Welcome, Ber-Months 2015!

Hey Lovely Peeps, I thought I was dreaming but it was real when I heard a Christmas song played over a morning TV show early this morning! As I glanced my phone, it reminded me of the date today, it's actually the first day of the “Ber” months, and it kicks off in SeptemBer! Yeah, right! 

I couldn't exactly define how I felt when I woke up. But the thought of the Ber-months, particularly here in the Philippines which actually means Christmas time is around the corner, created some sort of an emotional impact on me. Deep inside, there was like a mixture of joy, happiness and excitement but at the same time bothersome. Hmm, seems odd? I simply shrugged it off, but maybe the latter feeling could be attributed to the “oversleeping” last night or maybe the thought that there are still so many pending reports, blog articles and chores to be done or it could also be due to the fact that September is the birthday month of our loving Mom who is in Heaven (and Dad too) with God and could no longer be with us to spend the yuletide celebration. 

Café Macaron at Fairmont Hotel Makati
Café Macaron at Fairmont Hotel Makati (photo was taken last year)

For An Asian Traveler, the Ber-months would mean more fun articles to share with you, more stay-cations and travels to explore, more window shopping for all of us, more cheerful events and more wonderful moments to relish, bringing us back to those days when were like kids, like Peter Pan! Generally the “Ber” months make us happy, no matter what life brings. The Ber months are here to give us an excuse to celebrate with families and friends, and to admire and play with the colors of Christmas with the decors in malls, hotels, and in our homes too! Thus, on behalf of An Asian Traveler, we say, WELCOME “Ber” months!

Till next time,

The New Century Seafood Restaurant at The Century Park Hotel

After the so-called “ocular inspection” of the hotel, we accompanied our kin to the front desk area for their check out requirements and there we met up with the other family members who were ready to fill their almost empty tummies as it was already about 1:00 p.m.!

As soon as everyone arrived, we proceeded to The New Century Seafood Restaurant located inside the hotel's premises (adjacent to the Cafe at the Park) to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary! The couple were effectively “debutantes” as far as their marriage is concerned. She and her hubby have been very doting parents to their only son who has just entered college life recently.

As we were traversing the stairs, the red carpet fixed on it has some noticeable stains, spoiling the sturdy marble staircase. The carpet definitely needs to be changed or at the very least bathed or shampooed!

We were “lucky 13” ushered by a courteous banquest staff inside the Chinese Restaurant to a round big table, welcoming us to a lauriat and grandiose feast! We understand that this restaurant serves authentic, exquisite and good quality Chinese cuisine. 

assorted Chinese cold cuts

Steamed Prawns with Garlic

Bamboo Pith with Black Mushroom Soup

Sliced American Snail Abalone with Japanese Mushroom

The debutantes opted for a "Party Menu" (lovely peeps take note we're a large group, that's why!), most of which are specialties of the restaurants cooked in Cantonese style at its finest! Said set menu includes the famous assorted Chinese cold cuts, then followed by the main dishes such as Steamed Prawns with Garlic, Bamboo Pith with Black Mushroom Soup, Sliced American Snail Abalone with Japanese Mushroom, Steamed Lapu-Lapu, Fried Pigeon, Fried Japanese Seaweed and Chicken Roll, and Dried Scallops with Moss Hair. But we were a little overwhelmed by the hugeness of their mushrooms and even struggled to finish all of it! 

Fried Pigeon

Steamed Lapu-Lapu

We just noticed it now the so called "Fried Japanese Seaweed and Chicken Roll" looks more like a PLAIN FRIED CHICKEN. We don't see any seaweeds here and definitely the chicken is not rolled. :(
Fried Japanese Seaweed and Chicken Roll (???)

Dried Scallops with Moss Hair

The party menu also includes a dessert.

We had a separate order of Birthday Noodles since everyone was craving for it.

Overall, the food was good, the banquet staff were courteous and friendly, but again the ambiance was a bit dated, simply conforming to the current "face" of the hotel! The restaurant needs a "make-up" to make it more inviting and appealing to the customers.

However, if there are other options, we would opt to have lunch in other equally fine dining Chinese restaurants which will not require the celebrants to have a “fat wallet”! The Party Menu costs around P14,800 plus 10% service charge. The birthday noodles was billed separately.

Of course, the photo bombing at the hotel and thereafter at the City of Dreams made the day more lively!

Till next time,

Bringing Back The Past: Where's The Century Park Hotel I Used To Love!

While approaching the entrance of the Century Park Hotel, Harrison Plaza Shopping Center side, I noticed that the hotel's door and its surroundings definitely need a major restoration. The said observation was confirmed when I entered the lobby, it was a disappointment to see a “gem” go downhill! The grand lobby which I used to love was nowhere to be seen, it didn’t have anymore the very cool, classy and the faint whiff of a lovely perfume but instead, a slight smell of an old mismanaged building! (Don't be deceived by the nice photo... look closely the dated and faded red carpet, the not so clean and unpolished floor lobby, etc.).

Century Park Hotel Lobby

I have very vivid memories about the Century Park Hotel. Back then, it was considered as a 5-star hotel and one of the renowned and the best in the metropolis. I was relatively young then and just starting my professional career. I used to pass by the hotel and a frequent buyer at the hotel’s Deli Snack which had lots of bread selection to choose from and I can guarantee you their breads were always made fresh and tasted good! Likewise, the hotel was like a second home “office” to me. My “principals” would tag me along to official business meetings be it a breakfast, luncheon or after office work-related discussions and if not at the office, it was most often held at the said hotel. It was conducive on our part as the hotel was just a stone’s throw away from our office. 

So, you would probably understand me now why my excitement to visit the hotel after more than a decade turned out to be anticlimactic. 

Well, well so much for the disappointing part. I had a reason to be in the said hotel because of an invitation of one of my kins who happened to celebrate a “debut” anniversary of their wedding. They got a 3-day, 2-night complimentary stay at the hotel (Sorry lovely peeps, I didn’t had the chance to ask how she was able to get one). She invited some of us to spend lunch with them at the hotel’s Chinese restaurant named "The New Century Seafood Restaurant", and that would be the next subject of our blog about this hotel! 

So far, the complimentary room which was provided to them was slightly refurbished, a one bedroom with 2 queen beds. Even with renovation, the interiors of the room still need improvement. The room appeared clean and decent enough for a 2-night staycation. 

With the “free” of charge stay at the hotel, you couldn’t ask for more! But still, I would join others to “shout out” to the hotel owners to make it up for the lost “elegance” and upgrade the “tired” and “old” look of a once renowned Century Park Hotel. I just hope next time I hopped in the Century Park hotel, it would be another memorable one!

Till next time,

Nara Trip: Tōdai-ji Temple's Great Buddha Hall, the Largest Wooden Building in the World

Todaiji's Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall), the largest wooden building in the world

In Nara, there are a number of World Heritage including historical buildings and temples particularly in the Nara Park vicinity, which is the most popular tourist area. One specific place we visited was Todaiji Temple ((東大寺, "Great Eastern Temple"), which was built in 752 (Nara period) as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan. It is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara". Todaiji temple comprises several pavilions and halls, including many designated as national treasures of Japan.

13th Century Great South Gate also called Nandaimon at Todaiji Temple

closer look of  Nandaimon Gate

We went through the Great South Gate (Nandaimon), which is the main gate of Todai-ji Temple. The original erected during the Nara period, was destroyed by a typhoon during the Heian period. The present structure, which dates to the Kamakura period, was built using what is known as the "Daibutsu style". The Great South Gate is the largest temple entrance gate in Japan, suitable in scale to the Great Buddha Hall. (source)

entrance / ticket booth counters

After our awesome encounter with the groups of deer (click here), we decided it was time for us to see the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall). To the left of the main entrance there are some steps that lead us directly to the ticket counters. Admission fee was JPY500 per adult.

Todaiji's Daibutsuden Hall is two-third of its original size

Soon we entered the inner courtyard and were delighted to see the horned roof  hall and the beautiful garden surrounding the area. Todaiji's main hall, the Daibutsuden Hall is among the world's largest wooden buildings and also home to the one of the largest bronze Buddhist statues in the world.

At the entrance hall, first thing that really caught my attention was a statue of Yakushi Nyorai, a Buddha of medicine and healing. I've been to many temples but it's my first time to see such like this. It's kind of frightening and looks somewhat mummified at first glance. It is said that if you are sick, touch the statue and you will be healed.

Yakushi Nyorai statue seated at the entrance of Daibutsuden Hall

a huge incense pot at the entrance

As soon as we entered the doorway the gigantic Daibutsu Buddha (Vairocana) greeted us. It is made of copper and bronze, weighs 500 metric tonnes and the seated height is 14.98 meters. The pedestal of the Buddha still retains much original structure (built in the 18th century), but the statue has been repaired many times.

Daibutsu Buddha

There are also giant temple guards and statues that are also of great significance.

Nyoirin Kannon statue, the fulfiller of all wishes

Komokuten statue, guardian of the west

Tamonten statue, guardian of the north

There are souvenir shops inside the temple.

Visiting Todai-ji Temple was more like an opportunity to experience something a little different from the usual Japanese temples. I'm glad we decided to visit here.

Till next time,

The Lucky Us At Lucky Noodles Restaurant!

June and her HB offered me to have a late lunch with them at the Lucky Noodles Restaurant (my second time) located at the Ground Floor of Solaire Resort and Casino Hotel before embarking on an overnight stay at its new “Sky Tower”.

Since I had a full stomach before leaving home, I was not really drooling for food when I reached the hotel restaurant. Instead of a full meal, I decided to take something light and not so pricey (yeah right, even for food, I go for value for money even if I’m not responsible for the check)! June and her HB have started munching on their food lunch as they have been in abstinence for about 6 hours.

our super late lunch meal

Egg Noodles with Braised Beef Brisket, Beef Tendon and Vegetables P350

Steamed Rice with Crispy Barbecued Pork Belly & Mustard Dip P320

Chilled Green Tea Pudding P130

While browsing the pages of the resto’s menu card, I was given a porcelain white cup filled with hot Jasmine tea. That gave me warmth as I was already having a different feeling because of a sudden climate change in the environment (it was hot outside while the hotel’s cooling system was intense). My light see-through pink dress was inadequate to protect me from the cold air. That was also the reason why my eyes were glued at the congee page of the menu card. Chicken “Lugaw” with Egg (Filipino version of congee) seemed gentle to my appetite at that time, so it was ordered.

Chicken Lugaw with Egg P160

However, just by its looks when served, the lugaw was not sooo inviting, it looked boring! Sad to say, but the “lugaw” of Aling Pacing at the corner of Tandang Sora was more appealing and the aroma, wow you’ll really love it!

As a result, June’s HB ordered another bowl of lugaw out of curiosity but this time it was the real Chinese Congee with Shredded Pork Loin & Salted Egg. But to our dismay, the chicken pinoy version of lugaw was better off than the real Chinese congee. Oh wow, were we lucky at Lucky Noodles at that point in time? We don’t think so. Thus, our rating for their congee is below par.

Congee with Shredded Pork Loin & Salted Egg P220

Don’t get me wrong though. Not all “carte du jour” of Lucky Noodles was a disappointment. The truth is, I love the other food choices of the restaurant. The first time I visited the place, I ordered one of their specialties, the Hainanese chicken (click here) which I thought was tender, juicy and exquisitely done with the sauces and side condiments.

Another feature which I loved at Lucky Noodles is its structure and the interior decoration. The intricate high ceiling and the colorful and flashy wall decors were eye catching.

I also liked the fact that the chefs and cooks can be seen from our vantage point, giving us the assurance that the foods are safely and correctly prepared!

Overall, if your appetite is for traditional Asian food, the Lucky Noodles Restaurant would still be a winner for a dining experience in a hotel casino, like Solaire!!

Till next time,