Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NOW OPEN: GO HOTELS CUBAO QUEZON CITY

NOW OPEN: GO HOTELS CUBAO QUEZON CITY

Numbered are the brands in the hospitality industry related to tourism whose target market is the domestic sector.  For now, the perception of traveling has changed that it is not only for the wealthy as it becomes accessible to all, only if planned and budget is strictly followed.

Go Hotels is one popular chain of budget hotels in the country even made more accessible through the opening of a branch right at the center of commercial hub in Quezon City – Cubao.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

CAFÉ VOILA: AUTHENTIC ASIAN FLAVORS AT YOUR DISPOSAL

CAFÉ VOILA:  AUTHENTIC ASIAN FLAVORS AT YOUR DISPOSAL

I could say that our group are all well-versed and acquainted with Southeast Asia, ranging from culture, landmarks and most importantly cuisine.  We have been traveling around Southeast Asia even way before we entered the world of travel blogging. 

And in one weekend, the group converged enroute Tagaytay City for a staycation at Crosswind Resort Suites after several months of hiatus.  And due to distance from the city proper and the unbearable heat of the summer, we decided to dine at Café Voila, situated just at the main gate of the hotel.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

CROSSWINDS RESORTS SUITES TAGAYTAY: THE ALPINE ESCAPE

CROSSWINDS RESORT SUITES TAGAYTAY: THE ALPINE ESCAPE

It was a scenic route to quite a high elevation in Tagaytay City.  Isolated from the city center and major landmarks of Tagaytay, there sits a Swiss-inspired property that goes by the name of Crosswinds Resort Suites.

The hotel is situated at the center of this Swiss community.  Thus, before one can reach the hotel, we have to pass through the laidback and tranquil community that surrounds the 100-hectare vast property.

This is the quiet alpine escape that folks like us in the metro would call as heaven.  The scent of the pine trees without having to go north, like Baguio City, and the view of the rolling hills makes the hotel a perfect treat for a weekend.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

THE REFURBISHED HERITAGE HOTEL MANILA AND RIVIERA CAFÉ


THE REFURBISHED HERITAGE HOTEL MANILA AND RIVIERA CAFÉ

From years ago, I had my staycation experience at Heritage Hotel Manila together with my parents and siblings.  The casino was then operating under PAGCOR.  It had the simplest of all staycation experience I had.  It needs renovation I said to myself, to keep up with the competition and the needs of the demanding clients.

Today, the façade maintains its old charm with a more improved, pleasant and comfortable staycation experience, not to mention the interiors more elaborate and stylishly modern.  At the intersection of EDSA and Roxas Boulevard, the Heritage Hotel Manila is a 2-minute walk from a bus stop, 2 km from SM Mall of Asia and accessible to international and domestic airports.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

EARTHEAVEN: THE SILENT SANCTUARY IN SAN MATEO

EARTHEAVEN: THE SILENT SANCTUARY IN SAN MATEO

There are three things one shall consider when visiting this silent sanctuary in San Mateo, Rizal:
1.  There is no mobile signal, much more internet connection.
2.  Alcoholic beverages and cigarette smoking is strictly prohibited.
3.  Spiritual growth will be enhanced after the stay.

On one weekend, we were lead to the mountainous estate in Brgy. Silangan, San Mateo, Rizal, Philippines to discover a tranquil place yet filled with adventures.

Explore Experience, and Enjoy is the theme of this recreational resort.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

HANGING OUT IN SEOUL CITY

HANGING OUT IN SEOUL CITY

The arts and crafts of a particular city is mostly evident on the best buys for gifts and souvenirs.  With a vibrant city such as Seoul, there are definitely a lot of places to wander and do the window shop, drink and loiter, as the case may be.

Cebu Pacific Air has made Seoul, South Korea accessible to Filipinos with the regular flights it offers daily from Manila, Cebu and Kalibo.  And with these, there are landmarks and places of interest that appeals most to Filipinos, being close to our culture and not to mention the costs attached to it, being cheap and reasonable.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

HOTEL BAROATO – SEOUL CITY

HOTEL BAROATO – SEOUL CITY

Conceptualized with the use of uncovered mass concrete, wood, metal and glass-interior finishing materials, Hotel Baroato provides the experience of a modern Korean living.  Literally translated, it means upright (“baro”) gift (“ato”).

The hotel is strategically located, being a few distances only from the Hongik University subway station passing by artsy cafes and restaurants and no need for line transfers when going to and from the Incheon International Airport.  The challenge is, it is specifically situated in one narrow alley, although still manageable.

Monday, May 15, 2017

TRIP TO BUSAN

TRIP TO BUSAN

The second most populous city of South Korea is now becoming a popular tourist destination.  With direct flights from Manila to Busan through Cebu Pacific Air, a time-constrained discovery of the large port city of Busan becomes an easy feat.

This is my first time in Busan City and we will only be at the city for 2 full days.

Our focal point is the Haeundae.  We arrived late at night from Manila and checked-in at our confirmed booking at Haeundae.  The area is lit by neon signboards with aligned bars and restaurants crowded by both locals and the sojourners.

Along the way, art installations are prominent in the main thoroughfare and side alleys with unique architectural designs of skyscrapers, bordered by the sea and the mountains at one end.  Judging from its topographical features, Busan City will be about mountains, beaches and the temples.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

INSTAGRAMMABLE FEATURES OF THE SEOUL TOWER

INSTAGRAMMABLE FEATURES OF THE SEOUL TOWER

There is more of what to do than the self poses in front of the iconic landmark of Seoul – the Namsam Seoul Tower.  As one of the tallest towers in the Orient, it is almost 480m above sea level and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city.

The tower was first established as a broadcast tower to send out TV and radio signals in 1969.  Today, it also serves as a multi-cultural venue in the city and a place for relaxation for friends and families.

What makes the Namsam Seoul Tower interesting is apart from the restaurants and recreational centers that it offers, there are corners worthy to be immortalized in the form of Instagram-worthy pictures.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

SORAEKSAN NATIONAL PARK

SORAEKSAN NATIONAL PARK

The least that I can do when on a vacation abroad is to hike mountains.  But if the mountain is snow-covered and of littered forest snow, it would be an exception.  In South Korea, there is a mountain named Seorak, which literally translates “seol” (snow) and “ak” (big mountain).  From that name, I was enticed to go up the mountains and witness the panoramic mountain range.

Was it worth the travel? Yes.

Monday, April 24, 2017

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES OF SOUTH KOREA

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES OF SOUTH KOREA

UNESCO-inscribed places of interest is my priority when visiting a country.  South Korea is no exception to my feat, though a work in progress to complete.  As of 2016, there are twelve world heritage sites in South Korea composed of eleven cultural sites and one natural site.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A DAY IN NUSA PENIDA

A DAY IN NUSA PENIDA

After that whirlwind affair with the rugged coastline and panoramic seascape of Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia, I would definitely not recommend a short sojourn – day trip to be specific.

Despite the limited tourist infrastructure and poor dirt road conditions, it is highly recommended to spend more time in the island, have it a few sites for each day.

Time-constrained on our case, we managed to visit only the famed and touristy landmarks of Nusa Penida.

Friday, February 10, 2017

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

It is unusual for a ferry ride of an approximate hour and a half to have a time difference of one hour.  Crossing the Bali Strait, we reached Banyuwangi at around 4PM (5PM in Bali).

My travel buddy made the arrangements with a reliable travel agency, Ijen Blue Fire, for convenience of the trip – from hotel bookings and guide for the trek to the Ijen volcano.

TRAVEL FROM BALI TO BANYUWANGI

The closest gateway to Banyuwangi is Gilimanuk of West Bali.  From our hotel in Legian, Bali, we were fetched by a pre-arranged transport from our reliable tour guide in Bali, the Bali Golden Tours.  Approximate travel time from Bali to Gilimanuk is three (3) hours.  But due to on-going constructions made on major thoroughfares and highways, it took us almost four and a half hours (4.5 hours).

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

There are no trains as public transport in Bali and buses are elusive and with unreliable departure time.  It would likewise be expensive to travel from Bali to Gilimanuk through a cab.  Hired private transport (vans) is the best way and I highly recommend to contact Golden Bali tours, as they have friendly and English-speaking drivers/tour guides.

Upon arrival at the Gilimanuk port, we purchased our ferry tickets immediately bound for Ketapang and since ferries depart every thirty (30) minutes, waiting time was not that long.  Operation is likewise 24 hours so this route is recommended when going to Banyuwangi.

The ferry ride is forty-five (45) minutes with ticket price of IDR6,000.  It has the most basic of facilities so no expectations should be set relative to amenities and service but it definitely provided a safe trip.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

HOTEL BERLIAN ABADI

As arranged by the Ijen Blue Fire travel agency, we were booked at Hotel Berlian Abadi, which is just a few minutes away from the port.  The hotel served as our sleeping quarters for a few hours.  We will be having a midnight trek which means we have to sleep early after our early dinner.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

Welcome drinks and breakfast is included in our standard room with a terrace and electric fan (not air-conditioned). The hotel has a swimming pool as well and with a very few guests, we were able to meet a Spanish lady traveling solo in Banyuwangi.  On the next few hours, she was with us on the trek and even on our way back to Bali.

THE MIDNIGHT TREK

We were fetched at the hotel by a van with four (4) other guests at around 11 in the evening.  I am actually not sure of where we are going and haven’t researched that much.  All I know is, at the crater of this volcano blue flames are emitted.  Sounds interesting of course that I did not entertain any second thoughts of not pushing through with this.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

I was wearing my typical jacket and shorts with sandals.  At the base of the mountain, while our tour guide was doing the registration on our behalf and distributing the gas masks, I noticed everyone was dressed fully-covered.  With the sudden drop of temperature of only a digit, I was uncertain if I could bear the coldness not to mention the physical activity of trekking for hours.  The European guy even looked at me and say: “I will never what you are wearing now.”  Is this a threat?  I said to myself.  I just smiled knowing that this must be a warning of how cold and strenuous at the same time the trek would be.  They all came prepared after all, so they must have made intensive research.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

The trek to the crater is almost 3 hours – 2 hours to the rim and a descent of almost an hour to the crater lake.  By 3PM, we were at the crater and since the blue flame is best seen before 4PM, everything went fast.  And as for me?  Fully exhausted and cold.  But seeing the blue flame and the morning landscape of Kawah Ijen was a surprise for me.  It was simply amazing!

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

THE BLUE FIRE

The smell of sulfur was strong as soon as we came near the crater lake.  At 3 in the morning, there was total darkness and even the path towards it – what was only visible is the blue flame emitted.  This blue fire is actually an ignited sulphuric gas, which emerges from the cracks.  This is considered the largest blue flame in the world.

I have never seen a blue flame that close.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

THE MORNING VIEW AND THE CRATER LAKE

As soon as the sun rises, the landscape became visible and rewarding.  It was only during that time that I felt, the muscle leg cramps, the deprived sleep and the coldness of the midnight trek was all worth it.

Before sunrise, we started our ascent to the rim.  The one kilometre wide turquoise acidic crater lake revealed its panoramic landscape as soon as we reached the rim.  The lake is considered the largest highly acidic crater lake in the world.  In a matter of minutes before I reached the rim (since as expected I will trek on my own pace), the view was covered by clouds.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

While trekking, miners are likewise in action.  The labor intensive mining operations continue while a lot of tourists came to witness the blue fire and the sunrise in the mountains.  There are times that when tourists get photos of miners, the miners get annoyed and some ask for a small amount as remuneration of getting their photos.  But these are isolated cases as most miners were actually kind and welcoming.  Baskets full of sulfur were carried by these miners in an unpaved and at times slippery pavement of the mountains and for long distances.  I tried to lift one fully loaded basket and it was indeed heavy that I can’t even move it an inch for more than 30 seconds.  The miners earned my respect on that note.  Their work place is hazardous.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

The walk at the rim and the view of the mountains was a good morning treat.  More than the electric blue flames which was our initial purpose, the scenery was a good surprise for me.  It really pays to have no expectations.  I had a walk in the park descending back to the base of the mountain and more relaxed as there is no phenomenon to catch up like the blue flame.  With this, I was left behind and the last one to arrive to our van.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

TIPS FOR THE TREK

FIND A RELIABLE TOUR GUIDE AND AGENCY

Fortunately, we had a good deal for this trip.  The tour guide, David, was kind enough and accommodating to assist us on all our needs even driving us to the town center to find a place for dinner and do the last minute shop on what to wear for the trek considering that I came unprepared for this.  It was an extraordinary service that we were grateful for.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

It is really important to have a good guide while doing the trek especially that it poses a threat to one’s safety and health.  With that, you can contact the agency below with office at the port area:

Pertokoan (Shops) ASDP A-1 Ketapang
Harbour Banyuwangi East Java Indonesia
0813 3706 4929
customercare@ijen-bluefire.com

I have always trekked on my own pace and traveling in a group may have advantages and disadvantages.  One advantage is you gain new friends and more people to take pictures of you.  However, different people have different speed and fitness, which makes it more strenuous to catch up, thus, ending up in full exhaustion and pressure.  The role of the tour guide is important in this case.  Putting pressure to speed up the trek is good in the case of Kawah Ijen when ascending though, because the Blue Fire disappears before 5 in the morning.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN


STABLE AND COMFORTABLE FOOTWEAR

There is no need to invest in trail or hiking shoes, even those without climb experience can survive (I guess).  I believe what is important is a comfortable and stable footwear with a good grip and everything becomes smooth, the problem will be your physical condition.  In my case, I always have my reliable trekking sandals, even on cold mountains such as this.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

TAKING OFF OF JEWELRY

During the trek, you cannot flaunt your jewelry.  The exposure to sulfur will discolor it.

GAS MASK, LAYERED CLOTHES, EYEWEAR, HEAD LAMP/TORCH AND TRAIL FOOD

To be protected from sulfur gasses and especially for those who goes down the crater lake to have a close encounter with the blue fire, it is a must to have a gas mask.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

It would be advisable to have layered clothes that can be easily taken off and due to the low temperature, it would be best to have warm jackets. 

They say sulfur can be irritating to the eyes which is the reason why those wearing contact lenses are advised to take them off and wear glasses instead.  However, I did wear contact lenses and it worked for me, so this may be on a case to case basis.

The head lamp and the torch is definitely useful during the midnight trek.  There are no lamp posts and we only relied on the directions given by the tour guide and of course the illumination of the head lamps.

One thing that saved me as well from this trek is the trail food – chocolates and candies along with mineral water of course, as the trek requires a long number of hours.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN


TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES

And of course, to preserve the memories, taking pictures is a MUST.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN


Sunday, January 22, 2017

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

Bali is not solely about beaches and the night parties that comes with it.  The well-landscaped rice paddies is part of the picture of Bali, Indonesia, and a lot more focusing on how to commune with nature and enjoy the picturesque view.

On one morning, we were lead to one of Bali’s famous coffee plantations and enroute is the famed walkway of a terraced rice field.

TEGALLALANG RICE TERRACES

The traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system is depicted in the rice paddies of Tegallalang.  Being on the roadside location, it has become a popular tourist attraction and a favorite spot for photo shoots.  Art kiosks and cafes are lined up as well near the ledge.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

Approximately five minutes north of Tegallalang Rice Terraces is the Bali Pulina.  The agro-tourism landmark allows visitors to experience and witness roasting the most expensive coffee in the world and that is – sourced from a cat poop.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

MORNING COFFEE AND THE CIVET CATS

Caged civet cats welcomed us as we enter the vast plantation.  The expensive luwak coffee is made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet and other related civets and then passed through its digestive tract.  The beans are actually not digested as they are pooped out, collected up, cleaned, roasted and ground to be one of the most expensive coffees of the world.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

The actual process was presented to us by the tour guide.  And even the roasting part where some in the group tried.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEEBALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE
 
BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

I am not a morning person and seldom do I have breakfast, much more have coffee as starter for the day. But this visit was a willing exception.  It feels refreshing to be seated on a suspended lodge where a panoramic landscape of rice fields and towering coconut trees surround us.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

Bali Pulina does not only serve coffee as they also have my favorite – cacao bean chocolates, and other herbal plants and fruits that grows in the vicinity.

This is actually my second coffee luwak plantation experience in Bali.  And like any other guided tour, it ends with a sample of a variety of drinks that the plantation offers.

And these are: the lemon tea, ginger tea, ginger coffee, ginseng coffee, chocolate coffee, pure chocolate, vanilla coffee and bali coffee.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

And you guessed it right – of course my favorite is the pure chocolate.  But for coffee lovers, you may definitely have a hard time choosing which ones to indulge into.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

When in Ubud, Bali, it is highly recommended to drop by for a more in-depth appreciation of Indonesia’s agro-tourism and its by-products.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE
  
BALI PULINA
Banjar Pujung Kelod, Tegallalang, Sebatu
Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80561,
Indonesia

+62 361 901728

THIS TRIP IS IN COLLABORATION WITH THE MINISTRY OF TOURISM OF INDONESIA