My New Paradise

AdamsCredits: JSprague Digi in Deeper course material.

Adams.  A familiar name yet peculiar for the Ilocos Norte, yes?  With names like Laoag, Pagudpud, Paoay… Adams sounds off.  The first time I heard of Adams was 16 years ago when Anton explored the river with fellow guides. He raved not only about the river but its natural surroundings as

He went back several times to raft and to kayak the Bulo River but never with me. In 2009 on an Ilocos Road Trip, we attempted a visit to Adams to hike to the waterfalls. It rained, and we chickened out.  We never made it to the town.

2009-AdamsThis was at the junction where we’d take a habal-habal (motorcycle for hire) to take us to town.

view-of-the-townSprawling over a land area of 159.31 square kilometers on the northern coast of Ilocos Norte,

floraAdams is a treasure trove of rainforests with rare flora and fauna, centuries old trees,

hanging-bridgehanging bridges and waterfalls.

anuplig-fallsAnuplig Falls
cultural-danceWe were treated to a cultural show.

It is a small town of only one village but is a melting pot of ethnic groups composed of the Yapayao or Itneg, Ilocano, Igorot, Kankan-ay and Ibaloi, which explains why their cuisine is different from the Ilocano dishes we know.

local-produceWe had fried frog, udang (river shrimps), stir-fried pako, and mountain rice.

It is a hodgepodge of the various ethnic groups and what is locally available like gabi (Taro), crab lets, baby damo (wild boar), frogs, Udang (river shrimps), purple mountain rice, and my favorite, stir-fried pako (fiddlehead fern).

baguio-climateLike its name, it is a divergent from the rest of the region.  The climate is pleasantly cool especially at this time of the year, with temperatures just a few notched higher than Baguio.

I wish I had made more effort to visit this mountain-river town. It took me fifteen years to finally set foot here. My first trip to Adams was last year around this time. Ask me how many times I’ve been back since. Four so far. I have fallen in love with the area. Expect more posts from me. Meanwhile, here are some photos to whet your appetite for the place.  This is my new paradise.

bulu-riverThe Bulo River from a bridge.
enroute-to-anupligLush forest en route to Anuplig falls.
entertainmentHospitality to the hilt.  Entertainment provided by the villagers.
Ilyn's-HomeystayIlyn’s Homeystay: our home in Adams.
lover's-peak-2A beautiful point called “Lover’s Peak”
lover's-peakLovely grounds at Lover’s Peak.
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Going Back in Time

Unless it is really impressive, I rarely write about accommodations on this blog. But this beach resort has definitely impressed. It’s a destination of its own, a place to pause and recharge, do nothing and pretend that you’re from an era of yesteryear.


In Victoria Village in Currimao, on an 18,000 square meter land facing the South China Sea sits an amazing recreation of a typical mid-20th-century village. little-detailsUndeniably a work of love by owner Dr. Joven Cuanang, a Medical Director of St. Luke’s Hospital, his love for the arts greatly manifested in this stunning village he calls Sitio Remedios.

salvaged-doors-and-windowsIts main attraction is the rows of vintage-style Ilocano houses made of salvaged bricks and woods from mid-century houses (about to be demolished) to resemble old ancestral houses. Most of them were named after the town of Ilocos Norte such as Batac, Dingras, Piddig, Bacarra and San Nicolas.

balay-dingrasThe bungalow assigned to us, Balay Dingras, has 2 rooms, dining-area-dingrasa living and dining area, and a spacious front porch that leads out to the plaza.balcony-to-plaza Furnished with antique furniture, a daybed even in the sala, decor are vintage and to complete the look, crocheted tablecloths, vintage-motif-bedInabel (a local weave) woven bedding, and blankets were used. Each room has a Queen sized bed and its own bath.

welcomeA welcome message on our bed – a nice touch.

Dingras and all the other balays (house) face the square they call Plaza Manzanilla. housesLaid out in a grid typical of Spanish times, fencing off each house are manzanilla (hence the name), Bougainvillea, and gumamela bushes and few ancient trees adding character to the square.  chapel-and-plazachapel-interiorA chapel that opens out to the plaza, a pool facing the sea and a dining hall that serves exceptional home-cooked Ilocano favourites completes this village.dining-hall

Tucked quite away from the main highway, all our dinners were had at the resort. Turned out to be the best decision we’ve made. Meals were simple yet superb and very well prepared.  foodThe dishes were served buffet style and depending on what’s available in the market.  dinner-by-the-poolDinner venues change every night, one night in the main dining hall, another near the pool area and our last night was a romantic setting at the plaza. candlelit-dinner-settingHow can you not feel special and totally recharged with such detailed service?

Currimao is in the southwestern part of Ilocos Norte, near the northern border town of Paoay. An hour away from Vigan, and only 25 minutes away from Laoag, Sitio Remedios is an ideal base to those who prefer to explore the Ilocos Region leisurely.

Useful Info:

Sitio Remedios: Barangay Victoria, Currimao, Ilocos Norte.  Tel (63)917-3320217

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I’ll drop everything and hop on a flight with you just at the mention of the word. Ubud is one of the places I go to recharge (read my old post on Ubud here). The cultural heartland of Bali, surrounded by rice fields and lush greenery, is my place of rest and inspiration.

lush-greeneriesIt’s a town about 300 meters above sea level so it is comfortably cooler than the rest of the island. The main reason Ubud appeals so much to me is because it feed my needs. In Ubud, I get to relax, be artistically inspired by its art and culture, enjoy the good (but not necessarily expensive) food and be in the midst of nature.

architectureThis town in the middle of Bali has been known for over a century as an artist village, a cultural center that draws those who seek crafted treasures and/or architectural inspiration. The cultural and traditional art in Ubud were preserved because when it became a Dutch Protectorate in the 1900s, the colonialists didn’t interfere much.

art-sceneIt was only in the 1930s when the Royal family encouraged foreign artists to Ubud did the modern era began in Ubud, eventually creating a dynamic art scene. Consequently, a treasure trove of museums and galleries now call Ubud home.

retail-therapyUbud is a haven for shoppers, truth to tell. Monkey Forest Road, Jalan Raya and Hanoman Streets are strips of retail therapy treats – from beautiful arts and crafts, local designer clothes and jewelry to unique housewares and antiques.

warungIt is also home to restaurants, cafes and warungs (local eateries), and a foodie’s haven. The whole island, in fact, has an exciting culinary scene and Ubud is right up there.

gastronomic-delight-At first glance, Ubud seemingly may consist of local eateries but it has its fair share of creative restaurants featuring a fusion of different cuisines. Every visit, I discover new jaunts but try to revisit one or two favourites.  More on Ubud Eats here.

rice-fieldsNature lovers will love the countryside feel of Ubud. Cafes and lodgings surrounded by rice fields abound.

resortThe view of the rice field from our resort, Munari Resort and Spa.

While birds and animal lovers will enjoy an afternoon in either the Monkey Forest or head out to Putulu Village for some white heron (kokokan) sightings.

Monkey-ForestThese herons, thousands of them, have inhabited the trees of Putulu since 1965.

white-heronsThey return to rest at around 6 pm every night so it is best to go an hour or so earlier, find yourself a warung and enjoy a few drinks of cold beer while you wait.

The one lure that calls out the loudest and the one I truly look forward to is the pampering. You can’t walk more than a few meters without passing a spa.

massageGetting a daily massage is a norm in an area swarming with spas – a traditional Balinese massage one day, a Javanese Lulur Scrub another and what about a four-hand massage or coffee scrub for that special treat before going home?

Ahh… just writing this post had me yearning for another de-stressing visit to Ubud. Sigh…

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Hanoi Heritage

Hanoi-HeritageCredits: Papers by Shabby Miss Jenn Designs, Sahlin Studio and Scrapmuss Designs; Name Tag by Pri Rocha and Vellum Floral Sticker by Shabby Miss Jenn Designs

It was a quick trip to Hanoi… just four days. Got to admit, it was way too short, but a quick getaway was all we can spare. There will be a next time (that’s for sure) when I eventually make my way to Hoi An and Hue.

Before I end this short series on Hanoi, let me leave you with a few more cultural highlights to consider.

Water Puppetry

Not exactly an award-winning performance but it is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century and interesting insight into its theatre culture, which the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater attempts to keep alive.  A unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition that involves the water, the Mua Roi Nuoc uses nature as the theme with ponds and flooded rice paddies after harvest in their acts to satisfy the spirits.

water-puppetThe puppeteer stand behind a screen and control the wooden and lacquered puppets through rods and string mechanism hidden beneath a waist deep pool that is also the stage.

Thang-Long-Water-Puppet-TheaterLocated near the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake, the theater offers several performances every day from 16:15 to 21:15. Book in advance because it often gets filled. Most lodgings can help in that area.

Hoa Lo Prison

maison-centraleThis one piqued my interest. Popularly know as the Hanoi Hilton, this museum was once a prison. The Maison Centrale was first used by the French to house political prisoners, and later by the North Vietnam for prisoners of war. And because of this, the American POW sarcastically gave it its famous name.

hoa-lo-prisonThe museum provided some insight on the gruesomeness that might have taken place in the POW camps. Guillotine and guns remained in the hall. Albeit gory, it was an engaging stop over from a day of wandering around the city.

guillotineOne of the two guillotine that the French Colonialist used to behead revolutionary patriotic soldiers imprisoned in Hoa Lo Prison.

In Hanoi, most establishments have narrow frontages and are built beside each other; Hoa Lo Street is the only street with only one address – the prison. It occupies the length of Pho Hoa Lo, right at the corner of Pho Ha Ba Trung on the edge of the French Quarter.

Electric Cars

inside-the-e-carFor 15,000 VND, these cars are an easy and a green way to get a grip on the surroundings.

touring-by-e-carIt takes you to places of interests in the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake area, which provides a wonderful overview of the area and highlights sections you want to explore more. e-carsEach car can carry up to 7 passengers at one time and takes about 45 mins to an hour (depending how long you stop at each attraction).

E-car-ticket-stallTickets are sold at a stall in Dinh Tien Hoang Street – the tree-lined boulevard right next to Hoan Kiem Lake, opposite the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. With the number of e-cars parked nearby, it is easy to spot.

Vietnamese Brew

vietnamese-brewAnd if coffee is your thing, you know that you can’t pass a day without enjoying a cup of slow drip Vietnamese-style coffee, hot or cold.

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Hanoi’s Charm


One reason I love Hanoi is this stunning lake. Serene, spellbinding, and picture-perfect – makes for a pleasant walk, and you will definitely walk by it more than once a day.  And because the Old Quarter surrounds it, it is a good reference point when navigating the city.


Hoan Kiem Lake is the heart of Hanoi.  Everything happens around it, from early morning workouts (think yoga, tai chi and even aerobics) to old men whiling away time playing mahjong and vendors selling their stuff.




Not to mention the wandering tourists that flock to this mesmerizing lake. Never a dull moment in this part of the city, that’s for sure.

What makes the lake so smashing is the striking red bridge called The Huc Bridge leaping out of the serene blue-green water.


It connects the shore to the Jade Island on the northern coast of the lake.


On the island stands the Ngoc Son Temple (the Temple of the Jade Mountain).

Legend has it that in the mid 15th century, Heaven sent Emperor Le Loi a magical sword, which he used to battle against the neighboring countries, driving away the Chinese from Vietnam. When peace prevailed, a giant golden turtle grabbed the sword and disappeared in the depths of the lake (named Thuy Qua then) inspiring the name Hoan Kiem , which means Lake of the Restored Sword.



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Hanoi At Night

We’re not big on night outs but the mere mention of a “beer corner” got our attention. We learned about it by chance at the hotel lobby and, of course, we had to go.

Beer Corner

Hanoi’s Beer Corner is a strip of a makeshift outdoor bar that spills over from Luong Noc Quyen to Ta Hien Street.


It is packed with people (locals and foreigners) sitting on small stools gathered around a little table on the street enjoying their beers. Many also people watch by sitting on stools facing the street.


So there we were in our little corner, sitting (almost squatting) on small wooden chairs, enjoying our beer with food that keeps coming.


studentsInternational School student (out for a birthday party with friends) explains and recommends to Anton a street food.

We chatted with locals who introduced us to a string of sumptuous street food from the various vendors that scatter the area offering local favorites.




Night Market

If you find yourself there on a weekend, before heading out to the Beer Corner, the weekend night market might interest you.


The Dong Xuan Night Market spreads along Hang Giay to Hang Dao Streets, splitting through the center of the Old Quarter. The streets transform into vehicle-free pedestrian lanes (but some motorbikes are seen navigating the streets still) as stalls are set up in the middle of the road.



I find nothing spectacular with this market, truth to tell – you’ll find a myriad of stalls selling merchandise from clothes to souvenirs to food of all kinds. Having said that, it is still interesting to at least pass through, you never know what you might find – we did get a few of these.


We went for a quick Banh Mi dinner before exploring the market

banh-miBanh Mi: A Vietnamese sandwich of a combination of pork, eggs, pâté on a baguette.  Usually found on small shops or stalls by the road.

but what we should have done instead was to go there for the food.


It is a fabulous place to explore some street food.

coconut-crepeShredded coconut flavoured with sugar and sesame seed, rolled in some sort of crêpe or a spring roll wrapper.  Can make for a lovely dessert.

View from the Top

Our favorite spot to while away the time before dinner is at any of the terrace cafes atop a building overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake and the plaza below.


We like it because it is the best place to enjoy a few drinks while we amuse ourselves with the crazy traffic of Hanoi.

hanoi-trafficPedestrians, cars, vendors and motorbikes — all going their own way.

From my last visit 7 years ago, nothing much has changed (including the traffic) except for a few more cafes to choose from.


We were at the City View Cafe every night 7 years ago, but we made sure to check out the Coffee Club (under construction then) across so we could enjoy the view from a different perspective.

view-from-city-view-cafeUseful Info:

City View Cafe:  1-3-5 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District

Coffee Club: 3B Le Thai To, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District

Banh My Pho Co: 38 Dinh Liet Street, Hoan Kiem District

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Streets of Hanoi: The French Quarter


Ba Dinh District also called the French quarter is a pleasant interlude from the chaos of the Old Quarter (especially if you are staying in the Old Quarter like we were).


The area is home to wide tree-lined streets, French colonial buildings,


posh hotels, fancy restaurants and swanky shops.


On our way to lunch, we walked through Trang Tien, the main artery of the French Quarter, walking pass (but never entered) the famous ice cream store, Kem Trang Tien.


Elegant French style buildings and villas replaced the old Vietnamese buildings in this section (as the name suggests) when the French occupied Hanoi in the last 19th century.


At the end of Trang Tien, on the August Revolutionary Square, the Hanoi Opera House, stand proudly as an architectural, political and cultural symbol of the capital.

Lunch at Au Lac House along Tran Hung Dao was a pleasant default. We were headed to La Badiane (which we never got to try but came highly recommended) but were unfortunately closed for the day.   The reason is a blur to me now but because we were there during the Lunar New Year, it could be because of that, but I digress.


So, just a few steps away from La Badiane is Au Lac House, a large French Style garden house built during the French colonial period restored into an elegant dining venue.



The food was Vietnamese Specialty (a sudden mind-shift from the expected French lunch at La Badiane) and quite impressive too.  Truth to tell, Vietnam is always a gastronomical delight whether it be hole in a wall or high-end.


You can walk through the different stations with your server and point and choose and the food will be prepared and served accordingly.


The beautiful house and stunning interior with old photographs were icing on our cake.

Useful Info:

Au Lac House13 Tran Hung Dao

Opera House:  1 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem

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