Thursday, April 16, 2015

Travel: Taiwan

     Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa and officially known as Republic of China, is sovereign state in South East Asia. It is a neighboring country of the Philippines, located just north of Luzon. This island country is about 180 kilometers from the southern coast of mainland China. Terrain is consisting of some flat plains and mostly rugged mountain ranges. Climate is tropical, experiencing a rainy season and hot humid weather. Typhoons are also common between July and October. Currency of Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar (TWD ), approximately 31.73TWD/1USD at the time of this writing. Timezone is National Standard Time (UTC+8).

     There are four major international airports that serves as the gateway to Taiwan by plane. You may select any of these four depending on your place of origin and the intended place to visit in Taiwan.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (IATA: TPE, ICAO: RCTP)
Location: 25° 4′ 35″ N, 121° 13′ 26″ E
     This airport is formerly known as Chiang Kai-shek International Airport but it was changed to its current name September of 2006. This airport is one of the two airports that serves the capital city Taipei and the northern part of Taiwan. Taoyuan International Airport serves the vast majority of  international flights out of Taipei area. This is the main international hub for China Airlines and EVA Air.
Taipei Songshan Airport (IATA: TSA, ICAO: RCSS)
Location: 25° 04′ 10″ N, 121° 33′ 06″ E
    This airport has a combined military and commercial purposes. Military section is known as the Songshan Air Force Base. The section for commercial purposes is officially known as Taipei International Airport. It has flights to South Korea, Japan as well as China.
Taichung Airport (IATA: RMQ ICAO: RCMQ)
Location: 24° 15′ 52.80″ N, 120° 37′ 14.09 ″E
     Another airport serving commercial and military airport, this one is located in Taichung. Serving the middle part of Taiwan, it has scheduled flights to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hongkong and Macau. Charter services to Palau, Japan, South Korea and Thailand are also available.
Kaohsiung International Airport (IATA: KHH, ICAO: RCKH)
Location: 22° 34′ 37″ N, 120° 21′ 00″ E
     Being located in the Siaogang District, the airport is also known as Kaohsiung Siaogang Airport. It is a commercial international airport serving the southern part of Taiwan. There are scheduled flights to and from Hongkong, Japan, Macau, South Korea and Vietnam.

There is a lot of hotels in Taiwan specially in Taipei area. The following hotels suggested are the hotels where I have stayed during my visit.

Le Midi Hotel
Location: 24° 57' 30" N, 121° 13' 12" E
     When I stayed on this hotel it is known as Jungli Chinatrust Hotel. They are the highest hotel in the Taoyuan area and provides nice panoramic view of the area. Amenities provided are laundry room and gym on the 28th floor and business center on the 27th floor. Rooms are spacious and clean with great internet connectivity by wifi or the provided LAN cable. 
My room in Le Midi Hotel. Extra bed for my luggge :)
Fullon Hotel Jhongli
Location: 24°  57' 16.2" N, 121° 13' 24.5" E
     Fullon Hotel sits right in the business district, even the railway station is a walking distance away. Many establishments are within an easy reach from the hotel. One downside is that because it is located in a busy area, the streets' noise can be heard on some lower rooms. As much as possible pick a room in higher floors.
Cozy ambiance in Fullon Hotel.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Travel: Coron, Palawan, Philippines

     Coron is classified as a first class municipality located in Region 4B (MIMAROPA) in the province of Palawan. The municipality occupies the eastern half of Busuanga Island, all of Coron Island and approximately 50 other small islands including the Canipo Island on the southern end as well as the Tara Island in the northeast. All of these are part of the calamian archipelago in northern Palawan, also known as Calamian group of islands, that separates the west Philippine sea from the Sulu sea.
     The name of Coron town originated from Cuyonen term for earthen pot. It was named by Don Nicolas Manlavi Y Ledesma in reference to the shape of the bay fronting their first settlement in Barangay Banuang Daan. Coron has a total land area of 69,247.1460 hectares. It is subdivided into twenty three barangays, nineteen located in mainland and four in nearby islands. Being an island municipality, ships and planes are the main transportation means to and from Manila. Motorized boats, tricycles, jeepneys or trucks transports people and merchandise between barangays and neighboring towns.
View of Coron town

By plane
     Coron is accessible directly from Manila or Cebu City. There are several flights daily from Manila served by AirPhil Express, Cebu Pacific and SkyJet. Cebu Pacific also serves flights from Cebu. The domestic airport serving Coron is the Busuanga airport (IATA Airport Code: USU) also known as Francisco B. Reyes airport. Travel time from Manila to Busuanga airport is approximately 45 minutes to one hour. Direct flight from Cebu is around 40 minutes. Other Cebu flights taking the Cebu-Manila-Busuanga route will take approximately one hour and 40 minutes.
Busuanga airport or Francisco B. Reyes airport. Damage brought by typhoon Haiyan (locally: Yolanda) still visible.
By Sea
     If you prefer to travel by ship to Coron from Manila or Puerto Princesa, the best option  is the 2GO Ferry  (formerly known as Superferry). 2GO Travel travels the route Manila-Coron-Puerto Princesa and vice versa twice a week. You can contact 2GO by phone +63(02)528 7000 or email Other options are Atienza shipping lines and San Nicolas Shipping lines. Atienza shipping lines freighter leaves every Wednesday 6PM from pier 5 in Manila to Coron and every Saturday 6PM from Coron to Manila. Contact them at telephone numbers +63(02) 986 3118 / +63(02) 536 8123 or email them at  San Nicholas shipping line freighter on the other hand, operates several times a week plying the route Manila-Coron-Manila. For more information and booking, call them at +63(02) 245 2830 or +63(02) 243 4595

Asia Grand View Hotel
Location: 12° 0' 7.48" N, 120° 11' 37.26" E
     Strategically located just outside of town proper, this hotel offers a tranquil place to stay. You will feel closer to nature when you stay in this hotel. The view from the restaurant and roof-deck is very beautiful. The staffs are friendly and very accommodating. The hotel have their own brackish water pool with varying depths of 2ft, 4ft, 6ft and 8ft. Twenty spacious rooms with a balcony or porch are available.
Large bed and fluffy pillows :)
View from the restaurant

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Product Review: Geisha's Blade, Shinobi Ninja Sword (2nd Generation)

(As stated on Geisha's Blade website)
• Blade Material: Black powder coated 1050 carbon steel (mono-steel)
• Edge: Fully sharpened
• Treatment: Hand Forged, Through Hardened, Heat Treated and Tempered, Water Quenched
• Overall Length with saya: 42 inches
• Blade Length: 27.5 inches
• Tsuka: 11.5 inches wood
• Saya: 30 inches glossy black lacquered finish
• Tsuba / Fuchi / Kashira: Zinc alloy
• Habaki / Seppa: Brass
• Tsukaito and Sageo: Black synthetic silk
• Mekugi: 2 bamboo pegs
• Samegawa: Real ray skin panels
• Nakago: Full tang
• Hamon: None

     This sword is one of the many fine quality sword being sold by Geisha's Blade, an online sword shop which pioneered the selling of Japanese Style sword in the Philippines. Geisha's Blade is the only online sword shop in the country. It is based on Mandaluyong, Metro Manila but they don't have a physical shop. The humble beginnings of Geisha's Blade was rooted on the proprietors' love for Japanese tradition, arts and culture. Jaimee and Aldwin started out selling swords from their personal collection online in eBay and later on in Sulit. Then in 2008, Geisha’s Blade 芸者の刃 was officially launched.
     From then on they have been providing Filipinos with their main product, the shinkens or modern crafted katana that are meant for cutting practice. These swords are hand forged (minimal usage of machines in the process), heat treated, oil or water quenched and then polished also by hand. Non-sharpened swords for cosplay, iaijutsu and kata practice are also available.
     With the mission to educate, promote and provide Japanese style swords, its appreciation, usage and history, Geisha's Blade is committed to offer the finest quality Japanese style swords and accessories.

Aldwin and Jaimee, proprietors of Geisha's Blade                            Photo courtesy of: Geisha's Blade

Date of purchase: August 22, 2012
Price: Php 9000.00
     Being fascinated by the ninjas, I have always dreamed of having a ninja sword of my own. But in the Philippines, it is so hard to get one. The usual swords being sold in the tiangge during town fiesta or in the malls are the samurai swords or katana, popularly known as samurai (although it is a misconception: samurai are the military nobility of medieval and early-modern Japan carrying katanas or samurai sword). Also these off the shelves swords have low quality and will be very dangerous to use in practicing. Then with the help of Google search, I stumbled upon the website of Geisha's Blade. I was really awestruck by their catalog of fine looking swords. But what has attracted me most is this Shinobi Ninja sword. I immediately placed an order and after a few days of waiting in excitement, I lay my hands on my very own Ninja sword.

My own Shinobi Ninja sword from Geisha's Blade