Monday, May 26, 2008

andanita taj: experience india in tagaytay

susie and i were to attend a wedding in tagaytay during the weekend, and since it was going to end late, we thought it would be safer to just stay the night instead of driving back down to manila.

after checking out various accommodation options in tagaytay, we ended up reserving a room in andanita taj, a newly-opened themed bed and breakfast in tagaytay. aside from themed rooms, it has its own indian-mediterranean restaurant that's open 24 hours.

reserving a room wasn't too hard. i called the place up, and luckily, they still had a room for us. they sent us the bank details, so we could deposit 50% of the room rate to secure our reservation. we were asked to bring a copy of the deposit slip and present it upon check-in.

taj isn't hard to find--from the rotonda, drive past residence inn on the highway, and you'll see andanita taj on the left side of the road. there just isn't enough parking, only 3 slots are available.

check-in was a breeze. while they were processing our transaction, they led us to a table and gave us complimentary drinks. there were plenty of cozy nooks in the restaurant where friends can easily hang out and have a few drinks. taj also offers really good mediterranean cuisine!

every room stay in andanita taj comes with free breakfast and spa treatments. upon check-in, we were asked what our breakfast and spa treatment preferences were. i opted for a fatless tocino breakfast with indian tea, and susie chose the american breakfast with coffee. for our spa pampering, we both decided to go for their 45-minute foot spa, scheduled after our breakfast the next day.

we were then escorted to our room, the casablanca deluxe, by a really helpful and kind member of the staff. he really insisted on carrying everything for us, and was so courteous! service in andanita taj is worth noting, really. everyone was kind, courteous, and friendly.

casablance deluxe is the moroccan-inspired room, and was clean and well-designed. from the site's pictures, though, i kind of expected it to be a little bigger. i guess it just looked crowded because of the furniture.

pogi points for the room for having ample closet space! at least, even though the room was a bit small, we had a place to keep our things in. we also had a TV and a DVD player in our room. the TV didn't have cable, but at least they were thoughtful enough to include some DVDs for us to watch.

the bathroom was clean, too, with a lot of candles. bathroom essentials, such as soap, toothbrush, shampoo, and even a tube of moisturizing body lotion, were provided. towels came in a set of 3--a bath towel, a hand towel, and a face towel.

i give a negative point for the bug encounters we had. we understand that it's hard to keep bugs out in a place such as tagaytay, but some cleanliness checks can be done. all the bugs we found were all DOA (dead on our arrival).

now, for more plus points: the breakfast came in good-sized portions! and true to their promise, their tocino was indeed fatless! i wish more breakfast joints would offer that. susie also seemed to enjoy his bacon, bread, and jam, because i hardly had any time to steal any of his breakfast! the indian tea that came with my meal was yummy!

after breakfast, we retreated back to casablanca to wait for our foot spa. the foot massage part was bit painful for me, and the therapist told me to check on my uric acid levels. my feet felt relieved after the treatment, though. it had been feeling tired for a while. susie also enjoyed his foot spa, and that means i can now drag him to more spas!

all in all, the andanita taj experience was great. we will definitely be back to see more of their themed rooms.

see more photos of andanita taj.

contact information:
andanita taj
address: 5059 aguinaldo highway, laurel, metro-tagaytay
tel. no.: (046) 686-1520
mobile nos.: +63 919 8216931; +63 922 8205506

Friday, May 23, 2008

how do i save for a trip?

ask anyone why they don't travel, and the answer will almost always involve money, or the lack thereof.

and i don't really blame them. even with the advent of budget travel, going on a trip can really cost a lot, especially to us who get paid with currency that doesn't seem to want to stop depreciating. i strongly feel, though, that money is better spent on travel and seeing new places than on outrageously priced clothes or expensive cups of coffee at the most happening coffee joint.

travel sites like brave new traveler has a few tips on saving for your trip. lucia byttebier offers 5 steps to save money like buddha. a more life-altering approach to saving can be found on brave new traveler's drastic ways to save money for your trip.

i would also like to share my own money saving/money making tips that allow me to tick off one travel goal after another. i started this love affair with travel some time in 2003, and i haven't stopped since (until this year, because i'm saving for my big bang trip). i started out with nearby luzon destinations, then branched out to visayas and some parts of mindanao. a couple of years ago, i decided to start conquering asia, and i've now been to hong kong (twice), macau, and singapore. i try and stick in a tiny trip whenever i can, so i can explore as much of my world as i can.

here are the ways i make some money for my trips. these really helped me realize my dream of seeing the world, albeit in a slowly-but-surely fashion.

1. earn extra income
this is especially crucial if you're going for a trip out of the country (though sometimes, local destinations can be just as expensive!). let's face it, the money we make here in good ol' pinas just isn't enough to get us enough money for a good, long trip. luckily, there are plenty of opportunities available today, thanks to the internet.

if you have a flair for writing, there are plenty of firms out there looking for content writers. i've done this a couple of times in the past, and have to admit that it's not for everyone, but if you keep your eye on the prize, you'll do just fine. put your spare time to use, write up a storm, and earn some extra money. i usually check out craigslist for some openings.

there are also web design and graphics jobs out there for the more artistically inclined. if you have friends in the entertainment, events, or advertising industry, they might be able to get you some rakets by helping out in an event. for those addicted to the internet, there are blog commenting jobs available. these usually don't pay that well, but if you can comment by bulk, your income can really pile up.

i always keep in mind, though, when i'm slaving away at one of these jobs, that they're not fancy, easy jobs. they can take up a lot of time, but on the upside, they get you some money. some people may scoff at the rates, but i always remind myself that every little bit helps. i was able to buy myself a laptop and a trip to singapore just by doing two months' worth of work at one of these opportunities. so before you say no, try it out first.

2. bring your own lunch
i know a lot of people who bring their own baon to work everyday. as for me, i do it 2 to 3 times a week, so that i don't feel like i'm shortchanging myself. it's a good compromise, because i get to save money, and still have that freedom-to-choose-whatever-i-want-to-eat feeling. :p

3. just water for me, please
when i find myself eating out, i usually forego ordering a drink, unless the place is known for really delicious milkshakes. ordering softdrinks or juice can really add a lot to your bill. so why spend that much, when water can do the trick. it's healthier, too!

4. avoid the malls
when i worked in ortigas, i hardly had time to stop and window shop in malls, because i was always hurrying to get home. then i found that my spending has been drastically decreased, because i am less tempted to buy stuff. because of that, i decided to lessen my trips to the mall. the more you see new things, the more you will want and spend. if you really must go out and get yourself something, do it in divisoria, or at an ukay-ukay where you'll find cheap funky finds.

when temptation is extra strong, and i find myself about to buy something, i ask myself what that amount would get me in (next travel destination). a 500-peso blouse can get me two nights in surfer's inn in la union, while P1,000 can get me and my barkada a filling meal in kinabuchs in puerto princesa. when i think about it that way, the temptation easily fades.

5. in vs. out
nowadays, i find myself saying no to nights out, and preferring to just go home and curl up in bed with a good book. some would say it's because i've gotten older, which may be true, but a better explanation for this behavior is my hardheaded intent to save and see the places i've been dreaming about.

these tips work really well for me, but there's a chance it might not for you. the general rule of thumb when it comes to saving is to cut down on excesses. try and analyze your spending and see where the bulk of your money goes.

if you think you're having too many cab rides, take public transportation instead. if you notice how your money just disappears after a night of drinking, then take the drinking down a notch. just keep your eyes on the prize, and you'll be flying off to that dream destination in no time.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

hostelling: lowered expectations

i was browsing the net for cheap accommodation in singapore, and i saw this review on

shameless reviewer

i really have to say, of all the reviews i've read in my years of trawling review sites, this really takes the cake. and it doesn't help that the reviewer was from my own country.

a few points of criticism:
1. do NOT use all caps, no matter how horrible your experience is.
2. receptionist = him or her, never "it," regardless of how animalistic their snoring can be.
3. "we knew for a fact that it is a mixed room but it should be all girls" --> what did you think a mixed room was?! mixed room = mixed girls and boys.

i just didn't want to dwell on the grammar. what i want to focus on is how much we expect from hostels. granted, there are exceptionally good ones the world over, i generally recondition myself into expecting nothing but a clean bed when i think of staying in a hostel. after all, its main selling point is that it's cheap, which means they don't have all the resources to fund first-class facilities for their guests. they mainly provide cheap, clean, and safe accommodations. none of the fancy stuff you find in most hotels.

it really pays to know yourself when you book accommodations. i generally choose cheap accommodation because i rarely stay in my room when i travel; i'm always out and won't be needing any in-room amenities (such as a telephone, a tv, or a tea-maker). all i want is a clean bed, airconditioning (if it's a hot place), and a clean bathroom.

if you do decide to stay in a hostel, or a backpackers' joint, please take the time to check reviews. a simple google search of the hostel name and city will yield plenty of results. do not rely on the hostel description on their website or any hostel booking website. of course they will tell you nothing but good things. but they do provide reviews. check them. check the ratings, and compare it with your priorities (cleanliness, location, security, price). reviews at trip advisor are pretty helpful, too.

i myself am a bit picky when it comes to lodging options. i don't have problems with the bed, but i am choosy when it comes to bathrooms. i almost always have to choose a hostel or establishment that offers ensuite facilities, which drives the price higher. but hey, that's what i get for being picky. if it's any consolation, it's still cheaper than hotel accommodations.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

cebu pacific's zero fares: i'm not too excited

i received the news from a good friend via text: cebu pacific is offering zero fares! YAY!


while i did forward the news to all my vagabonding friends, i, in turn, abstained from the hoopla. for one thing, i told myself i'd cut down on mini trips to achieve a bigger, better, badder travel goal for 2009.

and the other thing is the fear that my flight will be cancelled, moved, postponed, or just be bestowed with a ton of misfortune. cebu pacific has sure done a great job of discouraging me from traveling. while i know there are other airline options, i haven't got the funds to shell out that much for higher airfare, so i've chosen to let everyone else do the traveling.

i'm staying home. for now. i'm using all the time i have to prepare myself for possible disasters for my bangkok trip in november, as i'm using cebu pacific for that trip. and what do you know, the -ber months aren't even here, and that flight is already messed up.

i told a friend of mine about the zero fares promo, so she could buy her ticket for the same bangkok trip i'll be going to in november. i gave her the flight details that the rest of our party has already booked from a previous fare promo, and what do you know, the flight schedule has changed. instead of 10:05pm, the flight to bangkok will be leaving at 9:25pm, while our trip home was also moved from 1:35am to a little past 12 midnight.

while the schedule is not a drastic change (thank god the flight still leaves after office hours), i was pissed that we weren't even informed of this change. no email, no text, no nothing. three of us had already booked this flight, and none of us received word from cebu pacific.

granted, the flight is still months away, i think passengers should still be informed of any changes on their flights as soon as the changes are made. what if that "miniscule" change affects our entire trip? it will allow us to adjust to the changes months ahead.

why is cebu pacific making it so hard for us travelers to like them? why?

it's not like we're asking for the sun and the moon here. as budget travelers, we ask for the basics. i've already made peace with the fact that they don't serve food on board, but rather sell it at astronomical prices. but to cancel, postpone, and delay flights without informing passengers about it, is just an outrage.

emailing doesn't take much. a short, template-ized email will do the trick, if you don't have it in your heart to spend a peso for a text message to a customer who's paid for your services. and if you could do it kindly, not RUDELY, as has been done in the past, that would be great, thanks.