With the most ethnic groups among all of China, this southern part of China started to fascinate me when I was researching on Guilin a decade ago. And Yunnan had been on my mind ever since.

Sharing external borders with Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. Internally, it has as neighbors Guangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Tibet. With its location, it is not surprising that Yunnan is diverse in its culture and people.

Across-the-Bridge-Noodle-SoupA specialty of the Yunnan Province, guoqiao mixian, which translate to “Across the Bridge Noodles”.  The name made popular by a lady who used to bring noodles to her husband across the bridge.  Full Story here.
snow-capped-mountainImpression Lijiang a Zhang Yimou show with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as its backdrop.

Its landscape ranges from snow-capped mountains to dense jungles to sensational terraces.

Amazing land it surely is and I have been charmed, captivated. Join me in the next few months as I reminisce about my journey into dramatic landscapes, breathtaking views, fascinating cultures and magnificent cuisine.



The hub and the capital of Yunnan served as our jump off point. Surrounded by temples, lakes and limestone hills, the city has its own allure, but we didn’t spend a lot of time in the city. Unfortunately.

Green Lake


I chose to stay near the lake precisely because we didn’t have that much time for exploration. The lake is in the heart of the city’s business, food and culture.

Lao-Fang-ZhiA few steps from our hostel is Lao Fang Zhi, a house of over 100 years turned restaurant that serves awesome hot Yunnan dishes. 

A beautiful park designed and created way back in the 17th century. Surrounded by willow trees and dotted with vibrant lotuses, the park has become a favorite among nature lovers.


A stroll around the lake is a pleasant way to watch how the locals spend their time.


A lot was going on. In one part of the lake, music filled the air, and people were dancing.


In another, aunties sit around chatting and doing some embroidery while some are contented just to admire the lake and soak up the atmosphere.


At night, the lights come alive and radiate a different ambiance.


And with this, we start our journey into an endearing province of China that seemed to have been left alone. Stay tuned.


Visiting Xin Xin and Kai Kai


In a simulated indoor garden, Xin Xin munched on bamboo leaves. She seemed unfazed by the crowd, albeit small at 10 in the morning.


Outside, Kai Kai is the same, although he seemed more playful than his friend.

We took the 26A bus from just across Hotel Lisboa to the Seac Pai Van Park in Coloane to visit a pair of pandas from Chengdu.  Set in the southernmost island, we’ve never been to this part of Macau, and thought we’d visit the city and spend a few hours in the park.  We started early and arrived at the park before it opened, so we hopped on another bus that dropped us off at the Coloane Village Square.


At 9 in the morning, the village was half awake.  We explored a bit of the area but didn’t reach the village center.


Right next to the square, however, as you walk toward the sea front promenade is Lord Stowe’s Bakery.


We walked in, bought ourselves a piece of their famous Portuguese egg tart


and devoured it while waiting for the bus to take us back to the park.

Nestled against the hillside with Alto do Coloane serving as backdrop, Seac Pai Van Park is designed around the terrain.


Found within the park is the Giant Panda Pavilion, the pair’s new home, simulating their natural habitat.


The multifunctional park, once a farm, is now considered as the largest natural green belt of Macau.


Besides the pavilion, the park has a mini zoo that houses a few animals from macaques to deers, a walkthrough aviary that has a few rare birds,


and a pond with a few flamingos and other waterfowl.


The 20-hectare lot is easy to explore in just a few hours. If you are into flora and fauna, this place may disappoint, but for the price (MOP$10) and the pandas, the park is worth the morning.

The village, I believe, though, is worth exploring… on my next visit.

But while in Macau check out the many good eats this island has to offer here, here, here and here.

Useful Info:

Seac Pai Van Park
Estrada de Seac Pai Van
Transport:  21A, 26A, 50
Hours:  9am-6pm (Tues-Sun); Aviary: 9am-5pm (Tues-Sun)

So We’re Back in Macau

For one reason and one reason only – Franco Dragone’s spectacular water-based show staged in an almost circular theater they call “theater-in-the-round”.

As we entered, we were instantly drawn to the magnificent center stage where the acrobatic stunts, beautiful lighting and creative use of water takes place.

The House of Dancing Waters is the centerpiece of the newest integrated resort in Macau – City of Dreams.

It tells of a princess and how a handsome, brave stranger tries to save her kingdom and free her from the clutches of her cruel stepmother. Of course they fall in love in the process.

Typical Cinderella story of sort but you forgive the mushy storyline for the outstanding performance and theatrical artistry.

The stage shifts from aquatic to solid dry floor with the help of 8 ten-ton elevators.

Colorful fountains surround the princess and the stranger

Installed and cleverly used on stage were more than 200 automated fountains.

Clever use of water spray and lights to create snow.

And the most spectacular, as far as I’m concerned, was the motorcycle stunts.

One could not help but admire these daredevils for their preciseness as they do their stunts in a small and confined stage.  I cringe as I watch them fly into the air, one after the other, sometimes at the same time even – I can only imagine how fatal a mistake could be.  This alone is worth the effort and the price.

Believe you me, this show will not disappoint.  Running since September 2010, this impressive water show is worth the trip to Macau.

Different hotel packages of nearby hotels are available or if budget is a concern, you may opt for cheaper hotels outside the complex,

there are free shuttles every 15 minutes plying the downtown Macau-Taipa route.   The shuttle stopped just outside our hotel.

Before or after the show, make it a point to have dinner at Beijing Kitchen, just outside the theater.  Good food guaranteed.  We enjoyed a splendid dinner of Fried Pigeons and Baby Cabbage in Duck Broth.

Hong Kong: A Mini Dining Escapade

Hong Kong used to mean one thing to me in the past – shopping.  Not anymore.  Today, Hong Kong signifies food – delightful, glorious food.

Credits:  Papers by Nadi Designs, Art of Digital Design and Prairie Woman Design.  Flower by Moninda; Word art by Wimpy Chompers; Alpha by Denise Beatty Originals

Welcome to the culinary capital of Asia.  In this relatively small island, foodies can revel not only in an assortment of Chinese regional delicacies but also in a range of international cuisine – from food stalls to Michelin starred restaurants.  This has been the highlight of a very short trip to Hong Kong early this year.  By the end of this month, I will be back to sample more gastronomic delights so Hong Kong here I come… again.  But before that, allow me to reminisce a bit on that mini dining escapade.

I will begin with the customary dim sum.  How can you be in Hong Kong and not indulge in supposedly “the best dim sum in the world”?

Zen Chinese Cuisine

A long-standing casual Chinese Restaurant in Pacific Place.  Apart from serving a range of Cantonese specialties, they also serve an extensive and intricate range of dim sum for lunch.   Be warned though, they usually have a long line especially during lunchtime so be there early.


Located on the 28th floor of One Peking in Tsim Sha Tsui.  This stunning restaurant with a fantastic view of the HK harbor serves authentic Northern Chinese cuisine with a contemporary twist.

Red lanterns, hanging birdcages, intricately carved wood panels, Chinese silk curtains — all add charm to the dark, muted interior giving off a traditional Chinese feel.

Clockwise:  “Red Lantern” Crispy chicken w/ Sichuan red chili; Lobsters fried w/ red pepper & sweet chili sauce; Cod fillet tossed with fermented bean & chilis; Chili-spiced bamboo clams

A must-try are their Chili-spiced bamboo clams steeped in Chinese rose wine & chili sauce, Cod fillet tossed with crispy fermented bean & chili, lobsters fried with red pepper & sweet chili sauce, “Red Lantern” Crispy chicken with Sichuan red chili and last but not the least (not in photo) is their Crispy de-boned lam ribs.

Yung Kee Restaurant

My absolute favorite restaurant in Hong Kong and I will almost always pay a visit when I’m in town.

More than Hong Kong’s dimsum, I must have a piece of that lovingly roasted goose.   Juicy, tender, rich meat with skin so crispy… To. Die. For.

Another house specialty that I take home with me is their century eggs oozing with sticky yolk.  Paired with pickled ginger… wicked!

Kee Wah Bakery

Right beside Yung Kee is a bakery called Kee Wah for some beautifully packed Chinese traditional pastries.  Beautiful packaging aside, their egg rolls and pineapple shortcakes are great pasalubongs (gifts) to take home.

Useful Info:

Zen Chinese Cuisine
One Pacific Place Mall
88 Queensway, HK
+852 2845-4555 / 2845-4377
28th Floor, One Peking Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
+852 3428-8342
Yung Kee Restaurant
32-40 Wellington Street
Central, HK
(5 minutes walk from MTR Central station , exit D2)

Tian Zi Fang: The Hippest Neighborhood of Shanghai

“It is amazing on the 2F” it says on the door.   We walked in and were greeted with nothing but stocks of coffee and a stairway.

We walked up and the steep flight led to an amazing albeit crowded 2F indeed, wrapping us with the wonderful scent of roasted java.

It is an unpretentious charming little café that has a wide choice of coffees and serves Japanese comfort food.

A Japanese guy mans the bar, he is said to be the owner of Café Dan, this hip café restaurant in Shanghai’s hippest district, Tian Zi Fang.

Taikang Road, used to be Shanghai’s “old” art district where one would find a range of Chinese calligraphies and traditional ink paintings. Now also known as Tian Zi Fang is a hip new assortment of design and art enclaves and cozy cafe and bars.  It is a maze of old residential shikumen that got invaded by artists and local designers.

Many of the little shops here carry original designs and a myriad of small art galleries are scattered all over this artsy compound.

A typical boutique.

Tian Zi Fang integrates heritage, the arts and urban amenities.

Many of the houses in this 1920s commune rented out their ground floors to boutiques & restaurants and it is not unlikely to see locals going about their business like doing laundry, cooking etc. as you are to see yuppies sipping lattes.

The place is particularly busy in the weekend when people come to have coffee and indulge in some healthy window-shopping or even some real shopping.

Useful Info:

Cafe Dan
Back street 41-248 Taikang Lu
Tel:  021-64661042
Park in:  Riuyue Parking

Shanghai Express

Credits: Papers by Moninda’s Sea Memory papers; Template by J Sprague’s Digi in Deep Cre8 No. 1 Template.  

It really was – spent mostly in a conference hall.  But no matter how work related my trips are I’ll manage to squeeze in a day or two of exploring.   So here I am in Shanghai after 8 years or so and much has changed especially the fashion and restaurant scene.  Due to its rapid growth over the last 2 decades, it is today a global city, exciting and influential, once again known as the “Paris of the Far East”.  Certain districts of Shanghai have achieved world-class status in their respective fields.  The wharf area, which they called The Bund became at one time China’s financial hub and will always be the image and pride of Shanghai.  Artistic and trendy as they are, many new areas are developed to keep the old yet manages to metamorphose into something cool.  New concept restaurants pop up so fast, it’s difficult to keep up.  (More of trendy Shanghai in days to come)

At the western end of Shanghai is the Hongqiao district, a hyper-modern zone of hotels, conference halls and offices.  A large part of the expat community took up residence here.

In Hongmei Lu near Yan ‘an Lu is a 2-storey building selling mostly pearls aptly called Hongqiao International Pearl City.  Each store we went in had impressive designs and is unsurprisingly quite reasonable and being the pearl lover that I am… I was a happy camper.  But don’t be fooled by the name, as in many Chinese shopping centers, they also have many shops that sell “made in China” stuff like toys, even hiking and photography paraphernalia.

Just across Pearl City is Hongmei Pedestrian Street, known for restaurants, bars and cafés serving various cuisines.  Foreigners or overseas Chinese own and run half of the bars and restaurants lining the streets hence the recent re-naming to Foreigner’s Street 101.

And among the many western restaurants lining the street, we got sidetracked to this simple Xinjiang restaurant called Cindy’s obviously serving Xinjiang (an Autonomous region of China) cuisine, largely resembling that of Central Asia – mutton and lamb kebab, Nan (flat bread), noodles, yoghurt…

This was just calling out to us.

Really good kebab.

I just find this really neat!  The pack came with chopsticks and napkins

Temple of Heaven

“The Temple of Heaven is a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilization.” – UNESCO World Heritage.

Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, the Temple of Heaven is an extraordinary example of Chinese religious architecture.

Built in 1420, covering an area of 273 hectares, this temple traditionally was only for imperial use and commoners were not allowed to enter even the enormous park.

Today, it is one of the most popular parks among local people (mostly retired).

Many enjoy the park carrying out various activities from dancing to playing cards all day long.

The park has more than 100,000 trees of various kind – some spotted were

ancient cypresses and

evergreen pines to name a few.


Beijing Good Eats

I love Chinese food.  I think I blogged about it once before but I will say it again… I love Chinese food.  What excited me no end about visiting China was the opportunity to have real authentic Chinese food.  And interesting Chinese food, we definitely had.   Most of our meals were marvelous but I failed to ask our guide what and where they were so I leave you with 2 (of the best I’ve had on this trip) well-known restaurants that had left a lasting impression.

Ya Wang Roast Duck Restaurant

Peking Duck.  Absolutely my family’s favorite since I can remember.  And since we’re in Beijing, how could we not partake of what they consider their national dish?  And so to Ya Wang (Duck King) we went.  Whilst Quanjude and Dadong are favorites among tourists, we opted to go to a less famous but better (in my family’s opinion) tasting roast duck.

Ya Wang’s version did away with the fat and oiliness but kept the main feature of soft and crispy skin that melts in your mouth.  They say that they make sure that the ducks they serve are not too fat by growing their own ducks.  Also, the skin when carved into thin slivers has some meat on it, unlike the other establishments where they separate the skin from the meat. But it’s to each his own and I like it with some meat.

Crispy duck skin, duck meat, cucumber, scallions then topped with hoisin sauce…

Regardless, Peking Duck is a definite must try when in Beijing and Ya Wang is perhaps one of the best places to remember it by.

Xiao Nan Guo

…is a famous chain from Shanghai that found its way to Beijing and Hong Kong.  A renowned restaurant serving Shanghai dishes.  Yes that’s right!  Nothing wrong with that, right?  This wonderful restaurant is modern and elegant featuring a blend of Eastern and Western details.  The food, traditional, served in a way that is more contemporary.  The owner along with her sister started a six-table restaurant in Shanghai 23 years ago beside a restaurant called Da Nan Guo (Big Southern Country) so they named theirs Small Southern Country –Xiao Nan Guo.  Today, this small southern country restaurant is not so small anymore with 7 branches in Shanghai alone, with several in Hong Kong and Beijing.  Some of my favorites:

A lotus root appetizer

Hong Shao Rou (Red braised pork)

Szechuan styled fried chicken with chilies

Beijing, I found out could be a (Chinese) food lover’s happiness.  And if you feel that you have had too much…

Head over to Ten Fu tea.  They have a wide selection of different kinds of quality tea. Definitely a haven for tea lovers.

Useful Information:

Ya Wang
77 Jiangning Lu,
near Fengyang Lu
Phone: +86 10 6271 1717
Xiao Nan Guo
2/F Jinbao Tower
89 Jinbao Jie, Dongcheng Center
Phone:  +86 10 8622-1717
Ten Fu’s Tea
150 Wangfujing Street,
Dongcheng, Beijing
Phone: +86 10 6527 1888


Xiao Long Bao: Dumpling of all Dumplings

Credits:  Quickpage by Joanne aka 2girlsand poodle from the You Are Awesome Kit.  Alpha by Life Little Surprises kit.

If you haven’t heard of Xiao Long Bao, it’s about time that you do.  You absolutely must try this at least once in your life. This delectable steamed soup dumpling is named after the small bamboo basket it is steamed in.  Inside the dumpling are pockets of minced meat and gelatinized broth made of chicken, pork or cured ham.  When steamed, the gelatin melts inside the dumpling and the soup bursts into deliciousness in your mouth.

Best with vinegar and ginger slivers

The graceful way I eat this is to bite a small hole into the dumpling and sip out the juice before taking the whole dumpling.  A word of caution… wait a few minutes to cool the dumpling before devouring though – the last thing you want is to ruin the whole experience by burning yourself.

My first encounter with this Shanghainese specialty was in 1991, in Taiwan – the very first branch of Din Tai Fung, I recently learned.   And for a very long time, I could only dream of it.  It took me 10 long years to feast on these babies again, this time in Shanghai.  It took perhaps another 5 years for Xiao Long Bao to make its way to the Philippines.  Eat Well is a favorite and very recently, Crystal Jade opened its doors in Greenhills supposedly offering excellent xiao long baos.  The long line turned me off so I have yet to judge for myself.

Din Tai Fung. Singapore. Packed!

Recently however, I came full circle when a few months ago in Beijing and more recently in Singapore, I saw myself in Din Tai Fung for a treat of my favorite dumpling (and more).  Din Tai Fung has become known for their delectable dumplings for decades and opened up franchises in many Asian countries but sadly not in the Philippines (yet).  I saw that they’ve expanded their dumplings to more than just their signature Xiao Long Bao.  They now have chicken, fish and even a vegetarian dumpling.

Though I was a bit disappointed with the vegetarian dumplings, their signature dish remains to be my favorite and

Clockwise:  Cucumber appetizer, Fried Pork Chops on fried rice, Almond Jelly on crushed ice, xiao long bao with vinegar and ginger slivers.

I so totally enjoyed their pork chops and almond jelly dessert.  So really even if XLB made them what they are today, it isn’t just all about dumplings at Din Tai Fung. If you find yourself in a neighborhood with  Din Tai Fung near you, don’t hesitate at all.  Click here to see where they are around the globe.

Where to get XLB in the Philippines:

Eat Well Delicious Kitchen (sounds tacky but they really serve up delicious meals)

At The Fort
Unit C, Ground Floor, Net Quad Building,
30th-31st St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
For Reservation and Pickup only: +632 856-9408
At Greenhills
Missouri St. cor. Connecticut St., Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone Number: +632 722-8518


Crystal Jade
Unit 117-121 (near Haagen Dazs and Goodwill Bookstore)
V-Mall, Greenhills Shopping Center
Greenhills, San Juan City, Metro Manila

Phone Number: +632 570-6910, 570-6912


Bird’s Nest

I was glued to the set on August 8, 2008 as I watched in awe of the spectacle that Beijing presented to the thousands of spectators that streamed through the gates of the National Stadium and to millions of others that watched (like me) on television.  Amazed at how they could even begin to prepare for this night — the thousands of dancers, drummers, percussionists, martial art performers, musicians and various artists in full regalia, all performing to the hilt.  Put aside the performers, I was equally awed at the stunning latticework structure that lit beautifully and was made more arresting when the fireworks exploded in its midst.  I knew that one of these days; I will be looking at it up-close and personal.

Two years later, we were entering a structure that is a feast to the eyes not only from afar, on TV but up-close as well.  This elliptical latticework has become an architectural landmark and an Olympic legacy.

The latticework echoing even to the garden lights.

An aesthetic and engineering marvel.  We see as we enter that the grid-like framework serves as both façade and structure merging the walls and roof into one integrated system.

The Bird’s Nest, as it is has been fondly referred to, is the Beijing National Stadium.  Designed by Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron, this futuristic stadium hosted (as the world knows) the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Today, aside from it being a tourist spot, it continues to host sport events and has become a large scale sports and entertainment facility for the Beijing residents.

Tired local tourists

There seemed to be a lot of activities going on that day.  Aside from the visitors that flock in on a daily basis, there were athletes and other performers either rehearsing or practicing.

There even was a tightrope walker sans a net for entertainment, I think.  As it turned out, the guy hailed from Xinjiang, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (Xin for short) located in Northwest China.

Alongside the Bird’s Nest, an aquatic center was built for the swimming and other water sports competition.  Also known as the Water Cube, the unique and inspired design was based on the way soap bubbles come together.  Before it closed for renovations after the Olympics, it became a ballet theater to host Swan Lake.  Last August, it opened its doors once again to the public, this time transforming into a water park.  At the time of my visit, it was still closed for renovations.