Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hotel Review: Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kinshicho, Tokyo JP

Thanks to my multiple entry visa, I've been traveling to Japan more than ever. Whenever friends ask me on my hotel preference in Tokyo, I always tell them that as long as its near the Metro train station and food options are within walking distance, it doesn't matter which district you are because Japan has the most efficient public transportation in the world. And while Shinjuku, Ueno, Ginza and Shibuya areas are the most popular among tourists, there's something about Ryougoku neighborhood, home of the sumo stadium and other sumo attractions, that draws me back.

Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kinshicho, one of the newest hotels in the area, is gaining tons of positive feedbacks from tourists all over the world with its great location and excellent service.

If the items in your bathroom are insufficient for your usage, a wider selection of toiletries and beauty products are available at the lobby counter that guests can get from - free of charge.

There's also complimentary coffee and tea at the lobby in disposable cups for guests on the go.

One thing that I learned when booking hotel rooms in Japan, you have to be very specific on the number of occupants in the room because room charge varies depending on the number of guests, unlike in Manila where a single or double/twin room is charged the same. All 281 rooms are equipped with basic room amenities to make your stay comfortable and hassle free.

Pros: Near malls and train station, affordable price range, free smartphone during your stay with free internet and international calls and complimentary breakfast.

Cons: Aside from the compact room size, Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kinshicho is one of the most sulit hotels in Tokyo!


Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kinshicho
1-12-3 Hakataeki-higashi
Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan
Tel.: (819) 2473-7112

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Halong Bay Revisited: A Signature Cruise Experience

I slept the entire journey and woke up when our van finally reached Signature Cruise's welcome center. CS and I arrived in Hanoi earlier that morning and felt like I just closed my eyes when my alarm went off to signal that it was time to prepare for our hotel pick up. I arranged our transfers with the cruise company to make sure that we arrive in time for our boarding. 

The staff offered refreshments while we wait for boarding. We were also handed out tickets and boarding passes during the short briefing along with other guests of the cruise ship.

I heard the staff called our names when it was our turn for boarding. Signature Cruise offers 2- and 3-day cruises so make sure you double check that you're on the right queue.

Welcome to our home for the next two days - the 5-star Signature Halong Suites!

Upon boarding, passengers were provided cold towels and instructed by the crew to proceed to the dining area for a thorough briefing of the 2-day itinerary. Sarah, our guide, was gracious enough to answer all questions but since this was our second Halong Bay cruise, we already had an idea on what to expect. The room key cards were handed out after the Q&A and roll call of the manifest to make sure that no one was left behind and all passengers are accounted for.

An hour interval was announced after the briefing so passengers can check out their rooms and explore the beautiful Signature Halong Suites. However, CS and I thought it was the perfect timing to get familiarized with the ship while everyone headed downstairs to their respective cabins. And true enough, we were fortunate to get a good 20 minutes to enjoy the deck for ourselves!

We made our way to our suite just before other passengers started arriving at the sun deck. Our first Halong Bay cruise with Bhaya Cruises back in 2013 paved the way for our affinity with this type of experience. I even remembered telling CS how I would love to go back aboard a bigger ship with our own balcony where we could enjoy the magnificent view of Halong Bay in the comforts and privacy of our own room. Well, wish granted so say hello to our Signature Senior Suite!

A senior suite cabin can sleep two adults comfortably and commands Php18,000 for a 2-day all inclusive Halong Bay cruise package. Steep price for an overnight stay but wait until you see how the fully air-conditioned cabin looks and its wide range facilities that include the following:

  • Private balcony
  • Luxurious and contemporary decorations 
  • Handcrafted wooden furniture
  • LCD Samsung TV (you can borrow DVDs from the crew)
  • Fully stocked mini bar
  • Electric kettle with local coffee and tea
  • Private bathroom with hot water and tub

The cruise includes full board meals with lunch and dinner on the first day and breakfast on day 2. All meals are served at the restaurant located at the ship's main deck with a seating capacity of 45 and surrounded by an outdoor balcony for passengers who wish to dine al fresco.

One of the many things I love about Signature Cruise is the amazing food + meticulous presentation served on every meal. Our guide also explained each dish as it arrived on our table and checked on us if we wanted more servings. I tell you, food is overflowing and you'd never leave your table without a full stomach! Requests are also welcome if you have dietary preferences.

Green Mango Salad

Spaghetti with Sticky Rice and Grilled Pork

Steamed Prawns

Pan-fried Sea Bass with Steamed Rice and Vegetables

Cake and Seasonal Fruits

One of the cruise highlights is a visit to Vung Vieng Fishing Village, a floating community located 20kms off the mainland. This remarkable experience lets guests get a glimpse of the simple and extraordinary life of living in a house boat. The village can be accessed only via rowing boats which the female inhabitants manage and organize for extra income while the men go fishing.

When you search for Halong Bay cruise online, hundreds of names will show up on your screen and many of those will claim to be the best but photos can be deceiving so beware of false advertising. So if your requirements are as straightforward as mine: genuine hospitality, organized and detail oriented, spacious and luxurious cabin, excellent service, and great food - look no further as I am 100% sure that Signature Cruise will exceed your expectations!


Signature Halong Cruise
Vinashin Port, Halong
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel.: (8424) 3935-1268

Friday, June 1, 2018

Hote Review: Sunlife Hotel 2.3, Fukuoka JP

Airline promo fares not only takes us to places we wanted to visit but opens opportunity to travel to unfamiliar territory. While I've been to Osaka and Tokyo in the past, a recent Cebu Pacific GetGo promo brought us to Fukuoka which is situated in the northern shore of Kyushu Island. Although the city is packed with tourist and cultural attractions, its the popular hotspring resort Yufuin we were really excited about and the main reason why we wanted to travel to Fukuoka.

Cebu Pacific's direct flight from Manila arrives around 7:30PM which means that we had to spend a night in the city because the train to Yufuin is scheduled at 9:38AM and 10:21AM only. To give us enough time to prepare, choosing an accommodation near Hakata Station is the most logical and economical decision that led us to Sunlife Hotel 2.3, a 3-star hotel located just across the station.

A small double non-smoking room in Sunlife Hotel costs about JPY9,000 (Php4,500) inclusive of breakfast for 2. The 10sqm room is the average room size in Japan standards so you can just imagine how limited the space is if you plan to travel with more than 1 luggage each. But what they lack in space, Sunlife makes up for its great location, cleanliness, and ultra comfortable bed.

Breakfast options are Western and Japanese, and when in Japan, you must eat like locals do! A balanced meal of vegetables, soup, grilled saba (mackerel), rice, and other healthy dishes are included in our bento box. There's also an area where you can refill your coffee and tea, and get unlimited packs of seaweed which CS and I love to eat with our Japanese rice.

Pros: Excellent location across Hakata Station, reasonable room rates, well-maintained rooms, delicious Japanese breakfast, and Shiseido toiletries (dispenser type).

Cons: Cramped rooms and exceptionally small bathroom, basic hotel with no amenities, non-English speaking staff, mandatory 10:00AM check out time, and Japanese channels only television.


Sunlife Hotel 2.3
1-12-3 Hakataeki-higashi
Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan
Tel.: (819) 2473-7112
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