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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.

  • 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.
  • 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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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.