Sunday, October 27, 2013

Farewell, Forte Maginhawa

Yesterday, QB, Airis and I went to Maginhawa Street for some catching up which ended up as a food trip as well. QB and I met for lunch at Chilli and Ink, proceeded to Simple Line where we waited for Airis and Klaine, and then we had dinner at Pino. Afterwards, Klaine wanted dessert, so I suggested Forte.

Initially, my tummy felt like it didn't have any more space for dessert but you know... that's a lie because there's always room for dessert haha. Also, I have this perpetual craving for their Dolce Latte Cheesecake. When I went to the cashier to order, the lady who works there told me that they will be moving to another location in Manila and that that day was their last in Maginhawa Street. </3 I was so sad.

I'm not the type to spend money on coffee shops but ever since my co-workers started raving about Forte's cheesecake, Forte became one of my favorite shops along Maginhawa Street and my go-to place for dessert because (1) their cheesecake is made of heaven, (2) the shop is just a few hundred meters from our office so whenever I'm stressed and/or I want dessert, I invite my co-workers who are also in love with their cheesecake to grab a slice, (3) the prices are reasonable like 90 to 110 for a slice of cake or pie (4) they have other yummy desserts for whenever the cheesecake is not available, (5) their peppermint and English toffee tea is really good, (6) the shop is cozy, very classy and filled with interesting things, (7) the people are really nice.

I'm really sad that they'll be moving away from our office because now I don't have a place to go to whenever I want/need dessert and it will be difficult to buy my favorite peppermint and English toffee tea. I'm sure there are other places along Maginhawa Street but I don't think they have desserts just as good with prices just as reasonable. Also, really, their Dolce Latte Cheesecake is just the best cheesecake ever. 

Anyway, I'm kind of glad I managed to be there during their last day because I'd probably feel sadder if I go there tomorrow just to find out that they're moving somewhere else. Also, we were given a complimentary slice of Swiss Chocolate and Capuccino cake (I hope I got the name right) and glasses of lemon iced tea. I also bought their last box of Dilmah peppermint and English toffee tea (PhP 450 for a box of 30). 

Forte, you will be missed. I hope I can visit your new location soon! Next time, aside from the cheesecake, I will make sure to try the sausages (they're good according to everyone I know who has tried them) and the Beethoven's Romance (ferrero-inspired drink)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shivapuri-Nagarjun and My Bumpiest Ride Ever

After the Everest flight, I went back to the B&B and had breakfast. A couple of hours later, one of my travel companions asked me if I wanted to go with them to Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park. The original plan for that day was to go to Swayambunath and Bouddhanath stupas and therefore going to Shivapuri-Nagarjun meant not going to one of the aforementioned stupas. I had wanted to go to both stupas but eventually decided to tag along (to Shivapuri-Nagarjun) as I didn't want to take the taxi alone in Kathmandu or be left in the B&B alone lol.

We hired a 4WD (a Toyota Land Cruiser) from the travel agency in front of the B&B for NPR 7500. Expensive, yes. However, I think the price would be more manageable if more people ride this big vehicle.

We also paid NPR250 (rate for foreigners) to enter the national park.

That's our ride, yo!

There were no paved roads, just a forest trail (that's why a 4WD was needed). It was the bumpiest ride I've ever experienced! It was impossible to take a nap during the more-than-one-hour-ride as we were practically thrown around inside the car haha. 

Finally, we arrived at the top. It was so windy! The sun was high up as it was almost noon but it was cold.

The stupa in Shivapuri-Nagarjun

We relaxed a little, enjoyed the view and waited for the clouds to part even just a bit.

Eventually, we got a little peek of the snow-capped mountains. Try to look between the clouds.

Of course the ride back down was another [bumpy] story. I say, if you're going to Nepal and will be going to Nagarkot or Pokhara, I don't think going to Shivapuri-Nagarjun for the view is required especially since it's very expensive to take the 4WD (our taxi ride to Nagarkot and back only cost 5500 for four people). Unless, of course, you're going to take a hike (which, I think, Shivapuri-Nagarjun is also known for). However, if you're stuck in Kathmandu but you want to see the mountains, since the ride to Shivapuri-Nagarjun only takes an hour or so from Kathmandu, it could be an option.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Flying to the Top of the World

Last May, when I was in Nepal, I paid USD182 for a flight that took off and landed on the same airport. I'm not kidding, there's really such a thing! And being a cheapskate, it's probably one of my biggest splurges. 

Since we were not able to see the Himalayan mountain ranges during our trip to Nagarkot (and I really wanted to), I made a decision of taking that famous flight across the Himalayas. Well, it doesn't really fly across the mountains. It kind of just flies at the side of the mountain ranges from a distance such that the people seated on the left-hand side of the plane sees the mountains then the plane turns around and then it's the passengers on the right-hand side's turn to see them. 

All my three companions during the Nepal trip passed on the activity but I was so determined to do it so I went alone. The afternoon before, I went to a travel agency across our B&B and booked a flight. 

That day, I woke up really early because my flight was scheduled at 6am. I was taken to the domestic terminal of the Tribuvhan Airport. Check in was fast and the flight was a little delayed so I had a lot of time to kill (to read a book and to observe random people) at the gate.

At the start of the flight, we were given brochures with panoramic photos of the mountains and their names as reference.

The highest peak in the world

Guess from where did I take that photo of Mt. Everest above? Actually I did not take it, the airplane's first officer took it for me while I was inside the cockpit! Yes, you read that right, I went inside the plane cockpit! (See, that USD182 is soooo expensive but soooo worth it!)

I was seated on the right-hand side of the plane so while everyone on the left-hand side was enjoying the view from their windows, we, the passengers on the right-hand side get called to visit the cockpit and the opposite happens when the plane turns around. The first officer was really friendly. He asked where I'm from and when I told him that I'm from the Philippines, he said happily and with an accent, "Magandang umaga! Kamusta ka?" I was just surprised! Aside from the two Filipina flight attendants whom we met during our arrival at the airport, I've never heard anyone else outside my group speak Filipino in Nepal as there aren't many. Turns out, the first officer did his pilot training in Manila!

Did I ever mention about how, when I was in high school, I kind of wanted to be a pilot? However, I dismissed the thought because I knew that my family cannot afford to send me to flying school.

Come to think of it, it's my first time to SEE snow!

Countless people have asked me before and after I took the flight, "isn't that dangerous?" Well, I have to admit that I was scared at first but that's only because it's my first time to take a plane this small:

10 rows, 3 columns (only the window seats are occupied for maximum enjoyment, of course)!

Indeed it was expensive but to me, the experience was worth it and is something that I will always treasure.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The City of Patan

The City of Patan, also called Lalitpur: The City of Fine Arts, is an ancient city in Nepal located eight kilometers south of Kathmandu City. It's also one of the seven monumental zones that comprise the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site.

We paid NPR500 (around PhP250) to enter. It's cheaper compared to Bhaktapur (though to me that's for good reason.) Those who come from countries that are SAARC members pay a lot less.

From Thamel, we took the taxi to Patan which cost us around NPR500. It didn't take long despite the traffic because Patan is pretty close. The driver dropped us off at the ticket entrance where we were given maps and then we simply walked inside the city. I believe you can also take the bus from Kathmandu City to Patan (which is a lot cheaper).

Unlike Bhaktapur which is closed to most vehicles with four or more wheels, Patan is open to traffic. It's quite a challenge to walk around the city with many vehicles honking around but I think it's manageable. Also, compared to Bhaktapur, Patan is much more crowded (not just with foreigners but also locals).

Anyway, I'll let these photos do the talking.

The following photos are from the Hiranya Varna Mahavihar also known as The Golden Temple:

Here's Patan Durbar Square

I took a photo of this shop because I was amused that they sell solar panels in local hardware shops! Nepal has energy problems and as a result, they get frequent power cuts. I think their main source of power is hydropower, which is not very reliable because droughts or simply lack of water in the rivers would mean less power production. That's why they compensate with solar power. Actually, I saw a lot of houses in Kathmandu equipped with solar panels so that they have electricity and hot water even during power cuts. (And this is me being an Energy Engineering major... on indefinite leave lol.)

This is Mahabouddha temple where thousands of images of the Lord Buddha are engraved:

After all the walking, everyone was tired (plus, we just came back from Nagarkot that morning) so we decided to go back to the B&B.

Unfortunately, we had a bad experience with the taxi driver who drove us back to Thamel. He suddenly shot up our fare to NPR1000 and we were like "What? But we only paid 500 to come here by taxi." We were foreigners who didn't know much about the ins and outs of the country and I'm not gonna say any more but it was quite scary for us. In the end, we decided that we didn't want to stress ourselves out so we just paid him the NPR1000.

Durbar Marg lined with trees with purple flowers as seen from the taxi

Patan was a good experience albeit a little stressful because of the crowds and that taxi driver. Like what most people say, if you're not a huge fan of temples, it becomes quite redundant after you've gone to Bhaktapur. However, because I like temples and architecture, I didn't really mind. I kind of wish I listened more to our History classes in high school, though. Haha

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mail Last Week

Last week, I made some stationery (including custom envelopes) and wrote on postcards to send to some friends. 

Crafting and snail mail really relaxes me. :)

Also, some lovely mail I received over the past two weeks:

Weekend Well-Spent

I've been working from home for a few weeks already. I still go to the office twice a week but I've been gravely deprived of non-office and non-family social interactions haha. In other words, I had no social life. T_T It was probably driving me crazy so I'm really glad that I was able to go out with some friends this weekend.

Yesterday I got a pretty sudden invitation to hang out at the local mall with some AME friends whom I haven't seen for months! We talked for hours and it was really funny that everyone was also lacking in social interactions haha. In the end, we all agreed that we should do such meetups more often. 

This afternoon, I went to Ally's in Teacher's Village with more AME friends. I missed catching up with them.

It's an all-day breakfast place in Malingap Street (near Bayantel and Pino). I've actually been here with my co-workers before (It was through them that I learned about the place.) but back then I didn't take any photos aside from the waffles that I cut into tetris shapes.

They have a very extensive menu which you can view on their Facebook page. Today, however, I was not very hungry so I decided to just go for their custom pancakes/waffles.

I had a waffle with cinnamon flavor. I added ice cream, crushed grahams and peaches for toppings.

Also added hash browns just because I like potatoes lol. Total wallet damage: PhP270

Honestly, I think food in Ally's is quite normal. I mean, so far, the food I've tried are things that I can make in our kitchen (except for the waffles of course). Nevertheless, I like it because it's an all-day breakfast place and breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Also, it's pretty pricey but I think it's a good place to chill and hang out with friends. And I swear, this shop is so adorable and my photos don't do justice. (Sorry I didn't take many photos because I was too occupied with talking to my friends haha.)

Tomorrow is another Monday. Gotta survive!