My adventures in Bacolod as a sober traveler

Barni Alejandro

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My adventures in Bacolod as a sober traveler
'Sober traveling is also becoming the new trend, but can you really have just as much fun sans the alcohol?'

As a former heavy drinker, I loved traveling to new places and discovering the best liquor each destination had to offer. During my trip to the Wachau Valley in Austria, I fell in love with their popular wine, the refreshingly sweet Riesling. I rented a bike and hopped from one Heuriger (wine tavern) to another. During my stay in Germany, I gulped 1-liter mugs of weiss beer while watching football games in pubs and in Macau, I enjoyed bottles of their crisp Portuguese wine called Vinho Verde. While these drinking escapades may have been a fun way to learn and soak in different cultures, I also suffered from massive hangovers and blackouts. I got tired of waking up with a dry mouth from dehydration and watching the room spin.

Thankfully I am now living a sober lifestyle and witnessing traveling in a whole new light. It’s also great to see millenials and Gen Zers drink less and become sober-curious. It’s becoming quite common for them to practice Dry January, a 31-day alcohol-free challenge as a way to detox after excessive drinking during the holiday season. In the US, dry bars are sprouting in a lot of cities serving creative and delicious mocktails. Some drinks even contain Ashwaganda, an adaptogenic herb clinically known to help reduce stress. How cool is that? The demand for alcohol-free experiences is definitely on the rise and I’m all for it. 

Studies show that quitting alcohol even just for 30 days can result in the following:

• reduced blood pressure
• stronger immunity
• enhanced liver function
• deeper sleep
• weight loss
• better sex
• less anxiety
• boosts mental health
• may improve relationships

Sober traveling is also becoming the new trend, but can you really have just as much fun sans the alcohol? To answer this question, it’s important to find out why alcohol initially makes us feel more relaxed and giddy. When we drink, our brain produces more dopamine, also known as the “happy hormone.” We start to feel good after a couple of drinks but if you consume one too many, you will start to experience adverse effects such as dizziness, nausea, and dehydration. You wake up feeling wretched and depressed the next day.

During my recent trip to the beautiful city of Bacolod, I engaged in activities that would increase my dopamine levels naturally. Here’s my to-do list:

1. Go on a food crawl. 

My boyfriend who is currently living in Bacolod was my personal tour guide and sober buddy. It helps to be in the company of someone who’s also booze-free. As a health food chef working in Manila, I wanted to taste all the specialty dishes Sugarlandia is known for.

For the most amazing Chicken Inasal, he took me to Aida’s Chicken located in Manokan Country. It’s a strip of many stalls all serving Bacolod’s city’s signature chicken dish. I ordered the pecho or breast part. The chicken was so juicy and flavorful. It’s even yummier when you douse it in chicken oil.

Backpack, Bag, Urban
WELCOME. Manokan Country is your go-to for authentic Chicken Inasal. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Indoors, Restaurant, Person
AIDA’S. This bright yellow bird serves as a kooky greeter. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Indoors, Restaurant, Dining Table
SMILES. Good food always calls for good company. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Food, Meat, Mutton
JUICY. Always douse your chicken in chicken oil for the full experience. Barni Alejandro/Rappler

For the ultimate gastronomical fare for the soul, we visited Sharyn’s Cansi House. The place was jampacked with locals. Cansi is a cross between bulalo and sinigang. Instead of tamarind, it uses batuan as a souring agent. The restaurant also serves a deep fried version of this dish similar to crispy corned beef flakes. 

Advertisement, Urban, Architecture
SHARYN’S. Get authentic Cansi right here. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Food, Meat, Mutton
SOUR, MEATY. A good bowl of Cansi will warm you right up. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Food, Food Presentation, Plate
FRIED. Fried Cansi is a unique experience. Barni Alejandro/Rappler

For dessert, we visited Felicia’s Pastry Shop. They serve giant, soft, and flaky ensaymada that goes perfectly with their decadent tablea hot chocolate. 

Car, Transportation, Vehicle
HELLO, FELICIA. The robin’s egg blue sign is super inviting. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Cup, Cutlery, Spoon
MERIENDA. Ensaymada and tsokolate are a classic pairing. Barni Alejandro/Rappler

I was also lucky enough to be in Bacolod at the same time the Balay Negrense Food Fair was taking place. I tried the best-selling Lumpiang Ubod from the Sinda Belleza stall. What makes it special is that it has fried crispy bits of chicharon inside. Need I say more?

Chair, Furniture, Bread
BITE. A handy-sized Lumpiang Ubod roll. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Urban, Indoors, Restaurant
FOOD FAIR. Food brings everyone together. Barni Alejandro/Rappler

My food trip wouldn’t be complete without having Batchoy at 21 Restaurant. The broth tasted like it was simmering for days. It had generous amounts of toppings such as bone marrow, chicharon, and pork lomo.

Dish, Food, Meal
LEGIT. There’s nothing like Batchoy right in Bacolod. Barni Alejandro/Rappler

After stuffing myself with local food for many days, I wanted good-quality Chinese food. I was able to satisfy my dimsum craving at Fat Choi located in Ayala Mall Capitol Center. They give you the option to dip your dumplings in their addictive Kung Fu-style sauce. 

Indoors, Cafeteria, Restaurant
FAT CHOI. If you’re craving Chinese, here’s a good spot to check out. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Food, Food Presentation, Meal
KUNG-FU. The sauces are a must-try! Barni Alejandro/Rappler
2. Soak up some sun. Sunlight exposure boosts your mood since your brain releases more serotonin.

We rode a bankga to Lakawon Island. The beach had crystal clear water and powdery white sand. It has a floating bar where you can lounge on beds overlooking the calming blue ocean. I ordered a refreshing Mango Margarita Mocktail.

Beachwear, Clothing, Adult
SUN. Get in some good ol’ Vitamin D while traveling. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Alcohol, Beverage, Cocktail
ICY. Delicous mocktails are gaining popularity. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Horizon, Nature, Outdoors
THE VIEW. The calming, blue expanse of the ocean. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
3. Watch the sunset. 
Horizon, Nature, Outdoors
SUNSET. Cap the day off staring at the gorgeous skies. Barni Alejandro/Rappler

Watching the sun go down and the sky turn into different hues of orange and pink made me feel content, present, and peaceful. 

4. Expose yourself to nature. 

We drove to the Baguio version of Bacolod called Don Salvador and had coffee in Kusinata. The restaurant had the most fantastic view of majestic mountains and a waterfall. Right away I felt my body relax as I breathed in the fresh, cool air. 

Cup, Beverage, Coffee
CUPPA. A hot cup of coffee in the morning always does the trick. Barni Alejandro/Rappler
Land, Nature, Outdoors
FALLS. No vacation is complete without a bit of nature-tripping. Barni Alejandro/Rappler

My trip to Bacolod was such a rewarding experience. I woke up every day refreshed and hydrated. Gone are the days when I would be nauseous on the plane going back home. I’m very proud to say that I am no longer dependent on alcohol to enjoy my travels and seeing the world.

Do you have a problem with alcohol? Is there an alcoholic in your life? For more information, visit aaphilippines.com or email barnialejandro8@gmail.com – Rappler.com

Barni Alejandro is a Certified Addiction Recovery Specialist. She studied in Emeritus Addiction Studies partnered with Asia Metropolitan University. She also co-owns the The Sexy Chef with her sister, Rachel Alejandro, a health food delivery service since 2004.

#ShareAsia highlights the best and most sought-after experiences in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s a content and resource hub for tourists and locals alike seeking new, exciting experiences in the region.

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