Vacationista: Labor Day Weekend in Malapascua Island, Cebu plus Sirao Garden and Temple of Leah (Day 3)

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I planned on leaving by 10am today since I didn’t want to wait till check-out to go. I got up at around 7am, had some karinderya breakfast, fell asleep again then lounged at the bahay kubo. By 10am, I was already at the boat station waiting for the boat.


Tip: the boat station is different from where we arrived. This is where boats depart going back to Maya port. I saw in their schedule board that boats leave every 30 minutes. Paid P100 for the big boat but since it was low tide, a smaller boat they called a boat-y (boatie?) needed to take us to the big boat.


 Paid P20 for the boat-y. Take note that Maya has two ports: the old and new and where your boat will dock depends on the boat. When I arrived, I left from the new port but upon going home, the boat docked at the old port. For a moment, I was worried: was I in another island? Not to fret though since there was a motor bike waiting at the old port and I asked if he could bring me to the Ceres bus terminal, which is located right beside the new port. That’s when he explained to me the old and new port confusion. Paid P30 for the ride.

 

Arrived at the Ceres bus terminal – I was the only passenger there – and the staff told me that if I wanted to leave right away, I could ride the Deluxe bus (non-aircon). I wanted the aircon bus so he told me I had to wait 40 minutes, which was fine with me since I had my stock of Netflix shows to pass the time. But after about 10 minutes, he said I could go on the aircon bus already. The bus left, picked up more passengers at the nearby new port and thus started the 5 hour journey back to Cebu City. Passed by a cute, pink church and of course, one of the stop overs was at that yummy bbq place so I bought me some pork bbq and puso (rice) for P48. So good!

 

I actually planned on going to Sirao Garden once in Cebu City, given I still had time. Since I arrived at around 4pm in the city, I decided to go forth with my plan. Made my way to JY Square (took the 01k jeep to SM then the number 4 jeep to JY Square) where the motor drivers who will bring you to the garden are located. How will you know you’re at JY Square? Motor bike drivers, even before you get out of the jeep and even before the jeep has fully stopped, will start shouting ‘Sirao Garden’ and annoy the hell out of you. I hate people like that so I actually got off farther down from the jeepney stop. I walked back towards the group of drivers and while the annoying ones were busy with the other tourists, I approached this one quiet guy standing at the back. Joseph (0905 025 7146) offered P150 going to Sirao Garden then P200 if we add Temple of Leah. He also offered to go to TOPs Lookout but I wasn’t interested in that so for the garden and temple, it was P200. Initially, I thought this was roundtrip already – as mentioned in some blogs – but later on found out it was per way. Perhaps they had a price increase? Haha. Anyway, I didn’t stress it since I just keep in mind that I’m helping the locals make a living. With my helmet on and one hand holding on for dear life, off we went for the 45minute drive uphill.

 

Note that this is not for the faint hearted. There were times when Joseph would go really fast, like he was so used to going through the route. An adventure, for sure, but not for everyone especially for those who are a bit on the safe side. View was nice though and air was cool and fresh. Tip: If you want to see an overview of the city but don’t want to go to TOPs for the viewing deck, stop over at the small carinderia right across it for a great view (we didn’t stop though).

 

Finally arrived at Sirao Garden where there were a lot of people and cars. Entrance fee is now P50 (when before it was P30 according to blogs). I think they are open from 10am-6pm. Inside and even right outside the garden are some stalls selling snacks like banana que, turon, buko juice, corn and the like. Had a light snack of turon (P12) which I shared with Joseph and some buko juice.

 

Once inside, you’ll see the vast garden with blooming flowers – from sunflowers to small yellow flowers to the most famous one called brain celosia. They were beautiful though I had a hard time getting a half-decent photo due to the number of visitors.


 

Our next stop was The Temple of Leah. It was already sundown so it was quite dark when we got there. Paid P50 when before it was free. This is to be expected since there has been an increase in visitors. I think this has a huge potential to become a major tourist attraction in the coming years, especially once everything is constructed, though really not entirely original in its theme. I’ve been to Europe and have seen other better tourist spots than this but considering this is in Cebu, I think more people would want to visit it.

 


When I got there, there was still a tractor and some unfinished business but generally, it’s almost finished. So many people though. Can’t blame them as it’s a nice place to hang out at.


 

Around 6pm, I was ready to go home. My flight was at 10pm and when I told Joseph, he offered to take me directly to the airport. In the end, I paid him P600 plus P50 tip for the whole afternoon ride. Imagine going to the airport – driving through Cebu City’s bridge – on a motorbike. Yep, super possible. Arrived at Mactan airport before 7pm. After freshening up, walked around and looked for dinner. So happy they had Zubuchon there because I really wanted to eat Cebu lechon before I leave! Yas! I ordered the lechon meal with rice and atchara (P220) plus 3 citrus iced tea (P80). The lechon was so good! Meat was tasty and super soft while the skin was crispy and yummy. Anthony Bourdain was right. Best pig ever!

 

My flight got delayed for about an hour because they didn’t have parking – who knew that applied to planes too?! – but that didn’t dampen my spirits. I immensely enjoyed the whole weekend of beach bumming, long commuting by air, land and sea and basically just going on an adventure. I’m happy I can make memories like this – memories I can look back to and would only ignite happy thoughts, rainbows and laughter.  

Vacationista: Labor Day Weekend in Malapascua Island, Cebu (Day 2)

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Though I didn’t set my alarm clock, I still woke up insanely early today: 0600am. Must be the sunlight washing through my window. So I decided to change and head to Bounty Beach, the more popular beach in the island since it’s the longest one, is lined with restaurants, resorts and diving centers and is actually where the boats are docked – convenient for those diving or going island hopping. I still prefer staying at Thresher Cove at ‘my beach’ instead of any Bounty Beach resort because at least in Thresher Cove, there are no boats but just sea and sand – all for you. In Bounty Beach, you’re competing with the docked boats.

I walked from end to end, just to see the place. Then found my spot, settled in and chilled. Oh, and yes, people-watched too.
 

Side note: I recommend having a wet bag and a beach roundie. Bought my pretty wet bag from the Trunk Show (took me months before I decided to buy it) and it’s really sturdy. It’s not water proof but enough to serve its purpose. My roundie (P350) is from a local online seller (couldn’t find the one I bought via amazon. Huhu) and I love how light-weight and easy to clean it is. Sand doesn’t stick (unlike if you get the micro fiber roundies which would also be heavier), can simply be folded and easily dries. Design is shockingly pretty too.

 

When I felt my stomach rumble at around 930am, packed my stuff and asked one of the drivers to take me to the famous Ging-Gings which almost all the blogs I read recommended. Good thing I arrived mid-day as there were not a lot of people. It’s a simple carinderia with plastic chairs. But I was pleasantly surprised with their serving. They also have wifi for a minimal fee of P5. Tip: their wifi is extremely fast compared to Thresher Cove’s.

 

Technically, this is my breakfast but decided to make it a heavy brunch so that I wouldn’t have to go out again for lunch. I had their iced coffee (P50), tapsilog meal (P100) then ordered extra fried egg (P15) and extra garlic rice (P45) which was huge! They didn’t have just one cup of garlic rice. It was really good so I had the excess in a doggy bag. I do recommend this place as you get value for money. Huge serving and good food.

 

I had the whole day of doing nothing so I decided to take up on my driver’s offer to go to the light house (P200 plus P50 tip). Some guides were also offering Kalanggaman island hopping (known for its sandbar) but I declined this. My driver picked me up from Ging-ging’s and off we went to the light house, about 20 minutes or so ride. You’ll have to ‘hike’ a bit going up but nothing a non-hiker like me couldn’t do, especially since there was a trail for easy navigating. Of course, this wouldn’t be ideal for the elderly, weak knees etc. Initially, I thought I was going alone since I went ahead of my driver and he didn’t seem to be joining me. But the driver was kind enough to follow me and make small talk.

 

Once I reached the top, other tourists were also there. Honestly, not much to see though you do get a nice top view of the island and I did get a pretty photo of the light house itself. If you have extra P200 to spare, I urge you to do it, even as a simple way to support the locals.


 
My driver then offered to go to another smaller beach with less people. I don’t think he knew what the beach was called but this was somewhere at the back of bounty beach and near the light house. Less crowded and had a beautiful shoreline. Stayed a bit under the scorching noon sun.

It was so hot that I decided to stay at ‘my beach’ for the afternoon but not before buying some cola and water (P32) at the small sari-sari store right below the resort’s entrance – another advantage of Thresher Cove.

 

By 4pm, felt the hunger pain that I decided to grab some grub. My driver – whose hair complemented my pink elephant sando – once again brought me to the merkato because I really wanted grilled meat again.

 

Unfortunately, they were still marinating the meat but fortunately, I got to try the other food stall. They have the usual Pinoy viands like adobo but I opted for the chicken curry (P115) and mango shake (P50). I didn’t order rice because of the left over garlic rice from Ging-ging’s and they gave me a discount because of that. I initially ordered some chicken salad but when I saw their curry serving – they cooked mine fresh and on the spot – I canceled my salad. The serving was huge and yey it had so much veggies! Taste wasn’t bad too, more like ginataang gulay than curry but nothing some soy sauce couldn’t fix. Highly recommended for budget eaters since you can share this with a friend, though I finished mine by myself. Haha! Fun fact: I asked for patis (fish sauce) and the waiter gave me toyo (soy sauce). When I explained that it was different, he didn’t know what patis was. Tip: serving will take some time and I had to follow-up for my shake so best to be patient. 

 

Went back to bounty beach and chilled.


 Was hoping to catch a masseuse for a much-needed massage-by-the-beach (a must for me!) but didn’t find any which is disappointing because when I got there yesterday, a random masseuse immediately approached me. All of them must be booked for the afternoon.

 

There was a short brown out at bounty beach which gave Thresher Cove another advantage: they didn’t experience the brown out and if ever they did, they had a generator. By sundown, headed back to my resort but not before catching this gorgeous play of colors.

Vacationista: Labor Day Weekend in Malapascua Island, Cebu (Day 1)

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Finally, I was able to set foot on the gorgeous Malapascua Island! The Philippines – Cebu in particular – has numerous beaches that can be reached in just a few hours’ time: to the popular ones like Bantayan Island and Camiguin to the lesser known ones like Oslob and Kalanggaman Island. Makes you feel glad you live in a paradise on earth, noh?

I’ve always wanted to go to Malapascua, though I always say this to any travel destination that I go to. Simply because I want to go anywhere and everywhere as much as possible! If only work wasn’t such a party pooper. Kidding! I always remind myself that work is there as a means for me to go on vacation, amongst other purposes. O di ba biglang kabig.

I was kinda hesitant in booking my trip because I was afraid that there might be too much people during the long weekend. But I told myself: (i) I must grab this opportunity of a long weekend since in my work, we only have 10 holidays, (ii) my flight schedule is in the wee hours of the morning and late at night, thus, hopefully dodging the surge of passengers, (iii) overall estimated cost was really, really cheap and (iv) screw it, I’ll just wing it and make the most of my trip – c’est la vie! News broke that the ASEAN Summit was being held on those dates, meaning travelers should expect the worse of the worse. Why on earth they would schedule a huge event on a long weekend is beyond me.

Anyway, I tried dragging some friends with me – some tried to drag me into their own different beach plans – but in the end, I’m quite glad I’m doing this solo trip. It’s been a while since my last solo trip (and my first, at that). Beaches will always be a great idea for soloing because only then can you truly relax and call yourself a ‘beach bum.’

Basically, arrived at Mactan airport at around 7:30am and took a Grab Taxi going to Northern Cebu Bus Terminal (P168 taxi fare). Was elated that there wasn’t a surge of vacationers at the terminal. Rode the aircon bus going to Maya Port (P200). I suggest you take the aircon bus since the trip took me 5 hours, along with stop overs, though generally it was a fairly easy ride. On one of our stopovers, I quickly devoured the best isaw bbq and puso (hanging rice) I’ve tasted for P38 as my second breakfast/light lunch. Chos. 

 

It’s funny because along the way, you’d go up and down hills and through valleys and you’d think that you are nowhere near the beach then you’d catch a glimpse of the sea and think, ‘hey, we’re near!’ but then it would still take another few hours before you actually get to the port. Haha!

 

By 2pm, arrived at Maya where the bus will directly let you down at the new port (last stop). Paid P100 for the boat ride and after a few minutes of waiting, we – meaning mostly white-skinned tourists – were on our way to Malapascua Island. The boat ride took about 30 minutes.

 

Then finally – bounty beach!

 

I booked with Thresher Cove Dive Resort because I only needed basic accommodation (read: a place to sleep at night) so I didn’t need a fancy hotel. I was pleasantly surprised when I read that the resort offered complimentary transfers from the port and back. I emailed them and they instructed me to contact them 15 minutes upon arriving. I did and a motor bike whisked me away. Oh, the start of my beach life!

 

And beach life it is. I stayed at a tiny nipa hut (P1143 for 2 nights) with the bare necessities: a bed, a fan and a table. I loved it! Brought me back to my roots of staying in the farm with my lola and sleeping in their bahay kubo. Kidding. We didn’t have a farm. It has been years since I last saw and used a kulambo, though during my stay there weren’t any mosquitos or bugs. So old school! Love it! Right at my doorstep is the sand and sea. Just like any backpacker inn, toilet and shower is separate. In hindsight, this really wasn’t the most secure place I’ve stayed at and I probably should’ve worried, especially with recent reports of kidnapping in the Visayas area, including Cebu. Oh well. I’m here, aren’t I?

Now that I’ve stayed at Thresher Cove, I do highly recommend it. It is value for money because really, you get your ‘own beach’. Reception staff are nice, particularly Christine who I contacted prior to arriving. They quickly showed me to my room and offered welcome Sunkist orange juice. They are the only resort with a swimming pool, property is huge, there’s a mini-gym, toilets are clean, and wifi is available in the common areas.

 

For my room, it’s right on the beach, meaning every morning when I wake up, the beach and its waves are the first thing I see. Imma call it ‘my beach.’

 

There were enough trees on ‘my beach’ to provide shade, there were two swings for our use and lots of lounge chairs for chilling. Yep, that second photo below is my view from my room. Nice, right? Only negative thing for some people would be is you need to ride a motorbike going to the outside restaurants and to bounty beach. You could walk, like what most foreigners do, but it’ll take you some time. Honestly, I didn’t mind paying the P20 fee per ride. 

I was really happy that there weren’t a lot of tourists and when I say that, I mean that I could walk around the resort and the beach and hardly bump into anyone. The minute I got to the resort, changed into swimwear and lounged by ‘my beach.’
 

My arsenal for the weekend: books. I wanted easy reads and so I grabbed the Lakompake book by Senyora (because she’s hilarious online) and found a gem at the second hand book shop in the form of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (because I loved the movie version of this! British humour is the best!)

 

Around 3:30pm, I got hungry and decided to have an early dinner (also because I didn’t want to go out anymore at night and compete with other diners). Outside of the resort are motorbike drivers just waiting. I asked one of them to take me to any carinderia which sells grilled food because for me beach and grilled food always, always go together. He took me to what they call ‘merkato,’ or the market place. Ordered at the Harly Jean Store for some grilled chicken breast (P100) and grilled vegetables (P50) plus avocado shake (P50) at the next door stall. 

 

While waiting, made some furry friends. Food is pretty good, like I don’t mind eating there again. I really loved the grilled eggplant, tomatoes and onion.

 

Went back to the resort via motor. Tip: make sure you get the driver’s cellphone number so it would be easier for you to go to wherever. Though motors typically roam all throughout the island, best to have a few of the drivers’ contact details just in case. Here are the ones I have: Mac-mac (0997 589 3379), JR (0997 480 7582), and Caloy (0906 677 0870).

 

Spent the rest of the afternoon and night just lounging at the beach, reading and swinging, chilling at the common area, watching the sunset then binge watching my favorite Netflix shows.

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)

Halo-halong Discoveries Part V

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Book Sales. As much as I love reading, I am also very picky with the books I read. I used to read ebooks religiously but I’m now finding myself reaching for the hard copies. Must be because I’m getting old and digital books hurt my eyes. I’m usually the what-do-my-friends-recommend type of reader but sometimes, I also try to be experimental and just buy a random book, especially if the price is right as I also don’t like buying new books and paying too much. Aside from the gem I found last time for my Malapascua trip, I found another of Georgia’s adventures’ book by the same author (P25). I also found two more interesting books called Dogs of War (P25, I love war stories) and another one called 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth (P25). I love it when I find books for such dirt cheap prices! 


H&M Sales. More often than not, I like going to H&M rather than Forever21 because I find the former has better quality items. And when they go on sale, THEY GO ON SALE. As I was walking around the mall, burning calories during my lunchbreak, saw these super cute, powder blue, suede chunky heels (whew! That was a long description). It came at a perfect time since I was looking for new heels to take turns with my good old trusty SM Parisian heels, which are now showing wear and tear (because I use them every week for the past two years and they are so comfy and goes with anything). What made it perfect was that it was only P300 from P999. Where else can you buy such cheap (but hopefully sturdy) heels? Comfy too! The gold clutch I have been eyeing for so long but couldn’t bring myself to pay P700 for it since it’s made up of hinabi-like material and really, because I don’t need it. Good things come to those who wait and voila! It was on sale at P300. But instead of keeping it for myself, my sister wanted it so I’ll be giving it to her. Lastly, the red glittery flamingo tape dispenser was also on my maybe-I’ll-buy-it-if-it’s-on-sale-list because no way was I going to pay P349 for an office supply albeit cute. Initially, I wanted the unicorn version I saw in Indonesia but since it was between the flamingo and a whale, I went with the flamingo (P100). My colleague kept teasing me it’s a duck. And what’s a tape dispenser without colorful tapes (P50 for 2 instead of P199). So yeah, simple things – sometimes needs, sometimes non-sense wants – make me happy. #TreatYoSelf  

 

Rustan’s Supermarket Discounted Items + Smoked Salmon. I love lounging around supermarkets and is always part of my itinerary when I travel abroad. Even here in Manila, I actively try to find really good items and when I do, it makes me happy, especially when they are on sale. Since I pass by Shangri-la everyday, sometimes I stop by their grocery just to scope the goods. On this particular trip, found some Buy 1,Take 1 one-liter Snapple in Peach (fave!, P124 for two) and half price Vanilla and Cherry Coca-cola (P19 each). But my best find is the smoked salmon! The first time I dropped by Rustan’s, there was no salmon, which disappointed me since I thought Rustan’s would be carrying this. When I didn’t find any, my second option would be S&R which is very inconvenient and out of the way for me. Good thing on my next trip to Rustan’s, found not one but two brands of smoked salmon. I chose this particular one (P219) because its expiration date was in December, though I ended up eating it that night. Once you open it, it is recommended you eat it within 3 days. I paired it with tortilla wraps, Japanese mayo, tomato and a whole lotta romaine lettuce. I was in heaven! It was really good! Each pack is good enough for two meals if you’re a salmon eater. So happy I can binge-eat salmon (only twice a week though since it’s high in sodium) just like when I was in Georgia and the US, where salmon is overflowing. If you don’t like salmon, an alternative would be tinapa which has the same smokey taste.

My office’ Starbucks branch discount. I don’t usually drink handcrafted aka expensive coffee, simply because I just need a regular cup of hot coffee to start my morning on the right track. I don’t like watered down coffee but simple ‘own brewed coffee’ is good enough for me. But one Wednesday, my colleagues invited me for some afternoon coffee and since that was the day me and some other friends were going to watch a 9pm movie at Cinema 76, I opted to get a cup of joe to keep me awake (I sleep early like a lola. Haha). My other colleague then mentioned that Starbucks had a P100 Grande Wednesday. For that day, it was Vanilla Latte but since our organization has an agreement with the government, it does not pay taxes and this includes the concessionaires inside our office. So, we ended up paying only P82 for the grande cup. Sweet deal, huh? #WorkPerk

 

Poo-rific Spray. Stop reading now if you feel we’re not that close yet. Haha! Randomly saw this in Robinson’s Supermarket and was convinced to buy it because (i) cute packaging and (ii) it smelled divine. Basically, you spray this directly into the toilet bowl water for a floral scent while you do your business. It’s not a need, I mean, you can still poop without it but the experience is more enjoyable because it smells so good. Another version is found in True Value but more expensive at around P100. I like this better because it’s very handy and affordable at P55.


 

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 =)

What every solo traveler should have: The Selfie Stick with built-in Tripod

Standard

Yep, you read that right. A selfie stick with a built-in tripod. This is heaven sent for solo travelers, especially if, like me, you hate looking for someone to kindly ask to take a photo of you. Then most of the time, the stranger doesn’t know how to take a decent photo or doesn’t snap your best angle so you’re left with an ugly souvenir photo you can’t even publish. Haha! With this, no need for humans anymore!
 


Found this online and IT IS GENIUS! It’s exactly like the regular selfie sticks that is out in the market today, with a Bluetooth remote, except at the bottom, the ‘handle’ can be unfolded to become a tripod. Bought this online (P150) because believe it or not, a week before my Malapascua trip where I used this for my photos, I visited the gadget tiangge at St. Francis Square and they didn’t have this yet! Can you believe that? Late na sila!

 

At first, I couldn’t figure out how to use the tripod. I knew it should work based on the photos but I couldn’t get it right. So I asked the other buyers of this stick and found out that you have to turn the little knob at the bottom of the handle (number 1) – about 2-3 turns – until it loosens. Then you turn the big ring at the bottom (number 2) so that the tripod legs can be pulled way down (by this time, it will look like a tripod). Once the tripod is down, turn the big ring (number 2) to secure the tripod legs then turn the little knob (number 1) again to tighten. I’m sure this sounds confusing but first just try to turn the small knob (number 1) at the bottom then I’m sure you can figure it out then. This is super easy to use, convenient, light weight, handy and best of all, it works! Definitely one of my best finds ever!