July 29, 2011

What's in your Packing List?

Depending on where you’re headed determines the item that you should carry with you in your Travel bag/Backpack.  It is also necessary to research about the weather of the country/place that you’re headed to, so you will have an idea on what to bring in order to protect yourself and your things against the weather. Some travelers say, that it is essential that you pack light to enjoy a stress-free travel, some other people suggests that you should always bring with you only those things that you need for everyday and as much as possible just try to ask some toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste to your travel companion instead of bringing them with you, this will make you save some more space in your backpack.

Listed below are the items in my travel bag/s during my Singapore trip (recently went there last June, 2011 a bit rainy in the afternoon but sunny and hot in the morning).

A.      Documentations – Backup copies should be placed in different areas of the bags that you will bring. This is to ensure that you still have backup documentations when you lost the original ones during your travel/vacation.
1.       Passport
2.       Laminated copy of the first page of the Passport including Visa-stamped pages – 2 copies
3.       Printed Hotel Reservation – 2 copies
4.       Printed Airline Ticket – 2 copies
5.       VISA, if applicable – 2 copies
6.       Company/Government IDs – 2 copies
7.       Certificate of Employment – 2 copies

B.      Contact Numbers/Persons – this can be kept/saved in your mobile phones but it is better to print a copy of it for back up.
1.       Airline company
2.       Hotel Customer Service
3.       Credit Card/ATM hotlines
4.       Contact number of the Philippine Embassy of the country you’re headed
5.       Blas Ople Policy Center phone number
6.       Trusted friends contact numbers
7.       Family/Relatives contact numbers
8.       Colleagues (just the key persons) contact numbers
9.       E-mail addresses
10.     A copy of items 1 to 9 should also be saved in a thumb drive

C.      Medical Kit
1.       Medicine – 2 pieces of each Anti-Diarrhea, Paracetamol, Aspirin, motion-sickness pills and any other personal medicines
2.       Plaster/Medical Strips – 2 pieces
3.       Alcohol – a small bottle
4.       Antiseptic Tissues – a small pack

D.      Toiletries
1.       Toothbrush
2.       Mouthwash – a small bottle
3.       Facial Wash Sachet
4.       Solo Soap – The smaller one
5.       Hair Shaver
6.       Anti-Perspirant/Deodorant – a small one
7.       Toothpaste Sachet– ask from your companion if they have an extra
8.       Shampoo Sachets – ask from your companion if they have an extra
9.       Hair Gel Sachets– ask from your companion if they have an extra
10.     Dental Floss – ask from your companion if they have an extra
11.     Towel (Aquazorb)
12.     Sunblock – a small one

E.       Clothing/Accessories
1.       Shirts/tops – 1 shirt and tops for each day
2.       Pants/shorts – 1 pants and shorts for each day
3.       Socks – 1 pair for every two days
4.       Underwear – 1 underwear for each day
5.       Jacket/sweater – 1 Hooded Jacket and a Sweater
6.       Belt
7.       Hanky – 1 for each day
8.       Shoes – comfortable sneakers
9.       Slippers/Sandals
10.     Cap
11.     Shades/Eyeglasses
12.     Timepiece/Watch

F.       Electronics/Gadgets
1.       Cellphone – roaming with extra prepaid card and battery
2.       Cellphone Charger
3.       Cellphone Applications – Internet Connectivity, Google Maps, Translator
4.       Camera – with extra battery and Memory Card
5.       Camera Charger
6.       iPod/MP3 player – with headset/earphones
7.       Universal adaptor – 3 socket, 2 socket

G.     Luggage
1.       Backpack/Travelling bag
2.       Daypack – a small one. This is the bag that you will carry with you during your walks outside the hotel, this is where your passport, wallet, cell phone, and camera are kept.
3.       Luggage lock – lock for your travelling bag/s

H.      Tools
1.       Flashlight – for emergency purposes, a cellphone with flashlight function/application is better
2.       Batteries
3.       Spork – a disposable tool that you can use if a spoon, a fork, or a chopstick is not available. This is perfect also if you’re not familiar in using a chopsticks.
4.       Whistle – for emergency purposes to catch attention

I.        Others
1.       Water bottle
2.       Notebook
3.       Ballpen
4.       Garbage Bag – just 1 piece
5.       Safety Pin/Stapler/Adhesive tape

I know that there’s too many items on my checklist, but most of the times you should think of the “worst-case scenario” and that you should always be prepared, especially when you are travelling alone and no one to count on.

Yes, you can buy a shampoo sachet in any country, but are you sure with the quality of the local shampoos they have? Or is it as “cheaper” as your “home” shampoo? A whistle tool is needed as well, especially during emergency cases, like fire, earthquake, and all – this will blow some attention to people and could give you an emergency assistance, especially when you can no longer speak or shout. A google map application on my phone is a must-have, this is a great help and even better than that huge foldable paper-map, it could also give you the best/shortest way to get into your destination; some features will also give you ideas on where’s the nearest Police Station or the best Shopping Centre in the area.

Being ready and prepared all the times is a must whether you are going to travel locally or off-shore. Travelling and thinking about your safety need not to have a lot of pressure these days, only if you had prepared enough. CouchSurfer once said: “You are what you carry.”

July 11, 2011

The Universal Studios Singapore

We are all excited for this day to come – finally, the Universal Studios day! After having an extreme adventure to Singapore's wildlife, we are now set for some more adventure! The previous night, I set up my phone to wake me up by 5am, to have sufficient time for preparing myself and have some light breakfast. By 6am, I went out of my hotel room and had breakfast in the cafĂ© lounge while waiting for my friends to come down. It was raining outside that time and that made me a little sad – but still rain or shine, the fun fun fun day should push through! Not even a thing could halt us in doing this!

After having our breakfast and my daily dose of coffee, we finally started walking our way outside and went to the nearest MRT station which is the Farrer Park Station, from there we alight to the station near the Vivo City (I forgot the station name already) and then took a 2-minute ride to another train going to Sentosa. From Sentosa, it would only be a few steps away from the world-famous “rotating-globe” theme park!

The park has seven themed zones: New York, Hollywood, Sci-Fi City, Ancient Egypt, The Lost World, Far Far Away, and Madagascar. The very first thing that caught my attention is the Lake of Dreams – this gave me an idea that my dream of walking around the Universal Studios has come true.

Walking few more steps, then the famous icon of the Universal Studios will be seen.

Upon scanning our ticket into the entrance turnstile, we then felt that we somehow entered a warp zone that brought us back to our childhood days!

We did take a ride on those countless attractions that they have. Despite the striking sun and the waiting time, we still managed to wait and wear our smiles! After all, this is the very day that we’ve waited for so long!

The best attraction/ride:

1.   I have to say that my vote is for The Mummy ride! It was really fantastic! Upon entering the “pyramid” you will encounter lots of familiar stuff from the film franchise like Egyptian Tombs, Egyptian paintings, and those Egyptian writings carved on the wall. Then they will allow you to sit on a little mine cars with lap bars that could take about 15 people. It’s like a small roller coaster buried underneath the grounds, the scariest thing here is when the car runs very fast then it takes a sudden turn without you knowing where you’re going, so it’s really really scary! There’s a scenario also, like, you are told to “Find a book of the living and kill Imhotep.” Then the car will roll again and will bring you to a dead end where scarab beetles are bursting out! At this point our car drops backwards and turns in a 180 degree circle, we’re definitely surprised with this! Not until, the car took us into another room, and the audio says “Prepare to forfeit your souls!” and the ceiling of that room is engulfed with flames! It was really hot! Then the car moves forward and drops down found a tricky spell making Imhotep trapped inside the sarcophagus, after this, the evil laugh echoed all over the room and our car moved on to the unload platform.

  2.   Runners up will be – the Battlestar Galactica and the Madagascar: A crate adventure. Battlestar Galactica is not just a roller coaster, it’s a dueling roller coaster! It has 2-separate railways moving at the same time which will somehow create an illusion of you getting bumped into the other one! The first one is the Battlestar Galactica: Human, which we’ve tried and the other is the Battlestar Galactica: Cylon. On the other hand, the Madagascar ride is a river boat adventure with state of the art digital effects! At one point there’s a water falls coming our way, creating a thought that we will be getting wet, but when we’re about to hit the falls, the water ran dry! Lol!!! The amazing thing I’ve noticed is that it is presented by Maybank, the company where I used to work! Cool!

Some spoofed-celebrity encounters/sightings:

1.   Winnie Woodpecker - While enjoying every single moment in the theme park, we noticed a little commotion going on in one area, just beside the Universal Studios store – Winnie Woodpecker (the girlfriend of Woody Woodpecker) is actually standing in there ready to take pictures and so we wasted no time and stood beside her! I so love her being witty, at one point she gave me a high-five and pointed on the loud printed word on my shirt which reads - PINOY! I wonder if the person behind that costume is Pinoy too…


2.   Betty Boop – while we’re busy trying in those crazy hats (who’s idea is it anyway?), we never knew that this hot sexy chic is walking directly our way! See that little girl in pink in at the right side of the photo? It’s too late though to ask her for a date – oh I mean, for a picture.

  
  3. I don’t know who this girl's trying to imitate,  she's really tall and the   thing is, she grabbed my hands, as I was the next person in line for a photo-taking opportunity, and asked me to do this pose!

      Suddenly, people around us starts saying things like “wow!!”, “lucky man!!”, and “you guys are so sweet!!” lol!!. She never did the same posing to the other men down the line.


4.  The Penguins from Madagascar – They’re adorable! I never knew what they're names were!

 5.  Alex the Lion from Madagascar – He’s the crowds favorite!
  

The Universal Studios really is amazing! We were surprised how wonderful it was! The cost of foods and beverages inside the park is reasonable. They aren’t too expensive and there are a lot of food choices in the Discovery Food Court which is a few meters away from the Jurassic Park arc. We really enjoyed this tour.

We went back to the hotel at around 5pm all tired, but hey, giving a chance to go back to your childhood days and enjoy this magical moment is really a rewarding experience! Way to go Enchanted Kingdom!

I would really love sharing my shots to you to give you an idea how beautiful and magical that world is, but I believe there's a certain bandwith for the photo attachments, if you would like to see some more photos, please do leave your e-mail address in the comment box below and I will send them to you in no time. Cheers!

July 10, 2011

The Singapore Wildlife

Me and my two friends woke up around 6am, we’re all excited for our first itinerary for the day – the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari. Right after we took our western-style breakfast, we immediately wasted no time and prepare for our ultimate safari and zoo experience!

With our speedy taxi, we headed to the Singapore Zoo in Mandai Lake Road. It’s quite far, taking almost 20 – 30 minutes of taxi ride, total of about S$30 (or nearly Php1,050 – can you imagine how expensive is that?). When we get into the location, we immediately purchased our ticket for the Zoo and the Safari (I know that they have a promo ticket for Singapore Zoo and Night Safari) this costs around S$42 (or nearly Php1,470). We spent around six hours inside the zoo, they have two KFC restaurant too! We’ve got to see interesting wildlife animals – like the Rhinos, big snakes, the famous white tiger, a Jaguar and the Orang Utans!
 
Since the Night Safari tour starts at around 7pm, we’ve decided to go back to the Hotel and have some rest, and take a quick dinner.

Few minutes before 7pm, we headed back to Mandai Lake Road and get into the Night Safari adventure! This time, we’re on the Tram as the tour guide take us into the so-called rainforest! They’ve got amazing animals like the Hyenas, the tigers and some other more, but, this part of the trip made me sooo sleepy! Maybe because the tour guide speaks so soft and the tram moves so slow, add up the cool breeze in the rainforest and that would make you sleepy.
 
Right after the tram ride, I asked my buddies if they want to go back to the hotel and grab some food and take a rest, they said yes, maybe they’re sleepy as well. 

When we get back into the hotel, we ordered some steak and rice, took a quick bite, and then found ourselves snoring to end our first day in this awesome country. Well, according to our schedule, we really have to sleep at around 10pm, because Universal Studios will mark the beginning of our Day 2.

Transformers 3 on iMax

Last Thursday, I was able to watch the third sequel of Transformers movie – Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and to complete my satisfaction, I opted to watch it in iMax Cinema.

I’ve reached SM Mall of Asia at around 11:30am, at this point I know that the next screening schedule is by 1:10pm, so to get a nice seat, I hurriedly went to the iMax area and purchased a ticket. Paying around P450.00 (actually it’s P400.00, but the ticket teller entered P450.00 she said a large popcorn is included), well, I personally don’t like popcorns but, what can I do? I don’t like to get angry at that time of the day.. but she should have told me even before she did the transaction that a mandatory P50.00 for popcorn is included. Well..

By 12:50pm, the iMax guard told us to queue as they’re going to start sending us inside the cinema, by 1:00pm, I’m already inside the theatre seated at the very comfy seat F20. This third sequel is quite nice, although some says that to call this movie a good one is an overstatement. But I’ve realized paying around P400.00 for this movie is indeed expensive. Few more characters showed up – like Sentinel Prime and Shockwave.

Few more minutes before the show starts, I’ve noticed that there are less people watching this movie on iMax! We’re around 40’s or 50’s I think. Hmm.. is it because of the pricey ticket? The movie story? Or the mandatory popcorn?

June 8, 2011

The Luxurious Dinner

I love eating. But to spend more than Php500.00 for dinner is too much! Not until one of my colleagues introduced me to a buffet, all-you-can-eat restaurant – the Vikings Luxury Restaurant!

Together with my three (3) colleagues, we spent our dinner in this awesome buffet restaurant last May, and for P888.00/head, the food selections for their Dinner table is countless!


With it's relaxing ambiance, and soothing music, it’s very comfortable to spend your dinner in this place. They have everything I want! Seafoods (crab, shrimps, salmon), veggies, desserts (ice cream, leche flan, tiramisu, cakes), meats (pork BBQ, lamb chops), steaks, pizza, carbonara, spaghetti, maki, sushi, siomai and a lot more! Ohh wait, they also have refillable drinks – Juices, softdrinks, coffee, and ehem – beers!

Verdict: I am now willing to pay Php888.00 for a dinner if it’s for Vikings. Great food, lots of food choices (per cuisine), friendly and accommodating staff, relaxing ambiance, wide parking area and separate areas for smokers and non-smokers. What more could you ask for?

Down-side: For dinner, they usually starts at 5:30 pm and should end at around 9pm, with wide varieties of food, you should be there early enough to have them all. And oh, get some seat reservations at least a day ahead, because most of the times, dinner time is crowd’s favorite, thus making the waiting line longer and the eating period shorter.

May 1, 2011

Singapore Excapade 2011

It was early February, 2011 when we plan to go on travel to Singapore for the 2nd time, luckily there’s a seat sale going on at Cebu Pacific taking two-way ticket to only P2,822.46 per head (exclusive of Travel Tax and Terminal Fee). In just one click of a button – we’ve purchased our tickets!

Weeks passed by so quick, and I’ve realized that I should plan ahead not just for the allocation of expenses but also for our itinerary. With 2 months remaining before our travel day, I was able to lay out the “must-see” spots in Singapore.

Last 2009, I remember, our Singapore trip was just a 3-day trip and I did not enjoy much because of “poor planning”, the only attraction we saw was the famous Sentosa Island; as we go back home, I’ve promised myself that next time it will be more organized – schedule and expense wise.

Our 2011 Singapore trip is a 5-Day vacation (it was from June 13 – 17, 2011), I was able to list down almost 10 places to go for each day! I know that I have to be exaggerated on the list because at some point, if some of those places on the list are impossible to go to (because of the bad weather, too crowded, etc) then we can easily grab another one down the list. Included on the list are museums, zoo, theatres, parks, malls and restaurants; my friend prefers – nature and museum’s to see; which is quite extensive to what I wanted  – famous landmarks, theme parks, and go on shopping!

Six weeks before the travel day, I was able to present to my friend the draft of my Itinerary – we talked it over, did some revisions, researching on how to get to the location, what to expect, etc. and after almost 3 hours of interrogation, we came up for the final itinerary… thank God that we held the meeting in my house so as not to incur extra charges for food and drinks while on the process of interrogating the IT.. haha!

A month before the travel day, I started to allocate the budget. Day 1 – Lunch: S$15 Dinner: S$15, Day 2 – Lunch: S$10 Dinner: $15, Day 3 – Lunch: S$10 Dinner S$10, Day 4 – Lunch: S$10 Dinner: S$10, Day 5 – Lunch: $15. If there’s any savings made from the food budget, then that is for Merienda (we are scheduled to leave on the 5th Day of the afternoon). You will notice that we did not allocate some bucks for breakfast, this is because daily breakfast are included in our accommodation bill! Great? Yeah! For public transportation, we bought a pre-paid card for MRT which is cheaper than Taxis and faster than Buses.

For the accommodation, we opted to book for a Hostel. Singapore got lots of clean and comfy Hostels to choose from. You just have to read carefully the information about their Hostel (like if they offer free breakfast, free ironing of clothes, etc.), check out Inn-Crowd Backpackers Hostel in Little India, they’re the best! I love their breakfast too!

If you love shopping, don’t just settle for one Mall or Boutique, get at least 3 different Malls/Boutiques before you buy an item and see if this fits your budget. For Gadgets, I super recommend the Digital Mall – the owners/salespersons may also give you a discount for every cash purchases!
I just bought my Microsoft Arc Mouse at S$70 (store price at S$85), yeah I saved S$15 or Php525, savings of Php525 is still Php525! For other tourist attractions (like Universal Studios, Singapore Zoo, and the Night Safari) you should take a research online and see how much is the entrance fees, operating hours, etc. they also offer bundles/packages! Also, allocate some budget for buying some souvenirs!

Let’s see how this Singapore adventure go through! Wish me good luck! And yes, I AM EXCITED.. SUPER!

April 28, 2011

My Mt. Talamitam Journey

After my successful first time mountain climbing experience to Mt. Sembrano in Rizal, I feel a heavy load of adrenaline that is coming out of my body! Texted my hiking buddy and asked him if we could just climb another mountain – and in no time he suggested a mountain located in a province known for its beautiful and inviting beaches – the Mt. Talamitam located in Nasugbu, Batangas.

My buddy, Darryl, told me that this mountain is a bit smaller than Mt. Sembrano at 630+ MASL, however, this mountain has its own 60 degrees assault that would welcome you before you get into the peak! Can you just imagine how to position yourself with that kind of angle, with your backpack on? Cool!

From EDSA-Taft, we took a bus heading to Nasugbu and we paid about P115.00 during that time. We then alighted at the KM. 83 road mark, as the conductor told us that it is indeed the way going to Mt. Talamitam. Walking few more steps, we’ve reached Sir Nick’s house (Sir Nick Wijangco is said to be the caretaker of this mountain) and get some registration done, we’ve tried looking for Sir Nick, but a woman, in her late 40’s, came upon us telling us that Sir Nick is doing some farming works during that time. After paying P20.00 for each of us, Sir Nick’s wife told us that the trail to the summit is as easy as ABC: “Take the 2 bridges, turn left, walk about 60 steps straight along the tree line, then turn right into the woods, from there it’s as smooth as riding the LRT”.

With about 3 minutes walk away from Sir Nick’s place, another woman came our way, asking us to pay another registration fee! This time it’s P25.00 per head! They’re telling us they are the ones authorized to collect the “Registration Fees” and not Sir Nick. With our goal to reach the campsite before darkness comes in, we did not argue with her and pay the second registration fee, and moved away right after we “logged” our names in the first page of her newly purchased record book. Then the “smooth-trail” begins!

As we walked into the first footbridge, we can already see the summit of Mt. Talamitam – the brownish color of the mountain makes me think that there’s something wrong going on between the mountain and the locals. But then, we opted to continue walking and tried our best to bring ourselves to the campsite as the raindrops begin to fall and the darkness quickly covering the area.

Right after we reached the campsite and pin the tent, we began cooking some meals and started our dinner and followed by a little shots of brandy. It’s quite disgusting because, from where we are, we can smell the cow’s dump! It’s everywhere! But since we are all tired and need to rest and get some energy for the next day’s assault, we ignored the dump’s smell and eventually fell asleep.

It was raining when we woke up at around 5am, after having some hot coffee and some sandwiches, we prepared ourselves for the challenging assault!

Around 6:30am, the sun is already striking! The mist and the wet grass areas began to evaporate. We are shocked on what we saw. We’re actually few meters away from the summit! Maybe it was too dark the other night that we don’t have a clearer view of the area, and so we’re all set to see Talamitam’s summit!

My thoughts that there’s something wrong going on between the mountain and the locals proved to be true – The mountain has no more grasses and lush vegetation. One farmer we’ve met while preparing our way to the summit told us, that, it’s because of the Kaingin and irresponsible garbage disposals, and even though there are some efforts or programs being conducted by the local government to take good care of the mountain, the locals are still continuing their misguided practices.

Continuing our trail to the summit, we finally crossed into the famous 60-degree assault! At one time I felt a little cramps on my right leg that lasts for about 3 minutes, I’m about to panic because, I’m on the middle of the assault and it’s too dangerous if I lose grip of some of the few grass leaves! I looked into my right, it’s very steep, no way shifting positions as it may give more pain into my aching leg, what I did was I lean on the rocks – almost hugging or kissing it! This lasts for about 3 minutes more. When that unforgettable cramps faded out, I’ve continue taking the assault with alternating big breath and a strong grip. In no time, we are at the summit already! Weird to see that there are some goat dumps in the summit! Maybe those Talamitam Goats are good mountaineers too! Or maybe they are in search for some generous grasses up in the summit?
 
Unlike Mt. Sembrano, there is no tree cover in this mountain, neither water sources, so I’m conserving every single drops of water I have in my water container.

On our way down, it’s an easy one, nearly 45 minutes before we reach Sir Nick’s house, and we’ve waited for about 10 more minutes for a bus to ride going to Tagaytay for a late lunch before we get back to Manila.

With the controversy of who’s in the right position to collect the registration fees and how much should the each visitor/mountaineer should be paying is yet to be finalized, this is but one of the few challenges that Mt. Talamitam is facing, others were increasing amount of garbage, lack of trees, deforestation, kaingin, and the list goes on. One thing is for sure – if the local government of Nasugbu and the people living near Mt. Talamitam do not take an action to restore the beauty or the ecosystem of the so-called ‘younger sister’ of Mt. Batulao, then, the serenity of this mountain will then be a thing of its glorious past.

UPDATE:

Sir Nick, the said to be “caretaker of Mt. Talamitam”, organized a “Talamitam River clean-up” campaign in 2007, this campaign which was joined by several mountaineers has been featured as well in the RPN-9 TV Network. In 2008, he launched the “Mt. Talamitam Debut” to highlight the environmental concerns of this controversial mountain; in the same year, the Barangay Hall of Aga in Nasugbu, owns the responsibility for the registration of the mountaineers/visitors with a fee of P25.00/person, this is because of the conflict between Sir Nick Wijangco and the local government officials.