Other Grandeur Travelers.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hotel Muse: a blogger's inspiration in Bangkok.

These days, it's either I am too tired or too busy to write anything for my blog. I travel but I never end up putting that experience into words. I wanted to break that cycle this holiday season.

When I find a good opening (meaning regular or long weekends with no patients), I always think of quick places to visit. Since my Philippine airlines (PAL) membership only needed a few thousand miles to reach the next level (I missed it by 1,000 last year), I figured I would fly out of the country for my birthday. Out of all the PAL destinations, Bangkok seemed to be practical since the exchange rate was good and the flight would be shorter.

When I last visited, I was living a pseudo-backpacker lifestyle--a time of reckless abandon, youth and adventure. I had not been back to Asia's City of Smiles in four years. My hedonistic needs were not the center of my traveling. As I grew  though, my taste in travel evolved. I loved the idea of staying in hostels or inns before but now, a nice luxury hotel has been standard in my travels.

I wanted to stay in a hotel that would stimulate my senses and inspire me to keep on writing. I was in search of a muse and I found one in Bangkok: Hotel Muse, a luxury boutique hotel in Langsuan. Hotel Muse, a member of the M Gallery group by Le Club Accorhotels couldn't have been more perfect for our short vacation. 
Hotel Muse has dark and romantic interiors, inspired by the King Rama V era of Thailand and end of the century Europe (fin de siecle). The design is the right combination of opulence and cosmopolitan chic. There is a seamless blending of the East and the west, the elements of Old Siam and 18 to 19th century France. Its unique concept invites you to a world of pure indulgence.

Hotel muse revolves around its core: Occidental, Oriental, and all things opulent.  The hotel is located in Bangkok's most sought-after residential district Langsuan, which is only a short walk to the city's biggest park - Lumpini Park (Think Central Park). If you want to use the public transportation, the city's skytrain is also conveniently located near the hotel. Its quiet neighborhood would be appealing for individuals who do not enjoy seeing crowds of tourist that flock Bangkok everyday.

As soon as you step inside, it feels like you are entering your own apartment in France. It was how imagined my apartment would be like: Chic. Trendy. Modern. Sensual. Opulent. I was running out of adjectives to describe the hotel. The interiors exploded with Classic European design combined with subtle Asian motifs and decors.

I love the look of reception area and lobby. This is a weird description but if you could imagine  yourself in romantic haunted house ala Addams Family, it would look like this.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

South Korea: From Busan to Seoul in Four Days (Highlights)

"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind -Seneca

Less than a week of travel time would not exactly be ideal for anyone who wants to go around a country or even a city for that matter. These days though, a couple of free days will do for me. In this lifetime, beggars could not afford to be choosers. I am desperate to have any kind vacation (FYI, I am now a dermatology resident and believe me, it's not as easy as most people think is). For most of us who have the travel bug, I don't think there will ever be a cure for it. Symptoms may remain dormant for a while but it resurface sooner or later. It's only a matter of time.

After almost two months of training, a long weekend finally opened up. My only problem was choosing where I would go. As one of Asia's rising stars, South Korea's selling point as a weekend destination was strong.  Its proximity, rich history/culture, and bulgogi (my favorite!) were all good reasons to revisit the land where the Gangnam dance was born. And besides, I seriously could not afford to travel to countries more than 8 hours away.

I thought it could not be done but I was able to fix my papers and visa in less than 2 days. The following morning, I again found myself on board a plane to Busan, South Korea via our national flag carrier, Philippine Airlines. Busan was our jump-off point for this trip like last year. From there, it was a four-day journey to most of Korea's provinces and major cities all the way to Seoul.

Here were some of the highlights:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Devarana Spa (Dusit Manila): Garden in Heaven

Devarana Spa of Dusit Thani Manila brings something different to whole spa experience. The award winning spa (Platinum Winner: Spa of the Year and Signature Spa Experience, Regional Series. Hospitality Asia Platinum Awarsds 211-2013) has started a series of holistic health prevention programs that would be perfect for the sudden and erratic weather changes.

Devarana has a dramatic way of welcoming you to a world of pampering and relaxation. The main entrance, with its water features and foyer, already leads you to a private sanctuary in the busy district of Makati.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Villa Del Conte: A Life dipped in Chocolates

"The pleasure of tasting traditional, authentic Italian chocolates; the pleasure of being able to choose from a vast selection of rich flavors and exciting tastes; the pleasure of communicating friendship, love and affection; the pleasure of sharing a bite and sharing a moment- these are the pleasures that our products bring." - Villa del Conte

This post is not exactly-travel related but it is about one of the things that makes me happy lately: Villa del Conte chocolates. Mind you, these are not your ordinary chocolates. Villa del Conte has a history spanning three generations. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quan Spa at the Marriott: An Urban Oasis for the Body, Mind, and Soul

In this country, I can't even remember how many SPAs I have visited but I know only a few would stand out when it comes to quality and service. There's a considerably big difference between a good SPA and an extraordinary SPA. Michelle Garcia, the Director of Marketing and Communications of Marriott Manila, asked me if I wanted to try the services at Quan Spa. My immediate answer was: "When's a good date?". Let's take the SPA experience to a whole new level.

Quan Spa is not your ordinary wellness and rejuvenation center. It is five star in all aspects. Its core revolves around the healing qualities of water. In Chinese, Quan literally means "a source of pure water". The unique appeal of Quan Spa is that even if it has an international branding, the spa embraces the local culture and traditions. The services are catered to the "needs" of the locals. 

The reception area is what you would expect from a modern day luxury spa - minimalist and easy on the all the senses. Here, you'll find the products used for the services on display. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Bali Pavilions: Villa Living at its Best

For all the hordes of tourists that visit Bali every year, Villa Living is more of the norm than the exception. With ease, this Balinese way of life for local residents and travelers has influenced the design elements and character of resorts around the globe, even here in our country. Having that in mind, we made sure that we got to experience the best of villa living for our 5-day vacation in the world's second best island. (T + L recently released that our own Boracay has topped the list).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Karma Beach Bali: One of Bali's Hidden Beaches (Bali Series)

Coming from the Philippines, my unreasonably high standards for beaches can turn out to be a burden sometimes. I know a good number of you could relate to this predicament. This leads to massive disappointment when I visit other island destinations. For Bali though, I became more realistic after asking some friends about its beaches. People have this notion that Bali has the same beaches as we do. The truth is, the island of the Gods is not known to have the beaches that we have grown to love. In fact, they are all from far from it. You won't find an abundance of dreamy white sands and crystal waters there. The Balinese beach culture mostly appeals to those who love riding the waves: Surfers. Wannabe Surfers. Or those who want to watch hot people surf.

However, no matter how discouraging the reviews of the beaches were, I still took it upon myself to see if Bali had a beach comparable or even better than ours. With that in mind, my quest to look for Bali's beach began. Fortunately, it was not too hard to find. I simply had to ask the right people.

When friends told me to visit this trip of beach on Bali's southernmost point, I conditioned my mind that this will be an "okay" beach". I said: " I'll be fine with that. Give me one white sandy beach and I'll be happy. I might not be able to stand seeing another temple in Bali."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

CUT by Wolfgang Puck (Singapore): It's all about the Steak

Celebrity restaurants, especially those with a huge following, are now a dime a dozen in major cities. When I was in Singapore, Joel Robuchon in Resorts World Sentosa was my first choice but after making an ocular, the restaurant gave the impression that it would be more ideal for a romantic date, wedding anniversary or engagement. Since I was taking one of my bestfriends, a relaxed and not-so-high-brow restaurant was a better fit. I wanted fine dining with a casual vibe. Hence, we chose CUT by Wolfgang Puck at Marina Bay Sands Shoppes. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gardens by the Bay: The Future of Singapore

I am too overwhelmed to write anything while looking at these photos from my recent trip. Singapore's 101 hectare, Pandora-inspired (Avatar) superpark called Gardens by the Bay is definitely a sight to behold, especially at night. Its goal to make itself a city within a garden and not a garden within a city is not far from happening. In fact, Singapore is headed there already.
These pictures show you why Singapura, the Little Red Dot, has become the poster child for urban and economic development. This country does not have short term plans. Rather, planning is made for the more decades to come. Even with limited natural resources, this country has managed to make itself one of the most impressive economies in the world. For this post, you'll get glimpse of Singapore's newest project that tells us why this country is the future.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Harry Potter Exhibition Singapore: Keeping the Magic Alive

I am a self-confessed and proud Potterhead. I started reading J.K Rowling's books even before they hit it big. The books opened my imagination, leading me to a world of magic, wizards, and out-of-this-world creatures. Upon hearing about the movie deal (a natural course), I was as excited as the 10-year old kids who loved Harry Potter. It was such a rare phenomenon that swept across the globe.  Everyone wanted to be part of the journey of the boy who lived.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dean and DeLuca Opens in Singapore: Spicing up your Epicurean Craving

My view of Singapore for the coming days.

Believe it or not, I am obsessed with anything that reminds of me of New York. Out of all the places I could visit in Singapore on my first day, Dean and DeLuca got way past everything on my list. 

How could I not go? I regularly visit their lovely and humongous branch in SoHo every time I find myself back in New York City. 

For those of you who aren't familiar, gourmet purveyor Dean and DeLuca is one of NYC's most famous upscale grocery store and cafe. Its much-awaited opening in Singapore was last June 22, 2012 at the Orchard Central. All the foodies must have found this news "eargasmic".

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Story of Luneta Hotel: Is this Old Dame too Beautiful for Manila?

If Luneta Hotel were a lady, she would stand out in a crowd, leaving everyone captivated by her beauty. Men fawn over her, as if under a hypnotic spell. They fall in love with the effortless grace and charm of this lady that has seen it all -- a nation's progress, downfall, and war wounds. Over time, however, her beauty fades and one day, she finds herself alone in a city where her beauty no longer seems appealing and relevant. She feels out of place, lonely--almost like a derelict. Consequently, she never leaves her home for many years.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros: The Boutique Hotel with THE View

If you are looking for a new hotel that will show you Manila's rich history, lost magic and inimitable views, nothing would be more perfect than the Bayleaf Hotel, situated within the walls of old Intramuros (that sounds redundant if you understand Spanish). The Bayleaf Hotel recently opened its doors last November 2011, giving Intramuros the attention it needed to attract more local and foreign tourists. Everyone can now have a taste of an upscale accommodation in the heart of Manila's historic district.

FYI, this boutique hotel is owned by the prominent Laurel family, hence the name Bay leaf which refers to the aromatic leaf of the bay laurel plant, a familiar ingredient of the Philippines' most popular dish--the adobo. Call that Serendipity.

I came here without any expectations and that left me with more room for surprise. Sometimes, it's better that way. When we went to the Penthouse to have a quick merienda at the all day dining 9 Spoons Restaurant, I found the best view of Manila.

I did not realize Manila had something as beautiful as this. The Bayleaf Hotel, with certainty has the best 360 view of Manila!! It almost reminded me of New York City and Central Park.

The restaurant gives you a panaromic view of the Intramuros Golf Course, Manila's famous landmarks, and the Makati Skyline. The views are graciously unobstructed that I even saw our condo from where I stood.

At night, you can go up to the Skydeck where you can dine with this 360 degree view. It's not open during the day since it's obviously too hot in Manila.

Seeing so much green in Manila reminded me of  the potential of this city to regain its once glorious past.

A pool on top the hotel would have done wonders. It could have given this hotel another WOW factor. 
Having seen that, I will be coming back this weekend to experience this place at night. I  am also curious to try food here since the students of the Culinary Arts  of Lyceum of the Philippines University make the dishes for you.
I only had a club sandwich and a Mango + Banana Shake.

After my merienda, one of the staff gladly showed me some of Bayleaf's rooms (Thanks to Randy, btw). They are all modern, clean, and most of them have views of Intramuros. Rates are quite reasonable from P5,000 to P20,000 (The most expensive one is the Bayleaf Suite)

Premier Room. You are guaranteed to get five-star quality service and beddings in this hotel.

The Black Executive Room. I love the color combinations here.

It's like the quintessential Bachelor's Pad. Sleek.

The Bayleaf Suite. It was occupied during that time but I lifted this picture from their page (Source: Bayleaf Hotel's FB page).

On a separate day, we went back to the Bayleaf to see how it was in the evening. At night, Manila from the Skydeck totally tranforms into this romantic city. The cool breeze and the greenery around the hotel premises certainly make for a good date place.

Craving for meat, we had some chorizo and sausage pizza from the 9 Spoons Restaurant.

On the ground floor, you can also try the Cioccolata, a bar serving Spain's most popular food, Churros! You can have a fill of these delectable pastries for only P75.00.

For corporate events, conferences, weddings and other occasions, they have the Muralla Ballroom that can accomodate 300 guests.

The Bayleaf has certainly given me something that most hotels do not have here: It made me fall in love with Manila. I think only a few people can say that--those who understand its past, present, and future. I remain hopeful that one day, the vision of Burnham will still come to a reality. There's hope for Manila to be that shining city in Asia again. Manila will have its day to make the world what its namesake really means --The Pearl of the Orient. Go the the Skydeck of the Bayleaf and you'll believe me. 

Ill be back there this weekend and I will continue my review.

The Bayleaf: Muralla, Intramuros
Tel Nos. 02 318 5000

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Mind Museum: A Playground for the Curious Mind

Yes, that's Jollibee!

Kids are fortunate to have technology at their fingertips these days. Information can virtually be accessed anywhere, making learning an easier process for young ones. Now, they should consider themselves even luckier with the recent opening of the Mind Museum in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig. 

Last year, I remember seeing this spaceship-like structure being built when was I studying for my board exam in Burgos Circle. The Mind Museum at Taguig (TMMT) seemed like THE project the Fort needed to make it a true world-class global city. The idea of having a modern museum in the most progressive (and not to mention cleanest and most organized) city of Metro Manila was promising. 

When it finally opened last March, I was perhaps one of the people that eagerly wanted to see it but I was out of the country. I felt the need to answer question some of you had: What can you expect from the Mind Museum? A few days ago, I was happy to cross the museum out of my list when I made time to visit it with my younger siblings. Here's what I think.

With certainty, I can tell you that the Mind Museum is specifically designed for kids.  However, it does not mean there isn't anything in the museum that adults can enjoy. There are more than 250 interactive and engaging exhibits waiting to be explored by any curious mind. The exhibitions are presented through five main galleries: Atom, Life, Earth, Universe, and Technology

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Hidden Beach, Responsible Travel, and my Dream House

A tropical hideaway has the power to positively change one's perspective. It can rekindle relationships, heal broken hearts and sometimes, even lead you to a fascinating road of self discovery. I know this much is true. 

The thing is, if I could live all of my days on the beach (with someone I love), I probably would. This kind of lifestyle is as close as anyone could get to Utopia. However, I desire something more than just regular trips the beach every summer.  I want a place I can call my own. A sense of permanence.

I have been in constant search for this ideal beach for my dream beach house but none of them has fit the mold. I want something closer to home--something that has a personal connection with me and my family. A few days ago, I eagerly took a trip back to my hometown, Pangasinan, in search of what could be the perfect beach for my dream beach house. I think this could be it. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Road to Pembrokeshire

I woke up in an ebullient mood, filled with child-like anticipation as our semi-spontaneous roadtrip to Pembrokeshire finally materialized. I remember it was a Sunday in Cardiff, a city with predictably Sybilish weather. Like a thief in the night, a thick dark fog consumed the city, leaving us with minimal to zero visibility. Considering the current state of the roads, we were apprehensive since we rented a car from the Enterprise group instead of the taking the train or bus. It appeared as if we were driving in a dream that would lead us to Pembrokeshire.

With its reputation as a holiday destination, Pembrokeshire presented a much different allure. It was barely even spring but I wanted a taste of UK beach life. As a traveler coming from a country dotted with stunning coastlines and dreamy islands, I could not help but wonder how a beach in the UK would be like. Having a bit of elementary research, Ralph's limited yet solid right-hand driving experience, and the indispensable power of GPS, we felt primed to make this trip happen.

Fact: There are three National Parks in Wales (The other two are Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia) but Pembrokeshire is the only coastal national Park. Pembrokeshire county, situated in the South of Wales, is home to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, an arcadia that offers rugged cliffs, hidden coves, and sandy beaches. It has been voted by National Geographic as the second best coastal destination in the world (Trivia: Recently, Pembrokeshire was made more famous because some Scenes in Harry Potter: the Deathly Hallows were shot here)