Sunday, March 1, 2015

Spend less in Phuket Thailand

I thought my trip to Thailand was just ordinary until I realized that I was in a beautiful island where most nations meet. I've never seen a lot of Caucasians and Middle Eastern in one place. That alone really made me feel like I was unique and a stand out! Haha!

Part of this travel to Thailand was to cover the Asian Beach Games. It is a multi-sport beach event held every two years among Asian Athletes with games regulated by the Olympic Council of Asia. It started in Bali Indonesia in 2008. Now on its 4th year, they decided to have it in Thailand's biggest island, Phuket.

Phuket is known for its several white sandy beaches. Patong beach on the west coast is the most popular and the most crowded. It is the island's most developed tourist area. The tourism on this part of the island alone generates much income to the region. A lot of chain hotels, restaurants, bars, spas, salons, tailor & textile shops, money changers and tattoo centers are located here. 

There are other more wonderful beaches in Phuket. They have the Kata Beach and the Karon Beach at the south of Patong, the Kamala Beach and the Surin Beach at the north, and the famous Phi Phi Island at southeast and Similan Islands at northwest. If you have more budget and you decide to have a quiet time in a luxury resort, then you might wanna stay at the Kata or Karon area. 

Since I wanted to see more foreigners, I decided to stay at Patong and checked in at Tune Hotels. The hotel is new, cheap and just a 5-minute walk to the Patong Beach. Patong Beach is a 3500 metre white sand beach edged by the shimmering Andaman sea. Swimming here is free and you can leave your things on the sand without worrying that someone might steal them. Patong at night becomes colourful and loud with left and right partying especially at the Bangla Road, where a lot of disco houses, clubs and pubs are. Foreigners get to walk in the streets topless with a thai beer in their hand, a manifestation of being in a place where you can relax and be yourself without limits.

Other than the beaches, Phuket is also rich in Thai culture and history. You can visit the old yet radiant Phuket Town known to have Portuguese Architectures, the Big Buddha sitting on the mountaintop allowing you to see a great view of the island and the Wat Chalong, Phuket's largest Temple and prominent to be a place of meditation and healing.

There are a lot of food options in Phuket. Hotel restaurants offer variety of cuisines while those located along the street have a lot of seafood menus. There are also fast food chains like Burger King, KFC, Dunkin Donuts and Mc Donald's with prices more expensive than their branches in Bangkok.

Other activities that you can do in Phuket when you have extra time and funds are snorkeling, diving, island hopping, jungle safari, elephant trekking, cooking classes and MMA courses. 

For side trip, you can take the Phang Nga Bay tour where they will bring you to the island rich in limestones and was shown in the classic James Bond 1974 film, 'The Man With the Golden Gun' or the Maya Bay where the exquisite lagoon shown on Leanardo DiCaprio's film 'The Beach' is located. 

To end your trip in Phuket, you must visit Similan Islands National Park, one of the best dive sites in the world. For first timers, here's a detailed itinerary for you! 

From Phuket International Airport, take the van going to Patong Beach, rate is 200-300 Baht per person (recommended for 1-2 travelers). If you come in group like 4-5 pax, just take a taxi. Taxi rate varies from 1000-1500 Baht and divide it amongst yourselves.

After checking in at the hotel, walk going to the beach and start enjoying the water! At night, have an authentic thai massage or try the fish spa or have a drink at any bar in Bangla Road. 

On your day 2, You can visit, Phuket Town, Wat Chalong and the Big Buddha. Have yourself an authentic and delicious Thai food after. Then at night, you can walk along the street of Patong start buying something for yourself and for pasalubong.

On your 3rd day, You can either tour the other islands I mentioned above, or you can go back to Patong Beach and try parasailing or take the cruise. 

ATM's and Foreign Currency Exchange are available in almost ever corner of Patong. I strongly suggest to bring Dollars instead of other currencies. Or you can just withdraw using your own card with just a small one time transaction fee of $5 or P200. 

Tune Hotels can arrange a shuttle pick up for you to the airport. Here is the breakdown of all the expenses:

Fare -                 P4000 (90 US$) ( Promo Fare from either Cebu Pac or AirAsia)
Hotel -               P1800 (40 US$) per night at Tune Hotels Patong
Terminal Fee    P550 (depends on your country)
Travel Tax -      P1620 (depends on your country)
Pasalubong    - P1000 (25 US$) (gifts for your family and friends)
Food -               P3000 at P1000 (25 US$ ) per day
Fare & others - (50 US$) P2200

There was still so much to see and experience Phuket. There were a lot of islands that I wanted to explore. If only I had more time, I would have tried scuba diving. I'm in love with Phuket and been wanting to go back since December! It was incredibly hard to say goodbye! 

Here are some reminders for first time travelers:

1. Travel lite - Don't bring too many clothes.  Don't forget slippers, sunblock and extra undies for swimming!
2. Wear comfortable shoes! Loafers would do! You'll find yourself walking a lot in Patong!
3. Have en extra Baht or US Dollars, much better Credit Card or Debit Card for emergencies. You'll never know what will happen there! 
4. Try Phuket's fresh fruits! There are a lot of vendors in every corner. 
4. Bring a pen and wetwipes. You already what are they for! Haha! 
5. For Filipinos and Smart subcribers, I recommend that you register to Smart's all day roaming. They partnered with True Telecom so you can maximize your connection there without unnecessary mobile charges. It's only P500 and all you have to do is:

Text ROAM ON and send to 333 at least 30 minutes before leaving the country. Then Check your network settings & make sure you are connected to SMART’s Conexus Roaming Partner. To access the USSD Menu, Dial *133# and Press ANSWER then enter 5 to choose DATA ROAMING. Then choose Thailand and True Telecom from the list of countries and roaming partner. Select the All-DAY SURF ABROAD 500. If successful, you'll receive a confirmation. For more details, check out  #SmartAllDaySurfAbroad 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

HALE Reunites and Releases New Single 'SEE YOU'

There's nothing more exciting to any #HALER out there than hearing the band HALE performing live again and doing gigs all over the metro. 

The band originally started in 2004 and became a triple platinum selling act right before they disbanded in 2010. Champ Lui Pio pursued a solo career and started managing new artists like Someday Dream and Luigi D'Avola. Roll Martinez put up his own music studio. Sheldon Gellada became a family guy and Paolo Santiago was still doing gig as a drummer. 

5 years after, they decided to reunite and make music again as a band. They started editing and rearranging the songs they wrote during the hiatus years. They came up with so many good songs that they had a hard time what song to release first. I got the chance to hear the song 'SEE YOU' 2 months before its released. They chose that song as the carrier single of their new album (under their own management) because that's when they felt the most nostalgic when they recorded it. Champ finds the song so genuine, emotional and glorious. It is about a love that was hidden and cannot be forgotten and became a tragedy. 

I went to one of their sold out gigs at 12 monkeys in Makati last Valentines. The bar was just so full and crowded. Everyone was so hyper, happy and screaming seeing the boys performing together again. There I saw  lot of friends and families of each band members as well as the #HALERS who were so ecstatic taking videos of the band's performance. 

HALE brought the hits 'The Day You Said Goodnight', 'Kung Wala Ka', 'Broken Sonnet', 'Bahay Kubo', 'Kahit Pa', 'BlueSky', 'Pitong Araw' and 'Sandali Nalang'. The had 4 albums, Hale in 2005, Twilight in 2006, Above, Over and Beyond in 2008 and Kundiman in 2009. Hale was once awarded as OPM Band of the Year by RX 93.1, Best Group by Smart People's Choice, Best Pop Rock Band by PasiklaBand. They also got the Best New Artist and Best Pop Video by MTV Pilipinas Music Awards.

Catch HALE live at 19 East in Paranaque this February 28, 2015! Follow them on twitter and instagram @hale_music or like their Facebook Page. You can start downloading the single here on iTunes right after watching this lyric video of 'SEE YOU'.  Their album will be out soon and will be distributed by Warner Music.

Bintan Lagoon Resort in Indonesia

Few weeks from now, I'll be back in Indonesia with some friends to have a first glimpse of summer! We'll be staying at the Bintan Lagoon Resort in Indonesia, a 470 deluxe rooms, suites and villas offering contemporary tropical elegance enhanced by distinctive and colourful Asian decoration. Each spacious room features a furnished balcony with in-room amenities. Most of the hotel rooms have been recently renovated to rebuild its brand showcasing a more refreshing unit. Every room has a flat screen television and a wide range of upto-date Indonesian designed teak furniture. The bathrooms are in light marbled tones, displaying Bravat designed bathtubs with an impressive full-length floor-to-ceiling mirror.

Exploring Bintan Lagoon’s Pasir Panjang is a must! It is a long stretched of white beach where you can make a splash with more than 30 water sports like jet skiing, kayaking, banana boat and snorkeling.

If coming from Singapore, You should be able to breeze through the checkpoint smoothly if your International Passport has more than 6 months validity from the date of arrival and you present a return ticket to your respective country. No Visa required for Filipinos, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Thai and other Southeast Asian and South American Nationalities.

Take the Mozaic Ferry Lines from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in Singapore. It sails the waters of the majestic South China Sea, bringing you directly to the doorstep of the exclusive, Bintan Lagoon Resort Ferry Terminal in Bintan, Indonesia. The ride takes only 75 minutes. You disembark on the pristine, golden sand beach of Pasir Panjang and cross the iconic Bintan bridge to enter to the Bintan Lagoon Resort through a modern and private international ferry terminal. Fare is around P1,200 one way or $28.

The ferry departs the earliest from Singapore at 8am with a 1 hour checking in requirement. It leaves Indonesia at 10 am the earliest. Here are some photos I got from a Google Search about Bintan Lagoon Resort Indonesia. I'll provide new photos soon!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hotel Pennington by Rhombus in Hongkong

I went back to Hongkong recently to accompany a friend who just arrived from Saudi. Nothing was planned on this trip and no itinerary was made except that we should to stay at Hotel Pennington by Rhombus in Hongkong. I've been seeing some good reviews about that hotel that I told my friend we should check the hotel out and experience their service by ourselves.

Hotel Pennington by Rhombus recently got the Certificate of Excellence Award from Trip Advisor. This award is given to few establishments who consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews. Among the thousands of businesses listed, only the top performing 10% can actually get this prestigious award and Hotel Pennington is one those for the year 2014. The hotel was also awarded as 'Asia's Top 5 Emerging Hotel' at the NOW Travel Asia Awards last 2013 and 'Newly Open Best Service Hotels of the Year' at the 2013 Asia Hotel Awards.

The hotel is prominently situated at the centre of the colorful Causeway Bay, a haven for shopping and commercial district in Hongkong. It's just a 5-minute walk away from the MTR train station. Hotel Pennington by Rhombus is near to popular attractons like Time Square, SOGO, Victoria Park, Lee Gardens, Happy Valley Racecourse, Hysan Place and the Hongkong Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

The hotel's reception is at the 4th floor with a view of the downtown causeway. There I meet the friendly staff including a Filipino personnel who was very nice and even gave us directions on where to go when I needed to buy gifts for friends. 

My room in Pennington is slightly bigger than the room on Bonaparte yet both still offer the same kind of warm and caring services. The rooms come in Superior Queen and Deluxe Twin Accommodations. It's furnished with a 40-inch flat-screen TV, small fridge, supreme quality mattress, a big closet and contemporary bathroom with a rain shower. This long stretched of working table is just perfect for anyone who still wants to work even when traveling. 

The hotel has an in-site restaurant and offers American Breakfast. They also offer Shuttle and Airport Services, 24-Hour Front Desk, Baggage Storage, Daily Housekeeping and Wifi.

What I love about the hotel the most is that they treat every guest like a VIP.  They even gave me a welcome note and a bowl of fruits to make me smile after a long day of roaming around. If i'll be back in Hongkong anytime soon, I would still stay there and recommend it to my friends and families.

By the way pets are allowed in the hotel as long as they weigh 25 lbs or less and you submit in advance your pets' health certificates. For mode details about Hotel Pennington by Rhombus , check out their website here. Indeed, a retreat in Hongkong's Liveliest Neighborhood.

Hotel Bonaparte by Rhombus in Hongkong

Got the chance to stay at the award winning Hotel Bonaparte by Rhombus in Hongkong last winter 2014. Centrally located between Wanchai and Causeway Bay, Hotel Bonaparte is just few steps away from Time Square and Sogo shopping centres where I bought a nicely crafted music box. It's also near the Hongkong Convention and Exhibition Centre and the city's financial district. There are also a lot of money changers and chinese restaurants in the area.

Hotel Bonaparte is a micro-deluxe boutique hotel with contemporary bathrooms and upscale amenities. There's intuitive comfort and coziness in their accommodation. When I arrived at the hotel, I was greeted by their friendly frontdesk personnel and even gave me a cute welcome gift, complimentary breakfast coupon and an extra wifi access since I had more than 2 gadgets. They also handed me a mobile phone that I could use for free with unlimited calls to any local number in Hongkong. 

Rooms at Hotel Bonaparte come in Business Double, Twin Room, Premium Double and Deluxe Premium accommodations. Every room features modern interiors and furnishings with a 52-inch high-definition LCD TV, In-room Safe and a small fridge. My room had a very comfortable bed with a nice view of the city. I also like the glass door of the bathroom making the whole room a little bigger. 

The hotel offers Shuttle and Airport Services, 24-Hour Front Desk, Currency Exchange, Tour Desk, Baggage Storage, Concierge Service, Laundry, Dry Cleaning, Daily Housekeeping, Fax/Photocopying with a Souvenir / Gift Shop at the hotel's lobby. Wifi is also available.

Hotel Bonaparte by Rhombus was named as 'Best Economic Hotel in Guangdong Hongkong Macau' by LET'S GO Magazine in 2011 and 2012, the 'Most Popular Economic Hotel by Business Traveller of Asia' at the Asia Hotel Forum 2012, and the 'Best Service Hotel' at the China Hotel Forum in 2010 and 2011. 

Just few months ago, Hotel Bonaparte by rhombus received the 'Business Hotel of The Year' at the GHM Golden Pearl Awards. 

Pets weighing 25 lbs and less are allowed in the hotel as long as you provide in advance your pets' health certificates. For mode details about Hotel Bonaparte by Rhombus , check out their website here. A cozy retreat indeed in Hongkong's heartbeat.