The Secret Lagoon at El Nido

October 14, 2011

The Secret Lagoon at El Nido

Why see the Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon is hidden within an island with a pristine white beach and crystal clear water. You go there to enjoy the view from the beach, the beach itself and to explore the Secret Lagoon. This is where we had our lunch, provided by the boatmen. It is a perfect place to enjoy your lunch while in the midst of all the beauty of this island. The pictures will speak for itself.

What to expect when you arrive at the Secret Lagoon

The view from our boat as we approach the island

A boat docked on the island.
The lunch table for the tourists is set up underneath the coconut trees.

This is the view from the beach where our boat docked

From where the boats are docked, you walk through these huge rocks
to go to another beach area.

This is the other beach area.
No boats are docked in this area because the water is shallow

We stayed in the beach area where no boats are docked

The sea water is as crystal clear as drinking water.

Our kids playing around in the second beach area.

Our delicious lunch was cooked on the island by the boatmen.
The fish was my favorite because it was so fresh.

We went back to where our boat was docked and ate lunch under the coconut tree.
This is our view as we ate our lunch.

After lunch, we went back to the second beach area
and made our way to the secret lagoon.

After traversing the rocky part of the beach, we reached this hole which is the entrance to the Secret Lagoon.

The kids are about to go through the hole which is the entrance of the Secret Lagoon.

The view of the hole from the Secret Lagoon

Inside the Secret Lagoon

The Small Lagoon at El Nido

October 11, 2011

The Small Lagoon at El Nido

Why see the Small Lagoon

You experience floating in water surrounded by the majestic cliffs of the Small Lagoon. Some people ride the kayak and explore the perimeter of the Small Lagoon. Other tourists climb the cliffs and jump into the water as an adventure challenge. 

What to expect when you arrive at the Small Lagoon

Heading towards the Small Lagoon

This is what we saw when we arrived at the Small Lagoon. 
Several bancas were docked outside the entrance of the Small Lagoon. 
We're supposed to get off our banca and swim towards the entrance of the Small Lagoon.

Our kids immediately donned their snorkeling gear and life jackets, got off the boat and swam towards the entrance of the Small Lagoon.

This is the hole that represents the entrance to the Small Lagoon

This is the depth of the Small Lagoon

 Inside the Small Lagoon
Some tourists brought in kayaks inside the Lagoon. They have to carefully navigate it through the small hole.

Other tourists climb the cliffs inside the lagoon (see the tourist in the photo above climbing the cliffs), and jump into the water after reaching the summit. 

Outside the Small Lagoon where the bancas were docked.

Where to Eat Bangkok Street Food

October 5, 2011

Where to Eat Bangkok Street Food

There are a lot of places you can eat authentic Thai street food in Bangkok. But unlike in Singapore where hawker or street food centers are carefully regulated, Thai street food stalls are not. With this in mind, the only measure we had of gauging which street food to patronize is to observe where a lot of the locals eat. We decided that if the locals patronize it regularly then it must be safe. On my end, I can recommend these  stalls because for the 5 days we were in Bangkok, we ate at these stalls and never experienced stomach problems. 

Where to find safe Bangkok street food
Since we were staying at Tarntawan Place, we tried the street food at Surawong Road where Tarntawan is located.

There are 2 places near Tarntawan Place, Surawong Road where we ate Thai street food:
1. The first one where we ate most meals is beside the Pink Panther club (shown below with the pink logo), underneath the green sign. It is at the corner of Surawong and Patpong Road.

Meals cost 30 baht. This includes 2 viands and a cup of rice.
For the same price, you can choose just 1 viand but they will double the amount.
We usually order food to be taken away. They pack it in styrofoam containers.

As you can see, there's a great variety to choose from so we ate most of our meals here.
2. The other place where we ate is a noodle stall beside Kasikorn bank. Kasikorn bank is located along Surawong Road across Patpong Road. 

The noodle stall where we bought our food

This dish costs 50 baht.

You can add your own condiments:
vinegar with pepper, sugar, hot sauce or dried chili pepper

Why do I recommend trying Bangkok street food?

1. It is authentic
The spices and herbs, and the menu are what the local Thai residents eat so it's authentic.
2. It is cheap. 
We discovered that Thai food in food courts like the one at Siam Paragon are double the price of Thai street food.

Food Tasting at Chatuchak Weekend Market

September 18, 2011

Food Tasting at Chatuchak Weekend Market

I'm not really the kind of person who's into shopping. I shop all the time for the kids, buy necessities for the home, and do a lot of grocery shopping. So shopping has always been associated with errands so I don't normally like to do that while on vacation. My idea of fun and relaxation is not to go shopping.

So what am I doing at Chatuchak Market on a long weekend trip in Bangkok? Aside from accompanying my husband who's curious about what Chatuchak looks like, I decided it will be fun to discover what unusual food they have to offer. And I wasn't disappointed!

For those wondering what Chatuchak looks like, and is familiar with Divisoria in the Philippines, it actually looks like a more organized Divisoria. Items are grouped together into sections. The sections are numbered so it will not be hard to look for the items you want to buy. Check out the website for more information.

Just to give you an idea how big it is and in what sections it is organized, here is the map taken from 

Food we tried at Chatuchak

1. Turkish ice cream: 40 baht

Thanks to for this photo.
I wasn't able to take a picture. I was to busy tasting it that I forget to take a photo.

I tried the mango ice cream in cone. You can have it dipped in chocolate and nuts but I preferred to taste the ice cream itself so I requested only a small amount of these add-ons. Other flavors are chocolate and vanilla. 

One thing different I noticed about this ice cream is that it is thick and sticky. I wouldn't say it's creamier than the others but it's more sticky. But it tastes great!

2. Squid Eggs: 40 baht

This is the squid eggs stall.
Squid eggs are actually octopus eggs. They are deep-fried.
The vendor asks you if you want it with spicy vinegar poured on it.  

3. Nan Rolled with Beef Kheema: 30 baht

The nan bread is very good: soft, light and fluffy.
The beef kheema has a slight curry taste to it.

4. Maekang Paklad: 10 baht

The vendor gets a leaf, folds it into a cone.
Then she places peanuts, onion and lemon inside the cone....

... then adds melted sugar (the brown liquid you see),
closes the cone and skewers it into a bamboo stick.
The finished product: maekang paklad.
It tastes sweet and sour with crunchy bits of peanuts.

My tip: If you'd like to try it in another place, it is also available in the Gourmet Section of Siam Paragon.

How to go to Chatuchak

1. Go to any BTS skytrain station.
From Tarntawan place, the Sala Daeng station is just around 5-10min walk. So we went to the Sala Daeng station.
2.  Find the ticketing machine at the station.

This is what the ticketing machine looks like
How to use the ticketing machine:

1. Find how much fare you need to pay to go to Mochit. Look at the fare information.

This is the fare chart at Sala Daeng Station.
The fare chart indicates that fare to Mo Chit from this station is 40 baht
2. Buy the ticket at the ticketing machine.

Just follow the instructions on the machine.
If you don't have coins, you can change it in one of the
manned ticketing counters in the station.

3. Ride the train going to the National Stadium.

4. Get off at Siam, then ride the train going to Mochit station.

5. Get off at Mochit. Go to exit 1 and follow the crowds. 

Other photos of food stalls:

Food court

Assorted cakes at 12 baht each

Complimentary Breakfast at Tarntawan Place, Bangkok

September 7, 2011

Complimentary Breakfast at Tarntawan Place, Bangkok

I discovered lately that a wonderful feature to look for in a hotel when you're traveling with kids or with a big group is whether the hotel offers free breakfast. I remember the time when we went to Hong Kong with the kids for the very first time, with some extended family, which included my mom and my sister-in-law. I had to stock each hotel room with breakfast items because no one wanted to leave the hotel so early in the morning just to eat. It's very expensive to call for room service so the first thing my husband and I did when we arrived was to go to the nearest grocery to buy water and breakfast items.

When one of the hotels we went to included free breakfast, we realized what a wonderful convenience it is to be able to eat breakfast in the hotel without breaking our budget. A lot of budget hotels already offer free breakfast, which does not necessarily  mean just continental breakfast. So I suggest you look for one with this wonderful feature. In Tarntawan Place, Bangkok, we found their free breakfast one of the reasons to keep on staying at this hotel.

Great features about the free breakfast at Tarntawan Place:

1. It is served 24 hours.

One of the things I love about this hotel, aside from its location and reasonable room rates, is its 24 hour breakfast. At this hotel, the room rates include free breakfast that you can avail of any time of the day or night. If you arrive on a red eye flight from Manila, the earliest you will arrive at the hotel is around 1am. If you're hungry upon arrival at the hotel at 1 am, you can request and be served next day's free breakfast. Very convenient. This arrangement makes you feel very much at home in this hotel. 

2. The free breakfast menu has a wide selection to choose from.

Other hotels only offer free continental breakfast. But at Tarntawan place, you choose  from a wide variety which includes a Thai breakfast, a Japanese breakfast, an American breakfast, a Continental breakfast and a Natural breakfast. Details of what is included is shown in the menu below:

Photos of the breakfast we tried are shown  below:

American Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast

Thai Breakfast

My favorite of all is Thai breakfast. I usually put some of the spicy fish sauce shown above on the chicken pieces underneath all the rice. Yummy! I miss it already!

Cebu Pacific Lite Fare: Hand or Carry-On Baggage

September 5, 2011

Cebu Pacific Lite Fare: 
Hand or Carry-On Baggage

When you book online, all fares offered by Cebu Pacific are lite fares. This means that fares that you see online when you click the booking facility show fares that do not include checked baggage. For fares to include checked baggage you need to pay an additional amount either upon booking online or at the airport. Note that the checked baggage fees at the airport are more expensive than prepaid baggage fees paid online.

What baggage is included in Lite Fare?

One (1) hand baggage is included with the following specifications:

1. The dimensions of the hand baggage must be as follows:
  • for airbus flights: 56cm x 36cm x 23 cm
  • for atr flights: 56cm x 35cm x 20cm

2. The weight must be:
  • for airbus flights: 7 kilos
  • for atr flights: 5 kilos

NOTE: Since Cebu Pacific travel regulations do not mention if you are allowed a handbag or laptop bag in addition to the hand baggage, I called the Cebu Pacific customer service hotline to inquire about this matter. In other airlines, in addition to hand baggage, you are also allowed to carry a handbag or laptop bag. Customer service replied that I am allowed to carry a handbag provided the total 7kgs.

Updated October 13, 2015!!!

To check for yourself updates on the policy below: go to and put in the box under "Ask a question or enter a topic": how many pieces carry on

Cebu Pacific FAQ as shown in the photo below states that: 
"One carry-on bag is allowed for each guest.  The dimension of the bag must not exceed 56cm x 36cm x 23cm on all Airbus flights and 56cm x 35cm x 20cm on all ATR flights, and must not weigh more than 7kg for Airbus (A319, A320, A330) and 5kg on (Caticlan) ATR flights. 
Guests will be allowed to carry additional items on board such as handbag, coat, laptop bag, camera bag, cane and crutches (for Senior Citizen and/or Person with Reduced Mobility (PRM) guests).

What actually happens at the Manila International Airport?

1. Upon check-in, they only inquire whether or not you have checked baggage. They do not check the weight or your hand baggage.

2. Prior to entering the area where you pay airport fees, which is before entering immigration, a Cebu Pacific personnel stationed at the entrance inspects your hand baggage from afar to see if the size is within limit. If you have wheeled hand baggage, this same personnel carries your hand baggage to feel the weight, if it feels like it's just 7 kilos. They let you go in and pay airport fees if they think your hand baggage is light enough to feel like 7 kilos. They do not use a weighing scale. If you have a backpack, they do not inspect or carry it at all.

3. Before boarding, there is no longer a weight inspection. But they do offer to check-in your hand baggage for free if you wish to have less baggage to take care of while on the plane. If you plan to take up this offer, make sure your baggage is with lock, and properly tagged with your name and address.

My tip to overcome the 7 kilos weight limit:
1. Use a backpack as hand baggage. They do not inspect the dimensions or handle and weigh the backpack. But make sure to carry it in such a way as to look like the weight is just 7 kilos  so as not to arouse suspicion and 

2. If you're using a wheeled hand baggage, make sure it is within the 7 kilos weight limit. So that when the Cebu Pacific personnel stationed at the area prior to entering the airport fee section handles and carries your hand baggage, it will feel like 7 kilos. You can put the additional weight in the handbag you are allowed to carry. They do not inspect the weight of your handbag.

What actually happens at a foreign international airport?

At the Bangkok airport where I took my most recent Cebu Pacific flight, they do not at all weigh the hand baggage. As long as the dimensions are within the size limit, they presume it is just 7 kilos.

Guide to Cebu Pacific Web Check-In, Express Check-In and Regular Check-In

September 4, 2011

Guide to Cebu Pacific Web Check-In, Express Check-In and Regular Check-In

When I used Cebu Pacific last week for my Bangkok flight, I discovered there are 3 ways of checking-in for an international flight at Terminal 3 of the Manila International Airpot:

Web Check-In

This is the online check-in option of Cebu Pacific. To be able to use this process, you need to use the online seat selector and purchase a seat. Without choosing and paying for a seat, you cannot use this option. 

Unlike online check-in offered by other airlines which allows printing of a boarding pass, the Cebu Pacific web check-in still requires the passenger to line up at the dedicated web-check in counter to get a boarding pass and deposit the bag. The advantage of being able to print a boarding pass at home is that you are able to do away with lining up at the check-in counter and immediately proceed to the gate. Cebu Pacific web check-in does not allow you to do that. You still need to line up at the counter dedicated for web check-in. At present, web check-in is still not popularly used so the line is still much shorter that the regular check-in.

New! My update as of April 20, 2013: Web check-in is not available for domestic ATR flights. These are domestic routes using the small ATR planes. Cebu Pacific utilizes the ATR planes in 22 destinations like Caticlan, Laoag, Busuanga, Naga, Dipolog, Tacloban, Cagayan de Oro, etc, Better check your printed itinerary or ask the customer service if you're using an ATR plane

New! My update as of November 2, 2011: Cebu Pacific now allows web check-in from 48 hours until 4 hours before departure, whether or not you selected seats upon booking. Upon checking-in online, you are pre-assigned a seat and you can print your boarding pass. If you are a passenger on a domestic flight without checked baggage, you can go straight to the boarding gate when you arrive at the airport. For other cases, you still need to go to the web check-in counter for verification of documents and dropping off of baggage.

Advantage of choosing web check-in: 

1. You can still decide to choose your seat in advance up to 4 hours before departure, upon payment of a fee. 
NOTE: if you don't want to pay a fee but wish to avail of the web check-in, don't change the pre-assigned seat during web check-in. 
2. You can use the dedicated check-in counter for web check-in anytime, which means you can  check in as early as you want and until before departure.

3. Your check-in time is reduced. The line at the web check-in is not very long since this feature is still not popularly used by Cebu Pacific passengers.

4. If you are a passenger on a domestic flight without checked baggage, you can go straight to the boarding gate when you arrive at the airport because you already have a printed boarding pass.


I get a lot of questions regarding this topic so I'm sharing my recent experience with it. When I did web check-in in my recent flight last August 2013,  I discovered that you can only print your boarding pass at home only once, which is immediately after you check-in online. After you close the Cebu Pacific window in your computer, you can no longer retrieve your boarding pass. But this doesn't mean that you cannot use the web check-in counter at the airport. Just inform the person at the counter that you accomplished web check-in and ask for a boarding pass. Not being able to retrieve and print your boarding pass at home for an international flight does not greatly inconvenience the passenger since Cebu Pacific requires the passenger to still pass by the check-in counter (in this case, the web check-in counter), whether or not they have check-in luggage,  for verification of documents such as passports and visas. You can't go straight to the gate even if you only have a carry-on luggage, unlike in the case of passengers on domestic flights.

Express Check-In

This option is open to passengers who do not avail of web-check in but arrive at the airport more than 3 hours until 5 hours before the flight. The regular check-in counter dedicated for a specific flight is still closed at this time because it opens only 3 hours before the flight but Cebu Pacific encourages the passenger to check in this early so they provide this option to them.

Advantage of Express Check-In;

You can use any open check-in counter, regardless of flight or destination, including the web check-in counter of Cebu Pacific.  This means you can check in at any of the 10 check-in counters that are usually open simultaneously. If you are on an international flight, you can check-in at any international check-in counter regardless of destination. This applies whether or not you have luggage to check-in. This means you have more counters to choose from

Regular Check-In

This option is open to passengers who arrive 3 hours or less before the flight. The check-in counter for your specific flight opens 3 hours before the flight. If you did not use the web-check-in option, you are only allowed to use the specific check in counters assigned to your flight, which usually is around 4 check-in counters. Expect lines to be long.

NOTE: the observation I made above applies only to terminal 3 of the Manila International Airport. Currently, there are only 2 airlines flying from this terminal. 

At any other international airport, they do not allow check-in more than 3 hours before the flight. In other international airports only 4 check-in counters are allowed Cebu Pacific: 3 regular check-in counters and 1 web check-in counter. Because of this and the fact that you cannot check-in more than 3 hours before the flight, the lines for check-in will be very long. My advice if you are flying from an international airport other than Manila, use web check-in for that flight. The line at that web check-in counter is short.