SG 2019: Gardens by the Bay and OCBC Skyway

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

When I was still planning my first solo international trip and my first travel to Singapore, I knew that Universal Studios was out of the question. I am not a huge fan of theme parks (except for Disneyland) and rides aren’t really my thing. If I had a friend with me, I would probably be inclined to visit Universal Studios. However, I knew one place that I could appreciate even if I were going solo: Gardens by the Bay!

In my previous post, I already talked about how I got the voucher from Klook and redeemed my tickets from the Red Dot Design Museum. I really believe that my Klook voucher was a steal because it included Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, and OCBC Skyway! If you’re planning to visit these majestic places, I really recommend getting your vouchers from Klook.

From The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, there was a walkway that will lead you to the gardens. I preferred that than going back to the MRT Station because I was already feeling tired from all the walking and lack of proper sleep.

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According to the garden’s official website, I was only going to Bay South, You see, Gardens by the Bay is made up of Bay South (the largest), Bay East and Bay Central. The Bay South, opened in 2012, features the Supertree Grove that you can visit free of charge. That was my first stop.

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There are a total of eighteen of these majestic trees and twelve of them are at the Supergrove Trees! These are not real trees because these are made of concrete and steel that were built to a height of about a sixteen-storey building. All the plants they house were studied to ensure they are ideal of vertical planting. At night, these “trees” light up and offer an extraordinary view that you wouldn’t be able to appreciate during the day. The bridge that you can see is the OCBC Skyway that connects the twelve trees.

Because it was too hot that noon, I decided to go up the OCBC Skyway in the afternoon. After admiring the supertrees, I went to the Cloud Forest.

The heat I had to endure outside was immediately soothed by the cool temperature upon entering the Cloud Forest! Welcoming me to its mystical land was the world’s tallest indoor waterfall that a lot of people enjoyed getting wet from. I stayed a few minutes to cool down and admire the sight before me because this was the closest I have ever been to a waterfall, albeit man-made.

There are several sections inside Cloud Forest, all of which are jawdropping and magical in their own way.

The Lost World features carnivorous plants life the Venue Flytrap and pitcher plants. To be honest, I saw some people taking pictures of the pitcher plants, laughing, and glancing suggestively at their friends because it does look racy. I wonder if they knew that was a carnivorous plant. Thankfully, none of them attempted to touch it.

They also have the Crystal Mountain where you can see beautiful stalactites and stalagmites without having to go to a cave!

In Cloud Walk, you get to see up close, the epiphytes that are found in The Cavern!

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My favorite section of Cloud Forest was The Secret Garden. It’s a relatively new attraction inside Cloud Forest that features plants that thrive in limestone forests. Its mystical ambiance will truly make you feel that you are in a garden that must be kept a secret from the rest of the world.

After I have had my fill of Cloud Forest, I went to the Flower Dome. If I thought Cloud Forest was packed, Flower Dome was filled with more tourists! It was so difficult to get shots without people in the background. What I loved, however, was that everyone I encountered was courteous to the other visitors. There was no pushing or hitting just to get ahead.

Like Cloud Forest, the Flower Dome had so many sections that were filled with rows and rows of vibrant flowers. I believe it was the first time I saw most of the flowers there. I simply cannot imagine the amount of care that was put in just to make sure these flowers thrive.

I went crazy over the flowers that I was not able to keep track of the different sections anymore. However, I remember different types of gardens being exhibited like Californian, South African and Australian gardens.

My favorite part in Flower Dome was this display:

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I mean, seriously. Just look at that chicken! It was so cute!

Since my feet were already aching from all the walking since I arrived in Singapore, I decided to head back to Supergrove Trees and rest for a bit before going up the OCBC Skyway. While I was making plans in my head, I was startled by a bunch of very noisy, black birds.

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Smiling, but internally trying to calm myself. Oh look! You can see behind me three of the 18 supergrove trees that are either at the Silver Garden or the Golden Garden.

Because of the volume of tourists, the entry to the OCBC Skyway is controlled. They only allow a certain number of people to go in every 15 minutes or so. I guess it’s also to preserve the structural integrity by not overloading it so much. For that reason, don’t go straight to the queue with your ticket. Go to the counter first and get a card stating the time you can go in. It was already 5PM when went up the skyway.

I am not afraid of heights, but I am mightily scared of shaky vehicles, turbulent flights, hanging bridges, or anything unstable. It was so windy when I went up the OCBC Skyway and while it wasn’t swaying so bad, I could feel the movements from the wind and from the tourists who were with me on it. As beautiful as the sight was to behold, I had to go down right away.

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I truly enjoyed my visit to Gardens by the Bay. If only I were not so tired by the time I went down from the OCBC Skyway, I would have loved to stay and see the supergrove trees lit up with bright lights. My feet were killing me already, so I decided to head back to my hotel before people who went to the National Day Parade head home after the celebration.

There were so many sections of the gardens that I wasn’t able to visit yet. There’s Floral Fantasy (ticket sold separately), Serene Garden, Art Sculptures, and many more. That being said, I am pretty sure that I will be back to Singapore to visit these places, including Bay East and Bay Central. I cannot wait!

Visit my Instagram page for more pictures of my Gardens by the Bay trip.

Read up on my other posts about my SG Trip by clicking here.

 

 

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SG 2019: Red Dot Design Museum

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

My first destination after checking in at J8 hotel was the Red Dot Design Museum. I bought a voucher from Klook for entrance to the Red Dot Design Museum, Gardens by the Bay, and the OCBC Skyway and I could only redeem the tickets to the garden from the museum. While I wasn’t keen on visiting the Red Dot Design Museum, I thought of getting the package that included it because I wasn’t going to pay extra. Perhaps they were promoting it so it’s probably worth a shot.

I took the MRT from Lavender Station (green line) and alighted at Bugis Station so I could transfer to the blue line. I then alighted at Bayfront Station.

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Image obtained from https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/public-transport/mrt-and-lrt-trains/train-system-map.html

From Bayfront MRT Station, I was pretty much lost already. My Google Map app wasn’t working well and I pretty much did not know which direction to take. So, I followed the signs around the stations (which was a huge one!) and ended up at Gardens by the Bay.

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However, I could only redeem my tickets from the Red Dot Design Museum. So, I had to go all the way back to the MRT Station, taking a different exit than I did the last time. Then, hoping that my Google Map was taking me in the right direction, I ended up in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, where a kind man from the Customer Information Counter taught me how to get to Red Dot Design Museum.

The place was huge and had a lot of high-end shops with names I mostly couldn’t pronounce. However, I loved the ambiance of the place because it felt lively and not at all cramped.

On my way out, I first went to bask in the beauty of the bay in the very sunny weather of that day. It’s been raining a lot in Manila, so I badly missed the sunshine. It was also windy that day, but it felt very humid too. For that reason, I did not stay out long and went back inside the mall just to cool down a bit. Thank God for air conditioning!

Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 1.44.36 AM.pngThe walk from The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands to Red Dot Design Museum was not a short one despite being 5 to 6 minutes away. The sun was at its peak and I was still exhausted from my flight and lack of sleep the previous night. Thankfully, Marina Bay was such a beautiful sight to behold, so I still enjoyed that walk.

I was so glad when I finally got to the museum. The first thing I noticed was that they had a cafe, so I decided to buy myself a bottle of water because I was already parched at that point. The man at the counter was very patient with me because I struggled a bit with getting my Klook voucher. You see, the app was on my iPhone and my SG SIM card with the internet connection was on a different phone (my iPhone’s locked in as part of my postpaid plan). Thankfully, there wasn’t a long queue of people behind me who would get impatient.

Aside from the card that I would use to enter the museum, I also got a discount voucher for their cafe and another discount voucher for their shop. I used the discount voucher right away when I bought my bottled water and I was glad that they allowed it inside the museum proper.

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The museum featured an array of masterfully designed works. I saw robots and gadgets like smartphones, fitness bands, and sports equipment. It’s a place where you can how far we’ve come in terms of technology and how much easier our lives have become because of it. But, if you’re not a fan of the works exhibited by the museum, you might get bored. That’s what happened to me, so I did not stay very long in the museum.

Will I recommend this place even if I got bored? If you’re someone whose line of study of career is around industrial engineering, robotics, or technology, you will love this place! I can already think of a few people who would surely love to go here. Since you’re not paying extra if you’re planning to go to the Gardens by the Bay and OCBC Skyway anyway, then getting the package from Klook is already a great deal. Besides, walking is good for your health, so you’ll benefit from having to go all the way to the museum to redeem your tickets.

Stay tuned for my next post about Gardens by the Bay.

Read my other posts about my first trip to Singapore!

Childhood Memories: White Rabbit Candy

There’s nothing as cozy as a piece of candy and a book.” –Betty MacDonald

Looking back at your childhood, how much did you enjoy candy? How tempted were you by their colorful packages and yummy scent? Did you enjoy Halloween trick or treats? Did the sugar rush keep you from sleeping well at night?

My recent travel to Singapore had me crossing paths again with White Rabbit candy and I was so excited to bring some back home. But what if I told you that there was a time when I absolutely abhorred this candy? Read on to find out why.

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The White Rabbit candy has quite a history. It started in 1943 and remains popular to this day. However, this chewy, creamy candy has had its share of scandals a decade ago, with the issue of formaldehyde contamination in 2007 and melamine contamination in 2008. There were also fake White Rabbit candies sold in some countries like the Philippines. I am willing to bet that the fake ones were the brown, toffee-flavored hard candies that were nowhere near as good as the original.

The first time I remember trying this candy was on a bus ride home from Batangas. I was probably three or four years old at that time and I was the type of kid who threw up in the bus. So, my nanny probably gave me candy to prevent that from happening. I was so excited because I could see my nanny and my sister enjoying the candy.

The moment I opened the wrapper, the scent sweet, milky scent of the candy was calling to me already. However, I noticed that there was yet another wrapper on the candy. It was thin, almost translucent, and was very much stuck to the candy. I spent a long time trying to remove the thin wrapper, to the point that my fingers were already sticky because the candy was starting to sort of melt from the warmth of my hands. I was more stressed than excited about it and I just badly wanted to eat the candy already.

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See that thin, almost translucent paper? I couldn’t, for the life of me, remove it from the candy!

I don’t remember being able to eat the candy. I think I dropped it and just got sick of trying to remove the thin wrapper that no one told me was actually edible because it was only rice paper. What I do remember is that I had a headache and a fever afterward that I attribute to the stress of unwrapping a White Rabbit candy.

It would take years before I would try to eat that candy again. I learned to love it, including the edible rice paper they used to wrap the candy before being wrapped in its outer, wax paper wrapping. Eventually, the candy became very scarce and was mostly available only in Aji Ichiban stores that weren’t too many when I was a kid. It was only in the last year that I managed to eat these treats again.

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These days, White Rabbit candies come in many flavors. I remember seeing chocolate and matcha flavors when I went to FairPrice to shop for treats to bring home. These candies weren’t cheap either, selling at SGD2.90 per 180 grams pack (roughly PHP 110). It has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the 1940s and I am so proud of it.

If I will ever have kids of my own, I’d probably let them try this candy and see whether or not they will notice the rice paper wrapping and stress themselves out by trying to remove it too. I will tell them that once upon a time, Mommy had a fever from trying to do the same thing. Then we’ll have a good laugh about it.

Review: J8 Hotel and Shared Changi Airport Transfers (SIN) for Singapore Hotels

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” —Lao Tzu

In a previous post, I shared with you how my original hotel booking got cancelled a few weeks before my trip. Originally having booked Fragrance Hotel – Selegie, my accommodations were transferred to J8 hotel. Despite the stress, while waiting for J8 Hotel to confirm acceptance of my booking, I kept telling myself that perhaps God was trying to move me to a better place.

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While I read in some reviews that there are men who bring random women in Fragrance Hotel to spend a night with, in my head, I was thinking it can happen to any hotel. Little did I know that the Fragrance chain of hotels has had a reputation of being a “love” hotel despite efforts to try and change that image. I only read about it while writing this post. Perhaps, I was being kept away from places that might lead me to trouble. Now, I am more than thankful that my original booking had to be changed. I sincerely hope that the Fragrance chain of hotel manages to completely change their reputation soon.

Changi Terminal 4 to J8 Hotel

I booked a round trip transfer from the airport to my hotel and vice versa from Klook. The Ground Transport Services was just behind the Information Counter of the Arrivals Hall of Changi Airport Terminal 4.

Redeeming my voucher was easy! I just showed the staff my Klook voucher’s QR code and they gave me a receipt (don’t lose it!) and two stickers to put on my shirt. One was for my trip to the hotel and the other was for my trip back to the airport. That way, the shuttle driver will know I was supposed to be picked up.

I showed the driver my receipt before riding the shuttle. Please do not book this ride if you have more than one piece or large suitcase. Being a shared ride, other passengers will need space for their luggage too.

There weren’t many passengers with me on the shuttle, so it wasn’t a very long drive to my hotel. I loved how comfy the seats were and that there were seatbelts for safety! I also noticed the USB charging ports. However, after reading about how public USB charging ports can be risky, I personally prefer using my power bank.

While the ride was fast, it wasn’t a scary rollercoaster ride. I guess it was because there wasn’t heavy traffic that day, so the driver did not have to drive like a madman just to drop us off on time. I got to my hotel a few minutes past 11AM. When I got dropped off, that was the only time I noticed they had WiFi onboard. Oh well, my M1 Tourist SIM card made sure I had fast and reliable internet anyway.

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My Stay at J8 Hotel

img_1750The lobby was not a huge one. There was a reception counter and a small lobby that connect to the J8 Hotel Restaurant. There was also a restroom in the lobby with automatic sliding doors (too bad I was not able to take a picture).

Checking in was easy! I just presented my passport to them and that was it. Since my room was not yet ready, I decided to leave my luggage and have lunch before heading to my first destination in my itinerary. To my surprise, they did not give me a claim tab or a number tag to claim my luggage that evening. I did not argue anymore and off I went to lunch.

It was already 6PM when I got back to the hotel. My legs and feet were so sore from all the walking and I badly needed a shower to freshen up. I was going to see my hotel room for the first time. I was so excited! And yes, despite not being given a number tag for my luggage, nobody attempted to get my luggage or mistook it for theirs. I love the honesty and discipline in Singapore!

The elevator is the type where you need to tap your room card before you can select the floor where you’re going. The hallway to my room was dimly lit, but not dim enough to be spooky. At the end of the hallway was my room!

My initial thoughts? It was a cozy room! I had no need for a very huge and spacious hotel room. After all, I was only meant to rest there, not have a dance party! Plus, it was already way more spacious than our hotel in Hong Kong last March. I wasn’t going to complain anymore. As long as I had enough space to fully open my suitcase, I was good to go!

The bed was surprisingly comfortable to sleep in! The mattress was not a hard as those in Hong Kong. The pillows were fluffy enough and the sheets weren’t scratchy or rough against my skin. Beside my bed were rows of light switches, electric outlets, and the control panel for the room’s air conditioning unit.

I had a hanging flat-screen TV strategically placed where I could watch shows in the comfort of my bed. The TV allowed me to log on to my Youtube and Netflix accounts. I had so much fun watching local Singaporean shows and my favorite Brooklyn Nine-Nine show on Netflix.

The room had a balcony, which I pretty much did not use. I only got one chair and brought it inside to place my shopping bags on. Other than that, I basically kept the door locked and the automatic blinds/sun shield down.

Before I went up to my room, I was told that for my first day, everything inside the mini-fridge was free! After that, only bottled water would be complimentary. Just look what I had in my fridge on the first day!

I had an electric kettle, a teacup, and sachets of tea, coffee, and sugar. I also had a safebox that I found to have a tendency to get warm inside, possibly due to the mini-fridge below. All of these were underneath a writing desk that had a place to hang and keep my clothes above.

Here’s the part I was so anxious about. The bathroom. I am so picky with hotels to book because I am very particular about having a separate cubicle for the shower, away from the toilet. My reason? I need a safe and dry section to put my clothes for when I take a bath. That was the reason why I booked a room in Fragrance Hotel – Selegie in the first place. My heart dropped after seeing the bathroom in my J8 Hotel room.

Still, it had its redeeming factors like having a bidet and having refillable containers for hand soap, body wash, and shampoo. I find these more environmentally friendly compared to using wipes and tissue paper. Also, while I was a little sad not to have mini bath products to keep as souvenirs, theirs was the more environmentally friendly option.  I did have a free pack of toothbrush and toothpaste, and a pack containing a cotton pad, cotton buds, and a nail file!

I had a very pleasant experience at J8 Hotel. Everyone working there that I encountered was nice and friendly, especially the lady at the front desk during the day. The restaurant staff was patient with the guests getting their free breakfast in the morning (7AM to 10AM). I had no issues throughout my stay and had very peaceful nights of deep sleep. I felt safe and secure in the hotel, which was a comfort to me given that it was my first time in Singapore and I was by myself.

I also found the hotel’s location to be very strategic? There were three bus stops and 2 MRT stations close by.

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The hotel is also very near Mustafa Shopping Centre, a 24-hour shopping location that’s considered by many to be the best place to shop in Singapore!

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Please stay tuned for my review of my free breakfast from J8 Hotel when I write about my SG Food Trip!

J8 Hotel to Changi Terminal 4

IMG_2928My shuttle was supposed to pick me up exactly three hours before my flight at 6:50PM. I still had a lot of time during the day and I decided I was going for another walk around Bugis. I checked out at 10 AM and left my luggage, telling them I would be back after lunch.

I was back an hour before my intended pick-up time, so I just stayed at the lobby of the hotel. I put my sticker on my cellphone case hanging from my neck because it wouldn’t stick on my denim dress or my jacket. To be honest, I was already preparing for the possibility of not getting picked up on time. To my surprise, the shuttle bus came 10 minutes earlier than I expected!

This time, the driver was a lot more friendlier than the first driver! For one, this driver offered to load and unload my luggage for me, striking a mini conversation about my airline and the terminal where he was supposed to drop me off. I was the only passenger throughout the trip to the airport!

Just like the first driver, he was very careful in his driving, but not to the point of being very slow. I then understood why leaving three hours before the flight was okay. Traffic was smooth and checking in at Changi Terminal 4 was a breeze.

I highly recommend the Shared Changi Airport Hotel Transfers package from Klook and J8 Hotel for your next Singapore trip!

Arriving at Singapore: Getting My M1 SIM Card and Tourist Pass Plus Card

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” -Arthur Ashe

I was excited, yet anxious, about my first solo trip to Singapore because it was also my first time to go there. I did not know much about the place so I kept asking my colleagues who have gone to Singapore a couple of times already about the transport system, best restaurants to try, and the cheapest places to shop. They kept reassuring me that since I was very much used to Hong Kong, Singapore was not much different since the bus and train systems were pretty much the same in concept.

I was not reassured much, however. You see I tried to compare Singapore’s MRT and LRT Map to Hong Kong’s MTR Map. Singapore’s overwhelmed me a lot. I thought the country was only small, but why did it look like it had more train stops than Hong Kong? I was pretty sure I was going to get lost!

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Singapore’s MRT and LRT System Map. Image was obtained from https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/public-transport/mrt-and-lrt-trains/train-system-map.html
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Hong Kong’s MTR System Map. Image was obtained from http://www.mtr.com.hk/archive/en/services/routemap.pdf

Exploring Singapore with my Singapore Tourist Pass Plus Card

Truth to be told, I am so bad at reading maps and directions. Unless I’ve been there, do not expect me to know how to navigate!

In my lack of faith in my ability to navigate foreign lands, I searched for ways to not have to pay so much for train and bus rides, should I get lost and keep riding around to get to my destination. I came across an ad for Singapore Tourist Pass and Tourist Pass Plus cards from EZ-Link:

I was torn between getting the Singapore Tourist Pass or the Tourist Pass Plus. In the end, I opted to get the Tourist Pass Plus for SGD 38 for the following reasons:

  • 3-days unlimited bus and train rides
  • Complimentary Limited Edition Post Card Set worth $8
  • No rental deposits
  • I get to bring home the card
  • No need to worry about surrendering the card to get my refund

I got my Tourist Pass Plus Card from Changi Recommends at Changi Terminal 4. I also redeemed my free goodie bag from subscribing to Changi Recommend’s newsletter. The goodie bag contained lots of flyers, brochures, attraction maps, and a large foldable travel bag that I was already envisioning to use when I shopped for treats to bring home. So, I basically got two reusable bags from Changi Recommends.

Subscribe to news and promotions from Changi Recommends and claim your goodie bag upon arrival at Singapore. Just present the confirmation e-mail you will receive after subscribing that states you’re eligible for the free goodie bag. Note that supplies are limited so getting the goodie bag is not a hundred percent guaranteed.

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In hindsight, I should have probably just gone for the SG Tourist Pass. For only SGD 25, I could have gotten the mostly same essential perks such as the 3-day unlimited bus and train rides and the lack of surrendering the card because of rental deposit.

When I computed my fare spending, I only spent up to SGD 12. That SGD 25 would have been more worth it, shelling out SGD 13 for the physical card that I can consider as a souvenir. Nevertheless, I was so thankful for my card because I did not have to worry about falling in line, loading up an EZ-Link card, or having the exact change. I just tapped my card and I was on my way to my adventures.

For more information on the type of passes you can get, just visit The Singapore Tourist Pass website.

Want a more versatile card? Get the NETS FlashPay card! Paying only SGD 5 for the physical card, you can just load it up and tap your way through buses and trains. You can also use it to pay at most stores and restaurants. If you’re not going to reach at least SGD 20 on your fare throughout the trip, this is a much better card to get. You can reload it at several top-up locations, making it convenient for use. (Note: You can also get it from Klook).

I was so lucky that my colleague, Jenya, lent me her card. After my three days with my Singapore Tourist Pass Plus card was up, I was able to use her card to go around Singapore one last time before leaving for Manila.

Getting Connected Through M1 Tourist SIM Card

The first major difference I noticed about Hong Kong and Singapore was upon arrival at Changi Airport. You see, every time I stepped on HKIA, I could already connect to their WiFi, allowing me to inform my family in Manila that I already arrived. In Singapore, I could not connect to their WiFi because it was requiring me to give my mobile number, to which they will send my OTP. Unlike in Hong Kong where my phone gets connected to CSL’s network, allowing me to receive SMS from my country, I had no service at all in Singapore. As such, I was only able to contact my Mom after I claimed my M1 Tourist Sim Card from Cheers Convenience Store.

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I bought a voucher from Klook to get M1 Tourist SIM Card for Php 371, roughly SGD 10. In Singapore, it is sold at SGD 12, so the Klook promo was already a steal! The SIM card has 100GB of 4G mobile speed (which was hella fast in SG!), free 20 minutes of international calls, free 100 local SMS, and free 500 minutes for local calls for 7 days. It also comes in 3 SIM Card sizes to fit your mobile phone’s SIM slot.

Claiming the card was a breeze! I only had to show them my passport and voila! I had my SIM card already.

My Cebu Pacific Flight to Singapore

I have lost count of the number of flights I’ve been on with Cebu Pacific. To be honest, except for the lost baggage scare I had last March in Hong Kong, I’ve never really had many problems with this airline. I’ve come to be fond of it already, to be honest.

I had an early flight to Singapore and it was raining a lot in Manila because of the monsoon and a typhoon that, while outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility, was pulling in more rains to the country. I was already prepared for the bumpiest and most turbulent flight of my life.

By the way, Cebu Pacific is now strictly implementing orderly boarding of passengers to the aircraft. They begin with senior citizens, pregnant women, differently-abled passengers, and those traveling with small children. They will be followed by regular guests, allowing entry by batch. They start filling the plane from its last row. I highly applaud them for disciplining their passengers because it used to be chaotic when people start boarding the plane.

So, if you want to board right away, get seats from the last ten rows. If you’re seated at the first few rows, you don’t have to rush to the boarding gates right away so take your time and go have a meal, shop around, or exchange your Philippine Peso for foreign currency.

We couldn’t take off on time even though we boarded earlier than expected. We were sixth in the line of the planes that were going to take off. I fell asleep for a few minutes already just to find out we haven’t flown yet.

Eventually, the sky cleared and there was no more rain. I enjoyed looking outside my window once again, looking at the blue sky and the clouds. I will never get sick of paying for window seats every single time I will travel!

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I did see some improvements in the plane I rode. Despite only having six seats in a row, this plane was equipped with USB charging ports. This is the first time I rode a Cebu Pacific plane that had this feature!

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The flight was going to be 3 hours and 25 minutes. That was my longest flight to date. Being a paranoid flyer, I opted to sleep through the turbulences. However, I first had to take the meal that I paid during my flight booking before I could go to sleep.

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I was surprised that they had bottled iced tea to go with the meal because I didn’t notice it during my flight booking. The beef bulgogi was flavourful and had tender meat. Surprisingly, it was pretty good for an in-flight meal. I only wish the serving was even a quarter bigger than this.

I only managed to sleep for one hour. Thankfully, the many turbulences during the flight weren’t strong ones, so I did not have anxiety during the flight. I was also glad I managed to download a couple of episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine on my phone through Netflix. I managed to catch up on a lot of episodes in Season 2 throughout the remainder of the flight. Because of that, I did not miss Cathay Pacific’s in-flight entertainment system that much.

The flight was comfortable for the most part. I was glad we did not experience violent turbulence and that there were no rowdy passengers on the plane.

Stay tuned for more posts on my first solo trip to Singapore! To learn about my Agoda booking mishap, click here.

Trip to Singapore: Flight and Agoda Booking Mishaps

“Disappointments are just God’s way of saying ‘I’ve got something better’. Be patient, live life, have faith.” -Unknown

I had a grand time in Hong Kong back in March of this year. Traveling with my friend, Jana, and touring Hong Kong for the first time without my sister by my side was one of my life’s greater adventures. While we have had our share of travels when we were still working together as bank auditors, going outside of the country was a different experience. I am just so happy that she got to share her first international travel with me.

After I got back, I could not immediately get rid of the travel bug. I kept on searching for new places to visit and spent so much time on the sites of Agoda and Klook. It felt like I needed to go somewhere else this time after having gone to Hong Kong for five times already since 2016.

Booking the flight to Singapore

I talked to my cousin’s wife, Tabitha, about Singapore because that’s her home country. I asked her about the places to see and the best time to go there. She told me that August 9th was their National Day and that there would be fireworks on that day. I then decided that I was going to Singapore around that period.

One day, an ad for a seat sale to Singapore popped up in my Instagram feed. I immediately booked my flight via Cebu Pacific and opted to pay in cash within 24 hours. As soon as I got permission from my boss to go on the trip, I changed my payment method to credit card payment. I booked a flight on August 9 and was going to return on August 12.

After booking, I realized that the changes I made to remove the meals and travel insurance to get 20kg baggage allowance didn’t push through. As such, I had to pay additionally for my baggage allowance. That was the first of my series of mishaps on my journey to Singapore.

Booking my hotel

Since I was saving GetGo points for future flights, I booked my hotel via Agoda because they are GetGo’s partner in earning points. For more information on how to earn GetGo points to redeem Cebu Pacific flights, click here.

I booked a room in Fragrance Hotel-Selegie because there was a good deal and they offered free breakfast already in the package I was getting. I also loved that they shower section of the bathroom was separate from the toilet, unlike in most Hong Kong hotels. I also loved how cute the room looked and was excited to see it in person. In my excitement, I was supposed to pay at a later date but I did not notice that I clicked “pay now” instead. I booked and paid for the room in April.

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Screenshot was taken from Agoda

Two months later, I got an e-mail from Agoda saying that my booking was canceled and that they were offering J8 Hotel as my alternative.

img_3123I contacted Fragrance Hotel-Selegie to confirm and they did say that they did not agree with the third-party provider about the rates, hence, canceling my booking. They said the cancellation happened in May.

In my attempt to understand the situation, I learned that Agoda does not deal with the hotels directly. Agoda has suppliers who are in direct contact with the hotels. I could not confirm whether it was Agoda’s supplier or Agoda itself that was remiss in informing me of the cancellation that happened way back in May. Also, I did not appreciate that the reason given to me was different from what the hotel explained to me.

I pestered their customer service almost every day because I was worried I wasn’t going to get a hotel to stay in. I was also worried about their refund policy because I was sure it was going to take months. With one month left for my trip, I did not have spare funds to book another hotel while waiting for Agoda to refund me. The waiting was a nightmare and it dampened my first experience booking with Agoda.

Thankfully, J8 Hotel accepted my booking. It took about a week or two to have my concern resolved. I had to change my plans to accommodate the change in my hotel, but that was not a huge problem for me. In my mind, I was thinking that God was probably getting me a better place to stay in. I will post a review of my stay in J8 hotel soon.

Despite my bad experience initially with Agoda, I was still thankful for the very patient and kind customer service agents that handled my follow-ups. I can only pray that this does not happen again in my future trips because I decided to still book with Agoda and just e-mail the hotels to confirm that my bookings are indeed confirmed and existing in their database.

Have you had any problems with Agoda too? How quick was Agoda in resolving your concerns?

Tips to Earn GetGo Points After Grab’s Drastic Change in Rewards System

I have been a loyal Grab user ever since Uber left the Philippine market. That’s because there was no other ride-sharing service provider available that can provide similar service as Grab and Uber. Thankfully, Grab had a good reward system that Uber did not have. To be honest, as far as ride-sharing is concerned, the rewards were Grab’s only advantage over Uber.

Eventually, I got used to Grab’s services. I benefited a lot from their services and I enjoyed reaping the rewards of my continuous business with them. My favorite part was exchanging 4,500 Grab points for 500 GetGo points. All in all, I was able to redeem 1,800 GetGo points from Grab. Needless to say, the wanderer in me loved that Grab could help me get enough points for free flights with Cebu Pacific. That was until they changed their rewards system.

Before, I used to earn 6 points for every Php 10 when I used GrabPay to pay for my rides. Now, I only get 12 points for every Php 100. What a shock, right? This change started in August and the new system is described on their website. Oh well. Since there is no better alternative yet to Grab, I just have to accept their new reward system. This is why monopoly sucks.

So, how can we still earn GetGo points after losing one of our quickest and biggest source of points?

Book flights via Cebu Pacific

Earn 1 point for every PHP 5.00 spent on flights and add-ons. Remember to enter your GetGo number during booking or during check-in for points to be counted. Just remember that when you use points for flights, you will no longer be eligible to earn points on the excess that you had to pay extra for. For example, if I booked a flight to Hong Kong using 3,900 points and had to pay additional PHP 5,000 for my return flight and add-ons, I will not earn points on my PHP 5,000 payment.

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Get a CEB GetGo Prepaid Virtual/Prepaid Card/Debit Card/Credit Card  with UnionBank

For every PHP 100 Visa spend using your debit card or every PHP 30 Visa spend using your credit card, you earn 1 GetGo point. The good news is that because it’s Visa affiliated, you can use these cards to pay for your Cebu Pacific flights. You will earn 1 point for every PHP 100 (debit card) or PHP 30 (credit card) Visa spend and also earn 1 point for every PHP 5.00 from Cebu Pacific. Check out the sample computation here.

Still powered by UnionBank, GetGo Prepaid is another alternative if you do not want to have a credit card or you don’t want to pay PHP 500 annual fee for the debit card. You will earn 1 point for every PHP 100 spent and also earn 1 point for every PHP 5.00 from Cebu Pacific. Check out sample computation here.

GetGo Prepaid can either come in a virtual form or in a physical card. The only difference is that the physical card version, like a debit card, can be used for transactions with Visa affiliated stores worldwide, while the virtual card can be used only for online transactions.

Aside from the inherent perks of a physical card over a virtual one, they are practically the same in terms of earning points save for the maximum card balance of PHP 50,000 for the virtual one and PHP 500,000 for the physical card. For more info, visit GetGo Pay’s website.

Enroll your credit cards to miles program

If you haven’t already enrolled your credit cards to your provider’s miles program, you may want to do it if you’re a fan of traveling. Several credit card companies allow points to be converted to air miles, which can be further converted to GetGo points. Just read or ask about their policies because some only allow enrollment to a specific airline’s rewards program.

I have managed to get around 1,000 points from converting my credit card points. I just had to enroll in the miles program and call the customer service once I’ve reached enough points for conversion.

Make online shopping your best friend

Admit it, you love shopping online. You can now love it more because you can earn 1 point for every PHP 10.00 spent on Lazada! You just need to follow the instructions on GetGo’s site to earn points to be credited to your account 65 days after purchase. While you’re at it, why not use your CEB GetGo Prepaid Virtual/Prepaid Card/Debit Card/Credit Card during payment?

Aside from Lazada, you can also earn 1 point for every USD 1.00 spend on AliExpress and Sephora.

Don’t just book it. Klook it!

It’s true! Klook has made traveling more convenient by allowing you to book tours and activities at good rates in advance so you can skip the lines during your actual travel. It has made planning and budgeting your travels faster and easier. The best part? Klook allows you to earn 1 point for every PHP 100 spend on tours and activities. Just make sure to go to www.klook.com/getgo and enter your GetGo number during checkout, before making your payment. Need I still say my recommended payment method? *wink*

Choose your hotel wisely

If you’re going to spend on hotel accommodation, might as well spend it on something that will help you earn GetGo points. Through Agoda’s PointsMax, you can book hotels and earn points at the same time. Just go to www.agoda.com/getgo and enter your GetGo number during payment checkout. Make sure you’ve set up your PointsMax beforehand. Pay using your payment options from UnionBank for extra points.

GetGo also has other partner hotels that can award you points. Click here for more information.

Shop at Robinsons

We cannot rely on online shopping for everything. There are times when you simply have to see what you’re buying before paying for it. Where online shopping can’t get the job done, we turn to department stores and groceries.

Get 1 point for every PHP 100 you spend at Robinsons Department Store and 1 point for every PHP 200 at Robinsons Supermarket, Robinsons Selections, and Robinsons Easymart. Just present your GetGo cards from UnionBank during payment.

As disappointed as I am with the drastic change in Grab’s reward system, I have a lot of other avenues to earn points to fund my wanderlust. There are so many more ways to earn GetGo points. I highlighted only those that I feel we can do more frequently to speed up the earning. After all, why pay additionally for travel when you can earn points to travel for free? You deserve to reward yourself from making all of your purchases and payments that you’ve worked so hard for to be able to afford.

 

Catch Your Zs With Good Night Relaxation Drink

Counting sheep is my pastime and the moon is my best friend.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had difficulty falling asleep. I will have to be dead tired before I can fall asleep because I either cannot find the right position or my brain is just still too full of seemingly endless energy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking of the same difficulty sleeping as when I was having PTSD from an earthquake last April. I just was never a person who could fall asleep as soon as her head hits a pillow. So, when I found out that a colleague went on sick leave because of insomnia, I felt bad for him because I could understand the struggle.

yX9VdQSOR96oFRVG8igy6gI was in a 7-Eleven branch near my office, looking for something refreshing to drink when my eyes landed on this purple can. I love purple, which was probably why it caught my eye. But, when I saw what was written on the can, I knew I had to get one for my colleague and for myself to try. Priced at Php 85.00, this Good Night Relaxation Drink isn’t cheap, so I had high expectations.

On the can, it states that the drink contains herbal extracts, lemon balm, and hops. These help with stress and allow one to sleep more peacefully. The can contains 250ml, making a total calorie count of 50kcal, 12.5 grams of carbohydrates from sugar. It claims to not have artificial flavor enhancers, preservative or colorants.

XsmzmypcRhui0zhDoY+4oAThe drink is carbonated, making it like your regular sparkling water. It has a lighter color than a beer and has a taste of a very watery pear. I am not a huge fan of the taste, but I do not mind it that much. It’s not unpleasant at all but, I just never got the point of flavored water.

The website of this drink’s company says it’s made in Austria, but the idea started at the end of a couple’s vacation in Thailand. This was meant to be a substitute for drinking alcohol to aid sleep because alcohol can do more harm than good. Taken 30 to 45 minutes before your intended time to sleep, it can be taken on a daily basis. It’s not meant to knock you off because it is not a sedative, but it will help you sleep better through the lemon balm and hops in the drink.

Our work starts at 3PM and ends at 12MN. That’s why it’s very important that we manage to sleep right away before the sun rises because it will be harder to sleep then. So, I took the drink at 1AM on my first attempt with this drink. True enough, I didn’t find myself getting sleepy until it was already 3AM. I cannot remember anything else after I fell asleep.

You see, I don’t remember waking up in the middle of the night whether to pee or to drink or do anything else. I slept straight until 10AM the following day. The funny thing was, I was so bothered by my alarm clock that won’t stop buzzing despite all attempts to turn it off. It turned out that I was turning my alarm clock off in my dream and not in the real world. Thankfully, my Mom decided to wake me up properly.

How did I feel upon waking up? Groggy. I was so groggy that it took me another hour to get up. I felt like I was in cloud nine and without a worry about not making it to the gym that day to work out before going to the office. It sort of reminds me of the side effects of Lagaflex, a muscle relaxant I take for stiff neck and muscle pain, as prescribed by my doctor.

 I tried to understand why, despite not making me feel sleepy, it made me feel as if I took a sedative the night before. I came across articles saying lemon balm and hops have sedating effects. That being said, I wonder why the website states it’s non-sedative.

That being said, I strongly feel that people who have a high dependency risk should consult their doctor prior to taking this drink. I am not sure how much lemon balm and hops are in a can of this drink, but my how groggy I felt upon waking up was no joke. I seriously felt like I took a sleeping pill the night before. Whether I am just highly sensitive to the ingredients, I do not know for sure.

However, if you’re not someone who has a risk to be dependent on this drink to get a good night’s sleep, I can tell you that this works like magic! I slept peacefully through the night and was almost dreamless (damn that dream about turning my alarm clock off). I feel like it would work really well if you’ve been sleepless for a couple of days and you badly need sleep but do not take this when you have an early and important meeting or event to attend the following day.

Will I try it again? Yes! In fact, I have already taken half a can before I started writing this entry. I shall update you on the effects on taking just half a can. I hope I won’t feel as groggy tomorrow as I did on my first try.

Good Night Relaxation Drink is available in the Philippines through select convenience stores like 7-Eleven, Mini Stop, Circle K, Lawson, and San Mig Food Ave. It is also available through Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, All Day Supermarket, and BeautyMNL. Check out the drink’s Philippine Facebook page too for more info.

Second Archery Attempt

“Even as the archer loves the arrow that flies, so too he loves the bow that remains constant in his hands.”— Nigerian Proverb

My hands longed for the sleek and sturdy feel of a bow and the excitement that comes from arrows. It’s been almost a year and a half since I last visited The Archery Academy in Greenhills, San Juan, for archery lessons. I remember having a grand time with my lesson. So, when I saw that they have a similar promo in MetroDeal to the one I got last year, I was so excited and I made it a point to purchase vouchers for me and two of my friends.

Unfortunately, only Zammy could make it with me to the lessons today. We hope that next time, Cherry could already come with us. I really think I should bring more people to try archery out.

As expected, Coach Gio was as thorough as I remembered. Since I could still remember most of the tips and reminders, I let Zammy have her turn first, because that will allow me to document her first time at The Archery Academy. I admit I feel more excited for her than for myself. I was very much like a stage-parent earlier. Hahaha…

U5E8N%4wT2SvV8K1NY38zwAt one point, Coach Gio taught us about scoring. However, we didn’t want any pressure and were more focused on having fun, so we did not score ourselves anymore. We just kept having a go with our bows and arrows for the entire one hour of lessons we paid for. Don’t belittle that one hour! It’s more than enough to shoot several times. Plus, if you’re not very active and it’s your first time to try archery, one hour is enough or you’ll risk getting very sore muscles the following day.

I must say that Zammy, despite her claim to not have slept enough the day before, was way better than I was during my first attempt! Look at her pop that blue balloon!

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Pop! Nice one Zammy! #archery #thearcheryacademy

A post shared by Sunshine and Robins (@sunshinenrobins) on

I also managed to pop my red balloon at my first attempt. This was a huge improvement from my attempt last year because it took a while for me to pop my white balloon. Hearing the loud burst of a balloon popping was so satisfying!

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First target face during my first attempt at archery.

I really feel like I should make archery a more regular hobby because I enjoy it a lot. I should make an effort to have the budget and time for this because going to Greenhills isn’t cheap when you don’t know how to commute and rely highly on Grab services.

Overall, I think we did a pretty good job considering we aren’t really archers. We managed to keep our target face and so I was able to compare it to my performance last year. I was still hitting beyond my target face from time to time, but at least I was hitting the yellow and red areas more frequently than I did last year. I noticed hitting the blue areas a lot, so I still need to practice my aim. Mind you, traditional archery does not depend on the sight and sight window (parts of the archery bow). Rather, it relies on your instinct to hit your mark. Most of my shots were still blind shots. I wasn’t sure where my arrows will land at all.

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Left: Feb. 2018. Right: Jul. 2019

What a fun day this was! I was so glad Zammy was able to join me. However, I feel bad for her because I am feeling my shoulder and arm muscles getting sore as I type. Surely her muscles are feeling the same thing by now. Oh gosh, good luck to us tomorrow. I hope I will still have enough strength to carry my laptop to work.