Philippines, Travel News

Here’s something to do in the Philippines: go to Bonbon Festival, a celebration of Art, Environment and Community!

 Looking forward to another adventure in the Philiipines, but already running out of ideas for a great summer adventure? 

Why don’t you try BONBON FESTIVAL held at Sitio Tagbakin, Brgy. Halang Lipa City, Batangas this coming May 21, 2016 from 6am onwards. 

Now on it’s second year, Bonbon Festival is back to celebrate Arts, Environment and Community in a one of a kind one-day event which will be participated by young professionals, students, different artists in Batangas Province, and invited guests from other places. Bonbon Festival is the first eco-green festival in the province which aims to support and sustain the environment by using arts and culture as one of the tools for preservation and development. The festival will be 

 

What to expect: 

Gala at Pasyal sa Lawa/ Knowledge Tour

Know the story of the lake region and eruption history of Taal Volcano via boat ride from Sitio Tagbakin, Lipa City to San Nicolas to Volcano Island and back. Enjoy the horse ride and trek with local tour guide and the rest of the team.
Mananghalian/Lunch

Savor a sumptuous lunch of Batangas fusion cuisine and local refreshments.

 

Huntahan sa Lawa/ Talkback

Join a series of meaningful talkback and discussions about Art and Environment with interactive community workshops that culminates the afternoon activities.

 

Hapunan/ Dinner by the Lake, Art Installations and Performance Art

Experience Batangas Art and Culture through performances. Listen to the old time Kundiman music plus musical performances dedicated to Taal led by independent Batangueno musicians including LAC Music Department. Cocktails are available with a party capping the night with all-out-fun and dancing.

 

Participants may choose from 2 packages:

 For inquiries and ticket purchase you may contact: Mr. Carlo Aguila at 043-740-7112 or 0917 877-9144. 

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Manila!, Reviews

Review: Z Hostel Makati is perfect for budget travelers with preference for comfort 

Disclosure: KamikazeeGirl was invited  by budget hostel Z Hostel Makati for an overnight stay during the onset of the holidays. This was my observation and full review. 

 
If you are a budget traveler like me who is always on the look out for cheap digs without sacrificing comfort, cleanliness or style, consider staying at the Z Hostel located in Don Pedro, Poblacion, Makati City. 


Check In 

Check in process is very straight forward, quick and easy. You can easily have reservations through the Z Hostel website or the many third party booking sites online. Upon check in, you will be given your key card, your towel and a bracelet with the RFID chip which you can use to purchase food and drinks within the hotel premises. 

   
    
 

I have stayed in a lot of hostels in HongKong, Singapore, Seoul, Busan and Tokyo, and I must say that it is only at Z Hostel Manila where I encountered the use of the RFID in purchasing beverages and meals within the hotel premises. 

The RFID at Z can be loaded and reloaded at the lobby and at the rooftop bar where guests usually unwind. 

Rooms and hotel premises 

Rooms at Z is no frills, basic, clean and secure. The ultimate must-haves when looking for a place to stay in. 

As for me, I have three non-negotiables: a locking door, a flushing rest room and a bug-free bed. Obviously, Z Hostel passed all these. 

A bed in any of the dorm rooms comes with its own night light, sufficient electrical outlets for charging of your devices, a pillow and a simple bed sheet. For valuables, each room also comes with lockers while guests are advised to bring their own lock and keys. 

One thing that Z Hostel can improve on is the availability of basic toiletries within the room. In Tokyo and Taipei, resort owners usually include a pair of dispensers in the common rest room: one for the shampoo/conditioner and one for the body wash. 

   


  

Rates begin at PHP899 for a bed on an All-Female Dorm while private rooms begin at PHP2,430 for a night’s stay. Z Hostel has mixed dorm rooms and female dorm rooms which can house 4,6 or 8 persons.

  

   
    

Dining In 

Z ZHostel  has a solid F&B line up, starting from their ground floor cafe where breakfast and most of the meals is commonly served.
   

For dinner,  I had the Beef Tapa which was served with a warm cup of fried rice and my favorite sunny side egg. 

For breakfast, I was directed to the  generous spread of the breakfast bar featuring congee, hard boiled egg slices, bread slices, two types of jams, eggs (cooked according to your preference), fruits, cereals and oatmeals plus juice, coffee or tea. 

  
You pay for your meals using the RFID on your wrist. Paying is very easy: the server will rally your meals on the hand held tablet with RFID capability; after the total amount to be paid is displayed, will you tap the RFID chip against the tablet where the cost of the  meal is immediately deducted and your remaining balance is displayed. 

   
 

As mentioned, you can also use the RFID when you pay for your drinks and bar chow at the rooftop bar. 

Ah – The Rooftop Bar which is already a legend in itself among Z Hostel fans. The Rooftop Bar, with its  laid back atmosphere and cheap drinks and chow is famous not only among guests but also among Makati’s gimmick crowd. 
   

Fellow travel junkies (L to R): KamikazeeGirl, Cao of Z Hostel, fellow bloggers Cindy and Rona and new friend and fellow back packer Rachelle of Australia


   
  

Z Hostel is the kind of place where travelers are encouraged to have fun and just relax, it encourages interaction and promotes nothing but cool vibes among its guests. Service is fast and friendly and each hotel staff seemed geared to provide customers with a nice and memorable stay. 

  
Find Z Hostel at 5660 Don Pedro Street, Makati City. They are also in Facebook: Z Hostel Philippines 

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Manila!, Traveling on a Budget

Z Hostel: Stay here so you don’t have to rough it in Manila 

 I am currently spending the night here at Z Hostel, comfortably tucked inside Makati’s Poblacion district, a stones throw away from the Central Business District. 

   
I am staying in my capacity as a blogger, but as a budget traveler, this hostel has been in my radar since the first time I heard of it from blogger friends. The top marks in TripAdvisor and rave reviews doesn’t hurt either. 

I’ll be posting a more detailed post on my stay but already I am blown away by the chill laid back atmosphere – in fact, I am blogging this using my iPhone sprawled on the lobby couch along with other travelers. 

Laid back and chill = Z Hostel

This post will be all about the photos. I will be chilling in a while before I go back with the full post. 

 Meantime, here are some highlights: 

 
When you check in, you will be issued a key card (the flat, square thing) and an RFID card (the one lopped on the wrist). You can preload your RFID and use it to pay for your food at the cafe or your drinks at the rooftop bar. 

   
Paying what you eat is easy. You just place your RFID bracelet on the device. You can eat yo heart’s content without worrying on cash. 

Yum Tapa

 
  
After a hearty dinner, go up the rooftop bar and enjoy the clear Manila skies and the twinkling lights of Makati 

 

Or if you are a home girl like me who loves to chill while bundled in bed, you can always go to bed early – relax and melt the stress of going around by just laying on the thick bed, equipped with individual night lights and your own socket. 

    
  
 More on my Z Hostel adventure tomorrow. Right now, am gonna enjoy my bed. 

  
 

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Travel Diaries, Uncategorized

The best sneakers will take you places

I love shoes. No – the better term would be, “I am crazy for shoes.”

I am the type of girl who can go on without gems or precious stones but I can never survive without a good shoe on my feet. On my social media accounts, I am the girl who post photos like these:

As you can see, I have a type when it comes to the shoes I wear: I love brogues and oxfords; and would favor flat ones as opposed to heels (because I am a klutzo). I don’t own any corporate shoes (i.e. the type best worn in the office) and would instead insist on wearing what I want (regardless of the look – please note the gold beauties shown above from Zalora) when I want it.

I am also a bit OC where I shop when it comes to footwear: it’s usually at H&M, The Ramp or Forever 21; online — I am a disciple of Zalora and Lazada — but more of Zalora because they have really cool brogues in stock. I seldom buy shoes in any specialty shop or boutique unless I really have to.

My relationship with my shoes is best defined by one of my favorite sayings: “The best shoes will take you to the best places” (This is a line which I first heard while watching “Meteor Garden” — yes, the one with Dao Ming Zi and  Shan Cai — and it stuck ever since) and I would like to believe it’s true.

Some of my best projects at work was effortlessly achieved while wearing some of my most wicked footwear. Somehow, knowing that I am wearing any of my so-called “f*ck ’em” shoes gave me the needed boost of confidence. Unsurprisingly, the best footwear was also with me whenever I travel to new places and discover new sights:

 

Unfortunately, the one time I tried to bring one of my prized Oxfords while on travel – it ended in disaster.

waiting for the plane

My silver Oxfords promptly disintegrated after I have used it going around Taipei last November, shredding also my feet to pieces in the process. What I need actually, more than boots because it won’t be raining or snowing every time I travel, are good sneakers that can take me places without compromising on style.

While visiting Seoul two years ago, I became fixated on getting New Balance shoes – preferably one that is color Pink with a lime green “N” emblazoned on it. Blame it on seeing South Korean millennials–particularly couples–wearing it just about any where. I see it in the train, at temples, while at castles and most especially in the airport. The men usually pair theirs with ankle-length pants, cardigan over button-down polos with a soft blazer completing the look  while girls looked so cute wearing the adorable trainers with their dresses, coat and black leggings or stockings.

A quick trip to ZALORA confirmed my suspicion that they have the best sneakers brands like New Balance available online. I immediately zeroed in on this pair:

new-balance-7598-343854-1(1)

It’s so pretty and stylish while looking undoubtedly comfortable enough for long trips and just walking around the city. I am actually considering getting one in time for my planned birthday sojourn to Lego Land.

What drew my attention to New Balance is the ability to mix form and function, producing comfortable pairs without sacrificing the pair. The price points are not prohibitive too — like the pair above which retails for PHP2,995 only. It’s a great buy and a good investment — especially if you are a traveler that loves to roam around. Believe me, your feet will thank you.

 

 

 

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Taiwan, Travel Diaries

Eating my way through Taipei 

 Taiwan is one of the places that I have come to love  – there’s something about the country and its people that I have come to love. 

I’ve been to this beautiful island nation twice, but I have yet to see a lot especially in the provinces. In a way, it’s a blessing because it’s a sign that I should keep going back. 

One of the things I love about Taiwan is the food. They have the abundance of crisp vegetables, the sweetest fruits and the best grilled meats. Obviously, bubble tea and milk teas are everywhere as well as huge chicken fillets that are bigger than my face. 

We stayed in Ximending where it doesn’t matter if it’s 10PM or 2AM, you’ll be sure to find something to eat according to your liking: matcha Japanese cake, soft tofu, hot noodles, flavor shaved ice, little strawberries encased in syrup – there’s something for everyone

Japanese cake with matcha and red bean

 

shaved ice, condensed milk and tapioca

  
  

 

Combini shopping is one of the first things I do when I travel to check the merchandise – the 711 in my neighborhood in Ximending has tea eggs, fresh salads, sushi and milk. Nothing  beats the Life Supermarket in Tokyo where there is an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, salads and fresh produce. 
 

Like before, we found the time to go to one of Taipei’s neighboring counties. This time, I went to Jiufen, home of the famed neighborhood which was one of Hayao Miyazaki’s inspiration for “Spirited Away.”

   
 With its steep stairs and winding alleyways, looking for the famous “tea house” was an adventure in itself. This was also the surest way to get famished – perfect for the many treats I found along the alley ways of Jiufen

   
    
    
 
There were mochi, grilled mushrooms, ice cream wrapped in rice paper sprinkled with ground peanuts, hot red bean soup and many others. The problem was which one to eat first. 

   
    

steaming hot rice topped with stewed ground pork and paired with chinese sausage

 
There are a lot of themed restaurants in Taipei like the Modern Toilet (which I visited once and vowed never to return again unless for am eating for free), Jay Chou’s series of restos, the famed PS Bubu for Meteor Garden fans (two thumbs up), among others but for this stay, we decided to eat more of the street foods being offered. If you want to try fast foods, I recommend you go to MOS Burger: 

   
 
On our last night in Taipei, we splurged a little and had a quiet dinner in this nice hotel bar inside Ximending’s many alley ways. 

   
 
With its hipster vibe and laid back atmosphere – it was the perfect way to end a fun visit in Taipei. 

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Travel News

Thailand bolsters exhibition ties with the Philippines 

It’s time for Filipino businesses to showcase in Thailand and take advantage of the exceptional standards and attendance in Thailand trade shows. 

This was the premise of the recently-launched “Thailand Extra Exhibition”, a trade show mounted by the Thailand Convention and Exhubition Bureau (TCEB) in cooperation with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands (CPPI). The trade show promoted Thaikand’s seven leading professional exhibition organizers in automotive & logistics, food & agriculture, energy and health & wellness. 

TCEB exhibitions and events director Ms. Jaruwan Suwannasat (middle) joined by former DOT secretary Mina Gabor and representatives from the top exhibiiton organizers in Thailand

 The new global marketing initiative, dubbed “Thailand Extra Exhibition” is being launched to offer the Philippine businesses with extra benefits and better connections with Thailand’s wide spectrum of services. The initiative underlines the country’s strengths and privileges through a number of core initiatives that will be implemented in 2016 to emphasize Thailand’s value in the next stage of the ASEAN connectivity and show Thailand’s huge potential as a marketplace for exhibitions and with that, unrivaled business opportunities. 

The Philippines and Thailand enjoy a close and win-win partnership when it comes to commerce and trade. To expand trade value between the two countries, TCEB together with international trade show organizers from Thailand banded together to step up its efforts in marketing and enhancing cooperation in the exhibition industry. 

In her message to attendees during the press one, Suwannasat highlights the growing trade potential between the two countries, “Thailand Extra Exhibition is the latest initiative to come from the team of the Thailand Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), showcasing three key attributes of doing business in Thailand. These factors, combined with the TCEB’s world-class’s support and service infrastructure, position Thailabd as a marketplace with outstanding potential for the exhibition industry, and by extension for companies looking to access markets in the ASEAN and Greater Mekong Sub-region.”

Currently, the Philippines is considered one of the priority countries for Thailand due to the long-established trade relations and growing trade volume between the two countries, at $8.4 billion in 2014. Thailand was the Philippines’ eight largest trading partner while the Philippines is Thailand’s 6th largest trading partner in ASEAN and 18th biggest in the world. 

Present during the presentation of the Thailand Extra Exhibition are representatives from seven of Thailand’s biggest exhibition organizers including UBM Asia (Thailand), Impact Exhibition Services, NEO Exhibition Organizers, Nishio, Bangkok Exhibition Services, VNU Asia-Pacific Exhibitions and VICTAM. 

Impact, for example, also manages what is currently the biggest exhibition area and venue in SouthEast Asia – slated to be a venue to some of the most successful series of trade shows.

TECB highlighted one of the growing exhibition markets for the beauty and cosmetics industries, as well as the agriculture sector. For the beauty sector alone – one organizer Impact has already organized for two major exhibitions, with usual attendance of 11,000 exhibitors and guests from across 50 countries. 

Exhibitions in Thailand reached a milestone with a record 103 trade shows in 2015. This year, the country expects to welcome 190,400 international exhibition delegates generating a total of 17 billion baht. 

The continuing emergence of Thailand as an exhibition destination also poised questions when it comes to safety of delegates. TECB assures the media of their continued diligence and coordination with the police for any threat that might poise risk for tourists and attendees. TECB underscores the importance of constant communication with the authorities as well as constant sharing of info to delegates and exhibitors alike as key to ensuring peace of mind of the many attendees of the numerous exhibitions in Thailand. 

For more information or to get a complete list of trade shows, visit www.businesseventsthailand.com

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Taiwan, Travel Diaries

Review: Diary of Ximen Hotel – Ximending

I will be very honest. Diary of Ximen is not our first choice after it has been confirmed that we are going back to Taipei. 

Our heart belongs to City Inn Plus Hotel Ximending, a boutique hotel who captured our loyalty with first class, five star service and personalized approach to guests. However, City Inn Plus was fully booked on the week we were supposed to visit. With our heart set on staying in Ximending district, we had to look for alternatives. 

Diary of Ximen, located on the 11th floor of an aging building a block away from the exit 6 of the Ximen MRT station, served as a good alternative.   



  • Location 

To get to the hotel from the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, you have two options: 

A. Convenient transfer: If you are arriving on a late flight (or God-forsaken early morning) courtesy  of Cebu Pacific, you have to arrange for transfers from the hotel. Their transfers rate is 1,500NTD for two persons with two luggages (roughly 2,100 Philippine pesos). A bit expensive but worry free especially since the airport Terminal 2 where Cebu Pacific is assigned is unusually quiet and abandoned by midnight. 

B. Cheap transfer: take the KuoKong bus from the airport to the Taipei West Bus Terminal. From the bus terminal, take the MRT ride to the Ximen station. Take exit 6, make a small u-turn to your right, and walk straight heading to the direction of the high way. You will go past 2 Ximending side streets, a Converse and Doc Martens branches. The 12 story building beside the department store is where Diary of Ximen is located. Take elevator to the 12th floor where reception and check in is located. 
Diary of Ximen  shares the building with two other hotels: Muzik Hotel and Diary of Taipei(which occupies many floors), while Ximen has 10th,11th and 12th floor. 
Beyond the reception is an extensive dining floor where the daily breakfast buffet is served: 



  • Food 

The meals can be repetitive sometimes (in a course of 4 days) but the selection is strong and varied – there is bread, choice of spreads, various Taiwanese dishes with heavy emphasis on use of fresh veggies, a salad station, wanton noodle station, congee and fruits. There’s also choice of coffee, juices, tea and water at the many vendo dispensers on the beverage section. You get your money’s worth and you will have a full stomach when you go or to sight-see. The hotel will issue you food stamps which you have to present per day during check-in.

 

   

  • Hotel premises: 

Hotel is situated in the fringes of Ximending – exit 6 where most of the crowd are is just a 5 to 10 minute walk away. It’s along the highway so it’s safe – we usually go out even at 2AM for a 711 or a FamilyMart run and it’s safe and quiet. 

  • Security 

You have to tap your room access card in the elevator in order to get to your floor. So it’s safe and you still get a certain level of exclusivity even if the hotel shares the building with other establishments. 

  • Room Specs 

   
    

  

The room is big enough for two, with enough space to move around and even for me to lie on the floor to rest my very tired feet after a day of roaming around Taipei and the countryside. 

The bed is big and comfy, with enough space for two; pillows are soft and comfy as well as the sheet. Aircon is cold and can be adjusted based on preference. 

Bathroom is situated in an elevated area near the bed; encased in frosted glass. The hotel provides free shampoo/conditioner and body wash plus the usual hotel amenities of comb, toothpaste and toothbrush, shower cap, soap, cotton buds and free bottles of water and tea which came in satchet. 

  • Sound quality 

Our room had no windows so we are pretty much isolated from the craziness of Ximending. There are instances when we can hear people talking outside our door but maybe it’s because our room is so near the elevator. 

  • Transfers 

We arranged our hotel transfers through the hotel and found that we were quoted NTD1500 when it was promoted as NTD1000 on the dining floor. Maybe because we arrived very late  at night? 

  • Cost of stay 

We paid PHP13,000 for four nights stay – roughly PHP3,200 for two people. This already includes buffet breakfast for four days. Considering we were in Taipei right smack in the midst of the Holiday season, this is already a steal. 


My verdict 

Diary of Ximen is a good alternative and good option if you want to stay in the Ximending District. Sure, it sharing a building with other businesses (including an office!), but the safety measures the business has put in place makes up for it. 

We were initially taken aback by ads offering three hour stays for a different hotel in the lobby (its proximity to Ximending where people meet must be a factor) but considered it irrelevant to our stay. 

Honestly, we had the foremost pleasure of staying in Diary of Ximen and will not hesitate to recommend it to friends. 
Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. My stay in Taipei is a personal expense. 

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