Category Archives: travelling

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!)

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.

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 =)

Review: NAIA Terminal 4 and Mactan Cebu International Airport

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It has been more than 5 years since I had a flight go through NAIA 4 so I was pleasantly surprised when they had improved so much! My flight to Cebu via Air Asia was in Terminal 4. Going through security was fast and easy, perhaps because I had an early flight and also because I had checked-in online via the Air Asia app. But once inside the waiting area, it looked so much better than I remember. Aircon was good and cool, lots of seats for passengers, TVs here and there, a charging station, bright, clear lights, clean restrooms and best of all, lots of food stalls lined up.

 

Aside from the food stall that sells pinoy food and snacks – where I bought my P48 Nescafe Macchiato – there was also Cinnabon, Goldilocks, Café France, Papa Johns and Seattle’s Best. There were a lot of standing tables too for eating. Little improvements but improvements nonetheless! 

Another surprise for me was the Mactan Cebu International Airport. I think the last time I was there was 5 years ago when we went to Singapore. It has improved so much! Did it become bigger?! I don’t know but there are now tons of shops and food stalls inside and outside the waiting area. So convenient that they had a scanner for boarding passes (mine was just on my phone!) unlike in Manila where everything is manual. They also have a water fountain inside! That is so important to me because why require your passengers to buy bottled water when drinking fountains should be the standard? Their trashcan is aesthetically pleasing too!

 

Once inside the waiting area, ample seats are there. They have an old and newly renovated toilet and tons of shops along the area – including Zubochon, Dunkin Donuts, a pizza bistro, Tsim Sha Tsui, a chocolate shop, Potato Corner and Jollibee, which had the longest line. And they had lots of standing tables (I love standing tables because after a whole day of sitting, all I want is to give my aching butt a rest). They even had a Bench and Victoria’s Secret/ Body Works/ perfume store. Awesome! Oh, and wifi is fast too. 


So good! Kudos to these two airports!

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

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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!

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.