#Bangcock Day 1: NAIA and Suvarnabhumi, Baiyoke, and shopping (also, money matters when traveling)

But first, let me take a selfie

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And -fies of random afams in the airport. Hello, Northern European-looking guy!

20141118_085223IMG_5832IMG_5833I want this pop art-inspired luggage cover!

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NAIA Terminal 2 was still a bit gloomy, yet buzzing with travelers, when we got to the airport. A lot were boarding for different flights so we easily found a spot to lounge. We arrived an hour early and we were enjoying the silence… when the President arrived for a flight… (What were we thinking, it’s the national carrier PAL’s terminal after all.) Lol, no pictures because I was so tired, coming from work and shit.

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The flight to Bangkok was usual – though I can bet a finger that PAL’s food could improve. And I hope there were no crying kids, because god knows I needed sleep that day. Seeing Suvarnabhumi airport again was refreshing though! The space-inspired international hub was in its usual hustle and it was energizing to be back!

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First order of business though when we landed was to get some baht. I used to lug around dollar notes when I’m traveling but due to recommendations from Val and the internet, I had to try withdrawing from the local ATM. I was curious if I can save a few hundred pesos… but turns out it’s just the same. The exchange rate in the Philippines for buying baht was at 1.6, and I think I saved only a couple of ten pesos, since essentially the Bank in Thailand will convert your pesos to dollars then to baht… plus fees from both banks. Basically, I approximately got an exchange rate of 1.45. If you have some tricks up your sleeve with these currency exchange, please hit me up huhuhu.

IMG_5842Hello, photobomber!

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This time around, we opted to stay at Baiyoke Sky Hotel, only Bangkok’s tallest skyscraper at 89 floors. Thanks to Val who treated us the hotel room, being it her birthday treat! The hotel is kinda old though… you can literally smell it. The actual lobby is at the 18th floor and if you go down on lunch time be prepared to the swarm of tourist groups as the tower is also a tourist attraction. So. Many. PEOPLE. FML (for my life, that is.)

IMG_5849IMG_5850Well I have to give it to them for having a fruit stand — INSIDE THE HOTEL LOBBY!

IMG_5851IMG_5852The bar near the smoking area on the 18th floor also has a driving range. If you got golf skills, time to show off!

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The view of the Pratunam skyline from the room pays for what seems to be things that need attention. For one, I think Baiyoke needs to be more conscious about attendant’s behavior — especially those who are in the front desk… Everything’s bearable if their people are smiling.

/endrant

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There’s nothing much to do at the hotel, so off to the nearest mall/market we went! Right outside the hotel is the Pratunam Market and it’s a hella big market – food, clothes, accessories, and all sort of Asian Market fare can be found there. If you walk a little further, it’ll bring you to Platinum Fashion Mall – where you’d find one the best deals on clothes, all the more if you buy in bulk. I guess, businesses here in Manila who source in Bangkok get their stuff here! Plenty of good stuff… and I love their foodcourt – where you need to exchange your money for a card you swipe to buy food. Snazzy!

IMG_5863IMG_5864The first of many Tom Yum Goongs for this trip!

IMG_5866IMG_5867IMG_5869IMG_5870IMG_5871IMG_5872IMG_5874Almost bought this!!!!

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It was just the first day, but coming from work I just felt very tired and I crashed the minute I saw my bed after walking in the humongous Platinum mall. We even rode the tuktuk, who totally scammed us with a 100 baht charge, but kebs we’re too tired to argue.

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The next day we’ve had the party of our lives so stay tuned for more stories!

*With photos from Con and Val

 

Typhoon Ruby Updates

It is beyond scary to know that Typhoon Ruby will be as strong as last year’s Typhoon Yolanda as forecasts say. Yolanda (or internationally known as, Haiyan) has devastated most of Central Visayas which citizens are now still recuperating from.

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Different organizations are now jumping off the bat for preventive measures. It’s good to see all these corporations exert an effort into helping prevent any ill-fated circumstances. Google Philippines published a crisis map wherein evacuation centers, among other stuff, are mapped out, along with a Public Alerts page. NOAH also posted these storm surge advisories for provinces in Visayas.

Tweetup Manila, the guys responsible for #RescuePH and #ReliefPH, released these advisories as well to keep people reminded.

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Globe Telecom advises its customers in Eastern Visayas to take necessary measures in preparation for Typhoon Hagupit, which entered the Philippine area of responsibility today. The typhoon is expected to hit some of the areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda about a year ago… Read more

#TuesdayMusic: basically my mood irl, not necessarily new

Back from obscurity… and #Bangcock!

Finally, getting back up from a stomach flu! I haven’t felt that bad in the gut since god knows when and… I admit I’m still not that well… but manageable at the least! Phew… is this growing old?

IMG_5880Pratunam at night looks so lovely

But anyway, last week two of my friends from the office and I went to a whimsical trip to Bangkok and it never felt any better than being back in a city that I love! I was just there last year and despite the then-starting protests, the city was electric and full of energy… and still is the same! Though unplanned and this trip left me practically using up money that I shouldn’t, I wouldn’t regret anything. It was a hell lot of fun!

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I got to do other things than temple tramping because I’ve done that last year! So it was about museums, the sex district, lots of drinking… and definitely it also involved lots of food. The city looks a hell lot like Manila but I guess there is really something being in a different city other than yours… makes you feel alive.

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Central Thailand has one of the best cuisines across all of Asia, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world! I even learned a thing or two from Baipai Thai Cooking School! Met a couple of people from our small class , had tons of fun playing around the kitchen (without burning anything, of course!) Will definitely whip some Thai realness in the kitchen from now on… where to find ingredients though; we will scout for, that is.

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And what is #Bangcock when there is no sleaze involved. I know any city would kinda regret if they’re known for sex shows but I think it just adds charm to good ol’ Bangkok. You all know the story guys… HANGOVER! So Two Gays and A Girl booked the Hangover Tour for kicks and it was a looooooot of oohs and aahs quite literally. Bangkok at night changes from sobriety to sleaze in a snap!

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There is a lot to tell about our little getaway to Bangkok, including photos I prolly shouldn’t have taken but I’ll share anyway…

I can’t wait to tell all of ’em to you! Stay tuned!

Movie to watch out for: Song of the Sea

I am so excited for this animated film from Director Tomm Moore — amazing storyline, cutesy illustration, and a really fantastic soundtrack!

Hong Kong Hustle: Coffee Shop Hopping at Jervois Street

I didn’t get to have all the coffee that I want back in Hong Kong but I took note of the interesting cafes that I saw while strolling around the area. Hopefully, they’ll be of help for you as well! 

Most of these are found at Hong Kong Island – in Sheung Wan, Wan Chai, and Causeway Bay. Hopefully, this list will grow – because I’ll definitely go back soon! Maybe a lesson or two from the Coffee Academics… and an overcaffeinated vacation…

Ah! One can dream…


 

IMG_5513The Coffee Academics 
38 Yiu Wa St, Causeway Bay
+852 2156 0313
10am – 11pm

IMG_558818 Grams Specialty Coffee
77 Wing Lok St, Sheung Wan
8am – 7am (I’m not sure if this is serious tho lol)

IMG_5590VEYGO Coffee
Kai Fung Mansion, 2-24 Jervois St
Sheung Wan
+852 2205 1011
9am – 10pm

IMG_5591Catfe
85 Jervois St, Sheung Wan
+852 3590 2686

IMG_5592Fetch Coffee
109 Jervois St, Sheung Wan

IMG_5595Backerei Cafe
G/F Western Market, Sheung Wan

IMG_5602Agnes B. Cafe L.P.G.
17-19 Yun Ping Rd, Causeway Bay

IMG_5675Rabbithole Coffee and Roaster
3 Landale St, Wan Chai
+852 2528 0039
7:30am – 8pm

IMG_5692Barista Jam
126-128 Jervois St, Sheung Wan
+852 2854 2211

IMG_5694Cupping Room
LG/F 299 Queen’s Road Central
Sheung Wan
+852 2799 3398

IMG_5695Corner Kitchen Cafe
226 Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan
+852 2547 8008

IMG_5697Caffe Habitu
Hung Hom, near HK Polytechnic Uni

 

Flying away… yet again.

DSC_0300From last year’s trip

By the time this reaches your screens, I’ll be in the airport, hovering towards the boarding gate because I’ve probably just arrived from work to catch a plane to the chaotic yet charming Venice-esque city of smiles. I’m with two friends who I’ll be traveling with for the first time and I have never been excited to be back in a city I’ve been before. The last time I was there, I was a bit tired from the Angkor Wat tours and I can admit that I haven’t done so much. Heck, I missed on having a bowl of authentic Tom Yum Goong served in the streets!! But I’m glad I did the temples then, because now I have time for other things like exploring the other districts like Pratunam and Ratchethewi and Khao San, and maybe take cooking classes, and Thai massage (perhaps with a happy ending… hehe) and so much moooooooore!

I was just on a trip last month, and even though this trip might really leave me broke and eating free food from the office pantry for the rest of the year, I wouldn’t care… (maybe not the wisest decision, but I’m so up for spontaneity right now)

Yes, I’ll be in this flight and will have a good time. 

I promise to save up after though because plans for 2015 is slowly upcoming. PRETTY. AWESOME. SURPRISES. But scared as well… 

Also, I’ll take this opportunity to congratulate my friend, Ella, who was with me last year in the same city. It was also my first time to go to more than one country and it was awesome and was a great year-ender for me. She’s now based in London and I got nothing but all the happiness in the world for her. Kudos to you, Ella, and keep calm and carry on! (I just had to.)

I’ll see you guys, soon! And with more stories to share 🙂

Hong Kong Hustle: Day 4; The Peak, The Amazing Airport Express, and Overall HK Efficiency

Being tired for the three days we were in Hong Kong is all right. Leaving is not :(

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It was our last day in Hong Kong and it was a kinda sad day to leave. Hong Kong is such a magical place! But then again, life in Manila waits. So the first thing we did that morning to maximize our time was to head over to the In-town Check-in over at Kowloon station. This is so convenient! Imagine dropping your bags early on so you’d just have to be at the airport just in time for immigration and boarding. Saves a lot of hassle imho. ALL AIRPORTS NEED THIS!!! The process goes like this —

  • Check if you airline allows for this here. Furthermore, check how many hours prior boarding your airline allows to check in through here. Our flight then was 10pm and we checked in at around 10am. NEAT.
  • Enter the check-in area near the Airport Express at Kowloon or Hong Kong station by badging in your Octopus card or buy a single journey ticket (around HK$90)
  • Drop your baggages and get your boarding pass. Quite literally, you’re now checked in and all you need is to show up for immigration, additional baggage drop (if any), and boarding.
  • The fare deducted from your Octopus will be used when you board the Airport Express. Make sure you’re not on negative by then though.

VERY EFFICIENT, HONG KONG. VERY. EFFICIENT.

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Then we headed back to Sheung Wan for breakfast! There were a lot of interesting coffee shops around and it’ll be a shame not try even one. We holed up in Barista Jam and had my usual flat white. I love, too, that they also retail coffee brewers of every kind. It’s a small space but the crowd is lively and energetic for a drowsy Tuesday morning.

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Then, for the last day, we caught Bus 15 in the Exchange terminus to go to The Peak to while time. We wanted to try the funicular but we found it expensive, touristy, and well… if we can go there without any queueing that’d be great, right? I love the Peak so much! It gives you a good vantage of the Hong Kong skyline and it’s a great place to spend a couple of hours. But other than that, there’s the usual shops, restaurants, oh… there’s this watch shop which offers a lot of discounts! I got a Casio watch for HK$ 100 (just US$ 13!!!!!)

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For one last hurrah at dim sum, without even trying to look for it, we just saw the world’s cheapest most affordable Michelin star restaurant on our way to the Airport Express via the IFC Mall. At first, we didn’t notice it because it has no English signs but the logo really seemed so familiar. Nica said we should eat there because there are a lot of foreigners eating there, and I was just like, I’m just really hungry. So we went in and as soon as we sat down we realized it is Tim Ho Wan! We ordered our usual dim sum, but we really had to try the pork buns, well… because it caused a ruckus in Manila. Verdict: the pork buns tasted way better in Hong Kong. As expected.

IMG_5721IMG_5722Reflex

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The Airport Express takes just about 24 minutes to take you to the airport… which is in an outlying island away from the city side. There are just two terminals (PAL is in the second one) but we were directed towards Terminal 1 because we already checked in at the MTR (yes it is redundant but I can’t get over how efficient it is.) There are a lot of shopping opportunities here but let’s skip that. Let’s focus on the fact that there’s Popeye’s Fried Chicken there!!! Without thinking, we queued in and got biscuits and chicken because why not. Who cares about waistline (oh but wait, I doooo. Nooooo. HAHA!) And it was just easy to while time here because everything is so organized… I only wish the same for Manila.

IMG_5663It’s been real, Hong Kong

I need to be back soon!

 

A year after Haiyan…

Typhoon Yolanda, known as Haiyan internationally, the strongest typhoon to hit the planet, had made land fall in the Philippines a year ago on this month. It has destroyed millions worth of properties and has taken a lot of lives. Those who survived has barely managed… if it weren’t for people, here in the Philippines and elsewhere in world, jumped in to help them. It helps restore faith in humanity as the whole world lent a helping hand to the survivors, something as a Filipino I am grateful for.

Read more

Hong Kong Hustle: Day 3; Ngong Ping, Star Street Precinct, and Tired Feet

There is more to Hong Kong than skyscrapers and fast pace. We got to know the countryside and the side of the city that's a bit quieter than the rest of Central.

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Day 3 and the walking wasn’t backing down! We headed to Lantau Island where the Tian Tan Buddha is. It’s the big bronze (was it??) Buddha bronze statue you see in postcards. Lantau is the biggest outlying island in Hong Kong and has the country feel on it – save for the humongous number of tourists though! We took the train to Tung Chung station and rode the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car to the island itself. It lands you to Ngong Ping Village where you can walk to the Tian Tan and Po Lin Monastery (thousand Buddhas!)

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Took us an hour or so to get to the island – including the time to queue for the cable car. Ngong Ping offers Standard Cabins and Crystal Cabins for HK$ 150 (US$ 20) and HK$235 (US$ 30) respectively. I am so glad we didn’t take the crystal cabin no matter how tempting it was. It will make you see how many hundreds of feet you’re high up. The Standard Cabin made me light in the head already and was thankful to see ground after. On the way back, I was a bit braver but still heights are not my strongest suit… so maybe no Crystal Cabin for me… ever!
IMG_5641IMG_5642IMG_5643There’s also a trail for hikers up to the Tian Tan Buddha. You may start by taking the ferry to Lantau from the pier at Central. 

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Throngs and throngs of tourists flock towards this part of Hong Kong as the Tian Tan Buddha is one of its most famous attractions. But there’s a laidback feel and you should feel comfortable enough to walk side by side them. Right beside the cable car station is Ngong Ping Village where there are a respectable lot of establishments to keep you from famishing yourself, or deprived of souvenirs.

IMG_5649IMG_5650IMG_5653High five, Gautama!

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One can easily spend a half day in Lantau, but there’s really nothing much to do there. Still, I really appreciated the calm break from the fast-paced city side. Very country mouse moment right there, folks! Now if you ask me, I believe that in every city there is a patch of quietness and it’ll just take you a little more strolling around… and a bit of research. Back in Wan Chai, we headed for the quiet yet really straightforward and downright artsy alley called the Star Street Precinct. The goal is: to pay homage to the Monocle store, and you know, get my monthly fix of read – which is cheaper by around PhP 200 elsewhere but Manila.

IMG_5664IMG_5665Stopped by JP Books for some more postcards to send back home

IMG_5666IMG_5667IMG_5668IMG_5669IMG_5670IMG_5671My favorite store, which name I forgot, by the corner of the precinct

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On our third day we were starting to feel the fatigue creep up, and we were in much need of a massage already. So off to Google to find the nearest to us. We found a small massage place which offers authentic Thai massage called Nirvana. It’s along the main drag in Wan Chai – Johnston Rd. – but may be a bit difficult to spot as it is in the nondescript Tung Fong building. The massage was a-ok, and the only masseur is a cute Thai guy *hihi*

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A bit of a side story: we were strapped for cash because we didn’t anticipate our, errr… lack of resistance to purchase things. All’s good though since we brought our ATM cards but, boom! BPI requires you to call before to activate your ATM for international use. So if you plan, or even just for backup, save yourself from the hassles of roaming charges and call the bank (any, for that matter, just to be sure) before leaving. BPI was kind enough to expedite (usually takes a day, I guess) because we were really in dire need.

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Oh well, what’s a trip without the misadventures? You only learn and become a better citizen of the world. And saves you the hassle on more important trips! Before that day ended, we rewarded ourself with fastfood (because, stress) and off to the Temple Street Night Market where we totally didn’t find anything interesting but saw the local life at night which was great – makeshift karaoke booths in the streets, hawkers, that escalated quickly porn DVDs and lots of sex toys.

I wish I brought mandals… there you go, another lesson!

 

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