Bed Station: My New Favorite Hostel in Bangkok

Standard

 

One of the many things I loved about Bangkok is the huge selection of hostels – not the dingy, cheap ones, but those that are more upscale but still affordable. I have been here three times, and every time, I end up falling in love with a new hostel. I have stayed at Lub D Siam, Lub D Silom, and The Yard before. For this trip, I chose Bed Station. From the moment I checked in, I knew one thing – this will be a great place. As it turned out, I was right!

 

bed-station-hostel-thailand-2

bed-station-hostel-thailand-1

 

Checking in was a breeze, though I have to wait for a couple of hours since I was there early! The staff at the reception was very welcoming. What a good way to start my day! Upon entering the huge wooden door,  you will be greeted with a two story foyer. The first level is where you can find the reception, cafe, and bar. There’s another common area on the second level. The industrial chic interior will give you a positive first impression!

 

bed-station-hostel-thailand-12

The reception. Spot the big stuffed toy! 

 

I stayed in a 6-bed mixed dorm for four days. The bed was one of the nicest from the hostels I’ve been. What I loved the most is that they do not give you a blanket, but a comforter! Yes, a fluffy comforter and not a thin sheet for a blanket! Each bed comes with a privacy curtain, reading light, and electrical sockets. There are also large lockers. Each room has electronic key card access.

 

bed-station-hostel-thailand-3

My bed just before I had a nap after checking in.

bed-station-hostel-thailand-5

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4030.

This is how the 6-bed mixed dorm looks like. 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4033.

 

If you are particular about the cleanliness of the bathroom, you will love Bed Station. There is a toilet in every floor. The shower rooms, meanwhile, are on the fourth floor. No worries, they have an elevator! No need to use the stairs!

 

bed-station-hostel-thailand-19

bed-station-hostel-thailand-18

Even the bathroom looks stylish! 

bed-station-hostel-thailand-16

bed-station-hostel-thailand-17

 

The common area looks pretty cool too! On the second floor, there are bean bags, desktop computers, flat screen TV, and PS4. On the ground floor, there is a long table. This is where stories are shared and fun begins. It starts with a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer, a simple hello or a quick question asking where are you from. Before you know it, you have already made friends and you start planning what to do, which, more often than not, will include partying in Khao San.

bed-station-hostel-thailand-9

A good spot to socialize or just be on your own 

bed-station-hostel-thailand-10

The kitchen as seen from the second floor. Free breakfast is served from 6:30 am to 10:00 am. 

bed-station-hostel-thailand-11

Grab a book or leave one 

bed-station-hostel-thailand-7

Khao San – the hostel’s resident cat and everyone’s favorite! 

The location of Bed Station is another thing I loved. It is near Siam, the main shopping district of Bangkok. It is also a few steps away from the Ratchattewi BTS Sky Train station. A few steps from the hostel, there is a nearby 7-11.

20161228_143904-01

Cafe just a few steps from Bed Station

More than the design and the cleanliness of Bed Station, it is the people that made my stay more memorable. Rose and Farook, to be specific, are the best! With a bunch of other guests at the hostel, we went to Khao San twice. From picking up a tuktuk to making sure you will have a good time, the two were very attentive.

20161230_004613-01

Khao San with my hostelmates 

20161231_003010-01

In a city that is overflowing with choices for accommodation, I am glad I chose Bed Station. If you are visiting Bangkok any time soon, I highly recommend this place. For sure, you will have a good time!

Kookoo’s Nest: Your Private Paradise in Negros Oriental

Standard

If you happen to be in Dumaguete,  head a bit far from the city center. In about 90 minutes (bus and motorcycle ride), you will find a piece of paradise – Kookoo’s Nest.

kookoos-nest-1

Going down the beach would take quite an effort! 

kookoos-nest-2

Kookoo’s Nest is an intimate resort in Zamboanguita. There is nothing posh about the place, but it has a rustic charm that will surely leave you in awe. This tiny cove offers the perfect respite for those who are looking for a private getaway. Our group was the only one checked in during our visit. Except for some who would walk-in for a day tour, most of the time, we had the beach all for ourselves.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3894.

The beach and the restaurant. Our cottage is on the right side 

kookoos-nest-25

Perfect beach buddy! 

kookoos-nest-36

My good friend, Rhum, being lazy! We learned about this place because of him! He also makes awesome beer and cider. If you are in Dumaguete, be on the lookout for Birdie Num Num craft beers. 

20160920_141214-01

Rhum playing with one of the owner’s dogs. 

During our overnight stay, we booked the Kingfisher Cottage. I was advised that it is the best, so I did not hesitate in having it chosen. All cottages are made from native materials. The entire resort only has six cottages and this is the largest. It has one double bed and the loft has two single beds. It also has a spacious balcony, great for hanging out while enjoying the view of the beautiful Sulu Peninsula. There  is no A/C, but this should not be a problem since you will be surrounded with towering trees and lush greenery.  I love how the cottage comes with well-designed ropes and pulleys, making it easier to open or close the windows and blinds.

20160919_142620-01

Our unpretentious cottage is on the left side. No A/C, TV, fridge, or mini-bar. Loved everything about it! If you’re going to Kookoo’s Nest, make sure to book this cottage! 

Our bedroom. You can close the window at night, if preferred. 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3963.

Our room as seen from the stairs leading to the loft 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3960.

The loft

kookoos-nest-26

Beautiful morning! 

kookoos-nest-29

The balcony 

kookoos-nest-21

Still from our balcony 

kookoos-nest-33

Enjoying the chill life 

You won’t go hungry while you are in Kookoo’s Nest. The kitchen is the heart of the resort, which is staffed with people from the nearby local village. They have a decent selection on the menu. I suggest that you try their Nasi Goreng. I had it twice during our stay.

kookoos-nest-38

Inside the restaurant 

kookoos-nest-7

The view from the restaurant 

kookoos-nest-8

Nasi Goreng – this was my favorite from the menu. 

kookoos-nest-17

Grilled fish! Yum! 

kookoos-nest-22

Burger topped with thick slices of cheese 

kookoos-1

Want beer? Don’t bother calling the waitress! Get one from the cooler outside the kitchen and update the list on the board! Each guest’s name will be listed and you have to list down any drink you will be having. Honesty system! Pretty convenient as well. 

They offer a variety of activities for those who would like to be active, such as snorkeling and kayaking. If you just want to relax, on the other hand, you can just lie on the beach and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

kookoos-nest-31

From the left-most end of the cove 

kookoos-nest-13

kookoos-nest-28

kookoos-nest-11

Until next time, Kookoo’s Nest! 

Kookoo’s Nest is one of the best places I have seen. What it lacks in luxury, it makes up for in natural beauty and intimacy. This is a great choice if you want a laidback holiday! Heard a lot of good words about the owners, but unfortunately, they were on a vacation when we were there. Hope to meet them one day!

Coco Grove Beach Resort: The Best Place to Stay in the Magical Island of Siquijor

Standard

Coco Grove Beach Resort

 

12nn. We were aboard a pump boat going to Siquijor from Dumaguete. I texted Coco Grove Beach Resort and asked if they have an available room. The response was quick. I was also swift in making the booking. Without second thoughts, I made the reservation and it was instantly settled.

 

Casa Coco’s entrance 

 

2pm. Just in time for check-in, we arrived at the resort. Having only two days to spend in Siquijor, we had a lot of plans for the afternoon. Initially, we wanted to book an inland tour and explore waterfalls and beaches. But, the moment we saw the resort, our plans immediately changed. We ended up just chilling out, drinking beer, and taking it slow.

coco-grove-beach-resort-4

Outside our room at Coco Grove. We booked the cheapest. The spa and one of the pools in the resort are just a few steps away 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3809.

coco-grove-beach-resort-3

coco-grove-beach-resort-5

Orange walls and blue seats are seen all throughout the resort 

Expect a lot of walking during your stay. This place is huge! They have 91 rooms, 3 swimming pools, and 3 restaurants.

coco-grove-beach-resort-20

coco-grove-beach-resort-19

coco-grove-beach-resort-13

At Casa Coco, the newest part of the resort. Here, they have 30 rooms and 1 penthouse. They also have a Jacuzzi. This is the only part of the resort with Wi-Fi. 😦 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3841.

coco-grove-beach-resort-52

coco-grove-beach-resort-8coco-grove-beach-resort-28

coco-grove-beach-resort-6

One of the resort’s three pools. This is the one nearest our room

coco-grove-beach-resort-25coco-grove-beach-resort-24coco-grove-beach-resort-9

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3846. 

Olympic-sized pool with bar. The deepest part is 10 feet. 

coco-grove-beach-resort-19coco-grove-beach-resort-17coco-grove-beach-resort-22coco-grove-beach-resort-41

The pool at Casa Coco. It’s shallow and has a Jacuzzi. 

coco-grove-beach-resort-32

One of their restaurants. Loved their chicken curry! 

coco-grove-beach-resort-36coco-grove-beach-resort-35coco-grove-beach-resort-37

One of the bars at Coco Grove. They have cheap beer! Even the ones from the mini-bar are cheap. 

 

coco-grove-beach-resort-48

coco-grove-beach-resort-27

coco-grove-beach-resort-38

The beach was dirty. We didn;t even bother swimming! Probably because of the weather. Good thing they have three pools! 

Coco Grove offers a number of tours and activities, but typical of a hotel, their rates are more expensive compared to what you can find outside. We decided to hire a motorcycle to take us around. Regular rate is 1,000 for a day tour around the island. We were too lazy to go around, so we just checked out the Balete tree and Cambughay Falls.

coco-grove-beach-resort-50

coco-grove-beach-resort-49

Cambughay Falls 

coco-grove-beach-resort-45coco-grove-beach-resort-42

Enjoy drinks at Baha Bar. Best to visit during sunset. It’s only about four kilometers away from Coco Grove. Some nights, they also have buffet dinners. 

coco-grove-beach-resort-53

Guess Who’s Back, Back Again!

Standard

Myanmar and Bangkok 2016

 

Finally! After more than a year of hiatus, I am back! I’ve had my fair share of travel since my last post, and sadly, I have no time to write about each of them. As much as I would like to share and document those trips, I am too lazy to write about them! As a welcome back post, I am sharing some photos from my recent trip in Myanmar and Bangkok. By recent, I meant last June! These are just mostly pictures. Will be in Dumaguete soon, and I guess that is when I will start making more time to write about my adventures!

Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay, Myanmar

20160603_085116-01

Having just recently opened for tourism, Myamnar is a treasure waiting to be discovered, a diamond in the rough. It is slowly attracting more and more tourists, so I suggest that you visit it while the crowd isn’t as dense as what you can find in neighboring countries.

Yangon was our first stop. It’s chaotic! If you can book a flight direct to Mandalay and skip the capital, it would be better. But if you want to spend a day or two here, there are some beautiful pagodas that you can visit. If you are looking for the best hostel in Yangon, I suggest that you take a look at Scott @31st street.

 

20160603_131058-01

Inside our hostel in Yangon, Scott @ 31st Street

13327351_10154266654099485_1682259464484585504_n

Color and chaos

13342951_10154262770304485_2585929096024939804_n

Looking for the best restaurant in Yangon? Look for 999 Shan Noodle House. It’s just near Sule Pagoda

 

Bagan is my favorite part of our recent holiday in Myanmar. It is literally a city of thousand pagodas. Catch the sunrise and sunset. Rent an e-bike, it is the cheapest way to go around. There are no taxis and buses, so you either have to rent a bike or a car. Most hotels will have bike rentals.

 

20160605_111517-01

One of the many pagodas you will find in Bagan

12871468_10154271520669485_1619275274974221419_n

13335781_10154276788694485_192184668341733610_n

Shortly after sunrise

 

Mandalay is not to be missed as well. We only had two days here. We had the tri-city tour and my favorite was Inwa. You have to ride a boat to cross the river and a horse carriage to go around. It is definitely one of the highlights of our Myanmar trip.

Mandalay 22

We traveled as a group fo four all over Myanmar. Three of them went to Kuala Lumpur after while I continued my holiday in Bangkok.

Mandalay 25

 One of my favorite spots. Somewhere in the ancient city of Inwa.

20160608_152244-01

Still in Inwa

13346967_10154280193674485_355504903040983891_n

Super comfortable bus ride from Mandalay to Yangon, even if it took ten hours

Bangkok, Thailand

I spent a week on my own in Bangkok. My first visit was two years ao, and it was love at first sight. Its cosmopolitan vibe is a complete contrast from the rustic charm of Myanmar. During this trip, I did not visit any temple, museum, or any of the usual tourist attractions. Instead, I decided to take it slow – eat, drink, sleep, repeat! Haha. I was at the hostel most of the time, either sleeping or hanging out in the common area. For sunset, I would normally be in a rooftop bar. At night, I was drinking some more, mostly at Khao San or discovering new places.

20160610_180704-01

The Yard Hostel. This is where I stayed during my first three days in Bangkok. So much to love about this place!

20160611_122559-01

20160613_211034-01

On my last three days in Bangkok, I stayed at Lub d Siam. I stayed here two years ago. It is just right next to  train station and walking distance to some of the best shopping malls in the city.

20160613_190502-01

 

Bangkok is never complete without visiting its rooftop bars. This one’s at Above 11 in Fraser Suites.

20160613_191337-01

Awesome toilet! Pee while enjoying a spectacular city view!

20160613_191035-01

20160609_181959-01

Happy hour at Octave, Marriott

20160611_183325-01

Another awesome rooftop bar. This is at Vertigo, Banyan Tree 20160612_125741-01

At Sofitel, they have unlimited BBQ and beer on Sundays, inclusive of pool use.

 

That’s it friends! I know it wasn’t informative! Sorry! Will be back on track after my Dumaguete trip. Will try to make a better post! Cheers!

 

 

Bantayan Island, Cebu: Exploring One of Cebu’s Hidden Gems

Standard

After welcoming 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I had something exciting to look forward to – my first time in Bantayan Island, or anywhere in Cebu. While I am not a fan of bus rides, I can endure as long as there is a promise of a rewarding experience at the end of the trip. In El Nido, for instance, I had a 5-hour bus ride from the airport to the town proper. I did this already twice and did not mind the length of the trip because I know my destination is going to be worth it. The same also holds true in the case of Bantayan. From the Mactan International Airport in Cebu, we had to to go to North Bus Terminal and rode a bus bound to Hagnayan Port (170 pesos) for 3 hours and a ferry (170 pesos + 10 pesos terminal fee) going to the island for an hour. Including the waiting time, it took us more than 5 hours before we have finally arrived.

The seclusion of Bantayan is perhaps its biggest selling point. The long stretch of the beach that is not crowded with tourists offers the perfect retreat for anyone who is in search of utter privacy. While they have limited restaurants in the area, almost every place we visited offered an unforgettable culinary delight. There are no bars playing loud party music, but we loved every night spent drinking beer and listening to reggae music. The beach itself isn’t swimmable, at least during the time of our visit. Nonetheless, it was compensated with a visit to the nearby island and an entire day of an inland tour.

Anika Island Resort

Bantayan Island, Cebu

We booked a single villa room at Anika Island Resort from January 8 – 11 and paid only 2,200 pesos per night. I find the rate quite cheap, considering the ambiance at the resort. While the sand is fine, it was disappointing that the beach is quite dirty during the time of our visit. The room, set in a container van, is quite small but does not fall short in terms of the comfort it provides. Our room also has a private veranda. While the resort has its own restaurant, we personally felt it is not at par with what you will find around the area. Apart from being overpriced, there is nothing really special about their food. Anika also has its own beachfront area, which is the perfect place to chill under the heat of the sun, with a beer, of course!

Our room for 4 days

Our room for 4 days

It was windy during our visit. Unfortunately, teh beach by the hotel where we stayed was like this.

It was windy during our visit. Unfortunately, the beach by the hotel where we stayed was like this.

Eating and Drinking

Bantayan is no place for fancy, five-star hotel dinners and sunset cocktails. However, this does not mean you cannot have a gastronomic adventure while in the island. During our 4-day vacation, were able to sample some of their best culinary delights, from mouthwatering pizza to the best pork sinigang we have tasted. The nightlife is quite laidback, mostly spent listening to reggae music or having intimate conversations by the bar. While this is no place to get drunk and wild, it offers a perfect stress-free nightlife you might just not experience somewhere else. Lost all pics from where we had dinner and drinks. Best places to check out include Bavarian Beer Garden, HR Native Restaurant, CouCou Bar and Restaurant, and of course, Blue Ice Bar and Restaurant.

Virgin Island

Because it was windy during our trip, we were not able to swim at the beach in front of Anika. It was also kind of dirty that time. Good thing we visited Virgin Island, which is about 45 minutes away from the resort. We rented a boat for 800 pesos and paid 500 pesos for entrance good for two. We did not bring lunch because we were advised there is food in the island. However, it turned out they have nothing but fish, which can be only fried and does not look fresh. It will never be enough to get your stomach filled, especially if to plan to stay longer. Good thing they sell beer! If you are planning to include this in your Bantayan itinerary, be sure to bring lunch or at least pack sandwiches.

20150110_114134_1

20150110_114906_1 20150110_120936_1 20150110_132307_1

20150110_120952_1

Inland Tour

Bantayan Island is composed of three municipalities – Bantayan, Madridejos, and Sta. Fe. The island is relatively small and one whole day is more than enough for a tour. The best way to get around is to rent a motorcycle, which was what we did. We paid 700 pesos for the whole day and spent the day visiting caves, surrounding beaches, a church, the public market, and a nature farm.

20150108_153325_1 20150108_165303_1

20150109_133302_1 20150109_132228_1 20150109_133659_1 20150109_140703_1

20150109_152341_1

20150109_161946_1 20150109_153434_1

10930131_10153041127979485_6349176441602200990_n 1505478_10153041127199485_3140184293899871255_n 10930931_10153041126944485_3347309482631206792_n

Snapshots: Boracay and La Union

Standard

Boracay

If there is one place I won’t mind visiting again and again, without a doubt, it would be Boracay. A lot may hate Boracay because of being over-crowded, but for me, I have nothing but love for this party island. This is already my eight time here and if someone asks me to be back anytime, granted that I have money, without blinking an eye, I would eagerly plan my return.

* Stayed at Zuzuni, an intimate 13-room beachfront hotel. Excellent service, good food from their in-house restaurant.

* First time to have visited Spider House, which instantly became a favorite.

* In my many visits in Boracay, this is the time I have seen the island at its most beautiful. Clean and not too crowded. No algal bloom during our trip (Jan 31 – Feb 2).

10959357_10153079821384485_4664667070773172496_n

10526153_10153079821444485_2030202193386230443_n

1656232_10153079819479485_1405790735565049386_n

10941821_10153079821854485_841275867282831970_n

La Union 

Since I am not a surfer, and I have no plans of learning how to surf, I had no intentions of visiting La Union. When friends I met from Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival planned a trip in this surfing haven, I had hesitations at first. Nonetheless, after our 4-day visit, I ended up loving its chill ambiance. For non-surfers like me, you can enjoy La Union just by sitting on the shore, drinking a bottle of beer, and enjoying conversations with good friends.

* For this trip (Feb 5 – 8), we stayed at Fatwave Surf Resortand Hacienda Peter. Both were very cheap, so do not expect anything good, except the fact that, well, it is cheap.

* Do not forget to try the burger at Fatwave. I had it three time during our 4-day trip.

* Hang out at Flotsam and Jetsam. The pizza is not to be missed!

* Eat at Gefseis, a nice Greek restaurant just along the main road.

10689567_10153102347954485_548438292617375594_n

10388634_10153102347379485_4055286979030874192_n

18221_10153102347034485_6940971519095567371_n

11006481_10153102346764485_2300278706925229195_n10930029_10153102345954485_8192911868689345133_n

Siem Reap, Cambodia: Welcoming 2015 in the Kingdom of Wonder

Standard

Three weeks before the end of 2014, I found myself struggling looking for the cheapest flight possible to Bangkok. Unfortunately, airfare proved to be too expensive, which convinced me to look for an alternate destination instead. I checked other possible options and I ended up booking for a flight to Siem Reap.

Cambodia, specifically Siem Reap, does not excite me prior to this trip. The idea of visiting the temples, although cultural, is not my cup of tea. I had friends, however, who recently went to Siem Reap for a holiday and told me how nice the place is, which is the only thing that convinced me to give it a shot. I was actually stoked with the idea of visiting a country for the first time to welcome a new year on my own even if I have a vague idea on what to expect during the entire trip. While there are hesitations at first, I ended up loving Siem Reap, wishing I could stay longer and making me eager to return.

20141230_232818_1

Welcome to Siem Reap, Cambodia!

Mad Monkey Hostel

Traveling on a budget and on my own, I have to ditch the idea of staying in a fancy hotel. Instead, a more practical choice is to stay in a hostel since it is way cheaper and it presents an excellent opportunity to meet other people. After a thorough online research and being confronted with heaps of alternatives, I ended up choosing Mad Monkey. I booked for one bed in a 6-bed dorm from December 30 to January 5 for only $8 per night. Such a steal! I have stayed in several hostels in the past and Mad Monkey easily made it on the top of my list.

Six-Bed Mixed Dorm and Art-Filled Walls at Mad Monkey

One of the many things I liked about Mad Monkey is their pool at the ground level. While I did not swim in the pool during my entire stay, most of the time, I was lounging on one of their blue bean bags while talking to other guests. Everyone was friendly and it was never hard to strike a good conversation. As soon as I wake up each morning, I grab a beer from the bar and stay on the poolside. What a good way to start your day!

20150104_160718_1

Mad Monkey Pool. Perfect place to chill and have a beer.

If the pool gets too crowded, you can head to the second floor where they have the sundeck lounge. Here, they have three massive sunbeds and a good view of the pool.

20150104_161854(0)_1

Mad Monkey Sundeck

The Top Banana Beach Bar is another highlight of the hostel. This is where I often kick start the night. Beer for a dollar? Yes, they have it here! You have to take off your shoes as you enter since the floor is made of real sand to complete the beach vibe. They have different activities every night, such as beer pong tournament, sunset barbecue party, and keg party. At some nights, they also have free shots every hour!

20150104_160833_1

Day or night, chilling at Top Banana is one thing I look forward to.

One thing you should not miss is the grenade challenge. Once you have completed the grenade ($4), you get the put the name of the country on the board by the bar. Of course, I did it for the Philippines before I left! The bar closes strictly at 12mn. When the bell starts ringing, the shouts “Everyone head to Pub Street!”. This is where we all make our way to Pub Street, Siem Reap’s main party hub, like a marching band.

Mad Monkey is not only a party hostel, but also a socially responsible one. And no, it is not the kind of responsible that they will take care of you when you are drunk after a night of partying (though I think they will do that as they care for their guests). The hostel supports the building of water wells in rural Cambodia. Aside from that, they also have various efforts to support education of children, such as building libraries. Upon making a reservation form the hostel’s booking site, you can make donations to their different projects for as little as a dollar.

Cultural Booze Cruise

Mad Monkey offers tons of activities for you to try during your stay. Whether you want to go solo or as a group, be off-the-beaten pth or do what all the touristy stuff, be laid-back or be adventurous, they have something for everyone. One that I tried is the Cultural Booze Cruise. The cruise is cultural basically because you get to meet other people from different cultures, which is a perfect way of turning strangers into friends. Even if you are not staying at Mad Monkey, you can be part of the tour. This is a top rated activity to try in Siem Reap and one that should not be missed. For only $25, you get to have unlimited beer and shots from 2pm to 7pm, which is the entire duration of the tour.

The crazy bunch from the booze cruise

The crazy bunch from the booze cruise

1496618_10152976340324485_2433035654668775307_n

Before 2pm, the group assembled at the poolside bar of Mad Monkey and rode a tuktuk. There were four of us in one tuktuk. We started heading to the boat station, which is about 10 kilometers. Never mind the dust, we are all enjoying a good beer anyway! We boarded our boat, start cruising through the lake, which happens to be the largest freshwater lake in South Asia, and dropped by a crocodile farm.

20141231_150020_1

20141231_152659_1

After feeding the crocodiles, we boarded the boat again and stopped in one area where you can go swim. This is where more fun starts to happen. We began formally introducing ourselves and played a game called My Pussy. They learned I was Filipino and asked me to sing as they believe Filipinos are good singers. Guess what, I did not sing!  When the booze cruise ended, we all headed to Top Banana to continue drinking and waited until 12mn to welcome the new year! Happy 2015!!!

Angkor Archaeological Park

20150103_151619_1

If you read travel guides to Siem Reap, The Angkor Archaeological Park, specifically the Angkor Wat, is going to be the most suggested part of your itinerary. In fact, it would be a crime not to visit the park during your holiday! It is going to be the most touristy stuff you can do in Siem Reap, but it is all worth it. During this trip, even Beyonce and Jay-Z visited the temples during my trip!

20150103_164245_1

Scenic road to the temples

20150103_173444_1

Angkor Wat – The most touristy place in Siem Reap

20150103_161433_1

Ta Prohm – Recognized by many as the movie set of Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider

20150103_165911_1

Angkor Thom – The temple of smiling faces

One thing that I loved about Angkor is how scenic the drive is going to the temples. The trees lined up and the roadside will surely give you a treat, even if the trip is going to be dusty. I bought a one-day pass for $20 and did a small tour of the three temples. From the hostel, I rented a tuktuk to take me around the temples for $15. You will have complete control of how you manage your time. In my case, I just snapped a couple of shots and headed to the next one.

Eating and Drinking at Pub Street

20150101_003008_1

20150101_002738_1

Visiting Siem Reap will not be complete without checking out Pub Street, which, as the name implies, is a stretch of pubs. There are small alleyways as well leading to quieter but equally good places to eat and drink. This is where I was during the New Year countdown after pre-gaming at Top Banana. There are no grandiose fireworks here nor headliner DJs. Still, the street is packed with a joyful crowd to welcome 2015.

Siem Reap is famous for their Happy Pizza. I had one almost everyday.

Siem Reap is famous for their Happy Pizza. I had one almost everyday.

Most of the nights, during this trip, I was hanging out at Temple and Angkor Wat?, which are just fronting each other. Both have loud party music drawing a mixed crowd of tourists and locals. I also checked out Miss Wong, an intimate bar with vintage Shanghai interiors. I was eating mostly happy pizzas from different places. If you are looking for fancier dining options, do not forget to try Little Italy and Molly Malones. Pub Street is teeming with restaurants and bars. It is hard to run out of options, regardless of your budget.

20150101_204322_1

After my six-day solo trip to Cambodia, I was eager for one thing – to be back. As soon as I left, I was already thinking of my return. For sure, I will be staying at Mad Monkey again. I have nothing but good memories, especially of the nice people I met. Siem Reap is so intimate because it is small, which makes you see the same people every day. Siem Reap is also very cheap. In fact, I only spent $320 for 6 days, including room, food, tours, and countless beers, but excluding airfare. It could still be cheaper if you opt to party less, but that is going to kill the fun! Unlike other common holiday destinations, Siem Reap, for me, is unpretentious. Looking forward to having such an awesome experience again!

 

El Nido, Palawan: Twice The Charm The Second Time Around

Standard

El Nido, Palawan

With the abudnance of accolades received by Palawan, including being voted as the best island in the world, there is no wonder why many people are suddenly including it on their bucket lists. Palawan, however, is huge and finding a specific place that tickles your pickle can be a hard feat. With plenteous stops to choose from when traveling in this world-class destination, one that truly stands out from the rest is El Nido.

When I first visited El Nido in June 2013, it was love at first sight, island romance at its best. I easily forgot how I loved every other local destinations I have visited. From the moment I left, I eagerly planned my return. It took quite a while, but when I came back in November 2014, it was the same feeling – trapped in a special kind of exhilaration that is hard to explain. This place has a unique character, making it an easy choice when asked by other people about the best place to visit in the Philippines.

Because I loved El Nido so much, I am sharing with you our experience during our 5-day trip. We stayed at Entalula Beach Cottages and booked all of our tours from Discover El Nido.

Entalula Beach Cottages

We booked a room for 2,500 per night good for three persons. The room was small and it has a veranda. It is by the beach, which gives you a good view of Bacuit Bay. The booking also came with a free breakfast. If you are a heavy eater, you might want to consider eating outside as their breakfast comes in really small servings.

20141123_174107_1

A bad shot of Entalula. Forgot to take pics of the room. 😦

Nacpan Twin Beach

During my first time in El Nido, we failed to visit Nacpan Twin Beach because of the bad weather. When I came back, I made sure it is going to be part of our itinerary. We rented a van and paid 800 per head to take us to Nacpan, which is about half an hour away from the town proper. There, we were greeted with an almost empty beach. We walked towards a hill to snap a commanding shot of the beach.

20141121_103132_1

Priceless view of Nacpan Twin Beach

20141121_103727_1

From the other side

20141121_103615_1

El Nido Crew

Marimegmeg Beach

After spending a few hours in Nacpan and swimming with the playful waves, we headed to Marimegmeg Beach. This is where we tried their zip line and watched sunset. There are a couple of accommodations here but more expensive than the ones you’ll see from the town proper.

Scenic zip line. 500 pesos one-way. Once you reach the other end, you can walk going to Marimegmeg Beach,

Scenic zip line. 500 pesos one-way. Once you reach the other end, you can walk going to Marimegmeg Beach,

Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach

Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach

Tour A

If you ask anyone who has ever been to El Nido or even the tour operators, this is going to be one of the most highly recommended activities. The regular price of this package is 1,200 pesos per head. Since I have already booked with Discover El Nido before, they gave me a discount and we had it for only 1,000 pesos. Renting a kayak is also ideal for this tour. We did so and paid 700 for one kayak for the whole day.

20141122_134146_1

20141122_162736_1

For this tour, we visited the Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commandos Beach. We used the kayak we rented to enter the Small Lagoon. You can ditch it if you know how to swim and if you have the energy to do so. For the Big Lagoon, all you can do is take pictures and there is no swimming.  We also entered the Secret Lagoon, which can be reached upon entering a small hole. We had lunch at Shimizu Island and went kayaking around the area. Our last stop was Shimizu Island where we had ice cold bottles of beer to end the tour for that day.

 

Tour C

This is another activity that should not be missed when you are in El Nido. Instead of the normal 1,400 pesos for this tour, we paid 1,200 only from Discover E Nido. Again, this is because I have already booked with them before. Our first stop is the Matinloc Shrine, an abandoned shrine where you can have a picturesque view upon climbing a rock. We also visited Hidden Beach and Secret Beach, both were nothing but amazing. The last time I was in El Nido, we were not able to enter the Secret Beach because of the high tide. In this trip, we are lucky enough to finally be able to enter the lagoon. It is a bit of a challenge especially for non-swimmers since you need to enter a small hole first. We had lunch at Star Beach, where the boatmen once again showcased their plating skills through the sumptuous meal they prepared for us. The tour ended with a visit to Helicopter Island. During my last trip, we did snorkeling here. This trip, I was too tired and did not eve entertain the idea of wearing my snorkeling gear.

20141123_151755_1

20141123_110931_1

Alta Vista de Boracay: Why I Won’t Give it a Second Try

Standard

Alta Vista de Boracay

I heard a lot of stories about how people hated Boracay on a peak season, such as during the Labor Day weekend. While there are people who visit the island for the party crowd and experience, this is also the same reason on why others try to settle for other destinations, perhaps those that are quieter but as promising in terms of having magnificent sunset, clear water, and white sand. Well, as for me, I believe that there is one thing that will create a huge impact on your experience: your choice of accommodation.

If you hate being in a crowded beach but would want to have a slice of the best of Boracay, the wisest thing to do is to stay in a hotel that is situated outside of the busiest areas. In this case, one of the choices that you might want to consider would be Alta Vista de Boracay. This is where we stayed for our last night during our five-day Labor Day weekend. It’s about 15 minutes away from D Mall, but the trip to and fro the hotel proved to be a lot longer during our stay because of the heavy traffic due to the tens of thousands of people enjoying #LaBoracay2014.

For this trip, we were lucky enough to have booked during the Travel Tour Expo last February. We were able to get a Studio Suite for a discounted price of 2,500 pesos. The room was good for two and included a free buffet breakfast. It was big and has 2 queen-sized beds. I also loved that it has a balcony, which can give you a calmer view of the island, different than what we saw from the first four days spent at Station 2. The room that we had was at the farthest building from the reception. Luckily, you can just give them a call and a shuttle will be soon on its way to pick you up from your room going to the receiving hall.

Alta Vista de Boracay5

 

Alta Vista de Boracay6

Alta Vista de Boracay7

Judging from the pictures that I have seen prior to the trip, the idea of staying at Alta Vista filled me with excitement. I thought that it is going to be a good way to have a slack from all the sleepless nights that we will be having from parties left and right. The swimming pool, among others, made me thrilled.

When I saw the pool, however, I kind of got frustrated. It was smaller than what I had in mind and less stellar that what I visualized. Perhaps, one thing that made it lose its appeal was the ongoing construction sight that ruined the view. Below, you can see a comparison of the picture of the swimming pool from the website and how it actually looked like when we were there.

Alta Vista de Boracay’s Infinity Pool

Alta Vista de Boracay33

A booking at Alta Vista comes with an exclusive access to Puka Beach. Just set a schedule at the front desk and a shuttle will take you to a private beach. This is one of the things that compensated for whatever drawbacks the hotel had. While enjoying a cold bottle of beer, I just can’t help but compare it to how Stations 1 and 2 were during that weekend. For a moment, I almost forgot it was peak season in Boracay.

Puka Beach

Alta Vista de Boracay is a hotel that could improve in ways more than one. While it looks all good in pictures you can see online, your experience might not be as pleasurable. The buffet breakfast, for instance, is nowhere average. It was one of the most horrible buffet spreads I have ever seen. Food looks pale, almost tasteless, and as if commanding to be avoided. In fact, I did not even bother getting anything. I just had juice.

Improvements can also be made when it comes to customer service. It took us a long time before we finally checked in. To say that it was peak season should never be an excuse. The worst was that we had to climb uphill at 4 in the morning after having one too many drinks. We asked the guard if we can be picked up by a shuttle from the entrance but we were informed that we had to go on our own. This might have been tolerable, but not when you had too much to drink. Nonetheless, if you are traveling as a family or if you simply prefer to see the serene side of Boracay, you might still want to see Alta Vista. You might end up being lucky enough to see it in a different light.

Boracay Haven Resort: A New and Promising Hotel at the Heart of Station 2

Standard

Boracay Haven Resort: A New and Promising Hotel at the Heart of Station 2

By being strategically-located, a hotel enjoys the benefit of accessibility – one thing that lures people who are looking for the perfect accommodation. Staying in a place near where all the action is, in spite of being crowded, will make your vacation worry-free. With the beach, restaurants, bars, and other places of interests within its vicinity, Boracay Haven Resort became an easy choice for our first night in Boracay during the Labor Day weekend.

Boracay Haven Resort 9

The decision to book an overnight stay at Boracay Haven Resort is something I made in haste. During the Travel Tour Expo 2014 held at SMX, I found a room offered at 2,700 and after a quick look at their website, I had the booking settled right there and then. Perhaps because of excitement, it was too late when I realized that I did not check reviews from other people, especially from my always-trusted TripAdvisor. When I finally had the time to check, I became disappointed when I saw negative reviews from past guests, most of which were noting that construction is not yet done. Nonetheless, the management assured that by the #LaBoracay weekend, the hotel will be all good and ready to serve its guests.

Hotel's Reception Area

Hotel’s Reception Area

When we arrived at Boracay Haven, we were immediately attended by some of their friendly employees and were offered cold towel and welcome drinks. These were exactly what we needed to survive the heat! The check-in went a bit slow, but tolerable. We were informed that construction works are not yet totally finished and are scheduled from 10 am to 5 pm. From our experience, we have not been bothered as the noise is minimal.

The room given to us is at the 2nd floor of the hotel and was almost no way different from the pictures in their website. It has a balcony, where you can see the entire hotel, including the swimming pool and the restaurant. There is no fridge, but they have safety deposit box, TV, coffee and tea-making facilities, cabinet, and split-type AC. The bed was clean and very comfortable, although I prefer the pillows to be firmer.

Boracay Haven Resort 1

Boracay Haven Resort 23

View the room's balcony

View the room’s balcony

Although the bathroom is nice, it is very evident that construction has been rushed. I liked how they do not skimp of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Instead of the usual small bottles, they have huge containers that would never ask for a refill. They do not have hair dryer and bidet, though. They have hot and cold shower. It was my first time to see a rainshower head with LED that changes its color when water is hot or cold! I found this really cool and cannot help but take a look at it while taking a shower.

Boracay Haven Resort 24

If you do not want to go outside the hotel to eat, they have their own restaurant and bar, which is open 24 hours. We had lunch there and ordered Sinigang na Baboy and Lumpiang Shanghai. I forgot how much exactly we paid, but I am sure it is between 500 to 600 pesos only. I would recommend eating here at least once during your stay. Not only that it is convenient, the food deserves a thumbs up! Two thumbs up, actually.

Lunch from Eden Bar and Restaurant

Lunch from Eden Bar and Restaurant

Our booking came with buffet breakfast, which is perhaps another reason on why we enjoyed Boracay Haven. Although options are quite limited, they are almost all good. Some items from the menu that I can remember include Potato Mojos, Chop Suey, Pancit Bihon, Pork Adobo, and Hungarian Sausage. They also have egg, salad, and fruit stations.

Buffet Breakfast

Buffet Breakfast

The swimming pool is one of the highlights of the hotel, but we did not have the chance to take a dip while we were there. From the way it looks, seems like the pool isn’t completely done, although already good for swimming.

Boracay Haven Resort 2

As you walk outside of the hotel going to the beach, you will pass by Boracay Regency and McDonald’s. Even if the hotel it not located on the beachfront, they have a private area by the beach that can be used by its guests. It is located in front of Reyes Barbecue, which is also owned by the same owners of Boracay Haven. This is also where you can get the complimentary cocktails given to their guests. Their sunbeds are perfect if you want to get a tan, see the sunset, or simply revel upon the sight of people enjoying the beach.

Sunset at Haven's exclusive beachfront area

Sunset at Haven’s exclusive beachfront area

Boracay Haven Resort 16

Boracay Haven Resort 8

If you are making plans of heading to Boracay anytime soon, I highly recommend that you check Boracay Haven Resort. The rates are very affordable, while making sure that your stay will be memorable. This will surely make you love Boracay even more.