3 countries in 24 hours.

So how do you go about having a time constraint planned itinerary? Embrace it.


We left Manila, Philippines at around 3:30pm due to a delayed flight and touched down Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at around 8:00pm. Travelled by taxi to our pre-booked accommodation in Mercu Serviced Apartments which is like 8 minute walk to Petronas Twin Towers. We had dinner at a fastfood-like place called Pepita’s and went straight to the mesmerizing twin towers. Home at close to 12:00am for a quick freshen up and nap, shall I say, for us to leave at 2:00am for a 6:00am flight to our next destination.

Almost an hour ride from the city to the airport, we flew to Singapore to experience Universal Studios for the third time. It still feels the same first time of being an excited kid riding the movies you’ve grown up with. Staying here quickly for just 27 hours but still managed to meet my friends and former workmates reminiscing the good old days.

Adventure continues as we cross back to Malaysia, this time in Johor Bahru where Legoland is located. Due to horrible lines in the immigration, our time were constrained. Checked in to their themed hotel with its amazingly amenities almost all made with lego. Worth every penny especially if you are tagging along children with you. Short with time though to explore the theme park, good thing long rides line was avoided since less people were in. 


Swiftly after the buffet breakfast, we rented cabs to bring us to Senai Airport for an 11:00am flight back to Kuala Lumpur for another flight back to Manila. I met Nando’s again after so long back when I was in Ireland few years back. This was also the time to catch up on our pasalubong shopping. Good thing their airports have malls to shop conveniently. 


Whew! That was a fast 96 hours journeying 3 countries with 8 airport encounters and 3 different hotels from different parts of Asia. Having 10 adults traveling, tagging along 3 kids was indeed a challenge but worth embracing every step of the way.

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Second time visiting this country still gives me the same excitement as my first. Why? Besides the fact that I will be on an ‘eating vacation’, I am thrilled to see the places that I have never been to during my first visit.

We started our long journey straight from work, catching a midnight flight. We needed to wait for another friend who was in the next flight from ours and the wifi stand was already closed so we waited as the sun rises in Taoyuan International Airport.

Bursting sunrise brought us to the hospitality of a friend’s friend who was based in Keelung, situated in the Northern part of Taiwan, an hour from the city proper. After freshening up, we went to Yangmingshan Park. Though it is best to go there during spring time to see the garden blossom, if you are a nature lover, it’s worth the end station bus ride. 

En routed to one of my favorite place that I would never get tired of going back and the best of the best night markets, the Shilin Night Market. Overwhelmed with so much food, my cravings were dearly satisfied. Limited time though, we went straight to the elephant mountain, which is walking distance from the last stop of the red line, Xiangshan station. Trekking at a multiple steps, the view of the city with the famous Taipei 101, on the top was indeed worth every sweat. Truly, first day was no sleep and tiring yet a worthwile experience.

Second day was supposedly for Sun Moon Lake, but due to some misfortunate events, we were led to the city of Hualien, which is on the Eastern part of Taiwan. Just a tip that train tickets were cheaper if you will be purchasing before riding. We rented two cabs that enabled us to tour the city at 500NT/person driving us to 4 beautiful places.

Taroko National Park is a must see in this place, seeing God’s great wonders of nature, a bit of trekking, a sight of falls with temples on the side and great scenery of the beach. Though things didn’t went as planned, the experience was worthwile for in traveling, great places are discovered by just going even though roads get a little tough.

Third day was quite tough when the temperature starts to drop and drizzles. We started our journey in Yehliu Geopark. I no longer joined the squad as they experienced rock formation at its finest since I have seen them during my first visit. Park entrance is at 50NT/adult. We rented again a cab which can bring us to Jiufen and Shifen at 1000 NT/cab. If you are in big groups, like in our case we are 11, this I think is cost efficient.

Markets in Jiufen are indeed fruitful array of food, products and restaurants. Same way in Shifen, which a growing number of food stalls assembles on the side of an active railway. Wish lanterns is a must when you visit this. It allows you to have your wishes be written on lanterns which is fired and flown afterwards. Ending our day in another night market in Raohe and hotpots are our subject because of the cold weather. To bad, rain is falling that we did not have the chance to explore the market though.

The fourth day was quite compacted as our friends are flying back to Manila in the evening and we need to move out and check in to a near hotel in Ximen. Meeting our friends in Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and preceded to Taipei 101 was the itinerary for this day. As soon as we bid goodbye to our friends, we went straight to my favorite Shilin Market and food trip and shopping starts. 

I actually reserved another day for me to maximize my shopping and food trip as these were the main reasons for returning to this country. Last day was basically for me to recharge as I comforted myself on a good hotel bed and wake up just in time for check out. This was the time to have my own walking and biking tour in the cities nearby, searching for a good coffee place to chill and some last minute shopping.

Indeed, going back to this land was an adventure like seeing it again for the first time but reminiscing the same excitement as what your first time was. The company of a big group of friends added so much fun during the journey. Truly, I will not get tired of going back to this country once more.

Round up 2016.

So another year that was. What happened in the 365 days of 2016?

January started stressful as a new project starts at work, but nevertheless through Him, all things became possible.

February was highlighted with my comeback travel to Hong kong as I celebrated Chinese New Year in a Chinese territory surrounded by the Chinese race. Ended the month with a quick trip up north to celebrate Panagbenga Festival in Baguio with friends.

I can consider March dedicated to my family as we spend some time in the beach, consequently the birth of ‘Saber’ being a blessing from above. A check definitely in my goals for 2016. Also on this month, I was diagnosed with something I have been concealing and denying to myself and acceptance came in as I need to do a maintenance meds horror.

April started with summer outings one from another. A trip to Beijing definitely helps me check seeing the great wall on my bucket list.

May jumps me into wedding stints as one by one friends are getting married and definitely provided me an alias as the ‘Pambansang Abay’ for hopping from one wedding to another as a sponsor but never a groom.

June makes me realise that the health part on my goals for the year is quite far from what it should be. Slowly but surely, I started to keep an eye on it by going back to running and yoga.

July greatly deserves a break as friends flew to Bangkok visiting the city the second time. Finale was a start of my journey in seeking our only Saviour, joining a ‘True Life’ retreat. Truly, a life changing experience.

August is where I try to search for new activities where in I attempt to proliferate the world of calligraphy. Too bad, my time does not allow me to focus on this.

September was for another two weddings to attend to. I started to memorise how every wedding goes.

October brought a quick trip to Tagaytay with friends. Great way to rest and recover.

Birthday month November brought me to a trip to United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi to be exact. Meeting friends who are based there makes every stay worthwhile.

December is really the season we all have been working for. Promotion from work came in. Indeed, only by His grace, everything through Him. Victory serenades as I hosted the company’s yearend event, loads of parties and get together and prepping for the holidays.

What a year that was and never been grateful. Cheers to 2017! 👆🏼

 

30,000 PHP Dubai-Abu Dhabi Trip, Why not? (Part 2)

 

In reference to my previous entry and as promised, I am sharing my expenses table during my 8-day stay in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. So how did everything happened by maximising a budgeted money of PHP 30,000, including airfare and all? Check out the breakdown of my expenditures below.

Activity Amount
Day 1 Late dinner at Dubai Airport Food court (Vegetarian Arabic Combo) 27 AED
Transportation to Abu Dhabi Fetched by my friends
Accomodation Slept at my friend’s place
Day 2 Breakfast At my friend’s place
Bus to Dubai 25 AED
Taxi to hotel c/o Friend
Hotel via Booking.com at Al Sarab Hotel 420 AED/2 nights divided by 2 persons = 210 AED
All You can Eat Lunch 35 AED
Metro Train Card 25 AED
Dubai Mall (Dubai Aquarium, Falls, Souk)
Dinner at Dubai Mall Foodcourt (Vegetarian Arabic Combo) 26 AED
Burj Khalifa sight seeing and Fountain Show Free
The Palace Downtown
Morrocan Mint Tea and Kharafa night cap at Al Safadi Restaurant Treated by my friends
Day 3 Breakfast (All Filipino Foodcourt) Treated by a friend
Metro Train top up 20 AED
Abra boat ride 1 AED
Old Souk
Dubai Museum Entrance Fee 3 AED
Gold Souk
Shawarma/Falafel/Biryani/Karak Chai Lunch 16 AED
Mall of Emirates (Ski Dubai)
Taxi ride to Burj Al Arab c/o Friend
Dinner at Five Guys 40 AED
The Beach
Yacht ride at Dubai Marina with Shisha and Tea night cap Free (c/o friend’s connections)
Taxi ride back to the hotel c/o friend
Day 4 Arabic Brunch at Sandwich Club (Biryani/Falafel/Shawarma) 30 AED
Al Ghurair Mall
Desert Safari (Transportation, Dune Bashing, Camel ride, Arabic night show, Buffet dinner) 110 AED
Bus to Abu Dhabi 25 AED
Accomodation (Navygate Tourist Club) Stayed at my friend’s place
Day 5 Breakfast At my Friend’s place
Taxi to Galeria 8 AED
Coffee at Armani Cafe Treated by a friend
Taxi to Al Wahda Mall 9 AED
Late lunch at Al Wahda Foodcourt (Vegetarian Arabic Combo) 26 AED
Tea at Paul Boulangerie 16 AED
Pre dinner at Chowking 28 AED
Transportation to Al Reem Island to visit friends Dropped by my friend
Catch up night cap at Arc Tower (Cleveland Accomodation) Hosted by the unit owners
Day 6 Breakfast At my Friend’s place
Taxi to Yas Mall 60 AED
Ferrari World Free Entrance (during Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays)
Lunch at Rogo’s Rollercoaster Restaurant in Yas Mall 60 AED
Dessert at Cheesecake Factory 34 AED
Corniche Beach Entrance Fee 10 AED
Tea at the top of Marina Mall with a view of the city 21 AED
Day 7 Breakfast At my Friend’s place
Taxi to World Trade Center 9 AED
Lunch at Shake Shack Treated by a friend
Coffee at Costa Coffee Treated by a friend
Emirates Palace 7 Star Hotel Free Entrance
Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque Free Entrance
Masdar City Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) Ride Free
Late dinner at Olive Garden in Al Wahda Mall Treated by a friend
Transportation Van rented by my friends
Day 8 Breakfast Leftover from dinner
Transportation to Dubai Van rented by my friends
Falafel Lunch at Last Exit 16 AED
Outlet Village at Dubai Parks
Dubai City Walk
Dinner at Chin Chin 50 AED
Total Expenses 940 AED = 12220 PHP (13) = 249.38 USD (49)
***shopping/pasalubongs not included.
Cebu Pacific Flight Roundtrip (MNL-DXB-MNL) 9266.09 PHP
Additional 20 KG Baggage (DXB-MNL) 1300.00 PHP
International Travel Tax (Manila) 1620.00 PHP
UAE Visa Processing 400 AED = 5200 PHP (13)
Total Expenses 17386.09 PHP = 354.81 USD (49)

Traveling should never be always a splurge. For me, the experience is still what keeps you alive and look forward to traveling. And most of all, having your small circle of friends get tighter as you age, surely every experience and penny spent would be worthwhile.

30,000 PHP Dubai-Abu Dhabi Trip, Why not?

It was just a piece of invitation when friends from around the globe tend to extend their invitations to meet up at one of the progressed city of the Emirates, Dubai. 

Booking a flight 4 months ahead under the budget friendly carrier, Cebu Pacific Air, taking advantage of their trend-setting ‘seat sale’ was way to efficient to our pockets to get a low cost flight.


Journey begins as we touched down Dubai International Airport with my friend fetching us to drive straight to Abu Dhabi to have a good night rest. 


Day 1 starts as I meet my friends who flew from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at the City Terminal of Abu Dhabi, in front of Al Wahda Mall. With a 2-hour bus ride crossing through the deserts at 25 AED/per person, buses will drop you in Al Ghubaiba in Dubai. You may walk 5-10 minutes for you to reach the Metro Station but we chose to ride a taxi since no one can lead us to where we want to go. Taxi fares us at around 19 AED for the 4 of us to our pre-booked hotel through Booking.com. Al Sarab Hotel is located at the heart of Al Rigga, Deira City, around 10 minute walk from the Metro station, which is one of the centre of commercial areas. It was a great savings for us where in we just paid 420 AED/room for 2 nights comparing it to their normal rates at 790 AED/night.


As we checked in to our hotel, waiting a wee bit hours as our Dubai friends finish their work, we tend to have our late lunch at a Filipino All-you-can-eat restaurant nearby at 35 AED/person. Meeting up at 4pm at the Metro station, we rode the train to Dubai Mall to experience the modernized structures by the Emiratis. Dubai Aquarium, the falls, the souk (‘market’) are the ones to name a few to see here. 


Reaching end point of the mall where you can see the world’s tallest and one of Dubai’s must, Burj Khalifa. Sighting the nearby fountain show every hour really fascinates every tourist’s eye. Walking further is where you will find The Palace Downtown. I would wish I could afford to stay here. Ending our tiresome walking day back to Al Safadi Restaurant, this is just near our hotel. Sipping on our Moroccan Mint Tea and some Khanafa, which is a famous Arabic sweet which are to die for.


Day 2 started with a quick dip on our hotel’s roof top pool. Meeting up at 10am with the whole gang for breakfast at a Filipino food court style restaurant in Deira City. 


This long day journey started as we train to Baniyas to ride the Abra, a boat ride to see The Old Souk. Striding further, as we approach Dubai Museum. With an entrance fee of 3 AED/person, this exemplifies the history and culture of the early Emirates and how they unite. After which we reach the famous Dubai Gold Souk, where great deals of gold are in. We had our shawarma/falafel lunch on a nearby store at 5 AED, and tasted the 1 AED Karak Chai, which is the Arabic version of milk tea.


We then rode the train to Mall of Emirates to see the famous Ski Dubai. Long taxi lines kept our patience as we voyage towards the luxurious Burj Al Arab which is just beside the Wild Wadi Dubai. (Note: Burj Al Arab is not open to public unless you have reservation which is really expensive) Adjacent to this is the Jumeirah Hotel in which you can see up close the famous architecture thru its beach stretch. Running to catch the bus back to the Mall of Emirates at 2 AED/person, we rode the train to Dubai Marina and rode the tram to its new structures. The Beach is a new getaway place which friends and family can enjoy. With an array of dine places, movie houses and some more fun activities to enjoy. What a great way to end this very looong day is to lounge around a yacht with some tea and shisha relishing a magnificent view of Dubai Marina. Great to have connections for you to get through this luxury!


Another day started as we finally tasted the most intrigued restaurant in Al Rigga that whenever we try to go, long lines are waiting. We had our brunch at the Sandwich Club, a very nice and affordable restaurant. We quickly finished our pasalubong shopping in a nearby Al Ghurair Mall. 


Pre booked in advance, we paid 110 AED for our Desert Safari experience. This includes Transportation (which we are picked up in our hotel at 3pm and returned after), Dune Bashing, Camel ride, Arabic night show and buffet dinner. It was an awesome experience that we enjoyed desserts of Dubai having a great conversation with our ‘Kabayan’ driver, whom he also drove for Kris Aquino and Kara David when they visited. Rushing back to Al Ghubaiba as we try to take the last bus to Abu Dhabi and bid farewell for some time to Dubai.

Staying in my friend’s accommodation in Abu Dhabi was indeed a great savings for our pocket and time to bond with my ever missed friends. The time spent here is mostly of catching up with friends, digesting their success stories and struggles as they venture into their new lives away from home.


Day one here in the capital city started being fascinated with the The Galleria, a mall with high end shops adding up the view of the high rise building while taking a sip of coffee in Armani Café as I caught up with my friend from my previous work. Traveling by taxi to Al Wahda Mall which is one of the shopping heavens for sale items are here and there. We ended our day celebrating with our friends over dinner and laughs in their accommodation in Al Reem Island. Fortunately they got a nice place which was sponsored by their employers, unlikely not for other OFW brothers and sisters since renting a place in Abu Dhabi is really one of the top expenses living in.


Another day to explore the city has started since my friend is off from work, she can tour us around. We travelled by taxi to Saadiyat Beach to experience the sands and sea of UAE. Unfortunately, there was an event on going so we changed our plans and re-route to Yas Mall to tick Ferrari World on the itinerary. Free Entrance during Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We ate at Rogo’s Rollercoaster Restaurant in which your food goes through the loops and grind upon serving. Amazing idea indeed! We had some desserts thereafter at the famous Cheesecake Factory. A slice cost 34 AED which is not bad for a mouth-watering experience. 


Since we still itch for a beach experience, we then resort to Corniche Beach which has an entrance fee of 10 AED, but you can still enjoy their public beach for free if you want. After which, we proceeded to the Marina Mall and climbed to its tower to have a view of the city. They privatized their observatory and converted it to a coffee shop and have some refreshment to see a great view.

I can’t believe that I am in the Emirates for a week and starting my day 7 to meet some friends at the World Trade Centre. Finally, I tasted the famous Shake Shack burger. The ‘Shroom burger is too die for! The lunch was followed by some coffee session meeting another friend. It was really great catching up with friends realizing their new lives abroad.


My friend rented a van for us to explore the city with the whole gang. And so they picked us up and went straight to the Emirates Palace which is the 7 star hotel. Embellishments and grandeur has been exhibited in this place. 


After which, we went to the Grand Mosque in honour of Sheik Zayed. Architecture was just perfect in all angles. Females must wear long sleeves and pants with abaya to enter. On the other hand, males should not be wearing shorts above the knee. Anyway, they have clothing to rent at the basement for you to be admitted. It was actually my dream to wear one of the everyday outfits of Emirati males which is a ‘kandora’. And so I did together with the help of my supportive friend. 


We then proceeded to the Masdar City which is said to be the source of the future of Emirates. Everything here is solar powered and they try to recycle as much as they can. The PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) is said to be one project that the government is looking as a good transportation in the future. We tried to ride this and it was just amazing. Lastly, to cap of the night, we went back to the city and headed to Al Wahda Mall to have our late dinner in Olive Garden.


It was our last day to explore the city and to go back to Dubai since we are having the evening flight back to Manila. And so the gang is up again and travelled to Dubai. Our first stop is the Last Exit which is usually the stop over for those who are travelling from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. We had a quick lunch there and proceeded to the Dubai Parks. Apparently, since the parking is quite expensive just to see the Lego Land and other attractions, we decided not to go and just go to the Outlet Village instead to do our last minute shopping. We were welcomed with quite a jam of traffic as we enter Dubai. So we then drove to Dubai City Walk, which is one of the newest attractions in Dubai, followed by our last dinner in a Chinese restaurant, Chin Chin before heading to Dubai International Airport.


To date, this is the most body tiring yet a mind resting travel that I did since mostly I did not research anything with our itinerary and my friends provided us and pampered as much as they can to be with me concurrently with their work. It was indeed an amazing experience that the bonds of your friendship strengthen as you share both your stories on how successes are not easily attained. It was an incredible journey how the stories of Filipinos abroad were really not easy but for us to achieve our goals, a lot of sacrifices are being offered.

Above all, how can you maximize your PHP 30,000 budget to an all in travel to United Arab Emirates? Find out in my next entry. 😉

Cebu Hits!

The Queen City of the South has so much to offer which still surprises me even on my third visit. 

  
Malapascua Island is located on the northest peak of Cebu, approximately 145 kilometers from the city proper.  If adventure calls you, a 5-hour Ceris bus ride at Php 180 will bring you to Maya Port from the Northern Bus Terminal. If on time constraint, taxi drivers or private vehicles can bring you to the port for Php 2500-3500 for about two and a half hours. Boatmen will offer you private boat ride at Php 1500, usually in the afternoon before the sunset, but the normal 30 minutes to an hour ride to the island is just Php 100 per person but number of passengers needs to be filled before you go. Beware of guys who will help you carry your luggages for they will ask for a tip. Better spare some loose bills for them. 

  
Malapascua Island is worth the long travel experiencing a fine white sand beach with so much wonders underneath. This is one of the targets of most scuba divers. Many spots of the sea are considered underwater sanctuary. 

  
  

One of the reason why I booked a ticket to Cebu is  to experience a taste of luxury of the Moevenpick Resort. Located in Lapu Lapu City proper, it’s hip and chic mediterranean inspired hotel truly great for leisure and relaxation.

  
By the end of the sands come the Ibiza Club. Party all night experiencing the club by the see. Truly something to look forward to.

  
Cebu never fails to offer a wide range of vacation, adventure and leisure. It will truly remain on its throne as the queen city of the south. 

 

Terrific Taiwan.

Every Travel has a story and Taiwan has its story to tell. I booked a flight to Taipei just to see the world’s second highest but never thought that many other experience will be exceptional.

  
Touching down the Taoyuan International Airport with its marvelous architecture. Truly something will amazingly welcome you.

  
From the airport, an hour bus ride at 125 NTD, which will bring you to Taipei Main Station, which is the center of Taiwan’s capital. Most hotels, transportations and shops are here thats why this is one of the travelers’ destination when in Taipei.

  
XiMen is the shopping center of Taipei. With just a station away from the Main Station, great shopping spree is awaiting. Plus numerous array of restaurants to satisfy your tummy. This is Taipei’s version of Japan’s Shibuya.

  
This Mala Hotpot Buffet is highly recommended. With it’s all you can eat meat and vegetables plus haagen dazs to fill in your sweet tooth. Yes, it’s unlimited at 549 TWD only.

  
Located at Taipei’s Central Business District, Taipei 101 is the second highest building in the world next to Burj Khalifa. It’s 89-floor architecture exhibits Taiwan’s strong foundations. 500 TWD to get up the tower and experience the fastest elevator reported by Guinness.

  
Taipei’s train system is efficient at a minimum fee of 16 TWD. Almost all were underground with shops underneath which will bring you to every part of the city. Urban planning was indeed effective.

  
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall shows how the Taiwan culture had been brave through the year.

  
Shilin Night Market is a must visit. With its line of shops at a very affordable prices and yummy street foods you will ever crave in your life, you will definitely go back again and again. Stinky tofu, Vegetable Dumpling bun, Grilled mushroom is just to name a few.

  
Yehliu Geopark is on the northern part of Taiwan. The amazing stone formations were truly worth the hour of travel from Taipei.

  
The second biggest night market in Taipei can be found in Raohe. You can visit a temple adjacent to the entrance of the market before you shop and go food tripping.

  
Adding to its efficiency, bike stations are located everywhere within the city to rent at minimum price of 10 TWD per 30 minutes.

  
Taiwan visit will never be complete without seeing the famous Taipei Zoo. Sadly, the gondola closes every Monday.

  
Taiwan is enriched with very abundant culture, responsible people and delectable delicious food. Indeed the travel is one for the books.