New video episode! I experienced flying with business class for the first time. YEAAAH. I fly economy. Even on most business trips. I’m not accustomed to the perks of flying business. But I can understand now why it can be addicting.
Legit preferential treatment when checking in.
Access to airline lounges.
The seats on the plane.
In the video, I talk about how I ended up booking a business class seat. Don’t forget to hit subscribe. 🙂
If the video won’t play, you can view it via YouTube here.
Hi there! I’m in Taipei, Taiwan for the 2019 Taiwan Pride March! It’s a grand celebration this year because, in May, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. This is the first of several blog posts about my first trip to the “heart of Asia”.
XIMEN WOW HOSTEL was the choice accommodation that my friend Colin and I agreed on. We wanted to save on accommodation during the peak pink period. Colin found the hostel and I went ahead to book it.
I didn’t want to expect much! But I was pleasantly surprised by Ximen WOW Hostel. Its location, price point, and comfort were more than enough. I liked the feeling that if I was hungry past midnight, you’d find good street food two minutes away.
Location. Perhaps the number 1 highlight of Ximen WOW Hostel is the location. It virtually sits above Ximen Pedestrian Street. Take the lift down and you’re right where the action is. Street food, bargain shopping, arcades, tiny restaurants, bubble milk tea… it’s all right there! Just a few seconds walk away.
Room. We booked beds in a mixed dorm type of room which says it had 17 beds. I wasn’t counting though. I was expecting IKEA-style bunk beds. But the beds resembled more of a capsule type of hostel with curtains providing a comfortable amount of privacy. It was Pride Weekend in Taipei so the hostel was quite lively!
Amenities. Ximen WOW Hostel covers the basics of any hostel you’d expect. Common showers and bathroom facilities. A common area to sit and read a book or do some socialising. A fridge has water, soda, and beer (pay at counter or drop money into a box). Toast and jam are served in the morning. A balcony outside (my favourite spot) is a nice place to enjoy the Taiwanese evening air. Towels are not provided but are available for purchase. The hostel can connect you with free walking tours and also provide you with tourism help.
Price. It was about SGD 24.00 (USD 18.00) per night to get a bed in a mixed dorm. Given the PRIME location, it’s totally worth it FOR THE BACKPACKER. Great for backpacking friends or adult family members.
Verdict. I’ll stay here again if travelling with my boyfriend or with friends.
Ximen WOW Hostel is located at 108, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, Hanzhong Street, 42號. I made my booking through Hostelworld.com. Closest Metro Station: Ximen (Blue/Green Interchange Station)
Have you stayed at Ximen WOW Hostel or other hostels in Taipei? Let me know your thoughts! ICYMI, I’m on Instagram! Follow me at @bekpackr.sg
Three or four-star accommodation in Bangkok is pretty affordable. I stayed previously in Sukhumvit in 2013 and the neighborhood is easily accessible via the BTS Skytrain.
For Songkran 2019, we wanted to stay somewhere that’s a comfortable distance from the madness of the water fights on the streets. We booked ourselves a room at U Sukhumvit Hotel on a friend’s recommendation.
Location. U Sukhumvit Hotel is in Soi Sukhumvit 15. It’s about a 10-minute brisk walk from Terminal 21 and BTS Asok Station. On the map, it looks like it’s a nice stroll down a street. However, on experience, it really is deep into the Soi as you pass by other large hotels. There seems to be only one 7-11 store and an Italian restaurant. Otherwise, it’s a very long stretch of boring road. Good thing the hotel provides complimentary tuk-tuk transfers to/from Terminal 21 and Sukhumvit MRT on a first-come-first-served basis.
Amenities. The hotel has a boutique feel to it. It doesn’t feel bland at all. The lobby area is tucked beside the ground floor parking area. The lobby is a loft type where the mezzanine is the hotel restaurant. Behind the hotel’s reception desk is a large map of Thailand. There’s a gym on the third floor and a swimming pool with a bar and library on the top level. This is probably my favorite amenity at U Sukhumvit.
Room. We got the deluxe room which is just the right size. It has a mini-bar, security safe, and a comfortable bathroom in dark hues. There aren’t too many good options on the TV (the cable channel offerings were news channels and basic stuff). I packed my own Bluetooth speakers which were entertainment.
Food. Over the course of our 3-night stay at U Sukhumvit Hotel, the breakfast offering was more or less the same. They have tasty bacon with juicy fats. You can ask for eggs served your way (omelette, poached, sunny side up, scrambled). They had ‘farmers’ sausages in chicken and pork. They also have some noodles. A selection of ‘western’ cereal offerings and bread. A juice bar with an assortment of concoctions is available. Knowing that breakfast would probably be the same each day, I deliberately planned which day I’ll try what. 😉
Price. It’s in the three-star price range (honestly the hotel is very comfortable and is marketed as four-star). I’d put it at SGD 100.00 or less on off-peak. It’s one of the cheaper ones given the proximity to the city area. Value for money. I booked via Agoda.
Would I recommend this hotel? Yes. It’s in an affordable price range which also provides a nice rooftop swimming pool and a generous happy hour serving (1 for 1 on beers and cocktails from 5 to 8pm). We had a great time lounging on the roof deck during the 2nd day of this year’s Songkran festival. It was relaxing.
Special mention. All the staff we encountered at U Sukhumvit Hotel during the busy Songkran 2019 period were wonderful. If Thailand is the land of smiles, this hotel definitely had those. It’s that extra hospitality which always makes a hotel worth returning to.
The Jewel is open! Changi Airport’s much-anticipated new feature opened to the public on April 17, 2019, after a massive preview the week before (photos, also here). The renders and teasers looked spectacular. But up close, it exceeded expectations. It’s bigger than I thought!
Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the S$1.7B mixed-used development really is Changi Airport’s crown jewel. Inside the tallest indoor waterfall in the world called the ‘HSBC Rain Vortex’ which itself is the centerpiece of the Shiseido Forest Valley. It’s a fitting tribute to Singapore’s image as a ‘city in a garden’.
There’s an IMAX theatre, a hotel, and over 300 retail and dining options inside this massive space. I’m most excited about the forest valley, canopy park, and its unique offerings like an A&W (returning to Singapore from 2019), Shake Shack, and Pokemon Centre.
I guess it’s funny for other people to wonder what’s the big deal with seeing another QB House, Starbucks, or Cotton On opening. But if you can do it to this scale and make it a unique shopping experience each time? Wow. Great job, Changi Airport!
Shiseido Forest Valley and Canopy Walk
Retail and Dining
How to get to Jewel Changi Airport?
Changi Airport’s Terminal 1 is connected directly to Jewel from the basement level (Arrivals). You can also cross the street at the drop-off level in depatures.
There’s an air-conditioned elevated walkway connecting into Jewel if you are originating from Terminal 2 and 3. If you are coming from Terminal 4, take a bus to Terminal 2 and then take the walkway into Jewel.
Despite how massive the offering is at Jewel, Changi Airport MRT station does not connect to it directly. You’ll have to follow the signs and head up into Terminals 2 or 3 and then take the walkway. Alternatively, you can take a skytrain to Terminal 1 and walk into Jewel.
Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 4 opens October 31, 2017! They built it in under three years. It’s situated where the old Budget Terminal used to be. Terminal 4 or T4 is not connected to Terminals 1 to 3 via the Skytrain service. But shuttles will be provided.
If the video won’t play, you can click to see it on YouTube here.
The open house was a wonderful opportunity to check out the Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) feature. These include the self check-in (already available at the other terminals), automated Bag-Drop and Boarding Gates with facial recognition technology, and new centralised screening areas.
It is a sparkling new compact terminal that will service budget carriers like AirAsia and Cebu Pacific. It will also cater to Cathay Pacific and Korean Air. Changi Airport is Skytrax World’s Best Airport for five consecutive years. Business Insider describes it as having “received praise from flyers for its beautiful architecture, efficient operation, luxurious amenities, and dining and shopping options.”
Other upcoming megastructures include Project Jewel, a lustrous facility with vortex waterfalls that will bridge the first three terminals together. And a fifth terminal megastructure with a new runway set to open in the next decade.
I had a ‘fishy’ time trying to produce an episode in Tagalog. I can’t even pronounce “maalinsangan” correctly! I hope you enjoy watching my new video (as much as I had fun making it). ‘Donut’ forget to like the video and subscribe!
Our 3rd full day in Coron was for the Coron Island Tour. This was also arranged by our hotel (similar to our Island Escapades Tour the previous day and the Smith Point visit on my birthday.) This was probably the most standard of tour packages in Coron– featuring Kayangan Lake.
We were picked up at our hotel at 8:30 AM by a Calamian Island Tours van. The van brought us to the boat jetty nearby (probably a 5-10 minute walk from One Averee Bay Hotel). The boat was already filled with other members of our tour group that morning.
Coron Island was just across the straits. Here were our stops in the order we visited. I took some notes while visiting:
Kayangan Lake – stunningly beautiful (but mosquito-ridden!). Bring and apply OFF! Lotion. You can opt to do some snorkelling to see what’s underneath the lake. You’ll spot some fishes and some rock formations. Suggestion is to be one of the first to arrive at the lake before other groups beat you there. This allows you to take a photo of the lake without people. Try to grab the floating balsa before everyone else. Take your time on the steps up and down as they may be slippery. Definitely one of Coron’s most picturesque.
Coron Coral Garden – A wonderful snorkelling spot. Depth was fine during our visit. No need for slippers when we went in high tide. I spotted beautiful blue fishes and a few jellyfish at the deeper side. You can work with your guides to get you around faster using those flotation circles.
Beach 91 (Lunch Venue) – This was a small beach meant that served the purpose of being a pit stop for tour groups. Pass the rice and be friendly with your group! The waves were beautiful at high tide. Some mosquitos. You can kayak if you want stronger waves. Beach 91 is cornered by towering limestone cliffs.
Japanese Shipwreck – because we couldn’t access Siete Pecados (on our original itinerary), we were brought to a location where you can spot a creepy WWII Japanese shipwreck. You could only see the bow. There were plenty of fishes! I spotted one jellyfish the size of a shopping bag.
CYC Beach – our boat driver and tour guides said that this was one of Coron’s last remaining public beaches since all the other ones were privately owned. We arrived here during low tide which meant the boat was unable to approach the island. Some of us walked to the beach in shallow water. Not much to snorkel but I spotted some shrimps and a larger fish the size of a remote control.
Twin Lagoon – a fantastic finale for our Coron Island tour. It was beautiful approaching the limestone cliffs during late afternoon. There was one lagoon for boats, and another lagoon for people to swim to while wearing life vests. There’s this strange warm and cold water sensation that changes from time to time. Felt like entering a natural IMAX amphitheatre, with voices of tourists echoing. This was probably one of my favourite spots in Coron. Nothing to snorkel at since the water was dark (and mysterious). Wear slippers because some areas are rocky (especially getting through the shallow tunnel portion that links the two lagoons).
At the end of our two days of island tours, it appeared that my family were also having a great time. Which to me means everything. 🙂
Our 2nd full day in Coron was for the Island Escapades Tour. Arranged via our hotel, we were picked up at 7:30 AM and brought to the port area for a one and a half hour boat ride across the sea to three islands: Malpacuyo Island, Banana Island, and Bulog Dos.
Getting to these three islands was actually tiresome. With party cloudy skies, the waves were a bit rough and there was plenty of splash. Our first stop was Malpacuyo.
Malpacuyo Island – The strong waves on the beach reminded me of Pagudpod. I immediately went to the water to just take it all in. Lots of kubos and seats, an island with a basketball court and a house.
Banana Island – about 15 minutes from Malpacuyo Island, is where our tour group had lunch. Served were crabs, fish, and grilled chicken. Plenty of rice. This was a favourite because it was a great place to chill. There’s a beach with calm waves ideal for light snorkelling and kayaking. The other side was a beach with stronger waves. There were some private little houses on the island. A bathroom is available.
Bulog Dos – about 15 minutes away were these two little islets that were connected by sand bars. It was low tide so our boat could not approach the island. Some of us swam/walked through the water to access the rocky island. I went to the other side to look for the tour guide’s nemo “may mga nemo dun sa kabila” but it was too rocky. I was also scared of stepping on baby starfishes, if any. I did some snorkelling and saw a small sea urchin.
After a 1.5 hour-long boat ride back to Coron town, we refreshed and had dinner at Kawayanan Grill. It is more of an inuman place. Like a local version of Gerry’s Grill. Compared with our first night’s dinner at Santino’s Grill, Kawayanan was disappointing.
This was unplanned. I was showing a visiting friend how to get to the new Kallang Wave so he could meet his girlfriend. He flew in early morning and stayed at my flat for a few hours. We took the Circle Line MRT to Stadium. Exit A spills out onto an open area right next to Kallang Wave. The mall is brand new so several stores remained unopened.
After meeting our friend and having lunch at Popeyes, we headed up the stairs to see if we could take a few photos. When we got to the West End entrance, families were entering and exiting through the stadium gates. It was open house!