Monday, September 21, 2015

Spiral Sofitel - the Luxurious buffet in Town

This is the first time I've had the opportunity of dining in one of the expensive albeit luxurious buffet in Town - Sofitel Spiral. Being one of the five star hotels in manila, they truly deserve to be the at the top of all buffets around the metro.

Spirals is not cheap. Being priced at P3,300++ tax inclusive with service charge per pax. They go up to P4,000 ++ during Sundays to include the cheese and wine feast. The price tag is commensurate to the selection available, more than enough that your eyes can feast upon. I was quite surprised that given the price tag, the place gets crowded which means that there are a lot who can afford such a hefty price tag. Good thing my brother has one of those membership cards that allowed him to avail of thee 50% discount per head, which mathematically means the price is at P1,700++ per head which is still quite pricey. But what the heck, this is not weekly activity and will just be once during special ocassions.

Prior to going to the buffet, it is must to give the promo voucher code and date to the reservations officer. This maybe done via email or dropping them a call preferably a week or a few days prior to the preferred date. Though they are not really strict but they would ask you to be in a smart casual attire: no short pants, flip flops, sandos or jerseys. But to be honest, there are a lot who doesn't really know how to dress up properly in such venues.But what can sofitel do for paying customers, right?

Anyway, going back the selection is huge with the following varieties: western, oriental (japanese, korean), mediterranean european, indian, filipino, huge variety of desserts (loved the fruits selection and the gelato). I would suggest not to binge on rice or anything heavy (with batters) since this will make you feel full early and just to eat in small portions to taste everything. Trust me when I say that eating in small portions, given everything in the buffet, will make your stomach bloat.

Note however that only water, coffee and tea are included in the buffet. Sodas, juices will be priced separately. Just to give an example: a canned soda will cost P250 which is ten times more that the outside price. But this is to be expected since you are in a five star hotel.

To sum it all up, I will give sofitel 4-1/2 stars for everything (food, service, ambiance) and five stars for cleanliness.
we were seated near the desserts / patisserie section

Be there earlier also to catch the spectacular view of Manila Bay's sunset.

outside the hotel by the bay just beside the pool.
Photo op taken but poolside is just exclusive for guests

Monday, March 30, 2015

Grab a Taxi vs. Easy Taxi

...and the winner is... Grab a Taxi.

I am not really much of a taxi-person. But when circumstances arise that I need to hail one, I prefer to use the free apps from my phone: Grab a Taxi and Easy Taxi.

To be fair, I have used Grab a taxi much more than Easy taxi. Have used grab a taxi in Kuala Lumpur and it also has its peak periods where getting a taxi really takes time. Maybe it was the location of pick-up that makes it harder there. But here in Manila, I have no problems using the Grab a Taxi taxi app. Well, there are glitches during peak hours but nevertheless, you are assured that you will get one. But again, it's in your luck if you get one quickly. And what's important is that you can give a feedback if ever you got a cabbie that irked you (example: confirmed to pick you up but never arrived).

I prefer to use these apps because I feel much safer to use them than hailing one that passes-by the streets. There are lots of modus operandis that pry on anyone but thet prefer to get single (one-only) passengers and prefer to pick-up females as victims or robbery (or) much worse, rape and robbery and murder - as you can see in current news.

I got quite disappointed with Easy Taxi because it is hard to get a cab from them, and comparatively easier to get one from Grab a Taxi. I wouldn't mind paying P70 on top of the meter fare as long as they will safely take me to my destination. I give my fullest vote to Grab-a-taxi because they never disappointed me.

This is one of the good uses, and advantage of having a pocket wifi with you.

S & R

This is the modern day makro except that it has more PX / imported goods, and besides, Makro has already gone it's heyday.

What I like about S&R is that there are imported brands that are not really present in the common groceries and supermarkets. As what a relative said, "para ka na ding nasa US". It's set-up is more of a warehouse club type and comparatively Bigger. That said, price wise, I really don't think it's cheap there. But when they go on Sale, that's when prices go low and buy-one, free one starts.

Another thing that really is good in S&R is the Food and Beverages section. The pizza is really that worth to queue for, as well as the burgers and calzones. But during weekends, it tends to have a long queue around 30 minutes or more in order for the food to be served.

S & R is really not pang-masa. But I think right now they are open for everyone regardless of the social statii, as long as they pay the Gold membership card.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Ikea - the one-stop shop for home concepts and designs

Everytime we go out for trips, we make it a point to visit ikea if ever it is present in that town or country we are heading to. The first time I visited Ikea was due to my numerous trips to Singapore in 2013. And I have to thank a colleague for introducing me to the branch in Tampines.

I absolutely loved Ikea because there are so many stuff you can find for home: furnitures, fixtures, accessories, utensils, etc. And what makes it unique is that the designs are simple yet modern, and definitely patented as coming from Ikea. I brought some kiddie stuff for my kid here in ikea. From party plates, cups, bowl, fleece blankets, bed sheets, etc. If I have the luxury to buy big ang bulky stuff to ship back home, I would defintitely have done that, especially the furnitures.

What I loved about ikea is that it's huge. It has two-levels of warehouse-type shop, and that the items are arranged per type. First area is the modular display of how they design small-sized spaces (condominiums) of course with the furnitures and fixtures used are theirs. Then there is the also kid's area that have toys (wooden), stuffed, kiddie rooms showcase,  kid's play area. They also have an area for the kitchen which have a huge selection of cooking utensils, dining stuff. The bedroom area (bed linens). Living room (arrangements) sofa wall-clock they even have stuff like batteries, and the last one has to be the ornaments and lighting fixtures. Lest I forget also the toilet and bath. What's wonderful is that they have tons of sale items and when I mean sale, it's really Sale. Where can you find a nice design wall clock that goes on sale for P30/piece (if converted to Local currency)? I bought one in 2013 and up to now, it still works perfectly fine.
My son enjoying his time in the kid's play area. Ikea-SG

Some stuff I bought in Ikea - Damansara

And what makes ikea spectacular in its sense is that after all the shopping and after paying for the stuff bought, there's a dining area that serves local delicacies and the "to-die-for" meatballs (i forgot already what it's called), the chicken wings (another one "to-die-for"), they also have pasta, bread and pastries and coffee which are affordable.

Trekking ikea you should allot yourself half-day and would recommend one-day if you are a newbie. Simply take it that one day is not enough to do everything in ikea, whether you are there to shop, window-shop or hang-around in the cafeteria.

I have gone to Ikea in Singapore and Malaysia and I've heard that majority of asian countries have one, when will Ikea plan to set-up one here in the Philippines? NCR to be exact? Many will hope that this should be anytime soon...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Pebble watch

I must admit that I am (secretly) an avid fan of wristwatches. I always make it a point to visit amazon for some online purchases every time a relative of mine coming in from the US of A for a vacation here in the Philippines.  Two years ago, I made an online purchase for an Ice watch. The year before that was an ipod nano watch. This time, I specifically had  my sights set on a smart watch, and this being Pebbles smart watch.
Black pebbles smart watch (black model)

What initially caught my attention is the ability of the watch to receive SMS from a Smartphone (in my case, it's an iPhone 4), and also to pick-up calls also from a smartphone. The smartwatch is paired with the iPhone via bluetooth and is controlled by the pebble app. The app is downloadable from itunes, as well as for android from google play.

What I did like about this smartwatch is the abundance of watch faces that can be downloaded for free from the pebble app. However, there are some apps available also that are to be paid in order for some functionality to work.  But for watch faces, I think whatever free and available is already fine.

Pebbles app: sample watch faces
Of course, some applications only work in the USA. It depends upon how the user would like to have, but for me, the watch faces featuring temperature readings are already fine. However, given these functions, the only pitfall I can see is the placeholder for apps in the watch which can only store a capacity of 8 applications. So if you need to add more watch faces, you need to remove some from the placeholder in order to accommodate the new installation.

Size-wise the pebble is quite small for a man's wrist but may be big for a woman's wrist. I am an avid fan of big watches and maybe pebble can have a bigger-sized smart watch. It would also be good if the pebble has a colored resolution apart from the typical black and white screen. Samsung's smart-watches are colored and has the capability to view websites from the wristwatch. But I guess having functionality like this would entail added costs which means higher price. 

Comparisons aside, the pebbles watch already serves its purpose of being a trendy smart watch with acceptable set of basic features. I like the colors (I have the black plastic one). 

I've got mine cheap at US$90 in Best Buy compared to P7,000+ (US$ 160) price here in the Philippines. I have to thank my Uncle for being generous to have given this to me as a gift instead.

...Thanks again, Uncle Lito!  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Gastronoms: Vikings eat-all-you-can buffet

This is the second time that I ate at Vikings and sadly, I did not really enjoy the experience. The first time was the best since I had no expectations whatsoever with this resto. To me, P1,000++ is already way too much to spend on single dining. Call me frugal but I just feel like it's way too much.

Vikings in MOA by the bay

Anyway, the first time I entered the resto in By the Bay (MOA), I had to admit, I was excited back then. This was during the delayed our celebration of my dad's birthday (because during that time, I was jet-setting) - pardon the social climber peg-ging. :) The first impression upon entry was the ambiance. It was clean, the lighting sets the mood for dinner, the backdrop by the window is Manila Bay which sets-up an exciting, albeit romantic view of the Manila Bay sunset. And sits perfectly as the backdrop for an eat-all-you-can set-up. Going back, there's a huge selection of foods that line up the buffet selection within the area. Name your pick: from chinese dimsums, japanese sushis, korean BBQ, pinoy por lechon, italian pasta, roast-somethings ang a huge-selection of sweets and pastries. Add also the huge line-ups of drinks, sodas, beer and coffee. People of all ages will truly enjoy the foods in Vikings. The first-time I did truly enjoy since as the old-saying goes, "mahal kaya lubusin kasehodang lumobo ang tiyan".

with the family (mom, aunt, me & wifey)

The second-time, which is just this past Chinese New Year and also as a send-off for my uncle and aunt, I did not enjoy it much. Maybe because if your body is getting used to the routines of not eating much and in rationed proportions, seeing an eat-all-you can buffet is no longer THAT appetizing. Not even if very tempting...Am I already a disciplined eater because of my diet?

Going back, as what I had mentioned earlier, Manila Bay Sunset backdrop is amazing sight to behold. I still remember when wife and I had our prenup shots taken in the exact same spot where this pic was taken.

Manila Bay Sunset as backdrop

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Family day in Robinson's Magnolia

The first time I saw this mall was during our visit to the hardware gurus in Gilmore QC to repair our desktop CPU and this laptop, since it was just one street away from Gilmore. At night-time this mall reminds me of somewhat like a mini BGC from the outside, but from the inside, it's mostly high-end shops with the exception of Robinson's department store and Toys R US, bench and penshoppe. I considered Sprinfield and Aeropostale as somewhat mid-pricey for my taste. I instantly loved this mall because there are tons to do inside and outside. Inside there are shops and restos that range from mid-high-end to not-so-highend. In fact right now, there are some shops that are on sale. I happen to have bagged some sale items from springfield and bench. What's good about this mall is that it is not really crowded, and from what I can see, only the residents nearby frequent the restos. I would suggest eating out at the basement restos for much more budget-friendly selections.

This mall somewhat reminds me of Sunway Pyramid in Kuala Lumpur, from the inside with regards to the stores, but from the outside it's totally different.

Outside they have an ice cream shop, coffee shops, pedal go-kart rental (which me and Toby absolutely love), Or you can just sit-down and rest on the staircases or flower pot near the grand fountain. There's also a kid's train that goes-around.

The mall is accessible from the LRT-2. It's basically in-between Gilmore and Betty Go-Belmonte stations. Which is nearer I am not really sure but from Gilmore I just walked going to it as just one street away. I think the street name is hemady, and this is corner Aurora Boulevard where the LRT2 trail is. There is also a condo development within the compound which is owned also by Robinson's, the Robinson's Magnolia. From what I can see it is not yet tenanted.

This mall is also a respite from someone like me who's already used to Greenbelt, Glorietta or even MOA. I would suggest that if you have to go to Gilmore for some techie stuffs, try to pass-by this mall. If you have kids, so much the better since they'll love it. One thing that's nice also is that the guards are courteous and the restrooms are clean.