Saturday, 10 September 2016

Hotel Review: Times Hotel (Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei)

Date of Stay: September 10-12, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: *******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: *****
Value for Money: ******

Hotel Entrance
Times Square Mall
The 112-room Times Hotel, located within the Times Square  Mall, is a very convenient 5-minute drive from Brunei International Airport. It is also located 2 kms. from the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, 5.2 kms. from the Royal Regalia Museum, 5.6 kms. from the  Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, 6.5 kms. from the Water Village and 11.6 kms. from Jerudong Park.

The  sleek and luxurious, elegantly furnished airconditioned rooms (standard, superior, deluxe and executive deluxe) with electronic key lock; private bathrooms complete with a rainshower head and hair dryer; minibar, flat-screen LCD cable TV (with just 10 satellite channels  including HBO movie channel, National Geographic Channel, a sport channel but  no international news coverage), coffee/tea making facility, work desk and in-room safe. There is no DVD player so your entertainment options are limited. They charge for additional pillows or towels.  Even if some rooms have balconies, don’t expect any view from there and from the windows. There's only one outlet within the room, plus another in the bathroom, which you can use for charging your cellular phones, laptops, cameras and other electronic gadgets.

Front Desk
Swimming Pool
Facilities include a small outdoor swimming pool with sun loungers where you can sit and relax; a 24-hour Front Desk, meeting room and a 32-pax coffee shop (Times Cafe). Wi-fi internet is available in all rooms (spotty) and public areas. They offer room service, shuttle service (surcharge), valet parking, laundry, concierge and airport transfers.
Times Cafe
Times Square food court
Breakfast was good but with limited choices (fried/steamed rice, noodles, cereals, toast, milk, coffee/tea, chicken nuggets and chicken sausage). The hotel was clean and the staff  were pleasant and very helpful.  There are many dining options at the ground level (for Filipino cuisine, try Cocina de Lola) and at the relatively nice Times Square food court. There’s also a multiplex cinema on Level 4, a pharmacy, a full-service supermarket on the ground floor and a bowling alley is a 5 min walk away. There are no international brand name stores at this small mall, but it is still a good place to buy souvenirs.   
Times Square Mall shopping area
It is also a 10-min. drive from the Gadong and Kiulap commercial area. However, it is far from the center (about 20 mins. away) and taxis are difficult to get and very expensive (about 20-30 Brunei dollars just to go to the city center). You can pre-book a taxi via the hotel but it is not always guaranteed they will find one available.
The hotel lobby
Times Hotel: 2/F, Times Square Shopping Center, Simpang 13-29, Jalan Berakas, Kampong Jaya Setia, Mukim Berakas ‘A’, BS2713 Negara Brunei Darussalam. Tel: 673-233-7878. Email: Website:

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Hotel and Inn Review: The Oriental Legazpi (Legazpi City, Albay)

Date of Stay: June 18-19, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: ******
Staff Performance: *****
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: ********
Other Amenities: ******
Value for Money: ******

The Oriental Legazpi
Overlooking the city on the top of Taysan Hill, this modern, upscale, serene and exceedingly intimate, 6-storey destination hotel, owned by renowned real estate company LKY Group, offers spectacular views of Mayon Volcano from its infinity pool deck and each room’s balcony. Formerly the Mayon Imperial Hotel which dates back to the 1970's, it has seen some upgrades and changed the name to The Oriental in 2009. 

Skylight ceilings and expansive glass windows, in the big lobby, light up the space but there is no airconditioning and it can get very hot in the afternoon. Its 115 trendy and very spacious rooms and suites, with chic colors reminiscent of boutique hotels, are classified  into the 34-36 sq. m. De Luxe Twin Countryside, the 34-36 sq. m. De Luxe Twin Mayon, the 34-36 sq. m. De Luxe Queen Countryside, the 34-36 sq. m.  Luxe Queen Mayon, the 72.5 sq. m. Executive Suite, Executive Suite Mayon and the 112 sq. m. Governor’s Suite.  

Rooms feature private toilet and bath with hair dryer, rain head shower and complete bath amenities (their bathroom has no lock though); 32”” LCD/plasma screen cable TV; centralized air-conditioning, minibar; tea and coffee making facility, electronic key card access, IDD and NDD phone; executive work desk, electronic in-room safe; and  balconies or terraces with scenic city views while some have volcano views. Suites include reception and dining rooms. The beds were very comfortable but the rooms need a pesticide run as there were baby cockroaches in the cabinet and table.

There’s also complimentary bottled mineral water, newspaper and Filipino breakfast for 2 (6 - 10 AM). The free high-speed broadband internet was good in public areas in the rooms but can be frustrating inside the room. People at the front desk were not very helpful. Rollaway/extra beds are available and extra-person charges may apply and vary depending on hotel policy

Jasmine, the hotel’s contemporary ground floor restaurant, serves local homegrown cuisine alongside international favorites. The buffet for breakfast (daily) and dinner (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) was also good. Its 2 ballrooms and function rooms can be arranged to 5 types of set-up: cocktail, theater, banquet, classroom, and boardroom. There’s also a terrace and a sleek lobby lounge with a grand piano. 

Other equally impressive 4-star amenities include a second floor outdoor infinity pool with ay beds, tables and volcano view; a kids' pool; jacuzzi; pool bar; business center; a spa, souvenir shop, a fitness and wellness center and full back–up generator system. The Oriental Legazpi is a winner of the 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.

They offer limousine service; tour assistance; secretarial service; concierge; laundry and dry cleaning services, babysitting; foreign currency exchange; daily maid service; airport and city transfers (available on request); 24-hour room service; wake-up call; car rental and valet parking service.

The hotel is located 7 kms. from Ligñon Hill Nature Park (a 14-min. drive) and 8 kms. from the Cagsawa Ruins (a 14-min. drive). It is also a 15-min. drive from Legazpi Domestic Airport, a 20-min. drive from the city proper, a 10-min. drive from LCC Mall and the lifestyle hub of Embarcadero de Legazpi, a 9-min. drive from Daraga Church and a 9-min. drive from Albay Park and Wildlife.

The Oriental Legazpi: Taysan Hill, Sto. Niño Village, City, Albay, Legazpi Blvd, Legazpi City, 4500 Albay. Tel: 63-52-742-8888, +63-52-4800383 and +63-53-4800385.  E-mail: Manila Sales Office: 4/F PCCI, Commerce an Industry Plaza (CIP) Bldg., Campus cor. Park Aves.,  McKinley Hill Town Center, Brgy. Pinagsama, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.  Tel: (02) 536-9999, (02) 536-1111 loc. 206, (02) 856-4116 and (02) 994-5644. Website:

Monday, 30 May 2016

Hotel and Inn Review: Hotel Plaza Venice (Venice, Italy)

Date of Stay: May 30 - June 1, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ********
Condition and Cleanliness: ********
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: ********
Food and Beverage: ********
Other Amenities: ******
Value for Money: *******

Hotel Plaza Venice
About 50 m. across from Venezia Mestre Train Station (we did not have to walk far with our luggage), this contemporary, 4-star hotel is 9 kms. from the Venetian Lagoon (a 10-minute bus or train ride away to Santa Lucia Station) and 13 kms. from the iconic Saint Mark's Basilica. The 226 airy, elegant, spotlessly clean and spacious rooms, which range from classic and ornately decorated to sleek and modern, feature classic furnishings in warm colors. They have three different kinds of rooms: Classic (22 sq. m.), Executive (30 sq. m.) and Club (40 sq. m.).
Hotel lobby

They offer free wi-fi (you need to get a fresh user ID/password every third day from the reception), wall-mounted flat-screen TVs (about 40 channels, half of them Italian), work desk, magnetic key locks, fully-equipped bathroom with modern shower (some rooms feature marble bathrooms) and ample toiletries (they even provided a toothbrush) and hair dryer, electronic safe in the closet, coffee-making facility, and minibar.  
Room service is available. The beds were very comfortable, with good quality sheets.  The carpeting was clean and the room was smoke free.

A free and extensive, Continental style breakfast buffet, including eggs (scrambled or sunny side up), ham/bacon, yoghurt, chocolate croissants, cereals, chocolate and cream brioche, fresh and canned fruit, tea, fruit juice, sausage, several kinds of cold cuts and cheeses, fruit salad, coffee/espresso (from a self-serve machine) and a variety of pastries, sweet pies and tarts, is served daily. The 24-hour trendy, eclectic ground floor Soul Kitchen Italian restaurant, with its bold, artsy décor, boasts an eclectic menu of Italian and international dishes. This doubles as bar in the evening. The smartly dressed staff, at the front desk, were very friendly, if a bit formal, spoke very good English and were professional.  Everyone, from the maid to the receptionist and the bell boy, were very helpful.
Buffet breakast

The hotel also has 3 meeting spaces, 2 small lifts and luggage storage room. There were several internet stations available for use in the lobby and the mezzanine floor. Pets are allowed with prior notice. Public parking is possible at a location nearby (reservation is not needed) and costs EUR 14 per day. There’s a large supermarket 5 mins down the road where you buy cheap snacks and drinks. There are several bus stops also across the street including bus #2 that will take you to Piazza di Roma in Venice. A public bus to Marco Polo Airport (a 20-min. drive) stops 100 m. from the hotel, while Treviso Airport is 25 kms. (a 40-min. drive) away.  
Soul Kitchen
Hotel Plaza VeniceViale Stazione, 36, 30171 Mestre, Venice, Italy. Tel: +39 041 929388.