Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NAIA 3 Ready to Open for International Flights

For the first time after more than 6 years beyond its controversy laden completion, the Ninoy Aquino International Aiport (NAIA) terminal 3 would be rightly called as an international gateway when Cebu Pacific will start its international operations there on the 1st of August according to the airline's website.

NAIA terminal 3 exceeds the amenities provided by the old Domestic Terminal such as: A spacious check-in area, with 28 state-of-the-art counters allocated to Cebu Pacific as compared to 22 counters at the cramped check-in section of the Domestic Terminal and 9 boarding gates, as compared from 4 at the old Domestic.

Lance Gokongwei, the airline's President and CEO, said, "Now that we will be flying both domestic and international services under one roof, we will be able to see some operational efficiencies and offer our passengers an even better product.”

Practically the new airport is 6 years old so don't expect 2008 technology within the four corners of the terminal. On the bright side it is such a relief for the traveling public that they can experience an airport with world-class facilities unlike the old terminal which already gave up on properly servicing passengers without inconveniences because of its almost "jurassic" facilities.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Filipino Food... Globally Palatable?

I love to travel and I love to eat. Those were already given as I own a travel blog and you can see the evidence in my pictures here that eating is my pastime. Whenever I travel somewhere here in the Philippines or abroad I always want to try the local delicacies from local fastfoods or restaurants.

I have only one observation in my travels abroad. Why is that Filipino restaurants are not that popular against at least with other Southeast Asian food fares like Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Singaporean and Malaysian? Here in Manila one can find in every mall Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. But in my travels around the region I haven't yet seen a Filipino restaurant eventhough I know that they exist somewhere. My point is Filipino restaurants exist in Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur etc. but they are not that popular among non-Filipinos as most of them are targeting the expat Filipino community.

Even celebrity chefs from the U.S., Britain and Australia features Thai, Vietnamese, Singaporean and Malaysian recipes in their TV shows. I'm pretty sure Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain and Bobby Chin all featured at least one dish from our neighbors in Southeast Asia in their own cable TV shows.

I have my hunch why Filipino foods are not that popular among non-Filipinos but I want your theory first before I give mine... Feel free to leave a comment here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'm Off to Malaysia & Singapore... I'll be Back in a Jiffy!!!

Petronas Twin Towers (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Siloso Beach (Sentosa Island, Singapore)

Whenever I mention to my close friends that I will be going to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur they all have 1 common question... Singapore? Again?

In my last trip to Singapore even the immigration officer at Ninoy Aquino International Airport even asked what I'm doing in Singapore that I will be going there for the 8th time. I don't want to lie so I said that I'm on vacation. It is my constitutional right to travel and my name is not on the immigration hold-departure list so I have no fear going to Singapore again.

Even if I already explored practically all the parts of Malaysia from the beach haven Langkawi and Bukit Changloon near the Thai border in the North; Johor and Melaka in the South; Sabah and Pulau Labuan in the East; and the beautiful island of Penang in the West... and of course the capital city of Kuala Lumpur (I don't know how to classify it whether central or north or west Malaysia, hehehe).

So why am I now on my way to those two countries if I have seen them for several times? I don't know either =)

I'll be back after 5 days...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Love Cheap Destinations!

10,000 Vietnam dong= U$.63 or 63 cents

I know for a fact that it is quite expensive for a middle class, peso-earning Filipino to leisurely travel abroad but it does not have to be if you carefully plan when and where to go. If you ignore the places where tourists come in herds you will save enough money to travel longer, more often or with a touch of class.

A hundred travel tips on how to save from discounts and finding a good deal would not be enough if in the FIRST place the destination is expensive. Even if the exchange rate is 1U$=Php30 or 1U$=Php44 one can travel well if you go to a country where your humble peso is worth a fortune.

As a rule of thumb, you should not worry about how much your taxi ride or your lunch when you are in a foreign place for you to enjoy the experience of being new to a country. Cheap and near countries like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and to some extent Indonesia offer many of the world's most beautiful natural and man-made sights like Halong Bay, Luang Prabang, Angkor Wat and Borobudur which are all listed under the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

To compare the cost, a coupon taxi ride from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Paranaque to our house in the neighboring Las Pinas City costs at least 450 pesos, 270 pesos if via a metered airport taxi. Well, you will also spend the same amount for your coupon taxi ride in Hanoi to your hotel in the city center but that would be a 40-kilometer ride as compared to less than 15 kilometers from NAIA to my house. And in fairness to the Vietnamese people, their taxis are newer and well maintained as compared to a number of Manila taxis.

I thought my 90-peso Camiguin t-shirt is a bargain but to my surprise I can buy 3 t-shirts in Vietnam for just $5, while your $10 in Laos will get you 12 good quality baseball caps (until now I still haven't yet disposed about 3 baseball caps). In Indonesia, I got a very beautiful high quality F1-themed jacket for only about the equivalent of 400 pesos which even some of my former officemates are willing to buy it for 2,000. I thought my $2 Vietnam t-shirt two years ago is cheap, well after practicing my bargaining skills my $5 produced 3 t-shirts this time :) hahaha! It is just like "reverse inflation or deflation" just in time when all the price of commodities in the world are skyrocketing... $2 in 2006 becomes $1.67 in 2008.

Typically, Filipinos consider Bangkok and Hong Kong as the travel destinations when you are in a budget and just would like to go out the country to go on a shopping spree. All I can say is that "yes they are cheap, but it's cheaper somewhere else."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Philippine Rankings

A colleague of mine told me about Rankopedia, as the name implies one can literally list and rank anything which of course will be voted by members. I searched some travel related categories and anything which lists Philippines in its ranking. Here are just some of the rankings:

Most Hospitable/Courteous Citizens of the World

1. Canada
2. Switzerland
3. Netherlands
4. United States
5. Ireland
6. Australia
7. Philippines
8. Japan
9. Italy
10. Germany

Asian Country With the Most Beautiful Women

1. Philippines
2. Japan
3. India
4. South Korea
5. Israel
6. Lebanon
7. Vietnam
8. Hong Kong
9. China
10. Taiwan

Countries With the Best Beaches

1. Brazil
2. United States
3. Australia
4. Fiji
5. Spain
6. Philippines
7. France
8. South Africa
9. New Zealand
10. Canada

Best City in Asia

1. Hong Kong, China
2. Tokyo, Japan
3. Delhi, India
4. Manila, Philippines
5. Singapore City, Singapore
6. Karachi, Pakistan
7. Bangkok, Thailand
8. Cebu, Philippines
9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
10. Shanghai, China

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Asian Spirit Sale

It's time that local carrier Asian Spirit join the seat sale bandwagon for the lean season. Lately, all I am posting here in my blog is the promotions from Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines. I commend the humble efforts of Asian Spirit for serving the secondary and even some tertiary air routes in our nation of 7,107 islands that big airlines try to stay away. And now, I am even happier that they announced a seat sale which also now includes all applicable taxes and surcharges. As usual, you still have to pay for the terminal fee in respective airports.

For as low as 989 pesos you will be on your way to for a holiday in Palawan or other destinations in Bicol and the Visayas region starting today up to October 15. The seat sale will be only available up to July 20.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Philippines: A Haven of VERY Big Shopping Malls

SM Mall of Asia (4th biggest in the world)

SM City North EDSA (8th biggest in the world)

SM Megamall (9th biggest in the world)
(all pictures were taken from Wikipedia)

I just stumbled upon an article from United Arab Emirates-based The National magazine which says that the biggest mall in the universe which is located in Dongguan, China is also the world's largest flop as 99.2% of the available space for lease are still available... What a contrast here in the Philippines as I don't know yet of a Filipino who does not love to go to malls alone or with the whole family.

The good thing about it is that 3 out of the 10 biggest malls in the world which are all here in the capital of the Philippines are just all within several kilometers from each other and they are far from being empty unlike the world's biggest mall. The SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall and The SM City North EDSA are all included in the Top 10 list of the world's biggest shopping malls. Then if that's the case I can call my country, particularly Metro Manila, as a "shopper's paradise." No other country has that many "biggest" malls in the list so far.

I know that there is a construction boom in many parts of the globe including China, India and the Middle East so I will cherish this feat of Philippine shopping malls as among the biggest in the face of the planet before many other newer malls will conquer the top position as the world's biggest.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Destinations from PAL Express

Philippine Airlines budget carrier PAL Express will open new routes from Manila starting on July 15. The residents and would be visitors to San Jose, Mindoro; Virac, Catandanues and Surigao City may benefit with the "Buy One, Take One" promo fare which was extended up to July 21.

Flights for Calbayog in Samar follows on July 17 and then flights for Catarman in Northern Samar on August 1. PAL express will operate the 76-seater Bombardier Q400 and the 50-seater Bombardier Q300 turbo-propeller aircraft for these routes.

All of the new destinations are eligible for the promo fare. The promo offers passengers a free one-way ticket for every one-way ticket bought, with all fees and surcharges waived for travel between July 15 and October 15. The complimentary ticket can be used for the return journey or for another one-way flight.

For more information, please call its 24-hour reservations hotline: (02) 855-8888 in Manila