So last 2019, before the pandemic, I brought my mom to Taiwan. After traveling alone for a few years, I thought of bringing my family along in my trips. Though one at a time at least I fulfill my plans of traveling with them.
Off we go to Taipei then!
In this first video, you see us fly from Manila to Taipei, Taiwan. We took separate planes, cause budget, to get there. She took an earlier Philippine Airlines flight and I had CebuPacific. Believe it or not, though, her flight was cheaper than mine! LOL!
She did wait for me a few hours at the airport since her flight is way earlier than mine, I on the other hand waited for several hours for my flight because I brought her to the airport. Both of us got a fair share of waiting, LOL! I did offer to send her to the hotel as soon as she arrives but she opted to wait instead.
It has been a year since I arrived back here in Manila from the US. Unfortunately, I can’t go back there yet since the embassy in Manila still is closed for B1/B2 applications. Yes, my visa expired already. It was such a bummer that I my trip didn’t go as planned because of this whole Covid thing, which I cannot stress enough to be taken seriously. Hence, I am not moving from my home.
Remembering all the hoops and uncertainties that I had to go through that time made me think, should I write something about it? I actually thought of writing about that process as a waste of time and would be of no value to anyone since it was constantly changing every, single, day.
I was hoping that time that the government will come up with a clear, easy-to-follow process. That way everyone can be compliant and avoid confusion especially in the airports where most of the action is.
Unluckily, the situation in the country has not gotten any better. Don’t ask why. So here I am a year later thinking maybe I should write about it. Maybe I should share `how I manage to stay on top of everything and come home in one piece.
My plan for the trip last 2020 was to land in Los Angeles, see a few sights then go visit my Aunt in North Carolina. After spending a couple of weeks, I intended to go to New York for a weekend. From New York, I wanted to fly to Mexico for the rest of my trip before flying back to Los Angeles and fly back to Manila.
Obviously, that didn’t happen since Covid did.
From The East Coast The West Coast
My plans for this trip only went as far as visiting my Aunt on the East Coast. New York was the epicenter of Covid in the US at that time. It was just plain stupid to push through.
From North Carolina, I flew back to Los Angeles. I chose to fly from OAJ rather than driving for hours going to Raleigh. The fares were dirt cheap as the number of passengers dwindled down because of the situation. Flight fares from OAJ or the Albert J Ellis Airport usually are expensive that a lot of people choose to drive to Raleigh instead. But like I said, the fares were so low that I just had to take advantage and save my relatives from the stressful drive.
Given the situation, I was expecting that my flight won’t be full especially that it is a small aircraft and that social distancing needs to be observed. The flight was full! I was a bit concerned but thank God my aunt gave me a bunch of face masks that she made! Amazingly, it seems that many passengers weren’t concerned about what’s going on. A lot of them weren’t even wearing masks.
I had a layover in Charlotte, N.C. It is a bigger airport where they aggregate passengers who then Fly out on another plane. Since it was a hub airport, it was filled more than the OAJ Airport. It was a bit uncomfortable seeing a crowd in the airport. I was also surprised that the plane taking me to Washington DC seemed to be full also.
Yes, it was a two-layover flight. But most of the flights were since there were not many people traveling at that time. So they had to shuttle and aggregate their passengers. It does make sense. From Washington DC it was a 6-hour flight to Los Angeles. It was tiring, honestly. Well at least I am already in LA, just a few days more and I will be back home. Or will I?
The Unexpected Angelino
I booked a hostel bed for a week near Hollywood Blvd at Hollywood Budget BnB GuestHome. I wanted to take photos of the nearby areas and the blvd. itself at night. I thought that it would be a nice addition to my portfolio. To my dismay when I arrived at the hostel, the manager told me that he was trying to contact me. To cut the story short (I’ll make another post for this) I think I was a victim of the bait and switch.
Anyways a few days before my scheduled flight, Philippine Airlines informed me that my flight is canceled. I had to decide quickly where to transfer. It was a no-brainer, I didn’t want to stay at that hostel. So I checked out my options using Booking.com, Airbnb, and Agoda. Booking.com and Airbnb gave me the best options.
I chose to book with Airbnb, though they failed me numerous times already. They had the best rates.
I tried to book the soonest available flight going back home. The soonest bookable flight though was a month later. So secretly with a happy heart, I booked my accommodation via Airbnb for a month! ^_^. I later thought that maybe it’s the universe telling me, “hey! you deserve to enjoy this trip even just for a bit! Stay for a while!”. Well, universe Thank You so much!
I honestly enjoyed living in Los Angeles. However, the reality is that it is not sustainable for me. I mean, my savings can support me for about a month or maybe two. Or maybe even rent out a cheap room. I know I can actually afford to live there, but of course, I have bills to pay in Manila and saving to build up. If I stay there, it’s just gonna go negative instead of saving.
Trying To Get Back
EVA Air was really good at communicating the status of my flight. However, because of the constantly changing and worsening situation at that time, I keep on getting bumped off my flight. I kept on rescheduling to the soonest flights but it got to a point where I couldn’t afford it anymore. Taiwan, where I was supposed to transit, was scheduled to lift the transit restrictions for foreigners way beyond my authorized stay in the US. I could apply to extend my stay, but that would cost me $500 and another month in the hostel is about $400. It was way beyond practical.
Since staying in Los Angeles and buying a new ticket cost the same, I decided to book a new one. I thought that since it is based in The Philippines, I won’t have any issues with transiting in case of changes arise. So I booked one for about the same price as the round trip ticket I initially bought.
I was extremely vigilant in making sure that my flight was going through. I always check my airline’s Facebook page and my email for any announcements.
On the eve of my scheduled flight, uncertainty was prevalent within our Facebook group. There’s this announcement on the airline’s page that all flights will be diverted to Cebu, but no communication has been sent. Most of us were speculating that our flight will be canceled. True enough, it was. Still no email from Philippine Airlines.
I tried calling customer service but they couldn’t give an answer.
Just Keep Trying
Several hours after speaking with the airline representative, I received an email that night. It said that my flight for June 20th is canceled! I was honestly confused about what to feel. Thank God I was able to put myself together. I called Philippine Airlines really early in the morning. It felt inconvenient since they should have just rescheduled us automatically rather than having us call them.
Anyways, I easily got through their lines. I think I was this guy’s first call. I asked about the scheduled flight that night for Cebu that I saw on their site. I was so ecstatic as he informed me that I got a slot for that night’s slot!
I quickly went back to my room and to fix my luggage. I also informed one of the house managers that I am no longer extending my stay.
Pre Flight Drama
I spent my last few hours in Los Angeles buying some stuff that I can bring back home. I thought that with everything that has been going on, it’s gonna be a while before I can come back.
With my bags locked, I booked an Uber to the airport around 5 PM. My flight was not until 10, but I am not taking any chances.
I thought that I am really early. Then I remembered that I am flying with fellow Filipinos. That means, getting to the airport hours before your flight is normal. Yeah, knowing how Filipinos are with their appointments; your know, Filipino time? We are extremely cautious with airports and flights. Needles to say, there was a long line of people trying to check-in already when I arrived.
Checking in was fine. The only struggle was staying in the line for more than an hour. It was awesome to be in the Facebook group. There was a lot of support from people in the same flight and for those who are still waiting to get their new slots.
As I reached the check-in counter, I placed my carefully balanced luggage on the scale. They asked me about my quarantine hotel reservation in Cebu and my ticket. It was easy, except for the long wait.
Flying Back To The Philippines
My flight boarded a bit later than scheduled. It was expected though. Having all these new protocols obviously can create confusion. So I try to stay patient.
Everyone was cooperative, no one trying to create drama.
Upon boarding the plane, I learned that it was a full flight. There was no social distancing. Well, unless you want to pay extra for it. I wasn’t complaining at that point. I just wanted to get home. So I kept my mask on as I have been.
The flight went as usual. They serve meals and drinks while on protective gear. Though hidden behind the new uniform they are wearing, you still feel the warmth of the PAL flight crew. It was such a comfort being taken cared of by Filipino Hospitality.
After a few hours of sleep and wake cycle, I finally heard the pilot announcing that we are about to arrive. The flight crew then prepared everyone for the touchdown. My heart was racing in excitement.
Quarantine In Cebu
Since we were one of the few first Non-Expats (Overseas Filipino Workers) arriving in the country, we were fortunate that our quarantine wasn’t really full-blown isolation. We just had to take a swab test and contain ourselves in our rooms until we receive the result of the test.
The initial batches of results came in just a few hours after we checked in. Mine didn’t arrive until the following day. The good thing about booking a quarantine-hotel is that they provide all meals.
It was quite nerve-racking when I was one of the few left without our results. I had to email and call people just to get my certificates. I do not understand why it was so disorganized. But that is how it was.
It was almost lunchtime when I received my certificates. The people at Eloisa Hotel were just awesome. They offered, without me asking, to print my certificates.
The only problem now is that my flight to Manila is not confirmed yet. As I said, nothing was clear with the procedures. They didn’t tell us if we have to book it ourselves or they’d (quarantine officers/PAL) be booking it for us. There was just not enough instruction given. Some of my co-passengers said that we can go to the airport and they will just let us in even without reservations. I doubted that. I also have huge luggage so I didn’t want to risk going there only to be turned away.
Some of the people who did go to the airport were accommodated as chance passengers, some just were not fortunate enough. Since I was already in Cebu, I thought of staying for maybe a week. But watching the news on the TV wasn’t sounding a bit optimistic. So I just stayed a couple of days more and flew back to Manila on a weekend.
Way Back Home
Finally, the day came. I stayed in an Airbnb just right off the airport for convenience. Believe me, though, it was not easy to find a hotel or Airbnb. Most of them were shut off or are asking for a minimum of one month’s stay. My bookings were canceled one after another. It was just frustrating because Airbnb didn’t do their part in making sure that their listings are actually active and accepting just like how it shows on their website.
Anyways, my flight back to Manila came and everything went smoothly at the airport. Everyone wore masks and face shields (which I still disapprove of). I also bought some chocolates at the Mactan Airport, cause I ate many of the ones I bought at Ralph’s in LA! lol!
My brother picked me up, he was way too late. I was the only one at the airport that seem to be ghost town-like. But then I am grateful. This is the first time someone is picking me up. No one ever offered and I don’t want to be an imposition.
So there, that was how challenging getting home at that time was. I was just thankful that I got home before my authorized stay expired. Getting stuck in Los Angeles was also bearable because of the people I met in the hostel. I hope I get to meet them again in the future.
As of this writing, things have been complicated already. The government seems not to know how to go with their quarantine policies. Vaccines are already rolling out, albeit, not enough for everyone. At least though we are moving. I also hope that traveling across provinces, regions or localities would be standardized. They do allow movement for the most part. However, learning how complicated it gets to visit other places makes you just want to give up your plans.
Till the next time, we actually get to travel. I hope soon before I go insane.
It was my first time in Los Angeles in more than a decade. Things have changed since, of course, and I was pretty confused about how I can get to Hollywood where my hostel is. I really didn’t research how I could get out of the airport, to be honest. I was feeling a bit adventurous and confident at the same time. I felt like I should know this, this feels like home. It was challenging. I learned things the hard way, but that was fun no regrets at all. So let me share with you the ways I found how to get out of LAX.
Booking Uber isn’t really a convenient straightforward option for LAX. You will have to get to the pickup area where all ride-sharing cars take riders. To get there, take the shuttle bus that circles around all the terminals and brings passengers to the pickup point. I paid about 60 USD from LAX to my Hollywood hostel. Also, carpooling with other passengers is disabled if you are coming from the airport.
Taxis are also found at the pickup point which they fondly call LAX-it, maybe it’s like a play of word from Exit? I don’t really know. Again you can take the shuttle or maybe walk if you don’t have any luggage. It’s just right beside terminal 1. Flag down for taxis as of writing is $2.50, I found something online though that says they can service you for about less than $50.
If you have a number of bags and luggage, and putting them on a bus tugging them to LAXit is just unimaginable, you might want to hire a private car for yourself. They can just simply wait you at the parking and pull out to pick you up at your terminal when you are ready. There’s a good number of private cars that you can hire, but of course it’s gonna cost more comparing it to Uber or Lyft.
The cheapest way though to get out of LAX though is via the LAX Flyaway bus. It shuttles passengers from LAX to Union Station in DTLA (downtown L.A.) for just $9.75. From there it’s around $11 to Hollywood.
Keep in mind though that the bus, like I said, is a shuttle. it does not make any stop. So if you are going to nearby neighborhoods such as Inglewood, where I first stayed, it would be best to just either hire a car or, book an Uber or Lyft.
Got better ideas how to get out of LAX? Share it with everyone in the comments section!
So I am writing this during the time of the Corona Virus Pandemic that originated from China. Whew, that sounds biblical! Anyways it is those times and almost no one is reading about travel. Why? coz no one is able to travel leisurely at the moment as borders of countries closed up because of the virus. So I thought to share a quick tour we did around Siem Reap a couple of years back when I kidnapped my dad on a 14 day Indochina Trip.
Anyways I just want to share with you some places that you can go around Siem Reap on days that you are not raiding the Angkor Wat complex. These are pretty much free locations that you can spend time and wander.
1. Prom Rath Pagoda
One of the important pagodas in Siem Reap, the Wat Prom Rath Pagoda features a sculpture garden that depicts Buddha’s journey to nirvana. Inside the temple, the inner side of the walls exhibits a mural of Buddha’s life from birth to death. A very interesting place to learn more about Buddhism.
2. Pub Street
Siem Reaps most famous street. Drown yourselves to 50 cent beers and dance the entire night with wonderful people (well mostly white lol) from all over the world!
3. Angkor Arts Market
Cambodia is just full of talented people, especially with visual arts. Just look at the Angkor Wat. The Angkor Night Art Market is one place that you can visit, just right across the Siem Reap river to find authentic Cambodian arts and handicrafts.
4. Apsara Dancers
There are quite a few restaurants in Siem Reap that have shows showing traditional Cambodian culture. We dined at Koulen Restaurant. They charge $12 for adults and $6 for children. It includes a buffet and a cultural show. The show consists of some traditional dances and Apsara Dancers. Apsara is the ancient ballet dance of the Khmer empire. The buffet at this restaurant isn’t really the best. However, since we came there for the show it wasn’t so bad at all. There are other restaurants that offer the same, with good food selection and great deserts. For sure you can find one that would fit your budget.
5. Preach Ang Chek
A small temple by the Royal Independence gardens. Preach Ang Chek is said to be a shrine for 2 Angkorian princess. The statues were moved around the city until it found it’s current place in 1990. I like the open layout of the shrine where people can freely walk in and out. You can also see the statues from the outside. The trees at the adjacent parking lot also houses a cool group of animals. If you look up and stare just long enough, you will notice that the black things hanging at the top are not part of the trees but are actually huge flying foxes!
Los Angeles is one of my favorite cities in the world. I’ve always thought of spending a lot of time in LA meeting new friends and just enjoying the city by the sea. It may be because of too much TV but Los Angeles really has never lost its charm to me. So, let me share with you 7 things I really love about Los Angeles I realized on my last visit to the city.
Eons ago, lol, when I was a kid I used to always watch Baywatch. Yes, that bikini running, David Hasselhoff starring hot hot hot show shot in California. I’ve always fantasized about having an amazing body with six-pack abs and just walk shirtless at Venice Beach. Spoiler alert: didn’t happen. LOL. But that fantasy also has given me the fondness of living near the beach. A few years back, I even attempted relocating at Subic Bay, though I horribly failed, at least I tried. I also just bought a plot of land near the beach in Batangas! Anyways, I am getting a bit off the topic. L.A.’s beaches is absolutely #1 on my list because of that.
LA’s (and its nearby Orange County) beaches are absolutely picturesque. Not just Venice, Dockweiler and Manhattan beaches, but if you go down south at Huntington Beach it just gets better. I absolutely love the beach culture of LA. How people respect other people’s rift with their beach thing. It’s just awesome. The sand may not be as fine as Boracay but it’s just the culture that makes it so different and beautiful.
Everything Has Labels
Way back in early 2019 I weighed about 70kg, I’m 5’6″ so I was pretty thin. I’ll put a photo below for those who can’t imagine how thin I was. I gained weight towards the end of that year and through 2020 due to many factors. It was really a struggle to watch what I was eating when I was staying with my aunt in North Carolina. I mean, how can I say no to the awesome food my aunt and uncle cook every single day!
When I moved to Los Angeles after a couple of months with them, I was able to watch what I eat since I buy my own food. I buy my food good for a few days from the neighborhood grocery, Ralph’s. The best thing about doing grocery is that there are labels on how many calories each serving of food there is. I can just mix and match without worrying about exceeding my daily caloric intake targets!
Amen to ZERO Calories!
Mix and matchin’ my proteins for dinner.
The first time I was in Los Angeles, was ages ago. At that time, we were pretty much confined to the house and hotel where we were staying at. I was too young, didn’t had a car, and didn’t know how to drive. Public transportation at that time was next to inexistent. Don’t even ask about Uber or Lyft when computers back then, were still running on WindowsXp. Today, Los Angeles may not have a metro system as fancy as the big cities but their buses do run 24 hours. Paying the fare is also really easy, just get yourself one of the metro cards that you tap in and out. The local train-bus network even reaches as far as Huntington Beach, Anaheim and New Port or even farther. They will get you to where you need to be. A bit of warning though, they don’t smell that good especially the train. LOL.
Many of us are under the impression that the US is an expensive country to travel to. That’s somewhat true. However, if you try to be a thrifty traveler and focus on the things that really matter to you grocery stores are a great place to get your supplies! I was stranded lived in LA’s Korea Town for a little over a month. And a couple of blocks off from my hostel is Ralph’s. This grocery store, which I think is owned by Kroger, has almost anything that you need, including a bank! I could always go to Ralph’s at any time of the day (it is open 24 hours) and pick up one of the zero-calorie iced teas whenever I am craving for it. They have baked goods, flowers, a pharmacy, eye clinic, meat, and poultry section, it was a really well round-off store. So next time especially when you are on long-term travel in California or anywhere, do not forget to give the groceries in your neighborhood a visit. my local Ralph’s store in Korea Town. (screenshot from google maps)
Los Angeles is just overflowing with great talent. This city will truly change you and affect you especially if you are a creative person. I myself, though not a truly creative person, felt this effect when I lived there for a short while. Since I was living in a hostel, I met so many people trying to make it out there in Hollywood. There were actors, musicians, and visual artists. I especially got involved in a creative project with a rap artist called LateAfter. I was honestly reluctant and doubtful to say yes. I only had a cheap Sony A5000 camera and a gimbal for my travel Vlog. But yeah he saw so insistent that I just said yes to it. I tell you it was something that I could have not experienced if I did not meet people that are artists like LateAfter8. Here’s the video we shot that night.
If you are someone from a country who, like The Philippines, taxes two to three times the price from the country that Export it. So buying straight from the source and bringing it back to your home country as personal property (as it actually is) saves you a lot of money. Imagine I got a Surface Pro 4 from Amazon for just about bought my dad a cool soundbox for $99!
With its population made up of at least 59% Latino, Los Angeles is an awesome place to taste authentic Mexican food. I lived in Korea Town for a little over a month. My favorite place to go to for some late snacking was at W 8th and Irolo. I discovered the area on one of my few exploration walks in the neighborhood. I found a bunch of small Mexican food stalls that set up late in the afternoon, just in time for the workers going home to buy food. Oblivious if the prices were cheap considering that this is Los Angeles, I asked one of my hostel friends. She said that $5 for street food was pretty cheap already. Throughout Los Angeles, you will find many places with trucks and stalls that offer Mexican food. If you, however, are the restaurant type; expect to pay more for your food plus tips!
Real taquitos baby!
One of the Mexican Food Trucks in my neighborhood.
My mom had left for Manila already and we’ve checked out of Ximen Wow Hostel. I wanted to extend my stay there but they were fully booked that night. Again I am off to find a new place to stay before I check in to the Airbnb room I booked.
I searched for good cheap hostels near Ximending, I thought that it was a good opportunity to hostel hop and experience other places. There were a few hostels that came up while filtering through good prices. In the end, though, there were two that peaked my list. They were Cavemen Backpacker Hostel and NEOSOHO. Their price really just differed for about $1-$2, so it was up to the reviews for me to decide. Reading through, Cavemen Backpackers appears to be better as it is newer than the latter. I also read some issues about how the hostel smells old so I thought, heck it’s just a dollar more so I went with Cavemen Backpackers.
It was kinda difficult to find the actual building at first. The sign was small so it was easy to miss. I actually passed by the building on my first attempt to find it. I consulted google maps and it shows that I was actually standing right off the building. So I asked the doorman on the building in front of me. I was directed to the next building where a small signage was.
Cavemen Backpackers is just about 200 meters from the nearest Taipei Main Station entrance. It is also near Coffee Alley where you can find good restaurants and coffee shops to hang out. If you are a Museum geek, this will also work for you as it is just walking distance from the Taiwan Nation Museum. Other attractions near the hostel are the Peace Park and the Presidential Palace. Ximending, if you are up to walking, can be reached at just about 900 meters from the hostel.
If you are arriving late at night via bus at Taipei Main Station from the airport, you can just walk up to the hostel, no need to take a cab. If you are a night owl, I am not quite sure that you’ll like the night scene in this area. Also, though it is near a Taipei Main Station entrance, keep in mind that Taipei Main is huge and that you have lots of walking to do inside the station to get to the platforms itself.
Cavemen Backpackers has a central bathroom with multiple toilets and shower stalls. One for each gender. It really feels like a big college dorm if you will. I find it clean and airy as it is located at the end of the hostel. The hostel also has a laundry room that you can operate with Taiwan dollar coins just a room away from the shower area.
The reception area is well lit and open as you get off the elevator and on to the glass doors. Adjacent to the reception is a huge working and lounge area. There are tables and chairs that are comfortable enough to work on for hours.
The hostel has a spacious area where you can lounge. They had tables where you can work or eat food. The entire area is well lit and the temperature was just right.
I arrived earlier than my check-in time so I comfortably lounge at the common area. I actually fell asleep while waiting for my bed to be ready.
Overall I feel that Cavemen Backpackers hostel is a good buy. The facilities are clean and the location is not that far from the Taipei Main Station. There are good places to eat and hang out. The only thing that I think is a low for the hostel is that it feels a little too sterile. I didn’t feel the right energy of a youth hostel. I’d say that its a good place to stay for a night or two. If you are planning to stay long term, you might want to reconsider another place somewhere like in Ximending.
It’s my 5th time in Taiwan, this time I am bringing my mom to see my favorite city in Asia. Like you guys know I love staying in hostels, that aside from the fact that hotels in Taipei can be a bit off of my budget. Knowing that it is spring, I understand that it can be difficult to book accommodations in the city. I tried booking my favorite hostel, Wow Hostel Ximen, for the entire duration of our trip but they were just full on our first two days.
I had no choice but to find another one. I remembered booking a different hostel for my cousin about a year ago when they visited. I checked them out at Booking.Com my go-to site in searching and reserving accommodations every time I travel. Searching for Ximen Corner Hostel I found that they have available beds in their dorm rooms on the days we need. I’ve seen the place before since I booked my cousin there so I didn’t hesitate to reserve beds there for our first two days.
We arrived during the wee time in the morning. Hostels usually do not staff their receptions during these times to save. It is common that they would just give you instructions so that you can check in your self to your room. To my amazement, Ximen Corner Hostel had someone waiting for us to check in, in the reception. Again this is 3 AM in the morning!
The lady was so pleasant and helpful, especially that my mom has a disability. She helped me carry our luggage to our rooms so we can settle. She gave us a quick tour of the hostel showing us where we can get breakfast, where the lounge is and other facilities that we may need during our stay.
Tired as we are, we decided to call it a day and just take a good night sleep. Waking up, breakfast was served at a corner of the hallway near where the water dispenser is. Breakfast was your typical bread, butter, and jam. It was just a bit disappointing because they didn’t have good mugs to fix your coffee on. Instead, they provide paper cups that are a bit small for a good mug of coffee to start my day. I really don’t expect much with hostel breakfasts especially that they are cheaper than normal hotels. I know that Ximen Corner Hostel is cheaper by about a couple of hundred NT$ compared to my first choice, but I still think breakfast could have been better. Also, coffee is limited to breakfast that ends at about 10 AM. There are no free beverage options after that.
that little nook in the hallway where they serve breakfast
The beds are comfortable enough to sleep soundly. Each bed is configured to provide privacy with the curtains and dividers between beds. It was comfortable enough for me, I could say to the extent that it is better than most of what I have seen in Southeast Asia. The Rooms are big and the temperature is on the comfortable to the cold side which I like. I say that it’s comfortable because it does provide a warmer temperature compared outside during winter but it’s not hot as if you will sweat.
Ximen Corner Hostel’s location is superb. It is accessible to both the main road and the walking street. Our taxi dropped us off just a few meters away from the hostel which is great since my mom would have to navigate less of the uneven alley. During day time, the hostel is just a few steps away from the walking street and my favorite food shop in Ximending, Hot Star. It is also near other food stores like Yoshinoya and KFC if you want something familiar to your palate. Ximen Corner Hostel is also about fifty to a hundred meters away from the Ximending MRT station which will be really helpful especially if you plan to do most of your tours DIY style.
Ximen Corner Hostel has good facilities that will cater to your travel needs. They have a really helpful reception that can provide you information on how to get to your destinations. Their rooms are all equipped with bathrooms so you do not have to go out to take a shower or use the toilet. You can also lounge around their common room that has comfortable sofas where you can hang out with your friends. You can also buy a token at the reception and battle with your friends on their nostalgic arcade game machines. The hostel also provides water for free for the entire day, coffee though is only available during breakfast. I am not sure if they have laundry services, I did not see any during my stay.
Edit: I recently found out that they do have laundry service.
Having my mom with me gave me a good opportunity to see how accessible this hostel is for people with disabilities. Ximen Corner Hostel is pretty accessible from the outside as the building from the alley has a small ramp to accommodate wheeled chairs. The elevator going up to their floor also has buttons low enough for PWDs to reach. Also when the elevators are accessed via this button, the door closes slower than usual giving enough time for PWDs to come in or out of the car.
Coming into the reception was hassle free as the car aligns really well to the floor. After checking in we proceeded to our rooms. the hallways are nice and wide. Then on to the room is where we face some issues and here’s where my mom starts to complain. The entrances are elevated from the hallway floor so you would have to take a step up to get in, and then another step to go down to the room floor. So if you are on a wheelchair it will be difficult if not impossible to get into the room and the bathroom
What I Think About Ximen Corner Hostel
As a backpacker, I’d say that Ximen Corner Hostel offers a really good value for your buck. Affordable price that gives a good bed, a comfortable environment, and a pretty hip style hostel. The staff here are also extremely helpful and friendly, they actually transferred my mom to my room which was more expensive than the all girls room at no additional cost. If you are really trying to save I’d say this is the best one for you.
The things that I didn’t like about this hostel though is that there are no windows. The hostel is housed in a commercial building with a few floors turned into hostels. Also, coffee or tea isn’t available the entire day which could have been awesome. As for my mom, if you are a PWD, we’d recommend you check out other hostels. Accessibility to each room is just bad for wheeled people. However, if you are on crutches you will still manage to go around, as its just the entrances to the rooms that are elevated from the hallway floor.
If you are considering checking out other hostels check out my review of other Taipei Hostels Below
A lot of us travel for food, some travel for seeing sights and some travel to experience the World. But all of this comes down to one thing we all want to create memories. How else do we commonly hold on to these memories? Photographs. As many millennials now say; It didn’t happen if it isn’t in a picture.
For sure almost all of us have that easy access to phone cameras closely kept near us. As they say, the best camera you can have is the one you have right now. Quite possibly if you really like taking photos a lot you might have a digital camera and if you are quite serious about it may be a DSLR. But no matter how good or bad your camera is, knowing some techniques on how to shoot can only make your photos looks better.
So here are 5 techniques that I use when taking photos while on the road.
1. The Big Picture
While it is awesome to take photos of and with friends, you can still make it better by showing a bigger picture. instead of taking a tight shot, try showing more of your surroundings, where you are at the moment or maybe a landmark. It doesn’t also have to just with group photos, you can also use this technique with solo photos.
As shown below the first photo does show the subject clearly but it doesn’t tell much about the trip. Comparing shots, the second photo shows the subject and where he currently was. It shows the trains that are evidently Disney themed giving whoever is viewing the photo an idea that I am in the Disneyland Station.
This picture was taken by my dad. It does show me clearly, but it doesn’t give the viewer a clue on where I am at the moment. This photo could have been taken at the mall due to the way it looks like.
This photo, on the other hand, this photo suggests that this was taken in the Disney Train station as evidenced by the Disney themed trains at the back of the subject
2. Eliminate The Crowd
We all have that idea of a picture perfect place with no crowds at all. Reality though is, these picture-perfect places are full of tourist. Still a photo without any stranger in it could be amazing. If you are a techie person and knows a little Photoshop, you can take several photos and use the median function of the software.
But if you’re not even a photo enthusiast and you just want to take a good photo with your phone, you can actually do this trick. Change the angle of your photo. Crowds, of course, are always at eye level. Eliminate strangers from your photo by taking a photo from a lower level putting your subject above you avoiding the eye level where the crowds are.
See how on the first photo shows the huge crowd in the area. Then just by looking for an interesting background and a good angle, the image drastically improves as shown on the next two photos.
3. Use Objects As Frames
Putting the focus on your subject such as your self is crucial to a good photo. If there are too many things happening around the subject it is best to put some sort of frame around them to draw the viewer (who ever is looking at the photo) to the subject of your photo.
In this photo, I used the towers to frame my subject. The foreground with the detail of the tower we were in and the background with the tower adjacent to us. This eliminated much the view of much of the buildings surrounding us. Note that I used a mobile phone only (Asus Zenfone 5) to capture this image. With the right composition, you can capture Instagram worthy photographs with minimal equipment.
On this photo, I used the towering greeneries of the tries to frame the Angkor Wat. I noticed that the tree tops had this distinct divide while it also somewhat follows the curves of the prangs of the temple, so I took advantage and used them as a frame.
4. Create a story
shoot series of photos that will tell what happened on your trip, show what happened when people’s reactions when food was served to them and when they first tasted the dish. It wouldn’t hurt to take as much photo as you can, but also be conscious of your intention to create a story. Take an establishing shot showing the location, then maybe a shot that shows the situation then maybe a photo or two of the event that happened and the people’s reaction.
5. Capture Moments
Candid shots are great in keeping memories. Though it is difficult to know when great surprises can happen, it is not impossible to accomplish. Moments are not limited to candid events though, always have your cameras ready for things like your dad’s first time holding a snake. Don’t be afraid to take lots of photos or even take pictures in burst mode capturing all emotions on their faces.
I’ve arrived at Skyline Seven Backpackers late that night and was welcomed by a guy. I had this weird feeling about the place, like something was missing. I though that hmm… maybe its just me. Earlier that day, I was trying to book online but my I was having trouble with my card. So I call their number and asked if I could just walk in at the property. Some one replied and yeah they said that it was fine.
I arrived late at night and checked in. I shown to my bed and I just put my bag on the bed then set up my work station at the dinning hall.
I booked a single bed in a dorm room. The room smelled okay for me. I knew that it was an old house and old houses have this distinct smell. So no complaints about that. The dorm room I was in had about six single beds, no bunk beds here so wiggly beds when someone gets off from the top! Basic bed setup was with linens and a warm blanket. Note though, there are no room heaters here, man, the cold weather is what people come here for!!!
Just like the usual hostel set up, the bathroom is shared and is outside the room. I think they have a couple of room with ensuite bathrooms and that is it. See this hostel is actually an old house turned into something productive such as this hostel. Just saying, to set your expectations.
What I Like
Cheap – Yes, it is cheap but not that place that feels like you are poor and didn’t have a choice but to take it. It is more of value for your money kind of place.
Good Location – Located at the Military Cutoff road, it is just about several hundred meters away from SM Baguio
Breakfast – Simple breakfast; Bread, jams, and coffee.
Internet – The best internet connection I could find in Baguio.
There was no water in the common CR when I tried to use it around 3 am (don’t judge, I work at night. Haha!). I later found out that the hostel actually didn’t have a water line! Since it was an old house, its water supply is actually rationed and stored at their tanks. Unfortunately, they had a situation with their staff and had to replace them. Anyways, hopefully, that has been sorted out already.
Who Can I Recommend This For?
I’d say this is one of the few places that I’ve been to around the Philippines where the internet really works! Digital nomads would love to work here. The speeds aren’t lightning fast like our neighbor southeast Asian countries but I’d say its one of the most decent. During my visit speedtest.net gave these numbers when I ran their app.