Apparently, not knowing Maggie Beer is a mortal sin, at least based on my Aussie colleagues’ reaction when I said I didn’t know her. In my defense, cooking is not in the list of my acquired skills, at least not yet. One thing is for sure though, after my Adelaide trip, there is no way I could ever forget Maggie Beer.
Maggie Beer is a famous Australian chef, author, restaurant owner, and food manufacturer. She lives in Barossa Valley where she owns a farm called, Maggie’s Farm Shop in Nuriootpa. You have probably seen her on TV as guest on Master Chef Australia and as one of the judges of The Great Australian Bake Off. They say that Maggie didn’t have any formal training as a chef, yet she is so good at cooking she’s been quite successful in her career for over five decades now.
One of the bonding activities that my manager organized for our team is a lunch out at her farm, which is an hour drive from our office in Adelaide. The place has a shop, a restaurant, and a lodging place and it sits by the lake where you can see some turtles swimming.
The Farm Shop
The Farm Shop is where one can find Maggie Beer’s products such as food and cooking ingredients, wine, kitchenware, and cookbooks. This is the only place in Australia where you can sample every food product that they make. I took the encouragement to heart and tasted just about every jam that I could. I was completely taken by their jam, jellies and glazes, specifically the Burnt fig jam (Aud 9.95). It’s a dark-colored, thick concoction that is not overly sweet and very delicious. I didn’t even think you could make a jam out of a fig until this trip. I kept coming to it and I think I might have overdone it because my boss took notice and ended up buying me a jar (thanks boss).
The Farm Shop has a café as well and I almost bought me a cup until I remembered that our next point of agenda is wine tasting. I feared I might end up upsetting my stomach, so I decided against it.
The Farm Eatery
The most exciting part of the farm visit, of course, is having a sumptuous lunch at The Farm Eatery. This place is operated by Maggie’s youngest daughter, Elli with the help of Chef Tim Bourke. This restaurant doubles as an experience center where people can join cooking classes or gin-making sessions.
I ordered Fried free-range chicken with pickled cucumber and ranch sauce (Aud 36), one of the most expensive mains on the menu but worth every penny. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when they served it to me because when I saw the food that my colleague ordered (and it looked so appetizing, see photo on the right), I kinda regretted ordering this chicken dish. Then I started eating it and it was like the world stopped turning; it was absolutely marvelous. The chicken is so tender and it went so well with the creamy ranch sauce. I wish I knew how to make this so I could replicate it back home; it was simply unforgettable.
The Orchard House
For people who want to experience old fashion hospitality or in need of a quick getaway from the busy life, they can book a stay at The Orchard House. It’s a bed and breakfast accommodation with two bedrooms, a fully furnished kitchen, a barbecue area, and a garden. We were not able to see this part of the farm, but I’ve seen it on the website, and it looks so beautiful I’d love to stay there when I have a chance.
If there is a remote possibility you are able to visit Barossa Valley, do not miss the chance of dining in at Maggie Beer Farm. I promise you, that long drive is worth it.
I don’t know why but I suddenly grew a fascination over Makati hostels last year that I spent most of my weekends in Poblacion. In the process, I gained insights and experiences that I had been glossing over with my friends and colleagues. There is hardly to say if you are alone in a room but in a dorm shared with strangers, oh boy that’s a different story. From slob roommates, confused staff, to tiny roaches, I have almost seen it all. And today I am going to rank these hostels from my least favorite to the best. Before we begin, let me just say that this ranking is based on my personal experience and preference. The opinion is mine and mine alone.
5. Junction Hostels
I stayed at Junction Hostels during the election weekend last year. Just to give context, I now live in Pasig, but I am still a Makati voter. I booked this hostel to get to the precinct with no hassle. I was further persuaded by how good it looked on photos, the design looks right out of a dystopian novel. Also, it is super cheap, you can book a bed in a dorm room for as low as Php 400.
This, however, is a perfect illustration of expectations versus reality. It’s not that they posted fake photos, it’s just that it is no longer the best representation of its current condition. The hostel is in badly need of maintenance. During my stay, the second floor’s bathrooms were not working that I had to go to the third floor just to shower. There were broken toilet seats, non-working pipes, and it was all made worse by the water crisis that affected many parts in Metro Manila during that time. Unfortunately, the hostel didn’t have the facility to deal with such crisis.
But the most terrible experience that I had is dealing with a slob roommate. I was not prepared to see the amount of junk and stuff that she had when I entered the room. She was practically living there; all her stuff scattered everywhere. Because her things were in the middle of the room, it felt like I was walking through a maze every time I made my way to my locker. This girl was also setting the thermostat between 25° to 28°C that I had trouble sleeping from sweating up all night. Note that this happened during summer season, it was very humid and hot.
I know that unpleasant guests are beyond the control of the management., however, since she had been staying there a long time, the least they could do is advise her to put her stuff away. She was, after all, staying in a shared room, that kind of behavior is only acceptable if she had been staying in a private room.
Despite being the last in this list, I have noted some of the good things about Junction Hostels. As I mentioned, the rate is cheap so it’s best if you are on a budget. It is also near the gimmick spots in Poblacion. Their WiFi connection is reliable and they have a common area where guests can hang out or do some online stuff. Lastly, the hostel staff is nice and polite.
Address: Annex Matheus Building, General Luna corner Don Pedro Street, Poblacion, Makati
Dorm room rates: Php 400-1,400
Deposit: Php 1,000
Toiletries: Not available
Blow dryer: Not available
Bed curtains: Not available
Locker: Bring your own padlock
Free breakfast: Not included
4. Bunk 5021 Hostel
Located in Poblacion’s “Red District,” Bunk 5021 Hostel is on the least ideal location among all the hostels in this list, at least in my opinion. It’s not because I’m prude, it’s because it stands on the side of the road, which would make sleeping a bit of a challenge from all the noise coming from the bars as well as from the passing vehicles below. This might be an issue for light sleepers, but nothing that a pair of earplugs cannot solve. So that’s a tip, if you’re staying here, bring earplugs.
There’s been a problem when I checked in; I booked a 4-bed shared room for my 2-day stay yet when I arrived, they put me in a 6-bed room. They reasoned that the a/c in the room that I booked has problems and apparently, the other 4-bed room is fully occupied. I found this disappointing because…
- This is not my problem. At the very least, they could have informed me about the room issue before I arrived so I could manage my expectations.
- The 4-bed room is slightly more expensive than the 6-bed, yet they didn’t even offer to refund me.
I hope next time they prevent this from happening.
Generally, my stay at Bunk 5021 has been good. The bed is comfy and they have the best locker; spacious and digital, it can be opened and locked by the same card key that you will use to enter the room.
They have an entertainment area with a co-working space on the top floor. I think it’s smart that they decided to separate it from the restaurant as the latter could get noisy quickly.
Their in-house bar and resto has delicious but inexpensive food. Try their chicken popcorn and the pancit lucban, they are very savory.
Lastly, the staff is attentive and willing to provide guests what they need. For example, on my first day, I had a bad luck of being bunked in a room with two men who didn’t have the decency to step out to puff their cigarettes. They did it inside the bathroom, I even saw cigarette ashes on the toilet seat, oh the horror. Because of this I had difficult time sleeping having to breathe in all that smoke. I immediately reported the matter to the receptionist first thing in the morning. When I requested that they move me to another room, they readily obliged, and this time, they put me in a room that I originally booked.
Address: 5021 P Burgos, Makati
Dorm room rates: Php 500-600
Deposit: Php 500
Blow dryer: Not available
Bed curtains: Available
Locker: Digital lock, no need for padlock
Free breakfast: Not included
3. Lub D
Lub D is a hostel chain from Thailand and the Philippines’ branch was opened two years ago in Makati. In Trip Advisor, Lub D is the top-ranking Makati hostel, but for me, it only holds the third spot. Let me expound.
Facilities wise, Lub D is the clear winner. It has over 163 rooms, a good number of which are private rooms. At 36 square meters, their rooms are the most spacious I’ve seen in a hostel. The bed is also the most comfortable and big for a single bed. Each bed has a night light, a tiny cabinet that you can lock your personal effects with, and universal sockets and USB ports to charge your devices. There is a curtain, but it can only cover half of the bed.
There is a locker area inside the room but in a secluded area, thereby minimizing the disturbance to other guests should one need to get something from their bag. Okay let’s talk about the locker because whoever designed it seemed to have forgotten the purpose of it. It is by far the weirdest and the worst locker I have ever seen in my life. I mean, just look at the photos below, the door is short and doesn’t cover the bottom part. This is only good for huge luggage but if you have a smaller bag, it is useless to lock it in there. Anyone could just easily pull out your belongings from under.
The shared bathroom and toilets for dorm rooms are down the hallway. There’s hot and cold shower, shampoo, and liquid body soap. There’s a sink area and powder area, both are equipped with large mirrors. There’s a coin-operated washing machine and a small area for hanging clothes. Cottons, q tips, and blow dryer are also provided for. My only problem with the shower area is the drain always clogs up that the floor is usually flooded.
Another good thing about Lub D is the reliable WiFi, you’re always connected no matter which floor you are on. On the second floor is the reception area, the co-working space, a private conference room, game/entertainment room, Skype booths, as well as a small cinema. They have a rooftop bar and resto, unfortunately, not only is the food pricey, the taste leaves much to be desired.
With all these descriptions, you might be wondering why Lub D isn’t on the top of this list. The answer is poor customer service. I have been to many hostels here and abroad, but the staff at Lub D, at least some of them seem off. First, they don’t even show as much as a smile and have this perpetual bored or pissed look on their faces. I find this off-putting as they are working in the hospitality industry. That and this one incident that I would never forget.
This is going to be long, so please bear with me. My friends and I booked for a night and since our number could easily fit in the 8-bed mixed dorm room, we called Lub D to know if they can put us all in the same room. We provided our names as well as our booking reference numbers, and thankfully they agreed to this arrangement. If they told us that this is not possible, I would have been more understanding, but they agreed, hence I’m sharing the story.
The first booboo that they did is putting one of our friends (let’s call him JM) in another room when his name and booking number were clearly included in the list that we provided. This means that suddenly, we have one free bed in our room. We let this go because JM has already settled in and didn’t want to move to our room anymore.
We have another friend (let’s call her LD) who had no previous booking. Since there’s a vacant bed in our room that JM didn’t take, we advised her to tell the receptionist to put her in our room. She did just that and they gave her a card key so we were all under the impression that she has been booked already.
Further into the night, we went back to our room after barhopping on Poblacion. We didn’t sleep right away and was chatting in our room when all of a sudden, the door opened. One of the receptionists and a security guard came in. The woman said that the room is not exclusive to us. We were naturally confused, there are 8 beds in the room, and there’s 8 of us, what did she mean by that?
I went downstairs with 3 of my friends where we spent like 10 minutes discussing with the receptionist. She told us repeatedly that we can’t have the room all to ourselves. I couldn’t for the life of me understand what she meant when our number was complete and all of us booked the room. I even wrote down all of our names, showed it to the her, yet she maintained that the room is not ours without being able to explain why. Then something clicked inside my head that I turned to LD and asked if she paid already. She said no, so that explains it. If this has been the issue all along then…
1. Why didn’t the receptionist tell us so? She wasted so much time telling us that the room is not exclusive to us, when she could have just easily told us that LD is in fact, not yet booked. I even showed her the list of our names, she could have checked which one is not included.
2. Why did they give LD a card key to begin with? I asked the receptionist, “Do you really provide non-guests a card key?” To which she replied, no. If that is so, then why did they give her a card key?! I waited for an answer, but the receptionist looked as confused as we were.
The issue could have been prevented if they didn’t put one of our friends in another room. I think the problem here is their lack of due diligence to check all bookings. Had they been meticulous about it, they never would have overlooked it. It is worth repeating that we asked them nicely in advance if they can accommodate our request and they agreed, it’s not like we just demanded the arrangement on the spot.
Lub D is not my top choice because I place high importance on how the staff treat their guests and this incident was just unbelievable to me.
Address: 7820 Makati Avenue Barangay Poblacion, Makati
Dorm room rates: Php 600-750
Blow dryer: Available
Bed curtains: Available
Locker: Bring your own padlock
Free breakfast: None
2. Zula Hostel
My second favorite is one of the newest in the game. Zula Hostel opened in July 2019 and already it has been gaining a great number of positive reviews from previous guests. It is located along Makati Ave.
I asked the staff what Zula means but nobody was able to answer me. So I googled, and I’m not sure if this is where the owners based the name, but Urban Dictionary defines it as a place where you are happiest and relaxed or a place you’re most where you are most.
Zula Hostel has an elevator, an in-house restaurant and café, and a rooftop bar. There’s free WiFi use, they will give you a voucher for access details upon check-in.
All rooms have their own bathrooms. The beds are comfy equipped with a night light and power sockets.
In the morning, they deliver breakfast to the rooms. They put them in a brown bag and it usually contains a fruit, bread, and juice.
If there is a competition for the warmest staff, Zula’s personnel would win hands down. They will always greet you with a warm smile, say hi whenever you pass by, even offer you their food if you happen to see them having their break. They will bend over backwards to ensure your stay will be as comfortable as possible.
A good example of this is when I was about to go out to meet my friends one night and found that it was raining outside. I had no umbrella, so I asked the staff if they have something to lend for their guests just like in other hotels. They don’t, but instead of leaving it at that, one of them let me borrow her personal umbrella. I was genuinely touched because it was unnecessary on her part, yet she did it anyway. What a good display of going out of your way to help someone.
Address: 7840 Makati Avenue corner P. Guanzon Street, Makati
Dorm room rates: Php 400-700
Blow dryer: Available
Bed curtains: Available
Locker: Bring your own padlock
Free breakfast: Included
1. Z Hostel
My top choice for Makati hostel is a surprise even for me. I don’t really like staying at party hostels as they are usually noisy and filled with guests, however, Z Hostel ticks many things that I usually look for in a hostel.
First is the location, it is at the heart of Poblacion, which is one of the best gimmick spots in the metro. My friends and I like to frequent this area and so I find that staying at Z to be most convenient when I know we would stay out late.
Facility wise, it is not as good as Zula or Lub D, but it is pretty well-maintained. It has a very spacious reception area equipped with huge and comfortable couches to lounge on, two computers that guests are free to use, as well as some books for reading.
The dorm rooms have their own toilet and shower and if you are a woman, I highly suggest you book an all-female dorm as it equipped with things not found on mixed dorms, such as a vanity mirror, q tips and cotton, blow dryer, and robes. Also, I find it hard to share a room with men as they tend to be more negligent with their stuff. Another reason is the possibility of seeing people having sex, which a friend of mine has unfortunately witnessed a couple of times in a mixed dorm.
There are no toiletries so make sure to bring yours. If you get cold easily, you may request for a fleece blanket from the reception at no additional cost, just make sure to return it to them alongside the RFID and the bath towel upon checkout.
Speaking of RFID, this bracelet will be given to you when you check in. This is what you use to record your purchase made at their roof-deck bar or at the café. The minimum top-up amount is Php 300. You will settle the payment during check-out, and if there’s balance left, you will be able to refund it.
Z’s roof-deck bar is among the best spots to drink and party in Poblacion. It is always filled with party-goers especially on Fridays and Saturdays. Guests have free access to this bar with one free drink that they can claim from 6:00 to 7:00 in the evening. Non-guests, one the other hand, must pay Php 300 to gain access.
Not gonna lie, you will hear the music in the room from the roof deck so if you don’t have earplugs and you’re a light sleeper, this may pose a problem for you. I deal with the noise by my ever-reliable ear plugs.
But the thing that I love most about staying at Z Hostel that makes it a good value for money is the buffet breakfast inclusion. There’s toast bread, a Filipino noodle dish (e.g., lomi, sopas, pancit) or sometimes, porridge, and there are fruits and cereals. There’s also brewed coffee and tea, and fruit juice. I don’t usually eat breakfast but when I’m staying at Z Hostel, I make it a point to get up and eat.
Address: 5660 Don Pedro St., Barangay Poblacion, Makati
Dorm room rates: Php 500-980
Blow dryer: Yes (available at ladies’ dorm or upon request)
Bed curtains: Yes
Locker: Bring your own padlock
Free breakfast: Yes
Other perks: One free drink at the rooftop bar from 6-7pm
Ranking based on hotel booking websites
Here’s how these hostels fare on hotel booking sites. Interestingly, it looks like I am on the same page with Hostelworld users.
Traveling to Bangkok, Thailand is not just hype; all the ravings are justified, all the tears shed for not wanting to leave (as in the case of a certain friend), all other good things that people had been telling me all this time about Bangkok are true. A trip so delightful, I must tell you all about it in this travel guide.
There are four major activities I deem a requisite to fully enjoying your time in Bangkok; eating, shopping, temple-hopping, and partying. But before we delve into the specifics, let’s discuss first the logistics.
Fly to Bangkok
As early as the mid-last year I was already planning my yearend trip. I kept my eyes peeled on cheap flights to Japan promo to join my friend, Cai who had booked a good flight deal to Tokyo. Going to Japan is no longer as expensive as it used to be. There are travel sites such as Traveloka and airlines that offer airfare promos all the time, you just have to wait for the right opportunity to book. But somewhere along the way, our plan changed, the most significant of which is the target country. Next thing I knew, I was checking Jetstar flight deals for Bangkok, Thailand. Though less expensive, Thailand is in no way a downgrade from Japan.
If you’re Filipino like me, you can skip worrying about visa as we are visa-free. There are many flights to choose from Manila to Bangkok and if you chance upon a promo, you could go there for less than 100 US dollars (Php 5,000) round-trip. In my case, I spent almost Php 7,000 in total for a two-way flight. Travel time takes 4 hours; Bangkok is two hours ahead of Manila.
Sleep in Bangkok
The next point of business is to find a place to sleep. Most tourists recommend staying around the Sukhumvit area as it has a great number of hostels. My friends and I (there’s 4 of us on this trip, by the way) stayed at Bangkok’s financial district, Silom. I had a hard time choosing a place because there were so many pretty hostels to choose from. Eventually, I locked our 5-day stay at Warm Window Silom at Pan Road for only Php 2,600 pesos.
Our last few days in Bangkok on the other hand (after returning from Laos), were spent at Siam Journey Guesthouse in Siam. I’ll be publishing separate reviews of these hostels in the coming days so I can give you more information.
Shop in Bangkok
I know someone who used to go back to Bangkok just to shop. I have a colleague who wanted to go back to Bangkok just to shop. I guess I’m highly suggestible that I purposely packed fewer clothes and paid for baggage allowance for when I return home. I was set on doing shopping way before I decided to visit any of the temples in Bangkok.
On the day of our arrival, as soon as we were done checking in at Warm Window, Cai and I went on a shopping mission.
Our first stop is Chatuchak, a popular weekend market on Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road. The place covers an area of 27 acres, making it one of the largest weekend markets in the world. It has over 15,000 stalls, selling all sorts of items you could think of — garments, footwear, accessories, local souvenirs, handicrafts, food, etc. The place looks like a better version of Divisoria — more organized, less crowded (Divisoria remains unbeatable in the most crowded category), and much cleaner, and by cleaner I mean the grounds are not perpetually wet and muddy as in Divisoria, (yes, another Divi comparison).
Out of all the places we went to, this is where I shopped the most. I also find the clothes here less expensive as compared with the other shopping centers we visited. You could buy a shirt as cheap as 150 baht (Php 250). With my 2,000 baht (Php 3,000), I went home with 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of sandals, and 6 tops.
Another popular market can be found at Rod Fai, which is my friend’s personal favorite. However, it quickly turned into a disappointment when we saw a multitude of tourists when we arrived. Just look at the photo below for reference.
The vendors were still setting up their stalls when we got there so I wasn’t able to buy anything. We were already famished from all the walking that we did in Chatuchak and thought it best to have dinner first before leaving. We ate some spicy noodles in one of the food tents.
Central World Bazaar
It’s a different type of shopping experience at the Christmas bazaar in front of the Central World mall. This is where we saw some interesting vintage items such as home furniture and display, old vinyl records, even thrift clothes. I bought my most favorite piece of clothing from this trip, a pair of pale pink pants (see my photo at the Grand Palace and Wat Arun).
I noticed that shopping items in this bazaar are much more expensive than the ones that are being sold at both Chatuchak and Rod Fai.
Visit temples and palaces in Bangkok
The country is called officially the Kingdom of Thailand; it is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Thailand’s culture is rich and diverse, and the Thai people are diligent and consistent in their preservation efforts up to this day.
Religion plays an important role in their cultural identity; thus, you will see a lot of Buddhist and Hindu temples all over the country and many of them are so beautiful they are also considered tourist attractions. Here are some that are worth visiting.
The Grand Palace
The official residence of the Kings of Siam, The Grand Palace complex is one of the most-visited places in Bangkok. It was built in 1782, covering a total land area of 218,000 square meters. The entry fee to this palace is 500 baht for the tourists; Thais may enter free of charge.
My friend (this time it’s Christine) and I “attempted” to visit it, attempted being the operative word as we changed our mind when we saw just how many people were waiting in the ticket line. The photos below were taken on the front yard of the complex.
Note that you cannot enter the palace wearing shorts, miniskirts, or sleeveless tops. Christine was stopped at the entrance because she was wearing a sleeveless top. She had no choice but to buy a shirt just to get in. To think we only went as far as the front yard. So make sure that you are properly covered when you visit the palace.
Opening hours: Daily 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
Entrance fee: 500 baht
Not wanting to completely waste our day, we transferred to Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or simply, Wat Arun. It is a Buddhist temple located at Bangkok Yai district. While the Grand Palace entrance fee will cost you an arm and a leg, you only need to pay 50 baht (about 83 pesos) to access Wat Arun.
And I tell you that small fee is so worth it because Wat Arun temples are beautiful beyond words. It has a central Khmer-style tower encrusted with colorful porcelain. It is surrounded by equally gorgeous four smaller prangs (tower). Also, it is not as busy as The Grand Palace.
Opening hours: Daily 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Entrance fee: 50 baht
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
Also known as Maha Uma Devi Temple, is an Indian Hindu temple in Si Lom Road, Bangrak District. It is a stunning colorful architecture. It was built by an immigrant named, Vaithi Padayatchi in 1879. It’s only just a few minutes walk from Warm Window Hostel where were staying.
Eat in Thailand
If neither shopping nor temple-hopping excites you, this portion surely will. Thailand’s cuisine is world-renowned for a reason that skipping a food trip will be a sin. If you’re in any kind of diet, you will have to pause it while you are visiting Thailand, it’s how delectable their food is. Here are some of the places where you can find delicious food in Bangkok.
Cheaper and Better
I didn’t make up that name. Cheaper and Better is located along Si Lom, Suriya Wong. Just as the name implies, the food here is cheaper and better than some of the more expensive restos in Bangkok. You will eat al fresco, in what looks like a public market.
Food is cooked and served fast and they were yummy. I truly enjoyed the steamed chicken that I ordered.
Sukhumvit area used to be a haven for street food until the government tear down their stalls and forbid them from selling on the street again. Many vendors moved location, rented a space, or built their restaurants in front of their houses. One of these restaurants is Im Chan, which we found at Soi Sukhumvit 37.
In Thailand, you don’t have to go to posh restaurants to enjoy lip-smacking dishes. Im Chan looked like a regular turo-turo/eatery in the Philippines, yet the food betrays the resto’s not-so-pleasing interiors. The rice with shrimp and the pad thai were both bursting with flavor, I wanted to cry.
Mae Varee Fruit Shop
There is only one place I’d recommend you go to if you want to eat the popular Thai dessert, mango sticky rice. Mae Varee Fruit Shop can also be found at Sukhumvit and it sits just beside Im Chan. You can tell by the looks and the taste that they only use high-quality ingredients for their mango sticky rice. It comes with three flavors of sticky rice and coconut milk. You can also buy other products from this shop that you can take home as pasalubong to your family and friends.
Pad Thai Shophouse
It is always a good idea to eat where the locals go. Some Thai friends of Cai claimed that Pad Thai Shophouse is where we can have the best pad thai in Bangkok. We listened and they sure weren’t lying. The pad thai is ridiculously good that I just had to return the next day to eat it again. Aside from pad thai, they also offer oyster cake and thai milk tea.
If you have more budget, then go to the Ari area and dine at the Michelin star restaurant called Lay Lao. They specialize in seafood and northeastern street food. My most recommended dish here would be the tom yum. Their spicy and creamy take on this popular Thai dish is simply unforgettable.
This article is not enough to talk about all the amazing food that we’ve had in Bangkok, so I’ll make a separate post solely dedicated to that. Stay tuned.
Party at Khao San
I have a confession, I didn’t party. Cai and I just went there so I could experience it. Khao San is a long stretch of road lined with bars and restaurants on each side. Apparently, we were too early that people were still in the process of getting drunk when we arrived.
The area is quite touristy and aside from bars, there were street food, massage spas, and clothing stalls on the street. They say that if you want to go home wasted, this is the place to be. Unfortunately, I didn’t go home wasted, maybe on my next visit I will be.
I thought I might not like Bangkok because geographically, it looks quite similar to my country. After traveling many times, I thought I was done being impressed by things, but Bangkok broke my preconceived notions. Its tourism slogan, Amazing Thailand is highly justifiable. I have just been to Bangkok yet I only have nothing but good words for it, what more if I visited other parts of the country. This is why I am not yet done telling you all about it; this is just the beginning of my Bangkok series.
I go somewhere, I find coffee. It’s my pilgrimage, my life mission, my topmost priority in all my travels. But I am not a coffee snob as this CNN article claims of the people of Sydney. What I am is a coffee fan, an enthusiast who likes discovering different cafés. And if the café is pretty, even if it’s not well-known, you will most likely see me making my way there. I had no problem finding the best coffee when I went to Australia because of their coffee culture. In Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD) alone there are a lot to choose from. Here are some of the best ones that I’ve tried so far.
Ampersand Café and Bookstore
First on the list is my most favorite, Ampersand. It’s a café and a bookstore along Oxford Street. They have over 30,000 books on their shelves that customers can either borrow or purchase. Aside from coffee they offer pasta dishes, salads, baked goods, and other drinks. The place is also big, goes up to the third floor.
Address: 78 Oxford Street
Paddington, Sydney NSW
Business Hours: Monday – Saturday | 7:30am – 5:30pm
Sunday | 9:00am – 5:00pm
I was walking my way back to the hostel when I passed by this café that was obviously named after the street where it’s located. Coffee Pitt is a small café manned by Asian baristas. Not sure if it’s just the timing of my visit but when I went there even the customers are mostly Asian (Koreans and Chinese based on what I overheard). It’s a cool place with dark-toned interiors and they are serving Toby’s Estate coffee. In short, their coffee doesn’t need any introduction. Their flat white was amazing.
Address: 365 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW
Business Hours: Monday – Friday | 6:00am – 8:00pm
Saturday – Sunday | 8:00am – 6:00pm
Boon Café offers Thai food inside an Asian grocery store; it’s exactly how I described it. The café space was small, just a few tables that could easily fill up with customers. I was very happy with the dish that I ordered, a noodle dish with seafood, it was bursting with flavors and the serving is generous. I find the coffee that I ordered too bitter for my taste, nevertheless, I liked the smooth and creamy texture.
Address: 425 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW
Business Hours: Monday – Sunday | 8:00am – 12:00am
Auvers is a café named after a village in the north-western suburbs of Paris. If you want delicious cake to pair with your coffee, this is where you should go. In fact, I remember it most for the cakes than the coffee, that’s how delicious they are. I liked the coffee art though, it’s cute.
These cakes have unique flavors, the cake roll is lychee, the crepe cake is English breakfast; that’s right, a tea-flavored cake. I was doubtful when the barista recommended it to us, but he sounded so confident that we would love it, my friend and I gave in. And he was right, the crepe cake does taste like tea but it was not overpowering and doesn’t leave an aftertaste. It was mildly sweet too, it was fantastic. Do order it when you get a chance to visit Auvers. Please forgive the not-so-pleasing photos as I took them in a hurry.
Address: Shop 4, 12 Nicolle Walk,
Darling Square, Darling Square
Business Hours: Monday – Friday | 7:00am – 10:00pm
Saturday | 8:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday | 8:00am – 10:00pm
Majority of us cannot claim that a hotel bears our name, not out of privilege but as a tribute. This is my first thought when I learned that Art Series The Watsons Apartment was named after one of the greatest aboriginal artists in Australia, Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson. I was able to stay in this artsy boutique hotel during my 3-day business trip in Adelaide, South Australia.
Art Series Hotels
The Watsons is owned by the Art Series Hotels, a chain of artsy boutique hotels and residences established in 2009. Each of their hotel is named after some of the best contemporary artists in Australia. These artists inspire the overall design of the hotels, their artworks adorn the rooms, halls, and walls. Aside from the Watsons, they have The Fantauzzo and The Johnson Hotel in Brisbane, The Chen, The Larwill Studio, The Cullen Hotel, The Olsen Hotel, and The Blackman Hotel in Victoria.
The Artist, Tommy Watson
The Watsons features the artworks of the late Tommy Watson. He was born around the 1930s and spent his early childhood hunting with his father in a country along Gibson Desert. It was not until 2001 that he started painting and quickly rose as one of the greatest indigenous artists of the land down under. Some of his art are exhibited at The National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
At The Watsons, his abstract paintings are mounted on the walls. He is drawn to rich colors of red and orange, shapes and lines built with dotted technique. His art is said to have been inspired by sacred mythologies and intangible nature of the land.
The Watsons is located in a quiet neighborhood along Warwick Street, Walkerville. It has fully furnished suites, an onsite restaurant, a 25-meter swimming pool, and a gym. They also offer long-stay residence apartments.
I was booked in a two-bedroom suite (not sure why they put me in there when I was alone), with a fully functional kitchen, toilet and bathroom, dining table, and a living room. There are three TVs, one for each bedroom and another one on the living room.
There is a washing machine in the bathroom across the sink area. It all looks good, just one misplaced thing, a microwave oven. I am really not sure why they put it in there.
The fridge is filled with different kinds of drinks and snacks. I took the liberty of taking a few of them (mainly bottled water) as my reservation includes a budget for hotel incidentals.
The kitchen is fitted with a stove, the cabinets are filled with dining utensils, there’s a dishwasher, and a coffee machine.
The room is paid for, but I only slept on one of the bedrooms for environmental reasons. It means that whenever I stay in hotels, I make it a point to not to use more than I should. I don’t ask for extra toiletries unless I ran out of them and I only use one bath towel. I also put up the no-disturb sign every time I leave the room so the housecleaning doesn’t have to keep changing my bed sheets and towels. Most of my stays are short anyway, I’ve learned to make do with what’s available in the room.
On my first night I called room service to order my dinner. I’m surprised at how fast they delivered the food and doubly impressed because it was delicious. It’s seared salmon with risotto.
They have an in-house café called The Grind. I would have wanted to hang out there, but there’s not enough hours in a day. By the time I get back to the hotel, I’m already too full to even think of dining in there. I did go there one morning to get coffee and it was good.
The Watsons is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in and I liked it not only for its good facilities but also for the whole concept of collaborating with a local artist. The paintings of Watson added a unique personality to the hotel, it was a joy for me to see them up close. What an excellent way to celebrate a man and his work indeed.
Mid 2019, I was dealing with anxiety. There were many changes happening at work that I felt isolated and uncertain of my future in the company. I had a feeling I have reached a plateau in my career and that perhaps that is all there is to it. I was already in the middle of pondering my exit when a new manager came along. Curious, I held on to see what this means for our team and I’m glad that I did. The new manager revived my dying enthusiasm and arranged something that I never thought would ever happen again; returning to Australia that is. On 29th November, I flew to Sydney for a business trip that involved meeting my teammates and some barbecue and wine.
I was dubious of getting my visa approved considering I only had less than two weeks to process it. Thankfully, it was granted just after 11 days of my application. I flew to Sydney via Qantas on the 29th of November and for the first time I’d been given an exit row seat. This means more leg room, and that the safety of other passengers rests on my five-foot one frame (it was a safe flight so we didn’t have to put that to the test, thank lord).
In the first few hours of the journey I struggled to get some shuteye because my seat mate, a tall Aussie guy and the flight attendant were busy talking in what felt like another language as their accents were too thick, I couldn’t grasp a thing. And here I thought I was already used to listening to Australians. When at last, they’ve grown tired of each other, I twisted and turned on my seat, trying to find a comfortable position so I could sleep, but to no avail. I was also coughing the entire flight making things all the more difficult. I was sitting by the window and wanted so bad to rest my legs on top of this compartment like thingy in front of my seat, I don’t know what to call it but click here to see a photo (the image is not mine so I just linked it). But it had a sign saying not to put a bag on it, so I assumed that also goes for legs.
We landed safely on Sydney airport Saturday morning. For the first time in my life, I had something to declare so it took me a while to pass through airport checkpoints. Australia is quite strict about what you bring to their country so if you have live animals, plant material, animal products, and certain food products, it is best to declare them. I only brought a box of dried mangoes for my colleagues, some of my friends said I didn’t have to declare it. But when you’ve watched Qantas flight-safety video in which they keep telling you to “just declare it” on repeat, you’d be programmed to indeed, just declare it.
They have separate queues for people with something to declare and that’s where I went. But whenever I say I got dried mangoes they don’t make a fuss and just let me through.
By the time I got myself a sim card, all the texts that I had been receiving from the shuttle driver have started to come through. I met him after exiting the airport. I booked a shared transfer from the airport to CBD via Klook but to my surprise, I was the only passenger.
Westend Backpacker Hostel
I wouldn’t check in at the hotel that the company arranged for me until the next day, hence, I booked an overnight stay at Westend Backpacker Hostel. When I entered through the glass door, I looked up and saw the challenge ahead.
A man from the top of the stairs caught me contemplating about my fate and decided to save the day. He helped me with my luggage and when I said my thanks, he said no worries and patted me on the head, and I was like.
It was too early to check in, the receptionist — who is so pretty and tall she could pass for a Victoria Secret model — told me that I could store my bag in their luggage room while waiting. I used the elevator to the 6th floor, found the luggage room, and recoiled at the chaos waiting inside the room.
I went downstairs to kill time and had to cringe at yet another disappointment. One of the reasons I booked my stay in this hostel is because it looked good on photos, but in person it was completely different. Don’t take my word for it, just look at this side by side photos of the common area. The left photo is what you can see from Agoda, the right photo is what I took.
It seems like Australia hasn’t caught up yet on trendy and charming hostels that are popular in Asia. Despite this, the place is fully booked that you can’t do an early check in. I think the appeal is that it is on CBD but not overly expensive. Also, it has an open kitchen equipped with cooking utensils. Guests are free to use this kitchen to make their own food and I saw a lot of them there looking like they were having a cook off of some sort.
I made myself comfortable on one of the huge couches, covered my head with pashmina, and slept to recover from that red-eye flight. I was in and out of sleep as I heard people talking in different languages, walking, eating their breakfast. I was too sleep-deprived to care.
Finally, it was time to check in, the model-esque receptionist gave me a key to the all-female dorm with 6 beds. It was in disarray as could be expected in dorm rooms. The latch of the sliding door of the bathroom was broken so I was a bit concerned. But then again, it’s an all-female dorm, what’s the worst that could happen.
I had a little chat with a curly haired woman occupying one of the upper bunk beds. I can’t remember now which country she came from only that she speaks Spanish. She had two big luggage and had been traveling in Australia for a while now. She asked if I’m catholic, to which I said yes, then she shared her unfavorable opinion of the current pope. Apparently, he is too political for her taste. I disagree but I knew better than to go into a debate that involves religion.
I let out a cough, which I had been suffering from for a week and she had a suggestion about it.
“I had been sick for the past few days too and I cured myself. I ate those super spicy cup noodles from the Asian store across the street and that fixed me right up. You better buy one of those. If it gets bad at night, just go to the kitchen, there’s hot water in there, then eat the spicy noodles, it will give you relief,” she said.
Now I don’t even know if there’s some scientific truth to her claims, but I didn’t follow her advice, not because I thought she was lying, but because midnight snacking is not my thing. I do intermittent fasting, been at it for a year now.
I kinda regretted not listening to her though because I barked the entire night.
On my first visit to Australia in 2017, I went to some of the must-see spots in CBD such as the Darling Harbour, The Rocks, Chinatown, Taronga Zoo, and the one place that could easily tell your folks back home that indeed you are in Oz, the Sydney Opera House. I was thinking of going to Bondi beach, but laziness got the best of me. I decided to just go back to the Sydney Opera House to take some photos, so you know, I have something to show the people back home I am indeed back to Oz, lol.
My Opal card is still working, I just had to top up so I could use it for public transport. I took a bus to Darling Harbour and from there, went on foot to get to the Sydney Opera.
The Royal Botanic Garden
Next to the opera is a botanical garden, which I discovered accidentally as I was taking some photos. I went over to check it out and saw this small table on the side of the gate manned by a guard. I wondered if I had to buy a ticket to get inside, so I stood by the gate to observe people. When I saw that they just entered through the gates freely, I followed suit.
A quick wiki read says that it is one of the most historic botanical institutions in Australia. It was opened in 1816, sitting on a 29-hectare of land. It has four major areas: Lower Gardens, Middle Gardens, Palace Gardens, and the Bennlong precinct. I only saw a small portion of the park as the sun was already setting when I went there. It was beautiful and a perfect spot to chill.
The next day I checked out and took the train to North Ryde. I went to Meriton Suites Chatswood, thinking that that’s where the company booked my stay. Wrong. They booked me on Meriton Suites North Ryde. So, this is where my adventure happened and by adventure, I mean I walked from the North Ryde train station to Meriton Suites with my big luggage for 1 and half hour. See the Google Maps screenshot below for reference. Took me longer than 45 minutes with the luggage.
Yes, I could have taken the train, yes, I could have taken an Uber, but I had to be the moron who walked that distance for no logical reason at all. You see, sometimes I am not very smart, lol. This is when I found out that many roads and streets in North Ryde have too many slopes. I spent an hour either pushing my luggage up the hilly sidewalk or chasing my luggage when going down the slope. I hope Google Maps’ street camera wasn’t making rounds during that time lest there would be a capture of this silly woman with a luggage on their street view images (well at least my face will be blurred).
Why did I do it? All I could remember is that I told myself I had already started it, might as well finish it. Totally unreasonable and not something you should try, kids.
When at last I reached Meriton, it was already past 11. I realized that Meriton Chatswood may be farther in location from our office than Meriton North Ryde, but easier for me to get to work. Meriton Chatswood is a mere 3-minute walk to Chatswood train station, which is just a station away from North Ryde. From North Ryde station, it only takes about 8 minutes of walk to the office, easy peasy.
But with Meriton North Ryde, I’d have to walk for an hour (which I already did). The easy way is to take an Uber, which is a more expensive option than taking the train. So if there is a competition between Meriton Chatswood and Meriton North Ryde for the most convenient way to get to the office, the former wins.
The benefit of staying at Meriton North Ryde is that it sits across a mall called, McQuarie Park. That’s where I went for lunch while waiting for check-in time.
I was in Sydney for 4 days to meet my stakeholders. During that time, I had been made aware of the raging bushfire that the city was experiencing since November. Bushfire is a common phenomenon in Australia due to their dry and hot climate during summer season. The recent incident, however, was one of their worsts yet and it was not contained until the 12th of January. By then, many homes have already been destroyed, and thousands of wildlife animals had been either injured or killed. For weeks, the air smelled of burnt wood. It was worse when I was around CBD area, people had to wear face masks.
Sometimes, if you hold on for just a little bit, you may get what you want. I didn’t think this business trip would ever happen again because in 2018, they cancelled the plan to send me and my former fellow Manila writer to Australia. There’s the budget restrictions to consider and also, the team is bigger now than when I first started in this company. So many things have changed, people have come and go, and I’ve reached the point when I thought there is nothing more to do.
It is much easier for me to let go than to wait. This time, however, I’m glad that I held on. And it is not just because I went back to Australia, it’s because I have finally found a team that truly appreciates me.
You will get to know some of them in my next post about Adelaide.