Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Club Elite Membership at Duty Free Philippines

So finally, my dad arrived from Incheon late Monday night, where he had his connecting flight from China. As the usual thing we do whenever he gets home from abroad, we trooped to Duty Free Philippines (DFP) the next day. Yay! This is something we look forward to every time my dad comes home well of course just second to the fact that he’s finally here!

We bought the usual stuff for pasalubong like chocolates, cookies, and chips. My dad bought a Samsonite luggage with 25 kilos capacity for the price of USD 190. He also got a Nike cross trainer rubbers shoes at USD 81. My mom bought her first Longchamp bag. She got the Le Pliage medium short handle in mandarin color. It was only USD 115 which was cheaper than buying it at Rustan’s or ordering online. I’m happy for her because I can borrow her bag. Lol. And my sister scored a Crocs wedges at USD 66. My mom and sisters also bought perfumes which totaled to USD 145. And me? I didn’t buy anything at all.. hehe

But I got the Club Elite Membership! In order to qualify for the membership, you must have an accumulated purchase of more than USD 500. Adding up all the things we bought at DFP, it amounted to almost USD 700 so we were instantly qualified. The card is valid for 2 years,

Look for the wrong spelling.. hehe well seriously there is :)

What are the privileges of the Club Elite membership?

As a Club Elite Member, you are entitled to discounts, perks, promos at Fashion Walk & Beauty Walk at the Duty Free Fiesta Mall, Cebu Waterfront Hotel, and NAIA Terminals 1,2, and 3.

You can get a 10% discount on all regular items at Fashion Walk & Beauty Walk.  Also, you can avail 5%-10% discounts on liquors and cigarettes, and supermarket items.

Aside from the discounts, members may avail of other perks and privileges such as:
*VIP assistance
*Use of VIP lounge
*Free delivery of bulky items worth US$500 and above (within Metro Manila) subject to Bureau of Customs approval
*Priority notice on special promotions and new products
*Invitations to special events

Woot woot! They gave me a list of the shops where the Club Elite card is honored and I can’t help but grin. Here are just some. 


Aside from the fact that shopping at DFP is tax-free, I can also avail the 10% discount using my Club Elite card. They also have Friday Specials where they offer 20% discount on regular items.

Can’t wait to schedule our first shopping trip!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spending the Rainy Day at Thunderbird Resort – Rizal

Because, it was a long weekend I’m sure everyone had plans on how to best spend it, may it be on an out-of-town trip or a staycation at home.

Since I was really looking forward to the first long weekend of the year, I made sure that I get to maximize the weekend by doing some personal errands and having some R&R.

Now, let’s talk about the R&R part!

We had complimentary day tour tickets for two at Thunderbird Resort – Rizal from my sister. Of course, she didn’t just give it for free but in exchange of something with lesser value. Anyways, Erick and I decided to avail it since it’s the long weekend and it’s expiring on September.

Thunderbird Resort – Rizal is luxury resort nestled in a valley along the Sierra Madre range. It’s located in Binangonan Rizal which is almost a 2-hour drive from Manila. The resort boasts its well-designed 41-room suite overlooking Manila and Laguna de Bay which gives a relaxing view up in the mountains. They have themed restaurants namely KOI Restaurant, Pool Bar for outdoor dining and Cabana Bar for parties. There’s also a world-class casino and an 18-hole golf course inside their huge property. In the hotel facade, there’s an infinity pool and outdoor jacuzzi surrounded by lush green surroundings.

Thunderbird Resort in Rizal 
Reserving our day tour tickets

Two weeks ago, I called up their front desk office to reserve for our day tour. I immediately informed the receptionist that I was holding a gift certificate which is good for a day tour for two persons. I was told that they only accept GCs on weekdays and we can only use it on August 30. I clarified if it was really good on that day since it was a holiday and as far as I know most GCs/vouchers are not valid on holidays; but she said we can use it. So okay, we had it reserved that day. But eventually, we had to move it to August 29 because my dad will be arriving from abroad the next day. We called up once more to re-schedule it and it was another long conversation of explaining the validity of the voucher and even describing how it looked like..errrr. In the end, they asked us to send it via fax or email and provide our numbers for confirmation. We never got a call or a text message confirming our reservation so we called them up the day before our tour. The front desk was happy to confirm that we can have our day tour the next day. 

Our experience

We got to the resort around 10am and we presented our gift certificate upon our arrival. After checking some things, the receptionist said we can go ahead for our day stay. She politely informed us that they really don’t honor GCs on holidays but since we have reserved weeks before, they are able to accommodate us. With a smile, I told her that when I reserved the GC their front desk told me I can use it on weekdays even holidays so we went ahead. I got a little pissed because she made us feel that we are not paying customers, thus not a priority, because we are only using a gift certificate. Well, first off Miss, I didn’t ask for your GC. It was given by your marketing manager to my sister which she passed on to me. Of course, I didn’t say that to avoid any awkwardness which was evident already. She added that it was their first time to honor a GC. Well seriously? If you sell or give GCs you gotta have a process for that! But in all fairness, she delivered it in a courteous manner but I can’t help but feel belittled. I’ve never felt that way in many times I’ve used a voucher.


So anyways, they assisted us and helped us find a spot near the pool. They also provided us huge towels. We immediately changed to swimming clothes and just stayed near the pool.

Because words are not enough to describe that day, here are some pictures J



We really liked lounging in the outdoor jacuzzi. The weather was really cold because of the erratic rain and cool breeze and just soaking in the warm water was relaxing. There were many times that we saw the rain coming and we would just sit in the jacuzzi and stay there while the rain pours.


They also have lawn where you can play volleyball, soccer, or just laze around. A kiddie slide and swing is also found in the corner.



Contrary to what I’ve seen in their website, the hotel is not that big. The pool was really small which was crowded by hotel guests and day tour visitors. If there is one big part of their property, surely it was their 18-hole golf course.

There isn't much to do during a daytour but swim, eat, and laze around.

Food

Our day tour admission tickets includes food and drinks consumable worth Php1050.

We ordered from the Pool Bar and our order arrived thirty minutes after. Such a long wait but I didn't want to complain anymore so I let it pass. After our wait, the waiter arrived and apologized for the delay.

On our table.. 

Hainanese Ginger Chicken sautéed in ginger, soya, Saoshing wine, and Chinese herbs (Php335)

This was the blandest chicken rice I’ve ever tasted. For its price, we could have ordered something else. And I am wondering if Hainanese chicken is deboned because this one’s not.

Triple Decker Clubhouse Sandwich with bacon, grilled chicken, egg, lettuce, cheese, and cherry tomatoes (Php395)

Nothing to rave about the sandwich; I can even make something like that at home. And the bread wasn’t even toasted. 

There is also a 10% service charge. So yeah, we were disappointed with Thunderbird’s hotel food. 

Overall experience

Well, I couldn’t say I didn’t enjoy our trip at Thunderbird Rizal. After all, it was a complimentary day trip from my sister.

The things I loved about the resort:
-        - Its location high up in the Sierra Madre which gives a breathtaking view of Manila and Laguna de Bay
-       -  I love how green the surrounding is! It was a serene sanctuary in the mountain
-      -  Outdoor jacuzzi was a plus since it was very relaxing dipping there
-      -  Free shuttle service to- and from- the resort

    The things I didn’t like:
-        - Poor customer service especially for gift certificate holders
-        - Food was blah! I have high expectations of hotel food and theirs was unacceptable considering the expensive prices in the menu.
-      - Pool was really small. Yes it was an infinity pool but swimming with 10+ people on a small pool was not enticing at all.
-      - There weren’t much anything to do on a daytour. Our activity consisted of alternatelty dipping in the pool and outdoor jacuzzi, eating, taking pictures, and observing people for the lack of other activities to do. If you’re not into casino and golf and you’re not staying overnight, Im not sure if it you would enjoy such limited activities.
-       - Limited facilities i.e. there was only one changing room and it was common..errr
-      - There was no lounge area four day tour guests. You have to spot yourself a place near the pool.

We were thinking maybe our whole stay would have been pleasantly different if we were not using a GC and we were staying overnight. If you want a vacay where you can just lock up yourself in the room and get catch some sunshine and fresh air, then maybe this resort is for you. But if you’re a type of person who wants to engage in fun activities during a vacay, then maybe not

How to get there
-   
They have free shuttle services in various pick-up points. Below is the schedule. It's kinda blurry though so you may also call their front desk to check the schedule.

Shuttle schedule

I’m really hoping that our experience will be totally different when we book ourselves at Thunderbird Resort - Poro Point in La Union in October. Thunderbird, please don't fail us :)

Contact information:

Thunderbird Resorts - Rizal
Eastridge Avenue
Binangonan, Rizal
Philippines 1940
Email: rizalreservations@thunderbird-asia.com
Tel. No.: (+632) 651.6888
Fax No.: (+632) 651.6893

*The views written here are entirely based on my experience. It shouldn’t be used as a basis to decide whether you will book at Thunderbird Resort – Rizal or not. Last time I checked, we are still a free country and we are entitled to our own views and opinions. Peace :) 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Philippine Travel Mart 2011

As I was browsing the net, I learned that the Philippine Travel Mart will be on September 2-4, 2011 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.



This year’s travel mart will feature Philippine’s travel and tourism industry from all over the country. I heard that that there around 200 booths of travel agencies, airlines, hotels. resorts, etc offering huge travel discounts. Really sounds tempting!!


I’ve been to the 2011 Philippine Travel Expo where we were able to score super discounted hotel rates from La Carmela de Boracay. See my full blog entry here

So I’m really looking forward to get more or less the same deal.  I’m marking my calendar! September 2-4 it is!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Long weekend plans

Finally, the much awaited four-day long weekend is coming. Since the Aquino administration, holidays are few to count so I think for everyone this long weekend is a big deal.

I plan to spend the weekend holiday within the metro. I’ve been really lessening my trips to save up., But have I really saved up? Haha well, that’s another story.

So anyways, I’ve been thinking what to do this long weekend aside from our planned day tour at Thunderbird Rizal.

Here are the some of things I've thought to keep me busy during the four-day weekend:

·         Do a spring cleaning of my room or better yet our whole condo. My room is not really in topsy-turvy since it’s being cleaned everyday. But I think I should sort my clothes and bags – to keep or donate. I wanna re-organize my drawer since it’s full of stash like documents, flyers, bill statements, and receipts..

·         Try a new recipe or make a really yummy dessert. Checking “10 Surprisingly Easy Dessert” from yummy.ph makes me want to cook something that would give me a toothache. hehe I’m a dessert person as you know.

No-bake turtle pie ice cream..sweeeet
·         ‘Pamper-me’ day at the salon. Need to have a haircut + hot oil, eyebrows trim, mani/pedi, footspa, and yeah I was thinking of trying out the spa at the ground floor of our condo. Massage for Php199. Why not?

Me want a footspa and foot massage

·         Movie+ dinner with Erick. I want to watch Final Destination 5 in theater. I was bugging Erick to watch this movie since I learned it will be shown in Manila, I'm gonna treat him to movie + dinner because he was a very good boyfriend for waiting for me while I was doing overtime work last week.



·         Just tonight, my dad called to confirm that he will be arriving on Monday next week after almost  11 months abroad. El Capitan will be home! He’s set to spend his Christmas here which is a very rare event in our family since he’s always on the ship when the holiday season comes. We have a lot of catching up to do J And yes, I hope we can go to Duty Free Philippines for pasalubong shopping. I am seriously eyeing on another Longchamp Le Pliage bag. I know i know..my new curry medium long handle is only a week-old. Lol

·         And yes, we’re set to have our day tour at Thunderbird Rizal. Thanks to my sister for the complimentary day tour tickets in exchange for something. Thanks sis! I'm looking forward to some R&R at Thunderbird. 


Thunderbird Resort Rizal

Infinity pool overlooking the mountains

Sounds like a very busy weekend for me. Less than 48 hours to go until weekend and I’m free. And we’re all finally free. How about you? What are your plans for the long weekend?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Epic Roadtrip to Majayjay Falls

So last weekend, I tagged along with Erick and his HP officemates Elyn, Jade, Joel, and Keith on a trip to Taytay Falls in Majayjay, Laguna. I haven’t been out for a while and I kinda missed the feeling of being on a trip. Erick initially told me that it’s going to be a hardcore roadtrip – as in no plan on hand but drive the owner-type jeep until we reach Majayjay. I knew that he was worried about me but I told him not to be a worrywart. I’ve been on trekking and camping trips which means I can survive with just the basics. 

We were supposed to meet around 10am in San Pedro but the guys were late and we left around 11ish bound to Majayjay. We met traffic in Calamba which made us hungry. Thank goodness it wasn’t really a hot day. Traffic and hot weather are not fun especially when you’re on a long travel.

Our first stopover was Iskargu in Calauan. It’s the restaurant of Jade’s tita. We arrived there past 12noon, just in time for lunch. The parking was full which means they must be serving good food. We immediately parked the jeep as soon as one car left.

Iskargu means isda, karne, gulay—which is a really unique name for a Filipino restaurant.
I liked the Filipino ambiance of Iskargu. As soon as I entered the place, I remembered KaLui’s Restaurant in Puerto Princesa, Palawan because of its Filipino-theme. You can see Filipino touches on the interiors. The tables, chairs, and floor are made of wood and the rest of the restaurant was made of native products like nipa, sawali, etc. The windows are big and open which gives you a perfect and very refreshing view of the rice fields. Ah, I miss the life in the province!

Refreshing view from our table
On our table. My top food picks from our lunch..


That's ginataang kuhol at pusit (snail and squid in coconut milk), nilagang baka, and laing (taro leaves). YUM. 

After our sumptuous lunch, we were back on the road again. We headed to Majayjay which is more or less a 1.5-hour drive. We passed by different towns like Nagcarlan, Liliw, Sta Cruz, and then finally Majayjay. We didn’t expect that it was such a long drive from Calauan. So we occupied ourselves by telling stories and taking pictures of the sceneries along the way.


Our journey to Majayjay consisted of driving in almost deserted roads, passing by sleepy towns, and appreciating the rustic life. 

After passing through countless sharp curves and having numeorus “are-we-there-yet”moments, we finally arrived in Majayjay. I thought that Majayjay was the name of the falls. It was actually the name of the town where Taytay Falls is located. The name Majayjay came from the word “ma” which means more and “hay” which means sigh. So the town’s name, Majayjay, literally means more sighs because of its beautiful falls, I suppose.

Hay finally, Majayjay!
As we arrived in Taytay Falls, we paid Php30 entrance fee per head and then another Php30 for the parking fee. We started our short walk to the falls which lasted 10-15minutes I think. It was an easy trek because the path is already cemented and clear.

As we were nearing the waterfalls, we can hear the sound of it. It was very inviting and we could feel its cold spatter against our skin.


We immediately changed to our swimming clothes since it was already 3pm when we arrived there. After taking some pictures, we submerged in the freezing cold water…Brrrrrr. It took a few minutes before my body adjusted to the cold water temperature. 


Taytay Falls
HP team 
Our first falls trip. lol.
Falling with the falls :)
I am not a swimmer so I just stayed in the shallow area. Erick is always the adventurous one so he tried to swim near the falls.He seemed to liked it a lot. So just for the heck of it, I also tried to go near the falls. But that is the farthest that I can go with the help of Elyn and Joel.

Getting high at Majayjay
We enjoyed our time in the Taytay Falls. It was a short stay though. At 5pm, we decided to head back. We didn’t want to be driving in the dark.
We were back again at Iskargu for dinner. Yay! Another foodtrip J This time we had bulalo, talong sa gata, and papaitan which was my first time to try.. yes, seriously.

We also had yellow watermelon, honeydews, guava, and buko with young meat. Busog! Another sumptuous dinner care of Jade’s family. 


The aftermath..
Burp!
Iskargu’s food is a truly a comfort food – especially when you are tired because of the long drive and you’re craving for an appetizing food to fill your stomach. No wonder, they are always full. It was really a good meal not because it was free but it was simply one of the best home-cooked meals in the road.

Don't miss it!
So I must say that this day was a very pleasant one and the cheapest of them all. I only shelled out less than Php 500 for gas, snacks, and entrance fee. Super thanks to Jade and her family for feeding us lunch and dinner.. Yey!

FTW! Roadtrip, foodtrip, and adventure, and new friendships. As they say, it’s not the destination but the journey!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seasons Buffet at the Manila Pavilion Hotel

So finally, we were able to use our Ensogo vouchers for Seasons buffet at the Manila Pavilion. The deal was good for a lunch or dinner buffet for two and inclusive of unlimited fruit juices or iced tea.

Calling for reservations was easy breezy. We decided to go for dinner last night. And here’s our experience.

Ambiance

The entrance to the hotel restaurant wasn’t elegant nor grand but it was classy and intimate. Seasons Restaurant is near the hotel lobby and very easy to locate from the hotel entrance.

Seasons Resturant

We reserved our seats at 6pm and we were there promptly. We were ushered to a small private room where there are about ten small tables. Plus points for the ambiance!

Private dining room


Food

Seasons buffet’s wide array of international cuisine was such a gastronomic treat. They have four live buffet stations featuring appetizers, noodles, grill, and desserts. There are also stations for the main courses, meat, seafood, sushi, and a lot more.

For appetizers..

Cheese, bread, spring rolls, and salad

On the plate..

Shrimp overload -- tempura, shrimp salad, shrimp maki


Craving for pizza and pasta? Let the chef create your own pasta..

Pizza, pasta, and calzone


We had carbonara with bacon, shrimp, squid, and parmesan on top.


Pasta lovin'

For the main courses, you’ll never run out of options.

Pork, chicken, and meat viands

For meatarians, you’ll find pleasure in Season’s buffet meat selection. This is one my fave stations in the buffet : )

I personally loved the roasted lamb. I wish I came back for more of this. It was so tender and heavenly!

Oh my lamb!


The Australian beef was firm and well-roasted.

Aussie beef


Who can't say no to lechon? Although I was feeling very full when they served lechon in the buffet table, I just couldn’t ignore it.  This is the smallest lechon I’ve ever seen but one of the the crunchiest and tastiest. 

Baby lechon


There was also roasted duck which can be served with the meat only or wrapped in a spring roll wrapper. You can choose which one you prefer. We had the one in wrapper but quite honestly I missed the taste of the duck because of bland taste of the wrapper or possibly because of its small serving.

Roasted duck


The grilling station was one of the live stations where diners flocked. There are shrimp, squid, barbecue, pork, lamb, beef, chicken, and tuna. You can ask the chefs to grill them for you.

For grilling


On our plates...

Beef bbq and grilled squid and shrimp


Well quite honestly, I didn’t find the barbecue appetizing. It has a strong taste like it was over-marinated.

You can also find dimsum and sushi and tables.

Dimsum and sushi galore

This big tuna sashimi was one of the main attractions of the buffet. 

Tuna sashimi

And for desserts, be prepared to taste all of these.

Desserts galore

I noticed that most of their desserts are “kakanin” which was yummy also. But they improvised some, for example, you will find an ube halaya cake cut into slices but there also ube bite-sized sprinkled with sweets on top. I didn’t find truffles or chocolates or a choco fondue though. 

You can also ask the chefs to create your own version of crepe! You can choose from peach, mango, apple and strawberry with ice cream on top. 

Peach-mango-apple crepe with chocolate ice cream

Service

One thing I noticed with their staff is that they are really attentive to your needs and very courteous. From the time that we were ushered to our seats and during our dining time, we were treated very well. They refilled our drinks on time and made sure we had new plates every time we need one.

The chefs in the live cooking stations were also swift in providing our orders. If not, they made sure that the food is delivered to our tables.

Two thumbs up for the exceptional service!


Overall dining experience

Season buffet's international food selection was wide and impressive although there are some dishes which can be improved as I cited. I hope they put the names of the dishes served. Some of them didn’t have names, there were just illustrations of pork, chicken, beef signifying the viand. But our overall dining experience in Seasons was great. 


We had a great time at the Seasons, obviously!

Dining is a wonderful experience when you're with your loved one