5 Travel Tips for First Timers in India

India is one of the fastest growing countries in the world and is also becoming an increasingly popular travel destination. While you can save money on your hotel and airfare by using Hotels.com coupons from Discountrue, there are a number of crucial tips that you'll need to know beforehand to get the most out of your initial India trip. If you are heading to India for the first time, be sure to read on and learn more!

1. Be Realistic

There is no way that you will see everything that there is to see in India on your first trip and those who try tend to end up experiencing severe burnout as a result. India is a vast and colorful nation, but those who try to bite off more than they chew are typically too fatigued to maximize their time. Just calm down and think that you can make return visits as often as you'd like, so pace yourself and make the most of each experience!

2. Exercise Caution With Food and Beverages

If you've never been to India before, it is important to know what you can and cannot eat or drink. While some people are adventurous enough to eat street food, this can lead to severe stomach problems if you are not careful. Stick with fresh fruit that has already been peeled and don't eat street foods that were fried or boiled. Salads and ice also need to be avoided, while bottled water is your best bet.

3. Prepare To Have Your Space Invaded

Personal space is not a concept that you should allow yourself to become accustomed to during your India travels. When you use public transportation, be prepared to cram in closely. Citizens of India may also ask the sort of personal questions that you would find to be intrusive. This is their culture and you will need to adjust to them, not the other way around.

4. Pay Attention To The Dress Code

First and foremost, India is a culture that frowns on those who refuse to dress modestly. Arms and legs are expected to be covered and this is not the time to take a political or feminist stand. While Indians are somewhat forgiving of those who do not know better, this is not an excuse that can be used in perpetuity. You should also remove your shoes before entering a home and if you see shoes outside of a store, this is a sign that you must remove your own.

5. Remain Safe

Pick pocketing is a prevalent problem in India's largest cities, so don't carry around a massive wad of cash with you everywhere you go. While it may be tempting to haggle with vendors in the marketplace, this can lead to a tense and heated exchange. In any case, remain calm, cool and collected at all times.

Hotel Bookings in the Philippines: 4 Tips That Will Save You Money

While going on a vacation is a very relaxing prospect, polishing the details of an out-of- town trip can cause quite a bit of stress. No amount of planning can deter bad weather and traffic hang-ups, but you can always make sure that your holiday home is ready to welcome you after a long journey. Here’s how you can score a convenient and affordable hotel accommodation without breaking a sweat:

1. Always plan your trip way ahead of time.
You can cut a sizable portion of your transportation and accommodation budget by booking your flight and room before everyone else does. Reserving early increases your chance of getting first dibs on long-running or off-peak promos. In addition, taking the time to get an advance booking also ensures you of a room in one of the top cheap hotels in Boracay Island — or any other favorite beach or mountain destination — even if your trip is scheduled right in the middle of summer.

2. Or better yet, schedule your holiday during the low season.
If your image of a perfectly relaxing seaside holiday does not include crowds of fellow beach-lovers, then steer clear of the peak tourist season. Aside from sharing a spot in the sun with a lot of people, you’ll also have a hard time finding an affordable accommodation as these holidays tend to bring in a lot of business to resorts and hotels. If you value discounted rates over sunny days by the sea, then set your vacation during the low season. You can also get the best of both worlds by booking your stay very, very early into the summer, mid-semester, or Christmas holidays.

3. Impromptu getaways? Look for last-minute deals.
Life sometimes calls for sudden breaks. If you feel like spending yours in a top local destination, look around for last-minute deals. Many beach resorts and city hotels offer this kind of promo to boost room sales during the off season. If you’re quick and thorough enough, you may even spot hotels that provide discounted room rates with breakfast and day tours, meal discounts, or free use of leisure amenities. Time is of the essence, though, so make sure that you’ve mastered the art of speed-packing if you’re thinking of taking advantage of any last-minute deal.

4. Always read the fine print.
Reading the terms and conditions of your hotel booking is a must, especially if you’re still a bit unsure about your vacation dates. It’s easy to forget this when you stumble upon a ridiculously convenient hotel deal at the tail end of its booking period. The first impulse would be to book, then check later if you’re actually ready to go on a trip on that date. It is useful to note that most promos only allow cancellations and modifications at the cost of the prepayment or the first night of the stay. However, some do allow these actions for free up until a few days before the check-in date. Remember these policies and finalize your vacation dates before you can be charged for any changes in your reservation.

Summer Memories in Onuk, Balabac, Palawan

Hola people! I'm alive, still traveling, yet stopped blogging.
What keeps me busy lately is my fitness goal. I just woke up one morning and I realized I wanted to lose my excess fats. So ayun, I've been doing suspension and body weight training, running, yoga, and swimming. I started to eat clean too, with cheat days on weekends of course. No drugs, no slimming pills, and magic coffee shit. All natural way to a long term reward. It trained my mind to stay focused and disciplined. Oha, pang miss universe answer! Seriously, it's so nice to live strong and healthy.

So anyway, for my birthday I invited my friends for a south Palawan adventure. I ticked another item off my bucket list. And FYI, that epic trip was ended but my heart is still pounding each time I browse our travel photos.

my summer story in Onuk, Balabac, Palawan

First Things First...
I'm writing this entry NOT to encourage you to go. This entry is just for my online diary since I think I might not get lucky to experience Onuk again.

○ Why not?
Onuk is a privately-owned island in Balabac group of islands. As of this writing, the current mayor owns the island. You don't have to pay anything but you need to secure a permit from them before you can go.

○ So why not?
Not everyone gets an approval. It depends on the current situation, mood, and other factors which only them know.

○ OK, so I will ask permission in advance?
In reality, that's not how it works. In our case, and most of the time, you will know the final decision a day before your Onuk trip. Ganito, may barkada ka. Meron silang resort at gusto nyo mag overnight dun. Matutuloy lang kayo pag walang biglaang event or inuman ang tatay ng barkada mo. Gets?

○ So why did we still go?
Because there are still a lot of beaches in Balabac group of islands which are open to the public. Our hearts desire for one thing, that is Onuk, but we managed our expectations in case things won't go our way.

...and yes, it was all worth it! I've never seen anything like this before.

 atoll - a ring-shaped coral reef

ecstatic to see this body of water, in 360 degrees!

this even looks better in person

one extra fine summer day in Onuk

meet and greet with mr. sea turtle
kaya pala naka collar ang mga kasama ko! haha

It's like Palawan, but South!
I learned about Onuk thru Carla. According to her, scrap all the other beaches in Balabac because the only beach you need to see is Onuk. Well that's according to her and I'm not a fan of hearsay. I always want a first hand experience before comparing, so obviously I didn't take Carla seriously. Haha Sorry na teh.

So when we reached Onuk, I just have to agree that Carla was right. Before, I used to have my list of best beaches in Pinas. I would deliberate hard and slow to pick the best before I decide. But after I see this Onuk, I was in complete shock. There's no contest. This is indeed the best beach in Pinas.

jaw dropping backdrop from Onuk

abundant supply of seafood

that's Penggay smiling excitedly when we reached Onuk

gorgeous wooden walkway added more charm to this place

Based from the pictures on the blogs, we expected Onuk to be gorgeous. To our surprise, Onuk is even more stunning upclose. The place is so serene and charming and has a different vibe. We are just so lucky for the sunny weather, the opportunity to go here, and the privilege to be the only guest that time. Happy birthday to me!

feel na feel ko lang ang haciendera hat at round towel

Balabac buddies Rod and Ray

"May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all."

Must Know, Tips, Realizations, and More
If your heart is pounding and you cannot control your wanderlust anymore, then just remember these things prior to your Balabac trip:

○ Two words: Manage expectations. This is very vital for this trip.

○ Educate yourself. Balabac is in the southernmost tip of Palawan. Don't ask stupid questions like an itinerary which includes a day trip to El Nido or Coron after your Balabac escapade.

location of Coron, El Nido, Puerto Princesa, and Balabac, fyi

○ From Puerto Princesa, take a van going to Rio Tuba. Last trip is 9PM. Trip takes 4 hours and fare is P350. From Rio Tuba, take the passenger boat to Balabac. The only trip is set at 10AM. Be at the port as early as you can. If you miss this one, you need to wait for the next day. Going back, the only passenger boat that leaves from Balabac to Rio Tuba is set at 5AM. Fare is P350. Travel time is 4 hours.

○ Balabac town is not ready yet for flock of tourists so please don't ask for hotels in the area. Only pension houses are available. We stayed at MLK lodge - 0939.517.6169. Rate is 400 per night, for 2 pax. I assume it won't be a problem sleeping in the bare sands of the island as well. You want adventure, don't ask for comfort.

○ Electricity only runs from 5PM to 12 midnight. Enough time to charge your gadgets and arrange your things for the next day. Bring cash. Self explanatory.

○ The most important thing you need to secure is your permit to Onuk. You need to coordinate with the LGU of Balabac. As of this writing, Ms. Beth is your key to having a permit.

○  Alternatively, you may ask assistance to your boatman for the permit. Our trusted boatmen is kuya Fidel. Boat rental rate is 3,000 per day, boat capacity is 6 pax. This rate includes basic food, but you can give extra money for him to prepare the food of your choice. Just so you know, P100 lang ang kilo ng crab sa Balabac. Wow!

Onuk, Balabac boatman, sir Fidel - 0999.561.4998

 ○ Balabac town to Onuk island takes around 2.5hours of travel time. Expect heavy waves or if you get lucky, you will experience a calm sea.

the breathtaking ocean view to Onuk

○ Our group asked for the prohibited things in Onuk and the LGU officer just answered - pork. Caretakers and owners are Muslims. In everything else that you know is prohibited, please leave a comment.

○ Some guests get luckier to be allowed to stay overnight. Again, don't look for an accommodation and prepare to sleep in any available dry area you see.

○ As for our group, we were already extremely grateful for the privilege of having a day trip to Onuk. We stayed from 9AM to 6.30PM. The caretakers are all nice and friendly. We were the only guests at that time.

my summer story in Onuk, Balabac, Palawan

the sea turtle roams around the island

 a long stretch of white pristine sandbar

 ○ Aside from Onuk, there are also other islands which we visited on a different day. These sandbars are already breathtaking but the most beautiful is still Onuk.

irresistible waters of Candaraman island

my swimming pool of the day

○ Among the many island hopping trips I had in the past, this is the only time I swam in all the stopovers. The water is just so irresistible. It's like an endless swimming pool! As expected, the underwater world is so awesome too! Sayang lang, my underwater camera got drained.

another endless and clear water of Punta Sebaring

chill in Punta Sebaring

○ If you are able to swim, you will really enjoy this Balabac adventure even more. The underwater world showcases a rich coral garden and giant clams sanctuary. You can swim with the sea turtle and huge fish too. Bring your own snorkel and mask if you must. If you don't know how to swim, bring your own life vest.

○ In our case, we choose to be picked up by kuya Fidel from Rio Tuba and went straight to Punta Sebaring. We enjoyed 3 whole days of island hopping. Sulit!

Onuk, Balabac Itinerary
Day 1 - Fly to Puerto Princesa and take 9PM van to Rio Tuba
Day 2 -  Arrive in Rio Tuba around 2AM. Meet kuya Fidel. Sail at 5AM to Punta Sebaring. Travel time is 3-4 hours. Overnight in Sebaring island. No accommdation. Just basic open cottage. Restroom is available.
Day 3 - Island hopping. Candaraman, Punta Sebaring, Mansalangan Sandbar. Overnight in Balabac town.
Day 4 - Onuk
Day 5 - Take passenger boat by 5AM. Depart Balabac. Arrive in Puerto Princesa at late afternoon.
Day 6 - Fly to Manila

It was a very memorable summer getaway in the southernmost tip of Palawan. If you think you've seen the best of Palawan, then think again. Onuk tops now in my list of best beaches in the Philippines.

Hope your summer story is as awesome as mibe.
Stay healthy, happy, and free!

Star Cruises - Sailing the High Seas thru SuperStar Virgo

Hola everyone! Im trying to revive my blog. As of this writing, I'm on my way to retirement. Chos lang. After the unfortunate turn of events, I'm still pleased to share with you that I'm now working for another company. As if naman alam nyo kung saan ako nagwork previously. Haha Bakit ba, for tracking purposes ko lang so might as well write this in my blog.

Moving on, even when I was busy and depressed, I still had an exciting birthday cruise. Actually it was long overdue. I've been planning to experience a cruise for 5 years now. Finally, I ticked this off my bucket list, and the timing was just perfect.

Star Cruises - Superstar Virgo

Planning a Cruise Trip
As early as January, I had began my search for a cruise trip sometime my birthday month. For the record, I planned to experience a cruise in Thailand. However, the duration and schedule of the cruise were out of my allowed vacation leaves. I alternatively searched for the cruise which departs within the Philippines, but this cruise is only available on the months of November to January. To cut the story short, I settled for a 4D3N High Seas cruise in Hong Kong, by Star Cruises. Together with my housemate Kat, we booked (online) in advance and got the Oceanview Room with Balcony for P35,000. This includes the accommodation, buffet meals, onboard entertainment, and use of facilities. Come to think of it, the all-in rate for this cruise is not bad afterall. Of course, we have to shoulder our flights to Hong Kong.

 hello HKIA, we meet again!

on my way to Ichiran, Causeway Bay branch

Boarding the Cruise Ship
Kat and I made our way to Hong Kong's Ocean Terminal ahead of boarding time. To our dismay, we saw a very chaotic queue. A lot of Asian families were patiently waiting to check in, despite the very disorganized system. To be fair, there were lots of ushers around, but the queue still looked stressful. At this time, we started to regret that this cruise may not worth our money. We could just had a grand vacation somewhere in Palawan or Boracay - and we knew it could be less expensive than this cruise.

Luckily for us, I did an online check in. I informed one of the crews, then we were immediately assisted to an express counter. This really saved a lot of time. We gave our online tickets, surrendered our passports, and we were given our cruise cards. It's now time to board the ship.

Superstar Virgo

Onboard Superstar Virgo
All our disappointment vanished when we boarded the cruise ship. It looked awesome and grand. The cruise staff warmly welcomed all of us. The lobby caught everyone's attention, specially ours. The entertainers were singing Sitti's "Para Sa Akin". And they were just the first group of Pinoys who work in this cruise ship.

Superstar Virgo's Grand Piazza

 the entertainers welcomed the passengers, and hey they are Pinoys!

At this time, we purchased 6 drink coupons each using our credits. Passengers with oceanview state room accommodation were entitled with these credits. Anyway, these drinks can be any beer, softdrinks, and Spanish red and white wine.

Ocean View with Balcony
So obviously, this cruise could be cheaper if we settled for the most basic kind of accommodation. But since it's our first time, we thought why not spend a little more. Aside from the fact that the Ocean View with Balcony accommodation comes with credits, this also entitles the passengers to use the steam, sauna, and indoor jacuzzi pool.

cabin rooms on the 11th floor

Ocean View with Balcony

with welcome fruits

that's the balcony behind the sliding door

The Ocean View with Balcony cabin looked and smelled so nice! It's totally like a hotel room, only with smaller space. Aside from the bed, there's a television, fridge, single sofa chair, center table, and full glass mirror. Superstar Virgo also provided towels, robes, and slippers.

As for the bathroom, it is small but the water in the shower, sink, and flush worked effectively. The toiletries were provided too.

shower, sink, and toilet

basic toiletries

We could not complain for anything except for the limited food for the room service. This room is worth the extra money.

Exploring Superstar Virgo
Even before we had our 1st dinner, Kat and I couldn't contain our excitement in exploring the cruise ship. We immediately went to the upper deck to check the pool and the view from there.

 way to upper deck

the Superstar Virgo at night
Canon 60D, 16mm, F3.5, 0.8", ISO 100

Hong Kong skyline viewed from Superstar Virgo
Canon 60D, 22mm, F4.5, 2", ISO 100

Superstar Virgo with Hong Kong's skyline
  Canon 60D, 12mm, F3.5, 0.8", ISO 100

The view from the upper deck was absolutely stunning! This is the first time I've seen the skyline from this angle. And thanks to my non-shaking hands, I've got no problem in taking these night shots. Angas!

next time, I'll board my sign - the Gemini

Parthenon Pool
The pool looked so inviting even at night. The Parthenon place has a swimming pool which is 6 ft deep, 4 jacuzzi, and a mega slide.

one of the 4 jacuzzis

6 feet deep swimming pool

another jacuzzi on the roof deck

Cruise Dining
The most awaited part for us was to experience dining at this ship. Superstar Virgo has 9 restaurants which serves Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisines. Actually only 2 of the restaurants are inclusive of the cruise rate we already availed - Genting Palace and Mediterranean Buffet. We set our expectations low since we read reviews that the food may not be enough or satisfying for everyone. Well, we were wrong! The food was great and enough for all. The selection was good as well. There's a lot of shrimps, fish, beef, chicken, soup, salad, bread, and even dessert.

It's not surprising that we loved the food specially when the chefs are mostly Pinoys! I can't deny we got special treatment from our kababayan.

Genting Palace - Chinese and Western cuisines

another batch of Pinoy crews in this cruise ship

 ribs, salmon, and wine

Filipino chefs at Mediterranean Buffet

overflowing good food from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper

the area I always skip. not a fan of dessert.

Genting Palace could be classy but we love the food more at Mediterranean Buffet

Random Photos at Superstar Virgo
It's the first time I actually boarded a ship as huge as this one. The decks and endless hallways reminded me of Titanic. There's a thousand of cabins and around 2,000 passengers (not including the crews) were on it. So it's true that it's definitely not easy to find another person in a ship as huge as this. Hehe

 the reception area on the 7th floor, and Duty Free on the 8th

hallway full of restaurants

 show lounge / theater

view deck

 aquaswim / exercise pool

fitness center

pang pictorial area

library with a view

way to casino area

view from our own balcony

The Cruise Life
It was short but I must say that I really enjoyed it. Actually I'm glad that I experienced this cruise at this age since I'm not engaged with super physical activities anymore. *winks* The room, facilities, and food were all great. What we loved most? Our room! We had no activity in mind but to sleep, eat, and swim. Oh yes, we also experienced the steam and sauna areas but sleeping while cruising was just better. #LolaDiaries

the overall experience was great and I'm already looking forward to a longer cruise in the future
another handheld shot. di na uso ang tripod.

Of course, I have to mention that I loved the success stories of the Pinoys who work at this cruise ship. It made me proud that their being madiskarte brought them here. No amount of hardship can stop them from giving better lives to their families back home. Cheers to Pinoys who work at cruise ships!

cheers to the cruise life!

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