Monday, December 31, 2012

Travel round-up for 2012

I started out this blog a year ago not knowing if people would actually spend their precious time reading what I write in it. And as the year ends, I want to thank all of you who have read, commented and joined me in my trips. This blog has opened my eyes to new horizons and have been an avenue for me to bond with friends and meet (even just online) some of the most friendly and down to earth travelers/backpackers/ nomads out there.

So as we say goodbye to 2012, let me take you to the trips that made me smile and realize that though we may have been to a lot of places, there are still a lot more waiting to be discovered and explored. Happy new year everyone! :-)

                                                        Southeast Asia
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Putrajaya, Malaysia

Putrajaya, Malaysia

Singapore

Singapore

Singapore

Philippines
Biri, Northern Samar

Biri, Northern Samar

Biri, Northern Samar

Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Mt. Pinatubo, Zambales

Angono, Rizal

Paoay, Ilocos

Kapurpurawan Rock, Ilocos

Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Mt. Pinatubo, Zambales
      
Bangui Windmills, Ilocos
                                                                                                         

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Liliw Food Trip: Arabela Restaurant

Liliw, Laguna may be known for its slippers but is gaining quite a following these days for one of its restaurants.  Armed with an empty stomach and an appetite to try something new, my friends and I headed to Arabela Restaurant.  This restaurant is owned by Bobby and Tonet Carmello, a couple who loves to cook and eat. They named the restaurant after their daughters, Ara and Bela.

The place is quite small but cozy and it feels like families go here often to celebrate special occasions.  As soon as we got seated, we immediately browsed through its menu.  The restaurant offers a wide menu but their signature dishes are pasta and pizza. 

I only got a few shots of the foods that we ate because we were so eager to try them out as soon as they were placed on our table. :-)

Good food, good company = An awesome great time!






You can stop by at Arabela after all the slipper and shoes shopping at Liliw. It will surely revive your energies and your stomach will thank you for it.

Arabela Restaurant
503 Rizal Street, Liliw, Laguna



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Date A Girl Who Travels


Date a girl who travels. Make her feel safe, warm, and secure.  Make her believe that no matter where she goes, and however long she's gone, you'll always be there for her, the one that she can call home.


That's an excerpt from "Date A Girl Who Travels" post by Aleah Taboclaon of SolitaryWanderer.com, one of the blogs that I have been following lately. I think it was beautifully written that's why I asked Aleah's permission to share with you my readers a little portion of the post. It celebrates the unique qualities of a girl traveler and how she's different from all the rest. Read on and be proud, my sistahs!  

You can read the entire post here


Monday, November 12, 2012

It all started here...

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover."  - Mark Twain

These words have resonated in my soul and inspired me to dream, and know that I have the capacity to make those dreams come true.

I'm counting the days, months and years until I make my ultimate dream come true. For I will not be dictated by a society that tells me how I should live my life. One day we will all be food for worms. But when my time comes, I want to able to say to myself that I have LIVED my life and not just waited for things to happen. I may encounter failures along the way but my biggest achievement will be the thought that I fought for my dream.

Image from life123.com

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sample Itinerary for Hongkong - Macau

Below is a 3D/2N itinerary for Hongkong - Macau.  Hope this helps those who are planning their trips.


DAY 1 
Hongkong Disneyland
The Peak
Madam Tussauds Wax Museum
Hongkong Disneyland 



Tian Tan Buddha or the Giant Buddha in Lantau Island

DAY 2  
Lantau Island which covers the following:
Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride
Giant Buddha
Wisdom Path
Monkey's Tale Theatre
Walking with Buddha Museum                                   

Tsim Tsa Tsui and Mongkok area which includes:
Hongkong Museum of Art
Avenue of the Stars
Symphony of Lights
Mongkok Night Market





DAY 3 - Macau
Fisherman's Wharf
Ruins of St. Paul
Senado Square
St. Dominic Church
Grand Prix Museum
Macau Tower
Bubble Show at the City of Dreams
Michael Jackson Museum
Hotels and casinos (The Venetian, Grand Lisboa, Wynn Hotel, Sands Casino and Galaxy)


                                 
                



Macau Tips:
1. Don't forget to try out the delicious egg tarts in Macau - the most famous I think are the ones from Pastelaria Koi Kei (since I saw a lot of people carrying boxes of egg tarts from that store).  Or you can   search for "Tea Plus" near Ruins of St. Paul.  Tea Plus is one of the location for the Korea novela "Boys Over Flowers". It is where we got our egg tarts and the Boys Over Flowers theme song is playing while we were eating our egg tarts. It's really cool! :-)

2. Free samples of beef jerky

3. You can ride the different hotel shuttles in Macau in order to save and explore the city for free. 

4. If you're coming in to Macau by ferry, there are a lot of tour guides waiting outside the ferry terminal, some of them are Filipinos.  You can bargain the rate and tell them if you have an itinerary already.  Most often, they would give some suggestions and can also give you discounts on some shows that you may want to watch.

5. Some memberships on the casinos are free if you register.  They give you a membership card that can also be your souvenir.




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Cambodia trip caught on video


Here's a short video that I made after my Cambodia trip last May.  I really, really love Cambodia and it has inspired me to get my hands on creating this amateur video.  I am just so glad that this new website allows me to upload videos since I wasn't able to upload this on my previous site. Enjoy!

video

Song: Across the Universe
Performed by: Michael Johns (originally sung by the Beatles)

An attempt to sleep in HKIA

For backpackers, sleeping in airports is a common practice.  At first I felt that it may be a bit embarrassing to do it, letting the whole world see you as you drift into la-la land and dream of all the other places you would want to visit.  Well, I had the pleasure (and displeasure) of trying to sleep in an airport during my Hongkong trip last year.  

After arriving at the Hongkong International Airport (HKIA) at around midnight (red-eye flights are cheaper), I was surprised to see that there are actually a lot of people that does sleep in the airport!  All of the stores and restaurants are closed except for 7-eleven and the airport has dimmed some of the lights for a conducive sleep.  I called our hotel to tell the Chinese lady that we have already arrived and said that they can accommodate early check-in but not until 7am.  I said it's ok and we can just stay in the airport and wait for the trains to the city to open at around 6am.  

It was (supposed to be) summer when we arrived in Hongkong but I was wearing a jacket and jeans in anticipation that we might be sleeping in a cold airport.  And I was glad that I came in prepared because it was indeed cold in HKIA.  My friend and I looked for vacant seats and parked our bags near it.  Since we are a bit paranoid that our bags might be stolen if we were both asleep, we decided to take turns watching it.  As I was waiting for my turn, I looked around and wonder how the airport would look like when all the lights and shops are open.  I was glad that I had a chance to see it before it became busy and people start coming in.

After an hour or so, it was my turn to sleep.  And just as I was getting ready for some shut-eye, two men came and seated behind us.  They opened their laptops (HKIA has wi-fi) and started talking, loudly!  Some people woke up and looked at the two men but they didn't seem to bother.  They just continued talking and  I was getting irritated by their lack of consideration.

This would have been what I would look like if I was able to sleep in the airport (Image from travelblog.viator.com)

Thirty minutes have passed and my hopes of getting some sleep were shattering into pieces.  I have to sleep because I need the energy for our day's activities. Hours later and the two men were still talking. Jeez!  Before I knew it, it was almost 6am and some personnel were already opening up the doors to the train station. We picked up our bags, lined up to get an Octopus card and waited for the train to arrive.  I was excited to explore Hongkong but I'm just not sure if I will have the energy.  I looked at our first itinerary - The Peak, oh that should keep me awake!

* Find out more information about sleeping in airports at http://www.sleepinginairports.net/

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Batac: Home of the best empanada

Part of the reason why I wanted to go back to Ilocos is because I wanted to try the famous empanada from Batac.  Empanada is a meat pastry consisting of papaya, monggo, longganisa (sausage) and one whole egg wrapped in an orange colored flour wrapper.  This was for me, a complete meal in itself.  Ilocos has a lot of versions of empanada and I have only tried the one from Laoag which also has an orange colored wrapper.  Vigan's version though has a light brown color.  But they say the best empanada comes from the city of Batac.  So in my recent trip to Ilocos, I made sure that we stop over at Batac.

Apparently, empanadas in Batac are quite easy to find.  Situated near the Marcos Museum is the Batac Riverside Empanadahan which houses several outlets selling empanadas.  It seems that the local government is really promoting it.  I even heard that they have an Empanada festival here celebrated every June 23rd.  

Among the most famous empanada here are from Glory's Empanada owned by Gloria Aduana Cocson.  Determined to help her husband raise their family, she perfected her empanada recipe. Through her hardwork and determination, her empanada business grew and it became so popular that Gloria was awarded the prestigious "Kalipi Award" on 2003 and the rest as they say, is history.







Of Windmills and Rocks

When I drafted my travel plans for 2012, Ilocos has been one of my top choices.  I have been to Ilocos before but there is something out there that has kept me coming back.  Who can resist its beautiful landscapes, the abundant history, devoted and loyal people and the very famous bagnet and empanada?

A lot of people go to Ilocos because it's quite easy to get there.  One can either take atleast a 7-hr bus ride or hop on a plane and be there in about an hour.  There are a lot of places to explore and though I have been to Ilocos before, I still felt excited when we went out of the plane and greeted my Ilocana friend.

Ilocos is divided into two parts - llocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.  Ilocos Norte's capital is Laoag City while Vigan City is the capital of Ilocos Sur.  Aside from having very beautiful and  historical landmarks, Ilocos is also known as the birthplace of one Philippines' most controversial presidents, the late Ferdinand Marcos.

Our group hired a jeepney for the duration of our trip and paid the driver Php5,000 for the entire two days.  It was a bit expensive but we figured out that it was our best option since we only have limited time.  I've heard there are free shuttle buses from Laoag City airport going to the city proper so it would be easy to plan out your itinerary once there.

Our first stop was the Bangui windmills or officially known as the NorthWind Bangui Bay Project.  It was my first time to actually go near the windmills and it was a lot bigger than I have imagined.  The windmills stand tall facing the South China Sea. The windmills of Bangui has turned Ilocos' ingenious idea to use wind power to supply electricity to the nearby towns.

View from the Bangui windmills viewdeck

The windmills up close
Big waves crashing along the shores
Bangui souvenirs
Our next destination was the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.  The rock formation is characterized by a white limestones thus the name, "Kapurpurawan" meaning white in Ilokano unlike the rock formations in Magasang and Macadlao.  The provincial government has constructed a walk way going to the rock's view deck so it's a lot easier to reach it now.  But one still needs to go through the back side to actually reach Kapurpurawan.

The road that leads to the rock

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
 A nice scene to cap off our first day in Ilocos:

Sunset in Kapurpurawan



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Coron Escapade

For a much-needed r&r, Palawan is one of the most obvious choice for an urbanite like me.  As the plane touched down the F. Reyes airport in Busuanga, I can almost smell the scent of the sea and dreamt of white sand beaches.

Coron lies at the northern tip of Palawan and is said to be part of the Calamian Group.  Palawan has two airports and one must book Busuanga if you are to go to Coron.  The other airport is in Puerto Princesa, the gateway to the Underground River.  Travel time is approximately 1 hour.

We availed of the tour package from DIY Coron.  Jayjay, our tricycle driver picked us up at the airport and lead us to Darayonan Lodge where we stayed for a few days.  The room that we got is a quite big and spotlessly clean.  We even had an extra bed where we put most of our stuffs.  They didn't charge us for the extra bed!





When you avail of the services of DIY Coron, part of the package include airport transfers, island hopping, accommodation with breakfast, tour around town, lunch during your island hopping and snorkeling gears rental.  I didn't have any problems with them.  Owen and his staff, Judith have been very helpful.

Part of the itinerary during that time were climbing the 700+ steps to reach the giant cross at Mt. Tapyas, dipping into Maquinit Hot Springs, snorkeling in the clear emerald waters of Siete Picados and Twin Lagoon, basking into the beauty of Kayangan Lake, Banul Beach and Barracuda Lake (there are no more barracudas here, so it's safe) and diving into a shipwreck (which I am just such a chicken and didn't dare to do).










During the trip, I was able to see the unspoilt beauty of Coron.  Yes there are some tourists but I just admire how the people kept this little piece of paradise free from garbage and commercialism.  I can just lie in the sand and be as close to nature as I want to be.  This is beach bumming at its best!

How to get there: Cebu Pacific and Airphil Express has regular flights from Manila to Busuanga. Check out their websites for the schedule and promo prices. :-)

Recommended eats: Try the kare-kare and buttered lobsters at Kawayanan Grill Station located at the town proper.  Also don't forget to try some cashews at the Coron Harvest store.

Recommended sleep HQ: Darayonan Lodge

Recommended tour package: DIY Coron by Owen Ferrer III.  He has a lot of packages that you can choose from and you can even customize your trip if you want.

What to bring home: Souvenir items such as shirts, keychains or magnets sold on stores located in the town proper.  On your last day in Coron, you can also pass by the public market to get some dilis (anchovies) and dangit.  They are quite cheap out there.