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Change of Plans: Hello again, Taipei!

As mentioned, the Hubs and I were supposed to go to Osaka for February — but after assessing his chances of getting a visa (Hubs work freelance), I decided that a better option is for him to get some stamps of his new passport first before trying out his luck in getting a Japanese visa. Since his old passport and his old travel stamps are not attached to the new one, I find it more strategic if he can show his frequency of travel as support to the Osaka trip.

Unlike me who can’t stay still in a year without going somewhere, the Hubs is contented staying in our room playing his RPG games and tabletop gaming pieces. So, when I suggested Taipei — I easily got his approval due to “one thing”

Confirmed!

Confirmed!

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…apparently, the Warhammer fandom is alive and well in the city of Taipei. In fact, the moment I confirmed our flight booking, he has already managed to find and communicate with one of the gaming stores selling Warhammer merchandise.

You see, there is a way to getting my significant other to travel with me — and that is (bless him) through his hardcore nerd heart 🙂

I have been to Taipei once in 2013 and is still raring to go back. Read some of my posts about Taipei here. There are still a lot of places that I have yet to see. Here’s my must-visit/must do places for November 2015.

Go on a morning hike at Elephant Mountain and see Taipei in all of its glory.

The view atop Elephant Mountain (photo not my property)

The view atop Elephant Mountain (photo not my property)

This view is really breath-taking. I am just looking at a photo but the vantage point is just so beautiful. Though the Hubs does not like hiking, he is always up to new adventures. Anyway, I still have three months to convince him to don his hiking shoes and go up the mountains with me. It’ll be worth it.

Beitou (photo credit to owner)

Beitou (photo credit to owner)

Enjoy Beitou. I managed to squeeze in some time to go to Beitou the first time I was in Taiwan — however, my sister and I arrived too late and the paths leading to the hot springs were already closed. In my mind, I am already convinced to do this first thing in the morning and reserve the afternoon to another destination that I also have yet to see. The Hubs said that he doesn’t like to spend the time but is more than game to going around the sights with me.

The Tamsui Lovers Bridge (photo credit to owner)

The Tamsui Lovers Bridge (photo credit to owner)

Here’s another place that I didn’t get to enjoy since we were like contestants with the amazing race and just kept on running from once place to another during our 2013 visit. Good thing the Hubs a more leisurely pace traveling and is all about chilling and enjoying the moment.

The trip will also serve as an early wedding anniversary celebration for the Hubs and myself. The trip is my way of giving back to him for all the times he has been a good sport and tolerated having a wife who can’t keep still. It’s also my way of making amends for the times I always left him whenever I leave to go somewhere.

One of the things we promised to each other this year is that we will work on experiencing new things together. The trip to Taipei is exactly just like that.

As always, mad researching commences again — from visa applications to new sights to see. Watch this space for new developments!

PS: Beautiful Taipei! I can’t wait to see you again!

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Travel Tips, Traveling on a Budget

(Must Do) Fare Alerts is the Cheapo Traveler’s Best Friend

If you’re the type to religiously monitor the ebb and cost of plane tickets for your choice destinations, how do you do it?

For those who swear by budget airlines, I am sure you follow your favorite budget carrier on social media: be it Facebook, Twitter or their Instagram pages. In fact, it was through my Facebook feed which allowed me to travel to Tokyo, Japan on a PHP6,000 (USD134) plane fare. Yes, it also meant that I woke up at three in the morning just to check my FB wall, almost stepped on the Hubs on my way out of bed to get my passport and credit card and losing sleep until 6AM just because I was too hella excited.

The bottom line is this: following your favorite airlines on social media works and has its benefits. Here are some of the social media pages of our leading budget carriers:

Cebu Pacific

a reliable airline with affordable rates (picture not mine)

a reliable airline with affordable rates
(picture not mine)

A lot of Filipinos have a love and hate relationship with their airline company. While there were a lot of grumblings about how their customer service needed improvement and that some of their flights are always delayed, we can’t discount the fact that this airline company changed the way Filipinos view traveling and tourism. Whereas before many believed that traveling overseas is just for the moneyed, the launch of Cebu Pacific’s crazy plane fares and its aggressive promo campaigns gave Filipinos the opportunity to travel and discover other countries on the cheap. It allowed the middle class to realize that with conscientious saving and proper planning, you can see your dream destination without winning the lottery. I am one of those people. I used to believe that traveling is for the rich only, but Cebu Pacific changed that.

Of course, in a perfect world — Cebu Pacific SHOULD improve how it provides service to its customers. But meantime, the best dealing mechanism is to prepare and overprepare for unexpected travel delays, lots of patience and good manners. And most of all, do not expect too much — especially if your plane fare cost less than your phone.

Stalk Cebu Pacific’s plane fares here: Website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

AirAsia
My second time in South Korea last November was my first time to use AirAsia. The plane fare for the return trip was PHP8,000 — a steal considering that plane tickets to SK usually cost about PHP19K on regular rates. The trip was uneventful, the flight staff was very efficient and courteous that I have nothing but good memories of my flight with AirAsia.

(photo credit to owner)

(photo credit to owner)

Stalk AirAsia on: their website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. AirAsia also has an app which you can download on your mobile phone which allows you to book, ugrade and even check in your AirAsia flights.

JetStar Philippines

(photo credit to owner)

(photo credit to owner)

JetStar always holds a special place in my heart because this is the plane I took when I went on my first ever trip out of the country back in 2007. yes–the seats are cramped that sometimes it felt like riding in a bus; the flight stewardess rarely smiled and can be on the snooty side but all my experiences with JetStar are always pleasant and they always reminded of the quality of its pilots.

One of my most memorable JetStar rides was in 2013 on a flight to Singapore with my whole family. It was the middle of July and Manila is in the middle of the storm. We met the worst possible turbulence during take-off where the plane was shaking so badly. I looked to where my mom and pop was sitting and I could see my mom clutching her rosary while my dad sat grim-faced (it was his first out of the country trip). For a bit, I was convinced that we will all die. But no, the gentlemen at the helm steered the plane efficiently and gracefully amidst Manila’s raging storm. By the time we reached cruising altitude, the plane was so steady and was gliding so peacefully that it felt like you were sitting at home in your living room, instead of being 30,000 feet in the air.

To this day, JetStar remains our top choice whenever we go travel to Singapore.

Stalk them here: website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Philippine Airlines (PAL)
PAL is not a budget airline — but is considered one of the best when it comes to personalized service. You might find this funny, but one of my goals is to go on an out-of-the-country trip using PAL, just because I haven’t tried it yet. I wanted to experience and see the difference on traveling using a budget airline and a non-budget airline.

(credit to owner)

(credit to owner)

Because I haven’t tried PAL yet for an international flight, I cannot give you a more in-depth description of the experience. Though I have flown with them before for business trips domestically, I don’t know if there’s a difference in service and experience for international flights.

Follow PAL here: website,Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

But if you are the type who prefer having someone else look for cheap plane fares for you — then why don’t you subscribe for a fare scanning site?

Right now, I am a heavily depending on SkyScanner to find me cheap fares for Osaka for February 2015. You can also use SkyScanner to look for cheap hotels, airport transfers and car hires.

My current search

My current search

Other Fare Alert sites include:

* Trip Advisor Cheap Flights
* FareCompare
* Kayak

The bottomline in finding cheap plane fares is to be patient and continuously search. If you are not comfortable with the amount you found and is convinced that there are better fares out there — keep searching.

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South Korea, Travel Diaries

Seoul on Budget Day 1: Mt Namsan, NSeoul Tower, Myeongdong

Finally had a chance to review my itinerary during my five day-four night stay in Seoul. We spent a total of PHP20,000 covering hostel stay, tours, food and beverage, sight seeing and even a bit of shopping in Myeongdong. What’s not included is the PHP8,000 RT air fare we got from AirAsia. At the Manila airport, we already paid about PHp2,200 for our travel tax and terminal fee.

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Photo above was one of our favorites. We are lucky to have caught the end of Autumn as Winter was just about to start.

Here’s the low-down of the Great Seoul Searching Trip, Part Deux:

Arrivals

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Our Air Asia flight Z2884 left Manila at exactly 7AM and arrived a bit ahead of schedule at Icheon International Airport shortly before 12NN. Flying time from Manila to Seoul is about 4 hours. Seoul is an hour ahead from Manila. From the passenger concourse of the Incheon International Airport, we were transferred to the Main Terminal which houses Immigration and Baggage Claim via the IATs (Intra Airport Transit). We were caught in a wide influx of passengers, all who arrived at the same time as ours — so train was crowded and lines to Immigration a bit long. However, the efficient management of lines, and quick arrival of the IATs made sure that we are out of the airport in less than 45 minutes.

Traveling to the City
There are numerous ways to get out of Incheon and to the city center (Seoul) but we will just discuss the Limo Bus since it’s the one we used to get out of the airport. Stay-In-GAM (our hostel) gave us directions on how to go to their hotel based near Insadong through the 6011 bus. Also included in the email is a voucher which was to be used to get a KRW1,000 discount out of the KRW10,000 bus fare from Incheon International Airport to the Changdeukgong Bus Stop which was just a few steps away from our hostel. However, as mentioned in my earlier post, this became irrelevant since the uncle bus drivers did not honor the voucher. We paid our fare the usual way, by dropping our crisp KRW10,000, fresh from one of the international ATMs using my BPI ATM card. Note that you can withdraw money direct from any international ATMs in Korea, this is way more convenient and with bigger exchange rate compared to changing money at the airport. In our case, we got our KRWs from one of the many ATMs lining the area near the Waiting Area (where people wait for their arriving families/friends).

Note: You may need to have the international withdrawal capability of your ATM activated at your local bank prior to departure. For BPI, we dropped by the branch nearest my office and informed the officer that we will be using my ATM abroad. You will be asked by the bank officer to fill up a form and voila — ATM is activated within 24 hours.

The 6011 Limo Bus is perfect for those staying the “palace row” – basically what we call the area which has the nearest cluster of palaces like the Gyeongbukgung Palace near Gwangwahmun Square, Changdeokgung, Unhyeongung and Changgyeongung. Deoksugung meanwhile was the lone hold-out, being located near the City Hall instead. 6011 will also take you to Insadong as well as the university area closest to the Gyeongbukgung Palace.

Expenses: KRW10,000 (PHP408.00) for bus fare

Accommodations

stay in gam

We stayed at the amazing Stay-In-GAM Hostel for five days and four nights. Total bill is KRW248,000 or PHP10,118 for a twin room, includes TAX and breakfast. Individually, we each paid PHP5,059 (my friend and I split the cost of stay) or about PHP1,265 per night. Not bad for a room in a safe and secure hotel with comfortable amenities thrown in as well as free breakfast for all 5 days. Hostel is about 10 to 15 minute walk to the nearest subway.

Read more of my review of Stay-In-GAM here.

Expenses: PHP5,059.00 per person (5D, 4N stay)

Sight-seeing/Attractions

Day 1: Mt. Namsan, NSeoul Tower and Myeongdong.
After a bit of freshening up, my friend and I began our day by walking again to the Gyeongbukgung Palace to hang around for a bit near the palace gates, then took the trains going to Myeongdong. We opted to skip the T-Money and instead used the card dispensers everytime. Card dispensers in Seoul are very easy to use as there is both an English, Japanese and Chinese instructions. Once you get the hang of it as well as identifying destinations and transfers, the Seoul Metro will be your new best friend.

At Mt. Namsan, we took the cable car to the viewing deck nearest the tower. Fare for the cable car is KRW8,500 which you can purchase at the ticketing office located near the base of the mountain. If you are coming from Myeongdong area, you will have to take the sidewalk elevator located near the Namsan-3 tunnel. For K-drama fanatics, yes — this is the way to go up the cable cars where Gu Jun-Pyo and Geum Jan-Di got stuck during their supposed first date in “Boys Over Flowers” and to the same viewing deck where they had the KRW30,000 coffee.

kkot4-076

The elevator ride is free but you have to pay KRW8,500 for a RT ride to the cable car and another KRW9,000 as payment for entrance to the Nseoul Tower observatory. We paid KRW20,000 because we opted to get the Entrance + Drinks + large tub of popcorn for 2 package.

The viewing deck which you will see after alighting from the cable car houses the famed “Locks of Love” wall. The locks were actually located in different areas along the viewing deck. You can buy your heart-shaped locks from any of the vendors located within the viewing deck or from the NSeoul Tower Souvenir Shop. Locks usually retail from KRW5,000 to KRW10,000 — a usual design is a heart-shaped lock which sometimes came with a small frame (in case you want to include you and your beloved’s face – hehe!).

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At the Sky Observatory, you will be treated to a magnificent, 360 degree view of Seoul. Of course, it goes without saying that the best time to visit NSeoul Tower is at night or during sunset where you can see the changing colors of the sky as well as the night lights of Seoul coming to life.

Since it was almost winter, it was very cold when we went up Mt. Namsan. I mentioned before that I lost my jacket somewhere in Myeongdong on my way to the elevator. Yes, I was the only person that night crazy enough to stay on top of Mt. Namsan wearing nothing but a flimsy Joker-printed shirt, jeans, Chucks and my trusty beanie.

We grabbed dinner at Myeongdong where I introduced my friend to the wonders of Yoogane, which serves a mean combo of spicy chicken, rice and melted cheese.

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A single serve of Marinated Chicken Galbi, with fried rice is KRW6,000, add KRW2,000 for the Mozzarella Cheese. Yoogane offers unlimited servings of shredded cabbage salad, pickled radish and kimchi as sides. Plus, refillable pitchers of water which you will badly need especially if you have low tolerance to spicy food. When I first ate at Yoogane in 2012, I remembered requesting the server to temper the spice level. This time, I forgot to request to make it less spicy so you can just imagine the tears and the amount of sweat we had while trying to finish everything.

DAY 1 TOTAL EXPENSES:

Pre-departure expenses: PHP2,200
Limo Bus 6011 fare: KRW10,000 (PHP408)
Accommodations: KRW124,000 (PHp5,059) per pax
Sightseeing
Cable car ride KRW8,500 (PHP347)
Entrance + Food KRW10,000 (PHP408) each (Observatory)
Dinner at Yoogane KRW8,000 (PHP326)

TOTAL: KRW160,500 (PHP6,548) + PHP2,200 (pre-departure expense) = PHP8,748
Note: Based on latest exchange rates. Prices are rounded off.

This post is too lengthy already, to be continued for days 2-4


DISCLAIMER:
Prices indicated are based on the quoted price during my visit to Seoul last November 2014. Prices are subject to change, depending on merchant policies.

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