Category Archives: Featured Review

Grand Central Suites

Fields Avenue Hotel

TYPE: Full Service Hotel
RESERVATIONS: Highly Recommended
ROOM TYPES: 20 Rooms — Standard, Deluxe, Suites & Jacuzzi
RATES: See Attached PDF, prices as of Mar. 18, 2014
PAYMENT: Cash & Credit Card with additional 5% surcharge
LOCAL PHONE #: (045) 331-1820
ROOM SERVICE: Available from Gotham Bar & Cafe during business hours, plus numerous other surrounding restaurants that are open 24hrs.
LOCATION: See Map Below


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Grand Central Suites in the Heart of Walking Street

If you’re traveling to Angeles City and want to be in the very center of the nightlife scene then Grand Central Suites is a place you should look into for accommodations. This hotel was formerly known as the Orange Lion, but it has been completely renovated inside and out over the past year and a half by the new owners. If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel right in the middle of Fields Avenue, then Grand Central is a place you should consider.

An additional floor has been added making it a 3 story building with 20 rooms in total. All of the rooms have been refurnished to a high, luxurious standard that include Serta mattresses from the U.S., hard wood or tiled floors, leather furniture and large flat-screen TVs.

Grand Central Suites

Standing Out in a Crowd

While there are other hotels in the area and more being built, Grand Central seems to be focusing on standing out from the others in the area whom you would hardly notice if you weren’t looking.

Patio

The large, outdoor patio seating with Gotham Bar and Cafe and a coffee and juice bar is the first difference that sets it apart from other hotels in the surrounding vicinity. While this concept didn’t seem like a viable or attractive option a few years ago, the city’s beautification and renovation of Fields Avenue project now makes this a hot spot to relax and watch the world go by during the day or at night. It’s one of only a handful of establishments that offer this type of outdoor seating and its location and set up put you closer to the action than the other options.

Well Appointed Rooms at Attractive Prices

I was skeptical of what the rooms at Grand Central would look like but was pleasantly surprised at the two rooms I had an opportunity to see. I was able to view a Deluxe room and a Suite. Both rooms were much nicer than I had imagined and were more than fairly priced when compared to what other hotels are charging.

A walk-through of the Suite room can be seen below:


Serta Bed

The rooms were spacious, clean, nicely and simply decorated in warm and dark colors. All furnishings were solid and the beds are U.S. Serta mattresses that are extremely comfortable.

Leather Couch

Both rooms I saw had a leather couch and ottoman in the sitting area where you can view the 42″ flat screen TVs. The main differences between the Deluxe and Suite rooms was the overall size. The Suite room also has a separate sleeping area and additional 42″ TV as well as an upgraded bathroom setting. 

Suite Room

The bathrooms and showers in each room were large and shower areas had rain forest shower heads.

Restroom

Each of these rooms also had a balcony facing the back which was a nice touch giving the rooms additional natural lighting, but not much in the way of scenery. Opting for one of the 9 rooms with balconies facing Walking Street offers better viewing but more noise due to the area being a hot spot of bars and clubs.

Back of Grand Central Suites

The Deluxe room for 3000 (approximately $67.42) and Suite room  3750 (approximately $84.27) are fair prices for a mid-range, full service hotel of this quality in this location.

A walk-through of the Deluxe room can be seen below:

Additional Amenities

Grand Central also provides it guests with:

  • Free WiFi
  • Cable TV
  • Air Conditioners
  • Refrigerators with mini-bar snacks
  • Toiletries
  • CCTV security system

Refrigerator

It’s important to note that an elevator has been installed but is yet to be in working order. If you have issues with walking up a couple of flights of stairs please take note. Staff are hopeful that this issue will be fixed in the very near future.

Overall Impression

Grand Central Suites is a very attractive option if you plan on eating and hanging out mostly in the Walking Street area during your visit to Angeles City. Their location simply cannot be beat as you are right in the middle of the action.

There are more than enough restaurants, shops, clubs and bars in the surrounding area and nothing is more than a 10 minute walk away. You can really minimize your transportation costs by staying at Grand Central Suites.

I’ve watched this hotel go from being the dark and small Orange Lion to the well lit, nicely designed hotel that stands today. While there have been construction and restaurant issues in the past, it finally seems as if Grand Central has found it’s identity and is poised to become a well known hotel in the ever changing landscape of Fields Avenue and Angeles City.

Fake Books

It’s rare not to see one of the owners on site and the staff is a friendly, knowledgeable and helpful group who do their best to make sure your needs as a guest are met.

Pretty Girl

If you are planning a visit to Angeles City in the near future, be sure to consider Grand Central Suites for your lodging. They offer a comparable experience to some of the more expensive hotels in the area.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Canterbury Tales Guest House

Sign

TYPE: Guest House
RESERVATIONS: Strongly Encouraged, Especially During High Season (Dec. to Mar.)
ROOM TYPES: 22 Rooms in 5 Different Buildings. 9 Studio Style, 8 Separate Bedroom, 2 Budget, 1 Apartment, 1 Private Room and 1 Condo Unit. Configurations and Square Meters/Feet Vary.
RATES: 400 to 800 Baht (Approximately $12.50 to $25.00) Per Night Depending on Room Style and High/Low Season Rate. Monthly Rates Also Available but Do Not Include Electricity and Water. Prices as of Jan. 9, 2014.
PAYMENT: Cash & Credit Card via PayPal
LOCAL PHONE #: 038-720-946 During Business Hours, 086-575-4966 After Business Hours (Dave, Owner & English Speaker)
ROOM SERVICE: Available via Canterbury Tales Café During Business Hours
LOCATION: See Map Below


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Lodging — Your Vacation’s Money Pit

Besides airfare, where you sleep is typically going to factor in to a large portion of your travel budget and will tremendously encroach on your vacation spending money. Most people spend 8 to 12 hours a day in their room and most of that is sleeping. Even though that equates roughly to a half day, you’re paying for a full day. Dollar for dollar, hour for hour this is a lot of money for very little use unless you’re the type of person who loves to lay out by the hotel pool, eat and drink at the hotel restaurants and bars or have room service delivered.

In these cases perhaps your money is well spent. But if you’re like me and  look at your room as simply a place you’re paying to sleep, shower and store your things safely then a hotel is not the best option. Hotel prices can vary immensely based on factors such as:

  • Location
  • Brand
  • Amenities
  • Room Size

Many travelers choose a slightly lower grade option by staying at a motel or budget hotel that typically have fewer niceties than a hotel but have a lower price. A Bed & Breakfast may come to mind for some, but these places are typically priced similarly to budget hotels or motels with the nicer ones in the hotel price range. Younger travelers likely are familiar with hostels, but if you’re out of the college age bracket you may feel slightly out of place at these establishments.

In the end, most people think that these are the only options available and either splurge on a nice hotel that has everything they’re looking for or they opt for an always disappointing budget or lower end hotel/motel.

The Guest House — Not a Hotel/Motel, B&B or Hostel

An often overlooked lodging option when traveling is the guest house. A guest house is like the forgotten middle child of places to stay. I’d place it right between a hotel and a hostel. You typically won’t have as many services or amenities like a hotel has, but you also don’t have the rules, regulations and sometimes shared sleeping/bathroom conditions that a hostel may have.

Guest houses can range from very nice to borderline terrible and everything in between. Typically they are not clustered in to one area like hotels. You can find guest house nestled in the same areas as 4 and 5 star name brand hotels, right in the heart of the action or slightly off the beaten path. They are usually owned and operated by independent proprietors and the rooms are often larger than any hotel room at 50% to 75% less cost per night. Guest houses feel much more like homey apartments rather than a hotel. Some basic things I expect when staying at a guest house are:

  1. A private, decent sized, secure and clean room with full bathroom
  2. Shower with hot water
  3. Cable TV and WiFi
  4. Air-conditioner and/or fan (depending on climate)
  5. Basic towels and bedding
  6. Cleaning service every 2 to 3 days

It’s important to remember that guest house lodging is not the same as a hotel but it should have more faculties than a hostel. It is a basic set up and the niceties and degrees of services varies from owner to owner. Do not expect an elevator, front desk, bellmen, concierge, phone, mini-bar, soap, shampoo or any other hotel-related types of amenities. Guest house rooms are sometimes located in nondescript buildings such as Canterbury Tales Guest House.

Main Office

Review of Canterbury Tales Guest House

There are many guest houses available in Pattaya, Thailand. I chose Canterbury Tales as my place to stay since it was close to an area I enjoy staying near, price per night and overall good reviews I’d read about from similar minded travelers. This was my second stay at this establishment and my third booking will take place in February of 2014.

Safety & Security

This is my first and foremost concern. I was the victim of a robbery on a trip to Pattaya a few years ago. I was staying at what I thought was a safe hotel, yet an intruder was able to enter my room while I was away and steal my laptop. Sadly this was not the first or last incident at this hotel. The rooms at Canterbury Tales are located in 5 non-descript buildings that do not have signs. The entrances are secure and discreet. There are no guards, elevators or front desk. In the building I stayed in the door leading up to the rooms is secured with a magnet locking system that opens with a key card. The hallway leading to the stairs up to the rooms was equipped with security cameras.

Room 201 Layout — Split Level Studio Style

After checking in at the bookstore I was led down the road for about 2 minutes with one of the workers who helped me with my bag. Upon entering the room I was pleasantly surprised at how large it was; more than twice the size of a hotel room.

Room 201 Flat Screen TV

The layout was a split level design. Directly to the right was the refrigerator, kitchenette area and bathroom. Just up one stair to the second level was the king sized bed, nightstand, flat screen TV, DVD player, dresser, and shelving holding the microwave, kettle and various reading materials and menus for food delivery. There was also a 3 speed standing fan in lieu of a ceiling fan.

Split Level

Also on this level was a separate sitting area that included a sofa, coffee table, two chairs, a large cabinet with more drawers, a small electronic safe (properly installed) and another small mirrored sitting area.

Sofa and Chair Drawers

Despite all of these items there was still plenty of space and nothing seemed cluttered at all.  There were 4 small sliding windows, 2 of which that opened (also locked), had screens and looked out on to the main road. Rooms facing this road may be too loud for some individuals, but I can sleep through most anything.

Hard

Some rooms also have balconies, but I tend to stay away  from these as I’ve found sliding glass doors in Asia are not secure and can easily be lifted off the track allowing entry from the outside despite being locked.

Kitchenette & Bathroom

The kitchenette is basically just a sink and cabinet outside of the bathroom. A few plates, plates and silverware are included. The medium sized refrigerator nearby is empty but there are plenty of mini-markets nearby so you can stock up on what you like yourself.

Bathroom View

The bathroom is of fair size. There’s a sink with cold water only, mirror and some shelving. The shower has a hot water heater and the pressure is good but the hot water didn’t get as hot as I would have preferred, but it was hot enough for a shower and shave.

Sink & Shower

The one downside in most bathrooms I’ve encountered in South East Asia is the lack of a containment area for the shower water. Once you shower, the entire bathroom floor remains wet. This can be slippery and messy if you don’t dry the floor or let it dry naturally. Neither of these are good options as you don’t have enough towels to dry the floor plus high humidity and lack of ventilation make for long natural drying times. I’ve also noticed that faucets are usually not connected securely to the sink. I’m not sure why this is, but these are small annoyances that I can overlook for the price per night.

Other Details

    • Free WiFi – In my visits I’ve found the WiFi to be very stable, a solid signal and relatively fast. This can change day to day in countries like Thailand but I’ve never had an issue in the buildings I’ve stayed in at Canterbury Tales.
    • Air Conditioner – Each room’s air conditioner I’ve stayed in has worked well. Even though the electricity is turned off when you leave the units cool down the rooms very quickly once you return.
    • Bed – The mattress is on the very firm to hard side. In my experiences outside of name brand hotels this is fairly standard in Asia.
    • Management – You may not even meet Dave on your stay, but he is readily available to take care of any issues you may have via cell phone and texts. During my stays I’ve run into several small issues that were resolved quickly and efficiently simply by texting Dave who dispatched his workers to attend to my problems.
    • Cable – The channel selection is good, but if you only speak English it’s limited to an extent. Many channels are in Thai. There’s plenty of news and sports stations (showing mostly games like curling, soccer, cricket, etc.) but very few entertainment/movie channels in English. In my stays I think I’m watching 2 or 3 channels total.
    • Food & Snacks – There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and safe street carts available 24/7 in the surrounding area as well as many that will deliver to your room. There are also numerous 7-Elevens and Family Mart stores where you can buy just about everything you need to stock your room with snacks and drinks.

The video below gives you a good idea of the size, style and layout of the room.

Final Analysis

Canterbury Tales Guest House has been in operation since 2009 and the rooms are often booked months in advance. There is good reason for this. Dave and his staff run a clean, efficient and fairly priced guest house. In my opinion it is one of the best run guest houses I’ve stayed at and a great value for the money. The location is fantastic and you’re less than 10 minutes away via Baht bus from the main attractions in Pattaya like TukCom Mall, Central Festival Mall, Walking Street, Pattaya Beach and Baht buses to Jomtien.  You’re steps away from Soi LK Metro which is a lively area with many bars and restaurants.

If you’re heading to Pattaya on a budget and haven’t ever stayed in a guest house I would highly recommend checking out these often overlooked establishments. You might find that these types of lodgings are more suited for your travel accommodations and Canterbury Tales would be a great first experience for you if it’s not fully booked.

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Rating: 8.9/10 (8 votes cast)

Blue Rock Beach Resort, Part I of II — Accommodations

Entryway

TYPE: Full Service Beach Resort Hotel
RESERVATIONS: Required
ROOM TYPES: Standard Back (3), Deluxe Back (9), Standard Beach Front (5), Beach Front with Lounge (1), Beach Front (2), Deluxe Beach Front (7), Superior Beach Front (8), Executive Beach Front (4), Junior Suite Beach Front (1) and Junior Suite Pool Side (1)
RATES: See Attached PDF, Prices as of Nov. 23, 2013
PAYMENT: Cash/Credit Card
LOCAL PHONE #: (047) 224-9042
ROOM SERVICE: Available, Full Restaurant Menu 24hrs.
LOCATION: See Map Below


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Beachside Vacation So Close, Yet So Far Away

I’ve had many opportunities to visit Subic over the many years I’ve stayed in the Philippines but always declined the short trip. Having lived in California beach towns for over a decade and having already visited Boracay, Philippines I figured I’d reached the pinnacle and wasn’t missing out on too much.

The one year anniversary with my girlfriend was fast approaching and I had no plans and a limited budget. I finally decided that this would be a nice anniversary gift and it would be relatively inexpensive way to get out of town for a few days. I broke down and made us room reservations at Blue Rock Beach Resort, which by many accounts is one of the top spots to stay for a Subic visit. The restaurant is well reviewed (coming soon in Part II) and they have a large floating bar just offshore during the dry season (late November through April/May).

Years ago Subic Bay was home to a large U.S. Navy base but this has since ceased and it is now an economic freeport zone, though joint Naval drills and activities with the U.S. and Filipino armed forces are still practiced on a yearly basis.  While the Philippines is comprised of over 7000 islands Angeles City is not one of the beach front towns.  Subic Bay/Olongapo City is the closest beach destination and is located a short hour drive from Angeles.

Angeles City To/From Subic Transportation

Getting to Subic from Angeles City is fairly simple as a couple hotels offer shuttle services on a daily basis for about 1000 pesos round trip (about $23.25). Travel via private car, public bus and even motorbike are options, but each of these methods would require some additional research, planning and expense.

We took the Southern Cross Shuttle Service from the Brass Knob Hotel in Angeles and we arrived in Subic less than an hour later. The drop off point was Wild Orchid resort and Blue Rock was just a short walk away.

Getting back was just as easy. We simply walked back over to Wild Orchid at the departure time and got on the bus back to Angeles City where we were dropped off on the highway to a waiting car that took us to our desired destination.

Superior Beach Front Room

I had booked a Superior Beach Front Room due to my late decision in making the trip and it being the cheapest room available. This is one of the higher priced rooms at Blue Rock Beach Resort at 3,150 pesos (around $73.25) a night , so I had high expectations.

My first impression upon entering the room was that it was much smaller and not quite as modern as I had anticipated. I hadn’t seen a non-flat screen TV in years! The room looked like it was overdue for a major renovation.

Fan and TV

Having been the victim of a robbery in a hotel room before I’m very safety conscience. The door to the room was a hollow, plastic door that you could practically see through when the sun hit it at sundown. The door also had some repairs/modifications done to it. It had a push button keyed lock and a safety chain, both of these mechanisms provide minimal security for a room steps away from the open beach, away from the main restaurant/bar area on the ground floor. Surprisingly the window locks seemed good. Even though these shortcomings were a disappointment from my safety standard I felt I was in a safe area and didn’t have much to worry about.

Entryway

Once you entered the room there was a large cabinet with toiletries, mini-bar snacks, a refrigerator with drinks and small sitting area with table and chairs.

Sitting Area

Mini-Bar

The in-room safe was secured inside this cabinet, but was placed in a position that makes it easy to crack by accessing the back. I didn’t trust it to hold my valuables and money combined with the door/lock situation.

Just around the corner of the cabinet which divided the sitting area and the sleeping area was the bed which had a mirror on the ceiling and a full body mirror on the opposite side of the cabinet. I was slightly disappointed in the overall cleanliness. The fan was filthy with dust  as were the tops of all the cabinets and the queen size bed frame had two stains on the headboard. The bedding was extremely thin and there is no blanket.

Dirty Headboard

We were provided with two thin towels, which doesn’t seem to be enough for a beach resort, soap and some glasses. The bathroom was of decent size as was the shower which was actually closed off from the rest of the bathroom keeping the floor dry. The bathroom fixtures were not nearly big enough for holding toiletries and it would’ve been nice to have some additional shelving.

Spacious Bathroom

Enclosed Shower

Overall Room Assessment

While the room didn’t live up to my expectations I wasn’t completely disappointed. The view from my window was spectacular and it was literally a few steps from the beach.

Beach

I didn’t anticipate spending a lot of time in the room anyway other than for sleeping. I also had the added benefit of being in possession of a discount card that gave me 10% off each night. This trip was also an anniversary gift so spending the extra money on a room closer to the water was worth it for this special occasion. These factors contributed significantly to keeping me a happy guest.

On a future visit I would reserve the cheapest room available (no deposit or credit card necessary) and then see the room and other available rooms upon arrival before making a final choice. If nothing was to my liking, I’d check out the neighboring hotels which seem to have similar or slightly higher prices but appeared to be newer and more modern. This could backfire if you don’t have a room reserved for your entire stay and is a gamble during busy times.

If you want to stay directly on the water then Blue Rock Beach Resort is definitely worth a look. They have over 40 rooms and I’d suggest staying in the least expensive room you can book as my experience is that:

  1. You won’t be spending much time in the room
  2. The higher priced rooms don’t seem to be of great value

Resort Amenities

Other than heading out one time we spent virtually all of our three days at Blue Rock Beach Resort and ate most of our meals here. Part II of my review of the this resort will focus on the restaurant, bar, floating bar and other activities available.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)