“Mommy, it’s too hard”

My 3-year old daughter told me that her Chinese lesson was too hard. She could not remember the words for “sun” and “moon” despite me repeating it over and over.

“Mommy, it’s too hard,” she said as her eyes started to tear up.

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My mommy guilt rose — am I pushing her too hard? She’s only turning 4 this month. Most kids don’t even go to school. But I strengthened my resolve.

This was good for her. I know in my heart she needs this. I don’t care if she knows sun or moon or whatever Chinese words the kindergarten throws at her, but I do want her to learn:

  1. That she should not dismiss something as too hard just because she doesn’t understand it. If you don’t know it, then aim to know it. Once you know it, it gets easier,
  2. That she can’t give up just because it’s too hard. I won’t let her,
  3. Once she understands the concept, she can play, thus reinforcing that there’s reward to her effort.
  4. Everyone else in the family will not let up until she know the words sun and moon. I’ve had both grandmother test her on random times of the day to ensure she learns it.
She finally learned the two words after a day or two. And this is just Junior Nursery.
I rue the day she will turn Grade 1.
Posted in baby, Early Learning, Education, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

1st Crystal Cruise Tour: Vienna City Tour in the Morning

Taking a tour with the Crystal Cruises is a luxury. The buses are big, the seats are comfortable and there’s complimentary water and toilet inside the coach.

We each have a tour device you can hang around your neck, making touring convenient.

The guide will talk towards the earpiece, enabling you to listen to the tour despite not being close to your guide. You just have to remember to charge it every evening as battery only lasts a day.

Our bus drives past the Danube River where our boat was parked. On the right, the black colored Danube City Tower is the tallest in Vienna at 60 floors.

Vienna is one of four residences of the United Nations housing 5,000 people. Price Waterhouse Coopers also houses offices in the same Danube City Tower.

Right beside the Danube City Tower is the red and white colored Danube Tower. It is at the left side of the photo and is older than most of the skyscrapers in the area. There’s a revolving restaurant that completes a revolution under one hour and people used to visit the tower as a lookout of the entire city.

On the left, we passed by the old ferris wheel. Vienna houses the oldest ferris wheel in Europe. During the 19th century, every European city had their own ferris wheel as a sign of prestige. But due to the war, most other ferris wheels were dismantled for valuable parts.

So, the only standing Vienna Ferris wheel became one of the oldest in Europe. Each trip takes 20 minutes.

Vienna has 1.9 people living inside the city. In total, there are 9 million people in Austria so a big chunk of them lice in Vienna. As Vienna was the seat of an old empire, a lot of the buildings remain standing and was converted to shops, banks and hotels. On the yellow building to the right hand side, the composer of the Danube Waltz lived there.

Vienna has 24 universities. The Webster University cost EUR 20,000 to 40,000 per year. However, if you studied in a state university, membership only costs EUR 30. Education is free from kindergarten to master’s degree so Austrians like the Czech got it good.

Education, health insurance, maternity leave (up to 2 years), retirement and unemployment benefits are funded by taxes.

Income tax in Austria

Income tax in Austria can be high depending on your income levels. If you only earned EUR 11,000 a year, you enjoyed paying zero taxes. However, if you earned EUR 30,000 a year, tax was 1/3 of your income. If you earned EUR 60,000 or more, more than half of your income is taxed. So people always say you pay high taxes in Austria.

In addition to the taxes, there’s also an additional VAT of 10-20% but that’s already incorporated inside the price. VAT is listed separately so everyone is clear on how much it is. For global blue, you just need to buy items EUR 75 and above to enjoy a tax return.

The bus passes through the Danube Canal.

To get to Ring Avenue, we pass by several notable buildings. On the left is the War Ministry. Ironically, though part of the European Union, Austria is not part of any war organization like NATO.

As mentioned, most of the palaces had been converted to banks, retail shops and hotels. This building houses a TGIF. The other building has McDonalds in the ground floor.

We pass by Charles Church, a 300 year old building with a green copper dome.

And the Vienna State Opera. The Vienna State Opera is sold out every night. Ticket prices range from the ridiculously cheap to the expensive at EUR 3 to EUR 300 each.

The EUR 3 tickets are standing room. The cheapest tickets with seat is EUR 10. All tickets are affordable but the trick is getting them. It is highly possible that people queue up for hours for a standing room ticket. Music and arts are very important for Austrians so most locals enjoy a night of going to the opera. There’s always something for someone as the program changes everyday.

We then pass by the Parliament Building which is forever is under construction.

In the Town hall, the Christmas Markets has already started. Christmas Markets can be enjoyed from late November and lasts the rest of the holiday season.

Now we are approaching the Imperial Palace. We were dropped in between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Fine Arts.

Here’s the Museum of Natural History: entrance for kids for free. That’s kinda cool that the children are given priority.

And the Museum of Fine Arts which are full of paintings:

In between the two museums is the statue of Maria Theresa, the Austrian empress with 16 children. Her statue is between two beautiful buildings and is surrounded by military advisors

We walked through the gate surrounding the imperial palace.

The Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace was erected by the Hapsburg Family. They never won any battle except for one against Napoleon, who beat him 3 weeks later. They did outlive their enemies by marrying well and having many children.

In this left wing is where the Audtrian president is working. He’s there now because the flags indicate he’s in Austrian territory.

The president is elected by the people every 6 years with a maximum of 2 terms. The youngest allowable age to vote is 16 years old.

There are 18 wings and 19 courtyard in the palace. The apartments can be rented by anybody including many restaurants and souvenir shop.

We enter the inner courtyard at the palace. Building the palace took 640 years, same as the Hapsburg family’s rule over Austria. So while Schonbronn Palace was the provincial residence or weekend cottage, the Imperial Palace was where they spent most of their time.

We enter the gate into one of the most beautiful domes in Vienna.

Entering this door will take you to the Imperial Apartments that gives you a view to the palatual court. On the right, there’s the Spanish horse school with prancing horses. The horse came from spain but in 16th centry, it was moved here in Vienna.

Through the gate is a small Christmas market. Whoops, no photos please.

Following the path is the 10th most expensive street in the world. It’s amazing on how it can be so simple yet so pricey. There is Chanel and Hermes on this street, and it’s always good to windowshop.

Along the street is the St. Peter Church, 300 years old, and very baroque. Bells still ring every hour.

Followed by the Black Death monument — It has clouds and angels, and Emperor Leopold showimg his humility in the middle. The ugly figure lying down is black death and the beautiful woman in the bottom symbolizes the importance of a strong faith in God.

The street ends by St Stephen’s Church which is made of sandstone. EUR 2 million is needed to maintain the church. There are 17,000 people who walk in there everyday so careful of pickpockets.

The subway bathrooms are clean but cost EUR 0.50. At least there are toilets.

Inside St. Stephens Church. There’s a closed area for a EUR 6 tour but we remained in the free area.

And the small Christmas market by St. Stephens that sell exorbitantly priced goods.

And this concludes our City Tour and free time. “Time to go back to the boat,” our guide said.

Back at the boat, we have a wonderful buffet lunch at the Waterside. There’s a great selection of salad, mains, soup and dessert.

While full, we still had delicious ice cream at the Bistro. At Crystal Mozart, everything is included and you get your pick of teas, coffees, light snack and ice cream at the Bistro.

  • It was just 1pm and we already had a packed schedule and a full stomach. That’s one of the best things traveling with Crystal Cruises — they take care of you every single step of the day!
  • The day is not over and there’s more to come in the afternoon. But this post is too long so I will save what happened on the next post.
  • To be continued….
  • Posted in crystal cruises, Europe Trip, Tours and Travels, Travels, vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Second Day: Krems Monastery and Wine Tasting Tour

    Krems is a twin city: Stein, the place where the toll was collected and Krems, the market town. It was a trading hub.

    Currently, it has 26,000 permanent inhabitants. It boasts of 3 private universities and an additional 10,000-12,000 students who take their further studies in Krems.

    Krems also features the second biggest commercial port in Austria. It is only 45 minutes away from Vienna by train.

    Today, we will have a monastery tour and wine tasting.

    Abbeys own large territories after receiving land and donations over the last thousand of years. Austria is called the Land of Monasteries given its predominantly Catholic roots.

    The pope has a dispute to decide who is bishop. The emperor wanted to decide given they have worldly jurisdictional power. This investiture controversy almost brought upon a civil war. So they settled from Germany to Austria so Austria became a place of refuge so many monasteries were made here.

    In the 16th century, Protestantism was on the rise in Austria. Because of this, the Hapsburg family launched the Re-Reformation to make the country back to Catholicism. As a result, 4,000 monasteries was built from Franciscan to Benedictines and such.

    Joseph the Second closed up to 2/3 of the monasteries, leaving a few monasteries that became even more powerful than before.

    A lot of big businesses set up in Krems. For example, there’s Benda-Lutz that specializes in paint and aluminum pignents which are used for painting 70% of cars.

    Herzogenburg Monastery

    We arrived in the Herzogenburg Monastery.

    The monastery follows the rules of St. Agustines. There are 16 monks, 5 of which live outside the monastery and inside their respective parishes.

    This courtyard mooks weird because it’s unfinished due to the cost.

    This church is older than the monastery. The style is Romanesque but reshaped to Baroque style. This church is at the very end of the Baroque era. Everything is more floral, delicate and generally lighter in color.

    There are two patron saints in the church — St. Stephen and St. George.

    The church features St. Stephen and the heavens opened for him. St. Stephen was stoned to death outside Jerusalem. His last words were, “I see the heavens open for me.”

    Inside the church, there is a catacomb saint, remains of a human being that was brought here. In the age of reformation, many relics were destroyed. So the church requests the pope for a relic to make the church more powerful.

    Another feature of this church is this church organ, which is in its old original self.

    Despite its age, the organ still works and is player

    We then proceed to go inside the monastery and walk up the staircase.

    Check out the painted ceilings.

    These were heaters in the monastery to keep the place warm.

    This painting is view of the Monastery before the Baroque building. In the background, you see the alps. The medieval abbey featured farmyard, the church and an array of separate buildings surrounded by massive walls.

    The second painting is much more structured.

    We enter the big room and we see how opulent and impressive monasteries can be. Many monasteries were land owners and need to display their power and authority. It was not the time to be humble, and each room was decorated as such, with marbled floors and painted ceilings.

    St. Augustine and his History

    St. Agustine was born in the Roman Empire in Algeria, born to a rich family. Augustine was always searching for meaning with his life. Finally, he decicated himself to search for God.

    In this painting, Augustine walks onshore and sees a boy, who was trying to bail out the ocean into a sand pit. Augustine realized that it was the same as his search for God where He’s trying to grasp God with his own limited mind.

    The rule of St. Augustine is one of the oldest compilation for clerics.

    This crucifix is called the mystic cross. What’s different about this crucifix is that it shows Jesus Christ’s pain and suffering. Most other crosses depict Jesus usually looking majestic. But here, we see a weak and suffering Jesus who sacrificed for us.

    We now enter the quiet chapel straight down the hall.

    Where we seat is where the canons meet and pray 3x a day. Joining this community, there are several stages starting as a Novice to see if you can fit this society.

    Afterwards, you become a Profes. You can quit but it’s hard. The canons who live here have no private fortune. You can donate it or pass it to your relatives.

    However, the canons here though get a salary which goes to a communal bank account and they get an allowance. The allowance can be used to finance their daily expenses

    This is the private chapel and the canons gather here to pray. It’s also heated. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The painting shows the archangel Gabriel approaching the Virgin Mary.

    The scenes from the ceiling shows the life of the Virgin Mary.

    The next room contains the robes and items of the priest.

    A big difference is that the Catholics believe that Christ is present in the consecrated host and drink. Protestants believe it’s just a symbolism.

    The next room is the library, holding 16,000 to 17,000 historical books. Books in this library vary, composing of theological books, law, history, science and arts.

    These libraries are treasures for all kinds of goods including letters to Martin Luther.

    Down the stairs, we see a big lego model of the monastery. Pretty cool!

    Wine Tasting

    The area only makes white wine and we are greered by Johann, who is n charge of the winery.

    We go down the wine cellar which is shaped like a cross. It’s more similar to the Baroque style. This cellar was erected in 1800, the same person who designed the alley.

    The cellar was created before the monastery. He used this to prove his capabilities as a builder. All the bricks were made inhouse.

    Monasteries always owned vineyards. It was an important source of income for them. The abbey employed their own cellar master. The cellar also processed vinegar, as hygienical standards were really high.

    The winery — wineyard, cellar and a processing facility — was then rented to a local family. The couple after they reached their 80s returned it and another family, the Schillings, rented it and is operating it today.

    A lot of money was invested to produce wine that passes international standards.

    The winery produces white wine exclusively. There are four types and we start with the lightest variant. This wine is used during service and is considered a sacramental wine.

    This wine has 12% alcohol and made in 2018.

    Did you notice anything about the labels?

    You guessed right, they looked like priest’s robes, signalling they were made in here.

    We were given four different types of wine, all of them white.

    The first was fruity and crispy. The second has more body and is more peppery. And the third one is a bit more sour.

    The last one is 2017, 13% alcohol white wine. Nois burgois uses large grapes and sucks up all the rain water. The grapes almost explodes and outgrow the grapes losing the entire batch.

    And that ends our monastery and wine tasting tour. My face is red, and we’re ready for lunch.

    Afterwards, it would be great to soak in the boat jacuzzi to relax.

    Posted in children, Europe Trip, Family, Kiddie Activities, Motherhood, Parenting, Tours and Travels, Travels, vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Welcome to the Crystal Mozart! It’s good to be “home”

    We have arrived at Crystal Mozart at 6pm after checking out from Prague, and visiting Kuta Hora.

    It is an utter pleasure to be at Crystal Mozart again. The staff greeted us warmly and many recognized us from last year. It was so nice to hear them say, “Welcome Madame, do you remember me from last year? It is a pleasure to serve you again!”

    Waaaaah, so nice to be back!

    The reception was easy and everything is done at the ipad. They can even do their check-ins at the room door. They have your photo and signature so everything’s personalized:

    Check-in was a breeze. And the team made sure we were comfortable inside our room in a jiffy.

    The room was cozy and clean. Please note that we had a standard room so this was already impressive.

    Look ma, automatic toilets! With automatic bidet and dryer! The toilet seat goes up and down whenever there’s someone in the room.

    Look, Etro shampoo, lotion and soap!

    Everything is included in the price. Even the champagne, the coffee pods and drinks inside the ref. That’s one great thing about Crystal, you pay once and everything is included.

    At 7:30pm, we head to the Waterside for dinner and was warmly greeted by Sebastian, our favorite server from last year.

    We brought a bigger group this time so Sebastian and Co was nice to set this table for us.

    This is a popular table,” Sebastian shared. There were a lot of Asian groups in this cycle.

    The menu for the night:

    The bread was really nice. Make sure you get the Saltine bread as it’s perfectly soft and salted. I get this bread every time when on board.

    Our appetizers was the Styrian Ham and Mushroom Tart. I like them both. The mushrooms are perfectly seasoned and fresh.

    Followed by the roasted pumpkin soup.

    My daughter is surprised by the serving of pasta. It was too much so our entire table had to share:

    And we had the steak sirloin, medium.

    For dessert, we had the raspberry zuppa ingles to share as we were already so full. Parents in law had black currant sorbets.

    Once again, the Waterside did not disappoint. The Cappuccino was dark and awesomely milked, and was the perfect end to the meal.

    Tomorrow, we will visit Vienna. So excited!

    Posted in Europe Trip, Family, Food, Marriage, Tours and Travels, vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Second Day in Prague: The Taste of Prague Foodie Tour

    We signed up for The Taste of Prague, the #1 food tour in Prague according to TripAdvisor.com. It’s not exactly cheap so we came with really high expectations.

    We were warmly greeted by Karolina, a 39-year old mother of two who has been food’ng with The Taste of Prague for awhile. Apparently, the group consisted of 8 employees and run foodie tours simultaneously.

    Karolina explained to us that the Czech Republic was part of Chekoslovakia before halfing in 1918.

    In 1938, they were occupied by the Nazis, and in 1940, the communists.

    The Communist made businesses state owned and locked the borders down. Consequently, there was limited importation and basic needs. That’s why food the was bland and boring as everyone had to follow a single cookbook for all.

    So over 41 years, the Czechs ate the same food, sharing same tastes and had the same pub interiors. Nobody was free to be creative because of practicalities.

    However, when they were liberated, it was then they were free to explore, including food. So the Czechs opened the easiest restaurants there is, Italian restaurant with the usual pizza and pasta.

    Our first stop: Lokal

    We started with Pilsner Urquell beers, pickled cheese, beef goulash, selection of sausages, Prague ham with creamed horseradish in Lokal pub over at Dlouha 33. Lokal had a retro Russian interior and now boasts around 6 branches.

    The beer in Lokal is out of this world and fresh from Pilsner Urquell. They bring it fresh at 6am everyday and pump them into these beauties.

    Inside, it was very busy popular place. “The ambiance here is always fun,” shared Karolina.

    It is only in Czech Republic that you can call Pilsner a Pilster. This beer is a pale lager and Pilsner Urquell brings it in everyday at 6am. Fresh, non-pasteurized and healthyc Pilsner Urquell beer is made using natural fermentation and with probitiocs.

    Becausw they are fresh and non pasteurized, Pilsner Urquell have to sell what they made within 20 days. The last tip of the beer is 4 degrees.

    Lokal serves 3,000 portions of 1,500 liters per night. That’s a LOT of beer.

    Fun fact: The Czechs drink the most beer per capita in the world, beating the Germans, Belgians and Russians, among all other nationalities.

    Here in Lokal, you can buy Pilsners with three types of foam as follows:

    The Czechs love their foam so the Mliko is mostly foam and you drink until you are full to drink. Here’s the difference of the two beers — Mliko (Left) and Hladinka (Right):

    In Czech Republic, beer is cheaper than water and other non-alcoholic beverage. The Czechs can drink the entire day, boasting zero turntables. This means that unlike other countries, Czech Republic restaurants do not shoo guests away. It remains your decidion to be there for hours and most people can start drinking in lunch time. So they can consume a lot of beer per day.

    Lokal enjoys family style dining. The most delicious dishes here are beer food — Salty, greasy and awesome, and here were a few of what was ordered.

    Hermelin Cheese

    Hermelin cheese is a type of Czech cheese that’s filled with garlic and pickled pearl onions in vinegar brine. The pepper is not spicy and you eat the cheese from top to bottom and best served with rye bread.

    Prague ham with whipped horseradish cream

    To make the ham, it’s soaked in 5 weeks of salt brine, smoked for 4 hours of smoking, and cooked for 10 hours. The ham tastes light and airy and the creamed horseradish is the same. It’s a great palaman for any sandwich snack.

    Beef Goulash

    Beef goulash tastes like any beef stew back home. It’s not as spicy and can be eaten with dumplings and bread.

    They key to a lovelt beef goulash is to cook it slowly for hours. The sauce is thick and juicy and perfect for cold days.

    Czech Sausages with Amazing Homemade Mustard

    They taste as good as it looks. The whipped horseradish is really nice.

    Karonila shared that in Czech Republic, their state universities are usually better than the private universities. People who usually go to private universities in the Czech Republic are usually those who cannot get admitted to state schools, so that’s something different.

    Healthcare is also reasonable in the Czech Republic. Citizens only need to pay around USD 60-80 per month for healthcare, and you are covered medically. And while waiting to see a doctor takes 30 minutes to 1 hour, definitely waiting for a doctor is more efficient than in Manila. Karolina recommended that weekdays are better to go to see doctors if it’s not an emergency. Waiting for a hip replacement takes 3 months and cancer treatment is free and you don’t have to wait.

    Second Stop: Nase Maso

    We than headed into Pragues Gourmand passage to grab some awesome meatloaf and steak tartare from Nase Maso butcher shop over at Dlouhá 39.

    Nase Maso is a celebrity bucher for years and is known for their greatest quality and service. The owners serve their customers and prepare the meats themselves so people love the personal touch.

    Karolina serves us two of Nase Maso’s bestsellers: their steak tartarte and meat loaf. She gave each of us a shot to complement the taste. The Czech brandy is made of plums and the shot is smooth to taste.

    The cows in Nase Maso are slow-growing cows. They are grass fed and air dried for 72 days. Nase Maso is open daily until 10pm everyday except Sunday.

    There is a neighborly wine bar that opens at 5pm. You can order a steak from Nase Maso and ask them to bring steak there to eat in the wine bar.

    The meatloaf is made out of 20% pork, 80% beef and 40% fat.

    The meatloaf has no chemicals or preservatives so it’s relatively healthy.

    The greatest thing about being part of a foodie tour is when a local takes you around. Karolina took us to try the subway for the first time and we headed to our next stop, Eska, a more fine dining type of restaurant.

    Third Stop: Eska

    We followed to Karlin district to have some refreshing Gin (Little Urban distillery) and Tonics, potatoes in ash with creamy potato espuma, Josper grill chicken breast with grilled cabbage and goose berries, 2017 Gruner Veltliner white wine by Ota Sevcik at the Eska restaurant (Pernerova 49).

    Inside, the interiors were impressive and pretty modern. It’s a good start to our third meal for the afternoon.

    Eska has operated over the last 4 years and has earned a Michelin star. We started with their freshly baked bread that’s made out of 30% rye and 70% potato. The bread is served with lightly salted freshly churned butter.

    For amuse bouche, we had the Jerusalem artichokes filled with bean paste and dribbled with oil on top.

    For our next dish, Karolina ordered Eska’s best seller: roasted potato in cream base. However you imagine it to taste, that’s it. It’s good but it’s not Michelin star good.

    Karolina shared with us that Prague has 1.2 million people in Prague and a total of 10 million people in the Czech Republic. In 2016, there were 31 million tourists that visited the country, which means there are more tourists than there are locals.

    She also shared with us that Czech wine is primarily made and drunk within the Czech Republic because the European Union hs banned it from manufacturing wine for export to the other countries to protect the more popular wine makinf countries like Austria and Northern France. 70% of Czech wines are whites and light reds and can only be found within the country.

    Lastly, we had chicken that was roasted from Jasper, the rolls royce of ovens. It’s tender and served with seared cabbage.

    Fourth Stop: Kantyna

    We continued to Kantyna over at Politických Vězňů 5 for pork neck schnitzel, pulled beef and pickled vegetables and Kozel beers, Gotberg Pinot noir, Cert schnapps.

    The place does not accept any reservations and we were served at the standing room table. Kantyna is a fancy self-service place and we had two tastings for this stop — the juicy Pork Schnietzel and the Pulled Beef.

    Fifth and Last Stop: Mysak Patisserie

    We ended the tour at Cukrarna Myšak with selection of the most traditional deserts vetrnik, Prazska koule, venecek, Indianek and laskonka. You will find all this on Vodickova 31.

    A plate of mini dessert sells for 210 CZR and is made of:

    1. Vanilla cream and sugar glaze
    1. Chocolate dough with farmer’s cheese filling
    1. Salted caramel vanilla
    1. Meringue dipoed in chocolate
    1. Salted caramel in dough with hazel nuts on top

    Karolina served us a choice of coffee and hot chocolate. By this time, I was already too full and merely took a bite of each to just get a taste. Chocoholics would love this place!

    In summary

    We ended the tour with Karolina giving us two gifts, this lovely book and bubble gum.

    Personally, a lot of these restaurants are accessible once you know their names and addresses, but it’s still worthwhile to hire the Taste of Prague team to take you around and show you the good stuff.

    People in Czech don’t normally speak English unless once spoken to, so it’s not easy just to drop by and order food right off the bat. As these places are also very popular, you may have to fall in line and it’s not that easy to get a seat.

    What’s more, if you have limited time, just leave the dirty and legwork to the experts, and enjoy the show. I know we did. 🙂

    Posted in Europe Trip, Family, First Experiences, Food, Leisure, Restaurant reviews, Tours and Travels, Travels, vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    First Day in Prague

    We started the tour in Mala Strana area where the aristocrats lived. It’s closest to our hotel so it’s the best place to start.

    Following the alley, we passed by the John Lennon Pub Restaurant. On its right, you can see the water level. In 2002, there was a flood and the water level reached 7 meters high.

    This bridge is over the the Prague Venice. The little man is supposed to grab naughty kids and drag them to the water. It’s offers a picturesque glimpse of the city.

    On the left is a graffiti wall…

    Farther on the right is the John Lennon wall. Since 1968, people started to draw graffiti on the wall, proclaiming about human rights, political stance and love. This was exacerbated by the death of John Lennon.

    The Lennon Wall became a symbol of courage because anyone who was caught drawing a graffiti was persecuted, them and their entire family. Hence, if your brother was accepted to the university, his admission would be revoked if you were caught.

    We next visited the Church of our Lady Virgin Mary where we were blessed by the priest. Our guide said that 80% of Czech were atheist after they had Catholicism rammed down their throat after killing 27 noblemen in the square.

    The inside was pretty.

    You can pray to the Sto. Nino and ask for blessings. I asked for a second baby, haha!

    The guide also brought us behind the altar where a priest blessed our family. That was nice.

    Darkness arrive in Prague early and when we stepped out of the church, it was already dark even though it was only 4:30pm.

    We had some traditional Czech treats and drank some hot wine. I particularly like the hot wine as it warms you up in the chilly evenings.

    The ice cream did not melt so that was cool.

    We then took the tram up the Czernim Palace. Ticket per person was CZR 24. You can avail of a 1-trip ticket but as a tourist, it may be reasonable to avail of a 1-day or 3-day ticket.

    The guide told us that we had to validate our tickets all the time. If the conductor caught us with an invalidated ticket, there was a huge penalty.

    That was kinda funny because in the Philippines, the trust system does not work. If the Filipino can get caught not paying, they would. Filipinos are also unafraid of paying fines because execution of punishment back home is weak. People of Metro Manila can learn a lot from the Czechs.

    Apparently, in Prague, people are polite, follow the rules and are on time. The streets are impeccably clean so it was nice to go around the area.

    There’s minimal crime in Prague although you just have to be wary of pickpockets in the popular tourist areas. Even if you walk alone at night, you’ll still be safe,” our guude said.

    Czernim Palace used to be a family residence but after their bankruptcy, the palace was converted to a barracks. Now it now houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    We then entered the exterior of the Prague Castle where the President does his business. It’s a beautiful building and housed one of the most beautiful church exteriors we have ever seen.

    We even managed to see the changing of the guard. Not as impressive as Taipei’s or London’s but we were just have been happy to catch it.

    Down the hill, we went and these were the sights along the way.

    There’s a lot of stores that sell marijuana products in the street. “They’re not really potent,” Jan our guide said. “They look like marijuana, they smell like marijuana but effects wise, it’s weak.

    This was the Italian embassy just right at the street. Back in Manila, there would be high fortified gates and security guard but here, the only thing that differentiate an embassy from a regular building are the flags outside.

    Here were the other things we saw:

    We then came upon the popular Charlesbridge which connected the old and new towns. The Charlesbridge was the highlight of our Prague trip. Photos alone do not do it any justice but here you go:

    Charlesbridge is especially romantic at night. It’s a long walk but every step shows you something beautiful. You really need to devote some time to enjoy the sights on both sides.

    There are 31 sculptures in the bridge. They are all beautiful. Here were some of them.

    In the middle of the bridge is a place where you can make wishes. Put your right foot on the dot on the floor, hold the cross with the right hand and your five fingers from the left hand on the five stars.

    This was the place where a priest was thrown off the bridge for not revealing what was confesses to him. In a way, that was a sign of courage and the ability to stand for what you think is right.

    At the end of the bridge is a church. We’ve now arrived in Old Town.

    It’s also where you can get to the best currency exchange in the city. Just turn left from Charlesbridge, walk until you reach this corner and them turn right.

    After turning right, walk towards the end of thr street until you see a KFC on the right.

    The exchange is on the left.

    Rates are most reasonable of around 25+ CZR per Euro. This was way better than the 20 CZR per 1 Euro we exchanged at the airport.

    Our guide said exchanges around Prague vary, so while it’s better to have local currency on hand, be wary of scammers as rate difference was wide. In our case, it was a whopping 25% difference!

    In case you get scammed, the law dictates you can go back to the money exchanger within 3 hours if you still have the receipt and the money. This protects gullible tourists like us from getting scammed.

    Going straight is already old town where you can see the astronomical clock.

    The Astronomical clock is just behind this structure.The clock rings at the start of every hour.

    Within 42 seconds, the skeleton will ring bell to show us that we do not live forever, and afterwards, the 12 apostles will show up from the two glass windows. Lastly, the golden rooster on top will crow signalling the end of the show.

    We ate at the local Czech Restaurant Apropos where we had delicious duck and a big glass of beer.

    This dish is bigger than it looks. The photo does not do the dish any justice.

    The place gets full very quickly so it’s best to make a reservation. I found the price to be very reasonable for 5 people and 2 kids.

    We walked back to the hotel afterwards. We were jetlagged and tired and did not bring a stroller. Note to self, next time, bring a stroller.That’s love right there.

    Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our first day in Prague. It truly is a beautiful city and one of the best in Europe. For first timers in the continent, Prague is a must include in the itinerary.

    More update tomorrow as we join the #1 tour of the city!

    Posted in Europe Trip, Family, Tours and Travels, Travels, vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    The Story of the Vending Machine

    During our layover in Istanbul, my daughter wanted to buy at fast fashion store JC Waikiki.

    The vending machine was cheap at EUR 5.95 but after buying her a nice red jacket and a Frozen Bluebooth headset, I was NOT in the mood to be generous.

    “I want! I want!!!” She said. “I want a vending machine.”

    Of course I said no. Why should I buy her because she wanted one?

    Then she went to my mom and said, “Ama, can you please buy me the vending machine?”

    The horrors!

    After I say no, she runs to my mom and try to pit us against each other. So now, it’s definitely no!

    She cries and wails and complains.

    When she sees her father, she cries to him as well. “Mommy did not buy me the vending machine,” she whined.

    It’s not fair,” she told me. “You did not buy me the vending machine.”

    The heck, she forgot all the stuff I bought her today and the years before, and she calls me unfair?

    You hurt my feelings,” she said.

    Yes, I know you are sad but Mommy don’t need to buy you anything just because you want it,” I said. “Actually, I buy you so many things. You complaining that I don’t buy you things is UNFAIR.”

    She continued to feel bad all the way till we got to Prague when she was reminded of the vending machine and was immediately sad.

    Afterwards, she goes to her grandmother for comfort. Ama was more than happy to shield her from her evil mother who did not want her to buy the vending machine.

    And of course when sad, where else does she cry except to her dear grandmother?

    The Deal

    So I made a deal with her.

    “If you give the high chair to your cousin, finish your food and be a good girl the entire day, then maybe, just maybe, Mommy will give you a reward.”

    Well, it aint much but there was only one high chair in the restaurant so my daughter who was occupying it has to give way.

    You need to learn how to share, so if you give the high chair to Cousin, that’s a start of being a good girl.”

    To be fair, daughter DID give way. She instead went to the pigeons to keep her mind away from the vending machine.

    She did finish her food.

    And she was a pretty good girl the entire day.

    Unbeknownst to her, my mom and I did buy the vending machine in secret, which we did give to her as a reward at the end of the day.

    The girl was so so so happy!

    I think it’s a great idea — Instead of buying kids what they want left and right, teaching them to be ungrateful, it’s better to withold and wait for the perfect time to give it to them WHEN they are actually good and deserve it. And not when they’ee whiny and annoying.

    This teaches them that:

    1. It’s good to be patient. If you want something, wait for it. It’s not always instant gratification.
    2. Bothering Mommy and asking for something over and over will NOT get you the toy. This will teach them to ask you less and to believe what you say.
    3. You don’t get anything for free. Rewards are conditional to good performance.

    She’s only 3 but as you see, she reasons out like a preteen so I have my work cut out for me. But good things come to those who wait and are behaved, so if I stay disciplined and on course, my daughter will reap the true rewards in the end.

    Posted in baby, children, Early Learning, Education, Family, Family Drama, Kid Problems, Tours and Travels | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Layover at Instanbul and onto our Final Destination

    We used Turkish airlines this time, and it’s an 11.5 hour ride to Istanbul where we will have a lay over to Prague.

    Turkish Airways had a decent legroom, an average meal and so-so service. They gave the kids a toy pack so that was really nice.

    Here was our mea of stir fried beef and lemon chicken:

    The movie selection was a tad lackluster but hey, we’re not picky so I still managed to watch Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which was better than expected. I heard a lot of negative reviews about it so I’m glad it did not suck.

    The Layover

    The international airport in Istanbul is neat but quiet. We arrived around 5:30am.

    People were sleeping in some of the benches.

    But after the transfer area, the main airport is bustling with people.

    Shopping is a bit affordable depending on the shop, but the coffee is ridiculously expensive at USD 27 or Php 1,500 a cup!

    Brother accidentally bought one but we managed to sit in the coffee shop for free so that was a perk.

    It was only after buying the banana that I realized our mistake. The green apple was 5.50 a piece while a banana cost 11.00 (Php606) a piece!

    After grumbling that these were the most expensive fruits I’ve ever seen, I was surprised to be given change after paying EUR 11. Apparently it was not denominated by Euro, but Turkish Lira.

    Silly me!

    If so, the cup of coffee was just around Php250, while the banana was Php100. Still expensive but not 6x the price.

    More scenes from our layover:

    If you’re transferring, make sure you walk to the gate early. The airport is big and you have to walk for at least 10-15 minutes before getting to your gate. We were running around boarding time.

    Back on the Plane

    Back of the plane for 2.5 hours from Istanbul to Prague:

    We have arrived in Prague!!!

    Two vans took us to the hotel. It was a quaint hotel by foot the Charlesbridge. It was conveniently located in between the Old Town and Mat

    Our room was a 5 minute walk away. Go down the alley and follow it until you reach the bridge.

    There’s a garden restaurant on the right and a little past the bridge, a graffitied wall on the left.

    And the John Lennon wall on the right.

    Continue down the cobbled stone street until you reach a little church on the right.

    Turn left on that corner, follow that road and the apartment is just on the left.

    Upon arrival, it was an 2-bedroom apartment style with a quaint kitchenette. Around 6 people can comfortably live inside so it’s really a treat for us to stay here. Price is reasonable too.

    The only bit of a hassle is that the toilet is separate from the bath and shower so you can’t do two businesses at the same time. This was the toilet:

    And this was where you can bathe, shower and do the laundry:

    Prague is super duper nice.

    This was on the way to our hotel so it offered us a glimpse on what our 3 days here will be.

    We are all very excited!

    Posted in children, Europe Trip, Family, Marriage, Parenting, Tours and Travels, Travels, vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Bon Voyage Again!

    Traveling again!

    This time, with a bigger group.

    We are redoing our trip from last year and will hit up the Danube river via Crystal Cruises. Crystal Cruises is a 5-star river cruise which houses the best rooms in a boat and food.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our last trip — I gained 20 pounds by the way — that we wanted a redo.

    We are all excited.

    It’s a sponsored family trip that’s almost once in a lifetime so it’s great fun. Will post the entire experience here so I can look back with fondness next time and relive it.

    Anyway, at least people can see how great Crystal Cruises are and book their own trip with the line.

    It’s highly recommended — service, food and board are all first class but if you book early, there’s a lot of discounts to be had. Prices are all in so say goodbye to annoying add ons in other cruise lines.

    Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

    10 Tips for a Successful Blind Date

    1. Put your phone down. It’s annoying and will not die if you did not look at it during the date.

    2. Maintain eye contact with your date when talking to him. Looking in the floor or everywhere else is weird. Look at his eyes, and not on the floor.

    3. If you’re a girl, wear a dress. Be more feminine. Look neat and maybe wear a dash of makeup.

    If you’re a guy, wear a neat shirt and pants. No shorts or tsinelas.

    4. Ask questions — don’t let the other guy ask you questions. Find something in common with the other.

    Can’t you find anything interesting about the other? Ask him about THAT. You might learn something.

    5. Don’t argue with your date and shout at him. You can be right another time.

    It’s not a debate. You don’t have to show you’re smart or you’re right. A date is totally not the time.

    6. Don’t wear all black shirt, pants and boots unless you’re going for an emo rocketchick look. It’s not a concert.

    7. Don’t overthink it. You’re going on a blind date, not get married. So act chill.

    8. Stay ahead with current events.

    Read.

    Know what’s going on.

    So you can keep up with the conversation and bring something of your own.

    9. Bring enough money. Don’t expect for him to treat you or vice versa. Just go with the floor.

    10. Smile and have a good time. Success or not, at least you met a friend.

    Posted in Advice, First Experiences, Personal opinion, Reflections, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

    Recommended: Inn’s Point, Hong Kong Hidden Gem for Dorks

    Unbeknownst to me, my husband is a certified dork and loves Transformers, Gundam and Lego.

    This is our personal collection at home:

    To Get There

    Go to Yau Ma Tei station and come out at Exit D Waterloo.

    Turn right and cross the road once you exit the station.

    Yes, this corner.

    Cross the road. In’s Point is on the right side. Right beside Baleno.

    Tadaaaa!

    Go up the escalator.

    From the second floor, you can already see all sorts of Lego, Gundam and robots. My husband orgasmed upon arrival. It’s apparently dork heaven for adults.

    You can also buy lighting kit with your lego.

    Third Floor

    These are the shops on the third floor:

    Price Difference

    The prices are slightly cheaper than Amazon or back in Manila.

    For example, we bought this Lego Diner for HKD 950. In Amazon, the price of the diner is USD 170 or HKD 1,332. That’s a price difference of HKD 382 or ₱2,600.

    We also bought the Lego Hogwarts Castle the other day for HKD 2,500.

    A Hogwarts in Amazon cost USD 399 plus shipping. We bought ours for HKD 2,500. After conversion, that’s a peso difference of ₱4,500 (USD 90)!

    For Gundam, the variance is smaller at around ₱1,000-2,500 per toy. It’s most likely because retail price is cheaper too vs. Lego. So the more expensive an item is, the chances of saving more is bigger.

    WARNING: The price does NOT vary as much within Inn’s Point. One seller sold the Diner at HKD 960 while the seller we bought ours from sold his at HKD 950. So, tha’s a measely HKD 10 difference.

    My advice?

    Buy from the nicer seller. Bundle up your purchases. For example, if you want to add on lights, make sure you add on when you buy the Lego itself. We were able to get HKD 150 savings for lights by buying it from the same guy.

    Hey, savings are savings.

    This place is every dork’s dream. Just make sure you bring enough HKD because they only accept cash.

    In’s Point is all anime, Gundam and lego. There’s another similar type shop in Mongkok. The building is called Richmond Place, and it’s mostly the same without lego and cutie stuff.

    Final Thoughts

    In’s Point is worthwhile to go if your hubby is a bonafide dork. Bring lots of cash and log onto the internet so you can calculate your savings.

    For comfort room needs, there’s a Chinese restaurant on the fourth floor. If you’re shy, there’s Mcdonald’s and KFC at the end of the street.

    Posted in Hobbies, Husband, Marriage, reviews, Shopping, Tours and Travels, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Overrated and Expensive: Yum Cha Hong Kong

    When asked what was a must-eat place in Hong Kong, many Filipinos recommended Yum Cha. Which is why we ventured to Yum Cha Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s merely just a 5 minute walk away from Exit A2 in TST MRT station.

    The entire building is cute down from the interiors to the elevator. Yum Cha is starting to look very promising:

    We were welcomed by the big Yum Cha outside the elevator lobby. Now, we’re getting excited!

    The interior was simple but cute. We arrived at 8pm so there were tons of seats available. No waiting time.

    They handed us a menu and all you had to do was to pick the dishes by yourself. It was a bit confusing at first but thank goodness for the pictures:

    Let me tell you the truth, service is bad.

    Nobody paid attention to us or gave any recommendations when ordering. They ignored us until we called them twice to take our order.

    The dishes were cooked fast but when they arrived, the waitress carelessly placed the dishes on yhe side of the table. There is also no service water so either you thirst, or order drinks which cost around HKD 25 each.

    But we are not here for the good service. This is Hong Kong. Service is more or less the same. We are here for the food.

    So how is the food?

    Honestly, underwhelming for the price.

    Do you know the feeling when you taste something that tasted okay, it’s nice but there’s something missing that it makes it unspectacular? It’s like going to a famed Michelin star restaurant that’s master franchised in Manila, and then realizing something’s not right so it underwhelms.

    It’s the same feeling I have about Kam’s restaurant in Manila — acceptable but does not blow my mind away. As expensive too!

    Here were the things we ordered:

    Scallion ginger chicken (HKD 69) and Crab roe spinach (HKD59)

    The chicken was a bit dry. It should be soft and smooth to taste but it feels rushed.

    Give this a skip. There are better scallion ginger chickens elsewhere. Heck, Lugang gives a better scallion ginger chicken.

    The crab roe spinach is the saving grace of the restaurant. It’s good and a must order. Actually, it’s one of the few good dishes of Yum Cha.

    Seasonal vegetables in garlic (HKD79)

    Another winning dish. Ask the waitress for their soy sauce. Their st sauce is delicious and deserves special mention. Dip the veggie onto the sweet soy sauce before eating. Yummy!

    Hot custard bun (HKD44) and BBQ Pork Bun (HKD49)

    Sure, they look cute but how’s the taste?

    The BBQ Pork Bun is not good at all. It does not contain a lot of filling. Chowking serves better, meatier siopaos. Skip.

    The custard bun is nice. The cream overflows and has the right texture. Can reorder again.

    Shrimp and vegetable dumplings (HKD55)

    I can feel the volume of shrimp in it but it’s a little dry. Mostly mass and that’s it. Not that juicy. There are better shrimp dumplings at home like in China Blue and Summer Palace. Skip!

    Truffles E-Fu Noodles (HKD99)

    Yes, you can taste the truffle but it’s dry and has a small serving. It looks bigger on the menu. The E-Fu Noodles of Summer Palace and East Ocean are miles better. Skip!

    Rice in wild mushroom and pork soup (HKD 79)

    Not a lot of filling and slightly bland to taste. The rice they were talking about are crispies or pinipig. The dish does not have a lot of laman. Actually, there’s nothing special about the dish, so skip!

    For dessert, we got the watermelon jelly (HKD39).

    Looks ingenious but the real watermelon tastes better. The plum powder will fit any fruit, so stack up. Skip!

    There was only 3 adults on the table and the portions were small so we finished everything. It is yum cha after all. However, our bill came out as HKD 768.90 converted to php5,171.70.

    Final Thoughts

    Whoever said this restaurant is a must visit is overreaching the truth. While the dishes may look cute and different, there are far better restaurants in Hong Kong for that price.

    Sure, it may seem a lot and we were full after our meal. But to be honest, none of us three came out satiated with our meal. None of us said, “Wow, that was a good meal.”

    My mom thought it should have cost less than it did. And even then, it was still expensive for what you grt.

    My hubby loved a few dishes but none really was a blow your mind dish, although the spinach crab roe and vegetables made the cut.

    Personally, I don’t know why people would fawn about this restaurant this much. Yes, it’s good but not super good for Hong Kong standards. Plus, it’s expensive for what you get. For that price, just go elsewhere.

    Plus, service was fast but bad. People were not very polite and everyone pretty much ignored you.

    In the end, we are glad to try but it’s not a restaurant we would really go back to unless invited by friends for a gatherine. I hope people would be more honest with their restaurant reviews though as to not mislead others.

    We rate Yum Cha as an OK. OK to visit but not a place that you really must go to when visiting Hong Kong.

    YUM CHA HONG KONG

    Posted in First Experiences, Food, Not Recommended, Personal opinion, Restaurant reviews, Tours and Travels, vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Highly Recommended: Sing Lum Khui Noodle House in Tsim Sha Tsui

    Whenever we are in Hong Kong, we always visit Sing Lum Khui Noodle House in Tsim Sha Tsui.

    Just a few minutes walk from the TST MRT, the Sing Lum Khui is an institution, and their soup base has remained consistently delicious throughout the years.

    You come in and order from this form, similar to that of Ramen Nagi in Manila. The soup base is HKD 28 and everything you add on cost a little bit extra.

    I usually order the HKD 28 soup base then add:

    • Fatty beef
    • Lobster ball
    • Cheesy hotdog
    • Taiwan vegetables

    Then add the free condiments:

    • More bean sprouts
    • More coriander
    • More green onion

    Soup is a Little Spicy and of Normal Sourness. The sourness is from the pickled vegetables, which are cooked into the tasty soup base.

    The result is perfection:

    I’ve also introduced the restaurant to my husband and he loves it. We go there every trip now and here’s his:

    The final bill — his was HKD 58 for that extra helping of fatty beef while my mom’s was a cheap HKD 34.

    I always order Cream Soda with the meal. It’s a great complement to the dish.

    Visit SING LUM KHUI when you have the time. The noodles are cheap, tasty and you can’t find them anywhere else.

    SING LUM KHUI

    23 Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

    Posted in Family, Food, Highly Recommended, Hong Kong Life, Restaurant reviews, vacation, Weekends | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Highly Recommended: Ocean Park Hong Kong

    Today, we’re going to Ocean Park!

    Hong Kong is still very convenient and we got to the Ocean Park MRT station in record time. Even with the protests, the MRT is still efficient, bravo!

    Security check

    We are surprised to see a big crowd at Ocean Park. Apparently, the rioters do not deter a good day of weekend fun.

    Fortunately, we bought our tickets in Klook so skipped the line. Yehey!

    These were the prices. If you live in Hong Kong, it’s best to buy the annual pass.

    Mandatory photo with the dolphin:

    First stop, The Grand Aquarium

    The line was long due to taking a souvenir photo.

    The aquarium is well cleaned. They maintain it well despite years of wear and tear.

    Giant Pacific Octopus beautifully in motion

    My favorite, jellyfishes. So mesmerizing.

    Seahorses, some are pregnant.

    The aquarium is beautiful and builds up to the climax.

    Wow………! Imagine if you swam with these amount of fish!

    Apparently, this is bangus, or milkfish, the Philippines national fish. The things we learn today.

    Walking further…

    Is this Alaskan crabs?

    Good thing there’s a guide for every exhibit. These were Japanese Giant Spider Crabs.

    Another big aquarium. Lots of black spotted stingray and other sharks here.

    I love the fact that the Ocean Park spews conservation messages like Saving the Fishes starts from us. Kids are our future. So it’s great they are starting them young.

    I remember it to be bigger,” hubby said.

    Yes, I remember a walkalator,” I shrugged. Maybe it’s in another exhibit.

    On second thought, the walkalator inside the aquarium is found in Ocean Park Singapore, not in Hong Kong.

    Giant Panda Exhibit

    Apprently, these giant beasts sleep around 10 hours a day.

    This panda was born in 1986 and 33 years old. It’s fun to watch it eat. For the amount of food they consume, I’m surprised they’re not obese.

    Mesmerizing.

    They share the exhibit with the Sichuan Golden Snub Nosed Monkey. They’re very athletic creatures.

    A lot of instagrammable places in the park.

    The Ocean Express Waterfront Station

    The station by itself is wonderfully made and surprisingly did not have a line.

    We wait for our turn. It’s cool that this ride can accommodate more people at a time.

    Please sit properly.

    It’s a repurposed subway train,” hubby said.

    The train makes you feel as if you’re traveling underwater. A giant octopus attacks and breaks the window.

    The Waterfront Station drops you to the elevator going to Thrill Mountain. Now we are lost.

    Thrill Mountain mostly have adult rides. The 3 year old cannot reach the height limit.

    Beware, this is a fast ride. People were screaming to high heavens.

    This was scary. The ride does a 360.

    Our daughter is too little so we rest a little and she eats a banana

    North Pole Encounter was the only exhibit that was toddler friendly. The polar bears look promising.

    First up, feeding of seal.

    They also do some mental exercises to stimulate the seals’ mind. It must be boring just to swim in and out of the aquarium all day.

    Huge Pacific Walruses who were kind enough to give us a show.

    They are showmen and loved the audience.

    My favorite exhibit so far!

    We buy a few souvenirs. In a way, it’s supporting the park. They’ve done a great job so far.

    Artic fox is next. They’re all sadly sleeping.

    The South Pole exhibit smells like fish! If Manila Ocean Park has a lot of penguins, they cannot trump Hong Kong Ocean Park.

    The place is cold. Bring a jacket.

    Back to the Ocean Express to get food. We want to try the carousel!

    The kiddie train was super slow and perfect for newborns.

    We returned for food and to try the other carousel. Then, the Gator Marsh and the Red Pandas.

    This is a real gator, ladies and gentlemen. A baby one but real.

    The fire fox or red panda was cute. It looks like a racoon though. We were lucky to catch their feeding time.

    We got to see the panda up close. It was lying there relaxing.

    The exhibit was really nice. It’s cold and looks a bit like a mountainous forest.

    And Chinese Giant Salamander. They’re the largest salamanders in the works and lived in the age of dinosaurs. They are blind as a bat.

    This is the head.

    This is the tail.

    Whoa!

    Outside are the turtles and the Asian small clawed otters.

    Feeding time.

    “They eat fish like a penguin,” my daughter said. No, I did know they eat fish.

    And an expensive goldfish and carp collection including a breed with balloons in their eyes.

    Cable car is next.

    For nostalgic reasons, the cable car is a must.

    There are numerous food kiosks on the way to the cable car. You can avail of traditional Hong Kong delicacies.

    And ride the other carousel.

    The line up the cable car was freaking 30 minutes. Next time, do this first before the afternoon crowd arrives.

    And we still wait….

    Exhausted with waiting.

    Almost there…

    Almost there…

    Finally!

    Our jokester making faces again!

    Photo souvenir cost HKD 280 with photo and snow globe. Since it’s a visit with ama, the cost is well worth it.

    Tips in Visiting Ocean Park

    1. Take the MRT. It’s the fastest way to the park.

    2. Buy tickets via Klook to save time. We were able to get php2,000 off because they had a promo.

    3. Do the cable car first. Go around Thrill Mountain and move backwards. Cable car is very popular and was the only one we really fell in line for. Do that first and everything else last.

    4. There are water fountains everywhere to refill water bottles.

    5. Go early especially with the protests going on. That way, you can finish early too.

    Last Thoughts

    A trip to Ocean Park is a must do when in Hong Kong. Our daughter was 2 during her first visit but 3 is the best age to go.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our trip. Even if it’s slightly tiring, it’s part of memory building, so we will definitely visit Ocean Park when we go to Hong Kong.

    By the way, the Hong Kong youth nowadays. Sits in priority seat and does not give way to seniors.

    Someone eventually gave my mom a seat. The next senior was not given a seat.

    Posted in children, Family, Food, Hong Kong Life, Kid Problems, Kiddie Activities, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Tours and Travels, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Touchdown in Hong Kong for the Long Weekend

    We have once again touched down in Hong Kong to avail the cheaper hotel rates and go to Disneyland and Ocean Park for the kiddo!

    She’s excited.

    The Cathay Pacific flight is almost full. A lot of Filipinos are traveling to Hong Kong for the long holidays.

    Touchdown!

    We get an Internet doohickey from the Airport Express Terminal 1. It’s on the far end side of the airport, close to Pret-A-Manger.

    Unlimited Internet including the device is only php169 a day for a minimum of 3 days.

    The 4G is pretty fast! I bought this via Klook and got an extra discount. Would highly recommend this if you visit Hong Kong, Macau and China.

    Instead of taking the more expensive Airport Express, we opt for the public bus, which is only HKD33 per person from airport to Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s very convenient and takes 45 minutes to an hour to the destination.

    The ticket booth is down the ramp to the left. Just tell them the destination and pay away.

    Once you get your ticket, run. These buses don’t wait for you and if you miss one, you’ll have to wait for around 30 minutes for the next.

    The bus to the city is full and we are on the second tier of the bus.

    No matter, it has a great view. You can view your luggages on the TV on the side.

    However, despite the smooth ride, the protesters blocked the roads. Our driver could not proceed with his route.

    We were then forced to wing it and find a way back to our hotel.

    If you’re with a toddler, that’s not much fun. It makes me mad how many of these protestors cry for freedom, but take away our freedom for the basic rights like safe passage.

    Being stuck in a hotspot like Mongkok in the evening with teenagers shouting at each other is kinda scary. However, a guardian angel by the name of Ada came to help us.

    Ada said she was local and she would find a way for us to go to the hotel together. She kindly booked a van via Gogovan app and promised the guy HKD 350 tip to take both of us away from Mongkok to the safety of our hotel.

    That’s her, and this was the corner where we waited for our van.

    She even gave our daughter a kitkat. Ada bought this at a transfer in Osaka. Ada is truly a guardian angel and is really really nice.

    She apologized for what happened and said that not all locals are supportive of the protestors.

    I wanted to retire here,” Ada said. “But I don’t know what’s going on in Hong Kong. My heart bleeds for my city.”

    Seeing the graffiti and the mess, I agree with her.

    Free Hong Kong or Die.

    Gee……. how dramatic.

    All I can say is, the protests is not good for Hong Kong. Hope that this issue will be resolved soon.

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