the forest lodge at camp john hay

sometimes a change of environment can make de-stress one’s mind and body.  weeks ago,  i planned a trip to the city of pines for a lazy weekend – meaning, doing nothing.

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my last visit to baguio was ages ago.  the SM city mall wasn’t even existing yet during that time.  i have always wanted to stay at camp john hay and the first hotel that was on my mind was the manor.  i checked the website and the price was a little steep for my budget so i searched for other hotels within the vicinity and found out the forest lodge.  i checked their website and was excited to know that they have special off-peak rates for P2600.00 a night.  for me that was a steal and booked online.

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the deluxe bus i took from quezon city only took 4 hours to reach baguio city.  the coolness of the weather was so relaxing i knew i was going to have a good time.

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Located inside Camp John Hay, The Forest Lodge offers the best of both worlds: living spaces that are big on comfort and an outdoor environment that offers numerous fun activities. The Forest Lodge gives guests a choice of accommodations: the Superior Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, Family Rooms and One-Bedroom Suites. Spacious rooms with windows open to more views of the surrounding pine forests and gardens. Free Wi-Fi services are available in all guestrooms and at the lobby for those who still want to get in touch with family, friends and business associates while on a holiday. The Forest Lodge at Camp John Hay offers 24-hour Front Desk services, Housekeeping, Maintenance and Security.

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i arrived too early for check-in but was accommodated by 12pm upon availability of a room.

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took pictures of their beautiful lobby.

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the design were a mix of furnitures but it blended well.

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rustic chandelier and an odd-looking wall decor (if you know what it is, tell me!).

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there wooden rocking chairs on display and i think they are for sale.

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the music lounge were they provide live music on weekend nights.

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elevators to access the floors.

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the hallway to my room.

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my room was at the second floor.

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two queen sized beds was too much for me, haha!

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this is their superior room which was very spacious.

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you can actually open the window with a separate screen guard.

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the uber-relaxing view from my window of pine trees.

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there is a small sink and refrigerator.

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the dresser and there is also a safe and iron/board.

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there is a toilet bidet installed and water from the sink is not potable and smells disagreeable at times (somewhat metallic and rancid).  i used bottled water to brush my teeth.

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just observed that the toiletries were not replenished on my second day.  i always bring my own anyway so i did not further bothered.

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shower stall, with hot and cold and good water pressure.

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i had breakfast at their all dining restaurant, the twist.  they serve asian fusion culinary delights.

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their breakfast menu is limited, but basic enough to have a good one to start your morning.

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i ordered chicken sausage (its the usual one you get from the deli section of supermarkets) which included two sunny side eggs, garlic rice and brewed coffee.

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if you want to stay in a part of baguio city where it is more private, quiet and opt for a very relaxed ambience, forest lodge will be a very good choice.

 

offloaded

iran.  it was one middle eastern country that i’ve secretly wanted to visit.  i never told my ma that i booked a ticket with the help of the acquired miles i got from gulf air to tehran until i got approved by the embassy in makati.  she then asked what was in that country that made me want to visit – and i showed her pictures from the internet of the azadi tower in tehran, the bridges of isfahan and persepolis in shiraz.  i told her that i am going to get a small-sized authentic persian carpet for which the country is well-known.

it wasn’t easy to get a visa to iran.  an authorization number is required issued by their ministry of foreign affairs.  this is then forwarded to the embassy in the philippines which is located in dasmarinas village, makati.  the authorization number can be obtained by either a sponsor (who is a local) or applying to have one from a travel agency.  i got mine from the latter wherein i paid like $80.00 which took 10 days.  i went to the embassy the moment i received the authorization number.  after submitting my requirements and paying a visa fee, i waited for another 10 days and got my visa stickered in my passport.

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everything was going in the right places for my one of a kind trip.  i scribbled in my note pad some helpful farsi words that i can use, carefully planned my 10-day itinerary, took note the places i did not want to miss, got my backpack and personal stuff ready, read a lot of entries in the net about iran – i even got some small native trinkets to give away to locals whom i will meet during my trip.

on the day of my flight friday the 13th, i asked my brother to drive and drop me to the international airport using our family suv.  it took us two hours to travel from rizal due to traffic on some major roads.  i reached the airport on time, having more than 3 hours before my 12:10 flight.  everything went smoothly during my visa check, then the issuance of tickets and paid travel tax plus the terminal fee.  i then was in line to the last step which was immigration – then my nightmare started.

it was a long queue to the immigration counters.  i can see on the people’s faces the boredom they were having as they stood in line like me.  the caucasian guy behind me was muttering the words, ages. ages. and i smelt his breath tainted with alcohol.  he looked as if he hadn’t showered.

when it was my turn in the counter, i handed down the lady officer my passport and tickets.  her facial reaction changed when she saw my ticket going to tehran.  then the questions started:  whom am i going to meet in iran?  where is my old passport?  what is my job? where will i stay?  and so on.  the last thing she told me was that it is very “unlikely” for someone to visit iran as a tourist.  she handed me back my documents and a paper to be filled up and pointed me to that corner in the airport where questionable passengers are to be interviewed.

i filled up the paper that was given to me which are a bunch of questions like how will you support yourself financially, and more that i can no longer remember.  as i was waiting for my turn to be interviewed an officer approached me and looked at my paper.  again questions: how did i managed to get a visa for iran?  what will i do there?  when she found out that i was an ofw before, she was asking for my old overseas employment certificate.  i told her i did not bring it with me because i no longer work as an ofw.  she asked me what was my job before and told her i worked as a paramedic, she then said if i’m going to look for a job in iran – i said no which was the truth.

i was interviewed  for the third time by another female officer who was calmer than the other one.  i believe she was really trying to help and being fair on me.  questions were asked, i produced almost everything she required me to prove that i’m only touring the country.  she even excused herself and tracked down my travel history.  when she went back she told me that she noticed that i have travelled often.

the last step was for their supervisor to approve my travel and this is where i made my mistake.  my booked hotel was only for a day because the online bookings for hotel accommodation for tehran was too expensive.  they were asking for my 10 day hotel bookings i which unfortunately did not have.  i gave them the addresses of the hostels that i am planning to stay – they did not accept this.

when i applied for iran visa this was not asked, what i gave them were only addresses of the hostels.  this did not work out in our own immigration office.  lastly, they gave me a difficult task to produce the 10 day hotel bookings and they will let me go.  it was already 11:00 and boarding is at 11:30.  i told the officer that i will not make it.  i will need wifi connection and online booking hotel availability will be very difficult.  she wrote in my ticket the word “pending”.  i did not ask any questions, my dream to travel to iran has turned into dust.

though my iran visa is good till august, my ticket was forfeited because i purchased it using my mileage (air miles).  it required 54,000 miles credit and $200.00, it is non-rebookable.   i spent about $150.00 to process the authorization number and the visa and for my travel insurance, $60.00.

this was a very tedious experience.  physically and emotionally it affected me but what can i do?  every traveler is in the hands of the immigration officers in the airport.  i was thinking if ever i knew someone there who knows me personally that i do travel solely for pleasure and not to look for a job it might have been different.  also, though there is no ban for filipinos to travel in iran, it was very unique for them to see one guy going as a tourist.

this is not the end of my very few travels.  it will not let me stop to explore the places i want to see.

 

 

 

dusit princess srinakarin

it was my second time to visit bangkok, thailand.  i wasn’t there this time to see some tourist spots but instead to meet some friends who are based in the city.  i was looking for a nice hotel to stay which was mid-range priced and in bangkok, you wouldn’t have a hard time checking for one for i think it is one city that have the most best hotels you can find.

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i chose to stay in one of dusit’s property in bang na district, dusit princess srinakarin.  this hotel is only a 15-minute drive from suvarnabhumi international airport.

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i had to wait for a few hours for check-in for i arrived too early.  i left my luggage in the concierge which they happily accepted as i went to walk around the mall which was nearby.

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after a few hours, i went back to check-in.  i have made a booking  for my 3d2n in advance by contacting their reservations department.

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the room i got was at the fifth floor.

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the deluxe room i booked was actually upgraded into a junior suite.

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a spacious work desk, 32-inch LCD flat screen television and dining area.

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wired and wireless high-speed internet access, direct dial telephone and stationery kit.

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living area and there is also a fridge with min-bar plus coffee and tea making facilities.

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in-room safe, iron and ironing board, bathrobe / bedroom slippers.

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the room has a separate shower and bath tub.  as you can notice, it’s completely spotless.

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upgraded bath amenities are included for the junior suite room.

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a fully equipped fitness center is available at the ground floor.

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the swimming pool for one’s enjoyment.

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i had buffet breakfast in one of their restaurants, square one.  located on the lower ground level, it offers a view of the hotel gardens through floor-to-ceiling windows.

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wine@53 has over 60 traditional and new world wine selections in stock.  i really don’t understand anything about wines for i am not a wine drinker myself – so maybe i need to read that “wine appreciation” book.

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i think one can never go wrong if you choose any of dusit’s hotels.  i also have stayed in dusit thani manila and it was also a superb experience.  luxury, excellent dining and thai-inspired accommodation all rolled up in one is how i can describe my stay at dusit princess srinakarin.

 

pleasant stay at b hotel

one of the hotels i stayed on at the madrigal business park when i was attending a workshop in the area was b hotel.  it is a three star hotel and their clients are more on business travelers who wants simple hotel living.

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Discreetly poised in the middle of Madrigal Business Park, B Hotel is the smart choice for business and leisure travelers looking for a good value for money. Maintaining Bellevue’s brand of personalized service, this three star hotel features 154 rooms and eight penthouse units as well as an all-day dining outlet. Wi-fi access, a must among business travelers, is available throughout the property.

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i arrived at 11:00 in the morning but there were rooms available so i got accommodated even it wasn’t time yet for check-in.  my room was at the third floor, room 302.

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room is spacious with comfy bed with soft sheets and pillows.

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workdesk, coffee and tea making facilities, tv with good cable channels.

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a view of the room from the entrance and there is a locked door to the adjacent room.  i pressed my ear on it and heard . . nothing.  i assume it’s sound-proofed?  lol!

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wireless internet worked very well and it was easy to make a connection.

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there is a safe and bath robe with extra towels and slippers.

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toilet and shower area, some toiletries and they have an installed hand-held bidet.

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i was too lazy to go out for dinner so i thought in room dining would be more preferable.   i ordered penne arrabbiata (is penne on tomato sauce, garlic, parsley and chili) and their b signature burger, made of char-grilled chicken patty (i don’t eat beef!) on a toasted bun with iceberg lettuce, pickles, tomato and grilled onions, topped with melted cheddar cheese.  it is served with french fires and coleslaw.  i had to force-feed myself to finish them, hehe.

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i had a restful sleep when i woke up the next day.  i freshened up and proceeded to have complimentary breakfast at their restaurant found at the ground floor, prime café.

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there are a few choices at the buffet but it was still fine.  i tried their spicy sardines which was quite nice.

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b hotel is part of the bellevue hotels and resorts, a filipino owned company.  it was personally, a very pleasant stay for me and would love to try their other properties too.

note: FYI this is NOT a SPONSORED stay.

in tune at tune hotel

it  wasn’t a first for me to stay on one of tune hotel‘s establishments.  i have stayed in their branch in cebu (philippines), in penang (malaysia) and bali, (indonesia).

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their branch in ortigas was new and i was about to attend some refresher courses in a training center which was a 10-minute walk from the hotel.  i decided then to stay for four days.  i booked online and it only cost me P4500.00 (including add-ons), which was about a hundred dollars.  with tunes they have this “pay-as-you-use of add-ons” concept – say you pay for the toiletries, for 12 or 24 hours air-conditioning, TV and internet access.

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my brother dropped me off at the hotel too early for check-in time was strictly 2:00 pm.  i had to wait for two hours and was accommodated at 1:30 pm.  the hotel lobby was quite comfortable and there were desktop computers with internet available for use.

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the hotel has 12 floors and the room i got assigned to was at the 11th floor, 1122.  a keycard to get access to the floors is needed which is a good safety feature.

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it’s been a habit of mine to check the fire escape plan of the hotel i’m staying.

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they promise 5-star beds and in fact theirs are comparable with the other hotels i stayed.  internet connection works very good, a stub is given with the password upon check-in.

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there are no cabinets in the room for your stuff but there’s this stainless steel brace in the corner that you can hang clothes on, clear plastic hangers included.

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toilet and shower area was clean and looks very new.

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towels and toiletries (a tube of shampoo and bar of soap) are add-ons that you have to buy separately during online booking.

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my stay at tune hotel ortigas was fine and i never met any problems.  it is highly recommended if you want a very budget friendly, no-frills accommodation.

romulo cafe at azumi

there is this casual dining restaurant in azumi in alabang which i just found out because of my stay in the hotel.  it is one of the branches of romulo café, a restaurant that serves filipino comfort food and some uniquely flavored dishes.

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romulo café itself was inspired after mr. carlos romulo, a pulitzer-prize winning journalist and was also an ambassador to the united states (that’s just to name a few, check his wiki page for more!).  the restaurant is being managed by his grandchildren according to their website.

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a picture of him from the restaurant menu.

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a simple table setting and polypropolene monobloc chairs, all in black.

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i was dining alone but i craved for this “flying” tilapia when i saw it in the menu.

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deep-fried and was given “wings”, hehe! with three sauces – chili-garlic, honey-bagoong, and soy vinegar.

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also had some ginataang sigarillas with tinapawinged beans cooked in coconut milk and topped with smoked tinapa.

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for dessert, suman latik! three pieces in the shot glasses weren’t enough and i wanted more actually.

 

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the next day, my parents and siblings visited me at azumi hotel and i invited them for lunch in the same restaurant.  here’s the food that we shared.

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fried lumpia ubod  is fried heart-of-palm served with pinakurat vinegar.

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tinapa roll  is shredded tinapa with red eggs and tomatoes in a lumpia wrapper.

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meatless tortang talong is eggplant omelet cooked with minced tofu and onions.   

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lumpia hubad is steamed vegetables with two sauces (peanut sauce and garlic sauce).

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tuna sisig is gen san (general santos city) tuna belly cooked with sisig sauce   

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beef kaldereta with keso de bola chunks is stewing beef sautéed in olive oil and garlic, onions, carrots, potatoes, then slow-cooked in tomato sauce and sprinkled with keso de bola .

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pasta pilipino  is spicy tuyo pasta with red eggs and fresh tomatoes.  this was my personal fave.

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pansit puti bihon noodles cooked in olive oil and garlic chips, with shrimp, chicken, green onions, and hard-boiled eggs.

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penne carbonara with vigan longganisa has rich creamy sauce with parmesan cheese, sprinkled with vigan longganisa .

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they have this cakes and tried their sans rival too – taste just average, i think too buttery.

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café romulo in azumi hotel is old-fashioned filipino comfort food at it’s best!  i’m satisfied with the food, the affordable pricing and their service.  will surely go back!

read my hotel review of azumi hotel: PROLLY AZUMI

 

zalora philippines

i’ve never thought that online shopping can this be convenient as with zalora philippines, which retails fashion and shoes for both men and women.  i first heard about zalora from my niece who usually posts pictures on her facebook and instagram account of items she bought (which are mostly, shoes).  one thing more was that i was thinking that items are all exclusive for women – when i “accidentally” checked the website, i was wrong!

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there were some shirts that i liked and i called my mum for she was looking for an average-sized tote bag.  we browsed the site under the women’s bag category (zalora.ph website is very user-friendly! no IT degree required, LOL!) until she found one which was nice-looking and affordable.  i was planning to pay thru my paypal account but it was sending me error messages during checkout.  i noticed that they offer “cash on delivery” and chose that mode of payment instead.  shipping is free for purchases P1,000.00 above and a 30 day return guarantee – great!

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i was informed through e-mail and text that the items will be received 1-3 days but it just took a day to receive my box.  it was delivered by heat exhausted guys from air21 courier service and paid by C-O-D!

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i was so happy to take hold of  my solid color jersey tees with floral taping design , it also has a split side hemline with floral detail – yeah, i felt “flowery” when i ordered these!

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the brand EZRA MEN is exclusively zalora’s and i checked the inner side seams of the cotton shirt for a tag and it says made in china.

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shopping is really fun, and fuss free!  i’m excited to get more items from zalora men which are all pending in my “wishlist” – of course i will have to patiently wait until they go on sale, or need a dose of a little retail therapy at home!