Wednesday, December 31, 2008

i gotta go! adventures in 2008

2008 was a great year for me, and for i gotta go!, even though my travels were cut down by about 50%. still, i enjoyed the places i've been to, and i hope that the travel information i provided got to help you out a little bit.

just a quick recap of the i gotta go! travel adventures for this year:

mariveles, bataan

this is susie's yearly trip, and it was my third time to join him. mariveles, while not a bustling tourist destination, is a quaint little town with quite an amazing scenery. it never fails to recharge me and susie, and it's always a good trip to start any year.

will i get to go again in 2009? i wonder what i'll get to see.

mt. pinatubo

i greeted my 26th year by hiking to mt. pinatubo. it marked a lot of firsts--first time to hike up a volcano, first time to swim in a crater, first time to be buried under volcanic ash.

can't wait for my birthday this year. i have nothing planned yet, but we'll see.

puerto princesa, palawan

this time, it's for susie's birthday. we booked tickets to puerto princesa, and got to enjoy a whirlwind weekend in palawan's capital. i finally saw the subterranean river, and enjoyed feast after feast in the many restaurants of the city.

capones island, pundaquit, san antonio, zambales

i can't seem to get enough of this place, so i invited friends to spend holy week enjoying the beach of san antonio. it was three days of feasting on cheap, but delicious food, soaking up some rays, tossing the ol' disk, and just plain lounging around on the beach.

pila, laguna

a declared holiday had susie and me taking a short drive to the beautiful little nook of pila, laguna. it's a little historical pocket of great churches and old heritage houses. always nice to spend a day exploring the nearby towns.


after 17 years, i got to set foot in baguio again. it has greatly changed, and the absence of that distinct pine scent disappointed me a little, but i guess it's alright when you get to shop for great fashion pieces at rock-bottom prices!

in fact, i enjoyed my revisit and re-revisited late in the year, for a balikan trip with my girls. nothing binds us girls better than an ukay-ukay trip to the city of pines! (or the city of ukay)

andanita taj, tagaytay

we got tempted by this new indian-inspired bed and breakfast in tagaytay, so we decided to check it out when we were invited to a wedding held in the city. it's a great deal, since you get a nicely-decorated room, free continental breakfast, and massage treatment for two!


to celebrate our anniversary, susie and i decided to bite the bullet and finally travel out of the country together. we ended up landing in changi airport, with susie burning up with a fever. still, we got to see some parts of the city, and we discovered a nice little place to stay called one florence close.

can't wait to go back to the lion city. but maybe not in 2009.

the national museum tour

that sunday i spent touring the national museum would be the inspiration of the first ever i gotta go! contest. john silva's irreverent yet informative tour was inspiring and refreshing, and i certainly learned a lot in that one sunday afternoon.

i'm hoping the winners of my contest got to enjoy their tour as well.

siem reap, cambodia

i was away from the philippines for nine days in november, as i traveled to siem reap, cambodia and bangkok, thailand. siem reap's wondrous temples were astounding, and to this day, i still find a hard time believing that i was really there, touching stones and walking on paths that have been around for centuries.

the villa siem reap is the best place to stay if you want to visit this historic city.

bangkok, thailand

bangkok was quite an experience. i definitely enjoyed my time there, but there is still something that i can't quite put my finger on. it was a busy city, with people who are "same-same," but not quite.

i have yet to write down my thoughts on the trip, but when i do figure out what it was i wanted to say, you will see it here. bangkok and i will see each other again, of that i am sure.

well, what do you know? i thought i hadn't traveled much this year, but as it turned out, i got to see a lot anyway. there are still more places to see, and i'm hoping to travel to more far-flung places and share the experience with you.

happy new year, everyone!

i gotta go!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

po toi islands, hong kong

it's two days from christmas, and all i can think about is hong kong.

especially after i found this:

po toi islands
photo from hk outdoors

it's yet another set of outlying islands in hong kong, and for the moment, curious travelers can get there only by ferries that leave from aberdeen and stanley. schedules are only on the weekend, with only one trip to and from the island per day.

gaaaah. i want to go!

here's another photo:

also from hk outdoors

Sunday, December 21, 2008

i found a decent hong kong budget hotel!

hong kong is one of my favoritest places in the world (granted, i haven't even been out of asia). the hold it has on me is kind of hard to explain, but something about this city makes me want to keep going back.

budget and time constraints kept me from going back this year, but after i found this lovely hong kong budget hotel, i will probably be flying off to chek lap kok soon!

while i was already able to stay at a decent budget hostel last time i was there, the boutique-budget guesthouses that i've been to in singapore, bangkok, and siem reap had me looking for a little more luxury and some style in my hong kong accommodation sans the astronomical price. hong kong's transportation and sights are truly a tourist's paradise; however, its hotels and accommodation options are not.

for one thing, hong kong hotels are VERY expensive, and the rates don't even include breakfast (thank goodness for cafe de coral!). space is also not a luxury that you will likely get in most hong kong accommodation. with the limited space in this city, you'd be lucky to have enough space to swing your foot from the bed to the floor.

i am completely resigned to the space problem, but the budget problem is always something i know i can do something about, and i couldn't help but feel elated when i finally found the bridal tea house hotel.

this is the single room in the bridal tea house hotel. it looks small, yes, but like i said, i'm not after space here, i'm after the cleanliness, style, and attention to detail.

believe me, after scouring through numerous photos of hong kong hostels with ratty sheets and dirty floors, this room definitely looks like a room in a luxury hotel!

i love the nice curtains, the simple white sheets, and the rose on the towel provided.

here are more photos of their rooms:
another single room

the double room

and aside from that, all bridal tea house hotel branches are well-located. next time i'm in hong kong, i'll probably stay in the one in western district, which is close to the tram on des voeux road on hong kong island.

i still have to verify if their "single" room is indeed the one with two single beds.

i believe that all rooms have private bathrooms, and as you can see, towels are provides, and they also have daily room cleaning service. rooms are also furnished with a hair dryer, refrigerator, and closet (how they fit that in the room is yet to be seen). broadband internet connection is also available (i hope it's free), and all guests are entitled to free local calls.

the bridal tea house also has its own restaurant aside from the rooftop bbq restaurant. i really think this is a pretty sweet deal, and i hope that when i do book a room there when i visit hong kong, i won't be disappointed.

travel information:
the bridal tea house hotel
kowloon island branches: sham shui po, tai kok tsui, yau ma tei, to kwa wan, hung hom,
hong kong island branches: western district, apleichau, aberdeen
rates: single rooms for HKD 380 per night, double rooms for HKD 480 per night
email address:
phone number: (852) 2780 6113

Friday, December 12, 2008

take a nap hotel, bangkok

choosing your accommodation in bangkok is quite a chore, not because it's hard to find affordable and high standard ones, but because the choices, for every budget and for every taste, are seemingly endless. but after checking out a myriad of hotels in bangkok, our group finally chose take a nap hotel along rama IV road in bangkok's silom district.

booking with take a nap hotel was a breeze. just go to the website, pick the room that you want (in my case, i chose the angkor room, which had a 6x6 bed, while sarah and ayeen chose the bamboo twin room), and click book now, or send them an email.

no online payment is necessary. you just need to print out your email confirmation and show it to them when you arrive at the hotel. full payment is required upon check-in.

take a nap hotel had one of the most attractive locations, as far as i'm concerned. other visitors would probably prefer to stay in siam for shopping, or in khao san road for the river and the temples, but silom district suited me just fine. it didn't hurt that take a nap had quick access to both the BTS (saladaeng station) and MRT (sam yan station), which can take you to a number of attractions without going through the world-renowned traffic jams of bangkok. the saladaeng BTS is actually a couple of stops away from saphan taksin, where the river ferry station can be found.

other nearby places of interest include patpong, lumphini park, a lot of restaurants, and department stores.

service and staff
i would have to say, that take a nap hotel had one of the friendliest and most accommodating staff i've ever encountered. while i haven't had any complaints with most of the places i've stayed in (since i don't really ask or expect too much from them), take a nap hotel staff really went out of their way to help us out during our stay.

when we arrived, we were met by louise at the front desk, and let us leave our luggage in their storage room while we spent our first few days in siem reap. after that, she went outside, hailed a taxi, and told the driver to take us to the morchit bus terminal, since the driver couldn't speak english that well.

and when we came back from siem reap, it was tan who received us and showed us to our rooms. he was also very friendly, and gave us some tips on where to eat and what to do. he was also quick to help me out when i couldn't open the safe in my room. all the staff spoke english well, which is something you will appreciate when you're in bangkok.

sadly, this is the part i didn't like about take a nap. true, the rooms were spacious enough, with enough areas for your luggage and hooks for your clothes, and everything indicated on the website was provided for--i had a TV, a luggage rack, two extra seats for visitors, a dresser, and a pretty clean bathroom.

however, the sheets didn't look clean enough, and the floor was a tad sticky. and i'm the type to want to go barefoot in my room after a long day of walking outside. i just couldn't do that at take a nap.

sarah and ayeen also complained that they didn't have comforters in their room, when my bed was provided with one.

another letdown. but then again, it was probably our fault for expecting something good for THB 1,300/night. i have no problem with simple fare, but the sausages they served were simply bland, and was complemented by the depressing eggs and pork and beans. i would usually get myself some bread and jam, or yogurt and cereal, to start my day when i was there.

take a nap hotel also had a recreation area slash dining area, which was where breakfast was served everyday. there were bean bags here, too, where you can watch TV or DVD movies. by the lobby, there are a couple of computer terminals for you to use the internet, check your email, and what-not. a bookshelf is placed on the corner with fiction and travel books available for your reading pleasure.

overall, though, our stay wasn't a complete disappointment. the beds were still comfortable enough, and it was still relatively clean. the price is hard to beat, at THB 1,300/night for my room fitted with a king-sized bed, and THB 1,300/night as well for sarah and ayeen's twin room.

i wouldn't readily recommend take a nap hotel to friends, unless i know they're the types who, like us, just wanted a simple "headquarters" in bangkok. it's definitely not for people who like to lounge in their rooms, but it's an option for those who don't want to spend too much, but want to be able to get to bangkok's prime spots.

accommodation information
take a nap hotel
920-926 rama IV road (at surawongse junction, opposite red cross society)
silom district, bangkok
email address:
room rates:
single room: THB 1,000
twin room: THB 1,300
double room (small): THB 1,150
double room (medium and large): THB 1,300
double room (XL): THB 1,500
4-bed private room: THB 2,000
dorm rooms: THB 350 per person

Thursday, December 11, 2008

photos of the bangkok-siem reap adventure

it's taking me a while to complete all the entries of our bangkok-siem reap shebang, but thankfully, all the photos are already up and ready to go.

naia terminal 3
take a peek into our new airport. hassles still part of the package

from bangkok to siem reap
the bus ride, tuk-tuk, siem reap roads.

the villa siem reap
the perfect headquarters in siem reap.

introducing siem reap
our first glimpse of the temples, and our tuk-tuk picnic.

angkor wat
i was there!

angkor thom
majestic bayon, the baphuon ruins, the high from phimeanakas.

khmer dinner and apsara show
buffet dinner with dance show, all part of the villa package!

ta prohm

vines snake through these tomb raider temples.

the view from the elephant's back

photos from the saddle.

the roluos group
preah ko, bakong, and lolei.

the train to bangkok
six hours on the railroad from aranyaprathet to bangkok.

centrally located budget accommodation in bangkok.

getting to know bangkok
some half-hearted shots of wat arun, wat pho, and khao san road.

getting the hang of bangkok
lumpini park, jim thompson house, and some more food shots.

the grand palace
when in bangkok, you just have to see it.

baan dinso
fancy hostel near the grand palace. i'm staying there next time.

bangkok shopping
bazaar scenes in thailand's capital.