Thursday, March 31, 2011

A weekend of romance

What are you doing this weekend? Just in case you're thinking of planning your honeymoon, or even if you just want to get new ideas about travel or participate in a discussion about travel, we'd like to invite you to join us at the Peninsula Manila this weekend for the Weddings at the Peninsula bridal fair on April 2 and 3.

Travelife Magazine will have a booth at the Peninsula ballroom this weekend to talk travel with prospective brides and grooms. Do come and visit us if you're at the bridal fair.


At the same time, Travelife Magazine publisher Christine Cunanan will be the speaker at the bridal fair at 330 pm (please note time change from original 2 pm schedule) on April 2, Saturday. In line with the launch of Travelife Honeymoons, a new department of Travelife Magazine that will be helping couples plan that all-important trip, she will be talking about how to plan the perfect honeymoon and discussing some of the most romantic destinations in the world. This will be held at the Peninsula's Conservatory (again, please note change from ballroom to the Conservatory on the mezzanine floor) and entrance is complimentary. Just identify yourself as a Travelife reader.

We hope you can join us for a relaxing afternoon of travel talk with the Philippines' leading travel and lifestyle magazine.

Travelife Magazine
at the Peninsula Bridal Fair

Publisher Christine Cunanan
talks about the romance in travel
and traveling with romance,
including planning the perfect honeymoon
and some of the most romantic destinations
in the world.

Saturday, April 2
33o pm at the Peninsula Conservatory (M Floor)
Entrance is complimentary

Interested in the Travelife Turkey Tours
for May 2011?
Click here to watch an interview on ANC
with Christine Cunanan,
Travelife Magazine Publisher
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine
Catch her in our upcoming April-May issue
on sale from April 15.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Last night's Fever

When my college philosophy teacher gave a lecture on the Latin term "Carpe Diem," I was certainly sitting at the front of the class and paying attention. Carpe Diem means to "seize the day," and it was popularized by the movie "Dead Poets' Society." At least that's how I feel, thinking about my life and my rather crazy schedule over the past years. I've been on a plane, train or car practically every week since I can remember; and when I'm actually in Manila, I'm either working ferociously or attending a whole string of events. Or on BBM.

The last two weeks are just one example of my crazy schedule, although these have just been deliriously busy even by Travelife standards. I started the last two weeks in Hokkaido, survived the Tokyo earthquake, partied in Manila, lunched in Singapore, spent six hours in Bali and six days on a ship that docked in Malaysia for an afternoon, cooked a wagyu steak dinner one night in Manila; then at 7 am the next morning I was off to Batangas for two days, and then to Cebu for three. And the weekend was spent in another country. I finally returned yesterday afternoon, but just for a few days as it's Sri Lanka from next Monday.

Anyway, yesterday, after leaving the airport, I stopped off at home long enough to change clothes. Then it was straight to work for some serious overtime to close Travelife Magazine's April-May issue (a beautiful summer issue that will be on newsstands on April 15, with Angel Aquino on location in Boracay) before heading out for an evening of partying for the opening of Fever at the Sofitel, Manila's newest hotspot.


Yesterday I'd woken up at 4 AM to make it to the airport on time for my flight to Manila, so for once I was actually feeling fatigue and was ready to hit the sack by 10 AM. But I just couldn't resist saying hello to friends and checking out what's great about Fever. Fever, by the way, is the latest project of Tim Yap and his friends, who are also behind Opus, Republiq and other party places all over the country. (We've just returned at 1 AM from Opus tonight, by the way, and it was very lively for a Wednesday evening)
Befittingly, Fever was draped in red and it was certainly the color of the night. Venue launches are pretty standard events for us and we've seen quite a number by now. But perhaps what was most interesting about Fever's launch party was that they had pole dancers as entertainment. I'd never actually seen one before except on stage in the musical Rent, and it was quite fascinating to watch all that action around a pole.

I left pretty early with the party still in full swing, though, as it had been a long day and the rest of the week was just jampacked with work and events that I needed to save my energy for.

Tonight, however, I found myself at another club. A group of friends had organized a sayonara dinner at Opus and we'd had a very late start. I'd rushed in from a meeting so I was last to arrive as usual, and at 9 pm we were still deciding what to eat. Being basically a creature of habit, I ordered what I always eat at Opus: a bowl of soup, the short ribs for the main course, and the strawberry pavlova for dessert to share with my friend B.


As always, we had lots of interesting conversation, and lots of it based on travel. One couple had just returned from the Maldives, another was on their way to New York, and still another was thinking of going to Osaka for Holy Week. One couple who I would have thought had traveled the world the most said they actually preferred to avoid exotic places and to just focus on the same old destinations each time.

"If I had to go to a new place each time, it wouldn't be a holiday," the wife said. And the husband added: "And I hate packing and unpacking in different hotels."

Of course each person has his or her own Travelife and travel style. But after this couple had so clearly stated their preference for the unexotic, I just had to chime in that in the next issue of Travelife Magazine, I'd asked our contributors about the most exotic destination they'd been to and how long it had taken them to get there. Everyone's answers had been interesting and intriguing, and some of the responses had been so Travelife in feel that you'd think I'd written them myself.

Everyone's interest was piqued. "So who had the most exotic destination?" They wanted to know.

"You'll just have to read about it in our next issue," I said. Travelife Magazine's April-May issue comes out on April 15.

Monday, March 28, 2011

An impromptu home-cooked dinner tonight

Tonight, far from home, I decided to cook dinner for some friends. We were supposed to go out but a conversation I had about cooking with someone in Manila earlier prompted me offer to cook dinner for my friends instead. This friend in Manila had been teasing me about how I'd recently served him a dinner which -- according to him -- was heavy on the wow factor but very short on actual cooking. "You get an A for effort and presentation, though," he said. I suspect he just wants to be invited over for dinner again.

Actually, I'd specifically planned it this way so that I spent less time in the kitchen and more time conversing with him without rushing in and out of the kitchen and without having a burning pan or an overcooked piece of meat at the back of my mind. It had been delicious. And, if I remember right, he'd eaten everything I'd put on his plate. But now his memory seemed to have become very selective, and he'd challenged my actual cooking skills.

I'd just finished looking at our magazine layouts via email tonight and was in the mood to get down and dirty in the kitchen, so I decided to put my skills to a test right then and there.


It was a little too late to go shopping so I just opened the fridge to see what we had to work with. We had very good De Cecco spaghettini, 2 packages of beautiful Italian tomatoes, a rack of herbs and some olive oil infused with basil, half a package of Parma ham, and a bottle of very good tuyo from Manila. Yes, tuyo in olive oil with capers from Manila, which I'd brought with me from the Philippines and which I'd intended for a breakfast of fried rice, tuyo and eggs tomorrow morning before heading for the airport for our ride back to the Philippines.

Well, we could always stop by a coffee shop on the way to the airport, I reasoned. Or we could eat breakfast in the airline lounge.

So without hesitation I opened my bottle of tuyo and proceeded to whip up dinner in under ten minutes. I chopped and sauteed the tomatoes in olive oil, added the herbs and some garlic, and threw in the Parma ham. Then I shredded the tuyo with a fork and put 3/4 of the bottle's contents in. When it was all nice and hot, I added the slightly undercooked noodles and whipped them all together in the heat just to the point that the noodles became al dente.

"This isn't your usual seafood pasta," said one of my friends, as I brought the large pan of pasta to the table.

"Surprise," I said. It was truly a surprise because even I wasn't sure exactly how it would taste -- but I had a feeling it would turn out good.

Well, my friends loved it. And at the end of the evening, there wasn't a noodle left in the pot. In fact it was so good that even I forgot to take out my Blackberry for a photo of my pasta -- for this blog and for my doubting friend in Manila.


"This doesn't have a recipe?" They asked me.

I shook my head. I'd never used a recipe book in my life, preferring to cook based on seasonal materials or on the ingredients at hand, and basically to just wing it. To cook based on intuition. When I have dinner parties which I actually plan to cook myself, I usually just walk around the market or supermarket on the day of the dinner and make up a menu and a working plan from there depending on what's available. Like two weekends ago, I'd decided to make a ceasar's salad to start, and at Mercato Centrale (another favorite food haunt in Manila, by the way) I'd chanced upon very crispy bagnet which tasted delicious. If I re-toasted this the right way, I thought there and then, this would make a very interesting substitute for bacon. And indeed, it worked very well.

My favorite places for shopping are Legazpi Village Market on Sundays in Manila, and abroad the weekend food markets of Paris and Whole Foods in Kensington, London. Someone just told me that Whole Foods in London isn't doing well. I hope not, as it made cooking in London seriously fun. Visiting Whole Foods in London always put me in the mood to cook; I once hosted a dinner party at an apartment I was staying at in St. James for about 30 people, and almost everything had come from Whole Foods.


"You really just cook based on feeling?" My other friend asked. He couldn't believe that pasta this good had come from the top of my head in a few minutes. I can't say I wasn't pleased with that comment and I answered: "It's all a matter of inspiration and just thinking about what will work with what. I can't follow a recipe to save my life."

And so far, it's worked rather well. I've hosted dinner parties in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Umbria, Tuscany and Hong Kong, and invited a fair number of people who know their food. A couple of times, I've even had the audacity to invite a Michelin-starred chef, the head of a prestigious gourmet society and the entire senior management team of Tokyo's best hotel to my homes in Japan for dinner.

Someone else once asked me how it felt to be cooking for a famous Michelin chef, and whether this gave me nightmares in the run-up. Of course I was probably anxious, although I don't remember being so now. I'd served him soup, salad, an excellent fillet of Dover sole, and just about the best steak I could find, served with my standard wasabi and soy sauce. (Yes, I serve Japanese beef with wasabi and soy sauce -- and I love it.) But I remember answering my friend: "I just keep the food simple but I buy really good ingredients. The good quality is already half the work done. Then I just make sure there's lots of wine and lots of laughter."

Catch our Feb-March India special issue in the bookstore today.
It'll soon be off the stands to give way to our summer special
with Angel Aquino on the cover.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting married, at the Peninsula this weekend

If you're thinking of getting married -- or even if you just want more creative ideas for wedding proposal venues, wedding ceremony plans and all the details that go along with it, and honeymoon trips -- come join us at the Peninsula Manila next weekend.

On April 2 and 3, the Peninsula Manila, with Travelife Magazine as its media partner, is organizing its first bridal fair in seven years. In line with its 35th year anniversary, the bridal fair will be held with the theme "35 years of elegant weddings and traditions."


On April 2 at 2 pm at the Peninsula ballroom, Travelife Magazine publisher Christine Cunanan will be giving a talk on "Romantic destinations and a lifetime of happiness" for couples looking for ideas and advice regarding planning their honeymoon trips; and even just for people seeking information for amazing travel experiences. She will talk about some of the most romantic places one earth, including elegant and traditional honeymoon destinations for the classic post-wedding journey, and off-the-beaten track places and experiences for the more adventurous. She will also share advice and tips on planning the perfect trip, and touch on details such as flight scheduling, hotel choices, tours and special activities.

Travelife Magazine will also be launching Travelife Honeymoons during the Peninsula bridal fair. Yes, the country's leading travel and lifestyle magazine will now be helping couples plan their dream trips and find the best ways to get there.


At 530 pm, there will also be a gala fashion show of bridal gowns and accessories by top Philippine designers such as Amina Aranaz, Rhett Eala, Randy Ortiz, Puey Quinones, Ivarluski Aseron, JC Buendia, Jul B. Dizon, Dennis Lustico, and Jojie Lloren. Other bridal fair activities include food tastings and cake samplings, cocktail tastings, makeup demonstrations, wedding photography advice, and a talk on wedding etiquette.

The Peninsula will also be unveiling some interesting wedding proposal ideas for prospective grooms seeking ways to literally sweep their brides off their feet. I've seen some of the ideas they've put forward and, frankly, they're simply amazing.

See you at the Peninsula this weekend.

For more information on the Peninsula Bridal Fair, please call 887-2888.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Two brothers and a necklace

Good morning from another airport at 7 AM. This is beginning to be an almost daily habit, and NAIA 1 in particular is a place I pass through so often that I don't even have to tell them my name at certain check-in counters and lounges. I see some of them on a weekly basis so we even have running conversations about something from the previous week. And I'm so at home here that I can even choose which lounge to hang out in.

And this morning I'm at the MIASCOR lounge because they have taho and arroz caldo for breakfast, and a pretty good adobo pastry which they heat up for me in the oven.


Yesterday I was in Cebu. My day began with a cholesterol-busting breakfast at the Radisson Blu in Cebu. I usually don't eat breakfast, and if I actually have something at all, it's one of my raw vegetable juices (the Juju green juice is one of my favorite breakfast fares by the way). But yesterday, I don't know why, but I found myself heaping my plate with beef steak, longganisa and even a delicious dimsum which was actually a yummy Chinese sausage wrapped in a piece of bacon. I could almost feel my arteries clog -- especially after two days of really delicious lechon for breakfast and lunch in the Queen City of the South -- but I just couldn't resist.

Mid-morning we checked out of the hotel and I stopped by a friend's design workshop in the export processing zone on the way to the airport. He had some really beautiful products on display which I've never seen in Manila. Why do all the beautiful items get sent abroad?


But the piece de resistance yesterday was an amazing necklace that was fashioned to look like a garland of branches with sparkly diamond-type stones. It was new and a one-off item and I just had to have it. I don't think they even priced it yet, but I took it off the display, put it on and never took it off again. I already had the perfect black dress to wear it with, and the perfect occasion: I was going to the opening cocktails of the Van Hagen brothers at the Peninsula that evening and it was just the sort of occasion to wear something unique.

Well, last night I did wear this necklace with a very simple black dress, and you can't imagine how many people stopped to comment on it. Strangers talked to me in the elevator, acquaintances came up to me as I looked at the exhibit and friends wanted to know where I got it ("Secret," I said with a giggle).


Of course, back in Cebu, it took a while to purchase this necklace because it had just been made and then we had a bit of a haggle about the price. I'd budgeted about 15 minutes for this showroom visit and it turned out more than 40 minutes. My travel companion, who'd been working with me in Cebu, was beside himself with worry that we'd miss our flight as it was 40 minutes to take-off and we were still negotiating a necklace some distance away. He had an important meeting in Manila that afternoon.

"Relax," I said. "I take flights all the time and I've never missed one yet."

Yes, I do cut it close all the time, but simply because I'm trying to fill my hours with too many things. I usually check in for international flights about an hour before, and for domestic flights even later. It helps of course that lots of airlines know me by now because I fly so often, so they're just a little bit more lenient.

Anyway, just as I predicted, we were perfectly fine for our flight and I even had enough time to get on my Blackberry and buy some Cebu lechon.

Back in Manila after the one-hour flight from Cebu, I went straight home and dressed up and put on my fabulous necklace and headed to the office to do some work before Alex Van Hagen's cocktail party. I was really keen to go and see his works because I'd seen them on his camera about two weeks ago, at a dinner at Masseto, and they looked simply stunning even on a screen just a little bigger than two postage stamps. I just had to see them in real life.

Alex takes very ordinary things from nature and makes them into beautiful works of art. The ones I liked especially turned out to be the surfaces of barks of trees. "I shot that in Hidden Valley," he told me last night, as I admired one of his photos.

Meanwhile his brother does some lovely delicate etchings of scenes from the Philippines and Europe. I particularly liked one of an old Philippine church with a carabao looking out. Anyway, I'm planning to see the exhibit again when I return to Manila on Tuesday, without the crowds and the photographers last night. The exhibit at the Peninsula Gallery runs until this Friday, April 1.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, wherever in the world you plan to be.

Interested in the Travelife Turkey Tours
for May 2011?
Click here to watch an interview on ANC
with Christine Cunanan,
Travelife Magazine Publisher
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine last week


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1500 inmates and one La Sallite

Spot the La Sallite in the crowd...

Good evening from the Queen City of the South.

We arrived in Cebu on the first flight out of Manila very early this morning, and spent a very busy day crisscrossing the city meeting people and undertaking all sorts of experiences for Travelife Magazine and Travelife TV. There's actually too much to write about, but perhaps one of the most amazing things today involved a visit to the Cebu Provincial Jail up in the hills of Cebu, to watch the dance performance of the inmates.


Some of the 1500 Cebu jail inmates who danced
for Travelife Magazine today

Lots of people have heard about Cebu's dancing inmates and seen footages of them online or on TV. But it's quite a spectacle to see all 1500 of them in orange uniforms, actually dancing in front of you. I was wide-eyed and open-mouthed for most of the time. And the jail is pretty well-kept, by the way.

The inmates danced to Michael Jackson's song Thriller; and it was truly an impressive performance that involved props (a coffin and a mock-up of a cave), a couple of scary costumes, and lots of pretty talented dancers. And today, there was no public performance. It was a very special private performance just for the Travelife team. Thank you to the Cebu Provincial Jail for this.

Earlier at lunch at the Marriott Cebu, the guys on my team were forever teasing me about my having to join this dance. I'm pretty willing to try new things and go on new adventures, but this was one thing I most certainly was not keen to do. For one thing, it was incredibly hot. But the fact that I wasn't willing to do it made them tease me about it even more.


Fortunately, my Travelife co-host Miko was a better sport. So I watched from the comfort of the audience gallery while he actually embedded himself among the performers and did the Thriller dance while the other guys filmed him. Miko is the only La Sallite among the Travelife team of Ateneans, so we had a fun time ribbing him about his dancing skills and attributing this to his educational background. We've been doing this since Day One. All in good fun, of course, as I have so many good friends from La Salle. Miko tries to get back at us with Ateneo jokes, of course; but unfortunately, he's simply outnumbered.

That's Miko getting ready to join the inmates' dance,
and the rest of the team positioning to film

Ready, get set, and go...


At sunset, we drove up the hills to the beautiful family home of my friends Ralph and Gia. I'd been here a few months ago and I'd fallen in love with their huge terrace and its amazing view of Cebu, and the large wooden table where they often sat al fresco. We'd sat here as well sometime last year having wine and cheese before heading down for an Italian dinner in the city.

The last shoot of the day,
on the terrace of Ralph and Gia's beautiful home

Well, this time, I really wanted to take my team here to shoot the view for Travelife TV. Fortunately, both Ralph and Gia were around so we were able to arrange this and have a great shoot of the entire city of Cebu as seen from their amazing terrace.

With our very busy schedule today, we were simply exhausted by dinner, and I was ready to hit the sack as soon as I returned to our hotel as it had been a series of late nights and early mornings in a row. But we decided to have a quick dinner at the Radisson's buffet restaurant. This probably revived us because what started out as a quick and quiet meal turned into a pretty long and enjoyable evening. I can't even recall the last time I laughed this much and this hard -- and the irony here is that I was the subject matter. Yes, I was basically laughing at myself.

That's us, hanging out in our Cebu "home" --
the presidential suite of the Radisson Blu Hotel

I recounted a recent meeting with a therapist that I'd had for coverage on Travelife TV, and the situation -- I have to admit -- was quite comical; so the guys had all pounced on this in unison. They teased me mercilessly about it and it was so funny that I laughed until my sides ached.

It was a good end to a very productive day. Our team's been working incredibly hard and we're very serious about doing a great job; but as soon as the cameras are shut, we're on joke mode and the teasing never ends. It's a pretty enjoyable way to work.

Interested in the Travelife Turkey Tours
for May 2011?
Click here to watch an interview on ANC
with Christine Cunanan,
Travelife Magazine Publisher
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Breathless days of travel

So far, my life this year has been a turbulent whirlwind of travel and activities -- and it's just a taste of things to come for the rest of the year. I've already written about my very eventful last week that began in a hot tub in Hokkaido amidst snow, continued on to the Tokyo earthquake and then to sleeping on the floor of Narita Airport; to a very nice dinner with good friends and good Bordeaux wine in Manila, to a day in Singapore, an afternoon in Bali, six days on board the Silver Spirit of Silversea cruiselines, and and lunch on board the ship with Secretary of Tourism Alberto Lim. This all happened in one week. And if that sounds really hectic, it really was. Even for a Travelife.

And it doesn't stop here.


And for the past two days, I've been blissfully cocooned at The Farm in San Benito, in Lipa, together with the Travelife TV team. Yes, we're launching Travelife TV in a few months and it's terribly exciting. But in the meantime, it's a truly hectic schedule that's just so amazingly busy that I almost can't breathe. Between a magazine and a dozen other projects happening at the same time, every single minute is accounted for -- no kidding -- and I've basically been unpacking my suitcase only to re-pack it within the same hour with a new set of clothes for a new event in a new environment with a whole new set of people. Or else, like on Sunday night, I simply took out three suitcases and packed for three trips in one go.

So it was Batangas since early yesterday morning. Then I returned to Manila mid-afternoon, just in time to change clothes, show up at the office and then attend a wine auction preview at Salcedo Auctions tonight. Two of my good friends were giving lectures on their respective fields of authority regarding Old World wines and New World wines, and I thought it would be interesting to attend. I also wanted to see what wines were going to be auctioned. There was a set of Penfold's Grange of varying years, three bottles of Tokaji that I personally considered putting a silent bid on since I'd be missing the auction itself, and a bottle of wine dating back to 1929. The year of the Great Depression! This last wine wasn't going for very much (at least not much in relation to its age), but that's because it's probably more of a conversation piece rather than an honest-to-goodness good drink. How many people, after all, can say they've opened a bottle from 1929?


At 8 pm, I had to leave the auction preview to rush home and prepare for dinner since I'd invited some friends over at 830 pm. This was a dinner full of laughter with friends. We just sat around for a long time giggling about all kinds of things. And then, after I close this computer, I'll hopefully get about three hours of sleep and then I'm out again on the first flight tomorrow morning to Cebu for a really busy two days in the Queen City of the South. I've just seen the schedule my staff prepared for my two days in Cebu, and you'd think I was running for mayor with the number of people and number of appointments crammed into just over 48 hours. Thankfully, there's a slot somewhere in there for drinks with Cebu friends Ralph and Gia and, on my last night, a relaxing dinner by the sea in one of Cebu's best restaurants.


But this week did start out pretty nicely. On Sunday, my one real night in Manila in a very long time, I had a rather nice evening with a friend I see too rarely who came with lots of good humor and a very nice bottle of red wine -- a Chateau Angelus 2001 which, for a Bordeaux lover, is a nice treat. He'd basically forced me to cook dinner on my one and only free evening in Manila so perhaps this was his way of being nice in return; but fortunately I was in a pretty good mood and also inclined to stay home after so much traveling, so I agreed to invite him over for a meal. I was also tired of restaurant food anyway.

So I brought out my stash of 18-month-old Parma ham, made some ceasar's salad from scratch (as in I bought the eggs and all at Legazpi Village Market that morning and whipped it up myself), followed this up with bottarga pasta, and then grilled some wagyu for the main course. It was very relaxing, lots of fun and the wine went beautifully with everything.

My friend seemed pretty relaxed in my house, which I was happy about as to me he seems stressed all the time even if he's pretty easygoing in a way. "If you eat like this all the time, I'll have to keep inviting myself over," he said. Then he asked me: "Do you like coming home to your house?" I thought for a moment. I'm always on the go so I almost never really come home except to sleep. And if I have a free evening, such as Sunday night or tonight, I like to have people over. Last year, I think I ate at home for dinner by myself -- such as eating off a tray while watching TV -- only six times.

This dinner was a nice way to start this busy week of constant travel, and we ended up talking for hours about anything and everything. We probably would've talked all night if we both didn't have early appointments the next day. And when he finally left, I took out three of my suitcases again at midnight to begin packing for three consecutive trips in a row: Batangas for 2 days, Cebu for three, and just possibly Hong Kong on the weekend. I still am trying to decide about Hong Kong but I thought I should pack for it anyway. And in between these trips, I have something like 12 hours in Manila to get work done and see my friends.

While I was in Batangas, however, all the stress seemed to melt away. The Farm is really relaxing, and I had lots of fun working with the Travelife TV team as I'd known most of them for a long time, and two of them were at school with me. We were all very serious about work, but there was lots of time for kidding around and just having fun as well. We're going to be traveling all over the world together from now, and I'm really looking forward to that.


So I've been on the road again after a 24-hour hiatus on Sunday, and J's been pretty much around as well for the past two days. I don't usually BBM him unless I have something really specific to discuss as he seems busy all the time and I figure that he'll contact me anyway if he wants to talk. And yesterday, he began texting me early in the morning just as I'd gotten into the van for Batangas, and he basically kept me company all the way from Manila to Lipa. I don't even know what we talked about anymore, but I just remember that it was lots of fun and it certainly made time fly -- especially as my travel companions were all still very sleepy as it was so early in the morning. Then in the evening, I had The Farm's signature Massage Under The Stars and it was extremely enjoyable to be having a massage and to be on BBM with J under the stars al fresco in the cool evening last night. Again, I can't remember what we were discussing but we kept at it through dinner and the massage, just exchanging jokes and having a laugh.

And perhaps it's because we're now in the same time zone, but J's been just slightly out of my Blackberry more lately. He actually called me on the way to Lipa yesterday for a quick chat in between something like 40 BBM messages between Manila and Lipa. And this morning, he began BBM-ing me just after breakfast. But just as I was finishing my spa treatment and having tea by the pool, my phone rang and it was him. That's two calls in 24 hours. I think the last time he did that was Valentine's Day.

"Are you headed back for Manila now?" He asked me over the phone as I lazily sat on a sunbed by The Farm's infinity pool. I replied: "Nope. I've actually just finished my massage and I'm sitting out here by the pool, just chilling."

"Isn't there such a thing as too many massages?" He teased. After all, we'd been BBM-ing the previous night while I was having my massage as well. If he was paying attention to such details -- and he usually does pay attention quite remarkably -- he'd know I was on my nth massage at The Farm by now. I answered: "Definitely not. No such thing as too many massages."

Just like there's no such thing as too many BBMs.

Interested in the Travelife Turkey Tours
for May 2011?
Click here to watch an interview on ANC
with Christine Cunanan,
Travelife Magazine Publisher
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine last week


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Travelife's Amazing Tour to Istanbul and Cappadocia

Magical Palaces and Mosques
plus amazing natural scenery from early Christian times
May 13 - 20, 2011

* * *

Visit the beautiful city of Istanbul,
and the various UNESCO World Heritage ruins
and rock formations around Cappadocia.

Plus get a chance to ride a hot air balloon
across amazing Cappadocia

* * *

Travelife Magazine's Amazing Turkey Tours
are back by popular demand

To request an e-brochure,
pls email
or call Rachel at 813-8400/ 892-2620

There's also an Istanbul + Izmir Tour.
To learn more about the
Turkey Group 1 Tour
Istanbul + Izmir/ Ephesus
May 11-18, 2011
click here

We've said it before and we'll say it again. No one does Turkey like Travelife Magazine, and that's because we love the country and we know it inside out. We also have a real passion for showing people the best about a country we love, and for helping them have a really good time. Life is pretty tough for almost everyone, so when people go on a Travelife Tour, we want them to have a proper holiday -- and one they'll remember and recommend to friends.

Many of the 70 readers and friends who joined us for our first Travelife Turkey Tours in November last year were people who'd never been on a tour before. They'd heard all the horror stories about joining a typical package tour: two-star hotels in the middle of nowhere, lousy food and tour companions they simply had nothing in common with. So they'd avoided tours like the plague. However, they'd joined the Travelife tour because it was planned byTravelife Magazine, and most of them, if not all, were very happy. "I'll only join a Travelife tour from now on," is a common refrain we keep hearing from our participants -- even up to today -- and many are recommending us to their friends and family.

We really worked hard to put together quality logistics and a good itinerary that minimizes driving time and even takes jet lag into account. And while we can't guarantee you're going to love your tour companions 100%, I can tell you that most of those who'd joined us last year had a really good time together and even strangers found lots of common things including friends, neighborhoods and schools. About 60% of the participants of the Turkey Group 1 tour last year, for example, happily discovered they lived in the same village!


Regarding the hotels and itineraries, well, we at Travelife Magazine have personally road-tested every tour itinerary to ensure that it's good and reasonable, while also maximizing the short stay. When you spend a week in a country, it's going to be just a little bit hectic whether you like it or not -- unless you're content exploring only your hotel, of course. (I did that once, by the way. I spent eight days on a luxury resort in Elounda Bay on the island of Crete in Greece one summer, and not once did I venture out of the front gates. And, yes, I so regret not making that one hour drive to the famed Palace of Knossos, and exploring a few Cretan villages. Now I feel I've got to do Crete again.)


Anyway, on a one-week tour, there's always a fine line between feeling you didn't see enough and feeling you did see a lot but are completely exhausted as a result. The schedule on aTravelife tour's pretty packed -- you have traveled all the way across the world, after all, so you'd better see a lot -- but it's not one of those tours where you wake up at the crack of dawn and then get to your bed at midnight everyday, and spend most of your day in the bus going long distances. I myself don't like getting out of my hotel before 9 AM.

We're not much of tour people ourselves, and we certainly protest at having to get up at ungodly hours during holidays. We also think a fairly leisurely and good breakfast is an integral part of a trip, as is having enough time to enjoy a cup of coffee at a local shop of your choice or having at least some time to putter around the souvenir stores. And we definitely need adequate shopping time.


So basically, we've planned two tours to Turkey in May that we ourselves would be willing to go on. They're of a very good standard particularly for the price -- we have buffet breakfasts, good three-course meals and five-star hotels -- but they're not luxurious tours. However, most people will be extremely satisfied with the quality and value of these tours.

They're not the cheapest Turkey tours on the market, by the way. But they're probably the best value, considering what you're getting. Unlike the cheap tour which only focus on Istanbul or which book you into a hotel near the airport, we fly you to Cappadocia to see some of the most amazing natural scenery in the world. Cappadocia is one of our favorite places in Turkey and if you like natural scenery, this is something you shouldn't miss if you're in Turkey -- but, yes, it jacks the price up since another domestic flight must be factored in.

But if you're reading Travelife Magazine or this blog, we're assuming you can imagine the big difference between a Travelife tour and a regular cheap Turkey tour. This is not a tour, this is a true labor of love. Just ask any of the participants in our previous tours.

We're also assuming you don't do regular tours, in the first place. And that you wouldn't want just any tour with just anyone.


If you are interested in doing Turkey in more luxury, by the way, please watch out for Travelife Bespoke, which will be launched shortly. This will be the more luxurious option for those who want to do Turkey in style. But, of course, these will also be priced accordingly. Among many other tours under Travelife Bespoke, we're planning a Turkey gourmet tour that will include stops at food shops and restaurants that have been doing the same thing for centuries; and a luxury Istanbul tour that will include the best the city has to offer. We'll also be doing private arrangements for couples, groups or families who may wish to do Turkey in style. If you're interested to know more about this, please email us at


Now back to the Travelife Amazing Turkey Tours for this May 2011. There are two tours to Turkey this May 2011:

Travelife Turkey Tour Group 1
Istanbul + Izmir/ Ephesus
May 11-18, 2011

Travelife Turkey Tour Group 2
Istanbul + Capadoccia
May 13-20, 2011

Here are the details of our Istanbul/Cappadocia tour scheduled for May 13-20, 2011. The basic tour package costs US$1999* and that's from Hong Kong. For the Manila-HK-Manila leg, you can basically choose your own carrier and our travel agency, Interlink, will help you make the choice that's best for you. You can even choose to use a mileage ticket if you are able to get an award ticket in advance.

May 13-20, 2011:


Visit TOPKAPI PALACE AND MUSEUM. The largest and oldest palace in the world, Topkapi is the crown jewel of the Ottoman Empire, featuring a harem, treasury and exotic buildings overlooking the Golden Horn.

Visit the SPICE BAZAAR. Built in 1660 with the taxes collected from the trade of Egyptian herbs and spices, the exotically domed bazaar is filled with the enticing aromas of cinnamon, caraway, saffront, mint and thyme.

Also visit the GRAND BAZAAR. In operation since the 14th century, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest covered markets, with 58 streets and over 4,000 shops. The bazaar is specially known for its jewelry, leather, pottery, spices and carpets. We'll take you to some of our favorite shopping places here.

Visit the BLUE MOSQUE. The Sultan Ahmet Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque) is a superb creation in the classical Ottoman style, with six towering minarets and 260 windows illuminating its vast main chamber, which is decorated with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.

Visit the AYA SOFYA , one of the finest and largest architectural works of art in the world. This former basilica and mosque is now the Saint Sophia Museum, and it’s often called it as the 8th wonder of the world.

Visit the HIPPODROME. Istanbul’s Byzantine Hippodrome was the heart of Constantinople’s political and sporting life, and the scene of games and riots through 500 years of Ottoman history. Monuments decorating the Hippodrome include the 3500-year-old Egyptian granite Obelisk of Theodosius, brought to Constantinople by Emperor Theodosius in 390 AD.

Visit TAKSIM SQUARE, Istanbul's main shopping district, and the DOLMABAHCE PALACE. The Dolmabahce Palace was the last residence of the Ottoman sultans, and is famous for its impressive collection of European antiques, furniture and a massive chandelier given to the sultan by Queen Victoria. The enormous palace has 365 rooms, one for every day of the year, and 22 saloons.


Visit the charming town of Avanos, which has been making pottery for centuries. Here we'll visit a pottery workshop where you can watch artisans at work on this centuries-old art form, and even have a chance to try the potter's wheel yourself.

Walk through the Goreme Open Air Museum, a fantastic natural park with cave churches and settlements, and awe-inspiring rock formations.

See the Uchisar Rock Castle, an ancient fortress situated on the highest point in Capadoccia, with churches carved out of the rocks on its ramparts.

See the Devrent Valley, famous for its beautiful rock formations known as "fairy chimneys."

See Pigeon Valley, an area full of pigeon houses carved out of the mountains. In the olden days, the pigeons were trained to deliver messages across Capadoccia.

Get a chance to walk through the Kaymakli Underground City, the widest underground city in Capadoccia that dates back as old as 2000 BC.


As with our previous tours, we'll be offering cultural shows and fine dining options every evening in Istanbul, that can be considered among the finest that this city has to offer. Get a chance to dine in a fine restaurant that serves food based on recipes from the Topkapi Palace kitchens in the 13th century. Have the best kebab in Istanbul, in a lively restaurant so out of the tourist track that only Travelife tourists have been.

In Capadoccia, we'll be offering an authentic whirling dervish show, a lively Turkish Night evening, and a a chance to take the sunrise hot-air balloon ride across the Capadoccian plains.

In all these amazing experiences, benefit from the personalized service and expertise of Travelife in this country we know like the back of our hand.

Included in the price:

*Roundtrip international flights

between Hong Kong and Turkey

*Roundtrip domestic flights

between Istanbul and Izmir

*Five-star hotel accommodations on a twin-sharing basis

*All guided tours

*Daily buffet breakfasts

*Three-course lunches or dinners as listed in the itinerary

*All porterage fees in Turkey

*All entrance fees and guided tours listed in the itinerary

*Private sunset cruise and dinner along the Bosphorus