Sunday, February 26, 2012

snore: citizen hotel taipei

Double room.
at this time last night, flight 5J 310 was making its descent towards taipei taoyuan airport, a quiet terminal that exuded this gloomy vibe.

we breezed through immigration, despite my apprehension that things will probably be ruined by my visa-exempt authorization certificate.

because our flight was late, we missed the last bus that would have taken us to the city for less than NTD 300. so we had no choice but to take a cab, which was very convenient, and awesome because the taxi had FREE WI-FI!!! but ended up costing us NTD 1,170.

we arrived at citizen hotel in no time at all. i was relieved to find that they did not lose our reservation (yes, i worry a lot), the man at the reception checked us in pretty quickly.

when we got to our room, we were pleasantly surprised to find a clean, simply furnished, yet complete room. we had everything we needed: free wi-fi, toiletries, towels, slippers, closet space, and drawers. a few "luxuries" didn't hurt: a flat screen panasonic tv, complimentary bottled water, kettle, and chairs. now if only we had electrical outlets by our night tables, things would have been perfect.

this morning, we had free buffet breakfast at citizen hotel's restaurant. it featured a pretty satisfying spread: congee, siopao, ham, eggs, tofu strips, vegetables, toast, jam, and butter. for drinks, you can have tea, coffee, orange juice, cranberry juice, soy milk, or cow's milk. you can definitely fill up if you're gearing up for a long day of walking.

because a lot of walking is what you'll be doing when you stay in citizen hotel. its location is its main weakness. it is about 15 to 20 minutes away from the closest MRT station. there are buses that pass in front, but the MRT just gets you to certain spots more efficiently.

while the number of advantages definitely outweigh that one setback, it's something that will make me think twice about recommending this hotel to others. i've experienced staying in hotels that are mere steps from most important landmarks, and it just makes life a lot easier. and when you're in a foreign place, you take every single advantage that you can.

hotel information
citizen hotel taipei
address: no. 80, section 1, jinshan south road, zhongzheng district, 100 taipei
phone number: +2 2397 1377
email address:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

taiwan visa-exempt entry and my cebu pacific experience

koryn and i booked our ticket to taipei without knowing that we would need visas to enter the country. we've always thought that we could travel there visa-free. 

so the minute i found out that we would need visas, i did my research right away, so i could start collecting the requirements for the visa application. 

as it turns out, i was lucky enough to be qualified for visa-exempt entry to taiwan. the country offers visa-exempt entry for holders of passports issued in india, indonesia, the philippines, thailand, and vietnam, provided you have a valid visa for travel to australia, canada, japan, new zealand, the schengen countries, the united kingdom, and the united states. remember, it's not enough that you've had a visa from any of these countries; you have to make sure the visa is still valid. 

if you are qualified for visa-exempt entry, you have to print out your own authorization certificate here. you have to key in your passport number, and the number of the valid visa that serves are your ticket to visa-exempt entry. 

now, i did this in november of 2011, to get it out of the way. why do it at the last minute, when i could rest easy knowing i've done the "hard part," and i could concentrate on reading up on taipei and finding out what else we could do there. koryn, on the other hand, had to apply for a taiwanese visa. requirements and application information can be found here.

fast forward to february 2012, the day of our departure. koryn checks us in online using cebu pacific's web check-in facility (very convenient). but even though we already had our boarding passes, we still decided to be at the airport two hours before our flight in case anything should happen. 

that was a very good call on our part, because something did happen. we went up to the check-in counters to drop off our luggage, and the cebu pacific attendant checked our passports. she asked for my authorization certificate, and told me there's a problem with it. 

apparently, the authorization certificate is only valid for one month after you applied for it/printed it out, which means mine was considered invalid since december 8, 2011. i felt like such an idiot for not checking if the document had a validity period. it was a big fail on my part.

while my brain was panicking, i was still able to ask the cebu pacific attendant if there was anything i could do to re-apply for it. thankfully, they had a computer available that has the link to the application bookmarked (i'm assuming i'm not the only idiot this has happened to). they let me in behind the counters and i quickly keyed in my details again. they even allowed me to print out the certificate. i offered to pay for the print out, since i knew i had inconvenienced them and even used up their resources, but they refused (nicely, of course). i went on my merry way and was able to enter taipei without a problem.

i am very thankful to the cebu pacific staff who were behind the counter that day. it was very nice to know that they were competent and conscientious enough to spot my stupid mistake. and they handled the whole thing very well--i wasn't spoken to rudely, the attendant actually broke it to me gently. 

it's very refreshing to be saying something nice about this airline, since, like most people who travel around the philippines, i have experienced delays and bad customer service from cebu pacific. and i really wanted to highlight this particular incident, because we shouldn't just make a big deal out of the bad stuff we get; we should also try and recognize the things that they're doing right, even above and beyond their job descriptions. it's always nice to know that these occurrences of niceness still happen. :)

taiwanese visa application links and information:

visa fees:
Php 2,400 for single entry visas
Php 4,800 for multiple entry visas

processing time: 3 days

Monday, February 20, 2012

baguio eats

late last year, i had this crazy idea of celebrating my last weekend as twenty-something up in chilly baguio. i think i made the right call on this one, because taking friends up to the city of pines was pretty cool. literally. heh.

aside from the company, what made the weekend stand out for me was the food. and since i can't share the laughs and moments that happened up in tower condominium (you had to be there), then i'm just going to share with you the things that we devoured that trip:

Pumpkin Soup, Bliss Cafe
All of us ordered a bowl of this, and it was the perfect start to a wonderful meal.
It was light and tasty. :)

Pansit Bliss
Bliss Cafe's version of the well-known merienda.
It didn't taste different from any of the pansits I've had before.

Bliss Crepe
We all shared one for dessert, and it was SO good.
We lucked out that it was strawberry season. :)
The chocnut was a great complement to the fruits.

Surf and Turf Lunch
For my birthday lunch, Adrian grilled the enormous prawns from their farm in Bicol.
Kage cooked onions with young corn (over there on the upper left of the photo).
Susie grilled pork ribs, not in photo, sorry. But they were good!

Beef and Truffle
Before we left, we stopped by Cantinetta in Camp John Hay.
I ordered their Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Truffle Sauce.
Cooked medium rare. Very good.
i find it outrageous that i wasn't able to take a photo of our midnight "snack" friday night: Adrian's special lamb sukiyaki. it has ruined sukiyaki for us. having sukiyaki at midnight in chilly Baguio was one of the highlights of the trip.

in between these meals, we would drink hot chocolate, eat strawberries, or have some instant knorr soup. steady, good vibes, cool weather, great friends, and wonderful meals--it was a great way to spend that last weekend before i turned 30. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

this is looking to be a travel-heavy year

...and yay for that! :)

it's not like i haven't traveled much the past year, but the way trips are getting booked so early, it's looking like i'll be on the road a lot. this excites me. a lot.

next month, i'm off to taipei for the first time, with a friend who's just as much of a vagabond as i am. it's going to be our first trip together, and we thought discovering a new destination together would be exciting. we're getting all riled up just reading about taiwan's capital, and it doesn't help that the city offers plenty of shopping. my wallet is going to take a beating, that's for sure.

and since i promised to hit the beach more this year, i have two beach trips lined up already: guimaras for holy week and bohol for labor day weekend. i miss being by the sea, i used to go every month. i really hope there will be more beach trips in the months to come.

the big trip planned for the year is for the US, with the mister. it's going to be my first time there, too, and i'm hoping i can snag tickets for the comic-con in san diego to see the cast of community (i'm a huge fan, to say the least). of course, since i'm already there, i plan to stay for a month and drop by los angeles and san francisco as well. then over to the east coast for chicago and new york. crossing my fingers that things go according to plan and that fares drop soon.

how about you? where are you going this year? :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 is here!

and it made me realize what a slacker i was last year. i wonder if i can live up to my goal of writing and sharing more things and trips. i no longer want to make any promises, but i really want this blog to be more active this year.

wishing all of you plenty of amazing adventures! enjoy every minute on the road!

well, i gotta go!