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 || 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 || 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.

Subic 2017 || My best friend’s birthday!

I was supposed to post this once I was done with 15 Days of Writing True, but I unexpectedly hit a road block from writing every day. It usually takes me more than one sitting to work on something I’d be proud of because my process is usually – write while I’m emotional/whenever the ideas are there and just hack out all the content I can squeeze out of me (the best example of what I can come up with whenever I use my emotions as a writing guide). Then I take a couple of days to reread and polish whatever it is I made because I tend to forget whatever I’ve written down while I’m in the zone. Two weeks of churning out material daily have gotten me so frustrated and I made the decision to overcome the last five writing assignments on my own timing. Unfortunately, I cannot always be emotional. It’s a double-edged sword as I am never lukewarm when I emotions come into play. I am either detached or I dive into head first. It’s also how I curate my relationship to everything – I try to only surround myself with people I can look up to and people whose feelings are mutual with mine. You can only imagine what it means when I call someone my best friend. My non-athletic self will literally try outdoor activities for them. Which is exactly what I did when Gin wanted to celebrate her birthday by heading to Inflatable Island.

Since my work week ends on a Friday morning, I just needed to finish up before we made the long drive to Subic. The roads were surprisingly not clogged, and we arrived in Mansion Garden Hotel in Subic Bay Freeport Zone two hours early. The hotel’s location was central and it was easy to walk everywhere (if you’re a big fan of the sun, that is). I’ve never spent time in Subic before, and would usually end up on less crowded parts of Zambales, so this was a new experience for me. Our first order of business was to eat brunch in the hotel’s quaint cafe, Garden Cafe.

We didn’t have high expectations for our meal. It was affordable (we spent less than Php 300 each) and the pictures on the menu weren’t appetizing. However, the serving was huge. It doesn’t look like it but we really took a while to finish everything and we’re fast eaters. There wasn’t a need for a dip for my pork chop, and chicken boy sang praised for the gravy that came with his chicken. We were so excited for the hotel’s free breakfast, thinking the cafe would be the one catering it (they were not) and was disappointed when we had lackluster food the next day.

The hotel interior adhered to its’ garden theme and incorporated as much wood and plants into their decor. I personally like this color palette as it is very calming. I’m a fan of unconventional lighting and want their ceiling lights for my own home.

I believe that Subic has a building regulation where structures can only have a specific number of stories which is why the hotel has expanded by adding another building connected by a bridge. Nonetheless, the nature theme carried over to the newer building.

We had the Standard Deluxe Room which was the smallest room available. It wasn’t too cramped, but the bed was not for made for tall people. At all. I’m of average height and if I wiggle a little, my feet will enter that damned territory of ‘within-reach-when-a-monster-under-the-bed-decides-to-say-hello’.

When I stay in hotels, I rarely bring my own soap and shampoo and work on the assumption that the hotel will already have it. They did have a few available but we had to ask housekeeping for more shampoo because of ~*my hair*~.

All their rooms had a veranda and ours faced another hotel annex in the making. Even with the ongoing construction, it was surprisingly quiet inside our room until you open the veranda door. It was not bad at all.

Once the birthday girl arrived, we headed to Inflatable Island for some body pain. Going in to write about this, I imagined myself writing about how unprepared I was for this activity in a sarcastic manner, only to sit here and just write it as it is. I am so not fit.

We only bought two-hour passes for 4-6 in the afternoon which was not enough to go through all the obstacles, but enough for me to go home bruised and scratched up. We deposited our things in paid lockers which were brilliant for whoever owned this because everyone is bound to place their things in lockers. 😛

I think aside from the obstacles, the hardest part is actually going back on the inflatables via the styrofoam board. People tend to sit on it and it takes time for everyone to get up.

Once we were done, we relaxed on one of the beach bags while sipping fruit shakes. The downside is that the food stalls close early at almost the same time the inflatable island stops operation (6 PM). Therefore, if you end up hanging out here too late and have the need to ingest something, you need to bring your own.

There was a queue for the shower so we utilized the outdoor shower, and laid out a waterproof mat on the car so we can just bathe in our own hotel rooms. Although instead of showering, we went and had drinks while taking a dip in the pool. Once we all felt hungry, we walked to 1925 Gastropub. As usual, we had low expectations for the food but EVERYTHING WE ORDERED TASTED GREAT. I cannot remember what we ordered but we were super happy with everything. Both our boyfriends had beers while Gin and I had an entire bottle of champagne to ourselves. We did some math and came to the conclusion that if we drink at least three glasses each, it would cost about the same if we get the bottle. We’re far from being alcoholics, but we have an affinity for the bubbly. That we did not finish and had to take back to the hotel. 🙂

Overall, bruises aside, it was such a fun getaway. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been part of Gin’s life for the past decade. We’ve gone through so much from being a couple of naive teenagers from the province. We’ve weathered fights, bad haircuts, a long distance friendship, really weird fashion choices, family problems, weight gain and weight loss (and we’re currently in weight gain again), messy breakups, health scares, spilling alcohol on bedsheets, and, times when our kilays were so not on fleek. She’s not just my best friend because she’s family. For her birthday, and the remaining 364 days of the year, all I wish for her is a life filled with so much love and happiness. ❤

Mansion Garden HotelDewey Avenue corner Bonifacio Street, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Zambales, Philippines

Suitecation at Infinity Tower Suites + Eating our way through Makati

I already had a draft of this post just sitting there, waiting for me to fill the gaps with words, for almost a week now. However, before I even got to doing so, the stats on my old posts kicked up for some reason. I had been putting off updating them because there were a lot, but since I was getting comments on some of them, I knew I had to go back and do a clean up of sorts. I went and deleted most of them that were basically just a college student’s rants, and my posts went down from 700+ to 275. I also worked on updating the posts with missing photos (such as the ones from a 2013 travel series/my first foray with a Schengen visa) and even got to upload a video of old clips with it. I’m now working on another old travel series where C and I went to Singapore for my birthday. Thank goodness I have the long weekend to work on this. Now all I need is another staycation, and this weekend would really take a turn for the better.

Last weekend, we did just that. I bought a Dealgrocer voucher for a room in Makati and booked one for me and the sibs. Since all of us had different schedules, last weekend was the only one we could free up without it being a holiday/long weekend, and totally avoid the crowds. When we got to Makati, the first thing we did was go to Glorietta for a little shopping. C was busy with weekend work, but we had lunch together at Kanto Freestyle Breakfast in Makati. Every time I didn’t work from home and worked the night shift in the office, we make it a point to have breakfast. We often end up here or Crepe Amelie, so we decided to have the sibs try it out too. Both siblings had Crispy Corned Beef, C had his usual New Zealand Beef Tapa, and I ordered my favorite Tuyo Flakes with Kesong Puti. We all had Scramble after our meal, to try and beat the heat.

We stayed in a 2-bedroom suite at Infinity Tower Suites. It was huge and looked more like a condo than a hotel room. The master bedroom had its own bathroom and too many cabinets for a hotel room. Honestly, if I had a condo, this would be how big I want it to be (but it would be too expensive and I’d just buy a house instead lol), and the location is great as well. It’s located in the heart of Makati’s business district, and would be perfect for anyone who works within the area. You can just bike or walk to your workplace! That’s what I would do if I lived there.

The master bathroom had a tub, although it was a little faulty since it drains slowly even while it’s plugged. The bathroom does look dated though.

The common bathroom looked even more dated than the master bathroom. It did function properly, although the bidet in this toilet had a super strong pressure.

The other bedroom had two single beds where the siblings slept in. All of the rooms had the AC temperature control panel, but the entire flat was really cold no matter how much we fiddled with it.

The kitchen was equipped with a fridge, an old electric stove top oven (you can tell it has been used countlessly in the past), a microwave, and complete utensils. We were weirded out by the door here and found out that it leads to a laundry room, and the maid’s quarters.

The living area had a huge 2-piece lounge set and a small dining table.

I bought a bath bomb from LUSH to use on the tub! I never knew how amazing they were but even if I had a tub at home, it would be too expensive to use it.

After spending the afternoon filling ourselves with junk food and binge watching movies, we headed to BGC with C to have dinner in Genki Sushi. It’s unfortunate that Japanese cuisine in this country is a bit on the pricey side. I wish I can crave for sushi and sashimi anytime I want and not worry about my wallet. What’s special about Genki Sushi is the automated ordering system and the food train that delivers your food.

When we got back, we spent the night hanging out again with drinks and ice cream! Even though we all live in the same house, we don’t really see each other often because of our conflicting schedules. I work the night shift, my brother attends the university, and my sister still works on her academic prowess even during summer vacation. *cough nerd cough*

The next morning, I was lying in bed thinking what our breakfast would be at The Wholesome Table. I knew it was an organic restaurant so I decided on eating an ice cream cookie sandwich before we headed down there. I know, I know. For someone who is trying to eat healthily, I eat so much junk.

Our stay in Infinity Tower Suites comes with free set breakfast in The Wholesome Table. It’s an organic restaurant and the interior is heavily inspired by nature. It uses wood, fake plants, and warm lighting. There were floor to ceiling windows to let natural light in, and tons of flora outside these windows to complete the one with nature feel of the restaurant. The decor is dreamy and similar to how I would decorate the breakfast nook on my future forever home. As hotel guests, you get a one-page menu to order your set breakfast from. The selection was understandably limited compared to their actual menu.

C and I both had the Meat & Eggs Plate. Our meat was our choice of Nitrate-free Bacon, scrambled free-range eggs, and breakfast salad. To be completely honest, everything tasted okay although all I could think of while eating was that it could use a little more salt. But that’s just me and my taste buds. My brother had their Gluten-Free Lemon Yogurt Pancake, while my sister had their Gluten-Free Waffles. Both came with coconut vanilla butter and raw honey. I’ve had quite a lot of vegetarian, vegan, and, organic meals in my life (I am fascinated by them), but this was, unfortunately, my least favorite.

He was not happy with me when I told him where we were having breakfast

We wanted to have dessert after our meal and went out in search for something sweet. I initially thought that the Salcedo Weekend Market was open on Sundays and it was a short walk from where we were, so we headed there. But I was mistaken, and our search ended with the suggestion of going to another of C and I’s favorite breakfast places. Crepe Amelie has been an establishment that we frequent for years now, and I can order from them without looking at their menu. Their floor to ceiling windows are similar to the ones on The Wholesome Table, and this is actually where we conceptualized that we wanted a breakfast nook with great windows to let the morning sun in.

Our Pink Lemonade came into this cute honeycomb glasses. Can I just say that I really want to own a set?

My brother was still not full from the meal so he had the BLT sandwich. I think I may have already mentioned before that my sister and C have the SAME preferences in food, and she ordered C’s favorite, Banana PB & Nutella Crepe. C and I shared his because we were both already a bit full and didn’t want to overwhelm ourselves with food.

After our lengthy breakfast, we headed back to our room to pack our things up, while C headed back to his office to work on a Sunday. Boo! The reception called 30 minutes before checkout to remind us of their checkout time, but I decided to stay inside the room on the dot. Haha! After getting our incidental deposit back, we headed to SM Makati for some more window shopping and then to MINISO for some actual shopping before heading home. I ended up with three of MINISO’s Php 99 eyeshadow trios, cotton pads, and phone cases. $2 shopping is so much fun!

Overall, our stay in Infinity Tower Suites was a success as our main goal was to relax. I guess it is value for money if you’re just looking for a serviced residence somewhere you can crash and not clean up afterward. The location in Salcedo Village is ideal if you plan on exploring both upscale side of Makati, and the booming foodie area of Poblacion. However, I am betting that for the price we paid for it in DealGrocer (Php 6900+), you can get a nicer room via Airbnb (this is an affiliate link where I can earn travel credits when you sign up via that link and book a place).

The long weekend is almost over! How did you spend it? 🙂

Weekly Vlog #2 || Tagaytay Weekend

Hello! I’ve been a bit MIA – the past few weeks have been quite busy. It was hectic enough that C and I decided to book a weekend off the grid so we could relax. And where else do we go but in Tagaytay? (I was giggling when I wrote this because I literally live less than an hour away from Tagaytay haha) I’m a big fan of staycations and I always have an eye out for interesting listings or hotel rooms (I’m pretty sure everyone who reads this blog has noticed by now). I have so many Airbnb listings saved up, just waiting for the right moment to be booked! Moongarden Casita has always been an eye-catching one, and we decided to finally book it. You can sign up via this link and get Php 950 off from your first booking! 🙂

The pictures of the casita online looked exactly as it was in person. The room itself is quaint and cozy. The slightly unfinished theme of the decor worked very well. C and I were a little hesitant if we c

We didn’t really see any other guests that weren’t couples.

The bathroom had enough towels, soap and shampoo bottle from Ilog Maria, and even insect repellant lotion. C kept getting bit by insects but I wasn’t.

It wasn’t called a garden for no reason. No wonder Tony (one of the hosts) was thin! He gets to walk up and down a number of stairs every day.

We’re almost always in Tagaytay every weekend and we already have our favorites. But for this weekend, we wanted to try restaurants that we haven’t tried before. I, of course, wanted to try the ones that are located in the side streets to which C replied “hipster!”. We ended up at Lime & Basil Thai Restaurant. It’s probably one of the best decisions ever.

This is your usual fish crackers – it’s the sauce that was the star of the show!

I honestly did not expect the fresh spring rolls to be this big and this many, but here it is. The prices at Lime & Basil are pretty average in comparison to the usual Thai restaurants in Makati, but the serving is bigger. The establishment looks like it’s part of the house that’s in the same compound.

We also had Bagoong Rice, Chicken Sate, and Tofu Curry. One of our travel goals is to someday get our asses to Thailand to stuff ourselves silly with Thai cuisine. #ThisIsWhyWeFat

Banana Fritters with Langka icecream! (C thought it was cheese ice cream though)

We went back to the casita to just chill and relax. (we were also too full to move haha)

We went out for dinner and was planning to check out the mall when we passed by the Red Bus Mobile Diner. (On a personal note: I believe the abundance of malls and condominiums in Tagaytay have overall abolished the relaxed vibe)

To be completely honest, we’ve had better burgers.

Our stay is inclusive of free breakfast. Tony asked us for what we wanted when we checked in and informed us that they start serving breakfast at 7 AM.

C had Adobo Flakes while I had Longganisa. I liked his breakfast better, which is a surprise in itself because I usually have tastier orders haha!

We had lunch reservations for Marcia Adams after checking out. I’ve always wanted to try it because it’s basically insta-famous. I mean, come on, look at that big ass window transporting you all the way to Italy.

The restaurant serves three-course Mediterranean cuisines. C and I both had hummus for starters. While good, the hummus from Kismet Cafe still tops the list of all the hummus I’ve tried.

I had Grilled Pork while C had Chicken Kebabs. Both our orders tasted great, and once again, C got the better tasting one. The kebab was so flavorful – I wanted to lick my spoon clean.

For dessert, C had banana split where they serve the banana slightly grilled(?) and still within its peel.

I had the strawberry yoghurt ice cream. I’m drooling while writing this!

It was overall, a rejuvenating weekend. I think the time we spent out of the hustle bustle of our weekdays and into the relative calm of [not so] chilly Tagaytay did us well. Now I hope this renewed energy lasts me the entire work week!

Taiwan 2016 || DG Hotel (Daodaocheng Garden Hotel)

I don’t think I will ever be the type to be a backpacking traveler. The fact that I have back pains resulting from poor posture and my sudden weight gain (I’m unfortunately an emotional eater and the past year have been a rollercoaster of emotions), I am physically limited to carrying light luggage in order to not strain my upper body. I also rarely manage to get so much bang for my buck, because I make mini splurges here and there, which includes blowing a good portion of my budget on accommodations alone. I really admire those who can do it long term and I have high hopes that there will come a time where I can travel with them and learn their ways. But for now, let me tour you around this shabby chic boutique hotel I stayed in for my long weekend in Taipei.

C always teases me that I have the affinity to book “hipster” rooms. Even when I’m booking via Airbnb, the rooms I book look like it came out of a Pinterest board. When I chanced upon DG Hotel, I already knew it would be the hotel I’m going to stay in. It was fairly new as it just opened a few months ago (June 2016), and didn’t have any English reviews yet. I knew it was risky to book a room that hasn’t been reviewed extensively yet, but I did the same when I booked Cambana d’Angkor Suites and I was not disappointed. So I went ahead and booked it (primarily because even their website is screaming my name haha).

The hotel is located on Dihua Street. Its location is a treat in itself because the old architecture has been preserved by the government. The area is generally quiet, which is something I like, and does not resemble the busy Taipei I often watch on television. It’s a great exposure to how the locals live because I rarely saw tourists while I mulled around the area. However, the downside to this are the limited food choices. The hotel has a cafe which serves Western cuisine, a wine & tea place beside it (Grand mom’s tea house is only open during lunch (11:30-13:30?) and dinner (19:30-21:30?) and I think a restaurant that is only open for lunch (but closed on Mondays) a block away. Yansan Night Market is a 20-minute walk away but it is only open at night. It is quite accessible since one of Daqiaotou Station’s (Line 4, orange line. Also, one station away to get on the Tamsui line/Line 2 where Taipei Main Station is) entrances is a 10-15 minute walk. A bit of a long walk (with stairs) before you get to board the train though (just a note for people with knee problems). For convenience, you can simply take a cab and the staff will call one for you. Keep one of their calling cards with you for when you take a cab ride back. Fare to and from the airport should not cost you more than 1200 TWD.

Their check-in time is at 3:00 PM. I arrived before 11 AM but I was told of their check in time, so I had to avail of their free wifi to do a quick check of my itinerary before I headed out. It kinda sucked that I wasn’t able to freshen up first, but they did let me avail of a late check out (past 4 PM) on my last day – free of charge.

The staff is very helpful. Although there were times that the language barrier is a challenge, they will drag someone over who is great in English to do the translating. Or literally show you their phones with the directions in English. Someone is available at the reception at all hours (I would know, I got back past midnight and still got to chat with Audrey and this girl with glasses whose name I forgot, sorry!). The hotel door would be closed if you arrived a bit late (maybe around 9 PM?), but you can use your key card or ring the door bell. They do have maps of the area available but it’s in Mandarin. I only took one copy to take note of where the station is, as well as the convenience stores. It would be so much better if they have English ones for foreigners like me. 🙂

The thing that really sold me that I really loved about this hotel is it looked so much better in person than in their photos. Even the smallest details are well thought out. Look at the details of the hotel lobby!

It was not named a garden hotel for it to not be filled with flowers. They have a mix of real and fake plants all over, and there were times I couldn’t tell the difference. I’m not gonna lie, I may have occasionally touched the decor to find out if it was real or plastic. Haha!

Ask anyone who knows me really well and they would tell you that this is probably how my dream house would look like once it’s built. Of course, if I put in C in the picture, I’d have someone veto some of my ideas. Haha!

Even the elevator doors are painted on. One question: CAN I LIVE HERE?

This is the hallway leading to my room on the third floor.

I booked the Joy Double Room and got this quaint space. I had a small sitting space, hangers for my clothes, and unfortunately, no English instructions on how to operate the AC. Haha! That may seem to sound so random, but I have the tendency to adjust the temperature to freezing. I literally had to go on Google to search ‘how to adjust Mandarin AC’. And yes, I realize now while writing this that I should have just called the reception for help *facepalm* but a very short instruction manual would have been great.

They do have some guidelines in the bedside table, but again, it’s all in Mandarin. There’s also a big ass TV in front of your bed, and a box of tissue if maybe you managed to go on a channel where they are showing some Hallmark movie.. But it’s not gonna happen so do not even bother turning on the television unless you understand Mandarin.

The bed is sooo comfortable. The photo below is even taken after I jumped on it – you know, for science. I slept like a baby all three nights of my stay, and I spent the night of my birthday in this bed, eating cheesecake. There’s also an abundance of pillows, because obviously, this room is for two people. Even if I had someone with me, it is guaranteed that we will not be left wanting for pillows. They also have blackout curtains which are great if you plan to nurse hangovers while you’re in Taiwan. Or if you just got out of the shower and do not want to be seen by the neighbors in the apartment building across the street.

Below the sink is the extra towels you can use. The bathroom is probably my favorite part of this room which is weird because I did not even have a tub. But they do have a rain shower head and a detachable shower head. The knobs are pretty easy to figure out. You can also lather as much liquid soap and shampoo on yourself, but for folks with crazy damaged hair like me, bring you own hair products. 😛 You can also adjust the vent in the bathroom. I video called C just to tell him I can click a few buttons and literally dry clothes in the bathroom (thanks to the sun icon in the button, I didn’t need to heed Google for help). But the best part is *drumroll*, the toilet. Aside from the fact that there’s a freaking painting above the toilet, you don’t even have to hold a bidet in your hand! They have a switch with two options: wash your ass or wash your lady parts. Shitting will never be the same again. (Do you guys realize how mind blown I was in Japan and Taiwan? lol)

You can use their safe, water kettle, mini ref, and hair dryer. They also provided a basket of coffee, bottled water, and your usual toiletriesThey replenish this basket every day too. I would know because I hoard hotel toiletries for when I go on vacation where I hoard more toiletries (it’s a vicious cycle). However, what they don’t do is clean the room every day unless you put on a sign at your door. While at home or renting Airbnb rooms I tidy up my things, I don’t really do the same in hotels because hotels got me spoiled, yo. I’m used to getting back to my room at the end of the day with the trash cans empty again and the bed tidied up. My most memorable on was with the staff at Wakeup Copenhagen who were insanely tidy – my already folded up clothes that were stacked in a table was folded up again, albeit more neatly (like how they fold clothes in stores!!). So if you’re like me, do yourself a favor and get that ‘Please clean my room, thank you very much’ sign from your bedside table before you go wander off for the day (they would not tidy your bed, though, but that’s okay).

This is the hallway that leads to the cafe. The hotel has a cafe that opens after breakfast and I’m not sure what time it closes.

But first, let’s discuss, just how adorable this hotel is. I wanted to spend every breakfast just posting photos of it on Instagram (@teeshue, if you’re interested in mine).

I think you can buy those pillows from them? You can ask the staff to confirm. 🙂

They did not miss any details. Whoever did the interior design of this place, all the highest of fives to you. And are you interested in being my friend, and maybe do my future home? (I’m not even kidding at this point)

On Sunday morning, there was this set up where you can toast your own bread and get your own juice/milk/coffee/water/jam/utensils. That was the only time I even had anyone else eat breakfast the same time that I was having my breakfast.

This may seem like it’s open, but there’s a glass wall with that fence. The roof is also made of glass but it’s not unbearably hot inside this air-conditioned area.

Mismatched and floral chairs tied in the look. If there was something disappointing with my stay, it’s the fact that I can’t take all these furniture home with me.

They have huge breakfast servings. It’s big enough that I often eat my lunch late because even with all the walking, I’d still be full. So if you want to go on a food trip in Taiwan, eating breakfast here may not be the best idea. 😛

Overall, I had a great stay over at DG Hotel. Helpful staff, fantastic interiors, and nice rooms. If I’m being honest, it definitely is an expensive choice if you’re planning to just sleep in it (there is another themed hotel I was looking at that was cheaper). However, it’s perfect for a relaxed stay and for special occasions. Have you seen their Exquisite Double Room? If I was honeymoon-ing, I would probably book that! 🙂

DG HotelNo. 334, Section 1, Dihua Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103

P.S. Here is Day 1’s vlog! 🙂