2019 Trip to Hong Kong: Going to Disneyland

“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” 
― Walt Disney

When my sister was in her first job, she made me promise to take my studies seriously. In return, she promised to bring me to Hong Kong Disneyland because she enjoyed it when she first when there. I think she was about sixteen at that time. That promise finally came to life in December of 2017. However, it was a disappointment. Rather, I was a disappointment.

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I work on a mid-shift from 3:00 PM to 12:00 MN. Our flight to Hong Kong was at 7:00 in the morning. From work, I was not able to sleep before needing to go to the airport and arrive three hours before our flight. So, when we got to Disneyland at around noon on that same day, I was so exhausted. I only got to enjoy the Festival of the Lion King show. We just ate lunch and walked around. We did manage to see the afternoon parade, but we just walked and walk around before deciding to just go back to the hotel and rest.

I promised myself I will do all that I can to ensure I will enjoy Disneyland. That being said, I made it a point to schedule our trip there on our second day in Hong Kong and before we go to Ocean Park. My sister told me that Ocean Park is bigger and will involve a lot more walking so it’s best to go to Disneyland before going to Ocean Park.

Tickets to Disneyland

7475370679004204604_img_1557We booked our tickets via Klook for PHP 3,700. We just presented our voucher to the personnel at the turnstiles and got in without any hassle. We were given ticket stubs in exchange.

You may wish to explore other ways to get tickets at discounted prices. Only when I got back did I discover Kkday and it was selling tickets for only PHP 3, 405!

There may be people who collect Disneyland tickets/stubs who will approach you to ask if you’re willing to exchange with them so they can complete their collection. I don’t necessarily think that the ticket will still be needed once you get in, so I think it’s safe to exchange with someone else. Jana and I were approached by a couple who exchanged my green stub with his red. We had no issues when we exited the theme park that night.

Traveling from Mong Kok to Disneyland

I guess the easiest and fastest way to go to Disneyland is via the MTR. Honestly, I did not explore any other options anymore.

There are two ways to get there when you ride the train from Mong Kok.

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This screenshot was obtained from http://www.mtr.com.hk/archive/en/services/routemap.pdf

Option 1: Ride the Tsuen Wan Line at Mong Kok Station towards Tsuen Wan and alight at Lai King Station. Transfer to the Tung Chung train line headed towards Tung Chung. Alight at Sunny Bay Station and transfer to the Disneyland Resort train.

Lai King Station is six stops from Mong Kok Station and four stops from the Tung Chung Line terminus at Central/Hong Kong Station. This means that the possibility of being able to sit in the train is slim as it is in between stations.

Option 2: Ride the Tsuen Wan Line at Mong Kok station towards Central. Alight at Central MTR Station and transfer to the Tung Chung train line. Alight at Sunny Bay and transfer to the Disneyland Resort train.

Central Station is five train stops away from Mong Kok Station. However, this is the terminus of the Tung Chung Line and that means the chance of being able to sit until we reach Sunny Bay was very high. Indeed, we were able to sit.

HOWEVER, Central Station is so wide that it involved A LOT of walking just to get to the Tung Chung train line. If it were not for walkalators/moving walkways, it would have been even more exhausting. That is why I was so glad we got to sit on the way to Sunny Bay.

The Octopus card cost from Mong Kok to Disneyland Resort is HKD 20.8. That’s roughly PHP 145.

For other means of getting to Hong Kong Disneyland, please visit their Travel Information page here.

Also, I can’t get over how cute the Disneyland Resort train is!

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To read more about my travels to Hong Kong, please click here.

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2019 Trip to Hong Kong: Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple

“Your own positive future begins in this moment. All you have is right now. Every goal is possible from here.” 
― Lao Tzu

After my visit in February 2018, I promised myself that when I visit Hong Kong again, I will try my best to visit places I have not been to in the past. This was around the time the trip with Jana this March was planned.

As I researched about places to see in Hong Kong, I came across a few suggestions on temples to visit. Having been to Ngong Ping in Lantau Island already to see the Tian Tan Buddha, I was hoping to find other temples to visit near Mong Kok. As I read through the articles, my attention was caught by the write up on Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple.

According to Discover Hong Kong, this temple is home to religions of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. This temple also honors Wong Tai Sin, a monk born during the 4th Century who became a deity. Known to be a place where wishes made come true, worshippers flock to this temple to pray for good luck.

Wishes would come true? Oh wow! Sign me up, please.

Unfortunately, when I visited in September of 2018, Hong Kong was only recently visited by a super typhoon, Mangkhut. My sister advised against going to the temple as fixes were surely underway at that time. Sadly, I had to put off my visit for another time. I promised myself that when I visit next, this temple will be the first destination in my itinerary.

After checking in at the Harbour Hotel in Mong Kok (read my post about it here), we immediately set out to visit Wong Tai Sin. It seemed as if going by train was the easiest way to go, so we went to the MTR Station of Mong Kok and rode the Kwun Tong line towards Wong Tai Sin MTR Station. From Mong Kok Station, it’s five train stops.

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Screenshot obtained from http://www.mtr.com.hk/archive/en/services/routemap.pdf

Once in Wong Tai Sin MTR Station, we went out via the exit B3 – Temple Mall North. It led us right away to the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple.

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Yay! Finally, here!

For more information about the temple and its different halls and sections, you may visit the Sik Sik Yuen website here.

Another attraction of the temple is fortune telling. We noticed that people lighted incense sticks and prayed at the main altar, behind which was a section were people knelt while performing the initial steps of Kau Chim/Kau Cim (fortune-telling practice).

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Main Altar

Kau Chim involves a small bucket or cup containing fortune sticks numbered from 1 to 100.  One asks a question to the deity then starts shaking the cup until a stick falls out. In case more than one stick falls, he or she must pick up the first one that fell. The number on the stick corresponds to one of the one hundred written oracles that you can obtain from the fortune tellers at the Fortune-telling and Oblation Arcade section. 

Aside from the fortune sticks, one can also use jiaobei blocks. These are two pieces of wood carved into crescent shapes. A block is carved with one side flat and the other side rounded. One will ask a question to the deities and then drops the blocks on the ground. According to my research on the internet, there are different ways the blocks can fall on the ground and they have a corresponding meaning.

  1. One rounded side and one flat side up = Yes
  2. Both rounded sides up = No
  3. Both flat sides up = the gods are laughing. Either a “no” or the answer is so obvious there is no need to ask
  4. One or two blocks standing erect on the ground = null; repeat procedure.

To be honest, I do not understand how the fourth one can happen.

Anyway, I tried both kau chim and jiaobei. For kau chim, I got the number 14 and my question was about money. For jiaobei, my question is a little too personal to share. However, my first attempt to ask resulted to both flat sides up. The gods were laughing at me. I tried to ask differently for the same thing and my second attempt resulted to a “yes.” Maybe they took pity on me and knew how serious I was about not wanting to assume stuff.

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After Jana and I were done with kau chim and jiaobei, we proceeded to the fortune tellers’ area to have our fortune sticks interpreted.

We tried to find fortune tellers who can speak in English. The first one we found was Jenny Wong because she had a big sign board that said “ENGLISH.” She charged us HKD 40 for the reading. I think readings are normally HKD 25, so I guess a premium is charged for an English reading.

First, she asked the number written on our fortune sticks. Then, she asked what our question was; money, love, career, family, etc. She also asked us what year we were born in.

I told her I picked number 14 and that my question was about money. I proceeded to tell her that I was born in 1991. She took it as being born during the Year of the Lamb. However, I failed to mention that I was born before the Chinese New Year, technically making me born on the Year of the Horse. Oh well.

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Jenny told me that money will be better for me in 2019 unlike in 2018. However, she warned me against getting money from illicit sources like gambling or drugs. She advised me to do my best in my job or my business so that success will follow. Generally, 2019 is a good year for me.

I read up on horoscopes for the Year of the Horse online and it did say there’s also good fortune when it comes to wealth this year. Whew!

Jenny was a nice soothsayer. She was kind in her words and was not insistent when we refused to have palm or face reading. She humbly asked that we shared about her to others who might want to visit Hong Kong and the temple. I did not feel like she was telling us things that we wanted to hear in order to please us and entice us to have more readings with her.

I made a wish in Wong Tai Sin and I may have indulged a bit on the fortune telling side despite not having Taoism, Buddhism, or Confucianism as my religion. For me, we still control our choices in life, although I also still believe in fate and destiny. I believe that God will always have a plan for us and that His plan is always better than the plans we make for ourselves. It’s God’s plan that shall prevail no matter how we resist in the beginning.

I still hope that whatever I wished for in Wong Tai Sin will come true. After all, there’s no harm in wishing, right? In the meantime, I shall work on my own end to try and make that happen. You see, it’s one thing to wish and another to actually work on it. I can make a thousand wishes, but if I don’t take a step towards achieving it, what I want remains a wish.

By the way, if you want to know what’s written on the pink slips, you may want to visit this site.

If you wish to visit and experience fortune-telling, please visit Jenny’s booth. Hers is booth 114 if I interpreted her business card correctly. She’s super nice!

To read more about my travels to Hong Kong, please click here.

2019 Trip to Hong Kong: Harbour Hotel Mong Kok

Hong Kong is not cheap. I did not realize it much until I was trying to find a hotel for Jana and me to stay in.

In all of my previous travels to Hong Kong, I never had to worry about accommodations. My sister took care of that part. I mostly stayed with her in her apartment, but there was a time when Mom and I stayed at a hotel because we would not fit in my sister’s home.

I can be a very picky person when it comes to hotels. You see, in my previous job as an auditor for a bank, I traveled all over my country and had to stay in hotels whenever I was assigned outside the metro. I have seen my fair share of hotels and their services. I can say that as much as I do not mind the size of the room and how hard (or how soft) the mattresses they used for the beds are, I am very particular that the bathroom is sparkling clean. I also need enough space to open my luggage without them touching the bed. That’s pretty much it.

That being said, I was so stressed out when I was looking for places to stay. You see, hotels within our initial budget (around Php 2,500) look so small for two people with suitcases to fit in. For the most part, there are no bidets in the toilet and (the worst part for me) the showers are in the same area as the toilet. I almost begged Jana to increase our hotel budget so we can afford one where the shower has a separate section from the toilet. It did not have to have glass doors. A shower curtain was fine already.

After adjusting the cost range, I came across the t Harbour Hotel in Agoda. It was the only hotel I saw pictures of showing a separate shower section in the bathroom. Priced at around Php 3,600, the hotel was located close to the Ladies Market and close to the Mong Kok MTR Station. It was also close to Nathan Road where most of the bus stops are located.

Harbour Hotel Twin Room Bathroom
Photo obtained from Harbour Hotel’s page in Agoda at https://www.agoda.com/harbour-hotel/hotel/hong-kong-hk.html?cid=-218

The rooms looked nice. Of course, the space was still not as huge as hotels in the Philippines at a similar price. Oh well, we pay Hong Kong price for Hong Kong hotels.

When you ride the A21 airport bus to Hung Hom Station, there are two ways you can reach the hotel. You can either alight at the Bank Centre or at Sino Centre.

Bank Centre Route

If you alight at Bank Centre, cross to the other side of Nathan Road. You will pass by Portland Street, which I read online is a red light district. This is the reason I did not opt for us to alight here. However, it is closer to the hotel than the Sino Centre route.Bank Centre to Harbour Hotel

Sino Centre Route

Despite looking like you have to take too many turns, after crossing, just go straight towards Soy Street. You do not have to go through Changsha Street just to get to Soy Street. Just trust me and go straight. Turn left at the alley that leads to the wider Soy Street.

If you choose this route, you will be passing by hardware stores. I felt like it would creep me out to pass by here at night when the stores have closed.

Sino Centre to Harbour Hotel

img_1718We were too early for checking in so, we had to leave our bags and go back when it’s already past 2PM. We had no trouble with the online reservation, but we did have to pay HKD 200 in cash as deposit. I have anticipated this already after reading the reviews online. With all of the registration settled, we had our lunch and headed to Wong Tai Sin to visit the Sik Sik Yuen Temple.

At night, we opted to pass by the Bank Centre route after exiting at the Langham Place exit of the Mong Kok MTR Station. The whole area was bright due to the shops and restaurants along the road. It felt safer to go home at night through this route. I could not understand why a previous reviewer said it was not safe to pass by here at night just because of Portland Street. Oh well, to each his own.

The first thing I asked to be checked when we finally went to our room was the bathroom. Yes! Separate shower area! Yippee!!!

We had lots of freebies in the bathroom and there were towels for us to use. As expected, no bidet for toilet use so, we had to improvise. I am a Filipino. Tissue paper will never be sufficient for me when I go number 2. Hahaha…

Anyway, bathroom stuff aside, the space was small but enough for us to still move around and unpack. There was a small mirrored cabinet where we could hang our jackets and where they kept the hair dryer. We also had a desk where they placed two water bottles, teacups and saucers, free coffee and an electric kettle. The desk had two drawers that I was also able to use as storage for the stuff I brought for my sister until she could get them on Sunday morning.

I was not able to take a picture of the room and the beds because of excitement. However, we were assigned Room 405 and the room kind of look like this picture below, also taken from their Agoda page.

Harbour Hotel Twin Room Bathroom
Photo obtained from Harbour Hotel’s page in Agoda at https://www.agoda.com/harbour-hotel/hotel/hong-kong-hk.html?cid=-218

A lot of people comment in Agoda that Hong Kong’s hotel beds are hard. I think it’s a common thing there because even the bed in my sister’s apartment is hard. Heck! Even her couch was hard! I think I read somewhere that the purpose of those hard beds is for your spine’s health. Seriously though, when you’re tired from all your adventures, you will fall asleep regardless. Your back may be sore when you wake up after the first night, but you’ll get used to it.

All in all, our stay was comfortable. There was no noise at night, but there was construction going on nearby. On Saturday morning, we were awakened by machine noise at 8 am. It wasn’t so bad because it kind of served as a stronger alarm clock, telling us to get ready for our Disneyland trip that day.

The hotel staff had very nice people, so we had no complaints. They were courteous to us and were patient with us when we had questions or requests. One of them even taught us where the A21 bus stop was so we could ride to the airport.

In case you are wondering where the closest A21 bus stop (going to the airport) is, the hotel has a guide on its website and they have a business card with the map at the back. So helpful!

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I truly recommend this place!

P.S. I love their elevator that you can use as a mirror. Your reflection there is even brighter and clearer than your future! 😀

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If you are interested in our airport bus experience, please click here.

To read more about my travels to Hong Kong, please click here.

2019 Trip to Hong Kong: WiFi Rental and Bus Ride

img_2859So you’re finally in Hong Kong. The internet connection from the airport’s WiFi service is superb! You already have your Octopus card loaded and may have had taken your first meal at the airport.

You suddenly realize that you need an internet connection when you leave so you can use apps on your phone like those for maps. However, getting a local SIM card is not possible because your phone is locked to accept only SIM cards from your service provider in your country. What do you do?

Rent a portable WiFi device from the airport!

Truthfully, I already anticipated the need to get one as soon as I booked my flight to Hong Kong. With the help of Klook, I was able to get a list of packages that I could avail to get internet connection in HK. There were some I can have delivered to me in Manila, but there were some that I can just pick up from HKIA. I opted to go for the latter because I did not want to have to worry if I was going to get my device on time before I flew to HK. Also, the ones for pick up at HKIA were cheaper.

img_2824I settled for the package from Song WiFi. The package I got was only for a total of Php 696 for 4 days (Php 174 per day)! With coverage area spanning Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China, this device that allowed up to five other devices to connect to it to make use of its unlimited data (at 4G speed) was a steal! The best part? There are no deposits required, allowing you to use all your available funds for your adventures!

The type of kit I got came with a protective case to keep together all the items for our seamless WiFi experience. We got the WiFi device, a charging cable, an adapter, and the USB charging hub that allowed four gadgets to be charged simultaneously.

If I had known, I would not have bought a travel adapter before my flight and could have saved Php 200 in the process. Oh well, at least I know now that renting from Song WiFi saves me a lot of worries other than just having an internet connection.

img_2858The battery did not drain fast and we had a fast and reliable internet connection throughout our travel. I did notice its service becoming sporadic in some parts of Disneyland (particularly in Adventure Land). Thankfully, Disneyland has awesome free WiFi service so I turned off this device and used it again when we were going home already.

You can pick up your device from Counter A05 at the Arrival Hall A of Terminal 1. The personnel at the counter were nice and the lady assigned to us taught us how to use the device. We had to wait ten minutes for the device to be useable. I think they still had to activate it or something. For more details, you may check out Klook or Song WiFi’s global website.

Now that we had our business done at the airport, we went to look for the airport bus terminal to get roundtrip bus tickets from Cityflyer. The roundtrip tickets cost only HKD55 (roughly Php 358). img_3131If we took the Airport Express Train, the roundtrip cost would have been HKD 185 (roughly Php 1,203). If we booked via Klook, we could have gotten it at just Php 804. Still, the bus was the cheapest deal. I also wanted Jana to experience riding the upper deck of the airport bus.

When you get your tickets, make sure to split the ticket in half, ripping along the perforated lines. DO NOT lose your return ticket so keep it secure in your wallet or cellphone case. When you ride the bus, just drop it at the designated coin and ticket collection box near the driver’s seat.

After dropping our tickets, we placed our luggage on the designated area and went up to the upper deck of the bus. I made sure to sit where we could see the monitor with a view of your luggage.

It’s pretty safe in Hong Kong. The monitor just allows you to see whether your luggage has toppled over or if someone accidentally picked yours up by mistake. I did not have to stay glued to the screen as I felt pretty much secure that our bags and suitcases will not be lost.

By the way, the best route to take when going to Kowloon is the A21 bus route. Still, kindly research your destination to know the best bus route to take. I just happened to read that the A21 bus will allow you to see more attractions along the way once you have entered Kowloon.

img_2849On the way back to the airport, we had to line up and wait for another A21 bus. Unfortunately, the bus was already full (seats and luggage compartment). So, we had to just support our suitcases on our own.

Jana, amazing as usual with her superb balancing skills, sat on top of her suitcase. Despite the wild rollercoaster ride to the airport (the driver drove like he was in such a hurry), she was very much at ease in her spot. I, on the other hand, had to hold on to the posts, with one hand holding another person’s suitcase handle to keep it from toppling over and sending the small suitcases flying to the other passengers.

The rides from and to the airport both took around 30 to 40 minutes. Not bad. If we took the train, we would have paid much higher for a much quicker ride. Since we were not in such a hurry, I still think taking the bus was a good choice. Maybe, next time, we’ll just try to find a less full bus to the airport.

That’s it for WiFi and airport bus experiences! Please stay tuned for more of our adventures in Hong Kong this year.

If you want to learn more about the airport bus routes, you may want to visit the Citybus website. They also have an app that you can download from the App Store or from Google Play. The app is very convenient as it can help you find not only the best airport bus route but also bus routes throughout Hong Kong. It can also give you the estimated arrival time of the next bus and can suggest what buses to take by just typing in your location and destination.

If you want to read more on my previous travels to Hong Kong, please click here.

2019 Trip to Hong Kong: The Flight

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Finally! March of 2019 came. This trip to Hong Kong with my awesome friend, Jana, was almost a year in the making. I booked the trip way back in November of last year and made sure to file my leaves ahead of time.

The events leading up to our flight was not smooth at all. For some reason, I was so stressed out and was uneasy. To add to that, I almost terribly damaged my eye in the process.

You see, I bought contact lenses to wear during our travel because I wanted to look nicer in our photos. I bought my pair from one of the more accessible optical shops. When I tried to wear them two days before my flight though, my right eye started to feel terribly irritated. Lubricating felt like my eyeball was on fire and ordinary eye drops to refresh my eyes felt the same thing. I could not see any scratch and could not remember getting something in my eye before it suddenly felt so dry that I had to drop on some lubricant.

The following day, my eye was still a little bit pink (a sign it’s still irritated) and eye drops still made my eyeball feel on fire. I immediately contacted our family’s ophthalmologist and was advised to have it checked just to be sure. However, since I could not go to his clinic, I opted to go to another doctor in the hospital near my office. I told my original eye doctor what I was prescribed, and he did not seem to have any problem with the anti-inflammatory drops I was asked to use. He did tell me to visit his clinic soon when I got back.

img_1300On the day of the flight, I was still uneasy. I cannot understand why. Maybe it was because it was going to be my first time to travel to Hong Kong without my sister picking me up from the airport. I was also feeling responsible for my friend who was going on her first out-of-the-country trip. So, when we were invited to have our carry-on luggage checked in for free because of anticipated volume of carry-on luggage of a packed flight, despite my gut feeling telling me not to, I opted to have my bag checked in.

Upon boarding the plane, I asked two flight attendants in two separate occasions to ensure that my bag was indeed checked in. They assured me of the process, but I still felt something was going to turn out wrong.

At the immigration in Hong Kong, it was my first time to be ever asked for itinerary. So, make sure you have yours prepared just in case they ask for it. If you booked packages over Klook, please make sure to show them your bookings from your phone. Also, before giving them your passport, make sure to remove it from its jacket/holder.

Only my big suitcase arrived on the carousel. Ten minutes after all bags from our flight from Manila were already taken, my carry-on luggage that was checked in still did not arrive. I panicked immediately because the bag contained documents my sister needed. I immediately asked the assistance of the personnel at the Baggage Enquiry Desk while I tried to contact Cebu Pacific’s hotline.

I was amazed at the efficiency of the personnel at HKIA. They were understanding and supportive. They remained calm, so I did not panic even further. However, I was disappointed with Cebu Pacific because I was told to wait up to 48 hours for them to get back to me. No, scrap that. I was asked to call them again after 48 hours. So much for using the word “escalation.” I was fuming at this point!

Twenty-one minutes of long-distance call and Php 2,500 charge on my bill later, Jana told me she saw my bag already. It arrived together with the bags from the flight from Mumbai. I guess at the last minute, they remembered I checked in my bag and had it brought to the carousel.

Maybe if I had a little more faith on the ground crew of Cebu Pacific, I did not have to make the phone call. Still, it was my first “lost luggage” experience so I guess I should not be so hard on myself. I am grateful they did not lose my bag and I still think they should improve on how their customer service personnel handle cases like this. Please don’t sound as if you’re as helpless as your customers.

img_1296Almost lost luggage aside, Cebu Pacific still provided us a comfortable flight. Our seats were upgraded to the seats near the exit so, we had more leg room. Jana and I had fun trying to figure out how to open the exit door in case of emergency. The flight attendants were very nice and attentive to our needs. I guess, I just need to not be so uptight.

I am also thankful that I was not alone that day. Somebody could have picked my bag while I was still at the Baggage Enquiry Desk.

Lessons learned: If you can check everything in, check everything in. Once you decided to have carry-on luggage, don’t have it checked in anymore unless necessary (no more space at all).

Despite the tears, numerous eye drops and the tugging and pulling around my right eye, my Maybelline HyperSharp Powerblack Eyeliner and Essence I Love Extreme Waterproof Volume Mascara did not budge when my contact lens irritated my eye. Talk about product review after a mishap!

Just Baked: Chocolate Swirl Buns

“When you select the right kind of chocolate it is like giving your insides a hug. Everyone needs a chocolate hug.” — Jean Kelsey 

After two weeks of feeling ill during the second half of February, I felt the need to make some bread. I wanted the therapy I get from working with dough and needed the comfort of a house that smelled heavenly from bread in the oven.

I wanted something easy like a cinnamon roll, but I did not want cinnamon this time. I was torn between wanting a sweet bread or savory bread. To be honest, I was leaning towards making a cheesy garlic bread. However, having no food processor in my kitchen and having an aversion to handling real garlic (I hate the smell it leaves on the hands), I decided to use my last Beryl’s Dark Compound Chocolate bar.

For the recipe, I was initially looking at recipes for babka. However, it involved too many steps and too much time to get the dough ready. I wanted something quick and easy for an impatient amateur like me. My search led me to Donal Skehan’s recipe.

52932105_828408607498314_5062651940920360960_nThe dough was easy to make and to handle. For the first time, I did not use my hand mixer and its dough hook attachments! Instead, I used my hands to knead for about ten minutes or more. It felt like a workout but it was so satisfying to knead the dough. It was like working with slime or clay.

The more tiring part of this bread making activity is chopping the dark compound chocolate bar. I need to invest in bigger and sharper knives. Anyway, I made sure to leave some big chunks of chocolate because I was worried they’d melt too quickly and burn of I chopped too finely.

IMG_0932Donal’s recipe was a pretty simple recipe that is easy to follow and difficult to mess up. Honestly, the only things that worried me in this recipe were the use of dark chocolate and my lack of ground cardamom.

You see, I like my chocolate more milky than dark. I like white chocolate best of all. Dark chocolate never appealed to me despite being closer to what real chocolate is.

I also do not like cardamom. However, Donal emphasized the difference it will make in the dough. Thankfully, I did not have ground cardamom on hand so I had valid excuse to skip it. I would like to try adding some in the future though. That is, if I can find ground cardamom in my country because even the ones not in powder form is already tough to find (hooray to another excuse for me to skip it!).

I badly need practice on twisting dough. No matter how hard I tried, I could not replicate Donal’s technique of twisting the dough. I did my best though. Holy cow, that rhymed!

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The breads puffed up more in the oven. The house smelled so good while the butter, sugar and chocolate flavors were marrying.

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Despite not looking perfect, I was so proud of myself! The buns were great when eaten a few minutes after being taken out of the oven. Surprisingly, the chocolate was not bitter. I was so afraid to try it and not like it because of the dark chocolate. I was wrong. I loved it so much!

I hope you give Donal’s recipe a try. Until then, I hope you stick around and support me as I try more recipes in the future.

 

 

 

Lola Remedios vs. Tolak Angin – Battle of the Herbal Supplements

“I believe that for every illness or ailment known to man, that God has a plant out here that will heal it. We just need to keep discovering the properties for natural healing.” ― Vannoy Gentles Fite, Essential Oils for Healing: Over 400 All-Natural Recipes for Everyday Ailments

I cannot believe I am writing about herbal supplements. I am officially a tita!

Tita in Filipino means auntie. Your auntie can be your mom’s sister or female cousin. We also call female friends or colleagues of our parents as tita. Sometimes, we use tita as an endearment to a much older female (around our parent’s age) when referring to them and we do not know their name.

These days though, young female adults already consider themselves a tita when they start behaving less of a young adult and more of a middle-aged adult. That includes carrying bags that contain essentials that your younger self normally didn’t bother like tissue, wet wipes, umbrella and, sometimes, a first-aid kit containing medicines and multi-purpose minty liniments. Grocery and household items shopping has also become more exciting than shopping for clothes and shoes at this point.

Another sign that one is turning into a tita is when one starts turning to herbal food supplements for remedy. This is where Lola Remedios and Tolak Angin come in.

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Despite being manufactured in Indonesia, Lola Remedios seems to have been made for Filipino consumers. Lola is the Filipino word for grandmother and Remedios used to be a common Spanish name for females. My own maternal grandmother was named Remedios. This Spanish name means “remedies.” Smart branding!

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Going back, Lola Remedios was an item I used to see a lot on the pharmacy counters of Watsons and Mercury Drug, but I never paid much attention to it. Sold in sachets in 7-eleven stores as well, I thought it was just one of those alternative medicines that older people would be interested in buying. I saw it a lot two years ago but never thought of buying one because I just never saw the need for it and, frankly speaking, I also thought it was going to taste nasty.

A few months ago though, I suddenly had a high fever after going to the church and the mall. How I suddenly fell ill when I was very healthy that morning was something I could not explain. My mom said it was probably what Filipinos call lamig (literally translates to “coldness”). It’s that sudden feeling of being under the weather or just feeling generally unwell with no telling signs and symptoms to help gauge what has gone wrong with you. For that reason, she gave me a sachet of Lola Remedios to try. I did not expect to love it so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I did not suddenly feel well and it did not get rid of whatever I caught that was making me feel ill. What it did give me were a warming and soothing sensation. The liquid inside the sachet tasted of mint and honey with hints of ginger and other spices. The mint lover in me loved it so much! I knew that it was going to be an awesome herbal supplement to take when one has sore throat and coughing problems because of the minty sensation it leaves the throat.

Around that time as well, I learned that what I used to ignore in the convenience stores and pharmacies is now highly in demand that they always get sold out. It has now become very difficult to get your hands on this supplement and I have come across several people who looked for it as well (and failed to find it). Even a close friend of mine drinks it when she is unwell!

img_0922So, when I fell ill two weeks ago (I had a terrible sore throat), I felt sad that there was no Lola Remedios available in all pharmacies near me. I was longing for the minty sensation for my terribly sore throat. Unexpectedly, it led to the discovery of Tolak Angin.

Tolak Angin is another Indonesian product that is very similar to Lola Remedios. The first time I heard its name, I found it very familiar and a tad bit funny. You see, tolak in Indonesian translates to “push.” In Filipino, we say tulak. On the other hand, angin of Indonesia and hangin of the Philippines are the English equivalents of  “air.” Thus, Tolak Angin is the literal translation of “to push air.” By air, I think this also refers to lamig. 

I decided to give Tolak Angin a try. The first thing I noticed was that it’s mintier and spicier than Lola Remedios. It was so potent that even my clogged nostrils felt like it was getting decongested from within. I had to pour the remaining half of the contents into a glass of warm water because I could not handle how strong it was. It also made me feel warm and it did an awesome job soothing my aching throat.

Luckily for my sister who is based in Hong Kong, we were recently able to buy one box of Lola Remedios from the pharmacy. It was the last box so we didn’t let it go. Mom promised to send my sister some so she can try it out as well. Fortunately for me, I get to compare the two products.

Ingredients

Lola Remedios: Zingiberis officinale rhizome (ginger), Foeniculi fructus (fennel bulbs), Mentha arvensis (wild mint), Mentha piperita (peppermint), Helicteres isorae fructus (Indian screw tree), Syzygium aromaticum folium (clove), Sucrose (table sugar), Mel Depuratum (honey), Palm sugar, and Purified Water

Tolak Angin: Honey, Asian rice, Fennel, Indian screw tree, Clove, Mint, Ginger, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Indonesian Cinnamon, Gotu Kola, Tree Bean, Usnea, Emulsifier (E 435 and E 471), Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate

No wonder Tolak Angin was more potent! Look at all the other spices in it!

Lola Remedios seems more natural though because it does not contain emulsifiers and food additives.

Looking at nutrition information though, Lola Remedios has more sugars, explaining why it was very sweet despite the spices in it.

Contents

Both products come in 15ml sachets and 12 sachets per box. For some reason though, Tolak Angin feels a tiny bit heavier.

FDA Approval

Both packagings show their FDA registration. Still, both explicitly state that there are no approved therapeutic claims for these products.

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Important Dates

Lola Remedios shows manufacturing and expiry dates. Seems like it’s good for two years from manufacturing date. On the other hand, Tolak Angin only shows the expiry date. I wonder when the batch of my box was made.

Manufacturers

Lola Remedios: PT.Kino Indonesia, Tbk

I strongly feel that there’s no Indonesian version of this drink and that it was made especially for Filipinos. I cannot find any version of it from the manufacturer’s website.

Tolak Angin: Sido Muncul (Company Name: Industri Jamu dan Farmasi)

I cannot find an English website but I did come across some information about the business. It appears this is a family-owned business that goes back decades. I also came across its history on YouTube.

Whether Tolak Angin is the first of its kind, I am not sure. What I found out though was that our famous boxer, Manny Pacquiao, endorsed this product way back 2016.

Anyway, regardless of which came to the Philippines first, I liked both products. While I feel I’d reach for Lola Remedios more because it is not as spicy, I would not mind taking Tolak Angin as an alternative or when I am more ill than usual.

Will I take these herbal supplements as a replacement for doctor-prescribed medicines? No, I don’t think so. Still, they are nice to have around for when I want some quick relief from lamig.

Damn, I really have turned into a tita… Hahaha…