Basco Port, Basco, Batanes

Basco Port, Basco, Batanes © Owen Ballesteros

The port of Basco in Batanes is not just any other docking area. For the northernmost province of the Philippines, this means supplies—eggs, cement, rice—from mainland Luzon, traveling days along turbulent seas to get there. This means a whole lot more to Itbayat, a community of 3,000 living three more hours from the port, the northernmost habitation in the country: it is their only reliable and affordable channel to the rest of the world.

Photo by Owen Ballesteros

Baguio Resto Roundup: Chaya

Welcome to our Resto Roundup features! We love good food and we’re always on the lookout for great places to have them. But we are not gourmands, so we’ll keep things here nice and simple. Enjoy!

Baguio Resto Roundup: Chaya

Chaya, Baguio

There are only a handful of restaurants serving Asian food in Baguio, and Chaya is one of them. It’s rather pricey by Baguio standards, so it’s not something we can go to on a whim, but the food has always been good each time we did. We didn’t get to try a lot of their dishes since we tend to order whatever’s good the last time (because it’s so pricey and we didn’t want to risk spending for something we wouldn’t like).

We’d say it’s perfect for special days. If you live in Manila and are in Baguio only once in a while, dining here each time is a good idea.

It is actually a house converted to a dining area, adding to the cozy Baguio ambience. It can get full fast on weekends, so making a reservation may be a good idea (the place is not exactly near other restaurants to save grumbling stomachs from too much trouble if it’s full-house). It’s not a big place, so it’s perfect for couples and small groups.

Some of our picks from the menu:

Cream Anmitsu (P130)
Sweetened red mongo and ice cream on top of cherry fruits
One of our favorite desserts ever. The homemade green tea ice cream is divine. Whoever said you cannot enjoy ice cream at such cold weather?

Chaya, Baguio City

By the way, the tiny scoop of green tea ice cream on the right (of both photos) come in complimentary at the end of each meal. But you have to try the anmitsu. Really.

Agedashi Tofu (P120)
Fried Japanese silk tofu served in Dashi Soup base
We’ve had better agedashi tofu elsewhere, but this one is not bad.

Chaya, Baguio City

Chaya, Baguio City

Chaya, Baguio City

Left: Beef Yakiniku (P250) – Thinly sliced sauteed beef served with salad and Ponzu sauce
Right: Gyoza (P160)

Chaya, Baguio City

Chaya, Baguio City

Chaya, Baguio

Chaya, Baguio

Mixed Tempura (P300)
tempura variety of shrimp, seafood and vegetables with green tea salt or Dashi sauce
The mixed tempura was definitely one of the best dishes we’ve tried at the restaurant. It looks a bit pathetic in photo but it is actually bigger and a lot more filling than it looks here.

Chaya, Baguio
Beef Sukiyaki (P300) – generous serving. We were able to share in this one, but if you’re hungry it wouldn’t stand.

CHAYA
72 Legarda Road, Baguio City
074 424 4726

Expect to spend: ~P1,000 for 2
Do not miss: Homemade Green Tea Ice Cream
Reservations: You can call if you absolutely have to dine on that day and it’s a weekend. Necessary if it’s a long weekend. Accompany with a prayer if it’s a weekend in December, because it’s almost always full.

You add P50 for rice and soup if you order from their a la carte menu;
Beers at P60;
San Miguel Draft Beer at P70;
Pot of hot tea at P100 (lemongrass, mint, lady gray, green);
Juices at P65, shakes at P90.

Sashimi starts at P250, variety good for 3-4 at P480;
Sushi good for 3-4 at P550;
Salads at ~P250, appetizers at ~P120, a la carte dishes at ~P250;

RESTO ROUNDUP SERIES


Postcards from Vigan

Horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping on cobblestone streets past Spanish-era houses called bahay na bato — there are only a few places in the Philippines as nostalgic as Vigan. The city, a World Heritage Site, is “an exceptionally intact and well preserved example of a European trading town in East and Southeast Asia,” according to UNESCO.
Continue reading “Postcards from Vigan”

Alcoves: Comfortable apartments at the heart of Makati

As my bus wound its way down Marcos Highway, I began to worry about how many errands I still had to do when I would arrive in Makati, including an embassy appointment that same afternoon. I was especially not looking forward to commuting since the weather didn’t look too cooperative, and because I just really hate having to commute around that place.
Continue reading “Alcoves: Comfortable apartments at the heart of Makati”

Twinning tours at the Philippine Travel Mart 2014

This year’s Philippine Travel Mart—its 25th—is introducing the concept of twinning, in which travelers can book a combination of local and international tours from exhibitors.

Here are sample deals to expect from one of the exhibitors and one of our travel partners, Shroff Travel:

Shroff Travel - Philippine Travel Mart 2014

LOCAL DESTINATIONS FOR AS LOW AS 2,307 PHP for a 3D2N stay, inclusive of accommodation, roundtrip air transfers, and daily breakfast.

Ilocos, Dumaguete, Batanes, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Boracay, Coron, Baler, El Nido, Bohol

INTERNATIONAL DESTINATIONS FOR AS LOW AS 55 USD, inclusive of 3D2N accommodation (twin sharing), roundtrip airport transfers, daily breakfast, and travel insurance:

Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Saigon, Singapore, Siem Reap, Hanoi, Seoul

Look for the Shroff Travel booths:
B1013, B1014, C1017, & C1018

They also offer 0% interest for three-month installments for Citibank card holders.

For more info:
Shroff Travel website
Facebook

The Philippine Travel Mart is presented by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA). It’s happening 5-7 September 2014 (Friday-Sunday) at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

How to have crazy fun in Thailand

Most travelers worth their complementary in-flight headphones have read The Beach, a seminal work of fiction about a late 20th century pilgrimage to Thailand. Showing the need to escape as both a blessing and a curse, the book describes a somewhat paradoxical paradise, a place to which so many people have traveled seeking solitude that is has become destroyed by a collective wanderlust.

It’s true that there are some schoolboy errors to be made on a first trip to Thailand, but this extraordinary country remains a popular first choice with travelers for good reason: as a destination it is exceptional. Travel agents, like First Choice, create great packages to give you the best possible chance to have crazy fun in Thailand.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your stay.

Chatuchak Market. Photo courtesy of tourismthailand.org
Chatuchak Market

Photo courtesy of tourismthailand.org
Bangkok at night. Photo courtesy of tourismthailand.org
Bangkok at night.

Wat Klang Wiang. Photo courtesy of tourismthailand.org

Avoid the Bangkok tourist traps

By all means, enjoy the heady neon commercialism of Khao San Road, but with the understanding that the novelty will soon wear off. Then, carve out a more serene path through Bangkok. Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn and Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha will astonish Westerners with the grandeur of their execution, while the Floating Market will justify often being referred to as ‘the Venice of the East.’

Beginner’s tip: On a temple visit, show respect by dressing with modesty, in clean, ironed clothes and shoes that are easily removed.

Have a howling good time at a full moon party on Ko Pha Ngan

Every month, on the night of the full moon, hedonists flock like neon moths to the beach at Haad Rin for dance music, body paint and alcohol by the bucket. One of the world’s biggest parties, they attract tens of thousands of revelers.

Beginner’s tip: The penalties for drug use in Thailand are rigorous; never risk eating, drinking or carrying anything from someone you don’t know.

Explore the north from Chiang Mai

More chilled and cultural than its rowdy southern brother Bangkok, Chiang Mai is the perfect base from which to head for the hills and experience the bright culture of the Thai hill tribes. First, enjoy the Northern Thai cuisine with a dish of khao soi, indulge in a spa day, and visit the hilltop temple of Doi Suthep.

Beginner’s tip: Attend a Monk’s Chat, where young monks meet with visitors to improve their English for some unique cultural insight.

Thailand is nothing short of enchanting for a first time traveler, but its extraordinary range of experiences will test even the worldliest visitor to its shores. For its winning combination of natural beauty, exotic culture, and the warmth of its people, Thailand is, as a destination, unrivaled.

– All photos courtesy of tourismthailand.org –

Life Extraordinary: The Butbut of Kalinga

The village of Buscalan is 17 hours from Manila. Although our journey was considerably shorter — 10 hours in all from Baguio via Bontoc, Mountain Province — this did not make the last leg of the ascent, which we trod by foot, any less difficult. On our first trip, this climb took two hours. Subsequent trips cut the travel time by at least half, but we still found ourselves out of breath by the end of it. That is what visiting the village means.

But imagine sacks of rice — two 25-kilogram pieces, to be exact — being hoisted up the same unforgiving slope on a person’s back. Or an LPG tank. Or hollow blocks and sacks of cement.

That is what living in the village means for the members of the Butbut tribe.

Buscalan’s isolation — it is two mountains from the nearest concrete road — means supplies have to be either produced right there or procured manually from the lower-lying areas of the town of Tinglayan, to which Buscalan belongs, and manually carried, piece by piece, up to the village. And just like so many people in communities we have visited in the Philippines, the Butbuts’ adaptability was such that even women could carry an LPG tank on their heads, up the mountain, and into their respective homes.

For them, this walk seems negligible.

Without any cellular reception, Buscalan has little in the way of instant communication with the outside. Post is claimed once a week from the Post Office downhill by a villager, who takes the mail up and distributes them to recipients. Cable TV seems available, but in the numerous times we have stayed in the village, we have yet to see a single TV turned on. Even with the kids, TV didn’t seem too appealing, although we noticed that they do like their candies.

Life is unhurried but not idle; in fact, we would always marvel at how long a single day here can last, how much everybody else seemed to accomplish while having more than enough time for siesta.

Buscalan also has some of the oldest – and most agile — people we have ever met. Some of them are so old nobody—even their family members—seemed to know the exact age anymore. And this is not surprising. The Butbut people grow their own food; there is no pollution to grapple with everyday; their daily activities allow them ample exercise. What else, really, do you need to enjoy a good long life?

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino Photography / Two2Travel
A Butbut woman walks to her home in Buscalan, Kalinga. Buscalan is surrounded by the Cordillera mountains and rice terraces.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
Whang-od, the tribe’s 95-year-old tattoo artist, wields a scythe as she weeds out a portion of her farm land to plant beans. It is common for old people like Whang-od to still attend to their farms, located a good distance from their huts.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
A Butbut woman tends to her rice crops just before the harvest season.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
Bundles of rice are dried outside following the harvest in July.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
A Butbut woman sifts through rice before cooking.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Whang-od cooks rice over wood fire on a crude stove in her kitchen. Although the kitchen is equipped with a gas stove, Whang-od prefers cooking this way.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
A Butbut woman manually weeds out bad beans for the day’s lunch.

Hands of Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
Whang-od bundles corn from this season’s harvest. An agricultural community, Buscalan is surrounded by farm lands terraced from mountain slopes, where villagers plant rice, root crops, and vegetables.

Buscalan, Kalinga
Whang-od peels yam for boiling. Unable to chew because all her teeth have fallen off, she resorts to soft, boiled food instead.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
Butbut kids in elementary level slice vegetables for a school competition to end the Nutrition Month. Diet in the village usually comprises vegetables and rice, and kids are taught from a young age how to cook.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino Photography / Two2Travel
A family shares a meal on the floor of their kitchen.

Kids of Buscalan munch on sugar cane, their equivalent of candy.
Local kids nibble on strips of sugar cane, their equivalent of candy.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Whang-od feeds her pigs outside her home in Buscalan. Pigs play a central role in village life. Families grow and then sell them to other villagers, who may need it for special ceremonies or gatherings.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
A Butbut woman starts the ascent to her village while balancing her load on top of her head. Local people can get to the village in as little as 15 minutes.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Apo Baydon, foreground, is believed to be over a century old and is Buscalan’s oldest living person. He still makes brooms and small scythes, and does not look over 80.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
A Butbut tribeswoman carries newly laundered clothes from downstream — where she did her laundry — all the way up to the village, which takes about 20 minutes along very steep slopes.

~
Photos by Owen and Nikka

Coffee and Community: Photos from Buscalan, Kalinga

Coffee is free in Buscalan.

It is served about three times a day, sometimes more. When there’s nothing else to do, when there’s just too much going on, when there are visitors to welcome, early in the morning, before going to bed — there are never too many excuses to have a steaming vat of Kalinga brew, served black and piping hot.

And if its coffee is any indication, Buscalan is a place for strangers to feel right at home.

Kalinga Coffee
Kalinga is a coffee producer. Ground to a talcum consistency, coffee is cooked with brown sugar and is served black.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Kids gather around a man playing a local song on the guitar. There is only one guitar in the entire village, and its sound usually draws children to wherever it is played.

Buscalan, Kalinga /
Locals simply call this game chess, although it is played with dice.

Village children wash dishes at communal washing areas placed in between houses. Households do not have individual water systems.
Kids wash dirty dishes at communal water sources scattered throughout the village. Households in Buscalan do not have individual water pipe lines, but supply is plentiful as it comes from a nearby waterfall.

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino / Two2Travel

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Villagers haul food and cooking implements along rice terraces for a picnic.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Men butcher a small pig by the river. In so-called picnics such as this, everyone who participates makes a contribution, either in kind or through labor.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Men cleave the pig’s body for cooking. Some parts are grilled, others boiled. The head was especially reserved for Whang-od, the tribe’s tattoo artist many tourists come to Buscalan for.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Portions of the cooked pig are evenly distributed to everyone who is present.

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Buscalan, Kalinga /
Students line up for a prayer at the start of a school program. The village has school buildings for elementary kids, but these are in dire need of instructional materials.

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino Photography / Two2Travel
Small kids race to the top of a small wall in the village. Playtime often looks like this in Buscalan.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Kids play the flute in front of a guest house while other kids look on. Impromptu performances like this draw the attention of villagers.

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino Photography / Two2Travel
Villagers gather around after dinner, like they usually do with or without electricity.

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Photos by Owen and Nikka

Hong Kong, Day Zero to One

I received word that I will be sent to Hong Kong just two days before flying out. This freaked me out so bad for a couple of reasons: first, I had to be there the night before the flight—meaning, the following day—for an editorial briefing and a client-hosted dinner afterward. This meant only one thing: clothes. Proper clothes.

That, and the fact that I had seven hours’ worth of winding roads and expressways between me and my destination. I racked my closet (aka dump of unused clothing, mercifully on a pile that’s different from those waiting in vain to get to the laundry) and packed like a maniac, stuffing the nicest, most decent pieces my slipper-wearing self can afford.

“Please bring formalwear for dinner,” said a text message. I was ready to cry and whimper like a little kid right there. But no, I was an adult, and nobody needed to know the ruckus my brain — and my apartment — was going through that day.

I made it through all the pretentiousness of cleaning up — I wore shoes and pants! — and even got a compliment from our well-heeled publisher when he spotted me sitting by the office’s waiting area with my luggage: “Hey, you look like a jetsetter!”

He didn’t see me roll my eyes.

I had nursed another expected headache that night, and for a time I cursed the additional baggage I’ve had to fit into my already-crammed luggage — folders and discs and a ridiculously thick hoodie given to me (“You’re going to need that”).

The next day came, and with me alone and having to attempt to mingle with other people who spoke better English than I did, I was overwhelmed. I only had time to savour the fact that I flew business class for the first time and had silver cutlery onboard instead of disposables.

The day whizzed past in a blur of airport gates, forlorn-looking spaces, grey skies, and buildings in sundry shapes and sizes. Before I knew it, we were boarding the cruise ship we were about to stay on for the rest of the trip. I started working the moment I stepped in, and continued well into the night. By 11 PM, I was reeling from exhaustion and seasickness despite having taken medication earlier. I literally stumbled to my cabin after long agonizing minutes of trying to locate it and then collapsed to sleep (are ship carpets really supposed to have big wavy prints on them in ridiculous neon color combinations that will make you barf faster than you can hold?). If the ship sank in the middle of the South China Sea that night, I would not have cared.

In those final moments of quiet, just before my brain shut down, I realized that hey, I’m in a new country!

And then everything just went blank.

Hong Kong

~
Words and photos by Nikka

Brunei’s numbers, colors, and gold

Brunei. What’s in there?

Gold. Lots of it.

Well, this is both true and false. It is true because Brunei Darussalam, a sultanate southwest of the Philippines on Borneo Island, has lots of gold — from the domes of its lavish mosques to the bidets of its restrooms to the buttons of its well-loved sultan’s clothes.

But Brunei does not produce gold — well except for liquid black gold, or crude oil, which has shaped the fortune of this tiny country, allowing it to amass — nay, import — all the (yellow) gold everyone now sees in and around it.

Brunei is very close to the Philippines, but the differences are quite stark. Bruneians — the citizens of Brunei — enjoy lots of freebies, which frankly we Filipinos can do with as well: free housing, free healthcare, free education, interest-free loans. And because the country produces oil, petrol for cars is said to be very cheap.

We checked how much: according to globalpetrolprices.com, a liter of gasoline in Brunei is 0.43 USD — P18.49 — as of June 23 this year.

Most of its citizens also have two cars, and although the dwellings at Kampong Ayer — or Water Village — look rather rundown, inside are modern appliances, air-conditioning, and probably gold-plated toilets.

And oh, before we even forget, Bruneians pay no taxes. I repeat. They have no f*cking taxes.

Now, before we all pull all our hairs out of envy of their tax-free existence, allow us to take you around this tiny country’s mosques, markets, rainforests, and one of its biggest hotels.

Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah
This is the biggest mosque in Brunei, locally known as Kiarong Mosque. Its domes are gold-plated, but of course you already knew that.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Malay Technology Museum
This museum, right beside Brunei Museum, displays artifacts from the earliest ways of life in Brunei — primarily in the water villages (the country’s population is predominantly Malay). These include ‘stilt architecture, boat making, fishing techniques, handicrafts’, according to Lonely Planet.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Tamu Kianggeh Open-Air Market
The Tamu Kianggeh (tamu is the local term for market) is a bustling space where local handicrafts and produce — including, if you noticed, big-ass chili — are sold. It is located on the banks of the Kianggeh River.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Pasar Gadong
Like all night markets, Pasar Gadong offers fried and skewered food at cheap prices, usually under B$3.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Kampong Ayer (Water Village)
The Water Village is a local dwelling area. Brightly painted houses stand on stilts, and locals navigate through boats. This village is self-contained, with its own public facilities such as hospitals and schools.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
Inside a typical (!) local home — which has a so-called open house for tourists.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
Water taxi used in ferrying people to and from Kampong Ayer

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Ulu Temburong National Park
Seventy percent of Brunei’s 5,700+ sq km land area is composed of rainforest. A part of this — 50,000 hectares — is the Ulu Temburong National Park. It is home to mangroves, various species of birds, proboscis monkeys, and crocodiles. Excursions start via water taxi from Bandar Seri Begawan, into 1,300+ steps (yes, a staircase) up and deep into the forest, ending in the Canopy Walk, a 140-foot three-tiered installation one needs to climb for a 360-degree view of the rainforest canopy (thus the name) and Mt. Kinabalu in the distance.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
Canopy Walk

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
The highest tier of the Canopy Walk

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
Left: Longboat to/from the Sumbiling Eco Village. Right: Waterfall inside the Ulu Temburong National Park.

Sumbiling Eco Village
Sumbiling Eco Village is a usual stop for excursions to Ulu Temburong National Park.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
Typical Iban longhouse. With AC and car port. :) The Iban are an indigenous tribe in Brunei. They are former headhunters, but British rule has stopped the practice. Traditionally, several families occupy one longhouse.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
Banana fritters

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
Bamboo chicken. According to borneoguide.com, bamboo chicken is ‘a culinary specialty we are known for, featuring succulent pieces of chicken marinated with spices and herbs, then stuffed into a green bamboo tube and carefully cooked over (sic) wood fire. The moisture contained in this particular type of bamboo ensures the tube does not break open while cooking, and also contributes to a flavourful broth without pouring in any water at anytime during the cooking process.’

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
A man cooks the stuffed bamboo in wood fire. Ugh. Now I’m hungry.

Empire Hotel and Country Club
The Empire is the most lavish hotel in the whole sultanate. It has, among others, 21K gold-plated bathroom fixtures and an 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. It has 500 rooms spread over 180 hectares, and the flush knobs on its toilet seats are probably worth more than we are, combined.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
The Emperor Suite – the priciest in the hotel at B$16,000 (P500,000+, in case you needed to know).

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
Tywin Lannister would be pleased.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros
63-sqm pool and jacuzzi inside the Emperor Suite.

Two2Travel: Brunei - Empire Hotel / © Owen Ballesteros

So, what’s the catch?

Alcohol is prohibited. Throughout the country!

~
 This trip was taken by Owen in 2013 as a photographer for AsianTraveler and was sponsored by Brunei Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines. All photographs by Owen Ballesteros. Words by Nikka
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