connector-hostel-makati
Accommodation Philippines

Connector Hostel, is it worth the price?

A friend shared that there is a newly opened hostel in Makati called Connector Hostel. I checked the rates and my first reaction was, why the hell is it expensive?! Before you tell me I’m a cheapskate (well I am but that’s not the point), I was a little hostel-happy last year and tried different Poblacion hostels. In short, I know exactly what I’m talking about. The most expensive would be Lub D, around 700 pesos for a bed in a dorm room. But Connector Hostel is even more expensive, around 1,000 pesos a night. Is this price justifiable? Let’s find out.

I found the opportunity to stay there last month when my Korean friend visited the country and we went partying to Poblacion. I booked my stay at Booking.com as it was already fully booked on Agoda. It’s a pay at property system, the hostel only accepts cash.

5 Makati Hostels [which one provides best value for money]

Owned by the same people behind Buccaneers bar, Connector Hostel can be found along Kalayaan Ave. If location is a major consideration (and by that I mean you want to go bar-hopping), the hostel has an advantage of being in close proximity to some of the best gimmick spots in Poblacion.

Check-in process was seamless, the front desk, which was designed like a jeepney, was manned by a receptionist named Ann. She welcomed me with a big smile on her face and answered all my questions promptly. When she saw me snapping some photos of the jeepney, she even offered to take my picture.

A man carried my bag and led me to a 4-bed dorm room. The room looks really nice, it has two double-deck beds, a bathroom with a toilet, and bar tables against the wall with stool chairs. The towel and toiletries are provided for, but not the blanket so I had to ask for it.

The lockers can be opened and locked by a code that the guests may set themselves. The problem is I didn’t know how to change the code so I had to go back to the front desk to ask how. This is the beginning of my frequent journey to the front desk due to a number of issues that have arisen.

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What were the issues? Allow me to enumerate:

Issue #1: They forgot to give me the card key – The receptionist seemed to have forgotten to give me the card key to the room. So I had to go down and get it from her. But when I went back to the room, it wasn’t working, which led to…

Issue #2: They gave me the wrong card key – Again, I went back to the receptionist and told her that it wouldn’t open the room. She went up to the second floor with me and tried opening the door herself, it didn’t budge. She muttered apologies and promised to return with the correct card key.

Issue #3: The air-conditioning wasn’t working – Inside the room, she wondered aloud whether the air-conditioning is already working. I didn’t notice it before but now that she mentioned it, I realized that indeed, the room temperature wasn’t cold. She advised me to wait for a moment and to inform her if nothing changes so she could move me to another room.

Booking.com

Issue #4: The bathroom door wouldn’t close – I went back to the ground floor and reported that the a/c doesn’t seem to be working. Ann gladly arranged to have me moved to another room. On that room, however, the issue continued. First, there is no trash bin and the bathroom door wouldn’t close.

By this time, it’s fair to say that I could have lost it, I mean anyone who have to make these many trips to the front desk are bound to lose it. But I kept cool, maybe because Ann had been nice and eager to attend to my needs. I had to go somewhere but before I left, I told her the door problem. She promised that she would have someone fix it. When I returned, she happily updated me that they fixed the issue with the door.

Issue #5: Wi-Fi is paid – My biggest issue would have to be the fact that they ask the guests to pay for the Wi-Fi. It costs P150 for 24 hours. I mean if we have to pay for the Internet, can we at least use it for the entire duration of our stay not just 24 hours?

I ranted all of these issues to my friend who, in turn, messaged Connector Hostel’s Instagram account. They asked for my name and said that they would have someone reach out to me, but I never heard from anyone.

Suggestions for improvement

With all its shortcomings, I appreciate the fact that the staff are warm and ready to provide the needs of their guests. Also, the place is new and not yet popular, hence ideal if you want some peace and quiet. In fact, I was alone in the room during my stay.

I am not a business owner so I don’t really know how they come up with their rates. I could only look at this from the perspective of a guest who likes staying at hostels. I mentioned these issues not to criticize but to let the management know, there are still room for improvements. People wouldn’t mind paying a little bit more, if the price is justifiable.

They could start with some little things, such as:

Making sure that the card key is given to the guest upon check-in and that they are given the correct one.

Giving instruction on changing the locker code upon check-in. This should be part of the check-in process as not everyone is familiar with using digital lockers. In fact, this is only the second time I’ve seen a digital locker in a hostel in Makati, the other being Bunk 5021 Hostel.

Ensuring that their facilities/equipment are working.

Ensuring that each room has a trash bin. This is a necessity, not something that should be made available upon request.

Making Wi-Fi free because getting connected is already considered a necessity in this time and age. If people would pay more to stay at their hostel, then Wi-Fi should at least be free of charge.

As of me, I am not completely closing down my doors to it. Maybe when I come back they’ve already fixed some of their issues. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt as the hostel is pretty new. But for the sake of honesty, the answer to the question that I posed earlier is no, the 1,000 rate is not worth it. At least, not yet.

Australia Travel

Barbie, Tim Tam Slam, and other Aussie things I tried in Adelaide

Once upon a time they were mere faces on the other side of a video call. I belong to a 6-man team called Knowledge Management, which members are located on three different locations: one in Sydney, five in Adelaide, and one (me) in Metro Manila. A few times a week, we meet over Skype where we update each other about our respective contracts or argue if taco is a sandwich. I thought I won’t be able to see them in person, until our new manager made it happen late last year so that we could settle, once and for all if taco is a sandwich.

The team itself is not new, but all original members except for yours truly have moved on. This means I am meeting everyone for the first time, I was naturally excited. I started the work week at our Sydney office, then Tuesday afternoon, I took a flight to Adelaide to meet the rest of the team.

How holding on a little bit led me back to Australia

Traveling to Adelaide

Going to the airport, I realized I had forgotten to do an online check-in. To me it’s important because it decreases the chance of getting assigned to the worst seats of the economy class, the last row. The tail of the plane is where you would feel all the bumps mid-flight. I was literally begging the heavens on my way to the airport because notwithstanding the fact it is safer than any other forms of transport, flying still triggers my anxiety. But it seemed like the divine’s signal was jammed as I ended up sitting on the exact spot I feared the most. And I was like, really?

My colleague, Khalil and I took the Qantas flight. I looked out the window and saw what I believed to be the Australian bush fire that had been raging on for months.

As expected, it was quite a bumpy ride especially during takeoff. The sound of the plane engine was so loud, it made me quite anxious. Khalil was sitting two rows ahead of mine and appeared not in the slightest bit worried while I was busy imagining my demise. I don’t get scared of taking a plane anymore now that I’ve done it many times, but the turbulence was so strong on this one, I remembered my fear of flying.

I can’t be sober for this, I thought to myself. When the flight attendant came over to serve the food, I asked for wine. I was expecting a glass, but they gave me a whole small bottle of wine. The taste was not exactly splendid, but I was too jittery to care, I finished it in no time. By the way, just a side note, out of all the airlines that I tried, Qantas takes the cake for having the most delicious in-flight meals and snacks.

Booking.com

I was a little bit buzzed when we touched down Adelaide, but I made an effort to hide it as I was about to meet my manager, Sam, who volunteered to take us to our place of accommodation. He really didn’t have to do that as we could easily book an Uber, and he was also feeling unwell at that time so I couldn’t help but be touched by the gesture. He picked us up from the airport with his Rolls Royce. Never have I ridden one in my life and I was mighty impressed. It’s a British luxury car, spacious inside, with leather seats, and all other trappings of a vintage car. I was seated on the back of the car and made myself quite comfortable in there; crossed my legs, extended my arms on each side of the back seat, this is the life.

About Adelaide

Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and the 5th most populous city in the country. It was established in 1836 and named after Queen Adelaide, wife of King William IV. The residents here call themselves, Adelaidean. It is not as busy as Sydney, the roads are wider, and the overall vibe is slow and relaxed. When our company set up an office there a few years back, many Sydney employees decided to move to this city.

Accommodation in Adelaide

Sam drove us to the Watsons Apartment where we would be staying for the duration of our visit. You may check my review of this place in the link below.

The Watsons Apartment (A Hotel that Celebrates an Australian Aboriginal Artist)

the-watsons-room

Working at our Adelaide Office

Wednesday, Khalil and I took an Uber to get to work. The driver stopped in front of a brick building that looked a lot like a school that I wondered if we were in the right place. I later found out that our office building was, indeed, a former school. I like that they retained most of the structure because it looks very cool.

There I met my other colleagues, Jace, Myf, and Brad and for the next two days, we had planning session and a training for the content management system (CMS) used for maintaining a knowledge base. Only Myf and I knew how to use said CMS so it was a little bit easy for us to do some of the exercises. However, I still got a lot of value from this training as I learned some functionalities and tricks that I didn’t know before.

While I was there they also made me try this very Australian thing called, Tim Tam Slam. Tim Tam, to the uninitiated is a popular biscuit from the land down under and the favorite pasalubong (travel souvenir) that we Filipinos who have been to Oz, like to take home to our families. I heard that Australians have this thing that they do to this biscuit and I made a mention of it in one of our meetings before.

Naturally, it was something that my colleagues thought I should try for myself. My boss brought two packs of Tim Tam, one is of the original flavor, the other is a double coat. Here’s how they do it: you have to bite off the ends of the tim tam then use it as a straw to drink your coffee or hot choco.

It didn’t work on my first attempt then they told me to try the original flavor because the double coat is thicker. The second time, it worked like magic. In the Philippines, we like to dunk bread or biscuit in our hot drink so I might have to ask them to try that one should they ever come visit our Manila office.

tim-tam-slam
I swear this is legal

I also brought them pasalubong, dried mangoes and polvoron, which they snacked on during our sessions. They offered me some but I told them there’s a lot of those from where I come from.

I saw my former fellow Manila writer, Kristel, who had been relocated to Australia. I was quite surprised when I saw her because apparently she had been keeping a secret (which I won’t divulge as it is not my business to say). I gave her a bottle of Tanduay Rhum and ube polvoron from back home. I still remember what she told me years before that she liked the vibe in Australia and that when she got a chance she would move there. Well, she got exactly what she wanted and I couldn’t be any happier for her.

Things to do in Adelaide

After work, we would go out and engage in some team bonding activities that our manager, Sam, arranged for us. I have published several articles to discuss them in full so I have linked them all in the list below for reference.

Lunch at Maggie Beer Farm

That Wednesday, we drove to the wine region of South Australia, Barossa Valley. Our first stop was the Maggie Beer Farm, the farm of Australia’s beloved chef. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy delicious, organic food. See my article below for more information.

A Delightful Lunch at Maggie Beer Farm

Wine Tasting at Cellar Doors in Barossa Valley

This activity is where I credit my current interest in wine. With a great number of vineyards and cellar doors in Barossa Valley, it would be a sin not to visit at least one of them. We went to Penfolds and Rockford, and you can check out my story about this activity in the link below.

Visiting 2 Wine Cellar Doors in Barossa Valley

rockford-barossa-valley

Fish & Chips at Glenelg

After our Barossa Valley adventure, we spent the rest of the afternoon, gazing at the beautiful beach of Glenelg, a beach-side suburb along Holdfast Bay. The place has numerous restaurants, a park with a Ferris Wheel, a marina bay area, and a jetty road. I looked at the sea, nobody was swimming; I figured the water might be freezing.

Australians can cap off a day eating food that Filipinos would describe as a snack, like the fish and chips. The chips, by the way, are French fries. It’s a huge serving of fish fillet with tartar sauce and fries cut into thick strips. Hard as I might, I couldn’t eat them all while my colleagues finished theirs to the last bit. There were many seagulls flying about, and I thought of sharing with them some of my chips. I’d thrown some and there was this one seagull who could catch the fries with its beak. I was both shocked and impressed, man, this guy is even better than some of the dogs that I met in my life.

fish and chips australia

I was having so much fun feeding them when my colleagues told me that my little feeding program would attract more birds than I could handle. With great regret, I had to stop and took home my leftovers instead. 

Barbie and Wine for Dinner

Sam asked me whether I wanted to go to the market or join their family over barbie. It doesn’t refer to Martel’s classic doll, barbie means barbecue (Aussies have a thing for shortening words). I thought it would be great to meet my boss’s family and to have a time to just relax, share amazing food, and engage in lively conversations, hence I picked the barbie.

We went to Sam’s place, met his lovely wife, in-laws, a family friend, and his adorable kid. They set up the table on the backyard where I helped myself with some tacos while waiting for the food. Sam said that he had something for me then handed me a paper bag. Inside were the burnt fig jam that I kept coming backing for at the Maggie Beer Shop and a bottle of White Frontignac, the wine that I loved the most when we visited Rockford. I felt so grateful by his generosity.

Sam took care of the grill and I stood there watching as he placed meats of different kinds on top of the cooking surface. The oil splattered but Sam didn’t even flinch, and I was there cringing, feeling all the pain he didn’t seem to be feeling. I mean if it were me, I’d have to wear a hazmat, I’m not kidding. When I wasn’t busy watching my manager cook, I was on the backyard playing with the kid or eating the nachos.

The dinner was fantastic. The barbecue was delicious, but I think the one that enjoyed the most was the pavlova that Sam baked himself. I made no mention of my keto diet, because there was no way I’d miss all those delicious treats while I was in Australia. I ate until I could no more, and almost died inside when I saw my colleagues helping themselves with the second serving. I just looked on, longing for all the food I could no longer eat.

It was my last night in Adelaide, the next day I flew back to Sydney where I took the plane to Manila. I said my goodbyes to the wonderful people who were once upon a time, just mere faces on the other side of the screen. No longer do I feel like I didn’t belong, no longer felt so disconnected that were the usual sentiments of people working virtually. I am thankful to all, especially to my manager for making this trip possible. We’ve done a lot of things but we forgot the one thing that we would ask every new member of the team. We were not able to determine if taco is a sandwich.

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Stories

Thoughts of an Unpopular Blogger

Why do we want to be famous?

I have been blogging since 2010, a decade of sharing the things that I do, unsure if people have been reading them. I have never reached the same level of popularity that a few of my contemporaries enjoy. I have never authored a viral post, doesn’t earn a lot from my affiliate links, never get recognized in public, never gained fans. I am a person who only matters to myself and to a few people who know me or care about me. It used to bother me a lot, because as everyone else, I had a dream of becoming famous. I wanted to be adored, have a fan base, be told how amazing I am. Of course, this is all the works of ego, because if somebody asks why I want these things, I know that I don’t possess a good enough why.

There are perks to being popular in the blogging world. In the niche where I belong, brands would come to you offering sponsorships in exchange for a promotion. You could be invited to all-expense paid trips where you will be fed like you’d never eat again. You could go on staycations in expensive hotels for free, receive cool products related to your niche. In some cases, you could even get monetary compensation.

Then fans come to you and tell you how amazing you are, and how you’ve inspired them to change their lives. They would tell other people about you, share your posts, which will help you reach more people. More people mean more traffic to your blog, and if you have affiliate links this translates to earnings.

So, popularity can bring in the money, really who doesn’t want that? I am not going to lie and say that I don’t want to earn more, but if money is all I ever wanted, then why was I not doing everything in my power to be among the most revered bloggers? There are techniques to becoming relevant, methods to gain clout, yet despite having the desire I always find myself not having the obsession. And so, I remain average, an unknown blogger amidst the sea of other bloggers who could never be anything more.

Booking.com

But popularity with all the perks that it has also comes with great responsibility, something that I am not sure I’d be willing to carry. Being a prominent figure is its own kind of brave, to act like you could never do wrong to please people, or to be human and have the stomach to face the awful words people may tell you. No matter how much we want to be famous, nobody wants to receive hate. Yet hatred is thrown randomly nowadays, by people who take offense at every little thing, hiding behind the comforts of the digital screen.

Perhaps people chase at it blindly, only thinking about the benefits of being known. We romanticize the idea and then we become famous and realize that it is not all rainbows and sunshines.

But I am not sad about this, don’t get me wrong. There are billions of people in this world, we can’t be all famous. The reason I am at peace with this is because I truly believe becoming well-known doesn’t equate to a fulfilled life. Many think that being ordinary is a state we should all escape from. Although I agree that we should endeavor to realize our full potential and to continuously evolve as humans, I don’t think that people who lead ordinary lives are necessarily unhappy.

People can live simply and be happy and find their life’s purpose. It really depends on a person’s definition of happiness or success and this definition does not lie on another person’s but that of oneself. We alone, dictate the meaning to the fucks that we give. We are allowed to choose how we want to live. If in the eyes of others you are ordinary, but you are living the best way you know how, then their opinion doesn’t really matter.

Until I know for sure my why, I would never chase it with the intensity required to make it. I think I am happy where I am now. I thrive in my space and in other areas of life, and I’m continuously learning. Maybe I will never be a famous blogger, but I am a blogger just the same. I have stories to tell and I’m willing to share it to those who would care enough to listen.

barossa-valley-marjorie-gavan
Travel

Visiting 2 Wine Cellar Doors in Barossa Valley

As one can be expected of a person who cannot hold her liquor, my colleagues found me sitting on a bench trying to sober up after having my 22nd sip of wine. We were on the second vineyard having a wine tasting activity because apparently, that’s how Australians roll. It was my first time to do this and I went at it eagerly, making up for the time in which I failed to do this in Bordeaux—a pity as it is one of largest wine regions in the world. Weeks prior to this trip, a colleague asked me which activity I fancy so we could do it when I visit Adelaide. I told her that I’d be interested to do wine tasting. It turns out Adelaide is the perfect place to do it, to be exact in the wine region of Barossa Valley.

We took a long drive to the valley, me riding on the back of the car, keeping mostly to myself while my colleagues were lost in random conversation. Barossa Valley can be found 60 kilometres northeast of Adelaide. It is regarded as one of the finest wine regions in Australia with over 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors. The industry is old, they have been producing wine for over a century.

Maggie Beer Farm

Before drinking ourselves silly we had the mind to fill our tummies first with a sumptuous lunch at the Maggie Beer Farm. A visit to this place was an utter delight. You go there and enjoy their fresh and delectable food, you could buy products and even sample some of them (which I indulged rather shamelessly and unapologetically with the burnt fig jam), you can watch turtles bobbing up and down on the lake, and if so desired, you may even stay for a night.

A Delightful Lunch at Maggie Beer Farm

Our stomachs were filled, thus continued the day’s agenda. As we journeyed, I mostly kept my eyes on the side of the road, to enjoy the idyllic view of the countryside. The roads are wide and open, the sun was still high but not that warm as it was the last days of spring. I sat through the drive in silence, but my mind was busy coming up with adjectives in appreciation of the beautiful scenery.

Penfolds

We parked in front of a building with the word Provenance emblazoned on the upper façade. I thought it was the name of the vineyard, until we went in and I found out it’s called Penfolds.

Penfolds traces their beginnings in 1844 founded by a couple, Dr. Christopher and Mary Penfold. The company became the largest winery in South Australia in 1920 under the stewardship of the couple’s daughter, Georgina.

A great part of Penfold’s success is credited to its first chief winemaker, Max Schubert who started in the company as a messenger boy. He is the man responsible for the famous Grange wine, which was turned down by the top management the first time he presented it to them. Today, Grange is regarded as one of the best wines ever produced by Penfolds.

Booking.com

We had our wine tasting activity at Penfolds Barossa Valley Cellar Door, built in 1911. We were greeted by a wine steward, a tall man in black who also served as our host for this activity.

He lined up wine glasses on the bar and steel cups where we could pour or spit unfinished wine. There is a list of wines featured on this wine tasting, one as old as 2013, and the most recent, 2018. All in all, we sampled a total of 13 wines. He provided a brief description for every wine that we were about to taste, but I, a person not fully knowledgeable about wine, couldn’t fully appreciate his dialogues. I made sure to taste every drink that he poured on my glass yet despite my best effort, I couldn’t pick a favorite.

Back on the road, I heard my colleagues discussing that the wine steward described one of the wines as having a similar taste with kerosene. I didn’t catch the remark, would have cringed if I did. Wine expert or not, it’s weird to use use such a description for a wine. But I am no wine connoisseur, I could be wrong.

Rockford

The next cellar that we visited provided a much more pleasurable experience. Rockford Wines Cellar Door is in Krondorf Road—I thought the name of the place sounded German, turns out it is. We learned that Barossa is home to German immigrants who moved to South Australia in 1838.

Rockford was founded in 1971 by Robert O’Callaghan. They use traditional equipment and procedures in their wine-making. While the Penfolds cellar door is modern, Rockford sits on a courtyard surrounded by infrastructures made of stone. These buildings are said to have been around since the early settlements in Krondorf.

Of the two cellar doors, I have enjoyed my time more at Rockford as the wines that we tasted here were more to my liking. I also think that the host, Becca, who is much more engaging than the first wine steward greatly contributed to the experience. She smiled a lot, talked animatedly, and shared amazing stories behind each wine that she was presenting.

We sampled 9 wines and this time, I had a favorite, the 2019 White Frontignac. It is the earliest variety that Rockford harvests each year. It tasted somewhat similar with green apples, a little bit sweet, crisp, with a clean finish, we all loved it. And the best thing about is, it is not even expensive, only AUD 20.50 a bottle. I wasn’t alone in my opinion, my colleagues also picked this as the best tasting among all the wines that we had that day.

I didn’t expect that I’d end up a little tiddly when I only took a sip of each wine. I had been reading up on wine appreciation of late so I just learned that you are not supposed to swallow, but spit the wine during wine tasting. No wonder I ended up drunk.

I’m also taking this as a sign that I should work on my alcohol tolerance. My colleagues seemed amused when they spotted me resting in one corner. Because of this, they allowed me to ride shot gun on our trip back to the city.

As I write this, I have just finished half a glass of a cabernet franc. I have developed a taste for wine, and I credit it all to this Adelaide trip. I now have this small ritual of drinking a glass each night while reading. I find that it helps me relax and sleep. Now that my interest is piqued, I am making an effort to educate myself about wine. I constantly search the Internet about it, slowly building up my stock knowledge.

Next time I visit another cellar door, I’d be prepared. Hopefully, by then I won’t be the first the person to get drunk.

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