Travel: Japan Visa Approval

i’m excited!!! thank you lord! i got my passport today from the japanese embassy with approved 15day single entry tourist visa to japan. yehey! now, at least i have something to look forward to for next month. as you all know, july is my favorite month because it’s my birthmonth and i see to it that every birthday is a memorable one. last year, i went to macau and jump at the world’s highest bungy.

i’m not really planning to go to japan. i’m supposed to attend a cousin’s wedding in the US but unfortunately denied a visa since i don’t have strong ties here in singapore. and so, i made a back-up plan. since it’s been months already since i had my last solo trip and i feel that i deserve a much-needed break from all these corporate slavery and toxic workload, i pursued my planned vacation leave and decided to go somewhere else.

applying for a japan tourist visa is a breeze. unlike in manila where you need to submit lots of documents and no guarantee of an approved visa, here in singapore as long as you give the complete requirements, the approved visa will be available within 3 working days.

i went to the japanese embassy at 8:30 am and get my number slip at the entrance. when my number flashed on the screen, i went to the designated window and submitted my requirements. it didn’t took them long to check my documents because within 5 minutes time, they gave me a paper slip with the claim details and told me to go back after 3 days.

the requirements:

  1. duly accomplished form
  2. passport picture
  3. photocopy of round trip ticket showing returning flight to sg
  4. original passport
  5. photocopy of pass/work permit
  6. photocopy of bank statements and passbook with latest 1-2 months transaction

i badly need a vacation after feeling so overwork … and sad because of people leaving our team. am i going to be the last girl standing?! sniff

Random: One Hanami Day

hanami in japanese culture, means flower viewing particularly the ‘cherry blossoms’ during spring. people usually go to the park or gardens to have picnic under the beautiful cherry blossom trees with their families, friends or colleagues. japanese sometimes wear their traditional kimono or yukata during the hanami festival. it has always been my dream to go to japan and see the sakuras in bloom.

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but dreams of travel and jetsetting are a reality miles away…

so last year, when i found out that the japanese community here in christchurch organizes a yearly hanami festival, i got so excited and vow to attend the event. no need to go to japan at all because my cherry blossom dreams will now become a reality here in christchurch! spring officially starts from september until november, but the best time to see the sakura is during the early part of september as the flowers are very vibrant and in full bloom.

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compared to last year, this year’s event is better because there are food stalls available showcasing a variety of japanese delicacies such as rice cakes, sweets and gyoza. i tried one of the rice cakes which is similar to our bibingka but with a sakura topping on top. it was good, not too sweet. but the best-selling item during the hanami is the gyoza. check the long queue, everyone wants a gyoza on a good sunny day! for $6, you will get 6 pieces of gyoza, choose from pork or lamb flavor. :) we bought 1 flavor each, yummers!

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there’s also a tea ceremony booth at the far end area of the park. a few women garbed in kimono were doing a traditional tea ceremony while the audience enjoy a cup of hot tea and a rice cake.

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around half past twelve, the drum show started and the people assembled and find their seats. the show run for 30 minutes.

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all these japanese stuff brings back good memories of my japan trip few years ago. :) if there’s one country i want to visit again, japan is on top of the list and most likely I will spend the days just eating ramen, sushi and more rice cakes. *nom*

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Travel: Wellington City Tour and Friends

few weeks ago, my husband and i flew to wellington to have his passport renewed.

well (rant upcoming)…

we could have save some bucks if only the embassy people told us ahead that they will be flying to christchurch as part of their mobile consular services. when i called them for an appointment, they even asked us where we came from and we said that we’re from christchurch. they should have known by that time that they were scheduled to go to christchurch and advised us instead to wait for them rather us flying to the capital and spending for airfare and accommodation. i’m pretty sure they know there’s an upcoming christchurch leg. well ph government office, what else is new?

anyhoo, we just took the opportunity to roam around wellington and catch up with some old friends.

we took the earliest flight on a saturday morning and left our car at the airport for 2 days. this is cheaper compared to us getting a cab or getting the airport shuttle services. it was a smooth 50-minute trip from christchurch to wellington and we were blessed to have a good weather on that particular weekend, after days of cold snap and non-stop rain.

it was both our first time in wellington. husband and i were very amazed when we saw tall buildings, shops and lots of cars. ‘syet ang daming building!’ hahaha! para kaming galing probinsya!

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OFW!!!

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basically, the 3 largest cities in new zealand are auckland, wellington and christchurch. auckland is the largest and populous city in the country and somehow equate to manila. everything is in auckland – shops, events, concerts, traffic and crime! wellington is the second largest city and the country’s capital. it is a balance mix of urban and nature. the seat of government is also based here. lastly, christchurch is the third largest city. we don’t have that many buildings because as you know, there was a major quake a few years back so most of the tall buildings were already demolished. i would describe christchurch as a very laidback city with lots of parks, gardens and nature trails. we don’t have to go out of the city to find nature because hills and ducks are only a few minutes away from our house. i compare christchurch as similar to baguio city, city with a cooler climate.

if i were to choose between the three cities, i would prefer christchurch. i think i already gave up the city lifestyle and would rather live in a place where nature is more accessible than tall buildings and malls. after a long day at work, all i want to do is relax, have a nice view of the surroundings and enjoy strolling at the parks and feed the ducks. haha!

now going back to our wellington adventure, we took the city bus upon arrival at the airport so we can early check-in at the hotel. unfortunately, we were too early since 12pm is the earliest check-in time and it’s only 8am. to use the spare time, we started with the city tour and walk towards the wharf and museum. pregnancy didn’t stop me from doing long walks though i must admit that i easily got exhausted and out-of-breathe after 20 minutes of walking. i forgot to mention that wellington is a hilly city so it’s like hiking at the same time!

we had a quick breakfast at mcdonalds then after that, we went to Te Papa Museum. i like going to museums. i’d rather go to a museum or a library than spend time in a shopping mall. it’s a really nice museum – clean, well maintained and the entrance is free. FREE! woohoo! we spent an hour or two in there before i got a message from Mj, telling me that they’re on their way.

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we walk for another 15 minutes going to the wharf, meeting them at a japanese restaurant for lunch. it’s nice to see her again after years of not seeing each other. she’s got a baby too after 11 long years. wow indeed! so happy for her. :)

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Baby Alex meets Tito and Tita :)

after the lunch and bidding each other goodbyes, we went back to the hotel. i have to endure these long torture hilly walks. i swear, i missed our trusty old car. :-|

we were finally able to check-in at the hotel around 2pm. when we reached our room, i heard some weird noise coming next door. it was like some couple having sex and we could hear the moaning and heavy breathing from the inside. hahaha! juice colored!

Food: Thai Night

there is always something special about finding great food in hidden places. it’s like discovering a secret that only a few people knows. one day while husband and i were strolling along new brighton area, we happen to pass by a simple thai dine and take away place tuck in an alley at a mini mall near the beach. by the looks of it, it can only hold 10 people at a time. i would guess that the thai lady and her kiwi partner runs the place. they are a nice and friendly couple who always welcome us with a smile whenever we ate at their place.

one thing i like about the place is that the owners are very hands-on in that the lady always gets the orders, then she goes inside the kitchen to cook the food while her partner is manning the cashier booth. the guy serves the food and from time to time, checks on the customers how the food was. i don’t remember seeing a third staff working with them. i just feel that the mere presence of the thai lady is more than enough to prove that the food we are about to eat is an authentic home cooked thai food! hehe!

our secret thai place

our secret thai place

smile before lamon

smile before the attack

smiling, posing and chewing in between. multitasking at its finest.

smiling, posing and chewing. multitasking at its finest.

omg, pad thai!

omg, pad thai!

green curry chicken

green curry chicken

chicken satay in peanut sauce

chicken satay in peanut sauce

if we want chinese food, we go to bensons. for japanese food, samurai bowl is the default. if we crave for indian food, there’s always kinara. and if we want thai food, we just go to spicy thai dine and take away place. :)

Food: Food Tasting at K by Cunanan

few more days to go! as the days come closer, i feel more anxious and my palms and armpits are sweating like crazy…or maybe because PAGASA declared that it’s now officially summer. i am nervous. i was telling a friend that thinking about the wedding is something like preparing for a speech in front of the class and my heart starts beating faster than usual. ugh. i can’t wait for the day that it’s all over and our lives will come back to normal. we can travel again, spend our precious money on petrol for road trip than paying a bunch of suppliers, i can read books again and most of all…i can cut my hair pixie short!

if there’s one good thing about wedding planning, it’s about food tasting. after all, they said that you can’t eat on your wedding day so make the most out of the food tasting sessions.

the other day, i brought my mother with me during the food tasting at the caterer’s place. we got kbyc because they serve really good food and got styling with a class. we went to their place at greenmeadows around 10am. upon arrival, Nina our AE welcome us and have us seated at one of the tables in the room. their food tasting area is big because i assume this will be their main place for couples who wish to have their food tasting sessions. we are the very 1st to arrive because it’s our first and last meeting so we are an hour earlier.

i was really overwhelmed by the amount of food they served us. for 2 persons doing a x2 food tasting, it’s too plenty that we can’t finish everything. first, they served us the red iced tea then the food for the cocktails. i love my AE for exceeding expectations. prior to the meeting, i just emailed her my 1st and 2nd options but during the food tasting, they even serve those food that’s not included in my choices. :)

drinks

red iced tea

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cocktails from l-r: grilled cheese and tomato soup shots, bruschetta roasted eggplant with peppers and feta, crackers with smoked tanigue and horse radish, hoisin chicken wrap

i initially chose bruschetta with roasted eggplant and crackers and the crackers with smoked tanigue but find them too small. the grilled cheese and tomato soup shot is yummy but my mother find the cheese ‘nakakaumay’. taste and size wise, i love the hoisin chicken wrap. i’m fan of wrap foods because i always order them at mcdonalds in new zealand.

next, they served the soups. i’m choosing between roasted corn and squash soup. me and my mom have different taste in foods, she didn’t like the roasted corn soup because she finds the taste weird, ‘anak parang may chinese yun lasa’. but i like it more than the squash soup because the squash soup is not delicious at all when it’s cold unlike this one which has a long-lasting taste be it hot or cold. i initially thought it’s just like a knorr soup but it’s different, there’s some grainy bits of corn, pepper, spice and other stuff in it which makes it very interesting. so yes to roasted corn soup. :)

i thought we’re done with cocktails until they served us the second batch. omg fiesta! crostini with ratatouille is just ok. my mom likes the cheese and chorizo balls with pimiento aioli, which i agree. but the winner in size and taste is the chicken tortilla with arangula and caramelized onions and pandesal bruschetta with adobo flakes. both are very very yummy and not too small. husband and i wants everybody full because personally, we’re both patay-gutom eaters and we feel very sad if food is nakakabitin (so no to sosy small servings). LOL! also, they don’t serve breads during the food tasting because it’s just a normal bread with assorted dippings. skip that for the actual event.

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cocktails batch 2 from l-r: crostini with ratatouille, cheese and chorizo croquettas with pimiento aioli, chicken on crisp tortilla with arungula and caramelized onions, pandesal bruschetta with adobo flakes mango salsa and kesong puti

next, salads. i easily devoured the insalata caprese with walnuts and vinaigrette so wasn’t able to take a photo. it’s my first and only choice because i love refreshing garden salads. the orange and walnuts are very tasty. insalata caprese is the unanimous choice for me and my mother. they even gave us the barbecue chicken salad as bonus to taste, which is also yummy.

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salad: barbecue chicken salad

next, chicken dishes. this is it, the mains just started! seeing all these food makes me now excited on the wedding day. they served us 2 different dishes, again another exceeding expectation from kbyc. i just asked for supreme of chicken with herb cream sauce but they also gave me the other chicken dish which is japanese rolled chicken in leeks and cheese with teriyaki glaze. i like both but chose the supreme herb chicken in cream sauce so i have one cream based dish. i love cream based dish, that’s why i’m fat. hehe!

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japanese rolled chicken in cheese and leeks with teriyaki glaze

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supreme chicken in herb cream sauce

next, they served all the beef, fish, pork, seafood and pasta dish. ohmygulay. i didn’t expect they will serve this many food. just looking at all the food makes me dizzy.

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slow cooked beef in ponzu sauce, truffle oil and onion rings

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baby back ribs with corn

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carrot rice

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honey nut prawns

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prawn thermidore

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seafood linguine with tomatoes, capers and basil

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seared sesame crusted salmon, wasabi mashed potatoes and balsamic syrup

hinde na kami makahinga ni mother sa kabusugan at dami ng foods. my mom and i were full from the soup, salad and cocktails, we barely touch the mains, tingi na lang. the slow cooked beef in ponzu sauce and truffle oil reminds me of asado, sweet with a bit of citrusy flavor and the beef is tender. of course, the carrot rice which kbyc is known for is really very good. for the seafood dish, they gave us the honey nut prawns and prawn thermidore. i like the prawn thermidore because it’s creamy with some mushroom inside similar to chicken-ala-king but mom likes the honey nut prawns better. i just badly want the prawn thermidore for the reason that i already ate the honey nut prawns in a friend’s event so would like to eat something different. but i love my mom and let her win this time since i already chose the soup dish earlier. we didn’t get the baby back ribs as we both find it spicy, probably too much barbecue dressing or cumin so we ditched the pork dish. anyway, lechon will be serve so there’s still pork for pork lovers. :) for pasta, the seafood pasta linguine with basil and capers is good but salty. i just asked them to lessen the saltiness and it’s still good to serve. lastly for the fish dish, we get the seared sesame crusted salmon with mashed potatoes and balsamic syrup. me and my husband love to eat salmon, whether it’s salmon don or sushi salmon. this is an upgrade because this is our personal favorite and something we like to share with guests on our special day.

our AE then started discussing with us the details for the reception look, going through the contract, etc. it took us 4.5 hours to finish everything. it’s a breeze talking to her because i don’t have to mention the things i want. she did her assignment before the meeting by reviewing the pegs i sent her and all the things i’d like to include in my reception look, she mentioned them all to me. anyway, i trust her completely and i know she will be my wedding guardian angel to prettify everything.

to cap of the meeting, they gave us the desserts. one is the banoffee cups and the white chocolate cake. i chose the banofee cups while replaced the white chocolate cake with mixed fruits for the oldies. i forgot to take photos before eating the dessert, so sorry for the messy spoon. hehe.

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banoffee cups and white chocolate cake

nothing ever excites us on the wedding other than the food. and the thought that once all these brouhaha is over, we can go back to our normal lives and move on.

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