On Tasting a Poem at Si.Wha.Dam in Seoul, South Korea

UPDATE: (3 April 2022)  The Insadong branch of Si.Wha.Dam appears to be closed.

The food at this modern Korean restaurant is so beautiful that it felt almost sinful to touch it. I’ve had artistically presented food before but nothing quite like this. At times, the dishes at Si.Wha.Dam felt more like high art than actual food.

An innovative fine dining restaurant set in the heart of Insadong, a meal here is every bit a visual feast as it is a nutritious one. Pumpkin flowers, wood-grown ginseng, Korean angelica leaves, buckwheat blossoms, and wild violets are just some of the seasonal ingredients that figure prominently in their food. A self-proclaimed museum of Korean cuisine, they meticulously prepare each dish to stimulate not just your taste buds, but all of your senses.

Ren and I love the comforting, rustic nature of Korean food so it was exciting to try something that felt completely different and new.

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Si.Wha.Dam Insadong

Si.Wha.Dam has two branches — one in Insadong and another in Itaewon. We went to the Insadong branch (pictured below) because their tasting menus are considerably cheaper. (by “considerably”, I mean like a quarter of the price) The map on their website is hard to follow so I’ve written my own directions at the bottom of this post.

Located on the second and third floors, every table is sectioned off for privacy. There’s a small stage in the middle of the room where performers play live traditional Korean music from 7:30-8:30PM nightly.

Cabinet of curiosities

A few tables were in private rooms with sliding doors. We were seated here. I liked how clean everything looked, like the restaurant itself was a blank sheet of paper or canvas. Unsurprising since the name Si Wha Dam means “poem, painting, and story”.

A Line of Poem

Available for lunch on weekdays for 28,000 KRW, Ren went with their most basic tasting menu called A Line of Poem — a simple but stunning 7-course meal consisting primarily of vegetables. Let the show begin.

FIRST COURSE: Wild Greens Salad with Tofu and Wild Potatoes

SECOND COURSE: Buckwheat Crepe Wrap with Spring Herbs

THIRD COURSE: My Mother’s Jar of Dongchimi. Dongchimi is a type of kimchi made with daikon, Chinese cabbage, scallions, fermented green chili, ginger, Korean pear, and watery brine.

FOURTH COURSE: Korean Lunch Box. Bite-sized bulgogi sandwiches made with seared rice cakes. So cute!

FIFTH COURSE: When Kimchi Meets Pasta. Beautiful and interesting, this was my favorite dish from today. Really tasty.

A closer look at the black squid ink pasta. You mix up all the ingredients like bibimbap before eating.

SIXTH COURSE: The Old Days’ Wild Field Meal. A beautiful basket of banchan.

Rice and jjigae (fermented soybean paste stew) to eat with the banchan.

SEVENTH COURSE: A Piece of Spring on the Apricot Branch. Parsley tea with firm, sticky gelatin shaped like cherry blossoms. You pick up the blossoms with those two-pronged twigs on the right. Gorgeous right?

A Piece of Picture

I didn’t want to get the same tasting menu as Ren so I chose the next one — A Piece of Picture — for 38,000 KRW. As it turns out, it has the same seven courses as A Line of Poem with the addition of these two.

Lotus Root Porridge that Cured Scholar Yul-gok

Carrot Flower Wrap and Sesame Leaf Wrap with Pickled Plum. So pretty.

A closer look at the sesame leaf wrap. These extra courses were cute but not worth the additional 10,000 KRW I don’t think.

When all was said and done, Ren and I were satisfied with our meals. It was visual, fun, and tasty, plus it gave us a novel experience that we probably can’t get too often outside of Korea.

With that said though, I do recognize that this food isn’t for everyone. If you’re a fan of traditional Korean dishes like bulgogi or galbi, then you may not like Si.Wha.Dam. With the exception of the banchan, the food at times felt a little too artistic, too unfamiliar. As my Korean sister-in-law put it when I showed her the pictures: “This isn’t Korean food.” By that, I think she meant that the essence of Korean food seemed lost.

Without question, it was interesting to experience a Korean meal like this but it did feel drowned in the intellect at times.

Si.Wha.Dam Insadong, Seoul, South Korea

13, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
서울 종로구 인사동길 13
Tel: +82 2 738 8855
Fax: +82 2 738 8856
Website: siwhadam.com/insadong_e
Email: [email protected]
Hours of Operation: Mon-Sun, 11:30AM-10PM
Expect to spend: At least 28,000 KRW per person
Reservations: Recommended

By subway, get off at Anguk station (line 3), exit 2. Walk straight for about 100m and make a left into Insadong. If you haven’t been there yet, it’s a popular commercial area so you can’t miss it. Walk for another 250m or so and the Si.Wha.Dam building will be on your right (pictured up top). The restaurant is closer to the far end of Insadong and about a 10-20 minute walk from the station exit.

Look out for this Si.Wha.Dam sign on your right. The restaurant is upstairs.

Si.Wha.Dam Itaewon, Seoul, South Korea

72, Hoenamu-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
서울 용산구 회나무로 75
Tel: +82 2 798 3311
Fax: +82 2 798 0051
Website: siwhadam.com/itaewon_e
Email: [email protected]
Hours of Operation: Mon-Sun, 11:30AM-10PM
Expect to spend: At least 110,000 KRW per person
Reservations: Recommended

CLICK HERE for directions and a map to Si.Wha.Dam Itaewon.

For travel tips to Seoul, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Seoul, South Korea

We be Urban Shrimping in Taipei!

“It’s more fun in the Philippines!”

You’ve heard that tourism slogan right? For many Filipinos, this is true. But I think the more accurate phrase would be, “Filipinos have more fun!” This couldn’t have been more evident today.

Trying our hand at urban shrimping, which is a popular activity in Taiwan, onlookers could tell that we were Filipinos not so much by our looks, but by our volume. Because unlike the Taiwanese and Caucasian tourists that were quietly shrimping with us tonight, you could count exactly how many shrimp we were catching by the amount of noise we were making.

“Oh my God look! Ren’s got one! Yeheeeeeey!!!!!!” *clap clap clap*

“Wow! BJ’s got one too!! Good job good job!!!”

“Yes! Mom finally caught one! Oh no it got away!!! Hahahahaha!!!!!”

This went on for the whopping four shrimp that we caught as a group in the 1-hr that we spent fishing. And each time we caught one, the entire room would turn to look at us. Like I said, we Filipinos have more fun. 😆

Here’s how our day went, urban shrimping in Taipei.

Urban Shrimping

We saw many shrimping pools like this one along Zhìshàn Road in the Shilin District. As mentioned above, it’s a popular pastime among the Taiwanese, one that’s usually enjoyed over a few beers. It’s obvious that some take it pretty seriously though. They even bring their own rods and bait! 😆 Fun for all, it was nice to see a few shrimpers with their dogs waiting patiently beside them tonight.

What’s the best way to catch big shrimp? With small shrimp of course! We used tiny sergestid shrimp for bait. Charged by the hour, we each paid NT$ 350 for an hour’s worth of shrimping. This included bait, rod rental, and all the shrimp that we could catch.

Our lines had two hooks each for twice the fun.

After hooking your bait, you cast the line and wait.

The trick is to keep an eye on that orange float. If you see it start to sink, it means that a shrimp is nibbling on your bait. Yank it up immediately. You’ll know right away that you’ve hooked one if the line feels heavy.

Just as I predicted, Reneelicious would be the first among us to cath one. Good job mama! *clap clap clap* 😀

After pulling off its pincers, you drop the shrimp into this holding net suspended in the water. We agreed to stop only when we each caught at least one. My mom caught hers right at the 1-hr time limit. Woohoo!! *clap clap clap*

After briefly rinsing them in water, you pierce barbecue sticks through their bodies starting from the tail. The shrimp are still alive making it a little difficult at first, but you get used to it. Being the cheesy treehugger that I am, I just thanked my shrimp brothers for nourishing us (a la Avatar, hence the wistful expression).

You roll the pierced shrimp in salt before sticking them in the grill. Though we each only caught one, our instructor caught us the fifth shrimp. The sixth was given to us by a local who plucked it out of the water using just his bare hands. Show off! I think he was amused by how much fun we were having. 😆

Turn now and then for even cooking…

…until any black is gone and all you’re left with are these beautiful, fiery orange specimens. Time to dig in!

There’s my sister about to get her first taste of Shrimp ala JB. Because I cooked these shrimp in Taiwan, does it count as Taiwanese food? 😛

That’s some perfectly cooked shrimp y’all! Fresh as can be, they were tasty and very succulent. Yum!

It’s funny, I didn’t think that fishing for shrimp in a concrete pool would be much fun, but it was. A lot. It’s something that I would recommend highly to any first-time visitor to Taiwan, especially since the city’s shrimping pools are clustered around Shilin Night Market. I suggest going shrimping late in the afternoon, then taking a taxi back to the night market early in the evening. Night markets citywide open at 5PM and close at midnight.

Though the more seasoned shrimpers caught a lot more shrimp than we did tonight, I think our four were the most fun. They were definitely the loudest. 🙂

Urban Shrimping

No. 471, Section 2, Zhìshàn Rd., Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan, ROC
Hours of Operation: Mon-Sun, 24 hours
Expect to spend: Minimum NT$ 350 for 1 hour of shrimping

By subway, get off at Shilin MRT station. Hop into a taxi and show the driver the Chinese address – 臺北市士林區至善路二段471號. There are many shrimping pools in the area but No. 471 is the one we went to. The fare will run you around NT$ 140 each way.

For travel tips to Taipei, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Taipei, Taiwan.

8 Cuts Burger Blends is the &%#@ing BOMB!

This place gave me potty mouth.

I try to be more civilized at my age, but sometimes, there’s no better word to describe how good something is, than “fuck.”

Ren and I had never even heard of 8 Cuts Burger Blends until we randomly walked in to their shop over the weekend. We were at U.P. Town Center for the first time, looking for a place to eat, when we saw this trendy-looking burger restaurant on the second floor. Not expecting much, we decided to have lunch here.

To our surprise, this wicked cool burger joint turned out some of the best fucking burgers we’ve had in a long time. So good, playful, and inventive were their burgers in fact, that Ren did something that was completely out of character for her – she agreed to split a third burger with me AFTER wolfing one down on her own! Being the terminal portion-controller that she is, that’s saying a lot.

And mind you, she didn’t break character because she was hungry. She wanted more simply because like me, she enjoyed that first burger so fucking much that she didn’t want it to end. Seriously, that’s how fucking good it was.

And if you think the burger above looks fucking delicious, just wait until you see the others below. 😉

The Gods of Burger

Whoever came up with the graphics for this place has a good eye for design (and social media). Love it!

L: Wouldn’t it be cool for those neon signs to light up and switch off everytime someone walked in and out of the bathroom? 😉

R: In magazine format, their ultra-cool menu was an innovative approach that I had never seen before. This page illustrates their five patty types, each formed from eight cuts of meat in various amounts and combinations (hence the name “8 Cuts Burger Blends”). For example, the “Steak Cut” is a blend of sirloin and chuck, while the “Ox Blend” is a mix of flank, oxtail, and ribeye. There’s a brief flavor profile for each patty as well, to help you decide. So cool!

You can either craft your burger from scratch, or choose one of their pre-made creations. This spread guides you through the DIY process.

Ren and I couldn’t be bothered to create ours from scratch, so we chose from their page of signature burgers instead. If you like, you can “go lunch box” as well, adding fries and a drink to your meal for a little extra. Being the lushes that we are, we both went with the R18 lunch box (+PHP 100) that included skinny fries and a local beer. 😉

Rising ShroomPHP 280 (single) / PHP 375 (double) – Mustard-fried quarter-pounder steak-cut blend patty of sirloin and chuck with fried oyster mushroom tempura, white truffle creamed cheese and sauteed mushrooms on a kaiser roll

Behold one of the most beautiful, best-tasting burgers that I’ve had in a long ass time. Goddamn motherfucker this shit was good.

Made with a juicy sirloin and chuck patty, it was topped with a mound of what I believed to be sauteed shiitake mushrooms and two pieces of oyster mushroom tempura. (Tempura on a burger, how cool is that?!) The combination of the slippery, spongy mushrooms with the crunchy tempura sent me up to texture heaven. And you could really taste the truffle in the creamed cheese as well.

If I were to have any compliants, it would be that I found the bread just a little too soft and the burger somewhat messy. But hey, it tasted so damn good that I didn’t mind it in the end, which is saying a lot considering how much I dislike messy food.

I enjoyed this burger so much that from my first bite to the last, I was in pure, meaty, fungal nirvana. So envious was Ren, that she already vowed to order one for herself on our next visit. 😉

BleuPHP 245 (single) / PHP 345 (double) – An onion-griddled quarter-pounder steak cut blend patty of sirloin and chuck with blue cheese sauce, fried crispy leeks, blue cheese crumble, caramelized onions, and lollo rossa greens on a brioche bun

A fan of all things blue cheese, Ren will always order the blue cheese burger if it’s on the menu. Personally, I’m not as big a fan of it, though I have to admit that this was one of the best-looking and better-tasting specimens that I’ve seen. Made with a sirloin and chuck patty topped with a mountain of fried leeks on a brioche bun, it was juicy, meaty, and crunchy, with a potent punch of that characteristically pungent blue cheese flavor.

Like mine, it was just a little messy and difficult to eat, but again, who gives a shit?

PiggyPHP 245 (single) / PHP 345 (double) – A quarter-pounder beef bomb blend patty of chuck and short rib with mozzarella, fried bacon strips, house-made bacon jam, lollo rossa, tomatoes, and garlic aioli on a sesame seed bun

The aforementioned, unprecedented third burger that we just had to get after the stellar first two. The most conventional among the three, this one was made with a juicy chuck and short rib patty, and topped with crisp bacon strips, stringy mozzarella, and a sweet-savory bacon jam on a toasted sesame seed bun.

Full as we already were, we didn’t regret ordering this one. Not one fucking bit. It was delicious, and shored up what we already knew after the first two – 8 Cuts Burger Blends is the fucking BOMB!

If you’re one of the two or three masochists who routinely read this blog, then you’ll know that Charlie’s Grind & Grill tops our list of homegrown burger joints. After today, 8 Cuts Burger Blends is up there too. Honestly, despite its many mouthwatering choices, I don’t think we can go to another restaurant at U.P. Town Center without being tempted to eat here instead.

If you like Charlie’s, then I strongly suggest you try 8 Cuts as well. So fucking good, seriously. 🙂

8 Cuts Burger Blends

UP Town Center, Katipunan, Quezon City
Tel: 955-2264 | Mobile: 0917-818-2139
Operating Hours: Mon-Sun, 11AM-11PM

Amazing Avilon Weekend Part I – Ark of Avilon, Frontera Verde, Pasig

Blame it on the rain.

After our long-planned trip to Avilon Zoo in Montalban, Rizal had been called off yet again, this time because of bad weather, Ren consoled her little boy by taking him to Ark of Avilon instead. If you’ve never been there, it’s a small but unique, indoor zoo located at the Frontera Verde Complex in Pasig, just a stone’s throw away from Tiendesitas. Owned and operated by the same group as Avilon Zoo, we had been to the ark once before, so we knew that no amount of rain, not even a biblical flood, would keep us from enjoying a couple of hours of animal watching.

We went on a Saturday, and it was awesome. As our luck would have it, the soppy Sunday we were dreading turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day, so we seized the opportunity and charged to Montalban for that long-awaited, oft-postponed, trip to Avilon Zoo. Bummed out as I was at first because of the sudden downpour, the rain turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because we wound up enjoying two amazing Avilon trips, in just one weekend

An epic two days of exotic reptiles, mammals, and birds to shoot with my brand new, 100mm macro lens. As they say, “when it rains, it pours.” 😉
Shaped like an ark, there’s no way you can miss this place. 😉 Driving directions, zoo address, and complete contact details can be found at the bottom of this post.

First Floor

Situated right next to the counter, this African Gray Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) keeps you company while you buy your tickets. I’m not much into birds, but if I were to ever keep one as a pet, then this would be it. They’re supposed to be very intelligent with great personalities.

The lobby. Though you can’t really make them out from all the clutter, they had birds roosting on perches everywhere.

Feeding station number one (PHP 30 per serving). Had I noticed that they offered food for the bearcats, I would have bought some. 🙁

Angry bird. This gregarious little dude was the only yappy one from the flock.

Jenny the Orangutan. I felt bad for her, being made to wear those clothes and crocs for photo ops. I don’t know if orangutans mind being dressed up in human clothing like that, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary. In any case, I hope she’s happy here. 😐

On either side of the ark, on the first floor, are these large enclosures housing mostly big cats like this Bengal Tiger (Panthera Tigris Tigris). There were two of them sharing the same enclosure, which I thought was a little small for one, let alone two mature cats. The other one was white.

With the room being so dark, I couldn’t get any more decent pictures of the large, predatory mammals, but they also had lions, a jaguar, a Malayan sun bear, and a few others that I can’t really remember right now. If I’m not mistaken, they had six or eight of these glass-fronted enclosures.

Philippine Eagle Owl (Bubo philippensis). Handsome feller, ain’t he?

White-Bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster). Badass bird. Kinda reminds me of Daniel Craig for some reason.

A cute pair of owls.

African Spurred Thigh Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata). Fairly common in the exotic pet trade, the sulcata is the third largest species of tortoise in the world, after the Galapagos and Aldabra Giant Tortoises.

At the far end of the ark, opposite the entrance, is this awesome manmade pond with a bridge going through it. On one half is a crocodile, and on the other, a few giant Arapaimas (Arapaima gigas).

What lurks beneath. Fully grown, these South American beauties reach lengths of over six feet, sometimes even eight in extreme cases. Wicked. 😈

I LOVE these little guys. They’re so cute! About the size of a tarsier, this curious marmoset kept following my camera around. Thanks for posing for me little buddy! 😆

Similar in size, appearance, and personality to marmosets, this Red-Handed Tamarin (Saguinus midas) was adorable as well. ♥

How can you not fall in love with that face? 😀

Second Floor

I love this picture. She looks so coy and demure. 🙂

These Palawan Hornbills (Anthracoceros marchei) are awesome. Black and bone white with dark eyes, they look like little skeleton birds straight from a Dia de los Muertos parade.

I didn’t catch the name of this bird, but it was beautiful, with its tinted blue plume and feathers setting off its fiery, orange eyes.

Another brightly plumed bird and a cock

Feeding station number two (PHP 30 per serving)

Hungry, furry contestants in the guinea-lympics. Ready…Set…


Zzzzzzzz…..*snort snort* Huh? WTF? What did I miss?

At first, Ren was reluctant to feed the animals, but decided to jump in when she noticed that a few of the goats weren’t getting their fair share. 😆


Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri). In awe of its physical beauty, Ren fell in love with this pit viper, until I told her it was poisonous. 😆

Palawan Mangrove Snake (Boiga dendrophila). A mildly venomous colubrid, we saw a few of these in the wild last year, on our trip to Sabang, Palawan.

Blue-Tongued Skink (Tiliqua sp.). I took about a million shots of this little guy, trying to catch him with his blue tongue out, but this was the best I could get. Too slow on the trigger. 🙁


Formerly located at the main zoo in Montalban, Petissimo is Avilon Zoo’s petshop where they sell all kinds of captive-bred animals. On this visit, I saw water dragons, a few species of snakes, rodents, and birds on sale. Though more expensive than *ahem ahem* other sources, all animals sold here are legally registered with the DENR. 😉

A beautiful Blue-and-Yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna) exhibiting signs of feather-plucking. 🙁

Stop plucking your feathers handsome fella!

Gorgeous Scarlet Macaw

Facebook profile pic

“Hello Clarisse.”

Stunning Rainbow Lories. Feeding on those watermelon slices, you could barely tell bird from fruit!

If Avilon Zoo were the main course, then Ark of Avilon would be the amuse-bouche. Small but fun, the collection of animals here is interesting, especially for such a limited space. Seriously, when was the last time you saw White Bengal Tigers, Lions, and giant Arapaimas in an indoor zoo shaped like an ark? Though a few of the enclosures seemed a little small, especially the ones for the big cats, they’re beautifully designed and well-maintained. In general, the animals looked to be in good health and spirits, which for me, is the absolute most important thing.

Considering that entrance to the much larger zoo in Montalban is only PHP 400, entrance here is a little pricey at PHP 300, but it’s still a great way to spend a couple of hours, especially if you have kids. The animal feeding opportunities alone make it worthwhile I think.

A small taste of things to come, join us on our complete Avilon Zoo adventure, which we experienced the very next day. 😉

Ark of Avilon

Frontera Verde Ortigas Avenue Corner C5, Pasig
Tel: 706-2992 / 706-2993
Website: avilonzoo.ph
Facebook: arkavilonzoo
Email: [email protected]
Operating Hours: Mon-Thurs: 9AM-6PM, Fri-Sun: 10AM-7:30PM

Zoo Entrance Rates

Regular entrance fee: PHP 300
Children shorter than the counter: PHP 200
Infants 12 months and below: FREE
Senior citizens and PWDs: 20% discount
Advanced tickets (tickets purchased here or at Avilon Zoo prior to your day of visit): Less PHP 100

How to Get There

  1. Driving along Ortigas Avenue towards C5 (E Rod Jr Ave), turn right onto Frontera Drive. It’s the street right before E Rod Jr Ave.
  2. Make the first left onto Road D. The zoo, shaped like an ark, will be on your right.

More on Philippine Animal Encounters

Amazing Avilon Weekend Part II, Avilon Zoo, Montalban, Rizal
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Oslob, Cebu, Philippines

Oporto, Sydney, Australia

Oporto is an Australian fast food chain famous for their chicken burgers and grilled chicken. CLICK HERE to visit their website.

Founded by Portuguese national Antonio Cerqueira, Oporto is a Portuguese-style chicken restaurant that first opened along Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach in 1986. Well-received for its unique, traditional chili sauce known as “Bondi sauce”, they’ve since become one of Australia’s most popular fast food chains with a total of 140 outlets and counting to their credit. A quick Google search told me that Oporto is a major urban area in Southern Europe and the second-largest city in Portugal after Lisbon.

When Ren and I first spotted this branch during our recent trip to Sydney, I was instantly reminded of the O’pollo chicken burger restaurant that once stood in front of St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City.* Guessing that Oporto may have been the inspiration for O’pollo (fair assumption, right?), Ren and I decided to have dinner here one night to see if that was indeed the case.

*No longer located there, I’m not sure whether they’ve moved to a new location or closed shop permanently. In all fairness, that spot in front of St. Luke’s appears to be cursed. Many restaurants have opened there, including established brands like Pizza Hut, without much success.

Bondi Burger – AUD 4.98 – Fresh-grilled 100% chicken breast fillet with cheese, lettuce, and legendary Bondi chili sauce.

This was pretty good, as far as chicken burgers go. The chicken fillet was moist and juicy while the Bondi chili sauce was flavorful and just mildly spicy. I’m much more of a beef burger person though, so in all likelihood won’t be ordering these chicken burgers too often given the choice.

So how similar was O’pollo to Oporto?

Both serve grilled chicken. Both serve chicken burgers with chili sauce. Both have three-syllable names beginning with the letter “O”. 😕

The similarities, however, end there.

A double fillet chicken burger meal at O’pollo with fries and a drink went for just PHP 159. At Oporto? A single fillet a la carte sandwich (no fries nor drink) went for a whopping 210 when converted to pesos.

Where it matters most to us bargain-hunting Pinoys, I guess they’re not too similar after all, eh mate? 😆

More on Sydney

Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia
Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia
Sydney Fish Market, Australia
Sydney Aquarium, Darling Harbour, Australia
Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia
Birthday Bush Tucker Dinner at Wolfies, Sydney, Australia
Featherdale Wildlife Park, Sydney, Australia
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia

“To discover and be inspired by human ingenuity.” Such is the mission of the Powerhouse Museum.

Located in Ultimo near picturesque Darling Harbour, Sydney, The Powerhouse Museum is a public museum that showcases unique and diverse exhibits covering the fields of history, science, technology, design, industry, decorative arts, music, transport and space exploration. With an estimated 500,000 separate items in the Museum’s collection, it features an ever-changing program of temporary displays to go with a range of permanent exhibits, and is also home to the material heritage and stories of Australian culture, history and lifestyle.

In short, there’s a lot of cool interactive stuff to see and fiddle around with here.

For a relatively inexpensive AUD 12 per adult and AUD 6 per child aged 4-15 (children below 4 can enter for free), you can spend as much time in the museum as you like. With four floors of educational exhibits to explore, you’ll need it as there literally is a TON of stuff to go through.

Time to get my geek on. 🙂

Planes, Trains & Automobiles.


Space man stuff. We come in peace.

Chuva choo-choo

Some cool, vintage robot toys

These looked to me like giant robot cockroaches. They were wired to a joystick that you could control to make them move around and stuff. I tried to make it do the moonwalk but no luck.


Solar cell race car

More locomotive stuff

Love Lace

This was an ongoing exhibit from July 2011 – April 2013 that featured 130 lace works by 134 artists from 20 countries. A competition sponsored by the museum, it invited artists to challenge the traditional concepts of lace and push it in innovative and sometimes surprising new directions.

I’m not into lace but some of these were pretty inventive. Plus, all the patterns made for some pretty cool shadows and photographic opportunities. 😉

This reminded me of Kenneth Cobonpue.

This reminded me of Spider Man.

This didn’t remind me of anything.

This piece, titled Detroit’s Shadow, was the overall winner. Created by Anne Mondro from Ann Arbor, Michigan, it’s a sculptural representaion of Henry Ford’s first four-cylinder engine housed in the Model N.

The materials? Nothing but thin steel and crocheted copper wires. Pretty intense man.

Ordinary People

Make no mistake about it. I’m a geek. But of a different variety. I’m more a zoology geek, with a particular interest in amphibians and reptiles. No disrespect intended, but as interesting as some of these exhibits were, they didn’t really titillate my fancy as much as a densely planted dendrobatid palludarium with a cascading waterfall would have.

If you enjoy things of a mechanical nature like airplanes, space shuttles, steam engines, robots, solar-powered vehicles, moon rovers, and jetpacks, then you’ll have a blast at the museum. There’s a lot to see, and more importantly, much to learn, so be prepared to spend an entire afternoon here.

As for me? You can go find me at the zoo.

For more information on the Powerhouse Museum’s current and upcoming exhibits and events, please visit their website.

More on Sydney

Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia
Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia
Sydney Fish Market, Australia
Sydney Aquarium, Darling Harbour, Australia
Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia
Birthday Bush Tucker Dinner at Wolfies, Sydney, Australia
Featherdale Wildlife Park, Sydney, Australia
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia
Oporto, Sydney, Australia

Birthday Bush Tucker Dinner at Wolfies, Sydney, Australia

Wolfies is located at 17 – 21 Circular Quay West, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000. Tel: +61 2 9247 3666.

Being adventurous eaters, what really gets Ren and I excited about a trip is the food. We want to experience as much of the local indigenous cuisine as we can. With this continent being home to aboriginals for some 40,000-60,000 years, local cuisine in the strictest sense meant bush food, or “bush tucker” as its commonly known in Australia.

A unique hunter / gatherer diet, bush tucker is drawn from regional Australian flora and fauna, which includes kangaroo, emu, and crocodile. Not exotic enough for you? How about a plate of goanna or witchetty grubs? A bit more interesting than modern British staples like meat pies and fish n’ chips I’d say.

With this holiday being a relatively short family trip to attend my sister’s wedding, we didn’t have time to really delve into the local food culture and seek out places that served these exotic delicacies, so we had to settle for the most well-known and easily accessible of them all, the kangaroo.

Tonight being Ren’s birthday dinner, this was as good a time as any to splurge a little and get a taste of bush tucker at a beautiful restaurant situated in the most historic and iconic area of Sydney, The Rocks. Interesting Australian food, fine wine, and a killer view to match. Not a bad way to spend your birthday eh? 😉

Seated along the perimeter wall of the open-air restaurant, we had an unobstructed view of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. (pictures at bottom)

Char Grilled Octopus – AUD 22 – With chorizo sausage, crisp potato, and chili dressing.

This octopus with chorizo salad was unequivocally delicious and the best octopus dish, outside of a Korean restaurant, that I’ve ever enjoyed in my life. It was succulent and very tender, not at all tough and rubbery as poorly prepared octopus can sometimes be.

The chorizo was a great addition as it imparted robust smoky-earthy flavors to complement the more delicate taste and texture of the octopus. The rocket (arugula) was crisp and peppery, the potatoes were soft, and the chili dressing added a touch of spice and mild heat to finish the dish.

Easily my favorite dish of the evening, this salad was absolutely dee-licious and (almost) worth its steep menu price. PHP 976 for a frikking salad?!

Pork & Taleggio Pizza – AUD 27 – Slow roasted shredded pork belly, taleggio, lemon thyme, and rocket.

Funny how even in Australia, Ren and I still wind up ordering liempo (pork belly). 😆

Though we’ve been eating pork belly all our lives, this was the first time that we ever tried it on a pizza. It makes perfect sense and sounds great in theory, but like sisig pizza, the combination just didn’t pan out for me.

On its own, the pizza was fantastic. The thin crust was chewy and crisp in parts, the arugula was nice and peppery, and the taleggio had a strong, pungent flavor that reminded me of blue cheese. I just didn’t think that the pork belly went well with the tomato sauce and cheese, plus it imparted a stringy, somewhat dry sensation and texture that I didn’t much care for.

With that said though, it’s worth mentioning that Ren didn’t have as much of a problem with the pork belly as I did, so my aversion to it may just have been a case of personal preference.

Mixed Grill – AUD 48 – Kangaroo steak, petite beef tenderloin, lamb rump, ribs, and sausage. Served with potato, slow roasted tomato, vegemite butter, and red wine jus.

And just when I had resigned myself to the likelihood that we weren’t going to get a taste of kangaroo on this trip, here we finally get to try it on our very last meal in Australia. Things always seem to work out in the end, don’t they? 😉

When the plate arrived, we couldn’t initially distinguish the kangaroo from the beef. They looked almost identical. It was only after we tasted both that we could finally tell them apart. Similar in taste and texture, you could tell it was kangaroo only by its gaminess, which I very much enjoyed. It was lean and delicious, maybe even better-tasting than beef. Beef can sometimes be bland when underseasoned, which is why I appreciate the gamey flavors of proteins like lamb and venison.

Though delicious, everything else on the plate was somewhat of an afterthought for me, as we ordered this really for the experience of tasting kangaroo for the first and probably only time in our lives. If I were to have any complaints, it would be that the proteins, which we requested medium rare, were all a tad overcooked. Despite that however, this was a great plate of food that did not disappoint.

A toast to my gorgeous wife Renee and a lifetime of culinary and travel adventures. Happy happy birthday sweetheart! I love you much! ♥

James Squire Four Wives Pilsner – AUD 8

Since I’m not a wine drinker, I had a bottle of Australian pilsner instead. PHP 355 is a few tax brackets up from our PHP 35 bottles of San Mig Light back home, so I was confined to this one bottle instead of my usual five or six. 😆 On the bright side, it momentarily bequethed me the illusion of refinement as I was forced to sip instead of chug.

Our View

Can you really ask for a better view than this? The best sunset I’ve seen in a long time, watching the clouds behind the Opera House turn from a rich, golden orange to a watercolor-like pale blue to a deep indigo and then finally to black made for a most magical dining experience.

My camera set to take longer exposures, the streaks of light that you see on the three images below were from passing ferries. Pretty cool, huh?

In my opinion, the Harbour Bridge is at its most spectacular at night.

Though we didn’t get to try as much bush tucker as we would have liked, I left feeling satisifed nonetheless. The kangaroo was great and something I’d like to eat on a regular basis if only we had access to it.

They were selling it at the supermarket in fillet and ground form at around AUD 18 per kilo if I remember correctly. Like everything else in Sydney, it’s pricey, but considering that this is probably the only place in the world where you can get it, I gladly would have brought some home had it only come vacuum-sealed for the trip.

Oh well. At least we got to try some here.

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Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa

Wouldn’t it just suck to plan an entire trip around seeing the Underground River, only to be denied access to it through no fault of your own?

Well, that almost happened to us when we went to Puerto Princesa a couple of weeks ago. We secured Deal Grocer vouchers for a stay at the 5-star Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa, inclusive of daily buffet breakfast and tours of the Underground River and Mangrove Forest. Being responsible, well-planned travelers, we made our booking early, way back in early December, to avoid any potential issues.

However, just a few days before we were set to leave, Ren’s brother Randy came across a bad review of the Sheridan from a disgruntled tourist on TripAdvisor. Apparently, this tourist booked his trip well in advance, only to find out upon his arrival that an entry permit to the Undergorund River was required. Because of the spike in tourism in the area, it was already too late by that time to secure one, so he was turned away, never getting to visit what he came so far to see.

Only a few days away from our own trip, we were rightfully concerned, so Ren called the reservations manager to check if he had indeed secured entry permits for us. And sure enough, he hadn’t.

Despite booking our trip months in advance, he never told us that we needed them. It didn’t even seem as if he made any attempt to secure them until Ren called, which was odd and utterly irresponsible on his part since our package already included passes. He even took all our names down for the Underground River when Ren first made the booking!

As a result, we were in danger of not being granted access to the Underground River, with almost half of our party flying in all the way from the US! Can you believe that?! And all we got from him was a “sorry, but it’s really hard to get a permit” kinda response. Yeah, I’m sure it’s hard, when you try to get it just a few days before! Why didn’t you do it when we first made our booking three months ago?! WTF?

Fortunately for us, our trip didn’t turn out to be the fiasco that it looked certain of becoming. Ren’s cousin Brooke is a personal friend of Mayor Hagedorn and his family, so they were able to secure permits for us at the very last minute, courtesy of the Mayor’s office. Thank God! And the Hagedorns! And Brooke!

We were lucky, though apparently, many are not. On the morning of our tour, while waiting near the Tourist Assistance Office, we were informed by our guide that the Sheridan just sent six tourists that morning to the pier to apply for entry permits, knowing full well that they would not be granted them at this late a stage. The Underground River is so popular that the office receives approximately 1,200 entry permit requests daily, with only 900 being given.

We were told that this is a common practice of The Sheridan, about which many tourists have already complained. Why on earth would they keep sending paying guests to secure permits when they know that it would be impossible to get them at that point? More significantly, why can’t they just tell you about the entry permit requirement the moment you make your booking? Surely they understand that the majority of tourists who flock here do so for the specific purpose of seeing the Underground River? It makes no sense whatsoever, especially for a luxury hotel of The Sheridan’s stature.

In any case, let this be a lesson learned. To avoid a similar scenario, please remember that entry permits are absolutely required to visit the Underground River. I can’t reiterate this enough. If you’re planning on going to Puerto Princesa, it would be best to secure entry permits beforehand, either through your hotel or travel agent, to guarantee your spot. You definitely don’t want to come this far only to miss out on this amazing experience.

CLICK HERE for more information on how to secure entry permits.

The above debacle aside, Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa is, without a doubt, the most luxurious hotel you’ll find here at Sabang Beach, Puerto Princesa. A Sterling Group hotel, the grounds are well-kept, the rooms beautiful, the facilities first-rate.

This pool was awesome. It was long, only 4 feet deep everywhere, and it had several jacuzzis of different sizes off to one side.

Here we are marinating in one of the jacuzzis.

The best part about the pool? This bar where you could chug on ice-cold cans of San Mig Light while half-submerged in tepid water.

Our beautiful room with direct access to the pool. The rooms really were luxurious with 24-hour air-conditioning, though the power would go off for brief spells from time to time. Those beds with down feather pillows and duvet were ridiculously comfortable, albeit a little creaky.

You can’t see it in this picture, but every room was equipped with a 32″ Samsung LCD flat-screen cable tv.

A bathroom fit for a king. You can’t see it, but the shower was enormous.

As beautiful and luxurious as this hotel was, I have to say that it’s imposing, concrete structure stood out like a sore thumb next to its unassuming, more provincial-looking neighbors. I guess it all boils down to personal preference. If you like these large, cookie-cutter luxury hotels, then The Sheridan is the place for you. Comfort- and facilities-wise, there’s little to complain about.

However, if you prefer resorts that are more rustic and island-y in their appeal, then nearby Daluyon Resort may be a better choice. With its standalone cabanas with thatched roofs, Daluyon definitely looks the part of a more laid-back island getaway. It’s also a green, zero carbon resort that supports the Clean & Green Earth Campaign. Being the tree-hugging hippie that I am, any resort that takes care of the environment gets extra points from me. 😉


The beach is expansive with powdery sand and nary a pebble in sight. It would have been perfect had it not been for the strong waves and dangerous undercurrent. Evidently, people have died here from being pulled and drowned by the undertow, so please remember this should you decide to go swimming. There are signs everywhere warning of the potential danger.

Self-portrait with tripod and clump of earth.

Ever since reading in Scott Kelby’s The Digital Photography Book that professional landscape photographers only take pictures at sunrise and sunset, I’ve been dying to try it myself, which is why I paid extra just to bring my tripod on this trip.

Here are a couple of sunset photos taken at around 6 pm.

First light, taken sometime between 5:30 and 6 am with a tripod and 10-15 second shutter.

After seeing just how much better these sunrise and sunset photos looked, I think I’ll be lugging my tripod with me on every trip from now on.

As you can see from the pictures above, The Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa truly is a world-class hotel. From the luxurious rooms, to the first-rate facilities, to the attentive and warm staff, everything about this resort spells bliss.

Though the Underground River is undeniably the highlight attraction here, there are other fun and interesting activities that you can arrange through the resort, such as the mangrove paddle boat tour, Sabang zipline, organic farm tour, Honday Bay island hopping tour, and ATV jungle trek. We stayed for four nights and almost five full days, which in my opinion, was just about perfect for this place. As you can see from this post, that gave us ample time to do and see a lot without feeling rushed or bored.

Despite everything working out in the end, it was just too bad that our stay here was somewhat tainted by the lackadasical handling of our entry permits. They did redeem themselves by fully refunding the cost of our Underground River tour, but it was nonetheless an issue that could easily have been averted with more professionalism and care. I sincerely hope that they address this issue in the future, as this can’t possibly be good for business, especially in today’s viral information age.

Fiasco aside, I would still highly recommend The Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa as a terrific place to stay here in Sabang Beach. It’s pricey, but you do get what you pay for. You can check the Sheridan Beach Resort website for more information on their rates and offerings. You can make a reservation on Booking.com or Agoda. Be sure to check both sites to find the best deal.

MAKE A RESERVATION: Booking.com | Agoda

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Ay kay Layo ng Lamayo!


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