March 31, 2014

Introducing: The Airbnb Around the World series

It was nearly 3 long years ago that I took the first Airbnb experience.

We were headed to New York City. Bed bugs were running rampant in the hotels. Hostels were so expensive...even the 10 bed dorm rooms. It was summer in the city and we wanted a neat place. What to do, what to do.

We had heard of this great San Francisco based startup company before. A website where you can rent out your apartment to fellow travelers. Or maybe a spare bedroom. Or even a couch.

Would it be...weird to stay in someone's place? I mean what if they are sleeping there at the same time? Looking back at our travel experiences, our favorite moments were always when locals were involved: showed us around, chatted with us, dined with us, hung out with us.

Then we got to thinking about how cool it would be to stay in an apartment during our trip to NYC. We put it together and voila! Soon I had signed up for Airbnb, created my profile and bid on our first Airbnb: a room in a German guy's apartment a stone's throw from Central Park. At only $60 per night, it was a steal. And as fate would have it he accepted us!!

Right around the corner from the subway, a short stroll to the Museum of Natural History and a couple blocks away from the world's best garlic bagels with garlic cream cheese (Absolute Bagel, I love you). Our Airbnb host was Claudio. His spotless apartment had stripes on the wall, a/c, our own set of keys so we could come and go when we please and a random picture of Audrey Hepburn here and there.

We were hooked then and there. Ever since our first ever Airbnb experience, we have vowed to always use Airbnb whenever possible. Since that wonderful trip, we have put quite a few Airbnb experiences under our belts: a small studio in a canalhouse in Amsterdam, a cute apartment in Lisbon's old quarter, two apartments in Iceland and most recently a honeymoon villa in Bali and a teeny, tiny room in Hong Kong.

I absolutely love the Airbnb concept. And it's not just the concept I love...

1. The apartments/houses can be cool...some are really, really cool. A SF apartment with a skeeball and arcade game inside? Treehouses in the Pacific Northwest? Castles in Ireland? Houseboats in Amsterdam? Beach cottages in Venice Beach? Villas in Bali, Italy or France? Airbnb even throws together their very own themed wish lists! Like 'glamping' (luxury camping), surfer retreats, the best ski chalets, and the list goes on and on.

2. Airbnb is often cheaper than hotels (and hostels!). We saved atleast $100 per night (in a nice place) by staying in a New Yorker's Airbnb.

3. Local perspective and some great hospitality! One of our Airbnb hosts in Iceland provided breakfast for us. Another host left us a bottle of wine if we could change the sheets for the next Airbnb-er. Some leave maps and restaurant suggestions. Airbnb even offers Neighborhood Guides for the World's biggest and well-known cities.

4. While you can rent a private room or a shared room, you can also rent the entire house/apartment. Staying somewhere long-term? Enjoy the convenience of your own kitchen and a nice little home away from home.

I could go on and on and I cannot recommend Airbnb high enough. Not to mention, after you've used Airbnb a few times, they will send you Airbnb coupons to discount your next stay (I got one for $25!).

I've decided to share our Airbnb experiences we love so much and start a small series on the blog: Airbnb Around the World.

I'll kick off my first post soon but here's a small ode to our previous trips with Airbnb!

*Thanks Claudio! Love your Central Park apartment and stripes on the walls...thanks for being our first Airbnb!*

*Our Lisbon, Portugal, apartment was the perfect location for those late night wanderings around the old town and summer Portuguese street parties.*

*Our stays in Akureyri and Reykjavik were the perfect-sized apartments for our Icelandic roadtrippin' foursome.*

I can only hope that these experiences will encourage any fellow travelers out there to give Airbnb a try, you won't regret it! Here's how to get started.

Any fellow Airbnb-ers out there? Where'd you stay? How did you like your experience?

March 28, 2014

Must See Beaches Around El Nido: Las Cabanas Beach, Nacpan Beach and Dagmay Beach

A few beachy spots you won't want to miss around El Nido!

Las Cabanas beach is only a 120-150 PHP tricycle ride from El Nido but well worth it. You walk on a path from the street, past a field of palm trees and right up to a palm-tree lined cove. There is one beachbar and one hotel here. We came back to Las Cabanas three times because it was so close to us. And the burgers are the beach bar are pretty tasty!

Alot of tricycyle drivers in El Nido will advertise this beach, so you won't be the only ones here. However, we ended up at this beach during one of our motorbike adventures. The sand is white and soft, the water glistens, and for wave enthusiasts like Christian, you can have some serious fun frolicking around in the water. There are also a few beach bars here serving up grilled seafood and pineapple mixed with rum. It's the perfect day trip away from El Nido.

This was my favorite beach in Palawan. While it was a good 1+ hour motorbike ride north of El Nido (about 30-40 min past Nacpan), we had the beach all to ourselves. The water was clear and warm and the palm trees and fishing boats made the perfect backdrop. And the motorbike ride back into town wasn't bad either ;).

March 25, 2014

Moving from El Nido town to Corong Corong Beach

No island getaway is complete without a beachfront bungalow right? Well that was my argument so we could stay in just one more bungalow on our last beachy destination on our trip! I found Talindak Beach Cottages on Corong Corong Beach on Trip Advisor and at $30 a night for a beach bungalow, we couldn't pass it up. We had two lounge chairs in front of our cottage and had the most incredible beach at our doorstep. El Nido town (only a $1 tricycle ride away) was better for food and civilization but Corong Corong Beach was incredible. The sunsets were the best we'd seen on our trip, locals were tending to their fishing nets each morning, little Filipino kids were starfish-hunting or playing on the volleyball net strewn up in the water. It was glorious.

We were glad we got to stay in El Nido for a few nights to enjoy the town but we were glad we moved over to Corong Corong...and we didn't look back to El Nido town ;).

March 20, 2014

Snorkeling Trip: Tour C in El Nido

I was really surprised about the lack of tourists in El Nido. Ofcourse it's not really on the typical backpack trail AND it requires a flight from Manila then a 6-7 hour bus from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. I am stoked that this little paradise is a bit cut-off from tourists.

Just about the only touristy things you see around town are ads for boats to Coron and snorkeling tours A-D. We decided to hop on board Tour C and were more than happy with our decision! For about $32 (includes a national park fee) we visited 5 spots such as snorkeling on Helicopter Island and visiting Secret Beach and Hidden Beach, the most beautiful sneaky beaches which are hidden behind those magnificent limestone cliffs! 

Around mid-day, the boat found a private beach and the captain and co-captain whipped up a lunch of fresh grilled tuna, steam crab, salad, fruit and BBQ pork. And it was beyond delicious.

At $32 for a full day of island-hopping, snorkelling and lunch on a private beach, it was worth every penny!

{See the seasnake?}