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9 Things You Must Try in Japan

Maan Ting and her new husband Charles fly off to the land of the rising sun for a mini-honeymoon, getting the chance to immerse in rich culture and history, indulge in delicious dishes and experience some kawaii.

Just a week after our wedding, we didn’t have time to make a detailed itinerary, but our wedding high made us game for adventure. We took the wrong trains a couple of times and got lost a lot more times; but once we discovered and had loaded ICOCA cards, going around Osaka and Tokyo on our own was so much fun. For someone who is Type A and bordering OC, it takes trips like this to remind me that some of the most pleasant surprises come when holidays aren’t planned.


First up on our itinerary was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Studios in Osaka. My hubby and I are big fans of the series, so starting our honeymoon at the village of Hogsmeade with two mugs full of hot butterbeer was just magical.


Our other favorite in Kyoto, this Buddhist temple is simply breathtaking in the fall with beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red reflecting the sunlight. It’s the perfect backdrop to a romantic daytime stroll.

If you have more time, the lovely Japanese lady who owns the Ryokan we stayed at recommended the Kinkaku-ji, Riyoan-ji, Ninna-ji and Nijo Castle. Get the unlimited bus pass so you can visit them all.

Fushimi Inari-taisha

This was one of our two favorite temples in Kyoto. There are so many in the area, so if you’re only there for a couple of days (like us), make sure not to miss this Shinto shrine. The winding tunnel-like Torii path leading up to the mountain is just beautiful—and very Instagram-worthy! Going up and down the mountain was great exercise too.

Tokyo Disneyland

What better place is there to spend your birthday than at the happiest place on earth? Charles secretly bought me a birthday pass, and everywhere we went, people were greeting me a “happy birthday!”—including Snow White’s Prince Charming! We went on all the rides, even the kiddie ones. It was such a fun day with my very own Prince Charming. Hands down, it was my best birthday ever!

Tsukiji Fish Market

The second happiest place on earth! Sashimi that melts in your mouth, and salmon roe that pops deliciously with every bite. It was the most memorable meal of our entire trip—of our entire lives, even.

Maid Café

Probably the most interesting part of our trip! We ended up in a Maid Café in Akihibara since it was the nearest place that advertised free wi-fi. When we entered the store, we were not prepared for the kawaii of it all! Some things you have to do at least once—and only once!

Shibuya Crossing

Photo by Thousand Wonders

We got to say hello to Hachiko when we exited the train station, and got lost in translation and the shopping. Oh, the shopping! Start at Shibuya 109, and you’ll find clothes and shoes too pretty to be reasonably priced. It was my reward after spending the afternoon following my husband around the electronic city of Akihabara.

Coco Ichibanya

They’re everywhere, and thank goodness they are! Order the fried oyster curry and pick your level of spiciness—and the amount of rice. I love spicy food and have a high level of tolerance, but 6/10 is already piping hot for me.


Awesome yakitori, and drinks are at a really affordable price. Friends in Osaka brought us here, and then we met up with another set of friends who were living in Tokyo—they also brought us to a branch in Shinjuku!

Besides the sashimi at the Tsukiji Fish Market, the Matcha Ice Cream near the temples is definitely a must-try! There is no shortage of what-to-eat suggestions because everything is delicious, even the onigiri at 7-Eleven and vendo-meals at train stations are good.

Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, March 2015


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Find Your Summer Spirit in Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu

Breathe in the tropical atmosphere, as you find summer joys through sight, sound and taste at Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu. Poolside fun during the day, spent serenely and luxuriantly—a refreshment in hand. While the evenings are for outdoor family movie nights, with the ocean waves rippling in the background.

Summer is all of that, and more! Plan an extraordinary weekend with an array of exciting activities that await your arrival. Discover your #ShangriLaSummerSpirit from 15 July to 30 August.

Tiki Bar at Buko Bar

Epicurean Delights by the Pool

Keep yourself fueled up as you splish and splash with the whole crew. Take a quick break from all that summer jazz with Mediterranean and Polynesian-inspired bites exquisitely crafted for your palate. From rice balls and pastas, ice creams to sliders—indulge in tastes and aromas that transport you to a world of endless, golden summers.

Mediterranean Selections at Acqua

A Whimsical Touch

Make it a colourful summer for the kids! Let them explore their own version of paradise with whimsical floaties, sure to keep them happily afloat. Your little ones can now freely kick and play in the water with fun and fascinating, animal-shaped inflatables.

Pleasant Sundowner Tunes

Bid the sun adieu and embrace the sunset hues with live acoustics at the Main Pool from 4pm to 6:30pm.

Tiki Cocktails at Buko Bar

Champagne Bar at Acqua

A Toast to an Endless Summer!

Unwind and savour the tropical vibe as our expert mixologists craft refreshing Tiki cocktails and serve chilled bottles of exquisite champagne by the pool! With a backdrop of swaying palm trees and stunning ocean views, sip on delightful beverages and toast to unforgettable summer moments in paradise.

Family Outdoor Movie Night

Gather your nearest and dearest for an enchanting evening as we set up a large outdoor screen by the pool under the starry night sky. Cozy up as you enjoy a family-friendly movie that will delight both those who are young and young-at-heart at Treasure Island from 7pm to 9pm.

Surrounded by lush greens, let the experience bring you to a world of joy and laughter, creating cherished memories for you and the family. For more information on Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu, you may contact (032) 2310288. You may also follow them on Facebook and Instagram or visit #FindYourSummerSpirit #FindYourShangriLa

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LONDON IN FULL BLOOM: An Exclusive Look at the recent Chelsea Flower Show

Dame Judy Dench (center in white) with gallery owner, Jerry Sibal, Edwin Josue, writer Eva Gullas and artist James Doran-Webb.

The Chelsea Flower Show in London, one of the most prestigious horticultural events in the world, returned in full glory in May 2023, captivating visitors with its stunning displays and landscape designs. Held annually on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, this year’s show proved to be a true feast for the senses, showcasing an array of breathtaking gardens, vibrant floral arrangements, and innovative landscaping. The 3-day event showcased 36 outdoor gardens, including four balcony gardens for small spaces. Inside the giant pavilion, blooms compete with each other, exotic flowers, roses, and many more.

Princess Kate Middleton walking the booths at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Dame Judy Dench, who owns several of Webb’s pieces in her garden, with James Doran-Webb and Jerry Sibal discussing the works of James.

One of the flower arrangements competing at the show.

The 2023 Chelsea Flower Show embraced a Nature’s Harmony theme, with a strong focus on sustainability and mental health. The show’s organizers emphasized the importance of sustainable gardening practices and biodiversity conservation, inspiring attendees to create beautiful outdoor spaces while preserving and protecting the environment.

One of the floral gazebo displays recycled chairs and salvaged materials.

Shops at the Chelsea Flower Show are mostly from sustainable materials.

What’s Cebu got to do with the Chelsea Flower Show in London? One person. James Doran Webb (, an Englishman working with driftwood, has been displaying his artworks for several years. James collects cast-off driftwood and shapes them into beautiful animal shapes that find places in some of the most iconic gardens. Leaping horses, owls, reindeer, and the occasional dragon, James Webb’s creations are avidly collected by landscapers to add accent to gardens in all sizes, using cast-off wood, fitting perfectly with the sustainable element—something Mr. Webb has done quite well for the last decade.

The impressive dragon of James Doran-Webb


The Philippine International Flower Festival will be held at the PICC in Manila from January 14 to 18, 2024. Watch out for more info from our website!

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Club Serena: A ‘Serene Luxury’ Experience in the Heart of Cebu’s Diving Mecca

photography by GPA Art and Photography

A three-hour drive, or more, depending on traffic, the fishing town of Moalboal in the southwest of Cebu Island is an extremely popular destination for divers and weekenders who love the white sand and pink sunsets. It is also a favorite place to stay for expats looking for a laid-back life of endless coffees or cocktails.

Thankfully, the big chain resorts haven’t discovered it and places to stay are mostly small family-run resorts. But if pampering is what you are looking for, there is only one hotel to book in Moalboal. Club Serena Resort is a 1.7-hectare beachfront property perched above coral rocks, presenting a unique union of luxurious accommodations and a host of activities to be enjoyed. This hidden gem is reached through a dirt road away from the main highway. Fronting a wide swath of white sand beach, it is an easy walk past several smaller resorts to reach the main town.

Recently renovated by noted architect James Jao, the new Club Serena has 17 rooms, three swimming pools, a restaurant, and a beachfront event space, all designed with modern Filipino aesthetic. On the drawing board are more rooms to be added, an expansion of their modern dive shop, and their popular Kids’ Club program. Their food outlet, Mira, offers all-day dining, favorite among visitors and locals, as well as the growing expat community that has settled in Moalboal. 

Club Serena offers diving courses for adults and kids by their resident operator, Seven Seas Aquanauts Phil. Corp, a PADI 5 accredited diving facility operating since 1988. For a complete list of the courses and their rates, please call (+63) 917.872.6367 or (+63) 905.459.5307.

The resort encourages above-water activities as well, and they have several paddle boards and kayaks available for guests to use.

For rates and more information, visit or email or (+63) 917.872.6367 or (+63) 905.459.5307. You can also visit their Facebook page for updates.

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