The best way to spend a grand time with friends we haven’t seen for a looooong time is a staycation.
a vacation spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.
That’s what a couple of friends and I did when a friend for life, S, came home in July 2015 after a life-altering stay in the US where she is now based. Like most Filipinos based abroad, there is hardly time to do everything on those times that they visit. In the case of S, this is her first visit after, maybe, 15 years. One can imagine the number of friends and family members who’d like to catch up with her.
We are HS classmates who has remained friends through sick or sin 🙂 Originally, there were nine of us but some have been so out of touch after school life. I remained in touch with S and three of our other friends. After our homecoming, two more have been reconnected.
I had the task of arranging a get together that considers everyone’s availability and other time constraints. An out-of-town trip would definitely be worthwhile but after considering all options, I narrowed down the choice to a PJ party in one of our homes or a staycation which I used to think was no fun. When it seems the PJ party would entail too much preparation for the host, staycation sounded like a good idea. The next thing is where to stay. Again, I thought about hotels and nearby resorts until the idea of a Binondo staycation came about recalling from a previous blog post
. So I searched and presented the idea to S and our other friends. Guess what……. they loved it
So S arrived ….. met up with friends and family……. while I made the Binondo Staycation itinerary for a 2D1N stay. The activities would revolve around the must-visit restos or food kiosks where we would meet up with friends who couldn’t join us for the overnight stay. I was also thinking of spa treatment. There were so many places to go to… I initially wanted to book our stay at Ramada
. Then I thought of a friend I met in an online recycling group who used to live in Binondo and asked for recommendation for a reasonably priced accommodation that is clean. I figured we would be out most of the time and spending much on accommodation may not be practical. She recommended Peace Hotel
where they stay when their family goes to Manila (They are now based in Aklan). I searched for the hotel and checked what can be found there. Guess what… it has a foodie recommended resto, Golden Fortune
, and a spa
…… How is that for starters. The best part is we didn’t have to pay a lot for accommodation that we are likely to see only when we check in and when we retire for the night. I told my friends about my find and they were ok with it …. the consideration being safety and cleanliness…. which my Binondo friend already assured me about.
So the itinerary looked something like a foodie’s trip which is what Binondo staycation is all about anyway.
We set out in the morning. N and I were fetched by S and CC. S’s son drove us to the bus terminal going to Sta. Cruz. Getting off at Sta. Cruz, we started our first foodie adventure by going to Kim Chong Tin Hopia Factory, home of the best hopia in town, made by hand and baked in pugon. After filling our mouths and bags, we went to the house of ham, Excelente Cooked Ham, located right beside the hopia factory. Again, we fill our bags with scrap ham and some more processed meat like there is no tomorrow.
On the way to the hotel….
We wanted to be authentic and thought that riding a calesa
would be as authentic as we can get, so we did…. Only, four of us, plus the cochero, made the poor horse almost give up. I asked the cochero not to whip the horse. I fitted myself in the middle of S & N at the back. My legs were too numb after getting off the calesa. I felt guilty and sorry for the horse after that ride.
So we checked in the hotel. It’s a budget hotel…. no frills, no fancy lobby. We were ushered to our rooms. It’s clean with the usual amenities and good enough to sleep in. We couldn’t ask for more for the price we paid. Only cash, btw, and visitors pay for an additional one night deposit which will be reimbursed upon check out.
In the room, we ate some of the hopia which S immensely enjoys as it is one of her fave
delicacy. After getting settled, we set out for our food adventure…… We did not have breakfast. Our first destination is the popular Tasty Dumpling
, which is known for its crispy pork chop dish. Of course, we had to try their signature dishes, pork chop with rice and Hongma (sweet and salty braised pork) and their soya milk. I don’t know if the hopia filled our tummies but I did not find their much raved about dishes that good. The price is right and my curiosity is at least satisfied but the expectation wasn’t met. The company and the banter more than made up for the lack of appeal of the food to our palates.
We finished brunch around 11:00 am and by lunch time we are meeting friends in another resto. It’s a workday so their time is limited and they would be coming in at different times. This would turn out to be one-fully packed food trip. We made a quick trip back to the hotel to freshen up again
Our friend C texted that she is near Lucky China Mall
…. So off we go…. We met up with C at the mall and went to King Chef Seafood
which serve classic Chinese dishes and a variety of dimsums… We were still full from brunch so we just ordered dimsum, a lot of it…. which added up to the tummy bulk each bite. Another friend T would join us. The meal was liven with old friends catching up as laughter filled the air. The dimsum are tasty. I just found out that 50% discounts for dimsums are given from 2-5pm and 9-12mn. We ate around 2:00pm….not sure if we got that discount …..
After our very late lunch, we decided to walk to shake off some of the weight instantly gained. We aimlessly explored the mall without any goal in mind. C would have to depart soon…. Around 4:00pm, still reeling from too tasty food, we decided dessert would do some good to wash off that tastiness
Much as we want an authentic Chinese experience, we didn’t have so many ideas for Chinese desserts, so we went to J Co
for their donuts, of course, and coffee. MD, coming from school, would also be joining us.
T left shortly and we had some time to wander and go shopping before our dinner date with another friend, V, and her hubby. We would eventually lose ourselves in looking for bargains and bargaining for interesting stuff and not noticed that dinner time is fast approaching. V would soon be texting that they are in the vicinity. So we had to wrap up shopping and go to the hotel to freshen up and leave our loot before meeting them. I asked N and C to go ahead… while S, MD and I made our final purchases. Thereafter, we headed back to the hotel and met with the rest.
Dinner will be at Golden Fortune
at the ground floor of the hotel. Some posts include this resto among the must-eat places. So we did… With us still full and V on a healthy diet showing off a much slimmed figure, we did not order much. We had shrimps that looked forlorn, pata tim and cua pao; some veggies; dimsum and dessert of almond jelly. Verdict is neutral. Maybe, we did not order their signature dishes. We can’t really eat more at this point. I wasn’t paying much attention to the food too and was engaged with the good- natured bantering. I was also monitoring H’s location who was supposed to join us but cancelled when she was caught in really tight traffic.
After dinner, it’s time for relaxation. I’ve booked a massage for us in the spa within the hotel and we were looking forward to it at the end of a rather packed day.
It was one heck of a massage…. must be the vaunted Chinese way. It was both relaxing and invigorating the way the therapist kneaded on my body, concentrating on the right spots. The bamboo treatment to our feet was a bonus treat. The spa treatment ended with a hot towel compress as the therapist wipe off the oil from our body. I hate that it was over. We went back to our room to finally sleep….. not immediately …. we chit-chatted to sleep was more like it 🙂
Following day, S, MD and I woke up early and dressed up. We knocked at N and CC’s room to check if they are awake. N woke up. We told them to follow but N wanted to join us. CC remained in bed…. so we told her to follow us when she is ready.
For breakfast, we went to the food court of 168
and ordered our meal at McDo. This is our last day. S was emotional as we said our grace. She also had to leave early as she and her family are headed to Apalit, Pampanga, their hometown. We shared our meal reliving old times and sharing laughs.
With the little time that we had, we went around 168 to do some last minute shopping.
Soon S would be leaving and fetched by her family. CC would be meeting us in Lucky China Mall and having her breakfast in a nearby McDo.
In a while, we would all be headed home….. leaving a place rich in culture and history. Funny how I had never appreciated this place in my youth when I could have easily enjoyed what it offers since my family live a short distance to this place.
Maybe, a one day staycation in a food haven like Binondo is not enough. We ended up with full tummy throughout our stay with hardly enough time to digest in between meals. I learned better and would probably make it a 3D/2N stay to really enjoy all the hidden treasures of Binondo.
The following must try restos would be in our next itinerary:
I also read a good post on Orion Hotel
…… maybe, our next home in Binondo