Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Applying for a US Visa in the Philippines

I grew up watching the shows on Studio 23. 

Charmed.


I like Shannen Doherty as Prue Halliwell


Gilmore Girls.


I cried when the series ended. Gilmore Girls was a part of my growing-up life.
Seventh Heaven


My Holy-Week series marathon.

Dawson's Creek

Because of Joshua Jackson. I like Charlie Conway.

There's also CSI, Party of Five and bunch of other TV series that ate up hours of my youth. Watching TV was not the wisest thing to do. I lost a lot of hours of my youth and gained pounds. But hey, I was young and I didn't realize how precious time was. I know better now.



Watching all of these series did not give me a burning desire to fly to the US.*Shrugs*
I do not have relatives over there.  
Hongkong has Disneyland, so that scratched my Disneyland itch. 
And really, with all the Hollywood movies, I felt like I've been to the US already. 

But of course, I will still visit the US given a chance. I had to make that chance. Despite not having a solid plan, I applied for a US tourist visa anyway.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

China Guide Checklist



Currency & Credit Cards
I was only able to withdraw CNY 1,000 at a time. I’m not sure if that’s a Chinese policy or that’s the ATM’s issue with international cards. Remember to call your bank to inform them that you are using your card overseas. I always inform BPI even though I plan to spend in cash all the way. The annoying part here is calling up BPI’s hotline (89-100) and waiting for eternity to talk to a phone banker. It is not in their “regular menu”. I wish that in the future, BPI wil have either 1) more phone bankers to accommodate requests and 2) have the option of setting this online.

Accommodation
Not as cheap as I thought. A very good room in Siem Reap costs $16 for two pax pernight, with breakfast. In China, it costs CNY 180 or $29. And the room is not as nice. Based on Tripadvisor posts, the hostels are not up to par compared to Europe hostels. No breakfast. If yes, then you’re lucky.

 
Our accommodation in Pingyao
 
Food
It is actually a good thing that breakfast is not included in the room price. The streets are filled with delicious options. I am not a fan of Chinese food. Probably because it tastes too much like a home-cooked meal. My mom is an awesome cook. I find yang chow, beef & broccoli and other what-nots quite unappetizing. Food was a hit and miss for me. It was an alternate of bland or oily food. OILY. Eeeeeh. We did find some amazing life-changing dumplings though.

Xiao long bao, some type of chao fan and clear soup

Monday, November 3, 2014

China Chronicles: Planning, Budget and Itinerary

I booked the Manila-Shanghai and Beijing-Manila tickets one year before the departure date. These are the most advanced tickets I ever purchased. That’s one year of advanced planning and saving.

When I shared my plans that I will be in China for more than two weeks, most people were baffled: What will I do in China for two weeks? Shanghai and Beijing can be done in a rush for a week. So why spend so much time in one country?

China is a HUGE country.
 
I was careful drawing those boundaries


A couple of websites that we really helpful for planning
Chroniclesof Marianne. She did a great job of documenting her adventures
Pinoyexchange Beijing Detailed and helpful info for the Beijing Leg
DIY Great Wall (Mutianyu) Super helpful. 

Since we initially had 18 days in China, I chose to copy the China itinerary of The Chronicles of Marianne. I set out itinerary to start in Shanghai, the long train to Taiyuan then to Pingyao, train to Datong then bus to Beijing.

BUT.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

How To Apply For A Chinese Tourist Visa in the Philippines



Best friends, you travel for them. 
Our trip to Baguio way back in 2012

I traveled to Malaysia last year to visit one of my Amigas working there. Before that trip, I already booked a flight to Shanghai, and a flight out from Beijing. My other Amiga, Sarah, also booked her flights. That’s more than a year in advance purchase! The planned trip has a total of 18 in China, including flight days. I crafted an itinerary for Shanghai-Pingyao-Datong-Beijing.

Applying for a Chinese visa is a straightforward process. Submit all the requirements, and you’ll be granted a visa. You can choose to submit your application via a travel agency, like we did, or go to the Chinese embassy yourself and submit the application. We chose to fork over some money for the travel agency fee instead of going to the embassy ourselves. The visa fee and the processing fee costs Php 2,000. We used Lucky Travel for our China visa.

Visa requirements that I submitted:
  •  Filled-out visa application form with attached photo
  •  Valid passport
  •  Certificate of Employment/Consultancy
  • Bank Certificate with receipt of payment. This costs Php 100 for BPI. Indicate in the BPI application form that the certificate is for China Visa. The teller provided me with another format of the bank certificate reflecting my average daily balance. She said she used the same format for the UK Visa. She said they have another format specifically for China visa but it will take 4-5 banking days to accomplish that. (The bank certificate for UK visa sufficed). I had a Php 100,000 ADB because I had my emergency and travel fund one of my savings account.
  • Bank statements (downloaded from BPI Online)
  • BIR Income Tax Return
  • Roundtrip flight bookings
  • Hostel bookings

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Feeding Frenzy In Bacolod



Cows have four intestines, at least. All of that to convert the grass into milk. 

A cow's digestive system

You’ll envy a cow when you go to Bacolod.
Our intestines are not enough to handle all the gastronomic options in Bacolod.
Prepare to commit one of the seven deadly sins in Bacolod: Gluttony.



Our lunch in El Ideal Bakery in Silay proves that good food does not need to be pretentious or expensive. Food here is simple, far from being “artisanal”, but the flock of customers in the shop is consistent.
 



I think the local longanisa meal is around Php 120. Then Sarah and I shared two slices of pie and fresh lumpia, one of their bestsellers too. I shelled out Php 176.00 for my lunch. Affordable and delicious food. I guess that’s the advantage of eating in the province; you’ll get really good food at reasonable prices. Unlike in Metro Manila, where you’ll have to pay moolah for a so-so food. I wouldn’t mind retiring in the province someday.


 
I am a sucker for buko pie. Their buko pie is so delicious. I took a bite before taking a shot. Their Guapple pie is also yummy, but my vote goes to their apple pie. I didn’t buy one whole pie because I didn’t want to carry a box all the way home. :P

A bite before the photo
 
Chicken Inasal a dish that originated in Bacolod. We found three options but we went with the suggestion ng bayan: Aida’s Manokan. Aida’s Manokan is located in Manokan Country, a strip eateries in FM Ferrero St., near SM Bacolod.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Ruins and Ancestral Houses in Silay, Bacolod



Saturday started off with a morning buffet breakfast at O Hotel. Good enough. It was too much to expect for bacon. 

We confirmed our research with the receptionists before conquering the humid and gloomy weather. 

We boarded a jeep bound for “Bata” and got off the Pepsi Plant – paid Php 7.50. The tourist price for the trike to The Ruins is Php 50.00. The real fee for locals is Php 20.00. If you have a local, swerte mo, or you can assert your right (it may or may not work). Ah well, what is new about this touristy places? It is kinda tiring to expect for a fair price all the time. 
 
The ride is smooth, the bumpy ride is just a couple of meters. Fun to ride in a trike with all the sugar canes around you.



The Ruins is located in Talisay. This is a good hour away from the city center. The Ruins is dubbed as the Taj Mahal of the Philippines, not because of its looks, but because of its history. The house was built by a sugar baron for his wife. I'll let the tour guides tell the rest of the tale. 
 
 
Sarah being chased by the fishies

The entrance to The Ruins cost Php 80.00. We asked our trike to wait for us – although the locals inside this is not necessary, there are trikes waiting outside all the time. They hold the tours every time there’s a bunch of visitors. I think it is regular, but the time is indefinite. We waited for a while for this because the guides took a break.




Friday, September 19, 2014

Bacolod: Budget, Itinerary and Accommodation


I am running out of places to travel here in the Philippines. I know we have 7,107 islands and 81 provinces. As beautiful as my country is, it is not my goal to set every foot in every province in this country. It would be nice to do so, but that’s just not my plan now.

March 2014. The day after my return from my Batanes trip, I realized I had few planned trips in the Philippines this year. I already conquered my Batanes, my super target destination in the Philippines. I had a planned trip to Romblon but after that...no Philippine destination in sight. I checked PAL’s website and there was an ongoing seatsale. 

I booked a trip to Bacolod. 

I had no concrete plans what to do at that time. I know there’s great food in Bacolod, but I don’t travel to try out food. So maybe I’ll try something else.Or just experience something different, although it is not something else.

My foodie Amiga Sarah is joining me this trip! Hoorah!
See, I like eating. But I don’t love love love FOOD. So it is good to have a foodie person in this trip.  


DATE
ACTIVITY
 PHP

Plane ticket via PAL
        1,490.00
DAY 0 - September 12, 2014. Friday. Fly from Manil to Bacolod


MRT Ticket to Taft
            15.00

Bus from MRT Taft to T3
             20.00

Ya Kun Kaya
           180.00

Water at airport
             25.00

Shuttle from Airport to O Hotel
        150.00

O Hotel Payment
     1,600.00

Dinner
        146.00
DAY 1 - September 13, 2014. Saturday. Talisay City Heritage Houses. The Ruins 

Trike to pepsi plant
           7.50

Trike to Ruins
         50.00

Ruins entrance
         80.00

Trike back
         50.00

Jeep to Silay
         13.00

Balay Negrense entrance fee
         60.00

El Ideal lunch
        176.00

Pink House entrance fee
         60.00

Bus to Bacolod
         15.00

Jeep to Bacolod
         10.00

Medicine (for sore throat)
         13.00

Jeepney to Calea
           7.50

Calea - coffee and cake
        200.00

7-11 stuff
         76.00

Jeep back to O Hotel
           7.00
DAY 2 - August 22, 2014. Friday. Morning Eating. Shopping day 

Jeep to Calea
               7.50

Calea - TY Sarah


Jeep back to O Hotel
               7.00

Bong Bong's pasalubong loot
           429.00

Jeep to Cafe Bob's
               7.50

Cafe Bob's lunch
           260.00

Calea - TY Sarah


Taxi Back to O Hotel
             32.50

Shuttle to Airport (arranged by hotel)
           150.00

Bacolod Airport fee
           200.00

Kuppa at the airport
             90.00

Piatos at the airport
             40.00

19:15 H Depart Bacolod (delayed flight)


21:00H Arrive Manila


Cab to MRT station
             50.00

Jeep to MRT Taft
               8.50

MRT ticket – Taft to North Ave.
             15.00

Jeep -  Mindanao Ave
               8.50
TOTAL IN PHP

       5,756.50


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