Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 0

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Me and the rest of the advance team’s flight was on a Wednesday night so I still went to work during the morning till lunch time. Stayed at the NAIA 3 Business Lounge until it was time for us to fly. I was pleasantly shocked by how nice Turkish Airlines’ (TK) Business Class was. The past Business Class flights I’ve been on were Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific but both were not as nice as TK’s. 


Leg room was huge, there was in-flight wifi, the seat converted to a bed was the most comfortable I’ve been on, they had a pseudo-candlelight dinner, an in-flight chef, lots of good entertainment choices and the restroom was spacious and even had real plants inside. The fake light and real plants are shallow additions, I know, but come on? Nice touches, right?


Food, both dinner and breakfast, is as good as airplane food can be. I did enjoy the fish, which I usually order when traveling since I don’t want to be bloated in the middle of the air. Tried the Turkish coffee which was so strong, I only took one sip. 


We had a one hour transit in Istanbul which wasn’t enough to actually do anything but wait, which was fine with me since I didn’t want to get too tired. Upon getting into the place, drinks and food again welcomed us. Haha! Loved the tiniest salt and pepper containers I’ve seen. Wanted to steal them (I didn’t though). 


After a series of movies and a good night’s rest, we were finally in Tbilisi, Georgia. Looking out the plane windows, Georgia had a lot of unoccupied land. I think they only have 4 million people in the country, same number as the people in Manila. Haha!


Saw two interesting things at the airport. First was a passenger who individually wrapped her handbags. Why she didn’t buy a luggage instead, I will never know. I then saw her being interviewed at customs, because well, small checked in bags can get suspicious. Outside, there was huge gold, snail-like building. Pretty. 


The moment I stepped foot outside the airport and breathed in the cool fresh air, I knew I was going to absolutely love my stay here, even though I would be in the midst of work stress and lots of meeting arrangements. For starters, the weather was sunny but the temperature was cool and nice. Such a great change from Manila’s harsh sun and humidity. The architecture of the buildings and the uniqueness of the stores were so beautiful to look at, very similar to European buildings (though some would think Georgia is part of Europe, most Georgians would still associate as Asians). There was little traffic and people were scarce. Later on I’d find out that goods and food were affordable and delish. If I could identify one negative thing about Tbilisi is that people smoked anywhere, including inside of cars, taxis and even in the mall. Other than this, I knew I was already falling for Tbilisi. 


We stayed at Radisson Blu Iveria because that was where our meetings would be held. It was the perfect location, right near Shota Rustaveli avenue which was lined up with gorgeous old buildings, museums, the opera house and tiny shops, cafes and restaurants. Hotel was close enough to walk to tourist spots such as the Old Tbilisi Town where most souvenir shops, clubs and bars were. Plus, it was right beside Smart supermarket, Dunkin Donuts and Wendy’s fast food as well as the Museum of Modern Arts and the famous big metal bicycle overlooking the city. In front was a majestic view of the mountains.


View from my rooms (rooms because I had my first room changed) was so pretty – the pool, the Mtkvari river, the streets. It helped me relax after a full day’s work for a week. 


Room was basic, which I loved. I mentioned before how I don’t enjoy staying in a humongous, too glamourous type of room, since it feels empty and un-homey. So I was glad this room was the standard, business room. I loved how they had a cushion lining up the windows (so you can stare outside while thinking about what in the world are you going to do with your life). I also find their characters interesting, very loopy, unlike Russian characters which are more triangular-ish, if that makes sense.


After settling in our rooms and still being full from all the plane food we ate, we went straight to work and only stopped for dinner. Will share in my next post what happened next.

Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Trip Summary (9 Days Work Trip)

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Even though my trip to Tbilisi, Georgia is a work trip – we had a series of meetings there – I can’t help but gush over the small city and its wonderful scenery and weather! I immensely enjoyed my sweet and short sightseeing before, in between and after work and meetings. I am so excited to start sharing my wonderful time with gorgeous Tbilisi!
 


Dates: 14-24 June 2017, including about 16 hours of travel time per way

Flight: Turkish Airlines Business Class via Istanbul, Turkey (company sponsored)

Temperature: 20-27 degrees Celsius, sunny and super windy in the morning, got real cold at night; there was still sunlight until 8pm

Mode: work mode with bits of pleasure

Outfit: work outfits then casual after meetings; should’ve brought a thicker jacket for use at night

Accommodation: Radisson Blu Iveria hotel which was our meeting venue (company sponsored)

Expenses for pocket money only: $150 (shopping was so cheap!)

Halo-halong Discoveries Part IV

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Pretty gift bag. Bought this super pretty floral gift bag (P35) at National Bookstore even without knowing when to use it. Good thing I did because I used it to give something to my landlady on Mother’s Day (ganun kami ka-close. Hehe).
 


Sliced orange extension cord with USB ports. During my work trip in Pakistan, one of our usual problems was the shortage of sockets for our laptop and phone chargers. So when I saw this, I knew it would be super useful for our whole team, so that we can all just charge our gadgets at the same time. I wouldn’t leave it unattended though since I think it’s a bit shoddy. Haha! Super cute, lightweight, handy and affordable at P200 at shoppee.ph.

 

Drip Coffee. For the life of me I cannot remember where I bought this. Was hoping it would taste like my usual brewed coffee, however, it tastes different. A bit watered down with a nutty taste. Looks cute though. I saw some other local brands having something similar to this too.

 

Iron on Patches on Herbag. I finally did it. I finally customized by brown Herbag with fun quirky iron on patches for times when I wanna be silly and tote a not-so-formal-adult-bag. Haha!


Henna Tattoo. Played with some left over henna from India and the stencil I bought from Indonesia, right before my Malapascua trip. Smelled like petroleum. 



12 Buns of Swift Might Meaty. I normally like trying out new things as it comes my way – that fried isaw in Taft before it became famous, a DIY no churn ice cream, a new toiletry product, microwavable cake in a mug and even an unknown Indonesian restaurant. As I was walking around Robinson’s Galleria, killing time, I chanced upon this stall of Swift Hotdog.

 

I try not to eat too much processed food nowadays (Tita vibes) but what caught my eye was the 12 different ways to eat the hotdog bun. They had 12 different combinations of hotdog toppings which include the classic cheese sauce, salsa, coleslaw and con carne to the more unique ones like pork floss and egg salad.

 

I was up for the challenge. Then and there, I decided to try all 12 combinations and immortalize my experience here. Haha! For only P32 per bun, I knew this was going to be fun without hurting my wallet (but hurting my diet). Unfortunately, or fortunately, I only got to 5 buns (eaten at different times, mind you). Haha!

 

For a quick and filling pantawid-gutom snack, this is a great choice. You may also choose to have the brown/chicken hotdog for a small additional fee. Perfect pair with their mango juice. In fairness to them, they do not scrimp on the toppings so you really get your money’s worth. The hotdog and bun are both big and very filling. As long as you are not choosy with the hotdog, go ahead and try all 12 flavors, and then some.

Paragliding in Carmona, Laguna

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When my sister-in-law found out that there was a paragliding facility literally behind their backyard in their Carmona home, she knew she had to go. And she dragged our whole family. Haha! When I say the whole family, that includes my 3 year old nephew who flew with his mom! What a trooper! We prepared ourselves – P3000 fee for the weekend (I think only P2000 for weekday for 2pax and more), additional P500 for go pro rental, rubber shoes (no slippers), leggings, hat, sunglasses (a must!) and a comfy top.


 

On Mother’s Day morning, we made our way to the meeting place before 8am since we wanted to be first in line. We had Jollibee breakfast take-out and ate at the bahay kubo at the top of the hill.

 

Getting there early proved to be worthwhile since we were given priority (and we had time to enjoy the view). After a while, about 20 more people came so good thing the instructors told us our group would go first. Plus, they said that our fly was the last for the season, since winds were starting to be strong.

 

Once the pilots came, they started assembling the gear. 


I was half-expecting there would be a short orientation on how-tos and what-not-to-dos but nope, you just have to go there, get strapped in and hold on to dear life. Haha! The pilots were German, Polish and Filipino decent. That’s my brother getting geared up. As you can see, it’s just like sitting in a baby car chair.

 


Kidding aside, their only instruction is that while waiting for the wind to pick up the sail, just stand still. Once you are up in the air, that’s when you sit down.

 

Good thing the wind was good on our day since we didn’t need to run off the hill. We just waited for the perfect wind and the rest was done by the pilot.

 

Once up there, you just sit back and relax. Primo, my pilot, handed me the gopro and I started filming.

 

It died after a few minutes so I had the perfect excuse to just enjoy the view, bask in the sunshine and feel the wind on my face.

 

After about 10 minutes, we were done. The landing was smooth, you just wait for the ground on your feet. Haha! 10 minutes might not seem enough but trust me, it is. I think anything more than that lessens the fun. For me, I think even after 5 minutes I was already satisfied. This is something I probably won’t do again – it’s like a one-time-is-enough activity – but it sure was fun to do with the whole family. 

For more information, please visit their website.

Boating in Talisay, Batangas

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One of my colleagues invited us to a resort in Talisay, Batangas so we could ride on his boat. Who were we to pass up such an opportunity? So one Saturday, woke up early and a bunch of us headed to Batangas. I honestly find being near a body of water – whether sea, lake or man-made – relaxing.
 


What made this place special though was that the Taal Volcano was our background.
 

We got to the resort and saw our colleagues’ boat, named Argo and laid out on the resort were all the fun gear we would be using – paddle boards, kayaks and a tube to be dragged by the boat.


Five of us plus two boatmen rode in the boat and started sailing and ‘tubing.’ Afterwards, went kayaking and paddle boarding.


For lunch, our colleague treated us to this really awesome restaurant called Milan’s. We had tawilis (a must in Tagaytay!), grilled pork liempo, bulalo (another must!), laing (this was so good!) and tilapia with sauce. Dessert was leche flan. Honestly, everything was so good! As in super sarap.

 

Went back to the resort, did some more water activities, swam (more like babad) in the small swimming pool, played cards and just had a good time. Perfect weekend activity before my work load becomes heavy again.

 

If you would like to avail and rent my friend’s boat and related activities, you may contact him with his details below.

Bliss at Cinema ’76 Film Society and street food at Juanito’s

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Ever since my colleague told me about this small, mostly-indie-film-showing cinema late last year, I have always wanted to visit the place. It reminded me of my college days when me and my friends would watch indie films at UP Diliman’s Film Center (hello? I watched Boatman (1985) there and couldn’t even finish the film). Since it’s a bit out of the way, it took me awhile to actually drag some friends along, intentionally inviting my friend who had a car (haha!). When I learned that Iza Calzado’s Bliss was going to be shown starting May 10, I knew that had to be the first film I would see there.
 


Without even watching the trailer nor reading the synopsis, I really wanted to watch Bliss because of an interview I read about Iza. When they found out the MTRCB gave the film an X rating, Iza’s reaction was, “Porn star ba ako?” I loved her reaction and it was effective in spiking my curiosity so on the first day of screening at Cinema ’76, me and two of my friends headed to the tiny movie house.


I was actually surprised by how big the whole production company (TBA) and their office was. We watched the 8pm showing so no photos of their office and the cinema house but it’s fairly easy to find via waze. There are limited parking slots but it’s not located at the highway so it was ok. We got there on the dot and the place was already packed. The cinema can accommodate about 50 people. We ended up sitting at the back, with high chairs, which proved to be a great spot because (i) we could see well above the heads of those in front and (ii) that was the only place food and drinks were allowed. If you do decide to sit in front, comfy seats and fluffy pillows await you.

 

Bliss, for a Filipino film, was pretty good. Not for the impatient, not for the weak, not for the malicious. No slapstick jokes, no overly-gory scenes, no over dramatized lines. In other words, not for people used to ‘mainstream’ films. You don’t have to be the artsy-fartsy, hipster type of viewer to enjoy it but just someone who appreciates art (whether or not you get the art). My favorite elements of the film were (i) Iza’s impeccable acting (she is so underrated); (ii) the whole cast and their respective characters who all had well-written backgrounds; (iii) I loved how the nurse looked with her freckles and how unique her character was; and (iv) the build-up and how the director tied all loose ends of the film.

After more than an hour of the film, what better way to end the night but with street food, drinks and laughter at Juanito’s. We had kwek-kwek (P120), sisig pork isaw (P150 I think), chicken isaw on stick (P120), dynamite sticks (P175) and of course, beer (P50) to wash it all down.

 

Make sure to follow Cinema ’76 website. Let’s do our part in “keeping indie films and small cinemas” alive.

The most useful, convenient (and deadly) smart phone apps for the basic traveler

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Everything is at a push of our fingertip. No kidding. My fingertips cost me P35,000 for my two trips to Indonesia and Malapascua. Haha. Seriously though, I was so impressed by how easy it was to book flights, accommodation and even car rides just by using my smart phone. I’m probably late on this mobile app bandwagon but I’ve always been reluctant to depend so much on just one smart phone. But my recent vacay bookings convinced me otherwise. For a basic traveler like me, I’d like to recommend the following free apps for anyone who is a fan of useful, easy and yes, deadly-to-our pocket mobile apps:
 


1. Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Apps for fast and usually affordable airfare

I typically use my laptop or ipad to book flights through CebPac. But then, when I couldn’t get in their website for some reason, I turned to my mobile app, which I’ve downloaded way before. I was instantly connected! Before I knew it, I already booked a flight in a matter of seconds. Con is that their app lacks important features (currently they only have flight bookings and mobile check in)  and even if you do mobile check in, you still have to go through the physical check in which is stupid because it defeats the purpose of doing it online. Another con is that you can’t access your flights you booked through the website in your mobile app (hello? Your brand should be all inclusive on all platforms)

 

As with any good travel planning, comparison is always a good idea so I also downloaded the Air Asia app. Same as the CebPac app, flight searching and booking is very convenient. Sometimes, their website is down but you can still use your app to book a flight. Plus points for Air Asia that when you sign in to your account, all your information including upcoming booked trips are instantly saved. You can manage your booking, do mobile check in, print or even just scan your boarding passes and many more. I’m definitely placing AirAsia as my first option for flights.

 

2. Airbnb, Booking.com and Ctrip for accommodation

My go-to accommodation choice is Airbnb especially abroad but for this particular trip I was going to take, they didn’t have much to offer. So I turned to booking.com which is very convenient and easy to use. I’ve used this during my KL trip and no hiccups yet. I love how you can personalize your preferences so that it automatically looks for accommodation based on your choices. Another booking site called Ctrip was recommended to me by my Chinese colleague because there were a lot of times when Ctrip had lower prices compared to agoda.com or booking.com. So I decided to include it to as my point-of-comparison. I didn’t include other sites like agoda or trivago or expedia because I also think that too much comparing of rates is counter-productive.

 

3. Units Plus for all your currency conversion

I love how I can use this even without internet access, perfect for when you’re converting local currency to your own currency (for all those shopping. Hehe). Plus points that it includes other units of measurement that needs converting for when you are measuring your house’ interior or baking cookies.

 

4. Google Maps and Waze

Always great to have available maps just for you to have an idea of how far a location is, what to see around the area and how long it will take you from point A to point B.

 

5. Uber and Grab

I used uber during my Kuala Lumpur trip and it was so convenient. Nowadays, I trust uber more than taxi cabs so as long as there’s wifi somewhere, I’ll choose to use uber. Though it’ll show in the local currency, my credit card charged me in USD, and the exchange rate wasn’t that bad. So good. 

 

I also recently tried Grab since they have available vans, if you’re traveling with a big group. I also like their app more since you can do a lot more with it – even have your package delivered. You can mark all your favorite locations plus you earn points everytime you use their app, which in turn can give you free rides. You also have free coupons, like getting two bavarian Mister Donuts with no purchase needed, among others. And they always have awesome promos like discounted fare rides or no booking fees for Grab Taxi.


6. Bonus: A Language Translation App

I’m pretty sure this should be included in the list but since I haven’t downloaded one – even when I went to Paris and Tokyo where English is not widely spoken – I can’t exactly personally recommend a specific app. Still, a language translation app is helpful for any traveler.

All in all, mobile apps are here to make our lives a little bit better and less stressful. You may opt to save your credit card details for optimal convenience or input it every time you book. You may even pay some in cash. It’s really all up to you. But with everything, handle these apps with utmost care. Nobody wants to go into debt because of being “trigger happy” in booking your travels =)