Eight Hours in Changi

A few months ago I was heading home on a Tiger Airways ticket from Phuket to Manila. However there are no direct flights from Phuket to Manila especially on a Sunday, so I was on the next best thing: a connecting flight through Singapore with an eight-hour layover. My luggage would be checked through, so I wouldn’t need to pick it up in Singapore and re-check it on the SIN-MNL flight.

I had actually planned to leave the airport during the layover, because I would arrive at 4:30pm and fly out at 12:55am. This is doable; with a Philippine passport I don’t need a transit visa and can enter and leave the airport after going through immigration and security. Additionally, Singapore’s MRT system connects directly with the airport and you could very well get all the way into the city to meet up with friends for a nice early dinner and some shopping.

However, I was traveling by myself and my mom, ever protective, requested I stay inside instead. So, what do you do by yourself for eight hours in Changi Airport?

8 Hours in Changi

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Destination: Races

I’ve been stamping my passport quite a bit the past year or so, but for this girl addicted to beaches and travel, the purpose of my trips hasn’t been to bum on a beach somewhere! Instead, my foray into triathlon has taken me to some pretty unexpected places to race.

I’ve been flipping through my photos and realized I’ve missed out on a whole lot because I was focused on competing in those triathlons. I never made enough time to go about exploring, and so when I enter a conversation with someone who isn’t into triathlon and we start talking about a place I’ve been, I’m at a loss for words on what else you can do there aside from the races.  Read more

Braven BRV-1: A Wireless Speaker for the Klutzy

Just this morning, I dropped my new BlackBerry Z10 in a parking lot. On the hard, rough cement. It’s a little the worse for wear. Anyway, that story has almost nothing to do with the Braven BRV-1 I’m about to review — except to show you how clumsy I am, which is a bad thing when you’re as mobile and traveling around all the time like I am. Inevitably, you’ll drop something you shouldn’t. It’s why I’ve always bought protective cases and shockproof, waterproof stuff.

Well, the Braven BRV-1 wireless speaker is touted as a hardy little companion designed to play your music wherever you are. I have to tell you, getting this in the mail for review made me want to book a trip to the beach the very next day! It’s lightweight enough not to be a burden inside a backpack, and it looks so much like a pair of high-tech binoculars so it won’t stick out like a sore thumb among other travel essentials.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Braven BRV-01 Wireless HD Speaker

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Slick packaging for this tough-as-mud piece of equipment.

The BRV-1 was a breeze to pair with my iPod Touch. All I needed to do was turn the unit on by a long press on the Power button, then a long press on the Play button so it could start searching for Bluetooth devices. Approve the connection on your music device, and it’s ready to go.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Power and Play buttons

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

volume control

There are also volume buttons on the side so you can turn it up or down without having to fiddle with your iPod. You can also pair the BRV-1 with a Bluetooth-enabled phone and use it as a speakerphone to answer calls.

It’s also not just a Bluetooth speaker. The rear compartment contains an audio-in jack for devices that don’t have Bluetooth capabilities, like the iPod Classic . There’s also a USB port which enables you to charge other devices from the BRV-1’s battery. Unfortunately it only has about 1400 mAh, which might be enough to give you a full charge on a BlackBerry 9360, but not on phones with higher-capacity batteries. Still, it could come in pretty useful in a wilderness survival situation, like running out of phone juice while camping.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

rear compartment

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Kuala Lumpur By My Lonesome

Chalk it up to a sheltered upbringing, but I’ve always traveled with companions when going outside the country. Last year’s Singapore trip was the closest I’d ever gotten to traveling alone, and that was because I needed to fly back to the Philippines earlier than my travel buddy Julia.

Last February 14-18 I went to Kuala Lumpur to attend the Les Mills Ultimate Super Workshop at Sunway Resort Hotel. Anyone familiar with Kuala Lumpur knows that Sunway isn’t inside the city itself, so I booked a room at Sun Inns Hotel Lagoon for about P1,000/night. The Agoda.com listing said it was a 10-minute walk to Sunway Resort from there, so I figured it was convenient enough.

Using Google Maps

Using Google Maps

I would just commute into the city if I wanted to see the Petronas Towers or go shopping at the major malls there. I downloaded some apps to help me get around, like CityMaps2Go, TripAdvisor City Guides, the KL Trains app, and of course, Google Maps. These apps helped me get a general sense of where everything would be in relation to each other, but I knew things would be different once I was actually there. Read more

Terrazas de Punta Fuego

I was supposed to go on a surfing trip to La Union with my girls Jenny, Bianca, and Sheila last weekend. We conceived the idea over Twitter more than a month ago but for some strange reason, none of us ever got around to actually booking a room at any of the resorts over there or making transport arrangements. And so, last Monday, we figured we might as well just do a day trip to Punta Fuego in Batangas, where Jenny is a member.

Punta Fuego

Batangas is about three hours away from Metro Manila, if you’re traveling leisurely like we were. There are a number of beach and country clubs in this area. The one I’m more frequently at, Pico de Loro at Hamilo Coast, is about an hour away from Punta Fuego and is a bit too far-flung to be a day trip spot. In this respect, Punta Fuego was a good day getaway because it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to get there.

What did we do there? Well, not the water sports since we don’t really like banana boats, and jet ski rentals were overpriced. We just rented a small cabana and the girls snoozed and read the day away. I wandered off to the infinity pool and did a bit of swimming and tanning there.

Poolside

I would have wanted to swim in the sea, but walking on the sand was off-putting because a lot of rubbish lay around on the sand. The beach isn’t protected by a cove that keeps trash from washing up onshore, and there are resorts bordering Punta Fuego that aren’t scrupulously careful with waste disposal. Additionally, it was stressful fending off hawkers and vendors who had walked up from the other resorts.

It’s sad that in a country that’s an archipelago, there are not a lot of quality beaches a short hop away from Metro Manila, unless I go off the beaten path.

Finding Food with Foursquare

I never used to understand the allure of Foursquare. I mean, for obvious privacy and anti-stalking reasons I don’t want strangers seeing where I usually go or where I am at a particular time. Yet I still see many of my friends tweet their locations because they’ve linked their Foursquare accounts with their Twitter feeds.

So what’s the deal with Foursquare, anyway? I decided to take the plunge. Since I’m on Globe’s Blackberry Max plan, I can use any app that requires an Internet connection at no extra charge. I took my precautions by choosing not to publish anything to my social networks, and adding only those friends I trust with my location. (Odd how that shrunk my friends list down considerably.)

I started off by checking into my places of work, and noticed the Explore tab.

Foursquare on BlackBerry 9360

Foursquare on a BlackBerry 9360 (with Otter Box casing)

Clicking it revealed the Top Picks around my current location. I could also switch between Top Picks, Specials (if any nearby places were offering deals for Foursquare users), Trending (places with many Foursquare users gathered at that moment), Food, Coffee, Nightlife, Shops, Sights, A&E, and Outdoors.

Foursquare on BlackBerry 9360

Explore options

When I selected Food, I realized there were so many places around me I hadn’t yet tried. I’m the kind of person who finds one restaurant in a certain place, always goes there and always orders a specific item on the menu. I’m not the adventurous foodie type at all. So if you think about it, Foursquare’s the perfect thing to jostle me out of my comfort zone and go food-tripping. And the information on Foursquare is crowdsourced; this means regular people leave tips recommend these places and dishes, and can disagree with unrealistic and untrue tips. That’s quite unlike review websites which sometimes have dubious reputations for talking up a lackluster restaurants.

This was put to the test when I dropped by Greenbelt 5 last Wednesday and didn’t want to eat at my usual haunt *coughcoughKFCcoughcough*. So I hit Explore and was overjoyed to find a Toast Box that I didn’t know existed in the mall!

After that initial success, I started checking in at other restaurants to see what dishes had good reviews. I had a late lunch with a friend at Texas Roadhouse in Bonifacio High Street last Saturday, and before we ordered, I saw that three previous Foursquare users had left tips saying their Southwestern Cobb salad was delicious. And it was!

Next week, I’ll probably check out restaurants near here in Pasig, like Bullchef in Kapitolyo which Foursquare users say serves an amazing and filling bulalo stew. I salivate in anticipation.

Noelle De Guzman is a Globe mobile data services brand ambassador.

Five Days in Singapore

My friend Julia and I headed to Singapore at the end of June just in time for the Great Singapore Sale. We’d booked our flights six months in advance to take advantage of promo fares, hoping to scrape together enough savings to shop with. Thankfully we didn’t need to pay for lodging due to some kind friends who had settled there and offered to host us during our stay.

We had two hosts for the trip: spent two nights with one family in the Mount Faber/Harbourfront area, and another three nights with an old school friend in Tampines. If you’ve seen the Singapore SMRT map, you’ll know that’s almost on opposite sides of the island! Taxi fares are expensive and most of the SMRT is underground, so I didn’t get to see how all the streets and areas connected with each other. I did try to map out a run route once and was surprised that it would be almost 21 kilometers just to get from Tampines to a nearby beach and back. People say Singapore is so small you can tour it all in a day. After my trip, I doubt that’s really true.

Singapore Swing: Waiting for a Bus

waiting for a bus

Singapore Swing: Train Stations

amusing myself with train station names

Singapore Swing: Traveler

random dude I spotted on the train on his way to the airport

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Travel Retrospective: Watching Wakeboarders at CWC

I heard that the wake park in Nuvali has finally opened, making the sport of wakeboarding and wakeskating more accessible to Manila residents who used to get their fix driving to Lago de Oro or flying to Camsur.

Although I’ve tried wakeboarding twice in my life, I don’t have a great knack for the sport. I enjoy watching more.

That’s why I had such a great time last year when I covered the Ultimate Wake Championship at CWC for Onesport Magazine. I thought I’d posted about this trip, but apparently I’d only posted about the disastrous bus ride we took to get to Camsur.

UWC at CWC: Media Pass!

Media Pass!

The Ultimate Wake Championship 2011 was a season-culminating event for international pro wakeboarders and wakeskaters. Unlike previous events held at CWC, this was exclusively for the pros, so we got to see some really high-quality tricks in the air and on the water.

Sorry for not getting great photos of the tricks. I was the writer on this expedition, after all. 😉  Read more

One Bad Night in Boracay

A story in tweets.