Manila 2017 || Birthday Staycation at Rizal Park Hotel

This is going to be my last post until I get out of a one to two-month hiatus. I know I said I wasn’t really sure, but I work out things so much better when I give myself a timeline or a deadline of sorts, and that’s what I decided to do this time. I wouldn’t want to stop blogging again because I did that back in 2012 and only got back into it by 2014. I sometimes wish life would just be a series of fun staycations and hotel hopping but I would rather that staying in hotels do not become second nature to me and be the source of my anxiety. I know this anxiety is unreasonable, but that’s exactly it. Unreasonable. I get pumped when I find a new hotel to try out that is within my price range, which is also why I’m always on the lookout for newly opened hotels because they tend to have introductory prices and you know you’re sleeping in a brand new bed. When I came across Rizal Park Hotel, I booked it for my birthday weekend without hesitation.

The location is ideal if you want to visit the attractions within Rizal Park (such as the National Museum of Fine Arts, Planetarium, Manila Ocean Park, Museo Pambata, etc), or Rizal Park itself. I wouldn’t say walking around is the safest, because let’s face it, this area is not really known for its safety from pickpockets. The hotel itself is gated so you don’t really need to worry about this once you’re inside hotel grounds.

The hotel itself is beautiful. The building was finished by 1911 and was initially used by the Army Navy Club. This year, after being restored to its initial glory, it opened its doors as a luxury hotel. Do note that as of writing, a huge portion of the hotel is still being constructed. There may be more amenities available by the end of the year or the next. I think they are still working on the gym because as of now, it’s just a small room with a glass wall where you can see only a handful of gym equipment. Better than nothing, for the fitness buffs.

However, since it was new, the staff is still working on providing hotel guests a more streamlined experience and it’s okay since they’ve only been open for roughly 2-3 months. If you’re bringing a car and decide to head out, you will have to get your parking ticket validated every single time at the reception because you will need to give the slip at the exit every time you go out.

Ever since I experienced a mix up in reservations and was unwittingly got scammed at Vietnam, I make sure to send an email to the place where I’m staying at within a week before I check in. I didn’t like that it took them three days to respond to my email, which is a bit lengthy as I’ve never had to wait that long to get a response for a booking confirmation email. So if you’re planning to check in spontaneously, your best option would be to give them a call. The check in process also took a while because they only reserved one room for one night (we booked two rooms for two nights) even though I confirmed my reservation a few days before. I also requested on my initial booking to get rooms located on the same floor since I wanted to be able to hang out with the sibs, too. I think whoever was in charge in making room assignments had to rearrange it again since they only reserved one room for us. We eventually did get both rooms located on the third floor.

It rained on our first day – and the rest of the weekend – and it is something I have learned to expect over the years because it never fails to rain on my birthday. What was unfortunate was C going down to the reception (which I later found out was not to find food but to arrange for a cake to be delivered to our room) and on his way up, the elevator door opened to a mini waterfall display. Since all the elevators leaked/got flooded, we had to utilize the stairs for the rest of our stay. Thank goodness that our rooms are located on the third floor because if we were higher up, they’d never hear the end of me complaining.

The rooms itself are great, not too spacious but the Deluxe Room had enough space for two people. I love the colorful tiles and the actual chandelier in the bedroom. The room’s neutral color palette was really relaxing, with a hint of luxury. And there’s a full body mirror – which I like because it’s hard to check your outfit without one. Haha! We did have a wifi problem since we couldn’t use the room/last name combo to get wifi access, so they gave us another way to connect to the wifi. I also didn’t see a safe in the room, which is something to keep in mind for guests who have valuables they want to leave in their room. The television’s channel guide is also a little off, but it’s not lacking with English channels for foreign visitors. If there’s one thing I like about local hotels in this country that I really can’t say for a lot of foreign hotels I’ve been to, is that Filipinos are westernized enough that we have a lot of English shows available. (There are also some Chinese and Korean channels, too, if I remember correctly.)

I like hotels with bidets in their toilets. Do you know how annoying it is to use toilet paper to wipe shit off your butthole? I don’t know if it’s just me but I never feel fully clean until I get to wash my ass. Haha! The bathroom had an abundance of towels for two guests, and they provide what I would consider complete toiletries.

Sleep quality was A+ in this bed. It was super comfortable that even if we set an alarm using the room’s alarm clock, the only thing we do once it wakes us up is turn it off so we could sleep again. The room’s air conditioning didn’t help either because it was cold no matter how much we turn it up. Haha!

As with most hotels, you can pick between getting a room with twin beds or a king bed. While C and I got the one with a king-sized bed, the sibs got one with separate beds. They had the same amenities we do although their room felt slightly bigger than ours.

As I always say whenever I write about hotels I have stayed in, the staff is a major part of the hotel experience. No matter how great the amenities are, the staff can make or break your stay, especially with staycations. Fortunately, the hotel staff is great. They are always eager to help and would accommodate what we considered ‘silly’ requests. I stayed for the long weekend for my birthday, and C went to the hotel’s buffet (and as of writing, their only) restaurant to inquire whether they sell their cakes whole. They don’t, but they eventually acquiesced and let him buy a whole cake from their buffet (he also told me how the restaurant staff let him pick the icing to use in writing the greeting) and delivered to our room even though they do not have room service yet. Whenever we’re carrying bags to and from the parking, if a staff sees us, they would immediately offer help to carry it (even if it wasn’t heavy).

Our stay came with complimentary buffet breakfast that runs from 6 to 10 in the morning. The buffet breakfast offers different breakfast choices from Filipino, to Japanese, Chinese, and Western breakfast. The choices for each is not as overwhelming as most international buffets, and there were some hits and missed with the available dishes. I can’t go into too much detail though because we didn’t really get to see the entirety of the spread whenever we had our breakfast. I believe that this was the first long weekend so the volume of guests was higher than usual, and some of the items in the buffet breakfast ran out/took a really long time to be refilled even though it’s not even 9 AM yet. I think the staff at the restaurant also got overwhelmed because we had to ask for coffee repeatedly until we got it.

The restaurant has a door connected to the hotel’s courtyard where guests can smoke, hang out or drink al fresco.

Checking out also took a while since a lot of the guests were checking out at the same time. Also an additional note, I’m not sure if it’s the hotel or the bank, but the cancellation of deposit via credit card also took a while. I’m anal about any sort of credit card charges so I always check my credit card account to make sure cancellations push through and the cancellation still didn’t reflect a full day after checking out. My experience with other hotels is it is canceled within the hour after check out..? I’m under the impression that they’re still working on managing the hotel with a large volume of guests.

Overall, I would definitely stay in the hotel again. There is a great potential for a luxury hotel with the available amenities, and the service the staff provides. They gave me a 50% off discount coupon which I plan on using in a few months to see the hotel amenities that are still being constructed and see if the experience improves once they’ve had more time to operate. 🙂

Rizal Park Hotel, South Road Drive, T.M. Kalaw Ext., Ermita, Manila, Philippines 1000

What’s your favorite luxury or boutique hotel in the Philippines? Let me know in the comments below because I enjoy staying in nice hotels! 🙂

Manila 2017 || Where to go, what to eat

If I had to pick one thing to love about the blogging community I’m surrounded with, it would be the sheer amount of support you get from the friends you gain online. The outpouring of love and “please don’t throw yourself in front of the bus” I’ve gotten from the comment section and private messages I received from that previous post really touched me. Don’t worry! I don’t plan to. I feel awful complaining about life when I know I’m already privileged – all my life I’ve never had to go really truly hungry, always knew there was a bed for me to sleep in, I have enough clothes to go a month without repeating outfits, I have been employed by jobs that pay well/allowed me to help my family/finances my travels and the things I enjoy doing, and I have more than a handful of people that loves and supports me throughout all of it. But that crushing feeling of being overwhelmed about not having a “purpose” is not something I can accurately put into words. As I’ve said, I’ve been getting sick more frequently – there’s nothing wrong with me that can’t be fixed by getting a good amount of sleep, some weight loss, and a cleaner diet. But it’s also made me think about my inevitable death and how much I don’t want to die regretful. It has made me take a look at my life, what I spend time on, and I guess I just wanted to take a break to examine just that. And maybe get my head out the water and just keep breathing. But enough about death and all this sad talk guys and girls, I’ll get over it. I’ll just be extra and dramatic about it first. Haha! This post was about something more cheerful and the entire opposite of death. So here’s a rundown on how I spent my 26th birthday weekend! 🙂

I usually go out of town for my birthday on a solo trip. I’ve always found solo trips a gift to one’s self. I know it’s just not me who enjoys traveling solo, but I also like that I get to make decisions based entirely on my preference. This year, however, I decided to stay put and just go on a staycation with my family. My birthday is a day before a national holiday which always guarantees that I either get a long weekend or at the very least, an excuse to stay in post birthday celebrations. C kicked off my birthday weekend by handing me a huge pink Aranaz paper bag. I’ve always had a thing for structured boho bags. I really liked the ones that are available in dozens of online shops now but I’ve seen it on a lot of people now that just seeing it made me tired of looking at it. Haha!


As usual, I didn’t really have a solid plan of what I wanted to do during our weekend. While C loved doing nothing for his birthday, I wanted to sleep in before heading out to visit the museums in Metro Manila for mine. It’s weird because I’ve lived in this country my whole life. I head out to travel and visit museums, but rarely do so when it came to local ones. Unless it was a school requirement, I never bother, so I decided to change that. Of course, our first stop was the National Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a four-story building that used to be where Congress and Senate meet until it got turned over to the National Museum of the Philippines, and was in turn, filled with exhibits by Filipino artists and houses the famous Spoliarium by Juan Luna. Before I started looking into museums to visit, I thought this was the actual National Museum, and didn’t realize that the title is used for the governing body who manages all the National Museums. Entrance fee to all the museums they handle is also free since relying on visitors fees proved to be detrimental in managing the museums, hence, taxpayers now fund the upkeep. I think it worked because it was packed with locals and tourists alike on a rainy Saturday afternoon, more than a year since the fee has been revoked.

Juan Luna’s portraits of daily life in Paris
Philippine Hero, Jose Rizal

An artistic representation of me at work LOL

We attempted thrice in the span of two days to watch the shows at the National Planetarium but was unsuccessful because we always get stuck in traffic. It recently re-opened early this year after renovations to upgrade the facility and I really wanted to see whether it lives up to my memories of being in awe of it back when I was in grade school. The nearest miss was when we missed the 10 AM show by 5 minutes and the next one was for 2 PM. Instead of hanging around and waiting, we headed to BGC for another museum.

Adult responsibilities aside, I still feel like a child at heart and interactive museums never fail to entertain me. We went to The Mind Museum where I’ve been itching to visit.. but I also don’t like heading to anywhere in Taguig (the office included) because that place is like a bubble. Getting in and out of it is a journey on its own because traffic is horrible. It takes me a full hour on normal work days to get from the BGC bus terminal to the office building I work in even when I get off at the third stop. Ugh. But I digress. The Mind Museum is not as extensive as other interactive museums I’ve been to, and they know that which is why they have three-hour time slots which are ample time to explore the entire museum. Unlike the National Museums, admission is not free. If you’re going with a student (or anyone you know that has an ID for discounts), have them bring their ID. My brother goes to a state university and his discount is huge (since my sister attends a private school, hers is minimal but discounts are discounts haha).

After visiting The Mind Museum, I wanted to head back to Rizal Park and take our chances at either the Planetarium again or Museong Pambata. But we knew the museums close early and all this rain is undoubtedly going to foist our plans once again that C just drove around while we thought of what we wanted to do next. He remembered how I wanted to go to a gun range, and headed to Makati Cinema Center where there’s a bowling alley, a gun range, and an archery range. When we got there, we had a vote on what we wanted to do (I’m all for democracy, even on my birthday haha), and archery won. Off to Kodanda Archery, we go.


I also think that birthdays are a good excuse for stuffing your face silly, and I had three days to do so (which was, unfortunately, also detrimental to losing weight). We had a late lunch in Binondo on our first day and I over ordered that it ended up as both lunch and dinner for us. C & I have made the walk to Sincerity Cafe & Restaurant from Binondo Church since we were in college, mainly because it was C loved their fried chicken, plus it was cheap and we didn’t have a lot of cash to spend on dates. This time we went to their branch in Lucky Chinatown Mall and had our patience, with the traffic and the almost full parking, tested.

Sincerity Fried Chicken
Sincerity Patatim with Cuapao – I’M A BIG FAN
Sincerity Fried Rice
Oyster Cake – NOT a fan at all

Anyone who spent their childhood in the Philippines in the 90s grew up with Jollibee. I’m not gonna lie, as an adult, it still is my favorite fast food. When I was younger, all I wanted for my birthday is a Jollibee birthday party which I didn’t get, so I’ll make do with a birthday lunch from Jollibee.

The last leg of stuffing my face happened during my birthday dinner at Niu by Vikings. I was looking into dinner buffets that had a birthday promo and wasn’t too expensive (no hotel buffet dinners for me) but still served quality food. When multi-cuisine buffets started popping out of nowhere the past few years (beating the classic Pinoy buffets that have been around forever), cheaper ones followed suit. I didn’t want to gorge with so-so food, as quantity over quality has been quite the theme in some buffets I’ve been to. I did my research and ended up here to ensure a nice birthday dinner. I, unfortunately, didn’t get to try all the cuisines they offer because I got full around my third plate of food. Haha! 🙂

I had a number of restaurants that I wanted to try on our third day, but I still had a large amount of undigested food in my tummy. I was also starting to show symptoms of the flu. The feeling of being bloated and runny nose does not mix well together, and we spent the rest of our staycation utilizing the bed for sleeping. Overall, I had a relaxing and [literally] filling birthday weekend with my family. I honestly was dreading turning 26 for a bit, because 25 is a good number to achieve a lot of milestones in life (admittedly, a lot of my plans were thwarted but it happens). 26 sounded so close to 30 – and it meant I only had four remaining years to tick off the remaining items in my ’30 before 30′ list. But good food and great company (with their thoughtful birthday gifts) make for awesome birthday memories. Cheers to turning 26! 🙂

Manila 2017 || Celebrating Chicken Boy’s Birthday at The Manila Hotel

While I like to head out and explore as a birthday treat to myself, C is exactly the opposite. The past couple of years has been a hectic time for our lives. Days where we get to do absolutely nothing but lounge around in bed, are far and few between. Through the years, whenever I try to plan something for his birthday, I would be met with a statement of him wanting to ‘do nothing’. Talk about being vague because ‘nothing’ has never been my forte. So for this year’s birthday, I went with finding a five-star hotel that was a short drive from where we live but never frequent often, to book a room for his birthday weekend. Since he is also a watch aficionado (I swear if we weren’t saving up for the future, he’d probably have an expensive timepiece on his wrist by now), I bought him a watch that he has been eyeing for months and got it customized to his taste. There’s a thing his face does whenever he’s overwhelmingly happy – I know it sounds cheesy and cliche – where it just lights up. The moment he saw the bag that contained his gift, he already knew what it was and that childish giddiness came bursting out. It was one of those moments where I just wish I can scoop it all up in a bottle and keep it in a glass case so that I’ll never forget it. He even exclaimed once the weekend was over that it was the best birthday present ever and I beat my own record of the best birthday gift from 2011 (which was a chicken leg plushie).

Whenever I search for hotels to stay in while traveling, I take into account a couple of things: if it fits my budget, the location (how accessible it is from public transportation), the capacity (if you haven’t noticed, I rarely stay in hotels that have more than 100 rooms because more guests meant slower check ins and busier breakfasts), the amenities, and of course, the aesthetics (I do not like staying in hotels that look like an average room). If I used the same qualifications in booking The Manila Hotel, it would only pass the amenities and room aesthetics. The location is not quite ideal although they do have a shuttle, and they have 500+ rooms which made finding a table for the buffet breakfast on a Sunday morning, quite a chore for us and the restaurant’s hostess. This is the downside of being spoiled from our previous hotel stays – we get picky!

The Manila Hotel is a five-star hotel that’s been open since 1912. I, unfortunately, have never had any opportunity to step foot inside the hotel until this year. Upon arriving, I was a bit flabbergasted how it could have been touted as one of the best hotels in Manila as the building outside looked dated.. and frankly, does not call out to me. Getting inside though was a totally different story. The high ceiling, gigantic chandeliers, and, marble floor, all screamed opulence. However, the volume of the guests that were checking in before us (one of the reasons why I avoid hotels with massive capacity and major hotel chains) when we came had us waiting for 20+ minutes for our turn. While there were a lot of staff positioned in the reception, they were outnumbered by people inquiring, checking out, scheduling their shuttles, and whatnot. It was a good spot for people watching though as there were ongoing photoshoots everywhere, from debutantes to weddings. As well as the staff in traditional Filipinianas milling around, helping hotel visitors.

There was a hint of musky carpet smell as we walked through the hallways of the fourth floor to find our room, but nothing too overpowering (my sense of smell picks up quickly). When we found our room, we were greeted by elegant colonial period Filipino aesthetics. It reminded me of those old Filipino houses that have been built during the Spanish colonial period. One of the more prominent architectural materials during that time is dark wood (I think from Molave and Narra but I’m just picking random local tree names at the top of my head), which is pretty obvious with how the whole room was designed. Capiz shells were also used to adorn the mirrors in the room, as well as to frame the wall behind the bed. When I opened the cabinet, it only had one robe in it which was odd given that the room was for at least two people. They did have a lot of closet space and hangers for those who are planning to stay longer.

Fortunately, the marble bathroom has been renovated to reflect the modern times. It had both a waterfall shower, a handheld one, as well as heating. The toilet also had a bidet which is something C and I find important in a toilet (lol). When I first used the toilet, I got curious why there was a remote placed near it. As it turns out, the remote is a waterproof one designed for the waterproof LED television placed beside the bath tub. Shitting does not have to be boring because you can scroll through different channels while on number two. You can also utilize the television while on the tub. Cool, right?

You guys know me and know about my affinity for bath tubs. I don’t live in a home with one, so I tend to compensate by booking rooms that will allow me to splurge on LUSH bath bombs. Any tub with a faucet that fills water quickly and has enough leg space for it to not be cramped is A+ in my book. The tub we had in our room ticks all the right boxes but if I had to nitpick, the placement of the faucet was a little unfortunate because, in the process of filling the tub, the counter’s corner and my ribs kept coming in contact. Totally my fault, but it got annoying. Haha!

One of the best things about staying in local hotels are the abundance of channels you can choose from. Most international hotels I’ve stayed in almost always have at most, two English channels. In the Philippines, if you avail of a cable provider, you get a lot of foreign channels (English, Korean, Chinese, etc) as well as the local ones. We didn’t have to settle with switching between HBO and Fox Movies. They also have a channel guide to help you navigate your extensive channel options. Personally, Cinema One is my favorite weekend channel for binge watching movies.

While one side of our room was just one big window, we kept our curtains closed the entire time while we were there because we didn’t really have the best view. Since we were on the lower floors, our view was just meh and I think a higher room would have a more peaceful view of the ocean.

When I first spotted the speaker, I got excited because I like listening to my own music. C and I sometimes listen to random songs and hold our own bedroom dance parties (some days, it’s to the tune of Pussycat Dolls’ Don’t Cha). They do have to update their speakers because the one they have caters to earlier generations of iPod. It was disappointing.

While checking in, we were asked which room we wanted – the one with twin beds or the one with a king-sized bed, and of course, we went for the room with king-sized bed. I guess the biggest reason why I don’t plan on staying in this hotel again is the fact that the room we got did not have a king-sized bed in it. We had two twin beds pushed together to form one bed. C and I often fall asleep talking and cuddling. The indent in the middle of the bed was not conducive for cuddles that we both ended up facing different directions at the opposite sides of the bed. I repeat, this bed is not the best for romantic purposes. You can clearly see from the photo the part in the middle where it was obviously indented because IT IS NOT A KING-SIZED BED. The bed did look much more put together when we walked in than this photo. I wasn’t able to stop C from jumping in before I got around to taking a picture. Oh well.

Since he wanted to do nothing, we both brought our laptops to this staycation and maximized their high-speed internet. C spent the weekend playing games with his friends, while I alternated between the tub and staying in bed to work on my blog, watch movies, and go online shopping. I also spent a considerable amount of time justifying to myself ordering room service food to avoid going out. C and I are fans of room service because ~*convenience*~ but the items on the menu was just. so. expensive. There were a number of restaurants in the hotel itself, such as Cafe Ilang-Ilang where we had our buffet breakfast and where you can also avail of buffet lunch and buffet dinner. We weren’t in the mood for buffets, Chinese food (they had a Chinese restaurant), and both restaurants we wanted to try had a dress code and we literally just packed loungewear and casual clothes. I doubt we could pass off our pairs of shorts as smart casual to get into The Champagne Room and Cowrie Grill. We decided to go out and find somewhere to it within the vicinity of the hotel. I am guessing it’s not the best idea for foreigners to do because the area surrounding the hotel does not scream safe at all. We were followed by a group of children who were asking for some change until we reached a food establishment (to take out pizza!). We avoid handing out money to beggars because you don’t really know whether they are victims of well-organized syndicates and you support these syndicates by giving them cash. We hand out food instead of money.

Checking out was such a breeze compared to checking in. Have you ever been to a hotel where your stay wasn’t unsatisfactory but you didn’t really think you’d miss out if you never come back? Honestly, that was what we both felt for The Manila Hotel. But I’d still like to emphasize the positives and the complimentary breakfast that came with the room was one of them. The buffet breakfast at Cafe Ilang-Ilang turned into brunch as their extensive food selection kept us full until it was time for dinner. C and one of his sisters have a one day gap between their birthdays so joint birthday dinners with the family is an annual occurrence. This year, we headed out to Gringo in Makati for some ribs and chicken (because chicken boy). C’s family have never failed to treat me like one of their own. It’s nice to witness how family dinners have evolved from their family unit, plus me, and this year we were joined by his sister’s fiance and future mother-in-law. 🙂

The nachos is something I’d go back for!
If you ever go to Gringo, don’t be ashamed to pour the sauce on your rice because it tastes AMAZING. And you also have unlimited refills. Just do it!

A sweet ending to a pretty chill birthday weekend, if I must say so myself.

Bangkok 2017 || Heading Home + Bangkok Highlights

My last night in Bangkok was unfortunately spent restlessly as I woke up every hour or so due to the abdominal pain. Whenever I’m flying out early in the day, I usually pack my bags the night before and since we were flying right past noon again, I packed my bags through the pain before I slept. Or attempted to. When I woke up that morning, I didn’t want to leave the bed since the fetal position was the one I was in pain the least. It was horrible. I rarely ever get sick on trips (the only other time was having the flu during my first week in Copenhagen – I blame winter) but whenever I do, it’s the worst because it just comes out of nowhere. After dilly-dallying on the decision to get up or not, I ended up going for breakfast. It was our last breakfast in Bangkok and I wanted to make the most out of it. I only had what I would consider a light serving for lunch because I didn’t want to upset my tummy even more.

Once again, we had the reception call us a taxi to take us to the airport. The drive to the airport was quite uneventful and traffic wasn’t as heavy as compared to when we were traveling from the airport to the hotel during rush hour. We took the highway and paid the toll. It didn’t even cost more than 400 baht and it was quite a drive too. We didn’t realize how huge Suvarnabhumi Airport was until we had the time to burn to roam around. Check in was swift as we only needed to scan our passports in the self-check in machines, and drop off our luggage at the counter. Their body check scanner was something I haven’t encountered before too. It looked like a pod! C and I browsed all the stores (which are mostly designer ones) and we surprisingly did not find a Pandora stall, even though Google says otherwise. I bought a Pandora charm bracelet for my 25th birthday and C buys me charms for random milestones, our anniversary was supposed to be one of it. Oh, well.

I spent the plane ride home ugly crying over A Dog’s Purpose (thanks to the plane’s entertainment system), barely touching my meal, and wondering whether to head straight to the emergency room instead of heading home. However, it was raining when we arrived. Rain in Manila is equal to a traffic sentence because the already horrible traffic will get so much worse. I spent the drive back drifting in and out of sleep in the car, clutching my tummy, while C drove for almost six hours just to get us home. Not the best ending to an otherwise fun trip.

Here’s a short-ish clip of our Bangkok trip! (Sorry this post isn’t as long, but when I think about our last day in Bangkok, all I could think about the tummy pain. It did take a couple of days, minimal food, and rest, for it to fully subside.)

Bangkok 2017 || The Grand Palace + Asiatique + Calypso Cabaret Show

Since this was our anniversary trip, I couldn’t help but be annoyingly cheesy in writing the prologue of every blog post. I’ve gotten the “#goals” comments and just wanted to tell people that even though we’ve hashed out most of our differences, we still have a long way to go to be anyone’s relationship goal. Our first time traveling abroad together was to visit Singapore for my birthday. We were there for a week – and there wasn’t a day where we didn’t engage in a squabble. You have no idea how irritating someone could be once you’ve spent every single minute of the day with them and their adorable little quirks start being annoying items on the quickly growing list of why you would ever plan to strangle them in their sleep. I love him and I would never do it, but damn, was it tempting. We’ve fortunately hashed out the kinks by this time and can cohabitate peacefully, but there really are times where that peace is tested. We’re not that zen yet.

Our last full day in Bangkok was for visiting at least one temple. We enjoy touristy spots, but it was just so hot and it being a tourist spot was an assurance that it would be crowded. While my solo traveler self would normally not care and spend the entire day temple hopping, I knew this was not something that would fly with C. He hates walking under the scorching sun and would be prissy the entire time if I subject him to it, so we compromised by visiting The Grand Palace after having a big breakfast.

We boarded the train from National Stadium station which was a good idea since it was the first station and the train was barely occupied. I was smiling inside because we were off to a good start for the day. We got to sit while on the train and relax until we get off at the port.

What I did forget was how much C avoided boat ride-induced headaches. While we both have no problems riding crazy roller coasters, being on a boat causes tiffs to his tummy. While you can most definitely reach the Grand Palace via a car or a taxi, it would be cheaper and more convenient to ride the boat as it’s quicker and an experience in itself. However, if you do have the time, extra money, and are not fond of boats, you can very well take a taxi/Uber/car to the temples.

It’s pretty easy to find out which port you’re supposed to get off because one of the boat operators (or staff? I’m not sure how to call them) announces it, and a lot of the tourists you are in the boat with are going to get off the boat too. The port you get off to is obviously used to tourists because most stalls have English signs on them. I’m not sure if the prices were jacked up though because the snacks were still pretty cheap. There were so many aromas – of other people’s sweat, of the heat, emanating from the ground, freshly peeled fruits for 100 baht per small pile, food in sticks frying in large vats of oil – and sounds coming from all over that the short walk through it was an assault on the senses. I didn’t know where to look first or what to try first and my indecision about it has gotten the crowd to carry me to the exit.

We went on a weekday instead of a weekend because experience has taught us that weekends are days where tourist spots are more packed. However, I don’t know if June or Wednesdays are peak season for The Grand Palace, but the crowd was huge. Prior to entering, a guard will advise you whether you’re not wearing appropriate clothes so do wear something that covers your shoulders and your legs. You can buy colorful pieces of fabrics to use as drapes before you enter, or buy the plain black one at the establishment at the gate itself. I can’t quite remember how much it was but it ranges from 200-300 baht? Not quite expensive but utterly useless unless you plan on turning it into something else or don’t have appropriate clothes to use for the rest of your temple visits. I didn’t learn anything about The Grand Palace because the place was too jam-packed to be able to mingle with a tour crowd and listen to their guide, and you basically just walk the entirety of it and we didn’t really find any signs that stood out explaining what this structure meant or why it’s there. Add the heat on top of all the walking – and you have in your hands a grumpy Chicken Boy. His mood, in turn, soured mine, and we were uninterested in learning more as we were both cranky before we even finished. When I eventually find myself back in Bangkok, I would definitely get myself a private walking tour so that I catch up on whatever I missed out on that day and visit all the temples in the itinerary I made.

It was a testament to how stressed we found ourselves inside the crowd that I was looking forward to exiting The Grand Palace. It did live up to its name as it is grand, beautiful, and architecturally interesting. We just detest walking under the heat and big crowds. During the course of this trip, I started getting upper abdominal pain infrequently while we were there. It must be all the spicy food or all the tea I have willingly consumed, but it was an uncomfortable feeling. This tummy pain decided to act up while we were trying to find our way out too, overall, adding up to the list of things that could go wrong within that day. We decided to simply hail a taxi to go back to the hotel, price and traffic be damned. While waiting, I bought bottled orange juice. I’m a huge fan of orange juice and Bangkok has an abundance of fresh fruit juice squeezed right in the stall and sold in this bottle for 20-35 baht (for some reason, the prices varied within that range). I also bought a bag of ripe mangoes for 100 baht and while it tasted nice, nothing beats the sweetness (and texture) of Philippine mangoes. I also bought grilled skewered meat. They had a variety of meat available such as chicken, chicken gizzard and pork, of which I bought two pieces of all three. Chicken Boy was wary but after getting a bite, I handed him the rest of the grilled chicken and it was gone in minutes. Haha!

When we got back to the hotel, I immediately headed to the room to try and relieve myself from the pain by lying in bed in a fetal position and praying to all the deities to be kind to me. I went and took a shower to freshen up while C went to Miss Siam Restaurant and ordered meals for the both of us. We were fortunate to pick items with a serving that wasn’t as big as our previous orders, but still tasty, nonetheless. I was actively avoiding anything spicy at this point, for fear that it was what triggered my tummy pains. My fried rice did not look and taste spicy at all.. until I bit into one of the mini green chilis hidden within it. 😦

After having our late lunch, C & I relaxed in the room while I pray the pain away some more. I’m not even religious – and that was how much it bothered me. During our staycation in Tagaytay, C was watching a documentary about the lady boy business in Bangkok. One particular former lady boy realized that more often than not, performers have to retire early but a lot of them end up with no retirement plans/savings, or they do not have enough education to go into another career after. Hence, she decided to go into management of the cabaret she worked at and helped provide better work conditions for the lady boys, and gave them education on managing their finances and possible career options for when the time came that they retire. C and I can’t find the documentary again, but we decided then that when we head to Bangkok, we’ll take the time to watch a lady boy show. We did decide on going to the cabaret shows instead of the type of sex shows you can never be able to unsee. No, thank you. So off to a cabaret show we go.

We headed to Asiatique, a night market where the Calypso Cabaret Show was located. Asiatique was filled with stalls of local products, and we found that there were more unique items on the affordable range here rather than in the other markets in Bangkok. However, knowing me, I got lured in by stores that were definitely not on the affordable side and I was left wanting the winning lottery numbers so I could go on a shopping spree. There were two stores that really caught my eye. One was a boutique called Magnifique Et Moi, a shop filled with racks of clothes that cost 2500++ baht (at the cheapest), and 90% of those clothes I would absolutely love to wear (but couldn’t afford to buy at the moment). They even have flower crown veils that were perfect for boho brides to be. The other trap was both Perfect Combination leather stores. One had more serious audience with classic shoe and bag designs, while the Leather Art Jewelry one had the whimsical ones that made my head turn. It was so overwhelming trying to take a pick on which one I’d like to take home with me.

It suddenly rained which prevented us from exploring the rest of the place as every exit we turned, we were met by the rain. We ended up eating in one of the restaurants within the building we were currently in, Why97 Pub and Restaurant. They had a massive menu that would give Gordon Ramsay an aneurysm on Kitchen Nightmares and dishes varying so many cuisines that we already knew we should lower our expectations. It was great that we did too because honestly, the food was bland and just forgettable. All C could say was “this is probably where the Why on their name came from”.

We bought our tickets via KLOOK, a discount website I’ve been using to book discounted entrance fees to activities within Asia. You can sign up with KLOOK via their website. (DISCLAIMER: This is an invite link where you get free credits to use when you book an activity, and I get credits too!) You can also book online via their website. Just make sure to book at least a day before you decide to go because their online booking price is 900 baht, while the full door price is 1,200 baht. We arrived early and got seats near the stage. They did get to fill the seats, which was surprising as it was a week night. The show was a lot of fun, although there were a few down moments, overall a good experience.

Heading back to the hotel, we decided not to ride a taxi from the taxi stand. We passed by it and there were men who were managing the taxis telling tourists the ‘minimum’ fare was a hundred baht (I didn’t hear very clearly how much it was). So if ever you plan on going, just cross the street and take a metered taxi from there. The abdominal pain unfortunately acted up again while I was in the tub when we got back to the hotel, and kept me up during our last night in Bangkok. Ugh!

Anyone else who got sick while on vacation? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

Bangkok 2017 || Spending our anniversary at Dahra Spa Sukhumvit

I am not sure if it’s something to be proud of that I have been quite well-versed with my own brand of anxiety. I could usually tell when it’s coming up. I would start to feel nauseous, there’s a sensation in my tummy of marbles rolling in all directions, and the walls suddenly start to feel like it’s closing in. Even in grade school, I would often – for the lack of a better term – overthink. It got to the point where it either hinders my sleep or I wake up from vivid dreams. You have no idea how many times I’ve been told to ‘just relax’ – by parents, by friends, by boyfriends.. and basically, anyone who has had the unfortunate luck to be within the surrounding area while I have a [not so huge of a] meltdown. If you know C and me separately as individuals, being together would not seem to be a partnership that would work. But for some reason, it does and he’s one of the two people who can actually get me to relax. My anxiety has always stemmed from the things that are out of my control and the fear emanating in the uncertainty of the future. But I guess knowing that he’s there has managed to tone it down over the years. I still get mild anxiety from time to time (mostly work related), but it’s manageable. So for the day of our anniversary, we agreed that what we want to do is plain and simple. Relax.

On the actual day of our anniversary, we decided to set our alarm for 9 AM so we could sleep in and have enough time to not miss the hotel breakfast. We ate a hearty meal for brunch since we were heading out after eating for the one thing we wanted to do in Thailand besides eating our way through the city. Spa date!

Once again, we took the Skytrain to Phrom Phong Station. We were initially contemplating on taking a taxi, but we were advised that we might miss our appointment if we do due to the traffic. So off to the train we go. Upon alighting the train, we looked for our exit and found this installment that serves as an advertisement for Dinosaur Planet. It’s not visible in this photo, but this was an animated dinosaur and they had a track playing in the background to make it more realistic. I often have the tendency to believe maps when they say it’s just a couple of blocks away and C is annoyed by how much we walk due to it. The Sukhumvit area is known for its shopping malls and night life. There were a lot of hotels located here, as well as malls. The number of foreigners and expats roaming around was also noticeably higher as we walked to the spa, compared to the usual number we encountered while walking around the vicinity of our hotel.

For our anniversary, we wanted to relax and loosen up. We’re both spa fiends, and we have a shortlist of spas for our monthly spa date. Thai massage is commonly found in spa menus, so we wanted whether the Thai massage you can get back in Manila is the same as the one as in Bangkok. Surprisingly, Bangkok spa prices were not cheap at all. We usually go to The Spa for special occasions, and a 3-4 hour spa package costs about Php 3,500++. Similar spa packages in Bangkok were priced at more than 5000++ baht (more than Php 7000++), and these prices were not even for the fancier ones you can find. There are cheaper massage services you can find in the streets though, and 150 baht foot massages in some of the tourist spots, but I trusted the internet and just did my research. I literally spent a couple of hours looking through promotions and spa websites to find the best deal I can, and Dahra Spa offers discounts if you book online. One day, I’ll step foot inside one of the fancier spas in Bangkok without getting stressed by the price in itself. Haha!

Time flew while we were getting pampered, scrubbed, and rubbed all over – and when we got out of the spa, it was already dark outside! We were initially planning on checking out Emporium Bangkok, the mall connected to Phrom Phong Station, but all I could think about was filling the tub in our hotel room with hot water and soaking myself in it. C who always has a hard time sleeping, finds himself yawning a couple of times on our walk back to the station and agreed that we were just going to pick up our photos from Thai Style Studio and head back. Since the Central Station was connected to all three malls (Siam Paragon, Siam Center, and, Siam Discovery), we took the Siam Paragon exit. I didn’t know they had Books Kinokuniya in Bangkok and was so happy to find one. It’s a curse and blessing in disguise as Books Kinokuniya carries a lot of books that are not available in Manila, which is how it turns into a black hole for my wallet as I go and pick out novel after novel. I have never gone in a branch of Books Kinokuniya and went out empty handed. I am still torn whether it’s a good thing.

It was a walk back to MBK, especially now that I am lugging books with me. When we finally got our pictures, as well as the disk with all the raw files, we were convinced that dinner at the hotel sounds like a good idea. However, on our way to the mall exit, we passed by a Japanese restaurant called Kobune. I initially ignored it until C told me he thinks it’s a conveyor belt sushi place. I enjoy conveyor belt sushi places and was ecstatic to find one nearby, so our anniversary dinner was spent eating at a budget Japanese restaurant. I did say budget because it was inexpensive because the non-conveyor belt (as it turns out, they were floating on boats!!) sushi cost 35 baht per plate. The staff was very friendly even if we didn’t even speak a word to each other (and just pointed out item from the menu), and was quick to take our orders, our additional orders after that, as well as giving us the bill. The prices were significantly lower compared to another conveyor belt restaurant we frequent in Manila, Genki Sushi. The taste though is so so, but you get what you pay for. I’ve also noticed that after coming to Japan, I am rarely impressed by Japanese food everywhere else. So there’s that.

And that’s how our anniversary went. No fancy dinners, no dress up dates, and no expensive gifts. I would always prefer experience over material things, and I’m glad that I get to go through it with Chicken Boy. How do you guys celebrate your anniversaries? Let me know in the comments below!

Bangkok 2017 || Wearing Traditional Thai Outfits + MBK Center + Siam Center + Siam Discovery+ Madame Tussauds Bangkok

I’m not gonna lie, I take a lot of pride with the fact that C knows I don’t need him in my life to be happy. This came up when we were talking about marriage, and how we both don’t see it as the ‘be all and end all’ of our relationship. People’s needs vary, and what feels healthy for us may not be what works for other people.. But in our case, C acknowledged that I’m self-sufficient and he feels great about the fact that because of it, he knows I’m in this relationship because I choose to be, and I agree because he is the same way. It’s weird how different yet how similar we both are. Just to be clear, it hasn’t always been this great (we’ve been together since I was 17, I’m turning 26 in a few weeks) as we’ve endured through a couple of rocky years and challenges, where breaking up felt like the best thing to do. And I think that after everything, having our happiness and ‘being’ independent of each other, have multiplied that happiness exponentially. It comes off as illogical to some, but different stroke for different folks. 🙂

Having said that, it’s also the reason why I find it difficult when I get asked how we’ve managed to stay together over the years. There’s no secret. It’s hard work, a lot of adjustment and compromise, and willingly doing it because you know the feeling is mutual and that it’s worth it. Learning how to choose your battles work too, and something C would often tell people. When we went to Tokyo last year, he wasn’t opposed to my idea of us wearing a kimono. So when we were planning this trip, one of the first things I researched if there’s somewhere in Bangkok where we can do the same. When I showed him the photos, he was not exactly thrilled about it but he knew it was something I’d be stubborn about and he caved. I scheduled it for a day where we didn’t have any agendas aside from walking around and doing nothing. 😛

Unlike Japan, I had a harder time scouring the internet for a rental. It wasn’t as common to rent one to walk around in as Bangkok is as hot and humid as Manila, and traditional clothes are usually stuffy. I read that there were some costumes you can wear over your clothes when you visit the temples with a cheap rental fee of 100-200 baht per person. However, we weren’t really planning on heading to all of the temples and I doubted C would enjoy wearing more clothes with this heat. I found a photography studio that does traditional wedding photos at MBK Center and decided to head there instead.

MBK Center is similar to Manila’s 168 Mall, albeit more spacious and less crowded. However, they do have what I assume are legit gadget stores (not stalls) and branded stores (such as Adidas) so that’s where the similarity ends as 168 Mall is filled with cheap knock offs. We weren’t sure if the items that had brands on it was authentic or a knock off though, so the only thing I bought from the mall was a LOT of bath bombs. These bath bombs were way more bubbly than the ones sold by LUSH, and cheaper than LUSH too at 3 pieces for 500 baht. The mall had 8 floors so it wasn’t a surprise for us that some of the stores sell the same item in varying prices.

Thai Style Studio, the rental and photo studio is located on the 3rd floor of MBK Center. I knew it was on the 3rd floor, but as the floor area was huge, we checked out the map to pinpoint its exact location (in front of one of the escalators heading up to the 4th floor). They offer different packages and the cheapest one for couples cost 5,700 baht. Yes, I agree it’s not exactly cheap. But it does include clothes rental, hair and makeup, a professional photographer, printed copies of the photos in an array of sizes, and a disc containing all of your raw and digitally retouched shots. Once we paid for our package, we were handed a slip of paper with the date and time of when we could pick up the photos. They had a huge album filled with hundreds of photos of different clothes combinations to choose from. I skimmed a few pages and just pointed out whatever looked nice. Then off we go to change in full traditional wedding regalia. If you’re concerned about makeup hygiene (because you will definitely be using shared makeup), I would suggest bringing your own makeup or maybe doing it yourself before you head there. I personally didn’t because our hotel is walking distance from the mall and I knew I can wash all of it off 10 minutes after getting our photos done. The photographer would literally position you before taking the photos by arranging where your limbs should be, tilting your head, and smoothing over your clothes. He got some good shots of C & I because he kept whispering comments from Asia’s Next Top Model (which I got him to watch), and we both started laughing for real. Once we were done, the guy who did my hair and makeup fixed my hair too. 🙂 We got our photos the following day at 6 PM.

To answer the rhetorical question if I could look any more Asian lol

When we got back to the hotel, we went to Miss Siam Restaurant for our late lunch after washing off any trace of the studio makeup on our faces. All the meals on the menu were above the 100 baht price range but the serving was HUGE. They also gave us complimentary biscuits while they cook our food. Of course, C had Chicken Pad Thai which he did say was great. So much better than the one you can find in the Food Republic. We both had milk tea (it tasted the same as the ones you can buy off the street so I like those better), and Tom Kha Gai for the appetizer. C surprised me by enjoying the chicken coconut soup as much as I did because he used to scoff at my choices for appetizers. Although given our history of him liking most of the things I pick from a menu, it should not have come off as such. Haha! I forgot what I ordered for myself, but the photo of it on the menu did not do it justice because when it arrived on our table, it looked enough for the both of us. As much as the food was delicious (even if it was spicy), I wasn’t able to finish everything because I felt like my tummy was ready to burst at any minute.

We were both so bloated from the meal that we decided that the next best course of action was to once again head back to the malls and walk around. C is not the biggest fan of spending hours walking, so this was a testament to how full we felt. We went to explore Siam Center. Siam Center houses the diverse food court, Food Republic, which was also connected to the Skytrain. We didn’t get to explore any other offerings of Food Republic while we were there but I would assume that there’s something for everyone. The crowd here, compared to the ones in Siam Paragon and Siam Discovery, are mostly comprised of teens to young adults. This is just a random observation but the stores here would definitely attract that specific demographic as this is where a lot of relatively affordable western brands are located such as Pull & Bear, Cath Kidston, LUSH, Sephora, Adidas, ALDO, etc. I did say ‘relatively affordable’ because both malls adjacent to Siam Center (Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon) houses more high-end luxury brands. They did have a display of works by local designers that if I had the money to burn, I would splurge on (spoiler alert: I don’t have that kind of money, unfortunately).

SEYMEN for menswear lol

There was a Madame Tussauds booth where tickets are half off when you go past a certain time, which was something C and I decided to do on a whim when we found their stall at Siam Center. They also have a booth in Siam Paragon if I remember correctly, but the actual interactive museum is located on the 6th floor of Siam Discovery. Unlike the one in Hong Kong, the place was less crowded when we went because it was already late. I guess the lack of the view of Victoria Peak is not as appealing? We almost didn’t have to wait for our turn to take photos with any of the wax figures which was great!

We didn’t know some of the Thai celebrity wax figures, but I gasped and fan girled a little when I saw Wax Mario Maurer dressed in his Pee Mak outfit! I watch Thai movies (mostly horror ones because Asians know how to do their horror movies so much better than western horror films), and watched Pee Mak because the 4bia and Phobia 2 guys (Aey, Ter, Puak and Shin) starred in it. Mario Maurer also became popular in the Philippines as Shone in Crazy Little Thing Called Love. He was popular enough to warrant endorsements from big local brands, as well as shoot a Thai-Filipino movie.

When we were done with exploring Madame Tussauds, we decided to check out the upper floors of Siam Discovery as well. We’ve only been to the three lower floors, and oh man, were we missing out. This mall’s format is highly reminiscent of a department store, but a high-end one at that. A lot of the brands here I was not familiar with, but the ones that I am are Issey Miyake, COACH, and Apostrophe’S for really nice home stuff. Definitely things that were out of my price range. They also have a hipster looking (aka aesthetically pleasing) dining place called ‘My Kitchen’ at the 4th floor that we didn’t get to try (a story for another post), but I’d definitely come back to when I found myself in Bangkok again.

We were still full after all that walking and decided to just have coconut ice cream, french fries, and drinks for dinner, just before the restaurant closed for the day. I’m still not quite sure whether it was a blessing that they don’t serve coconut ice cream for room service because I would probably have it in bed every single day we were there.

Do you like dressing up in traditional costumes when traveling? Let me know in the comments below. Happy weekend! 🙂

Bangkok 2017 || Chatuchak Weekend Market + Bangkok Art and Culture Centre + Jim Thompson Restaurant and Wine Bar

Our first full day in Bangkok started off with us sleeping in until 8 AM and heading down to Miss Siam Restaurant in our pajamas. Haha! I know it’s what other people would consider late but back home, we don’t really get as much sleep with work (being an entrepreneur meant he worked 7 days a week at all hours, and my work had me on night shift which has messed up my body clock so badly), managing our own household, going on errand runs, and the like. We’ve early on decided that we will try to get as much rest as we could get during this trip. Since we would be staying in the same hotel for six days, I didn’t sample everything the buffet breakfast has to offer on our first morning. I went for a tea and a lot of vegetables since my metabolism has an uncanny habit of going haywire whenever I’m somewhere new.

Since it was a Saturday, we headed to Chatuchak Weekend Market. Being near the Skytrain, we took the train to Mo Chit station which was quite near to the market itself. Now if you’ve been to or is from the Philippines (and any other South East Asian country), it really did resemble a marketplace. Since it’s only open on weekends and included in almost every ‘Things to do in Bangkok’ list that has ever been written online, the place was jam-packed. You definitely need to venture out deeper into the market before the crowd thins out and you can actually mind your own personal space.

Aside from the souvenir stalls, there was an abundance of the customizable passport holder stores. Most of the items are all priced similarly within the market, and these passport holders all cost 100 baht, and if you buy 10, you’ll get one for free. There were also A LOT of cheap clothes that you can buy, and feel free to haggle especially if you’re buying in bulk. We were told by a friend who grew up in Thailand that since we’re obviously foreigners, there’s a chance that some sellers would jack up their prices so unless they have a sign with prices on their merchandise, we should always start haggling with half the amount we were told. Do not haggle if you don’t have any intention of buying. You can walk away if they don’t agree, but if they do, you have to buy it. Although most of the clothes look like they wouldn’t last past a season’s use, there are some stalls that offer great quality items at a slightly higher price. I’ve been lusting over ARANAZ bags for some time now and they’re not exactly within the affordable price range for me. There was a booth that sold similar looking bags for 350++ baht. I always get chicken boy to quality check items for me, and he gave it his seal of approval with a ‘this is durable, go crazy’ (not an exact translation but you get the gist of it). Overall, we were very happy with our finds!

Since people are bound to get thirsty and hungry from all that shopping, there are also a variety of food and drink stalls available. C and I personally got well acquainted with most of the cold beverage available in the market since it was so hot. My favorites were the fruit shakes (40-60 baht) and Thai iced tea (35 baht). We also enjoyed the coconut ice cream that came with a lot of toppings, sticky rice included. Who knew that sticky rice (we weren’t sure what it was called but it was something similar to either biko or suman) worked well with ice cream? I sure didn’t!

While walking on our way back to the hotel to drop off our things, I saw a shop across the street and was fixated in trying to check if it was worth a visit. I felt a slight bump and thought someone passed by me and accidentally bumped into me, and didn’t realize how serious it could have gotten until C pulled me away and started checking me for any injuries. I was honestly baffled until I caught sight of a guy (looks like a teenager) who fell off his scooter. Apparently, he was going very fast and since I wasn’t paying attention, didn’t attempt to avoid him. He sharply swerved and my bag hindered full contact between us, and also absorbed all the impact. We were walking at the side of the road, mind you, and while we were both at fault, I was assured that it was an accident and most of the blame lies with him (I didn’t want to get in trouble in a foreign country). The guy got injured and walked away limping while clutching his sides, while my Vedasto leather bag walked away unscathed (no scratches nor dents). No regrets over using this bag as a travel bag even if it’s a pain in the shoulder due to how heavy it is. Scooter guy = 0, leather bag = 1. It is also where I realized how important travel insurance was because it could have ended much worse for the both of us.

I collect snow globes from all the countries I’ve been to with my own money, and even if it’s a repeat trip, I still buy one to mark the occasion. There were a lot of snow globes available in Chatuchak market, but nothing really called out to me as unique until C found this. They had an array of different snow globes in a glass display case, I had a difficult time choosing one to purchase. I bought this elephant one for 200 baht!

It was already way past lunch time when we decided to check out the Food Republic over at Siam Center. There were a lot of restaurants to choose from, and I wanted to go somewhere that serves Thai cuisine. When in Bangkok, right? My advice is – don’t do it! This was easily one of our least satisfactory meals in Bangkok and looking back, we were so disappointed because we’ve had good food everywhere else. I guess there may be some great food finds in the Food Republic but we didn’t go back to try anything else out and stuck with local recommendations.

The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre was a five-minute walk away from our hotel, so we decided to head there with the assumption that it was an art museum. While it is home to a lot of art installations and exhibits, you can also find a number of cafes as well as art in different forms. There are artists who will paint or draw your portraits while you sit still (we did this for 400 baht), musicians who will set up their instruments randomly and leave an open case for donations, and independent small time crafts businesses with stalls to sell their handmade products. You can find a lot of unique items you can buy for [mostly] reasonable prices. The exhibits are all free as well and they just ask that you keep your big bags in lockers before entering. I wasn’t aware that Bangkok is also a bustling local art scene, even architecture students have their craft on full display here. I’m not sure how to have your work featured here, but it seems that at least there is a governing body that encourages them. So much talent!

We again headed back to the hotel while I research on where to have dinner (we didn’t have our mobile data on so we’re dependent on wifi) to avoid having to dine on sub-par Thai food again. Our room had a coffee table book about Bangkok and we decided to pick the nearest restaurant that was featured in it, preferably walking distance from our hotel. While we were choosing, we received a complimentary plate of snacks. I swear, our hotel was awesome.

We decided on Jim Thompson Restaurant, located at Jim Thompson House, that was less than 500 meters from our hotel. Google Maps gave us directions which seemed easy enough, but definitely not the best path to take at 8 PM. It required us to take the path under the bridge, and walk through this dark narrow alley that was straight out of the opening scene of a thriller where we both get killed and our bodies found mutilated floating along the river. We even got into a heated discussion since I just wanted to run for it and get to the restaurant, while C understandably wanted to turn back and find somewhere else (or take a taxi). My stubbornness, fortunately, did not kill us, but the conversation was tense until we got our food.

The restaurant is beautiful and gave the vibe that food was expensive, even though prices were mid-range and serving was definitely not fine dining as it was HUGE. They did hand us cold towels and would place your table napkin on you while you go over the drink menu before ordering. There were also a few cultural dancers who performed in the middle of dinner. I have no complaints about the food, although the salad my dish came with was a tad bit spicy for my taste buds. It’s not any affront to their cooking, it’s just my personal preference. C finished his chicken and did admit he’d eat it again even though he would take a taxi if we ever plan on coming back here. Haha! I did feel like I would probably love it more if we went for lunch because I saw photos of it on Instagram and the place looked even better in daylight.

The restaurant had a shuttle to bring guests back to the main road which was great because we weren’t planning on walking back the way we came. We were discussing if we could ask them to call a taxi for us, but the shuttle was good too and brought us to the main road and near the National Stadium BTS. We knew we could walk back from there and found out how this longer path would have made our lives easier and we could have avoided the unnecessary scare. No thanks to you, Google Maps. Haha!

We were still full when we got back, and I went it for another soak in the tub while watching vlogs on Youtube, while C went to walk around the area some more. He takes longer to fall asleep than I do, and whenever we travel, he tends to roam around and check things out while I relax and get ready for bed. This is also how he knows how to navigate the area by the next day, and how we find out where the convenience stores are. 😛

Do you have any travel stories where something seemed sketchy but you pushed through with it? Or travel experiences which triggered a ‘heated discussion’ between you and your partner? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Bangkok 2017 || Hua Chang Heritage Hotel

One of my favorite things about trip planning is researching for reasonable accommodations. Reasonable is definitely relative, but for us, what was reasonable was that it was in a great location and the price was within the budget that we set. I grew up with parents who like to travel on a budget. We’ve been to a lot of places as a family, and I am used to cramped hotel rooms and packed itineraries. However, when C and I started earning our own money and found our own groove and travel style, we realized we’re really (and sometimes, unfortunately) not budget travelers. We’re more mid-ranged, relaxed travelers who enjoy the touristy things, getting lost in alleyways and eventually coming across some hole in the wall finds. Unlike Japan where we stayed in an Airbnb because hotels are crazy expensive, Bangkok had a plethora of hotels that tick off everything in our checklist well within our budget. Me being.. well, me, had other bonus filters of having less than a hundred rooms (the more intimate the better) and for the hotel room to not look like a generic hotel room. This is where we found ourselves booking a Deluxe Room at Hua Chang Heritage Hotel.

The location was quite perfect for us since it was near stations at both lines of the Skytrain. It wouldn’t take you 10 minutes to get to both stations (Ratchathewi Station for the Sukhumvit Line and National Stadium Station for the Silom Line). With the traffic situation, it’s efficient to utilize the Skytrain in exploring Bangkok. Siam Station (or the Central Station where both lines intersect) is also near enough to be considered walking distance. It’s also near a lot of shopping malls. I kid you not. They have everything for every price range. MBK Center is a more spacious version of 168 Shopping Mall where you can haggle with the prices, especially when you buy in bulk. Siam Discovery is where Madame Tussaud’s can be found, and the format is reminiscent of a high-end department store (Issey Miyake, COACH, Apostrophe’s for really nice home stuff). Siam Center (Food Republic, LUSH, Cath Kidston, Pull & Bear, a LOT of local designers) and Siam Paragon (cinema house, luxury car showrooms, Books Kinokuniya, PRADA, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and a lot of designer brands) are also filled with what I would consider high-end shops, although there are some shops that have mid-range prices. I thought of it as similar to the SM Makati-Glorietta-Greenbelt shopping combo in Manila, except that the interior has that modern hipster vibe. These malls are just beautiful. We didn’t get to cross to Siam Square, but I saw they had a huge ZARA.

The hotel entrance is located in an alleyway that was surprisingly pretty quiet given that you made the turn from the busy Phaya Thai Road. The concierge never even let us handle our luggage from the moment the taxi’s trunk was opened. It was a smooth check-in where they checked our passports and asked us to sign the usual hotel forms. I love high ceilings and not only did they have that, they also had floor to ceiling glass windows so you can utilize all the quirky furniture while still looking at the pool outside.

The lady who checked us in accompanied us to our room at the third floor, so she could tell us how to operate the room. Why she needs to do that will become clear later. One of the concierges followed to bring our luggage. Honestly, the staff at this hotel gave A+ service. I wish I could live here. Even if the cabinet would be small for realistic living arrangements for C and me, but perfect for when you’re traveling. This wardrobe lights up when you open it (just like a fridge lol) and comes with bathrobes, slippers, hair dryer, and even a shoehorn!

I don’t own a tub at home, but I looked forward to soaking in a hot bath after a long day of exploring. This tub filled up quickly and even had a non-slip mat you can place in it. I placed it

We had two complimentary bottles of water every day, which we refrigerate and bring with us while we roam around. They had the usual bathroom amenities of toothbrush and toothpaste, razor, nail file, cotton buds, cotton pads, sanitary bags, sewing kit, and, shower caps. Can I just say that the soap and all the other bottled products smell so good, too! I forgot to take a photo but there’s a light switch at the right side of the mirror where you can switch on and off the lights in the bathroom area. You can also play music with it if you want to! (We never figured out how to play the music though)

We also had a separate shower from the tub, even if the tub had a shower head as well. That door swings 180 degrees so you can leave it open, close it when you’re using the toilet or when you’re using the shower.

I am in love with automated toilets. Who needs bidets when you can just press a button that will automatically clean your vagina/butt (water pressure can be adjusted) and will even dry it too. The toilet lid is also heated which meant that pooping has never felt this good. By the end of our trip, it was the room feature that I wanted to take home the most.

There were rooms that had separate beds so I included in the additional notes section upon booking that we needed a room with just one bed because we were staying as a couple. When we got to the room, our huge comfy bed had rose petals and this swan towel arrangement (that we refused to use and just placed on a table because it’s too pretty lol). However, the next day, cleaning service took it away. Special shout out to the cleaning service who kept our room spotless every single day. They even positioned our slippers nicely where we leave our shoes so we don’t have to walk on the cold marble floor. We left tips for the cleaning service, and in turn, they left us snacks. I don’t think this hotel and its staff can get any better. 

(those are reading lights by the way)

Although our view was not the best (I can’t even tell what our view is) and left that curtain closed most of the time, I loved the natural light that came in from the floor to ceiling windows. I wish I can share with everyone how my houses look on The Sims 4 because I can assure you that floor to ceiling windows are my thing. Haha! I digress. We had this white accent chair, a full-length mirror, a lamp, and a coffee table with complimentary rambutan.

On the left side of our bed was the tablet to control the temperature, the lights, and overhead fan. You can also set up an alarm, as well as signal to the staff if you want your room to be made up or you do not want to be disturbed. This hotel has given Chicken Boy ideas on how to automate our house while all I can do is bring my palm to my face. Not pictured is the telephone where there’s a special ‘Butler’ button if you need your own butler. I don’t know what I’d do with a butler, but the thought that there’s an option to have one was weirdly nice to have. Haha!

We also had a TV where there are only two English channels. You can turn up the volume of the television since rooms are soundproofed. The TV stand also acts as a storage to the fridge (filled with stuff you’ll be charged with), the safe, the water heater, complimentary tea and coffee, and other snacks (that’s not free). There are two 7 elevens that are nearby if you want to buy your own stash of snacks. Ask the concierge and they will give you directions. (They even bought some of the things we were looking for themselves, it’s crazy!)

The bathroom has sliding walls so you can take a dip in the tub and still be able to watch movies. However, if you need more privacy, you can slide the walls to enclose the bathroom.

Beyond the hotel lobby is the pool. There was a surprising number of people who got their photoshoots done within the hotel while we were there, and we couldn’t blame them. The gazebo, with the flamingo statues in the background, was a favorite spot.

The Ivory Lounge is where they hold functions and high tea. We wanted to try out their high tea (600 baht for 2 people) but never got to since it was closed for a private function the whole time we were there.

We got a complimentary punch from the pool bar. There was an ongoing promotion for 1+1 beer while we were there, too.

Our room came with free buffet breakfast from 6 AM-10 AM at Miss Siam Restaurant. It’s also open the whole day until 10 PM, and where room service food comes from. The first thing that will greet you in the morning is their egg station. You can order your eggs a couple different ways, and if you fail to tell the chef, a member of the staff will approach you at your table to ask for your egg order.

This is the congee/soup section. It’s basically an assemble your own soup/congee, and you just have to specify if you want either the broth or the congee. There were a lot of items you can place in it, too!

The ‘appetizer’ section had soups, one is a cream-based soup and the other is miso. They had a few types of cheese, yogurts in petite bottles submerged in ice, and, a salad bar with different vinaigrettes and dressings. What I loved to do with the yogurt is fill the bottle with the chopped mixed fruits from the salad bar. It was so refreshing!

I didn’t grab anything from the bread section because I’m not the biggest fan of bread for breakfast (unless it’s the only option of course). But you can smother your bread any way you want to with butter and their choices of jam.

This was what I believe is the ‘carbs’ section. They had Fried Rice with Egg, Noodle with Egg, Chicken Green Curry, Sausage, Bacon, and Beans. The last container at the far right changes daily although they do have a rotation of potato wedges, chicken, beef, and mashed potatoes.

Of course, they had desserts and fruits within the same table. I tried some of the desserts and I found some of the texture similar to kakanin. I went crazy with the fruits, especially the heart shaped slices of watermelon.

They didn’t have a wide variety of cereals but that wasn’t a big deal for me because the ones they do have I like (Chicken Boy is fond of Koko Krunch). You have a choice of drinking milk, orange juice, pineapple juice, or cold lemon water. In another table, there’s also the pot for tea and coffee, but they do ask you once you’re seated which one you prefer and pour it for you.

Overall, our stay at Hua Chang Heritage Hotel was great. The hotel design, the location, the huge room and the comfy bed, and the staff made our stay memorable. If we were to go back to Bangkok again, we would definitely come back and stay here again.

Bangkok 2017 || Our first night in Thailand was spent searching for Pad Thai

I’ve already written about how we met, but I rarely ever write about our more recent dates together unless we were traveling. So let me tell you about our first ‘date’. At the time, it wasn’t even considered a romantic date. We made a couple of bets against each other which resulted in me getting a free movie out of him the next time we ‘hang out’. He would never admit it out loud, but I can make another bet right now that that was the outcome he was hoping for. *wink*

It was a Saturday. We agreed to meet up at McDonalds Vito Cruz since I had morning classes that term. We hanged out at mostly the same places, but with different people, and it was the first time we made plans to actually go out together. He wore a white statement shirt, and he had an empty pack of fries and chicken nuggets on his tray when I arrived. Our first cab ride alone was filled with awkward silence and stilted conversations. It did get better once we picked out a movie (Madagascar 2, if you’re interested). We had more than an hour to burn while waiting for the movie to start so I asked if he wanted to have lunch since I haven’t eaten yet, and dragged him to Bacolod Chicken Inasal where I proceeded to demolish a quarter of chicken and extra rice. I haven’t eaten anything that day yet (and it wasn’t a date). You can probably imagine hearts coming out of his eyes because his moniker is not ‘Chicken Boy’ for nothing. He already secured a couple more dates, again in the guise of a ‘hang out’, halfway through the first one, before we even got dessert and watched the fireworks. He denies this and would insist that he wasn’t smitten immediately with me, but my version of this story is the truth. Haha!

Late last year, a friend and I were talking about traveling to Indochina when she mentioned that there was an ongoing seat sale on the Thai Airways website. Whenever we start planning trips, I get C to nail down the dates first on his calendar (he’s an entrepreneur) and I give him a list of interesting things to do in that area. Once we lock down the dates and I have a list of the things he wants to do, I dive right into planning and booking everything. I basically just send him options and which one I’m leaning towards before we make the decision together. While to some, this may seem like I’m taking the brunt of work, this is what the dynamic of our relationship is like. I enjoy doing the research and coordinating everything (which is eerily similar to my line of work but definitely not as enjoyable) and he likes to go along with whatever crazy idea I come up with next. But I digress. Since I already had the dates of when C could take a leave from work, I went to the website, found the prices reasonable, and booked it. I wish I can plan trips to go on every day. Scratch that. I already do and I already have rough drafts for the places I intend to visit in the future. (I just need the money to make it happen)

Our flight was a little past noon which was unfortunate because Manila traffic is horrible. We had to leave home before 8 in the morning for the three-hour drive to the airport. I rarely experience turbulence in flights (I often opt for red eye flights and could that be the reason why?), and we both got a teeny tiny amount of anxiety with the number of times the seatbelt sign was turned on because of it. Meal service had to be delayed a couple of times too since the flight staff needed to strap themselves in for safety. I am still not the biggest fan of airplane food – but I’ve only flown economy. Business and first class food may be amazing but I don’t think I’ll find out very soon. The meal I had had a touch of chili which should have prepared me for the rest of our meals in Thailand. I even learned how to use the Thai phrase ‘mai phet‘ to not have my tongue burn all the time!

Our flight landed late that afternoon and we breezed through immigration and luggage claim. We got some currency changed at the airport before boarding a taxi to the hotel. The rates were the worst I’ve seen in Bangkok. If you did not arrange any airport pick up, just exchange enough money to get to your hotel or wherever you needed to go. We’ve noticed that there are a lot of money changers and you just have to choose among your options. What we did was walk around and check the money changers within the vicinity of our hotel and picked the one that looked the least sketchy with the best rates (buying rate for PHP at the airport was .47 and money changer near our hotel was .68). Bangkok traffic during rush hour was slightly better than Manila’s wherein it was moving and you can’t hear drivers unnecessarily honking their horns. C & I were initially contemplating on renting a car so we could drive around but we luckily did not push through with it. Driving in Bangkok needs getting used to, not only because they drive on the left side of the road, but because in some streets, they drive on both sides of a two-way street. Like I said, confusing as fuck.

We got to our hotel at dusk and had to freshen up before we went out to find dinner. It was sweltering in Bangkok, and the weather was mostly the same as Manila. The only difference was that walking outside, it didn’t feel as though dust was being attached to you while you’re sticky with sweat. It must have something to do with all the plants they’ve installed everywhere. C even described the city as ‘a greener version of Manila’. Before we left the hotel, we had mango smoothies and a snack by the pool bar.

Similar to Manila, taxi drivers will try to give you an inflated fixed rate especially because you’re a foreigner. Ask for the trip to be metered and that you will pay the toll for the highway (when you’re from or heading to the airport). In our case, whenever we were going to take a taxi from the hotel, we ask the concierge if they could call us a metered taxi. This was what we did when we headed to Khao San Road where we were charged 100 baht by the meter versus the 200 baht ‘fixed’ rate we got from the taxi we hailed to go back later that night.

C is a picky eater so it would probably surprise anyone who has known him way before I did that our first order of business was to find Pad Thai. Chicken Boy never ate anything off the Thai cuisine until we had brunch at Dusit Thani Manila. He had his first Pad Thai there and was finally convinced to give Thai food a chance. He now has favorites! There was a variation of Pad Thai stalls along Khao San Road (most were 35 baht), and we picked one that had seats (slightly more expensive at 45-55 baht). You can actually watch them make your plate of Pad Thai. We’ve been enveloped in the aroma for so long that when the paper plate hit our table, we forgot to take photos and simply started eating. It would be safe to assume for anyone reading this that Chicken Boy ate Pad Thai once a day for the rest of this trip. He has gone a looong way from the guy who wanted to date me because I brought him to a chicken place on our first date. 🙂

And that’s it for our first day in Bangkok! This is exactly the reason why I prefer red-eye flights, or any flight that gets you to your destination late at night or crazy early in the morning. I feel like a lot of your daylight gets wasted by traveling. 😦

Have you been to Bangkok? And have you tried driving there? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂