Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Puerto Princesa Accommodation: Victoria Guest House and Cottages

Victoria Guest House and Cottages offers some of the most affordable and budget friendly accommodation when in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Very near the old Puerto Princesa Airport, it is just 10 minutes travel away. It is also near the down town area of Puerto Princesa. Though it’s not near in any convenience store or merchandise shops, there are sari-sari stores around the corner. And it is very accessible to the main road so fetching a tricycle to your destination is not hard to do.

Entrance to Victoria Guest House and Cottages.
Signage that you're right at the hotel already!
 We had a welcome drinks upon our arrival at the hotel which was a nice welcome. Their lobby or waiting area is open air style living room with wooden furniture.  Their room charging is PHP 350 per person per day on all their rooms with inclusion of free breakfast. Rooms rates for are affordable for my budget range. The rooms are wide, spacious and clean including the bathrooms. They offer from single, double, quad to family room sharing. The rooms are styled in nipa hut separated from one room to another. I think it was styled that way for the guests feel the authentic vacation Pinoy style in Palawan. It feels very Filipino themed accommodation!

And they also offer, tour packages around Puerto Princesa including a tour of Puerto Princesa Underground River in Sabang. During our stay, we availed the latter and the following tour packages – City tour of Puerto Princesa, Iwahig River and Firefly Night tour and Honda Bay island hopping. All packages are inclusive of meals, guide and to and from the sight transportation. Charging is per person rate. Their rate is standardized just like the rest of tour operators and hotel that offers the same tour packages of Puerto Princesa.

Lobby/reception area for guests.
We have free breakfast in our entire duration in Victoria Guest House and Cottages. All of our meals are satisfying plus what I like added bonus for our tour packages with meals prepared by the hotel was “free dessert” in our lunch and dinner meals and breakfast as well if I remember. We always had “sweetened saging na saba” as our dessert to which I do not complain at all since this type of banana is one of my favorite Filipino dessert.

Regarding to the staffs, they are generally friendly and warm as well as the tour guides provided to us during our tours in Puerto Princesa who does this job as a sideline amidst they are still at school. What I also like in this hotel is that they answer immediately to queries and transactions via their Facebook Messenger. One staff, Ms. Michelle whom I transacted prior and during our trip to Puerto Princesa was very accommodating. She even helped me secure a slot for Underground River Tour for our group in the city office because of our late reservation for the tour we had to do a standby. Advance reservation is required for tours to Puerto Princesa Underground River especially during peak season like summer which was our travel date and the city office limits only the visitors to the underground river for like 200 to 500 visitors only per day to preserve its environment. But with the help and skills of Ms. Michelle we were able to get a slot for the underground river tour amidst the peak season of summer! Kudos to that! But the rest of the staffs even their drivers and cooks, all of them are warm, friendly and smiling all the time to the guests.   

Our breakfast on our first day in Puerto Princesa.
Dining area with food serve from the hotel's kitchen.
Balcony of our family room.
One of the beds inside our family room.
This the family room we stayed at Victoria Guest House and Cottages.
The surrounding area of the hotel.
Victoria Guest House and Cottages is highly recommended for budget and short stays in Puerto Princesa City. Their complete offerings of tours around the city satisfying, safe and authority accredited. They also offer tours to El Nido as well which I bet is also affordable and budget friendly to visitors. They also provide free roundtrip land transfers to and from the airport, so this is definitely a plus for visitors who will stay here and wants to enjoy the beauty of Puerto Princesa.

Victoria Guest House and Cottages
Wescom Road, Barangay San Pedro, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines
Contact Number: (048) 433 8054

Monday, October 09, 2017

Baguio Accommodation: Hotel 45

Hotel 45 became my unofficial accommodation whenever I visit Baguio because I stayed here for my last 3 visit to Baguio starting from 2013 to 2015. My first visit was in February 2013 where I travelled with friends. I have known about this hotel thru my friend I travelled with on my first stay here for he has stayed here before. What I like about Hotel 45 was its proximity to all establishments. It is just 10 minutes away from Victory Liner Baguio Terminal. It is just behind SM Baguio – actually walking distance and just across the main road. It also on an accessible highway where I you can catch taxis and jeepney that will take you other places in Baguio. It is also near Baguio Cathedral (5 minute walk) and the famed commercial street of Session Road (10 minute walk). Having mentioned this, Hotel 45 is an ideal accommodation to stay in Baguio.

The hotel building from Hotel 45 website. Front is the annex building while the back building is the main building.
Hotel 45 is a 3 star hotel so don’t expect much on its amenities, building and other services. It is very much catered to budget travelers to Baguio. Their amenities works in favor of my travel plans because I am mostly into budget travel. Hotel 45 has free breakfast packages on all their room rates. But don’t expect much on the free breakfast meal. It is just a freebie from the room packages which consists of a choice of one breakfast viand, egg, rice and a 3-in-one coffee. But that breakfast package is so helpful already for budget travelers who don’t want to skip breakfast in their travel trips.

I find Hotel 45’s cheaper rates very suitable for budget travelers to Baguio. Whether travelling with friends or family, you’ll find their room rates very affordable. During my December 2014 and March 2015 visit, I was able to stay there with work colleagues and friends. And our share was quite budgeted enough for our room accommodation in Hotel 45. On those two occasions, we stayed at the annex building of Hotel 45 which is just in front of the original hotel building. The annex building was newer thus; rooms and other amenities are newer as well.

Triple sharing room during my February 2013 visit.
Triple sharing accommodation of Hotel 45.
Staffs are generally friendly but needs more training or seminar in customer services as they could have been more accommodating than what they are. But most of them are helpful to guests especially when asking for directions going in and out of the city. Doing walk-in to the hotel is fine as long as it is not fully booked. They accommodate guests right away as long as there's a vacant room which happened twice on my visit there last December 2014 and March 2015. I haven't tried booking thru their website or email but if you want to make an advance reservation better call them once you arrive in the city as it tends to get fully book during peak season period.

Amenities are just basic mid-range 2 to 3 star accommodation. Rooms are clean and well-maintained. No air-conditioned in rooms and no needed – you’re Baguio, remember.  But if you insists, they have airconditioned rooms to offer. 
Our family room accommodation during my March 2015 visit.
Hotel 45 is recommended for those who are on a budget trip to Baguio. The hotel has cheaper room rates and very much near to important establishments in the city – SM Baguio across the annex building is a major plus. If you are after a budget-friendly accommodation and don’t expect much in amenities for a short time stay in Baguio, I highly recommend Hotel 45. But if you value much the accommodation and wanting to experience high-end hotel amenities then I suggest you to skip to this accommodation in Baguio. 

Hotel 45
Bagong Bayan St., Brgy. Salud Mitra, Baguio City
Main Hotel -Landline: 446-6306 or 422-3821. Cell Phone: 0917-700-8805 
Extension Hotel -Lanline: 442-3460. Cell Phone: 0917-588-2759
Website: Hotel 45

Friday, October 06, 2017

Sagada Accommodation: George Guest House

I don’t have any prior research reviews about George Guest House prior to my trip to Sagada, Mountain Province. So I don’t have much background on this accommodation and I will base reviews on my 3 days and 2 night stay in the inn in my 2012 visit. Plus it is also arranged with the tour operator I had for Sagada trip.

George Guest House is centrally located in the town of Sagada so it is very much near to every establishment around Sagada like the restaurants, other inns and shops. You easily indentify the inn because of its towering height in the center of the town so it is easily located, if you’re lost (which I doubt) in the town of Sagada.

George Guest House main building.
The main building of George Guest House. There is an annex building now.
To my surprise, we were given a spacious room good for 4 people when we are only two! There were 3 beds just for the 2 of us, my friend. Although the room was budget type, it was surprisingly spacious, pleasant and clean. No need for aircon rooms since the air of Mountain Province is cool and can be very cold at times! Our room is also near the hall that leads to the balcony terrace of our floor. It has the back view of George Guest House which is a beautiful but contrasting view of the surrounding houses of Sagada town. The view is a relaxing one especially in the morning when you wake up and this view of Sagada is what you will see in the morning.

Welcome to George Guest House!
Spoiled room amenities for an inn!
Our fan room in Sagada.
Mini TV was nice and the clean furniture was just right for backpacker visitors.
I also like the spacious halls of the floors of George Guest House because they have dedicated living room spaces where you can sit on the sofas of the inn or eat in their tables. Wi-fi is available but only at the ground floor and reception area of the inn. The inn also provides food-on-order in case you want to eat within the inn and mostly mid-range prices (you have to understand that some food resources like process ones in Mountain Province is being import all the way down from the valley) but still affordable.

My entire duration of stay at George Guest House was a pleasant one. Staffs are also friendly and helpful plus rooms are affordable for budget travelers to Sagada. I also learned that they have an annex building now - it means they're growing and expanding so more tourist in Mountain Province. I highly recommend them especially because of their proximity to eateries, shops and other establishments.

Living room area of 3rd floor.
Sorry wi-fi is only available at the ground lobby not on the upper floors.
Perfect Sagada view from the 3rd floor balcony.
George Guest House is easily located within Sagada town.

George Guest House
Sagada, Mountain Province
Contact: Main Building - (63) 918-548-0406 / (63) 920-948-3133 (Look for Dora). Annex Building - (63) 920-607-0994 / (63) 939-902-0996 (Look for Irenuis)

Monday, October 02, 2017

Concepcion Accommodation: Garilva Jun Bee Recreation Center

Jun Bee Garilva Reacreation Center is one of the main accommodation/inn when you stay in Concepcion, Iloilo. I learned about this accommodation in Concepcion thru Happy Sole and started contacting them for our stay in Concepcion. They also provide contacts for boatmen who render island hopping services to the island barrangay of Concepcion. As you know, Concepcion is not just mainland Panay but half of it is 16 islands towards Visayan Sea.

Jun Bee Garilva Recreation Center
Concepcion is 3 hours away from Iloilo City. After a long bus trip, we alighted at Concepcion Public Plaza which Hotel Junbee is just 10 minute walking distsnce. But since we have bags, we rode a pedicab to the inn. Hotel Junbee is a three floor hotel which faces the shores of Concepcion Bay. It has a view deck for its visitors to appreciate the sea and the bay, where one can already see the islands of Concepcion from the distance. The accommodation is owned by Mr. Jun Garilva and Mrs. Rubenie Garilva who warmly welcome us at the inn’s entrance.

Hotel Jun Bee as it is also known for is a family owned accommodation. They are a well-known inn in Concepcion which partly because the owner, Mr. Garilva is a local councilor of Concepcion at that time. During my stay, me and my party only opted to choose a fan room good for 4 person. Actually, if you have extra money to spare they also have aircon room amenities (we were just on budget at that time because we came from Guimaras before our Concepcion trip). Both types of rooms are comfy and affordable. Our fan room was comfortable though the cushion beds are thin but understandable due to the type of room we acquired.

Our fan room stay Room 3-C
Budget beds in fan room accommodation.
Welcome to Concepcion!
Hotel Jun Bee as we docked after our island hopping tour of Concepcion islands.
Hotel Jun Bee from the shore side.
They also offer home cook meals to order at their kitchen and prices are affordable for budget travelers. Hot and cold water is free, just ask them. They have a 24/7 roving guard and staffs for security and the inn is generally in safe surroundings. But just like any other provincial towns in the country, the towns’ business closes as early as 7pm.

What I like about Hotel Jun Bee was their connection for accredited boatmen to tour their visitors to the islands of Concepcion. Prior to our arrival, our island hopping tour to Concepcion islands were already arranged by Hotel Jun Bee. So on our stay there, we didn’t have any problem anymore for our tour to the islands and our budget is already planned.

The pool of Hotel Jun Bee.
Surrounding facades of Garilva Jun Bee Recreation Center.
Surrounding facades of Garilva Jun Bee Recreation Center.
Surrounding facades of Garilva Jun Bee Recreation Center.
Surrounding facades of Garilva Jun Bee Recreation Center.
The central area of the inn with a slide going to the pool.
Our general stay at Jun Bee Garilva Reacreation Center is pleasant and affordable. If there would be any cons that would only be guest are not allowed to use the pool when you’re check-in in fan room accommodation. I also hope they do provide free breakfast packages to guests in the future. But nonetheless, Hotel Junbee is a highly recommended accommodation for visitors of Concepcion and to anyone who wants to experience its hidden gems.

Jun Bee Garilva Recreation Center
D. B. Onate Street, Concepcion, Iloilo
Contact No: Rubenie Garilva – 09209021681
Facebook Page - Hotel Jun Bee

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Imperial Gardens of Beijing

Imperial gardens are common places of interests when visiting Beijing. These imperial gardens are mostly within the grounds or near the palaces of the kingdom of imperial China period During my visit to the city last 2012, I've visited at least 4 of these imperial gardens in which the most beautiful for me was Summer Palace. But unfortunately due to lack of time I wasn't able to explore Summer Palace fully because it was such a huge sight to see and explore. Unfortunately, this visit to Summer Palace has also caused me to missed my flight back that day. Well, charge to experience, I will definitely come back to China someday and the first place to revisit on my list is Summer Palace!

Beihai Park during winter.

Beihai Park
Beihai Park is one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved ancient imperial gardens in China located in the center of Beijing. Beihai Park covers an area of about 0.71 sq km, more than half of which is taken up by the lake. White Dagoba is found at the top of Jade Flowery Islet and the landmark of Beihai Park which is easily access from the parks systemized walkways and pathways.

The lake was a scenery itself and it was a perfect timing for us as we witness "Beijing Sunset" about to happen at that time.  My stroll with my travel mates was afternoon time.

See the White Dagoba?
Winter Sonata in China!

I will never forget my "Winter Sonata" experience in Beihai Park. It was their I saw snow for the first time though it was already in the ground and it wasn't falling from the winter sky. Beijing sunset was also unforgettable! It was romantic and it added a romantic touch to the chilly surrounding of Beihai Park. No flowering plants or trees needed here, just the sunset make up for it. I wonder what Beihai Park will look like during Summer or Spring. I bet, it is lovely as well!

How to reach Beihai Park: Via Subway, take Subway Line 6 and get off at Beihai Bei Station. Go out from Exit B and walk 5 minutes east to get to the north gate of the park.

Stunning Beijing Sunset!
The lake scenery at Beihai Park.
Beihai Park is an imperial garden in Beijing.

Imperial Garden of Forbidden City
This garden is located at the north exit grounds of Forbidden City. But before you reach this garden, you have to explore first the grounds of Forbidden City - the main palace of imperial China that lasted for thousands of years.

The Imperial Garden is located outside of the Gate of Terrestrial Tranquility. Constructed during the Ming dynasty in 1417, it is rectangular in shape and covers approximately 12,000 square meters. This was a private retreat for the imperial family and is the most typical of the Chinese imperial garden design. There are some twenty structures, each of a different style, and the ways in which they harmonise with the trees, rockeries, flower beds and sculptural objects such as the bronze incense burners both delight and astonish visitors. It is a worthy tribute to the art of the designers that so much can be achieved in so small a space. (Source)

The imperial garden of Forbidden City.

Oak or cypress tree?

Spring is coming in the imperial garden of Forbidden City.

The garden has many pavillions and halls to admire Chinese artistry but it was mostly dried becuase winter is just starting wear off. But some flowering plants are starting bloom already. I bet this garden is much more beautiful during Spring. It is said that in this garden that the emperor chooses his concubines. An exit here will lead you to Jingshan Park.

How to reach Forbidden City: Via Subway, take subway line 1, get off at Tiananmen East Station (Exit A) or Tiananmen West Station (Exit B), find the Tiananmen Tower, and then walk north to the Meridian Gate. Option 2 - Take subway line 2, get off at Qianmen Station (Exit A), walk north through the Tiananmen Square, pass the Tiananmen Tower, and then find the Meridian Gate further north.

Jingshan Park
It is also an imperial garden situated on Jingshan Hill where trekking to the hill’s central point, visitors are rewarded with a full and clear view of the Forbidden city. Jingshan Hill has five summits and on each summit there is a pavilion which is perfect for relaxation, picture-taking and admiring the views surrounding the park. The hills central point is the highest point in Beijing. Looking from the peak, visitors is able to get a view of Forbidden City.

Forbidden City from Jingshan Park's highest hill.
Appreciate Chinese artistry at one of the pavillions of Jingshan Park.

Together with my travel mates, we trek the highest hill of the five hills found inside the park to see a rewarding panoramic view of Forbidden City. Even on a cloudy weather coupled with mist and haze, I was still able to clearly to see how huge is Forbidden Palace and every detail of the buildings inside it. This is the best admirable view at Jingshan Park! While at the back of the viewing area, visitors will also appreciate the view of the rest of the park grounds and on the left one will see the Beihai Park and its prominent landmark, the White Dagoba.

How to reach Jingshan Park: Via Subway, take Subway Line 8 to Shichahai Station. Get out from Exit C and then walk south for about 1,000 yards (914m) to the north gate of the park. From Shichahai Subway Station, visitors can also take bus 5, 60, 82, 107, 124, or Sightseeing Bus 3 to the park.

Summer Palace
Summer Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in Haidian District which is quite far from central Beijing. It is famous for its artistically designed pavilions, towers and bridges that all of which are ideal for sightseeing. But the most imposing scenery of Summer Palace is Kumning Lake with the Tower of Buddhist Incense in the background. It is here where I also saw winter scenery of frozen rivers filled with cracked ice sheets at riverside market attraction of Suzhou Market Street. Although filled lots of tress, flowering plants were not in bloom yet in Summer Palace.  So, I imagine how much beautiful it is when it is in spring or summer time where all the flowers are in full bloom and plants are fully green and grown. This imperial park must have been more stunning at those seasons! 

Suzhou Market Street at Summer Palace.

Welcome to Summer Palace!

Summer Palace - the most beautiful imperial garden in Beijing.
 I haven't seen the rest of attractions in Summer Palace because of lack of time. And it is a huge place as well. It is said that Summer Palace was a rest house of members of the imperial family. Well, its quite a huge place just for a rest house of a king! But having seen half of its beautiful attractions, for me this is the most beautiful imperial gardens of Beijing that I have visited. I just wished next time, I have more time to see it.

How to reach Summer Palace: Via Subway, take Subway Line 4: get off at Beigongmen, take exit D and walk to the North Palace Gate; or get off at Xiyuan to reach the East Palace Gate from exit C2. Option 2, take Subway Line 16: get off at Xiyuan and leave from exit C2. Walk west to the East Palace Gate.

Happy and satisfied in discovering the imperial gardens of Beijing at the beautiful Beihai Park.
The imperial gardens are one of the best places to visit in Beijing which are perfect for afternoon strolls while having a cool vibe of Winter season. These imperial gardens have been part of the ancient Chinese dynasty periods as they have been the retreat places of Chinese monarchs during the imperial period of China. I bet these parks are more lovelier in Spring or Summer when the trees are in full growth and flowers are in full bloom and in Autumn when all the leaves are turning yellow and red. But whatever the season is, these parks are lovely all the time.   

The Imperial Gardens of Beijing is the last part of my Beguiling Beijing.Captivating China series where I share my birthday trip adventures, travel stories and first-time experiences in Beijing, China last March 20-24, 2012. You might also like the other parts of the series: 

+Beijing - A Beguiling City
+Winter Sonata in China
+Roaming through Beijing
+One Spring Day in Beijing
+Forbidden City: Forbidden No More
+A Dragon Hike to the Great Wall of China
+Beijing's Architectural Wonders
+Peking Duck: An Authentic Chinese Cuisine
+Wangfujing's Lively Street Life
+The Imperial Gardens of Beijing
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