Wednesday, October 31, 2012

EAST JAVA: Budget and Itinerary


MONDAY: October 29, 2012
Air Asia (Kuala Lumpur - Surabaya) - 74.00
MYR74.00

Taxi (Airport - Donwtown) - 90,000.00
Sparkling Backpacker Hostel (Twin Room/1 Night) - 105,000.00
KFC (1 pc Chicken w/Rice & Coke) - 25,500.00
Dunkin Donuts (2 pcs Donuts w/Iced Choco) - 38,500.00
Malay Comics (Tunjungan Plaza) - 158,000.00
IDR417,000.00

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

SURABAYA: 02 - Malling Here, Malling There


I do not really know why I ended up booking a ticket to Surabaya. All I know is that I was supposed to let that ticket go to waste, because I was supposed to go back to Manila for a quick return trip, supposedly for an exam, before heading to Indonesia. The exam, however, did not push through, and instead of going back to Manila and then to Jakarta and paying the travel tax again, I just chose to save the KL-Surabaya flight instead of the Manila-Jakarta one. And so there. I ended up in Surabaya, which is the capital of East Java. I think I read how Wikitravel compared it to Paris or something. I have not been to Paris, but I do not really see anything that merits the comparison, at least from what I know about Paris. Surabaya is one of those cities that you would gladly live in, especially for Filipinos as the atmosphere of the place is pretty much similar to Metro Manila’s, not to mention that they are also addicted to malls, like there is one in every other block. However, as a touristy place, Surabaya does not have that much to offer. That probably explains why tourist attendance is kind of low.

SURABAYA 01: Sparkling Backpacker Hostel


The hostel was far from sparkling because it was under renovation when I got there. Nonetheless, I believe this hostel has potential that could be reached once construction is complete. The only problem I see is that Surabaya does not seem to be getting a lot of tourists, which means less backpackers to interact with, and that is usually what makes hostels great. Without them, it might be hard to establish a good reputation because the hostel is always empty.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Hassles of Crossing Indonesian Customs


The most harrowing immigration/customs experience I have ever had was in Shanghai, when I got scrutinized by the customs agent and had my backpack inspected all because I had Taiwan arrival and departure stamps. It was all political, and I guess branding it as racial profiling would be extreme. Besides, even the term 'harrowing' is an exaggeration here. It was over in a few minutes and the next thing I knew I was chomping on a burger at Burger King.

TOKYO: Budget and Itinerary


TUESDAY: October 23, 2012
Air Asia (Kuala Lumpur - Tokyo) - 207.00
Air Asia (Chicken Curry + Coke + Ritz) - 26.00
Air Asia (Pizza Bake + Coke) - 17.00
MYR250.00

Sunday, October 28, 2012

KANTO: Budget and Itinerary


SUNDAY: October 28, 2012
JR Keio (Hatchobori - Maihama) - 210.00
Tokyo Disneyland (Starlight Pass) - 4,900.00
Locker (Tokyo Disneyland) - 300.00
Snacks (1 Slice Pizza + Cream Puffs + Hot Cocoa) - 900.00
JR Keio (Maihama - Hatchobori) - 210.00
JPY6,520.00

Estimate of JPY1PhP0.60

TOTAL - PhP3,912.00

CHIBA: 01- How to Disneyland Tokyo Edition


My Tokyo Disneyland experience was a three-hour rushed walking tour of the place characterized by repeated drizzles, overpriced black pizza, and never ending lines of refugee camp proportions that would put Fuji-Q's queues to shame. Having said that, I suggest you just read the other Disneyland entry, Hong Kong edition if you want an in depth report. Besides, these theme parks just share the same template. To share my rants, however, you are free to read on.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

SHIBUYA: 01 - Party Party from Harajuku to Roppongi


Located at Tokyo's Shibuya district, Harajuku seems to be one of Japan's favorite tourist destinations when it comes to shopping. Wikitravel suggests that you go on a walking tour on a weekend so you could also witness the activities at Meiji Shrine. The itinerary that they suggest is to start at Shinjuku and walk south until you reach Shibuya. I did the exact opposite. Regardless of the direction, you will enjoy the experience.

Friday, October 26, 2012

[CHUBU] Budget and Itinerary


FRIDAY: October 26, 2012
Bus FJ1133 (Yamanakako via Oshino) - 1,700.00
One-Day Pass (Fuji-Q Highland) - 5,000.00
Pizza La (1 slice + Coke + Fries) - 750.00
Fuj-Q Line/JR (Fuji-Q Highland - Tokyo) - 2,500.00
JYP9,950.00

Estimate of JYP1PhP0.60
TOTAL - PhP5,970.00

[YAMANASHI] How to Fuji Queue


I have taught you how to Disneyland in Hong Kong. In two days, I will be teaching you how to Disneyland in Tokyo. For now, I will show you how to Fuji-Queue. There are two kinds of people who go to Tokyo's neighboring Chubu region: those who climb Mount Fuji; and those who Fuji-Queue. Located at one of the foothills of Japan's most famous mountain, Fuji-Queueing should be on the list of every theme park enthusiast out there. Why so? Four of their roller coasters figure in the top rankings of several roller coaster achievements in the world. If you want to ride two or more thrilling roller coasters in a day, this must be the best place for it outside the United States.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

BUNKYO: 01 - A Stroll at the University of Tokyo


The university campus was not the real reason as to why I went to Bunkyo, but rather the roller coaster at LaQua which ranks 9th on the 10 tallest steel roller coasters in the world. Wiki already warned me that it is standing but not operating, but I went nonetheless, stared at it, and regret not having tried it while it was still operational. Maybe in the future it would once again be open to the public. What makes it stand out is that section that goes through a wall of LaQua. Before I reached this part of Bunkyo, though, I spent around an hour taking a stroll at the University of Tokyo, as though I belonged.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

TAITO: 02 - Khaosan Tokyo Asakusa Annex


I know that accommodations in Japan do not come cheap as I have already experienced them last year when I went to Osaka. The good thing is that Tokyo is just one rank higher than its western cousin on the most expensive cities to live in, which means the adjustment would not be that huge. And so when I saw that Khaosan Tokyo Asakusa Annex was on sale, I already grabbed the opportunity as there seems to be no other guest house in Tokyo that was offering such a cheap deal. The deal was 1,500 yen a night, but since it quickly disappeared, I settled for 2,000 yen a night. Not bad at all!

TAITO: 01 - Asakusa + Ueno


Asakusa would not even be on my itinerary if my guest house was not located here. First, how and why did I get here? When Air Asia launched their KL – Haneda route, I immediately bought a ticket. How could I resist less than 3,000 pesos for a 7-hour flight? Fast forward to now and I am finally here, but not without problems. The cheap fare apparently comes with free hassles, such as a two-hour delay which meant arriving at Haneda at around half past midnight, with no more trains left running for downtown. Nonetheless, I was amused because it was my first Airbus ride. How huge is that plane! And Haneda is not bad at all, with stations dedicated for laptop users where you could charge your equipment and surf the Internet for free.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BANGKOK: Budget and Itinerary


WEDNESDAY: October 17, 2012
Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3) - 147.50
Travel Tax (NAIA 3) - 1,620.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 550.00
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Bangkok) - 963.00
PhP3,280.50

Monday, October 22, 2012

PHAHONYOTIN: 01 - Max One Hotel



The plan was to just stay two days in Bangkok and branch out to Sukhotai and/or Ayutthaya instead. But plans changed, and there are a lot to see in Bangkok. Fine. Still, I had to find some place near Don Mueang because Air Asia moved their operations here. Although the rate of hotels in this area dropped significantly since the advent of Suvarnabhumi, I still wanted something that would not exceed a thousand pesos when converted. And so I ended up at Max One Hotel, despite some bad reviews on several online travel forums. Now that I am here, though, what can I say?

RATTANAKOSIN: 02 - Reach for the Sky at Wat Arun


Last day in Bangkok. Instead of going to Ayutthaya on a day tour as originally planned, I just split the Rattanakosin temple run into two days. Today is day two, time for Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Instead of getting off at Tha Tien because that is where Wat Pho is, I decided to just go down at Tha Chang so I could eat at Royal Navy Club 77 again. Yesterday, my main destination was Wat Phra Kaew but I disembarked at Tha Tien. I guess I mixed up my piers! A little bit of walking after lunch and arrive at Wat Pho, home of the giant reclining Buddha. Entrance fee is 100 pesos.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

RATTANAKOSIN: 01 - Gold Overload at Wat Phra Kaew



Thailand’s temples, you just have to see them. When I cancelled Ayutthaya, it was because I was confident that I would be seeing something similar in Bangkok. I think Ayutthaya is more on ruins. For Bangkok, they drown you with colors. Aside from the concentration of palaces and temples in one area (the touristy ones at Rattanakosin, at least), you could also marvel on their variety in terms of color and design. If you have been to several temple and palace complexes in China and South Korea, this is probably the first main difference that you would point out. While the Chinese and Koreans do know the definition of grand, they seem to have stuck with some sort of template which makes the designs look similar: an influx of red and gold for the Chinese; a mix of red, green, and brown for the Koreans. For the Thai, being floral and reaching for the heavens seems to be the norm.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Miss Saigon (Scenario)

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Vietnam 1975, naive province lass Kim comes to Saigon hoping for a fresh start. Faced with the harsh realities of the raging war, Kim is taken in by the Engineer, who runs a bar that caters mainly to American soldiers. Clueless about the ins and outs of prostitution, her innocent charms attract Chris, a young GI who is already fed up with a life embroiled in war and frequent visits to the red light district. As Rihanna would probably tell them had she been born decades earlier: they found love in a hopeless place, and in a very inopportune time. With Saigon quickly succumbing to Hanoi's power, could these two star-crossed lovers really promise forever?

Okay, fine, the whole production was in Thai but what the heck, there were subtitles, which no addict of the soundtrack would really need. This musical has been playing on my MP3 since forever, and I have been looking forward to the day when I could finally match the lyrics with the faces, the rhythm to the events. It is a good thing that this Thai production does not disappoint. Besides, with a material that relies on a theme that is truly universal, no language barrier would be strong enough not to send the message across.

RATCHADAPHISEK: 01 - Siam Niramit and Miss Saigon


According to Wikitravel, Ratchadaphisek has been the new playground of Bangkok residents since it was connected to downtown via MRT. Okay, let us believe them, but for me this district will always be the cultural hotspot in terms of presentations and shows. I spent a day here which was reserved for watching two shows: Miss Saigon and Siam Niramit. The Thailand Cultural Center is also located here, with its very own MRT stop dedicated to it. I do not know what you see in there. Perhaps, it is a convention center of some sorts. I never bothered to find out, but for you as a tourist, if ever you are visiting this district, it must be for the Siam Niramit show.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

PATHUM WAN: 02 - Chasing Baby Godzillas at Lumphini Park


So you are walking carelessly down the grassy path with your aviators on like you were some Thai celebrity indifferent to your surroundings when you suddenly look down for a bit and notice that you almost accidentally stepped on one of these, uhm, baby Godzilla thingies. They might as well call it the Lumphini Zoo. The biodoversity in the place is just amazing, abounding with different creatures such as crows, turtles, those monitor lizards already mentioned, and old people.

PATHUM WAN: 01 - Diving with Sharks


As one of the items on my 30 Before 30 list, this reunion with my shark buddies was bound to happen, and where better to do it than in Bangkok. Located at the basement of Siam Paragon, Siam Ocean World is said to be the largest aquarium in Asia, but having been to many ocean parks before, I was more interested in their shark dive program.

BANG RAK: 01 - Lub D Silom



Lub d has two branches in Bangkok: one in Silom and the other near Siam Square. If you want to be close to the shopping area, go to the one at Siam Square. As for me, I ended up at the Silom branch. Although the map that they give you would show two Metro stations nearby, they are actually around five to ten minutes away on foot, if you are a brisk walker. If you have the courage, though, then you could always take the bus. The nearest Metro station to the Silom branch is Chong Nonsi. Why do I love Lub D? Let us count the ways.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Taken 2

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Taking off from where the Taken ended, this movie follows the life of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) in the aftermath of his daughter Kim’s (Maggie Grace) rescue from forced prostitution in Paris. He is still obsessive compulsive and overprotective of his daughter, which leads to occasional misunderstandings between the two, in particular with her new boyfriend. Lenore (Famke Janssen) is now divorced, giving way to a possible rekindling of old flames between the ex-husband and wife. Meanwhile, in Albania, the relatives of his daughter’s abductors plot revenge for the death of their loved ones, hatching a careful plan to abduct the three when they come to vacation in Istanbul.

If you think about it, the formula used for this and the previous movie is just the same, except for the possible explanation that the audience was caught off-guard with the first one, which led to the thrill and enjoyment. For this sequel, you see more of that, but since you already know what to expect, that fun feeling might get a bit downgraded, but still enough to give you a good time. The film is too short, not even reaching two hours of screen time. There does not seem to be any interesting subplot left hanging from the first film for them to milk. And so, after they are TAKEN, the action begins, and we are still left in awe because of the action scenes, despite the predictability of the plot. But yeah, if you are looking for something new, you would not find any. Still, if you were a big fan of the first movie, there is no reason for you not to enjoy this.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mientras duermes

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

César (Luis Tosar) is the lonely concierge of a high-rise apartment building who opens the movie by telling us that he is not happy before almost jumping off from the rooftop of the very building where he works. Why? His life seems pretty normal and defined by daily routine: pay hospitalized mother a visit; hide under tenant 5B’s bed until she falls asleep; make her lose consciousness through a hanky dosed with what could be chloroform; and inject some weird emulsion in her toothpaste tube and morning cream. Wait, what? Yes, by then you would know that César is a creepy psychopath, but his determination to ruin this woman‘s life is simply intriguing to brush aside. Is he really just a pervert in desperate need to get laid, or is his every move backed up by a detailed history that would help explain his behavior? The plot thickens. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nine (Atlantis Productions)

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Based on and adding music to Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, Nine tells the story of a director experiencing some serious mental block, further complicated by the women from different spheres of his life all vying for his attention in more ways than one. Guido Contini (Jet Pangan) is under pressure from demanding French movie producer Liliane La Fleur (Cherie Gil) to come up with a musical, only that the time has come to shoot and he still has no script at hand. To add to this, his marriage with wife Luisa del Forno (Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo) is falling apart, thanks to but not only because of his mistress Carla Albanese (Carla Guevara-Laforteza). He turns to his ever dependable muse Claudia Nardi (Eula Valdez) for much needed inspiration, but it seems that she is expecting something more than a different movie role in return. Flashbacks and musical numbers aplenty, Nine guides you through what is happening inside a man's head: frustrations, brain drain, women, and the respective roles that they play not just in a movie's creative process, but also in his life, in general.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ted

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is the owner of a talking teddy bear aptly named Ted (Seth MacFarlane). Coming alive after the power of a Christmas wish back in the 80’s, he has been John’s best friend since they were kid and cub. More than two decades later, their dependence on each other is a constant point of argument between John and Lori (Mila Kunis), the girlfriend of four years. This eventually leads to Ted being booted out of the apartment and getting into more trouble after he is continuously stalked by a creepy father and son tandem who are both apparently obsessed with him.

Crude language aside, this movie could have been a perfect children’s Christmas movie from the Hallmark channel. Perhaps this is because of the musical score utilized, which gives off a kid-friendly holiday kind of vibe. Patrick Stewart’s narration is also pitch perfect for such a genre, except for the random digressions that trigger some involuntary laughter. Aside from that, the premise itself is something that is, for lack of better term, juvenile at best, but treated with nonchalance and enough suspension of disbelief to be watchable. The running time is no more than two hours, which is just how long such a material could probably be sustained without resorting to more drastic attempts on cohesion.

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