Friday, July 29, 2016

Nestled at the heart of the northeastern part of the busy coastal city of Sarawak, Meritz Hotel in Miri is an ideal place of stay for active travelers who go from one place to another, involving both leisure and shopping. Neighbored by the Bintang Megamall, going shopping from outside of the hotel’s premises is as easy as a few steps away of walking on foot—some say a short 2 minutes’ walk.

With a 24-hour service, inclusive of free parking for walk-in guests, the staff at Meritz Hotel is active to accommodate anyone 24/7—for one situated in the thriving and bustling region of Miri, the business can be commonly busy.

If you are a traveler who booked into the hotel coming from a long distance of travel and do not have the energy to go to the nearby mall for some fine dining, Meritz Hotel has its own restaurant in its premise—the Grand Old Lady restaurant—that can serve you many international cuisine befitting many different palates. Outdoor dining while still technically within the hotel’s premises are also possible if you are to dine at the Sky Garden.

Apart from the mall, there are also many other notable places you can visit within few minutes from the hotel—going to Canada Hill, it takes around 5 minutes by taxi; while getting to the Tanjung Lobang Beach is just 10 minutes of walk. If you are a traveler who needs to be onboard a plane, the Miri Airport is just 20 minutes’ away from the hotel.

Common amenities in each of the rooms of the hotel include air-conditioner, a flat-screen TV, a personal safe, and a facility where you can make your own tea or coffee.

The hotel has different accommodation type depending on your budget. They have atrium every after three floors where you can accept your visitors if you don’t want them in your room.

For guests who wanted a place of relaxation and leisure, the hotel also offers free swimming in its outdoor pools as well as a gym to keep one’s fitness with.

If you are in need of laundry and some ironing, these services are also available should you require them. As for any transactions involving luggage storage, it must be conducted at the front desk as per company policy.

The Meritz Hotel in Miri—with its 200 unique rooms—is an above-average hotel that has been in service to its clients since only May 14, 2012. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Strategically situated at the busy city center of Kuching and just a few walks away to the nearby Padungan area, there lies a hotel made easily renowned for its name—the LimeTree Hotel, a tribute to the original owner’s passion for limes which are oftentimes dubbed as “green lemons” for the similarity in their taste despite the obvious difference in outward appearances.   

What exactly is the LimeTree Hotel?

As a business of several years in service since having started operation in 2009, the LimeTree Hotel is not outdated when it comes to architectural design for a business of its kind—it is as contemporary as it gets for its time. Yet, for one whose idea of naming was founded in the love of limes, the design, too, is said to be based on the vibes that come from the actually grown plant—the feeling of zest from the trees of limes.

Complimentary fresh lime juice at the rooftop bar

Years prior to 2009, however, the building that is now the LimeTree Hotel was once an office building until its acquisition in 2007.

With a building spanning 50 unique rooms and suites, each of which equipped with the modern-day amenities that keep us comfortable like a free Wi-Fi internet access, LCD TVs, soft beddings, and the like, you get everything you would need in a mid-range boutique hotel as this place.

Superior Twin (No Window)
Deluxe King
Executive Deluxe Twin
Executive Suite 
Family Suite

Trying to set itself apart from the common cookie-cutter approach of many cafes in various hotel, LimeTree Hotel’s Café Sublime and LimeLight Rooftop Lounge feature drinks and foods based on lime-inspired recipes in line with Sarawak delights. The inclusion of limes in those foods and drinks made an obvious difference.

What are there to like with LimeTree Hotel?

As an awardee of the TripAdvisor awards for three consecutive years since 2012, any person will be intrigued enough to know what’s in the place.

For a hotel known to have been established based on the concept inspired on limes, the LimeTree Hotel is unsurprisingly eco-friendly in its approach to business—the green ways. From the choice of opting for more environment-friendly contraption, to energy-efficient means of saving and reusing energy, use of lime’s pulp and peeling for cleaning, as well as the policies—such as the no smoking policy—that made the indoors of the hotel as health-friendly as possible, LimeTree Hotel truly promotes a green environment for its guests to enjoy a healthful stay at the place.

If you are a professional who is always on-the-go and could not afford to stay at home, choosing to stay at the LimeTree Hotel would be just as good as home for the hotel’s almost home-like features like having paid laundry and cleaning as well as ironing which you can manually do yourself upon request.

Flying for outside the country is not a problem either, thanks to the hotel’s airport transfer service which lets you move to the airport using the business unit’s own van upon reservation.

Goodies from the hotel's in-house souvenir shop

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Thai Smile Airways, the budget subsidiary of Thai Airways International has recently announce it will fly direct to Cebu, Philippines starting October 2016.

Photo Credit :

The said airline will fly to Cebu on a daily basis with three times weekly in the morning and four times weekly in the afternoon using an Airbus 320 with 162 dual class seats (12 business class and 150 economy class).
Thai Smile Airways is the regional airline and wholly owned subsidiary of Thai Airways. Based in Thailand, it began operations in July 2012.  The daily Bangkok-Cebu-Bangkok route is in addition to Thai Smiles’ five international routes and twelve domestic routes in Thailand.
Mr. Wutcharin Thatan, Thai Smiles executive, said the airline expects a good amount of traffic from both ends considering that Bangkok is one of the popular destinations for Filipino business and leisure travellers.  Likewise, Thailand is located strategically between the Philippines and Europe, the Middle East, and India, where visitor traffic to the country is registering double digit growth annually.
Mr. Thatan also explained that the non-stop service between Cebu and Bangkok will be faster and more convenient for travellers from the Central and Southern Philippines than the current option which is to fly from Cebu to Manila onward to Bangkok, saving up to one and half hours of domestic flight and a few thousand pesos for local fares.
The airline executive, together with the Market Development Group of the Department of Tourism (DOT), recently visited Manila, Cebu, Bohol, and Clark to gather information and to meet airport officials in preparation for the coming flights.  Mr. Erwin Balane, Head of the DOT’s Route Development Team, said that the new route will provide an additional 58,968 international air seats per year to Cebu.  This will provide expanded opportunity for the country to generate foreign exchange and employment.
The new route is an offshoot of the Philippines’ hosting of Routes Asia 2016 held at the SMX Convention Center last March 2016 in Manila.  The event was considered as the biggest aviation event in Asia where airlines, airports, and tourism authorities met to discuss possible aviation opportunities.
DOT Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon, Jr. said the new route complements the agency thrust to intensify promotion of direct flights to other international gateways such as Cebu by stimulating air traffic demand in opportunity markets.
Thai Smiles currently has 15 units of the Airbus 320 which are intended to serve the market gap between low-cost carriers and full service airlines.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I booked a bed in a hostel in Singapore as I will only be staying in the country for less than 12 hours so it's most practical to book for a bed than a hotel room which is expensive in Singapore. My flight from Davao arrived in Singapore at past 9PM and I arrived at Gusti Bed and Breakfast around 10PM. I was already tired and hungry so all I wanted was to settle my things in the room and go out to have my late dinner.

The guy at the counter looked confused, so I ask what's going on since I already waited at the reception for over 10 minutes. He said there was an issue as he can't find my booking. He called his colleague and they scan every logbook they have to look for my booking. I waited patiently for about an hour then I asked if what's really going on and the guy at the counter told me that they are fully booked and they were not informed by Expedia of my booking. I was furious but I kept my cool. The guy at the counter talked to the owner and he passed the phone to me.

The owner explained that there was a glitched in the system and they have not received my booking. I told her I have a copy of the confirmed booking which I showed to the guy at the counter earlier. She offered me to sleep in the couch at the reception area or transfer to another hostel. I was like, what? Are you serious but then again, I was tired and did not argue. I told her I'd rather stay a night at another hostel so the guy at the counter accompanied me to the new hostel. It wasn't that near but it was a walking distance. It wasn't fair because I booked at Gusti because of its proximity to the MRT and it has good review. Then I was billeted at another hostel a little bit far from the MRT and looks dirty and old. I didn't have much of a choice so I stayed. I was supposed to leave at 9am but decided to leave at 7am because it wasn't really a good experience.

While at Gusti, I emailed and tweeted Expedia hoping that they will respond but they did not. Nothing. I know it was not a huge amount but it was much of an inconvenience. They should at least confirm the booking with the hostel/hotel to be sure.

I had a second thought and gave them a benefit of the doubt because maybe my booking was overlooked by the hostel but when I arrived in Hotel Sentral in KL, I was shocked that they can't find my booking as well. Good thing they are not fully booked so when I showed the confirmed booking via email, they allowed me to check in. So there you go, book with Expedia at your own risk. Never again!

Cebu is one of the most frequently visited tourist destination in the country, thanks to its mesmerizing shoreline, excellent dishes and the overly friendly locals. The richness of their history and the beauty of the antiquity of the cities here is unparalleled by any province in the Philippines. This gives tourists plenty of things to do while they are in the province. To help you decide on what to do there, here are the top 10 things you should try while in Cebu. (Read: 10 Must-try Food in Cebu)

1. Meet and greet with many creatures under the sea
When it comes to diving, there are so many diving hotspots that you can choose from. Because Cebu is an island province, the possibility of discovering new species of marine animals and plants is very big. You can choose from more than 50 diving spots all around the province. Among the top choices are Capitancillo Island, Mactan Island and Kasantik.

2. See the Magellan Cross
The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in the Philippines marked the beginning of the Spanish occupation in the country. The Magellan cross is a very iconic structure in the country, as it signaled the conversion of the Filipinos to Christianity.

A photo posted by Glen Santillan (@escapemanila) on

3. Pray and marvel at the Basilica Del Sto. Niño
Speaking of Christianity, another epic infrastructure in the province is also highly visited because of its significance in the history of Christianity in the province and in the country. This church is dubbed as the oldest Catholic church in the Philippines. This church is located in Cebu city.

A photo posted by Riez (@blazingriez) on

4. Savor the richness of the history of Cebu
Cebu was the location of the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines. Cebu city, the capital of the province is the oldest city in the country. Because of this, Cebu is also filled with many stories from the past. There are many historical places you can visit like the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the Taoist temple in Cebu City and the Fort San Pedro.

5. Stuff yourself with the delicacies of Cebu
Philippines is well known for its variety of interesting dishes. In Cebu, you get to have a wide variety of food items that you can try, like those street food found in Barangay Tisa, the famous Lechon of Cebu, puto and sikwate found all over the cities in Cebu, and the many types of dried seafood.

A photo posted by Glen Santillan (@escapemanila) on

6. Fall in love with the beautiful beaches
White, black, and grey sand beaches, whatever color you prefer, you will surely be swept away by the shorelines of this province. You can check out the beaches in Bantayan Island, Camotes Island, Malapascua Island, Badian and Moalboal. 

A photo posted by Glen Santillan (@escapemanila) on

7. Celebrate with the Cebuaños during the Sinulog Festival
The Sinulog festival started way back in Spanish occupation. Legend has it that the festival started from a group of the vendors selling in front of the Augustinian Church of Cebu. Sinulog came from the word Sinug which is a prayer dance routine done in honor of the young Jesus Christ.

A photo posted by levita (@levita_photography) on

8. Swim with the beautiful and gentle giants of Oslob
Oslob, Cebu is frequented by the Whale Sharks or Butandings. These breathtaking marine animals are well loved for their friendly behavior towards tourists. Most of the tourists say that seeing these creatures alone is definitely memorable.

A photo posted by C Y R I E L L E (@cy.garcia) on

9. Take a picture in the sea of flowers
Not only do you enjoy marveling at the wondrous underwater world in Cebu, but you also get to take tons of pictures in the Celosia Flower Farm in Sirao, Cebu. The farm is planted with different colors of  “burlas” or celosia.

10.  Drop by the many souvenir shops for a take home gift for your friends and family
Aside from taking tons and tons of pictures, don’t forget to bring home an item that will remind you of the beautiful province of Cebu. Take home an otap, dried mangoes, necklace made by the locals, keychains and even refrigerator magnet.

A photo posted by Glen Santillan (@escapemanila) on

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The life of a travel blogger seems ideal. You get paid to travel around the world and write about your experiences. However, if you are an aspiring professional travel blogger, you need to understand that the lifestyle has its share of challenges.

Professional travel bloggers earn a living exclusively from their blogs. You have to have certain skills in order to make this work for you. It’s a big decision and you’ll have to learn on the job because this career isn’t taught in schools. You have to learn how to travel to different locations, how to get the best travel and accommodation deals as well as how to budget for your trips to avoid running out of cash.
The good news is, you can start small and gradually build your blog and skills to become a full-time professional blogger. Here are some tips on how to go about it:

  • Have a passion for traveling.
You need to be passionate about traveling to become a successful travel blogger. You have to be curious about new places and different cultures. Additionally, you should know how to live out of a suitcase and embrace the uncertainty that traveling brings with it.

  • Have a way with words.
You need excellent writing skills to be a travel blogger. You should know how to tell your stories in a flowing narrative that keeps your audience entertained and informed. You need a keen eye for detail and the ability to turn an otherwise ordinary location into one filled with adventure.

  • Work on your blogging prowess.
The next thing to do is to combine the two previous tips and come up with useful content for your blog. Build a loyal readership by providing a steady stream of travel tips, accommodation reviews and food recommendations. In addition to narrating your adventures, advise your audience on what to see and do in any new place you visit. Keep things interesting by seeking out novel places off the beaten track and peppering your blog posts with beautiful photos and videos.

  • Polish your marketing skills.
If you want to make a living from your travel blog, you need to market it. Major media outlets can be a vital source of income so don’t be afraid to sell yourself to newspapers, magazines or online publications. Make sure you always have a portfolio of your best work ready to send out. These days online printing companies have websites to help you to quickly and easily design your portfolio. You can upload your design of choice on these sites and even purchase a presentation folder to carry all your business cards and samples in. This way, you can stay organized during your trips.

  • Harness the power of social media.
Social media is a valuable asset for any blogger. You can market your blog, build an audience and network on various social media channels. Remember to engage with your followers and fans and regularly update them on what you’ve been up to. This makes you look approachable and credible.

Life as a professional travel blogger might be full of challenges but it is highly rewarding. If you work hard at it, you are very likely to achieve success.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cebu is a top tourist destination for both locals and foreigners. There is so much of interest that you will always have something new to experience. However, if you are planning a food trip, then  you really need to know when to find these 10 must-eat food.

Cebu Lechon
Cebu is famous for its lechon. It is quite distinct from the usual roasted pig you find elsewhere in the Philippines as it does not need lechon sauce to make it tasty. Some people find it a little salty, but in general, it is a delectable treat. The best Cebu lechon is hard to pinpoint, but you could try Rico’s Original Lechon, found along Highway 77 in Talamban City. If you're into spicy food, you must try Rico's spicy lechon. It's so good, I am drooling while I am writing this article. You can also try the boneless variety from Cebu's Original Lechon Belly. You can find it in the Parkmall C.D. Seno in Mandaue City.
A photo posted by Glen Santillan (@escapemanila) on

Tuslob Buwa
It may sound a little strange to dip cooked rice (called puso) in a sauce made of cooked pig’s brain or liver, fish sauce, onions and seasonings, but it is surprisingly tasty. It is perhaps not fine dining, but when in Rome...Tuslob Buwa (which translates to dip in bubbles, by the way) is street food, so you can find it almost anywhere in Carbon or Pasil. If you’re picky, though, you can try the one at Azul in the Taft Business Center on Gorordo Ave, Cebu City.
A photo posted by eval bento (@evalbento) on

There are many different types of pochero, but the ones served in Kusina Uno (GND Building, F. Cabahug, Cebu City) and Abuhan (F. Ramos St, Cebu City) are quite delicious. It is more bulalo (it has a clear soup) than the Tagalog pochero, though, so set your expectations.  You can choose the standard soup, or sizzling, and one order is good for two people.
A photo posted by Glen Santillan (@escapemanila) on

Siomai sa Tisa
Is it strange to feature siomai for Cebu food? It is, but here it is. Siomai sa Tisa is a far-cry from most commercial siomai, even those from fancy Chinese restaurants. Maybe it’s the Filipino twist in the flavoring, or the meats used. Whatever it is, you should not eat it because you will not be satisfied with other siomai again. If you are determined to live in frustration forever, you can find the real original at Tisa, Labangon, Cebu City. Be careful, not all those purporting to be Siomai sa Tisa are D’Original Siomai Sa Tisa.

If you are not squeamish, (and can supposedly help put the ram in your rod) you should really try this soup, which is made of the genitals of bulls. If you are ready to take the bull by the, er, horns, there is a carinderia in the Ramos market that specializes in it. It is pretty good, and something you can write home about.
A photo posted by @j0eel on

A variation of the spring rolls, it is a crunchy Cebu favorite, particularly because of the 5 spice used in it and the special dipping sauce. The best place to try this is at Carlos Special Ngohiong, which has a branch near Mabolo Church and also in Guadalupe.  The original is a house in Mambaling.
A photo posted by Ai Rene (@ai.rene) on

This is a noodle dish using a mix of canton and sotanghon noodles, and cooked with tengang daga, shrimp, pork, and chicken.  It is seldom you get authentic bam-I outside Cebu, but you can find it in most carinderias in mid afternoon.

Humba is a more familiar sight in Cebu than the perennial favorite adobo, and it is actually braised rather than fried or boiled. It is sweet rather than salty, and often accompanied by black beans. The best place to get a good humba is in a Cebuano home; failing that, you can try any carinderia or at Wellcome Hotel's restaurant.
A photo posted by Glen Santillan (@escapemanila) on

Baby Back Ribs
Casa Verde’s Brian’s Ribs is something you should try when in Cebu. It tastes good and the serving is huge for an affordable price.

A trip to Cebu would not be complete with at least one breakfast of crispy danggit, fried rice, and scrambled eggs. You can buy it as pasalubong from Tabo-an Market, where they sell it by the kilo. A little goes long ways, so don’t buy too much, and be sure to bargain. You can also find other interesting food there, including dried squid (nukus), dried mangoes, and Otap. 
A photo posted by Glen Santillan (@escapemanila) on