How Connected Is The Philippines?

The Global Traveler (http://boardingarea.com/blogs/theglobaltraveller/) came up with the Flight Connectivity Index (FCI) Рa list to show how connected countries are to each other via air travel. Every six months he would check and update this list. As of June 2011, topping the list were Germany (110 direct flights), France (108 direct flights) and the UK (106 flights). Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino on the other hand, have no flights that go in and out of their countries.

map of the philippines

So how connected are we? The Philippines is number 78 on the list with 21 direct flights. 78 is not bad out of 192 but with only 21 direct flights traveling is still not that easy for us Filipinos. Hopefully in the near future more flights will be added so that it will be cheaper for us to see the world (crossing fingers for open skies!!!! :)).

http://boardingarea.com/blogs/theglobaltraveller/2011/07/flight-connectivity-index-as-at-30-june-2011/

On The Move Again

So here I am again waiting to go to the train station to discover another, hopefully wonderful place ūüôā Leaving Russia is a bit of a relief due to unfavorable circumstances which I will talk about when I have more time. It’s not very often that I am more than ready to leave a city that I just recently discovered nor is it common for me to feel defeated and slightly cheated.

So here we go again, hopefully we will still be greeted by sunshine and more importantly I’m hoping that more pleasant events will welcome us at our next destination.

20110525-010114.jpg

My Top 5 Destinations for 2010

As another year ends, my journey and dream to travel the world continues. But I believe it is only fitting that I look back at the numerous, blessed trips that I was able to take this 2010. Among the old and new places that I have visited this past year, these are my top 5 favorites:

1. Lucerne/Luzern (German), Switzerland

When I was a little girl, I remember sitting on our living room sofa staring at my dad’s wall of travel trinkets (stickers, pins, flags, pictures, plates, etc). I clearly remember looking at one particular banner type of decor that said “Luzern” and seeing one plate with a picture of a wounded lion. This started my love affair with this particular place. Every so often I would look at these souvenirs and wondered where they came from. I even remember playing the game ‘name, place, animal, thing’ with my grade school classmates and getting into arguments because they didn’t believe that there was a place called “Luzern” (and I couldn’t tell them exactly where it was). I would get postcards from Lucerne and kept dreaming that someday I would be able to visit this enchanting city.

And true enough, as I stepped off the train when we got to Lucerne I felt like all my wishes were coming true. I avoid making bucket lists for one particular reason –I get obsessed with having to complete them. But going to Lucerne has always been one of my greatest dreams. I felt silly getting teary eyed when I finally got a chance to walk across the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbr√ľcke) and when I finally saw the Lion Monument. But just this once, I let the little girl inside me savor each moment that I had in that wonderful city.

Lion of Lucerne

Lucerne Chapel Bridge Kapellbr√ľcke

Lucerne Chapel Bridge and Water Tower

Reasons to go back: Beautiful landscapes, Charming city, The Swiss Alps, Saturday markets, Chocolates, Shopping

2. Paris, France

Paris, Je T’Aime! Paris is love, love, love. I love the Parisian lifestyle, I love the glitter, I love the quaintness of it all. Being in Paris is a whole new experience in itself. You will never run out of things to do, places to see & shops to conquer. This is one city that I will keep coming back to. Je t’aimerai toujours.

Paris Eiffel Tower La Tour Eiffel

Paris View at night

Reasons to go back: Beautiful city, Fabulous food, Great wine, Experience

3. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

The Bernese Oberland is a magical area in Switzerland. This area comprises of different destinations including Lauterbrunnen which was our base for a number of days. Lauterbrunnen is a small valley with waterfalls and majestic views. We wanted to go up the Alps, specifically¬† the Jungfrou, so I chose this place since it was somewhat a transportation hub. I didn’t expect that my husband would end up wanting to visit all the surrounding areas, so staying here was really a plus.

Bernese Oberland Lauterbrunnen Switzerland

The Top of Europe Jungfraujoch

Lauterbrunnen

Reasons to go back: You will never really run out of places (specifically mountains and alps) to go to, Weather, Cheese

4. Seam Reap/Angkor, Cambodia

Seam Reap is actually just the gateway to Angkor, where the beautiful and unique ruins of the Khmer Empire lie. Cambodia has always been known for Angkor Wat but unless you’ve actually been there you won’t expect the Angkor area to be that huge and how Angkor Wat is just one of the many temples that you can visit. My personal favorites are Angkor Wat, Bayon and Banteay Srei. Another popular temple is Ta Prohm where “Tomb Raider tree” can be found. But I wouldn’t go back to Kbal Spean – EVER. Another thing that I enjoyed was eating Khmer food – one of the best and least expensive I ever had! I would keep coming back to Cambodia even if only for their food.

Angkor Wat Cambodia

Restaurant in Cambodia

Reason to go back: FOOD!

5. Gold Coast, Australia

Australia is the land of koalas, kangaroos, fish & chips and surfing! Gold Coast has always been my favorite Australian city and is always a highlight of my year when I get to visit. I love walking around Surfer’s Paradise, just relaxing and taking it slow. For the adventurous bunch, there is always surfing and of course the numerous theme parks Gold Coast is known for. I like that whether I’m on my own or with my family or with my spouse, there will always be something for me to do.

Surfers Paradise

Surfing Lessons in Surfers Paradise

Reasons to go back: Relaxation, Theme parks/activities, Weather

Happy New Year everyone and happy travels in 2011! ūüôā

A Trip Down Memory Lane ‚Äď Visiting Europe for the 1st Time (part 2 of 2)

europe 2008 itinerary

 

CZECH REPUBLIC

Prague is love. I was really glad that we went out of our way to go to Prague. European countries have their similarities but Czech Republic stood out. The old town, the Prague castle and the Charles bridge are only a couple of things that make this city special. I don’t think anyone will be able to resist its beauty and charm.

Prague Czech Republic

Prague Czech Republic

GERMANY

We only spent one night in Heidelberg. Due to our limited time, we were only able to visit the old town and the Heidelberg castle.

What I remember the most was our train ride from Prague to Germany. We took a night train from Prague and since the trains were a bit old there were no double/twin sharing cabins. Right before our train left, the girls who were staying beside our cabin came up to us and told us that we should open our windows because the last time they were going to Germany someone went inside their cabin, released some form of gas and robbed them (took their passports, money, etc). They said that the gas worked because their windows weren’t open.¬† They told us to tell the person in charge to open the window because we felt dizzy. Since I was so paranoid about getting robbed, I did ask for our window to be opened but eventually had to give in to closing it since our German cabin mate seemed to be freezing.¬† So I hardly got any sleep and in addition to that we had to change trains because our train broke down. Talk about the ultimate train experience!

Heidelberg Germany

FRANCE

Someone once told me that Paris was overrated and nothing special (my husband also agreed with that sentiment). So I figured that we should drop by Paris just so at least I could say that I’ve been. But to my surprise I fell completely and utterly in love with Paris. It was romantic, the food was good and the people were not as snotty as I was led to believe. ¬†There was really something magical about the city (and yes my husband would laugh once he reads this). This was one place that I knew I wouldn’t get tired of going back to.

We were with our aunt and uncle and they brought us around. One thing that I enjoyed the most was going to an outlet near Euro Disney/Disneyland Paris then going to the house of our aunt’s cousin. Did you know that the French like to eat slow and that they eat one course all at the same time? Her husband, a French chef, cooked for us and that was seriously one of the best meals I’ve ever had (everything except the wine and cheese were homemade!). It was heaven.

The Louvre Paris

The Louvre Paris

Obelisk of Luxor at Place de la Concorde

Sacre Coeur - Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Paris

A month in Europe is never enough because you’ll never run out of places to see and discover. This trip was truly a memorable one and I know we’ll keep coming back for more.

A Trip Down Memory Lane – Visiting Europe for the 1st Time (part 1 of 2)

europe 2008 itinerary

 

I think it’s only fitting that before I write about my recent trip that I take a stroll down memory lane back to my first trip in Europe last 2008 – simply because if I don’t do it now I know I won’t write about it anymore. I don’t want this to be too detailed since this took place a while back so this will mostly be about the highlights of that trip.

After we got married in July 2007, I told my husband that we had to go to Europe before I got pregnant – that was my ‘condition’.¬† Getting married and being married to the love of your life is the greatest thing but I knew then that having a baby would completely change our lives.¬† So in December of that year my very kind father-in-law got us tickets to Europe (luckily they were seriously excited to have a grandchild) — only to find out a week later that I was a couple of weeks pregnant. In March of 2008 I was¬† 4 months pregnant, got on a plane and went to Europe for the first time.

ITINERARY

Portugal 

Spain 

Italy 

Austria 

Czech Republic 

Germany 

France 

Netherlands 

 

NETHERLANDS

Keukenhof 2008

This was one of our last stops but I wanted to write about it first since the “let’s go to Europe condition” had a “but we also have to go to Keukenhof “clause. My husband used to tell me stories about this place and I ended up dreaming of the day that I would see the world’s most beautiful tulips.¬† So in 2008, this is where I spent my birthday. We took a bus from the Den Haag (The Hague) bus station to Lisse where the Koukenhof gardens were. From March to May of every year, the gardens are in bloom and open to the public. This was the main reason why we specifically wanted to go to Europe during these months.¬† So if you end up around the Netherlands area during these months, this is definitely a must see – no other garden can compare.

keukenhof

 

keukenhof

 

 

keukenhof 2008

 

keukenhof

 

Amsterdam

I often heard about Amsterdam’s red light district and wondered if those rumors about it being great just came from guys. It was pretty outrageous and funny despite being pregnant (I hated the smell of weed though. I think I was just paranoid but it seemed like everyone was smoking something). I had a lot of fun walking around and seeing what Amsterdam was really all about. Unfortunately we weren’t able to take photos of the club windows where we saw women of all shapes, sizes and ages. But Amsterdam was pretty great!

amsterdam netherlands

 

PORTUGAL

Portugal, which is located in southwestern Europe, is a beautiful country. This was the starting point of our trip. I arrived in Lisbon carrying different expectations for the trip such as Lisbon wasn’t something special , Paris was overrated and Milan was beautiful yet realized in the end that I figured wrong.

We loved walking around Lisbon and seeing the Lisbon Cathedral, Castelo de San Jorge and the Belem area. But my favorite part of Portugal was our tour around Fatima, Nazare and Obidos.  Along the way we stopped by the magnificent Batalha Monastery (Mosteiro Santa Maria da Vitória). Up to this day, this still remains my favorite church/chapel/religious structure.

Lisbon Portugal

Portugal

 

Fatima Portugal

 

SPAIN

I am an alumna of Poveda Learning Center (now known as St.Pedro Poveda College). All my life I have been studying St.Pedro Poveda’s life and one cannot help but want to visit his home country and attempt to put 13 years of Spanish into good use.

Spain, the land of paella’s and football, is a unique and lovely country. In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect and was happy with what we found.¬† Barcelona was enchanting, as well as Antoni Gaudi’s works. I really have a thing for Olympic Parks so we actually went out of our way to visit the Barcelona Olympic Park which was used in 1992. I fell in love with Montserrat (day trip to Catalonia) where the Santa Maria de Montserrat (abbey) can be found. Madrid on the other hand was more urban. Still beautiful but not my cup of tea.

sagrada familia barcelona

 

barcelona spain

 

Madrid Spain

 

Madrid Spain

 

temple of debod madrid

 

montserrat

 

ITALY

When I think about Italy, all that comes to mind is “I wish we just went to Florence”. Our whole trip was centered around Milan. I was so excited to visit Milan (I had plans to take a short course in Milan with one of my best friends that year but since I got pregnant this trip became my only chance to see it). When we got there, I was utterly disappointed.¬† I know a lot of people enjoy Milan, but I don’t like shopping that much so maybe that’s why I wasn’t so impressed. It was a bit too crowded, too metropolitan and a bit too dirty for me (no offense). Venice too wasn’t all that I expected it to be. I suppose it was cute because of the small streets, bridges and canals but I just had this picture in my head about how beautiful it was going to be. For this trip, Italy’s saving grace was Rome. Rome was spectacular.¬† We stayed with family friends who lived outside of Rome and they took us around. Sure, the tourist destinations in Rome were really wonderful but the most memorable for me was the Roman Catholic Basilica “Santa Croce in Gerusalemme”.¬† Outside it was nothing great but inside we found Passion Relics (thorns from Jesus’ crown, part of the nail that was used when he was crucified, small parts of the cross and the Titulus Crucis). I know some people question their authenticity but it was a very surreal experience and I will never forget it. I got chills when we went inside the chapel. ¬†And of course we were thrilled that we were able to attend the apostolic blessing in St. Peter’s Basilica.

st.peter's square

passion relics italy

st.peter's square rome

st.peter's basilica rome

 

 

Countdown to 30…

I have exactly 5 months and 28 days to complete my 30 countries before 30 target- 3 countries left to be exact. In theory, this should be an easy task but I don’t think I’ll be able to explore a new country until early next year with my schedule in the next 3 months. But I’m ecstatic that I’m actually getting there because I never thought that it was possible (and crossing my fingers that I complete my list).¬† Luckily, my husband had to go to Germany, took me with him and made me plan the itinerary so that I could add new places to my list (he’d been to 2 out of the 5 in the list below).¬† This was definitely one of our best trips ever ūüôā

New countries I visited in the last 3 weeks:

1. Switzerland   

2. Luxembourg    

3. Belgium   

4. Liechtenstein   

5. United Arab Emirates   

Air Asia/Air Asia X

AIR ASIA, The World’s Best Low-Cost Airline

http://www.airasia.com

This low-cost, no frills Malaysian airline whose operations started in 1996 was the first budget airline in Asia. This airline’s international flights started in 2003 started flying to the Philippines (Clark) in 2005.

Since 2007, I have flown with Air Asia 3x. And I am happy to say that the quality of the airline and it’s service has improved since then.

July 2007 – Clark, Philippines-Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

In 2007, only 2 commercial airlines flew out of the Diosdado Macapagal Airport at Clark Field, Pampanga – Air Asia and Tiger Airways. Despite the distance of the airport from Manila, we tried both airlines due to the very cheap costs of their tickets. During our first flight with Air Asia, I was sorely disappointed simply because it really was a budget airline- no food, no tv and unassigned seats. The seats weren’t comfortable and the planes seemed old.

February 2010 – Clark, Philippines-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-Siem Reap, Cambodia

Fast forward to 2 1/2 years later, along with a couple more budget airlines (including Cebu Pacific and Spirit of Manila), Air Asia still flies from Clark. We had to stop at Kuala Lumpur for one night for each leg of our trip (to Cambodia and back to the Philippines) since Air Asia only flies to KL and Kota Kinabalu from Clark. Air Asia’s main hub can be found at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), more specifically at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). To our surprise the LCCT wasn’t the normal budget airport like the one in Clark and Singapore, etc. The terminal was big and literally hordes of people fly in and out all day. It felt like a regular yet slightly older airport to me. If you arrive with a couple of other flights, it will take you at least 30 minutes-1 hour just to get through immigration.

For the first part of our trip we looked for an airport hotel that where we could stay the night. Our options were limited to the Concorde Inn at the KLIA or the Tune Hotel at the LCCT (Air Aisa’s Budget Hotel). Technically even though the LCCT is located at the KL International Airport it would have been expensive for us just to take a taxi to the Concorde Inn and apparently a good 20 minutes just to get to the Main Airport. So we ended up staying at the Tune Hotel (there’s a free shuttle from the LCCT to the hotel or you could also take a bus for 1 myr). Making a booking at this hotel was similar to booking a ticket in Air Asia- the price for the room itself was pretty cheap but we had to pay for other necessities such as towels, air-conditioning, etc. We’ve stayed in cramped rooms before but I was utterly disappointed with this hotel- in my personal opinion this was the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Again, I am a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to the cleanliness of a hotel room and bathroom.; size – not so much as long as I could still walk around the room. Our room was SMALL – think of a small room and make it smaller, that’s how small it was. Our only piece of luggage could hardly fit the room. Imagine a bed in the middle of the room, headboard leaning on one wall and the 3 other walls just 2 ft from the sides of the bed. The bathroom on the other hand was fairly clean and was literally almost half the size of the room. But what totally ruined it for me were the ants – red ants everywhere. Fortunately, we didn’t have to stay long and had to leave the hotel at 5 am the next day.

After flying back from Cambodia we had to spend another night in Kuala Lumpur. We decided to stay in the city to see the Petronas Towers. We stayed at the Piccolo Hotel which was located at Bukit Bintang. It was a pretty good hotel. The hotel’s location was right in the middle of the shopping area. To get to the hotel we took the Star Shuttle which was a bus ride to one of the shuttles’ hub near the city center and a car ride from there which brought us directly to the hotel. Our flight was early in the morning once again so we took an expensive taxi ride back to LCCT (the concierge told us that there were no buses that leave very early for the airport; we found out later on that he was wrong). Our flight back was pretty decent and I was very happy with the way Air Asia had improved.

May 2010 – Clark, Philippines-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-Melbourne, Australia

AIR ASIA (Clark-Kuala Lumpur; Kuala Lumpur-Clark)

Just like our Clark-Cambodia trip, we had to stop in Kuala Lumpur for one night to and from Clark. We didn’t want all the hassles of our last KL trip so we really researched all our options (with a baby in tow we had to make sure that we stayed in a clean place that was accessible). This is why we ended up staying at Hotel@Sentral. We took the KL Rapid (Bus to the nearby train station and then a train to the KL Central Station – around 12 myr per way). I wouldn’t recommend this since it’s cheaper to take the Skybus. Ideally we could’ve walked to our hotel but since it was pouring when we arrived, we had to take a taxi for 10 myr for a 2 minute ride (Malaysian taxi drivers are the worst! They don’t use their meters and would always overcharge tourists). To go to the airport the following day, we walked to the station and took the SkyBus (Air Asia Shuttle – 9 myr one way) to the LCCT. When we got back from Melbourne, we stayed at the same hotel but we took the SkyBus to/from the Central Station instead (17 myr round trip). We loved the hotel due to it’s proximity to the Central Station (Bus & Trains) and the KL Monorail.¬† The flights were decent and I have nothing to complain about but because my 22 month old son didn’t have his own seat, it was pretty cramped. Also, checking in for Asia flights at the LCCT was a breeze.

AIR ASIA X (KL-Melbourne; Melbourne-KL)

I was very apprehensive about taking a long haul flight using Air Asia. First it takes 8 hrs to get to Melbourne from KL which is the same number of hours from Manila to Melbourne (it takes an additional 4 hours from Clark to KL). Secondly, based on my previous experiences unless you pay for the hot seats, the seats had no legroom whatsoever. Lastly, I would be carrying my little boy the whole time. But I was ECSTATIC when I found out that AIR ASIA X was really a new, big and clean plane. The seats were comfortable and had more than enough legroom (much much roomier than Philippine Airlines).¬† They still didn’t have free movies and stuff but it was fine. We did not upgrade seats even though I really wanted to since we didn’t want to pay more than we needed to. Our flight back to KL from Melbourne wasn’t a full flight so my son was able to score his own seat. In other words, I was very happy with Air Asia X. They really exceeded my expectations. The only negative thing I can think of was the long line at the check-in counter (at the Kuala Lumpur LCCT and even at the Melbourne Tullarmine Airport).

MEALS – We paid for our meals at the same time we booked our tickets. Apparently Air Asia sometimes runs out of food during the flight so unless you want to take that chance, you must pre-book your meals. For our Asia flights we didn’t book meals anymore since the hours were shorter.

LUGGAGE– The standard luggage allowance is 15kg per person which you need to pay for. Children without seats do not have luggage allowances similar to those given by bigger commercial airlines. You can upgrade your luggage allowance to 20kg, 25kg and 30kg.¬† We had to upgrade one of our bags for our Clark/Kl/Melbourne trip to make room for my son’s stuff. If your name and the names of your companions are in one ticket/itinerary only, you can share the luggage allowance. It’s better to pay for an upgrade beforehand versus finding out your bag is overweight at the check-in counter because the fees are quite high.

SkyBus– You can buy tickets for the SkyBus during the flight.

DIOSDADO MACAPAGAL Airport – Park and Fly (open parking lot) costs 90 pesos per night. There are also shuttles to/from Manila.

Overall, I would definitely fly Air Asia again; hopefully not in the very near future because it’s tiring having to pass by Kuala Lumpur every single time. I hope that sooner or later there will be direct Air Asia flights from Clark other than Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. But nevertheless I’m still looking forward to our future trips via Air Asia.