Category Archives: Accommodation

The multifaceted city of Taipei

I arrived at Taipei at the dead of night, a timing I am used to as there seems to be a correlation between cheap airfares and late night arrivals . I got some money out of the cash machine, made sure I had the Chinese Characters of the hotel, grabbed a cab and showed the driver my destination.   Less than hour later, I am in front of my hotel, on an empty street in the city of New Taipei.

New Taipei at the dead of night
New Taipei at the dead of night

I stayed at  Lion Hotel, which at  5 minutes walk  to Fuhzong subway station makes it practical despite its distance from  Taipei city centre.  The subway  trains in Taipei are spacious and clean, and to me its comfort level even at rush-hour is still acceptable. You can take 1–day, 2–day, 3–days and 5–days ticket from any station, explaining this to the ticket vendor is half the adventure :). Some English and sign language will do!

Fuzhong subway platform
Fuzhong subway platform

Continue reading The multifaceted city of Taipei

Arka Barka Hostel

I’m staying on a floating hostel which is really nice. You can feel the barge float and swing at night when there is strong wind, but it  is actually quite relaxing. You live pretty much in the city but it doesn’t feel like it. I’m staying at Arka Barka hostel in Belgrade, Serbia

 

Address:

Floating Hostel Arkabarka

Bulevar Nikole Tesle

Београд 11070

Serbia

Excelsior Grand Hotel, Malta

Conveniently located at 5  to 10 minutes walk to Valetta’s main gate( Ask the concierge for the short-cut) and bus terminal, the hotel offers resort-like features like Spa, Pool and Mini-beach. The hotel is quite a big, there were a lot of people during my stay but I never felt it was too crowded. Save perhaps during check-in, I had to wait 30 minutes to avail of my room after official check-in time.

I recommend this hotel for families, couples and History buffs ( you’re literally with the bastions of Valetta). The pool is quite grand and the setting is beautiful. You and your kids would definitely find something to appreciate here. You have a good choice of restaurants with Valetta centre just minutes away.

The hotel has a private Marina, and I have to say that I enjoyed my night promenades by the sea, the complex is quite big!

The room that I had was big, clean and convenient, though some would find the room design a bit dated. One thing which is odd is that you have to order what you want in the mini-bar in advance. I think that defeats the purpose of the mini-bar, which is to have standard drinks and food without moments notice.

During my 5 day stay what I really have to note is the hospitality of the staff, they have made my stay quite enjoyable. They’ve been really professional, I didn’t experience any faux pas from their behalf.

Note: I didn’t give 5 star to the Spa as you have to pay extra for the Sauna and the Steam bath.

 

 

Address:

  Great Siege Road, Valletta, Island of Malta FRN1810, Malta

Accommodation Type: *****

Moevenpick Hotel Gammarth Tunis – A nice hotel to relax in la Marsa

The hotel is right at the edge of the public beach front of la Marsa but it has got a private beach. The Hamam/Spa facilities are top notch and it’s good that it’s free for hotel guests.

The only issue I had was its location — you’ll need a taxi to go to other interesting spots around Tunis. The room, I had was not big but it had all the amenities one should expect from a hotel of this standing.

There weren’t many guests when I was there (May 20)… but that for me is a big +

Address: Avenue Taieb Mhiri BP 36, La Marsa 2078, Tunisia 

Accommodation Type: *****

From Manila to Batad

 

I’ve just been to Batad last month, and I have to say that it definitely is high on my list of most rewarding places to visit. The rice terraces, built over 2 thousands years ago, stands as  testimony to man’s ingenuity in converting barren land into such fertile ground. The effort to reach this remote place is part of the reason why the visit is rewarding: it is half a day’s trip from Manila, you have to hike at least 45 minutes to reach it– Saddle point is the furtherest point that vehicles can go towards Batad.  Beyond it, you’d be really lucky to have a network on your mobile phone, but who needs a network when you can get away from it all and go back to the basics. It is such a rewarding experience to stay  overnight and wakeup to the sound of Roosters in the absence of cars and jeepneys so prevalent in Manila. Batad is of course not the only village with rice terraces, but it’s the one with the most consistent stone-wall structure; the amphitheatre-like arrangement of  its terraces is quite simply stunning.

Hiking around Batad

Here is a link to a website which can help you plan your trip to Batad (Our Awesome Planet). You’ll have info on the different options to reach Saddle point from Banaue. Another option is by joining organised tour from Manila like those done by trailadventours(Filipino trek company) and international tour companies like Intrepid and  Gap(it doesn’t come cheap for these two as they only offer 2 weeks travel to the Philippines …on  Western prices of course).

Note that Ohayami trans(+639175060817)  is now the only bus company that services the Manila-Banaue route.  Do reserve your ticket a day in advance as there are only 2 daily buses that ply this route. Both leave Manila on the  Corner of J. Fajardo and A.H. Lacson in Sampaloc, at 9 and 10PM respectively.

Bring a sweat shirt and a blanket as the bus is a moving freezer. Don’t pack too much stuff on your bag, you will have to hike in and out of Batad.

Afraid of heights?

Going to Batad from the Saddle point is not an issue if you are afraid of heights. However treks to other villages from Batad could be challenging:  the trek from Batad to Cambulo for one has a few passages where you have to pass by rice terrace ridges where you have rice field on one side and a cliff on the other.

It is good that most of the ridges are at least half a meter wide. I am told this is not the case for other hikes. For this reason, do get a guide when deciding to hike to other villages from Batad. Ask the guide how he handles situations where the client has fear of heights. He could for example propose that you hold on to his rucksack as you walk through narrow ridges. The guide can also provide you with a walking stick: this sure helped me for my balance.

It costs around 1,300 PHP to hire the service of a guide for a day(for 5 people I believe), a small cost for your safety.  It is better to hire a guide in Batad than in Banaue, it is good to support those who live in the remote areas, and of course the local guides would know their area better.

Lodging:

Normally you don’t need prior reservation for lodging in Batad, I am trying to search the internet for contact info… to no avail. We didn’t reserve anything and just organised on our arrival at Batad. The Lonely Planet suggests Simon’s place for the best viewpoint. We stayed at a native cottage(no nails) at  Ramon’s homestay. Ramon is very friendly, I am told he is a respected individual in the community.

The native hut, had six beds, you could rent the hut for 1200 PHP or share the cost with other people who are willing to share accommodation with you.

Enjoy Batad!… And as they say… it is more fun in the Philippines!