Situated around 300km from the African coast, Tenerife is the largest and most populous of the seven Canary Islands. Due to its favourable yearlong climate, stunning natural landscapes, beautiful beaches and water sports activities, millions of holidaymakers flock to the island for a much-needed break from the norm.
Tenerife Lizard, by exetermogs (creative commons license)
Thankfully, there are several cheap flights to Tenerife 2013 to take advantage of this accessible island. But if you’re wondering about the practicalities of a trip to Tenerife, here are a few suggestions on what to do, what to eat and where to stay…
What to do
The Teide National Park covers 18,990 hectares and features the third largest volcano in the world from its base. The fascinating scenery along with a diverse range of flora, fauna and wildlife provides plenty of great photo opportunities.
There is also the option to go snorkelling or scuba diving among beautiful coral reef and remarkable marine life. But if you don’t want to get wet, regular boat trips to spot whales and dolphins depart from Playa de Los Cristianos and Costa Adeje throughout the day.
Where to eat and drink
In Santa Cruz you’ll find La Cazuela, a typical Spanish eatery that offers up traditional and hearty meals. The restaurant’s name comes from a casserole made from fresh or salted fish, which comes highly recommended due to its shoreline location.
Tenerife cuisine, by Kent Wang (creative commons license)
If you find yourself in the Playa De Las Americas area, check out Rincón del Marinero for yet more seafood specialities. This nautical-themed restaurant’s standout dish is zarzuela, a fish and seafood stew.
Staying in the same region, Mamma Rosa serves a diverse range of cuisine, with big portions of Mexican and Italian food easily filling any empty stomachs.
You’ll also find some fantastic nightlife around this area too, with hundreds of bars and nightclubs populating The Patch, Veronicas and Starco Commercial Centre.
Where to stay
For great value in Las Americas, Paradise Court Aparthotel is a terrific option. Here you’ll find clean facilities, well-equipped kitchens and a superb location.
Alternatively, if you’re after a bit of class and sophistication but don’t want to break the bank, try Hotel Contemporáneo in Santa Cruz De Tenerife. Each room is very spacious and features all the amenities you could ever wish for.
In addition, there are plenty of self-catered options, with villas and apartments located everywhere from Puerto de Santiago to the newer, upmarket resorts like Costa Adeje.
Going on a trip need not be far. Sometimes, all you have to do is have an open mind and rediscover what you already have around you. Such was the case for Binondo, the home of the Tsinoys or Filipino Chinese.
I used to go to Binondo for bargain shopping and wholesale buys at Divisoria and 168 Mall. But one Tuesday afternoon, I rediscovered Binondo as one of the must-go-places to treat your taste buds to a feast.
This time, I did not commute but rode the all-new Ford Focus, which was on a test drive. Since I was “not yet” used to the roads in the metro, fellow travel writer, Kara Santos of Traveling-Up, sat on the driver’s seat while I took the passenger seat.
The Focus has the features of a luxury car but is categorized in the consumer car segment. One of these features is the Sync, where a mobile phone is sync with the car. When someone calls you, you don’t need to hold your phone but answer the phone through voice commands.You can also dial a number by just telling the number or the name of the person in your phone book. Watch this video.
Another cool feature is receiving a text message. All you have to say is “Listen” and the voice will read the message for you.
We got to experience these while driving along Roxas Boulevard on our way to Binondo. After surviving the traffic, we met Old Manila Walks’ Ivan Man Dy at the Binondo Church. Ivan enriched our minds first by telling us about the history of Binondo, which is believed to be the oldest China Town in the world. According to him, it was established in 1596. (The Spaniards came to the Philippines in 1521. Ah yes, I remember my History Class!)
My stomach (I only ate one piece of bread for breakfast knowing that I’ll be going on a food trip) was revolting. But soon enough, it became peaceful and happy when we got to our first food stop: Cafe Mezzanine in Ongpin St.
Cafe Mezzanine is situated above the Eng Bee Tin shop. I didn’t know that a restaurant exist there. It was a pleasant surprise.
Firemen’s hats and photographs of fire disaster were displayed on the wall. Later on, I learned that the cafe is owned by one of the firefighter volunteers in Binondo. Ivan said that fire disasters were rampant in Binondo. Hence, the Filipino Chinese community formed a volunteer group for fire fighting and prevention.
Every food stop has its story to tell. Ivan began telling about how Tsinoys came about to the Philippines. To escape from poverty in Fujian province, the Chinese immigrants came to the Philippines to do business. Fujian province is geographically located at the southern tip of China, which is near our country. I then learned that not all Chinese food are the same. Like Filipinos, who have Kampampangan, Ilocano, Bicolano, and Tagalog dishes, they have different ways of cooking as well according to what region they came from.
In Cafe Mezzanine, they served Hokkien food (or the food cooked by Chinese who came from Fujian Province).
Dish 1: Kiampong (salted rice)
Cost: Php 75.00
Honestly, I’m not a fan of chopsticks. haha. Yep, I had a hard time picking those rice. You see, I’m proud to be Filipino even if I don’t look much of a Filipino. haha. So how was the taste? I love the peanuts but I’d still prefer YangChow over Kiampong. hehe.
Then I learned from food blogger Richard (who has Chinese blood) that kiampong is more of a “lutong bahay” or food that is for home consumption. It’s not a fancy Chinese food (which are mostly Cantonese food).
Dish 2: Special Fishball soup
Cost: Php 105.00
The soup was great to start the meal.
Dish 3: Lo Tau hu? Not sure with the spelling. (Simmered Tofu).
Cost: Php 45.00
This was what I like best in our first food stop. The tofu is covered in hot chili sauce with a kick of a little sweetness. The sourness of the atchara (slices of radish and carrots) placed on top of the tofu perfectly blends with the chili flavor.
Drink: Kundol Juice or Wintermelon Juice
It was only now that I learned that the wintermelon is kundol in Filipino. hehe. I only know of kundol in the lyrics of the folk song, “Bahay Kubo” (kundol, patola, upo’t kalabasa at saka meron pang labanos mustasa…you’re singing it right?)
The kundol juice was refreshing to the mouth. It was sweet and tasted like sago’t gulaman minus the sago and gulaman.
After a few minutes, we walked to our next stop, Dong Bei Dumpling.
Dong Bei Dumpling
Dong Bei Dumpling is a small dumpling place yet don’t be fooled with its appearance. It was another surprise. The owners of Dong Bei came from the northern part of China, hence, the dumplings that they serve are different from what were used to (e.g. siomai is a dumpling from the southern part of China like Hong Kong. It’s Cantonese style).
While the southerners/ Cantonese steam their dumplings, the northerners boil their dumplings.
Dish 1: Jiaoji- boiled dumpling northern style
Cost: Php 100
The Jiaoji is a bit slippery in the mouth. It is filled with ground pork mixed with greens (which I don’t know of). It has two dips: one is bland while the other has chili on it. It’s better to dip it in the chili sauce to give more flavor.
Dish 2: Sienbu? (Stuffed mini-pancakes)
Cost: Php 100
The stuffing is kuchay. Unlike the first one, this one is fried giving making it a lot tastier than the first one. It’s on the salty side.
Dish 3: Cumin Chicken (xinjiang)
The third dish was really surprising. The chicken along with the carrots and sayote (?) were diced and topped with sesame seeds. It has a taste of cumin which is usually associated with middle eastern or Indian food. But yes, it was Chinese food from the northern region of China.
Dish 4: Hamburger Tofu
This was an innovation to make pieces of tofu as if they were pieces of bread with a burger patty inside.
Among all the four dishes that we ate here, my choices were dish 2 (the pancakes) and the hamburger tofu!
We walked again to burn the calories to our last food stop, Awi’s at Nueva St., the street which is known for school and office supplies.
Awi’s Cafe and Restaurant
Awi’s is still owned by a Tsinoy. They renovated their restaurant with orange and apple green colors (favorite) that made it look funky. You wouldn’t think that it’s a Chinese resto. It was modernized.
Ivan said that this was one of his favorite restaurants in China Town.
Dish 1: Lobihon (noodle soup with bihon instead of lomi in it)
Cost: Php 130.00
Our group, Richard, Kara, and Dom shared a bowl of Lobihon. It was just okay for me. The black vinegar tasted like beer for me.
Dish 2: Gabi Cake
The gabi cake tasted good. The gabi is a form of extender that would make you feel full easily.
Dish 3: Coffee Spareribs
This was the winner dish for me! Tender pork coated in caramelized coffee was a feast to my taste buds. There’s a bitter and sweet taste when pork is chewed.
Drink: Dalandan Iced Tea
Cost Php 68.00
Chinese loves drinking hot tea but this modern Chinese cafe served an original concoction of dalandan in iced tea which was refreshing after eating all of the food.
It was fun to eat and learn at the same time in Binondo. Yes, everyday, there’s something new to learn and relearn even if we’re already familiar with the place.
Note: This is a sponsored trip. Special thanks to Ford and Ogilvy for inviting me to this food trip.
Taking a breather from work can be as easy as going on a road trip and food trip to Laguna.
The wind blew as the jeepney passed by farmlands. It was one fine Saturday. From the San Pablo Cathedral, J and I hailed a tricycle to bring us to Cafe Lago fronting Sampaloc Lake, the largest among the Seven Lakes of San Pablo.
Admittedly, I was underwhelmed with the view. Maybe, it’s because of the gloomy weather. The usual scenic photograph of Sampaloc Lake hugging Mt. Cristobal was nowhere in sight. Mt. Cristobal was hiding behind the clouds.
Nonetheless, J and I went inside Cafe Lago, draped with vines that flow like curtains. The eyes might be a bit sad but the stomach was definitely happy with turon partnered with tsokolate. It’s a bit pricey though. For a merienda, its price was similar to those cafes in Manila.
After the tasty merienda, I went out to look for subjects. Photography enthusiasts would surely enjoy the walk along the Dagatan Avenue. There were many interesting subjects like the kids playing, a man fishing, or the local folks staring at the lake.
The food trip did not end there as we visited Sulyap Gallery situated in Cocoland Compound. At first glance, I hesitated to get pass by the gate. No one seemed to be there. An old volkswagen and a scooter were parked infront of the main entrance. I readily thought that it was the restaurant when a guy in a motorcycle approached us.
“Dito po ang restaurant,” said the guy. He then led us to a two-storey structure reminiscent of the past. I thought I entered a different time zone—a time when the Spaniards colonized the Philippines. From the exteriors to the interiors, everything was put together to create a “back to the past” atmosphere.
I didn’t remain in my seat waiting for the food. I shot happily.
The waiter then recommended that we try their Bangus Belly and their specialty, Kulawong Puso ng Saging.
Service was not that fast. So expect to wait 20-30 minutes before you get the food on your table. But I can say that the food was worth the wait.
Here’s the Bangus Belly topped with fried garlic bits and tomatoes. This is good for 2-3 servings.
The Kulawong Puso ng Saging was a winner! It’s a specialty of San Pablo. The smoked flavor blended well with the coconut milk. Yummy! It’s indeed a must-try dish. But of course, you get what you pay for. The dishes were a bit expensive (price range-Php 300-500 per dish).
If you want to experience more of Laguna, then check this out.
Hundreds of motorcycles driving around the rotonda welcomed us as the bus finally arrived in Can Tho City.
While most of our companions chose to stay at a two-star hotel, we deviated from the majority’s choice. I persuaded my parents that we should stay at a Vietnamese Homestay to get a different experience. My persuasion worked.
The vehicle parked in front of the two-star shabby hotel. A young man in his 20s approached us and introduced himself as Minh. He’s the owner of the homestay, where we’ll be spending the night.
My parents were surprised that we’re riding motorcycles on the way to Minh’s homestay. I just smiled at their worried faces. I hopped on the motorcycle and couldn’t hide my smile riding alongside hundreds of motorcycles in Can Tho City.
From the city, it took us 25 minutes before we arrived at Minh’s home beside the river. Though Minh knows a little English, he tried his best to talk with us. He said that he’s a tourism student and would want to be a tour guide when he finishes college.
I’ve researched and seen good reviews in TripAdvisor’s specialty lodging for the Mekong Delta. It was also recommended by fellow PTB member, the Solitary Wanderer Aleah who stayed there as well.
Minh showed us our room made of thatched nipa. It has two double beds, an electric fan, and a toilet of its own. And yes, they have mosquito nets. As simple as it was, the room was homey.
I checked the toilet. It was clean and decent enough.
There is also an outlet for charging phones and cameras.
I dropped my bag and wandered outside. A young girl at the veranda smiled at me. I asked her name. She replied with all her best in English, “My name is Nghâ.”
I didn’t understand the name. She repeated it and I followed her until I pronounced it right. Her mother, the housekeeper laughed as I tried to chat with her but the conversation didn’t push through as she couldn’t understand my English anymore.
As expected, they have hammocks at the veranda. I rested in one of them. It was relaxing. Minutes later, another woman came. She introduced herself as Minh’s mother. She then told us that dinner would be served at 7pm.
She was also having difficulty to converse in English. But she used the universal language, SMILE, to communicate with us. She used hand gestures to convey that we Filipinos looked like Vietnamese too. The only English words that she uttered, “Same Same.” (And then she smiled).
It felt great to chat with locals like them who tried their best to mingle with us despite language barrier.
It was a family affair as Minh’s brother set up the table and served the meals.
We called it a day after feasting over spring rolls, sweet and sour red fish, fried noodles, fried little shrimps (okoy), and vegetable soup.
The home-cooked food prepared by Minh’s family was one of the best Vietnamese food that I’ve tasted.