Sunday, January 11, 2015

Around the Northern Half of Batangas in Three Days

But this route here was done in two days over a dozen rides switching from jeepneys to tricycles to buses and injected with some sightseeing stops.

Don't mind that car up there. It took us two days on this route using public transportation.

We spent more time (and money) on the road than sightseeing
(Click to enlarge)

To complete our circular route around the northern half of Batangas (look at the map, we went around Taal Lake! And look at the list of places we visited...Taal Lake is...missing!), we also went through Tagaytay, which is part of the province of Cavite. The original plan was to go through Laurel (for Malagaslas and Ambon–ambon Falls) from Caleruega to complete our circular route without going through Cavite, but frequent timechecks told us we wouldn't make it to the falls in Laurel, and so decided to make Tagaytay our little rest stop.

Traveling around Batangas using public modes of transportation, jeepneys especially, entails a lot of waiting or a bit of hurrying. Waiting...because most jeepneys wait until full before it starts running its route. And a bit of hurrying...to catch the last jeepney to another town: jeepneys on certain routes only operate until 4 or 5PM, like from Balayan to Calatagan, Tagaytay to Talisay, and Laurel to Tanauan.



Around the Northern Half of Batangas:
Around the Northern Half of Batangas in Three Days (you're here!)
(more soon)

Friday, January 9, 2015

AirAsia Philippines: Budget Airline, Budget Service

If you can help it, do not book AirAsia for trips around and in/out of the Philippines, especially the new routes. I repeat, DO NOT book AirAsia Philippines! More often than not, AirAsia will change the flight times, not just by a few minutes, but by hours, as experienced by me and friends who had AirAsia tickets to Puerto Princesa, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Seoul (all in 2014). Were we the unlucky ones or does AirAsia Philippines really just suck?

AirAsia Philippines really just sucks! Let me count the ways:
1. When AirAsia changes your flight schedule, they inform you through email. They don't bother calling.
2. In the email, they will give you these options on how to contact them: email, phone, webchat. You have to be the ones to contact them, not them contacting you!
3. In the website, they present two other ways to contact them: e–form and twitter.
4. All these communication options are a frustration:
  • Email: They will tell you to email them at a given email address, but you will never receive a reply.
  • Phone: The number is an (02) number. Fine if you're in the same area code, but those outside the (02) area code have to call long distance.
  • Webchat: The webchat queue is always long. (The first time I tried webchat, I waited for 45 minutes. On the most recent attempt, I was number 97 and had to wait 30 minutes.) Once it's your turn, you are only given 10 minutes to chat, after 10 minutes, even if your questions have not been fully answered or your issue has not been resolved, the chat will automatically end. And then you have to queue again. And then repeat all your concerns. And then get cut off, most likely without having your concerns addressed.
  • E–form: AirAsia will respond within 5 working days. When they respond, they will be using an email address that you cannot reply to. If you have additional questions or if they are asking for additional information, you will have to send your reply thru another e–form, which will generate a new case number, and you will have to wait another five working days to hear from them. If you want to follow up...........I don't see any way how.
  • Twitter: If you don't have a Twitter account, you have to make one. Some simple issues might be solved by the person handling their Twitter account, if not, you will be pointed to the other options presented above.


Here is an example of the frustration AirAsia Philippines gave me:

December 5, 2013 Booked a Cebu to Seoul ticket for November 5, 2014.

June 18, 2014 Received an email informing me that the flight schedule has been moved to 18 hours and 15 minutes later: from 0030–0600 to 1845–0015 (arriving after midnight of the next day). I asked my friend who was on the same flight, but had a separate ticket from mine, if she had received the same notification. She had not.

June 22, 2014 The above email advised to "Send us an email at aaz_korea@airasia.com with your name, phone number and available time so we can immediately call you back." So I did, but never received any call from them from this time until the day of my flight.

June 23. 2014 My friend, who is based in Singapore, tried their Singapore hotline but could not get through, so she went to their office at the airport, which, mind you, was quite far from her place. She also had a frustrating time there. We had wanted to book the flight for the day before and the agent, "upon checking", told her that the flight for the day before was fully booked. My friend had no choice but to have it rerouted to Cebu–Manila–Incheon which was scheduled to arrive at 7:25 in the morning. Since we would be traveling together, she asked to have my ticket rebooked, too, which they did. Okay by us, since it's just an hour and a half later than our original schedule. We received our new itinerary on the same day. (I checked their website later that night, after my friend had informed me that our tickets have been changed, and—fully booked my butt—there were seats available for Cebu–Seoul on the date we wanted, November 4.)

July 2, 2014 My friend received her flight itinerary again through email. Upon closer inspection, she noticed that the Manila–Seoul flight had changed from 0225–0725 to 0700–1200, which leaves us just four days between Seoul and Busan because we already had return tickets from Busan to Cebu on another airline!

July 6, 2014 I called AirAsia Philippines' customer service number (that long distance number!) and asked if we could just change it back to Cebu–Seoul, November 4 (date we had originally wanted the ticket rebooked to), since that was our original flight anyway. I don't know how long I was on the phone trying to argue my point, but the agent who answered me was not sympathetic and would not change the ticket saying it was not allowed since the only affected flight was Manila–Seoul. I asked to talk to his supervisor but he refused to. AirAsia knew they were going to change their Manila schedule; they should not have suggested that option to Cebu passengers!
          That same night, I sent a message to AirAsia Philippines' facebook page as a last resort and pleaded my case.

July 8, 2014 Thankfully the person who answered my facebook message was able to have our ticket changed back to Cebu–Seoul for November 4. This was the only positive moment in this whole affair.

Before October 12, 2014 I rechecked schedules and reread the notification posted on their website about the flight change. No further changes had been made, but the following caught my eye: "All affected guests will be given a credit shell of USD120. The credit shell is valid for one year from issuance and can be used to purchase AirAsia, AirAsia Zest and AirAsia X seats to any destinations including online products and services." and "Guests who wish to stay overnight will be provided Incheon airport hotel accommodation, transfers between airport and hotel and meal vouchers worth up to USD150. Guests are then responsible for their own transportation the next day." This got me thinking: I should request for accommodation and where's the credit shell?

October 12, 2014 I did not bother calling long distance, instead I tried their webchat. I waited about 45 minutes only to be given 10 minutes when it was my turn. In the limited chat time provided each customer, my question about the credit shell was not answered and for the hotel accommodation request, I was advised to request through e–form.
          After the chat got cut off, I submitted my request through e–form but doubted it got through because only a blank page showed after I clicked on submit. Thinking I had made a mistake or my connection was bad, I tried submitting several times, but got the same result: blank page. No email acknowledgement either.
          Not wanting to queue again for webchat, I sent a message to their facebook page, only to be told to "Kindly wait for the feed back thru e-form if you already sent a request a relevant team will handle your request." And then was asked, "Did you receive a case number?" I replied that I did not. The reply was: "Let me forward your case to our support team for assistance. Thank you."

October 13, 2014 I sent a message again on their facebook page asking how would I know if they were working on it. I was told to expect an email from them in 3–5 working days. Doubting that my e–form submission from the day before went through I asked if there should have been a reference number or any sort of acknowledgment. The answer: yes. That confirmed it, my request through e–form did not go through.
          I queued again for the webchat and asked if there was something wrong with the e–form as my request did not go through. After several Q&As with the webchat agent, we got to the root of the problem: I had to use an incognito window when submitting through e–form (this little bit of information is not stated in the form or anywhere in the website).
          I submitted my request again and this time received an email acknowledgment with a case number. Also in the email acknowledgment was "We will respond to you within 5 working days."

October 17, 2014 I received an email from donotreply@airasia.com asking for more information (information not asked for in the e–form) but did not say where to send the information to! As sending a message through their facebook page seemed to be the fastest way to reach somebody, that's the avenue I chose to ask where I could send the information to. I was told to submit through e–form again. Incredulous, I suffered the queue for webchat, but was informed of the same thing! So to the e–form I go.

October 23, 2014 I received an email (still from donotreply@airasia.com) regarding the request: "We write in relation to your Hotel request. Please be informed that as of the moment we already have forwarded your request to the concerned department." Of course, they didn't say when to expect to hear from the "concerned department" or how to contact the "concerned department."

That is the last I heard from them. I sent follow ups through facebook message, e–form, webchat, and twitter up to the day of the flight (November 4, 2014), but never heard from the "concerned department." They should have said the unconcerned department. Sure, I only requested for the hotel accommodation three weeks before my flight, but wouldn't three weeks have been enough time to process it? And what happened to the credit shell? Still hiding in their pockets! Budget airline = budget service? Yes! Budget airline = budget service!

And that, my friends, is why I have not booked another AirAsia ticket after June 18, 2014, no matter how tempting their promo tickets are.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

At The Pitstop

Don Jose Avila St., Capitol Site, Cebu City
(032) 254 3550
Sunday to Thursday 7AM to 10PM
Friday and Saturday 7AM to 1AM
Street parking only


Of course the interiors have to match the name of the restaurant

Refueling and changing of tires at a pitstop will only take seconds. Refueling at this pitstop will take more than that. A long long while more than that. What with three menus, front and back, to read through and decide upon.

Menu

 Click to enlarge
Other mango stuff spotted in the restaurant: mango ketchup, mango jam, mango bars.

But there is an exception. Me! I was like one of the pit crew, in 2 seconds flat, even before the server had reached my table, I had already told him what I wanted: Mango Pizza. Cheese, ripe yellow mangoes, green bell pepper, and cashew nuts. On crust.

9" Mango Pizza, Php 240

 
Pitstop Guimaras Blend, Short, Php 80 (left) and Mango Ketchup (right)

It was strange (fruity and cheesy!) at first bite but I quickly grew to like it. And like a race car driver, I blazed through the pizza like Lightning McQueen! Okay, 2/3 thru, my tank was already full, so Mater slowly towed 1/3 of the pizza under his hood and leisurely sipped his Pitstop Guimaras blend (calamansi, orange, and cucumber juice).

On my next pitstop, I shall try Pitstop Restaurant's other mango dishes: chicken/pork mango adobo dish, fish fillet with mango sauce, mango bangus sisig, mango beef bulalo, and chicken mango curry. After that, you can call me Lightning Mangoeen.

Just so you know: The Pitstop Restaurant was born in Guimaras, the "home of the sweetest mangoes." The Pitstop Restaurant now has four branches in Guimaras.