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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!

gw-rules-banner

…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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Japan, Traveling on a Budget

The Madness of Airline Seat Sales

Consider this madness:

You wake up in the middle of the night, in cold sweat — full of anticipation. Without turning on your bedroom light, you reach for the iPhone tucked behind your pillow and surreptitiously check the Facebook feeds for some bit of good news. And then you see it. You flip out, almost step on your snoring husband in your haste to get to the bedside stand and get your passport and credit card. You sweat in agony over a few clicks, consider dates and times, check the final cost reflected in the screen then pray to the Gods of Travel that may your card have enough funds to consider the purchase.

That–my friends–is pure madness. And also the exact description of how crazy I must have looked like two days ago when I woke up unreasonably at the unGodly hour of 3 in the morning–as per habit, I reached for my iPhone, scrolled to the Feed and saw that my constant means of budget travel has just announced a new airline seat sale covering ALL destinations, including Tokyo.

My poor husband — I must have looked like a woman deranged when I shot up of our bed and grabbed the laptop to check the airline’s website.

99 (USD2.50) bucks for tickets to your dream destination!

99 (USD2.50) bucks for tickets to your dream destination!

In my head, I had but one goal: book that damned ticket already!

I don’t know in your part of the world on how seat sale works, but in my country — scoring a cheap ticket is akin to finding the Holy Grail — not impossible but at the risk of your sanity. Cebu Pacific, the country’s largest air carrier, is known for its price drops and PHP0 fare seat sales. Literally, the Queen My Sister and I were able to go to different Asian countries (Seoul and Taipei, in particular) due to the cheap rates that this company offers. Cebu Pacific is also instrumental in changing the mindset of Filipinos about flying. Whereas before when Filipinos view air travel as something that only the rich folks do, Cebu Pacific made air travel accessible to every Filipino due to its low rates. That’s why Pinoy travel buffs like me monitor this carrier’s news feeds like as if we were monitoring the birth of our future children: intensively and seriously.

But the low rates also has a trade off. Again, it’s like going on a quest to find the Holy Grain. Price drops are usually announced at midnight when every body is supposed to be sleeping. Seats are of course, limited so unless you start your booking at a very ungodly hour, do not expect for get a truly cheap fare to wherever you are going. Because usually what happens is that your outbound flight might be available for a low fare (for example) but your inbound flight for the date that you prefer might cost you your arm and your big toe on your left foot. It would take a lot of magic, praying and tenacity for you to find a Return flight that is just okay — inbound AND outbound.

The PHP99 ticket fares are of course, exclusive of tax and all the other additional costs. In the end, my final cost was at PHP6,000 for a return trip bound for Tokyo. Yes, that’s PHP5,101 worth of taxes! The rate also does not contain your payment for travel insurance, seat selection, meals and additional baggage fees. Basically, everything to make flying in a highly pressurized tube more comfortable for us mere mortals with tiny wallets and humongous wanton for traveling.

However, the PHP6,000 return trip is still eons away from the normal cost of a return trip ticket to Tokyo, pegged from PHP25,000 to PHP30,000. For budget travelers, this is still heaven sent.

Bottom line: I finally had my tickets. I can finally move on with my life and start my novena for successful visa issuance.

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Asia, Traveling on a Budget

Hong Kong for less than PHP15,000? Let the challenge begin!

Will be leaving for Hong Kong on Thursday for our first ever family trip.
After careful planning, checking and re-checking of itinerary, I managed to whittle down the budget (per pax!) for just PHP7,000.00 (roughly USD169). The budget already includes entrance to Disneyland, The Peak, Ngong Ping 360, food for 4 days, and payment for transportation via the Octopus card.

If we are to include contribution per person for the guesthouse and the unfortunate Philippine Travel Tax and terminal fee, I think we can make it. Of course, this does not include the plane fare which was purchased four months in advance from Cebu Pacific for only PH3,500 (return) per person (inclusive of fuel surcharge,etc)!

The ingredients for a successful budget trip usually include:

AFFORDABLE AIRLINE TICKETS FROM BUDGET AIRLINES

a reliable airline with affordable rates
(picture not mine)

I always ride JetStar or Cebu Pacific wherever I go, maybe because I always travel using heavily discounted tickets. So far, I had good experiences on both airlines. JetStar has efficient but slightly snobbish airline stewardess while CebPac has one of the nicest flight crews around yet their planes are a bit delayed. In spite these observations, I will gladly travel with both airlines any opportunity I get. Honestly, it is through budget fares that I manage to see countries I used to only dream about when I was young. Before, air travel gave a certain vibe that it was only for the managed class, but thanks to the rise of budget airlines, even ordinary people like me get to see new places and experience new culture. The rise of the budget airlines, I must say, also gave birth to the seasoned budget traveler.

CLEAN, SAFE AND RELIABLE HOSTELS AND GUESTHOUSES

a clean and safe place to sleep – double room from City Econo Guesthouse
(picture from City Econo Guesthouse website)

I love staying in boutique hotels, hostels and guesthouses.

In Singapore, I had very fond memories of South East Asia Hotel located in Bugis. The room is clean and comfortable and the free breakfast is filling. The aunties and uncles manning the counter are friendly and not aloof (as mentioned by some in TripAdvisor). And most of all, the room is dirt cheap. Of course, the hotel is old and has seen better days, but it is well maintained as much as a family-owned establishment can muster.

In Seoul, Zaza Backpackers is a good place to stay, especially when you want something that is in the middle of the action (Myeongdong) but is strategically located away from the noise. Affordable, safe and clean, Zaza Backapackers is located in a good neighborhood not far from Namsan Tower.

For this HK-trip, I am booked rooms at City Econo Guesthouse, located in Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. The guesthouse earned rave reviews on Filipino travel sites and well-recommended by Pinoy budget travelers. One of its owners, Ms. Jenny, is lauded for her kindness and efficiency. In a place like HK where finding an affordable place to sleep in is like finding a needle in a haystack, guesthouses like City Econo is heaven-sent for budget travelers like me.

EFFICIENT PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM

The efficient Hong Kong MTR (photo not my property)

The best way to know the city is to memorize its public transportation system. This is how we survived in HK, Singapore and Seoul. Always get a saved transportation card where you can always top-up the value. Learn how to read signs and navigate your way around the labyrinth beneath the city streets. It’s fun and an experience in itself.

CHEAP EATS

cheap eats in HK (photo not my property)

“Dai pai dongs”, “hawker centers” and cheap restaurants — look for the places where locals converge. My brother, on his first trip to the Lion City last year, simply couldn’t get enough of the 2SGD set meal which he finished in one sitting. He loved the explosion of flavors and the fact that it didn’t burn holes in his pocket.

Lastly, I really think that you should bring along a good sense of humor and a certain knack for adventure. It also helps when your companions are not kill-joy or too high maintenance, who preferred five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants.

I’ll give you a report once I get back if I am successful on this challenge. Will also upload my breakdown of expenses for the four-day trip.

Wish us luck!

..and oh, if you have tips on how I can stretch this budget (and the cheap places to eat in the TST-Nathan Road area), do drop me a note! Would love to try out your suggestions!

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Traveling on a Budget

Cebu Pacific’s “Me and New” Sale!

Say all you want about Philippine budget carrier, Cebu Pacific and its delayed and over-booked flights but no one can deny that this thriving budget airline company made flying accessible to many Filipinos, this writer included.
ing m
When I was younger, I had the impression that one must be filthy rich in order to ride a plane. For an average Filipino that earned just enough for an honest living, flying off to a distant land (domestic or international) is out of the question. That was then. Where families bear 18 to 24 hour ship travel from Manila to Iloilo or Cagayan de Oro for that once-a-year trip to see loved-ones. Flying off to international destinations is even more unlikely. Again, riding a plane back then was for the moneyed class.

And then came Cebu Pacific. The sixteen-year old airline company ushered the possibility of flying for ordinary Filipinos by offering cheap rates both for domestic or international flights. Yes, Cebu Pacific is not perfect — there are delayed flights, overbooked jaunts and even missing luggages (remember the infamous Thrilla in NAIA last May?)

Still, no one can deny that by offering cheap flights, many of my kababayans were able to realize their dreams of seeing foreign lands. Personally, Cebu Pacific and its famous “PHP88 Sale” gave me the chance to see South Korea last March. I also flew Cebu Pacific to both of my HK trips in 2008 and 2010 (for Singapore, I usually fly JetStar). This year, the cheap airline rates purchased last June is giving my mom and dad their opportunity to see Hong Kong for the first time.

Well, if you’re like me (someone who wants to bring the family abroad but doesn’t have much cash), you might reconsider your travel plans:

Seat Sale

Cebu Pacific Seat Sale! – Book Now!

Cebu Pacific is offering its “Me and New Sale” until August 21, 2012; travel period is from October 18 to 31, 2012.

For more infomation, go to www.cebupacificair.com.

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