Nengkoy’s First Hostel Experience

Nengkoy (my mother) is used to check-in a 5-star hotel or resort every time she goes on a domestic vacation.  Because of budget constraints and weak Philippine peso, it is the downgraded to 4 or 3-star hotels during international travels.  However, in Nengkoy’s recent international trip her accommodation experience was further downgraded from a hotel to a hostel!

I am the culprit.  It is because I am the one who booked and reserved a tiny room for three at A Dot Homestay via Booking.com.

Upon clearance from the immigration and retrieval of our luggage at Taoyuan International Airport, I Nengkoy and my sister proceeded to the nearest airport transport service.  We booked a return exclusive luxury car service that will drive us to our hostel and pick us up to bring us back to the airport on our last day’s stay.  The driver was quite surprised upon finding out that we have to be dropped not to a luxurious hotel but instead to an ordinary building where our hostel was located.

a dot homestay taipei
common area (dining & kitchenette) where guests converge and make “chika
a dot homestay
the bathroom, the laundry area and the sleeping quarters
nengkoy at a dot homestay
spot nengkoy (btw, those drawers under the bed are digital-lock capable as if its a safe or a vault)

Actually, upon alighting the luxurious car, I never noticed where A Dot Homestay was located for there was no signage.  Upon noticing that I seem to look confused, the driver was kind enough to point to us the building and entrance gate were the address of our hostel was.  Shockingly, there was no reception desk where to transact our check-in.  Instead, we proceeded to the 5th floor of the building, were asked to take off our shoes and was led to a dining table where we settled our payment and where the crew issued us our electronic keys to our room.

Nengkoy and my sister then told me after we have settled inside our room that both of them were already contemplating of pushing me to transfer to a legit hotel.  It was obviously their first time to be in such a type of a lodging.  They were not used to a guesthouse without a front desk, a concierge and an elegant chandelier in a lobby.

I have no intention of under estimating this hostel.  It is because I, my sister and Nengkoy were quite impressed by the facilities, cleanliness and offerings of A Dot Homestay.  After our first night, we easily adjusted and came to appreciate this cozy and comfortable establishment.

A Dot Homestay basically grew in us.  Maybe it is because it offers remarkable facilities (comfy bed with fresh and spotless linens, clean and big common/shared toilet & shower rooms, a free-to-use washer and dryer, very fast internet connection, hot, warm and cold drinking water, a fridge that all guests can use and even a kitchenette if guests wish to cook their food).  They even offer us to eat and try the free snacks placed and made available at the main table.

But aside from all these pleasant and amazing features, there are two things that I like most about A Dot Homestay.  First is the warm, gracious and well-mannered staffs.  All their staffs whom I encountered can speak English (Sarah, one of the staffs, according to her actually studied English here in the Philippines for 3 months) and everybody were so genial and are so willing to assist so as to make sure that we enjoy our visit to Taipei.  They can even give you tips on where to dine and where to go to.

Second is the location.  A Dot Homestay is literally just a couple of steps away from Exit 3 of Daan Station.  The nearness of the train station is one of my main considerations why I chose and booked A Dot Homestay.  I know that Taipei weather is like Manila weather.  It is hot, boiling and very humid.  Thus, it would be too difficult to walk on the streets so as to reach the station if the hotel would be too far a distance.  I was also glad to have chosen this lodging establishment because I am with Nengkoy and my often-complaining sister who hates to walk under a blistering climate.  Thus, the location of A Dot Homestay is just perfection!

nengkoy & ate gaying at daan train station
nengkoy and my sister at the stairs of daan station
taipei morning
the view just outside the hostel…

Thanks to A Dot Homestay!  It is because this establishment made Nengkoy’s first hostel experience a very pleasant and remarkable one.

Oh and by the way, on our last day, it was a different driver who picked us up and drove us to the airport for us to catch our flight back to Manila.  He was driving a Mercedes Benz.  It was so noticeable that the driver was puzzled and bamboozled why we were not picked from a luxurious hotel but instead by the bustling Xinyi Road in front of an ordinary-looking building.

Kaimpres impernes…

Advertisements

Perfect Imperfections of Costa Pacifica

Costa Pacifica is a high end resort/hotel place in Baler, Aurora Province.  If I am to describe this stunningly relaxing resort in one word, the word would be “imperfect”.

first shot! the sun has yet to rise when we arrived
first shot! the sun has yet to rise when we arrived
picture muna
picture muna

Though ranked as the number 1 resort in whole of Aurora province, the soft, fine and sandy beach offering of Costa Pacifica (which is literally few steps away) is not the soft white variety that you would typically find in a high end resort in the Philippines.  But you will totally forget about the color of the sand as soon as you would see the awesome color of the sunrise, hear the calming sound of the beach and experience the exhilarating swells of its waves.

aylavet!
aylavet!
relaxing...
relaxing…
amazing view
amazing view

Though the very nice facilities and ambience of this resort can already be considered perfect, the reason for its imperfection is their overwhelming customer service flexibility.  It’s more than perfect that is why I consider it ridiculously imperfect.

I know that check-in time for any resort or hotel is at 2:00 PM and request for early check-in would usually be granted starting at 10 in the morning depending on room availability.  But what is insanely surprising is that we were granted a 6:00 AM early check-in even though we did not actually insisted or demanded for it.

Upon arriving in Baler super early in the morning, we went straight to this beautiful resort just to request on the possibility of our luggage to be kept in their storage area.  And that we would just return at 2:00PM in time for our check-in.  But surprisingly, we were already offered to check-in in our room right at that very moment!

super nice!
super nice!
nice loots for nengkoy... she would hate me if i will just leave those...
nice loots for nengkoy… she would hate me if i will just leave those…
fit for a king...
fit for a king…

To prove and push further their incredible customer service flexibility, they allowed us to avail our breakfast – which by the way was a delightful buffet – on the day we arrived.  When in fact, the breakfast should only be availed the following day after we have spent overnight in that beautiful resort.

These two rare more-than-perfect experiences made me incredibly so impressed by the customer service orientation of the whole resort!  It shut off my usual petulant morning crankiness making my whole throughout stay in Baler very pleasing and relaxing.   I have been to lots of expensive hotels and resorts, but never was I granted this amazing level of generosity and flexibility.

one happy & satisfied guest...
one happy & satisfied guest…

Walang kadamot-damot… Kakaiba ka Kosta Pasipika!

Paradores Del Castillo

the stairs are so beautiful!!!
 bienvenido!

“We stayed in an old Spanish-colonial house”.  This is my usual response to a lot of friends who asked where did I and a couple of friends stayed when we were in Taal, Batangas.  We actually stayed in Paradores Del Castillo, an old Spanish-Filipino house turned into a hotel.

For those who love the old world flavor with the illustrado-Spanish-Filipino touch, you will truly enjoy staying in this hotel.  And true enough, as soon as I saw the façade and entered this old house, I immediately wanted take photos of the whole place.  Every space, wall and décor seem to have rich characters.  It would be one of those places that Ernest Hemmingway or Jose Rizal would approve of.  It felt like I was in some old Filipino period movie produced by LVN or the Sampaguita pictures.

Here are a few photos of this beautiful and uniquely Filipino hotel.

paradores del castillo
paradores del castillo
stylish!
stylish!
translation: please con't disturb
translation: please con’t disturb.  and that’s the super old door knob! hahaha!
those capiz window panes are so uniquely filipino!
those capiz window panes are so uniquely filipino!
even the door key is so old... i love it!
even the door key is so old… i love it!
seating/reading area at the ground floor
seating/reading area at the ground floor
filipino dining area also known as "hapag kainan"
filipino dining area also known as “hapag kainan”
delicious breakfast by the garden: tapang taal with kapeng barako
delicious breakfast by the garden: tapang taal with kapeng barako
a nice sunny weather...
a nice sunny weather…

Sinverguenza! Ang bongga bongga!

Las Vegas Highlights: Part 2 (Casinos and The Strip)

With a rented car, I and my friends drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.  Before we hit the big and lively sin city, we were welcomed by some pretty rainbow gifted to us by the large, dry, barren portion of Mojave Desert.  It was a sign that something good is ahead of us.

a beautiful treat by the mojave desert
a beautiful treat by the mojave desert

While we were in Las Vegas, it is inevitable that I and my friends got to do a little casino sports.  Though I did not hit the jackpot, what I particularly like about the casinos in Vegas are the free cocktail drinks that you can request from the dog-tired looking waitresses that goes around the casino grounds.  It was raining margaritas when we were gaming!

But what I like most about Las Vegas are the cornucopia of architectural landmarks of the Strip.  For me traversing the Las Vegas Strip is just but incredibly fantastic.  It felt like the Strip was breathing and has a life of its own.

the bellagio
the bellagio
the "jaw-dropping" strip at night
the “jaw-dropping” strip at night
my personal favorite
my personal favorite
one of karen and joesel's photo taking exploits at the strip
one of karen and joesel’s photo taking exploits at the strip
the mirage
the mirage

I would not want to go into other details of what I personally experienced in this sin city.  I would like to join the bandwagon of people who profess that “what happened in Vegas stays in Vegas”.  One thing is for sure this unaccounted event is comparable to hitting the Pai Gow Poker jackpot!

the caesar's palace facade
the caesar’s palace facade

My tour and visit to Las Vegas was indeed a blessing beyond compare.

Babalik, babalik!

All is Well and Swell at Novotel

Aside from the complimentary overnight stay and numerous discounts to various products and services, one distinct advantage of being an Accor member, for me, is that it pressures me to use it.  It compels me to book a room in one of their hotel chains located within Asia-Pacific otherwise my entitlement will be forfeited.

it was a smooth check-in
it was a smooth check-in
gone nuts with their welcome drink...
gone nuts with their welcome drink…

My being an Accor member gives me a reason to go on a holiday.  This is of course aside from my needing to de-stress from a very demanding job and my passionate craving to see and experience other culture.

This year, I decided to use my Accor entitlement in Bangkok, Thailand.  I stayed in Novotel located right at the vibrant city center and known as the laboratory site of modern Thai fashion, Siam Square.

Though Novotel Siam Square is not a new hotel, there is nothing shabby about it.  I was surprised myself that I actually loved this place.

It has an excellent location where restaurants, major shopping malls and modes of transportation are all within short walking distance.  The room with fast and efficient wifi facility was clean and was in good size.  The bathroom was just how I liked it — clean, simple and functioning.  The bed was so super comfy!!!

had difficulty waking up in that super comfy bed...
had difficulty waking up in that super comfy bed…
i love hotel toiletries...
i love hotel toiletries…
as expected... mine of course was the bigger luggage
as expected… mine of course was the bigger luggage

Though I did not dip into the pool it nevertheless looks relaxing and inviting.

view of the pool from the 14th floor
view of the pool from the 14th floor

The staffs were graciously amazing.  I will go back and stay there again in a heartbeat if given the chance.  Novotel Siam Square has definitely gives me the reason to renew my Accor membership next year.

Pwede…

A Grand Gourmet Experience

spirals1
spirals, sofitel manila

It was one unforgettable pre-Christmas dinner as well as post-birthday celebration of my nephew Denden.  I and my family were in Spirals, Sofitel Manila last night.   Spirals is the country’s biggest and widest array of culinary delights with 21 interactive Ateliers.

For me the best features in the buffet were the mouthwatering Chinese Dimsum; a raw bar of sushi and sashimi; the wide array of artisanal cheeses (inside the much raved about cheese room); the juicy steaks at Churrasco; the paneers and tandoori; and, of course the unlimited Foie Gras.

Though this was not my first time to dine at Spirals I still get so overwhelmed, I failed to take photos of the buffet.

the staff probably knew that i have a crazy noisy family we were billeted inside a vip room
sofitel staff probably knew that i have a crazy noisy family, we were billeted inside a vip room
me and nengkoy loved this bread...
me and nengkoy loved this bread…
a view from the hotel lobby
a view from the hotel lobby

No wonder Spirals at Sofitel this year was chosen as the Best International Buffet by the prestigious Manila’s Best Kept Restaurant Secrets (MBKRS Awards).

Burp…