#Indiawithluv Series: The Arrival

What is not to love in India? I’ve got so much stories to tell.

I spent incredible 10 days in India in November 2015 after missing my best friend’s wedding in Jaipur in 2014. India has always been on my bucket list yet I couldn’t find the right dates without feeling at guilt taking an off time from work. Traveling solo takes a lot of courage and I had yet to find time to research thoroughly but all the wondering met its end.  I was able to step foot India.

Are you going to India? You’ve heard about the crime rate and rape issues, right?!

You’re ridiculously flying alone! Why India?! Travel alone elsewhere!

Do you really trust your Indian friends? They spell (might be) trouble!

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 5.15.44 PM

Solo flight begins! Wore my well-travelled hoodie.

These are few reactions of those people whom I’ve shared excitedly that I’m going to India. It’s fair to say a lot of people did not understand my fondness but the right timing came along; a friend of ours whom I met in Myanmar was getting married; No one should ever miss an Indian wedding.  No, it’s not those usual walk on the aisle kind but an entire week long celebration where family and friends come together from different cities and countries, joining the union of a couple filled with dancing and colorful ensembles (and, sumptuous Indian vegan/vegetarian food!).

 

And rightly so, There were a lot of bad publicity about India, confusion, misinformation and stereotypes. If you haven’t read much of the good, you’ll be trapped in the realm of nothing but horrid stories missing out the rich culture of the country, preserved architecture and how much they value compassion towards others.

My itinerary: New Delhi, Agra, Lucknow and Jaipur.

 

Cheap Air Tickets

Ever since I discovered cheapoair during my flight to and back from Manila to Yangon, to Bangkok in 2014,  I have been a loyalist in finding possible airline tickets to different destinations. I had my supposed India trip in 2014 booked through their site and app. The customer service team are easy to talk to, my refund was taken cared off immediately without additional costs or penalties.

Their comparison rates are competitive, they’ve got the cheapest amongst my attempts whether it was a flight going to Viet Nam, New York,  Europe or India. They make sure you get to apply as much as $20 off additional discounts on your travels too.

From the usual trip ticket of +/- $1200,  My round trip ticket only cost me $400 (more or less Php 18,000) through China Southern Airlines. Best part, It’s refundable.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 6.40.31 PM

Visa for India

For convenience, you will need to apply for your visa online . India’s visa-on-arrival has been replaced with the electronic application.  The validity is for 30-days.

A tourist visa depends on where you’re coming from, length of stay and how many entries you will need. As I was only going to be in India for a few days, I applied through e-visa for $48, it should be paid via credit or debit card.  Have an electronic 2×2 photo for your digital application.

You must, at least, apply for the e-visa 4 days prior to your trip.

Where to Stay?

 

 

First in agenda will always have to be a long comfortable sleep before I charge all my energy in full speed. I had to make sure I’m well hydrated, ate right and squeeze in some quiet time to reflect on what the days ahead are going to be, and to just enjoy the trip like a local without missing out the idea of being a tourist.

Ah, I’m sleeping within India’s timezone. 

In order for me not to miss a day in my travels, I always book the earliest flight, and choose whichever arrives before sunrise. That way, I get to wake up at around 9AM, just in time for breakfast or brunch.

At 3AM,  Luvkesh , one of my good friends in Delhi picked me up from  New Delhi International Airport and dropped me off at  ITC  WelcomHotel Dwarka, New Delhi booked through the ever-reliable booking.com app. Thanks for the recommendation, Bud!

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 9.01.27 PM.png

ITC WelcomHotel Dwarka, an upscale hotel, in a contemporary concrete and glass building is conveniently located 15-20 minutes away from the airport, 3-minutes walk from the nearest metro station and 8km from the Indian Air Force Museum.

It seems as if they’re cost-cutting, the lobby was shut down to pitch dark. The front office personnel spoke good English and was able to assist me in checking in but took way longer than usual standards of a hotel. For someone who’s dead tired and wanting to sleep, patience was not much of my friend but the Front Office staff did well with his courteous voice.

Being the hotelier that I am, somehow, I was expecting for the bellman to offer his services on accompanying me towards my room and transport my luggage.

Once I entered my room, all that welcoming was forgotten.  The room was squeaky clean, as welcoming as it pleases. The room temperature was just right, the scent of the room was balmy. The color combination of the interiors had a modern touch of both masculine and feminine with a hint of its culture.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 6.10.51 PM

A Deluxe room cost me $76 (approximately around Php 3,425 ) with Breakfast in a comfortable King sized bed within a 33 sqm space with amenities you could lounge around: flat-screen TV with cable channels, laptop safe box, coffee/tea making facilities, work desk with business kit for your notes and the best part other than being situated in a comfortable bed was the toilet inclusive of a Bathtub and Shower to spoil you throughout your stay.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 6.24.24 PM

Breakfast at the Pavilion75 located on the ground floor wasn’t how I envisioned it knowing I’ve had this thought about Indian breakfast where there is an abundant flow of different flavors of lassi, Indian pancakes, and desserts but the breakfast didn’t disappoint either. At least, they made me a glass of cold lassi to start my day right.

Service was good, the staff was attentive on who would need water and cleared out the empty plates politely.

Wish they were able to serve the published breakfast buffet: Chinese, Japanese, and International Cuisines fit for every traveler. They, however, had options for both vegan and vegetarian.

I was joined by my best friend, Vijay Dhayal, Vice President of a Business Development and International Trade in Yangon, Myanmar for Breakfast on a non-work mode, just be our silly selves for a trip away from the hustle and bustle of our usual grind.

The stay overall wasn’t so bad. The room was spacious, clean and has the amenities a traveler would need. The staff spoke good English and were helpful when I needed housekeeping’s help on stitching a patch on my bag. They even gave me a pocket sewing kit just in case.

For someone who wants to stay in-between luxury, comfort and budget, I will definitely give the hotel another chance and recommend to friends who has the same preference. The hotel also has a mall attached to its compound. It would’ve been nice to know what they have and get to enjoy the outdoor pool area.

Get to know more about the hotel through this FACT SHEET

The real trip commence. I will post more of the entire trip on my next article.

NOTE:

If you’re wondering if it’s safe in India. Yes, however, just like in any countries (including your home country) you should always take precautions and act appropriately without flashing off. Best if you can travel with a friend, not just to save money in your budget but also to get to hype the trip even more fun!

 

 

ITC WelcomHotel Dwarka

Plot, Janakpuri District Center, Dwarka,

New Delhi, Delhi 110075, India

Phone:+91 11 4222 9222

 

 

Best Friends Across Borders

Let’s meet our friends across borders and meet-up in-between. Sounds like a random brilliant idea and we have 8 months to prepare.  Looks like we’d have to figure out a financial game plan to make our bank accounts hack it but with persistence, we’ll have our fingers crossed.   We’ve reached this age wherein friendships are meant to be spent elsewhere other than our home country, our comfort zone.

Have you ever had that friend whom you can call as your better-half? I think I’ve had about one in each transitional phase of my life, 4 to be exact. One of them is Tamille Perez, my college best friend who’s now residing in New Zealand.

Tamille and I were each other’s girlfriend, we knew each other too well. It came to a point whenever one of us is missing, our college classmates and professors would know we are each other’s GPS. We were each other’s wingman, Bonnie and Clyde, partners-in-crime from day ’til night.  Tamille has seen me drunk, pass out and witnessed my heart broken to the extremes (and never again!), I’ve seen her rant about the boys she dated, been the third-wheel and excuse when we get home at the crack of dawn. We can cover each other’s bases without a glitch.

We learned how to ride the MRT together, figured out how to get to gig places, rode taxi cabs with full courage and spent most of our college life with passionate musicians and a playground called, The Kitchen.

We were each other’s livejournal, text mates and confidant. We were more than just classmates, travel companion and cheerleader.  Sure, we had disagreements but our differences never hindered us from being each other’s bests. We took French classes together just to learn how to say je ne peux pas parler francais (I can’t speak French). We have spent most of our concert attendance backstage and unlimited guest list passes.

Just like any relationships, we also had those days when it was a whirlwind of agreements and disagreements; maybe we were chasing after the wrong boys, listened to too much Jeff Buckley and but hell, we did endured all the reckless decisions we’ve ever had – including trying to be culinary goddesses who can’t bake a successful lemon square or a piece of bread.

College GirlFriend

College GirlFriend

Throwing up in the bush never seemed to be a problem, and with those four years, we sure did grew up a-lot together. Now, I hope we do get to wing it and get to travel once again in a city we both wanted to go to together, purchase that Calvin & Hobbes special edition book at Barnes & Noble, get lost in picturesque places and get to spend sumptuous meals at a Michelin Star restaurant, just because we’re culinary goddesses who can’t be too poor for great food.

Let’s see if this Burma woman who flew back in Manila and New Zealand can get together somewhere we both don’t know.

A Local ‘European’ Trip in Tagaytay

For a burst of sunshine and healthy good finds. Drive out for a trip to hectares of secret gardens, beautiful attractions, fresh air and a touch of leisure, pleasure and discovery in Tagaytay, Cavite.

Plan your field trip close to home.

Nurture Spa

Embracing the nature, guided by Choices (Control Stress, Healthy Eating, Oxygenate, Immune Boost, Cleanse Body, mind and Emotion; Embrace natural healing therapies and Sleep, social, and spiritual connection); you may stay-in at the Nurture Village; inspired and surrounded with the lush tropical garden or forest with a touch of the Filipino culture. Dine in solace, be pampered by their signature spa services and have yourself treated for that detoxification and healing your body needs.

Flower Farm

Appreciate the beauty of nature’s creation: Hectares of gerberas, chrysanthemum, mums, and daisies. The process and science of preserving and keeping these wonderful growing greens and blooms will be discussed on tour and towards the end, one may would want to grow their own beautiful backyard garden and herbs to spice up their platter. Wouldn’t be nice to wake up filled with a bed of roses?

Photo Courtesy: http://www.appetite.ph

Photo Courtesy: http://www.appetite.ph

Marcia Adams’ Restaurant

An escape from the Manila transporting you to a different realm outside the city; Welcoming you into the Rustic walls covered and supported by wooden balustrades and arches which seemed to look like a touch of Tuscany. Dine in al fresco or a full coursed meal. Savor the Mediterranean European delectable menu with the authentic taste closely related to Greek Cypriot cuisine.

Chapel on the Hill

Its unique and cozy ambiance, the circular floor plan of this solemn place would give you the 360-degrees views with a romantic ambiance of the sunset perfect for a celebratory engagement as you walk on the path, which lends itself to prayer and meditation.

Toscana Farms

Known for catering some of the top restaurants and resorts in the Philippines with their organic produce; coming home with fresh, good quality, hydro-farmed and pesticide free vegetables, herbs and fruits would complete a healthy scrumptious meal on the table. The perfect take home after a good drive.

Next time you head out for a cool and cozy trip down south, consider marking the map for a European themed adventure.

Kassy is a freelance contributor in traditional and digital platforms. You may reach her through social media (@kassypajarillo) or through email: mktpajarillo@gmail.com 

SMILE Magazine: Travel Journal Feature

What a delightful surprise from Cebu Pacific in-flight Smile Magazine’s Travel Journal Section, June issue. You’ll be able to find few of my Legazpi, Bicol destination whereabouts and what to do’s.  Special Thanks to Nikka Sarthou for the feature.

June 2011

Thank you to Tonyo Cruz for sharing this image on twitter as soon as he read it on-board and also to those who messaged me over twitter and facebook.

Asian Traveler: Hidden Destinations

ASIAN TRAVELER, an independent travel and leisure magazine published by Pilsigns,Inc came up with its Philippine Summer: Hidden Destination issue lead by communicator, Editor-in-Chief Nina Terol-Zialcita.

Congratulations Nines!

In this issue you’ll find some of the Philippines most popular destinations and uncovered secrets. You’ll get to know some of the most brilliant ambassadors of the country filled with undeniable love for their craft, creativity and culture.

I, on the other hand was also featured together with other two wanderers high and proud of the beauty of our country – Get out there and Go somewhere unfamiliar. There’s nothing like the Philippines, encapsulated with 7,107 islands.

May Summer Issue

You can grab a copy of Asian Traveler at your favorite bookstores for only Php 150 or subscribe by emailing travel@asiantravelermagazine.com for more information.

Asia Traveler Facebook

16th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon 2011

HOT-AIR-FIESTA-PAMPANGA

You have no idea how I strove to witness the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta at Clark, Pampanga.

I would like to thank my cousin-in-law, nieces and their boyfriends for the spontaneous instantaneous trip. A Saturday away from work engagements, I haven’t felt saturday as much as I did – carefree, kid like and with my relatives.

Two has been off my bucket list. 1) Attend Hot Air Balloon Fiesta and 2) Be out and about with my nephew/nieces in a splendid trip a family can call “free day away from civilazation” and they were in charge on the whereabouts. We all get older and wiser fast year after year, I’m so proud to have such nephew who speaks like a trivia master in every sentence, nieces who are independent, smart and never left their family orientation.

When I have kids of my own, I would love to have that kind of relationship: Be a group of cool people, goes out of town without their kids feeling awkward that they’re with their parents and are as open as they are with their friends to us, their parents.

The Journey to the Destination

My relatives picked me up at around 2am with zero sleep, we picked up my niece at her condominium near UST and off we drove to Clark, Pampanga. Blessed with no hassle on the parking space and no gruesome traffic, we arrived Clark 20 minutes before 5:30 am.

(more…)

Sign the Petition: Protect Palawan

My dear friends,

On January 24 a very dear friend and colleague Gerry Ortega was shot in the head dead. I was just with him that weekend – and a few minutes before he died what we were discussing over the phone was an anti-mining campaign in Palawan – given that on December two huge mining applications were railroaded – and they were to be near protected sites.

Gerry is dead but we will not let go of his dreams – and mine – and probably yours too.

Palawan has 17 key biodiversity sites – which means it is part of the 70% biodiversity sites which are essential for sustaining life in the planet. It has 2 world heritage sites, 8 protected sites. Yet if you see Palawan on the map you will note that it is a very thin island – which is 82% mountain. It means that if the forest gets denuded and the minerals excavated – the tailings seep directly into the sea affecting the coral reefs. The top soil is thin – and the island eco system is fragile.

Mining is not the way to go for Palawan . I have five eco tourism sites wherein the communities involved can now send their children to school, can dream bigger dreams. Mayor Hagedorn in Puerto Princesa has banned mining and logging – and focused on tourism and agriculture. From 2 flights a week, Puerto Princesa now boasts 10 flights a day. His revenues have gone up from several million to several billion.
Mining as an economic path in a magnificent “Last Frontier” is based on a paradigm of economic growth that is myopic and archaic . In this age of climate change and global warming any economic development that does not recognize and revere the web of life should be thrown in the dustbin.

Please please support the ten million signature campaign to Stop Mining in Palawan . The richness of Palawan is the wealth and pride of the country, it is the wealth of the world. Log in to www.no2mininginpalawan.com.. register your vote and please please send it to thousands others. You can also include your household by downloading the form printing it – and faxing it t 4152227 or you can scan it and send it to signatures@no2mininginpalawan.com. Questions can be sent to signatures@no2mininginpalawan.com.

GINA LOPEZ
Managing Director
ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc.

Even Hollywood Stars such as Sophia Bush (infamous as Brooke Davis in One Tree Hill) has signed the petition and been helping the campaign. Let’s help preserve Palawan.  I myself believe that Mining is not the way to go for Palawan.

It won’t take you long. 2 seconds, tops!