Sunday, February 28, 2016

I Have Moved!

Maybe you were wondering (or maybe not!) why I have been quiet here for some time now. It's because I have already moved. My blog is now at

So head on over there, if you still want to read more about my travels and other stuff about me!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Where to Stay in Amsterdam: Stayokay Vondelpark

Facade of the dining area. Behind is the main building
When looking for a hotel/hostel, my main consideration aside from price, is the location and its accessibility to the places and attractions I want to visit.

So after days of reading through other travellers' blogs and TripAdvisor reviews, we decided to stay at Stayokay Vondelpark in Amsterdam. The hostel is right beside Vondelpark and quite near Museumplein where you'll find the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, and Stedelijk museums, as well as the famous 'I amsterdam' sign. The bus/tram stops, restaurants, and canal tours are very accessible from Stayokay.

Probably because of its price and accessibility, Stayokay's guests are predominantly students in their teens and early 20's, pretty much my crowd (ehem!), so there's lots of activities going on and there are several tours you can join.

Other things I liked about the hostel: the rooms and public areas are kept clean, they have a friendly staff, and the breakfast buffet (which reminded me of a high school cafeteria) was delicious. I also liked their hassle-free checkout because you only need to drop your keycard in a box by the door as you leave. Brilliant!

One minor downside though is that there's no wifi in the rooms, only in common areas like the lobby. For the hostel, this is to encourage guests to mingle and make new friends. That means you can only look at your phones and be anti-social in areas where you're supposed to socialize. :P

So considering its price, location, amenities, and our overall pleasant experience, I would say that our stay in Stayokay Vondelpark was definitely okay!

The view from my bed
How much:
We got beds in their 6 to 9 Mixed Dormitory Room, and it cost us Eur 40,50 per bed/night. Price already includes buffet breakfast, linen and sheets, and a locker.

Tip: If you're still to apply for a visa, book your rooms through because it's absolutely free and you only pay with the hotel/hostel directly when you check-in. Take note of the modification/cancellation policy and deadlines though because it differs per establishment.

How to get there:
Upon arriving, we decided to follow the directions found in their instruction pack: 'From the airport, Connexxion Bus 197 from Schiphol to ‘Leidseplein’, bus runs every 15 minutes and takes you to the hostel in about 45 minutes. Buy a ticket at the driver for € 4.  From Leidseplein you walk towards the Marriott Hotel. In front of the Marriott you turn left. Take the second street right is Zandpad.'

But I think the route we took when we left is more straightforward: From Stayokay, walk towards the Rijksmuseum Station and take Tram 5 towards A'veen Binnenhof. Get off at Zuid Station or the Amsterdam Central Station, and take the train that stops at Schiphol Airport.

Take note: you can't use the GVB ticket in the Connexxion Bus or in the Amsterdam Central Station. Tickets for these have to be bought separately.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Visiting Prague: Mucha Museum

The Mucha Museum wasn't in my original itinerary. In fact, I have never heard of Alphonse Mucha until a friend suggested I go to the museum when I get to Prague.

So after visiting Kafka and hanging out and eating lunch at the Old Town Square, I decided to walk around and try to find the museum. After a couple of hours of getting lost (even for a map enthusiast like me, Prague's inner streets could be a bit confusing), I was ready to give up my search. But as I turned the corner, I found myself right outside its door. I guess I was meant to be there hehe.

Alphonse Mucha was an acclaimed Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, and was most famous for the theatre posters he created for French stage and early film actress Sarah Bernhardt.

 Some of Mucha's works. All images from Wikipedia

Mucha created paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets. His works frequently featured beautiful women in flowing robes, surrounded by flowers. Although he gained fame for his commercial art, Mucha wanted to concentrate more on his artistic and nationalistic projects.

The Mucha Museum houses over 100 exhibits comprising his paintings, photographs, charcoal drawings, pastels, lithographs and personal memorabilia. It was beautifully curated that you're guided through his artistic evolution. Too bad I got to the museum about 45 minutes to closing, which was not enough time for me to study each piece closely, and I also didn't get to finish his video biography. :(

How much is the museum fee:
The ticket costs CZK240. And if you buy Mucha tickets at the Kafka Museum (and vice versa) you can get it at half the cost. I didn't buy ahead because I wasn't sure I was gonna be able to find it.

How to get there:
The museum is along Panska street, just a block away from Wenceslas Square, which I didn't realize until after I left the museum hehehe. You can take the metro (green line A) and get off Mustek station, walk towards Jindrisska street and then turn on Panska street.

So if you have time and money to spare, why not drop by the Mucha Museum and learn more about the man and his art.

Public Commute: Going Around Prague

Prague is such a quaint little city that you could easily get around just by walking. But to cover long distances, you still need to take public transportation. Good thing Prague has an integrated transport system.

Since we stayed for 3 days in the city, we got the 3-day pass which costs CZK310, and allowed us to ride the metro, trams and buses. We bought the tickets at the tourist center, and needs to be validated before use.

Like in most European cities, navigating through their transport system is pretty easy with the help of easily available city maps.

I just love the design of their metro
Staromestska metro station

Their subways are pretty much like any other European city's but probably with escalators that are a whole lot steeper! I think they are as steep, if not steeper, than those in HK's Ocean Park. They're so scary that I always feel the need to lean back when going down, just to make sure I don't fall forward.

Scariest elevator ride. So steep!
I liked riding in their trams, because you still get a view of the city. I'm also always amazed at how well they navigate those tight corners and very narrow streets.

Some cars are newer and more modern than this

They also have taxi cabs, but like our own Manila taxi cab drivers, they have the notorious reputation of being scammers and ripping off tourists. We didn't have any need for a cab but we were warned to only use AAA Taxis.

Unfortunately this is not part of Prague's public transpo
But again, being a pedestrian-friendly city, you could cover a lot of ground just by walking. I promise you would be mesmerized by Prague's charm and history that you wouldn't mind wandering (and getting lost) in its streets for hours.

(P.S. Prague is a 4-1/2hr bus ride from Berlin. I booked our Eurolines tickets online, and a roundtrip fare costs 48 Euros. Nice surprise: you get free crackers and bottled water onboard.)

Where to Stay in Prague: Arpacay Backpackers Hostel

A friend who's been to Prague the previous year recommended Arpacay to us. He said that the place is clean and quite near to Charles Bridge. I'm so glad we followed his recommendation, except for the long uphill climb to get there, I quite enjoyed my stay there.

That's my bed! It had a quite cozy nook, too. (Photo from Arpacay website)
I booked us to their 6 Bed Mixed Dorm with private bathroom, and got us a 20% early bird discount for booking at least 3 months in advance.
So instead of paying CZK1000 each for 2 nights (around Php1740), we only paid CZK736 each saving us around Php400. (On a sidenote: when I made the booking, we didn't have our visas yet. I thought I could afford to lose the 5% deposit of around Php150 more than the early bird discount hehe.)

Breakfast area (Photo from Arpacay website)
The entire place was clean - common areas, our dorm and bathrooms. Our dorm was quite roomy, and since no else stayed in our room, we still had some kind of privacy. The bathroom was quite big and kept clean.

My bed was cozy, plus the sheets were soft and smelled fresh, too. There's free personal lockers (you can rent a lock if you didn't bring one), and free wi-fi in the room. Yay!

You can access the kitchen anytime, if you prefer to cook your own food. I enjoyed their buffet breakfast, though, which you could get for 3 euros, I think.

The TV area (Photo from Arpacay website)
Their staff were friendly and helpful, I even asked them to mail a postcard for me (for a fee). You can ask for a free city map and walk your way to the city's famous landmarks which are pretty accessible from the hostel - Prague Castle, St. Nicholas Church, Infant Jesus of Prague, Kafka Museum, Charles Bridge and Old Town Square.

All of these gave us such a huge relief since it was our first time staying in a hostel, and in a shared dorm at that!

The downhill trek from the hostel
How to get there:
Photo from Arpacay website
From the bus station, take the subway and get off Malostranska station. Go out of the station and walk a few feet (no need to cross the street!) to take tram No. 12, 20 or 22. Get off the next stop, Malostranske namesti. Walk up the hill along Nerudova street, and after about a 5min-walk you will find the hostel on the right side.

So if you're headed to Prague, I highly recommend you stay at Arpacay Backpackers Hostel. You can visit their site here for more information.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Visiting Prague: Of Kafka Museum

Prague is home to Franz Kafka, one of the literary world's most influential writers.

The term Kafkaesque has entered into the English language to describe situations that seem senseless and where one can't seem to get out of, which are common themes of his works. Throughout his life, he dealt with feelings of angst towards his relationship with his dominant father, his work at the insurance company (which he felt was taking too much of this time, leaving little for his writing), government bureaucracy, his identity as a German-speaking Jew in Prague and his relations with women.

I'm definitely no expert on Kafka, in fact, I don't think I have read even one of his writings entirely (I know, shame on me!). But I did enjoy learning about his life though his letters, diaries and photographs.

Tickets cost CZK200
How to get there:
Just before getting on Charles Bridge (with the Prague Castle behind you), turn left to Cihelná street. Franz Kafka's face will greet you right outside the gate.

Before entering the museum though, be entertained at the courtyard by the Peeing Statues by David Cerny. The base is formed in the shape of Cezch Republic and the two statues are pissing on the country. Didn't try it, but they said you could send an SMS and the statues will 'pee' your message into the water.

How much is the museum fee:
Entrance fee is at CZK200, roughly Php350 or USD8, which I think was worth it. In my opinion, the museum was well-curated (complete with AVPs and soundtrack), giving me that sense of anguish and helplessness which Kafka could've felt at that time.

After visiting the museum, you could then go around the building and enjoy the view of the Charles Bridge away from the crowd.
A view of the Charles Bridge from the museum yard.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Our visit to Germany wouldn't have been complete without a visit to a concentration camp.My friend and I booked a guided tour to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Oranienburg, which was about an hour's train ride from Berlin. Although I usually like going off on my own and DIY-ing it, I think it was a good decision to join this tour because I got to learn more about the place and how it figured in history.

Sachsenhausen was intended to set the standard for all concentration camps. It became a training center for SS officers. Can't begin to imagine the horrors that happened inside it's walls.

Oranienburg Train Station

The tour guide said that some of the SS guards lived in these neighborhoods right outside the camp. And it would've been hard for civilians living here not to know of the horrendous crime within the camp walls.

'Work Makes (You)  Free'. Concentration camps were supposedly 'work' camps.

The roll call grounds. The camp is shaped like an equilateral triangle. This makes the prisoners visible to guards wherever they are in the camp.

Our British guide had everyone engrossed from beginning to end.
The SS put barbed wires in front of the electric fence to stop the prisoners who run into it to commit suicide. Those who attempt to do so are shot. Why? To take away that last bit of 'freedom' to take away their own life.

It was said that lethal gas and drug experiments were done here in the camp.

The prisoners' sleeping quarters

Prisoners' wash up area

Prisoner's clothes

Most of the barracks and other structures in the camp were destroyed after the war.

Soviet Liberation Memorial

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Public Commute: Going Around Berlin

Among all the cities I've been in, I must say that Berlin has the best transportation system. I was able to ride in their S-Bahn, U-Bahn (subway), tram, bus, train and taxi, and they were all commuter friendly: being very clean, orderly and convenient.

Of course clean and orderly is expected, we're in Germany after all! But what I liked most about Berlin transportation is that you can get a ticket and have access to the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, tram, bus and ferries. We were able to move around the city in 5 days holding onto just 1 ticket! Easy peasy!

How much is the fare?

Fare depends on where you want to go (tariff zone) and the ticket's validity.

Berlin is divided into tariff zones- AB, BC and ABC. AB is basically the metro urban area, ABC includes Berlin's surrounding area and Potsdam. A single ticket for AB zone is 2.60, BC is 2.90, and ABC is 3.20.

We got the Berlin Welcome Card 5-day ticket and it cost us 32.50, which actually comes out cheaper considering we commute at least 5 times a day. The Berlin Welcome Card also comes with a city map and you can also get discounts from different several restaurants, museums and other establishments.

Where to buy tickets:

It's very easy to get the tickets. You can buy tickets as soon as you arrive, usually at the tourist shop at the airport. You can also look for the Berlin Welcome Card sign.

You can also buy the tickets at the stations.  Some stations have stores/stalls (for those who prefer to talk to a person), but most of them only have ticket vending machines. Problem with the machines though, is that some only have instructions in German.

There are also ticket vending machines on the tram, but they only accept coins and again some might not have English instructions.

How to use the ticket:

Once you've bought your ticket, you need to validate it in the validating machine before using it.

And here's why I love Germany even more: except for the bus where you need to show your ticket to the bus driver before getting in, nobody checks the tickets but people still pay for them. Of course they do random checks once in a while, (we had ours checked on the train from Oranienburg back to Berlin), still you have to commend them for following the rules. Honesty system at its best! Hope we can see this kind of discipline and honesty here.

Now that you know where to get the tickets, the only thing left to figure out is where to go! =)

Sunday, January 04, 2015

52-week Financial Challenge

Another year, another chance at a new beginning.And that also means another year of travelling. Yay!

For those who have been wanting to create their travel fund but don't know where to start, you can use this 52-week money challenge which I got from

Pretty doable, because you start off at Php50 on the first week and add up at increments of Php50. Perfect for those who get their bonuses towards the end of the year. But, if you prefer to have it easier around the holidays, you can do a reverse challenge:

Remember, you can work with whatever budget you have- you can use smaller or bigger amounts, and you can also use this as guide for any other savings goals, like buying a new gadget or just building your savings.

I'm doing this challenge, too and I'm inviting you to do it with me. Here's to our success and a more financially-rewarding 2015!

Monday, November 17, 2014

East Side Gallery, Berlin

 When you hear Berlin, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Yep, the Berlin Wall.

The East Side Gallery is a long section of  the Berlin Wall, which closed the border to East Berlin, and is right along the River Spree. It's said to be possibly the largest open air gallery in the world.

 The gallery consists of about hundred paintings and murals by artists all over the world on the east side of the Berlin Wall, thus the name.

Walking along the gallery definitely gives you a sense of history. The paintings create a picture (pun intended) of what the general feeling was during that time. Since these paintings were done after the wall was torn down, the common theme seems to be that of freedom and hope.

The iconic 'fraternal kiss'

The River Spree

How to get there:

You can take the S-Bahn, U-Bahn or the tram, and get off at S+U Warschauer Str. Walk along Warschauer street towards Mühlenstraße, this is just a few minutes walk from stop. When you reach the corner, you'll already see the gallery. Cross the street and you're there!