Tuesday, July 1, 2008

MISS PLACED PLUGS! A talk on Backpacking Pinoy Style!

Sent in by Ren --



Backpacking Pinoy Style!


For all you aspiring budget travelers and backpackers out there! There's going to be a talk on Backpacking: Pinoy Style. Some Pinoy backpackers (including Robert Alejandro and Ivan Henares) will be sharing their experiences and a few tips regarding traveling on a budget.

It's actually a repeat of the talk I attended last May, and it really got me into the idea of backpacking even more. Robert's even going to share how he (and a few other people) managed to tour South-east Asia and China in three months on just a PHP 45,000 budget! (He's apparently handing out a copy of their itinerary this time around.)

So if you're interested in travel but don't necessarily have the cash, and if you're not afraid to forgo the typical luxuries of first-class airlines and five star hotels, then attend Backpack Around the World: Pinoy Style at R.O.X. (Recreational Outdoor eXchange) in Bonifacio High Street (it's the side furthest away from Serendra, beside Puma) on Thursday, July 3, 7-9pm.

FREE Outdoor Clinic
ROX Recreational Outdoor Clinic
High Street, Fort Bonifacio
3 July 2008 Thursday, 7pm sharp
Tel.: 856.4638-39
For more information, go to Rox and Robert Alejandro's Multiply.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

FOTOTASTIC! Miss Placed's Photo Dump!


As seen in the bathroom of the Philippine Centennial Airport. Why the print? No idea.

Fototastic presents! Seeing Double!

A bakery in Hong Kong, and...


A bakery in Makati
I'm pretty sure they're not a franchise. Corny minds think alike, much?


A notebook available at Powerbooks Trinoma. See? Asians do have a sense of humor about ourselves. As long as it's cute and marketable.


Seen at a British-India Clothing Store. I love tongue-in-cheek advertising.


"Hi-Skul Musikahan", Now Showing at Starcity.
Piracy, imitation, or adaptation? You decide!



Feel free to contribute scenic and interesting photos on your street or around your neighborhood! See contribution page for details.

Monday, June 16, 2008

To Tagaytay with Love

How to get to Tagaytay by bus
The buses, fxes, and other forms of transport can also be found near the bus station to Batangas at Buendia-Taft. Just look for buses that say they're bound or stopping in Tagaytay.

Almost as soon as we got back from Hong Kong, G and I had a Tagaytay wedding to attend to the following weekend. Tagaytay is a cool, mountain area most known for market goods and home of Taal Volcano. It is also a favorite spot for weddings.

From Baclaran, it was about a 2-4 hour drive to Tagaytay. We arrived with time to make a pit stop at the newly renovated Taal Vista Hotel.


Taal Vista Hotel Lounge. Pic taken from Taal Vista's Website


I don't remember much from the old Taal Vista, just some vague idea that it was a country club set-up. It has since been bought by Fuego Hotel and Properties, an SM company that handles resorts and other leisure spots. The lobby looks very new and clean, with tastefully done up modern decor. There are some Asian artifacts for decor, like a Buddha here or there that I personally didn't find necessary, but it's not in your face offensive. They also have a beautiful view of Taal from their lounge, and a large outdoor garden area.

After recharging at Taal Vista, we headed out to Chapel on the Hill for the wedding ceremony. It was a long drive out, around the Don Bosco seminary.


Sign for Chapel on the Hill.


Chapel on the Hill is a beautiful rustic chapel overlooking the mountains. Depending on the season, it also gets that crisp Tagaytay air by sunset. It's perfect for small intimate weddings and other spiritual gatherings. I heard that they hold Catholic mass there on some occasions.


The bride to be, Niña, facing the flower girls and best man


Inside the chapel. The center ornament is a labyrinth, symbolizing spiritual unity


It was a beautiful ceremony conducted during sunset.


Pronounced.


Flowers in the sky


Their reception was a drive away at Splendido Suites Golf and Country Club, which is beautiful at night but VERY cold.


Center fountain at Splendido Suites, with Chi Protacio up front


Carlo and Niña get the party started


Splendido is gorgeous at night, and serves very good food. You don't have to have a wedding or play golf there to enjoy the food, you can also pop in to enjoy their fine dining Spanish restaurant.

Special kudos to Carlo and Niña for not pushing through with the bouquet and garter toss. Best wishes, may you have a happy marriage!

With the crisp country air, greens, and a lot of excellent food to choose from, it's no wonder Tagaytay is still the place for garden weddings.

Wedding photos are courtesy of Gia Protacio. Also visit Carlo's photo blog, Carlo: Collected.

Contact Information and Links
Chapel on the Hill
Don Bosco, Batulao, Batangas
Tel. No.: +63 2 7435614 (Manila)

Taal Vista Hotel
Weddings at Splendido
Tagaytay - Probably the most pleasant city in Asia
Blissful Weddings Philippines

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MISS PLACED'S ADVISE! The pros and cons of worldwide roaming


"Keeping in touch" has a whole new meaning.
Clipart from Fotosearch
.


Any cellphone with the right service can send messages or call from anywhere to anywhere, for a price of course. This is the glory of cellphone roaming.

Roaming works by being permitted to use your cellphone number outside the country, through the signal and services of the country you're visiting. For example, I'm a Filipino traveling around Dubai. I bring my cellphone from home, and with roaming, am able to keep my Philippine number, but use Dubai's cellphone services to call or text anywhere. I'll just settle the bill when I get home.

It sounds wonderfully convenient until you see your cellphone bill. Convenience comes at a very uneven cost. Texting from the Philippines to anywhere outside the country, for example, will cost only PHP15. I thought the same charges would apply while in another country, just another PHP15 on roaming to the Philippines. I learned the hard way that it wasn't the case. It costs PHP25 on roaming.

Whether or not you are on a monthly or prepaid cellphone plan, that price difference is ridiculous. Roaming or not, the principle is the same and the texts go through the same channels.

A more efficient way to keep in touch is very simple: just buy a local sim card and contact home from that number. A sim card is fairly cheap and easy to find depending on where you travel, and already comes with enough credits for the most basic calls and texts. Best of all, contacting someone on roaming in the same country is equivalent to a local call.

One trick is to use roaming only as a means to get messages from home. If you wish to really stay in touch by calling or texting back, that's when you purchase a local sim.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

WAI HONG KONG! Epilogue

The last day was essentially day 2 and 3 in fast forward. We had breakfast on the way to the station, brunch at Guangdong Barbeque Restaurant, shopped around Tsim Tsa Tsui and Mongkok, then checked out of our hotel. G dragged me around Sino Center for last minute shopping, luggage in hand and all, then to the station to take the Tung Chung route back to the airport. It was time to go home.


Miss Placed on the go, from day 1. Picture taken by G.


Miss Placed's Hong Kong Travel Tips!
Before Hong Kong...
-Save money.
Hong Kong is a shopping paradise, where good old things go to rest. From music to photography to clothes to art, Hong Kong's got it, better have the wallet for it!

-Research.
You can see and do enough of Hong Kong in a span of a day if you know what's going on. I'm an impulsive wanderer myself, but it helped to peg certain events and places that helped me plot my day on the day itself. There are a LOT of articles that discuss how to spend a day in hong kong, and Discover Hong Kong is frequently updated with events around the island.

-When booking for a hotel, check for internet rates
If you're booking through a travel agent, they might be told that certain promised hotels are full. That usually isn't the case - go directly to hotel websites and check for internet booking promos. Hotels usually put aside a room or two for internet bookings, and you could bring down your booking fee down by a significant amount of dollars. Just make sure you follow up your booking, and mind the taxes.


A hall in Chek Lak Kok



Note on Chek Lak Kok International Airport

-The airport is ENORMOUS. You may need to use the inter-terminal train to get from terminal to terminal. An hour layover for transit flights is just enough time to get from your terminal to your connecting flights. Shopping is really good in the airport, albeit expensive, and it's advisable to go set an hour aside from check-in if you intend to shop there.


Ferrying by the Harbor


In Hong Kong...
-Raid the Tourism Information Counter at the Airport.
Ren told me to do this the second I got out of immigrations. There is a LOT of useful information at the tourist counter, with maps and detailed pamphlets on their public transportation systems.

-Get an Octopus Card, but don't spend it on food.
The pre-paid stored value card for the Citybus and MTR costs a pretty penny, but will save you money and hassle in the long run. It is also accepted by most vending machines and convenience stores in Hong Kong. As awesome as it is, don't do what I did by maxing out the card on vending machines, your credits will disappear before you know it! Also, don't lose the card! If you return the card at the same place you bought it, you get the HK$50 deposit fee back.

-Get ready for a gastronomic adventure!
Try to eat at the market and sidestreet food stalls, you'll get the best food there for cheap. If you fear the Bird Flu, then just don't order any fowl dishes. Don't be afraid to ask for an English menu, tourist districts such as Hong Kong Island and Tsim Tsa Tsui usually have English menus at hand. If they don't have any, just point. They usually have pictures of the meals so you have an idea of what's getting in your stomach.


Day 1: Getting my bearings. Photo by G


Miss Placed Says...
-Their public transport system IS the best in the world, in my opinion. There are bus-specific and train-specific maps that you can get from the tourist information desk, and every stop is labeled with a detailed list of their routes. My only complaint is that they have no public bathrooms, unlike letsay, Tokyo Station. An MTR staff member can accompany you to the office area for the bathrooms, but you can also save time by by ducking into the nearest shopping center or hotel.

-The Airport Express is the fastest way to and from Chek Lak Kok but it is very expensive. If you have money to spare, take it. As a warning, it sometimes isn't the most direct or the best way to your hotel or district, so just cross-consult with the tourist desk, or bus and train maps.

-Not all sidestreets in Hong Kong are listed in the tourist map. There is also a lot of walking involved from corner to corner, unlike in Manila where you can hail a trike, jeep, or pedicab to get half a block away.

-A frequent traveller to Hong Kong advises - do not take a taxi from island to island, as it adds double to the meter. The public transport closes at around midnight, so just try to catch the last train or bus.

-While Hong Kong is tourist-friendly, a lot of its citizens are selectively friendly. They're friendly enough to point out the correct direction, but will decline to take your picture for you.

-Recommended Tourist Trappings: The Peak, and the Ferry. You really shouldn't leave Hong Kong without trying them.

-For those influenced by Wong Kar-Wai films and the like, those visions of old Hong Kong are very hard to come by in the rapidly developing city. A lot of books and maps would point you to the Mid Levels, but since the popularity of Lan Kwai Fong and the development of SoHo it has been posh and modernized since. You'll get a peek at simple, characteristic Hong Kong when taking the escalators and getting a view of the Mid-Levels alleys. I personally preferred the streets and markets of Mong Kok as my window into Hong Kong, even if it isn't as tourist-friendly as the Central area.

-Hong Kong Island is the most populated by tourists, evidenced by the looming presence of Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, and other major hotel chains on the island. Kowloon has cheaper accommodations but is not as English-friendly as the surroundings of Hong Kong Island.

-I highly advise against splurging and buying in bulk from tourist shops. They're good for specific things such as Hong Kong t-shirts and costumed garbs (but made of really cheap, itchy silk or polyester), but for giveaways to friends and families - just buy tea, mochi, and dry snacks from a local supermarket. They're a lot less expensive and easier to bring around in bulk.

-For really good cheongsams, there is a boutique near the cafe at The Peak. The prices are higher than the costumed cheongsams, but they're made of real silk with one of a kind designs.


Shuttle down Mong Kok Road. Photo by G.


Hong Kong was a major rediscovery. It probably is one of the most tourist-friendly cities in the world. We were able to get around the city, and saw and did enough in four days.

Happy trails!

Helpful Links:
Discover Hong Kong
Hong Kong International Airport Chek Lak Kok
MTR Corporation - Official Website
Citybus Official Website
Star Ferry Ltd

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

WAI HONG KONG! Day 3!

"To Disneyland, or not to Disneyland?" That was the question on our heads on the morning of our third day in Hong Kong, which was also our monthsary. We thought about it as we walked our usual route down Anchor Street to Mongkok Station, and deciding to change our money in Tsim Tsa Tsui. From Tsim Tsa Tsui station we exited via Nathan Road corner Cameron, facing the Mosque.

Going to the left of Nathan Road, walk a bit and you'll find a stairs leading down to "Old Hong Kong Market". Inside are cheongsams, Chinese-inspired shoes, and purses - for a pretty high price, but can be negotiated with some salespeople.

On Cameron Road behind the station exit are a lot of money changers, small boutiques, eateries, and t-shirt stores. Just a few stores down from the corner of Nathan is the Tang Dynasty store which specializes in the generic souvenir items from Hong Kong, with costumed cheongsams, Hong Kong t-shirts, keychains, and the like. The storekeeps speak english and are amiable to negotiating for a discount if you buy in bulk.

Further down the road is the Guangdong Barbeque Restaurant, right across the Charlie Brown Cafe. Their prices are mid-range, on the same level as Cafe de Coral and fastfoods. They serve very good set menus and cater warmly to tourists, as seen by their English and Indonesian-translated menu. I had a solo roast duck while G had the duck and goose fried rice.


Quack-quack-buckaaa! Food from Guangdong Barbeque Restaurant on Cameron Road. Photo by G


Hands down, it was the best meal we had in our trip.

Right across Guangdong Barbeque there was the Charlie Brown Cafe.


You're a good man Charlie Brown!


The cafe really lived up to the theme, being filled with dioramas, statues, and busts of Peanuts characters. What I liked best about it was that it was not limited to Charlie Brown and Snoopy - Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Marcie were there, as well as Pigsty and lesser-known characters of the peanuts cast. You can also get Peanuts toys and other merchandise from their gift shop in the corner of the cafe.


Inside the Cafe


The food was forgettable. G and I didn't take to the profiterole cake much, but it was nice to be among the Peanuts gang.


A stunning likeness. Photo by G


With the born loser. Photo by G


After dessert, we finally decided on the game plan. Disneyland was a mite too expensive, but we really wanted to go to some amusement park.

We went to Ocean Park.

How to get to Ocean Park: MTR-Citybus Route
Take the MTR Red Line to Admiralty Station. From Admiralty, there are signs pointing towards the Ocean Park terminal exit. Just follow the signs there, and you'll find the bus stop next to the Ocean Park ticket booth.


To Ocean Park!


Seal clap! Arf arf! Photo by G


It was a Citybus that drops us at the Birds Paradise entrance of Ocean Park. We had to take a few levels up via escalators to get to the Headlands and Marine Land areas, where the rides and exhibits were.


Two or Three levels of this. I am not kidding. Photo by G


We passed by the Harbor View exhibit of seals on the way, but the seals were asleep.


Seals basking under the clouds


A few metres more of walking, we wanted nothing more than to duck into an aircon exhibit, namely the Shark Aquarium.


Mind the teeth!


Jaws!
Photo by G


G noticed that there were less sharks than his last visit, several years ago. Maybe it's for the better. The aquarium is way too small for even one shark, which made me feel sorry for them. Still, it's amazing to see them up close.

On the way we stopped by the Atoll, an artificial coral reef ecosystem housing hundreds of different fish. We got in just in time for a feeding.


No human was actually harmed in the taking of this photo, which was taken by G


The Atoll was a better exhibit, with a lot more to see and lot more colorful than the shark aquarium.

After the atoll, G really wanted to go on the cable car for a view of the park and surrounding bay, but it was way too full. We lined up for the Ferris Wheel instead.


A view from the top


The basic concept of the ferris wheel works in the Ocean Park setting. At the height of the wheel, you can see the seaside, nearby Kowloon, the neighboring islands, as well as the southern part of the headlands.

The ferris wheel was within bearable walking distance to the rides. Highlights of the rides were the Dragon Coaster and The Abyss. The Dragon Coaster was fun, but not scary. I even felt that it was a mite slow, and scariest when they take a steep curve, not so much when it loops. What really scared me was The Abyss, a turbo drop ride. I really felt the fall and took awhile to get back on my feet.

Of course, no Ocean Park trip would be complete without catching the famous dolphin show. It really was the best dolphin show I've ever seen, in all it's corniness. Unlike other dolphin shows which just shows off the stunts, this one actually told a story, with enough English in there for tourists to follow.


Dolphins away!


In a touching story about an old man's hopes for man and wildlife to live together in harmony, the seals, dolphins, and trainers played it to the tee without missing a single cue. As someone who's worked in many different theatrical productions, I was personally amazed. It's hard enough working with other people of different temperaments, what more animals? I also give it props for having the most tasteful - if not the best - audience participation in a family show.

After the show ended, we headed back to the entrance. On our way we made a pit stop at the Mine Train, a basic loop-less roller coaster, that takes your picture around one bend of the ride. It was faster than the Dragon Coaster and just plain fun. The pic with G and I on the coaster came out blurry so we chose not to get it.

By the time we got down from the Headlands, it was time for the park to close. We got back on the bus and decided to head on to Mongkok. In Mongkok, we had dinner at Ajisen Ramen - which we belatedly found out had a branch somewhere in Manila. We had noodles and sushi, then explored the Electronic Goods Road for a bit.


Shining, shimmering, and neon. Photo by G


We found ourselves no Sai Yeong Choi Street, which has a lot of restaurants and take-away places. For the geeks, there's an Animate store there with a lot of anime toys and other action figures. The Toymart building across the street from Animate is a minimall with six floors catering to the young and trendy of Hong Kong, stock full of more toys and lots of funky clothes. I found Dracula, a boutique full of clothes for the gothic lolita type.

As always - so many goods, so little money!

That capped three very full days in Hong Kong. It was just enough time for us to get around, and it was about time we headed home.

Epilogue to follow!
For more information on Ocean Park, visit their website!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

WAI HONG KONG! Day 2!

The night before, G and I bumped into Rotch of Ongaku Society fresh off the plane and into the mtr. Rotch told us that L'arc goods were going on sale before the concert at 4pm. Goods run out quickly so she advised us to head out early.

So, Day 2 was THE DAY.


"My heart draws a dream" - where my dreams come true


We had several hours before that, time for the goods included, so we We woke up early and decided to have breakfast on the go. Anchor Road is lined with stalls that sell all sorts of goods, bakeries and eateries included.

I had a personal mission to find egg pies as good as Lord Stow's for less than a quarter of the price. I didn't have to look far from the hotel to find it. We also caught it fresh, still warm from the oven.


The yummiest egg pies I ever had


For HK$1.50, a tiny but filling egg pie comparable to Lord Stow's from a nameless hole in the wall along Anchor Street.

There was another bakery not far from the one we went to, but the crust is a little on the thick side.


Another bakery, another line of egg pies


Somewhere along Anchor Road, we also found another bakery with breads and cheap mochi. HK$5 for 3.


Mochi, melted buchi -- something yeasty

G and I headed to Mongkok Station then back to Tsim Sha Tsui for Avenue of the Stars. To get there we took the MTR, and just walked a bit more back near the ferry area. Following the signs to Avenue of the Stars we were lead to this large mall, center of which was an exhibit of local comic book artists.


Comic exhibit


Fai-to!


Right behind the exhibit was the exit leading the way to the avenue. We went absolutely nuts there, from the picture-perfect cityscape to the hand prints of some our favorite Hong Kong cinema stars.


And action!


It was high noon by the time we wrapped up Avenue of the Stars. Further down the avenue were more stills and busts for the Hong Kong comic exhibition we saw earlier, and the back of the Peninsula Hotel. We cooled our feet down at a nearby coffee shop with a free internet kiosk.

G finally found the address of the HMV branch, and with that we first headed out to find it.


Hong Kong Arts and Crafts Center


Well before HMV however, we first found the Hong Kong Arts and Crafts Center and its basement full of mid-range eateries and money changers. We ate at Cafe de Coral, a popular local fastfood that served Chinese food, specifically curry and barbeque.


Killed and roasted, all for you


After filling ourselves up with roasted duck and curry, we went to HMV. HMV lived up to expectations and more with their DVD and CD collection. I was able to complete my Kevin Smith collection by buying both Clerks and Chasing Amy on sale, totaling up to around HK$65.

From there we decided to take the long cheap way to Asia World Expo.

Budget Placement! MTR-Bus to AsiaWorld Expo, Hong Kong
On the mtr, take the red line and stop at Lai King station. Lai King has a connecting platform to the orange line, which stops at the Sunny Bay station to Disneyland, Tsing Yi Airport Express Station, and Tung Chung. Take the Lai King train to Tung Chung, the very last stop. From Tung Chung you can get on a bus going to the airport, which also stops at Dragon Air Building and Asia World Expo.

Asia World Expo is HUGE. The bus stop was a bit far from the entrance of the expo, and even farther from the main hall where we could wait for the concert to start. We didn't even realize what kind of crowd the concert attracted until we turned the corner.


This! Is! L'arc!


People have started lining up for goods as early as noon. It was around three in the afternoon when we got there but the line for the goods was just overwhelming. "You'd have no chance." A crew member warned when I inquired. Luckily there was a nearby Sony booth where I purchased a CD that came with a free poster and a folder with the band on it.

After the goods ran out, a few local fan clubs set up their own little corner to show off tarpaulins welcoming the band, and encouraging people to sign it.


Signages on a tarp


We also spotted a few more Filipinos who flew in for the concert, and a handful of Indonesians, Japanese, and a few other nationalities. Thankfully, we also found a friend we've been meaning to meet up with for the concert and got dinner with him before the doors opened.

The Asia World Expo arena is probably the biggest venue I've been in to see a show.


A big night of music


As for the concert...





Pictures capped from this youtube video.


We were on our feet, we screamed, we jumped, we danced...it was awesome! Rotch posted about their set list here.

We winded down on the ride home. The buses were stuffed with people from the concert, and we still saw fans and fellow concert-goers on the trains with their goods.

That was the high note of our day. G and I had no regrets in flying to Hong Kong to see them, and as of writing I'm still tripping on their CD.

Day 3 to follow...

 

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