Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tagaytay: Summit Ridge Hotel provides great views of Taal Volcano!

If you're looking for a hotel in Tagaytay City with great views of Taal Volcano, Summit Ridge Hotel is one of them. After our sumptuous food binge in the restaurants of Veranda Robinsons Galleria, our group of bloggers proceeded all the way to Tagaytay City for an overnight stay in Summit Ridge.

We got to tour the facilities including its events and convention venues. We were particularly impressed with the Summit Learning Center which is said to have been patterned after a Harvard classroom. Summit Ridge also has several recreational facilities including a wooden basketball court that doubles as badminton courts. The hotel also arranges tours.

For dinner, the group got a preview of the Summer BBQ Nights by Annie's, which will run every Saturday, 6 p.m. until May 28, 2011 (Php599/head). I suggest you rush to Summit Ridge this summer before this sumptuous barbecue buffet ends. The buffet included Spicy Pork BBQ, Chicken Skewers, Sausage Kebab, Fish Fillet with Remoulade, as well as rice, soup, salad, pasta and dessert.

Before we called it a night, we also got a preview of the hotel's newly-opened SeriAsia Spa. In the morning, breakfast was at the restaurant of Annie's and C2 Classic Cuisine.

Summit Ridge Hotel
Km 58, Maharlika West
Tagaytay City
(632) 2406888 / (0922) 8526800

June 20, 2011 declared a non-working holiday for Rizal's 150th birth anniversary

On June 19, 2011, the Philippines will be celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Dr. Jose P. Rizal. As requested by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Malacanang declared June 20, 2011 a non-working holiday, "to give all Filipinos the opportunity to commemorate Rizal’s patriotic deeds and sacrifices for the country, rekindle their admiration and respect for him, and to celebrate this milestone with appropriate ceremonies." Here is a copy of Proclamation No. 154.

Don't forget to like the 150th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Jose P. Rizal page on Facebook and follow @Rizal150 and use #Rizal150 on Twitter.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hong Kong: Bus trip to Stanley Market

Before my recent trip to Hong Kong, the farthest I've gone to the south side of Hong Kong Island was Repulse Bay as part of a Hong Kong city tour in 1991, when tour packages were very much worth it, not like the rubbish and scams many HK tour companies churn out today. I've long heard about Stanley Market further down the road, and despite several visits to Hong Kong, I always miss going there.

So for this Hong Kong Disneyland trip, right after enjoying the park, we made our way to Stanley Market. From Disneyland, we took the MTR to Central. And then hopped on bus 6 (6A, 6X or 260 are also possible), for the long ride to the south of Hong Kong Island. It takes about 45 minutes to get there from Central.

The views were actually picturesque and you'd be surprised there are still places like these in Hong Kong. There are quite a number of beaches on the south side of Hong Kong Island.

Stanley Market is one shopping place worth visiting. Aside from the usual stuff you buy in the usual market areas around Hong Kong, I noticed they had a lot of cultural and traditional souvenirs. It's the kind of market where you buy your "this is definitely from Hong Kong" type of souvenirs which you can give out to your friends at home.

But more than the market, Stanley Village is actually good place to hang out especially during sunset, with its waterfront al fresco dining restaurants and bars. I should visit this place more often when I'm in Hong Kong.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hong Kong: Celebration in the Air marks HongKong Disneyland's fifth anniversary

HongKong Disneyland is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year with Celebration in the Air. And we were lucky to see some of the attractions set up for the event.

After lunch at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, we took the shuttle bus to the theme park. Right after entering the gates, there are brochure racks. Always make sure to get a Disneyland Guidemap and Times Guide to help you plan your trip around the park. The Times Guide let's you know the schedule of shows and events happening in the theme park.

Since we were early for the Flights of Fantasy Parade, we first went to the Jungle River Cruise in Adventureland.

Shortly before 3:30 p.m., we were ferried to Main Street, U.S.A. in an area reserved for us to view the Flights of Fantasy Parade. The VIP viewing location is actually a feature of the Gold Star Tour (HK$3088 for up to six guests) which also includes direct entrance to all attractions and reserved seating for theater shows.

This new and grander parade was created as part of Celebrations in the Air, the 5th anniversary bash of HongKong Disneyland, and features the different Disney characters. And since we were in the front row, my niece Bettina, got to join in the action.

After the parade, we proceeded to Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. Then we were off to It's a Small World, dubbed "the happiest cruise that ever sailed as children of the world sing and dance to the song It's a Small World." I could distincly hear the song being sung in Filipino as we passed by the two girls in ternos.

Our next stop was The Golden Mickeys, a musical featuring Disney's films and characters. We had watched this show previously. And lining up for it was no joke. But this time around, we used the priority entrance.

After visiting the attractions, we had dinner at Plaza Inn in Main Street, U.S.A., a Cantonese restaurant hosted by Maxim's.

It was another eight-course meal for dinner which included (1) Barbecued Meat Platter, (2) Thick Soup with Shredded Pork, Bean Curd and Mushroom, (3) Golden Shrimp Ping Pong in Almond Flakes, (4) Seared Beef Fillets in Tangy Onion Dressing, (5) Sauteed Sliced Chicken and Prawns with Broccoli, (6) Flat Chinese Mushrooms over Baby Vegetables, (7) Fried Rice and Chicken Folded in Lotus Leaf Wrap and (8) Seasonal Pudding for dessert.

Before leaving the theme park that night, we watched the Tinker Bell Castle Illumination, another special attraction created for the 5th anniversary of Hong Kong Disneyland.

The next day, we went back again to the theme park. It was sunnier than the day before and perfect for photos. We actually had our photos taken in front of the train station where the Mickey landscaping can be found. We later had 8R copies printed for HK$120 at the Kodak store in Main Street, U.S.A. You can choose the border or the effect, including one where you can superimpose Tinker Bell on your hand.

My niece wanted to do a repeat of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, so we proceeded there again and it's a good thing the lines were relatively short. We actually had Fast Passes that were good for the afternoon.

Fast Passes help visitors to Hong Kong Disneyland manage their time better in the theme park by lessening time consumed by lining up. The Fast Pass is a ticket which you can get at designated machines in front of an attraction which schedules you for the ride at a later time. So once you have a Fast Pass, you simply come back during the designated time period and you will be allowed to enter through the priority entrance. Only three rides have Fast Passes: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Space Mountain and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Here is more information on the Fast Pass.

With our Fast Pass, we were able to use the priority entrances of Winnie the Pooh and Space Mountain which saved us a lot of time.

Of course, we had to go on Bettina's favorite ride which is the Mad Hatter Tea Cups.

Also don't forget to visit Fanstasy Gardens where you can have your photos taken with your favorite Disney characters. Since we already had photos with Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Daisy Duck and Goofy from breakfast, we lined for photos with Winnie the Pooh and Minnie Mouse. We had a really late lunch at Comet Cafe before doing some last minute shopping at Main Street, U.S.A. After our grand experience at the theme park, we made our way to the MTR to explore other parts of Hong Kong.

Part 1: Experiencing Disney magic at HongKong Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Hollywood Hotel

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hong Kong: Experiencing Disney magic at HongKong Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Hollywood Hotel

A few weeks ago, we made another family trip to HongKong Disneyland. The park is celebrating its 5th anniversary this year. In previous trips, we'd usually stay outside the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. But this time around, we got to experience Disney magic to its fullest with a stay at one of the Disney hotels.

From the Hong Kong International Airport, unless you are alone, the cheapest way to get to Hong Kong Disneyland is by cab (approximately HK$120). By MTR, it would cost HK$60 per head to get to Tsing Yi, then you have to transfer lines to get to Sunny Bay, then transfer trains to get to Hong Kong Disneyland. From there, you have to take the free shuttle to your hotel. With the cab, we were ferried directly to Disney's Hollywood Hotel where we were billeted for the next two nights.

Disney's Hollywood Hotel is a grand Art Deco building which mimics the character, glitz and glamor of Hollywood Boulevard in California. Although you can check-in as soon as you arrive, if the hotel is full as it usually is, rooms won't be available until 3 p.m. So if you arrive early, you can leave your bags at the concierge so that you can explore the theme park or have lunch while waiting.

Lunch was at the Crystal Lotus at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. So we had to take the shuttle to get to the other hotel next door. For lunch, we had the Disney character dimsum. Almost everything served had something shaped in the famous Mickey silhouette.

It was a seven-course meal which included Sesamed Rice Pasta Salad with Chicken, Disney Dimsum (Little Pig Barbecue Pork Bun, Little Green Men Pork and Vegetable Bun and Mickey's Seafood Glutinous Pancake), Double-boiled Chicken and Conpoy Soup in Petite Coconut, Wok-fried Shrimps and Disney Root Vegetables, Red-braised Pork Loin stuffed in Whole Chinese Pear, Fried-rice with Tasmanian Crabmeat stuffed in Whole Crab Shell, plus desserts (Chilled Mickey's Red Bean Honey Pudding and Duffy Steamed Lotus Red Bean Puree Bun).

After lunch, we proceeded to the theme park and returned to Disney's Hollywood Hotel right after dinner and the Tinker Bell Castle Illuminations. Please read related post for more on the parade and evening events: Celebration in the Air marks HongKong Disneyland's fifth anniversary.

The next day, we went back to HongKong Disneyland Hotel for a meet-and-greet breakfast with Disney characters at Enchanted Garden. In fact, during every meal, the Disney characters welcome everyone and visit every table for pictures, the highlight of dining at Enchanted Garden.

But the breakfast buffet spread itself was impressive with a wide selection of Western, Chinese, Japanese and Indian food among many others. If only my stomach didn't have any limits, I would have wanted to try out more.

After breakfast, we checked out the hedge maze in the sprawling garden behind the hotel. The back of the hotel actually faces the sea creating a picture-perfect setting. After walking around, we proceeded again to the theme park for more fun.

We got back at Disney's Hollywood Hotel that night, we saw Chip and Dale near the elevator posing for photos with guests.

During our last day, breakfast was at Chef Mickey at Disney's Hollywood Hotel. We weren't able to enjoy the buffet much since we had to rush to the airport right after the quick breakfast. But I'm glad we got to experience more of the Disney magic during our visit to the HongKong Disneyland Resort. There's definitely a big difference if you choose to stay at a Disney hotel and you might want to consider it especially if you are traveling with kids.

Part 2: Celebration in the Air marks HongKong Disneyland's fifth anniversary
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