Preps and Research, Taiwan

Changing hotels: why a 24-hour concierge is important to me

After the glow and excitement of going to Taipei with the hubby has finally subsided. I took stock of the hostel I reserved and asked myself if I am really happy with the available amenities.

The first hotel I booked, Mr.Lobster’s Secret Den seemed like a good deal and even ranked high both at TripAdvisor and at Booking.com. I have never been too picky when it comes to hotel stay. I’ve always mentioned that for as long as there is a good flushing toilet and a room that guarantees my safety (and without bed bugs!) — then everything is just icing on the cake for me.

Unfortunately, this hotel, in spite of the fact that is promises a relaxing stay — does not have a 24 hour concierge. Concierge is available half day only – from 9AM to 2PM (I think) which became the deal breaker for me.

Using the country’s top budget airline also means arriving in Taipei Taoyuan International Airport at a very ungodly hour. Factor in the one hour travel from Taoyuan county to Taipei City and this leads to a strong possibility of arriving in Taipei and at our hotel at 1:30 to 2:00 AM.

This situation alone calls for the presence of a concierge who will check us in, get our details, usher us to our room. At an ungodly hour, with the possibility of a sleepy husband who is a first-timer in Taipei, I don’t want to be blindly looking for rooms.

Photo not mine

Photo not mine

In a wired world, what is the concierge is for? The concierge is there to make the stay pleasant and to ensure that all your concerns are answered.

A good concierge provides you insights on your planned itineraries, provides tips and tricks to maximize the stay and even at night, answers your questions on where is the best neighborhood joint open even at an ungodly hour.

I immediately wondered how are we going to get checked in at 1:30AM. I am sure there are already SOPs in place, but I am also the type that needs a semblance of order and the familiar. I don’t like to entertain what if’s and if paying extra means having the convenience of a 24 hour concierge who will answer our questions and be our first line of defense during emergencies — then I am definitely changing hotels.

Good thing that I booked my first choice at Booking.com which allowed me to cancel the first hotel and choose another without any hassle. I will be paying an additional PHP1,000 but that came with my 24/7 concierge and a free buffet breakfast AND a strategic location right at the middle of Ximending.

So far, I am happy with my choice. Though note that I am still looking. This is the benefit of having Booking.com — it gives you the opportunity to shamelessly look for the best option for stays without the guilt and expense.

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Japan, Preps and Research

Japan-Envy

In just two days, it’ll be a full year after I have finally visited Tokyo, the land of my dreams and a regular fixture of “winning the lotto jackpot” fantasies.

There is not a day that I always look back on the day when I first saw Tokyo with my own eyes — how I cried when I saw the Sky Tree looming over the horizon as the airport limousine bus crossed the skyway leading to the city.

Call it crazy, but my dream of seeing Japan (or at least, Tokyo) took me at least 20 years. That was worth a liter of tears, right?

This View.

This View.

The moment I boarded the plane going back to Manila, I already wanted to go back.

This year, my Facebook feed is filled with photos of people celebrating holidays in Japan — Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s, Holy Week, birthdays and just everything in between in Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. The flurry of pictures, of cherry blossoms and Osaka Castle and the big Gundam automatically induces “Japan-Envy” in me. Or: the unmistakable deep envy felt towards anyone currently in Japan at the moment. A bit crazy, I know but I actually know of people that feels the exact way like I do.

The good news is that I am currently planning a second honeymoon for the hubs and myself in Osaka. We are planning to catch the end part of winter in February 2016 but this early, I am again stricken with the unmistakable dread of wanting to plan everything. I managed to convinced the Hubs to renew his passport (we are going to DFA this week) and next on my Gaant Chart is the purchase of cheap tickets going to Osaka. I am still trying to decide if we should fly in to Osaka, then fly out of Tokyo after – it’s a possibility that I can’t wait to try.

Since I might not be traveling out of the country as much this year (in lieu of the Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo trip being planned for 2016, I promise to feature more local destinations and tourist spots in Manila.

So, please cross your fingers for me and the Hubs. If ever, this will be his first time in Japan and I would like to make it as magical as possible for him, as it was for me.

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Japan, Preps and Research

Tokyo Dream Updates

this is my current laptop screen saver. keeps me motivated and reminds me why i work hard

this is my current laptop screen saver. keeps me motivated and reminds me why i work hard

Yes, I did realize that I named my birthday trip with a JPop concert sounding name — quite corny but it gives me the push to make things possible by sheer will and by the Universe conspiring to make this dream a trip of lifetime.

After my last update wherein I detailed how I managed to get return tickets to Tokyo for only PHP6,000 (USD133) all in by sheer will-power, countless prayers to the Almighty and the Universe probably tiring of my usual prayers at night (“Dear Lord and Universe…I really want to go to Tokyo, please help me find cheap tickets…”) I know it sounds a bit funny and probably a bit crazy but it worked for me. It also helped me make the goal clearer.

With the ticket over and done with — it’s now time to look for a place to stay. While I would have loved to stay somewhere central like Ginza, Shibuya or in Shinjuku, my planned budget will not just cut it. Besides, in my head, I wanted to stay somewhere not too modernized. Early on, the idea was to stay in any of the hostels and guest houses dotting Asakusa. At first, I was torn between two strong potential candidates: Khao San Road Kabuki which is located a street from the Kaminarimon Gate and near three types of transpo (Metro Ginza Line, Toei Asakusa Line and Tobu Izesaki Line) and K’s House Tokyo Oasis which is a bit farther than Khao San Kabuki to the Kaminarimon Gate and transpo lines but enjoyed better ranking in Trip Advisor. K’s House is also more expansive than Khao San Kabuki by a few hundred yen but accepted reservations even without down payment.

In the end, I opted to book at K’s House Tokyo Oasis. However, I am still open to suggestions. What do you think? Or are there dirt cheap accommodations in Ginza and Shinjuku areas?

The next (and more excruciating) step for me is preparing for the application of my Japanese tourist visa and building my nest egg for said application. This is the most crucial and nerve-wracking part of the whole thing.

I guess I have told you before how difficult and hard it is for Filipinos to get visa to Japan. Unfortunately, we had a lot of kababayans in the 80s and early 90s who went to Japan in guise of tourism but ended up banishing into thin air. These exploits reflected badly to us, the future keen travelers who wanted nothing but just see Tokyo Tower and Fuji-san in the flesh. While the embassy had “relaxed” a bit these past few years (they now offer multiple tourist visit visas to Filipinos), still going through the whole “visa getting process” is draining my energy. I was actually torn between trying to keep my trip hush-hush or just be positive and avoid any negative thoughts that enter my mind. Right now, all I wanted was to build my nest egg for the trip and I am already wracking my brains trying to think of ways to earn extra cash.

Anyway, I am confident that in the end–it will all work out for me. I just have to be positive, keep praying and prepare as much as I can in order for this dream to become a reality.

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