Visiting Xin Xin and Kai Kai

xin-xin

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

kai-kai

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.

coloane

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

seafront

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

lord's-stowe

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

lord-stowe's-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.

panda-pavilion

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

kai-kai-2

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

aviary

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,

Flamingoes

and a pond with a few flamingos and other waterfowl.

pond

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)
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Random Travel Snaps: Spotted Eagle Ray

Photo courtesy of R.Rellosa

Somewhere near Blue Corner off the waters of Palau, a creature gracefully glided its way towards us.  It was my first encounter with rays and it was intoxicating.  Stupefied, I watched its flat disk-shape body with its soaring wings fly towards us.  It was identified as a Spotted Eagle Ray because it has white spots on its deep blue body.  Their long rounded snout, almost like a pig’s snout, distinguishes it from other rays.  The one encountered was quite big but it is said that a Spotted Eagle Ray can grow to nearly nine feet (3M) from wingtip to wingtip.

Rays are some the most fascinating creatures to soar through the world’s ocean and they are found worldwide in tropical waters, most commonly in shallow inshore waters, around reefs.  To come across them in Palau is quite common, thanks to the island formation and currents.  Made up of over 100 islands with low-lying oval islands ringed by barrier reefs, it is world renown for its marine bio-diversity.  Outside of the pelagic (such as sharks and rays), the water is teeming with barracuda, jacks and tuna.  Over 600 coral species smother the reefs overflowing with small fish.  Definitely a must for every diver.

As a new diver in 2007, my trip to Palau was a series of firsts – it was my first time to dive outside of the Philippines, to drift in strong currents, to use a reef hook, to see big fishes like sharks and rays…  And these firsts gave me the confidence underwater.  But truth be known, that Spotted Eagle Ray made my Palau dive experience impossible to forget.

The Kawasan High

Credits:  Papers by Queen of Quirks, Elements by Scrap Matters’ Life Simple Surprises Kit

Remarkable diving defines Moalboal and many combine it with a side trip to Kawasan Falls in nearby Badian town.

Just an hour away from Cebu’s diving destination, Badian is known for its 3-tiered waterfalls called Kawasan Falls.

A short trek will take you to the first falls where one can enjoy it with nary a need to swim if that is the preference (bamboo rafts are available to take people to the falls).

The beauty of the waterfalls cascading into turquoise pools and the lush tropical vegetation surrounding it already provides a natural high.

What more if, for 4 hours, you get to swim, trek, and jump into several of the turquoise pools along the way to Kawasan Falls?

We entered the falls from upstream, near the border of Badian, at the Matutinao Valley geared with a pair of booties, a life jacket and an adventurous spirit.  Canyoning at the Kawasan is not your ordinary Kawasan Falls excursion.

It requires swimming, river trekking, jumping off waterfalls and a bit of rappelling.  Canyoneering, as they call it, is a sport of exploring a canyon by engaging in rappelling, rafting and waterfall jumping.

The adrenalin started pumping at the Matutinao River, just a short distance from our jump-off.

We scrambled over rocks as we get use to the art of river trekking.

We sort of rappelled down a mountain slope to reach another canyon.

We swam when the water was deep.

We jumped from big boulders 4 times, sometimes over waterfalls, other times into a small basin with little room for error.

It was terrifying at times, but for the most part, it afforded us an ultimate high, non-stop adrenalin rush.  It was a high like no other.

The Aquaholic team made us feel safe all through out, guiding us through the magnificent sceneries of gorgeous blue lagoons and spectacular canyons and rock formation.

The remoteness and lack of habitation have left this valley a sanctuary.  In the course of our 4-hour escapade, we bumped into a few locals at the start and another canyoning group that explores the river the harder way from below, which they call river climbing.  Otherwise, we had the river and the beautiful riverscape all to ourselves to take pleasure in.

We reached the top of the 3rd cascade of Kawasan Falls at around 2pm.  Contrary to the tranquil environment we came from, we were greeted with loads of people enjoying their Sunday.

Caught off guard and surprised to see people out of nowhere walking down from atop the falls, they watched us with wonder as we walked pass them, exhausted but exhilarated.  Their facial expressions seemed to ask, “Where the heck did they come from?”

Going back to the van we walked this bamboo bridge which ironically was more frightening.

Why, one might wonder, do we take the grueling route when it only takes 15 minutes, 30 minutes tops to reach all 3 falls?

The answer to that would be because we love the challenge of an adventure.  Because we like doing things the unconventional way.  Because we are adrenaline junkies.  Because off-the-beaten paths are always more breathtaking…

Useful Info:

Philippine Aquaholic Diver’s Inc.
Club Serena Resort
Moalboal, Cebu City
Contact No: +63 (32) 516-1847; +63 (32) 474-0050; +63 (917) 717-3333
Email: dive@aquaholics.com.ph

Parma Ham & Quinoa

A colleague came back from Parma, Italy and brought home for me a whole chunk of… Parma ham, what else?  Oh my!  How the hell do I slice this beauty nice and thinly?  So it sat on my ref for forever.  But hooray to Santis… they agreed to slice this whole slab for me (for a fee of course but who cares for as long as I get to partake of it and not just drool whenever I open the ref) and so this has become a usual fare lately.

Team it up with cheese and bread, eaten either as is or as a sandwich… heaven.  Love it and could never tire of it.  Vacuum packed, it goes a long way too.

The very nice staff of Santis asked me if I wanted the ends.  “It’s good for soups and stews”, they suggested, so I asked them to throw that in too.  And this is how I used it.

Not (yet) on a soup or stew dish.  I always have veggies that needed to be eaten yesterday.

So some cubed ends of the ham got thrown into a medley of stir-fried veggies (carrots and string beans) for flavor and some guilty pleasure to an otherwise healthy dish.  Instead of rice, I felt like having it with quinoa.  It’s a highly nutritional seed that is prepared and eaten like whole grain such as rice or barley.  I like it because I like the firm and slightly chewy texture.  I usually cook it with milk and sweetened with honey or Agave syrup. But I came across a savory recipe that piqued my curiosity.

Topped with fried egg… super yum!

Boil with chicken or pork stock then top with the stir-fried veggies (with the ham) and you’ll be hooked.  How to cook quinoa:  you can either follow the instructions on the label or watch this:

Useful Info:

Where to find Quinoa in the Philippines?  You can find it in any Healthy Options store in the metro.

I Believe…

Our generally peaceful elections happened more than a week ago.  We have a new president-elect.  My candidate did not win and it left me emotional for a day or two but life does not stop just because…  and so it went on.  The people have chosen and well… gotta respect that.  But I am entitled to my opinion, after all this is my blog.   🙂 Methinks we let the good one slip away, yes we did.  And why do I think so?  Because the good one had a plan, his proposed policies are practical and doable; he gives importance to education, it is key to one’s success in life as it is key to a country’s success.  To minimize corruption, his plan was to offer incentives and rewards for good behavior.   He also does not bicker as the other politicians do.  He was able to mount a positive, credible and issue-based campaign without having to resort to mudslinging tactics against any of his opponents to win over millions.  One of his main platforms is national unity and reconciliation.  I believe that if he had won, he could do a lot more for our country as he thinks outside the box.  I also believe that this is just the beginning.  He has awaken a previously indifferent constituent in me.   I will, in the meantime, silently keep an eye on our newly elected President; pray that integrity and good principles guide his administration for the next 6 years.

As I was contemplating on the events of the past week, I remembered this cool video with very good advice to boot.  Inspired by it, I came up with a few lessons learned thus far, that I strongly believe in.

Credits:  JS In A Word papers, text flowers and text swirls.