AirBnb – M3: Our Brunei Home(stay)

Nomads do not have homes, they say. I beg to disagree. Wanderlusts, travelers, backpackers, find homes in unexpected places. It may not be where they permanently stay, but it is where their memories will forever wander back.

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I love this art!

This is M3 for me. When we decided to go to Brunei, we really did not have any idea what was in store for us. We even didn’t think they would have homestay available there considering the conservative culture.

When we checked AirBnb, we were proven wrong. There were several homestays available with a wide range of variation depending on price and location. We opted to get the cheapest (yet most appealing at first glance) since we were just going to spend the night sleeping and waking to another hectic day.

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❤ ❤ ❤ I added M3 to my favorites! 

We were lucky to have found M3. The first thing that caught my attention was the price. It was below Php 1,000 and it has air conditioning and very good feedback. They also offer tours around Brunei, Miri, and Kota Kinabalu. They can also take you on a wildlife trip where you can feed crocodiles!

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I immediately booked this through AirBnb. Our room was listed under “Nice and Cozy Room – Shared toilet” under M3. This homestay will appear if you search Bandar Seri Begawan. Just to clarify, the place is not in Bandar Seri Begawan exactly. It is located in Gadong which is a good 10 minute-bus ride with no heavy traffic.

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no heavy traffic!

Before we leave for Brunei, I communicated with the owner, Brandon. He gave me exact details on how to locate the place: all we would have to do is go to the central station and ride bus 55. We should alight at Supasave Beribi and cross the pedestrian bridge to Mamih Cafe. On the same area there is a hardware store named Goldmyne Hardware and there is a small slope next to it. We would have to climb the slope and that is M3! Does it sound complicated? Not really! That is the exact thing we did and we found where the place is!!! Awesome and clear directions!

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When we arrived, we were greeted by Mizzy, one of the hosts. She showed us our room. To our surprise, we were given a free upgrade! We upgraded to a big room with our very own toilet. We have a television, DVDs to watch, and a couch! The bed was large and cozy! The air conditioning was perfect too. They have centralized air conditioning and our very own AC inside the room.

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The bathroom is spacey too. They have hot and cold water which is perfect. It has a sink and a place where we can put our stuff when we are taking a bath.

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To top it all off, M3 has a wide front yard. This is perfect if you would just like to hangout outside and take a breath of fresh air. The place has a lot of greens around and they have the kindest neighbors with adorable dogs. Ate, as Mizzy endearingly calls the household helper next door, is a Filipina! She greeted us warmly when we arrived too!

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Mizzy, me, and my partner chatted the late afternoon away over coffee. We talked about the beautiful places in Brunei, the locals, things that we should and should not do…everything we needed to know. We were so grateful to have an accommodating host who would tell us the real deal about the country. She also gave us tips like how much the water taxi is. Also, when we visited, it was Ramadan. Mizzy messaged people to know if it was already Raya. If not, we will be able to see the mosques and other places since it will be open to the public.

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Hi Mizzy!

The 3 of us had dinner in Mamih Cafe after sunset. We were surprised at how good Mizzy is in speaking tagalog. She asked the waitress if she’s Filipina to which the waitress said yes!

Mizzy walked us through the menu and I ended up ordering Bah Kuh Teh and Kopy C, while my partner ordered Kopy O. I blogged about our Mamih Cafe experience HERE!!

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Before our host went home, she gave us the wifi password. The connection was good and we were able to surf with no problems. We slept peacefully that night and got up the next day to see Bandar Seri Begawan. We met Tze Yi, the other host, and she was warm and friendly! She even offered to drop us off to where we were going but we just woke up and were sort of embarrassed at how slow our pace is. LOL.

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She advised us where to eat since it was still Ramadan and restaurants were closed. She said that the restaurant on the Warisan Mata Mata Complex (the commercial area next to us, where Mamih Cafe is) houses a Chinese-fusion restaurant named Sing-U.Me Restaurant which is open. According to her, there are restaurants that are still open to accommodate non-Islams. All windows are covered with paper and there is a sign on the door that would say non-Islams can dine inside. This was a very helpful tip and we were so lucky to have known this!

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We dined like royalty that day because of Tze Yi! All thanks to her, we were able to discover good food in Gadong!

To read all about our adventures that day in Brunei, click HERE!

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We got home late that night and had our own Raya dinner. The dining area of the place is neat and the kitchen was spacious. We were able to use the microwave with such ease and water to clean up was not an issue.

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We woke up the next day ready to leave Brunei. We cleaned up our mess and messaged Mizzy that we were checking out. We left the keys and headed to our next destination.

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Honestly, our stay in M3 was unexpectedly pleasant. It was one of the reasons why I fell in love with Brunei. The hospitality of the people of Brunei was reflected at how good Mizzy, Tze Yi, and Brandon treated us. Everything we needed to know that actually helped us get by that day when we roamed around the streets of Bandar Seri Begawan, came from them.

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That’s Brandon over there! Famous!

I highly suggest that you stay here in M3! It will be worth your effort and the money you pay! Affordable, clean, spacious, and a very friendly place that is right next to a commercial area!

**To search for homestays and save money on your next trip, THIS IS THE LINK!!! You can also be an affiliate by signing up and sharing links to your friends. You get to earn while travelling! How awesome is that?!

**If you’re curious how we traveled from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei and earned 8 passport stamps, check my BLOG!

How to Enjoy Brunei with Just 3,000 Php

Budget is an essential factor when travelling. As much as I would like to live the luxurious life and disregard my economical constraints, I simply can’t! When I booked for Bandar Seri Begawan, my thought was “I need a lot of money to enjoy the trip.” Thankfully though, I was proven wrong. So here is my story of how I enjoyed Brunei with Php 3,000.

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My forever travel, kuripot buddy!

We arrived in Brunei from Kota Kinabalu Saturday afternoon. From Muara Port, we rode the bus all the way to Bandar Seri Begawan which took around a good 30 minutes to an hour. What’s great about the bus rides in Brunei is that however near or far you are headed, the bus fare would always be 1 BND or around Php 37. It may look pricey but considering the distance that you will often travel, this is reasonable. Plus, if you need to transfer buses, they will give you a stub and you just hand it over to the next bus and not pay anymore.

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Please note that buses only operate until 6 PM. There will be some buses operating until 8PM but since it was Ramadan when we were there, we had to really make it to the 6 PM trip.

Our homestay is located in Jalan Mata-Mata, right next to Warisan Mata Mata Complex. This was booked through Air BnB (click this link to book your stay with AIRBNB!). For a very fair price, we were able to enjoy an impressive living space plus gain two friends in the form of our hosts Mizzy and Zee! THEY GAVE US A FREE ROOM UPGRADE from a shared toilet room to a King Size bedroom with toilet, by the way!!! You can read all about M3 HERE.

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Mizzy is awesome!!!

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Warisan Mata Mata Complex

After checking in and a good chat with our host, we headed to Mamih Cafe to have our dinner. Dinner in Brunei happens after sundown in compliance with Ramadan. I ordered Bah Kuh Teh and it was love at first taste! We also had Kopi C  and Kopi O which in the Philippines is the equivalent of coffee with milk and black coffee, respectively. The night was good and we were filled to our heart’s content! That night, our dinner cost us 13 BND or around 476 Php. For our full meal description and experience, click HERE.

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The night was rainy and there was nowhere left to go in Gadong but home. Besides, the trip to Brunei from Kota Kinabalu can be a bit tiring. A night in Brunei is calm and it is ideal to those who would prefer to rest up and get up early the next day for a packed adventure.

We woke up at 6 in the morning and headed to Sing U. Me Restaurant. This restaurant is one of the few ones open during holy week. Restaurants like this would have a sign on their doors in Malay that says non-Islams can dine inside and all windows and doors are covered with paper. Although majority of Brunei’s population is Islam, there are still some belonging to other sects. Out of common respect, everyone (even the tourists) are not to be seen eating or drinking in public. I honestly find this practice beautiful.

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Just as the night before, I ordered Bah Kuh Teh and other dishes. Their dimsum selection is a must try! They also serve seafood like huge, fresh shrimp and fish As do most restaurants in Brunei, a number of kababayans are working here. They were very patient with us in explaining unfamiliar dishes and made sure we enjoyed our experience. We overspent here, sadly. I am known to be highly impulsive when it comes to food. LOL. Make sure to check my review of this restaurant by clicking this sentence and find out why the 19 BND or Php 700 is so worth it!

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When you are caught in Bah Kuh Teh love

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Shrimps here are huge!

There are designated buses for every place in Brunei. Although you can view this at the Central Station, you can print a copy using this link.

Once you reach the Central station, you can walk around to some of the famous landmarks of Bandar Seri Begawan

  1. Tiang Yun Dian Chinese Temple/Teng Yun/Twa Pa Kung Temple

This temple is located at the corner of JLN Elizabeth Dua and JLN Kianggeh-just walking distance from the Central Station. Its name means “Temple of Flying Clouds”. This is so hard to miss as it’s structure is distinct and grand.

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When we went inside, it was pure solemnity. Candles offered to the gods were burning reverently as prayers were believed to ascend through the smoke. We asked permission, of course, if we can take photos, and the caretakers were more than welcoming.

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A detailed write up HERE by The Daily Brunei Resources.

BND Spent: 0

2. Makam Raja Ayang

This is one of the monuments that really sparked a particular interest in me. It may look like a typical shrine on the outside, but it actually has a story that tells so much of the Brunean culture,

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The story tells about a woman named Dang Ayang. She is of royal descent but was sadly caught in an immoral relationship with her sibling. This deed is punishable by death through stoning but no one at that time had the heart to execute the punishment. Some say that the people were swayed by the obedience of Dang Ayang. Instead, she was built a cavern prison in the middle of the forest and was provided food.There was also a vent where smoke comes out and once smoke ceases to appear, it would mean that they had already passed away.

The only proof that this was indeed the actual mound was the tombstone where words in Arabic were inscribed.

Check the detailed story by CLICKING HERE.

BND Spent: 0

3. The Lapau and Dewan Majlis Building

Situated next to each other, is the Lapau or the Royal Ceremonial Hall and the Dewan Majlis (House of the Parliament). This was where the current Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah was crowned.

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Aside from it was still Ramadan, we were not able to see the interior because permission was needed to be granted to us by the government to do so. The place is a beauty, though, from the outside. You can see the intricate designs on the roof and walls which would really make you admire the Brunean architecture style.

BND Spent: 0

4. The Royal Regalia Building

I have never seen so much gold in my life! The Royal Regalia Building is a museum that celebrates the 50 years of the country under the Sultanate of Hassanal Bolkiah. Photos and artifacts that were used during special ceremonies were stored here. The gifts of different world leaders to the Sultan were also displayed. For the security of the place, taking pictures on the second floor is not allowed. Bummer.

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On the first floor you will see the Royal Chariot that was used during the Royal Jubilee celebration. You will also see a grand entourage of mannequins wearing different traditional attires which commemorates the parade of the sultan during his coronation.

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You will not regret visiting the Royal Regalia as it is rich in history and, OMG GOLD! Also remember to remove your shoes and change to bedroom slippers before going in. In my case, I just removed my shoes and walked around in my socks. Sorry. I can be slow sometimes.

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That’s my boots over there. Left it and walked in my socks like a bad ass.

BND Spent: 10 BND for 2 keychains, 2 ref magnets, and a postcard

5. Brunei History Centre

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We were not able to make it inside the building. The announcement of Raya has emerged and they had to close for the celebration. If you will be visiting the place, please remember that the museum is closed on Fridays. Here, you can see the history and the family tree of the Sultans in Brunei. It was also initially established to conduct further research on the history of the country.

BND Spent: 0

6. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Library

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This is a public library with over 385,000 books –heaven for the likes of me and my friends! You will not miss this building along Jalan Elizabeth II because of its huge mural showing the culture of Brunei through the eyes of someone who reads. Beautiful concept!

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BND Spent: 0

7. Jabatan Hal Ehwal Syariah or the Department of Syariah Affairs

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Taken from the gardens of Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddin

Located just beside the Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddin, this building is a proof of how serious the people of Brunei in following the laws of their religion. Aside from the discussion and organization of laws, events such as workshops to improve the foundations of Islam is held here.

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BND Spent: 0

8. Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddin

Named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, the Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is undoubtedly the highlight of our Brunei trip. It sits in all its glory on the banks of Kampong Ayer and if you are to fly over Bandar Seri Begawan, you are not to miss the grand dome of the structure which is made of pure gold.

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We were only allowed outside as prayers were being held in light of Raya. Who are we to complain? The beauty of the garden is breathtaking! I read over the Internet that the carpets inside the mosque were of fine materials from Saudi Arabia and the magnificent chandeliers inside were from Europe. Here, we resolved to visit again and see more of the masjids and marvel at their beauty.

BND Spent: 0

9. Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex

At this point, I had become so thirsty that I really needed to take a gulp. Given the circumstances, however, we simply cannot. We saw this beautiful mall just across the lagoon where Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddin is situated. There were fast food joints inside like KFC and, guess what…Jollibee!!!

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We noticed that these restaurants were open but only for to-go orders. We went straight to KFC and ordered 3 large sodas and headed out to the convenience store and bought a large bottle of mineral water. The dilemma came when we didn’t know where and how to drink it since it was not allowed. People were even throwing us looks because we sat at KFC with drinks on our table (sorry :((( ).

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Haggard moments. No food. No drinks. Just the heat.

Luckily we found Chewy Junior!!! Yes! The cream puff store we know and love in the Philippines. They were on sale – half the price off everything – since it’s the holy week. Here we met another Filipina. She is in charge of the stall and by how we probably looked she could tell that we were really thirsty! She allowed us to hide behind the oven and drink. SALAMAT PO ATE!!!

BND Spent:  3 large sodas for 1.50 BND each, 1 bottled water for 1 BND, 2 large pieces of Chewy Junior Cheesecake Cream Puffs for 5 BND

10. Mercu Dirgahayu 60

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This monument is located near the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex, right across Kampong Ayer. It takes a very interesting shape that symbolizes a lot about the philosophy of the country. The Mercu Dirgahayu is a gift of the Brunei people to Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkian for his 60th birthday. It takes the form of the Arabic numeral equivalent to 60 at the center of 5 pillars representing the 5 obligations of Islam. It also represents the close relationship of his majesty to his people and how he is full of wisdom and looked up to by his people.

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BND Spent: 0

11. Kampong Ayer

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Home of 10% of Brunei’s population, Kampong Ayer or Water Village, has been named as the Venice of the East. This village is located above the river waters and its main transportation are the water taxis. The community is complete! It has a market, schools, restaurants, shops, etc! Majority of the houses we saw has air conditioning and our boat driver mentioned that cable television and Internet connection is good in that area. It was also said that the government provides those who wishes to live there a good means of living to promote the growth of the largest water village in Asia.

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BND Spent: 10 BND for the boat ride. We haggled! It was just supposed to be 2 BND but with the rise of the number of tourists that day, the prices went up to 20 BND. We were glad the boat driver agreed to our price and still gave us a good tour. 

12. Sungai Kebun Bridge

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When we first arrived in Bandar Seri Begawan, this bridge immediately caught my attention. It’s structure, in all its massive glory, can literally render you speechless. They say that this bridge was made to connect Muara to Bandar Seri Begawan to improve business relations and that there is another bridge that is in the process of construction that is twice its size and length, connecting Muara to Temburong District (boarder of Sarawak, Malaysia). WOW.

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BND Spent: 0

13. Gadong Night Market

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Food park is also a hit in Brunei. We were in the right place and in the right time because during our stay, we get to celebrate the first day of Raya! Food and fireworks were everywhere! What really got me is the Gadong Night Market. Unlike in the Philippines, Brunei night markets are more of an “afternoon market”. They open at around 3 PM and close at 5:30 PM to 6 PM. Also, no one eats at the night market. Everything is to-go.

If you are slow in deciding which dish to buy, you might end up going home without anything. Seriously! The food is so good that it does not last the entire operating hours! As expected, we went over our budget here. The spicy cockle I begged my partner to buy was worth 5 BND…but believe me it was worth it! We also bought sate, rice cake, Kuih Malaya (which is like coconut pancakes with peanut butter and A MUST TRY!), stir-fried noodles, and Nasi Katok (this dish has a pretty interesting backstory which I will be sharing to you soon!).

I also bought a glass of iced chocolate drink which is actually a life-saver!

BND spent: 13 BND

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We went home from Gadong Night Market at around 5:30 PM. Sadly, there were no more buses left and everyone is celebrating the holiday. We walked for 30 minutes  just to get home and got lost a little bit since it was so hard to recognize freeways at night! Thank goodness we arrived just in time for us to have our very own Raya dinner 🙂

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It was so hard to wake up the next day because of our full stomachs and tired legs that we missed the first bus trip from the Central Station to Muara Port. We were told that we can ride Bus 38 and just transfer buses to get to the port. That we did. Here we met the bus driver of Bus 38, Allan Jasmin. He is also a fellow Filipino. We noticed how he would greet every one who rode the bus and even asked any Filipino who would ride this trip how they are and how their lives are doing. I find his personality very refreshing since it is so seldom that you see someone so happy and optimistic while doing his job.

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While riding bus 38, we get to pass by the Office of the Prime Minister and the different homes of the ambassadors from foreign countries. We even passed by the Philippine Ambassador to Brunei, Meynardo LB. Montealegre’s home. I also found out just recently that the Ambassador is my elementary school teacher’s in-law!!! Lucky! We promise to drop by and say “hi” the next time we visit. 🙂

We arrived at the drop-off point of Bus 38 and were instructed by Kuya Allan to wait for the next bus heading to Muara Port. When he found out that we were going to ride the ferry, he mentioned that we were running late and might miss it. At that moment, he did the uncanny. He requested for the other passengers to alight the bus! Imagine, they were nationals! He said in a very nice tone that he will just drop us off and he will go back to them to resume the trip. We were so filled with gratitude towards Kuya Allan. He dropped us off at the gates of Muara Port and were able to make it just in time to ride Shuttle Hope. We missed the Express Kinabalu to Labuan and had we missed Shuttle Hope, we would have stayed there another night with no homestay reservations!

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This is Kuya Allan! Our life-saver!

Kuya Allan mentioned that he has a daughter working here in the Philippines in the call center and if by chance you happen to read this, which is a long shot, I hope you know that your father is a very good man. He is working really hard and still manages to put a smile in other people’s faces. It really is something to be proud of!

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As we rode Shuttle Hope and leave for Labuan and Kota Kinabalu, I realized how much I enjoyed Brunei. The country made me realize how beautiful Islam is. Their government is strong and sturdy, and most importantly, cares so much for its people. They are strict in implementing their laws and that actually puts order in place.

If you were to ask me if I would visit Brunei again, my answer will definitely be YES. The culture is rich, the people are friendly, and the streets are clean! Also, I only spent roughly Php 3,000 here!

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Here’s a breakdown of everything:

Expenses

If you are going to visit Brunei, I highly recommend for you to visit Jerudong Park (amusement park) and Tungku Beach! This is near M3 or the place we stayed in. We regret not seeing those places but we would not trade the culture-filled experience we had in Brunei. Travelling really does mean learning and I had so much of that in this country.

Terima Kasih, Brunei!

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[Press Release]: TravelBook.ph Affiliate Program Commends Bloggers on 1stAnniversary Celebration

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TravelBook.ph, the leading online travel agency (OTA) in the Philippines, celebrated the first anniversary of its Affiliate Program last June 24, 2017 at Oakwood Premier Joy-Nostalg Center Manila in Ortigas Center, Pasig. In addition to celebrating an important milestone, the event was the OTA’s way of thanking its 2,700 blogger affiliates and acknowledging each of their contributions to the success of the said program since it began.

The event, entitled TravelBook.ph Affiliate Program 1st Year Cheer, highlighted and celebrated the many firsts that the Affiliate Program has achieved on its first year.

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Anniversary celebratory toast led by TravelBook.ph’s General Manager Takumi Nakazawa, Business Development Manager Pinky Librada, and Business Development Officers Pia Bernaldo and Toni Reyes

Present during the event is Affiliate 001 Awardee David Bernabe, owner of Crowd Travel and the very first affiliate to sign up for TravelBook.ph’s Affiliate Program. DIY Travel and Tours was also awarded for being the first affiliate to incur a completed booking through their website. The awards and tokens of appreciation for the affiliates were presented by Ms. Pia Bernaldo and Ms. Toni Reyes of the Affiliate Team, along with Mr. Takumi Nakazawa, General Manager of TravelBook.ph.

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From L-R: Event host Allan Bobis of The Filipino Rambler and Mon Villaverde of Terrific Traveller, the first guest to unlock the surprise point giveaway given to affiliates.

TravelBook.ph also prepared an audio-visual presentation of their first blogger getaway, where 15 lucky bloggers won an all-expenses-paid trip to the lovely island of Caramoan in Camarines Sur. Two of the bloggers who attended the Caramoan getaway, Me-An Clemente of Yogo and Cream and event host Allan Bobis of The Filipino Rambler, received tokens of appreciation from TravelBook.ph and gift certificates from Trampoline Park.

The attendees also looked back on their first affiliate training, which took place last year. Dianne Rosqueta of Curly Dianne was invited on stage to share her experience and how much the affiliate trainings helped her in optimizing the content of her blog. Afterwards, Ms. Pia Bernaldo of the Affiliate Team expressed her gratitude to the attendees and discussed the future plans of the program for the affiliate bloggers.

Also present in the event is Charmaine Belza of The Project Maine and the first affiliate to withdraw commission earned through the program. She was also given a certificate and token of appreciation from GetGo PH and Novellino Wines.

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Lucky affiliates who won prizes from Novellino Wines, GetGo PH, Jam Liner Inc., Fast Cat, Philtranco, Hideo Wakamatsu, Trampoline Park, and Oakwood Premier Joy-Nostalg Center Manila

 

During the event, Ms. Pinky Librada, Business Development Manager of TravelBook.ph, discussed the Affiliate Program’s new commission structure, wherein the affiliates can score up to 65% commission rates once accommodations have been booked through their websites.

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TravelBook.ph Affiliate Team with Team Timan, blogger affiliates who won Trampoline Park gift certificates and roundtrip tickets from Jam Liner

All attendees received PHP 2,000 worth of TravelBook points as well as loot bags with freebies from PhotoBook WordwideHideo WakamatsuCeletequeVivo Lumio, and Bo’s Coffee.

Wines from Novellino Wines, backpack and trolley from Hideo Wakamatsu, Trampoline Park gift certificates, roundtrip tickets from Philtranco and Jam Liner Inc., roundtrip business class tickets from FastCat, and an overnight stay with breakfast for two at Oakwood Premier Joy-Nostalg were among the raffle prizes given away to the blogger attendees.

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TravelBook.ph Affiliate Program’s 1st Year Cheer, which was attended by members of the media as well as top travel and lifestyle bloggers, is TravelBook.ph’s last hurrah for the said program’s week-long anniversary celebration.

If you want to be part of TravelBook.ph’s growing community of bloggers and page owners, register as an Affiliate at affiliate.travelbook.ph.

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For more details, please contact:

Maria Lyn Bernaldo

Business Development Officer

MariaLyn.Bernaldo@travelbook.ph

+63 (998) 840-4852

+63 (2) 662-1133

Sharah Pinky Librada

Business Development Manager

SharahPinky.Librada@travelbook.ph

+63 (917) 530-7464

+63 (2) 662-1113

 

About TravelBook.ph

TravelBook.ph is the leadingonline travel e-commerce company (online travel agent or OTA) in the Philippines dedicated to offering great value hotel bookings and with a varied selection of Philippine hotels and resorts in Baguio, Batangas, Bohol, Boracay, Cebu, Davao, Laguna, Metro Manila, Palawan, Pampanga, Tagaytay, Zambales, and more. A total of 3,200 affordable hotels are currently listed in Travelbook.ph.

TravelBook.ph also offers the best / lowest priceswith attractive discounts for hotels and resorts and innovative payment options without credit card – “Pay at Hotel, No credit card needed.”

Travelbook.ph also offers exclusive reward points: Customers also automatically earn back 5% of the total amount they spend as reward points, which they can use to get discounts on their future bookings (1 point is equivalent to PHP 1.00).

Customers can also useTravelBook.ph’s convenient mobile app to book accommodations on the go. It is available on the App Store and Google Play.

Lastly, TravelBook.ph is a proud Philippine-based company with 24/7 support. It has a Filipino call center ready to assist customers anytime. They can be reached through these numbers:

 

Landline: +63 2 662 1111                   Globe: +63 917 850 9029

Sun: +63 925 887 2835                       Smart: +63 998 961 3012

To know more about convenient and affordable hotel bookings all over the Philippines, visit www.travelbook.ph. Follow TravelBook.ph on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TravelBook.ph/, Twitter https://twitter.com/travelbookph, and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/travelbookph/.

 

Essential Travel Guide: How I Earned 8 Passport Stamps – Manila to Kota Kinabalu to Brunei

The ultimate travel goal is to fill your passport with stamps within the year. Honestly, I never thought of it as possible with the limited funds that I have. Thank goodness to fellow travel bloggers, I discovered the hack to earning 8 passport stamps just by travelling 2 wonderful countries, Malaysia and Brunei.

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stamps, stamps, stamps

I left Manila bound for KK Friday night with clothes to last me for a week. My plan (aside from the 8 passport stamps) is to enjoy the place to the fullest with just 20k Php in my pocket (homestay and airfare excluded). If you have been following my blog, you would know how impulsive I am when it comes to food…so that in itself proposes a challenge.

First Tip: NAIA TAX. The last time I went out of the country (which was like 10 years ago) the terminal fee was only Php 500. Imagine how surprised I was when I found out that we have to pay a whooping Php 1,620 for airport tax! I paid 3x more! With no other choices left and with a heavy heart, I took the money from my budget.

The flight from Manila to Kota Kinabalu via Cebu Pacific leaves at night. Do not forget to check-in immediately as the line for immigration can be long. Also, travel light! If you are not planning to purchase check-in baggage, Cebu Pacific only allows 7kg as hand carry allowance.

 

 

When we arrived at Kota Kinabalu, immigration was easier. We were out in no time!

Second Tip: Purchase a local sim card. The one we got was a little bit pricey. However, we enjoyed 7 days of data and unlimited texting for around Php 300. We were amazed, as well, at how far the coverage is. Imagine being in the center of the ocean, heading to Brunei but still able to update our Instagram account!

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Ladies and Gentlemen, at this point, you have 2 passport stamps.

Third Tip: Take UBER! Update your Uber apps and book from the airport to wherever you are headed. It’s waay cheaper than the taxi cab in Kota Kinabalu plus we got really lucky with the promo code UBERRAYA. That was 14 trips with 4 RM off!

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Meet Jonathan, our Uber driver!

If you are headed to Brunei, you have to go to Jesselton Ferry Port. First trip is at 8AM. Head to counter 4 as soon as it opens and buy your tickets.

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PASALUBONGS GALORE!!!

Fourth Tip: You will be riding 2 ferries to get to Brunei. The first leg will be Kota Kinabalu to Labuan Port, and the other would be from Labuan Port to Muara Port (Brunei). Double Power (Counter 4) offers a package for the transfer. It is more economical plus it saves you the hassle of falling in line again in Labuan Port to purchase the ticket to Muara Port.

Ticket Computation KK to BSB

saves you 6 RM! WHOOO MATH!

In our case, since we arrived really early in the morning and short of Ringgits, we just purchased the ticket from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan and had our money changed before we rode the ferry to Muara.

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You will be arriving in Labuan port at around 11:00 AM. The ferry ride from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan is a long one. The waves can be really cruel as well and if you are the type to get seasick, this is not for you. Now you might ask, what will you be doing to entertain yourself for 3 hours? They will be playing a movie during the whole trip, don’t you worry! It may not be your current box office but, hey, you can live with that! They will also be serving Maggi noodles for 2 RM. I am officially in love with Maggi Curry!

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you will be given a seat number but, hey, it’s free seating!!!

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After eating my cup noodles and watching the first few minutes of Journey to the West, I slept like a baby on a very violent crib. When I woke up, we’re finally docking in Labuan.

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Fifth Tip: Have enough Ringgits! Do not make the same mistake we did. Aside from spending more for the ticket, Labuan, like all ports around the world, houses some shady characters. When we had our money changed at Ranjit Store (most trusted money changer in the area. the lady working here is also very patient in explaining the computation of the exchange), there were a group of guys “hanging around” outside the store peering on the tourists inside.

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Once you are in Labuan, the first thing you might want to do is buy your ticket to Muara, Brunei. There were instances where in tickets were sold out. If that happens to you, you would have to leave at a later schedule which will get you to Brunei late and chances are, buses will no longer be available in the city. Do not risk it, if I were you.

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buy your tickets ASAP!

Since man cannot live on Maggi alone, we scouted for good places to eat near the port. We found Fook Yuen Cafe and Bakery where we were surprised as one of the staff called us in Tagalog. We met Jenny and she assisted us in getting our food. She was very accommodating and even scolded her boss to speak to us is Tagalog. She also relayed to us how she was born to a Filipino family living in Labuan.

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Thanks so much Jenny for assisting us and adding more to our lunch! We were so full!

In Malaysia, it is a common practice to just provide customers rice and it would be up to them to scoop their viand. Basic price of a viand in Fook Yuen is 2.50 RM. I scooped a good amount of Fish Curry and it’s sauce. To top it off, I got myself fried egg! My partner ordered Chicken Rice (which is a resto favorite) and was not disappointed by the size of the chicken. Everything we ordered (plus 2 cans of soda) only costs 14.80 RM which is around 175 Php! This is the price of a Starbucks Venti!

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Chicken Rice and Fish Curry with Egg! (and lots of rice!!!)

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had to buy contacts solution

After we were done eating, we headed back to the port to prepare boarding. As Labuan is considered an international port, there is Duty Free!!! This is the perfect place to buy your pasalubongs! Here, you can purchase bundled chocolates per brand. Of course, I opted for Cadbury!! I paid 20 RM for a bundle and that’s approximately Php 240!

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Pall Mall looked sosyal here and the price is sosyal, as well.

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There is an immigration in Labuan. Here we met the unexpected.

Sixth Tip: Apparently, if you are travelling by ferry and you are a Filipino, you would need to have a show money of no lower than 300 Brunei Dollars. Without it, you are not going to be allowed to cross boarders. What’s worse is that if you challenged your luck and went to Brunei, disregarding the advice of the Malaysian immigration, you get deported to the Philippines. This means, you will no longer be allowed in the country of Brunei.

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We honestly didn’t have that money. Well, we did before we paid for the terminal fee in NAIA, the food, and the ferry ticket. As we were trying to contact people who can help us, at the same time planning our trip back to Kota Kinabalu, help arrived in the form of Bhing Harris. She is a fellow Filipino from Davao whom we shared a conversation with together with her niece, Hope, while we were waiting to board in Labuan. In the calmest of calm, she handed me and my partner 300 USD each and declared to the immigration officer that we are travelling with her. She said no need to worry and to return the money to her once we’re done with the Brunei immigration. We can never thank her enough for trusting and helping us. Up until now, we cannot believe that someone can easily hand over money to strangers just to help them!

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Hope and Bhing Harris! Thank you so much! Without you, our trip would not have been possible!!!

At this point, my passport got chopped which gave me a total of 3 passport stamps.

The travel by sea from Labuan Port to Brunei is relatively smoother via Express Kinabalu. It is the equivalent of fast craft here in the Philippines. We arrived after 1 and half hours to Bandar Seri Begawan and underwent immigration again. We were asked for our purpose of travel and how much money we have. We declared everything including the money lent by Bhing, plus the Ringgits and Pesos we have.

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Meeting people while travelling is the best part. It was a pleasure meeting you Hope, Bhing, and Chinn! I hope our roads would cross again.

As soon as we passed immigration, hello 4 passport stamps!!!

To read about our stay in Brunei, click HERE.
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My Seventh and Final Tip: Brunei buses will be in operation only until 6PM.  After which, you have no means of transportation. For the locals, this is not a problem as almost everyone owns a car. Yep, you are now in a rich country! For you, if you have no problem with walking kilometers, then this should not be a problem. We walked 8 kilometers during Hari Raya because we were so happy buying food at the night market.

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Meet Chin! She is a fellow backpacker! She is super brave travelling alone!

Going home, we missed Express Kinabalu’s first trip. We ended up riding Shuttle Hope which is Brunei’s equivalent to our RO-RO. Honestly, this form of transport is better than Express Kinabalu as it has more comfortable seats and brighter atmosphere. We were also able to see the massive offshore oil rigs in the seas of Brunei which is a rare sight for us Filipinos!

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OIL RIGS!

Exiting Brunei earned us 5 passport stamps.

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We alighted in Manumbok, headed our way to Labuan to get our exit stamp out of the port (6th stamp!) and rode the final 3-hour ferry ride back to Kota Kinabalu.

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Root beer and Maggi! Simple joys of backpacking!

My 7th and 8th passport stamps were gained exiting Malaysia and returning to the Philippines.

The experience was worth the long trip. Experiencing 2 different cultures in 7 days was more than I bargained for. We were also fortunate to have experienced Ramadan and Hari Raya in Brunei which is the solemnest that I have seen in my lifetime. The travel taught me patience (this is an obvious one- the trip was not easy!) and respect for other customs.

—and if you must ask if my 20k was enough to land me home safe and sound–and comfortable–in the Philippines, you would be surprised about the things we get to do in both Brunei and Kota Kinabalu with that budget! Watch out for my next blogs!

TERIMA KASIH, KOTA KINABALU & BRUNEI!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Want Workshops: First Aid for Furkids

Being a Fur parent is sometimes as hard as being a real mother or father to a child. The financial obligation is there, not to mention the effort and emotion you invest on them. Another thing that you need to ask yourself if you are planning to have a pet is, “What to do in times of emergency?” It’s a good thing that We Want Workshops came up with a seminar entitled “First Aid for Furkids” last May 20, 2017 at Ortigas Library.

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We Want Workshops or WWW invited Dr. Marc Joseph Domingo, DVM to host the said event. He started discussing essentials such as putting together a first aid kit for your pets. The furparents who attended were very eager and listened intently right from the start.

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The interesting part was when Dr. Macky classified the table food pets needed to avoid. Questions were thrown here and there such as the safety of “sawdust” or meat shavings or if the dog ingested something unintentionally, what would be the best thing to do. As a fur parent, myself, I understood every inquiry that was thrown and I appreciated the patience of the veterinarian in front of us, answering each questions intricately.

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Rodeo Club Philippines also attended and shared with the attendees the goals of their organization. Not only are they enthusiasts of the sport, they are also a group of veterinarians bound to help and save animals in need. We Want Workshops invited the organization as a sponsor to discuss their cause and also spread awareness that a Veterinarian’s job is not only glitz and glamour but requires a certain dedication.

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Right before the event ended, winners for the Best Pet was awarded. Weeks before the event, We Want Workshops held a photo liking contest wherein pet owners can show off their beloved furkids. Xyrus Ivan Mabini Castillote and R Patrick Reyes won and got a free invite to the event plus a blown-up and framed photo of Chichi and Esper.

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Dr. Noel Manalo also sent a message via SMS expressing his regret of not being able to come. He is also known as the “Vet ng Bayan” as featured by I-Witness, a show on GMA News TV. He was also a sponsor but sadly could not make it because of his prior commitment of going around the Bicol region offering free veterinary care to those living below the poverty line but still is compassionate to their four-legged friends.

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Lunch also was served right after the event and what could be better than seeing people with common interests share a thing or two with each other!

It was a fun and knowledge-filled Saturday morning from We Want Workshops and as everyone bid their goodbyes to one another, each knew that they are a better pet-parent than they were yesterday!

***For events and workshops information, you can visit We Want Workshop’s Facebook Page!

 

 

Rambull’s Bakahan sa Tanay: For the “COBOY” in You.

The road of Tanay, Rizal is often ventured by the adventurous. It is the portal to many natural wonders such as the Daranak Falls, Palo Alto Falls, Masungi Natural Reserve, Calinawan Cave, and so much more! Tanay is also known as the refuge of art and culture. You will see man-made wonders like the 71-foot high statue of the Queen of the Holy Rosary, the Tanay Church, and a dozen more art galleries that prove how the people of Tanay are not only talented but persevering in the preservation of their work. The roads of Tanay Rizal can also induce an elaborate feeling of hunger. Really! And what would be more strategic than finding Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay along the road’s shoulder?

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Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay is so hard to miss. The place looks like a saloon that just popped out of a Western Cowboy movie.  With it swinging doors and an endless display of cow skulls, you would know from the outside that you are in for a treat. Plus, it is so hard not to be drawn to it with its numerous vehicles parked outside. That in itself is a sign that they serve good food.

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We were seated on the far right side of the restaurant. The place was buzzing with excited chattering and we were all caught in anticipation. We stood in line and patiently waited for our orders to be taken. Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay adopts the turo-turo restaurant format. This adds to the place’s appeal. You can see the food about to be served. I was staring at the Balbakwa for the longest time!

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We ordered Bulalo, Beef Steak, and Kalderetang Kambing. The taste was absolutely commendable. We even concluded how the meat is slowly cooked under crisp firewood. It almost melts in your mouth! We paired it with a tower of iced tea and were more than gracious for the good food.

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Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay offers both the healthy and the mouthwatering. Just beside the Lechon station is an ad about Lemon Grass and its benefits. You will also see the seedlings that they are tending in their backyard.

I loved how the staff is always jolly and willing to help. We gave them a generous tip and I suggest you do too!  We also found out that they also compete in the annual Tanay Rodeo Festival and that in itself is another reason to admire them!

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The next time that you are bound to Tanay, take 5 and visit Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay. You will not regret it! It is slowly becoming a tourist spot so assure yourself a seat and savor their hearty Bulalo and Balbakwa!!!

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**Rambulls Bakahan sa Tanay is located at Manila East Rd., Brgy. Plaza Aldea; 1980 Tanay, Rizal …Rambulls Bakahan Sa Tanay, Tanay, Rizal. **

 

 

 

 

Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo: Onboard Elegance

You have got to face it: no matter how traumatizing the movie Titanic was (imagine having the time of your life and then realizing that that was your last hoorah), you have dreamt of boarding a luxury ocean liner at least once in your lifetime. The sumptuous food, the glorious halls, the fancy cabins…you get to experience all that and it’s just half of the deal! You also get to travel to different parts of the world! Imagine how awe-stricken I was at the foot of Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo. My dream was coming true (well…sort of)!

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Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo made Philippines its home port. In its entire majestic form, the 13-story cruise liner with its wide array of restaurants, offering to take your palette around the globe; it’s wellness centers such as their spa, gym, salon; and even the electrifying sight of its 100-meter waterslide stretching out to one side of the ship, is simply a gateway to the places this pleasing giant can take you. I can only imagine how much time it would take to see all its corners! When we started with the elevator, it literally took me to a movie scene where the lift is giving you a full view of how fascinating the place is.

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The Mediterranean Restaurant is the main site for buffet. The area is spacious and is ideal for enjoying such gastronomic offers. What I like about the hall is the wide windows where you get to enjoy the view of the ocean while dining.

An Asian food trip is not complete without Peking duck and as we chanced by the Blue Lagoon, we saw the display that got us all excited! Another beauty of the Blue Lagoon is that you get to place your order on the tablet situated on your table—no more old-school hand-waving that we are so used on doing.

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The other restaurants in Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo are the Noble House (Chinese), The Taj (Indian) which boasted it’s no pork and lard-free menu, The Samurai Restaurant (Japanese and hello huge bottles of SAKE!), among others. All are equally pleasing to the palette! If you want dessert, they also have an in-house gelateria named Café Gelato right next to the pool. Strategic, right?

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And talking about the pool, all I can say is that it’s really a sight to behold! They named it the Parthenon Pool as it lived to its name of everything Greek.  From the mosaic tiles, the colonnade of columns with capitals, and even the Greek sculptures were everywhere! I personally love the violent rumbling of the Jacuzzi. It was relaxing and maintained its beauty amidst the harsh sunlight. The slide was also thrilling! Imagine rushing through its twist and turns while seeing part of the ocean rushing beneath you!

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There’s also a bar where you can enjoy live music and drinks. I personally appreciated the comfortable seats at the bar and those little tea sets display. It’s Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo’s way of showcasing the different cultures they welcome. The place and even the drinks is a fusion of both the Eastern and Western world.

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If you are also into shopping, you can purchase different goodies from all over the world. From snacks, chocolates, perfumes, and even plushies, they have it! They also sell memorabilia that will always take you back to the Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo experience.

The Cabins are also beautiful! From the suit to the Inside Cabins, Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo ensures that they cater all walks of life with the same kind of care and glamour and privacy.

Aside from food, the luxury liner also upholds entertainment to the highest regard. Inside the ship is the Lido Theatre where shows such as the 1001 Nights are featured. The show is a marriage between a musical and acrobat show and is as exhilarating as either of the two!

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The bridge of the ship or the place where the ship is commanded is also open to the public. You can see the captain and the crew doing their work. You can also see a variation of trophies given to Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo for every port they visit.

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Of course, the cruise will not be a success no matter how beautiful the facilities are without the hard work of the crew. Comprised of manpower from different parts of the world, they are the men and women behind the success of the cruise. There were a lot of Filipinos working at Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo and it’s so easy to assume that they could not be luckier enough to be part of this delightful journey!

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The grace of Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo is one that is undeniably hard to forget. Not all Filipinos were given the chance before to experience what goes on in a cruise liner. Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo is opening the doors to us with affordable rates that will leave you with memories to last you a lifetime.

**For more information about Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo and the cruises they offer, you can visit their website HERE.