Monday, October 01, 2012

Thailand: Bangkok day-trip to the Historic City of Ayutthaya

My family has been to Bangkok before. Having seen many of the major attractions in the Thai capital, my parents asked me to plan a day-trip outside Bangkok this time around. So we rented a van and motored to the Historic City of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and capital of the Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya from 1350 until it was ransacked by the Burmese in 1767. The trip to Ayutthaya takes about two hours.

It had been several years since I last visited Ayutthaya and it was raining during that trip. So I was looking forward to this visit, especially since the sun was out this time (after several days of nonstop rain). Since the city is mostly ruins of the ancient capital, and noting we had my young niece with us, I decided to start the day with an elephant ride around some of the historic monuments to get her excited.

Among the temples you get to see is the Wat Phra Ram which you won't miss because of the lagoon in front of it. The elephant ride is one activity you should do to encourage young people to appreciate the heritage of the place. We also got to feed the elephants after the ride which was really fun.

With that done, we proceeded to the temples. Note that each temple has its own entrance fee which costs more for foreigners. Our first stop was Wat Phra Mahathat วัดมหาธาตุ, also known as the Monastery of the Great Relic. Walking through the temple, you will notice rows of headless Buddhas and leaning prangs.

But one of the highlights of the visit would be the Buddha head engulfed by the roots of a fig tree. Remember to kneel or squat when having your photo taken since the Thais consider it disrespectful if you are higher than the Buddha head in the photo.

After a sumptuous Thai lunch, we visited Wat Ratchburana or the Monastery of the Royal Restoration. The highlight of the visit would be the main prang and royal vihara. After two temples, my family was all templed out. So we called it a day but stopped by Bang Pa-In Summer Palace พระราชวังบางปะอิน on the way back to Bangkok.

More photos of Ayutthaya, Thailand in the Ivan About Town FB page.

How to get to Ayutthaya, Thailand
Aside from renting a private vehicle, there are several trains and buses which conveniently connect Bangkok to Ayutthaya several times daily. In fact, they are very cheap! During my previous visit, I took the train going there and an air-conditioned bus going back.

The Westin Grande Sukhumvit, Bangkok
During our visit to Bangkok, we stayed at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit which was conveniently located close to the BTS Asok Station. The hotel is quite memorable to me since this was where the opening ceremonies of the Thailand Medical Tourism Blog Contest were held.

We spent a comfortable two days at the Westin. And I enjoyed their breakfast buffet spread!

259 Sukhumvit Road
Bangkok 10110 Thailand
Tel. No. +66 (2) 2078000
Fax No. +66 (2) 2552441

Friday, September 28, 2012

BDO offers online shopping on installment

Have you ever wanted to purchase something online but couldn’t because it would be too much to pay one-time within a month or so? How I wish I could buy airline tickets online automatically on installment as I’ve already had quite a number of online airline ticket purchases that would have been made even better if payments were spread out.

Well, the good news is... BDO Credit Cards is offering a first for online shopping with their automated Online Installment promo! Hopefully, this will be the start of a new local trend when it comes to online shopping.  With a bit of luck, I might just be able to purchase my long-haul flights on installment too! (fingers crossed)

For a minimum spend of P3,000 at BDO partner merchants, all BDO Credit Cardholders (except Corporate, Commercial, Tie-up & CUP credit cards) have the option to pay on 3, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months installment terms for online purchases until December 31, 2012. Cardholders may choose to avail of either the Absolutely Zero Percent or Regular Installment promo offer. It’s such a great deal, right?!

So with your BDO Credit Card, you can now purchase products and services from Ensogo,, Reebonz, Hallo Hallo Mall, Deal Dozen and the Philippine Hotel Reservations Service on installment. Other BDO online partner merchants include ZestAir, Ava, CashCashPinoy, City Delivery, Zalora,, Gupo and Lazada.

If you have a BDO Credit Card, you should not let this opportunity go to waste especially with Christmas just around the corner.  This would be a great - not to mention convenient - way to complete your Christmas list and be able to spread out the payments to make it easier on your pockets!

For more information, visit the BDO website.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The happy Filipino makes traveling to the Philippines more fun!

Traveling the Philippines is most definitely fun! After seeing all 80 provinces of our country, I can attest to the fact that it's more fun in the Philippines!

Having explored the islands of Batanes and experienced the warm Ivatan hospitality; knowing that the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are not only breathtaking sites and that the Ifugaos that live there are truly a happy group; spending a night with the Manobos in the Agusan Marsh who opened their floating homes to me; visiting the T'boli in Lake Sebu, all these experiences in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, there's one thing is common, Filipinos are welcoming, and know how to smile and have fun!

This kind of hospitality makes our country a viable tourist destination. Everywhere I go, there are always locals willing to help a visitor enjoy his or her stay.

Indeed the happy Filipino makes traveling to the Philippines more fun!

Filipinos are known to be among the happiest people in the world. Anybody who has been to the Philippines will attest that the remarkable ability of Pinoys to face anything with a happy and positive outlook truly is what sets them apart from the rest of the world.  When it comes to observing distinctly Pinoy quirks and sensibilities and highlighting the best of what the country has to offer, the insightful and humorous videos of YouTube sensation Bogart the Explorer always hit the spot.

Here is the latest video brought to us by Jollibee, where Bogart tours his newfound friend Kirk, a foreign tourist on his first visit to the Philippines. It features some of the most popular tourist attractions in North Philippines such as Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, Vigan in Ilocos Sur and Baguio City. But more than that, it highlights how Filipinos have fun while traveling or welcoming people.

More than the diversity of the country's natural resources and its often-cited world-class beaches, it is the Filipinos' warm hospitality and happy character that inspired the It's More Fun in the Philippines campaign.  While other countries definitely have their own breathtaking attractions, the Filipino people are the number one reason why tourists should travel to the Philippines.

To find out more about Jollibee's happy Filipino, visit

Monday, September 24, 2012

Splenda is the healthy sweet!

I’ve so gotten used to drinking black coffee since I have to avoid sugar as much as possible. That’s the life of a diabetic. Looking for the words sugar-free has become routine if I want to satisfy my sweet cravings. Which is why I am always happy, just as I was today, when my coffee is served with packets of Splenda!

I found out that Johnson & Johnson has started officially distributing Splenda in the Philippines! That explains why it’s now more readily available than before. It has been such a great friend the past few years as it has allowed me to enjoy things I would otherwise try to avoid.

But Splenda is not just for diabetics like me. We can all enjoy “sweet” without any guilt or downsides. Aside from being sugar-free, Splenda is a Low Calorie Sweetener (LCS) that comes closest to the taste of sugar. I myself can attest to that. It has no bitter aftertaste like other artificial sweeteners, and no calories!

Plus preparing sugar-free food and beverages is now made possible with Splenda. It is actually the only brand that can be used for cooking and baking because it is heat-stable. That’s why there are a lot of sugar-free cakes, pastries and desserts coming out in the market today. And that definitely keeps us all smiling, especially since Splenda can remove three-fourths of the calories that comes from sugar.

Did you actually know that? We’ve been so used to sweeteners only for coffee and other beverages, many don’t realize there are now more possibilities because of Splenda, a sweetener that can actually be used for cooking and baking. I’m looking forward to trying out some great recipes in the next few weeks now that Splenda is here in the Philippine market. Time to dish out something healthy yet sweet from our kitchen!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pampanga: Hillside Ranch Slow Roasted Beef Belly & Corned Beef Brisket

From Pampanga comes another great food product! My high school classmates had been bugging me to try their new product: Hillside Ranch Slow Roasted Beef Belly and Corned Beef Brisket. So they gave me some of their stuff. It had been in the freezer for the longest time since I'm always out of the house.

Hillside Ranch Corned Beef Brisket
But I had guests a few weeks ago and decided to take them out to serve. It's easy to prepare actually since it's fully-cooked and microwavable. I first defrosted them using the microwave oven for a few minutes. Then I popped them in the toaster for a few more minutes. And they were done!

Hillside Ranch Slow Roasted Beef Belly
I served the Slow Roasted Beef Belly with the gravy that accompanies it. You only need to heat it in a pan or the microwave. But we have a special barbecue sauce that we always get from the Legazpi Sunday Market and it works quite well with it. The Corned Beef Brisket I served with horseradish and mustard. My guests were all raves about dinner.

So I'm sharing this with you. It's available at Essel Supermarket in San Fernando, Pampanga. In Manila, you can get it at Trellis Quezon City, Trellis Makati, or pick-up in Valle Verde 5. Call (0917) 5301251, (0917) 5319351 or e-mail Happy eating!
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