Taiwan, Travel Tips

Hearing Mass in Taipei

Note: Sorry for the long-delayed posts on my Taipei trip. Things in the real world has been very hectic and stressful that I had to take a breather from blogging my travel posts.

For Filipino Catholics who want to start their Taipei trip with a quick visit to the church or to hear mass in Taipei (especially if you happen to be there on a Sunday), I highly recommend that you visit St. Christopher’s Church in Chungshan North Road near the Taipei Expo Park.

When you are directly in front of the Expo, cross the street to the right... this is Chungshan N. Road

Cross the street to the right… this is Chungshan N. Road

To go there, take the MRT going to Yuanshan (Red Line), fare is not more than NTS20. Upon exiting the MRT, walk east of Minzu W. Road (this is directly in front of the MRT exit), cross the Zhongzhan N. Road and walk south of Zhongshan N. Road. This will lead you to the sign of the Taipei Expo Park.

From there, head right. You are very near when you see this bridal studio:

When you see this shop, you're a few steps away from the church

When you see this shop, you’re a few steps away from the church

Searched for the church via Google Maps and you can refer to this screen grab:

the facade of St. Christopher's and how to find it via GoogleMaps

the facade of St. Christopher’s and how to find it via GoogleMaps

St Christopher’s Church is well-known as THE church where Filipinos converage for spiritual nourishment in Taipei. When you go to a mass on a Sunday and is lucky enough to catch the 12NN service, you’ll think you’re in Manila instead of Taipei. The mass is offered in Tagalog every 12NN of Sunday. The other services during Sunday meanwhile are said in English. My sister and I made it a point to catch the Tagalog service because we want to hear the local language used generously in a foreign land.

It was definitely one of the best masses I’ve attended in my entire life — second to the experience of hearing mass offered by Pope John Paul II in Manila during the celebration of World Youth Day in 1995 when I was in junior year in high school.

The mass was made enjoyable by the following:

1. A very joyful and relaxed officiant who delivered his sermon without the grave seriousness that seemed to be prevalent in some masses offered in Manila. I noticed that most sermons delivered in Manila had that “hail, fire and brimstones” gravitas that scares the pants out of me. The parish priest often is too serious, leading some parishioners to fall asleep. The priest at St. Christopher’s was funny, engaging and delivered the message directly and simply — yet aided by a nice power point presentation.

2. Church goes are very behaved — people actually turned off their mobile phones upon entering the church. There were also usherettes directing people to their seats and kindly reminding people to turn the juice off their digital devices.

3. The choir was very good!

After the mass, some still stay to catch up

After the mass, some still stay to catch up

Lastly, it was nice to see non-Filipinos attend the church, even Taiwanese men married to their Filipina wives were there, hearing mass with their kids. I love how the church serves as a good spiritual refuge for Filipinos who have been living in a foreign land yet still wanted to deepen their faith.

After the mass, I saw some kids make “mano” (a traditional Filipino of showing respect by pressing the elders’ hand to the kid’s forehead. We kids were taught to make “mano” to elders after every mass), and I can’t help but feel a surge of Filipino pride. I left the church smiling and in awe of how this little church is keeping Filipinos in touch of its roots.

POSTSCRIPT:
After the mass, we went back to Yuanshan MRT station in search of food. It was past 1PM and we are stark raving hungry. To the other side are family-run restaurants and we happen to get transfixed on a mom and pop restaurant selling “MeiSua”. We were able to understand each other through a series of pointing and nodding and smiling and we ended up with a really great late lunch:

So YUMMY! Only NTS55!

So YUMMY! Only NTS55!

Go to the store with red signage if you want to taste really good Taiwanese misua

Go to the store with red signage if you want to taste really good Taiwanese misua

Like any “mom-and-pop” operation, the place is kept clean and the prices are affordable. Look out for the kind granny serving the soup.

Address and contact information:
ST. CHRISTOPHER’S CHURCH
51 Chungshan N. Road, Sect. 3, Taipei

Advertisements
Standard
Taiwan, Travel Tips

Review: Modern Toilet Restaurant Taipei (a very CRAPPY experience – literally!)

This post is just screaming for a lot of bad puns and offensive, double-meaning titles.
But I guess, one can summarize it best with this: if you look for crap, then you will get crap! This we realized to be true following our not-so-stellar experience at Modern Toilet, located at the Ximending District in Taipei, Taiwan.

For the uninitiated, Modern Toilet is a theme restaurant where the main feature and novelty is being served on toilet seats, while eating in a bidet or toilet shaped plate decorated with variations of poo. It’s a sort of thing that would be really funny for ten year old boys who find humor in bodily functions.

However, we were in Taipei for a limited time only and wanted to just get on with the experience of dining here because we were there anyway so might as well try.. We first went to Modern Toilet on our second night in Taipei, the restaurant is located on one of the alleys within Ximending and finding it is not an easy task. But we wanted to try it, so off we go following a trip to Shilin Night Market. After a bit of a search, we finally found it by 9PM.

We excitedly went up the stairs only to be turned away, with the servers explaining that they are already closed. We wanted to argue that it’s still 9PM and their sign downstairs say that they close at 10PM. But there was a language barrier and I was just tired from roaming around (Yehliu-Shilin then a mad dash to Ximending for Modern Toilet) that I just gave up.

Modern Toilet Restaurant, Ximending, Taipei

Modern Toilet Restaurant, Ximending, Taipei

You would think that the experience will be enough to make us stay-away, but no — we decided to come back the next morning for brunch and to celebrate the first meal of the day celebrating my sister’s birthday.

hey. mr. crapman! :)

hey. mr. crapman! 🙂

This time, we were accommodated immediately. At first, the place was empty but then tourists and high school kids start arriving one after the other. We were given english menus and told that we have to order and pay first on the counter before food can be served. Here’s how you order:
1. You will be given the menu and a dry-erase marker.
2. Mark your order from the items indicated in the menu.
3. Bring it to the cashier and pay.
4. Wait for your food.

Food
My sister and I chose a set meal, Tuna Pasta (NTS 275) for her and a breaded chicken with melted cheese (NTS 260) for myself. The mains came with soup (hers was a creamy pumpkin puree while mine was flavored water with floating green bits), green iced tea (tasted awful) and soft-served ice cream which came at the end of the meal.

my set meal (chicken, flavored water as soup, rice and green tea, with ice cream)

my set meal (chicken, flavored water as soup, rice and green tea, with ice cream)

my sister's pasta served in a "wash basin" type plate.

my sister’s pasta served in a “wash basin” type plate.

Okay, let’s talk first about the food. Honestly, it’s nothing to get excited about. The pasta was watery and needed salt and the iced green tea tasted awful we decided to stick with the water we have at hand. The breaded chicken was okay, made delicious by the melted cheese that oozed out. I did not enjoy my soup nor the rice (since I do not eat rice that much). The soft-served ice cream is okay, at best. Considering how tasty and delicious the food of Taipei is (and cheap too! Shilin Night Market proved that), Modern Toilet is a bit of a let-down considering the high expectations we had for the restaurant. The cost, in my opinion, is okay (NTS260 for a set) but note that you can get a yummier option at lower the cost in any of the many themed restos around Ximending.

Design
Admittedly, the allure of Modern Toilet comes with the whimsy display of poop. There are poop figures; they were selling candies shaped like poops; you can upsize your drink and order it served inside a plastic urinals for just NTS40; you are sitting on toilets with cute covers; food is served on glass-topped bath tubs and your ice cream comes shaped like poop. It’s a nice experience to have and something which can be best enjoyed with your family and friends, as you laugh on the cute poop displays and the fact that you are drinking on a miniature urinal.

?????????????????????

light fixtures are shaped lovingly like poop

light fixtures are shaped lovingly like poop

No, this is not the ladies' restroom. This is the sink.

No, this is not the ladies’ restroom. This is the sink.

The sink is a whole toilet bowl modified with a faucet. This is a great idea with a weird execution. It didn’t help the sink is already dirty by the time I used it that it kinda grossed me a bit.

It is indeed funny for a while, until you realize you are no longer ten years old and words like “poop”, “fart”, “dork” and others that may connote further bodily functions no longer amuse you.

Here’s how to find Modern Toilet
1. If you are coming from the metro, get out of Ximending station exit 6.
2. Head to the right side of Eslite mall. That street is called Emei street. Just go straight until you reach the end of the road which is called Kunmimg Street.
3. Turn right as soon as you see the parking lot.
4. Then turn right once again. Walk a few steps. Modern Toilet is to your left and located on the second floor.

Sorry for the crude interpretation. But here's how to find Modern Toilet

Sorry for the crude interpretation. But here’s how to find Modern Toilet

After you have your fill, I suggest you explore the neighborhood where Modern Toilet is located, lots of nice shops and hole-in-the-walls to discover.

Address and contact information:
Modern Toilet
2F, No 7, Lane 50, Xi-Ning South Road, Taipei Taiwan.
Tel:(02)23118822
Website: http://www.moderntoilet.com.tw

Prepare around NTS 250-NTS400 per person depending on your food preference.

Standard
Taiwan, Travel Tips

Review: CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending – Getting 5-star service in a whimsical boutique hotel

If you have plans to visit Taipei, here’s a recommendation. Stay at City Inn Hotel Plus Ximending!

Forget that this little gem has comfortable, clean rooms that is just a hop, jump and cartwheel away from the Station 3 exit of the trendy Ximending district. Forget the whimsical designs, the art decorating the walls and the lifesized horse statue (lamp?) parked at the lobby. Forget its affordable rates, or that booking a room over the internet is easy.

Exit 3 of Ximending Station. Look for the bright orange sign and count to ten -- you're now at CityInn!

Exit 3 of Ximending Station. Look for the bright orange sign and count to ten — you’re now at CityInn!

…at the end of the day, prepare yourself for unrivaled customer service that surely must have been prevalent only on five-star establishments.

The first thing you’ll notice upon entering CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending, aside from the bright orange colors, is the wall of artwork…and yes, the horse:

lobby of CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending (photo coutesy of my sister's Instagram)

lobby of CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending (photo coutesy of my sister’s Instagram)

The shelf near the horse sells unique souvenirs that reflect the art visible through out the building. The items are both cute and functional, the perfect souvenir for the budding artiste in you.

If this won’t set you up for expectations that you are in for a very unique experience, then just wait until they start rolling out the virtual red carpet.

Okay, enough with the hyperbole — some basic realizations first:

1. Rooms are small but gets the job done. There is no closet, instead you will be provided with around 4 to 5 hangers. If you do not have the wardrobe of a famous celebrity, no problem. We booked for a twin room (for NTS 2,180 or about PHP3,270 per night) which came with two single beds, complete bathroom amenities and free munchies on the top drawer. There is a small fridge and free mineral water. The beds are super comfy. After staying at Keyman’s, where our backs were realigned no thanks to the rock-hard beds, the soft and comfortable mattress and pillows offered by CityInn were a welcome respite. We ended up oversleeping on our first night. A/C is okay and adjustable based on your preference. Room light is backlit so you don’t have to fumble through out the night as you look for a switch.

Twin Room at CityInn Hotel Plus. Comfy beds!

Twin Room at CityInn Hotel Plus. Comfy beds!

2. No breakfast provided. However, you can have your fill of coffee, tea or fruit juice for free on the basement floor. There are also two desk top PCs provided if you want to browse the internet. Wifi is available throughout the building. CityInn also offers free usage of the laundry machine, also located at the basement. No need to buy soap, it’s also available at the basement.

If you start craving for munchies or for breakfast, you can arrange for sandwiches to be delivered to your room, courtesy of the cafe nearby. Just place your order via the hotel reception and they’ll bring it up your room. Munchies (Doritos and veggie chips) are also placed on the top drawer. A small ref is also provided if you want to buy water, fruits, ice cream and other snacks from the nearby 711.

free munchies on the top drawer. menu for room service is on the left (breakfast only, 8AM to 11AM only)

free munchies on the top drawer. menu for room service is on the left (breakfast only, 8AM to 11AM only)

3. Bathroom amenities are provided and even includes sanitary pads in case emergency strikes. Inside the shower area, there’s a soap and shampoo dispenser. Hot water is of course, available.

nice shower!

nice shower!

complete bathroom amenities! there's even a hair dryer

complete bathroom amenities! there’s even a hair dryer

4. Walls can be a bit thin though. You can hear your neighbor going about, and during our stay — we can hear them turning on the shower. God forbid that you are rooming next to a pair of amorous teenagers. There’s also no window in the room so you have to make sure to always set your clock on time, especially if you have trips to neighboring counties.

Whatever this hotel lacks, they pretty much make up for it when it comes to customer service. The reception area is always very accommodating and easy to talk to, always helpful and willing to lend a hand. As we prepare for our trip back to Manila, we asked the front office if there’s a toilet in the first floor that we can use to freshen up and change clothes. They immediately pointed to the rest room located behind the front office area. Wash room is also clean and stocked with everything that you will possibly need: soap, lotion, a bidet and even a mouth freshener (especially if you had too much grilled squid or fish ball).

Our stay coincided with my sister’s 31st birthday. On the night before we left, we were at the basement eating and relaxing when two of the guys approached my sister and I. They were clutching a fluffy hat, oversized shades and a birthday cake for the dear sister:

my sister and I celebrating her birthday with one of the staff of CityInn

my sister and I celebrating her birthday with one of the staff of CityInn

The Queen with her birthday card from CityInn!

The Queen with her birthday card from CityInn!

My sister said it was one of her best birthdays, ever.

More than the birthday greeting, the staff of this hotel is truly one of the best. They are friendly and very helpful, warm and efficient and were good problem solvers. The treat guests as family and you can sense that they will truly bend over backwards just to please a guest or make their stay comfortable.

Information:

Address: No.63, Baoqing Rd., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City 100, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Tel: +886 (2) 7725-2288
Fax: +886 (2) 7725-2799
service4@cityinn.com.tw

NOTE: I paid for my stay at this hotel and no part of this trip was sponsored.

Standard
Travel Tips

Travel Agencies – to get or not to get

A cousin of mine is preparing for their first trip to Hong Kong and has been asking for my help in preparing for the trip. First, she wanted to get a travel agency and pass the planning and all the little details of traveling to a third party. Then after doing a bit of computation, she decided to ditch the agency and do the trip on her own. So which is better? Get an agency? Or do it on your own?

First, a disclosure. I never bothered getting an agency in all my travels and I have a feeling that it’s someone whose services I won’t be needing for a long time.

Yes, I toyed with the idea of getting a travel agency way back 2008 when the siblings and I decided to go to Hong Kong on a last hurrah prior to me tying the knot. But after repeated negotiations, the initial small amount ballooned to a few more thousand bucks. Fed up, I terminated the agreement and decided to do the planning on my own.

travel-agents

Personally, I think getting a travel agency is a case-to-case basis.

If you plan on going to a country who doesn’t require much arrangement and is just a skip, a hop or a jump away from this great country of ours, do yourself a favor and dispense with the agency. You might be surprised of the things you’ll learn researching about the country and the trip itself. If you are going to Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia or even Bangkok — countries that are very easy to navigate (provided you have enough info and good research in your hands), surprise yourself and plan the trip yourself.

If the trip is not complicated, you have access to the internet and a keen sense of adventure, just do the itinerary and location-hunting on your own. Personally, it’s one of the best things when it comes to traveling. Getting lost, discovering hole-in-the-wall eatery and bonding with family and friends just getting a lost and having fun. I am a believer that while it’s fun to do research and plan a trip ahead — it should also be a balance of enjoying the sights at a leisurely pace. You wouldn’t want to feel like you are a contestant of The Amazing Race right? Shuffling from one place to another, barely enjoying the sights.

If you’re like me who’s perpetually on a budget, then better do away with the agency. Getting a travel agency does not come cheap and services usually come with a lot of caveat/exclusions save for the hotel, transfers and compulsory city tours that will bring you to jewelry centres, floating markets and other factories. Also note that you will have to pay for your travel guide’s gratuity, which is usually exempted from the usual fees you pay from the agency.

However, note that getting a travel agency has a lot of perks.

First, if your itinerary involves a cross-country crossing, or multiple countries in one trip, then get an agency. You will need the expertise and advice of a travel agent who will help you negotiate rates, find hotels and ensure that your crossing from one country to another is as seamless as possible.

Second, having an agency means that there’s someone who will look out for you – this includes having your insurance in order, having someone to take care of cancellations and changed dates and basically deal with all the nitty-gritty of travel.

Third, obviously having an agency saves you time. Time not spent researching for one place to another, or having transportation arranged for you as you try to navigate a country.

Which ever way you go, getting a travel agency really depends according to your comfort level, and of course, the money you have in the bank. If you’d rather not break a sweat and you have the moolah to burn, then go with having professional help as you travel.

Well, as for my cousin, she ended up DIYing the trip — with the big probability that I’ll be coaching her and one of her kids prior to their trip (same date as our Taipei trip). She already booked City Econo Guesthouse, the same hostel where my family and I stayed last October. When I brought her along during the Travel Expo, she almost signed with an agency but changed her mind (again) after the computation was presented to her.

Considering that she’s bringing six adult kids with her (yes, my cousin procreates really good), I think they can wing it in Hong Kong, a place known for organized transportation system and where all attractions are labeled accordingly. Presence of mind and a good sense of adventure is all the she needs to make it work and to make their trip memorable.

Standard
Travel Tips

BPI ePrepaid Express Card: A Convenient Booking Tool (without the dreaded credit card bill!)

After marrying the hubby, one of the first things to go were my credit cards. Aware that budgeting is not one of my greatest skills, the hubby decided to cut-off and discontinue all my cards.

To quote, “I should learn to live according to my means.”

Unfortunately, a credit card is a very important tool for travel fiends like me — yes, even if I am pretty much always after a very good deal.

A few posts back, I insinuated about getting an ePrepaid card in order to fund my online purchases like plane tickets and hotel reservations. After a while, it gets pretty tiring asking people to book your tickets for you. After choosing between two banks, I figured that it’s better to get BPI since my savings and payroll account are both from the same bank. This lessens the hassle of transferring from one bank to another. I just log in using my Express Online account and voila! It’s locked and loaded and ready to use for online booking!

Booking to the CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending using my BPI ePrepaid

Booking to the CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending using my BPI ePrepaid

Applying for an express card is easy. In my case, I applied online by filling out the form available at the BPI Express website. . You will need to indicate the BPI branch nearest you where they will send the prepaid card after 5 days.

You will need to pay PHP500 while claiming the card — then if you have express online, apply it to said feature so that you can transfer money from your savings account to the debit card. This is what I did especially with the pressing need to find and book a hotel for the upcoming Taipei trip.

I already got the chance to use my ePrepaid Card when I chanced upon CityInn Hotel Plus on TripAdvisor. While I mentioned in one of my earlier post that I am partial to getting Keyman’s Hotel due to its proximity to Taipei Main Train station and to its marvelous Japanese rooms, I decided to go with CityInn due to its amazing room designs, its sleek interiors and the fact that it’s new. It also doesn’t help that it consistently rated high at Trip Advisor.

I was actually supposed to book the CityInn Hotel III which was nearest the Taipei Main Station but a quick check on their very efficient reservations system revealed an almost filled up hotel, the same goes for its CityInn Hotel II branch. In the end, I decided to go with City Inn Hotel Plus is Ximending, the so-called Harajuku of Taipei.

Cliche as they may sound — booking is as easy as 1-2-3. To confirm my reservations and in order to pay the 30% deposit, I entered my card details similar to how you do it with a credit card. Booking was immediately confirmed. After just an hour, I already had CityInn Hotel Plus calling my mobile phone long distance to confirm the reservations and arrange the transfers from airport to the city (we are arriving at 12:40 and after immigration and all that, might be able to go out the airport by 1:30AM).

So, if you are the type to trawl the various websites of airlines looking for cheap deals and still wouldn’t want to get buried in credit card debt, perhaps you might be interested in getting a prepaid card. This way, we can still satiate our wanderlust yet still be responsible with out finances.

Standard
Travel Tips

Debit card for online airline purchase?

With the possibility of a financial windfall looming in the horizon (Christmas Bonus, represennnnnt!!!), I have already decided that I am already way past buying new clothes and the silly little things that depreciate with time. I am setting my sights on moving to a new home, building a savings account and a travel fund.

The travel fund, I intend to keep in a savings account which I plan to link in a prepaid/debit card which I can use for purchasing plane tickets. You see, if I have my way, I’d rather not use a credit card. In most of my travels, I always managed to pay in cash. And except for purchasing plane tickets, I’d rather pay in cash. Maybe, it’s my thing now: “I will not spend money I haven’t earned yet.”

But of course, just because I am trying to be financially intelligent means I will forego my love of travel. Oh no. In fact, I consider the opportunity to get away as a reward as I set myself on the right path to financial freedom.

Anyway, after a few hours searching the net, I whittled my choice to two possibilities:

BPI My ePrepaid Mastercard

BPI My ePrepaid Mastercard (from BPI website)

My ePrepaid is the first reloadable MasterCard® prepaid card in the Philippines offered by BPI. This allows cardholders to securely and conveniently shop in any Matercard-affiliated stores in the Philippines and abroad. The card has a validity of two years and can be loaded to as high as PHP50,000 through over the counter deposits. (Read more here)

This definitely will work to my advantage since I have a BPI savings account that I am currently maintaining. I can easily link one of my accounts and transfer money to put funds in the prepaid card. So far, the only drawback for me is that whatever money placed inside the prepaid card remains inside since the card has no withdrawal function.

Unionbank EON Visa Debit Card

Unionbank EON Visa

The EON is an internet-based deposit account from Unionbank that allows online banking transactions. The card also accepts electronic fund transfers to any bank in the Philippines. EON also allows Paypal withdrawals, along with online purchase. (Read more here)

While I have a Paypal account, I am still wary of getting the EON Card. Firstly, this will require me to open a new bank account in a different bank, aside from the one that I currently maintain. As much as I would love to do this, maintaining one bank account is already a challenge for me and having to open another one would be too much I think for my brain to process (my brain automatically shuts down for anything that concerns numbers).

Hopefully, I’ll have something figured out by the end of the month. I am really raring to start my travel fund and figured that the earnings I have from my freelance job can serve as a good seed money.

I plan to use the debit card solely for purchasing tickets online. Obviously, many of the country’s budget airlines have been releasing a lot of online promos and I always get frustrated when I have to see ticket sale announcements and I have no means to purchase tickets. Paying over the counter is really much of a hassle, especially since I will have to drag myself to the airline’s partner merchants.

I have never really gotten over the fact that I passed up on the chance to go to Japan last September. What made me more desperate is that I’ve found not a few people who tried their luck and was able to secure a visa, because they dared book a ticket. After seeing some of their pictures and hearing their stories, I became more determined to see my dream country next year.

Who knows? This maybe a good start. What about you? How do you book your tickets?

Standard
Asia, South Korea, Travel Tips

Step by step visa application for South Korea

the South Korean Embassy – Manila (from the embassy’s FB page)

After a successful and memorable Busan and Seoul trip last March, I posted a step-by-step South Korean tourist visa application in my other blog. Following the trip, many of my friends have sent me text messages or even asked me personally about getting a tourist visa for South Korea. I am reposting my experience as well as the tips that worked best for me so that other people might use it as they start planning for their own Seoul Searching trip.

First, my trip was completely, right off the bat, unexpected. Only my sister was supposed to go but her travel buddy had an unexpected family tragedy. Prior to the trip, I have been researching her Korea trip for the last four months, realizing that it won’t cost me anything to apply for a 59D visa (single entry). After finding that I have enough in my bank account to risk getting a bank certificate, I decided that I won’t lose anything should I take a chance an apply for a 59D.

First, allow me to address a misconception. No one knows how much money you should have in your bank in order to get approved. To be honest with you, I have less than PHP50,000 in the bank (more on the lower five figures). There are other factors that the consul consider other than your bank account. It can either be your tenure at your current job, your stability or connection in the Philippines or maybe even the money in your bank account. So for those with less money in the bank but is willing to risk it…I say go for it. Applying for a visa is free. No one really knows if you’ll get approved or not.

“Winging it” and “risking it” turned out positive for me. Valentine’s Day 2011 was made extra memorable not because of any undying declarations of love, but because I realized that I am indeed going to Seoul in three weeks time.

As my way of giving back to the unnamed faces whose post in the internet who helped me get through the visa application process, I am sharing what I knew based from my experience and the many researches that I did early this year.

Process explained below is for TOURIST VISA (59D), SINGLE ENTRY.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

1. Make sure all your documents are complete. This includes the following:
– Application form (downloaded file from the South Korean embassy) which you print using A4 paper. On the application form, attach your most recent passport-sized photo (white background). Please have your photo taken on a really good photography shop.

– Photocopy of the first page (the information page) of your passport.

– Certificate of employment from your current employer indicating your tenure in the company, salary and position. It’s important that in your company letterhead, the company’s complete address and telephone number is indicated. For the love of God, do not even ATTEMPT to submit a fake employment certificate. I heard that someone from the embassy really calls our employers to verify. Please do not do anything stupid which will affect the reputation of other Filipino travelers.

– Bank certificate. The certificate usually indicates how much you have in the bank as of date of request. This is easy to request. In BPI for example, you can get your bank certificate for as less than an hour. You will just have to pay PHP100 (USD2) to facilitate your request. For BDO account holders, my friend told me that you will get your bank certificate the next day.

– Income Tax Return (ITR) Form 2306 – this is a non-negotiable requirement. If you don’t have your current ITR, try submitting your old ITR either from the year before. In fact, I used an ITR issued to me by my former company. I stayed for less than six months in that company hence my contribution rate was minuscule. I was most worried about this document, but apparently the one I submitted qualified.

2. As soon as you have all your documents in order, you are ready to take the next step! Go directly to the South Korean Embassy located in McKinley Hill in Taguig. If you are based in Manila and can spare a few hours of your time, you do not need to have your applications coursed through a travel agency. Coursing your visa application through a travel agency will just cost you money. If you don’t have anything else to do, do it yourself. The application process is easy and very fool-proof. The embassy accepts visa applications from 9AM to 12NN from Monday to Friday. Please bring valid ID so that you can go past the kind guards manning the gate.

3. Submit all your documents. As soon as you enter the Visa Application area, you will see a receptionist stationed near the door. She will ask you if you have a visa in any of the OECD countries (like Japan, USA, Australia, Shengen, etc) — she will ask you this in order to identify which window will accept your application. If you are a first time traveler or don’t have visa from any of the countries indicated in the list, you will be referred to Window 1. She will give you a stub indicating your number.

My sister and I was assigned to Window 1 — while waiting for our number to be called, we arranged our documents and made sure they are neat and presentable. We also arranged them based on the order indicated in the embassy website. Make sure that your documents are neat and presentable. It never hurts to give a good impression to the consul.

When your number is called, approach the assigned window and give your papers to the Consul. He may or he may not ask you questions about your trip. Don’t get nervous and answer him as truthfully as possible. Tell him you are going to Seoul so that you can make Lee MinHo realize that he is meant to be your better half. Or that you are there on a mission to stalk Super Junior. RULE OF THUMB: Please do not lie.

4. After submitting your documents, the consul will hand you a piece of paper which will indicate when you can pick-up your passport. Whatever happens, do not lose that paper. Guard it with your life.

Indicated is the date and time when you can come back to get your passport. Do not lose the paper since that is the only requirement in getting your passport.

After you have the paper, you can now go home and hyperventilate in the safety of your room. You have done your share, let the universe (and fate) take over.

PICKING UP THE PASSPORT
First, a word of caution –just because you submitted the documents does not mean that you are automatically granted a visa. No one knows what will get you approved or denied, except the Consul. You can pick-up your passport on the date indicated on the piece of paper (2PM to 4PM ONLY).

Leave your ID at the guard, pass by the receptionist and get a number and wait for your number to be called. The consul will hand you your passport, and you may check if you have been granted a visa before leaving the embassy grounds.

If your passport does not contain anything but a stamp indicating “APPLICATION RECEIVED” and you are handed a piece of paper with procedures for reapplication printed, it means your application was denied. You will have to wait another six months before you can plot your KPOP staking campaign once again.

REMEMBER — These are based on my personal experience only, and should not be taken as hard facts. For a more comprehensive process, go to the embassy website.

So what did I learn?
1.It pays to do your research.
2. Always be nice to people. You will never know when you will be left wanting for their help and assistance.
3. Do not lie. Be honest always.
4. If in doubt, do not be afraid to ask for directions.

getting a SK tourist visa

Our 59D Visa last March 2012

I hope this post will be of help to you. It may look daunting at first, but I am the perfect example that it is not impossible.

Standard