Monday, September 11, 2017

One Week in Bali for just over USD500

Two years ago, I was invited by a dear friend of mine to attend her wedding in Bali. The wedding wasn't for two years, but she wanted to give her family and friends enough time to prepare (read: save up) for the big event.

Last February, I booked plane tickets for me, my husband, and my mom when Cebu Pacific had a promo whose travel dates coincided with the date of the wedding (September 2, 2017). Prior to booking, I had said to myself that as long as it was roughly the same price as a discounted ticket to Tokyo (PHP7,000 to PHP8,000 or USD138 to USD157) then I would book it. The cheapest regular priced ticket I'd seen on Cebu Pacific from Manila to Bali was around PHP15,000 (USD295).

The gorgeous bride and handsome groom

Lo and behold, I was able to book 3 round trip tickets (with no bags) for PHP13,192.92 (USD259)! As the trip drew closer, though, we all decided that it wasn't realistic to spend one week in Bali with no checked in bags. Also, since my husband and I would be attending a wedding, we needed room for more stuff (wedding attire, wedding shoes, makeup, hair iron, etc.). So we decided to each purchase a bag, one 20-kilo one and two 15-kilo bags, which brought our total to PHP 17,892 (USD352). Still not bad.

After booking the tickets, I went onto Airbnb and to compare prices of accommodations. I found the prices of villas and bungalows on very reasonable. Since the wedding was going to be held in Ubud, I booked a place there for four nights. I found one called Mandia Bungalows, which is located right in the middle of the long stretch that is Monkey Forest Road. For 4 nights plus free breakfast and 24/hour coffee, our total was IDR 2,550,000 (PHP10,000 or USD192.).

Mandia Bungalows on Monkey Forest Road

Since Bali is a popular beach destination, I wanted to also stay near the beach. However, I had read about how noisy some of the party districts could get so for our second destination, I opted to stay in Legian, which is not exactly on the beach, but close enough that you can walk there.

I found a beautiful two-bedroom villa with private pool also on which was also quite affordable. The name of the hotel is Si Doi Legian. The total for our 3 nights there was IDR2,700,00.00 (PHP10,636.00 or USD 205.00).

The pool at Si Doi Legian

When we got to Denpasar, we took an airport taxi to Ubud which cost us IDR460,000 (PHP1,800 or USD35). I believe a cheaper option would have been to rent a car with driver or coordinate with your hotel for airport pick up. I didn't do that because I thought we would be able to get an Uber. We were told at the airport that Uber and Grab cars were not allowed to go there. They do exist in Bali, but only in some areas.

For food, Ubud turned out to be more pricey compared to Legian, but only compared to Legian. I'm not saying it's expensive. Average price for a really nice meal at a decent restaurant in Ubud is IDR99,000 (PHP390 or USD7.50) A nice juicy gorgonzola burger at Cinta Grill and Inn is only IDR95,000 (PHP374 or USD7.20).
Nasi goreng at Cinta Grill

One of the major attractions in the area is the Ubud Monkey Forest. Ticket price for adults is IDR50,000 (PHP196 or USD3.78). This place is definitely worth the visit because visitors get to feed, interact, and observe the monkeys at close range. Buy some bananas, put them on your shoulder or head, and watch the monkeys scramble to climb on top of you to get it. My husband did it and he described the experience as "Awesome!"

My husband and his new pet monkey 


One caveat: keep your belongings inside your bag. The monkeys are very playful and curious and they like plastic bottles, bottle caps, sunglasses, and I guess anything that looks like a toy to them. One visitor learned it the hard way, as one of the monkeys stole his sunglasses and immediately climbed a tree. One of the staff threw a banana at it, and it finally dropped the sunglasses on the floor.

Ubud Market lies at one end of Monkey Forest Road. It is a great place to buy local souvenirs and pasalubong. Just don't forget to haggle and you'll be fine.
Bags at Ubud Market

Right across from the market is the Ubud Palace. Entrance is free, and when we went there, we got to watch an instructor teaching a group of boys age about 7 to 12, a traditional dance. I felt so privileged to have seen it. It also made me wish we were as proud of our culture as the Balinese are. The instructor, also a young man himself (maybe in his late teens), was teaching those kids a traditional dance so that it will never be forgotten. Perhaps they perform there regularly.

My mom at Ubud Palace
A group of boys dancing a traditional dance

On our last full day in Ubud, we rented a car with driver who took us to 3 popular tourist destinations. Our first stop was Pura Tirta Empul (holy spring water temple), a temple where locals and visitors purify themselves by bathing in the holy spring. Entrance was IDR15,000 (PHP59 or USD1.14)
Me at Pura Tirta Empul

Purification ritual

Our second destination was the Satria Coffee Farm, where we were able to taste various types of coffee, cocoa, and tea for free. It is a wonderful place to buy luwak coffee, tea, aromatherapy oils, and fragrances. There is no entrance fee and tour is free.

Free coffee, cocoa, and tea

Me and a sleeping civet cat

Our last stop was the Ceking Tegallalang Rice Terraces. It was such a beautiful and serene place reminiscent of our very own Banaue Rice Terraces. Countless shops and restaurants line the main road. It is a great place to find artwork and other souvenirs that will forever remind you of your awesome time in Bali. Caveat: Ice cream there is three times the price as a regular convenience store.

Price for our tour: IDR400,000 (PHP1,575 or USD30)

The beautiful rice terraces

Nothing beats that view

To get to Legian, we booked the hotel owner's car and he drove us straight to our hotel. We paid IDR350,000 (PHP1379 or USD27). In Legian, food was about half the price as that of Ubud. At our hotel's restaurant (Si Doi Legian), you can get a whole pizza for IDR60,000 (PHP236 or USD4.55). We also discovered a popular restaurant (thanks to the internet) called Warung Tujuh where a meal costs about IDR35,000 (PHP138 or USD2.70).

One of the bedrooms at our villa at Si Doi Legian

My mom by the pool

Supermarkets are also a great place to find cheap food. The Beachwalk Shopping Center has a big supermarket in the basement. A really big tuna turnover was only IDR12,000 (PHP52 or USD0.91). It is also a good place to buy water and other necessities you might need during your stay.

Beachwalk Shopping Center

There's also a huge Carrefour on Sunset Road where you can find anything and everything you might possibly need. They also have cooked Indonesian and Western food you can buy if you don't feel like eating out. Get a whole roast chicken for IDR75,500 (PHP297 or USD5.72) or an Ayam Padang (1/2 Padang roast chicken meal for IDR31,000 (PHP122 or USD2.35).

Chicken, anyone?

Bali is such an affordable destination and one I would like to visit again soon. My spending money for one week in Bali was USD200. This included food, transportation, tour, and shopping money. I didn't scrimp on food and I also bought a few clothing items and even a pair of Hush Puppies flip flops (they were on sale at the Beachwalk Shopping Center branch.) Now I'm just waiting for the next seat sale!

               USD352.00        - airfare
               USD192.00        - Mandia Bungalows
               USD 205.00       - Si Doi Legian Hotel
               USD   35.00       - Taxi from airport to Ubud (1 1/2 hours with traffic)
               USD   30.00       - car with driver that took us to 3 tourist spots
               USD   27.00       - private car from Ubud to Legian
               USD 814.00/3 = USD271.33/pax
My husband and I had USD800 between the two of us. So with USD800, we paid for our share of the accommodations, all the taxi fares, and tickets to attractions, tour, food, and we even did a little shopping. We used the credit card zero times. We withdrew from the ATM zero times. 

So, are you excited to go yet?


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

SM Woman: Where are the Filipino Models?

I'll get right down to it. Growing up with everyone telling you that you should have lighter skin and more Caucasian features, e.g. high-bridged nose, long limbs, big round eyes, sucks, especially when you're brown, barely five feet tall, and have a tiny nub for a nose. Turn on the TV and all the main characters in teleseryes seem to belong to a different world. Let's go back in time - in the 50s, when Filipino actors looked even more Caucasian, as if they came from Denmark or Germany or Hollywoodland.

As someone who has traveled quite a bit, I have always been extra sensitive to hints of discrimination. Not because I'm paranoid, but only because I know it happens. You go abroad, you turn on your racism detector, and step away ever so slowly when it starts beeping. I am happy to announce that the only time I felt remotely discriminated against was when I was a young teenager in one of the shops in Hong Kong. Well it probably wasn't even a case of racism, but merely a case of an innocent girl encountering a rude person, who tsked-tsked behind me and sighed audibly while I was looking at socks at an Esprit store. I turned to her and saw her roll her eyes. She was probably thinking, "You can't afford socks here." and I so wanted her to be a sales person there and see me buy all the socks I could find, and as I exited the store, I would smirk at her and say, "Big mistake. Huge!" But alas, that Pretty Woman moment was not meant to happen.

Anyway, that was the closest thing to discrimination that I ever experienced, until now. I recently saw this SM Woman ad on Facebook and I noticed that none of the models were Filipina. And I live in the Philippines. Man, the fashion industry here must be so cutthroat if Filipino models need to compete, not only with one another, but also with foreign models who look like Hollywood stars. A model, in my opinion, should represent the people they are modeling for. I didn't realize we, all of a sudden, turned into Brazilians.

Hey, I am all for giving the job to the best person. But the color of your skin should never give you an edge over people of other races or ethnicity. Why do SM Woman models have to be white in a country filled with brown people? Is there a logical explanation to this? I can imagine Ikea catalogues printed in Sweden to have platinum blond couples with platinum blond children washing the dishes in their pristine kitchens. But how do these white models fit in our very Filipino lives? Does a Filipina suddenly become Caucasian when she wears SM clothes?

It is sad to think that in 2017, some people still think there is only one kind of beauty. It is like saying there is only one literary genre worth reading, or only one kind of film worth watching. That if you enjoy drama, you can't enjoy comedy. Or if you love fiction, you cannot possibly enjoy nonfiction. I see a lot of beautiful Filipino women on social media. And I'm not even saying that they should all look morena. There are mestizas and chinitas, too, for they, too are Filipino. But these models are not. And that is sad.

I can't believe I'm going to say this - but it's sad that we have to clamor for diversity to be included. No, I'm not a model. I'm just someone who writes. And I think Filipino models should speak up about these things, without fear of offending their colleagues. It is a legitimate issue, an issue, I believe worth discussing.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What is Valentine's Day to a Travel Aficionado?

My husband and I have never really celebrated Valentine's Day. There's really nothing romantic about sitting in a car while stuck in traffic in congested Manila. A romantic dinner at home is also out of the question. Buying takeout is more like it. Eating it while watching Game of Thrones or Big Bang Theory reruns is probably the best way to spend Valentine's Day.

So, as you may have guessed, I didn't receive flowers from my husband. However, he gave me the best Valentine gift ever. He gave up Seoul for Sydney. Prior to Valentine's Day, he and I were talking about going to Seoul, Korea. He was really excited about it. We were just waiting for Cebu Pacific's promo fares. They always have seat sales before Valentine's Day (and around the same time as the PTAA Travel Expo).

We checked Cebu Pacific's website the day before Valentine's Day but were disappointed because it seemed that all the promo fares had gone. The next day, after dinner, I checked again and found extremely cheap round trip tickets from Manila to Sydney. The problem was, the website was so slow, and it took me three tries to book the tickets.

Now how cheap is cheap, you ask? It's USD 394 for two (PHP 17,431.64) or USD 197 (PHP 8,715.82) per person.

We also booked a reasonably-priced basement twin room (upper floor rooms cost a bit more) at Springfield Lodge in Potts Point. Our room costs USD 533.26 or (PHP 23,652) for seven nights.

The seat sale is still on, and the last time I checked, there are still cheap tickets to Sydney and other destinations. :-) So, if you're on a hunt for cheap fares, check out Happy bargain-hunting!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Grand Palace in Bangkok

My husband and I flew to Bangkok to celebrate our first year anniversary in 2010. I can't believe that on April 12 this year, we will be celebrating our 5-year anniversary. Time does fly when you don't fight. Hehehe. My husband and I rarely argue, and it's been like this since the beginning. We enjoy each other's company and we share the same passion for travel. As I write this, my mind is actually somewhere else, planning our next trip; how we can save hundreds of dollars on airfare, accommodation and food. 

When I woke up this morning, I saw that Cebu Pacific is having their Piso Fare. Sydney, unfortunately, was not included in the promo, but when I checked the fare for November (around my birthday), it was so cheap. PHP 16,000+ for two (inclusive of taxes, baggage fees, and even food). That's only around USD 375! 

Of course, being the responsible, frugal traveler I am, I immediately went on to AirBnB to check the rates for November. I could actually book a nice room for two for less than PHP 2,000 (USD 45) a night. 

I must admit that traveling is my addiction, and I would gladly take a job that requires me to travel and write (as long as I can take my husband with me, for we are inseparable.) Anyway, if you plan on getting away (whether it be for a weekend or a couple of weeks) from June to December this year, why don't you try your luck on Promo period is from Jan. 27 to Jan. 28. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Beach in Skagen

I took this picture in Skagen in May 2012. I love how this picture looks like a painting. I would definitely love to go back to Denmark to take more beautiful photos like this. Click here for more information about this beautiful part of the Jutland peninsula.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Goodbye, Dad

My father died two days ago. He had been sick and had been in the hospital for over forty days. On Friday, he was brought home, and on Saturday he passed away peacefully. When one sees a loved one suffer, sometimes the best thing one can do is to pray for death. Not that I don't believe in God's capacity to heal, but at some point one realizes that the only way a suffering person can rest is when he or she rests in the arms of our Creator.

My father suffered for forty-plus days, the kind of suffering one would never wish on one's worst enemy. He was admitted to the hospital because of a persistent cough. Next thing we knew, he was having a pulmonary embolism. He was intubated because he could not breathe on his own. They stuck an NGT down his throat and prepped him for ICU. This was a man, who, only a month before had played 18 holes of golf. He was dying and we had had no clue he was even sick.

It was November 15. I was at home taking my sweet time. I was at the kitchen table having breakfast. It was the last day of Poetics class and the last day of graduate school for me. I was excited to see my classmates and my professor and celebrate with them the end of what had been a fruitful semester. I had just defended my thesis the day before and was still floating on cloud nine. The head of UST Publishing had expressed interest in publishing my thesis, a memoir about my life with my ex-husband.

Suddenly, I got a text message from my mom saying I better hurry to the hospital. My dad was dying. That was one of the saddest days of my life. My mom and my sister started discussing practical matters. "Where will the wake be?" asked my sister. It was decided that it would be at St. Peter's on Quezon Avenue. He would be cremated right away. There would be no need for a coffin. My dad was a practical man.

But he didn't die that day. It goes to show how God is a god of surprises. He still spent a month with us. He still gave us a lot of material for future anecdotes that we will surely be telling people - both friends and acquaintances. In sickness and in health, my dad made us laugh. He gave me the gift of sarcasm. He made me realize that one needs a certain level of untouchability to be able to speak one's mind. He said things we would be too shy to even think. Tact was not my father's strongest suit. And this is how I wish to remember him.

He wasn't perfect but no one needs to be. We loved him in our own imperfect way and we made sure that he knew that before he died.

We love you to the moon and back. Rest easy now that you're united with our Heavenly Father. Swing away. Sing away. Sing karaoke with Sinatra. Yes, you did it your way.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Osaka Article in Business + Class Magazine

For those in Manila, please get a copy of the latest issue of Business + Class Magazine and read my article about my trip to Osaka. :-)