Tag Archives: traveling

…scoring cheap airline tickets!

USD2.50* for the destination of your dreams!
USD2.50* for the destination of your dreams!

… in my experience, it would usually involve an over-dependency on various social networks (Facebook and Twitter, mostly), the need to be up and about at ungodly hours to catch seat sales when they drop, then a protracted battle with the airline website to get cheap seats for both inbound and outbound trip, then finally — a bit of haggling with the Gods of Travel praying that your unpaid credit card can accommodate the cost of ticket for two!

I don’t know how you choose to travel, but for budget travelers like me, I usually travel through the graces of cheap airfares courtesy of the country’s largest airline, Cebu Pacific. Through the available seat sales, I was able to see the beauty of Seoul and Taipei (as well as Singapore and Hong Kong) which I never thought was possible before without selling my kidney to buy airline tickets.

Currently, my latest obsession is to see Japan during my birthday week in May. Ideally, I would have wanted to be there on my birthday, but the so-called battle with the seat sale has made me book the day after (which was selling for PHP99 only).

In the Philippines, here’s the usual means to get cheap airline tickets:

1. Pray that your favorite airline will offer cheap tickets for the period. Unfortunately, the only consistent airline to offer free tickets anywhere is Cebu Pacific. The company usually have monthly deals promoting the different destinations where they fly. Available deals can be as amazing (and unbelievable) as the Zero Peso sale (yes, you only pay for the taxes) and the Piso (1peso) Sale. I haven’t had the pleasure of scoring any of the two, but I was able to book tickets to HK for just PHP3,000 RT, while my sister got her Korea tickets for only PHP3,500! So, yes — this is definitely cheap! I know that the national carrier Philippine Airlines have Monday Promos while JetStar and AirAsia also offers cheap fares depending on the destination. However, Cebu Pacific still remains the undisputed budget carrier.

Yes, I have to point out that understandably, there are instances when the service given by CebPac leaves much to be desired. It’s either you get a bad service or good service. And yes, the airline seats are small — a Great Dane will have problems trying to fit himself. Plus, you will have to pay for almost anything: extra check in baggage, in-flight meals, seat preference, the list is endless.

2. Make sure to follow the carrier’s social media account. In my case, I follow all mentioned airlines in Twitter and Facebook. Make sure to check their feeds once a day!

3. Never swear off 12 midnight — that’s when price drops usually for Cebu Pacific. In my case, I was able to score my latest return trip when I woke up unexpectedly at 3AM and decided to fiddle with Facebook on iPhone. Saw the ad above and lunged for my laptop like mad.

3. Have everything handy and easily accesible – that means your passport and credit card. Remember, time is of the essence. How sure are you that at the very moment somewhere, another crazy lady is also trying to book the exact flight to Tokyo!

4. Make sure to play around the available travel dates to get the deal you want.

5. Make sure you have enough money to pay for the ticket.

The only downside is that due to the excitement, I was awake until 6AM just giddy due to the fact that I scored cheapo tickets to somewhere (yes, I am crazy!) that I never had the chance to sleep. Fast forward to 10AM — imagine me trying to stay awake during a boring departmental meeting.

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Applying Tourist Visa to Taiwan

It’s one of those days when I am gritting my teeth and beside myself with worry since I will have to submit my application for a visa to Taiwan by tomorrow.

This is the part of traveling that I dread — proving to the embassy that I have plans of returning (I mean, why wouldn’t I?), that I have capacity to travel and that I promise to be a good tourist and take nothing but pictures and memories. Honestly, this is the part of being Filipino that annoys the hell out of me. The need to get visas and not having the freedom to go to places you’ve always dreamed of going because you have to prove that you have intentions of going back to your home country after the trip.

taipei

Honestly, I really can’t blame these countries — there were many cases of illegal immigration, as well as cases of “tourists” suddenly disappearing into thin air to find employment in a country that promises a better future than what is available here in my country. Any country will impose restrictive measures to ensure safety and economic security of its citizens.

To soothe my frayed nerves and the fact that I am already shitting myself with worry, I went on a mad research spree trying to get tips on how to go through the agony of getting a visa.

So, if you are a Filipino, scored really drop-dead cheap tickets to Taipei either via Cebu Pacific or Air Asia and plans on getting a Taiwan Visa soon, here are the requirements for business and visitor visa (as of September 2012):

1. An online Visa Application Form – please note that as of April 2012, the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) of Manila no longer accepts handwritten application forms. Please access the system-generated forms at https://visawebapp.boca.gov.tw. Fill up the forms and print it on A4 paper after. Please avoid leaving spaces blank, for questions that does not apply to you, write N/A.
2. Two (2) passport size photos 1.5”x2” with white background – should be taken within the last three months.
3. Passport valid for at least six months and old passport showing previous travels (if any)
4. Birth Certificate issued by NSO
5. Marriage Contract (if applicable) issued by NSO
6. Supporting documents related to the purpose of VISIT such as :
A. Confirmed round trip Air ticket or Booking Certificate
B. Certificate of Employment and Letter of permission to leave from the employer
C. Financial statements of the applicant such as:
(1) Income Tax Return (ITR)
(2) Bank Book or Bank Statements – I got my bank certificate at BPI for less than an hour. To apply for a bank
certificate, just approach the teller and she will give you a form that you need to accomplish. You have to pay
PHP100 for a copy of the certificate.

If Traveling on BUSINESS, you must also submit:
A. Business letter or trading records from Taiwan Company
B. Certificate of Business Name Registration and SEC Registration(If owner of the company)
C. Invitation Letter from Taiwan company / organization in Chinese letterhead that outlines clearly purpose of your visit and duration of your stay
D. Official letters or request letters from concerned authorities for official trip
E. Seminar program
F. Certificate of Employment; Professional Identification; Company ID
G. Other Supporting Documents if Required such as SSS contribution lists, Pay Slip etc.

Aside from the original copies of documents, you also need to prepare one photocopy. Also note that the applicant will be scheduled for an interview, if needed.

You need to pay PHP2,100 for a single entry tourist visa. Multiple entry tourist visa goes for PHP4,200.

For more information, you may refer to this website: TECO

Just to make sure, we also printed copies of the reservation confirmation from the hotel and plan on presenting them also tomorrow.

Anyway, I hope things will be okay tomorrow. Wish us luck.

What do you like to wear when you travel?

When I was younger and I didn’t know any better, I was the type to bring twenty pieces of clothes on a two day or three day trip. Never mind if its domestic or foreign travel, somehow I still manage to pack too many clothes and too many shoes for my own good.

I was always the girl with the heavy bag or the traveler lugging a heavy and overstuffed luggage while boarding.

I always tell myself, what if I happen to need it?

But I guess too many trips and too many overnight jaunts taught me to stick to the basics.

During our first out of town travel, I finally decided to trim down the number of clothes I bring and instead stick to solid, easy-to-wear pieces that can be used over and over again. Save for the number of underwear (which I always bring in oversupply — for me, you can’t have too many underwear in a trip), I decided to tone down the clothes I wear and instead bring shirts and shorts which is quite appropriate for the humid HK weather. Of course, I still have my favorite shirt dress, my favorite eyeglasses and my latest hat with me.

comfort and style.

After bringing too much clothes and bags during the Seoul trip last March (and feeling like a harassed porter navigating Seoul’s underpasses), I decided that this time, I will just bring one carry-on luggage and my personal bag, nothing more, nothing less.

I manage to squeeze three pair of shorts, eight shirts, a pack of my various unmentionables, 2 dresses and 2 pairs of thights on a small carry-on luggage. I also managed to bring a shawl, a sandal and my very comfy boat shoes–and still have room to spare in my luggage! Going to the airport, I wore my trusty goth boots which I just can’t seem to leave at home.

I know various travel sites usually tells us to opt for the comfortable slip on flats which we can take off in a hurry whenever we pass through security at check-in but wearing boots has always been my guilty pleasure whenever I travel. Again, my so called “security blanket.”

I’ve read somewhere that it’s also recommended to opt for solid colored and wrinkle-free clothes which limits you from having to look for an iron and ironing board in your hotel. During plane rides, it is recommended you stick to comfortable pieces which will allow you to move freely, even when bound by the seatbelts, and sleep in peace.

When I was younger, I used to just dump my clothes in my luggage a few hours before travel and just coordinate the clothes I wear before I leave the hotel. Now, I have learned to think ahead which goes with what and coordinate the pieces in my head even before I pack. In the end, I managed to maximize what I have brought with me (and even ended up not wearing some of the clothes) and still look good, minus the hassle of an overstuffed luggage.

Well, I am learning after all.

Oh! The Places I’ll Go!

I decided to develop a travel blog, separate from this blog (The Adventures of Kamikazee Girl) where I usually keep my varying rants and issues in life, fashion, cats and my favorite topic, myself.

The decision to have a new blog is due to the fact that I needed a place where I can write and gather all my travel adventures. You do know that my only happiness in life (save for shoes and satchels) is traveling. Weird as it may sound, I only feel a semblance of being alive when I am making travel arrangements. It may drive me crazy but I am most happiest when I am making spreadsheets for our travel arrangements and cost. This insane OC-ness started in 2008, for the bonding trip I had with my siblings prior to getting married and continued to this day. The last one in fact was our seven-day sojourn in Busan and Seoul.

oh the places you will go
here’s the cover of my new blog.

Obviously, the inspiration for the name is Dr. Seuss’ famous novel “Oh! The Places You Will Go,” a staple gift for graduating kids anywhere. Personally, I love the message of the book – a kind and determined reminder of the long travel ahead. I don’t believe that one must graduate from school in order to appreciate this book.

All of us are travelers, after all.

In one way or the other, we are going somewhere – either in the middle of a really complicated journey, or stuck in a God-forsaken station. I’d like to believe (and hope) that I am one of those who are in the midst of the exciting journey. I do not like being stuck somewhere.

Japan: Wanting you so bad, it hurts

Have you ever wanted something so bad, it hurts and it consumes your every waking hour?

I do. And this is my damnation:

my beautiful Japan
(pic not my property)

I never knew how much I wanted to go to this country, until the time when my sister called me last night to tell me she was booking tickets to Tokyo. Her best friend and travel buddy has planned a six-day sojourn, and since they knew how crazy I was for this country, had asked me if I wanted to join them.

Are they kidding? Of course, I want to…!

…except for the fact that I am still broke due to the unplanned Korea trip and the various implications of a grown up life that reeked of bills and pure suckiness. My sister was generous enough to tell me that she can advance for the payment of the ticket, but I have to wing my way to gather enough funds for my bank statement (a visa requirement) as well as the expenses to be incurred during the six-day trip.

A sad reality that I am certain I have no way of finding.

I have always believed that if it’s meant to be for me, it will find its way to land on my lap. Case in point? the Korea trip that I never saw coming.

Yes, it sucks that due to the past abuses of my countrymen, Japan had made it quite difficult for ordinary Filipinos (read: minimal bank account but gargantuan traveling dreams) like me to go to a country that I have loved for almost half of my life.

So imagine my surprise (and my sister’s) when I told her that I am passing up for this trip. I told her I couldn’t afford it. And it’s the truth–I don’t have enough money to fund this trip. And it will be grossly irresponsible of me to drop everything, forgo paying bills and insurance and leave my husband to deal with the possible mess that I will make should I choose to go.

In the end, the grown-up and sane cynical in me had to muster enough courage to say “no”. It’s the right decision I know, but it’s tearing me to pieces. And quite frankly, I know that this will haunt me for months until the time when my sister boards that plane and take that trip to Japan. The agony will not be over until the Cathay Pacific plane brings her back to Manila from her blissful six days gallivating on my city. Call me crazy or melodramatic, but it’s like being a spectator on a really cool party that you’re not invited to.

My sister, bless her heart, knew I was torn and sad and envious. She tried cheering me up by saying that the trip will not be same without travel-crazy, over-eager me. I know she meant it, and made her promise to buy me tons of Japanese fashion magazines, clothes and make-up. Oh, and the various flavors of KitKat if possible too.

I know my time will also come — to finally see, in person, the lights of Tokyo, to ride the shinkansen, to ogle in person Jun Matsumoto’s various posters announcing his weird endorsement for a brand of mascara, to meet them amazing Japanese, to taste sushi at Tsukiji. TO JUST BE FREAKING THERE.

So, like a good onee-chan, I will lend my baby sis the copious notes I’ve been saving for years, my so-called bible for the inevitable trip to Japan. I will brief her on the importance of getting the JR Pass, why she must go to Shibuya and why she should really try to go up the Sky Tree.

I know my time will come. Japan will wait for me.

(The funny thing is, I started crying after my phone conversation with my sister. I was that sad! The hubby took one look and maybe felt immense pity that he bought me a pint of ice cream to make me feel better.)

The great Seoul-searching trip: Discovering Seoul and Ms. Congeniality

(my thoughts before I fell asleep on my earlier post)

I have always been anti-social, and is happily comfortable with the few friends I managed to make in this lifetime. I don’t talk to strangers and would be glad to be happily left alone, without prying questions or people wanting to make “small talk”.

In Korea, I morphed into a very upbeat version of “Ms. Congeniality” — smiling all the time, exchanging pleasantries with the natives and striking up conversation at the slightest provocation. In the seven days that I have spent in Seoul and Busan, I probably chatted up more people than what I have chatted up in Manila in my lifetime.

I can’t help it. Koreans–in spite the first world awesomeness and their to-die-for beautiful skin–we found out, are a very friendly and amiable bunch.

The Queen and I got lost so many times than we care to admit, but in each and every instance, there will be someone who will not hesitate to talk to us (language barrier be damned!), whip out their smart phones to search for the nearest landmark or the easiest route, or if in doubt, even call another friend to ask for directions and when needed, personally march the sister and I to the place.

I also had a great conversation with a girl who was visiting Nami Island on her own. She borrowed my ballpen and started telling me about the time she’d been to my country about five years ago, as well as some personal issues she had these past few years. This after telling me that she doesn’t speak or understand English, while I was explaining to her that I understand Korean either. While waiting for the train at the Dongdaemun subway, the Queen and I were chatted up by a bunch of grandpas and grandmas who seemed to be amused that two girls from the Philippines were answering their questions.

different languages

It’s impossible to get lost in Seoul. As long as you have the Seoul City Map (you can get one at the Seoul Culture and Tourism Office, located at the 5th Floor of M Plaza in Myeongdong), your korean won (or T Money) and basic common sense, you will not get lost. And if you do, there is always a kind soul who will be very much willing to help. In our case, it’s the aforementioned artistic looking guy in Busan, Key who helped us in Gangnam, Song Hae who helped us located the street nearest the Coffee Prince and the ajumma who helped us find Exit 6 in Busan.

The subway is easily accessible and is very manageable as all signs are printed in English, Chinese, Japanese and of course, Korean. There are also on-air announcements inside the trains, as well as on the subway station.

When going to Gapyeong station and you made the mistake of riding the ITX when you are holding a regular subway ticket (like what happened to the Queen and I on our intended visit to Namirara Island), there are train stewardesses inside the ITX who will sell you the appropriate tickets. No problem, just inform them before hand and they will approach you prior to the end of the trip to sell the tickets.

that's me...freezing at the Gapyeong station

Here’s our itinerary for the blissful six days:
First day:
Arrived in Busan, checked in at the Toyoko Inn 1 (read my review here) and checked out the surroundings. Unfortunately, we got scared by hobos and a lot of drunk guys within the vicinity of the station so we hightailed it back to the hotel as fast as you can say “Lee Min Ho”.

Second day:
Traveled to Seoul, went up the N Seoul Tower and visited the Teddy Bear Museum and Observatory, posted my contribution in the Locks of Love perimeter fence below the N Seoul Tower and went around Myeongdong.

Third day: Our Cultural Day
Went to M Plaza in Myeongdong to visit the Seoul Culture and Tourism Office and posed wearing hanboks, we also picked up a map of Seoul. After a very spicy lunch, we went around Myeongdong and the City Hall area, visited the palaces and the Museum of the Great Sejong. In the evening, we decided to check out Banpo Rainbow Bridge, but it got too late and we had to veto going down on an abandoned tunnel just to see the bridge up close. Anyway, we were able to eat street food in Gangnam. Developed a particularly fond affection for “Odeng” — these are fish cakes skewered on a long stick and served with hot soup.

Fourth Day: The visit to Winter Sonata’s Namirara Island
Spent a day in Namirara where aside from the shoot locations for “Winter Sonata”. Then we spent the day shopping in Myeongdong and pigging out on various street foods we can lay our hands on.

this is where the Winter Sonata first kiss happened

Fifth Day: What is Korea without K-Pop?
We spent the day looking for The First Shop of Coffee Prince”, located in Hongdae. Since this shop is located from the usual hub of activity, the Queen and I got a bit lost until we met Song-hae on the street and veered us towards the right direction. Then, we went around shopping for cosmetics and stuff to bring back home. We also started the day hearing mass in Korean since we missed the English service. The funny thing is, in spite it being in Korean — it was a good service and somehow, I managed to translate the messages inside my head.

Sixth day: Finding Sam-soon’s stairs and Saying goodbye to Seoul and Busan
Went around Mt. Namsan (again) and finally finding the God-forsaken stairs which was featured at the ending of “My Name is Kim San Soon”. MY sister has been looking for this set of stairs for the last four days and we’ve almost circled the rest of the foot of Mt. Namsan until we finally found it before we leave for Busan. Oh my God, I don’t know if I will hug the railing (which is likely dirty with sweat and what not) or find a danged jackhammer and blast the stairs to pieces so that I will not have to visit it again when I come back.

Incidentally, my sister marked her 30th birthday during our last day in Seoul and she celebrated it with a huge lunch at this over-priced resto in Namsan. Apparently, the restaurant was featured in some of Korea’s top TV programs hence the heavy price tag.

…on my next post, how much did I spent for the six day trip? Let’s say, it’s less than what you think.

The great Seoul-Searching trip, Part 1

Here comes the overdue post about the great Seoul-Searching trip. One thing you have to understand is that the sister and I were the types of people who prefer to travel on their own, without a travel agency directing our every move. This preference (and the fact that we don’t want to spend money on tour arrangements) has made me a research hound, exhausting all possible informing online, through forums and blogs about South Korea.

I made a solid itinerary, good for six days and booked our lodging online–an overnight stay at Toyoko Inn No. 1 in Busan and a six-day stay on a non-sharing guest house run by Zaza Backpackers located at the busy Myeongdong area.

We arrived in Busan just as it was getting colder, after all it was already past nine in the evening when the plane landed in Busan. We looked for the limousine bus (headed for downtown Busan and Nampadong area and the Busan Train Station), almost got lost but was kindly given assistance by an artiste-nerdy type guy who was also taking the same night trip to Busan station area. We encountered many angels during our seven-day trip…that guy was the first one. After a very quick dinner at the Lotteria across the street (Seoul’s version of McDonald’s, with a more interesting menu line-up), we retired to our room at the efficient and comfortable Toyoko Inn No. 1 directly across the Busan Station since we had an early trip tomorrow going to Seoul and we were dead beat due to the flight. Personally, I was exhausted due to the fact that I was still working and doing last-minute projects at work prior to catching the 4PM flight out of Manila.

Arriving in Seoul

one of the many entrance to Mt. Namsan

My sister and I took the 8AM KTX trip going to Seoul. The trip took roughly two hours and 45 minutes, and the legs of the trip end exactly at Seoul Station, the gleaming, high-techy train station located right at the heart of the city. In our third-world trained eyes, the train station looked more like our country’s airport. Immediately, the small wonders never failed to amaze us: how the KTX had train stewardesses dressed in impeccable uniform and cute flower hair clips; how the station seemed to be an endless hum of activity; our jaws dropped seeing office girls with their equally cute boyfriends in tow flaunting gorgeous dresses and shoes-to-die-for!

Welcome to the first world, girls!

After our quick check-in at Zaza Backpackers, we headed to Mt. Namsan to try the cable car, to see the N Seoul Tower up close and most importantly, drop my contribution to the Locks of Love perimeter fence below the N Seoul Tower. I bought this miniature lock on my building’s resident 711 for PHP65 (USD2) and carried it from Manila to Seoul. I quickly wrote me and the Hubby’s name on one side and then the name of my whole family (i.e. mom, dad, bro and sis)on the other side. I guess, if I can’t bring my whole family to Seoul…then I am bringing their names with me.

…to be continued