Friday, October 29, 2010
It's been months since I did my recent Europe tour. So it's about time I started my Europe series. A lot have been asking for tips on how to save when visiting Europe. Here are some I've come up with:
1. Book hostels and hotels in advance
Hostels and hotels tend to be full even especially during the summer months from June to August. Unless you plan to sleep in the train station, it’s best to plan ahead if you are staying in a city overnight. I had to sleep at the station in Bordeaux. Since all my train plans were done last minute, plus the facts that I arrived late due to a train strike, it was summer and the first day of the Bordeaux Wine Festival (which I only found out when I arrived), by the time I made it to Bordeaux, all the affordable hotels were full. So after leaving my stuff in the locker, I went around and then spent the night at a bench in the train station.
2. Always check the date and time of your booking
I booked one hostel via e-mail. I had booked for June but did not notice that in their reply, the booking was for May! It was a good thing I called the youth hostel before leaving since I wanted to ask for directions. When I gave the booking number, they said it was for May and I got charged already on my credit card since I was a no-show plus the bed I wanted was already fully-booked! Good thing the staff checked the e-mail trail and saw that I indeed had requested for a June booking and the mistake was on their side. So after making some calls to the manager and using another system to book me a bed, they were able to fix it and everything was fine and I didn’t have to pay anymore.
3. Take evening train rides
This saved me a lot of money since I did not have to pay for accommodation. The down side is that it may mean not taking a shower! But if it's cold anyway, I don't think that would be much of a problem. Check out related post on Eurail travel tips.
4. Budget for train station lockers
For those who really cant travel light, lockers are for you. You can leave your big luggage at the train station and bring a small backpack when going around. It conserves energy and you move faster and more comfortably. While major stations are sure to have lockers, not all stations have them. When we got stuck in Hendaye due to a train strike, I wanted to move around and explore its beach. But unfortunately, I couldn’t leave luggage at the station since there were no lockers. So I was stuck there since my luggage was quite big. You'd spend about €2,50 to €8 depending where you are and how much luggage you have.
In Reims, I was expecting there were lockers. Unfortunately, there were none too. So I had to take a cab to the Notre Dame Cathedral with all my bags. Then took the bus.
5. Pack light
I don't think I have to elaborate on this. Because if you're not joining a tour group, big bags will be a big problem.
6. Invest in travel items and equipment
Make sure you buy a backpack than can hold a lot of stuff. That will come in very handy. Investing in lightweight travel clothes will also be a good idea. And because you have to pack light, you may only be able to bring one pair of shoes. So make sure they're comfortable as well. I'm all praises for the very absorbent and lightweight Aquazorb towel I had with me. And it dries up really quick too.
7. Bring food from home
Bring a lot of crackers and foil packed corned beef, pork and beans, peanuts, etc. I was able to save a lot of time (and money) since I ate on the go, and thus was able to visit more. Dish the cup noodles since it's bulky. And unless you’re staying at a hostel every now and then, finding hot water will be a problem.
8. Water and food is cheaper at the supermarket
Unless you have a budget to spend for trying out the local food which could range from €7,00 to €15,00 per meal, remember to buy water and food at a supermarket. Near tourist attractions, a 500ml bottle of water can cost as much as €2,00. At the supermarket, a 1.5L bottle of water can cost as little as €0,17 to about €0,50 depending where you are. In France, I was shocked to see that the only available water at vendo machines and train stations was Evian, which could cost as much as €2,00 for a 500ml bottle! When I visited a local Carrefour to stock on supplies, the Carrefour Eau de Source was €0,17! Even Evian is cheaper at the supermarket since a 1.5L bottle can go for as low as €0,60.
For a meal, I got cold cuts such as Danish salami for as little as €0,88 for a 200g vacuum-pack plus a pack of 10 croissants for €1,10. To complete the sandwich, I purchased a tube of mayonnaise with Dijon mustard at 1,75 (which lasted me several days). That was good enough for three persons and lasted me two meals and a snack. You can be creative and add more to your sandwich if your budget will allow it.
If you’re too lazy to make your own sandwich, try to look around for a sandwich stand or the local Turkish doner store (which sells the doner kebabs or yufka doner). I got salami sandwiches with vegetables for as low as €1,70 at train stations in Germany.
Doner kebabs are found all over Europe and can be as cheap as €3,50. While the breads with meat and chili can go as low as €1,20 depending on the country. In Germany, I got really great breads at €0,70 (a must-try in Germany) at stores in the tourist area. It’s amusing though that food was cheaper than water in Germany. It’s a good thing that water from the faucet is usually potable.
In Amsterdam, hot dog stands sell cheaper sandwiches than the Doner stores.
9. Stock up on vitamins and essential medicines
Medicines are not cheap in Europe. So stock up before you leave, especially the vitamins which you will need for the tiring trip. Always have medicines for cough and colds, fever, a bad stomach (constipation and diarrhea), motion sickness and allergies (if applicable to you). Although they say having allergy medicine on hand even if you don’t have any allergies may be a life saver if suddenly you or a companion discover you are allergic to something. It might be good also get some essential travel vaccines.
10. Be alert and careful
Since you’re traveling on a budget, the last thing you’d want is to lose stuff to pickpockets. So be wary of strangers approaching you on the street. Be careful when someone suddenly approaches you with “Speak English?” since they could be up to no good. In one square alone, I remember being approached three times by three different women with the same question. I always look puzzled and say “no” or just shake my head. Besides, there are tourist information offices in the area where they could ask all their questions.
Remember that poverty is also existent even in Europe. And with the invisible borders, you also get undesirables migrating from the poorer regions of Europe to the better off ones.
While it’s nice to be nice and polite, it’s the nice people that usually fall prey to these scams. I always tell myself that I won’t be able to answer anyone’s questions anyway being a stranger myself. So I just politely say “I don’t know” and continue walking.
They work in teams and will try to grab your attention to distract you so that another companion can grab your stuff. At ATM machines, be wary of falling money since that’s another way to distract the unwary traveler. These snatchers will drop money and make it seem that the money that fell was yours. That’s to distract you so that they could grab the cash coming from the ATM machine.
My personal exception for talking to strangers on the street is when someone asks me to take a photo since I do that too. But then again, it’s your choice. And you should know yourself well enough to differentiate the genuine queries from the scams. Just be alert and careful and mind your bags and pockets when interacting with strangers.
Anyway, hope that helps you plan your trip. My next post will be about traveling on the Eurail.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
1. South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) will be choosing seven lucky bloggers to join a bloggers' tour of the Batanes winter from January 28 to 30, 2011. This includes round-trip tickets from Manila to Basco and accommodation in Basco. Batanes experiences 4 seasons and has its winter from December to February, with temperature down to as cool as 7 degrees Celcius.
2. To be selected, you will have to write a blog entry telling us why you should be chosen to join the tour. Each blog entry must have a link to the SEAIR website and the SEAIR Facebook Fan Page.
3. You can publish your entry from 12:00 a.m. of October 27, 2010 to 11:59 p.m. of December 20, 2010. Only one entry per blog will count.
4. To let us know about your blog entry, post it as a link in the SEAIR Facebook Fan Page
5. Three winners will be selected by a panel of judges based on which is the most compelling. The top three entries with the highest scores from the judges will be invited to the tour.
6. Two winners will be selected by fans based on the number of "likes" to the link. The two entries with the most number of "likes" by 11:59 p.m. of January 7, 2011 will be invited to the tour.
7. Two winners will the selected by the SEAIR Adventure Club. The entry with the most number of votes from our resident travel bloggers will be invited to the tour.
8. We will notify the seven (7) winners on January 10, 2011. In case any of the winners cannot make it, we will invite the one next in line.
9. The decision of the organizers in final. Good luck to everyone!
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
At the heart of downtown San Fernando, Pampanga is the historic poblacion, replete with remnants of the city's rich architectural heritage and history. These architectural legacies, together with the intangible culture of the city, are the focus of the urban renewal program of the City of San Fernando called Preserving Heritage for Progress. In fact, the program was recognized as one of the Top 10 Best Practices of the League of Cities of the Philippines, and a Trailblazing Program of the Galing Pook Awards both in 2004.
In 2006, the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) selected the program as the winner of the Heritage Tourism Award of the Best Tourism Practices – Special Award Category "in cognizance of the innovative and valuable effort, passion and commitment of the City Government to ensure the protection and promotion of the City's priceless architectural heritage by restoring and preserving the same for the benefit of the future generation of Fernandinos and the Filipino people."
In line with a popular salawikain "Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan," San Fernando firmly believes that its history, heritage and culture are vital tools in the advance towards further progress.
In 2004, the historic core of the city was declared the City of San Fernando Heritage District through a city ordinance. Several of the structures have been declared by the National Historical Institute as part of our national heritage. While all heritage structures are protected by the ordinance.
Most of the structures are concentrated along Consunji Street, Tiomico Street and Capitol Boulevard. These include the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando, San Fernando Train Station and Death March Marker, Pampanga Capitol and Provincial Jail, and the Lazatin, Hizon-Singian, Consunji, Ocampo, Henson-Hizon, and Hizon Houses among many others. Four houses are already declared by the National Historical Institute as Heritage Houses.
Then there's the PASUDECO Sugar Central along Capitol Boulevard. It stands as a testament to the resiliency of the Kapampangans as a people and their continuous drive towards progress and development. An inherent part of the heritage district of the City of San Fernando, this storied structure, a fine example of industrial heritage, is ripe for adaptive reuse and conservation. This proposition yearns for an architect or urban planner with the vision, imagination and genius to incorporate this historical structure into the 21st century community that will be built around it.
Unknown to many, the town proper of San Fernando may be the only city in the country where motorized tricycles are prohibited thanks to the political will of its leaders throughout the years. You can in fact, still enjoy a kalesa ride around the old quarter. Why not take a journey back to San Fernando's storied past with a visit to the city's heritage district?
The city is very historical in fact, it has a large assemblage of markers from the National Historical Institute. I've counted eighteen markers so far. Later this year, markers for the Pampanga High School and Hizon House will be installed bringing the count to twenty.
Just a few days ago, I got a text message from Dom Martin Gomez inviting me to lunch since they plan to reconstruct and restore another Hizon House which will add luster to the heritage district.
There is no doubt, the citizens of San Fernando indeed value the city's architectural heritage. Which is why news of an SM City San Fernando to be built right smack in the center of the heritage district will be met with stiff opposition. I was told the mall is going to be built along Consunji Street, between PNB and Pampanga Hotel, all the way to V. Tiomico Street.
I was all praises for SM when they built SM City Pampanga away from the poblacion. I can't understand why they have to build another one in our historic downtown area. Right now, I'm already thinking about the damage the proposed five or six-floor mall building will do to the cultural landscape of San Fernando. It will tower over the Cathedral! The height alone will destroy the character of the district. The idiots!
For the love of Philippine heritage, will SM please find another place for their mall (as if they don't have enough already). Stay away from our heritage district please!
Save the City of San Fernando Heritage District! No to SM City San Fernando in our heritage district!
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
|Hunyo 12 by Claude Tayag (1989 Fiestas Serigraph Series)|
The past few days, a lot of people have been asking me to post the holiday schedule for next year. Unfortunately, Malacanang has not issued any proclamations for next year's holidays. And it would be careless for anyone to post a holiday schedule to encourage people to book early only to find out that the schedule was wrong. I don't want to be inconsiderate to those who have work if they would be forced to take vacation leaves (if they have any left) only to push through with the bookings made because of faulty advice.
Remember that Sec. 1 of R.A. 9492 empowers the president to modify the holidays by proclamation which he did when he issued Proclamation 13 declaring August 21, 2010 instead of August 23, 2010 as a non-working holiday. So to be sure, here is the list of holidays (and possible holidays) of the Republic of the Philippines with notes for each:
- January 1 (Sat) - New Year's Day (four-day long weekend from December 30 to January 2)
- February 25 (Fri) - EDSA Revolution Anniversary (for 2010, it was a holiday for schools only)
- April 9 (Sat) - Araw ng Kagitingan (no declaration yet but possible holiday on Monday, April 11)
- April 21 (Thu) - Holy Thursday
- April 22 (Fri) - Good Friday (four-day long weekend from April 21 to 24)
- May 1 (Sun) - Labor Day (no declaration yet but possible holiday on Monday, May 2)
- June 12 (Sun) - Independence Day (no declaration yet but possible holiday on Monday, June 13)
- June 19 (Sun) - 150th Birth Anniversary of Jose Rizal (proposed legislation to declare a working holiday)
- August 21 (Sun) - Ninoy Aquino Day (no declaration yet but possible holiday on Monday, August 22)
- August 29 (Mon) - National Heroes Day (no declaration yet but possible three-day long weekend from August 27 to 29)
- August 31 (Wed) - Eid't Fitr (calculated date for 2011 pending proclamation)
- November 1 (Tue) - All Saints Day (possible holiday on October 31 to allow people to travel to the provinces)
- November 6 (Sun) - Eid'l Adha (calculated date for 2011 pending proclamation)
- November 30 (Wed) - Bonifacio Day (possible holiday on Monday, November 28)
- December 25 (Sun) - Christmas Day
- December 30 (Fri) - Rizal Day
- December 31 (Sat) - Last Day of the Year (three-day long weekend from December 30 to January 1)
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia is one of the tallest peaks in Southeast Asia, rising at 4,095 meters. It is also considered one of the region's most important natural wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. PinoyMountaineer.com is pleased to announce an expedition to this premiere hiking destination from March 25 to 28, 2011. In partnership with Ivan About Town, we have forged an agreement with a very reliable adventure company with presence in both the Philippines and Malaysia. This Mt. Kinabalu expedition is designed for participants to truly appreciate Mt. Kinabalu by staying at the park for two nights and experience Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia by staying at a four-star hotel prior to the climb.
Only twenty (20) slots are open at the moment. Considering the interest in Mt. Kinabalu, these are bound to be taken quickly. So highly-interested parties are enjoined to reserve slots as soon as possible by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost and Inclusions
The cost of the Mt. Kinabalu Expedition is Php21,500, which will include: three nights accommodation, airport transfers, all meals as stated in the itinerary, transportation to and from Kinabalu Park HQ, climbing permits, mountain guide, climbing certificate, entrance fees and climb support including orientations in Manila.
Note that air tickets, airport taxes, terminal fees, tips for mountain guides and other gratuities, porter fees, personal expenses, mountain gear and equipment are not included in the package. We are partnering with a travel agency for air ticket group rates so let us know if you are interested. Blue Cross Climbing Insurance is also available on request.
Arrival at Kota Kinabalu. Check-in at Promenade Hotel Kota Kinabalu
Meals on own account
Day 2 (B/L/D)
0600 Breakfast at hotel
0700 Take private transportation from KK to Mt. Kinabalu Park HQ
0800 ETA Park HQ; present booking; secure permit
0830 Take service to Timpohon gate jumpoff (packed lunch)
1400 Arrival at Laban Rata guesthouse; rest
1700 Take buffet dinner
1900 Assault preparations
2000 Sleep early
Day 3 (B/L/D)
0200 Wake up / Early breakfast at Laban Rata
0230 Start summit assault
0600 Arrival at Mt. Kinabalu summit (4095 MASL)
0730 Start descent
0930 Back at Laban Rata;
1300 ETA Kinabalu Park HQ; buffet lunch at Balsam Cafe
1500 Transfer to Mesilau; stay at Bishop's Head Resthouse
1800 Dinner at Bishop's Head Resthouse
Day 4 (B)
Breakfast at Hotel. Transfer to Kota Kinabalu for flight to Manila
Reservations and Inquiries
To receive further details and to place reservations, e-mail email@example.com
Carcar is Cebu's best-preserved colonial town. It has dozens of ancestral houses, a charming church complex, elegant government buildings, schools and monuments among others. A visit to Southern Cebu is not complete if you do not stopover in Carcar.
I wonder when they'll print a walking map of Carcar's historic center because the architecture is quite interesting. I've walked around Carcar several times already and it never fails to amaze me. Aside from the very visible ancestral homes along the National Highway, there are even more grand old houses off the main road.
For the longest time, none of the structures in Carcar were even declared, which was quite ironic given the large concentration of built heritage in the town. But this year, four ancestral houses were declared Heritage Houses by the National Historical Institute. They are the Balay na Tisa Heritage House, Mercado Mansion Heritage House, Sa Dakong Balay / Don Florencio Noel House, and the Silva House Heritage House.
Other interesting structures include the Carcar Church (Santa Catalina Church), its convent and parochial school, Upland Elementary School, the Carcar Dispensary which is now a museum, and the Carcar Rotunda.
For more information on Carcar, read Lechon, chicharon and more from Carcar. Aside from its architectural heritage, Carcar is of course famous for lechon and chicharon. So make sure to get some when you're there. Both the chicharon and lechon are sold in the Carcar Public Market.
Thursday, October 07, 2010
The Provincial Government of Bulacan and City Government of Malolos, in collaboration with Heritage Conservation Society (HCS), Bulacan HCS Chapter, Urban Partnerships Foundation (UPF) and the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP), hosts the 5th Annual Conference on Philippine Towns and Cities (PTC), November 5 to 6, 2010 at the Hiyas Pavilion, Bulacan Provincial Capitol, MacArthur Highway, Malolos, Bulacan.
PTC aims to enhance civic engagement with local governments units in order to inform and guide the LGUs on the proper care and utilization of a valuable asset — built heritage resources.
In our towns and cities, wanton real estate speculation and over-construction are often mistaken for modernization when in fact these exert devastating pressure on the historic and cultural core of many of our human settlements. As a result, a valuable economic resource – built heritage — is left to deteriorate or is thoughtlessly demolished in the name of progress. Concerted effort is imperative to protect heritage resources because these are revenue and job-generating assets that can spark economic revitalization, as the case of Vigan clearly shows.
Highlights this year include a briefing on the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 (RA 10066), lecture and training on cultural mapping, heritage identification and documentation, the Lakbay Republika ng Malolos Heritage Tour and experience riding on a Karatig jeep, Bulacan Artists Art Exhibit launch, photo exhibit of bridges, Art Deco buildings and lighthouses, cultural presentation of Bulacan's Lakan Sining and case studies of selected Philippine towns and cities namely Malolos, Bulacan; Sta. Ana, Manila; Hagonoy, Bulacan; and Antipolo, Rizal.
For more information, contact Dorie Soriano or Luz Regalado of the Heritage Conservation Society at (02) 5466367, (02) 3534494, (0917) 8668853, (0906) 2625631 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Rheeza Hernandez (Bulacan HCS) at email@example.com, (0915) 4339438; or Arch. Osie Alfonso (Bulacan HCS) at firstname.lastname@example.org, (0917) 909768 or (02) 2380887.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
The Galeon Andalucia, a replica of the 17th century Spanish galleon, arrived in Manila this morning as part of Dia del Galeon celebrations. I was at Pier 13 as the galleon entered the port and docked. It looked quite majestic as it entered the breakwater. We were among the first to board the galleon together with the entourage of the Spanish Ambassador Luis Arias Romero, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and HCS President Gemma Cruz Araneta.
From October 7 to 8, 2010, the public may visit Galeon Andalucia at Pier 13, which is behind Manila Hotel, from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 to 4 p.m. On October 9, 2010, the galleon will accept visitors only from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. Its next port of call is Cebu City.
There is no need for reservations for individuals and groups with less than 30 people. Big groups will have to reserve with the organizers and are only allowed to board in the morning. Take note however that children under eight years old are not allowed due to safety reasons. While children under twelve need to be chaperoned.
Since the capacity of the boat is 100 persons at a time, entrance is on a first-come first-served basis. And guests have to queue in line. So expect some waiting time. Some walking will be required from the registration to the boat.
There will be a waiting area where guests can view an exhibit, mural paintings and information on the Galleon Trade. Also, there will be a creative trade fair selling indigenous arts and crafts, and items from around the world. There is no ample parking at the pier, so you might have to park at the Quirino Grandstand and walk. Better to take a cab or bring a driver.
For inquiries and reservations, e-mail Abi Portillo at email@example.com.
Update (10/11/2010): Galleon Andalucia will be arriving in Cebu on October 13, 2010. Details to follow.
Monday, October 04, 2010
I found myself visiting again the heritage churches of Southern Cebu. There are quite a lot actually. So from Cebu City, my class proceeded down south to explore the heritage of Southern Cebu. If you were to choose seven churches, here is the suggested route.
We first stopped at the San Fernando Church (San Isidro Labrador Church) which is built in the Gothic style and completed in 1886.
After San Fernando, we drove to Sibonga Church (Nuestra Senora del Pilar Church) also built in the Gothic style and completed in 1881. It was the town fiesta and there were a lot of people visiting the church. We got to try the torta and pinyato which were both being sold outside the church for just Php5 each!
Then we drove all the way down to the Oslob Church (Inmaculada Concepcion Church) built in the Neo-Classical style and completed in 1847. This church was gutted by fire in 2008 because the parish priest left his modem running while he was out which is not a good idea in a centuries-old structure. The modem overheated and the rest was history. There used to be a really beautiful convento with a clay tile roof right beside the church. But that's gone now. Such a pity!
It's actually had a history of fires. It was burned by Filipino guerillas in 1942. And again, the whole complex got burned in 1955. But what's important is that they restored the church every time it burned. In fact, they're restoring the church again now. I wonder if they'll reconstruct the convento though.
From Oslob, we drove back north to Boljoon Church (Patrocinio de Maria Church) which is both a National Cultural Treasure and a National Historical Landmark. The first church was probably destroyed during the Muslim raid of 1782. Work on the current church, which is built in the Rococo style, began in 1783.
From Boljoon, we visited the Dalaguete Church (San Guillermo de Aquitania Church), also built in the Rococo style and completed in 1825. It's one of the best-preserved churches in Cebu and a National Historical Landmark. Just remember that Dalaguete is pronounced by locals as dalaget.
Argao Church (San Miguel Arcangel Church) was our next stop. It's a National Historical Landmark. I'm sure you've heard the horrible thing one of its previous parish priests did to the church retablo. He painted the exquisite polychrome wooden retablo with gold and silver latex paint making it the biggest trophy case in the country! This church is also constructed in the Rococo style.
Finally, we visited the Carcar Church (Santa Catalina Church), built in the Graeco-Roman style with strong Muslim influence, and completed in 1875. There are more churches to visit in Southern Cebu. These churches featured are from the southeastern side of the island. I'm actually looking forward to my trip to visit the churches of Southwestern Cebu.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
As soon as we arrived in Cebu City from Bantayan Island, we went straight to Magellan's Cross in between the City Hall of Cebu and the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the starting point of our walking tour around old Cebu City. Our guide was Ka Bino Guerrero, one of the best tour guides in Cebu.
At the Magellan's Cross, Ka Bino gave an overview of Cebu and the cross itself. From Magellan's Cross, we entered the Santo Niño Basilica. Unfortunately, Mass was going on so we had to deal with the large crowd which was there to hear Mass. We were able to enter the church and see the Santo Niño and the intricate main retablo of the basilica.
From the basilica, we crossed over to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit Cathedral Museum of Cebu which I got to visit in 2007 when it was just about to open. So we walked straight to the Parian District to visit the Heritage of Cebu Monument where Ka Bino concluded the tour.
Along the way, he of course told stories about structures which once stood in the area, including the grand Parian Church which was ordered dismantled by the church hierarchy during the Spanish Colonial Period because it was competing with the collections of the Cebu Cathedral.
In Parian, there's also the Yap-Sandiego House, one of the oldest surviving Spanish colonial houses in the Philippines, and the Casa Gorordo Museum. But unfortunately, we had to cut the usual tour short because we had to check-in at our hotel. In any case, if you're planning a walking tour around old Cebu City, Ka Bino is highly-recommended.