Saturday, June 30, 2012

Going to Naga the "Extreme" Way

What do you do if you’re off to Naga but you...
  • aren’t considering taking the plane? 
  • don't want to ride the train for 10 hours?
  • won’t be able to take your car? 
  • dread sitting on a tiny seat on a bus without leg room for eight hours? 
    Take the Isarog Lazyboy Extreme bus!

    The Isarog Lazyboy Extreme bus makes the 8-hour trip to Naga extra comfortable.

    Think of it as a business class bus.

    It’s got 19 extra spacious lazyboy seats, lots of leg room, and even an airplane-like toilet! If you’re willing to shell out a few extra hundred bucks for comfort, then go for it.

    A one-way ticket from Manila to Naga is Php 1,000.

    The leather lazyboy seats are really wide. You can even do an Indian sit comfortably!
    (The refrigerator-looking thing at the middle is the washroom.)

    View from the 2nd to the last row.
    There's the bathroom again. You have to go down a step to enter. That's why it looks short.

    Washroom from the top step. 

    It's challenging to aim properly while the bus is moving! Mind you, that mess isn't mine!
    (Some buses have sinks. Others don't)

    Leg room even with my backpack!
    Passengers can opt to put their bags in the compartment below, though.

    Side headrests!
    Adjust it by pushing back, then pulling to desired angle.
    Knocked out. Seats fully reclined for a comfortable sleep.
    If only the buses had WiFi, then it would have been perfect. Maybe the ones I rode didn’t have it.

    The travel time to Naga is around 8 and a half hours. The Lazyboy Extreme departs for Naga at 9pm daily. There’s a 30 minute stopover at 11pm in Quezon. Arrival in Naga is around 5:30am.

    For those (like me) who don't know where Naga is on the map. 

    Journey starts here.
    The main Isarog terminal is in Cubao, EDSA southbound lane. It's beside Philtranco, right across the MRT station.
    (Photo from flickr.com by bhe_agustina)

    There's a 30-minute stopover in Quezon for a late night snack or for "defrosting".

    While there are always risks of riding the bus at night, Isarog tries to minimize this by having two drivers that alternate during the trip. I think it's a lot safer this way. 

    If I'm not mistaken, the Lazyboy Extreme only goes to Naga. Unlike other provincial buses, there aren't any stops in between where people actually get off. Upon arrival, the bus will park at the Naga Central Bus Terminal. This is your cue to get off off. The driver will say so, too. Don't fret!

    Naga Central Bus Terminal
    This is where passengers get off upon arrival in Naga. It's also where passengers board when they're going to Manila.

    Tips: 
    1. Reserve tickets days in advance. Call 381-0840 (EDSA terminal). Pay when you claim ticket.
    2. Avoid rows 3-5. These seats surround the bathroom. If someone goes #2... 
    3. Avoid the last few rows. The ride can get extra bumpy at the back. 
    4. Keep warm! Bring a jacket and a blanket for your legs. It gets really cold inside the bus. 
    5. Be early. Bus leaves on time. Suggest being there 45-mins to an hour before departure.

    Feeling mayamanNaka-business class daw.

    To book tickets from Naga going back to Manila, go to the Isarog office at the Naga Central Bus Terminal or call (054) 478-8804. The office is right across the parked buses. The Lazyboy Extreme is still Php 1,000 but the bus departs at 8:30pm. 

    For Isarog bus fares and schedules from Manila, click here. Also, check out the Isarog Lines FB page to see photos of its other buses, including the Sleeper! 

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    Problems in the LTO

    After being in the LTO for (just) four hours, there were already a lot of problems that I observed. What's to expect, right? It's the Philippines!

    From a concerned citizen's point of view, here are a few unsolicited advice to help the LTO:

    1. More personnel and equipment are needed. Perhaps more windows per step to accommodate more people? This will make the LTO's  "4 easy steps" easier and will help eliminate long lines. Precious time, money, including personal leaves from work are wasted by waiting.

    Major major problem. The lines always long and waiting is forever!

    2. LTO should be in close contact with the MMDAOr at the very least have their phone number! (Can you believe that the Ayala MRT branch doesn't have it?) This is to help people settle their cases with the MMDA so that their license can be released. 

    To get a list of all contact numbers, click here!
    (Image from mmda.gov.ph)

    3. Medical procedures should be standardized. This isn't directly LTO's problem but they accredited these medical offices! For urine samples, how come women are allowed to close the doors while peeing while men can't? What's the objective? Also, instructions clearly state that the bottle needs to be filled-up. I observed that bottles that weren't even a quarter full were accepted.

    Procedures aren't standardized. For urine samples, women are allowed to close the door while men aren't.

    4. Have a detailed step-by-step guide for everyone. Perhaps this should be stapled to each application form? I notice that there's more to these four steps. After each one, people were always unsure what would happen next. Do they sit and wait? Will they be called? 

    There's more to this than the four easy steps. Should be more detailed! 

    5. People shouldn't be fined for LTO's shortcomings! If the system was down on the day that people needed to renew their license and expired as a result when they were told to come back, no penalty should be imposedeven if it's just Php 75.

    Greedy! People shouldn't have to be fined Php 75 for LTO's shortcomings. 
    (Photo from comeandgovietnam.com)

    Getting my license renewed or dealing with our government offices, in general, makes me feel that that it’s really more fun outside the Philippines. It's frustrating!

    Maybe I should print this and drop it in their comments and suggestions box.

    Monday, June 18, 2012

    A 40-year Journey Together

    Forty years ago today, two special people embarked on a voyage of a lifetime as husband and wife: 
    my parents. 

    Forty years ago today. June 18, 1972 - My parents' wedding day.

    My parents' engagement. Mom is extra pretty here.

    So far, I’d like to think that their 40-year journey is far from perfect. But I guess it’s special in a way that only they can fathom—perhaps like how a trip is unique to each traveler.

    Even if I’ve witnessed their marriage for just 27 years, I can say that it's like a trip to a foreign place. There are happy times, moments of awe and discovery, unexpected bumps along the way, and even moments of getting lost in the dark.

    My parents traveled the world together, especially before I was born. They lived the life. 







    When I came into the world, I was extremely fortunate to have been blessed with the gift of travel early on. Our most epic journey was moving to Canada and living there for eight years. 

    My first travel abroad to Canada and the States

    My parents let me see my Disney friends up close!

    White water rafting in Alberta, Canada.
    (I look like a gremlin!)

    Celebrating Christmas in Canada, our home for 8 years.

    One of our last family trips together. Shanghai, China.

    Without the gift of travel, I don’t think I’d be the fun-loving, outgoing, and kaladkarin person that I am today. I credit this to my parents for opening my eyes to the world’s wonders. 

    Today, even if I’m not physically present to celebrate their ruby milestone, I celebrate the gift that they’ve given me—the gift of travel.

    To my parents, my first-ever travel guides, and the two people whom I owe my life: 
    Happy 40th Wedding Anniversary!


    Wishing you more happiness, more milestones to conquer, and more adventures around the world.
    I love you!

    My parents in their recent trip to Zhang Jia Jie, China
    The movie Avatar was shot here.

    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Packing for the Beach

    I don't consider myself a light packer. I don't consider myself an extremist either. I usually just bring a bit more than what I need for those just-in-case momentseven if it's just a short trip to the beach.

    Here's what I usually bring for a 4D/3N beach vacation:

    What I'm bringing to the beach!

    Depending on your packing style, you may find this too much, too little, or just about right. I think this is just about right. All my beach essentials are covered, I think.

    1. Shorts for swimming plus for touring the city
    2. Shirts with and without sleeves
    3. Jacket for the cold ride on the bus or plane 
    4. Underwear (which I stuff in a charger case)
    5. Hankies since I sweat a lot!

    6. Towels - one for the beach and one for showering

    7. Sarong - to lay on the sand or to use as a blanket

    8. Flip-flops - (Option to bring shoes for city tour)
    9. Shades to protect eyes from the sun (among others)
    10. Accessories - Just because I'm maarte like that.

    11. Snorkeling Gear to explore the world under water

    12. Hand-carry bag to put in camera and small stuff.
    13. Sunblock to protect the skin from the sun
    14. Hand sanitizer / Alcohol for an instant clean
    15. Moisturizer w/ Sunblock for the face!
    16. Eco Bag - for shopping or to put dirty clothes in
    17. Umbrella just in case it rains 

    18. Camera - I never go on vacation without this!
    19. Underwater case - Lets the camera go underwater!

    20. Chargers for the phone and camera
    21. Mobile phone for texting, calling, Internet & music
    22. Wallet (with money, I hope!)

    23. Kikay Kit! Here's a peek inside mine:
          -Shampoo and Conditioner
          -Deodorant
          -Mouthwash
          -Soap (one for the body and another for the face)
          -Dental Floss
          -Cotton Buds
          -Moisturizer
          -Hair Wax
          -Toothbrush and Toothpaste

    How all these managed to fit deserves a different entry. In the meantime, I'm ready for the beach!

    "All my bags are packed I'm ready to go!"

    Happy Fathers' Day!

    To the man who taught me how to be practical, to value money, and who always seemed to warn me about typhoons and tsunamis when traveling...

    Happy Fathers' Day!
    I love you.


    Dad and I in my first-ever snow experience in Alberta, Canada. 1989.

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    Getting your Driver's License Renewed

    After more than 4 Hours.
    Got my license renewed! Still looks the same as the old one.
    I think new design hasn't been approved yet.
    It’s that much-awaited event again: getting my driver’s license renewed. All the waiting and stress makes the event so anticipated.

    This morning, I headed to the LTO satellite office in the MRT Ayala station. This is beside KFC, which is on the floor where you buy MRT tickets.

    The whole process took an agonizing four hours. More, probably. This is considering that after I got my receipt at around 11am, I gave up on waiting by 12:30pm...went to work and came back for my license before the LTO closes at 6pm. To my surprise, it wasn’t ready when I returned! I waited again.

    The LTO says renewal is an easy four-step process. There's actually more. Having a detailed guide stapled to each application form would've been better, though.

    The 4 "Easy" Steps for Renewing a Driver's License. 
    There's actually more, though. Everyone applying should get a copy.

     Here’s a guide on what really happens:

    1. Get application form at Window #1. Fill it out. Go to the drug testing center beside LTO office.

    The first step: get an application form.

    At JnW Drug Testing, Inc.:

    1A.Pay Php 400 at the cashier for drug test and medical. Fill up forms that they’ll give.

    One of two medical forms. The other one is green.

    1B. – Weewee! Give the filled-up form to person in charge of urine testing (near washroom). She’ll ask you to sign on a piece of masking tape, which will be taped on the cap of a bottle that you will pee into.

    Men aren't allowed to close the door while women can. What's the objective?

    Forcing yourself to pee isn’t a pretty feeling. Imagine having to fill up the entire bottle with people watching from behind as if cheering you on. Submit urine sample. Wait to be called for medical.

    Success!

    1C. – Medical. Head over to the medical room near entrance once called. Doctor checks your weight and will have you recite a few lines from eye chart. After, sit and wait.

    Can you read line #8?

    1D. -  Picture! You’ll be called to have your ID picture taken. This is just for the drug test. They’ll also get a scan of your right thumb. After, wait to be called for your medical certificate. Once you have this, head back to the LTO.

    No need to be all-smiles here. This is just for internal records for the drug test.

    2. Submit documents (application form, medical certificate) at Window #1, including expiring driver's license. Wait to be called for the next step.

    Application form.

    3. Have your picture and signature taken at Window #2. Wait to be called for the next step.

    Lesson learned: Smile!
    In my last driver's license, my photo shows me still licking my lips! Jirits

    4. Pay Php 417.63 (license fee and computer fees) at the Cashier...or wherever the LTO personnel who calls you is at. Wait to be called for the next step.

    One step at a time.

    5. Get official receipt. Wait to be called for the next step.

    The official receipt. 

    6. Claim driver's license!!! Victory dance!


    The stress of waiting and seeing the inefficiency of the government agency turns the sweetest people sour. Here’s a few tips to help make your LTO experience less stressful:
    1. Bring your own pen to fill up forms.
    2. Be early! At least you finish early, too! 8:30-8:40am is a good time for LTO Ayala MRT Station.
    3. Drink fluids ahead of time so you don’t force yourself to pee.
    4. Entertain yourself. Bring a book or play games on your cell phone during waiting game.
    5. Have patience. A year’s supply will do.
    I've heard of other LTO offices that are way faster and a bit more efficient. Thirty minutes max? I've never tried, though, since the Ayala MRT branch is most convenient for me.

    Hopefully there will be progress when the most-anticipated event happens again in 2015. Hopefully.