Sunday, November 18, 2012

His Trip - Hotel Notepad Collection

L' Fisher Hotel
Alpa City Suites

Crimson Resort - Mactan

The Golden Peak Hotel and Suites

Harolds Hotel

Marco Polo Plaza Cebu

Movenpick Resort - Mactan

Quest Hotel
Grand Men Seng Hotel
BSA Tower

Prince Plaza
Bayview Park Hotel
City Lodge
Gold Coast
Hotel Grand Chancellor - Surfer's Paradis
The Great Southern Hotel
Ho Chi Minh
KimDo Hotel
Hong Kong
Largos Hotel

Shamrock Hotel
The Venetian Macao Resort & Hotel
Kuala Lumpur
Crown Princess Hotel

First World Hotel & Plaza

Melia Hotel
Karasuma Kyoto Hotel
Hotel New Hankyu
United States of America
Los Angeles
Ramada Hotel
New York 
Howard Johnson Niagara Falls
San Franciso
Radisson Hotel
Fairfield Inn & Resort (Marriott)
 New Delhi
The Metropolitan Hotel

The Corus Hotel
Siem Riep
Claremont Angkor Hotel
YWCA Fort Canning Lodge

Carlton Hotel
Hotel HD Palace

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Her Trip - Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast)

Every trip has it's ups and downs, and our week-long vacation to continental Australia had it's own share too. But despite that, we had a pretty good trip.

Planning for the trip started almost a year ahead. Air Asia was having one of their big flight promos. The promos usually start at 1 o'clock dawn which in itself is a challenge. You either had to wait up til late, which is not easy, or wait until the morning which could mean sold-out tickets or limited booking dates. We chose the latter, and we were lucky.

The promo was also for flights for the following year. We never know what will come up 6 months or 1 year from booking. It meant the flight could possibly get canceled. And also with Air Asia being a low-cost carrier based in Malaysia, flights all start in Malaysia, which meant more flights for us.

Nevertheless, we booked the tickets 10 months in advance. Round trip tickets from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Australia (due to the promo) cost less then P10,000 (USD 200) each. From there, interior flights were slowly booked. Until finally, the local flights. Without the promos from low-cost airlines, booking round trip tickets would've cost us more than $850 USD each. Our tickets cost around the same, for 2!

Days leading to the trip were spent finding hotels and planning the itinerary. Applying for Australian Tourist Visas, which we got weeks ahead, was gladly not a problem.

The trip started with 3 flights. Cebu to Manila, Manila to Kuala Lumpur and then finally, Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne. The 3 flights took almost an entire day, including stopovers and all.

Melbourne, Victoria

Melbourne was our first stop in Australia. Our trip coincided with the Australian Grand Prix. Held year after year in Albert Park, it is one of the most awaited sporting events of the country. Downside to having the Grand Prix in town was fully-booked hotels. We had a choice of either a hotel away from the city or a hostel with a prime location. And we chose a hostel with 4-bed mixed room accommodation at $31 AU/person per night.

Flinders Station Backpackers was located right smack in the city center. Located within a block from Flinders Street Station and several tram and bus stations, there were no complains about the location. The actual room though was a different story. It had 2 bunk beds and no private bath. The room was small, so luggage space was limited, and it had dirty carpets. There were lockers for our luggages but it was too much hassle having to lock up every time we left the room.

During our 2-day stay, we shared the room with European guys - French and English. Me and my better half shared a single bed on one of the top bunks. I was not comfortable sleeping alone on my bed. Having to go back to our room at the end of the day was stressful enough for me. I dreaded the thought every time. My better half though, didn't seem to have any problem with it.

F1 Practice Race

Being one of my better half's must-go-to places, we had pre-booked tickets for the Grand Prix. Though we only made it to one of the practice days, as prices on the actual race day were steep, we got a feel of how the actual race day would be. There were kiddie zones inside the park, as well as food stalls and souvenir stands. Catching one of their practice sessions, we saw and heard the F1 cars zip by so noisily.

Taking a shot with the racing cars needed a very quick finger as the cars were visible for just a few seconds. What I hoped on seeing was action in the pit stop. Watching each team recondition the cars in just seconds was something, while waiting for the cars to go round on round the tracks was pretty much boring. I didn't get a rush watching the cars fly by. There were also huge screens showing the race all over the park, just like how we see it on tv.

Transportation in Australia is relatively expensive. But Melbourne has a very convenient transportation system for tourists. Aside from the pricey shuttle buses which took us from the airport to the hotel and back, we didn't spend a penny going around the city. There were free City Trams that went around major tourist stops. There was also free buses which went around the city center as well. The free trams and buses, with clockwise or counter-clockwise routes, follow a rectangular path around the city. Everywhere else we had to go on foot.

Flinders Street Station

Victorian architecture was very much prominent all over the city, being a former European settlement. Flinders Street Station, the central railway station of the train network of Melbourne, was one landmark depicting this. With it's distinctive red and yellow brick wall and intricately-designed arches topped with green domes, it is an icon that proudly stands out. The train station is a popular meeting place among Melburnians. There used to be plans to demolish the station to make way for office buildings, but the plans were halted by protests.

Federation Square

Just across Flinders Street Station was a building with a unique facade. The Federation Square, it is an open square where Melburnians hang out. There is a very helpful tourist information center underground. Restaurants and museums abound all over the complex. There was the Australian Center for the Moving Image within the complex, which we visited. It housed exhibits of the moving image in all its forms - film, television, movies, fames. It wasn't bad, but there wasn't anything so amazing about it either.

Old Melbourne Gaol

Other places we went to were the Old Melbourne Gaol, which used to be an old prison complex. Some famous Australian criminals met their death in the gallows here, but the place was of not much interest to me. They had ghost-hunting night tours though, which would've been a different story.

I had high expectations of Melbourne before the trip. But after just spending 2 days, and running out of places to go to, I'd say it was pretty much boring. There were places I had planned to go to like the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Carlton Gardens (UNESCO Heritage Site) and Queen Victoria Market, but they somehow got forgotten. Up until now, I constantly wonder if those 2 places would've had given me a much different outlook of the city.

I had expected cool and sunny weather and packed flip flops, shorts, flimsy tops and cardigans. Temperature unexpectedly dropped that time we were in Melbourne, and we got cold, windy, chilly days. The cardigans were insufficient, the shorts stayed unused, and I had to brave the freezing wind each day. The long walks left me in no mood to talk as I had to save my strength, the freezing temperature made me want to stay put at a single place, and most of all, the hostel situation was the most stressful. I was left so down. And after just 2 days, the trip had already lost it's appeal to me.

Sydney, New South Wales

Sydney had a much better tone. We said good bye to our hostel and had a regular hotel room in the city. We stayed at The Great Southern Hotel, located right across Central Station. At a little over $100/night, it wasn't cheap but we later found out that that price was pretty much average in Australian cities. It was a pretty decent hotel, but after our stay at the hostel, it was 5-star accommodation to me. We now had our own bathroom, a television, queen-sized bed plus a little kitchenette. I had initially wanted to stay-in and not go out.

We started the tour of the city catching the 555 CBD Shuttle Bus 3 blocks away. Little did we know that there was another stop just right across the street. We hopped off the bus when it got to the northern most stop, and went around The Rocks. It was the area below the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was a Sunday the time we were there, and it was a lively place with the weekend market.

The Rocks

We then had lunch at a nearby pub before heading back to spend an afternoon for our scheduled pictorial with a young French lass. We went around the Chinese Garden in Chinatown, and finally to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Mrs Macquaries Point. Sadly, it was a rainy day, but despite the rain, the place had a lovely view of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House was the main reason we wanted to go to Australia. Having pre-booked tickets for The Essential Tour, we were able to get in and hear the history behind the structure. At $29 AUD, the tour was worth it, the interiors were magnificent and we learned a lot about the place. One can only imagine what happens when an actual play or symphony takes place. We had wanted to catch a show, unfortunately, the one in schedule didn't meet our taste. The Opera House had impressive interiors, outside though was a different story. I was in anticipation of an eye-gapping, jaw-dropping structure, having been elected a modern wonder of the world. Sadly, it didn't live up to the hype. The exterior had unique features alright, but in my opinion not too worthy of a place in the list.

Riding ferries was another nice thing we did around Sydney. Dropping the plan to join one of their buffet cruises (as they were expensive and I might get seasick), we took an ordinary ferry from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour. Being a means of transportation, it cost $5.30 AUD per trip. It was a cold but sunny weather that day. With the clear blue skies, and the Opera House and Harbour Bridge right in front of us, it was one of the things I loved best.

Darling Harbour is a large tourist precinct. With restaurants, shopping malls, museums and zoos all over, it was a place where one can lazily spend a full day people-watching, shopping or just relaxing. Having dreams of boarding an aircraft carrier, we dropped by the Australian National Maritime Museum, and boarded the HMAS Onslow submarine and the HMAS Vampire destroper. Sadly, it was far from the aircraft carrier-experience I had imagined.

The rest of the day was spent walking back to our hotel, shopping and dinning. Shops in Australia mostly close at 6 pm due to expensive labor, except on Thursdays which was payday where they close at 9. We retired early on most of the days, which was a relief. Long walks I can do. Long walks in cold temperature without warm clothes, I cannot. Gladly, we were nearing the end of our vacation. We just had one last stop, Gold Coast.

Gold Coast, Queensland

The Gold Coast is one of the cities where Air Asia operates thus making it part of our itinerary. Despite coming from a place where there were lots of beaches, the place was totally impressive. The length of it's shoreline couldn't compare to the beaches here. The beach was clean, there were life guards clearly watching over, and there were surfers all over. It would've been nice to take a dip in the water if the weather was a bit warmer.

The Grand Chancellor Hotel was right in Surfer's Paradise. The hotel room had it's own balcony and it was huge. Sound of the waves rolling in from the beach nearby could be heard from the room. We bought ice-cold Australian beers, hung out and took advantage of the balcony.

The Great Southern Hotel

Surfer's Paradise is an ideal place for a real vacation. It was where I felt most relaxed. There were no itineraries to follow, no shows to catch up, we took our merry time walking around the neighborhood going around the shops and admiring the place.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Home to multitudes of theme parks, Gold Coast is the ideal destination for family vacations in Australia. Queensland is also where one can cuddle koalas. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, miles away from Surfer's Paraside, was where one can have a picture taken with a koala. It is also where we got to experience hand-feeding the kangaroos. Being animal lovers, it was a wonderful experience for us.

I was more than happy for the Gold Coast leg of the trip. Being the last stop before we left, memories there were the ones I most vividly remember. And those were happy moments.

Friday, April 8, 2011

His Trip - Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast)

We just got back from a short but full one week trip from Australia. We visited the 3 major cities in 3 of the 6 Australia states in just 6 days. Yes, just 2 days each in Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Coast. The short trip is good enough if you just want to get a feel of the place and get around the central business area of each city.

Thanks to low-cost carrier airlines, this trip was made possible. We got our airline tickets for a fourth of the cost compared to flying directly with regular airlines. But it was a very long trip for us. We booked Philippine's Cebu Pacific Airline to bring us to Kuala Lumpur from Manila. Then we flew Malaysia's Air Asia Airline for our flight to Melbourne. Our interior flights to Sydney and Gold Coast were with Australia's Jet Star Airlines. All in all, we had a a total of almost 30 flying hours for the 8 different flights .

We were able to squeeze in a short tour to Kuala Lumpur on our 8-hour stopover there before our flight to Melbourne. The KL Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) airport have storage services where you could leave your bags for around 30 RM/bag (10 USD) and a bus service which could take you to Central Station in an hour for 8 RM/one way (2.50 USD). From Central Station, it's just a short train ride away to the famous Malaysia attraction - the Petronas Twin Towers Building. We weren't able to climb up to the viewing deck of the building since we arrived late in the afternoon already. So we just went around the KLCC Suria mall and took pictures of the impressive structure.

Petronas Twin Towers


Our Melbourne trip was scheduled in time for the F1 Australian Grand Prix. Most of the nice and cheap hotels in downtown Melbourne were fully booked that time. We ended up booking a hostel room for 4 with shared bathroom. It wasn't that bad though. We stayed in Flinders Station Backpackers Hotel which is situated just across the Flinders Station - the transportation center where most trains, trams and buses pass.

We spent our first day in Melbourne at the F1 Grand Prix in Albert Park. It's always a dream for most guys who as kids grew up with toy cars, to one day see and experience the fastest race of the fastest cars. And what an experience it was for me. Though we didn't get to watch the actual race, it was good enough watching their practice runs (tickets during the actual race are more expensive). I got to cross out another item on my list of major sporting events I want to see, after being in China during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Up next is the Fifa World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

It wasn't hard going around Melbourne. They have a free city tram that goes around the City Center and a free tourist shuttle bus that goes around most tourist sites as well. We spent our second day exploring the city. The best place to start your tour is at the Melbourne Visitor's Center at the Federation Square. It is where you could get all the information on all the places you could see and visit in Melbourne. It is also one of the stop of the free shuttle bus that you could take for your next destination.

City Circle Tram at Flinders Station

We took the free City Tram, which was maintained in its old vintage look, to go around the city. Most of the major attractions in Melbourne are situated in the CBD and are just within close distance with each other. We went to the Federation Square, the Old Melbourne Goal, the State Library of Victoria, and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). Its hard to get lost in central Melbourne since most of the streets are just in grids and the blocks are easy to recall with the repeated street names (eg. Bourke and Little Bourke Sts., Flinders St. and Flinders Lane, etc.). We also tried some of the restaurants in Melbourne's Chinatown and visited the outlet shops in Docklands Harbour area.


We took the early morning JetStar Airline flight from Melbourne to Sydney. Sydney Airport is not that far from the city center so it's more practical to take the shuttle bus which cost around AUD 15/person. Sydney has a lot of choices of hotels but it's better to get one near the CBD especially along George, Pitt or Elizabeth St. since they have the free 555 tourist shuttle bus servicing this route. We stayed at the Great Southern Hotel along George St. near the Central Station.

A trip to Australia won't be complete without visiting the Sydney Opera House. It's one of the sites in my "places to visit before I die" list. I plan to visit all the New 7 Wonders of the World and the other 14 finalist. I have been to 5 places in the list already. I'm excited to crash out another one this July after our trip to India.

Sydney Opera House

I highly recommend visitors in Sydney to take the Essential Tour of the Sydney Opera House. It's an hour-long tour inside the venue and the concert halls, complete with information of its history for only 28 AUD (if booked online). There are cafes and restaurants nearby where you could eat and hang out, and which are also good vantage points to take photos of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge nearby.

Sydney Opera House Main Concert Hall

Most of the other tourist sites in Sydney are situated near the Opera House. We walked along the Circular Quay, which is the main ferry transport point in Sydney, and The Rocks, which is a historic site in central Sydney. We also went to climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge up to one of its pylons. We spent some of our free time going around Sydney's Chinatown and Darling Harbour to dine and shop for souvenirs.

As what I wrote on my previous blog before, I was supposed to propose to my girl in Sydney. I was thinking of a dramatic proposal onboard a cruise ship sailing by Sydney Harbour with the Opera House at the background. We were already engaged before this trip, but we still took the harbour cruise but just to tour around the harbour area. We also had our pre-wedding photo shoot in Sydney. Thanks to Perrine Sacré, a young French photographer based in Sydney, who offered to take the photos of us at the Chinese Garden of Friendship and at the Royal Botanic Gardens with the Sydney Opera House and Bridge in the background.

Gold Coast

I highly recommend tourists who plan on visiting Australia to include the Gold Coast in their itinerary. Yes, I was impressed with the place because of it's long and clean beach fronts and relaxing atmosphere. Before the trip, I wasn't too excited on going to the Gold Coast since I come from a country with a lot of beaches. But I was glad we took this trip since it was what I consider the "real" vacation. Imagine yourself lounging around in your hotel room balcony sipping some cold drinks with a great view of the ocean. We stayed in Grand Chancellor Hotel in Surfers Paradise, where most of the shops and big hotels are situated.

Surfer's Paradise, Gold Coast

To complete our Australia experience, we decided to visit the Currimbin Wildlife Sanctuary to see a kangaroo and koala. It was fun to hand-feed the kangaroos and to cuddle a real koala. Gold Coast had a lot of theme parks also.

This is our last foreign trip together before we get married with my girl this July. Up next is our honeymoon to New Delhi and Agra in India. It would be a different trip with us being a couple already. But I'm sure our love for traveling and blogging about it still won't change.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Our Trip - Australia Pre-Wedding Photoshoot

Location: Sydney, NWS, Australia (Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge, Chinese Garden)
Date: March 27, 2011
Perrine Sacré