Travel

Our Valentine’s Weekend Staycation at F1 Hotel

My husband and I are both musicians, and that means that our work schedule is unpredictable compared to office work. It also means that during weekends and holidays, we are often working while others are taking a break from their jobs. Valentine’s Day is definitely an occasion during which, more often than not, musicians are working rather than dating. Lucky for me and Casey, since we both are musicians, we can have a work date (which while fun, is not as fun as a date date, but at least we’re together). Haha. This year though, Casey managed to inject a huge dose of romance into our Valentine’s work date by surprising me with a string quartet arrangement of one of my favorite songs! He had been spending hours on his computer the past few days before Valentine’s, and I thought he was playing games, but it turns out he was busy arranging a song for me, which we played during our Valentine’s Day set. Suffice to say, we had a great Valentine’s Day. He also bought us a voucher for an overnight stay at F1 Hotel in BGC, which we were able to use last Sunday.

string quartet Philippines Manila String Machine

Valentine’s Day surpriseHappy family Valentine’s Day

We got a Deluxe Room, which was spacious enough for the three of us. I requested for a crib for Wolf, which at first lacked a piece in its base. We called room service, and they were quick to replace the crib’s base. Overall, I was happy with the room, which was styled nicely and was spotless. The bed was very comfortable, with pristine sheets and pillows with just the right amount of fluff. The towels and bath robes were soft and thick. We had a few minor issues — the floor was fake wood and not carpeted, the bathroom had no tub (making it more challenging to bathe Wolf), and the aircon placement resulted in a draft on one side of the bed.

I took a few pictures but was not able to fix the lighting, because Wolf was not enjoying his crib and wanted me to carry him (as you will clearly see in the pictures). Haha.

F1 Hotel Deluxe RoomF1 Hotel Deluxe RoomF1 Hotel Deluxe RoomF1 Hotel Deluxe RoomF1 Hotel Deluxe Room

For dinner, we walked over to High Street. BGC on Sundays is great for strolling around, as there are few cars and lots of dogs, which Wolf enjoyed seeing. With the many restaurants, malls, and bars in BGC, you won’t run out of things to do when you stay at F1. We decided to have dinner at Sunnies Cafe, so we could avail of their Buy 1 Take 1 Ricotta Pancakes promo via the Booky app. Aside from the pancakes, we ordered fried chicken and carbonara. Little did we know, one order of pancakes was a stack of four! We ended up having the second order to go. It was our first time in Sunnies, and we enjoyed the food and ambience. Wolf enjoyed their nice wooden high chair and gobbled up a bit of everything we ordered!

At Sunnies CafeAt Sunnies Cafe

At Sunnies Cafe

At Sunnies CafeAt Sunnies CafeAt Sunnies Cafe

We went back to the hotel happily full, and Wolf promptly fell asleep, dutifully giving his parents some quality time alone. What a good little boy. Hehe. The next day, we went down for buffet breakfast a bit late. We got there past 9:30 and the buffet was closing at 10:00 (last call)! It was like one of those timed shopping sprees, wherein you just dump as much as you can into your cart. I got a bit of almost everything and ended up with a plate overflowing with food. Casey had no trouble piling his plate with his usual fare — bacon, sausages, eggs. The food was pretty good. Of note was the bacon that was quite crispy, the scrambled eggs that were creamy, and the cold cuts and cheese selection, which although limited was of good quality and paired very nicely with the breakfast rolls.

Breakfast at F1 Hotel

F1 Hotel breakfast buffet

After breakfast, we tried out their pool. Among their three pools, I chose to try their 4-foot one with Wolf so I could carry him easily in the water. The water was way too cold, unfortunately, and so we didn’t stay long. Next time, we will look for hotels with indoor heated pools so that Wolf can stay longer in the water.

F1 Hotel poolF1 Hotel pool

Checking out of the hotel was a breeze, and we appreciated being granted a late checkout of 1 pm, especially since Wolf decided to nurse after swimming, leaving me no time to put on makeup or even brush my hair! Haha. We didn’t bring a car, but getting an Uber was quite easy. One of the big advantages of F1 Hotel is its prime location in the heart of BGC. I’d love to have another staycation in the area, and I certainly wouldn’t mind going back to F1 Hotel. It was a Happy Valentine’s Weekend indeed!

At F1 Hotel At F1 Hotel At F1 Hotel At F1 Hotel

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Food, Parenting, Travel

Our Family Staycation at Hotel Jen

Last Sunday, we kicked off the new year with a staycation at Hotel Jen. My dad and his wife, Tita Josie, gave us a gift certificate for an overnight stay at a Deluxe Room. The funny thing is Hotel Jen is right across Casey’s work place, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). So as we drove to the hotel, he felt like he was on the way to work. Haha.

Although Hotel Jen is under the Shangri-la group, it is just a four-star hotel, unlike the Shangri-la hotels in Edsa, Makati, and BGC, which are five-star establishments. The branding of Hotel Jen is hip and urban. They seem to be targeting yuppies. Given the four-star rating, we were not expecting Hotel Jen to be faultless. We had, for example, to take into account that the building was quite old, as it was formerly Traders Hotel. I hoped that we would not be assigned to one of the refurbished rooms, but alas, that is what we got.

The corridor of our floor smelled musty and was dimly lit. The room itself seemed a bit worn down, but it was clean and spacious. The bed was comfortable and had pristine sheets. Wolf highly enjoyed the crib that they provided, as it was just the right height for him to peep over at us. The bathroom was a bit small but well equipped with basic toiletries, a tub and shower, and hot water. Funnily enough, the toilet was exactly the same model as our toilet at home. The view outside was terrible, in Casey’s opinion, at least. It was a view of CCP. He didn’t look out the window even once. Haha.

hotel jen deluxe roomHotel Jen deluxe roomHotel Jen deluxe room Hotel Jen deluxe room Hotel Jen deluxe room Hotel Jen deluxe room

The food at the breakfast buffet of Hotel Jen was, unfortunately, several notches below the food at Shangri-la group’s five star hotels. The bread was dry, and the bacon was not crispy. The spread of dishes was limited and unremarkable. The only part of breakfast that I enjoyed was my omelette, which was prepared fresh at the egg station. The eggs were perfectly fluffy and creamy.

Hotel Jen has an outdoor pool, and so Wolf was able to swim for the second time in his life. Unfortunately, the water was quite chilly, and so we didn’t stay long.

Hotel Jen outdoor pool

What Hotel Jen lacked in accommodations and food, they made up for in service. All the staff members were cheerful and attentive. Booking a room, checking in, and checking out were a breeze, as the receptionists, guards, and cleaning staff all worked efficiently.

We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Jen, because Wolf liked the new environment, because the bed was quite comfortable, and because service was excellent. However, I don’t think we will go back unless we are assured of better accommodations. I’m not sure if all their rooms are merely refurbished or if they actually have newly built rooms. This is something you should definitely ask if you plan to stay at this hotel. It’s ironic that Hotel Jen’s branding is youthful and fun, but their building and rooms are old and worn down.

Although we may not return to Hotel Jen, we are excited to try other hotels soon. The staycation was a great way for us to relax and enjoy some family time (aka time away from Casey’s computer and PS4). Haha! Here’s to more staycations this 2018!

Mom and babyMom, dad, and baby

Travel

Budget Travel: Ten Ways to Spend Less When in Japan

Japan is known to be an expensive country, but there are ways for tourists to stretch their cash when visiting the Land of the Rising Sun. Casey, Wolf, and I visited Japan last month for ten days, and we enjoyed our trip immensely. Based on our experience, here are some tips I’ve come up with to help fellow travelers experience Japan on a budget.

  1. Score airplane tickets in advance at a seat sale. Traveling has been made affordable by the rise of budget airlines that frequently have seat sales. Keep an eye out for the sales, which from Manila to Japan can go as low as P4,000 one way!
  2. Stay at an Airbnb. Hotels in Japan tend to have small rooms and are also quite expensive compared to the rooms you can rent via Airbnb. I was able to get nice apartments for us in Osaka and Tokyo for less than P2000 per night. airbnb in Osaka JapanAirbnb in Osaka JapanAirbnb in Tokyo Japan
  3. Purchase unlimited train passes. Japan offers unlimited transportation passes to tourists who wish to explore the country. Many of the passes even come with discounts or free entry to numerous tourist attractions. You can purchase passes online at Klook.
  4. Buy any additional clothes you may need when already in Japan and not before your trip. If you will visit during autumn or winter, you will need cold weather clothes, which are expensive here in the Philippines. It’s cheaper to buy once you’re in Japan and wash them at your apartment (many Airbnbs have washing machines). You can visit second hand clothing stores, or you can go to GU, which is a budget clothing chain under the same group as Uniqlo.
  5. Cook breakfast instead of eating out. Many Airbnbs are equipped with basic cooking needs. You can buy groceries from the nearest supermarket and have breakfast at your apartment. Don’t worry about missing out on new food experiences, because even Japan’s staple food items are several notches above what we have here. In particular, their bread is excellent. The slices are thick, and the texture is soft and chewy. Just lightly butter and toast them for a great start to your morning.bacon, eggs, and toast in Osaka, Japan
  6. Avail of lunch sets when dining in sit-down restaurants. If you want to try fancier restaurants than the usual fast food or ramen joint, plan to visit during lunch time. The lunch sets are way cheaper than dinner fare. Kobe beef lunch set in TokyoKobe beef lunch set in Tokyo
  7. Eat at Japanese fast food chains. You don’t have to go to the fancier restaurants to get a good meal in Japan. There are many fast food chains that serve delicious Japanese fare. The best beef bowl for us is at Matsuya, which has branches everywhere. For burgers, there’s Mos Burger and Lotteria. For chicken karaage, you won’t go wrong with 7 Eleven, Family Mart, or Lawson. Pair those tasty thigh fillets with onigiri and you’re good to go at less than 300 yen (around 135 pesos). You’re welcome. Beef bowl at MatsuyaBeef bowl at Matsuya
  8. Visit Universal Studios during an off-peak day to avoid the need for Express Passes. If you schedule your visit on a Wednesday or Thursday that’s not a school break, the lines are manageable enough for you to be able to ride the major rides without using Express Passes. This will save you more than P2000 per head.
  9. Avoid dining inside Universal Studios. The food inside the park is overpriced. Eat right before entering, and bring a few onigiri to munch on while inside. Just pack it well inside your bag, because outside food isn’t actually allowed, but they’re not strict with their bag check. Bring a tumbler also, which you can refill with water from fountains around the park. The bottled water inside is crazy expensive, so you want to avoid buying. See some of our overpriced (around P1000 per head) food below:Halloween platter in Three Broomsticks, Universal Studios JapanBurger in Universal Studios Japan
  10. Walk, walk, and walk some more. People in Japan are used to walking long distances. That’s why so many of them wear sneakers, and that’s why so many are slim. You will need to walk a lot when transferring trains, visiting parks, and basically trying to find your way around. The cabs in Japan are extremely expensive, and besides, it’s more fun to experience the country on foot. Pack your best pair of walking shoes and explore the streets of Japan. The streets of Japan The streets of Japan

So there you have it. I hope these tips help you make the most out of your Japan experience. Are you excited yet? You should be! Japan is beautiful! Be ready to feel exhausted. Be ready to get lost. And be ready to fall in love.