Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Friday, June 28, 2019

Why Should Ajmer Be Your Next travel Destination?

Wazzup Pilipinas! Wazzup India! Wazzup World!

Ajmer is a famous city, thirteen km from the tourist heaven of Pushkar. It possesses the peaceful lake of Ana Sagar and is itself circled by the sturdy Aravalli Hills.  

Ajmer is the most significant place of Rajasthan in terms of Islamic history and heritage.  You can find amazing architectural spots, religious destinations, and much more at this place.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Vacationing in Thailand: Top Eight Amazing Activities to Try

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Among all travel destinations, which modern-day individuals visit nowadays, Thailand has acquired most popularity. Pristine beaches, tropical rainforests, glittering temples, blue toothy mountains, rough limestone cliffs peeping from cultivated landscape, and enchanting rural areas amidst cluttered cities are few of its impressive aspects. If you are planning on spending upcoming vacation in Thailand, make sure to try out all below-mentioned activities.


Skydiving can effectually contribute to adrenaline rush, and is ideal for people, who wish to break free from their comfort zone, and participate in something daring. Strap yourself tightly to a professional jump master, take a plunge, and relish a spine tingling adventure.

Eat Bugs

If you are feeling excessively audacious, eat some bugs sold across street stalls. Grasshoppers, giant water insects, crickets, bamboo worms, and silk worms are deep fried, and then served with salt and black pepper. Do not eat one by one but gulp a handful just like munching popcorn in movie theatre.

Indulge in Massage

Thai massages, which stretch entire body along with applying pressure on significant points, have acquired widespread recognition all across globe. This particular experience would rejuvenate your entire spirit, and leave you feeling invigorated as well as balanced. Every town has parlours where prices are low when compared to what you might have paid in your homeland.

Visit Ayutthaya

Declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO in the year 1991, Ayutthaya is certainly worth visiting. A glimpse of destructed historic temples, which somehow still managed to retain their grandeur, will enrich your overall trip. While most tourists do not stay, you can bag astonishingly cheap accommodations here.

Get Tattoo

A larger segment of enthusiasts have etched Sak yant motifs, or geometric designs mixed with Buddhist hymns, on their body, which is the said Southeast Asian nation’s ancient mystical tattooing style. You can do same provided you are not afraid of enduring little pain. From diverse options available, choose licensed and clean tattoo studio Thailand that charges reasonably.

Climb Sathorn Unique Tower

Located right at centre of Bangkok is a gigantic completely abandoned skyscraper called Sathorn Unique Tower. It was built during 90s but because of financial crisis, the establishment was never completed. If you are not faint hearted, try paying a small amount to security guard, and see sprawling views from above forty nine stories.

Dance at Full Moon Party

Celebrated on Koh Phangan every month, Full Moon Party was a former native ritual, which now have transformed into world’s biggest and most stunning raves. You would enjoy dancing to heart-pounding music, drinking different types of alcohol, skipping fire ropes, and applying neon paints all over your body.

Pamper with Fish Spa

One of most exclusive things to do in Thailand is letting your feet be nibbled by several tiny fish. This exceptional soothing activity would remove dead skin cells and impurities when they bathe in a specially fabricated tank.

Although you can surely opt for traveling independently, I personally believe seeking professional assistance to be best. Carry out thorough research, seek specialised recommendations, and schedule appointment with an agency, which has been operating since many years, thus, acquired a more or less credible reputation in market. It must be capable of fabricating affordable itineraries as per varying requirements, and promises to let each client enjoy activities stated above.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Exploring the Less Travelled Roads of Indore (Madhya Pradesh, India)

Wazzup Pilipinas!

This world is indeed a beautiful place. There are different places in this world that would offer enough exciting spots and areas to explore; it just depends on your own adventurous spirits and guts to explore the region. In this article, we are going to provide you details of the beautiful city of Indore.

The climate of the city

The city. Indore is located in Central India in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It comes into the Malwa plateau which gives it a very pleasing climate. If you have travelled different parts of India and of the world and you are accustomed with different kinds of climatic conditions and their adversities, then most of the travelers are going to find the climate of Malwa plateau very standard and acceptable. It would become hot and humid in summer, as per European and American standards, but overall, region has a very pleasing climate and is safe from any unexpected and unfortunate climatic calamities like floods, earthquake, cyclone etc.

How to reach Indore?

Indore is one of the popular cities of Madhya Pradesh and India and it is well connected with road, train and air. Depending on your present location, you can get direct flight to Indore and you can also easily reach it by road or train from different places of India. If you are a foreigner and landing in capital city or any other metro city, then you could get direct flight to Indore. Do remember to book your tickets in advance to avoid any price fluctuation in flight or train tickets.

When to visit Indore?

The temperature in the city can go quite hot and humid in summer that lasts from March to mid June. Winter is quite pleasing and it is recommended that you either visit the city wither in winter or during monsoon. In the later case, you would be able to enjoy the greenery and the natural places that are nearby the city as well. If you are fine with temperature of 40° and plus, then you can simply visit it at any time.

Places to visit

Some of the chief places to look out from Indore is the Khajrana temple, which is one of the Ancient temples, primarily made for Lord Ganesha, who is considered as an auspicious God in the Indian Mythology. The temple has expanded in recent years and has and if you're looking for a single temple, where you can greet and take blessing from most of the popular Indian gods and Goddesses, then this temple is going to be one such spot.

You got to beware of the beggars, that are always going to haunt you, especially, if you are a foreigner. Do not get persuaded by their misery because we are going to get hundreds of them across and around begging for alms at all the time. It would be better to play online roulette in a UK casino than to waste your money on them! So just avoid them and do your own deeds.

If you visit a city in rainy season, there are different interesting place that are within 50 km range from Indore from where you can enjoy the natural beauty. These includes, Pataal Paani, Tincha Fall, Mandu, and many more,

If you are more into spiritualism then you can visit Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain that is around 60 Km away from Indore and Omkareshwar that is within 100 Kms away from the city. Apart from it, if you are looking for meditation, then do you a visit to the Patanjali Vidyapeeth located at Dr. Verma Farm House at Annapurna road. It is one of the best places from where you can get an experience of real yoga and a taste of yogic lifestyle.

The city of Foodies!

If you are a foodie then Indore is the place to be in. You can find different varieties of food including snacks, sweets, beverages and much more. Indore is famous for its Poha Jalebi breakfast. You should taste as much as variety of food as possible as your digestive system permits. Do remember, that Indian food can get spicy at times and therefore if you are not that accustomed with spices, then either avoid it or order less spicy food separately.

You can always enjoy lots of other breakfast like Samosa, Kachori, Khaman, different kinds of sweets and much more. Places to visit to get the taste of Indore’s foodie lifestyle are 56 shop located in Palasia and Sarafa located in the traditional Indore city near Rajwada. Apart from it, you if you like to explore the history of the city, then simply visit Rajwada, which would give you enough insights in to the lifestyle of the Holkars, who mostly dominated Indore.

What else to do?

Apart from it, there are enough places from where you can shop including shopping malls as well as local street side shops. Do you remember to bargain smartly and be street smart because most of the foreigners are soft targets gate of roadside shops. If you like to avoid them, and simply shop at the malls and which have fixed price and an automated billing system which does not leave much scope for bargaining and being spoofed.

Apart from it, do remember to follow all normal safety norms of a Traveler and try to avoid Walking Alone or even with a group to an unknown place. Although, Indore is one of the safest cities of India and is also cleanest one around, yet, you are expected to follow the rules regulations and precautions of a Traveler to avoid any misfortune and minimize any chance of any kind of unfortunate incident to happen.

If you like to get something specific information regarding the hotels, flights, or Railways, then you always use internet and get exact details of the hotels as well as fight and trains timings.

All and all, Indore is nice and clean city which has got all the necessary ingredients that a traveler would look out for. You can find great food, enough places to visit in and around the city and people of Indore are very friendly and jolly and they are always going to help you around as and when needed. If you can visit the city at the right time of the season, then you are most likely to enjoy the essence of the city.

The Best Things to See in Manila

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, is a compactly colonized harborside city situated on the island of Luzon. It is an amalgamation of old Spanish colonial structural design and modern skyscrapers and is a lively but lesser appreciated city. Plan a trip to Manila and get ready for a new perspective the city is going to give you. The architecture of churches is Baroque inspired and the malls there are known to be the largest in the world which is planned with such great finesse and amazing magnitude which gives the feel of a proper cosmopolitan city.

You can also earn money by playing casinos. There are many casinos in Manila and so you must read a few online casino reviews before choosing the final one.

So while in Manila the best things that you can do are listed below.

1. The San Agustin Museum

San Agustin Museum will give you an understanding of the colonial years of Manila along with the history of how Catholic faith began to start in the Philippines. The museum was formerly known as a church which was destroyed during World War II and was reconstructed in the 1970s which included a library, sacristy, crypt, halls and its former refectory. There is a huge collection of pastoral artworks which consists of wooden sculptures, antique vestments, paintings, altars, etc. Furthermore, you will get to know of many other relevant historical facts such as how Manila was partly demolished in 1945.

2. Chinatown
Chinatown in the first visit, will not give much of a tourist spot feeling because it is a crowded and high traffic area. This place gives a very authentic feel of the Chinese trading existence that has been in the city since the 800s and the town of Binondo developed as an area for the community known as Hokkien Chinese. They were immigrants and along with their successors were oppressed during the Spanish colonial time span. There are many Buddhist temples and eateries which provide genuine Chinese food such as dim sum, etc.

3. Ayala Museum

The Ayala museum situated in Makati is extensively about the Philippines’ art and culture, archaeology, customs, folklore in a huge AC building that was earlier the stock exchange office. The six most highlighted exhibitions that deal with traditional Filipino materials including artworks from the 19th and 20th century’s renowned artists Juan Luna and Fernando Zóbel. In addition to this, you can also get to know of the country’s history at the Diorama Experience with sixty chronologically ordered models placed there.

4. Manila Bay walk

The riverside boulevard of Manila Bay is a must visit locale during the sunset as the lustrous waters were the witness to the Battle of Manila Bay between Spain and the United States Navy in 1898. The battle resulted in America’s significant victory which marked the end of the 300 years old Spanish rule. There are skyscrapers across the street which has many restaurants and bistros and with food vendors and amazing live music street performance.

5. Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago was the military base for the government of Spain, which was built in the year 1571 and the Battle of Manila had damaged few areas which were consequently renovated. The main gate of the architecture has a relief of known Spanish patron saint Santiago Matamoros and below this was the Spanish coat of arms and gives an idea of the independence movement of the Philippines that happened in 1896-1898. Additionally, there is a shrine of José Rizal, the national hero, which is built in his honour and replicates his familial home.

6. Manila Cathedral

The Manila Cathedral was established in the year 1571 and has endured natural calamities, war, fire, etc. and went through a complete renovation few years back. Meanwhile, the striking and impressive architecture in Plaza de Roma is actually the eighth rebuild and not long ago after it was reinstated, Pope Francis gave a mass in 2015. This 20th-century beautiful structure, is in itself a masterpiece, with mirror finished marble flooring, stained glass windows and high vaults in the center and has been designed by well known Filipino artist Galo Ocampo.

7. Rizal Park

The Rizal par is situated in the southern belt of Intramuros which is quite essential to Philippine history. In 1946, it was declared an independent state and the national hero, José Rizal was executed here in 1896 which brought the Philippine Revolution to its climax. The edifice was built in 1913, at the exact spot where he was killed and this was his 17th death anniversary of his which hold his relics and is under surveillance twenty-four into seven by the Marine Corps soldiers. As much as this place is of historical importance, this park is also an uncommon open area in the city and per say, a green island adjacent to some of the most crammed streets in the world.

8. National Museum of Fine Arts

The National Museum of Fine Arts accommodates many beautiful sculptures and paintings of the 19th and 20th century renowned Filipino artists such as Fernando Zóbel, Félix Hidalgo and Juan Luna. They were important artists of the epoch and they represented a movement that put Filipino art on the world art map. The magnum opus was Juan Luna’s the Spoliarium and it also won a gold medal in 1884 at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid and the symbolism was meant for José Rizal.

9. Casa Manila

Intramuros has a museum in it which portrays the colonial way of life whilst the Spanish immigration in the Philippines known as Casa Manila. It was built sometime around the 1980s and is a nice replica of a mid-19th-century residence. The base is made of stone and the upper floor has painted wood which comprises of a passage that opens to a courtyard which has a fountain and palms. The interiors have opulently designed living room that makes way to the bedroom and kitchen plus the bathroom and each room has genuine and real objet d'art placed to enhance the beauty of the décor. Moreover, the bathroom has an unusual feature of twin lavatory made out of wood which gives an interesting look.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Top 5 Attractions In Delhi For Every Traveler

Wazzup Pilipinas!

If you are planning to visit India and are more interested in visiting cities with rich cultural history, Delhi, the country’s capital has to be on top of your list. The stark contrast between Old Delhi with its amazing architectural heritage from Mughal times; and New Delhi with its
modern architectural feats are nothing short of amazing to witness. But concrete wonders aren’t the only thing to enjoy in Delhi, the city has some of the world’s most beautiful gardens as well as many other sights worth visiting at least once in your lifetime. So, get your Bangalore to Delhi flights plan ready to start the memorable journey. If you wish to make your trip to
Delhi worthwhile, keep this article handy because I am about to share with you some of the best attractions the capital city has to offer.

1. Red Fort
The memorable monument stands as a reminder of the powerful Mughal era and a symbol of India’s fight for freedom. Built by Shah Jahan, the fifth ruler of the Mughal empire, to symbolize his shift of Mughal capital from Agra to Delhi. The fort has a very rich history and runs a light and sound show each evening highlighting it.n

2. The Jama Masjid/Mosque
Another architectural marvel, the Jama Masjid is counted among the country’s largest mosques. The humongous structure can hold more than 25,000 people in its courtyard. Completed in the late 1650s, the mosque took 12 years to erect. Since it is a religious establishment, you need to be dressed appropriately to enter the premises. However, you need not worry about it as the attires are available on spot.

3. The Akshardham of Swaminarayan
After sharing two wonders form the Mughal era, it would be only fair to share with you some modern sights as well. Beginning with the Akshardham of Swaminarayan. Dedicated to showcasing the Indian culture, this behemoth temple structure opened its doors to the public in 2005. Enjoying the whole complex thoroughly requires a good amount of your day. However, remember that visitors aren’t allowed to bring cameras or phones inside the temple premises, so prepare accordingly.

4. The Gandhi Smriti
Another spot that does not connect with the Mughal era is the Gandhi Smriti. A museum
dedicated to India’s Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The place is filled with beautiful sculptures, paintings, photos and inscriptions. The room where Gandhi used to live is on display and has been kept in its original condition since his assassination. You can also visit the spot where he was shot as well the ground where Gandhi held congregations daily.
5. The India Gate
Perhaps one of the most popular sites in Delhi, for locals as well as tourists, the India Gate stands at the center of the New City. A war memorial built in the honor of the Indian soldiers who fought the British during World War I. Surrounded by a very widespread garden, it is the perfect place to hang out and relax during summers. But if you really wish to be amused by the structure and its surroundings, I would suggest you visit it during the late evening hours when it’s light with a warm glow. You will truly be amazed.

Have you been to Delhi? Do you have another favorite spot? Do share with us in the comments

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Top rated tourist attractions in Melbourne

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Melbourne is the Australia’s second largest city which is very vibrant, elegant and multicultural. Am convinced that these are the main reasons why this city tops our list of the best cities to visit in Australia. 

The city also features some of the best hidden lane ways and some of the oldest and historically significant buildings. This short brief will cover some of the best Melbourne attractions that you need to visit and see in 2019.

Federation square

Federation square was opened in 2001 to commemorate 100 years of federation. This means that most of the tourists today want to see what is happening and at the same time have a connection with it till the end of times. When the square was being opened, there were those people that hated it and those others that loved it. 

The square is located opposite of Flinders street station which is a major public transport hub. This means that you may not have a hard time to locate it in the city even if you are visiting the city for the first time.

Royal Botanic Gardens

This garden is located just next to Yarra River which is just two kilometers from the Central Business District. This garden is among the finest gardens in the whole world with a beautiful and an educative touch. The garden was established about 150 years ago and that’s why most of the tourists are coming to see and have some good time in the garden. 

The park covers an area of about 38 hectares and hosts over 8500 species of plants. Most rare species of plants that you don’t see out there are found in this garden. What this means is that visiting this garden is both educative and fun.

Royal exhibitions Building

This building is situated at the district of Cariton. It was constructed in 1880 and served as the meeting place for the Australian Federal Parliament. However, most of its parts are destroyed by fire but the main hall stands tall. You just have to spare two hours of your time to visit this building before you close your tour in Australia. 

This place is also a very common place for local events and even convictions. What this means is that you can actually attend any of the events here at any time you want.

Melbourne Zoo

Sometimes it gets very hard to go see world creatures in the forest. Though, there’s now hope because you can pay a visit to this zoo and you will see several wild creatures. Most of the people are used to seeing Kangaroos, 

Koalas and Emus but there are several others that you can see. There are some elephants and even Lemurs. The elephants here are sourced from Asia and Lemurs from Madagascar.

Now you don’t have to leave Australia before you got to the tallest building in the city. It gives you the best view of the city and at the same time affords the visitors the best bird watching point. The building is not only known as the tallest building in Australia but in the southern hemisphere.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Chill-axing at Bintan Lagoon Resort in Indonesia

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Indonesia, “The Emerald of the Equator” is a very popular country to visit as it is among the three countries easily accessible from each other. In our case, our gateway through one of its island resorts is from Singapore.

"Terimah Kasi", "hati hati", just some of the words that we learned when we visited for the first time the country Indonesia, meaning “thank you and take care” respectively.  It was my better half’s birthday present to me. I and my husband got married in the year 1995, so to be exact it was also our 23rd Wedding Anniversary. My feeling was melancholy because my children didn't come with us, however, glad because I enjoyed our out of the country getaway.

Sometimes, a husband and wife should also have moments of their own, temporarily away from their children. Besides my kids are already all grown-up.

This is to make their relationship grow fonder. According to Mingon McLaughlin, "A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” I am fortunate having my family together through thick and thin which makes my life complete and meaningful.

Bintan Lagoon Resort is a five-star island resort in Indonesia. Our stay there for three days and two nights was so relaxing. I and my husband arrived there on November 11 at around five o’clock in the afternoon, coming from Singapore and travelled to the island via ferry from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.

Aside from a resort staff with the placard containing the name of my husband, and bringing a golf cart to exclusively fetch us, while the rest of the visitors rode the bus,
we were also welcomed by Indonesian cultural dancers at the hotel lobby, and followed by lemongrass welcome drinks and cold towels from the friendly resort staff. Truly a VIP welcome for borh of us.

The reception area is quite spacious and awesome. There is an elevated area where lots of sofa sets are being arranged and seem inviting every guest that arrives to sit down and relax for a while before checking in at their rooms. Later, we were given our spectacularly classy room that will be our temporary home for three days and two nights. I most especially loved the comfy bed plus the spacious and elegant bathroom.

I was surprised when my husband opened the room door, because I saw beautiful flowers scattered around the bed with a towel shaped like a well and an elephant. On the table was a slice of cake with the “Happy Birthday” written on it. My heart melt with joy with what I saw, it was really a surprise for me since it was a bit early for a birthday greeting. My birthday is still on the 13th. Because of this, I fell in love again with my better half, and would like to thank the resort for the warm gesture of greeting me in advance of my natal day.

In the evening of the same day, we had our dinner in Nelayan Restaurant, a Japanese restaurant inside the resort. We were treated as very important persons (VIP), pampered with recommendations of their best dishes for our budget enough to feed royalties. We will share the details on a separate blog post. For the meantime, look for the videos all over our official Wazzup Pilipinas Facebook account.

Our second day in Bintan Lagoon Resort was a lot more exciting, after a filling breakfast at Fiesta buffet restaurant, and a quick tour of the resort to see the different amenities and accommodation options, we got to visit different areas of the island through the guidance of a kind hearted driver and tour guide in one.

Our first visit of our Heritage and Eco Farm tour package sponsored by IndoBintan Tours and Travel was at Safari Lagoi, then followed by visits at a Chinese Temple, Muslim Temple, Public Beach, and culminating at a late seafood lunch feast at one of the restaurants located within Bintan Mangrove. We will share the detailed stories of our tour on a separate blog post.

Our tour guide brought us back to Bintan Lagoon Resort where we had late dinner of their best pizza, burger and coffee at Terrace Sports Bar. But that was only after we took a dip in the huge main pool of the resort which almost feels like we have it all for ourselves since there were only a few people also hanging out at the pool area.

Our third and last day in Bintan was equally awesome, since we got to try some if the activities included in our Chillax package - the chance to drive their All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) through a jungke path, ride on a Ninebot Segway at their Leisure Center, shoot arrows at the Archery area near where we also tried to hit golf balls at the Driving Range.

Honestly, we were already rushing the activities but unable to do the rest of the packaged activities like the water sports which includes the jet ski, and other complimentary activities including billiards, gym, and practically all other ball and board games available at the resort.

We ended the activities with another filling lunch at Haskell's restaurant beside the golf course. Got to catch them at a time when they were doing photo shoots of their dishes, so we had an opportunity to get a look of the other dishes, aside from those we ate.

The Chillax package we mentioned on Chapter 1 of this series was among the 2 To Go Packages - an all inclusive 3days and 2 nights Chill-axing time which starts from IDR 4,042, 500 per person, which includes a De Luxe room for two, the round-trip ferry service, complimentary breakfast at Fiesta, lunch and dinner credits for two at IDR 262,500 and IDR 420,000 respectively, complimentary cocktail or mocktail drinks for two every night, plus other discounted rates.

Do we still need to emphasize how pampered we were during our stay at Bintan Lagoon Resort?

Isn't it obvious that we enjoyed our stay and would definitely want to go back in The Emerald of the Equator – Indonesia, since Bintan Island is just a small part of the said country. But if given a choice of destinations in the country, I would always pick Bintan Lagoon Resort again, and highly recommend it to everyone. Not to exagerrate, but our stay at Bintan Lagoon Resort was undoubtedly a very memorable experience.

Contributed by Wilma Del Rosario

Monday, July 23, 2018

My First Class Flight Experience at Etihad Airways

Wazzup Pilipinas!

PART 1: How I Booked It

In May 2018 I fulfilled one of my wildest travel goals of flying in First Class. Not Premium Economy; not Business; but FIRST and for FREE. If you guessed that this was possible through credit cards and mileage programs, then you're absolutely right. After all, I'm not the first and won't be the last traveler in the world to do it. (Fortunately, this won't be the last time I fly First for free either.) But let me elaborate.

As far as I know, there are no local (Philippine) credit card that lets you earn miles with Etihad Guest, which is Etihad's frequent flyer program. On the other hand, nearly all local credit cards let you redeem points for Mabuhay Miles, the frequent flyer program of the country's flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL). Fortunately, I became aware of the many partnerships Etihad has with various airlines - including PAL. In 2016 I learned it was possible to redeem Mabuhay Miles for Etihad as well as All Nippon Airways flights! View it here. I also realized that soon enough, I could potentially have enough miles to book a First Class flight with Etihad. Since then, I became consciously mindful of airline partnerships and how many miles I've been earning to accomplish my goal. I feel the need to somehow thank PAL for making this possible because of their existing partnership with Etihad. (In case you were wondering, I've been converting credit card points to airline miles since 2009. Yes, it's been 10 years! I said it was possible; I never said it was easy. Nothing worth waiting for ever is!)

So this year, I finally earned enough miles from different sources, not just credit cards, to book a First Class flight. And it's not just any First Class cabin - it's consistently considered one of the world's best in its league: Etihad's First Apartment on their Airbus A380, which is the largest aircraft in the world. Etihad flies their A380 to New York, Sydney, Melbourne, Paris and London. I had enough miles to fly to either Paris or London, and since I just went to Paris recently and I have never been to the UK where the Royal Wedding was taking place soon, the choice was clear.

After going through the tedious process of getting a UK visa, one day in March 2018 I went to the Philippine Airlines UE-Recto office to finally cash out my miles. At first, the staff were completely clueless about my request. I don't blame them since I expect this rarely happens. After I explained how it was possible from their website and further verification on their end, they assisted me in my request. There was limited availability for award seats, and I ended up with May 15. Etihad flies three times daily to London, and I picked flight EY 17 that to me had the best schedule of departing at 1:55 PM from Abu Dhabi and arriving at 6:45 PM in Heathrow. I redeemed 84,000 miles in exchange for the "free" airfare and paid only PHP 10,000 (USD 200) in taxes and fees for what should have been a PHP 375,000 (USD 7,000 - yes, the price of a second-hand car) one-way flight. Not a bad deal right?? Shout-out to the PAL staff who were really helpful! (Soon after I also booked a flight to the UAE, Dubai to be exact, with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong.)

PART 2: The First Class Experience - Even Before the Actual Flight

On May 15, 2018 my first First Class journey began with the Etihad Mercedes Benz picking me up at my hotel in Dubai, the Grand Hotel Excelsior Deira (formerly Sheraton Deira), where I received a call in my room from the concierge in the morning. I booked this service around 2 weeks before my flight by calling the local Etihad hotline, but do note that sadly as of today First and Business Class redemption tickets (those using miles) are no longer eligible for the complimentary limo pick up service from anywhere in the UAE. This was one of the reasons, apart from being in London in time for the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19, that I decided to use my miles when I did (before the free service was withdrawn or more cost-cutting measures were made.) I find it hard to believe that Etihad posts over a USD 1 billion loss year after year, even as they do cost cuts, while their biggest competitor Emirates is highly profitable. 

When I entered the First Class Check-In terminal, it looked more like a hotel lobby due to the absence of traditional check-in counters. A 'bellboy' helped me with my suitcase and escorted me to the check-in seats while there was a waiting lounge across from it. Apparently, standing up and queueing is for poor people. Haha! I took my seat and handed over my passport. The staff remarked that I was early. Indeed, I made sure I was to have enough time to fully utilize the First Class lounge facilities. Checking in was quick, but I learned that taking photos in this area is prohibited because apparently it is forbidden to take photos of the local women. Outside of the airport, I never seemed to have this problem on this trip to the UAE as well as previous ones. 

Immediately after this area was the First Class immigration and security and there was no one in line! As she was stamping my passport, the immigration lady who owns a Chanel handbag asked me: "Where is your job?" This is normally a question asked upon entering a country and not exiting it, so I think she was implying that it was odd that a Filipino like me could fly First Class (while an Emirati like her has/could not?) Yes, Filipinos are commonly customer service staff or laborers all over the world (because we are hardworking, hospitable and speak foreign languages really well - not just English!), but that doesn't mean we should be generalized and/or underestimated. :)

Right in front of security was the gateway to the uber exclusive Etihad First Class Lounge and Spa. The first floor was merely an entrance/boarding pass verfication to the lounge that was located on the second level. In my opinion, the lounge prior to your Business or First Class flight makes up a third or sometimes even half of your entire Business Class or First Class experience. After all, you do spend between 1-3 hours in here.After going up the elevator, fresh orchids and ceiling ornaments welcome you into the lounge. A small snacks area can be found on the left side that serves different kinds of dates and Arabic coffee. As I looked around, one of the staff offered to assist serving me. All the dates seem to taste the same though. There was a general reception area, and another one for the lounge itself. The spa area also had one of its own.

I went inside all the rooms except for the cigar lounge, prayer rooms and smoking lounge because I had no business being there. Guests of The Residence, a level of First Class that is one notch above all other 'regular' First Class products that only Etihad and no other airline offers, have a private room to themselves the same way they have their own room and bathroom inside the aircraft.

There is a hallway that leads to the washrooms at the end of the hall with the spa entrance on the right. The first thing I did after doing a little exploring was to have the complimentary 15-minute spa treatment at the Six Senses Spa with several choices of massages and facials. Below is a photo of the massage room and while the 'seat' may not look comfortable, it most certainly was and did its purpose. The masseur was Filipino, as were two of the receptionists. 

After a recharging massage session, I made my way to the huge lounge area where I was greeted by one of the wait staff with the menu and he asked me what I wanted to drink. One of the rooms was called Relax and Recline, which allowed you to do exactly those. There were about eight recliners and LCD screens with captivating images. I wasn't in the mood to nap since I just woke up a few hours ago, so I spent my time exploring some more. On one corner of the lounge was the TV Room which had a couple of international news channels airing. The lounge itself, or at least the parts close to the windows, had plenty of natural light. 

There was a fully-stocked self-service beverage fridge, espresso corner and some fruits. I don't seem to recall seeing any of these when I visited the Etihad Business Class lounge six months prior; I only recall there being a bar and bartender too. 

There were actually two bars in the First Class lounge. The smaller one (photo above) was near the kitchen. The lounge had a huge dining area, which took up most of the space, although there were hardly any people inside the lounge. In fact, I think there were more staff than guests at that time that morning. Unlike the Business Class lounge of Etihad (or most airlines and airports for that matter), the setting wasn't buffet-style but rather fine dining, which is the norm in most if not all airlines' First Class lounges. Everything on the menu was cooked to order.

During breakfast time, each table came with a trio of fruit jam on a plate. I realized I hadn't actually eaten any meal yet all day since I got picked up, probably due to the excitement. So, I began to order starting from breakfast. I learned that the course meals in the Etihad First Class lounge I read about in previous blog posts were no longer offered for months now. Anyway, first I had the hot chocolate and the Eggs Benedict, which looked as good as it tasted. Each slice of egg, yolk, cheese, spinach, ham and bread practically melted in my mouth! (You can view photos of the menus from the lounge and flight I uploaded on Google drive.)

Another savory item I had for breakfast was the Stuffed Paneer Cheese with lentils and mint yoghurt. It reminded of thin slices of Halloumi cheese, which similarly should be consumed as soon as it's served because it starts to turn stale as it turns cold. Lastly, I'm so glad I was tempted into ordering the Pancakes with apple ragout on the menu, because it looked equally pretty as its texture was fluffy.

After consuming all that food, I was stuffed. I went back to exploring the rest of the lounge. I hung around next at the bigger bar, which was right beside the windows with a view of the airport runways, and its design was so chic and Instagrammable.

I decided to pass the time by charging and being on my phone in the Relax and Recline room with some drinks which came served with mixed nuts. Soon enough it was lunchtime, which meant the menu had changed. I decided to try one final, light meal before leaving the lounge and boarding my flight, where I would be having even more food whenever I wanted. I ordered the Cream of Pea Soup. It had a striking light green color which both complemented and contrasted with the faint pink hue of my "rose petals" drink. Then I picked the Grilled Beef Tenderloin over the Salmon Fillet (because I assume there would be salmon on the flight like they always do), cooked medium well, and it was was very tender - but the hand-cut fries tasted remarkable on their own! - even without the honey mustard-Worcestershire sauce it paired perfectly with. 

Even though it was my first time flying First Class, I had really high expectations of the service and food but they were all exceeded. The one concern I did have was the layout of the lounge. The one washroom was located on one end of the lounge which took some time to walk to if you were staying near the Relax and Recline room (the other end).

I'll continue the story on Part 2 of my Etihad Airways flight experience so watch out for the remaining but more exciting story ...soon!

Contributed by Kevin Tsai of the TravelGuyShops
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