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Hotel Review: Taj Guesthouse Boracay

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front-deskThe Taj’s front desk

Looking for a nice place to stay in Boracay that’s afforable, near the beach, and near enough to station 2’s D’mall to be convenient but still quiet enough for you to get some sleep at night?  Then I suggest you stay at the Taj’s guesthouse  The Taj has been recently renovated, and in my mind is probably one of the best places to stay on a budget.  The design and interiors have a  very nice neo-asian style (with the exception of the curiously placed cross stitch frames), you get a cable tv, clean room, and your towels and bedsheets are replaced everyday!  Also, some hotels charge extra because they’re beachfront, but really I don’t think an extra 2 grand for an ocean view is justified.  Take a few steps outside the Taj and you’re on the powdery white beach of boracay.  Need soap, snacks, liquor?  Shenna’s restaurant and convenience store is right next door.  Really, the Taj is a steal, especially with standard rooms going for as low as 1500 during the peak season.  Trust me when I say I scoured the internets for the best value for proposition deal for a hotel in Boracay that has these specific properties:

  • Is air conditioned
  • Is relatively near station 2
  • Is not far from the beach

p1020927Tasteful room interiors

The Taj hit the money on all three.  Also, the owner/manager Mike is very cordial and helpful.  He answered my emails right away and when we arrived in boracay he texted us directions to the hotel.  When we checked out he was also very open to my suggestions on how to make the customer experience better.  For example, the bathroom, while very nicely designed, lacked a shower curtain for some reason.  Aissa and I are both neatfreaks when it comes to showering, so this was a big issue for us.  And anyway it’s really cheap to get a shower curtain, so for a little extra cost you make your guests feel much better.  I also suggested that he replace the cross stitch patterns on the wall with some abstract paintings, because while the patterns had their own charm, they simply did not fit the neo asian look of the interiors.

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Lovely ceiling lights create an abstract pattern

Speaking of the interiors, they’re some of the best I’ve seen in a budget hotel.  Most budget hotels have really barebones or at worst, tacky designs.  I don’t understand why some budget resorts use really takcy mattress covers with shiny flowers and all sorts of weird decorations on them. Just because the hotel’s cheap doesn’t mean it has to look cheap right?  The Taj has a very clean, modern look.  Very zen, all straight lines and abstract patterns, it’s proof positive that you don’t need to spend a lot to have good design in your hotel.  It was also nice that they found space for a little patio outside our room, where you can relax and have a few chips and beer and watch all the sun-baked foreigners wander by.

p1020934The patio in front of our room has two chairs and a desk, and a towel rack to dry towels and swimming gear

So there you have it.  If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Boracay on a budget, head on over to the Taj’s guesthouse website and book a room now!

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Tipanan 2009

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Kids and their families will be treated to Pinoy games, stories and music when Synergeia Foundation’s fiesta-exposition, Tipanan, returns on February 20-22, 2009 at the Clamshell 1 of WOW Philippines, Intramuros, Manila. Now on its third year, Tipanan honors the Filipino child with its theme, “Rekindling the Filipino Identity Among our Children”.

The event brings together institutions all over the country who share Synergeia’s vision of building communities to make education work. The Cultural Center of the Philippines, Museo Pambata, and local government units from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao have put together a unique line-up of activities that promote among kids what is truly Filipino.

A better and bigger Tipanan is expected this year, with some of the top academic institutions collaborating with Synergeia partners and the Department of Tourism to mount this three-day event.

Admission to Tipanan‘09 is free. For more details, contact Synergeia at 898-2913 or 898-2617.


Our poster features Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto, a staunch Synergeia supporter.


Program of activities


Siklab! Youth Concert


Map of Intramuros, X marks the spot of Clamshell

PAL Palakbayan Packages from January – March 2009

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It’s come to my attention that a lot of people are hitting wanderous to download the Palakbayan packages.  However, the Palakbayan packages on our blog are literally a year old and are no longer valid.  While I don’t want peopel to have any issues booking the packages, We must state clearly that w are not affiliated with PAL in any way, and that I put up those documents simply because PAL’s website is incredibly inefficient when trying to obtain these package lists, and it continues to be so.  So for your convenience, I’m uploading a few of what I think will be the most popular Palakbayan packages here:

Boracay (Kalibo)

Boracay (Caticlan)

Cebu

Davao

Tagbilaran

The rest of the packages you can find here.  As these packages are being updated year round, make sure to check the PAL website first to be sure that you have the right promo.

Hotel Review : Lamphu Tree House

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Our review of the Lamphu Tree House Hotel in Bangkok is up on Tripadvisor.  Aissa and I agree that this is probably the BEST valuse for money hotel we’ve ever stayed in, and considering how much we travelled in 2008 that’s saying quite a bit.  I would encourage you to stay at this hotel if ever you go to Bangkok.  The taxis are having trouble finding it now, but with all the rave reviews it’s been getting that’s not gonna be a problem soon.

2008 was a crazy year for my girlfriend and I, traveling all over south east asia and in the Philippines, but no hotel comes close to offering the great value that Lamphu tree does. Providing you’re relatively fit, it’s walking distance from a number of tourist destinations, including the Royal Palace, Wat Pho, Khao San road, and Ratchadamnoen(SP?) stadium for Thai kickboxing. The decor and facilities are very nicely done. Not extravagant but just very tastefully done. They have a small pool which is perfect for stepping into after a hot day seeing the sights, and a rooftop balcony area where you can have a couple of drink while looking out at the Bangkok skyline.

The staff is excellent, and speaks enough english to help give you directions. They’re also quite friendly, and even emailed me after our stay to thank us for staying with the hotel. The food is fine, though a little variety wouldn’t hurt. Perhaps if they offered a Thai breakfast and a continental breakfast as options it wouldn’t be so bad, but one can only take omelettes, ham, bacon, and toast for so long.

Some taxis may have a little trouble finding it, but we learned that if a taxi doesn’t know where it is, just wait for the next one if possible, and they’ll probably know it. We only had trouble with the first taxi, which thought we were staying along khao san, then tried to overcharge us for the trip (keep your coupon from the airport taxi service. You can mail in a complaint if your driver tries to overcharge you. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do this).

So there you have it, for a great value for money don’t hesitate to stay at the Lamphu Tree!

PS The makeshift concrete bridge is very stable and the short walk from the proper bridge in the hotel is as safe as can be. There’s also a 7-11 across the bridge for all your convenience store needs.

Cebu Pacific Zero Fare Osaka Sale!!! (Sale Period January 9-14 Travel Period Feb 1 – March 31)

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If you’ve ever wanted to go to Osaka, Japan, this is the time!  Cebu Pacific is the airline!  With the zero fare sales, you can go to Japan for as low as 6,104 Pesos!  That’s cheaper than going to Bangkok!  I’m going to go away now, and start looking at what kinds of stuff I can sell in my room to get a ticket.

FYI The Hotel Chuo and Toyoko Inn Osaka have rooms ranging from roughly 2500-3500 pesos.

Wanderous Bangkok Tips on how not to get swindled

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We arrived from bangkok a few weeks ago, and you can pile that on top of the rest of our “to do” list, but for now here’s a couple of tips so you don’t get ripped off like we did.

  • Toll fees from the airport are about 75 baht, and overall you shouldn’t have to pay more than 400 baht for a taxi to your hotel.  If the driver insists on more, bargain it down as best you can, and then remember to keep the taxi coupon you were given at the airport, because on the back is a number and a questionairre you can fill out and mail to the airport authority of Thailand to let them know that your driver tried to overcharge you.  His license plate and name Are written there already (I think) byt the taxi booth, so no need to worry about that.  It only costs 3 baht to mail it.
  • Never ever ride a tuk-tuk.  While some of them may actually get you to your proper destination, tourists = suckers to them, so we were suckered into a jewelry store viewing that we had absolutely no interest in.  I can appreciate that they’re just trying to make a living, but if I’m not interested in buying a suit or jewelry then it’s just not gonna happen.  Don’t be conned by their niceness.  We were accosted by a man who claimed to be a teacher and only wanting to help tourists.  We were given a song and dance about a buddhist holiday and how tourists would get cheap rides only for that day.  Calmly say no thank you and walk away, no matter how persistent they are.
  • If you are walking to the Grand Palace and are accosted by people offering you dried corn to feed to pigeons, scream at them and wave your arms wildly like a crazy man.  This is important.  Keep your arms up, because they’ll try to place the plastic bags of corn on your arms already open, so that if you move you might spill them and they’ll charge you for it.  They’ll give you some fast talk about how this is for good luck and drop hints that it might be free but in the end they’ll charge yo ua ridiculous sum for it.  The bitch that conned Aissa started yeling cuss words at her when she insisted on paying lower, so I figure it’s best to yell at them in advance so they know not to mess with you.  Again, I realize they’re trying to make a living, but tricking people will only work for so long.  Spread the word.  When you see the Pigeon people, scream and wave your hands in the air.
  • If you want to ride the boat ferry, make sure you get an official ticket.  Aissa and I were planning on riding the boat ferry on our way home, but it was late at night and we were conned by a man who promised an express ferry boat for 100 baht.  The “ticket” he gave us was a brochure.  This one’s on us, since we were dumb and tired enough to believe him, but make sure that you have some sort of official ticket before you hand over your money.

Aside from these little mishaps, Bangkok was a wonderful city to visit, which a mix of temples and good food that any traveller should’t miss.  Just be very careful and follow the tips I mentioned here and you should have a fun Bangkok vacation!

Air Asia flies to London!

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Exciting news for anyone looking to visit London, Air Asia now flies to London for as low as 15000++ pesos During their promotion!  If you take advantage of Cebu Pacific’s zero fare sale (which occurs during the same time period) you could theoretically go to London and back for around 20,000 pesos!

This is the most ridiculous deal ever folks, and you’d be crazy not to take Air Asia up on their offer.