Saturday, November 9

Japan Tipid Trip with a Two-Day Osaka Amazing Pass

Went to Osaka, Japan last June 28 until July 2 and for the last two days I was there, I used the Osaka Amazing Pass (OAP) to enter various sightseeing spots and for most of my railway train rides around the city.

I got my OAP at the Tourist Information Counter outside the arrival gates at Kansai International Airport in Osaka. It costs 3600yen for the 2-day pass (approximately 1600php). You can use it to enter museums, gardens, watch shows and musicals, and ride the local trains and buses.

After my trip, I listed everything I should have paid for the places I've visited and all the train rides I've taken and it added up to almost 9000yen (approx. 4200php). Imagine that! 2600php saved just for planning. I didn't even really max it out because I had to leave for the airport by 4pm on my last day. I could have seen or done more with that pass.

Anyway, if you're visiting Japan soon and on a tight budget, I highly highly recommend looking out for tourist passes you can use. Below are two videos for the places I've visited using my OAP. :)



Sunday, October 13

Going to La Seu d'Urgell from Andorra

La Seu d'Urgell is the nearest Spanish town from the Andorran border. It is in the province called Lleida in Spain. Since Andorran residents can freely travel to Spain and France without the need for a visa, I took a chance one Saturday to visit the farmer's market at the center to get fresh produce that I can cook for the week.



The bus stop is just beside the giant stairs in Caldea. Bus to La Seu leaves every hour starting at 9am. Fare costs €3.50 one way. The trip takes about 30 minutes and you must get off at the terminal, the bus station at La Seu. From there, I had to ask locals where the market was. "Perdón. Dónde está el mercado?" I followed their directions and finally got there. If you're too shy to ask and you happen to have a connection to Google Maps, just search for Carrer Major, that's the entire street for the farmers market.




Where else can you go when you visit La Seu? Well in my case, I went to the Cathedral of Santa Maria d'Urgell, a grand romanesque Catholic church which is also the seat of the Diocese of Urgell, the bishop being one of the co-princes of Andorra. Another place I visited was the Segre Olympic Park where you can watch athletes do white water and kayak trainings or just lounge at the grass, have a picnic, and people-watch. There's many other places to visit like museums, other churches, the monastery, more parks, community/art centers, but I'm saving them for my next trip.


Going back though was a bit tricky. I came to the bus stop at 01:05pm and saw the bus to Andorra leaving. I forgot that the trips are on an hourly interval only. So I had to wait and kill time at the nearby benches for about an hour to catch the next bus home. Silly me. So yeah, if you have a set time to be back in Andorra, make sure you come to the bus station at least 10 minutes before the bus departure time.

Here's a short video of my trip and the things I saw and bought from the market. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7

Cabangan, Zambales: Beach Trip Just 4 Hours North of Manila

I've never been to Zambales before. Not even in the notoriously-crowded-especially-during-the-Holy-Week Nagsasa Cove or Anawangin Beach in Pundaquit. So visiting Cabangan (pronounced as ka-bang-GAN) with my friends had been a wonderful first time.



We stayed at JOY'S PLACE ON THE BEACH overnight and it cost Php6300 for 6pax. See map below for the exact location.



The journey to Joy's Place was problem-free; my friend drove and we left early on a Saturday (Feb. 17), the day after the Chinese New Year. You'd think many people would flock the beach on this holiday weekend but when we got there... WOW! The beach was almost empty, begging us to come in for a swim. It was so serene and relaxing. There were only 5 groups including ours booked in Joy's Place. The other resorts nearby were about 10-15 minutes walk from ours so we had monopoly of our beach front. 





We checked in at 3pm after a late lunch at a restaurant called Elsie's (about 10 mins drive from Joy's Place) and market shopping at the local community market (5 mins away from Elsie's) for our dinner and breakfast meals.


After checking in and taking a short rest, we headed out for an afternoon swim so we can catch the sunset.



At about 7pm we started cooking food for dinner (pork sinigang with gabi and grilled tilapia). At Joy's Place, you just pay Php200 and you'll be able to use the entire outdoor kitchen fully equipped with a double gas burner, grill, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, dinnerware, etc. They will also give you a free 5-gallon distilled water (20 liter blue bottle with faucet). We also borrowed an ice box for our beverages (ice costs Php5 at the nearby store).

All I can say about Joy's Place is that they really are a very welcoming family and they render outstanding services filled with hospitality and passion. We met Samantha, Ms. Joy's cute little daughter, Ms. Joy's sister, and even their cute little Jack Russell Terrier named Beamer.



The family room was spacious enough to sleep 6 (two bunk beds with the lower bunk sleeping 2 persons and upper bunk sleeping 1 person). Airconditioning was working well. We were provided bath towels (I don't think this applies to the kubo). There were also a couple rolls of toilet paper and a small drawer/cabinet for our things.

It truly was a wonderful experience and I'll definitely be returning to this place with my husband and my doggo. :)

By the way, to reach Cabangan from Manila, you can take the Victory Liner bus to Iba, Zambales, costs less than Php350. Tell the conductor to drop you off at Brgy. Anonang (it's quite popular there cause another famous resort is in the same beach strip -- the Casa Angelina) , just right after the Cabangan welcome arch. From there you can either take a tricycle or ask Ms. Joy to fetch your group (fee applies).


For information on Joy's Place room rates and her contact number, leave your email on the comments section and I'll send them to you. Thanks! Cheers to more beach trips! <3





Friday, March 2

TPE Trip Tip: Where to Exchange Philippine Pesos to Taiwan Dollars

Taiwan has been amazing! Went there with my husband and stayed for four full days and we enjoyed it so much. The food, the weather, the sceneries, and the convenience of traveling -- these make us want to return soon. So to document our trip should we plan to return, I'll share here the preps I've taken prior to our trip to Taiwan. First off -- the currency exchange from Philippine Pesos to New Taiwan Dollars.

Currency photo from Stencil

By the way, it's written as NT$ as currency symbol or TWD as currency code. The Google rate during our trip was NT $1 = Php 1.76. This is my basis for all forex transactions I looked for.

These were the effective rates when I was looking for the best place to exchange money:

Per NT$1, I would need to sell in this bank/shop this amount of pesos:

BDO:                    Php 1.768
SANRY'S :           Php 1.95
PNB:                     Php 1.789
Taoyuan Airport:  Php 2.01

Therefore, the rate I need is the lowest rate. That means I'd get more TWD for less PHP. BDO would have been the best option but when I visited my home branch to finally reserve some, the banker said I must check in 2 weeks because that currency is not readily available.

It was less than 3 weeks before our flight and I thought I could still get them but no. So I had to go to the next shop which sells lowest and that is PNB. With PNB, I got our TWD just 3 days after I called for reservation. Just a heads up, BDO requires passport, plane ticket, and TIN. PNB only requires any valid ID card. But they charge 100php for the transaction fee.

Another important note, if you can, use your credit card in Taiwan for shops that accept cards. The rates are good; you can use your cash for the night markets instead. As you can see below, our hostel costs NT$ 2430 and I paid 4636.28 pesos which makes the exchange rate 1.795 only. That's pretty competitive.


So there you have it. Try BDO first (reserve at least a month before), if not, go to PNB. And use your credit card too. 

Enjoy Taiwan! :)



Tuesday, February 6

Tab for A Cause: Raise Money for Charity by Browsing the Web

To everyone who works on a computer connected to the Internet every single day, here's a passive way for you to raise money for different charities around the world.


"A better world can be built by all of us.
Brick by brick; click by click."
- Tab for A Cause
WHAT IS IT?

     Tab for A Cause is a browser extension (it's an app that opens and works automatically once you've opened a new tab) that replaces your regular page with a customised page with advertisements and other features.

HOW DO THEY EARN FROM THIS? HOW DOES IT WORK?

     The advertisers/sponsors pay the company for every impression (i.e. every time you open a new tab and see the ads). The money is pooled and divided to the different charities listed in the site.

    Please watch this quick video to understand better:




HOW TO START?

     First thing you need to do is install the app. CLICK HERE.

WHAT'S NEXT?

     Just proceed with your usual browsing. Collect hearts and then donate those hearts to your charity of choice.

     I've been an active Tabber for 67 days already and I've collected 627 hearts which I donated to Save the Children.

Right now there are 8 charities to choose from.



More answers to the frequently asked questions can be found HERE. Feel free to leave comments for other questions. Please join and start tabbing now so we can help the charities! :)



Monday, January 29

Review: Meike MK-35mm F/1.7 Manual Lens for Fujifilm Mirrorless (Lazada)

I've had a Fujifilm XA3 camera since June last year but I haven't really gotten around to practising with the manual settings. I often just set it on SR+ (automatic) and use it mainly like a point-and-shoot cam just with a better lens.


We'll be going to Taiwan in two weeks and I wanted to do some photography practice there that's why I decided to order a Meike 35mm manual lens from Lazada last January 21. It arrived a couple of days ago (January 27). Super fast! So here goes; an honest review coming right up!

Item: Meike MK-35mm F/1.7 Manual Lens for Fujifilm Mirrorless
Cost: 3622php
Freebie: Small lens bag
Purchased via: Lazada (link here)
Seller: Duoqiao (shipped from China)

This lens fits all FujifilmX cameras that have the FX mount as well as other cameras using the 4/3 adapter. There are several other Meike's in Lazada but you have to be careful cause they may be built for other brands. Always check the listing first and do not be afraid to ask the seller.

Upon receiving and opening the package, I noticed a small wet portion on the box. I was kinda worried that it may have damaged the item inside but when I checked, everything was ok.



The box contained the following:
1 x Camera Lens
1 x Cleaning Cloth
1 x User Manual
1 x Storage Bag
1 x Front Lens Cap
1 x Rear Lens Cap

The rear lens cap I was able to use with my kit lens when I removed it and replaced with this 35mm. The front lens cap can only be used for this lens because it's not the type that clicks and the size is smaller of course.

The freebie bag was also nice. It's dual-padded and comes in a basic black color. It can keep my kit lens while travelling and I can take them both and interchange whenever I want. This bag apparently costs 300+ pesos so it's a good freebie, IMO.

The lens seems like it's built of sturdy materials. It's quite heavy and made with a full metallic body so I guess this will need constant wiping to rid it of moisture and avoid rust. It will need a desiccant as well when stored.

It fits my XA3 perfectly, the lips latch on properly and I can't see any unwanted gaps or stray metal elements. The adjustment rings (those that move to adjust the aperture and focus) flow nicely, not too loose or tight.

My only concern here is that this purchase does not come with any warranty. So it is best to avoid any mishaps, otherwise, you'll see your 3622php down the drain.

Other than that, I believe this is a really good purchase from Duoqiao and Lazada. I've already recommended this to users on the FujifilmX Facebook group. :)

Sample shots (spare me from your harsh criticism as I am an amateur and I haven't really had formal tutorials with photography LOL):






Wednesday, January 24

DIY Native American/Wild Wild West Costume

One of the "hate" reasons on my love-hate relationship with Christmas parties is wearing costumes. As much as you want to be cooperative, some costume themes would force you to spend for unnecessary items just to complete your look. You wouldn't want to go underdressed either for fear of being mocked as a KJ or "kill joy".

Last year, our office's theme was Wild Wild West. Most people would think cowboys and cowgirls, county sheriff, etc. I thought of the Native Americans, 'cause they're actually the first inhabitants of the wild west.

And I thought that wearing something that resembles Pocahontas would be easy and cost-effective if I can only find the right or close-enough items. And I did, at my favourite ukay-ukay branch. Total money spent on this costume: Php105 (~$2).

Brown top, Php35 -- It had long sleeves so I had to cut them off. I used the trimmings as accessories. I added frills on the lower part for effects.

Skirt, Php20 -- It was really big for me but I didn't want to spend money for alterations, so I just chose to buy a belt.

Belt, Php50 -- an Esprit braided belt made with brown and beige leather (matched my top and skirt perfectly). It needed some glue works. Easy fix.

For accessories, I found a brown shoe lace that I used as choker. Then I asked our neighbour for a piece of his rooster's tail feather. I still had a lot of hemp yarn left from our wedding decor so I used that as hair accessories, as add-ons to my braids. As for the brown sandals, I already had these as a gift by my grandmother-in-law years back.

With a little resourcefulness and creativity... tadaaaah! A DIY Native American costume for cheap! And here are the photos. :)


Krum doing his best to prevent me from working on my project.
I used my favorite shirt as pattern for the length of the sleeves that I want.

Dress rehearsal


Found my tribe leaders! :D Our office architect (left) and one of my bosses at the library (right)


With the UP President, our dean, Danilo Concepcion :)

Friday, December 29

BKK Trip Tip: Foreign Currency Exchange from Philippine Peso to Thai Baht

The best place to exchange your money in Bangkok is at this forex place in Phetchaburi Road, near First House Hotel, Platinum Mall, and Pantip Plaza. It's called Good Rate Exchange and the address is 14/30 Petchburi Soi19, Ratchathewi, Bangkok. Contact number in Bangkok is 02-253-4557.

If you're coming from Khao San Road or from any hostel/guesthouse near the Democracy Monument, you can take Bus No. #60 at the bus stop side of McDonald's and go down Pantip Plaza (fare is 11 baht).

Locate the McDonald's at the ground floor of Shibuya Mall and walk along the street right next to it. You'll see the money exchange shop before the street ends, in front of Brom's Cosmetics shop (see map below).

The best money exchange shop in Bangkok, near First House Hotel

Brom's Cosmetics in front of the money exchange shop



Do not exchange your money at Suvarnabhumi Airport. The rates are really really bad. If you need Baht just for the bus or train fare to go to your hotel, better exchange at your home countries before leaving for Thailand. In the Philippines, the best rates are at Sanry's Money Changer located at Ayala Malls.

Forex at the Suvarnabhumi Airport right after you get out of your aircraft. Don't exchange here!

Exchange rates during my trip (need to look for the bigger baht per peso exchange rate):

In the Philippines (at the money changers in the departure area of NAIA T3) -- 0.56 baht per 1 peso
At Suvarnabhumi airport -- 0.49
In Phetchaburi Rd. / Pratunam -- 0.625 (WINNER!)
At Khao San Rd. -- 0.62
At Silom Rd. -- 0.60
At MBK mall -- 0.62


Friday, December 1

HK Trip Tip: Hong Kong Cheapotel

Another one on our #cheapotel series. :)

I'm really a fan of cheap hotels, hostels, inns, or guesthouses. As long as they are clean and safe, why would I bother going somewhere that costs $$$ right? I'll use the extra money instead on food and experiences while I'm there.

The entrance to the Alhambra building
Presenting our booking from our Hong Kong trip last June - the ASIA TRAVEL HOUSE. This one located in Kowloon is a really good accommodation because:

✓ it's only 4400php for a 3-night stay for 2 persons (that makes it just 733php per person per day)
✓ it's in between the Yau Ma Tei and the Jordan Stations of MTR, just a 5-min walk from either station to this guesthouse
✓ it's so close to Temple Street Night Market! if you love streetfood, the night life, city vibes, you should stay here or any hotels along Nathan Road
✓ the operator we nicknamed "Wiggums" is really kind, including his entire family (he and his wife couldn't speak in English so I think it was their son who talked to us)
✓ they gave us a free 4-days worth of coffee (3-in-1 sticks of Nescafe) which really helped us save some more on our breakfasts
✓ there's Bonjour convenience store just below the guesthouse as well as fruit and food stalls on the ground floor
✓ the room is clean, there's hot water, the sheets are cleaned daily, there are bath towels available as well as toiletries
✓ it's perfect for solo budget travellers and/or backpacking couples like us.

WORD OF CAUTION:
I almost booked a room from two hostels in Chungking Mansions. I read extremely bad reviews about this building and I saw photos of really bad conditions of pipes and exit doors, etc. Great thing I cancelled. This is why I love Booking.com!


I think we really lucked out here. I mean, the room we booked is not big, it's actually cramped and there's minimal space you can move around in, but it was enough for us and I think it would be enough for any budget-savvy couples out there.

My only suggestion is if you're not super close with the person you're going to HK with, then book a different room or a larger one. Cause with Asia Travel House, you really have to sacrifice your intimate personal space. Lol.


At the first floor of the building where Asia Travel House is located

Inside the first floor entrance - facing the road, on the left is Yau Ma Tei and towards the right is Jordan

Shops at the ground floor and the elevators are the ones on the right

Hallway to our room

That's Wiggums




     

Our room has two single beds adjoined to form a double bed

It has the basics - a working AC, tv, towels, a water heater, hangers for your clothes, soap and shampoo, toothbrush and paste. You can also borrow a hairdryer.

Water pressure is strong and there's also heated shower

That's it. Enjoy your stay in Hong Kong! Cheers to more budget-friendly travels. 😀

PS:
Here are some other Hong Kong tips I have for you:
1. Money Exchange
2. Hong Kong Itinerary