Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jet-Setter

A jet-setter is defined as: "A person who travels to numerous places around the world to places that other people always want to go but never do." - from http://www.urbandictionary.com/ 

I never considered myself as a jet-setter but many people are calling me one.  According to Lakbayan site, I'm only a B- traveler.  I have only traveled around 30 provinces out of 80+ provinces in the Philippines.  Not a lot, not even half.  I still wanted to become an A traveler if based from Lakbayan site but that's quite difficult to do considering my work, my resources and priorities.  But if I got the time, I will definitely travel around the Philippines first before I travel abroad (although I've been to a few foreign countries already).  Love your own! And its More Fun in the Philippines!

I guess its because I have different group of friends who loves traveling that gave me an opportunity to visit the beautiful provinces in the Philippines, particularly the beaches.  But still, I don't consider myself as a jet-setter because when I looked at other jet-setter people and bloggers, I'm not even close to where they have gone.  There are more places I need to go and discover to appreciate better the beauty of the Philippines.  Thank God for blogs and forum sites (like Girltalk) which give information on various provinces, destinations and tourist spot in the country.

This is the reason why I created this blog to share the beautiful places I've been to in the Philippines.  But unfortunately, I can no longer recall all the details of most of my travels that's why there's a few travel post on this blog.  That's the problem with me.  I immediately forgot those details, like accommodation, fares, expenses, etc.  But those memories are all kept through pictures.  If I have the time, I really try to recall my travel experience by recalling the events from the pictures.  I wanted to share and help my readers on their upcoming travel adventure with my post.  I'm glad I am able to help some.

It really doesn't matter to me whether I am tagged as a jet-setter or not.  What's important for me is that I am able to help my readers through my blog post at the same time I got the opportunity to explore the beauty of the Philippines.

Let me take this opportunity to thank my readers and advertisers who supports my blog and find them helpful.  I'll try my best to post more travel experience with lots of pictures.  Thank you again.  Happy traveling!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Planning Your Next Trip

I previously blogged about the essentials when traveling or Traveling 101 which I learned from a talk during the Belle de Jour Planner fair/event.  So now, I'd like to share with you some tips I personally do in planning my next trip.  The basic word is "research".  But what should you research about?

Tourist Spots
Of course how can you be inspired to visit the destination of your choice if you don't know what's the famous tourist spots on that place.  I'm sure before you got eager to visit your next destination, you are somehow aware on where you want to visit or explore.  This is the first thing that I do, listing down all the tourist spots available in that place.  You can also check if there are packages available from an agency, hotel or tourist guide to help you visit your preferred destination without any worries.  But in case you're on a budget, you must just thoroughly research about it.  Some destinations, though, requires you to be accompanied by a tourist guide.

Accommodation
Scouting for an accommodation can be crucial as it is dependent on various factors like budget and its proximity to tourist destinations.  But one thing is for sure, for ever tourist spots you visit, there is at least one available accommodation or near to it.  If you will go on hopping from one area to another, finding an accommodation will be more challenging.  I remember our Surigao Adventure trip.  We visit a lot of provinces in 5-day trip which also resulted to staying to 3 different accommodations!

Transportation Schedule
Based on your choice of tourist destination, it is important to know the available transport schedule most especially if there are fixed schedule followed.  It is important to know the departure and arrival time as well as the intervals or the next available schedule.  This can be crucial in your itinerary planning most especially if you are following a tight schedule.   It is also important to know the travel time in going from one place to another.  This will help you determine which tourist spot to visit first or even skip out in case your schedule is tight (here's a sample of thorough transportation research that I made).  For a place with vast transportation system (e.g. trains in other countries such as Hong Kong), it would be best to print the whole train destination and its stops.  If you're availing a package tour, most of the time the transportation and fees are already covered.

Fares and Expenses
While determining the transportation schedule, it will be helpful to know the fares of each for budgetary purposes.  Same with scouting for accommodation.  Budget can also be one of your considerations most especially if it is limited.  You should also determine the rates, if any, of tours, entrance fees and other charges during the tour.  Most of the time, rates and fees are dependent on the number of people. Here is a sample of the expenses we incurred in one of our trips.


Itinerary
Most of the time, I prepare an itinerary for the whole trip from departing to Manila up to arriving to Manila including the time for each destination  (here's a sample itinerary).  Jotting down your itinerary can help you maximize your trip.  You will somehow have an idea on how your trip will flow.  From this itinerary, you will know if your trip is just right and not an "amazing race" type.  Some strictly follows their itinerary while some completely ditch it on the day of the trip itself.  It is up to you but an itinerary will help you forsee what you will be doing on your whole trip.  It can also be helpful if you have a "plan B" in case your initial itinerary did not push through due to unforseen circumstances.     


Things to Bring
Aside from the basics "what to bring" on a trip, it is important to know what other items you should be bringing in the various destination that you plan to visit.  For example, if you are planning to go on an island hoping the whole day, you should check how and where will you be having your lunch.  This may also entail providing lunch for your tour guide/s.  

Most of my trips are DIY or Do-It-Yourself.  That's why a thorough research is essential.  These are just some of the things I consider in my research.  In case you have other ideas, you may want to share them here.  Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Flying with Air Asia: Local and International Flight

I'm not really too observant when it comes to airlines.  I don't see much difference since most of my flights are not longer than 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Here in the Philippines, I've tried almost all of the domestic airlines available for my trips.  It was just last October when I tried Air Asia, which was Zest Air before here in the Philippines.  But for Air Asia, I tried flying with them in my local and international flight for the same trip.

In my previous blog about my free trip to Pimalai Resort and Spa in Krabi, Thailand, I choose Air Asia as our airline.  Well, its not really a free trip since the flights or airfare and other transportation cost will be shouldered by us.  In my previous blog, I am choosing from Phuket, Bangkok or Krabi as destination coming from Manila.  It was Air Asia who holds a flight direct to Krabi from Malaysia at the cheapest rate.  Tiger Air also have flights to Krabi but from Singapore. 

From Manila, I booked a flight going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia via Air Asia/Zest Air, then I booked another flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Krabi, Thailand.  I did the same for the return flight, from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur via Air Asia but then I chose a different airline from Kuala Lumpur to Manila.  Main reason is because of the flight schedule.

It was my first time to fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia via Air Asia/Zest Air.  It was a 3-hour long flight.  I regret that I didn't "book" for a meal (at an extra cost) for the duration of the flight as there was no any food for sale on board.  I felt it was the longest 3 hour of my life.  The time of departure from Manila was quite delay by some minutes but that's understandable since it has been a common problem in the runways here in the Philippines.

From Kuala Lumpur to Krabi, the airport will be at LCCT in Malaysia, domestic flight.  We were not allowed to stay or lounge at the departure area hours before our flight.  The in-charge personnel will just call on the passengers about 30 minutes before the flight. 

LCCT is also the same airport destination from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur.  Since we toured in Kuala Lumpur (you may read my blog post about it here), we can take either the bus or train going to our destination.  LCCT airport have various bus, shuttle and vans available to wherever your destination is.  It is nice that Air Asia have Skybus, their bus transportation brand, purchase option on their website upon booking.  It will be helpful if you plan to ride on it after you arrived at Kuala Lumpur.  But I think the rate is more expensive on Air Asia's website than buying tickets at the LCCT airport.  We chose the latter. 

Overall, my experience with Air Asia / Zest Air is ok.  Not much to rave or rant about but the flight was safe and cheap of course.  We didn't experience too much delay as well.  Although on the first day, our flight schedule was changed but it was only 10 minutes earlier.  A notice/advised was sent via email on the changes weeks before the flight.  What I like about Air Asia is that they hold seat sales even to near traveling dates.  So anytime you wish to go somewhere on an unplanned trip, you may check Air Asia's cheap fares.  I may not be able to grab a very cheap fare during my Thailand/Malaysia trip but somehow it was on promo.  By the way, I booked our tickets about only a month before our travel date.  Cost is about Php 6,000 per person, roundtrip (Mla-KL-Krabi-KL; KL-Manila from different airline).  Not that cheap but I think it was still a good deal.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: Rachel's Summer Place (Replacement for Baguio Pines Transient House)

If you have read my previous blog post, this is the replacement house given to us by Ms. Mila of Baguio Pines Transient House due to their mismanagement of reservations.  To refresh your memory, we reserved House #3 of Baguio Pines Transient House and paid the 50% downpayment.  About a week before our booked date, we were informed that it wasn't reserved to us (not under my name) and so they gave us another house, and this is it.  It was called Rachel's Summer Place.  Thanks to Google, I was able to check their FB page and found that it was indeed the house we stayed.

It was the house caretaker, Manang Femia, who mentioned to me the real name of the house.  According to her, the house was no longer maintained by the owner for several years already who is already a widow and resides in Manila.  True enough, the house needs some improvements and renovations.  Let me first walk you through the pictures sent to me by Ms. Mila on this house.

Facade of the house

The living room

Dining room and kitchen

Dining area

The fireplace

Stairs to second floor


One of the rooms



Here's the other room


Another room located at the attic

Room in the first floor

Toilet at the second floor

If you compare this to House #3 of Baguio Pines Transient House, Rachel's Summer Place is indeed, smaller.  In all fairness, the house was clean, the floor was well polished, and each room was carpeted.  The house also have a veranda but it is quite small and we were not able to lounge there since it was always locked.  Maybe the plus point can be attributed to the fireplace which is not available in House #3.  Though the house is small, it can accommodate big groups but with only 2 toilets.

Now for the drawbacks of this house, let me enumerate as it is quite a lot.

Rooms:
  • 4 Rooms available but it seems the 2 rooms were just converted to become a room (located at the ground floor and the attic)
  • The 2 converted rooms can only accommodate 2 people.  The other 2 rooms can accommodate up to 4 people.
  •  Even though the 2 rooms are quite big, no adequate beds or even cushions are available.  It seems that each only has 1 double size bed with thick mattress.  This mattress were removed from the bed frame and served as extra beds.  The bed frame were now covered with very thin cushioning or even nothing at all.  This was our assumption since some of the beds are hard while some have enough cushioning.
  • Wallpapers are chipped off already.
  • I saw a cockroach in our room (attic area), not sure about the other rooms
  • The living room can be converted to a sofa bed.  Throw pillows are also provided when you will lounge near the fireplace.  Although I saw some insects on one of the throw pillows.
  • Bedsheets, pillows and blankets in each rooms are ok though.
Toilet:
  • 2 toilets are available, in the first floor and second floor.  Both have lots of buckets of water and each has portable water heater.
  • All knobs for water to flow are closed, even for the flush on each toilet.  This is because water consumption is controlled, thus the presence of buckets of water.
  • There is enough water in the water tank but Manang Femia refused to switch it on while we were renting the house and all throughout our stay because she claimed that the water tanks may have leaks that makes it empty easily.  Thus, we can only use water when needed.  Even late at night, we still need to bother Manang Femia to open the water tank.  In my experience, I wasn't done in taking a bath, yet, there's no more water flowing in the faucet.
  • The flow of water in the second floor can become weak when people are using it in the first floor.
  • Flush in the toilet at the first floor is not working.  I don't mind pouring buckets of water just to make it flush but apparently it is clogged and is not flushing properly.  In short, this toilet is useless.
  • Water is very very cold in Baguio.  Its a bit hassle to use portable heater from time to time just to get a warm water.  Its even hassle that the electrical outlet in the toilet at the first floor is not working.  You need to take out one bucket of water from the toilet and plug the water heater from available outlet.  Once warm, you need to bring back that bucket in the toilet.  Indeed, toilet in the first floor is useless.
  • Toiletries and toilet papers were provided.
Kitchen:
  •  Kitchen equipment and utensils are available for use.  Drinking water is also available.  The refrigerator was most of the time turned off during our stay.  It will only be switched on when needed.
  • Gas tank can be used free of charged, but again with limitation.  The main gas tank will only be switched on when needed.  So if you feel like eating midnight snack, you won't be able to cook anything unless you wake Manang Femia up just to open the gas tank.
  • Water in the kitchen is similar scenario as the toilet since the house only has one water tank.  Most of the time, we use water from the bucket to wash the utensils.
  • There is a water leak in the ceiling that falls near the area where you wash the utensils.  The water leak seems to be coming from the toilet in the second floor.
Its frustrating that everything is controlled, most especially the water and gas tank.  Food and water are basic necessities of man, yet we cannot have these freely from this house.  It is not scarce but it was controlled just to save on it.  We came into a conclusion that because the owner is no longer maintaining the house, Manang cannot waste any of its resources.  Maybe she's the one managing it now so her monetary resources is limited to pay off gas and water.  But we paid for the rent of the house.  Isn't it our right to avail what we paid for?  At the rate of Php 4,500 per night, discounted price given by Ms. Mila, I don't think it was worth it.  We didn't fully enjoy our vacation.  
Well, I guess Manang Femia's controlling on all these stuff were understandable if she is indeed the only one managing the house with limited monetary resources, we cannot blame her.  Who to blame was Ms. Mila because she gave us a house that is not at par to the initial house we reserved.
From the Facebook page of Rachel's Summer Place, it was posted that the cost to rent the house is only Php 3,500.  But that was year 2012 post.  Maybe prices have changed due to inflation or whatever.  If the current rate is still to be at Php 3,500 and Ms. Mila charged us at Php 4,500, that would really made us mad.  I didn't bother to determine it.  I just believe in Karma.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Baguio Pines Transient House

Among the transient houses I inquired for rent in Baguio that is good for big groups, I fell in love with Baguio Pines Transient House based from their FB page.  With a rate of Php 5,000 per night, not bad for a spacious room and fully furnished house with balcony.  This is for house #3.  At the time I inquired, this is the only house available for rent.  Main house is also lovely as it comes with a fireplace.

After consulting with may siblings and sharing pictures of house #3, we all decided to make a reservation.  Reservation comes with a 50% downpayment, so that will be Php 5,000 since we will staying for 2 nights.

After 2 weeks, I texted the house owner, Ms. Mila, just to inquire on the house' distance to the market.  She called me up instead of texting back.  She told me that it wasn't my name who was reserved for house #3 on the specific date I inquired/reserved.  She asked if I already made a downpayment since its "first paid, first reserve" policy.  I said I paid two weeks ago and even texted her to confirm which she replied.  She then told me that the person who reserved made payments a month ago.  I thought, why would she tell me it was available the time I inquired when in fact there was somebody who already paid for its reservation a month ago.  Also, when I texted, she remembered my name, meaning she recalled our initial conversation.  I didn't argue on this further as she was quite kind when we spoke and besides she was doing all the talking, as if preventing me to speak up.  She told me that there is this another house but with smaller rooms.  I told her I need to see the picture of the house and its room for my sisters' information/approval.  She tagged me on facebook for the pictures.  Honestly, the house was incomparable to house #3.  If you can view their facebook page, go to photos and click Baguio Pines Transient's Photos (in between Photos of Baguio Pines Transient and Albums).  Starting from the dining area with green curtains and green table cloth (this was the last picture uploaded as of this writing) up to the kitchen with countertop table picture (beside the dining table) was the house replaced by house #3.  Be the judge and compare.  I will be posting pictures on my next blog post.

Ms. Mila lowered the rent to sort of relieve us of their mismanagement of reservations.  Since we only saw pictures, we thought this replacement house for Php 4,500 is quite acceptable.  She said that this has fireplace and there's a caretaker who can assist us in all our needs.  Drinking water is also provided and similar to house #3, it is fully furnished with kitchen utensils and equipment.  The only problem with this house is that, only one car garage available but the house is near the guard house so its safe to park the other car in front of it.  Also, there is no water heater but there is a portable heater where you can plug it in while immersed in a bucket of water.  We think these are all acceptable.  We will know our final verdict once we get there.  Besides, we are left with no choice since we already made a downpayment.  It would rather be difficult to refund the Php 5,000 without any assurance since it is our first time to deal with Baguio Pines Transient House.

So basically, there's no review on the Baguio Pines Transient House since we really didn't stay there.  Please read my blog post on where we stayed, here.

Transient Houses for Rent in Baguio

For family or big groups, I have a difficulty in looking for transient houses for rent.  In TripAdvisor, I only found 1 transient house for big groups and the rest are mostly hotels and inns.  So I thought of sharing with you the transient houses I have inquired and researched.  These can accommodate 10 people and up.

Baguio Pines Transient House
Location: Suello Village, Marcos Highway
House #3 - Php 5,000 per night (up to 10 persons; 3BR, 3TB)
Website: http://www.baguiopinestransienthouse.com/index.html
               https://www.facebook.com/baguiopinestransienthouse
Contact no.: 0915.382.4570 / 0917.323.9832 (Mila)
Notes: Their facebook page is more updated.  It has 3 houses with pictures while their website only has 2 houses with pictures.  We opted to stay here (house #3) but we were given a different house due to their mismanagement of reservations. Check my post about this experience.

Baguio Tiptop Vacation Homes
Location: Simsim Compound Tiptop, Pacdal
Unit 202, 302, 303 - Php 6,300 per night (up to 12 persons; 3BR, 3TB )
Unit 101, 201, 301 - Php 3,750 per night (up to 7 persons; 2BR, 1TB)
Website: http://baguiotiptop.com/
               https://www.facebook.com/pages/Baguio-Tiptop-Vacation-Homes/195409387164244
Contact no.: 0917.904.1778
Notes: Delay in response via text message (though I only contacted this globe number), better to contact them through their FB page via FB message.

Baguio Apartments
Location: near city (upon inquiry through text)
3BR Townhouse - Php 5,000 per night (up to 10 persons)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/BaguioApartments
Contact no.: 0917.541.4003 (Michelle)
Notes: Their FB page offers a lot of houses/condo/townhouse for rent which can be for transient or longer stay.  The 3-bedroom I inquired does not have pictures of the house on their FB page so Michelle just sent it to me via iMessage.              

Baguio Transient
Location: close to Session Road and City
Family Condo - Php 9,000 per night (up to 16 persons; 3BR with TB and balcony each)
Apartment 4 - Php 6,000 per night, off peak (up to 12-15 persons; 4BR)
Website: http://baguiotransient.com/
               https://www.facebook.com/baguiotransient1?fref=ts
Contact no.: 0917.558.6896 / 0920.969.3697
Notes: Gets fully booked quickly

Our first choice was Baguio Transient due to its positive reviews in TripAdvisor.  Besides, it is near the city.  Next was Baguio Tiptop but it was kinda expensive and it seems far from the city.  When I saw the Baguio Pines Transient House, I love the 3 houses because it is big.  So this was the one we reserved, specifically House #3, even though we were informed that it takes 10 minute drive to Burnham Park.

I had contacted about 2-3 more numbers, but I already forgot their website and some didn't respond.  Maybe if I could research further, I could have found a more cheaper transient house for rent.  But nevertheless, our budget was Php 5k per night for a family of 10 so these will suffice. 

If you know any transient houses for rent in Baguio good for big groups, you may share it here.



Friday, January 3, 2014

How To Save Money


Start the year right.  But what is right?  Well, it depends on what your goal is.  I believe most people will agree to me that one of their goals this year (or even on their life) is to save money.  But how do you save money?  I've read so many articles on how to save money but I can't seem to follow any of them.  Last year, I read Female Network's  (FN) Challenge in saving up Php 100,000 by end of the year.  I tweak the challenge a little bit to give myself time to prepare and not be surprised to the abrupt changes that I will do just to save up.  And I believe this tweak is easier to manage if you want to start saving up.

In FN's challenge, the basic concept is to save up Php 10 per day then add an increment of Php 10 per month.  So basically that's Php 10 per day for January, Php 20 per day for February, Php 30 per day for March and so on.  If you sum it up, by end of the year, you will be able to save Php 23,820.  Not bad.  The article also discusses other means of saving up like cutting on unnecessary expenses and having packed lunch instead of eating out.

For the tweak of this challenge, basically I replaced the increment of Php 10 per month to Php 5 per month and start at Php 5 per day for January.  This translates into the following:

Total savings for the whole year will be Php 11,910.  It may seem a small amount but you can start from here, especially for students who does not have regular income but only allowances.  You can also try what was discussed in FN challenge article, most especially in cutting down unnecessary expenses.  Personally, I was able to do this challenge last year.  Also, I save about 10-20% of the total bonuses I received.  Sometimes, even 100% of it.  I also have 2 separate bank accounts, one for my daily expenses and the other one for my savings/emergency fund. 

You may also try the blog I recently read which have a different approach in saving money.  You may read it all here.

The key for this success is discipline.  So good luck and have a prosperous new year!