Traveling to India – and why it deserve the word “Incredible” – Part 2

My first weekend in Bangalore was spent with my Estimates Family in one of India’s largest amusement park called Wonderla.  Full day filled with fun and excitement for the entire team as we roam around this 33 hectares of thrilling rides and waterparks.

Organizers rented a bus for us to be transported to this place.  While heading to our destination, we sampled on some guavas while we are parked for a bit.

310532_10150453044365421_988079577_n
sweet guava. love it

When we reached out destination, the first leg of fun is with the waterparks.

I did not bring any water attire.  But apparently, the resort is not very strict when it comes to swimming attire.

194746_10150518789515421_1915324905_o
a very crowded wave pool

There are other things to do in this park.  What particularly made me interested is of course, the Rain Disco.  How can I forget?  First time to see an indoor Disco with rain while you dance!

As I was still in adjustment, I only took few pictures of the park.

We headed back to Bangalore at closing time and finished the day early.

Check out Wonderla Park when you visit Bangalore!

 

Follow my next post on India here.

Applying for a US Tourist Visa

I decided to apply for a US tourist visa as I heard that most of the visas given recently are 10 years multiple entry which, before, is very rare for Filipinos.  This is by far, the most expensive tourist visa application I have had and the preparation needs time and extra effort.  Here’s what I did to prepare for the application all the way through the approval.

Disclaimer:  This post is only for US tourist visa application (B1/B2 Class).  If you have other type of visa application, you may refer to this site for further details.

  1. Pay the Visa Application Fee – Yes, you need to pay first before you can fill up the application form.  Payments are accepted via BPI over-the-counter or Bancnet online.  If you don’t mind the queue, I suggest paying via OTC so you can make clarification before payment because once you paid, it’s no longer refundable.  For B1/B2 class, I paid $160 each person.  I applied together with my son.  Before heading to the bank, you need to download and print this Deposit Slip form as the Receipt Number in the form is what you will need to enter in your deposit details at the counter.  Do not go to the bank without this slip.

Screen Shot 2018-07-14 at 4.07.55 AM

*There is a payment cut-off that the bank follows.  If you paid your fee before 3pm, you can wait for 4 hours before you can start filing your interview schedule.  If you paid past 3pm, you will need to wait the next day before you can file your interview schedule. (you can do this after you have filled up your D-160 form)

2.  Once paid, you are now ready to fill up your DS-160 form.  This form is online.  You need to fill in the details online.  You can only print the DS-160 form once you have digitally-signed it after you filled up all the information.  Click here for the DS-160 form page.

Screen Shot 2018-07-14 at 4.14.46 AM

a. From the SELECT ONE dropdown, select Philippines (or country applicable to you).  Enter the code shown (captcha).  Select the type of application.  In my case, it’s Start an Application.  Once you’re done, you will be directed to the next page which will eventually start the filling up of needed information.

b. When filling up your application, always be thruthful about what you enter.  Even before the date of your scheduled interview, there will be am investigation conducted by immigration officers about your profile and if this will not match with you put in your application, it may affect your visa approval.

c.  Information about where you will stay is required.  If you are planning a DIY trip, browse for hotel addresses from Booking.com or Agoda to get potential addresses for your stay.  You don’t need to book it yet.  You only need to get the address which will eventually be your home base when you get approved.  If you have relatives in the US to which you intend to stay with, get their address and phone numbers for the details to be inputted in your application.

d.  Picture needs to be attached to the application form.  The required size is 2×2.  It is important that you follow the correct size of the picture and specifications about its looks and angle.  I had several issues when I uploaded my picture that it took me a while to get the correct cropping size and angle.

e.  There is a section there regarding petitions.  When I applied, our family is under petition for immigrant visa which was filed sometime in 2010.  I declared it honestly as these types of information are being checked from the immigration database.  If your application declaration did not match, it might affect your visa approval.

f.  There are also sets of questionaires answerable by Y or N.  Just be truthful about each questions.

3.  Once you are done updating your DS-160 form, you will need to digitally sign it.  Digital signing simply means submitting the form online.  Once this is done, you will come across a page which says THIS IS NOT A VISA together with the picture you uploaded.  This is your completed DS-160 form.  Print this as you need to bring this during your interview.

37376133_10156568843670421_672144364436193280_n

4.  Once you are done, every DS-160 form has a unique barcode generated when you started filling up your application.  Record this barcode for referrence.  You can start scheduling your interview to the embassy.  Scheduling your interview can be done via phone by calling the embassy hotline or you can create a profile here.  I took the online profile and scheduled my interview via the website.  Double or triple check the DS-160 form barcode versus your payment receipt to ensure that you have entered them correctly.  Incorrect information may affect your schedule online.

The Interview day….

My schedule was July 13, 2018 at 8:30am.  Since we are coming from Taguig, I left the house at around 5:45am and reached Roxas Blvd area by 6:30am.  I know we are too early for the schedule, but it’s better to let the time pass by staying nearby rather than compromising the schedule by being late due to traffic.  Once you are late for the interview, you may not be able secure a new interview again and your payment will go to waste.

IMPORTANT: All electronic gadgets (cellphones, laptops, chargers, batteries, earphones etc.) are not allowed inside the embassy.  If you happen to bring one, you will have to leave them to some ladies from the street (who apparently are doing it for business).  During the interview day, I left my phone at home but I didn’t notice that my son brought his phone and so I was left with no choice but to leave it to the lady at the street.  These baggers are not accredited by the embassy.  You will have to just trust them that they will not take your phone after you give it to them for safekeeping.  My son’s phone costs us P200 to be taken cared of by the ladies.  They charge it by per number of phones.  If you brought 3, then you pay P600.  If you brought laptop, they will charge you higher.  So, it’s best not to bring any gadgets.  If you have relatives with you during your interview, just leave your belongings to them.

Upon entry, our records were scanned at the gate and the barcode will be attached at the back of your passport.  This will serve as your tracker when you get inside.  The attendants will give you color-coded big cards and you need to follow where the colors are indicated.  Wait for your turn (color) to be called on for the initial screening.

Step 1 – Initial Screening – they will ask for minor details about your application.  They may require picture as well.  (Please note, these are done by Filipinos at the other side of the booth).

Step 2 – Finger Printing – The officer will scan the back of your passport for the barcode and will ask you to scan your 4 fingers (left and right) and your thumbmark.  Since my son was below 14 years old, he was exempted from performing the finger printing as the required age is not yet met. (14 years old and above is the requirement)

Step 3 – Interview – This is the time when you will be face to face with the consul.  They will ask you questions about yourself and related questions will emerge after your response is received.  Here are some of the questions I can still recalled being asked from me:

Question 1: Why are you going to the US?

Question 2: Why US?

Question 3:  Where is US do you plan to visit?

Question 4: How long do you plan to stay?

Question 5: Do you have relatives in the US?  Who are they?  How long have they been in the US?  Are you going to visit them?

Question 6: Who are you traveling with?  Why is your husband not joining?  Does your husband have a US visa?

Question 7: What do you do here?  Where do you work?

Question 8:  It says in your application that you are being petitioned, who filed the petition?  Do you plan to live in the US?

The consul also asked my son how old is he?  And my son answered smartly.  The consul then required to show me the Birth Certificate of my son.  After checking, the consul said “Thank you for that.  So you’re visa is approved, you may claim it after 1 week.  NEXT!”

Everything happened so fast, I barely had time to say thank you to the consul.  Still, I manage to say my thanks.  No other documents were required by the consul aside from the BC of my son.  I checked with the assistants at the embassy that the 1 week mentioned means 7 working days.

You may opt to have your passports with visa delivered to your house or you can pick it up at their designated locations.

So, there you go.  Here is my experience into applying for a US tourist visa.  Though the consul did not go into other details about my application, it maybe depending on how sensible you responses are to the consul’s questions.  But in relation to this application, here are the documents I prepared for the interview

a.  COE and Leave approval email (as I am currently employed)

b.  Bank Certificates and Bank Statements (There is no required balances set by the embassy on your Bank Statement.  You just make sure that if you will stay in the US for say 10 days, your bank balance has enough capacity to sustain your stay for 10 days if you will be doing your trip on your own).

c.  Property Documents (I prepared my car and condo documents)

d.  PSA documents (Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificate)

e.  for my son – I prepared an excuse letter signed by his teachers and adviser.  I also secured the school calendar of activities for the school year.

Though the consul said wait for 1 week, after just about 2 days, I was notified by the courier and embassy via text and email that my visa is already out for release.  Only 2 days waiting time!

So here is our 10 years multiple entry tousit visa to the US!  We are excited for our upcoming trip!

Try your US tourist visa application too!  Good luck on your application soon!

Japan Tourist Visa Application for Filipinos – from Single Entry to Multiple Entry

We first applied for a Japanese Visa in 2015 when my son and I went to Tokyo. It was a gift for my son’s 7th birthday. We were not able to go there during his exact birthday but it’s never too late to celebrate it anyways.

Japan Visa for Filipinos needs to be applied via listed accredited Travel Agencies only. Japan embassy does not accept walk-in or personal application. You can chose from the list of accredited Travel agencies here.

For our application, we applied thru the agency Discovery Tours, located in Makati City. Our application costs us P800.00 only. By far this the cheapest application I have inquired to among all other travel agencies from the Japan list. They were also able to have our visa approved in 3 days only. We were approved for Single Entry only, with 15 days stay. The visa is valid only for 3 months.

So, here’s what you need to do to apply for Japan Visa:
1. Select your travel agency near you – From the agency’s website, you can find the steps on how to apply for the visa. You can also refer to their list of requirements here.

2. Prepare your documentations – I am a private employee when I applied so I prepared my COE, ITR, Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Bank Certificate. Of course do not forget your passport valid for 6 months during your travel dates.

*for Birth and Marriage Certificate – make sure that they are recent copies obtained from PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority).  It will not be accepted if the certificates are more than 1 year old.

*for Bank Certificate and Bank Statements – there is no required amount set by the embassy.  Make sure that you bank has enough balance to prove you can sustain your trip to Japan.  My advise is to always keep it realistic.

3. Fill up the application form along with a photo with specifications set by the embassy. It is important that you follow the guidelines for the photo requirements.

4. Create an itinerary – the form can be obtained from the agency itself. You need to fill your day to day activities and the location of your activities.

5. If you are being sponsored by a Japanese national, you need to comply with additional requirements like Guarantee letter, Proof of relationship, Bank Certificate and ITR of guarantor.  Your guarantor can also be someone from the Philippines but that guarantor will have to provide Bank Certificate, Proof of Relationship and other proof of income.  Your guarantor does not need to be traveling with you.  Your guarantor can be your friend, but you have to provide proof of relationship.  Pictures will do.

6. You need to apply directly. The agents from the agency are very helpful with your needs. They will also answer questions you might have in order for you to fill in your details correctly.

7. The agency also offers tour options you may want to check rather than doing your Japan trip a DIY. You can also purchase passes that you can use in Japan rails.

When our visa was already released, we were notified by the agency to pick it up personally. You need to bring identification and the acknowledgement receipt with you when you claim your passport. This receipt is given to you by the agency after your application process.

Japan Visa for the second time….

So, basically, my son and I went back to Japan but this time, we went to Osaka and Nagoya. We applied for the multiple visa as we already were previously approved with the single entry. The requirements will still be the same, except that there is an additional form you need to fill up stating the reason why you wanted to apply for a Multiple entry visa. When I answered the question, I said that I would like to explore more of Japan in the next 1-2 years. That I am targeting to visit Sapporo during the winter etc. I guess you can provide other reasons as long as they are legally acceptable. Your application could even be more successful if you were previously approved with a Japan visa provided that you have no immigration issues with them in the past.

So, there you go!  That’s what I went through to obtain a Japan visa. Let me know you if have questions so I may somehow assist you before you start your application.  No fees required.  🙂

Buffalo’s Wings N’ Things

This wings shack is just a few meters away from where we live and we came in hungry! We waited a bit, not in the resto but in the parking lot as there were a lot of diners but limited parking space. The wait it worth it.

So I ordered for the Champion Wings and my son for the Chicken Fingers. Added some Cheesy Fries with that and our meal is set.

The chicken is so so good! My son went for his chicken fingers too with lots of ketchup!

One thing I can note about this humble wings shack is that the ladies are very polite and accomodating. They even gave my son a sweet treat while waiting for our orders.

Katzikat Recommends: Their wings are so good! Few selections only but way to go. Unlike in other wings shacks, this place is good enough to satisfy your wing cravings.

Check my rating in my Zomato profile:

Buffalo's Wings N' Things Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pound By Todd English

This review is for Pound located at Vertis North Mall.  It was saturday before Father’s Day celebration and my son just got back from his vacation. Craving for city food, backed with my B1T1 coupon from Booky, we went for this restaurant as they serve Sliders, Burgers, Pasta and Desserts only. And to note that most of the restaurants in the area are full since everyone seems to be out for Celebrating our Fathers!

We were 2nd in line and decided on what we are gonna order even before we had our tables. Please note that they only will prepare your orders once your table is confirmed though. Just browse thru the menu while you wait.

When we got the table, the inside of the restaurant seems to be small. It was all packed during the night. Tables are small, really meant for 1 person each side. It was a rainy night that night so the floor is a bit messy. And our table seems to be jiving with our movements. Just annoying.

First we were served with the sliders. Thanks Booky for the treat!

My son ordered for the Chicken Burger, which was left unfinished as it’s all just crunchy breading instead of the Chicken meat.

36028629_10156507317080421_8192438899218317312_n

But their Pomodoro is a must order. Paired with their Truffle Fries!

Katzikat Thoughts: We went out of the resto with full tummy considering that those sliders are so cute but the meat is all packed. If my son would prefer to go back there, I would but if I, alone will decide, I’ll just pick another burger restaurant than them. Please lose the black and white tiles! Too old design!

Check my rating in my Zomato Profile:

Pound by Todd English Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taipei and the Surprises it brings during your visit. (part 1)

I visited Taipei during the spring season.  It was this country that offered me my first Sakura experience.  Weather was perfect in April.  Not too cold, not too hot.  Sakura blooms in major parks within the city.  Though unlike Japan and Korea where the streets are also lined up with trees that offers scenic views, there are only notable areas for sakura viewing which I hope Taipei will improve on in the coming years.

Day 1 – traveling via Cebu Pacific leaving the country with flight @10:55pm as this was the only flight available from airlines during the time of our travel, Taipei is a 2.5hours direct flight arriving @1:20am in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.  We took a bus to the city as the MRT is no longer operating past midnight.  The bus is located at Terminal 2, you will clearly see the queue of people going to Taipei upon exit.  The bus will also display the destination so you need not worry about entering the wrong bus.  Besides, this is the only bus operating at such hour.  Purchase ticket first inside the terminal before heading to the bus.  Please note that the bus’ final stop will be at Taipei Main Station.

Our hotel, The Hotel B7 Journey is located near the NTU Hospital Station so that is our base camp. From the Taipei Main station, it will take around 15 minutes walk and a mere 5 minutes walk from the hotel.  The journey from the Airport to the hotel was tiring but it was not that complicated.  Retired for the night with high hopes for tomorrow’s adventure.

Day 2 – After having our breakfast at the hotel, we embarked on our first itinerary for the day.  As Taipei is connected with MRT, it’s easy to navigate around the city once you have decided what station will be your base camp.  As for us, it’s the NTU hospital.  From our hotel, walked down a park called Peace Park and it’s a delightful route towards the station.

Riding the MRT going originally to Beitou, we happen to see the Taipei Farmers Expo and decided to go down and check it out.  It was not actually in our itinerary but since the supposed destination can also be reached by walking from the Expo location, it’s like hitting 2 locations in 1 stop.  The expo is a must in your list but only if there is one during your visit.  This only happens occasionally.  This is a food haven.  Lots of local food to try.

My Post (15)After some knick knacks, we went to see the Confucius Temple which is near the area.  The temple is well maintained and very quaint.  Peaceful and perfect for meditation.  There is not much tourist in the area so you can get all the kinds of angles you want for your photo op.

My Post (5)After exploring the temple, we went to Beitou for the famous hotsprings.  Thermal Valley is where the boiling hot water lake is located.  Steam literally is emitting from the lake so definitely not suitable for swimming.  From the valley, you will also come across a creek where you can rest for a while as they have benches along the path and the path is lined with trees.

My Post (6)After the hotsprings, we went for the Shilin Night Market alighting at Shilin Station itself.  Just follow the trails of people walking towards the area.  Shilin Night Market is a vast market opens until 12mn.  We went back to the hotel just before MRT closes.  This place offers both goodies and food!  Get your wallets ready for the ultimate food trail of your Taipei visit.  I recommend eating the Sizzling Teppan Noodles….so so good! For goodies, I got some cable organizers and souvenirs for friends back home.

My Post (7)

to be continued….

Taipei and the Surprises it brings during your visit. (part 2)

…continuation

Day 3 – After our long day from Day 2, we retired early for the night as we get ready for Day 3.  We visited the famous Yangmingshan National Park.  This is where my first Sakura experience happened.  From our base camp, we went to Shilin station and from there, took a bus going to the park.  Note that YNP is a big park with different attractions.  Some attractions can be reached by riding bus inside the park.  The attractions are quite far from each location so you better get a map from the entrance to see exactly where you are.

My Post (8)

The Calla Lily Farm – based on the research I made before the trip, this is the reason why Yangmingshan is on the list.  The Calla Lily Farm!  I love calla lilies! This flower is very simple but elegantly looking.  We were lost in the park initially as we thought that we can walk but we’re dead wrong.  We hired a taxi to take us to the farm and asked him to wait for us.  Be ready to experience a glimpse of heaven as these white lilies paved the mountains with so much beauty.

My Post (10)After our heavenly visit to the farm, we went back to Shilin Night Market before heading home.  From the park, we took the bus back to Shilin station so since we are already in the area, we went to buy my son’s cute travel luggage as well as one luggage for me.

Day 4 – This is our last day in Taipei but still got loads of itineraries to follow.  Our flight is not until late night.  We checked out of the hotel early and left our luggages at hotel while we make the most out of our last day in Taipei.  We headed down to Longshan Temple.  This temple has more visitors so a bit chaotic.

My Post (12)

From Longshan, we went to see the Chang Kai Shek Memorial.  The place is huge so it doesn’t matter if there are tourists around.  There’s plenty of room for that coveted photo ops.

My Post (13)After Chang Kai Shek, we headed to Taipei 101 for lunch.  Taipei 101 used to be the tallest building in the world but was outgrown by the likes of Tokyo Skytree and Burj Khalifa.  But nonetheless, this the the tallest man-made structure you can see in Taipei.  After our stint at Taipei 101, we headed to Ximending and went with the flow of youngsters of Taipei.  They call this place the Shibuya of Taiwan.

My Post (16)

The Taipei trip is one trip you should start listing in your bucket list.  There’s much to see, prices are reasonable and attractions are not too crowded.  Get the chance to tell stories about the place first hand.

What I missed, but you shouldn’t:

  1. Elephant Mountain
  2. National Palace Museum
  3. Taipei Old North Gate
  4. Yingde University (from Meteor Garden)
  5. Jiufen
  6. Taroko National Park

More info here.

Here are some random snaps from our trip:

 

Reminders for your Taipei Trip

  1. Filipinos entering Taiwan can have free-visa if they have travelled to countries like Japan and Korea.  Visit their website for more information.  Recently, the visa-free initiative has been extended.  See below:

Screen Shot 2018-07-14 at 3.29.07 AM

2.  Rent a Flytpack before your travel.  It will help you with your internet connection especially if your trip is DIY.20170411_203009

3.  Buy their metro pass – Easy Card.  Can be bought in any metro stations.

Screen Shot 2018-07-14 at 3.35.37 AM

4.  Get your maps at the Airport or in your hotel.  If you don’t have internet while you are roaming around, your travel applications are useless.  Maps comes in handy.

5.  Taipei is a modern city.  Shorts/flips flops are ideal to use.  Be modest when you visit temples though.

6.  People in Taipei can communicate in English.  So don’t worry much about language barrier.

Schedule your visit to Taipei soon!!!