Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Why Bagdogra is the Gateway to the heavenly North East

If there is ever a testimony to prove that big things come in small packages, Bagdogra, a silent Himalayan town is a prime example. This small pristine town located on the foothills of Himalayas may not be a popular city or a big name, but for travelers and nature lovers, Bagdogra is nothing less than a gateway to the heavenly North East.

[Connectivity to the North East and beyond]

As part of the Greater Siliguri Metropolitan Area in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, Bagdogra is home to the Bagdogra International Airport, which is the only airport in the entire North Bengal region offering connectivity from all metropolitan cities from India and overseas. It offers direct connectivity from Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Guwahati, Chennai as well as international destinations like Paro and Bangkok.

Bagdogra Airport is located at a distance of 9 km west of the city of Siliguri, the second largest city in West Bengal. Cabs are easily available for travelers to visit Siliguri or explore the pristine natural surroundings of Bagdogra town.

[Things you can do at Bagdogra]

Due to its strategic location right at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayan ranges, Bagdogra provides a gateway to the natural beauty of the North East. Travelers visiting the popular hill station of Darjeeling opt for Bagdogra as a preferred stopover as the town offers the closest air connectivity to the region. There are ample accommodation options in Bagdogra, including resorts near Bagdogra Airport, for tourists to explore the lush green natural habitat and the natural tea trails on offer.

For the adventure loving tourists, Bagdogra is nothing less than a heavenly paradise. The town offers a number of adventure sport options like river rafting, trekking, and fishing excursions in and around the Teesta River. From walking on the exotic tea trails to sipping some of the finest Himalayan Tea, exploring nature and indulging in water sports, Bagdogra offers ample options for just about everyone.

[Repository of culture and heritage]

The cultural heritage of Bagdogra is another attraction for tourists from all over. Even amid the modern world frenzy of commercialization, the town of Bagdogra and its inhabitants have a strong connect with their cultural roots and heritage.

The town hosts a number of rich cultural festivals with the ‘Gangasagar Festival’ being one of the prime attractions. Visitors and locals indulge in a holy dip at the merging point of River Ganga and the Bay of Bengal in a location called Sagar Dwip.

While North East India is known for its rich and heavenly natural beauty, the rich cultural heritage and traditions are as much a part of the people and their everyday lives. All of this cultural affluence makes Bagdogra a true gateway to the heavenly North East.

Unwind at Bagdogra, experience the North East

The presence of the Bagdogra International Airport with its good connectivity has ensured that there has been a phenomenal rise in the number of weekend tourists in the town. With ample accommodation options right from exotic resorts near Bagdogra Airport to budget accommodation options, the town is the perfect destination for weekend excursion or getaway.

Being one of the few airports in India with zero sales tax on aviation turbine fuel, it is no surprise that the air traffic to Bagodra Airport is witnessing a rise. Visitors wanting to explore the North East, especially the regions of Darjeeling, Kurseong, Mirik, and Kalimpong, find it convenient to reach the Bagdogra Airport to resume their journey ahead.

With Bagdogra Airport even offering helicopter flights to Gangtok with on-the-spot permits for foreign travelers, Bagdogra is truly the Gateway to the heavenly North East.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

seda vertis north hotel experience

Tired of the busy North? Not until you explore Ayala's newest district in Quezon city. The biggest add is the city's largest hotel. Whether it's your first experience of staying at Seda or you're familiar with the chain's best standard for staycation. I give you 11 reasons why you need to explore this side of Seda Vertis North Hotel.

[1] Fitness and Wellness
Either you end here from a long trip north of Luzon or entirely maximizing to enjoy the hotel's wellness facilities. You can pamper yourself with spa, massage and the enticing swimming pool at the third floor. Zumba and yoga rooms are also available here. Two thumbs up for the massage.
[2] Accessibility
The hotel is located walking distance from the upcoming central hub of Quezon city. That means you are just a walk away from MRT 7 (ongoing construction) and MRT 1 common station. Apart from that you are also accessible to commercial, sports and transport hubs:

Active Sport Hubs:

Quezon Memorial Circle [10mins]
UP Diliman Oval [15mins]
Power Up Center - Wall Climbing [15mins]
Amoranto Stadium [15mins]
Capitol Hills and Country Club [15mins]

Bus Terminals/Expressway/Transport Hubs:
Cubao Bus Terminals [15mins]
Monumento Bus Terminals [15mins]
NLEX EDSA exit [15mins]
NLEX Mindanao exit [20mins]

University of the Philippines Diliman Campus [15mins]
Ateneo de Manila University [25mins]
Miriam College [25mins]
St James College [25mins]

Our Lady of Hope [10mins]
Iglesia Ni Cristo [15mins]
St Peter Parish [25mins]
Sto Domingo Church [25mins]

Work Hub:
UP Ayala Land Technohub [10mins]

this sure is the advantage of almost all Seda Hotel's strategic location. 
[3] Skybar
The Straight Up skybar for sure is one of  my favorite highlights during our stay. You have a skybar that offers an indoor and outdoor area for your night activities with friends. Don't miss the Four Elements drink there and the live band.

[4] Breakfast/Lunch Buffet

Wide range of breakfast food for the morning tummy cravings at Misto. Among my favorite includes the special pudding, fried Tawilis, Arroz ala Cubana and unlimited fruits combined with yogurt. 
For lunch, Seda for sure knows how to feed your lazy bodies with a buffet. Soup noodles, pastas of sorts, Japanese makis, lechon kawali and my personal favorite would be their own house ice creams.
[5] Chef's Table Experience
Available by special request is the hotel's own chef's table dining experience. This was my first time and it was a "wow" time as the chefs prepared for us meal sets served to fill the unusual cravings. Don't be surprised if at the middle of your meal chef will start to show off their other talents. 
[6] Vertis North Complex
This is the emerging business and lifestyle district that not much has explored yet. on our stay at Seda Vertis North, we were surprised to see that there's this complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment area. Vertis North mall is just across the hotel and unlike the ever busy shopping mall of Trinoma, here you get a vibe of more private places to unwind from a busy day after enjoying the hotel's facilities.

[7] Morning Habits 
You need not to leave the hotel if waking up in the morning and driving out somewhere will be a hassle. First reason is you get a very comfy bed and the next reason is you go for that zumba class, yoga sessions or just go for the gym facilities. 
[8] Club Lounge
A more private area limited to guests occupying Club, Premiere, Corner and President's Suites. There are also special rooms for exclusive meetings and discussions. Breakfast is also served here for a more private time. Don't forget to try out their guava juice. Not everyone knows about it. So just ask it to one of their staff at the club lounge. 
[9] Spacious Lobby
almost half of the entire lower ground is the lobby. checking-in will be smooth and easy. kids will love the mini play place while adults will enjoy the Mac with large flat screen PCs available to guests. 
[10] Modern Artworks
It is quite unusual if I tell you that you need to explore the entire hotel to find special art pieces. Oftentimes only noticeable when you really look closely into details on small corners. You will see furniture designed by the famous Kenneth Cobonpue or even artworks by Jaime Zobel de Ayala. I'll leave it up to you to look for those artworks. 
[11] Business 
Part of the hotel's large area are its huge halls and conference rooms. It can hold big conferences, weddings, events and exhibitions. You have an entire high ceiling floor for all these. 
This side of Quezon City is the vastly changing and just across Seda Hotel here is Vertis North Mall which is home to the country's cinema with the largest theater screen. You deserve a day out in this new district. Food, shopping or staycation. You will love it here. 

Seda Vertis North Hotel
Astra Corner Lux Drives
Vertis North, Quezon City
Tel: (632) 7398888
Seda Hotel Website

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

harbin ice and snow festival

i am not a fan of theme parks, so i don't really fancy a visit to playgrounds, large urban parks and wild theme rides. until i went to Harbin's Ice and Snow festival and uttered to myself "this to me, could be the happiest place on earth". 
we took a taxi ride to Sun Island which is just a bridge away from the city. it was magical as we were like transported to another world of ice. unlike the other ice and snow festivals in the world, the one here is totally isolated from the city in one huge flat area enclosed by towering walls of ice bricks. 
it is indeed considered as the world's largest festival that displays giant artworks of ice and snow. the facade alone resembles the gates of castles towering up to 50 feet. it was still on its soft opening when we got there as the festival runs from early January up to the month of March. we were there end of December and luckily they already allowed tourists to enter at a standard rate.
since daytime is shorter in Harbin during winter, we went there just in time for its opening. sundown happens at 3:00pm. it was a cold winter day as it was snowing almost the entire time.
like most of the theme parks, it has areas featuring particular landmarks and icons for one to enjoy. a guided map is displayed and every year, the theme of the festival would change. during our visit, it was mostly castles and Chinese zodiacs.
there were structures which resembles chess boards, trains and even Chinese gongs. what made Harbin's winter festival unique is it focused mainly on structures built from large bricks placed on top of the other to form icons. unlike other winter festivals which are entirely focused on large snow artworks and ice sculptures. 
since it was still a soft opening, we have seen how they were building these structures which looked like bricks were entirely placed on top of the other. made me wonder what held each of these bricks. probably some few thin bars or also just entirely placed on top of the other. 
it would take a month for them complete the entire ice city. a total of about 150,000cubic meters of ice are taken out from the frozen Songhua river to form all these. the ice festival was said to have started as a simple lantern festival in 1963 until it has gained the world's attention for its current grandiosity. 
but it was not all bricks, in between brick castles were giant snow forms of Buddha, zodiac figures and even some igloos. small slides here and there were designed for kids but a huge one was still under construction that time. 
the temperature that time was ranging from -5C to -12C and the sky was plain white. good that there were coffee and food shops within the park which has heaters. noodle soups and hot drinks are offered along with the usual hotdogs and few rice meals. 
the center of the park was a colorful towering structure and a large platform for performances during night time. take note that at a certain part of the day the park will be partially closed as it will require another fee for the lights show which happens right after sunset.  
we just walked around the entire day enjoying every structure in this huge frozen city of gigantic ice formations. i can't believe that it would only take a place like this and all-day snow for me to declare that this is indeed one of the happiest place on earth. not wild rides. not funny people.

here's a youtube video that would entice you more to visit Harbin:
tips and recommendations:
1. take note that during winter, day is shorter in Harbin. sunset is around 3:00pm. so to maximize your day, you need to start early.
2. for the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, there are two tickets, day time and night time. night tickets offers the light show which adds colors to these structures but you need to be prepared for the extreme cold.
3. you can purchase tickets in advance thru your hotels and some travel agencies but you can also buy tickets on the spot.
4. it is best to take a taxi from the city to Sun Island to go to the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. take note that there are two large festival area, one entirely dedicated for large snow artworks and the famous Harbin Internation Ice and Snow Festival as featured in this post. 
5. for other details and updates on this year's Harbin Internation Ice and Snow Festival you can check out the following links:
how to get there:
by plane: 
most major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou have regular direct flights to Harbin.
by train:
Trains Schedule Beijing to Harbin
Bullet Train:
Train D29 - Beijing ETD 7:00am ETA 3:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D25 - Beijing ETD 10:00am ETA 6:00pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D101 - Beijing ETD 1:50pm ETA 9:50pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Train D27 - Beijing ETD 3:15pm ETA 11:15pm (Estimated trip length: 8hrs)
Sleeper Train:
Train T157 - Beijing ETD 6:18am ETA 5:00pm (Estimated trip length: 10hrs)
Train K339 - Beijing ETD 11:00am ETA 2:40pm (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K297 - Beijing ETD 12:00nn ETA 2:00am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train T39 - Beijing ETD 1:45pm ETA 4:45am (Estimated trip length: 15hrs)
Train K2265 - Beijing ETD 1:57pm ETA 8:30am (Estimated trip length: 18hrs)
Train T47 - Beijing ETD 6:57pm ETA 6:20am (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K1082 - Beijing ETD 8:43pm ETA 4:04pm (Estimated trip length: 19hrs)
Train T17 - Beijing ETD 9:23am ETA 8:30pm (Estimated trip length: 11hrs)
Train K19 - Beijing ETD 11:00pm ETA 3:04pm (Estimated trip length: 16hrs)

Train Trip Updates:

Trains from Beijing to Harbin will be from Beijing South Railway Station (Kaiyang Rd Cor Nanzhan Xingfu Rd)
Train length varies depending on the train speed and the number of stopovers


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