Experiencing Business Class for the first time with Philippine Airlines PR507

Experiencing Business Class for the first time with Philippine Airlines PR507

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.

  1. Legit preferential treatment when checking in.
  2. Access to airline lounges.
  3. 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. ūüôā

If the video won’t play, you can view it via YouTube here.

Taipei, Taiwan: Ximen WOW Hostel – gay-friendly

Taipei, Taiwan: Ximen WOW Hostel – gay-friendly

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”.

I’m on Instagram! Follow me at @bekpackr.sg


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.

Ximen WOW Hostel ‚̧

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.

Entrance to Ximen WOW Hostel on Level 8.

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.

Common area at Ximen WOW Hostel.

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!

Single bed (capsule style).

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.

My favourite spot, outside! Balcony overlooking the Ximen pedestrian street.

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.

The ambience downstairs.

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, 42Ťôü. 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

Bangkok: U Sukhumvit Hotel, Bangkok Review

Bangkok: U Sukhumvit Hotel, Bangkok Review

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.

Nice and cozy accommodation in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit district.

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.

The exterior of U Sukhumvit Hotel in Soi Sukhumvit 15.
Black and gold is always a good combination.
It’s a quiet part of the Sukhumvit area. There are barely stores in this part.
Complimentary tuk-tuk rides are available for hotel guests. First come, first serve.
The lobby area of U Sukhumvit Hotel in Bangkok.

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.

The dining hall is a cozy size that’s perfect for this type of hotel.
My favorite part of the hotel is the rooftop swimming pool. It has a relaxing view of 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.

The rooms at U Sukhumvit Hotel have unique motifs.
I love the dark colors. It always looks more elegant.
There’s a rain shower.

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. ūüėČ

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.

Opening Week: Photos from Jewel Changi Airport

Opening Week: Photos from Jewel Changi Airport

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!

Jewel Changi Airport in daylight. It’s a monument that houses a reta

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

The HSBC Rain Vortex has a night show.
A line of trees in Jewel Changi Airport’s Canopy Park.
I love how they keep the lighting dim in the evening.
The ceiling reflecting in the pool of water.
I think it’s a good place for a date. If you don’t mind the crowds.
The indoor waterfall is the highlight of this spectacular space.
Animal topiaries in the Canopy Park.
Let’s pay attention to the seats in the Canopy Park as well.
It wouldn’t be Singapore without the floral spaces.
The crowds during opening week at Jewel Changi Airport.
One of the exclusive areas for VIP guests at Jewel Changi.

Retail and Dining 

The Pokemon Centre. The first permanent Pokemon store in Asia outside of Japan.
I’ll come back after the opening week crowds dissipate!
Get your chili crab fix at Jumbo Seafood.
Duplex-style stores include Shake Shack.
Another duplex-style store is Nike. This is the largest Nike store in Southeast Asia.
QB House Kids
The design is very open. From top levels to the basement.
At different parts of the perimeter you can take a peek at the rain vortex.
Tokyu Hands occupies one of the duplex spaces too.
This is a Starbucks Reserve store occupying one of the duplex slots at Jewel Changi Airport.
Also in a duplex is the Muji store in Jewel Changi Airport.
Go to Tim Ho Wan for your baked bun with pork BBQ.
I associate Bengawan Solo with SGH. But this one feels like a TWG Tea cafe.
It’s nice to see Singapore brands occupy a whole stretch of Jewel Changi Airport.
Gift stores selling new Jewel Changi Airport are also available.
The Changi Airport brand appears in all sorts of media. Like this piece of literature for kids.
A&W at Jewel Changi Airport. This is located in the basement area.
Tong Garden has a store. I associate this with the cheaper peanuts you can buy at Sheng Shiong.
Philippine snack brand Potato Corner which is expanding in Singapore also has a store at Jewel Changi Airport.
There’s also an IMAX brought to Jewel Changi Airport by Shaw Theatres.

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.

Just checkin’ in! Changi Airport T4 Open House

Just checkin’ in! Changi Airport T4 Open House

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.

Trip to the S.E.A. Aquarium | bekpackr EP03

Trip to the S.E.A. Aquarium | bekpackr EP03

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!

Click here to subscribe to my YouTube channel. Thanks!

Family Trip to Coron Pt. 4 – Coron Island Tour

Family Trip to Coron Pt. 4 – Coron Island Tour

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 CoronРfeaturing 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) РThis 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. ūüôā

The rest in photos…

— End of Part 4 —

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All photos taken using my iPhone 6 Plus. Photos processed with the help of VSCOCam.