Tag Archives: tourist destination

Banaue, Ifugao: Banaue Rice Terraces

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Banaue, Ifugao: Banaue Rice Terraces

When we planned our trip last February, we thought of including Banaue Rice Terraces in our itinerary enroute to Sagada. Tagged as one of the Seven Wonders of the World before and now being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this usually graces Filipino school textbooks. Way back then, I would wonder how it would look like in real life.

We took the Nueva Vizcaya route, it’s a sidetrip to our main destination -Sagada. There’s quite a number of viewpoints when you reach Banaue, you can even stop by the side of the road and take pictures. It’s just a matter of picking the one with the best view.

We observed that there’s quite a number of transient houses already, more are being built alongside the mountain. There are stores along the other side of the road, which shows poor planning because most are blocking the view of the rice terraces.

We chose NFA Aguian viewpoint, which was really interesting because the walk through a cemented pathway or “pilapil” is already an experience in itself! Entrance fee is P20 per head.

The path is narrow and the terraces are steep. Quite challenging if you’re afraid of heights. Having kids along may be an issue too! But we managed with two kids aged 7 & 9. At the end of the pathway is a platform where you can take pictures and marvel at this famous tourist spot!

Overall, we were amazed by the view of these majestic rice terraces. But we’re sure glad that we went straight to Sagada instead of booking a night here. We hope the place surrounding this tourist site be more maintained, so future generations can still include it in their bucket list!

Notes:

-Trivia! You can find this view in the old 1000-peso bill!

-We arrived around past 10am and the sun was scorching hot, umbrella or cap may be useful.

-I read that there are restaurants with good views, but we’re unable to fully explore the place due to limited time.

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Sagada, Mountain Province: Marlboro Country (Sea of Clouds)

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Sagada, Mountain Province: Marlboro Country (Sea of Clouds)

While I contemplate on how I should blog about our whole Sagada trip, I thought this one deserves a solo post. We went to Sagada last February and this was on top of our list. Who wouldn’t?! Have you watched the movie, “That Thing Called Tadhana”?! And I tell you, this does not disappoint!

Our “sea of clouds” experience was a choice between going to the famous Kiltepan viewpoint or Marlboro Country. We chose the latter despite being more “challenging” since most tourists would choose Kiltepan and besides wanting good photos, we want to savour this experience as much as we can.

We woke up early and departed from Coffee Heritage House at around 4.30am, drove around 20-minutes and parked at the side of the road. Unless you’re driving a 4×4, the trek would take around an hour from the road to the top of the mountain. It was really dark and we only depend on our guide’s spotlight and our phones’ flashlight. The path is a long rough road, some parts are muddy and slippery. I can still say it’s manageable having two kids in tow, we were able to reach the top of the mountain. Difficulty level is easy but will somehow test your stamina, climbing and going down slopes. I almost quit in the middle of our climb but I would never want to regret not seeing the “sea of clouds”.

When we finally reached the top, there were small groups of tourist already, gathered around a bonfire. It’s very cold and chilly up there. There’s a mini store that sells lugaw (porridge), cup noodles and coffee to name a few.

We waited until sunrise and started to marvel at what we saw! Indeed it was “sea of clouds”. I will never forget this experience and I was really happy that I continued the climb, at least up to the drop off area. We started taking pictures, ate our lugaw and just continued to marvel the experience.

We declined our guide’s suggestion to go at level 2 and 3 viewpoints since we’re already exhausted but the view that we had was already enough to amaze us! We stayed a little bit more and started the trek down when we regained our energy. Going down the mountain was way easier, since you don’t have to walk in the dark anymore.

Definitely, one for the books!!!

Tips:

– Wear comfortable pants (over shorts) and rubber shoes, you’ll be walking in between bushes and it can be muddy at some point.

– Jacket! Do not underestimate the chilly wind up the mountain.

– Flashlight! You’ll need it on your way up.

– No (makeshift) CR, do your thing before your trek.

– Tourist guide is required (around P600). No entrance fee, aside from the one-time environmental fee paid at the municipal office.

Sagada, Mountain Province: Coffee Heritage House

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Sagada, Mountain Province: Coffee Heritage House

We went to Sagada last 18-20 February. The place is beyond words -breathtaking!

We searched every homestay, hostel and hotel before our trip because we initially want to go over the holiday (Chinese New Year). There are no vacancies, thus we have to move our travel period to Sunday.

We checked Coffee Heritage House (CHH) and besides the good reviews, we’re also drawn by the nice pictures of the place.

Here’s an honest review, please note that these are just facts that could aid fellow travellers.

1. Reservation/Booking

We searched online but since I don’t want to book using our credit card, we called the mobile number posted in their website. We were able to avail the 25% discount posted for private room. That includes 3 persons (including our 9yo son), while our 7yo stays for free (bed sharing). Booking includes free continental breakfast. We settled 50% downpayment through online bank transfer. Upon our arrival, we were asked to settle the full amount since they were not informed about our downpayment. That’s the time I learned that all their online transactions are handled by Booking.com, so best to keep a copy of your deposit slip or in this case, screenshot of your online transfer. The issue was settled after a while, so no big deal. Price range is around P2000/night for private rooms. P1000/BED for dorm type rooms.

2. Hostel/Room

The hostel/building is cozy. You will find the pantry & lobby in the 2nd floor. There’s a fireplace, which they light up every night. Everything is generally clean. You have to take off your shoes before entering, there are slippers available though. Bonfire area available and can be used at night.

The private room is cement finished, paint on one side of the wall only. Not sure if it’s still in the works. Dont expect too much, there are no room amenities (eg. TV, WIFI, radio, AC, etc.). Just beds and lights, some makeshift (cement finished) table corners where you can place your bags. Toiletries not available, not even hooks for towels inside the room.

Note, this hostel only have shared toilet & baths, regardless if you booked a private room or dorm type rooms. I checked with their reservations officer and she said they have around 10 T&B. We didn’t experience queues since there were few guests that time and we take showers late at night. Hot shower is available, but you have to control and set water volume to low (heater unable to heat high volume of water). No hot water in the tap. T&Bs are generally clean, can be messy at times so be respectful to your fellow guests and clean as you go.

Bed can pass hotel quality, comfortable matress and pillows, sheets are clean. However, we woke up the 3rd day with bedbug bites. My hand’s still swollen and itchy while typing this blog (picture added under customer service).

Room can be hot in the morning, unable to check fan availability, you can opt for open windows but it can be dusty when the wind blows hard since the private room windows are ground level. Hard to open windows at night (no screens) cause there are lots of insects, considering this place is surrounded by trees.

3. Location

Far away from the town proper and far means around 20mins away. If you don’t have a car, you’d need to walk from the main road as there are no means of transportation going to the hostel. If you have a car, note that there are rough patches so if you’re driving the “lowered” one, that might be a problem. Main road to hostel is dark, you have to rely to your headlights or lights from the houses at the side of the road. Note: one way, so slow down when passing curved roads. We learned from our tour guide that this is part of the farm-to-market road of the Gloria administration.

This place is perfect if you want to stray away from the city buzz and explore the mountainous side of Sagada. I also observed that it’s way cooler here compared to the town proper. Really quiet and peaceful at night.

Open parking is available around several meters away from the building. If you arrive late at night, flashlights will help since the surroundings are not well-lit or no lights at all.

4. Food

We were dead hungry after our 13-hour trip, so we had lunch first. Menu is limited so if you’re staying for a couple of days, you can opt to go out and try other restaurants. They have all-day breakfast which comes with meat-veggies-black rice. Food tastes fine but a bit pricy running at P220-P250 per order.

There are welcome drinks too but limited to choice of coffee or mountain tea.

We also tried some of their pasta which comes with toasted bread, price range is the same. Etag carbonara is a must try since they use traditionally preserved meat which is known to the Mountain Province.

Breakfast is free. Continental breakfast includes toasted bread, egg, choice of 2 spread (try their bugnay spread which is made from wild berries). I forgot to take pictures!

If you’re a coffee lover, prepare to splurge P95-P150 for a (small) cup of coffee outside your breakfast set. Pantry also closes 9pm, no more orders after that, keep snacks that you can nibble at wee hours.

5. Customer service.

If you’re looking for hotel type service, this is not the place for you. No room service. No special treatment of that sort. Sometimes, staff won’t even smile at you if they meet you at the corridors. You can say it’s pure accommodation, service is available in the pantry area only. Best to manage your expectations.

Front desk is okay, I cannot say that we had a warm welcome, just so so. When we arrived, no one helped with our bags even though they were joking around by asking the other staff to help my son with his load. Front desk officer helped though when we were about to enter our room. They were able to arrange a simple request and got us a tour guide.

When I feedback about the bedbug bites and showed them my hand as well as my son’s finger, the desk officer apologized but such a drawback to say that “they do not have control over the insect”, which I think can be improved by saying, “but rest assured we will check or clean the room”. After all that is our last day and they will benefit from the feedback.

Overall, this hostel is okay in terms of peace and quiet. But customer service can still be improved. Lighting and road condition (rough with chances of “balahaw”) can also be improved in the parking area.

Rating: 3/5

Coffee Heritage House
Sitio Nadatngan, Brgy. Madongo
Sagada 2619 Mt. Province
Philippines

Singapore City | Singapore

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Singapore City | Singapore

2011 backlog.

I was blessed to be chosen by the company as one of their delegates, that’s for a week long work-slash-training journey to Singapore last June 2011.

Departure from my own country, Philippines, was exasperating.  I was in the airport early enough to comply with the 3-hour requirement for travels abroad.  Check-in’s fine and travel taxes were paid in full.  Then I sat for hours. Immigration failed to give me a candy coated escapade for my first out of the country trip.  Armed and ready though, thanks for the stories that I gathered from colleagues.  Well anyway, going out of PH-even if I am a Filipino-was a dreadful story that I will write about once I get the chance.

Going back, aboard a Cebu Pacific aircraft, I landed in Singapore.  No fuss and frills.  A quick note that their Budget Airport’s quite muggy back then and I thought t’was a slight observation.  But behold, the weather’s more humid in SG than in PH.

We took an airport taxi but was pleased that even so, we were not charged more than what was in the taxi meter.  You’ll get printed receipts and they have GPS system installed.  The cabs look and smell clean too!

“Hi-tech” cabs

A work-related trip, but thankful that I was still able to wander around the city after duty hours.  We stayed in a HDB flat in Tampines where everything is accessible.  There’s a mall across the street and there are all sorts of business stalls below the building.

HDB flat @ Tampines

Mall across the street @ Tampines

Transportation

The MRT became our main mode of transport, it’s cheaper and is just a walk away from our flat.  Hopping from one place to another is easier via MRT as train routes are simple and accessible from tourist spots.  They have electronic ticket machines and prepaid train cards, the latter is more convenient if you plan to ride it frequently.  Note that the train’s jam-packed during rush hours and ridership varies from businessmen, locals, tourists and more.

Train routes are simple

Covered MRT railway for added security

MRT – electronic ticket machine

Shuttle services are available around Changi Business District for a few cents, just bring exact change.  On the other hand, there are free shuttle buses too from CBD to different destinations such as Tampines, Bedok, etc.  We took advantage of the latter obviously, but not only for the free ride but because MRT’s far from our office if you’re on foot.

Shuttle services in CBD area.

Other type of transport would include double-decker buses and if you’re lucky you can ride a Benz taxi.  Another thing to take note of, taxi rides are more expensive during peak hours especially if you need to pass thru ERP, such works as a toll collecting device.

Double-decker buses

ERP works as a toll collecting device

Food Finds

You won’t go hungry in Singapore, there’s a lot to choose from.  Observed that food cost generally varies from 3-5SGD or more depending on your selection.  If you’re on a tight budget, you can opt for their ala-carinderia eateries which offers good food in big servings for only 3SGD.

Ala-carinderia | cheap food finds.

We usually take our lunch in DBS food court which offers a wide array of food choices.  I personally liked chicken rice (around 3SGD).  The rice that goes along with it is quite salty, heard that they cook it with chicken broth.  Another favorite would be Tori Q (meal around 5SGD).  There are some canteens that offer Filipino dishes too.

Hainanese chicken rice

Tori Q | A must try!

They sell huge mangoes!

Soda from vending machines (1-1.50SGD).  Most stalls sell bamboo/sugarcane juice which is unusual in PH.  Able to spot a Yakult dispenser in Tampines that offer diverse flavors (70SGD cents each).  Sweets such as chocolates and ice creams can be bought around, but these caught my attention –a huge Hershey’s store and McDonald’s where an elder works as a service crew.  I’m not sure if it’s customary in SG but I have never seen an elderly working for PH fast foods.

Juice stall | How creative 🙂

Soda and Yakult vending machines

Craving for chocolates?

Elderly working in a fast food store

711 ala-sari-sari store

Money changers/ATM

ATMs are visible everywhere, but I did not try one so I cannot provide accurate information about this.  Money changers are all over as well.  It would be best to check the currency exchange rates first and conversion is more reasonable outside the airports (both PH and SG).

ATMs

Eye-Candy

Since I only have nighttime to do all the “happy” stuff, my destinations were limited.

All I have in mind is to see their famous landmark, The Merlion Park.  Nonetheless, I loved Marina Bay Sands too! I was able to go there even in the nick of time, the day before I went back home.  Best to go there during the night if you want to see the Singapore lights.  There goes the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Mall too.  What bothered me was the long walk that we had to take from the Marina Bay MRT station, it was worth it anyway.

The Merlion Park

Marina Bay Sands | Taken from the Merlion Park

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Marina Bay Sands Mall

Marina Bay Sands Mall | Row ala-Venice

View from Marina Bay

The Fullerton Hotel

View from Marina Bay

For souvenirs, go to Bugis Junction for pasalubongs if you’re running on a short budget.  You can spot good buys and items were fair enough for their price.  Go around the vicinity first and choose the best bargain, price range varies from one store to another due to competition.

Bugis Junction

Meanwhile, if you’re out to splurge and you’re after branded items, go to Orchard Road.  It looks like a whole stretch of “Ayala” filled with malls and establishments for me.  We were able to go inside Ion Orchard since you’ll be able to pass thru it from the Orchard MRT station.

Ion Orchard

Other sites that I saw are the Singapore Expo and the Singapore Flyer, from afar though.  Initially planned to go to Universal Studios and Night Safari but my schedule did not permit me.  Anyway, I can still do so next time. 🙂

Singapore Expo

Singapore Flyer | photo by Nash Frias

When all came to an end, I had to go back home after staying there for 6 days.  My flight was delayed due to bad weather, thus I was able to explore their Budget Airport.  Duty Free for those who would like to do last-minute shopping.  They have comfortable lounge areas with cable TV (sad to say the channel’s showing a kidnapping crime in PH then, a very awkward moment for me).  Computers hooked up with internet connectivity and internet cables for those who have their own gadgets.

There’s a lot to say about this place, this blog may not suffice.  I find Singapore an interesting place, very modern and disciplined.  If you’re looking more of mother nature, this place may not be for you.  Every place has its own charm and so Singapore.  I will definitely go back for more with my family next time.

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Note:  Places, directions and descriptions may not be accurate anymore.  Travel transpired last year, June of 2011.