Laid-Back Weekend in Baguio

I had a pretty solid weekend with my work friends in Baguio. We have always toyed with the idea but never got around to setting a date until this month. I will soon leave my company for greener pastures and I didn’t want to miss this chance to hang out with the gang outside the office.

BagYOLO was the official hashtag of the trip. No itinerary to stick to and no pressure to tick off to-do lists. For a big group like ours, this is the only pace that works. It’s better to realize up front that a group of 8 people won’t be that nimble. Plus, Baguio weather = all day bed weather. You’d just want to hibernate under the sheets after a long work week.

CHAYA (BUDGET: ₱ 400 / $ 8.75)
72 Legarda Road, Baguio City, Philippines
+63 744244726

One of my friends is from Baguio so he knows where we can find good restaurants besides the usual 50’s diner and Good Taste. Japanese food is always a good idea so he took us to Chaya, located along Legarda Road. We ordered Temaki Sushi for sharing and I ordered one of their miso-based ramens.

It was fun to roll your own sushi. Plus some yummy sashimi too. Not a fan of the ramen though. It looks like a house turned restaurant so there’s a cozy feel to it. The interiors reminded me of The Shining for some reason.

We skipped the parks on our first day and just chilled at Camp John Hay. I wanted a woodland photoshoot anyway. Sorry friends, for exploiting your faces.

CHOCO-LATE DE BATIROL (BUDGET: ₱ 150 / $ 3.27)
Igorot Park, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, Philippines
+63 916 375 6510

No doubt a mug of hot chocolate drink is perfect to shake off the cold weather. This tiny garden café is conveniently inside Camp John Hay near the Igorot Park. They serve tablea chocolate drinks (both hot and cold) that you can partner with Filipino delicacies like their bestsellers bibingka (a type of Filipino rice cake) and suman sa lihiya (another type of rice cake). My favorite was their almond-flavored hot chocolate drink.

We decided to do The Phone Stack game just for the lulz. Whoever grabs their phone first pays the bill.

BENCAB MUSEUM (ENTRANCE FEE: ₱ 100 / $ 2.18)
Km 6 Asin Road Tadiangan, Tuba, Baguio City, Philippines
+63 (74) 442 7165

I said we didn’t have any to-do lists for this trip, but personally, I really wanted to visit this museum. I’ve heard good things and I’m a sucker for art museums. Especially beautiful ones with a minimalist interior design and high ceilings.

The 4-storey museum houses some of the National artist Benedicto Reyes Cabrera’s artworks of various media and galleries of many Filipino contemporary art pieces and indigenous art and artefacts.

The Erotica gallery is pretty interesting.

CAFÉ SABEL (BUDGET: ₱ 100 / $ 2.18)

Bencab Museum’s in-house café, named after the artist’s muse. It overlooks the picturesque forest and duck pond.

MINES VIEW PARK (ENTRANCE FEE: FREE; BUDGET FOR STREET FOOD: ₱ 70 / $ 1.5)
Outlook Drive, Baguio, Philippines

What more can I say, it’s a Baguio staple. The park overlooks Benguet’s gold and copper mines, hence the name. It’s not so obvious though. All I saw was mostly greenery with sprouting houses here and there.

It’s usually overcrowded like what Baguio as a whole has become. So expect a lot of tourist traps like overpriced photo ops with big St. Bernards in shades and the pink haired horse or wearing an Ifugao costume (which I think is really depressing).

One thing I looked forward to was street food. They’ve got some really tasty grilled dried squid. If you’re not a fan, you can find grilled corn or strawberry taho.

Why not bring home some wooden keychains of strawberries and male genitals?

GOOD SHEPHERD CONVENT (BUDGET: ₱ 700 / $ 15)
Gibraltar Road, Baguio, Philippines

I cannot go back home without bringing any delicacy. I know, Pinoys and their pasalubong tradition. So, we went to Good Shepherd Convent to buy their legit products. The ones they sell in the stores outside are also legit but they sell it for a higher rate.

All these goodies for a little over ₱ 700.

PIZZA VOLANTE (BUDGET: ₱ 300 / $ 6.55)
Ayala Technohub, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, Philippines

We went back to Camp John Hay to have dinner at Volante. Actually, there are branches along Session Road and near Wright Park but my friend wanted us to try a nearby café for dessert. Delicious pizza and pasta and quite affordable too. Their new flavor Feta Tomato Olives pizza is a must-try.

FOG PHOTO CAFÉ (BUDGET: ₱ 100 / $ 2.18)
Ayala Technohub, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, Philippines

Affordable, yummy cakes! One slice starts as low as ₱ 60. We bought one slice each of different flavours and had a mandatory cake rigodon. The rumors are true, their strawberry shortcake is the tits.

I just realized that our Baguio trip has been a food crawl after all. Anyway, there’s nothing like getting together with a bunch of awesome friends gorging on good food all day in a great city.

Watch our travel video here.

How to do Bali in 3 Days: Day 3 (Tirta Empul + Tegunungan Waterfall + Sanur Beach)

Backtrack // Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here.

We saved the best activities (or the ones that involve getting wet) in our itinerary for last. We were down to our last whole day in Bali and it hadn’t rain. We hit the road at our usual 10 AM call time and headed to our first destination: Tirta Empul Temple.

  1. WE HAD A SORT OF SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE AT THE TIRTA EMPUL TEMPLE.

It was a bit of a long drive from Kuta to Tirta Empul Temple but I felt that our Bali trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting this place. It’s not like any other temple. It’s known for its holy waters where both the locals and tourists go for spiritual cleansing.

Tourists are allowed to dip in the spiritual pools and participate in the prayer rituals. Bring a towel or extra clothes if you decide to take a dip in the spiritual pools.

Tourists who don’t wish to get wet are allowed to watch and take photos, which I find quite awkward. But I guess there’s nothing wrong with it if it’s done sensitively.

There’s a big and really cool koi pond inside.

Entrance to the temple was 15.000 IDR ($ 1.11/ ₱ 50). This already includes the sarong rental.

  1. WE TREKKED DOWN THE TEGENUNGAN WATERFALL.

After our 40-minute drive from Tirta Empul Temple, our driver parked the van and we paid the relatively cheap 10.000 IDR ($ 0.74/ ₱ 34) entrance fee per person. There’s a small canteen before you start the mini trek that’s got a splendid view of the waterfall.

If you don’t have the energy to walk up and down a flights of stairs or balance on some rocks and bamboo bridges, you can just stay here and have a drink. But if you went there specifically to get up close with the waterfall and take a dip then you have to do it. Coming from a person who is physically inept for anything related to trekking or hiking, I tell you it was totally worth it.

  1. WE SPENT THE AFTERNOON RELAXING AT SANUR BEACH.

Sanur is your average beach. It can be a bit underwhelming but if you’re here to just relax, this is the perfect place. Not a lot of tourists compared to other beaches in Bali and there are lots of affordable beach restaurants and bars. Entrance to the beach is free but if you decide to rent a beach lounger, you can pay 50.000 IDR ($ 3.70/ ₱ 170) for the whole day.

  1. FINALLY, WE SPENT OUR LAST NIGHT IN BALI TRYING OUT SOME STREET FOOD.

Touristy places tend to hike prices even for street food. So if you want to try a lot of them at their reasonable prices, then hit the night markets. On our way back from Sanur Beach to our villa in Kuta, we passed by a market to eat some for dinner.

All of these skewers and iced tea for 45.000 IDR ($ 3.33/ ₱ 152).bali street food

Chili corn for 5.000 IDR ($ 0.37/ ₱ 17).

How to do Bali in 3 Days: Day 2 (Ubud + Taman Ayun + Tanah Lot)

If you missed Day 1 of our Bali trip, you may click here to catch up.

We’re now on our second day and down with my 5th travel tip on how to do Bali in 3 days and on a budget.

  1. WE VISITED THE CHEEKY MONKEYS OF BALI AT THE SACRED MONKEY FOREST IN UBUD.

From our AirBnb resort in Kuta, Agus drove us more than an hour to Ubud. I don’t know but monkeys seem to be a big deal in nature tourism here in Southeast Asia. I wasn’t really looking forward to visiting this park but when I got there and saw all the peaceful lush greenery they had going on, I thought to myself it wasn’t bad at all. It was actually pretty cool how the monkeys have the freedom to interact with humans and even steal stuff from them.

A few tips to avoid monkey mischief:

  1. Don’t bring any food or water bottles inside. Monkeys have an impeccable sense of smell and you can’t even hide unopened food from them. We saw one monkey steal a banana from a guy’s pocket.
  2. This is not exclusive to food. Zip up your bags ’cause these monkeys know how to work them and steal small stuff from them. One stole a lip balm from a girl’s bag. Good thing, they were able to get it back.
  3. Never panic if a monkey jumps on you. Most are just friendly encounters and they will jump off when they’re done with you. If you panic and try to shoo them off, there’s a higher risk that they will attack you.

One ticket costs 30.000 IDR ($ 2.25/₱ 102).

  1. WE PUT OUR HAGGLING SKILLS TO THE TEST AT THE UBUD ART MARKET.

If you’re on a hunt for cheap Balinese art pieces, this is the place to be. But it’s not just an art market, they sell all kinds of stuff from souvenirs to cheap clothing.

It would be stupid to accept the first price and after all, you are expected to haggle. There is no fixed price in these kinds of markets and they try to take advantage of tourists who don’t know the actual prices. It’s not so different with the markets here in the Philippines so I have an idea more or less how much they actually cost. I go at about half the asking price and if they say no, I smile, say “Okay, thanks” and head to the next store. This is a tried-and-tested trick, they will surely follow you and finally agree with your price.

  1. WE HAD BALINESE FOOD FOR LUNCH AT GEDONG SISI WARUNG.

Just across the Ubud market, along the busy Ubud main street is this quaint Balinese restaurant. Food wasn’t too expensive and they had quite a variety on their menu. Our lunch for two was 260.000 IDR ($ 20/ ₱ 880) – the ubiquitous nasi goreng (fried rice) with skewered shrimps, pork and chicken satay and fruit juice.

  1. WE STOPPED BY THE TAMAN AYUN TEMPLE FOR A QUICK PEEK.

It was along our way from Ubud to Tanah Lot so we said okay why not pop in for 30 minutes. It’s a peaceful place with not a lot of tourists so a quick visit would be a good idea if you want some quiet alone time.

Entrance to the temple is 15.000 IDR ($ 1.12/ ₱ 50).

  1. WE WENT TO THE TANAH LOT TEMPLE TO WITNESS ITS HIGHLY-RAVED SUNSET.

We went there at around 4:30 in the afternoon and paid 30.000 IDR ($ 2.25/ ₱ 100) to get in. Before you get to the beach and the temple, you have to pass through a street with all these souvenir shops which were too commercial for my taste. But anyway, what’s new.

Good thing, there are no more of those when you get to the coast. Yes, it was still packed with tourists but the place was huge, you can find a quiet place to sit and watch the sunset (and a place to take photos without anyone photobombing).

We waited more than an hour to catch the sunset. It was worth it and certainly did not disappoint. Everything was just so picturesque.

Click here for Part 3!

How to do Bali in 3 Days: Day 1 (Pura Uluwatu + Jimbaran Bay)

Bali is not a very typical Filipino budget travel destination mainly because even the promo fares are not that cheap let’s say compared to Hong Kong, Singapore or Malaysia. I wasn’t planning on spending a lot on this trip since I have a major one this coming September and I needed to save. Still with my budget woes, I decided to go ahead and book a plane ticket to Bali, Indonesia as my last out-of-the-country destination in Asia before I move to another continent. I have visited many cities in Asia but I wanted this trip to be different. I mostly explored cityscapes in my past trips but now I longed for beaches, waterfalls and sunsets… and Bali is blessed with them.

I spent about P 20,000 ($ 440) on this trip, airfare and accommodation included. This could be actually cheaper if I went with more friends since we could have shared the transportation and AirBnb expenses. Anyway, here’s how we did it:

  1. We booked this Balinese-style villa via AirBnB.
    We got a sweet deal of three nights for 2 persons for € 84 ($ 93) in Villa Surya Abadi. It’s not a typical AirBnB listing since it’s not a private house or flat but a legit Balinese resort with a swimming pool, resort staff and free breakfast.

The room was huge for two persons and it has a very rural feel. You can hear chickens crowing and lots of birds and crickets. The property is surrounded by rice fields so you can enjoy your breakfast with this view.

It’s located in Kuta, 40 minutes from the Ngurah Rai Airport and 30-75 minutes from the major tourist spots in Bali.

  1. We hired a private driver.
    This is the most convenient mode of transportation to get around Bali. Other options are 1. taxis, 2. renting a motorcycle, or 3. riding their public buses. We didn’t dare to try those since 1. we didn’t want to be ripped off by taxi touts, 2. you need to have a license, 3. I read that it will take forever.

Agus was referred to us by Morgan, the owner of the AirBnB villa. We paid 250.000 IDR for the airport pick up + 500.000 IDR daily driver rate + 250.000 IDR for the airport drop off. We paid him 2.000.000 IDR in total or ($ 133/ ₱ 6000) plus tip.

Our driver was very nice and most importantly, punctual. His arms are all covered in tattoo but he has the most high-pitched laugh, he’s so adorable.

  1. We visited the Pura Uluwatu sea temple and watched the Uluwatu Kecak Dance.
    Pura Uluwatu from Kuta is a 1 and a half hour ride. We left our villa at 2:30 in the afternoon so we could roam around the temple before the Kecak dance.

Entrance to the temple is 20.000 IDR ($ 1.50/ ₱ 68).

The cliff and ocean view was just stunning, all the more during sunset.

At 5 PM, they started selling tickets to the Kecak dance show but it actually started at around 6. We bought ours early so we could get good seats. One ticket costs 100.000 IDR ($ 7.53/ ₱ 340). We were given a paper with the summary of the story of Ramayana. The show lasts about an hour but don’t be like the other tourists who arrive late and leave early. That’s just rude.

I totally loved it and it gave me a serious case of last song syndrome. Towards the end, it became partly funny and interactive as they made the audience participate a bit.

  1. We had dinner at Jimbaran Bay.
    I admit this one you could (or should) skip. Restaurant prices of average food are inflated. The ambience was pretty cool but we had an unpleasant experience. I’m not sure if they forgot our order but we had to wait an hour for our food.

Sweet Bali High (Video Travel Diary)

I went to Bali two weeks ago for a glorious 4-day getaway. I know 4 days wasn’t enough but we tried to make the most of it. Still so many places I wish I was able to visit but no worries, I’ll definitely go back.

Before sharing my written travelogue and travel tips, I want to start off with a sort of travel diary in motion. I shot most of the clips with my Fujifilm X-A2 and borrowed some from my friend’s GoPro 3+. I shot video clips of the spots we visited – Pura Uluwatu, Jimbaran Bay, Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud Market, Taman Ayun, Tanah Lot, Tirta Empul, Tegunungan Waterfalls, Sanur Beach and Villa Surya Abadi.

It’s my first time to make a travel video so bear with me.

Tokyo Trip On a Budget: DAY 3 (Shinjuku + Harajuku)

This is the last leg of our Tokyo trip on a budget. We saved this day for our attempt to be one with nature. From the concrete jungle that is Tokyo, we needed a sweet escape and appreciate the city in spring which is actually the best time to be there. We planned to spend the morning, have a picnic, take a lot of photos at Shinjuku Gyoen. It was the end of March and the cherry blossom trees were still not in full bloom, but thank god there were some early bloomers. Still, with sore feet and legs, we went straight to a Family Mart and shopped for our picnic food: sushi rolls, chips, churros, sandwiches, and coffee. From Shibuya station, Shinjuku is just 7 minutes away.

You can actually walk from Shinjuku station to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden if you’re not a group of little grandmas with early signs of arthritis like us. But if you are, take another train via Marunouchi Line and alight at the Shinjukugyoenmae station. From this station, you can save yourselves a good deal of energy that you would be needing for the day ahead. You may ask around or use Google maps to locate the park entrance since it’s not visible from this station.

SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN. Entrance fee is ¥ 200 ($ 1.60/ ₱ 73). It was a bit crowded since it was practically cherry blossom season, but not as much as in April so it was a very nice day to sit on the grass and have a picnic like everybody else was doing.

We sat next to the Real Housewives of Tokyo.

Obligatory photo ops with cherry blossoms.

The park was actually really huge that we weren’t able to see everything during the 2 hours that we were there.

I can only imagine how this would all look like in full bloom. I will definitely come back but I’ll make sure it will be in early April.

We thought we could take the time to get in touch with Japan’s history by shrine-hopping but we were just able to visit one. Next time, I’ll take note that some temples and shrines close early in the afternoon.

HANAZONO SHRINE. The only shrine we were able to see was the Hanazono Shrine. It’s a tranquil shrine in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku. There weren’t many tourists when we went there.

If you’re a superstitious person or you just want to immerse yourself in their traditions, you may buy an ema (a small piece of wooden plaque) and write any wish you have and hang it up at the temple.

Shinto worshippers clean their hands and mouth with water at the cleansing station.

HARAJUKU. Our next stop was Harajuku, with the hope of seeing teenage girls wearing all the clothes they own at once.

I had read that many of their kind hang out at Takeshita street but we didn’t even dare to pass. There were tourists actually standing at the end of the street just looking at the crowd as if this was an attraction to them.

Harajuku Street is actually a lot calmer.

5 PM in the afternoon is not a very good time to look for Japanese restaurants. A lot of them are closed at that time and re-open at 6 so you have fewer choices. Things are quite expensive in Harajuku, including food so we were lucky we found this local restaurant hidden from the main streets. They only served gyozas and vegetables if I’m not mistaken.

KIDDYLAND. After loading up on gyozas, we went to Kiddyland: Japanese toy paradise. It’s a 5-storey toy store with all the Japanese (and non-Japanese) cartoon characters you can think of, even the creepy ones.

DON QUIJOTE. Since it was our last night in Tokyo, we had to save the night for souvenir-shopping. The best place to do this is in Donki (Don Quijote). There are many branches all over Tokyo but since we stayed in Shibuya, we opted to shop near as we were sure we would be carrying a lot of stuff after shopping. It has everything your family or friends want you to bring home – Green tea-flavored Kitkats, instant ramen noodles, souvenir shirts, and magnets.

Our Japan quickie was one helluva trip. If you need tips on how to go about planning yours, watch out for my next post.

Tokyo Trip On a Budget: DAY 2 (Tokyo Disneyland + Akihabara)

I’ve been to Universal Studios, I’ve been to Legoland but this was my first time in Disneyland – home of the most sexist and racist animated movies. Anyway, theme parks attract me, but I guess I just reached the age where I prefer taking in all the energy and excitement of being in a theme park by people-watching and taking pictures rather than trying every ride that I see.

We went on a weekday but boy, was it crowded. I went with my two friends and we sometimes got separated among the crowd.

This was actually my first time to ride the Tokyo metro. We used the Pasmo Card we previously bought at the airport for ¥ 2000 ($ 16.76/ ₱ 745). While I was planning our itinerary, I had computed the train fares for each trip and the total as well. For the 2 days that we got around by train, ¥ 2000 was just enough.

TOKYO METRO. Our apartment was just a few minutes’ walk away from the Shibuya train station but still, it was a real torture to my legs and feet. I still hadn’t recovered from Day 1’s Shibuya walkathon. Plus, the cold weather wasn’t helping at all. We took the Hanzomon Line and transferred to Keiyo Line.

After reaching Maihama station, we hopped on the Disneyland monorail. One-way ticket costs ¥ 260 ($ 2.18/ ₱ 97).

Of course, it’s Mickey Mouse-themed.

This is just a sneak peak of Japanese girl cliques with matching outfits in Disneyland. So much more of their kind inside the theme park. I guess Japan makes it look cool. Back in the Philippines, this would just be plain tacky.

TOKYO DISNEYLAND THEMED AREAS

  1. WORLD BAZAAR. This is impossible to miss since it’s basically the gateway to the theme park. It resembles Main Street, USA, inspired by Walt Disney’s hometown. It is filled with specialty shops, restaurants and “street vendors” of all things Disney. These Disney characters-inspired headbands and headgears are pretty much their cash cow items. Almost everyone in the park bought one and wore it around the park.
  2. WESTERNLAND

LUCKY NUGGET CAFE. We were in such a hurry, we forgot to grab a bite. We arrived at around 11 AM and the first thing we did once we got in was to look for something to eat. Something heavy. We searched for lunch meals on the Disneyland map and we decided to go for some fried chicken. One combo meal costs ¥ 1020 ($ 8.55/ ₱ 380).

MARK TWAIN RIVERBOAT. We hopped on this one because there were no long queues, and that’s pretty much our most important criteria on choosing which attraction to try. Having three decks, the boat has a large capacity, hence no queues involved. I wasn’t listening to the narrator but I still enjoyed the ride while I took photos of wildlife and American Indian villages.

SHOOTIN’ GALLERY. I passed this up but went with my friend who wanted to try it. This is one of the pay-to-play attractions, ¥ 200 ($ 1.68/ ₱ 75) for 10 shots. My friend only hit one though.

  1. FANTASYLAND

MICKEY’S PHILHAR MAGIC. This was one of the two 4D attractions that we visited in the park. We still had to queue but just for a few minutes since the theatre had a large capacity. So as usual, we were given 3D glasses and we watched a short movie starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Aladdin, Ariel, Simba, etc. in freaking Japanese! It was cool to watch it in a different language but I didn’t understand a thing.

QUEEN OF HEARTS BANQUET HALL. It’s an Alice in Wonderland-themed cafeteria-style restaurant, so expect whimsical decors. It actually took us more than 30 minutes to get our food because of the long lines.

I had the Child’s Set for ¥ 890 ($ 7.46/ ₱ 330) because I wasn’t really hungry. The food was yummy but expensive for the quantity.

HAPPINESS IS HERE PARADE. It started at around 3 PM and it was pretty much the highlight of the day. A few minutes before, we looked for a nice place to sit. Somewhere not too far yet not too near since I had brought my prime lens.

I know I can be cynical and hateful sometimes but man, this parade almost made me cry for joy. I guess it just made me well up with emotion. I thought I was weird, but my friends told me they felt the same way after watching it. Haha.

  1. TOMORROWLAND

STAR TOURS: THE ADVENTURES CONTINUE. This might be my favourite attraction in Tokyo Disneyland. It reminded me of USS’ Transformers but that one was better in my opinion. It had long lines as well but you could buy a FastPass if you want to jump the queue.

You can watch some Star Wars characters speaking in Japanese and giving you a bit of a background story to what you will be experiencing. Obviously, I didn’t understand anything so I just enjoyed the 3D ride inside the Starspeeder 1000.

We did pass by all the themed zones but unfortunately were not able to experience everything since we had plans for the night – AKIHABARA SOILED PANTY HUNTING. Aren’t you just curious to see how could they actually sell those stuff or if it was just all a myth?

After taking the Disneyland monorail, we took the Keiyo Line then transferred to Hibiya Line.

Kidding aside, we planned our night to take in the vibe of Tokyo’s gadget district.. and to look for Animé stuff our friends back home asked us to buy.

YODOBASHI-AKIBA. Like Tokyu Hands, it’s a mega department store of everything you need to win in life. They don’t only sell electronics and gadgets, they have all sorts of Animé toys and stuff, high-end bags and perfumes, and basically everything.

(RANDOM RAMEN RESTAURANT) – I actually don’t know the name of the restaurant we went to. They didn’t have an English name or an English menu but we tried it anyway. We just ordered based on the pictures. I thought I ordered a spicy miso-based ramen but they gave me a curry-based one, which I’m not really a fan of. I consumed half of it and just munched on the gyozas.

After an incredibly exhausting day, we bought some stuff from Family Mart for a midnight snack and finally called it a day.

Tokyo Trip On a Budget: DAY 1 (Shibuya)

Several weeks before our trip, we booked an AirBnB apartment for the 3 nights that we would be staying in Tokyo. For me, AirBnB is great news for cheapskate travelers who either don’t want to couch surf or stay in a dingy hostel room. You can get decent and sometimes very cozy apartments for a very low price. Fortunately, we found this very cute apartment located in Shibuya, which is actually one of the most ideal neighborhoods to stay in Tokyo.

NARITA AIRPORT. We arrived late morning in Tokyo from Manila. As soon as we’ve cleared immigration and got our luggage, we went to the Airport Limousine bus ticket booths located just outside the arrival area. We bought one-way bus tickets from Terminal 2 to Shibuya Hotel Excel Tokyu for ¥ 3,100 ($ 26/ ₱ 1154) each. Obviously, this was not our hotel, but our apartment was just an 8-minute walk from there.

CAFÉ CROISSANT. While waiting for our 1:00 PM bus, we had a light lunch at Café Croissant at the airport. I admit that my first meal in Japan was not Japanese food but this was also the last Western food I ate on our whole trip. I really love the Starbucks Discoveries Matcha Latte they sell in 7Eleven and Family Mart, I wish we had it here.

Convenience stores here make me happier than they should.

AIRPORT LIMOUSINE BUS. Third world country citizens that we are, we weren’t very prepared for the spring weather of Tokyo. What more if we went during winter. We waited for the bus outside the airport while we held each others’ hands for warmth. The bus arrived on time and they helped us put our wheeled luggage underneath.

I mostly slept through the almost one hour trip, but I was able to take photos before arriving at Shibuya Hotel. They dropped us off the 5th floor of the hotel and goshdarnit was it freezing cold and windy. From there we went down the hotel and walked our way to the apartment.

SHIBUYA MYCASTLE APARTMENT. Our AirBnB host gave us instructions how to get from the hotel to her apartment. She actually sent me a photo album of the landmarks that we were going to pass upon arriving at her place. It was really awesome crossing the famous Shibuya scramble for the first time. After 15 minutes of walking and being lost at some point, we finally arrived.

Our host told us not to talk to the receptionist or anyone in the building, so we had to figure out how to get her key from the lockers and get to her top floor apartment. All of this mind boggling experience was worth it when we saw this view.

We entered the apartment and it was exactly how it was in the pictures. There were 3 of us, so two took the double bed and my other friend set up the futon on the floor. Our host let us borrow the pocket wifi as well, so awesomesauce.

GENKI SUSHI. We were starving because it was silly to have light lunch after all. One of the main food destinations in our agenda was Genki Sushi. I can’t express enough how much I adore this sushi place. It’s cheap, it’s yummy, and it’s a very cool way to serve sushi. We just walked from our apartment to get here. They give you a number and you sit down on the corresponding seat number. You choose your order by clicking their touch screen menu and you just have to wait a few minutes before the conveyor belt brings your sushi.

You enjoy this savory sushi plate and go to the cashier and give your number so they can bill you. Then you walk out very satisfied.

TOKYU HANDS. This 9-storey department store literally has everything. It was just a few minutes’ walk away from Genki Sushi so we burned all our gained calories there. It’s great for window shopping but I also bought some brush pens which are amazing by the way. I regret that I didn’t hoard more.

APPLE STORE SHIBUYA. I thought I lost my Lightning to SD iPad connector so I passed by this Apple Store in Shibuya to buy one. Here, not just the products are sexy, the store itself is very sexy. An Apple Genius helped me with the connector I wanted to buy and I was amazed to see that they use their phones to swipe credit cards. Maybe it’s common there, but obviously not in the PH.

HACHIKO STATUE. We crossed the Shibuya Scramble again to take a look at the Hachiko statue, a small monument of the most loyal dog in the world. It’s worth a photo stop but it can get pretty crowded.

H&M SHIBUYA. We bought gloves because our hands were turning purple and some tights to double up with the ones we brought.

CLUB SEGA. Before heading back home, we saw a Club Sega arcade across the street. I had read before that this was one of the places where you can get a purikura taken. We went inside and we didn’t see any photo booths but we went to the basement and we were surprised to see this purikura paradise. There were lots of booths with different themes to choose from. For three girls traveling in Tokyo, this is definitely a must-do.

We bought some instant noodles from Family Mart and had midnight snack at the apartment before hitting the sack. My feet were really sore and I was so tired from all the walking so I was surprised I had a hard time falling asleep. Probably from excitement because Day 2 was Tokyo Disneyland and Akihabara Day.

3-Day Thailand Getaway Budget Tips

Here’s how you can spend less than 20,000 pesos ($ 450) on a 3-day Thailand getaway budget trip.

  1. BOOK A PROMO FARE. This one’s pretty obvious. The discount from a year-round fare to a promo fare could be as high as 75% so this could save you a lot of money. I usually book Cebu Pacific because of the abundance of their promo fare offers. Like their page to get the latest updates on promo fares. They have promos almost every day and they change them every 3 days or so. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for one for your target destination and target travel date.
  2. HAVE YOUR PESO EXCHANGED TO THAI BAHT AHEAD OF TIME. The airport has the worst money exchange rate so better buy your Baht pocket money at Czarina’s or Sanry’s at least a week before because it can be subject to reservation.
  3. BOOK A CHEAP HOSTEL. I have always used booking.com for accommodation before I discovered the wonders of AirBnB. If you’re more comfortable living in a hostel and not having to deal with hosts, booking.com is the best way to go. Most hotels offer free cancellation up to a certain period of time, normally up to a day before the scheduled stay and they offer discounts if you book ahead of time.
  4. KHAO SAN ROAD IS A PRETTY OKAY PLACE TO STAY IN. For example, Sawasdee Inn is not the best hostel there is, but it’s close to the restaurants, bars and street scene of Bangkok. Plus, it’s so cheap! Just 900 THB ($ 26.88/ ₱ 1221) per person for 2 nights.
  5. EAT STREET FOOD. This won’t just help you budget your pocket money, but you get to try the best local delicacies as well. Go to Khao San Road or Soi Rambuttri and have a taste of their grilled meat and veggie skewers, pad thai, sticky rice or coconut ice cream. If you’re not squeamish, why not try their edible insects and bugs.
  6. TRY THE LOCAL BARS AND RESTAURANTS IN KSR OR SOI RAMBUTTRI. They’re actually cheap. And you get free entertainment from acoustic singers. You can try the local beers as well: Singha and Chang.
  7. BOOK A PACKAGE TOUR. If you’re staying in Bangkok for 3 days, you wouldn’t want to commute to all the temples and attractions in your itinerary. Package tours like the one we booked included transportation already. We paid 2850 THB ($ 85/ ₱ 3780) for the following activities: Temple Tour (Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha), Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, 30-minute elephant ride @ Chang Puak Camp, some bonus tours (a gem factory and a woodcarving museum/store) and transportation (air-conditioned van).
  8. BE CAREFUL AT PATPONG. This is for those who wish to watch the pingpong shows. Travel agencies actually offer assistance with these kinds of tourist attractions as well. They just don’t offer them explicitly. In our case, they just let us know the rates and all when we asked it to them.
  9. SAY “PHAENG!” TO VENDORS. In other words, try to haggle. Most will try to rip you off if they know you’re a tourist so never take their first offer. When we were at the floating market, another tourist on our boat had to haggle for a 900 THB trousers. It actually took us some time before the vendor finally agreed on selling it for 300 THB.
  10. SOUVENIRS ARE CHEAP. There are lots of souvenirs you can buy: tank tops, trousers, bags, keychains and magnets that are actually of good taste and quality. You can get those really comfy loose harem pants for 140 THB or tank tops with Thai designs for 100 THB.

Here’s the breakdown of the expenses of our Bangkok weekend. For my pocket money, I spent almost 8500 THB ($ 254/ ₱ 11,532) but don’t forget about the exchange rate of your money exchanger. Plus, the return airfare of 6300 PHP ($ 141.88) from Cebu Pacific, 1620 PHP ($ 36.48) Travel tax and 550 PHP ($ 12.39) terminal fee. All in all, less than 20,000 PHP ($ 495.45).

Thailand Getaway: Part II (Elephant Ride + Floating Market + Patpong)

Day 2 of our Thailand getaway started with a one-hour trip outside Bangkok to go to Chang Puak Camp in Hat Yai. Chang is not just a famous beer brand. Chang actually means elephant in Thai. So yes, that was one of our must-do activity in Bangkok, an elephant ride. This was arranged by Mr.Off and was included in the tour package.

You may choose from the activities in the camp like elephant acrobatics, crocodile shows, and shooting ranges but we only took the half an hour of elephant ride. It was fun, better than any 4D ride. Seeing elephant dung in random places was equally fun. We had to wait for the other tourists who shared the van with us so while waiting, we had massages given by vibrating massage chairs for 100 BAHT ($ 2.99/ ₱ 133) per 15 minutes.

Next stop: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. I recommend riding the boat just for the heck of it but never agree on the vendors’ first offer. When haggling, Mr. Off told us to say “Phaeng!” which means expensive! The price could be brought down up to 70% off. Don’t show much interest in a store if you don’t want to deal with annoying vendors. If you show the slightest interest in something, they will hook your boat and pull it towards their store and won’t let you go on until you buy their product.

And we had to go to a woodcarving museum/shop, as it was part of the tour. We had some refreshments while waiting for the van to take us to Platinum Mall. We had lunch and bought some souvenirs and took a taxi back to Khao San Road. We would have taken a tuk-tuk but they were ripping us off, so we shook them off and rode a taxi.

One of the main activities in our Bangkok agenda is to see one of them ping pong shows. Thank god we booked this tour because they helped us through the whole process. Our driver bought us tickets, took us to Patpong by van and waited for us outside the strip club. All of this for only 700 THB ($ 20.91/ ₱ 950). I know it might sound pricey for a 30-minute show, but we’ve read a lot of scary stories of tourists getting ripped off by strippers and club managers and thankfully, unlike them, we had a very smooth Bangkok pussy show experience. Taking photos was prohibited, obviously. So I just have this one badge I proudly hang on my wall.