All posts by Guido

DUSIT THANI DAVAO: AN OASIS IN DAVAO

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Ever since Davao’s downtown traffic became unbearable, I was always looking for a tranquil place to stay whenever I would come home to Davao. Now I have found the place – Dusit Thani Hotel in Lanang, Davao City.
If you are looking for a hotel with a view, this isn’t the hotel for you. If you want a place that is away from the traffic and noise of downtown Davao, then this is the perfect place. If you really want a view and the sea, ask for their Davao Beach Club or their partner resorts like Lubi Resorts in Samal Island.
Check-in was a breeze. It is usually during check-in and check-out that a hotel screws up its reputation. I was impressed with the speed and service that the front desk gave me. I felt welcomed like I was a returning guest, albeit it was my first time. Check out was also quick. I can only suggest that the issuance of an official receipt should be automatic.
The room was ample, and the bathroom was even more spacious. And what I thought was very special was the fire extinguisher in the room. I do not remember any hotel in my recent trips that had a big fire extinguisher inside the room. It was placed behind a stand aesthetically built for the purpose. That sends an exceptional message to the guest – your comfort and safety are important to us.
The amenities were complete, although it was a bit difficult to open the cap of the toothpaste. It’s either my age or the fact that the cap was smooth, and my hands were wet. The hairdryer was a serious one – I am sure my wife will appreciate that kind of a hairdryer. The shower space was generous, and the hot shower option was “kind.” By “kind” I mean you do not get the scalding hot water spewed as you try out the water controls.
There were more than enough towels. I was just confused about the towel that was hung on the handle of the shower cubicle. I thought it was the foot towel. It was actually the bath towel. The foot towel can be found in the cupboard beneath the water sink.
I am also particular with the TV and internet facilities. As I bring along my movies, I always look for a TV set that either has AirPlay for my Mac devices or is placed in a way that I can reach for the HDMI slots behind the TV. Dusit’s room TV is not only smart but is also conveniently placed on the wall. It was easy to pull out the TV to plug my HDMI cable. The internet speed was also excellent.
I had lunch and breakfast in the Madayaw Cafe. Over lunch, I had the Ginataang Seafood, which was savory and delicious.
The boneless bangus and dangit caught my attention at the breakfast buffet the following day. On both occasions, I noticed something consistent: the rice. Perfectly cooked, I reckon it was jasmine rice. I loved its “stickiness,” and it had just the right whiteness and consistency. It was a perfect companion to my ginataang seafood and boneless bangus. It was definitely not good for my diet.
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For breakfast, the coffee was patiently brewed and pressed for each patron. It was a nice touch. The coffee itself was also excellent. I wonder if they roasted their own coffee beans. Nothing beats a cup of hot fresh coffee in the morning.
For merienda, I had coffee and pastries with my mother and cousin in the Dusit Gourmet. This is a small cafe with a wide choice of bread and pastries. I had the ube ensaymada and a cup of coffee. I think the bakery department should do something about the ensaymada. The consistency itself was not really ensaymada. And the butter icing on tap was too much. On the other hand, my mother enjoyed her chicken pie.
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It was unfortunate that the Benjarong Bar and Restaurant was closed for lunch. As this is a Thai hotel chain, this prime restaurant should have been open for lunch. As I had to leave just after breakfast, I did not have the chance to savor the Thai dishes of Benjarong.
I did not have the chance to linger in the hotel’s Lounge. Although small, it has a small conference room for business meetings with a big TV screen. And the breakfast buffet was just right – not too many choices but enough to fill a businessman’s stomach on a busy day.
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While all these facilities, amenities, and food are great, what makes Dusit Davao a great place to stay are the people. The demeanor of the staff reminds me of the politeness and friendliness of the Thais. All over the place, people smile, greet you, and you get a feeling they are always ready to help.
This is now my default hotel in Davao.

GRANTCHESTER: RIVETING AND INSPIRING TV SERIES

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Grantchester is a British TV detective drama featuring an investigative Anglican priest, Sydney Chambers (played by James Norton) who teams up with a real detective, Geordie Keating (played by Robson Green) and together they go about solving crimes in their small town of Grantchester, just off Cambridge along the River Cam. The time setting is 1953 only a few years after World War II.

The series is a more complex version of Father Brown, another TV series featuring a nosey Catholic priest who always manages to upend the real detectives. And just like Father Brown’s Mrs. McCarthy, Grantchester has its Mrs. Maguire (played by Tessa Peake-Jones). Unlike Mrs. McCarthy though, Mrs. Maguire’s life is far more complicated than

Grantchester is Father Brown on turbo. While together Sidney Chambers and Geordie Keating go about solving crimes, their disposition and outlook in life are as disparate as wine and beer – the latter of which they do share heavily together. A common scene in the series is the local pub where not only beer is poured, but all the heartaches and joys of the two men are poured out as well.

As an Anglican priest, Sidney has to stay close to the tenets of the Church. And no test for his faith could be more challenging than expressing his love for Amanda (played by Morven Christie). Amanda had been his long-time friend, a friendship that presumably started platonically but which, over the years, blossomed into real romantic love. Alas, by the time Sidney realized his true feelings, Amanda was betrothed to another man and was soon married.

The real conflict, however, does not start until Amanda decides to leave her husband, to divorce him, and she goes back to Grantchester. And here’s where the love story really crescendos to a deafening contrapuntal of their romantic symphony. An Anglican priest cannot marry a divorcee. So should Sydney leave the priesthood which he loves so much, or stay and leave Amanda and her baby girl?

Geordie, on the other hand, had no qualms about having an extramarital relationship with his secretary. In spite of a loving wife, two beautiful girls, Geordie was too weak to resist the temptation of youth, beauty, and the thrill of an affair. This affair was always a point of contention between Geordie and Sidney, a point that very often tested the very fabric of their friendship.

The other characters are fascinating as well, especially that of Leonard Finch (played by Al Weaver). Leonard is assistant to Sidney who is not only struggling with the demands of the job but also with his sexuality. The show also highlights the challenges faced by the Church of England even at that time. Amanda at one time, in desperation, had to ask: “How can a church founded because of divorce not allow divorce?” She was referring to the fact that Henry VIII founded the Anglican Church because the Pope then refused to allow him to marry Anne Boleyn because he was still married to Catherine of Aragon.

And the series is steeped in jazz. The John Lunn composed the main score. A Scottish composer, he also wrote for Downtown Abbey, among others. However, Sidney Bechet, Gloria Dee, and the other great jazz performers come up in almost all episodes as Sidney is a jazz aficionado (he refuses to be called such). He has his portable vinyl player which he always plays when contemplating with a neat glass of scotch on the one hand and a cigarette stub on the other. So, yes, this is the other reason why I love the series.

Led by James Norton who was nominated for Best Actor by Broadcasting Press Guild Award in 2017, the acting has been excellent, definitely of the highest level. Robson Green plays the detective with the earthy common sense which, often times, runs contrary to the “big picture” logic of Sidney. Tessa Peake-Jones who plays Mrs. Maguire is apt for her role as the purveyor of good morals and proper behavior. With her pursed and stiff lips, she never fails to tell the people around her when infractions against the Church are being committed. Morven Christie as Amanda is lovely as she comes out as this fragile woman whose inner strength comes from her determination to keep the flames of her love for Sidney burning.

I stopped watching the series after the penultimate episode of Season 3. There is a Season 4 with a new priest…that is why I will not watch the last episode of Season 3. I hate tragedies in movies or TV – there are enough real-life tragedies for me to deal with these days. I want to preserve Sidney and Amanda as they are up to that point (SO3 EO6). My kids find it funny that I do not want to watch movies where the main character dies. I sometimes go to the extent of watching a series in reverse – I start with the last episode first!

Don’t mind my quirk – watch Grantchester on Prime Video. It is a series whose stories about murder are riveting but whose characters are full of life and inspiration.

A PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR TO ALL!

NEW YEAR'S EVE

Alexys’  friend shared with us her house in Batangas.  With three bedrooms and a really spacious living room, it was a fabulous place to spend the holidays with the family. This was time spent with the family, especially with my grandson, Emilio, and a time to catch up on my reading. It was also the time to get back to my running and exercise, a time to reflect on the year gone by, and to look to the coming year, 2019.

We were missing Miggy though…he had to be at the Philippine General Hospital, on duty. Well, that’s medicine for you.

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The historian writer, Yuval Noah Harari, said that we look at our past to be liberated from it and not to be burdened by it. Looking at history gives us options to choose from for our future. There is no other time more appropriate to do this than the last day of 2018 – today.

Professionally 2018 was a real challenge. Due to the confluence of many factors, getting the business past a threshold, we set our minds to, was just proving to be extremely difficult. This gave me sleepless nights, and that led to stress eating.  And with eating, drinking, of course. Otherwise, what’s the point of eating?

 

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A pain in the left leg gave me a reason not to run or do exercises at levels I was used to. The weather was another excuse – the year just had more rains than in the past. According to Rappler, 53% of the expected rainfall in August of 2018, fell on only one day, the 11th. This December, 244 mm of rain fell versus 164 mm just two years ago.

So all the reasons were there not to do anything physical!

As a result, 2018 was not a healthy year for me. I need to liberate myself from this year and look at my options for 2019.

There’s a very compelling reason for me to be fit by September of 2019, but I will get back to that later. What is clear is that I really need to get in shape, again.

For Emilio, and for his siblings and cousins to come!

2018 was the year spent just watching Emilio grow from a baby to a toddler who, today, is beginning to show how precocious he will be by the time he turns two this year. He eats by himself now, and he loves pasta like no other! From his hand signals, he can now prattle a few words to mean food (“namnam”) banana (“nana”) or even call his parents (“Didi” and “Mama”) or me (“Papam”).

The rest of the family is doing fine.  Joy and I are at a point closer to becoming empty nesters.  We now find ourselves alone at home because all our children seem to be currently living their own lives. I guess all couples eventually reach this stage. Unfortunately, they did not teach us this stage in school. We are just coping as we go!

Photos taken from Christmas Eve through Christmas day...
Photos taken from Christmas Eve through Christmas day…

I have kept myself out of politics although some of the things I do get “politicized.” Inevitably in my work, I get to meet government officials, and I have to go through procedures and rules that often upsets me. I think the frequent changes in senior government officials do not leave room for these officials to actually learn the trade, so to speak, of their respective portfolios. Government service requires not only good intentions but also competence.

Talking about service, I am currently serving as the National Commander of the UP Vanguard Inc. (UPVI). Our priority in 2018 has been the restoration of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).  Abolished as a mandatory training in 2003, the country has suffered a dwindling reserve force and more importantly, the rigorous training of the youth in discipline, skills, and love of country that ROTC used to offer. Towards the end of this year, we have been able to have some traction with the House of Representatives.  Hopefully, this can still pass as a law this Congress.

I still sit as President of the College of Economics and Management Alumni Foundation Inc. (CEMAFI). We are focused on trying to set up the Research Institute for Sustainable Energy (RISE) at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB).  We have been scratching our heads and reaching out our hands to whoever can support the alumni of our college.  We need funds to help our faculty, encourage more research, and support our alumni in their endeavors.

In both institutions, I am looking for the right path to nurture a successor.  The old guards must make way for the young ones who, definitely, can inject more life, more creativity, and innovation in fulfilling the goals and vision of these two organizations. I am thankful though for all the support my fraternity brothers and colleagues have given me in 2018.

Pre-New Year Dinner

Friendships have always been very much an integral part of my life. My father from very early on taught me that friends and relations are what life is all about.  That is why we purposely blur the lines between friends and relatives.  Everyone is welcome in our home. This year we reunited with friends of yore with the hope of having a reconnected relationship in 2019 and the years to come.

We also pray for our friends who are going through difficult times be it health wise or just facing a rough time in their lives today. We always try to reach out to them to tell them we are around to help or even to just to lend an ear and pray together.

Facebook and LinkedIn friends are, but I am looking forward to a more committed relationship in the coming year. I have always felt that for real friendship to flourish, one needs to have that face to face engagement.  We want to savor that whole sensory spectrum of hearing, smell, touch through get-togethers where we can tell stories and exchange ideas. Or let me get straight to the fun part: so we can gossip!

 

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Professor of evolutionary psychology in Oxford,  Robin Dunbar, said gossip is what makes us human and sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Gossip helps us develop and maintain our social networks.  This view is echoed by historian Yuval Noah Hariri who also said in his book, “Sapiens,” that gossip is the foundation of humanity’s survival. He wrote, ”It’s much more important for them (men and women) to know who in their band hates whom, who is sleeping with whom, who is honest, and who is a cheat.”

Of course, sometimes relationships turn sour – even between couples and families.  What is important is that we accept each other’s imperfections.  As Pope Francis said in one of his homilies, a perfect family does not exist. The family, according to him, should become a school of forgiveness, a school where we do not forget to say “please,” “thank you,” and  “sorry.” We should also be able to do this beyond the realm of our families and extend this to the rest of society.

As we bring 2018 to a close, we also remember those who have gone ahead of us. I particularly remember my father and the parents of Joy. They gave us our lives so we may honor their time on earth by bringing up our own family with the values and the way of life they taught us.

So for 2019, I will think of something – some activity that will bring us closer together, a time for us to gossip!

As for my profession, I will continue to pursue the reason why I am in business in the first place: to find ways to make the lives of others more prosperous through products and services that will empower them to make their business more profitable and their households more secure.   I will have to work harder in putting together the team that can make this happen. I will have to question the status quo. I will need to rebuild that trust so that this vision will be more real to the people I will work with.

Indeed, it is my fervent hope that 2019 will be a prosperous New Year for all!

 

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As we enjoy basking in the last rays of the year, let us all look forward to meeting the first rays of sunshine of the New Year. We look forward to that blessing keeping our faith intact in God. While we have just celebrated the birth of Jesus this Christmas, we are looking forward to the commemoration of His death and resurrection in 2019, the observance of His saving mankind from the vise of sin.

 

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Once again, to our friends and our relatives, thank you for being with us all through these years.  Scientists have been studying what contributes to happiness on earth.  There are biochemical answers – use of drugs that cause the release of dopamine – and there are psychoanalytical – zest according to Bertrand Russel.

To us, however, regardless of what the science says, you – our friends and relatives – are the source of our joy and happiness.

So to you, we will always be grateful.

A PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Photos taken from Christmas Eve through Christmas day...
Photos taken from Christmas Eve through Christmas day…

RONDA: WHERE BULLFIGHTING WAS BORN

 

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Joy and I rented an Audi Q3 to drive from Malaga to Sanlucar de Barrameda. On the way though, we passed by Ronda, a beautiful city sitting on the top of gorge that separates the old from the new town. A bridge called “puente viejo” connects the two parts of the town. We did not have the time to visit this bridge but we managed to visit the “puente nuevo” which offered magnificent vistas of the gorge and the surrounding countryside.

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We managed to visit the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced Ronda. Unfortunately we failed to visit the The Chapel of the Hand of Saint Teresa in the Camelites Convent and the “secret” bakery.   The bakery is where you order your bread or pastry in a rotating cabinet and you never get to see the nuns. On the other hand, the hand which is encased in a golden armour is said to be the uncorrupted hand of Rain Trees which was given to the nuns in Ronda just before the outbreak of the Civil War. It is reported that General Franco seized the relic and kept it in his bedroom during his tenure as the leader of Spain.  It was returned to the nuns after his death.

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We managed to have a short walk through the old town and meander through its pedestrian area. Walking along Calle Espinel we turned left and found ourselves in the central plaza of the town, called Plaza de Socorro. There we saw the water fountain of Hercules with two lions on his sides that he just tamed.

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This is apparently, hallowed grounds for the Andalucians. It was in 1918 when Blas Infante, the “father” of Andalucia unfurled the Andalusia flag on the first floor balcony right behind the fountain demanding the same treatment for autonomy as that of the other Spanish provinces. That building is the Circulo de Artistas (Arts Society) where a great number of cultural activities like flamenco performances take place.

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Because we were pressed for time, we did not get to visit the bullring in Ronda. But this is where modern bullfighting is said to have been born, largely because of the Romero family.  In particular, according to andalucia.com, Pedro Romero  is considered the first matador to truly conceive of the bullfight as an art and a skill in its own right, and not simply as a clownishly macho preamble to the bull’s slaughter. Joy and I love bullfights.  So, we will certainly be back to Ronda during its corrida season.

The reason why we were pressed for time was because I had not brought any formal suit or shirt for the baptism of Nadia. So we wanted to make sure we got to Sanlucar de Barrameda while the stores were still open. It would have been lovely to have lunch in Ronda, but we decided to try to hit a town much closer to Sanlucar.

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However, just 20 kilometres from Ronda Joy remembered that Setenil de las Bodegas is one of the interesting pueblos blanks so popular in Andalucia. So that’s where we headed for lunch.

AN INSPIRING SPANISH BAPTISM

Joy and I were on a trip to Sanlucar de Barrameda in Southern Spain. We went there because I was going to be a godfather to the daughter of a good Spanish friend of mine. The baptism ceremony was a short but solemn one. The family of my friend was complete: parents, siblings, cousins and close family friends. Oscar and Edyta Sergio Garcia christened their daughter Nadia. And as they were travelling all over the world, it took them 5 years to finally get their daughter baptised into the Catholic Church. Since I made a promise to be a godfather to their child even before she was born, I had no choice but to fulfil that promise. So on August 18 2018, I became a godfather to Nadia.

Baptism Ceremony
Baptism Ceremony

The ceremony was performed in a beautiful church of the Parroquia del Carmen. This church was originally constructed by the Carmlites in 1677 and was completed in 1689 through the generous contribution of the Marques de Arizon.

After the baptism, we proceeded to the reception at Patio Los Galanes, a cavernous restaurant with a very beautiful patio built centuries ago. The food was excellent and the wine was overflowing.  What really struck me though was how the family members interacted amongst themselves. I could feel the love and warmth among Oscar’s siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.

Oscar with Nadia, Joy and Edyta
Oscar with Nadia, Joy and Edyta

In spite of the fact that many of them hardly spoke any English and we (Joy and I) could barely pass conversational Spanish, we all had a lot of fun.  The family made us feel welcome. I was especially happy talking to Eduardo, Oscar’s father.  He spoke a bit of English because for many years he was a harbor pilot in Sanlucar and Seville. Most importantly we shared two of the best things in life: red wine and bacalao.

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Oscar has two other siblings – Eduardo Jr., and Raquel, a diplomat in the EU in Brussels.  She, of course, spoke perfect English, as did Ricardo, a cousin of Oscar who is an investment banker in London.

 

Raquel, Oscar's only sister
Raquel, Oscar’s only sister

Having heard and read of how much secularised Spain has become, it was a surprise to me to see, later on, Spanish families going out together.  Local.es, an internet-based English news service provider reported that Spain’s tight-knit family unit is not what it used to be. According to its research, the latest study by the country’s official stats body (INE) showed a drop in the average number of members per household from 2.58 in 2011 to 2.53 in 2013. With the population dropping and the the number of homes growing,that meant, according to the report, that the number of Spaniards lving by themselves is going up.

While indeed this may be true on paper, it did not seem that way on the ground.  I thought Oscar’s family was an exception. We could sense his family was not unique when we went out later that night.

Families eating and and having fun
Families eating and and having fun

We had dinner at a local restaurant where we listened to some flamenco music.  And there we saw local families enjoying the dinner together. Then we went around Plaza Cabildo close to midnight for tapas and drinks and we saw children, young parents, and grandparents frolicking around the fountain in the plaza.

Of course we never got to talk to them, but definitely Spain is far from being an individualistic country. The happy faces I saws among the parents, and the impish smile and laughter of the children made me conclude that Spain is still very much a family-centered country.

This was a short trip for me and Joy. Thanks to Oscar, Edyta, and Nadia, this trip opened our eyes to how God continues to bless humanity. Indeed what we have seen in this short trip serves as an inspiration for us back home to continue to safeguard our families, our values, and our tradition.

 

ESSENTIAL APPS AND GADGETS I USE WHEN I TRAVEL

 

iPhone

The smartphone is the epicenter of my travel apps and gadgets. From getting directions to making reservations, the smartphone does all the work. Of course this comes at a price. I subscribe to Globe’s roaming fee. There is a cheaper way though, albeit inconvenient and you will need as second phone. You can buy a local SIM card and transfer your Globe SIM card to another smartphone. This way you can get the full use of your iPhone with the local data plan and at the same time not lose any important call that may come to your Globe phone.

A second way to get around the problem of having data roaming is to buy a Mobile Wifi. I have a Huawei which allows many devices to be connected to its wifi. This way, if you travel as a group, you save a lot in data charges. The challenge of course is the group splits into two or gets lost in a crowd. A second problem is some countries, like Canada, do not allow prepaid SIM to be used for data plans for Mobile Wifi. The solution there, of course, is to make one of your phones a hotspot and share that with the rest of the group.

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I used Maps of the iPhone for direction. And if I use a car that has CarPlay installed, Maps is a very convenient app to use as it is Siri-enabled. It gives suggestions of locations to go – restaurants, shops, etc. It also has a “Significant Locations” service that learns significant place to me based on my location. This is convenient because I do not have to re-enter places I go in a city. Lane information also is given by Maps to make sure you do not miss exits.

The one drawback Maps has it that it cannot share directions with others, unlike Google Maps. Sharing directions is useful when you have two cars or you are a passenger and you just want to direct the driver where to go without having to dictate to him the address. I also use Waze, but for this recent trip to North America, I thought Apple apps would be more accurate. I do not know that for a fact, it is just an impression.

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Of course, because of the App Store, almost anything you need would be available in the store. You need find a Walmart Store closest to you, there is an app for that. You want to know the best Parking to where you are going, there is an app to that. It will even tell you. These are opportunistic apps, I call them as you call on them only when needed. The same goes for Viber, Skype, and, of course, Facetime. These are VOIP services that almost comes along naturally with your smartphone.

iPad Pro

I usually leave this in the hotel when I travel. I used to bring around a Macbook Pro. Ever since I gave mine away to my son and started using the iPad Pro, I have found increasingly less need to carry a laptop in my travels.

Primarily I use the iPad to answer emails and respond to chats. I find the. Small real estate of the iPhone too small to do these tasks except if they are urgent and requires immediate response. My other use of the iPad is to edit photos and share them in Facebook or other social media.

The iPad is also the gadget I use for writing my blogs. The Smart Keyboard obviously is easier to use than the screen keyboard of the iPhone. The iOS 11 drag and drop utility is also very powerful when I share photos and files between apps. In the remote possibility I need to edit photos,

The split view on the iPad is especially useful when I write my blogs with the Photo app. With the photos on one side of the screen and Day One 2.0 on the other side, I can write and drag down photos I want included in my journal. The floating apps also maximise the real estate of the iPad Pro. This especially convenient when I want to search for information in Safari while I am writing on one app with another app in the split view.

TripAdvisor

I do a lot of reviews of restaurants, hotels, and interesting place in TripAdvisor. I use the app primarily when searching for good places to eat.

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The app has a filter so you can choose the restaurants by cuisine, rating, cost, and even neighbourhood for certain cities. There are several main categories: “Cheap Eats,” “Best Restaurants,” “Cuisine,” “Breakfast”, etc. If you are like me that looks for local cuisines that locals go to, your best bet is always the “Cheap Eats” category. You then go to “Best Restaurants” and if the same restaurant listed in “Cheap Eats” is also listed as one of the best restaurants, then I would choose that restaurant.

I find it useful to read the “Terrible” ratings to check whether the rating (up to 5 “stars”) is justifiable. Remarks on the restaurant can be on the food, or the the service. One can discern if the remarks are consistent with the other “Terrible” remarks and if they are, then maybe it is not a good choice.

To double check TripAdvisor’s ratings, I use CultureTrip app. CultureTrip has professional curators of specific interests in food and travel. For example the app can point to “Most Romantic Restaurants,” or “Best Restaurants with a View.” If the choice I make in TripAdvisor cross checks with CultureTrip, then most likely I will choose that restaurant.

I also check the restaurant’s website and browse their menu. Again, you can cross check what is being said in the website versus the remarks made in TripAdvisor or other apps like Foursquare or Yelp (discussed later).

Finally I check the restaurant’s location. You want to choose one where it will be easy to go to from the last location you intend to go. It is also useful to check whether parking will be available. Normally if it is for dinner, I take public transportation and I avoid driving.

 

OpenTable

While TripAdvisor has some reservation capability for restaurants, it is geared more for hotels. Their link to restaurants for reservation is not as extensive as OpenTable.

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This app manages your reservation efficiently. It helps you find a table, and tell you the times when the tables would be available. You can enter the number of persons as well and of course you contact details. The app then send you a confirmation and later on, a reminder, of your reservation.

The app allows you to modify or even cancel your reservation. With modification, though, you cannot do it as hour before your reservation. You would need to call the restaurant by then.

Yelp

This app has similar functions like TripAdvisor or OpenTable. However I find Yelp more useful in finding shops other than restaurants. I used it to find barber shops.  It can tell you the location and the opening times as well as the telephone number of these shops. You can input “cheap luggage” in the search window and click “open now,”  choose the location or neighbourhood, and it will show you the shops associated with that search pretty accurately.

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Yelp has categories for plumbers, electricians, and all other crafts, but it is a very helpful app when traveling. When you need to find a shop for your luggage, or have your shoes repaired, Yelp does the job.The comments are also very useful as they can tell you from real people how you would expect the place and service of the shop you intend to visit. It even has pictures giving you an idea of whether that is the shop you want.

Tripit Pro

Tripit puts together the details and timeline of your trip. You create a trip in the app and soon as you get email confirmations of your flights and hotel bookings, the emails are automatically retrieved by Tripit and recorded in the app. Tripit send you SMS for flight information like gate assignments, flight delays, and directions to your hotel, among others. The app even provides you alternative flights should you experience a delay or cancelation.

One important service of Tripit is that you can share the trip details with others. This is very convenient if you are traveling ina group or you want your office to know your travel schedule in case they need to make changes from back home.

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The app also can connect your you iCal calendar and this subscription will show all your trip details there. Tripit is useful also when you go through immigration. Normal questions like “when is your next flight,” or “which hotel are you staying,” or even “who is traveling with you?” can be answered by showing the app to the immigration officer.

GroupMe

GroupMe is a chat app that allows you to post messages, pictures, documents, or show your location.  This app useful when traveling in a group. Group announcements can be made here, as well as sharing interesting photos. One facility GroupMe has is polling. Have you ever had the problem of deciding what restaurant to go to when you are in a group? If you have a very democratic way of choosing restaurants, the polling utility in GroupMe can be very useful.

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These are just the essential apps I use. Of course I use other apps occasionally but I find that these gadgets and apps are enough to make one’s travel convenient and even safe. One piece of advice though, it is best to make all hotel or AirBnB arrangements before you leave and prepay them if possible. With so many variables that can change in a day’s travel, the last thing you want to happen to you is to sleep in an airport or bus station because your reservations went awry.

Finally make sure you have your personal information in your smartphone. There are apps that can keep your passport details or even scan your passport which is even better. Tripit can keep this information plus all the reservation details in your smartphone.

A really final reminder – an old school one – keep hard copies in the remote chance you lose your smartphone!