Saturday, 25 April 2009

Hotel Review: Meritus Mandarin Singapore

Date of Stay: April 25 - 28, 2009
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: ********
Rooms: ********
Condition and Cleanliness: ********
Staff Performance: *******
Room Comfort: ********
Food and Beverage: ********
Other Amenities: ********
Value for Money: ******

We checked in at the Meritus Mandarin Singapore (now the Mandarin Orchard Singapore), our home for our 3-night stay in Singapore, around 3 PM. Here, we were assisted in our room assignments by Ms. Agnes Estrada, a former EGI employee and now working in Meritus.  Grace and Cheska stayed at Room 1241, Jandy and I at the adjoining Room 1240 and Dad and Mom at Room 1232.
Meritus Mandarin Singapore
Established in 1971, the 36-storey Meritus Mandarin Singapore is prominently located in the heart of the world-renowned shopping belt of Orchard Road and is a mere 5mins. walk from both the Orchard and Somerset train stations.  In the 2004 Gold List of Conde Nast Traveler, it was voted as one of the World’s Best Places to Stay and, in 2003, into the list of The World’s Top 75 Hotels of Institutional Investor.
Room 1232
The hotel has 1,051 guest rooms (de luxe, premier), 32 suites (junior, executive, regency), 2 exclusive Club lounges and 2 presidential suites. It also has a swimming pool, business center and meeting rooms.  Its food and beverage outlets  include the award-winning cuisines from Chatterbox, home of the Mandarin Chicken Rice; the Mandarin Court Chinese Restaurant; Triple Three, an international buffet restaurant; Coffee & Crust, a coffee shop; and Bar on 5, a chill-out bar.
Breakfast at Coffee Shop
The hotel also offers safety deposit boxes, airport transfers, wi-fi in public places, currency exchange, babysitting, laundry, dry cleaning and 24-hr. room service.
Meritus Mandarin Singapore: 333 Orchard Road, Singapore 238867.  Tel: (65) 6737 4411. Fax: (65) 6732 2361. E-mail: orchard@meritushotels.com. Website: www.meritushotels.com.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Hotel and Inn Review: Carlito's Inn (Baler, Aurora)

Date of Stay: April 10 - 12, 2009

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ******
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: ******
Value for Money: ******
Carlito's Inn
Our family room
The 3-storey Carlito's Inn, located at the eastern edge of the town, about 2 kms. from Sabang Beach, has airconditioned family rooms (PhP1,000) with two double beds, a wall-mounted cable TV, electric fan and private bathroom.   
The hotel also has airconditioned, 2-3-pax standard rooms (with 1 double or 1 single bed, PhP700), with the same amenities, and dorm rooms (PhP1,800) good for 10 persons.
The hotel also has its own in-house restaurant (open 6 AM to 12 midnight) where you can order food or a bottle of beer (they also have room delivery service via intercom).  A no frill but comfortable and affordable inn with ample parking space. 

Carlito's Inn: P.T. Ong St., Brgy. Suklayin, Baler, Aurora. Mobile number: (0908) 872-0816 (Ms. Aida Viron).  

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Second Bagasbas Summer Surf Festival (Daet, Camarines Norte)


Surfing the waves of Bagasbas Beach

Events organizer Joey Cuerdo
The 2nd Bagasbas Summer Surf Festival was held at the 7-km. long, gray sand Bagasbas Beach, known for its consistent waves ranging from 2-5 ft. tall, is one of the best sites for beginners to learn surfing (with its incomparable feel of walking on water).  

According to Edgardo "Boy" Reyes, provincial tourism officer designate,"This means less risks of injury for those still learning how to surf."  Would-be surfers, mostly yuppies and college kids on summer break, interested in learning the sport were lining up to join the surfing clinics (for a fee of PhP500 each).   

According to event organizer Mr. Joey Cuerdo of Power Play Sports and Event Management,“We want amateur or even aspiring surfers to learn the basics of surfing here in Bagasbas." The clinics teach basics such as how to position yourself on a surfboard (centered along the stringer), paddle into the wave, feel that right moment when the wave takes you (the “drop”), push down on the board and stand and safely handle the board with the waves.   
   
Oween (with hat) conducting surf clinic
Upon signing up at the main booth right on the beach, first-time surfers eager to get into the water were given surf session schedule card with a time slot for their surf session (which lasts 45 minutes), with 10 people per batch, which included surf board rental and instructor.  
Registrants also have the right to officially enter a competition of their choice or the other competitions and the right to join the clinics offered.  Aside from that, they were given one event shirt and a pair of Mojo slippers. 
Ever since these surfing clinics were put up two years ago, provincial tourism officials have noted at least a 30% annual growth in the number of visitors.  Joey treated us in the media with free surfing lessons.  Mr. Oween Andrade of the Camarines Norte Surfing Association provided the beachside instruction.  Try as I did though, I never got to stand on my board.  Maybe next time.       
While waiting for their first taste of surfing, registrants were pumped with beach adrenaline via other beach activities which featured outdoor sports such as wall climbing, beach volleyball and ultimate frisbee, all designed to make the experience fun and memorable.  
An artificial, 40-ft. high rock climbing wall was set up along the beach and a world-class Open Difficulty Climbing Competition, featuring the country’s best sport climbers (ranked third in Asia), was held. Local and visitors were also treated to free climbing trials, all falling into queue to give the interactive side of the climbing wall their best shot. This never failed to form a beach crowd in front of the wall.   
A female tries her hand at the climbing wall
Forehand and backhand throws, plus high flying leaps and dives on the beach were provided by the easy-to-learn Ultimate Frisbee, a non-contact team sport that feels a little bit of the following: soccer, basketball, American football and netball. There are no special gear needed to play it; all you need are a wide open space and a flying disc (frisbee in layman’s terms) to toss around. 
The Philippine Ultimate Association also held a special invitational tournament for the top 12 teams of the country (from as far away as Boracay). For everyone and anyone who wanted to get down and dirty, there was the classic beach sport of beach volleyball. Teams of 4 or 6 were organized by professional game handlers of the Progressive Volleyball Center in 2 courts. 
Beach volleyball action

The Invitational Beach Volleyball Open, a college varsity and amateur team tournament, featured 12 team from Manila, Lucena City (Quezon), Naga City (Camarines Sur) and Legaspi City (Albay).  As with surfing, pros also held clinics for these outdoor sports on the beach.  Every night of this 2-day summer event was capped by a Reggae Party featuring hot reggae bands such as Coffee Break Island, a known beach party player, all playing non-stop chill out music with a smooth changeover into slow reggae, then picking up speed into fast-paced, 1.5-hr. ska and reggae mix.  DJ Anna took the booth for the sunset gigs.