Travel

Review: Royal View Hotel

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Booked two (2) Mountain View rooms for four (4nights, 4days).

  • The first night was via CTrip.com
  • The last 3 nights which I actually booked first, were via Agoda.com

The rooms were spacious and neat. The bed was so comfy. It has a flat screen TV but the channels are mostly local. Cable channels does not include any movie.

Has a complimentary items for two – bottled water, coffee, tea, room slippers, toiletries – cotton buds, toothbrush set, and shower cap.

There is also a handy mobile phone in each room. This is really useful since we don’t have internet on our mobile phone, so we used this to access the internet when outside the hotel and also for local and selected international calls for FREE.

The staffs are accommodating, and they speak English. Before going to HK, I even had a number of email exchanges with their Reservations Department (Pinky Leung / reservation@royalview.com.hk) because of my inquiries, and I’m glad they respond promptly. The housekeeping also quickly went to our room when we requested to have our bed sheets changed.

Location: 353 Castle Peak Rd (Ting Kau), Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong

  • Last (15th) station from Central MTR station (red line)
  • Takes about 30mins from Central to Tsuen Wan station

If you’re looking for a hotel where you can easily go back to after going out from shopping, this is probably not your place. BUT, if you are not in a very tight schedule, or have a relaxed itinerary, then I could recommend this place.

There is a shuttle from the hotel to the nearest MTR station (Tsuen Wan) for 10HKD per person/per ride. There is a complimentary shuttle stub on our first morning. Shuttle from Tsuen Wan station to the hotel is free.

Taxi fare from hotel to Tsuen Wan station is about 45HKD.

There isn’t a nearby convenience store or restaurant aside from the ones inside the hotel. You need to take a cab to go to the nearest mall.

Here are some photos taken from my phone:

Batanes [7days / 7 nights]

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I was sorting my files today and saw notes from our trip to Batanes so I decided to write something to reminisce and at the same time to be able to help others in planning for their trip. It was sort of DIY tour, thanks to other’s blog post where I got all the ideas and places that we planned to visit.

I’ve been wanting to go back since we came back from our vacation in Batanes 1 year and 10 months ago – yes, that long ago. 🙂

We went there January 2015, but we booked our flight as early as April of 2014! I bought my round trip ticket  for PhP 8,253.00 – thanks to PAL’s ‘seat sale’.

In our 7 days/7 nights in the northernmost part of the Philippines, we stayed in five different places. Why? Because we wanted our itinerary to be flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes in our plans given the unpredictable weather, plus we wanted to try the homestay. Turned out it was not a bad idea after all.

We booked our first two nights (Dive Batanes) ahead of time because we know for sure that we want to roam around Batan. For the third night, we did not book a hotel because it will depend whether we are going to Sabtang or Itbayat. Initially we were planning to go Sabtang first because of their festival. However, when we were inquiring for the trip to Itbayat, the locals were suggesting to go there instead while the weather is still good. And it was a right decision to follow them since they are the ones who knows when is the best time to cross the sea to go to Itbayat. So, we spent overnight in Itbayat (Nanay Cano’s Lodge) after a nerve wrecking 3-hour boat ride trip to the island. There we hired a tour guide and tricycle. We went back to Dive Batanes on our fourth night.The following day (fifth) we had half day tour in Sabtang guided by the tricycle driver that we met in Batan. We hired a tricycle to help us go around the island while Kuya Romy described each of the places that we visited. After our tour, we then stayed in the humble home of the Pajudpud family. After we settle in our room, we just went out for a stroll and dinner and ended the night early to rest. The next morning (sixth), we were supposed to have our South Batan tour, however because of the heavy rain, we decided to just cancel it. So we just tried to head to our home for that night – Rapitan Di Vasay. It is like an ancestral house that was well maintained and turned into a bed and breakfast. We came a little bit too early, i think. We had to wait for the caretaker to arrive so that we could get in and settle. Good thing there was a store and a barbeque stand nearby so we just had snack while waiting.

On our seventh day, we got up early and Kuya Romy fetched us to go to the airport. We got our bags inspected, checked-in, then waited for boarding. (Un)fortunately, the wind was strong that morning so they had to delay the flight for a bit, until one of the staffs announced that the flight is still on however, they have cut down the number of passengers. It immediately popped into my head that what if we just volunteer to stay for another day, but I also immediately changed my mind and told myself and my husband that we’ll just wait and see. So, several minutes passed by, and a lot of people were having conversation on the next steps until another announcement came in. Apparently there were people who requested if they could take the flight because of important commitments. We even had Fr. Orbos on the same flight. The staff then asked if there were people who are willing to be bumped off so others may take the flight.It took us a few minutes until they said they needed two more to volunteer, and so we raised our hands and said with all smiles that we’ll stay without knowing yet what would be deal.

We were lucky that when we volunteered to stay, our hotel accommodation (Shanedel’s Inn), our lunch, dinner, and breakfast, and airport shuttle we’re all care of PAL. All these PLUS a round trip ticket to any local destination. 🙂

I think the stars aligned so that we can get one more day in Batanes and have a chance to tour South Batan! We called Kuya Romy right away and told him where we’re staying so he can pick us up and start the tour.

And that’s it! That’s our week-long adventure in the beautiful islands of Batanes!

Batan Island

 

Sabtang

Itbayat

Where we stayed in Batan:

  • Dive Batanes: ~2000/night (booked via agoda)
  • Pajudpud Homestay: 350.00/person/night (we learned this with the help from Kuya Romy)
  • Rapitan Di Vasay: ~2500/night (booked via e-mail)
  • Shanedel’s Inn and Café (FREE! – accommodation c/o PAL)
  • Octagon Bed and Dine – We did not technically stayed here, but this was our go to place for dinner or lunch on the days that we did not have a tour. They have a good internet connection compared to the other places.

Where we stayed in Itbayat: 

  • Lodging: Cano’s Lodge – 250/person/night
DAY AREA PLACES NOTES
Day 1-2 North Batan Basco Town Proper Lodging:
    Tukon Church (Mt. Carmel Chapel) Dive Batanes: ~2000/night (via agoda)
    Fundaction Pacita Pajudpud Homestay: 350.00/person/night |
Contact #: 09072828642 , 09151521553
    PAGASA Weather Station – Basco Rapitan Di Vasay: ~2500/night (breakfast not included)
e-mail:info@rapitandivasay.com
    Santo Domingo Cathedral (Basco) Shanedel’s Inn and Café (accommodation c/o PAL)
    Batanes Provincial Capitol  
    Batanes Municipal Hall Tricycle Driver: Romy Merida |
Contact #: 09381592721, 09175254030
    Naidi Hills (Basco Lighthouse + Bunker Cafe) Tricycle Fare: ~50.00
    Vayang Rolling Hills Bike Rental: 25.00/hour or 100.00/day
    Chadpidan Boulder Beach Guide map
       
Day 3-4 Itbayat Chinapoliran Port Lodging: Cano’s Lodge – 250/person/night
    Mt. Karoboban View Deck Tour Guide: Kuya Toto | Contact #: 09198983146
    Town Proper Tour Guide Fee (1000) + Tryk (2000)
    Paganaman Port Lunch: 200/person (arranged by Tour Guide)
    Torongan Cave Dinner: 200/person (arranged by Tour Guide)
    Torongan Hills Boat Fare: M/B Veronica – 450.00/person (2-3hours)
    Lake Kavaywan  
    Rapang Cliffs  
    Nahili Votox  http://www.traveling-up.com/travel-guide-itbayat-batanes/ 
       
 
Day 4 North Batan walk/bike around the town proper time to relax and rest from the tour
       
Day 5 Sabtang (Day Tour) Tour Guide: Romy Merida
    Savidug Village Tour Guide Fee: (1000)  + Tryk Service (800)
    St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel Sabtang Tourism Fee: 200/person
    Savidug Idjang Boat Fare: 75.00/person (~30mins)
    Tinyang Viewing of Pacific Ocean Lunch: 300/person (arranged by tour guide)
    Chavayan Village  
    Morong Beach and Mayahaw Arch  
       
Day 6 North Batan walk/bike around the town proper first attempt to tour South Batan got canceled due to non-stop raining
       
Day 7 South Batan Tour Chawa View Deck Tour Guide: Romy Merida
    Mahatao Boat Shelter Port Tour Guide Fee (including tryk): 1500
    San Carlos Borromeo Church  
    Tayid Lighthouse  
    Racuh A Payaman  
    Uyugan Town  
    Old Naval Base and Alapad Hill  
    Uyugan Town’s Song-song Ruins  
    House of Dakay in Ivana  
    Old Spanish Bridge  
    Honesty Coffee Shop  
    Ivana Church (San Jose de Obrero Church)  
    Port of Ivana  
       
Day 8 Back to Manila    
       

See you soon, Batanes! :)

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Yes! We’re booked! And we’re going to Batanes (not so) soon!

Time to do some research for our itinerary! 🙂

6-Day Itinerary: Siem Reap-Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City

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Below is our the actual itinerary that we had in our 6nights-6days trip to Cambodia and Vietnam.

Our daily budget (starting Day 1) is 142USD. It was actually more than enough for 2 persons if we’ll only consider the essentials – food, entrance fees, transpo fare. But, of course, who wouldn’t buy some souvenirs, right? Still, I’d say it’s more than enough. 100USD is a safe budget.

Day 0:

  • 2155H touchdown SR
  • 2300H Dinner in a nearby local eatery since Bou Savy only accepts dinner order until 9 or 10pm

Expenses:
– 5.00USD (Dinner)

Day 1:

  • 0500H Met with Mr. Pheak (tuktuk driver) hoping to witness the famous Angkor Wat sunrise.
  • 0730H Back to Bou Savy Guest House for breakfast
  • 0830H Temple Adventure! Some of the temples we went to (or maybe just passed by):
    • Angkor Wat
    • Baksei Chamkrong
    • Baphuon
    • Angkor Thom South Gate
    • Bayon
    • Ta Prohm
    • Terrace of the Elephants
    • Phimeanakas
  • 1400H Lunch at Ta Prohm
  • 1800H around this time we’re back at the hotel and decided that we need to rest our legs after a day full of adventure

Expenses:
– 15.00USD (Tuktuk)
– 40.00USD (20USD/pax 1-Day Temple Tour Pass)
– 30.00USD (15USD/pax elephant ride)
– 6.00USD (Dinner at the hotel)

Day 2: 

  • 1000H Biked around the city. Below are some of the places that we went to
    • Preah Prohm Rath Monastery
    • Old Market
    • Central Market
    • Royal Palace
    • National Museum (we didn’t go inside)
    • Lucky Mall Grocery (because it started raining and this is where we bought Three Corners coffee :))
    • after that we went back to the hotel because our clothes are wet
  • 1700H We just tried our luck if we can still make it to the Cambodian Cultural Village. If we only knew how big and nice the place was, we would have go there at least 2 hours earlier so we don’t have to rush going to each of the spot in the village. Good thing, we were still able to catch the main show that night. CCV is a great place to visit to know SR in a few hours IF you have very limited time. CCV capped off our Siem Reap tour.

Expenses:
– 4.00USD (Bike rental at the hotel, 2USD each)
– 6.00USD (Drinks at BluePumpkin)
– 10.00USD (Lunch at Happy Herb Pizza)
– 30.00USD (Tour at Cambodian Cultural Center – 15USD/pax)
– 6.00USD (Dinner at the hotel)
– XX.XXUSD for souvenirs 🙂

Day 3: 

  • 0700H or 0800H (Can’t remember what time we started) Travel to Phnom Pehn
  • 1430H Arrived at Monsoon Hotel
  • 1530H Tour Royal Palace + sight seeing around the area (there’s a lot to see by the way) and had some food trips
  • 2000H Night Market

EXPENSES:
– 24USD (12USD/pax Mekong Bus SR to PP)
– 3USD (Tuktuk from bus terminal to Monsoon Hotel)
– 13USD (Entrance to Royal Palace)
– XX.XXUSD (for our food trips and souvenirs)

Day 4: 

  • 0700H Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
  • 1330H Travel from PP to HCM
  • 2230H Arrived at Aries Hotel

EXPENSES:
– 17USD (Tuktuk)
– 6USD (3USD/pax Choeung Ek Genocide Museum)
– 14.5USD (Lunch at Lemongrass, Phnom Penh)

Day 5:

  • 0830H Breakfast at Aries Hotel
  • 0930H Bến Thành Market
  • 1300H Fine Arts Museum – Ho Chi Minh City
  • 1420H Highlands Coffee
  • 1630H The General Post Office / The Notre Dame Cathedral
  • 1650H Thảo cầm viên Sài Gòn (Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens)
  • 1720H Bitexo Financial Tower

EXPENSES:
– 400000.00VND (200K VND/pax Entrance to Bitexo Financial Tower)
– 16000.00 (8K VND/pax Entrance to Saigon Zoo)
– XX.XXUSD (for our food trips and souvenirs)

Day 6: 

  • 0830H Start of Mekong River Tour (We left our luggage in the hotel because we had to early check out as we are going to the tour)
  • 0430H End of Mekong tour
  • 2000H On our way to the Airport for our flight back to MNL

EXPENSES:
– XX.XXUSD/VND (food, cab fare, souvenirs – sorry i didn’t seem to take notes of our expenses right when we arrived at HCMC)

#

Best TukTuk Driver: Mr. Pheak

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It is my first time to ride/hire a tuktuk, but it was so easy for me to agree to all the reviews I’ve seen in the web about Mr. Pheak that he, indeed, is the best tuktuk driver at least in Siem Reap. I’ve e-mailed at least 3 tuktuk drivers I found in the internet but only Mr. Pheak responded.

Below is the first e-mail I got from him.

On Jul 22, 2013 5:51 AM, “Pheak Ke kum” <pheak8686@yahoo.com> wrote:

Hi dear
Thank you so much for your kindly email !
Do you have your plan please sent to me then I will let you know about the cost .
But if you do not have please look to this tripe
Day 1 stat on 8am to see Angkor wat Angk Tom t Takoa Taphrom temples sunset on Bakeng hill it is 12$ for cost .
Day 2 stat on 5am see sunrise Angkor wat then BonTeaysrey Eastmebon Tasom Neak Pean Phras Kan temples it is 20$ for cost
Day 3 Rolos temple Tonlasb lake it is 15$ .
Hope you are kindly to reply for confirm !
Regard
Mr pheak

 

Then I sent him a list of temples we wanted to see, and learned that it all costs 12USD.

After that, I only e-mailed him a day before our flight. We agreed to his recommendation to start our day at 0500H. And there he was, at 0439H, waiting in front of our hotel.

On Aug 2, 2013 4:39 AM, “Pheak Ke kum” <pheak8686@yahoo.com> wrote:

Hi
Now I am at BouSavy guest house
Pheak

 

He drove us to Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise, then went back to the hotel for breakfast before we head to our temple tour.

He was so kind to make a quick stop every time we want to take a picture of the places. He also know history very well (which is essential in his type of work).

We didn’t need to bring/buy our own bottled water because surprisingly he brought a whole package of bottled water (probably a dozen of them).

We also tried to invite him for lunch but he refused.

After a long day of temple hopping, we decided to head back to the hotel. On our way, we asked if he can drive us around the city, and he did! We stopped by some shops and drove around.

We thought that with all things we’ve done for the day our cost would be 20USD. So we gave him 20, but then he gave us change. He said that we only need to pay a total of 12USD. To our satisfaction with his service, we gave him 15USD.

We were touched to receive the following e-mail from him after a few days. We actual had some exchange of emails because I still asked him for recommendations on coffee, etc.

 

On Aug 6, 2013 11:42 AM, “Pheak Ke kum” <pheak8686@yahoo.com> wrote:

Hi
Hope you got home safe !
Thank you so much for made me 3 days for my jobs .
I was so glad did become to your driver ! you are very friendly also always made me to your friend not only the driver .
, I hope to get some recommend from you to your friend ! Also if you are able please help me to write your commend on Tripe advisor or Back Packer website !
Great Thank !!
Pheak

So, if you ever plan on visiting Siem Reap and need someone to help your way around, contact Mr. Pheak.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pheak.kekum 
Email: pheak8686@yahoo.com

Hotel Review: Aries Hotel

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Breakfast @ Aries Hotel
Breakfast @ Aries Hotel

Room Type: Standard (includes breakfast)
Nights: 1
Total / Room Charge: USD 24.38 (PHP 1,060.35)
Booked via Agoda

Room Type: Superior (includes breakfast)
Nights: 1
Total / Room Charge: USD 29.55 (PHP 1,278.61)
Booked via Agoda

Address:  7/9 Nguyen Trai District 1 – Ben Thanh Market/Ho Chi Minh City/Vietnam

PROS:
– both standard and superior rooms are well maintained; of course superior room is much bigger
– the morning shift attendants are friendlier and have initiative to offer maps, and discuss other things that we can do in the city
– you can book Mekong tours through the hotel
– a bit centrally located so it’s easy for us to go back to the hotel and rest for a while after touring the city or leave stuff after some shopping

CONS:
– hard to locate because it is not just along the street
– you have to go into an alley going to the hotel
– the night shift attendants are not so friendly
– the cooks/food servers hardly speak English so you really have to do your homework of learning a bit of the local language

If I ever go back to HCM, I’ll most likely try out a different hotel. 🙂

Hotel Review: Monsoon Hotel

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Monsoon Hotel Reception
Monsoon Hotel Reception
Monsoon Hotel Bar/Reception
Monsoon Hotel Bar/Reception
Monsoon Hotel - Deluxe Double
Monsoon Hotel – Deluxe Double
Monsoon Hotel - Deluxe Double - T&B
Monsoon Hotel – Deluxe Double – T&B

Room Type: Deluxe Double (includes breakfast)
Nights: 1
Total / Room Charge: USD 39.00 (PHP 1,594.76)
Booked via Agoda

TIP: I used Facebook (as usual) to communicate with Monsoon Hotel, and Leakhena (one of the owners) is very prompt and friendly in responding to every message I sent which, I really appreciate.

We came from a morning bus ride from SR, and hired a tuktuk from the bus terminal to the hotel. We were welcomed by 2 friendly staffs with all smiles and refreshing drinks.

PROS:
– Very courteous, attentive, and knows how to communicate well in English. (I hope I was able to meet Leakhena to thank her personally)
— They were the ones who contacted our shuttle service for the bus trip to HCM
– It’s not that cheap (1 night in Monsoon > 2 nights in Bou Savy) but, okay, considering it’s in the capital of Cambodia, I’ll say the price is a bit fair
– Room is neat and clean and I really like the ambiance. The hotel is well maintained.
— The Bed — it’s so comforting that I almost want to take a sleep
— Bathroom: Very clean, and everything looks new. I actually like the design.
– Free fast wi-fi internet connection.

CONS:
– They only serve breakfast 😦 Luckiy, there’s a lot of restaurants along the street.

I would like to stay longer, but because of the tight schedule, this will definitely be on top of my list if ever I go back to PP.