Category Archives: the world

Vacationista: Dushanbe, Tajikistan Day 4-6 (and departure)

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Since our last two days were actually our meeting days, the only thing I can share was our dinners. The first meeting night, the Tajikistan government hosted a dinner for all participants at this restaurant called Buhoro. It was a big hall with a dancefloor and a stage with all the chairs and tables at the side. They again had gorgeously painted ceilings.


Again, as with the government hosted dinner in Georgia, food was overflowing! It was served to us all throughout the 3 hours we were there. We had different kinds of breads and cold cuts (no horsemeat, thank goodness), salads, meaty samosa (so good), soup (which I didn’t eat much since my friend warned me it was too oily and might upset my stomach), more meat and veggies and a huge platter of fruits.  

All the while, we were entertained by different kinds of performances (obviously I take crappy photos and didn’t even make an effort to go near the dance floor).

 

Afterwards, my friend and I went out for some ice cream and blueberry iced latte (so yummy), with me in my super comfy ababu pants and jacket. My friend obviously has this thing for ice cream, same as when we were in Georgia. Spent the night chilling.

 

The next day was a whole day of meetings here and there. Since it was our last night before departure, our big boss wanted to treat us for dinner. Hence, I had a costume change. Haha.

 

My local counterpart recommended this karaoke type restaurant which had lady belly dancers. On hindsight, it wasn’t a good restaurant to take your bosses and co-workers to since the women would dance around our table and no one watched. Haha! And here we were, talking about gender equality, women empowerment and feminism. Actually, in Tajikistan and most of Central Asia, women are still seen as second class citizens so we still had a lot of work to do. We had our usual salads, soup, bread and of course, shashlik. I guess you can say their cuisine was very simple.

 

Our flight was at 4am so I didn’t even try to sleep anymore. Me and my friend just hung out till it was time for me to go. Slept on the Dushanbe-Dubai leg. One of the FAs was actually a Filipina and she was like “all of you were asleep! You didn’t even eat your food.” Haha! We proceeded to the Dubai airport business lounge and had a light breakfast. Wanted to put the glass water bottle in my bag because it was so pretty – Healthy Options carries that too but it’s too expensive – but the bottle was too heavy. Where would I even use it, right? Glad they’re making a conscious effort to lessen use of plastic bottles.

 

Then started our 8 hour flight from Dubai to Manila, with Kim K and Sheldon as my company.

 


I also tried their instant noodles, just for the heck of it. Naka-business nga, pero pagkain instant canton. Haha! I also find their plane camera amusing, it’s like their version of a dashcam so you can watch as the plane lands and you see the on-ground staff wave his lights, as if waving to say “Welcome home.”


 

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Vacationista: Dushanbe, Tajikistan Day 2-3                                                                                                    

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Woke up around 8am to have breakfast with my teammates at 9am. This was my breakfast every single morning I was there – two sunny side up eggs, assortment of hams, sausage and cheese, croissant, coffee, fresh juice and fresh plum, peach and grapes.
 


After working, we then went out for our super late lunch/early dinner at a local restaurant our colleague recommended called Toqi. Outside, it looked like a boring building with some camel statues but inside, there were artificial trees decorating the place. 


Plus, we had to eat in a small stone room on a low table and sit on the floor with their carpets and plush pillows, making us feel like locals.

 

My colleague ordered some bread, salad and pilov for us. Pilov is like their version of biryani – flavored basmati rice topped with spiced beef, fish and quail egg. Ended with some fresh watermelon and cantaloupe.

 

We still had some time to spare before our next meeting so we did a quick stop at this huge building (again, yes they love huge buildings) with tons of columns. 




Inside they were selling.. Every kind of nuts and spices! But as you can see, the place was huge but empty. It’s a new building so there weren’t a lot of merchants yet. Still, I can’t imagine the place being filled with sellers and buyers and being a hustling and bustling market place. Perhaps in 10 years or so. 

We then went to our scheduled meeting which was with the venue for our upcoming conference in October. They call it the Kokhi Navruz or the Navruz Palace. They had extra large roses all over their gardens.

 


We did an ocular of the place and again – the building, or should I say palace, was over the top! Think carved wood, glass filled rooms, chandeliers, huge round tables you only see in movies or in international media, tons of columns, hand painted walls and ceilings, all in all giving it a grandiose feel. Kinda weird for a developing country, if you ask me. I’ll let the photos do the talking, though they hardly do any justice.

 






Worked again until I fell asleep on the bed. 

The next day, all our other colleagues including the bosses started arriving so we were definitely on war mode. Again, we had our super late lunch/ early dinner at Rokhat Teahouse since our other colleagues haven’t been there. We walked going there from the hotel which was a bit far (and too hot under the afternoon Tajik sun) but my Spanish colleague really wanted to walk. We passed by this almost dry lake (?) with the second largest flag in the world (the largest one belongs to Pakistan).

 

Good thing my friend was with us since he interpreted and ordered for us. If we didn’t have a Russian speaker with us, we’d be lost with the menu! By the time we got to the restaurant, we were famished. We ordered a variety of salads, flat bread, soup, huge dumplings with meat inside and sour cream sauce and of course, shashlik. My favorite salad is the beets with Japanese mayo. For 8 people, we each shelled out TJS50. Not bad at all.

 

The rest of the day was spent working and the night was spent chilling with my friend.

Vacationista: Dushanbe, Tajikistan Day 0-1 (plus, Dubai International Hotel)

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When one of my foreigner colleagues found out I’d be going to Dushanbe for a work meeting, he immediately said that there is absolutely nothing to do in the city. Me being an optimist and lover of travelling, I didn’t believe him and just thought I’ll make the most of my trip. Turns out, he was right. In Dushanbe’s defense, I didn’t actually try to explore the city, mainly because everything was so far from each other and you actually needed to take a taxi to go around. Plus, there’s the language barrier so you needed a Russian speaking person to be with you. This is the same meeting we had in Bangkok last year which though was pretty light compared to our Georgia or Pakistan meetings, still, I wasn’t really able to go around.

 
But first was the long-haul travel. I was so excited to fly via Emirate’s Business Class because I’ve heard so much about it. It’s even on my bucket list. Unfortunately, I was so disappointed. The seats were not as big nor as comfortable as Turkish Airlines, you couldn’t move or customize the seat as much as you wanted to, the restroom was tiny, in-flight wifi was limited to two hours, no complimentary toiletry kit (which I guess is good since it could be a move to be more environmentally-friendly, you know) and service was just so-so. What happened to all the great things I’ve heard about Emirates? Perhaps they were pertaining to First Class, which is still in my bucket list. The only ‘special’ thing about them was the ceiling of stars they turned on at night which let’s face it, has no added value to my traveling comfort.

 

I honestly didn’t rest well on their seats. It was so uncomfortable even with the extra mattress. After 8 hours of unrest, landed in Dubai. Since we had an 11 hour layover, me and my colleagues availed of the Dubai International Hotel, which is actually a 5-star airport hotel. Paid about $200 for my stay but it had all the amenities of a regular hotel: tea and coffee, shower and toiletries, TV and wifi, and even a small gym, Jacuzzi and pool outside (plus an empty barber’s room). My room’s view was still just the airport hallway. Haha! I didn’t bring my swimsuit so wasn’t able to take a dip but will definitely make a mental note to pack it next time I stay with them.

 

Went around their Duty Free stores which had the usual perfume, chocolates and souvenirs. Only bought a P1,700 mousepad that looked like an actual carpet, for my brother’s diorama, per his request. And some Loacker wafers. So random.     

We then went on our Dubai-Dushanbe 3 hour flight and arrived in chilly Dushanbe. We landed around 3am but arrived at the hotel at 5am since we had to get our visas on arrival, waited for our luggage and for our airport pick up to leave the parking lot.

 

I think Hyatt upgraded me because when I compared to my colleague’s room, the standard room was smaller and didn’t have a couch. Perks of being an organizer (and the one who bugs the hotel), I guess.


Had a great view of the fountain in the middle of the man-made lake too.

 

Woke up at around 9am and had some breakfast. The spread wasn’t as varied as most hotels but they had a lot of fresh fruits like whole pears, grapes, plums and my favorite, peaches so I was more than happy. We worked for some hours where hotel staff gave us some coffee and pecan pie (so good!).

 

We needed a break and some fresh air (plus some super late lunch/ early dinner) so our local counterpart brought us to this small building called Tsum (?) selling lots of cellphones on the first floor and souvenirs at the second floor. Bought a small magnet (TJS13) and two small plates (TJS70) as décor for my mom and brother.

 

Our super late lunch/ early dinner was at a huge white building with columns called Rokhat Teahouse. Its name is more complicated than Rokhat but that’s the easier version (we also just pronounce it as Rohat).

 

The place was two floors and overlooking a small garden where the kitchen was located. The ceilings were painted with some colorful design and was already peeling and showing age, which I loved because it gave the place an authentic feel to it. 


My colleague ordered salad, bread, compote and shashlik – grilled meat – for us. Shashlik is known in Tajikistan and it was really good. Rice was no longer available after lunch hours so bread was our carbo.

 

We then had some vanilla ice cream as dessert from the store downstairs. My boss paid for everything so I don’t know the prices. Haha.

 

Walked back towards the hotel but not before stopping by our resident mission office there (which looked like a mansion complete with a winding staircase and chandelier) and a local grocery store. 


Didn’t find anything extremely interesting so I only bought 6 bars of chocolates and some wafer (TJS62.2) to give away. 

Vacationista: Dushanbe, Tajikistan Summary

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Dates: 17-23 September 2017 (Sunday 7am departure –Saturday 4am departure)

Traveled via: Emirates Business Class (Manila-Dubai, 8 hours) and FlyDubai Business Class (Dubai-Dushanbe, 3 hours) and vice versa

Transit Hours: Dubai to Dushanbe is 11 hours; Dubai to Manila is 2 hours

Temperature: hot during the day (approx. 30 degrees Celsius) and chilly at night (approx. 25 degrees Celsius)

Outfit: Work outfit then casual with jacket at night

Mode: Work Mode with chilling here and there

Visa: On arrival ($60 + $5 online fee)

Accommodation: Hyatt Regency Dushanbe and Dubai International Hotel (for transit)

Pocket Money: exchanged only US$50 (TJS8.77 per $1) but still have tons of TJS left

 

Liliw’s White House Bistro

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My friends visited me over the weekend and planned a quick trip to the farther south of Laguna. We decided on going to Liliw, also because I wanted new espadrille wedges. Haha. Dropped by the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery since my Manileno friends haven’t been.


Made a couple of other stops like my friend’s grandma’s house but what I really want to share is this small resto we discovered right smack in the middle of the shoe stores in Liliw. It is called White Hous Bistro and opened two years ago. We had late lunch there at around 3pm so we had the whole place to ourselves. 



The place was so gorgeous! It’s an old  house turned to a resto so it felt like I was eating with my rich grandparents. Haha! Place is pretty small with a few tables, maybe maximum 30 people all in all. 


Their kitchen was downstairs and the interior was simple but super pretty and cozy. The whole place was made of wood. There was even an old school window, as if anytime some guy was going to play his guitar and serenade you. 


Generally, they had a Filipino menu but also had some Japanese rice bowls like Katsudon. They have Pinoy viands ala carte but the most value for money would be their group meals, good for 5 pax (sakto samin!). 


We chose the grilled liempo group meal which had pinakbet, pancit lucban, pork sisig, rice wnd iced tea. With 8% service charge, we only paid P1200 for everything. Sulit na!


Food is good – loved the fresh pinakbet and pancit – and price is affordable and quite right for the taste. I highly recomend bringing your friends here for your meal fix. Afterwards, we went shoe shopping where I was able to buy P250 beige espadrille wedges. 


Lastly, was able to capture this super pretty shot of the nearby church. Look at that gorgeous sky! So blue! I seldom see our skies as blue as this, unlike when I go to other countries like in Georgia

Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia and Istanbul, Turkey Business Lounges

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I honestly think these two deserve their own post. Haha! So after more than a week of staying, working and going around Tbilisi, we headed back home. Since we were entitled to business class airfare in the organization I work for, we also get to enjoy the perk of staying at the business lounges. In Manila, business lounges – whatever the airline – is pathetic compared to those abroad.
 

Since Tbilisi International Airport is small, so is the business lounge but that doesn’t mean it has to be shabby (hello, listen up MIAA). The food was decent enough for a quick treat but the lounge itself was so comfortable with enough couches and tables. But the best part was that it looked like a painting gallery. The lounge was filled with different artworks, which were actually for sale. It made the whole place inviting and less horrific as you wait for your flight.

 

Yummy food on the plane from Tbilisi to Istanbul.

 

But upon arrival at the Istanbul business lounge (since Turkey was our transit stop), I was blown away! It was huge! It had everything you could possibly need for your transit to keep you occupied– a billiards table, a library, a mini cinema, wifi of course, luggage area, an entertainment and gaming area downstairs, and all the food and drinks you could want. They also have a shower area and sleeping quarters but this is limited only to those whose transits are 8 hours and more (which is understandable). I heard from the staff that there was a waiting list.

 

I decided to eat dinner at the lounge – Turkish ravioli, grilled veggies, baklava and local drinks – so that when I get to the plane, I’ll just sleep for the duration of the flight. Which I did. My colleague who sat beside me even noticed this and said that he had already seen a ton of movies and I was still sleeping. Haha. We also had the same flight as Piolo Pascual but that’s not relevant.

Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 9 (Last day and going home already. Huhu)

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My last day in Tbilisi! Wah! While the others were lounging in the pool or going somewhere else, me and my friend decided to again spend the day out and about the city, at least till 2pm before our hotel check out. We walked along Shota Rustaveli (I will never get tired of this street) because I wanted to find the old lady who was selling magnets. I could buy magnets at the souvenir shops or even in the supermarket but I wanted to buy from the old lady, who had no official store, just a board along the street with her goods, just to help her out. My friend kept teasing me that the lady was gone but finally I saw her. My friend interpreted for me and after looking at the magnets, I chose one for only 3 gel.


We walked towards Freedom Square and decided to have a pit stop (agad?) at a local café. He had some coffee and pistachio ice cream (again) which was good, while I had a strawberry lemonade, which was more like a smoothie. He even clarified this with the staff since I was hoping the lemonade was like the one I tasted last night, or at the very least, was more liquid in form. After much discussion with the waitress, they just said that that was a lemonade. Oh well. At least my friend let me pay for this, all in all at 25 gel with tip.

 

After being recharged, we started walking again but this time, took a different turn going somewhere unknown. This wasn’t along the souvenir shops nor the cafes. It wasn’t the tourists’ street. We wanted an unknown street since this is where we felt like locals – just enjoying the view of the streets, the buildings and just having a relaxing (but of course tiring) walk.

 

We ended up on the other side of city and went directly to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Tbilisi, right along Shota Rustaveli, because I mentioned to him that I wanted to see the museum. Again, he insisted on paying for the museum entrance fee. The girls at the reception apologetically looked at me and said again, ‘He’s the man.’ I feel like I should be offended, like that’s a sexist comment implying a man should always pay for a woman’s food or whatever. Should I? Nah. Haha!  

 



The art was from the same artist. Not a fan of his simple works but I did like the huge sculptures, including one with a huge Van Gogh and a cock fight scene.

 

Afterwards, continued walking until we arrived at a street lined up with goods like paintings, horns made into cups, and other trinkets all for sale.

 

We then got to the fancy Mcdonald’s building, which I saw during my first day, and told him I wanted to check out the menu. We bought some very pretty drinks (watermelon and cherry flavor), a cherry sundae and large fries. I really liked my cherry drink since it was very refreshing (think Sprite with flavor) while the sundae and fries tasted exactly the same whichever Mcdonald’s you buy it from. He let me pay for this one – though he was the one who ordered – all for only 16 gel.

 

Cobblestones everywhere! Saw this smaller version of the Mother of Georgia, except it was holding a string of theater masks.

 

We walked around the side streets again, passed through a park (which had a dog park in it), saw some churches then since it was nearing 2pm, went back to the hotel.

 

Had so much fun during my “mini tour” with my friend. I was actually planning before on extending another day in Tbilisi but thankfully I was able to do all the must-do, must-see and must-eat during my whole ‘official’ stay. Plus, I don’t think I would have enjoyed going around by myself because of the language barrier so I’m really thankful I had a Russian speaker with me. He actually invited me to join him during his extended stay but since I only found out about it after I had purchased my tickets, it was a no-go for me. These “follow me to” inspired photos (if you follow that IG account) was his idea. Kinda summarizes how our adventure was – us dragging each other to walk around Tbilisi. Kyot.

 

By 3pm, me and my other colleague were on our way to the airport (paid 30 gel for the taxi). I already miss Georgia.