Sunday, April 29, 2007

Reader's question: Similar beaches to Laiya?

A couple of days ago, Lori left me a message using the meebo chat widget (see the ChatWithP section on the bottom right):

"hi i'm lori, i really appreciate your reviews its straight to the point and complete with important info (like state of the bathrooms, rooms and the sand) we've been to la luz already and would like to come back but can you suggest other beaches similar to la luz ( meaning affordable price,good accomodation, nice beach and good food) thanks"
Salamat sa tanong Lori but so far I've only stayed at La Luz in Laiya, White Cove in Nasugbu and Terrazas De Punta Fuego. I've heard some good things about Virgin Beach Resort and Sabangan in Laiya but I have yet to try them myself. (Reviews By P runs on a limited budget. Hehehe.)

However check out Anton from "Our Awesome Planet". He has some extensive reviews of places to eat in the Philippines but you may also want to check out his reviews that you might find interesting:

Villa Surprise, Cape Town

Villa Surprise's themed rooms, lounge-y garden and friendly staff entices you to be lazy and stay indoors.
My colleagues stayed at the larger King's room (all decked out in royal purple) which had a four-poster bed, a balcony, a stately bathroom and a view of the mountains. I stayed in the Africa room with native drums that doubled as tables, bamboo curtains, ostrich egg chandeliers, an animal skin rug, a view overlooking the outdoor pool-- the works!

The villa is designed to be open and airy so much of the silence depends on your neighbors from the adjoining rooms. I could hear footsteps from the room above and a little of the chatter from the garden but thankfully everyone was mostly considerate and kept the peace.

All rooms have wireless internet (ZAR10/day), a small tv with only three channels (shame on you if you're staying here just to watch tv!), a mini-bar, proper queen sized beds (not just two singles pushed together!) and goose-down pillows. T'here's no airconditioning but the weather is cool enough for you to snuggle under the comforter.

Breakfast is late at 8:30 and served by the host Marko. You can have eggs any way you want, coffee, toast, cereals and fresh fruit salad. It's not spectacular really but I can't explain why the food tastes much better if you have it dining under the sunshine, in a peaceful garden with mountains all around, a cool breeze and the twittering of birds.

The guest house is a quick 8 minute downhill walk to Camp's Bay which has a beautiful sunset and rows of clubs and restos. However, getting back is much more difficult. Be prepared for a difficult uphill climb that will leave you gasping for breath!

Conclusion:4/5 0
Four pawikan points! Although it did not have the sea view and isolation of The Clarendon, it's proximity to Camps Bay and themed rooms make up for it.

Bonus points for Rolf the interior designer/landscaper who did all the rooms! Minus points for the old-school locks which require you to have the key to open the door even from the inside!
If you liked this, you may also want to read my review of The Clarendon on Bantry Bay.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Mangyari Lamang", tula ni Rico Abelardo

I thought I'd take a break with my reviews and post a copy of a beautiful Filipino poem. Can someone help translate this into English?
Mangyari lamang ay tumayo ang mga nagmahal
nang makita ng lahat ang mukha ng pag- ibig.
Ipamalas ang tamis ng malalim na pagkakaunawaan
sa mga malabo ang paningin.

Mangyari lamang ay tumayo rin ang mga nagmahal at nasawi nang makita ng lahat ang mga sugat ng isang bayani.
Ipadama ang pait ng kabiguan habang ipinagbubunyi
ang walang katulad na kagitingan ng isang nagtaya.

Mangyari lamang ay tumayo ang mga nangangambang magmahal nang makita ng lahat ang kilos ng isang bata.
Ipamalas ang katapatan ng damdamin na pilit ikinukubli
ng pusong lumaki sa mga engkanto at diwata.

Mangyari lamang ay tumayo ang mga nagmahal,
minahal at iniwan ngunit handa pa ring magmahal
nang makita ng lahat ang yaman ng karanasan.
Ipamalas ang katotohanang nasaksihan
nang maging makahulugan ang mga paghagulgol sa dilim.

At sa mga nananatiling nakaupo mangyari lamang
ay dahan-dahang tumalilis papalabas sa nakangangang pinto.
Umuwi na kayo at sumbatan ang mga magulang
na nagpalaki ng isang halimaw!

At sa lahat ng naiwang nakatayo mangyari lamang
ay hagkan ang isa't isa at yakapin ang mga sugatan.
Mabuhay tayong lahat na nagsisikap na makabalik sa ating pinagmulan!
Manatiling masaya at higit sa lahat magpatuloy sa pagmamahal.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Clarendon at Bantry Bay, Cape Town

The Clarendon's balcony is the perfect place to have breakfast and behold breathtaking sunsets.
Situated at the top of a hill, the first thing that will strike you about The Clarendon is the view from the balcony. Aside from the view being obscured by two obnoxious cranes, you can't get any better than this!

I've been able to get a lot of blogging done because of the cool breeze, the silence and solitude. Every once in a while, I'd look through the telescope and watch a couple of whales and a school of dolphin paddle across the ocean.

There's a barbecue grill, ping pong table and a beautiful lounging area around the swimming pool. Great for impromptu inuman sessions with the barkada.


The service is personal-- there are so little rooms that the staff know you by name. The owner Shirley was "on-site" puttering around during breakfast and she'd drop by every now and then during the day. One of the staff, Kevin, even baked some pastries for Saturday tea. I was incredulous when one of the guests asked Mavutu (another one of the staff) for a foot massage... Then I was shocked when he cheerfully obliged!

It's location up Bantry Bay gives it an advantage because of the view. However it is also a disadvantage because it's a tiring walk to the beach. To get anywhere interesting, you will definitely need a car or call a taxi.

Although the room was clean and passed my Will-I-Walk-Barefoot test, there were lots of little things that did not tickle my fancy:

  • the queen-sized bed are two singles pushed together. Effectively, you'll only sleep on one side.
  • I met my first baby south african cockroach in the bathroom. Yay!
  • I was woken up twice in the middle of the night from an annoying static noise coming from the telly and a loud hissing sound from the airconditioner
  • The toilet paper wasn't perforated-- it was just one long single roll. Details, details, details!
  • The towels weren't fluffy and felt worn-out.
I did not let that lone fly circling the cheese platter ruin my breakfast. Chef Johnson's omellette was made-to-order, the coffee was freshly brewed and the fruit salad was made with real (not canned) fresh fruit!

(Tip: Since there's only one chef, there could be quite a wait during the peak breakfast hours so if you don't want to wait, wake up early or eat late.)

Conclusion:4/5 0
Four pawikan points. Minus points because of the following:
  • paint chipping off in my sink and on the balcony railing. This place was not aging very well. (According to Shirley, the guest house will be fully upgraded this year! She says each room will have something "special".)
  • Old-school locks and key! You actually need the key to lock your room even from the inside! Not a good design specially if you're rushing to get out.
  • no complimentary bottle of water

Bonus points because of the friendly and attentive service from the staff. they really try their best to make you feel at home. Visit the Clarendon, tell them that the Filipino sent you and make sure you have a chat with the night watchman Chris and ask him to show you some magic.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Boschendal Restaurant, Cape Town

Rating:4.5/5 0
A beautiful six course buffet meal (ZAR200++) under a shady canopy of trees with chilled sparkling white wine and a view of the main house built in 1812.
Boschendal is one of the oldest wine estates in South Africa and I love the way the staff takes pride in this snobby little fact.

As you wait to be seated, you are offered some complimentary port by a sprite lady who looks as old as the wine estate! We took our seats out in the shady courtyard amidst some very well fed red-feathered roosters! I have never had the pleasure of dining with a cock but after initially being startled by its random crowing, I soon found these proud creatures very endearing.

It's a six course buffet meal and needless to say, there is a lot of food so take your time and eat slowly.

Starters and Mains
It was the first time I had a pear gazpacho and I did not realize that a gazpacho is supposed to be a cold soup. (I still think that all soups should be served hot.)

I specially liked their mushroom quiche, fresh oysters, and smoked Franschhoek Salmon. The rare roast peppered beef fillet with béarnaise sauce was very tender while the traditional bobotie was a cross between Filipino giniling and a Malay curry.

Try the sweet Malva pudding but skip the guava cheesecake. My companions were raving about the extensive cheese platter which I definitely had to sample. I tried a little bit of everything-- Cheeses with berries, hot pepper, soft and hard cheese. I did not like any of the lot-- a bit too pungent, a bit too rotten aged for my taste.

I can't remember the vintage of the sparkling white wine we ordered (next time I'll pay more attention) but it was crisp, had a fruity note and a lingering finish. (Actually I just made that up. I just know that the bubbles looked pretty coming up around the glass!)

Four and a half pawikan points. Champion food, excellent service and a tranquil setting (punctuated by rooster crows); This was a leisurely two and a half hour lunch perfect for a slow Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Flyfishing at Jonkershoek, Cape Town

Fly fishing at scenic Jonkershoek is a great antidote to a hangover caused by too much wine drinking. Perfect for lazy sunday mornings.
Make no mistake about it, Jonkershoek is picturesque. Camwhores will love this place because there are many nooks and crannies that afford beautiful photo ops.

Butterflies, dragonflies, reeds, green grass, man-made lakes for fishing, tables set under shady trees, bird and duck droppings... peace and quiet!

But don't just come here to take a nap. Try your hand at flyfishing where instead of using a worm, you use a fake fly as bait.

Basically you cast your rod in a back and forth whipping motion and once your bait is in the water, sit back, sip some wine and pat yourself on the back because you're fishing! (Warning: easier said than done!)

We spent half the day there and the only thing we caught was a frog. (Fly-frogging?) I guess that's ok because if you ever did catch a fish, I'm sure you wouldn't know what to do with it anyway!
Four pawikan points. Bonus points for the friendly locals who gave us a couple of tips on how to cast the rod. Give a man a fish and he will not be hungry for a day; Teach him how to fish... and he will spend the morning in Jonkershoek! (tee hee hee).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2007

If music were sex then we had exhibitionist pornstars from all over the world and this was their orgy.
Tickets for the two-day Cape Town International Jazz Fest were sold out! Fortunately we were staying at the same hotel as the artists and we got invited to the free after-party.

The festival itself was just foreplay and this jamming session was the real deal. It began to build up at 1 am to its climax at 4am and wound down just before six.

Just like the best sex, this was much more personal, much more spontaneous, unscripted and full of improvisation. Artists would just come up to the stage, plug in their instrument and started playing. When he got tired and stepped down, someone would nonchalantly fill up his place.

The first couple of hours were dominated by the horns. (Could it be described as horny then?) Trumpets, saxophones, a French horn, wicked electric pianos. There was a rousing Mas Que Nada, a rapper, some lounge singers...

And when the drummers came the audience were voyeurs no more.

They pounded rhythmically, loud, raw muscles on drum skin. It was repetitive, hypnotic and coupled with the chanting and yelling I'd say this was almost spiritual.

This was my first South African festival (would that make me a Jazz Fest virgin?) and I was duly impressed. Four pawikan points. Plus points to the young trumpeteer who looked like Harry Potter.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Savoy Cabbage, Cape Town

Rating:4.5/5 0.5
Yes the red brick walls, glass and steel staircase and cabbage chandeliers are nice, but this place has actually shown me why food is more than sustenance and how dining is more than biological.

First thing you'll notice is that the menus are printed on ordinary, plain paper. Nothing fancy here folks-- it's not leather bound, there are no photos, no frills, just a list of dishes with ingredients that I've never heard before: courgette flowers with chevre, crottin with mesclun, paw-paw salsa, almond crespelle... Here was a whole new world, a whole new vocabulary and since I had no dictionary, I'd let my tastebuds do all the thinking.

For starters, I recommend the pan-fried duck foie gras with grilled mango and toasted brioche (ZAR150) as well as the tartare and carpaccio of yellowfin tuna with ginger and wasabi mayonnaise (ZAR75). (Pan fried duck foie gras is actually glorified liver spread but oh, oh what glory was in this particular dish!).

As a main dish, have a go at the wildebeest loin with spatzle, butternut flan and a spiced port sauce (ZAR145). I don't even know what a wildebeest looks like but I must say that they're very tasty. It's like having a very tender steak with much more flavor.

The roast lamb rump with creamy haricot beans, confit fennel, roasted garlic and thyme jus (ZAR125) was equally as divine but I preferred the wildebeest. Both meat dishes paired perfectly with the Warwick 3 Cape Ladies 2003 (ZAR186) red wine. The wine was described as voluptuous (!) and it supposedly celebrated the role of women in wine making. (Whatever.)

The seafood dishes (Yellowtail with parsnip purée; grilled kingklip with lentil salad) did not appeal to me as both were too "fishy" for my taste.

At ZAR39 each, the desserts were so good they had to either be immoral, illegal or sinful. For chocoholics like me, I highly recommend the hot chocolate pancakes which are mini crepes drowning in semi-bitter dark chocolate.

The portions of each dish are just right (neither too big nor too small) and each with exquisite plating. The knowledgeable staff were unobtrusive and the used plates were cleared magically and new cutlery appeared out of nowhere. How do they do it?

I probably did not take too much notice of the waiters because I had a little too much of the Ferreira's White port (ZAR 18) and the Wilderer's Williams Birne grappa which tasted like bad gin with a pear aftertaste. Nobody told me that those were meant to be sipped so I took them like tequila shots. (Not a good idea.)

Yeah, yeah Savoy Cabbage is a silly name but I think it's more of a statement that they don't need anything fancier because they let their food do all the talking.

Southern Sun Cape Sun Hotel, Cape Town

The four-star Southern Sun: Cape Sun hotel is a bit pricey but very comfortable and is great for business travellers.
First thing that impressed me was the number of staff at the lobby. The moment I stepped in, all six of the staff (excluding the doorman, concierge and reception) were lined up at attention greeting me. (It was actually a bit embarassing.)

Checking-in while sipping my complimentary drink was quick and hassle-free. The lobby was spacious, modern with ample lounging room, a bar and a baby-grand piano in one corner.

The hotel is walking distance from Long street which has a row of bars and restaurants. (Even if you could walk to it, the staff advises against it because it's unsafe.) Lots of shopping and fast food around St. George's Mall St., there's a grocery and Woolworth's which is their version of Marks & Spencer and a catholic church which is a 15 minute walk away. It's a 30min walk to the V&A waterfront but the hotel has a shuttle that leaves every 30mins.

the room
The room was clean and looked new. I had a picture window with a great view of table mountain (see photo). The bed was big with immaculate white sheets. Soft down-feather pillows, cable tv, office desk, couch and a mini-ref. Every night, there was a complimentary bottle of water.

Wi-fi internet service is relatively affordable (ZAR80/day) and fast but has a limit on how much data you can transfer.

Housekeeping generally keeps the room clean however they weren't consistent in giving me those evening treats. In theory I was supposed to get a Lindt chocolate every night, a Sally Williams nougat every 5th night, and the longer I stayed, i'd get bigger and better things like a bottle of wine. In practice though, I never got them and I was lucky If i got a Lindt at all!

Before I checked out and after staying for almost 3 weeks, I told the head of housekeeping about this. She was extremely apologetic and said she'd make sure it would not happen again. She gave me three Sally Williams nougats. Meh. Too little, too late.

Oh and one time I unexpectedly returned to my room just after lunch and I caught the housekeeper taking a leak in my room's toilet. She was aghast and embarrassed but I was pretty cool about the whole thing. (I still don't know whether to give this minus points because of the unprofessionalism or to give plus points because of the sheer hilarity.)

view from the 27th floorBreakfast
The pricey breakfast buffet (ZAR110) has a big enough spread-- fresh fruit, cheese, bread, porridge, cereal, bacon, sausages, smoked fish, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms and eggs made on-demand.

They've got a professional-looking coffee machine and they'll make a fresh cup of cappuccino or espresso. I would've asked for a fresh cup every morning but it takes so long that by the time they deliver it to me, i'm half done with my meal!

The hotel has a modern gym with exercise balls, free weights, a resistance machine, rower, treadmills and a bike. There's a pool but it's so small that I'd rather call it a bird bath.

Conclusion: 0
Four pawikan points. Bonus points for the glass elevators. Make sure you ask for a room on the higher floors facing the mountain.

The staff is accomodating but they lack initiative-- you have to ask for what you want. I contracted chicken pox while I was here and it was their perfect chance to show-off their service but I didn't get any special treatment.

Upon check-out, I told them about how I expected them to "shine" but they said that I should've told the duty manager. (This despite the fact that I already told the concierge and he even called the doctor for me, that I was ordering room service for each meal for almost two weeks and that I'd tell the cleaners to be careful because I was contagious) They said that they would've sent up snacks, magazines, DVD's and what-not. Too little, too late but I'd definitely stay here again.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Wild Mushroom Guest House, Stellenbosch, Cape Town

Understated elegance, subtlety and 'shroomy character makes the Wild Mushroom a must-visit in Stellenbosch.
From the outside, the Wild Mushroom Guest House did not impress me at all. The tight alley and the impractical three flights of stairs you had to ascend (!) to get to reception did not give a good first impression. But once you step inside and see the rooms, the place quickly redeems itself.

Homey, cozy, dark wood, curtains with mushroom tassles, warm lights, the bowl of fresh fruit, comfortable couches, spacious lounging areas-- it's a combination of all these things that made me feel so at home. Everything is just done in good taste!

Room and bathroom
The rooms are small, cozy and is mostly dominated by the queen sized bed. It's a bit of a squeeze moving around the room so you won't be able to horse around. If you're looking for a desk to work on (shame on you!), you'll have to step into the common lounging room which is perfect for some late night guitars or movie marathons.

The bathrooms are gorgeous-- wide and spacious with a separate tub and a shower enclosed by see-thru glass. There's a loooong mirror that almost spans the length of room, two sinks (no need to argue who goes first) and a towel warmer!

Yes, a towel warmer. I thought it was pretty strange but when I grabbed the toasty towel after my shower it was an "aaaahhhhhhh" moment. Where has this contraption been all my life?!? If you've never dried yourself with a warm towel, you're seriously missing out. (Put this on your must-do-before-you-die list.)

Breakfast was served on the sunny patio, cooked by none other than Wynand our affable host. Coffee, a cheese platter, toast, yoghurt, fresh fruit and a mushroom omelette made for a light and easy meal. The breakfast just complemented the whole laid back, no worries, no rush vibe.

If you've got no plans for the day, ask Wynand-- he knows where the good restaurants are and he'll even make reservations for you.

In summary...
Four pawikan points! Minus points for the tolling church bells that briefly woke me up at 7am! I initially thought that the ringing in my head was from all the wine I had the night before but it was actually the Church across the street reminding me to thank God I was in beautiful Cape Town.

If you're ever on a tour of the wine estates in Stellenbosch, stay at the Wild Mushroom. Tell Wynand that the Filipino guy sent you and he'll tell you that he doesn't remember me.