The whole company seems to be the most professional, from the ticketing office to the whole efficiency. Including ques at airports, we have often glanced over at their desks from our long ques for Cebu Pacific. They always seem empty, maybe it was just a slow flight or maybe they are really more efficient?

Fleet size: 46

Commenced operations: 1941

Website: http://www.philippineairlines.com/home/home.jsp

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Air Philippines - Airphil Express is the 3rd major airline in the Philippines, it is a sister company of Philippine Airlines.

Our opinion: We didn't realize this was a separate company to Philippine Airlines as they have such similar names. It seems they are more focused to smaller domestic routes.

Fleet size: 10

Commenced operations: 1995

Website: http://www.airphilexpress.com/

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Zest Air was previously known as Asian Spirit, the change took place in October/November 2008.

Our opinion: This is a re-vamped version of the old Asian Spirit airline and so far we have been very un-impressed. However this is the only company we have had to contact their customer service, so this may sound biased but it is merely our experience. This is a flashy new airline with a new look, and a nice new Makati ticketing office. They are the only arline not allowed to fly to Caticlan (for Boracay) because of 2 crashes. We dug deeper online and found some information on a pilots forum that suggested their planes and pilots are not up to scratch.

Fleet size: 7+

Commenced operations: 2008 (1995 as Asian Spirit)

Website: http://www.zestair.com.ph/

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SEAIR is the smallest of the 5 airlines. This is the only airline offering scheduled flights to El Nido in Palawan.

Our opinion: This is a small well established and well run airline, and it can be quite an experience to fly in one of their small planes. The cockpit is in view, the captain opens a drape to explain the flight and off you go in an old proppelor plane. Its a new and exciting experience for people used to flying on modern jets, but might be scary for new travellers.

Fleet size: 11

Commenced operations: 1995

Website: http://www.flyseair.com/