Thursday, April 29, 2010

Which Louis Are You?

Can you spot the difference between a Louis the XV and a Louis the XVI chair? It's quite simple actually. Louis XV is curvy and feminine. Look at the delicately curved cabriole-legs, and the feminine curves of the back. This is also known as Rococo style...

I have two of these chairs in my girls' bedroom, also gold leafed, but in green silk. I love them. My younger daughter, the modern one, just asked me if she could re-do the chair if she moves out of her shared bedroom. I told her she can get new chairs and just leave this pair alone and she said, no, she really liked this one but just wanted it redone- "I want the gold part painted white and I want it to be purple"!  I must say, at 7 years old,  she's got her style down pat and even knows how to rework a classic!

Rococo is from the French word for "shell", so the shell motifs abound in other furniture of that era too, like these mirrors. I love them and I want one of them!

A Louis XVI is neo-classical. This is the time when design started going back to the classic design of Greek times. The curvy feminine lines are gone and now replaced by straight lines. Look at the legs on this chair. This is  Louis XVI chair.

Straight fluted legs.

I have 5 of these in my living room.  I totally love them and love them more each time I see them.

Now, the first Louis (in furniture design that is..) Louis XIV comes before  Rococo-- heavy-set--paw legs, etc. I don't really care for this design and era so I don't have any chairs that are in the Louis XIV style. Oh, I actually do, but I don't like it anymore so I'm selling it. Actually it is quite nice and I bought it more than 20 years ago. I don't have the space for it anymore and I realize I'm a rococo and neo-classical sort of gal.
This divan is for sale. Delivery in Metromanila only or pick up okay.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Family Immersion in Vietnam

It was on one Sunday dinner  in November, a few years back, that dad decided he wanted to take all of us on a New Year trip. It had to be somewhere that didn't need a visa and close enough for only 6 days.  Most local destinations would be booked, and by this time, all the flights to New-Year-type destinations would be booked too--not to mention outrageous hotel prices for this time of the year. Hong Kong and Singapore were definitely out of the question. People book holiday trips like this in August. We did Thailand the year before and everyone got a kick out of our Chiangmai/Bangkok escapade. Why not Vietnam? None of us had been there yet (at least then).

When I called my travel agent, she said no problem, seats are available for all 16 of us. She even recommended a couple of hotels--The Majestic or Duxton in Saigon, and the Guoman in Hanoi. She had these hotels in her list and would be able to get good packaged rates. In a couple of days, our flights and hotels were all arranged. Then I researched online and added a Halong bay cruise to the Hanoi part of the trip. When I wondered aloud why we were able to get flights and rooms for everyone at this late stage, she mentioned again that our destination was not really top of the list for New Year revelers. Perfect, no crowds! Or at least no tourist crowds.

This guy looked as if he was really painting... 

I was told that Hanoi was going to be quaint. I didn't see it as "quaint" at first, but after seeing Saigon, then I realized yes, Hanoi was quaint in a rickety sort of way. Lots of art and craft shops. Stores upon stores selling tablecloths, bamboo dinnerware and other things for the home.

Our hotel was a bit of a walk from the old quarter, and walking the streets is a bit like walking in Malate. There were artists working in some shops and I actually stopped to watch to see if the artist was really painting. You see, in Piazza Navona in Rome, there are artists who would pretend they are painting on the spot. I tried to watch one closely and he just couldn't begin painting as I was watching-- which made me suspicious. I passed again a few hours later and he kinda hid from me. There wasn't any progress on his painting, all his painting supplies were just props.

The Piazza Navona painter in Rome. 
Okay, back to Hanoi... On our second day there, we took a cab from our hotel to Handspan, the agency where I booked the overnight Halong Bay cruise. The cab driver took advantage of our confusion with the money and kept screaming at us to pay him the 250,000 Dong the meter was showing. Since there were other taxis honking us from the back, we just paid him only to find out that it was supposed to be 25,000! My dad was upset that he was conned--it didn't matter that he only lost $10--just that he was taken for more than a ride!

Handspan did a good job of reserving our Junk for only our group. We initially wanted to book on the Dragon Pearl but it was full, and we wouldn't have gotten it all to ourselves. Then I came across the Halong Ginger which was fabulous. I think dad would've loved it. But again it was not available. I would rate our Junk 3 stars, but at least it was only for one night and all ours.

We stayed a few days in Hanoi, was bussed an hour and a half (or was it 2?) out of town to spend one night aboard the junk.  Being on a junk in Halong Bay was a bit eerie at night  but we were comforted knowing there were about a dozen other junks anchored for the night. We haven't been at such close quarters (with no escape) since we were kids so just being on the junk was a very unique adventure for all of us.

Halong Bay scenery is similar to Palawan sans the Vietnamese Junkboats. 
This is the view from a cave exit in one of the cliffs!

I realized that on this trip, the family stuck together and did things together unlike when we go to more familiar places. When we do family trips to Hong Kong or Singapore, everyone has their own agenda for the day and we only meet up for dinner. This doesn't happen in an unfamiliar destination. Everybody sticks close together and is willing to do "what the group is doing".

Never mind that it was more of an "immersion" type of trip (the words of my travel agent!). I think it's good for the kids to experience trips like this and not only Disney-type destinations. They learn to appreciate what they have and how they live.

We enjoyed meals at Brothers, Indochine and Quan an Ngon in Hanoi. In Saigon, I liked Temple Bar and Mandarine. I particularly liked the interiors of Temple bar and took many shots until I was told it wasn't allowed. If they only knew how many people post photos of their restaurant online...

Temple Bar interiors

Below Temple Bar is a very popular ice cream parlor called Fanny's. The kids had a hard time choosing which flavors to get because there were just too many. My girls are vanilla and strawberry girls, nothing exotic for them. I think this sundae below was mine.

Interesting as this trip was, I don't think we will repeat it--at least not with the same cast of characters. It definitely  rated high in "family bonding" category so it was appropriate for a family trip. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I finally learned how to merge the content of two blogs! For the longest time I thought it was such a complicated process only to find out it was just a matter of 3-4 clicks.  I think Blogspot has greatly improved the software because it's also so easy to upload photos now when before, it was like dealing with a PC (obviously I'm on a Mac >:). So many clicks. It's still not drag-and-drop but it's close to it, and that explains all my posts in April.

Now I'm excited to post my trip pics and also my home finds--all in one blog. But I kinda liked the name Kantomesa only because of the way it sounds.  NoDoors is more appropriate for both topics tho. (It originally came from Fodors--get it? hehe. So baduy)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Banh Xeo in Saigon

When we were in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), our friend Ly who lives there brought us to Wrap n' Roll for lunch. It was bright and attractive with its lime green decor. When the food came, it matched the decor perfectly so it was a pleasant site--nothing clashing--haha.. Wrap n' Roll is comfortable casual dining--and the food is fresh and healthful. 

Btw, see that coconut drink in the picture? Nice, smooth and bald--I'm talking about physical characteristics, not the taste. I wonder how they get them that bald. Even the coconuts sold on the streets of Thailand are bald (and I heard they are roasted, that's why it the drink has some sort of smokey roasted flavor). I only see Philippine ones served with the full green husk either as a drink, or as a bowl for ice cream. Okay, once in a while it is de-husked, but not as clean as the ones in Vietnam of Thailand. Do they have  special way of doing it ?  Our bald one is the niyog--the one that's scraped for the gata. But that's also hairy.

Anyway, back to the Banh Xeo...Ly taught us how to eat it properly--you wrap a chunk of it inside a lettuce leaf, garnish with other green things, roll up, dip and enjoy.We ate a lot of other things but it this was my favorite of all.

One thing nice about Vietnamese food is it uses a lot of greens, and is hardly ever oily. Wonderful combination of flavors. 

Wrap n Roll
62 Hai Ba Trung Rd.
District 1, HCM City

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cooling Off...

Wouldn't it be great to have an Ice Bar in Manila right now? It's been so hot that even Mochi who is usually jumping around with so much energy is just lazing around, trying to find a cool spot to plop on, and then she doesn't move much for the rest of the day. I feel just like her.

I think with the ridiculous electric bills in this country, the owner will probably close within a month. Then what about those brownouts? 

Bar Ice is in Koh Samui, just off the main road. I think we paid about 500 baht each, and we got a fluffy hat and a down-like coat. The entrance fee comes with one drink. We were there only for thirty minutes--enough for one drink and photo ops. Nice.

Wow Thailand, and I'm only at the Airport!

Thailand tourism or airport authority really has their act together. On a quick trip to Koh Samui in 2008, I was amazed at the development I saw. Firstly, landing in that huge modern airport in Bangkok after not being there for a few years was shocking. Wasn't I in Bangkok just a few years back?When did they get a new airport? Where I come from, airports take decades to complete--and then it doesn't even open!  On the way to the Bangkok Air gate for my connection, I checked out the new stores and cafes.

When I  finally got to the gate, I was surprised to see a colorfully designed waiting lounge which I thought was for business class passengers. What airline is this again? Bangkok Airways? I never took this airline before so had no idea what kind of service it had.

What is not obvious is that the lounge is open to all passengers no matter what class you are flying. There were a couple of American families outside telling their kids not to go in, so I wasn't the only one confused. I went in anyway and realized it was an equal opportunity lounge!  There were assorted canapes, fruit and even popcorn. Interesting lounge fare.

I boarded the plane for Koh Samui feeling good about Bangkok Airways and loving Thailand even more. Then I land in Koh Samui and another WOW. Now THIS is what provincial airports should look like--the concept of resort architecture in an airport. Open air and relaxed an free Wi-fi even! Now I am in an even better mood. Galeng. Wow Thailand!

Koh Samui is nice, but I wasn't blown away. Our beaches are even more beautiful than Koh Samui's and the our resorts are also world class. Now if only we had the proper infrastructure to support this. Hay naku. Thrilled for Thailand, and sad for us.

Goodbye Koh Samui

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Kubli Springs

We read somewhere that this was going to be an incredibly amazing experience. Maybe we expected too much--or maybe the blog posts on previous experiences were just a bit too gushing. Although it was really a unique experience and exciting for the kids, we had to think awhile before it dawned on us why this was supposed to be one of the best dining experiences in the Viaje del Sol.

Kinabuhayan Cafe  has an unassuming frontage and no sign. Inside we were greeted by Jay, who among many other things, was a production designer in a previous life (he thought we looked familiar, and when I jokingly said he must've seen us on TV or in the movies, he started asking which ones!) He now lives a  much more relaxed and simple life. He offers very rustic lodgings for free, as long as you have all your meals at his cafe.   He has space I think for 6 people, maybe more. Two of the huts are the local version of a canopy bed. Just take a look...

This "cottage" sleeps two on an elevated platform

There's a tree house, and 3 other nipa pavilions with bamboo slat flooring. One of the huts was his living room. It had a tv and an online laptop. The huts had roman shades for privacy, but no doors.

We were supposed to "check in" with him here and then go somewhere for a swim and lunch. Some of us weren't that prepared since you have to be in footwear that can get wet, and no way my Fit Flops were getting dunked in water. We had someone buy rubber slippers at the palengke which was two minutes away by tricycle and then we were good to go.

This is Onion, Jay's pet pig

Jay counted us, accepted the balance of our payment and then we were off.  12 minutes away by car from the Kinabuhayan Cafe is Kubli Springs. I read somewhere that this is still part of Jay's property, but I'm not sure. The spring is potable mineral water from below the ground (spring nga!). We drank the water flowing from the bamboo poles, and definitely not from the stream in which people were swimming.

Cool mineral water direct from the source at Kubli Springs

When we got to the stream, the whole barangay seemed to be spending their Good Friday there too (hey, we did Stations of the Cross in the morning, so we weren't feeling to guilty about having a "restful swim by the stream"). It was a little embarrassing to be invading their local watering hole, and after walking through the crowd, we were able to find some rocks to park ourselves on. Unfortunately, someone in our group cut his foot on a rock (or most probably broken glass) and we had to administer first aid and compress the wound so that it would stop bleeding. We kept it bandaged with a torn towel the whole time and figured a couple of hours without medical attention wouldn't hurt. I know the kids would've wailed if we had to abort the whole plan. (The cut foot eventually had to be stitched. Luckily, just 2 minutes from Casa San Pablo is a medical center. My friend was impressed--he treated promptly and professionally--on Good Friday at that!)

The kids immediately jumped into the stream and had a good time soaking and cooling off. I could imagine the local people thinking--of all the places you people can go, you come pa here to our local "swimming pool"! My driver, probably also wondering the same thing even said "mam, yung ganito sa amin, mas maganda kaysa dito". But we were here and it was  going to be a first for all of us promdis. (promidisiti!)

An hour and a half hour later,  Jay arrives with lunch. He is carrying a wok of mushroom risotto. His two guys set out  round wooden table tops on the rocks, laid out the spread. Menu consisted of a shredded carrot and cucumber salad with a pesto dressing, the warm mushroom risotto in the wok, an eggplant parmigiana and a small portion of roast pork. It was carbo-overload, but his dishes were all good. After lunch our group figured that this was the most unique part--getting served sosyal food in this Amorsolo-esque setting. Had we been served grilled tilapia and kamatis, it might have been a regular picnic in the batis--altho that would still be something unique for us too!

Jay's Kinabuhayan Cafe gets a lot of foreign backpackers as well as locals on an adventure.  For P750, it is an interesting local experience. A bit pricey compared to the meal we had at Ugu's  (500 each) and also at the newly opened Sulyap (average check was 500 per person). But for a foreigner, $14.00 is worth every penny for the experience he will get. How for example, is a  foreigner ever going to find his way to a stream and feel safe to swim surrounded by local strangers?  Two of Jay's guys were constantly with us, keeping watch over our things, our kids, and just being all-around helpful.

Bring aquasox if you plan to go make your way down to the spring. It might look odd compared to the locals who are so skilled at balancing on the rocks as well as avoiding whatever sharp objects are between them. Also, since everyone was swimming in shorts and t-shirts, the locals might get shocked if you show up in a sexy bikini.  Lastly, go when it is a quiet weekend. When the crowds left (after soaping and rinsing themselves in the 'natural shower' made of bamboo poles) the place was quiet, serene and actually quite magical.

I think it would have been a very different experience for us had we had the place all to ourselves. But even with the crowd, we all agreed it was a unique adventure--most specially for the guy who got himself stitched.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Custom Chandelier

After months of procrastinating, I finally gave the go signal for it to be made. It took about 60 days to complete, I think more. Then Monica came over and had it installed. That's her husband there checking on the crystals. Monica has made tons of chandeliers for people in the last 15 or twenty years. Sadly, she didn't document them! I told her she could have a coffee table book by now! I'm amazed at her talent and artistry. She also does wall finishes and furniture finishing. Again, she hasn't kept records of the projects she's done. Sayang!

I told her the shape I wanted, and to use the french biscuit crystals. I thought the wrought iron was a bit too stiff-looking in the beginning, but then it has that modern edge to it. The chandelier I saw in Paris, even if I'm in love with it, might make my house a bit too dramatic. And besides, I haven't figured out how to ship stuff home from Paris!

I'm excited and want to have more things done with Monica. I'm now looking over my old furniture and figuring out which pieces she can refinish. Also looking for a hall mirror and I've seen many nice mirrors in her workshop. Or maybe this time I should wait until I can figure out how to ship one home from one of those flea markets! 

Chandeliers at Porta Portese

Our flight home was on a Sunday evening so what better way to spend the morning than at the Porta Portese flea market? Among stalls selling clothes and factory-overruns of shoes (size 6 only, so no luck for me), there were some nice hardware stalls and this chandelier guy.

I should've bought some of the loose crystals to upgrade my wall fixtures that I bought online from an American site.

The crystal pieces I come across in the flea markets in Europe are not cheap. From 3 to 5 euros each! But European crystals are much heavier than the American or Chinese ones. Apparently, to be called "crystal" in the States, the glass has to have only 1% of lead in it. In the EU, it is regulated and has to be between 10 to 30% to be called "crystal".

Of course the heavier ones are thought to be more superior crystals, but for me, I don't really like the rainbow reflection of the "very crystal" crystals. I like glass to sparkle and shine, but not to reflect any color. So maybe I'm okay with the low end of the lead content.

So I have my dining chandelier and some sconces on the wall. I'm still thinking of where I can hang something--I still have my foyer and my bathroom! I want something from a flea market in Paris!

Sissy Boy Homeland

In Amsterdam last summer, we came across this concept store called Sissy-boy Homeland. Strange name for a store and it was at the basement of a little mall. I could see houseware from the first floor so I went down the escalator and was pleasantly surprised.

The store had clothes, toys, fun retro stuff, and then a houseware section like Pottery Barn. There were plates, glasses, knickknacks, and then even furniture and chandeliers! I loved the look of the store and but what struck me were the chandeliers because I wanted one for my dining room. I took some photos for my file until a salesperson told me it wasn't allowed.

Good thing I snapped enough. I couldn't find a chandelier I liked locally so I had one made. It didn't come out exactly how I envisioned it, but I like it a lot still. I have tons of chandelier photos and I'd like to think I finally know what I like about each one--from the silhouette of the chandelier, to the shape of the crystals.  I also love that chair above and realized it a recurring theme in most of my design file photos.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Carlitos the Sculptor

Still at the Viaje del Sol area, we visited the workshop of Carlitos Ortega, renowned brass sculptor. Carlitos sat us down and gave a very informal ten-minute lecture on art, and how he works with the brass. He is warm and funny and the adults found him very engaging.  He actually retired at the age of 42, to concentrate on his art. He says of course there is not much money in being an artist, but he finds so much fulfillment is happy and content with his decision. After seeing Ugu and Carlitos' art, it really makes me want to pull out those blank canvasses gathering dust in my cluttered garage. I just need a few hectares of open space to plant myself and my easel so I can be happy and content too. hehe.

We didn't get to see the inside of his house, since we were mostly in the workshop area. After his little lecture and demo, we had a little merienda of rice coffee, suman and fruit. I thought to myself "wow, this is really Pinoy hospitality"--turns out we each paid P150 per person for this experience. But it was worth it and I'm glad we scheduled it after our lunch at Ugu's place and not before. Carlito works on commissions but he is also represented by Gallery 9 Manila in SM Megamall.

Lunch at Ugu Bigyan's place in Tiaong, Quezon

The first time I went to Ugu Bigyan's place was almost 15 years ago, with my photographer sister who had come to know of him when she had to shoot him for an article. She had arranged for a group of her friends to have lunch at "this potter's place which serves a really delicious Pinoy food". We went for the day, and even then, we found the 3-hour balikan trip to be enjoyable even if a bit tiring.

Imagine my surprise then to walk into the same place last week. The frontage was the same as before but the grounds are now with "materiales fuertes" structures, tastefully done and beautifully landscaped. Gone were the kubo shacks and benches, although they were already tastefully done then, they were much more rustic. 


The food is still delicious, but more sosyal now. For 500 pesos per person, we had halaan soup, pako salad, tahong omelet, prawns with garlic, chunky country-style ribs, a whole fish with mango salsa and the house specialty, kulawong puso ng saging. I forgot to shoot all the other dishes, sayang.

My good friend was surprised to find out that Ugu's full name was Augusto. My other friend, the one who had been hearing about Ugu from me and my sister for many many years now, was surprised to find out he was a person!! Eegads, she thought he was a 'brand', or a name of a place! Goes to show you that my friends don't really listen to me!

Anyway, we asked the waiter where Ugu was and the waiter said Ugu was in the kitchen actually doing all the cooking! I don't know which of his skills overshadow which. He is the architect of his place, he is the chef, and of course he is first and foremost a potter. A real artiste!

When he approached our table, I introduced myself and he enthusiastically asked about my sister. I told him she had given up photography for good, packed her life and is now in Sydney, slaving away, este, cooking at a restaurant--and totally enjoying the experience. He gave me a knowing smile and told me to give her his regards, he remembers her well.

Ugu's pottery is not inexpensive but there are a few times in the year when he puts things for sale. One of them is during his birthday in--guess what month--August of course. On this date, he gives a discount equivalent to his age! This year that might be about 48%. But you have to get there really early. Boots Alcantara of Casa San Pablo told us that he woke up at 6 am for the sale, but his wife thought he was overdoing it. She asked him to wait for her so he took a leisurely breakfast and basically hung around his place (30 minutes away in Laguna) until 9 am. When they got there, the row of parked cars could've reached the next barangay! Okay, my own hyperbole there. But Boots continues to say there was a shopping frenzy, almost everything was gone, and sales had reached the 7-figure mark by the time they got there.

Good thing I have a number of Ugu pieces already and don't feel the need to shop, or to make that trek in August. But it was nice to see Ugu looking so relaxed and content in his pottery garden. He said he renovated the place three years ago when Patis Tesoro asked him to join an association of establishments that would be marketed as the "Viaje del Sol"--in an effort to bring tourism to this part of the country. It really is great marketing and I wish there were more Patis Tesoros who find fulfillment in an effort like this. During our trip, we visited 2 other Viaje del Sol member establishments and it was a wonderful experience for both adults and kids. Galeng!


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