Vacationista: Holy Week in Jakarta, Indonesia (Day 4 and departure)

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Our staycation day! No alarms so we woke up late today, though late for me is 800am. Haha! Headed down for brunch at about 900am then went around the Emporium mall downstairs. The mall has a department store and lots of other brands like Face Shop, Etude House, Giordano, Bread Talk and lots of restaurants.
We just took our time going around and again, I didn’t buy anything though my mom bought this magnifying mirror with LED lights for easy make-up application. Bought late “international” lunch at the food court again, consisting of Chinese noodles (IDR45,000), Korean chicken (IDR33,000) and French fries (IDR12,000), though the staff misheard me because I initially wanted rice.

 

Lounged inside our hotel room, went back and forth the mall and also bought our dinner at Bread Talk (IDR24,000), and even saw this gorgeous green topped mosque.

Till finally we had to leave for our midnight flight. Took an uber again (IDR61,500) to Terminal 2 and checked-in. Bought some taro drink with my extra rupiah and walked around the airport which had so many stores. 

It was only tonight that I took photos of the airport since I had more time. I love how they integrate Indonesian art and culture in their airport, with the structure and the designs.

 

Our flight got delayed for an hour and had to change gates so we arrived in Manila at 600am. Rested a bit at home then back to work again. Though there were some bumps in our tour, lots of traffic and unbearable heat, I enjoyed my short stay in Indonesia. My next goals are Borobudur and Bali.  

Vacationista: Holy Week in Jakarta, Indonesia (Day 3)

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We were supposed to be dropping by the shopping center called Pasar Baru Bandung but we decided to pass, we really didn’t need to do any shopping. We are such good tourists! Haha! Instead, I bought some snacks at the KCity convenience stores we passed by (amounting to IDR50,000). I also wanted to leave Bandung going to Jakarta as early as possible to avoid traffic. 


And we succeeded as it only took about 2 hours to get to the outskirts of Jakarta for our first destination of the day – Taman Mini Indonesia (TMI).
 


By the name itself, one might think this a museum of a miniature Indonesia. But it’s a mini Indonesia in the sense that it’s hectares of land with little versions of Indonesia in regular scale. Every region of Indonesia was represented. We paid the fee of IDR10,000 per pax and IDR10,000 for the car. So cheap! Couldn’t believe it.

 

What’s great about this place is that you can bring your own car and go to all the places in the comforts of your seat. You don’t even have to leave your car to see all of it. Of course, we went down on the few ones I found interesting but otherwise, we were perfectly fine just looking at the structures. Mom was especially happy since she didn’t need to walk. Haha!

 

The place is huge with a lake in the middle, a theme park for kids, museums and cable cars for you to see the whole place. Personally, I especially liked the Borobudur part – looking ancient and Tomb Raider-like. 

Next we headed to the National Monument and had a taste of Jakarta traffic. No fees there. Just like the Washington Monument, it’s a simple sphere in the middle of the city. To get there, you’ll go through stores selling clothes and small items and a strip of food stalls too. You could ride the free tram to get up close and personal with the monument but again, we declined and just looked at it from afar. So lazy!

 

We were more attracted to the shops around. Haha! Mom got interested in this pancake-like snack (IDR20,000) a man was selling nearby. He didn’t even had a stall – just two boxes filled with his ingredients and a small container filled with hot coal for cooking. He could carry all of these on his shoulders and leave immediately if needed. I didn’t like the pancake much but mom did. It was crunchy and savory.

 

We then decided to have lunch there while Asis was doing his noon prayer. There were lots of food stalls and tables and chairs so it wasn’t a problem. I, of course, chose some good ol’ chicken satay with peanut sauce and rice (IDR30,000). As mentioned, not all Indonesians speak good English so we had a game of guess-what-I’m-saying for a few minutes before they got my order correctly. The satay and sauce was so good!!!

 

Mom had some noodles with chicken balls and veggies. We also ordered a bottle of Tehbotol and avocado shake (all for IDR50,000).

 

We then quickly dropped by Masjid Istiqlal (Istiqlal Mosque) though I didn’t go inside anymore. Right across it was the Jakarta Cathedral, which is a Catholic church. I read somewhere that the two symbolizes the peaceful union of the two religions.

 

Asis then brought us to this Divisoria-like shopping center. It had about 4 floors filled with clothes, bags, shoes and other items. I really wasn’t in the mood for major shopping. But I did buy this henna stencil (IDR15,000) since I don’t think Manila has this plus we have a lot of henna tubes from India that I should use. I also bought matcha and durian ice cream in a bun (IDR10,000 each) though I didn’t like it too much so I only ate half of mine.

 

We were pooped by the time we finished. I think the combination of the heat and traffic really takes a toll on you. So we headed to our hotel – Holiday Inn Jakarta Pluit City Gate again – to check in and officially start our staycation! Haha! The reason I chose this hotel for our 2 days in Jakarta was because right below it was the Emporium Mall so it was easily accessible. I went to the mall and looked for some dinner and found some noodles and chicken rice meal (IDR61,000) at the food court (I love food courts!).

 

Also bought one cheese and Nutella crepe (IDR29,000) for dessert. I actually liked the savory and sweet combo of the two.  

 

Before long, we capped off the night and for the first time on this trip, didn’t set the alarm.

Vacationista: Holy Week in Bandung, Indonesia (Day 2)

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Our call time on the second day was early at 0700am, which I didn’t mind since that meant we could arrive at our first destination of the day early, which was the Kawah Putih, the main reason I wanted to go to Indonesia, or at least, to Bandung. 

Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Bandung was so much better than Jakarta, lots of choices plus there was an egg station. Experts say your food should be colorful so here goes mine. Heavy breakfast for the day ahead! 


Asis picked us up and in about 2 hours –I slept through the drive – we arrived at the White Crater. Paid IDR50,000 per person and IDR150,000 for the car where you’ll be given a receipt to be shown at the top. Asis offered to also take us to the Glamping lakeside but I declined, since I saw in blogs that it’s just a simple lake. You may also opt not to take your car and instead ride the Angkutan, those orange mini jeepneys they have, for a cheaper price of IDR15,000 per person. For mom’s convenience, we decided to take our car, even though it was way more expensive. We passed by two tourist spots which I also didn’t include anymore in our tour: the strawberry farms – where you could go picking – and the Ciwadey Hot Springs.
 


At our destination, you’ll be greeted by an Indonesian playing local music. To reach the White Crater, you’ll have to walk down a number of steps so best to be careful. There were railings on the side so mom was able to walk down slowly. Before long, we could see a glimpse of the gorgeous crater.

 

Until finally we reached the bottom and the crater was so magical! It was so bluish white! Was hoping for some fog for more drama but it was a sunny morning so no chance for that.

 

I really couldn’t capture te beauty of the white crater. 


Nearing the water, you could see the yellow sulfur at the edge.

 

I really enjoyed going here as I absolutely find the Kawah Putih gorgeous. Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates the amazing beauty of nature.

 

Going back down, we dropped by the small shops by the entrance, in case we found anything interesting to buy with our colorful Indonesian rupiah. We didn’t find anything. Haha. Some ladies were selling fresh strawberries though mom found them expensive, just like in Manila.

 

We did however stop by the ticket booth again since a seller was offering us really pretty batik inspired bags. We were able to choose the designs and paid only IDR350,000 for 20 bags. It was supposed to be IDR200,000 per 10 bags but we haggled. Haha. These are gonna be my Christmas gifts already!

 

We were right on track and didn’t need to hurry (since we didn’t pass by the strawberry farm or the hot springs) and went on towards our afternoon cultural show. But first, lunch along the way at Hedai Belacan, recommended by our driver. Interior had touches of Indonesian culture. The place was full so good thing we were able to find a spot.

 

Asis didn’t really join us in meals – as indicated in the tour package that driver’s meals were already covered – so it was only me and mom who shared the huge servings of a whole fish in sweet and sour sauce (IDR110,000), and chicken in spicy sauce made with local spices (IDR75,000) plus rice (IDR15,000). We washed it down with fresh mango juice (IDR20,000). We even had a doggy bag for dinner.

 

Saung Angklung Udjo was a few minutes nearby. Welcoming us was a huge group of bamboos, to my mom’s delight. Bought tickets at the counter for IDR110,000 per person, where we were given a synopsis brochure in English and our passes in the form of mini angklung necklaces. So cool!

 

Since we still had some time to spare before the start of the show, we went around the place and looked around their souvenir shop. 

 

A man was even playing an angklung inside.

 

Bought myself a mini Indonesian puppet magnet (IDR15,000) to add to the collection. 

 

Before long, we were able to go inside already where we were given free local ice cream – vanilla and chocolate – and some bottled water. I also liked their bricked restroom wall. Haha!

 

Right on schedule at 3:30pm, the show started. They only have one show per day so best to plan your itinerary around it, if you want to watch it, which I highly recommend. Cultural shows are always great. We did this too when we went to Thailand a few years’ back.

 

So as not to spoil your experience if ever you do decide to visit and watch, the one and a half show consists of different production numbers, as narrated by the host. This includes the live puppeteering, though this was in Bahasa so we didn’t understand a thing but it was amusing to watch the audience laugh. Then came the little children for a lot of different dancing. It’s amazing how these children – as young as the owner’s great granddaughter who was 2 years old! – trained so hard and so well for their production numbers. They must have been 50 in total!

 

Some of the dances were even based on the provinces.

 

My favorite would be when the kids gave the angklung to all audience members then Udjo’s great grandson became our conductor who taught us how to use the angklung. Each angklung had a different name and the conductor assigned different hand signals per name. So when he did the hand signal, the corresponding angklung had to be shaken. In the end, all audience members were able to make wonderful music together! One of the songs was even ‘I have a dream’ by Abba. Awesome!

 

Afterwards, the ‘real’ angklung orchestra played for us. The show ended with, of course, partying by all the audience members! Dance, dance, dance! So fun!

 

It was already dark when we headed to our next destination, the factory outlet called Rumah Mode, which again I read in lots of blogs. It’s like a mini shopping center with clothes, small items, local products and food.

 

Didn’t buy anything – found them quite expensive or I’m really just a cheapskate when it comes to clothes – except for this cute pudding drink (IDR16,800) and a chicken adobo-like viand wrapped in rice and banana leaf (IDR12,500) for our dinner.

 

We were exhausted from the whole day – mind you, traffic in Bandung is horrible – that we decided to rest and eat our take-away dinner at the hotel.

Vacationista: Holy Week in Jakarta and Bandung, Indonesia (Day 0-1)

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Because of the bulk of my work, I try as much as possible to grab the national holidays and go somewhere. We actually only have 10 days of holidays since I work for an international organization. Though I really wanted to go to one of the thousands of beaches in the Philippines, just the thought of the multitudes of people during holy week – the biggest holiday in the Philippines after Christmas – made me nauseated. So I reserved my Philippine beach vacation for the next holiday and searched for an international airfare to anywhere that would fit my budget. As mentioned, I’ve always wanted to go to Indonesia so after some deliberation, booked our flight to Jakarta. I really needed to push through with a holy week trip so I was really excited for this one. So off I booked the flight and planned an itinerary. By the way, bought these British Crisp chips (P42 each) from the grocery as baon and they were not good.
 


Mom and I arrived late at night so we immediately rested at the hotel. We actually took an uber going to Holiday Inn Jakarta Pluit Citygate (IDR64,500 and IDR16,000 for toll plus driver tip) which was really good. Cheaper than taking a cab which might be around IDR100-150,000, according to hotel. Caution though since not all Indonesians are good in speaking English as compared to Manila or Bangkok. Good thing one of the airport staff helped us contact the driver and made sure we rode the correct car. We also exchanged our US dollars to Indonesian Rupiah at the airport exit at the rate of IDR13,120 per $1. I was a millionaire! 

 

The next day, we had our simple breakfast at the hotel. Just like any Holiday Inn hotel, there weren’t many choices which was okay for us since we don’t usually eat heavy breakfast everyday. Our Bandung Tour Expert tour was supposed to start at 0830am but the driver, Mr Asis, arrived late at 0930am. That was an hour wasted which should have been used as travel time. It really got on my nerves, especially since I’m the type who is very particular with time (must be my training at work). I was even already researching for other possible ways to get to Bandung, like taking a public bus, which is not ideal because the whole reason why I got the tour package was for my mom’s convenience. It was so weird because prior emails and coordination with their contact person Angga was so good. He answered emails quickly, sent a suggested itinerary, was open to revisions and shared with us our confirmed booking. Then Angga failed to send me the driver’s details the day before our arrival. So I kept on following up – emails, calls and texts – but no reply. When Angga did reply, the driver already arrived. Worse still, we had to leave at 1000am because – if I understood him correctly – of the number coding scheme in their highway. So we literally had to wait in the car. Asis was nice and all, the Honda BRV was nice but leaving late was not my idea of a good start.

Our travel to Bandung took 5 hours! Yes, what was supposed to be a 3 hour drive became 5 all because of the hideous traffic on the highway! I think this could have been avoided if we left at 0830 as originally planned. Their highway lacked rest areas that I had to hold in my pee for hours. Couldn’t believe there was worse traffic than Manila. Finally stopped at one of the gas stations and had our quick lunch of KFC burger and chicken strips (IDR51,000). Wasn’t really in the mood to eat – perhaps because of the traffic and heat – but mom even found the appetite to buy one of their local pretty looking kropek (IDR2,000), sold in a carinderia near KFC, where we found Asis eating his lunch.

 

Afterwards, off we went again to travel to Bandung. Once in the Bandung area, we still had about 2 hours of travel up the mountains and through forests going to Tangkuban Parahu, which was closing at 5pm.

 

We arrived at 5pm. Haha! We paid the fees IDR200,000 for foreigners (and only IDR20,000 for locals!) plus car fee of IDR25,000 for 5 minutes’ time to take photos. Haha! Mom said we should just go ahead since we were already there. I was acutually pretty irritated already and it didn’t help that the souveneir sellers at the volcano were so kulit and annoying.

 

Since it was late, the fog or clouds were low so we didn’t see the volcano in full though it gave the volcano a much dramatic look, don’t you think?

 

By the time we left and arrived at our next destination – The Floating Market – it was already dark. Entrance fee was IDR20,000 per head plus we exchanged IDR100,000 for the floating market coins, which you use to buy the products inside. The entrance fee also includes a free drink of your choice – cold or hot coffee or tea. We were greeted by two huge coins at the entrance.

 

The place is huge with different shops selling their local products, a small rest area here and there, railway stations for kids, a tiny bridge, playgrounds and of course, the floating tiny boats selling food. It’s a shame we didn’t see it in daylight since it would have been great to just take your time there. But the plus side of visiting at night is that the weather is cool, no lines at the shops and there aren’t many people to bump into.

At the floating market itself, mom and I bought our dinner to eat at the hotel. So many choices! I had fun deciding which ones to buy. 



So aside from the tiny Nasi Goreng noodle magnet that I absolutely adore (calamansi as size), we also bought gado-gado (which is vegetables with tofu and rice and peanut sauce), noodles with chicken balls, cute strawberry and chocolate siopao, and a bottle of their famous Tehbotol, which is black tea. I was left with one more coin which I plan on making into a magnet.

 

We then dropped by one of the nearby popular factory outlet called The Secret. I read this numerous times in blogs where they said it is a must visit but I found their items quite expensive – about P800 for a simple shirt. Quality was good but I can get my overruns in Manila for a cheaper price. Mom found a P250 blue and white scarf (she loves anything blue and white) which was nice.

 

Headed to our hotel to check in, eat our floating market dinner and rest for another day tomorrow.  

Vacationista: Holy Week in Jakarta and Bandung, Indonesia Summary (4 Days, 3 Nights)

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I have always wanted to go to Indonesia, if for anything, to taste authentic satay. Haha! Seriously though, I want to go to all South East Asian countries and it took me awhile to book for Indonesia simply because airfare isn’t that cheap, compared to other SEAsian countries. Initially, I was planning on going to Yangon, Myanmar (but they too had a holiday on my dates so it wasn’t advisable) then to Chiang Mai, Thailand (same holiday) then finally decided to go to Bandung, Indonesia. The AirAsia ticket was about P15,500 which had a transit in KL, Malaysia. That meant about 15 hours of travel. I was willing to do this – all for the White Crater! – but then I checked Cebu Pacific and saw a direct flight to Jakarta for a lower price. Cost isn’t cheap but I really needed to use this holy week holiday for a vacay. Last year was in Kota Kinabalu (for a super cheap airfare rate of P3500) and a relaxing stay at Kota Kinabalu Shangri-La. After much research, found out that Bandung from Jakarta was possible so even though the total expenses would be the same, I opted for the direct flight to Jakarta for (i) travel convenience and (ii) hitting two places in one go.
 

Dates: Holy Week 2017 (12-17 April 2017)

Flight: via Cebu Pacific (arrived Jakarta Wednesday midnight, departed Jakarta Monday early morning)

Schedule: 2 Full Days in Bandung, 2 Full Days in Jakarta

Temperature: approx. 30-34 degrees Celsius

Mode: Super Chillax; Convenience is the priority because of the elderly mom. Hehe.

Outfit: Long summer dresses and ‘ababu’ pants

Transportation: Availed a tour package from Bandung Tour Expert (BTE) which includes transport arrangements for 3 Days; took uber to and from Jakarta International Airport

Hotels: Holiday Inn Jakarta Pluit City Gate and Holiday Inn Bandung

Expenses for one pax (in Php): approx. P22,000 (not including hotel and shopping)

                Airfare via Cebu Pacific: P12,200

                NAIA3 Terminal Fee: P1,620

                3 Days Tour Package for 2 pax: P4,900 (Total IDR2,600,000 + IDR200,000 as tip to driver)

                Entrance Fees: P1,500

– In Bandung:

o P750 Perahu Volcano plus P100 to bring our car

o P188 White Crater plus P560 to bring our car

o P75 Floating Market

o P410 Saung Mang Udjo

– In Jakarta:

o P40 Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMI) Miniature Park plus P40 to bring our car

Food: P1,600

 

Itinerary: 

12 April (Wed): Arrival in Jakarta International Airport

– Took Uber to Holiday Inn Jakarta Pluit City Gate (IDR61,500); check-in

 

13 April (Thurs): start of pre-arranged customized 3 Day tour package by BTE

– 1000: Pick up by BTE and drive approx. 5 hours to Bandung because of traffic! Should have only been 3 hours

– 1400: Arrival in Bandung plus additional 2 hours to Perahu Volcano

– 1700: Arrival in Perahu Volcano for quick photos

– 1800: Arrival in Floating Market; walked around and bought dinner

– 2000: Arrival in The Secret Factory Outlet

– 2200: Arrival in Holiday Inn Bandung; check in and sleep

 

14 April (Fri): Bandung Tour

– 0730: Pick up by BTE

– 1000: Arrival in Kawah Puti (White Crater)

– 1230: Lunch at Hedia Belacan

– 1500: Arrival in Saung Mang Udjo

– 1530: Start of Cultural Show in Saung Mang Udjo (1.5 hours)

– 1730: Arrival in Rumah Mode Factory Outlet

– 2000: Arrival in hotel

 

15 April (Sat): Bandung to Jakarta Day

– 0730: Pick up by BTE

– 1030: Arrival in Jakarta and go to TMI

– 1200: Go to National Monument and have lunch

– 1500: Drop by Istiqla Mosque and Jakarta Cathedral

– 1700: Check in at Holiday Inn Jakarta Pluit City Gate

 

16 April (Sun): Free Day in Jakarta

– Staycation at hotel and went around the Emporium Mall connected to Holiday Inn

– Check out; Took Uber to Jakarta International Airport (IDR61,500)

17 April: (Mon): Departure back to Manila and back to work
I’ll share a more detailed post on my vacation!

Foodie: Sendok and Garpu Indonesia Cuisine

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I am not a picky eater. I could eat carinderia food all my life, for all I care. But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy eating out and trying new types of food. Indonesian food – along with most Asian cuisine- is one favorite of mine. We went to S&R Nuvali to do some grocery shopping and decided to have lunch there but the line was so long and there wasn’t a free table in sight, so we transferred to the nearby open air food court in Solenad (too bad I forgot to take a photo), right beside the parking lot and beside Robinson’s Supermarket.  
Right off the bat we wanted to try Sendok and Garpu.  
We ordered their beef rendang, vegetable lumpia in peanut sauce, stuffed tofu and nasi goreng (Indonesian noodles), for a total of less than P500 (sorry I forgot). I like how their food tastes like, close to being authentic, without being too overpriced as compared to those in the mall. Special mention to the stuffed tofu which was really good combined with their special sweet and salty sauce and spicy oil.

 If you like Indonesian food, then try out this resto. Kudos to being in the open air food court, which surprisingly wasn’t that hot thanks to the cool wind and insulated roofs. Next time, I’ll also try out their milk tea plus grilled chicken meals and satay.

 

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.

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 =)

Vacationista: Labor Day Weekend in Malapascua Island, Cebu Summary (3 Days, 2 Nights)

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As mentioned, I still really wanted to go to a beach this year, even though I’ve just been on vacation to Indonesia a week back during holy week. Since I won’t be able to take anymore leaves for the most of the year, it was a no brainer for me to book somewhere during the Labor Day Weekend. Honestly, I don’t usually travel during Labor Day because (i) of the thousands of people also going on vacay and (ii) I usually forget that Labor Day is a holiday. Boracay was off the list, for the sole reason that hordes of people go there for Laboracay (ew).


 

As I checked my AirAsia mobile app, I found a fairly cheap Cebu City airfare (though later on, the fare became even P2000 lower. Grr). I’ve been to Cebu many times yet I also know that Cebu has tons of beaches that I still need to explore. Without second guessing, booked my flight and in less than 5 minutes, found myself planning for my upcoming trip. I wanted to explore the nearby beaches in Cebu, Malapascua topping my list. So off I went and researched for the basic info for my beach trip. Tried to bring some friends but none were available. So yey, for solo trips!

 

Later on, more like a few days before my departure, news broke that the ASEAN Summit was going to be held on that same weekend and that air traffic was gonna be worse! *gulps* No can do now so better to just lower my expectations. Haha! In my head, in the worst case scenario that I won’t be able to reach Malapascua because of the bulk of people travelling, I still have Cebu City, which is awesome on its own.


Dates: Labor Day Weekend 2017 (29 April – 1 May 2017)

Flight: via Cebu City on Air Asia (arrive Cebu on Saturday, first flight in; depart Cebu on Monday, last flight out)

Temperature: Summer Hot

Mode: Super duper Chillax, like no itinerary/ no plan/ no alarm clocks allowed

Outfit: Shorts and swim wear

Expenses: approx. P10,000

– Airfare via Air Asia: P5,777

– Accommodation at Thresher Cove Dive Resort via booking.com mobile app: P1143 for 2 nights (Single Fan Room)

– Land and Sea Transportation: P1,000 (2 way)

o Taxi from Cebu Airport to Cebu North Bus Terminal: P200

o Non-air conditioned Ceres Bus to Maya Port: P200

o Boat to Malapascua Island: P100

o Motorbike island transfers: P500

– Food: P1,500 (2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners plus snacks)

Upgrades in NAIA Terminal 3

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I am using “upgrades” here very lightly. Any kind of improvement in Manila – however tiny and however late – is an upgrade for me. This includes having toilet paper in our airport restrooms (even though this should already be expected in all establishments) or having ample seats or having a good airconditioning system. 

So I discovered this water dispenser last year but was only able to test it this year during my recent trip to Indonesia. NAIA 3 has a water dispenser near the 2nd floor restrooms, near the restaurants. But once you go inside and clear immigration, there are no more water dispensers which sucks because that means you have to buy overly priced bottled water. Comparing to other airports abroad, they have lots of water dispensers everywhere. So good thing we now have this sole water dispenser found past Bo’s Coffee in NAIA 3’s international gates. All you have to do is bring your bottle and press the hot/cold water. Thing is, water isn’t really cold and after you fill up your bottle, the machine indicates that it’s already empty. Once this happens, just wait a few minutes and try again. So happy for this tiny upgrade. No more shelling out extra money for a service that should actually be included in airports.


Next is this kiddie playground, also found inside NAIA 3’s international gates. Finally kids have somewhere to stay and things to do instead of roaming the hallways of the airport. Haha. Best part is it’s free.